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It’s a New Day: The Choice is Yours
(Long, long ago, in the days before internet and email, running water and fire, in days when my hair was red and my waist was thin, I wrote an entry in my journal. It felt print-worthy, so I shared it with our church. People resonated with it, so we included it in a book. That was a quarter of a century ago, yet the words still seem to find their mark. It surfaces in magazines, blogs and newsletters. I even came across a version of this piece on a wall calligraphy. Maybe you’ve read it. If not, maybe you will and, who knows, it may find a place in your heart. —Max) _____________________________________________________________________

It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice.

Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.

I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical… the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite Him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

Excerpted from Let the Journey Begin by Max Lucado © Thomas Nelson.
Originally published in When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado © Thomas Nelson


The FAX of Life
Title: Sin and Grace
Date: For the Week of September 7, 2015
By Rubel Shelly

They are rather old themes to Christians. But headlines in the popular press indicate how surprising they can be to many. Here is what happened.
Pope Francis seems to have shocked many by comments he made about abortion, contrition, pardon, and community. Specifically, newspapers ranging from USA Today to the Washington Post to London’s Guardian – among many others – ran articles commenting on a letter he wrote to priests about abortion.
For Roman Catholics, a variation on the biblical Year of Jubilee (cf. Leviticus 25:8ff) begins in December 2015. In the Old Testament, this was an event (which seems never to have been actualized with any consistency) set for every fiftieth year when debts were to be cancelled, land returned to its original owners, slaves given their freedom, and the like. It was a year of grace and pardon.
Consistent with that theme, Pope Francis authorized priests to communicate forgiveness and acceptance by the church for the sin of abortion. A woman who has had an abortion need only communicate her remorse to a priest to have her excommunication lifted, pardon conveyed, and be readmitted to communion.
Yes, we Protestants have serious theological problems with the notion of forgiveness being sought and granted through a human hierarchy. But that isn’t really the point here. It is to reflect on the fundamental ideas of sin and grace.
In the first place, some of the pieces I read – especially the online posts from readers – made fun of the idea of sin generally and sexual sin in particular. We live in a time of such moral confusion that nobody can sin. Each person simply makes up his or her own rules. And nobody can call anything “wrong” or “sinful” without being a bigot. Holding to an absolute norm seems to be the only sin some people are willing to name! Yet study after study and person after person expresses a sense of widespread guilt over such things as abortion or adultery.
Furthermore, reactions to Pope Francis tended to doubt that very many Catholics would “line up to receive” pardon for abortions. Perhaps. But those numbers likely will never be known because of the confidentiality of confession. But if guilt is real, the urgency of forgiveness is equally real. The notion that one can simply “forgive herself” for any real or imagined guilt in her past is shallow. “Forgiving myself” is as nonsensical as “sitting in my own lap.” One can use the words, but pardon is not a self-referential term. At best, I can accept forgiveness from a fellow-human or God, but I can’t forgive myself. Forgiveness must come from the one who has been wronged, not the one who committed the offense.
That brings us to the biblical truth that pardon is already on deposit. Grace is the essence of God’s being toward his human creatures. The single individual who was without sin in history made a sacrifice of himself for the rest of us. And the pardon he secured is now a free gift to all who will receive it.
Maybe the headlines will move someone to go back to the old and central good news about sin and grace. There is no sin too great to be forgiven.

Ads and Obits

The FAX of Life
Title: Ads and Obits
Date: For the Week of August 31, 2015

Americans know advertising. We are bombarded with it every day. But do we really understand it? Ads rarely sell us anything we really need. We know what those things are and put them on our grocery lists, to-do lists, and life agendas. Advertising sells image. It promotes glitz and glamor. Ads make us think we need things most of us could do without and would never miss. Some ads lie.
For example, there is a collective ad being put in the faces of young people every day that tells them they must have lots of money, lots of power, and lots of sex. And everybody will know they are getting all these things if they attend prestigious (and expensive) Skunk Hollow University, get certified for a high-paying job in Such-and-Such lucrative profession, drive head-turning Brand X automobiles, and wear trend-setting clothes from high-end Boutique Shops.
I think we are letting our kids be sold a bill of goods. The world is lying to them! A good life is not indexed by the things those flashy ads promote.
The ads sell fame and celebrity. Perform, serve, achieve – and, if you can’t really do those productive things, take your clothes off, scream in some public place, or make headlines by shooting somebody. Work, earn, accumulate – and, if that seems onerous and hard or looks like it is going to take too long – cut corners, cheat, or take what somebody else worked hard to get. You’re entitled.
Lies! All lies! The ads that have effectively convinced so many of us that these are the things that matter are spawned in Hell.
What really matters is decency, respect for other people, and kindness. What the world actually needs is courage to do right things and the humility to do them for people who can’t pay you back. What people really admire is people who develop and use skills that make life better for others. When all is said and done, even the most crass and vulgar soul in the room wants to find in others are traits such as honesty and generosity, keeping promises and helping strugglers, being a good citizen and an honorable person, faithful mate and loving parent.
How can I know these are the things people really admire – in spite of the ads for so much that is frivolous or vile? It’s because these are the things we put in people’s obituaries and praise in their eulogies. When have you read an obit that said “The thing people admired most about Sue was her good taste in shoes” or “What people loved most about Bob was that he was stinking rich”?
What you want people to say about you at your funeral is “He knew how to encourage people” or “She honored her profession with hard work and integrity we would all do well to imitate” or “He lived by his principles and was a man of genuine character.” It’s the obits and not the ads we should think about more.
Take this one as a case study: He loved his family and took care of them. He worked at something you knew he enjoyed doing. He made the lives of others better just by being part of their experience. Faith in God defined his life, and everybody who knew him respected him. I am a better person for knowing him.
That’s a fitting obituary for my brother who died last week. Harry Shelly knew what mattered, what deserved his attention, and what could help the rest of us. We truly loved and admired him. And we will miss him terribly.


Grace Revealed and Received in the Jesus – 11 May 2014



Meditation on God’s Word

Find your hope for today. Love, learn, and live the Word
with Rick Warren.

Oct 3, 2014

Biblical Meditation: Get Every Ounce of Nutrition from God’s Word
by Rick Warren

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8 NIV)

I can remember hearing great sermons or in-depth Bible teaching and wondering how the teacher found all those great nuggets of truth in God’s Word. That’s why I wrote my first book 35 years ago: to help people like me. “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” shares 12 methods of Bible study, such as the chapter summary method, the topical method, and the verse-by-verse method, all of them useful for anyone to get the most from God’s Word.

One of my favorites is the devotional Bible study method. If I were to summarize the devotional method in one word, it would be “meditate.” For many, the word “meditate” is a bad word. They associate it with Eastern or New Age religions. Some Christians, when they think of meditation, picture people folding their bodies into pretzels and contemplating the lint on their navel.

That may be Eastern or Buddhist meditation, but it’s not Christian meditation. The Bible uses the word “meditate” 29 times in the New International Version to describe a believer’s devotional life. God wants us to meditate.

He promises us that if we meditate on Scripture, he’ll bless us. Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (NIV).

So, according to God, you have to meditate on his Word if you want to be successful.

How do you do it? Grab a dictionary and look up a synonym for “meditation,” and you may find the word “rumination.” You probably don’t know that word unless you happen to be a farmer. Rumination is what a cow does when she chews her cud. She rolls her cud over and over in her mouth.

That’s similar to how you meditate on Scripture. Cows eat the grass, chew it up, and send it to their stomachs pretty quickly. There it lies in the stomach, soaking up all of those acids and chemicals. Then, after a while, the cow burps it back up with a new and renewed flavor, chews on that grass and some other grass, and does the whole process over again. Cows repeat this several times. They get every ounce of nutrition out of the grass.

Biblical meditation is kind of like that; it’s thought digestion. God wants us to get every ounce of spiritual nutrition out of his Word. He wants us to chew on it, digest it, and then chew on it some more.

Talk It Over

Do you have a place, time, or process for how you spend time with God? How can meditation enhance your quiet time with God?
What distractions do you need to eliminate so you can meditate on God’s Word?
What does it mean to you to be “prosperous” or “successful”? What do you think God equates with success?

BAD RELIGION – by Rubel Shelly

Bad Religion – by Rubel Shelly

Mean spirited —Bad religion. I’ve seen it,tasted it, and participated in it in my early ministry. But that is not what Jesus called us to be and do. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (‭John‬ ‭13‬:‭34-35‬ NIV) Bobby Deason

Title: Bad Religion
Date: For the Week of September 29, 2014

The bulk of the finest people I have ever known are devoutly religious. But some of the meanest people I’ve ever known are also among the most religious people I’ve ever encountered. I struggled for a long time to figure it out.
For example, one lady I grew to fear and avoid could quote more Scripture than just about anybody in our church. Little kids had better not touch her, though, or she would screech at them and make them cry. Her husband was a cowering little fellow who hardly ever spoke. I never wondered why.
A preacher whom I recall very distinctly had a withering wit that he turned on people to mimic, mock, or otherwise humiliate them. As I think back on it, the worst thing about that memory is that I sometimes laughed as he did it.
If you think I’m making it up that truly devout religious people can be mean-spirited and evil, just read the online comments made to stories in the New York Times or your local newspaper that speak positively about evolution or homosexuality. The invective is too harsh to reproduce here. Some of the comments even use profanity, assign the “godless evolutionist” to hell, or tell the “shameless perverts” that God will damn them at the Final Judgment.
I’ve read a few of those pieces that made me think the writer would kill somebody if he thought he could do it without getting caught. So is it his religion or his fear of the police that keeps him from doing something evil?
Nobody ever read one of those postings and thought the harsh language and judgment it contained helped them see Jesus. Understand his mission to the lost. Want to be his follower. Or give her a positive impression of his people.
So I think I’ve figured out the mystery: Religion can lead people to do hateful and wicked things to people, but loving and following Jesus never does.
Aren’t “religion” and “following Jesus” one and the same thing? Hardly! Religion is the system of beliefs and institutional loyalties one embraces, while following Jesus is the conscious imitation of the person one learns about in the Gospels. And the only people Jesus ever called names or declared in danger of hell were the most religious people of his time and place. They prayed, made pilgrimages, gave money, worshipped with pious looks on their faces, and quoted Scripture. They had no clue about the loving, compassionate nature of God.
Defending a pattern or system, proving my church is better than yours, or trumping my argument with your counter-argument breeds defensiveness. Makes tempers flare. Alienates friends. Starts wars. Makes people nasty. Breaks God’s heart. Following Jesus produces humility and keeps you from being mean.
Jesus never called us to be religious. He said, “Follow me.”