Wednesday, December 24, 2014

HIS MAJESTY'S ARRIVAL

Mary remembers the words of the angel. "His kingdom will never end." He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And He is absolutely dependent upon Mary for His well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey?

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping Him were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshipping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

-- Max Lucado in God Came Near


#3575

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men". We read this verse a little differently this Christmas. We look at the word "peace" and our hearts sigh. We wonder about the future of  "good will toward men." We feel the longing for something in our hearts -- a longing for what made the angels rejoice as they said these words, and the shepherds stand in amazement as they heard them.

We feel a longing for Jesus -- perhaps more than ever before. We feel this longing as we fall to our knees this holiday season. But we are not brought to our knees in the way anyone expected. We kneel not before other nations… and not out of fear...

We kneel before a manger that holds the Savior of the world. We remember once again how much we need Him, how He is our foundation and our strength.

We kneel before a cross. We see how much He loves us, and how He is unafraid of suffering and sin.

We kneel before an empty tomb. We realize anew how He conquered death and darkness -- how He has made us victorious forever no matter what happens. Yet even as we kneel, we know that Christmas will be different. There are many who will be missed as we gather together with those we love.

There is a feeling that things will never be the same. It is this feeling that causes us to cling even tighter to the promise that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever". The Meaning of Christmas will never change because the Meaning of Christmas is Christ. So we can still proclaim with the angels, no matter what the situation,  "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men".

-- Unknown, from a SOUND BITES subscriber in Wisconsin


#3574

Monday, December 22, 2014

THE UNFOLDING OF GOD'S PROMISE

Often I stand on the edge of light, afraid to believe, afraid to act, afraid that this story is too good to be true.

But then in my better moments, when I listen closely to the story, move closer to the light, my fears seem to evaporate like an early morning mist, and I can believe again.

I can believe that God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God. I can believe that God claims me as a beloved child. I can believe that all my days are in God's strong and tender hands. I can believe that life is good, beautiful, and eternal. I can believe that not only my days but all days are in God's good hands. I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God's promise given so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story.

Thanks be to God.

-- Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job in A Prayer for All Who Seek God, copyright 2003, used by permission of Upper Room Books


#3573

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE PERFECT GIFT

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."  (John 3:16-17 NKJV)

Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.

-- Corrie Ten Boom


#3572

Thursday, December 18, 2014

GOD AND SINNERS RECONCILED

God has broken into this world in an astounding story of divinity and humanity that boggles the brain even as it transforms the heart…

In the words of the late Samuel Hines, “God has a one-term agenda, listed in one expressive and inclusive word: reconciliation.”  It is a bold statement. It suggests that God’s intention, purpose, and desire for the world can be captured in this one word.

Reconciliation implies that a relationship has suffered damage. It indicates division exists where there was once harmony. Such division marks all humanity. Through sin and disobedience, we have separated ourselves from God and from one another…

In Christ, through Christ, and with Christ that “dividing wall of hostility” [Ephesians 2:14] has been torn down. According to Charles Wesley, reconciliation is… the message of Christmas:

            Hark the herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the newborn King;
            peace on earth, and mercy mild,
            God and sinners reconciled!”

-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born


#3571

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

GIVING AWAY GRACE

Abundant life from Christ comes not in tangibles, but in grace-given presence. We are being changed from self-serving people, grasping, needing, to God-serving people, loved and freed, who in prayer and by the Spirit paradoxically gain by giving away Christ's love, compassion, grace -- abundantly.

-- Roberta Porter


#3570

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

COMFORT MY PEOPLE

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned."  (Isaiah 40:1-2a NLT)

God does not comfort us only to make us comfortable -- rather He does it to make us comforters.

-- Navigator's Daily Walk Bible


#3569

Monday, December 15, 2014

A HOPEFUL MESSAGE

Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness. I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the "shoot that shall sprout from the stump" [Isaiah 11:1].

-- Henri J. Nouwen in Gracias! A Latin American Journal


#3568

Friday, December 12, 2014

THE HEART OF JESUS

Some have shared with me [a] problem.  "I don't want to unload all my darkness, pain, and anger on anyone, especially Jesus, whom I love. I'm afraid it will hurt him," one person told me, really worried.  She had herself experienced much emotional pain, and dreaded the thought of sending that pain and darkness into someone else's heart.  This is a real and loving concern which must be taken seriously.

But this is the mystery of the Savior:
"Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
…wounded for our transgressions." (Isaiah 53:4, 5)

…This includes not only our sins, but also our wounds, our pain. All that hurts us is already shared and carried by that heart.  We are only asked to give the full impact of the pain with consent.  This is the meaning of the limitless love that has come to be with us.  If we still feel troubled, it may be helpful to think of another woman's experience.  When I shared with her this problem, she said, "I just asked Jesus if He was willing to receive my full load of pain directly into His heart, and He inwardly told me He was here for that reason and was willing and able to receive it all."

No matter what we do, no matter what we feel, no matter the full crushing impact of pain we give to God, that heart of God through Jesus will not be shattered or destroyed or hardened.

The fire of God's love is fed by its own fire, forever.

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in Heart of Healing, Heart of Light, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


#3567

Thursday, December 11, 2014

JESUS, OUR EMMANUEL

The prophet Isaiah spoke of a shoot coming out from the stump of Jesse and a branch growing out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1). Here is a tree tradition that reminds us of Jesus' Jewishness. Jesus did not just drop down out of nowhere. It is scandalous for some to think that Jesus had parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents; but the true mystery of the Incarnation can not be grasped without realizing Christ's full divinity and full humanity, which is so passionately expressed in the words of the second stanza of Charles Wesley's hymn "Hark the Herald Angels Sing":

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th'incarnate Deity
pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel."
 
-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born
 
 
#3566

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TRUSTING JESUS

So here we are again, a few billion miles farther along our mysterious path among the immensities.  What a comfort it is to know the Man in charge of it all.  Without Him, it would be easy to think that the whole of time and space, and life itself, are without reason, purpose, or meaning -- as H. G. Wells said, that it is "a bad joke beyond our understanding, a flare of vulgarity, an empty laugh braying across the mysteries."  With Jesus forever between God and us, we can understand a few things, and trust Him for the rest.  After all, He is one of us: a baby once, as we all were... 

-- Robert MacColl Adams, in a letter


#3565

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WHO STARTED THIS CHRISMAS THING?

I recently heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season... overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already crucified Him."

For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.

-- Unknown


#3564

Monday, December 8, 2014

ANTICIPATION AND EXPECTATION

Christmas is a time pregnant with anticipation and expectation.  There is so much to look forward to, but it’s easy to get so excited about celebrating Christmas that we easily overlook preparing ourselves for the Christ.  We can get so caught up in the hype and hoopla that we don’t take the necessary time to prepare ourselves to be watching for how God will come into our midst in the here and now.

Are you anticipating the kingdom this Christmas?

Are you expecting God to come into your midst today?

What are you doing to prepare yourself for the Christ and not just for Christmas?

-- Adapted from Bryan Marvel


#3563

Friday, December 5, 2014

OLD AND YET NEW

What is meant by calling the writings of Moses and the Prophets [the] "Old Testament"?  Do they not set forth the covenant of grace?  The doctrine of justification by faith -- does not Paul in his Epistle to the Romans prove it from Genesis and from the Psalms?  Where is the doctrine of substitution and the vicarious sufferings of the messiah set forth more clearly than in Leviticus and in the 53rd of Isaiah? The term "Old Testament" leads people to fancy it is an antiquated book; whereas, in many respects, it is newer than the New Testament, referring more fully to the age of glory and blessedness on the earth which is still before us.

-- Adolph Saphir in Christ and Israel [1911]


#3562

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NOT CELEBRATE?

Not Celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears seem to have no end?

Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors,
and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who knows the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone, for He is born this day to you.

-- Ann Weems in Kneeling in Bethlehem


#3561

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

OPEN-ENDED WAITING

Waiting is open-ended.  Open-ended waiting is hard for us because we tend to wait for something very concrete, for something that we wish to have.  Much of our waiting is filled with wishes: "I wish that I would have a job.  I wish that the weather would be better.  I wish that the pain would go." 

We are full of wishes, and our waiting easily gets entangled in those wishes.  For this reason, a lot of our waiting is not open-ended. Instead, our waiting is a way of controlling the future.  We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disappointed and can even slip into despair.  That is why we have such a hard time waiting; we want to do the things that will make the desired events take place.  Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.

But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes.  They were filled with hope.  Hope is something very different.  Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes.  Therefore, hope is always open-ended.

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen in "A Spirituality of Waiting", from The Weavings Reader, John S. Mogabgab, editor, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


#3560

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

THE LIGHT OF FAITH

"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."  (Luke 1:78-79)

In the light of faith I am strong, constant, and persevering. In the light of faith I hope. Do not allow me to faint by the way. This light, without which I should still walk in darkness, teaches me the road.

-- Catherine of Siena in A life of Total Prayer


#3559

Monday, December 1, 2014

A MONUMENTAL MESS

Six -year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten.

Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn't know how the stove worked! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor.

Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon's eyes. All he'd wanted to do was something good, but he'd made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

That's how God in Christ comes to us and deals with our messes.  We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend or we can’t stand our job or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him.

-- Unknown


#3558

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks-Living

Thanks-Living is a lifestyle easily read,
Saying "thank you" is too little heard
And too little said.
For what we have and what will be ours,
We humbly give thanks,
At these most gracious hours.

Thanks-Living is a lifestyle all should embrace,
Giving thanks daily,
For God's gift of amazing grace.
To God goes all the honor, glory and praise,
In word and deed,
His banner we joyfully raise.

On this Thanksgiving, may Thanks-Living become
Your lifestyle of blessing
For those you live among.
Saying to those you know and love so well,
Thanks-Living is a way of life,
In which I will choose to daily excel.

-- George David Denson


#3557

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A GENEROUS LOAN

With what presumption have we dared to voice
"Thank You for home (although we hold the deed),
Our acre, trees, and flowers (ours by choice),
Our faithful dog and cat (though it's agree
No one can own the latter), each good book
(A gift, or purchased), all else we foresaw
That we should cherish, and have made to look
Ours by possession (nine points of the law)."

With what presumption have we called them ours,
And even felt unselfish when we shared them--
When, if the truth be known, they have been Yours
From the beginning, Lord! You have prepared them
For us to borrow, using as our own:
So thank You, Father, for this generous loan. 

-- Elaine V. Emans


#3556

Monday, November 24, 2014

THANKSGIVING IN OUR LIVES

One of the most positive ways to end the day -- even the worst of days -- is to pause and consider where thanksgiving is appropriate in our lives.  We may begin by being grateful for such basic things as breath, adequate food, shelter, the capacity for thought, and gradually become aware of little, unnoticed events that were causes of joy during a day that may have seemed very routine.  The smile by the woman at the checkout counter; the first crocus in bud, evidence of approaching spring; the Scripture verse that came to mind; the memory of some act of kindness on the part of a neighbor; all these, as they are recalled, begin to change our perspective of life and of God.

Remembering makes the waiting time more bearable, for it fills the present emptiness with hope and allows God to be bigger than the present moment might suggest.

-- Elizabeth J. Canham in  "How Long, O Lord?" from The Weavings Reader, John S. Mogabgab, editor, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


#3555

Friday, November 21, 2014

LOVE LIFTED ME

Some years ago, Bishop Willis J. King, the first African American bishop in America to receive a Ph.D. in Old Testament, told a true story that touched me deeply. Upon his graduation from Wiley College, he went back home to spend a few days with his parents. He showed them his degree. He was so proud of it. Then he announced, "Tomorrow I'm going to go to the downtown bank, and I'm going to borrow $500 to buy my first automobile."

The next morning, as he was about to leave, his father said to him, "Son, don't you want me to go with you and cosign your note?" He answered, "No, Dad, I can take care of this by myself. After all, I've got my degree now." And so he went on downtown to the bank.

The bank manager said to the young man, "So you want to borrow $500. Tell me, what do you have for collateral? If you're going to get $500 from this bank, you've got to have something of equal value." "Oh yes, sir," young King said, "I've got my degree." The bank officer relied, "Son, I'm sorry, but we can't use the degree as collateral for $500. I'm afraid you'll just have to go elsewhere."

King was in a state of embarrassment and failure when he heard a familiar voice. His dad said, "Son, I've come to cosign your note." "But, Dad," King said, "you can't even write. All you can do is make an "X'." And the banker said, "It may be true that your dad can't write and all he can do is make an 'X'. But I want to tell you something. It's that 'X' that got the loan to get you into school. It's that 'X' that got the loan to keep you in school, and it's that 'X' that got the loan that got you out of school. And if you are going to get a loan from this bank to buy a car, it's that same 'X' that's going to get the loan for you!"

King said that as he watched his dad make an "X" on the bank document, he realized that if you turn the "X" just a bit, it made the sign of the cross.

Bishop King summed up that story like this: "In that moment, I realized something more powerfully than ever before -- namely, how inadequate I am, how needy I am, how insufficient I am alone, and how on Calvary's cross, Jesus cosigned my note! I wouldn't be here tonight if he hadn't. Love lifted me, when nothing else could help. Love lifted me." 

-- "Unlearned Lessons: Excerpts from Zan Holmes," New World Outlook, July/August 1993, as quoted by James W. Moore in When You're a Christian, the Whole World Is from Missouri


#3554

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NOURISHMENT FOR STRENGTH

A church goer wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me I can't remember a single one of them. So I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: "I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 22,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today."

No comments were made on the sermon contents anymore.

-- Unknown


#3553

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GOD'S SPIRIT WITH US

You are, I'm sure, familiar with the myth of the "self-made man." But, the truth is that there is no such thing. If you really break apart any life, and examine it closely, you will discover the kernel of truth that everyone stands on the shoulders of someone else. In every life, there are teachers, parents, friends, co-workers, mentors, who have helped a so-called "self-made" person get to where they are today. No one really does it alone. But as Christians, we not only believe this, we believe in the one step more. We believe that not only do others help us along the way, but also that we truly do nothing without the aid and presence of God's Spirit with us.

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


#3552

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

THE ONLY ADEQUATE RESPONSE

"A bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with Him. Listen to Him.' " (Matthew 17:5 NLT)

Jesus is more than just a great leader, a good example, a good influence, or a great prophet. He is the Son of God. When you understand this profound truth, the only adequate response is worship. When you have a correct understanding of Christ, you will obey Him.

-- from the Life Application Study Bible


#3551

Monday, November 17, 2014

JOHN WESLEY'S IMPACT

I invested much of my youthful energies in seeking to be an effective preacher, so I was tempted to compute my success in terms of how many people might be attracted to my preaching. But in the reading of [church] history, for example, I learned that something more than preaching would validate the effectiveness of my ministry.

[In the 1700's] George Whitefield could easily have claimed a much larger number of responses to his preaching than could John Wesley. But soon after both men were dead, it was clear that Wesley's work would impact future generations far more than Whitefield's. The reason? Wesley organized his followers into classes (a form of small groups); Whitefield never did. I came to understand that preaching without the reinforcement of deep community isn't really worth all that much.

-- Gordon MacDonald


#3550

Friday, November 14, 2014

GROWING IN CHRIST

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

Salvation is the process that's done, that's secure, that no one can take away from you. Sanctification is the lifelong process of being changed from one degree of glory to the next, growing in Christ, putting away the old, taking on the new.

-- Max Lucado


#3549

Thursday, November 13, 2014

YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 (RSV)

Into the depth of our predicament the word is spoken from on high: "By grace you have been saved through faith!" To be saved does not just mean to be a little encouraged, a little comforted, a little relieved. It means to be pulled out like a log from a burning fire. You have been saved! We are not told: you may be saved sometimes, or a little bit. No, you have been saved, totally and for all times. You? Yes, we! Not just any other people, more pious and better than we are, no, we, each one of us.

-- Karl Barth


#3548

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE WORD OF LIFE

The Bible is the Word of life.  I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourself.  When you have read the Bible you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found in it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty.

-- Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. President


#3547

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FOR ALL THOSE VETERANS

Loving God, we remember all those who have served in our country’s armed forces to preserve the freedoms You have granted us. We ask Your blessing for the men and women who currently serve in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Bless also the family members who have made great sacrifices in order to make it possible for their loved ones to be on watch at home, or around the world, or to go into harm’s way.

For all those veterans who have been willing to lay down their lives for us, for the veterans of past wars who bear scars in their bodies and spirits, and for veterans who came home but couldn’t “fit in” with their families or communities anymore, we ask Your healing grace, gentle comfort, and abiding strength.

Keep all our veterans in Your care today. Grant them the peace they sought to preserve for others. Teach all Your people the ways of peace, so that those who have sacrificed so much will not have done so in vain. We pray all these things in the name of Your son, our savior, Jesus Christ.

-- Adapted from “Litany for Veterans Day” by Eileen Norrington


#3546

Monday, November 10, 2014

LET THE WALLS FALL DOWN

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility." (Ephesians 2:14 ESV)

The politics of division separated Germany on August 13, 1961, when the residents of Berlin woke to a barbed-wire barrier between the communist East and the noncommunist West.  The Cod War had begun.  Soldiers quickly fortified the barrier, creating a concrete wall twelve feet high and over a hundred miles long.  Loved ones were torn apart, and more than two million people attempted to escape East Germany by climbing, vaulting, tunneling, or crashing through checkpoints.  Unsuccessful attempts resulted in more than four hundred deaths.  In 1989, restrictions between the two Berlins were lifted.  The Berlin Wall came down, announcing the end of the Cold War.  Celebrations around the world culminated with Germany's reunification as one country on October 3, 1990.  Though now free, a city and a nation had been divided by disagreement, laws, and treaties, culminating in a literal wall of separation.  Laws lead to walls.

In the same way, laws and legalism kept the nation of Israel and other nations divided by a wall of prejudice.  But two thousand years ago, a babe in a manager heralded the end of the Cold War between the Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus tore down the spiritual wall of separation.  Let the walls fall down!

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


#3545

Friday, November 7, 2014

SPRINGING FROM EXPERIENCE

A minister colleague of mine preached a sermon recently where he told of how a young man came up to him, after church, and asked my colleague to pray, "that I might be anointed to preach like you." Now, this colleague has had a rough several years. He has been involved in some pretty serious personal scandals that have rocked his church and his family. He has been near the bottom. But through forgiveness, prayer, and a lot of healing, he and his family and his church are all being restored.

The point being that this colleague now preaches the way he does because of the suffering he's had to do. And so, the colleague told this young man, "You don't know what you're really asking for."

But the young man was insistent that he wanted my colleague to pray for him, so that he might preach like my colleague. So, finally, they went back to the front of the church, and the minister began to pray for the young man, "Lord, take this young man down to the depths. Tear apart all of his comfort and his security. Take away all he trusts and believes in..."

At that point, the young man jumped up and said, "Hey, that's not what I wanted you to pray!!!" To which my colleague replied, "Well, if you want to preach like me, you're going to have to experience those things for yourself."

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


#3544

Thursday, November 6, 2014

SUMMONING GOD'S GRACE

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed fervently for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me?” he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
It is easy to get discouraged when things are going badly. But we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering.

Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground; it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

-- Source Unknown


#3543

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A BRILLIANCE OF LIGHT

If the mercy of God is so great that He can instruct us, to our salvation, even when He hides Himself, what a brilliance of light we must expect when He reveals Himself!

--  Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in Pensees


#3542

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…" (Ephesians 3:20 WEB)

Is there such a thing as an "impossible dream"?  One small-minded man living in the nineteenth century believed so.  When asked if he thought it would be possible for men to fly in the air like birds, he responded skeptically, "Flight is strictly reserved for the angels, and I beg you not to repeat your suggestion lest you be guilty of blasphemy!"  Ironically, the man was Milton Wright, father of Orville and Wilbur -- two men who dreamed big dreams.  Only thirty years later near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they made their first flight in a heavier-than-air machine, the prototype for modern airplanes.  They proved that impossible dreams can come true.

The apostle Paul wanted Christians to believe that the impossible is possible with God.  He wanted them to understand that impossible prayers can come true through the ability of a God who can do exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think.  Go ahead, dream big dreams, then pray impossible prayers.  God can make them soar!

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


#3541

Monday, November 3, 2014

A BETTER PLACE

One of the things Randy Alcorn accomplishes in his chapter on heaven in Game Plan for Life is to quiet our misconception that life after death for the Christian is going to be boring. A never-ending church service. All Christmas carols and choir books.

Actually, the Bible says heaven will be a total experience of newness that touches everything about us and everything we do. Not just better singing and sermons. Not just better food options at church potlucks. Better everything. The very best of everything. Renewed, remade, reborn.

God has promised, "I will create new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17), meaning that while we're going to live in a place we've never been before, it will contain perfected elements of things we've always known. But instead of fatigue and physical limitations, we'll have total freedom of enjoyment. Instead of sin's empty promises, we'll know constant satisfaction. Instead of having to lock our doors and watch our backs, we'll learn what it really means to live without fear. Of anything.

Don't go worrying that God is baiting you with free gift offers that are going to end up being a time-share presentation. These new heavens and new earth are His gift of undying, undiluted life to you. It's definitely something you don't want to miss.

-- Joe Gibbs in his blog Game Plan for Life: Two-Minute Drills


#3540

Friday, October 31, 2014

THE POWER TO CARRY ON

Sometimes the power of prayer is the power to carry on.  It doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk through them.  When you pray through, the burden is taken off of your shoulders and put on the shoulders of Him who carried the cross to Calvary.

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


#3539

Thursday, October 30, 2014

WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT

"I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own."  (Philippians 3:8-9)

The No. 1 thing that God has taught me through this career is that baseball is a game, and it is a job. It's not life. It's a nice way to make a living, but it is not supposed to be all-encompassing or all-consuming as I used to think it was. God has shown me what life is all about. It's about knowing Him and having a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Life is about family. It's about caring for, understanding, and respecting others. I have learned there is always something you can do to make somebody feel better, even if it is just a comment. The Lord has taught me the beauty of making someone feel better. He is also teaching me how to let go of things I would not let go of before.

-- Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals Manager, in Sports Spectrum


#3538

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HEAVEN'S PERSPECTIVE

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard Him thus no longer."  (2 Corinthians 5:16)

Part of the joy and challenge of being a Christian is looking past the temporal and seeing the eternal; trying to see things from heaven's perspective.

-- Danny Wuerffel, retired NFL quarterback, in Sports Spectrum


#3537

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

WELL-DEFINED PRAYERS

Jesus is on His way out of Jericho when two blind men hail Him like a taxi:  "Lord, son of David, have mercy on us!"  The disciples see it as a human interruption.  Jesus sees it as a divine appointment.  So He stops and responds with a pointed question:  "What do you want me to do for you?"

Seriously?  Is that question even necessary?  Isn't it obvious what they want?  They're blind.  Yet Jesus forced them to define exactly what they wanted from Him.  Jesus made them verbalize their desire.  He made them spell it out, but it wasn't because Jesus didn't know what they wanted.  He wanted to make sure they knew what they wanted.  And that is where drawing prayer circles begins: knowing what to circle.

What if Jesus were to ask you this very same question:  What do you want me to do for you?  Would you be able to spell out the promises, miracles, and dreams God has put in your heart?  I'm afraid many of us would be dumbfounded.  We have no idea what we want God to do for us.  And the great irony, of course, is that if we can't answer this question, then we're as blind spiritually as these blind men were physically.

So while God is for us, most of us have no idea what we want God to do for us.  And that's why our prayers aren't just boring to us; they are uninspiring to God.  If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for is the antithesis of faith, isn't it?  Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers, and well-defined prayers result in a well-lived life.

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


#3536

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE GIVER OF GIFTS

"But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)

For the first two or three years after my conversion, I used to ask for specific things.  Now I ask for God.  Supposing there is a tree full of fruits -- you will have to go and buy or beg the fruits from the owner of the tree.  Every day you would have to go for one or two fruits.  But if you can make the tree your own property, then all the fruits will be your own.  In the same way, if God is your own, then all things in Heaven and on earth will be your own, because He is your Father and is everything to you; otherwise you will have to go and ask like a beggar for certain things.  When they are used up, you will have to ask again.  So ask not for gifts but for the Giver of Gifts: not for life but for the Giver of Life -- then life and the things needed for life will be added unto you.

-- Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929)


#3535

Friday, October 24, 2014

GOD'S LIMITLESS POWER

Think about it. What kind of power is required to speak a universe into existence? What kind of strength must someone possess to scatter stars into infinite space? How explosive do you have to be to ignite the sun or to sustain it's fire? What kind of brute force is required to stack up mountains twenty thousand feet into the air?

Only one force is able to accomplish such a feat: God's power.  Throughout history, when God's people found themselves facing impossible odds, they reminded themselves of God's limitless power. Even Job took comfort by remembering "He stirs up the sea with His power… The thunder of His power who can understand?

Like… Job, we occasionally need a little reminder of what God can do, especially if things aren't going our way. In Psalm 115:3, the psalmist points out that God can do whatever He pleases. That is the essence of what omnipotence is all about. Omnipotent simply means "all-powerful." God never has to ask permission. His unrestrained, indescribable, infinite power and abilities have no parameters.

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


#3534

Thursday, October 23, 2014

GOD INCOGNITO

You have to trust the author.  You have to believe that God has a good reason for keeping His presence subtle.  It allows creatures as small and frail as human beings the capacity for choice that we would never have in the obvious presence of infinite power.  People driving behind a police car don't speed -- not always because their hearts are right, but because they don't want to get pulled over.

God wants to be known, but not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely chosen. "God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away," said Meister Eckhart.

You never know where He'll turn up, or whom He'll speak through, or what unlikely scenario He'll use for His purpose.  After the resurrection, Mary Magdalene was looking right at Jesus but thought He was the landscaping service.

God is often present, the Bible says, but apparently He often shows up in unexpected ways.  He travels incognito.  He is the master of disguise.

-- John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think


#3353

A WORK OF ART

A great deal of the joy of life consists in doing perfectly, or at least to the best of one's ability, everything which [one] attempts to do. There is a sense of satisfaction, a pride in surveying such a work -- a work which is rounded, full, exact, complete in all its parts -- which the superficial [person], who leaves work in a… half-finished condition, can never know. It is this conscientious completeness which turns work into art. The smallest thing, well done, becomes artistic.

-- William Mathews


#3532

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HELPING OTHERS GROW

For years my “bucket list” included enrolling in the Master Gardener program supported by Purdue University in my home state of Indiana. Not until I paid my registration fee, bought the necessary tools, and attended my first meeting did I learn the depth of the curriculum.

This serious business involved much more than trading tips on where to plant perennials or how to eradicate beetles. To earn my “badge” as a Master Gardener, I would have to study the contents of a thick 3-ring binder, agree to apply my new knowledge not just to my own backyard but also to a public green space, and abide by the group’s mission statement. The wording of the latter surprised me. The statement didn’t ask me to help others grow plants; instead, it asked me to “help others grow.” …

As followers of Christ we study God’s Word and apply it in our everyday lives. But our responsibility doesn’t stop there. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we assume an obligation to pass our faith on to others. We accept as our mission the charge “to help others grow.”

-- Holly G. Miller in The Upper Room Disciplines 2013: A Book of Daily Devotions. Copyright © 2012 by Upper Room Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


#3531

Monday, October 20, 2014

THE ISSUE OF OWNERSHIP

The critical issue of ownership undergirds our theology of giving and stewardship. To whom do the material goods and wealth we enjoy ultimately belong? I'm not talking about the legal right of ownership, but rather the faith-perspective -- stewardship -- that's rooted in thousands of years of Judeo-Christian theology and practice.

Fundamentally, we either consider the material things in our life -- our money, house, property -- as owned by God and belonging to God, and we manage them for God's purposes, or we view them as owned by us. If they are owned by God, then our tithes and offerings represent our returning to God what belongs to God already. What we keep also belongs to God, and we feel obligated to spend it wisely and not frivolously, and to invest it in ways that do not dishonor God's purposes. We try not to waste money or to live more lavishly than we should. We spend responsibly, allowing our relationship with God to form our minds. We manage God's resources as faithfully as we can.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


#3530

Friday, October 17, 2014

STEWARDSHIP IS RESPONSE

Stewardship is what we do with all we have, all we are, and all we can become. It is a spiritual journey in life, responding to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

-- Douglas M. Lawson


#3529

Thursday, October 16, 2014

PARTS OF ONE WHOLE

Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul's house is not built on such a convenient plan; there are few soundproof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction -- not merely the idea -- that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, rules the whole of it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating into the nicely furnished little oratory and drowning all the quieter voices by their din.

-- Evelyn Underhill in The Spiritual Life


#3528