Thursday, January 31, 2013


I recall being at a gathering of sophisticated scholars at the faculty club of an Ivy League university where we were engaged in heavy talk about religion.  As I tried to impress my cynical audience (whom Frederick Schleiermacher would have called "Culture Despisers") with the reasonableness of Christianity, I made a joke of a man who I felt rightfully deserved their derision.  I let them know that I didn't think much of that guy who holds up the sign with the Bible reference on it at televised football games, and that to me, this man's attempt to do evangelism was ridiculous and embarrassing.  I remember saying, "You can't dismiss us evangelicals by equating us all with that ridiculous guy who holds up signs with Bible verses on them, just when it's time to kick the extra point.  That guy's idea of an effective witness for the gospel is to hold up a verse like John 1:12.  He thinks people are going to become Christians by seeing his sign on TV."

When I finished my mocking statement, one of the scholars sitting at the table pulled his pipe out of his mouth and said, "Interesting that you should mention that.  Two years ago I was watching the Super Bowl, and just before halftime, the Dallas Cowboys scored a touchdown.  As the Cowboys got set to kick the extra point, the man to whom you just referred held up a sign citing that exact same verse -- John 1:12.  During the halftime break, I got our old family Bible off the shelf and turned to that verse.  Lying between the pages were some notes about that very verse that had been written by my mother a long time ago.  I read over her notes and was reminded of many things I had once believed about Jesus Christ that had been left behind in my intellectual journey.  I reflected on those things and there and then, during the halftime of the Super Bowl, I gave my life to Christ."

Score one point for a "fool for Christ."  Strike one down on me for my readiness to put down a brother in Christ who was trying in his own way to preach the gospel.  You never know what's going to touch people's lives. 

-- Tony Campolo in Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God


Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Two of the best commercials shown during Super Bowl XXXIX were sponsored by Ameriquest Mortgage Company. Both had the same message: “Don't judge too quickly.”

In one ad, a convenience store shopper is standing at the counter and talking on his cell phone. He says to the person on the other end, “You're getting robbed.” The two clerks hear those words and react by squirting the man with pepper spray, slugging him with a baseball bat, and then zapping him with an electric cattle prod.

In the second commercial, a man is preparing a romantic dinner. He chops vegetables with a large knife, while tomato sauce simmers on the stove. A white cat knocks the pan of sauce onto the floor and then falls into the mess. Just as the man picks up his tomato-splattered cat, his wife opens the door. She sees him holding a cat dripping with red sauce in one hand and a large knife in the other. The scene appears to be unmistakably horrific.

As these ads show, things aren't always as they first appear.  

-- Richard Kauffman


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Growing up in a strong Christian environment provided me with many valuable lessons about family, school, athletics, and, most of all, God. Like most kids, I idolized one sports figure or another. However, Jesus was the ultimate role model for me.

In my effort to succeed as a football player, I went through difficult times, but my experiences paled in comparison to what Jesus endured during His life: torture, humiliation, and death. Through it all, His attitude never wavered. His example inspired me to approach life’s trials in a similar fashion.

Jesus was able to sustain such a positive attitude because of his unfailing love for everyone around Him. It transformed the lives of all who came in contact with Him, even His persecutors. Jesus continues to have this same transformational effect on people today. Regardless of the successes I have experienced, if my life does not exhibit God’s love, it becomes less meaningful.

-- Bart Starr, NFL Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP with the Green Bay Packers (Super Bowls I and II)


Monday, January 28, 2013


I believe God takes whatever has happened in a person's life up to this point and says, "Let's see what we can do with the things in your past.  I am the God who can use even your tragedies and failures as the basis for ministry to others.  Let Me take what you are, break you, and remold the components of your life in such a way that your flaws and failures become the clay from which a special instrument of My will is molded.  I am the God who can achieve glorious things through the weaknesses and shortcomings of your life (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I am the God for whom miracles are never impossible and the words 'too late' do not exist, as long as there is life."

-- Tony Campolo in Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God


Friday, January 25, 2013


Remember, people don't build statues to the critics, only to those who withstand the criticism to accomplish their God-given dreams.

The first American steamboat took thirty-two hours to go from New York to Albany. People mocked. The horse and buggy passed the early motorcar as if it were standing still. (It usually was.) People mocked. The first electric light bulb was so dim people had to use a gas lamp to see it. They mocked. The first airplane came down fifty-nine seconds after it left the ground. People mocked. But where would we be today without those inventions? The critic is soon forgotten. The person of action is remembered.

In fulfilling God-given dreams and goals, people will discourage you and criticize you and ridicule you. That's a fact. 

-- Rick Ezell in Strengthening the Pastor's Soul


Thursday, January 24, 2013


[For some] the grammatical forms in the Lord's Prayer would seem almost rude… [The early] Christians made their requests to God in what seem to be blunt imperatives.  This does not mean that Christians lacked respect for their heavenly father, but it does mean that they were consistent with a new understanding of Him… When the Christians addressed God as "Father," it was perfectly natural therefore for them to talk to Him as intimately as they would to their own father.  Unfortunately, the history of our own English language has almost reversed this process. Originally, [individuals] used "thou" and "thee" in prayer because it was the appropriate familiar form of address; but now these words have become relegated to prayer alone.

-- Eugene A. Nida in God's Word in Man's Language


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


[Jesus said,] "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me."  -- John 17:20,21 (NIV)

Unless we look upon ourselves as called to unity, we shall never be united.  If God does not will that we should be united, what can our devices for producing it avail?  Whereas, if we believe that it is His will, and that we are fighting against His will by our divisions, we have a right confidently to hope that He will at last bring us to repentance, or, if we do not repent, will accomplish His purposes in spite of us. 

-- F. D. Maurice (1805-1872) in Hope for Mankind


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Yesterday at the Inauguration President Obama took the oath of office while placing his hands on two Bibles. We are told that one of those Bibles was owned by Abraham Lincoln and the other was owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It doesn’t so much matter that they owned the Bible; what matters is that they were inspired and influenced by the Bible.

Dr. Jerry Wiles, in a booklet entitled Inspirational Highlights of the Bible in America, wrote, “One of the most amazing things about the Bible is the discovery of how little most people know about it at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Even in America, with all the various translations and versions that are available, most people have never read the entire Bible even once. However, reading through the whole Bible was a fairly common practice in the early part of our nation’s history. In order to have a well-rounded education in America today, it’s important to know something of how we got the Bible, the history and influence of the Bible in America, and most of all, the content of the Bible itself. We can get to know its content by reading it for ourselves. Spending only fifteen minutes a day we can read through the entire Bible in one year.”

The Apostle Paul admonished the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” May it be so for both the leaders and the people of this great country. 

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Monday, January 21, 2013


When Martin Luther King, Jr. used rich Scriptural references in his "I Have a Dream" speech…, he knew he was speaking to people who probably recognized the significance of his allusions and their source. Times have changed however, because today's North American Christians -- white and black alike -- are losing their familiarity with Biblical passages that have the power to change lives.

Scripture no longer sparks people's imaginations because they don't know the stories and convictions that can help them live Scripturally. "If we want to understand the role of the Bible in forming Christian character and Christian community, we need to see Scripture as the Word that journeys with us through the diverse contexts of our lives."

-- UMMen Magazine, Spring 1999, quoting Gregory Jones in The Word That Journeys Through Us


Friday, January 18, 2013


NOTE: On some calendars this Sunday, January 20, is referred to as "Sanctity of Human Life Sunday," and on other calendars it is called "Human Relations Day." This coming Monday, January 21, in addition to being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the US Presidential Inauguration, it  is also the birthday of our son, Dustin. As I was thinking about all of that, I recalled something I had shared here before that I felt worth repeating at this time.


As a few of you know, our son, Dustin, in whose memory this SOUND BITES Ministry™ was founded in 1999, had many disabilities, both physical and cognitive. He could not walk on his own, he could not feed himself, and he could not talk. But he made a difference in the lives of many, many people before his death in 1998. And he continues to do so today in a variety of ways, including SOUND BITES.

A number of years ago one of our nephews was part of the audience at his high school in a classroom debate on abortion. A panelist stated, "If you knew your child was never going to be able to walk or speak, and would only live 15 or 16 years, you'd want to have an abortion." Someone else on the panel replied with a generic rebuttal and then my nephew politely raised his hand.

In relating the story to me, he wrote, "I told him that he had perfectly described my cousin. I told him my cousin, Dustin, had never walked, never spoken, and died when he was 16. I told him I was very insulted that he had argued that my cousin, and the world, would have been better off if my aunt had killed him before he was born… People just assume that no one really knows a person like Dustin, they treat them like figments of our imagination, and they argue that they are worthless. But as soon as someone comes along who knew someone like, or is like Dustin, they seem to have nothing to say."

Thanks to my nephew for standing up for his cousin, who couldn't stand on his own. As my sister-in-law wrote afterward, "And the ripples from Dustin's life go on and on..." 

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Unfortunately God and grief are not words that are used very close together in some forms of spirituality. I remember being in a church service where the worship leader asked the congregation to forget about all the "stuff of the week" and enter into worship of God. It seemed as if he thought that we could just come to God and grief would just fly away. I wanted to remind him that the Christian faith believes in a God who comes to humanity in their "stuff of the week" condition, not their dressed up Sunday best condition.

True worship does not come by denying our pain and asserting that God is worthy of worship. True worship comes only as we are real and authentic with God about our struggles, doubts, and pain and then make a choice to worship. We can enter into real worship when we acknowledge life is what it is and in spite of that reality we choose to glorify God. 

-- Janelle Shantz Hertzler in an article titled “God and Grief Meet in True Worship,”


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


We must be willing to accept the bitter truth that, in the end, we may have to become a burden to those who love us.  But it is necessary that we face this also.  The full acceptance of our abjection and uselessness is the virtue that can make us and others rich in the grace of God.  It takes heroic charity and humility to let others sustain us when we are absolutely incapable of sustaining ourselves.  We cannot suffer well unless we see Christ everywhere, both in suffering and in the charity of those who come to the aid of our affliction.

-- Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island


Tuesday, January 15, 2013


We are susceptible to heretical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way that we would have it be, rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us.  As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart.

-- C. FitzSimons Allison in The Cruelty of Heresy


Monday, January 14, 2013


Discipleship is apprenticeship to a master, so that one can learn the master's way of doing things…

We don't get there by pious aspirations, slavish copying of rules, well-polished public selves, or carefully guarded inner lives.  We get there by the messier, slower path of learning step by step and mistake by mistake how to love, cooperate, forgive, trust, work through harsh and dark emotions.  Part of the process of salvation, real soul healing and transformation, is in wrestling prayerfully with the rough places in our souls that resist Jesus' saving invitations…

Over time "fruit" is born -- a metaphor surely indicating the slowness of the process. 

-- Robert C. Morris in an article entitled "Enlightening Annoyances: Jesus' Teachings as a Spur to Spiritual Growth", in Weavings Journal, Sep/Oct 2001, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Friday, January 11, 2013


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The compassion of our Lord never fails. As we live in this world we very soon discover some failed compassion. We find people who really don't stick by our side for the long haul. We realize the frailty of human beings and we may even discover that in the final analysis most people take care of themselves first and foremost. I am not a pessimist generally but experience shows us that often the compassion we receive from people, places and things offer no comparison to the compassion from God that never fails. No excuses, no external "uncontrollable" events and no made up stories to justify failed compassion. You see, God IS the story and He IS life and His promises have stood the test of time and trial from the Garden of Eden to the present. God never lies and He never fails to keep even one of His promises. 

-- Pastor Gary Stone


Thursday, January 10, 2013


I earnestly believe that intercessory prayer surrounds the person with the love of God in a special way.  Through prayer we do not so much manipulate God to do our will as we become surrendered instruments through whom God's love can move those who are dear to us.

We usually think of prayer as a means whereby we reach another person through God.  But I am suggesting that prayer is a way in which God can flow through us to that other person.

We can all be sending agents for the love of God.  I am convinced that in prayer we become channels through whom the passionate love of God flows and engulfs other persons.

The more we pray, the more channels there are for the infinite love of our Lord to flow to, surround, and invade the person we hold up in prayer. 

-- Tony Campolo


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


God is present in His people.  Psychologist Henry Cloud tells about a time in his life when he was wrestling with depression.  He asked God for healing.  He was hoping for something spectacular, something instantaneous and showy.  He thought healing could be something strictly between him and God.  Instead, God sent some people to him.  He got into a little community of people who loved and cared for him.  Over time, their support and truthfulness were used for his healing.  There was nothing glamorous about it.

Reflecting on it afterward, Henry said he realized that he had thought the "special effect" route was God's Plan A and that people were Plan B.  To be healed with a bolt of lighting or some magic words is spectacular: people seem so ordinary.  But he realized that with God it is the other way around.  People are God's preferred messengers, God's Plan A, because they alone carry His image. 

-- John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think


Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Goals are a means to an end, not the ultimate purpose of our lives. They are simply a tool to concentrate our focus and move us in a direction. The only reason we really pursue goals is to cause ourselves to expand and grow. Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it's who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment.

-- Tony Robbins


Monday, January 7, 2013


Christ coming among us in flesh and blood at a specific locale in first-century Judea roots the eternal message of Christianity in a context.  Christian experience must always be contextual.  The Bible itself has to be read with map in hand because God's revelation doesn't just come out the blue.  It occurs in Jerusalem, Shechem, Bethel, Galilee -- concrete places where people live and where God meets them in their place.  That's why Christianity continually resists a dualism which separates spirit from matter.  Spirituality and geography have to be joined. 

Take conversion experiences in the church's history, for example.  They're invariably place-specific.  You think of Paul on the Damascus Road; Augustine in the garden in Milan where he hears children playing, saying "Take and read"; Luther on the toilet at Wittenburg Monastery; [John Wesley at a society meeting on Aldersgate Street in London]; Thomas Merton on the corner of 4th Street and Walnut in downtown Louisville.  When each of them experiences a profound insight in the life of faith, they remember it in connection with the place where it happened.  We've not given that the attention it deserves.  In the past we've concentrated almost exclusively on time and history in biblical and theological studies.  Only in the last generation have we begun to turn to geography and place and to recognize the profound importance of that as well. 

-- Dr. Belden C. Lane in Leading from the Center, Winter 2003


Friday, January 4, 2013

A Personal Quest

"Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.'" (Matthew 2:1-2, NLT)

We need our God; He is to be had for the seeking; and He will not deny Himself to any one of us if we personally seek His face. 

-- Charles H. Spurgeon


Thursday, January 3, 2013


John Wesley called himself homo unius libri -- a man of one book. His devotion to the Bible is unquestioned. Wesley termed the involvement of people with the Bible a Means of Grace. But, his term for that involvement was not "read the Bible." He didn't say, "cherry pick the Word of God." He called it Searching the Scriptures. Searching implies a degree of intentionality and thoroughness. In Luke 15, the Evangelist paints two pictures, one of a lost sheep and one of a lost coin. In both instances, the individuals search for that which is lost. Now, if a sheep is lost, one could go stand on the top of the hill and look one direction, then climb down and check under a bush, and perhaps amble over to a stand of trees and check to see if the sheep is there. One might even locate the sheep. But, that method is not likely to be productive. In the same manner, when the woman misplaces a coin, she doesn't look on the kitchen windowsill, then check under the recliner, and follow that with a rummaging around through yesterday's clothes. In each instance the searchers are depicted as performing their examinations in a systematic fashion. In that manner, they locate that which was lost.

Searching the Scriptures in no way implies a haphazard hopscotching through the Bible. Searching the Scriptures is a discipline that involves the execution of a concrete plan designed to make scripture a part of who we are. It is not an activity that commends the Bible to us word by word, or line by line. Rather, to Search the Scriptures is to commit the Bible to heart. This is not necessarily "by heart," as most of us don't have the gifts to memorize Genesis to Revelation. But, we can take Scripture's truths to heart, and therefore discern what their real implication is for the living of our lives. 

-- Rick Pinkston in his blog called Gutenberg's Workshop


Wednesday, January 2, 2013


At the beginning of each calendar year, I sit down and pray about what God wants to accomplish through me. In the back of my mind I have evaluated the previous year's goals, which I placed before God last year. I like to set challenging goals, but in accordance with God's will for my life. If my goals are pleasing to Him, then the Holy Spirit inside of me will allow me to feel good about my direction for each new year. 

-- Wendy Ward, professional golfer, in Sports Spectrum