Friday, May 29, 2009


Earnestness is good and impressive: genius is gifted and great. Thought kindles and inspires, but it takes a more divine endowment, and more powerful energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to win estranged and depraved hearts to God, to repair the breaches and restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but the anointing of the Holy Spirit can do this.

-- E. M. Bounds in Power Through Prayer, adapted


Thursday, May 28, 2009


When I think of the fear and discomfort summoned up by mentioning the Holy Spirit, I have to laugh at the irony of being spooked by the Comforter. Sometimes I secretly yearn for the spectacular -- fits of ecstasy, miraculous answers to prayer, resurrection, healings, -- when the Holy Spirit chiefly offers a slow, steady progression toward the end God desires all along: the gradual reconstruction of my fallen self…

-- Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I thought I could make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.

-- C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Much of our preaching is eviscerated because we tell the Christ story as if it began in a Bethlehem stable and ended on the day of the ascension. When all things began, He already was. His story is a story of a crucified carpenter whose death and resurrection long ago and far away give meaning and purpose not only to our individual lives, but also to the whole created universe. "The whole universe has been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16). If that is true, then there is nothing in all creation, nothing in human experience of joy or pain, nothing in the physical world from the galaxies to the atom that cannot be a theophany, a Christophany, a revelation of God in Christ.

-- Ian Pitt-Watson in A Primer for Preachers


Friday, May 22, 2009


I believe that Paul's epistle to the Colossians speaks a word of hope -- of good news which can unite us, and which offers the possibility of true harmony in the Church... First of all, Paul tells us: Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. “He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (1:17) Jesus Christ is the focus of our life together in the church. “He is the head of the body, the church.” (1:18) Jesus Christ is the One who calls us to obedient discipleship. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in Him,... just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (2:6-7)

In other words, these words from the epistle tell me that our center -- our unity -- our harmony is not dependent on our efforts, nor on whether we are in agreement with one another. It is not dependent on our speaking the same language. Our unity is found in Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:17). And that comes to us as a gift of God’s love. Because of that gift, we know who and whose we are. “You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” Paul said. That is our identity; we are persons chosen by God, invited to a new life in Christ, and clothed in the brand-new wardrobe given to us by God. We are holy and beloved, living out a life of faith and thanksgiving and prayer.

-- Harriet Finney in a message entitled "Perfect Harmony"


Thursday, May 21, 2009


Jesus was the perfect embodiment of God's holy temple on earth. We like to affirm that Christ is perfect, and imparts growing perfection to those who dwell in Him. But despite our theological assertions, the word perfect is a stumbling block for most of us. Perhaps this is because our images of perfection are far from perfect!

We tend to imagine perfection as a fleeting or unattainable phenomenon disconnected from the daily smear and blear of life. We are drawn to ideals of perfection in physical beauty or strength that cannot be sustained. We associate perfection with infallible moral purity that is irreparably shattered by a single moral lapse. We are inclined to suspect that anything appearing perfect is either artificial or sure to evaporate under the sultry sun of reality. Perfection is the ethereal phantom we are never allowed truly to possess.

But the biblical notion of perfection is not fragile, phony, or fleeting. It has to do with the end for which we are created: to glorify and enjoy God. Perfection signifies a fulfilling of purpose, a completion of one's own true nature, a deep authenticity and realism that grows in us over time. To be perfect is to be wholly suited to our ultimate end.

-- Marjorie Thompson in Leading From the Center, Spring 2000


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


By itself, Psalm 23 leads to an easy-answer faith; by itself Psalm 22 leads to spiritual despair; together, the two offer a bracing mixture of realism and hope.

I have come to see these psalms as calling for different kinds of faith. Psalm 23 models childlike faith, and Psalm 22 models fidelity, a deeper, more mysterious kind of faith. Life with God may include both. We may experience times of unusual closeness, when prayers are answered in an obvious way and God seems intimate and caring. We may also experience dark times, when God stays silent, when nothing works according to formula and all the Bible's promises seem glaringly false. Fidelity involves learning to trust that, out beyond the perimeter of darkness, God still reigns and has not abandoned us, no matter how it may appear.

-- Philip Yancey in The Bible Jesus Read


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


It occurs to me that one way to test the authenticity of our religion is to ask ourselves to whom we gravitate as we make our way through life: to the power brokers, the shakers and movers, the beautiful people who make us feel so much better about ourselves? Or do we move toward those who have nothing going for them in this world, and who can do nothing for us? Are we willing to befriend and listen to those awkward people others avoid? Can we love them when love seems useless, when we cannot help them? Can we care about them though they never return our affection? Can we do this in faithful obedience to God, even though no one sees or knows but He?

We can when we remember that God is the Father of the downtrodden and disenfranchised, and that includes us. We too have nothing but our wretchedness to bring to God. Only when we remember His pity for us can we speak or act in pity. Then we have a religion that God can accept.

-- David Roper in Growing Slowly Wise


Monday, May 18, 2009


Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.

-- Thomas Hughes


Friday, May 15, 2009


Several years ago, an interesting article by Lois Wyse appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine. It listed some bits of advice for young women considering marriage, some helpful guidelines for finding a good husband. She said there are six ways to learn everything you ever need to know about a man before you decide to marry him:

  • Watch him drive in heavy traffic.
  • Play tennis with him.
  • Listen as he talks to his mother when he doesn't know you're listening.
  • See how he treats those who serve him (waiters, ushers, maids, service station attendants, etc.).
  • Notice how and for whom he spends his money.
  • Look at his friends.

After sharing those six suggestions, she came up with yet another one -- almost as an afterthought. "Oh, by the way," she said, "if you still can't make up your mind, then look at his shoes!" A man who keeps his shoes in good repair, she explained generally tends to the rest of his life, too.

Did you notice the common thread here? Not counting the last one about the shoes, all the rest of these guidelines have to do with how we treat other people. I think the writer is onto something here, something very important. If you're looking for a mate or a friend, look at how that person treats other people. It is so true: The way we treat other people reveals a lot about who we are. It reveals a lot about our faith.

-- James W. Moore in When You're a Christian, the Whole World is from Missouri


Thursday, May 14, 2009


People in the New Testament church came to Paul and asked him what things they could depend on if they changed their way of living and adopted the Christian faith that he espoused. He replied, "We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). The things we cannot see are paramount, and do not change -- those about which Jesus taught. Can we see truth, justice, forgiveness, or love? I try to remember this verse during some of the more trying times of my own life, and I use it frequently in my classes and in counseling people who are distressed about crises in their lives.

-- President Jimmy Carter in Living Faith


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Advance decision-making can offer huge rewards when it comes to church attendance. The Bible speaks clearly about the discipline of Christians coming together in groups in order to help one another grow. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." Coming together, whether for formal church services or more informal small-group gatherings, is not about following some legalistic rule; it is about taking advantage of a significant means of spiritual growth. You and I never know when God is going to show up at a particular gathering of Christians in such a powerful and personal way that it touches our hearts and transforms us on the inside. If we take a casual approach to gathering together and say, "It's raining outside today. I guess I won't go to church," we are setting ourselves up to miss out on the potential work of God in our lives.

After a recent service at Willow Creek a woman said to me, "I could take you to the chair I was sitting in the day I first understood the message of amazing grace and opened my heart to Jesus Christ. Then I could take you to the chair I was sitting in when I decided to let go of a sinful pattern that was destroying my life. I could take you to another chair when I took the major step of trusting God with a huge challenge in my life. I'm sure glad I didn't miss those opportunities to hear God speaking to me as His Spirit moved throughout this place."

During my lifetime, I have sat through many church services and small-group meetings during which it seemed as though nothing special was happening inside of me. But I have also sat through similar services and meetings during which my heart was turned inside out and my life was turned around. There was no way to know ahead of time when God would choose to use the gathering of Christians, the teaching of the Word, the lifting up of voices in worship or the sharing of personal testimonies to touch me in a unique and powerful way. Only an advance decision to assemble together with other Christians consistently could have put me in the right place at the right time to receive God's gifts of guidance and growth.

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


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


If I prayed more consistently, would my prayers be more powerful, like a body of an athlete who works out every day? If I meditated more regularly, would I be more practiced at staying mindful during difficult times, instead of letting fear gobble me up? What a big appetite fear has. What a succulent morsel I was last night.

-- Sy Safransky in The Sun, May 2006


Monday, May 11, 2009


When it comes to systemic change [in the church], all that matters is the Gospel. Either the system helps people experience the transforming power of God and walk daily with Jesus, or it does not. If it does not, then no matter how daring, fun, intriguing, or socially beneficial it might be, it does not fulfill the New Testament purpose of the church. If it does, then congregations can flourish and bear fruit (spiritual, social, and economic) to benefit all humankind.

...The real issue before the church is not merely theological. It is christological. The key question... for church transformation [is]: What is it about our experience with Jesus that this community cannot live without?... No enduring change can happen in the church... without it being linked to continuing spiritual growth in one's relationship with Jesus.

-- Thomas G. Bandy in Moving Off the Map


Friday, May 8, 2009


God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, we pray…
for expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
for new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility;
for those who are tired, stressed or depressed;
for those who struggle to balance the tasks of work and family;
for those who are unable to feed their children due to poverty;
for those whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities;
for those who have children they do not want;
for those who raise children on their own;
for those who have lost a child;
for those who care for the children of others;
for those whose children have left home;
and for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender,
and that they may lead their children to know Your way and to do what is good,
living not for themselves alone, but for You and for others.

-- Source unknown


Thursday, May 7, 2009


"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)

I regularly spend time telling God what God already knows. I do it not only because the Bible tells me to do it (Philippians 4:6), but because I am driven to it, especially in times of desperation. I do it because prayer stabilizes me in times of trouble, comforts me when I hurt, encourages me when I am about to go a-wobbling, and keeps me alive when I think I'm going to die. When my cynical friends chide me and say, "You use prayer as a crutch, Campolo, because you don't feel strong enough to face up to what your life is about," I can only answer, "Of course!" Those who believe that they are self-sufficient are, on the one hand, people who don't think they need prayer, and on the other hand, people who are most deluded. To these cynics I can only say, "Your time will come. And when it does, the good news is that God will be there waiting and willing to carry you through the valley of the shadow of death."

-- Tony Campolo in Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God (Scripture added)

NOTE: Today is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. Please pray for the leaders and elected officials in community, state, and federal government.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009


"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing…If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:5,7)

Jesus told His disciples that if they want to be fruitful, if they want to live according to His purpose for them, if they want to live victorious lives, they must stay connected to Him. Their connection to Jesus would determine their destiny. Their connection to Jesus would determine whether or not their prayers were answered.

Jesus likened their relationship to that of a living plant. He is the vine, the main source of water and nutrients, while the disciples are the branches that depend upon the vine for survival. As the branches must remain connected to the vine in order to grow and multiply, so too, must the disciples remain connected to Jesus for the same reasons. Jesus makes it very clear what will happen should they become separated from Him. Apart from Him, the vine, they will not be able to do anything.

-- Ronda Sturgill


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Jesus Spoke of Himself not only as the Good Shepherd who knew His sheep by name but also as the door of the sheepfold. "By Me if any man enter in," Jesus said, "he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9) Middle Eastern shepherds… protected their flocks from such wild animals as wolves and lions, by using slingshots or staff. The sheepfold was usually a small stone-wall corral with a single break in the wall that served as the gate. The shepherd made the flock enter the sheepfold by walking under his staff, which he held across the opening. In this way he examined the condition of each animal and made sure he accounted for the entire flock. At night, after the fire had died down, the shepherd usually slept across the opening, thus, himself becoming the gate.

-- from Jesus, His Life and Times (The Genesis Project)


Monday, May 4, 2009


"So encourage each other, and build each other up…" (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT)

To say "Well done!" to any bit of good work is to take hold of the powers which have made the effort and strengthen them beyond our knowledge.

-- Phillip Brooks (Scripture added)

Friday, May 1, 2009


When we begin to live a spirituality of simplicity, our primary concern ceases to be success and becomes faithfulness. We are called to live with integrity, to express the truth as we perceive it, and to trust in God's ability to use what we offer.

-- Elizabeth J. Canham in Heart Whispers