Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE BENEFIT OF SOLITUDE

Solitude. Jesus engaged in it frequently. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus went to the wilderness for an extended period of fasting and prayer. He also went into solitude when He heard of the death of John the Baptist, when He was going to choose His disciples, after He had been involved in healing a leper, and after His followers had engaged in ministry. This pattern continued into the final days of His life, when again He withdrew into the solitude of the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He ended His ministry, as He began it, with the practice of solitude.

Jesus taught His followers to do the same. And as He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place," He says to us still. Wise followers of Christ's way have always understood the necessity and benefit of solitude. It is, to quote an old phrase, the "furnace of transformation."

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


#2272

Monday, March 30, 2009

UNIQUE AND SPECIAL

"You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you." (Isaiah 43:4)

As I sat watching the handicapped preschoolers gather pumpkins, I felt saddened that my own three-year-old was among them. Why had I bothered to bring him? Mentally and physically handicapped, he could really only observe the fun around him. My hope for a meaningful life for Thomas was at an all-time low.

I talked about my feelings with another mother who was also watching. She opened my eyes to something. "Like you," she said, "I almost didn't bring Kristen today. She is unaware of her surroundings and couldn't possibly enjoy the activities. But then," she continued, "I realized while she may not get anything out of this experience, perhaps someone will see Kristen and be touched by her."

In her words, I saw a ray of hope, a glimpse of meaning in Thomas' life. Perhaps by seeing him participate in his limited way, others would see Thomas not as "handicapped" but as a valuable member of God's family, unique and special in God's sight, loved by those around him, with much to offer regardless of his limitations.

I smiled as I scooped Thomas up, and we hurried into the field in search of pumpkins.

-- Sharon P. Stanley in The Upper Room, November 30, 1990


#2271

Monday, March 23, 2009

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

NOTE: This Sunday, March 29, 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of this SOUND BITES Ministry™. SOUND BITES was begun on March 29, 1999 in memory of my son, Dustin, on the first anniversary of his death. After the death of a loved one, we often hear the phrase, "they have gone home." Today's quote speaks of the fact that there's no place like Christ's eternal home.

On this anniversary we would love to hear from you and learn how God is using SOUND BITES to minister to you, or how you use it to minister to others. Leave your comment below. You can view other comments as well. 2,270 quotes have been sent since beginning SOUND BITES, and now it is reaching 1,900 subscribers directly and many more as a forward or through this blog. SOUND BITES reaches every state in the U.S. as well as 17 foreign countries that we know of.

I will be out of the office the remainder of the week. The next SOUND BITES will be posted on Monday, March 30. I look forward to your comments.

Blessings, in Christ...

-- Rev. Dave Wilkinson


NO PLACE LIKE HOME

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3 NKJV)

"There's no place like home" were the words Dorothy uttered as she clicked the heals of her ruby-red slippers. Her journey began in Kansas with ordinary folks like Uncle Henry and Aunti Em. But Dorothy was not content with her common existence on a pig farm and pictured herself "somewhere over the rainbow." An adversary on a bicycle, a carpetbagger in a wagon, and a journey through a tornado blew Dorothy into the Land of Oz. At last she was living her dream: unusual sights, uncommon personalities and unique encounters. But on the other side of the rainbow, all Dorothy could think about was the comfort of home sweet home.

"Father, forgive them" were the words Jesus uttered as His feet were nailed to the cross. His journey began in heaven with extraordinary company, the Father of lights. But Jesus was not content with our common existence on this clump of dirt and longed to bring all of us over the rainbow to our true home -- seated with Him "in the heavenly places." His uncommon kindness opened the door of eternity to all humanity, not just those who lived in the land of Israel. There's no place like His home!

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


#2270

Friday, March 20, 2009

YOUR WITNESS

Sheldon Vanauken wrote that the strongest argument for Christianity is Christians, when they are drawing life from God. The strongest argument against Christianity? Also Christians, when they become exclusive, self-righteous, and complacent.

Dallas Willard [in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines] writes, "How many people are radically and permanently repelled from The Way by Christians who are unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable, boringly lifeless, obsessive, and dissatisfied? Yet such Christians are everywhere, and what they are missing is the wholesome liveliness springing from a balanced vitality with the freedom of God's loving rule…. Spirituality wrongly understood or pursued is a major source of human misery and rebellion against God."

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


#2269

Thursday, March 19, 2009

GOD'S HEART

Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."

But, … could it be true that there is a place in God's heart that only you can fill, that only I can fill -- that God is restless until we rest in Him?

What a thought -- that there is a place in God's heart that only you can fill! That's more than a thought; it's a truth verified in the most dramatic and convincing way: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, KJV).

Think about that for a moment. I don't know of a more exhilarating truth. If you love someone, you need that someone to return that love, don't you? Sure you do! So it is with God. God loves you and needs your love. God will not allow death to destroy you. If you are forever separated from God, it will be your choice, not God's. In God's heart there is a place that only you can fill.

-- Maxie Dunnam in Living the Psalms: A Confidence for All Seasons


#2268

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SHARING MY GRIEF

Ours is not a culture that is comfortable with sadness. Sadness is awkward. It is unsettling. It ebbs and flows and takes its own shape. It beckons to be shared. It comes out in tears, and we don't quite know what to do with those.

So many people are afraid to bring up my loss. They don't want to upset me. But my tears are the only way I have to release the deep sorrow I feel. I tell people, "Don't worry about crying in front of me, and don't be afraid that you will make me cry! Your tears tell me you care, and my tears tell you that you've touched me in a place that is meaningful to me -- and I will never forget your willingness to share my grief."

-- Nancy Guthrie in Holding on to Hope


#2267

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THE COACH KNOWS

There is only one kind of a life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere. Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.

-- John Wooden


#2266

Monday, March 16, 2009

TRUST AND AUTHENTICITY

In [U.S. President Abraham] Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he said, “Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be any object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.”

Lincoln is not advocating indecisiveness; rather he is encouraging us to get all of the facts before deciding a matter. Especially in a time of crisis, calm, measured thought is important. Lincoln demonstrated the will to make tough decisions and without hesitation when necessary. But he insisted on getting all of the information available before making a decision. Often this entailed going out personally to get the facts firsthand. He took the time to consider all available solutions and their consequences. Furthermore, by selecting a solution that was consistent with his values and objectives, he was able to weave a theme through his decisions -- connecting them -- and build trust and authenticity in his leadership.

Too often issues are examined only in one dimension, or by considering only the loudest voices. Rarely is that enough. It often leads to unintended consequences and inconsistent behavior. When you have taken the time to think a thing through, you will be better able to have the courage to stand behind your decisions and accept the consequences. You will possess a determinism born of conviction and not stubbornness.

-- Michael McKinney from Leading Blog


#2265

Friday, March 13, 2009

POINT OF NO RETURN

If you were inside the cockpit of a departing airplane, just as it took off from the runway you would hear the copilot or captain call out, "V1." This phrase represents the "point of no return."

As the airplane accelerates toward the end of the runway, the pilot must decide if the plane is moving fast enough for a safe takeoff. This speed must be determined preflight based on several factors, including the air pressure, temperature, speed of the wind, and weight of the aircraft.

The pilot maintains a hold on the throttle as the plane approaches the V1 speed, so that he or she can abort the takeoff if something goes wrong. However, after V1, the plane must take off.

As Christians, we should have a V1 commitment to our walk with Christ. Once we have placed our faith in Christ alone, we have reached the point of no return. We need to adjust our "attitude," apply full throttle, and take off.

-- Mike Silva in Would You Like Fries With That?


#2264

Thursday, March 12, 2009

AMAZING GRACE ATTACK

By age seventeen I had already packed a lot of living into life. Even then I knew enough to recognize that the accumulation of more toys, the desperate search for approval, and the ceaseless striving for success just weren't cutting it. My spiritual experience that night at camp wasn't prompted by someone delivering a stirring message or by someone asking me three deep questions. I met Christ because while walking from a mess-hall gathering back to my cabin one night, I was suddenly penetrated by a single verse of Scripture that I had memorized as a kid: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to God's mercy He saved us."

He saved us. He… saved… us.

Just after nine o'clock that night, the words I'd read so many times before hit me in a fresh way. Could it really be true that God cared enough about me that He would make provision to save me? Even me?

On that night in eastern Wisconsin, the Holy Spirit imparted to me whatever presence of mind I needed to understand Titus 3:5, and I met Jesus Christ in an authentic way. I remember throwing open the doors of my heart to Him in what at the time felt like some sort of amazing grace attack.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2263

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

STANDING STILL

"Praise the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord;
praise Him, you servants of the Lord,
you who minister in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to His name, for that is pleasant." (Psalm 135:1-3 NIV)

What a privilege to stand in praise before the Lord! It seems to me that today we always want to be moving on; we cannot stand still. So many things claim our attention that we are perpetually on the go. We cannot stop for a moment. But he who is spiritual knows how to stand still. He can stand before God in worship while God makes known to him [God's] will. He can pause and await orders.

May I ask you, dear fellow-worker, is not all your work carried out to a schedule? And has it not to be done in great haste? Can you be persuaded to call a halt and stand a while before [God] in praise? You will learn much that way.

-- Watchman Nee in A Table in the Wilderness

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD

Whoever determines to live no longer to the desires of people, but to the will of God, will soon find that he or she cannot stick to that purpose without self-denial, without taking up the cross daily. That person will, every day, desire something of the world instead of the cross. But one must deny self or deny the faith. He or she will daily meet with some means of drawing nearer to God that are unpleasing to flesh and blood. In this, therefore, one must either take up the cross or renounce the Master.

-- John Wesley in "A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day of the Week," 1733


#2261

Monday, March 9, 2009

A CROSS TO BE CARRIED

"[Jesus] called the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me'." (Mark 8:34 NRSV)

The symbol of the New Testament and the Christian Church is a cross, which stands for a love faithful despite physical agony and rejection by the world. No amount of air-conditioning and pew-cushioning in the suburban church can cover over the hard truth that the Christian life... is a narrow way of suffering; that discipleship is costly: that, for the faithful, there is always a cross to be carried. No one can understand Christianity to its depths who comes to it to enjoy it as a pleasant weekend diversion.

-- W. Waldo Beach in The Christian Life


#2260

Friday, March 6, 2009

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Today I will make a difference. I will begin by controlling my thoughts. A person is the product of his thoughts. I want to be happy and hopeful. Therefore, I will have thoughts that are happy and hopeful. I refuse to be victimized by my circumstances. I will not let petty inconveniences such as stoplights, long lines, and traffic jams be my masters. I will avoid negativism and gossip. Optimism will be my companion, and victory will be my hallmark. Today I will make a difference.

I will be grateful for the twenty-four hours that are before me. Time is a precious commodity. I refuse to allow what little time I have to be contaminated by self-pity, anxiety, or boredom. I will face this day with the joy of a child and the courage of a giant. I will drink each minute as though it is my last. When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever. While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today I will make a difference.

I will not let past failures haunt me. Even though my life is scarred with mistakes, I refuse to rummage through my trash heap of failures. I will admit them. I will correct them. I will press on. Victoriously. No failure is fatal. It's OK to stumble...I will get up. It's OK to fail...I will rise again. Today I will make a difference.

I will spend time with those I love. My spouse, my children, my family. A man can own the world but be poor for the lack of love. A man can own nothing and yet be wealthy in relationships. Today I will spend at least five minutes with the significant people in my world. Five quality minutes of talking or hugging or thanking or listening. Five undiluted minutes with my mate, children, and friends.

Today I will make a difference.

-- Max Lucado in On the Anvil


#2259

Thursday, March 5, 2009

THE NEXT GENERATION

If you plan to reach the next generation for Christ, don’t ask them to believe what you believe, instead invite them to do what you do.

Beliefs are a dime a dozen. This generation has seen every variety of spiritual beliefs you could imagine (and many you couldn’t imagine).

They’re extremely turned off by people who don’t live what they claim to believe.

This generation doesn’t want to hear about what you believe. They want to see your beliefs in actions. And if you’re daring enough to live like Jesus, you’ll have a shot at reaching the next generation. If your version of Christianity is limited to what you’re against, you’ll not likely reach many. If, on the other hand, your faith is so alive you must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love the outcasts—all in the name of Christ, the King, you will attract interest.

As strange as it might sound, if you truly live a missional and Spirit-filled life, the young generation might join you and do what you do, then one day believe what you believe.

-- Craig Groeschel


#2258

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CHOOSING TO FOLLOW CHRIST

God wants you to grow up: "We are not meant to remain as children ..." (Ephesians 4:14 PH).

Your heavenly Father's goal for you is to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ, living a life of love and humble service. Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.

They're stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is because they never intended to grow. Spiritual growth is not automatic; it takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing.

Discipleship is the process of becoming like Christ, and it always begins with a decision: "'Come, be My disciple,' Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed Him" (Matthew 9:9 NLT).

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn't understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus' invitation.

That's all you need to get started: decide to become a disciple.

-- Rick Warren in "The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional"


#2257

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

THE GOD I KNOW

I really believe the saving message of Jesus Christ. I don't only preach it; I believe it! I honestly believe that every wayward person I know would live a vastly better life if God's love, grace, and redemption were operating in their lives.

Do you believe this too? A man once told me that he never shares his faith with anyone. I thought it was an interesting comment and probed a little as to why he was so resolved about his role (or lack thereof) in evangelism.

His answer shocked me. "I would never want to inflict the burden of God on anyone," he said.

Wow. That is not at all the God I know, I thought. The God I know invaded my world with love, acceptance, and grace and stuck me on the back of a launched rocket at age seventeen that I still haven't peeled myself off of. Nor do I want to anytime soon!

But it's an interesting thought to ponder, isn't it: Who is the God you know?

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


#2256

Monday, March 2, 2009

MAKING AN IMPACT

A few weeks ago I met Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, so I decided to read Me, Myself, and Bob. The book documents the rise and fall of VeggieTales. After VeggieTales declared bankruptcy and the dream fell apart, Phil did some soul searching. And in the book he shares some honest thoughts and questions. Let me share one question and one thought [from his book].

Here’s the question: “What do you love more, your dream or God?”

Here’s the thought: “At long last, after a lifetime of striving, God was enough. Not God and impact or God and ministry. Just God.”

Alright, I lied. Here’s one more thought. “The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”

-- Mark Batterson


#2255