Friday, March 23, 2012

AN ANNIVERSARY REFLECTION

"Now a woman, having an issue of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped." (Luke 8:43-44)

Last Sunday our Lead Pastor, Rev. David Kalas, began his sermon this way: "We don’t know her name, we only know her condition.  So that is how we identify her; that is how we refer to her.  She is 'the woman with the issue of blood.'  When we think of the notable people in Scripture – the great heroes of faith – we don’t think of her.  But we should.  We think of Daniel and David; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Abraham, Mary, Joshua, and more.  And rightly so.  But we do not think of her.  Perhaps because we do not know her by name; we only know her by malady.  She is 'the woman with the issue of blood.'  But here, in this small part of the Body of Christ, I’d like for us to change her identity.  We still don’t know her name, but we can call her something else.  Call her 'the woman of remarkable perseverance.'  Call her 'the woman with unsinkable hope.'  Call her 'the woman of uncommon faith.'  Call her 'the woman who touched Jesus,' for that is what makes her so important and so exemplary for us today."

It got me thinking about our son, Dustin, who died March 29, 1998, and in whose memory SOUND BITES is sent out each day. Dustin could have been known as "the boy who had seizures," or "the boy who could not talk or walk," or "the boy who died at the age of 16 from a brain tumor." But I would like us to change his identify, as Pastor David suggested. Call him "the boy with the big smile." Call him "the boy who fought valiantly," which is what his name means. Call him "the boy who was loved by many." Call him "the boy who inspired this SOUND BITES Ministry."

This coming week marks the 13th anniversary of SOUND BITES. I will be out of the office all week, but would love to hear how God has used SOUND BITES to minister to you, or how you have used it to minister to others.

Simply post your comment here, or e-mail SOUND BITES Ministry™.


-- Rev. Dave Wilkinson, SOUND BITES Ministry, First United Methodist Church, Green Bay, WI


#2957

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SEALED WITH A KISS

Have people ever told you they loved you, but their actions betrayed their words?  When I was in seventh grade, I thought a boy loved me.  The notes he passed to me in math class said so.  In reply, my notes were always "sealed with a kiss."  But one day my boyfriend saw me being silly with my friends, got embarrassed, and dumped me!  When I grew up I met Skip Heitzig.  He also told me he loved me, but he showed me how much by sealing his love with a ring.  That ring became my guarantee that Skip would do what he said.  It represented the promise that one day Skip would take me as his bride.

Jesus loved you so much that when He made you His own, He put His "seal of approval" on your life.  That seal is the Holy Spirit, who is your guarantee that God will do what He has promised you.  He is completely trustworthy.  Paul said that when you believed, "you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."  The Holy Spirit's indwelling in your life is your engagement ring.  God intends to marry you, His bride, at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  God's love letter, the Bible, is better than any romance novel, and He made certain it was "sealed with a kiss."

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


#2956

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

AT HOME IN THE BIBLE

Jesus said, "If you make My Word your home you will indeed be My disciples." (John 8:31,  New Jerusalem Bible)

Developing a meaningful understanding of the Scriptures is no simple matter. The truth is that while the Bible is in nearly all of our homes, not all of us are at home in the Bible. How is it with you? Do you feel at home with the Scriptures? Is the Bible a friend or a stranger to you? When crisis comes, you need a friend. In desperation people have turned to the Bible for strength, for comfort, for the word of life, expecting instant simple solutions, and sometimes they have come up empty because they didn’t know how to find its treasures.

Edwin Blair, in his book The Bible and You, points out: "The person who is looking for a way to master the Bible in three easy lessons will be disappointed. In the first place, one can never master the Bible. One can only be mastered by it. In the second place, the Bible is so immeasurably rich that the human mind cannot possibly embrace it all in a few attempts. Familiarity with the Bible comes only be prolonged exposure to its contents." 

-- James W. Moore and Bob J. Moore in Lord, Give Me Patience, and Give It to Me Right Now!


#2955

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A REORDERED WORLD TOWARD GOD

"There is nothing unclean of itself," said the apostle Paul; and again, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  To him, a sacramental view of life had everything to do with direction.  Nature, people, eating, work, worship – everything in daily life points up the chain of a reordered world toward God.  To ignore sexual, personal, social, professional, even political concerns would diminish the reality of God’s presence in the world.  When Paul touched on each area, he placed it in the order ordained by its Creator.

-- Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World


#2954

Monday, March 19, 2012

THE TRUE SPIRIT OF PRAYER

The essence of prayer does not consist in asking God for something but in opening our hearts to God, in speaking with Him, and living with Him in perpetual communion.  Prayer is continual abandonment to God.  Prayer does not mean asking God for all kinds of things we want; it is rather the desire for God Himself, the only Giver of Life.  Prayer is not asking, but union with God.  Prayer is not a painful effort to gain from God help in the varying needs of our lives.  Prayer is the desire to possess God Himself, the Source of all life.  The true spirit of prayer does not consist in asking for blessings, but in receiving Him who is the giver of all blessings, and in living a life of fellowship with Him. 

-- Sadhu Sundar Singh


#2953

Friday, March 16, 2012

IN JESUS' NAME

When Jesus told us that, if we prayed in His name, He would give us what we asked for (John 14:13), He certainly was talking about something far deeper than the reciting of a religious formula.  That kind of thing would reduce prayer to cheap magic.  Instead, our Lord was telling us that, if our prayers are to be effective, we must grow into people who are so like Jesus that our prayers will be an expression of His concerns about love.
In the ancient world, a person's name had a deep significance that has been lost in our modern world.  To those who lived in the ancient world in which Jesus lived, a person's name was meant to embody everything that the person was about.  A name expressed a person's essential character and tapped into the spiritual core of the person's identity.  So when Jesus told His disciples to pray in His name, He was telling them that if they would yield to His transforming power in their lives and let His mind be in them (Philippians 2:5), then their prayers would be like His.  Such prayers are answered. 
 
-- Tony Campolo in Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God


#2952

Thursday, March 15, 2012

PRAYING THROUGH

"And the Lord said to Joshua: 'See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat."  (Joshua 6:2-5a NKJV)

I love history, and in particular, a branch of history called counterfactual theory. Counterfactual theorists ask the what if questions. For example, what if the American Revolution had failed? Or what if Hitler had been victorious in World War II? How would history have unfolded? What would that alternate reality look like? And what are the key footnotes that would have or could have changed the headlines in history?

Reading biblical history like a counterfactual theorist is an interesting exercise. And the Jericho miracle is a great example. What if the Israelites had stopped circling on the sixth day? The answer is obvious. They would have forfeited the miracle right before it happened. If they had stopped circling after twelve trips, they would have done a lot of walking for nothing. Like the generation before them, they would have defaulted on the promise. And the same is true for us… Most of us don't get what we want because we quit circling.

We give up too easily. We give up too soon. We quit praying right before the miracle happens. 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


#2951


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

OUR ETERNAL HOME

Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”  (John 14:1-4 NASB)
Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity.

If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have -- about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it.

If soon you were going to emigrate, that is the way you would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while. We are going to spend eternity in another world…

Is it not natural that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there and what is the route to take? 

-- Dwight L. Moody


#2950

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SEEING MORE CLEARLY

"Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed Him." (Matthew 20:29-34)

Hatred is a weak vice. It distorts our view of the world, of our neighbor (or "enemy"), and of ourselves. The strength of forgiveness on the other hand is the true view it opens up. We begin to see things as they really are, in the sight of God. We begin to see our neighbor -- even his weaknesses and failings -- with the eyes of God. The things we hated about him fall into true perspective, and we begin to wonder at the way God is leading him to something better. Then we begin to want to help him. And ourselves we see for what we are -- equally poor sinners in God's sight with the persons we once disliked.
It has been said that sorrow cleanses the eyes that they may more clearly see. That is even truer of forgiveness. Forgiveness is our most God-like quality, and the one that brings us nearest to the divine presence. As was said of the ancient Rabbi Hillel, "His loving-kindness brought men close under the wings of 'Shekinah,'"(that is, into the presence of God). Such grace, Paul tells us in Romans 5:21, will lead us to eternal life through Jesus Christ. 

-- St. Paul's Episcopal Church Daily eMeditation,  June 25, 2010


#2949

Monday, March 12, 2012

KILLING TIME

I tend to divide my minutes into two categories: living, and waiting to live. Most of my life is spent in transit: trying to get somewhere, waiting to begin, driving someplace, standing in line, waiting for a meeting to end, trying to get a task completed, worrying about something bad that might happen, or being angry about something that did happen. These are all moments when I am not likely to be fully present, not to be aware of the voice and purpose of God. I am impatient. I am, almost literally, killing time.

-- John Ortberg in The Life You've Always Wanted 


#2948

Friday, March 9, 2012

RECONCILING BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God."  (Matthew 5:23-24 MSG)

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus talks about the formation of a new commitment in the lives of His followers. In effect, Jesus is saying, "Some of you used to be pretty casual about your relationships. If one started to break down, you discarded it like yesterday's newspaper. Now, all of that must change. I want you to be committed to becoming reconciled with every person in your life, as much as it is within your power to do so."

The apostle Paul answered Jesus' challenge. He often put his life in jeopardy by insisting on the destruction of the religious, social and cultural walls that separated the Jews from the Gentiles. Among the many accusations leveled at Paul, the Jews frequently added that he "brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." Paul did this because he adopted Jesus' passion for reconciliation. He sought to break down every form of prejudice, eventually penning one of the most eloquent and moving passages in all of the Scripture: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

When Christ calls Paul -- and us -- to become reconcilers, He is not only stretching our faith, but He is being merciful toward us.  None of us want to look in the rearview mirror at the end of our lives and see a huge relational graveyard that we caused by a stubborn spirit or our unwillingness to swallow our pride enough to reconcile broken relationships.

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


#2946

Thursday, March 8, 2012

TURNING AWAY ANGER

Whether at work or at home or in some other setting, you know what it's like when someone gets mad, gets their feelings hurt, and accuses you of something you didn't do. Instead of coming to find out what really happened or to talk it out calmly, they start right in with the accusations.

First reaction is what? "If they've got the nerve to come in here blaming me for things they don't even know about, they'd better have the guts to hear what I think of it… and of them."

Same thing happened to an Old Testament hero named Gideon, who famously took 300 men on a nighttime raid of a huge enemy encampment, armed with nothing more than trumpets, torches, and a bunch of empty jars. When God gave this tiny band an unlikely victory, some of the other fighting men of Israel swooped over to get into the action. But they were steamed that Gideon hadn't seen them fit to be part of the initial attack. "They criticized him sharply," the Bible says at the beginning of Judges 8. Still, instead of getting into a shouting match, he calmly told them he wasn't half the fighting man they were. Cooler heads carried the day. "At this, their resentment against him subsided."

Remember this:  "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Next time someone wants to start something, let your low-key response put an end to it. 

-- Joe Gibbs in Game Plan for Life Two-Minute Drills 


#2946

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

I know I'm about to do some serious meddling but too often this important issue of our physical well-being is ignored.  A sobering passage for those of us who are Christians is found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."  Could the point be stated more clearly?  Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  We need to honor God with our bodies.

How is it that we manage to separate the issue of how we treat our bodies from our devotion to Christ?  Not just our spirits but also our bodies have been claimed and redeemed and loved.  Christianity does not teach a view of life that disdains the body while it elevates the spirit.  In some mystical and incomprehensible way the Holy Spirit indwells our bodies and thereby calls us to the high privilege and heavy responsibility of using our bodies to honor His presence. 

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


#2945

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WHAT GOD WANTS

"You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve." (Matthew 4:10b NKJV)

Do you really think God needs us to do things for Him?  Isn't He the Creator who stepped out on the balcony of heaven and scooped out the seven seas with the palms of His hands?  Wasn't it God who pinched the earth to make the mountains?  Then obviously He doesn't need you to "do" anything.  What He wants is your worship. 

--  Tommy Tenney in The Heart of A God Chaser


#2944

Monday, March 5, 2012

THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE

"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

We have been given the freedom to choose what we see, what we pay attention to, what we rest our awareness on. There are zillions of things that can attract us, call us to themselves. Our task is to choose which ones we want to pay attention to, which ones we want to invest our energy in, for we cannot endure full consciousness of everything. We must focus on something more limited.

-- Jane Marie Thibault in A Deepening Love Affair 


#2943

Friday, March 2, 2012

MISSING THE MARK


"For all have sinned and fall short…" [miss the mark] "…of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

I was a "good kid;" active in church, a model citizen, knowing that everybody in town would tell my folks if I showed bad behavior. What did I need to repent from? Over the years, I have learned that just when I think I'm good, God reveals a sin, a place where I've missed the mark. I have made many plans, charting my life's direction, only to have God call me to repent and go another way.

-- Lee Greenawalt

 
#2942

Thursday, March 1, 2012

TRUE SPIRITUAL WORSHIP


"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." (John 4:23 NKJV)

Whenever His people gather and worship Him, God promises He will make His presence known in their midst. On the other hand, where God's people consistently neglect true spiritual worship, His manifest presence is rarely experienced.

-- Ralph Mahoney

 
#2941