Friday, September 30, 2016


God plays a great joke on those who would seek after power at any cost. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, with his customary humor and wit, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different the saints.”

-- Kathleen Norris in the forward to Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis


Thursday, September 29, 2016


Which perspective is truer, more ethically sound, more aligned to reality? That it -- our possessions, our wealth, even our bodies and minds -- all belongs to us and we can do whatever we want? Or that we are temporary beneficiaries, and we find meaning in using what God has entrusted to us to the highest purposes? Which perspective fosters better decisions and deepens a spiritually grounded sense of community and responsibility? The wisdom revealed in Scripture and tradition for more than three thousand years is that those who practice from the perspective of a steward find greater happiness.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Most of us want to be changed, to become more like Christ. But is it happening? According to a Gallup poll, nine of ten Americans say they pray daily, and 84 million Americans -- almost a third of the population -- say they have made a personal commitment to Christ as Savior. But as William Iverson writes, "A pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt. If this is real Christianity, the 'salt of the earth,' where is the effect of which Jesus spoke?"

-- John Ortberg in The Life You've Always Wanted


Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally -- I do not mean figuratively, but literally -- impossible for us to figure what that loss would be if these teachings were removed. We would lose all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards towards which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves.

-- President Theodore Roosevelt


Monday, September 26, 2016


Today, parents have to be more intentional about their goals than did first-century parents, because parents must now contend with teachers who may negate the parental influence on every hand -- teachers like television and the Internet.  Perhaps other generations could have dared to say, "My children know how I feel without my spelling it out to them," but such a laissez-fare attitude will no longer work.  The competition for the human soul is much too fierce for that.  When one thinks of the number of subtle and corrupting siren voices that solicit a child or a teenager, one is astonished that so many children turn out as well as they do.  The quiet wooing of the Holy Spirit and what theologians call prevenient grace -- the faithfulness of God that seeks us before we turn heavenward -- are more active in our world than we can ever estimate, else the cause of righteousness would be quite overwhelmed by the never-ceasing insistence of the secular, the easy, the immediately profitable or enjoyable.

Nevertheless, the main burden of influence rests upon us, the parents and surrogate parents.  That is, we parents, teachers, employers, neighbors, and godly friends are the ones who determine whether a new generation will be found in the temple or in the provinces of shallow, thoughtless, and destructive living.  And because shallow or thoughtless living doesn't seem as perilous as "destructive" living, we may need to remind ourselves that life's perils often come in comfortable clothing.

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


Friday, September 23, 2016


God has been stirring His people. His people today have heard Him give this charge: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Such an assignment seems impossible to achieve, and so it is with [human beings]. But with God it is possible -- and so the task and calling remain before us, confronting us all. Each person and church must respond.

When Jesus gave the disciples His assignment to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, He added this promise: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) God’s call is not a program, but a Person to be followed, a Person who has given His personal command to be obeyed.

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


Thursday, September 22, 2016


"While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord." (Hebrews 14:8 NLT)

The more I look at death's ugly face, and the more I confront my own mortality, the more I will know how to help others who are in pain because of death.  And the more I will know how to live…

Jesus offers us hope, peace, comfort and grace as we face our own death.  We can also offer these gifts as we walk through death with others.  God has told us that yes, we need to grieve, but not like those who are without hope.  In Scripture He has given us models of those who have lost their children, and of elderly people who have died with dignity because of God in their lives. And finally He has shown that, when Christ is the center of our lives, it really doesn't make a lot of difference whether we live or die. It does make a difference that we glorify God in either.

-- Phyllis J. Le Peau in Caring for People in Grief


Wednesday, September 21, 2016


"Jesus became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could Jesus deliver those who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying." (Hebrews 2:14b-15 NLT)

C. S. Lewis wrote that he was surprised how much grief felt like fear. We live constantly with the fear of death. When death does occur… the feelings of grief come to the surface and magnify the fear that has been there all along. But the Bible teaches us that we can be freed from the bondage of this fear.

-- Phyllis J. Le Peau in Caring for People in Grief


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


A small-group ministry can be the primary means by which your congregation expresses its life and mission. No matter what activities are prominent in the group (sharing, study, prayer, celebration, mission and so forth), it is the quality of Christian "life together" -- Christian community -- that brings Life for ourselves and draws people outside to ask: "What is going on here? This life is attractive and I'd like to experience it too!" It is at this point that the verbalization of the gospel makes sense -- as an explanation for the quality of life among us as Christians, the "koinonia", Christian community.

-- Thomas G. Kirkpatrick in Small Groups in the Church: A Handbook for Creating Community (Alban Institute)


Monday, September 19, 2016


Confession does for the soul what preparing the land does for the field.  Before the farmer sows the seed he works the acreage, removing the rocks and pulling up the stumps.  He knows that seed grows better if the land is prepared.  Confession is the act of inviting God to walk the acreage of our hearts.  "There is a rock of greed over here Father, I can't budge it.  And that tree of guilt near the fence?  Its roots are long and deep.  And may I show you some dry soil, too crusty for seed?"

And so the Father and the Son walk the field together; digging and pulling, preparing the heart for fruit. Confession invites the Father to work the soil of the soul.

-- Max Lucado in In the Grip of Grace


Friday, September 16, 2016


Holding on to hope is the challenge of all grief and loss experience. Finding courage or energy to go on day after day requires hope of healing, hope for future. Holding on to hope is not always easy. Some days it requires all of our energy just to maintain our own lives. On other days, we at least want to believe that "for everything there is a purpose," as we try to find the purpose in our own experience. That requires finding ways to make meaning even out of situations that may seem so meaningless. Those are the days we really struggle to find belief in the unseen.

Many people say those days of struggle are when they lean most heavily on their faith, in order to find the inspiration and comfort they need to be able to go on. After all, Scriptures says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

There are many days, walking through that maze of healing, that require belief in God, hope and future without seeing any proof of them. Time in prayer, reading His Word, and fellowship with believers can all help in the struggle of holding on.

Holding on to hope requires active participation. It is not a passive process. It requires holding on to faith in the future, at a time when we can barely survive the present. It means clinging to the belief that God is good and will help us when all we can see seems to say that is not true.

-- from A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: Help for the Losses in Life


Thursday, September 15, 2016


The New Testament places great emphasis on the importance of personal relations among believers. We are told to love one another, to encourage one another, to comfort one another, to share our burdens with one another, to instruct one another, and to pray for one another. All of this obviously means more than merely having superficial acquaintances.

Knowing other people on this level requires real work and commitment on our part. And it involves a setting where we can be “real” with each other. For us to develop these real, vibrant, biblical relationships, we need to be face-to-face. Think about the various settings you are in at church. Are you just looking at the back of the head in front of you? Or are you in a small group or class where you have the opportunity to be real, to be face-to-face with other believers?

Something very BIG is happening in small groups. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow in your relationships with God and with one another.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No Time Frame...

People are forever changed by the experience of grief in their lives. We, as humans, do not "get over" our grief, but work to reconcile ourselves to living with it.  Anyone who attempts to prescribe a specific time frame for the experience only creates another barrier to the healing process.

-- Alan Wolfelt


Tuesday, September 13, 2016


[My wife] and I recently decided to take dancing lessons.  I grew up Swedish and Baptist, and we were not a dancing people.  I also attended a college where it was against the law to dance.  But I have been married for twenty-five years, so I guess dancing would be legal now.

We have a terrific dance instructor who, before we began, pulled us aside.  “I have a very important question,” this instructor said.  “You are going to dance now.  Who leads?”

“And who follows?” Silence.  Then, “I follow”.

It was hard for Nancy to follow for two reasons.  One is that when you aren’t leading, you aren’t in control.  It is hard not to be in control.  The other is that when it comes to dancing, I am a thoroughly incompetent leader.

Jesus, however, is a thoroughly competent leader.  When you wake up in the morning, you can feel completely confident in saying, “Okay, Jesus, today You lead, and I will follow.  Whatever I have to do in my relationships, my body, my health, and my finances are in Your hands.  I won’t try to figure out the rest of my life.  I won’t try to solve every day.  Just today.  You lead.  I’ll follow.”

You don’t want to miss the dance.  It is why you were born.  And God leads it, not just for today, but into eternity.

-- John Ortberg in The Me I Want To Be


Monday, September 12, 2016


“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

Christians love one another.  They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them.  If a man has something, he gives freely to the man who has nothing.  If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother.  They don't consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit, in God.  And if they hear that one of them is in jail, or persecuted for professing the name of their redeemer, they all give him what he needs -- if it is possible, they bail him out.  If one of them is poor and there isn't enough food to go around, they fast several days to give him the food he needs...  This is really a new kind of person.  There is something divine in them.

-- Aristides, a lawyer, before Hadrian, 2nd century


Friday, September 9, 2016


After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Robert Schuller, pastor at the Crystal Cathedral in southern California, wrote a newspaper column. There, he said, "Why do bad things happen to good people? That's the wrong question. . . the right question is: What happens to good people when bad things happen to them? We know the answer to that question: They always become better people. Tragedy never leaves us where it finds us."

I agree with Schuller that, "Tragedy never leaves us where it finds us." But in my experience, as a bereaved parent who lost a son and as a minister to those who have experienced tragedies of their own, people don't "always become better people". Some people become bitter. Some marriages break up. Some lives are shattered.

What is the difference? In my estimation it is choice. Am I going to choose to come out of this better by trusting in God's sovereignty, power and love? Or am I going to come out of this bitter by blaming God, my spouse and whatever or whoever caused the tragedy?

I choose better over bitter. I choose life over death. I choose hope over despair. I choose love over hate. I choose Jesus.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Thursday, September 8, 2016


Does it feel at times as if grief defines your life?  You may wonder: Is this who I have become, a half person whose life has context only because of death? Perhaps your spirit seems resigned to a tentative half life where you live in your mind in a conditioned state of emotional hyper vigilance. You hold on; you let go; you grow forward. You want to live, to have love and joy again flood your life with blessing and abandon, yet the persistence of death seems to defy adjustment. Even so, you continue to try to grow forward.

In unexpected pinhole moments, joy beckons to you on the other side of grief, calling you to warm the cold of your heart and live in the moment with joy, enthusiasm, and engagement. You wonder how you will replace your former joy with your loved one gone.

Grief offers you two possibilities: You grow, or you remain rooted in a physical or emotional past that no longer exists. You choose whether to grow and adjust through grief. When you resist growth and adjustment, you succumb to the past, spending your day in frustration and self-pity.  But when you choose to grow, you claim life. Growth and adjustment move you to a new place that inspires reinvestment in the future. You grow spiritually when, in faith, you allow the forward dynamic of grief to propel you away from the past toward the light of new life.

-- Julie Yarbrough in Beyond the Broken Heart


Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Holy God, Beloved Trinity, let me always be rooted in You so that I may live in You and You in me. Bless me so that Your grace may flow through me, allowing me to bear Your fruit to a hungry and helpless world. As I wander, prune me of all that inhibits Your growth in me. Let me do nothing apart from You so that Your joy me be complete in me. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

-- Vineyard Guild Prayer