Thursday, June 30, 2016

JOURNEYING WITH OTHERS


None of us on the Christian path travels alone; we always journey with others at our side, before us, and trailing behind us. A great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), a communion of saints both living and departed, surrounds us. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian, which is both a descriptive reality and a great grace. To be a Christian means we are part of the body of Christ. The local communities in which we live out faith give faces and names to our companions on the journey.

Authentic Christianity is an intensely personal matter, for the living Christ invades us at the core of our beings. But it is never a private affair just between us and God. The broader Christian community provides the means of support to stay on the road and the corrective against going down our own paths of self-obsession and sometimes self-destruction.

-- Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster in The Godbearing Life


#3900

Friday, June 17, 2016

FACING YOUR GRIEF


"David sang this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan, and gave orders that everyone in Judah learn it by heart." (II Samuel 1:17-18 MSG)

David called the nation to mourning. He rendered weeping a public policy. He refused to gloss over or soft-pedal death. He faced it, fought it, challenged it. But he didn't deny it. As his son Solomon explained, "There is…a time to mourn" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NIV).

Give yourself some. Face your grief with tears, time, and -- one more -- face your grief with truth. Paul urged the Thessalonians to grieve, but he didn't want the Christians to "carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word." (I Thessalonians 4:13 MSG).

God has the last word on death. And, if you listen, He will tell you the truth about your loved ones. They've been dismissed from the hospital called Earth. You and I still roam the halls, smell the medicines, and eat green beans and Jell-O off plastic trays. They, meanwhile, enjoy picnics, inhale springtime, and run through knee-high flowers. You miss them like crazy, but can you deny the truth? They have no pain, doubt, or struggle. They really are happier in heaven.

And won't you see them soon? Life blisters by at mach speed. "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Each man's life is but a breath" (Psalm 39:5 NIV).

When you drop your kids off at school, do you weep as though you'll never see them again? When you drop your spouse at the store and park the car, do you bid a final forever farewell? No. When you say, "I'll see you soon," you mean it. When you stand in the cemetery and stare down at the soft, freshly turned earth and promise, "I'll see you soon," you speak the truth. Reunion is a splinter of an eternal moment away.

So go ahead, face your grief. Give yourself time. Permit yourself tears. God understands. He knows the sorrow of a grave. He buried His Son. But He also knows the joy of resurrection. And, by His power, you will too.

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants


#3899

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I SURRENDER ALL


“All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give

I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.”  (Judson W. Van DeVenter)

I meet people every week who are slaves to something, but they found freedom when they became a slave to Jesus Christ. They were slaves to possessions or slaves to their own pleasures; they were slaves to people, what other people thought of them. But they discovered that true freedom is only found when they live as a slave to Jesus Christ. Instead of shame and bondage and death, we find joy and grace and eternal life. You will never know true freedom until you have completely surrendered and become a slave to Jesus Christ.

--  Kyle Idleman in Not a Fan: Follower’s Journal


#3898

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PRAYER AND ACTION


Prayer and action… can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive.  Prayer without action grows in powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation.  If prayer leads us into a deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service.  And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer.  In prayer we meet Christ, and in Him all human suffering. In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ.

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996) in Compassion


#3897

Monday, June 13, 2016

CAREER VERSES CALLING


American society does not talk much about calling anymore. It is more likely to think in terms of career.  Yet, for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives.  Benjamin Hunnicutt is a historian who specializes in the history of work at the University of Iowa. He notes that work has become our new religion, where we worship and give our time.  As people's commitment to family, community, and faith are shrinking, they begin to look to their careers to provide them with meaning, connectedness, identity, and esteem.

A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god.  A career is something I choose for myself; a calling is something I receive.  A career is something I do for myself; a calling something I do for God.  A career promises status, money, or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering -- and the opportunity to be used by God.

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


#3896

Friday, June 10, 2016

TO FOLLOW JESUS IS TO BE DIFFERENT


Christians are different. Or at least they should be.

After all, as the Apostle Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)  What a revolutionary idea: As Christians, you have been crucified with Christ. He now lives in you. That means you no longer live by the world's standards; instead, you live by faith in the Son of God. Your values will differ from the world's values. When the world says, "If it feels good, do it," Jesus says, "Deny yourself and follow Me." When the world says, "I gotta be me," Jesus says, "You are My sheep, My flock." When the world says, "Do unto others, and then split," Jesus says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." To follow Jesus is to be different.

In other words, Jesus wants your heart and your soul. He yearns to free you from the awful bondage of serving only yourself and seeking only your advantage. He envisions yours as a heart that desire God and His pleasure most of all.

That's what Paul means in Galatians 5:16 when he says, "Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh." The-best-version-of-yourself will live by faith in God rather that faith in yourself or in the powers of this world. As a result, your behaviors, values, and priorities will change.

-- Allen R. Hunt in Nine Words


#3895

Thursday, June 9, 2016

THE WORD IS “TODAY”


“Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”  (Matthew 16:24 NIV)

Jesus calls us to take up a cross and die. Not someday when we take our last breath, but to die to ourselves today…

Bruce Thielemann is an author, he wrote these words, “Please don’t say anything to me about tomorrow. Tomorrow is a word the Bible does not know. The Holy Spirit’s word is “today.” The Bible says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). Today is the day of salvation. Don’t say tomorrow. The word is “today.”

-- Kyle Idleman in Not a Fan Study


#3894

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

HONESTY BEFORE GOD


A neat thing happens when I'm honest and transparent with God.  In some way, by being honest with Him, I connect with His love for me as my heavenly Father.  And to be honest, that's a hard thing for me to do.  It's probably one of the greatest struggles I have, outside of communication itself.  I still wonder sometimes, "Does God really love me?"  And on the flipside of that, I wonder, "How do I respond in love to Him?"  In ways I don't understand, being open and honest with Him helps me to connect with all that.

-- Dave Dravecky in The Worth of a Man


#3893

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

FREE TO THINK ABOUT “WHATEVER…”

In giving instruction about how to feed our minds, the apostle Paul writes, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.”…


God’s desire is for you to have a mind that habitually thinks noble, true, pure, admirable thoughts.  You have great freedom -- whatever -- to allow the Spirit to rewire your mind.  As that happens, the Holy Spirit’s goal is not to get you really good at suppressing angry behavior.  It is for you to have a mind characterized by an ever-increasing flow of Spirit-guided, truth-based, life-producing thoughts and feelings.


-- John Ortberg in The Me I Want To Be




#3892

Monday, June 6, 2016

PURVEYORS OF HOPE

I think that a third grader who has a heart to share the gospel and who cares about people will be successful at evangelism.  It's not complicated.  In fact, Christ -- the ultimate Evangelist -- said that all we have to do is to believe in the power of the gospel and then go!  "Take this -- the most amazing message ever heard -- to people of all races and religions and backgrounds and tribes." He'd say, "and let them know that salvation can be theirs.  Live like you believe that this message really can change lives."


"For starters," Jesus might say, "think back on how the power of God's story changed your life.  Remember that first tug from the Holy Spirit, how you felt when the gospel attached itself to your soul and began transforming you from empty and lifeless to fulfilled and thriving?  Now go tell someone about it!  Be a purveyor of hope to men and women who need the power of the gospel in their lives."


-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room




#3891

Friday, June 3, 2016

THE CONSUMMATION OF THE TWO COMMANDMENTS


Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "  (Matthew 22:37-39)

As out of Jesus' affliction came a new sense of God's love and a new basis for love between [human beings], so out of our affliction we may grasp the splendor of God's love and how to love one another.  Thus the consummation of the two commandments was on Golgotha; and the Cross is, at once, their image and their fulfillment.

-- Malcolm Muggeridge


#3890

Thursday, June 2, 2016

LOVING GOD TO THE FOURTH POWER

I pastor a church in Washington DC that is nearly 70 percent single twenty-somethings.  Unfortunately, our demographics are an anomaly.  By and large, twenty-somethings are leaving the church at an alarming rate.  According to some statistics, 61 percent of twenty-somethings who grew up going to church will quit going to church in their twenties.  And the temptation is to ask this question: what’s wrong with this generation?  But that is the wrong question.  The right question is this:  What’s wrong with the church?


My answer is simply this:  we’re not great at the Great Commandment [Luke 10:27].  In too many instances, we’re not even good at it.


That, I believe, is our primal problem.  That is the lost soul of Christianity.  If Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn’t it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it?  We can’t afford to be merely good at the Great Commandment.  We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.


The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins with rediscovering what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Jesus used those four kaleidoscopic words to describe four dimensions of love.  And there is certainly overlap among them.  It’s hard to know where loving God with your heart ends and loving God with your soul begins.  But one thing is sure: loving God in one way isn’t enough.  It’s not enough to love God with just your heart or soul or mind or strength.  We are called, even commanded, to love Him in all four ways.  Think of it as love to the fourth power.


-- Mark Batterson in PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity




#3889

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A KINGDOM OF BLESSING

“To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God…”  (John 1:12 NIV)


The Child in Bethlehem would grow up to be a friend of sinners, not a friend of Rome. He would spend His life with the ordinary and the unimpressive. He would pay deep attention to lepers and cripples, to the blind and the beggar, to prostitutes and fishermen, to women and children. He would announce the availability of a kingdom different from Herod’s, a kingdom where blessing -- of full value and worth with God -- was now conferred on the poor in spirit and the meek and the persecuted.


-- John Ortberg in Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus




#3888