Thursday, November 19, 2015


1 Peter 4:19    So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

            To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong. To choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint.

The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. The people who do us good are never those who sympathize with us, they always hinder, because sympathy enervates. No one understands a saint but the saint who is nearest to the Savior. If we accept the sympathy of a saint, the reflex feeling is – Well, God is dealing hardly with me. That is why Jesus said self-pity was of the devil (see Matt. 16:23). Be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy to blacken God’s character because God never answers back, He never vindicates Himself. Beware of the thought that Jesus needed sympathy in His earthly life; He refused sympathy from man because He knew far too wisely that no one on earth understood what He was after. He took sympathy from His Father only, and from the angels in heaven. (Cf. Luke 15:10)

Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say – God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.

My Utmost for His Highest, By Oswald Chambers. August 10.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


 Mark 16:9-14    When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

            One of the curious things about the Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus is that when people who knew him before his crucifixion see him after his Resurrection, they do not recognize him. They don’t seem to be afraid; they don’t react as so many people in Jewish Scriptures do when they encounter an angel of the Lord, expecting to drop dead. They recognize Jesus as a human being, they just don’t recognize him as Jesus.

            We could come up with all kinds of theories as to why Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognize Jesus as he stands before her in the garden as told in John’s Gospel. She is obviously deeply upset, her eyes full of tears, and her imagination full of fears of death and grave-robbers. She is so single-minded in her search for the dead body of her Lord, that even a meeting with a pair of angels becomes uninteresting unless they can give her the one piece of information she wants.

            But none of these seem convincing explanations of why she doesn’t recognize Jesus. This is a woman whose whole mind is full of the man who is standing right in front of her, and yet she does not know him. The simple explanation must be the true one – that real life is something we don’t understand very well without divine aid. Jesus gives Mary the ability to see by using a word. He says her name and allows her to see who he is, and to connect the old life she used to know with the new life that now stands before her.

            Life is not natural. Life is God’s free gift. God loves us into existence. We need the reminder of the risen Lord to help us recognize God’s life when it appears in our own lives. The Lord’s voice calls us by name, so that, like Mary Magdalene, we suddenly look up and recognize the Lord of life standing in front of us. Our life is then profoundly changed by the resurrected life of our Lord. Like Mary Magdalene, we are told by Jesus to go tell others what we have experienced and know as fact that the transforming love of God is made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Easter, By Prior Aelred, The Abbey Newsletter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


1 John 5:9-10       We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.
The court room was disturbingly silent. The jurors leaned forward in anticipation. The courtroom observers sat with their eyes fixed straight ahead. The attorneys and judge sat braced, like stone pillars awaiting the earthquake. The witness was about to give the chilling details of the crime scene. He was going to give facts that could not be discounted or disputed. He had been at the scene, hidden in the adjacent woods. He and another had seen the entire event unfold and were now ready to tell everyone the truth. The jury could not possibly dispute their eye witness claims. The end to the trial was drawing breathtakingly close.

            In our struggle to present the Gospel as witnesses of Christ, we are faced with a strange problem. First, we were not their at the scene when Christ performed his miracles. We did not know the blind man before he received his sight. The empty hands and growling bellies of the 3000 people that had followed Christ to the hillside were neither seen nor heard by us. When he was betrayed by a friend we were not reclining with him at the dinner meal. When he was lead through the streets, carrying his cross, when he was stripped, flogged and nailed to the cross we know no one who was there. We have no tangible evidence or proof for these events.

            Our second dilemma is that the written testimony available about Christ is one of millions of books available to our audiences. In our modern world truth is being presented by ways of television, radio, internet, books, magazines, etc. People are bombarded with more information for living than any people in human history’s past. Technology is threatening to strangle the very necks of humanity it was designed to bring life to. How can these dilemmas be overcome? What are we to do in presenting the truth to a lost and wandering world?

            The truth is not found in artifacts from the past nor words written by mortal men. Our witness is God himself. Through us to a dying world comes God’s expert testimony. God has placed the true testimony about Christ in our hearts. We know the truth and it has set us free. We are the witnesses whose hearts have been overwritten  by the finger of God to provide the silent, anticipating and stone pillared world new life.


1 Peter 3:14-16   But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Never be afraid of their threats, and never get upset. Instead, exalt Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

The Kingdom’s Gospel does not put forth an alternate view of reality. Rather, it bestows meaning and dignity upon the reality that often seems meaningless and not worthy of our efforts. The Gospel is forgiveness that graciously provides an opening to a real and genuine new future. Our presentation of Jesus the Christ must always resist the “let’s pretend” syndrome – let’s pretend that our time is collapsed into the first century, or let’s pretend that Jesus is among us as a twentieth-century man. The first “let’s pretend” is a regression that denies historical responsibility for this moment; the second ‘let’s pretend’ reduces the Lord to mythological figure who is put in service to our goals and ideals. Our message is never let’s pretend; it is rather: Here is what is reported, here is the evidence for it, here are the reasons for acknowledging its truth, and here are the consequences for ourselves and the world of which we are a part.

As Scripture scholars persistently tell us, it is noteworthy that the gospel accounts are not simply biographies of Jesus. Unlike the heroic literature about the Maximum Leaders of the world, the New Testament does not present Jesus as a moral model on which our lives are to be fashioned. Especially is this apparent in the writings of Paul, where scarcely a reference to the personality and character of Jesus is to be found. The purpose of the New Testament, as of our ministries, is to assert the good news that in this Jesus, who remains emphatically distanced from us by two thousand years, God was fully present and acting on our behalf in victory over his enemies and ours. The victory was manifest in his being raised from the dead, in which event alone is the justification for calling him Lord. On that basis we assert his sovereignty over all things – a sovereignty that is now disputed but will finally, we believe, be vindicated in his coming again in glory….

Freedom For Ministry by Richard John Neuhaus, pg.28-29   

Monday, November 16, 2015


Ecclesiastes 2:24-25    A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  

I might visit a brother who worked fourteen or even sixteen hours a day at his trade, the necessary result of which was that not only his body suffered, but his soul was lean, and he had no enjoyment of the things of God. Under such circumstances I might point out to him that he ought to work less, in order that his bodily health might not suffer, and that he might gather strength for his inner man by reading the Word of God, by meditation over it, and by prayer.

            The reply, however, I generally found to be something like this: ‘But if I work less, I do not earn enough for the support of my family. Even now, whilst I work so much, I have scarcely enough. The wages are so low that I must work hard in order to obtain what I need.’

            I might reply something like this: ‘My dear brother, it is not your work which supports your family, but the Lord; and He who has fed you and your family when you could not work at all, on account of illness, would surely provide for you and yours, if, for the sake of obtaining food for your inner man, you were to work only for so many hours a day as would allow you proper time for retirement. And is it not the case now that you begin the work of the day after having had only a few hurried moments for prayer; and when you leave off your work in the evening, and mean to read a little of the Word of God, are you not too worn out in body and mind to enjoy it, and do you not often fall asleep while reading the Scriptures or while on your knees in prayer.

            My spirit longed to be instrumental in strengthening their faith by giving them not only instances from the Word of God of His willingness and ability to help all those who rely upon Him, but to show them by proofs that He is the same in our day.

            I therefore judged myself bound to be the servant of the Church of Christ in the particular point on which I had obtained mercy: namely, in being able to take God by his Word and to rely upon it.

Spiritual Secrets of George Muller by Roger Steer, pg.14.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Psalm 111:10    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

You should beware of two extremes. One is becoming arrogant about your wisdom and plans. The other is becoming depressed when things go wrong. God forgives and even blesses the mistakes of faithful people. In my ignorance, I often made the biggest mistakes and did the most foolish things when I was sincerely trying to help people and give them good advice. When I made these mistakes, I prayed fervently to God, asking him to forgive me and correct what I had done. Important and faithful leaders often cause great harm through their advice and actions. If God didn’t have mercy on them and didn’t straighten everything out, the world would be in a terrible mess.

All of us make mistakes. We consider ourselves wise and knowledgeable. Yet in our sincere desire to help, we can end up causing a lot of damage. If God in his wisdom and compassion didn’t correct our mistakes, we would make a mess out of our lives. We are like the farmer whose horse had trouble moving a heavy load. Thinking the wheels on the wagon were too wide, he sharpened them. This only make the load sink so deep into the mud that the wagon couldn’t be moved at all.

Does that mean that people should do nothing and just run away from all their responsibilities? Not at all. You should faithfully do the job that God has given you to do. Don’t rely on your own wisdom and strength, and don’t pretend to be so smart and important that everything has to be done your way. Don’t be ashamed to get on your knees and pray, “Dear God, you gave me this job. Please teach and guide me. Give me the knowledge, wisdom, and strength to perform my duties tirelessly and well.”

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. July 8.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Luke 23:26   As they led Christ away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.   

If we obey God it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the sting comes in. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything, it is a delight, but it costs those who do not love Him a good deal. If we obey God it will mean that other people’s plans are upset, and they will gibe us with it, “You call this Christianity?” We can prevent the suffering: but if we are going to obey God, we must not prevent it; we must let the cost be paid.

Our human pride entrenches itself on this point, and we say – I will never accept anything from anyone. We shall have to, or disobey God. We have no right to expect to be in any other relation than our Lord Himself was in (see Luke 8:2-3).

Stagnation in spiritual life comes when we say we will bear the whole thing ourselves. We cannot. We are so involved in the universal purposes of God that immediately we obey God, others are affected. Are we going to remain loyal in our obedience to God and go through the humiliation of refusing to be independent, or are we going to take the other line and say – I will not cost other people suffering? We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but we shall be a grief to our Lord. Whereas if we obey God, He will look after those who have been pressed into the consequences of our obedience. We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences with Him.

Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, January 11.  

Friday, November 13, 2015


John 6:16-21  When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake… When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Self-hatred is…the dominant malaise crippling Christian people and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit….The disparity between our ideal and real self, the grim specter of past infidelities, the awareness that I’m not living what I believe, that I am not all that I ought to be, that I am not measuring up to others’ expectations of demeanor and lifestyle, the relentless pressure of conformity, the midlife oppression of what I had hoped to become and what I have actually become….transform an expectant pilgrim people into a dispirited traveling troupe of … wiped-out Willie Lomans.

            In the struggle with self-hatred, we obviously do not like what we see. It is uncomfortable, if not intolerable, to confront our true selves, and so… we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable…and superficially happy. Defense mechanisms become useful allies here… Those of us who have played this game wear a thousand masks to disguise the face of fear.

            Henry Nouwen writes: “I wonder if fear is not our main obstacle to prayer. When we enter into the presence of God and start to sense the huge reservoir of fear in us, we want to run away into the many distractions which our busy world offers so abundantly.”

            To pray is to ‘return to ourselves’, where God dwells, and accept ownership of our sinfulness, poverty and powerlessness. Only when the prodigal son returned to himself and took inventory of his desperate plight did he begin the journey home to his father.

A Strange to Self-Hatred: A Glimpse of Jesus by Brennan Manning, pgs.75-76.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Psalm 23:3-4   He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

            Shepherding people is more like shepherding cats. People value independence above everything else. Yet, no one wants to end they’re life like the man who spent his whole life trying to climb the ladder of success, only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall. It is almost never sufficient simply to announce the path to everyone one time. No, in a seemingly never-ending pattern, you have to keep sharing the path over and over… you must lead a few sheep up the trail, and then you have to go back and gather up some more. One frequent lament of leaders is that they feel like they are saying the same things over and over… And the truth is, they probably are. You feel the energy drain out of you every time you must go back down to the valley, share the message, and lead another group up the mountain. There are times when you feel you absolutely cannot make that voyage even one more time. But leading folks along the right paths is highly personal business, and there is no substitute for the shepherd leader making many trips from the mountain to the valley and back again. It is, in many ways, the most difficult element of leadership.

            Failure is a better teacher than success. Therefore, we better not rush through the valley’s troubles. While in the valley, we tend to put on blinders in order to focus on the way out at the distant end, ignoring circumstances and people in order not to be pained. We should throw away the blinders and become aware of our surroundings. Look for insights to the darkness in the valley. Be honest with others about your thoughts, hopes, frustrations and other valley experiences. Talk to others about these things. Invite others who may not be in the valley with you to come along side to walk with you. Talk with others that are in the valley with you. Through all the difficulties of valley living, find ways to develop and maintain optimism and hope. Be proactive in tackling the struggles and activities required to get through.

Shepherd Leadership: Wisdom For Leaders From Psalm 23 by Blaine McCormick & David Davenport, pgs.35-40.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Ephesians 2:4-5          Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions --it is by grace you have been saved. 

When many first hear the distinction between religion and the gospel, they think that it just sounds too easy. “Nice deal!” they may say. “If that is Christianity, all I have to do is get a personal relationship to God and then do anything I want!” Those words, however, can only be spoken on the outside of an experience of radical grace. No one from the inside speaks like that. In fact, grace can be quite threatening.

            [A woman] …said that she had gone to church growing up and had never before heard a distinction drawn between the gospel and religion. She had always heard that God accepts us only if we are good enough. She said that the new message was scary…and she replied: “If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with ‘rights’—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace – then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”

            She understood the dynamic of grace and gratitude. If when you have lost all fear of punishment you also lose all incentive to live a good, unselfish life, then the only incentive you ever had to live a decent life was fear. This woman could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had an edge to it. She knew that if she was a sinner saved by grace, she was…more subject to the sovereign Lordship of God. She knew that if Jesus really had done all this for her, she would not be her own. She would joyfully, gratefully belong to Jesus, who provide all this for her at infinite cost to himself.

            From the outside that might sound coercive, like a grinding obligation. From the inside the motivation is all joy.

The Reason For God by Timothy Keller, pg.182-183.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


1Peter 5:8-9     Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

You should keep your mind clear and be alert. Then your body will be prepared. But the devil isn’t defeated through this alone. By keeping your mind clear and alert, you merely give your body less reason to sin. Your true sword is remaining strong and firm in the faith. If you grasp hold of God’s Word in your heart and cling to it with faith, the devil cannot win. He has to flee. If you can say, “My God has said this, and I stand upon it,” you will find that the devil will quickly leave. Then apathy, evil desire, anger, greed, despair, and doubt will soon go away. But the devil is crafty and doesn’t want to let you get to that point. He tries to snatch the sword out of your hand. If he makes you lazy so that your body becomes unfit and out of control, he can tear your sword out of your hand. This is what he did to Eve. She had God’s word. If she had clung to it, she would not have fallen. But when the devil saw that she held the word loosely, he tore it from her heart. She let it go, and the devil won (Genesis 3:4, 13; 2 Corinthians 11:3)

            Peter has instructed us on how we should fight against the devil. It doesn’t require a lot of running around or doing special kinds of works. Rather, it calls for nothing more than clinging to the Word through faith. If the devil wants to drive you to despair because of your sin, just grab the Word of God. It promises forgiveness of sins. Rely on God’s Word, and the devil will quickly leave you alone.


Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. January 27.

Monday, November 9, 2015


1 Corinthians 6:1  As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain…now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

It is quite easy for people to verbally profess faith in Christ. There is nothing difficult or life threatening to say those words. But to say them and not live them is a vain or worthless effort. It means nothing to God and other people to live life centered on us and making statements about ideas and beliefs that are not reflected in your daily living. Of what use are such words or phrases. They are only valuable in establishing acceptance of your self from the group of people with whom you associate or live. If you say the right things then you can be a part of the group. That is what words can provide, the right ticket in the door.

Before this verse one of chapter six Paul writes about a new creature who is in relationship to God and subsequently he speaks of hardships and sufferings that result from the new creature who is reconciled to God. A person who has received God’s grace will find his or her life turned inside out because they have been changed and are now seeking to be an instrument of God’s to change others. This is not a life that has merely verbal professions and no concern for people beyond the circle of those who accept you.

            In all the struggles and contradictions that people see in the lives of Christians it is a wonder that anyone goes to heaven. But the professing person who loves his fellow man, exhibits that love in obedience to God’s Word and shows mercy to all people there is hope and assurance from their faith. Like Paul, you and I may face the same contradictory responses from others but we should not shy away or run but open wider our hearts to them, make ourselves vulnerable in heart, soul and mind knowing that Christ, himself, was vulnerable to the end because he loved his fellow man and obeyed his Father.

Jericho Road Ministries Chapel, by Rev.Bruce W. Gimbel, December 7, 2006.   

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Matthew 25:24-25  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

One day Jesus said to his disciples: “I’d like you to carry a stone for Me.” He didn’t give any explanation. So the disciples looked around for a stone to carry, and Peter, being the practical sort, sought out the smallest stone he could possibly find. After all, Jesus didn’t give any regulations for weight and size! So he put it in his pocket. Jesus then said: “Follow Me.”

He led them on a journey. About noontime Jesus had everyone sit down. He waved his hands and all the stones turned to bread. He said, “Now it’s time for lunch.” In a few seconds, Peter’s lunch was over. When lunch was done Jesus told them to stand up. He said again, “I’d like you to carry a stone for Me.” This time Peter said, “Aha! Now I get it!” So he looked around and saw a small boulder. He hoisted it on his back and it was painful, it made him stagger. But he said, “I can’t wait for supper.” Jesus then said: “Follow Me.”

He led them on a journey, with Peter barely being able to keep up. Around supper time Jesus led them to the side of a river. He said, “Now everyone throw your stones into the water.” They did. Then he said, “Follow Me,” and began to walk. Peter and the others looked at him dumbfounded. Jesus sighed and said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stone for?”

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, pg.51  

Saturday, November 7, 2015


John 8:6-8 Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time…

            A wise man once said that a truly intelligent person is one who has learned to be happy with himself. The secret of self-acceptance, often hidden from the wise and clever, the Ph.D.’s and power brokers of this world, is the way of integrity born of fidelity to the dream. When we are comfortable with ourselves, a new-found freedom blossoms. Am I free? If not, why not?

“When we accept ourselves for what we are, we cease to hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular. We no longer fear criticism or contradiction because we accept the reality of human limitations. Integrated, we are no longer plagued with the desire to please others because simply being true to ourselves brings lasting inner peace.”

The risk-taking disciple who dares to listen to his feelings, rather than to the voice of authority or to the majority, may quickly discover that his inner echoes do not resonate with the vox populi. He finds this is unnerving to himself and disturbing to the palace guard.

The risk-takers, who listen to the Spirit speaking through their feelings are ready to chance something, fully aware that the history of Christian spirituality is not one of obedient conformity, however much some people prefer to view it that way. Rather, as Francis, Dominic, Ignatius and others saw, it is a history of fidelity to the dream, writing the gospel afresh for one’s own generation, and imaginative response to the needs of the Church.

A Stranger to Self-Hatred: A Glimpse of Jesus by Brennan Manning, pgs.103-105.  

Friday, November 6, 2015


James 2:21-22  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

Kirk Nowery tells the story of a speech given by King George VI of England. It was an important radio speech at a disarmament conference in the 1930’s. As someone walked across the stage and tripped on the wires for the King’s microphone, his message was about to be cut off. The engineer in charge, seeing what had happened, quickly grabbed the wire that was broken, and held it in his hands, making his body the conduit for the electricity needed for the microphone. He held that wire for twenty minutes, until the King was done speaking. It must have been a very painful experience. Afterward he had some burns on his hands. Thus the world got to hear the King’s message without interruption.

            The engineer recognized the importance of the message to be delivered. He recognized his own life in the King’s service was in jeopardy. His actions reflected his trust in the King’s leadership. In one simple yet painful act, we see this man’s faith. How often do you and I turn from an action of faith because we know it will hurt? Pain is not just physical but is emotional, psychological and spiritual. When was the last time you put off a difficult relationship or meeting because of the potential for emotional pain? How often do we run from doing what is right because it will “hurt”?

            Abraham’s faith led him to into the pain of doubt, anger, confusion, uncertainty, and the potential for loss and grief. Instead of running, he prepared for the smallest details of the sacrifice. Trust accompanied his pain-filled steps of faith. As a result, God’s message was communicated. Sometimes we can never anticipate what outcome God will bring. Like Abraham, God wants us to struggle with the pain that faith in Him often entails. God uses us to communicate His will to others. That can be painful. But we can be sure that God knows the end results and they are always perfect. Now that’s good news!

Jericho Road Ministries: Chapel Service. Rev. Bruce W. Gimbel

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cheap Grace

Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavoring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ! The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows... he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore- let him live like the rest of the world! Of course he would like to go and do  something extraordinary, and it does demand a good deal of self- restraint to refrain from the attempt and content himself with living as the world lives... He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world's faith in the free gift of grace... Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace- for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace... Cheap grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, page 46

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Matthew 5:38-42 "You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

            The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more that its match. Of course this can only happen when the last ounce of resistance is abandoned, and the renunciation of revenge is complete. Then evil cannot find its mark, it can breed no further evil, and is left barren.

            By willing endurance we cause suffering to pass. Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. By refusing to pay back the enemy in his own coin, and by preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult. Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence. When a man unjustly demands that I should give him my coat, I offer him my cloak also, and so counter his demand; when he requires me to go the other mile, I go willingly, and show up his exploitation of my service for what it is. To leave everything behind at the call of Christ is to be content with him alone, and to follow only him. By his willingly renouncing self-defense, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from tyranny of his own ego. The exclusiveness of this adherence is the only power which can overcome evil.           

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


John 3:2-3      Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

In the Gospel of John, the only two references to “the kingdom of God” are found here in verses 3 and 5. [It is important to take note of such limited references when reading a book of the Bible. There are other occasions in Scripture where a term is used numerous times, which then should also draw our focus and attention.]  Jesus is taking the focus away from seeing the miracles he performed to seeing God’s kingdom revealed in him. The kingdom of God represented by Christ requires more than just being impressed by his miraculous power and ascribing to him a place of honor among men. Jesus is saying that it takes a complete reversal of our understanding, a reversal that he describes as “being born again.”

Being born again entails a radically new beginning for your life. Being “born of water and the Spirit” teaches us of the putting off of the old in repentance and being baptized into the life that Jesus is offering. As natural birth for us is brought about by the work of others, so with Jesus’ teaching here the new birth is brought about by the work of the Spirit. To understand these things the starting point is with the water of baptism for those who repent of their sins and turn to Christ.

The story of Nicodemus reminds us that knowledge alone will not bring renewal to our lives. What is required is a complete change of the inner person. It begins with the individual’s acknowledgement of their need for a savior to save them from their sins. The starting point is only reached when the Spirit himself enters our hearts and begins this renewal.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Isaiah 37:14-15          Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD.

            This chapter of Isaiah contains an interesting story about King Hezekiah. The Assyrians were attacking Jerusalem with a large army and beginning to overpower it. The situation looked hopeless. King Sennacherib ridiculed Hezekiah mercilessly. Sennacherib made fun of Hezekiah’s misfortune by writing him a letter filled with insults about God in order to make the devout king lose all hope. Instead of losing hope, Hezekiah went into the temple, spread out the letter in front of God, bowed down with his face touching the ground, and prayed a heartfelt prayer.

            Learning to pray when there’s an emergency or when something is frightening us requires a lot of discipline. Instead of praying, we tend to torture ourselves with anxiety and worry. All we can think about is trying to get rid of the problem. The devil often tricks us when temptation or suffering first begins, whether we are dealing with spiritual or physical matters. He immediately barges in and makes us so upset about the problem that we become consumed by it. In this way, he tears us away from praying. He makes us so confused that we don’t even think about praying. When we finally begin to pray, we have already tortured ourselves half to death. The devil knows what prayer can accomplish. That’s why he creates so many obstacles and makes it so inconvenient for us that we never get around to prayer.

            On the basis of this story in Isaiah, we should get into the habit of falling on our knees and spreading our needs in front of God the moment we have an emergency or become frightened. Prayer is the very best medicine there is. It always works and never fails – if we would just use it!

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther. July  16.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Mark 1:32-37 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"

           Death to self is necessary in order to live for God. A crucifixion of the ego is required. That is why mature Christian prayer inevitably leads to the purification of what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the senses and the spirit which, through loneliness and aridity, buries egoism and leads us out of ourselves to experience God.
The “dark night” is a very real place, as anyone who has been there will tell you. Alan Jones call it “the second conversion.” While the first conversion was characterized by joy and enthusiasm and filled with felt consolation and a profound sense of God’s presence, the second is marked by dryness, barrenness, desolation, and a profound sense of God’s absence. The dark night is an indispensable stage of spiritual growth both for the individual Christian and the church. 
Merton writes: There is an absolute need for the solitary, bare, dark, beyond-thought, beyond-feeling type of prayer.… Unless that dimension is there in the church somewhere, the whole caboodle lacks life and light and intelligence. It is a kind of hidden, secret, unknown stabilizer and compass too. About this I have no hesitation or doubts.
Though painful, the purification of the ego in the dark night is the high road to Christian freedom and maturity. In fact, it is often an answer to prayer.

 The Signature of Jesus, by Brennan Manning, pg. 132.

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