Monday, January 31, 2011

WHAT IS THE LORD ASKING?

This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.

-- Marilynne Robinson


#2702

Friday, January 28, 2011

FULL OF BITTERNESS OR SWEET WATER?

Amy Carmichael has a note in her little book If. "A cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted." If it is full of sweet water and is jolted, what will come out of the cup? Sweet water. If you gave it a harder jolt, what's going to happen? More sweet water. If someone is filled with sweet water and someone else gives him a jolt, what will come out? Sweet water. Jolts do not turn sweet water into bitter water. That is done by something else.

Jolts only bring out of the container what's already in the container. If you're filled with sweetness and light, and you get jolted, you're going to spill sweetness and light. If you're filled with honey, the honey will come out. If vinegar comes out, what does that prove? It shows what was already in the container. In other words, much bitterness is not based upon what the other person did at all. It is the result of what we do and are.

-- Jim Wilson


#2701

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SPEAKING THE TRUTH

People have a tendency to hear what they want to hear. This is part of the human condition. Adam and Eve first demonstrated it in their dealings with the serpent and it persists to this day. We sometimes ask people what they think about a certain thing because we know they will say what we want to hear. The Bible does not always speak of what we want to hear but it does always speak the truth.

-- Pastor Gary Stone

 
#2700

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HELP IN YOUR BIBLE

Have you noticed this? Whatever need or trouble you are in, there is always something to help you in your Bible, if only you go on reading till you come to the word God specially has for you. I have noticed this often. Sometimes the special word is in the portion you would naturally read, or in the Psalm for the day, ... but you must go on till you find it, for it is always somewhere. You will know it the moment you come to it, for it will rest your heart.

-- Amy Carmichael in Edges of His Ways

 
#2699

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THREE WEAKNESSES

Modern Christianity is crucially weak at three vital points. The first is its compromised, deficient understanding of revelation. Without Biblical historicity and veracity behind the Word of God, theology can only grow closer to Hinduism. Second, the modern Christian is drastically weak in an unmediated, personal, experiential knowledge of God. Often, what passes for religious experience is a communal emotion felt in church services, in meetings, in singing or contrived fellowship. Few Christians would know God on their own. Third, the modern church is often pathetically feeble in the expression of its focal principle of community. It has become an adult social club, preaching shop, or minister-dominated group. With these weaknesses, modern Christianity cannot hope to understand why people have turned to the East, let alone stand against the trend and offer an alternative.

-- Os Guinness in The Dust of Death


#2698

Monday, January 24, 2011

A POWERFUL FORCE WHEN UNIFIED

In a Peanuts cartoon created by Charles Schultz, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn't.

"What makes you think you can walk right in here and take ever?"

"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."

"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus.

Linus looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"

Weak things united become strong. Jesus took two weak and warring peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles, and brought them together to create a holy nation, the church, whose holy creed is love. Because of this unity based on love, Christianity became a powerful force in the ancient world and changed the course of history.

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


#2697

Friday, January 21, 2011

EVERY CHILD IS A TESTIMONY

When I held [my newborn daughter] Laura, I found myself incapable of believing that she was an accident. I found myself incapable of believing that the universe was a random chaotic machine that did not care whether I loved her or hated her. I don't mean that I had a group of arguments for her having a soul and I believed those arguments. I don't mean this conviction is always present in my mind with equal force. It's not.

I mean the conviction welled up inside me and I could not get away from it. I could not look at Laura and believe otherwise. I could not hold her without saying thank you to Someone for her. I could not think of her future without praying for Someone more powerful and wiser than me to watch over her. When she arrived, she brought along with her a world that was meant to be a home for persons. A God-breathed world.

Every child is a testimony to God's desire that the world go on.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


#2696

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THE DOUBTER'S PRAYER

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

I believe and I doubt. I hope and I fear. I pray and I waver. I ask and I worry. I believe; help my unbelief.

I get that prayer. That's the Doubter's Prayer… I believe; help my unbelief.

Now this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Jesus, and you wonder, "How is He going to respond?"

Jesus says, "I'm shocked and appalled you actually have doubts. Too bad for you…. I have no time for this kind of insulting request!" (Reversions 9:25; I just kind of made that one up).

Aren't you glad Jesus doesn't really say that? Aren't you glad He doesn't walk away? Instead, He speaks to the man's son. The boy is healed and will live. He will grow up. He will make friends. He will learn the Torah. He will work alongside his dad. He will get married someday, maybe. He will grow to be an old, old man, and he will remember the day when he was a boy and a young rabbi did what nobody else could do. He will remember the day he stood alone with Jesus on a mountain.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


#2695

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

STRIVING FOR THE TRUTH

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:4-6 NIV)

In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.

-- Thomas Carlyle


#2694

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THE FRIENDSHIP OF ANGELS

The angels are a part of God's ingenious provision for us. Because they are so passionately in love with God, the angels are perfectly conformed to His will. Whatever God tells them to do, they do. Whoever God loves, they can't help but love. Because God cares for us so deeply, we can claim the wonderful friendship of angels.

-- Ann Spangler in An Angel a Day


#2693

Monday, January 17, 2011

PROTESTING AGAINST EVIL

Martin Luther King, Jr., insisted that the person who passively accepts evil is as much a party to it as those who help to perpetrate it, and that accepting evil without protest is really cooperating with it. Very little of worth has been accomplished in our world except as someone has dared to recognize an enemy and enter battle against it. God works through the enlightened, disturbed conscience of individuals.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in If Experience Is such a Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course?


#2692

Friday, January 14, 2011

LEADERSHIP DISPOSITIONS AND QUALITIES

To lead a church to blessedness a leader must become grounded spiritually in God's purpose, presence, and power by forming deep dispositions of faith, hope, love, discernment, prayerfulness, humility, and servanthood. Spiritually shallow leaders cannot lead others to spiritual depth, though many try. Still, while it is essential that spiritual leaders form deep dispositions, that is not enough. Many deeply spiritual people, people of prayer and faith, are not very good leaders. They genuinely want to serve God, but they have weak leadership qualities.

Being adept at the deepest forms of prayer and reflection does not necessarily qualify a person to lead others onto God's agenda. Even the most deeply spiritual people can be overcontrolling or too permissive. Becoming a blessed leader requires developing key leadership qualities.

Leadership dispositions root us in God's purpose, presence, and power -- in a deeply loving relationship with God. Leadership qualities enable us to motivate and move others. Most good leaders have a variety of qualities that make them effective, but the best -- especially the best spiritual leaders -- appear to have seven specific qualities. Such a leader has become trusting, encouraging, compassionate, visionary, able to articulate that vision, sacrificially selfless, and committed to outreach.

Leaders who nurture and develop these qualities usually accomplish a great deal. They enable people to feel safe amid turmoil, crisis, transformation, and change. They give people the confidence to believe they can have an impact. They let people know that they are valued and supported, despite mistakes and failure. They help people to glimpse possibilities beyond what they had been able to grasp on their own. They give people a sense of purpose and meaning. They lead people to become selfless and sacrificing. Finally, they lead people to make reaching out to others the main goal of their lives.

-- N. Graham Standish in Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power, published by the Alban Institute


#2691

Thursday, January 13, 2011

THE POWER OF FELLOWSHIP

God uses people to form people. That is why what happens between you and another person is never merely a human-to-human interaction -- the Spirit longs to be powerfully at work in every encounter. Referring to this dynamic, some writers of Scripture speak of "the fellowship of the Spirit." Fellowship has become a church word that suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversation. But it is really a word for the flow of rivers of living water between one person and another, and we cannot live without it.

-- John Ortberg in The Me I Want to Be


#2690

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"I AM WITH YOU"

"I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:9b-10 NIV)

When the world seems completely out of control - as it has at various times throughout our history - it seems as though God has fallen asleep and lost control of His people. At least that is how it feels to me at times and I don't think I am that different from other Christians. When the events of the world seem to turn every day into a "watch the news carefully" day it is at that time we would all do well to remember the fact that God has never and will never leave those who seek Him. Seek God with all your heart and you never come back empty handed…

-- Pastor Gary Stone


#2689

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

THREE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

Saint John of the Cross said that those who know God and what He is doing have three distinguishing characteristics -- tranquility, gentleness, and strength. That suggests to me an immense depth, an invulnerable steadiness, an ability to respond with kindness and care for others out of a center of quiet rest.

Frenzy, fury, hysteria, intensity, impatience, instability, pessimism, and every other kind of fuss and ferocity are marks of an immature soul. Those who know that God "works in tranquility," as one old saint put it, are not like that. They share the calm and quiet nature of the One "who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will" (Ephesians 1:11).

-- David Roper in Seeing Through


#2688

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pilgrimage to "The Other Holy Land"




Two years ago at this time my wife and I were about ready to leave on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This fall we are planning a trip to "The Other Holy Land" of Greece and Turkey. Along with a retired pastor and her husband, we will be co-leading a pilgrimage on Paul's Journeys. We hope you will consider joining us for an inspiring 14 days of spiritual growth. Click The Journeys of Paul in Greece and Turkey 2011 to learn more.


Rev. Dave Wilkinson, Deacon

SOUND BITES Ministry

First United Methodist Church

Green Bay, Wisconsin

A CONVERSION OF LIFE

[For St. Paul] a Spiritual conversion which was not also a conversion of life was no conversion at all, but a delusion... With the heart man believes, with the mouth he confesses; but a mouth which does not confess disproves the existence of a heart that believes. The soul cannot be God's and the life not God's at the same time. The soul cannot be recreated and the life remain unchanged… Where there is no outward change, it is safe to deny an inward change. Faith without Baptism and all that Baptism involved was consequently no part of St. Paul's teaching.

-- Roland Allen in Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?


#2687

Friday, January 7, 2011

ALIVE TO CHRIST'S PRESENCE

How do we specifically help people in a church become alive to Christ's presence? We do it by engaging in the same ministry Christ did, but in a way that is appropriate to our situation and context. Essentially, we do it by forming communities that preach, teach, and heal in Christ's presence, as opposed to what many modern Christians do, which is to preach, teach, and heal according to their own abilities and insights. To preach, teach, and heal in Christ's presence means to embody Christ in what we do… When we become open to Christ's presence in our lives, we allow Christ's voice and power to be incarnated in us and our ministry, and we join Christ in His preaching, teaching, and healing ministry.

-- N. Graham Standish in Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power, published by the Alban Institute


#2686

Thursday, January 6, 2011

OPEN TO GOD'S TRUTH

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'" (Matthew 16:16)

What if Peter had not been receptive to the truth? What if no one had been willing to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God? For two years the trouble had not lain with the transmission of the Word of God, but with the reception of the instruments. For two years Jesus had not forced His identity on the apostles. He was not about to change His methods. They must respond. They must be open to God. They must find God in Jesus.

When they do -- when we do -- meaning is found to the drama of the New Testament. Unless they do -- unless we do -- that New Testament remains a mere collection of interesting stories and sayings. But when we acknowledge God in Christ, when we know God sent His only Son into the world, then we find the key which unlocks all mysteries, to God and Jesus, to life and eternity. Revelation is vital, but Jesus commends response to God's truth, and openness to that revelation.

"Simon, son of Jonah, you are a fortunate man, indeed, for it was not your own nature but My Heavenly Father who has revealed this truth to you." (Matthew 16:17)

-- H.S. Vigeveno in Jesus the Revolutionary


#2685

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

FERVOR AND FOCUS ON EVANGELISM

It occurred to me that in our work with secular organizations, the leader shapes the heart and passion of the corporate entity. In our work with non-profit organizations, we have found the same principle to be operative. When it comes to the focus of the organization, the people who serve there tend to take on many of the core personality traits of the leader toward fulfilling the mandate of the organization. If this is true, and most churches seem to lack the fervor and focus for evangelism, is it reasonable to conclude that it may be because of the lack of zeal most pastors have for identifying, befriending, loving and evangelizing non-Christian people?

-- George Barna


#2684

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

OPENING OUR HEART TO JESUS

To pray is nothing more involved that to let Jesus come into our hearts, to give Him access with all His power to our needs. From this it is clear that success in prayer does not depend upon the assurance of the one who prays, not upon his boldness, nor any such thing, but upon this one thing, that he opens his heart to Jesus.

-- O. Hallesby in Prayer


#2683

Monday, January 3, 2011

BOXING UP CHRISTMAS

The Magi come asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?" Tradition has it that there were three Magi, probably because the Bible account names three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) The names used for these Magi are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, and tradition also says that they are of three different ethnic groups, signifying that Christ comes not just for one nation but for all people. In fact, that is what we celebrate in January at Epiphany: Jesus Christ as the Light of the world. We celebrate Christ as Light to the whole world, not as the Light to one small group in the world.

Many Christians mark Epiphany in only cursory ways, as if everything about Christmas ends at midnight on December 25. We do seem in a hurry sometimes to put away Christmas... Most of us stop playing Christmas music, too, as if the songs are inappropriate at any other time of the year...

Commentators have said we seem in a hurry after Christmas to box up once again our patience, our tolerance, our generosity and put them back in the attic, as if we can sustain good behavior for a few weeks but wouldn't want to risk making it a way of life. We may also put away our willingness to give a bit more, to be more forgiving, even to be more patient in traffic as we often are during the holidays. Perhaps we even box up our desires to hope and our openness to miracles and mystery, as if the messages of the Christmas stories can't quite survive the rigors of real life in the rest of the year. The Magi call us to continue our observance of Christ's coming after December is over.

-- Mary Lou Redding in WHILE WE WAIT: Living the Questions of Advent (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2002) Used with permission.


#2682