Monday, September 30, 2019


I sat in the hospital waiting room with just one other person, a fellow waiting for a doctor to return with a prescription. Someone walking by said hello to the man, and he replied, “Have a blessed day.” A short time later, I said to him, “Now that’s a great phrase, ‘Have a blessed day,’ because it says you are trusting God to do the blessing.” The man turned to me and beamed, “That’s right!” he said and went on to describe the power of his experience of Christ, explaining, “Blessed means ‘He will make you rise!’” After the doctor brought his prescription, this gracious man stepped into a nearby elevator, turned around, and said to me, “Have a blessed day.” I waved and said, “He will make you rise!” and the man was gone. I thought, “Wow! What a marvelous way to think about being blessed. If God is going to make you rise, then God is going to bring life and love and power and presence into your life and into your church. That’s blessedness!”

-- E. Stanley Ott, in the Foreword to “Becoming a Blessed Church” by N. Graham Standish


Friday, September 27, 2019


“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.”  (Colossians 4:2 GNT)

The great people of the earth are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; not those who can explain about prayer, but I mean those people who take time and pray. They have not time. It must be taken from something else. This something else is important -- very important and pressing, but still less important than prayer.

-- S. D. Gordon, quoted in “Growing Strong in God’s Family: A Course in Personal Discipleship to Strengthen Your Walk with God”


Thursday, September 26, 2019


2 Corinthians 3:18 talks about how God works to help us grow spiritually. “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Commitment to Christian discipleship in the context of a small group is one way we can spend quality time with Jesus. When we do, we are changed.

These are some of the primary ways we can know God:
   1. The revelation of His character through the Bible.
   2. The incarnation of His love in the person of Jesus Christ.
   3. The experience of His presence through prayer.
   4. The power of His presence in the Holy Spirit.
   5. The fellowship of His body -- the church.
   6. The mystery and the joy experienced through worship.
   7. Natural revelation, the witness of the creation to the Creator.
Meeting together with other Christians for prayer and Bible study places us close to God. The passage in 2 Corinthians suggests that spending time in the presence of God is a key element to spiritual transformation. What is spiritual growth if it is not being transformed into the image of the Lord?

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


Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”  (John 15:4a NKJV)

The other half of the secret of lasting joy is that Christ abides  -- lives -- in us. He gives us exactly what we need in any moment: assurance that we are loved in our problems, forgiveness for our mistakes, wisdom to discern what He wants to do to bring good out of difficulties, and supernatural strength to do what He guides in untangling our problems.

There is no joy when we are worried about whether we will have what it takes. But equally so, there is no joy to be compared to the joy we feel when we know that we are empowered by the Savior of the world! That means accepting His strength pulsing into us as branches inseparably connected to Him, the vine.

-- Lloyd J. Ogilvie in “If God Cares, Why Do I Still Have Problems”


Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”  (John 15:4a NKJV)

The verb “abide” in Greek… means “to take up permanent residence, to settle in, rest.” To abide in Christ means to stop trying to earn His acceptance or to work to justify our right to be His person. We are to relax and receive His grace. That becomes very practical in dealing with our problems. Each day’s problems become opportunities to trust Him and receive renewed grace. We do not need to be strong, clever, or resourceful to abide. Instead, we are to abandon ourselves to Christ, trusting Him with our problems, and accept His assurance that He will assume responsibility for us and our problems.

I like the way J. C. Ryle [in his “Expository Thoughts on the Bible”] interpreted the meaning of Jesus’ command to abide in Him: “Abide in Me. Cling to Me. Stick fast to Me. Live the life of close and immediate communion with Me. Get nearer and nearer to Me. Roll every burden on Me. Cast your whole weight on Me. Never let go your hold on Me for a moment. Be as it were rooted and planted in Me. Do this, and I will never fail you.”

-- Lloyd J. Ogilvie in “If God Cares, Why Do I Still Have Problems”


Monday, September 23, 2019


“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.“ (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenager, draws parallels between her wedding day and Christ's love for His church.

I felt awkward as my girlfriends strained to shift my paralyzed body into a cumbersome wedding gown. No amount of corseting and binding my body gave me a perfect shape. The dress just didn't fit well. Then, as I was wheeling into the church, I glanced down and noticed that I'd accidentally run over the hem of my dress, leaving a greasy tire mark. My paralyzed hands couldn't hold the bouquet of daisies that lay off-center on my lap. And my chair, though decorated for the wedding, was still a big, clunky gray machine with belts, gears, and ball bearings. I certainly didn't feel like the picture-perfect bride in a bridal magazine.

I inched my chair closer to the last pew to catch a glimpse of Ken in front. There he was, standing tall and stately in his formal attire. I saw him looking for me, craning his neck to look up the aisle. My face flushed, and I suddenly couldn't wait to be with him. I had seen my beloved. The love in Ken's face had washed away all my feelings of unworthiness. I was his pure and perfect bride.

How easy it is for us to think that we're utterly unlovely -- especially to someone as lovely as Christ. But He loves us with the bright eyes of a Bridegroom's love and cannot wait for the day we are united with Him forever.

-- Quoted by John Woodbridge in “This We Believe: The Good News of Jesus Christ for the World”


Friday, September 20, 2019


"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." (Romans 1:25 NIV)

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

-- George Orwell


Thursday, September 19, 2019


"God comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us." (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Struggling with life's difficulties makes us a little wiser, a little more capable, enabling us to comfort others who experience pain.

-- Max Lucado


Wednesday, September 18, 2019


"Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.”  (Psalm 6:2 NIV)

In this whole process of seeking healing, how do I find the balance between doing and being?  How do I know when to fight and when to let go?  When does fighting, when does seeking, become control?  When does letting go become passivity or apathy, or worse -- despair?  What is surrender?  What is grace?  Aren't I to use what God has given me -- my intellect, my resourcefulness, my curiosity, my desire for healing and wholeness?  But how and when do those get in the way?… healing is hard work.  It is.  But isn't it also no work at all, because in reality we don't heal ourselves?  We can encourage it, help create an environment for it, but we can't do it.  Yet we are an indispensable part of the process.

This is all very confusing.  I don't know how to make sense of it all. I don't understand.  Perhaps this is where faith comes in.  It carries me through that which I don't understand.  It also assures me that even if I don't "do" the "right" thing or that if I "am" not in the "right" way -- if I am not "being" as I should, whatever that is -- healing is still possible.  That is grace.

-- Jean M. Blomquist in “Wrestling Till Dawn”


Tuesday, September 17, 2019


If we are honest, we would have to admit that we all do things that we know are wrong.  Sometimes we do things for which we are deeply ashamed.  More than that, there is a self-centeredness about our lives which spoils them.  Jesus said, "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'." (Mark 7:20-23)

Our greatest need is for forgiveness. Just as a man who has cancer needs a doctor whether he realizes it or not, so we need forgiveness whether we realize it or not. Just as with cancer, the man who recognizes his need is far better off than the person who is lulled into a false sense of security.

By His death on the cross Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with God.  In this way He supplied the answer to our deepest need.

-- Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha Course booklet "Why Jesus?"


Monday, September 16, 2019


"I am sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between light and dark, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I'm sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in Me."

-- Acts 26:17-18 MSG


Friday, September 13, 2019


Many opt to flee grief.  Captain Woodrow Call urged young Newt to do so.  In the movie “Lonesome Dove”, Call and Newt are part of an 1880s Texas-to-Montana cattle drive.  When a swimming swarm of water moccasins end the life of Newt’s best friend, Call offers bereavement counsel, western style.  At the burial, in the shade of elms and the presence of cowboys, he advises, “Walk away from it, son.  That’s the only way to handle death.  Walk away from it.”

What else can you do?  The grave stirs such unspeakable hurt and unanswerable questions.  We’re tempted to turn and walk.  Change the subject, avoid the issue.  Work hard.  Drink harder.  Stay busy.  Stay distant.  Head north to Montana and don’t look back.

Yet we pay a high price when we do…

"David sang this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan, and gave orders that everyone in Judah learn it by heart." (II Samuel 1:17-18 MSG)

David called the nation to mourning. He rendered weeping a public policy. He refused to gloss over or soft-pedal death. He faced it, fought it, challenged it. But he didn't deny it. As his son Solomon explained, "There is…a time to mourn" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NIV).

Give yourself some time.

-- Max Lucado in “Facing Your Giants”


Thursday, September 12, 2019


Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.”   (John 13:34)

“Tuesdays with Morrie” is a memoir by American author Mitch Albom about a series of visits Albom made to his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz. In it Albom quotes Schwartz as saying, “There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.”

Good advice. But I think the same could be said about relations in general. We seem to have “a lot of trouble” these days because we don’t respect others, because we don’t know how to compromise, because we don’t talk openly about our differences, and because we don’t have a common set of values. That’s true in marriages, in families, in churches, in communities, in government, in the country, and in the world.

-- David T. Wilkinson


Wednesday, September 11, 2019


“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”  (Colossians 1:9b-10 NIV)

We presume that we would be ready for battle if confronted with a great crisis, but it is not the crisis that builds something within us -- it simply reveals what we are made of already. Do you find yourself saying, “If God calls me to battle, of course I will rise to the occasion”? Yet you won’t rise to the occasion unless you have done so on God’s training ground [of worship, Bible study, and prayer]. If you are not doing the task that is closest to you now, which God has engineered into your life, when the crisis comes, instead of being fit for battle, you will be revealed as being unfit. Crises always reveal a person’s true character.

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


Tuesday, September 10, 2019


“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  (1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Berean Study Bible)

I truly believe that we are being called [by God] to reach out in bold and new ways and to experience phenomenal growth as a church, not for the purpose of pride and power, but because we have something great to offer -- something the world cannot live without… It is the Good News revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit.

-- Rev. Michael Roberts in the “Arkansas United Methodist” 


Monday, September 9, 2019


“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  (Acts 2:42 NIV)

I grew up in the kind of church where "fellowship" tended to mean red punch and cookies in the church basement. But fellowship -- or the biblical "koinonia" -- is a much richer word than that. What it really means is being deeply enough connected with people that they can help shed light on my life so that I can see who I really am and where I need to change.

-- adapted from John Ortberg in the video series “Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People” 


Friday, September 6, 2019


“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:23-25 RSV)

When people are in small groups where someone knows them -- where they can ask the threatening, embarrassing, naïve questions, and share where they are -- then they can take giant steps in their faith. That just doesn't happen in a church service of 200 or 500 people.

-- Howard Hendricks


Thursday, September 5, 2019


“What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?... In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us.”  (Romans 8:31,37 CEV)

Good leaders know how to get the best out of people by continually encouraging them to take steps of faith in their service to God in the church and elsewhere…

What does it mean to be truly encouraging? The answer may seem obvious, but many leaders don’t get it. They have great expectations for their followers, but they offer little positive support. An encouraging leader helps people to believe in themselves, and instills in them a sense of confidence -- for confidence literally means to have faith (fidelis) with (con) another person. When we encourage people, we not only have faith in them, but at deeper levels we instill in them a faith that God is with them. And when God is with us, who can be against us? Our faith in people engenders the confidence that can lead them to achievements of which they didn’t think themselves capable.

-- N. Graham Standish in “Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power”


Wednesday, September 4, 2019


One fine Southern lady, upon hearing that I teach Christian apologetics, remarked indignantly, “I’ll never apologize for my faith!”

The reason for her misunderstanding is obvious: ‘Apologetics’ sounds like ‘apologize.’ But apologetics is not the art of telling somebody you’re sorry that you’re a Christian! Rather ‘apologetics’ comes from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.

The Bible actually commands us to have such a case ready to give any unbeliever who wants to know why we believe what we do. Just as the contestants in a fencing match have learned both to parry each attack as well as to go on the offensive themselves, so we must always be ‘on guard.’ First Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (Author’s translation)

-- William Lane Craig in “On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision” 


Tuesday, September 3, 2019


Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  (Matthew 6:26 NIV)

Though it is a wonderful truth to know that we are saved by grace, it is equally wonderful to know that we live by it as well.  Though we labor, just as the birds of the air labor, we do not need to grasp and grab frantically, because we have One who cares for us just as He cares for the birds of the air.

-- Richard J. Foster


Monday, September 2, 2019


“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --  not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV)

This is the amazing story of God’s grace. God comes to us in the first place by His grace, God saves us by His grace, and God transforms us more and more into the likeness of His Son by His grace. In all our trials and afflictions, He sustains and strengthens us by His grace. He calls us by grace to perform our own unique function within the Body of Christ. Then, again by grace, He gives to each of us the spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill our calling. As we serve Him, He makes that service acceptable to Himself by grace, and then rewards us a hundredfold by grace.

-- Adapted from Jerry Bridges