Friday, July 30, 2021


“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

If we win all the time -- or if we think we're winning when in fact we're not, for sometimes we fool ourselves -- the elements of life get out of proportion.  As a matter of fact, we need an occasional defeat to help us remember that God is God. Many people in public life -- especially entertainers, athletes, and politicians -- come to believe their own press releases and to think they're above the rules of ordinary human beings.  Wealth does the same thing to many people.

What happens in these more prominent positions happens also at every other level of life.  We see it on the playground, at the community club, in the classroom, and, saddest of all, in the family circle.  It's painful to see someone broken by defeat, but sometimes it is the most important experience a person will ever have.

It can be hard to know God if we're so enchanted with our own successes that we become unduly fascinated with ourselves. 

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “If Experience Is Such a Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course?” 


Thursday, July 29, 2021


“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power [this world] does not reckon with.  But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed.  We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places.  Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross.  We are "sideliners" -- coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged.  The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own.  Oh that God would make us dangerous!  

--  Jim Elliot (1927-1956)


Wednesday, July 28, 2021


The Bible is remarkably transparent about the flaws and brokenness of the marriages of every character – yet how often in churches do couples sit in silent agony? They have an image of spiritual success to project, but under the surface the reality is that they have not slept together for months. Or there is verbal or physical abuse going on. Or they have a young daughter who is pregnant and they don’t know what to do. Or one of them is a secret alcoholic. Or they are facing bankruptcy.

Often the people who need help the most receive it the least, because that would mean leaving the pedestal. But what if real people could be as honest as the Bible about marriage? In a community gathered around a cross, there is no room for pedestals. In the Bible, marriage is not the fulfillment of our dreams; it is a place where we learn.

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want to Be”


Tuesday, July 27, 2021


It is a remarkable thing how the writers of Scripture never do what churches are so temped to do, which is put people on a pedestal. To illustrate how grittily honest the biblical writers are about human nature, answer this question: Who in the Bible would you say had the best marriage?

Adam and Eve had their honeymoon in paradise, and it all went down-hill from there. Abraham lied that Sarah was his sister – twice – and impregnated her servant, Hagar. Isaac and Rebekah spent their marriage battling because he favored Esau and she favored Jacob. Jacob had children by two wives and the wives’ servants. About all we know of Moses’ wife, Zipporah, is that they had an argument over circumcising their son and she called Moses a “bridegroom of blood.” David was a disaster as a husband; Solomon was worse. When Job’s life got hard, Mrs. Job told him to “curse God and die!” I am not making this up: Someone online said they thought the best marriage in the Bible was between Noah and Joan of Ark.

In fairy tales, life is a difficult adventure until you get married – and then you live happily ever after. But nowhere in the Bible do a couple get married and then live “happily ever after.” Marriage doesn’t save anyone. Only Jesus does that.

-- John Ortberg in “The Me I Want to Be”


Friday, July 23, 2021


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2 NIV)

How we act will be determined by how we think. If God is to change our lives, He must first change our minds. The human mind cannot be a vacuum. It will be filled either with good or evil. It will be filled either with Christ or with carnality. What will make the difference? It depends on us, and on what we allow to enter our minds. Negatively, our minds must be turned away from evil. We must be careful what kind of [things we watch on the screen], what kind of books we read, the things that occupy our thoughts. But it isn’t enough to put bad thoughts out of our minds. Positively, they must be replaced with good thoughts -- thoughts that are shaped by God and His word, by prayer. 

-- Billy Graham in “Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith”


Thursday, July 22, 2021


“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  (Psalm 27:14)

Waiting may be one of the ultimate tests of our faith. It certainly is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines to learn.

Isaiah wisely encouraged those who are waiting on God to consider others who have waited on Him. He pointed out in Isaiah 64:4, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

Scripture says if we wait on God we will be blessed. If we grow impatient while waiting and take matters into our own hands, we’ll be in trouble.

Are you waiting on God for something? Then take heart. Don’t run ahead. Be strong enough to wait. Wait. And again I say, wait for the Lord. 

-- Anne Graham Lotz in “Fixing My Eyes on Jesus”


Wednesday, July 21, 2021


“For it is clear that Jesus did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every respect, so that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself was tested by what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:16-18 NRSV)

The idea that a virgin would be selected by God to bear Himself... The notion that God would don a scalp and toes and two eyes... The thought that the King of the universe would sneeze and burp and get bit by mosquitoes... It’s too incredible. Too revolutionary. We would never create such a Savior. We aren’t that daring... In our wildest imaginings we wouldn’t conjure a king who becomes one of us.

But God did. God did what we wouldn’t dare dream. He did what we couldn’t imagine. He became a man so we could trust Him. He became a sacrifice so we could know Him. And He defeated death so we could follow Him. 

-- Max Lucado

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


At the conclusion of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told a quick story about two housebuilders. The one famously built his house on a foundation of rock, and the other infamously built his house on a foundation of sand. Terrible storms hit both houses. The former survived the assault, while the latter fell.

Two builders represented two different kinds of people. And the critical difference between them, according to Jesus, was in how they responded. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock, “ while, on the other hand, “everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:24-27) The two people heard the same words, you see. The monumental difference in what became of them lay in how they responded to those words…

Graciously, the Lord initiates with us, and it is our calling to respond appropriately to what He is saying and doing. The question is what that response looks like for you and me today. 

-- David Kalas in “Reunion: A Bible Study for Churches Getting Back Together”


Monday, July 19, 2021


“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And because of His words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:39-42 NIV)

We are doing more good than we know, sowing seeds, starting streamlets, giving people true thoughts of Christ, to which they will refer one day as the first things that started them thinking of Him; and of my part, I shall be satisfied if no great mausoleum is raised over my grave, but that simple souls shall gather there when I am gone, and say, "He was a good man; he wrought no miracles, but he spoke words about Christ, which led me to know Him for myself.” 

-- George Matheson, from “Streams in the Desert”


Friday, July 16, 2021


Jesus told [Thomas], "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. If you had known who I am, then you would have known who My Father is. From now on you have known Him and have seen Him."  (John 14:6 The Message)

The great need today among the young is the strengthening of belief in things spiritual, for in spite of the superhuman advances in science, invention, and culture, none of this is attributed to God's gift to mankind; in fact, the increase of knowledge… has but given to youth a self-reliant independence where religion has no place, and beyond admitting that Christ was “the best man that ever lived,” there are few who concede any other tribute to the Creator.  And yet the saving principles of the world are rooted in Christ, implanted in Him; the Truth by which we live is the Truth as taught and lived by Jesus. 

-- Helen Olney in “Thoughts”


Thursday, July 15, 2021


“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)

The Church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate. 

-- Robert B. Munger, quoted in “Growing Strong in God’s Family”


Wednesday, July 14, 2021


“From Paul, an apostle. I was not chosen to be an apostle by human beings, nor was I sent from human beings. I was made an apostle through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.,. Jesus gave Himself for our sins to free us from this evil world we live in, as God the Father planned. The glory belongs to God forever and ever.”  (Galatians 1:1,4-5 NCV)

It’s often said, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” How true. Start with the gospel of grace. The enemies of God being offered unconditional pardon and adoption into the royal family of God? Heaven’s most glorious riches lavished on the least deserving? It all reads like a fairy tale. And it gets even wilder. God announces His intention to partner with the likes of us so others can experience His love and grace. He could use angels or employ some other supernatural means. Instead He uses us. And what do we do? Mostly we stumble and fall and fail. Yet the Lord never gives up on us and never aborts His plan. He works in us and through us, despite us. The villains become heroes. What a mystery! What a miracle! What a God we serve!

-- Max Lucado in “Life Lessons: Galatians”


Tuesday, July 13, 2021


“So Zacchaeus ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus, for He was about to pass that way.”  (Luke 19:4 ESV)

Let me ask you something… Do you know the redeeming love of Christ in your life? Has He turned your life around? Has He loved you into life?

There is a beautiful old story about Zacchaeus the tax collector. It tells how in later years, he rose early every morning and left his house. His wife, curious, followed him one morning. At the town well he filled a bucket, and he walked until he came to a sycamore tree. There, setting down the bucket, he began to clean away the stones, the branches, and the rubbish from around the base of the tree. Having done that, he poured water on the roots and stood there in silence, gently caressing the trunk with both hands. When his amazed wife came out of hiding and asked what he was doing, Zacchaeus replied simply, “This is where I found Christ!”…

Do you have a sacred spot where you would declare, “This is where I found Christ; this is where Christ loved me to life”? 

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


Monday, July 12, 2021


Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32 NLT)

Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance. 

-- Eugene H. Peterson in “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society”


Friday, July 9, 2021


Many years ago, when my daughter Michelle was a toddler, she climbed out of bed very early one Saturday morning and made her way to the kitchen. While her mother and I slept, she pulled open the refrigerator door and found herself staring at a full carton of fresh eggs. To her, they must have looked like little balls. I assume that, because she promptly started picking them up one at a time trying to bounce them on the tile floor.

Splat… splat…splat.

Suddenly, my wife and I were throwing covers left and right and flying out of the bed. We raced down the hall and found Michelle in her jammies, grinning ear to ear, playing in a gooey pool of broken eggs. I’m sure she thought we had come to join the fun. She was not happy when she realized that was not the case.

Thinking back, I remember how filthy she was, all covered in egg goo. She was resistant to my efforts to clean her up. But most of all, she was clueless. She couldn’t begin to understand why I was ruining what had been, for her, a cracking good time.

Filthy, resistant, and clueless. That was my daughter in a nutshell… or perhaps I should say in an eggshell.

But not for one instant did I stop loving her.

And the Lord won’t stop loving you either, even if you make a mess of your life. John 1:17 says, “God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.”

“Unfailing love.” Those words make all the difference. 

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


Thursday, July 8, 2021


Jesus said, “Follow Me.” (Luke 5:27b)

This calling is for every child of God. It’s not just for the Jeremiahs, the Moses, the Abrahams, the Davids, the Matthews, Marks, Lukes, and Johns. It’s not just for the Augustines, the Luthers, the Wesleys, the Billy Sundays, or the Billy Grahams. It’s not just for pastors, missionaries, Christian stars, and personalities. It’s for all those people. It’s for little me and little you.

There’s only one bright morning star, and that’s Jesus. Those two words that Christ said, “Follow Me,” changed the world, as millions since have risen up to follow the call. What is this calling I’m talking about? It is this. It’s Luke, chapter 5. It’s Jesus saying to Peter, “Peter, will you follow Me?” And then in John 21, “Peter, will you love Me?” And again “Peter, will you die for Me?”

Will you honor Me? Will you live for Me? Will you die for Me? That’s the call. And every single believer is called to this: to this fellowship, to this maturity, to this discipleship. It’s for every child of God, and that means me and that means you. 

--  Adapted from “Side by Side: A Handbook for Disciple-Making for a New Century,” Steve & Lois Rabey, General Editors


Wednesday, July 7, 2021


“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4:29)

The word is one of the most precious moral choices we individuals make, and if you really want to know what a man or woman believes, thinks, and how that person has made moral choices, you want to look at the words they choose. 

-- Bill Moyers


Tuesday, July 6, 2021


There are certain mountains only God can climb. It’s not that you aren’t welcome to try, it’s just that you aren’t able.

If the word “Savior” is in your job description, it’s because you put it there. Your role is to help the world, not save it. Mount Messiah is one mountain you weren’t made to climb.

Nor is Mount Self-Sufficient. You aren’t able to run the world, nor are you able to sustain it. Some of you think you can. You are self-made. You don’t bow your knees, you just roll up your sleeves and put in another twelve-hour day… which may be enough when it comes to making a living or building a business. But when you face your own grave or your own guilt, your power will not do the trick.

You were not made to run a kingdom, nor are you expected to be all-powerful. And you certainly can’t handle all the glory. Mount Applause is the most seductive of the three peaks. The higher you climb the more people applaud, but the thinner the air becomes. More than one person has stood at the top and shouted, “Mine is the glory!” only to lose their balance and fall. 

-- Max Lucado in “The Great House of God”


Monday, July 5, 2021


“The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the purposes of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His inheritance!”  (Psalm 33:11-12 NIV)

The first article of Christian faith is that man has one and only one true object of worship.  There is one Holy God, creator of heaven and earth.  He is Lord of all life.  To Him we are beholden for our life in all its meaning and its hope. Monotheism for the Christian means that anything else which is put in the place of our loyalty to God is an idol.  The worship of national power, or racial prestige, or financial success, or cultural tradition, is a violation of the one truth about life, that all created things come from God.  To commit life to the one true God is to refuse to have any other gods at all.  Values there are in abundance -- interests, plans, programs, loyalties to family and nation.  But these are not gods; they do not save us; they are not holy in themselves. 

-- Daniel Day Williams (1910-1973) in “Interpreting Theology, 1918-1952”


Friday, July 2, 2021


In the New Testament Jesus uses [the term shepherd] and applies it to Himself. He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it… I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me.” (John 10:11-14)

Note four things about Jesus the Good Shepherd. He owns the sheep: they belong to Him. He guards the sheep: He never abandons them when danger is near. He knows the sheep, knows each by name and leads them out. And He lays down His life for the sheep, such is the measure of His love.

How thankful we should be, weak, wandering, and foolish as we are, that we have a shepherd. Let’s learn to keep close to Him, to listen to His voice, and follow Him. This is especially important in times of spiritual peril. Jesus tells us not to be misled (led astray) by the voice of strangers, and there are many strange voices being heard in the religious world of our day. Don’t be deceived by false teachers. Jesus is the Good Shepherd: trust Him. And Jesus is the door of salvation: enter by that door and you will find the full and abundant life He came to bring. 

-- Billy Graham in “Who’s in Charge of a World That Suffers?”


Thursday, July 1, 2021


The wonderful picture of God as our Shepherd is found in many places in the Old Testament. One of the Psalms begins, “Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock” (Psalm 80:1). It’s great to think that the Everlasting God, the Almighty Creator, condescends to be the Shepherd of His people. 

David makes the relationship a personal one in the best known of all Psalms. “The Lord is my shepherd,” he cries exultantly, “I shall lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1, italics mine). The rest of the Psalm tells us what we shall not lack. It speaks of the Shepherd’s provision as He leads us to the green pastures, His guidance along the paths of righteousness (that means the right paths), His presence with us in the dark valley. No wonder David testifies, “My cup overflows” (verse 5) – such are God’s boundless blessings.

Isaiah adds a further touch to the picture when he says, “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11). The figure here indicates the tender care with which the Lord supports His people on their journey and the strong love with which He enfolds them. 

-- Billy Graham in “Who’s in Charge of a World That Suffers?”