Thursday, January 31, 2019

ABUNDANT LIFE HERE AND NOW

Jesus said… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10 NRSV)

I believe that when Jesus Christ comes into our lives, He not only saves us for an eternity after death, He brings eternity into our lives here and now. To the degree that we allow our Lord to do so, He helps us to sleep better, eat better, talk better, love better, and laugh better. He brings a kind of continual excitement into life. The Christian life is wonderfully earthy; we don’t seek, in our beliefs, to escape from this life, but we do expect to get hold of something beyond this earth. Not simply when we die; heavens, no! We expect a quite out-of-this-world touch on our lives here. 

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “Life from the Upside: Seeing God at Work in the World”


#4516

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

THE FELLOWSHIP OF BELIEVERS

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  (Acts 2:42 NIV)

Whether fellowship is perceived as participation [in one another’s lives] or partnership, in either case it implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume.  

--  Jerry Bridges in  “True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia”


#4515

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

NO NEED TO FEAR

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  (Psalm 23:4 NKJV)

Don’t face death without facing God. Don’t even speak of death without speaking to God. He and He alone can guide you through the valley. Others may speculate or aspire, but only God knows the way to get you home. And only God is committed to getting you there safely.

Years after David wrote these words, another Bethlehem Shepherd would say: “There are many rooms in My Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me so that you may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

Note the promise of Jesus. “I will come back and take you to be with Me.” He pledges to take us home. He does not delegate the task. He may send missionaries to teach you, angels to protect you, teachers to guide you, singers to inspire you, and physicians to heal you, but He sends no one to take you. He reserves this job for Himself. “I will come back and take you home.” He is your personal Shepherd. And He is personally responsible to lead you home. And because He is present when any of His sheep dies, you can say what David said, “I will fear no evil.” 

-- Max Lucado in “Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Meant to Bear -- The Promise of Psalm 23”


#4514

Monday, January 28, 2019

FAITH AND A PILE OF ROCKS

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

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. 

-- Antoine De Saint-Exupery 


#4513

Friday, January 25, 2019

EXPERIENCING GOD’S WORD

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”  (Colossians 3:16 NRSV)

There is a difference between memorizing Scripture and thinking biblically. There’s a difference between knowing the words and experiencing their meaning. There is a difference between having the sentences embedded in your head and having their impact embedded in your heart. There is a difference between believing that the words are right and knowing that they are true. There is a difference between “doing Christianity” and being a Christian.

You can memorize all of the words, but if you’ve forgotten the music, or never experienced it firsthand, then you still won’t be able to sing the song with fullness. You’ll still miss the dance. Most people say that we don’t know enough Scripture. That’s probably true. Paradoxically, however, we sometimes read it too much and experience it too little. 

-- Tim Hansel in “You Gotta Keep Dancin’: In the Midst of Life’s Hurts, You Can Choose Joy!”


#4512

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A DEEP LOVE FOR JESUS

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  (Ephesians 3:19 NLT)

I recently interviewed a pastor while preparing a story for the local newspaper. As always, the visit was positive, and I enjoyed the meeting on many levels. We talked about his family, his career, his relationship to the community,… and the church he built and loved so deeply.

Then I asked the pastor about Jesus. I asked him about what still motivates him to keep on preaching after all this time, and I asked him why the message he delivers on Sunday should have anything at all to do with the day-to-day balance of our lives.

“Let me tell you about Jesus,” he said. And immediately his eyes filled with tears. He shared the simple testimony of how Jesus connected with his humble life and called him into service, and how his Savior remains so profoundly linked to every moment of his every day, and he couldn’t help but let the tears flow.

“I’m so sorry about the tears,” he said. “But I can’t talk about Jesus without being affected this way. I just love Him so much.”

He… used to work as a superintendent for an oil company. He knew how to handle himself. He was all man all the way through. Yet the love of Jesus touched his heart and his soul so deeply that it still brought tears to his eyes.

Such deep love for Jesus is the key to spiritual growth and the way we move ever closer to God. 

-- Derek Maul in “Get Real: A Spiritual Journey for Men”


#4511

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

CREATION IS GOD WAVING HELLO

“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  (Romansn1:20 NIV)

I have been asked by some how I can be so certain in the existence of a good God, and I have asked them in return if they have eyes to see.  God has woven Himself irretrievably into Nature; left His fingerprints behind to show us where He's been.  His signature is smeared into the curls of the Milky Way, forever circling above the rim of the world.  God has scattered fragments of Himself all about the earth like a father hides eggs in the yard before his son's very first Easter; hiding behind a tree with laughing eyes and waiting to see which of the treasures his child will uncover first.

God is crying out all around us.  He is present in the breathless silence of the snow-smothered mountains; He is dancing with the sunlight that shatters on the ocean's waves; He is hiding in the decaying moss and lichen and crumbling shale in the old forgotten places in the world.  No jagged mountain throws its sharp weight against the sky that is not a testament to His goodness.  The entire sum of Creation, each private and individual act of nature, is God waving hello. 

-- John Ortberg in “God Is Closer Than You Think”


#4510

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

VISION BEYOND YOUR RESOURCES

"[Pastor,] we want to give [the church] a gift, and there are no strings attached.  But before I tell you how much we're going to give, I want you to know why we're giving it.  We're giving this gift because you have vision beyond your resources."

I'll never forget that phrase: "vision beyond your resources."

The rationale behind the gift was just as meaningful as the gift itself.  And that rationale has inspired us to keep dreaming irrational dreams.  Those four words, vision beyond your resources, have become a mantra for the ministry of National Community Church.  We refuse to let our budget determine our vision.  That left-brained approach is a wrong-brained approach because it's based on our limited resources rather than on God's unlimited provision.  Faith is allowing your God-given vision to determine your budget.  That certainly does not mean you practice poor financial stewardship, spend beyond your means, and accumulate a huge debt load.  It does mean that you take a step of faith when God gives you a vision because you trust that the One who gave you the vision is going to make provision.  And for the record, if the vision is from God, it will most definitely be beyond your means.

Having vision beyond your resources is synonymous with dreaming big.  And it may feel like you're setting yourself up for failure, but you're actually setting God up for a miracle.  How God performs the miracle is His job.  Your job is drawing a circle around the God-given dream.

"We want to give the church $3 million dollars."

I was speechless. And I am a preacher.

-- Mark Batterson in “The Circle Maker”


#4509

Monday, January 21, 2019

DON’T LET SATAN STOP YOU

“My friends, we were kept from coming to you for a while, but we never stopped thinking about you. We were eager to see you and tried our best to visit you in person. We really wanted to come. I myself tried several times, but Satan always stopped us. After all, when the Lord Jesus appears, who else but you will give us hope and joy and be like a glorious crown for us? You alone are our glory and joy!”  (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 CEV)

Satan is real. And if you aren’t a believer, his #1 strategy for you is to keep you from coming to faith in Christ today. If you’re listening to me right now and you aren’t yet a Christian, don’t be surprised if your mind is being filled with all kinds of weird thoughts and distractions... The devil tries to prevent you from hearing and responding to the gospel [the good news of Jesus Christ].

But once you become a Christian, the devil doesn’t give up on you. He just changes his strategy. From that point on, he tries to STOP you. Paul said he wanted to visit Thessalonica, but the devil stopped him; he hindered him. That’s a strategy he uses with believers as well. The devil wants to stop you. He and his demons want to stop you from reading your Bible; stop you from praying; stop you from attending worship; stop you from giving to God; stop you from witnessing; stop you from serving God; and stop you from growing in your faith. Get the idea? He wants to stop you from doing what God wants you to do. 

-- David Dykes in a sermon entitled “Don’t Let Satan Stop You”


#4508

Friday, January 18, 2019

OVERWHELMED BY THE VISION OF JESUS

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)

Jesus was a little baby born in Bethlehem, but He’s more than that! He was a preacher and a healer, but He’s more than that! He was the Savior nailed to the cross whispering forgiveness to the world, but He’s more than that! In the magnificent words of Paul, He is the image of the invisible God, the One through whom all things were made and in whom everything holds together. When we are overwhelmed by this vision of Jesus, our response can only be “Jesus, You are the One I want to love and follow.” 

-- Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant in “The Way of Transforming Discipleship”


#4507

Thursday, January 17, 2019

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!’”  (Matthew 8:24-27 NIV)

Answers create more questions than they eliminate. Every discovery opens the door to new possibilities. The crest of every hill reveals new twists and turns in the road ahead.

Take the Wright brothers, for example. Their primitive contraption lifted off the ground at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, and flew for a grand total of 120 feet in twelve seconds. During the twelve-second period, many questions were answered. But for every one that was answered, ten more were created. That’s why, after a brief celebration, the brothers went scurrying back to their bicycle shop. They knew their research was just getting started.

Likewise, the disciples learned something important about Jesus when He calmed the waters. But that information opened the door to a thousand new possibilities, and some of them were truly frightening. They knew that someone who possessed that kind of power could do anything at any time…

If your faith reserves have been depleted, maybe you need the kind of jolt the disciples got that day on the Sea of Galilee. Maybe you need to be reminded of our Lord’s awesome power.

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


#4506

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

JUST ENOUGH LIGHT

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  (Psalm 119:105 NIV)

There’s an old saying for travelers: A car’s headlights only shine for fifteen feet, but that fifteen feet will get you all the way home. God knows how much clarity will be good for us -- not too much, and not too little. We don’t follow clarity. We follow God

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


#4505

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

NOTHING BUT FILTHY RAGS

“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”  (Isaiah 64:6 NLT)

If... you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane -- if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground -- ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of past ages because they excelled in courage or chastity.  You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling of how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God. 

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


#4504

Monday, January 14, 2019

LET SADNESS DRIVE YOU TO PRAYER

“When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days,…”  (Nehemiah 1:4a NRSV)

If only a sailor could use any wind at all to get him where he needs to go. And if only a human being could use any feeling, any mood, any emotion to get them where they need to go. Enter Nehemiah.

We see as we read through his story the strong things that he feels. He feels things strongly, he feels things deeply, and yet we see that he lets those strong winds drive him… always towards God, and always towards God’s work. It’s remarkable.

So in the very beginning I shared with you when Nehemiah hears the bad news how he responds, how he feels. He says, “When I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days.” That’s not the whole sentence. I read to you before only a part of the sentence. Here’s the whole sentence: “When I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

His sadness did not merely drive him to tears, it drove him to prayer. And don’t dismiss that as a minor detail, a small thing. It makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between an act of grief and an act of faith. It’s the difference between wallowing in my troubles and worshipping in my troubles. 

-- Rev. David Kalas in a sermon entitled “Hero in the Rubble: Letting Yourself Be Moved”


#4503

Friday, January 11, 2019

BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Do not get drunk on wine.… Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

Intoxication and spirituality seem like odd companions in a Bible verse. But Paul is saying it just right: don’t try to get inspiration out of a bottle. God wants to fill and inspire you through His Spirit. If you need comfort, don’t guzzle it. Find the real stuff in the one Jesus called the Comforter. Don’t try to work up courage by drinking. The Spirit is courageous! The disciples ran in fright when Jesus was arrested, but they boldly faced danger every day once the Spirit had come.

Do you drink just to loosen up and relax? The fruit of the Spirit includes peace with God. Not to mention love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

An old commercial used to tout two merits of the beer they were promoting: “tastes great” and “less filling.” At least the beer company got the second one right. Everything this world has to offer is less filling. And at the end of the day, none of it tastes great. But life in the Spirit is a different matter. 

-- Kyle Idleman in “The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins”


#4502

Thursday, January 10, 2019

REMEMBER JESUS

Can you still remember?  Are you still in love with Him?… Remember Jesus.  Before you remember anything, remember Him.  If you forget anything, don't forget Him.

Oh, but how quickly we forget.  So much happens through the years.  So many changes within.  So many alterations without.  And, somewhere, back there, we leave Him.  We don't turn away from Him… we just don't take Him with us.  Assignments come.  Promotions come.  Budgets are made.  Kids are born, and the Christ… the Christ is forgotten.

Has it been a while since you stared at the heavens in speechless amazement?  Has it been a while since you realized God's divinity and your carnality?

If it has, then you need to know something.  He is still there.  He hasn't left.  Under all those papers and books and reports and years.  In the midst of all those voices and faces and memories and pictures, He is still there.

-- Max Lucado in “Six Hours One Friday”


#4501

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

RIGHT AND WRONG

“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. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)

In a world without God, who’s to say whose values are right and whose are wrong? There can be no objective right and wrong, only our culturally and personally relative, subjective judgments. Think of what that means! It means it’s impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can you praise generosity, self-sacrifice, and love as good. To kill someone or love someone is morally equivalent. For in a universe without God, good and evil do not exist -- there is only the bare, valueless fact of existence. And there is no one way to say you are right and I am wrong.  

-- William Lane Craig in “On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision”


#4500

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

RISE AND SHINE

“Jesus said to the people, ‘I am the Light of the world. So if you follow Me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.’"  (John 8:12 TLB) 

To sinners lulled to sleep by the dark world Christ says, awake! Spiritual awakening is to recognize and repent of sin. To those who are dead in trespasses, Jesus says, arise! Spiritual resurrection means to be born again. “The day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12 NKJV) 

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


#4499

Monday, January 7, 2019

RUBBLE AND RESTORATION

“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.  It takes a unique personality to see rubble and dream of restoration. Nehemiah had a vision, and he shared it with enthusiasm, inspiring Jerusalem’s leaders to rebuild the wall.

God saw our desolate lives and sent us a Redeemer to take the rubble of our lives and restore our souls.  He gave His Son so that we, who were dead, might live.  Jesus said, “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 10:10 NIV) 

-- Adapted from “The Life Application Bible”


#4498

Friday, January 4, 2019

DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME

“For I received from the LORD what I also passed on to you: The LORD Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me."  (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NIV)

I am to show that it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord's Supper as often as he can. ... The First reason why it is the duty of every Christian so to do is, because it is a plain command of Christ. That this is His command, appears from the words of the text, "Do this in remembrance of Me:" ... A Second reason why every Christian should do this as often as he can, is, because the benefits of doing it are so great to all that do it in obedience to Him; viz., the forgiveness of our past sins and the present strengthening and refreshing of our souls. ... 

-- John Wesley, from “Sermon 101” 


#4497

Thursday, January 3, 2019

GOD’S GREATEST MIRACLE

“For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)

Out of all the people who have ever lived since the dawn of creation, over all the centuries and in all the countries of the world, there has never been another person like you.  No one has ever had your mind, heart, eyes, hands, hair, or mouth.  No one has ever walked, talked, moved or thought like you. You are rare. And like all things rare, you are valuable.  In fact, you are God's greatest miracle -- His supreme creation. Never again till the end of time will there ever be anyone else exactly like you.

So you are important to God. He made you in His image.  And He made you to succeed.  He made you to enjoy the best heaven can afford. 

-- Dan Stewart in “Miracle Success”


#4496

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

FITNESS TRAINING FOR THE NEW YEAR

"Physical training is of some value," Paul tells us in I Timothy 4:8, "but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

My guess is that our hopes and resolutions for the New Year are quite similar. Like myself, many of you have probably committed to dieting, making better use of your long neglected gym membership and reestablishing a quiet time with God. Our commitments to dieting and gym membership require elaborate preparations and consistent training. After all, we must not only choose our diet, but we must train ourselves to stay away from sweets or that extra serving of mashed potatoes. Similarly, we must not only carve out time in our schedule for the gym, we must commit ourselves to, and stick with, a rigorous training schedule.

Unfortunately, when it comes to our spiritual fitness, we often fail to make any specific preparations at all. So, while we try to spend more time in prayer, we fail to schedule time to be on our knees. Likewise, although we would like to explore fasting, we fail to train ourselves to sustain a fast. While we try to read the Bible, we fail to place ourselves in a small group Bible study that will hold us accountable. If you are like me, you know that trying often gets us nowhere. As John Ortberg teaches so clearly in "The Life You've Always Wanted", if we want to grow into godliness we need to "stop trying and start training." We need to train ourselves in godliness. Spiritual practices and disciplines will help us to grow in the godliness that holds "promise for both the present life and the life to come." 

-- Adapted from the Christian Living Newsletter from Christianbook.com 


SPIRITUAL FITNESS NOTE: If you know of someone like you who would like to be part of a daily spiritual fitness routine this year, encourage them to follow this blog, find us on Facebook, or subscribe via e-mail.


#4495