Monday, April 30, 2012


The gospel of grace is underwritten by the most precious commodity in the universe – the blood of Jesus.

Some have lost sight of an important truth, possibly the most important truth, which is this: no blood means no salvation. And no redemption, no forgiveness, no sanctification, and no future.

Without the blood, the gospel is no gospel and the cross is nothing more than two beams of wood. As the song-writer [Robert Lowry] wrote, our cleansing, our wholeness, our pardon, our hope, our peace, our righteousness, our overcoming, are all based on nothing but the blood of Jesus.

On the night before he died, Jesus said: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20) 

-- Paul Ellis


Friday, April 27, 2012


The blood of Jesus Christ has great power! There is perhaps not a phrase in the Bible that is so full of secret truth as is "The blood of Jesus." It is the secret of His incarnation, when Jesus took on flesh and blood; the secret of His obedience unto death, when He gave His life at the cross of Calvary; the secret of His love that went beyond all understanding when He bought us with His blood; the secret of the enemy and the secret of our eternal salvation.  

-- Corrie Ten Boom


Thursday, April 26, 2012


"And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'" (John 8:11 NKJV)

We should not condone sinful behavior any more than Jesus approved of the activities of the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery.  But Jesus focused more on connection than correction.  He knew that when the connection grew strong, so would the desire to do the correct thing. 

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


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you… He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless Lamb of God. God chose Him for this purpose before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you." (1 Peter 1: 18-20 NLT)

If we give soft names to sin we depreciate the value of the blood which was shed to save us from sin.

-- Unknown


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Philosopher Dallas Willard makes a provocative proposal: "Followers of Jesus are required to pursue truth wherever it leads them." This is perhaps a strange way to say it, but even more than we need to be committed to Jesus, we need to be committed to truth. For it is impossible to trust Jesus if way down deep inside, you don't think He was right. Sometimes believers are afraid that pursuing truth wherever it leads might make us uncomfortable. But as C. S. Lewis wrote, "Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth -- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and in the end, despair."

Jesus Himself had quite a lot to say about truth. He said: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31b-32). "I am the way and the truth and the life: (14:6). "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth" (16:13).

Another way of saying this is, if you have to choose between Jesus and truth, choose truth. But according to Jesus, if you search for truth, you will find Him. There is no other way to trust Jesus than to think and question and wrestle and struggle until you come to see that He really is true. One purpose of doubt is to motivate us to do that.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Monday, April 23, 2012


My schedule was extremely tight, so [at the prison] after we finished "Amazing Grace" we said our good-byes and began filing out.  We were crowded into the caged area between the two massive gates when we noticed one volunteer had stayed back and was with James Brewer in his cell.  I went to get the man because the warden could not operate the gates until we had all cleared out.

"I'm sorry, we have to leave," I said, looking nervously at my watch, knowing a plane stood waiting at a nearby airstrip to fly me to Indianapolis to meet with Governor Orr …

"Oh, yes," the volunteer looked up.  "Give us just a minute please.  This is important," he added softly.

"No, I'm sorry," I snapped.  "I can't keep the governor waiting.  We must go."

"I understand," the man said, still speaking softly, "but this is important.  You see, I'm Judge Clement.  I'm the man who sentenced James here to die.  But now he's my brother and we want a minute to pray together."

I stood frozen in the cell doorway. It didn't matter who I kept waiting… Anywhere other than the kingdom of God, that inmate might have killed that judge with his bare hands -- or wanted to anyway.  Now they were one, their faces reflecting an indescribable expression of love as they prayed together.

Though he could hardly speak, on the way out of the prison Judge Clement told me he had been praying for Brewer every day since he had sentenced him four years earlier…

Taking the gospel to people wherever they are -- death row, the ghetto, or next door -- is frontline evangelism.  Frontline love.  

 -- Charles W. Colson in Loving God


Friday, April 20, 2012


Jesus is a role model for creativity. A wonderful Scandinavian sculpture portrays Jesus in a wooden frame with His arm extended outside the box. Jesus was a marvelously creative "out of the box" person -- a master of analogy and metaphor. The parables He told, including the sower, the prodigal son, and the mustard seed, as well as His "I am" statements in John's Gospel, show the way He used creativity to communicate the Good News.

 -- Barbara Bruce in Alive Now Magazine, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Thursday, April 19, 2012


If there is no God, there is no home. The universe is a blind and pitiless machine. Human beings appeared in it by accident. We have minds and consciousness and desires and hopes, but the forces of the universe will one day crush them all, and us along with them.  We don't belong here. The Bible, on the other hand, indicates that the reason we love the earth so much is that God made it to be our home.

The first home was called the garden of Eden. The story of the fall is, among other things, a reflection of our homesickness.

God told human beings to exercise dominion over the earth. That means it is our home but that it is really a gift. The deed is in His name. We are supposed to take care of it. Richard Foster writes, "We plant evergreens and compost garbage, we clean a room and put coasters under glasses, and in these ways we help to tidy up Eden."

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Our lives form some sort of pattern whether or not we consciously arrange it. I have friends whose lives center on material possessions.  They scour the stock market pages each day, maintain houses in several countries, and buy new luxury cars every year.  I have other friends who work at minimum-wage jobs in deliberate rebellion against parents who pressed them relentlessly to achieve.  I have friends who boast about their seventy-to-eighty hour workweeks, and others who boast about sleeping till noon each day.  Some women I know spend several hours each day keeping fit and making themselves beautiful; others have greasy hair, wear no make-up, and disdain standards of beauty.  I know a wine connoisseur who stores ten thousand bottles of vintage wine in humidity-controlled coolers; I know an alcoholic who can't keep a single unopened bottle in his house.  One neighbor practices two hours every day, using a homemade lectern and reaction-monitoring device, toward his goal of becoming a contestant on the TV show Jeopardy.  A girl down the street lives for weekend rave parties at nightclubs.

These life patterns grow out of natural desires and longings.  Our bodies desire food, drink, stimulation, pleasure, sex.  At another level, we also long for beauty, love, security, worth, meaning, belonging.  Everyone has such longings, and how we respond to them depends largely on what we believe about why we’re here.

If I see myself as one more species of animal, with no life beyond this one and no accountability to a Higher Power, then why not follow the pleasure instinct to the end?  On the other hand, if I see this planet as God's world, and my longings as rumors of another world, then I want to connect those clues to God's overall plan.  I want to bring the two worlds together, and I do so by accepting that we human beings must look beyond ourselves -- above ourselves -- for direction in ordering our desires.

-- Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Deeper questions are at play. Oxford theologian Richard Swinbourne writes, "It is extraordinary that there should exist anything at all. Surely the most natural state of affairs is simply nothing; no universe, no God, nothing. But there is something." Notions like the mechanism of change might take place, but they do not explain how existence springs from nothing. The old man in Marilynne Robinson's wonderful novel Gilead muses, "Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined."

The real trick isn't changing one thing into another thing. The real trick is creating something out of absolutely nothing.

A group of scientists decided that human beings had come a long way and no longer needed God. They picked one scientist to go and tell God that they did not need Him anymore. The scientist went to Him and said, "God, we can make it on our own. We know how life started. We know the secret. We know how to clone it. We know how to duplicate it. We can do it without You."

God listened patiently and said, "All right. What do you say we have a man-making contest?"

The scientist said, "Okay, great. We'll do it."

God said, "Now we're going to do it just the way I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem." He reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt, and God said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt."

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Monday, April 16, 2012


This then, is the wonder of the Christian message: that God is this kind of God; that He loves me with a love that is not turned off by my sins, my failures, my inadequacies, my insignificance. I am not a stranger in a terrifying universe. I am not an anomalous disease crawling on the face of an insignificant speck in the vast emptiness of space. I am not a nameless insect waiting to be crushed by an impersonal boot. I am not a miserable offender cowering under the glare of an angry deity. I am [an individual] beloved by God Himself. I have touched the very heart of the universe, and have found His name to be love. And that love has reached me, not because I have merited God's favor, not because I have anything to boast about, but because of what He is, and because of what Christ has done for me in the Father's name. And I can believe this about God (and therefore myself) because Christ has come from the Father, and has revealed by His teaching, by His life, by His death, by His very person that this is what God is like: He is "full of grace."

-- Joseph R. Cooke in Free for the Taking


Friday, April 13, 2012


Of all the mysteries our faith invites us to contemplate, the Resurrection is by far the most astonishing.  Not simply in the sense of being difficult to believe in a logical fashion.  That, in a way, is the very point of it.  The very idea of resurrection shatters all the categories of comprehension with which we make sense of our world. It draws us instead into a reality that transcends present possibility.  

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Rising


Thursday, April 12, 2012


The Gospels cannot explain the Resurrection;
it is the Resurrection which alone explains the Gospels. 

-- John S. Whale in Christian Doctrine


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


At Calvary a man was dying who deserved hell.  He was a thief.  He was a murderer. Yet in the last moment he turned to Christ and said "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom" (Luke 23:42).  In that moment Jesus turned to him and said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke  23:43).

I expect to see that man in Paradise. That man is in heaven today. Not because he could come down from the cross and be baptized. Not because he could come down from the cross and take communion. Not because he could come down from the cross and give money to charitable work. Not because he could come down from the cross and live a good life.  He had been a wicked, godless man, but he was saved by the tender mercy and grace of God.

And that is what brings us to the cross.  You will never understand what the cross means until you understand in your own life the assurance that God gives in His Word: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). 

-- Billy Graham


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Those who have received God’s great salvation and are now in the family of God must live their lives with an awesome [reverence for] God. After all God has done on our behalf, we must respond with complete submission to His will. We will, and must, always see as God sees. For God’s salvation came at a high price; it cost Him the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the death and Resurrection of Christ we now have faith and hope in God. Since we have received such love, we must now fervently love all people for whom Christ died. For a Christian consciously to refuse to love the children of God for whom Christ died is to dishonor His death and ridicule His love. But when we walk in a loving relationship with God’s people, the testimony to the world is profound. John 13:35 says, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 

-- Henry Blackaby and Melvin D. Blackaby in Experiencing God Together: God's Plan to Touch Your World


Monday, April 9, 2012


It is Easter that is the signed covenant of all of God's promises to us. It is Easter's truth that will meet you on the highways of your own becoming, as you seek desperately to make sense of the tragedies which now and then punctuate our days.  It is Easter which gives Lent its meaning and assures that there is a future beyond our repentance.  It is Easter that speaks to us loudly and clearly the Truth sounded by the voice of God so long ago in response to Moses' question, "Whom shall I say has sent me?"  "Say that 'I AM' has sent you!"  Or, more correctly, "I am who I am" -- there is no deviation in Me -- there is no promise unfulfilled in Me -- there is no obstacle that can stand in My way, but for a moment -- I am the Lord of life and death.  I am the Creator and Sustainer, without whom and beyond whom there is nothing else.  It is in My truth that you go -- it is on My errand that you are sent -- it is in My name that you preach -- it is in My purpose that you live your days -- it is to My vision that you are called to aspire -- and "I will go with you now and always, although at times it may seem not.  Yes, you may be set aside for a time -- you may give in to despair because of the seeming shortness of hope on the near horizon -- you may be laid low by the seeming mismatch of your strength against the never-ending onslaught of obligation and challenge.  But YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I am with you, now and forever, and nothing you or others can do will finally thwart My love and separate you from Myself.  I am God.  I am Life. I am Tomorrow.  I am Resurrection!" 

 -- Rev. Gil Hellwig


Saturday, April 7, 2012


On Good Friday in 1998 my wife and I buried our son, Dustin. He had died at the age of 16 as a result of a brain tumor. His cremains were placed in the ground and we began our grief journey. No parent should have to go through that experience. The death of a loved one or close friend is hard enough. The death of a child is a pain like no other. So I had some sense that day of what the followers of Jesus must have felt. On the first Good Friday they buried Jesus in a tomb, sealed it shut, and began their grief journey. I can imagine that Saturday for the Christ-followers was a day filled with grief, bewilderment, hopelessness, numbness, and quiet conversation.

Fast forward, then, to January, 2009. I found myself leading a worship service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. We stood there in the beautiful surroundings with other Christ-followers from around the world. Our group pulled aside to spend some time in reflection prior to receiving communion. I shared with them some of the feelings the disciples must have felt on that Saturday. I explained that that particular day, January 21, was our son Dustin’s birthday and I shared some of his story with them.

I also shared that as Christ-followers we do not need to spend our time in the grief of the “Saturdays.” Instead, we 21st century pilgrims, just as the 1st century disciples, found the tomb empty. “He is not here. He is risen,” declared the sign at the empty tomb. He is risen indeed! And we can live in the grace and hope of Easter Sunday because Christ overcame the grave. He overcame the grave so that we might live… so that you and I might live… so that my son might live.

1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 reminds us: “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Where do you find that you dwell most of the time? In the sorrow of Friday, in the hopelessness of Saturday, or in the victory of Sunday. Because I trust in Christ, I choose to live in Sunday.

     The greatest love that anyone could ever know
     That overcame the cross and grave to find my soul
     And 'til I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home
     I'll trust in You
          (from “Till I See You” by Hillsong)

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Friday, April 6, 2012


Among the last words Jesus spoke from the cross were, “It is finished.” How you say this phrase makes all the difference. Inflection, tone, and emphasis change the meaning. Was it spoken in despair and resignation, with a tone of defeat as if all had been lost or empty or without meaning? If so, it points to death. Or was the sentence spoken with the flourish of an artist putting the final touches on a masterpiece? With this inflection, the statement speaks of completeness, fullness, richness. It points to life. 

-- U.M. Bishop Robert Schnase, from his blog The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations


Thursday, April 5, 2012


I’ll never forget the day I handed Jesus my yardstick. I had been saved since childhood, but I was almost thirty before the message of grace finally made the trip from my head to my heart, setting me “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). As the light of the good news finally penetrated the darkness of my self-condemning mind, the “perfect love” 1 john 4:18 speaks of finally drove out my insecurity, which had always been rooted in fear and punishment.

When I finally laid down my Pharisee pride and admitted that in myself I would never be -- could never be -- enough, I experienced a breakthrough that has radically changed my life. For as I surrendered my yardstick -- the tool of comparison that had caused so much mental torment and a sense of separation from God -- Jesus took it from my hands. Then, with a look of great love, He broke it over His knee and turned it into a cross, reminding me that He died so I wouldn’t have to.

That the punishment I so fully deserve has already been paid for.

That the way has been made for everyone who will believe in Jesus not only to come to Him but to come back home to the heart of God. 

-- Joanna Weaver in Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


What most agitated the good people of His day was the manner in which Jesus took on Himself the prerogatives of God.  "My son, your sins are forgiven."
And they said:  "Why does the fellow talk like that?  This is blasphemy!  Who but God alone can forgive sins?" (Mark 2:5-7)

This stone lies in our path also since we are slow to accept forgiveness.  "I must be worthy," we say; "I must be good enough to be forgiven."  And so with a perverted sense of guilt we strap these sins to ourselves.  We want to punish ourselves, because we feel we deserve it.  Thereby we nullify the gospel of forgiveness.  "Your sins are forgiven."  [The cross demonstrates that] Jesus has power to forgive sins. 

-- H.S. Vigeveno in Jesus the Revolutionary


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


On an impulse, someone contemplating the life and death of Jesus decided to lie down on her back on the grass of an open field with her arms totally stretched out as if on the cross.  She remained in that position in a mood of exploring prayer, thinking about how she felt in that position.  Vulnerable.  That was the single word that captured what she was feeling.  To follow Jesus Christ involves trusting that a life with greater vulnerability is richer, and that opening ourselves in risky embrace is not irresponsible, but life-giving.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Monday, April 2, 2012


“For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News -- and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18 NLT)

Being religious without knowing the cross is like owning a Mercedes with no motor. Pretty package, but where is your power?

-- Max Lucado