Wednesday, July 31, 2019


“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2 NLT)

We may discover a lot of junk in the basements of our inner selves. Old wounds, past losses, and shameful deeds may lie covered, out of sight most of the time but still bothersome. A good housecleaning may be needed -- not just the living room but the basement as well; not just tidying up a bit but getting rid of accumulated stuff.

Unrepented-of sin prevents us from welcoming Christ into the center of our being. Harmful attitudes and behaviors can obscure the grace of God for us. “Metanoia” in Greek, “repentance” in English, means a change of mind, a new mental state. We exchange the self-centered mind for the power of the Spirit to free us from harmful practices and attachments.

--  J. David Muyskens in “Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer”


Tuesday, July 30, 2019


“But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor Him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16a GNT)

"Do you, as the way opens, share Christ with people who do not know Christ?  Do you witness to your faith by letting your life speak?"  These questions, adapted from a Quaker covenant, remind us of the gentleness, simplicity, and persistence that underlies effective invitation.  Many people with no church home are respectful, curious, and open to spirituality in general.  Others are hostile, resentful, or suspicious of religion, perceiving church people to be offensive and hurtful.

Even people who are not particularly open to church are nevertheless open to their friends, and to the experiences that their friends value.  The most concrete and personal way God reaches out to invite people into faith is through friends who invite friends.

Most people who have no church have at least one friend who practices the faith, and that person provides the most likely pathway to the spiritual journey.  Are you that person?

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


Monday, July 29, 2019


“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road -- the desert road -- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch,… This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him… Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”  (Excerpts from Acts 8:26-35 NIV)

My life is in your hands, Lord.  Like Philip, use me to point someone toward You today -- I promise to cooperate in any way I can.  If you want me to say a word for You today, by Your Spirit’s guidance I will.  If you want me to keep quiet but demonstrate love and servanthood, by Your Spirit's power I will.  I'm fully available to You today, so guide me and empower me by Your Spirit to share the good news of Your great love.

-- Adapted


Friday, July 26, 2019


“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”  (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

When I was a kid, we lived in a rural community that specialized in growing tobacco. My first summer job was weeding the crop, and most of the time we would walk the seemingly endless rows with a hoe, scuffing out weeds in relative comfort. But inevitably when we got close to the fence, we ran into thistles -- hundreds and hundreds of little thistles. They looked harmless enough, but you couldn't scuff them out with a hoe; you had to get down on your knees and pull those prickly little things out by the roots. We often thought it would be far easier to just let them stay there. After all, they weren't very big. But the farmer knew if we left them until harvest time, when we reached down to get a handful of tobacco, we would come away with a palm full of thorns.

I have found that in life, bitterness is a lot like those little thistles. We can push away hurts and pains, but the only way to get rid of bitterness is to fall to our knees and root it out through prayer. It is hard work, but if we leave a little bitterness in our hearts, it grows until it does real damage to us.

-- Alan Beck


Thursday, July 25, 2019


“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."  (1 Peter 2:16 ESV)

I'll never forget the day I came in, flashed my newly acquired [driver’s license], and said, "Dad, look!" He goes, "Whoa! Look at this. You got your license. Good for you!" Holding the keys to his car, he tossed them in my direction and smiled, "Tell you what, son . . . you can have the car for two hours, all on your own." Only four words, but how wonderful: "All on your own."

I thanked him, danced out to the garage, opened the car door, and shoved the key into the ignition. My pulse rate must have shot up to 180 as I backed out of the driveway and roared off. While cruising along "all on my own," I began to think wild stuff—like, This car can probably do 100 miles an hour. I could go to Galveston and back twice in two hours if I averaged 100 miles an hour. I can fly down the Gulf Freeway and even run a few lights. After all, nobody's here to say, "Don't!" We're talking dangerous, crazy thoughts! But you know what? I didn't do any of them. I don't believe I drove above the speed limit. In fact, I distinctly remember turning into the driveway early . . . didn't even stay away the full two hours. Amazing, huh? I had my dad's car all to myself with a full gas tank in a context of total privacy and freedom, but I didn't go crazy. Why? My relationship with my dad and my granddad was so strong that I couldn't, even though I had a license and nobody was in the car to restrain me. Over a period of time there had developed a sense of trust, a deep love relationship that held me in restraint.

-- Charles Swindoll in “The Grace Awakening”


Wednesday, July 24, 2019


"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  (Psalm 23:4 NIV)

When life caves in, you do not need reasons, you need comfort. You do not need some answers, you need someone. And Jesus does not come to us with an explanation... He comes to us with His presence.

-- Bob Benson


Tuesday, July 23, 2019


"Come, follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people."  (Matthew 4:19 NRSV)

There was a woman in one of the churches I pastored who, it seemed to me, was always picking on me.  She seemed sure that her young pastor was unable to do anything just the way it should be done.  One day she lectured me about the way I did funerals.  She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I had better make the gospel exceedingly clear in my funeral sermons, because she had friends and relatives who would be at her funeral who might never hear the gospel if they did not hear it at her funeral.  I didn't mean to be offensive as I blurted out, "Mrs. Jones, don't blame me for that."

We all have responsibilities to carry out God's call to witness and to serve.  And we had better get on with responding to that call right away.  Whether it be death or the sound of the trumpet that heralds His coming, there will be an end to the time that we have available to address those urgent concerns.

-- Tony Campolo in “Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God”


Monday, July 22, 2019


“Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’"  (Acts 3:4-6)

As I thought about our church and the many other churches within our community I wondered, what we can actually offer. Most churches do not have the financial and material resources that most unemployed people need – such as housing, food, utilities, jobs, and medical resources. But I was reminded once again of what the church DOES have. Churches DO have Jesus! And Jesus is who people really need. Jesus can bring people into a relationship with Almighty God who Himself owns all the resources on a thousand hills. And He’s the One the church can offer to the community. The church’s mission is to introduce people to JESUS.

Scripture says “My GOD shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory IN CHRIST JESUS.” (Philippians 4:19) Only Jesus can truly satisfy the emptiness in the human heart. Only Jesus can forgive sins. Only Jesus can encourage us by His abiding presence in overcoming fear. There is no better way to encourage someone than to tell them about Christ and His love.

-- Michael W. Bilsza, excerpted from a letter to the editor in the Coshocton Beacon


Friday, July 19, 2019


“I pray that… out of His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strengthening of His Holy Spirit. I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God Himself.”  (Ephesians 3:15-19 TLB)

Only God can give us a selfless love for others, as the Holy Spirit changes us from within. This is one reason we must receive Christ, for apart from His Spirit we can never be freed from the chains of selfishness, jealousy, and indifference. Will others see Christ's love in your life today?

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


Thursday, July 18, 2019


“But in your hearts revere Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Lord, my prayer is that I might be a light for Christ somewhere today and every day, so that someone might say, “Tell me about Jesus.”


Wednesday, July 17, 2019


When I think of the essence of [the Christian witness], I always think of the blind man that Jesus healed by covering his eyes with mud and telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:1-34). When the religious leaders got wind of it, they started to question the man extensively -- wanting to know who healed him, how it happened, where the man who healed him was now, and even asking his parents to verify whether their son was in fact born blind. When they came back to the man and pressed him with questions a second time, accusing Jesus of being a sinner for doing work on the Sabbath, the man replied, “I don't know whether He is a sinner… But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” (John 9:25 NLT)

That's the essence of the message: “I was blind, and now I can see; I was lost and now I am found; I was guilty and now I'm forgiven; I was alone and now I have a friend.” It doesn't take a perfect life to spread that message -- just someone who has had an eye-opening encounter with the living Christ. Regardless of intellect, position, status or wealth, the message for everyone will come down to this: “I was blind, and now I can see.”

-- John Fischer in The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotionals, 6/21/05


Tuesday, July 16, 2019


“So you see, our love for [God] comes as a result of His loving us first.”  (1 John 4:19 TLB)

The Bible is about you.  You can learn a tremendous amount about who you are, where you fit into the great plan, and how God wants you to lead your life.  In a sense, you were there as a slave in Egypt, and God rescued you (the book of Exodus).  You were there among the people who acted as though God was not their King and committed terrible atrocities because "everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 21:25).  You were there at the Cross mocking Jesus, and you were there weeping and embracing Him when He rose from the grave.  In a sense, the whole story is about a loving God pursuing you.

-- Karen Lee-Thorp in “A Compact Guide to the Bible”


Monday, July 15, 2019


“Those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” God's Spirit joins Himself to our spirits to declare that we are God's children.”  (Romans 8:14-16 GNT)

God has called us to join the family gathering and enjoy the benefits of that relationship. There are things God does in, for, and through His family that He does nowhere else! We, therefore, are not living life alone. Just as biological families must interact and spend significant time together, so our spiritual family must walk together in love. In God’s family we will receive strength, encouragement, and much-needed fellowship. We will grow in wisdom and maturity as we benefit from those who have walked with God for many years. We will find security in the family’s watchful care over our life and respond to its comfort and accountability. More than anything else, God our Father manifests His presence in special ways when two or three are gathered together (Matthew 18:20). When the family gathers, the Father is always present and active. He speaks to the family. He gives gifts in the family. He gives direction to the family. He gives His power to the family. Apart from God’s family a Christian will never be pleasing to the Father. When Christians are joined with the family, the Father is free to pour out His blessing into our lives, even as He continually does to all that are related to Him.

-- Henry Blackaby and Melvin D. Blackaby in “Experiencing God Together: God's Plan to Touch Your World”


Friday, July 12, 2019


Her name was Mrs. White, and she spoke passionately about her work among the desperate and poor in India. Retiring after a lifetime of service, she had a million stories to share. She showed some slides, read from scriptures, told some stories, and touched a lot of hearts. The speaking tour was a kind of valedictory , one last opportunity to spread the news and to raise consciousness about the amazing work of the church going on halfway around the world.

Many in the congregation that evening were inspired. They wrote checks, gathered information, renewed their personal enthusiasm for missions, and added the important legacy of the retired missionary to their ongoing commitment  in prayer. Some even felt led by the Holy Spirit to consider a calling to work overseas.

“Mrs. White,” one man said as he stood up during question time, ”you must love India very deeply. I’m sure you’re going to miss that part of the world now that you have returned to the United States. I know it’s going to be very hard for you.”

“Not at all,” she smiled ruefully. “I hated every minute of it. It is the filthiest, most corrupt place I have ever seen. The people I worked with were disease-ridden and desperate. The conditions were deplorable. I lost my husband and one child to that terrible place. If I never go back there this side of eternity, it will be one day too soon.”

The silence in the church was deafening. The congregation was stunned, and the man who asked the question just stood there with his mouth hanging open. Everyone wondered if the wiry old lady with a kick in her attitude had maybe lost her mind.

“But,” she continued, after a theatrical pause, “for the sake of the love of Jesus I would go back there tomorrow.”

Tears rolled down the elderly missionary’s sun-wrinkled cheeks, and she gripped the sides of the podium tightly. Mrs. White fairly glowed with the radiance of devotion.

It wasn’t humanitarianism that drove her life’s work; it wasn’t the lure or romanticism of oversees service; and it wasn’t even a deep, abiding affection for the people she served that had ripened and matured over time. It was Jesus whom she loved and served. A deep, authentic love for God gave real teeth to Mrs. White’s commitment to be a disciple, and this love moved her from contemplation out into the world.

-- Derek Maul in “Get Real: A Spiritual Journey for Men”


Thursday, July 11, 2019


I was running on a beach early one morning, discouraged by the lack of progress in my own life and feeling that I was still wrestling with the same selfishness and fear that I had many years ago. Because it was so early, the beach was deserted. Then I saw a man walking toward me -- a big old guy, bald as could be, wearing only a long pair of floral swimming trunks, great big paunch leading the way. He looked like Santa Claus on summer vacation.

I intended to just give him the jogger’s nod of acknowledgment and keep moving down the beach, but he was having none of that. Looking me right in the eye, he stuck his right arm all the way out to the side and silently held a huge hand in the air. He walked right up to me. He was insisting on a high five. The man had attitude. I smacked his hand with mine, and he gave me a nod of satisfaction, as if to say, “We’re connected now. It is good that we share this beach together. I am glad you are here.”

Immediately I had this thought – whether or not it is from God, only God knows: I am glad you are here. I am not neutral about your existence. This is a little picture of grace. Do not be discouraged, not even about your own failings.

To this day, every time I remember the man on the beach, I think about God.

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


Wednesday, July 10, 2019


"Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].”  (Philippians 4:6-7 Amplified Bible)

We sometimes fear to bring our troubles to God, because they must seem small to Him who sits on the circle of the earth. But if they are large enough to vex and endanger our welfare, they are large enough to touch His heart of love.

-- R. A. Torrey


Tuesday, July 9, 2019


“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

The Bible does not say you are God’s appliance; it says you are His masterpiece.  Appliances get mass-produced.  Masterpieces get hand-crafted.  God did not make you exactly like anyone else.  Therefore His plan for shaping you will not look like His plan for shaping anyone else.  If you try to follow a generic plan for spiritual growth, it will only frustrate you.  Paul said, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

John Ortberg in “The Me I Want To Be” 


Monday, July 8, 2019


"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Race highlights the fact that in our congregational life we usually do not reflect the variety of cultures.  There are Asian, West Indian, and Anglo-Saxon congregations worshiping and meeting close to each other.  These groups meet at work and in school, but not always in church.  If the church is middle-class and intellectual in the language of the services, in the music employed, in the life-style expected of Christians, in its leadership, and in the methods of presenting the gospel, then the whole atmosphere is such as to repel those who are not middle-class and intellectual.  They feel out of place and unwanted, even if they are given a friendly greeting at the door.

The life of the New Testament Church was evidence of the supernatural; God was in their midst.  The power of Christ was a reality.  The fellowship could not be explained in simple natural terms.  A church divided on social and racial lines is not evidence for the supernatural, but for the simply human and social.

-- David Bronnert in "The Gospel and Culture" in “The Changing World”


Tuesday, July 2, 2019


“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  (Psalm 23:1 NKJV)

What you have in your Shepherd is greater than what you don’t have in life.

May I meddle for a moment? What is the one thing separating you from joy? How do you fill in this blank: “I will be happy when _______________”? When I am healed. When I am promoted. When I am married. When I am single. When I am rich. How would you finish that statement?

Now with your answer firmly in hand, answer this. If your ship never comes in, if your dreams never come true, if the situation never changes, could you be happy? If not, then you are sleeping in the cold cell of discontentment. You are in prison. And you need to know what you have in your Shepherd.

You have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner, and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.

-- Max Lucado in “Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Meant to Bear -- The Promise of Psalm 23”


Monday, July 1, 2019


“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’"  (Isaiah 52:7 NIV)

When we are in the trenches of day to day work we can subtly share the good news of Jesus Christ. We share Him by the way we live, the dirty jokes we don't listen to or tell, and by the profanity that is absent from our speech. We practice the principles of Christianity and people begin to see we are a little different from the rest. No, we are not perfect and yes, we do make mistakes. But as we strive toward following Jesus we become Christians at work and in our families -- not just on Sunday morning when the preacher is looking!

Look around your world and you will discovery countless ways to tell of your friend Jesus Christ. Of course, He first has to be your friend and then you will eagerly share Him with others… Let your willingness to testify be evident and God will open the doors.

-- Pastor Gary Stone