Charles Dickens: These Present Blessings

January 31

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many… not upon your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens 

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The keys wait to be played like a dream. I hope the music will be there when it’s time for my fingers to go to work. I wish I could explain why I always wonder this but I can’t. There is always great relief when that first chord is played and I look down to see once more to my amazement… God has once again brought the music out to let us play. What wonderful peace it brings to my soul. I can’t explain why I love music the way that I do, but I am closest to God when I play.

I have spent such an abundance of time trying to hang onto what I have. Silly, when I understand that it never has been – nor ever will be – mine to keep. Only He knows what lays before me. Certainly, if truly called into His service, there will be difficult moments ahead. That much is certain. Jesus foretold of an ominous end for Peter as they sat discussing Love and service, responsibility and calling, yet what would discourage anyone less then faithful to Christ will drive those committed even deeper into His calling and service. Odd, how illogical this seems, but knowing he would die for Jesus somehow must have inspired Peter and left him excited to be so fortunate enough to live the remainder of his life for Christ. Jesus foretold of Peter’s denial. Now, with this prediction, Peter understands that all he may be given, though not his, will certainly lead to an end that will most surely glorify his Lord. It doesn’t matter what that natural outcome may look like – the spiritual outcome couldn’t be more exciting news to Peter then if he’d won the lottery! I’m not sure, even now, that I can fully grasp this… one day, perhaps, I’ll be able to…

His gift to ME has been music and maybe I fear that He might one day take it away; or that I might lose the music foolishly, but God doesn’t want us to cling so tightly to the things He’s given us. So release whatever it may be, for you, today. These gifts are intended to serve Him for His purpose and His Will. Give them wholly back to Him and be thankful for the precious gifts He lays before you. It may come back and it may not, but God never withholds His Grace and His Goodness from His children and it is that thought which loosen my grip somewhat. For now, for me… I can only keep playing and with each note I strike, thank God for being so abundantly good to me! Peace, SAG

Today’s Scripture:

John 21:18

18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

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Thomas Aquinas: Who We Are (Feed My Sheep)

January 30

“The things that we Love tell us who we are.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

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Peter’s Primacy on the Sea of Galilee

Who has God given you to lead in this life? To take care of, tend, nurture, to provide some kind of vital element of life-sustaining love to in this life? God says “Go”… Go? Go where? Well, according to Jesus, we don’t have to go far when it comes to “tending to His sheep…” If we love Him, then this is what He asks from us – not as proof of that love – merely as our expression of our love to Him.

Why must Jesus ask Peter a third time? Partly because of the three denials, partly because Peter hasn’t gotten the fact it’s a rhetorical question; but mostly Jesus NEEDS Peter to feel that shame so deeply in order to show him the depths of His love DESPITE those denials so that Peter can understand that the infallibility of man’s love can never stand up to the perfect love of Christ. Even as I write that… I cannot fully comprehend this truth. We will never know the depth of Christ’s Love for the human race, nor grasp how wide that Love stretches for us, personally. Jesus doesn’t want you to feel the shame Peter surely felt sitting by that fire on the banks of the Sea of Galilee on that chilly morning; as they shared a breakfast of bread and cooked fish. But I do think He wants us, like Peter, to be grieved… grieved to the point where we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and here His message that… if we DO love Jesus like we proclaim we do, we will feed His sheep. Physically, Spiritually, with every ounce of life that He has breathed into us this very morning.

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Get beyond your shame and be grieved beyond your guilt to hear the true answer to the very question Christ answers Himself: get up and get to the business of loving as Christ loves you. You cannot possible experience a greater love then the warmth embrace of the very One you have denied. It is that experience which gives every believer the credibility to speak of such a love as this… imagine Peter now being able to explain “Yeah… I denied my Savior and there He sat… cooking me breakfast and making sure I still Loved HIM – that’s why I’m telling you all about Him today…!”

I’m not saying it went down like that… but I can ALMOST picture it that way! Answer the question yourself, today… feed, and tend, and feed His sheep. SAG

Today’s Scripture:

John 21:17

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Thomas Aquinas: The Binding Force (Tend My Sheep)

January 29

“Love is a binding force, by which another is joined to me and cherished by myself.”    ~ Thomas Aquinas 

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I cannot say convincingly enough that “I love you.” You know me to be a liar. Oh, it’s sincere when I say it, don’t think that it’s not. The problem is… where is the evidence? You see, love (like evidence) demands a verdict and that verdict – whether we like it or not – isn’t subject to opinion or reason or… even hope. There is love and there is the facsimile of what appears to be love. The only way the human heart can ever know for sure what is true and authentic versus that which is fickle and fleetingly false is the evidence presented before it.

Love is NOT a standard set of rules but a conscious set of actions. It cannot be defined one way to you and interpreted another way by me… Love cannot deny itself, for it IS what it presents itself to be: Love. The only guidelines Love gives itself can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 where we see the evidence of what Love’s character is and IS NOT. So when I say to you “I love you…” you don’t have to wonder whether I mean what I say or not. The Truth is… I certainly want to love you, the question is… have my actions met my words? I can only hope that they have but if not, please be patient. I do promise that I’ll continue to work on that.

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Jesus didn’t question Peter when He asked him “Do you love me?” and Peter replied “Yes, Lord, you know That I love you.” Jesus simply reminded Peter three times – interestingly enough, once for each of Peter’s denials – to activate that love for Him by… how? Tending to His sheep. Jesus doesn’t want to hear that we love Him, He simply wants us to live according to our love for Him. And the only way we are able to do that? Yeah… by tending His sheep. Whether that’s taking care of others in need or just showing Love’s true Character by way of being kind, patient, gentle, forgiving, or however He shows us – where ever He leads us – to do what He has called us to do in tending and feeding His sheep. Jesus asks and asks and keeps asking us each day… do you love me?

Of course Jesus knows you love Him. What He wants is for you to be able to stop answering the rhetorical question with a defensive reply and start answering it with the action displayed by Love’s reply…  And though Jesus’s reply seems familiar, there is a slight difference in verse 16 – “Tend my sheep…” In asking “Do you love me” Jesus asserts to Peter that there comes some responsibility in our Love to our Lord. Feeding and now tending to His sheep. It isn’t the aim of our Lord to shame us nor remind us of our guilt. It is to awaken us from our guilty slumber by telling us “If you love me, then get up and get going on the tasks that I’ve put before you.” We’ve been called to feed and care for others. And yet, in the binding force of Christ’s Love for me, He tends to me first. When He is sure that I can fully cherish Him in His Love while understanding His charge to replenish others by that same Love, He will release me fully to do His Will. Peace to You, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

John 21:16

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

Thomas Aquinas: Where Love Takes Up (Feed My Sheep)

January 28

“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

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Peter’s Primacy on the Sea of Galilee

Do you love me?… The very questions causes me to pause and second guess myself whether I do or not. Of course the popular answer is “Of course I love you…” and yet… How can I possibly answer that question?

Honestly, can I answer and NOT be ashamed? Yet that was not why Jesus asks Peter this question nor asks us this same question. Do not be misguided by your own sense of denial, shame or guilt but look for the reason behind the real question of what Jesus is asking you and not why He asks it. The answer lies not in your response to His question but in the manner in which you may receive His question. Think about that and listen to the way in which Jesus first posed the question to you to begin with. Never was there a shadow of condemnation for Jesus provided the fish and the fire and chose FIRST to have fellowship and communion with us before asking that all important question: do you love me. The answer to His question is never my answer, but in His. We – like Peter – fail to recognize that… it was a rhetorical question!

Today’s Scripture:

John 21:15

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Max Lucado: The Gentle Choice

January 27

“I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” ~ Max Lucado

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What makes it a great day for you? Is it circumstances falling to your comfort or your liking? Is it the absence of trouble, the appearance of financial blessing, good health, encouragement from every voice that crosses your ears?

For me, a good day is one in which I’ve not succumbed to my own pride and have successfully finished this day without giving the devil a foothold OR his due. I probably get angry every single day. That’s the truth of it. So that’s not something that ever concerns me. I don’t wake up hoping NOT to get angry, I arise with the determination to NOT sin in my anger. “Be angry” it says in Ephesians 4:26. Just “do not sin” in that anger. Perhaps, though, by focusing on a new determination to simply “love” in the same manner Christ loves I might make my anger obsolete. Interesting.

For now, I recognize that the anger still resides there – somewhere – and knowing is nearly winning the battle with it. It’s not enough to repress it because experience has proven that I’m not that strong. It always rises… eventually. But taking a moment to confront my anger and ask those relevant questions of it , like “why are you angry? Where does this belong within God’s Will?” causes me to pause before proceeding further in action or in word. The devil hates the pause if spiritual reflection because the moment our mind turns to Christ in these situations he understands that he has once again lost. I try never to pause when alone in my time with God – and when I find myself battling even the hint of anger, I pause often and long, until it passes. My soul seeks Him out in these moments and when I don’t prohibit my soul from Him, I find calm and strength I’m the midst of His peace. It’s so much better to have my anger dissipate in the midst of His Grace instead of repressed in the shallow waters of my own self-will. I can choose gentleness but I must pause to find the power to do so in Him, for on my own… I can, nor will I ever  win. Peace, SAG

Today’s Scripture:

Ephesians 4:26-27

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

 

D.L. Moody: Brought Low To Abound

January 26

 “When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.”          

~ D.L. Moody

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“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

Contentment. A bottle of water. A warm embrace. What is it for you, this thing called contentment? Can you find it in warmth of time spent with family, or in the company of good friends? Is it sought after or is it cherished? Is it a steady companion or does it come and go through your Life’s revolving door? My companion of contentment is tied to my contentment in Christ, and there is no room for myself nor selfish designs.

We bleat like sheep, able only to look down and see our limited circumstances as “bah-aah-aahhdd”. Yet what we fail to recognize while focused narrowly on ourselves is that our shepherd tends to us, leading us to greener pastures, keeping us safe from danger.

I think I am at my best when I am following Him. Sure, that’s obvious. So why aren’t we content? Again, because we obviously aren’t following Him. When I lead you in worship, I am content. When I am feeding the poor and impoverished, I am content. When I am being patient or kind or practicing self-control… I am content. Funny how that works, huh. As I love deeper, quicker am I to forget my own desires, leaving selfishness behind in favor of sacrificial living. That is what Christ asks and that is the only place where contentment, ultimately, will be found.

Do you know how to be brought low so that YOU may abound? There will you find contentment through serenity and maybe even a little laughter in the midst of your struggles. Peace. SAG

Today’s Scripture:

Isaiah 58:10-11

10 If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

11 And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Bonhoeffer: Such A Small Price

January 25

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Are you sure you want to proceed with this day? Are you positive that you really want to pray that prayer or commit to following Christ? Do you honestly believe you have the where with all to go where He decides to go? Can you go the distance… every mile, every last inch of the way?

There is a cost to following Christ. And eventually we will find ourselves at the toll both. The question we eventually will have to answer will be… are we willing to pay that cost.

It leads to death, you know. And while I’m pretty certain He makes no bones about that fact, the truth is… Most of us never hear that. We are so emotionally wrapped up in all He will do for us that we don’t really bother contemplating what our cost will be. We are ignorantly silent on such things, looking beyond every detail of what He has said. But we have no idea what we say we WANT to embark upon. Oh, we think we know and so we plunge head first into God’s amazing design and purpose. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is something beautiful about that kind of reckless abandonment to logical and reason, where God’s Will is concerned. Yet we should know what we are accepting in the way of hardships and trials… not so that we should reconsider, but more so that we are not so shocked when troubles arise. “What, God? How can this be? But… I’m your trusty servant!!”

That’s right. And that is why we should not so much fear the difficulties which lie ahead but certainly be prepared for them. I think as a believer… really, as a follower of Christ – not only should I be prepared for trouble, but I should expect it as a true warrior relishes a good fight. The battlefield is where we build our sinew, where we discover out courage, where God reveals what He is capable of doing through our incapable hands!

I am not always sure that I want to follow God. But when I remember that He calls me His mighty warrior, I step back and screw up my courage… and then I step into the fray. But I do so these days only after arming myself with the weapons He provides so that I may not relinquish the fight until He has called me off the field of battle. The cost is abandoning my role as general; my cost is levying my power into His and relying only on Him; my cost is leaving all I want and love behind so that I might keep up with Him. The cost is my life. When in His midst, it seems a rather small price after all.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Luke 9:57

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jonathan Edwards: Restlessness of Grace

January 24

“Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.” ~ Jonathan Edwards 

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God’s beauty and His Grace can come upon us like a winter storm. It seems sudden but really, there is a slow build as it gathers, culminating on our hearts like dew on the unsuspecting morning blades of grass.

Do you ever find yourself bored in God’s Grace? Bored in the rest or idleness that He sometimes gives? Snowed in with nothing much to do? So often, I long to be in His Grace away from all struggles and grief… if only momentarily – yet, the moment God gives me rest I itch and clamour for something to do because, well… I don’t know what to do! We don’t really know how to handle the rest and the quiet, that’s the problem. But it’s only because, by nature, we are spoiled little children, throwing tantrums to have things we don’t understand.

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God is most evident and recognizable in the struggles of our storms. That is where we learn the nature of His power. God is most elusive and mysterious in the eye of our storms, for that is where we experience His mercy and His Love… things that we cannot begin to comprehend. When we think we cannot feel God in trouble, it is because we are not listening; we cannot hear His voice over the sound of our own. When we wonder where God is in the silence, it us because – in the comfort of our safety – we are not searching for Him. God says He is always near and He says He is found by those who earnestly search for Him. In trouble, know He is there. In quiet times, listen for His soft voice. We can be found in God’s Grace, whether life is quiet or chaotic. Never mistake the quiet for His grace, it is just in the quiet that His glory may be in the process of being perfected and there is little for us to do.

In the eye of the storm is where God shares His quiet and inner-most nature. We learn how to love because we experience His love. We learn of His mercy because in the quiet we can actually feel it; experience it; see it at work. God doesn’t grant us rest because He relents to our prayers to Him for rest… God gives us rest when HE feels we need rest, AND… when He wants to show us something new about Himself! Rest isn’t a blessing because we get to rest. It’s a blessing because of the new knowledge we gain about God! If we wake up, we may realize that God is constantly TRYING to reveal new characteristics of His nature in every season, whether in rest or in rain. But He has to work much harder to help us see Him in chaos and maybe, just maybe… in the quiet rest – He’s resting, too, and showing us how it’s done! So it’s great to be bored in God’s grace… as long as you re-enter the fray armed with more knowledge of God then before. He is there. He still speaks in quiet tones. Let Him renew your strength in moments of solitude and recognize those moments and seize them when HE… decides to bring them. Never be restless in Grace… let Grace have it’s way with you, regardless of where it finds you, today. Peace, Sean G.

Today’s Scripture:

Jeremiah 31:1-6

31 “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
    the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
    and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
    on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
    and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
    in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”

Thomas Aquinas: Joy Descending

January 23

“It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not to stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills.”

~ Thomas Aquinas

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Joy comes in a thunderous boom, descending on His saints when He witnesses His children wrestling with those same heartaches that make Him weep. I have no aim other then to put aside my own desires and simply ask God “What are we going to do about THAT?”

How much effort and time have I wasted in this office struggling over the personal effects of my own heart when every concerted effort I have should be poured into the Perfect Will of God with all blood and sweat?! It always begins in prayer. The follower who cannot pray does not deserve strength nor rest; yet God isn’t waiting for me to pray, He only wants to see me attempt to pray. I am sure of this one thing: that when He finds me on my knees before His face, He WILL teach me how to pray. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, a kind of introduction into the workings of prayer. By no means are we ever restricted to that prayer, it merely acts as a way in which we van begin. To get into the habit of a daily, habitual life-style of prayer.

Power and Joy will descend on the praying believer; strength and Peace will be added when that believer takes the lessons to heart and turns the heart to the matters which matter most to the Most High… things which only Love can teach and an obedient and contrite heart can receive, taking unto itself. “May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might…” Peace, SAG

Today’s Scripture:

Colossians 1:11-12

11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

QUOTE (Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) – Jan 21

A DEVOTED LIFE

English: General Jackson's "Chancellorsvi...

“You wish to know how to come to God; so as to have your sins forgiven, and to receive “the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Now my dear sister the way is plain: the savior says in Mark XVI chapter, 16th verse “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” But you may ask what is it to believe. To explain this I will quote from an able theologian, and devoted servant of God. To believe in the sense in which the word is used here, “is feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it. And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. To do this is to be a Christian.”

“But let…

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