Monday, August 31, 2020


“So also faith, if it is unaccompanied by obedience, has no life in it -- so long as it stands alone.”   (James 2:17 WNT)

Too many people think of religion, and particularly Christianity, as a matter of having to believe impossible things.  Faith and belief are related, but they are not the same things.  I can believe all kinds of things (dogs are better than cats, angels have wings and stand by my bed at night, or even that God exists), that make little or no practical difference in how I actually live my life.

Faith, on the other hand, is a matter of personal investment.  Faith usually implies belief, but it also assumes that this belief makes a profound difference in how I treat others, engage the world, or spend my time and money.  Faith moves me to risk, sacrifice, grow, and challenge.  Believing is easy; it requires nothing much of us.  But having true faith is the hardest thing in the world.  Interestingly, many people report that they don't really know what they believe until they begin to act on faith. 

-- Clifton F. Guthrie in “Faith: Living a Spiritual Life” 


Friday, August 28, 2020


“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins..”  (1 John 4:7-10 NIV)

When God came down to this planet, He didn’t stand across the street and shout through a megaphone, “I love you!” He chose a small group and got with them eyeball to eyeball, to show that godly love is intimate love.

When it is honest, open, and loving at intimate levels, Christianity powerfully changes human behavior.

Any local church is a gathering of people with many, many wounds. They come out of a world where they’ve been beaten up from one week to the next. They need grace, love, and tender handling, and they need it from each other. Small groups give us the perfect opportunity to be “unshockable, democratic, permissive” (as Bruce Larson says) -- to be comforting, to be “shock absorbers.”

But more than that is needed. Christians who are unshockable and loving are the only ones qualified to also be corrective. People going through temptations and difficult times especially need the loving closeness of a few brothers and sisters [in Christ] who will hold [each other] accountable.

In a small group of peers the idea is, “Where you’re strong and I’m weak, you’ll help me. Where I’m strong and you’re weak, I’ll help you. We’ll all learn about Jesus from each other.” 

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


Thursday, August 27, 2020


“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32 NRSV)

The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality -- but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart, I believe that Christ wants His church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.” Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality -- our churches too often miss it. 

-- Bruce Larson and Keith Miller in “The Edge of Adventure”


Wednesday, August 26, 2020


 “Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.”  (1 Kings 19:11-13a NKJV)

We must listen for God day by day. We must keep an ear open to our neighbor, an ear to our hearts, and a third ear to God.

Faith is a journey led by God. We pause, wait, and listen for the Guide who speaks more often than not in a still, small voice that requires careful, patient attention. 

-- J. Marshall Jenkins in “A Wakeful Faith” 



Tuesday, August 25, 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)

A Christian should encourage others in the same way a good coach encourages his/her players. The coach helps them visualize what they can BE rather than just what they ARE. Christians can be the agents of encouragement, knowing that God is the agent of transformation.

-- Rev. David T. Wilkinson


Monday, August 24, 2020


I’ll never forget the day I handed Jesus my yardstick. I had been saved since childhood, but I was almost thirty before the message of grace finally made the trip from my head to my heart, setting me “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). As the light of the good news finally penetrated the darkness of my self-condemning mind, the “perfect love” 1 John 4:18 speaks of finally drove out my insecurity, which had always been rooted in fear and punishment.

When I finally laid down my Pharisee pride and admitted that in myself I would never be -- could never be -- enough, I experienced a breakthrough that has radically changed my life. For as I surrendered my yardstick -- the tool of comparison that had caused so much mental torment and a sense of separation from God -- Jesus took it from my hands. Then, with a look of great love, He broke it over His knee and turned it into a cross, reminding me that He died so I wouldn’t have to.

That the punishment I so fully deserve has already been paid for.

That the way has been made for everyone who will believe in Jesus not only to come to Him but to come back home to the heart of God. 

-- Joanna Weaver in “Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God” 


Friday, August 21, 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)

By learning the suffering and burdens of [others], I became aware as never before of the life power that has survived the forces of darkness -- the power which, though never completely victorious, is continuously conquering. The very fact that we are still here carrying on the contest against the hosts of annihilation proves that on the whole the battle has gone for humanity. The world's great heart has proved equal to the prodigious undertaking which God set it. Rebuffed, but always persevering; self-reproached, but ever regaining faith; undaunted, tenacious, the heart of [humanity] labors towards immeasurably distant goals. Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within, the heart listens to a secret voice that whispers: "Be not dismayed; in the future lies the Promised Land."

-- Helen Keller 


Thursday, August 20, 2020


"Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am.’”  (Acts 26:28-29)

[In the 1700’s John] Wesley challenged listeners throughout England (and Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) to a deeper level of commitment and a serious pursuit of a holy life. Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be in name only; they were “almost Christians.” They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did the church in Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people. 

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


Wednesday, August 19, 2020


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

Knowledge is the truth or facts that a person gains through experience or thought. The greatest truth that a person can possess is truth about God. God doesn’t want us to know merely about Him in our heads. He wants us to know Him personally in our hearts. 

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in “Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians”


Tuesday, August 18, 2020


“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24) In other words, don’t wait around for another day! This is the only day we are sure of.

Accept with gratitude this day! Embrace the joys of this day! Seize the opportunities of this day! Commit your life to God this day!

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not singing the old hedonist song, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” That’s not what this is about. No! Rather, it’s about seeing life in this world as a generous gift from God. It’s about recognizing each day we have as a gracious gift from God and celebrating that, and seizing the precious opportunities it offers. 

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


Monday, August 17, 2020


"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

Forrest Gump said many wonderful things, but “My mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on” has particular resonance regarding new beginnings.

We’ve all see those before and after pictures: the “before” picture of the forlorn, 90-pound weakling; the “after” picture of Mr. Universe. It looks so easy in all those advertisements for millions of products and procedures. At best, it’s a temporary fix on a used model.

“New…” means a completely new creation. The beauty of our “after” picture is glorious and eternal. Think of God creating order from chaos. And what was His opinion of His work? It was good. Through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God has done the same with us. Perhaps this is the most wondrous part of the Father’s nature: He can make all things new! 

-- From “Hello God… It’s Me: 365 Day Devotional Journal”


Friday, August 14, 2020


“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  (1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV)

While the new birth is necessary at the beginning, it is only the beginning. We must not think that because we have accepted Christ as Savior and therefore are Christians, this is all there is in the Christian life.

In one way, physical birth is the most important part in our physical lives, because we are not alive in the external world until we have been born. In another way, however, it is the least important of all the aspects of our life, because it is only the beginning and then it is past.

After we are born, the important thing is the living of our lives in all their relationships, possibilities, and capabilities. It is exactly the same with the new birth. 

-- Francis A. Schaeffer in “True Spirituality”


Thursday, August 13, 2020


“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

In order to begin a new chapter, you must end an old chapter. The way to do it is with a simple punctuation mark. You can put a period on the page. It gets the job done. But if you want to be more dramatic, you can use an exclamation point. It’s more decisive, more definitive. Then you turn the page and begin a new sentence, which begins a new paragraph, which begins a new chapter.

What’s true in grammar is true in life.

If you want to break a habit, stop a conflict, or just leave the past in the past, you need a punctuation mark. A comma won’t cut it. Neither will a semicolon. You need an exclamation point in your life! 

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


Wednesday, August 12, 2020


“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  (John 14:13-14 NKJV)

To pray in Christ’s Name means something more than adding “for Christ’s sake” to our petitions. Prayer in Christ’s Name is prayer according to the quality of His Person, according to the character of His mind and according to the purpose of His will. To pray in the Name of Christ is to pray as one who is at one with Christ, whose mind is the mind of Christ, whose desires are the desires of Christ, and whose purpose is one with that of Christ. 

-- Samuel Chadwick


Tuesday, August 11, 2020


“We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”  (2 Corinthians 5:4-5 MSG)

Think of the best meal you’ve ever eaten. Recall its appearance, its flavor, its aroma. Chances are you can’t remember exactly how it tastes. All you know is that you loved it. Although you can’t totally recapture the experience of this gastronomic delight, simply thinking about it certainly gets salivary glands going. Just the thought can make you long for more.

That is what God’s Spirit makes you feel about heaven. You’ve been given a taste of paradise through brief descriptions in the Bible. Furthermore, God’s Spirit has awakened a hunger in your heart that your mind can’t full comprehend. Your heart longs for the home you were created to inhabit, a place where death, pain, and sorrow have no hold, where your body is healthy and whole, where peace and praise replace struggle and strife, where you meet God face to face and never have to say good-bye.

Heaven is as real as those God-given longings. But God didn’t’ give you a taste of what’s ahead to leave you discontent with where you are now. He uses longings as a homing device to keep you headed in the right direction. They remind you to view present problems from an eternal perspective. By keeping heaven in your heart and on your mind, you’ll gain strength to handle life here and now, as you rest in the fact that God’s best is yet to come. 

-- From “100 Favorite Bible Verses”


Monday, August 10, 2020


God has no orphans -- only family. He has provided for every child of His through the unlimited resources of heaven. No matter what mistakes we have made, God cares for those who have chosen to enter a love relationship with Him. Our world is full of hurting people who have no hope, but God made provision for their every need through Jesus Christ. He then made Christ the head of the churches He has established, in order that He might bring healing through His people who have come to know His saving grace. That is the strategy of God’s redemptive plan to touch the world. 

Local churches, the gathered people of God, are crucial to God’s eternal purpose in salvation and world redemption. If you are a member of a local church, by the direction and will of God, you are most fortunate. You are exactly where God wants you and where God will unfold to you the fullness of salvation. And it is here where God will cause you to reach out to a lost world for His glory.  

-- Henry Blackaby and Melvin D. Blackaby in “Experiencing God Together: God's Plan to Touch Your World”


Friday, August 7, 2020


Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Do not get drunk with wine… Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Intoxication and spirituality seem like odd companions in a Bible verse. But Paul is saying it just right: don’t try to get inspiration out of a bottle. God wants to fill and inspire you through His Spirit. If you need comfort, don’t guzzle it. Find the real stuff in the one Jesus called the Comforter. Don’t try to work up courage by drinking. The Spirit is courageous! The disciples ran in fright when Jesus was arrested, but they boldly faced danger every day once the Spirit had come.

Do you drink just to loosen up and relax? The fruit of the Spirit includes peace from God. Not to mention love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

An old commercial used to tout two merits of the beer it was promoting: “tastes great” and “less filling.” At least the beer company got the second one right. Everything this world has to offer is less filling. And at the end of the day, none of it tastes great. But life in the Spirit is a different matter.          

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


Thursday, August 6, 2020


“When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for Me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  (Acts 1:8 GNT)

As Jesus prepared to enter heaven, He told His followers of an event that would change them from the inside out. The Holy Spirit was going to come into their lives… we would be filled with the Spirit. When we become followers of Jesus Christ, He immediately enters our lives. We pray for His filling, which means a full cooperation with Him and all He wants to do through us.

[The Spirit] is the presence of Christ with us, everywhere we go. He gives us special gifts for ministry. He counsels and comforts us, and each day He continues to transform us to the image of Christ Himself -- through tiny, almost imperceptible moments when we think something or do something that is the Jesus way, instead of our old way. And as we are filled with the Spirit, we begin to know what it means to have a truly full life. 

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


Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Grace is not blind. It sees the hurt full well. But grace chooses to see God’s forgiveness even more. It refuses to let hurts poison the heart. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV) Where grace is lacking, bitterness abounds. Where grace abounds, forgiveness grows. 

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


Tuesday, August 4, 2020


“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart… But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;… So we do no lose heart.”  (2 Corinthians 4:1, 2-9,16a NRSV)

As I thought of Paul’s statement, I remembered a story that was told at a California graduation. The speaker told about a young man who had received his diploma… and ten years later the graduate sent his diploma back to the university saying that the degree had not helped him obtain employment in his chosen field of work. The speaker, who was the former chancellor of the university, said that he sent the diploma back to the young man and told him to keep it, that he earned it. He went on to explain that the purpose of the university was to develop students who will be self-sufficient and involved with society, but what stuck with me was his statement to the young man: “It is not the purpose of a university to guarantee victory in life, but to equip one for the struggles of life.”

That is the purpose of the church as well. It is not the purpose of the faith to guarantee us victory, success, or immunity from trouble. The purpose of the church is to equip us with the power to face the struggles of life. 

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


Monday, August 3, 2020


“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV)

“Then Jesus took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’”  (Matthew 26:27-28 NKJV)

The Hebrew religion was an unfinished religion.  That is one of the best proofs of its divine inspiration.  The prophets had the forward look [and] great things were yet to come.  As one of the most daring expressed it, the old and hallowed covenant, made by God at the Exodus, would be superseded by a new and higher relation; God would write His law into the hearts of the people; the old drill in outward statutes would disappear, for all… would know God by an inward experience of forgiveness and love.  

-- Walter Rauschenbusch in “The Social Principles of Jesus” [1916]