Tuesday, January 31, 2017


“Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God's throne where there is grace.  There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

In our "bootstraps" society, where you rough it up and do it on your own and take pride in being a rugged individualist, the one thing that seems to escape us is being before God on our knees, being before God aware that we are helpless, and allowing Him to assist us.

-- Max Lucado


Monday, January 30, 2017


Does the posture [of prayer] matter? Blaise Pascal, a devout believer and one of the truly great minds of human history, reasoned that it did. In Pensees he wrote, "The external must be joined to the internal to obtain anything from God, that is to say, we must kneel, pray with our lips, etc., in order that proud man, who would not submit himself to God, may now be subject to the Creator. To expect help from these externals is superstition; to refuse to join them to the internal is pride." Pascal's distinction is a penetrating one. Thinking that our posture wins favor with God or that it ensures an answer to prayer reduces prayer to magic; however, if we refuse to place ourselves under some particular, reasonable physical discipline, our pride can separate us from God...

The posture is an aid to the specific mood of prayer. See for yourself how the mood changes as the posture changes. Sit and pray, and prayer takes on a conversational quality. Stand, and you feel you are making an appearance before the King. Lift your hands, and a special sense of adoration engulfs your prayer. Put your head down, and you feel awe, humility, perhaps even shame; lift your head, and there is a sense of glad openness, to a point where unconsciously you may smile...

The wrong posture for a given occasion can impede prayer, whereas the right posture aids in our reach to God.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in Longing to Pray: How the Psalms Teach Us to Talk with God


Friday, January 27, 2017


J.B. Phillips' paraphrase of Romans 12:2 says, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.  Thus you will prove in practice that the will of God is good, acceptable to Him and perfect."

Isn't that good?  Let God do the molding in your life!  Let Him do the shaping and crafting and refining, and let Him do it from the inside out.  Don't let others, no matter how sincere and helpful they may be, mold you from the outside in!  After all, how do they know what sort of person (or personality) God wants within His family in a given place to accomplish His purposes?

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


Thursday, January 26, 2017


"Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."  (Matthew 6:4b)

God is the note-taking heavenly observer.  He knows about the time you bit your tongue when you could have contributed to a rumor.  He takes notice every time you greet a stranger or visit a person in the hospital or prison.  Every secret act of character, conviction, and courage has been observed in living color by our omniscient God.

You always have an audience.  In every activity and in every conversation God is present, and He says, "I saw it.  Carry on!  Do it again.  I am going to reward you.  I am going to repay you.  You have not been working in vain."

Obviously your good deeds won't make God love you more (His love for you is operating at "full strength" already), but it's good to know He celebrates your good deeds -- even when they go unnoticed by others.

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


Wednesday, January 25, 2017


"Be ready in the morning, and then come up... Present yourself to Me there on top of the mountain.  No one is to come with you."  (Exodus 34:2-3)

The morning is a critically important time of day.  You must never face the day until you have faced God, not look into the face of others until you have looked into His.  You cannot expect to be victorious, if you begin your day in your own strength alone. Begin the work of every day after having been influenced by a few reflective, quiet moments between your heart and God.  Do not meet with others, even the members of your own family, until you have first met with the great Guest and honored Companion of your life -- Jesus Christ. Meet with Him alone and regularly, having His Book of counsel open before you.  Then face the ordinary, and the unique, responsibilities of each day with the renewed influence and control of His character over all your actions.

-- L.B. Cowman in Streams in the Desert


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out of death, rescue from abandonment. And because it is a true story, it gives us hope because we know that life is really like that.

-- Tim Keller


Monday, January 23, 2017


The Bible derives its authority from God.  As Creator and Sustainer of all that is, God has the right to say what is true about Himself and His creation, and what is right or wrong within it.  According to the Bible, God does not declare these things arbitrarily -- the truth and rightness flow from the essence of who God is.  The Bible has authority because it is the written Word of God.

The Scriptures record many instances of God and Christ speaking and acting with authority.  Often, the actions backed up the words.  For example, Jesus demonstrated His authority over disease in order to prove His right to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-8).

Likewise, God prefaced the Ten Commandments by pointing out, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."  I, God, have demonstrated My authority over the forces of nature and over Pharaoh to the point where Pharaoh was forced to free you from slavery.  Therefore, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2-3).  Freeing the people from slavery gave God the right to tell Israel what to do.

Most people who question the Bible's accuracy are really concerned to prove it has no authority in their lives.  If the Scriptures are telling the truth about God and Christ, then humans have no excuse to disobey them.

-- Karen Lee-Thorp in A Compact Guide to the Bible


Friday, January 20, 2017


God desires our health, our wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.  This bold affirmation rests on the knowledge and experience of God in the life of Israel and the church.  God was revealed to Israel as "the LORD, who heals you" (Exodus 15:26), whose deepest and most consistent desire was to redeem, bless, and restore God's people…

In the here and now, we can count on this: that whenever we open ourselves to the activity of the Holy Spirit, some kind of healing takes place.  Indeed, God invites us to ask for what we need just as a child would ask a parent.  Even when our lives are filled with suffering or wracked with agonizing questions, we can cling to the faith that God is with us, somehow always offering new life and healing.

-- Tilda Norberg & Robert D. Webber in Stretch Out Your Hand


Thursday, January 19, 2017


People don't come to faith in Christ because of our superior theological arguments. They come to faith in Christ because somebody cares about them. They think, "Okay, it's great to have money and a nice car and a house at the lake, but what I really want is to know that somebody notices, somebody cares. We have a deep need for unconditional love. We need to know our lives have meaning and purpose. We need grace. We need to feel there's a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start. We need to feel we're not alone. And we need to feel that in the darkest moments of our lives, there's always hope.

God is love. We are meant to live a life of love, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And that love isn't a warm mushy feeling. It's an action, a way of putting the needs of another before myself. It's being concerned, wanting to bless and build up and encourage somebody else. It's thinking of what's best for you before I think of what's best for me.

When Christians actually live that way instead of judging and pointing our fingers, the hardest of hearts become responsive and the world is changed.

-- Adam Hamilton, quoted in The Wesleyan Way: A Faith That Matters by Scott J. Jones


Wednesday, January 18, 2017


“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Hope is to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown.  Hope makes you see God's guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness.

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen in Secrets of a Good Life, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The soul that wishes to live according to the will of Christ should either learn faithfully what it does not yet know, or teach openly what it does know. But if, when it can, it desires to do neither of these things, it is afflicted with madness. For the first step away from God is a distaste for learning, and the lack of appetite for those things which the soul hungers when it seeks God.

-- Abba Palladius as quoted by Thomas Merton in The Wisdom of the Desert


Monday, January 16, 2017


Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”  (Genesis 50:20 NLT)

Although Joseph’s brothers had wanted to get rid of him, God used even their evil actions to fulfil His ultimate plan. He sent Joseph ahead to preserve their lives, save Egypt, and prepare the way for the beginning of the nation of Israel. God is sovereign. His plans are not dictated by human actions. When others intend evil toward you, remember that they are only God’s tools.

God brought good from the brothers’ evil deed, from Potiphar’s wife’s false accusations, from the cup-bearer’s neglect, and from seven years of famine. The experience in Joseph’s life taught him that God brings good from the evil for those who trust God. Do you trust God enough to wait patiently to bring good out of bad situations? You can trust Him because, as Joseph learned, God can overrule people’s evil intentions to bring about His intended results.

-- from The Life Application Study Bible

EDITOR'S NOTE: This has been reported by Snopes.com as an urban legend.


Friday, January 13, 2017


A Chinese jade carver finds a  priceless piece of jade -- with a major flaw. He could try to hide the flaw. Instead he carefully studies the jade and its flaw and plans an exquisite carving, making the defect the central part of a perfect design.

God did this for Joseph’s brothers in Genesis. In bitter hatred they sold their brother into a life of slavery in a distant land. They almost caused their father’s death by lying about it. Through much suffering God made them willing to repent. But He did more. He used their sinful failure to save multitudes of people, including themselves, from death through famine. He took the blackest fragment from their lives and made it central in a beautiful picture of salvation for themselves, for Joseph, and for their entire family.

This is also what God did at Calvary. He took man’s greatest failure, his most shameful atrocity -- killing the Son of God -- and made it central in a perfect picture of salvation, available to all people for all time. He can do this today with the black events of your past. He’s not pleased when we waste our lives by endlessly focusing on our terrible backgrounds, our wounds, our handicaps, or our sins and failures. He wants you to rely on Him to forgive, to overrule, and to bring about beautiful results.

-- Warren and Ruth Myers in Discovering God’s Will: Experiencing Afresh How Good God Is


Thursday, January 12, 2017


“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,…”  (Ephesians 1:18)

Have you dreamed about inheriting treasures from a long lost relative?  To be "in the will" would change your life forever!  Consider the rags-to-riches story of Jack Wurm.  In 1949, Mr. Wurm was unemployed and bankrupt.  As he strolled along a San Francisco beach, he found a bottle with a scroll inside.  He discovered that this "message in a bottle" was the last will and testament of Daisy Singer Alexander, heiress to the Singer Sewing Company fortune.

The faded paper read: "To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle, and to my attorney, Barry Cohen; share and share alike."  The courts discovered that she had written the note and thrown the bottle into the Thames River in London.  It had drifted across the oceans to San Francisco and reached a penniless Jack Wurm.  Jack inherited over $6 million in cash and Singer stock.

Similarly, God has sent us a "message in a Bible."  Within this book you'll find the "last will and testament of our Lord" with a different kind of inheritance -- spiritual treasures.  How will you respond?  Will you walk past it?  Or, like Jack Wurm, will you step out in faith and take action?  Failure to take God's promises seriously leads to spiritual poverty.  Jack's inheritance can't begin to compare with the spiritual wealth God offers His heirs!

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


Wednesday, January 11, 2017


“While he was living there, Reuben had intercourse with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Jacob soon heard about it.”  (Genesis 35:22 NLT)

Reuben’s sin was costly, although not right away. As the oldest son, he stood to receive a double portion of the family inheritance and a place of leadership among his people. Reuben may have thought he got away with his sin. No more is mentioned of it until Jacob, on his deathbed, assembled his family for the final blessing. Suddenly Jacob took away Reuben’s double portion and gave it to someone else. The reason? “You slept with one of my wives; you dishonored me in my own bed.” (Genesis 49:4)

Sin’s consequences can plague us long after the sin is committed. When we do something wrong, we may think we can escape unnoticed, only to discover later that the sin has been quietly breeding serious consequences.

-- from The Life Application Study Bible


Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Spiritual formation is that dynamic process of receiving through faith and appropriating through commitment, discipline, and action, the living Christ into our own life to the end that our life will conform to, and manifest the reality of Christ's presence in the world.

-- Maxie Dunnam


Monday, January 9, 2017


Are you ready for a revolution?…

The power of Christianity is in the nature of the God we serve -- yet most Christians barely understand God's true identity.  Those who are still wondering if He's the God they're looking for know even less.

Fortunately, God does not keep His identity a cosmic secret.  He doesn't play hide-and-seek, where the clues to His presence and nature are hidden behind distant planets or kept locked away in esoteric riddles.  God announced Himself with an exclamation mark by proclaiming His nature in a type of autobiography, a book called the Bible.  When we read His book and contemplate it over a period of time, we'll get an amazingly clear picture of who God really is -- and our own lives will be set up for the most dramatic revolution we could ever imagine.

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


Friday, January 6, 2017


“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’” (Matthew 2:1-2a NKJV)

People all around us are asking that question.  Day in and day out, whether they or we realize it, people express in countless ways the yearning to know and be known by God.  We have the privilege of helping them to come to know that God is real, that evil will not have the last word, that even a world where innocents are killed can be transformed if we will allow ourselves to be transformed.

The wonder of God's coming is this:  God doesn't want to be our business partner, to relate to us as a favored relative, to live near us or even with us.  God wants to live in us and through us. As Matthew 5:14 tells us, we are the light of the world.  We are meant to be God's embodied love. When we obey the claims of Christ, we are God's continuing incarnation. Embracing one person at a time, we help those we meet to believe that they matter and that they are embraced by God.

-- Mary Lou Redding in WHILE WE WAIT: Living the Questions of Advent (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2002)


Thursday, January 5, 2017


“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and He sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.”  (Genesis 3:23 NLT)

This is how Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God: (1) They became convinced their way was better than God’s way; (2) they became self-conscious and hid; (3) they tried to excuse and defend themselves.

To build a relationship with God we must reverse those steps: (1) We must drop our excuses and self-defenses; (2) we must stop trying to hide from God; (3) we must become convinced that God’s way is better than our way.

-- from The Life Application Study Bible


Wednesday, January 4, 2017


“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.”  (Matthew 13:12a NIV)

One of my professors used to say, “God doesn’t put all the cookies on the bottom shelf.” When studying the Bible, we can’t expect to find all the gems immediately. Sometimes we have to work at it. We have to grow before we can know.

This is an important aspect of the Christian life. As we “have” – that is, as we gain some new insight from God’s Word, make it our own, and use it in life – God gives us more.

For example, when I study a passage and then meditate on it to learn how it applies to my circumstances and my life, insights come rapidly at first, then more slowly, until I reach a point where I feel as though nothing more can be found.

Then it hits me. Suddenly I see something awesomely beautiful that I’ve never seen before. It might be an insight that others have had for years. But it’s new for me. There’s a great thrill in that discovery.

I believe that’s what Jesus was saying. Take what you have. Use it. Apply it. Live it. Then God will add to it and make you abound all the more.

Lord, open my eyes to new insights in Your Word.

– Mark R. Littleton in The Quiet Hour Daily Devotional, Dec. 1990


Tuesday, January 3, 2017


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."  (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)

If this is to be a Happy New Year, a year of usefulness, a year in which we shall live to make this earth better, it is because God will direct our pathway. How important then, to feel our dependence upon Him!

-- Matthew Simpson


Monday, January 2, 2017


"There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John  1:9-12)

The wise men come seeking Jesus. He comes to His own -- His own world, His own people -- and though many despise and reject Him, many see Him full of grace and truth. His natal star, like a flashlight in the hand of God, leads the magi up the dark and rocky path till it comes to where the child lay and glitters their believing eyes. The wise still come as testimony that He embodies the only hope for the dark, sad world.

--  Thomas R. Steagald in Sacred Days: Following Jesus Through the Christian Year,  © 2014. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.