"But someone will say, 'You have
faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will
show you my faith by my works."(James
2:18 ESV) In my intellect, I may divide [faith and
works], just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat; yet put out
the candle, and both are gone. -- John Selden (1584-1654)
The Bible says that each one of us will
face death.It's inevitable.But as Christ-followers know, death is just
the stepping-over into eternal union with God, if we so choose.John 3:16 has become rote for many people,
but its message continues to shake life's foundation: God so loved the world
that He gave His only Son, so that anyone who chooses to believe in Him would
not perish but would have eternal life.You can have it, you can know it, you can be assured of it, and you can
be completely confident in it.
I wonder if you know anyone who needs
that level of assurance today.If so,
then find a way to give it to them!
businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance, and religiosity once told
Mark Twain he intended to visit the Holy Land before he died, in order to climb
Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud.“I have a better idea,” Twain said. “You
could stay here in Boston and keep them.” We would
rather cogitate on what we do not know than actually do the things we know we
ought to do. Organizations
often suffer from inertia.A company may
know they need to improve quality control, so they discuss it, listen to
presentations about it, read books, look at state-of-the-art systems -- but
never actually get around to doing it. Their problem is one of knowing too
much, but doing too little. Be doers of
the word, and not merely hearers.” (James 1:22 NRSV) -- John Ortberg in The Me I Want To Be
"God’s light came into the world,
but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were
evil." (John 3:19b NLT)
Grace is a gift offered to each
individual by God. Imagine Christ moving toward us, stretching out His arms to
embrace us. Then Christ stops and waits for us to move into the embrace. The
invitation is clear. Christ has made the first steps toward us. Yet, no one is
forced into the embrace. Only when we step forward and accept the offered
relationship does it happen.
God loves us enough to allow us to
reject His love. Part of the mystery of humanity is why people choose darkness
over light, hatred over love, sin over holiness, and separation from God over
salvation. But they do.
-- Scott J. Jones in The Wesleyan Way: A Faith That Matters
I want to suggest that the cutting
edge of mission in our time, especially for churches in North America, is to
reclaim John Wesley's vision that “the world is our parish.” Wesley came by it
naturally, because Christianity is a world-embracing religion.
+ It is a faith founded on the
presuppositions that God created the whole world and pronounced it good.
+ It is a movement whose call is
understood in terms of the call of Abraham and Sarah to be a blessing to all
+ It is a community of moral
discourse centered in the prophets who reminded the Israelites and who remind
us that justice and righteousness are at the heart of what God calls us to be
+ It is a faith centered in John's
announcement that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son (John 3:16).
+ It is a witnessing fellowship
centered in Jesus Christ who gave us the Great Commission to go into all the
world and to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20).
+ It is a church, born at Pentecost,
only when people are gathered together from every language and tongue and
+ It is a faith community that sent
the disciples out to turn the world upside down for the Gospel (Acts
-- Clifton Kirkpatrick in Perspectives, February
going to a person either in your fantasies or in reality and saying, "I
don't understand. I'll never understand and it wasn't OK and it isn't OK, but I
forgive you." Forgiving doesn't make a person a doormat. It isn't the same
as tolerance. Forgivers don't have to be fools. Forgiving is healing yourself
of something that happened to you that you cannot tolerate but you forgive it
as the only way to heal the wound that it left with you. -- Lewis Smedes in Wrestling
with Angels video
not just the winners that society says are blessed. Blessed are not just the
super models. Blessed are not just the rich and powerful who can attract trophy
partners. Blessed are the wrinkled. Blessed are the misshapen. Blessed are
those who never got asked to the prom, who never got asked to dance. Blessed
are the single; blessed are the married. Blessed are the prostitutes, the
addicted, the shamed, and the regretful.
blessed, blessed. Blessed are you, not because you can have every desire
fulfilled, but because you are not your desires. Blessed are you because you
are more than a stomach, a mouth, and a pair of eyes. Blessed are you because
what you really ache for is to be loved by and connected to God, and now Jesus
says that love, that life, that connection is yours if you want it through Him.
“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my
song I praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7 NIV)
A story is told about a boy who
valiantly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to move a heavy log to clear a pathway
to his favorite hideout. His dad stood quietly nearby, watching his son
straining against the load. Finally he said, "Son, why aren't you using
all of your strength?"
Confused and a little angry, the boy
responded, "Dad, I'm using every last little bit of strength I have!"
"No, son, you're not," his dad
quietly responded. "You haven't asked me to help."
God is standing by at the ready,
watching us trying to do it all on our own. He is asking us, “My child, why
aren't you using all of your strength?" He is waiting for us to simply ask
for His help and His strength. And when we do, joy bursts from our heart and
praise from our lips.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal
life..” (John 3:36a NIV)
The cemetery is a sad place. We don’t
like to say goodbye to those whom we love. It’s right for us to weep, but there
is no need to despair. They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence
One of our church members asked me to
speak at the funeral of his mother. Her name was Ida, but her friends called
her Polly. Her son told me his mother had been unresponsive the last few hours
of her life. She never spoke a word. But moments before her death, she opened
her eyes and in a clear voice said, “My name is Ida, but my friends call me
words of hallucination? Perhaps. Or maybe she was in the presence of God --
maybe she was getting acquainted!
are two ways of looking when it comes to a window.I can look at a window.I can notice
the glass, see if there are any streaks or dust particles or bubbles in
it.Or I can look through a window.I can view
the world beyond it by using it as an opening to the world.
I look at the Scriptures.I study its story.I ask questions.Thoughts of God’s goodness, love, and peace
lodge in my mind.The idea is that I
begin also to look at my world through
the Scriptures -- through the perspective of God’s constant care and
The Bible proclaims hope in the face of
the darkness of circumstances... It does not promise that we won’t go through
difficulties or that we won’t experience pain. But these will not be the final
word. So the psalmist writes, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes
with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5a) The writer of Lamentations, seeing the
destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC, confesses his overwhelming
grief and sorrow but goes on to say, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I
have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come
to an end; they are new every morning. “ (Lamentations 3:21-23) -- Adam Hamilton in Why? - Making Sense of God’s Will
first service one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to
them.Just as love of God begins in
listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for [our brothers and sisters]
is learning to listen to them.It is
God's love for us that He not only gives us His Word but lends us His ear.So it is His work that we do for [others]
when we learn to listen to [them].
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in Life Together
In his first letter to the church at
Corinth, the Apostle Paul says (in Eugene Peterson's translation The Message):
"I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the
authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get
along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another,
cultivating a life in common." (I Corinthians 1:10)…
We live in a time when there are too
many conflicts, too little cooperation, and too few people who are willing to
get along. Simple courtesy, the ability to compromise, and the willingness to
think of the larger good -- those things seem to be in short supply. We are
reaching the point where the very social fabric is coming unraveled…
I suggest the following steps for each
of us and all of us to take:
1. Start by saying "I could be
wrong" when expressing your opinions. That simple caveat allows room for
the other person to have a different opinion. And it is also the truth – we may
well be wrong, even when we have a strong opinion.
2. Practice stating opposing opinions
without labeling or cynicism. The ability to explain positions with which we
disagree means that we have truly listened and learned. It also makes it more
likely that we will convince others to consider our opinion.
3. Agree to disagree without becoming
disagreeable. There is nothing which says we must always agree, but our
disagreeing can be civil and polite.
4. Don't go thermo-nuclear on every
issue. Most issues are not ultimate, so don't ramp up the rhetoric on every
5. Allow God to speak for Himself and
don't presume God agrees with you on every one of your opinions.
Will these five steps eliminate all of
the divisions and violence in our society and all the divisions in our
churches? Of course not. But we must start somewhere. As the Apostle Paul says,
"We must get along with each other." We must.
-- U.M. Bishop Mike Coyner, from the Indiana Conference website
said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this
rock I will build My church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”(Matthew 16:18 NLT)
The church is the joyful company of all those who have
been redeemed and brought into right relationship with God. Jesus declared that
He was going to build a new community known as the church. Jesus did not use
the more common expression of a “congregation” or a “synagogue” to describe His
new community, but the word “church.” The word in the Greek is the word for
being called to a public assembly. It simultaneously reminds us that we have
been called out of a life of sin into a new community, and also that this
community is a public assembly designed for men, women, and children alike who
have been baptized and brought into this new redeemed life. It is not, like the
earlier word, limited to Jews, but is now open to the whole human race, Jew and
Gentile. It is a community of prayer, of teaching, of training, of discipline,
and it is the place where we dwell in the presence of God and commune with Him
at the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. We are not merely saved as individuals but
we are saved as a people.
“God showed how much He loved us by
sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life
through Him. This is real love -- not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.Dear friends, since God loved us that much,
we surely ought to love each other. (1 John
We must love God, before we can be holy at all; this being
the root of all holiness. Now we cannot love God, till we know He loves us.
at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you
haven’t done,” Jesus told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the
money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”(Mark 10:21-22 NIV)
I love Jesus, but want to hold on to my
own friends even when they do not lead me closer to Jesus. I love Jesus, but
want to hold on to my own independence even when it brings me no real freedom.
I love Jesus, but do not want to lose the respect of my professional colleagues
even though their respect does not make me grow spiritually. I love Jesus, but
do not want to give up my writing, travel, and speaking plans even when they
are often more to my glory than God's.
-- Henri J.M. Nouwen, from his diary; in New Oxford Review
(April 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 15.
is a lovely saying of Martin Luther's about the reason for Bible reading:
"As we come to the cradle in order to find the baby, so we come to the
Scriptures in order to find the Christ."
we will find it almost a talking book as some bit comes alive and strikes us
forcibly.Sometimes we will find it more
of a picture gallery as we see what God did in other lives and learn from
that.Sometimes it will be a torch to
help us along a particularly dark part of the route.Sometimes it will be a fire to warm us,
sometimes a hammer to break down our proud independence.Sometimes it will be a meal to feed us
spiritually.Neglect this book and you
will remain small.Feed on it and you
-- Michael Green in Follow in His Footprints #3904
not a word we might immediately associate with spiritual maturation, play
is a powerful metaphor for a fully integrated life.Few things frighten me more than persons who
have become deadly serious about their religion.Living in a flat world with limited dimensions,
they have lost perspective.They set no
place at the table for the clown, the child, the muse.They have lost the art of play.
is free-form spontaneous creativity.It
is the essence of improvisation, a state of intuitive receptivity to the
God-given powers of the soul.Play
delights in the wonder of the moment, often finding joy and humor where they
are least evident.Like Jesus, the great
saints of our tradition have been graced with joy and playful humor even in the
midst of suffering.If you doubt Jesus
had a sense of humor, follow Elton Trueblood's suggestion: Imagine the Pharisee
straining a gnat from his cup and instead swallowing a camel-- yes, the whole huge mass of humps and
hooves slides surreptitiously down his throat without his ever noticing!
involves befriending our "wild" side.Some theologians have observed that God is "wild",
undomesticated, free to play in sovereign creativity through time and
eternity.As beings made in the image
and likeness of God, we reflect this creative potential.The wild side of us is kin to the child side
of us.Children live in a world of
improbable imagination.Could this be
one reason why Jesus said we must become "as little children" in
order to enter the kingdom of God?The
picture Jesus paints of the kingdom is wildly improbable.Things are truly upside-down from an
"adult" point of view: the last are first, the great are small, the
despised are blessed.
Thomspson in Leading From the Center, Spring 2000 #3903
sure and steadfast hope to rise,
And claim her mansion in the skies,
A Christian here her flesh laid down,
The cross exchanging for a crown.
True daughter of affliction, she,
Inured to pain and misery,
Mourn'd a long night of griefs and fears,
A legal night of seventy years.
The Father then revealed His Son;
Him in the broken bread made known;
She knew and felt her sins forgiven,
And found the earnest of her heaven.
Meet for the fellowship above,
She heard the call, "Arise, my love!"
"I come!" her dying looks replied,
And, lamb-like as her Lord, she died.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him,
‘If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the
truth, and the truth will set you free.’”(John 8:31-32 ESV)
of Tarsus thought he was in God's will when in fact, he was in bondage to his strict
religious observance of the law.When
God interrupted his life, Paul was transported from religion to
relationship.He became a new creation
in Christ.Paul learned to breathe the
air of freedom by living in God's will.Jesus said, "If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be
free" (John 8:36, NLV).
Mears, a beloved Bible teacher, taught the secret to true freedom.She explained, "A bird is free in the
air.Place a bird in the water and he
has lost his liberty.A fish is free in
the water, but leave him on the sand and he perishes.He is out of his realm.So, the Christian is free when he does the
will of God and is obedient to God's command.This is as natural a realm for God's child as the water is for the fish,
or the air for the bird."
Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians #3901