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Curse or Gift? – Hurry Sickness

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. … Let us do our best to enter that place of rest.  – Hebrews 4:9, 11

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 4:1-11

Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace of life in the church I then served, which tended to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we were in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy.

Long pause.

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last.

Another long pause.

“Okay, I’ve written that one down,” I told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now, what else is there?” I had so many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

Another long pause.

“There is nothing else,” he said. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

I’ve concluded that my well-being depends on following his prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls.

—John Ortberg in LeadershipJournal.net

My Response: What might a breathless lifestyle be robbing me of?

Thought to Apply: Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.—Fred Mitchell (British missionary leader)

– Adapted from LeadershipJournal.net

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

Curse or Gift? – Clockwatchers Anonymous

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night … God gives rest to his loved ones.  – Psalm 127:2

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 90:10-17

About five years ago I stopped wearing a watch for the simple reason that my preoccupation with it was turning me into a time legalist. Everything I did—like meeting with someone for lunch—took on significance based on how much time I spent doing it. I began breaking up the day not by blocks of hours, but by minutes and sometimes even seconds (I could brush my teeth in 22!).

Time—not God—was the fixation of my life. Sure, I was never late for appointments, but I wasn’t much fun attending them either, as they all seemed like unforgiving deadlines to me. Megan was glad when we got time together, but I was always thinking about the rest of my schedule and had trouble really enjoying those moments. None of this was healthy, and I finally recognized that I needed to stop the cycle.

I still don’t wear a watch, but I do check periodically on the handheld iPAQ I carry around. Since I took a break from always and easily glancing at my watch to see how late, early, or right on time I was, my perspective has changed. Now I try to consciously decide to use time as the gift it is rather than the curse I’d made it to be.

—Craig Dunham in TwentySomeone

My Response: I’ll recall a slice of time that has become a treasured gift.

Thought to Apply: There is more to life than increasing its speed. —Mohandas Gandhi (Indian nationalist &spiritual leader)

Adapted from TwentySomeone (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

Curse or Gift? – A Time for Everything

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.  – Psalm 90:12

Bonus Reading1 Timothy 4:7-10

Kids will wait forever to practice, start their homework, or clean their rooms. We adults are much the same. Calls and letters go unanswered, repairs go unmade. We intend to do them “when I feel like it” or “when I have to.” Since those times come erratically, today’s molehill quietly grows into tomorrow’s stressful mountain.

Our responsibilities cease flowing uncontrollably when we grab a calendar and assign them a time. Set a time to assign time blocks for the coming week. Remember, the anchor of your schedule is your quiet centers: your Lord, your wife, your family. In the spaces left around those centers, courageously assign time blocks to your other known commitments. Deciding in advance eliminates the stress of those predictable tasks chasing you until they catch you.

I found it frustrating at first to commit to a regular dinnertime at home. I preferred an open-ended day, unaware of the uncertainty I was causing my family. Finally realizing that there’ll always be one more thing to do, I set a boundary on my office day. The family makes its plans around my commitment now. And I’m starting to enjoy the predictability.

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

My Response: How am I taking charge of the predictable sector of my time?

Thought to Apply: Procrastination is the thief of time.—Mr. Micawber (in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield)

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

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

They Gave A Homeless Man A Pizza. What He Did With It Broke Me Down.

 

Here’s a short video with a gentle reminder to be a little kinder and to live our lives with others in mind.

 

Homeless Pizza

In this social experiment, Youtubers OckTV wanted to see if random strangers would share some of their food.  Their results went as they expected in the beginning, but then eventually came across someone that shocked them. What happens at 2:24 will tug at your heartstrings.

Would you have given this young man a slice of your pizza? 

Remember what Jesus told us in Matthew 25:31-46.

 

 

Curse or Gift? – Spread Too Thin?

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: The man won’t rest until he has followed through on this. He will settle it today.  – Ruth 3:18

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 21:28-31a

All of us want to be liked. But saying “yes” to everyone who asks for your help is dangerous. If you make a commitment to do something, your integrity and reputation are on the line. You should work diligently to fulfill your promise, finishing the project on time, and doing a quality job. That won’t happen if you’ve made so many other promises and commitments that your “to do” list exceeds the memory capacity in your handheld computer.

If you’re overcommitted, you probably lack the ability to say “no.” Perhaps you don’t want to disappoint each friend who makes a request of you. But you aren’t doing your friend any favor if your busy schedule forces you to miss the deadline or do a slipshod job. If that’s likely to happen, you’ll do your friend a favor if you decline the request.

Overcommitting yourself isn’t fair to the members of your immediate family, and your closest friends, either. You’re in crisis mode all of the time. Everything is an emergency. You’re always running behind schedule. You have no leisure time, and everything you do is rushed. That’s no way to live.

So don’t take on more than you can handle. Learn when to say “no.”

—Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz in Simple Matters

My Response: When have I said no to protect a vital yes?

Thought to Apply: The really idle man gets nowhere. The perpetually busy man does not get much further.—William Heneage Ogilvie (British surgeon)

Adapted from Simple Matters (Promise Press, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

Ebola – A Global Concern

The Rev. Winston Ashcroft brings greetings to the people of Mamakah, Sierra Leone, from Bishop John Yambasu. He educates them about ways to combat Ebola and prays with them.

The Rev. Winston Ashcroft brings greetings to the people of Mamakah, Sierra Leone, from Bishop John Yambasu. He educates them about ways to combat Ebola and prays with them.

Since its discovery in 1976, the world is experiencing the largest outbreak of Ebola in history. Until now it was only seen in the countries of West Africa, but with faith communities around the world sending assistance to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, it has now come to the United States through exposed health workers. Because the origin of the virus is unknown, it is difficult to treat but the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have put steps in place for handling cases and treating symptoms.

It is important to know that Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of someone infected with the Ebola virus and is not carried through the air or by insects. Without medicine to combat the virus, the first question to ask someone with symptoms of high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea and/or vomiting is whether the individual or any close contacts have recently traveled to West Africa. This is important since those symptoms can also be linked to many other illnesses.

Since the Ebola situation changes daily, updates and protocols can be found at the CDC website even though the risk of infection in the U.S. is low. Guidelines include protective gear for health workers, steps for processing people in the ER, and protocols for monitoring those who may have been exposed. These are similar to the guidelines used by UMCOR in Western Africa where the three-pronged approach includes disease education, health worker protection and psychosocial counseling. The biggest issues with the disease in West Africa are fewer resources, health care facilities and health care workers which leave care minimal and staffing low.

A vehicle carrying the Ebola Response team of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone makes its way across a rough bridge on the way to the village of Moyollo.

A vehicle carrying the Ebola Response team of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone makes its way across a rough bridge on the way to the village of Moyollo.

UMCOR has sent $400,000 in grant money for protective gear, medical supplies, equipment and educational materials for the patients, workers and families of victims but prayers are also needed. Pray that the spread of this disease will end. Pray that all people will gain an understanding of the disease and follow safety precautions. Pray that aid will continue to flow to the affected areas in the form of food, medical supplies, education, support and comfort. And pray that those traveling back to the U.S. will be healthy and that exposure here will remain minimal. With knowledge, medical care, support and prayer this disease can be stopped.

See www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/what-need-to-know-ebola.pdf for CDC flyer on Ebola www.umcor.org/umcor/resources/news-stories/2014/september/0926umcorrespondebola for information about UMCOR’s response to Ebola in West Africa

 

Curse or Gift? – Go! Go! Go!

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: Oh, how I wish I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!   – Psalm 55:6

Bonus Reading:  Mark 3:20-21; 6:31-32

My good friend Ken once got pneumonia from staying up too late, getting up too early, teaching all day, writing and directing a musical all evening, and generally forgetting that he was human. Ken told me later that his sickness was the best thing that could have happened to him because he needed and wanted a break but didn’t know how to schedule one for himself. God did it for him, with a week-long stay in the hospital, complete with hospital food. Now he’s better at slowing down every now and then, but he still has a way to go. So do the rest of us.

Because so many things seem more urgent than they really are, it’s difficult to make the choice to read, write, and reflect—three keys to slowing down the pace of our lives. Our culture promotes the idea of working like crazy and then taking a short but intense vacation (which calls for another vacation we seldom get to take).

If those of us in our twenties do manage to slow down, work hard but less, pace ourselves, and make time for other things, we may not be received too well by those above us who “paid their dues” to the same exhausting system.

—Craig Dunham in TwentySomeone

My Response: When in my life am I overloaded?

Adapted from TwentySomeone (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

Curse or Gift? – What’s Blocking Your View of Jesus?

OverwhelmedKey Bible Verse: Fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.  Hebrews 12:2

Bonus Reading:  Mark 3:20-21, 6:31-32

My brain has a muffin top. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but I’m sure high-tech medical equipment could reveal my brain is spilling over with too much information: facts, ideas, concepts, future books, trivia, minutiae, and useless thoughts. And moments with Jesus.

The less crowded my brain, the more those moments with Him stand out. Did I just write that? Did I just admit it to myself? Should I take a more minimalist approach to what’s stored in my brain so the Jesus moments have room to shine? That was rhetorical.

What does the Bible say is the secret to successfully maneuvering the labyrinth called life? “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.”

Like a woman–not that I would know–who can’t see her feet for the excess around her middle, it’s hard to fix my eyes on Jesus with excess in the way. So, I’ll discard this thought, and that one, and that whole file full over there, so I can maintain better eye contact with Jesus.

I’ll purge my overloaded brain circuits of the broken bits of information that don’t connect to anything else or that block my view like fog which prevents me from seeing more than the street below, even though I paid for an oceanfront room.

It’s the Jesus moments that keep me going, that infuse meaning into what I’m muddling through. Time to do some brain purging.

—Cynthia Ruchti, in Mornings with Jesus

My Response: Dumping information isn’t as easy as pushing a Delete button on a computer. What works for you? Time alone in a retreat setting? A hike through the woods or along a beach? A virtual “ceremony” surrendering unnecessary though ts to Him? Try one of those brain and stress purges today.

Adapted from Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts, 2014)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to use the time you’ve given me in ways that yield long-term significance.

When Asking Beats Telling – Everyday Evangelism

Everyday EvangelismTrained as a rabbi, Paul was taught to think about God and life through a style of debate still used today in Jewish training schools called “yeshivas.”

This “pulpil” method responds to questions with other questions.  Acts 17 is the chapter that most fully describes how Paul engaged in the give-and-take of “rabbinic evangelism” in synagogues, and then exported it to Gentile communities.

Interact with God’s Word

Acts 17:1-5, 16-20, 32-34

  1. What verbs (vv. 2-3) describe how Paul functioned during his synagogue visits?
  2. Does this sound to you more like a sermon or a Q and A session?
  3. What points do you think prompted the most lively discussions in Thessalonica?
  4. Which issues today need the most debate?
  5. What kind of responses (vv. 4-5) did the interactions with Paul produce?
  6. How and with whom did Paul interact in Athens (vv. 17-18)?
  7. What kinds of reaction were there to Paul’s discussion with the Council of Philosophers?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a growing confidence in the gospel that will allow you to casually engage in give and take about it.

Acts 17:1-5, 16-20, 32-34

1 Now Paul and Silas traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he interpreted the Scriptures to the people. 3 He was explaining and proving the prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah and his rising from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.”4 Some who listened were persuaded and became converts, including a large number of godly Greek men and also many important women of the city. 5 But the Jewish leaders were jealous, so they gathered some worthless fellows from the streets to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to debate with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. 18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “This babbler has picked up some strange ideas.” Others said, “He’s pushing some foreign religion.” 19 Then they took him to the Council of Philosophers.[a] “Come and tell us more about this new religion,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather startling things, and we want to know what it’s all about.”

32 When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of a person who had been dead, some laughed, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.”33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them,34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Council, a woman named Damaris, and others.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

Mark Burnett, Roma Downey Launch $25 Million Plan To Help Christians in Iraq and Syria

Members of Kakai religious community live in refugee camps following the ISIS invasion.

Members of Kakai religious community live in refugee camps following the ISIS invasion.

Christianity Today reports today that, in the streets of Irbil, Christians are everywhere: on the streets, in abandoned buildings, in canvas tents that are not water-proof or winterized.  Having survived eradication by terror groups, they now might die naturally from the coming harsh winter.

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are raising $25 million and partnering with King Abdullah of Jordan, a Muslim king, to help Iraqi and Syrian Christians (as well as other minorities) displaced by ISIS survive the coming winter. They’ve already donated the first $1 million toward a refugee crisis compared to the Rwanda genocide.

King Abdullah II meets with regional and international Christian leaders.

King Abdullah II meets with regional and international Christian leaders.

Having fled their home with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and having seen unspeakable things, these brothers and sisters in Christ are severely traumatized, mostly without shelter.

Things are very urgent. Winter is coming. This week’s rain will soon be snow.

Please keep our brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your hearts and prayers.

Contributions can be made directly to their “Cradle of Christianity Fund“, which is being administered by the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), a leader on international religious freedom issues which primarily works in east Asia.

 

 

When Asking Beats Telling – Dental “Dialogue”

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.  – Proverbs 18:13

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 1:18-20

The waiting-room sign warns, “Blessed are those who engage in lively conversation with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called dentists.”

My dentist drives me crazy! He asks really thought-provoking questions right as he puts sharp, pointed objects into my mouth. “So, what’s the real solution for the Palestinian problem?” Or, “Aren’t all religions basically the same?” I want to respond, but my attempts are muffled by his hands in my mouth and that noisy suction thing.

I wonder if some of our evangelistic conversations sound like interactions between my dentist and me. One side posits a question, not really expecting an answer or listening for a response. The other side sits frustrated, not really getting to answer or expecting to be heard.

Scripture admonishes us to always be ready to explain our Christian hope (1 Peter 3:15). But doing so requires listening in order to know when and what we’re being asked. Listening primes the pump, opening hearts to accept conviction of sin, establishing common ground for further dialogue, or giving insight to felt needs.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: I’ll listen-out a friend, connecting and clarifying without interjecting my own thoughts, so he’ll know I’m hearing him accurately.

Thought to Apply: If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.—Dale Carnegie (writer & speaker)

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Gospel-paving Questions

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse:  As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. Acts 16:14

Bonus Reading:  Acts 17:1-5a, 16-20, 32-34

A pastor urged his congregation to open the door to evangelism by challenging the prevailing slogans of our day. “The next time someone at work says, ‘Image is everything,'” he told them, “Respond, ‘No, it’s not! The glory of God is everything!'”

I agree with his theology. But a better response would be a puzzled look and “Really?” After getting the coworker’s attention, you could add “What do you think is everything? What would you say is the most foundational thing in life?”

When your cousin asks, “Why are you so narrow-minded as to believe that all Buddhists are going to hell?” don’t indignantly quote, “No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Ask her, “What have you found about Buddhism that convinces you that its adherents are worthy of heaven?”

When your neighbor asks, “Why do you think that Jesus was more than just a good moral teacher?” don’t take out your Lord-liar-lunatic diagram just yet. Ask her, “What makes you think that Jesus was a good teacher? Have you read a lot of His teachings? Which messages impress you the most about Jesus’ teaching ability? What would you say was Jesus’ main message?”

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Who is someone with whom I could have this kind of give and take?

Thought to Apply: More and more we should hold back our answer, and with a question, pave the way to receptivity. —Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Wake-up Questions

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.  – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

When people say things that, given some thought, don’t add up, we must help them see the fallacy of their statements. A good way is a one-word question: “Really?”

When people say, “I think all religions are the same,” We could respond with “Really?”

After they begin to awaken, we can elaborate by asking, “Do you really think your religion is the same as all others?  How about the religion that led people to kill themselves when they saw the Hale-Bop comet?  They thought that it was going to take them to heaven.  Do you really think their religion is the same as yours?”  The ensuing discussion could explore which religions are ridiculous, which credible.

When people say, “I think all people are basically good,” we could respond with, “Really? Does that include Osama Bin Laden? Or the boys who killed their classmates at Columbine High School?” If they’ll concede that they didn’t mean all, it’s worth exploring where the lines are drawn between good, not so good, pretty bad, and downright evil.

This waking process might hurt. So say the word really with as little sarcasm in your voice as possible.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: An illogical belief a friend must question before he can receive the gospel is …

Thought to Apply: Confronting a prospect with unpleasant truths doesn’t work in sales, but it is essential in evangelism.—Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

A Prayer for Those Affected by Ebola

Ebola - Prayer

As reports of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa spread, the Rev. Frederick Yebuah, who is a native of Ghana in West Africa, decided to compose a litany for those impacted by the disease.

Yebuah, who is a clergy member in the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, shared the litany on the website of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.  Producers at United Methodist Communications excerpted a portion of the prayer and matched it with music and images from West Africa to create a powerful meditation for use by individuals or in group settings.

It offers a way for people of faith to show their support of those who are suffering and to reflect on challenges in their own lives.

A Prayer for Those Affected by Ebola

Gracious God, we call you the Great Physician. 
We pray your healing power to touch those bodies that now shake with fever, ache with pain, and are too weak to sustain the demands of life.

Gracious God, we know you are a Mighty God. 

Grant access to medical care for the most vulnerable in West Africa. 
Protect doctors and nurses who kneel at the bedsides of the sick and the dying. 
Provide resources in places of lack.  Guide churches and church leaders. 
Empower all who work tirelessly to be Christ’s hands and feet.

Gracious God, we believe you are Hope for the hopeless.  Hold parents who’ve lost children. 
Gently father and mother children who’ve lost their parents. 
Make your presence known to those who are dying alone, in the streets, in wastelands, without friends or family. 
Speak tenderly to all who feel abandoned by the world’s governments and systems of power. 
Give strength to our friends in West Africa who feel that “life more abundantly” is an unfulfilled promise.

Gracious God, we know you are the Light overcoming darkness. 
Why should we be afraid? 

Help us, O God, to trust in your unchanging nature in times of uncertainty. 
Grant us peace that Ebola or anything in this life that would threaten to undo us, is not impossible for you. 

Hear our prayer. 

Amen.

Methodist Health System in Dallas answers Ebola call

Ebola - SymptomsThe Methodist Health System in Dallas will provide space for a state-of-the-art Ebola treatment and infectious disease biocontainment facility in North Texas.

One floor of the system’s Methodist Campus for Continuing Care, in Richardson, Texas, just north of Dallas, will be available if needed.

“Methodist Health System answered the call because it is the right thing to do,” said Stephen L. Mansfield, president and CEO, Methodist Health System. “Like all North Texans, we wish we weren’t in this situation. But the reality is there remains a threat, and as long as it’s there, Methodist is obligated by our mission — to improve and save lives through compassionate, quality health care — to do all we can to help.”

Dallas found itself at the center of Ebola-related anxiety in the United States after Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and diagnosed with the disease — the first such diagnosis in the United States.

Duncan died Oct 8. Two of the nurses who cared for him have been diagnosed with Ebola. Others who had contact with him were placed under quarantine for 21 days. As of Oct. 20, the quarantine of 43 of 48 people on the original watch list had ended.

Teas Gov. Rick Perry held a press conference Tuesday, announcing that Methodist, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital System will work together to set up and operate the unit at Methodist Campus for Continuing Care.

UT Southwestern Medical Center, affiliated with the University of Texas, is contributing physicians experienced in infectious disease, critical care and other specialties, and some nursing professionals as staffing requires.

Parkland Hospital has begun moving critical equipment such as personal protective equipment, IV fluids and laboratory supplies to Methodist Campus for Continuing Care. Parkland will provide nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists and lab technicians.

Methodist will provide some modifications for decontamination, laboratory equipment and other dedicated personnel for IT and biomedical support.

“In the event of another diagnosis, this facility will allow us to act quickly to limit the virus’s reach and give patients the care they need in an environment where health care workers are specially trained and equipped to deal with the unique requirements of this disease,” Perry said.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston also has been designated an Ebola treatment and infectious disease biocontainment facility.

Methodist Health System said its Methodist Campus for Continuing Care was chosen because it’s easily adaptable and has a recently vacated intensive care unit and an emergency department — both essential assets in the treatment of infectious diseases.

“Our hope is that the facility will not be needed for this purpose, but until the current threat has passed, Methodist stands firmly committed with its coalition partners to meet the health care needs of the community it serves and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of patients, health care providers, and our fellow North Texans,” Methodist Health System said in a press release.

The creation of special facilities for Ebola treatment was recommended by the governor’s recently named Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.

Dallas Methodist Hospital opened in 1927, the realized dream of Methodist ministers and civil leaders. That sole hospital has evolved into Methodist Health System, which has facilities across the Dallas area and employs more than 7,500.

The system maintains a covenant relationship with the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, and United Methodist clergy and laity serve on the system’s governing boards.

When Asking Beats Telling – Reflecting the Heat Back

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: Let me ask you a question first … . Did John’s baptism come from heaven, or was it merely human?  – Luke 20:3-4

Bonus Reading:  Luke 20:1-8

At a dorm-room Bible study, the host’s antagonistic roommate showed up—along with a handful of likeminded friends. “I suppose you think all those sincere followers of other religions are going to hell!” said one, more as an attack than a sincere inquiry.

“Do you believe in hell?” I responded.

After a puzzled silence, he said, “No. I don’t believe in hell. I think it’s ridiculous.”

Echoing his word choice, I said, “Then why are you asking me such a ridiculous question?” I wanted him to honestly examine the assumptions behind his question. His face indicated that he was considering issues of judgment and God’s righteousness for the first time in his life.

Another guy chimed in, “I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who disagrees with you is going there?”

I asked, “Do you think anyone goes there? Is Hitler in hell?”

“Of course, Hitler’s in hell.”

“How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”

From there, the discussion turned civil, and serious interaction about God’s holiness, people’s sinfulness, and Jesus’ atoning work ensued.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Do I really need to know all the answers to represent the gospel?

Thought to Apply: Learn what questions non–Christians are asking (some indirectly), and what to ask to move the conversation in a Christ–ward direction.—Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Beyond Take It or Leave It

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: When they handed him the coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”   – Matthew 22:19-20

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 12:9-13

I usually answer non-believers’ questions with a question because I’ve grown tired of having my answers rejected.

At times I’ve responded to questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders. My answers, it seemed, only further confirmed their opinion that Christians are simpletons. My answers had hardened them in their unbelief rather than softened them toward faith.

I realized that, instead of moving people closer to a salvation decision, an answer can push them further away. Rather than engaging their minds or urging them to consider an alternative perspective, an answer can give them ammunition for future attacks against the gospel.

So I started answering questions with questions, with far better results. Answering with a question brings to the surface the questioner’s assumptions. It also takes the pressure off you—the one being asked—and puts it on the one doing the asking. Shifting the burden is important because as long as we’re on the defensive, the questioners aren’t really wrestling with issues. They’re just watching us squirm.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Have I pictured witnessing as a monologue or a dialogue?  Why?

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

God is Enough

God is Enough

When Asking Beats Telling – Hold That Answer

Everyday EvangelismWho Said It…Randy Newman

Randy Newman—not the famous singer/songwriter—has served with Campus Crusade for Christ for more than 20 years, relating to students on college campuses. He also teaches a seminar every week at the Pentagon for Campus Crusade’s Christian Embassy.

His book, Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004), is designed to help believers deal with objections to the gospel in an engaging manner.

What He Said…Hold that Answer

Because I’m Jewish, I grew up with dialogues that went like this:

Randy: “How’s the weather down there?”

Granny Belle: “How could the weather be in Florida in the middle of July?”

Or …

Randy: “So, how have you been?”

Uncle Nat: “Why do you ask?”

Or …

Randy: “How’s your family?”

Aunt Vivian: “Compared to whom?”

So that may explain why I think this way, responding to questions with questions. I’d like to think, though, that it’s because I’m following the example of Jesus.

Try reading through the four Gospels to see how the Rabbi answered the questions put to Him. A clear, concise, direct answer was a rarity. Answering a question with a question was the norm.

A rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?” (Mark 10:17-18). What a great setup for a clear, concise gospel presentation! But how did Jesus respond? He posed a question, “Why do you call me good?

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

High-Profile Turnarounds – Through God’s Eyes

CelebritiesWe all become aware of the vices and virtues of people in the public eye. But God doesn’t view them as special cases.

Just like us, they become Christians through His unmerited favor—not as the result of any effort, ability, intelligent choice, or act of service.

They are, however, specially visible examples of the way He transforms lives. That is the focus of this Scripture passage.

Interact with God’s Word:  Ephesians 2:1-10

  1. What does verse 1 tell you about the original status of “all of us”?
  2. What do verses 2-3a tell you about the natural condition of “all of us”?
  3. Why were “all of us” under God’s anger (v. 3b)?
  4. What does Paul say (vv.4-8a) God did to liberate us from our hopeless predicament?
  5. What else is implied in “all he had done for us through Christ Jesus” (v. 7)?
  6. What is it that you “can’t take credit for” (v. 8)? Doing good things? Believing?
  7. In what ways are you God’s “masterpiece” (v. 10)?

Spend Time in Prayer: Thank God for making you “examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness.”

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. 2 You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God’s anger just like everyone else.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much,5 that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)6 for he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms—all because we are one with Christ Jesus.

7 And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

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

St Petersburg Mens Ensemble 2Central Church is hosting 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.

In addition to classic Russian music, expect to hear a selection of really fun Russian folk songs that highlight everyday life in an entertaining way. You can find a collection of videos of their past performances on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1361BlhghGs&list=PLF0ED103A5DE6590E&index=8

So please call all of your friends and invite them to on October 22 for some great music and a time of informal fellowship afterwards where we can chat with our guests from Russia!

High-Profile Turnarounds – “W” for Wild

George W. BushKey Bible Verse: Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2

The sweaty man I used to watch outdistance his bodyguards jogging at the ballpark and fumble his way through a press conference was born into a privileged family and spent the first part of his life acting like the world owed him an existence. Arrogant and irresponsible, he lived large and partied hard. In business, he was a moderate success, but his first foray into public life was a resounding failure. He worried his parents, worried his wife, and worried his friends. There were times when alcohol got in the way of both life and love. And then one day around the age of 40, this man grew up.

A few years later, someone asked George W. Bush who his hero was. Without hesitation, he answered, “Jesus Christ.” There was a lot of snickering over that answer in the next few days, and speculation that he was simply trying to score a few points with his audience. What many people failed to notice or didn’t take seriously was what he said immediately after his confession—”because he changed my life.”

Everyone who knew Bush back in his wild days will tell you that his life is truly changed. His confession was guileless because he really meant it.

—Jody Dean in Finding God in the Evening News

My Response: Who do you know whose life has been radically changed by Jesus?

Thought to Apply: Once I was dead . . . and now I am alive. And the difference is Jesus.—Walter Brueggemann

Adapted from Finding God in the Evening News (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

High-Profile Turnarounds – The Goal

Paul HendersonKey Bible Verse: The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:2

Bonus Reading:  Romans 8:1-11

Most mature Canadians know exactly where they were on September 28, 1972, during the final hockey “Summit Series” game against the Russians. With 34 seconds left, Team Canada’s left winger Paul Henderson banged home the winner!

Despite the ensuing fame and fortune, within months Paul grew restless. “I’d buy a new car or set of clubs,” he says, “and in two weeks, I was bored with them.” What’s wrong with me? he wondered. Why can’t I sleep at night?

Paul pictured God as a cosmic killjoy; a man’s man, he assumed, couldn’t be a follower of Christ. But finally, in desperation, he picked up a Bible he’d received as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For two-and-a-half years he laboriously studied it and grilled a Christian friend. “I came to believe there really was a God, and that He loved me,” he says.

But in the same breath in which he surrendered his life to Christ, Paul warned God, “Don’t expect me to tell anybody about this! I’ll never have the guts to do it.” Today, as director of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada’s Leadership Group, he’s told tens of thousands about something more important to him than scoring The Goal.

—Judy Nelson in Worldwide Challenge

My Response: With whom could I share the story of my own turnaround?

Thought to Apply: Once I was blind … and now I see! And the difference is the good news of God’s love. —Walter Brueggemann (professor)

Adapted from Worldwide Challenge (3-4/98)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

High-Profile Turnarounds – Mel Gibson’s Search

Mel GibsonKey Bible Verse: He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 2:13-15

At the height of his stardom, Mel Gibson had achieved everything he ever hoped for—except a sense of purpose. Gibson felt he was drowning in fame, wealth, drink, and despair. This led the one-time “sexiest man alive” to his knees and back to God. In a Reader’s Digest interview, Gibson told Peggy Noonan, “I was really searching, asking ‘What’s on the other side? Why am I here?’ I might have looked like I’m living the high life, making movies and jetting around the world, but true happiness resides within. I was spiritually bankrupt. It was like a spiritual cancer starting to eat its way through. I simply had to do something or it was going to take me.”

This 12-year pilgrimage led Gibson to the Gospels and the passion of Christ. He realized what Jesus did on the cross. Gibson described it to Noonan this way: “The purpose of the sacrifice [of Christ] was to expiate the transgressions of all mankind. The testimonies from the Gospels speak of love, of ransom, and a complete forgetting of self for the sake of all others, which is really the height of heroism. Jesus became the whipping boy so that we have a chance, because we can’t make it on our own.”

—Matt Neace in PreachingToday.com

My Response: I’ll thank Jesus for becoming the “whipping boy” for my sins.

Thought to Apply: Once I was lost … and now I am found. And the difference is the Gospel.—Walter Brueggemann (professor)

Adapted from PreachingToday.com (4/4/04)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

UMC – Taking Ebola Help to Remote Villages in Sierre Leone

The Rev. Winston Ashcroft brings greetings to the people of Mamakah, Sierra Leone, from Bishop John Yambasu. He educates them about ways to combat Ebola and prays with them.

The Rev. Winston Ashcroft brings greetings to the people of Mamakah, Sierra Leone, from Bishop John Yambasu. He educates them about ways to combat Ebola and prays with them.

As the Ebola epidemic spreads with ferocious speed, The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone is intensifying the fight against the outbreak by joining efforts to reach remote villages.

National infection rates continue to rise. No United Methodist health worker has caught the virus yet, but the epidemic has travelled from the far eastern districts of Kailahun and Kenema – which previously recorded the highest numbers of deaths – to the capital city of Freetown. More than 4,000 people have died in West Africa since the epidemic began.

Smart Senesie, director of Community Empowerment for Livelihood and Development for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, announced that his department received funding from United Methodists in Norway – in collaboration with the Norwegian government – for anti-Ebola campaigns in areas where they support projects. The church in Norway partners with the church in Sierra Leone and funds the community empowerment projects.

A vehicle carrying the Ebola Response team of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone makes its way across a rough bridge on the way to the village of Moyollo.

A vehicle carrying the Ebola Response team of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone makes its way across a rough bridge on the way to the village of Moyollo.

Those areas are below the poverty line even during normal times and with the Ebola outbreak interfering with commerce, the survival of families in these communities is threatened.

The community empowerment department put together a relief package that includes 103 bags of rice, sanitizer buckets and bars of soap, together with Ebola information packages to deliver to remote communities.

Louisa Kamada, community empowerment coordinator, says she hopes our group can reconnect with the communities, pray with them, educate them about Ebola and assure them of our love and care. The relief package is worth $12,000 U.S.

High-Profile Turnarounds – “Pat Summerall Here”

Pat Summerall and John MaddenKey Bible Verse: But God is so rich in mercy … that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life.  – Ephesians 2:4-5

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 2:1-10

For 45 years Pat Summerall’s voice and face have spelled football. After his own career as a star kicker, Pat went into broadcasting, at first covering golf and tennis. Teamed for years with John Madden, he was a Sunday afternoon voice of Fox TV NFL football.

But Pat was an only child whose parents divorced before he was born, leaving him feeling empty and alone. He became an alcoholic, living from drink to drink as his body broke down. During the 1994 Masters tournament, he faced up: “I’d been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood—and I got sick again at 4 a.m. I looked in the mirror, saw what a terrible sight I was, and said to myself, ‘This isn’t how I want to live.'”

Pat spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California. This helped alleviate his alcohol problems but didn’t address his spiritual vacuum. Then he bumped into his old coach, Tom Landry, who explained about his spiritual need and connected him with Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Weber. Pat’s life was transformed, and he was baptized at age 69. “Summerall was once the life of every party with a drink in his hand,” Weber says. “Now he gets his power from another source.”

—Art Stricklin in Sports Spectrum

My Response: How has the Spirit’s power broken destructive patterns in my life?

Thought to Apply: Once I was enslaved … and now I am free! And the difference is God’s rescuing merc —Walter Brueggmann (professor)

Adapted from Sports Spectrum (11-12/01)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

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

St Petersburg Mens Ensemble 2Central Church is hosting 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.

In addition to classic Russian music, expect to hear a selection of really fun Russian folk songs that highlight everyday life in an entertaining way. You can find a collection of videos of their past performances on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1361BlhghGs&list=PLF0ED103A5DE6590E&index=8

So please call all of your friends and invite them to on October 22 for some great music and a time of informal fellowship afterwards where we can chat with our guests from Russia!

High-Profile Turnarounds – Holy Edge?

Franklin and Billy GrahamKey Bible Verse: Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God”  – John 3:3

Bonus Reading:  John 3:4-17

Upbringing is never enough to give anyone an “extra push” into heaven. Ask Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy. Talk about having spiritual connections! But Franklin will be the first to tell you that it wasn’t enough. Raised in the spiritual greenhouse of the Graham home, Franklin went through the right motions: baptism, regular church attendance, and exposure to a steady diet of the gospel. But deep inside, Franklin knew he was hollow.

One evening in Switzerland Billy Graham confronted his son. “Your mother and I sense that you’re struggling in your heart, Franklin. You need to face the truth; you need to make your own decision. Until you do, you won’t have peace.”

Angered by his father’s words, Franklin decided to run from the truth. He ran to several Middle East countries trying to fill his life without committing it to Christ. Then one night in a hotel room in Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus had conversation with Nicodemus[John 3:4-17], Franklin decided Jesus was right. He prayed, received Him into his life, and was born again. Now he was more than the son of a world-renowned preacher. He was a child of the living God.

—Skip Heitzig in Jesus Up Close

My Response: Do I sense that I’m hollow … or know that I’ve been reborn?

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

High-Profile Turnarounds – My 180-degree Turn

Darrell WaltripWho Said It…Darrell Waltrip

Darrell started racing go-carts at age 12 and entered his first stock car race just four years later. He became a full-time NASCAR Winston Cup competitor in 1975. In the 1980s, he earned its Driver of the Decade award. Today, he holds 84 Winston Cup victories.

Darrell is currently a commentator for NASCAR Fox Sports and hosts a weekly Bible study in his garage for 75 men. He and his wife, Stevie, have two children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

What He Said…My 180–degree Turn

I was a church kid. So I knew when I was doing something wrong, but I’d do it anyway. I lived that way as an adult, too.

After Stevie put Jesus first in her life, she was on me about going to church. I raced on Sunday; that was my excuse for not going. Then a friend told us about a church that met in a high school on Wednesday night, and I lost my excuse. We went. Everything the pastor said seemed directed my way. God was getting my attention.

We were at church one July night in 1983. That racing season wasn’t going well; neither was our marriage. I was desperate enough to ask our pastor to pray for us. Then I prayed. I asked the Lord to come into my life and get me out of the mess I was in. I told Him I was a sinner and asked Him to forgive me.

God didn’t flip a switch; rather, my life and outlook slowly started to improve. God had changed me.

Adapted from Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Divorce

DivorceThe Pharisees were trying to corner Jesus by getting him to take sides in a controversy over interpreting Moses’ regulation about divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Could it be granted for a variety of reasons, or only for marital unfaithfulness? By quoting Genesis 1:17 and 2:24, Jesus pushed the discussion back to the prior question of God’s design for marriage.

Interact with God’s Word: Matthew 19:3-9

  1. Why, according to Jesus (in v. 6), does dividing a husband and wife run counter to God’s plan?
  2. Why (v. 6) are human attempts to justify separation usurping God’s authority?
  3. To what human failings does God attribute the breakup of a marriage (v. 8)?
  4. How does Jesus describe God’s allowance of Moses’ provision for divorce (v. 8)?
  5. How should current rationales for divorce, such as “incompatibility,” be viewed in light of Jesus’ statement in verse 9?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God for the unshakeable resolve and sacrificial love required to keep your marriage intact for a lifetime.

Matthew 19:3-9

3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’

6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say a man could merely write an official letter of divorce and send her away?” they asked.

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Renewable Vows

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does … let her remain single or else go back to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Bonus Reading:  Hosea 2:7, 14, 23; 3:1

John Cayce, the chief justice of the Court of Appeals for Texas’s Second District, and his lovely wife, Diane, have two daughters and one lively granddaughter. There were the usual struggles early in their marriage. They occasionally fought. Eventually the tensions crowded out the romance, and John and Diane were divorced.

After being separated for around four years, John and Diane remarried—each other! They worked through their hurt, anger, frustration, and rebellion—and found their love on the other side. Whatever they had before wound up being replaced by something more beautiful and enduring. Romantic love became mature, complete love. The solution, as John and Diane happily tell anyone who’ll listen, is inviting God to the marriage, not just the wedding.

As miraculous as their renewed vows seem in our disposable society, John and Diane didn’t stop there. They now host a Marriage Reconciliation seminar in their church. Since it was initiated several years ago, more than 100 other couples have renewed their vows—with a beaming Chief Justice John Cayce presiding, and a proud Diane and one fidgety granddaughter looking on.

—Jody Dean in Finding God in the Evening News

My Response: I’ll set a time with my wife to repeat our wedding vows.

Thought to Apply: A successful marriage demands a divorce—a divorce from your own self-love.—Paul Frost

Adapted from Finding God in the Evening News (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Pray and Work

Pray and Work

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Bailout?

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.  – Luke 9:62

Bonus Reading:  1 King 19:19-21

Hernando Cortés had a plan. He wanted to lead an expedition into Mexico to capture its vast treasures. When he told the Spanish governor of Cuba his strategy, the governor got so excited that he gave him 11 ships and 700 men. Little did the governor know that Cortés had failed to tell him the entire plan.

After months of sailing, the 11 ships landed at Veracruz in the spring of 1519. As soon as the men unloaded the ships, Cortés instituted the rest of his plan. He ran the ships aground and dismantled them!

Like it or not, they were now committed. By disassembling the ships, Cortés eliminated the options. He didn’t know what he’d encounter on his expeditions to the interior. He didn’t know the strength of the people he’d be fighting. But he did know this: There were no escape routes for his men. If the fighting got too fierce, or the expedition got too exhausting, there’d be no talk of going back to Veracruz and sailing home. In one fell swoop Cortés had eliminated their options and created an intensely powerful motivation to succeed.

Men, there’s only one way to save our marriages. Commitment is saying that no matter what comes in the future, we’re going to stick it out. We have to dismantle our ships.

—Steve Farrar in Point Man

My Response: What escapes from a difficult marriage am I ruling out?

Thought to Apply: When the Coast Guard band strikes up “Semper Fidelis” and your husband says, “They’re playing our song,” you know you’re married.—Erma Bombeck

Adapted from Point Man (Multnomah, 1990)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Persistence

Persistence

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Faceoff

DivorceKey Bible Verse: Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Luke 16:18

Bonus Reading: Matthew 19:3-9

I heard that Alan was divorcing Karen. I immediately called Alan and arranged to meet. His first words: “You don’t know the whole picture, Kenny.”

“Really?” I replied. “Can I tell you what I do know, Bro? I think you’re throwing your wife under the bus after 15 years of a good marriage. In a matter of three months, she’s somehow gone from being the best thing that ever happened to you to becoming Cruella de Vil. How convenient for you and your new friend!”

“It’s best for me and for Karen,” Alan responded defensively.

“Right! Alan. You get to have sex with a beautiful woman half your age. You don’t have to change or grow or take responsibility for the day-to-day demands of raising the kids. You can have your cake and eat it too.”

Alan mumbled that he’d “think about” what I said, but I could tell he believed his sin nature’s lies: “It can’t be God’s plan for you to live in a miserable marriage. The kids will eventually understand, and you make enough money to provide for them.” Otherwise, how does a guy go from being dedicated to God, his wife, and kids to becoming an alimony-paying divorcee living in a one-bedroom apartment?

—Kenny Luck in Every Man, God’s Man

My Response: What steps could I take to redeem a “miserable” marriage?

Thought to Apply: Marriage is our last best chance to grow up.—Joseph Barth (pastor)

Adapted from Every Man, God’s Man (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Joy

Joy 2

Prayer

Prayer 8

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Bedrock

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  “I hate divorce!” says the Lord. … “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.” Malachi 2:16

Bonus Reading: Malachi 2:13-16

Our culture treats marriage as a contract—a civil agreement between two parties that can be broken if either feels its terms have been violated. Most people don’t take divorce lightly, but many see it as a back door exit if their marriage doesn’t “work out.”

In contrast, Scripture teaches us that marriage is a lifelong union. God’s relational power and presence mysteriously bring two people together and make them one. The bond between a man and a wife is a covenant, a binding promise both partners make to one another, with their Maker as a witness. This bedrock, upon which a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman can be built, requires much of both spouses. Yet it offers life, protection, and security as no mere legal contract can.

Our individualistic culture has profoundly shaped me. The covenant of marriage demands that I lay down my imbedded independence and self-sufficiency for the sake of another. God doesn’t grant me permission to renege on my promise if disappointment or suffering in marriage seems overwhelming. The marriage covenant is a solemn oath before God to honor, esteem, and care for my wife—’til death do us part.

—Adam Holz in Discipleship Journal

My Response: How may cultural assumptions about marriage have eroded my allegiance to the biblical standard?

Thought to Apply: A covenant cannot be terminated. It can only be violated.—Ross T. Bender (seminary professor)

– Adapted from Discipleship Journal (7-8/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Two Phony ‘Facts’

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favor from the Lord.  – Proverbs 18:22

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 5:31-33

  • “Everyone is sleeping around.” – Despite what you hear in popular music and on TV sitcoms, research reveals a high degree of fidelity.

A study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center showed that 83 percent of Americans slept with only one person or else none in the course of a year. That leaves just 17 percent who were promiscuous.

  • “The annual American divorce rate is one out of two.” – This, pollster Louis Harris writes, “is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetuated.”

Think about it. On the block where you live, is every second home breaking up?

Out of the roughly 55 million current U.S. marriages, a tragic 1.2 million will end in divorce this year. But the other 53.8 million marriages, Harris notes, “just keep flowing along like Ol’ Man River.”

The one-in-two superstition arose by comparing 1.2 million divorces in a year with 2.4 million weddings in a year. But the couples getting divorced aren’t the same couples who just got married; the two numbers have no direct link. So Generation X shouldn’t be afraid of getting married! You can make a go of it—especially if you put God at the center of your relationship.

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: I’ll ask God to preserve the marriages of families in my community.

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Shatterproof Homes

DivorceWho Said It…Richard Land

Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Commission works to keep the public informed on critical issues facing the family and the nation.

He was also appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Dr. Land (with a Ph.D. from Oxford University), has also served as pastor, professor, and adviser to a former Texas governor.

What He Said…Shatterproof Homes

Speaking at his father’s funeral, former Vice President Al Gore said something penetrating, “My father, Albert Gore Sr., was the greatest man I ever knew. And the greatest lesson that my father ever taught me was the way he loved my mother. I knew that nothing was ever going to shatter my world.”

What did he mean by this observation? Quite simply this: he knew that his dad was never going to leave his mother.

God intends that kind of security for every child. It’s a telling difference that the biggest differences in lifestyle and personality between Al Gore and George W. Bush on the one hand, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich on the other, can be traced to the fact that Al Gore and George W. Bush were raised in homes in which they knew their dad loved their mom and wouldn’t leave, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich didn’t.

Evidence continues to mount that divorce has devastating effects on children well into their adulthood.

Adapted from Real Homeland Security (Broadman & Holman, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

A Heart for Holiness – Impure Thoughts

Impure ThoughtsMuch of the letter of Paul’s that we call 2 Corinthians is an emotional response to sniping by his detractors. He acknowledges that his actions may appear to be out on the edge—even a bit crazy. But he explains what drives him to his extreme behavior.

The primary thrust of this section is about evangelism; but a strong secondary emphasis concerns a lifestyle that zeroes in on God.

Interact with God’s Word:  2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

  1. What is the reason for our “solemn fear of the Lord” (v. 11)?
  2. Have you absorbed the teaching of Scripture that God’s gracious gift of eternal life doesn’t exempt you from standing personally before God’s judgment seat?
  3. What motivation is stronger than fear for Paul (v. 14)?
  4. What evidence is there that you have died with Christ to the old life you used to live?
  5. What indicators can you cite that demonstrate you are no longer living to please yourself, but to please Christ?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank Jesus Christ for dying for you. Ask for His power to live the new resurrection life that will please Him.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies. 11 It is because we know this solemn fear of the Lord that we work so hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.

14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Worth Fighting For

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: To others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Jude 23

Bonus Reading:  Revelation 3:4-6

An ermine is a cute little animal that lives in northern regions. It has shiny black eyes, short legs and a narrow body. In summer its coat is a rich chocolate brown. But in winter the color changes to snow-white, broken only by a black tip on the tail. The ermine seems to realize the beauty of its coat and takes great pride in maintaining it. Indeed, the animal’s most unusual characteristic is its hatred of anything that might soil its fur.

Hunters who know this will fill an ermine’s burrow with filth and wait with their dogs for it to return. Once the ermine spots the dogs, it will dart for the safety of its burrow. But finding its home fouled, the ermine won’t enter, but will fight the dogs to the death, preferring to die with a bloodstained coat than live with a dirty one. Its instinct for purity outweighs its survival instinct. That’s why for centuries the robes of European rulers and judges have been lined with ermine fur. It symbolizes the purity of justice.

Christian men need a similar instinct. When we understand the holiness of our God that He’s imparted to us through His Son, we’ll realize that personal holiness is a value worth fighting for.

—Bill Perkins in Six Battles Every Man Must Win

My Response: How have I fought for holiness this week?

Thought to Apply: The Christian must be consumed by the conviction of the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin.—Thomas Carlyle (Scottish historian)

Adapted from Six Battles Every Man Must Win (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Foundational Fear

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: God has come in this way to show you His awesome power. From now on, let your fear of Him keep you from sinning! Exodus 20:20

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

I recently phoned an influential organization leader who I’d covenanted to call regularly. “Henry,” he told me, “I’m so grateful you called. You’ve no idea how important this call is.”

When I asked why, he said, “I’ve never been been so utterly terrified. God began to deal with sin in my life bringing to mind what He sees as sin and how serious it is with Him. For three weeks, he brought up things I haven’t thought about for years. Things from my youth I’ve never dealt with—things that have affected my marriage and my assignment. A few days ago I cried out to God and asked why He was doing this to me. He responded, ‘Because you’ve lost your fear of Me.'”

When you don’t fear God, you won’t fear sin. There’s a direct relationship. Many people believe that as long as they don’t feel something is bad, it isn’t; as long as they feel okay about it—and God doesn’t deal with them immediately—it must be okay. They can continue to do it.

People in Old Testament times would have been put to death for many things people do today. We’re moving closer to an absolute confrontation with a God who makes no exceptions.

—Henry Blackaby in Holiness

My Response: An area of my life about which God is dealing with me is …

Thought to Apply: When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is left in him. —C. S. Lewis (British scholar & writer)

Adapted from Holiness (Nelson, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Hard Drive Dilemma

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable … excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 6:10-12

When I bought my computer two years ago, I thought a 40 GB hard drive would be plenty big. But soon, with bigger programs and my penchant for keeping things, I found it nearly filled.

After checking into the cost of upgrading my hard drive, I realized there had to be another answer: cleaning out the garbage. When I did so, I found that more than half the space had been taken by stuff I didn’t need anymore!

What about my brain?

For 50 years I’d been stuffing information into it. Could my gray matter be needing a storage upgrade? Or did it also just need a good cleaning? I asked God to show me.

He revealed sin areas that were putting stress on my operating system, pointed out past offenses still stored there, and showed me erroneous thoughts still logged in my memory bank.

Through repentance, I moved all that garbage to the recycling bin and clicked to empty it. Up popped a message asking if I was sure I wanted to permanently eliminate those files. My fingers hesitated as the enemy whispered in my ear all the reasons I should hang on to that stuff. But God’s voice was stronger; I clicked the yes button.

—Rod Nichols in Washington

My Response: I’ll ask God to reveal the garbage that needs to be deleted from my mind.

Thought to Apply: Spring cleaning should begin with the head and end with the heart.—Source Unknown

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.