Wednesday, December 5, 2007

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its effectiveness. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

In the Corinthian culture, eloquent speakers enjoyed high status in the community - almost like sports heroes or movie stars today. Their message was less important than the way they presented it.

By contrast, the good news of Christ's sacrificial love was much greater than the one who delivered it. In fact, as Paul writes, a polished presentation of the gospel ran the risk of diminishing its power.

You don't have to be an effective communicator to share your faith. In fact, it can sometimes get in the way. The Christians who have most shaped my walk with Christ have not been preachers or professors, but simple believers who told me about Christ's love and what God had done in their lives - in their own words.

Marion Soards puts it this way -

"The cross is not a pretty sight, and sheer manipulative eloquence is not a medium that can bear the weight of the message of Christ's cross."

Friday, July 20, 2007

God's Initiative

"… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)

The key to faithful living is not doing great things for God, but letting God do great things through us. God is the one who knows what is needed and how we can best meet that need. We can do nothing of value without the power of God working through us.

When we turn our will over to God, God places in us the desire to do what is best, what is right. With our hearts and minds focused on God, God works through our lives to accomplish his will.

Henry Blackaby puts it this way -

"When you are God-centered, even the desires to do the things that please God come from God’s initiative in your life."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever. (Isaiah 26:3,4a)

Once, while serving on the Board of a Christian camp, I learned that we some organization had offered us a "peace pole" that had written on it "Peace on Earth" in many different languages. I recommended that we not accept it. If we wanted to put up a symbol of peace, we ought to put up a cross - because peace can only be found in Christ.

There is so much in the world that disturbs and disrupts peace. True peace can only be found when we walk with the Lord. Thomas Merton once wrote -

"We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Faithful Education

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (Proverbs 2:9-10)

Wisdom is a gift from God, given to those who devote themselves to Him. A faith-full education is not so much about information as it is about formation. We are formed in the ways of God, the truth that sets us free to do what is right, just, and fair. God's education teaches us not just how to do things, but how to do them in the best way.

As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we come to desire learning more about God and
God's ways.

John Ruskin wrote this about education --

"The true end of education is not only to make the young learned, but to make them love learning. Not only to make them industrious, but to make them love industry. Not only to make them virtuous, but to make them love virtue... Not only to make them just, but to make them hunger and thirst after justice."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Being Content

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:7-8)

The world teaches us to long for the things we don’t have and can’t get. It takes great wisdom and faithful discipline to step away from this craving and be happy with who we are and what we’ve been given.

The Greek philosopher Epictitus expresses it this way --

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ordered Chaos

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The world can be a troubling and chaotic place. Often, we internalize this chaos and become very anxious and unsettled. In the midst of the chaos, Christ promises us peace - a peace that passes all human understanding. In the midst of the chaos, we can see God’s hand at work.

Professor Elizabeth Achtemeier writes -

"God preserves His order despite our chaos."

God’s order helps us deal with the chaos within and around us. When we receive the peace of Christ, we can move forward in faith - even in the midst of a chaotic world.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Doing the Impossible

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

God’s expectations of us are very high. In fact, on our own, they are unattainable. I know when I read the Bible I sometimes get discouraged that I’m not living up to God’s standards.

The key to faithful living is not focusing so much on our own efforts as on God’s work within us. It is also important to take things one step at a time, to do the little things rather than try to accomplish great things.

St. Francis has some good advice for living faithfully -

"Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Love to Worship

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

True worship begins with an overwhelming sense of God’s love. When we recognize that God loves us so much that, through Christ, He would adopt us into His family - that is when we are inspired to love in return. It is out of this love that worship flows.

Henry Ward Beecher once wrote -

"I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Power of Scripture

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Bible is much more than an old book with good stories. It’s more than just a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. The Bible - the whole Bible - is given to us by God to be our guide for life and faith.
When we read the Bible with faithful hearts and minds, our lives are reshaped by the Holy Spirit. We become more like what God wants us to be. This means that before we read God’s Word, we should be ready to let go of the parts of our lives that are not pleasing to God.
Mark Twain, not known to be a devout Christian himself, nevertheless recognized the power of Scripture when he said -

"It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gospel Power

Stephen has preached a powerful sermon to a crowd gathered in Jerusalem. How do the people respond?

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. (Acts 7:54)

The people become so incensed by his words that they stone him. Yet, his willingness to boldly proclaim the Gospel led to the expansive growth of the Church that continues on today.

When we speak the truth (even when it is in love), there will be people (sometimes many) who don't want to hear it. Some people just can't handle the truth. If we are honest with ourselves, there are times when we don't want to face the truth about something we've said or done.

But the truth, threatening as it can be, is something we desperately need to hear.

Oswald Chambers once wrote -

"The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it must reveal that I am unholy; but it also awakens an intense craving."

Monday, July 9, 2007


But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’" He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4-6)

"It is a general popular error to imagine that the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare." (Edmund Burke)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Losses and Gains

Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Jim Eliot was a missionary driven to take the Gospel to unreached peoples in a dangerous land. Many tried to discourage him, but he was undeterred. His life was meant to be given up for God. He wrote -

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Fragrant Forgiveness

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Matthew 11:25)

When someone does something that causes us pain, it is natural to nurse a grudge against him (or her). But the lesson of the Gospel is that we are called to forgive just as God forgives us. In fact, verses like this one may lead us to think we can only receive as much forgiveness as we extend.

When forgiveness is genuine, it is a beautiful, spiritual thing. Mark Twain once said -

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it."

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2)

"Storms make oaks take deeper root." (George Herbert)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Loving Creation

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
God creates. We construct. The difference is God brings something to life out of nothing. We simply take something God has already made and shape it according to our desires.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about God before He created the heavens and the earth, but the story of creation and all that follows shows us that God’s primary motivation in creating is love. This love is far beyond what we might feel toward something we’ve constructed.
G.K. Chesterton once said -

"A thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed, but a thing created is loved before it exists."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Spiritual Preparation

"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)

Esther has become aware that there is a plot to kill her people. She is faced with a crucial decision. Will she stay in hiding and try to preserve her own life? Will she go to the king and risk death to save her people?

We see here that Esther resolves to go to the king. But first, she asks for the spiritual support of her people (through fasting). Through this, Esther is able to summon up the courage to act and her people are rescued.

Fasting is not commonly practiced in the faith community today, but there are other spiritual practices that take its place. One of these, of course, is prayer. We need to draw on the spiritual resource of collective prayer before we rush into action. This will help us be more effective in our mission. Prayer helps us hone our activity down to what is most essential.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote -

"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Leap of Faith

"Lord, if it’s you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)

You’ve got to admire Peter’s courage to step out on the water with only the assurance that the voice of the Lord had invited him. It would take a lot more for most of us to take such a risk.

To move forward in faith, though, we’ve got to step out of the boat. We’ve got to take that first step even without the guarantee that we won’t sink.

I like the way Ray Bradbury puts it -

"Sometimes you have to jump off cliffs and grow wings on the way down."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Not to Say

There is… a time to keep silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 7b)

"True eloquence consists of saying all that should be said, and that only." (Francois de La Rochefoucauld)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Discipline of Happiness

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Gratitude is not so much a feeling as it is a discipline. Gratitude flows from a life of obedience to God’s Word and God’s ways.

I once knew a woman named Olivia who was well into her 90s. She was widowed early in life and was left to raise her three children on her own. She had lived through many lean years and struggled greatly to make ends meet.

Through it all, without fail, she would start each morning with a hymn and end each day with a Scripture reading. She would follow this up with prayers of thanksgiving for all God’s blessings.

These disciplines gave Olivia the strength to face the challenges her life brought. They also helped her come to experience joy in the midst of hardship.

Someone once wrote -

"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Personal Love

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

God’s love for us is intensely personal. And God wants us to share this love with others in a very personal way. Our job is not to love “the world”, but to love each individual within the world.

Mother Teresa put it this way -

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time."

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Whole Bible

"[Paul's] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16)

These words provide a stark warning not to take any of Scripture lightly. There were many then (and are many now) trying to select passages they not only understood, but agreed with. Scripture is not meant to confirm our personal opinions, it is to challenge us to lead more holy and joyful lives.

It's true that many passages of Scripture are difficult to understand and apply to the world today. This does not mean we should dismiss them as irrelevant. One of the best things to do when we come across a difficult passage is compare it with clearer passages that address similar concerns. Reading the whole Bible gives us better glimpse of God's big picture for our lives.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

God's Work

O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. (1 Chronicles 29:18)

Sometimes we get caught up in how much we accomplish (or fail to accomplish). Our minds shift from what we are doing to the outcome we want to produce.

The truth is, however, apart from God we can do nothing. The best we can do is to let go of all false notions of what we can achieve and instead receive the Holy Spirit to be faithful each moment of the day.

As Oswald Chambers put it -

"The idea is not that we work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Genuine Salvation

…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12B-13)

Salvation is the work of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. On our part, we need to open our hearts and minds to let this power flow through us. We do this in various ways. No one salvation looks identical to another.

Sometimes we are tempted to convert people to be more like us instead of more faithful to Christ. C.S. Lewis noted this problem as he wrote -

"It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Peaceful Presence

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ (Luke 24:36)

Before the disciples could even agree what the stories of Christ’s resurrection meant, he appeared to them and set them straight. He gave them physical evidence and taught them from the Scriptures how the it was God’s plan that he be raised from the dead. He then them the job of becoming witnesses, of carrying the testimony of God’s great sacrificial love not just around the neighborhood, but to the world.

And even before he did all this, he gave them peace. Peace with Christ and peace with each other is absolutely necessary if we are going to accomplish anything for the kingdom of God.

Matthew Henry reflects on this verse –

“When at any time we are troubled, thoughts are apt to rise in our hearts that do us hurt. Sometimes the trouble is the effect of the thoughts that arise in our hearts; our griefs and fears take rise from those things that are the creatures of our own fancy. Sometimes the thoughts arising in the heart are the effect of the trouble, without are fightings and then within are fears.”

When Christ comes to us, he offers us the non-anxious presence that helps us be who God created us to be.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Daily Bread

"Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11)

"Bread is a necessity for us. We are beings who continually draw our energy from outside, for as we receive it we use it up in effort. There is a transcendent energy whose source is heaven, and this flows into us as soon as we wish for it. We should ask for this daily food." (Simone Weil)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

God in Creation

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
Teeming with creatures beyond number -
Living things both large and small.
(Psalm 104:24-25)

We are created in God’s image. Though we are tainted by sin, it is still possible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to detect a glimpse of God in us. Said better, God has not fully abandoned His creatures. We can see the power of God when we look at each other.

Sir Francis Bacon once wrote -

"There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Christian Duty

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13b-14)

God’s expectation of us is to do what is right, to keep his commandments with a profound fear, or respect for the LORD’s awesome power. God does not expect us to achieve a certain measure of success or fame. We are simply to focus on doing what God calls us to do.

John Quincy Adams once said -

"Duty is ours, results are God's"
We can focus on the challenges of the present, doing what we’re called to do, confident that God will take care of the future outcome.

Monday, June 4, 2007


And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)

Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from temptation and evil. It seems here that God actually can (and sometimes does) lead us into temptation. But this is only part of the picture. This does not convey our responsibility in the process.

Simone Weil, reflecting on this part of the Lord’s Prayer writes -

"The only temptation for man is to be abandoned to his own resources in the presence of evil."

God does not push us into temptation, but sometimes lets us go there to experience it for ourselves. Then, when we call on the name of the LORD, we are delivered from the consequences of our sin by the grace of Christ.

You might say God does not so much lead us into temptation, as through it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Fear and Trembling

"Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Psalm 2:11)

Sometimes in an effort to make God more accessible to a broader audience, we can trivialize Him. God is not a warm fuzzy teddy bear. God is the Maker and Ruler of the Universe. He is not to be trifled with.

Psalm 2 warns the nations that, though they enslave and persecute God's people now, God's justice will one day prevail. God will raise up a King, God's Son, who will inherit the nations and possess the earth. God's Son will rule over all "with an iron scepter." Those who resist will be dashed to "pieces like pottery."

This may not seem like an attractive image of God, but it's real. As we share the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ, we do so with a sense of urgency, with fear and trembling, that one day God will return and set things straight. Those who oppose God's will and God's ways will be deposed. Yet, all who find refuge in the LORD will be blessed.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Best Way to Live

" Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2)

Often, it is easier to follow the advice of people who have their own interest in mind rather than do what we know to be right at the risk of alienating them. It can be much easier to take popular stands rather than stand against what we know to be wrong. It is much easier to criticize than to create. The world is filled with people who show ironic detachment rather than positive engagement.

But the easiest way is rarely the best way, the blessed way. God blesses those who are faithful to the guidelines of Scripture, who stand up for Christ, who work to build God's kingdom through acts of mercy, love, and kindness.

The key to doing these things is to spend much time not just reading the Bible, but meditating on it throughout the day and night. Read not just to discover what's in there, but to discover what in there will help you live out here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dream Come True

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be
done on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:10)

To pray for God’s kingdom is to dream of a better world.

The world often teaches us to pursue our own dreams. But it isn’t our dreams we are meant to pursue. Or, said better, it is only when our dreams are consistent with God’s that we are to pursue them. Only then we will experience life to its fullest.

Brian McLaren writes -

"Perhaps all along my deepest joy has never been to have all my dreams come true, but rather to have God's one dream come true: that this world will become a place God is at home in, a place God takes pride and pleasure in, a place where God's dreams come true."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Something Old, Something New

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17)

One thing I’ve learned (and continue to learn) is that there is no one-size-fits-all ministry for different churches. Take, for instance, the ministry of music. In some churches, the blending of contemporary praise songs with traditional hymns is possible. Other churches required that a separate service be created. Still other churches do just fine with only traditional hymns.

The key is discovering what is both right and what is fitting in any given situation. At times, the best way to do things is the way they’ve always been done. Other times, the best way is a new way. Part of spiritual discernment is discovering what to do, in what way and at what time.

I like what a man named Dean Inge says -

“There are two kinds of fools: One says, ‘This is old therefore it is good.' The other one says, ''This is new therefore it is better.'”

Monday, May 28, 2007

True Joy

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! “ (Philippians

Sometimes it's very difficult to put on a happy face. The good news is God doesn't expect us to. To rejoice is not necessarily to cheer. It is something much deeper. As Colleen Townsend Evans puts it -

“Many of us tend to confuse joy with something much less than joy. We think of it in a very shallow way. We think of it as prosperous circumstances or happiness or pleasure or maybe even fun. These things can co-exist with joy but they are not joy. Joy is something that is so deep and so different it is like marrow in a Christian's bones, and it is something that the world cannot take away from us. It is untouched by the various trials that might come our way.”

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Losing Faith

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. (Philippians 1:27-28a)

Faith is not a private possession we can either obtain or dispose of according to our personal desires. Faith is a gift from God in Jesus Christ. The question is - what do we do with this gift?

The Scriptures tell us to stand firm in faith, to let the faith of Christ be the foundation of our lives. When we have genuine faith, we need not be worried about losing it.

As Georges Bernanos puts it -

"Faith is not a thing which one loses, we merely cease to shape our lives by it."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Necessity of Prayer

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said:
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.
And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”
(Luke 18:1-4)

“If we don’t pray according to the needs of the heart, we repress our deepest longings. Our prayers may not be rational, and we may be aware of that, but if we repress our needs, then those unsaid prayers will fester.” (Madeline L’Engle from Two-Part Invention)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
(Psalm 25:6-7)

If you are like me, there are things in your life I would rather forget. But we can’t. Things we’ve done wrong or failed to do right can haunt the corners of our minds. They can grab us when we are least prepared, crippling us from moving forward in faith.

When we feel crippled in guilt and shame, we need to turn to prayer. Abraham Kuyper writes –

"Prayer is impossible without an act of the memory, by which we recall our sins and the mercies of God." (Abraham Kuyper)

The good news is we don’t have to be crippled by memories of things we regret. Like the Psalmists, as soon as our sins enter our minds, we can likewise recall the mercy and love of the Lord. In Jesus Christ, we don’t get our just desserts. Instead, we receive God’s loving mercy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Foundation of Humilty

The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33)

God has no tolerance for those who attempt to take His place. When we try to play God, we are bound to lose. God won’t allow it, not just because He is a jealous God we need to be deathly afraid of, but also because God is a loving Father who knows we can’t handle it.

In the face of this, we need to be humbled. The best we can do is bow down to the only One who can and will lift us up.

I like what St. Augustine writes –

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


[Jesus said] “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

When we have genuine love – unconditional (agape) love, with no strings attached – we naturally obey God. We do what God wants not because we have to, but because we want to.

I like what St. Augustine wrote about love –

"Love and do what you like."

When we have the love that comes from above, God’s desires become our desires.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Loving One

[Jesus said,] “…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

As a parent of four children, I sometimes worry that I might express love more for one than for the others – that I might play favorites. I pray I don’t do this, but this is a concern I have. It’s hard to love all your children and love each of them at the same time.

Not so with God. God’s love for His children is both universal and particular. St. Augustine put it this way –

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Moving Mountains

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. (Matthew 21:21)

There is great power in faith, but it’s not a power we can control. Taken out of context, it would seem this verse says we can cause anything to happen as long as we have a doubt-free faith.

But faith is more than personal desire. Faith is not ours to make with it what we want. Instead of pointing in the direction of personal wish-fulfillment, this verse indicates that when we have the faith of Christ, we can participate with him to accomplish God’s will, no matter how great the task.

The outcome of faith may not even be something we desire. A man named Mason Cooley put it this way -

"Faith no doubt moves mountains, but not necessarily to where we want them." (Mason Cooley)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mindful Prayer

I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
(Psalm 77:12-15)

One thing I have found helpful in my prayer life is to read a passage of Scripture and reflect on it in a journal. Often, I will use the Psalms as my models for prayer, letting them shape the form and content of what I want to say to God.

I believe God appreciates it when we search for a better understanding of Him through prayer. This involves more than our feelings, but also our thoughts. Abraham Kuyper wrote –

"[Prayer is impossible] without an act of the mind, choosing the words to express our adoration of the divine virtues."

Meditate on how great God is. Consider God’s wonderful ways. In your prayers, think about things God has done and is doing in your life and give God the praise – not just with your heart, but with your mind.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Word for Me

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm

One thing I try to do in Bible Studies I lead is to make it clear that we look to Scripture not just for information, but for formation. You can know the Bible better than anyone and still not be able to put it to good use in your life or in your faith.

Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said this --

“When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, 'It is talking to me, and about me.''”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Guiding Word

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)
The world often advices us to be guided by our feelings, to do what seems right in our own eyes, to make the logical decision when it comes to the paths we choose.

Ultimately, however, any guidance that comes from within us is flawed. We see only partial reality and any judgments we make based on our own limited perspectives are bound to fall short.

So where do we turn for guidance? The Word of the Lord. Martin Luther sums this up quite well -

"You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

True Happiness

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a
distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
(Luke 15:13)

Among the founding principles of our nation is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But we need to ask the questions, “What kind of life?”, “Liberty to do what? Happiness in what sense?

The younger (prodigal) son thinks life, liberty, and happiness can be found in “wild living,” so he rushes off with reckless abandon to pursue it. But he winds up destitute – physically and spiritually. His life was nothing more than spiritual death. His liberty became slavery to sin. The relative fun he may have had was not true happiness.

St. Augustine seemed to have in mind this dilemma when he wrote –

“Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.”

True happiness is found when our liberty is governed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when we receive new life in him.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Child's Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your
(Matthew 6:9)

Prayer is simple, as simple as a child making known what it wants to its parents. (Oswald Chambers)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Faithful Mothers

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5)

Throughout the ages, mothers have played a crucial role in the spiritual development of their children. Paul here reminds Timothy that the faith now growing in him stems from the faith implanted in him through the nurture of his mother and her mother before her.

You can’t overestimate the role of mothers promoting positive spiritual values in society. A man named John Abbott once wrote -

"Mothers have as powerful an influence over the welfare of future generations, as all other causes combined."

Today and always celebrate the God’s gift of faithful mothers.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Life Forever

The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand
(Isaiah 40:8)

This is good news. But it can be disturbing for people without faith. Many people in the world want to live forever. But this simply can’t happen. We aren’t built this way. Nothing in creation is. And who would want to live forever? Life is precious partly because it is so short. But for people of faith, life does go on forever, in Jesus Christ. It’s simply that life takes a different form. We live – not for ourselves – but in Christ. Christ is the Word of God that stands forever.

The end of life, sad as it can be for loved ones, can be an occasion for celebration. Tony Campolo illustrates this well when he writes -

“When you were born, you cried and everybody else was happy. The only question that matters is this: When you die, will YOU be happy when everybody else is crying.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Put Up With It

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another,
forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must
(Colossians 3:13)

Sometimes – in a marriage, in families, in work relationships, and in the community, it’s hard to put up with people. Things they do irritate us until eventually we want to shout out - “Would you just STOP it!” As patient and forgiving as we try to be, we all have our limits.

Reflecting on this passage, Matthew Henry describes this dilemma well –

“Many can bear a short provocation who are weary of bearing when it grows long. But if God is long-suffering to us, under all our provocations of him, we should exercise long-suffering to others in like cases. We have all of us something that needs to be endured, and this is a good reason why we should bear with others in what is disagreeable to us.” (Matthew Henry)

In other words, put up with each other just as God puts up with you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

No Strings Attached

[Jesus said], “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot
repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

(Luke 14:14)

If you only show hospitality to those who have the means to return the favor, you’ve given to no one but yourself. True giving is sacrificial, with no strings attached.

This is a challenge for all Christians and for the faith community. Do we give sacrificially, or do we give in order to receive? The church struggles to carry out our mission in a climate of distrust, particularly when it comes to finances. On the one hand, some have a genuine desire to see that their gifts are used well for the glory of God. This holds the church accountable and is a healthy concern. On the other hand, some only give to the church when they can benefit from it or manage how it is spent. From a church perspective, we receive gifts of all kinds and pray that we can faithfully put them to use for the kingdom of God.

The Bible encourages us as we give to focus on God, not how our gift is received or whether it is returned. Give freely and cheerfully and you will be abundantly blessed – in this life and in the life to come.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Create in me a pure heart, O God. And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

King David is crying out to God for forgiveness after committing adultery with Bathesheba and having her husband Uriah essentially murdered. David wants to be made pure, to be given another chance.

In the same way, the followers of Jesus all gave in to sin when they betrayed, denied, and abandoned him on the cross. But, and this is an essential distinction, they did return to faith. In this way, they were unique, and their faith became contagious.

Billy Graham writes –

“The men who followed Jesus were unique in their generation. They turned the world upside down because their hearts had been turned right side up.”

When Christ convicts our hearts of sin, when the Holy Spirit sets us on a good and level path, there is no stopping us. The world will never be the same.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Joyful Spirit

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the
(Proverbs 15:30)

As I think of the Christians that have had a great impact on my life and faith, the one common thread that ties them together is this – joy. Joy expressed through smiles and laughter – never at anyone’s expense, but out of a sheer love of God and God’s Creation.

While we certainly will have down days, it is important for us as followers of Christ to share the good news of his love with a joyful Spirit.
St. Francis warns us –

“It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” (St. Francis of Assisi)

Feel the joy of your salvation and share your joy with others.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Have Mercy

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that
fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his
covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
(Psalm 103:17-18)

We sometimes think of the God portrayed in the Old Testament as full of vengeance and wrath. It’s true God punished those who were bent on self-destruction and destroying others. It’s true that God is angry when we fail to live up to standards that would give us a more abundant life. It’s true God occasionally turned His back to get His children to seek Him in the midst of their suffering.

But above, our God (the God of all Scripture) is full of mercy. If we are to follow God in the Spirit of Christ, we are to likewise show mercy.

St. John Chrysostom put it this way -

”Showing mercy is one way we imitate God and disappoint the devil.”

Walk in the Way of the Lord. Have mercy.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Character of Prayer

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

There have been many times in my prayer life when I have been unable to express myself in clear thoughts or words. I have been so troubled by something. My mind has become so overwhelmed by worldly things. Other times, I am so full of joy all I can do is smile or burst into song. It is at these times, that I most appreciate the promise of God’s Word, that the Holy Spirit prays through me. Abraham Kuyper writes –

"The form of prayer does not affect its character. It may be a mere groaning in thought, or a sigh in which the oppressed soul finds relief; it may consist of a single cry, a flow of words, or an elaborate invocation of the Eternal. It may even turn into speaking or singing. But so long as the soul, in the consciousness that God lives and hears its cry, addresses itself directly to Him as though it stood in His immediate presence, the character of prayer remains intact."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Coming to Life

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him
to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.
Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought
tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and
the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.
(1 Kings 17:17-22)

“Elijah says, ‘Give me the boy,’ but he doesn’t keep the problem to himself, because it would crush him and overpower him. Instead he prays. He turns to the one person who can help and prays that God will move in that situation. He prays, ‘Oh, Lord, let this boy’s life return to him.’

Now there had never been a resurrection in scripture up to this point. This is the first one. Elijah is praying, ‘Lord, I want you to do what I’ve never seen you do, what no one has ever seen you do. I want you to do the impossible.” (Clive Calver)

What impossible thing might we ask God to do in our lives today?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Real Resurrection

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

There are those outside of (and even within) the Church who deny the resurrection on the basis of scientific or historic probability. There are others who believe alternatives to the resurrection (such as re-incarnation) based on philosophies foreign to our faith.

In the face of this, we need to stand firm in our faith that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened and that His resurrection makes our life purposeful – now and forever.

Presbyterian professor, Elizabeth Achtemeier, once wrote –

“Not to know and trust Christ risen from the dead means finally not to be human, for it means really that there is nothing and no one beyond this world to whom we owe our being. If God did not have the power to conquer the grave, then he had no power to create in the beginning, for surely a God defeated by death could not make the wonders we find in this universe, much less the amazing creatures we call human beings.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blessed to Bless

[God said to Abraham], “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
God chose Abraham not to put others down, but to help lift them up. This is true for the spiritual descendants of Abraham as well. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Jesus Christ, who came not to condemn the world, but to save it.

In the Spirit of Christ, we too are chosen not to selfishly enjoy benefits, but to sacrificially serve others. John Calvin put it this way –

“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors”

God has blessed us to be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Killing with Kindness

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22)

This Proverb may seem to contradict what Jesus teaches us about loving our enemies. It seems to suggest that our motivation for serving our enemies is to get back at them.

But when you think about it, this is not necessarily the case. You can love someone without liking them. Love can be expressed through service, meeting a need regardless of how you feel about the person.

Still, it can be fun to, as a friend of my father’s says, “Kill your enemies with kindness.” I like what Oscar Wilde once said –

"Always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Genuine Courage

[Jesus prayed], “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he knew what lie ahead. He knew about the betrayal, the abandonment, the mocking, the beating, the hanging and death on the cross. Naturally, he did not want to face it. Who would?

But Jesus knew that His purpose on earth was to sacrifice his life for us. He had the courage to let go of his human desires and accept the divine plan. G.K. Chesterton defines such courage in this way --

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spiritual Leadership

Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? (Ecclesiastes 8:7)

It’s good to have goals to strive for – whether it be for our personal lives, our families, our career, our church, etc… Without clear goals, we are bound to flounder just doing “one thing after another.”

But there is a difference between having goals and trying to fix the future. In an effort to contain and control what happens in our lives, we often try to manage the change that comes rather than just going where God leads us.

Erwin McManus, a very vibrant Christian leader, writes this –

"Too many times as leaders we feel pressure to
tell people things we don't know. In other words, we make them up.
Spiritual leadership is not the ability to define everything the future
holds. It is the willingness to move forward when all we know is

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Godly Grief

Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)

Grief (or regret) can be good. It can produce in us the desire to change, to turn away from paths of destruction. Regret can also be damaging, when it causes us to merely stew about things beyond our control and do nothing to change our behavior.

John Piper draws two distinctions between “godly” and “worldly” regret –
“Worldly regret is when you feel sorry for something you did because it starts to backfire on you and leads to humiliation or punishment. Godly regret grieves that God's name has come into disrepute. The focus of godly regret is God. Godly regret is owing to God's Word putting its finger on sin in our lives Worldly regret is owing not to God's Word but to the attitudes of men whose praise we don't want to lose.”

When you regret what you’ve done or failed to do, let God turn this regret into repentance that leads to Life in Christ.