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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

THE CORNERSTONE OF FREEDOM

Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31,32)

Americans need to read the Bible. Even more, they need to study it. It is the cornerstone of freedom, the foundation of idealism, and the modus oprandi of abundant living.

-- Billy Graham


#2329