Friday, September 22, 2017

OUR DAILY LABOR

Let us consider a hymn of daily life, written by Charles Wesley and published in 1749...
Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think or speak or do.

What is your daily labor? You and I share at least one task in common: prayer. Jesus Christ calls us to pray. Our prayers cast out fear and open us to hospitality and friendship. Our prayers give us wisdom and courage to initiate relationships, to extend grace to strangers, and to entertain angels unaware. Our daily labor in prayer encourages us to fast from apathy, to serve others, feed the hungry, challenge injustice, and be the body of Christ in the world.

-- George Hovaness Donigian in “A World Worth Saving”, used by permission of Upper Room Books.


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

AN UNCOMFORTABLE CALLING

“Then Jesus told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’”  (Mark 16:15 NLT)

“Do you love Me enough to tell them?” Christianity is rare among the world religions in containing an explicit command to tell unbelievers the Good News and to urge them to convert. It is an uncomfortable calling… This obligation to evangelize is perhaps the aspect most resented by those outside the faith, and most neglected by those inside. It is an awkward calling. But it is commanded of Jesus, as blunt as the calls to love our enemies and to care for the poor… 

-- Frederica Mathewes-Green


#4178

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

LIVING THE SURRENDERED LIFE

It is a paradox, yet a principle of effective… leadership you can count on: The best leaders are, first of all, followers. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” asked Jesus of the soon-to-be leader of the post-Resurrection church. That question brought forth the second of Peter’s confessions. The first was at Caesarea Philippi: “You are the Messiah,” said Peter, “the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV) Now, on the shores of the Galilee, Peter declares his love and full surrender three times, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:15 NRSV)

Jesus chose Peter, I think, not because he was the brightest and the bravest, but because he was the most fully surrendered. His two confessions testify to his faith. Faith is surrender. To follow Jesus is to trust Him as you trust no other; it is to live the surrendered life. Paul would later write, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who life, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 NRSV)

There is a story told about General William Booth of the Salvation Army who, on one occasion, was asked the secret of the Army’s success. The former Methodist preacher answered: “I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me to have -- all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, all the influence of my life.”

-- Roger K. Swanson in the “Offering Christ Today” newsletter, Spring 1996


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A WORD TO TEACHERS

A word to Christians who are [public] school teachers and administrators: Most of the teachers my children have had in school were Christians, and for this I am grateful.  Though you cannot overtly seek to bring your students to faith in Christ, you can minister to them.  You can encourage children and believe in them.  You play such an important role, and God is honored by what you do with your lives.  You chose a career that may never pay six figures but that allows you to invest in the lives of our children.  Teachers are heroes, and we are grateful to them.  And you as Christian teachers, while you may not intentionally use your position to lead children to the Christian religion, you may certainly let Christ's love shine through you.

You teachers may pray for your children by name in the evenings at home.  You may live the gospel in how you love them at school.  You may ask the Holy Spirit to work through you as you work with the most challenging of these kids.  You may listen for the Lord to guide you in what you do.

-- Adam Hamilton in “Confronting the Controversies”


#4176

Monday, September 18, 2017

THE POWER OF GOD

God is great and God is powerful, but we must invite Him to be powerful in our lives.  His strength is always there, but it's up to us to provide a channel through which that power can flow.

Some of you feel beat up and drained.  Some of you feel like a victim who has been picked on so thoroughly that your bones are clean.  Some of you face daunting tasks and stiff challenges, and you're worried that you don't have what it takes to carry on.  I challenge you to act as though you are empowered, and see -- just test it -- if God does not send His strength your way.  Determine this very moment to walk in the direction God is asking you to go and just trust that He will grant you power along the way.

Paul urges us, "Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."  (1 Corinthians 2:5)

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


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Friday, September 15, 2017

PASSIONATE WORSHIP

Worship describes those times we gather deliberately seeking to encounter God in Christ. God uses worship to transform lives, heal wounded souls, renew hope, shape decisions, provoke changes, inspire compassion, and bind people to one another.

The word passionate expresses an intense desire, an ardent spirit, strong feelings, and the sense of heightened importance. It describes an emotional connection that goes beyond intellectual consent bringing eagerness, anticipation, expectancy, deep commitment, and belief.

Passionate Worship, whether traditional or contemporary, means an extraordinary eagerness to offer the best in worship, honoring God with excellence and with an unusual clarity about the purpose of connecting people to God. It is worship that is not dry, routine, or boring, keeping the form while lacking the spirit. It is not performance. It is devotion and celebration expressing our love of God.

-- Robert Schnase in “Cultivating Fruitfulness”


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF WORSHIP

“The name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”  (Ezekiel 48:35b)

The Book of Ezekiel begins by describing the holiness of God that Israel had despised and ignored. As a result, God’s presence departed from the temple, the city, and the people. The book ends with a detailed vision of the new temple, the new city, and the new people -- all demonstrating God’s holiness. The pressures of everyday life may persuade us to focus on the here and now and thus forget God. That is why worship is so important; it takes our eyes off our current worries, gives us a glimpse of God’s holiness, and allows us to look toward His future Kingdom. God’s presence makes everything glorious, and worship brings us into His presence.

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


#4173

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

COMING TO WORSHIP WITH EXPECTANCY

“When they said, ‘Let’s go to the house of God,’ my heart leaped for joy.”  (Psalm 22:1 MSG)

Sometimes people bring energy to a gathering; sometimes they just show up.  My wife used to head up a ministry to twenty-something folks who were mostly single.  I knew, even with my eyes closed, if I was in their presence, just by the smell.  They smelled great.  In regular church services, with mostly old married people, no one cares how they smell.  But when people are hopeful of meeting someone, there is electricity in the air.  And a scent in the air.  They are alive.

It is the same with God.  If I really believe that I may meet with God, I don’t just show up.  My mind is awake.  I am hoping and looking for something beyond myself.

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


#4172

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ON THE WINGS OF AN EAGLE

“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

An eagle's wings are long and wide, helping it to soar skillfully through the sky.  The primaries, on the tip of the wings, are tapered so that the eagle can fully expand its wings and separate them widely.  Such a design reduces turbulence as the air passes smoothly over its wings.

The eagle does not flap its wings; it soars!  Unlike a duck, which will frantically flap its wings at the first sign of trouble, making it vulnerable to predators, the eagle conserves its energy, trusting in its God-given strength.

We can be like eagles as we soar on the wings of God.

-- Sheryl Lynn Hill in “Soar As the Eagle


#4171

Monday, September 11, 2017

A DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION

Again the Lord said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.”’”  (Ezekiel  37:4-5 NKJV)

God’s Spirit once took the prophet Ezekiel to a vast valley filled with brittle, parched-dry bones -- a potent picture of widespread spiritual dryness. But by the Word of God proclaimed through Ezekiel’s mouth, those piles of bones took on sinew and flesh and skin, then were infused with life-giving, wind-driven breath from the Spirit of God. A sweeping vista of skeletons was turned instead into a force of fired-up warriors ready to do battle for the Lord. A transformation just as dramatic is what God wants to generate in our individual lives today and in the life of His church.

-- from the Publisher’s Description of “Dry Bones Dancing” by Tony Evans


#4170

Friday, September 8, 2017

WHEN OUR LOVED ONES LEAVE US

When our loved ones leave us, one of the ways we keep their presence alive is by retelling the stories.  How was it when they were younger?  What were their favorite stories about themselves?  About us?

Now that they are gone, our imaginations are somehow freed to claim them in a more expanded way -- fanciful and yet true.  Our nostalgia is genuine.  It is also benevolent and tender.  We see them in their fragility, as figures in a drama suspended in time, taking their places along with the legendary figures they used to tell us about.  Perhaps we know them in greater clarity -- and charity -- than we could when we were engaged in the dynamics of daily exchange.

My life will continue to be blessed as the stories of my loved one develop and settle in my mind.

-- Martha Whitmore Hickman in “Healing After Loss”


#4169

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SAYING YES TO THE SPIRIT

Many of our “tame hopes” are fulfilled on a daily basis: the hope that the sun will shine, or the pay check will arrive as planned, or that we will get sufficient nourishment for the day. Though one is disappointed once in a while, our anticipation of these “small” things, though not insignificant, is frequently realized.

By contrast, some of these same issues for people in other cultures are “wild hopes.” Many of our sisters and brothers do not receive a salary, nor do they get three meals a day, nor does the sun of freedom shine in their lives. Born to poverty or oppressed by social systems, these people find little joy and peace. If they are fortunate in avoiding violence they still must struggle with resentment and bitterness in their awareness of the consumption and materialism of the wealthy.

We must pray like Jesus that hope might be restored and that the earth might be recast. Only the gift of the Holy Spirit can empower us to trust in the future and to assume our rightful responsibility for the common good. Renewing the face of the earth is the work of the Holy Spirit through those people who say yes to being the Spirit’s agents of knowledge, love and kindness. Our hope, wild or tame, is grounded in God’s promise of presence. Herein is our joy and peace.

-- Bishop Robert F. Morneau in “Resurrection to Pentecost”


#4168

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ALREADY BUT NOT YET

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

It has been said that Charles Wesley’s hymns always begin on earth and end in heaven. So it is with John Wesley’s theology. He was firmly convinced of the coming day of Christ, which is not yet, but toward which humankind, with the whole of creation, is moving. For Wesley, it was necessary to stress God’s ultimate victory; but it was also important to affirm the penultimate reality of God’s presence, now experienced as life that is drawn to God in increasingly focused love. John Wesley had a doctrine of final things, an eschatology, in which God’s Kingdom is being presently realized even as it points toward a consummating future. The Christian lives with the lively hope that God, who has begun a good thing, will fulfill it in the day of Jesus Christ.

-- Thomas Langford in “Practical Divinity”


#4167

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MEDITATING ON GOD’S WORD

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; mediate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful."  (Joshua 1:8)

Read the Bible, whether you understand it or not, and the Holy Spirit will bring back some word of Jesus to you in a particular set of circumstances and make it living.

-- Oswald Chambers


4166

Friday, September 1, 2017

FORGIVENESS IS KEY

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12 NIV)

Forgiveness can be the great cleansing action that allows one to begin again. Retribution or restitution is not enough. They serve as payback but they do not allow for the deep scouring that is necessary to truly start anew. The ancient Israelites knew the principle well for they instituted the practice of the Sabbath year. Each seventh year was set aside so that all could begin over again: fields lay fallow and all debts were forgiven. This crucial period of rest was seen as necessary for the harmonious functioning of society and the fertility of the land. The earth can be depleted, our societies become imbalanced and unjust. Similarly, as individuals and as families we require a time of absolution so that we might truly begin again and become fertile fields that yield a rich harvest.

The prayer most identified with Christianity, the one taught to us by Jesus Himself, incorporates the crucial insight that forgiveness is a key ingredient as we live into the promised Kingdom.

-- Wendy M. Wright in “The Time Between”


#4165

Thursday, August 31, 2017

PASTORAL CARE GIVING

The person who is the best caregiver is a good listener. To a large extent, pastoral care is simply being present, being available, and being open to hear the needs and concerns of others.

In John 1:14 we read “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God dwells with us with the grace and the truth only God can provide. For John, Jesus represents one who “is and will be present,” and humankind finds its wholeness and shalom on earth, as well as in heaven.

After the resurrection, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “as the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” (John 20:19-23) Jesus then said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and blessed the disciples. That same Spirit abides with disciples today -- whether ordained or laity -- and enables all to work on God’s behalf. In the midst of providing care, clergy and lay pastoral caregivers alike lean on the support and direction of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we believe that the Spirit gives us certain gifts. By using these gifts, we continue the ministry begun by Jesus.

-- Timothy M. Farabaugh in “Lay Pastoral Care Giving”


#4164

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Many approaches to spiritual growth assume that the same methods will produce the same growth in different people -- but they don’t.  Because you have been created by God as a unique person, His plan to grow you will not look the same as His plan to grow anyone else.  What would grow an orchid would drown a cactus.  What would feed a mouse would starve an elephant.  All of those entities need light, food, air, and water -- but in different amounts and conditions.  The key is not treating every creature alike; it is finding the unique conditions that help each creature grow.

Imagine a doctor’s office where every patient is told, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”  If I have a headache, that is great advice, but if my appendix has just burst, I will be dead before morning.  Imagine a store that sells only one kind of shirt -- one color, style, fabric, and size -- and makes the same deal on pants.  There are no “one-size-fits-all” stores, because God made people in different sizes.  Imagine a parent who thinks, ‘No matter how many kids I have, I will treat them each exactly the same way.  Each kid will be a blank slate for me to write on, pliable clay for me to mold.  They will all be motivated by the same rewards, impacted by punishment the same way, and attracted by the same activities.’

What obliterates these ideas? Reality, such as actually having children and becoming quickly aware that every human being is different.  If we really want to help someone grow, we will have to help them in a way that fits their wiring.

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


#4163

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

USING YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.”  (1 Peter 4:10)

Each Christian has a personality or disposition colored by the specific [spiritual] gifts present and practiced. The combination of gifts and their various manifestations determine how a person acts in relation to self and others in the body of Christ. … Many Christians, if not most, practice their gifts without being consciously aware of them. Usually after two years of growth, serious converts to Christ find a ministry consistent with their gifts -- without knowing it. I have heard many persons tell how their work for Christ was joy-filled, but they didn’t know why until they discovered that all along they were working out of their gifts.

A 70-year-old man gave an emotional testimony after a workshop where he discovered one of his gifts. He said, “All my life I knew there was something I really enjoyed doing for Christ and the church. But I’ve always had a tinge of guilt, thinking that I was doing my thing for self-gratification. This morning, while I was shaving and praying about the gifts, God revealed to me that what I had been doing and enjoying all along was coming out of my gift. I got so excited about it that I could hardly finish shaving without cutting myself. I’ve been singing all day long. And to think that I have felt guilty over the joy of doing what God wanted me to do!”

-- Charles V. Bryant in “Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts: Building Up the Body of Christ Through the Gifts of the Spirit”, Copyright © 1991 by Charles V. Bryant. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.


#4162

Monday, August 28, 2017

CALMING THE STORM

If you’ve ever been caught in a powerful storm [as I was with hurricane Jeanne in 2004], you know that chaos reigns… Swirling winds and flying debris. Chaos. That is what storms produce. Not just the ones that form in the sky, but also the ones that form in our lives.

I was reminded of this when I spoke with a young woman whose marriage is in deep trouble because of her husband’s infidelity. Her swirling emotions have her leaning first one way and then another. One day she wants to fight her husband, and the next day she wants to strangle him. And talk about flying debris! The verbal hand grenades they’re lobbing at each other are throwing shrapnel and leaving wounds that will likely take years to heal.

Can you relate? Are you caught in a storm of your own right now? Do you find that shifting emotional winds have you leaning first one way and then another? Have you been coldcocked by flying debris? Have things become so confusing that you don’t even know what’s right anymore? And are you so weary of it all that you almost don’t even care? If so, remember that our Lord’s words can bring order out of chaos…

Right now, before the storm batters you another day, I urge you to cast your lot with the psalmist, who said, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him. I have put my hope in His word.” (Psalm 130:5)

His words calm storms.

-- Mark Atteberry in “Free Refill: Coming Back to Jesus for More”


#4161

Friday, August 25, 2017

LISTENING TO THE SHEPHERD

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and My sheep follow Me.”  (John 10:27)

I believe God talks to us. Have I heard God speak to me in an audible voice? No.

Sometimes He speaks to me through Scripture. Sometimes He speaks to me through the words of a song, through reading or a sermon, through a quote of advice or admonition, through the honesty of a child, from a billboard or a bumper sticker, through a conversation with a family member or friend.

He always tells me things that are in line with His Holy Word. He does not always give me all the details. His information is always correct. When I follow His directions I will make no mistakes. He brings to pass everything He says.

I am amazed and humbled to realize that an awesome, omnipotent, sovereign God would want to communicate with me. But that’s one of the reasons He created us: He wants us to have fellowship with Him. People have tried to explain how to hear the voice of God. In my opinion, nobody has been able to describe it fully. I believe God’s sheep know the Shepherd’s voice by faith.

-- Thelma Wells, quoted in “In this Quiet Place: Discovering the Pleasures of Prayer"


#4160

Thursday, August 24, 2017

NO WONDER

We understand how storms are created. We map solar systems and transplant hearts. We measure the depths of the oceans and send signals to distant planets. We… have studied the system and are learning how it works.

And, for some, the loss of mystery has led to the loss of majesty. The more we know, the less we believe. Strange, don’t you think? Knowledge of the workings shouldn’t negate wonder. Knowledge should stir wonder. Who has more reason to worship than the astronomer who has seen the stars? Than the surgeon who has held a heart? Than the oceanographer who has pondered the depths? The more we know, the more we should be amazed.

Ironically, the more we know, the less we worship. We are more impressed with our discovery of the light switch than with the One who invented electricity… Rather than worship the Creator, we worship the creation (see Romans 1:25).

No wonder there is no wonder. We’ve figured it all out.

-- Max Lucado in “In the Grip of Grace”

#4159

Editor's Note: Through my website -- DAVID T WILKINSON PHOTOGRAPHY -- I have tried to express some of this wonder that Max Lucado is talking about. Visit www.davidt-wilkinson.pixels.com.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7 NRSV)

She wished she could be more like her husband. Nothing ever seemed to get him. He took everything in stride, and he acted as though he hadn’t a care in the world. She, on the other hand, worried about everything. She was positive that if there was something that could possibly go wrong, it would. She didn’t mean to be negative, but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to be able to let go of her doubts and fears, but so far she hadn’t been able to.

It’s sometimes hard to realize that God gave us life as a gift. Many times it feels like such a burden. God never wants us to suffer unnecessarily. Part of the message that Christ brought to this world was that no one had to face problems alone. God is with us always. Another part of His message was that nothing on this earth is important other than our relationship to God and to our neighbor. Job, finances, illness, and a hundred other things create stress in our lives, but when compared with the bigger picture of eternal life, they are totally insignificant. As Christians, we need to learn to look at the world through eternity-eyes, rather than temporal-eyes. Our home is in heaven, and everything that happens to us now means nothing, so long as we have our relationship in order.

-- Dan and Nancy Dick in “Daily Wisdom from the Bible”


#4158

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

THE SHEKINAH GLORY OF THE LORD

Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," He said, "you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live."  (Exodus 33:18-20 NIV)

The ordinary, natural world contains the supernatural, a necessary step since we do not have the capacity to apprehend God directly.  We see God best in the same way we see a solar eclipse: not by staring at the sun, which would cause blindness, but through something on which the sun is projected.

-- Philip Yancey in “Rumors of Another World”


#4157

Monday, August 21, 2017

IN THE HAND OF YOUR FATHER

“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.”  (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

When our daughters were three and five years old, we took them to a hotel with a swimming pool. We had a long, stern talk about the importance of water safety and the risk of drowning.

My talk may have been a little too effective. As Laura was jumping into my arms while I was in the water, three-year-old Mallory slipped from a sitting position on the edge of the pool. She was underwater for less than a second, but when I pulled her up, she was sobbing. “I drowned!” she cried. “I drowned! I drowned!” From her perspective, it was terrifying.  From my perspective, however, it was actually kind of funny.

“No, honey,” I replied sympathetically.  “You didn’t drown. You were only underwater for a second. You’re fine…So let’s not tell Mommy about this.”

Mallory was never in danger. I knew that even though she didn’t. Her father was always watching her, able to scoop her out of trouble at a moment’s notice. I was what you might call “a non-anxious presence.”

Jesus knew that no earthly situation has the power to put you outside God’s care. You are always in the hand of your Father. So when death itself comes for us, it will be like Mallory dipping in the pool, and we will come up saying, “I drowned! I drowned! I drowned!” and the Father will say, “I had you the whole time.”

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


#4156

Friday, August 18, 2017

LIKE SHEEP

Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)

The church is always at its best when it goes into the world humbly, like sheep among wolves. Ironically, a few centuries after Jesus, when the church did get some political and financial power, it lost much of its spiritual power. One Christ follower, John Chrysostom, was reflecting on this verse about being sent by Jesus like sheep among wolves and how the concept was getting lost as the church gained power. He said, “Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set out like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer… But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep.”

-- John Ortberg in “All the Places to Go: How Will You Know?”


#4155

Thursday, August 17, 2017

PRAYER PLANNING

M. Scott Peck talks about his personal prayer life in “Further Along the Road Less Traveled” (Touchstone Books, 1998). He prays three times a day, although only for a few minutes of that time are spent in what most people would understand as prayer. The rest of the time, he sits and looks at his day through the eyes of the “objective Other.” He plans his day and then asks God to examine it and prioritize the activities. Later in the day, he looks back over the events, notes those times where he saw God at work and offers thanks, and asks for further guidance for the days to come. He says that he has found God to be the best time-efficiency expert in the universe. Those of us who claim not to have time to pray would do well to hear Peck’s experience and reexamine our own priorities.

-- M. Anne Burnette Hook in “Grace Notes: Spirituality and the Choir”


#4154

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

ESTRANGEMENT AND RECONCILIATION

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps.”  (Psalm 137:1-2)

Methodist missionary and evangelist E. Stanley Jones once wrote of a time early in his Christian experience. “For months after my conversion,” he wrote, “I was running under cloudless skies. And then suddenly I tripped, almost fell, pulled back this side of sin, but was shaken and humiliated that I could come that close to sin. I thought I was emancipated and found I wasn’t.”

Then he goes on to tell of the effort of special friends in his small group who played an intercessory role: “I went to the class meeting -- I’m grateful that I didn’t stay away -- went, but my (spiritual) music had gone. I had hung my harp on a weeping willow tree. As the others spoke of their joys and victories of the week, I sat there with the tears rolling down my cheeks. I was heartbroken. After the others had spoken, John Zink, the class leader, said, ‘Now, Stanley, tell us what is the matter.’ I told them I couldn’t, but would they please pray for me? Like one man they fell to their knees, and they lifted me back to the bosom of God by faith and love. When we got up from our knees, I was reconciled. The universe opened its arms and took me in again. The estrangement was gone. I took my heart from the willow tree and began to sing again…”

-- E. Stanley Jones in “A Song of Ascents”


#4153

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

GOD IS THE CENTER

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."  (Jeremiah 1:5)

Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out.  Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives.  The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God.  God is the center from which all life develops.  If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.

-- Eugene H. Peterson in “Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best”


#4152

Monday, August 14, 2017

A FORCE STRONGER THAN HATE


“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the LORD. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:14-15)

Grace is Christianity's best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate.

-- Philip Yancey in “What's So Amazing About Grace?


#4151

Friday, August 11, 2017

“FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL” FAITH


I remember two things about the first day of school. The first was how exciting it was. New clothes. New notebooks. New teacher. On the first day of school, it seemed like the world was full of endless possibilities.

As an adult, I sometimes miss that excitement. Life can be pretty routine at times. When I start feeling that way, it's good to remind myself that while I may be through with first days of school, I have a God who loves to do new things in and through me. He told Isaiah in the Bible, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth...” (Isaiah 43:19 KJV). God likes to begin new things in our lives. The “first day of school” experience He has for you or me might be a new friend who is going to teach us things we never knew about ourselves. Or it might be a new ministry where we get to see God use us in ways He never has before.

The other thing I remember about the first day of school was how scary it was. What if I couldn't find my classroom? What if I got lost in the hall? What if none of my friends were in my class?

God understands that part of new experiences too. Even though He loves to do new things, the Bible tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 KJV). So even when we face something brand new that seems scary or strange, we can trust that Jesus is always the same. He'll be there for us like He always has been and He'll guide us through. We can count on His character.

So as the new school year begins, whether we're a part of it or not, let's ask God to do something new in and through us. Then we can move forward in confidence knowing that however God answers that prayer, it will be good, because we know He is.

-- Holley Gerth, DaySpring Cards


#4150

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ACHIEVING WHOLENESS


Human beings have a remarkable capacity to take things that are related to each other and stick them in separate airtight compartments so they don’t rub against each other and cause them much pain.

We’re all familiar with the man who goes to church on Sunday morning, believing that he loves God and God’s creation and his fellow human beings, but who, on Monday morning, has no trouble with his company’s policy of dumping toxic waste in the local stream. He can do this because he has religion in one compartment and his business in another… It is a very comfortable way to operate, but integrity it is not.

The word integrity comes from the same root as integrate. It means to achieve wholeness, which is the opposite of compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is easy. Integrity is painful. But without it there can be no wholeness.

-- M. Scott Peck in “Further Along the Road Less Traveled”


#4149

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

GOD’S HIGHEST DREAM

Please note: Salvation is God-given, God-driven, God-empowered, and God-originated. The gift is not from man to God. It is from God to man. “It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending His Son to be the way to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

We have attempted to reach the moon but scarcely made it off the ground. We tried to swim the Atlantic, but couldn’t get beyond the reef. We have attempted to scale the Everest of salvation, but we have yet to leave the base camp, much less ascend the slope. The quest is simply too great; we don’t need more supplies or muscle or technique; we need a helicopter. Can’t you hear it hovering?

“God has a way to make people right with Him” (Romans 3:21). How vital that we embrace this truth. God’s highest dream is not to make us rich, not to make us successful or popular or famous. God’s dream is to make us right with Him.

-- Max Lucado in “In the Grip of Grace”


#4148

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A NEW THING

"See, I am doing a new thing..." -- Isaiah 43:19, NIV

God likes to do new things. After all, He's the master artist, the source of all human creativity.

Some of the new things God creates, such as planets or galaxies, are pretty mind boggling. But there are also a lot of other things God creates every day that sometimes go unnoticed -- new babies, new insights into the Word, and even things like opportunities... God creates opportunities for each of us every day...

Is God looking to do a "new thing" in your life? Is there an opportunity that's suddenly available to you? My guess is that if you look around, you'll see that God has opened up doors in your life that promise to draw you into deeper fellowship with Him.

God never seems to put down His paintbrush.

-- Matt Donnelly, Christianity Online


#4147

Monday, August 7, 2017

TRUE WORSHIP

“So have you heard of the difference between religion and spirituality?” [a friend] threw out as we were chatting next to the cappuccino machine. “No. Tell me,” I replied.

“Religion is a guy in church thinking about fishing. Spirituality is a guy out fishing thinking about God.”

…True worship is not going to church and getting worship points. It is thinking about God in relation to everything else. Worship is not what you go to once a week, but what goes on in your head and your heart all the time.

“The Lord says: 'These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.'” (Isaiah 29:13)

-- John Fisher in "Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional"


#4146



Friday, August 4, 2017

THE POWER OF SHARED SUFFERING

Once, when my parents were visiting from Illinois, I needed to run to the hospital to see one of our church members who’d had open-heart surgery the day before. My dad, who’s had a multiple-bypass operation himself, asked if he could tag along. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll stay out of the way."

But when we got to the patient’s room, a powerful dynamic took over. When I told the man we were visiting that my dad had had the same surgery, he lost all interest in me [his pastor]. He turned his attention to my dad and started asking questions. The next thing I knew, dad pulled a chair up beside the bed and the two of them were sharing experiences I couldn’t begin to relate to. I had to smile as I stood back and watched the two of them bond. I knew I was observing the awesome power of shared suffering.

--  Mark Atteberry in “Free Refill”


#4145

Thursday, August 3, 2017

SERVANT LEADERS

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define responsibility. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." (Max DePree)

Do we fully understand what it means to be a leader? Look at the then-obscure young carpenter from Galilee, one Jesus Christ. He led the world from darkness and condemnation to eternal life for those of us who know Him as Lord and Savior.

How did He do it? By washing feet, by touching the "unclean," by giving hope to the blind and lame, and by dying a horrible death on a cross. He was God, yet assumed a lowly position to serve the world -- a world that hated Him.

If we are Christian leaders -- whether pastors, employers, politicians, or parents -- how are we to lead those entrusted to us?

Flaunt our authority over them in an effort to "be in control"? Try to get every last ounce of effort out of them to enhance our position or bank account? Ask them to do things we would never do, as in "Do as I say, not as I do"? No!

Jesus said, "But among you it should be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave." (Matthew 20:26-27)

-- Mike LeMay, from an article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, 4/24/09


#4144

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

OVERLY CONCERNED ABOUT OURSELVES

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)

[People] who are always studying themselves, going over all their words and all their thoughts, and going back over all that they have done, afraid of having said or done too much. These people are sincere, but not simple... not at ease with others... [in them] nothing is easy, free, ingenuous, natural. [God wants] people who are not concerned with themselves as though always making up before a mirror.

-- Francois Fenelon


#4143

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