Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE KEY TO EVANGELISM

Worship is the key to evangelism because worship is experienced. In worship we embody truth, proclaim it, sing it, pray it, teach it, and enact it.

-- Robert E. Webber


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Friday, February 27, 2009

AN HONEST ANSWER

"How are you?"

That familiar question makes me smile as I consider the possibility of giving a totally honest answer after living with cancer for the last two years.

Many times the question comes from a stranger, such as the waiter who introduces himself at our table in a restaurant. The answer is more about making him feel comfortable than about my current health. So I automatically say, "Fine, thanks," even when I'm not so fine.

When a good friend or family member like my son-in-law asks, "How are you?" I sometimes go for the obvious, smart-alecky answer. "I have cancer," I say with a grin, "but otherwise, I'm great." To that, my son-in-law rolls his eyes and vows never to ask me that question again.

Many times the question comes from well-meaning people who care but don't need a lengthy description or a boring tale of woe. Last week at church, soon after I got home from yet another hospital stay, several people asked, "How are you?"

This is when the question challenges me the most. How do I give a current, appropriately honest answer? After all, when cancer enters a person's life, it changes how she is. I liken it to living within a picture frame with a persistent dark cloud on the horizon. But cancer also brings the odd gift of making today's sunshine preciously important, so that day I answered the question this way: "I'm good for today… and today that's good enough for me."

Next week or next month, the appropriately honest answer might be different, so I ask God's help in seeking the right words.

Father, I want the answer to "How are you?" to point back to You. Please give me the words that reflect my faith.

-- Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts 2009


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NOTE: Today's quote was submitted by a SOUND BITES subscriber in Wisconsin. I know there are subscribers who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of health, or the loss of a relationship. How do you respond to the question "How are you?" I invite you to leave your comments by clicking "comments" below today's posting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

TENDER-HEARTED TOWARD GOD

Today, if you hear [God's] voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried Me,
though they had seen what I did. (Psalm 95: 1-5, 7b-9, NIV)

The Biblical metaphor of "hardening one's heart" aptly describes the gradual process that takes place in a relationship when we stop listening, turn away, or become self-absorbed. This may happen in our relationship with God, as it did for the Hebrew people. Quakers use the word "tender" to describe the opposite spiritual process of becoming more sensitive to God's voice. How do you keep your heart tender before God?

-- E. Glenn Hinson and Stephanie Ford in The Spiritual Formation Bible


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

YOU-TURNS

Our home is on a cul-de-sac off of a dead end -- the dead end of a dead end. My wife and I can sit on our deck and watch cars come into our cul-de-sac thinking it is the way out. They quickly turn right around and go back down the street.

Ash Wednesday is a time of repentance. When one repents one turns around, changes direction. A dead end street is a good place to turn around.

Have you reached a point in life where you have realized that you have been going in the wrong direction? Have you reached a dead end? Do you need to turn around?

God is in the you-turn business. "I am sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between light and dark, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I'm sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in Me." (Acts 26:17-18 MSG)

Real living in Christ begins with a you-turn. It begins with repentance. And you don't need to wait until you've reached a dead end.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CHILD-LIKE FAITH

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14 NKJV)

Faith is sometimes equated with credulity, but it can be so equated only when the profound mistake is made of thinking of faith as primarily a matter of intellectual assent. As the New Testament uses the word, faith is trust, acceptance, commitment, vision. It is not a belief in this or that creed, it is a quality which lies rather in the realm of intuition than the intellect. Faith has indeed an element of true simplicity; it is one of the qualities -- perhaps the fundamental quality -- of the child-like spirit without which no one can enter the Kingdom of God.

-- Unknown


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Monday, February 23, 2009

CREATIVE REACTION

Bob Hoover, a famous test pilot and frequent performer at air shows, was returning to his home in Los Angeles from an air show in San Diego. As described in the magazine Flight Operations, at three hundred feet in the air, both engines suddenly stopped. By deft maneuvering he managed to land the plane, but it was badly damaged although nobody was hurt.

Hoover's first act after the emergency landing was to inspect the airplane's fuel. Just as he suspected, the World War II propeller plane he had been flying had been fueled with jet fuel rather than gasoline.

Upon returning to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his airplane. The young man was sick with the agony of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached. He had just caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well.

You can imagine Hoover's anger. One could anticipate the tongue-lashing that this proud and precise pilot would unleash for that carelessness. But Hoover didn't scold the mechanic; he didn't even criticize him. Instead, he put his big arm around the man's shoulder and said, "To show you I'm sure that you'll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow."

Our work environments could be vastly better places if we learned from this example.

-- from Creative-Reaction.org


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Friday, February 20, 2009

HOLD TO CHRIST

A conversion is incomplete if it does not leave Jesus Christ in the central place in one's life. The shortest possible description of a Christian -- a description with which the New Testament would fully agree -- is that a Christian is a person who can say: "For me Jesus Christ is Lord." Herbert Butterfield's words about facing the future are good: "Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted." Any alleged conversion which does not leave one totally committed solely to Jesus Christ is incomplete and imperfect.

-- William Barclay in In the Hands of God


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

THE GREATEST INVESTMENTS

Do you believe this remarkable truth? "We never know how far our life will extend."

Heaven will hold breathtaking surprises for many who think what they do is unimportant. Amid the hallelujahs and hugs many will be honored for simple, yet life-changing acts of redemption. And the greatest thrill will be when our Lord Jesus looks into seemingly insignificant individuals' eyes and says, "Well done. I appreciate the redeeming love you've shown to __________ and __________ and __________."

...The greatest investments ever made are investments in people, because only people go to heaven. And our experience has been that we cannot begin to grasp the way our loving redemptive actions will affect people for eternity.

-- Dr. Norm Wakefield & Jody Brolsma in Men Are from Israel, Women Are from Moab


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Do you know what Fear and Faith have in common? A future that hasn’t happened yet. Fear believes in a negative future. Faith believes in a positive future. Both believe in something that has not yet happened. So I ask you, if neither the positive or negative future has happened yet then why not choose to believe in the positive future? What do you have to lose but the fear that is sabotaging your joy and success?

I believe during these challenging times we have a choice between two roads. The positive road and the negative road. And our bus can’t be on two roads at the same time. So we have to make a choice and this choice determines our belief about the future and the attitude and actions we bring to the present…

Your faith and belief in a positive future leads to powerful actions today. The future has not happened yet and you have a say in what it looks like by the way you think and act. Fear or Faith. The choice is yours.

-- Jon Gordon

NOTE: Today's quote was submitted by a SOUND BITES subscriber. It comes from a larger piece on business management. To read the entire article, go to Fear or Faith.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CONSENT TO HEALING

Why is this central pain, which has for so long blocked our growth, not automatically, spontaneously healing by God's love without our awareness and asking?

Much of it is, of course. In many ways we are healed at subconscious levels without consciously knowing it. But apparently there are some forms of inner pain whose healing needs our intentional consent.

God's love always surrounds us, our unreconciled areas as well as our light-filled areas. But God's full healing seems to wait for our longing and consent. Is this because we are not helpless puppets but created to be children, heirs, spouses, partners, cocreators with God, our free consent a crucial part of the creative wisdom of growing?

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in Transformation, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN. Used with permission.


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Monday, February 16, 2009

PRESIDENTIAL PERSPECTIVES

So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more confident am I that they will prove useful citizens to their country. -- John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), U.S. President

This great Book is the best gift God has given to man. But for it, we could not know right from wrong. -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U.S. President

[The Bible] is the people's book of revelation, revelation of themselves not alone, but revelation of life and of peace. -- Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), U.S. President


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Friday, February 13, 2009

A GLIMPSE OF GOD'S LOVE

Lyrics from the love songs broadcast on pop radio stations tap into romantic yearnings but promise more than any person can deliver. “You are my everything.” “I can’t live without you.” Sexual desires and romantic longings are a kind of debased sacrament. If humanity serves as your religion, then sex becomes an act of worship. On the other hand, if God is the object of your religion, then romantic love becomes an unmistakable pointer, a rumor of transcendence as loud as any we hear on earth…

Romance gives intriguing hints of transcendence. I am “possessed” by the one I love. I think of her day and night, languish when she leaves me, perform brave deeds to impress her, revel in her attention, live for her, even die for her. I want to be both heroic and meek at the same time. For a time, and only for a time, I can live on that edge of exaltation. Then reality sets in, or boredom, betrayal, old age, or death. I cannot sustain a state of complete absorption forever. At least, though, I can see in it a glimpse of God’s infinite capacity for such attention. Could this be how God views us -- views me?

-- Philip Yancy in Rumors of Another World


#2243

Thursday, February 12, 2009

THE CHOICE TO LOVE

Love takes time… It also takes energy and trust and choice. Whether the love is between parent and child, husband and wife, or childhood friends, love takes all these things.... love takes time, love takes energy, love takes trust. Love takes the choice to love.

So, this Valentine's Day, think… about real love, in all its forms. As Paul says [in 1 Corinthians 13], "it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." It takes time, energy, trust and choice.

-- Copyright Eric Folkerth 2001. All Rights Reserved. (Used with Permission)


#2242

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FEELING WITH THEM

Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.

-- Simone Weil


#2241

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

THE FIRST FRUIT

What deserves to hold the first place among the fruits of the Spirit if not love? Without love other virtues are not reckoned to be virtues. From love is born all that is good.

-- Jerome in Epistle to the Galatians


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Monday, February 9, 2009

ROMANTIC LOVE

For a brief time, at least, romance gives us the ability to see the best in one other person, to ignore or forgive flaws, to bask in endless fascination. That state… gives a foretaste of how we will one day view every resurrected person and how God now views us.

Romantic love does not distort vision but corrects it, in a very narrow range. The Bible uses explicit romantic images to describe God’s love for us: what we feel in passing for one person, God feels eternally for the many. If we receive romantic love not as an end in itself but as God’s gift, a shining grace, it can become like a shaft of light beckoning us toward what we will someday experience more fully as resurrected beings.

-- Philip Yancy in Rumors of Another World


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Friday, February 6, 2009

DRAWN TO CHRIST

We can turn people on to the church or turn them out of the church by the way we speak.

Some years ago, when Catherine Booth died, her body was carried to a great auditorium in London. For hours and hours, people by the hundreds streamed by her casket in an outstanding display of love, affection, and gratitude. One man in that long line expressed what all were feeling that day: "She spoke to me as no one ever had before. She cared for me, and I could tell it by the way she talked to me. I was an outcast, lonely and lost. I will never forget her voice. There was something so wonderful and so meaningful about the way she spoke to you. You could feel the spirit and love of Christ in her words."

How is it with you? Are people drawn to Christ and to the Christian faith by the way you speak?

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


#2238

Thursday, February 5, 2009

ENCOURAGEMENT LASTS

Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you.
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I will not forget you.

-- William Arthur Ward


#2237

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

THE NEED FOR CONFESSION

Confession is not primarily something God has us do because He needs it. God is not clutching tightly to His mercy, as if we have to pry it from His fingers like a child's last cookie. We need to confess in order to heal and be changed.

Nor is confession simply an accounting procedure: "That sin was on the debit side of God's ledger; now I have confessed it, and it got erased." Confession is not mechanical. It is a practice that, done wisely, will help us become transformed.

When we practice confession well, two things happen. The first is that we are liberated from guilt. The second is that we will be at least a little less likely to sin in the same way in the future than if we had not confessed. Sin will look and feel less attractive.

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


#2235

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

BE AN ENCOURAGER

"…the authority the Lord gave us [is] for building you up rather than pulling you down." (2 Corinthians 10:8 NIV)

John D. Rockefeller is known for his amazing business success, but he had a greater reputation among those who knew him well as a man who was understanding. He had a sincere appreciation for other people and was willing to accept failure if an honest attempt had been made at success.

When one of his partners, Edward T. Bedford, failed in a business venture, which cost Rockefeller’s company a million dollars, Rockefeller responded with a statement that has become classic in business lore. He didn’t criticize Bedford because he knew he had done his best. He called Bedford to his office. “I think it is honorable that you were able to salvage 60 percent of the money you invested in the South American venture,” he told him. “That’s not bad; in fact, it’s splendid. We don’t always do as well as that upstairs.”

There's little to be gained by making someone feel worse regarding something they already feel bad about! Rather, the gain lies in helping someone see the beneficial side of a failure, the positive lessons that can be learned from mistakes, and to give hope for future attempts at success. Be an encourager to another person today. You'll both feel… and do… better!

-- from God's Little Instruction Book

#2235

Monday, February 2, 2009

THE GREAT EQUALIZER

Affliction is a great equalizer. It makes us all brothers and sisters in a very special way. Almost anyone who has ever shared a hospital room remembers their roommate; they have traveled together in the fellowship of suffering, and even if they never see each other again, they often feel uniquely close. This is partly because pain treats us all alike. It's easier to endure sickness in a private room than in a ward, but when you have to depend on a nurse or an aide for bedpan and bathing, it makes no difference whether you're rich or poor, learned or ignorant. And if you're accustomed to being independent, the burden may be all the harder to bear.

In 1893, shortly after Grover Cleveland had come into his second term in the presidency, it was discovered that he had cancer of the throat and jaw. National leaders feared that if his illness became public knowledge, the shaky financial condition of the country might grow into a full panic. So they arranged for a medical team to join the president on a yacht, and skilled surgeons operated as the craft rolled up the East River. "If you must have surgery," someone might say, "that's the way to have it." Perhaps. But Cleveland wrote later, "I have learned how weak the strongest man is under God's decree; and I see in a new light the necessity of doing my allotted work in the full apprehension of the coming night."

Pain is a great equalizer. Peasant or president, rich or poor, the dimensions are pretty much the same.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in If Experience Is Such a Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course?


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