Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Offering God's love to another person and inviting someone else to follow Jesus multiplies both the inner qualities of spiritual fruitfulness and the outward impact of service more than anything else we could possibly do.  Living fruitfully includes passing along the faith and creating spiritual life in others.  Fruitful living involves inviting others to the spiritual life.

Offering God's love so that others may accept God's grace bears fruit beyond what we can fathom.  Imagine if as a consequence of you following Christ and your invitation, a few other people explore the spiritual life who otherwise might not have done so.  Imagine if these people eventually embrace following Jesus themselves, mature in faith, and make a difference in the world through their service, mission and giving.  Imagine how the people you invite to faith intermingle with the lives of countless other people you do not know.  The fruit in your life multiplies in unseen and unknowable ways when we offer God's love.  The grace of God is replicated, repeated, and shared.  Seeds are scattered, some take root and bear fruit in ways beyond what we can comprehend.

-- Robert Schnase in “Five Practices of Fruitful Living”


Tuesday, January 30, 2018


“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV)

When you blow it, God still celebrates His Son in you. The litmus test of whether or not you understand the gospel is what you do when you fail. Do you run from Him and go clean yourself up a little bit before you come back into the throne room? Or do you approach the throne of grace with confidence? If you don't approach the throne of grace with confidence, you don't understand the gospel.

-- Matt Chandler


Monday, January 29, 2018


Jesus told a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.  (Luke 10:30-36 NLT)

We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need -- regardless of race, politics, class, and religion -- is your neighbor.  Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor.

-- Timothy Keller in “Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just”


Friday, January 26, 2018


“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27 NIV)

Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.

God does not want us to live in worry or fear. He wants us to live with bold confidence in His power. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) In the Bible, we see a pattern in which God rarely sends people into situations where their comfort level is high. Rather He promises to be with them in their fear. It is God’s presence -- not comfortable circumstances -- that brings people to the best version of themselves.

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


Thursday, January 25, 2018


“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5b NKJV)

We don’t like to admit it, but pain is a fact of life. Sooner or later the “p” word comes into everyone’s path. And when it does how do you deal with it? Do you let pain conquer your spirit, or do you stare it down, armed with a “stubborn joy”? Even in pain God is near. He wants you to grasp the peace that defies pain. He wants to be with you, facing pain with His holy joy. Only He can show you the path to a defiant peace…

Jesus embodied a stubborn joy. A joy that refused to bend in the wind of hard times. A joy that held its ground against pain. A joy whose roots extended deep into the bedrock of eternity.

-- Max Lucado in “Peace That Defies Pain”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Affliction is particularly effective in helping us reevaluate our priorities.  When Thomas Chalmers became pastor of the church at Kilmany, Scotland in 1803, he was a young man of twenty-three with little real interest in religion.  He had taken the parish primarily so that he could also teach mathematics and astronomy.

As time went by, Chalmers neglected sermon preparation and the care of his people.  The church went into steady and precipitous decline.  After several years he was stricken with a serious illness.  For four months he was unable to leave his sick room, and for almost a year he did not preach.  Slowly he came to realize that his view of Christianity as simply an ethical system was not sufficient to see him through this valley of the shadow of death.  There in the lonely place of his illness he faced himself and the shallowness of his beliefs, until he experienced a dramatic religious conversion.

In the years that followed, Chalmers became the most powerful preacher in Scotland.  And with it, he came to have a compelling social conscience.  The finest pulpits in Scotland were available to him, but he also chose to minister to the poorest of the population in special services on a tanner's second story.  A century later Lord Roseberry said of him, "An illness lifted him into a higher sphere, and he soared aloft."  Illness can do that to us, because it helps us get our values in order.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “If Experience Is Such a Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course?”


Tuesday, January 23, 2018


“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were sojourners and aliens on the earth.”  (Hebrews 11:13)

God does not always provide and care for us in ways we might expect in this life. The Bible does not promise this. Peter, James, John, and Paul gave their very lives for the gospel. They viewed the gospel as a treasure not to be lost at any cost. They suffered gladly because they had something in the gospel that had far more worth.

This life is fleeting. This life is fragile. This life is but a vapor’s breath. The next life, the age to come, is where all God’s provision and care for us will ultimately make sense and come together as a whole.

We may not receive healing in this life, but we will receive perfect healing in eternity. We may not see answers to our greatest prayers in this life, but we will receive fully in eternity. Some days God’s provision and care may seem distant, but it will be ever-present in eternity. We long for our world to stop raging and be at peace, but ultimate peace will only come in eternity.

Our hearts ache under the pressures of this life, but it is only because we were made for another world. We are sojourners and aliens on this earth.

-- Matt Brown in an article entitled “Four Truths About God’s Provision"


Monday, January 22, 2018


“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  NIV)

The Israelites escaped captivity in Egypt only to face the challenges of the desert. One of the biggest challenges for such a large group of nomads was enough food to eat. Over and over again God provided supernaturally for His people. If God could provide for many thousands of Israelites in the middle of a desert, He can surely provide for you and your family’s needs. One of the precious testimonies of Scripture is, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or His children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25).

But even with God’s supernatural provision, the Israelites still complained and grumbled in the desert. They longed for the food they left behind in Egypt. God was literally providing bread from heaven -- enough for each day -- but they wanted His provision a different way. They wanted it their own way.

Ask God to provide for you in whatever way He deems fit. Don’t grumble against God’s supernatural, unexpected ways.

-- Matt Brown in an article entitled “Four Truths About God’s Provision”


Friday, January 19, 2018


“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7 RSV)

Whatever is worrying you right now, give it to Jesus and trust Him to take care of it. Let His peace replace your worry.

-- Billy Graham in “Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith”


Thursday, January 18, 2018


In biblical terms, the sanctity of human life is rooted and grounded in creation. Humankind is not viewed as a cosmic accident but as the product of a carefully executed creation by an eternal God. “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;…” (Psalm 113:13,14a NIV) Human dignity is derived from God. A human being is a finite, dependent, contingent creature, assigned a high value by our Creator.

The creation account in Genesis provides the framework for human dignity: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make humankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26–27 NRSV).

Creation in the image of God is what sets humans apart from all other creatures. The stamp of the image and likeness of God connects God and humankind uniquely.

-- adapted from R.C. Sproul, the blog


Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20 NRSV)

We come into worship in a variety of mental and emotional states and with a myriad of things on our minds. It is impossible for us to check our brains at the door when we enter the sanctuary, and ill-advised even if we could. What we can do is acknowledge our state before God, whatever it is, then offer to God whatever concerns and distractions may keep us from worshipping God in this hour. Then we can pray for a strong and powerful experience in the service.

Because we bring to worship our different types of spirituality, those acts and experiences of worship that will aid us in our search for God in worship will vary from person to person. However, Christ has promised to be here among us “where two or three are gathered in My name.” Our prayer is not that God will come and be present, for we trust in God’s promise. Rather, our prayer is that we may be open to God’s expression in this particular service on this particular day.

-- M. Anne Burnette Hook in “Grace Notes: Spirituality and the Choir”


Tuesday, January 16, 2018


“…I will show you my faith by my deeds.”  (James 2:18b NIV)

Actions speak louder than words in the spiritual world... Jesus tells a parable about a man with two sons. He asks the first to do something for him. He asks the second to do the same. The first son says he won't do it, but then later does. The second son say he will do it, and then later on does not.

There are many reasons why doing is more important than saying. One is because of the very nature of words themselves. Words can be tricky. It's possible to misunderstand them...

Another reason that doing is more important than saying is because it's possible to say all sorts of stuff and really not mean it...

Frederick Buechner once said that if you want to know who you are, as opposed to who you like to think you are, watch where your feet take you. I think he said this because he knows this same truth: the feet don't lie about who we are, because the feet are involved in what we do, not just what we say.

Watch where your feet take you. Take some time to assess not just who you say that you are, but also who you are through what you do. Maybe it's time to recommit your life to not just saying for Christ, but also doing for Christ as well?

-- Copyright Eric Folkerth 1999. All Rights Reserved. (Used with Permission)


Monday, January 15, 2018


Why am I a thousand-piece puzzle when everyone else is already put together?… Who am I now? Who am I, now that my loved one has died? …

All I seem to see are the scattered pieces of my life cast before me on the card table, waiting for me to pick them up and make the picture. But what picture do all these pieces form? I used to think I knew. I used to know who I was and where I was going and how I was going to get there. But now… I can't even remember where the puzzle begins and I end….

Am I still a mother if there is no child to tuck in at night? Am I still a dad if there is no one to loan the car keys to? Am I still a wife if there is no one to snuggle up to in my bed? Am I still a husband if there is no one waiting at home for me at the end of the day? Am I still a sister or brother if there is no one to tease? Am I still a child if my parent has died? Am I still a human being, capable of loving and being loved, if the one person I loved more than anything has become frozen in time? Who am I now that my loved one has died?…

Keep turning the puzzle pieces over. But don't keep trying to put them back into the same picture. That picture is gone. There is a new picture to be made of those scattered pieces. Search for that scene. Search for the new you... search for the new person you are becoming…

There is joy in living… if we allow time… to reassemble the thousand-piece puzzle.

-- Darcie D. Sims in TCF Salt Lake City January/February 2001 Newsletter


Friday, January 12, 2018


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;…”  (Psalm 23:4a ESV)

One of the greatest gifts we can give people is the hope that their death is nothing to fear - you know, not that it has no fear in it, but the promise of scripture is that God will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.

-- Max Lucado


Thursday, January 11, 2018


Rabbi Harold Kushner had a story I found thought provoking.  It is quoted in Thomas L. Friedman's book, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”.  Since Friedman didn't reference it, I assume it can be shared.  At least, it's worth a try: There was a village where people were afflicted with strange plagues of forgetfulness, a kind of contagious amnesia.  Starting with the oldest inhabitants and working its way through the population, the plague causes people to forget the names of even the most common everyday objects.  One young man, still unaffected, tries to limit the damage by putting labels on everything.  "This is a table," "This is a window", "This is a cow; it has to be milked every morning".  And at the entrance to the town on the main road, he put up two large signs.  One reads, "The name of our village is Macondo," and the larger one reads, "God exists."

Friedman says, "The message is clear.   We can and probably will forget most of what we have learned in life -- the math, the history, the chemical formulas, the addresses and phone numbers of the first house we lived in when we got married -- and all that forgetting will do us no harm.  But if we forget that there is a God, something profoundly human in us will be lost."

--  U.M. Bishop William B. Oden in “The North Texas United Methodist Reporter”  November 3, 2000


Wednesday, January 10, 2018


“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  (Psalm 139:13 NIV)

Think about how God knit you together in your mother's womb. Our Father uses such a tender illustration of how He lovingly, and carefully created our being. He could have blasted us together, or snapped His fingers and we would have appeared, but He chose a more delicate process in which He could be intimately involved as He formed us in our mother’s womb... knit one, pearl two, knit one, pearl two.

Stitch by stitch, loop by loop, each one of our parts was delicately and carefully crafted by Almighty God. Your life is not the product of an impersonal evolution, but the result of a loving Father, who planned your creation before the foundations of the world, and took the time to knit you together in your mother's womb. You are a masterpiece, and your very existence brings much joy to your Father's heart.

-- Barry Adams in “Father's Love Letter”


Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Jesus ask His disciples, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”  (Matthew 20:22)

Each of our life choices, decisions, and actions involves some consequences. Something will happen because of what we think, say, and do. These consequences may bring gladness, but they also may bring sadness. For example, if we choose to love someone deeply, we must be willing to accept that our heart’s investment may cost us loneliness and heartache. We will be challenged to accept that person’s weaknesses as well as that person’s strengths. We may bear deep sorrow if they die or if they choose to leave us without our consent.

Every investment has a consequence. Those who have children know the gift of those wonderful beings, but they also know the tremendous sacrifices involved. Physicians know the satisfaction of helping a patient heal, but they also pay the price of long, intense hours of work that often infringe on their family life. For myself as a writer, I love the “glory” of seeing words come together, but I must also accept the pain of the writing process -- loneliness, editing, deadlines, and vulnerability. At some time or other, we all have to face the question that Jesus asked His disciples. We ought not to run from the question because it contains within it the seed of spiritual growth.

-- Joyce Rupp in “The Cup of Our Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth”


Monday, January 8, 2018


O God, You are my God,
    and I long for You.
My whole being desires You;
    like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land,
    my soul is thirsty for You.”  (Psalm 63:1 GNT)

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.

-- A. W. Tozer in “The Pursuit of God


Friday, January 5, 2018


“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  (Colossians 4:2 NIV)

Prayer is an effort of the will. After we have entered our secret place and have shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is to pray; we cannot get our minds into working order, and the first thing that conflicts is wandering thoughts… We must have a settled place for prayer, and when we get there, the plague of flies begins -- this must be done, that must be done.

-- Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest”


Thursday, January 4, 2018


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The future is always uncertain in human terms. But there is a God who knows the future and holds the future. He makes a promise to those who seek and follow Him. He holds a promise out for us, a promise He desires for us to accept and cling to, "For I know the plans I have for you," says God in the Bible.

How do I find that hope? In the person of Jesus Christ, who offers all who receive Him a future, even an eternity, that is certain: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:19)

-- Author Unknown


Wednesday, January 3, 2018


“You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” (Psalm 73:24 NLT)

When a steamship enters the harbor and seeks to dock, they call for a "pilot" to come aboard and steer the vessel to port...

We have all seen pictures of beautiful luxury liners steaming into New York harbor. They are splendid, gleaming, smooth, and self-sufficient -- until they get close to land. Then tiny little tugboats come alongside and gently nudge them toward the dock. These tiny boats ease them in the right direction so that their docking is safe and secure.

These ships are no less magnificent because they accepted help from a friendly little tugboat. We are no less magnificent if we, too, accept a helping hand [when we are in physical, emotional or spiritual need.]

-- Ted Menten in “After Goodbye”


Tuesday, January 2, 2018


“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well… places with names like trust and hope and faith.

-- Parker J. Palmer