Friday, March 31, 2017


[Solomon replied,] “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people?”  (1 Kings 3:9 ESV)

When given a chance to have anything in the world, Solomon asked for wisdom -- “an understanding mind” -- in order to lead well and to make right decisions. We can ask God for this same wisdom (James 1:5). Notice that Solomon asked for understanding to carry out his job; he did not ask God to do the job for him. We should not ask God to do for us what He wants to do through us. Instead, we should asked God to give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to follow through on it.

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


Thursday, March 30, 2017


I was rereading the story of the Jericho miracle, and I noticed something I had never seen before.  During devotions one day, one phrase jumped off the page and into my spirit: “Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites.  No one went out and no one came in.  Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.’" (Joshua 6:1-2)

Did you catch the verb tense?  God speaks in the past tense, not the future tense.  He doesn't say, "I will deliver."  God says, "I have delivered."  The significance is this:  The battle was won before the battle even began.  God had already given them the city.  All they had to do was circle it.

As I read this story, I felt as though the Spirit of God said to my spirit, "Stop praying for it and start praising Me for it."  True faith doesn't just celebrate ex post facto, after the miracle has already happened; true faith celebrates before the miracle happens, as if the miracle has already happened, because you know that … God is going to deliver on His promise.

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Wednesday, March 29, 2017


NOTE: Today, March 29, 2017, is the 18th anniversary of our SOUND BITES Ministry™.  It was begun in 1999 in memory of my son, Dustin, who had died on March 29, 1998. Today's quote -- PURPOSE FOR LIFE -- speaks to his life... and yours and mine as well.


The same God who created the entire universe also created you and has a purpose for your life.  You no longer have to carry your burdens alone.  You can lay down your weariness, your sorrow, your suffering, your regret, and your frustration.  Because one day you're going to be made new!  You will be whole, healthy, complete, and 100 percent satisfied.  And until that day, Christ promises to walk with you each and every day, carrying your burdens for you, offering direction toward a significant life, giving substance to your hours and years and life.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Tuesday, March 28, 2017


“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6 NIV)

Sin means straying from God’s path, from the way that leads to life and joy and peace. That path is what we were created for. Straying from it leads us away from God, and often to pain…

God is like a loving parent who watches as His children walk away from the path He wants us on.  He doesn’t like to see His children sin because He knows that sin can hurt us and others and can rob us of the joy He wants us to have. He knows that sin can separate us from Him, and He grieves over that separation. Still, He doesn’t stop loving us. He doesn’t tell us how much He hates us or how much He hates what we do. He keeps beckoning and wooing us [back to His path], reminding us of His love.

-- Adam Hamilton in The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus


Monday, March 27, 2017


“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV)

The response called for in the Bible to the hearing of the words of God is not mere assent, but faith in God who speaks the promise, obedience to the God who commands, faithfulness to the God who has made His covenant plain, return to the God who warns, and hope in the God who foretells the future. To respond to God's words is to respond to God: God is present in the speaking of His words.

-- Peter Adams in Speaking God's Words


Friday, March 24, 2017


Jesus replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  (Luke 17:6 NIV)

It’s better to have little faith in a big God than to have big faith in a little god. That’s why Jesus said we just need faith like a mustard seed…

It’s not the quality of our faith that saves us... It’s the object of our faith.

-- John Ortberg in All the Places to Go… How Will You Know?


Thursday, March 23, 2017


It is a strange characteristic among human beings, that we tend to treat our criminals and our saints alike.  One lives below the norm, the other lives above the norm, but both have sinned against the norm.  The Christians (in Roman times) lived above the ethical norm.  The fact that we are not persecuted as Christians may well be an indictment.  Is it that we have won the world, or has the world won us?  Are we no longer a threat to the tranquility of sinful humankind by living above the commonly accepted norm?  That is a question that ought to haunt us.

-- Rev. Thomas L. Butts


Wednesday, March 22, 2017


As you journey through [the] early part of the process of grieving loss and growing spiritually, finding good companions to travel with you can be crucial. A fitting person for this part of the discovery is someone who is good at asking questions and can help you name the various dimensions of the loss you are experiencing.

The story of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts begins with many questions. When Jesus died, those who had followed Him needed to discover the meaning of His death by naming what they had lost. They wondered with the risen Christ if His death meant the coming of the new Israel (Acts 1:6). As He ascended, men in white robes asked [the disciples], “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” What did His life mean? The meaning of Jesus’ life became clear only in the exploration of what His followers experienced in the emptiness of His absence.

-- Dan Moseley in Lose, Love, Live: The Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change. Copyright © 2010 by Dan Moseley. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”  (1 Samuel 28:15b NIV)

Saul was chosen by God to lead Israel. He was gifted, strong, and charismatic. But he had a pattern of behavior in his life that revealed he would not trust God enough to obey Him. This went on for such a long time that, finally, God could not use him anymore and chose David to be the new king.

Initially Saul had liked David, but when he discovered that David was to replace him on Israel's throne, he would not surrender to God, would not surrender his crown, would not obey God. Finally, he ended up turning to the occult. He went to visit a woman known as the witch of Endor to ask her to conjure up the spirit of Samuel the prophet, an occult practice that would have been an abomination to him when he was a young man. As G. K. Chesterton wrote, if people cease to believe in God they do not believe in nothing but in anything. In the end, Saul took his own life in despair rather than bend his knee before God.

-- John Ortberg in Faith & Doubt


Monday, March 20, 2017


“The LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7 NRSV)

Here is a promise of being let into intimacy with God.

Our prayers will result in joy, for they will be accepted.  God will gather us in and not shut us out.  We will be known fully and nevertheless loved completely… Life will flow.  What we do will have meaning.  And so there will be a feeling of total inclusion.

No longer will we feel like strangers but like those who have come to the spiritual home for which we have always longed.

-- Gerrit Scott Dawson in Called by a New Name,  published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Friday, March 10, 2017


“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the worlds.  [Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. When He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,…”  (Hebrews 1:1-3 NRSV)

The author of Hebrews presents a series of arguments for the superiority of Jesus over all rival claims to allegiance which the readers were feeling and hearing. Their attention was easily diverted off in other directions, just as our attention is easily distracted today. They, like us, were being tempted, frightened or pressured into following other voices and serving other masters.

Jesus’ superiority to the prophets is marked in six ways. First, He is the Son, and as such speaks with greater authority and completeness than the prophets… Second, the Son’s superior greatness to the prophets springs from His position as both creator and heir of all things… Third, the Son shares fully in the divine nature… Fourth, the Son is the master of the universe… Fifth, in sharp contrast to this image of universal power the Savior accomplishes the purification for sin through the agony and blood of the cross… Sixth, Jesus sat down at God’s right hand denoting the supreme honor accorded to the triumphant Lord, who is risen from the dead…

Clearly the world we live in today is one which desperately needs this redeemer.

-- adapted from Ray C. Stedman in Hebrews: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series


Thursday, March 9, 2017


Sin is a word not often thought about seriously in our time. Neal Plantinga writes, “Nowadays, the accusation you have sinned is often said with a grin, and with a tone that signals an inside joke…” Sin has become a word for hot vacation spots (Las Vegas is Sin City) and dessert menus: “Peanut Butter Binge and Chocolate Challenge are sinful; lying is not. The new measure for sin is calorie.”

But sin is the deadliest force because it takes us out of the flow of the Spirit. Imagine the consequences if we did not have a word for cancer or depression. We must identify and understand that which threatens our ability to flourish, and only sin can keep us from becoming the person God wants us to become. All other challenges face us from the outside. Sin works its way inside, strangling our soul.

-- John Ortberg in The Me I Want to Be


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  (Ephesians 3:20 NLT)

Our Heavenly Father has enlisted us, His children, to join Him in the great business of prayer. Failure to understand either side of this partnership will not only influence the effectiveness of our prayer, it will also change the destiny of the world. The cause of Christ moves at a slow and halting pace when God’s people do not pray. It is extremely important that we understand not only God’s willingness to answer but also our responsibility in asking.

-- William Carr Peel


Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Pashi was a student in our local college. He was from India, and when presented with the claims of Christ, Pashi’s devastating reply was: “I would like to believe in Christ. We of India would like to believe in Christ. But we have never seen a Christian who was like Christ.”

Come to think of it, neither have I.

We believers are all merely pilgrims in progress, encumbered with disagreeable genes, trying -- and in the process being found “trying indeed.” The very term Christlike is confusing. In what way are we to be like Him? In His ability to heal, to teach, to cast out demons? To face His accusers silently? I think the term has to do with Christ’s attitude toward His Father’s will.

“I delight to do Thy will” (Psalm 40:8, KJV).

Whatever the true meaning, I was feeling we Christians had let the Lord down. I decided to call our co-worker and friend, Dr. Akbar Haqq, a brilliant Christian who once was president of the Henry Martyn School of Islamic Studies in New Delhi.

“How would you answer Pashi?” I asked him.

“I would tell him, ‘I’m not offering you Christians,'” Akbar answered decisively. ‘I am offering you Christ.'”

-- Ruth Bell Graham in Legacy of a Pack Rat


Monday, March 6, 2017


“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 21:25)

This is the depressing end to the book of Judges. Depressing, but not surprising. No sooner is Israel settling into the Promised Land than they are turning from God’s ways and falling into sin. The Judges were to bring the people back to God, but the chorus of this book is that Israel again does what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Having heard that phrase, in the sight of the Lord, so many times, it is then so fitting to close the book, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

Many times over God has shown them how He sees things. He urges them to live according to His ways, to do what is right in God’s eyes. But continually they instead do what is right in their eyes, according to how they see things…

We need God’s Word, prayer, and other followers of Christ to speak truth to us. We are not equipped to be our own judges. If everyone is left alone to decide for themselves what is right and what is the truth for them, we find ourselves with the people of Judges. Rather we should seek to see things through the eyes of God. We should seek to do what He says is right, even if the world around us thinks us foolish.

--  Casey R. Clark, from his “Year in the Bible” blog


Friday, March 3, 2017


“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”  (Joshua 1:8 NLT)

“As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given to Moses.”  (Joshua 11:15 NLT)

Joshua carefully obeyed all the instructions given by God. This theme of obedience is repeated frequently in the book of Joshua, partly because obedience is one aspect of life the individual believer can control. We can’t always control our understanding because we may not have all the facts. We can’t control what other people do or how they treat us. However, we can control our choice to obey God. Whatever new challenges we may face, the Bible contains relevant instructions that we can choose to ignore or choose to follow.

-- from the Life Application Study Bible


Thursday, March 2, 2017


"I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10b)

When Jesus was pointing people to faith, He unapologetically told them that the life He offered was the best kind of life any human being could ever experience.  In the gospel of Matthew, He compared it to a pearl of great price, which He said would be worth giving up everything to attain.  "If you want life in all its fullness," He said, "if you want high-definition, surround-sound, heart-pounding action, there's only one place you're going to find it.  A life like that is a life fully yielded to the God of the universe!"

I hope we'll renew our commitment to exhibiting this level of confidence and passion when talking about our faith.  Is there a more important message than the one we're carrying to the world?

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Wednesday, March 1, 2017


“Perhaps you do not understand that God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives.”  (Romans 2:4)

No one is happier than the one who has sincerely repented of wrong. Repentance is the decision to turn from selfish desires and seek God. It is a genuine, sincere regret that creates sorrow and moves us to admit wrong and desire to do better.

It's an inward conviction that expresses itself in outward actions.

You look at the love of God and you can't believe He's loved you like He has, and this realization motivates you to change your life. That is the nature of repentance.

-- Max Lucado in Walking with the Savior