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Sunday, July 31, 2016

seek first

Opening Prayer: O my God, teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me.  Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking.  Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. ~St. Anselm of Canterbury

Scripture: Matthew 6:33

Journal: What (or who) are you seeking first these days?  What effect is that having on your life and soul?

Reflection: There is a designed order for all things, particularly our affections.  Simply put, the things that have captured our hearts are the things that we will always seek first.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance in the life of faith that we regularly examine exactly what those affections are.  The best way to do that is to ask ourselves what is getting the majority of our time and energy.  That will tell us what is really going on in our hearts, and help us to recognize and determine if those things that occupy first place in our lives and hearts are really worthy of that position.
     That’s what a significant amount of Matthew 6 is all about, making sure we are pursuing affections that are worthy of that pursuit.  The created order for those affections involves putting God first.  If we can get that one down, then the others will fall into place.  But if we get our affections out of order there will be chaos.  For anything that we are counting on to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls, other than God himself, simply cannot accomplish what we seek.  That’s why Jesus says to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all of the other things will be added unto you.  It’s really not as complicated as we make it.


Closing Prayer: O Jesus, who has taught us that not all those who say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only such as do the will of you Father, whose lives correspond with their belief, grant us a truly Christian spirit, a Christina heart, and guide us in the paths of a Christian life.  Grant that I may become detached from all things and in all things seek you alone.  Grant that I may direct all my knowledge, my whole capacity, all my happiness, and all my exertions, to please you, to love you, and to obtain your love for time and eternity.  Amen. (The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis)

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Opening Prayer: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-32

Journal: What is causing you to worry these days?  What strategy have you chosen to deal with it?  How are you trying to sow or reap or gather into barns?  How are you toiling or spinning?  How can looking at the birds of the air or considering the lilies of the field help you deal with worry in your life?

Reflection: Worry is a given in this life.  So the real question is not so much how to eliminate it, as it is how to fruitfully deal with it and come against it.  Our human strategies for dealing with anxiety are many and varied.  We can try to avoid or deny anxiety, using to old “if I don’t think about it, it will go away” strategy.  But, as we all know, it doesn’t go away.  At least not for long.  Or we can run off into busyness, toiling and striving to arrange our lives in such a way that whatever it is that we are anxious about will never come to pass.  Good luck with that one as well.  Or we can let it totally consume and paralyze us so that it is all we can think about.  Who wants to live like that?
     So exactly how do we deal with anxiety in a healthy way?  We do it, Jesus tells us, not by not thinking, or by thinking too much about what lies before or within us, but by thinking about him, and his care for us, as well as his care for our world.  Jesus points us to nature, to looking at and considering how God cares for all that is around us.  Then reminding us that he cares for us far more.  When we really begin to believe that, when we really begin to live our lives trusting both his heart and his hand, then we will really begin to trust him, which will give us peace rather than anxiety.  Try it today.  When you are feeling particularly anxious about something, stop and take a moment to refocus your heart on the incredible love and faithfulness of our God.  See if that doesn’t begin to give you some handholds in your battle against worry.


Closing Prayer: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Friday, July 29, 2016

serve him only

Opening Prayer: O Lord, our God, help us each day to do exactly what Jesus told us to do: “To worship the Lord our God and serve him only.” (Matthew 4:10)

Scripture: Matthew 6:24

Journal: Who or what are you serving right now?  What does your life say about who or what you are serving right now?

Reflection: Divided loyalties are never a good thing.  The problem is that eventually, if not regularly, they will come into conflict with each other.  And then what?  Who decides which one takes precedence?  The servant?  That sounds kind of backwards.
     Jesus made it very clear that you can really only give your full allegiance to one master.  Only one thing can totally capture your heart.  Only one thing can completely dominate your time and your energy.  You can either serve darkness or you can serve light, but you can’t serve both.  You can either serve God or you can serve money, but you can’t serve both.  Because eventually the two will come into conflict with each other, and when they do one of them will win out  We must not kid ourselves, whatever the thing or the person is that dominates our time and our energy, that is the thing or the person we are truly serving.  What is it for you?


Closing Prayer: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us eyes to see, and hearts to respond to, all that you desire to do in and through us this day.  For your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:22-23

Journal: How are your eyes these days?  How well are you seeing?  Does it seem like your eyes are filled more with darkness or light?  Why?  What do you see in your life and heart right now?

Reflection: I went to the eye doctor the other day thinking it was just a routine visit, that all was well with my seeing.  That is until he put the correct lenses on me, and then I was amazed at how poor my vision had become, without my even knowing it.  It’s kind of scary how easily our eyes can change over time and us not even be aware of it.  It happens so gradually that we don’t even notice it.  We get so used to not seeing clearly that it becomes the norm.  That is until someone shows us what it is like to see through good eyes, and then we are amazed at how we could even function with vision that poor.  That’s what Jesus is getting at in these verses, the importance of having good eyes.  Because when our eyes are bad not only is our seeing distorted, but so is everything else.  Our poor vision effects our perception of reality and of truth.  But when our eyes are good, our vision is clear and our thinking is accurate, allowing us to see our lives and our world through God’s eyes.  How are your eyes these days?


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us your eyes.  Then we will see ourselves and our world through the lenses of light and truth.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

fool's gold

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, be the treasure of our hearts, even as we are the treasure of yours.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21

Journal:  What is your treasure right now?  Who or what has your heart?  How is that playing out in your life?

Reflection: On the surface they look pretty similar I sure, which is undoubtedly how the name was derived.  But upon closer examination, particularly in the hands of an expert, one proves to be immensely valuable, while the other is completely worthless.  How can two things that look so similar be so completely different in both substance and content?  Therein lies the mystery.
     Treasure can be a tricky thing, just ask any prospector.  What looks like treasure can actually be fool’s gold.  It takes a trained eye to see the difference, to know the qualities of each.  And, as Jesus shows us here, the same is true in the spiritual life.  So often we can get tricked into thinking that the shiny things of this world are far more valuable, or satisfying, or lasting, than they really are.  And so we invest an enormous amount of time and energy in those things (success, achievement, acclaim, affirmation, financial security, etc.) only to find out in the end that they were of no lasting value—fool’s gold.  Jesus knows us all too well.  He knows that whatever (or whoever) it is that we treasure will be the thing that we pursue with our whole hearts.  It is just how we’re wired.
     Therefore it becomes pretty important that we take time regularly to examine, and reflect upon, what our treasure really is at any given moment.  To ask ourselves where the majority of our time and energy is being invested.  And then to ask ourselves if that person, or that thing, is indeed treasure, or just some cheap imitation. 


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are eternal treasure.  May we invest all of our time and energy and efforts in pursuing you and your kingdom, rather than the fleeting and temporary things of this world.  Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to take a good long look at the patterns and habits of our lives and allow them to tell us who and what we are really living for.  May we always treasure and seek you above all else, and not allow worry and anxiety to rule and dominate us.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-34

Journal: What words capture you in today’s Scripture?  Why?  What words challenge you?  Why?  What is the connection between treasure and seeing and serving and worry and seeking?  Can you see any pattern in your life that God wants to make you aware of?

Reflection: It is amazing how Jesus always starts at the core and works his way out, then takes us back to the core once again.  I think that’s why he starts with the idea of treasure in these versesWhat we truly treasure lies at the core of both our lives and our behavior.  Whatever it is that has captured our hearts the most, will be the thing that we ultimately live for.  Therefore, how we see and think about our lives, and the world around us, greatly determines how we live those lives.  What we see as most valuable and desirable determines the direction our lives take, and thus what (or who) we serve.  And if that which we serve—the object of our affections—can be lost or taken away, because it is temporary rather than eternal, it produces a significant amount of anxiety within us.  As a result of our worries, we adopt a strategy of living that addresses our ever-growing anxiety: we sow, or we reap, or we gather in barns.  We toil, or we spin, trying to minimize the likelihood that the thing(s) we have centered our lives around will, one day, up and vanish into thin air.  For that thing, whoever or whatever it may be, has become our first thing and it was never intended or designed to occupy that place.  So Jesus calls us to repent, to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and to treasure him above all else.  For only then will our lives be like those of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, seeking only to be who and what we were made to be, and trusting fully in God to provide everything that we need to be that.       


Closing Prayer:  Turn us back, once again, to yourself, Lord Jesus.  And forgive us for the ways, and the places to which, we have strayed.  May we seek you first today.  Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

our father

Opening Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15

Journal: What captures you most today about The Lord’s Prayer?  What speaks for your heart?  What speaks to your heart?  What part is the biggest struggle right now?  Why?

Reflection: The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.  It is in the personal relation to the living God, and the personal conscious fellowship of love with Himself, that prayer begins.  It is in the knowledge of God’s Fatherliness, revealed by the Holy Spirit, that the power of prayer will be found to root and grow. (With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray)


Closing Prayer: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; do what’s best as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. (The Message)

Friday, July 22, 2016

when you pray

Opening Prayer:  Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! Give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee. Behold my needs which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray Thyself in me. ~Francois Fenelon

Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8

Journal: What is your life of prayer like these days?  What words best describe it?  What do you most deeply long for your experience and practice of prayer to be like?  How will you move in that direction?  What does shutting the door look like for you right now?

Reflection: Now Christ, who seldom gave detailed instruction about anything, did give some detailed instruction for that withdrawal, that recollection which is the essential condition of real prayer, real communion with God.
     “Thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet—and shut the door.”  I think we can almost see the smile with which He said those three words: and those three words define what we have to try to do.  Anyone can retire into a quiet place and have a thoroughly unquiet time in it—but that is not making a Retreat!  It is the shutting the door which makes the whole difference between a true Retreat and a worried religious weekend.
     Shut the door.  It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.  Nearly every one pulls it to and leaves it slightly ajar so that the whistling draught comes in from the outer world, with reminders of all the worries, interests, conflicts, joys and sorrows of daily life.
     But Christ said Shut, and He meant Shut.  A complete barrier deliberately set up, with you on one side alone with God and everything else without exception on the other side.  The voice of God is very gentle; we cannot hear it if we let other voices compete.  Our ordinary life, of course, is not lived like that and should not be; but this bit of life is to be lived like that.  It is no use at all to enter that closet, that inner sanctuary, clutching the daily paper, the reports of all the societies you support, your engagement book and a large bundle of personal correspondence.  All these must be left outside.  The motto for your Retreat is God Only, God in Himself, sought for Himself alone.
     The object of Retreat is not Intercession or self-exploration, but such communion with Him as shall afterwards make you more powerful in intercession; and such self-loss in Him as shall heal your wounds by new contact with His life and love
     You would hardly enter the presence of the human being you most deeply respected and loved in the state of fuss and preoccupation and distraction in which we too often approach God.  You are to “centre down” as the Quakers say, into that deep stillness which is the proper atmosphere of your soul.  Remain with God.  Wait upon the Light.  Speak to your heavenly Father who is in secret.  These are the words that describe the attitude of the soul really in Retreat.  Do not think now of the world’s state and needs and sufferings or your problems and responsibilities; this is not the time for that.  Do not think too much about your own sins.  A general, humble, but very tranquil act of penitence and acknowledgement of your faithfulness is best.  “Commune with your Father, which is in secret.”  There is always something dark, hidden, secret, about our real intercourse with God.  In religion we should always distrust the obvious and the clear.  The closet where we speak to Him is not very well lit—but the light that filters into it has a quality of its own; it is a ray of the Eternal Light on which we cannot easily look: but as we get more used to it, sun ourselves in its glow, we learn, as we can bear it, to see more and more.  Therefore we must be content to dwell with God in that dim silence.  Gaze at Him darkly, as the mystics say, offer yourselves again and again to Him.  “All friends everywhere,” said Fox, “keep all your meetings, waiting on the Light”—a perfect prescription for a good Retreat. (Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill)


Closing Prayer: Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me.  Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking.  Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. ~St. Anselm

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Opening Prayer:  Heavenly Father, who sees what is done in secret, help my secret life to always glorify you in every way.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Journal: What does your secret life look like?  Who are you when no one is looking?  Is your secret life more intimate with God, or is your public life?  Why?

Reflection: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18)  It is a phrase that Jesus repeats three times in 18 verses.  Therefore, it must be pretty significant.  And each repetition is connected with a particular practice of the faith that is intended to cultivate our life and intimacy with God.  Unfortunately, they are also practices that, when made public, can make us look like we are more intimate with God than we really are—which then becomes our motivation.  It’s like someone who talks so much about how intimate their relationship is with their spouse that you get a sense that they are trying really hard to convince you of something that, in reality, just isn’t true.  The Pharisees were like that, and it drove Jesus crazy.
     So why is God so insistent on secrecy?  There are lots of reasons, I’m sure.  But I think one of the main reasons is because secrecy is the best soil for true intimacy to grow.  Intimacy is not something that can be broadcast without losing its essence.  It requires authenticity; play acting is not allowed.  If we are not real how can we ever hope for true intimacy with anyone, much less God?  Secrecy is that space where we are able to be our true selves, and to offer those true selves to God.  Secrecy is that space where we are not concerned with perception, or impression, or applause, but can seek the attention and affection of God alone.  It is the space of true transformation.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, cultivate within me this wonderfully intimate secret life with you, where I am concerned only with your approval and affection.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

growing in love

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you call us to love like you love.  Enable and empower us, this day, to do just that.  For the sake of your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.  

Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48

Journal: How is Jesus asking you to raise the bar in your life with him?  How is he desiring you to become more complete?  What does this look like concretely in your life?  What does it look like to grow in love today?

Reflection: Following Jesus is a dynamic process.  It is a life that is ever-changing.  It is a life where he is constantly calling us to a new place, to continual growth.  A life of following him is a life where we are constantly on the move spiritually.  We can’t stay in one place because when we have stopped growing, we have stopped following. 
     “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”  A life with Jesus is a life in which he is constantly raising the bar.  Not in the sense of oughts and shoulds, but in the sense of who and how he is calling us to love.  Life with him is a life in which we grow in love each and every day.  It is this growing in love that will make us complete.  And what Jesus really desires for us is to become more and more complete, more and more like him.  That’s what he’s actually saying when he says: “You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The Greek word for perfect is teleios, which means to bring something to its end; to be finished or complete.  And one of the main ways we become more and more complete, more and more like Jesus, is learning how to love.
     Eugene Peterson said it so well in The Message when he translates it: “In a word, what I’m saying is Grow up.  You’re kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  Live out your God-created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that your desire is to make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Help us to be at least a little closer to that at the end of this day than we were at the beginning.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

sons and daughters

Opening Prayer: Father, we belong to you.  We are your beloved.  Help us to live like it this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Romans 8:14-17

Journal: What is winning the battle within you these days, fear or love?  What would it mean for you to live as if you are God’s beloved son or daughter?

Reflection: Who are we?  Are we what we do?  Are we what others say about us?  Are we the power we have?  It often seems that way in our society.  But the Spirit of Jesus given to us reveals our true spiritual identities.  The Spirit reveals that we belong not to a world of success fame, or power but to God.  The world enslaves us with fear; the Spirit frees us from that slavery and restores us to the true relationship.  That is what Paul means when he says, “All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons [daughters] of God, for what you receives was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
     Who are we?  We are God’s beloved sons and daughters!
(Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Father, help me not live as a slave to fear this day, but to live as a beloved son or daughter of yours.  Then I can love others as you love me—unconditionally.  Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you tell us “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  May we be peacemakers, as you were, this day.  May we fight evil and opposition, not with anger and hatred, but with love.  For then we will be like you.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:9, 38-42

Journal: What is your first reaction to opposition?  How do the words of the Scriptures today speak to that?  What is Jesus asking of you?  Who do you need to make peace with?

Reflection: Jesus certainly has a way of turning things upside down, in the most beautiful way possible.  He constantly suggests that we upset the dysfunctional balance of the world and, instead, act in unexpected and life-giving ways.  These verses are a classic example of that.  He names situations that would normally cause us to react in anger and frustration, and tells us to react in love and kindness instead.  That’s what life in his kingdom is all about.  That’s what makes his kingdom so much different than the kingdom of this world.  In his kingdom we do not fight evil with hostility and retaliation, we fight it as he did, with love.  He asks us not to be defensive, reactive, and self-protective, but to be gracious and generous and hopeful. 
     “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he tells us, “for they will be called sons of God.”  Those who are members of his kingdom will be marked by peace and love.  How can they not be?  For if we are his children, we will look more and more like him each day.  And what beautiful lengths he went to in order to bring about peace, whether it be turning a cheek, giving away a cloak, canceling a debt, or going the extra mile.  May we do the same.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help the first reaction of my soul to all of the circumstances of this world to be one of love and not anger; there’s way too much of that in the world already.  But I realize, Jesus, that unless you put that spirit of love in my heart, unless you build that reaction of peace within my soul, it will simply not be there.  Only you can plant it within me.  O Jesus, give me your Spirit of love and peace.  For your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

seeing through the eyes of mercy

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Journal: How are you like the Pharisee?  Where do judgment and criticism live in your heart?  What do you learn from the sinful woman today?  How will you be more like her? 

Reflection: I’ve always prided myself in not being a “rules” guy, ready to strike a blow against legalism whenever it rears its ugly head.  But lately I’ve come to the realization that I’ve got a lot more Pharisee in me than I care to admit.  It most often shows itself in the form of judgment and criticism.  Oh, it doesn’t always end up coming out of my mouth (although it comes out a lot more often than I wish it did), but it is always a regular part of my inner dialogue. 
     It seems that I have an enormous need to be right.  And if you, like me, have an ever-increasing need to be right, then you also need someone to be wrong.  That’s where the judgment and criticism comes in.  You are always making a case for yourself, always comparing yourself.  Which also means you are also making a case against those on the opposing side of the fence, or, strangely enough, even against those on your side of the fence at times.  You are always picking out the flaws in others to make yourself feel better about your own.  And if you are totally honest, this whole ugly process comes from one horrible source—insecurity.  The Pharisees must’ve been the most insecure group of people on the entire planet.  And I ought to know, because, in spite of my best wishes not to be, I am, it seems, a card-carrying member.  My constant inner dialogue proves it.
     The answer, it would seem, to this dilemma is transformation.  I need to have the way I see things completely transformed.  I need to begin to see myself and my world—and even my God—through the eyes of the sinful woman rather than the eyes of the Pharisee.  I need to know the depths of my own sinfulness, as well as the unfailing nature of His love.  I need to find my security, not in my own efforts, but in His great affection.  Then, and only then, can I choose security over insecurity, love over judgment, humility over criticism, compassion over competition, and community over comparison.  Then I will begin to see all things through the lenses of his grace and mercy, which will produce a deep gratitude in me.  Then I will be able to love much, because I will finally realize that I have been forgiven much.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see through the eyes of love rather than judgment, the eyes of humility rather than criticism, the eyes of compassion rather than competition, and the eyes of community rather than comparison.  In other words, help me to see more like you.  Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2016

hungry and thirsty

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help my life, this day, to be driven by and determined by my hunger and thirst for you, rather than my hunger and thirst for the things of this world.  For only then will the words of my mouth reflect the truth that is in my heart.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:6, 33-37

Journal: What is your deepest hunger and thirst right now?  How do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  How does that work its way out into your life?  How does it affect what you say?

Reflection: I love how the beatitudes set the tone for the entire Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus tells us who to be, and then he shows us how that should affect what we do.  It is almost as if he is painting a picture of what life in the kingdom of God is all about, in contrast to that of the world around us.  There should be a qualitative difference between God’s people and the people of this world, all the way down to our yes and our no.
     Our very lives should be so saturated with his righteousness and his truth that there is never any reason for us to try and convince those around us that what is coming out of our mouths is actually one with what is going on in our hearts.  A simple yes or no should suffice, because those around us know us well enough to know that we are not given to embellishing or exaggerating.  We are not trying, unlike the rest of our culture, to spin “the truth” to our advantage.  We are not trying to sell anyone anything.  We just speak simply and truthfully.  Our lives and our hearts are one.  A hunger and thirst for righteousness is our driving force.  A hunger and thirst for righteousness determines what we do and what we say, not a hunger and thirst for affirmation, or advantage, or success.
     So the question becomes, “What hunger and thirst is ruling our lives these days?”  Is it a hunger for God and his kingdom, or a hunger for this world and the things of this world?  Maybe whether our yes is yes and our no is no can give us a hint. 


Closing Prayer: You called, You cried, you shattered my deafness.  You sparkled, you blazed, You drove away my blindness.  You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for You.  I tasted and now I hunger and thirst.  You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace. —Confessions by St. Augustine

Thursday, July 14, 2016

pure hearts

Opening Prayer: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Scripture: Matthew 5:8, 27-30

Journal: What do you see when you look into your heart these days?  What words best describe it?  What do you allow to exist in your heart that makes it impure?  How does purity of heart occur?  Will you fully surrender those areas to God?

Reflection: Carl Jung once wrote: “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.  Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”  I wonder if that’s not what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  The Pharisees spent far too much time concentrating on outward appearances, leading Jesus to chastise them pretty severely: “Woe to you, teacher of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26) 
     Jesus knew the truth.  He knew that purity of life always comes from purity of heart.  Our lives can give us clues as to what’s really going on inside of us, but the real work of the Spirit has to go on deep in our hearts.  Because what’s in our hearts will eventually find its way into our lives.  “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make a man ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:18-20) 
     Therefore, if we want pure lives, we have to start with pure hearts.  Unfortunately, however, we cannot clean up our impure hearts on our own, it is the work of God.  Our part is to surrender, and trust.  We must open our hearts to God and beg him to do his work deep within us.  We must trust him to make our hearts clean.  It is a work that he deeply longs to do.  His deepest desire is to make our hearts his very own.    


Closing Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you that you have declared us righteous in Christ.  The pressure is off.  Now we may live our lives in loving response to your grace and your kindness.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:20

Journal: What does it mean that your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law?  What does the word righteousness do within you?  How does it inspire you?  How does it challenge you?  How does it disturb you?  What does righteousness look like in your life?

Reflection: I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the word righteousness I immediately start getting a little overwhelmed, as if my right standing before God was somehow all up to me.  I guess I have a little Pharisee in me after all.  So, when I hear that my righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, it makes me a little nervous.  What, exactly, does that mean?
     Righteousness is a tricky thing.  It is something I am given (through Christ), yet something I still need to pursue.  Which means that I can so easily get sidetracked into believing--and living as if--it is all up to me.  I am so prone to performing and earning.  It is a default that is set deep in my heart and soul.  And if I start to live as if my righteousness is all up to me, then I start focusing on my behavior rather than on my heart—which seems to be the very thing Jesus is speaking out against.  Righteousness is an inside out process, not outside in.  Jesus wants my heart before he wants my behavior, for he knows that if he has my heart, then my behavior will follow.  If he simply has my behavior, then my life with him will be all about appearances, legalism, and duty.  I guess that’s why he said, “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
     All too often I get it totally backwards, as did the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  It all starts with the heart.  The fact that Jesus has given me his righteousness should capture my heart, fill me with deep gratitude, and bring me to life inside.  This life within me then functions as the motivation—the fuel, if you will—for the life that works its way out through me.  I have been totally captured by his love and, therefore, I want to please him in every way possible.  That seems much less overwhelming, and much more of a possibility.


Closing Prayer: Jesus, you are our righteousness.  May we love and serve you today in response to the unfailing love and affection which you have showered upon us.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that in you we find the fulfillment of all things, even the Law and the Prophets.  Help us to understand what that means and to put it into practice in our lives this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20

Journal: Where have you allowed yourself to relax or to get loose?  How do these words speak to that?  What is Jesus calling you to?

Reflection: It is an unfortunate tendency in the life of faith to get loose over time if we are not careful.  We all seem to have a propensity to relax buried deep within us, to let our guards down and allow ourselves to drift lazily off into the grayer areas of belief and practice.  Especially when it comes to the Law.
     Jesus knew this all too well.  As a matter of fact, it is one of the things he warned us about here in Matthew’s gospel.  He reminds us that he didn’t come to abolish (katalyō—to loosen, or tear, down) the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill (plēroō—to make full, or consummate) them.  He came to bring the Law and the Prophets to life, to embody what they taught and said, and to show the fullness of living life according to his word.  After all, he is what both the Law and the Prophets were pointing to. 
     Therefore, he warns us not to relax (lyō—to loosen) one of the commandments, or to teach others to do the same, lest we be seen as least in the kingdom of heaven.  He warns us not to think of the Law and the Prophets as something separate from life with him, but to integrate them into one unified whole with his life and his words.  He is not calling us to the legalism and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, but to the holiness and wholeness of the Spirit; to integrate and embody all of what life with God is about. 


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me not to allow my life to get too loose, but let me hold fast to you and all that you desire for me and from me.  For your glory. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

salt and light

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, allow me, this day, to be salt and light.  Give me the grace and the wisdom to accentuate and illuminate you the way you desire me to.  For your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

Journal: What does it mean to you to be salt and light this day?  What habits, needs, or patterns tend to get in the way of that?

Reflection: Being salt and light seems like a delicate balance.  A balance between being and doing.  A balance between drawing attention to God versus drawing attention to ourselves.  And a balance between trying too hard versus not trying hard enough.  It can be difficult to find that fruitful middle ground. 
     When we try too hard, for example, we can have a tendency to overpower people.  After all, too much salt can destroy a perfectly good meal, and too much light can be blinding.  They both must be applied in the right amounts.  They both must realize their role in the process.  When salt or light become the point, rather than something that accentuates or illuminates the point (Jesus), then they have become a hindrance rather than a help.  Be honest, we have all experienced that before, either in ourselves or others.  And it ends up driving people away from the kingdom rather than drawing them toward it. 
     The problem begins when salt loses its desire to just be salt, and instead wants to become the whole meal.  Or when light loses its interest in just being light and wants to become the city it is meant to illuminate.  When we start wanting to be seen or noticed, rather than simply wanting to accentuate or illuminate God, the whole process goes haywire.  We get in the way of what God is trying to do, rather than enabling it.  So, may we all, each and every one of us, only desire that people taste and see Jesus.  For when they do, then, and only then, will they be able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”    


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, may people taste and see you in my life this day and know that you are good.  Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are always willing to leave the ninety-nine in order to find the one who is lost, and each of us is lost in some way shape or form.  O how we long to be found by you.  Find us this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 15:1-7

Journal: How are you feeling lost in life right now?  What would it look like for Jesus to come looking for you?  How do you long to be found? 

Reflection: And when he has found his lost sheep, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me. For I have found my sheep that was lost." Luke 15:5-6
     If you live long enough, and are completely honest with yourself, you come to the realization that being lost doesn't just have to do with salvation; there are a multitude of other ways to get lost in this life.  In fact, it happened to me just the other day, as those dark and familiar voices from deep in my heart arose and started telling me that all too familiar story about how I am inadequate, unworthy, and unlovable.  The next thing I knew I was filled with fear, insecurity, and anxiety.  I was desperate and disoriented.  I was lost.  I'm not really even sure how it started, and to be quite honest it really doesn't take very much to put me in this state, but before I knew it I was in a very dark place.  Thank goodness for the One who constantly comes to find me when I have once again wondered down this dark and lonely path.  The One who takes hold of me, lays me on his shoulders, reminds me of his unfailing love and affection, and carries me home rejoicing.  Because I'm pretty sure that I could never have found my way back on my own.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to never be like the Pharisees, who thought that being lost was something that only happens to other people.  We all need you, O Good Shepherd, to come looking for us each day.  Lord, have mercy on us all.  Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

the dead will rise

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you have conquered death, and because of that so can we.  Thank you that pain and chaos and death do not have the final word, but life does.  Help us to believe it is true and live our lives in that hope.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 12:18-27

Journal: Where in your life right now are you overwhelmed by death?  What is dying around you or within you?  What does it mean to believe that the dead will rise?  How will that truth effect the way you live today?

Reflection: If we are not careful it is easy to find ourselves believing that death has the upper hand in this life.  After all, it is all around us.  And even, at times, within us.  Loved ones die, and we are left to deal with the reality of life without them.  Dreams die and we are left reeling, trying to figure out what life after the dream is supposed to look like.  At times, it is easy to believe that death has the final word.  That is, evidently, what the Sadducees believed.  What a sad and hopeless existence.
     Jesus, however, comes to open our ears to a new voice, the voice of hope and possibility.  A voice that constantly reminds us that death—be it around us or within us—does not have the final word, life does.  Death is not the point.  It is only a means to a greater end.  Life is the point, and death is only a part of the process of new life coming into being.  In God’s economy, life always follows death.  The dead will rise.  Don’t focus on, and be consumed by, the death around you or within you.  Focus on the life that is to come, the life that the death is making room for.  Don’t settle for death when God wants to use it to make way for new life.  Reach for life.


Closing Prayer: Lord, you know me better than I know myself.  Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.  Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.  Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.  Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and closed myself off from you.  Help me in the day to come, to recognize your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory.  Amen. ~Ignatius of Loyola

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Opening Prayer: Help us, O God, to magnify you this day in all we do, think, and say. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 1:39-49

Journal: What is being magnified in your soul these days?  What is the result of that?  What would it look like to choose for your soul to magnify God?  How will you do that today?

Reflection: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  I don’t know about you, but I totally get this idea.  After all, I am painfully aware that it is the tendency of my soul to always be magnifying something.  It seems to be wired into my DNA.  Unfortunately, the things my soul most often magnifies are not the things that bring life and joy and peace.  In fact, they tend to bring the exact opposite.  I tend to magnify my circumstances, or my fears, or my anxieties, or my inadequacies, rather than magnifying my God.  And when I do this, these dysfunctional patterns only seem to grow larger and larger within me, as my soul shrinks smaller and smaller.  That is the essence of the word magnify (megalyno in the Greek), which literally means to make great.  When things other than God are made great in our souls, our souls tend to shrivel and die.
     The beautiful part of Mary’s prayer, on the other hand, is that she determines that her soul is going to magnify the Lord, rather than the million-and-one other things her soul could be magnifying at the moment.  She realizes that the choice of what to magnify is up to her.  She can choose to be consumed and overwhelmed by her fears and uncertainties, or she can choose to be consumed and overwhelmed by her God, and his love and his goodness.  She refuses to allow her circumstances to dictate her life.  In other words, she realizes that she can’t determine her circumstances, but she can decide not to let her circumstances determine her.  Brené Brown said it so well when she wrote: “The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else?  Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”
     So today, what will it be?  What will you magnify?  What will you allow to grow larger within you?  What will you make great?  What will determine the way you will live today?  Will you write the story or will you allow someone or something else to do that?  It’s up to you. 


Closing Prayer: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

the life of his messenger

Opening Prayer: Let no cost be too great, O God, for us to continually proclaim your message to all those living and working in your vineyard, regardless of their response.  For the sake of your kingdom and your glory we pray.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 12:1-12

Journal: What is the message God has given you to proclaim?  Are you proclaiming it?  What has being a messenger cost you?  What does that tell you?

Reflection: “Don’t shoot the messenger,” the old saying goes.  But, in reality, that is often exactly what happens.  The life of a messenger is not an easy one, especially where the kingdom of God is concerned.  Because when the message that is given requires a lot from those to whom it is given, the result is often rejection.  Therefore, being a messenger can be quite costly.  Just ask the messengers sent to those working in the vineyard.  It can even cost you your life. 
     That is, of course, unless you try to water down the message to make it more acceptable to its recipients.  Jesus himself warned us that the message of the gospel was costly, that it would require everything of us (Luke 14:25-33).  He also warned us that if we are truly proclaiming his message and his kingdom, it would actually divide rather than unite (Luke 12:49-53).  Therefore, the life of a messenger is not likely to be an easy one.  He, or she, is not likely to win any popularity contests.
     Therefore, maybe I should begin asking myself some serious questions.  What is the message that my life and my lips proclaim?  Is it truly the message of Jesus?  What has being his messenger really cost me?  And if it has cost me little, or nothing, am I really proclaiming the message of Jesus, or simply one of my own creation?  Because if I am truly proclaiming his gospel, I am likely to get attacked in one way or another.   


Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I confess that all too often I want to be popular and accepted and well-received more than I want to be your messenger.  And when I do this, I sacrifice the radical nature of your message for the acceptance of those to whom the message is given.  Jesus, help me to be true to you, and to your message, regardless of what it may cost.  After all, it is all for your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.