Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The discipline of simplicity is not the most pleasant of spiritual disciplines, but it remains one of the most important. We so easily allow our lives to be defined by possessions, status, and all manner of social expectations. Being a disciple means shedding ourselves of anything that blurs our vision of Christ... Periodically we must shed ourselves of some "stuff" so we can focus our lives on Christ again.

-- Mark Galli, editor of Christian History magazine


Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Comparison kills spiritual growth.  A mother with three preschool–age children hears her pastor talk about loving God so much that he is up very early every morning to spend an hour of quiet with him.  She would love an hour of quiet at any time, but her children simply will not cooperate.  What she takes away is that she ought to be doing the same thing, and so she does spirituality by comparison, living under a cloud of guilt.  It never occurs to her that the love she expresses to her children might “count” as a spiritual activity.  It never occurs to her that perhaps she is serving God more faithfully than the very pastor who may be neglecting his wife and children in the morning so he can have that hour of quiet.

A gregarious, spontaneous husband is married to a woman who loves to be alone.  Solitude comes easily for her: she would have to become more extroverted just to be a hermit.  He feels he is a failure at prayer because he cannot be alone the way she can.  It never occurs to him that his ability to love people “counts,” that the way he loves people is shaping his soul and delighting God.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others.  It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”

Each of us has a me that we think we should be, which is at odds with the me that God made us to be.

-- John Ortberg in The Me I Want to Be


Monday, July 28, 2014


The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

-- Unknown, found inside a Gideon's New Testament


Friday, July 25, 2014


It is easy to see that you and I have been created to worship. We’re flat-out desperate for it. From sports fanaticism to celebrity tabloids to all the other strange sorts of voyeurisms now normative in our culture, we evidence that we were created to look at something beyond ourselves and marvel at it, desire it, like it with zeal, and love it with affection. Our thoughts, our desires, and our behaviors are always oriented around something, which means we are always worshiping -- ascribing worth to -- something. If it’s not God, we are engaging in idolatry. But either way, there is no way to turn the worship switch in our hearts off.

-- Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel


Thursday, July 24, 2014


"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (Romans 3:23 NKJV)

Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish for spiritual things then it is sin for you, however innocent it may be in itself.

-- Suzanna Wesley


Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  (Mark 1:14b-15)

When we think of kingdom, we often think of place, but the kingdom of God is not a place: it refers to the reign of God, or God's in-breaking, saving activity. Eschatological living means envisioning life in light of the saving activity of God in our midst -- not only what He has already done, but also what He promises to do in the future. God's kingdom is not fully manifest yet; we live between the beginning and the completion.

-- Ben Witherington III in Christianity Today, October 15, 2012


Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves -- the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us. But happiness is not a word we can understand by looking it up in the dictionary. In fact, none of the qualities of the Christian life can be learned out of a book. Something more like apprenticeship is required, being around someone who out of years of devoted discipline shows us, by his or her entire behavior, what it is. Moments of verbal instruction will certainly occur, but mostly an apprentice acquires skill by daily and intimate association with a ‘master,’ picking up subtle but absolutely essential things, such as timing and rhythm and ‘touch.’ When we read what Paul wrote to the Christian believers in the city of Philippi, we find ourselves in the company of just such a master. Paul doesn’t tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He is simply and unmistakably happy. None of his circumstances contribute to his joy: He wrote from a jail cell, his work under attack by competitors, and after twenty years or so of hard travelling in the service of Jesus, he was tired and would have welcomed some relief. But circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah, that Paul experiences from the inside. For it is a life that not only happened at a certain point in history, but continues to happen, spilling out into the lives of those who receive Him, and then continues to spill out all over the place. Christ is, among much else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this ‘spilling out’ quality of Christ’s life that accounts for the happiness of Christians, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person.

-- Eugene Peterson’s introduction to the book of Philippians in The Message


Monday, July 21, 2014


"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world."  (Psalm 19:1-4 NLT)

In the beginning God spoke all things into being -- and for the rest of time all things are speaking of God. This is a sacramental vision of the world: God comes to us in and through the very stuff of the earth.

“Let your mind roam through the whole creation,” the influential fourth-century theologian Augustine urged; “everywhere the created world will cry out to you: ‘God made me.’… Go round the heavens again and back to the earth, leave out nothing; on all sides everything cries out to you of its Author; nay the very forms of created things are as it were the voices with which they praise their Creator.”

Caring for creation sharpens our sacramental sensing: the more we live out this practice in our daily lives, the more we see that all the earth gives testimony to “a God who is ineffably and invisibly great and ineffably and invisibly beautiful.”

-- On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life, edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl


Friday, July 18, 2014


Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge.  In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD".  Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge to my destination.

On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction.  To my surprise, I saw another "YIELD" sign posted. "Curious," I thought, "I'm sure there was one positioned on the other side."

When I reached the other side of the bridge, I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both sides of the bridge.  Drivers from both directions were requested to give the other the right of way.  It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision.

When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions.

-- Stephen P. Beck


Thursday, July 17, 2014


"Then Jesus wept." (John 11:35 NLT)

[After the death of a loved one] we pull ourselves together when we need to. We do the things that have to be done. But we need to give ourselves times and places in which to mourn. This is strength, not weakness.

-- Madeline L'Engle in Two-Part Invention


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


"Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,… Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples."  (1 Chronicles  16:12, 24 NKJV)

When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colors are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.

-- Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Jesus called over a child, whom He stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom."  (Matthew 18:3, The Message)

It seems to me, as time goes on, that the only thing that is worth seeking for is to know and to be known by Christ -- a privilege open alone to the childlike, who, with receptivity, guilelessness, and humility, move Godward.

-- Charles H. Brent


Thursday, July 3, 2014


"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

Boundaries -- in or out?  The whistle blows when the football player runs out of bounds.  The baseball player hits one outside the lines and hears, "Foul ball!"  When snow skiing, out of bounds is a dangerous place to go.  You might come face-to-face with a tree or be swept away in an avalanche.  Boundaries are our friends -- they keep us safe.

A group of educators… decided to remove the chain-link fences from around the school playgrounds.  They believed the fences promoted feelings of confinement and restraint.  However, as soon as the fences were removed, the children huddled in the center of the playground to play.  Conclusion, Children need boundaries.

Adults need boundaries, too.  God has set loving parameters for His people, and those who choose to live "out of bounds" will find themselves outside of His Kingdom.

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


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


"You're living in the freedom of God. So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in His freedom." (from Romans 6, The Message)

There are two freedoms -- the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.

-- Charles Kingsley


Tuesday, July 1, 2014


"Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 29:2 NKJV)

People are naturally wired to worship.

We see it when even a slumping slugger, who's failed to perform up to par all year, smacks a three-run homer late in a postseason game to swing the series back in their favor. Fans erupt in the home stadium, many of them bowing with both arms extended, honoring their hero.

Paul and Barnabas, two of the first Christian missionaries, experienced something similar while ministering in a city where the crowds became amazed at their power to heal. Word soon spread to a pagan priest, who began untying the sacrificial bulls and handing out ceremonial wreaths to anyone wanting to worship these men as gods. Hearing of this, Paul and Barnabas went ballistic: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, humans like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God" (Acts 14:15). Worship didn't need igniting that day, just redirecting.

-- Joe Gibbs in his blog Game Plan for Life: Two-Minute Drills