Friday, December 30, 2011


Matthew 17:20    I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith. It may be so in the initial stages, but we do not earn anything by faith; faith brings us into right relationship with God and gives God His opportunity. God has frequently to knock the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings.

Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience that had as much of sense as of faith in it, full of light and sweetness; then God withdrew His conscious blessings in order to teach you to walk by faith. You are worth far more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight and thrilling testimony.

            Faith by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of un-syllabled isolation. Never confound the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, much that we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him – I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. “Though He kill me, yet will I trust Him” – is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible.

Monday, December 26, 2011


James 2:18-19      Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

The story is told of a farmer whose harvest of corn was unusually large. All the bins of his barns were full. He was a Christian and would often pray. He prayed for the poor and needy, “O God, I pray that their wants will be supplied.”

One day an impoverished man who had several children asked the farmer for a bagful of corn, but the farmer said he didn’t have any to spare.

The next morning the farmer’s daughter heard him pray again for the poor and needy. She said to him, “Daddy, I wish I had your corn.” He surprisingly asked “Why do you say that?” She said, “If I had your corn, I’d use it to answer your prayers.”

Many people pray, “O God, I pray that somehow my neighbor will have the plan of salvation explained to him.” Others pray that the single mom down the street will have all her needs met. Why don’t you simply go and knock on their door and do the explaining or the helping.

May God move us to live out our faith with deeds and works that bring the light of Christ to those closest to us.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Luke 1:35    The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

If the Son of God is born into my mortal flesh, is His holy innocence and simplicity and oneness with the Father getting a chance to manifest itself in me? What was true of the Virgin Mary in the historic introduction of God’s Son into this earth is true in every saint. The Son of God is born into me by the direct act of God; then I as a child of God have to exercise the right of a child, the right of being always face to face with my Father.

Whatever the circumstances may be, the Holy Innocent Eternal Child must be in contact with His Father. Is He getting His wonderful way in me? Is God realizing that His Son is formed in me, or have I carefully put Him on one side? Is the Son of God praying in me or am I dictating to Him? Is He ministering in me as He did in the days of His flesh?

Is the Son of God in me going through His passion for His own purposes? The more one knows of the inner life of God’s ripest saints, the more one sees what God’s purpose is – “filling up that which is behind of the affliction of Christ.” There is always something to be done in the sense of “filling up”.

My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, August 8.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Acts 17:24     The God who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord.

We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of the Sun:
Dear Editor! I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 W. 95th St.
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.  The eternal life with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and un-seeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
(This editorial, among the most famous written, was in the  New York Sun  in 1897.) 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


1 Thessalonians 1:11    …we constantly pray for you, that our God… may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  



Our God is looking today for pattern people, and when He gets a true sample, it is very easy to reproduce it in a thousand editions, and multiply it in other lives without limitation.

All the experiences of life come to us as tests, and as we meet them, our loving Father is watching with intense and jealous love to see us pass them well. If we fail, He is disappointed and our enemy is filled with joy. We are a watched continually by angels and principalities, and every step we take is critical and decisive for something in our eternal future.

When Abraham went forth that morning to Mount Moriah, it was an hour of solemn probation, and when he came back he was one of God’s tested men, with the stamp of His eternal approval. God could say that he knew Abraham and that He would fulfill the plan for his future. God did bring, in time, a son to Abraham and a Savior to us.

            God is looking for good examples of faithful men today. May we be ones that respond to Him in faith and realize the plan He has purposed for each of our lives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Luke 12:19-21    I’ll say to myself, “you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said… “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.


It was the night before Jesus, and all through the house, not a creature was praying, not one in the house. Their bibles were laid on the shelves without much care, in the hopes that Lord Jesus would not soon come by there. The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing their heads. And mom in her rocker with baby in grasp, was watching the Late Show, while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what’s the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash! When what to my wondering eyes should appear, angels proclaiming that Jesus was now here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray, I knew in a moment that this was The Day!

The light of Christ’s face made me cover my head, it was Jesus returning just like He said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself. In the Book of Life, which He held in His hand, were written the saved from every land. The people whose names had been written with love, Christ gathered to take to God’s Kingdom above.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear, the coming of Jesus is now drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we will find that the Bible was true after all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Proverbs 16:9              In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

            We see the hand of God working in our lives no more clearly than when we reflect back on the years of our lives. Augustine said that if people had a choice of either dying or reliving their lives over again, they would certainly choose death because of all the danger and evil they so narrowly escaped. In one sense, this statement is certainly true.

            Looking back, people can see how much they have accomplished and suffered without trying or thinking about it, even against their wishes and wills. They gave such little thought to what they were doing before it occurred or when it was happening. Now, after everything has been carried out, they are amazed and say, “Why did these things happen to me when I never thought about them or thought something completely different would happen?” So Proverbs 16:9 is true: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps,” even against his plan and will. So we must agree that our own cleverness and foresight don’t guide our lives and actions. Instead, God’s wonderful power, wisdom, and goodness guide us. Only as we look back do we fully recognize how often God was with us when we neither saw his hand nor felt his presence at the time it was happening. Accordingly, Peter said, “He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

            Even if there were no books or sermons to tell us about God, simply looking back on our own lives would prove that he tenderly carries us in his arms. When we look back on how God has led and brought us through so much evil, adversity, and danger, we can clearly see the ever-present goodness of God, which is far above our thoughts, minds, and perception.

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. April 2.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Malachi 4:5-6    “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful Day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Very early one Christmas morning a small boy tiptoed downstairs. All night he had been dreaming of the gorgeously decorated tree groaning under the weight of presents. Imagine his shocked amazement at seeing none of these things, just the same old furniture arranged in the same drab way. Yet there was a different and uncanny atmosphere. It was like a fog, heavy and oppressing.

            The boy rushed out into the dark street. There the same gloomy atmosphere greeted him. No smiles on the faces of people passing by. No one called out to him, “Merry Christmas!” People silently plodded along wearily and aimlessly. He looked at the shop windows. The colorful lights and decorations of Christmas Eve had disappeared. Nothing was in the shops now but food and clothing and implements, the bare essentials.

            He came to the church, at least to the vacant lot where the church had once stood. No church now. No school either. Instead, a prison, the biggest, grimmest prison he had ever seen. “ What’s wrong?” he screamed.

            Dazed, he turned around and started for home. Suddenly he stumbled over something lying in the snow. It was a man, not dead, but unconscious, blue with the cold, lying there like an old bundle of rags. Excitedly the boy began running to the hospital for help. But, even as he ran, he knew that no hospital would be there. No Christmas tree, no cheeriness, no charity, no hope, no anything. Sick at heart, he stopped running and turned to trudge home.

Once home, he flung himself on a chair and reached for the Bible to read the story now become a mockery. He thumbed aimlessly through the Old Testament, suddenly remembering that Matthew and Luke were in the New Testament. But his Bible ended with the prophecy of Malachi. Nothing after that but blank pages and one quotation printed in a tiny footnote, the words of Jesus, “…if I had not come…” (John 15:22 NIV)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Deuteronomy 6:6-7    These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Did you know that the popular Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, was written as a child’s catechism song? In the 1600’s when Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly, the carol was written, embodying code words known only to church members. The song we know today was sung by children to teach them about Christ and the Bible.

The Partridge is for Jesus Christ.
The Two Turtle Doves are the Old and New Testaments.
The Three French Hens stood for Faith, Hope and Love.
The Four Calling Birds are Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.
            The Five Golden Rings recalled the Torah, the first five books of the
Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
The Six Geese are for the Six Days of Creation in Genesis 1.
The Seven Swans A-swimming represented the Seven-Fold Gifts of
the Holy Spirit found in Romans 12:6; prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, generosity, leadership, and mercy.
The Eight Maids are the Eight Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-10.
The Nine Ladies Dancing shows the Nine Fruits of the Spirit found
in Galatians 5:22; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
The Ten Lords A-Leaping is the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20.
The Eleven Pipers represents the Eleven Faithful Disciples.
The Twelve Drummers symbolized the Twelve points of belief in
            the Apostle’s Creed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Luke 1:49-50    And Mary said: “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

            The crisis of Christmas in the Christian community, put bluntly, is a crisis of faith. Faith is a commitment to Truth, who is Jesus Christ. Faith is dedication to Reality, who is Jesus Christ. When my mind gives to things the importance they have in reality, I am living in the truth. But when the social conventions, artificial distractions and superficial claims of the unreal world, which is passing away, dominate my time, interest and attention, I am living in untruth.


            The primitive confession of faith “Jesus is Lord” is not an abstract theological proposition but a highly personal statement. It puts my integrity on the line and profoundly affects the way I celebrate Advent, the four weeks of preparation for the birth of Christ. If Jesus is Lord of my life and my Christmas, I am challenged to submit all the priorities of my personal and professional life to this primary fact. In gut-level honesty, what rules or lives as we prepare for Christmas? What has power over us?

            What rules in me is the kingdom of people, the kingdom of events, petty plans and personal interests. They stifle Jesus Christ, crowd Him out of my life. Who can understand how Jesus can be the Son of God and I can be so indifferent to Him? What shape would Advent and Christmas take if Jesus really ruled in me?

             The invisible world would become more real than the visible, the world of what I believe more real than the world of what I see, Christ more real than myself. Christmas would be more than a breathless finale to a frantic shopping season, more than sentimental music, tinsel on the tree, a liturgical pageant and boozy goodwill toward the world. Yes, life would be radically different if Jesus Christ ruled in me, if my faith had the force of a passionate conviction.           

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, by Brennan Manning, pgs. 167-169.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Luke 1:46-48       My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

It was the night before Christmas and not a creature was stirring on the pediatric floor of the hospital. I was the nurse on duty staring at a piece of holly on the wall, feeling miserable. I thought about the last-minute shopping I’d wanted to do, the cookies to decorate, the caroling, the Bowl game on television. It isn’t fair, I’m missing Christmas Eve!
There was only one child in the nursery, a tiny baby, a few weeks old with a respiratory infection, and a nursing assistant who observed him around the clock. As I walked in the assistant said “Merry Christmas”.
“Some way to spend Christmas Eve”, I muttered as I picked up the chart to scan. Across the room I heard an almost inaudible little gasp.
“My God! He’s stopped breathing!” cried the nursing assistant. I dashed toward the crib and leaned over to see the baby limp and blue. “Get a doctor and a respiratory therapist,” I yelled, “Fast!”
Seconds ticked as I cleared the baby’s throat with suction, pulled back his chin and inserted a tiny plastic airway. Placing the black breathing bag over his face, I squeezed, in and out, pushing air into his tiny lungs.
The nursery door crashed open as two doctors, a nurse, technician and respiratory therapist ran in. Frantically we worked in a blur of drugs, hissing oxygen and the blip of a heart monitor. Our pace slowed as everything that medicine could do had been done. The baby remained unmoving except for the mechanical rise and fall of his tiny chest. The room grew quiet. Nothing mattered except this baby boy breathe. “Lord, help him” I thought. “Breathe little guy, breath!” said one doctor. “Please God” whispered the nurse. I saw the same plea in every face.
Suddenly a gurgle drifted up from the crib, then a cough, then a tiny cry! Silence gripped us as the respirator was removed. Waiting, we watched as he curled his tiny fingers and waved his arms in the air cried louder. He was breathing. Tears welled up in my eyes, I witnessed a magnificent miracle. The precious gift of life had been given him by Someone other than this band of people. The presence of Christ seemed to fill the room.
In that moment my heart was drawn to Christ in some deep and holy way I cannot explain. This tiny baby had given us a gift. He had given each of us a living reminder of the heart of Christmas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


 Habakkuk 3:17-18      Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

I suggest that our text from Habakkuk is one means of redeeming the familiar notion of Thanksgiving for our use. Rather than a litany of all God’s goodness to us or of God’s wonderful attributes, we find a rather bleak and depressing picture painted for us. Failure rather than success seems to be the order of the day, and yet in the midst of that failure, in the midst of that privation, is that cry of hope and confidence. Thanksgiving begins not with our success…not even with ourselves; it begins with God.
One way toward redeeming the familiar in our own too familiar American story of Thanksgiving is to realize that we do not give thanks for the Pilgrims. Rather, we give thanks for that God whom they adored, that God to whom the slaves of Africa rendered praise, that God who caused Habakkuk and Job to rejoice in their misery, that God of all ages past and all ages yet to be. Thanksgiving, then, begins with God.
We are thankful not only for God’s constancy and for our place in his plan, but, if we are truly to be a part of the process of redeeming the familiar, we are most thankful that with God we are given a second chance. When we miss our opportunities, when we fail in the few noble efforts that we make, we know that we are the children of a God who is loving an forgiving, who hates the sin but loves the sinner. We are thankful that we are children of the “second chance.” It is God’s forgiveness of our humanity and our forgiveness of our fellow humans that makes this process work…It seems to me that forgiveness between God and man and between man and man is the true context for Thanksgiving. In his supreme act of forgiveness God sent us his Christ in the place of our Adam, and that Christ asked forgiveness for the very ones who put him to death.
[In the coming seasons of Advent and Christmas] we look forward to the coming again of our second chance… We are not washed up, the book is not closed, the last word has not been spoken or written, and we have cause for thanksgiving that we are privileged to live…‘for the time being.’

Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living by Rev. Peter J. Gomes, pgs.233-234.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Ecclesiastes 6:1-2     I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

The ways of the world began to influence and affect my life. College days were spent in learning the wisdoms of the world. The days of employment were marked by the struggle for material success and acknowledgement by others of my successes. A high salary, impressive titles and position, many employees to rule over, people to impress these were the marks of my success as I understood success. The world had me by the heart and mind. Their philosophy I learned in self-help books. My mentors were men of the world. Greed, lustful, self-centered, egotistical were their principles of life they shared with me. They were my role models. Church life and Christian beliefs were no longer a part of my life. They were no existent in my world.

            All the efforts for material and worldly success proved to provide no happiness. I was neither content nor satisfied with the attainment of the world's success symbols. I realized in 1987 that my life was moving further from my family and my heart felt beliefs. Everything I tried to do as the world taught me was not proving to be fulfilling.

Grace Presbyterian Church,  June 12, 1993

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Genesis 37:28  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

            God humbles his people before he elevates them. He kills them in order to bring them back to life. He devastates them before honoring them. He knocks them down in order to pick them up. God’s methods show the highest artistry and wisdom. We cannot understand how events like these are a part of God’s plan until we were his plan completed. When these events are happening, they can’t be understood, except through faith alone.

            In the same way, faith in the Son of God will comfort me when I leave this earth. Even so, my body will be buried in the ground and eaten by worms; it will rot and decay (Job 17:14). I don’t see God’s plan for me when I look at death. Yet God has promised that I will come back to life. Christ said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). But how will I live? I will live in eternal life, in a body that is brighter and more beautiful than the sun. I can’t see or feel any of this yet. But I believe it, and I can tolerate the short delay. Eternal life is already prepared. As Paul says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

            But God does everything in secret. We have to be patient while God hides his intentions from us. Jacob and Joseph couldn’t see the future prize. But with the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the future was being prepared. Gold sees everything as if it has all taken place already. Everything he wants to happen will certainly happen!


Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 24.

Friday, October 21, 2011


John 3:16   For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What are you to do when someone says: “So… I read at our college bible study group thing last night in Revelation that the book of life was written BEFORE man… which means who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is already decided…. So what is the point of even trying? Because right now, Christianity is looking very stupid and pointless, and hypocritical too. Why would a God promise salvation if he has already who he wants? Why would I want to worship a god like that.  Because I don’t. Why give up your life to something that doesn’t love everyone?”

Can you agree with this person? When Christians shoot abortion doctors or speak evil to gays and lesbians they seem very hypocritical. When pastors steal funds from the church or run away from their family with the choir director, they look very stupid. When Christians behave like everyone else around them, it seems pointless to strive for their label. Can you agree with this person?

What are you to do when someone says all that? You are to sit down, listen and begin to converse with empathy. Because now you have something in common: Who would want to worship a god like that?

 Not me !

Jericho Road Ministries Chapel,  2011.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Acts 17:18-21   A group of philosophers took Paul to a meeting of the Areopagus where Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. They said to Paul, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

            I love to read. Most any subject can catch my eye. A good mystery novel, history and even a scientific journal about birds can catch my interest. When the reading turns to Christian subjects, I read broadly across the spectrum of authors. I find some authors difficult to read when what they are saying does not line up with Scripture or with what I have been taught. My usual tendency is to drop such books and move to something more in line with my thinking. I have been challenged to take a different approach lately.

            Denis Haack writes in Critique Magazine: “I do want to read so that my thinking is not merely reinforced but challenged. I want to be challenged by the best that can be arrayed against what I assume to be true. It is not always easy and never very comfortable, but then truth is like that: gritty, real, messy, sharp. If what I believe to be true is convincing only because I live in the shadows away from the best arguments against it, I can hardly claim it to be the light. It may be, but it will always seem dim and untrustworthy, and my claims will always seem to be bravado instead of reality. Having been made “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8) by God’s grace means we have nothing to fear from the darkness.”

            If we are to counter the misleading philosophies and untruths in the world concerning religion and absolute truth, we need to know what we are facing. As your faith grows stronger allow yourself the time to learn to understand the beliefs of those lost in the darkness of our contemporary world.

Jericho Road Ministries Chapel,  2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


John 15:15   I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus exhibited a team approach to leadership. He knew the game plan and assigned each follower the roles to execute the plan. The disciples were never in the dark about what Jesus believed nor where he was headed. Yes, they misunderstood Jesus. But Jesus did tell them these things, none the less. We read Scripture today and we can see what Jesus was saying about his destiny. The disciples, too, saw and understood after the events of the Cross and the Resurrection.

“Leadership is not about position; it is not about person. Leadership is always a relationship between a leader and a follower – a relationship in which both persons lead and both follow. Both participants in a relationship of leadership exercise leadership, both seek to influence the other. Everyone leads at one time or another as each person seeks to influence the vision, values, beliefs, or behaviors of those around him or her.”

Rescue.  July/August 2011. By Walter Wright, pg. 15.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


 2 Timothy 2:24-25    The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.

            The ministry is a “learned profession”; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties. The minister must be “apt to teach” says the Apostle Paul. The other requirements refer to his spiritual fitness. He must be godly. The best service we can offer to God is just to do our duty – our plain, homely duty, whatever that may be.

            Every man who aspires to be a religious man must begin by doing his duty, his obvious duty, his daily task, the particular work which lies before him to do at this particular time and place. If this work happens to be studying, then his religious life depends on nothing more than just studying. No religious character can be built up on the foundation of neglected duty.

Put your heart into your studies; do not merely occupy your mind with them, but put your heart into them. They bring you daily and hourly into the very presence of God; his ways, his dealing with men, the infinite majesty of his Being form their very subject-matter. Take the shoes off your feet for you are on holy ground in His presence.

The Religious Life of Theological Students, By Benjamin B. Warfield.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


John 3:18-19   Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

            To us, God may appear to be angry. He seems to be an unjust, harsh, and stern judge. But God is saying here, “Now then, I will cancel the charges against you. You will no longer have to mourn. To be sure, you have sinned and earned the judgment of God. But your sin will be pardoned. The death penalty will be removed. I will no longer remember the sinfulness of the world – the sin in which people were born and in which they lived. Everything is settled. I will no longer look at your sin. Simply believe in my Son.”

            What’s missing? Why does judgment still hang over us if the Son has removed our sins? This judgment remains because people reject Christ, the Son of God.

            Suppose a physician is treating a sick person whom he knows he definitely can help. Suppose he has promised to get rid of his patient’s pain. The physician suggests a remedy for his patient’s illness or an antidote to counteract the poison his patient has ingested. Suppose further that the sick person knows without a doubt that the physician is capable of helping. In spite of all this, the patient says, “Get out of here. I don’t need your advice. You’re not a physician. You’re a fraud. I’m not sick. I didn’t eat any poison. And besides, it probably won’t hurt me.” Then what if the patient tries to choke and even kill this doctor? Wouldn’t you say that person is not only sick but also stark raving mad? The spiritual madness of refusing the help of God’s Son wants to give us is ten times worse than this.

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 3.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Proverbs 3:5-6    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

            Sometimes our troubles in communication involve expectations we have adopted, usually unconsciously. “We expect to be understood by other Christians and it comes as a shock to realize that they do not understand” writes Julie Gorman, teacher at Fuller Seminary. We expect to be understood, period, and are shocked when we aren’t. If not shocked, at least convinced it’s the other party’s fault – things were certainly clear when I spoke them.

            But Christians should never be shocked to be misunderstood, whether by those who share our faith or those who do not. Misunderstanding occurs because of two realities, both basic to the Christian understanding of creation, that as creatures we are both fallen and finite. Being fallen means our minds are never fully dependable; and our autonomous hearts are always attracted  to whatever ideas seems to make us the center of the universe, even though it sets us adrift to be…lost in the cosmos. If anything, we should be shocked when someone hears us correctly. But even if we were not fallen we would remain finite. Even if all we are and do weren’t so badly broken we would still be severely limited. Even at the best of times we can never comprehend everything at once, but only grasp bits and pieces, parts and partially at that, which means we can never fully, exhaustively understand anything.

            Being both fallen and finite, it makes more sense to expect misunderstanding, to see clear communication as a grace, a gift as precious as it is unexpected.

Critique: 2011 Issue 2 “Hindrances to Communication” by Denis Haack, pg. 6-7.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


John 10:27-29    My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

            A spiritually dead person can no more give himself spiritual life than a physically dead person can give himself physical life. That requires a supernatural act on the part of God. By that supernatural act God Himself, through His Holy Spirit, sovereignly takes us out of the kingdom of Satan and places us in His spiritual kingdom by a spiritual rebirth.

            And having once been born into the kingdom of God, we can never become unborn. Since it took a supernatural act to bring us into a state of spiritual life, it would take another such act to take us out of that state. Hence the absolute certainty that those who have been regenerated and who therefore have become truly Christian will never lose their salvation, but will be kept by the power of God through all the trials and difficulties of this life and will be brought into the heavenly kingdom.

            This gift of eternal life is not conferred upon all men, but only upon those whom God chooses. This does not mean that any who want to be saved are excluded, for the invitation is, “and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).  The fact is that a spiritually dead person cannot will to come. “No man can come to me unless the Father wo sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Only those who are quickened (made spiritually alive) by the Holy Spirit ever have that will or that desire… And concerning them Professor Floyd Hamilton has very appropriately written: “All that God does is to let them alone and allow them to go their own way without interference…God save all who want to be saved, but no one whose nature has not been changed wants to be saved.”

The Reformed Faith by Loraine Boettner, pg. 10-11.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Proverbs 9:13-18    The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house…calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

There is an accepted tradition among those who struggle with addictions that goes something like this: helping yourself will help others, and helping others will help yourself. If an alcoholic learns to “take his soul to task,” it will bless family, friends, co-workers, and probably many others. If that same alcoholic looks out for the needs of others, and goes out of his or her way to serve another drinker, then that person will most certainly be blessed in some way.

As I dug into Scripture’s teaching on the reckless nature of the human heart and its rich teaching on self-control, it made me see that I needed help as well… Be sure to look for addictions in your own heart and life. Even though the focus of this book will be primarily on drugs and alcohol…the basic ideas are relevant to all kinds of sins that are not easily cast off. (Are there any sins that are?)

Theology makes a difference. It is the infrastructure of our lives. Build it poorly and the building will eventually collapse in ruins. Build it well and you will be prepared for anything. The basic theology for addictions is that the root problem goes deeper than our genetic makeup. Addictions are ultimately a disorder of worship. Will we worship ourselves and our own desires or will we worship the true God? Through this lens, all Scripture comes alive for the addict. Since all Scripture addresses our fundamental disorder of worship, all Scripture is rich with application for the addict.

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Edward T. Welch, pg. xv-xvi.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Joshua 24:15    But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of your forefathers…or the gods of [those] in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

            To help us understand sin, God gives a story depicting an event that perfectly describes sin for us. It is the events surrounding the lives of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). The focal point of this story is the questioning of God’s Word. The sin was not committed in the questioning or discussion about God’s command. The sin was in the action taken as related to God’s prohibition of eating the forbidden truth. Adam and Eve wrestled with the questions brought to them by Satan. Their engaging Satan in the discussion about what should and should not be eaten was not the sin.

            Often times we are confronted with a choice that brings a question to mind about God’s Word. Back and forth we go in our minds about which decision should be made. We ask ourselves what God meant or what he prohibits us from doing. The questioning and the struggle are not sin. We must engage in this debate to find the true course of action. Unlike Adam and Eve, we need to invite God into the debate. One of their mistakes was to engage in this discussion between themselves and Satan without allowing God into the decision process.

            They both knew what God had said. Satan knew what God said. What Satan did was played on their freedom to choose between the right and the wrong way to obey God. Satan denied God was truthful to them. He caused them to question God’s goodness in this prohibition. He opened the door to doubt and led them to act upon their doubts about God.

            Sin is acting without faith, living in disobedience to God’s will for our lives. It can be a subtle move from faith into doubt and disobedience. The best defense against Satan is to invite God into the decision process. That will guarantee the right decision is made and sin is defeated.

Jericho Road Ministries Chapel, by Rev. Bruce W. Gimbel, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2011


 Proverbs 22:6    Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

A – Always trust them to God’s care.
B – Bring them to church to learn to worship Him.
C – Challenge them to high goals.
D – Delight in their achievements.
E – Exalt God in their presence as an example for them.
F – Frown on evil.
G – Give them unconditional love.
H – Hear their problems and heart.
I – Ignore not their childish fears and concerns.
J – Joyfully accept their apologies.
K – Keep their confidence and trust.
L – Live a good example before them.
M – Make them your friends.
N – Never ignore endless questions.
O – Open your home to their visits.
P – Pray form them by name each day.
Q – Quicken your interest in their spirituality.
R – Remember their needs.
S – Show them the way of salvation.
T – Teach them to work.
U – Understand they are still young and are your child at every age.
V – Verify your statements.
W – Wean them from bad company.
X – Expect them to obey.
Y – Yearn for God’s best for them.
Z – Zealously guide them in Biblical truth.

Unknown Source, Calvary United Methodist Church, Windber, PA

Friday, September 16, 2011


Genesis 1:26-31       God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them.

            After several days of creation God decided to create us, mankind. It took him five days to prepare the stage for his pinnacle of creation. In place for our arrival was the created universe. The stars and moon provide light for our days. The waters and dry land offered opportunities for living creatures to feed. Plants sprung up to shelter and shade the living creatures. Day and night were established for the created order to live and to rest according to their appointed times.

            When you think of the preparation we undertake for a new born child’s arrival, our efforts look quite similar to God’s preparation for us. We buy the cute clothes and shoes for baby. A room is picked out in the house for the new born to occupy. Furnishings are ordered and set in place. The color of the walls, carpet, sheets and blankets are all arranged. Everything arrives and is set out for optimal viewing by baby. The colors, smells and sounds will stimulate baby’s growth and development. What a wonderful and exciting time of preparation and anticipation. When baby arrives we cherish the time for his arrival and watch as he sleeps in his new home.

            Love is the common factor between God’s preparation and our own preparation for baby. Love is revealed in the consummation of a new living being. Adam is made in God’s image as baby enters the world with characteristics of his parents. All the world and all of baby’s room was set in place for the individual’s best interests and welfare. Everything leading up to the arrival was very good and well planned.

            Over and around us is the created order, established and ruled by God’s creative and sustaining hand. We were made good and pleasing to God. Nothing about our appearance or abilities is not pleasing to God. What a loving God we have when we consider the newborn child. God is love!

Jericho Road Ministries Chapel, by Rev. Bruce W. Gimbel, 2009.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


2 Corinthians 5:14-15    For Christ's love constrains us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and … that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

            Christianity is supposedly a limit to personal growth and potential because it constrains our freedom to choose our own beliefs and practices…. Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation…. If you have musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won’t be able to do with the time you invest in practicing... you’ve deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things.
            One of the principles of love – either love for a friend or romantic love – is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy. If you want the “freedoms” of love – the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings – you must limit your freedom in many ways. You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life. To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy… A love relationship limits your personal options… Human beings are most free and alive in relationships of love. We only become ourselves in love, and yet healthy love relationships involve mutual, unselfish service, a mutual loss of independence. C. S. Lewis put it eloquently:

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

The Reason For God, by Timothy Keller, pg. 45-48.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Psalm 45:10-11           Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

             Faith is very fragile and needs to hear the command: “Forget your father’s house.” Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval. We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise. We want to show God what we have done and say, “See, I have done this or that. Therefore, you must pronounce me righteous.”         

None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag. “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should re3alize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.

The Holy Spirit provides us with a way to counter this godless delusion. We need to hold tightly to what we have received through the grace of God. God’s approval doesn’t come to us by what we do. Rather, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 1.

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