Beyond my understanding

You surround me—front and back.

You put your hand on me.

That kind of knowledge is too much for me;

it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. ~Psalm 139:5-6 (CEB)

“If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two, -the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: The former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time neither of these is before the other; in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also ‘born of the Spirit;’ but in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive [God’s] wrath to be turned away, and then [God’s] Spirit to work in our hearts. ~From “sermon 45” by John Wesley

Almighty God, Thank you for the good work you do in me every day. I thank You for going before me, coming behind me and walking beside me everyday. Amen

Do you love me?

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”  He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. ~John 21:14-17 (CEB)

“Two millennia ago at an early morning breakfast by the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus had only one question for Peter: ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Jesus did not ask him about his effectiveness, or his skill, or anything but his love. Three times Jesus asked, ‘Simon, do you love me?’ Peter struggled for an adequate response to that probing query. Finally, he blurted out, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Assured of his heart, Jesus gave Peter work to do: ‘Feed my lambs.’

The same question is asked of us. The same work is given to us.” ~From Prayer: Finding the Heat’s True Home by Richard J. Foster

Lord, creator of heaven and earth, you know my every thought. Yet you still call me to serve You. Guide my steps this day to not follow my own leading, but to turn to Yours instead. Help me feed Your sheep. Amen.

A new day

Thus says the Lord,

your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

 “For your sake I send to Babylon

and bring them all down as fugitives,

 even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.

I am the Lord, your Holy One,

the Creator of Israel, your King.”

Thus says the Lord,

 who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters,

who brings forth chariot and horse,

army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,

 they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

 I will make a way in the wilderness

 and rivers in the desert.

The wild beasts will honor me,

 the jackals and the ostriches,

 for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

 that they might declare my praise. Isaiah 43:14-21 (CEB)

“We often think of a new day as a point of new beginning. However, we know that new beginnings are available all the time. Life itself provides a constant opportunity to grow, and to grow is to become new, to have a new beginning. How is God calling you to begin anew today? Think for a moment about those areas in your life where new life is waiting to be born.

There is always opportunity for a new beginning in our relationship with God. Because God is infinite, unlimited possibilities for growth and starting anew exists. No matter how intimate the companionship we share with Jesus Christ today, there is room for growth and new beginnings.

While our relationships with others do not have the range or depth or opportunity for growth, there is nevertheless room for fresh beginnings with family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, caregivers, and those strangers who serve us day by day in shop, gas station, and restaurant. We have in our possession the key to changing- making new- each of these relationships. What slight or radical change is God calling you to make in relationship with God and with those persons who cross your life path every day? Follow the prompting God gives and launch a new beginning in this new day.” ~Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, send the light of Your Son into my life anew today. Let Your presence touch my mind and heart with Your mercy, grace, and truth. Direct my thoughts, speech, and steps to the end that I may walk in Your way today and always. In the name of Christ. Amen

Guided by the Shepherd

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)

“For a long time, I prayed the words, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit.’ I prayed these words in the morning for half an hour sitting quietly on my chair trying only to keep my mind focused on what I was saying. I prayed them during the many moments of the day when I was going here or there, and I even prayed them during my routine activities. The words stand in stark contrast to the reality of my life. I want many things; I see mostly busy roads and ugly shopping malls; and if there are any waters to walk along they are mostly polluted. But as I keep saying: ‘The Lord is my shepherd. . . .’ and allow God’s shepherding love to enter more fully into my heart, I become more fully aware that the busy roads, the ugly malls, and the polluted waterways are not telling the true story of who I am. I do not belong to the powers and principalities that rule the world but to the Good Shepherd who knows his own and is known by his own. In the presence of my Lord and Shepherd there truly is nothing I shall want. He will, indeed, give me the rest my heart desires and pull me out of the dark pits of my depression.” ~From Here and Now by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Good Shepherd who knows me and claims me as His own, I thank You for Your scriptures that helps me find words when I am at a loss for my own. Shepherd my steps as I move through my routine activities this day. Keep me focused on truth. Help me feel Your Holy Presence when my spirits droop so that I may find true rest for my soul. Amen.

Known and loved

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God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘ I am has sent me to you. ‘” ~Exodus 3:14 (CEB)

“I am! Here is the home of the spirit, where we can hear and say, ‘I am,’ a kingdom of persons, a life larger than life. When God says ‘I am,’ all nature replies ‘Thou art,’ according to Christopher Smart, the mad poet of the eighteenth century, but then Jesus says ‘I am’ and we too can say ‘I am,” I have learned, and God says ‘Thou art,’ as if to say

You are,

You are known,

And you are loved.

~From The Homing Spirit by John S. Dunne

Creator Lord, who is and was and always will be, to say You know my name astounds me. To say I am loved by You leaves me humbled. I am who I am because you touched my heart. Thank You for calling to me. Amen.

Named

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. ~Matt 4:18-22 (CEB)

“Jesus invited Peter and his brother, Andrew, to forsake their business in order to string along with him, and ‘immediately they left their nets and followed him’. Soon Jesus called two other brothers to follow him. ‘Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him’. The Gospel writers reveal a sense of immediacy accompanying Jesus’ call. They recognize a sense of timing. Jesus’ call to our lives is both immediate and timely.

Not only does Jesus call us to join ranks with him; he also names us. In recruiting Peter, Jesus said to him, ‘You Simon, . . . you are to be called . . . Peter’ (John 1:42). Gospel vignettes remind us that we must name Jesus for ourselves. Nathanael named Jesus ‘the Son of God. . . the King of Israel’ (John 1:49). In the early chapters of the Gospels, so many people are naming and being named. We too might allow Jesus to name us, to tell us who we really are. Naming someone defines the person, allows the person to take on an entirely new identity. When Jesus lays claim upon our lives, we are given a new name.

Why is all this naming necessary? For one thing, the ancients felt that a person had no distinct identity until he or she was named. This thought prevails among Native Americans today. I once named a young Native American man. The process of choosing the right name for this young man took two years, so carefully must the family discern who he will be- for the family and for the tribe. His name determines his destiny.

When john’s disciples broke ranks to follow after Jesus, he asked them, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They responded, ‘Where do you live?’ Jesus asked who, they responded where. There spirituality was unformed. They looked for grace in ‘things and places.” Jesus offered them grace in a living, loving relationship. Jesus still asks the ‘who’ questions- not merely ‘what’. ‘What are you?’ is a doing question with a doing reply: But ‘who” you are invites a being response. ‘Who’ inquiries into the soul of us. Who are you? What name has Jesus given you? What name have you given Jesus? ~Norman Shawchuck

Heavenly Father, You have called me out by name. You saw in me more than what I was. You call me by what I can be. I stand amazed at what You have claimed in me and I pray for the strength to live up to what I see through Your eyes. Amen.

You call me friend

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. ~John 15:15

“We talk about God in the third person. We teach about God. However, we don’t teach about our spouses or about good friends. We introduce them, not teach about them. Too often we relate to God as a myth or a theorem to be talked about and not as a friend.” ~Norman Shawchuck

O Lord, You are my closest friend from my youngest years. I remember talking to you from the time I was small. Yet I have to confess that though you are my dearest friend I find at times it hard to speak of You to others. Why do I fear to share something so precious? Why do I fear to share the reason for my light, my hope in dark times? I confess this to You O Lord, to ask of You strength and courage today to share with others what You have done for me. Open my mouth when I find it hard to speak, still my heart and quiet my mind so that I may simple tell others of the love You have shown me. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Recipient of God’s limitless grace

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~Matt. 6:25-34 (CEB)

“We would be very upset with millionaires who lived in life-robbing poverty because of ignorance or personally choice. We would be very disappointed in someone who had enormous wealth but refused to spend any of it for even the simple resources to sustain life. Why then are we not outraged about Christians by the millions who live as though God were dead and God’s grace were exhausted? Could it be because we live that way so often ourselves?

The good news we share with one another is the gospel’s declaration that no matter where we are in life we are the recipients of God’s limitless grace. We can have peace, joy, assurance, comfort, hope, tranquility, confidence, and companionship with our Creator and beyond that, life eternal. With a life bank full of such gifts we are indeed rich. And yet, so often I permit myself to slip into poverty thinking and poverty living. I feel anxious, alone, fearful, faithless, without joy, and sometimes without hope. I feel this easy because I have forgotten and lost grip on the inheritance that God gives me anew every morning.

Many of us live in spiritual poverty because we have forgotten who we are as God’s children and who God is as our loving and almighty Creator. The fact that you are reading these words suggests that you are reading even now to claim your full inheritance as a child of God. May God grant grace and wisdom to do so more and more today and every day of your life. Claim your inheritance and live as God’s beloved child today.” ~Rueben P. Job, A Guide for All Who Seek God.

Lord God, You who are the source of all truth, wisdom, justice and love lead me through this day of service to You. Help me constantly to rest my life upon the eternal foundations of Your love and presence. Save me from haste and confusion, from wrongful desire, and the net of evil. Through the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, enlighten, instruct, and guide me all the day long. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Carrying on your work

But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. ~Gal. 6:4-5 (ESV)

“After we had wandered many years in the new path, of salvation by faith and works; about two years ago it pleased God to show us the old way, of salvation by faith only. And many soon tasted of this salvation, ‘being justified freely, having peace with God, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,’ and ‘having his love shed abroad in their hosts.’ These now ran the way of his commandments: They performed all their duty to God and man. They walked in all the ordinances of the Lord: and through these means, which he had appointed for that end, received daily grace to help in time of need, and went on from faith to faith.” ~From “Journal, June 22, 1740” by John Wesley

Heavenly Father, Help me to be about Your work this day. Give me the grace to see the tasks that You have laid out for me. Help me to carry on the work began by Your saints. Amen.

Living, today

Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~1Peter 1:5-9 (NIV)

“Life, the contemplative knows, is a process. It is not that all the elements of life, mundane as the may be, do not matter. On the contrary, to the contemplative everything matters. Everything speaks of God, and God is both in and beyond everything.

Having the faith to take life one piece at a time- to live it in the knowledge that there is something of God in this for me now, here at this moment- is of the essence of happiness. It is not that God is a black box of full tests and trials and treats. It is that life is a step on the way to a God who goes the way with us. However far, however perilous.” ~From Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister

Almighty God, in the everyday ordinariness, may I see you. May I live this moment to its fullest so that my every waking moment glorifies You. May the regrets from yesterday or the worries for tomorrow not take away from the beauty that is, today. Amen.

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