Daily Riches: A Divine Face … Streaked with Tears (Philip Yancey and Tim Keller)

“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” Tim Keller

“Although I cannot learn from [Jesus] why a particular bad thing occurs, I can learn how God feels about it. Jesus gives God a face, and that face is streaked with tears. Whenever I read straight through the Bible, a huge difference between the Old and New Testaments comes to light. In the OT I can find many expressions of doubt and disappointment. Whole books – Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Job – center on the theme. Almost half of the psalms have a dark, brooding tone about them. In striking contrast, the New Testament Epistles contain little of this type of anguish. the problem of pain has surely not gone away: James 1, Romans 5 and 8, the entire book of 1 Peter, and much of Revelation deal with the subject in detail. Nevertheless, nowhere do I find the piercing question Does God Care? I see nothing resembling the accusation of Psalm 77: “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” The reason for the change, I believe, is that Jesus answered that question for the witnesses who wrote the Epistles. In Jesus, God presents a face. Anyone who wonders how God feels about suffering on this groaning planet need only look at that face. James, Peter, and John had followed Jesus long enough for his facial expressions to be permanently etched on their minds. By watching Jesus respond to a hemorrhaging woman, a grieving centurion, a widow’s dead son, an epileptic boy, an old blind man, they learned how God felt about suffering. By no means did Jesus solve the ‘problem of pain’ – he healed only a few in one small corner of the globe – but he did provide an answer to the question, Does God care?  Philip Yancey

“Christ suffered for you” 1 Peter 2:21

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “In Jesus, God presents a face.” How is your understanding of the invisible God shaped by the flesh-and-blood person of Jesus?
  • A big part of the “problem of pain” is feeling forgotten or forsaken by God. Does remembering Jesus strengthen you against such feelings, even in the worst of times? …based on how he was with those who suffered? …based on how he was forsaken?
  • What words of comfort would you offer a suffering friend? What would you refrain from saying?

Abba, what a revelation is Jesus your son. Thank you for him.

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Why We Can’t Slow Down (Vincent de Paul, Thoreau, Pete Scazzero, and Andréana Lefton)

“The one who hurries delays the things of God.” Vincent de Paul

“Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried.” H. D. Thoreau

“Slowing down can be terrifying because doing nothing productive leaves us feeling vulnerable, emotionally exposed and naked. Overworking hides these feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness, not just from others but also from ourselves. As long as we keep busy, we can outrun that internal voice that says things like:

I am never good enough.
I am never safe enough.
I am never perfect enough.
I am never extraordinary enough.
I am never successful enough.

Do you recognize that voice? Far too many of us use workaholism to run from these shaming messages. …Sadly, I’ve discovered that this distorted concept of identity can be found from Asia to Latin America, from North America to Africa, from the Middle East to Europe.” Pete Scazzero

“An active life is a good and laudable thing. Action has its seasons too – one of which is inaction.” Andréana Lefton

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
‘In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.’”
Isaiah 30:15

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you keep busy to “outrun that internal voice” that shames you with charges that you’re not good enough? Are you good enough?
  • Does “doing nothing productive leave you feeling vulnerable, emotionally exposed and naked?” Could feeling that way be something good that God could use?
  • What do you miss out on when you refuse “quietness and trust?”

Abba, help me listen to your loving voice, not those internal voices that want to side-track and shame me.

For More:  Waiting for God by Simone Weil

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: Following Jesus in the Workplace (Robert Lawrence Smith)

“For Quakers in colonial days, going into business was often less a choice than a process of elimination. Although they enjoyed very high literacy rates for the period, seventeenth-century Friends were excluded from most universities and from positions in public office. Their testimony against war kept them out of the military and politics. Establishing a small business became a popular option for people devoted to independence, hard work and thrift.  Because Friends always shunned luxury and frivolous spending, the small businessmen of early years focused on providing a limited range of necessities. They were tailors, hatters, printers, booksellers, undertakers. Since trading by ship involved using guns for the protection of goods, they rarely became exporters or importers. Quaker inronmongers refused to make weapons and manufactured much-needed cookware instead. …And because some dyes were the product of slave labor, many Quakers refused to wear or make clothing of colored cloth. Despite these limitations, most of these small businesses prospered. And when they did, Quaker tradesmen began to worry about letting an interest in commerce dominate their lives. Early merchants often wrote of reducing or refusing to expand booming businesses because their enterprises were taking too much time from their spiritual and communal responsibilities. John Woolman, the saintly Quaker abolitionist, was a successful tailor, merchant, and grafter of fruit trees who suffered great anxiety about his worldly success. As he wrote in his journal, ‘The increase of business became my burden.’ He struggled with the problem for some time and finally put the question to God, who ‘gave me a heart resigned to His Holy will; I then lessened my outward business.” Robert Lawrence Smith

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
Acts 24:16

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Much has changed since these Quakers lived, but they didn’t “fit in” any more then than they would today. In their day, as in ours, conscience-less business deals and exploiting others was simply doing business. Has your Christian faith kept you from certain business investments, labor practices or careers?
  • Before reading about these Christian businessmen, did taking a moral stand in your business dealings that would cost you money, seem simply impossible or hopelessly impractical?
  • Have you ever wrestled with whether God may want less “worldly success” for you?

Jesus, may we follow you with integrity in all the parts of our lives – no compartments!

For More: A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Often Misguided Urge for Power (Henri Nouwen)

“From the moment we set out on our climb to the top we make ourselves believe that striving for power and wanting to be of service are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. This fallacy is so deeply ingrained in our whole way of living that we do not hesitate to strive for influential positions in the conviction that we do so for the good of the Reign of God. …But the mystery of our ministry is that we are called to serve not with our power but with our powerlessness. It is through powerlessness that we can enter into solidarity with our fellow human beings, form a community with the weak, and thus reveal the healing, guiding, and sustaining mercy of God. …As followers of Christ, we are sent into the world naked, vulnerable, and weak, and thus we can reach our fellow human beings in their pain and agony and reveal to them the power of God’s love and empower them with the power of God’s Spirit. …The true challenge is to make service to our neighbor the manifestation and celebration of our total and undivided service to God. Only when all of our service finds its source and goal in God can we be free from the desire for power and proceed to serve our neighbors for their sake and not our own. …in serving God we find our true self which no longer needs social affirmations but is free to offer a powerless ministry.  …When we find ourselves able to continue to serve our fellow human beings even when … we have little or no power, we come to know ourselves as God knows us, as sons and daughters hidden in God’s love.” Henri Nouwen

“[Jesus] instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey,
except a mere staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belt”
Mark 6:8

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you believe you must you be powerful to “be of service” to God?
  • How will you be in solidarity with needy people if not by weakness?
  • Are you willing to be personally weak to be effective for God? To depend only on the power God grants?

Abba, may I give up my little strength, which will only create barriers with others, and settle for the weakness that creates a powerful context of solidarity and effectiveness with the needy.

For More: The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Pastors, Churches and Second-hand Spirituality (Pete Scazzero)

“The vast majority of people in our churches have a second-hand spirituality, i.e. they live off the spirituality of others. Because people attend our weekend worship services, participate in our programs, give money and serve, we assume they are in a vital personal relationship of loving union with Jesus. We assume wrong. They are not. Ask the people you serve about their time with Jesus each day: ‘How often do you meet with Him around Scripture and prayer? What do you do, and for how long? How might silence, solitude, Sabbath, spiritual companionship, and study fit into your life?’ Ask for specifics. You are in for a shock. The world has changed dramatically. We have underestimated the magnitude of information overload, the moral decline of Western culture, and the impact of the Internet/social media in altering our brain circuits. …It doesn’t matter what we preach. Unless our people spend intentional time cultivating their own first-hand relationship with the living Jesus, we are simply shuffling chairs on the Titanic. A Christ-follower develops a posture of receptivity through spiritual disciplines that consciously help them develop the spiritual dimensions of our lives. ‘Like an artist who wishes to develop painting skills, or an athlete who desires a strong and flexible body, a person of faith chooses freely to adopt certain life patterns, habits, and commitments to grow spiritually.’ (Marjorie Thompson) How many of our people approach following Jesus with the intentionality of an artist or athlete? The answer is: ‘Not many.’ Helping our people develop a first-hand relationship with Jesus in today’s world is very hard work. But if we don’t wrestle with this, who will?” Pete Scazzero

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters,
and just as you have us as a model,
keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Philippians 3:17

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Pastor, are you intentionally “cultivating your own first-hand relationship with the living Jesus?”
  • The status quo involves people hearing from God mostly through their clergy. Does your approach to ministry perpetuate that reality, or address it?
  • The status quo often involves giving people well-meaning but vague advice (“Read your Bible. Pray more. Try harder.”), but people need explicit spiritual direction. In your ministry, are you giving your people the tools they need to “develop a first-hand relationship with Jesus?”

Abba, lead our leaders as they lead your people.

For More: The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pete Scazzero (planned release June 30, 2015)

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. Please follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Today’s Need For an Alternative History (Richard Rohr)

“The political terms right and left came from the Estates General in France. It’s interesting that now we use them as our basic political categories. On the left sat the ordinary people, and on the right sat the nobility and the clergy! (What were the clergy doing over there?!) I think you see the pattern. The right normally protects the community and the status quo. The left predictably looks for change and reform, and there is a certain need for both or we have chaos. In history you will invariably have these two movements in some form, because we didn’t have the phenomenon of the middle class until very recently. The vast majority of people in all of history have been poor, as in Jesus’ time, and would have read history as a need for change. The people who wrote the books and controlled the social institutions, however, have almost always been the comfortable people on the right. And much of history has been read and interpreted from the side of the ‘winners,’ or the right, except for the unique revelation called the Bible, which is an alternative history from the side of the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed, and the poor, leading up to the totally scapegoated Jesus himself. …He tries to put inside and outside together, but is killed by those entrapped and privileged on the inside.” Richard Rohr

“the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said,
‘After three days I will rise again.’
Matthew 27:61-63

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • According to your social and economic status today, would you typically be on the left or right? …with the privileged or powerless?
  • Accordingly, if you were to insert yourself into the Biblical story, would you be more likely with the religious and political authorities (preserving tradition and order), or with Jesus (dissenting and challenging authority)?
  • The Bible is clearly “an alternative history” from the perspective of the bottom. Have you read it that way? Does thinking about it that way change the way you see our world now?
  • Can you imagine the reception Jesus would receive if he came today as he did back then? …who would be for him and who against him? …what you would do?

Jesus, may I be found, like you, siding with the weak and poor.

For More: Yes, And... by Richard Rohr

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: A World of People Equidistance From the Heart of God (Daniel Clendenin)

Besides the Holocaust, our world has experienced many other genocides – “a million or more Armenians under the Turks … two million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot; Kurds under Saddam Hussein; Muslims, Croats, and ethnic Albanians under the Serbs; thirty million Chinese under Mao; tens of millions under Soviet atheism; nearly a million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutus in Rwanda; and in Darfur the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit peoples by Sudan’s government. The deadliest war of our generation has also been the most under-reported conflict – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the start of conflicts there in 1996, five million people have perished out of a population of fifty million – a staggering 10% of the population. Over half of those deaths occurred since the war ended in July 2003. …In his book Worse Than War; Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity (2009), Daniel Goldhagen describes how 127–175 million people have been ‘eliminated’ in the last century. These people came from all regions of the world, and from all social, economic and political groups. The vast majority of them were killed in their own countries, by their fellow citizens, by willing and non-coerced murderers, and almost never with any substantial dissent. By Goldhagen’s count, ‘mass murder has deeply scarred countries home to 4.4 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population.’ Civilian deaths and injuries outnumber military ones by a factor of nine to one. …[In Acts 3] Peter says that God is the ‘author’ of all life. He concludes his sermon by proclaiming that in Jesus ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed’ by God. This echoes the global promise first made to Abraham four thousand years ago in Genesis 12:3. This story of Jesus, says Peter, anticipates the ‘restoration of all things.’ We can say with unqualified confidence that God knows and loves every name of every person in every nation. Christians are thus geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians; for us there’s no geo-political center of the world, only a constellation of peoples equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel doesn’t privilege any nation as exceptional. No one should think they are forgotten, and no one can claim special favor. …from a specifically Christian point of view, America is no more ‘exceptional’ in God’s eyes than any other country. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country (‘there’s no place like home’), this geo-political egalitarianism subverts the claim of absolute allegiance to any one nation. The claims of the gospel are absolute and unconditional; the claims of the nation and state are relative and conditional. This Christian global vision requires me to care as much about every country and its people as I do my own. Christians grieve the deaths of Iraqis and Congolese as much as Americans. That implies that our politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons.” Daniel Clendenin

“[God] said to Abraham,
‘Through your offspring
all peoples on earth
will be blessed.'”
Acts 3:25

Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • Do you think of your nation as being especially “favored” by God? If so, what would that imply? What wouldn’t that imply?
  • Has nationalism prevented you from seeing all other people as “equidistant from the heart of God?”
  • Has you faith caused your politics be “reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons?”

Abba, lead us out of illusion and into reality.

For More: Worse Than War by Daniel Goldhagen

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Thanks for following and sharing “Daily Riches.” – Bill (Psalm 90:14

Daily Riches: Sticking When Things Get Tough (Joan Chittister)

“Stability says that where I am is where God is for me. More than that, stability teaches that whatever the depth of the dullness or the difficulties around me, I can, if I will simply stay still enough of heart, find God there in the midst of them. …When the monastic makes a vow of stability it is a vow designed to still the wandering heart. There comes a time in life when everyone else’s family seems to have been better than my own. …when this job, this home, this town, this family all seem irritating and deficient beyond the bearable.  …when I regret every major decision I’ve ever made. That is precisely the time when the spirituality of stability offers its greatest gift. Stability enables me to outlast the dark, cold places of life until the thaw comes and I can see new life in this uninhabitable place again. But for that to happen I must learn to wait through the winters of my life. …[Stability] says that we have an obligation to see things through until we have done for them what can be done, and, no less important, until they have done for us what can be done for us. …Stability says that we will stay with the humdrum if only to condition our souls to cope with the unfleeable in life. We stay with what, if we want to, we really could get away from so that we can come someday to cope with what we will not be able to leave. …It is not easy to continue the hard work of being here when everything around us says go there where it will be easier. It is hard to go on when it would be so much simpler just to quit. But the question becomes, what will happen to me as a person … if I don’t persist, if I don’t see this through? …In the first place, I will certainly fail to learn a great deal about myself… [and] in the second place, I will lose the opportunity to grow.” Joan Chittister

“But you, keep your head in all situations,
endure hardship”
2 Timothy 4:5

Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • Are you thinking about quitting something hard or moving on to something more exciting?
  • Do you have a history of quitting on things or people prematurely? If so, what has that cost you?
  • Could you trust instead that where you are is “where God is for you?” That God has something in mind greater than you do? …something that depends on you staying?

Abba, keep me from running after the shiny, the new, the easy.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister

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Thanks for following and sharing “Daily Riches.” – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: How We Learn Altruism (Robert Lawrence Smith)

“Like turning the other cheek, helping the stranger is a fundamentally counterintuitive act. We …are basically a self-interested species. Our instinct is to husband our resources and share them only with close family and friends – people we know well and love and who are likely to reciprocate when we ourselves are in need. Why, after all, should we care about strangers? My belief is that altruism is actually a deep-seated human instinct … a mysterious drive to express the best that is in us. When we listen for and hear the cries of the needy, the oppressed, or the sick, something inside us instinctively responds. …But we are also driven by a countervailing instinct: the fear of the unknown, of people whose cultures and values we don’t understand. This tug-of-war between our fear of strangers and our need to connect with those outside our own experience is the dynamic force that draws men and women to each other, and drives them apart. It’s what moves us to travel to foreign lands and meet foreign people, and what compels to erect Berlin Walls and adopt restrictive immigration policies. Service to others is the way we break down the walls that keep us isolated in our own lives and in our own communities. It’s how we grow as human beings. …you learn about life through interactions with others who are different from yourself, not by looking inward. Doing physical labor side by side with total strangers who needed help taught me lessons that went far beyond anything I had learned in a classroom or in [Quaker] Meeting about the commonality that transcends differences, about the kinship engendered by shared labor. I benefited as much by my efforts as the family I was trying to help. I learned that not only are we our brother’s keepers, our brother is our keeper too – the keeper of our soul.” Robert Lawrence Smith

“And Cain said … ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Genesis  4:9

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you hoped to learn altruism from books or church?
  • Are you involved in helping people in need who are not your family or friends?
  • Have you experienced being helped by those you were helping?
  • Do you think of yourself as “your brother’s keeper?”

Abba, help me to see and care for my brother who is not my brother.

For More: A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Prayer – Submitting Ourselves for Conversion (Joan Chittister)

“Prayer … is not a matter of mood. To pray only when we feel like it is more to seek consolation than risk conversion. To pray only when it suits us is to want God on our terms. To pray only when it is convenient is to make the God-life a very low priority in a list of better opportunities. To pray only when it feels good is to court total emptiness when we most need to be filled. The hard fact is that nobody finds time for prayer. The time must be taken. There will always be something more pressing to do, something more important to be about than the apparently fruitless, empty act of prayer. But when that attitude takes over, we have begun the last trip down a very short road because, without prayer, the energy for the rest of life runs down. The fuel runs out. We become our own worst enemies: we call ourselves too tired and too busy to pray when, in reality, we are too tired and too busy not to pray. Eventually, the burdens of the day wear us down and we no longer remember why we decided to do what we’re doing: work for this project, marry this woman, have these children, minister in this place. And if I cannot remember why I decided to do this, I cannot figure out how I can go on with it. I am tired and the vision just gets dimmer and dimmer. To pray when we cannot, on the other hand, is to let God be our prayer. The spirituality of regularity requires that we turn over our bruised and bleeding and fragmented and distracted selves to the possibility of conversion, in memory and in hope, in good times and in bad, day after day after day, morning and night, this year and next.” Joan Chittister

“always keep on praying”
Ephesians 6:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you hoping to “find time for prayer” or are you making time for prayer? Are you unmotivated because prayer seems “fruitless” and “empty?”
  • Chittister suggests that by prayer (fixed-time daily prayers over months and years) “we turn over our bruised and bleeding and fragmented and distracted selves to the possibility of conversion.” Is this the kind of prayer you’re praying?

Abba, help me to always pray and not lose heart.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Freed From the Need to Impress (Henri Nouwen)

“‘Truth’ in our culture has become so largely determined by statistics that is is easy for us to truly believe that the number of people who listen, watch, or attend is a measure of the quality of that which is presented. It is difficult for us to believe that salvation came from the remnant of Israel. …that something very good came from an unknown place. …that our God is a God who came in the unspectacular form of a servant, who entered Jerusalem on an ass, and who was killed as a common criminal. And it is even more difficult to believe that a few unsophisticated fishermen brought God’s good news to the world. We act as if visibility and notoriety were the main criteria of the value of what we are doing. It is not easy to act otherwise. …How do we overcome this all-pervading temptation? is it important to realize that our hunger for the spectacular – like our desire to be relevant – has very much to do with our search for selfhood. …Who am I when nobody pays attention, says thanks, or recognizes my work? The more insecure, doubtful, and lonely we are, the greater our need for popularity and praise. Sadly… the more praise we receive, the more we desire. The hunger for human acceptance is like a bottomless barrel. … Jesus responded to the tempter, ‘You must not put the Lord you God to the test.’ Indeed, the search for spectacular glitter is an expression of doubt in God’s complete and unconditional acceptance of us. It is indeed putting God to the test. It is saying: ‘I am not sure that you really care, that you really love me, that you really consider me worthwhile. I will give you chance to show it by soothing my inner fears with human praise and by alleviating my sense of worthlessness by human applause. …The basis of all ministry is the experience of God’s unlimited and unlimiting acceptance of us as beloved children…. This experience of God’s acceptance frees us from our needy self and thus creates new space where we can pay selfless attention to others. This new freedom in Christ allows us to move in the world uninhibited by our compulsions….” Henri Nouwen

“whoever takes the lowly position of this child
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:4

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Have you fallen for the “numbers” trap?
  • Are you trying to “soothe your inner fears” with applause? to receive from people what God must give?
  • Can you sit quietly before God and just let him love you?

Abba, deliver us from illusion.

For More: The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen

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Thanks for reading and sharing “Daily Riches.” –  Bill