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


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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


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