Monday, November 30, 2015


Teresa of Avila reminds us in the opening pages of her autobiography that the best way to know and love God is to live in the company of God's friends. Those who have befriended God through the centuries have much to teach us about Jesus Christ. Their view of history is rooted in the conviction that the true turning point of time is the birth and life of Jesus Christ, and that life in every age can be understood only from the perspective of Emmanuel -- God is with us, now and forever.

In the two thousand years since Bethlehem, the presence of the living Christ has transformed human lives and transformed history. The same Christ is now transforming us and our time.

-- Janice T. Grana, adapted from 2000 Years Since Bethlehem


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NRSV)

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something. For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations. Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge. Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you're tired and weary. It means you've made a difference. 

It's easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles and they can become your blessings. 

-- Unknown 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


"The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."  (Psalm 28:7 NLT)

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant,

to enact gratitude is generous and noble,

but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.

-- Johannes A. Gaertner 


Friday, November 20, 2015


When it comes to prayer, despair makes one eloquent… Sometimes our prayers lack eloquence because prayer seems to us, in truth, to be rather incidental, or perhaps a kind of convenience.  After all, if prayer doesn't work we can always invest more of our hopes in those remedies that money can buy, or that logic can contrive.  I hate to say it, but our comparative abundance may get in the way of greater skill in our native tongue, prayer.  Mind you, despair and faith are not the same, but sometimes despair impels our search for faith.

I want so much for you and me to understand the importance of being bilingual.  I want us to realize that a person who can talk only in the dialects of business, sports, sex, literature, philosophy, and the news of the day is fatally disadvantaged.  Because you and I must eventually, some day, do business with God -- in this world, and in the world to come.  How pathetic to think that we might have to stand before God, eloquent in business, sports, and gossip, and babbling like an infant when it comes to the divine tongue!

Here's the good news -- Divine eloquence is within every person's reach, because it involves the language all of us are equipped to speak.  But -- as with any other language -- you have to care enough to spend some time learning the fundamentals of the language and then expanding your vocabulary and your ease of expression.

Now is the time to be at it.  Not when you're facing surgery the next day, or when your family is falling apart, and certainly not when you're dying.  Now is the time, the ideal time, to become eloquent in our native tongue.  Prayer -- the language that works in both time and eternity.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in New Testament Stories from the Back Side


Thursday, November 19, 2015


"Put on, then, garments that suit God's chosen and beloved people: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience." (Colossians 3:12 REB)

[We] call it gentleness, but the Greeks called it praotes. Aristotle said that praotes was the perfect mean between too little anger and too much anger.

[You] thought anger was always bad?

Not at all.  No reform movement would ever have happened if someone hadn't gotten angry about the state of things as they found them.  It was when people grew angry about slavery that its death knell was sounded.  So, too, with child labor.

But the problem is to harness that anger.  That's where praotes -- gentleness -- comes in.  Anger destroys even in the name of great causes; without restraint, anger will defeat the very matters it endorses.  And our usual brand of self-control won't make it.  As William Barclay used to say, we need to be God-controlled.  That’s gentleness.  Because gentleness is power under purposeful direction.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in New Testament Stories from the Back Side


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


[My husband] said something… that's really stuck with me, "Joni, if I met all of your expectations, you wouldn't need God."

There's a lot of truth in that, isn't there?  If our spouses were all we expected them to be, we wouldn't feel much inclination to depend on the Lord.

The Bible talks about expectations in Micah 7: "Put no confidence in a friend.  Even with her who lies in your embrace… But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord." (vv.5, 7)

Elsewhere God's Word talks about not putting our trust in horses or chariots or princes. It's so easy to do that, to let expectations build.

But God doesn't want us to substitute anything or anybody for Him.  Not pastors or teachers, boyfriends or girlfriends, or even husbands or wives.

So if your expectations have been crushed recently, and you're disappointed, fearful that this person just isn't all you had hoped he or she would be, maybe it's just God's way of reminding you to put your confidence in the Holy One.

He is able to meet your expectations.  And unlike your husband, wife, or close friend… [God is] perfect.

-- Joni Earkeckson Tada in Glorious Intruder


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


"They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil."  (Psalm 36:4 NLT)

Genuine outrage is not just a permissible reaction to the hard-pressed Christian; God Himself feels it, and so should the Christian in the presence of pain, cruelty, violence, and injustice.  God, who is the Father of Jesus Christ, is neither impersonal nor beyond good and evil.  By the absolute immutability of His character, He is implacably opposed to evil and outraged by it.

-- Os Guinness in The Dust of Death


Monday, November 16, 2015


When Jesus saw His ministry drawing huge crowds, He climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to Him, the committed, climbed with Him. Arriving at a quiet place, He sat down and taught His climbing companions. This is what He said: "You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are -- no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world -- your mind and heart -- put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that -- count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit Me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens -- give a cheer, even! -- for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."

-- Matthew 5:1-12 by Eugene Peterson in The Message


Friday, November 13, 2015


(NOTE: Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas, longtime pastor, author, and teacher, passed away yesterday. He was an inspiration to many. He lived and died with A FULL AND SURE HOPE of eternal life through Christ Jesus.)

Here's the good news about Easter.  The tomb was now full.  And it has been full ever since.

[Full of] victory, for instance.  One of Charles Wesley's great hymns challenges the domain of the tomb by a series of questions: "Where, O death, is now thy sting?... Where's thy victory, boasting grave?"  ("Christ the Lord Is Risen Today?")  Tombs have for so long declared themselves the ultimate winners; after all, no mortal escapes them!  But no longer.  We do indeed die, but with a sublime confidence that we will rise again.  We will win!  Our Lord has taken conquest of the grave, turning its emptiness into a habitation of victory.  The game we humans have been losing since Adam and Eve is now turned into victory.

And hope too.  The tomb is now full of hope.  During my nearly forty years as a parish pastor, I stood many hundreds of times at the open grave, speaking the words of committal, and knowing that as soon as our gathering left the cemetery, workers would lower the vault into the ground and would begin to throw dirt upon it.  But I conducted such "final rites" with hope.  As a fellow human being, I wanted often to weep with the mourners, and sometimes I did; I felt for their loss, particularly in those instances where death seemed to have come earlier than was its right.  But my tears were of sympathy, not of despair.  The tomb is now full of hope.  I remember my father pausing for the last time at the casket of my mother and saying quietly, "I'll see you in the morning, Mother," and I knew he was right.  Such is our hope.  Simple, yes; but full and sure.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in New Testament Stories from the Back Side


Thursday, November 12, 2015


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ..." (Ephesians 1:3 NKJV)

Have you ever gotten one of those "too good to be true" sweepstakes envelopes in the mail…?   What do you do with the envelope?  If you're like me, you throw it in the trash even though it says you may have already won $10 million.  I've figured out the scam -- I've read the fine print and learned my chances of winning are slim to none.

Ephesians reminds us that God has given us (past tense in the Greek) every spiritual blessing, and there is no catch.  The tragedy is that some of us merely underline, quote, or frame the promises in the Bible, treating the treasures of God the same way we would treat a sweepstakes letter.  Are you throwing away God's blessings?  Today learn how to make withdrawals from your benefactor's heavenly bank account.  It's all there waiting for you!

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


Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Our culture is inundated with time management tools: from daytimers to seminars on how to save, spend, invest, maximize, and catch time before it flies away!

What if time was not the fleeting, tyrannizing resource we are taught to believe it is?  What if we chose instead to view time as an expression of God?  God's speed.  God's gift to us.  A part of His very nature.  Would we so anxiously live by deadlines, join the morning rat race, or grab a minute and run with it?

Wouldn't we, instead, be moved to rethink and perhaps reshape the way we use time?  Perhaps our goal would be stewardship rather than management.  As stewards we might be more open to the purposes set down by the Chief Steward -- to give and receive, to serve and be served, to work and to rest without feeling busy or lazy.

-- Karen O'Connor in Basket of Blessings: 31 Days to a More Grateful Heart


Tuesday, November 10, 2015


"The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
The eyes of all look to You in hope; You give them their food as they need it.
When You open your hand, You satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in everything He does; He is filled with kindness." 
(Psalm 145:14-17 NLT)

If we close ourselves off from the pain, from the experiences that life sends our way, we will be closed off not only from the pain of life, but also from much of what is good about life, too. It's only with an accepting attitude --with our hands outstretched -- that we can not only receive things we sometimes don't want, but also receive all the blessings God wants to give us, too.

-- Copyright Eric Folkerth 2000. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission


Friday, November 6, 2015


"For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit with the things of the Spirit. The concern for the flesh is death, but the concern of the Spirit is life and peace."   (Romans 8:5-6)

When your heart and mind are set on the flesh and on the world, there is nothing but unrest and strife. There is no peace. Your heart is unsettled, and your relationships are too. But set your mind on the Spirit and on the things of God, and soon your heart finds peace and life itself.

Remember the simple prayer of Saint Augustine: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord."

-- Allen R. Hunt in Nine Words


Thursday, November 5, 2015


"Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray."  (Proverbs 10:17)

Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life; I thank him, that prays for me when my bell tolls; but I thank him much more, that catechizes me, or preaches to me, or instructs me how to live.

-- John Donne


Wednesday, November 4, 2015


We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don't want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of 'good time' is seldom in sync with ours.

-- Oswald Chambers


Tuesday, November 3, 2015


At the end of his great book Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev describes a village graveyard in one of the remote corners of Russia.

Among the many neglected graves was one untouched by man, untrampled by beast.  Only the birds rested upon it and sang at daybreak.  Often from the nearby village two feeble old people, husband and wife, moving with heavy steps and supporting one another, came to visit this grave.

Kneeling down at the railing and gazing intently at the stone under which their son was lying, they yearned and wept.  After a brief word they wiped the dust away from the stone, set straight a branch of a fir tree, and then began to pray.  In this spot they seemed to be nearer their son and their memories of him.  And then Turgenev asks, "Can it be that their prayers, their tears, are fruitless?  Can it be that love, sacred, devoted love, is not all powerful?  Oh no, however passionate, sinning and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes.   They tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of indifferent nature; they tell us, too, of eternal reconciliation and of life without end."

-- Billy Graham in Unto the Hills


Monday, November 2, 2015


There is a story -- I do not know its source -- of an old man and a young man on the same platform before a vast audience of people.

A special program was being presented. As a part of the program each was to repeat from memory the words of the Twenty-third Psalm. The young man, trained in the best speech technique and drama, gave in the language of the ancient silver-tongued orator the words of the Psalm.

"The Lord is my shepherd..." When he had finished, the audience clapped their hands and cheered, asking him for an encore so that they might hear again his wonderful voice.

Then the old gentleman, leaning on his cane, stepped to the front of the same platform, and in feeble, shaking voice repeated the same words -- "The Lord is my shepherd..."

But when he was seated no sound came from the listeners. Folks seemed to pray. In the silence the young man stood to make the following statement: "Friends," he said, "I wish to make an explanation. You asked me to come back and repeat the Psalm, but you remained silent when my friend here was seated. The difference? I shall tell you. I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd!"

-- Charles L. Allen in The Twenty-Third Psalm