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Time to Count the Cost – Diverse Except for…

Ron Brown, Football CoachKey Bible Verse:  The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. John 15:19

Bonus Reading:  John 15:18-25

Back in 2002, when Ron Brown was a University of Nebraska Assistant Football Coach, The Daily Nebraskan reported that he was denied the head coaching job at Stanford University because of his religious beliefs.  Of particular concern was his candid belief that homosexual behavior is a sin.  His religion “was definitely something that had to be considered,” Alan Glenn, Stanford’s assistant athletic director of human resources, told the student newspaper. “We’re a very diverse community with a diverse alumni.”

Brown says he was shocked at both the decision and the school’s candor.  “If I’d been discriminated against for being black, they would’ve never told me that,” he said. “They had no problem telling me it was because of my Christian beliefs.”

In Thinking Against the Grain (Kregel, 2003), N. Allan Moseley notes that the ‘tolerance’ that ensures that no one is denied a job because he or she is homosexual, isn’t extended to Christians.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Simon, said Stanford was right not to hire such an outspoken Christian.

Brown said the Stanford rejection wouldn’t silence his Christian beliefs.  “I don’t believe you compromise truth for whatever job,” he said.

—Ted Olsen in Christianity Today

My Response: Have I taken any flak for my faith? If not, could it be because I flinched?

Adapted from Christianity Today (6/10/02)

Prayer for the Week:  Being an out-and-out disciple isn’t for wimps, Lord.  Give me what it takes to be all Yours.

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Time to Count the Cost – Don’t Flinch

Football TackleWho Said It…Ron Brown

In 2004, Ron Brown was the receivers coach for University of Nebraska football.  Although intense, energetic, and demanding, he was also there to help his players if they needed him.

Ron is outspoken about his faith.  “Some people around the university aren’t always happy about it,” he once admitted, “but that’s their tough cookie.”  In 2005, Ron chucked his headset and clipboard to become Nebraska state director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

What He Said…Don’t Flinch

Paul told the elders from Ephesus, “I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants for you” (Acts 20:27).  If we let pain cause us to flinch in our Christian walk, we’ll definitely lose impact.

Football players have to learn not to flinch.  One fearless player who has that down is Mike Brown of the Chicago Bears.  I recruited Mike to the University of Nebraska.

He was only 5’8″ and barely 180 pounds in high school, but he moved around the football field like a rocket!  He never hesitated when he tackled another player.  Not once did I see him flinch when driving his body into a ball carrier.

Most players, just before they make contact, flinch and turn their head and shoulders a little.  They don’t want to take the full blow.

Coaches teach that it’s better to initiate the blow at full speed with proper technique than to avoid the contact by flinching.  God needs full-speed players willing to tackle the opposition in the name of Christ at all costs.  Don’t flinch!

Adapted from Sports Spectrum Power Up! (11-12/03)

Prayer for the Week:  Being an out-and-out disciple isn’t for wimps, Lord.  Give me what it takes to be all Yours.

Believe the Best – Benefit of the Doubt

Benefit of the DoubtA prison ministry wants to establish a halfway house in your community for just-released felons who profess coming to faith while incarcerated. The location for this controversial facility would be in your block.

Do you oppose this as a security hazard to your family and neighborhood?  Or do you actively support returning these new believers to society?

Barnabas faced a parallel situation in the passage we consider this week.

Interact with God’s Word:  Acts 9:26-28

  1. Why could believing the best about Saul (see Acts 8:3) seem naïve and foolhardy?
  2. What else did Barnabas risk by becoming a sponsor for Saul?
  3. How did Barnabas overcome the apostles’ suspicions about Saul?
  4. Barnabas’s real name was Joseph (see Acts 4:36).  Can you see from this paragraph how he got his “Son of Encouragement” nickname?
  5. How might you come alongside, encourage, and teach a new or misunderstood believer, and introduce him to other believers?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you shed a critical spirit and trust the Holy Spirit’s working in the lives of other believers.

Acts 9:26-28

26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him.  They thought he was only pretending to be a believer!27  Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus.  Barnabas also told them what the Lord had said to Saul and how he boldly preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus.28  Then the apostles accepted Saul, and after that he was constantly with them in Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out.  Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Believe the Best – Flight School Flop

Flight SchoolKey Bible Verses:  I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.  – Philippians 2:20

Bonus Reading: Acts 9:26-28

A pilot never forgets his primary flight instructor.  Mine was Captain Gunness.  He was an old helicopter pilot who’d seen lots of action.  I was so impressed with him I could hardly speak in his presence.

Things started off well; Captain Gunness was a great instructor, and I learned quickly.  Then, about halfway through, things hit a snag.

I’d had a terrible day.  I was lagging so far mentally that I felt like the plane was landing when I was taking off.  I was all over the sky, and I just knew Captain Gunness was going to give me a failing grade.

As we walked back to the ready room for debriefing, my head hung low as I waited for the ax to fall.  About halfway across the flight line, as I walked beside my instructor, he called out to another instructor, “Hey, my student can fly circles around yours!”

I was stunned.  He was talking to the instructor who had the top-rated student.  I looked up at him, and he smiled and said, “I’ve invested too much in you for you to fold on me now.  And you have what it takes.”

His words totally turned me around, and proved prophetic.  Thanks to Captain Gunness, I ended up graduating at the top of the class.

— Ted Roberts in Pure Desire

My Response:  Whose confidence could I boost today with a compliment?

Thought to Apply:  A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.—Ella Wilcox (writer)

Adapted from Pure Desire (Regal, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out.  Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Update – Prayer Concern – Meriam Ibrahim, Sudanese Woman Sentenced for Apostasy, Released

JUNE 26 UPDATE

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

As of June 26, Meriam Ibrahim has been released on bail and has been transported to a safe location in Sudan, along with her family, according to a United States Department of State press release.

The Associated Press, CNN, and Al Jazeera report more details.

Please continue to hold up Meriam Ibrahim and her family in prayer as she continues to face persecution in Sudan for not renouncing her Christian faith.

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A very insightful article by Charlotte Allen late tonight in The Wall Street Journal reported that a 27-year-old Sudanese woman named Meriam Ibrahim seemed likely to become a 21st-century Christian martyr in May when she was sentenced to death by hanging because of her faith.

Meriam Ibrahim in May 2014

Meriam Ibrahim in May 2014

Then this week Ms. Ibrahim was saved when a court overturned her conviction for apostasy from Islam—her father was a Muslim, and under Islamic law she is automatically a Muslim too. (She had also been sentenced to public flogging for adultery because her husband, Daniel Wani, is also a Christian, and Islamic law doesn’t recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.)

But the day after her release on Monday, Ms. Ibrahim was arrested again. While the Associated Press reported Thursday that she had again been released Thursday, her future remained uncertain.

Her story is harrowing. Ms. Ibrahim was eight months pregnant with her second child when she was convicted in a Khartoum court on April 30 under the Islamic Shariah law that has governed Sudan since 1989. On May 27, while in prison awaiting execution, Ms. Ibrahim gave birth to her daughter, Maya.  Mr. Wani reported that his wife was shackled to the floor during labor.  Their year-and-a-half-old son, Martin, had been jailed along with her.

Ms. Ibrahim was re-arrested on Tuesday by a government security force as she, Mr. Wani and their two young children tried to leave Sudan for the United States.  The Sudanese-born Mr. Wani has been an American citizen since 2005.

The new charges against Ms. Ibrahim—which are reported to carry penalties of up to seven years in prison—consist of falsifying the family’s travel documents, which were issued by the embassy of South Sudan, the largely Christian territory that seceded from overwhelmingly Muslim Sudan in 2011 after a decades-long civil war.  Mr. Wani hails from what is now South Sudan.

Ms. Ibrahim’s story bears uncanny parallels to another Christian story involving young African mothers who did become Christian martyrs, during the early third century: the story of Felicitas and Perpetua, executed for their faith in the Roman port city of Carthage in today’s Tunisia.

Vibia Perpetua was a well-educated young woman, not unlike Ms. Ibrahim, who is trained as a doctor. 

Felicitas was a slave in an advanced state of pregnancy when she was thrown into prison along with Perpetua and other Christians to await their deaths by wild animals in the Carthage arena.

Perpetua, like Ms. Ibrahim, went to prison along with a baby son.  Felicitas, like Ms. Ibrahim, bore a baby daughter before her execution date.

The most dramatic parallel is the simple affirmation that Ms. Ibrahim gave in court that led to her death sentence: “I am a Christian.”  Those also were Perpetua’s words, as they were of many martyrs in Roman times. 

Like Perpetua, Ms. Ibrahim, who was brought up in the Ethiopian Orthodox faith of her mother, also refused to recant.

 

This isn’t just a matter of ancient and modern coincidences.  More significantly, the Roman world of the third century was strikingly like today’s secularized West in its contempt for Christians and indifference to their persecution.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has found that Christians are persecuted in more places today than any other religious group, suffering formal or informal harassment in three-quarters of the world’s countries.  The persecution of Christians, Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom wrote in the June 23 Weekly Standard, “is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.”

Yet this persecution is mostly ignored.  The Sudanese civil war included waves of genocidal mass killings of southern Sudanese Christians by the Khartoum government during the 1990s, but the media looked the other way until the Sudanese started slaughtering Muslim rebels in Darfur in 2003.

The recent kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the Islamic-fanatic group Boko Haram has been portrayed as a war on women’s education.  You seldom hear that most of the girls are Christians and one of the aims of the abduction was their forced conversion to Islam.

Amnesty International has admirably agitated for Meriam Ibrahim’s release, but partly on grounds of Amnesty’s opposition to the death penalty.

Even many Christian churches in the West seem to be too constrained by ethnic sensitivities to assert themselves on behalf of their persecuted brethren.  They haven’t paid much attention to the near-extermination of the ancient Christian communities in Iraq during the past decade of turmoil, or to the systematic destruction of Coptic churches in Egypt by Islamic radicals in 2013.

Meriam Ibrahim did manage to gain the attention and sympathy of the West by reason of her courage, her beauty, her status as a mother of two young children and the extreme circumstances of her case.

If there are parallels between her experience and a story of ancient martyrdom, the lesson might be that the West’s cultured classes’ hostility to Christianity, like that of their of Roman forbears, results in a passivity that tolerates attacks on people whose only crime is their faith.

Believe the Best – Vote of Confidence

Jesus and DisciplesKey Bible Verse:  He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love.  – John 13:1

Bonus Reading:  John 21:15-19

[continued from yesterday]  Yesterday’s reading is what I’d have wanted to say.  But what did Jesus do?

He knew very well how most of the men He loved had treated Him.  He’d put all His eggs in the basket of these disciples, and they, who’d watched His miracles, not only didn’t believe He’d be raised from the dead, but actually turned on Him.  How did He respond?

His response grabs me.  He looked at them and said, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In essence, He told them that the history of mankind was in their hands and that He had enough faith in them to pass the spiritual baton to all humanity through them.

How do you handle it when people fail you?  Expressing confidence in people builds them up.  Try complimenting, comforting, coaching, and expressing confidence, and see the changes your uplifting statements bring.

—Ron and Matt Jenson in Fathers and Sons

My Response:  A person who might step up if given responsibility is …

Thought to Apply:  People whom we trust tend to become trustworthy.—Solomon Freehof (rabbi, scholar)

Adapted from Fathers and Sons (Broadman & Holman, 1998)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out. Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

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

UPDATES FROM MAY 27, 2014

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Wedding photo of Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani

Below please find a June 23 Update, two Updates for June 24, and the latest Update for June 25.

As of June 25, Meriam Ibrahim is still in Sudanese custody, along with her family

Please continue to hold up Meriam Ibrahim and her family in prayer as she continues to face the death penalty in Sudan for not renouncing her Christian faith.

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June 23 Update –

Christianity Today reports today that a court in Sudan has ordered the release of Meriam Ibrahim, the 27-year-old Sudanese woman who was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging for alleged adultery and apostasy.

Sudan’s high court in Khartoum canceled the case, the Associated Press reports.

Ibrahim’s lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, said she had been sent “to an unknown house to stay at for her protection and security,” the Daily Mail reports. “Her family had been threatened before and we are worried that someone might try to harm her,” he said.

Officials promised that she would be released “in a few days” in late May, more than three weeks ago, according to the BBC.

Ibrahim’s case incited international outrage over Sudan’s treatment of Ibrahim, a wife and mother of two children. After giving birth to her second child in a Sudanese prison in May, Ibrahim was given two years before the courts would enact the death sentence. But the international pressure to free Ibrahim has paid off, a human rights activist told the Daily Mail.

“The Sudanese government was embarrassed by all the attention so they freed her,” said Safwan Abobaker of Hardwired, a religious campaign group. “The Sudanese government needs to grant Meriam asylum or find a way to let her come to America right away.”

Laws against apostasy — the act of abandoning one’s faith — are on the books in 21 countries, and punishments range from fines to death, according to the Pew Research Center. They are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where more than half of the countries have them, and there are five on the books in the Asia-Pacific region and four in sub-Saharan Africa. Sudan’s legal code dictates that a pregnant woman not be executed until she has had two years to raise her child, according to Human Rights Watch.

Blasphemy laws are increasingly important tools for authoritarian governments and extremists in the Muslim world to gain and maintain power, according to Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. And apostates pardoned from government sanction are often not safe from the court of public opinion, he notes:

While there has been no systematic study of the matter, and many punishments are not publicized, it appears that actual state-ordered executions are rarer than killings by vigilantes, mobs, and family members, sometimes with state acquiescence. In the last two years in Afghanistan, Islamist militants have murdered at least five Christians who had converted from Islam.

Vigilantes have killed, beaten, and threatened converts in Pakistan, the Palestinian areas, Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, Somalia, and Kenya. In November, Iranian convert Ghorban Dordi Tourani was stabbed to death by a group of fanatical Muslims. In December, Nigerian pastor Zacheous Habu Bu Ngwenche was attacked for allegedly hiding a convert. In January, in Turkey, Kamil Kiroglu was beaten unconscious and threatened with death if he refused to deny his Christian faith and return to Islam.

U.S. politicians and residents called for Ibrahim’s release with official statements and a petition garnering 53,000 signatures. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the Sudanese apostasy law:

I urge the Sudanese judiciary and government to respect Ms. Ishag’s fundamental right to freedom of religion. I also urge Sudan to repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 Interim Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

CT has chronicled Ibrahim’s case, including her initial death sentence as well as the birth of her daughter, Maya, in prison in May, also noting the false reports of Ibrahim’s release. CT reported the crackdown of Christians in Sudan following the country’s move to become 100 percent Muslim and has also reported on violence against Christians.

June 24 Update 1 –

Update (June 24, 9:45 a.m. CDT): Sudanese authorities have rearrested Meriam Ibrahim along with her husband, Daniel Wani, as they tried to leave Sudan from a Khartoum airport. About 40 security officers detained the family of four and took them to the headquarters of a Sudanese security agency as they were trying to leave for the United States, according to the BBC. They were not told why they were being arrested, according to the Telegraph.

June 24 Update 2 –

Update (June 24, 5:18 p.m. CDT): Meriam Ibrahim and her family have reportedly been released after being temporarily detained on their way out of Sudan, reports BBC.

 

June 25 Update –

Update (June 25): Meriam Ibrahim is still in Sudanese custody, along with her family, according to reports. Ibrahim was trying to leave Sudan using South Sudanese emergency papers, as well as a U.S. visa, which Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services considered a “criminal violation.”

Religion News Service, CNN, and Reuters report more details.

Believe the Best – Write-Off

You're FiredKey Bible Verse:  No one was with me.  Everyone had abandoned me.  I hope it will not be counted against them.  – 2 Timothy 4:16

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 42:1-7

Imagine that you were Jesus after your resurrection facing your disciples who’d deserted you.  You’d poured your life into them.  Now you’re back to see them before you go to heaven.  If I were in His position, I’d have been tempted to say something like this:

“Yeah, it’s Jesus and I’m here for one reason: to tell you that you’re all out of the game.  Off the team.  Through with the program.  Good-bye.  I poured my life into you guys.  I fed the five thousand, healed the sick, brought dead people to life, told you I’d die, told you I’d come back—and what was your response?  You people are pathetic.

“Okay, Thomas, once and for all, why don’t you come up here and feel my hands.  Thomas, you’re a negative guy.  You’re an administrator, that’s what you are.  You’ve been griping and complaining since we started.  You always see the problems.

“Peter, what are you laughing about over there?  Good night!  You’re impetuous, you’re a loud mouth, you denied me three times in front of a little girl, and you’re a coward.  You’re fired, Peter.

“And you’re out, Thomas.

“In fact, you’re all out!

That’s what I would have wanted to say.   [continued tomorrow]

— Ron and Matt Jenson in Fathers and Sons

My Response:  Who may I have been too quick to write off?

Thought to Apply:  The men who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize. —Elisabeth Harrison (writer)

Adapted from Fathers and Sons (Broadman & Holman, 1998)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out. Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Believe the Best – Cagey Christians

RomansKey Bible Verse:   Each of us will have to give a personal account to God.  So don’t condemn each other anymore. Romans 14:12-13

Bonus Reading:  Romans 14:1-13

 When I first went to work for the correspondence department of a high-profile ministry whose motives were frequently questioned in the media, I assumed I’d spend most of my time responding to secular critics. Instead, I found that most of my energies would be spent defending ourselves to fellow Christians.

I’ve been amazed—both within this ministry and in church—to witness the “prove-something-to-me” posturing that frequently occurs before one Christian will extend the benefit of the doubt to another.

Why don’t we want to believe the best about other brothers and sisters in Christ?  We typically gauge them not by where they genuinely stand before God, but by comparing them to ourselves.

In Romans 14:1-13, Paul explains that that’s the wrong standard.  Christians are called to accept one another, even if we think the other person’s faith is weak.  We’re called to build up our fellow believers.

Think of how often Jesus encountered a person whose actions, motives, or beliefs He could have questioned.  How many times did He do that?  Shouldn’t we do the same?

—Jeffrey Leever in Colorado

My Response:  I could affirm a believer I’ve avoided by …

Thought to Apply:  Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; never tell even that unless you feel it is absolutely necessary—and that God is listening while you tell it. —Henry Van Dyke

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out. Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Believe the Best – Jerk Reaction

JerkKey Bible Verse:  The trouble with you is that you make your decisions on the basis of appearance.  2 Corinthians 10:7

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 6:4-12

I showed up at the house of a friend and rang the doorbell.  I was supposed to bring some chairs.  He opened the door and said, “Ron, where are the chairs?”

I responded, “Oh, I forgot.”

He glared at me and barked, “That figures!”

I thought, That figures?  He thinks I’m no good.  He thinks I can’t follow through.  He thinks I’m useless.

Then I thought, Who does he think he is?  The creep.  I bet he’s got a problem or twelve!

But then I decided I had two options: believe the best about what he was saying—although that was pretty tough—and just forget about it, or ask him what he meant—even though it seemed obvious to me.

A couple of weeks later I saw him and brought it up: “You know the other day when I was at your house and forgot to bring the chairs and you said, ‘That figures’? …”

He interrupted me and said, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I was wondering what you meant.”

“Well, all day long that day in every meeting someone had forgotten something.  It just figured.”

So, he wasn’t saying, “Jenson, you’re a jerk.”  He was saying, “My day’s been terrible.”

—Ron Jenson in Fathers and Sons

My Response:  A time that I mistakenly assumed the worst was …

Adapted from Fathers and Sons (Broadman & Holman, 1998)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out.  Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Believe the Best – Silent Treatment

ShhhhWho Said It…Ron Jenson

Ron is chairman of Future Achievement International, a personal leadership development organization.  He also leads High Ground, a non-profit organization focused on mutual support between business leaders worldwide, and Christians in Business International.

He has sold over 700,000 audiotapes, and speaks internationally.  Dr. Jenson lives in San Diego and has co-authored one of his books, Fathers and Sons (Broadman & Holman), with his adult son, Matt.

What He Said…Silent Treatment

When I was the president of a graduate school, I’d encouraged my staff to serve their customers (students) by being attentive and supportive.

During a staff meeting someone came in and told me, “You’re urging us to serve the students, but I was just in the bookstore and the manager wouldn’t even talk to the students.  They asked questions and all he did was to point them toward various resources.”

I was livid. I marched to the bookstore to chew out the manager.  Right before I got to the store, my vice president for the bookstore division passed me.  I stopped him and said, “Gus, I want you to come with me.  Your bookstore manager is being so insensitive to some of our students, he’s not even talking to them.”

“Ron, he has laryngitis!” Gus responded.

Man, did I feel small and stupid.  I’d assumed the worst.

Trusting one another is about having enough faith in the other person to put aside any assumptions.

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, you received me when I was down and out.  Help me to accept others in the same spirit.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Wardrobe Makeover

Wardrobe MakeoverPaul had probably never visited Colosse.  But he had a good idea of what the believers there were up against, so he knew how to pray for them.

Today we look at part of his recorded prayer.

In the second excerpt from his letter, Paul describes our altered behavior as a total wardrobe makeover.  We’ll take a close look at some specific items of clothing.

Interact with God’s Word

Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 3:12-14

  1. Are you asking God for insight into what He wants to do in your life (1:9)
  2. What are aspects of His answer that you can count on (1:10)
  3. What is included (3:12 & 14) in the properly dressed Christian’s attire? (The previous paragraph, vv. 5-11, describes the clothing you threw out and what replaced it.)
  4. What (3:13) is the key to making allowance for the irritating traits and deliberate snubs of others?
  5. Why do you think Paul calls love the most important part of your spiritual wardrobe?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to turn your self “inside out,” so that your desire for others’ good comes through in everything you say and do.

Colossians 1:9-10

9 So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

The Songsters Quartet!

The Songsters Quartet
Special Appearance

Sharing the “Good News” in Song!

The Songsters Quartet has returned from a 20-concert tour in Romania and will be performing at Central Church in a special appearance on Saturday, June 28 at 6:00 pm.

Formed in 1960 at the Akron Baptist Temple, many fine Christians have worked in this ministry reaching out with gospel music to encourage the saints. As time went by the Songsters Quartet center changed more to ministry using Southern Gospel as the tools to reach the lost with the Salvation message of Jesus Christ God’s Son.

When people talk about the smooth and dynamic sound of the Songsters Quartet, there are three other attributes used in describing the group; Spiritual, Genuine and Sincere. The Songsters Quartet is dedicated to serving the Lord, seeing souls saved and hearts uplifted.

Saints are always inspired when they’ve heard the Songsters Quartet present Christ in song. If you are looking for a service where the Lord leads, souls are saved and fires are rekindled, you’ll be glad to know this is what the Songsters strive for in each and every service. The Songsters hold dear their faith in Jesus Christ and serve the Lord out of a burning desire over flowing with His love.

Please join us for a free concert of enjoyable, spirit-filled Gospel music on Saturday, June 28 at 6:00 pm.

A freewill offering will be taken to help support the Songsters’ ministry.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Refreshed

A Fan for My WifeKey Bible Verses:  The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.   – 2 Peter 1:8

Bonus Reading2 Peter 1:3-11

“You didn’t need to do that.”

“I know—I wanted to,” Les replied.

All morning I was working like mad to complete a report due after lunch.  It was an unusually hot, muggy, Seattle morning in August, and I was parked at the kitchen table in front of my laptop computer when Les quietly slipped in and set up a fan to cool the room.

“I don’t know if it’ll make any difference,” Les said, trying to place the fan in just the right place, “but I thought it was worth a try.”

I don’t know if the fan did anything to alleviate the oppressive heat that morning, but I recall feeling suddenly soothed by my husband’s kindness.

Why?  Because he didn’t have to go to the trouble of scrounging around our basement, still wearing his pre-shower bathrobe, to find our old fan in an attempt to make me feel better. I didn’t ask him to do it.

He never even heard me complain about the heat.  He wasn’t looking for appreciation, to make amends, or to get something in return.  No, this was sheer kindness.

Kindness is an integral part of love because it stems from an uncalculating attitude that desires only the joy of seeing another person’s situation enriched.

—Leslie Parrott in Love Is …

My Response:  Today I’ll look for an opportunity to do a favor before it is requested.

Thought to Apply:  Every act of kindness and compassion done by any man for his fellow Christian is done by Christ working within him. —Julian of Norwich (English recluse)

Adapted from Love Is … (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Marked City

Act of KindnessKey Bible Verse:  The way you love will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. Colossians 1:10

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 1:9-10; 3:12-14

In 1940, researchers studied 43 American cities and concluded that Rochester, New York, was the kindest city.  The researchers used an elaborate procedure to come to this conclusion.  A little more than 50 years later, the study was repeated in the same cities.  Rochester again came out on top.

Writer John Tompkins determined to find out why Rochester came out on top.  His own research, reported in the Reader’s Digest, led him to conclude that the city’s history of kindness and generosity stemmed from its earliest days.

In the mid-1800s, renowned evangelist Charles Finney spent six months preaching the gospel and conducting prayer meetings in Rochester.  Thousands were converted to Christ.  New believers renounced their selfishness and began to give themselves to others.  For a century and a half, the city has maintained this strong track record.

The New Age spirituality philosophers teach their followers to do “random acts of kindness” to feel good about themselves.

In sharp contrast, the true spirituality of God’s Holy Spirit calls us to take no thought for ourselves but to seek the good of others.  We are to be kind at all times, in all places, to all people.

—Michael Youssef in The Spirituality that Heals

My Response:  Are believers enhancing the climate of my community?  How?

Thought to Apply:  Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.  —Johan Von Goethe

Adapted from The Spirituality that Heals (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Crucial Gesture

Boys Walking Home from SchoolKey Bible Verse:  What I want is for you to receive a well-earned reward because of your kindness. Philippians 4:17

Bonus Reading:  Galatians 5:16-26

Walking home from junior high, Mark saw the boy ahead of him trip, dropping all his books, two sweaters, a baseball glove, and other odds and ends.  Mark helped pick up the scattered items.  Since they were going the same way, he helped carry some of the stuff.

As they walked, Mark learned that the boy’s name was Bill and that he loved video games, baseball, and history, but was having trouble with his other subjects and had just broken up with his girlfriend.  They arrived at Bill’s home first, and Bill invited Mark in for a Coke, and to watch some tv.  They passed the afternoon with small talk.

Moving on into high school, the two occasionally ate lunch together.  Then three weeks before graduation, Bill reminded Mark of the day they met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home?” he asked. “I’d cleaned out my locker so I wouldn’t leave a mess behind.  I’d stashed away some of my mom’s sleeping pills and was going to commit suicide.  But after we spent time together, I realized that if I killed myself, I’d miss any more pleasant times like that.  So when you picked up those books, Mark, you saved my life!”

—Randy Alcorn in In Light of Eternity

My Response:  A gratifying response to a kindness I extended was …

Thought to Apply:  You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. —Ralph Waldo Emerson (poet, essayist)

Adapted from In Light of Eternity (WaterBrook, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Power of the Unexpected

Doctor's Office GreetingKey Bible Verse:  Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24

Bonus ReadingProverbs 3:3; 11:17

The first time I walked into the medical practice Walt Larimore operated in Kissimmee, Florida, I was taken by surprise—by a smiling face.  The receptionist stood up, beamed at me over the counter, and said, “Hi, how can I help you?”  I was impressed!

I often feel more like a bother than a cared-for patient in medical offices.  When greeted by a glass window and a clipboard to sign in on, you can only hope that someone realizes you’ve arrived and will in time call your name.

Not so at Heritage Family Physicians.  The staff greeted me by name and appeared delighted to see me and interested in helping me.

And that’s not all.  If the doctor was running late, an office worker would alert patients of the approximate time the doctor would see them and then ask, “Is that okay?”  This said they cared about their patients and realized their time is valuable.

Ordinary?  Yes.  Powerful?  Absolutely.  These common courtesies told patients that something was different about their staff and doctors.  They created a foundation of goodwill in which trusting relationships could develop.  Over time this resulted in many spiritual conversations.

—William Carr Peel in Going Public with Your Faith

My Response:  I’ll work at extending common courtesies to everyone I encounter today.

Thought to Apply:  Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.  —Frederick W. Faber (British priest, hymn writer)

Adapted from Going Public with Your Faith (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Which Bible Verse Describes You?

Which Bible Verse Describes YouEver wondered which Bible verse describes you?

10 simple questions to find out.

Take the test on our “Just for Fun” page!

Security Alert: Reminder about the “Cryptolocker” Virus

Virus AlertThe Full Armor of God, described by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18, is our spiritual defense against attacks by Satan.

Although Central Church is naturally and primarily focused on the defense of individual souls from such attacks, we are passing along a security alert regarding the “CryptoLocker” encryption virus that is making a strong return.

CrypotoLocker is a ransom trojan that targets computers running Microsoft Windows.  The receiver is tricked into opening an email that appears to be from a legitimate source and may be labeled as a voicemail or fax.  While spam filtering companies are doing their best to block the malicious emails, the spammers are changing the deceptive messages very rapidly.

Once activated, the trojan displays a message that offers to decrypt the victim’s files if a ransom is paid by a stated deadline.  Victims should be aware there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will provide desired results.

In fact, the victim’s stored information may not be deleted but is made virtually unusable by the malware.  Often the lost data will need to be restored from a backup server, provided the backup is not connected to the system and also encrypted.

While we may be sent out into the world as sheep among wolves, remember the guidance of Matthew 10:16 and take what prudent precautions you can to protect both yourself and your computer!

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Commuter Shuffle

Crowding for BusKey Bible Verse:  The Lord’s servants …must be kind to everyone …and be patient with difficult people.  – 2 Timothy 2:24

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 4:31-32

Hurrying home after work, I entered New York’s Port Authority bus terminal, briefcase in one hand, newspaper in the other.  The usual crowd was lined up behind the escalators that take suburban passengers to their buses.

Just as I got to the head of the line, a hard-faced, middle-aged woman came up from my side, shoved in front of me, planted her elbow in my stomach, and stepped onto the escalator. Removing her elbow, I said with elaborate sarcasm, “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to shove you.”

As she turned and looked me in the eye, her face seemed to fall apart.  “I don’t understand,” she said with apology and shock.  “Why are you so nice to me? I was really rude—I shouldn’t have shoved in line like that.”

I was at a loss for words.  The woman had reacted to my counterfeit display of love as if it were real, and appeared transformed.  I began to envision this woman as a person who’d been fighting all her life for a place in line.

Humiliated by the pettiness of my first reaction and overwhelmed by the effect it had produced, I gathered my wits enough to mumble, “It doesn’t hurt to be nice to people.”  Then I ran headlong for my bus.

—Bruce Larson in The Edge of Adventure

My Response: A time when I saw kindness melt hard-heartedness was …

Adapted from The Edge of Adventure (Word, 1974)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Mini-Investment, Mega-Payback – Little Things

Kindness 2Who Said It…Les and Leslie Parrott

As co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, Les and Leslie teach the basics of good relationships.

Les is a professor of clinical psychology; Leslie is a marriage and family therapist.

The Parrotts have teamed up to write several books and to host the radio broadcast “Marriage Matters.”  They have one son, John.

What They Said…Little Things

Kindness comes from small behaviors.  We don’t think of big donations or grand contributions as “kind.”  We call them “generous” or “benevolent,” but it’s the small things we call “kind.”

Kindness, for example, comes when we turn down our partner’s side of the bed before crawling into it ourselves.  Kindness comes when we readjust the car seat after driving so our partner doesn’t have to.  Or when we load the dishwasher when it’s not our turn.

Kindness comes from a million small behaviors that enhance the life of the one we love.  That’s why Kenneth Wuest’s translation of Paul’s love poem underscores the gentle kindness of love as “mellowing all which would have been harsh and austere.”

Kindness sets aside fear that we’ll be exploited.  It relinquishes self-focus and is energized by the needs of another.

Kindness causes us to pause from our own pursuits in order to augment someone else’s life.  Once we remove kindness from a loving heart it’s only a matter of time before the heart atrophies and love is lost altogether.

Adapted from Love Is … (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that Your love will overflow to others in thoughtful actions.

Happy Fathers’ Day – Lessons from Joseph

Detail of stained glass window of St. Joseph and Jesus from Church Sainte Marguerite in Le Vesinet in the Departement Yvelines, Ile-de-France.

Detail of stained glass window of St. Joseph and Jesus from Church Sainte Marguerite in Le Vesinet in the Departement Yvelines, Ile-de-France.

Little boys clamor to play the wise men in the Christmas pageant before agreeing to play him.  In a typical Nativity set, he can be easy to mistake for a shepherd.

No question: The reserved, unobtrusive Joseph tends to hover in the background in our retellings of Christ’s birth.

But Joseph gets his due in the Gospel passage Matthew 1:18-24.  This is Joseph’s big scene, and the example he sets still offers lessons for Jesus’ disciples — and fathers — today, say scholars and pastors.

“Like others in our salvation story, God turned Joseph’s life over, but Joseph always had a choice to follow or not,” said the Rev. Jarrod Johnston, an avowed “liturgy nerd and associate pastor of communications and young adult ministries at First United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas.

Johnston wrote about Joseph in the sermon series Hope is on the Way, which the United Methodist Board of Discipleship shared in Advent last year.  “(Joseph) chose to take a risk for God, and that’s an example we can all follow.”

‘A righteous man’

The Holy Family’s beginnings were anything but Christmas-card perfect.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Mary’s pregnancy was a scandal.  Sure, she was with child by the Holy Spirit, but Joseph either did not know or did not believe Mary’s story.

So, the couple’s engagement was falling apart, and the Virgin Mary faced the strong likelihood of becoming an unwed mother.  In first-century Galilee, such a broken home could have dire — even deadly — consequences.

Matthew also says Joseph was “a righteous man.”  That means he was obedient to the Torah, the law of Moses, say biblical scholars.

“You need to understand that betrothal in his culture is the first act of marriage,” said Ben Witherington III, a New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.  “So it really is a matter of divorcing Mary, and there must be a sufficient cause, in this case, assumed adultery.”

Witherington, who is also an ordained United Methodist elder, has written more than 30 books on the New Testament, including a commentary on Matthew.

He points out that it was significant that whatever sense of betrayal Joseph might have felt, he wanted to part ways from Mary “quietly.”  The alternative would be to press charges against her before the local religious elders, not only publicly humiliating Mary but also putting her at the same risk of stoning faced by the adulterous woman Jesus later encounters.

“But still she will have been shamed and seen as damaged goods thereafter,” Witherington said, “probably impossible for her to marry in that locale thereafter.”

A heeder of dreams

Nativity FigurinesNevertheless, as Matthew shows, Joseph was open to heeding fresh guidance from God.  In a dream, an angel tells Joseph that the child his betrothed is carrying was indeed conceived by the Holy Spirit and will be the Immanuel promised in Isaiah.

“Dreams in the ancient world were understood (for the most part) as means of divine communication,” said Derek S. Dodson, the author of “Reading Dreams: An Audience-Critical Approach to the Dreams in the Gospel of Matthew.”  “The Matthean dreams are not symbolic nor in need of interpretation.  They are visitant dreams that give directives to Joseph, who simply obeys.”

That openness to God is one of his key attributes worth following.

“(He) is open to doing what the heavenly vision suggests, even though now it may cost him his reputation as a righteous man,” Witherington said. “This says something about his courage and faith in God.”

Joseph’s attention to his dreams continues to save Jesus’ life.  In Matthew 2:13, he follows a dream’s warning to flee with his family to Egypt and escape the murderous Herod.  When Herod dies, Joseph receives a dream to return.  Finally, he obeys a fourth dream to settle in Nazareth and avoid Herod’s successor, Archelaus.

An adoptive father

In short, Joseph acted as a very loving father to his young and vulnerable son.  And make no mistake: Joseph was more than Christianity’s first “stepdad.”

By taking Mary as his wife and naming the child Jesus (the name given to him in the dream), Joseph was claiming the divinely born child as his own, Dodson said.  In other words, Joseph adopted Jesus.

That’s one reason Jesus — through Joseph — could trace his genealogy through King David’s line, Witherington said.

Joseph’s act of adoption particularly resonates with Johnston, the Arlington pastor. He and his wife are looking into the process to foster a child with plans to ultimately adopt.

“There is as great a need here in our home country as there is anywhere in the world,” Johnston said. “But this idea of adoption isn’t just something that has to do with taking children that aren’t necessarily of your flesh and blood into your home.  In a sense, through Jesus Christ coming to earth, taking on our flesh, going through the process of birth, death and resurrection, we’re all adopted siblings of Christ.”

Joseph provided one of the first biblical testimonies to the power of adoption into the family of Christ.

Faithful to God

Statue of St. Joseph in St. Henry Catholic Church, Nashville, Tenn.

Statue of St. Joseph in St. Henry Catholic Church, Nashville, Tenn.

But the Bible only mentions Joseph in passing once Jesus begins his adult ministry.   In Matthew 13:55, Jesus’ hometown neighbors initially dismiss him as the carpenter’s son.  The Bible makes no mention of Joseph during such important moments in Jesus’ ministry as the wedding at Cana or his way to the Cross.

The implication, of course, is that Joseph had died long before these events.   Perhaps for this reason, the tradition has arisen that Joseph was considerably older than Mary when the two wed.  Many crèches show him with a gray beard.  In any case, it makes sense that Christians would associate Joseph with home and family given his role in providing the Christ child with a safe and loving place to grow up.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Joseph and Mary is that God chose them for their sacred role in Christ’s life.

“God picked him and Mary for this solemn responsibility in parenting Jesus, and they both accepted the challenge,” Johnston said. “For Joseph, it’s a big leap, but in the example of other saints, he believes and says ‘Yes’ to God.”

K.K. Yeo, New Testament professor at United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary near Chicago, like so many others, sees Joseph as an exemplar of faith.

“Faith is honoring God and people; faith is also integrity and responsibility,” the biblical scholar said. “At the end of the story, faith for Joseph is obedience of trust in God.”

God’s Purpose Made Personal – Obeying Like Abraham

Abraham and the Stars of HeavenUr (near Nasiriya in modern Iraq) was the center of a flourishing pagan civilization in Abram’s day. Leaving its sophisticated commerce and culture for a nomadic existence made little sense.

But because Abram and his father, Terah, were unusually open to God’s revelation, God by stages revealed how they should respond to Him in true worship, and through them established a people of His own.

Interact with God’s Word

Genesis 11:27-12:8

  1. When God called Abram to move to a new land (12:1), do you think this was an abrupt summons or the transfer of direct guidance from father to son (11:31)?
  2. How had Abram positioned himself to receive God’s instructions?
  3. Do you agree with the portrayal in Monday’s reading of Abram as clueless about the direction in which he was being asked to move out?
  4. Did following God’s directions make life easier or more difficult for Abram?
  5. Could the comfort and security of your current situation make it difficult to respond to God’s plan for your life?
  6. How did God affirm Abram’s obedient steps of faith (12:7)?
  7. How did Abram create tangible reminders of God’s intervention in his life?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you obey the guidance you already have received from Him, and make you responsive to further guidance as He reveals it to you.

Genesis 11:27-12:8

27 This is the history of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran had a son named Lot.28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.29 Meanwhile, Abram married Sarai, and his brother Nahor married Milcah, the daughter of their brother Haran. (Milcah had a sister named Iscah.) 30 Now Sarai was not able to have any children.31 Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But they stopped instead at the village of Haran and settled there.32 Terah lived for 205 years[e] and died while still at Haran.

1 Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.2I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others.3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”4 So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people who had joined his household at Haran—and finally arrived in Canaan.6 Traveling through Canaan, they came to a place near Shechem and set up camp beside the oak at Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.7 then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I am going to give this land to your offspring.[a]” And Abram built an altar there to commemorate the LORD’s visit.8 After that, Abram traveled southward and set up camp in the hill country between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar and worshiped the LORD.

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

God’s Purpose Made Personal – Dinner Decisions

Adam and EveKey Bible Verses:  “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”  – Genesis 2:16-17

Bonus Reading:  Galatians 5:16-25

In the Garden of Eden, God was very clear to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:16-17 about His moral will.  But He also gave freedom of choice.

Imagine that Adam said to Eve, “I’m hungry.”

She responded, “Go get some fruit, and I’ll fix it up.”  So Adam picked some fruit and brought it back.

Eve said, “Which of these do you want me to fix?  I want to follow God’s will.  Would you go ask Him what I should do for supper?” So Adam goes out to talk to God and comes back.  Eve asks, “What does God want us to do?”

“He didn’t really say,” Adam answers.  “He just repeated what He told us before.”

Eve asks, “Did any of this fruit come from that tree?”

“Nope.”

“So what should I make?”

“Well, let’s start off with cherries.”

“How should I fix them?  Should I slice them, dice them, mash them, bake them in a pie, make them into a cobbler, or just pull together a fruit salad?  I don’t want to do anything displeasing to God.  Be a sweetheart. Go back one more time to ask Him.”  So Adam goes back and returns. Eve asks, “What did He say?”

“Same thing.”

—James Emery White in You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life

My Response:  One decision I expect God will leave to my discretion is …

Thought to Apply:  There’s wide latitude within the limits of God’s will. We won’t feel cramped.—Vance Havner

Adapted from You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

 

God’s Purpose Made Personal – Religious Roulette

LightKey Bible Verse:  Give me understanding and I will obey your law; I will put it into practice with all my heart. Psalm 119:34

Bonus ReadingJames 1:21-25

My friend and mentor Howard Hendricks often comments, “God didn’t give us the Bible to make us smarter sinners!”

The only reason God speaks to us is so that we might obey His voice.  We can expect to hear the Master’s voice only when we approach the Bible with a submissive mind.

John Ortberg illustrates the relationship between obedience and understanding with a story from his past.  “Guidance only makes sense for people who are resolved to respond.  Responding begins, of course, with obedience to God’s clear guidance from Scripture.  One of my college friends had been sexually involved with his girlfriend for two years.  As we neared graduation, he wondered about marriage.  ‘Is it God’s will for me to marry this girl?’ he asked.  My friend didn’t really want guidance.  He already had clear scriptural guidance about sexual behavior that he wasn’t the least bit interested in.  He just wanted to know if this girl was the Big Deal of the Day or if he should wait to see what’s behind Door No. 2.”

God only speaks to those who have a submissive mind.  As the saying goes, “Light obeyed brings light; light rejected brings night.”

—Robert Jeffress in Hearing the Master’s Voice

My Response:  What part of God’s known will do I need to respond to now?

Thought to Apply:  The plain fact is that not everyone who professes to seek guidance honestly desires to be guided into God’s will.—J. Oswald Sanders

Adapted from Hearing the Master’s Voice (WaterBrook, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

God’s Purpose Made Personal – The Next Step

ProcrastinationKey Bible Verse:  How can we understand the road we travel?  It is the Lord who directs our steps. Proverbs 20:24

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 143:8-10

Worn out by a spell of sleepless nights, I sat down to figure out what was bothering me.  I jotted down four problems and realized I’d been paralyzed by procrastination.

None of my dilemmas had simple solutions, so I kept putting off dealing with them.  After writing them down, I asked a simple question about each one: “What little step can I take right now toward addressing this?”

One required a phone call.  With another I had to make a tentative decision.  The third problem needed a conversation.  The fourth was a matter of sitting down with my calendar.  I wasn’t able to tackle the whole of each problem at once, but I got off dead center by figuring out the next step.

My daughter and son-in-law are doing the same with their finances.  They started marriage with too much debt.  Now they’ve cut up their credit cards, reduced their spending, and started paying off their bills-beginning with the smallest.  Step-by-step they’re gaining ground.

We’re never sure what will happen a year from now.  But the next step is often more or less obvious.  So in facing any vexing problem, make up your mind to prayerfully take the next logical step by faith.

—Robert Morgan in The Red Sea Rules

My Response:  A next step I need to take now is…

Thought to Apply:  I have found that if we go as far as we can, God often opens up the rest of the way. —Isobel Kuhn (missionary to China)

Adapted from The Red Sea Rules (Nelson, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

God’s Purpose Made Personal – Onboard Navigation

Abraham's FamilyKey Bible Verse:  “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you”   – Genesis 12:1

Bonus Reading:  Genesis 11:27-12:8

God made His will known to Abram in Genesis 12:1.

But did you notice what God left out? Where he was to go!  You can just imagine Abram saying, “So God, let me get this right. You want me to go?”

“Right,” God answers.

“Just go?  That’s it?  Not even a north, south, east, or west—just … go?   God says, “Yep, you go, and I’ll show the way.”

We don’t often think of God’s will coming that way.  But more often than not, that’s exactly the way He’ll operate. God’s will seldom comes in a final, finished package with everything from start to finish laid out for you.

What usually happens is that God’s will for your life will come bit by bit, step by step, unfolding as you follow Him in obedience and trust.

But that’s not all.  God also has a tendency to reveal His will to us to the degree that we have followed His will up to that point.

When Abram followed what he knew of God’s will, God gave him more knowledge.  God reveals Himself to those who not only want to know His will, but who’ll act on it.  The more we obey, the more He reveals!

—James Emery White in You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life

My Response:  If my long-term destination is unclear, how can I focus on my next step instead?

Adapted from You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

Pentecost – June 15, 2014

PentecostPENTECOST SUNDAY!

Seen any symbols of fire around your sanctuary?

Do you know what’s the second most important day of the Christian year?

Get ready for this Sunday by having Chuck explain the basics about the Day of Pentecost!

Click here for the Pentecost episode of “Chuck Knows Church”.

Please watch and share.

God’s Purpose Made Personal – Go with Which Flow?

Icebergs are classified by size and shape. Sizes can range from small bergy bits to large bergs with lengths of tens of kilometers. While Arctic icebergs do not reach the size of their AntArctic cousins, they can still present a formidable hazard.

Icebergs are classified by size and shape.  Sizes can range from small bergy bits to large bergs with lengths of tens of kilometers.  While Arctic icebergs do not reach the size of their Antarctic cousins, they can still present a formidable hazard.

Who Said It…Skip Heitzig

After troubled years as a young musician involved in the drug culture, Skip received Christ while watching a Billy Graham TV crusade.

After studying about his new faith, he began a home Bible study in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that grew into the 12,000-strong Calvary of Albuquerque!

After 23 years there, Skip last year moved to Ocean Hills Church in San Juan Capistrano, California.  Skip has visited world trouble spots with friend Franklin Graham.

What He Said…Go with Which Flow?

In the icy waters off the coast of Greenland are innumerable icebergs of varying size.  Even casual observation reveals that the small ice floes move in one direction while the massive ones flow in another.

The reason is simple.  Surface winds drive the little bergs while deep ocean currents move the larger ice masses along their routes.

Likewise, people carried by an awareness of God’s will for their lives are pulled by a deeper current than the surface winds of trends or societal pressures.

In what direction are you traveling?  What’s the purpose of your life?

If you’re like most people, you long to know that your life counts for something, that you have a purpose for being on earth. Everyone whom God calls has a purpose.  There’s a part of His program on earth that only you can fulfill.

One of life’s greatest pursuits is to discover what that purpose is and to live within its flow, even though you may feel as if you’re going against the cultural flow.

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  I want my life to count for you, Lord. Help me to discover and follow your best purpose for my life.

Becoming a Trusted Leader – How Godly Leadership Is Exercised

Paul's First JourneyPaul and Barnabas’s trip centered on evangelistic campaigns in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, and Lystra. In each city they won a following (Acts 13:13-14:20) but were eventually run out of town!

Their risky return trip to consolidate the gains for the gospel with these new converts demonstrates how godly leadership is exercised.

Interact with God’s Word

Acts 14:21-23

  1. How did Paul and Barnabas go about strengthening the new believers?
  2. Preparing believers to face persecution doesn’t sound like encouragement. Why was it an essential component of strengthening them?
  3. What initiative did Paul and Barnabas take to move these infant churches beyond loosely knit groups of believers?
  4. How did they demonstrate confidence in, and support for, the new leadership they had put in place?
  5. Have you been approached to provide leadership in your church?
  6. Have you humbly accepted this responsibility?
  7. Has your reading this week provided any fresh insights on the role of a leader?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to guide and use the pastoral and lay leadership in your church for His glory.

Acts 14:21-23

21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations. 23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Deposits and Withdrawals

Deposits and WithdrawalsKey Bible Verse:  Give them my entire message; include every word.  Perhaps they will listen and turn from their evil ways.  – Jeremiah 26:2-3

Bonus Reading:   Jeremiah 26:1-19, 24

How much positive influence can you exert in your organization and in the lives of those you lead? Can you obtain buy-in on a major proposal, lead someone to Christ, or successfully pursue a new position?

It depends on how full your “credibility bank” is.  But this account is different from your financial bank account, where others need your authorization to access it.

Others can make deposits or withdrawals based on what they say to third parties about their experiences and interrelationships with you.  And withdrawals because of a mistake are often bigger than deposits made for a success.

Still, some things are worth the loss of our credibility.  Our core values drawn from the Bible should determine what is most important and what we should stand for.

Jeremiah lost credibility with the leaders of Judah by condemning their rebellion.  Jesus lost credibility with the Pharisees and Sadducees by obeying His Father.  And Paul lost credibility with some of the church when he confronted their inappropriate behavior.  The loss of credibility in the eyes of some may result in acquiring it in the eyes of God and others.

—Jay Desko in Christian Management Report

My Response:  Is my credibility account healthy? Is there a cause for which I should draw on it?

Thought to Apply:  A leader doesn’t deserve the name unless he’s willing occasionally to stand alone.—Henry Kissinger

Adapted from Christian Management Report (11-12/00)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Which Are You Building?

MistrustKey Bible Verse:  If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. Matthew 18:15

Bonus ReadingProverbs 11:24-25

To build mistrust:  Complain to others about problems you’re having with a peer without trying to solve the problem directly.  Establish an atmosphere where this is tolerated.  (It is foolish to belittle a neighbor.Proverbs 11:12)

But to build trust:  Solve problems through direct communication at the lowest equivalent level: you and your peers; you and your direct manager; you, your manager, and his manager.  Establish an atmosphere where this is the culture.

To build mistrust:  Take credit for yourself, or allow others to give you credit for an achievement that wasn’t all yours.  (Don’t praise yourself; let others do it!Proverbs 27:2)

But to build trust:  Share credit generously. When in doubt, share.

To build mistrust:  Make a pretend or “halfhearted” commitment, e.g., “I’ll get back to you.” (If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.“—Proverbs 3:28)

But to build trust:  When in doubt about taking on a commitment, air your concerns with the relevant parties.  In an ongoing commitment, communicate anticipated slippage as soon as you suspect it.  Ask for help.

—Arky Ciancutti & Thomas Steding in Built on Trust

My Response:  What change would make me a better trust builder?

Thought to Apply:  A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions.—Russel Ewing

Adapted from Built on Trust (McGraw-Hill, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Days of the Week

Days of the Week

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Earning My Spurs

Volunteers Building a BuildingKey Bible Verse:  You must teach these things and encourage your people to do them, correcting them when necessary. Titus 2:15

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:7-8

North Hills Church in Lingle, Wyoming, population 473, was my first pastorate.  Every program I initiated fell flat.

But then the need to build a facility for our youth required me to cast the vision.  In the end, it wasn’t my programs or training that did the trick.  It was the cup of coffee at the café, a living room conversation about giving faithfully, or riding in a pickup across the pasture and asking, “How’s your family doing?”

The best opportunities to disciple our men came when we were building the facility.  When we put down the hammers, break-time conversations became prime time to disciple.

Discipling people one-on-one in the area of stewardship opened them to growing in other areas, including leadership.  Tom, for example, was angry when we first began.  “This building is biting off more than we can chew,” he said.  But I encouraged him to consider stepping out in faith as vital to godly stewardship.

A couple of weeks later, Tom came to me and said, “Thank you for revitalizing my walk.  I’d never realized how much I was holding back from God before.”  Now Tom urges our congregation to single out others for prayer, evangelism, and men’s ministries.  He isn’t “holding back” anymore.

—Brad Eakins in Leadership

My Response:  One way I could informally influence a teammate is …

Thought to Apply:  The transforming leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy their higher needs, and engages the full person.—James MacGregor Burns

Adapted from Leadership journal (Summer/03)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Imagine No Malaria – Volunteers Arming Communities Against Malaria

Community health workers undergo training in the Kakua Chiefdom, outside Bo, Sierra Leone prior to a distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets by The United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria initiative.

Community health workers undergo training in the Kakua Chiefdom, outside Bo, Sierra Leone prior to a distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets by The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative.

In a small, cramped schoolroom, in the chiefdom of Kakua, scores of dedicated volunteers are sitting elbow to elbow learning how to fight a deadly foe that creeps into their homes in the dead of night, often taking the lives of children under 5.

Armed with that knowledge, on June 5 they will start swarming every household within the 15 districts and capital city of Bo, handing out vouchers for insecticide-treated bed nets.  The nets will put a wall of protection between people and the deadly mosquito that transmits malaria — usually at night, when it is most active.

The United Methodist Church is working in partnership with the government of Sierra Leone to distribute more than 350,000 bed nets, along with vitamins and medicine for children under 5 in a massive campaign to eradicate malaria and keep children alive and healthy.

In Bo, 1,720 volunteers are going through this training in preparation for the launch of this life-saving program.

Many of the volunteers are health care workers, but teachers, pastors and even students also have been enlisted to make sure the area is covered and protected. The city has a population of 650,000, and the goal is to provide three bed nets per family, depending on how many people sleep in the house.

Ernest Jusu, a nurse working with The United Methodist Church’s Sierra Leone Annual (regional) Conference, is on the front lines of training these volunteers and helping them get the crucial supplies to areas that can only be reached by motorcycle or walking.

Health worker Juliana Koroma (right) takes a blood sample from Issata Jusu for a malaria test at the Koribondo Community Health Center near Bo, Sierra Leone. Holding the child is her is her mother, Umu Koroma. At rear is health worker Ishmael Karoma.

Health worker Juliana Koroma (right) takes a blood sample from Issata Jusu for a malaria test at the Koribondo Community Health Center near Bo, Sierra Leone. Holding the child is her is her mother, Umu Koroma. At rear is health worker Ishmael Karoma.

“We are teaching the volunteers to understand how malaria is transmitted in language they can understand. There is a large population that is illiterate. Many also only speak Creole and Mende,” he said.

United Methodist conference leaders are getting the word out through live radio broadcasts, congregations and word of mouth in the days leading up to the launch.

Jusu is just one of a team of United Methodists in Sierra Leone passionate about making this campaign a success. They do not want to leave one family behind.

Jusu was born in Bo and raised by his uncle, who was a staunch Methodist. The uncle was a strong influence on a boy who grew up to start a HIV/AIDs unit for the United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference and dedicate his life to serving others.

“I want people to know what transmits malaria, what the malaria mosquito looks like, what they can do to prevent the disease. I want them to know about personal hygiene. I want them to know not to keep stagnant water, to close their toilets and to seal their bedrooms so the mosquito doesn’t have any breathing space.”

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Good Shepherd?

Chasing SheepKey Bible Verse:  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice. John 10:3-4

Bonus ReadingJohn 10:1-15

My wife and I were listening to a tour guide in Israeli-occupied Palestine describe the ancient shepherd/sheep relationship.  The shepherd, he explained, doesn’t need to drive the sheep.  He can lead them.  That is because he feeds and gently cares for them, causing them to respond to his voice.

He then told how, while giving the same spiel on a previous tour, he suddenly realized he’d lost his audience.  They were staring out the bus windows at a guy chasing a “herd” of sheep—throwing rocks at them, whacking them with a stick, and siccing the sheep dog on them.

The guide told us he was so agitated about having his enchanting narrative torpedoed that he jumped off the bus, ran into the field, and accosted the man, “You’ve just done me in!  I was telling these tourists about the gentle ways of shepherds, and here you are hounding and assaulting these sheep!  What gives?”

The sheep-chaser’s bewildered expression turned to comprehension. “Man, you’ve got me all wrong,” he blurted out. “I’m not a shepherd. I’m a butcher!”  Unwittingly, this poor fellow had just provided a perfect example of what a “good shepherd” is not.

—Lynn Anderson in They Smell Like Sheep

My Response:  What have I done to earn the trust of those I’m to lead?

Thought to Apply: A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. —Joel Barker

Adapted from They Smell Like Sheep (Howard, 1997)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Beyond Controller or Cheerleader

Missionary in Nigeria 2Key Bible Verse:  Some of the members that God has placed in the body of Christ … [include] … those who can get others to work together.  1 Corinthians 12:28

Bonus Reading:  Romans 12:6-8

[Continued from yesterday]  What if both George Wright and Joe Kuhl came to see their views of leadership as inadequate and seriously flawed?

What if George could move beyond seeing the leader as the person who has the responsibility and power to control people?

What if Joe could move beyond seeing the leader as a cheerleader who fills a service function with little or no authority?  What if both realized that good leadership is a spiritual gift?  What if they saw the leader’s job as harmonizing, enhancing, and focusing the spiritual gifts of others toward a common vision of the kingdom of God?  How might this work out?

Both would take the task of the kingdom seriously and assume that the leader will be proactive and take initiative, while also being an encourager and developer of people.

George could get to know Joe and appreciate his spiritual gifts, while helping him fit into the vision of the mission in northern Nigeria.  Joe could begin to grasp the bigger picture and see how he fits with the rest of the team.  George would gladly accept many of Joe’s suggestions for enhancing the language school curriculum, and Joe would see the benefit of studying grammar.

—Jim Plueddemann in World Pulse

My Response: Which side of my leadership needs work?

Adapted from World Pulse (6/27/03)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

Becoming a Trusted Leader – Are You Kuhl or Wright?

Missionary in NigeriaWho Said It…Jim Plueddemann

Jim and his wife, Carol, served for 13 years in Nigeria with the large mission organization SIM.  Jim directed the Christian Education department for the Evangelical Church of West Africa.

He then taught at Wheaton College until he was tapped to become SIM’s international director.  After 10 years in that role, he returned to teaching.  Jim chairs the Department of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

What He Said…Are You Kuhl or Wright?

Even before he went to Africa, Joe Kuhl had a reputation for being a maverick.  After all, it took determination to go against the tide of family expectations to move half way around the world and learn a totally new language.  Joe arrived in northern Nigeria with a clear idea about how to study the Hausa language.  He even brought his own language tapes and conversational textbooks.  But he soon ran into difficulties.

George Wright, the district superintendent, reminded him that the approved language program required that he learn grammar rules and vocabulary.  George felt his task was to direct his district.  This Joe guy hadn’t been on the field two weeks and already wanted to redesign the whole language school.  George expected new recruits to fit into the team of experienced missionaries and the established language school.

Joe, on the other hand, expected leaders to be more encouraging.  Could both views of leadership come up short?  [Continued tomorrow]

Adapted from World Pulse (6/27/03)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to promote a shared vision and mesh my energies with those of others to achieve it.

From the Pastor’s Desk

 

Our pastor, Rev. Heidi Helsel

Our pastor, Rev. Heidi Helsel

“Finally, brothers and sisters, we(I) ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 4:1–2

From The Pastor’s Desk:
Grace and Peace to You my Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
It seems like just yesterday that I arrived here to serve the Beaver Falls Charge: Central/Riverview Churches.  I came to these churches with a greater sense of God’s calling than experience.  I am happy to report that both of those things have grown and matured during our ministry together.
The most important thing I continue to learn is that loving others is both our greatest joy and our greatest challenge.  It is our calling from Christ-no matter what the cost.  It is a calling that does not know the boundaries of ease or convenience.  It is a calling that challenges our comfort zones.  It is a calling that requires our utmost patience and care.  Above all, the call to love one another is one which requires deliberate choosing, every day, to love- whether we feel like it or not.
So there it is.  I love you all.  I choose to love you whether you want me to or not.  There is nothing you can do about it.  That’s exactly what God’s love for us is like.  God chooses to love us, like it or not, no matter what-over and over again.
My hope and prayer is that this time we have spent together, though short, has brought you closer to that kind of crazy love in your relationship with Christ, with each other and in service to your neighbors.  If there was any agenda in my being sent to serve here, that is it and it belongs to Christ.  That you might in some way, large or small, know Christ, know who you are in Christ and live as the beloved child God has called you to be.
I have hoped and prayed that in some way God might use me to help you understand God’s steadfast and unchanging pattern of loving us in the context of the whole story of God as contained within the Old and New Testaments and to realize that the Church exists for two purposes: to worship and to be servants of God’s mission, i.e. opening wide God’s Kingdom, including and inviting all people everywhere into God’s heart.
I don’t know if that has happened for you and I may never know.  But to know whether we make a difference is not part of God’s promise for those who follow God.  Our task, with God’s help, is to simply faithfully scatter the seed that God has so graciously provided.  Our journey together has been full of peaks and valleys, but always Christ leads and the Holy Spirit sustains us.  That is the promise of God fulfilled.
We have done some awesome ministry together in this short amount of time and writing this parting letter is difficult.  It is easier, in these times, for me to imagine how the Apostle Paul must have felt as he left each community he served to move on to the next community in need. I think his words sum up my love, hopes and prayers for you as you move forward together in Christ.  I pray and trust you will greet your new Pastors, leaders and their families with the same warmth and hospitality you have extended to my family and me.  God is sending them, as God has sent and is sending me-to lead you ever closer to God’s heart and to greater depths of love, service and witness to others.  Thank you for your service and your love.
And so I leave you with these parting words…

” Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us(me), so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you…4 And we(I) have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”2 Thessalonians 3:1, 4-5
God’s Blessings,
Pastor Heidi

UMC Market!

Support our church for FREE while shopping online!  Sign up to the church’s new fund-raising program UMCmarket, which has been approved by the GCFA.  A percentage of your shopping will be donated to our church.

Check out the How To video below!

Get started:
Go to UMCmarket and Join by entering your email address and a password of your choice in the box down to the left.

 

Central Church's Congregation welcomes you!

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Find Central Church:
Enter the name of Central Church (“Central Beaver Falls”) in the middle box.  If you don’t find it, e-mail our support team and we will help you finding it.  Join Central Church.

Time to shop:
Browse through all our categories and choose to shop from our hundreds of stores. Every time you shop the stores will donate a portion of your purchase back to Central Church. Make sure to log in before going to the stores and to have an empty shopping cart before you start to shop. Also, you need to complete your purchase within 24 hours to be eligible for a donation.

What stores are participating and how much do they give back?
Under the tab Stores you can search for stores in a lot of different categories. Next to every store you will see the percentage that they have agreed to pay back every time you make a purchase. Your donations will automatically appear in your account for all stores except for AMAZON. Amazon purchases are directly donated to your church from Amazon and will be registered as donated from “Amazon”.

When will Central Church get the donations I create?
Every time you have made a purchase you’ll get an email stating the amount of your donation. Depending on the store and if they have the item in stock or not, it can take up to 7 days for them to reply. Every month the church with a accumulated value from donations that have been approved of $100 or more will receive a check from UMCmarket. If the accumulated total is less than $100, it will roll-over to the next month until the accumulated amount reaches $100.

Our doors are open for you!  Come join us!

Our doors are open for you! Come join us!

How is it possible
We’ve partnered with hundreds of stores who’ve agreed to give back a portion of your purchase. It’s their way of saying “thank you” to UMCmarket for referring customers to them. The money that you get back goes automatically as a donation to the church that you’ve selected in your account.

Thank you for supporting Central United Methodist Church!
The more people that know about UMCmarket, the more our Church benefits.  So, spread the word!