Monday, August 31, 2015


"Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity." (Romans 12:2 Phillips)

Jesus told us to live IN the world but not to be OF the world (see John 17:13-18). To be "in" the world means living in today's culture -- we all live in a culture -- and to be physically present to and with others. To be "of" the world means to buy into the values, morals and ethics of culture. Clearly, much of our culture is good; but also, just as clearly, some is not. We need to be alert to ways that the world tries to squeeze us into its mold -- to have us conform to its values. Having a biblical worldview will help us resist the temptations and seductions of society and help us to live in God-honoring ways.


-- Martin Marty and David Clark in Between Two Altars video series discussion guide


Friday, August 28, 2015


I don't know about you, but I want God to reveal the second step before I take the first step in faith. But I've discovered that if I don't take the first step, God generally won't reveal the next step. We've got to be obedient to the measure of revelation God has given us if we want more of it. And that's why we get stuck spiritually. We want more revelation before we obey more, but God wants more obedience before He reveals more.

Most of us will only follow Christ to the point of precedence -- the place where we have been before. But no further. We're afraid of doing what we've never done because it's unfamiliar territory. So we leave unclaimed the new gifts, new annointings, and new dreams that God wants to give us.

If you want to do something new, you cannot keep doing what you've always done. You've got to push past the fear of the unknown. You've got to do something different.

-- Mark Batterson in All In


Thursday, August 27, 2015


The key to happiness, fulfillment, and salvation is becoming the person God intended you to be. God has a plan for your life, and that plan calls for you to grow up. No, we are not talking about being old enough to vote and sign contracts. We are not talking about increasing in height or weight. And we are not talking about getting married and having children or any of the other outward trappings of adulthood.

Spiritual maturity is about your heart being transformed to become more and more like Jesus. Jesus is the model for what grown-up men and women should be like, and we want to become more like Him.

-- Scott J. Jones in The Wesleyan Way: A Faith That Matters


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


God has always desired to work through His people, but they have not always recognized His initiative in their lives or His activity around them. But for those churches who repent -- those who take time to hear the Spirit; to believe what He tells them; to adjust their plans, structures, and programs to Him, and then to follow the Lord regardless of how impossible it may seem -- these are the church that will be spiritually renewed and that will experience God's mighty deeds through them to bring a lost world to Himself in a great spiritual awakening.

-- Dr. Henry Blackaby in What the Spirit Is Saying to the Churches


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Renewal happens as the church moves from a vague theism to a clear faith in Jesus Christ. The focus of the church is not the church, but Jesus Christ! God is made known to us in Christ. Faith comes alive in Christ...

Renewal is much more than adding a little more Jesus to the mix. A little more Jesus won't work. Jesus has to be the absolute focus. It must be an all-or-nothing proposition. A clear focus on Jesus Christ as the object of faith and the cause of truth is the key to renewal.

-- Michael Slaughter in Beyond Playing Church


Monday, August 24, 2015


NOTE: Yesterday I preached on "Focusing on Jesus" and used two photos of mine to make the point that it matters what we focus on. Those photos are the first two images on my website: Today's quote continues that theme of being focused on Christ.


Some years ago a sociologist accompanied a group of mountain climbers on an expedition. Among other things, he observed a distinct correlation between cloud cover and contentment. When there was no cloud cover and the peak was in view, the climbers were energetic and cooperative. When the gray clouds eclipsed the view of the mountaintop, though, the climbers were sullen and selfish.

The same thing happens to us. As long as our eyes are on God's majesty there is a bounce in our step. But let our eyes focus on the dirt beneath us and we will grumble about every rock and crevice we have to cross. For this reason Paul urged, "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to the things going on around Christ -- that's where the action is. See things from His perspective." (Colossians 3:2 MSG)

-- Max Lucado in Let the Journey Begin


Friday, August 21, 2015


When our lives are focused on God, awe and wonder lead us to worship God, filling our inner being with a fullness we would never have thought possible.  Awe prepares the way in us for the power of God to transform us and this transformation of our inner attitudes can only take place when awe leads us in turn to wonder, admiration, reverence, surrender, and obedience toward God.

-- James Houston in The Transforming Power of Prayer


Thursday, August 20, 2015


You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

-- G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!"  (Philippians 4:4 NLT)

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


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


We all think we want certainty. But we don't. What we really want is trust, wisely placed. Trust is better than certainty because it honors the freedom of persons and makes possible growth and intimacy that certainty alone could never produce.

There can be no intimacy without trust. Let's say someone asks me, "John, is your wife faithful to you?" I say, "Yes." He asks, "But how do you know?" I answer, "I know my wife." He says, "But she could be fooling you. Wouldn't you like to know? Let's remove all uncertainty. Let's say we could create a 'Nancy cam,' and keep her under surveillance twenty-four hours a day. Wouldn't you want that?"

A friend of ours is a brilliant engineer. He testifies before Congress on tech issues. He understands our TiVo. He has a young daughter and in their house they have cameras that can be on her all the time. We joke that as she grows up, he will have a "daughter cam" on that girl twenty-four hours a day. I wouldn't want to be his daughter. More than that, I wouldn't want to date his daughter. And I wouldn't want a "Nancy cam" even if I could have one. I wouldn't want to know. I would rather trust, because when you trust someone, you give him or her a gift, and you enter into a kind of dance. When I trust, I take a risk. I choose to be vulnerable. When my wife in turn is faithful, we reach a deeper level of intimacy. There is no other way to intimacy and depth of relationship between persons than to trust.

In a world of objects and machines, this is not so. In that world we try to remove all uncertainty. We want to be able to predict. We want control. The world of persons is another world. When it comes to persons, trusting is better than predicting and controlling.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Friday, August 7, 2015


"What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"  (Mark 8:36 NLT)

I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp.  He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half.  He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus.  Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.  It is the same with modern man.  The thing that has been cut away is his soul.

-- in My Country Right or Left: The Collected Essays: Journalism and Letters of George Orwell; vol. 2


Thursday, August 6, 2015


Making disciples of Jesus Christ is not instantaneous. It does not happen by osmosis nor by the conjured wishes of well-meaning Christians. Making disciples takes work… Faith formation is a constant movement of God's people who are desiring and seeking God.

Faith formation is the work of small groups. Small groups are vehicles for those who desire God and who seek to be molded by God. This molding happens when people strive to strengthen their faith through prayer, Bible study, and Christian conversation. Small groups provide a place for this molding to take place.

-- Vance P. Ross


Wednesday, August 5, 2015


James Hewett tells the story of a sailor shipwrecked on a South Sea Island.  He was seized by the natives, carried to the village, and set on a crude throne.  He soon learned that it was their custom each year to make one man a king -- for a year.  He liked this, until he discovered that each year each king was banished to an island where he starved to death.  The sailor didn't like that, but he was smart and he was king.  So he put his carpenters to work making boats, his farmers to work transplanting fruit trees and crops, and his masons to work building houses.  When his reign was over, he was banished, not to a barren island, but to an island of abundance.  This sailor was wise.  He learned to live for the future, not merely the present.

Foolishly, some people are so busy of taking care of their earthly homes they neglect their heavenly dwelling place.  Paul taught that while the deeds we perform now don't purchase a place in heaven, they do supply spiritual "building materials" for our heavenly homes.  What will your mansion look like?  "For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have -- Jesus Christ.  Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw.  But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done.  Everyone's work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value" (1 Corinthians 3:11-13, NLT).

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


Tuesday, August 4, 2015


"No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the LORD', for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.  (Jeremiah 31:34)

As we open ourselves to the new heart that God promises, we find that God has created our new hearts to know God… Jeremiah reveals that God not only offers us a new heart, but that heart has a capacity for knowing the God who created and redeemed it. The new heart can know God's compassionate forgiveness no matter what its formal learning, its social status, its previous record of brokenness.

[We are called] to examine our use of this new heart that God has given us. We begin by asking ourselves if we have acquired information about God only through Bible study, theological books, attentiveness to sermons. If head knowledge is the only knowledge of God we have, we may need a new heart -- one that can teach us in relationship about the God who knows our name, who knows the number of hairs on our head.

-- Elizabeth Nordquist in The Upper Room Disciplines


Monday, August 3, 2015


The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart: (1 Samuel 16:7)

Those words were written for the haggatons of society, for misfits and outcasts.  God uses them all.

Moses ran from justice, but God used him. Jonah ran from God, but God used him. Rahab ran a brothel, Samson ran to the wrong woman, Jacob ran in circles, Elijah ran into the mountains, Sarah ran out of hope, Lot ran with the wrong crowd, but God used them all.

And David?  God saw a teenage boy serving him in the backwoods of Bethlehem, at the intersection of boredom and anonymity, and through the voice of a brother, God called, “David!  Come in.  Someone wants to see you.”  Human eyes saw a gangly teenager enter the house, smelling like sheep and looking like he needed a bath.  Yet, “the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’”  (1 Samuel 16:12)

God saw what no one else saw: a God-seeking heart.  David, for all his foibles, sought God like a lark seeks sunrise.  He took after God’s heart, because he stayed after God’s heart.  In the end, that is all God wanted or needed…wants or needs.  Others measure your waist size or wallet.  Not God.  He examines hearts.  When He finds one set on Him, He calls it and claims it.

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants