Friday, January 31, 2020


“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”  (2 Timothy 4:8 NIV)

Nothing can compare with all that is ours in Christ when we find salvation. Forgiveness. Justification. Adoption. Eternal life. What a glorious life the Gospel offers to those who are searching for purpose and meaning or to those who have found that materialism and sensual pleasure are not the answer to the deepest yearnings of the heart.

The crowning glory of salvation is promised when we enter into the presence of the King. We have a home in heaven reserved for us and awards that await us. No wonder the Gospel is “good news.”

-- Billy Graham


Thursday, January 30, 2020


“Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:11-12 NIV)

Some are foolish enough to put their confidence in ministers. I cannot even save myself; what can I do for others? There died in London not long ago a tradesman of much wealth. When he came near to death, though I had never seen the man in my life, he importunately asked for me. I could not go. My brother went to see him, and after setting before him the way to salvation, my brother inquired, “What made you wish to see my brother?”

“Well,” he said, “whenever I have a doctor, I always like to get the best. And when I employ a lawyer, I like the man high in the profession. Money is no object. I want the best possible help.”

I shuddered at being so regarded. The best help he could get! The best is nothing -- less than nothing, and vanity. What can we do for you if you will not have the Savior? We can stand and weep over you, and break our hearts to think that you reject Him, but what can we do?

-- Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), from “Spurgeon at His Best” compiled by Tom Carter


Wednesday, January 29, 2020


"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

If our past fences us in with resentment and with desires for revenge, we are old before our time because the past holds us captive. If I can’t forgive someone who has hurt me in the past, even if the hurting was mean and intentional, I am letting them control me years later. It is enough that someone hurt me when I was five or fifteen or fifty. Why let them continue to hurt me today? Why should I allow their deeds to control me still, decades later?

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “I Love Growing Older, But I'll Never Grow Old”


Tuesday, January 28, 2020


“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.”  (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)

God’s goal for all of us is life, not death; His aim is salvation, not punishment. In Ephesians 2:4-10, Paul outlines what God has done about it.

God has made it plain in Christ that, even though we don’t believe in Him, He still believes in us and wants us to live and work with Him. Grace is not merely forgiveness for or freedom from our past, it is an open invitation to begin to lead a new life according to the Spirit.

-- John and Adrienne Carr in “The Power and Light Company: Participant’s Guide”


Monday, January 27, 2020


“Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  (John 17:3 NIV)

The church does not lack people who know about Scripture.  It does not lack good and faithful people who know the rules and try to follow them.  The church lacks sufficient numbers of believers who know first-hand the love of God.

There is a long distance between knowing about someone, and knowing them.  I know about many; I know few.  This principle is infinitely true with God.  Churches are places where we learn about God.  But what about knowing God and receiving God's abundant healing love?  It is exactly here where what we are doing is too often not working.

The common Christian experience is like a person who is invited to a buffet table the length of a football field.  Most invitees start on the end with the snacks and finger food, and they seem to get full and stop before experiencing the full spread. Many get to the salad bar, but few move on to the most nutritious and delicious foods.

Until many of God's faithful come to know God and be filled to overflowing with God's healing love, churches will decline and decay.  If a full measure of God's love radiates from us, nothing can contain our explosive impact upon the world.  If we fail to catch something spiritually contagious and joy-filled, nothing can stop our fall.

-- Larry Malone in “UM Men's Magazine, Spring 2004”


Friday, January 24, 2020


"Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

God will give us a fresh vision of Himself each day if we take time to be with Him, if we will approach Him with a quiet and expectant heart…

True life change is the result of extended periods spent sitting at our Lord’s feet, listening to His words, and seeking His face. “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always,” Israel’s poet said (Psalm 105:4). We cannot convince ourselves of His presence; we cannot make our hearts believe and make our eyes see. He must make His reinforcing presence real. “If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Something very significant happens through these established times of worship: we begin to gain a heart-connection with God. We come to love what He loves. We come to hate what He hates. We come to think what He thinks. We come to see what He sees. We begin to concern ourselves with His concerns.

-- David Roper in “A Beacon in the Darkness”


Thursday, January 23, 2020


“One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’”  (John 5:5-6 NIV)

It’s a strange thing to ask. A man is severely handicapped and spends his days hanging out at a healing pool. Does he want to get well? Do people at the gym want to get in shape? Would Gilligan wish to disembark the island?

Seems like a silly question -- unless it’s a loaded one. But the longer I serve people as a minister, the more I understand the question Jesus asks here. The answer is not self-evident at all. There are lots of people who like to hang around the waters without actually wishing to be healed. A lot of people come to church but don’t really want God’s help.

People do things for lots of reasons, not always the most obvious ones. They have motives they themselves may not even understand.

So Jesus gets right to the issue: You’ve been stuck in neutral for a while. Do you really want something better? Or have you laid down roots in a place of quiet desperation and low expectations?

-- Kyle Idleman in “The End of Me: When Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins”


Wednesday, January 22, 2020


“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His faithful servants.”  (Psalm 116:15 NIV)

A devoted believer named Elizabeth Ritchie was John Wesley’s friend and housekeeper. She was with Wesley when he died and recorded the account of his passing. He had preached in City Road Chapel just a few days before. Richie noted that now, with Wesley unable to rise from his bed, the room filled with the very presence of God. Surrounded by his friends, Wesley gathered his strength and said, “The best of all is, God is with us!” He repeated these words a short while later, then gathered the strength to pray aloud, “We thank Thee, O Lord, for these and all Thy mercies; bless the Church and King; grant us truth and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord forever and ever!”

Richie noted that just before Wesley died, he tried to sing an Isaac Watts hymn, “I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath.” All he could muster was “I’ll praise… I’ll praise.” And then he uttered one final word to his friends: “Farewell.” At eighty-seven John Wesley breathed his last…

His was a good death. To the end, he sought to live wholly surrendered to Christ. Like Paul, he might have said, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7)

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


Tuesday, January 21, 2020


“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His faithful servants.”  (Psalm 116:15 NIV)

John Wesley frequently taught about holy dying and what constituted a good death. He had seen many saints die and told of how those who trusted in Christ faced death with hope. He encouraged people to think about their own death, and how, even in dying, they might bear witness to their faith.

Recently I was at the hospital with one of the saints of our church. He realized he was dying, and so with faith and grace he told his loved ones goodbye. He was ready. He had taught them his entire life about having hope in Christ. He told them he would see them again. He believed his last days on this earth to be one of the most powerful opportunities to bear witness to his faith. To the end, he was seeking to serve Christ and encourage others. That knowledge didn’t remove the pain of parting, but it did reaffirm the hope of the gospel. His death was a testament to his faith.

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


Monday, January 20, 2020


“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”  (Psalm 100:4-5)

Dear God: Thank You for Your amazing power and work in my life; thank You for Your goodness and for Your blessings over me. Thank You that You are able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening me for Your purposes. Thank You for Your great love and care. Thank You for Your mercy and grace. Thank You that You are always with me and will never leave me. Thank You for Your incredible sacrifice on the cross that I might have freedom from sin and life beyond measure. Forgive me for when I don't thank You enough, for who You are -- Father, Son and Spirit; for all that You do; for all that You've given. Help me to set my eyes and my heart on You afresh. Renew my spirit, fill me with Your peace and joy. I love You and I need You, this day and every day. I give You praise and thanks, for You alone are worthy! Amen.

-- Adapted from "The Power of Gratitude: 21 Verses of Thanks to God" by Debbie McDaniel


Friday, January 17, 2020


“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  (Romans 12:4-5)

The church is God’s healing community. We are not created to be alone; we were made for community and family. The Bible speaks of the power and strength of community, especially holy community. We give and draw strength from one another.

One of the tragedies that I have noted over the years is that too often the wounded tend to draw away from the church rather than to it. But those who hang in with their church feel a strength, concern, and a loving, healing touch they can get nowhere else.

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


Thursday, January 16, 2020


“[Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”  (Acts 14:21-22 NIV)

Paul, the sometime tent maker and sometime fully supported missionary, established local churches wherever he went. Yet it is perhaps misleading to think his church planting as a strategy. Paul didn’t establish these communities merely as a means to an end, as though evangelism was more important than community, or as though he measured the success of the kingdom in terms of numbers rather than the quality of life which people experienced in these churches. Instead, these communities were the natural outcome of preaching Christ. They are also God’s appointed way of experiencing and demonstrating the Gospel’s power to transform people’s lives.

-- Mark Strom in “The Symphony of Scripture: Making Sense of the Bible’s Many Themes”


Wednesday, January 15, 2020


“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our LORD.”  (1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV)

Central to the Bible’s description of the church is the idea of “call.” It is cradled in the word most often used to designate the church, the Greek term “ekklesia,” which is built upon the root of the verb meaning “to call.” The “ekklesia,” then, is the community called together by God and sent forth into the world to serve in His name.

The church, as the Bible describes it, is more than an aggregation -- people who have chosen to come together, as American culture preaches. It is a congregation, a people called together by the Word of God, the gospel of Christ’s love and forgiveness. God comes first, then the church. His call to salvation precedes the gathering of the people. As the apostle Paul puts it, we are called into “the fellowship of God’s Son.” That fellowship is the essence of the Christian community life and the Christian mission to the world.

-- Bruce Shelley & Marshall Shelley in “The Consumer Church”


Tuesday, January 14, 2020


"See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and He rules with a mighty arm… He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11 NIV)

The juxtaposition in this passage of God’s sovereign power and His gentle care of His sheep is striking. The arm of the Lord in Scripture is always a symbol of His mighty power and strength; and the title “shepherd,” when used of God, always indicates His tender care and constant watchfulness.

In this passage, God’s sovereign power and tender care are united for the benefits of His people. The same arm that is exercised in power over all the universe is used to gather His lambs and to carry them close to His heart. No more picturesque symbol of God’s love for us can be given than that of the faithful and tender Shepherd carrying His lambs close to His heart. And we are carried in the arms of sovereign power.

-- Jerry Bridges in “Trusting God”


Monday, January 13, 2020


“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns.’”  (Psalm 96:8-10a NIV)

The worship to which we are called in our renewed state is far too important to be left to personal preferences, to whims, or to marketing strategies. It is the pleasing of God that is at the heart of worship. Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him.

-- R.C. Sproul


Friday, January 10, 2020


“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  (Matthew 6:14 NIV)

(Editor’s note: Dutch Christian Corrie Ten Boom was a prisoner in the horrific Ravensbruck concentration camp in the Second World War.   Her sister Betsie died in the camp.  One day in 1947 Corrie was speaking at a church in Germany.  At the end of the service she saw someone coming towards her she recognized.)

The place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard -- one of the most cruel guards…"Since that time" he went on, "I have become a Christian.  I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well.  Fraulein, will you forgive me?"

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there -- hand held out -- but it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do.  For I had to do it -- I knew that…"Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently.  "I can lift my hand.  I can do that much.  You supply the feeling."

And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me.  As I did, an incredible thing took place.  The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands, and then this healing warmth seemed to flood into my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.  "I forgive you, brother!" I cried.  "With all my heart!"

-- Corrie Ten Boom in “Tramp for the Lord”


Thursday, January 9, 2020


“But while [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  (Luke 15:20b-24 NIV)

Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful book in 1992 called “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. It is a sustained reflection upon what Rembrandt did with Jesus’ story in Luke 15. The painting, which hangs in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, portrays an aged, nearly blind father embracing his ragged son come home. The left hand is strong, muscular. The right hand is soft, tender, like a mother’s hand. The light is focused on those hands, which Nouwen describes:

“From the moment I first saw [the painting], I felt drawn to those hands. I did not fully understand why. But gradually over the years I have come to know those hands. They have held me from the hour of my conception … They have protected me in times of danger and consoled me in times of grief. They have waved me good-bye and always welcomed me back. Those hands are God’s hands.” …

All of us are like that son, needing more desperately than anything else the strong and gentle embrace of the hands of God. We must be those hands for each other -- not someday, but today.

--  James C. Howell in “Yours Are the Hands of Christ”


Wednesday, January 8, 2020


“The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.”  (Psalm 103:13-14 NLT)

Several years ago a man I know was going through the painful process of trying to break an addiction. One day he asked me if I would joy down a list of encouraging Scriptures that he could carry with him at all times. Happy to do it, I chose ten of my favorites, typed them up, and handed the list to him at church. A few weeks later, I asked him if he still had the list and was using it. He said he was, and that the Scripture he found most encouraging was number six on the list, none other than Psalm 103:13-14.

He said he’d grown up with the notion that Jesus was a strict disciplinarian who was watching his every move, just waiting for him to slip up. He said the guilt and fear that image created in him was paralyzing. Then he read David’s words from Psalm 103, and it was as if the sun broke through the clouds. The words “tender” and “compassionate” were words he’d never associated with God. Suddenly, he had a whole new appreciation for Jesus, a deeper love for Him than ever before, and a stronger desire than ever to try to please Him.

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


Tuesday, January 7, 2020


“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:25-26 NKJV)

Nothing must become a rival to our love for God, even if it is something good. We sometimes have a tendency to let our service for Christ become a substitute for a longing heart to know Him more fully. To be active in missions work is a good thing. But to be so active in missions that one has little or no time to wait before God in prayer is to miss the point of true discipleship. Our first priority is an unhindered, unrushed experience of God, preferably in quietness and solitude. Then we can go from that experience renewed and energized to do the work of the Lord.

-- Jerry Mercer in “Cry Joy!”


Monday, January 6, 2020


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30 NIV)

Those who are filled with an earthly love are ever thinking of the object of their attachment, their heart brims with affection for it, their mouth is full of its praises... Just so, those who love God are never weary of thinking about Him, living for Him, yearning for Him, and talking to Him.

-- Francis De Sales in “An Introduction to the Devout Life” (1608)


Friday, January 3, 2020


“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:23-24 NKJV)

What is worship? It is honor and adoration being directed toward God. Worship is ascribing to God His worth or affirming His supreme value. It is a consuming, selfless desire to give God His due, which is the sacrifice of our hearts, our praise, our obedience, our possessions. In short, our very lives. Bottom line, worship is living every moment of every day to glorify God.

-- Steven J. Lawson in “Heaven Help Us!


Thursday, January 2, 2020


I won't look back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets;
I'll leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And mercifully forgives and then forgets.

I won't look forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me its every trial
And bear with me the burdens that may come.

But I'll look up into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy and love, and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.

-- Annie Johnson Flint