Wednesday, March 31, 2021


"One of the criminals hanging beside [Jesus] scoffed, 'So You're the Messiah, are You? Prove it by saving Yourself -- and us, too, while You're at it!' But the other criminal protested, 'Don't you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.' And Jesus replied, 'I assure you, today you will be with Me in Paradise'." (Luke 23:39-43 NLT)

Amidst all the people at the crucifixion scene there is one person with whom all of us can identify. We can all relate to the crucified crook. All of us hang on the cross beside Jesus. All of us have made the most imaginable request. And all of us who are in the body of Christ have received the most unimaginable and immeasurable gift that we could ever receive -- salvation!

-- Max Lucado 


Tuesday, March 30, 2021


"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed."  (1Peter 2:24 ESV)

During my senior year in high school, I took an art history survey course taught by a dynamic and passionate art lover. Ms. Giles, with her colorful, stylish clothes and contagious enthusiasm, trained us to analyze and appreciate art in all its diverse genres and media, from the art of the ancient Greeks to the art of surrealist, abstract, and post-modern painters and sculptors. Some time periods and artists I appreciated more than others.

One day Ms. Giles pulled me aside after class for a gentle conversation. "I noticed you weren't looking at some of the slides today, Sharon," she said. "Is anything wrong?"

The slides that day were primarily paintings of the crucifixion, and I couldn't bear to look. I made some excuse about feeling squeamish with some of the gory depictions. But more than that, I found the paintings disturbing because they were too close and confrontational. At that point in my life, I was far more comfortable with an empty cross, a sanitized cross, the kind I could wear around my neck on a gold or silver chain on Sundays. I didn't want to look at Jesus suffering upon it. 

-- Sharon Garlough Brown, excerpted from her newsletter


Monday, March 29, 2021


SPECIAL NOTE: Today, March 29, marks the 22st anniversary of this SOUND BITES Ministry in memory of our son, Dustin, who had died on this date the previous year. This past year we marked the milestone of sending out SOUND BITES #5000. This past year the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in so many varying ways. It has been a tough year, but because Jesus lives, we can have hope, not only for this life, but for our life to come. As we begin Holy Week today’s SOUND BITES quote speaks to the “life-changing message” found “in the Person of Jesus Christ.”  -- DW


“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Matthew 21:9 NKJV)

Praise God! The world of humanity that had been separated from God and unable to approach Him except indirectly through the Jewish sacrifices and ceremonies was now invited to draw near and be reconciled directly to God through [His Son] Who had invaded time and space [to live among us!]…

Real meaning to your life is found in the glorious dawn of God’s story, which breaks into full resolution in the Person of Jesus Christ. What an astounding truth! What a life-changing message!

Because He emptied Himself of all but love, you can be filled.

Because His body was broken, your life can be whole.

Because His blood was shed, your sin can be forgiven.

Because He submitted to injustice, you can forgive.

Because He finished His Father’s work, your life has worth.

Because He was forsaken, you will never be alone.

Because He was buried, you can be raised.

Because He lives, you don’t have to be afraid.

Because He reached down to you, you don’t have to work your way up to Him.

Because His promises are always true, you can have hope! 

-- Anne Graham Lotz in “God’s Story”


Friday, March 26, 2021


“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Jesus and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:8-10 NIV)

The Triumphal Entry got so many things right but the crucial things wrong. Jesus received a royal welcome for shortsighted reasons. Those who cut the branches and spread their coats expected a lot from Jesus. They didn’t expect enough. They wanted a king; they needed so much more.

The Triumphal Entry represents all of those clear motives when humanity has expressed its strongest wishes for God to intervene, but has mistaken its own purpose for God’s. This opening scene in Jesus’ final week serves as a reminder of all the ways in which Jesus’ entry into history was misunderstood even by those who were expecting Him. The Triumphal Entry teaches us to acknowledge Jesus Christ for who He really is…

Our understanding of Jesus Himself has much to do with the way we see and understand the Triumphal Entry. 

-- Adapted from “His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection”


Thursday, March 25, 2021


“Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”  (Matthew 21:6 NKJV)

Christ’s public Entry into Jerusalem seems altogether different from -- almost inconsistent with -- His previous mode of appearance. Evidently, the time for the silence so long enjoined has passed, and the time for public declaration had come. And such, indeed, this Entry was. From the moment of His sending forth the two disciples to His acceptance of the homage of the multitude, and His rebuke of the Pharisee’s attempt to arrest it, all must be regarded as designed or approved by Him; not only a public assertion of His Messiahship, but a claim to its national acknowledgement. And yet, even so, it was not to be the Messiah of Israel’s conception, but He of prophetic picture: “just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.”…

There can, at least, be no question that this prophecy was intended to introduce, in contrast to earthly warfare and kingly triumph, another Kingdom, of which the just King would be the Prince of Peace, Who was meek and lowly in His Coming, Who would speak peace to the sinner, and Whose sway would yet extend to earth’s utmost bounds. 

-- Adapted from Alfred Edersheim in “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”


Wednesday, March 24, 2021


“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5 NLT)

The purpose of an apple tree is to bear apples. The purpose of a cherry tree is to bear cherries. The purpose of a grapevine is to bear grapes. Christians are also expected to bear fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23), and to win souls (John 15:16). Here, Jesus says He is the vine and believers are the branches. Thus, the secret to our bearing fruit is staying attached to the vine. Jesus’ point is that we are totally dependent upon Him. Just as we could not become God’s children through our own efforts but only through faith in Christ (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8) so, too, we cannot bear fruit by wishing and hoping for it or by working hard at it on our own. Instead, we must allow Christ to produce His fruit through us. The secret is in “remaining.”

We remain in Christ by communicating with Him, doing what He says, living by faith, and relating in love to the community of believers.

So stay close, be nourished, and bear fruit. 

-- Dave Veerman, quoted in “His Passion: Christ’s Journey to the Resurrection”


Tuesday, March 23, 2021


In every age of history, on every page of Scripture, the truth is revealed: God allows us to make our own choices.

And no one delineates that more clearly than Jesus. According to Him, we can choose “a narrow gate or a wide gate… a narrow road or a wide road… the big crowd or the small crowd” (Matthew 7:13-14). We can choose to “build on rock or sand” (Matthew 7:24-27), “serve God or riches” (Matthew 6:24), “be numbered among the sheep or goats” (Matthew 25:32-33).

God gives eternal choices, and these choices have eternal consequences. “Then they [who rejected God] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46 NIV).

Isn’t this the reminder of Calvary’s trio? Ever wonder why there were two crosses next to Christ? Why not six or ten? Ever wonder why Jesus was in the center? Why not on the far right or far left? Could it be that the two other crosses on the hill symbolize one of God’s greatest gifts? The gift of choice. 

-- Adapted from Max Lucado in “He Chose the Nails”


Monday, March 22, 2021


“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”   (John 20:31)

It is true, there are people who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, our Saviour, among them some of the world’s greatest scholars. But I am appalled when I talk to many of these people of learning about Christ, for I discover that almost always they are ignorant of the basic truths of the Gospel… You would be amazed to discover that inevitably these people are taking issue with something that they do not fully understand. They have erected ‘straw men’, and have proceeded to destroy their own creation.

I have yet to meet anyone who has honestly considered the overwhelming evidence concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who does not admit that He is the Son of God. Now, as I have said, I meet some who do not believe, but as we have talked and reasoned together, they have been honest in confessing, “I have not taken the time to read the Bible or consider the historical facts concerning Jesus.” Their resentment has been based upon an unfortunate childhood experience, upon the inconsistency of some Christian or perhaps the influence of a college professor; but always they have admitted that they have not honestly considered the person of Jesus Christ and His claims on their lives. 

-- William R. Bright in “An Introduction to the Ten Basic Steps Toward Christian Maturity”


Friday, March 19, 2021


"Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you, LORD, because you are my mighty rock and my protector.”  (Psalm 19:14 CEV)

When Abraham Lincoln got angry with someone, he would fire off what he called a “hot letter.” He would set aside the letter until his emotions cooled off. Then, he would read the letter with a cool head. He left many letters unsigned and unsent.

While Abraham Lincoln wrote letters instead of posts on social media, his practice provides a worthy example for us today. If your post deals with a particularly sensitive topic, can it wait until tomorrow? If it can wait a day, save it as a draft and revisit it tomorrow. You may find that you read it with fresh eyes and see that you shouldn’t post it. Or you may see that it would be helpful to people and click “post.” Either way, the longer you can wait before inserting yourself into a conversation, the better.

Christians, we need to remember that we are Christians first. We represent King Jesus and His church. When we speak, it should reflect the priorities and character of our King and His Kingdom. This concern means that we need to take extra care to consider the words we speak online. 

-- Scott Slayton, from his blog “One Degree to Another”


Thursday, March 18, 2021


I believe that Paul's epistle to the Colossians speaks a word of hope -- of good news which can unite us, and which offers the possibility of true harmony in the Church... First of all, Paul tells us: Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. “He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (1:17) Jesus Christ is the focus of our life together in the church. “He is the head of the body, the church.” (1:18) Jesus Christ is the One who calls us to obedient discipleship. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in Him,... just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (2:6-7)

In other words, these words from the epistle tell me that our center -- our unity -- our harmony is not dependent on our efforts, nor on whether we are in agreement with one another. It is not dependent on our speaking the same language [or having the same ethnic background. It is not dependent on our political views or our position on social issues.] Our unity is found in Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:17). And that comes to us as a gift of God’s love. Because of that gift, we know who and whose we are. “You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” Paul said. That is our identity; we are persons chosen by God, invited to a new life in Christ, and clothed in the brand-new wardrobe given to us by God. We are holy and beloved, living out a life of faith and thanksgiving and prayer. 

– Adapted from Harriet Finney in a message entitled "Perfect Harmony


Wednesday, March 17, 2021


“He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.”  (Charles Wesley)

Long ago, Persia was ruled by a kind shah who concealed his identity and visited the public baths as a beggar.  Seeking the lowest place and worker, the shah went to the cellar where a man stoked the furnace.  The shah befriended him, and the man shared his simple food and conversation.  Over time the worker grew attached to this stranger who visited him.  When the ruler finally revealed his true identity, he expected the worker to ask for a gift.  Instead, the furnace tender said, "You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me.  On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself."

What an illustration of what Jesus did for us.  He left His throne of glory and came to our place of labor and loneliness to befriend us.  That's amazing enough, but it gets even better.  Jesus has invited us to sit together with Him in "the heavenly places."  As you sit by His side, you will discover He is the God who gives. 

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


Tuesday, March 16, 2021


“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23 NLT)

In the gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed. 

-- Steven Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith in “Speechless: Living in Awe of God’s Disruptive Grace”


Monday, March 15, 2021


Believing is not merely giving mental assent to what Christ did and then living any way we want.  Saving faith has four important steps.  First, we must decide to leave behind our past life.  Second, we must admit that we cannot help ourselves.  Third, we must accept what Christ has done on our behalf.  Fourth, we must entrust ourselves to Him in this way; we accept His way of life as our way of life.  So when He becomes our Savior, He also becomes our Lord.

Why is faith so important for salvation?  Faith is the opposite of the basic sin that separates man from God.  Man's fall took place when he chose to decide for himself what is good and what is evil.  He chose to build his own system of values.  So man's basic sin is independence from God.  Faith is the opposite of independence from God.  When one exercises faith, he rejects his own ways of saving himself and controlling his life and submits to the way God provided for him in Christ Jesus.

Here then is the gospel in a nutshell: God has, in Christ, done all that is necessary for our salvation and we must accept that by faith. 

-- Ajith Fernando in “The Christian's Attitude Toward World Religions”


Friday, March 12, 2021


“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?... No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow -- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."  (Romans 8:35-38 NLT)

When you are sad, tired, lonely and full of suffering, take refuge in the sanctuary of your soul and there you will find your Brother, your Friend, Jesus, who will console you, support you and strengthen you. 

-- Charles de Foucauld in “Meditations of a Hermit”


Thursday, March 11, 2021


“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 15:13)

Well-being is found in the renewal of disciplined lifestyles, committed relationships, and the receiving and giving of acceptance. To experience deep well-being is to be self-confident yet unself-conscious, self-giving yet self-respecting, realistic yet hope-filled [as you trust in God].

-- David G. Meyers in “The Pursuit of Happiness: Who Is Happy and Why” 


Wednesday, March 10, 2021


You are tired. You are weary. Weary of being slapped by the waves of broken dreams. Weary of being stepped on and run over in the endless marathon to the top. Weary of a year-long pandemic. Weary of political polarization and fighting. Weary of putting your trust in someone only to have the door slammed in your face. Weary of staring into the future and seeing only futility.

What steals your childhood zeal? It is weariness that makes the words of Jesus so compelling. Listen to them. "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Come to Me… The invitation is to come to Him. Why Him? He offers the invitation as a penniless rabbi in an oppressed nation. He has no connections with the authorities in Rome. He hasn’t written a best-seller or earned a diploma.

Yet He dares to look into the leathery faces of farmers, the tired faces of stay-at-home parents, the anguished faces of those fighting for social justice, the fatigued masked faces of front-line healthcare workers… and makes this paradoxical promise: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

The people came. They came out of the cul-de-sacs and office complexes and hospitals of their existence and He gave them, not religion, not doctrine, not systems, but rest.

As a result, they called Him Lord. As a result, they called Him Savior. Not so much because of what He said, but because of what He did. What He did on the cross during six hours, one Friday. 

-- Adapted and updated from “Six Hours One Friday” by Max Lucado


Tuesday, March 9, 2021


In Matthew 11:27, Jesus said:  "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (NASB).  Jesus meant that He and God are one and the only way for a person to come into relationship with God [the Father] is through Jesus [the Son].  The apostles understood this to be His meaning, for in Acts 4:12, Peter says of Jesus Christ, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

This truth eliminates the possibility that Jesus might be some vague manifestation of an impersonal God.  It eliminates the possibility that He could be classified merely as a "good and wise man" who walked the face of the earth and loved people.  It shows that Jesus is either the true God, on whom we must focus, or He was a colossal fraud, and the countless thousands who have suffered and died for Him down through the millennia made a horrible and tragic mistake.

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


Monday, March 8, 2021


Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Was Jesus narrow-minded? Well, in a sense He was. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

If Jesus was right about this, then He was being appropriately narrow-minded. He was being like parents who are narrow enough to insist that their children walk on the sidewalk and not in the street, or a doctor who limits his prescriptions to medicine that will actually help people rather than [a placebo that would do nothing or a poison that would harm them], or the airline pilot who restricts his landing options to that narrow path to life called a runway, rather than trying to put the airplane down in a cornfield.

You see, we really want narrow approaches -- as long as they are based on truth and point us in the direction that’s best for us.

Jesus gave us every reason to believe He was telling the truth, and that He loves us enough to lead us toward forgiveness, life and an eternity with Him.

As the apostle Peter said: “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 4:12).  C. S. Lewis put it this way: "One road leads home and a thousand roads lead into the wilderness." 

-- Lee Strobel in “The Case for Christianity Answer Book”


Friday, March 5, 2021


“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  ‘Follow me’, He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.” (Matthew 9:9 NIV)

Unfortunately, many of us start [our faith] journey with enthusiasm but fail to sustain it. Our faith goes on cruise control as we start seeking comfort and not a calling. It doesn’t help that too often in our churches we pigeonhole Jesus safely behind the altar rails and communion tables of our tame religious traditions, teaching people to revere Jesus instead of following Jesus sacrificially every day in the trenches of life. Jesus’ call is not to revere; His call is to follow. When we do so, reverence will naturally result. 

-- Mike Slaughter in “Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus”


Thursday, March 4, 2021


Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 16:25)

Ever feel you’re losing your grip on life? Congratulations! Let go of your own grip. Grasp the cross. You are loved, cherished and valued. The Lord won’t ever let go of you. Give your life over to His control. He’ll take it and give you back a more exciting, fulfilling life than you’ve ever known. Give your time to Him and He’ll give you back eternity. Give yourself to people in need and He’ll give you a heart overflowing with love. Give your money over to His management and He’ll give back more than you need. 

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


Wednesday, March 3, 2021


“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”  (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT)

In his book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”, John Ortberg makes a helpful distinction between trying and training. He says that anyone can try to run a marathon, but only those who train for it will actually accomplish it.

In the same way, anyone can try to be a follower of Christ, but the only people who actually discover the life to which God has called us are those who train for it. Ortberg concludes, “Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely.” Disciples are people who choose to enter into the spiritual disciplines that, if practiced over time, will enable them to become Spirit-energized, grace-filled, joy-soaked disciples who are learning to love God with their whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength while learning to love others the way they have been loved by God. 

-- James A. Harnish in “A Disciple’s Path: Deepening Your Relationship with Christ and the Church”


Tuesday, March 2, 2021


“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)

“There is none righteous, no, not one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:10, 23 NKJV)

Some would disagree with such strong words. They look around and say, “Compared to everyone else, I’m a decent person.” You know, a pig might say something similar. He might look at his trough partners and announce, “I’m just as clean as everyone else.” Compared to humans, however, that pig needs help. Compared to God, we humans need the same. The standard for sinfulness isn’t found in the pig troughs of earth but at the throne of heaven. God, Himself, is the standard. 

-- Max Lucado in “He Chose the Nails”


Monday, March 1, 2021


“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV)
Jesus only is our message,
Jesus all our theme shall be;
We will lift up Jesus ever,
Jesus only will we see.
Jesus only is our Savior,
All our guilt He bore away,
He, our righteousness forever,
All our strength from day to day.
Jesus is our Sanctifier,
Saving us from self and sin,
And with all His Spirit’s fullness,
Filling all our hearts within.
Jesus only is our Healer,
All our sicknesses He bare,
And His risen life and fullness,
All His members still may share.
Jesus only is our Power,
He the gift of Pentecost;
Jesus, breathe Thy pow’r upon us,
Fill us with the Holy Ghost.
And for Jesus we are waiting,
List’ning for the Advent Call;
But ’twill still be Jesus only,
Jesus ever, all in all.
-- Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919)