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Doulos International ~ Robert Barkley

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Post  Admin on Sat 18 Sep 2010, 5:32 pm

11 of 12Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:
24, 25But if all prophesy, an un-believer or outsider who enters is
reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the
unbeliever's heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before
God and worship him, declaring, "God is really among you."

Reflection: What is the secret of evangelism? Let me suggest it is not
having a visitation program, passing out tracts, preaching about soul
winning, going to a seminary, or memorizing some verses of the bible.
The secret weapon of evangelism is the Holy Spiritthe Christian in
whom the Spirit lives and works is a powerful force in God's
infantry. I've seen this in operation even among people who are
uneducated, struggle with speaking to others, or are confused about the
"right things" to say.

What makes the Spirit filled person so effective in winning others to
Christ? Paul's passage for today has the secret. People are
inevitably led to the conclusion that "God is really among you."
There's no more powerful message than the supercharged testimony
from one whom God has touchedwho says "Here's what Christ
means to me" and who speaks as God's Spirit leads. I spoke
with a young man (High School) this week who told me that in the past
three months God has transformed his lifehe actively loves God as
never before and specifically seeks to be obedient in every way. Even
his parents told me that he is a changed personno longer the
rebellious young man of former times. It is his overwhelming desire to
tell others about what has happened in his life because of God's
SpiritI have no doubts he will be a powerful and effective voice
for God.

Prayer Starter: Father, without your Spirit our words are weak and
ineffective. Fill us with your Spirit that our love for you and for
others may express itself undeniably, inexorably, and eternally. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 17 Sep 2010, 12:37 pm

10 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: John 14:16,
17—And I will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it
neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with
you, and he will be in you.

Reflection: God's Spirit means the difference between truth/facts
existing out there in the abstract world of thought, academia, or
science—and the Christian being totally involved and becoming a
participant in God's world of eternal truth. The Spirit is God's
dynamic—power in action—for incorporating the believer into His
actual plan for the universe. Because Jesus is the result of the great
Incarnation brought about by the Spirit, when we are "in Christ"
through faith we, too, become the residency of the Holy Spirit.
He is our advocate (or Paraclete). The picture is something of a court
scene. The judge himself has sent us a representative to stand beside us
and represent us in the presence of the judge. The term Paraclete comes
from Greek words meaning "call to one's side." So God is the
great judge before whom we stand, but he is also the one who prepares us
to stand before God. The world hasn't a clue this is going
on—but looks at "truth" as a matter of human discovery,
intelligence, and self expression. CS Lewis is helpful here—he said
that not only is God the one to whom we pray, he is the one in us who
brings us to prayer—and he is the one who has made this possible
through the incarnation of the Son. God is on both ends (and the middle)
of a prayer. The Christian is aware that to have God is to have
everything—but to have everything except God is to have nothing at
all. What a big message we have to deliver to a blind and lonely world!
Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for the giving of your Spirit to those
who trust in you. Open our eyes to the presence, power, and possibility
that He brings into our lives. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 16 Sep 2010, 1:09 pm

9 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Luke 1:28—The
Lord is with you. Luke 1:35—The Holy Spirit will come upon you.

Reflection: Can you imagine the shock, the overwhelming strangeness and
surprise the presence of the angel must have caused for Mary when she
heard that she was to become a mother?—and how that strangeness was
multiplied by the promise that this child would be the product of the
Holy Spirit instead of through sexual intercourse with a man? I suppose
that God could have sent a Son into the world by a thousand different
means—anything from producing him full grown and living in a cave to
having him condense out of a cloud in the desert. Both creation and
reproduction are well within God's powers. Some cannot believe the
virgin birth explanation—and it is a strange story. But both Matthew
and Luke assure us that this is the way God in his infinite wisdom chose
to operate.

Throughout scripture God is pictured as the "with-you" God. The
birth of Jesus cemented the "way out there" God to the
"with-you" God. How poverty-struck we would be if Jesus were
human only? And it would not be much better if he appeared on earth as
Spirit-God only. But he chose the combination plan, the Great
Incarnation, the "taking on of flesh" procedure. The Spirit who
generated the physical and earthly Jesus was still God; but there was no
doubt that Mary was a human. It was the God plus human equation at which
we marvel, but the scriptures assure us it was the best way.

Prayer Starter: Father, we fully believe you have exercised your Divine
power and wisdom in the conception and birth of the savior. Help us be
confident that now in the Incarnate God we have access to both heaven
and earth and it is according to your purpose and plan. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 15 Sep 2010, 8:10 am

8 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Acts 10:38—…how
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how
he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the
devil, for God was with him.

Reflection: If God was with his people in ancient times—Gideon,
David, Saul, and many others—we might expect that sending Jesus into
the world would be accompanied by a major role for the Holy Spirit to
play. The New Testament speaks plainly that the life and ministry of
Jesus were intimately connected with the Holy Spirit and His power. We
admit up front that the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit is
as far beyond our intellectual grasp as Einstein's equations are
over the head of the average earthworm, but God's revelation in
Jesus includes the Spirit's work and we simply accept that as part
of the mystery.

Since we Christians are confident concerning the oneness of God, we can
perhaps assert that there is a great connection between the Spirit's
work and Jesus' "doing good" and healing those oppressed by
the devil. I suspect we can go further and affirm that as we "do
good" we must rely on the Spirit's work in us and the power that
he brings to the Christian's life. The believer who is "in
Christ" bears the same outlook as the savior—his life is
characterized by the same love for the Father and empowered by the same
Spirit. He has a commission that is compatible with the eternal mind of
Christ—he plays a part in the saving of the lost, the redemption of
the cross, and the hope for eternity. He is not taking the place of the
Son, but caught up in the life of the Son. The differences are
obvious—you and I cannot be the Savior or create the world—but
we are the result and evidence of God's continuing purposes
displayed in time and space.

Prayer Starter: Father, enlarge our minds that we may perceive more
fully the blessed work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus and
in our subsequent lives as Christian believers. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Sep 2010, 10:44 am

7 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Haggai
2:4--…take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work,
for I am with you, says the LORD of hostsÂ… My spirit abides among
you; do not fear.

Reflection: It is alright to think about the Spirit living in each of
God's people and directing the spiritual movements in a personal and
individual way. But perhaps this misses a big part of God's working
among humans. What about the molding of nations? Does God work in the
economies, politics, and culture of a people?
When the Jewish refugees returned from Babylon and other places of
captivity, they began to re-construct the temple and the city of
Jerusalem. Haggai thought in terms of people movements—he saw the
Spirit of God bringing about great things for thousands of people in
sort of a coordinated orchestration that no one individual controlled.
It was important for the whole of the Israelites to see God at work in their nation. They were not deceived into thinking that God's Spirit was in control of each individual in the nation, but they could take comfort in the fact that overall God was moving among them to the
accomplishment of his purposes. Do you pray for yourcountry?—its
leaders—its problems?
One English poet wrote "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
Is the rise and fall of nations strictly in the hands of fate—or economics—or a fixed determinism of some kind? The Israelites never believed so—and Christians in most ages have agreed.
Prayer Starter: Lord, we acknowledge you as the one who shapes history
and brings about greater purposes and plans than any of us are aware of.
Increase our faith and our prayer lives that we might compose nations
that further your will on this earth. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 13 Sep 2010, 9:53 am

6 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: 1 Sam 16:13—Then
Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his
brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that
day forward… 1 Samuel 18:12, 14—Saul was afraid of David,
because the LORD was with him but David had success in all his
undertakings; for the Lord had departed from Saul...

Reflection: God was with David, the king of Israel—but at his
anointing, the Spirit of God is mentioned specifically as "coming
mightily" upon him. David had the distinction of being the one God
made an "eternal covenant" with—God told him he would build
David a house (descendents) and that there would never fail a descendent
of David to sit on the throne. The physical reign of the Davidic kings
came to an end in 587 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, its
temple, and the kingdom.
But Jewish expectations held that the Messiah would be such a king. The
Christians agreed and said that Jesus was that Messiah. Notice how
Matthew makes a strong case for the holy family being descendents of
David—they went to Bethlehem because that was the "city of
David". Jesus was the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the son
of God. Matthew wrote, "And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are
by no means least among the rulers of Judah: for from you shall come a
ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel. (Mt 1:5, 6) Peter's
sermon on Pentecost spoke of David as a prophet and said that David had
been promised "one of his descendants on his throne" (Ac 2:30)
and that this was Jesus who had been crucified and resurrected. (Ac
2:36) It is no accident that the Holy Spirit came on this day and that
Jesus was known as Emmanuel, the "God with us" person.
Prayer Starter: Father we praise you for putting the Messiah on the
throne of David forever and giving your Holy Spirit to the church as an
eternal possession, our guarantee that you are with us as you promised
David you would be. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sun 12 Sep 2010, 12:57 pm

5 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: 1 Samuel
10:6--….you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the
shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them;
they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the LORD will
possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy and be turned into a
different person…1 Samuel 10:7—…for God is with you…

Reflection: Saul had been anointed King of Israel by Samuel and at first
he seemed to be a good candidate. He was head and shoulders taller than
the average Israelite, youthful and handsome, humble and shy. After his
anointing, Samuel told him he would experience the Holy Spirit as a sign
that God was with him and a popular saying arose, "Is Saul also
among the prophets?" which referred to this experience.

But in the deep recesses of Saul's mind there was rebellion taking
root and on more than one occasion he disobeyed God's commands given
through Samuel. He became arrogant and headstrong, doing his own will
and taking God lightly. Is this a lesson of the danger of early success,
fame and wealth among the young? Maybe this was an example of what we
sometimes see in the child actor who has a great movie success but who
grows to adulthood jaded, antisocial, drug addicted or warped by that
very success. In the selection of church leaders, Paul warns against
selecting a leader who is a "novice" lest he become "puffed
up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil." (1 Tim
3:6). One last note—God's Spirit in our lives is never a
captive—he is free to leave anytime we begin to rebel against the
will of God.

Prayer Starter: Father, we admire the Saul who first became King, but we
regret deeply his fall from humble obedience and his rebellion against
your Spirit who empowered him so marvelously at the first. Teach us the
lessons you want us to hear. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 11 Sep 2010, 2:36 pm

3 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Joshua 3:7—And
the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the
eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with
Moses…" Deut 34:9—Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the
spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.



Reflection: In the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua it was
important that the people saw that God was present in the activities of
Joshua just as he had been present in Moses' works. The Spirit of
God is called the "spirit of wisdom" as Moses laid his hands on
Joshua, since wisdom characterizes the decisions and actions of God in
all matters involving human leadership.

The Law of Sinai had been delivered and subscribed to by the
Israelites—but much lay ahead for the chosen people. There was a
land to conquer, houses and cities to build, crops to plant and enemies
to defend against. Maybe we could make an analogy with the
Christian's plight today. Becoming a Christian now means
surrendering to the Lordship of the Messiah and being born again through
the work of the Holy Spirit. But, like Joshua's tasks this is only
the beginning of working in God's kingdom. The Spirit is the One who
begins things, but he does more—he is the constant and persistent
force driving both Joshua and the Christian toward the completion of
what he has begun. Our surrender is a daily affair, but following that
surrender is the daily need for wisdom to discern God's will for me
today and the need for the Holy Spirit's strength in me to
accomplish that will.

Prayer Starter: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Spirit who is our
tour director for the journey of life. Fill us with your presence on a
daily basis—we need you every hour. Amen.

<>< <>< <><
4 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Judges 6:12—When
the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with
you, mighty warrior." Judges 6:34—Then the Spirit of the LORD
came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to
follow him.
Reflection: Gideon—like every man of war—went out to battle with
confidence that his God was with him. Notice that in so many cases of
these ancient achievers their accomplishments are attributed to the
presence of God—but if we keep reading there are comments about the
Spirit of God coming upon them, or being with them or in them. It is no
coincidence—God' s Spirit is the very means of mediating
God's presence—both in ancient times and in ours.
Maybe there's something to be said about leadership here. If you
look closely at ancient leaders it may be discernable that they were the
ones in whom God worked in his Spirit. Do you suppose we could make that
statement about today's leaders? Are the leaders with competence,
skill, vision, purpose—the ones who in their innermost selves know
the power of God's presence—the ones in whom God's Spirit is
at work? And conversely, can we find leaders today (in any field) who
have natural intelligence, rich parents, ample opportunities and
education—but over time turn out to be small men and women grubbing
for turf in the never ending leadership competitions— and amounting
to very little in the overall scheme of things? Does the Spirit of God
make a difference in leadership? When Gideon is filled with the Spirit,
the Abiezrites follow him. How provocative—what a thought for our
meditating about leadership!
Prayer Starter: Father, give me of your Spirit that I may lead others
aright. Control my innermost self and do your will in me. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 09 Sep 2010, 11:47 am

Doulos Meditation for September 9

#2 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Exodus 3:12—And
God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that
it is I who have sent you…you will worship God on this
mountain…" Numbers 11:17—"I will come down and speak with you
there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit
on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people…"
Reflection: In Exodus 3, God told Moses "I will be with you" but
later expanded the statement, mentioning that the Spirit "is on
you." It was this same Moses that God used powerfully in delivering
the elements of the covenant of Sinai, an event with great impact on the
subsequent history of Israel and later Christianity. All that Sinai
entailed was caught up in monarchial Israel where God made a covenant
with David for a perpetual kingdom and an eternal King to come. This
later covenant did not replace the Sinai covenant but was founded on it and absorbed it. Zion became the mountain of kingship as Sinai had become the mountain of revelation in law.
It was God's activity in the Spirit that made Moses
successful—and a great success it became. The closing message of the
Deuteronomist was "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like
Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and toall his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight
of all Israel." (Dt. 34:10-12) Frequently mentioned in scripture is
the connection between power and the activity of God's Spirit. Even today it is the Holy Spirit who infuses the Christian with power tobe obedient to God, share the message of Jesus, and practice holy livingbefore God.
Prayer Starter: Father, give us daily your Spirit that our decisions may
be according to your will, our strength sufficient to every task you
assign, and our righteousness originating in you. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 08 Sep 2010, 7:54 am

1 of 12—Spirit and presence of God: Scripture: Genesis
39:23—The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in
Joseph's care because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did,
the LORD made it prosper. 41:38—Pharaoh said to his servants,
"Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of
God?"


Reflection: For several days we will be looking at the work of the
spirit of God and noticing that the presence of God among humans is the
work of God's spirit—only in the time of Jesus does the bible
speak of the "Holy Spirit" as a title for the third member of
the godhead—but the Spirit was active from the very beginning and we
can see the clues in the Old Testament.

For me to say and believe that God is with me—means that God's
spirit resides and works inside me. We mistake the coming of the Spirit
on Pentecost as being the debut of the Spirit on the stage of human
affairs, but the Spirit was active throughout all of scripture beginning
even in Genesis with Joseph. A careful study of the idea of Trinity can
bear some Old Testament fruit as well when we see that there are clues
to what only much later became a developed doctrine of the church. We
will focus on the Spirit in this series but mention that the coming of
the Messiah may have hints of the presence of the eternal Son in the Old
Testament as well. Under the guidance of God's Spirit, Joseph gained
the trust of his captors and the successes he experienced. It was
apparent even to his enemies that God was empowering Joseph—as it is
with the person today in whom God's Spirit works.

Prayer Starter: Father, we are conscious that you are eternal and your
inner nature has always been the same from generation to generation.
Help us to see the work of your Spirit as far back as scripture allows
and to know that you are always with your people. Thank you for Joseph
in whom your Spirit was active—help us also to be led in our times
by the Spirit. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 07 Sep 2010, 2:52 pm

Scripture: Amos 5:23-24—Take away from me the noise of your songs; I
will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down
like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.



Reflection: Scripture presents us with constant reminders that we live
in a world of external forms, activities and symbols—but these are
not the core of reality. The invisible center is more meaningful and
eternal than such surface activities. It extends beyond the world of
forms. When we are born again through the Holy Spirit, this deeper world
is more open to us than before. The God of Israel speaking through his
messenger Amos characterizes worship that is merely external as
"noise" and "melody of your harps."



We give praise, song and ritual to God because that is what we are
capable of—but our growing relationship to God is better
characterized by justice and righteousness—where these things from
God's nature are becoming ours as well. Those in whom God works
become channels of such things. Notice the fullness and plenitude of
God's blessing: justice rolls down—righteousness is a flowing
stream—nothing small or narrow about God's grace! We become full
of his blessing not because we have perfected worship forms and rituals,
but because we are being transformed internally by the true and living
God himself. This in turn produces praise and song and melody of harps
in our lives—which are no longer "noise" but faithful
expressions of God's own grace.



Prayer Starter: Father, open to us the true meaning of your grace,
helping us to re-evaluate our religious activities in light of your
character and your will for us. Thank you, Lord for all that is from
your Spirit—all that is good, real, meaningful, genuine, and flows
from your nature. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sun 05 Sep 2010, 4:03 pm

Doulos Meditation for September 5

Scripture: Romans 1:20—Ever since the creation of the world his
eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been
understood and seen through the things he has made.


Reflection: I have no reservations about being a nature lover. Just
sitting in the back yard and watching the squirrels and flowers is great
reward. Our vacations tend to be to great scenic wonders—the
mountains, the seashore and lakes, the canyons and caves. It is not a
great leap from enjoying natural beauty to pondering the source of those
fantastic shapes and colors and asking (whether consciously or not) if
it all has meaning and purpose. I firmly believe it does.

Paul suggests that the creation shows God's power and something of
his Divine nature. The power seems to be obvious—the size and scope
of the universe is more than we can imagine and if God created it all
with a word, then his power is beyond dispute. What about His Nature?
This is a little more subtle. Is God the source of esthetic pleasure?
Does he love color and design—is he the infinite artist? Does God
love beauty? I think so. Is it accidental that the Christian's faith
is strengthened by climbing a mountain and praying?—or is he merely
tapping into God-nature which involves beauty, majesty, reflection and
gratitude? Jesus, you recall was a nature lover and a mountain climber!
And in the field of the natural world, he carried his spiritual life of
prayer and meditation with him.

Prayer Starter: Dear Father, what a majestic world you have created and
what glorious revelations it holds for the one who will pay attention to
color, design, rhythm and space, balance and breeze, the movements of
every magnitude from geological eons to atomic nanoseconds. It all
reflects your power and presence and for that we give you praise and
thanks. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 04 Sep 2010, 3:28 pm

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:8-9—Although you have not seen him, you love
him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and
rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving
the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


Reflection: Stop for a moment and look at your life as a
Christian—ask yourself, "Am I really happy?" This may be a
useful diagnostic tool for the spirit. If you are a practitioner of the
Christian faith but you're frustrated, bitter, angry, or merely
indifferent—then you are far different from the Christian whom Peter
describes as full of "indescribable and glorious joy." Maybe
your unhappiness is temporary—maybe it's justified in some
way—but if you're not happy, I suggest that you begin a careful
evaluation of your faith.

Don't mistake joy for the much more shallow and temporary
"having fun" we sometimes experience at a ball game, comedy
show, or theme park. We might be laughing at a joke or enjoying a movie
tremendously and yet not have what the apostle is talking about. The joy
that accompanies the normal Christian life is inward, permanent, and
under control. It is closely allied with the "peace that passes
understanding." If you are not experiencing this inward peace and
joy, my suggestion is that you start with prayer and self examination.
If you have a friend you can trust for spiritual insight, then talk it
over with him/her and seek their advice. The Christian life is full of
joy that you don't want to miss—don't get trapped into some
form of faith that is mostly depressing and destructive. This inward joy
shifts all pain, suffering, depression, anger, destructive behaviors to
the outside—they become surface things that are expendable in
exchange for the inner peace and joy.

Prayer Starter: Father, we are never happier than when we are fully
aware of your presence. Increase the joy within us and remove from our
lives all the elements that are coming from some place besides your
hand. And teach us to lift up and encourage others with the joy that you
have given to us. Amen.
-----
Scripture: Psalm 53:1—Fools say in their hearts, "There is no
God." They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts; there is no one
who does good.

Reflection: There's a real connection between our attitude toward
God and our moral character. The word fool (nabal) does not mean merely
someone who is thoughtless or immature—it has the connotation of
wickedness—serving oneself with ulterior motives and deceitful
heart. The fool who denies God is trying to isolate himself from
righteousness—he is on the inside a devotee of sin—God is a
hindrance and even the very thought of God gets in the way.

It is more comfortable for him simply to dispense with God and go with
the heart's priority of evil. God and sin are incompatible and this
fact is felt even in the heart of the fool. He is forced to a choice and
his choice is to deny God and embrace sin. This was the case long before
the Psalms were written—it stems from the turning away from God of
our earliest ancestors. The simple acts of sin we read about in Genesis
are far from being the whole picture. Sin is a disease—a distortion
of human nature—it is congenital and incurable without Divine
intervention. It is persistent, generation after generation. It is the
great problem of human existence and the deadly condition that God's
grace dealt with in the atonement.

Prayer Starter: Father, we are all sinners before you and without
exception stand condemned by the standards of Divine Justice. Only
through your intervention have we found hope in the blood of Jesus on
the cross and for that grace we praise you and hunger for your
righteousness. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 03 Sep 2010, 10:26 am

DOULAS MEDITATION
Scripture: Philippians 4:12, 13—I know what it is to have little,
and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I
have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having
plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who
strengthens me.


Reflection: What is the secret to your life? Do you have one? The
Apostle Paul attributed his success to a "secret" he had
learned. And what is Paul's "secret" for life?—just
this: that in all things he relies on God. Human life offers no problems
that God is not the answer for. But isn't it strange that even long
term Christians are sometimes slow to pick up on this?

Paul is not saying that God shields us from difficult situations—but
he claims God is the answer in surviving every kind of adversity.
Isn't it interesting that both "need" and "plenty"
are spoken of as difficulties and things that need to be turned over to
God? Is "plenty" something that God needs to help us with? Paul
sees himself as much in need of God's guidance in good times as in
bad. Try reading the passage and carefully examine how you feel when you
read the words "need" and "plenty." I just did
that—it's a little strange that I don't feel so strongly
about plenty as I do about need. Maybe we have a rather natural (and
unfortunate) tendency to turn away from God if everything is okay. Maybe
we take refuge in our "plenty." Paul doesn't see it that
way—he attributes the outcomes of his life in all things (both
plenty and want) to the God who resides within, empowering and guiding.

Prayer Starter: Father, increase in me the consciousness that you are
present to guide and strengthen me—whether I am suffering need or
experiencing plenty. Guard me from taking you for granted when
everything seems to be going my way and also teach me not to turn to you
only as a last resort when all my resources have failed. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 01 Sep 2010, 7:53 am

Scripture: Psalm 8:3-5—When I look at your heavens, the work of your
fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are
human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for
them?



Reflection: The poet is astonished at the honor God has bestowed on
humankind. In contrast with the creation, a human is not strong or
shining like the stars, not majestic in the sky like the moon, not
immortal or impressive in himself—yet the infinite and omnipotent
God has provided all the greatness of the cosmos for the sake of his
human creatures. From the outset of creation, God has done mysterious
things as relate to humans—things that are inexplicably involved
with God's inexhaustible wisdom and love.



Through the panorama of scripture the impression grows—God calls
Abraham and forms the Israelite people—gives the Law on Sinai and
makes promises to the house of David—sends the prophets and reproves
the people for their sins. Over and over God's grace is given and
always on behalf of humans—until in an ultimate stroke of
unfathomable love and pathos he becomes incarnate in the God-man Jesus
and dies on a cross for the sins of the world. How can we not
contemplate this mystery? The question has never been satisfactorily
answered, "What are human beings that you are mindful of
themÂ…?"



Prayer Starter: Lord, we are humbled before you, the infinite God who
loves the finite and small. We are overwhelmed by our own
questions—why, indeed, Lord? Grant us the perception and gratitude
that is appropriate as we struggle to grasp the meaning of our own
existence. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Aug 2010, 1:42 pm

Doulos Meditation

Scripture: Matthew 11:29’·Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls.
Reflection: How can I learn the Christian Faith? Good question! And the
answers you can hear range widely: study the bible, go to church, pray,
talk with your pastor, get a degree in theology, watch the televangelist
show, go to a religious retreat in the mountains·and these are not
bad ideas. They are simply techniques that cannot stand alone and prove
adequate.
Have you looked at the verses just before our text? Jesus speaks of
knowing God and that only the Son knows the father; and those to whom
the Son reveals him·then our verse about the yoke. I suggest they
are connected in thought·it's not a single yoke, but a double
one. One ox learns from his team-mate. Yoked together with Christ, I
become the new one, guided and held in place by the experienced one.
"What would Jesus do?" becomes meaningful. The revelation of God
depends upon our relationship to Jesus as a yoke partner.

Prayer Starter: Father, we willingly take the yoke of Christ that we may
be led and trained by the divine Son of God. Thank you for this
matchless opportunity. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 15 Jul 2010, 1:39 pm

3 of 6 on the Sower. Scripture: Mk 4:2-3—He began to teach them
many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: Listen! A
sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and
the birds came and ate it up.

Reflection: The farmer in Jesus' day wasted as little seed as
possible. Through years of practice his hand could direct the seed
across the plowed field in a marvelously controlled way that covered the
ground. The seed of the expert Sower was not sown too thinly or too
thickly—the grains were dispersed evenly.

But the farmer was not perfect—as he sowed along the edge of the
plowed field, some few seed fell inadvertently onto the path where
people walked. The path was hard and the seed simply lay exposed until
the enterprising birds of the Middle East would swoop down and have
breakfast. Seed in the plowed field were not so easy for the birds to
get—and I suspect that the farmer upon finishing his sowing may have
raked lightly over the sown seed to make sure they were embedded in the
soil—but not so the seeds on the path. In the hearts of hearers,
what kinds of people can be likened to hardened pathway soil? The fellow
who is too busy to really listen?—who has other things on his mind?
The man or woman with a mind already made up and who though hearing the
words of the gospel simply do not allow it to affect their thinking? The
uninvolved—uncommitted—unconcerned spectator types who see life
passing before them but have little curiosity or desire to be actively
involved? The lazy?—the addicted?—the couch potato?—the
procrastinator?

Prayer Starter: Father, what a challenge it is to involve the
uninvolved. Show us how to penetrate the shells of indifference with the
message of the gospel. Amen.

4 of 6 on the Sower. Scripture: Mark 4:5, 6—Other seed fell on
rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly,
since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched;
and since it had no root, it withered away.

Reflection: It is always encouraging to see a new recruit who is
enthusiastic about his decision. You see this when a person starts a new
job, makes a new friend, goes to a new school, or newly becomes a
Christian. All that is good—but if you notice with
perception—the older, more experienced people, though happy to have
the new recruit are a little more laid back. Check back with them in a
month, a year, or 20 years to see how the new recruit matured and
developed. Was his (or her) enthusiasm just a passing
impulse—something that flashed for a moment and then disappeared. I
can be very autobiographical here—I know of several projects I have
started with great expectations only to lose my ardour for the idea and
drop it. I know from experience that excitement is not permanent. Some
people enthusiastically join the disciples of Jesus—they relish
their new ways of life—but then the old drags of humdrum set in.
Their new Christian friends gradually seem not so great—they find
out things about the church they joined that they could not
picture—they find shallowness, argument, tedious stuff that means
very little, some attitudes that they are sure were not in their early
perception of what Christianity was about. They slouch, they wander,
they drop out—and many in the church are not much aware they were
here at all.

Prayer Starter: Lord, make us very aware of the spiritual conditions of
new Christians, that we may help their faith to become real and
permanent. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 14 Jul 2010, 12:26 pm

2 of 6 on the Sower.
Scripture: Matthew 13:37—He answered, "The
one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man…"

Reflection: Every ancient farmer knew about sowing. A man living off the
land would plow his field using oxen and wooden plow, laboriously
breaking up clods and massaging the soil until it was soft, loose and
ready to receive the seed. In sowing, he would carry a pouch with a
strap over his shoulder to hold the seed and with a rhythmic motion of
his hand reach into the pouch, broadcast the seed with expert sweep and
take a step or two. This was repeated until the entire field was sown.
Along the sides of the field were small trails of packed dirt that were
not cultivated but used for walking.

This explanation of the identity of the sower in Matthew follows the
parable of the Wheat and Weeds—found in the same series of parables
as the Sower. It gives some insight into the reason for the mixed
results Jesus was getting around Capernaum. Jesus saw himself as the
sower with good seed—but the soil of Galilee—the people,
leaders, crowds, disciples—all of them represented varying degrees
of fertility for his message. The Sower Parable (and others) helps us
understand Jesus' take on his own ministry. It also sheds light on
our ministries today. Our message always produces mixed results—but
we must consistently sow good seed.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for the good seed of the gospel
message. Make us consistent and constant sowers of the seed and
cultivators of the soil. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 13 Jul 2010, 5:17 pm

1 of 6 on the Sower.
Scripture: Mark 4:1—Again he began to teach
beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got
into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside
the sea on the land.

Reflection: Read Mark 1-3 and notice how busy Jesus is—how many
miracles he does and how mobile his ministry is. He had chosen Capernaum
(a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee) as headquarters for his
northern work where he cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue
(1:21-28) and Mark comments, "At once his fame began to spread
throughout the surrounding region of Galilee." (1:28) From here he
made his first preaching tour of Galilee (1:35-39) and possibly a trip
to Jerusalem. He healed a paralytic lowered through the roof (2:1-12),
called Levi (Matthew) into discipleship (1:13-17), met with some of
John's disciples asking about fasting (2:18-22) and spoke about the
"Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." (2:27) The healing of
a man with a withered hand marks something of a transition (3:1-6).

The text of Mark is a record of the rising opposition to Jesus in the
north—especially from religious professionals accusing him of things
unlawful, blasphemous, non-traditional and dangerous. The Pharisees in
particular were offended by Jesus and as their opposition increased,
Jesus shifted from teaching in the synagogue to the seaside—and he
makes more use of parables than ever before. Read the text with
sensitivity toward the trends—get a feel for the changing tactics of
the savior as he deals with exploding crowds of admirers and ever
increasing numbers of enemies lurking in the background.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for Jesus' ministry in the north
and for those crowds who could see more clearly than their leaders that
here was someone with authority and power who was speaking truth they
had never heard and healing people who had given up hope. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 12 Jul 2010, 1:15 pm

DOULAS MEDITATION

Scripture: Genesis 50:20—"Even though you intended to do harm to
me, God intended it for good in order to preserve a numerous people; as
he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and
your little ones." In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to
them.

Reflection: This was Joseph speaking to his brothers after their father
Jacob had died and been buried at Hebron in Canaan. They were thinking
now that Jacob was dead, Joseph might now feel free to have them killed
in revenge for their treachery in selling him into slavery.

Some see no similarities between laws and morality of Patriarchal days
and Christian times. I'm thinking that Joseph's life points in
the opposite direction. Moral actions flowing from the nature of God
look strangely alike, place to place and time to time. Joseph loves his
brothers though they have wronged him. He forgives and treats them
kindly, not holding grudges, not seeking revenge. Without knowing, we
might surmise the story took place under the influence of Jesus and his
teachings. Because we serve the same unchanging God as ancient Israel,
God's nature is seen in the Joseph stories and during the monarchy
of King David and in Jesus' teachings—all separated by
centuries. We shouldn't expect black to become white, or God to
suddenly abandon his own nature. The morality remains the same just as
God's nature is unchanged. That's why studying the Hebrew bible
is essential for the Christian—so much of what we know about God is
to be found there in the experiences of those who have served him.

Prayer Starter: Father, this story of Joseph makes us marvel at your
good providence and the turning of evil deeds to the benefit of those
who put their trust in you. May you do so even for us who live in times
and places far removed from the days of the Patriarchs. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sat 10 Jul 2010, 4:30 pm

Scripture: Jeremiah 3:19—"…And I thought you would call me,
"My Father," and would not turn from following me. Instead, as a
faithless wife leaves her husband, so you have been faithless to me, O
house of Israel, says the LORD.

Reflection: Above all other virtues, the good wife of Jeremiah's day
was the one who was faithful to her husband. In our time it seems that
marriage vows mean less than before and faithfulness is almost banished
from our social vocabulary. The free love society of our century has
made faithfulness quaint sounding, impractical, not to mention
unimportant. It was not always that way—and may God bring us back to
faithfulness!

Because of our changing morality, we may not feel the full impact of
Jeremiah's indictment like people used to. Being faithful to human
relationships is a thousand times more important for serious Christians
than our world suspects. But the importance of human ties is dwarfed by
the importance of being faithful to God. I just wrote a response to a
young man whose question began "I am an atheist, but I want to
knowÂ…" Thinking back to when I was a kid, I can't recall a time
ever when society as a whole has been more voluntarily disconnected from
God. And a sad element in the situation is that many of these young
people come from homes which used to be Christian. We can't threaten
or badger or push people lost in the wilderness into being Christian,
but I hope we Christians can live lives so constructed that the world
can see Christ living in us and re-evaluate their vows before him.

Prayer Starter: Lord, show us how to let our lights shine before the
world of darkness we have encountered. Create in us strong faith, humble
hearts, and durable vows. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 09 Jul 2010, 1:43 pm

Scripture: 1 John 2:4—Whoever says, "I have come to know
him," but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a
person the truth does not exist…



Reflection: I guess in my old age I'm getting more judgmental—or
at least harder to get along with! When I hear someone tell that they
are a Christian, or describe the time when they got saved, or talk about
baptism, or promote the glories of their denomination—my curiosity
sometimes overcomes my stoic neutrality. I am tempted to ask them—if
you are all that you proclaim yourself to be, why do you still badmouth
people of other races, colors, churches; or when did you last talk with
someone about Jesus; or why do you use the kind of language you use or
still practice the bad habits you have? In fact, why are you not doing
to the best of your ability what Jesus commanded his disciples to do?



I know it's hard and Christians often fall on their faces—Jesus
never promised otherwise. But God's Spirit is our
empowerment—and it is process not instant maturity. I know all
that—but what is the evidence that you are a Christian? Has coming
to Christ made any practical difference in the way you live or what you
say or how you treat others? It's fairly simple according to the
apostle John. If you are claiming to know the Lord but you are obviously
and consistently living the old life with all its sins—then you are
a liar. Either walk the walk, or keep your mouth closed about talking
the talk. At least this will lower your hypocrisy rating.



Prayer Starter: Father, we know your wrath falls on pretenders and false
believers. Yet we know that often we sin and prove to be useless to you.
Father, we need forgiveness at this point—but beyond that, we beg
you to work in us to make us obedient to your will in all things. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Jul 2010, 1:18 pm

8 of 8 on the Dynamics of Evil. Scripture: Matthew 6:19—Do not
store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume
and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where
thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there
your heart will be also.



Reflection: When I was much younger I visited an older preacher whom I
held in high esteem. At that age and in our denomination many were
asking questions about being saved—all those battleground arguments
about faith and works, new birth and repentance, baptism and
law—many of you have been there. I asked him, "What is the
bottom line—the absolutely final answer about being forgiven of sin,
filled with the Holy Spirit, saved and sanctified, secure and holy?



His answer was a voice from heaven—I hear it still. He thought a
moment and responded to my question by saying, "heart's
desire." I've thought about it for many years and it has
influenced me greatly. Being right with God begins with loving
God—desiring God—having one's treasure in the right place. I
conclude this series on the dynamics of evil by reflecting that evil and
its destructive effects result from loving the world instead of God,
serving the gods I have created, wanting what my deceived and corrupted
will dreams of. Good comes from God alone but evil comes from everywhere
else. I believe it's the spiritual dynamic of the universe.



Prayer Starter: Father, bless us with enriched understanding and
deepened faith. Give us a comprehensive view of the way heaven and earth
relate. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may be the people of your
choosing. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Wed 07 Jul 2010, 1:21 pm

7 of 8 on the Dynamics of Evil. Scripture: 1 John 2:15—Do not love
the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in
those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of
the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not
from the father but from the world.



Reflection: The Greek word translated desire (epithumea) is much
stronger than our English word. Old translations used the word
"lust," but even here there's a problem. We usually think of
sex when we hear that word—and that misses the boat. The word is not
limited to sexual desire—it simply means something powerful that
pushes from the inside; an obsession, wanting, craving—something he
puts his whole heart into and cannot live without. Of course obvious
examples would include sex or money or power.



What is more subtle and slips in under the radar in many a church and
many Christian's life is that this epithumea may just as well be
clothed in something quite innocent looking and very socially
acceptable. Ever see a person who craves being the leader? A person who
goes around lecturing others about moral issues? Someone with
ostentatious morality, ethics, bill paying, or having a better looking
lawn than the neighbor? How could I even spot epithumea camouflaged with
good deeds or church activities? That kind is far more dangerous than
the epithumea that makes a man rob a bank or a teenager to seduce his
girlfriend. Notice that the strongest of desires grows out of the
deepest of loves. If I love God with all my heart, my desires will come
from him and righteousness will be the fruit. If I love the world
instead, the fruit of my life will be worldly but not heavenly.



Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for giving us new birth. Raise us up
to be your children indeed not by our will or power, but by the
transforming power of your Holy Spirit within us. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 06 Jul 2010, 1:19 pm

6 of 8 on the Dynamics of Evil. Scripture: James 1:14-16—But one is
tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then,
when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin,
when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my
beloved.

Reflection: Satan wants you deceived and nothing aids him more than for
you to team up as the devil's partner for your own destruction. No
one goes to hell on a technicality. C.S. Lewis said a man says to God
"Thy will be done" or eventually God says to that man "Thy
will be done." Hell is full of people who want to be there—or
more accurately, people who don't want to be in heaven. We get what
we want. But here's where the self deception comes in. Haven't
you heard someone say, "If I can only have ___ (you fill in the
blank—sex, money, power, fame, success, position, looks, revenge)
I'll be satisfied." Have you heard something like that and
thought "I've never seen someone so deluded—someone so
headed for disaster." That's the problem—sin is getting what
I want—but doing so while I am not only deceived but in league with
the deceiver. There's nothing more that Satan would like than for
you to be happy with what you are getting—and getting something
besides God. From there to hell is a short move—he has you in chains
while telling you to relax and enjoy yourself—that what you want is
the real path to happiness. Only God can be for each of us the ultimate
satisfaction, but reaching God is first a matter of
un-deception—seeing the false gods with true light and surrendering
to the real God who loves you. If we do we will find that He was what
our souls craved all along.

Prayer Starter: Father, undeceive us, whatever it takes. Rescue us from
the dreamy sleep of the deadly heroin of self will distributed by the
deceiver of the universe. Amen.
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Doulos International ~ Robert Barkley - Page 36 Empty Re: Doulos International ~ Robert Barkley

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