Friday, May 31, 2013


            Dear Pastor,

            I am a congregant or lay person or member of your church.  I am one of the many faces you see during the week and in the pew on Sunday.  We know each other’s names, you may even know an outline of my background and how long I have been at your particular congregation.  We might even share a hobby.

            You are a pastor.  You are my pastor.  And for that I must send my deepest apologies.  I hope we have managed to pay you a livable wage, but your budget will likely always be described as “tight.”  Your job is largely thankless.  The sheep in your care will ceaselessly come to complain about all the things wrong with the church.  We need more hymns; we need more new songs; we need more young people; we need more programs; we need less programs; the roof is leaking; we need an addition; why do we spend so much of the budget on your salary and benefits? The carpet should be blue; No, it should be red; No! Tan!  The building project is over budget.  And all this is before we come to you with our personal issues. Jane Doe is gossiping; Jim Doe’s kids just will not behave.  This family’s finances are in a mess, that one is on the verge of divorce.  And why aren’t we getting bigger?  We are supposed to keep getting bigger, right?  Fix it pastor.  Tell us how to fix it!  And do it in a way we like, too; and while you’re at it, juggle these flaming chain-saws.

            And every Sunday, I come and listen -- a face, amongst all the faces pulling at your attention.  I am not above it all, I have complained about this and that just like the rest. But what you may have forgotten and what I have forgotten is that what I need is not advice -- is not a bigger church.  It is not five steps to financial freedom.  It is forgiveness.

            I am not a good anything -- and it is eating me alive.  Sometimes I forget about it awhile, but each night, as the lights turn off and I stare at the ceiling, I replay the wreck I am.  The things I said, the things I did, the things I thought.

            So, pastor, I plead.  In the middle of all the noise and thankless underpaid chaos that your life can be, give me forgiveness.  Give me the Gospel.  Give me Christ.  I cannot tell you it will make your life any easier or even that I will complain any less about carpet color.  But I need it.  And I think you do to.  So give me Christ.  Tell me of the splendor of a king dying a criminal’s death being the best news I have ever heard.  Do not worry about boring me with repeating it, just keep building it up.  Let me sing of mercy shed on me; let me hear the words, “given for you.”  Help me fix my eyes on Christ.

            And since I may forget later, thank you for doing the often thankless job of preaching Christ crucified for sinners, a stumbling block to Jews, folly to Greeks, and the aroma of death to those who are perishing, but to us… life, hope, and peace.

            From a Congregant

 -- David Olson

Thursday, May 30, 2013


The greatest moments in life are the miraculous moments when human impotence and divine omnipotence intersect -- and they intersect when we draw a circle around the impossible situation in our lives and invite God to intervene. 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Too often people take a word like "authenticity" and they secularize it to mean, "I'm going to let you know exactly what I feel," thinking that that is going to result in intimacy and a release from guilt. What may in fact be happening is that you are demanding that the other person now deal with your feelings the way you want him or her to. If the other person doesn't do that, then you go into hiding convinced that nobody will ever deal with how you really feel; so why bother caring? The point is that you are not facing the real issue. Authenticity demands that you expose yourself not for the purpose of getting a person to respond to you in the way that you want, but exposing yourself so you can respond to what God wants.

-- Dr. Larry Crabb


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that, however angry he gets, he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage the next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straightened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. 

-- C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity


Friday, May 24, 2013


In the evening [of May 24, 1738], I went unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

-- John Wesley in The Works of John Wesley, Volume I


Thursday, May 23, 2013


You can read all the manuals on prayer and listen to other people pray, but until you begin to pray yourself you will never understand prayer.  It's like riding a bicycle or swimming: You learn by doing.  

-- Luis Palau


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


God makes a promise, then tells Abraham to leave home and go where God will guide him.

Ben Patterson tells of a common experience of westerners, particularly missionaries, traveling through jungle sections of the Amazon. They will ask members of a village to give them directions to where they want to go. "I have a compass, a map, and some coordinates."

The villager knows precisely the directions to get them there, but he offers to take them himself.

"No, that's okay. I don't want a guide. I just want directions."

"That's no good. I must take you there."

"But I have a map right here. And I have a compass. And the coordinates."

"It does not work that way. I can get you there, but I must take you myself. You must follow me."

We prefer directions, principles, steps, keys. We prefer these things because they leave us in control. If I'm holding the map, I'm still in charge of the trip. I can go where I want to go. If I have a guide, I must trust. I must follow. I must relinquish control.

God is not much on maps and compasses and coordinates. Life just doesn't work that way. We don't need directions. We need a Guide.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


A psychologist friend recently told me about a client he described as "a believer after God's own heart."  Cliff had a singular motivation to please God and serve Him.  He worked at his job to serve the Lord first and earn a living second.  He dedicated himself to the needs of others and genuinely enjoyed meeting those needs. "Healthy" is almost too feeble a word to describe such a robust faith.

After many years of service to Christ, Cliff's wife developed a quickly spreading cancer.  Although many people joined Cliff in fervent prayer for his wife, she failed rapidly and soon died. Through it all, however, Cliff did not break his determined gaze on Christ.  Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his deep experience of pain and suffering --  and even depression and confusion -- to push him even deeper into the arms of the living God.

This grieving servant of God knew only two things to hold on to, and he held on to both with all his might.  The first was his unshakable conviction that God was a good God.  And while he didn't understand this particular circumstance or why his wife had to suffer and die, he did know that God was good and that there had to be a reason he would come to understand one day.  And second, he knew beyond all doubt that God loved him.  In spite of everything.  No matter what.  Through it all.

Cliff clung to those twin truths, refusing to take his eyes off the Lord even when he was wracked with grief. 

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


Monday, May 20, 2013


Out of their tortured history, the Jews demonstrate the most surprising lesson of all:  you cannot go wrong personalizing God.  God is not a blurry power living somewhere in the sky, not an abstraction like the Greeks proposed, not a sensual super-human like the Romans worshipped, and definitely not the absentee watchmaker of the Deists.  God is personal.  He enters into people's lives, messes with families, shows up in unexpected places, chooses unlikely leaders, calls people to account.  Most of all, God loves. 

-- Philip Yancey in The Bible Jesus Read


Friday, May 17, 2013


"Jesus came and told His disciples, 'I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commandments I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28: 18-20 NLT)

Christ had given the apostles a world-wide commission, embracing all the nations; but intellectually they did not understand what He meant.  They found that out as they followed the impulse of the Spirit. 

-- Roland Allen in Pentecost and the World


Thursday, May 16, 2013


"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31)

When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, it wasn't dynamite, it was a dynamo! Dynamite makes a loud noise, kicks up a lot of dust, and it's over. A dynamo is a continual source of power. It builds and builds and builds, and the power never stops flowing. 

-- Ken Hutcherson


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Sometimes doubt can do good in us. It can motivate us to study and learn. It can purify false beliefs that have crept into our faith. It can humble our arrogance. It can give us patience and compassion with other doubters. It can remind us of how much truth matters. Martin Luther, who was the champion of the importance of faith but wrestled with doubt himself, insisted that pride -- not doubt -- is the opposite of faith.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Consider a tuning fork. It delivers a true pitch by two tines vibrating together. Muffle either side, even a little, and the note disappears. Neither tine individually produces the sweet, pure note. Only when both tines vibrate is the correct pitch heard. 

-- Richard P. Hansen, "Unsolved Mysteries," in Leadership


Monday, May 13, 2013


"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."  (Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV)

Feelings of disconnection can be most painful when we also feel separated from God… Often the feeling of disconnection persists and we are obliged simply to wait.  But such waiting is a necessary component of the crisis, a time during which we are further stripped of illusions about who God is, as well as who God is not…

The opportunity that accompanies the darkness of disconnection is freedom to search for meaning unhindered by attachments that once constrained us.  From an unfettered stance that allows us to look over the whole of our life with newfound clarity, we have the capacity to choose goals, tasks, and relationships that are healthy and free of illusion. 

Perhaps it is only now that we can understand the commandment to "choose life."

-- Judy Cannato in Weavings Journal, Jan/Feb 2001, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Friday, May 10, 2013


When I was little, my Mother used to sew a great deal. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing.  She informed me that she was embroidering.  As from the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.  She would smile at me, look down and gently say,  "Son, you go about your playing for a while, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side."

I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view.  A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother's voice say, "Son, come and sit on my knee."  This I did, only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower.  I could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.  Then Mother would say to me, "My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a plan on the top.  It was a design, I was only following it.  Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing."

Many times through the years I have looked up to heaven and said, "Father, what are You doing?"

He has answered, "I am embroidering your life." 

I would say, "But it looks like a mess to me.  It seems so jumbled.  The threads seem so dark.  Why can't they all be bright?"

The Father seems to tell me, "My child, you go about your business of doing My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side."

-- Author Unknown


Thursday, May 9, 2013


To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,...
so our eyes look to the Lord our God. (Psalm 123:1,2 NRSV)

The way each day will look to you all starts with Who you're looking to.
-- Unknown

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


He never received a formal education, yet he lectured at Harvard. He was born in a gypsy ten, yet he was summoned to the White House to meet two presidents. Born in the Epping Forest outside of London in 1860, Rodney “Gypsy” Smith crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean forty-five times, preaching the gospel to millions. Few evangelists have preached with more passion. His secret? Private prayer. More powerful than his preaching was his praying.

Gypsy’s secret was revealed to a delegation of revival seekers, who asked him how God could use them, just as He was using Gypsy. Without hesitation, Gypsy said, “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Rev. H. S. Vigeveno in his book, Thirteen Men Who Changed the World, asks how the disciples changed the course of history given they had “no financial backing, no elaborate organization, no social pull, no prestige, no churches in which to worship and no committees. They were outnumbered, persecuted, forbidden to preach and finally killed.”

In the prayer recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 17, Jesus spoke three phrases which I believe distinguished the disciples and made them the leaven that changed the world. These three phrases – “… these are in the world” (Vs 11), “… they are not of the world” (Vs 14) and “… I also have sent them into the world” (Vs 18) – appear to represent three principles:

Principle #1
God has called us to be “in the world”. Unlike the Pharisees who separated themselves from all secular association, Jesus taught us to be “in the world” - because God loves the world.

Principle #2
God has called us to be “not of the world”. Unlike the Sadducees who compromised their stand with the secular authority, Jesus taught us not to be conformed to the secular age but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Principle #3
God has called us “into the world”. This is the thought form of the missionary. Unlike the Zealots who sought to overthrow secular power, Jesus taught us to be zealous, not for the world’s power but for the world’s welfare.

The first principle is incarnation; we must be in the world, not separated from it. The second principle is transformation. We must be transformed inside out by the Word and not outside in by the world. The third principle is reformation. We are to live for a missionary purpose.

We are “in the world” by incarnation, we are “not of this world” by transformation and we are “sent into the world” for reformation. 

-- Peter Geizer


Monday, May 6, 2013


We often have a kind of notion, as part of this highfalutin, noble picture of ourselves as pray-ers, that when we pray we need to be completely attentive and we need to be fully engaged and we need to be concentrating and we need to be focused. But the fact is, if prayer is our end of a relationship with God, that's not the way we are with the people we love a large portion of the time. We simply are in their presence. We're going about our lives at the same time in each other's presence, aware and sustained by each other, but not much more than that… However we are, however we think we ought to be in prayer, the fact is we just need to show up and do the best we can do. It's like being in a family. 

-- Roberta Bondi


Friday, May 3, 2013


As we follow Christ in the company of other Christians, we implicitly make a public commitment among people we respect and care for and who respect and care for us.  Those who share our journey comfort us, provoke us, remind us, sympathize with us, confront us, and pray for us.  The Holy Spirit uses them to draw us further along toward Christ. 

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Thursday, May 2, 2013


“In His name the nations will put their hope.”  (Matthew 12:21)

All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask; yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask. 

-- Martin Luther


Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Developing intimacy with God takes time. Sometimes our relationship with God seems more like starts and stops than a flowing sense of God's presence. This is why we need to make conscious commitments of love to God. Expressions of adoration and reaffirmations of love are important to any relationship. Give them freely.

-- Jerry Mercer in Cry Joy!