Thursday, October 31, 2013


If you had won a prize to have your home completely redecorated, how would you feel if the prize amounted to someone coming in and merely rearranging your old furniture?

When God promises you a new life, He doesn't mean that He'll just come in and reorganize the "old" you. That would be mere reformation. Instead, God is in the business of transformation and renewal. His plan is for you to become a new creature.

We can't understand our need for transformation without a deep recognition of the uselessness and deadness of the old self. If we always harbor the feeling that the old self is not all that bad and can somehow be salvaged, we will be looking for reformation instead of transformation. In God's process of renewal, we need to let go of the old in order to grasp the new.

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"  (1 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

-- Unknown


Wednesday, October 30, 2013


"By Your words I can see where I’m going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
from living by Your righteous order."  (Psalm 109:105 MSG)

Discernment is like driving an automobile at night; the headlights cast only enough light for us to see the next small bit of road immediately in front of us.  But that light is enough to take us home.

-- from Listening Hearts


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


"Do you, as the way opens, share Christ with people who do not know Christ?  Do you witness to your faith by letting your life speak?"  These questions, adapted from a Quaker covenant, remind us of the gentleness, simplicity, and persistence that underlies effective invitation.  Many people with no church home are respectful, curious, and open to spirituality in general.  Others are hostile, resentful, or suspicious of religion, perceiving church people to be offensive and hurtful.

Even people who are not particularly open to church are nevertheless open to their friends, and to the experiences that their friends value.  The most concrete and personal way God reaches out to invite people into faith is through friends who invite friends.

Most people who have no church have at least one friend who practices the faith, and that person provides the most likely pathway to the spiritual journey.  Are you that person?

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Monday, October 28, 2013


"O sing to the Lord a new song," the psalmist cries; "sing to the Lord, all the earth" (Psalm 96:1). We moderns and postmoderns, committed as we are to the idea that whatever is most recent is best, are likely to think that the psalmist's call for "a new song" is a quest for novelty. I'm sure it's far more than that. His thinking, rather, is akin to the eighteenth-century hymnist and preacher Charles Wesley when he cried, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise…!" Wesley wrote those words on the first anniversary of his transforming religious experience. Recalling all the wonders of God's work in his life, Wesley found one tongue, yes even a choir, inadequate. Such is the mood of the psalmist. All his vocabulary seems stunted and insufficient for the wonder he feels, so he yearns for a new way to declare the glory of God. He wants much more than new words, a fresh melody, or a different set of musical instruments; the poet wants a newness within his own person.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in Longing to Pray: How the Psalms Teach Us to Talk with God


Friday, October 25, 2013


Sometimes we feel some distance [from God]. How do we manage that? How do we live with the experience of distance from God? I think mainly it is a matter of memory. Remember the good times. Remember the close occasions. Remember the profound worship. Remember the Lord's table. Remember your baptism. Remember the bread and the cup. Remember your Christian friends. Remember the old [and new] songs and you will get through. It just hurts me to think of the young people who do not know a hymn, who do not know a single Scripture verse, and who have never sat next to the strong shoulder of a believing man or woman. How will they ever make it? You see, what we do here on Sunday, in case you’re wondering, is that we are making memories. What happens today [in worship] will be the only food you will have one of these days. But it will be enough. It will be enough. 

-- Fred Craddock in The Cherry Log Sermons


Thursday, October 24, 2013


You’ll never achieve the goals you don’t set.

The brain is a goal-seeking organism.  Setting a goal creates structural tension in your brain, which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become.  If you don’t set goals, your mind will become stagnant.  Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination.  It’s also great for your prayer life. 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)
Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday.
Forgiveness is one of the least understood concepts in the world. Most people seem to convert the word "forgive" into the word "condone." If we believed the two words to be synonymous, it would be virtually impossible to forgive. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary definitions illustrate the problem.
Forgive… to cease to feel resentment against [an offender].
Condone… to treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance.
The implication that we might trivialize or easily dismiss a horrible event is clearly unacceptable. However, if we rely on the actual definition of forgive, we would be on the right track.
-- John W. James and Russell Friedman in When Children Grieve

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, …for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your 'thorn' uncomplainingly -- that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak -- is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace. The healing of your sinful person thus goes forward, even though the healing of your mortal body does not. And the healing of persons is the name of the game so far as God is concerned.

-- J.I. Packer


Monday, October 21, 2013


Through disciples following Jesus, God transforms the world.

If everyone thinks that nothing can be done, then nothing will be done.  In way mysterious beyond our comprehension, God multiplies our personal efforts, interweaves them with the work of others, and uses them to transform the world.  This is fruitful living.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Friday, October 18, 2013


Character qualities in His children -- that's God's relentless quest. His strobe light will continue to penetrate our darkness. He won't quit His quest until He completes His checklist. And when will that be? When we rest in peace… and not one day sooner. Only then will His mission be accomplished in us. We have Him to thank for not giving up as we go through the process of developing character. Thanks, Lord.

-- Charles R. Swindoll in The Quest for Character


Thursday, October 17, 2013


They held no credentials, no official status, but the Spirit's coming had changed these ordinary people [-- the disciples]. From fear and uncertainty, they were freed and empowered to speak and act boldly of Christ's saving grace, and people followed. As we listen, learn, and follow, may others sense the Spirit near and recognize that we, too, have been with Jesus.

-- Roberta Porter in Alive Now, May/June 2000, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


"Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25 RSV)

In community we catch the contagious quality of faith and hope.  Gathering stokes the flames of each member of the group.  We encourage one another.  (Encourage literally means to put courage into, to give heart!)  We become more in Christ because of the influence of friends.  We talk one another into things.  We take bolder action that we might otherwise avoid.  We follow Christ more eagerly.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Christ came to earth to be our bridge, and whoever crosses the bridge will live with God forever.  The apostle John put it this way in John 5:24: "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who send Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."

And until the day when you depart from your broken, fractured, earth-bound body, you can live with incredible confidence and boldness because, as my colleague Gene Appel says, you know who you are, you know where you are headed, and you know what you're becoming in the process.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Monday, October 14, 2013


The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and of the oppressed.  Down to modern times, no state has had a constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account; in which the duties, so much more than the privileges, of rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  Nowhere is the fundamental truth, that the welfare of the state, in the long run, depends upon the righteousness of the citizen, so strongly laid down.  The Bible is the most democratic book in the world.

-- Thomas Huxley


Friday, October 11, 2013


I am, indeed, far from agreeing with those who think all religious fear barbarous and degrading and demand that it should be banished from the spiritual life.  Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18].  But so do several other things -- ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.  It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. 

-- C. S. Lewis in The World's Last Night


Thursday, October 10, 2013


When Mahatma Gandhi was a student, he became intrigued with the Bible.  Reading the Gospels touched his heart, so he considered becoming a convert.  Christianity seemed to offer real solutions to the caste system that divided India's population.  One Sunday he attended a church to seek the way of salvation.  An usher refused him a seat and said, "Go and worship with your own people."  Tragically, he left and never came back.  Gandhi said, "If Christians have caste differences also, I might as well remain a Hindu."

Ancient Israel suffered from a similar form of prejudice, a caste system of its own.  Religious Jews treated the Gentiles with scorn.  Gentiles were regarded as unclean -- diseased.  Any association with a Gentile was unlawful for a Jew. Israel mistakenly believed that Gentiles would not be included in God's family or inherit any of God's blessings.

Jesus changed all that!  He broke down the social barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, and His life removed the great divide.  God invites both Jews and Gentiles into His house to worship together as one family… These two groups (and all believers) must learn how to share the wealth of God's great treasures.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace; in His flesh He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." (Ephesians 2:13-14 NRSV)."

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me."

If I ever reach heaven I expect to find three wonders there;
first, to meet some I had not thought to see there;
second, to miss some I had expected to see there;
and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.

-- John Newton


Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Deep sobs --
That start beneath my heart
And hold my body in a grip that hurts.
The lump that swells inside my throat
Brings pain that tries to choke.
Then tears course down my cheeks --
I drop my head in my so empty hands
Abandoning myself to deep dark grief
And know that with the passing time
Will come relief.
That though the pain may stay
There soon will come a day
When I can say her name and be at peace.

-- Norah Leney in In a Lifetime


Monday, October 7, 2013


Grace strikes at unexpected times, [Paul] Tillich suggests: when we are in pain, feeling restless, empty, alone, estranged, or when we feel disgust, weakness, or hostility.  It strikes us when other things don't work, when we feel directionless and useless, when compulsions reign, and darkness overshadows.  When the ordinariness of life grinds us down, or the vacuity of the world's promises leaves us empty, when we finally realize our churning and churning is taking us nowhere fast, in such moments, grace comes to us like a wave of light in the darkness, and we perceive a voice saying, "You are accepted."

"We don't know the name of it at the time; there will be much to learn later," Tillich writes.  We don't have to promise anything at the time, for in that moment we are fundamentally the recipients of promise.  We don't have to give anything; only to receive what is given.  Our only and singular task is to accept that we are accepted.

You are loved.  You are loved. You are loved.

Can you accept that?

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Friday, October 4, 2013


"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."  (Romans 12:2 NLT)

God's will is easy to find... if we want it. Really, the only people who miss His will are those who have no use for it. The months and years may show we've taken a strange, round-about way, but if our hearts are right, our feet will never go astray. We will know what God wants us to do. I cannot tell you how you will know, but I can tell you that when you have to know (and not necessarily before) you will know.

-- David Roper in Seeing Through


Thursday, October 3, 2013


"Since God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with Christ God will freely give us all His gifts?" (Romans 8:32)

"Freely give" means to give lavishly.  What do I need today?  Strength?  Peace?  Patience?  Heavenly joy?  Industry?  Good temper?  Power to help others?  Inward contentment?  Courage?   Whatever it be, my God will lavish it upon me.

-- Amy Carmichael in Edges of His Ways


Wednesday, October 2, 2013


When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

-- Henri Nouwen


Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The desperate man sits in the corner of the church assembly.  Dry mouth, moist palms.  He scarcely moves.  He feels out of place in a room of disciples, but where else can he go?  He just violated every belief he cherishes.  Hurt every person he loves.  Spent a night doing what he swore he’d never do.  And now, on Sunday he sits and stares.  He doesn’t speak.  If these people knew what I did….

Scared, guilty, and alone.

He could be an addict, a thief, a child-beater, a wife-cheater.

He could be a she -- single, pregnant, confused.  He could be any number of people, for any number of people come to God’s people in his condition -- hopeless, hapless, helpless.

How will the congregation react?  What will he find?  Criticism or compassion?  Rejection or acceptance?  Raised eyebrows or extended hands?

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants