Monday, December 24, 2012

GREAT GLAD TIDINGS

For Christ is born of Mary,
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together,
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the king,
and peace to all on earth!

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
o come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
 
-- Phillips Brooks


#3132

Friday, December 21, 2012

COMING INTO BEING

Webster's Dictionary defines the word advent as "a coming into being" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition). "A coming into being." That's what I'm in need of right now. I need to slow down, to live in the moment, to appreciate the small things -- the warmth and light of a candle flame, the tiny fingers of a newborn baby, the quiet stillness of the dawn, the enthusiastic smiles of children. I need to prepare my heart, to make my spirit ready for the birth of the Messiah.

We all need this time of Advent to slow down, to open our ears to God's quiet voice, to guide us through the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become. As we make our way through this busy season, let us allow God to shape our minds and hearts -- to become a part of God's "coming into being" in Jesus' birth. 

-- Beth A. Richardson in Child of the Light (Upper Room Books, 2005, used with permission)


#3131

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A RIDICULOUS BEGINNING

Albert Camus once said that, "All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

I suppose you could even say that the greatest deed, the greatest thought and the greatest work had a ridiculous beginning in of all places a manger. Who would have thought? 

-- Rev. Dave Wilkinson, SOUND BITES Ministry™


#3130

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT

“In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike.” (Kathleen Thomerson, from the hymn “I want to Walk as a Child of the Light”)

This phrase reminds me that God permeates everything -- the night that I fear and the morning that I welcome. God, and God’s grace, surrounds us throughout all of life -- the easy, loving parts and the hard, difficult, scary times. God lives in both the night and the day -- they are just alike to God. When we face times of darkness in our personal lives, in our families, in our community or world, God moves close to us, loving us and holding our hands even if we are not aware of it, even if we think God is absent…

When we are facing a dark night of the soul, when we are sick or grieving, when we have hurt others or have been hurt by them, we are not alone. The God of darkness and light stays beside us. And the God of darkness and light sends messengers -- messengers like you and me -- to remind us that we are not alone… We are called to be children of the light, doers, messengers to others of God’s love and grace, God’s comfort and forgiveness. 

-- Beth A. Richardson in Child of the Light


#3129

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BRINGING CHRIST INTO THE WORLD

Advent reminds me in a very visual, powerful way that we are called to be pregnant with God. We are all called to labor with bringing Christ into the world, not just at Advent but throughout the year.

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


#3128

Monday, December 17, 2012

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER FOR TODAY BY MAX LUCADO

Dear Jesus,

It's a good thing You were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But You were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see Your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took You and Your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before You were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, You entered the dark world of Your day. Won't You enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask You, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,
Your Children


#3127

Friday, December 14, 2012

THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.   Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him."  (John 3:16-17 NRSV)

The "world" that Jesus came to save is represented in the birth stories by two groups of people who could hardly be more varied: shepherds from the nearby hillsides and wealthy sages from a foreign land. Farmworkers and well-connected intellectuals, one group from the neighborhood and one who traveled from a far country. No one is a foreigner at the manger; no one is excluded because of economic class. God wants a full table at the heavenly banquet and is willing to look for dinner guests in unexpected places. Our place in Christ's reign means that we are willing to sit next to someone who appears at first to be alien to us but turns out to be a citizen, a member with us of God's own household. Embraced by this communion of love, we realize our call to the life of the Spirit and enjoy the fullness of life that comes with Christ's reign of justice and peace. 

-- Blair Gilmer Meeks in Expecting the Unexpected (Upper Room Books, 2006) Used with permission.


#3126

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DEEPENING COMPASSION

Stuff happens all the time that makes me want to scribble God a "Dear John" letter. But I haven't found a better option besides God. What I have found is that it is an act of faithfulness to bring the range of human experiences before God. The harder themes [of doubt, barrenness, pain and longing] are just as real and significantly shape our faith and our images of God and of ourselves in relation to God as the more pleasant ones we tend to focus on.

For the most part, we do not do a good job in Western society of sitting in places of discomfort. We do not know how to sit with our own pain or the pain of others. As a result, we can really miss out on deepening compassion and engagement with our communities that could lead to more healing, in all senses of the word. 

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


#3125

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE GIFT OF GRACE

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is your world. Beautiful and terrible things happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.

There is only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. 

-- Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith


#3124

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE INFANT'S MESSAGE OF PEACE

If we are to be truly peacemakers, I think we must move beyond the notion of peace as the absence of conflict… Peace has to do with the fullness of things, with lion and lamb lying down together, not a world without lions.  If we are to have hearts capable of the peace of Christ, which does indeed pass all understanding, we must have hearts capable of embracing the joy and the sorrow, the sacredness and the sin of the world…

The infant in the manger at Bethlehem comes with a message of peace, an announcement that all sad divisions, all the irreconcilable pieces of our public and private lives will be brought together in the celebration of "shalom" -- God's blessing, God's peace.  This will not, I think, occur when conflict has ceased.  For creative conflict is a necessary component of growth.  Rather, peace will reign when our forgiveness of self and others is wide and deep enough to create new possibilities and, without the use of violence, to transform our seeming impasses into new freedoms and joys. 

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992)


#3123

Monday, December 10, 2012

THE ANGELIC CHORUS SINGS

God's astounding and radical intervention in our human history cannot be contained in the tame and timid displays of Christmas lights, catchy slogans, or the exchange of gifts.

Advent confronts us once again with God's unparalleled effort to communicate the message that all humankind is embraced and held close by a God of love. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain, and evil will be no more. 

In Advent we begin again to try to make plain the wonderful truth of the most extraordinary good news the world has ever heard.  Soon we will join the angelic chorus in singing, "Christ the Savior is born." 

-- Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2003) 


#3122

Friday, December 7, 2012

DON'T MISS HIM!

They were looking for a lion, He came as a Lamb, and they missed Him. They were looking for a warrior, He came as a Peacemaker, and they missed Him. They were looking for a king, He came as a Servant, and they missed Him. They were looking for liberation from Rome, He submitted to the Roman stake, and they missed Him. They were looking for a fit to their mold, He was the mold maker, and they missed Him.

What are you looking for? Lion? Warrior? King? Liberator? What are you looking for? They were looking for their temporal needs to be met, He came to meet their eternal need, and they missed Him.

He came as a Lamb to be sacrificed for your sin. Will you miss Him? He came to make peace between God and man. Will you miss Him? He came to model servanthood for all mankind. Will you miss Him? He came that we might have true liberty. Will you miss Him? He came to give you eternal life. Will you miss Him?

When we submit to the Lamb, we will meet the Lion. Join with the Peacemaker, and we will meet the Warrior. Work with the Servant, and we will meet the King. Walk with the Submitted, and we will meet the Liberator. Concern ourselves with the eternal, and we will have the temporal.

If Jesus is not fitting into the mold you have, then come to the Mold Maker and get a new one. Submit to His plan for your life and you will see the eternal need met first; then all the other things you have need of will be taken care of as well. (See Matthew 6:33) 

-- Unknown


#3121

Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE ADVENT PACE

Advent reminds us that as Christians, we follow a different understanding of time than the rest of the world. One gift of deepening our Advent observance is in its drastically different pace to the holiday culture. Advent can teach us to honor the seasons of our lives in which life doesn't happen at the pace we desire. We can all relate to that at some point. 

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


#3120

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

THE NEW TESTAMENT STRUCTURE

Myer Pearlman, a Bible teacher with a particular knack for simplifying, used to summarize the New Testament structure this way--

            The Gospels:  Redemption manifested

            The Acts:  Redemption propagated

            The Epistles:  Redemption explained

            The Revelation:  Redemption completed
 
 
#3119

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ANTICIPATING THE JOURNEY HOMEWARD

The promises we anticipate during Advent are promises that the world as we know it will be overturned.  "Prepare the way!" we are exhorted. "Make straight His paths."  We are not only to await the Coming in joyful anticipation, we are to participate in it as well…

All of creation is embarked on that slow journey homeward to its final consummation.  And humankind, as "homo adorans," of all the creatures the one designed to worship and adore, is called to consciously chart and pilot that movement home. 

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992)


#3118

Monday, December 3, 2012

ADVENT: 'Twas the Month Before Christmas

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the store,
Each department was dripping with Yuletide decor.
The Muzak was blaring an out-of-tune carol,
And the fake snow was falling on "Ladies' Apparel."

I’d come down from Heaven to watch things this day
To check on reports which had caused Me dismay.
I'd come to this store for but one special reason,
To see for Myself what went on in this Season.

I hid in a corner and in a short while,
I saw the Store President march down the aisle.
He shouted an order to "Turn the store tree on!"
And also the "NOEL" in blinking pink neon.

Up high, grandly hanging from twin gold supports,
Four hundred pink angels flew over "Men's Shorts."
And towering over the Rear Mezzanine,
A 90-foot Day-Glo "Nativity Scene."

The clock on the wall said two minutes to Nine,
The floorwalkers proudly all stood in line.
I watched while the President smelled their carnations,
Then called out his final command - "Man Your Stations!"

When out on the street there arose such a roar,
It rang to the rafters and boomed through the store.
It sounded exactly like street-repair drilling,
Or maybe another big Mafia killing.

I looked to the doors, and there banging glass,
Was a clamoring, shrieking, hysterical mass.
And I felt from the tone of each scream and each curse,
That the "Spirit of Christmas" had changed for the worse.

The clock it struck Nine, and the door opened wide,
And that great human avalanche thundered inside.
More fearsome than Sherman attacking Atlanta
Came parents and kiddies with just one goal - "Santa!!"

In front stormed the mothers, all brandishing handbags,
As heavy and deadly as 20-pound sandbags.
With gusto they swung them, the better to smash ears,
Of innocent floorwalkers, buyers, and cashiers.

Egged on by their parents, the kids had one aim,
To get to the man brandishing candy canes.
They mobbed him and mauled him, the better to plead,
For the presents they sought in their hour of greed.

The President watched with a gleam in his eye,
As he thought of the toys that the parents would buy.
Of all Christmas come-ons, this crowd would attest,
That a visit to Santa was clearly the best.

It was all too much for my soul to condone,
And I let out a loud most-holy moan.
The crowd turned around, and I'll say for their sake,
That they knew in an instant they’d made a mistake.

"I've had it," I told them, "with fast-buck promoting,
With gimmicks and come-ons and businessmen gloating.
This garish display of commercialized greed,
Is so very un-CHRIST-mas, it makes My heart bleed!"

-- Author Unknown


#3117

Friday, November 30, 2012

HELPING ONESELF

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping oneself. 

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


#3116

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TRUSTING WHAT GOD CAN DO

One of the things that many great artists will tell you is that they often believe their art comes from some place other than themself. Painters will talk of how the painting somehow seems to paint itself. Sculptors talk of freeing the sculpture from within the rock where it's been imprisoned. Writers talk of being surprised at how a story turns out, at where the characters end up going. And many, many artists are certain that it is God's Spirit that guides their hands as they work. Great art, like great spirituality, involves trusting what God can do, not just what we can.

-- Eric Folkerth, Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved. (Used with Permission)


#3115

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

LOOKING FOOLISH

Faith is the willingness to look foolish. Noah looked foolish building a boat in the middle of the desert. The Israelite army looked foolish marching around Jericho blowing trumpets. A shepherd boy named David looked foolish charging a giant with a slingshot. The Magi looked foolish tracking a star to Timbuktu. Peter looked foolish getting out of a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus looked foolish wearing a crown of thorns. But the results speak for themselves. Noah was saved from the flood; the walls came tumbling down; David defeated Goliath; the Magi discovered the Messiah; Peter walked on water; and Jesus was crowned King of kings. 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


#3114

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ONLY FORGIVENESS FREES

As long as you are tangled in wrong and revenge, blow and counterblow, aggression and defense, you will be constantly drawn into fresh wrong... Only forgiveness frees us from the injustice of others.

-- Theologian Romano Guardini in The Lord


#3113

Monday, November 26, 2012

THE JOY OF SURRENDER

SURRENDER… This isn’t a word that instantly evokes joy, yet it’s the very thing that produces it. Of course, we’re not talking about just any sort of surrender, we are talking about abandoning self and taking our worldly ambitions, our need for fame, and even the things we are good at and laying them at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ alone is on the throne! He is already on the throne… whether we surrender or not. But when we surrender and He is exalted in our lives, then joy abounds. 

-- rightnow.org Conference Promotional
 
 
#3112

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

THE DISCIPLINE OF GRATITUDE

Gratitude goes beyond the "mine" and the "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift celebrated with joy. 

-- Henri J. Nouwen


#3111

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THANK THEM

Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us. In all likelihood, it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed, other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another’s life had been made better. 

– Stephen M. Wolf, quoted in Gratitude, compiled by Dan Zadra

This Thanksgiving take the opportunity to thank them.


#3110

Monday, November 19, 2012

FEASTING ON TURNIPS AND MUD

"[One] winter I sat in Army fatigues somewhere near Anniston, Alabama, eating my supper out of a mess kit. The infantry training battalion that I had been assigned to was on bivouac. There was a cold drizzle, and everything was mud. The sun had gone down.

I was still hungry when I finished and noticed that a man nearby had something left over that he was not going to eat. It was a turnip, and when I asked him if I could have it, he tossed it over to me. I missed the catch, the turnip fell to the ground, but I wanted it so badly that I picked it up and started eating it anyway, mud and all.

And then, as I ate it, time deepened and slowed down again. With a lurch of the heart that is real to me still, I saw suddenly, almost as if from beyond time altogether, that not only was the turnip good, but the mud was good too, even the drizzle and cold were good, even the Army that I had dreaded for months.

Sitting there in the Alabama winter with my mouth full of cold turnip and mud, I could see at least for a moment how if you ever took truly to heart the ultimate goodness and joy of things, even at their bleakest, the need to praise someone or something for it would be so great that you might even have to go out and speak of it to the birds of the air.

-- Frederick Buechner in The Sacred Journey


#3109

Friday, November 16, 2012

DOUBTING DISCIPLES

Biblical scholar Frederick Dale Bruner says, "The Christian faith is bi-polar. Disciples live their life between worship and doubt, trusting and questioning, hoping and worrying."

Then Jesus gives the disciples what is called the Great Commission, sends them out to be His agents in the world. Jesus looks at these worshiping doubters and says: "You go! You doubters, go. You risk your lives for Me. You change your world for Me. And you will find as you go that it is your own doubts that are healed. You doubters are included, too."

Disciples are not people who never doubt. They doubt and worship. They doubt and serve. They doubt and help each other with their doubts. They doubt and practice faithfulness. They doubt and wait for their doubt one day to be turned to knowing.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


#3108

Thursday, November 15, 2012

GOD’S RELEASE

When Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive others as many as seven times, Jesus answered, "not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:22). Obviously Jesus was not saying mark off each forgiveness up to seventy-seven and then stop forgiving. He was wiping out all calculated response both to ourselves and to others. He threw a legalism of checks and balances out the window. He invited us to a wider place, a freer air, where compassion and mercy are no longer a matter of arithmetic.

But until we let God release us, we cannot release ourselves or others. We remain in that condition of self-judgment, a judgment of others, that spiritual prison, anxiously counting up those pennies!

God longs to enter these prisons of ours, throw open the doors, bring us into… "grace" -- the realm of free gifting -- not to earn love but because we are already loved.  

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey  (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2001)


#3107

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PROGRESSING TOWARD THE FINISH LINE

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful."  (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT)

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. 

-- Alfred A. Montapert


#3106

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PREACH CHRIST

"[Jesus] was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen -- by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name." (Acts 10:41-43 NIV)

Of all I wish to say, this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs still to be told of its Saviour, and of the way to reach Him.  

--  Charles Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students


#3105

Monday, November 12, 2012

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… in the midst of… 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


#3104

Friday, November 9, 2012

THE GOSPEL ACCOUNTS

No nation, and few individuals, are really brought into [God's] camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus, simply as biography.  Indeed, materials for a full biography have been withheld from [us].  The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of win which they already had...  The "Gospels" came later and were written not to make Christians but to edify Christians already made.

-- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) in The Screwtape Letters


#3103

Monday, November 5, 2012

WESLEY'S REMINDER ABOUT VOTING

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side. 

-- John Wesley, October 6, 1774.


#3102

Friday, November 2, 2012

WOUNDING OTHERS BY OUR WORDS

One of the hallmarks of our tendency to sin is that we feel the need to criticize, we take pleasure in gossiping, and we feel qualified to make judgments, often with very little information.

We slander others for a host of reasons. Perhaps we’re jealous of another’s success. Maybe we’re just insecure. But we also find a tendency to speak ill of others when they disagree with our way of seeing the world. Rather than trying to fully understand why they believe what they believe,  and being open to the possibility that we are wrong, we feel threatened by their convictions. Because talking with those who disagree with us face-to-face about why we think they are wrong might be a bit too threatening, and would require that we listen to their views and arguments, we find it easier to criticize them where it is safe, among friends or like-minded people, on our blogs, or via e-mail.

We say things to our friends about these persons we would never say to them face-to-face. We judge their motives and their deeds. Most of us have committed this sin. We have all wounded others by our words. We have misrepresented them, spoken out of turn, and judged them without really taking the time to understand them. 

-- Adam Hamilton in Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White


#3101

Thursday, November 1, 2012

THE MARK OF THE SAINT

Great men and women have always an appeal; some are admirable and some not -- and few are imitable. It is the mark of a saint that he [or she] fulfills the highest ideal given to [humankind], and is at the same time a friend and an inspiration. They tell us what is possible for us, whether we have one talent or ten, whether we live in sorrow or joy, in days of menace or in a time of hope. They combine the almost impossible, weakness with strength, darkness with joy, self-denial with profound humanity and affection. Unlike so many other distinguished [people], in science, literature and statesmanship, they remain ever contemporary in that they reveal the everlasting source of happiness, the secret of how to turn the common into what is perfect and unique. Each... manages to find the true Cross, the emblem of life and hope.

-- Philip Caraman in Saints and Ourselves


#3100

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

STEWARDS OF GOD'S PROPERTY

Christians have infinite how-to manuals on marriage, money, sex, and everything else, but I don't see much of what I read in 1 Corinthians 7, which speaks of sitting lightly with what we have with a sense of detachment. Money, for example, is God's, not ours. We didn't bring our pink Cadillac into the world, and we can't take it with us to the new kingdom, even if we get buried with it. We are simply stewards of God's property, which should change the whole way we look at the concept of ownership and how it relates to the mission of the church or evangelism. 

-- Ben Witherington III in Christianity Today, October 15, 2012


#3099

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ALL THINGS BELONG TO GOD

John Wesley wrote extensively on the use of money, the danger of riches, and the importance of giving. For Wesley, all things belong to God. This changes how we perceive the manner by which we earn money and save money, causing us to do so in appropriate ways. And in changes how we spend money, making us more responsible, and shapes how we give money. Wesley valued industrious and productive work, but he believed that acquiring money does not provide a profound enough life purpose to sustain the human spirit. When he wrote, "Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can," he drew an unbreakable link between acquisition and generosity, inviting us to use our material wealth to deepen our relationship with God and to increase our positive impact for God's purposes. 

-- Robert Schnase in  Five Practices of Fruitful Living


#3098

Monday, October 29, 2012

BEYOND MERE EVIDENCE

Our beliefs are not just estimates of probabilities. They are also the instruments that guide our actions.

Let's say you manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's World Series time—you against the Oakland Athletics. It's the ninth inning, and you're one run behind with one man on base and two outs. The world's greatest relief pitcher is on the mound. You have two pinch hitters; both of them bat .250. One of them says, "I will probably make an out. There's a three out of four chance I will lose the battle. But at least I will not allow my emotions to cloud my thinking. I will acknowledge the probability of my failure calmly and clearly." The other guy says, "I believe I will get a hit. I have a deep conviction this is my day."

Who do you send to the plate? Would it be more rational to send up the logic chopper who thinks he will fail? Wouldn't it make more sense to call on Kirk Gibson with his five o'clock shadow and his gimpy knee and his swaggering conviction that he is destined for immortality? You would send the pinch hitter who has all the confidence he could muster. There are reasons for faith that go beyond mere evidence. (If you're not a baseball fan, note that Kirk Gibson was a badly injured power-hitting Los Angeles outfielder who in 1988 produced the greatest World Series moments of all time and forever convinced Dodger fans that God not only exists but is in fact a Dodger.)

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


#3097

Friday, October 26, 2012

WHAT WE PREACH

NOTE: October is Clergy Appreciation Month. God speaks about appreciating our clergy in Hebrews 13:7, “Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.” (The Message).  Your pastor, priest, or ordained deacon is a special person.  He or she is a leader, a spiritual guide and a partner in ministry. Celebrate their ministry by giving them the gift of SOUND BITES. Many pastoral leaders already receive SOUND BITES and appreciate the insights from the daily quotes.
 

FOR WHAT WE PREACH...
(proclaim, talk about, share, live out)

IS NOT OURSELVES,...
(not our egos, our particular denomination, our pet causes, our likes or dislikes)

BUT JESUS CHRIST...
(the only Son of God, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Prince of Peace)

AS LORD,
(Leader in our daily life, Provider of our eternal life, Master-Teacher)

WITH OURSELVES AS YOUR SERVANTS
(the purpose of our lives is to serve others
the way Christ served us and gave His life for us)

FOR JESUS' SAKE.
(for no other purpose or motive than to glorify God in Christ)

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson, based on 2 Corinthians 4:5


#3096

Thursday, October 25, 2012

GIVING AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP

In 21ST Century Christian Magazine a mother told this story: Our 3- year-old daughter was in the habit of giving half of her 2 quarter allowance to God each week. One Sunday we were out of town, so the next Sunday, we gave her an extra quarter to teach her about “making up” our giving when we miss. She said, “Oh, good, I’ll give one for God and one for Jesus.” We thought that was cute and didn’t think more about it until the following Sunday. When it was back to the regular allowance and she had only one quarter for the contribution, she started crying. We asked her what was wrong and she said, “Where’s the quarter for Jesus?” Needless to say, she got an immediate raise in her allowance! We are waiting to see what happens when she finds out about the Holy Spirit.

That family was faithfully teaching their daughter a great truth: that giving was an act of worship. 

-- Jeff Strite in a sermon entitled "Giving as an Act of Worship"


#3095

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

THE PATH

Bible teacher E. Stanley Jones told the story of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle.  There was nothing around him but thick bush and a few cleared spaces.  He came upon a local village and asked one of the men if he could lead him out of the jungle.  When the native agreed, the missionary said, "Well, show me the way."  The African man responded, "Walk."  So they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour.  The missionary began to get worried.  "Are you sure this is the right way?  Where is the path?"  The man said, "Friend, in this place there is no path.  I am the path."

It is a jungle out there -- from pop culture to pop psychology, the path of life is overgrown with too many opinions and too little time.  It's hard to see the forest for the trees.  We need clear direction.  Jesus said, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).  Jesus walked in His Father's footsteps, illuminating a path for others who desire to find their way. 

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


#3094

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WISE DECISION MAKING AT ELECTION TIME

You have been given responsibility for decision making. It is a large responsibility, and the issues are complex and seldom clearly one way or the other. Even when we have gathered all the facts and looked at and listened to all the evidence, the answer may still be unclear. We bring our best thoughts and all of our previous experiences to the decision making process, and still we find that prejudice, half truths, insufficient evidence, and lack of wisdom leave us uncertain about God's way in the matter.

At times like this we long for the assurance of God's presence with us. We yearn to ask Jesus, who always reflected God's will, what our decision should be, what really is God's will in this matter. We would seek to know how we can discern that our decisions are not our own, not where the popular opinion is, not what is easy or cheap, not even what will please the most persons or defeat someone we don't like. Rather, one might ask, “What is God's will? What does God desire around this concern I have? What decision would I make if I were to block out all other interests and seek to please only God?” 

-- Reuben P. Job in A Guide to Spiritual Discernment


#3093

Monday, October 22, 2012

GEOGRAPHY AND SPIRITUALITY

We know that anything we do repeatedly shapes who we are.  In the spiritual life we call such intentional repetitive practices disciplines.  But what about the things around us that we see repeatedly?  Does our environment shape us?  Does the geography that we live in shape our spiritual lives?  Did the rolling hills of southern Indiana that I grew up in shape my soul differently than that of someone who grew up in the open spaces of eastern Montana or even of southern Illinois?  And what about urban spaces -- tall buildings and bus fumes, parks with statues and pleasant streets, dark alleyways and dingy houses, subways and spaghetti-like highway exchanges?

And what about these "special places" where God's presence was especially near?  In your life is there such a place (or places) -- maybe a campground, a church sanctuary, a mountain view, a cityscape, a beach, or a simple clearing in the woods?  One such holy place for me is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota.  An incredibly beautiful area of lakes, trees, boulders, sky views, and portages, it always invites me to praise and prayer and to a different level of closeness to God than does my everyday life.  Its features have embedded themselves into my soul.  Is there any place that works this way for you? 

-- Susan W. N. Ruach in Leading from the Center, Winter 2003


#3092

Friday, October 19, 2012

MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND GROWTH

Genuine fellowship is based on the concept of giving to and receiving from other Christians. You can share with others whatever God has given you -- forgiveness, possessions, love, His Word, and many other things. God gives fellowship for the purpose of mutual encouragement and growth. He wants Christians to live in unity and harmony with one another. To help us understand how believers are related, God uses the analogy of the body. Jesus Christ is the Head of the body, which is comprised of all believers. All Christians throughout the world belong to Christ's body, but it is important for you to recognize how God wants you to relate to a smaller, specific group of believers. This smaller group is for the purpose of instruction, sharing, worship, and service. God has given spiritual leaders to help you mature in Christ and to become effective in the ministry. 

-- from Growing Strong in God's Family


#3091

Thursday, October 18, 2012

LISTEN TO HIS VOICE

"You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him." (Deuteronomy 13:4 NASB)

God is our true Friend, who always gives us the counsel and comfort we need.  Our danger lies in resisting Him; so it is essential that we acquire the habit of hearkening to His voice, or keeping silence within, and listening so as to lose nothing of what He says to us. 

-- Francois Fenelon


#3090

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NO LONGER LISTENING

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen.  They do not find it among [some] Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening.  But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too.  This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words... never really speaking to others. 

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together


#3089

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DELVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES

Before beginning to read the Scriptures it is beneficial to request God to enlarge one's spiritual perception of them as one reads. This He will do by His Spirit. It is the surest way to understand both what is being read and how to apply it to our lives... When one is extremely serious about delving into the Scriptures it is remarkable how they do indeed come alive. They become very gripping and fascinating. Their truth proves to be inexhaustible and provides enormous pleasure and satisfaction to the spirit.

-- W. Phillip Keller in SERENITY: Finding God Again For The First Time

#3088

Monday, October 15, 2012

THE ATTITUDE FACTOR

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:4-6 NIV)

Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. The factor is attitude.

-- William James

#3087

Friday, October 12, 2012

THE INSPIRED WORD

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right."  (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

Billy Graham long ago made his peace with the Bible. When he was a young man casting about in the brambles of academe, he had a crisis of confidence brought on by conflicting biblical interpretation. "'Oh God! There are many things in this book I do not understand ... There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas that do not seem to correlate with modern science,'" he recounts praying one evening in Just As I Am. But then, "At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. 'Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word -- by faith! I'm going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.'" 

-- David Rubien


#3086

Thursday, October 11, 2012

PATIENT TRUST

Waiting on the Lord requires patient trust.  Will I trust that God has good reasons for saying "wait"?  Will I remember that things look different to God because he views things from an eternal perspective? . . .

The story goes that an economist once read these words and got very excited. "Lord -- is it true that a thousand years for us is just like a minute to you?"

"Yes."

"Then a million dollars to us must just be a penny to you."

"Yes."

"Lord, would you give me one of those pennies?"

"All right.  Wait here a minute."

Too often we want God's resources, but we do not want his timing.  We want the penny, but not the minute.  We forget that His work in us while we wait is as important as what it is we think we are waiting for.  Waiting means that we give God the benefit of the doubt that He knows what He is doing.

It may be patient trust -- trust that is willing to wait again and again day after day.  

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


#3085

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

FACING YOUR GIANTS

"And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine [giant].'” (1 Samuel 17:37)

Giants. We must face them. Yet we need not face them alone. Focus first, and most, on God. The times David did, giants fell. The days he didn't, David did…

Focus on giants -- you stumble.

Focus on God -- your giants tumble.

Lift your eyes. Giant-slayer. The God who made a miracle out of David stands ready to make one out of you. 

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants


#3084