United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:
We describe God in three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are commonly used to refer to the threefold nature of God. Sometimes we use other terms, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 13.
- We believe in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.
- We believe that God is sovereign; that is, God is the ruler of the universe.
- We believe that God is loving. We can experience God’s love and grace.
Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 13.
- We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
- We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
- We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)
- We believe that Jesus is our Savior. In Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins.
- We believe that Jesus is our Lord and that we are called to pattern our lives after his.
The Holy Spirit
- We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with us.
- We believe that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God.
- We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live obediently.
- We believe that God created human beings in God’s image.
- We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
- We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
- We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
- We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
- We believe that the church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
- We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
- We believe that the Bible is God’s Word.
- We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
- We believe that Christians need to know and study the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures).
The Reign of God
- We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
- We believe that wherever God’s will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus’ ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
- We believe that although the fulfillment of God’s kingdom–the complete restoration of creation–is still to come.
- We believe that the church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God’s kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion.
- We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and we become more Christ-like. Socially, God’s vision for the kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.
With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
- Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins.
- Persons of any age can be baptized.
- We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
- A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.
The Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist)
*Content from UMC.org
- The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.
- The Lord’s Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family.
- By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
- We practice “open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
The story breaks here in most printed versions of the Bible. One of my good friends hates that. He thinks ending the story there sets up the woman for failure because she could not “sin no more,” try as she wanted.
If the lesson we take away is to “go and be good,” then who needs Jesus? He hasn’t really saved the woman, or us. “She, and I, will screw up in a matter of minutes after leaving His side,” he finished.
He’s right. Even if this woman chose not to go back to her lover, other sins would quickly disqualify her from a relationship with God. There is no hope if the story ends there.
Continuing on, however, my friend read aloud the very next verse in the passage:
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
Jesus does not abandon me, warning me to behave. Instead He promises to give me the light of life, to shine on the areas where I want to hide, not for my shame, but as a loving God who will be with me, guide me, and ultimately change me.
Yes, Jesus tells me not to sin, but even better, He gives me Himself so when I do sin, I don’t have to hide in the darkness anymore. That is a reason to face another day. I will never be alone.
Take a moment right now to thank God for conquering sin for you.
The root idea of Sabbath is simple as rain falling, basic as breathing. It’s that all living things – and many nonliving things too – thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. A bird flying, never nesting, is soon plummeting. Grass trampled, day after day, scalps down to the hard bone of the earth. Fruit constantly inspected bruises, blights. This is true of other things as well: a saw used without relenting – its teeth never filed, its blade never cooled – grows dull and brittle; a motor never shut off gums with residue or fatigues from thinness of oil – it sputters, it stalls, it seizes. Even companionship languishes without seasons of apartness.
God stitched into the nature of things an inviolable need to be left alone now and then. The primary way people receive this aloneness and stillness is, of course, through sleep. We can defy slumber only so long – propping ourselves upright with caffeine, manufacturing artificial alertness with drugs – but past a certain point, we collapse. We must submit to sleep’s benign tyranny, enter its inescapable vulnerability and solitariness. Unless we do, we die…
The tricky thing about Sabbath, though, is it’s a form of rest unlike sleep. Sleep is so needed that, defied too long, our bodies inevitably, even violently, force the issue. Sleep eventually waylays all fugitives. It catches you and has its way with you.
Sabbath won’t do that. Resisted, it backs off. Spurned, it flees. It’s easy to skirt or defy Sabbath, to manufacture cheap substitutes in its place – and to do all that, initially, without noticeable damage, and sometimes, briefly, with admirable results. It’s easy, in other words, to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work’s unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting.
We simply haven’t taken time. We’ve not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God. Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying?
Sabbath keeping requires two orientations. One is Godward. The other is time ward. To keep Sabbath well – as both a day and an attitude – we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both.
Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.”
Sunday School: 10:15 am Sunday Worship: 11:30 am
At Central Church, the Mission of Worship is to provide an experience where people can connect to God and grow in their relationship to Jesus Christ – where your spirit can respond to God’s spirit.
If you feel most connected to God in a setting that employs liturgy, beautiful choral music, traditional hymns with accompaniment on the pipe organ and piano, you will be at home in the traditional worship service at Central Church.
These traditional services feature the great hymns of our faith and choral music of the highest order. The services also include acts of praise, prayers of confession, thanksgiving, proclamation, and dedication. The sermons are biblically-based and seek to emphasize spiritual growth and Christian service. These services are traditional but not stuffy, holy but not solemn, and in a large space with the feeling of a family gathering.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 724-846-3474.
Worship services are held in the Sanctuary. All are welcome to participate in worship services including families with children. In the event your little one(s) finds the experience overwhelming, you are welcome to bring your child to our nursery which is staffed with two workers.
Hymnals are used for our worship music and can be found on the back of each pew. Church-wide program announcements are made, worship attendees are led in prayer, and our pastor delivers an inspiring sermon. Worship concludes with a closing hymn. Services typically last one hour.
The communion table in the United Methodist Church is open to all who profess their faith in Jesus Christ, without regard to age or church membership.
Communion is served during worship on the first Sunday of each month.
Are children welcome to attend worship services?
Absolutely! We encourage all children to attend worship. If you’re not sure how your child will behave during worship we suggest the following:
- Give it a try…never assume it won’t work.
- Be patient…we don’t mind a little noise- if it escalates- simply move to the back of the Sanctuary or bring your little one to the nursery. Remember, we all have to start our worship experience sometime!
- Small doses of worship time might work well. Maybe 20 minutes is all your little one can handle at this point in time. Not a problem. Simply bring your child down to the nursery and come back to enjoy the remainder of worship.
- Some members found that sitting in a different location each week and pointing out the different ‘sites’ prior to start of worship kept it interesting.
- Please keep your child by your side at all times. The Sanctuary, a wonderful site to behold, can be a dangerous place for a wandering little one. Stairways, candles, risers and little ones don’t mix. We want your children to be safe at all times.
Special Worship Services:
Periodically we will have changes in our worship schedule, most commonly during Advent (Christmas) & Lent (Easter). Please check our calendar for any changes.
Church Membership & Baptism
When it comes to baptism and membership in the church, many persons have all kinds of questions. Below you will find many of those questions and their answers.
If you do not find what you are looking for or would like to talk about being baptized or church membership, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Common questions about Church Membership and Baptism
Membership is the result of an individual’s profession of faith in God, the Father Almighty; maker of heaven and earth; in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Spirit. This is normally done during one of our regular worship services. It is important to note that you do not need to be a member to participate in church activities and events!
How do I join the church?
The process leading up to making a public profession of faith varies from church to church. At Central Church, anyone interested in joining the church is encouraged to contact our pastor to start the conversation.
Individuals are received into the church either by profession of faith or transfer of membership. Profession of faith describes those who are coming into the church without any previous history in any church. Transfer of membership recognizes that an individual that was active in another Christian denomination or church has chosen to change that affiliation to this church.
Are there levels of membership?
The United Methodist Church does not have “levels” of membership but some categories for the purpose of distinction. All children or youth who are baptized in the church are classified as Preparatory members. Full members are those adults (and youth who are of age) who publicly profess their faith before the congregation (or transfer membership into the church). Two seldom used categories are Affiliate membership and Associate membership. Both are generally usually used by college students, military personnel or seasonal residents when they wish to be active in a local church due to a temporary relocation.
I am on the church mailing list. Does that mean I am a member?
Not necessarily. It means that at some point, you participated in a church activity and provided your mailing information. If you have not made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ before the congregation, you are considered a constituent rather than a member. You may check your membership status by calling the church office.
How is baptism related to church membership?
In United Methodism, baptism is a Sacrament that reminds us of God’s grace that is at work in the life of every human being. Anyone who wishes to become a member of a United Methodist Church MUST be baptized. We believe that baptism, as a sacrament of initiation into the life of the church, is a one-time event that does not need to be repeated if performed in a Christian denomination.
Can I have my child baptized in the church if I am not a member?
The United Methodist Church practices infant baptism. Adult baptism is for adults who have never been baptized as an infant and are seeking membership in Central Church (we do not “re-baptize”).
At Central, it is expected that one or both parents, even if not members of the church, will be active in the life of the church. Baptism places the child and parents, as well as the congregation, in a covenant relationship with God.
Therefore, a child’s parents are expected to profess their faith in God and promise to raise their child in the knowledge and love of God until that time when the child can profess his/her faith before the church. This assumes that the parents will be active in the church so that they can fulfill these vows to the best of their ability.
The congregation also affirms its commitment to the family to help provide a community where the child and parents are nurtured in the Christian faith.
Can we have a private family baptism not at the church?
Once again, because baptism is a community act and celebration, this is normally discouraged, especially since the congregation also affirms its commitment to the family to help provide a community where the child and parents are nurtured in the Christian faith.
Can I have my wedding in the church if we are not members?
Non-members may celebrate their wedding in the church. However, weddings celebrated in the church are understood as a covenant celebration uniting the man and woman in the presence, and with the blessing of, God. As such, it is assumed that couples wishing to be married in the church are active in the church and growing in discipleship.
Can my membership be changed or terminated?
Yes, membership in the local church can be changed at the member’s request or by Charge Conference action. Generally, membership is terminated by death, by transfer to another church, withdrawal at the member’s request, or by removal by the Charge Conference due to the member’s failure to uphold the membership vows.
What is the process for Charge Conference removal?
Because church membership recognizes the covenantal nature of our relationship with God and with others, we profess our faith in God and promise to uphold the church by our prayers, presence, gifts and service.
In other words, we promise to pray for the church, faithfully attend corporate worship and other opportunities to grow in discipleship, and to support the church both financially and with our abilities.
An individual is considered an “inactive” member when he/she has not fulfilled these vows by neither attending worship nor making a financial contribution for a year. After this year, the member’s name may be presented to the Charge Conference for two consecutive years. If, in the space of that two year period, the person does not attend worship or make a financial contribution, he/she may be removed from the membership roll.
Will I be notified of my membership status?
Typically, we contact to invite you to join us again in worship. Generally, a member is not notified of the final Charge Conference action.
Can I rejoin the church if I am removed from membership?
Yes. The pastor may ask you to attend membership class again or can simply reinstate you in the membership rolls.
Does anything stick out to you as meaningful or unusual?
Is the lesson God has been speaking to you this week depicted in the image?
I am grateful for Jesus’ response in the passage we’ve been studying this week from John 8:1-12.
He takes a knee in the dirt and waits out the storm of questions and accusations from the Pharisees. After a period of listening he stands to make an unusual invitation. Then he takes a knee again.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground.”
Jesus is the ultimate judge, and a Holy God. Yet He declares that He would not condemn this woman.
Notice that He doesn’t say she is not guilty. She was caught in the act. No, he declares that He will not condemn her because all of her sin would be taken upon Him, pointed like a laser, on the cross.
He would bear her blame. Our blame.
We see that same truth again in Romans 3:21-26. (excerpts of this passage are shown below in the New Living Translations)
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are…
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins…
“This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time.”
Jesus loved this woman and these men by pointing out their need for forgiveness.
Is there an area of your life where you are demanding justice and ignoring your own need for forgiveness? Will you bow before Jesus today, offering Him your heart? And if you have already done this, will you tell someone else today about Him?
“Come to me all you who are weak and burdened and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
America is a wonderfully blessed country. We have enough food and opportunity to go around. But some miss out and go hungry. 20% of children in Pennsylvania do not know where their next meal will come from. Food security is a problem for many in our community.
People come to Central Church who haven’t eaten for days. Some have been out of work for years and don’t expect to find work anytime soon. They have no money. They’ve run out of benefits. They feel that life will only get worse. They are hungry and need someone to care, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase as we move through 2014.
Every meal that we serve is hot, nutritious, and wholesome. A warm welcome and a promise from God go a long way to life a heavy heart. When someone knows how much God cares, they don’t feel lonely and powerless anymore.
Please join us to care for those in hard times. Your gifts meet desperate needs for food, and you pave the way for hurting people to be blessed. We want everyone coming through our doors to know that they need not face their problems alone.
There is hope because you care and because God loves the brokenhearted and longs to lift them up. Donations can be made through the mail or in person at Central Church, or simply click on the Give link at the top of the page to make an online gift.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
This is our prayer for everyone who walks through our door – providing hope for new life.
I work best in an orderly area but the schedule and stress of the last few months have left their telltale marks on my office space: three coffee cups, a small mountain of article drafts and sticky notes.
I’ve been meaning to address this mess for weeks. Ok, probably for more than a month.
Suddenly on autopilot, I shuffled the stack of papers and folders, order semi-restored. Sitting back in my chair, a puzzling thought emerged. Why didn’t I do this earlier? What is it about a stranger (even a 10-year old) seeing my mess that motivates me to clean up and act as if this tidy version is the everyday truth?
I believe it reveals yet another of my default settings. I don’t want people to see the true mess in my life – the many cracks where the glare of brokenness shines through.
The woman in this week’s passage, John 8:1-12, was caught red-handed. She didn’t have time to hide or tidy up the scene of her crime. My heart goes out to her. This woman was exposed. Moreover, her choice to rebel against God was exploited by the Pharisees in an unmerciful way.
Do you do that to others? Has someone done that to you?
Today, remember the hope of Easter – an invitation to discover the lover of our soul, yet our Savior wants us to admit our need for Him.
Are you willing to express your weakness and failures to God and to others, or do you prefer to hide?
Your GIFT GIVES LIFE
Worshippers arriving June 2, 2013, at First United Methodist Church in Moore, Okla., found the church lacked electricity. They didn’t need it. The Son powered that Sunday morning service.
For almost two weeks, the church had charged into the chaos caused by a tornado May 20. Two dozen people died. Thousands of homes were gone. When another round of deadly tornadoes struck May 31, church members kept giving and serving even without electricity and water.
EQUIPPED TO SHARE GOD’S LOVE
The senior pastor, the Rev. Tish Malloy, threw open the doors of the church and prepared to give, proclaiming, “We have life!” Children scurried to select activity kits. Additional folding chairs appeared as the crowd grew. Passing the peace of Christ now held extra meaning.
With your generous gift, First Church in Moore, Okla., can continue as a long-term UMCOR recovery center.
YOUR GIFT MATTERS TO SURVIVORS OF DISASTER.
Your donation to the One Great Hour of Sharing enables UMCOR to serve children, families and communities when disaster strikes. Thank you for giving generously today.
One Great Hour of Sharing calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. The offering provides administrative support for the United Methodist Committee on Relief as it responds to disaster survivors and people in need around the world.
United Methodists relate to One Great Hour of Sharing by supporting UMCOR’s ongoing work, responding in times of disaster and telling the story of UMCOR’s ministry.
Please give generously on One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday.
To read additional stories of lives changed by your gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday offering click here.
To send donations by check, mail to:
P.O. Box 340029
Nashville, TN 37203
Which of your default settings have come to the surface this week? If specific names or emotions come up, write them down and make time to talk with God about those items soon.
For now, think about His grace in light of your need. We are not worthy. We love Him because He first loved us. He pursues. He loves. He asks for us to depend on Him fully and live our lives in gratitude.
Will you follow the woman’s example in this passage and pour out a beautiful perfume on Jesus’s feet?
Throughout the Old and New Testament when sin-filled people brought a humble offering to God, it is often stated that the aroma was pleasing to Him.
Consider ending your time today in a prayer-offering to Jesus. Maybe you could say something like this:
I identify with _______ in Luke’s passage. When left to my own choices, my heart is set on rebellion against You. I see it show up in my life in these ways:_____________.
God, I’m sorry. I know my sin is a slap in your loving face. The sinful attitudes/choices/words I choose in my rebellion create a barrier between you and me.
Thank you for continuing to open your arms to me in forgiveness. Thank you that because of your finished work on the cross you can separate me from my sin.
Lord, your character is unchanging. You are ___(rehearse something that is true about Him)_________. I want to live in light of my forgiven state with you.
In Luke, You said, “he who has been forgiven of little loves little.” Help me to remember the depths you went to in redeeming me from my rebellion. I, ____, have been forgiven of much. That truth reorients my life.
Jesus offers forgiveness by offering Himself to both Simon and the woman with a reputation. Best of all, His offer is extended to us today. 1 John 1:8-9says, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And even though we’ve been studying this passage for a week, we are invited each day to come and repent. Jesus welcomes us every time.
Maybe yesterday you were like the woman who was broken in her sin, but today you are more like the Pharisee, proud and judgmental. Forgiveness looks the same.
Every day, all day, every minute of the day, we are invited to confess our need for forgiveness in humility; because of Jesus we can experience change and hope. Again.
Consider inserting your name in the phrase below in the comments as an act of faith and a testimony of His grace. “My name is ______. I am one whom Christ has washed clean and forgiven of much.”
Around the world, at least 780 million people lack access to clean drinking water, says the United Nations, adding that, by some measures, the number of people whose right to water is not satisfied could be as high as 3.5 billion. An estimated 2.5 billion people are without sanitation.
The demand for water is growing as our global population grows and societies continue to develop—but the amount of water we have in the world is fixed.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) joined with the United Nations to mark World Water Day on March 22, and raise awareness of these issues.
Here’s what you can do to help!
- Speed up your shower. Showering is a “big win” in terms of saving water—a four-minute shower uses 20-40 gallons of water. Other things you can do reduce your water consumption are checking for leaks in pipes and faucets and landscaping with drought-resistant plants. The bottom line is: don’t take water for granted.
- Conserve energy. Ninety percent of power generation is water-intensive. So, saving energy saves water, and saving water saves energy. Turn off the lights and unplug any “energy vampires” in your home. These are appliances that you rarely use, but that you leave plugged in. They’re using electricity even when they’re turned off, unless you unplug them!
- Advocate online. Choose an image from the UN’s World Water Day website for your Facebook profile or cover photo. Include a caption that tells your friends something about World Water Day, such as: “At least 780 million people around the world don’t have safe drinking water—let’s change that through World Water Day!” You can also share this article with your friends on Facebook.
- Donate! UMCOR’s Water and Sanitation (WASH) programs improve access to clean water around the world. Read about UMCOR’s efforts to drill boreholes for water in South Sudan, build wells in Nicaragua, and promote hand washing in Haiti. UMCOR has even provided emergency water in West Virginia after a chemical spill contaminated their water source. Donations to Advance #3020600 keep water projects afloat.
- Inspire your community. Ask your pastor what your church is doing to celebrate World Water Day. Consider liturgies and prayers that focus on water. UMCOR’s partner, El Porvenir, has published resources for faith groups, including a mission moment, bulletin insert, sermon, and devotional guide. Consider taking a special offering for UMCOR’s WASH projects. When you invite your church to participate through mission giving, God can multiply your efforts!
And remember One Great Hour of Sharing special offering on March 30.
Key Bible Verses: Many people did believe in Jesus, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. – John 12:42-43
Dig Deeper: 1 Peter 1:13-17
You and I can be appreciated and admired by our peers, our family and friends, our boss and coworkers, our neighbors and even ourselves, and yet not be a success in the eyes of God.
It doesn’t matter how many promotions we might be given at work, how much our salary might rise, how much prestige we might enjoy in the eyes of the community; if we’re not faithful to God, we’re not successful.
And conversely, if we are genuinely faithful to God, trusting him enough to be obedient to him, we are truly successful, no matter what anyone else might say about us.
Consider John the Baptist. He took a courageous stand for righteousness in confronting Herod about his unlawful marriage to Herodias, and he ended up being beheaded for it (Matthew 14:1-12).
This does not at all seem to be a sign of a “successful” ministry. Yet Jesus commended him in glowing terms: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28, TNIV).
Success in the eyes of other people and success in the eyes of God are not necessarily the same thing. It is very possible to have one but not the other.
—Steven Roy in What God Thinks When We Fail
My Response: How do I measure my own success?
Thought to Apply: Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience. —John Stott (British theologian, writer)
Adapted from What God Thinks When We Fail (IVP)
Prayer for the Week: Father, help me to define success the way you do; remind me that the only opinion that ultimately matters is yours.
Today, March 22, is World Water Day.
Gospel for Asia’s clean water ministry is delivering clean, disease-free water to families across South Asia because of people like you.
This is being accomplished in part by providing Jesus Wells, which give people of every social standing free access to water.
For more information on Gospel for Asia’s Jesus Wells project, right click here and open link in new tab.
Now let’s watch a video clip of the very passage we’ve been studying, Luke 7:35-50. The clip comes from a full-length film based on Luke’s Gospel, which depicts the life of Christ and is the most translated film in the world.
In this Scripture passage, I see both of my responses to sin on display in one room with Jesus: Repentance and self-righteous defiance.
Are you living as one who has been forgiven of much?
- With taxes near the front of your mind, how would you like to live in a country where an official Church Tax is collected by the government and distributed to your local Church?
In Germany, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews pay a surcharge of up to 9 percent on their income tax bills – or about Euro 56 (US$72) a month for a single person earning a pre-tax monthly salary of about Euro 3,500 (or US$4,500).
In fact, the road to heaven is paved with more than good intentions for Germany’s 24 million Catholics. If they don’t pay their religious taxes, they will be denied sacraments, including weddings, baptisms, and funerals.
Similar Church Taxes are imposed in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, some parts of Switzerland, and several other countries.
What do you think?
- Would you prefer the government to take a central role in making sure you pay at least a substantial part of tithe to your Church?
- What are the faith-related risks of living in countries like the United States where you can ignore the requirement to tithe and give as little as you like without earthly accountability?
Look at Simon’s casual response. Though Jesus was invited into his home, Simon ignored the hospitality customs of the day. He did not greet Jesus or wash His feet. But this dishonor for Jesus doesn’t seem to bother Simon at all.
What does scandalize him is the brokenness of other people. His quick response of judgment toward the woman worshiping at Jesus’s feet reveals the deeper calluses of Simon’s heart.
Does Simon remind you of yourself? Are you quick to notice the sins of others but tolerant of your own sin?
I can be like Simon. Too often, I half-heartedly entertain Jesus and continue operating as if my need for Him is minimal.
Thankfully, Jesus knows my heart just as He knew Simon’s. So, He lays it out for calloused religious people like me by pointing Simon back to the bigger story:
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Most of us would agree that the person with the greater debt would be the most thankful.
Jesus affirms Simon’s budget wise answer, then turning on a dime, Jesus focuses on our human need for forgiveness.
The woman at Jesus’ feet was broken by the magnitude of her need for forgiveness. Simon, on the other hand, was deceived, hard-hearted and resistant to his need for forgiveness.
Both had the cancer of sin coursing through their bodies. Each needed to repent and turn to Jesus to be forgiven.
Try something “out of the box” today. Imagine yourself in this Biblical scene, and list who you identify with most (the Pharisee or the sinful woman). Briefly explain why.
In Luke 7:35-50, Jesus explains a heart problem by using numbers. The result is a revolutionary equation. Let’s look at it together:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
In the scene above, two sinners interact with Jesus, but only one converts sin into repentance and love for Jesus. “Whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus explains that there is a ratio between our awareness of sin and our recognition of God’s grace.
Now you do the math: What is your ratio of repentance to your love for God?
Which of your default settings have come into play? If specific names of emotions come up with an item, write them down. For the moment, resist any instinct to try and solve or justify anything related to these default settings.
When we choose to rebel against God – trying to find life or comfort in anything other than Him we grieve His heart. As we grow closer to Him, our heart will grieve over our choices as well. It is appropriate to be sad over our sin, like the young man in Matthew 19.
However, in that grief we have a choice to make. That choice will turn us in one of two directions. We can choose to leave our lesser god and move toward Jesus in our need. Or we can operate on our default setting – rebellion against God and pursue life from the deadened things around us.
Consider ending your time today in a prayer of surrender. Maybe it could say something like this:
Lord, I am often like the rich young ruler in Matthew. I confess my rebellion and allegiance to ____________ . I recognize that the hold this idol has in my life robs you of glory and it robs me of the freedom and grace you offer.
Lord, your character is unchanging. You are holy, without blame, expectant of all my allegiance. When you require everything to be surrendered to you it is because you are worthy of the sacrifice. Help me to have a high view of you. I confess my need for you and choose to live this moment in light of your strength of character.
In my times of great need – when I’ve experienced failure and shame, help me to move toward you. By claiming your mercy I choose to leave behind the dead idols I’ve worshiped for too long.
I crave a life lived to the fullest, Lord. Help me to live in light of the eternal freedom you offer. Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see the temporary shortcuts I run to for the counterfeit idols that they are. Help me to redirect my dependence to you – trusting your strength and grace to lead me.
Only you satisfy Lord. Thank you that you have made it so.
Central Church’s feeding ministry outreach to our local community has hit another new high.
During the past year, we experienced a substantial increase in the number of people from our local community coming to the Church for free meals, perhaps as much the result of Central Church’s radical hospitality as the result of the widespread economic malaise.
Central offers a hot lunch, featuring three different soups, from 11:30 am to 1 pm every Tuesday (switching to ice cream sundaes during the summer). Every Friday, a community dinner is served from 4-5 pm, and a community breakfast is served on the first Saturday of each month from 10-11:30 am. All of the feeding ministry meals are provided at no cost to our guests.
By our conservative estimate, over 6,900 people were served in 2013, not counting the seconds (and even thirds) that are also usually available after everyone has been served, and that inpouring shows no evidence of decreasing as we continue deeper into 2014.
In addition to hot, nutritious food, our outreach ministry also offers a much needed opportunity for fellowship, especially among the older members of our community, many of whom are regulars, and our feeding ministry is complimented by a rotating schedule of spiritually-oriented offerings, from Bible studies to counseling to life-skills educational opportunities, to ensure that people coming to Central Church have an opportunity to be fed in body AND soul!
If you would like to hear more about the community outreach ministries of Central Church, or if you would like to support these vital community outreaches financially or by volunteering to help, just click on our “Contact Us” page.
Revisit Matthew’s account of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30.
But I don’t want us to get stuck by focusing only on our failure to live up to Christ’s perfection. Remember, we live on the far side of Resurrection Sunday. Our sins are forgiven though, many times, we still do battle against them or succumb to their charms on this side of Heaven.
I’m glad Matthew honestly recorded the disciples’ reactions to the picture that played out before them. A rich young moral man who seems to have his act all together is sent away sad after talking with Jesus. The externals weren’t enough. Religion didn’t save.
Sacrifice and dependence on Christ alone saves. It’s countercultural and the disciples, and I, were left questioning – Who stands a chance? Is this a losing game?
Once again Jesus ends by offering eternal perspective. He draws their eyes out of the temporary “x” sacrifices and reminds them of his eternal perspective. Jesus responds with a picture of hope for every difficult choice made out of obedience and love for Him.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible… And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
God will help us realign our worship in light of eternity. Our weakness isn’t the point.
His strength is what the Christian life is all about.
How are you living in light of your relationship with Jesus today?
In addition to what you’ve heard in Church today, here’s a quote about the Sabbath to ponder. You can also review this week’s thoughts and questions about the preparation for Resurrection Sunday in our Day 7 devotional.
“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.” ― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives.
In this week’s pre-resurrection profile with Jesus and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30, Jesus lets the young man walk away from Him, sad. That gets me every time.
Everything in me wants Jesus to chase after the guy offering to talk a bit more about the cost of wholeheartedly following Him. Instead, Jesus turns toward his followers and debriefs with them about the cost of living for the eternal line. Everything.
It’s countercultural. Our society says work your way to the top. Jesus says, give up everything and follow me.
Even churches promote the idea that following Jesus is comfortable because He is loving and kind. Those characteristics are true – He is loving and kind to the brokenhearted but those qualities are balanced with justice and righteousness.
Jesus doesn’t accept half hearted. He knows His worth.
The requirements for entrance into God’s perfect Heavenly realm are untouchable by humans. Perfection is needed.
On our own, we don’t stand a chance. And that is exactly the point. You and I MUST have a perfect someone step into the gap between God and our sin for us.
God righteousness set up the highest standard for entrance into His presence. And God in his love sent His only son to meet the standard for sinful people. He plays both sides of the equation.
He doesn’t lower the bar to let us into His perfect home. But he offers us “the door,” to Heaven through His one son, Jesus. Jesus stands in the gap for us. He lived a sinless life. He is our hope.
In the New Living Translation of Romans 3:20-26we read:
“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
What attribute of God are thankful for today?
Consider writing that attribute on a sticky note to remind you throughout the day of the finished work of Jesus and the mercy of God.
Many people commemorate the 40-days before Easter by choosing to fast in some way. Some give up chocolate, caffeine or food in general. Others turn off media outlets or choose to wake up a bit earlier every morning, a sacrifice of sleep, to spend more time with God.
The big idea is to identify with Christ in His suffering and focus that time or desire more fully on Him. I didn’t grow up practicing this tradition but I like the idea of having a tangible reminder that redirects me back to Jesus.
Yesterday when I answered the question about what I didn’t want Jesus to ask me to give up – it revealed (again) an area of dependence in my life, sugar.
I move toward sugary snacks out of familiarity, routine, boredom and a desire for comfort. That might sound bizarre to some of you but it’s true for me. Sugar influences my day more than God does at times. It’s a substance that I have to continually evaluate and guard against or an unhealthy dependence begins again. I am in a season of unhealthy dependence right now.
For this 40-day fast, I could have chosen something easier – something that would have been inconvenient to give up for 40 days but would have ensured “success” at the end. But in light of the passage in Matthew 19:16-30, I couldn’t help but sense that I would have been only trying to look religious and in doing so might miss the presence of God with me.
The young man in Matthew was calculated about his worship, and he walked away when real sacrifice was required. When Jesus upped the ante and asked the young man for his the things he depended on apart from God, the young man walked away, sad.
I do that. I give in to things like sugar because they don’t require anything from me. In the next 40 days I want to bring those sin patterns to God. I want all facets of my life to bow to Him alone.
Should I fail to resist sugars hollow charms at some point over the next few weeks, I want to keep my error in perspective with these questions. Maybe they will be a help to you as well.
What is your hope for Easter Sunday? Do you want to celebrate how much self-control you have? Or, do you want to celebrate the fact that you have a great Savior who meets you in times of defeat?
– Katie Croft
Jesus met with a prominent man who had toed the line of morality and religious rules well for years. Jesus’s friend Matthew records his observations of the interaction in his gospel – Matthew 19:16-30.
Jesus used questions to communicate with this young man. When Jesus listed many of the 10 commandments the rich young ruler stated that he had successfully obeyed them all.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not correct him. The disciples must have been impressed with the man’s spiritual display as well. The rich young man’s external choices of obedience and worship were good.
But Jesus knows our hearts – better than we know them ourselves.
Jesus says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” With this second statement, Jesus channels to the man’s internal loyalty to possessions before God.
The first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, was not in the young man’s list of successes. Jesus gave him an opportunity to realign his worship by walking away from entrapment of possessions to serve Him. But the man couldn’t do it.
We read that the rich young man walked away sad. That puzzles me. What could have been so precious that he wouldn’t give it up to be with Jesus? After all, he was giving up so many other things for God. Why not this last straw?
The question becomes profound when I put myself in the young man’s shoes.
I can think of a few habits in my life where I do the same thing. These habits, loyalties and choices keep me from Jesus. Like the rich young ruler I too grow sad when I say yes to them instead of Jesus. But, I’m entangled with these counterfeit gods. I live for their quick fixes and their false protection.
Once again I find myself living for the “x” and choose to sidestep the work or sacrifice that a life lived for eternity might bring.
Take a moment to consider what question you would not want Jesus to ask you.
What do you fear He would require from you?
Talk with God about the habits, beliefs and choices that are keeping you from Him.
I once had a pastor explain about our sin nature in terms of computer settings. He said that as humans born after the events recorded in Genesis 3, our default setting toward God is rebellion. I want my own way.
When I try to “do” better in the name of being a better Christian, I’m merely overriding the default setting for the moment. But, after some time, that gets exhausting and I give in. I revert back to my default setting.
So in order to look more like Jesus and wear His name well, I must somehow un-choose my default setting. I must learn to call out my sinful actions, inactions, motivations, beliefs, grudges or prideful thoughts and then choose to identify myself with Christ. He is to be my identity.
His words of truth.
His motivations toward others.
I call myself a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ. In that I am telling the world that I desire to be like Him. Today is an opportunity to more fully choose His Holiness rather than default settings of my sinful nature.
Take a moment to do a mental inventory.
Think about a few of your default settings. If specific names of emotions come up with an item, write them down.
Now, don’t try to solve anything. Don’t make a plan for change. Don’t mentally explain those things away.
Instead, consider Christ’s character. List something that is true about Him.
This list has nothing to do with you. It’s all about what He brings to the table.
Consider ending your time today by offering a prayer of thanks. Maybe something like this:
You are sufficient. Your work is finished. You see the default settings of my heart. You know the spidery webs that go out from each of these acts ________ of rebellion and yet you choose to offer me your love and grace.
Savior, I want to look and love more like you. I want my life to glorify you in observable ways and in the private thoughts and attitudes of my heart.
In moments of decision help me call sin what it is- rebellion against You. In those moments help me to see the righteous path you offer. Give me the courage to choose your grace and your response.
Take control over the settings of my heart and make me the kind of person you want me to be.
So, I had a quiet dinner, relaxed in front of the T.V. for an hour, had an unhurried conversation with my grandma and went to bed early. When the lights went out and the room went quiet, my head and heart began to reconnect. And the tears flowed.
So, I did what I have done since high school. I pulled out my journal and began to write an honest prayer to God. Elements of fear, frustration, discouragement, conflicted emotions; deep questions and hurts flowed out on the page.
The next day I reviewed my midnight journaling session and a question started haunting me. The basis of my struggles all pertain to the curse that was put on all mankind and recorded in Genesis 3.
When Adam and Eve chose rebellion against God in paradise, the world as it was created was forever stained by selfishness, mistrust in God, greed, silence and several dozen other dark words.
Everything I have ever known is broken. Relationships, starry nights, weather patterns, heart motives…everything.
If I were in Adam or Eve’s position after the fall, just East of the garden’s gate, I wonder, what or whom would I miss the most? Would I miss the gifts of the garden more than face-to-face conversations with God?
If I’m honest, I often want the gifts more than the giver. Do you do that?
Like Adam and Eve, I let the enemy question my knowledge of God’s heart and character. I begin to question His motives, His timing or His plan. A few mental sidesteps later and my view of my Savior is completely distorted.
I often start to think that I need to somehow protect myself from God. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I hope one benefit of this 40-day process will be a deeper appreciation for Jesus – The Sacrificial Lamb. I want to know Him. I want to be certain of His qualifications. Every Monday I plan to look at Jesus’s character instead of my own. I want to shape my life in response to what is true about Him, not the gifts he gives.
– Katie Croft
Here’s a quote about Sabbath to ponder. You can also review this week’s thoughts and questions about the preparation for Resurrection Sunday by revisiting our devotional earlier this week for Day 1 – Ash Wednesday.
“A biblical theology of work also includes the explicit call for regular Sabbath rest, when we set our work aside and take time for leisure, recreation, worship and fellowship.
We are not merely workers; rather we are children of God who are called to work.
Our work is never the primary expression of our identity, and though regular Sabbath rest we re-establish our identity in God and in his love, acceptance and grace toward us (Exodus 31:13-17).”
-Gordon T. Smith in his book, Courage and Calling.
13 You yourself are to speak to the Israelites: “You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”
Talk with God about your needs. Take time to listen to Him before verbally readdressing these specific areas in light of His finished work on the cross.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide;
Whiter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe,
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
As we move deeper into Lent, here is a quick reminder to adjust your clocks for Daylight Saving Time!
When we change our clocks
Today, approximately 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time in at least a portion of the country. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving.
Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time.
In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment.
Spring forward, Fall back
During DST, clocks are turned forward an hour, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.
(The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.)
When in the morning?
In the United States, clocks change at 2:00 a.m. local time. In spring, clocks spring forward from 1:59 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
In the European Union, clocks change at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time. In spring, clocks spring forward from 12:59 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Some U.S. areas
For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states.
A safety reminder
Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because Daylight Saving Time provides a convenient reminder.
“A working smoke detector more than doubles a person’s chances of surviving a home fire,” says William McNabb of the Troy Fire Department in Michigan.
More than 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but one-third are estimated to have dead or missing batteries.
The wonderful part about a Christian taking time to look at their sin is, at the end of the day, I can trust my nasty thoughts, wrong choices, dark heart attitudes, rebellious actions and hurts toward myself and others are paid for in full already.
I do not need to manage my emotions better. Berating myself for wrong choices will not solve anything. I can’t pay Him back for my wrong thoughts, attitudes or choices. Those things are already accounted for, forgiven.
What I can do is channel my guilt, shame, remorse and heartbreak to Jesus. Trusting Him to once again reassure me that He knew about these acts of rebellion when He chose to die on the cross for me. He died setting me free to be with Him.
That offers me a different motivation for my reform. When I talk with Jesus about my sin, acknowledging that it’s what he died to save me from, then I want to honor his sacrifice by fleeing from rebellious thoughts, habits, actions and motives.
I don’t have to dig my heels in and “try harder” in my own strength. He sent His spirit to give me strength..
Today I’m looking at my sin out of a desire to more fully give up my grasp on these dead habits, half-hearted beliefs and manipulative actions. They no longer hold me in the eternal realm, but old habits die hard.
I want to address a few of these rebellious areas directly and ask my Savior to help me live more fully in light of my eternal reality where I am freed from sins curse.
Click on this link to see a short video outlining the study: 24 Hours That Changed the World
We will also be using the companion DVD in class each week as Adam Hamilton conducts us on a tour of the actual places where these important events took place.
No single event in human history has received more attention than the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. In this Lenten journey, Adam Hamilton guides us through the last twenty-four hours of Jesus’ life.
Each chapter is designed to help the reader experience and understand the significance of Jesus’ suffering and death in a way you have never done before. Whether you are a long-time Christian or simply curious about the story of Christ’s crucifixion, you are invited to join us and the author in retracing the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life.
Walk with Jesus on his final day.
Sit beside him at the Last Supper.
Pray with him in Gethsemane.
Follow him to the cross.
Desert him. Deny him.
Experience the Resurrection.
March 9, 2014 – The Last Supper
March 16 – The Garden of Gethsemane
March 23 – Condemned by the Righteous
March 30 – Jesus, Barabbas, and Pilate
April 6 – The Torture and Humiliation of the King
April 13 – The Crucifixion
April 20 – Easter Sunday – Christ the Victor
Please plan on joining us at 10:00 each Sunday during Lent this year as we explore this study together!
In the past few years I’ve noticed Easter seems to pass me by. Scripture shows again and again that Christ’s death and resurrection are the pivotal event in history. I desire to commemorate its significance more fully but I don’t know how to get there.
The apostle Paul tackles the subject of Christ’s resurrection in a letter to the early church members in Corinth. We benefit today by reading Paul’s answers to their questions.
But tell me this – since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God – for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
My problem is deeper than just recognizing the significance of the Resurrection on it’s own. I must face my need for the resurrection by grasping what my spiritual and eventually physical condition is apart from Christ’s finished work.
That’s uncomfortable. I don’t like thinking about the areas where I come up short. I don’t want to dwell on how I lack wisdom, self-control, kindness, patience or action. But, I believe the reality check is necessary to take inventory of my heart.
A jeweler often showcases a diamond against a black cloth to show its brilliance by contrast. In the same way, I hope that contrasting the depth of my need with the brilliance of His grace and love will increase His eternal value in my eyes and heart.
Do you want to serve a great and gracious King who has fought a losing battle for you and come out victorious? Take a moment and think about your need for Him. Now let’s thank Him together.
I angled my #2 pencil in my hand then dramatically swiped its tip across the cafeteria table in front of me leaving an impression on both my young friend’s mind and mine. “This line represents time, eternity,” I stated from my side of the booth in the student union at Montana State University. Her eyes looked back at me with understanding.
Once again I poised my pencil on the table, this time I drew a small “x” on the line I had just stretched on the tabletop. “This x represents your life,” I said. Her eyes grew wide in awe. Sitting back in the booth, I watched her mind work internally for a moment. “Woah,” was her simple reply.
My heart felt the same. “Woah,” is right. The picture on the table between my friend and I led to a wonderful discussion on which part of the story we were living for.
It was good to put our lives in perspective – to remember the brevity of life. In a second, our perspectives shifted. Once again I was reminded that my life is not my own.
Too often I forget that my life fits inside the much bigger storyline of God’s story. I live for today. I make decisions, spend my money and whittle away my time as if the “x” is all there is to life.
But every now and then I get uncomfortable and my life feels too small. I believe that is God’s spirit prompting me to regain perspective. It starts with a small thought, There must be more.
Then I remember the dramatic storyline drawn across a lunch table in Bozeman, Montana. That’s when I remember the truth of Psalm 103:13-19:
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those whom keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.
Who’s storyline are you living for? Are you living in light of the eternal storyline of Heaven or are you focused in on the “x” of today?
Will you ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and open your eyes to see His great plan for your life?
John Short, 75, was arrested for spreading Bible tracts near a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang in early February. North Korea’s state media—the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)—said Short was released partly because of his age. (The same explanation was used when the nation recently released a detained 85-year-old American veteran of the Korean War.)
Though North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in reality only services approved by the government are allowed. Bible distribution and prayer services can land people in labor camps or merit execution, defectors say.
Before his release, KCNA said Short apologized for his law breaking and signed a three-page written statement outlining the laws he had broken and apologizing.
Short, who was deported to Beijing, has lived in Hong Kong for 50 years. He arrived in Beijing weeping and told reporters he was “very tired” and wanted to rest, according to Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea has been holding another missionary, Korean-American Kenneth Bae, since November 2012. Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for hostile acts.
American Christians previously held by North Korea include activist Robert Park, who was imprisoned in North Korea for seven months in 2010. Park entered the country without authorization intending to be arrested, but saidafter his release that he never wanted anyone else to enter the country as he did.
However, a friend and fellow Christian, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, followed suit. Jimmy Carter secured his release.
A core task in creating a great family environment is to establish your home as a place of nurturing and acceptance. The goal is to make your family a “home base” for all of its members.
As your children grow up to face the challenges and uncertainties of life, let them have at least one place where they know they are cared for and valued. As parents, my wife and I work toward creating a household environment that will nurture the development of our children, and help them establish genuine independence as they progress in life.
However, we hope in the future that their concept of home will allow them to return and experience our family household as a refuge of warmth and love. We hope that they whatever their course, they will return with their families and always be strengthened by our family experience.
Psalm 127: 3 – 5tells us, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”
The truth is that our children, and our families are our greatest possession. When the family is “home base”, each family member is able to experience nurturing and perceive acceptance in the daily life of the family.
The number one need in all people is the need for acceptance, the need to experience a sense of belonging to something and someone. However, providing an environment of nurturance and acceptance can be challenging in our fast paced society.
Here are five tools that can help you build this dynamic into your family experience.
1. Make Your Family a Priority
Commit to purposefully work on the improvement of your family on a daily basis. When you rise in the morning, pray to God about this goal. Keep a notebook regarding the problems you face. Keep a record of new ideas that you will discuss with your spouse. Read books on creating dynamic family experiences. Reschedule or forgo work activities to spend time with your children. Change your normal routines so that you can create more time with the kids.
2. Discover and Highlight the Gifts in Your Family
For each family member, identify the unique skills, abilities, interests and talents that have been created in them. Help each child discover these gifts and have a passion and excitement about how they can use their skills in new ways. Make it your job to draw out the skills and abilities of your children. Make the home a place where abilities are valued and given opportunity.
3. Create a Sense of Peace in Your Home
Conflict in the household will always result in the opposite of nurturing and accepting relationships. Conflict will create insecurity in the children, and make the home a place your children will learn to avoid. Develop great communication strategies with your spouse. If extreme disagreements occur, avoid arguing in front of your family. If these displays occur in front of the children, allow them to also see a loving resolution. Eliminate any abusive behavior from your family environment.
4. Celebrate Accomplishments Together
Each role that a person plays in the family needs to be identified and valued. Husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, provider, nurturer, student (and the list goes on). Teach your family about each role that they take on. Discuss daily the importance of each role and the activities that are associated with them. Celebrate the accomplishments that are a product of the roles your family members play. Support each other in carrying out these activities. Teach the family that a victory for one person, is a victory for the whole family. Celebrate together!
5. Make God the Center of Your Home Base
Many families have already established tools and techniques with the goal of living a victorious family life. However, a family without God can never experience the spiritual bond God brings to their relationships. Any family without God, will eventually crumble and fall from the inside, regardless of how well its plans are constructed.
Don’t make the mistake of leaving God out of the life of your family. This is the key ingredient to establishing your family as a home base.
Be a part of a bible-believing church. Involve your children in the ministries of that church. Pray and study the bible together at home. Lead your children in the faith that will give them an opportunity to make a decision for Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Let your family experience and know the love that only the Lord can bring. This is the ultimate in nurturance and acceptance, to know that Jesus loves us, and that heaven is our eternal home base. Make this central in the life of your household.
Sin-filled people throughout time, people like me, celebrate this day because through Christ’s death and resurrection we have been offered hope. A future. Love from a perfect God. That makes Easter Sunday so beautiful!
But we often forget the backstory. We forget what the stakes were to redeem my soul from the pit of darkness we were born into. This year in the 40-days leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to be intentional to focus on our need for Him.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts toward Him again. Draw our eyes toward the storyline of eternity and our need for an Eternal Savior.
Will you join us? Starting this Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – there will be a new devotional for each one of those 40 days.
Come back daily for short Lenten devotionals beginning on Wednesday to consider how great our need for Him is so that when Easter arrives this year we will be able to more fully worship Jesus for His love and sacrifice.
He is faithful to meet those who wish to know and experience Him more fully.