Monday, December 26, 2011

WHAT EVERY SOUL NEEDS

And the angel said to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

How is it that the world didn’t get that message? They think that what came in Jesus was a religion or a philosophy or a teacher or a role model, but the world already had plenty of religions, too many philosophies and all sorts of role models.

What the world needed -- and what every soul in it needs – is not a religion or a role model but a SAVIOR…

Here is the good tidings -- the gospel – which shall be to all people…

“Unto you is born EXACTLY what you need.”

“Unto you is born PRECISELY what you yearn for.”

“Unto you is born what you cannot get from anyone else but God.”

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR.”

-- Rev. David J. Kalas in his Christmas Eve 2011 message


#2905

Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE GREATEST GIFT

"But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12)

The greatest gift you will ever receive will never be found under a Christmas tree. It is far too valuable to be stored in any other place but in the depths of your heart.

-- Author Unknown

 
#2904

Friday, December 23, 2011

NO ROOM FOR CHRIST

One response was given by the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph wanted to find a room where the Child could be born. The innkeeper was not hostile; he was not opposed to them, but his inn was crowded; his hands were full; his mind was preoccupied. This is the answer that millions are giving today. Like a Bethlehem innkeeper, they cannot find room for Christ. All the accommodations in their hearts are already taken up by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism. It is not defiance. It is preoccupation and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity.

-- Billy Graham


#2903

Thursday, December 22, 2011

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

For many of us, sadly, the spirit of Christmas is "hurry". And yet, eventually, the hour comes when the rushing ends and the race against the calendar mercifully comes to a close. It is only now perhaps that we truly recognize the spirit of Christmas. It is not a matter of days or weeks, but of centuries -- twenty of them now since that holy night in Bethlehem. Regarded in this manner, the pre-Christmas rush may do us greater service than we realize. With all its temporal confusion, it may just help us to see that by contrast, Christmas itself is eternal.

-- Burton Hills

 
#2902

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

SHRINKING INTO HUMAN FLESH

What self denial! What self abasement! What self emptying! He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. Can it be, that the great ‘I AM THAT I AM’ shrinks into our flesh?"

-- Henry Law

 
#2901

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A PICTURE OF ADVENT

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 
#2900

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE DIRT AND DUNG OF A STABLE

Many times those of us in the church forget that Jesus was not born in a church or cathedral; He was born "off-site" in the dirt and dung of a stable for animals. He was born in the midst of the reality of life, not as in some stained-glass portrayal of a royal birth. This was a real God, for real people, in real life. That's what Emmanuel, "God with us," means.

The true miracle of Christmas is not found in the pageantry of a great Christmas Eve service. The true miracle of Christmas is the truth that God is with us in the dirt and dailyness and in the reality and imperfection of our lives.

-- J. Mack Strange

 
#2899

Friday, December 16, 2011

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine Person. That makes all the difference in the world.

-- Stuart Briscoe

 
#2898

Thursday, December 15, 2011

GOD BECAME MAN

"To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:11 NRSV)

At the heart of the nativity narratives in both Matthew and Luke, is a simple fact: amid the struggle of a people who had longed for 500 years for God to act in the world in new ways, God came to be with them in a way that totally identified Himself with us, as human beings. Amid the most unlikely of circumstances, to the most unlikely of people, God became man for the salvation of all people.

-- Dennis Bratcher, The Christian Resource Institute


 
#2897

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OBSCURING THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV)

Commercialization has obscured the meaning of Christmas. The commercial has become more important than the carol. The sales pitch more important than the Good News. What man has to sell more important than what God has given.

-- Author Unknown


#2896

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

JESUS IDENTIFIED WITH THE HOMELESS

As we prepare for our traditional celebrations, let us remember those who will not be looking forward to this festival. Let us remember too how Jesus identified with the oppressed and the homeless. Let the joy of the festival touch more of the people of our world this year than ever before. May God be glorified and may people of good will once again experience His peace.

-- Denzil John

 
#2895

Monday, December 12, 2011

FAN OR SHAREHOLDER

I’m no longer a fan of the Green Bay Packers.

I’m a shareholder. There is a big difference between those two things. On Tuesday I purchased a share of stock that is only worth the paper it’s printed on, but it feels different. I have now invested in the Packers. I’m a part-owner.

I think Jesus has lots of fans, but God demands more than that. We’ve got to own it. How? By allowing Him to own us. The game changes when you start investing in the kingdom of God.

Are you a fan? Or a shareholder?

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:37-40)

-- Mark Batterson, from his blog http://www.markbatterson.com/


#2894

Friday, December 9, 2011

GOD BECAME MAN

[God] works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, He works on us through each other. [We] are mirrors, or "carriers" of Christ to others… Usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important. It is so easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objectives -- education, building, missions, holding services…The Church exists for no other purpose than to draw [people] into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other reason. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.

-- C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

 
#2893

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A HEART PREPARED

In the same manner in which we clean and prepare our homes in the anticipation of welcomed guests and family members this Christmas season, let us also prepare our hearts in anticipation of the Lord's coming. Christ, our most honored and eagerly anticipated guest, desires to meet with us in a heart prepared for His arrival. So eager is He to meet with us that He offers to help us with our spiritual housecleaning, working with us; creating a resting place for Himself within our hearts.

-- Katherine Walden

 
#2892

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GOD WITH US

As a result of the emotional distance they experienced as children, many people develop an image of God as unsympathetic and emotionally distant. God is seen as cold and unapproachable. He is seen as being interested only in facts and in performance. People who have experienced emotional distance in their families may ask: "How could God understand my problem? Does He even care about what I feel?"

The image of the emotionally distant God is dramatically different from the biblical image of Christ, who is called Immanuel which means "God with us." God came and lived with us, as one of us. He felt our temptations and struggles and feelings. He offers an intimacy with Himself which includes the emotional closeness for which we long.

-- Dale and Juanita Ryan in Recovery from Distorted Images of God

 
#2891

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GOD OF THE DETAILS

"Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of deer? Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time they give birth, when they crouch to give birth to their offspring, and are delivered of their young? Their young ones become strong, they grow up in the open; they go forth, and do not return to them." (Job 39:1-4)

This passage comes in the middle of God's long response to Job and his friends. In this response (which continues through the remainder of Chapter 39), God reminds Job that it is God who created each living thing, that it is God who watches over the earth and all that God made. But what's beautiful about this proclamation is the intimacy of God's knowledge. This isn't the voice of a distant overseer. Rather, the voice of the One who made each living thing. God speaks of the smallest details of these creatures' lives -- when they give birth, what they eat, where they sleep, their flying patterns. It is a reminder to Job that God is a God of details, of the smallest moments, that God pays attention to the first steps of a deer and to the nest of the eagle. The animals are not held up as superior to humans (Job 39:9-12 is all about the ox as an animal meant for work). Instead, they are examples of the fullness of God's care for all of creation -- human being and animal alike… [God is] not a removed Creator but one who is in and around every detail of creation.

-- from The Green Bible Devotional

 
#2890

Monday, December 5, 2011

WE SAY WE BELIEVE, BUT…

"But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night." (Psalm 1:2)

People who are passionate about the writings and ideas of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung are sometimes call Jungians. And the Jungians were pretty excited a few years ago. A huge journal he kept of his innermost thoughts and feelings was published after being hidden away and unavailable for nearly 100 years.

I'm not a Jungian; his teachings don't line up too well with Scripture, in my view. But I can understand why you'd be excited to read the long, lost insights of the person you've patterned your whole life after. The Jungians couldn't wait to get their hands on that book.

You know where I'm going. We tell everyone that we believe the Bible contains the very thoughts of God -- that the God of the universe went to the "trouble" of getting down in language His ideas for us. We say we believe that, but I'm not sure we're convinced.

If we were, it seems like we'd be a lot more delighted to dive into the thoughts of God every day. We'd be less likely to categorize studying the Book along with eating green vegetables, getting exercise, and flossing.

-- Christopher Lyon

 
#2889

Friday, December 2, 2011

HARK, THE ANGELS

Too often... we ignore the role that angels play. Many Christians are afraid that talk of angels will distract from the power and majesty of God. And many others have a hard time taking angels at all seriously. But as John Calvin has said, "The angels are the dispensers and administrators of the Divine beneficence toward us; they regard our safety, undertake our defense, direct our ways and exercise a constant solicitude that no evil befall us."

Like it or not, angels are important players in the drama of salvation. Isn't it time we paid a little more attention to these powerful and loving allies that God has given us?

-- Ann Spangler in An Angel a Day

 
#2888

Thursday, December 1, 2011

GOD HAS MADE A WAY

There is a nostalgia for religious faith, but not one that makes annoying demands; instead, the market calls for spiritual bonbons, little angel-fairies that grant wishes and look so reverent you just have to chuckle.

Christianity is declining in part because we can't, and shouldn't, pander to this current demand for sentimental spiritual delights. Our message is unfashionably tough: that the humanists are wrong, and we are not perfectable under our own power -- that we are more lost than even our panicky despair indicates...

But God has made a way. We can stop denying our sinfulness and stop fooling with ersatz gods. Jesus Christ alone paid the price, and He is the way -- the only way -- to make sense of our lives and make peace with God. There's nothing exclusive here. Salvation through Jesus is offered to all who will respond.

The worn words are overly familiar, but you don't get a new truth just because the old one got to looking old fashioned. Many are looking for this toughness; they're fed up with Cocoa Puffs and are searching for real food.

-- Frederica Mathewes-Green, excerpted from the Religious News Service, July 25, 1995. For the complete article click Looking for Religious Truth in All the Wrong Places

 
#2887

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE LORD'S PRESENCE

Once your heart has been turned inwardly to the Lord, you will have an impression of His presence. You will be able to notice His presence more acutely because your outer senses have now become very calm and quiet. The Lord's chief desire is to reveal Himself to you. He touches you, and His touch is so delightful that, more than ever, you are drawn inwardly to Him.

-- Madame Jeanne Guyon (a seventeenth-century believer who spent almost twenty-five years in prison for her religious beliefs), quoted by Foster and Smith in Devotional Classics

 
#2886

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BLOCKING OUR VIEW OF GOD

People want signs from God but tend to ignore them when they are present. Even while God was making the "mountains quake" at Sinai in Exodus 32, talking with Moses on the mountaintop, and giving him the Law, the people of Israel were at the bottom of the mountain complaining against God and Moses and crafting their own god in the form of a golden calf. No matter how spectacular the sign or evidence, humans are easily blinded to God's presence and power because of sin -- the serious human drive for self-interest and self-indulgence. Sin has a way of blocking our view of God by putting up a mirror that causes us to fall in love with our own reflection.

-- Robert Kaylor in Come to the Manger

 
#2885

Monday, November 28, 2011

OUR ONLY HOPE

"Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and He saved them from their distress;
He sent out His Word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction." (Psalm 107:17-20 NRSV)

Our experience tells us that sin does not stand alone. A sinful act begins a string of events that cannot be undone. Sin causes much suffering: It dashes dreams, it ruins relationships, it deepens despair.... When we are drowning in a sea of sinfulness, wandering in a wilderness of despondency, cut off from everything that is good, our only hope is to cry to the Lord. ...

God will not relieve us of the responsibility for our sin or treat us like spoiled children. God will not restore what we have ruined or rebuild what we have destroyed. But God WILL give us faith to rebuild.

-- Jerry L. McGlone in The Upper Room Disciplines 2003, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN. Used with permission.

 
#2884

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FEELING GRATEFUL

Do you know why you should feel grateful? You are a part of God's plan, you are touched by God's tenderness, and you are a victor in God's victory. What greater blessing could there be?

-- Max Lucado

 
#2883

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

HELP ME

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

-- Samuel F. Pugh

 
#2882

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us -- and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.

-- Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude


 
#2881

Friday, November 18, 2011

SENSITIVE AND AWARE

To be aware and sensitive is more than the notion of "touchy-feely" that many men seem to dislike. It simply means to be aware of the abundance of good and the presence of God in your life and your relationships with others. When you are aware, you are able to take responsibility for your own feelings and needs in order to take into consideration the feelings and needs of others close to you… You begin to see others as children of God and not people who make demands on you. Sensitivity becomes a movement of the Spirit upon our hearts that causes us to ask, "What does this child of God need that I can offer?"

-- Eugene Blair in What Kind of Man Was Joseph and What Kind of Man Are You?

 
#2880

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A PERFECT FIT?

Nothing can choke the heart and soul out of walking with God like legalism. Rigidity is the most certain sign that the disciplines have spoiled. The disciplined person is the person who can live appropriately in life.
Consider the story of Hans the tailor. Because of his reputation, an influential entrepreneur visiting the city ordered a tailor-made suit. But when he came to pick up his suit, the customer found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other this way; one shoulder bulged out and the other caved in. He pulled and struggled and finally, wrenched and contorted, he managed to make his body fit. As he returned home on the bus, another passenger noticed his odd appearance and asked if Hans the tailor had made the suit. Receiving an affirmative reply, the man remarked, "Amazing! I knew that Hans was a good tailor, but I had no idea he could make a suit fit so perfectly someone as deformed as you."

Often that is just what we do in the church. We get some idea of what the Christian faith should look like; then we push and shove people into the most grotesque configurations until they fit wonderfully! That is death. It is a wooden legalism which destroys the soul. (Scripture: Mark 7:9; Luke 11:52; Romans 2:28-29)

-- Richard J. Foster in "TSF Bulletin," Nov.-Dec. 1982. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.

 
#2879

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)

There are a few fundamental questions we do well to pose to our own hearts: How am I being rooted and grounded in love? Do I know, with the depth of authentic knowing, that Christ dwells in my heart by faith? Where do I experience being strengthened in my inner being with power through the Spirit? These questions have bearing on the health of our spiritual practice. As church leaders, do we offer ourselves to God before and through all the ways we offer ourselves to those we serve? I invite you to ponder these questions and to note your reflections in response. They are not abstract questions. The way you answer them will reveal a great deal to you about the health of your root system for the growing plant of your active ministry. If our spiritual roots do not dig deep into the soil of God’s love, if they have not yet twined around and beyond some of the buried stones blocking nourishment from that soil, then our ministry will be stunted, top-heavy, or easily uprooted.

-- Marjorie J. Thompson, excerpt from an article entitled “Rooted and Grounded in Christ,” in “Leading from the Center”


#2878

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

PASSIONATE WORSHIP

"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed faints for the courts of the Lord." (Psalm 84:1-2)

Vibrant, fruitful, growing churches offer Passionate Worship that connects people to God and to one another. People gather consciously as the Body of Christ with eagerness and expectancy; encounter Christ through singing, prayer, Scripture, preaching, and Holy Communion; and respond by allowing God's Spirit to shape their lives. Lives shaped by God's Spirit become the nucleus for congregations with extraordinary warmth, graciousness, and belonging. People are searching for worship that is authentic, alive, creative, and comprehensible, where they experience the life-changing presence of God in the presence of others.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

 
#2878

Monday, November 14, 2011

LOVING GIVING

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NKJV)

It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.

-- Richard Braustein

 
#2876

Friday, November 11, 2011

DEEDS AND WORDS

Sometimes we are tempted to believe that deeds, not words, are the most important part of our witness for Christ. But upon deeper reflection we realize how very important words are. A record of only the deeds of Jesus would be a treasure, of course. However, to add His words to the record of His deeds adds infinite richness to our understanding of Jesus. The words of Jesus help interpret for us His deeds, and His deeds help give credibility to His words. The same is true of the person who witnesses for Christ.

-- Harold K. Bates in Witness for Christ

 
#2875

Monday, November 7, 2011

SACRED AND SECULAR

e tend to confine the sacred to a fenced-in area, the "spiritual," reserved for church activities. Many people rarely give God a thought apart from an hour on Sunday morning, when they sing songs of praise, listen to a sermon, and then reenter the secular world as if passing through an air lock. My pastor tells me that church members tell off-color jokes in the parking lot that they would never repeat in the sanctuary. When the doors close behind them, they believe they leave sacred space, as if the world neatly divides between secular and sacred.

-- Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World

 
#2874

Friday, November 4, 2011

RISING AGAIN

What is our death but a night's sleep? For as through sleep all weariness and faintness pass away and cease, and the powers of the spirit come back again, so that in the morning we arise fresh and strong and joyous; so at the Last Day we shall rise again as if we had only slept a night, and shall be fresh and strong.
-- Martin Luther

 
#2873

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"COME UNTO ME"

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mathew 29:11 KJV))

"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


 
#2872

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SACRIFICE YOURSELF FOR CHRIST

Sacrifice yourself for once for the sake of God's will. It will not be in vain. Sacrifice yourself for truth, for justice. Sacrifice yourself for once against all human sense for something that is truly good. Sacrifice yourself for Christ in all things, and seek the kingdom of God. There is great strength in this… Stand for something; then your joy will be unbroken and lasting.
-- C.F. Blumhardt in Freude im Herrn


#2871

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ONLY BY GRACE

Only by grace can we enter, only by grace can we stand
Not by our own endeavors, but by the blood of the Lamb.
Lord, if You marked our transgressions who could stand,
But by Your grace we are saved by the blood of the Lamb.

-- Petra

 
#2870

Monday, October 31, 2011

GOD'S STRATEGY TO TOUCH THIS WORLD

Salvation is always granted on God's terms, and it reflects the nature of God Himself. The most identifiable characteristic of salvation is the quality of our love, first toward God and then toward His people. Without a love relationship on both levels, vertically and horizontally, we have not experienced God's salvation. If we get this basic truth wrong, we are in desperate trouble.

God's strategy to touch this world is vitally linked with these two basic relationships. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He said in Matthew 22:37--40, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

-- Henry Blackaby and Melvin D. Blackaby in Experiencing God Together: God's Plan to Touch Your World


#2869

Friday, October 28, 2011

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:14-35)

To the loved, a word of affection is a morsel, but to the love-starved, a word of affection can be a feast.

-- Max Lucado

 
#2868

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FOLLOWING JESUS

Who is this Jesus? What is His mission and message? What is it to follow? To walk in His footprints? To hear ourselves called beloved daughters and sons? To know ourselves as children of God? To be sent? Missioned? These are the questions laid before us…

The invitation is clear. We must wrestle with having heard ourselves called, like Peter; like Paul; like Mary of Magdala. Like generations of Christians who have entered deeply enough into the drama of the Scriptures to have allowed the threads of their lives to be incorporated into the fabric of the divine mystery... We are called to be both more than we ordinarily are and what we are; in fact, [we are] created to be holy, saints.

Will we follow? What will that following look like?

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Time Between

 
#2867

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP

By definition, a disciple is a follower, one who accepts and assists in spreading the teachings of a Master. A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in faith and are equipped by the Holy Spirit for ministry. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God. This requires that we read, study and apply biblical teachings; pray regularly; participate in worship and fellowship with other believers; and reach out in witness and mission sharing the love of Christ in word and deed.

-- from www.gotquestions.org

 
#2866

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

THE MULTITUDES OF HEAVEN

"Blessed be Your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You." (Nehemiah 9:5b–6 NIV)
During the French Revolution many leaders were determined to do away with Christianity forever. One lovely, clear night an atheist boastfully proclaimed his satanic doctrine to a poor countryman. "Everything," he ranted, "will be abolished--churches, Bibles, clergymen. Yes, even the word 'God' itself! We shall remove everything that speaks of religion." The listener gave a quiet chuckle. "Why do you laugh?" demanded the other. The peasant pointed to the stars and replied, "I was just wondering how you and your crew would manage to get them down!"

-- James R. Davis

 
#2865

Monday, October 24, 2011

SPURRING ONE ANOTHER ON

"Christianity is as much caught as it is taught." ...The importance of solid teaching about the basics of the faith cannot be denied. But... some of the most significant spiritual lessons I have learned through the years have been "picked up" observing others share real life experiences in a small Bible study or prayer group, a Sunday school class, or in one-on-one conversation. "If that's occurring in someone else's life... then, it could happen in my life too!" is a frequent thought pattern I experience in such situations. Spending time with other believers in formal and informal settings has "spurred me on toward love and good deeds," to borrow a phrase from Hebrews 10:24. Because of this I want to enthusiastically echo the verse that follows, "Let us not give up meeting together... but let us encourage one another..." (Hebrews 10:25). I believe this encouragement or prodding process is usually more productive in smaller (instead of larger) groups... Make certain you're a part of one!
-- Steve Bell in The Chapel Newsletter

 
#2864

Friday, October 21, 2011

RESTORING SOULS

The city dump caught the attention of a young black woman named Mary McLeod Bethune in 1904. Mary didn't see just a dump, she saw a way to fulfill her dream that, with God's help, she could teach illiterate black women to read and write. She shared her dream, and others came alongside her to help build a shack on the desolate place. They built desks from wooden crates and used blackberry juice for ink.

If you wander among the tall buildings, classrooms, and dormitories of [the United Methodist related] Bethune-Cookman University, you will find a headstone that commemorates where Mrs. Bethune's body was laid to rest at the age of seventy-nine. The inscription on the stone tells her story: "She has given her best so that others might live a more abundant life."

It takes a unique personality to see ruins and dream of restoration… God saw our desolate lives and was delighted to send our Deliverer to restore our souls. He gave His Son so that we, who were dead, might live.

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


#2863

Thursday, October 20, 2011

THE DISCIPLINED LIFE

You need discipline, you need to be committed, you need to work hard, and you always need to be ready. You've got to do all those things both as a Christian and as an athlete.

-- Mark Brunell, in Sports Spectrum


#2862

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ON THE HIGH SEAS

God calls the church to "aqua-esce" in God's mission -- to leave the harbor, lift anchor, and launch out into the joy and risk of the deep sea. Our mission is not to hug harbors, or drop anchors where it is safe, or cheer as other boats sail into the deep. The place for the church is on the high seas where it is turbulent and dangerous, where storms gather with their fiercest intensity. In early Christian art, the church was portrayed as a boat driven upon a perilous sea.

-- Leonard Sweet in A Cup of Coffee at the SoulCafe

 
#2861

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VISITING DAY

He was looking forward to this moment all week long. After 6 days of labor, it finally arrived - Visiting Day! The man with the keys arrived to swing open the large, heavy doors. The cold, gray hall springs to life in the warm glow of light. He could hardly control his emotions. The families began to arrive. He peers from the corner of the room longing for the first glimpse of his loved ones.

He lives for the weekends. He lives for these visits. He watches intently as the cars arrive. He loves them so and would do anything for them. They embrace, eat a light lunch and reminisce about how things used to be. At one point, they break into singing, with interruptions of laughter and applause.

But all too soon it is over. A tear comes to his eyes as they depart. Then the man with the keys closes the heavy doors. He hears the key turn in the lock marking the end of a special day. There he stands, alone again. He knows that most of his visitors will not contact him again until next week.

The last car pulls away from the parking lot... Jesus retreats into loneliness as He waits until next Sunday - Visiting Day.

-- Author Unknown

(If you know the source of this quote, please let us know.)


#2860

Monday, October 17, 2011

GRACE-FULL WORDS

How powerful words are when they speak to our heart! When they strengthen us in our weakness. When they impart peace amid turmoil. When they build us up when others have been tearing us down. When they refresh our weary spirit…

The New Testament… urges us to be men and women who speak grace-filled words. In Ephesians 4:29 we read, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (NASB). This is a powerful thought that the apostle Paul is urging on his hearers. Can you hear him saying, "Your words can communicate grace. They can be God's words to someone else"?

It's true. Our words can build others up… Our hearers can feel strengthened, refreshed or affirmed by our words. As men and women who are empowered and led by God's Spirit, our conversations can literally be a means whereby the Spirit communicates His grace to the one who is listening to us. That's why the next statement Paul makes is "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30). Do you see what he's driving at? When we are not speaking to others in a grace-full manner, we deny God's Spirit the opportunity to encourage or strengthen someone else.

We think that's a powerful truth. We think it's exciting to know that we can be our Lord's ambassador of good news to those around us.

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

 
#2859

Friday, October 14, 2011

WORDS THAT BUILD OR TEAR DOWN

It is said that when Robert Fulton was building his steam engine, his wife came to him in his workshop and said, "You'll never get that thing to work and even if you do you'll never be able to get it out." Well, miraculously, according to his wife, he got it to work.

The engine sat in his front yard as he worked to fit it on a boat. His wife came to him and said, "I don't know why you are spending so much time on that thing, you'll never get it to the river." Well, miraculously, according to his wife, he got the steam engine attached to a boat and got it down to the river.

His wife came down to the river and said, "I don't know why you are wasting your time, you'll never get that thing to start." Well, miraculously, it did start and Fulton began moving down the river. He was happy on two accounts: one, his invention worked, and, two, he left his wife back on the dock. But just then, he heard a voice calling out from the bank. It was his wife running after him saying, "You'll never get that thing stopped. You never will."

-- Rick Ezell in Strengthening the Pastor's Soul

 
#2858

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ETERNALLY UNCHANGING

"God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given us both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to His promise with confidence." (Hebrews 6:17-18, NLT)

The perfect and the absolute and the infinite God cannot become anything else but what He is ….

If you remember that, it will help you in the hour of trial. It will help you at the time of death, in the resurrection and in the world to come, to know that all that God ever was, God still is. All that God was and is, God ever will be. His nature and attributes are eternally unchanging. I have preached about the uncreated selfhood of God; I'll never have to change or edit it in any way… I go back over some of my old sermons and articles, and I wonder why I wrote them like that. I could improve them now. But I can't improve on the statement that God is always the same -- He is self-sufficient, self-existent, eternal, omnipresent and immutable. There would be no reason to change that because God changes not. His nature, His attributes, are eternally unchanging.

-- A.W. Tozor in Tozer on the Almighty God

 
#2857

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

The nature of mankind is to blame someone or something for our problems. If you don't believe that just go back and read the story of Adam and Eve. They were both well engaged in "finger pointing" efforts to take away their own personal responsibility. We grow up with all kinds of expectations of what adult life will be like and the thing that keeps smacking us in the forehead is the need for accepting responsibilities in our life. We can try and avoid it or we can accept it as from God but in either case we cannot escape the fact that we are responsible for our own behavior. Sooner or later it comes back home to roost.

-- Pastor Gary Stone

 
#2856

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A COMPASSIONATE FRIEND

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." -- Romans 12:15

A four-year-old child lived next door to an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

-- Unknown

 
#2855

Monday, October 10, 2011

CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM

The day started out rotten. I overslept and was late for work. Everything that happened at the office contributed to my nervous frenzy. By the time I reached the bus stop for my homeward trip, my stomach was one big knot.

As usual, the bus was late -- and jammed. I had to stand in the aisle. As the lurching vehicle pulled me in all directions, my gloom deepened.

Then I heard a deep voice from up front boom, "Beautiful day, isn't it?" Because of the crowd I could not see the man, but I could hear him as he continued to comment on the fall colors, calling attention to each approaching landmark. This church. That park. This cemetery. That firehouse. Soon all the passengers were gazing out the windows. The man's enthusiasm was so contagious I found myself smiling for the first time that day.

We reached my stop. Maneuvering toward the door, I got a look at our "guide": a plump figure with a black beard, wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a thin white cane. Incredible! He was blind!

I slipped off the bus and, suddenly, all my built-up tensions drained away. God in His wisdom had sent a blind man to help me see -- see that, though there are times when things go wrong, when all seems dark and dreary, it is still a beautiful world. Humming a tune, I raced up the steps to my apartment. I couldn't wait to greet my husband with "Beautiful day, isn't it?"

-- Unknown, quoted by Barbara Johnson in So, Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy!

 
#2854

Friday, October 7, 2011

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34--35)

Someone once said that the church is a lot like Noah's ark. If it were not for the storm on the outside, one could hardly stand the smell on the inside. The church is not perfect. That should not come as a surprise to anyone. The church is, after all, a very human institution as well as a divine instrument… Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment. He insisted that they love one another, and He explained His commandment in strategic terms. The disciples should love one another so that others would find their witness credible. The disciples' love would cause people to know that these were true disciples of Jesus. How the disciples live their love toward one another would undergird their credibility to the others they hoped to reach with the gospel of Jesus.

-- Harold K. Bates in Witness for Christ

 
#2853

Thursday, October 6, 2011

GOD'S SELF-REVELATION

Revelation is understood as an experience of light. Light is God's self-communication. The difference between "God is nowhere" and "God is now here" is but the addition of a span, a space of light. Creation itself was the first self-revelation of God.

-- Leonard Sweet in A Cup of Coffee at the SoulCafe


 
#2852

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RELYING ON THE SPIRIT

We live in an age where "Christian leaders" can quite simply be created with the help of wealth and technology. Men and women, in the name of Christ, are wielding great influence over the lives of hundreds of thousands of believers.

And yet their own lives may be in moral shambles.

A true Christian leader is one whose public moral influence is simply an extension of a deeply nurtured and mature innermost private life in Christ.

The rapid pace of modern society often forces us to react on the spot out of who we already are. To meet those demands we must rely on the much deeper resource of the Spirit. How we are guided becomes a reflection of our core values.

We need a fresh call to the holiness and integrity of the Christian way.

-- Gordon Aeschliman in Leadership in the 21st Century

 
#2851

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SURPRISED BY THE ABILITIES

When we let go of our usual categories and the productivity-oriented measuring systems so common in our culture, we can be surprised by the abilities that people with developmental disabilities often reveal - their keen sensitivity to interpersonal situations, the depth of their empathy, their willingness to overlook and to forgive, their faithfulness, their acceptance of difference, their originality, their capacity to be present and to cut through pretense, their resilience, the creativity of what they produce, and their gift for celebration.
-- From More Than Inclusion, L'Arche Canada, 2005

 
#2850

Monday, October 3, 2011

MAGNIFY THE LORD

Max DePree said that the first task of a leader is to define reality. God, being the ultimate Leader, takes that task quite seriously. And worship fundamentally is about the definition of reality.

Now, in worship I use every tool at my disposal -- memory, imagination, music, Scripture, images, pictures, and dance -- to magnify God in my life. In worship, I remember that reality is more than what I can see and touch. In worship I acknowledge that I look at a shrunken God on a regular basis, looking at Him through the wrong end of the telescope.

So in worship, at its heart, we magnify God. One of the Greek words for worship begins with the prefix mega, meaning large, which gets attached in our day to everything from malls to churches. In worship I remember again that we worship the great God, the Mega God, the Lord of lords. In one of the classic songs of worship in the New Testament, Mary cries out, "My soul magnifies the Lord." Worship enlarges my capacity to experience and understand God.

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

 
#2849

Friday, September 30, 2011

THE ETERNAL ARTIST

In the created world around us we see the Eternal Artist, Eternal Love at work.

– Evelyn Underwood (1875-1941), as quoted in The Green Bible


 
#2848

Thursday, September 29, 2011

THE WARMED HEART

God moved dramatically in [John] Wesley's heart because Wesley had put himself in the position for his heart to be warmed. That morning he read his Bible; he prayed for an hour or more. He attended a worship service at St. Paul's cathedral, he went to a small Christian fellowship group on Aldersgate Street -- and he did these things on that day after many years of daily Bible study, prayer, fasting, visiting the prisons, and traipsing off on a mission junket to another continent. Americans tend to wait until the heart is warmed... and then I will serve, then I will pray, then I will go out in mission. But this is as if I wish to converse comfortably in a language I have never studied, as if I want to propose to a woman I've never met, as if I'd like to make a hole in one without ever swinging a club on the driving range.

-- Dr. James Howell, Senior Minister of Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, NC

 
#2847

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NIGHT OF FIRE

When French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal died, a piece of paper was found sewn in his cloak. He had written it nine years earlier, on Monday, November 23, 1654. Before then he had been wildly successful and deeply unhappy. On that Monday night, he met God.

People knew that Pascal had changed. One day he had been drowning in confusion; the next he was free of it. One day he had been unhappy with his life, disgusted with his world and himself, and then there was a change in his world. My own favorite indicator was that he began to make his own bed. He began to rely less and less on his servants. He became one of the servants.

But Pascal never told anyone about his "night of fire," never breathed a word. No one would have known, except after Pascal died, his nephew and a servant were sorting through Pascal's clothing when the servant found what he thought was extra padding. It turned out to be a piece of crumpled parchment with a faded piece of paper. Pascal had sewn it into his clothes so he could wear it next to his heart. These were the words he had penned:
      Fire.
      GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob.
      But the God of the philosophers and of the learned.
      Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
      GOD of Jesus Christ . . .
      Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
      Grandeur of the human soul.
      Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy …

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt

 
#2846

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A COMMON LOVE

From a Christian perspective, human relations reach toward full realization when there is a common love, when there is shared faith in God and joint commitment to God. To love God together with others is to be drawn into the deepest sharing of life with one another. It is to find the true base of community and it is to extend community. A new dimension of relationship is established by common life as each person is drawn out of his or her subjectivity into a new way of being as "we" is created. Love is the bearer of this new way of being, and this new way of being is the inclusive expression of Christian love.

-- Thomas A. Langford in Christian Wholeness

 
#2845

Monday, September 26, 2011

FOUND IN THE ORDINARY

The beautiful, the special, the extraordinary are found in the ordinary if they are to be found at all, and everywhere, over everything done for Jesus' sake, no matter how small, there hovers a sense of holiness.
-- David Roper in Growing Slowly Wise

 
#2844

Friday, September 23, 2011

STRUCK BY GRACE

"Do we know what it means to be struck by grace?" Tillich asks. This was a provocative notion to me, an odd metaphor, to describe God's grace as something that strikes, that jars us into a new way of thinking, that collides with our old way of being. He continues, "We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace." This first movement toward the new creation, the transformed life, and becoming the person God wants us to be begins when we face the startling reality of God's unconditional love for us. Receiving the love and forgiveness of God, beginning to comprehend its meaning, and opening ourselves to the new life it brings can be as disrupting as an earthquake, as abrupt as lightening striking across the black night sky. It means we've been struck by grace.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living

 
#2843

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SAYING YES TO GOD

General William Nelson was a Union general in the Civil War. Though he faced death every day, he never prepared for his own. Who knows what he was thinking as he rode into battle after battle? Maybe he was too busy staying alive to prepare for death.

All that changed, however, one day as he was relaxing in a house with his men. A brawl broke out, and he was shot in the chest. Knowing he was dying, he had only own request: "Send for a clergyman."

What had happened? Why the urgency? Did the general suddenly learn something about God that he had never known? No. But he did learn something about himself. He realized death was near. Suddenly only one thing mattered.

Why hadn't it mattered before? Couldn't he have said yes to God the week before or that very morning? Absolutely. Why didn't he? Why was the salvation of his soul so urgent after the shot and so optional before it? Why had he postponed his decision to accept Christ until his deathbed?

Because he thought he had time.

A dangerous assumption. "Teach us how short our lives really are," prayed Moses, "so that we may be wise" (Psalm 90:12).

-- Max Lucado in A Gentle Thunder

 
#2842

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

AN INVITATION TO CHRIST

Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins,
      kindling my heart with the flame of Thy love.
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For Thou alone art my King and my Lord.
Amen.

-- Dimitri of Rostov, Russia, 17th century, from The Orthodox Way, by Kallistos Ware

 
#2841

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

THE ONLY REASONABLE RESPONSE

We worship the Lord not only because of who He is but also because of what He has done. Above all, the God of the Bible is the God who acts. His goodness, faithfulness, justice, mercy all can be seen in His dealings with His people. His gracious actions are not only etched into ancient history, but are engraved into our personal histories. As the apostle Paul said, the only reasonable response is worship (Romans 12:1). We praise God for who He is, and thank Him for what He has done.

-- M. Scott Peck in Celebration of Discipline

 
#2840

Monday, September 19, 2011

KNOWING GOD

Live in such a way that those who know you, but don't know God, will come to know God because they know you.

-- Unknown

 
#2839

Friday, September 16, 2011

THE FRESH BREAD OF HEAVEN

There is more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don't press in for God's best. Yes, God is moving among us and working in our lives, but we have been content to comb the carpet for crumbs as opposed to having the abundant loaves of hot bread God has prepared for us in the ovens of heaven! He has prepared a great table of His presence in this day, and He is calling to the Church, "Come and dine."

-- Tommy Tenney in The Heart of A God Chaser


#2838

Thursday, September 15, 2011

AWE AND WONDER

The psalmists approached their friendship with God with... awe and wonder, and often turned their words into insistent witness. The sense of wonder is always there for the psalmist. He may complain about his life and even about the way he thinks God is treating him, yet the sense of wonder is never lost. I know of no literature that so recklessly brings together the immanence of God and the transcendence of God. The psalmist feels God is so approachable that he dares to raise questions about God's very character; then, suddenly, God is so eternal that the poet struggles for words to express his awe.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in Longing to Pray: How the Psalms Teach Us to Talk with God


#2837

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ACCEPTING GOD'S FORGIVENESS

Our first task is not to forgive, but to learn to be the forgiven. Too often to be ready to forgive is a way of exerting control over another. We fear accepting forgiveness from another because such a gift makes us powerless, and we fear the loss of control involved…. Only by learning to accept God's forgiveness as we see it in the life and death of Jesus can we acquire the power that comes from learning to give up control.
-- Stanley Hauerwas in The Peaceable Kingdom

 
#2836

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ETERNAL VALUES

The prominent thrust of the Christian faith is to lead us to build our lives around eternal values, and to teach us not to attach ourselves to things that are perishable.

-- The Rev. Thomas L. Butts

 
#2835

Monday, September 12, 2011

IN THE MIDST OF A STORM

As John Wesley [the founder of Methodism] was making his way to Georgia from England aboard the merchant ship "Simmonds" in 1735, he watched in total amazement as a community of Moravian passengers continued to worship God and sing in the midst of an Atlantic storm as if nothing were happening. Wesley marveled at this kind of faith. Then he asked God to help him develop a faith for when the big storms blow. If more people were to see that kind of faith today, there would surely be a population explosion of wave-riding believers.

-- Leonard Sweet in A Cup of Coffee at the SoulCafe


 
#2834

Friday, September 9, 2011

COMFORT IN AN "EMOTIONAL EARTHQUAKE"

Our beloved country, and the world, has entered a new era, no longer secure from the deadly attacks of terrorists who seek to destroy us. But some shafts of light have broken forth out of the darkness. Leaders of government joined in a prayer vigil and sang "God Bless America" on the Capitol steps. We have witnessed our nation on its knees, in prayer to God Almighty.

Tragedies can hit us like emotional earthquakes. What can we do when shattering experiences come upon us? "Come and see the works of the Lord" (Ps. 46:8), counsels the Psalmist. When we contemplate the might and grace of God, we will have confidence that He will sustain us amid life's most devastating circumstances.

The Psalmist reminds us of:

- God's protection: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1).

- God's presence: "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells" (Ps. 46:4).

- God's power: "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire" (Ps. 46:9).

"Therefore we will not fear." In contrast to the devastation about him, the Psalmist sees God's grace bringing sustenance to the believer. We can experience this renewal by entering the stillness to which He directs us: "Be still, and know that I am God."

-- Colonel Henry Gariepy, The Salvation Army


 
#2833

Thursday, September 8, 2011

TRUST IN GOD

NOTE: As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 it might be helpful to reflect on words of hope that were shared at that time and reflect on where we are today. Here's what Billy Graham had to say in 2001.




No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning [September 11, 2001]… Today, we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated… The Bible's words are our hope: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Ps. 46:1,2)…

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly, it is a lesson about our need for each other… A tragedy like this could have torn this country apart, but instead it has united us and we have become a family…

Yes, there is hope. There is hope for the present because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation.

One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His Word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and we're to turn to Him and He will bless us in a new way… And from the Cross, God declares, "I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pains that you feel. But I love you."…

But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation - or, whether to choose to become stronger through all of this struggle - to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe we're in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God…

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us, and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him.

-- Reverend Billy Graham, 2001 BGEA


#2832

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WHERE WAS GOD ON 9/11?

In Washington and Chicago, as I talked about the special [9/11] edition of [my book] "Where Is God When It Hurts?", inevitably the interviewer would turn the question back on me. "Well, where is God at a time like this?"....

I thought for a moment and said, "I guess the answer to that question is another question. Where is the church when it hurts? If the church is doing its job -- binding wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry -- I don't think people will wonder so much where God is when it hurts. They'll know where God is: in the presence of His people on earth."

-- Philip Yancey, "Where Was God on 9/11?", in Christianity Today

 
#2831

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DOING OUR JOB

We have created a culture of violence, one that numbs the minds of children who are often not supported by parents. We've created a culture where drugs, alcohol, and teen sex are endorsed everywhere we turn. We indulge our children with violent toys and video games; we let them see movies or television programs that are saturated with violence. A moment of silence at the beginning of the [school] day would not change these realities. What would change them is a personal and genuine Christian faith. It is through our faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us that we find the strength, convictions, and power to live as Christ's people.

But it is not the job of the school to bring our children to Christ; it is the responsibility of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and the church. If kids meet Christ today it will be because of churches that are willing to be lighthouses and because, during the hour a week we have these kids in Sunday school, church members take seriously the call to teach and mentor children and lead children to discipleship or because others are willing to be youth group sponsors and youth Bible study leaders. Lives are changed because of what our Sunday school teachers and youth leaders do. Children's lives are affected by every adult they interact with at church. And more children from our community need to be invited to church. If our children will learn the Lord's Prayer, if they will come to know Noah and Abraham, Esther and Ruth, Joseph and Mary, and most important, Jesus Christ, they will do so because we are doing our job in caring for children and loving them into the kingdom of God!

-- Adam Hamilton in Confronting the Controversies

 
#2830

Friday, August 26, 2011

GOOD CHARACTER


A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

-- Charles Spurgeon

 
#2829

Thursday, August 25, 2011

COMPLETE SURRENDER


Unless you have made a complete surrender and are doing His will it will avail you nothing if you've reformed a thousand times and have your name on fifty church records.

-- Billy Sunday

 
#2828

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GET READY TO RECEIVE A BLESSING


Any psychologist will confirm that we only see a part of our true self. We have areas we try and hide from others (called "secret") and we have areas we can't seem to see that others see quite well (called "blind" areas). Other people may indeed see some aspect of our life that we completely miss -- or at least that we don't want to see. If we open our heart to their counsel we have made the first step to a period of growth in our Christian walk. However, growth of this sort usually comes with a little emotional pain…

Seek a close relationship with your fellow travelers on this earth and be blessed. Open your heart to truly hear from each other and remember that you are not alone. Your problems, temptations and difficulties are not unique to only you and your life. Look around and become willing to accept some input from other Christians and get ready to receive a blessing!

-- Pastor Gary Stone

 
#2827

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS


No doubt we will always feel a tug between two worlds, for human beings comprise an odd combination of the two. We find ourselves stuck in the middle: angels wallowing in mud, mammals attempting to fly. Plato pictured two horses pulling in opposite directions, with our immortal parts pursuing the divine Good while beastliness strains against it. We have "eternity in our hearts," said the Teacher of Ecclesiastes, and yet bend under the "burden of the gods." We stumble from cradle to grave, tipping sometimes toward eternity and sometimes toward base earth, the humus from which we got our name.

C. S. Lewis once made the observation that the tug of two worlds in humans could be inferred from two phenomena: coarse jokes and our attitude toward death…

… These two "unnatural" reactions hint at another world. In a way unique to our species, we are not fully at home here. As a symptom of that fact, we feel stirrings toward something higher and more lasting. Although our cells may carry traces of stardust, we also bear the image of the God who made those stars.

-- Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World

 
#2826

Monday, August 22, 2011

ENTER IN BOLDLY

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus." (Hebrews 10:19 NLT)

Understand how the Father's heart longs that His children draw near to Him boldly. He gave the blood of His Son to secure it. Let us honor God, and honor the blood, by entering the Holiest with great boldness.

-- Andrew Murray

 
#2825

Friday, August 19, 2011

FEELING USED UP?


I sometimes feel "used up." I suppose that is a little blunt but it describes exactly what happens when I begin to believe that I have given all I can possibly give and simply feel depleted! Well, thankfully I don't always feel that way but at times I do forget to return to the everlasting well and replenish myself in the Spirit. As we extend ourselves to a hurt and lost world we must remember the source of strength comes from the Lord - not from ourselves. If we feel like we have nothing more to offer we must have forgotten that we are a conduit - not the source - of God's blessings.

-- Pastor Gary Stone

 
#2824

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A SIGN OF THE TIMES


The world thinks that Christians should be committed.

So does God.

-- Displayed on a rural Wisconsin church sign

 
#2823

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

THE CHRISTIAN'S WITNESS


The best argument for Christianity is Christians; their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians -- when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.

-- Sheldon Van Auken in A Severe Mercy

 
#2822

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LIVING IN FAITH

There remains for us only the very narrow way, often extremely difficult to find, of living every day as though it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in After Ten Years


#2821

Monday, August 15, 2011

THEIR FACES ALL AGLOW


What exactly has Christ done for you? What is there in your life that needs Christ to explain it, and that, apart from Him, simply could not have been there at all? If there is nothing, then your religion is a sheer futility. But then that is your fault, not Jesus Christ's. For, when we open the New Testament, it is to come upon whole companies of excited people, their faces all aglow, their hearts dazed and bewildered by the immensity of their own good fortune. Apparently they find it difficult to think of anything but this amazing happening that has befallen them; quite certainly they cannot keep from laying… hands on every chance passer-by, and pouring out yet once again the whole astounding story. And always, as we listen, they keep throwing up their hands as if in sheer despair, telling us it is hopeless, that it breaks through language, that it won't describe, that until a man has known Christ for himself he can have no idea of the enormous difference [Christ] makes. It is as when a woman gives a man her heart; or when a little one is born to very you; or when, after long lean years of pain and grayness, health comes back. You cannot really describe that; you cannot put it into words, not adequately. Only, the whole world is different, and life gloriously new. Well, it is like that….

-- A. J. Gossip in From the Edge of the Crowd

 
#2820

Friday, August 12, 2011

FAITHFULLY EXPOUNDING SCRIPTURE


One of the most fascinating of all the preacher’s tasks is to explore both the emptiness of fallen man and the fullness of Jesus Christ, in order then to demonstrate how He can fill our emptiness, lighten our darkness, enrich our poverty, and bring our human aspirations to fulfillment. For to encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because He assures us of God’s love for us. He sets us free from guilt because He died for us, from the prison of our own self-centeredness by the power of His resurrection, and from paralyzing fear because He reigns... He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship... The main objective in preaching is to expound Scripture so faithfully and relevantly that Jesus Christ is perceived in all His adequacy to meet human need.

-- John Stott in Between Two Worlds

NOTE: John R. W. Stott, Anglican pastor, theologian and evangelist, died July 21, 2011 at the age of 90. In 2005 Time magazine ranked him as one of the 100 most influential people. To learn more, click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stott.


#2819





Thursday, August 11, 2011

LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

The Christian life is essentially life in the Spirit, that is to say, a life which is animated, sustained, directed and enriched by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit true Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, indeed impossible.

-- John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)


#2818

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A GREAT CONFIDENCE


When someone comes to believe in God, to believe that He really is interested and active in human affairs, the issue of learned helplessness changes radically.

Martin Seligman describes the phenomenon this way: "Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter." …

Alburt Bandura is a Stanford psychologist who has led research on what is commonly called "self-efficacy" -- the belief that I have mastery over events in my life and can handle whatever comes my way. People with a strong sense of self-efficacy are much more likely to be resilient in the face of failure, to cope instead of fear. Self-efficacy is strong confidence in one's abilities.

But for one who believes in God, the hinge point is not simply what I'm capable of. The real question is what might God want to do through me. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Now, this is not a blank check. In writing these words, the apostle Paul did not intend for us to understand that being a Christian means I can hit more home runs that Mark McGwire and hit higher notes than Pavarotti. It means I have great confidence that I can face whatever life throws at me, that I never need to give up, that my efforts have potency – because of the One at work within me.

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


#2817

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

EACH MOMENT

Man must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of his life is a miracle and a mystery.

-- H. G. Wells


#2816



Monday, August 8, 2011

TO LOVE IS TO BE VULNERABLE

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
-- C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves


 
#2815

Friday, August 5, 2011

GOD'S REALISTIC LOVE

There is tremendous relief in knowing that God's love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me… God wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.

-- J. I. Packer in Knowing God

 
#2814

Thursday, August 4, 2011

PERFECT TIMING

The source of strength I get from my relationship with Christ is knowing that through my trials I should have patience; the Lord is perfect with His timing.

-- John Vanbiesbrouck, retired NHL goal tender



#2813

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

THE HIGH SEAS OF COMMITMENT

On a sunny August morning, three different couples prepare for a weekend of "sailing." One couple gets out of their car, the one with the license plate holder that reads, "I'd Rather Be Sailing," and begin to haul their provisions to the boat. It takes them several trips to carry their picnic basket and the rest of their gear to their craft. Once aboard, they change their clothes, turn on the music, and then spend the better part of the day lounging around on the boat (which is still tied to the dock), reading and napping and talking. They sleep in the cabin Saturday night, and on Sunday morning go through roughly the same routine of the previous day, cleaning up the sailboat, reading and napping. Then about four o'clock, they pack everything up and drive back home.

The second couple gets to their boat early on Saturday morning. They travel to the same marina, they have the same license plate frame, they bring the same gear, turn on the same music, socialize a bit, but then they do something somewhat odd: They start up the motor. They untie the ropes. They back out of their slip and cruise around the harbor.

The couple may spend an hour looking at the other boats in the harbor and then drop anchor to cook a dinner meal. That evening, they may even venture out by the breakwater, to gaze out on the open seas, but then come back in, sleep on the sailboat, and repeat the whole process on Sunday.

The third couple gets to their boat early on Saturday, brings their gear aboard, backs out of the slip, and head straight for the breakwater. As they're heading out, they hoist the sails, and when the wind fills them, they shut off the motor and enter the open sea. They hear the sails straining and the water rushing along the hull. They feel the swells rising up underneath them, and they keep going until the sight of land is lost. They spend the entire night out on the seas, cooking in spite of the motion of the boat underneath them. They use a flashlight at night to look at the charts and to keep their bearings. And then they come back into the harbor late Sunday night.

On Monday morning, each couple will be asked, "What did you do this weekend?" and each couple will give the same answer, "We went sailing." But did they really do the same thing?

It's like that with our commitments, isn't it? Take, for instance, the commitment between a man and a woman. Some couples will promise to be committed to each other for a night of romance, but they make no pretence that they will leave the dock of autonomy or independence. In fact, they're not even going to untie the boat.

Another couple might make a deeper commitment. Maybe they'll agree to stay faithful to each other "as long as their love shall last." Perhaps they'll even move in together and share the bills. In this, they're willing to motor around the harbor of relationship for a little while, but they never go so far as to lose sight of the land or to seriously venture into the high seas of commitment.

Yet the third couple might enter into a permanent commitment called marriage. They leave the dock of autonomy far behind and even pass through the harbor of casual relationship, reaching the high seas of commitment. No matter how rough the weather, they rule out the option of returning to the dock. They came prepared to sail, and sail they will.

The same analogy is true of faith. Some people "play" at being a Christian. They show up at church a couple of times a month, drop a five-dollar bill into the offering, and do their best to look religious, but they never untie their boat. They always manage to maintain a connection with the safety of the shoreline. Others attend church every week, boost their offerings, and occasionally even show up to volunteer for something. They're willing to motor around the harbor and "experiment" with dependence on God, but since they stop short of the open water, they never really know what it would be like to trust God deeply and fully.

The really committed leave the safety of the harbor, accept the risk of the open seas of faith, and set their compasses for the place of total devotion to God and whatever life adventures He plans for them. These are the people who eventually experience the commitment-making-and-keeping nature of God. These are the ones who will someday sing, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at the top of their lungs.

-- Bill Hybels in The God You're Looking For

 
#2812

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WHAT IS DYING?

What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone," there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "there she comes" – and that is dying.

-- attributed to Henry Van Dyke under the title "A Parable to Immortality" and also to Bishop Brent from All in the End is Harvest: An anthology for those who grieve, edited by Agnes Whitake

(see http://www.gavroche.org/vhugo/toilersdeath.shtml for exploration of the authorship)


 
#2811

Monday, August 1, 2011

ACQUIRING PERSEVERANCE

We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing God's will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.

-- Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

 
#2810

Monday, July 25, 2011

"DO IT AGAIN"

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

-- G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

 
#1809

Friday, July 22, 2011

COSTLY GRACE

Grace is a most unnatural act, Philip Yancey says. We are reluctant to give grace because it is so costly. (It costs the recipient nothing but it costs the giver a great deal!) However, as costly as grace is, ungrace costs more. We imprison ourselves in a jail of icy bitterness, cutting ourselves off from those who are dearest to us and we pass on a habit of ungrace to our children and grandchildren.
-- Dee Brestin in A Woman's Journey Through Luke

 
#2808

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BECOMING THE PERSON GOD DESIRES

The Christian life is a gift of God, an expression of God's grace in Christ, the result of an undeserved and unmerited offering of love toward us. Every step of the journey toward Christ is preceded by, made possible by, and sustained by the perfecting grace of God.
However, becoming the person that God desires us to become is also the fruit of a persistent and deeply personal quest, an active desire to love God, to allow God's love to lead us. The fruitful life is cultivated by placing ourselves in the most advantageous places to see, receive, learn, and understand the love that has been offered in Christ.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living

 
#2807

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

GRIEF POINTS

Recognize many of the tumultuous feelings that come in the first weeks [of grief].

After eerie, non-feeling numbness comes a constant yearning, and there are sharp, aching pangs of grief.

There is the wish to honor and to idealize the person who has gone.

There is a sense of amputation, and a void that shows itself in every detail of life, especially the chair, the table-setting and the bed.

There are 'if onlys', the feeling that the world has gone upside-down, and a determination never to forget.

There can be a rage and bitterness you never expected, and a strong feeling of guilt, both of which sour the purer aspects of your grief.

There are tentative efforts to find meaning, and perhaps a longing to hide yourself away.

There is some cynicism, and there are isolated points of hope.

There is dreadful turmoil of mind, and quiet appreciation.

There is the feeling that you no longer want to live beyond tomorrow.

There is also the firm determination that the grief shall itself be a tribute.

-- from All in the End is Harvest: An anthology for those who grieve, edited by Agnes Whitake

 
#2806

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

OUR ONLY BUSINESS

Our only business is to love God, and delight ourselves in Him. All kinds of disciplines, no matter how rugged, are quite useless if not motivated by love for God.

-- Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God

 
#2805

Monday, July 18, 2011

WHOLE IN ONE

I'm gonna hit good shots, I'm gonna win tournaments. I'm gonna lose tournaments, I'm gonna hit bad shots. I'll get frustrated in life. But when you accept Christ, that's for eternity.

-- Steve Jones, PGA golfer


#2804

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

LET ME TELL YOU

One of the afflictions of pastoral work has been to listen, with a straight face, to all the reasons people give for not going to church.

-- Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience

 
#2803

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A SAFE HAVEN

It s in our nature to seek shelter from a storm, whether atmospheric or economic. We read many instances in the Old Testament in which famine drove people to turn back to God. And even today, in the midst of our current economic crisis, we read reports of increasing attendance at many congregations.

Times of trouble also cause people to shift their spending. Extravagant luxuries give way to more practical, generic items -- the simple basics. That shift in spending reminds us of Jesus' words, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Economic crisis can lead people to reassess their values, changing their focus to family, friends, and a more meaningful purpose in life. As people come back to the basics of the soul… stand ready to provide the aid and comfort… for all those seeking refuge along the Christian journey. "For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm, and a shade from the heat." (Isaiah 25:4)

-- from Cokesbury: Resources for the Christian Journey, 2009-2010 Catalogue


#2802

Monday, July 11, 2011

A LIVING OBJECT LESSON

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

Marriage provides a private, intimate look into sacrificial love, a glimpse into the mysteries of Christ's desire for us. A faithful, lifetime partner witnesses our despicable faults and sins, yet still values us by toughing it out over the years. Such human love is a taste of God's divine passion. Marriage provides a living object lesson of spiritual truth.

-- Janet Chester Bly in When Your Marriage Disappoints You

 
#2801

Friday, July 8, 2011

FACING NEW ADVENTURE

Whatever our traps, our inner prisons, our hopelessness, our gray, rigid lifestyles, our resigned, mediocre expectations, God longs to free us. God longs for us to rise with fully spread, powerful wings, no longer helpless, cringing children, but renewed and bold, close to God's heart.

The summer I was twenty-one, I was leaving home for my first job two thousand miles away, in a western state where we had no friends. I think back to my mother and how she must have felt as she helped me choose my suitcases and buy my ticket. I think, with awed gratitude, how she did NOT offer to drive me there and to help me get settled. I remember her expression when she learned there was no doctor or railroad or airport nearer than fifty miles from where I was to be located. I saw her expression, but I also saw how she refrained from protest. "Spread your beautiful wings, darling," were her releasing words as I boarded the train.

I have carried those empowering words of release in my heart ever since, especially when facing new adventure and feeling timidity and old habit holding me down. It is God's voice.

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in Prayer, Fear, and Our Powers, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN. Used with permission.

 
#2800

Thursday, July 7, 2011

WHAT IS TRUTH?

The Bible reflects the view that truth is a fitting relationship between a thought or statement and that which it is about; is not the same as belief or opinion; can be known; and is simple.

Take, for instance, your car's gas tank. A statement about your tank might be, "My gas tank contains gas." Truth would be a fitting relationship between that statement and the actual contents of your tank. This is not the same as a belief: "I believe my gas tank contains gas." Your belief will not affect the contents of your tank or the ability of your car to start. The truth about whether your tank is empty, however, would. If your belief corresponds to the actual contents of your tank, then your belief is true. Moreover, the truth about your tank can be known. Try to start the car. Dismantle the car and check. The truth or falsehood about your tank's contents is simple enough for a child to understand.

Some true beliefs are hard or currently impossible to verify. An example is, "Those who trust in Christ will be raised from death at the end of this age." However, the ability to verify it does not determine whether a statement is true. Things can be true but not currently provable.

You believe many things not because you have personally verified them, but based on authority. Perhaps you are not a particle physicist, but you believe that all matter is composed of invisible particles called electrons, protons, and so on. That's fine. Reliable authority is a good source of true beliefs. However, because authorities are fallible, it is possible to have authority without truth. However, the dishonesty of some authorities does not mean it is foolish to believe anything on authority.

-- Karen Lee-Thorp in A Compact Guide to the Bible

 
#2799

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

TODAY'S BEST

I don't have to make my own path. I just have to be submissive to God's plan for my life, and do the best I can every day. I'm confident that will be good enough. Even though it may not be good enough to produce the number of victories our fans want, or that I want, that's not the issue. So long as the scorecard I concern myself with is from above, then I don't have to worry. I'm trying to do the best I can today. All I've been promised is this day. That's biblical. We're not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own.

-- Brad Soderberg, college basketball coach, in Sports Spectrum

 
#2798

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A SPIRIT OF UNITY

During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.

When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ's commands. Then they came together. Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, "What did you do then?" "We were just one," he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.

When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

-- Our Daily Bread, October 4, 1992

 
#2797

Friday, July 1, 2011

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Christian freedom is… not a life of license to do whatever you want, but it also isn't a life of rules. Like so much in Christianity, freedom is a paradox: "For freedom Christ has set us free … do not submit again to a yoke of slavery, but through love become slaves of one another." (Galatians 5:1)

Christ sets us free – but to become servants in a different way. What must the Galatians have made of this? Indeed, what are we who live in the land of the free to make of it?

Martin Luther once wrote that there are two essential truths to being a Christian: "A Christian is a free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a dutiful servant of all, subject to all." This is the great paradox of the Christian life. We are no longer bound by the law, but we are bound by the love of Jesus, and that love binds us to one another.

-- Porter Taylor in From Anger to Zion: An Alphabet of Faith

 
#2796

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ALIVENESS IN GOD

"We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:2-4)

Once we've tasted being alive, we can't go back to being dead. Aliveness in God is addictive.

-- Nancy Groom

 
#2795

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE DWELLING PLACE OF THE SPIRIT

"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

What does it mean to honor God with our Bodies? It means we pay attention to where we take our bodies, who we let touch our bodies, how we take care of our bodies. It means we keep our bodies away from sin, we protect them from abusive people and situations, and we actively pursue physical health. Maintaining sexual purity is one specific means of honoring God with our bodies, as is avoiding nicotine, excessive alcohol and caffeine, or any other drugs or substances that could bring them harm… Our bodies are so alive with conflicting desires, so attuned to pleasures and pains, so tempted by immediate gratification. Responding in a God-honoring way to these natural drives and desires requires more discipline and determination than almost anything else. It also requires a conscious submission to God's purpose for our lives, which is to be a pure dwelling place for His own Spirit.

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

 
#2794

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

INWARD SPIRITUALITY, OUTWARD HOLINESS

Our inward spirituality must manifest itself in our outward holiness. Donald Shelby reminds us that "unless the ecstasy of God's indwelling presence becomes the agony of sacrifice and obedience -- working for God's kingdom by going the second mile, turning the other cheek, fulfilling our moral imperatives, and serving the least and the lost -- then our ecstasy is pure baloney, our piety is a rank form of idolatry, and our religious talk is mere rhetoric."

One of the primary reasons I'm a Methodist is because of the emphasis on social holiness. John Wesley, our father in the faith, passionately argued that there could be no holiness but social holiness… and that to turn Christianity into a solitary religion is to destroy it.

-- Maxie Dunnam in Living the Psalms

 
#2793

Monday, June 27, 2011

USING OUR UNIQUE GIFTS

God has made us uniquely for service to one another. When we abandon that uniqueness, we abandon God's will for our lives.

A healthy church is made up of individuals with a full range of emotions, intellect, free will, and the ability to function independently. God has created each person individually in His own image. He does not want to waste the uniqueness of any of us. He has given us many unique gifts that He wants us to develop in service to Him. The church is one body of many members. We must continue to come together as a group so that God can use our individual gifts for the benefit of all who worship Him. As healthy faith grows,… we delight in finding that we do not have to live in the image of another person – only in the image of God.

-- Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in More Jesus, Less Religion


 
#2792

Friday, June 24, 2011

A GOOD AND GRACIOUS GIFT

"The world had many kings, but only one Michelangelo," said his contemporary Aretino.

Do not be discouraged. History is on your side. God has given you a talent. You are important to Him and live in the court of God, not the court of men… By expressing yourself as an artist and by exercising those talents God has given you, you are praising Him… [Your creative talents are] a good and gracious gift from our Heavenly Father, freely given, to be enjoyed, practiced, and treasured.

-- Franky Schaeffer in Addicted to Mediocrity


#2791

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RENEWING YOUR MIND

J. B. Phillips’ famous translation of Romans 12:2 is “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but instead let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It’s easy to apply this to the big things in life: immorality, drunkenness, pornography. But Paul has in view the subtle as well as the obvious, as the next chapters prove. And perhaps the best way to expose our failings in this area is to examine the things we do without thinking. It’s those things that show us what our mind is really like…

So what of you? What of me? Has the world squeezed us into its mold? If so, then Paul’s help is clear. I need to take a view of God’s mercy, and offer my whole self to Christ. Whatever You want me to be, I will be. Wherever You want me to go, I will go. Whatever You want me to do, I will do. Here I am Lord, send me. I hold nothing back. Then, having given myself to Him, I must fill my mind with Him.

-- Mark Barnes

 
#2790

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SEIZING THE MOMENT

No other group or resource can claim the unique call and ministry of the church to offer "living water" to a thirsty world. The church can "seize the moment" and choose to diligently affirm and renew its mission to persons in a world in need of spiritual balance and restored hope. Or the church can remain quietly passive, watching as the world "parties" on in hope of finding meaning, direction, and fulfillment. I believe that God is calling the church to [act] with holy confidence and spiritual boldness. With its unique Good News, the church can be in the world, but not of the world, calming anxiety, eliminating the dread, instilling hope.

-- Roger C. Dowdy in Standing at the Door

 
#2789

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A THREE-FOLD IMPACT

The gift without the giver is bare:
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, --
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me.

-- James Russell Lowell

 
#2788

Monday, June 20, 2011

OUR RESPONSE TO GOD

"Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind that He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)

We generally associate worship with what happens in church, but in actual fact it is far more all-encompassing than that. Worship is our response to the loving work of God. In view of God's mercy, Paul urges, offer your bodies or lives as a living sacrifice to God. As we live out our lives, the way we live is an expression of our response to God. As Jesus offered up his life in serving us, so we in response offer up our lives in grateful response, to the undeserved way in which God has shown mercy to us in Jesus. The whole of our life is a response to God, the way we live is an act of worship.

-- Stephen Hale

 
#2787