Dancing With God

Read:

Isaiah 43:1-13

Reflect:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1, NKJV

Love has been described by Pierre Teilhard Chardin as the very physical structure of the universe. He saw gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct and evolution as the manifestations of love under different forms.1 Dorothy Day found that love is the only solution to every problem that comes up:

“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”2

Divine love is seen in sacrificial, forgiving and generous human love. And to love another human being in the deepest way possible, we need to be touched by the love of God.3 In the Old Testament, the love of God is often hidden. But we can hear God’s whispers of love through the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine…………….Since you are precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you. Therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you..”4

Jesus is the human incarnation of God’s love. God’s amazing love is revealed when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that the Holy Spirit can pour God’s love into our hearts.5 It is God’s perfect love that casts out fear.6  In Christ, we can stand firm on the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God.7 Without Christ, we hide from God like Adam. In Christ, God invites us to live life “as a sacred dance, as an adventure to anticipate, not a peril to avoid.”8 To dance with God is to look for His Presence in the ups and downs of life. We are to keep in step with God’s rhythm – to His heartbeat and not ours.

When I imagine God holding my right hand with His right Hand9, I see God dancing the Cha Cha Cha dance with me. My wife and I cannot dance, but while holidaying on a cruise ship a few years ago, we saw two girls demonstrating the Cha Cha Cha dance. The steps were simple: 

  “Backward, forward, to the right; 
 Forward, backward to the left.” 

The rhythm of the Cha Cha Cha dance helped me to appreciate the devotional disciplines of surrender and self examination. In the first dance step, I take a step backward with the discipline of surrender. Then I take a step forward to God with repentance. With surrender and repentance, I affirm God’s presence with the prayer of the heart, “Jesus Is Lord.” In the second dance step, self-examination is followed by the step of  confession. Through self-examination and confession I commit my life to Jesus as my Shepherd of Love.10

It is so easy for our faith in God to become lukewarm through the deception and distraction of success and activities that keep us busy. We are tempted to think we are rich and have everything we need and don’t need a thing when the truth is that we are spiritually poor, blind and naked.11 We tend to live without God in comfortable times. It is the hard times that lead us to cry out for God’s presence. We need the spiritual disciplines of surrender, repentance, self examination and confession to keep the fire of love burning in our hearts and to remember that it is only by grace that we can do what God has called us to do. 

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest evidence of life after death as well as God’s steadfast love for us. The most powerful witness of our faith in the Risen Christ  is seen in how we face pain, suffering and loss – when we can dance with joy in the face of pain, suffering and loss. Our challenge is to live out the truth of God’s steadfast love as we daily lift our hands and sing of God’s love forever:

“Oh, I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy Like we’re dancing now”10

Respond:

Lord, fill me with Your fire of love and lead me to live my life as a sacred dance with You.

Reframe:

1  Why are the disciplines of surrender, repentance, self examination and confession important to prevent my faith from becoming lukewarm?
2. How can I experience God leading me in a sacred dance each day?
3. How does dancing with God help us to know God better and love Him more?

Song of Praise

I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

SDG

Notes:

1. Pierre Teilhard Chardin, quoted by Richard Rohr in his book, Universal Christ, Chapter 5, Love Is The Meaning.
2. Dorothy Day, in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Love Is The Only Solution, 22 July 2022.
3. Richard Rohr, Universal Christ, Chapter 5, Love is The Meaning
4. Isaiah 43:1,4-5  NKJV
5. Romans 5:5, NKJV
6. 1 John 4:18, NKJV
7. Romans 8:38-39, NLT
8. Steve Harper, Walking In the Light, page 28
9. Isaiah 41:10-13 NKJV
10.Patrick Kee, Living With Our Shepherd Of Love, page 47
11. Revelations 3:14-22, NLT
12. I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

King Of Hearts

Read:

1 Samuel 12: 13-25

Reflect:

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you – they are totally useless!” 1 Samuel 12: 20, NLT

Climate change, pandemics and wars are signs that we are living in the end times. The end times do not necessarily mean the end of the physical world but may also refer to the end of world systems like the fall of the Roman Empire. In fact we are living in times that are reminiscent of the times in the New Testament. At that time the Roman Empire lost control of Europe and the people faced wars, climatic changes as well as endemic and epidemic disease.1 In our time, we are seeing the decline of Western capitalism and facing wars and pandemics. 

Such times are also demonstrations of the judgment of God. When we trade the truth of God for a lie and worship the things of the world instead of the Creator of the world, God will allow our foolish thinking to lead us to do things that should never be done.2  God does not need to inflict any punishment on us – He  just simply allow us to suffer the consequences of our foolish actions but He is suffers with us!

This is the important lesson we can learn from the Jews who asked Samuel for a king even though the Lord their God was already their king. God told Samuel to grant them their request although it was a rejection of God as their king.3  The Jews were later terrified when they experienced the Presence of God supernaturally through thunder and rain and were convicted of the wickedness of their request for a king. But Samuel reminded them of God’s faithfulness and warned them to keep away from idolatry:

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you – they are totally useless!”4 

Our foolish human tendency is to choose to be a slave of sin rather than a servant of God, to be in bondage to sin rather than to be in the freedom of joyful obedience to God.5 As a follower of Christ, we are called to live as citizens of heaven and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.6 We are to advance God’s kingdom here on earth with Jesus Christ as King in our hearts.

When I joined the Boys’ Brigade in my youth I was imbued with the objective of the Brigade –  the advancement of God’s Kingdom among boys and the promotion of the habits of obedience, reverence, discipline and self respect. These habits are still relevant in my old age. To do so, I need to read Scripture not for information but for spiritual formation – to rewire my mind with the promises of God so that I can confront my worries and doubts with the hope and peace of God. It is not reading the bible to know about God but reading the bible as the sharpest two-edged sword to expose my innermost thoughts and desires.7

In silence and solitude we enthrone Jesus as our Suffering King, our Servant King and our Shepherd King in our hearts. We wait in silence and solitude to create a spiritual space for the Holy Spirit and breathe in the oxygen of God’s love into our minds so that the Spirit can have more of our hearts. 

Through centering prayer, we wait to hear the voice of our Shepherd of Love in the silence of our hearts. As our eyes are opened to the evils lurking deep within our hearts, we can breathe out the carbon dioxide of our sins. We are then prepared to taste the goodness and wonder of God’s Word with our minds as we practice lectio divina. As we spend time with our Shepherd of Love, we will smell like His sheep and smell others as sheep and not goats. Then we can touch others with God’s love as well as be touched by God’s love through others.

Let us deepen our roots to have a steadfast faith in God by waiting in confident hope and putting our trust in God’s faithful love. Let us lift up our eyes to the cross of Christ and remember that Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin and evil on the cross. Let us fight the lies of this world by enthroning Jesus Christ King of our hearts as we sing:

“So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him; 
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving 

This is our God, the Servant King 
He calls us now to follow Him 
To bring our lives as a daily offering 
Of worship to the Servant King8

Response:

Lord, be enthroned as the Servant King in our hearts that Your love may overflow in our lives.

Reframe:

1.  What are the desires and beliefs that keep me from enthroning Christ in my heart?
2.  What is occupying the throne of our hearts?
3. How am I living my life differently with Jesus as King of my heart?

Song of Praise

The Servant King

Notes:

1. Fall of the Western Roman Empire, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_the_Western_Roman_Empire
2. Romans 1:21-32, NLT
3. 1 Samuel 8:4-9. 
4. 1 Samuel 12: 20
5. Nehemiah 9:17
6. Philippians 1:27
7. Hebrews 4:12, NLT
8. The Servant King, Graham Kendrick

War Of Thoughts

Read

Joshua 8:1-8

Reflect:

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land.” Joshua 8:1

Following Jesus is more than a journey or lifestyle – there are evil forces that seek to draw us away from the Kingdom of heaven – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.1 We need to fight a war on lies as false narratives about reality seek to wreak havoc in our souls.2 There is an invisible but real intelligence that is at war with God and all that is good, beautiful and true.3 We have to put on God’s armor to stand firm against all strategies of the devil:

“For you are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”4

The stories of war in the Old Testament point to the reality of spiritual warfare and the judgment of God. Such stories were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us and to give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.5 The stories of the conquests of Jericho and Ai reveal the reality and grievous consequences of the sin of greed. Like the Covid 19 virus, greed is extremely infectious and lethal to our souls. There is a battle in our hearts between the love of money and the love for God. The love of money is the cause of much suffering in our world. It is the love of God that brings great joy to the world.

To see the darkness in the stories of the Old Testament we need the light of the New Testament. Unfortunately, instead of feeling broken hearted, as God is, by human perversity, we are blinded by our fear of God’s judgment. We see God’s anger as vindictive rather than compassionate.6 The light of Christ in the New Testament shines into the darkness in the human heart recorded in the Old Testament so that we can see and understand God’s judgment as restoration and not retribution. Like Joshua we are called not to be afraid or discouraged for we will have victory over all the enemies of our souls:

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land.”7

There is a spiritual battle for our thoughts between our “Critical Parent” ego state and the Holy Spirit.  Our “Critical Parent” condemns and leads us to hide from God as Adam and Eve did. When our minds are filled with blame and shame, we are unable to come boldly to God’s throne of grace to receive His mercy. We are enslaved by thoughts that flow from fears of God’s punishment for disobedience. But the Holy Spirit convicts us to draw us to the cross of Christ so that our hearts can be filled with the love of God.8 We are set free from the deceptions of the evil one so that we can have transforming loving conversations with God.

Through prayer we can take our thoughts captive to Christ so that the mind of Christ will be formed in us.9 Our hearts will then be filled by the Spirit with discerning love to counter the deception of half truths that we are bombarded with each day.  As human beings, we are being spiritually formed every day by the choices we make and our responses to the problems we face. To be a better person or a bitter person. To be an optimist or a pessimist. To be joyful or to be depressed. 

Our thought patterns determine our habits and our habits determine our lifestyle. Our negative thoughts become strongholds of evil to keep us away from the love of God. As a follower of Christ, we have a choice – to be formed in our spirits or inner persons into the image of Jesus or to be deformed into the image of the devil.10 

Bad thoughts, wrong thoughts lead to evil actions. Gluttony for knowledge leads to fake news, false gospels and false teachers.  Our thirst for wisdom can only be quenched by seeking Christ to give us the springs of living waters through prayer.11 And true prayer is the fruit of silence and solitude. It is only through prayer that we can live a life of worship that is rooted in a total dependence of God that frees us from the sins of pride, greed and lust. It is only through returning to and resting in God that we will find strength in quietness and confidence12 as we pray:

“Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.13

 Response:

Lord, fill my heart with discerning love so that I will not fall prey to the deceptive half truths of the world.

Reframe:

1.  How does my relationship with God affect how I feel about God’s judgment for sin?
2.  What are the wrong beliefs and false teachings that keep me away from God’s love?
3.  How can I be led by the  Lord in His righteousness each day?

SDG

Notes:

1  I John 2:16, NKJV
2. John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, page xx
3. Ibid, page 20
4  Ephesians 6:12, NLT
5. Romans 15:4 
6. Isaiah 54:7-8, NLT
7. Joshua 8:1
8. Romans 5:1-5, NLT
9.  2 Corinthians 10:5 
10. John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, pg 73, 88
11. John 4:1-14; 7:37-39,NLT
12. Isaiah 30:15, NLT
13. Samuel S. Wesley, Lead me Lord, Lead me In Thy Righteousness

Love Sees , Fear Blinds 

Read: 

Isaiah 41:11-20

Reflect:

“I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I will help you.”  Don’t be afraid, Jacob, you worm. You people of Israel, I will help you.” declares the Lord, your Defender, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:13-14, GW

Where there is no hell, we will not long for heaven. Our longing for heaven is the expression of our hunger for the love that lies deep within our hearts. Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in God.1 When for me to live is everything else but God, death will be hell when I die and lose everything that is dear to me. It is only when for me to live is Christ, that to die is gain.2

Pseudo-evangelism, according to Oswald Chambers, makes an enormous blunder when it insists on conviction of sin as the first step to Jesus Christ.3 Evangelism is sharing the love of God that is revealed by Jesus Christ. Jesus came to restore our identity as the children of God. Love sees the horror of sin that keeps us from the love of God. Fear blinds us to the love of God as His children:

‘See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”4 

We are to love God not because we are afraid of going to hell but in response to His amazing love that is revealed by the cross of Christ. In fact, we are living in hell on earth when we are living without God. That is why we pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.5 

The story of the Jews is a revelation of how terrible they can be even after they had been chosen to be a people filled with the wonder of God and to live in the Kingdom of God here and now. In a time when they felt God’s wrath and judgment for their sins, God gave them His message of comforting love:

“I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I will help you.”  Don’t be afraid, Jacob, you worm. You people of Israel, I will help you.” declares the Lord, your Defender, the Holy One of Israel.”6

It is only with God’s love, revealed by the cross of Christ, that we can see our new identity as the children of God. Love sees the truth of God’s judgment. Fear blinds us to God’s love. Love sees God’s discipline. Fear fills us with the fear of God’s punishment. Jesus did not come to condemn us for rebellion but to redeem us from our slavery to sin that keeps us in rebellion. It is only when we are abiding in God’s love that we can love and not fear God’s commandments. And we have the wonderful promise that God holds our right hand with His right hand.

We cannot see God when we “tie God up in His laws and in denominational doctrines and orders of services.”7 We need to see the Bible as an invitation to see with a new set of eyes instead of making the Bible into “a bunch of ideas – about which we can be right or wrong.”8

Without love, we feel like a lowly worm or a fragile insect.9 But with God’s love, we can see ourselves as a caterpillar that will be transformed into a butterfly. In the meantime, we can dance with God for He holds our right hand with His right Hand as we sing:

“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.”10

Response:

Lord, lead me with Your chains of Love so that I will be driven by my fears.

Reframe:

1   What are the fears that blind me to the blessings of God?
2   How can I see God’s extraordinary love  in the ordinary events of my life? 3   How can I live with a sense of wonder of being in God’s Kingdom?

SDG

Notes:
1.  St Augustine’s Confessions
2.  Philippians 1:21, NKJV
3. Oswald Chambers, Hope, A Holy Promise devotional, day 13
4.  1 John 3:1, NLT
5.  Matthew 5:6, 9-10
6.  Isaiah 41: 13-14, GW
7.  Oswald Chambers, Hope, A Holy Promise devotional, day 14
8.  Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, June 30th 2022
9.  Isaiah 41:14, MSG
10. The Love Of God, Frederick M. Lehman

The Secret Of Happiness:

Read:

Luke 12:22-32

Reflect:

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32, NLT

How on earth can we be happy in an unhappy world? We have been deceived into thinking that material success will bring happiness. But the sad reality is that money and success often leads to pride, greed, and envy that generates more stress, unhappiness and meaninglessness. It is foolish and futile to chase after success to seek happiness. Fear of failure, fear of missing out and fear of death will keep us from the joys of living. True success comes from happiness rooted in the love of God. 

Happiness is found in the kingdom of heaven where we can have Transforming Listening Conversations with God, free from a fearful and slavish obedience to a set of rules. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth.1 He gave us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in the Beatitudes2. The greatest secret is that we can live in heaven here and now when our minds are rewired and our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit.

We need a radical change in how we see God’s relationship with us, our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Jesus came to open our eyes to God’s mysterious plan that the Holy Spirit is in us to empower us to fulfill God’s will in our lives. We are to set our sights on the realities of heaven. God is our loving Heavenly Father whose greatest happiness is to give us the Kingdom of Heaven:

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”3

Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death and suffering.4 God wants us to live in the joy of His Presence, Providence and Power for everything in life. Like a loving father, God wants us to live with intentional intimacy with Him in His Kingdom as this gives Him great happiness. The Beatitudes are the “be-attitudes” of a poverty of spirit, a spirit of mourning, a spirit of humility, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, a forgiving spirit, a pure mind, a peaceful heart and a spirit of perseverance. We need these “be-attitudes” to overcome the sins of lust, anger, pride, gluttony, greed, envy and acedia that draws us away from God’s grace and disfigures the image of God in us. 

The daily doses of bad news of war, pandemics and rising petrol prices are but alarm bells warning us of the folly and futility of a life without the love of God. The good news is that God’s goodness and unfailing love pursues us5 when we rest in Him – we do not have to chase after happiness! We need to wake up to the truth that we are living in the hell of our own thoughts6 which blind and deafen us to the awesome thoughts of God that are way beyond our human understanding.7 God wants us to know the great secret that Christ lives in us and we have the blessed assurance of sharing his riches and glory in heaven.8 

We need to be like children and babies singing songs of praise9 to lead us to the Rock that is higher than our problems so that we can stand on the precious truth that God’s ways are beyond our understanding and imagination.10 Faith is not blind when our vision is focused on the realities of God’s Kingdom. Through centering prayer, we can grow in awareness of our selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts and sinful thoughts and replace them with godly thoughts. We can detoxify our hearts by choosing to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable.11 We can choose not to waste time with the fake news in the social media but to feed on God’s Word each day as we sing:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, alleluia.”12

Respond:

Lord, help me to seek Your Kingdom to find real happiness. 

Reframe:

1.  What are the fears in life that I need to face?
2.  How am I seeking happiness in life?
3.  What does it mean to live in the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now?

Song of Praise

Seek Ye First

SDG

Notes:

1.  Matthew 6:10
2.  Matthew 5:1-12, EASY
3.  Luke 12:32, NLT
4.  Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT
5.  Psalms 23:6, NLT
6.  Romans 1:28-32, NLT
7.  Isaiah 55:8, NLT
8.  Colossians 1:27, NLT
9.  Psalms 8:2, ERV
10.  Isaiah 55:8, NLT
11. Philippians 4:8, NLT
12.  Seek Ye First, Maranatha! Singers

The Beatitudes:

‘Happy are the people who know that they need God very much. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like that. 

Happy are the people who are sad now. God will come near to help them. 

Happy are the people who are kind. The whole earth will belong to them. 

Happy are the people who want to obey God, as much as they want to eat food. God will give to them everything that they need. 

Happy are the people who help other people and who forgive them. God will forgive people like that. 

Happy are the people who have only good thoughts. They will come near to God and see him. 

Happy are the people who bring people together to be friends. God will call them his children. 

Happy are the people who do what is right but other people hurt them because of it. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like that.”

Matthew 5:3‭-‬10 EASY

The Peace Of Silence

Read:

John 14:23-27

Reflect:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27, ESV

Life is full of ups and downs. Our hearts are troubled as our peace of mind is broken by fears, doubts and guilt. Our monkey minds and deceitful hearts drive us to pursue peace and happiness in worldly pleasures and possessions which do not satisfy but only turn us away from God:

“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”1 

In Christ, our Heavenly Father opens His arms all day long to us but we are disobedient and rebellious2 and unable to listen and respond to His loving cry:

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.”3

When we are not touched by God’s love, we are part of God’s problem. We are breaking His heart. We cannot follow Christ to be God’s solution to redeem the world. Our hearts need to be broken so that the Holy Spirit can put God’s laws in our minds and write them on our hearts.

We have the free will to say “no” to God. We have the choice to say “yes” to God and make Him our refuge and to hold fast to His love.4 Obedience is the hallmark of our love for God. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is not a reward for obedience. It is our fears and lack of trust in God’s love that keeps us from receiving the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us for obedience. It is our desire to trust and obey God that opens our hearts to the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything and give us peace of mind and heart:

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”5 

We can express our desire for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit by abiding in Christ through silence. In silence true prayer is born. Prayer, according to Henri Nouwen, is listening to Jesus who is dwelling in the depths of our hearts. He found that spending ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in our lives. It is not easy to be still even for ten minutes as many other noisy and distracting voices that are not from God will demand our attention. 

But as we persevere to listen to our hearts daily, we will come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.6 In silence, I learn to hold fast to God’s love as I watch, without attachment or rejection, all my thoughts, positive and negative, flowing through my mind. Instead of letting the thoughts fill my heart with worry, I rewire my mind through prayer:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all that he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

In silence we intentionally seek Jesus who is in our hearts so that our attention is not directed by the thoughts in our minds. Each time my inner silence is punctured by my thoughts I use it as an opportunity to return to the peace of silence by acknowledging the thoughts and letting them go. Instead of trying to master silence, I seek to be mastered by the Holy Spirit in the embrace of silence. In silence I breathe in the peace of God that is beyond this world:

“Peace 

Holds me when I’m broken

Sweet peace 

That passes understanding

When the whole wide world is crashing down, 

I fall to my knees

And breathe in Your peace.”8

Respond:

Lord, may I be mastered by silence and live in Your loving embrace.

Reframe:

  1. What broken cisterns am I digging to find peace?
  2. What disturbs my peace of mind and troubles my heart?
  3. How am I breathing in the peace of God each day?

Song of Praise

Peace Holds Me When I’m Broken

SDG

Notes:

  1. Jeremiah 2:13, NLT
  2. Romans 10:21, NLT
  3. Isaiah 55:1-2, NLT
  4. Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV
  5. John 14:27 NLT
  6. Nouwen Meditation: Listen to the Voice of Gentle Love, 18 May 2022
  7. Philippians 4:6-7, NLT
  8. Peace – https://bethelmusic.com/chords-and-lyrics/peace-peace/

A.W.E. (A Wonderful Experience) of God

Read:

Isaiah 41:1-21

Reflect:

Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will strengthen you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10, NKJV

Becoming a grandfather was a wonderful experience when our grandson was born more than twelve years ago. It was a second chance to appreciate the sacred work of being a father. As a grandfather, I had the luxury to behold the wonder of an infant coming to terms with a brand new world without being caught up with the anxieties and pressures of parenting.

My eyes were opened to the truth expressed by the Swiss philosopher, Henri Arniel: “Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness.” Children are God’s messengers to remind us to live with spiritual ears attuned to the voice of our Heavenly Father. As a grandfather, I began to appreciate how amazingly “grand” our Heavenly Father is and how true it is that I need to be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven and have A Wonderful  Experience (A.W.E.) of God.  

But first I need to face the reality of evil and my need for the grace of God. I need to see clearly the wrath and judgment of God against sin and evil. I need to hear and understand the call of the prophet Isaiah:

“Listen in silence before me, you lands beyond the sea. Bring your strongest arguments. Come now and speak. The court is ready for your case.”1 

The prophet Isaiah was warning the Jews of the spiritual cancer of idolatry. The fruits of idolatry are greed and violence that cause so much suffering that we are seeing in the current Ukraine war. The world has not really changed since the time of Isaiah:

“The lands beyond the sea watch in fear. Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war. The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other, “Be strong!”

The idols of our modern society are money, sex, health and power. Greed drives us to worship money. Many are led away from the true abundance of living in the Kingdom of Heaven by the false gospels of health and prosperity. God’s judgment is to open our eyes to our need to have a “Get Out Of Hell” pass to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to wake up to the sinful desires, ulterior motives and hidden agendas of a worldly life which are causing the hellish conditions here on earth. Just as a doctor has to destroy the cancer cells to save the patient’s life, God’s judgment is directed towards the diagnosis and treatment of the spiritual cancer of idolatry so that we can live in the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now:

“Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will strengthen you with My righteous right hand.”2 

God does not want us to live in fear of His wrath against evil. The antidote for idolatry is to fall deeply in love with God . Only then will we be able to seek to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. This is the chief end of man according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We will not fear when we know that we have been redeemed by God and have been created for His glory:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.’”

“Everyone who is called  by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”3

We live in a dark and fallen world that is blind to the awe of God’s love – a world that needs to see that “the Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”4 God’s love fills us with compassion so that we have the perseverance and patience to love the people in our lives who are difficult to love. God’s love gives us wisdom to discern the fake and false news so that we can know and desire God’s perfect will for us. God’s love gives us courage to make difficult decisions. We need not be afraid to fail at anything when we trust that God will put everything right.

We will encounter suffering and struggles in a broken and godless world. Pain and suffering are the wages of sin and idolatry – they are not the will of God. It is how we see, hear and experience God in our suffering and struggles that is important. Will we face crises, challenges and conflicts with anger, guilt and fear or with love, joy and peace? Unless we learn to rest in God in good times to deepen our roots of faith, it will be very difficult to have a wonderful experience of God in stormy times when God seems to be absent.

To live an awesome life, I need A.W.E. (A Wonderful Experience) of God. I need to rewire my mind so that it is not filled with negative chatter but is full of “sticky positive thoughts” of God’s eternal love. I need to calm my restless mind which is like a mirror full of puzzling reflections and turn it into a pond with still waters so that I can see my true self more and more clearly in it. I need to follow Christ by living as a lamb of God in a world that is full of wolves – to be a living sacrifice in a world filled with wars and violence. With God as my Heavenly Father who holds me in my awful situations with His awesome power, I can live with my fears as I pray:

“Then hear, O gracious Savior,
Accept the love we bring,
That we who know your favor
May serve you as our king;
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’II triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless you still:
To marvel at your beauty
And glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise.”5

Respond:

Lord, help me to see that awful situations are golden opportunities to have A Wonderful Experience (A.W.E.) of Your awesome Love.

Reframe:

  1. How can I be more aware of the negative chatter in my mind?
  2. What “sticky positive thoughts” can I use to counter my negative thoughts?
  3. How can I have a wonderful experience of God’s amazing grace each day?

Song of Praise:

O God Beyond All Praising

SDG

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 41:1, NLT
  2. Isaiah 41:10, NKJV
  3. Isaiah 43:1,7, NKJV
  4. Nahum 1:7, NLT
  5.  O God Beyond All Praising

Courage For The Winter of Life

Read:

Genesis 46:1-7

Reflect:

“I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.” Genesis 46:3-4 NLT

 It is human to be afraid of the unknown and I need to hold fast to the truth that God’s plans are beyond my human understanding and wildest imagination.1 I will never fully understand the reasons for the Ukraine war or the Covid-19 pandemic. The tragedies of life lead me to face the hard truths of life and the reality of sin, evil and death. As Benjamin Franklin reminded the American people:

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

As I journey into the mid autumn of my life, old age looms as a time of losses, vulnerability and uncertainty. It is a time “to live into our belovedness with courage.”2  The story of Jacob going to Egypt to spend his last days in a place away from the Promised Land encourages me to trust in God’s plans for my old age.

Jacob had never expected to see his favourite son, Joseph alive. He was led to believe, by Joseph’s ten brothers, that Joseph may have been killed by a wild animal.3  Jacob could not believe his ears when he was subsequently told by his sons that Joseph was in fact alive and the governor of Egypt. When he was finally convinced that Joseph was alive, Jacob worshiped God by offering a sacrifice at Beersheba before he set out for Egypt. It was then that he received a vision from God who told him:

“I am the God of your father. Don’t be afraid of going down to Egypt. I am going to make you a great nation there. I’ll go with you down to Egypt; I’ll also bring you back here. And when you die, Joseph will be with you; with his own hand he’ll close your eyes.”4 

As Jacob worshiped God, he was given the promise of God’s presence to go down to Egypt and that God will make his family into a great nation there. He was also assured that Joseph will be at his death bed. The story of Jacob’s dysfunctional family is a revelation of how God is always turning evil to good. The evil actions of Joseph’s brothers were used by God to save the Jews during the famine.5 The story of Jacob and Joseph is a beautiful story to encourage us to build our trust in a loving God who is always in control and whose ways are beyond our comprehension.

In the winter of life, I need the courage that comes from a confident faith in God. I can take heart in God’s promise not to be afraid of the future for Christ came to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The good news of Easter is that Christ died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. God has sown the mustard seed of the resurrection power of Christ in my heart – Christ is in me and the Holy Spirit is with me. 

Old age is a golden opportunity to follow the example of John the Baptist to decrease so that Christ can increase and others can behold Christ, the Lamb of God as their Saviour.6  Power and  influence corrupt. We will be tempted to use our knowledge to increase our status and reputation.  We are living in a world of sorrows that tempts to draw away from God:

“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrows awaits the person who does the tempting”7

Contemplative prayer is a spiritual discipline to overcome pride.  Like Jacob and Joseph, we may be led through times of great love and great suffering so that we may be fruitful in our deaths. In contemplative prayer, we rest in the faithfulness of God so that we can see life and death from God’s perspective and not from our limited human minds. Old age is a blessing when we see it as a time of letting go and preparing to return home to God. We have the victory over death when death is no longer the wages of sin – we are dead to sin and alive to God.8 Until we cross the river of death, life is worth living because Christ lives in us:

“And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth a living just because He lives.”9

Response:

Lord, thank You for the promise of Your Presence in the winter of life.

Reframe:

  1. What is God’s will for me in the winter of my life?
  2. How can I find the courage to face the uncertainties in old age?
  3. How am I to live in the winter of life so that my death may bear fruit in my loved ones?

Song of Praise:

Because He Lives

SDG

Notes:

  1.  Isaiah 55:8, NLT
  2. Kristen E. Vincent, We Are Beloved: A Lenten Journey with Protestant Prayer Beads (Upper Room Books, 2019). Quoted in New Every Morning | April 17, 2022.
  3. Genesis 37:31-35 
  4. Genesis 46:3-4 NLT
  5.  Genesis 50:19-21
  6.  John 1:29-34, NLT
  7.  Matthew 18:7, NLT
  8. Romans 6:11,23
  9. Because He Lives

Snakes and Ladders Of Life

Read:

Matthew 28:1-10

Reflect:

“Then the angel spoke to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid!” he said, ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” Matthew 28:5-6, NLT

As I sat in silence on the morning of Good Friday, I heard the familiar chirping of a bird and then the thunderstorm began. The rolling sounds of thunder and the flashes of lightning brought the horrors and terrors of the war in Ukraine to mind. Good Friday is a day when we encounter the horrors of sin and evil. The pain and suffering Jesus suffered on the cross more than 2000 years ago, revealed the depths of inhumanity in human hearts.  The unseen bird continued singing through the thunderstorm –  a song assuring me of the faithfulness of God’s steadfast love which endures forever.

We are living in chaotic and unpredictable times and life can seem meaningless, purposeless, unfair and unjust. In such difficult times, we are filled with doubts and we feel hopeless and helpless. In these times we are drawn to our need for a confident and sustaining faith in a power beyond ourselves to deliver us from despair.  We need the power of love that always trump evil.  And this power can only be experienced in our powerlessness and helplessness.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples were unable to keep watch with Jesus as he wrestled in prayer to surrender his human will. Jesus then took the way of the cross to fulfill God’s perfect will. God knows that our spirits may be willing but our flesh is weak.1 Jesus died on the cross so that we can now watch and pray with him because he is watching and praying for us through the Holy Spirit:

”And the  Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”2

On Good Friday, Jesus went through the hell of experiencing the absence of God on the cross when he cried out on our behalf, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”3 Jesus expressed our perfectly normal and human cry to pain, suffering and grief. It was the perfect example of what authentic prayer is. Prayer is not giving God a laundry list of our personal needs or the problems of the world that needed to be solved. True prayer is the honest and intimate confession of our fears, doubts, anger and guilt to our Heavenly Father. We may feel abandoned by God but Jesus died and rose from the dead to assure us that God will never abandon us:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4

Life from the human perspective is like a game of snakes and ladders. We climb up ladders of material and spiritual success only to slither down the snakes of our lust, pride, greed, anger, envy, gluttony, acedia, fear and guilt. Jesus came to give us God’s perspective of life – to live the cruciform life as God’s beloved. Jesus died on the cross so that we can stop trying to do good to feel good. We are empowered to do good when the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with the joy of salvation.  

The silence of Holy Saturday after Good Friday is a time to prepare for the resurrection of Christ in our hearts at Easter. Silence is not trying to empty our minds – it is being attentive to our noisy thoughts and letting them go. Silence is spending time with God by resting in Christ to wait for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with the love of God.  We need not fear the silence of a mind that is waiting on God. It was a frightening experience for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when the angel rolled aside the stone of the tomb. But the angel told them not to be afraid as Jesus has risen from the dead.5

We cannot find Jesus when our mind is entombed by fears, guilt, doubts and other negative thoughts. The practice of silence is the practice of giving our everything to God by doing nothing. It is a journey into the Galilee of our hearts. When Jesus met the disciples on their way to the tomb, he told them not to be afraid but to leave for Galilee to see him there.6

The empty tomb of Jesus is a metaphor of life after death – when we die, we leave our bodies just as a butterfly leaves the chrysalis. We will find true life when the Holy Spirit rolls away the stone of the tomb of a worldly life. As “spiritual butterflies” we can watch with Jesus the “monkey thoughts” flying through our restless “caterpillar minds.” Just as Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in our hearts, Easter isn’t Easter till our hearts have been set on fire with the flame of God’s love and our minds transformed by the power of the resurrection.  Then we can truly sing:

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near

He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.7

Response:

Lord, thank You for rolling away the stones of fear, doubts and guilt in my life. Fill my heart with the flame of Your love and rewire my mind with the power of Your resurrection.

Reframe:

  1. What are the negative thoughts that have been entombed in my mind?
  2.  What ladders of success am I trying to climb?
  3.  What are the “snakes” that  are drawing me away from the love of God?

SDG

Song of Praise

He Lives!

Notes:

  1. Matthew 26:36-46, NLT
  2. Romans 12:26-27, NLT
  3. Matthew 27:46, NLT
  4. Romans 8:38-39, NLT
  5. Matthew 28:5-6, NLT
  6. Matthew 28:8-10, NLT
  7. He Lives, Alan Jackson

A Mustard Seed Kingdom

Read:

Genesis 26:12-23

Reflect:

“The Lord appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not  be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Genesis 26:24 NET

Life is full of failures in a dark and depressing world but love never fails. When we live our lives with our egos on the throne in our hearts, we will be afraid of failure. We will be discouraged when we encounter difficulties and disappointments in life. But times of failure are the best times to experience God’s Presence in our lives.

The story of Isaac’s life in the land of the Philistines during a famine is a revelation of the unfailing faithfulness of God’s agape love. Isaac had obeyed God’s commandment not to go down to Egypt during a famine. However, he repeated the failure of his father, Abraham, when he told the Philistines that Rebekah was his sister. But in spite of his deceit, God protected Isaac through King Abimelech and blessed him with so much wealth that the Philistines became jealous of him. Isaac was then ordered to move away to the Gerar Valley.

There he faced opposition from the shepherds in Gerar and he moved to Beersheba where he encountered God in a vision. God told him not to be afraid and promised that his descendants will become a great nation. When Isaac responded in worship, he experienced the fidelity of God’s promise to Abraham. King Abimelech came to make a covenant of peace  with him and Isaac’s servants  then found a new well.But Isaac needed courage and wisdom in his old age. Esau’s foreign wives made life miserable for him and Rebekah. Then Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing of the first born which belonged to Esau.  And to save Jacob from Esau’s wrath, Isaac had to send him away to Laban, Rebekah’s brother.2

In the Old Testament we read stories after stories of how God used feeble, flawed and foolish human beings for His glory. This is to teach us the spiritual truth that the meek will inherit the earth.3 When we are trying to be the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T), we are blind and deaf to God’s whispers of Love. It is only when we are meek and seeing heaven everyday in every person (S.H.E.E.P.) that God can plant a mustard seed of His Kingdom in our hearts.4 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.5 God knows our hearts and is waiting patiently for the right time to break through to us.

Like Abraham, God will call us to leave the comfort of our religious beliefs to embark on a journey into the Kingdom of God that is in the depths of our hearts. God’s promise of His Kingdom is not a reward for those who obey but a gift to be received by cultivating a right relationship with God:

“Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.”6 

It is futile to try and break through to God with our willpower and human strength. Faith is a gift that we can only receive from God when we come to the end of ourselves. God is waiting to break through to our minds when we come to our senses like the Prodigal Son7  and turn from our foolish and futile ways. The Holy Spirit will then show us the way through the wilderness of our hearts to God’s Kingdom.

Faith is the fruit of God’s seed of love. When our hearts is a path, a stony ground or filled with weeds, we cannot bear the fruit of faith.8 We need contemplative practices to  become aware of the negative beliefs, thoughts and feelings that keep us from growing deep roots of faith. Faith in the love of God can only grow when we invest our time to build our trust in God by “wasting time” with Christ – opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit through a totally surrendered will. The good news of the gospel is that we can face our fears by resting in the cross of Christ. We will then grow a confident faith by building a radical and courageous trust in the everlasting faithfulness of God’s love through a totally surrendered will.

Faith is a reflection of our relationship with God. Fear, induced by adversities and failure, is the biggest obstacle we need to overcome. When our lives are ego centered and not God centered, we will be afraid when we are buffeted by the storms of life. We are all infected and impure with sin. Our righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags.9  We can only live by faith when Jesus is our cornerstone10 and the gate of our righteousness.11

Jesus came as the Prince of Peace at Christmas to shine the light into the dark places in our hearts. On Palm Sunday, we welcome Jesus as He rides into our hearts as the King of Glory. It is only when I enthrone Jesus as Lord that my heart will not be divided and I will be set free from fears, guilt and sinful desires. Obedience to God’s Word becomes an exciting experiment of faith in the love of God and not a neurotic reaction to the fear of the judgment of God. Peace will guard my heart and mind in moments of anxiety and fear as I experience the power of God’s Presence in my daily life:

“Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister His grace
No work too hard for Him, in faith receive from Him
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place”12

Respond:

Lord, grant me patience and perseverance to water the mustard seed of Your love by waiting on You and feeding on Your Word.

Reframe:

  1. How can I keep my heart from becoming a path when I am successful?
  2. Is my heart a stony ground that keeps me from growing deeper roots of faith?
  3. What are the weeds that are choking the seed of love in my heart?

Song of Praise:

Be Still In The Presence Of The Lord

SDG

Notes:

  1. Genesis 26:12-23
  2. Genesis 27:1-28:5
  3. Matthew 5:5, NKJV
  4. Mark 4:30-32, NLT
  5. 2 Chronicles 16:9, NLT
  6. Romans 4:13-14 NLT
  7. Luke  15:17
  8. Mark 4:13-20
  9. Isaiah 64:6
  10. Acts 4:11
  11. John 10:9, NLT
  12. Be Still For The Presence of The Lord, David J. Evans