Tuesday, June 30, 2020


You who are letting miserable misunderstandings run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day;

You who are keeping wretched quarrels alive because you cannot quite make up your mind the day to sacrifice your pride and end them;

You who are passing others sullenly upon the street, not speaking to them out of some silly spite, and yet knowing that it would fill you with shame and remorse if you heard that one of these were dead tomorrow morning;

You who are letting your neighbor starve, till you hear that he is dying of starvation;

Or letting your friend’s heart ache for a word of forgiveness, appreciation or sympathy, which you mean to give her some day;

If only you could know and see and feel, all of a sudden, that “the time is short,” how it would break the spell! How you would go instantly and do the thing which you might never have another chance to do. 

-- Adapted from Phillips Brooks in “The Purpose and Use of Comfort,” 1906


Monday, June 29, 2020


Isaiah said, "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)

Christians who can't or won't share their faith with others may be in a crisis of faith of their own. The question is whether they believe in the efficacy of the gospel -- the gospel which justified so that we don't need to earn our status before God or vie for position with others; the gospel which gives shape and purpose to live, making us other-directed rather than self-centered; the gospel of peace which reconciles broken relationships and builds community; the gospel of justice which advocates for the poor and the marginalized. This is good news. So how can one keep from sharing it? 

-- from the Leadership Network, first published in "Christian Century", 11/20/02


Friday, June 26, 2020


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

When an artist starts to create a sculpture, he has to keep chipping away. He doesn't hit the chisel with a hammer once, and suddenly all the excess stone falls away revealing a beautiful masterpiece. He keeps hitting it and hitting it, chipping away at the stone.

And that's true of life, too. Nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy in life. You keep hitting it and going after it, and little-by-little your life becomes a masterpiece of God's grace. 

-- Rick Warren in “The Purpose Driven Connection Daily Devotional”


Thursday, June 25, 2020


Although Jesus was not a revolutionary in the political sense, many of His teachings were startling and revolutionary, and none more so than leadership. In the contemporary world, the term servant has a very lowly connotation, but that was not so as Jesus used it. He elevated it, equating it with greatness, and that was certainly a revolutionary concept. Most of us would have no objection to being masters, but servanthood holds little attraction.

Christ’s view of His Kingdom was that of a community of members serving one another -- mutual service. Paul advocates the same idea. “Through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) And of course our loving service is to spread to the needy world around us. But in the life of the church today, it is usually the few who serve the many.

Jesus well knew that such an other-worldly concept would not be welcomed by a self-pleasing world… But nothing less than that was what He required of those who desired to rise to leadership in His Kingdom.

The contrast between the world’s idea of leadership and that of Christ is brought into sharp focus in Mark 10:42-43: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not [to be] this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” 

-- J. Oswald Sanders in “Spiritual Leadership”


Wednesday, June 24, 2020


“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”  (1 Peter 1:13-16  NIV) 

The Christian community was never meant to be a collection of “cookie-cut” human beings. The gospel delights in a Christ-like individuality for each disciple.

One never sees Jesus, for example, squelching the dynamism of Peter. Rather, He simply seeks to envelope Peter’s temperament in wisdom and spiritual character. The Apostle Peter, who so wisely gives leadership to the Jerusalem church in its early days, is the same Simon Peter of earlier days who was marked with impulsiveness and a competitive spirit. The only difference between the apostle and the fisherman is maturity, not suppressed individuality. 

-- Gordon MacDonald, quoted in “Side by Side: Disciple-Making for a New Century”,  Steve & Lois Rabey, General Editors


Tuesday, June 23, 2020


A friend of the poor is a friend of God. When we choose to follow the way of God’s heart for the poor, we become friends with God. The Bible speaks very highly of those who serve on behalf of the poor and promises them good outcomes.

Proverbs 19:17 tells us that those “who [are] kind to the poor lend to the Lord.” And in Proverbs 14:31: “He who opposes the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of good King Josiah, “’He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know Me?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)

In the New Testament Church we are given a picture of believers who shared so completely among themselves that there were no poor among them (Acts 4:34). And in the same book we learn that Cornelius, searching for God, is found precisely because of his sensitivity to the poor: “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.” (Acts 10:31) 

--  Gordon Aeschilman in an article entitled “God’s Heart for the Poor” in “Discipleship Journal”


Monday, June 22, 2020


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV)

When you're in severe pain or distress, life becomes pretty simple.  You're in survival mode, and you have neither the heart nor the strength to spread around your emotional energy.  As Chuck Swindoll might say, "Life gets boiled down to the nubbies."       

Instrument-certified pilots know what this is all about.  When visibility drops to nil, and storms rage around them, it is second nature for them to focus on the "artificial horizon" gauge on their instrument panel.  No matter what their senses might tell them or what weird phenomena they see through the windscreen, they know the gauge will give them their true position and keep them flying level.  They may feel as though they are in a steep dive, or even flying upside down.  Yet their eyes must lock onto that gauge, and they must respond accordingly.  When it comes to survival, it doesn't really matter what they feel like; what matters is what their instruments say.

In the midst of life’s storms, fix your eyes on Jesus.

-- Adapted from Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in “More Jesus, Less Religion” 


Friday, June 19, 2020


“Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda… Here a great number of disabled people used to lie -- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 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 5:2-6 NIV)

It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty-eight years, seventy-six years, or only thirty-eight seconds. God has no time limits. He has no limits at all. But He does have a favorite time, and that time is now.

Why not ask for help now?

Maybe because you hear the voices around you saying, “Not the time.” “It’s too late.” “It’s too embarrassing.” “Just wait it out and work it out.”

Maybe one of those voices is your own. You’ve drifted too far down the creek, and now you’ve given up and you’re resigned to drifting some more. But there is no distance, no time limit, no reason at all. Jesus will come to you when you are at the end of yourself. He’ll come when you’re helpless and out of power. The man in John 5 learned that even thirty-eight years wasn’t too late…

It’s not too late, and it never has been. And there’s never been a better time, a more perfect time, than the present moment. That’s always the one in which [God] wants to meet you. 

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


Thursday, June 18, 2020


“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

The African impala is well-known for its remarkable leaping ability. It can jump ten feet high and thirty feet long. One might think zookeepers would have a tough time keeping impalas in their enclosures, but it’s actually quite simple. A three-foot high wall will do the trick. Here’s why: an impala will not jump if it cannot see where it will land.

We have the same problem, don’t we? We want money-back guarantees before we take a step of obedience, but it eliminates faith from the equation. Sometimes we need to take a flying leap of faith.

We need to step into the conflict without knowing if we can resolve it. We need to share our faith without knowing how our friends will react to it. We need to pray for a miracle without knowing how God will answer. We need to put ourselves in a situation that activates a spiritual gift we’ve never exercised before. And we need to go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. 

-- Mark Batterson in “All In: You Are One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life”


Wednesday, June 17, 2020


“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

At the moment you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, a life of obedience to God became an expected reality. The Holy Spirit set you free from sin and death, and He came to live within you. The Holy Spirit enables you to live consistently with Jesus’ values.

John R. W. Stott noted, “It is thus through His atoning death that the penalty of our sins may be forgiven; whereas it is through His indwelling Spirit that the power of our sins may be broken.” 

-- from “Growing Strong in God’s Family: A Course in Personal Discipleship to Strengthen Your Walk with God” 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020


“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

In “Witnesses of a Third Way: A Fresh Look at Evangelism”, Robert Neff's chapter includes this story about visiting a church service: "It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn't get out of bed on the right side… As I listened to his faltering voice, I looked around.  People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist.  By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn.  And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range.  And by the fourth verse, it was beautiful.  And on the fifth verse, the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life.  That is life in the body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us." 

--  John H. Unger


Monday, June 15, 2020


“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:23-24 ESV)

God’s love to us is in Christ. Just as God’s love to His Son cannot change, so His love to us cannot change because we are in union with the One He loves. God’s love to us can no more waver than His love to His Son can waver.

We are occasionally tempted to look within ourselves to seek to find some reason why God should love us. Such searching is, of course, usually discouraging.  We usually find within ourselves reasons why we think God should not love us. Such searching is also unbiblical. The Bible is quite clear that God does not look within us for a reason to love us. He loves us because we are in Christ Jesus. When He looks at us, He does not look at us as “stand alone” Christians, resplendent in our own good works, even good works as Christians. Rather, as He looks at us, He sees us united to His beloved Son, clothed in His righteousness. He loves us, not because we are lovely in ourselves, but because we are in Christ. 

-- Jerry Bridges in “Trusting God”


Friday, June 12, 2020


“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4 ESV)

To grow is to emerge gradually from a land where our vision is limited, where we are seeking and governed by egotistical pleasure, by our sympathies and antipathies, to a land of unlimited horizons and universal love, where we will be open to every person and desire their happiness. 

-- Jean Vanier


Thursday, June 11, 2020


“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)

Fear is a fundamental part of the human condition. We face dangers; our bodies are not invincible; we will be hurt; we will become sick, grow old, and die. The knowledge of these things produces an angst, a deep apprehension, anxiety, or feeling of dread. Fear defines our lives in so many ways: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear about our future, fear of getting sick, fear for our children, fear of leading meaningless lives, fear of being alone, and fear of dying.

Faith in God is the Christian response to the problem of fear. Among the primary affirmations of Scripture is simply that God is with us. God promises to never leave us or forsake us. God is as near as the air we breathe. As we trust this truth, and experience God’s presence, we find that “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) begins to replace the angst of human existence. 

-- Adam Hamilton in “Why? - Making Sense of God’s Will” 


Wednesday, June 10, 2020


“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”  (Ephesians 2:13-16 NIV)

When no tensions are confronted and overcome, because insiders or outsiders of a certain class or group meet happily among themselves, then the one new thing, peace, and the one new man created by Christ, are missing; then no faith, no church, no Christ, is found or confessed. For if the attribute "Christian" can be given sense from Ephesians 2, then it means reconciled and reconciling, triumphant over walls and removing the debris, showing solidarity with the "enemy" and promoting not one's own peace of mind but "our peace."... When this peace is deprived of its social, national, or economic dimensions, when it is distorted or emasculated so much that only "peace of mind" enjoyed by saintly individuals is left -- then Jesus Christ is being flatly denied. To propose, in the name of Christianity, neutrality or unconcern on questions of international, racial, or economic peace -- this amounts to using Christ's name in vain. 

-- Markus Barth (1915-1994) in “The Broken Wall” [1959] 


Tuesday, June 9, 2020


For we are laborers together with God”  (1 Corinthians 3:9a)

Our union with God -- His presence with us, in which our aloneness is banished and the meaning and full purpose of human existence is realized -- consists chiefly in a conversational relationship with God while we are each consistently and deeply engaged as His friend and co-laborer in the affairs of the kingdom of the heavens. 

-- Dallas Willard in “Hearing God”


Monday, June 8, 2020


“The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here [in Sodom] -- sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that He has sent us to destroy it.’”  (Genesis 19:12-13 NIV)

A just man comes to Sodom hoping to save the city.  He pickets.  What else can he do?  He goes from street to street, from marketplace to marketplace, shouting, "Men and women, repent.  What you are doing is wrong.  It will kill you; it will destroy you."  They laugh, but he goes on shouting, until one day a child stops him.  "Poor stranger, don't you see it's useless?"  "Yes," the just man replies.  "Then why do you go on?" the child asks.  "In the beginning," he says, "I was convinced that I would change them.  Now I go on shouting because I don't want them to change me." 

-- Elie Wiesel, adapted


Friday, June 5, 2020


“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the LORD. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  (Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV)

If we... are going to get right with God on racial matters, we all have a great deal of repenting to do. Perhaps we need to begin with confession. To try to play innocent and say things like, "Some of my best friends are black folks" only perpetuates a state of sick denial. We are socialized into racial attitudes, even if we are unaware of what is happening. We pick up racism from our primary group associations in ways that are too subtle for us even to notice. And what we absorb in our formative years nurtures our attitudes and behaviors that offend and hurt others, even when we are not conscious of doing so.

We usually point to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants as the agents of racism, but those who are African-American, Hispanic, or Asian are not innocent. There is a bitterness that comes over victims of both overt and covert discrimination. That bitterness eats away like a cancer and has a demonic effect on oppressed peoples. The reaction to racism is racism. The oppressed need a special gift of grace to overcome bitterness -- a grace that God has promised to those who would receive it.

-- Tony Campolo in “Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God” (1997)


Thursday, June 4, 2020


"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:9b-10 KJV)

When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” it is an engagement of our will to act in ways that can bring the Kingdom to pass on the earth. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Our thoughts, words and deeds are the means through which the Kingdom comes.  A spirituality which expects God to do it all while we watch passively from the sidelines is a false spirituality. We only pray “Thy kingdom come” correctly when we are in the game. 

-- Steve Harper


Wednesday, June 3, 2020


Ultimately, hardship and suffering, evil and sin, will not have the final word… Isaiah 51:11 captures this well when God promises the Jewish exiles living in Babylon, who had absolutely no human reason to hope for a return to Zion, “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.” To those who had no hope, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

We may not always live to see this hope fulfilled. The Jews were in exile for fifty years in Babylon, but they died with the hope that their descendants would return to Zion -- and they did!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. concluded his final sermon, preached on the night before he was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee, by drawing upon the biblical picture of Moses, standing on the mountaintop looking over the promised land just before his own death. King told his audience that he had been to the mountaintop. He, like Moses, had seen the promised land -- for King that was a land of freedom and equality for all people. But then King, in a prescient moment, told his audience that he might not enter the promised land with them. But he was not afraid. He was, in fact, happy because, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” That’s what faith in the God who will ultimately triumph looks like!  

-- Adam Hamilton in “Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will”


Tuesday, June 2, 2020


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

The goal of the Christian life is not knowledge, comprehending a bunch of theology, or memorizing large chunks of the Bible. Following Christ is also not about activity, signing up to serve ceaselessly at church, or tackling a daily “to do” list for God. Christ’s ultimate desire for each of us is to make us like Himself. Once we become God’s children by faith in Christ (John 1:12-13) -- once we receive a brand-new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) -- He wants to utterly transform, from the inside out, the way we think and talk and act. He does this primarily by the truth in His Word, by the power of the Spirit, and with the encouragement of His people. Life is His laboratory for remaking us into the people He originally envisioned, before sin plunged the world into darkness and ruin. Take heart, Christian, Christ is being formed in you! 

-- from “Life Lessons with Max Lucado - Book of Galatians: Free in Christ”


Monday, June 1, 2020


Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:45-49 NIV)

Ever-loving God, who came into the world clothed in our garment of flesh and who willingly gave Yourself to the cross, clothe us in Your own Spirit, that persons will recognize You in us and receive Your great gift of love. In the name of Jesus, Your greatest gift. Amen. 

-- Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck in “A Guide for all God's People” (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2003, used with permission)