Friday, July 30, 2010

THE OVERWHELMING GENEROSITY OF GOD

Jesus told about a landowner who hired day laborers to work in his fields and paid them all a day's wage, in spite of the fact that he had hired workers all day long – some right up until the last hour. To make it doubly hard on the ones who worked all day, he made them watch everyone else get paid first. Well, you can imagine there was a good deal of grumbling from this group over those who worked only an hour or two getting the same thing they got laboring under the hot sun all day. To which the landowner replied: Wait a minute. Didn't I pay you what we agreed upon? If I want to be generous to these others, what is that to you? Take your money and go. (Matthew 20:1-16)

Here's what I love about this parable: slipping away from there with a day's pay in your pocket for an hour's work. You're wondering if someone made a mistake and paid you too much, but you're reluctant to point it out to anyone for fear it was a mistake and you'll have to give most of it back. But then you hear that the generosity of the employer was the reason your pocket is full, and you can't believe your good fortune.

This is precisely what it feels like to be a Christian. You didn't contract for this righteousness. You didn't labor to get into this family. You didn't study hard and read your Bible every day and go to church every Sunday and gain extra credit for being on the worship committee in order to ensure your place in Heaven. You are in this for one reason and one reason alone – the overwhelming generosity of God.

Grace is what makes you keep checking your pocket to make sure your life with God is still there. Worship is what happens when you find out it is. In fact, what you receive is so overwhelmingly generous that you will probably need a tote bag to carry it all!

-- John Fisher in The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional


#2589

Thursday, July 29, 2010

THE HEALING LOVE OF JESUS

I cannot prove to you that Jesus will accept you, should you come into His presence to let down your guard. I can tell you that the whole character of Jesus as we meet Him in the Gospels suggests this kind of love. "Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest," said Jesus in a famous passage (Matt. 11:28). I can tell you as well that this love has been true for me and others… In Jesus' presence we may safely drop our strengths and reveal our weakness…

It takes faith, in the presence of all the voices that condemn us, to open up the old wounds before God. Jesus' love… draws us now. One elicits the other: faith and forgiving love. They circle around each other in glorious harmony.

I wish you the courage to enter that loop and be swept up in the healing love of Jesus.

-- Gerrit Scott Dawson in Heartfelt


#2588

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

JUST IN TIME

When Corrie ten Boom was a girl, her first realization of death came after a visit to the home of a neighbor who had died. Suddenly it occurred to her that someday her parents would die. The idea upset her.

"Corrie," her father comforted her, "when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?"

"Why, just before we get on the train," she said.

"Exactly," her father replied. "And our wise Father in heaven knows exactly when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When our death comes, you will look into your heart and find the strength that you need -- just in time."

-- Steve Farrar in Get in the Ark


#2587

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

GETTING THE MOMENTUM GOING

The common conception is that motivation leads to action, but the reverse is true -- action precedes motivation. You have to 'prime the pump' and get the juice flowing, which motivates you to work on your goals. Getting momentum going is the most difficult part of the job, and often taking the first step is enough to prompt you to make the best of your day.

-- Robert J. McKain


#2586

Monday, July 26, 2010

TRUST AND OBEY

Many Christians, when they trust in Christ, seem to expect some supernatural event to happen in their life that enables them to be holy. Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers us to live for God. Yes, we have the Word of God readily available at our fingertips. But, ultimately we have to choose to listen to God or to the world. In the final seconds obedience is always a personal and deliberate act of the will.

-- Pastor Gary Stone


#2585

Friday, July 23, 2010

TO THE BEREAVED PARENT

You probably never thought you could live through your child's funeral. What could have been more dreadful? But you did.

Certainly surviving all the grief you felt seemed impossible. Those days and nights of crying, exhaustion, and pain were almost beyond endurance. You were certain, at times, you would never get past that time in your life. But you did.

There were times you felt great guilt because somehow you had not filled the role of 'parent' as society interprets the role. You were unable to save your child and keep him/her alive. As that cold, clammy feeling would come over you and your back would prickle thinking about what you could have done differently, you were sunk into such a pit of grieving that you never dreamed it would be possible to go on. But you did.

Often, you were beset with anger and a feeling of powerlessness because events that should have been in your control simply were not. You did not think you could overcome these feelings especially the hopelessness that accompanied them. But you can.

Just when you needed your mate most, you would find he or she could help you least. You expected comfort from someone incapable of comforting. You argued. Sometimes you even hated. You never thought you would rise from the bottom of the well of sorrow. But you can.

You thought never again could you take an interest in the world and retain friendships and attend weddings and happy occasions for other people's children. You were certain you could never live through the trauma. But you will

There was no doubt in your mind that you never again could enjoy yourself. Never want to travel. Never give parties -- or attend them. Never have fun. You would only be sorrowful and certainly you would never laugh. Above all, not laugh. But you will.

And most of all, you were sure it would be impossible for you to function as a whole human being not buffeted by the waves of sorrow that swept over you in the early days of your tragedy. But you will.

You will do all that and you will do more.

-- Harriet Sarnott Schiff in The Bereaved Parent


#2584

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TOTAL COMMITMENT

The idea of a leap of faith (a term often associated with Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who was not just a brilliant mind but also a Scandinavian) has frequently been misunderstood. It does not mean choosing to believe an impossible thing for no good reason. Sometimes people talk about it as if it is the "leap" in which you ignore evidence, give up on reason, and embrace fantasy. But leap was Kierkegaard's term for a genuinely free action. Any freely chosen commitment is a leap, such as the choice to marry or to bear children. The move from innocence to sin is also a leap.

The leap of faith is a "leap" because it involves making a total commitment. It can be made for good reasons -- reasons we have carefully considered. But it is nevertheless a leap, because we have to commit in spite of our fears and doubts, for there is no other way to soar, no other way to fly.

Certain fundamental decisions in life require 100 percent commitment -- passionate engagement. Kierkegaard spoke of faith as a "passion." Certain decisions require intense commitment -- for example, to live by certain values, to get married, to raise a child (there are no guarantees that the child won't break your heart), to have a friend, to follow God. And some decisions, generally the most important ones, require total commitment but do not give any guarantees.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


#2583

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SERVANTS OR CUSTOMERS

One of the most fundamental lessons Jesus taught the early disciples was servanthood. The word was synonymous with Christianity for centuries. In many third world countries today, where the Christian church is growing by leaps and bounds, it remains so. However, in the United States this basic, critically important concept has fallen prey to our popular use of "substitute theology" so rampant today.

Original Principle vs. USA Substitute Theology Principle
1. Servanthood vs. Church Members as Customers
2. "GO, Make Disciples" vs. "COME, We Will Be Nice to You"
3. Overcome Fear vs. Maximize Comfort
4. Vows Are Sacred vs. Vows Are [Optional]

If our orientation comes from servanthood, then our lifestyle reflects giving and sharing. We put others first. We love unconditionally. We take the burdens of others and bear them with the love and compassion of Christ.

On the other hand, if we see ourselves as customers, we WANT. We demand. We criticize and comment on little things that don't amount to much. We can agitate, aggravate and irritate because we are the ones being served. This entire mindset was about as far from Jesus Christ as one could move. It still is today. Let's check our hearts. Are we servants or customers? We can make an incredible impact for Christ if we live for Him and not for ourselves.

-- Rev. Jim Hollis in MENS News Newsletter, May-June 1999


#2582

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TRUSTING GOD WHEN MIRACLES DON'T COME

[In Holding On to Hope, a book about the life and death of her daughter named Hope, Nancy Guthrie writes:]

We had Hope for 199 days. We loved her. We enjoyed her richly and shared her with everyone we could. We held her during seizures. Then we let her go.

The day after we buried Hope, my husband said to me, "You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn't." Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had Hope, and we were comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair.

But I don't think it makes our loss hurt any less.

Early on in my journey, I said to God, "Okay, if I have to go through this, then give me everything. Teach me everything you want to teach me through this. Don't let this incredible pain be wasted in my life!"

God ... allows good and bad into our lives and we can trust Him with both.... Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness -- this is the kind of faith God values most of all....

I believe that the purpose of Hope's short life, and my life, was and is to glorify God.

-- Nancy Guthrie in Holding On to Hope


#2581

Monday, July 19, 2010

THINKING ABOUT OUTCOMES

"Peter answered [Jesus], ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ " (Matthew 14:28-30 NRSV)

Failure is not an event, but rather a judgment about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things. It is a way we think about outcomes.

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


#2580

Friday, July 16, 2010

MARRIAGE TAKES WORK

Romans 12:18 says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

A number of years ago a friend of mine entered a difficult phase of his marriage. Eventually he tired of working on the relationship, and he divorced his wife. Last summer I took a long walk with him. I wish I could play a tape recording of our conversation. "I gave up the most important relationship in my life because of laziness," he said. "That's all it was. If I could, I'd set the clock back and do it all over again. And this time I wouldn't quit working."

Another man wrote to me, "Being out and alone, divided from my kids, has ripped a hole in my heart that just doesn't heal. Dealing with the pain of loss is harder than the relational work ever was. I wish I hadn't given up so easily."

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


#2579

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GOD DESIRES TO BE APPROACHED

"Come unto ME." A call not to join an organization, to follow an ethic, a new teaching, or even a way of life, but a call to meet a Person -- an invitation to come directly to Him, and through Him to God. He is the Door. He is the Way.

God desires to be approached. God can be approached through Jesus. Can anyone hold an intimate conversation with one of the Greek gods or with the Holy Other of the Old Testament? But the Father of Jesus Christ offers Himself to us: "Come unto Me."

And if we come -- "salvation." That is, the burden lifted, the weight removed. "I will give you rest." The release of sin. The removal of every fear. Freedom of conscience. Everlasting life. "Salvation comes only as the result of a vision of God," says D.T. Niles. Jesus brings us the vision of God -- the God Who desires to be approached. "It is not the fear of sin but the love of God which sets men free." (D.T. Niles, Seeing The Invisible)

-- H.S. Vigeveno in Jesus the Revolutionary


#2578

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MY CONDUCT

"Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." (James 1:22 NRSV)

My conduct is the only trustworthy indicator of what I truly value. It is the difference between Christianity as talk and as walk. All of us value evangelism, but when was my last spiritual conversation with a person in need of faith in Christ? All of us value unity, but when was the last time I resisted the urge to say something negative about a peer? All of us value our families, but when was the last time I took a day off just to be with them (and turned off my cell phone)?

-- Dr. Earl Creps in the United Methodist Reporter, January 7, 2010


#2577

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

THE "UNFINISHEDS"

That time runs out before one's life's work is completed by no means makes it worthless. The fragmentary quality of life does not detract from its meaning. It is not from the length of its span that we can ever draw conclusions as to life's meaningfulness. We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of its contents. The exuberant life of one who has died young certainly has more content and meaning than the existence of some long-lived dullard.

Sometimes the "unfinisheds" are among the most beautiful symphonies.

-- Viktor Frankl in The Doctor and the Soul


#2576

Monday, July 12, 2010

PRICELESS BLESSINGS

Our thanks are due to God for all temporal blessings; they are more than we deserve. But our thanks ought to go to God in thunders of hallelujahs for spiritual blessings. A new heart is better than a new coat. To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food. To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman. To have God for our portion is blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land. God hath blessed us with spiritual blessings. These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings; they are priceless in value.

-- Charles Spurgeon


#2575

Friday, July 9, 2010

SURROUNDED

Paul O'Neil, [former] right fielder for the New York Yankees, experienced just about the worst thing you can imagine, the day of the final World Series game [in 1999]: his father died. It was an "expected," death. He'd been sick a long time. And because his father's death had been expected, and because he hoped, I suppose, that this would be the last game, he chose to show up to play...

I watched his face closely during the game. Every time he came up to bat, you could tell he really wanted to make a statement for his Dad... the winning homer... the fielding play that saves the game. But he didn't. He walked once. He flew out once. And I can't remember what he did the other times, but it wasn't memorable.

Anyway, when the game was over, there was obviously an incredible sense of relief and celebration among all the Yankee players. You've seen the scene a hundred times: the pitcher and catcher hug, just in front of the mound. Within seconds, they are swarmed by all their other teammates in a huge group hug that defies all rules for how guys are supposed to act around each other. I saw as Paul O'Neil also joined this circle, too. He was celebrating with the rest of them. But all of a sudden, I think the reality of his father's death finally first sank in, right there on that field in front of fifty thousand fans, and millions more on television. The pressure of the game was gone, and the reality of the sadness hit him like a ton of bricks. He began to cry. He turned his back away from the cameras. But the camera tried to follow him. And then, what happened is that Paul O'Neil simply moved into the big middle of that celebration amoeba. His teammates could see how he was feeling. And when they saw him, those closest to him, immediately encircled him and stopped their cheering and their celebrating too. They physically surrounded him, and made a space for him. And they quite literally turned and shoved the camera away! And then, Paul O'Neil, still crying, simply fell to his knees, hidden and surrounded by those teammates. And those friends, as he fell to his knees, encircled him like a cloud, like some band of angels, sent to care for him in that moment.

If your loved ones have died, what I want you to hear is this: when they came into heaven, they too were surrounded by a loving cloud of angels that enveloped them like those Yankees enveloped Paul O'Neil. They were welcomed, with open arms, into that great cloud of witnesses. The angels comforted them. And the angels can come and surround and comfort you in your grief too.

-- Copyright Eric Folkerth 1999. All Rights Reserved. (Used with Permission)


#2574

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LASTING MEMORIES

I was wondering if you thought of her often now that you're back in the house where she used to be. I think of her often too. She may not be here herself anymore, but the memory's here, isn't it, and because no one can take [those memories] away from you, and although she's dead yet in a way she's still alive, alive in your mind, and that's how God can bring her back for you. And although that's not as good as having her here alive and well, it helps to look across at the past, doesn't it, to look at her and know that she'll be there always in your memory to be a comfort to you when you want to remember.

-- Susan Howatch in Wheel of Fortune

#2573

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

REMEMBERING

A man in his early forties died after a long bout with cancer, leaving behind a wife and two children. There was a particular casserole that was his favorite meal. Once a week his wife would continue to prepare this meal. As she and the children ate, she would tell her children stories of their father; and they would recall their own memories of their dad. His chair sat empty at the table, and they remembered him in a way that made them feel close to him and that continued to shape their lives.

I wonder if this is not what Jesus had in mind when he said, "As often as you do this, remember me." We should remember him not only in a morsel of bread and sip of wine during worship, but every time we sit down to break bread. Here I am reminded of the old tradition, now nearly forgotten, of setting an extra place at the supper table as a way of inviting the Lord to "be present at our table." How might you remember him at each supper you eat?

-- Adam Hamilton in 24 Hours That Changed the World - 40 Days of Reflection


#2472

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DISCERNING THE WILL OF GOD

For those who maintain a close relationship with Christ through a daily surrender to the Holy Spirit, there comes a sense of "oughtness"… and affirmation when they are doing the will of God. Contrariwise, they claim to have an inner awareness of when they are not in the will of God. There are a couple of safeguards in all of this to protect us from confusing God's actual will with what we "feel" is God's will. These two safeguards are Scripture and Christian fellowship with close friends.

It's a forgone conclusion that God doesn't lead us in ways that run contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture… The second means for helping us to figure out the will of God is through membership in a support group of fellow Christians who share our faith and commitments.

-- Tony Campolo in Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God


#2571

Monday, July 5, 2010

FOUNDING FAITH

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

I've lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We've been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

-- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, July 2, 2010

WALKING IN THE LIGHT

Jesus said, "No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness, no, he shall possess the light of life." (John 8:12)

Jesus is the beacon of my journey through life. When fears and doubts, misunderstandings and rejection tend to darken my path, I can always depend on Him to be my guiding light. At times He guides me gently like reflectors on the road. At other times a low beam headlight will amply illuminate the way. Sometimes I will need the high beam for cosmic vision. Whichever way it is, no followers of Jesus will every walk in the darkness. Like David prayed, “make Your way plain for me to follow" (Psalm 5:8). He will surely show you His way if you ask Him to.

-- Joseph Matthews

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A TAXI DRIVER'S WISDOM

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a Nigerian taxi driver on the way to the airport. It started when I asked him about the rap song on the radio. I only caught a few words but it was enough to make me wonder if it was a Christian group. So I asked him.

“I don't know,” he said, “but in my country all our popular singing groups are Christian. That's your problem in America; you have left God out of everything. Everything is 'Me,' 'Me,' 'Me.' No one has any fear of God. There's no respect for anyone but the almighty 'Me.'”

A wakeup slap in the face at five o'clock in the morning to say the least! But he's right. The Book of Proverbs in the Bible opens with: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” and that pretty much sums up its contents. To fear God is to care about what God thinks about you and what you do, and to know there are right and wrong attitudes and actions, and consequences for those who disregard any of this. There might have been a time in this country when this kind of attitude was a part of everyone's moral framework, but it is not so today. Leave it to an African to tell an American about the fear of God. I told him maybe it was his country's turn to send missionaries to us. He didn't disagree.

-- John Fischer, Senior Writer for Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotionals


#2568