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Doulos International ~ Robert Barkley

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Nov 2016, 10:58 pm

Doulos Meditation on the Christ Hymn (#5 of 16)

#5 of 16 Meditations on the Christ Hymn. Scripture: Colossians 1:16—things visible and invisible…

Reflection: Christian thought has always conceived of creation as being more than just the manufacture of atoms and molecules which can be seen and felt (if present in sufficient quantities of course). There is more to God’s creation that the “physical” world. And it may be that the Colossians were buying into some Gnostic speculation that radically divided the physical world from the spiritual and giving God only part ownership.

Paul is citing a common Greek expression “visible and invisible” somewhat parallel to the Jewish “heavens and earth.” But his point (which may have been a shot at the Colossian heresy of dualism or some such) is that whatever there is—be it near/far, known/unknown, seen/unseen—it is all the result of the eternal Son’s creative work. 

Nothing stands outside God’s actions in the Christ. What God has done in the Christ is not merely a part of reality—it is the whole fiber and significance of the universe—for now and eternity.  

Prayer Starter:  Father, may your will be done on earth as in heaven—that those of us who live in mortal bodies may be in fellowship with those divine spirits that you have created to serve you in realms we do now have access to. May the host of heaven praise you and may the peoples of earth somehow sing in harmony with that unseen band. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 05 Nov 2016, 9:45 pm

Doulos Meditation on the Christ Hymn (#4 of 16)

#4 of 16 Meditations on the Christ Hymn. Scripture: Colossians 1:16—for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created…all things were created by him and for him…

Reflection: Scripture declares creation was done through the Eternal Son, remains in place because of him (1:17), and finds its purpose in him. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made…” (Jn 1:3). Col 1:16 adds, “…all things were created by him and for him.”

If Jesus is the creator come in flesh, we might expect creation to obey his commands. The first disciples struggled with Jesus’ identity. Mark wrote, “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (4:41) The pivotal question of today is still the same. Thomas found himself driven to conclude, “My Lord and my God.” (Jn 20:28)

Okay, so were you created by him? Do you trust him to hold your world together? Do you see yourself as truly meant for his purposes?

Paul under the weight of these great thoughts penned, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”(2 Co 5:18)

Prayer Starter:  Our Father, we thank you for your patience in love. We are like those first disciples—we only dimly perceive your eternal wisdom and purposes for this creation. But we believe our Lord Jesus to be the Creator who came into our midst. As you blessed Thomas and the rest, bless us also who have not seen and yet believe. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 04 Nov 2016, 10:35 pm

Doulos Meditation on the Christ Hymn (#2 of 16)
#2 of 16 Meditations on the Christ Hymn. Scripture: Colossians 1:15—He is the image of the invisible God…

Reflection: Paul speaks of the immense and the paradoxical. Image (we get our word Icon here) is something seen (representation, reflection, or by extension mental image or likeness)—yet he is speaking of the invisible God! I can see the unseeable!—know the unknowable!—and it happens in Jesus the Christ! Other revelation pales beside the Incarnation. 

Here, God uncovers the infinitudes of his own nature—his eternity, power, holiness and love. The prophets look like school boys—creation looks futile—patriarchs appear dim beside this light. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:4, 5)

If you look for God, examine his portrait called Jesus. “Phillip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered, ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’” 
The core is this: to know Jesus Christ is life—not just freedom from sin and death but unfathomable inward peace and unending love. 

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” (Jn 14:6-9)

Prayer Starter: Our God who dwells in unapproachable light, thank you for coming among us in the Incarnation and in Jesus giving us the light of the world—this light that etches the image of your eternal deity deeply into the landscape of human hearts and minds. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 02 Nov 2016, 11:20 pm

Doulos Meditation on the Christ Hymn (#1 of 16)

#1 of 16 Meditations on the Christ Hymn (Intro.) Scripture: Colossians 1:2, 15—To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae…He is the image of the invisible God…

Reflection: Paul wrote Col 1:15-20, quoting a Christian hymn exalting Jesus as Christ, praising him as “pre-eminent” above creation and God’s dynamic in redeeming humanity. 
Did Paul write the hymn? Did he quote a hymn the Colossians already knew? Or did he quote a hymn originally addressed to “Wisdom,” prominent in Jewish speculation (e.g. Wisdom of Solomon, in the Apocrypha) and made it speak of the place of Jesus as the Christ? We don’t know.

The church at Colossae had some kind of problem—I wish we understood it better. The city lay 80 miles east of Ephesus where Paul had preached for 3 years (Acts 19). His co-worker Epaphras was from here; perhaps starting the church. (1:7; 4:12) Descendents of the 2000 earlier Jewish settlers (Josephus, Ant. XI, iii, 147-152) were perhaps entranced by some really bad ideas they brought from Babylon. 

They may have had great influence, pushing their views in the Christian community which was in danger of buying into them. It happens today as well. The church is affected by society; and it sometimes ceases to hear the heart and mind of God.

Prayer Starter:  Father as we meditate on this profound hymn with its exalted message, humble us and teach our hearts to listen well to your intents and purposes for our world. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 01 Nov 2016, 6:16 pm

Doulos Meditation on Isaiah 50:7

Scripture: Isaiah 50:7—Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, “We are not guilty, for they sinned against the LORD…the hope of their fathers."

Reflection: Have you ever heard someone say, “He had it coming,” or “He deserved what he got?” Some believe that when something bad overtakes a bad person, we need feel no sympathy, offer no help, or even account them as worthy of our attention.

There’s a degree more evil than that—it’s when a person sees himself as imposing justice on someone else and feels no guilt about hurting them—because they had it coming. This is the vigilante mindset—revenge under the guise of justice. 

Isaiah’s comments were directed at some who felt no guilt or sorrow over the destruction of others. They justified their actions in their own minds—even seeing themselves as the righteous avengers sitting in judgment over sinners who had violated the laws of God and man. 

It’s true that God sometimes used one nation to punish another—but read the texts closely—and notice in virtually every case God then called the avengers themselves into account. He may temporarily use them, but eventually God destroys the destroyers.

Prayer Starter:  Lord, teach us to love others as you have loved us all. Teach us sympathy and concern even for our enemies and for those who deserve what they get. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 31 Oct 2016, 11:52 pm

Doulos Meditation on Matthew 6:19

Scripture: Matthew 6:19—Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.


Reflection: I ate breakfast yesterday with a preacher who mentioned their church was barely meeting the budget, but they were working to keep from having to go into their savings to pay the bills. 

I didn’t comment, but my internal thoughts were: What’s a church doing with a savings account? Saving for what? Not that there is never a cause for saving—but I know this church from way back. They have a forty year history of doing nothing—people who actually wanted to do something left there years ago. So what are they saving for? Not for missions—to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or help the sick or disabled—none of that kind of stuff.

Do they worship the great savings god? Are they devotees of Mammon? Does their real religion shine through their nominal religion? Is the reason they barely meet their budget the fact that people don’t get excited about depositing hard earned dollars into a savings account that will do nothing for another forty years? Ho-hum! Are they victims of financial boredom? 

I notice churches actively seeking the will of God don’t seem to have the financial problems experienced by housekeeping churches—those dedicated to maintaining the status quo. 

I hope they make it. I’d hate to see their little congregation get thrown out of their big building.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I’m a little angry when I see worldly people practice their greed and turf guarding skills at the expense of those you died to save from sin. Bring to life those churches that seek your will, but expose the nakedness of those who only playing church. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sun 30 Oct 2016, 9:32 pm

Doulos Meditation on Matthew 6:11

Scripture: Matthew 6:11—Give us today our daily bread.

Reflection: I heard a fellow say that one always needs to be asking God, “What’s next?” 

Yea—that’s what I need to know! Where do you want me to go today? What’s up? What’s my next assignment? Lead the way, Lord. 

I’m more prone to pray for world movements—the poor, the lost, the future of the gospel in Africa or China, the church I’m a member of, my trips to other countries. 

What I often fail to pray for is what I’m doing at this moment—writing a Meditation to share with you. What about my trip today to the bank and the post office? What’s next; and next; and next? Lord, give us today’s daily bread—forgive today’s sins—show me today’s opportunities. 

I know a man who lives in the past—he only talks about what happened, what he should have said, what he did long ago in college. He’s trapped in the memory time warp. 

Even worse are the great intenders—those unreal types who blather about what they’re going to do and say and be in that dreamy never-never land of the future. 

How refreshing when someone talks about where he is at this moment—what God is doing in his life now—refreshing and exceedingly rare!

Prayer Starter:  My father, let the power and wisdom and presence of your Holy Spirit function in me at this moment and for this day. Free me from what was or should have been and from angst over what may be or will be or might be; grant me a life transformed and surrendered each moment of each day for your name’s sake. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 29 Oct 2016, 11:25 pm

Doulos Meditation on 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:6, 7—When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Reflection: Only the mature in Christ can grow to the point where moment to moment judgments are not based on training, prejudices, education and outward appearances. 

Would you hire a kid with long hair, ear-ring, and tattoo who wears jeans that hang low and drinks beer? Now that you’ve made your (internal) decision—please point to the specific item or items that say this person is immoral, unqualified, or is not saved from sin before God. 

I know—I would be reluctant to hire him also. But I’m wrestling with the question, was my judgment based on his heart or his appearance? 

In my lifetime, I’ve made some bad first judgments only to deeply regret them later. One of my closest friends and co-workers in Christ, I met when he was about 16—with long hair and ear-rings. It took several years to see the grace of God in him—he is now a faith hero of mine—and I wasn’t even wearing an ear-ring.  

Prayer Starter:  Father, teach us how to discern the inner character of people through the guidance of your Holy Spirit who imparts wisdom to all those he possesses. Amen.

 Doulos Meditation on Matthew 24:1

Scripture: Matthew 24:1—Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” He asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Reflection: The disciples were in awe of the temple and the city. A trip to Jerusalem for a country boy from Galilee was mind gripping. Fishermen, farmers, sheepherders and carpenters alike just couldn’t get over what large stones had been used, what grand entrances and steps led to the temple of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They could not look at the roof when the sun was rising—it was plated with gold that was blinding in the light. Great lavars of bronze, hundreds of priests and Levites in their smartly tailored robes, gold and silver vessels and instruments of the altar they saw.  It was astonishing, amazing, and unbelievable. They pointed; they gawked, and said to each other “Look!” “Look at that over there! Wow!”

The disciples had not learned to see the achievements of men for what they were—malleable, decaying, and subject to the deterioration that occurs to all things in time and space. They wanted Jesus to see it all and be as impressed as they were; these poor blind disciples! Jesus saw alright, but he wasn’t impressed. His divine perspective saw what they could not. 

Prayer Starter:  Father, we are often overawed by things of this earth, but keep us tuned to your eternal perspective that we may see things truly as they are. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 27 Oct 2016, 10:34 pm

Doulos Meditation on Hebrews 11:39

Scripture: Hebrews 11:39—And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Reflection: In Paul’s writings he comments “He is a Jew who is one inwardly…” and the Hebrews writer suggests that what Christians have was still in the future for the Jewish heroes of the Old Testament. 

The idea that Christianity is the flower of Judaism is widespread in Christian scripture. Jesus at the Last Supper showed the disciples that Passover was but the shadow of the new covenant that was coming with his death and resurrection—the exodus motif of freeing slaves from Egypt played out in the cross as the freeing of all humanity from sin.

Judaism was a great and never before seen blessing to the world. The Law was a “guardian to bring us to Christ.” Conservative Judaism still awaits a Messiah.

Very liberal Judaism has given up on the Messiah and become completely secular, retaining the religious practice of the fathers just for the sake of national unity or ethnic tradition. 

Many Jews have found Jesus to be the Messiah and received him with thanksgiving. These latter, I suspect, form the “remnant” that blooms on the time worn stem of Abraham. 

Do you pray for Israel? Paul did.

Prayer Starter: Father, you continue to love your chosen people and have blessed them with unutterable blessings in Jesus the Messiah. Open their eyes to see your grace. Amen.


Doulos Meditation on 1 Samuel 15:22

Scripture: 1 Samuel 15:22—And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Reflection: Samuel reproved Saul for disobeying God in his fight with the Amalekites.  Some booty devoted “to destruction,” (as God had commanded), he brought back—a few cattle and oxen, the king, and some sheep. 

He rationalized he would use these to worship God (Is weekday disobedience offset by regular church attendance?) He practiced “approximate obedience,” i.e. doing God’s will more or less. A general effort is close enough—after all one must not take religion too seriously or be thought radical. 

Samuel was angry—if you’re not real before God, no ritual, prayer, or church attendance will make up for it.  

What would be today’s scenario? If you made some dishonest money, by all means give your tithe to the church. You mean God is calling me?—but it would interfere with my career—maybe I’ll get involved when I retire. God doesn’t expect me to turn loose right now—my family is very regular at church. Sure, there must be hungry people somewhere in this town—but I feed the poor through my annual donation to the United Way. 

I notice Saul was innocent—it was “the people” who did these things—you mean leadership involves responsibility? Am I to be blamed just because I give the orders?  

Prayer Starter: Father, teach us the essential virtue of the crucified and born again will—the necessity of unconditional surrender to the uncompromising sovereignty of God. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 26 Oct 2016, 3:40 pm

Doulos Meditation on Luke 9:49-50

Scripture: Luke 9:49-50—John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Reflection: Denominationalism was well and alive in the days of Jesus. I don’t mean there were the same denominations then as now—but that the attitudes that make sectarians were constantly surfacing. “He’s not one of us” is one of the major reasons a church or individual does not join hands to share the gospel. I know some people who refuse to help give a bible to a lost sinner unless it is given by a certified, card carrying member of their fellowship. 

This sectarian mindset is part of the fleshly natural human existence, not part of the Spirit led life. 

I met a missionary one time who received some used literature from a church back home—in looking it over, my reaction was “I wouldn’t want to pass out this stuff—it has some things in it I don’t agree with, etc.” He used the literature and explained—we don’t have time to be picky—but we need to push ahead with telling the people about Jesus.

I was the one with the denominational mind in that day long ago. I am convinced this mindset is the greatest obstacle to mission we can have. Those who have it marvel at how hard the field is and how few accept the gospel. They are doomed to failure and they are not much useful to God. 

Prayer Starter:  Father, show us the way out of collective egotism, sectarian spirit, group snobbery, and the turf wars that beset so many churches and their leaders. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 24 Oct 2016, 7:58 pm

Doulos Meditation on Acts 16:19

Scripture: Acts 16:19—But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.

Reflection: In Philippi, a slave girl followed Paul announcing, “These men are slaves of the Most High God…” After some days, Paul exorcised the spirit of divination from the slave girl but her owners were very angry at the drop in earning potential.  Three thoughts occur to me: 

1.      1--Her owners did not see her as person, but as an income producing property. The lust for wealth is insatiable; it wants to possess and exploit. It does not see people as made in God’s image, but as tools for manipulating. 

2.     2--Anger in the unregenerate springs from the offended ego. The man who has sold his self has only one sensitive spot—touch his wallet and you have touched his soul. 

3.     3--Operating from God’s motives of love and self denial will get you severely beaten and thrown in jail. In jail, however, God’s Spirit will in you sing hymns of praise and give you opportunities to witness you have not imagined. 

Prayer Starter:  Lord, as we share our faith we encounter those who live in the flesh, serve the self, and worship the gods of power, wealth, fame and sensuality. Increase our faith and humility that we may impact the world as men and women possessed by your Spirit. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on John 2:12

Scripture: John 2:12—After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

Reflection: Capernaum in Hebrew is Kefar Nachum which means “Nahum’s hamlet.” There is probably no connection with the Old Testament prophet by that name. Its ruins are still to be seen on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. It was first occupied about 150 BC and deserted sometime after the 8th century AD. 

After Jesus was rudely rejected by the synagogue worshippers in Nazareth, he moved to Capernaum, making it his headquarters for most of the Great Galilean ministry. It was the home town of Peter, his brother Andrew, and of the fishermen brothers James and John. Here Matthew worked as tax collector.

There are interesting ruins of a third or fourth century synagogue which seems to have been built over an older synagogue foundation—perhaps the very place where Jesus preached. 

An intriguing house excavation may be that of Peter’s residence where Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law of a severe fever. A later octagonal church was built over what was considered a sacred spot where the floor layout and symbols suggest a first century place of worship.  

Prayer Starter: Father, we are intrigued to think Jesus may have stood where so many of we tourists have stood since. Thank you for allowing us to get a glimpse of our Lord. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on 1 Corinthians 13:1

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1—If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Reflection: Ah, yes. How we love noise! If you have kids you can testify that it is torture for a kid to be without his noise—and our technological advances have given every teen marvelous access to portable, all weather, sophisticated, things stuck in your ear, high volume, never ending beats that we over-the-hill types frown in dismay about. 

Turn down the noise!! Cut that TV down! Why should I have to sit at a red light and feel (not hear) the pounding of the kid’s stereo from the next car as he imposes his hard metal rock on the rest of us. It’s no wonder kids cannot hear when you ask them to carry out the garbage—they are stone deaf!

Okay, lest I make enemies of some of the people I love the most and want to share Jesus with above all the gifts I could give, let me assure teens that we old codgers used to be teens also—and we loved our noise too. 

Teens—I pray for you and hope your lives find real substance. That real value is captured more by the word love than any other. The love we have comes from God and spreads through us due to the working of God’s Holy Spirit. With that love you have everything—without it you only have the noise.

Prayer Starter: Father, deliver our lives from the meaningless noises—not just gongs and cymbals, but worthless conceits, attitudes, habits and busy-works that clutter our lives. Amen.  

Doulos Meditation on Matthew 12:49

Scripture: Matthew 12:49—pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers...whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Reflection: Jesus taught that nothing supersedes relationship with God and that relationship can be summed up as “whoever does the will of my Father.” This must have struck a discordant note in Jesus’ hearers who valued blood relationships. 

Pharisees were obsessed with ancestry in Abraham; Jesus said to a man wanting to bury his father, “Let the dead bury the dead;” and he corrected his mother: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me. My hour has not yet come.”(Jn 2:4) He said, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:26) At times the family thought he was mentally deranged and we can sense friction between Jesus and his brothers. (Jn 7:2-6)

Our society now liberated from the tyranny of religion and the sovereignty of God strongly quests for a more convenient god and a very candidate is the idealized family. Instead of “God’s law” we speak of “family values.” 

It is not unusual to hear someone on TV proclaim that there’s nothing greater than family life. But is there? Is it heresy to question our current idolatry? Do you “adore” your wife, husband, or kids? Is adoration love? Does family focus bring eternal happiness?

Do you find this stressful? Is a good elevated above God no longer good but evil?

Prayer Starter: Father, put our family loves in perspective and show us that the price of our salvation is the rejection and denial of all that does not flow from you. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on Acts 12:24

Scripture: Acts 12:24—But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.


Reflection: The book of Acts is unique. No other book describing the earliest developments of the church is extant—our view of the first century would be impoverished if we did not have it.  

Luke always assumes he is recording God’s actions on earth—not human struggles to reach out and grasp God. God’s Spirit brought the Word of God into the hearts of those people in phenomenal ways—by a living dynamic we only dimly perceive but which conquered the souls and consciences of men.

Powerful perceptions and personal testimonies were written down to preserve them for later times—and our gaze into these scriptures places once again some of those tools in the hands of God’s Spirit who moves in our times as well.

A span of twenty centuries has not stripped God of his power to advance his purposes, often in the most difficult of places and least likely (to us) societies. 

Our ignorance of God’s activities is not evidence that God has retired. The message of Jesus penetrates every political corner of the world—millions are becoming Christians in such places as China where religious activities are illegal. If we could only know what God is doing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and Iraq—we would say “the word of God continues to advance and gain adherents.”


Prayer Starter: Father, we are thrilled that the power of your Word penetrates the darkest reaches of our world. Heal our blindness and bring vision to those churches who only housekeep for the Lord in their comfortable surroundings and meaningless rituals. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on 1 Timothy 2:8

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:8—I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument…

Reflection: When I was a kid, there was a lady who came to our church who raised her bible in her hands during prayer. Some of the people in that church were horrified that a little old lady would violate their approved posture for prayer—i.e. head bowed, eyes closed. (I notice that mindset still inhabiting ghost churches, making sure the shades remain in compliance.)

There’s irony of course. I began to wonder why they were looking around to see how others were praying instead of praying themselves. Hmm! 

The next irony is that in the earliest church this was a very common posture for prayer—dating back to perhaps the writing of Psalm 141:2—“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” 

I sometimes take a close look at my hands and wonder what they have been up to. Have they been the instruments of deceit, greed, anger or injustice? Could I pray like Paul, lifting up holy hands to God? Would the guy in the next pew get bent out of shape? Would I have a problem—or would he?

Prayer Starter:  Lord, we lift our hands to you in praise and prayers, knowing you see beyond our postures into our hearts. Teach us to pray in such a way that we lose ourselves in communion with you, listening to your Spirit bear witness with our spirits that we are your sons and daughters. Amen. 

Doulos Meditation on Ephesians 2:1,2a

Scripture: Ephesians 2:1, 2a—You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world.

Reflection: Our society shuns the word “sin” and uses words like mistake, error, or misunderstanding. In our natural world, many mistakes occur that are not fatal—we will correct them next time. But sin is a word more pertinent to the spiritual world—it means more than a mistake. It is a separation from the Creator—where all life resides. Cut off from God, only death can ensue and we cannot fix it or try to do better next time.

Jesus is God in the flesh and only God himself could stop the inevitable downward vortex of the sin and death syndrome, characteristic of our natural world.

Christianity is the most realistic of religions. Some religions teach that through self discipline, focus, asceticism, knowledge, meditation or law keeping humans can climb up out of the pit, but Christianity somberly proclaims it is not so—that we cannot look into ourselves for the solution to our dilemma.

In Jesus, God has intervened and we can access that intervention through faith that trusts him and surrender that gives up the last traces of self achievement before him.    

Prayer Starter:  Father, we are so blind that sin sometimes seems unimportant and inconsequential. Wake us up to the reality of sin being only the mask worn by eternal death. Free us from sin and sin’s promoter, your enemy and ours. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on 3 John 3

Scripture: 3 John 3—I was overjoyed when some of the friends (brothers) arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth.

Reflection: What is faithfulness to truth? Lots of people think it means arguing for truth—presenting their case—insisting on concurrence—persuading, wheedling, insisting, and being generally obnoxious. 

People with this view are spiritually impotent. Lurk awhile in chat rooms, discussion boards and I.N. groups—you will observe that while great energy is expended, usually nothing constructive, meaningful, or life changing actually happens.

The problem is in the definition of “faithfulness.” John defines the word as “how you walk in the truth.” Wow! Faithfulness is not arguing about something, but living according to something. Long ago someone said “I’d rather see a sermon than hear a sermon.” 

Do you know who is really impressive? It’s the man or woman who actually practices forgiveness instead of talking about it—who really loves the poor and sick and mistreated—who puts his actions in place of his mouth. I know of a man who was visiting Russia years ago—he was getting on a bus when he encountered a very poor kid who had no coat on though the temperature was quite cold. Holding up the bus driver for a minute, he took off his coat and gave it to the boy—at the expense of his own comfort. Don’t bother me with your arguments—I’ll get my impression of your faithfulness to the truth by watching how you walk every day.  

Prayer Starter:  Father, rebuild us from the inside so that we feel no urge to wage verbal wars but are shaped in all we do by your Word living in us. Amen.

Doulos Meditation on 1 Timothy 4:13

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:13—Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.

Reflection: Does your church read from scripture—out loud and publically? We could argue that it is not so important now to do so—most church people now can read and have a bible of their own. But while this appears to be reasonable, it actually forms a rather lame excuse for neglecting scripture reading in services. 

While most can read (i.e. they went to school) they in fact don’t read—they watch television—their minds have little input from the world of ideas. And second, they have a bible—but so what? It sits on a shelf mostly unread and of no consequence in their learning processes. 

Reading scripture and listening opens the mind in a different way—the ancient Hebrew was a hearer—in every synagogue service he stood and recited aloud, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is One.” When Ezra found the scroll of the law it was read aloud—and for hours the people stood at attention as the syllables of God’s truth flowed through their minds. 

Paul thought it important that Timothy see to it that scripture was read aloud. I observe that strong churches seem to be the ones that read from scripture.

Prayer Starter:  Father, teach us to listen to scripture—to mouth its words and chew its sinews—to let it ring in our ears until it becomes a clarion call to action in your service. Restore in us the ancient practice of reading scripture and listening with our hearts. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 15 Oct 2016, 8:49 pm

Doulos Meditation on 2 Kings 4:2

Scripture: 2 Kings 4:2—Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.”

Reflection: Ever wish you could give away your kids?—or even better, pay off your creditors in children? It seems a little strange to us, but children 2500 years ago in Israel were chattels and could be disposed of to settle debts. The story of how Elisha solved this woman’s dilemma is important not so much because it illuminates the ancient practices of slavery, but because it reflects what is still a real problem in many countries—the plight of the widow trying to make ends meet and feed her children.

Our welfare mentality in developed western countries has almost numbed us to the problem. In antiquity, there was no social security, church charities, insurance, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, food banks or thrift stores. 

Women were not educated, employable, or even accepted in the workplace. Usually, when a husband died, the widow was in big trouble. She had no one to speak for her, no protection, and no income. The greedy of that time worked hard to devise ways of absconding with her house or even getting her children as slaves. 

James advised, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (1:27)

Prayer Starter:  Father, how full our mouths with words like love, mercy, and grace—but how empty our hands and hearts for widows and orphans caught in a world of indifference. Amen. 

Doulos Meditation on Mark 1:27; 2:12

Scripture: Mark 1:27; 2:12—They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”…and he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Reflection: Of the four gospels, it is Mark who most often details the reactions of the crowd. It is not only the earliest attempt to record Jesus’ ministry, but it focuses largely on the displays of Jesus’ power and the reactions to those displays. In Mark, Jesus is pictured as a constant activist—busy getting around and doing amazing miracles. Not so much of Jesus’ teaching is recorded as in the other accounts. Mark is traditionally the companion of Peter and he seems to have written his gospel to the robust, active, vigorous, powerful, macho Roman society. They were not passive or laid back, they were not so much scholars or philosophers—but they paid attention to power and effectiveness. They were practical people and Mark presents Jesus as the Son of God who gets things done by performing the “mighty works” of God.

Prayer Starter:  Father, we thank you for this vigorous story of the impact that Jesus had on the world of the first century. Help us as well to see the mighty works of the Son of God and through those demonstrations come to active faith in the Christ you have sent. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on Proverbs 10:1,12; 11:13
Scripture: Proverbs 10:1, 12—A wise child makes a glad father, but a foolish child is a mother’s grief…Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. 
11:13—A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.

Reflection: Chapters 10-15 of Proverbs contain many examples of “antithetical parallelism,” one of the major techniques of Hebrew poetry. Check them out for yourself! Hebrew poetry did not depend upon rhyming for its structure, but upon rhythms and repetitions; upon juxtaposition and contrasts of ideas. How fortunate for us—because rhyme is notoriously difficult to translate without destroying its power. Hebrew poetry delivers its power in other languages as well.

Antithetical parallelism is the making of two statements with some kind of contrast. These are statements well connected by the conjunction “but,” as you can observe. Sometimes the antithesis included a whole series of contrasts—in 10:1 it shifts from father to mother, from wise to foolish, from “glad” to “grief.”

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for the heart of Judaism so powerfully revealed in the poetry of scripture. Teach us to drink deeply of its wisdom and power—to open our souls to what we cannot articulate and our minds to what we cannot comprehend. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on 1 Kings 1:33



Scripture: 1 Kings 1:33—the king (David) said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel then blow the trumpet, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’” (Vid also vss 38, 45)

 

Reflection: Near the eastern wall of Jerusalem in ancient times was a spring named Gihon whose waters flowed into the Kidron valley between the city and Mount of Olives. Gihon comes from a Hebrew root meaning “burst forth”—it is tempting to think of it as a popular place where women brought their water pots, shepherds gave their flocks a drink, and occasionally a king was crowned. 



Later, King Hezekiah dug a tunnel through solid rock so the water could flow into the city underground and hidden from enemies. “This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the City of David.” (2 Chr 32:30) 



Tourists still visit this famous 1700 foot tunnel where in 1800 was found an inscription describing the digging and completion of the tunnel. Archaeologists believe this account is contemporary with the events it describes and is thus the oldest Hebrew inscription known. Perhaps the name “burst forth” was in David’s mind as he engineered Solomon’s accession to the throne. 



Much later the man who sits on David’s throne forever knew the water of this spring and the pool it filled called the pool of Siloam. It was he who promised “living water” to the believer.

 

Prayer Starter: Lord, the abundance of that ancient water from Gihon made possible the city where Jesus walked and the pool where he healed. Thank you for the significance and blessing of both this literal water and the greater “living water” that flowed in Jerusalem. Amen.
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Doulos Meditation on Wine (#7 of 8)

Scripture: Joel 3:13—Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 

Rev. 14:18b-20—“Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.

Reflection: In the language of wine making, scripture foresees the wrath of God being applied to the grapes of earth and Isaiah uses “day of vengeance” in parallel with “year of my redeeming work” (Is 63:4). Are we to see in the death of Jesus the wrath of God poured out on the Divine Son? Did he bear the wrath of God to save us from that wrath? 

John’s Apocalypse gives us a clue—“the wine press was trodden outside the city”—a phrase heavy with meaning for those early Christians. “Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.” (Hb.13:12, 13) 

Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the father has given me?” (Jn 18:11) The lost, however, “…will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger…” (Rv 14:10)

Prayer Starter: Dear Father, from your divine wrath poured out against all ungodliness and sin, save us by the blood of Jesus our Lord, the wine which flowed outside the city. Amen.

Doulos Meditation for April 16

#8 of 8 Meditations on Wine. Scripture: 1 Timothy 5:23—No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

Reflection: Wine and oil are among the oldest medicines known to our species. Each is multipurpose—having many different uses. The value of wine is still touted by those who take it for circulation, digestion, and as an aid to sleep and relaxation. Olive oil was used for skin health, cooking, lamp fuel, anointing, and as a laxative.

The country of Greece is unusually low in incidence of coronary disease, heart attacks and strokes as compared with America and the rest of Europe. In looking at those statistics, researchers have pointed out that Greeks consume three/quarters of a cup of olive oil per week per capita; they eat a diet rich in fish and marine life; and they drink wine—especially the retsina wine flavored with resin from the Aleppo pine trees which grow prolifically on their islands. 

More western Europeans are disdainful of the Greeks with their humble retsina wine—producing themselves the sophisticated red and white wines they are famous for. The Hebrews, too, were appreciative of the “fruit of the vine,” (their expression for wine.) “And they came to the Wadi Eschol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them.” (Josh 13:23)

Prayer Starter:  Father, thank you for the ancient fruit of the vine, the oil and honey, the figs and pomegranates with which you have blessed both our ancestors and us. Amen. 

Doulos Meditation on Acts 1:26

Scripture: Acts 1:26—And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Reflection: Was the selection of Matthias to replace Judas a blunder? Some think so. Scripture gives us no antecedents except he had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning. His subsequent career is unknown. Tradition attempts to fill in the gaps, giving him credit for being one of the seventy (Lk 10:1), later evangelizing the natives of Ethiopia and writing two books—a Gospel account and a work called “Traditions”. From this latter, Clement of Alexandria quotes two sayings: “’Wonder (noun) at the things before you,’ he explains, (is) ‘the first step to the knowledge beyond.’” (Earlier, Plato had said that wonder is the beginning of philosophy.) And “If an elect man’s neighbor sin, the elect man has sinned.”

People citing this appointment as an early church blunder cite (a) it was instigated by the impatient and impulsive Peter who had made mistakes like this before. (b) It was a premature move before the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, i.e. before God moved in the matter. (c) The method of selection was the questionable casting of lots (only instance in Apostolic Church.) David Smith comments, “Had they waited until they were endured with power from on high, they would have acted otherwise. As a matter of fact the election of Matthias was set aside by God. The true successor to the vacant office was St. Paul.” (Hastings, Bible Dictionary) This might resolve the issues clustering around the number 12 and apostolic authenticity.

Starter: Father, thank you for guiding the disciples through your Spirit; thank you for the church which you generated in them and the worldwide expansion of your kingdom. Amen.

Doulos Meditation on Matthew 6:24b

Scripture: Matthew 6:24b—You cannot serve God and wealth (Grk: mamona.)

Reflection: Mammon was a Semitic word, but one of obscure origins. Some link it with Hebrew aman (store or supply); others with tamon (hidden treasure). Augustine said it was a word used by Jews for riches and Phoenician (closely related language) uses mammon for “gain” or “profit.” The term is not in the Hebrew bible but is in later rabbinical writings, in Syriac, and in Aramaic targums for “gain” or “wealth.” Some have proposed reference to a Phoenician god Mamon, but this is not at all certain.

In Christian thought, scripture often points to idolatry in a sense larger than making a little clay figure and bowing down before it. The believer is wary of anything that grows in our affections to the point of claiming all our time, effort, thought, and love—it doesn’t have to be a “god” with a name and a resume—it can just as easily be one of those intangible “gods” we crave—sex, power, position, fame, money, popularity, youth, good looks, beautiful clothes or cars.

Prayer Starter: O Father, you are the Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, the only God. Forgive us our careless idolatries and willful rebellions; open our eyes to see ourselves as you see us and grant us repentance on a daily basis. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 08 Oct 2016, 12:04 pm

This is just to notify all of you that for the next three days, I will be travelling and will not be posting on this website.  Its not that I dislike you but that I'll be out of town.  When I get back, I'll try to catch up with all the traffic that has piled up.



In the meantime, have a good weekend, love God and your neighbor, pray for out country.



Sincerely, Robert Barkley
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Post  Admin on Fri 07 Oct 2016, 7:53 pm

Doulos Meditation on Wine (#5 of 8)

#5 of 8 Meditations on Wine. Scripture: Luke 22:17, 20—Then he took a cup and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes”…And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying “This cup…is the new covenant in my blood.”

Reflection: Wine of Passover was a wine diluted with water—popular among Jewish people even on ordinary occasions. 

Four times during the meal, wine was blessed, distributed and drunk with accompanying prayers, hymns and readings. There was much variation in antiquity—Passover was not observed exactly the same way at each period. We cannot know for sure every detail in Jesus’ day—most of our information comes from after Jesus’ time.

The Lucan account mentions twice that Jesus passed the wine with interpretive comment. His first comment dealt with his presence in the kingdom of God and the fellowship he promised to those who would take the bread and wine in the Eucharist of the future. 

The second comment dealt with blood—the red wine and his own blood came together at that Passover—and the latter gave indescribable meaning to the former. From that moment on, no believer would ever receive drink wine without seeing in it the blood of Jesus; and never again would he think the rescue from slavery in Egypt was the whole meaning of Passover.     

Prayer Starter:  Father, our Lord opened to us the real meaning of your Passover—with its bread and wine, its deliverance and celebration, and its sacrificial lamb. Thank you. Amen. 

Doulos Meditation on Wine (#6 of 8)

#6 of 8 Meditations on Wine. Scripture: Matthew 9:17—“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Reflection: Baskets of grapes with peelings, seeds and stems were dumped into an upper trough where workers with bare feet trod them until thoroughly squashed and juices channeled into a lower but deeper vat. Fermentation began immediately in the warm weather (grapes were a summer fruit). There was no refrigeration and no preserved unfermented juice.


After most of the juice was drained off, the “must” (stems, peels, seeds) was pressed by a wooden paddle, its handle anchored in the far side of the vat. Juice was allowed to settle, ferment (the early fermentation was very rapid) then strained and placed in jars or wineskins, the latter being preferred by travelers. CO2 gas is released in fermentation and old brittle skins could not stand the pressure.

A new skin could stretch as the wine began is slower fermentation and aging phase. The old skins of Judaism, with their temple, priesthood, law keeping and ritual would burst apart were the new wine of God’s grace poured into them. Only the new creation could hold the new wine.  

Prayer Starter: Lord, prepare us as new wineskins to receive the new wine of the gospel, poured out in the blood of Jesus, making all things new for your eternal glory. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Oct 2016, 7:35 pm

Doulos Meditation on Wine (#4 of 8

#4 of 8 Meditations on Wine. Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:2-3; 3:8—Now a bishop must be above reproach…temperate, sensible, respectable…not a drunkard, not violent but gentle…Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy…

Reflection: Paul mandated that both bishops and deacons in the churches he spawned were to be people of discipline and self control in matters of food and drink. One who drank to excess placed the satisfying of the flesh high in his affections and this did not make for healthy churches. It is not difficult to relate Paul’s concerns about church leaders to today’s church. Those who lead our churches must lead in their self-denial and self-control, allowing God’s Spirit, rather than the flesh to dominate their behaviors. Writing today, would Paul include drugs, pornography, electronic games and iPods?

Wise old Jesus ben Sirach said, “Do not try to prove your strength by wine-drinking, for wine has destroyed many…Wine is very life to human beings if taken in moderation…It has been created to make people happy. Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul. Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit, to quarrels and stumbling…” (Sir 31:25ff) The dangers were well understood in Jewish tradition.   

Prayer Starter: Father, discipline us in matters of food and drink, that we may be temperate and under your control in all we do. Guard every leader from fleshly temptations. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 04 Oct 2016, 10:04 pm

Doulos Meditation on Wine (#3 of 8)

Scripture: John 2:9-11—When the steward tasted the water that had become wine…the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Reflection: This story provides intimate insights into life in Jesus’ time. Weddings were great feasts, but they stretched a family’s resources to provide food and wine. Jews were avid celebrators—wine flowed copiously at such parties. We don’t know why they ran out—two guesses—they had more guests than they intended, or they ran out of money and the local wine merchant would not accept their IOU. 

The first wine served was the best they had—(it was the more expensive stuff.) Later, when most of the celebrants were getting tipsy, the host would bring out much cheaper but not so good wine—by then no one would notice the difference. When Jesus made wine, it was quality controlled by God—“the good wine” as the steward said.

As miracle story, it has overtones of God’s creative, fruitful deeds—redolent of richness and plenty—doing in a moment what God always does through time and natural process. Most importantly, this is the God Incarnate who makes wine—and the wine becomes a window into the reality of Jesus’ divinity. It is a “sign,” a peephole into eternity.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for sending a savior who lived with us in sorrow and celebration, pronouncing beatitude on our happiness and revealing God to humanity. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 03 Oct 2016, 11:23 pm

Doulos Meditation on Wine (#2 of 8)

#2 of 8 Meditations on Wine. Scripture:  2 Kings 18:31-32—…thus says the king of Assyria: “Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from you own vine and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards; a land of olive oil and honey, that you may live and not die.”

Reflection: King Sennacharib of Assyria tried to convince Jews of the Southern Kingdom to lay down their arms. He promised them a land like theirs, i.e. wine, oil, honey, and bread in abundance. King Hezekiah did not surrender, however, but sought God’s council through Isaiah. 

Deuteronomy 33:28 had described Israel’s life: “So Israel lives in safety, untroubled is Jacob’s abode in a land of grain and wine, where the heavens drop down dew.” 

Mediterranean countries measure their wealth in terms of olives, wine, breads, and contentment. Jews historically have been peaceful people for the most part. Defensively they were brave, determined, and smart—but much more they longed for shalom—they loved the fruitful soil and sunny hillsides that produced the wine and olives and enhanced their zest for living. 

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for every blessing you bequeathed to ancient Israel. Help us, too, to experience happiness and contentment in all those things you bring forth from this good earth. Help us to see clearly how dear to their hearts were the Jewish desires for homes amply supplied with wine and bread, oil and figs, cisterns and grains. Amen.
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