Friday, April 28, 2017


Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand -- repent and believe the Good News!”   (Mark 1:15)

Jesus did not say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand -- regret and believe the Good News!” The difference between regret and repentance is the difference of an opened door to a new future.

God’s doors, like His mercies, are new every morning.

Frederick Buechner writes, “The sad things that happened long ago will always remain part of who we are just as the glad and gracious things will too, but instead of being a burden of guilt, recrimination and regret that makes us constantly stumble as we go, even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.”

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


Thursday, April 27, 2017


Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32 NIV)

J. Walter Cross tells of flying a kite with his son Jay in southern Florida during some windy weather: The wind was strong, and the kite grew smaller and smaller as it tugged against the string. The harder the wind blew, the higher the kite rose. Then there was a sickening snap! The string had broken. The kite was free, but it was no longer soaring higher. It was tumbling, falling crazily to dash itself against the ground or become tangled in the trees. What kept the kite airborne was the restraint of the string. When that was lost, the kite was unable to fly. It is not the absence of restraints that makes us free.

There is no freedom in life until one belongs to God. Every other form of it is an illusion. We find the freedom to achieve the greatest desires of our lives only when we live in that relationship. When Christ binds us to Himself, then we are free.

-- J. Walter Cross, as quoted in the journal of “Homiletics”, October-December 1994


Wednesday, April 26, 2017


"Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!"  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

Jesus' supernatural vision regarding people's potential gave Him irrepressible optimism as He engaged with vagrants, liars, cowards, and crooks. To them all, the promise was the same. The old can become new, Jesus said. The fallen can be restored. The prideful can be humbled. The wanderers can come home. The weak can become strong. Derelicts can become disciples…

Jesus truly believed in the power of God to transform human lives -- a belief that motivated His insatiable pursuit of all sorts of people at all points on the spiritual spectrum. He was fierce in His determination to look past ill-timed comments and inappropriate actions. He dreamed about what could happen in a person's life if God's power was released in them -- and so He pushed through people's fear and sin, and He kept including people, loving people, and lifting people up to their fullest potential.

-- Bill Hybels in “Just Walk Across the Room"


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 6:20 NKJV)

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son; "you were bought with a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “The Cost of Discipleship”


Monday, April 24, 2017


“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…” (Isaiah 49:15b-16a NIV)

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it -- the fact that He knows me.  I am graven on the palms of His hands; I am never out of His mind.  All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me.  I know Him because He first knew me and continues to know me.

-- J. I. Packer in "Knowing God"


Friday, April 21, 2017


“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
(“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Obediah Chisholm)

Peace comes when there is no cloud between us and God.  Peace is the consequence of forgiveness, God's removal of that which obscures His face and so breaks union with Him.  The happy sequence culminating in fellowship with God is repentance, pardon, and peace -- the first we offer, the second we accept, the third we inherit.

-- Charles H. Brent


Thursday, April 20, 2017


Cheryl Forbes once said people who live imaginative lives are ‘what-if?’ people. They respond to ideas and events with a ‘what-if?’ attitude. They behave in ‘what-if?’ ways. ‘What-if?’ is a big idea, as big as God, for it is the practice of God. Our God thinks, “What if I make the universe? What if I make people in my own image? What if, when they sin, I don’t give up on them?”

Jesus comes to people and invites us to be ‘what-if?’ people. He said to His early followers, “I want you to imagine a kingdom -- the real magic kingdom. Imagine a kingdom where the last are first, the least are greatest, the servants are heroes, the weak are strong, and the marginalized are loved and cherished. Imagine a world where outsiders become insiders, where people who lose their lives end up finding them, where people who die to themselves and their guilt and their sin and their selfishness end up being brought to life. Imagine that your little broken story can become part of a larger story that ends well.”

Then in the most unimaginable moment in human history, Jesus said to Himself, “What if I die on a cross and take on Myself all that sin and all that suffering and all that pain and all that guilt and all that death that now crushes the human race?” And He did it. They put His body in a tomb, and three days later God said to Jesus, “Now what if You get up?” He got up, and death has never been the same. Life has never been the same.

-- John Ortberg in “All the Places You Go”


Wednesday, April 19, 2017


To protect a letter, you seal the envelope. To keep air out of a jar, you seal its mouth with a rubber ringed lid. To keep oxygen from the wine, you seal the opening with cork and wax. To seal a deal, you might sign a contract or notarize a signature. Sealing declares ownership and secures contents.

The most famous New Testament “sealing” occurred with the tomb of Jesus. Roman soldiers rolled a rock over the entrance and “set a seal on the stone” (Matthew 27:66 NASB). Archaeologists envision two ribbons stretched in front of the entrance, glued together with hardened wax that bore the imprimatur of the Roman government—SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus)—as if to say, “Stay away! The contents of this tomb belong to Rome.” Their seal, of course, proved futile.

-- Max Lucado in “His Name Is Jesus”


Tuesday, April 18, 2017


“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…”  (John 1:12 NKJV)

The question of identity is at the heart of all religions, and each offers a different answer. Christianity teaches that God is the creator of all human beings, and this loving God issued an invitation for each person to become one of His children. We do that by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior and following His way of salvation. In doing so, we promise to leave our old lives behind and begin a new life in Christ.

It’s crucial to understand that we do nothing to earn this gift of a new life; God offers it to us by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NRSV) puts it clearly: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God -- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” We do nothing to earn this new identity. All we do is accept it.

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


Monday, April 17, 2017


We only know about the birth of Jesus because Jesus died on a cross and rose again on the third day. Mark, the earliest Gospel account of Jesus' life, does not even bother with a birth narrative but begins with Jesus' baptism and adult ministry. It was only after there was an empty tomb that later Christians would become interested in the details of Jesus' birth.

Paul's letter to the Romans begins with what some scholars believe is part of an ancient Christian creed. It is easy to see why one might think so. It even reads like one, especially if you write it out in creedal form:
            The gospel concerning His Son,
                        who was descended from David
            according to the flesh
                        and was declared to be Son of God with power
            according to the Spirit of holiness
                        by resurrection from the dead.
            Jesus Christ our Lord,
                        through whom we have received grace
                        and apostleship. (Romans 1:3-5)

These words reveal that Christmas and Easter belong together. One cannot be fully comprehended without the other. Each event in Jesus' life interprets and harmonizes with the other. The great hymns "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" share more in common than Charles Wesley's authorship.

-- Kevin Baker in “Hail the Heaven Born”


Friday, April 14, 2017


“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”  (John 19:28-30 NKJV)

[Jesus] tilted His head back, pulled up one last time to draw breath and cried, "Tetelestai!" It was a Greek expression most everyone present would have understood. It was an accounting term. Archaeologists have found papyrus tax receipts with "Tetelestai" written across them, meaning "paid in full." With Jesus' last breath on the cross, He declared the debt of sin cancelled, completely satisfied, [finished]. Nothing else required. Not good deeds. Not generous donations. Not penance or confession or baptism or...or...or...nothing. The penalty for sin is death, and we were all born hopelessly in debt. He paid our debt in full by giving His life so that we might live forever.

-- Charles R. Swindoll


Thursday, April 13, 2017


“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”  (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV)

In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross.

-- Thomas à Kempis in “The Inner Life”


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV)

Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us -- a crucified God -- must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.

-- John Piper in “Don't Waste Your Life”


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


“Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?" She answers "No one, sir." Then Jesus says, "I also don't judge you guilty. You may go now, but don't sin anymore." (John 8:10-11 NCV)

If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall. Read them. Ponder them. Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul. Or better still, take Him with you to your canyon of shame. Invite Christ to journey [back] with you... Let Him stand beside you as you retell the events of the darkest nights of your soul.

And then listen. Listen carefully. He's speaking. "I don't judge you guilty." And watch. Watch carefully. He's writing. He's leaving a message. Not in the sand, but on a cross. Not with His hand, but with His blood.

His message has two words: “not guilty.”

-- Max Lucado in “He Still Moves Stones”


Monday, April 10, 2017


It took time for the church to come to terms with the ignominy of the cross. Church fathers forbade its depiction in art until the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine.... Now, though, the symbol is everywhere: artists beat gold into the shape of the Roman execution device, baseball players cross themselves before batting, and candy confectioners even make chocolate crosses for the faithful to eat during Holy Week. Strange as it may seem, Christianity has become a religion of the cross -- the gallows, the electric chair, the gas chamber, in modern terms.

-- Philip Yancey


Saturday, April 8, 2017


On Palm Sunday, when [the crowds] rejoiced in Jesus' coming kingdom, they had no idea of the price of that kingdom. They were looking for a small king, a comfortable one, a convenient one. But while Jesus comforts, He is not comfortable, and while He is near for our call, He is not convenient. He is Lord of all, or nothing at all. A king of such magnitude is a king of ultimate demands. Jesus is not a little king, either in His power or in His commands.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “New Testament Stories from the Backside”


Friday, April 7, 2017


“Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy…”  (John 12:14 NLT)

Riding on a donkey is a richly symbolic act, and one that goes back to King David, the prototypical Jewish king. The royal animal David rode was not a steed but a donkey, which was more sure-footed than a horse on the rocky, hilly terrain of Palestine, and able to travel farther on less water. The donkey, moreover, was a humble beast reflecting David’s identity as a shepherd king. Davidic kings from that time on rode donkeys or mules to identify with David.

Even more important for the Palm Sunday story is the prophetic Zechariah’s promise, given to the Jews five hundred years before the time of Christ: “Rejoice, greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 NRSV) Everyone in the crowd would have known these words and their promise of who would come riding on a donkey, so that when Jesus met up with His disciples and mounted the donkey, the people knew instantly what was happening. He was giving a clear signal that He was the long-awaited King promised by the prophets. Finally, Jesus was openly proclaiming He was the Messiah!

-- Adam Hamilton in “The Way: Following in the Footsteps of Jesus”


Wednesday, April 5, 2017


“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years…  Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done... Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.”  (1 Kings 15:9-11, 14b NIV)

If God is indeed sovereign, it is utter foolishness to ignore the One who is in complete control. Our lives cannot possibly be what they were intended to be apart from the Source of life. The folly of resisting the Power that transcends all powers of men is so obvious it is difficult to understand why we do it. Quite clearly, life can be what it should be only when it is lived in a conscious relationship with God.

-- William O. Paulsell in “Taste and See”


Tuesday, April 4, 2017


“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18)

“Religion is for old people,” my buddy declared as we drove through the countryside. I found his comment a little insulting: I was a church goer, age nineteen. Was that so wrong? I lost touch with him; now it’s been twenty-five years since we’ve spoken. But he was on to something. At twenty, the road looks clear all the way. We arrogantly waste time, try a hundred new jobs or relationships or ideologies, believe any fool thing. The heart is not yet broken, not in the way it is when time crashes down on it -- soured dreams, career missteps, divorce, illness, the death of loved ones, the passing of so much we love. By old age the ghostly procession of the once-was can be unbearable.

My heroes include any elderly persons who keep the flame lit, who still feel inspiration aand outrage at ideas, current events, history, movies, books, national tragedies, spring flowers, the passing parade. Somehow they take it all in. Life enlarges their spirit, becomes fuel for the remaining journey, seasoned with humor, not bitterness. They age with dignity. Part of the dignity is keeping the inevitable heartbreak framed by large perspectives and by going deeper into the grief, not denying it.

-- Ray Waddle in “A Turbulent Peace”


Monday, April 3, 2017


“You are the light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:14a NRSV)

How are we to serve as light? Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NRSV)

These are our daily marching orders, and the word choice is interesting. There are several Greek words for “good,” but the word used in “good deeds” is kallos. More than just “good,” this word means “beautiful” or “winsome.” Our deeds are meant to be so attractive that others are naturally drawn to the God we serve.

Are your deeds winsome and beautiful to others? There are enough Christians today whose attitudes seem judgmental and uncharitable to those around them. Don’t be one of those Christians. Instead may your life, and our churches, be characterized by beautiful deeds, flowing from hearts of compassion and love that draw others into the kingdom.

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