Saturday
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Monday, October 23 — Saturday, October 28

We’ve been spending Time Alone with God in the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-12. Those blessings form a new world-view which Jesus called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This week we focus on Matthew 5:6 — “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

 

Monday, October 23

Read: Isaiah 55:1-2

Consider: We all get cravings from time to time. Our minds fixate on a certain food and we determine that it is the only dish that will really bring us satisfaction. Sometimes those cravings are real. When our bodies call for protein or hydration, our minds cooperate with our bodies to search out what we really need to eat or drink. But we all know that many times our cravings are simply the result of a favorite food that has come to mind—perhaps through an advertisement, a smell or a good memory.

One of the problems with those false cravings is that sometimes we crave the wrong things. I must confess, I’ve never outgrown my taste for chocolate. Mocha lattes, chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate candy, birthday cake with chocolate frosting—these are things that bring me great pleasure. Of course, too much of any one of those treats will leave me feeling awful rather than feeling satisfied.

There is nothing wrong with wonderful, delicious desserts. But there is a downward spiral with junk food. The more of it we eat, the more our bodies adjust to it so that it begins to feel like it is real food. Then, when we’re hungry, we don’t feel hunger for healthy food. We crave the junk.

That is why, through the prophet, God said…

“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (55:2)

Of course, this is not a passage about calories. Those words address the nourishment of our souls—the nourishment of life. And God wants us to crave the right things.

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (55:2)

Good questions. Why do we go for emotional junk food when there is a spiritual feast available to us? I’m convinced that if we continually ingest spiritual, emotional and intellectual junk, it will begin to feel like the real thing. Then we will continually crave all the wrong things.

Pray: “Lord, you have invited me to your table. It is a place where my soul can be filled, nurtured and satisfied. But it is so easy for me to eat off of a different menu—to fill my mind and life with spiritually empty calories. I don’t want the junk of this culture to be my food. I want to ‘delight in the richest of fare’ that is your presence in my life. Place in me this day the desires you want me to have.”

 

Tuesday, October 24

Read: Psalm 63:1-8

Consider: Just as Isaiah did (as we saw in yesterday’s scripture), the psalmist also used the analogy of physical nutrition and fulfillment to speak about what God wants to do in the entirety of our lives.

“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (63:5)

And again, the satisfaction of our souls is directly related to the legitimate cravings—the real longings—of our lives.

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (63:1)

Food always tastes best when we’re hungry. I’m not talking about those times when we eat simply because it’s lunch time, whether we’re really hungry or not. I’m talking about those times when our bodies call out for nourishment—when our stomachs are empty and we’re anticipating real food, not the junk that we so often put in our bodies when we’re on the run. I’m talking about the hunger we feel when we’re about to eat something substantial and delicious that fills a real need. That empty feeling in our bodies is a wonderful gift from God.

And how much more wonderful is the gift of spiritual hunger! We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) for fellowship with him. And just as we don’t eat one meal in a lifetime, we need the filling of our lives with God’s Spirit every day.

But again, it’s not just the filling that is a gift from God. The hunger is a gift as well.

It’s important for us to understand that and live accordingly. I don’t conjure spiritual hunger in my life. I don’t manufacture it or try to work myself into some emotional state of hunger. I ask for it. I ask God to give me the right desires and then to give me the desires of my heart.

Pray: “Lord, give me the heart described by the psalmist. Help me to ‘thirst for you.’ Give me a heart that ‘longs for you.’ Then it will be natural for me to earnestly ‘seek you’ (65:1) and ‘I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you’ (63:5).”

 

Wednesday, October 25

Read: Matthew 5:6

Consider: What makes us hungry for God? What causes us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? Is it something that just happens or is it something that we develop? Is it something we seek after or do we just wait for it to come upon us?

Spiritual writer Richard Rohr believes there are two things that take us to a deep level in our relationship with Christ—great suffering and great love.

We’ve all seen—in the lives of others and in our own lives—how pain can bring us closer to God. That is one of the reasons that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (5:4). Great suffering brings the potential for spiritual depth like we have never known before. The comfort that Jesus promised to those who mourn is his presence.

Of course, that concept alone—that suffering draws us closer to God—won’t give us perfect peace. We want a deep, vital relationship with Christ, but we’re certainly not hoping for more pain to see it happen.

So, I’m glad to continually discover that great love takes us deeper. Love is something that can be developed. Of course, love is always a gift from God. But we can exercise love, practice love, determine to love whether we benefit from it or not. We can love the unlovely. We can love by sacrificing. Love is a gift, but it is also intentional action on our part. We partner with God to learn to love.

And the more you love, the more you love. The more you allow God to love through you, the more you want to be an agent of his love. And you find that, since God is love, your hunger for love is hunger for God.

Pray: “Lord, my prayer is that I may walk closer to you. May joy and pain, hope and fear, mountains and valleys, be places where I find you because I have sought you there. Teach me to love, to find you in love and to yearn to know you and your love.”

 

Thursday, October 26

Read: Psalm 42:1-8

Consider: There are so many layers to this great psalm. So many insights to meditate. But there are two images that are particularly powerful to me in this prayer. The first is desire.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (42:1-2)

Yesterday we looked at two experiences that deepen our longing for God—great suffering and great love. Both are seen here…

“My tears have been my food day and night…” (42:3)

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God…with shouts of joy and praise…” (42:4)

This is life. “Joy and sorrow are this ocean” is the way the late Rich Mullins said it. So, we navigate this ocean with God.

When we suffer, we choose to suffer with God. When we watch a child blow out her birthday candles, we choose to experience that moment with God. When we mow the lawn, we choose to work and sweat with God. When we crawl out of bed in the morning and when we lay our heads on the pillow at night, we choose to see God at our side. And when we reach out and touch another person, we choose to do it with the hand of Christ—the hand of God.

As we learn to alertly and intentionally live in the presence of God, we experience a growing hunger to never spend one moment without him. The more we know him, the more we want to know him. The more he satisfies us, the hungrier we get.

I often share these words from A. W. Tozer, because no one has said it better…

“To have found God and still to pursue him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”

Pray: “Lord, make me a child of the burning heart.”

 

Friday, October 27

Read: Psalm 42:1-8

Consider: There are two powerful images that stand out in our forty-second psalm. The first one, which we looked at yesterday, is the strength of longing, seen in the soul that “pants” for God (42:1).

And as I continue reading that psalm, I’m always inspired by these words…

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (42:7)

I’m not sure any of us could adequately describe the meaning of “Deep calls to deep.” Yet, we know it to be true. We know that deep within us is a longing for God. God calls for us and we call for God. When we get past the superficialities of life this becomes increasingly clear.

Even people who don’t read the Jewish and Christian scriptures, those who may not have developed a vocabulary to think and talk about God, know that they cannot function in life without love. Almost everyone agrees that a basic human need is to love and be loved.

Our faith teaches us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). So, our longing for love is a longing for God. Deeps calls to deep.

The biggest challenge that we face in giving and receiving love, is realizing that love—that is, God—is already with us — “all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (42:7). How do we miss the waves of God’s love? I don’t know. But we do.

But when we see past the distractions of life, when we quiet our lives enough to listen, we will recognize that deep calling. We will know that we are loved and that we love. And we will long for more.

In that longing, we’ll discover something amazing. We don’t need more of God’s love. His love for us is already infinite. We simply need to learn to live in that love.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

Pray: Take some time to meditate on “what great love the Father has lavished on us” (1 John 3:1). Consider how his “waves and breakers” have swept over you (Psalm 42:7). And try to discern his voice in your life—as “deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7). Express your gratitude to God today by your words and by your life.

 

Saturday, October 28

Read: Matthew 5:1-6

Consider: This week we’ve looked at the hunger that Jesus spoke of in the fourth Beatitude—the fourth blessing. But in addition to a profound desire for God, is there more that Jesus had in mind when he said we should hunger and thirst for “righteousness”?

There are two words that are very distinct in our language, but very similar in the way they are used in the Bible—righteousness and justice. We typically think of righteousness as a very personal thing. A righteous person is a good person, a humble person, an honest person—a person in whom we see the results of God’s presence. We usually think of justice as something broader. We think of justice as it functions in a community or among the nations.

But in our scriptures, righteousness and justice are inseparable. Justice refers to caring for the most vulnerable among us. Justice means making sure that everyone who is made in God’s image has food, shelter, safety, dignity, equality and love. Biblical justice means seeing every person as one who has ultimate value. So, to be righteous is to seek justice for the oppressed.

The Old Testament prophets spoke of this kind of righteousness as being central to what it means to walk with God. The prophet Micah asked, “What does the Lord require of you?” His answer was…

“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

So, when Jesus blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, he was including more than their own righteousness. He wants us to be hungry for the poor to be fed. He wants us to be thirsty for the oppressed to be set free. He wants us to yearn for God’s best for everyone, not just for ourselves.

That kind of righteousness brings about a new intimacy with God. When we begin to see Jesus in the suffering people around us, we get to know him better than we ever did before.

Pray: “Lord, make me hungry for you and hungry for your will to be done in our world. Teach me to walk in a manner that allows you to use me to bring righteousness and justice to our world.”

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Monday, October 16 — Saturday, October 21

We’ve been spending Time Alone with God in the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-12. Those blessings form a new world-view which Jesus called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This week we focus on Matthew 5:5 — “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

 

Monday, October 16

Read: Matthew 7:24-29

Consider: “Yes, but in the real world…” We’ve all heard that. It’s often the opening phrase of a statement from someone who is struggling with the ethics of Jesus Christ. Have you ever heard that approach? Have you ever used it? Well, for most of us, if we haven’t actually said it, we have wondered, “Does that work in the real world?”

When we read Jesus’ teachings on meekness, peace-making, enemy love and turning the other cheek, we can’t help but wonder if they really apply to our world. In day-to-day human interaction, in family relationships, in business and industry, in relationships between communities and nations, it just seems like Jesus’ teachings don’t apply to the real world.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is stunning. It is challenging. It offends us (even if we won’t admit it). If anyone besides Jesus would say those things, we’d dismiss them as naïve or castigate them for being soft and weak when it comes to injustice. Some of Jesus’ words are just hard. Hard to understand. Hard to put in perspective. Hard to live.

But we can’t ignore them. We can’t say that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t apply to the “real world” or we are calling Jesus naïve. We’re saying that he doesn’t understand life.

We don’t want to go there, so often we try to make Jesus’ words more palatable. We believe that meekness is for safe environments only. It can be practiced among decent people. We believe that we can love when that love is returned. When it is not, we fall back on “loving” by the world’s rules and values.

So, when we listen to Jesus instruct us as to how we should live, we have to come with open eyes and attentive ears. We have to humble ourselves enough to admit that we don’t understand the “real world.” The One who created it does. And he understands the world that he wants for you and me and for all his creation.

Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount by saying…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…but everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:24, 26)

Pray: “Lord, your teaching on meekness, peace-making, enemy love and turning the other cheek are a rock upon which you want me to build my life. This goes against my engrained way of thinking and judging. It is contrary to everything this world teaches us about security. Help me to begin to see your real world in the way you see it.”

 

Tuesday, October 17

Read: Matthew 5:3-5

Consider: We cannot read the Beatitudes—the blessings—that begin the Sermon on the Mount without noticing how wrong they feel. Or can we? Is it possible that we’ve heard the Beatitudes so many times that we’ve forgotten how radical they are?

When I say they feel “wrong,” I mean they seem to be at odds with the way we normally think and categorize. In some ways we are very much like the people who first heard these words from Jesus. His teaching seems backwards or upside down to us. We don’t feel blessed when we’re poor. We don’t feel blessed when we mourn. And we would certainly never embrace meekness. In fact, if we think we are meek, we see it as a character flaw. We want to learn to be more assertive. We want to develop characteristics that would never be considered by others to be meek. And yet Jesus pronounces a special blessing on “the meek.”

Perhaps part of the problem is ascertaining what Jesus meant by “the meek.” For many people, meekness is synonymous with weakness. People who assert themselves, who boldly express their opinions, who take what’s coming to them and refuse to take any guff from anyone, are considered, by our culture, to be strong. A person who doesn’t put his or her own rights above all else, is seen to be weak. But that’s because we’re the ones who have it backwards.

Jesus exemplified meekness. But we cannot imagine a stronger person than him. So perhaps meekness has something to do with how we direct our strength—how we choose to use it. This can redefine strength, redefine weakness and redefine meekness.

Maybe we need to totally reorient our thinking if we are to understand the third blessing.

Pray: Take some time to meditate on the meekness of Christ. What was it? How was it displayed? How does it run counter to the values of our culture? Then ask the Lord to show you how—this very day—you can live like Jesus.

 

Wednesday, October 18

Read: Colossians 2:6-15

Consider: Many of the people who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion mocked him.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him…. In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Matthew 27:39-44)

The people thought they were seeing the epitome of weakness and failure. The one who had been proclaimed to be a king was reduced to this. All they could see was something to spit on because, at that moment, they could not see reality.

After the fact, the Apostle Paul saw it clearly. And what he saw was quite different. Something else was being exposed and defeated.

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

In the New Testament, “powers” and “authorities” usually refer to the empires, governments and corrupt systems of the day. These demonic powers ruled by might, intimidation and violence. Jesus ruled by meekness, exposing them and leading to their utter destruction.

So, Christians don’t see strength in the sword. We see strength in the cross. We see power in a manner that is unintelligible to the world. The power of love has brought down empires and saved the world. If we miss the humility, meekness, power and love of Christ, we fall into the trap of depending on the wisdom and “strength” of this world.

Pray: “Thank you, Lord, for making ‘a public spectacle’ of sinful ‘power,’ exposing it for all its weakness. Today I humble myself to live in the true sacrificial power of the cross—the power of the love of Christ. Help me to see like you see and to love like you love.”

 

Thursday, October 19

Read: Psalm 37:1-11

Consider: When we read the words of Jesus, we often find him making references to God’s work in the Old Testament. Sometimes he quoted the prophets and the psalms. In the third Beatitude, Jesus quoted a portion of Psalm 37. There we find God’s instruction to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” and to “refrain from anger and turn from wrath” (37:7-8). Then comes the promise that…

“…the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” (37:11)

But, as Jesus always did, he greatly expanded the original meaning. In the Old Testament, when the Hebrews spoke of “the land,” they were talking about the land of promise—Israel, their homeland. And when they spoke about the meek, they were speaking about their sisters and brothers who were oppressed. The promise of the psalmist was that the oppressed would return to their home.

But when Jesus quoted the psalm, he had so much more in mind. He didn’t simply talk about “the land.” He said the meek “will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). And the meek were not simply the oppressed, but the ones who would live by the values of Jesus the Christ.

I believe Jesus was pointing to something far beyond the land on which people live. He was not speaking about a piece of ground that we would call our home. He was speaking about the earth that God will renew at Christ’ return. God’s plan is to restore, renew and resurrect his creation. The new kingdom has come, but someday it will come in its fullness. When that happens, we will see that God did not use those who are powerful by the world’s standards. God used the meek—those who would choose to love like Christ loves.

“At some thoughts one stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide ‘I will combat it by humble love.’ If you resolve on that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.” — Starets Zosima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov

Pray: “Lord, I want to be an agent of your new kingdom. Teach me to understand your power as opposed to the kind of ‘power’ that is worshipped by our culture. And teach me to live in that power as a meek lover of God and his creation.”

 

Friday, October 20

Read: Revelation 12:10-11

Consider: The Book of Revelation is a wonderful, mysterious and difficult book. The reason that it is so hard to understand, and the reason there are so many misunderstandings of it, is that it is a type of literature that we do not have today. We don’t naturally know how to approach it because it is unlike anything we read anywhere else.

It is a genre known as Jewish Apocalyptic. It is addressed to people who are—or soon will be—undergoing severe persecution. And although it often sounds frightening, it is a message of hope to the persecuted church that God’s plan will prevail over evil.

One thing that is obvious when you read Revelation is that it uses images to convey truth. When John wrote it from Patmos, he didn’t intend for us to take the images literally, but to look for the meaning behind them.

There are two major images in the Book of Revelation—the Beast and the Lamb. The Beast (at that time, the Roman Empire) was an image of the evil that stands against God and his people. Through power, violence and death, the Beast intended to dominate the world. Blood would flow from the sword of the Beast.

Yet, the Beast is overcome “by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11). The Lamb, of course, is Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb that was sacrificed—slaughtered—for humankind. That sacrifice is the only thing that could overcome the evil that finds its home in our world.

When we consider the way of Christ, it is important that we focus on the blood. The Beast tried to conquer by shedding the blood of the innocent. The Lamb overcame the Beast by shedding his own blood. The blood on the robe of the Lamb is his own blood, not the blood of his enemies (Revelation 19:13).

So, when we look at the cross, we see the God who died for his creation. He didn’t kill to save. He died to save.

Pray:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
 

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing; 
To God and to the Lamb, 
Who is the great I AM, 
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

— American Folk Hymn

 

Saturday, October 21

Read: Philippians 2:1-11

Consider: There are various ways that English translators have tried to convey Paul’s words in Philippians 2:5…

“Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus…”

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

But my favorite translation of this verse is…

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”

I believe Paul was talking about more than an attitude or even a mindset (as we commonly use that term). I believe he was calling us to a total transformation of life that empowers us to see God, Christ, ourselves and our world in a new way. We must have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) if we are going to live the servant-life that Jesus did—the life to which he calls us.

He calls us to be like him, the One who…

“…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…made himself nothing…humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

I can’t even conceive of what that means for me. I only know that I must humble myself and ask the Lord to show me how to be a servant—how to be like him.

This will involve the rejection of my ego needs, such as my need to be recognized or honored by others. (I believe that is part of what Paul meant when he said we must crucify the “old self”—Romans 6:6.) It will mean submitting all my plans to God’s plans for me. It will mean living close enough to Jesus that his Spirit can guide and direct my steps.

And it will be worth it. For just as Paul taught us that the crucified Christ would be exalted (Philippians 2:9-11), Jesus taught us what that would mean for each one of us when he said…

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Pray: “Lord, right now I can’t discern what all is involved in my call to servanthood. But I know that you set the example and will guide my steps. So today I tune my heart—my spiritual eyes and ears—to you. Show me this day how to walk like Jesus. Show me how to serve like Christ. Help me to have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16).”

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Monday, October 9 — Saturday, October 14

For a few weeks, we’re spending Time Alone with God in the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-12. But as we do, we’ll explore other passages—from both the Old and New Testaments—which point us to Jesus’ blessings. Those blessings form a new world-view which he called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This week’s meditations will take us to Matthew 5:4—“Blessed are those who mourn”—on Saturday.

 

Monday, October 9

Read: Psalm 139:1-6

Consider: As the psalmist praises God for his presence, protection and strength, he uses spatial language—he “locates” us in God’s presence.

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (139:5)

Or, as we might say today, the God who goes before me also has my back.

It brings to mind other psalms that describe God’s closeness to us as physical proximity, such as Psalm 91…

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (91:7)

I remember a particular time in my life when the assignment before me was intimidating. I was nervous, afraid of what I had to do. At that moment, words from the psalms began to flood my mind—passages about God going before me, God being my rear guard, God standing at my right side and my left. My world changed at that moment. I didn’t see myself as walking alone, hoping that God would somehow give me success. I saw myself surrounded by him. Many years later I would find another way to describe this truth in the words of our brother, the Apostle Paul…

“…your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

It sounds too good to be true. Or, as the psalmist says it, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (139:6).

But that is our reality.

Pray: Take some time today to meditate on God’s presence by visualizing the Lord going before you, standing behind you, defending you on the right and guarding you on the left. Then ask God to help you see him in that manner throughout the day. (God gave us the poetry of the Bible so we could “see” God in these kinds of powerful and intimate ways.) And don’t forget to thank him that “your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

 

Tuesday, October 10

Read: Psalm 139:7-12

Consider: Psalm 139 is poetry that sustains the soul. The psalmist uses language that evokes the most powerful images of God’s presence that we can imagine.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (139:7-8)

The Hebrew word used here for “the depths”—sheol—is translated in various ways. Sometimes it means “the grave.” In the King James Version of the Old Testament, we find that famous translation of this passage…

“If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

Let that concept settle in your mind. Or rather, let it settle in your spirit at a deep, abiding level.

We’re pretty sure (considering the meaning of sheol at that time and the Old Testament concept of the afterlife) that the psalmist was not talking about hell in a manner that people would later come to see it. But he was painting a picture. He wove his words together to tell us something that is too good to be true, and yet is true.

If I find myself in the depths, if the darkness is so overwhelming that it seems like I’ll never see light again, if I can find no concept or word that describes the place I’m in other than “hell,” there is still a promise. The promise is that God is there with me, even in the hell I’m walking through right now.

Pray: Thank God that even when we don’t feel his presence, we can know his presence. We can believe him when he said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:3, Deuteronomy 31:6).

 

Wednesday, October 11

Read: Psalm 139:1-12

Consider: Darkness is a powerful image throughout scripture and in our lives. Sometimes evil is described as darkness, but that is certainly not the only meaning of darkness. Other times it is an image of sorrow, grief and abandonment. St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century saint, wrote about “the dark night of the soul.”

We don’t even have to define the dark night of the soul. We know it when we’re there. Some of God’s people have had to travel through unimaginable seasons of depression—a reality far beyond changes of moods, common sadness or emotional volatility. The dark night of the soul cannot be captured in words. Many times it has claimed the lives of people we love.

When you read the psalms, you get the impression that the psalmist had experienced that dark night. Many of the psalms are laments and some are even called “complaints.” And sometimes the palmist wished he could die.

Today’s psalm doesn’t deny that. It doesn’t say “lighten up” and everything will be rosy. In fact, it says that sometimes we find ourselves saying, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me” (139:11).

The promise is simple. God is there.

“…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (139:12)

When we can’t see God, we stand on the promise that he sees us. He has not abandoned us. Believing that is not easy. But his presence makes it possible.

Pray: “Lord, thank you that you see clearly in my darkness. I pray that I can see clearly as well. But until I receive that clarity, I’ll gladly trust you. Guide me by your light.”

 

Thursday, October 12

Read: Psalm 23:1-6

Consider: In this, the most famous of all the psalms, David proclaims…

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (23:4)

Remember when you were a child and you found yourself walking alone in a dark place. What did you do? You quickened your pace. You walked faster and faster. If the fear didn’t subside, your hurried steps turned into a run. Your goal was to get out of the dark as soon as you could, so that the fear would go away.

We still do that. When I find myself in a dark place emotionally or spiritually, my goal is to leave that place as soon as possible. I may beg God to take the darkness away. I may try to sidetrack my mind with a host of diversions so I don’t have to peer into the darkness. But as normal and natural as it is for me to run from, ignore or deny the darkness, there is a better way. I can look for God in the darkness.

Pain, grief and sorrow are part of my life and yours. They can’t be avoided and they can’t be ignored or denied for any substantial length of time. We all pass through those valleys. But David said that in those dark days of pain and sorrow, we don’t have to be overcome by fear.

I’m trying to learn to slow my pace in the valley. It’s not easy. But if I do, I have a better chance of seeing the face of God and knowing his presence. I hate the valley. But what would be even worse than walking in the dark, would be missing his presence in that place. If I run, I may miss a beautiful opportunity of intimacy with the God who walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

Pray: “Lord, when it’s dark, I have to strain to see and sometimes your presence is hidden from me. When I can’t feel your presence, I choose to believe in your presence. Help me to find you in the valley. Thank you that I don’t have to be afraid. Thank you that I never have to journey through the darkness alone.”

 

Friday, October 13

Read: Matthew 1:18-23

Consider: At the center of our faith is our belief in the incarnation. With the birth of Jesus, we don’t simply celebrate the coming of a prophet or a wise, compassionate leader. There is so much more. We celebrate the miracle that God put on human flesh and took on our humanity. He became one of us.

John teaches us that the Son—the second person of the Trinity—is eternal and is one with the Father (John 1:1-3, 14). So, Christ didn’t come into existence when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He simply came to our world. He came to us.

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means ‘God with us’.” (Matthew 1:22-23)

Throughout the Bible, we are told repeatedly that God intends to dwell with his people. When his people wandered through the wilderness, God showed his presence with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. When the appointed time came, God became a man and “lived for a while among us” (John 1:14). And before Jesus left us in the flesh, he promised that we would not be orphans, but that his Spirit would dwell with us and in us (John 14).

The most wonderful thing we can do on this journey is to develop our awareness of God’s presence. The dishwasher, Brother Lawrence, called it “the practice of the presence of God.”

Through prayer, worship, the sacraments, silence, solitude and other spiritual practices, we teach ourselves to live in an ever-increasing awareness of “God with us.” This is how we live the full life to which we are called. His presence causes our pain to form us, not destroy us. His presence changes our desires, so that sin is no longer our master. His presence brings contentment that keeps us from chasing after empty promises. His presence makes all the difference.

Pray: “Lord, in my mind I know that you are with me. But I want to know it with more than my mind. I want to know your presence with my whole being. Help me to make every day of my life a day of increased awareness of you. Help me to live in the reality that Christ is in me and I am in Christ (John 14:20).”

 

Saturday, October 14

Read: Matthew 5:1-4

Consider: “Blessed are those who mourn.” That statement doesn’t usually come from our lips. We feel sorrow and empathy for those who mourn. We pray for them, asking God to be real to them in their grief. But we don’t usually think of them as being blessed.

And yet, we do. When we walk with someone through times of great sorrow, we keep finding God in the middle of the suffering. In small and large ways (which are really all large), we get to see that God is there. And, in spite of the pain, we have a sense of gratitude—a sense of blessing—that can only come from the presence of God.

Jesus said that those who mourn will be comforted. That comfort doesn’t come from understanding our suffering, because most of the time we can’t know the “why” of pain. (That’s why it’s usually best if we don’t try to bring answers to those who grieve, but simply bring ourselves.) No, it’s not answers, but God’s presence that brings comfort.

This reminds us of why it is important for us to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). We can bring the presence of Christ with us to that place of mourning. And when we share the mourning, we also share the blessing.

Pray:  “Lord, help me to see you in my suffering and in the suffering of those around me. I want to know your presence in my pain and to be a vehicle for your presence in the suffering of others. Show me today how to comfort and be comforted.”

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Monday, October 2 — Saturday, October 7

In our meditations over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-12. But as we do this, we’ll explore a number of other passages—from both the Old Testament and the New Testament—which point us to Jesus’ blessings. Those blessings form a new world-view which he called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This week we’ll review some passages we’ve looked at recently, taking us to Matthew 5 on Saturday.

 

Monday, October 2

Read: Luke 15:1-7

Consider: As happened so many times in Jesus’ ministry, he found himself teaching and sharing this parable with two very different audiences at the same time. Before Luke shared with us Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep, he told us who was listening—those considered to be the worst of sinners (including tax collectors) and those who saw themselves as the righteous ones (the Pharisees and the teachers of the law).

Knowing who Jesus was talking to, helps us understand the point of his parable…

“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (15:7)

On its own, that statement doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t we rejoice more if people kept their lives pure? Wouldn’t we be happier about ninety-nine people who did it right than we would be about one person who finally got it right after making a mess of things?

Well, we know there really is no such thing as a person who does not need to repent. But Jesus was looking at “ninety-nine” Pharisees who were convinced that they didn’t need to. And because they couldn’t see their own need for repentance, Jesus knew that they weren’t ready to see what God wanted to do in their lives. So, the shepherd went to those who knew they were lost.

By the way, this story contains a powerful truth about Jesus. And if we don’t understand it, we don’t know who God is. It comes from the mouths of the Pharisees who muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2).

That’s where we get that beautiful name for Jesus— “a friend of sinners.” That name should be our name as well.

Pray: “Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to love others—regardless of their actions—in the manner that you love them. Keep me humble before you. I realize that if I’m ever convinced that I no longer need to change, I close the door on the work that you want to do in my life.”

 

Tuesday, October 3

Read: Luke 15:11-24

Consider: The three parables of Luke 15—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son—all end in celebration. There is one simple reason for that. What was lost was finally found.

Now if a shepherd loses a lamb or a woman loses a coin, it’s obvious that something is missing. But when it comes to seeing that we ourselves are lost, we can be slow (or too stubborn) to see it.

The son who left his father had no clue that he was lost. He kept going the wrong direction, picking up speed and running farther from home. He thought he was doing a pretty good job managing his life. He had to experience great tragedy, sorrow and loss before “he came to his senses” (15:7).

What was obscured to the son was obvious to the father. We see that when the son returned and the father exclaimed…

“This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:24)

Our Father never stopped waiting for us. He never wrote us off as being unredeemable. He never gave up on us. But he had to wait. He couldn’t (and wouldn’t) force us to come home. He waited and waited. When we were humble enough—when we came to our senses—it became possible for the lost to be found and the dead to be raised.

Pray: “Lord, the thing that can draw me away from you is my delusion of self-sufficiency. When I forget that I am lost without you, I’m tempted to wander into strange lands. Today I walk with confidence because I walk with my Father in the direction you take me.”

 

Wednesday, October 4

Read: Luke 15:25-32

Consider: On Monday we looked at one of the most beautiful names for Jesus— “the friend of sinners.” Of course, that didn’t sound beautiful to everyone. Those who found their identity in being morally superior to others didn’t like those “others” to be loved and cherished simply for who they are. They wanted those “others” to earn it, like they thought that they had earned God’s favor.

What Jesus saw in those Pharisees and teachers of the law (15:2), he addressed in this third parable. He pointed out the thinking of the “older brother” who couldn’t handle the grace and mercy his father gave to his “morally inferior” brother.

Of course, that’s the difference between us and Jesus Christ. We want to feel like we’re righteous. We know we’re not perfect, so we’re tempted to find our “righteousness” in comparing ourselves with others. The older brother said, “Look, I never disobeyed you or gave you a moment of trouble, while he was out spending your money on prostitutes! How can you possibly rejoice over that?” (15:29-30).

We’re always trying to make ourselves appear to be righteous. And, as I said, that’s the difference between us and Jesus. He chose the opposite.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It’s amazing that the only one who was willing to claim total unrighteousness was the Righteous One. And he did that for you and me.

So, as is the case in so many of Jesus’ parables, he flips our world upside down. The “bad guys” become the good guys and the “good guys” must realize that if they would only bring their unrighteousness to God, he would change everything.

This is mercy.

Pray: “Lord, I can barely comprehend what it means that you ‘became sin’ for us. I only know that it humbles me. I am reminded that without your grace I have nothing and I am nothing. But your love for me compelled you to a sacrifice of mercy that is beyond my understanding. Thank you.”

 

Thursday, October 5

Read: Matthew 9:9-13

Consider: By all accounts, it was a pretty unsavory crowd that Jesus partied with that evening. The tax collectors of Jesus’ day were Jews who had betrayed their sisters and brothers by working for the enemy. They extracted exorbitant taxes for Caesar’s army and lined their own pockets in the process. They ripped off their own people while helping the Romans oppress them. Traitors are the worst kind of enemies. They were so hated that many of the Zealots thought that the only thing better than slitting the throat of a Roman soldier was killing a tax collector.

Yet, Jesus accepted an invitation to Matthew the Tax Collector’s house, so he could spend an evening in the company of Matthew’s cohorts. Who knows what kind of “sinners” (9:10) were in attendance?

That didn’t sit well with the Pharisees. They asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (9:11). It didn’t make sense to them. Those people could only hurt Jesus’ reputation. It was clear that they should be shunned and condemned.

But…

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (9:12-13)

Jesus wasn’t saying that the Pharisees were healthy and righteous. They weren’t. Rather, he was telling them that these tax collectors and “sinners” knew they were sick. Matthew must have invited Jesus to his home because he knew he needed to hear what Jesus had to say. He invited his friends because he wanted them to meet Jesus. Those Pharisees were not at a point where they could hear Jesus, because they thought they were the healthy, righteous ones. So, Jesus gave words of life to those who could hear them.

Here we find Jesus making the same point as he did in the parable of the Lost Sheep recorded in Luke 15:1-7 (see Monday’s meditation). One lamb could hear. Ninety-nine could not.

Jesus keeps returning to this point—it takes humility to hear and understand the message of the new kingdom. It takes seeing our own unrighteousness to experience the liberation of his righteousness living in us.

We’ll see again tomorrow another way that Jesus tells us the same truth—the same good news.

Pray: “Lord, when I think my sins are great, you remind me that you are the healer, the physician for our sick souls. Thank you for coming to heal me and liberate me by your mercy. Today I give you thanks for your amazing grace.”

 

Friday, October 6

Read: Luke 18:9-14

Consider: Sometimes Jesus’ parables are subtle. You have to look for the nuances. Not this one. Nothing subtle here. Jesus told a parable that sticks a finger in the face of anyone who embraces a sense of moral superiority. And because it is so black and white, it’s easy to dismiss. After all, who of us would stand in church, point to someone else and pray, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like that jerk! Thank you that I’m so much better!”

Of course, we would never do that. But when Jesus spoke in such stark terms, he was trying to rattle us—trying to help us see something about ourselves that may be shocking.

So, let’s do a little personal inventory. Let’s talk about our feelings toward others. I’m not referring to rational discourse. I would never say I’m superior to someone else. But how do I feel?

How do I feel about people of other ethnicities? How do I feel about sexual minorities? How do I feel about people of other religions or those with no religion at all? How do I feel about people who embrace politics that are completely at odds with my political convictions? How do I feel? How does Jesus want me to feel?

He wants me to feel love. Oh, I know that love is an action and can’t be reduced to a feeling. But let’s be honest, unless I’m willing to feel love toward all humans—willing to see the Image of God in them—I’m never going to act like Jesus.

This parable sticks a finger in my face and compels me to be honest about my love for God’s image-bearers. If I’m honest, it may cause me to fall on my knees and say…

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

And that will lead to my liberation.

Pray: There are many written prayers that have become a part of Christian worship down through the years. One is called, “The Jesus Prayer.” It simply says…

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Another has become a part of common Christian liturgy…

“Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

These are good prayers to pray if we approach them in the right way. Don’t see them as self-condemning. See them as the liberating prayers that are taken to the One who loves us more than we can imagine—the One who is eager to forgive and has already forgiven.

 

Saturday, October 7

Read: Matthew 5:1-3

Consider: You may want to take another look at the passages we’ve read from the New Testament this week. You may want to scan the observations we’ve made, because they all point to one of Jesus’ central teachings…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)

The kingdom does not belong to…

The “ninety-nine” who won’t admit that they are lost (Luke 15:1-7).

The obedient son who feels morally superior to his promiscuous, but repentant, little brother (Luke 15:25-32).

Those who feel no need for a spiritual “doctor,” believing that they are already whole (Matthew 9:9-13).

The one who looks at the “other” sinner with contempt (Luke 18:9-14).

No, not them. The kingdom of heaven belongs to “the poor in spirit.”

This is the starting point—the very first phrase—in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and it is the starting point for all of Jesus’ teaching. If we do not recognize our own spiritual poverty, if we will not humble ourselves, if we will not ask God to change us from what we are, the kingdom of heaven will be unintelligible to us.

As Jesus sat on the hillside and told the people what it would mean to follow him, his very first sentence explained the attitude we must bring. He spoke about the position we take to hear him and to follow him. He blessed us who go to him as “the poor in spirit.”

Pray:  “Lord, your call to acknowledge my spiritual poverty is also a promise to me. Thank you for assuring me that I am blessed by you.”

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Monday, September 25 — Saturday, September 30

Monday, September 25

Read: Psalm 46:1-11

Consider: It’s a powerful and peaceful instruction from God. Most Christians have pondered these words and drawn comfort from them — “Be still, and know that I am God” (46:10).

Most of us invoke those words when we are hurried and harried. We find ourselves drowning in schedules, responsibilities, commitments and all kinds of mental clutter. And in that state of mind we know that the best thing we can do is to be still. We want to reduce the speed, slow the pace, breathe and know that God is with us.

But God’s call to stillness is not simply a strategy to help us navigate the accumulation of small stresses in our lives (though it certainly does that!). The Psalmist is speaking about life-altering fears. Real dangers. He’s speaking about wars and natural disasters—the earth convulsing beneath our feet. And it is in that context that he tells us to simply be still.

I’m probably speaking for most people when I say that when everything is falling apart around me, my natural response is not stillness. I want to fix the problem and do it quickly. Too many times I go into problem-solving mode before I’m even fully aware of the nature of the problem. I just know that something is not right and I want to change it.

But stillness allows me to listen. I always say that I can talk to God on the fly, but I can’t listen to him while I’m on the run. I can tell him my problems when my spirit is hurried and distracted, but I can’t hear his voice in that state. God doesn’t usually scream to us above the noise. And even if he did, because our minds and hearts are on overload, we still wouldn’t be able to hear him.

Be still. Before you examine the evidence, before you compare your options, before you chart your course, before you take the next step, be still. Be still and listen.

Pray: “Lord, listening is hard. It takes time. It takes silence. It takes a willingness to obey what I hear. Help me to listen today. Teach me how to be still before you. I want to hear you in the accumulation of small stresses and in the catastrophes of life. I know you are with me. Help me to be aware of your presence.”

 

Tuesday, September 26

Read: Exodus 3:1-6

Consider: The calling of Moses is one of the most dramatic God-encounters that we have recorded in our scriptures. Moses saw a physical manifestation—a bush set aflame, yet not consumed. He heard an audible voice call him by name. Moses interacted with the One who is beyond comprehension. He conversed with the God whose name—YHWH—is too holy to pronounce. The presence of God was not something he sought. In fact, when he found himself in that presence, he was gripped with fear. No, Moses didn’t go looking for God. God initiated this encounter. God sought Moses.

The first instructions God gave to Moses are so powerful and yet so beautiful. God said…

“Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (3:5)

What made that place holy? What made that spot on “the far side of the desert” so special? In the ordinary task of tending his father-in-law’s sheep in a remote part of the world, how did Moses find himself in a holy place?

We can only come to one conclusion: it was the presence of God that hallowed that place. The ground was holy because God was there.

As humans made in God’s image, we are called to understand every day what Moses came to understand in an instant. We are invited to an ever-increasing awareness that we are standing in the presence of God. We are directed to take off our shoes because we are standing on holy ground.

Our New Testament teaches us that God is “over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6). We live in a God-bathed, God-saturated universe. Why are we a little shocked by that thought? Why is that so difficult for us to see?

God had to grab Moses’ attention before Moses could know that he was in God’s presence. What has God been doing to get your attention lately? What bush is burning in your life?

Pray: Ask the Lord to help you be spiritually awake today. Ask him to empower you to see him and to realize that you are in his holy presence. Unlike Moses, you don’t have to be afraid. In fact, the greater your awareness of his presence, the greater your peace. And don’t forget to thank him for seeking you.

 

Wednesday, September 27

Read: Exodus 3:7-12

Consider: Have you ever asked God for a sign? Some people believe in doing that. They think it is proper to ask God to do something specific to guide them or confirm their direction. Other believers have a different view. They see that as directing God, rather than listening to him.

God did give Moses a sign. But it was not the kind of sign Moses (or any of us) would have requested. When we look for signs, we want directional road signs—messages that say, “go there” or “take this road” or “turn around.” We want the signs that tell us where to go and how to get there.

But the sign God gave to Moses seems backwards to us. And I’ll bet it felt that way to Moses as well. God said…

“This will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (3:12)

What? No, God, you’ve got it wrong. You’re supposed to give me a sign up front. I don’t need a sign after the fact. I need it now.

But God didn’t want Moses to have the road map, the blueprint, the full plan. He wanted Moses to trust him. God wanted Moses to act in faith. He wanted Moses to believe that he was standing on holy ground and that this ground of being was God himself.

Pray: Yesterday we asked ourselves what bush was burning in our lives—or “How is God revealing himself to me?” As we open our spiritual senses to him today, let’s ask him how he wants us to trust him. How does he want us to place our faith in him so that we can know that we stand in his presence?

 

Thursday, September 28

Read: Exodus 3:13-15

Consider: Moses grew up in a polytheistic culture—a nation that worshipped multiple gods. To ask, “Which god are you talking about?” may sound strange in our world, but not in the Egypt of Moses’ upbringing. Maybe that was why he wanted to know which name he should give the Israelites when he told them that God had sent him.

Of course, God had already identified himself to Moses. When Moses approached the burning bush, he heard the voice say…

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (3:5-6)

So maybe Moses wasn’t convinced. Or maybe he didn’t know if he could trust his senses during this amazing experience. Or maybe his faith was so small and his doubts were so large that he had to hear it again. But it seems like he was looking for some kind of authority—some title to legitimate his message to the people. What was the name he could give them that would convince them that he had really encountered the God of their fathers?

The response has intrigued us and inspired us since that day.

“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (3:14)

For many years I tried to understand exactly what that name means. “I AM” seems to transcend time. To speak about oneself in the present tense as a force or action, rather than an entity, is beyond my capacity to understand, much less explain. It remains a mystery to me.

But I read something recently that has put my mind at ease about “I AM.”

“Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand—it is something that you can endlessly understand!” — Richard Rohr 

God’s encounter with Moses was the beginning of a relationship that would unfold, expand, change and grow. Just like the relationship that you have with I AM. Don’t reduce God to your mental capacity. Rejoice in the journey in which you will continually and endlessly understand the mystery of the God who tells you that you are in his presence—that you are standing on holy ground.

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.” — Brennan Manning

Pray: “Lord, I stand amazed that the God who transcends all things—I AM—has appeared to me. Help me to see you today. Help me to see how your presence makes my world—the ground I stand on—holy. Thank you for your presence.”

 

Friday, September 29

Read: Ephesians 3:16-19

Consider: Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (3:19). To “know this love” is to go beyond the conventional wisdom that we accumulate. We don’t manufacture this knowledge. We receive it. That is why Paul prayed for it. He knew it was a gift, not something to be attained.

He used a powerful word to describe our relationship to the knowledge that God gives us. He prayed that we would have the power “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” (3:18).

In the original language of Paul’s letter, to “grasp” meant to “seize” or to “possess.” Paul was teaching that it is a gift to comprehend on a spiritual level the love of Christ. But he is also teaching us to embrace what we receive, to hold on to it and to cherish it.

When the Holy Spirit opens your understanding, it is a very special gift. Whether you are reading scripture, praying, meditating, listening to a teaching or simply being still before God, it is the Spirit of God that reveals Christ to us. He often reveals himself in the people you encounter each day. Mother Teresa reminded us that he often wears the disguise of the poor.

As you see him today, ask him to help you grasp the magnitude—the width and length and height and depth—of his love. And embrace it. Embrace him.

Pray: “Lord, in my joy today and in my pain, I want to know your love. It surpasses knowledge and yet you ask me to embrace it. Thank you for placing it in my grasp. You are love, so to embrace your love is to embrace you. Thank you for embracing me.”

 

Saturday, September 30

Read: Psalm 46:8-10

Consider: Let’s return to that passage we read on Monday — “Be still, and know that I am God.” I used to think of that as an act of worship and meditation. I thought to be still meant taking a few moments (or hours or even days) to shut out the world and listen to God. Of course, I still believe in doing that. But to be still means much more than simply stopping for a while. I’m convinced that God calls us to a life of stillness—a life of hearing, listening and abiding in him. He calls us to a life of awareness by which we can know that we are in him and he is in us (John 14:20).

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint, the translation used my many in Jesus’ day), there are two wonderful meanings attached to the word, scholazo — “be still.” The first meaning was to be at leisure or to take a holiday. That’s akin to the way we view it when we are still for an extended length of time to listen to God.

The second meaning of “be still” is much different. It denotes being vacant or empty. It sometimes means emptying your hands or occupying an empty house.

Meister Eckhart, a thirteenth century theologian, taught that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. In other words, the more we let go, the more we can receive from God.

Be still. Be quiet. Let go. Then you can listen and abide. 

Pray: “Lord, my hands are full, my schedule is full, my life is full. But too often it’s the wrong kind of fullness. Teach me to let go. Teach me to empty my mind and my life of the clutter that keeps me from seeing you.”