Friday, June 29, 2012

GETTING CAUGHT

Soren 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.
-- Maxie Dunnam in Living the Psalms


#3020

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TENACIOUS OBEDIENCE

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


#3019

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A HOLY LIFE

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.

-- Warren Wiersbe in On Being a Servant of God


#3018

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH

"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 Methodist Church


#3017

Monday, June 25, 2012

CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

The 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.

-- Dennis Denning in We Are One in the Lord


#3016

Friday, June 22, 2012

MY TESTIMONY

My 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


#3015

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TRUE REPENTANCE

The story is told of a shoplifter who writes to a department store and says, "I've just become a Christian, and I can't sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here's $100 that I owe you."

Then he signs his name, and in a little postscript at the bottom he adds, "If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."

-- Unknown


#3014

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A LASTING RELATIONSHIP

If 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? 

-- Dan Delzell


#3013

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

THE ODD CHRISTIAN

A 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 knowledge.

-- A.W. Tozer in The Root of Righteousness


#3012 


Monday, June 18, 2012

THE FATHER'S GREAT LOVE

There 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)
-- John Stott in The Contemporary Christian


#3011

Friday, June 15, 2012

ABBA, FATHER

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)

Jesus 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.

-- Clark H. Pinnock in Reason Enough


#3010

Thursday, June 14, 2012

THE BOND OF COMMITTED INTIMACY

Marriage 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 togetherness.
-- Jack Gilbert & Nan Zoller in Marriage: Claiming God's Promises


#3009

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WHAT'S NEXT?

"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.  

-- Evelyn Underhill


#3008

Monday, June 11, 2012

GRACE THAT IS GREATER

"Grace, grace, God’s grace,
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 transgressions.” 

“According to THY steadfast love… According to THY abundant mercy…”

Do you see what David is saying here?  David is recognizing that his forgiveness is not ultimately about him: it’s about God.

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"


#3007

Friday, June 8, 2012

FIVE FRUITFUL PRACTICES

The fruitful, God-related life develops with intentional and repeated attention to five essential practices that are critical for our growth in Christ.

Radical Hospitality 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 serve.

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 Living


#3006

Thursday, June 7, 2012

THE LITTLE CHURCH WITHIN THE CHURCH

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. 

-- Philip Yancy in Rumors of Another World


#3005

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

GIVING UP THE BALANCE SHEET

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 permission.


#3004

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

SETTING A PRISONER FREE

You forgive somebody and you begin to dance instead of wallow. You begin to walk with God. You set a prisoner free and you discover the prisoner you set free was you. 

-- Lewis Smedes in Wrestling with Angels video


#3003

Monday, June 4, 2012

NO CHEAP GRACE

"For by grace you have been saved by faith…" (Ephesians 2:8)

Cheap 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


#3002