Tuesday, April 30, 2013


In Jesus' day, being in relationship with Him inevitably involved having some spiritual D.T.R.   You most likely know what this is if you're under thirty.  The letters stand for "Define the Relationship."  Jesus was constantly calling for this in His relationships on earth.  Nobody ever went away from an encounter with Jesus saying, "That was a good [speech]."

-- John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think


Monday, April 29, 2013


God is everywhere, but He doesn't turn His face and His favor everywhere.  That is why He tells us to seek His face.  Yes, He is present with you every time you meet with other believers in a worship service, but how long has it been since your hunger caused you to crawl up in His lap, and like a child, to reach up and take the face of God to turn it toward you?  Intimacy with Him!  That is what God desires, and His face should be our highest focus. 

-- Tommy Tenney in The Heart of A God Chaser


Friday, April 26, 2013


Where do you experience an authentic level of passion about things down here not running the way they are up there?  Maybe it happens when you look at people who suffer from poverty or illiteracy or abuse in families.  Maybe you find your heart stirred when you come in contact with people who have deep emotional hurts or children who have no homes or marriages that are falling apart.

Internally, most of us want to experience the feelings of God's presence; a deeper sense of peace and assurance, a stronger surge of joy, a clearer word of guidance.  Is it even possible for the practice of the presence of God to become a thinly veiled pursuit of emotional comfort?  But ironically, none of these feelings are strictly necessary for us to become agents of God's presence for other people.  All that is necessary is a single intent: "Lord, where do You want to use me to help things down here run the way they do up there?" 

-- John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think

Thursday, April 25, 2013


You can become someone who gives grace away so freely that when people far from God think of you, they immediately think of "grace" next.  "What do I think of Tom?  Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that he's full of grace.  I could honestly say that if I messed up in a big way, he's a guy I'd call.  If I landed on his doorstep after a huge mistake or tragedy, I could count on him giving me compassion instead of judgment and understanding rather than a tongue-lashing."

I would love for that to be said of me!  In fact, I'd love for it to be said of all Christ-followers.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


What is it about your life or mine that would make someone else want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, a person of faith, a part of a congregation?

The purpose of inviting other people to follow Jesus is to help them rediscover love – God's love – and to provide a community that gives sustained focus, energy, and resources to developing the spiritual life.  No other community besides the church has as its purpose the deepening of such elements of the human soul as hope, forgiveness, generosity, service, joy, peace, justice, gentleness.  Love is the key to unlocking the door to ultimate reality, and in the community of Christ we intentionally practice receiving God's love, loving God in return, and loving others.  We invite people into a life of love, surround them with the everlasting arms of God, and encourage them to do the same for others.  We love because God first loved us.

To bear witness to Christ involves more than inviting people with words.  It means living with such grace and integrity that our lives themselves become appealing to others.  The second chapter of Acts reports that people were drawn into the way of life of the followers of Christ.  They found Christian practice utterly compelling and irresistible appealing. 

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The skeptic is someone who says, "I'm going to suspend judgment. I'm not going to commit myself, because the demand for sufficient evidence has not yet been met." This reasoning may sound objective or rational, but the dynamic that is going on underneath the surface in the skeptic is this: "I don't want to be wrong. I don't want to be hurt. I don't want to look like I'm one of the gullible ones." Underneath the surface of the skeptic is fear -- fear of being disappointed. The skeptic says, "I would rather stand on the sidelines and look like an intelligent observer than risk trusting. I will forgo all that might come with that trust."

My favorite story about a skeptic takes place back in the time of the French Revolution, during the "Reign of Terror." People were being executed right and left. Three men were waiting to be executed. The first one was a priest. As he was brought to the guillotine, he was asked, "Do you have any last words?" He answered, "I believe God is going to save me." He put his head into place, the blade came down, and it stopped two inches from his neck. The executioners said, "This is a miracle," and they let him go.

The next man came up. He, too, was a priest. The executioners asked him, "Do you have any last words?" "I believe God is going to save me," he said. They put him in the block, the blade came down, and it stopped two inches from his neck. They said, "This is a miracle," and they let him go.

The third man came up. He was a skeptic and an atheist. He did not want to be associated with believers. The executioners asked him, "Do you have any last words?" Looking at the guillotine, he said, "Well, I think I see your problem. There's something jammed in the gear mechanism."

Skeptics would rather, even at their own expense, appear to be right than take the risk of trusting.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Monday, April 22, 2013


In the first chapter of the book of Acts, we learn something very important about the early church:  "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."  (Acts 1:14, NIV).  Later in Acts, we read again about the priorities of those early believers: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  (Acts 2:42).

For the early church, prayer was as essential as breathing.  They didn't wait for an emergency to pray -- they prayed all the time.  I want that to be true for my life, and I imagine you want it to be true for yours as well.

We should look at prayer as an exciting adventure, not as a last resort.  When we pray, we are making direct contact with the most awesome Power in the universe -- the Lord God Almighty!  Not only is God all-powerful, but He loves us and wants the very best for us.  He longs to show us the riches of His grace.

-- Franklin Graham in Power Point, May/June 2002


Friday, April 19, 2013


We preachers cannot get around the central Christian claim that, when we look at the life and teachings of this Jew from Nazareth who was born of a woman, lived briefly, died violently, and rose unexpectedly, we have seen as much of God as we ever hope to see.

The current age is a particular challenge for preaching a particular God who is manifest to us in Jesus the Christ. For some time now, we have been in the mire of something called "spirituality," which in my experience tends to be decidedly anti-traditionalist, anti-institutional, amorphous, vague and therefore undemanding…

Spirituality is what I feel when I feel better than I did before I felt it. It is a big, accommodating basket into which I can put almost anything I want to feel about the "higher power," or "spiritual force," or "my own little voice," or whatever I call whatever it is that makes me feel better.

The trouble is, Jesus is demanding. He is not infinitely pliable.

-- Will Willimon in Leadership Journal, Winter 2002


Thursday, April 18, 2013


"For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come." (Hebrews 13:14 NLT)

When loved ones die in tragic accidents or at the hands of wicked men, it is good to remember that this world is not our final home.

We were created for eternity, and tragedy can never change that.  This [life] is only a prelude to what God really has in mind for us.  Because we usually look only at the present, we often consider someone's death premature or untimely.  We tend to look only at what could have been (and in our minds, should have been) down here on earth.  But God looks at all of eternity.  If we are to cope with tragedy, we must learn to look at it through eternity's lens.

-- Luis Palau in Where Is God When Bad Things Happen?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


"And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple." (1 Peter 2:5a)

Slowly, all through the universe, that temple of God is being built.  Wherever, in any world, a soul, by free-willed obedience, catches the fire of God's likeness, it is set into the growing walls, a living stone.  When, in your hard fight, in your tiresome drudgery, or in your terrible temptation, you catch the purpose of your being and give yourself to God, and so give Him the chance to give Himself to you, your life -- a living stone -- is taken up and set into that growing wall.

Wherever souls are being tried and ripened, in whatever commonplace and homely ways, there God is hewing out the pillars for His temple.  Oh, if the stone can only have some vision of the temple of which it is to be a part forever, what patience must fill it as it feels the blows of the hammer, and knows that success for it is simply to let itself be wrought into what shape the Master wills.

-- Phillips Brooks  in The Law of Growth


Tuesday, April 16, 2013


What do your tears mean to you?  The Bible tells us that "those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy" (Psalm 126:5).  God gives you a reason to hope, even though you find it tough to hold back the tears.  Weeping won't last forever.  But out of your tears of grief, love or repentance, God brings a peace that does last forever.

Revelation 7:17 puts it this way: "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

-- Joni Earkeckson Tada in Glorious Intruder


Monday, April 15, 2013


We can never really tell what leads to a person becoming a Christian.  It might happen very suddenly or they might have been building up to it for years.  But one thing's for sure -- it's a question of God and that person moving towards each other until they meet.  But God always makes the first move and goes most of the way!

-- from One To One, July/Sept 1997


Friday, April 12, 2013


I believe in planning. In fact, failing to plan is planning to fail. But I also believe this: One bold prayer can accomplish more than a thousand well-laid plans. So go ahead and plan, but make sure you circle your plans with prayer. If your plans aren't birthed in prayer and bathed in prayer, they won't succeed. This I know from personal experience. Prior to our church plant in Chicago, I developed a twenty-five year plan. That well-laid plan was a project for one of my seminary classes, and I actually got an A on it. In reality, I should have gotten an F because it failed. I still have the twenty-five year plan in my files. It keeps me humble. It also reminds me that "unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

Few things are more painful than a failed plan, but I've always drawn a little bit of levity and humility from the old adage "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." While we're busy planning, sometimes God is chuckling. And if our plans are way off, that contagious chuckle probably makes its way through angelic ranks like a laugh track. It's not a vindictive chuckle, as if God relishes our failure. I just think God is sometimes amazed at how small our plans are. He allows our small plans to fail so that His big dream for us can prevail. So keep planning like it depends on you, but make sure you pray like it depends on God. Prayer is the alpha and omega of planning. Don't just brainstorm; praystorm.

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Thursday, April 11, 2013


"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible." (Hebrews 11:1-3 NRSV)

Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys. 

-- Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water


Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Faith is a verb. It's active and not passive. It's something you do. Decision making is a faith-building activity. You use your muscles of faith. Faithful decision making requires… letting go of security. You cannot move in faith and hold onto the past at the same time. You have to move forward…

A great illustration of God's plan is a trapeze artist. They swing out holding onto a trapeze bar, and then they let go in order to grab hold of another trapeze bar that swings them to the other side. But, at one point, they're not holding on to any bar. They're suspended in air for a split second.

Have you ever been there in a career, where you're leaving one job for another and nothing's in between? You're 180 feet above the ground with no net below and holding onto nothing.

But if you don't let go and grab onto the vision God wants you to have, you swing back. Only you don't swing all the way back; instead, you swing back lower and lower until you're finally stopped, hanging there in the air. And there's only one way out: down!

That's why God brings you to a point of decision, so your faith will build as you swing toward the dream God has given you.

-- Rick Warren, excerpted from the Purpose Driven Connection Daily Devotional


Tuesday, April 9, 2013


"Simon Peter said, 'I am going fishing.' [The disciples] said to him, 'We will go with you.' They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, [the resurrected] Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, 'Children, you have no fish, have you?' They answered Him, 'No.' He said to them, 'Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish." (John 21:3-6 NRSV)

The events we call tragedies, set-backs, and failures are opportunities for God. He knows how to draw glory even from our ruin. The hour of deepest humiliation, when we feel defective and utterly disqualified, may be the hour that God uses us in unparalleled ways. Years of "wasted" efforts may be the years when God plants an eternal harvest; though we have fished all night and caught nothing, the Great Angler is still double-baiting His hooks.

-- David Roper in Seeing Through


Monday, April 8, 2013


Recently I read an article written by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni is no stranger to tragedy and difficulty.  Paralyzed in a diving accident at age seventeen, she has since ministered to millions across the world with the message of hope in Christ.

In an article she told about saying to her assistant one day, "File this, Francie, and make copies of this letter, would you?  And, oh yes, would you please pull out the sofa bed one more time?"  Her paralysis blocks her body from feeling pain, and the only way she knows something is wrong is when her temperature and blood pressure begin to rise.  She intuitively senses something is wrong.  Oftentimes it's because she has unknowingly punctured her body or has rubbed against something and suffered a bruise or laceration.  Sometimes she has to ask her assistant to undress her and examine her body to see what's wrong.

In the article Joni said she was in the midst of one of these episodes -- they happen three or four times a month -- and looked up to the ceiling and said aloud, "I want to quit this.  Where do I go to resign from this stupid paralysis?"

As Francie was leaving the office that day she ducked out the door, then stuck her head back in and said, "I bet you can't wait for the Resurrection."

Joni wrote, "My eyes dampened again, but this time they were tears of relief and hope.  I squeezed back my tears and dreamed what I've dreamed of a thousand times -- the promise of the Resurrection.  A flood of other hopeful promises filled my mind.  When we see Him we shall be like Him . . . The perishable shall put on the imperishable . . . The corruptible, that which is incorruptible . . . That which is sown in weakness will be raised in power . . . He has given us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.  I opened my eyes and said out loud with a smile, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus."

This hope of ours isn't merely "pie in the sky in the great by and by."  It isn't merely that if we believe hard enough, things will get better.  This is not "hope-so" hope; this is know-so hope.  This is knowing the Person Who has done what no one else has ever done.

By virtue of that accomplishment, Jesus has laid claim to our faith and says, "If I came out of the grave victorious over death, and you put your trust in Me, you can have that same victory - - not only over death, but in your life, day by day." 

-- David Jeremiah in Jesus' Final Warning


Wednesday, April 3, 2013


As Christians, we are people of the resurrection, therefore we are people who love to laugh, who believe that laughter is a wonderfully life-giving, defiant act full of the grace of God. Easter is that which enables us to keep going, even in our moral failures, even when being a servant of the Word is difficult. Those who have kept at the Christian ministry longer than I will confirm the essential virtue of humor… The ability to laugh at life's incongruities, to take God seriously but not ourselves, to embrace the strangeness of [other] people instead of strangling them to death with our bare hands -- this is great grace… Humor is the grace to put our problems in perspective,… to be reminded that Jesus really did need to save us, seeing as we have so little means to save ourselves. Humor is just a glimpse, on a human scale, of the way God looks upon us from God's unfathomable grace. By the resurrection, the gospel is enabled to be comedy and not tragedy.

-- William Willimon


Tuesday, April 2, 2013


May all of us have the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which avails, that faith which works by love, and so, though we have begun in an egg of the earth, yet, through God's brooding, before we know it we shall chip the shell: and though we have lain so long coiled up and helpless, we shall begin to put forth plumes: and, disdaining the nest, and finding the ground chilly beneath our feet, with every gathering feather we shall pine for the air, and pining, begin to try those notes which we are yet to learn; and, at length, in some bright and beaded morning, we shall spread our wings, and rising above the tangle and the thicket, soar through the blue, singing to the gate of heaven.

-- Henry Ward Beecher


NOTE: Thanks to all who have responded to yesterday's anniversary message. A common thread is that the Spirit has used a SOUND BITES message to minister to you just when you needed it. Would love to hear from more. Many of the responses have been post to the SOUND BITES Ministry™ blog at  http://soundbitesministry.blogspot.com/2013/04/no-april-fools-joke.html.

Monday, April 1, 2013


"We live in a culture where death rules like a lord. Ever since Adam, death has claimed to have the last word. But a victory has been won. Christ has put death behind Him. We share that victory. When we die with Christ, we are raised in Him and live with Him. Now we laugh at death, for the sting is gone. Death is not lord; JESUS IS LORD." (Richard Wilke in DISCIPLE: Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study)

Last Friday, March 29, was the anniversary of our son Dustin's death in 1998. Last Friday was also Good Friday. 1998 we buried our son on a Good Friday. On Good Friday it seemed like "death has claimed to have the last word." But now on Easter Monday -- whether 15 years ago or today -- we can claim that Christ has won the victory.  "Death is not lord; JESUS IS LORD." And that's no April Fool's Joke!

This SOUND BITES Ministry™ was begun on the first anniversary of Dustin's death as a way to keep his memory alive and to proclaim that "when we die with Christ, we are raised in Him and live with Him." So on this 14th anniversary, as we have done each year, we invite you to share how SOUND BITES has ministered to you and how you have used SOUND BITES to minister to others. Since SOUND BITES is now available via e-mail, blog or Facebook, you are welcome to respond through any of those means.

Easter blessings…

Rev. Dave Wilkinson