Thursday, November 30, 2017


What is this ingredient that determines whether relationships are positive or negative -- the ingredient that is critical to relationships' success, health and prosperity?  What is the element that leads individuals to lasting commitment?  Is there a special "something" that makes the difference?  If so, what is it?

It is grace.

Grace is the defining attraction in any significant, meaningful relationship.  Grace is the bonding agent that allows vibrant life to flow from one individual to another.  Grace is the New Testament word that defines our relationship with our Lord.  The apostle Paul said that we "stand" in this grace (Romans 5:2).  Our Lord's heart of grace opened the treasure vaults of heaven and invited us to receive all of heaven's blessings that flow from this bottomless source of love. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  (Ephesians 1:3)

-- Dr. Norm Wakefield & Jody Brolsma in “Men Are from Israel, Women Are from Moab”


Wednesday, November 29, 2017


"The fruit of the Spirit," which is in those who live in Christ's Spirit, "is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). An old legend tells of people who came wanting to buy the fruit of the Spirit. They were told, "We don't sell the fruit; we sell the seeds." Indeed, these traits of the holy life are not forced, not strived for, certainly not bought. Rather, they grow out of the believer's heart. They grow out of the indwelling presence of Jesus, the promised Holy Spirit.

-- U.M. Bishop Richard Wilke in “DISCIPLE: Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study”


Tuesday, November 28, 2017


“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV)

One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind. This was a life-changing revelation for me because as Proverbs 23:7 (AMP) says, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he.” I like to say it like this: Where the mind goes, the [person] follows.

Now God is concerned about the hidden [person] of the heart, which is our inner life. Our inner life is what we think about. And like the scripture above says, the way we think determines how we live and who we are. That’s why we need to think about what we’re thinking about.

It’s so important for us to understand this because if we don’t learn how to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5), we won’t live the life Jesus died to give us – a life of peace with God, peace with ourselves, great relationships, real joy and the ability to become all God has created us to be. It comes down to choosing to believe what God says (the truth) more than we believe our feelings, what other people say or our circumstances.

-- Joyce Meyer, from her Everyday Answers blog


Monday, November 27, 2017


“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)

When we trust in Christ, we make an exchange: He takes our sin and makes us right with God. Our sin was laid on Christ at His crucifixion. His righteousness was given to us at our conversion. This is what Christians mean by Christ’s atonement for sin.

In the world, bartering works when two people exchange goods of relatively equal value. But God offers to trade His righteousness for our sin – something of immeasurable worth for something completely worthless. How grateful we should be for His kindness to us!

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


Wednesday, November 22, 2017


“When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NRSV)

In “A Grief Observed” -- reflecting on the loss of his wife, Joy, due to cancer -- C. S. Lewis wrote, “How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.”

It’s normal -- and healthy -- to grieve when those we love are taken from us. But in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains why the resurrection of Jesus matters so much to those who believe [in Christ]: This earthly chapter is not the end of this eternal story; the pain of death will one day be only a memory.

When we leave our physical bodies behind at death, we’ll be ushered into God’s presence, where we’ll feel His healing embrace. We’ll be enveloped by His all-consuming love. And suddenly, in the light of God’s face, and in the face of His passion for us, all our questions, our grief -- and our sorrows -- will all fade away. Thanks be to God.

--  adapted from the “New Women’s Devotional Bible”


Tuesday, November 21, 2017


"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Christian should honor and care for his/her body as the very sanctuary of God.  We no longer belong to ourselves, but to God, who purchased us as a prized possession through the gracious giving of His Son.

-- from “Believer's Study Bible”


Monday, November 20, 2017


"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 15:3)

When tragedy strikes, when trouble comes, when life disappoints us, we stand at the crossroads between hope and despair, torn and hurting.

Despair cements us in the present. Hope sends us dancing around dark corners trusting in a tomorrow we cannot see because of the multiple pasts of life which we cannot forget.

-- Joan D. Chittister, quoted in “Hope: It’s More Than Wishful Thinking”


Friday, November 17, 2017


As I monitor my mind, I will encounter many thoughts that are unwelcome visitors:  I get anxious.  I catastrophize.  I envy.  But I will also begin to recognize what kind of thoughts the Spirit flows in.  The apostle Paul gives us a great framework for understanding which are the thoughts and attitudes that come from the Spirit.  He writes, “The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

Take any thought, especially thoughts that feel weighty or that you find yourself turning over and over in your mind, and ask, What direction do those thoughts lead me in?  Are they leading me toward life -- toward God’s best version of me?  Or in the other direction?

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want To Be”


Thursday, November 16, 2017


“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NLT)

In 1830, George Wilson was tried by the U.S. court in Philadelphia for robbery and murder and was sentenced to hang. Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, granted him a presidential pardon. But Wilson refused the pardon, insisting it was not a pardon unless he accepted it. The question was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following decision: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person implicated. It’s hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse a pardon, but if refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang.” What was the outcome? George Wilson was hanged.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Him alone we can know God intimately, be fully pardoned for our sin, experience His unconditional love, and have eternal life. We simply must accept the free gift.

-- adapted from “Remember the Rowboats” by Jim and Barbara Grunseth


Wednesday, November 15, 2017


“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,...” (Romans 3:23 NIV)

Bob Harbick once noted that “Sin… blinds and deafens the human heart from ever enjoying the incredible goodness of Jesus Christ… Sin is defined as missing the mark of Jesus Christ. It is the process of taking careful aim with our lives, releasing our arrow of life and having it fall woefully short of the target that Jesus has established for you and me to live. Sin is broken fellowship with the King of kings and Lord of lords. It separates us from enjoying all that He had intended for our lives.”

What is happening in the world today is that instead of acknowledging our sin -- that we are missing the mark -- and turning to Christ our Savior, we are lowering the target to where our arrow falls and exclaiming “Bullseye!”

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Dwight L. Moody once said, "Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian."

What do your pages say, then? Do they talk about nice-guy Nate who helps his next-door neighbor?… Do they focus on good-person Gertrude who gives to Goodwill?… Do they talk about pleasant Peter and his wife Penny who preach about their passion for petunias?

Or are your pages filled with stories of self-less caring in the name of the suffering Christ?… Or are they exploding with the excitement of personally knowing Jesus?… Or, as each page is turned, are they pointing to the One who saved you from your sin -- the Savior, God's Son?

What do your pages say to a world that is lost and lonely, hungry and hurting, and desperately in need of a Savior?

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes -- Jew first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life'." (Romans 1:16-17 NLT)

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Monday, November 13, 2017


Have you ever put heart and soul into something, prayed over it, worked at it with a good heart because you believed it to be what God wanted, and finally seen it "run aground"?

The story of Paul's voyage as a prisoner across the Adriatic Sea tells how an angel stood beside him and told him not to be afraid (in spite of winds of hurricane force), for God would spare his life and the lives of all with him on board ship. Paul cheered his guards and fellow-passengers with that word, but added, "Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island" (Acts 27:26).

It would seem that the God who promises to spare all hands might have "done the job right", saved the ship as well, and spared them the ignominy of having to make it to land on the flotsam and jetsam that was left. The fact is He did not, nor does He always spare us.

Heaven is not here, it's There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

"Running aground", then, is not "the end of the world". But it helps to "Lead us not into temptation" -- the temptation complacently to settle for visible things.

-- Elisabeth Elliot in “The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter”, Sep/Oct 1988


Friday, November 10, 2017


“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”  (Acts 16:6 NIV)

We don’t know how the Holy Spirit told Paul that he and his companions should not go into Asia. It may have been through a prophet, a vision, an inner conviction, or some other circumstance. To know God’s will does not mean we need to hear His voice. He leads in different ways. When seeking God’s will, (1) make sure your plan is in harmony with God’s will; (2) ask mature Christians for their advice;  (3) check your own motives -- are you seeking to do what you want or what you think God wants? -- and (4) pray for God to open and close the doors as He desires. 

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


Thursday, November 9, 2017


Prayer is to the soul what exercise is to the body. A man who is in good spiritual shape does two things: (1) He consistently eats the nutritious diet of the Scriptures and (2) he consistently spends time in aerobic kneeling. (It's also known as prayer.) These two elements must go together. A marathon runner not only trains efficiently but also eats correctly. Both enable him to have physical endurance. The same is true in the Christian life... Without a diet of Scripture and an exercise routine of prayer, you've got nothing. You can't finish the Christian marathon without them. In fact, you can't even begin.

-- Steve Farrar in “UMMen Magazine”, Spring 1999


Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be in you.”  (John 14:16,17)

The word "Comforter" as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally, it means "with strength."  Jesus promised His followers that "The Strengthener" would be with them forever.  This promise is no lullaby for the faint-hearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living.

-- E. Paul Hovey


Tuesday, November 7, 2017


“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:41-47 NIV)

What a scene! Here in ancient Jerusalem was a group of believers [in Christ] whose worship was spontaneous, whose instruction was substantial, whose fellowship was genuine, and whose expressions were compassionate. No wonder so many new folks were attracted! It is no surprise to me that the Lord added to their number day after day…

When we embrace these objectives, several benefits come our way. Our eyes will get off ourselves and unto the Lord. Our own petty differences are minimized, which deepens the unity of the relationship. And all this, when kept in balance, creates such a magnetism that the church becomes irresistible. And then? Well, then we start becoming what the church was originally designed to be -- irresistible!

-- Charles Swindoll in “The Bride -- Renewing Our Passion For The Church”


Monday, November 6, 2017


Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:7-10 NIV)

If you are familiar with the “I am” passages in the Gospels, then you probably remember this verse as the “I am the door” passage. I wondered why the modern translators changed this to “gate”? Perhaps because the Greek word has its root in a word that means “to rush in; properly, that through which a rush is made.” Thus, in the context of sheep and shepherd, it seems appropriate to think of a gate. And when Jesus completed this saying with the promise, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”; this gate or door should be one that we want to rush through.

-- Rev. Kenneth A. Mortonson in “What Do You See?”


Friday, November 3, 2017


When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I would traverse the famed Bascom Hill on my way to classes. One day I walked past the Law School and noticed something that surprised me. There, engraved in stone on the corner of the building, were these words, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. -- John 8:32". I thought how nice it was for them to include a verse from Scripture. My conclusion was that if I go to that school I will gain this truth that will set me free.

Being a new Christian at the time, my curiosity got to me. I wondered in what context this verse was said, and by whom. I looked it up and found that Jesus was the one speaking and it was to a group of believers. John 8:31 and 32 (RSV) says, "Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'."

Dr. Os Guinness, in a video called "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?", stated that "Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown were all [originally] explicitly rooted in the Christian faith, and many of them with very open desires to spread and share the Christian faith, and their mottos show it. The most common motto in all the American universities is, 'The truth shall set you free,' but many people forget that that came from Jesus."

True freedom comes from knowing Jesus Christ and continuing in His Word.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Thursday, November 2, 2017


"Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.  She said to the people, 'Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah, can He?' They left the city and were on their way to Him."  (John 4:28-30)

How do you start a church?  At the turn of the twentieth century, as the late William Hyde recalled, it was simple.  As a young Methodist preacher, Hyde was taken by train to a small town in Nebraska.  He was told that there was one Methodist in the community, but that he had probably become a Presbyterian, that there was a second-floor hall that could no doubt be rented for a gathering place.  And then, as the train pulled from the station, the district superintendent called out a simple formula for beginning a church: "Dig or die, Brother Hyde!"

In our day, church planting has become a science.  Some progressive seminaries offer special programs, even doctoral studies, in church planting.  Statisticians can project how many thousand telephone calls will produce how many hundred in attendance at an opening service, and what mass mailings will appeal to what segments of a population, as well as the type of music, the style of worship, and the level of preaching that will be most effective in a given community.

I confess that I fall somewhere between these two very different methods.  The unreconstructed grump in me favors the first, while the researcher in me opts for the second.  But on one thing, I am sure.  If I were starting a church, I know the person I would want for my first member.  I don't know her name, but I know everything else about her, and I can tell you this: Give me this wild and wonderful woman, and with God's help I will soon have a thriving body of believers.

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


Wednesday, November 1, 2017


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”  (John 1:1-3)

The archetype of one who takes initiative is God Himself.  He created the heavens and the earth, spinning into motion the tiny sphere that is our planet.  He filled its waters and skies with fish and fowl and scattered all manner of living creatures across its mountains, valleys and plains.  Then He lovingly spoke humankind into being, calling man and woman to name the animals, to tend to the garden sprawled at their feet and to live in loving community with one another.

But then He watched as man and woman disobeyed Him, dishonored themselves and destroyed each other with hatred and lies and murder.  He watched His creation spiral deeper and deeper into sin; He felt the searing pain as those made in His very image pulled away from Him, breaking the bonds of love that had bound creature to Creator.  How easy it would have been for Him to yield to despair and to close His eyes to the ugly ruin His creation had become.

But what did He do?  He responded with love and with a plan. He provided an option.  He took the initiative in breaching the gap between Himself and His wayward creation.  "For God so loved the world" -- and longed to have it reconciled to Himself -- "that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16).

God could have sat idly by and watched the world go to hell.  But love demanded that He take the initiative to redeem it instead.  So He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as a sin sacrifice for your foul-ups and mine, thereby making forgiveness available as a free gift.  We need only to humble ourselves enough to receive it.

-- Bill Hybels in “Making Life Work: Putting God's Wisdom into Action”