Kierkegaard said that most of us read the Bible the way a mouse tries to remove
the cheese from the trap without getting caught.Some of us have mastered that.We read the story as though it were about
someone else a long time ago; that way we don't get caught.But if we see the Bible as the story of the
triumph of God's grace, the story of God searching for us, then look out.The story
will come alive.God will find us and we
will know that we are found.
faith is walking in darkness and simply refusing to quit. Sometimes faith is
just hanging on. The character of the faith that allows us to be transformed by
suffering and darkness is not doubt-free certainty; rather, it is tenacious obedience.
Ortberg in The Life You've Always Wanted
A holy life isn't the automatic consequence of
reading the right books, listening to the right tapes, or attending the right
meetings. It's the result of a living, loving union with Jesus Christ and a
life marked by godly discipline.
"The mission of the church is
to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local Churches provide the most significant
arena through which disciple-making occurs." (2004 UM Discipline, pp. 120)
We fulfill our mission by
proclaiming Jesus' gospel, by leading persons to commit their lives to God, by
nurturing persons in Christian living, and by sending persons into their world
as servants of Christ.
-- Bishop Linda Lee,
Wisconsin Area of the United MethodistChurch
writer of Ecclesiastes (4:9-10) says, "Two are better off than one,
because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the
other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because
there is no one to help him." Jesus said, "Where two or three come
together in My name, I am there with them" (Matthew
18:20). Paul wrote in Romans 12:5, "Though we are many, we are one body in
union with Christ, and we are joined to each other as different parts of one
body." Christianity is personal, but never private. Church members must
break away from lone-ranger Christianity into a shared experience of
life-together in the Christian community.
teammates and everyone in the organization know what I stand for and how I live
my life. I want to do things that bring honor and glory to God. And it's about
continuing to live that life in that standard, because I definitely don't want
to do anything that hurts my testimony in the clubhouse and on the field. I
hope they see the love of God through me -- I care about them, respect them,
and want to do the best that I can to help them. I hope they see that there's
something different about my life and understand that it's Jesus.
Andy Pettitte, Major League Pitcher, in Sports Spectrum
God wanted us to just have religion, He would have stayed up in heaven and not
come here to sacrifice His very life for you and me. He wanted us to have more
than religion. He wanted us to have a relationship with Him which will last
forever. He is extremely serious about it. What about you? How determined are
you about living for Him?
real Christian is an odd number anyway.He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly
every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of
Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be
declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest,
richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst.He dies so he can live, forsakes so he can
keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth
is a place for emotion in spiritual experience.The Holy Spirit's… ministry is not limited to illuminating our minds and
teaching us about Christ.He also pours
God's love into our hearts.Similarly,
He bears witness with our spirit that we are God's children, for He causes us
to say "Abba, Father" and to exclaim with gratitude, "How great
is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of
God!" (1 John 3:1)
And Jesus said, “Abba,
Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me;
nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36 NKJV)
used the term abba (which means father or "daddy" in his
Aramaic mother tongue), as an address in His prayers to God.There are no other examples of this usage in
contemporary Judaism, but Jesus always addressed God in this way.The others perhaps regarded it as child's
talk, a form of expression too disrespectful to be so used.But for Jesus, abba expressed the
filial intimacy He felt toward His Father.As the divine Son of the Father, Jesus enjoyed a unique relationship with
Him, and His mission in the world consisted in opening up the blessings of
sonship to those who believe.
is an ongoing journey of intimacy. To be married to another does not mean
giving up our separateness and our uniqueness as individuals. It does mean
building "we-ness" so that living close to each other is a joy. We
look for ways to please each other, to be sensitive to each other, to share our
own successes and mistakes -- our joys and our hurts. Marriage is a sacred bond
of committed intimacy. The satisfaction of many important needs rests in this
-- Jack Gilbert & Nan
Zoller in Marriage: Claiming God's Promises
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for
my path." (Psalm 119:105 NIV)
Only those who try to live near God, and have formed
the habit of faithfulness to Him in the small things of our daily life, can
hope in times of need for that special light which shows us our path.To do as well as we can the job immediately
before us, is the way to learn what we ought to do next.
"Grace, grace, God’s
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin." (Julia Harriette Johnston)
King David gives us an excellent insight into this grace
that is greater… You remember that terrible episode in his life when one
thing led to another in a downward spiral of sinfulness. Sloth turned to
lust, which it so often does. Lust became adultery. Adultery led to
deceit, which it always does. And, in David’s case, deceit culminated in
murder. David had grown cold and hard and distant from God, until the
prophet Nathan came to David with a message that pierced his hardened heart and
convicted his dulled conscience. David repented of his sins, and we have
a copy of the prayer of confession that he prayed. It is Psalm 51, and it
begins like this: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast
love; according to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my
“According to THY steadfast love… According to THY
Do you see what David is saying here? David is
recognizing that his forgiveness is not ultimately about him: it’s about
Now this cuts across the grain of our natural inclination
-- as well as so much of our experience in human relationships -- but it must be
how you and I deal with God.
David does not claim his own merit, and he does not ask
according to his great need. Instead, the rationale behind David’s prayer
for forgiveness is nothing about David, but rather is entirely about God and
what God has to offer.
-- Rev. David Kalas,
from his sermon "Amazing Grace: The Grace That Is Greater"
The fruitful, God-related life develops with intentional
and repeated attention to five essential practices that are critical for our
growth in Christ.
in our personal walk with Christ begins with an extraordinary receptivity
to the grace of God.In distinctive and
personal ways, we invite God into our hearts and make
space for God in our lives.We receive
God's love and offer it to others.
Through the practice of Passionate Worship, we learn to love God in return.We practice listening to God, allowing God to
shape our hearts and minds through prayer, personal devotion, and community
worship.We love God.
Through the practice of Intentional Faith Development, we do the soul work that connects us
to the others, immerses us in God's Word, and positions us to grow in grace and
mature in Christ.We learn in community.
The practice of Risk-Taking
Mission and Service involves offering ourselves in purposeful service to
others in need, making a positive difference even at significant personal cost
and inconvenience to our own lives.We
Through the practice of Extravagant Generosity, we offer our material resources in a manner
that supports the causes that transform life and relieve suffering and that
enlarges the soul and sustains the spirit.We give back.
These Five Practices -- to receive God's love, to love
God in return, to grown in Christ, to serve others, and to give back -- are so
essential to growth in Christ and to the deepening of the spiritual life that
failure to attend to the, develop them and deepen them with intentionality
limits our capacity to live fruitfully and full, to settle ourselves completely
in God, and to become instruments of God's transforming grace.The adjectives -- radical, passionate, intentional, risk-taking, and extravagant -- provoke us out of
complacency and remind us that these practices require more than haphazard,
infrequent, and mediocre attention.
These practices open our heart -- to God, to others, to a
life that matters, and life rich with meaning, relationship, and
contribution.They help us flourish.
-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful
Puritans called marriage "the little church within
the Church," a place to test and also develop spiritual character.Every day marriage calls both partners to
love and forgive and stay faithful -- hard work that only makes sense if we are
convinced somehow that we are participating in a kind of alternate history, one
set in eternity. I persevere in the difficult times in my marriage for the same
reason I persevere in the difficult times in my faith:because I believe that both touch something
of eternal significance.
For most of us, it takes years, perhaps a lifetime, to
realize what unity with another person means.We learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, and work out
power-sharing.We learn when to probe
and when to back off, when to soothe and when to challenge.Gradually, as two independent people share a
common reality, a kind of transfiguration takes place.A "second love" emerges.
Forgiveness is a choice.It's a decision about how we deal with the
past.One choice we can make about
wrongs we have suffered in the past is to seek revenge."Don't get mad, get even" is a
popular saying these days.The idea
behind it is an economic one, that there is a balance owed to me because I have
been wronged, that I will feel poor and deprived until the day I have found
satisfaction for the wrongs committed against me.I may resort to a lawsuit or to the cold
shoulder or to some other method, but I will make the wrongdoer pay dearly.
To choose forgiveness instead is to
give up the balance sheet view of things.By letting go of what I perceive as wrongs committed against me, I can
also let go of bitterness and resentment.I no longer have to wait for vindication, for evening the score.At any moment I can choose to take control of
how I feel about the past.
Kenneth L. Gibble in Alive Now,
July/August 1995, published by The
Upper Room, Nashville, TN.Used with
by grace you have been saved by faith…" (Ephesians 2:8)
grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly
grace... Cheap grace means a grace of doctrine, a principle, a system... Cheap
grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner...
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance, baptism without
church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal
confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross,
grace without Jesus Christ.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The
Cost of Discipleship