Thursday, December 31, 2009

LOOKING FORWARD AT YEAR'S END

It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; not for experiences that lie behind, but for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. Leave the things that are behind, and reach forward to those that are before, for on each new height to which we attain, there are the appropriate joys that befit the new experience. Don't fret because life's joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!

-- F. B. Meyer in "Our Daily Walk", Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 1.


#2450

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

COMING DOWN

Isaiah cried out to God one day, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down!" And one day God did.

How could Isaiah have known – how can any of us know – what "coming down' would cost God? The story of incarnation is the story of love.

Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers. He moved to Kalawao, a village on the island of Molokai in Hawaii that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony. For sixteen years he live in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He build two thousand coffins by hand so that when they died, they could be buried with dignity. Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his finger in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this the people loved him.

Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: "We lepers…"

For he wasn't just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward he wasn't just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

One day God came to earth and began His message: "We lepers…" Now He wasn't just helping us. Now He was one of us. Now He was in our skin. Now we were in it together.

The story of incarnation is the story of love. Many people didn't recognize Him as God, of course. They were looking for someone a little flashier. They expected more in the way of special effects, not someone who would take on all our limitations… Many people saw Him, but only a few recognized Him. Those who missed Him did not generally do so out of a lack of knowledge. What blinded them was pride.

-- John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think


#2449

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CARRYING THE LIGHT OF CHRIST

The greatest brightness of the whole birth narrative comes in the shepherds' response. You see, had the shepherds only heard the message and gone back to sheep tending, we would think they were foolish. Had they found a baby and then gone home with a satisfied knowledge, we might consider them extremely fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. Yet, what they did was greater. They proceeded to tell everyone around them, everywhere they could go, what they had heard and seen; and then they praised and glorified God for it all. The shepherds took on the role of the angels themselves, new messengers of salvation and good news; and in doing so, they extended the light of God's loving Word far beyond where it might have gone otherwise that night. The light of this news, this new day, was carried far and wide; and all who heard it were amazed and still are.

As we hear the shepherds' story, we find our task as the followers of Christ this Christmas. That is, we are called to bear the light of the news of the coming of Christ to this world, to carry the brightness of this gospel… The extent of this light is only limited by our self-limitation and unwillingness to share the message, or lack of faith in believing that the message is that profound, that world-changing… Who do you know who needs the light of Christ's love offered to him or her?

-- Randy Cross in Born to Save: An Advent Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary


#2448

Monday, December 28, 2009

ENFLESHING GOD'S LOVE

Don't try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explained than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God's limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.

Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God's image.

-- Madeleine L'Engle in Bright Evening Star


#2447

Thursday, December 24, 2009

NIGHT OF HOPE

The Night of the Child is the night of hope, all hopes. We await the coming of this Night with all our hopes bound up together somehow, both our hopes for ourselves as individuals and our hopes for others as well, both those who are known to us and those who are unknown....

We hope there will be things to treasure in our hearts, things to ponder, hold, and remember, and that we will be thoughtful enough to see those things and wise enough to hold onto them.

-- Robert Benson in The Night of the Child (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2001, used with permission)


#2446

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NOT ALONE

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel" -- which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23 NIV)

God is with us!

This is the proclamation made visible to us in the brightness of Christmas Day. We are radically accompanied. There is nothing in human experience that is not touched and ultimately transfigured by divine life itself. Matter is suffused with spirit.

We are not alone.

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992, used with permission)


#2445

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

JOY BORN AT BETHLEHEM

Rejoice, you who feel that you are lost, your Savior comes to seek and save you. Be of good cheer, you who are in prison, for He comes to set you free. You who are famished and ready to die, rejoice that He has consecrated for you a Bethlehem, a house of bread, and he has come to be the Bread of Life to your souls. Rejoice, O sinners everywhere, for the restorer of the castaways, the Savior of the fallen, is born.

-- C. H. Spurgeon in Joy Born at Bethlehem


#2444

Monday, December 21, 2009

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT

"The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (John 1:9 NIV)

All humanity was created with a longing to be connected to God, to be children of the light. I want to walk as a child of the light, to drink deeply from God's living water, to allow God's light to illuminate all the shadows inside me.

-- Beth A. Richardson in Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2005, used with permission)


#2443

Friday, December 18, 2009

GOD'S SHALOM

God will bring peace… When God decided to act in the fullness of time for redemption, God did not send down an announcement written on stone or paper. God did not stand aloof in the heavens, raining hellfire and damnation down on the heads of sinners. God acted and came in human form. In Bethlehem.

And if God chooses to fulfill promises by an incarnate Messiah, who is to say that God will not bring the promised peace, not by manipulating history at a distance but by acting today through persons and institutions of faith?…

When the day of God's shalom does dawn, may it be said that the Child of Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, was alive and well in our shalom-bringing, peace-making lives -- even on the West Bank, even in all the other places where peace remains far more promise than fulfillment. For there, God's shalom awaits our trust, our hope, and our making of peace with one another as God has made peace with us in Jesus Christ.

-- John Indermark in Setting the Christmas Stage (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books. Used with permission.)


#2442

Thursday, December 17, 2009

THE GREATEST GIFT (Expanded)

Note: A SOUND BITES subscriber replied to yesterday's quote (in bold below) wondering what parts of it meant. I have inserted Scripture (in dark red) to help explain what I thought the authors were referring to. Hope this helps. -- DW

Jesus is sheer, absolute gift of God. ["For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…" (John 3:16)] He is not a mere product of human history; ["In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2)] He is the humanity of the God who graciously identifies with us and shares our human condition. ["But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…" (Galatians 4:4)] No less human for that, for God's solidarity with us requires His full humanity. ["For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…" (Colossians 2:9)] But human as God's self-gift to humanity, as "Immanuel." ["'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.' " (Matthew 1:23)]

-- Richard Bauckham and R. D. Williams in Jesus--God with Us


#2441

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

THE GREATEST GIFT

Jesus is sheer, absolute gift of God. He is not a mere product of human history; He is the humanity of the God who graciously identifies with us and shares our human condition. No less human for that, for God's solidarity with us requires His full humanity. But human as God's self-gift to humanity, as "Immanuel."

-- Richard Bauckham and R. D. Williams in Jesus--God with Us


#2440

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NO ROOM FOR HIM

The entire human race had a place, and the Lord about to be born on earth had none. He found no room among men. He found no room in Plato, none in Aristotle, but in a manger, among beasts of burden and brute animals, among the simple, too, and the innocent. For that reason, the Lord says in the Gospel: "The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

-- Jerome in Homilies on the Psalms


#2439

Monday, December 14, 2009

THE PROMISE OF JOY

Jesus said, "I've loved you the way My Father has loved Me. Make yourselves at home in My love… I've told you these things for a purpose: that My joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature." (John 15:9,11 The Message)

Joy is promised to me. Do I have it? If my relationship with Christ is right, I do.

To me, joy is perfected in the full belief in the total sovereignty of God. Doubt dilutes joy.

For five years I… have attended a church that gave me one great blessing -- a firm belief in the sovereignty of God. I now totally believe that God doesn't need me, He loves me; and I don't work for Him to earn His love, I work for Him as a result of His love. He lets me work in order to mature me. That brings joy.

-- Fred Smith, consulting editor of Leadership


#2438

Friday, December 11, 2009

GOD'S PROMISES

Read Zephaniah 3:14-20

God promises to bring us to holy living. God promises to save us and to renew and restore us in our lives of faith. Sometimes that promise means that we will have to go through a painful and life-changing experience, but our faith is never a matter of only happiness and roses. Our faith is an invitation to live in God's presence through Jesus Christ. Our future expectation, our hope, should always look to God's willingness and promise to be in charge of our lives, restoring them and putting away all that would keep us from God.

-- Randy Cross in Born to Save: An Advent Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary


#2437

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PATIENT TRUST

Waiting on the Lord requires patient trust. Will I trust that God has good reasons for saying "wait"? Will I remember that things look different to God because He views things from an eternal perspective? . . .

The story goes that an economist once read these words and got very excited. "Lord -- is it true that a thousand years for us is just like a minute to you?"

"Yes."

"Then a million dollars to us must just be a penny to you."

"Yes."

"Lord, would you give me one of those pennies?"

"All right. Wait here a minute."

Too often we want God's resources, but we do not want His timing. We want the penny, but not the minute. We forget that His work in us while we wait is as important as what it is we think we are waiting for. Waiting means that we give God the benefit of the doubt that God knows what He is doing.

It may be patient trust -- trust that is willing to wait again and again day after day.

-- John Ortberg in If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat


#2436

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A TIME TO REJOICE

"Always be joyful, then, in the Lord; I repeat, be joyful. Let your good sense be obvious to everybody. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

Advent is not only a time of promise and preparation; it is a time to rejoice. The rejoicing we do is in great part a celebration of the initial fulfillment of the promise made; it is a living into the unspeakable mystery that has already occurred and which is at the heart of the season. The mystery is this: that God is born.

Not only does this mystery speak to us of the inexpressible compassion of our God, who has entered intimately into history in order to participate fully in all that is most human, but it recalls for us that creation itself, especially the human person, has become the sacred locus of the encounter of the finite and the infinite. It is in the womb of the world that the radical promise of a new creation has been conceived, gestated, and born.

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992, used with permission)


#2435

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CONSOLE MY PEOPLE

When Jesus was born, the voice of God became flesh and dwelt among us. And what the voice said was, "Console, console My people." The consolation that God's anger is past… the consolation that our Heavenly Father has a tender affection for us in our weakness… the consolation that our sins are pardoned and "cast into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).

-- John Piper in Looking for the Consolation of Israel


#2434

Monday, December 7, 2009

CLEANSED AND PURIFIED

"For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. (Malachi 3:2b-3 NRSV)

There are few who will believe in and accept the forgiveness of God so completely as to let God bury their sins in God's forgiving mercy; or who, having once accepted that forgiveness, will leave their sin with God forever. They are always reopening the vault where they have deposited their sin, and are forever asking to have it back in order to fondle it; reconstruct, query, or worry over it; wear it inwardly. Thus their sin ties them to the past and finally dooms their lives in both the present and the future…

Forgiveness… can only be received by those who will accept its conditions.

To be cleansed and to accept the cleansing, then to move on into the present and the future as a forgiven and restored one, is the gift of the deepest prayer.

-- Douglas V. Steere in Dimensions of Prayer, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN. Used with permission.


#2433

Friday, December 4, 2009

PREPARING FOR HIS COMING

Read Malachi 3:1-4.

This passage tells us three things: First, God is tremendously concerned that the people of God be as fit and as holy as they can be, so concerned that God will send someone to get them ready for worship and for offering gifts to God…

Second, the passage tells us that we cannot simply anticipate and look forward to what God will do on our behalf. We are not mere spectators in this drama of salvation and the coming of Jesus Christ to this world… We are called to go to the core of our faith, especially during this season of preparation, and to ask for help in refining and purifying our lives, in living our lives as righteous and acceptable to God…

Third, in all of this talk about preparation and refining, we must infer from Malachi's words that, indeed, God is coming. We would have no reason to go through all the work of getting ready if there would not be a day in which we would enter into the presence of God in worship and offering. God is coming to us, so let us prepare properly for that coming.

-- Randy Cross in Born to Save: An Advent Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary


#2432

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A FELLOWSHIP OF FORGIVEN SINNERS

“But if we walk in the light as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NIV)

Author Phillip Yancey tells a story of a man in his church that can’t help comparing being late for church to being late for his regular Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When he’s late for church, he says that he has the distinct feeling from everyone around him that he’s not as responsible or he would get to church on time. When he’s late for an A.A. meeting, however, the meeting stops, everyone jumps up to hug him because they realize he almost didn’t make it, and they are so glad his need for them won out over his need for alcohol.

What’s the difference? The whole truth. The people who got to church on time may have gotten that one thing right, but they have a bunch of other things wrong with them, making them just as needy as the alcoholic. Fellowship isn’t going to mean anything if we don’t tell the whole truth about ourselves. Real fellowship means stepping into the light of God’s truth where everything is revealed, and when we bring ourselves to the light, we discover we are not alone. There’s a roomful of other believers all struggling with something too, and that sense of shared need is part of the bond that holds us together.

Yes, we’re people following Christ, but we’re all a bunch of forgiven sinners, too, who wouldn’t have a chance at life were it not for what Christ has done for us. So grab someone and let’s walk into the light together, where the blood of Jesus purifies us from all of our sins. Isn’t that the group you want to be in?

-- John Fischer in The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional


#2431

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

PRAYER REGULARITY

Whatever time of day we set aside for prayer, whatever place we select, whatever forms of prayer we use, it is important to understand that regularity is more sustaining in prayer than intensity or length. We are spending time with God, learning who God is and who we are, learning to love God and God's world. This happens over a matter of years. If we miss some days, we should simply start again and think small.

-- Roberta C. Bondi in Communion, Community, Commonweal


#2430

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

THE HIGHEST PLAN

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

People who believe they are a key part of the highest plan are people who have the key to behave on the highest plane.

-- Joel Hunter


#2429

Monday, November 30, 2009

ADVENT ANTICIPATION

Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

The Scriptures for the first Sunday in the season of Advent all talk about something that's "coming soon." Of course, what is spoken of is God's kingdom and coming salvation. It is coming -- sometime -- and it is closer than it ever has been. So keep your eyes open and keep your heart open, and it will be here before you know it. That is the promise, wrapped in anticipation. When we give ourselves the freedom to think about the time in the future when God's reign will be all-encompassing, when there will be "peace on earth" that is more than a pause in violence, the promise is so great that it is eternal in its size and depth.

Anticipation is a marvelous word in our language. It holds many different definitions; but two of them are "to realize beforehand" and "to foretaste, foresee." When we anticipate the future, we can almost taste it, see it, and realize what God is doing on our behalf while we are living in the present…

At the core of your life, what do you hope for and anticipate?... When you and I are able to begin to name our deepest hope, our greatest anticipation, I guarantee we will be led to holy ground and to a time of waiting for the Lord.

-- Randy Cross in Born to Save: An Advent Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary


#2428

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GIVING THANKS

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
For His lovingkindness is everlasting." (Psalm 136:1 NAS)

Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness.

-- Robert Casper Lintner


#2427

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PERMEATING PRAISE

Thanksgiving is not a season but a way of life. Praise is not an occasional act of an individual, not a periodic ritual by a congregation. Praise is a rich perfume always permeating the people of God.

-- Richard and Julia Wilke in DISCIPLE: Remember Who You Are

Monday, November 23, 2009

IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLE

"On the day I called, You answered me, You increased my strength of soul." (Psalm 138:3 NRSV)

David said, "I'm walking in the midst of trouble, but there was a day in the midst of walking in the trouble that I cried out to You. And, Lord God, You answered me." That's the most important thing.

We would like to say, "Lord God, I was walking in the midst of trouble and I cried out to You. And when I cried out to You, You made all my trouble go away." That didn't happen.

Sometimes God cares for us in the trouble. Sometimes He takes us out of the trouble. But more often He stands with us and walks with us through the trouble.

-- Dave Jeremiah, from Turning Point


#2425

Friday, November 20, 2009

IS HE YOUR KING?

Jesus came preaching a Kingdom, not a democracy. A king doesn't ask, he decrees. In a kingdom you don't have rights, you have privileges. Jesus didn't come to take our side and make the whole world a democracy. He came to take over, one willing heart at a time. Is Jesus your Lord and King?

-- Unknown


#2424

Thursday, November 19, 2009

THE KING OF KINGS

Most of us are familiar with these memorable words: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

These words are the best promise of security in a world of tension and turmoil. If you want to have peace with God and find security for these times of trouble, you must answer one important question: Who Is the Ruler of Your Life?

Are you trying to be the master of your own fate? Are you trying to be the captain of your own soul? Do you believe that you can navigate life's storms without the Master at the helm?

Or is the Kingdom of God within you? The King of kings is the hope of every man, woman and child of every nation, and His Kingdom is forever.

-- Billy Graham


#2423

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LET GOD GUIDE YOU

I have a challenge for you. Why not put your whole life in God's hands? Why not trust Him fully? Why not stake your life on Him? Why not let Him lead and guide you in every area of your life for as long as He proves Himself trustworthy? If at any point He shows Himself to be untrustworthy, then you can bail, get out, turn your back -- whatever. But until that time, give God the opportunity to lead and guide your life. Give Him a chance to prove Himself trustworthy.

-- Bill Hybels in Making Life Work: Putting God's Wisdom into Action


#2422

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MY VERY SMART FILE

I could fill volumes with the regret I carry for the times I willfully chose another path. A file in my mind called "My Very Stupid File" is filled with the memories of all the times I came to critical crossroads in my life and chose a foolish path. Each time, I would end up saying, "That was so dumb. Look at the consequences. Look at the people I have hurt. Look at the guilt I carry. Look at the time I have lost. Refusing to go God's way was so stupid."

We are not born wise; we are born with folly in our hearts and minds. One of the main tasks of life is to grow out of folly and into wisdom. Part of that growth process involves learning from mistakes. So whenever I learned a lesson from my foolish choices, that allowed me to make a wise choice the next time I came to a similar intersection. I mentally stashed those choices into "My Very Smart File." Frequently perusing and comparing my two files was one of my most effective ways of building trust in God. It was obvious that every time I went God's way, my life worked better. Every time I trusted Him by obeying His commands, operating according to His wisdom or yielding to His guidance, He proved to be worthy of my trust: His wisdom worked, and His commands were just, and His guidance served me well. Eventually I was able to say without hesitation, "I do trust the Lord with all my heart! I am not blowing smoke or making false claims. I trust God because He has proven Himself to be trustworthy."

-- Bill Hybels in Making Life Work: Putting God's Wisdom into Action


#2421

Monday, November 16, 2009

SOMETIMES IT TAKES A SHIPWRECK

"So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island." (Acts 27:25-26 NRSV, in reference to Paul's shipwreck on the Island of Malta)

Sometimes it takes a shipwreck to get us where God wants us to go.

I believe in planning. Failing to plan is planning to fail. But when we trust our plans more than we trust God, our plans can keep us from pursuing Him and His will. And sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God's plans to succeed.

Failure (or what at the time looks like failure) can become a cage if you let it. It can keep you from pursuing the passions God has placed in your heart. But there's life after failure. The door of the cage swings open, and the Wild Goose [the Holy Spirit] calls you to a life of new adventures.

-- Mark Batterson in Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God


#2420

Friday, November 13, 2009

GOD'S SPECIALTY

Child of God, learn a family secret. God specializes in things we think are totally impossible.

-- Charles Swindoll


#2419

Thursday, November 12, 2009

THE GREAT PROVIDER

Giving characterizes God's creation. He produces in pluralities: stars, plants, birds, and animals. Every gift arrives in bulk, multiples, and medleys. God begets Adam and Eve into a "liturgy of abundance" and tells them to follow suit: "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28).

Scrooge didn't create the world; God did.

Psalm 104 celebrates this lavish creation with twenty-three verses of itemized blessings: the heavens and the earth, the waters and streams and trees and birds and goats and wine and oil and bread and people and lions. God is the source of "innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great… these all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season" (vv. 25, 27).

And He does. God is the great giver. The great provider. The fount of every blessing. Absolutely generous and utterly dependable. The resounding and recurring message of Scripture is clear: God owns it all. God shares it all. Trust Him, not stuff!

-- Max Lucado in Fearless


#2418

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY

In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase makes these statements about becoming an Extravagant Giver:

  • Generosity enlarges the soul, realigns priorities, connects people to the Body of Christ and strengthens congregations to fulfill Christ’s ministries.
  • How people use what they have matters to God.
  • All Christians practice generosity while some are particularly gifted by the Spirit to give in extraordinary measures.
  • At some point, followers of Jesus must decide whether they will listen to the wisdom of the world or to the wisdom of God.
  • Offering money and other possessions to God results from generosity of heart rather than from mere duty or obligation.
  • Giving is always extravagant, life changing, and joyous.

#2417

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

REACT LIKE A CHRISTIAN

In my experience, it is much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one. Most of us are good actors -- we can play the part. But our reactions reveal who we really are. And maybe that is why Jesus focused so much of His teaching on reconditioning reflexes.

Pray for those who persecute you.
Love your enemies.
Bless those who curse you.
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

What is the natural reaction when someone slaps you? You feel like slapping him back, right? But supernatural reaction is both counterintuitive and counterreactive. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. Think of it as a spiritual aikido. We absorb the sinful energy of others and convert it into a righteous response. So persecution becomes a catalyst for prayer. Hatred inspires love. And we convert curses into blessings.

Is there anybody in your life who brings out the worst in you? When you're around her, you react in ways you later regret. Or maybe it's someone who gets on your nerves or under your skin. Here's my advice: pray for them! Nothing reconditions our spiritual reflexes like prayer. Start praying for the difficult people in your life, and it will change the way you feel about them.

-- Mark Batterson in Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God


#2416

Monday, November 9, 2009

FOCUSING ON THE GOAL

"Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV)

Let us then look onward. Let us not spend our time either in pondering the gloomy past, and our own unfaithfulness, or in thinking of [the good] we have done, and thus becoming puffed up with self-complacency; but let us keep the eye steadily on the prize, and run the race as though we had just commenced it.

-- Albert Barnes in Notes on the New Testament, Ephesians to Philemon


#2415

Friday, November 6, 2009

MISSION WORK TODAY

The missionary work of the non-professional missionary is essentially to live his daily life in Christ, and therefore with a difference, and to be able to explain, or at least to state, the reason and cause of the difference to [those] who see it... His preaching is essentially private conversation, and has at the back of it facts, facts of a life which explain and illustrate and enforce his words... It is such missionary work, done consciously and deliberately as missionary, that the world needs today.

-- Roland Allen in Non-Professional Missionaries


#2414

Thursday, November 5, 2009

GREAT AND LITTLE THINGS

Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.

-- Blaise Pascal


#2413

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

THE SACRED PRESENT

"Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise." (Psalm 90:12 TEV)

Those who sanctify time and who give time away -- who treat time as a gift and not possession -- have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They're always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. There is, of course, a place for wise management of our days and weeks and years. But management can quickly turn into rigidity. We hold time so tight we crush it, like a flower closed in the fist. We thought we were protecting it, but all we did was destroy it.

-- Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God


#2412

Monday, November 2, 2009

MY CUP OF TEARS

"How large a cup of tears must I drink, 0 God? How much is enough?" (Ann Weems)

Ann Weems' Psalms of Lament come straight from the deep heartache of her son's death. Her psalms, based on the psalms of the Hebrew scrip­tures, are honest, gutsy, keening cries of distress. These prayers remind me that through the ages, hurting people have raised their anguished voices to God. These voices have been filled with questions, demands, accusa­tions, and beseechings. They have implored, begged, and pleaded with God.

I used to be too nice with God when I was feeling like a broken cup. I realize now that not being honest with God about my situation only added to my anger and hostility. Keeping it all inside, trying to hide it, benefited no one and only generated more self-pity and resentment. I do not believe that God sends suffering. Suffering happens because of our human condi­tion and because of the way that transformation occurs with its natural cycle of life-death-life. Still, this reality does not take away my human emotional response when pain is intensely penetrating nor does it cease my hope that God will somehow choose a miracle on my behalf.

The Jewish psalms have taught me a lot about how to pray when life is tough. The psalmist yells, screams, and pokes a finger at God now and then in accusatory blame. The psalmist wonders why God isn't making some changes. Once the emotional tirade of woes is over, then another equally valuable part of the prayer comes. The psalmist closes by express­ing confidence and hope in God, trusting that all shall eventually be well. The prayer style of the psalms assures me of how good it is to be honest with myself, as well as with God, and to count on God's healing presence to eventually bring me peace of mind and heart.

Every nook and cranny of our lives, no matter how painful, deserves God's attention. Psalm 56 addresses God with this reassurance: "You have ... put my tears in your bottle" (v 8). In other words, God gathers our pain and struggle and holds it compassionately. It is good to bring God our tears. God can catch them and hold them with care until we find our inner peace again.

-- Joyce Rupp in The Cup of Our Life


#2410

Friday, October 30, 2009

CONFESSION IS HUMILITY IN ACTION

Confession is nothing but humility in action…. When there is a gap between me and Christ, when my love is divided, anything can come to fill the gap. Confession is a place where I allow Jesus to take away from me everything that divides, that destroys.

-- Mother Teresa in No Greater Love


#2409

Thursday, October 29, 2009

THE COURAGE TO GRIEVE

Healthy grief, dramatic and even traumatic as it may be, is a three-stage process. First, it is fully experiencing and expressing all the emotions and reactions to the loss. Second, it is completing and letting go of your attachment both to the deceased and to sorrow. Third, it is recovering and reinvesting anew in one's own life. Missing any of the steps in the grieving process may result in unhealthy or unsuccessful grief. Because these stages may take many months, unsuccessful grief may not show up until long after the loss…

For us to [journey through] every step of the grieving process requires awareness, courage, openness, self-support, and support from others. Because of the complexity of this process, many of us do not fully complete each necessary step…

Unsuccessful grief is also the result of the misguided ideas of courage in our society. For example, courage is often seen as a capacity to be silent when in pain, to control tears at all costs, to function regardless of the depths of turmoil inside us, and to handle our wounds and sorrows privately and independently. Few of us are so superhuman. When we try to act accordingly to these ideals, we usually deny our pain and never learn to cope with it. Since pain unexpressed does not dissolve spontaneously, we may suffer severe consequences from pretending to be superhuman…

It takes enormous courage to face pain directly and honestly, to sit in the midst of such uncomfortable feelings and reactions until we have expressed them and finished with them. It takes courage to be willing to experience fully the pain and anguish of grief and to face feelings at the time they occur rather than postponing the encounter.

-- Judy Tatelbaum in The Courage to Grieve


#2408

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

Want to know the proper cheese to go with the tailgate meal you're preparing? There’s an app for that. Want to know where you parked your car at Lambeau Field? There’s an app for that. Want to know the latest Green Bay Packer's news? There’s an app for that too. There are thousands of apps for all kinds of wants. That’s the tag line for the iPhone’s App Store. In fact their website boasts "Apps for Everything." But is there an app for what we really need? Is there an app for eternal life?

God loved us so much that He provided that app. 1 John 4:9 states, "This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him." That's an app you can't live without.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#2407

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ATHIRST FOR GOD

Martin Luther was the father of a household, the molder of the German people, a new David playing on his harp, an emancipator of certain fetters of the spirit, the divider of the Church, and at the same time the renewer of Christendom. All this he was, and more; but pre-eminently for his own time as well as for ourselves he was a man athirst for God.

-- Roland Bainton in HERE I STAND


#2406

Monday, October 26, 2009

KNOWING GOD

"I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6 NRSV)

Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing neither God nor our own sinfulness makes for false peace and the absence of truth. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance, because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness and He brings true peace.

--Adapted from Blaise Pascal


#2405

Friday, October 23, 2009

KNOWING AND FOLLOWING GOD

Creation is a gift for us. And all of creation is a reflection of the wonder of the Creator, God's creation -- from the amoeba, to the newborn child, to the wonders of the galaxies and stars -- points to the majesty of the God who caused the big bang, who called forth the light and darkness, who spoke and the waters swarmed with life, and who created you in God's own image. You are no accident: You were designed by God to be recipients of God's love and to enjoy creation, to walk with God, know God, and do God's will. And this Creator is not some anonymous Intelligent Designer. No. God is the one who has been revealed by becoming one of us in Jesus Christ. There is no greater joy, no greater life, than knowing and following God.

-- Adam Hamilton in Confronting the Controversies


#2404

Thursday, October 22, 2009

KNOWING GOD

Knowing God is more than knowing about Him; it is a matter of dealing with God as He opens up to you, and being dealt with by God as He takes knowledge of you. Knowing about God is a necessary precondition of trusting in God, but the width of our knowledge about God is no gauge of our knowledge of Him.

-- James I. Packer in Knowing God


#2403

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE INNER LIFE

If you make a habit of sincere prayer, your life will be very noticeably and profoundly altered… Within the depths of consciousness, a flame kindles. And man sees himself. He discovers his selfishness, his silly pride, his fears, his greeds, his blunders. He develops a sense of moral obligation, intellectual humility. Thus begins a journey of the soul toward the realm of grace.

-- Alexis Carrel


#2402

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BEING MINDFUL OF OUR BLESSINGS

It is generally true that all that is required to make [human beings] unmindful of what they owe God for any blessing is that they should receive that blessing often and regularly.

-- Richard Whately


#2401

Monday, October 19, 2009

THE GREATEST GIFT

"Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV)

Love breeds love. This is the only way that it spreads out into the world.

In other words, in this world love is its own source. It cannot be reached through will or intellect or understanding. It springs out of the total reality of a human being -- body, soul and mind that has been touched directly by divine Love.

-- Morton Kelsey in Set Your Hearts on the Greatest Gift


#2400

Friday, October 16, 2009

EVERYBODY COMES "AS IS"

We are tempted to live under the illusion that somewhere out there are people who are normal. In the movie "As Good As It Gets", Helen Hunt is wracked by ambivalence toward Jack Nicholson. He is kind and generous to her and her sick son, but he is also agoraphobic, obsessive-compulsive, and terminally offensive: If rudeness were measured in square miles, he'd be Texas. In desperation, Helen finally cries to her mother: "I just want a normal boyfriend."

"Oh," her mother responds in empathy, "everybody wants one of those. There's no such thing, dear."

When we enter relationships with the illusion that people are normal, we resist the truth that they are not. We enter an endless attempt to fix them, control them, or pretend that they are what they're not. One of the great marks of maturity is to accept the fact that everybody comes "as is."

-- John Ortberg in Everybody's Normal 'Till You Get to Know Them


#2399

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TIME TO TURN AROUND

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15 NIV)

When one repents one turns around, changes direction. Naomi Judd once said, "A dead end street is a good place to turn around." Have you reach a dead end in your life? It is time to turn around. It is time to turn to God.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#2398

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MERCY AND FORGIVENESS

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NRSV)

How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?

-- from Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice


#2397

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

EQUAL AND COMPLETE ACCESS

"As many as received [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 NKJV)

The good news is the nature of God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We never turn to Him in prayer and find He has changed and we have for no reason lost His favor in our life. No, He never turns a deaf ear to His children. Praise the Lord for His mercy. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paved a permanent opening to the throne of mercy, and each and every one of His children has equal and complete access.

-- Pastor Gary Stone


#2396

Monday, October 12, 2009

GOD'S PRESENCE

O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. You have been here, and I knew it not. I have been blind to Your presence. Open my eyes that I may behold You in and around me. For Christ's sake, Amen.

-- A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God


#2395

Friday, October 9, 2009

THE GREAT I AM

When God would make His name known to mankind, He could find no better word than "I AM". "I am that I am," says God, "I change not." Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point.

-- A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God


#2394

Thursday, October 8, 2009

COMFORT ALL WHO MOURN

"Comfort all who mourn. Give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." (Isaiah 61:3 paraphrase)

The Prophet is anticipating the good news of God's deliverance. Of what does deliverance consist for us [-- those who are grieving]? Not that the situation will change and our loved one be restored to us. We know better than to hope for that. But maybe to be delivered from some of this pain, so that our existence is no longer shadowed by our loss, and the beauty of the world is no longer just a reminder that the one we shared it with is gone. From that - yes - we can hope to be delivered.

We have but to look around us and see the many others who have suffered losses. They are legion. They walk the streets with us, get on and off the bus, shop with us in the stores. They have survived. And some of them have been made stronger and are now pillars of support for others.

When we shall have been delivered from our deepest grief -- by the help of friends, by faith, by time, by work to which we can return with a heightened sensibility -- then we, too, shall experience "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and be a blessing to those who need us.

-- Martha Whitmore Hickman in Healing After Loss


#2393

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A FORCE IN THIS WORLD

We do it again and again. We satisfy ourselves with beliefs and creeds -- creeds about that which is really fire, forms about that which once was force. But no matter how correct and even essential a creed may be, it is not the real thing… We enter a Church, take part in ritual and ceremony, worship and prayer. And after giving an offering and singing our hymns, we depart. This cannot be the end-all of Christianity.

What we narrow down, Jesus widens out. Christianity must become a force… a force of justice in a world of injustice; a force of mercy in a merciless society; a force of faith where [people] live by doubt and despair. The sinner is not a person to be avoided. He is a subject of injustice to be sought out and loved. Mercy is not a form for friends, but a power to demonstrate even to enemies. Faith is no private relationship with God, but an arm which encircles the lost. No wonder the temple must be swept clean of form-religion to make way for the fire of force: "My house shall be called a house of prayer."

-- H.S. Vigeveno in Jesus the Revolutionary


#2392

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ALONE WITH OUR SIN

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (Romans 3:23)

Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy … He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


#2391

Monday, October 5, 2009

GOOD DAYS, BAD DAYS

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
naked I'll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God's name be ever blessed." (Job 1:21, The Message)

Job does not curse God as his wife suggests he should do, getting rid of the problems by getting rid of God. But neither does Job explain suffering. He does not instruct us in how to live so that we can avoid suffering. Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery. In the course of facing, questioning, and respecting suffering, Job finds himself in an even larger mystery -- the mystery of God. Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love and praise. Suffering does not inevitably do that, but it does it far more often than we would expect. It certainly did that for Job. Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of an uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: "We take the good days from God -- why not also the bad days?"

-- Eugene Peterson in The Message


#2390

Friday, October 2, 2009

REACHING OUT HIS HAND

A well-known painting of the Vietnam Wall depicts a young widow and her daughter standing at the wall, reaching up and touching the name of the husband and father who died. The reflection in the polished granite is not of the mother and daughter but of the husband and father reaching out his hand to touch theirs.

That is the Lord's Supper. We arrive at the table and reach out our hands to take this unleavened bread and this fruit of the vine. In response to our act of faith, Jesus touches us.

-- Rich Bersett


#2389

Thursday, October 1, 2009

GIVE HOPE TO THE HOPELESS

Like Christ, we should all be so bold in mentioning the astounding benefits of participating in the Christian faith. Tell people with confidence what the Father promises! To the thirsty woman Jesus encountered at the well, He offered "living" water -- soul-quenching and spirit-filled water of life. For the people you encounter, the offers are limitless:

To those filled with shame, "Grace and forgiveness can come your way."

To those bound up in destructive habits, "When the Son sets you free, you'll be free indeed."

To the weak, "Strength from God -- the Strength-Giver -- can be yours for the asking."

To the weary, "Jesus promises rest for your soul."

To the poor, richness of spirit.

To the lacking, provision in due time.

To the grieving, consolation and comfort.

To the sick and dying, eternal life and new bodies in the life hereafter.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2388

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

REBIRTH

I am emerging from an ocean of grief,
From the sorrow of many deaths,
From the inevitability of tragedy,
From the losing of love,
From the terrible triumph of destruction.
I am seeing the living that is to be lived,
The laughter that is to be laughed,
The joy that is to be enjoyed,
The loving that is to be accomplished.
I am learning at last
The tremendous triumph of life.

-- Marjorie Pizer in To You the Living

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." -- Psalm 46:1-3 (ESV)

God is not a deceiver, that He should offer to support us, and then, when we lean upon Him, should slip away from us.

-- St. Augustine


#2386

Monday, September 28, 2009

GOD'S WORK OF ART

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

While on a trip to Paris, I visited the Louvre Museum. I stood speechless in the presence of so many priceless paintings. I saw the Mona Lisa, up close and personal. My mother and I stood in awe, whispering in hushed tones, "Can you believe we're looking at her? She's the real thing, not a cheap imitation!" Leonardo da Vinci had no idea when he painted the portrait that it would be a gift to the entire world -- a gift that inspires generation after generation.

God is the Master artist; all of the creation declares His handiwork. Each sunset is a stroke of the Master's brush. And you are His living masterpiece. Mona Lisa can't hold a candle to you. As God's work of art, you are not intended to hang on a wall in a museum, gathering dust. He created you with a purpose -- His purpose -- to do good works that reflect His artistry.

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians


#2385

Friday, September 25, 2009

THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE

The Bible says that God is Spirit, so technically, He doesn't dwell in three-dimensional space as we do. His presence is everywhere, but not His essence (that would be the heresy know as pantheism). God is no less present in one portion of the universe than any other. And He is no more present anywhere than where you are right now. In other words, anyone, anywhere in the universe might say, "The Lord is in this place." Wherever you are, God is right there, right now.

-- Bill Hybels in The God You're Looking For


#2384

Thursday, September 24, 2009

YOUR IMPORTANCE

If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.

-- Fred Rogers, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood


#2383

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE SOURCE OF POWER

"Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1)

He was a gifted Preacher, a powerful Person, a Man who drew people to Himself, yet search as you will, His disciples never ask Jesus how to preach or how to become a magnetic person. But they do ask Him: "Lord, teach us to pray." Somehow they realized that behind that magnetic and productive life lay a power unknown to them, a source untapped by them.

They had seen Him get up early in the morning [to pray]. They had known Him to stay up late at night [praying]. They knew He prayed as the need arose. More than once they caught Him in meditation. "Lord, teach us to pray." We, too, want to know the secret of a productive life. We, too, want to tap the source of power.

-- H.S. Vigeveno in Jesus the Revolutionary


#2382

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FINDING HOPE

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?" (Romans 8:24)

Did you know that you need hope? We all do. Swiss theologian M.L. Bruner said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of human life.” Just as our physical bodies would die without oxygen, our spirit will suffocate without hope!

In our culture, we hear a lot about love. We even hear a lot about faith. But we don’t hear that much about hope. Yet from the very beginning, God provided hope. After Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the planet into pain, God gave a promise for a redeemer, a savior. That hope is Jesus Christ! "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

What do you need hope for today? Physical pain? Disease? Addiction? Depression? Bad habits? A broken heart? Whatever your need, God’s plan is to give you a future and a hope. Jesus Christ was sent to conquer pain and death, and to give hope. He is your Redeemer… your hope. But just like the air you breathe, hope is an unseen promise.

Find your hope in Jesus Christ today.

-- Dr. Jack Graham in "PowerPoint" - 12/17/08


#2381

Monday, September 21, 2009

PILGRIMAGE OF THE HEART

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Audacious longing, burning songs, daring thoughts, an impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping the mind -- these are all a drive toward [loving the One] who rings our heart like a bell.

-- Abraham Heschel


#2380

Friday, September 18, 2009

A NEW THOUGHT OF GOD

"For it was You who formed my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever-fresh and radiant possibility.

-- Kate Douglas Wiggin

Thursday, September 17, 2009

THE PATH TO FOLLOW

"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV)

To deviate from the truth can never be wise … The wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


#2378

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THE GAMBLERS

"He risked his life for the work of Christ."

What a commendation by the Apostle Paul speaking of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:30. That Greek verb for risk, parabouleuomai, can be translated: "to play the gambler." And it's that word and the example set by Ephaphroditus that inspired the Parabolani Brotherhood, aka the Gamblers. They gambled their lives by exposing themselves to contagious diseases and caring for the sick during the plagues.

Gambler for Christ. I like that terminology. I think it has an edge to it. And I think it's a reminder of our calling. While soldiers gambled for His clothing, Christ gambled His life on the cross for yours. And He didn't die just to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. What are you gambling for Christ?

-- Mark Batterson, from the Batterson Blog -- www.Evotional.com


#2377

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FOLLOWING THE LIVING ONE

You can begin at once to be a disciple of the Living One, by obeying Him in the first thing you can think of in which you are not obeying Him. We must learn to obey Him in everything, and so must begin somewhere. Let it be at once, and in the very next thing that lies at the door of our conscience.

-- George MacDonald


#2376

Monday, September 14, 2009

BRINGING THE PEW TO CHRIST

The preaching for the present times, for all time, ought to be at once doctrinal and practical. Every sermon should have both these elements, well-balanced and aptly commingled. Above all, Christ is to be set forth in it as the grand idea and outcome of the whole. If the pulpit does not bring the pew to Him, it is recreant to its highest trust and fails in its chief value. Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon this thought. It must be present every moment, and uppermost as well as deepest in the mind, heart, and words of the preacher, if he would be a faithful and successful servant of his Lord.

-- Dr. James Strong, Drew Theological Seminary, in the Methodist Review, September 1890

Friday, September 11, 2009

DON'T CALL HIM PLEASANT

I once encountered an articulate, angry young Marxist at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, London. As we had come upon a small knot of people during an afternoon stroll, it had appeared that the young Communist had silenced a gentle Christian preacher by loudly proclaiming that Jesus Christ was "not a pleasant person!"

As he waved a New Testament under the nose of the abashed speaker, the assailant thought he was scoring an impressive point.

But then, another Christian in the audience spoke up: "Of course Jesus wasn't a pleasant person. You don't crucify nice guys!"

The Cross remains a stumbling block for all who encounter this Jesus. He is perhaps not the person we want Him to be, but He is surely the person we still -- desperately -- need.

-- John G. Stackhouse


#2374

Thursday, September 10, 2009

YOUR CONCEPT OF JESUS

I would very earnestly ask you to check your conception of Christ, the image of Him which as a Christian you hold in your mind, with the actual revealed Person who can be seen and studied in action in the pages of the Gospels. It may be of some value to hold in our minds a bundle of assorted ideals to influence and control our conduct. But surely we need to be very careful before we give that “bundle” the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

-- J. B. Phillips

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT

Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.

-- Anthony J. D'Angelo


#2371

Friday, September 4, 2009

BREAKING NEW GROUND

Back in 1957 the First Brethren Church of Sarasota, Florida had a groundbreaking ceremony. Instead of using a silver shovel for VIPs to dig up the first clump of dirt, they brought a one-horse plow [without the horse]. Two strong ushers were harnessed to the yoke to break up the fallow ground. But the plow didn't budge an inch. Next, Sunday School officers and teachers were strapped in, but still the plow was immovable. Finally, all the church members present took hold of the rope, tugging with all their might. With every member pulling together, the plow moved forward, the ground was broken, and the church was built.

Our Savior was born in a barn, not Buckingham Palace. He was a blue-collar carpenter, not a blue-blooded aristocrat. His friends were commoners: fishermen, farmers, and homemakers. Jesus broke new ground in ancient Israel by using common people to build an uncommon community, His church. He is our firm foundation. We are all on common ground as members of His church.

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians


#2370

Thursday, September 3, 2009

DARKNESS AND LIGHT

Like most psychopaths, Satan is suave and charming. "He hath power to assume a pleasing shape," Hamlet said. He is a gentleman with civil manners and impeccable taste. He was highborn and therefore can insinuate himself into good company. He surrounds himself with beautiful people and makes their behavior -- even deviant and dangerous acts -- look good to us. We read about their lifestyles and "eat it up," as we say, not knowing that we are the ones who are about to be consumed. Satan is up to no good.

God, on the other hand, is up to nothing but good, and has nothing but good in store for us: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." He is the Creator of light -- all that is good and true and beautiful -- and the One who gives us light. There are no shadows or darkness in Him, no double-dealing, no deceit, no duplicity. He is pure truth.

-- David Roper in Growing Slowly Wise


#2369

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE

My story involves living with the mistaken notion as a kid that the only way I could gain God's acceptance and His approval was through striving. Mistakenly, I thought that if I could only earn more, merit more, or perform more, then God would be impressed with me.

When people ask me why I am so fired up about God, I tell them this: "There was a time in my life when I was absolutely certain that the only way to gain God's favor was to perform, achieve, and strive. But then I met the Son of God in a powerful way and learned that the only way to gain His favor is to accept His gift of grace. Almost immediately, it brought an overwhelming peace to my soul, an end to my useless striving, and a revolutionary change to my entire world."

On the day when Christ met me, the geological plates of my soul permanently shifted; that's where my passion comes from to help men and women on the front side of the cross have a dramatically different story on the back side -- that's about all that I want.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2368

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Where there is ignorance -- let there be knowledge;
Where hearts are blind and hard -- let there be sight;
Where there is falsity -- let there be truth;
Where evil casts its glow -- let there be light.

-- Unknown, from the wall of the Chapel of Peace, the International Peace Garden


#2367

Monday, August 31, 2009

WENDING OUR OWN WAY

"You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:24 NRSV)

What James is protesting is not Pauline theology, but a perversion of it: acting as though God's Word is mere advice and then wending our own way. Few Christians would ever put it quite so boldly, but in effect that's the way many so-called believers live. They say, "We believe," but there's nothing to distinguish them from unbelievers. They live by their own lusts rather that by the will of God.

How sad that we would claim to be Jesus' followers and go our own way. (I recall Ambrose Bierce's bitter definition of Christians as those "who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with the life of sin.") It only confirms the world in its opinion that we Christians are up to no good and makes unbelievers by the score. How sad -- indeed, how tragic. Can that "faith" save us? Can it draw others to salvation? "No, indeed!" says James.

-- David Roper in Growing Slowly Wise


#2366

Friday, August 28, 2009

OUR ACTIONS SPEAK VOLUMES

I know a man who lives in another state and claims to be very religious. Many people regard him as a man of great faith. He can quote scripture with the best of them. He can rattle off important dates in church history. He can recite the creeds eloquently. He can spout high-sounding theology in the air. But I'm not impressed, because I've seen how he treats his wife and children. I've seen how he treats his neighbors and those who work for him. He is harsh with people. He is tough and hostile and critical. He's judgmental, ill-tempered, and impatient with everyone around him.

All the outer religious fervor and activity mean nothing if we are cruel and hateful toward other people. When we show love, compassion, and kindness to others, that's when they really begin to see our faith. If you want to do good for Christ, then treat others with respect and love.

Does the way you speak bring others to Christ? And how about the way you treat other people? Does that bring them to Christ and Christian faith?

-- James W. Moore in When You're a Christian, the Whole World is from Missouri


#2365

Thursday, August 27, 2009

LESS-THAN-PERFECT HUMANS

Carmen Renee Berry's recent book, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church, was "inspired by her odyssey from the deeply conservative church of her childhood into the world of seekers and cynics, and back again." She eventually found that the very reason she withdrew from the church -- her disappointment in church members who often failed to act as Christians -- was what drew her back.

She writes: "I had overlooked one essential factor -- that I am as finite and flawed as everyone else. … When a friend [died by] suicide, I realized I could become too cynical, too lost, and too alone. I needed a church, a community of believers. I needed to live in my faith and visit my doubts. Something happens there that simply doesn't when you are alone in prayer or on the Internet. As much as I hate to admit it, my faith is enhanced and enlarged when in relationship to other less-than-perfect human beings."

-- from USA Today (6-2-03)


#2364

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

THE ONENESS OF CHRISTIANS

[Jesus said,] "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." -- John 17:20,21 (NIV)

We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus' claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.

-- Francis Schaeffer in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century


#2363

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A POSITIVE RESPONSE

For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has a positive answer for it:

We say: “It’s impossible.”
God says: “All thing are possible.” (Luke 18:27)

We say: “I’m too tired.”
God says: “I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-20)

We say: “Nobody really loves me.”
God says: “I love you.” (John 3:16, John 13:34)

We say: “I can’t go on.”
God says: “My grace is sufficient.” (II Corinthians 12:9, Psalm 91:15)

We say: “I can’t figure things out.”
God says: “I will direct your steps.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

We say: “I can’t do it.”
God says: “You can do all things.” (Philippians 4:13)

We say: “It’s not worth it.”
God says: “It will be worth it.” (Romans 8:28)

We say: “I can’t forgive myself.”
God says: “I forgive you.” (I John 1:9, Romans 8:1)

We say: “I can’t manage.”
God says: “I will supply all your needs.” (Philippians 4:19)

We say: “I’m afraid.”
God says: “I have not given you a spirit of fear.” (II Timothy 1:7)

We say: “I’m always worried and frustrated.”
God says: “Cast all your cares on ME.” (I Peter 5:7)

We say: “I don’t have enough faith.”
God says: “I’ve given everyone a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

We say: “I’m not smart enough.”
God says: “I give you wisdom.” (I Corinthians 1:30)

We say: “I feel all alone.”
God says: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

-- Source Unknown


#2362

Monday, August 24, 2009

GOD'S RELENTLESS LOVE

It's safe to give ourselves up to God's love. He created us out of love and His love is never wearied or worn out by our sins. He is relentless in His pursuit of us and in His determination that one day we will be pure love, at whatever cost to us or to Himself.

"Good and upright is the Lord," the psalmist reminds us, "therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way" (Psalm 25:8-9, italics added). The only requirement is humility and the patience to wait for His working. God is not known for haste, but He does mean business.

-- David Roper in Growing Slowly Wise


#2361

Friday, August 21, 2009

INTRODUCING PEOPLE TO GOD

Who is the God you know?

Is the God you know full of grace and mercy and compassion? Is the God you know mysterious, surprising, captivating? Is He forever unchanging and yet always brand new? Does He inspire you with His big ideas about how your life can really count? Is He faithful?

In my experience, the people who find themselves taking walks across rooms [to share their faith] have first landed on the belief that the God they know is worth knowing! They have cultivated a heart posture that says, "Well, of course everyone I know would want this type of relationship with God! I'm absolutely sure you'd all love what I'm experiencing here…"

Friends, if you have been [blessed] by God's gift of new life -- as I thankfully have -- and if you want to live your life as an expression of love for the great God you know, then let's crank up our boldness meters and introduce as many people as possible to the God who wants desperately to enfold them in His grace!

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2360

Thursday, August 20, 2009

IDEAS PUT INTO ACTION

"Wisdom is proved right by her actions." (Matthew 11:19b NIV)

Ideas are funny things... they do not work unless you do. The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.

-- Robert Cushing


#2359

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JOY

Joy is at the heart of God's plan for human beings. The reason for this is worth pondering awhile: Joy is at the heart of God Himself. We will never understand the significance of joy in human life until we understand its importance to God. I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God's capacity for joy.

-- John Ortberg in The Life You've Always Wanted


#2358

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BOXING GOD IN

I have learned that we can't box God in. But we keep trying to put boundaries around our Lord. We insist that God follow ways that we approve of. No wonder, then, that when we come across places in the biblical story that don't appeal to us, we discard them with a philosophical wave of the hand. "God isn't like that," we say -- as if we are the ones chosen to determine the nature of God. Scholars often complain about anthropomorphism in religion; that is, that we create gods in our own image. Ironically, scholars themselves are often guilty of doing so, as they decide how much of the biblical portrayal they will choose to endorse. Unhappy with the divine image they find in the Scriptures, they opt for a divinity more in their own perceived image. But we're all like that in some measure.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in New Testament Stories from the Back Side


#2357

Monday, August 17, 2009

PRAISING GOD

"I will praise the Lord with my whole heart…" (Psalm 111:1a NKJV)

As you learn to thank God more and more, you will more and more see God in the little happenings of daily life, and increasingly see much about which to rejoice.

-- from God at Eventide


#2356

Friday, August 14, 2009

CHOOSING WHOM WE WILL SERVE

Have you ever heard a long-term Christian on their death bed share regret of their having faith in Jesus? No, probably not. Many people lay on that same bed and recognize they had every opportunity to serve God and regret some wrong turns, but never do you hear someone regretting choosing for Jesus!... We must decide whom we will serve and that decision must be personal and real.

-- Pastor Gary Stone


#2355

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THE FEAR THE LORD

We have no need to be afraid that God will do mean or destructive things. We do not need to be afraid that God's love is not fully trustworthy. Cold Comfort Farm, an English film, featured a sect called "the quivering brethren," who constantly shook from their fear of God. Their favorite hymn ended with the words, "The world will burn, but we will quiver."

When the Bible says that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," it does not call us to be quivering brethren. One of C.S. Lewis's characters expresses fear at the prospect of meeting his Christ-figure, the great lion Aslan, and wonders if he is quite safe. "Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he's not safe. But he's good."

This fear involves reverence and awe, a healthy recognition of who God is.

-- John Ortberg in If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat


#2354

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WHO IS THIS JESUS?

NOTE: A number of subscribers wondered about yesterday's reference to C. S. Lewis' comment about a "poached egg." I thought it best to repeat the quote from Mere Christianity that gives some background to yesterday's quote. Thanks for your feedback.


A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg -- or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

-- C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity


#2353

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GIVING BIRTH TO A NEW FAITH

I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, a young skeptic, sitting on the porch of an oceanfront hotel in the summer of 1993, reading C. S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity," which I'd picked up at a used bookstore down the street. God was working in my life, and Lewis, the scholar-turned-Christian, appealed to me. I should also say that reading Lewis was a lot easier than trying to have a discussion with the evangelists near our hotel who held placards with vivid pictures of sinners burning in the fires of Hell.

When I got to Lewis' famous "poached egg" section, goosebumps formed on my arms, and I remember thinking, "This Lewis guy may be on to something." (I'd later learn that many people before and since have had similar reactions to "Mere Christianity.") On that hot summer day, I somehow knew that Lewis was playing the role of a midwife, helping me give birth to a new faith in the risen Christ.

For all his brilliance, though, I recognized that Lewis was simply delivering a message. And it was the message -- that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross and rose again on the third day for my sins -- that transformed my life. Like many other children of the Enlightenment, I had been blind to both the supernatural and my sinful nature. But as I read Lewis, my doubts melted and my heart warmed to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I needed to reevaluate this Jesus fellow and the claims He made.

-- Matt Donnelly, Christianity Online


#2352

Monday, August 10, 2009

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD

King Solomon said that where the tree falls, there it lies. It is done, and we will not raise it up again. But it is what we do from this point forward that makes the difference.

Something that seemed so sure turns questionable and something for which we had little hope suddenly works out. Regardless of how things appear, they can be totally different -- and it is what we do from now on that will make or break us. Moving on does not mean we do not care; it means we will not let it keep us from living fully.

-- Toni Engstrom


#2351

Friday, July 31, 2009

THE COFFEEPOT AT CANA

In our church kitchen, whoever drinks the last cup of coffee often fails to replenish the pot for the next person. Trying to motivate the staff to be more responsible, the secretary taped a neatly-typed plea to the pot: "If Jesus drank the last cup of coffee, what would He have done? Go thou and do likewise."

The next morning she found this scrawled response: "Jesus would have turned the water into wine instead of coffee."

-- Mae H. Fortson in Christian Reader, "Lite Fare"


#2350

NOTE: I will be on vacation next week. The next SOUND BITES quote will be posted be on Monday, August 10.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

COMPASSIONATE ACTIONS

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. The concept here is that service to others is a way to connect to the divine.

-- Coretta Scott King


#2349

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TECHNICOLOR THEOLOGY

God gives us different gifts and talents because He values variety and because He wants us to need and enjoy one another. Each of us brings something to the table that is uniquely ours.

Over the years, I've developed this line of thought into what I call "technicolor theology." In other words, I've come to believe that God prefers technicolor over monochrome, community over isolation, Rocky Road ice cream over vanilla. As we come to value the gifts of others and welcome our differences, we produce a heavenly symphony that brings joy to the heart of God…

God created rainbows and color film. We serve a gracious God who values community, passion, humor, flamboyance, and all those other gifts, talents, and personality traits that give color to life and bring us joy. I like colorful people because they remind me that we serve a colorful God who gives different gifts and talents to be used for His glory.

-- Matt Donnelly, Christianity Online


#2348

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SPIRIT EMPOWERED PREACHING

Question: If a miracle happened and preachers all across the country were truly empowered by the Holy Spirit and that affected their preaching, what do you think would be happening? What would they be saying or doing? What would their parishioners be hearing?

Answer: Preachers would be out with the people more, putting their lives where they were; they would be – as they say – walking the walk as well as talking the talk. The quality of preaching would be more passionate, and that's where the contagion is. If you start talking to me about something that is so important to you it is gripping to you, I can't get away from it. We would not be whispering, we would be, from the housetops, shouting the message. They would be out there talking. Talking what we say out of the pulpit as well. Pulpit is one place the sermon gets spoken, but take parts of it, all of it, to hospitals, civic meetings, PTA meetings – whatever. Use little pieces of your sermon all through the week. Multiply its influence. I think we would be raising people's questions. "So that's what church is really about. Well, I never thought about it that way." I think it could happen. As your question implies, it would have to be the work of the Holy Spirit, otherwise we'd try to think of clever ways; and we have more ways to communicate now, than we have things to say. So we don't need more ways.

-- Dr. Fred Craddock, in an interview with Peter Wallace of www.Day1.org


#2347

Monday, July 27, 2009

SUSTAINING POWER

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:13-15 ESV)

As a physician, I have seen [people], after all other therapy has failed, lifted out of disease and [depression] by the serene effort of prayer. It is the only power in the world that seems to overcome the so-called "laws of nature;" the occasions on which prayer has dramatically done this have been termed "miracles." But a constant, quieter miracle takes place hourly in the hearts of men and women who have discovered that prayer supplies them with a steady flow of sustaining power in their daily lives.

-- Alexis Carrel in Prayer is Power


#2346

Friday, July 24, 2009

SETTING OUR CLOCKS

Ruth Ann Ridley ("Learning to Live in the Limits," Discipleship Journal, Jan/Feb 1983) tells an old tale of a village that bought a fancy tower clock. Some time after it was installed, a visitor to the town discovered that all the people were sleeping during the day and working at night. When he questioned them about this, they answered, "We have the most unique town in America. After we got our new clock, we began to notice that the sun kept rising earlier and earlier every morning. Finally the daytime hours were dark and the night hours were light. We are petitioning the President for special recognition as the only town in America with such a situation."

As it turned out, of course, the new clock had been running slower and slower each day, all because sparrows were roosting inside it. The people allowed themselves to be controlled by this manmade device.

We sometimes allow the same kind of thing to happen with our "faith clock." Something from the outside enters and throws everything off until we begin to believe and act according to the outside influence. Jesus made it plain when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He's the One I'm setting my "faith clock" by.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#2345

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TO WHOM DO I BELONG

At issue here is this question: "To whom do I belong? To God or to the world?" Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me… Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves.

-- Henri Nouwen in The Return of The Prodigal Son


#2344

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

THE EMBRACE OF GOD

God, in Christ, embraces all the events and all the people who ever will pass before Him in the march of time. In that broad panorama, individual Christians may often feel so insignificant that they wonder to themselves whether or not even the most powerful microscope could find them! At those moments we need to rediscover the truth that God entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ in order to tie the poor threads of our scrap of time back into eternity. God's wide embrace includes you and me, for it was the lost of this world that God sent Jesus so that we and our moment of history's stage might be redeemed. You are locked into the embrace of God, an embrace that will never fail. In Jesus Christ, God said, "I love you. You are Mine."

-- Paul K. Peterson in Redeeming Love


#2343

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TRUSTING GOD

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


#2342

Monday, July 20, 2009

FINDING GOD IN THE SILENCE

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

We need to find God, but we cannot find Him in noise or in excitement. See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in deep silence. See how the stars, the moon, and the sun all move in silence.

-- Mother Teresa, quoted in The Green Bible


#2341

Friday, July 17, 2009

A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

It is possible to find God. It is, moreover, possible to really know Him in a personal way and intimate manner. By this I am not implying that one finds religion, or knows about God. What I am saying is much more direct than that. I am saying it is perfectly possible to enter into a personal, firsthand acquaintance with God. Then once we have met Him, it is possible to have this introduction grow into a very deep and enduring friendship. But beyond even this there is the sublime sense in which we come to feel a part of the family of God: He is in fact a Father to us and we are His contented children. And it is in this context that great serenity sweeps over our lives. We know where we belong at last. We have come home. The wandering is over. The search is ended. The soul is at rest.

-- W. Phillip Keller in SERENITY: Finding God Again For The First Time


#2340

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A PERSONAL GOD

"When you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice, (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, not forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them." (Deuteronomy 4:30b-31 NKJV)

The Bible does not simply speak of God as 'one.' It speaks of God as a person. God is not like an abstract mathematical unit which is singular and stands by itself alone. We do not speak of God as an "it." We use a personal pronoun and speak of God as "He." The reason for this is that the Bible always speaks of God as a personal subject, as one who is in relation to another. God keeps His promises (Deut. 4:31). He is merciful. He sees and hears His people (Exodus 3:7-8). He speaks and teaches (:Gen.1:1; Deut. 6:1). He loves (John 3:16). God can be angry (Deut. 6:15). God can be long-suffering and patient (1 Peter 3:20). "It's" are none of those things.

-- Dr. Bill Weinrich


#2339

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CHRIST-FOCUSED NOT SELF-FOCUSED

You can never be perfectly free unless you completely renounce self, for all who seek their own interest and who love themselves are bound in fetters. They are unsettled by covetousness and curiosity, always searching for ease and not for the things of Christ, often devising and framing what will not last, for anything that is not of God will fail completely.

Hold to this short and perfect advice, therefore: give up your [selfish] desires and you will find rest. Think about it in your heart, and when you have put it into practice you will understand all things. This is not the work of one day, nor is it mere child's play. Indeed, in this brief sentence is included all the perfection of holy persons.

-- adapted from Thomas a' Kempis in A Pattern for Life


#2338

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A POWER-FILLED LIFE

Abraham Lincoln had his share of setbacks on his way to success. He lost his position as captain in his short time of military service. His little country store "winked out," as he said, making him a failure at business. As a lawyer he was too impractical and unpolished to be very successful. And in politics he was defeated several times in bids for the legislature, congress, and the vice presidency. At last, in 1861 he was elected president of the United States.

Lincoln viewed all of his frustrations and victories through the eyes of eternity, observing, "That the Almighty directly intervenes in human affairs is one of the plainest statements in the Bible. I have had so many evidences of His direction, so many instances when I have been controlled by some other power than my own will that I have no doubt that this power comes from above."

Paul also experienced a long list of catastrophes on the road to a power-filled life: "Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked…I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas…I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food" (1 Corinthians 11:24-27, NLT). In spite of these setbacks Paul could say that God had given to him "the effective working of His power."

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in


#2337

Monday, July 13, 2009

SHADOW OR LIGHT

"The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed,…'" (Acts 21:18-21a NIV)

A leader is someone with the power to project either a shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there… A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good.

-- Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak


#2336

Friday, July 10, 2009

WHAT GOD HAS DONE

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:4-7 NRSV)

Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us.

-- Philip Yancey in What's So Amazing About Grace?


#2335

Thursday, July 9, 2009

TRUE CONFESSION

True confession is not just an exchange of information; it also involves entering into the pain of the person we have hurt and entering into God's pain over sin.

The epistle of James says, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection."

-- John Ortberg in The Life You've Always Wanted


#2334

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

JESUS AND GRIEF

The Gospel writers describe a Jesus who had feelings. There were times when He was angry and showed it: “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed . . . ” (Mark 3:5 NIV). Jesus could also be indignant: “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant” (Mark 10:14 NIV).

There were moments when Jesus was troubled and full of sorrow: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4 NIV). “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’” (Matt 26:38 NIV). “He [Jesus] . . . began to be deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33 NIV). Jesus knew how to cry: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it" (Luke 19:41 NIV).

Jesus experienced anguish: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV). “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21 NIV).

Jesus experienced and displayed the full range of emotions including joy, love, and compassion (Luke 10:21; Heb 12:22; John 15:10-11; 17:13; Mark 10:21; 1:40-41; Luke 7:13; Mark 1: 35-42; Matt 14:13-14).

The Bible says that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:4 KJV). He displayed the deep emotion of anguish and despair in a time of impending loss when he said, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46 NIV). Jesus’ questioning and despair are one of the common faces of grief. Jesus showed grief over His beloved city Jerusalem (Matt 23:37).

Jesus grieved at the time of Lazarus’ death (John 11). In that chapter, Jesus cried and others observed “how much he loved him” (11:35-36 NIV). The passage goes on to say that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (11:33, 38 NIV). In a classic commentary on the life of Christ, the author notices how Jesus felt every bit of the “pang and anguish as he said to his disciples, ‘Lazarus is dead.’”

Although Jesus was aware that he would raise Lazarus in a short while, he grieved for the pain and anguish that Mary and Martha had to experience. In human sympathy He wept for those in sorrow. He also wept for those who would plan his own death because of their unbelief and hatred for Jesus.

The intent of sharing these passages is to say that if Jesus, our model and example, can grieve and be human, then humans in this world of sin and woe can also hurt and grieve. The key is in allowing others to witness our pain and support us in our grief. Grief unsupported and unexpressed will eventually take its toll.

-- Michael Lombardo


#2333

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

THE GIFT OF AMAZING GRACE

One thing I've learned is that life's great moments evolve from simple acts of cooperation with God's mysterious promptings -- nudges that always lean toward finding what's been lost and freeing what's been enslaved.

The adventure of collaborating with God involves bestowing the greatest gift a person can receive – the gift of amazing grace -- on undeserving (and often unsuspecting) people like you and me.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2332

Monday, July 6, 2009

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 RSV)

Marc-James Manor Bed and Breakfast here in Bellingham, Washington, has an antique china collection boasting 323 teapots that date back as far as 1740, and more than 1,400 teacups and saucers, salt boxes, coffee "cans" and pieces of table décor. Two of the sets absorbed my attention: they were completely black. "See how elaborately they're decorated?" Marc pointed out. "The mother and child, the shrouded windows -- they're for mourning."

Mourning tea sets, I thought. How wonderful it would be to live in a culture that allowed sadness without spiritual or psychological condemnation. When my fifteen-year-old brother snapped his neck and was paralyzed, I was told to stop grieving; this was God's will. When my grandmother died, I was told to stop weeping; she was in heaven. When I broke into tears while telling of my sister's death several years earlier, I was told to get over it; let the dead bury the dead. It isn't "Christian" to lament. Lamentation reveals a bankrupt faith.

Over the years, though, I've not been good at hiding my grief and, after seeing Marc's collection, I confessed my struggle to my youngest child, then twenty. Blake challenged me to find a scriptural basis for tears and weakness, futility and dependency. "Culturally, we give no value to the sick and poor and the bereaved," he explained, "and so our Christianity mirrors the same sorry mistake. Yet didn't Jesus preach, 'Blessed are those who mourn'?"

So I spent the year getting reacquainted with David, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Job -- men who wept and wailed, who dressed in sack-cloth and sat in ashes and denied themselves food whenever they found themselves dismayed by turmoil, torn apart by grief or terrified out of their minds. Even Jesus wept. Reading on, I realized that their tears were not a sign of a bankrupt faith, but the prism through which they saw clearly. Jeremiah saw his mandate, Job his confusion, David his fear, Jesus His sorrow. And in seeing, they found comfort.

We have a shop in town that lets you paint and fire your own tea sets. This Christmas, I'd like to make a mourning set.

Dear Lord, thank You for tears. They open my eyes to what I need the most, and in You I find the comfort I need.

-- Brenda Wilbee from Guideposts 2003


#2331

Thursday, July 2, 2009

FREE TO FOLLOW CHRIST

Abraham Lincoln went to visit a slave auction one day. He was appalled at the sights and sounds of people buying and selling other human beings that he observed and heard. His heart was especially drawn to one young woman on the block whose story was told in her eyes. She looked with hatred and contempt on everyone around her. She had been used and abused all of her life and this time on the trading block was just one more humiliation. The bidding began and Lincoln began to bid. As the bidding went up, he just bid a little higher. And a man even tried to top his bid, but Lincoln wouldn't be topped. Finally, he won and paid the auctioneer for the slave woman. "What are you going to do with me?" the slave woman asked Lincoln.

"I am going to set you free," said Lincoln.

"Free?" she asked, "Free for what?"

"Just free. Completely free."

"Free to do whatever I want?"

"Yes," Lincoln said, "free to do whatever you want."

"Free to go wherever I want?" asked the woman.

"Yes, free to go wherever you want."

"Well," said the woman with a smile, "I'm going with you."

That's the way our Lord Jesus is. When He comes into our lives, He frees us from all those things that we chase after to find security. But when we put Him in the center of our life, we are free and we grow and we become and we achieve and we succeed because we follow Him.

-- Rev. George Antonakos, Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD


#2330