Friday, March 30, 2018


For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NRSV) We are the guilty parties who should have hung on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And indeed, our deaths would have satisfied the need for justice -- the guilty would have been punished. But God’s love also needed to be satisfied. His love was compelled to extend forgiveness and make possible an eternal relationship between humans and their Creator. Only a sinless substitute, Jesus the Son of God, could accomplish that.

The Apostle Paul explains it this way: “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)

Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice fulfills a prophecy that Isaiah uttered some 800 years earlier: “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b NKJV)

Theologians have often referred to this as Jesus’ “vicarious” suffering; that is, He suffered in our place. As our substitute, He took the punishment that we deserved.

-- Clinton E. Arnold in an article entitled “The Ultimate Sacrifice” in Discipleship Journal, Sep/Oct 2006


Thursday, March 29, 2018


NOTE: Today, March 29, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of our SOUND BITES Ministry™.  It was begun in 1999 in memory of my son, Dustin, who had died on March 29, 1998 -- now 20 years ago. As we continue to move through Holy Week, I would invite you to share how God has used SOUND BITES to minister to you… and invite you to share SOUND BITES with others, inviting them to subscribe. Thank you for your support over the years. -- Rev. Dave Wilkinson


“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  (Mark 14:26 NKJV)

How fitting that on this very night Christ, the coming King, would give voice to songs penned centuries earlier just for Him… Imagine the Son of God singing these words as the seconds ticked toward the cross… “The Lord is with Me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?... The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Whatever Christ sang as the Passover meal concluded that night, the words had significance for Him that the others never comprehended. I wonder if His voice quivered with emotion. Or did He sing with exultation? Perhaps He did both, just as you and I have done at terribly bittersweet moments when our faith exults while our sight weeps. One thing we know: Christ, above all others, knew He was singing more than words. That night He sang the score of His destiny.

-- Beth Moore in “Jesus, the One and Only”


Wednesday, March 28, 2018


“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV)

Jesus Christ evokes many images in the minds of people. Some picture Him as a baby in the manger -- the Christ of Christmas. Others picture Him as a child, perhaps living in the home of a carpenter or confounding the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Many picture Him as a compassionate and powerful healer who restored the sick and raised the dead. Still others picture a bold and fiery preacher speaking the Word of God to great crowds. And there are those who see Him as the consummate man -- a model of goodness, kindness, sympathy, concern, care, tenderness, forgiveness, wisdom, and understanding.

Yet one image of Christ that surpasses all the rest is Jesus Christ on the cross. To know Christ crucified is to know Him as the author and finisher of your faith -- the truest picture of His person and work.

Christ’s suffering on the cross is the focal point of the Christian faith. That’s where His deity, humanity, work, and suffering are most clearly seen.

-- John MacArthur in “Truth for Today”


Tuesday, March 27, 2018


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

Can a holy God overlook our mistakes? Can a kind God punish our mistakes?

From our perspective there are only two equally unappealing solutions. But from God’s perspective there is a third. It’s called “the Cross of Christ.”…

Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no further than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal -- the other vertical. One reaches out -- like God’s love. The other reaches up -- as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.

-- Max Lucado in “He Chose the Nails”


Monday, March 26, 2018


“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

“Suffered.” This word carries not only the everyday meaning of bearing pain, but also the older and wider sense of being the object affected by someone else’s action. The Latin is ‘passus’, whence comes the noun “passion.” Both God and men were agents of Jesus’s passion: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, from Peter’s sermon). God’s purpose at the cross was as real as was the guilt of the crucifers.

What was God’s purpose? Judgment on sin, for the sake of mercy to sinners. The miscarrying of human justice was the doing of divine justice. Jesus knew on the cross all the pain, physical and mental, that man could inflict and also the divine wrath and rejection that my sins deserve; for He was there in my place, making atonement for me. “All we like sheep have gone astray… and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

-- J.I. Packer, quoted in “His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection”


Friday, March 23, 2018


“It is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name.”  (Luke 24:46-47)

Jesus of Nazareth had a magnificent obsession: the cross. Painful and anguishing though it was, He found Himself consumed by a compelling sense of Divine providence, and each day of His adult life drew Him inexorably closer to the fulfillment of His mission.

Jesus was not a helpless victim of fate; He was not a pitiful martyr… His death on the cross was no afterthought on God’s part but rather, the fulfillment of the Father’s predetermined plan for His Son.

-- Charles Swindoll in “Bedside Blessings”


Thursday, March 22, 2018


To be fully known and fully loved is the most healing gift one human being can give another. James writes, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) We are all forgiven, recovering sinners, and no one can be secure in a relationship if they are loved only because they are smart, pretty, strong, or successful. Sin isolates us, and sin and isolation will make us sick in our soul and even our body. Confession and then prayer, connectedness to each other and to God, ushers in the Spirit and helps bring healing.

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


Wednesday, March 21, 2018


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  (Matthew 23:27 NIV)

Above all else, the Christian life is a love affair of the heart. It cannot be lived primarily as a set of principles or ethics. It cannot be managed with steps and programs. It cannot be lived exclusively as a moral code leading to righteousness…

The truth of the Gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled, or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.

The religious technocrats of Jesus’ day confronted Him with what they believed were the standards of a life pleasing to God. The external life, they argued, the life of ought and duty and service, was what mattered. “You’re dead wrong,” Jesus said. “In fact, you’re just plain dead [whitewashed tombs]. What God cares about is the inner life, the life of the heart.” (Matthew 23:25-28) Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the life of the heart is clearly God’s central concern…

Our heart is the key to the Christian life.

-- Brent Curtis and John Eldredge in “The Sacred Romance”


Tuesday, March 20, 2018


In the Gospels God spoke through His son -- Jesus… The disciples would have been foolish to say, “It’s wonderful knowing You, Jesus; but we really would like to know the Father.”

Philip even said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8)

Jesus responded, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.” (Jon 14:9-10)  When Jesus spoke, the Father was speaking through Him. When Jesus did a miracle, the Father was doing His work through Jesus.

Just as surely as Moses was face-to-face with God at the burning bush, the disciples were face-to-face with God  in a personal relationship with Jesus. Their encounter with Jesus was an encounter with God. To hear from Jesus was to hear from God.

-- Henry Blackaby and Claude King, quoted in “His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection”


Monday, March 19, 2018


Jesus was never one to let danger or the threat of discomfort keep Him from doing the right thing. In fact, that’s how He ended up on earth in the first place! Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.”

I love the phrase “He made Himself nothing.” Do you realize how rare that is? The average person in our me-first world can’t even begin to grasp the concept. We’re programmed to defend our interests, fight for our rights, and pursue our own agendas -- and then scream bloody murder if someone gets in our way.

But Jesus made Himself nothing. He put other people’s needs ahead of His own. He fought for other people’s rights, while allowing His enemies to walk all over His. And the only agenda He ever pursued was the one that was going to open the door to Heaven for pathetic sinners like you and me.

-- Mark Atteberry in “Free Refill: Coming Back for More of Jesus"


Friday, March 16, 2018


“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”   (John 20:31)

It is true, there are people who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior, among them some of the world’s greatest scholars. But I am appalled when I talk to many of these people of learning about Christ, for I discover that almost always they are ignorant of the basic truths of the Gospel… You would be amazed to discover that inevitably these people are taking issue with something that they do not fully understand. They have erected ‘straw men’, and have proceeded to destroy their own creation.

I have yet to meet anyone who has honestly considered the overwhelming evidence concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who does not admit that He is the Son of God. Now, as I have said, I meet some who do not believe, but as we have talked and reasoned together, they have been honest in confessing, “I have not taken the time to read the Bible or consider the historical facts concerning Jesus.” Their resentment has been based upon an unfortunate childhood experience, upon the inconsistency of some Christian or perhaps the influence of a college professor; but always they have admitted that they have not honestly considered the person of Jesus Christ and His claims on their lives.

-- William R. Bright in “An Introduction to the Ten Basic Steps Toward Christian Maturity”


Thursday, March 15, 2018


My college roommate, Steve, was neat. Not just neat in the sense of a lot of fun but neat in the sense of not sloppy. I on the other hand, tend to be sloppy. Why make up a bed you’re going to sleep in that night? Steve was very gracious. Little by little he helped me change. I learned the purpose of hangers. The reason for toothpaste lids. Our four years of rooming together were four years of regular repentance. Then he turned me over to [my wife] Denalyn and she’s still working on me.

The same thing happens to Christians. As Christ moves in and takes up residence in one’s life, the Christian sees how sloppy he is. Over time, his language changes. His habits change. He lives a lifestyle of repentance. The longer we hang out with Jesus, the more we see what needs to change. Repentance becomes a lifestyle!

-- Max Lucado in “Max on Life”


Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Jesus told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  (Luke 24:46-47 NIV)

Repenting of our sin is never despairing of our sin; it is always done in hope. Guilt may be an important stop on the journey, but it is never meant as the end of the line. We get our car checked by a mechanic, not so we can blame the car, but so it can get fixed.

Repenting is a gift God gives us for our own sake, not His. Repenting does not increase God’s desire to be with us. It increases our capacity to be with Him….

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


Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Jesus said, “There are many rooms in My Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.”  (John 14:2 NLT)

Soon Jesus would die on the cross, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, leaving His disciples on earth. To help prepare them for life without Him, Jesus explained that He would be going to His Father in heaven and would be preparing a place for them there. He also promised to return.

His disciples were confused, not really believing that Jesus would have to die, not realizing that He would come back to life, and thus not understanding at all what He meant by going to the Father and “preparing a place” for them.

But we have the perspective of history. We know that Jesus died on the cross. And we know that He rose from the grave and later ascended into heaven. Thus, we can be confident that He is there now preparing for us.

What a great promise! If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, your future is secure -- He has a place for you in the “Father’s house.” No one can stop you; nothing can deter you; no one can steal your hope… because Jesus has promised.

And He’s coming back to take you there.

-- Dave Veerman, as quoted in “His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection”


Monday, March 12, 2018


“The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet… Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before Him. The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him,…”  (Nahum 1:3, 6-7 NIV)

Although our God is caring and compassionate, holiness cannot tolerate wrongdoing and evil. They simply cannot coexist. God’s indignation at evil is consuming and complete.

God’s anger with us is assuaged in Christ Jesus, yet we still are asked to be holy because God is holy (see 1 Peter 1:16).

Is there anything in your life, past or present, that cannot dwell alongside God’s holiness? Is there anything for which you need to ask forgiveness?

As an act of confession, list your wrongdoings. Confess them to the Lord who “protects those who take refuge in Him.”  Roll up that piece of paper, and throw it away or burn it. Experience the joy that comes from letting God cleanse you from all your sin.

-- From “The Meeting God Bible (NRSV): Growing in Intimacy with God Through Scripture”


Friday, March 9, 2018


“So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son.”  (John 1:14 NLT)

The cross of Christ uniquely reveals not a God who is disengaged from the human scene but a God who is right in the middle of our struggles. This is not the mystical notion of retreating from the real world through self-renunciation or good works. This is not the polytheistic notion of a pantheon of gods whose lives so transcend this earthly domain that they sip their nectar beside lotus flowers. This is the very incarnation, the embodiment of God Himself in His Son, willingly given for you and me. This is the kind of God who loves us.

-- Ravi Zacharias


Thursday, March 8, 2018


“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31b NIV)

Journalist William Zinsser’s first job was writing for the Buffalo News. Traditionally cub reporters often start by writing obituaries, but Zinsser was frustrated with his assignment. I could be doing Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting, he thought to himself, and I’m stuck writing obituaries. Writers don’t win Pulitzers for obituaries. Finally he worked up enough courage and asked his editor, “When am I going to get some decent story assignments?”

“Listen, kid!” his crusty old editor growled at him. “Nothing you write will ever get read as carefully as what you are writing right now. You misspell a word, you mess up a date, and a family will be hurt. But you do justice to somebody’s grandmother, to somebody’s mom, you make a life sing, and they will be grateful forever. They will put your words in laminate.”

Things changed.

“I pledged I would make the extra calls,” Zinsser said. “I would ask the extra questions. I would go the extra mile.”

That is essentially from the Sermon on the Mount -- write obituaries for others as you would want others to write an obituary for you -- obituaries that deserved to be laminated -- because someday, somebody will. Zinsser eventually moved on to other kinds of writing, including a book on writing itself that has sold more than a million copies. But none of it would have happened if he had not devoted himself to obituaries.

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


Wednesday, March 7, 2018


“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…” (Psalm 23:2-3a NKJV)

In the Christian life it is more than passing significance to observe that those who are most serene, most confident, and most able to cope with life’s complexities often are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word. It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day. This is much more than mere figure of speech. It is practical reality. The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quiet time” of each morning. There, alone, still, waiting for the Master’s voice, one is led gently to the place where, as the old hymn puts it, “The still dews of His spirit can be dropped into my life and soul.”

-- W. Phillip Keller, as quoted in “In This Quiet Place: Discovering the Pleasures of Prayer”


Tuesday, March 6, 2018


“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,…”  (Ephesians 2:8 NRSV)

God’s judgment has never been a problem for me. In fact, it always seemed right. Lightning bolts on Sodom. Fire on Gomorrah. Good job, God. Egyptians swallowed in the Red Sea. They had it coming.

Discipline is easy for me to swallow. Logical to assimilate. Manageable and appropriate. But God’s grace? Anything but.

Examples? How much time do you have? David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur, but by God’s grace becomes David the psalmist again. The thief on the cross: hell-bent and hung-out-to-die one minute, heaven-bound and smiling the next. Story after story. Prayer after prayer. Surprise after surprise…

I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it… Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you. Search.

You won’t find it.

-- Max Lucado in “When God Whispers Your Name”


Monday, March 5, 2018


“In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1)

Why is there something rather than nothing? When you think about it, there's nothing that says that it has to be. If you start with that question, then I think the very next question becomes, Is this kind of world more likely to have happened by accident or by design?… It's amazing that we wouldn't for a minute look at objects of everyday life -- the television in our room or a vase on the table -- and say, how did that come about? We know it came about because of some kind of intelligence and some kind of design by a person or a committee of persons. But when it comes to this unbelievable universe, we can be talked into thinking that it could have happened by chance.

The creation of the universe is absolutely amazing, from my point of view, and that's a bias probably because I'm a physician. I find that the human body is even in some ways more amazing. And when you get down to the structure of DNA and the brain, in particular, it turns out to be the most amazing structure that we could ever possibly imagine.

To give you one little example -- the compacting ability of DNA. All the information needed to run each of us weighs less than a few trillionths of a gram. And here's another little factoid that just blows my mind. If we were to collect all of the information in DNA for all the organisms that have ever existed on this planet, it could fit into the size of a grain of salt.

-- Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC News Medical Editor, in an interview in Christianity Today, May 24, 2004


Friday, March 2, 2018


Because Billy Graham realized the power didn't come from him but came through him, he didn't feel obligated to overreach with his methods.

Jack Hayford, himself a powerful preacher, observed, "Billy Graham reveals a remarkable absence of the superficial, of hype, or of pandering to the crowd. His communication consistently avoids exaggeration or 'slick' remarks. There's never been anything cutesy or clever about his style. There are no grandiose claims or stunts employed to attract attention. Graham merely bows in prayer while seekers come forward -- moved by God, not a manipulative appeal."

That confidence in the power of the message frees the leader from having to work over-hard on presentation techniques to convince the hearers. When a basketball player is not in a position to take a shot but puts it up anyway, coaches call it "forcing the shot."

Forced shots are usually ineffective. Coaches will tell players to wait until they're in a good position, then the shot has a better chance of success. Likewise, people can sense that efforts are forced when a leader isn't convinced his message has spiritual power.

Because Billy was well connected to his continuous voltage, he knew where the power came from. He simply made himself available to receive it.

-- Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley in “Christianity Today”


Thursday, March 1, 2018


I love John 4:28. It says that after talking with Jesus, the woman [at the well] “left her water jar beside the well” and headed back toward town. Have you ever had an unexpected encounter so world-shaking that it caused you to forget  what you were doing? I can picture Jesus noticing the forgotten water jar and smiling at its symbolism. She’d not only brought an empty water jar to the well, she’d brought an empty life. And she was leaving them both behind.

I also love the stir this woman created when she got back to town. Keep in mind, she wouldn’t have been a popular figure. People would have distanced themselves from her. But on this day her message was so intriguing and her enthusiasm so contagious that even her harshest critics were filled with curiosity. “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did!” she said (John 4:29).

And they did. Followed her out to the well as if she were the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Such is the power of a changed life.

-- Mark Atteberry in “Free Refill: Coming Back for More of Jesus”