Wednesday, May 31, 2017


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

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

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

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

-- Author Unknown


Tuesday, May 30, 2017


There is a God.  It is not you.

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

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

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


Friday, May 26, 2017


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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 25, 2017


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

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

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


Wednesday, May 24, 2017


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

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

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


Tuesday, May 23, 2017


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

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

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

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


Monday, May 22, 2017


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

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

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


Friday, May 19, 2017


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

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

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


Thursday, May 18, 2017


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

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

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


Wednesday, May 17, 2017


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

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

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


Tuesday, May 16, 2017


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

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

-- Eugene Peterson in “The Message”


Monday, May 15, 2017


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

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

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

-- from the “Life Application Study Bible”


Friday, May 12, 2017


Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide.  Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing is central to personhood…

God wants us to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to “How to know God’s will for your life.” Often when we are faced with a real-life choice, the Bible seems no more helpful than Yogi Berra’s old dictum: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Paul doesn’t write about “six steps to determine if he’s the one” or “five ways to discern God’s job for you.”

What we do see are statements like this: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” (James 1:5, NRSV)

Or “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best.” (Philippians 1:9-10)

God wants us to be excellent choosers…

If I’m facing a choice and I want to find God’s will for my life, I don’t begin by asking which choice is God’s will for my life. I need to begin by asking for wisdom.

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


Thursday, May 11, 2017


You cannot make choices for others. And if your heart has been broken by an abusive parent or rebellious child or an ex-spouse, that might be what you need to hear. You shouldn’t take responsivity for someone else’s sins, but you are able to choose your response. You are, in fact, a choice architect.

If you are in a position of leadership, engineering opportunities is part of your portfolio. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parent or a coach or a manager or a pastor. One well-timed compliment can open the door and let the future in. One nudge in the right direction can change the plotline for eternity. You don’t need to put undue pressure on yourself -- don’t worry about missing opportunities or making mistakes. God is a God of second chances, and third and fourth and hundredth. But when the Spirit gives you a nudge, obey it. If you don’t you’ll never know where the rabbit hole would have taken you. If you do, the Wild Goose chase begins.

-- Mark Batterson in “The Grave Robber”


Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be itself sufficient to secure remission of sins… In such a church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace, therefore, amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God...

Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of His grace! That is what we mean by ‘cheap grace’, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grave is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace which we bestow upon ourselves…

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “The Cost of Discipleship”


Tuesday, May 9, 2017


"The joy of the Lord is your strength" is God's promise to His people (Nehemiah 8:10)... "The joy of the Lord" is an attribute we receive from heaven. It is both a gift and a choice. The Lord's joy doesn't provide constant happiness or shallow amusement. Rather, it is a deep awareness that we are His, and that eternal life is ours.

-- Stephen Arterburn in “The Power Book


Monday, May 8, 2017


Though we may feel utterly lost, we have not been abandoned. No matter how far the town of our life seems to have fallen off the map, God seeks to renew us. God has for us a better place. This exile does not have the last word. God desires to bring us, to bring the whole world, home to a joy and a glory we have scarcely imagined. To those in captivity, who feel lost and "unhomed," the word comes from God, "I am looking for you. I am seeking you. I know how to get you back home."

-- Gerrit Scott Dawson in “Called by a New Name”,  published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Friday, May 5, 2017


“And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”  (Luke 22:19 NKJV)

In communion we believe that this meal is where we meet Christ, crucified and risen, who comes to be with His disciples once more. His broken body, His suffering and betrayal are transfigured by the power of God to call life from death, and who offers that same possibility to us in the bread and the cup.  Three things help us. Communion is about memory -- here again are the stories of Jesus and how can you make these stories more your own?  Communion is about prayer. How am I present to the presence of God? And communion is a meal, our meal as the body of Christ. How do we walk mountaintop and valley with each other -- how do we listen to one another, and allow ourselves to be changed by each other?

--  Rev. Kenneth Fell


Thursday, May 4, 2017


We are frequently advised to read the Bible with our own personal needs in mind, and to look for answers to our own private questions.  That is good, as far as it goes...  But better still is the advice to study the Bible objectively, ... without regard, first of all, to our own subjective needs.  Let the great passages fix themselves in our memory.  Let them stay there permanently, like bright beacons, launching their powerful shafts of light upon life's problems -- our own and everyone's -- as they illumine, now one, now another dark area of human life.  Following such a method, we discover that the Bible does "speak to our condition" and meet our needs, not just occasionally or when some emergency arises, but continually.

-- Frederick C. Grant


Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Many people think that what's written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven -- getting right with God, saving their eternal souls.  It does have to do with that, of course, but not mostly.  It is equally concerned with living on this earth -- living well, living in robust sanity.  In our Scriptures, heaven is not the primary concern, to which earth is a tag-along afterthought.  "On earth as it is in heaven" is Jesus' prayer.

"Wisdom" is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living.  Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves.  It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such.  A college degree is no certification of wisdom -- nor is it primarily concerned with keeping us out of moral mud puddles, although it does have a profound moral effect upon us.

Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace.  Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.  In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.

-- Eugene Peterson in “The Message


Tuesday, May 2, 2017


“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13b-14 NASB)

Why do failures linger? Failures take on a life of their own because the brain remembers incomplete tasks or failures longer than any success or completed activity. It's technically referred to as the "Zeigarnik effect." When a project or a thought is completed, the brain places it in a special memory. The brain no longer gives the project priority or active working status, and bits and pieces of the achieved situation begin to decay. But failures have no closure. The brain continues to spin the memory, trying to come up with ways to fix the mess and move it from active to inactive status.

-- Perry Buffington


Monday, May 1, 2017


Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34a NIV)

When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory. You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as a person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.

-- Lewis Smedes