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How to Dis Discontent – The Secret

Contented BabyEphesus was a wealthy city, and the Ephesian church probably had some prosperous members.

Paul advised Timothy to instruct them about how to regard and use their resources.  But he also warned Timothy to be on his guard against those whose involvement in the church was based on greed.

Paul’s counsel fits our era just as well.

Interact with God’s Word

1 Timothy 6:5-11, 17-19

  1. If religion shouldn’t be seen as a way to get rich, how can it be the source of great wealth?
  2. How can the perspective of verses 7-8 help you distinguish between needs and wants?
  3. To what extent can advertising to stimulate demand in our consumption-driven economy undermine the contentment urged in these verses?
  4. How much do you think your outlook has been affected by this advertising?
  5. How have you seen greed ruin marriages, friendships, or business relationships?
  6. Why is trusting in the security of savings (v. 17) a trap?
  7. What is the antidote for relying on accumulated wealth (vv. 18-19)?
  8. Do you really share Paul’s confidence (v. 17b) about how God relates to His children?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God for satisfaction when your basic needs are met, acceptance of what He’s doing in your life, and fulfillment in relating to others in His work.

1 Timothy 6:5b-11, 17-19

5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they don’t tell the truth. To them religion is just a way to get rich. 6 Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. 7 After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 11 But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

17 Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

Imagine No Malaria – People in pews and big donors net millions to fight malaria

Matilda Ndanema displays the insecticide-treated mosquito net she received from the United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria campaign in 2010 at her home in Bumpe, near Bo, Sierra Leone.

Matilda Ndanema displays the insecticide-treated mosquito net she received from the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign in 2010 at her home in Bumpe, near Bo, Sierra Leone.

As the Imagine No Malaria campaign enters its home stretch, United Methodists can look with satisfaction at $60 million already raised in gifts and pledges, and with hope and confidence toward surpassing the $75 million goal by the end of 2015.

Most of the money raised has been from grassroots efforts like bake sales, car washes and children donating birthday money. “Now, gifts of $1 million are coming in, and there are opportunities for more of these,” said Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, chairperson of the executive committee for Imagine No Malaria.

“This is what it means to be connectional,” said Bishop Bickerton. “Everyone in the pews contributes to the success of Imagine No Malaria. This is selfless, joyful giving. This is generosity that will save thousands of lives. I am so proud of my United Methodist brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Habibatu Fugbawa sits with two of her children in front of the insecticide-treated mosquito net she received in 2010 from the United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria campaign at her home in Bumpe, Sierra Leone.

Habibatu Fugbawa sits with two of her children in front of the insecticide-treated mosquito net she received in 2010 from the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign at her home in Bumpe, Sierra Leone.

Malaria has been killing for thousands of generations, but improved prevention, sanitation and healthcare have all but eliminated it from the developed world. Despite this progress, however, malaria continues to kill at a rate of almost one death every minute in Africa — millions of children infected each year.

These needless deaths have galvanized United Methodists, particularly those who have been to Africa and have witnessed the extent of malaria’s devastation. Donnellson United Methodist Church in Iowa has fewer than 50 people in worship on Sundays, yet, on average, church members have donated $187 per person.

Donnellson United Methodist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Peggy Ellingson, said her church’s active mission focus has led members to visit Africa several times.

Imagine No Malaria - Global Partners Standing Together“It really hits home,” Ellingson said. “That connection, that real connection of people who have been there, have seen it, have done it, the end result of their making a difference and then sharing it with the rest of the group, really makes all the difference in the world.”

The United Methodist Church has operated hospitals and clinics in Africa for more than 200 years. Imagine No Malaria takes decades of good work a step further. The campaign allows the church to offer a comprehensive plan that relies on full partnerships with African communities, focusing equally on four efforts: prevention, treatment, education and communications.

“Where better can you make a difference than channeling through The United Methodist Church to attack a global issue?” asked Jerre Stead. “There’s not a lot of places that allow investments like leadership gifts to maximize the return, and (the church is) clearly one. It’s an excellent one.”


How to Dis Discontent – Gear Glut

Hiking with a Large PackKey Bible Verse:  True religion with contentment is great wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6

Bonus Reading1 Timothy 6:5b-11, 17-19

I entered a shelter along the Appalachian Trail late one afternoon after witnessing incredible overlooks and enjoying nature’s beauty up close.  But there was one problem—my pack was too heavy.  My shoulders were aching, and my neck felt like it needed one of those thick, padded braces.

I’d packed way too much food and dreaded lugging the heavy pack the next day.  So I started giving away dried fruit and granola bars to the other hikers settling in for the night.  They probably thought it odd, but accepted the provisions I’d (unknowingly) been carrying for them.  I’d never been such a cheerful giver!

Today’s verse reminds me that if I carry too much bartering power, my journey will suffer.  Understanding my limitations has become the most efficient, least painful way to carry my pack.

Some of us are stronger than others.  A friend of mine carries large bank accounts in his “life pack,” and it seems to never slow him down.  However, for others of us, our loads are lighter because our heavenly Father knows what we’re able to heft.

Seeking to fill our packs and pockets is a grave mistake.  As we learn to trust God more fully, we know He’ll meet all our needs—so there’s no need to overpack!

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

My Response:  To lighten my “life pack,” I need to …

Thought to Apply: God doesn’t call upon us to give up a single thing that adds to our happiness; all He wants us to give up are the things which blight our lives.—D.L. Moody

Adapted from With God on the Hiking Trail (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

How to Dis Discontent – Reach for Less

Half-built TowerKey Bible Verse: Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.  – Ecclesiastes 4:6, NIV

Bonus Reading:  Luke 14:28-30

The third weapon of contentment is a realistic reach.  Before you set a goal, candidly assess the time, the talents, and the resources you have.

Jesus rebuked those who started a tower without calculating what it would take to finish it.  We must know our strengths, and limitations.

Our lives were meant to be built on the capabilities and personality strengths a good God has given us.  We don’t need to strain to be somebody else.  There’s great satisfaction in focused energy and completed towers.  If your reach will compromise a quiet center or push you beyond the boundaries of peace, consider it too expensive.

King David revealed the secret of his relaxed spirit: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.  I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.  But I have stilled and quieted myself” (Psalm 131:1-2).

To be content with our life position cancels out the reach for more.  It means that who we are is okay—our looks, our abilities, our singleness.  Where we are is okay too—our address, our school, our job, our position.  And contentment includes how we are, even in a sickbed or with an empty wallet.

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

My Response: When has my appetite for more created the stress I deplore?

Thought to Apply:  To feel that one has a place in life solves half the problem of contentment.—George Woodberry (college professor & poet)

Adapted from Living Peacefully in a Stressful World (Discovery, 1985, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

How to Dis Discontent – Equalize the Pressure

GoliathKey Bible Verse:  Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me. Psalm 116:7

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 78:18-28

Our outside environment pushes us to compare, complain, compete, and conquer.  To avoid chronic discontent, we need to counter with three kinds of inside pressure.

First, we need to renew our confidence in our secure Source.  When something happens to our paycheck or our best friend, we feel fearful and restless.  But those are only vehicles of God’s supply, not the Source.  He’s infinitely creative in finding other ways to send what we need.  After all, our Father invented manna in the wilderness, water from a rock, and food delivered free by ravens.  If we belong to Him, our Source is beyond the reach of any recession, depression, or hydrogen bomb.

Second, we fight discontent with a grateful memory.  David’s memory was working well when he told King Saul, “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine [Goliath]!” (1 Samuel 17:37).

God sends His gifts to us daily, but because we’re too busy to notice or say thanks, we lack David’s poise.  Regular, specific thanks warms our Father’s heart, and reconfirms our contentment.  If He’s done it before, He’ll do it again!” [continued tomorrow]

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

My Response:  Is my ultimate security based on savings, investments, or insurance?

Thought to Apply:  We should spend as much time in thanking God for His benefits as we do in asking Him for them.—Vincent De Paul (French clergyman)

Adapted from Living Peacefully in a Stressful World (Discovery, 1985, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

Update – Prayer Concern – American’s Wife Faces Sudan Death Penalty for Not Renouncing Christian Faith

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Gives Birth in Sudan Prison as 1 Million Protest Christian Mother’s Death Penalty

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Christianity Today reports this afternoon that, as advocates for the Sudanese mother sentenced to death for not renouncing her Christian faith topped more than 1 million, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag gave birth early this morning to a baby girl in a Khartoum prison hospital wing.

So reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), as well as her lawyer Elshareef Ali to the BBC.  The 27-year-old mother sentenced to death for apostasy named her little girl Maya, according to The Telegraph.

Sudanese authorities are allowing Ibrahim two years to nurse her daughter before they will carry out the death sentence.  Ibrahim’s lawyers lodged an appeal last week, according to CSW.

Meanwhile, advocates decry the actions of the Sudanese government in convicting Ibrahim of apostasy and adultery, punishable by hanging and 100 lashes.  So far, more than 620,000 actions have been taken via Amnesty International to appeal Ibrahim’s death sentence.  A Change.org petition has gathered more than 414,000 signatures, while the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has gathered more than 236,000 signatures.

The Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. released a statement:

This case remains a legal issue and not a religious or a political one.  It is unwise and dangerous to politicize the issue at hand to spur religious tension between the two peaceful faiths with similar foundations.  Notably, It is important to emphasize that freedom of choice is the cornerstone of both Islam and Christianity.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from muscular dystrophy, immigrated to New Hampshire with his brother, Gabriel, in 1998.  He became a U.S. citizen in 2005, reports the New Hampshire Union Leader.  However, Daniel has been in Khartoum for the past year in support of his wife and son.

The U.S. embassy released its own statement May 15, the day Ibrahim appeared before the court and refused to recant:

We are deeply disturbed over the sentencing today of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for apostasy.  We are also deeply concerned by the flogging sentence for adultery.  We understand that the court sentence can be appealed.

We continue to call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, a right which is enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution as well as international human rights law.

We call on the Sudanese legal authorities to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people.

Additionally, four U.S. senators have officially condemned Sudan’s charges against Ibrahim: Marco Rubio from Florida, Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, Chris Coons from Delaware, and Bob Menendez from New Jersey.  In a U.S. Senate resolution, they encouraged the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development “to continue their support for initiatives worldwide that support religious freedom.” They call on the Sudanese government to include protection for religious freedom in a new constitution that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pledged in January to write.

Other U.S. senators, including Roy Blunt of Missouri and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, penned an open letter asking John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, to offer political asylum to Ibrahim.

“We also urge you and President Obama to reappoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, whose primary purpose is to monitor, prevent, and respond to this exact type of incident,” the letter stated.

U.N. human rights experts have condemned the death sentence and its rejection of international law.

“According to international law,” they said, “The death penalty may only be imposed for ‘the most serious crimes’, if at all.  Choosing and/or changing one’s religion is not a crime at all; on the contrary, it is a basic human right.

Globally, the Netherlands, Canada, and England have also decried Sudan’s treatment of Ibrahim, reports CNN.

Details surrounding why Ibrahim’s half-brother and half-sister filed suit against her in the first place have emerged from the Daily Mail.

Here is the Government of Sudan’s full statement:

The Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in Washington DC has noticed with regret some of the official statements and media coverage on the case of the Sudanese citizen Mariam Ibrahim Yahia; as some of them have mistakenly accused the government of Sudan of violating human rights by depriving Mariam of her civil rights as a Sudanese citizen.  In this regard, the Embassy would like to confirm the following:

The official records of the Government of Sudan indicates that the real name of the lady mentioned in this case as Mariam Ibrahim is actually ‘ Abrar Elhadi Muhammad Abdallah Abugadeen’ and there is no official record shows that her name was changed to Mariam Ibrahim Yahia.  Abrar was born in um Shagrah in Algadarif state on Jan. Ist. 1986 to Muslim Sudanese parents and the claim that the mother is an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia is untrue.

There was no Government agency behind the case; rather her immediate family had reported their daughter as missing, later and after she was found and claimed that she is Christian, the family filed a case of apostasy against her.

The ruling of the judge was made at the primary court after hearing all parties involved since February 2014, and it is subject to be implemented in at least two years if confirmed by three levels of courts which are: Appeal Court, Supreme Court and finally the Constitutional Court.  The Judiciary System in Sudan is independent, and the Sudanese Judges are qualified and dignified.

This case remains a legal issue and not a religious or a political one.  It is unwise and dangerous to politicize the issue at hand to spur religious tension between the two peaceful faiths with similar foundations.  Notably, It is important to emphasize that freedom of choice is the cornerstone of both Islam and Christianity.

While reaffirming the commitment of the Government of Sudan to all human rights and freedom of beliefs, the Embassy of Sudan in Washington DC would like to thank all those who have raised their concern and sympathy on this issue.

Please continue to remember this mother and child, as well as her husband, in your prayers.

How to Dis Discontent – Virus Protection

Contented LionsKey Bible Verse:  I have learned to get along happily whether I have much or little.  – Philippians 4:11

Bonus Reading:  Philippians 4:10-20

Life is never good enough for some people, while others have great joy even though their lives are plagued by problems.  According to the apostle Paul, the problem for those who are never happy is that “their minds and consciences are corrupted”  (Titus 1:15, NIV). It’s as if a bad computer virus has corrupted all their spiritual files.

We’re all created to enjoy this brief life by finding the marks of the Creator in everything He’s made.  Yet sin has distorted our vision, making it hard for us to see God’s good work.  Instead we see only a world that’s not good enough, a family that’s imperfect, or friends and colleagues who don’t appreciate us.

It’s tempting to just get new friends, change jobs, and bombard our family members with criticism.  Yet the problem doesn’t lie out there.  It lies in our own corrupted minds and guilt-ridden consciences.

Until we deal with these corrupted files through confession, the invitation to joy won’t compute for us.  That’s because joy is essentially an expression of gratitude, and nothing makes us as grateful as believing we’re forgiven. When we’re overwhelmed by the grace we’ve received, it’s hard to be judgmental of the world around us.

—Craig Barnes in An Extravagant Mercy

My Response:  Today, I’ll thank God for my most basic blessings.

Thought to Apply:  Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. —John Wooden (basketball coach)

Adapted from An Extravagant Mercy (Jossey-Bass, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

How to Dis Discontent – 4-Wheel Dream

TruckKey Bible Verse:  Those who love money will never have enough.  How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness.  – Ecclesiastes 5:10

Bonus Reading:  Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

In a class I taught on money, I asked one husband, “Peter, if you could drive any car you wanted and didn’t have to pay for it, what would it be?”

With a wide grin, he replied, “A Ford F-250 V-8 pickup truck, every option, extended cab, four-wheel drive with a topper and a ski rack.”

“Should we make it diesel?” I asked.

Bigger grin. “Yeah, let’s make it diesel.”

“Peter,” I followed up, “Say you may have a new Ford like that every year for the rest of your life.  However, the trade-off is that you’ll never be content.  Or you can drive a 1996 Ford Taurus that’s seen better days.  The trade-off is that you’ll always be content.  Which do you choose?”

Peter sat there stunned and undecided.  He’d always thought, When I get to this level and have these things, then I’ll be content.

Was that his conscious thinking?  No. Was it his practical behavior?  Yes.  As is true for most of us.

Our culture has conditioned us to believe our contentment is something “out there.”  “When I get the right job …” “When we can afford to move to a larger house …” “When we can afford to retire …”  “When” never gets here.

—Neil Atkinson in The Shrewd Christian

My Response:  To move the basis of my contentment from “out there” to “in here,” I need to …

Adapted from The Shrewd Christian (WaterBrook, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

Memorial Day

We Remember Those Who Protect Us, On Memorial Day And Always…

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  – John 15:13

Memorial DayToday we honor those who have served and those who continue to serve, while remembering all those who have laid down their lives so we can continue to enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank You for the men and women who protect us and preserve Your gifts of life, country, and freedom at home and abroad, even at the sacrifice of their own lives.  They and their families are the true heroes among us.

Please send Your angels to protect all those who serve our country, and keep us free from injustice and harm.

In Jesus’ Name we pray.

Amen.

How to Dis Discontent – “There’s Your Model”

Church PewWho Said It…Richard Bewes

Richard is rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London.  He grew up as a missionary kid in Kenya.

His love of tennis began there and continued during secondary school in England, where he represented the combined Public Schools of Britain against the All-England Club at Wimbledon.

Richard says his family’s gospel tradition began in 1882, when his grandfather, then 14 years old, responded to a sermon by American evangelist D.L. Moody.

What He Said…”There’s Your Model”

Missionary Ken Ogden used his skills as a carpenter to good effect in one of the developing countries.  At one point he’d shown his local pupils how to build a church.  They did it together.

They were just about to embark on the final lesson of making the seating when the blow fell.  The totalitarian government of the day found fault with Ken and ordered him out of the country with 24 hours notice.

What would you have done?  Run ’round to the bank and try to extricate what funds you could?  Frantically gather your most precious belongings for a hasty exit?  Ken did none of that.

Those last hours he spent with his pupils, and made one seat for the new church.  “There!” he said when it was done. “There’s your model.  Now I’m going, but you finish the rest.”

He left them, not only with the prototype for a church seat, but also with a standard of how an integrated Christian behaves under pressure.  It was the lesson of contentment.

Adapted from Words that Circled the World (Christian Focus, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Please join us in praise and thanks to God for those who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom.

Central Church would like to thank those who have given so much through their military service; and we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  – Psalm 34:18

 

May God bless you this Memorial Day weekend!

Learning to Give Like God – A Rich Fool

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Study Passage:  Luke 12:13-21

Generosity is a matter of the heart.  Like with the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1-4), it’s not how much you give, but the sacrifice you make through your giving that counts.

Do your actions reflect a heart that is fully surrendered and obedient to God?  Or like the rich fool are you selfishly hoarding what God has provided?

God has given us himself.  Who are we to do less?  Let’s be generous toward each other, not just with our money, but with every aspect of our lives.

  1. What was the rich fool’s sin?
  2. How can you avoid the rich fool’s sin as you enjoy what God has given you?
  3. How do you cultivate a heart of generosity in your daily life?
  4. Consider what giving sacrificially would look like (think beyond just money).
  5. Study other passages on stewardship or generosity. If you don’t know where to look, ask a pastor or trusted friend, or consult a concordance.

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to show you areas of your life where you are selfish; ask him to cultivate a heart of generosity within you.

Luke 12:13-21:

Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Learning to Give Like God – Unconditional Giving

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Bible Verses:  Always be humble, gentle, and patient, accepting each other in love.  You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way. Ephesians 4:2-3

Dig Deeper:  James 3:13-18

We know in our hearts that God does not want us to be selfish people.  We know that we need to learn how to give.  That means giving beyond what feels natural to us.  It means learning to love unconditionally.

My son once said to me, “Dad, you love me because I love Christ, but you don’t love me when I’m having a difficult time.”  Sadly, he was right.  I had to learn to love my kids unconditionally.  My conditional love was selfish, because I wanted them to do good so I wouldn’t look bad.

If you are going to follow Christ, you have to give up living a selfish life.  Your life absolutely must be about him first, and about others second.  You come in last.

The moment you start giving of yourself, God is going to do a wonderful work in your life.

Maybe today you need to extend a little bit of forgiveness to someone.  Maybe today you need to show a little bit of grace to someone.  Maybe today you need to give a little bit of space to someone.

As you learn to give, God will take your attempts to be a giving person and multiply them.

—Steve Mays in Overcoming

My Response:  Is there anyone in particular I need to work on loving unconditionally?

Thought to Apply:  Let this be thy whole endeavor, this thy prayer, this thy desire—that thou may be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.—Thomas À Kempis (German monk)

Adapted from Overcoming ((Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Learning to Give Like God – What Jesus Wants

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Bible Verse: “You fool!  Tonight you will die.  Then who will get what you have stored up?”  – Luke 12:20

Dig Deeper:  James 4:13-5:6

The rich man thought it was time to enjoy life.  But notice God’s response in today’s Key Bible Verse.  This man mistakenly believed that his whole life was ahead of him.  But this man was on the edge of darkness.  Living for himself, he had no knowledge that God was going to require his soul that very night.  He spoke as though he were the master of his life.  Jesus said this man was a fool because he left God out of the equation.

Don’t we do the same thing?  We make decisions that we think are good, but we don’t seek the Lord or look into his Word.  We constantly think about what we need to make us feel better or more comfortable rather than what others might need.  And we’re not alone in that.  All around us we constantly see people living for themselves.

Jesus came to stop that.  He wants you and me to live for the glory of God; he wants us to learn what it means to die to self and put him first.  We need to stop for a moment and ask, What would Jesus want me to do in this situation?  We must bring him into the decisions of  our daily lives.

Steve Mays in Overcoming

My Response:  I will consider whether or not I am seeking God’s will in my daily decisions.

Thought to Apply:  When a man thinks he has got a good deal of strength, and is self-confident, you may look for his downfall.—D. L. Moody (pastor, evangelist)

Adapted from Overcoming ((Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Learning to Give Like God – Portrait of a Fool

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Bible Verse:  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come.  Now take it easy!  Eat, drink, and be merry!” Luke 12:19

Dig Deeper:  Luke 12:13-21

A parable in Luke 12 describes a man who chose to live his life for himself, and we read that he was foolish in his ownership.  His thoughts are revealing in verse 17: “What shall I do?” And then he thinks: “I have no room” and finally, “my crops.”  Verse 18 continues this selfish thinking: “I will do this: I will pull down” and “I will store.”  Then he says, “my crops and my goods.”  In verse 19, he says, “I will say to my soul … eat, drink, and be merry.”

His language reveals that there was no concept of God. It was all about him.

A selfish man does not bring God into the decisions of life.

Sometimes we leave God out of our marriage. Sometimes we leave him out of our business decisions, or we leave him out of our daily personal lives and bring him in only on Sunday morning.

God desires that we give him preeminence in all of life. The Lord requires that we surrender our lives to his authority. Too often, we are fearful that whatever we give to God, he will take away. But if it is taken away, that is ultimately good, because God knows it is dangerous to our hearts.

—Steve Mays in Overcoming

My Response:  What do my possessions, financial priorities, and spending habits reveal about my heart?

Thought to Apply:  None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.—Benjamin Whichcote (British philosopher, theologian)

Adapted from Overcoming (Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Learning to Give Like God – Eyes off Yourself

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Bible Verse:  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5

Dig Deeper:  Philippians 2:3-8

The Word of God repeatedly stresses that we are to live a Christlike life. We are to pattern our lives after Jesus Christ, who gave himself for the sake of others, willing to die so that we might live.

Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”  (Galatians 2:20).

So we are to die to who we are so that we can begin to live for the glory of God.

Why is selfishness such a dangerous issue?  A selfish person looks on himself as the ultimate answer and the ultimate point of concern.  Yet the Bible says that we are not to look upon our own interests and needs; rather, we are to look upon the interests of others (see Phil. 2:4).

We’re not to be concerned about our own lives; God will take care of all that (see Matt. 6:25-34).  Instead, we are to be gracious.  We are to be the givers, not takers.  We are to be understanding and extend that gift of life to others.

—Steve Mays in Overcoming

My Response:  In what area of my life am I most tempted to be selfish?

Thought to Apply:  Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself.—Julio Cortazar (Belgian writer)

Adapted from Overcoming (Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

National Council of Churches condemns the death sentence of Sudanese woman sentenced to die for marrying a Christian

U.S. State Department U.S. embassy in Khartoum

U.S. State Department
U.S. embassy in Khartoum

Officers of the National Council of Churches today condemned “in the strongest possible words” the death sentence in Sudan for a woman whose only crime was to marry a Christian man.

The sentence of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag is also reproached by the U.S. government, American Baptist Churches USA, and many other churches and religious groups.

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the NCC, said the sentencing of Ishag for associating with Christians “is inhuman and an act of unspeakable religious ignorance and bigotry.  It is a fundamental violation of the most basic religious precepts that declare God’s love and openness to all people.”

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, chair of the National Council of Churches governing board and general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, said American Baptists “and all persons of faith and good will” join in the censure of the Sudan court.

A statement by American Baptists condemned the sentence “as a violation of the fundamental human right to religious liberty.”

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, said, “All our interfaith partners and member communions stand in solidarity with Ms. Ishag. Until all persons are safe to express their faith anywhere, even in areas where they are in the minority, freedom of religion will remain an elusive ideal.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S,. strongly condemns the sentence and called on Sudan “to meet its obligations under international human rights law.”

Hayden said, “Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.”

– See more at: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-05Sudan.php#sthash.pkRnroVb.dpuf

 

National Council of Churches condemns the death sentence of Sudanese woman sentenced to die for marrying a Christian

Washington, May 15, 2014 – Officers of the National Council of Churches today condemned “in the strongest possible words” the death sentence in Sudan for a woman whose only crime was to marry a Christian man.

The sentence of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag is also reproached by the U.S. government, American Baptist Churches USA, and many other churches and religious groups.

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the NCC, said the sentencing of Ishag for associating with Christians “is inhuman and an act of unspeakable religious ignorance and bigotry. It is a fundamental violation of the most basic religious precepts that declare God’s love and openness to all people.”

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, chair of the National Council of Churches governing board and general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, said American Baptists “and all persons of faith and good will” join in the censure of the Sudan court.

A statement by American Baptists condemned the sentence “as a violation of the fundamental human right to religious liberty.”

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, said, “All our interfaith partners and member communions stand in solidarity with Ms. Ishag. Until all persons are safe to express their faith anywhere, even in areas where they are in the minority, freedom of religion will remain an elusive ideal.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S,. strongly condemns the sentence and called on Sudan “to meet its obligations under international human rights law.”

Hayden said, “Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.”

– See more at: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-05Sudan.php#sthash.pkRnroVb.dpuf

National Council of Churches condemns the death sentence of Sudanese woman sentenced to die for marrying a Christian

Washington, May 15, 2014 – Officers of the National Council of Churches today condemned “in the strongest possible words” the death sentence in Sudan for a woman whose only crime was to marry a Christian man.

The sentence of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag is also reproached by the U.S. government, American Baptist Churches USA, and many other churches and religious groups.

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the NCC, said the sentencing of Ishag for associating with Christians “is inhuman and an act of unspeakable religious ignorance and bigotry. It is a fundamental violation of the most basic religious precepts that declare God’s love and openness to all people.”

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, chair of the National Council of Churches governing board and general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, said American Baptists “and all persons of faith and good will” join in the censure of the Sudan court.

A statement by American Baptists condemned the sentence “as a violation of the fundamental human right to religious liberty.”

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, said, “All our interfaith partners and member communions stand in solidarity with Ms. Ishag. Until all persons are safe to express their faith anywhere, even in areas where they are in the minority, freedom of religion will remain an elusive ideal.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S,. strongly condemns the sentence and called on Sudan “to meet its obligations under international human rights law.”

Hayden said, “Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.”

– See more at: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-05Sudan.php#sthash.pkRnroVb.dpuf

National Council of Churches condemns the death sentence of Sudanese woman sentenced to die for marrying a Christian

Washington, May 15, 2014 – Officers of the National Council of Churches today condemned “in the strongest possible words” the death sentence in Sudan for a woman whose only crime was to marry a Christian man.

The sentence of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag is also reproached by the U.S. government, American Baptist Churches USA, and many other churches and religious groups.

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the NCC, said the sentencing of Ishag for associating with Christians “is inhuman and an act of unspeakable religious ignorance and bigotry. It is a fundamental violation of the most basic religious precepts that declare God’s love and openness to all people.”

The Rev. A. Roy Medley, chair of the National Council of Churches governing board and general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, said American Baptists “and all persons of faith and good will” join in the censure of the Sudan court.

A statement by American Baptists condemned the sentence “as a violation of the fundamental human right to religious liberty.”

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, said, “All our interfaith partners and member communions stand in solidarity with Ms. Ishag. Until all persons are safe to express their faith anywhere, even in areas where they are in the minority, freedom of religion will remain an elusive ideal.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S,. strongly condemns the sentence and called on Sudan “to meet its obligations under international human rights law.”

Hayden said, “Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.”

– See more at: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-05Sudan.php#sthash.yQJygvdd.dpuf

Learning to Give Like God – A Change of Heart

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Bible Verse:  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6

Dig Deeper:  Romans 5:6-11

Throughout the Bible we find countless examples of men and women who desired to make their own choices counter to God’s expressed will.  And that’s the danger of selfishness—we make decisions thinking that we know better than God, or we disagree with God and desire to live a certain lifestyle.

God says that he is the Lord of all.  He is always to have preeminence over our lives. He made us; he bought us; we belong to him.  Selfishness will breed contempt for others and for God’s authority, destroy a marriage, chase the children out of the home, destroy a business, and ultimately destroy a person’s life.  A truly better path is dying to self and living for Jesus Christ.

What should really spur our hearts toward selfless living is the commitment of our Lord Jesus Christ to us.  God gave his very best when he gave us his own Son.  And he gave Christ to us when we were alienated from God.  Each of us was living in sin and on our way to hell when God reached out and gave us the gift of forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with him.

If we want to overcome a selfish life, we need to learn to give like God.

—Steve Mays in Overcoming

My Response: I will reflect on God’s gift of his only son.

Adapted from Overcoming (Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Learning to Give Like God – Flint, Sponge, or Honeycomb?

Stewardship - Growing Our Faith Through GenerosityKey Study Passage:  Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Who Said It … Steve Mays

Steve Mays is a former biker gang member turned senior pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay in Gardena, California.  He holds a master’s degree in theology from Azusa Pacific University.

He is a well-known conference speaker and radio personality through the Light of the Word broadcast, and the author of Overcoming—the book from which this week’s readings are adapted.  Steve has been married to his wife, Gail, for 40 years.  They have two grown children and four grandchildren.

What he Said … Flint, Sponge, or Honeycomb?

Someone once said that there are three types of givers in life.  One type is a flint, another is a sponge, and the third is a honeycomb.  To get anything out of the flint, it must be hammered; even then, all that results are chips and sparks.  To get anything out of the sponge, it must be continually squeezed and put under pressure.  Finally, there is the honeycomb, just overflowing with its own sweetness.

We can apply this analogy to our hearts.  Sometimes, like the flint, God needs to work in our hearts in a difficult way in order for us to receive his goodness and then give it out.  Sometimes, like a sponge, God needs to squeeze us and put pressure on us to bring forth any life from our hearts.  Other times, like the honeycomb, we come to understand the goodness and grace of God, and love for other people overflows from our full hearts.

Adapted from Overcoming (Regal, 2012)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, give me the grace to put to death my selfish desires and habits so that I can generously give of myself to others.

Fast Facts on Our New Joint Charge and Pastor

 

Rev. Wayne Cleary, 2nd row at right, with confirmation group from Zion Elton UMC.

Rev. Wayne Cleary, 2nd row at right, with confirmation group from Zion Elton UMC.

• Beginning on July 1, 2014, Central Church will become part of a new Joint Charge consisting of Homewood, Koppel, Clinton, and Central Churches.

(Riverview UMC will become part of a new 3-Church Joint Charge with Rochester UMC and “Faith on 68” UMC (formerly Zion UMC).)

• Central’s Sunday Worship time will return to 11:00 on July 1. The other three Churches will retain their current worship times (Clinton–8:45; Koppel-8:30; and Homewood-9:30).

• Our new pastor will be Rev. Wayne Cleary, who is currently serving Zion UMC in Elton, PA. For the past four years, Pastor Cleary has helped Zion Church minister to those in poverty in their community through the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program.

(His wife, Pat, will be appointed to serve as pastor at Ellwood City UMC, and the couple will live in the Ellwood City parsonage.)

• In addition to our new pastor, Jan Davis is being appointed as a Preaching Assistant to share the weekly preaching duties between the four Churches. (Rev. Cleary will determine the schedule.)

Contagious Faith – When the Light Turns Green

Truck Driving at NightQ. How do you decide when to share your faith?

A.  Even those whom we peg as least apt to need God most likely will welcome meaningful spiritual conversation at some point in their lives.  Our job is not to force that intersection but to be ready for the opportunity.

Q. How do productive spiritual conversations come about?

A. Three factors must be in place: example, timing and content.

Q. Tell us about the right example.

A. Our actions must match our words. We do not have to be perfect, but we do have to be genuine and credible. There must be unmistakable evidence that we are attempting to practice the very message we are proclaiming. the old saying rings true: We are the only Bible some people will ever read.

Q. What about the right timing?

A. According to Proverbs 27:14: “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.”  The right words at the wrong time sabotage effectiveness.  Sharing faith requires a combination of patience and boldness: We need to hold our tongue until the light turns green, but then we don’t need to be shy about stepping on the accelerator.

Q. And the right content?

A. Launching into an analysis of the Trinity when our coworker is having trouble simply understanding God’s love probably will yield nothing more significant than a blank stare. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity,” counsels the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:5.

Example, timing and content are all Holy Spirit issues.  We will not drive them on our own.  But when He directs our spiritual conversation with colleagues, it is like cruising down a highway with no other traffic.  If it works in the tractor cab of an 18-wheeler in the middle of the night, it ought to work anywhere.

—- Thomas Addington and Stephen Graves are founding editors of The Life@Work Journal.

Adapted from Life@Work (7-8/99)

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Contagious Faith – Trucker to Trucker

Truck Driving at NightKey Bible Verse:  For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—, his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. Romans 1:20a

Bonus Reading:  Romans 1:16-21

My employer required tractor-trailer drivers to run 24 hours a day as two-man teams in five-hour shifts.  Spending that much time every week in the close confines of a tractor cab allowed for lengthy discussions.

Most of the drivers knew I was a follower of Jesus.  Some were quietly unhappy about it.  So our conversations focused instead on issues truck drivers often discuss – —their families, the unpredictable behavior of “four-wheelers,” incompetent dispatchers and unfair state troopers.

But somewhere between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. the mood would become reflective—, almost meditative.  There was something about that time of the day, combined with the majesty of creation so evident in places like the Great Smoky Mountains— with the moon out on a cloudless night —that inevitably directed talk toward spiritual things.

They brought God up; I never had to.  Tough men became pliable, hardened hearts opened, and trivial conversation turned eternal.

We all have a void inside that can filled only by a relationship with Jesus.

—- Thomas Addington in Life@Work

Personal Challenge:   When people look at you, what attracts them to Jesus?

Thought to Apply:  Our task as laymen is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious.  – —Paul Tournier (Late Swiss Psychiatrist)

Adapted from Life@Work (7-8/99)

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Prayer Concern – American’s Pregnant Wife Faces Sudan Death Penalty for Not Renouncing Christian Faith

Christianity Today reports this afternoon that an American’s wife in Sudan has been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy.  She is a Sudanese doctor who will give birth to her second child this month.

Confirmed: American's Pregnant Wife Faces Sudan Death Penalty for Not Renouncing Christian FaithU.S. State Department
U.S. embassy in Khartoum

Given until today to recant her faith by a Sudanese court, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim instead declared she remained a Christian at today’s hearing. The judge at the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif Khartoum then confirmed her sentence of 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy.

“I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim,” Ibrahim told the judge after a Muslim scholar spent 40 minutes persuading her to recant, reports Morning Star News, which first broke the news of Ibrahim’s case. In response, the judge told her, “The court has sentenced you to be hanged till you are dead.”

However, the sentence is to be carried out two years after her second child’s birth later this month, not shortly after the birth as previously reported.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide confirmed the death sentence in the case drawing international attention, calling the ruling a “violation of the Sudanese Constitution and of international conventions to which Sudan is party.”

Middle East Concern reports that Ibrahim’s lawyer is appealing the ruling. Ibrahim’s husband was also not permitted to witness the hearing, and has been denied visitation rights to see his wife and son while they are detained in prison.

Ahead of today’s hearing, Amnesty International condemned Ibrahim’s death sentence and called for her immediate release. According to Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher:

The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is abhorrent and should never be even considered. ‘Adultery’ and ‘apostasy’ are acts which should not be considered crimes at all, let alone meet the international standard of “most serious crimes” in relation to the death penalty. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law.

World Watch Monitor reports more background on Ibrahim’s case, including how her brother first notified authorities about her alleged adultery.

Please hold up this Christian woman in your prayers.

Contagious Faith – Bathrobe Performance

Man in BathrobeKey Bible Verse:  Be prepared in season and out of season … keep your head in all situations.  – 2 Timothy 4:2b, 5a

Bonus Reading:  2 Timothy 4:1-5

I woke up to the familiar sound of the 6:00 news.  That day it was particularly depressing.  A woman had shot her boyfriend, a man admitted poisoning his wife, political campaigns were growing more negative.  Jim Scott, the usually upbeat deejay, said, “Won’t somebody call in with some good news?”

As I lay there in bed, still half asleep, I thought, “That’s a 50,000-watt station.  Somebody needs to grab this chance to say something positive for Christ!”  Then it struck me: I am somebody.  I dialed the number.  A few minutes later, Jim Scott put me on the air.

Thinking quickly, I told how my church had recently purchased an old church building in a center-city neighborhood.  I shared my excitement about how university students and community residents were pooling their resources and working hard to refurbish an old building to use as a place of worship and an activity center for youth.  After a few minutes, the deejay thanked me for calling, and I hung up.

Standing there in my bathrobe, I laughed out loud as I thought, “I must be dreaming!  I think I just spoke on the radio to hundreds of thousands of people!”

—- David Faust in Faith Under Fire

Personal Challenge:  What would you say to someone who asked you to share some good news?

Thought to Apply: When the heart is on fire, sparks will fly out of the mouth. – Anonymous

Adapted from— Faith Under Fire (Standard, 1997)

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Contagious Faith – When Curt Broke

A Broken LifeKey Bible Verse: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12

Bonus Reading:  Philippians 2:14-16

Richard is a developer of condominiums.  His partner, Curt, enjoyed working with him because he knew Richard could be trusted.  But in spite of Richard’s faith, character and strong family relationships, Curt was not interested in spiritual matters.

Richard knew better than to force the issue.  For nine years he just continued to live the life and pray for Curt.  Finally, on a business trip out west, Curt turned to Richard and blurted out, “I became a Christian.”

Curt’s family had been slowly spiraling toward disaster for years.  When he was forced to hospitalize his son for an addiction, he broke.  But throughout the breaking process he had watched Richard and his family.  Now he knew his best option was to ask God for help.

Today Curt and his family are making huge strides towards putting things back together.  Curt never misses church and reads everything Richard puts into his hands.  His son is out of the hospital.  He and his wife are rebuilding their marriage.

– —Andy Stanley in Visioneering

Personal Challenge:  Make time to maintain relationships with work colleagues; they may be what gives your career divine potential.

Thought to Apply:  What other people think of me is becoming less and less important; what they think of Jesus because of me is critical.  – Cliff Richard (English Pop Singer)

Adapted from— Visioneering (Multonomah, 1999)

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Contagious Faith – Panic at 30,000 Feet

Panic in AirplaneKey Bible Verse:  Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence. Proverbs 3:25-26a

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 91

For several summers during the mid-1990s, Dave Wolter, head women’s basketball coach for Concordia University in Irvine, California, flew to Asia and put on basketball clinics for both players and coaches.

On one flight, his plane experienced mechanical trouble at 30,000 feet.  Panic broke out.  People were screaming, crying and standing up in the aisles.

Wolter, on the other hand, sat calmly and prayed.  When a woman sitting next to him saw how different his demeanor was to the rest of the passengers, she shouted in Wolter’s face, “Why aren’t you hysterical?”

Fortunately, the crew was able to correct the problem, and nervous tranquility was restored in the cabin.  For the rest of the flight, Dave answered the woman’s question as she and several others listened intently to how his faith in Christ Jesus enables him to face death with confidence.

Witnessing takes place not only through our words, but also through our actions.  Stated another way, the fish symbol on the rear bumper of your car definitely makes a statement, but people will probably pay more attention to how you drive.

—- Steven B. Borst in Men in the Church

Personal Challenge:  How would your life be different if it was characterized by the “peace … which transcends all understanding”?

Thought to Apply:  Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me. – —Dwight L. Moody (Evangelist, 19th Century)

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Contagious Faith – Pete Was Watching

Blessings 2Key Bible Verse:  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:15

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 5:13-16

Pete’s family moved to the United States from the former Soviet Union when he was 12.  His parents were agnostic and therefore had never encouraged Pete to explore anything that had to do with religion.

When I met Pete he was full of questions about Christianity.  I told him I would be happy to answer as many questions as I could.  We began having lunch together every week or so.  During our first meeting together I asked Pete why he was so interested in the gospel.

This is what he said:  “I am in business with several families who have the kind of marriage I want to have some day.  All of them are Christians.  I know their families are the way they are because of their Christianity.”

After ten months of Bible study and debate, Pete prayed to receive Christ.  Why?  Because several couples conducted their marriages and business in a manner different from the norm.

Upon close examination Pete caught a glimpse of something divine.  Their lives birthed a vision in Pete of what could be true of his own marriage someday.  They lived lives worth watching, and unbeknownst to them, Pete was watching.

— – in Visioneering

Personal Challenge: What unbelievers do you know? When’s the last time you had them over for dinner?

Thought to Apply:  The world is far more ready to receive the gospel than Christians are to hand it out.  – George W. Peters

Prayer:  God, help me to live my life to shine as a light for You.

Contagious Faith – Fueled by God’s Blessings

God's BlessingsKey Study Passage: Isaiah 12

Today’s study passage is a celebration of the salvation of God.  He has always been about the business of restoring our relationship with him and unleashing blessing upon his children.  As we “drink deeply from the fountain of salvation” (v. 3), that blessing can’t help but overflow to others.

The writer of this passage is so overjoyed that God has come to the rescue of his people that he exhorts them to tell the nations all about what God has done. And we have seen even more fully the glory of God’s salvation in Christ.  How can we not do the same?

  1. What are some instances in the Bible of God rescuing his people?
  2. What are some times in your own life when God has rescued you from trouble?
  3. How does reflecting on rescue stories help you to be thankful for God’s salvation in your own life?
  4. Why do you think God allows his people to get into trouble in the first place?
  5. Spend some time worshiping God for his blessings and salvation. Think of ways you can make that joyful worship contagious to those around you.

Spend Time in Prayer: Thank God for the ways that he has blessed you, and ask him to help you spread those blessings to everyone you meet.

Isaiah 12

Songs of Praise

12 In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
2 Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

4 In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

 

Rainy Days – Up Close & Personal with Tom Landry

Tom LandryTom Landry led five Dallas Cowboy teams to the Super Bowl during the 1970s.  But in 1989, without a word of consultation, Landry was out of work.  Before he was so much as informed, a new Cowboys owner and head coach were toasting each other in a Dallas restaurant— in front of press cameras.

Q.  How could you cope with such a humiliating end to your brilliant career?

A.  My relationship with Christ gives me a source of power I would not have otherwise. …  The knowledge that my life is in God’s hands helps me to keep my composure or regain it in tough situations.

—Tom Landry coached the Cowboys for 29 seasons.

Adapted from Stephen Arterburn, The Power Book (Nelson, 1996)

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

Sierra Leone: A Mother’s Day Story

Mother's Day 1A Hallmark card rarely makes it into the hands of a mother in Sierra Leone.  In fact, across a very wide world, messages of gratitude aren’t delivered via mail.

Mother’s Day for most of in the developed world is usually a time of celebration.  But, in Sub-Saharan Africa where nearly half of the world’s maternal deaths occur, giving birth can be very dangerous.  This is especially true in rural, underserved areas where health care is often lacking and preventable complications during childbirth are often undiagnosed and untreated.

In West Africa, Sierra Leone’s First Lady is addressing the issue of maternal and child mortality and she’s turning to The United Methodist Church and other faith communities to help.  In Africa and beyond, United Methodists reach out to mothers and mothers-to-be by bringing life to their children – vulnerable children whose lives are fragile and short-lived because of malaria and other diseases.

Your heart will be touched when you take a moment to watch love in action in a special Mother’s Day video feature from United Methodist Communications.

Rainy Days – God Has Rejected Me

Jimmy CarterKey Bible Verse:  Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever you face trials of many kinds.  – James 1:2

Bonus Reading:  James 1:2-8

In 1966, I ran for governor of Georgia and lost to avowed segregationist Lester Maddox. My sister, Ruth, drove to Plains and listened while I deplored the poor judgment and racist tendencies of my fellow Georgians and vented my anger toward God. Then Ruth quoted today’s Key Bible Verse.

I said, “Ruth, my political life is over!  It’s not my goal just to grow peanuts, sell fertilizer, gin cotton, and build up a bank account.  God has rejected me through the people’s vote.”

Ruth replied, “Jimmy, you have to believe that out of this defeat can come a greater life.”

I responded bitterly, “There is no way I can build on such an embarrassing defeat.”

Patiently, Ruth explained what James was saying.  When we face trials with courage, we learn to endure and pray for wisdom.  Wisdom leads us to depend on things made available to all through God’s love.  Christ gives us courage to take a chance on something new.

Ruth advised me to do something totally unrelated to my business or politics.  Shortly afterward I was asked by the Baptist Brotherhood to go as a lay witness on a mission in Pennsylvania.  I did, and it changed my life.

– —Jimmy Carter in Living Faith

 

Personal Challenge:  Do you agree that “out of this defeat can come a greater life?”

 

Thought to Apply: T he difficulties of life are intended to make us better, not bitter.  – —Anonymous

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

Rainy Days – Why Would an Eagle Do That?

Mother EagleKey Bible Verse:  You yourselves have seen … how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:4

Bonus Reading Deuteronomy 32:9-12

An eagle builds its nest on a cliff, hatches its young and feeds them.  But eventually she puts her head up against one and pushes gently.  The eaglet gets closer to the edge. “Mom, what are you doing?”  It says, “You wouldn’t!”

But she does.  That little bird goes flapping down the face of the cliff, surely to its destruction.

Not so!  In one mighty swoop she catches the little one on her wings and brings it up.  She pushes the little ones out of the nest over and over.

Later she picks feathers and leaves from the nest and casts them overboard.  She takes the great sticks with her beak and snaps them in two.  Is she breaking up housekeeping because she doesn’t like her children any more?

No, she understands something they don’t.  They were made to soar.  She destroys the nest to get them to discover who they are and what they can do.

Have you ever had things together and comfortable and suddenly you’re pushed out of the nest?  God intends to mature you.  You’ll be falling, thinking this is the end, God has abandoned you.  It isn’t the end because underneath are those everlasting arms.

– —Terry Fullam, Florida pastor

Personal Challenge:  Memorize one of the key verses from this week, or post it near you at work.  Pray for God to build your hope.

Thought to Apply:  The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials.  – George Mueller (British Orphanage Founder, 19th Cetuary

—

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

New Christian Film – Alone Yet Not Alone – June 13, 2014

 

Alone Yet Not Alone 1 Alone Yet Not Alone 2

“I’ve seen this film 3 times. It’s outstanding!
Don’t miss this movie!”

– Dr. James Dobson, Founder and President of Family Talk

FIND A THEATER NEAR YOU HELP BRING THIS MOVIE TO YOUR TOWN!

IN THEATERS JUNE 13

FATHER’S DAY WEEKEND

Rainy Days – Dealt a Bad Hand

Presidents Playing CardsKey Bible Verse:  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 12: 4-13

President Dwight Eisenhower described his mother as a smart and saintly lady.  “Often in this job I’ve wished I could consult her.  But she is in heaven.  However, many times I have felt I knew what she would say.”

One night in their farm home, Mrs. Eisenhower was playing a card game with her boys.  “Now, don’t get me wrong,” said the former president, “it was not with those cards that have kings, queens, jacks, and spades on them.  Mother was too straitlaced for that.”  President Eisenhower said the game they were playing was called Flinch.

“Anyway, Mother was the dealer, and she dealt me a very bad hand.  I began to complain.  Mother said, ‘Boys, put down your cards. I want to say something, particularly to Dwight.  You are in a game in your home with your mother and brothers who love you.  But out in the world you will be dealt bad hands without love.

Here is some advice for you boys.  Take those bad hands without complaining and play them out.  Ask God to help you, and you will win the important game called life.”

The president added, “I’ve tried to follow that wise advice always.”

—- Norman Vincent Peale in This Incredible Century

Personal Challenge:   What tempts you to complain? A sk God to help you develop a “trigger response” of gratitude instead of griping.

Thought to Apply:   Those things that hurt, instruct. – Benjamin Franklin (18th Century Statesman, Scientist, Philosopher)

Adapted from— This Incredible Century (Tyndale, 1991)

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

Rainy Days – Beat into Shape

Cypress Tree in RockKey Bible Verse:  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 1:6-7

In Carmel, California, a weathered, gnarled cypress tree grows out of solid rock on the rugged coast.  The object of photographers worldwide, it is a symbol of tenacity and courage amid the ravages of nature.

If that cypress could talk, it might complain about the coastal storms that have beat against its trunk and branches.  But, wise tree that it is, the cypress would probably say, “I would not have the elegance I manifest today were it not for the pressure of the wind, rain, and storms throughout the years; I have been shaped by their combined forces.

Bruised?  Yes.  But I remain vibrant and strong because I made the decision to grow my roots deeper into the rock, and I weathered the storm.”

And so can you.

The challenges of your life have shaped you.  Some have been wrenching, terrible.  Most of your early experiences were out of your control.  All the greater reason to view them from a fresh perspective and see the past with adult eyes, taking note of your struggles in a light that will enhance your growth, give you hope for your better future, and bring inner healing.

—- Greogry L. Jantz in Becoming Strong Again

Personal Challenge:   Ask God to reveal ways He has and is using your past to bring good.

Thought to Apply:  The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor men perfected without trials. – —Chinese Proverb

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

City Council Prayers – U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Town Meetings

US Supreme CourtA narrowly divided Supreme Court upheld decidedly Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings yesterday, declaring them in line with long national traditions though the country has grown more religiously diverse.

The content of the prayers is not significant as long as they do not denigrate non-Christians or try to win converts, the court said in a 5-4 decision backed by its conservative majority.

Though the decision split the court along ideological lines, the Obama administration backed the winning side, the town of Greece, N.Y., outside of Rochester.

The outcome relied heavily on a 1983 decision in which the court upheld an opening prayer in the Nebraska Legislature and said prayer is part of the nation’s fabric, not a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

Writing for the court on Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that forcing clergy to scrub the prayers of references to Jesus Christ and other sectarian religious figures would turn officials into censors. Instead, Kennedy said, the prayers should be seen as ceremonial and in keeping with the nation’s traditions.

“The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers,” Kennedy said.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court’s four liberal justices, said, “I respectfully dissent from the court’s opinion because I think the Town of Greece’s prayer practices violate that norm of religious equality — the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian.”

Kagan said the case differs significantly from the 1983 decision because “Greece’s town meetings involve participation by ordinary citizens, and the invocations given — directly to those citizens — were predominantly sectarian in content.”

Kennedy himself was the author of an opinion in 1992 that held that a Christian prayer delivered at a high school graduation did violate the Constitution. The justice said Monday there are differences between the two situations, including the age of the audience and the fact that attendees at the council meeting may step out of the room if they do not like the prayer.

In her dissent, Kagan said the council meeting prayers are unlike those said to open sessions of Congress and state legislatures, where the elected officials are the intended audience. In Greece, “the prayers there are directed squarely at the citizens,” she said.

Kagan also noted what she described as the meetings’ intimate setting, with 10 or so people sitting in front of the town’s elected and top appointed officials. Children and teenagers are likely to be present, she said.

Kennedy and his four colleagues in the majority all are Catholic. They are: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Kagan was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Of the four, three are Jewish and Sotomayor is Catholic.

Senior counsel David Cortman of the Alliance Defense Freedom, which represented the town, applauded the court for affirming “that Americans are free to pray.”

Ayesha Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the court disregarded the interests of religious minorities and nonbelievers. But Khan said she saw a “silver lining” in the outcome because the court rejected a more sweeping ruling that would have made it even harder to prove a violation of the Constitution.

A federal appeals court in New York had ruled that Greece violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that focused on Christianity.

From 1999 through 2007, and again from January 2009 through June 2010, every meeting was opened with a Christian-oriented invocation. In 2008, after residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens complained, four of 12 meetings were opened by non-Christians, including a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha’i congregation. Galloway and Stephens are described in their court filings as a Jew and an atheist.

A town employee each month selected clerics or lay people by using a local published guide of churches. The guide did not include non-Christian denominations, however. The appeals court found that religious institutions in the town of just under 100,000 people are primarily Christian, and even Galloway and Stephens testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there.

The two residents filed suit and a trial court ruled in the town’s favor, finding that the town did not intentionally exclude non-Christians. It also said that the content of the prayer was not an issue because there was no desire to proselytize or demean other faiths.

But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that even with the high court’s 1983 ruling, the practice of having one Christian prayer after another amounted to the town’s endorsement of Christianity.

Kennedy, however, said judges should not be involved in evaluating the content of prayer because that could lead to legislatures requiring “chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere.”

He added, “Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.”

The case is Greece v. Galloway, 12-696.

City Council Prayers – U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Town Meetings

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that public prayer before town hall meetings does not violate the First Amendment.

 

US Supreme CourtExplicit and nearly-uniform Christian prayers before government functions that mention “Jesus Christ on the cross” and ask spectators to stand for worship are permissible under the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The case, called Greece v. Galloway, asked the court to decide whether a local government, the Town of Greece, N.Y., needed to restrict the content of the prayers before monthly town board meetings, or take special measures to ensure that a broad range of faiths were represented in prayer.

In another sharply divided 5-to-4 opinion, the court’s conservative justices, with the help of longtime swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, ruled that as long as the prayer preceded the start of official government business there was no need for additional precautions under the First Amendment.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since the Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define.  As practiced by Congress since the framing of the Constitution, legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The prayer in this case has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.”

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God or Jesus Christ, but throughout American history, the government it established has not refrained from evoking those names before events.

 

Rainy Days – Depression U

The Great DepressionKey Bible Verse:  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.  – Psalm 119:71

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 107:1-32

“After the stock market crashed in 1929, Dad could no longer find work in his bricklaying trade.  In desperation, he took a job as night watchman for $28 a week.  The Depression taught my family many life-building lessons:

We learned the importance of each family member as we struggled to meet the monthly mortgage payment.  Mother took in washing and ironing.  Brother Bill and I sold magazines door-to-door.  The three boys helped deliver milk.  We all made hat bands for a nearby factory, made and sold paper flowers.

The Depression days also taught us thrift and frugality.  When we used tea bags, we did so again and again.  The phone was used only for emergencies.  One electric light was allowed on per room.  Usually, we all studied and worked in a single room.

We also learned the value of money and the importance of avoiding credit.  Mother used to say, “If your outgo is greater than your income, then your upkeep is headed for a downfall.”

The Great Depression strengthened our faith.  A few years of poverty can do more for spiritual maturity than 10 years of prosperity.  I look back with gratitude for the lessons we learned.

—- George Sweeting in Too Soon to Quit

Personal Challenge:  What values have you learned because of difficulties you’ve had to face?

Thought to Apply:  A man who has not suffered, what does he know? – —Henry Suso (14th Century)

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

Rainy Days – Audience of One

Small Concert AudienceKey Bible Verse:  Whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God.  – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 3:22-24

For a 19 year old from a small Texas town, Festival Hall at North Dakota State University was an impressive auditorium.  Our Wheaton College Concert Band was on the third day of its Spring tour.  We had a good warm-up that cold and rainy night.  But the cavernous arena was almost completely empty except for the 80 performers on stage.

As we gathered off-stage for prayer 10 minutes before the concert, I counted how many were in the audience.  Four!  Widespread grumbling went like this: “We came all this way to play for four people?  You’ve got to be kidding!”

Our director quickly sensed our discontent.  “I won’t tolerate your attitude,” he declared. “I don’t care if the auditorium is empty!  We play our music to the Lord, for His pleasure.”  Humbled by those stinging words, we prayerfully sang our standard pre-concert hymn [below], with fresh meaning.

We made our way back onto the stage and played the best concert of the entire tour—with an audience of 14.

Sometimes, when I find myself feeling unappreciated or not getting all the recognition I think I should, the Spirit of God takes me back more than 35 years to Festival Hall and the concert of a lifetime.

—Stanley Clark in College Faith

My Response:  Which audience am I playing to?

Thought to Apply:  May the love of Jesus fill me / As the waters fill the sea; / Him exalting, self abasing— / This is victory.

—Kate Wilkinson (hymn writer)

Adapted from College Faith: 150 Christian Leaders and Educators Share Faith Stories from Their Student Days (Andrews University Press, 2002)

 

Prayer:  Lord, give me a goal big enough to be worthy of You, and love strong enough to stick with it.

Create a Caring Community – Showing God’s Love Through Your Church

Church Fellowship

Salvation never occurs in a vacuum.  When someone is saved, they are saved into a community of faith.  This section of Hebrews 10 gives the impetus for the faith community to continue encouraging one another.

Our fellowship with God has been restored through Jesus’ death, so that we can now have renewed fellowship with one another.  This also draws non-Christians into the community as they witness the love of believers for one another.

Key Study Passage:

Hebrews 10:19-25

  1. What did Christ’s death accomplish?  (See vv. 19-20.)
  2. How does Christ’s death shape our response to God?  (See vv. 21-22.)
  3. Why is regular Christian fellowship so important?  (See vv. 24-25.)
  4. What are some ways your church could put this passage into practice?
  5. In light of this week’s devotions, think of ways you can draw non-Christians into fellowship with your church.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to open your eyes to daily opportunities to start relationships with people in your community; ask for wisdom to find places where you can begin to connect them with the community of your church.

Hebrews 10:19-25

A Call to Persevere

19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Jesus, help me to see the church as you see the church, not as a building, but as a community of people growing in your image.

Marty Miller In Concert – May 18!

Marty Miller 2Come on out and meet Marty and his wife, Janet, and enjoy a musical concert of acoustic, encouraging, original songs…. mixed with an easy blend of well-known songs and worship music.

Let the Father’s Spirit use the music and lyrics to open your hearts to a deeper walk with Jesus, and to step a little beyond our comfort zones into an opportunity to grow and give praise!

Place: Central United Methodist Church
1229 Sixth Ave., Beaver Falls, PA 15010
Date & Time: Sunday, May 18, 11:30 am

Info: Email: CentralUMChurch@gmail.com Marty Miller
Web: http://www.CentralUMChurch.org
Phone: (724) 846-3474

http://www.MartyMillerMusic.com

Create a Caring Community – Creating Entry Points

Coffee FellowshipKey Bible Verse:  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  –Hebrews 10:24, NIV

Dig Deeper:  Hebrews 10:19-25

Church is a process that moves people “from community to community”—from the culture in which we live to authentic, missional small groups.  Today, everything we do at our church is about moving people from community to community.  The process recycles itself in a circular motion as people engage with the outside community and walk with them relationally through the whole process.  As they do, they begin to experience momentum, as well as a sense that they are now part of a movement, not just a church.

Through our many years of ministry, my wife and I discovered that most people find themselves within various connecting points of community.  Some connect around shared needs, some around shared experiences, and others around shared questions.

Focusing on people rather than programs requires intentionality.  Church leaders must provide natural entry points for relational communication.  We accomplished this by identifying three environments in which relationships can take place: the park, the coffee shop, and the living room.  These three environments provide the organic framework for moving people from community to community.

—Mike Tatlock in Faith in Real Life

My Response:  What are some environments in my community that my church can use as entry points for relationships?

Thought to Apply:  Church isn’t where you meet.  Church isn’t a building.  Church is what you do.  Church is who you are.  Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ.  Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church. — Bridget Willard (writer, worship leader)

Adapted from Faith in Real Life (Zondervan, 2010)

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Jesus, help me to see the church as you see the church, not as a building, but as a community of people growing in your image.

Create a Caring Community – Making a Connection

Men Drinking CoffeeKey Bible Verse:   All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror.   We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory.  This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18, CEB

Dig Deeper:  Ephesians 4:11-16

I first met a man named Don in the park as he was walking his canine companion.  Don had been a successful real estate broker for most of his life and was now experiencing a time of transition.

Don was searching for God and asking some sincere questions.  After a couple of hours had quickly passed, I made an offer to Don: “If you ever want to grab some coffee and continue our discussion, just let me know.”  I handed him my business card.  We said our farewells and went off in different directions.

Later that week, I received a call from Don.  He’d decided to take me up on my offer.  Within a couple of days, we were continuing our dialogue as we indulged in a couple of tall mochas.  Over time, what started as a random meeting turned into stimulating, routine encounters.

I wanted to go beyond our usual meetings at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, and so Bernadette, my wife, and I invited Don to dinner.  There is something more personal about inviting someone into your home for a meal.  It speaks of relational connectedness and transparency.  It wasn’t just about getting Don to attend church; it was about seeing our relationship grow and our lives change with each step of the journey.

—Mike Tatlock in Faith in Real Life

My Response:  What are some places I frequent where I can begin to build relationships with guys who are searching for God?

Thought to Apply:  Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.—Norman B. Rice (former mayor of Seattle)

Adapted from Faith in Real Life (Zondervan, 2010)

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Jesus, help me to see the church as you see the church, not as a building, but as a community of people growing in your image.