842) Thought-Provoking

     

     I was browsing around in a Barnes and Noble bookstore one day and saw a table featuring “Thought-Provoking Books.”  Items on the table included entertaining books of mathematical brain-teasers, mind-boggling books on astronomy and physics, and off-the-wall books on politics.  There were also several books on the topic of religion and philosophy.  I looked at each one of those books and was frustrated to find that every thought-provoking book in the section was negative on faith and religion.  Books like The God Delusion, Atheist America, The Quotable Atheist, and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything were all there.  All were bestsellers at that time, and the bookstore wanted to cash in on that popularity.  That’s their business, so no problem there.  But I wondered about the selection process of those books that were considered ‘thought provoking.’  There are all kinds of ‘thought-provoking’ books written in response to these atheistic books, and many books written by Christians over the centuries that speak to the questions raised in these books.  Barnes and Nobles does have a great section on religion, and many of those good books are there.  But why not even one single positive book on faith in the ‘thought provoking books’ section?  Some of them were also selling very well at that time.  Was that store manager of the opinion that religious people do not think and just blindly believe what they are told?  I had been looking for one book in particular that was also published at about that same time.  It was by Anthony Flew, a world famous philosopher and out-spoken atheist for 60 years.  Anthony Flew then changed his mind, and his last book was entitled There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.  I bet that would be thought-provoking.  Another good book would be I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.  That also sounds thought-provoking, but that book wasn’t there either.

     I know what all of those anti-religion books say.  They make the usual challenges with questions like, ‘If there was an all-powerful and all-loving God, then why is there so much suffering in the world?’  And that is indeed a huge question.  But you don’t need a $29.00 book to raise that question in your mind, do you?  Anyone who has ever suffered, any one who has watched a loved die, anyone who reads the newspaper will ask time and again, ‘Why Lord?’  The Bible itself asks that question time and again, as God’s people over the centuries struggled with what looked to them like God’s lack of power, lack of concern, or both.  The Bible has many responses to this question, and believers over the years have struggled with this challenge within the context of their faith, and, they have come to many profound insights and answers.  The problem of suffering leads some away from the faith, and leads many to deeper faith, but everyone thinks about it.  It is too bad that the Barnes and Noble manager considered only one type of response thought-provoking.

     I would be quick to agree that there is no full and completely satisfying answer to this question of suffering.  And even the best answers will seem most inadequate to anyone who is in the midst of suffering.  But God’s ways are not our ways, the Bible tells us, and we should not be surprised if we do not understand everything about God.  

     And perhaps the whole answer is in the Bible, and it is just that we, in our sinful minds, do not find it satisfying.  Perhaps God’s attempts to reason with us are like a parent’s attempt to reason with a child…

     “Mom, why can’t we have candy for supper,” says five-year old Teddy.  “I like candy, but I don’t like that goulash you are making again.”
     “Well,” says mother, “eating candy all the time would not be good for you.  It is not very nutritious, and you will never grow big and strong by just eating candy; and not only that, but too much sugar can make you sick, and even cause diseases, and its not very good for your teeth either.”
     “Yes, mom,” replies Teddy, “I know all that, but why can’t we have candy for supper every night?”

     Good reasons are given, but the small child’s little mind doesn’t get it.  Perhaps it is that our small, sinful human minds just cannot or will not comprehend or accept the knowledge and insights given in the Bible about why God allows suffering in this world.

     Most importantly of all, despite our lack of understanding, God’s most important response to the problem of suffering the wonderful hope and promise of the time and place when there will be no more suffering and no more pain.  That much in the Bible is very clear.

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Psalm 10:1  —  Why, Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 13:1-2a  —  How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

Isaiah 55:8-9  —  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Revelation 21:4-5a  —  God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

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How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds…

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength.

–Habakkuk 1:2-3…3:17-19a

841) Love Your Enemy

From a column by Andree Seu, World magazine, November 1, 2008, page 87, referring to a conversation she was told about.

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     “Is your husband an enemy?” Elisabeth Elliot said to me.  “Does your husband feel like your enemy?”

     “Yes.”

     “What does the Bible say about how to treat your enemies? . . .  Love them.  Do good for them.  Pray for them.”

     “Do good,” I thought.  Could it really be that simple?

     I set my mind to do one good thing for George every day.  In the name of the Lord.  I couldn’t do it for George, but I could do it in obedience to God.  George is my husband and my enemy, and this is the Lord’s command to me.

     I started with a spice cake, George’s favorite dessert.  Simple enough.  But as I did these things, I just became so broken.  Had I really been so, so selfish, and thoughtless all these years, that these little things could mean so much?  Gradually, I saw my true heart as George had seen it all these years– so cold and bitter and awful.  Was I really as bad as this?  Yes.  Yes.

     Finally I was broken.  Over time, compassion for George replaced bitterness.  And dare I say it, even love begins to grow.  Glimpses of delight?  Yes, even that.  God began to show me how He loves George too, and just how foolish I have been.  I feel like Isaiah 61 is coming to pass:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: beauty for ashes; gladness for mourning; a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

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Matthew 5:43-45a  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Luke 6:32-33  —  (Jesus said), “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.”

Luke 6:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Romans 12:21  —  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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My Lord Jesus, look at how my neighbor has injured me, slandered my honor with his talk, and interfered with my rights.  I cannot tolerate this, and so I wish he were out of my way.  O God, hear my complaint.  I cannot feel kindly toward him, even though I know I should.  See how cold and insensible I am.  O Lord, I can’t help it, and so I stand forsaken.  If you change me, I will be devout and have better thoughts.  Otherwise, I must remain as I am.  O dear God, change me by your grace.  Amen.

–Martin Luther  (1483-1546)

Image result for do good to enemies images

840) Prayers by Walter Rauschenbusch (b)

From For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening, 1909.  (Adapted)

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MORNING PRAYERS:

O God, we thank you for the sweet refreshment of sleep and for the glory and vigor of the new day.  As we set our faces once more toward our daily work, we pray for strength sufficient for our tasks.  May Christ’s spirit of duty and service ennoble all we do.  Uphold us by the consciousness that our work is useful work and a blessing to others.  If there has been anything in our work harmful to others and dishonorable to ourselves, reveal it to our inner eye with such clearness that we shall hate it and put it away, even though it be at a loss to ourselves.  When we work with others, help us to regard them not as servants to do our will, but as brothers and sisters, equal to us in human dignity, and equally worthy of their full reward.  May there be nothing in this day’s work of which we shall be ashamed when the sun has set, nor in the evening of our life when our task is done and we to go our long awaited home to see your face.  Amen.

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Once more a new day lies before us, our Father.  As we go out among others to do our work, touching the lives of our fellows, make us, we pray, friends of all.  Save us from blighting any heart by the flare of sudden anger or secret hate.  May we not bruise the rightful self-respect of anyone by contempt or malice.  Help us to cheer the suffering by our sympathy, to freshen the despairing by our hopefulness, and to strengthen in all the wholesome sense of worth and the joy of life.  Save us from the deadly poison of class-pride.  Grant that we may look all people in the face with the eyes of a brother or a sister.  If anyone needs us, make us ready to yield our help ungrudgingly, unless higher duties claim us.  May we rejoice that we have been abundantly blessed by you, and are thus able to be helpful to our fellow-men.  Amen.

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O great Companion of our souls, go with us today and comfort us by the sense of your presence.  Help us to focus on our duty.  Guide us by the voice within.  May we take heed of all the judgments of others and gather patiently whatever truth they hold, but teach us still to test them by the words and spirit of the one who alone is our Master.  May we not be so conformed to this world that all people fully approve of us, but may we speak the higher truth and live the purer righteousness which you have revealed to us.  If others speak well of us, may we not be puffed up; if they slight us, may we not be cast down; remembering the words of our Master who encouraged us to rejoice when men speak evil of us and tremble if all speak well.  Amen.

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O God, we who are bound together in the tender ties of love, pray for a day of unclouded love.  May no passing irritation rob us of our joy in one another.  Forgive us if we have often been keen to see the human failings, and slow to feel the preciousness of those who are still the dearest comfort of our life.  May there be no sharp words that wound and scar, and no rift that may grow into estrangement.  Do not allow us to grieve those whom you have sent to us to love and be loved by.  May our eyes not be so blinded by selfishness that we come to appreciate our loved ones only when it is too late and they return to you.  Amen.

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Lord, we lift our hearts to you in the pure light of morning and pray that we be kept clean of bitterness and hostility by the power of forgiving love.  If any slight or wrong still rankles in our souls, help us to pluck it out so that we may be healed by you.  Do not allow us to turn in anger on him who has wronged us and seek his hurt, lest we increase the sorrows of the world and taint our own souls with the poisoned sweetness of revenge.  Grant that by the insight of love, we may understand our brother in his wrong, and if his soul is sick, to bear with him in pity, and pray that he be healed by the gentle spirit of our Master.  Make us determined to love even at cost to our pride, that so we may be soldiers of your peace on earth.  Amen.

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FOR SUNDAY MORNING:  O God, we rejoice that today no burden of work will be upon us and that our body and soul are free to rest.  We thank you that this day was hallowed by you for all who toil, and that from generation to generation your weary children have found it a shelter and breathing space.  We pray for your peace on all who cease from labor and enjoy the comfort of their home and the companionship of those they love.  Forbid that the pressure of covetousness or thoughtless love of pleasure rob any of their divine right of rest.  Grant us wisdom and self-control that our pleasures may not be follies, lest our leisure drain us more than our work.  Teach us that our body cannot rest unless our soul has repose, that so we may walk this day in your presence in tranquility of spirit, taking each joy as your gift, and on the morrow return to our labor refreshed and content.  Amen.

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Psalm 88:13  —  I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Colossians 3:23  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Exodus 20:8-10a  —  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work.

839) Prayers by Walter Rauschenbusch (a)

   Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) has been called the ‘Father of the Social Gospel Movement.”  From 1886 to 1897 he served as pastor of the Second German Baptist Church in the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ area of New York city.  Ministering in that neighborhood of extreme poverty, he realized that the church must address not only people’s spiritual needs, but also their physical needs.  He worked to do this not only by helping suffering individuals, but also by working for social change that would give people the opportunity to escape their poverty.  He has been called one of the most influential American religious leaders of the 20th century.  His passion to see God’s will done “on earth as it is in heaven” has inspired and influenced countless pastors and social reformers, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Desmond Tutu.  These prayers are from his 1909 book, For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening (with some editing).

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THANKFULNESS FOR CREATION:
O God, we thank you for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the abundance of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part.  We praise thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the stars on high.  We praise thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, and for the grass under our feet.  We thank you for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime.  Grant us, we pray, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty.  Save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thorn bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.
Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our little brothers and sisters, to whom you have given this earth as their home in common with us.  May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life just as we do, and serve thee in their place.  When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance; but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it.  And then, may our bodies return in peace to mother earth who for so long nourished them.  Amen.

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AGAINST IMPURITY:
O Lord, help me this day to keep my life pure in thy sight.  Suffer me not by any lawless act of mine to befoul any innocent life or add to the shame and hopelessness of any erring one that struggles faintly against sin.  Grant me a steadfast scorn for any pleasure bought by human degradation.  May no reckless word or wanton look from me kindle the slow fires of wayward passion that will char and consume the divine beauties of any soul.  Give me grace to watch over the imaginations of my heart, lest in the unknown hour of my weakness my secret thoughts leap into action and my honor be turned into shame.  If my friends trust me with their loved ones, save me from betraying their trust and from slaying the peace of a home.  If any dear heart has staked its life and hopes on my love and loyalty, I beseech thee that its joy and strength may never wither through my forgetfulness or guilt.  O God, make me pure and a helper of the weak.  Grant that even the sins of my past may yield me added wisdom and tenderness to help those who are tempted.  O Jesus, thou master of all who are both strong and pure, take our weak and passionate hearts under thy control, that when the dusk settles upon our life, we may go to our long rest with no pang of shame, and may enter into the blessedness of seeing God, which thou hast promised only to the pure in heart.  Amen.

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FACING DEATH:
O Thou Eternal One, we who are doomed to die lift up our souls to thee for strength.  The death of others has touched us, and we know that at some turn of our pathway he stands waiting to take us by the hand and lead us– we know not whither.  We praise thee that to us death is no longer an enemy, but thy great angel and our friend, who alone can open for us the prison-house of pain and misery and set our feet in the roomy spaces of a larger life.  Yet we are but children, afraid of the dark and the unknown, and we dread the parting from the life that is so sweet and from the loved ones who are so dear.
Grant us a valiant heart, that we may tread the road with head uplifted and a smiling face.  May we do our work to the last with a wholesome joy, and love our loved ones with an added tenderness because the days of love are short.  On thee we cast the heaviest burden that numbs our soul– the gnawing fear for those we love, whom we would leave unsheltered in a selfish world.  But we will trust in thee, for through all our years thou hast been our stay.  O thou Father of the fatherless, put your arm about our little ones.  We bless thee for every hour of life, for all our share in the joys and strivings of our brothers and sisters, for the wisdom gained which will be part of us forever.  If soon we must go, still we know that through thee we have lived, and pray that by thy grace we have helped to shape the future and bring in the better day.  If our spirit droops in loneliness, uphold us by thy companionship.  When all the voices of love grow faint and drift away, thy everlasting arms will still be there.  Thou art the Father of our spirits; from thee we have come; to thee we go.  We rejoice that in the hours of our purer vision, we know that for those who abide in thee, death is but the gateway to life eternal.  Into thy hands we commend our spirit.  Amen.

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James 1:17a  —  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

Philippians 3:14  —  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Luke 23:46  —  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  When he had said this, he breathed his last.

838) Prayers from the ‘Book of Common Prayer’

First edition of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, 1549, edited by Thomas Cranmer  ( 1489-1556)

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Assist us, mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and guide our ways towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; so that among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who cares for us:  Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be completely yours and utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess:  Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life:  Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life.  Amen.

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed; and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding:  Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life:  Give to your church in paradise and on earth your light and your peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served you here and are now at rest, may at last enter with them into your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God, have mercy upon us, forgive us all our sins, and deliver us from all evil; confirm and strengthen us in all goodness, and bring us to life everlasting.  Amen.

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Romans 12:12  —  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Ephesians 6:18  —  Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4:6-7  —  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 4:2  —  Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

James 5:13  —  Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.

837) Old and New

Image result for jeremy taylorMany people do not have the time or the desire to read books on theology and the Christian life.  It is estimated that over 90% of what printed by Christian publishers is purchased by less than 10% of American Christians.  British pastor and author Jeremy Taylor would not disapprove.  While the above quote makes abundantly clear the importance of giving such attention to our spiritual concerns, the quote below recommends ‘little reading and much thinking.’  It is hoped that these daily Emailmeditations can provide an opportunity for that, giving you ‘a little reading’ each day to help you think about your relationship with God and your eternal destiny.

Read not much at a time; but meditate as much as your time and capacity and disposition will give you leave; ever remembering that little reading and much thinking, short prayers and great devotion, is the best way to be wise, to be holy, to be devout.

–Jeremy Taylor  (1613-1667)

Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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C. S. Lewis once said that for every new book one reads, one should also read an old classic, in order to broaden one’s mind beyond the narrow limits our own time and culture.  I have tried to do that, and have often found the old classics to be slow and difficult reading.  There is a reason why Mark Twain said, “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, and nobody wants to read.”  But I have usually found the effort to be worthwhile, discovering valuable treasures in these old books.  And then, as advised by Coleridge in the quote below, I like to share it.

Great works are not in everybody’s reach, and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither the time nor the means to get more.  Let every bookworm, when in any scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, or an illustration that does his heart good, hasten to share it.

–S. T. Coleridge  (1772-1834), English poet and philosopher

Matthew 13:52  —  (Jesus) said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

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These Emailmeditations are much briefer than reading an entire book, but still may sometimes require a slow and careful reading.  Renovare’s Christopher Webb writes:

It is not always easy to read these old books.  That is not only because they are rooted in the past, although it is true that sometimes we will need to be ready to understand that the author is speaking from, and addressing, the concerns, assumptions, and even prejudices of another age.  It can also be difficult because we are used to reading quickly.  Woody Allen once quipped that, after taking a speed reading course, “I read War and Peace in twenty minutes– it’s about Russia.”  The spiritual classics simply will not submit to that kind of treatment.  Instead, we need to approach them using some of the skills of ‘lectio divina,’ divine reading.  We need to read slowly, savoring the turns of phrase and the insights they embody.  We need to read expectantly, open to the possibility that this writing might change the course of our lives.  And we need to read longingly, with a heartfelt desire that our reading will not only teach us about Jesus, but actually lead us into his presence.  Reading in this way takes time– it can takes months to work through a single book– but that is all right.  We need to remember that the goal is not turning the pages; it is turning our hearts.  

In 1955 Scottish theologian John Baillie edited A Diary of Readings, devotional readings for each day of the year, selected from writers throughout the history of Christianity.  What he wrote in his preface about his book could also apply to many of the selections for these daily meditations:

So many different traditions, as well as periods, and no doubt tempers of mind, are represented that not everyone, and perhaps no one, can make every page his own.  I could not myself do this.  But I hope each page may be found worth attending to and thinking about, and that from it something may be learned.  Some pages may be thought difficult, but it does not hurt to have our minds stretched a little, even when we do not fully comprehend.

Philippians 4:8  —  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

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Guide me, O Lord, in all the changes of my life in this world; that in all things that shall happen, I may have an evenness and tranquility of spirit; that my soul may be resigned to thy divine will and pleasure, never murmuring against thy gentle chastisements and fatherly correction.  Amen.

–Jeremy Taylor

836) Doctor Tom

Dr. Tom making the rounds.

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By Eric Metaxas, July 23, 2025 blog at:  www.breakpoint.org  (adapted)

     Jesus said that Christians have the opportunity to glorify God by their deeds in full view of a watching world:  “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

     In the case of Dr. Tom Catena, a 51-year-old Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York, some unlikely people are watching, and they are indeed glorifying our heavenly Father.

     You see, “Dr. Tom” is the only physician stationed permanently at the Mother of Mercy hospital in the war-torn Nuba Mountains.   The New York Times calls it the site of “the worst ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of.”  The remote region of half a million people is a frequent bombing target of Sudan’s Islamist government, which is trying to crush a rebellion by Christians and animists in the nation’s far-south.

     At last count, the hospital has been bombed 11 times.  When he isn’t dodging Sudanese bombs or mosquitoes carrying malaria, Dr. Tom removes shrapnel from women’s flesh, amputates arms and legs of wounded children, removes appendixes, and even delivers babies— all for $350 a month.

     One of those observing Dr. Tom’s Christ-like service in this forgotten land is a Muslim named Hussein Nalukuri Cupp, who stated simply, “He’s Jesus Christ.”  A rebel commander, meanwhile, says, “People in the Nuba Mountains will never forget his name.  People are praying that he never dies.”

     Even more amazing is the response of a serious liberal journalist who realizes that the world needs Christians, and he isn’t afraid to say it.  That journalist is Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is helping the world to see the huge sacrifices that evangelicals and Catholics make around the world, doing God’s work quietly and humbly.

     “There are many secular aid workers doing heroic work,” Kristof says.  “But the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places— like Nuba, where anyone reasonable has fled— are disproportionately unreasonable because of their faith.

     Indeed.  Here’s what Dr. Tom says about his work: “For me, it’s a privilege to be in a position where I can offer my services to people.  I don’t see it as a hardship.  I’ve been given a lot in this life.  Let me go and try to do something with it.”  As Jesus also said to His children, ‘for those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.’

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More on Dr. Tom Catena:

     Catena studied mechanical engineering at Brown University, and excelled both in the classroom and on the football field.  He earned honors as an Associated Press All-American and All-Ivy nose guard, and was also a Rhodes Scholar candidate.

     Upon graduation, he decided to pursue a medical career that would afford him the opportunity to work in the developing world.  Tom entered the Duke University School of Medicine in 1988 on a U.S. Navy scholarship, and, in 1992, he joined the United States Navy, becoming a Naval Flight Surgeon.  After fulfilling his Navy obligation, he completed a residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana.  While there, he did mission trips to Guyana and Honduras.

     In 1999, Tom began his service as a missionary doctor.  Through the Catholic Medical Mission Board he worked as a physician volunteer at hospitals in Mutomo and Nairobi, Kenya.

     In 2007, Tom became medical director and sole physician at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountain region of the Sudan, a country where civil war has been raging for years.  He established the facility with Bishop Macram Gassis and on opening day in 2008, he attended to over 200 patients.  Since then, he has rarely stopped, dealing with everything from malaria and leprosy to brain surgery.  When he isn’t seeing patients, he is busy running the hospital and training nurses.

     In 2011, the civil war escalated and conditions at the hospital became more intense.  In addition to those wounded by the fighting, many of them children, Tom and his staff faced a particularly severe malaria outbreak.  He was given the choice to evacuate, but he refused:  “As the only doctor in the only hospital in the region I could not leave in good conscience.”

     Catena was named a “Catholic Hero” by Catholic Digest in 2010.

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See also:

‘He’s Jesus Christ’
Nicholas Kristof | New York Times | June 27, 2015

‘The Worst Atrocity You’ve Never Heard Of’
Adam Ellick and Nicholas Kristof | New York Times, video | July 13, 2015

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Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Luke 12:48b  —  (Jesus said), “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

John 3:30  —  (John the Baptist speaking of Jesus), “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Matthew 25:40  —  (Jesus said), “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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Thou art never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. 

Let us never be weary of doing Thee service.  Amen.

–John Wesley  (1703-1791)

835) Prayers by Samuel Johnson

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PRAYER OF CONFESSION (all prayers have been edited):

Almighty God, heavenly Father, look down with mercy upon me, depraved with vain imaginations and entangled in sin.  Grant me that grace without which I can neither will nor do what is acceptable to thee.  Pardon my sins and remove the impediments that hinder my obedience.  Grant me thy Holy Spirit that I may repent and amend my life.  For Jesus’s sake have mercy on me, O God, pardon and receive me.  Amen.  (1757)

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PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION:

Almighty and merciful Father, who created me to love and serve thee, enable me so to partake of the sacrament in which the death of Jesus is commemorated that I may henceforward lead a new life in thy faith and fear.  Thou who knowest my frailties and infirmities strengthen and support me.  Grant me thy Holy Spirit, that after all lapses, I may now continue steadfast in obedience; and that after long habits of negligence and sin, I may, at last, work out my salvation with diligence and constancy.  Purify my thoughts and fix my affections on things eternal.  Much of my time past has been spent in sloth.  Let not what remains, O Lord, be given me in vain.  Let me from this time on lead a better life and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.  (1758)

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FROM TWO EASTER PRAYERS:

Almighty and most merciful Father, before whom I now appear laden with the sins of another year, suffer me yet again to call upon Thee for pardon and peace.  O God, grant me repentance, grant me reformation.  Grant that I may be no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed with vain terrors; so that the disquiet of my mind may be appeased, my faith may be increased, my hope strengthened, and my life regulated by thy will.  Grant that I may no longer linger in perplexity, nor waste in idleness that life which Thou hast given and preserved.  Make me truly thankful for that portion of my health which thy mercy has restored, and enable me to use the remains of life to thy glory and my own salvation.  Extinguish in my mind all sinful and inordinate desires.  Let me resolve to do that which is right, and by thy help let me keep my resolutions.  Grant that I may serve thee in firm faith and diligent endeavor, and that I may discharge the duties of my calling with tranquility and constancy.  May I at last know peace and comfort.  Take not, O God, Thy Holy Spirit from me; but grant that I may so direct my life by thy holy laws that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may pass by a holy and happy death to a life of everlasting and unchangeable joy.  Amen. (1766 & 1770)

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PRAYER WHEN OLD AND ILL:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, whose mercy is over all thy works, look with pity on my miseries and sins.  Relieve, O Lord, as seems best unto Thee, the infirmities of my body and the afflictions of my mind.  Fill my thoughts with love of thy Goodness, with just fear of thine Anger, and with humble confidence in thy Mercy.  So help me by thy Holy Spirit, that my heart may be fixed where true joys are to be found, so that I may serve thee with pure affection and a cheerful mind.  Have mercy upon me, O God.  Years and infirmities oppress me, terror and anxiety beset me.  Have mercy upon me.  In all dangers protect me, and in all perplexities relieve and free me.  Recall my wanderings, calm my thoughts, and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that when this short and painful life shall have an end, I may for his sake be received to everlasting happiness.  Amen.  (1775 & 1777)

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Psalm 46:1-2  —  God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Psalm 31:5  —  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Philippians 2:12-13  —  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

834) The Patience of God

By Cyprian (c. 210- martyred 258), Bishop of Carthage, North Africa

     What great patience God has!  He makes the day dawn and the light of the sun rise both over the good and over the wicked; he waters the earth with his rain, and no one is excluded from its benefits, since water is given to the just and the unjust alike.  We see him act with equal patience toward the guilty and the innocent, the faithful and the wicked, the thankful and the ungrateful.  For all of them, the seasons obey God’s commands, the elements place themselves at their service, the winds blow, the waters flow, crops grow in abundance, grapes ripen, trees swell with fruit, forests take on greenery, and meadows blossom with flowers. 

     Although God is provoked by frequent and ever continual offenses by those he created, he tempers his indignation and waits patiently for the day fixed for retribution.  And although he has the power of vengeance, he prefers to have patience for a long time.  God waits and graciously defers so that if possible, the malice of men might become less with time and we who are mired in the infection of our sins might finally turn to God.

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God’s patience is infinite.  Men, like small kettles, boil quickly with wrath at the least wrong.  Not so God.  If God were as wrathful as men, the world would have been a heap of ruins long ago.

– Sadhu Sundar Singh  (1889-1929)

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Matthew 5:43-45  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

II Peter 3:3-4…8-9  —  Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” …  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

II Peter 3:10-11  —  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.   Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives.

Romans 2:4  —  Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

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Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices. 

–St. Teresa of Avila  (1515-1582)

833) Preacher to the Common People

Moody (with beard) and the boys of the Chicago streets (1860’s).

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     Dwight L. Moody (1837 – 1899) was the most influential evangelist of the nineteenth century.  His work became the benchmark for all revivalists who followed him.  He has been called the father of modern campaign evangelism.  This pushy shoe salesman became a powerful evangelist, refusing to be limited by his lack of education and low social status.

     Born in Northfield, Massachusetts, he had a difficult childhood.  His alcoholic father died when Moody was four, leaving his mother in debt and alone with nine children.  The farm was put into foreclosure, and the older children were sent out to other families to work for their room and board.  Even little Dwight was soon sent to live with another family, working for them more than attending school and barely learning to read.  At seventeen he moved to Boston to work in his uncle’s shoe store.  Moody’s conversion came there in the shoe store at the prompting of his Sunday school teacher.

     Moody was enthusiastic to follow Jesus, and what he lacked in book learning he made up for in street smarts and salesmanship.  He moved to Chicago where he excelled in organized evangelistic outreach, shoddy as it was.

     This work led to the founding of a Sunday school of some six hundred children and sixty volunteers.  It was so noteworthy that on November 25, 1860, President-elect Abraham Lincoln visited and offered remarks to the class.  How did Moody attract so many youth in his ministry outreach?  As a salesman he used the tricks of the trade:  passing out candy and offering free pony rides.  Needing a permanent home for the growing class, he started The Illinois Street Church in Chicago.  The church became a home for poor immigrant families.  He also led the Chicago YMCA.  

     In 1871 Moody teamed up with gospel singer Ira D. Sankey.  Two years after the Great Chicago Fire, he and Sankey set out for England.  As a self-made American rags-to-religion hick, Moody rose to superstar status.  Students flocked to his meetings.  Among his converts were the “Cambridge Seven,” some of which were England’s most celebrated cricket players.  Later, the ‘seven’ went to China as missionaries.

     Moody returned to America in 1875 as an internationally famous revivalist.  He was called the “greatest preacher to the common people since George Whitefield” (1714-1770).  Every city wanted him to hold a campaign.  Reporters jostled each other in getting the lead story.  His self-deprecating style and his quotable quips perfectly suited the hungry press, eager to sell penny-papers.  His lack of education and proper etiquette, his poor grammar and pronunciation made him all the more endearing.

     Moody’s uncle once quipped, “My nephew Dwight is crazy, crazy as a March hare.”  Another observer offered a different slant:  “There was the revivalist Moody, bearded and neckless, with his two hundred and eighty pounds of flesh, every ounce of which belonged to God.”  H. L. Mencken, the wit and satirist of the day wrote,  “When he started out, he had no more dignity and social position among us than a lightening-rod salesman; when he finished, he was friendly with leading merchants, industrialists, and public figures of the day.”

     Moody, however, was more than a charismatic revivalist.  The uneducated shoe salesman became an educator, establishing three schools, all founded in part to train more evangelists.  When Moody died in 1899, it was a time of mourning and homage.  “Chicago at one time claimed this mighty preacher,” a hometown newspaper eulogized.  “But when he died the whole world claimed him.”          

(Adapted from Faithful Through the Ages at:   http://www.BibleGateway.com)

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DWIGHT L. MOODY QUOTES:

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.

The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work.  He had a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord.  He could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation.  Yet, Christ offered him the gift of God, and he took it.

A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian, and most of all, his family should know.

The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.  By God’s help, I aim to be that man.

God never made a promise that was too good to be true.

There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.

Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.

You may find hundreds of faultfinders among professed Christians, but all their criticism will not lead one solitary soul to Christ.

The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.

He who kneels the most, stands the best.

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.

The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.

We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.

I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel.  God has given me a lifeboat and said, ‘Moody, save all you can.’

Temptations are like tramps.  If you treat them kindly they will return, bringing others with them.

I never preached a sermon yet that I could not pick to pieces, and find fault with.  I feel that Jesus Christ ought to have a far better representative than I am.

A good example is far better than a good precept.

Oh, young man, character is worth more than money, character is worth more than anything else in this wide world.

If we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else.

A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul.

Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens.  A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.

Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it!  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.

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I Corinthians 1:26-29  —  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

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A REVIVAL MEETING PRAYER BY D. L. MOODY:

Our Heavenly Father, we pray that thy blessing may rest upon all that here assembled; and that every man in this assembly that is without God and without hope in this dark world may be convicted of his sin at this hour.  We pray that the Holy Spirit may do his work; and that there may be many that shall look back, in after years, to this hour and this hall, as the time and place where they became children of God and heirs of eternal life.  We pray that thou wilt bless them; and wilt thou bless the gospel that shall be spoken this afternoon, and may it reach many hearts.  May there be many led by the Spirit of God to the cross of Christ, there to cast their burden and their guilt upon him who came into the world to take away the sins of the world.  May there be many here who shall hear the loving voice of the Good Shepherd saying unto them, “Come unto me all ye that are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” and may they find rest in Christ today.  May those that are cast down on account of their sins, this day be lifted up by the gospel of Jesus Christ; and may this be the day that they shall come unto thee.  And thy name shall have the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

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