Thursday, December 31, 2020


Dear Lord,

In the aftermath of Christmas celebrations, please tender my heart to the cradle and the cross. So often in this year I have sensed a deep longing in my soul, a loud yet silent lament for all that is not right. So often I have felt stymied and stagnant, incapable of doing the next thing or even knowing what that next thing should be.

The verse I have whispered in the quiet mornings (and shouted sometimes through tears) whispers again today: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

And so, for today, in the in between of the cradle and the cross, I close my eyes and remember the sweetness of this season even as I long for the new year to bring the end of suffering.

Show me the way to go today, Lord. Just for today. For to You I lift up my soul.


-- Elizabeth Musser, from her blog


Wednesday, December 30, 2020


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The word COMPASSION comes from two Greek roots: COM meaning "with" and PASSIO meaning "to suffer". To be compassionate is to enter into the suffering of another person and share in the pain -- “to suffer with.” When the burden of pain is shared, it is lightened. Each of us can point to experiences where a friend, a loved one, a nurse, a pastor, or a counselor helped us by understanding our pain and sharing it. This is what Christ does when we are hurting: Christ enters our pain and, in effect, wipes away our tears. 

-- Adapted from “Prepare Him Room” by Robert Martin Walker


Tuesday, December 29, 2020


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

The compassion of our Lord never fails. As we live in this world we very soon discover some failed compassion. We find people who really don't stick by our side for the long haul. We realize the frailty of human beings and we may even discover that in the final analysis most people take care of themselves first and foremost. I am not a pessimist generally but experience shows us that often the compassion we receive from people, places and things offer no comparison to the compassion from God that never fails. No excuses, no external "uncontrollable" events and no made up stories to justify failed compassion. You see, God IS the story and He IS life and His promises have stood the test of time and trial from the Garden of Eden to the present. God never lies and He never fails to keep even one of His promises. 

-- Pastor Gary Stone 


Monday, December 28, 2020


"A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." (“O Holy Night” by Placide Cappeau)

This classic carol captures the harshness and hope that collide every Christmas, especially in 2020. The world is weary. As the nights grew longer, we were feeling our way to the end of an unprecedented year. The typical comforts and joys of the season were elusive. And the sorrows we already carried became a little harder to bear.

Yet into that darkness, a bright light has dawned: Christ has come. God breaks into our weariness and sorrow with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The story of Christmas is the story of people in darkness finding light, of weary people finding hope, of grieving people finding reason to rejoice.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) 

-- Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland


Thursday, December 24, 2020


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”  (Galatians 4:4-6 NRSV)

Gracious God, we must acknowledge that 2020 has been a difficult year. It’s been a year of loss for all of us, whether that was a job, a loved one, a relationship, or our sense of peace and security. We thank You for this Christmas season, especially this year. We thank You for the simple beauty of Christmas decorations, for Advent worship and Christmas Carols, for family recipes and time spent with friends, whether virtually or in person. We thank You for the ways You’ve been present with us and You’ve blessed us this past year. But Lord, if we’re honest, this year has been tough.

Lord, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would be at work within us. Help us to focus on the miracle of Jesus’ birth, and remind us daily that this world is not our home. When we feel overwhelmed or worried, we pray that You would quiet our hearts, and fill us with Your peace.

Father God, the reason for our Christmas celebrations is nothing short of miraculous. Thank You for sending Your Son to give us a hope and a future! You are in control, God, Your plans are perfect, and we thank You for watching over us. We offer all of these things in Your Precious Son’s Holy Name. Amen. 

-- Loosely adapted from a prayer by Bethany Pyle


Wednesday, December 23, 2020


"The stars are brightly shining / It is the night of our dear Savior's birth /  Long lay the world in sin and error pining / Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth / The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices / For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn / Fall on your knees / O hear the angel voices / O night divine / O night when Christ was born / O night divine / O night, O night divine."  (“O Holy Night” by Placide Cappeau)

Jesus entered into a world with political strife, economic uncertainty, chaotic rulership, oppressive government, high taxes and an environment of marginalizing the weak. In other words, Jesus entered into a very weary world. And yet, despite it all, His birth gave an opportunity for rejoicing for all who received it.

Likewise, we live in a very weary world; 2020 has been hard on almost everyone. And looking ahead to 2021 it doesn’t appear that things will get magically better! And still we have reason to rejoice because of Jesus bringing a thrill of hope to our weary world. 

-- Dave Warner, Engage Newark


Tuesday, December 22, 2020


“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”   (Psalm 42:11 NIV)

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things -- the weather, human relationship, the economy, the political situation, [the pandemic], and so on -- will get better. Hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. 

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”  (Romans 5:5 NLT)

-- Adapted from Henri Nouwen


Monday, December 21, 2020


"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?" (Romans 8:24)

Did you know that you need hope? We all do. Swiss theologian M.L. Bruner said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of human life.” Just as our physical bodies would die without oxygen, our spirit will suffocate without hope!

In our culture, we hear a lot about love. We even hear a lot about faith. But we don’t hear that much about hope. Yet from the very beginning, God provided hope. After Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the planet into pain, God gave a promise for a redeemer, a savior. That hope is Jesus Christ! "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

What do you need hope for today? Physical pain? Disease? Addiction? Depression? Bad habits? A broken heart? Whatever your need, God’s plan is to give you a future and a hope. Jesus Christ was sent to conquer pain and death, and to give hope. He is your Redeemer… your hope. But just like the air you breathe, hope is an unseen promise.

Find your hope in Jesus Christ today. 

-- Dr. Jack Graham in "PowerPoint"


Friday, December 18, 2020


“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

Forgiveness is a gift, God’s gift, first of all, to each of us. And then a gift we give to others; a gift that, in the giving, brings to the giver unexpected and undeniable blessing. 

-- Kenneth Gibble


Thursday, December 17, 2020


"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23 NKJV)

God comes to the woman who feels in exile in her own marriage, for the man who grieves the loss of life dreams.  God comes to the child who lives on the street, for the parents who struggle to feed and clothe their children. God comes to the one whose loneliness or depression intensifies every Christmas, but especially this year of Covid-19. God comes to the one, the many, frontline health care workers who are physically and emotionally exhausted during this pandemic. God comes to those who have struggled to breath because of the virus and those families who have had to say goodbye to their loved ones by phone.

Immanuel -- God-with-Us -- is coming to us, to meet us wherever we are -- happy or sad, joyous or grieving, God comes to stand with us, whatever our condition.  And we thank God for that promised gift of presence. 

-- Adapted and updated from “Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas” by Beth A. Richardson


Wednesday, December 16, 2020


“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)

Two artists each were asked to make a copy of a famous painting. The one made a mathematical calculation and produced a technically correct copy. The other studied the painting, entered into the spirit of the artist, and produced not merely an imitation, but a picture which glowed with warmth and life.

We are not, as Christians, simply to copy Christ, but rather to become possessed by His Spirit and so reproduce His life in our lives. At this Christmas season let us aim to become possessed of the Spirit of Christ, and so reproduce Him with loving warmth and life. 

-- Adapted from “One Hundred Best Sermons for Special Occasions and Days,” compiled by Rev. G. B. F. Hallock


Tuesday, December 15, 2020


“Behold, an angel of the LORD appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’”  (Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV)

Jesus’ name comes from the word Joshua -- “He shall save”-- a common name in those days. Its very ordinariness, not unlike “Bob” or “Joe” today, must have grated on Jewish ears in the first century as they listened to Jesus’ words. Jews did not pronounce the Honorable Name of GOD, save for the high priest one day a year, and even today Orthodox Jews carefully spell out G_D. For people raised in such a tradition, the idea that an ordinary person with a name like Jesus could be the Son of God and Savior of the world seemed utterly scandalous. Jesus was a man, for goodness’ sake, Mary’s boy. 

-- Phillip Yancey in “The Jesus I Never Knew”


Monday, December 14, 2020


“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11 NIV)

In 1925, the New York World celebrated the birthday of Abraham Lincoln with a cartoon which has become something of a classic. Two Kentucky farmers are pictured, talking over a picket fence. One asks, “Anything new happen lately?” The other responds, “Nothing much. A new baby was born over at Tom Lincoln’s place, but nothing much ever happens around here.”

I’m sure there were folks who said the same thing in Bethlehem that night. I can picture them, can’t you? Standing on the corner, just outside the inn. “Anything new happen around here?” “Naw, just a baby born down in the stable. Nothing much ever happens around here.” 

-- Victor A. Harnish 


Friday, December 11, 2020


“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”  (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

Don’t be led by the myth of “quality time” -- it is an admirable goal, but it should not be used as an excuse for missing “quantity time” with your child. Quality moments usually can’t be scheduled. They happen spontaneously, without warning, in circumstances you don’t anticipate. Those precious, teachable moments will be initiated by your child, while you’re playing in the backyard, driving in the car, or staring at a worm in the dirt. For your children, all the time you spend together can be “quality time” because it is then that they have what’s most important to them -- your attention.

This is a gift which does not come cheaply. It will cost you. You may have to forgo other activities. You will have to say “no” to other people. You may have to set aside a few personal goals or hobbies for a few years. But don’t worry. Those other things and folks will be around later, but childhood years are soon gone forever. They are irretrievable.

Give your child the gift of your time. Sure, there is a limited supply, but we’ve never seen a tombstone which read: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my kids.” 

-- Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz in “God Is in the Small Stuff: And It All Matters”


Thursday, December 10, 2020


“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”  (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

There is no shortage of gift ideas for your young child. Millions of advertising dollars are devoted to directing your attention to the “perfect” gift. You feel guilty if you can’t find something that will educate, stimulate, and build self-esteem all at once (and it’s got to be politically correct, biodegradable, and bilingual, too). The marketers know that price is no object because this is your child, and you won’t settle for anything less than the best.

Well, we have a suggestion for the perfect gift. It is not easy to find, and it is terribly expensive, but we guarantee that it will last a lifetime and it will be your child’s favorite. We’re talking about your time.

Your child’s greatest need is the security of knowing that you care. There is no better way to convey your love than to spend time with your child. Hours invested in your child will produce dividends now and in the future. You will be building a relationship, moment by moment, that will be the basis for a lifelong friendship between the two of you. 

-- Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz in “God Is in the Small Stuff: And It All Matters”


Wednesday, December 9, 2020


“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 1:4)

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. 

-- Denis Waitley, as quoted in the “The Little Book of Grace”


Tuesday, December 8, 2020


“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:10-11 NIV)

This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus… When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore Him as our true and only King. 

-- Mark Zimmermann in “Our Advent Journey”


Monday, December 7, 2020


“Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

"And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV)

Most of us are familiar with these memorable words. They are the best promise of security in a world of tension and turmoil. If you want to have peace with God and find security for these times of trouble, you must answer one important question: Who Is the Ruler of Your Life?

Are you trying to be the master of your own fate? Are you trying to be the captain of your own soul? Do you believe that you can navigate life's storms without the Master at the helm?

Or is the Kingdom of God within you? The King of kings is the hope of every man, woman and child of every nation, and His Kingdom is forever. 

-- Adapted from Billy Graham


Friday, December 4, 2020


 "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  (John 1:45 NIV)

Here’s an Advent illustration for kids -- and those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like. Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing. 

-- John Piper


Thursday, December 3, 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., was a heroic German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned and martyred by the Nazis in a Nazi death camp in 1945. While in prison, Fr. Delp was able to write a few meditations including his powerful reflections from prison during the Advent season about the profound spiritual meaning and lessons of Advent. They seem to be equally relevant to Advent 2020.


Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny… Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today. 

-- Alfred Delp in “Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944”


Wednesday, December 2, 2020


I believe deeply that God does His best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over. There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season. Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost. 

-- Shauna Niequist in “Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way”


Tuesday, December 1, 2020


“In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:4-5 NRSV)

This Advent will undoubtedly prove to be an unusual one. In the midst of a global pandemic, following a contentious presidential election in the U.S., and in the swirl of racial unrest, we long for a vision of the Holy One.

The Gospel of John reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In this season that feels dark to many, as people of faith we have the promise of enduring light. But we’ll need to look for it! What difficulty will the season of Advent hold for you this year? Separation from family? Financial distress? Isolation? The distress of living with the deep unknown? In the midst of the darkness, there is light! 

-- From the online introduction to “This Blue Christmas” with Todd Outcult,


Monday, November 30, 2020


It’s appropriate that at the end of Luke’s Gospel (chapter 24), Luke recounts the interaction Jesus had with a couple of His disciples walking along the road to Emmaus. Jesus -- the Messiah -- has been crucified, and the disciples are perplexed, unable to piece it all together. How did the Savior just die? But along comes Jesus, disguised as He has been throughout Scripture, and He opens their eyes to see that the whole of Scripture is really about Him.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV) Luke recounts that their “hearts burned within them” (verse 32) as their minds were opened.

Luke reveals to us an important fact: Knowing God’s plan and gift of salvation is deeply rooted in knowing the entire story. The good news doesn’t just reside in Part 2 of the Bible, the New Testament. The entire story of the Bible is about one person, one plan, one goal. That person is Jesus, that plan is redemption, the goal is the glory of God. It’s really a pretty simple storyline. 

-- Adapted from Tom Hudzina in “Four Sevens: Meeting With Jesus in the Gospel of Luke”


Friday, November 27, 2020


“Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 CEV)

Recently I had a conversation with someone who was naming things she is grateful for during this challenging season. "I'm glad I'm in a grateful mood," she said. But what I heard in her story wasn't a "mood," but a posture. She has practiced the spiritual discipline of gratitude for many years, and I had the privilege of hearing the fruit of it. Through habit, her practice of giving thanks has become so integrated in her life that it flows out with joy -- not just for the obvious gifts, but for the gifts that are more difficult to see, name, and receive. Listening to her describe God's unexpected blessings during a season of restriction, limitations, and change inspired my gratitude too.

-- Excerpted from “Updates From Sharon Garlough Brown” Newsletter


Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”  (Psalm 107:1 NLT)

Returning thanks for blessings already received increases our faith and enables us to approach God with new boldness and new assurance. Doubtless the reason so many have so little faith when they pray is because they take so little time to meditate upon and thank God for blessings already received. As one meditates on the answer to prayers already granted, faith waxes bolder and bolder, and we come to feel in the very depths of our souls that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. As we reflect upon the wondrous goodness of God toward us on the one hand, and upon the other hand upon little thought and strength and time that we ever put into thanksgiving, we may well humble ourselves before God and confess our sin.  

-- R. A. Torrey


Tuesday, November 24, 2020


“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)

Our joys, prayers, and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings. Obeying these three commands -- be joyful, keep on praying, and be thankful -- often goes against our natural inclinations. When we make a conscious decision to do what God says, however, we will begin to see people [and circumstances] in a new perspective. When we do God’s will, we will find it easier to be joyful and thankful.

Paul was not teaching that we should thank God for everything that happens to us, but in everything. Evil does not come from God, so we should not thank Him for it. But when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that He will accomplish through the distress.

-- From the “Life Application Study Bible”


Monday, November 23, 2020


“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

"Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."  (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)

My life has been paid for by Jesus Christ. My life belongs to Him. Therefore, I can't do what "I" want to do, I must do what "He" wants me to do. 

-- Ron Brown, Assistant Coach, University of Nebraska, in Sports Spectrum


Friday, November 20, 2020


Jesus said, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"  (Matthew 4:4 NIV)

George Mueller, the man of great faith in nineteenth-century England, shared his reason for spiritual power: “The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished… I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching out of it, not for the sake of public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for obtaining for my own soul.”

You don’t get food for your soul by osmosis! You can hear others talk of it; but until you regularly take in the delicious Word of God, you’re undernourished. 

-- Ray & Anne Ortlund in “Renewal: An Influencer Discussion Guide”


Thursday, November 19, 2020


“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”  (Isaiah 64:6 NLT)

According to a radio report, a middle school in Oregon faced a unique problem. A number of girls began to use lipstick and put it on in the school bathroom. After they put on their lipstick, they pressed their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Finally the principal decided something had to be done. She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained lip prints caused a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate how difficult it was, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet, and scrubbed the mirror. Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirrors.

When tempted to sin, if we could only see the real filth we’d be kissing, we wouldn’t be attracted to it. 

-- Brett Kays, cited in “Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion”


Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

Jesus is saying that more will happen, more will get done, when we put Him first in our lives. When we keep order in our daily lives, then we keep our priorities clear. Order communicates priority. As Christians, we can be really busy doing a lot of good stuff for the wrong reasons. We slip into a mind-set of doing more so that we can feel like we’re closer to God or better Christians. But if we’re not spending one-on-one, intimate time with God each day and then acting  out of the overflow of that relationship rather than the other way around, then we have lost sight of why we’re doing all that we’re doing. One thing must come first and lead to the other. The order can’t be flipped. Whatever we put first place becomes the organizing principle for the other parts of our life. 

-- Chris Hodges in “The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise”


Tuesday, November 17, 2020


“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6 The Message)

Faith is the belief that God is real and that God is good.  Faith is not a mystical experience or a midnight vision or a voice in the forest… it is a choice to believe that the One who made it all hasn't left it all and that He still sends light into shadows and responds to gestures of faith…

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want.  Faith is the belief that God will do what is right. 

God’s economy is upside down (or right side up and ours is upside down!). God says that the more hopeless your circumstances, the more likely your salvation. The greater your cares, the more genuine your prayers. The darker the room, the greater the need for light. God’s help is near and always available, but it is only given to those who seek it. Nothing results from apathy…

Do something that reveals your faith.  For faith with no effort is no faith at all.  God will respond.  He has never rejected a genuine gesture of faith.  Never. 

-- Max Lucado in “Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Hebrews”


Monday, November 16, 2020


In my experience, it is much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one. Most of us are good actors -- we can play the part. But our reactions reveal who we really are. And maybe that is why Jesus focused so much of His teaching on reconditioning reflexes.

Pray for those who persecute you… Love your enemies… Bless those who curse you… If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles… If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

What is the natural reaction when someone slaps you? You feel like slapping him back, right? But supernatural reaction is both counterintuitive and counterreactive. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. Think of it as a spiritual aikido. We absorb the sinful energy of others and convert it into a righteous response. So persecution becomes a catalyst for prayer. Hatred inspires love. And we convert curses into blessings.

Is there anybody in your life who brings out the worst in you? When you're around them, you react in ways you later regret. Or maybe it's someone who gets on your nerves or under your skin. Here's my advice: pray for them! Nothing reconditions our spiritual reflexes like prayer. Start praying for the difficult people in your life, and it will change the way you feel about them. 

-- Mark Batterson in “Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God”


Friday, November 13, 2020


Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6a NRSV)

The way implies that which is to be followed in order to get to a specific place. We are always going somewhere in life. It is like having a map that enables us to get from where we are to where we want to be. Such a condition raises the question, "Where do we want to be?" The Westminster Catechism answers the question, "What is the chief end of man?" (i.e. What is the purpose of life?) "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The prophet Micah asked the question this way, "... what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). To walk with God means to follow the pathway that He would have us travel. Jesus is the way.

That way must be the true way if it is to lead to fullness of life. Jesus warned, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them ..." (Matthew 7:15,16). What a clear object lesson. The sheep are gentle, who would be afraid of them? But a violent, angry, savage wolf is a creature to fear and avoid. False ideas, false ways, a false inner spirit, leads astray. When we are mislead we cannot get to where we want to be, where we ought to be. The false prophet, the false leader, the false witness, all seek to injure us or at least manipulate us for their own advantage. The true guide in life seeks the good of the ones he or she is leading. As Jesus said, "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 10:10). Jesus not only teaches what is true, He is the truth. Jesus said, before Pilate, "...for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me" (John 18:37). So it is our faith that the way Jesus leads is the way that is true; and being true, it is the way that leads to life. 

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


Thursday, November 12, 2020


“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.”  (Proverbs 11:17)

Words are so important.   A word can excite or depress.  A word can make us glad or sad or mad.  Words can inspire and lift our spirits or defeat and deflate our souls.  Words can motivate and encourage, or they can crush and kill.  Words can convince us to stand tall for what is right, or they can destroy hope and blast reputations.  Words can offer a beautiful prayer and preach a powerful sermon, or they can incite a riot or tell a dirty joke.

The words we choose -- and the way we use them -- communicate more about us and our faith than we can possibly imagine.  Profane words, bigoted words, hateful words, cruel words do not promote the cause of Christ or represent the spirit of Christ.  They never have and never will.  We dupe ourselves by calling our dirty talk mature, adult, realistic.  Come on, now!  What could be more immature, childish, and unrealistic?  If you want to be a good witness for Jesus Christ today, clean up your act and clean up your speech.  Speak the words of faith, hope, and love in a tone of compassion, kindness, and respect. 

--  James W. Moore in “When You're a Christian, the Whole World is from Missouri”  


Wednesday, November 11, 2020


“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the LORD forgave you.”  (Colossians 3:12-13 NIV)

Frederick Buechner wrote, "Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy for you, too."

What is compassion? It is Jesus coming to earth to be like us, to identify with our human experience. One of His greatest desires is that we show the same compassion to others, that we show mercy and ease suffering…

Compassion doesn't come naturally to us. We are by nature self-centered. It takes time and a work of God's grace to develop compassion…

We learn compassion either by going through certain circumstances or by trying to imagine what other people are going through…

When we go through the death of a friend or family member, an illness, or a trying time, we often discover that the people who come alongside us and help the most are people who either have experienced the same difficulties or try to understand what we are going through without feeling a need to fix or make judgments.

Compassion reaches into hearts and lives, past barriers, past judgments, and brings the touch of God. 

-- William and Nancie Carmichael in “Lord Bless My Child”

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Growth is not the ability to avoid problems. Growth is the ability to handle larger and more interesting problems.

One of the great questions to ask somebody is “What’s your problem?” And you might want to do that right now. We ought to ask each other pretty regularly, “What’s your problem?” by which I mean, “Do you have a problem worthy of your best energies, worthy of your life?”

What are you devoting yourself to solve? How do you want the world to be different because you’re in it? People who follow Jesus ask this question: “God, what problem in Your world would You like to use me to address?” Followers of Jesus intentionally embrace problems. 

-- John Ortberg in “All the Places to Go… How Will You Know?”


Monday, November 9, 2020


“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

“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)

If you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are. 

-- Frederick Buechner in “The Alphabet of Grace”


Friday, November 6, 2020


"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

To prepare for flight, the eagle spends an hour each day preening its feathers.  Perched high on a rock, the eagle methodically passes each feather, up to 1200 in all, through its mouth and breathes on each one.  This action produces a similar effect to steam cleaning.  Once the feathers are restored, the eagle is ready to soar through the sky.

The eagle also has a gland that secretes an oily liquid, making its feathers waterproof.  When it rains or the bird dives into water after prey, the eagle's feathers do not become heavy with water or endanger its ability to fly.

We, too, must renew ourselves daily before the Lord or we will become "grounded."  Without those necessary "quiet times," cares and concerns bring on anxieties and fears that slow us down.  We take on burdens we were never meant to carry... Worry comes from natural concerns that are part of our lives.  But when these legitimate concerns are handled wrongly, they dominate our lives.  Worry can make us forget that our caring God is in control and cause us to wonder about our future, over which we have no control.

Renewing ourselves is a daily process just as it is for the eagle.

-- Sheryl Lynn Hill in “Soar as the Eagle”


Thursday, November 5, 2020


Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4 BSB)

Truly listening to someone requires a lot more work than you probably think. Most of the time, we are spending our time thinking of what to say back to the person and inserting our opinion rather than listening to what they’re actually saying. Step back and listen for two things: what the other person is feeling and what the other person needs. Give them a chance to express those feelings and needs, and repeat back what they’ve said so they understand you are hearing them. Give them your full attention and be present in the moment. This will give you the ability to actually understand where they are fully coming from instead of only understanding half of the story. 

-- Adapted from Megan Bailey at


Wednesday, November 4, 2020


“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  (Romans 12:15)

Empathy is defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. You see someone going through a struggling situation and you don’t only feel bad for them, but also feel the pain that they are going through. You are able to put yourself into that situation and understand what they must be feeling. It’s more than just listening to a friend when they’re sad, it’s actively working to understand exactly how the person feels and why.

Empathy is one of the best ways for us to show other people that we love and care about them. God gave us the tools and skills to show genuine empathy to others. Christians can use empathy to show the Lord’s love at work… You can be their beacon of light if you let God work through you. If you have a specific situation where you cannot connect with someone, pray to God and ask Him to give you the wisdom. He can give your heart what it needs to let that other person in. 

-- Adapted from Megan Bailey at


Tuesday, November 3, 2020


“The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6b NLT)

O God, we acknowledge You today as Lord, not only of individuals but of nations and governments as well. As the Scripture says, we know that the government rests on Your shoulders, yet we act as if it all depends on us. Grant us the grace and the courage to put our trust and hope in You. You are our God, and there is no other. We acknowledge You are Lord of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

We confess that we are experiencing fear and anxiety today, yet we know You are greater than those things that come against us. We pray for the 2020 Presidential Election and ask for peace and safety for all, and for Your guidance.

We are grateful for the privilege of being able to organize ourselves politically. We are grateful for the freedom to vote and to express our political loyalties.

We confess to you sometimes we are so loyal to our politics that we lose sight of our brothers and sisters. We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters. We are one in the Body of Christ because we, all humanity, are created in Your image.

We confess our actions, our words, our rhetoric have caused divisions. We pray for this deeply divided nation. May we come together for the common good and do as you have called us to do - to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with You through creation. Help us act out of love, mercy, and justice rather than out of arrogance or fear.

God, our Creator, guide us in truth and love.

Help us to listen in love, work together in peace, and collaborate with one another as we seek to make our community and world the creation You intended from the beginning.

In the name of Jesus, our Savior, we pray. Amen.

-- from First United Methodist Church in Ormond Beach, Florida


Monday, November 2, 2020


“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and My sheep follow Me.”  (John 10:27)

I believe God talks to us. Have I heard God speak to me in an audible voice? No.

Sometimes He speaks to me through Scripture. Sometimes He speaks to me through the words of a song, through reading or a sermon, through a quote of advice or admonition, through the honesty of a child, from a billboard or a bumper sticker, through a conversation with a family member or friend.

He always tells me things that are in line with His Holy Word. He does not always give me all the details. His information is always correct. When I follow His directions I will make no mistakes. He brings to pass everything He says.

I am amazed and humbled to realize that an awesome, omnipotent, sovereign God would want to communicate with me. But that’s one of the reasons He created us: He wants us to have fellowship with Him. People have tried to explain how to hear the voice of God. In my opinion, nobody has been able to describe it fully. I believe God’s sheep know the Shepherd’s voice by faith. 

-- Thelma Wells, quoted in “In This Quiet Place: Discovering the Pleasures of Prayer”


Friday, October 30, 2020


“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.”  (1 Peter 3:18 NLT)

Most victories are only temporary. Whoever wins the Super Bowl or the World Series this year will have to go out and compete for the championship again next year. An artist who wins the Grammy for Song of the Year this year must try to outdo herself next year. The same is true for an actor who wins a coveted Oscar. And every patient who is given a clean bill of health from his doctor today knows there will be other illnesses he’ll have to contend with in the future. But never again will our Lord have to contend with sin and death. Romans 6:10 (NIV) says, “He died once to defeat sin, and now He lives for the glory of God.” 

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


Thursday, October 29, 2020


Jesus answered them, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NIV)

In my own life, the storms have not always been literal, but they have been just as terrifying. When they struck and seemed to blow my life off course, they led eventually to the place where I am today. Storms shaped me, changed me, and pushed me toward new places and new people. When I was a boy, my parents divorced. This was a storm in which, as a twelve-year-old, I thought my world had ended. But through that move I came to faith in Christ and met the girl who would one day become my wife. When as a teen my alcoholic step-father plunged our home life into constant turmoil, I heard a call to become a pastor. When my best friend died in an accident and I nearly lost my faith, I began searching for answers and ended up a United Methodist. The tragedies and challenges we call the storms of life do not have to destroy us; placed in God’s hands, they become part of our defining story and open the door to new possibilities.   

-- Adam Hamilton in “Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It”


Wednesday, October 28, 2020


“When [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  (Matthew 14:30-33 NIV)

It’s interesting how God works in the storms of life. I’m not suggesting God sends them, though there are a few examples of that in Scripture, but if we’re paying attention we certainly can see that God uses them and works through them. Storms often play a part in great revivals of faith. Noah, Jonah, Peter, and Paul all had profound encounters with God in the midst of storms. Martin Luther left his law studies to become a monk because of an experience in a storm. And storms in the Atlantic, during which the terrified Wesley thought he was dying, prepared him for his own Damascus Road experience. 

-- Adam Hamilton in “Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It”


Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV)

G. Campbell Morgan expressed how this kind of guided thinking brings freedom from anxiety. “The supreme passion of all our days, in all our ways, is to be a person for the kingdom of God. That is not some far off reality or event, but something already existing, in which and with which we are to seek right relationships. The passion of life is to be a passion for the kingdom of God, and the measure to which we obey this injunction (to seek first the kingdom), is the measure in which we pass into the realm of unruffled peace and rest and calm.” 

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


Monday, October 26, 2020


"After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua… ‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.’"  (Joshua 1:1,8,9 NIV)

God tells Joshua that Moses has died and that he will now lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. This powerful scripture reminds us that God is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. We do not need to be afraid of anyone or anything if we keep the Word of God in our heart. Instead, we can move courageously forward in life and an uncertain world as long as we remember and believe that God is with us. 

-- Author Unknown, adapted from


Friday, October 23, 2020


Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20  NIV)

In his book “First Things First,” Steven Covey writes, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!" As faithful members and leaders of the... church, our challenge is to make sure that we are clear that the MAIN THING is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is to remind us over and over again that the primary mission of the church is that of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

...We are sent out to tell the world one thing. One thing! One simple, holy thing. We are to tell the world what God has done for us and what mercy God has shown us. Nothing else can give life to the world that needs Christ. Nothing else can heal our world but the mercy of God! Only the Savior...

-- U.M. Bishop Robert C. Morgan, in a letter to United Methodist congregations around the world, Nov. 9, 1999


Thursday, October 22, 2020


“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”  (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

John Wesley saw all of life lived in the context of grace. He explained it in terms of the stages of grace in which we live. First, we experience prevenient grace. This grace seeks us before we know it. Gives us the ability to have faith, creates within us spiritual discontent. Prevenient grace prepares, prompts, and prods us until we experience [justifying grace] -- the saving grace of God. Then saving grace forgives us, gives us a fresh start, turns us in the right direction, and gives us an eternal destiny. And finally, Wesley speaks of sanctifying grace, that grace in which we live the rest of our lives. The grace that seeks to make us whole and holy. Wesley challenged us to always be growing in grace. 

-- James W. Moore and Bob J. Moore in “Lord, Give Me Patience!... And Give It to Me Right Now!”


Wednesday, October 21, 2020


Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, 'LORD, LORD,' and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46 NIV)

We are all obedient to someone or something. In our day and time, particularly in Western culture, we like to think of ourselves as individuals, the masters of our own destiny, self-made people. These notions of our own autonomy and individuality, however, are simply fantasies. We are shaped by culture. We are influenced by family and friends. We meet people whom we emulate, perhaps without even knowing it. At times we become enamored with charismatic leaders. We fall under the influence of advertising. The question is not whether someone or something exerts authority over our lives, but who or what does.

To say that Jesus is Lord means that we are intentionally giving Him authority over our lives. It means that we are committing ourselves to obeying what He taught. 

-- David Watson, in a chapter entitled “When Jesus Is Lord” from the book “A Firm Foundation”