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”


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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”


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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?


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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


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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”


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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”


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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


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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"


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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”


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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


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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


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