Friday, February 28, 2020


“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  (James 5:16a NLT)

Confession is so difficult a discipline for us partly because we view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We come to feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We could not bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy.

But if we know that the people of God are first a fellowship of sinners we are free to hear the unconditional call of God’s love and to confess our need openly before our brothers and sisters. We know we are not alone in our sin. The fear and pride which cling to us like barnacles cling to others also. We are sinners together. In acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals. Our humanity is no longer denied but transformed.

-- Richard J. Foster in “Celebration of Discipline”


Thursday, February 27, 2020


God is holy, and we are sinners, and there is a distance between us.

Isn’t this our problem? We know God is good. We know we are not, and we feel far from God. The ancient words of Job are ours, “If only there was a mediator who could bring us together.” (Job 9:33 NLT)

Oh, but there is! Jesus hasn’t left us with an unapproachable God. Yes, God is holy. Yes, we are sinful. But, yes, yes, yes, Jesus is our mediator. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5 NIV)

-- Max Lucado in “He Chose the Nails: What God Did to Win Your Heart”


Wednesday, February 26, 2020


“The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 147:11 NIV)

The nice, non-threatening God needs to be replaced by the God whose very presence smashes our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person inside.... It's time to become people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He dares to hold us in His terrifying, loving presence.

-- Michael Yaconelli in “Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith”


Tuesday, February 25, 2020


"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  (Matthew 5:8)

When I was in grade school, we had a game in our neighborhood. We’d raid the pantry and find all kinds of food to mix in a blender. We’d put in eggs, peanut butter, ketchup, mustard, cottage cheese, and anything else we could get our hands on. Surprisingly enough, my mother was okay with this, as long as we followed two rules:
            1. Everything we put into the blender had to be edible. No dirt, rocks, or metal. Items like shaving cream fell into a gray area.
            2. We had to eat one spoonful of the final concoction.

That’s why this game quickly lost its appeal. We got results that looked and smelled awful, and tasted even worse.

Sometimes I wonder if my heart resembles our blender game. It’s certainly not pure and unmixed. What about you? What ingredients have you poured into the blender of your heart?

The New Testament has a lot to say about the kinds of things we put inside us. For example Paul tells us, “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) When you pour in the right ingredients and avoid the others, you find it’s a recipe that pleases God.

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


Monday, February 24, 2020


“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God… For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 4:1,2,5,6 NIV)

When we listen to preachers who are really available to themselves and, therefore, able to offer their own life experience as a source of recognition, we no longer have to be afraid to face our own condition and that of our world because the one who stands in front of us is the living witness that insight makes us free and does not create new anxieties.  Only then can indifference and irritation be removed, only then can the Word of God, which has been repeated so often but understood so little, find fertile ground and be rooted in the human heart.

-- Henri Nouwen in “Creative Ministry”


Friday, February 21, 2020


“So Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word [continually obeying My teachings and living in accordance with them, then] you are truly My disciples.’”  (John 8:32 Amplified Bible)

In his book “True Discipleship” William MacDonald identifies what he calls “terms of discipleship as laid down by the Savior of the world.” One of those key terms of discipleship is “An unswerving continuance in His Word. For real discipleship there must be continuance. It is easy enough to start well, to burst forth in a blaze of glory. But the test of reality is endurance to the end. Spasmodic obedience to the Scriptures will not do. Christ wants those who will follow Him in constant… obedience.”


Thursday, February 20, 2020


People are sometimes illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway, as Christ did.

If you do good, people might accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway, as Christ did.

If you are successful, you can win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway, as Christ did.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway, as Christ did.

Honesty and frankness can make you vulnerable. Be honest anyway, as Christ was.

The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest ideas. Think big anyway, as Christ did.

People favor underdogs but follow top dogs. Fight for the underdogs anyway, as Christ did.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway, as Christ did.

People who need help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway, as Christ did.

Give the world the best you have and you may get kicked in the teeth, or even crucified. Give your best anyway, as Christ did.

-- Based on the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith, adapted by Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Wednesday, February 19, 2020


“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  (Ephesians 4:25-27 NIV)

Kind of a shocking title isn't it? -- “A Time to Be Angry!”  We so often think of Christians as being meek and mild, turning the other cheek and in general, not being very aggressive.  Don't forget that Jesus became upset with the Pharisees and among other things called them… "snakes! You brood of vipers." (Matthew 33:23)  The apostle Paul did not mince words when he told the Corinthians, "Do not deceive yourselves.  If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise." (1 Corinthians 3:18)

When it came time to do their best for God, it was not a time to hold back.  In both instances they were talking to people who should have known better.  Don't be afraid to hold your brothers and sisters accountable.  Depending on the situation, sometimes a little "shock value" is required, and if it is for their salvation and the glory of God… it's not a bad thing.

-- rj van rootselaar, a subscriber in Alberta, Canada


Tuesday, February 18, 2020


“My grace is sufficient for you.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Grace takes on an added dimension here. Paul is referring to sustaining grace. Saving grace saves us from our sins. Sustaining grace meets us at our point of need and equips us with courage, wisdom, and strength. It surprises us in the middle of our personal crisis with ample resources of faith. Sustaining grace promises not the absence of struggle but the presence of God.

God has sufficient, sustaining grace to meet every single challenge of our lives. Sufficient.

-- Max Lucado in “Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine”


Monday, February 17, 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)

For many years in my own pilgrimage of seeking to come to a place of trusting God at all times, I was a prisoner to my feelings. I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him (which I almost never did in times of adversity). Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will and is not dependent on my feelings. I choose to trust God, and my feelings eventually will follow…

Having been exposed to the knowledge of the truth that God is sovereign, wise, and loving, we must then choose whether to believe the truth about God, which He has revealed to us, or whether to following our feelings. If we are to trust God, we must choose to believe His truth. We must say, “I will trust You though I do not feel like doing so.”

-- Jerry Bridges in “Trusting God”


Thursday, February 13, 2020


“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14 NIV)

“Love one another” is philosophy -- good philosophy -- something every major religion advocates. But Jesus did not stop there. He added, “as I have loved you.” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Word became flesh. A concept became concrete -- truth illustrated. Jesus’ example was both the source and confirmation of the message. The pattern is still the same -- the word must still become flesh in order to be understood.

-- Adapted from Steve Harper, reflecting on John 13:31-35 in “The Holy Gospel” April 28, 2013



“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 22:36-40 NRSV)

The "sweet spot" of spiritual power comes when God's love and God's truth are delivered in concert stereo.  Many congregations and believers are known for either their command of God's truth through Scripture or their abundant love of all creation.  It is time for more followers of Christ to consider them both an inseparable commodity.

At a monastery, a monk challenged us with this thought; "The great commandment is not two commands, but one.  They are inseparable."

God's pure love is unable to flow abundantly through a person who has not been filled up by it.  I am not saying you cannot love another, or that you cannot act in loving ways.  The unconditional love we need and seek is sourced at the wellspring of God.  To give it, you must first drink it in from the Source; there is no other way.  You cannot be a delivery vehicle of God's truth if you are not a recipient of God's unconditional and abundant love.

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


Wednesday, February 12, 2020


“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  (Matthew 6:34 The Message)

That last phrase is worthy of your highlighter: “When the time comes.”

“I don’t know what I’ll do if my husband dies.” You will, when the time comes.

When my children leave the house, I don’t think I can take it.” It won’t be easy, but strength will arrive when the time comes.

“I could never lead a church. There is too much I don’t know.” You may be right. Or you may be wanting to know everything too soon. Could it be that God will reveal answers to you when the time comes?

The key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.

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


Tuesday, February 11, 2020


“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”  (John 8:31-32 NKJV)

The Will of God is found in the Word of God. The more a person grows [in God’s Word], the more one begins to think instinctively and habitually from a divine perspective.

-- Dr. Howard Hendricks


Monday, February 10, 2020


Even the casual or uninformed reader of the Bible can see that God’s ways and plans are different from those of people. God uses Kingdom principles to accomplish Kingdom purposes.

God’s ways are redemptive, loving, and compassionate. His ways bring cleansing and forgiveness and build people up. His ways bring humility. His way is the way of service and love. God does not simply wait to help us achieve our goals for Him. He desires to accomplish His own purposes through us -- and in His own way.

God said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). We will not carry out God’s plan with our methods. This is one of the basic sin problems people face: “We all went astray like seep; we all have turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). It is foolish to think we can accomplish God’s work by using the world’s methodology and values.

-- Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby and Claude King in “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God”


Friday, February 7, 2020


“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  (Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV)

Now and again people ask me what I perceive my job to be. My answer is always the same: to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then to help them grow up in Christ. That’s the work of the church.

“How about a place to find friends?” someone asks. Wonderful; there’s no better place to do so. But that’s a by-product of what we do. “How about the church being a place for cultural enrichment?” Excellent. But the university, the art museum and the orchestra can take care of that if we fail -- but no one else will provide a place where people can grow up in Christ. “But what about our social events -- you know, bridge, bowling, drama, pot luck suppers?” I love ‘em. But other places provide those opportunities, while they don’t give us a place to grow in Christ.

Hear me: there are a great many things we can offer in the church, and should offer. But let us remember that they are secondary. They are beautiful by-products, but they’re not our primary business. We didn’t come into existence -- either the [local church] or Christendom as a whole -- to be a political, social, or cultural institution, but to bring human beings to new and continuing, effective life in Jesus Christ.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in a sermon entitled “What I Have Learned About Growing Up”


Thursday, February 6, 2020


“So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.“  (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV)

As I see it, “growing” is an absolutely essential theme... I confess that growing has been one of my favorite themes all through my ministry. This is probably because I’m a Methodist and have a Methodist outlook on the Christian life. Perhaps it also reflects simply the kind of person I am. But I think I’m this kind of person because I was raised in the best Methodist tradition. I believe in Christian growth. I can’t imagine a version of the Christian life which does not emphasize the absolute importance of growing.

In a sense, this is a sermon about new birth. Because it is built on the assumption that Christianity is a life, not simply a doctrine, and that it begins with a birth and continues with growth. The best proof that a person has been born again is that there is enough life in the individual to make him or her grow. And the biggest embarrassment to the doctrine of the new birth is the person who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t grow. Being born again isn’t an end in itself. God brings us to spiritual birth in order that we will grow up.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in a sermon entitled “What I Have Learned About Growing Up”


Wednesday, February 5, 2020


Cascading grace. Isn’t this how God works? He starts the process. He doesn’t just love; He lavishes us with love (1 John 3:1 NIV). He doesn’t dole out wisdom; He “gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5 NIV). He is rich in “kindness, tolerance and patience” (Romans 2:4 NIV). His grace is “exceedingly abundant” (1 Timothy 1:14) and “indescribable” (2 Corinthians 9:14-15).

He overflowed the table of the prodigal with a banquet, the vats at the wedding with wine, the boat of Peter with fish, twice. He healed all who sought health, taught all who wanted instruction, and saved all who accepted the gift of salvation.

God “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NIV)… When God gives, He dances for joy. He strikes up the band and leads the parade. He loves to give.

-- Max Lucado in “Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine”


Tuesday, February 4, 2020


“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it -- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it -- they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22–25 NIV)

James likened the Word of God to a mirror into which we can look and see ourselves as we actually are. It is impossible to overstate how important this is. Accurate diagnosis always precedes effective cure. You only know that the temperature of your body is too hot because you have a measuring instrument (called a thermometer). You only know that the board is too short because you can place it against a measuring instrument (called a tape measure).

The Bible is God’s ultimate measuring instrument. It is meant to function in each of our lives as a spiritual tape measure. We can place ourselves and our relationships next to it and see if we measure up to God’s standard. God’s Word is one of His sweetest gifts of grace, and open eyes to see it clearly and an open heart to receive it willingly are sure signs of God’s grace as well.

-- Adapted from Paul Tripp


Monday, February 3, 2020


“If we confess our sins, [God] who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9 NRSV)

How do I deal with the debt I owe God? Deny it? My conscience won't let me. Find worse sins in others? God won't fall for that. Claim lineage immunity? Family pride won't help. Try to pay it off? I could but that takes us back to the problem.  We don't know the cost of sin.  We don't even know how much we owe. Then what do we do?

Simply put: The cost of your sins is more than you can pay.  The gift of your God is more than you can imagine.  "A person is made right with God through faith," Paul explains, "not through obeying the law"  (Romans 3:28).

This may very well be the most difficult spiritual truth for us to embrace.  For some reason, people accept Jesus as Lord before they accept him as Savior.  It's easier to comprehend His power than His mercy.  We'll celebrate the empty tomb long before we'll kneel at the cross.  We, like Thomas, would die for Christ before we'd let Christ die for us.

There's not one of us who hasn't racked up more bills than we could ever pay. But there's not a one of us who must remain in debt.  God has promised grace to us.

-- Max Lucado