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A Bother…and a Joy – A Good Heart, But…

Church People Helping PeopleWho Said It…Max Lucado

Max’s beer-drinking, girl-chasing lifestyle was as barren as the West Texas land he grew up in.

Then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University. He abruptly shifted from law studies to missions preparation.

After five years in Brazil with his wife, Denalyn, he returned to pastor in the U.S. A collection of storytelling columns written for a church newsletter formed his first book in a long string of best-sellers.

Max is pulpit minister of the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.

What He Said…A Good Heart, But …

(Scene—Sunday a.m. assembly; silent prayer)

Max: God, I want to do great things.

God: You do?

Max: You bet! I want to teach millions! I want to fill the Rose Bowl! I want all the world to know Your saving power! I dream of the day …

God: That’s great, Max. In fact, I can use you today after church.

Max: Super! How about some radio and television work or—or—or an engagement to speak to Congress?

God: Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. See that fellow sitting next to you?

Max: Yes.

God: He needs a ride home.

Max (quietly): What?

God: He needs a ride home. And while you’re at it, one of the older ladies sitting near you is worried about getting a refrigerator moved. Why not drop by this afternoon and …

Max (pleading): But, God, what about the world?

God (smiling): Think about it.

Adapted from Shaped by God (Tyndale, 1985)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Belonging to a Church

Church Membership 4How does God make believers grow up into Christ?

The answer, Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, is that He forms us into a body—a group of individuals united in their purpose and love for each other and for the Lord.

If one person stumbles, the rest of the group is there to pick him up and help him walk with God again. The group witnesses to God’s truth as each member carries out his special role.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

  1. What is the body of Christ that all believers belong to (v. 12)?
  2. What two family characteristics that we share does Paul mention in verse 4?
  3. What is the special assignment of those in leadership roles (v. 12)?
  4. What is the assignment of all members of this body (vv. 13, 15)?
  5. What are the marks (v. 6) of a healthy church?
  6. What is required of the members to achieve this ideal?
  7. Do you have a sense for what role you are being fitted to fill?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to reveal to you what your “own special work” in the church should be, and enable you to perform it in a way that will contribute to your local congregation “measuring up.”

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.

11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Why Not to Leave a Church

Church MembershipKey Bible Verse: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do.  – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:5-11

  • You’re feeling convicted of the truth. The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness. A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries. A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay!Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

 

  • You’ve been caught in a sin. You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it. Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

 

  • You’ve had a conflict with someone. When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation. Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing. Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches!

—Kevin & Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love

My Response: Am I committed, when I’ve sinned, to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?

Thought to Apply: The house of God is not a safe place. It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeline L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – It’s Not an Elective

Church Membership 3Key Bible Verse: Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.  – John 13:35

Bonus Reading:  John 17:20-24

An unsettling revelation to most Christ followers, in light of our fierce individualism, is how many marks of a Christian involve other people.

So much of what is involved in truly following Christ is tied to the “one anothers” of Scripture. Originally sent as apostolic admonishments to Christians gathered in local churches, they include such directives as:

These are clear in their command, decisive in spiritual formation, and impossible to fulfill apart from a local community of faith.

Jesus maintained in John 13:35 that the practice of such community life in and through the church, would offer the ultimate witness to the world about His own life and ministry. He was convinced that the church, functioning as a community of love and witness, would arrest the attention of the world and give ultimate affirmation to His message of salvation. If we fail to participate in this community, we undermine how Christ envisioned His message being affirmed in the eyes of the world.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: How well am I connecting with my local fellow believers?

Thought to Apply: We hear about those who like Christ but do not like the church. How can we like the Head, but not the Body, the Groom, but not the Bride?—Vance Havner

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Membership Benefits

Church Membership 2Key Bible Verse: As each part does its own special work … the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  – Ephesians 4:16

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

Three denominational leaders visited our congregation. “What are the benefits of membership at Mosaic?” they asked.

Their question surprised me. I suddenly felt like we were American Express.

So I asked our pastoral team what exactly were the benefits of being a member. One responded, “Members are entrusted with responsibility.” We started laughing at the irony of realizing that membership was the entryway to public service. The only benefit was the privilege to serve!

Today we clearly express that becoming a member of Mosaic is a declaration that you’re moving from being a consumer to being an investor; that you’re joining not simply the community of Christ, but the cause of Christ.

On a deeper level, it is an invitation to genuine intimacy. People who become members say they’re submitting their lives to the spiritual authority of this community and welcoming genuine accountability in their spiritual journeys.

So up front, we ask for this sincere, God-motivated commitment: to allow God to work in and through them as they invest their passions, their service, their resources, and their relationships for the sake of the Kingdom.

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

My Response: How is my church benefiting from my witness, serving, and giving?

Thought to Apply: The church isn’t a dormitory for sleepers, it’s an institution for workers; it’s not a rest camp, it’s a front-line trench.—Billy Sunday (baseball player, evangelist)

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Order of Service

Hospital HallwayKey Bible Verse: And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. 1 Peter 2:5

 Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-6

A soldier was wounded in a battle and ordered to the nearest military hospital. Arriving at the entrance, he saw two doors, one marked “For Minor Wounds,” the other “For Serious Wounds.”

He entered the first door and walked down a long hallway. At the end of the hall, he saw two more doors. The first said “For Officers,” the other “For Enlisted Men.” The soldier went through the second door.

Again, he found himself walking down a long hallway with two doors at the end. One said “For Party Members,” the other “For Non-Party Members.” The wounded soldier took the second door and found himself back out on the street.

When he got back to his unit, his buddies asked, “How’d your trip to the hospital go?”

“The people really didn’t help me much,” he said, “but, man, are they organized!”

Sound like a church you’ve known? We can be loaded to the gills with organization but not a lot of help to the walking wounded. The church has the greatest message ever told, the life-changing reality of what it is to know God! Yet people aren’t getting the message. Maybe the church in America is serving up too many bland dishes.

—Andy Cook in The Search for God’s Own Heart

My Response: Could a visitor to my church feel like the wounded soldier? Why or why not?

Thought to Apply: The church is not a museum for finished products. It’s a hospital for the sick.—Bruce Larson

Adapted from The Search for God’s Own Heart (Kregel, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Am I Being Fed?

Find a ChurchKey Bible Verse: You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others.   – Hebrews 5:12

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11-6:3

He walked confidently up to me one Sunday morning, introduced himself, and said he’d been attending for over a month. The teaching met his standards, he told me; the music was acceptable, and he was pleased with the children’s and youth ministries. He was married, he said, and had several children.

When I asked him where they were, he explained that they weren’t yet allowed to attend; he wanted to first check us out to make sure the products and services were in line with what he felt his family needed. This wasn’t about theology; this was all about customer service.

Since we’ve been taught that we’re the center of the universe, we evaluate everything on its ability to meet our needs. Some of the best communicators of the Scriptures I know have had people leave their churches because they’re not “being fed.”

I know that we’re all the sheep of God, and sheep require a shepherd to feed them. But there must come a time when we become shepherds who feed others. Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Is this also true in the arena of personal spirituality? Are we too much about us getting fed and too little about exercising our faith?

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

My Response: What about my church involvement makes me more than a consumer?

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – My Church History

Looking for a ChurchWho Said It…Craig Dunham

Craig majored in geography at the University of Missouri. But after graduation he and Doug Serven, also from Mizzou, both began serving with The Navigators, a ministry to young adults. Together, they lead TwentySomeone conferences, seminars, and events.

Craig is also the director of programs and marketing for the Navs’ camping/conference ministry. A musician and songwriter, Craig has recorded five original albums.

What He Said…My Church History

In my twenties, I knew there was no such thing as the perfect church. I evaluated churches and their pastors unfairly. There were, I judged, the megachurch wannabes, the small corner churches, the legalistic churches, and the anything-goes churches.

But my preferences left me in the dark as to exactly what I was looking for. So churches and pastors passed like street signs in the headlights—most of them were hard to read; none led to where I thought I wanted to go.

I was relentless in my reasoning about why I didn’t really need church, falling into the trap of asking, “What’s in it for me?” instead of, “What’s in it for God?”

As a result, I missed out on some great opportunities to meet new people and grow together with them. The only answer this experience provided to “Who am I?” was that I was a judgmental church consumer preoccupied with his own inclinations and opinions. That answer couldn’t help me much in my twenties … or in life.

Adapted from TwentySomeone (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Resurrection Reverberations – Set Free

Colossians 3-4Every believer knows that Jesus’ death on the cross canceled out the penalty for our sin, freeing us from divine condemnation. But what is the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on our lives?

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul shows how we, too, are “set free from the evil powers of this world” (2:20). In the section we’ll look at today, he lays out the mindset that Christ’s resurrection should produce in us.

Interact with God’s Word

Colossians 2:12 Colossians 3:1-4

  1. What sinful desires that used to get the upper hand should you consciously consider “buried”?
  2. What does your new life with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, free you to enjoy?
  3. How can you “set your sights on the realities of heaven” in daily practice?
  4. To “let heaven fill your thoughts,” which values do you need to concentrate on? … to marginalize?
  5. How should knowing that your life is “hidden” with Christ—concealed and safe—give you hope for the future and confidence now?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to give you an eternal perspective, eager anticipation of the joys of heaven, and until then, a resolve to live in His resurrection power.

Colossians 2:12

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2 Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.

3 For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Prayer for the Week:  Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Resurrection Reverberations – Courage Corps

MissionaryKey Bible Verse:  While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die we go to be with the Lord.  – Romans 14:8

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 3:1-4

Tom Yoder was frustrated. For six months as a Peace Corps volunteer he’d worked diligently to earn the trust of an African tribe. He was eager to share with them plans for irrigation ditches, lessons about crop rotation, and new ways to market their surplus fruits and vegetables. But he remained a distrusted outsider.

One day a young boy came to Tom’s hut. He pointed to the far end of the village and said, “The family that lives in that hut has fallen ill. They’ve been abandoned to die. But the children are my friends. Can you help?”

Tom rushed to the forbidden hut, entered, and immediately realized that the family had contracted yellow fever. For the next six days, Yoder bathed, fed, and nursed the family until each was strong enough to be transported 90 miles to a hospital. Each family member returned later, completely healed.

The villagers then called Yoder the “great fearless one.” From then on they listened to him, accepting all his farming ideas.

Tom wrote about this amazing turn in his journal: “It’s easy to be fearless when you’ve been vaccinated against a disease.” Followers of Christ have substituted all fear of death with God’s promise of everlasting security.

—Dennis Hensley in More than Meets the Eye

My Response: Do others sense my “wonderful expectation” of my own resurrection?

Thought to Apply: It is the Devil’s business to keep Christians mourning beside the cross instead of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.—Ray Stedman

Adapted from More than Meets the Eye (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Resurrection Reverberations – Daring Death Defyers

ResurrectionKey Bible Verse: Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died. Romans 14:9

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The thought of death has always intimidated. Today most people buy life insurance and try not to think about it. Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch says secularists live on a “borrowed credit card,” glossing over the problem of death with “wishful dreams” based on inherited Christian views. But what ultimate meaning is there to an existence that after eight or nine decades passes into sheer nothingness?

Christians believe that death isn’t a passage into nothingness but a transition into a glorious eternity.

Why? Because one person, Jesus of Nazareth, has already returned from the dead. For Christians, death doesn’t terrify because the tomb was empty, because the One with whom the disciples had lived appeared to them and assured them that He is alive forevermore. So we declare with Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

That’s why the Christian can act courageously. Our motto isn’t life at any cost; death for the King’s cause is no disaster. Since we await the risen Lord, we dare to face down racists, go as missionaries to danger spots, leave secure homes to join the poor in oppressive situations, and apply His call to peace and justice in our governments.

—Ronald Sider in The Gospel with Extra Salt

My Response: Am I refusing to face ultimate life-and-death issues?

Thought to Apply: The Resurrection is not only the Good News, it is the best news imaginable.—Ray Stedman

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Seek and Ye Shall Find: Be Careful What You’re Looking For

Negativity 1There’s a wonderful article in a recent issue of Ministry Matters by Joseph Yoo discussing a midrash about two Israelite men, Reuven and Shimon who were present when God, through Moses, parted the Red Sea.

As the Israelites were walking across the Red Sea, Reuven and Shimon noticed that, though it was now safe to walk on the bottom of the sea, it was not completely dry and very muddy. Mud was getting stuck between the sandals and toes of Reuven and he couldn’t handle it.

“Ugh,” he muttered. “What in the world is this muck?”
Shimon agreed. “There’s mud everywhere!”
“Ugh. This is just like the slime pits of Egypt!”
“What’s the difference? Mud here. Mud in Egypt. It’s all the same, no?”

Negativity 2The two grumbled and mumbled all the way across. And because they never once took the chance to look up, they never understood why on the distant shore everyone was singing songs of praise.

For Reuven and Shimon, the parting of the Red Sea never happened. They were far more concerned with complaining.

And the truth is, we will find what we are looking for.

Negativity 3I’m always taken aback by my propensity to be negative. I’m quicker to point out what was wrong with a church or their worship service; quicker to criticize what the pastor said or didn’t say; eager to share what I didn’t like.

And I always find what I’m looking for. I’m ashamed to admit how much I relate to Reuven and Shimon and wonder how many miracles I’ve missed out on because I chose to look for things I wanted to complain about.

There’s a false notion that assumes that those who can find problems are geniuses. The truth is, it doesn’t take much intelligence to point out problems. Anyone can tell you what’s not working. The true genius comes in finding solutions for the problems pointed out. But folks like me find it easier to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks pointing out all the things that displease us and hoping that someone else will address those areas.

I recently came across Paul’s words to the Philippians, which resonated louder than before. “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

You will find what you are looking for.

If you seek to find negativity, you will surely find it.
If you seek to find mistakes, you will definitely find them.
If you focus on blemishes, you’ll only find blemishes.

Negativity 4But what if we took Paul’s words to heart and focused our “thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise”?

What would we see?
What would we find?
How different would we see and perceive the world?
How many more miracles would we be witnesses to?
We’d be more aware of the beauty than the brokenness in this world and in people.

Let’s avoid living our lives like Reuven and Shimon, unaware of the miracles because we choose to focus on negativity, complaints, and shortcomings. Instead, let us choose to put into practice the words of Paul.

Resurrection Reverberations – Last Rites First

CannibalsKey Bible Verse: I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  – Galatians 2:20

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 2:6-12

In 1837 three young Methodist ministers—James Calvert, John Hunt, and Thomas Jagar—and their wives set out from England for the Fiji Islands. Theirs was a difficult assignment. The venture was only three years old, and the people were still cannibals. They saw hardly any fruit during their first few years of service.

Then in 1845 revival swept through the islands. Chief Thadkombau, who’d been the main opponent of Christianity, was converted. Within a few years the islands were completely transformed as the gospel took hold of the people there.

Earlier, the captain of the ship that transported the three couples from England tried to dissuade them from going to the islands. He told James Calvert, “You’ll lose your lives and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.”

Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

In the previous century, the founder of their movement, John Wesley, said, “Give me a hundred men who love God with all their hearts and fear nothing but sin, and I will move the world.”  Those three young missionaries were part of God’s answer to Wesley’s prayer—and a demonstration of living in resurrection power.

—Leighton Ford in Good News Is for Sharing

My Response: What have I died to for Christ? How have I drawn on resurrection power?

Thought to Apply: I became my own only when I gave myself to Another.—C. S. LEWIS (British scholar, writer)

Adapted from Good News Is for Sharing (Cook, 1977)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Please Pray for God’s Protection for Christians in Iraq

Pray for Christians in Iraq

Resurrection Reverberations – Energy Emission

Romans 6-4 (3)Key Bible Verse:  Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  – Romans 6:4

Bonus Reading:  Romans 6:1-11

The New Testament says that when people believe in Jesus Christ, then the same divine power that raised Jesus from the dead now works in believers to empower them to live the way Jesus did.

Just as Christ died and was raised, so by faith we can die to the old life of selfishness and rise to a new life in Christ. “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism” (Romans 6:4).

Now that the risen Lord lives in those who believe in Him, they will for His sake live for others.  This may mean rejecting or abandoning an attractive position in Toronto or Vancouver to work with the poor in the Third World.  It may mean deciding to live in the scarred inner city rather than in the pleasant suburbs.  It will certainly mean risking the disapproval of friends, colleagues, and parishioners by clearly and persistently announcing the biblical word that God is on the side of the poor and calls us to be peacemakers.

Because Christ lives in us, we have the spiritual energy to choose the difficult. We’ll be able to exhibit the same kind of love Christ revealed in dying for us precisely because the God who raised our Lord Jesus now raises us to a new life for others.

—Ronald Sider in The Gospel with Extra Salt

My Response: How is my resurrection life flowing out to others?

Thought to Apply: Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the Resurrection.—John Stott (British pastor)

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Hunger in America: 1 in 7 Rely on Food Banks

 

Our Church ladies serving a free, hot lunch to the community on "Soup Tuesdays"

Our Church ladies serving a free, hot lunch to the community on “Soup Tuesdays”

USA Today had an interesting and disturbing article yesterday entitled, “Hunger in America: 1 in 7 Rely on Food Banks.”   You can find the complete article at: Hunger in America

Here are several observations made in the article:

  • Nationwide, 25% of military families – 620,000 households – need help putting food on the table, according to a study by Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks.
  • One in seven Americans – 46 million people – rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.
  • “Children are going to school, not looking forward to learning but looking forward to eating”
  • “Many of our families, if they don’t come, will have to choose between paying rent or their kids eating that night”
  • “The people who come to us for help are coming more regularly.  We aren’t a one-time emergency stop anymore. We are a staple for them…”

 

SoupAmerica is a wonderfully blessed country.  We have enough food and opportunity to go around.  But some miss out and go hungry.  20% of children in Pennsylvania do not know where their next meal will come from.  Food security is a problem for many in our community.

For many years, Central Church has provided a food ministry outreach to our local community.  Despite the small size of our congregation, we provided over 10,000 free meals to our community in 2013.

People come to Central Church who haven’t eaten for days.  Some have been out of work for years and don’t expect to find work anytime soon.  They have no money.  They’ve run out of benefits.  They feel that life will only get worse.

They are hungry and need someone to care, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase as we move through 2014.

Every meal that we serve is hot, nutritious, and wholesome.  A warm welcome and a promise from God go a long way to life a heavy heart.  When someone knows how much God cares, they don’t feel lonely and powerless anymore.

Please join us to care for those in hard times.  If you can volunteer, or if you can help provide supplies for meals, please contact us.  If you would like to contribute financially, please click on the above “Give” tab.

Your gifts meet desperate needs for food, and you pave the way for hurting people to be blessed.

UMCOR - Give Liberally

 

Resurrection Reverberations – The Great Omission

John 14-6Key Bible Verse:  I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.   John 14:6

Bonus Reading:   Colossians 1:15-22

I was thrilled that our President called the nation to prayer on the Friday after the terrorist attack. The previously cynical press embraced the event like eager altar boys. Dignitaries and beltway politicians lined the front rows like approving deacons and elders.

“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was sung with power. President Bush delivered a reverent yet moving message peppered with biblical references. Billy Graham spoke of his faith in Jesus and pointed to the cross on the wall.

But afterward, as I basked in the glow of the momentous cathedral service, a friend said to me, “Did you notice that when ‘A Mighty Fortress’ was sung they omitted the second stanza?” I hadn’t, and quickly recalled the words:

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, From age to age the same, and He must win the battle.

In post-9/11 America, God was back but Jesus was not. The thought of Jesus as the supreme and exclusive victor over evil, was too disruptive. Too divisive.

—Joseph Stowell in The Trouble with Jesus

My Response:  How prepared am I to stick up for Jesus as the world’s “only way” Savior?

Adapted from The Trouble with Jesus (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Resurrection Reverberations – Radical Redefinition

Every Knee Shall BowWho Said It…Ronald Sider

Ron shook North American Christians in 1977 with his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  Since then he’s continued to live in inner-city Philadelphia, promoting community development, writing provocative books, and publishing Prism magazine.

Sider, raised in Canada, is the professor of theology and culture at Eastern Seminary, and the founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

What He Said…Radical Redefinition

Before the Resurrection, Jesus’ followers called him “Master,” “Rabbi,” “Teacher.” Afterward they called him “Messiah,” “Son of God,” “Lord.”

This word lord (Greek kurios) was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to translate the word Yahweh—the name for the one God at the center of Jewish monotheism. It became a frequently used title for Jesus.

Paul applied to Jesus the words from Isaiah 45:23, which the monotheistic prophet had used for Yahweh.  After mocking the idols, Yahweh insisted that He alone was God: “Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name.”

The rabbinically trained Paul—an uncompromising monotheist in his day—took those words from the mouth of Yahweh and applied them to Jesus, declaring that “at the name of Jesus every knew will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). The carpenter is kurios—God!

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Central Church Receives Its First Check from UMC Market!

UMC MarketThis morning’s offering will include a check from UMC Market for $103! 

This check is the first payment received from UMC Market for the purchases made by our members and friends who identify Central Church as the recipient.

Many thanks to everyone who has been using UMC Market to generate free cash for Central Church.  Keep Shopping!

Double Exposure – Teaching Your Children

Father Teaching His ChildrenToday’s scripture passage was written by Asaph, one of King David’s temple musicians, to introduce a long song he composed.

He wants us to know that he wrote it as a memory aid.  Singing it would help the Jewish nation grasp and retain key lessons from its history.

His introduction stresses a truth as valid now as then: Our children cannot be expected to assimilate our faith unless we make an effort to articulate it to them.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 78:4-8

  1. What characteristics of our generation—and those that preceded ours—do we want to spare our children from (v. 8)?
  2. If they are to be spared from repeating the same mistakes previous generations made, what is required of their parents (vv. 4-5)?
  3. How might the truths of God’s Word that we treasure remain “hidden” from the perspective of our children?
  4. What positive results can we expect when we succeed in communicating our faith to our children (v. 7)?
  5. What deliberate steps are you taking to convey God’s requirements and your own faith to the next generation?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Name any sins you are aware of to God so that in spite of His holiness He can forgive you on the basis of Jesus’ sacrificial death, and restore your fellowship with Him.

Psalm 78:4-8

4 We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did. 5 For he issued his decree to Jacob; he gave his law to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—that they in turn might teach their children.

7 So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. 8 Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Hashing It Over

Father and Son TalkingKey Bible Verses: Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. Proverbs 22:6

Bonus Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Hey, sport, heard a couple of guys got kicked off the team for testing positive for drugs. Wasn’t one of them your friend Matt?”

“Yeah. I think the school overreacted. Matt’s a senior, Dad. Probably going to lose his athletic scholarship.”

“He had a lot to lose. Why do you think he risked it?”

“It was that party at Charlie’s house. Someone showed up with a lot of beer and weed. It just got out of hand.”

“The Smiths allowed drinking and marijuana?”

“Duh! Dad. Charlie’s parents were out of town.”

“So, why didn’t Matt just refuse?”

“It’s not easy when everyone else is doing it.”

“How could Matt have avoided what happened?”

“He could’ve left when the booze and blunts showed up.”

“What other choices did Matt have?”

“Well, not go to the party.”

“Was that the only alternative?”

“Have the party where the parents were home?”

“Or … ?”

“I know what you’re driving at, Dad. I invited Matt to shoot some pool over here and he turned me down. So he had some choices.”

“Right. And choices have consequences.”

—Ricky Byrdsong in Coaching Your Kids in the Game of Life

My Response:  What could I use as a teaching tool?

Thought to Apply: The gift of learning to make good choices is the most valuable and long-lasting gift a parent can give a child.—Pat Holt & Grace Ketterman

Adapted from Coaching Your Kids in the Game of Life (Bethany, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Listen Up!

Father Listening to SonKey Bible Verse:  A word to you Fathers.  Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them. Ephesians 6:4

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 78:4-8

Most fathers complain that their sons don’t listen to them. But we have it backward.

As we’re leading them to view God as intimately safe and entirely faithful, we’re called to be listeners. Listening is a powerful relational tool. If you commit to being physically present and listen with undivided focus, your son will eventually believe you actually care about him—what he thinks, what concerns him, and how he sees and experiences life.

At first this may be tough; we’ve been conditioned to think our role is to direct and define our sons’ lives. But if you steadfastly “waste time” with your son, you’ll soon find opportunities to connect with him. He’ll begin to sense that you have his best interests at heart, and you can season your listening with words of encouragement to trust God.

It’s as if Ephesians 6:4 is saying to Christian dads, “You want to create an environment for your son to discover and experience me? Treat him with respect, love, and tenderness. Correct him with great care, and appropriately discipline him with specific and clear reasoning. Do what you can to affirm his basic manhood. Then … step back and watch me work.”

—Chap Clark in From Father to Son

My Response:  Could ways I correct or push my kids be exasperating them?

Thought to Apply:  We cannot overestimate the power of an active, engaged parent and what that can mean to a child.—John Ashcroft (former U.S. Attorney General)

Adapted from From Father to Son (NavPress, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Red Alert

Father Talking to Troubled SonKey Bible Verse:  The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  – Psalm 103:13

Bonus Reading:  Proverbs 10:1; 23:15; 27:11

Being observant means being sensitive to your children’s words and moods, respecting their worries and concerns. It means getting to know their friends. It may mean watching some of the TV shows they watch, and even (yikes!) listening to some of their music.

Once when my son Joel (then an eighth-grader) came home from school, I was in my den and heard him slamming doors and speaking rudely. At the dinner table he was cranky and sarcastic. Later I again heard him angrily slam the door to his bedroom.

Finally a glaring light went on in my mind: Something important must be bothering Joel. For the past four hours he had been visibly upset. I went to his room and said, “Joel, I just realized that you came home in an irritable mood. Is there something that happened at school that you’d like to talk about?”

My son began to weep. He poured out his hurt concerning an incident that had happened in the classroom. He’d been embarrassed and misunderstood by a teacher. Not knowing how to process it, he carried it home, and it kept leaking out in his negative behavior. I’m thankful the message got through to me.

—Norm Wakefield in The Father Connection

My Response:  Am I a shelter my kids can turn to when things get rough?

Thought to Apply:  Our children give us the opportunity to become the parents we always wished we’d had.—Louise Hart (author)

Adapted from The Father Connection (Broadman & Holman, 1996)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Talk of the Town

Son's Drug HabitKey Bible Verse:  His father … had never disciplined him … even by asking, “What are you doing?”  – 1 Kings 1:6

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-34; 3:11-14

When the drug movement spread through Johnson City, my friend Dave was one of the men who swapped stories in the coffee shop and barbershop about which kids had recently been picked up for drug possession.  They laughed about one teen, on an LSD trip, found wandering around the city park chasing imaginary lions.

Though the school administration was trying to deal with the problem, most fathers in the community, Dave included, never stopped to consider that their son or daughter might be involved.

Dave, a real-estate agent, was a good provider and disciplinarian for the family.  But perhaps he was too busy at work or didn’t know how to deal with the issues confronting his son, John.  After all, drugs weren’t around when he was growing up.  Dave never asked John about the drug situation at school.

It was three years after John started using drugs regularly that Dave found out his son was addicted to cocaine!  If Dave had sought to know his son’s difficulties and the struggles with self-identity that led him into the drug culture, it might have saved 15 years of John’s life—the time it took him to kick the drug habit.

—Ken Canfield in The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers

My Response:  Have I just assumed my kids are “clean”?  Can I afford to?

Thought to Apply:  A father ought to help his son form the habit of doing right on his own initiative, rather than because he’s afraid of some serious consequence.—Terence

Adapted from The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers (Tyndale, 1992)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Spot Check

Father and Teenage SonKey Bible Verse:  Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust.  Follow anything that makes you want to do right.  – 2 Timothy 2:22

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 6:22-23

Benjamin was standing in the kitchen, nibbling on some barbecue potato chips.  Just to stay connected with a 14-year-old boy going through puberty, I asked, “You been keeping your mind clean at school, son?  You know, pornography—the kind of sleazy stuff boys pass around and look at?”

He looked me straight in the eye with a half-grin, like I’d been reading his mail.  “Funny you should ask,” he said.  “Today at school a friend brought a Penthouse magazine into the locker room.  But I didn’t look at it.  I just turned and walked out.”

“Good for you! Good for you!” I said.  The big grin that spread across his face told me he was proud he’d done what was right.

Many parents don’t have the nerve to ask teenagers such an intrusive question.  It’s as if something happens to parents when their kids become teenagers, and they don’t know how to talk to them.

Adolescence is the age when kids should be learning how to bring their Christian faith into the realities of everyday life.  It’s one thing to teach your kids about God, but it’s quite another thing to teach them how to walk with God and avoid temptations.

—Dennis Rainey in Moments Together for Parents

My Response: How am I doing at discussing critical issues with my kids as they grow?

Adapted from Moments Together for Parents (Regal, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Double Exposure – Scouting and Cheering

Father and SonWho Said It…Ricky Byrdsong

Ricky Byrdsong played basketball at Iowa State, moved up the coaching ranks, and became the first African American head coach at Northwestern University.  He led the Wildcats to their first winning season in 11 years.  But after three less successful seasons, he was fired.

Ricky remained a popular motivational speaker, and developed programs to help underprivileged youth reach their potential.  In 1999, at age 43, he was fatally shot by a white supremacist.

What He Said…Scouting and Cheering

Rocky Jr.’s teacher called and said he wasn’t behaving in class. Sherialyn and I let Ricky know we were concerned and wanted to stay on top of what was going on. So we asked the teacher to give us a day-to-day evaluation of his behavior. When we got the daily note she sent home, we discussed with Ricky what she considered to be bad behavior and why it was unacceptable.

I told Ricky that if his reports were consistently negative, he’d lose some privileges—watching TV or playing with his PlayStation.  I didn’t enjoy taking away his fun.  So how, as his biggest fan, could I encourage him to do better?

So in the morning, when he was getting ready to go to school, I’d say, “Hey, good luck today.  I’m pulling for you. I hope the teacher thinks your behavior is acceptable so that you can do the things you want to do.”  And when he came back with a good report, we said, “We knew you could do it.”

Adapted from Coaching Your Kids in the Game of Life (Bethany, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stay connected with the children you’ve entrusted to me, and to steer them away from the dangers they’ll encounter.

Mixed Bag – Repentance

RepentanceDuncan Campbell wrote, “Do not expect God to cover what you are not willing to uncover.”

God wants to forgive sinners.  But He can only forgive confessed sins.

To confess my sin is to agree with God, acknowledging that He is right to declare that what I’ve done is sinful and that I am wrong to desire to do it.  To confess is to affirm my intention of forsaking that sin in order to follow God more faithfully.

Interact with God’s Word 

Psalm 32:1-6

  1. In verses 3 and 4, David describes the misery of a violated conscience and a futile attempt to conceal a sin. Have you had a similar experience? What was it?
  2. What does David call his refusal to confess his sin (vv. 5-6)?
  3. What does David say broke his stubborn resistance to confessing his sin (v. 4)?
  4. What emotion flooded David as soon as he confessed his sin (vv. 1-2)?
  5. What actions by God provided the basis for David’s sense of relief (vv. 1-2 & 5)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Name any sins you are aware of to God so that in spite of His holiness He can forgive you on the basis of Jesus’ sacrificial death, and restore your fellowship with Him.

Psalm 32:1-6

1 Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 3 When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.

4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 6 Therefore, let all the godly confess their rebellion to you while there is time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like.  Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Mixed Bag – Prayer Request

Bad TemperKey Bible Verses: People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.  – Proverbs 28:13

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 32:1-6

Once during our family devotions, childish behavior and repeated instances of “no respect” sent me up the wall.  I stormed out of the room and slammed the front door. I climbed into my car, tossed my briefcase on the backseat, and drove away. The kids were stunned. Finally, one shrugged, “Well, there goes Dad. Great devotions, huh?”

Driving down the street, I threw one of the best pity parties I’d ever attended. “Boy, I just don’t deserve this,” I groused. “I’m killing myself to put this stuff together and nobody appreciates it. Not the kids and not Susy. Nobody cares.”

But then it seemed as if the Lord had picked up a megaphone, even though the only sound was a quiet crawling through my brain. “Phil, remember that I hung on the cross for you, big guy. You pierced my hands and feet. What do you mean, you don’t deserve this? I gave you these kids to train.”

Coming to my senses, I turned the car around and drove home. As I got to the driveway, I muttered, “I hate this, I just hate having to say, ‘I’m sorry.'”  Swallowing hard, I walked in and said, “Guys, I’m sorry. I really blew it. Would somebody pray for me?”

—Phil Downer in Optimize Your Marriage

My Response:  How have I blown it?  To whom—besides God—do I need to confess this?

Thought to Apply:  Sin cannot be undone, only forgiven.—Igor Stravinsky (Russian composer)

Adapted from Optimize Your Marriage (Christian Publications, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like. Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Mixed Bag – Split Personalities

Luke 16-10Key Bible Verse:  You like to look good in public, but God knows your evil hearts.  – Luke 16:15

Bonus Reading:  James 2:10-11

Sylvia Fraser tells of the tributes paid at her father’s funeral.  He was a man of proper and regular habits—a Christian man “who didn’t smoke or drink … who helped with the grocery shopping, who never took the Lord’s name in vain.”  A polite and neighborly man, Mr. Fraser “kept his snow shoveled, his leaves raked, and his bills paid.”

He also sexually molested his daughter Sylvia from age 4 to 12, threatening her first with the loss of her toys (he’d throw them into the furnace), then with killing her cat, then with sending her away to an orphanage—all this if she were to disclose their secret, a secret that not only divided him, but also split his daughter into two persons, the ordinary good girl and the evil daughter who submitted to her father’s wishes.

If Mr. Fraser was like the rest of us, he could live with his character inconsistencies only by sealing them off from each other, just as an ocean liner can sometimes keep sailing, even when damaged, if the crew seals off the flooded compartments.

In both cases, business can continue for a time under emergency conditions.  But, as Sylvia Fraser’s story reminds us, sin disintegrates both its victims and its perpetrators.

—Neal Plantinga in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

My Response: What “sealed off” segment of my life do I need to open up?

Thought to Apply: Integrity on one side of our character is no voucher for integrity on the other side.—John Henry Newman (British churchman)

Adapted from Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Eerdmans, 1995)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like. Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Mixed Bag – …and Mr. Hyde

Flesh vs SpiritKey Bible Verse:  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.  – 1 John 1:9

Bonus Reading:  Romans 7:15-19

When I reclaim the language of sin, I see a different self.  I micromanage, consume more than my share of resources, and harbor bitterness from past losses.  I hoard my time and resent others for intruding on it.

I am vain and consumed with how others perceive me.  I wrestle with my sexuality and have strayed away from Lisa with my eyes and my heart.  I am prideful in my heart and my head. I have learned how to pretend to listen without really listening.  I have corrected my children when they need affirmation.

I gossip, care more about eating popcorn at the movies than about feeding the hungry, am envious of highly successful men, and overlook the oppressed.  I think more about being great than about being good.  I act more spiritual than I am.  I am a mess—broken in every way—and my only hope is in God’s mercy.

We are sinners through and through.  Once we see this truth, we can cast our gaze on the One who forgives perfectly, redeems us constantly, and embraces us in arms of compassion and forgiveness.  In the strength of grace, God lifts us to our feet, draws us away from sinful choices, and grants unspeakable hope.

—Mark McMinn in Why Sin Matters

My Response: What faults and struggles do I need to admit to myself and to God?

Thought to Apply: The beginning of a cure must be the recognition of the real disease.—Halford Luccock (pastor)

Adapted from Why Sin Matters (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like. Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

It’s Back to School Time!

 UMC Market 3Shop Online? Make a difference when you do!

There is no better way to take care of that long Back to School shopping list than to use UMCmarket and have your favorite stores give a percentage to your church.

With the upcoming Back To School shopping season, the average family will likely spend $672. For participants in UMCmarket, your favorite stores could easily expect to give 2-5% in donations back to your church. Why not take advantage of this giving opportunity? Nearly 4,000 United Methodist churches are ALREADY receiving donations from UMCmarket today.

The Details!

UMCmarket is presented by the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church. It takes just a couple of minutes to sign up. With our amazing Easy Give Button, you don’t even have to remember to use UMCmarket when you do your shopping. The Easy Give Button will make sure that every donation is collected automatically. Once your ministry’s donations reach $100, a check will be mailed out. You Shop. We Give! 

Share UMCmarket with your friends!

UMC Market has just mailed Central Church our first check for $103 under this program, and we look forward to receiving many more!  We hope you will sign up, try us out, and share with all of your friends.  It’s easy and free, so why not rally your friends to do the same and see how fast your donations will make a difference?

 

Mixed Bag – Dr. Jekyl…

The Pharisee and the Tax CollectorKey Bible Verse:  If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.  – 1 John 1:8

Bonus Reading:  Luke 18:9-14

Do you ever feel like a pretty good person? I do sometimes.  I’m usually nice to my students, treat my colleagues fairly, deeply love my family, pay my taxes, provide psychological help to pastors in crisis, go to church and tithe.  I don’t steal, commit adultery, use illegal drugs, or swear.  And I floss regularly.

Then I remember the religious leader in the temple (see Luke 18:9-14).  He had the same list.  His prayer is the formula for self-absorbed disappointment and disillusionment. When we see ourselves as “pretty good,” we misunderstand the gravity of sin and our desperate need for grace. We place ourselves above others, become their judges, and give them the power to disappoint us.

A physicist friend uses this analogy: Each of us is like a light bulb. One shines with 50 watts of holiness, another has only 25 watts. Maybe the most stellar Christians are 200 watts. But these comparisons become trite in the presence of the sun. In the face of God, our different levels of piety are puny and meaningless. It makes no sense to compare ourselves with one another because we are all much more alike than we are different.

—Mark McMinn in Why Sin Matters

My Response:  Do I rate myself more like the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) or the tax collector?

Thought to Apply: One of the first things for which we have to pray is a true insight into our condition.—Olive Wyon (writer)

Adapted from Why Sin Matters (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like. Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Mixed Bag – Corruption Fighters

Martin Luther King and BussesKey Bible Verse:  The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9

Bonus Reading:  Isaiah 64:5-9

The subject of sin is full of ironies, and surprises.  During the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Improvement Association led thousands of blacks through months of hardship and to bring down city walls of injustice and break municipal bus segregation.

Many black citizens supported the boycott with a spirit of mutual help and accountability. They rode bicycles, trudged miles to and from work, and formed car pools that local police regularly harassed. They stopped and interrogated drivers, making them demonstrate their wipers and lights, and writing them up for tiny, often bogus, violations. Drivers adapted. According to historian Taylor Branch, they “crept along the road and gave exaggerated turn signals, like novices in driving school.”

Remarkably, a number of blacks also figured out ways to defraud their own movement. By submitting phony reimbursement claims, they hustled the Montgomery Improvement Association for “oceans of gasoline and truckloads of imaginary spare tires.” The MIA, says Branch, was constantly trying to deal with the corruption within and “plug the holes in the reimbursement system.”

—Neal Plantinga in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

My Response: Have I undermined a virtue I believe in? If so, how?

Adapted from Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Eerdmans, 1995)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like.  Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Spiritual Resources

Spiritual Resources

Check out our new Spiritual Resources page for links to more than a dozen sources of information and encouragement.

Click on the Resources tab on our home Welcome page to begin your journey of discovery.

Mixed Bag – Light and Shadow

School After EarthquakeWho Said It…Donald McCullough

Two earthquakes mark Donald’s life.  As San Francisco Theological Seminary’s president, he led a successful capital campaign to repair the school’s buildings, damaged by the 1989 quake.

Then in 2000 he experienced a personal quake when earlier marital infidelity was uncovered by his presbytery.  His ordination was suspended, and he resigned his post.

Donald’s book, The Consolations of Imperfection (Brazos, 2004), shares hard lessons he’s learned about himself.

What He Said…Light and Shadow

We’re a confusing mixture: loving and selfish, generous and stingy, encouraging and envious, hardworking and lazy, angelic and devilish; we’re both light and shadow.

Who can see into the depths of the shadows?  Who can name all the cantankerous, aggressive troublemakers out of sight and out of mind in the cellar?

This is more a wading through sorrow than a wallowing in it.  Admission of wrongdoing should have a matter–of–fact quality to it.  It says, “Yes, this is who I am.  It’s not all I am, for I’ve written some good parts to my story, too.  Yet I can’t deny my failure (and my propensity to further failure) any more than I can deny my blue eyes.”

As someone who’s had to do more than his share of this confession, I can testify that it’s liberating.  As we pray for courage to see ourselves as we really are, we find ourselves—somehow, surprisingly—lifted above it.  We’re actually being raised by the updraft of grace.

Adapted from The Consolations of Imperfection (Brazos, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to stop kidding myself about what I’m really like.  Thank You for loving me even though You know the worst.

Destiny and Detours – Navigating Through the Wilderness

Wilderness 2The ragtag “marching army” of Jacob’s enslaved descendants abandoned the beaten travel route from Egypt to the Fertile Crescent, heading from Etham into uncharted wilderness.

That’s when the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night appeared.  Forty years later, as they crossed the Jordan River into Canaan, it disappeared.

While we don’t require such visible direction, the pillar provides important clues about how God guides His children today.

Interact with God’s Word

Exodus 13:17-22

  1. Was the circuitous route the Israelites took to the Promised Land a chance development or was it deliberately directed?
  2. What reason for this divinely directed detour is given in verse 17?
  3. What other reason is described at length in the next chapter (14:1-4, 19-28)?
  4. Why would taking Joseph’s coffin with them (v. 19) reassure the Israelites that they would eventually reach their destination?
  5. How did God give the Israelites a tangible sense of His presence (v. 21)?
  6. How did the cloud column reveal God’s direction, timing, and protection (see also Numbers 9:15-23; 10:34)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to make you content to accept the direction in which He points you and the timing of the pauses and moves He determines for you.

Exodus 13:17-22

17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them along a route through the wilderness toward the Red Sea, and the Israelites left Egypt like a marching army. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear that they would take his bones with them when God led them out of Egypt—as he was sure God would.

20 Leaving Succoth, they camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The LORD guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. That way they could travel whether it was day or night. 22 And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from their sight.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, decrease my preoccupation with my destination and increase my concern for the process You are using to shape my character.

Destiny and Detours – Plan or Presence?

Trail GuideKey Bible Verse:  The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them.  But sinners stumble and fall along the way. Hosea 14:9

Bonus ReadingPsalm 139:1-12, 23-24

People are constantly inquiring about how they can discover God’s plan for their lives.  Years ago I began first to doubt and then to disbelieve that God has a specific plan for me because it seemed to me that would run contrary to His purpose.  God’s overriding purpose is our maturity, and maturity can’t be reached by plan.

I think we North Americans are very arrogant to assume that all the principles that applied to the great leaders of the Scripture—Moses or Abraham or Joseph or David—apply to us as individuals.  I don’t know why we don’t rather apply to ourselves the principles of the followers among the children of Israel.

I’m sure that God does have an overall plan and those who are specifically involved in it are going to know about it, for He’s going to tell them, even coerce them, as He did Jonah.  But for most of us, His purpose is our maturity.

It has struck me that none of the saints whose writings I’ve read over the years talk about a specific plan that God has for his or her life.  They talk about the presence rather than the plan.  It seems that when you have a guide you don’t need a map.  We often try to substitute a program for His presence.

— Sr.Fred Smith in Texas

My Response: I’ll pray to be more absorbed with the Guide than with His guidance.

Thought to Apply: The center of God’s will is our only safety.

—Betsie Ten Boom (Dutch concentration camp victim)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, decrease my preoccupation with my destination and increase my concern for the process  You are using to shape my character.

The Russians are Coming! St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble at Central Church on October 22

St Petersburg Mens Ensemble 2Central Church will host a special concert of the St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble on Wednesday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m.

The concert is free and open to the public—please help us get the word out. 

The St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble, which includes the talents of Kirill Sokolov, Sergey Shapinsky, Vadim Smanster, and Andrei Volikov, has been performing in churches and concert halls throughout the United States since 2002.  Their concerts reflect their culture and heritage, with a balance of sacred songs by Russian composers and Russian folk songs.

St Petersburg Mens EnsembleThe members of the St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble bring extensive training and experience to the presentation of their concert selections.  They have sung with many choirs including the State Academic Capella and the Choir of Smolny Cathedral.

This year’s concert selection will feature choral works by Berezovsky, Hassler, Lotti, Mozart and Rachmaninoff amongst others. CDs and Russian gifts will be available for sale.   A free-will offering will be received to support their U.S. Tour.