Monday, November 20, 2017

AT THE CROSSROADS OF HOPE AND DESPAIR

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 15:3)

When tragedy strikes, when trouble comes, when life disappoints us, we stand at the crossroads between hope and despair, torn and hurting.

Despair cements us in the present. Hope sends us dancing around dark corners trusting in a tomorrow we cannot see because of the multiple pasts of life which we cannot forget.

-- Joan D. Chittister, quoted in “Hope: It’s More Than Wishful Thinking”


#4219

Friday, November 17, 2017

THE SPIRIT-CONTROLLED MIND

As I monitor my mind, I will encounter many thoughts that are unwelcome visitors:  I get anxious.  I catastrophize.  I envy.  But I will also begin to recognize what kind of thoughts the Spirit flows in.  The apostle Paul gives us a great framework for understanding which are the thoughts and attitudes that come from the Spirit.  He writes, “The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

Take any thought, especially thoughts that feel weighty or that you find yourself turning over and over in your mind, and ask, What direction do those thoughts lead me in?  Are they leading me toward life -- toward God’s best version of me?  Or in the other direction?

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


#4218

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ACCEPTING THE GIFT

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NLT)

In 1830, George Wilson was tried by the U.S. court in Philadelphia for robbery and murder and was sentenced to hang. Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, granted him a presidential pardon. But Wilson refused the pardon, insisting it was not a pardon unless he accepted it. The question was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following decision: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person implicated. It’s hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse a pardon, but if refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang.” What was the outcome? George Wilson was hanged.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Him alone we can know God intimately, be fully pardoned for our sin, experience His unconditional love, and have eternal life. We simply must accept the free gift.

-- adapted from “Remember the Rowboats” by Jim and Barbara Grunseth


#4217

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MISSING THE MARK

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,...” (Romans 3:23 NIV)

Bob Harbick once noted that “Sin… blinds and deafens the human heart from ever enjoying the incredible goodness of Jesus Christ… Sin is defined as missing the mark of Jesus Christ. It is the process of taking careful aim with our lives, releasing our arrow of life and having it fall woefully short of the target that Jesus has established for you and me to live. Sin is broken fellowship with the King of kings and Lord of lords. It separates us from enjoying all that He had intended for our lives.”

What is happening in the world today is that instead of acknowledging our sin -- that we are missing the mark -- and turning to Christ our Savior, we are lowering the target to where our arrow falls and exclaiming “Bullseye!”

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#4216

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

WHAT DO YOUR PAGES SAY?

Dwight L. Moody once said, "Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian."

What do your pages say, then? Do they talk about nice-guy Nate who helps his next-door neighbor?… Do they focus on good-person Gertrude who gives to Goodwill?… Do they talk about pleasant Peter and his wife Penny who preach about their passion for petunias?

Or are your pages filled with stories of self-less caring in the name of the suffering Christ?… Or are they exploding with the excitement of personally knowing Jesus?… Or, as each page is turned, are they pointing to the One who saved you from your sin -- the Savior, God's Son?

What do your pages say to a world that is lost and lonely, hungry and hurting, and desperately in need of a Savior?

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes -- Jew first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life'." (Romans 1:16-17 NLT)

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#4215

Monday, November 13, 2017

RUNNING AGROUND

Have you ever put heart and soul into something, prayed over it, worked at it with a good heart because you believed it to be what God wanted, and finally seen it "run aground"?

The story of Paul's voyage as a prisoner across the Adriatic Sea tells how an angel stood beside him and told him not to be afraid (in spite of winds of hurricane force), for God would spare his life and the lives of all with him on board ship. Paul cheered his guards and fellow-passengers with that word, but added, "Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island" (Acts 27:26).

It would seem that the God who promises to spare all hands might have "done the job right", saved the ship as well, and spared them the ignominy of having to make it to land on the flotsam and jetsam that was left. The fact is He did not, nor does He always spare us.

Heaven is not here, it's There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

"Running aground", then, is not "the end of the world". But it helps to "Lead us not into temptation" -- the temptation complacently to settle for visible things.

-- Elisabeth Elliot in “The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter”, Sep/Oct 1988


#4214

Friday, November 10, 2017

SEEKING GOD’S WILL

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”  (Acts 16:6 NIV)

We don’t know how the Holy Spirit told Paul that he and his companions should not go into Asia. It may have been through a prophet, a vision, an inner conviction, or some other circumstance. To know God’s will does not mean we need to hear His voice. He leads in different ways. When seeking God’s will, (1) make sure your plan is in harmony with God’s will; (2) ask mature Christians for their advice;  (3) check your own motives -- are you seeking to do what you want or what you think God wants? -- and (4) pray for God to open and close the doors as He desires. 



-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


#4213

Thursday, November 9, 2017

SPIRITUAL FITNESS

Prayer is to the soul what exercise is to the body. A man who is in good spiritual shape does two things: (1) He consistently eats the nutritious diet of the Scriptures and (2) he consistently spends time in aerobic kneeling. (It's also known as prayer.) These two elements must go together. A marathon runner not only trains efficiently but also eats correctly. Both enable him to have physical endurance. The same is true in the Christian life... Without a diet of Scripture and an exercise routine of prayer, you've got nothing. You can't finish the Christian marathon without them. In fact, you can't even begin.

-- Steve Farrar in “UMMen Magazine”, Spring 1999


#4212

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

THE STRENGTHENER

Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be in you.”  (John 14:16,17)

The word "Comforter" as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally, it means "with strength."  Jesus promised His followers that "The Strengthener" would be with them forever.  This promise is no lullaby for the faint-hearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living.

-- E. Paul Hovey


#4211

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

THE IRRESISTIBLE CHURCH

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:41-47 NIV)

What a scene! Here in ancient Jerusalem was a group of believers [in Christ] whose worship was spontaneous, whose instruction was substantial, whose fellowship was genuine, and whose expressions were compassionate. No wonder so many new folks were attracted! It is no surprise to me that the Lord added to their number day after day…

When we embrace these objectives, several benefits come our way. Our eyes will get off ourselves and unto the Lord. Our own petty differences are minimized, which deepens the unity of the relationship. And all this, when kept in balance, creates such a magnetism that the church becomes irresistible. And then? Well, then we start becoming what the church was originally designed to be -- irresistible!

-- Charles Swindoll in “The Bride -- Renewing Our Passion For The Church”


#4210

Monday, November 6, 2017

THE GATE

Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:7-10 NIV)

If you are familiar with the “I am” passages in the Gospels, then you probably remember this verse as the “I am the door” passage. I wondered why the modern translators changed this to “gate”? Perhaps because the Greek word has its root in a word that means “to rush in; properly, that through which a rush is made.” Thus, in the context of sheep and shepherd, it seems appropriate to think of a gate. And when Jesus completed this saying with the promise, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”; this gate or door should be one that we want to rush through.

-- Rev. Kenneth A. Mortonson in “What Do You See?”


#4209

Friday, November 3, 2017

THE TRUTH THAT SETS YOU FREE

When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I would traverse the famed Bascom Hill on my way to classes. One day I walked past the Law School and noticed something that surprised me. There, engraved in stone on the corner of the building, were these words, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. -- John 8:32". I thought how nice it was for them to include a verse from Scripture. My conclusion was that if I go to that school I will gain this truth that will set me free.

Being a new Christian at the time, my curiosity got to me. I wondered in what context this verse was said, and by whom. I looked it up and found that Jesus was the one speaking and it was to a group of believers. John 8:31 and 32 (RSV) says, "Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'."

Dr. Os Guinness, in a video called "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?", stated that "Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown were all [originally] explicitly rooted in the Christian faith, and many of them with very open desires to spread and share the Christian faith, and their mottos show it. The most common motto in all the American universities is, 'The truth shall set you free,' but many people forget that that came from Jesus."

True freedom comes from knowing Jesus Christ and continuing in His Word.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#4208

Thursday, November 2, 2017

THE (WILD AND WONDERFUL) WOMAN AT THE WELL

"Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.  She said to the people, 'Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah, can He?' They left the city and were on their way to Him."  (John 4:28-30)

How do you start a church?  At the turn of the twentieth century, as the late William Hyde recalled, it was simple.  As a young Methodist preacher, Hyde was taken by train to a small town in Nebraska.  He was told that there was one Methodist in the community, but that he had probably become a Presbyterian, that there was a second-floor hall that could no doubt be rented for a gathering place.  And then, as the train pulled from the station, the district superintendent called out a simple formula for beginning a church: "Dig or die, Brother Hyde!"

In our day, church planting has become a science.  Some progressive seminaries offer special programs, even doctoral studies, in church planting.  Statisticians can project how many thousand telephone calls will produce how many hundred in attendance at an opening service, and what mass mailings will appeal to what segments of a population, as well as the type of music, the style of worship, and the level of preaching that will be most effective in a given community.

I confess that I fall somewhere between these two very different methods.  The unreconstructed grump in me favors the first, while the researcher in me opts for the second.  But on one thing, I am sure.  If I were starting a church, I know the person I would want for my first member.  I don't know her name, but I know everything else about her, and I can tell you this: Give me this wild and wonderful woman, and with God's help I will soon have a thriving body of believers.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “New Testament Stories from the Back Side”


#4207

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

DIVINE INITIATIVE

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”  (John 1:1-3)

The archetype of one who takes initiative is God Himself.  He created the heavens and the earth, spinning into motion the tiny sphere that is our planet.  He filled its waters and skies with fish and fowl and scattered all manner of living creatures across its mountains, valleys and plains.  Then He lovingly spoke humankind into being, calling man and woman to name the animals, to tend to the garden sprawled at their feet and to live in loving community with one another.

But then He watched as man and woman disobeyed Him, dishonored themselves and destroyed each other with hatred and lies and murder.  He watched His creation spiral deeper and deeper into sin; He felt the searing pain as those made in His very image pulled away from Him, breaking the bonds of love that had bound creature to Creator.  How easy it would have been for Him to yield to despair and to close His eyes to the ugly ruin His creation had become.

But what did He do?  He responded with love and with a plan. He provided an option.  He took the initiative in breaching the gap between Himself and His wayward creation.  "For God so loved the world" -- and longed to have it reconciled to Himself -- "that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16).

God could have sat idly by and watched the world go to hell.  But love demanded that He take the initiative to redeem it instead.  So He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as a sin sacrifice for your foul-ups and mine, thereby making forgiveness available as a free gift.  We need only to humble ourselves enough to receive it.

-- Bill Hybels in “Making Life Work: Putting God's Wisdom into Action”


#4206

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

GRACE-GIVING PEOPLE

"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: 'Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!'  But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don’t you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom. '  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'"  (Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

Jesus' response to this career criminal is absolutely fascinating to me.  Without an ounce of deliberation, He gave grace to the guy.  "Today you will be with Me in My Kingdom," He told the repentant.

Friends, that is the model.  The same propensity to give grace in all situations ought to be true of your life and of mine.  If we share the dream to become radically loving, outwardly focused, grace-giving people, then we ought to be the first ones to expand our hearts and invite folks to come into the kingdom.

-- Bill Hybels in “Just Walk Across the Room”


#4205

Monday, October 30, 2017

IMMEASURABLE AND UNIMAGINABLE

“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.”  (1 Peter 3:18 NLT)

The Gospels are like a tapestry, woven together with two incredible points: the immeasurable value of each person and the unimaginable depth of God's grace.

-- Max Lucado


#4204

Friday, October 27, 2017

GIVING ECONOMICS

"Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38)

I believe in the law of measures. If you give big, God will bless big.  That certainly doesn't mean that you can play God like a slot machine, but if you give for the right reasons, I'm convinced of this: You'll never outgive God.  It's not possible because God has promised that in the grand scheme of eternity, He will always give back more than you gave up.

-- Mark Batterson in “The Circle Maker"


#4203

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A PRAYER FOR PASTORS

“Every time I think of you, I always pray for you with a heart full of joy...” (Philippians 1:3-5)

We acknowledge the gift of Your servants to the work of ministry; called in their weakness and strengthened by Your Spirit. May we support them with our love and prayers…

It is by Your love and grace that we are given pastors to preach the gospel. We thank You for the boldness with which they call us to repentance. They hold before us the truth of Your Word which strengthens our faith and gives us a sure hope for the glorious coming of Your kingdom. As they impart Your Word to us, be their joy and their inspiration.

In Your infinite wisdom You have given us shepherds to lead and guide us. Bless them with discernment and integrity as they instruct and counsel us to be obedient and faithful to Your Word. As they prepare us for works of service, inspire them with Your vision for the church and instill in each of us a profound longing to be the people You desire us to be. Make them powerful in prayer, fervent in their desires, and committed to Your will as they embrace this great privilege.

Amen.

-- Excerpted from “God Gave Some to Be... Pastors: A service of prayer, gratitude, and encouragement for pastors” by Sharon Postma


#4202

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBILE

“Don't judge other people, and you will not be judged.  Don't accuse others of being guilty, and you will not be accused of being guilty.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  (Luke 6:37)

Go back to the Cross and see how God through the Cross forgives us: that gives us strength to forgive each other.  We have a mandate to forgive, a liberating concept that says you have a choice.  You don't have to live with anger or resentment -- you can get rid of it.  It is possible to forgive -- through prayer and the Holy Spirit, it is possible!

-- Max Lucado


#4201

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ON BEING GOD-BEARERS

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” Mary said. “Let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

I have been collecting icons for a few years now, and one that hangs prominently in my office depicts Mary holding the Child Jesus. The icon is titled with the Greek word that the Eastern Orthodox churches use to describe her: Theotokos, which means “God-bearer.” That is a perfect description of what Mary did in giving her consent to the divine mission she was being offered. In saying yes to God, she became the God-bearer, allowing her person to be the means of bringing the life of God into the world…

Like her ancestor Abraham, God favored Mary -- an ordinary girl in an ordinary place -- and blessed her so she might be a blessing to the world, a vital link in the covenant chain that God had begun with Abraham generations before (Genesis 12:2). God’s favor is not something we earn; it is something we receive as a gift, but a gift that must always be shared.

This story challenges those of us who have received the gift of a relationship with Jesus to be God-bearers to the rest of the world, believing that God’s grace always comes to us on its way to someone else. We bear the Christ, we share God’s grace, and we change the world when we take on Mary’s attitude of service and surrender. We would do well to memorize and use her response as we move about in the world every day.

-- Robert Kaylor in “Come to the Manger”


#4200

Monday, October 23, 2017

COMING OF AGE ISN’T EASY

When a mother eagle builds a nest, she begins with broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other items that seem unsuitable for the project.  Then she lines this prickly foundation with a thick layer of feathers, wool, or fur from animals she has killed, making a soft place to lay her eggs.  When the [eaglets] reach flying age, this comfortable nest and the free meals the mother brings make them a bit reluctant to leave.  That's when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest."  She pulls away the soft layers, exposing the sharp rocks and branches.  Eventually, this and other promptings force the young eagles to leave their once-comfortable home and move on to maturity.

Coming of age isn't easy for eagles or human beings, there are dues to be paid all along the way.  Like a mother eagle, God knows when you are fully equipped, ready to leave the nest and fly into adventures untold.  …Paul urges you to grow up in Christ, because you "should no longer be children, tossed to and fro,…but…[growing] up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ"  (Ephesians 4:14-15).

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


#4199

Friday, October 20, 2017

WE NEED EACH OTHER

“And 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)

Within the body of Christ we need to be intentional about the seeds we sow, about how our behavior with friends should be preparing us for service out in the world. We need each other to draw us out of our self-centeredness. We need others to hold us accountable, to be like a mirror to help us see our lives and our doing of our faith more clearly. We need each other for mutual encouragement, to push further into serving the world than we might if left alone.

-- James C. Howell in “Your Are the Hands of Christ”


#4198

Thursday, October 19, 2017

HEAVEN IS CLOSER THAN WE IMAGINE

Heaven is close. Perhaps closer than we imagine.  It's a little like saying to an unborn infant in his mother's womb, "Do you realize that you are about to be born into a great big world full of mountains, rivers, and a sun and a moon? In fact, you exist in that wonderful world right now."

"Wait a minute," the unborn babe might say. "No way. My world is the one surrounding me.  It's soft, warm, and dark.  You'll never convince me that just a few hairbreadths outside the uterus exists this place of rivers, mountains, and a sun and moon, whatever that stuff is."

Dear baby! There he is, safe in his little world, ignorant of the fact that a more glorious world is enclosing and encasing his.  A world for which he is being fashioned.  Only when he is birthed into it will he comprehend that all along his warm dark world was within it.  This other place of wonderful beauty was present all the time.  Only inches away…

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


#4197

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

“But to all who believed [Jesus] and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”  (John 1:12 NLT)

We children of the earth are able to be in relationship with God. It is within the context of grace that we are able to relax about ourselves and we become able to accept ourselves because we have already been accepted by God. We no longer have to pretend; we no longer have to have things come to us in manageable and safe ways. We are opened by God's grace and we are open to God's grace.

-- Thomas A. Langford in “Christian Wholeness”


#4196

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

TURNING TO JESUS IN OUR PAIN

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”  (Isaiah 53:3 NIV)

We may not get the answer to the problem of pain that we want from Jesus.  We get instead the mysterious confirmation that God suffers with us.  We are not alone.  Jesus bodily reconstructs trust in God.  Because of Jesus, I can trust that God truly understands my condition.  I can trust that I matter to God, and that God cares, regardless of how things look to me at the time.  When I begin to doubt, I turn again to the face of Jesus, and there I see the compassionate love of a God well acquainted with grief.

-- Philip Yancey in “The Bible Jesus Read


#4195

Monday, October 16, 2017

THE REFINER'S FIRE

There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three, which says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week this woman called up a silver smith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silver smith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot -- then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silver smith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined?

He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you.  God is continually refining us so that we will reflect His image.

-- Author Unknown


#4194

Friday, October 13, 2017

OUR OMNISCIENT GOD

When the Bible teaches that God is omniscient -- that He has complete knowledge -- it is not saying that God is bright.  It is not saying that He is sharp.  It is not even saying that He is a genius.  These are the finite expressions of a people severely limited by space and time.

What the Bible is really getting at is that God knows everything.  No question can confound Him.  No dilemma can confuse Him.  No event can surprise Him.  He has eternal, intrinsic, comprehensive, and absolutely perfect knowledge.

Nothing is news to God.

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


#4193

Thursday, October 12, 2017

OUR OMNIPOTENT GOD

God's omnipotence means [His] power to do all that is not intrinsically impossible.  You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power.  If you choose to say, "God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it", you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words "God can."  It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities.  It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives -- not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

-- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) in “The Problem of Pain”


#4192

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

FACING IMMOVABLE MOUNTAINS

Jesus told them, "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."  (Matthew 17:20 NLT)

If you are facing a problem that seems as big and immovable as a mountain, turn your eyes from the mountain and look to Christ for more faith. Only then will you be able to overcome the obstacles that may stand in your way.

-- Life Application Bible


#4191

Monday, October 9, 2017

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR MARRIAGE


God's purpose for marriage goes beyond intimacy, sharing romantic times together, and achieving oneness. Marriage is meant to be a couple's locking arms together to influence their world and future generations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

-- Dennis Rainey in “Building Your Marriage”


#4190

Friday, October 6, 2017

THE PROPHETS

The Hebrew word, nabi, translated "prophet" in English Bibles, has the connotation of "message bearer".  The prophets were men called by God to serve as His messengers to a stubborn and unheeding people.  They were always careful to point out that they were not voicing their own wisdom.  Their warnings, entreaties, and promises were always prefaced by the awesome proclamation: "Thus says the Lord..."  When the prophets did engage in prognostication, they usually were concerned with events which were fairly close at hand, such as the Assyrian conquest of Israel and the Babylonian conquest of Judah (both of which they foretold with deadly accuracy).  But occasionally a prophet's vision ranged farther into the future, to the day when God would enter into a new covenant with his rebellious children.  The hope of reconciliation was often linked with the coming of a very particular person, a Messiah or Savior.

What made the prophets so sure that they had a right -- nay, a duty, -- to speak in the name of God?  It is clear from their writings that they were not megalomaniacs who confused their own thoughts with the voice of God.  On the contrary, they were humble men, awe-stricken by the responsibilities thrust upon them...  The prophets minced no words in their indictments of the sins of Israel and Judah, and they trod especially hard on the toes of the rich, the powerful, and the pious.  The Establishment responded then as some [do now]: "One should not preach of such things!" (Micah 2:6).

-- Louis Cassels (1922-1974) in “Your Bible”


#4189

Thursday, October 5, 2017

THE LORD OF THE GIFT

You may feel that, from a human perspective, what you have to offer doesn't count for much, that it will never be very visible or dramatic.

Jesus has made it clear: There is no truth in such a perspective.  We serve the Lord of the Gift.

The Lord of the Gift can take five fish and two loaves and feed the multitudes.  The Lord of the Gift can take two mites given by an impoverished widow and make it the lead gift in the whole campaign.  The Lord of the Gift can take a stuttering fugitive named Moses and defy a world-power dictator and his army.  The Lord of the Gift can go from a blood-stained cross to an Empty tomb.  The Lord of the Gift can take twelve bumbling followers and create a community that has spread throughout the world with a dream that refuses to die.

He is a surprisingly resourceful person, the Lord of the Gift.  He can take what you have to offer and make a difference that matters for eternity.

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


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

RESPONDING TO OUR NEED

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  (John 14:6a)

Jesus is named for every [human need]: To the hungry He is the Bread of Life; to the thirsty He is the Fountain of Living Waters; to the sick He is the Balm of Gilead; to the dying He is the Resurrection and the Life; to the lonely, the Friend that sticks closer than a brother; to the outcast, the Friend of Sinners. The crescendo of our Lord’s identification with man was reached at the cross -- there He was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

-- Ronald Dunn in “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something”


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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

THE BIBLE: OUR COMPASS

“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)

The future belongs to the young and so it is they in particular who must face this urgent question:  Ought we not to take more seriously again the familiar system of values which can help us determine what to do?  I am not suggesting a nostalgic retreat into the past; but perhaps we should chart our future course with the help of a certain compass, which may not have outlived its usefulness after all.  A compass which -- after many other instruments have proved to have given only unreliable bearings in the tempests of modern times -- could perhaps point us a course toward a future of greater human dignity.  A compass that might reorientate us with essential Christian values once more, and in a new way, in an era whose values have been so impoverished.

-- Hans Kung in “Why I Am Still A Christian”


#4186

Monday, October 2, 2017

CHOOSING LIFE

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Our choices do not lie in the past.  We cannot change the past -- only the way we view the past and respond to it. Our choices lie in the future. How am I going to show my love and the love of Christ to my neighbors, my friends and my family? How am I going to respond to that love from others in a way that builds relationships? How am I going to choose love over hate, life over death? We make our choices, and then our choices turn around and make us.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


#4185

Friday, September 29, 2017

SEIZING THE MOMENT

It is hard to explain what God’s Spirit does for me and to me as I experience what otherwise might be mundane experiences and encounters. Somehow He creates within me a sensitivity to the wonders lurking within the ordinary people and things around me that some phenomenologists would call “mindfulness.” He makes me hyperaware of the radiant blessings (I can’t think of another word) that are everywhere around us, literally waiting to be acknowledged and enjoyed. Because of His indwelling presence I am truly able to “seize the day.”

-- Tony Campolo in “Why I Left, Why I Stayed”


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Thursday, September 28, 2017

THE WHOLE THRUST OF THE LORD’S PRAYER

To be effective, [the Lord’s] prayer must flow out of a truly committed heart: it must be the definition of our spirit, our attitude to God.

An unknown author put it this way: “I cannot say ‘our’ if I live only for myself. I cannot say ‘Father’ if I do not try to act like His child. I cannot say ‘who art in heaven’ if I am laying up no treasure there. I cannot say ‘hallowed be Thy name’ if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say ‘Thy kingdom come’ if I am not doing all my power to hasten it. I cannot say ‘give us this day our daily bread’ if I am dishonest, or seeking something for nothing. I cannot say ‘forgive us our trespasses’ if I bear a grudge against another. I cannot say ‘lead us not into temptation’ if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say ‘deliver us from evil’ if I do not put on the armor of God. I cannot say ‘Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory’ if I do not give the King the loyalty due to Him from a faithful subject. And I cannot say ‘forever’ if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time.”

The whole thrust of the Lord’s prayer is that when we give God His rightful place, He gives us our rightful place. But not before.

-- Selwyn Hughes in “Every Day Light: Treasure for the Heart”


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

GUIDING OUR CHILDREN

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

It is not how many things you provide for your children. It is what you give them of yourself and the principles of Scripture that can never be taken away.

-- Charles Stanley


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ACCESS TO GOD

“Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

Many years ago there was an old man who had come to Washington D.C. on a vital mission. A young boy found him sitting on a wall which surrounded the White House. He saw that tears were rolling down the old man’s cheeks, so he went over and asked him what was the matter.

“Oh, young man, my son is in the Army. He’s been arrested for desertion and condemned to death. I’ve tried to get in to see President Lincoln, but the guards will not allow me in.”

“I can take you to the President,” said the boy.

“You can?” The old man looked in astonishment.

“Yes sir, he’s my father. He lets me come in anytime.”

Abraham Lincoln received the distraught father and listened to his plea. His son was granted a pardon and the old man went away rejoicing.

When we come to God, in faith, asking for a pardon for our sins, He grants our petition because of His Son, Jesus Christ. We always have access to Him wherever we are.

-- Joan Winmill Brown in “The Shelter of His Wings”


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Monday, September 25, 2017

THE COST OF LOVE

Novelist Reynolds Price said there is one sentence all humankind craves to hear:  "The Maker of all things loves and wants me."  That is the sentence Jesus proclaimed, loud as sweet thunder.  The Maker of all things is the Maker of all human beings, an odd species that He, unfathomably, deemed worthy of individual attention and love.  He demonstrated that love in person, on the gnarly hills of Palestine, and ultimately on the cross.

What the prophets spoke about, Jesus lived. "I have engraved you on the palms of My hands," God said in Isaiah's day.  When He visited earth in the form of a Servant, He showed that the hand of God is not too big for the smallest person in the world.  It is a hand engraved with our individual names and engraved also with wounds, the cost to God of loving us so much.

-- Philip Yancey in “The Bible Jesus Read”


#4180

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.


#4179

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


#4177

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”


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