Wednesday, July 19, 2017

OUR ETERNAL BODIES

“The Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (Philippians 3: 20b-21)

Trying to understand what our bodies will be like in heaven is much like expecting an acorn to understand his destiny of roots, bark, branches, and leaves. Or asking a caterpillar to appreciate flying. Or a peach pit to fathom being fragrant. Or a coconut to grasp what it means to sway in the ocean breeze. Our eternal bodies will be so grand, so glorious, that we can only catch a fleeting glimpse of the splendor to come...

You and what you will one day be are one and the same -- yet different. "Our lowly bodies... will be like His glorious body." Astounding.

-- Joni Eareckson Tada in “Heaven: Your Real Home”


#4142

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PRAYING OUR TEARS

Tears are a biological gift from God. They are a physical means for expressing emotional and spiritual experience. But it is hard to know what to do with them. If we indulge our tears, we cultivate self-pity. If we suppress our tears, we lose touch with our feelings. But if we pray our tears, we enter into sadness that integrates our sorrows with our Lord's sorrows and discover both the source of and the relief from our sadness.

-- Eugene H. Peterson


#4141

Monday, July 17, 2017

IN PROXIMITY TO JESUS

“Four out of five ministers surveyed”…  OK, the correct number is more like “110 of 110 spiritual leaders interviewed,” but ever since the series of classic commercials aired featuring the ubiquitous “four out of five dentists,” I’ve had the image stuck in my head. The phrase “four out of five surveyed” has assumed a cache of gravitas I simply can’t pass up.

I may not know a lot of dentists, but over the past three years I have interviewed well over one hundred Christian ministers and published almost as many news stories about their work. Without exception these spiritual leaders have always defined the process of spiritual formation directly in terms of our relationship with Christ.

One United Methodist leader said it well: “My growth as a Christian happens in direct proportion to my willingness to place myself in proximity to Jesus.”

Yet at the same time the clerics were unequivocal regarding our need to be saturated with the Word of God. “Actually, that’s one of the primary ways I get to know God,” one Lutheran pastor told me. “God reveals His character specifically through the inspired words of the Bible. Sometimes when I read the Gospels it’s like having Jesus Himself sitting in an easy chair and sharing His heart with me one-on-one.”

-- Derek Maul in “Get Real: A Spiritual Journey for Men”


#4140

Friday, July 14, 2017

THE LORD’S BLESSING

To bless in the biblical sense means to ask for God's blessing, we're not asking for more of what we could get ourselves. We're crying out for the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has power to know about or give us. This kind of richness is what the writer was referring to in Proverbs: "The Lord's blessing is our greatest wealth; all our work adds nothing to it." (Proverbs 10:22 TLB)

-- Bruce Wilkinson in “The Prayer of Jabez


#4139

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A WAKE-UP CALL

“Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The phone rings early in the morning. You reach over and [answer it]. A familiar voice simply says three words: “Were you sleeping?” Though it’s a simple question, all of us have probably struggled to answer from time to time…

Just as a friend can wake us up with an early morning phone call to let us know something important, God invites us to wake up to the reality of Him every day. It’s true. Whether you recognize it or not,  you received a call from God this morning. The Bible says that God’s mercies are new every morning. And that’s a piece of news you can’t afford to miss.

-- Margaret Feinberg in “A Grand New Day”


#4138

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EXERCISING PATIENCE

“I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”  (1 Timothy 1:16)

We commonly associate patience with lying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder -- the patience that can ruin. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength. But I know of something that implies a strength greater still. It is the power to work under stress, to continue under hardship, to have anguish in your spirit and still perform daily tasks. This is a Christ-like thing. The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise patience, not in the sick bed, but in the street.

-- George Matheson, quoted by Joni Eareckson Tada in “Glorious Intruder

#4137

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TRUSTING IN GOD

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5,6 NRSV)

The Rev. Eric Folkerth tells the story about a Navy pilot in the Gulf War with Iraq... He was flying a mission on the very first night of the war, and his mission was to fly deep into Iraqi territory. Just as he crossed into Iraq, something all pilots fear happened: his instruments showed a missile was heading toward him. So, he maneuvered to get out of the way. Unfortunately, his maneuver sent him into a tailspin, and totally disoriented his senses. He had the sense that he was falling hard toward the left, and that to correct this, he needed to make a hard right turn. But, just before doing this maneuver, he looked down at his instruments. And his instruments showed he should do the exact opposite. His own inner ear and sense of balance told him one thing. His instruments told him another. He had to make a decision, and he only had split seconds.

He decided to trust the instruments. He remembered he'd been told that that's what he should do in flight school, and that his own sense of up and down could get disoriented. So, he banked back to the left, instead of to the right. And, sure enough, it brought him out of the tailspin.

In life, when things are going badly and we are in a tailspin, we have a tendency to trust in our own insights, or perceptions, of the situation. We try to get out of it our own way. But that will often bring on the necessity of a search and rescue mission. Instead, we need to trust the "instruments" of God's Word. He has placed before us the way we should go. We simply need to trust Him, acknowledge His perfect way, and He will guide us back to the right pathway. Enjoy the flight, but trust in the Lord's instruments.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#4136

Monday, July 10, 2017

FINDING COURAGE TO GO ON

I sit in the rattan chair, white terrycloth robe bundled around me.  My feet and face are chilled by the crisp Gulf breeze flowing through the open French doors.

I've come to this house to right myself in life, to wake up, to rest.  Weeks into the visit I begin constructing the life I've yet to live, from the center outward, and I start with the cog of my existence -- my faith.  My belief in another dimension, another justice, another King, another government devoid of fallibility.  My belief in a place where mercy reigns supreme and thoughtful, demonstrative, detailed love is expressed in microscopic ways.

This way is for the brave.  It allows God to be God.  It expects Him to move, but not to fit.

This road is meted out to me in small segments.  I step forward to answer the call of my first segment: Speak the truth as you have tasted it.  Sow the love as you have reaped it.  Number your days and find the joy hidden in each step.

-- Margaret Becker in “With New Eyes"


#4135

Friday, July 7, 2017

TRUSTING IN THE LORD

“God, I look to You for help.  I trust in You, Lord.”  (Psalm 141:8)

Don't put your hope into things that can change -- relationships, money, talents, beauty, even health.  Set your sights on the one thing that can never change: trust in your heavenly Father.

-- Max Lucado


#4134

Thursday, July 6, 2017

LEARN TO MONITOR YOUR MIND

Our thought patterns become as habitual as brushing our teeth.  After a while we don’t even think about them.  We get so used to bitter thoughts or anxious thoughts or selfish thoughts that we don’t even notice what we are thinking about.

One of the great barriers to a flourishing mind is sometimes called mindlessness.  My body is at the breakfast table with my family, but my mind isn’t.  It is ruminating over my problems -- a repetitive, anxious, dull, low-grade obsession with tasks and problems.  I am absentminded; my mind has gone AWOL.  Other people can tell I am not fully present because my face is less alive and responsive.  I talk less, and when I do say something, it is superficial and terse.  I don’t do this on purpose.  It simply becomes a habit of my mind.

The spiritual life begins with paying attention to our thoughts, which is why the psalmist prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)  God knows our thoughts better than we do, and He will help us learn what is going on in our mind from one moment to the next.

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want To Be”


#4133

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

GOD’S CALL IN RETIREMENT


NOTE:  On July 1, 2017 I retired from full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church. As I prepared for retirement and what that might look like, this verse and quote came to mind. Some have asked whether I will continue this SOUND BITES Ministry. Based on what I feel God is calling me to in retirement, I have no plans to discontinue this ministry. I have appreciated the many words of support for keeping it going. Blessings… -- DW

GOD’S CALL IN RETIREMENT

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

For some, retirement is disengagement, a time of withdrawal from life.  For others, it is new activity.  For those who seek to understand how God fits into retirement, we must return to see how God was at work in our past stories.  Only then can we understand how God calls us in this new chapter of life's journey.  There is continuity between how God called us in our past and how God calls us now. …

As we look backward and see God's presence in life, we can look forward to the end of life with hope and optimism.

-- Richard L. Morgan in “I Never Found That Rocking Chair"


#4132

Monday, July 3, 2017

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”   (Galatians 5:1a NIV)

Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you, valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting -- freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action, trusting in God whose commandment you faithfully follow.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


#4131

Friday, June 30, 2017

A CENTRAL VERSE IN OUR LIVES

Did you know that Psalm 118 is the middle of the entire Bible? Psalm 117, before Psalm 118, is the shortest chapter in the Bible. Psalm 119, after Psalm 118, is the longest chapter in the Bible. The Bible has 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118. If you add up all the chapters except Psalm 118, you get a total of 1188 Chapters. Psalm 118 verse 8 is the middle verse of the entire Bible. Should the central verse then not have an important message? No matter how you look at it, this should be a central verse in our lives! "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to rely on human beings." (Psalm 118:8)

-- Unknown


#4130

Thursday, June 29, 2017

THE BASEBALL PRAYER

Almighty Father, You who are called the "Mighty Umpire" in this game of life, we are not sure what uniforms we should wear. While we may be Angels in spirit, in reality we are Giants of pride, Dodgers of responsibility and Tigers in ambition. When it comes to faith, we find ourselves in the minor leagues. When it comes to good works, we strike out; when it comes to knowledge of Your Word, we are not sure of the ground rules.

Therefore, we are thankful for Your mercy when we find ourselves in foul territory; for Your forgiveness when we commit one error after another; for Your uplifting Spirit when we find ourselves in the pitfalls of a slump.

Dear God, may our game plan be Your will, and our response a sellout crowd with standing room only. And, when our number is retired here on earth, may we rejoice to hear You call out, "SAFE!" in His name who gives final victory to all who believe! Amen.

-- Unknown


#4129

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

GOD’S LIFE-GIVING OFFER

“They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”  (Psalm 107:5-9 NIV)

Lost, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, these wanderers typify the Israelites in exile. But they also typify anyone who has not found the satisfaction that comes from knowing God. Anyone who recognizes his or her own lostness can receive the offer of Jesus to satisfy these needs. Jesus is the way (John 14:6), the bread from heaven (John 6:33,35), the living water (John 4:10-14), and the giver of rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Have you received His life-giving offer?

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


#4128

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS


To affirm that God hears our prayers is to make a major claim about God and God's openness to us. God hears our prayers because He has affirmed His availability to us in Jesus Christ. Such a statement must be made softly and with an appreciation of its magnitude. God, in Jesus Christ, has made Himself available to us. We are able to hear God as the Holy Spirit opens our ears and makes us available to God.

-- Thomas A. Langford in “Christian Wholeness

#4127

Monday, June 26, 2017

A PASSIONATE FAITH

If our faith is something that really does not make a big difference, if it is actually not crucial that we or others believe, no wonder it seems boring to some of our young. Anything we don't care about can't be very interesting. The things we do care about, however, we inevitably talk about... If faith is real, it seeks expression. It will communicate and profess. It will have the energy of passion.

-- John F. Kavanaugh in “The Word Encountered”


#4126

Friday, June 23, 2017

TRANSCENDENT AND IMMANENT

The Bible describes God as both transcendent and immanent. To hold an accurate view of God, we must live with the tension inherent in these opposing characteristics.

Transcendent means that God is far above and greater than His creation. He is and always will be infinite, independent, unchanging, and sovereign. God’s transcendence is evident in the following passages: Psalm 113:4-6, Isaiah 55:8-9, and Acts 17:24-25.

Scripture is equally clear that God is immanent. He is not an abstract deity removed from His creation. He is and always will be personal, relational, responsive, and engaged. The following passages express His immanence: Isaiah 49:15-16, Luke 12:6-7, Romans 8:15.

In many passages both immanence and transcendence are described. Here is one example: “The Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods [transcendence]… Come, let us bow down and worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care [immanence].”  (Psalm 95:3,6-7)

-- Tim Muehlhoff in an article entitled “A Balanced View of God” in “Discipleship Journal”, Sep/Oct 2006


#4125

Thursday, June 22, 2017

INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”  (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

Scripture requires the activity of the Holy Spirit to speak. Words become the Word by the empowering presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Modernity taught that most rational human beings, regardless of background, training, or character, were perfectly capable of unaided understanding, perfectly able to grasp and comprehend everything in the world simply by the use of reason. Scripture frustrates such limited knowing. Scripture opens itself up to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we cannot rationalize or control, and modernity is high on control and rationalization. Thus, interpretation of Scripture is a communal, pneumatic affair -- a work of grace -- requiring considerably more than the lone, reasoning reader.

-- Bishop Will Willimon, from his Peculiar Prophet blog


#4124

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

GOD’S TENDERNESS

"God takes care of His people like a shepherd. He gathers them like lambs in His arms and carries them close to Him." (Isaiah 40:11)

We have been touched by God's tenderness -- all the tenderness of a gentle father. God doesn't come quarreling and wrangling and forcing His way into anyone's heart. He comes into our hearts like a gentle lamb, not a roaring lion.

-- Max Lucado


#4123

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

GOD’S WAYS

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are My ways higher than your ways
    and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The way God works is totally different than the way the world works, because the goals are totally different. If you want to build an organization, human wisdom will do it, but if you want to reveal the ways of God, you have to use God's ways.

-- adapted from Henry Blackaby


#4122


Monday, June 19, 2017

HOPE'S POWER


Hope does not build on certainty. To hope means we cannot be completely sure.  There are no guarantees. Coming to God with a mixture of hope and excitement is normal and human. We may even experience less welcome feelings alongside hope, such as anxiety, fear, and distrust. But those feelings are acceptable. God welcomes us with whatever degree and quality of hope possible for us. Even if the hope is simply an inexpressible desire for something more, it has power, and its power grows as we nurture the hope in God's presence.

The psalmist says, "You, O LORD, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth" (Psalm 71:5). When we anchor our hope in God's steady love and good plans for us, hope becomes a permanent part of us.  We have hope not because we are powerful or smart or resourceful but because of who God is. And as we test our hope by acting on it, we release God's power into our circumstances. Our "hope muscle" grows stronger and our desire for God more compelling, just as exercising strengthens our physical muscles. As we consciously work with God, we will see more evidence of God's work in the world around us. The more we hope and watch, the more we will see that reinforces our hope and trust.

-- Mary Lou Redding in “While We Wait” (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2002)


#4121

Friday, June 16, 2017

BOTTLED TEARS

"You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.”  (Psalm 56:8)

There are many different kinds of tears.  There are the tears shed by the mother of a little boy in ICU who is far too young to fight leukemia, but he fights anyway.  There are the tears shed by the father of the bride as he walks his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.  There are tears that stain divorce papers, and tears mixed with sweat that stream down the faces of grown men who have just won a national championship.  Then there are the tears shed in prayer.

Each and every teardrop is precious to God.  They are eternal keepsakes.  The day will come when He wipes away every tear in heaven.  Until then, God will move heaven and earth to honor every tear that has been shed.  Not a single tear is lost on God.  He remembers each one.  He honors each one.  He collects each one.

-- Mark Batterson in “The Circle Maker”


#4120

Thursday, June 15, 2017

SHAPING OUR MIND

We once lived across the street from a couple who did not get along.  The husband worked in security, but his passion was to be a body-builder.  He was strong, sarcastic, and self-centered.  His wife was small and timid -- and angry.

He had to go to work every morning at 6:00, and she got up at 5:00 to fix his lunch.  We wondered why she would do this for someone she was so mad at until she explained that she was secretly packing his lunches with enough calories to put weight on Shamu the Killer Whale.  She loaded what he thought were dietary turkey sandwiches with butter and mayonnaise.  She put extra sugar in his yogurt and made his protein shakes with half-and-half.  He worked out a lot, but he could never understand why his body didn’t look like the guys in the magazine.

He never knew she was larding him up when he wasn’t looking.

Our bodies are constantly being formed by what goes into them.  We may not like this truth, we may not heed it, but we can’t evade it.  Bodies get shaped by what goes into them…

In this world we are being bombarded by a steady stream of messages from the media, bosses, co-workers, people we date, books, iPods -- and from our own thoughts.  Our mind will be shaped by whatever we feed it while the Evil One tries to lard up our mind when we’re not looking.  He will put depression in our thoughts at breakfast, sprinkle temptation in our mind at noon, and slip us a worry sandwich when it’s time for bed.

He will try to keep us from noticing what we are putting into our mind.

-- John Ortberg in "The Me I Want To Be"


#4119

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT GOD’S FORGIVENESS

“When we were overwhelmed by sins, You forgave our transgressions.”  (Psalm 65:3)

Although we may feel overwhelmed by the multitude of our sins, God will forgive them all if we ask sincerely. Do you feel as though God could never forgive you, that your sins are too many, or that some of them are too great? The good news is that God can and will forgive them all. Nobody is beyond redemption, and nobody is so full of sin that he or she cannot be made clean.

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


#4118

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WAIT ON THE LORD

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength."  (Isaiah 40:31)

God doesn't tell us how He'll answer our prayers, or even when, but He does promise those who wait on Him one thing -- strength. Tony Evans points out that the word "wait" comes from a Hebrew word used in the making of rope. Every rope starts as a thread, and every thread added just increases its strength. Getting the idea? Every time you wait on the Lord you add another thread to the rope; you get a little stronger, a little more able to cope. Feel like you're just hanging on by a thread? Wait in God's presence and let Him turn it into a rope.

But waiting is not always passive, sometimes it's active; like waiting on a customer, seeing that his or her needs are met. Waiting is not so much a position, as it is a focus. Isaiah says, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed [focused] on Thee" (Isa 26:3). Whether it's sitting prayerfully in God's presence, or actively carrying out His will, you've got His assurance that your strength will be renewed. Listen to these promises:
      (1) "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord" (Psalm 27:14 NKJV).
      (2) "Wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5 NKJV).
      (3) "As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters... so our eyes look to  the Lord our God" (Ps 123:2 NKJV).

Need more strength? Wait on God more!

-- Source Unknown, from a subscriber in Pennsylvania


#4117

Monday, June 12, 2017

GOD WHO IS TRIUNE

The Trinity is what we have if Jesus Christ is indeed God with us, God as God really is.  The Trinity shows that God is in relationship, that God is constantly, relentlessly relational, outgoing, and incarnational.  We can have new church starts, growing churches, and an expansive Kingdom of God because we have a God who is Triune.  The Trinity designates God as communicative, loving, relational, and on the move.

-- U.M. Bishop Will Willimon from an online interview


#4116

Friday, June 9, 2017

CASTING YOUR CARES ON THE LORD

"Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you." -- Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

The word "cast" brings a picture of throwing or pushing away and that is exactly what we must learn to do with our worldly cares. Jesus can handle them. We sometimes give them a nice kick toward the Lord in a sort of ceremonial way, but hang on just enough to stay involved! We may actually be thinking, "Well, I can handle this or that myself;" and that thinking gets us into trouble. We try to fix, control or otherwise manipulate situations that we should have left to our Lord. Fling your cares toward our loving Lord and enjoy the freedom of living!

-- Rev. Gary Stone


#4115

Thursday, June 8, 2017

CAREGIVING AS A MEANS TO GROW

Caregiving is a deeply ingrained human response to suffering. We want to ease pain, to restore calm and peace to those in need. But caregiving takes a toll… It is hard to listen to others when the pains and troubles of our own lives are clamoring for attention.

But if we learn to listen to our own needs and wants, that listening can free us to learn to become truly present to the inner deep and fragile beauty of those under our care. Then even the most mundane and repetitive caregiving tasks can become a means for us to grow.

-- Henri Nouwen in “A Spirituality of Caregiving


#4114

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A PANTING DEER

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God.” (Psalm 42:1)

This psalm got made into a song, and sometimes when people sing it they think it means they are supposed to long for God or like church services and church songs.  But this psalm is much bigger than that.  It means that God is my life-giver and therefore my desire for life cannot be satisfied apart from Him.

This is not a picture of Bambi wandering through a leafy-green, stream-laden forest with a slightly parched throat.  This is desert country.  No rivers, just wadis -- gullies that would contain water only in the rainy season.  Now the wadis are dried up, and the deer is going to die if it doesn’t find water.  That is us.  We were made for soul satisfaction and simply die without it.

If you want life, you want God.  You want Him the way a deer dying of thirst wants water.  You want God more than you know.

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want To Be”


#4113

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NURTURING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

If we have routinely nurtured our relationship with Jesus, that provides a safety margin against the unexpected [of life]. For example, my wife has been quite careful to care for a small tree in our front yard. It is an evergreen magnolia that we both hope to enjoy as a full-grown tree one day. It has some new leaves and my wife has it staked out for protection against the wind. Due to her diligent work the tree has many new limbs and leaves. Well, along comes a stray football and one limb is suddenly ripped away! Does the tree now die? No, it does not because the other limbs and leaves can pull some extra weight for this "time of trouble."

Likewise our relationship with Jesus has multiple branches. When one branch suddenly falls under attack the others can do extra work to make up the difference. We very well may face some difficult trials in life, but our day after day nurturing of our relationship with Christ paves the way for success. When the going gets tough the Spirit is ready and willing to support and hold us firm. This simply does not happen if we have failed to nurture our relationship with Jesus.

-- Rev. Gary Stone


#4112

Monday, June 5, 2017

CALLING ON GOD

To enter God's refuge, we must first call out to God.  Psalm 91:15 says, "He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him."

For the life of me, I can't figure out how this calling-on-God thing works, but it does.  The Bible tells us to walk by faith, not by sight, and this is one of those times when we can't understand why something works, we can only trust in God and then be delighted when we experience it.

For centuries now, Christians have poured out their hearts to the Lord and found treasured moments of refuge.  This is incredibly good news.  We don't have to get out a map, calculate how far away each one of the cities of refuge is, and then embark on a journey.  We don't have to drive to a monastery.  We don't have to call a minister.  We don't have to wait until the next church service.  The front seat of our cars will work nicely.  Our offices, our homes, our construction trailers -- they're all as good as the most elaborate cathedral.  We can access the refuge of God anytime, anywhere.  All we have to do is to acknowledge our need, move from self-sufficiency to dependence, and ask God to become our hiding place.

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


#4111

Friday, June 2, 2017

HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures...”  (Psalm 23:1,2a)

Sometimes God puts us on our backs in order to give us a chance to look up: "He makes me lie down." Many times we are forced, not by God, but by circumstances of one sort or another to lie down. That can always be a blessed experience. Even the bed of an invalid may be a blessing if he takes advantage of it!

-- Charles L. Allen in “The Twenty-Third Psalm”


#4110

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MY SHEPHERD


"The Lord is my shepherd…" (Psalm 23:1)

Someone has well said that "the heart of religion lies in its personal pronouns." What a difference that one little word, "my", makes: "my shepherd"... It makes all the difference in the world whether you say, "Jesus is a savior" or "Jesus has saved me"; whether you say, "The Lord is a shepherd" or "The Lord is my shepherd"; it makes the difference between being saved or lost.

-- Maxie Dunnam in “Living the Psalms”


#4109

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

YOUR WORTH

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye,
hide me in the shadow of Your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.”  (Psalm 17:8-9)

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.  "My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him. Psalm 17:8 states that God will keep us, "as the apple of His eye."

The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we are but in WHOSE WE ARE! You are special.

-- Author Unknown


#4108

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RUNNING THE SHOW

There is a God.  It is not you.

This is the beginning of wisdom.  At first, it looks like bad news because I would like to run the world.  I would like to gratify my desires.  I would like to have my own way.  But once we think about it, this idea turns out to be very good news.

It means that someone far wiser and more competent is running the show.  It is His job to be God; it is my job to learn to let Him be who He is.  The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1)  I suppose the even bigger fool, looking in the mirror, has said, “There is a god!” for the oldest temptation is that we “will be like God.”  Real life, however, begins when I die to the false god that is me.

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want To Be” 


#4107

Friday, May 26, 2017

THE THEOLOGY OF SLEEP

I was surprised to find that the Bible has much to say about what John Ballie called the theology of sleep. Sleep is a gift from God:
"I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for You alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

It is an act of trust: I am reminded when I go to sleep that the world is in God's hands, not mine. The world will get along very well even though I am not awake to try to control things. At the appropriate time, my eyes will open and I will receive the gift of wakefulness once again.

"I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me." (Psalm 3:5)

-- John Ortberg in “The Life You've Always Wanted”


#4106

Thursday, May 25, 2017

SHARING YOUR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE

The depth of our religious experience can be tested by the irrepressible impulse to share with others what we have experienced -- to bring others to the fountain from which we have drunk. That's what evangelism is all about. Asian theologian D. T. Niles defined it as "one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread." The strategy for evangelism rests on this simple foundation: personal witness. One loving heart sets another heart on fire; one person whose spiritual hunger and thirst has been satisfied introduces another to Him who alone will feed our ravaging hunger -- Jesus, "the bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:41). Who will assuage our burning thirst? Jesus, the living water "welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).

Do you feel an irrepressible impulse to share your Christian experience, to bring others to the fountain from which you have drunk? Keep asking yourself that question. It's a good way to test the growing depth of your relationship to Christ.

-- Maxie Dunnam in “Living the Psalms: A Confidence for All Seasons” 


#4105

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

NEAR TO THE BROKENHEARTED

Ernest Hemingway in “A Farewell to Arms” writes: “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong in the broken places.” Jesus in the parable of the foundations reminds us that there is no escape from the problems, hurts, and storms of life. They are part of the human scene and the dynamic of human relationships. A modern-day theologian and pastor, Henri Nouwen, who writes from the perspective of the “wounded healer,” speaks of the wounds of life with words such as “alienation, separation, isolation, and loneliness.” We all know firsthand about the wounds, heartbreaks, and shattered dreams in these frustrating disappointments. Some people know dramatically the pain of rejection, failure, verbal abuse, divorce, grief, and sorrow.

And sometimes it seems that no one understands or cares. In reading Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, many people in our world today relate quickly to the victim in the story, beaten, left bleeding, and unable to cry out. And people who should care pass by and offer no help or understanding. But let me hurry to say that the good news for them and for us is that God is the Good Samaritan to a wounded world. God is aware of our hurts and the wounds of our life. Listen to the words of the psalmist: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,” “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds their wounds.” (Psalm 34:18; 147:3)

-- James W. Moore and Bob J. Moore in “Lord, Give Me Patience!... And Give It to Me Right Now!”


#4104

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

HIS LOYAL LOVE

God doesn't want us continually comparing ourselves with others, saying to ourselves, "Well, there are the really spiritual folks, there are those who are next to the best, and then there's me -- a charter member of the ‘barely adequate group’."  He knows your weaknesses very well (who better?), accepts those weaknesses, and loves you in spite of them.

His individualized love does not mean that He approves of everything you do or applauds all that you lack.  Each one of us has our own set of struggles in the Christian life.  Some might boast that they've never been tempted to drink, do drugs, or chase someone else's mate.  But is that something to boast about?  Maybe the way you were raised spared you from those problems.  You might have more trouble with pride or gossip or secret idolatries.  God doesn't approve of those things either.  But He loves you, and for as long as you live, He's going to work with you on those areas.

We need to let His loyal love move and motivate us to bring our lives into alignment with His.  As we obey, saying "yes" to His Spirit in an increasing way, we grow in holiness.

-- Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in “More Jesus, Less Religion”


#4103

Monday, May 22, 2017

THE DEEPEST COMFORT

Pain and sorrow are never wasted when given into God's hands, and their transformation is far beyond our imaginings. But in this life, we will experience a poignancy, a regret that harm was done when our actions could have been different. This poignancy is a valid, healthy part of our journey of release.

The deepest comfort in our mourning is to know that God not only has compassion but actually feels our suffering with us. Jesus tells us that not even a tiny sparrow will fall to the ground "apart from your Father" (Matthew 10:29). To me this means that God's heart so enfolds and unites with the sparrow (and with us) that the suffering of the tiny creature is shared, felt by that supreme heart. The creature's suffering resounds through God's whole being.

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in “Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey” (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2001)


#4102

Friday, May 19, 2017

PREACHING CHRIST


“You see, we don't go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus' sake.”  (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT)

The One we preach is not Christ-in-a-vacuum, nor a mystical Christ unrelated to the real world, nor even only the Jesus of ancient history, but rather the contemporary Christ who once lived and died, and now lives to meet human need in all its variety today.

-- John Stott in “Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today”


#4101

Thursday, May 18, 2017

THE PEOPLE DYNAMIC

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

In the small, sharing group lies the power which enables persons to love more fully and live more creatively. This power is the people dynamic -- "the power we have to recreate each other and ourselves through caring and sharing".

-- Howard Clinebell in “The People Dynamic: Changing Self and Society Through Growth Groups


#4100

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

TRANSFORMED INTO THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST

“Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2 NLT)

What is actually happening to [believers in Christ] is that we are gradually being conformed to the character and likeness of Christ. As we invite His Spirit to come into our careers and into our lives we find that He then tends to produce His own characteristics in us. Instead of being tense and anxious and nervous we become more calm, confident, and relaxed. This is because we become increasingly aware that just as God our Father is very much in control of outer events in the world around us, He can likewise be in calm control of the inner turmoil of the world within us. Essentially this is what we mean by allowing ourselves to be led or guided by God. It is what we refer to as being under Christ's control. It is the thought of my spirit's being so in harmony with God's Spirit that there is a desire and willingness to do God's will.

-- W. Phillip Keller in “SERENITY: Finding God Again For The First Time”


#4099

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

GOOD DAYS, BAD DAYS

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
naked I'll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God's name be ever blessed." (Job 1:21, The Message)

Job does not curse God as his wife suggests he should do, getting rid of the problems by getting rid of God. But neither does Job explain suffering. He does not instruct us in how to live so that we can avoid suffering. Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery. In the course of facing, questioning, and respecting suffering, Job finds himself in an even larger mystery -- the mystery of God.  Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love and praise. Suffering does not inevitably do that, but it does it far more often than we would expect. It certainly did that for Job. Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of an uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: "We take the good days from God -- why not also the bad days?"

-- Eugene Peterson in “The Message”


#4098

Monday, May 15, 2017

PUTTING TEAMWORK INTO ACTION

“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’"  (Nehemiah 2:17 NIV)

Spiritual renewal often begins with one person’s vision.  Nehemiah had a vision, and he shared it with enthusiasm, inspiring Jerusalem’s leaders to rebuild the wall.

We frequently underestimate people and don’t challenge them with our dreams for God’s work in the world. When God plants an idea in your mind to accomplish something for Him, share it with others and trust the Holy Spirit to impress them with similar thoughts.  Don’t regard yourself as the only one through whom God is working.  Often God uses one person to express the vision and offers to turn it into reality. When you encourage and inspire others, you put teamwork into action to accomplish God’s goals.

-- from the “Life Application Study Bible”


#4097