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365 Meditations for Men by Men
By John Underwood
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.
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JAMES W. MOORE
JANUARY 1 GOD CAN BRING HEALING WHERE IT HURTS
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Years ago I heard a story in a sermon about Edgar Dewitt Jones, renowned pastor and author of the early twentieth century. As the story goes, Dr. Jones was preaching a revival, and when he gave the invitation, a huge, burly man came storming down the aisle. The man was obviously moved, penitent, and remorseful. Big tears were streaming down his cheeks. He marched right to the front, extended his hand to Dr. Jones, and said, "Preacher, you said tonight that God could save anybody, no matter who they are or what they've done. I want to believe that. I want God to save me. But I want you to know I've done everything. I've done it all. So many times I've broken the Ten Commandments—all of them. I'm a Swedish blacksmith by trade, and I have been a terrible sinner. I don't know whether God can help me or not."
Dr. Jones took the man's massive hand, looked deep into that eager face, and said to him, "Sir, you are in luck. God is specializing in Swedish blacksmiths tonight!"
Whatever your problems may be, God is specializing in you today. God is the Great Physician, and God can bring healing where it hurts. That's a good thing to wrap our arms around as we move into the new year—a time for new beginnings. Join me this month as we consider how we can experience some new beginnings in our lives!
O God, you are the Lord of new beginnings and new life. You are the Great Physician. Bring me the healing I need, and be with me in the new year. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
JANUARY 2 NEW LIFE
We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, ... nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
The words of Louise Fletcher Tarkington are especially pertinent for the start of a new year: "I wish that there were some wonderful place called the Land of Beginning Again."
Well, there is such a place! This is the good news of the Christian faith. It's the great promise of the Bible. We can be forgiven. We can make new beginnings. We can start over. We can have a new chance. We can become a new creation. By the miracle of God's redeeming grace, we can have new life!
The start of a new year is a great time to make resolutions. It is also a great time to ask God to come into our lives and give us new life.
At the start of this new year, O God, make me a new creation. Give me new life, new beginnings, new birth; and enable me to be your servant. Help me live each day in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.
JANUARY 3 THE GOOD NEWS OF THE CROSS
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
A popular story from the Second World War tells about some Marines who were shipwrecked. After days of floating in a raft, they saw land. Their fears began to be dispelled, and they made their way to shore where they said prayers of gratitude to God for saving them.
Soon they saw signs of life on the island and realized they weren't alone. Immediately they began to wonder: Are we safe here? Will the people welcome us or kill us? And their fears returned.
Then one of the young Marines climbed a tree to see if he could get some indication of what they might expect. Suddenly he called down to the others: "We're saved! I see a steeple with a cross on it!"
Isn't that great? The cross meant that the spirit of Christ was there and they didn't need to be afraid.
Neither do we, because nothing—not even death—can separate us from God's love. That's the good news of the cross! And that's good news we need to take with us throughout this day, this week, this month, and this year!
Teach me, Lord, to trust you and the way of the cross. In Jesus' name. Amen.
JANUARY 4 GOD REDEEMS!
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
On September 14, 1986, Bob Brenley of the San Francisco Giants tied a major league record by committing four errors in one inning at third base against the Atlanta Braves. The errors led to four unearned runs in the fourth inning.
At Bob's last time at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, the count was three and two. Bob hit a home run and won the game 7-6. As he circled the bases with his game-winning home run, a radio announcer reportedly said, "Well, folks, Bob Brenley just redeemed himself." The jeers turned to cheers. A nightmare became the dream of a lifetime.
An athlete may be able to redeem himself by his own ability, but when it comes to our spiritual lives, only God can redeem. Only God can turn defeat into victory, death into life. This is the message of our Christian faith.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16). Christ died and rose again! And because he lives, we, too, can live through faith in him. We, too, can be resurrected. We, too, can move from defeat to victory.
In what ways do you need to experience God's resurrection power?
O God, resurrect me and give me a new start, a new beginning, a new vision, a new life. Amen.
JANUARY 5 PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
"You must faithfully keep all my commands by obeying them, for I am the LORD." (Leviticus 22:31 NLT)
Several years ago I asked some children to write down the one thing that would make our world a better place. I was impressed with their responses. If we will listen, we can learn much from them:
"Each person should try to be a light in the world and an influence for good."
"More love and less violence."
"All people should act like brothers and sisters because, after all, we are God's family."
"Go out and do what you know is right—and stand up for what you know is right."
"Learn the Christian faith and stick to it." Do you see what the children are saying to us? They are saying: Live your faith; practice what you preach; see yourself as God's coworker in this world. These are good things to think about as we move into the new year.
O God, watch over me, walk with me, and help me "practice what I preach" in the spirit of Jesus Christ. In his name I pray. Amen.
JANUARY 6 SEND ME
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)
Imagine you are at a football game and fifty players are huddled with their three coaches. The referee blows his whistle to start the game, and a crazy thing happens. The fifty players stand on the sideline, and the three coaches run out onto the field to play the game. Some of the players shout, "Go get 'em, Coach! You can do it!" But none of the players goes onto the playing field. They expect the coaches to do it all.
If you saw that at a football game, you would think, This is the craziest thing I've ever seen! Yet that's the way some people relate to the church. They think the ministers and staff are supposed to do it all while the other church members stand by and watch.
That idea is certainly not biblical. Jesus didn't call a single priest or rabbi to be one of his disciples; he called lay people. He is calling you right now. Can you hear his call? And can you say with Isaiah, "Here am I; send me"?
Here am I, Lord; send me; use me. Let me be your servant this day and every day, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
JANUARY 7 CELEBRATE EACH DAY
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
A first-grade teacher walked into her classroom one morning and found six-year-old Johnny standing in front of the room, sticking his stomach out. "Johnny," she asked, "why are you standing there with your stomach sticking out?"
"Well," said Johnny, "I had a stomachache this morning, and I went to see the nurse. She said if I could just stick it out 'til noon, maybe it would be OK."
Unfortunately, many men go through life like that: no sense of purpose; no great cause; no celebration of life. They just "stick it out 'til noon." They give in to boredom and apathy, to premature old age, or to fear and anxiety. They do nothing exciting and take no risks. They don't really live. They merely exist, enduring life, and that is so sad.
God meant for us to celebrate life and to see each day as a precious gift. The psalmist put it like this: "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Teach me, O Lord, how to celebrate each day. Help me be a good steward of each day you give me. Help me truly celebrate life. In Jesus' name. Amen.
JANUARY 8 THE LEAST OF THESE
"As you did it to one of the least of these ... you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)
I have a good friend who is one of the most outgoing persons I've ever known. A former football player, he is strong and powerful; yet he has a teddy-bear personality. He expresses his love with hugs.
Once I heard him speak to a group of young people, and he said something that inspired them and touched me. He said: "When I first became a Christian, I was so grateful for the way God had turned my life around that I wanted to hug God, but I didn't know how.... Over the years, I have learned that the best way to hug God is to hug God's children; the best way to love God is to love God's children; the best way to serve God is to serve God's children."
That's what Jesus meant when he said, "As you did it to one of the least of these ... you did it to me." Even the strongest of us men can hug God in this way!
Lord, enable me to reach out to others with love so that I might continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
JANUARY 9 ARE YOU IN A PIT?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 RSV)
One day a man took a shortcut across a field and fell into a deep pit. He tried to get out but couldn't; so he screamed for help. A pop psychologist passed by and said, "I feel your pain." A religious fanatic happened along and said, "Obviously, you have sinned greatly because only bad people fall into pits." A news reporter rushed up and asked, "Could I have an exclusive story on your experience in the pit?" A lawyer came and wanted to represent the man in a lawsuit. A neurotic came along and said, "You think your pit is bad; you should see mine!" But then someone else came along, saw the man's dilemma, and pulled the man out of the pit. Later, as the man told his story, people asked, "Who was the man?"
"It was Jesus!" he said.
"How do you know?" they asked.
"I know because he had nail prints in his hands!"
If you are in some kind of "pit" today, Jesus is waiting to help pull you out. Will you let him?
Thank you, Lord, for delivering me from those pits in life that imprison and enslave me. I pray in Christ's holy name. Amen.
JANUARY 10 EACH DAY IS A GIFT
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits. (Psalm 103:2)
A woman was cleaning her parakeet's birdcage when she accidentally sucked her parakeet, Chippie, into the vacuum. Horrified at what she had done, she frantically ripped open the vacuum bag. She found Chippie stunned and shaken but still alive. Chippie was covered with dust and dirt, so she grabbed him and ran to the sink, turned on the faucet, and held him under the cold water to clean him off. Then she ran with Chippie to the bathroom, turned on the hair dryer, and held him in front of the blast of hot air to dry him off. It was a traumatic morning for Chippie, to say the least. Later someone asked, "How's Chippie doing now?" She answered, "Well, Chippie doesn't sing much anymore. He just sits and stares."
We men are sometimes like Chippie. Sometimes we're so knocked around by life that we don't "sing" much anymore. We just exist. But we must remember that life is more than existing, more than coping. Life is a sacred gift from God. Each day is precious.
Look for the blessings in your life today.
Lord, teach me to celebrate each day as a sacred and precious gift from you. I pray in Christ's holy name. Amen.
JANUARY 11 TAKING UP THE TORCH OF KINDNESS
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV)
I was only twelve when my father died. As we stood by his casket, scores of people came by. Some were rich and some were poor; some were young and some were old; some were professional people and some were laborers; some I knew quite well and some I had never seen before. But they all said the same thing: "Jim, your dad was kind to me."
I determined then and there that the best tribute I could pay to my dad was to take up his torch of kindness. From that moment, I have tried to be a kind person. I haven't always succeeded, but I have tried; and I am still trying to let my father's kindness live on in me.
Remember with me what a kind person Jesus was. We give up on people, but Jesus never did. Even on the cross, he was taking care of his mother and forgiving his executioners. To the very last, he was kind.
The best tribute we can pay him is to take up his torch of kindness.
O God, enable me to love other people in the spirit of Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
JANUARY 12 TIME TO TURN AROUND
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." (Mark 1:15)
Some time ago there was a tragic story in the newspaper about the shooting death of a cabdriver. Several young people were being held as suspects in the brutal and senseless murder. One of them had confessed to firing the fatal shot. When asked whether the youth had expressed any remorse, one of the investigators reportedly said, "Well, they are really sorry they got caught!"
That is not what repentance is. Repentance means being so sorry for our sins that we want to change our ways. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for repent is hashivenu. It means literally "about-face, turn around, turn back and come this way." Repentance is a dramatic change, a radical turnabout. That's why we use such powerful images as new birth, new beginnings, and new life to talk about repentance. Repentance means being so sorry for our sins and wrongdoings that we want to turn around.
It's time to turn around.
O Lord, cleanse me of my sins; cleanse me from those enemies within—such as selfishness, arrogance, and jealousy—that poison my soul. Turn me around to head in your direction. In Christ's name. Amen.
Excerpted from 365 Meditations for Men by Men by John Underwood Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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