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Target Your Missions Petitions – Beyond Foggy Prayers

Pray for MissionariesWho Said It…Dwayne Buhler

Dwayne and his wife Rhonda are Canadian missionaries currently serving with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Mexico City. He directs the Leadership Training Institute know as CETA, which offers a program of evening and weekend classes that provide training for believers. They previously served in Brazil for ten years, and in Canada.

What He Said…Beyond Foggy Prayers

In the battlefield of today’s missionary efforts, Satan uses many weapons. At times these weapons are obviously directly sent from him to obstruct or discourage God’s messengers. Other times his weapons are people who are unaware that they are being manipulated to achieve his hellish goals. Many times his weapons are also subtle circumstances that dissuade, discourage, or distract the missionary from accomplishing God’s purposes.

That’s why prayer for missionaries mustn’t be a vague, uninformed exercise. “Lord, bless the missionaries, whoever they are, wherever they are, and whatever they are doing—I’m sure they need your help” isn’t an effective way to be a partner with God in and through missionaries. As a missionary I often struggle with the task of writing prayer letters that creatively communicate the very real needs that my family and I face. I desire to do so in such a way that their prayers and participation will be effective and rewarding. My experience is that when God’s people pray specifically, He answers those prayers specifically.

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

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Peace with Justice Sunday – Today!

Peace with Justice Sunday 6

Peace with Justice Sunday

Peace with Justice Sunday

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Constant Prayer

Prayer 9God’s ambassador, as Paul referred to himself, wrote his letters to the churches of Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi from prison.

But his upbeat emphasis is on evangelism, discipling, and prayer. In this paragraph (and a parallel one, Colossians 4:24) he lets his readers know why intercessory prayer is vital.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 6:18-20

  1. How can anyone pray at all times?
  2. How does the Holy Spirit empower your prayers?
  3. Are you praying for the growth of Christians you know?
  4. How can you pray for believers around the world?
  5. What two qualities did Paul single out (in. v. 18) as key in intercessory prayer?
  6. Why do you think these qualities are essential?
  7. What two prayer requests did Paul present for his own ministry?
  8. What lesson is there for us in what Paul did not request prayer for?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the resolve to be alert and persistent in your prayer life, experiencing His power working on behalf of believers both nearby and at a distance.

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God’s secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too. 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message as God’s ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

Peace with Justice Sunday – Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peace with Justice Sunday 5

Raise Your Prayer Sights – …and More

Prayer 9

Key Bible Verse: I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. Matthew 21:21

Bonus Reading: Matthew 21:18-22

[continued from yesterday] President Museveni asked Bob to help organize a prayer breakfast for Uganda. People of every tribe, religion, and station attended. Speakers admitted the hate they’d held for others, and told how much they’d been changed by God.

Back in his office, Museveni asked Bob how he viewed the situation in South Africa. Bob replied that the country was heading in the right direction after releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. Museveni agreed. “I’m now chairman of the Organization of African Unity,” he said. “I want to send a delegation to South Africa to say that love and reconciliation are the answer to the bloodshed predicted for their country. What do you think?”

“That sounds like a great idea,” said Bob.

“Can you go? We need a white in the delegation to demonstrate our point.”

Bob went and met with Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi, and other leaders. He read 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s love chapter. Christians from Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda spoke of how forgiveness was critical to South Africa’s success. This message proved pivotal in that nation’s bloodless transition from white to majority rule.

Bob Hunter’s little group is still meeting to pray for Africa. And mountains keep moving!

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: What “mountain” have I witnessed being moved in response to prayer?

Thought to Apply: Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power, like a mighty locomotive, can come.—Watchman Nee (Chinese pastor)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – One Mountain…

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: If you had faith … you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. Matthew 17:20

Bonus Reading: John 17:20-21

[continued from yesterday]  Bob took his first trip to Uganda to visit the hospital just as dictator Idi Amin was being pushed out. Convinced that helping the hospital was futile without working on reconciliation in the ravaged country, Bob met the parliamentary leaders friendly to the new president, Milton Obote, and those who opposed him. He found each side willing to meet with him but not with each other.

“Lord, how can we get these guys to sit together and heal their land?” he prayed.

The answer came quickly. Waiting for his plane during a layover at the Nairobi airport, Bob sat next to an American missionary. She was the daughter of Andrew Young, then mayor of Atlanta. She suggested that Bob call her father and ask him to visit Uganda. Bob called. Andrew Young agreed.

They started a process of reconciliation that included opposition rebels, one of whom, Yoweri Museveni, became president in due course. A Museveni adviser who believed in Jesus Christ met with Bob; they talked about forgiveness, reconciliation, and love for one’s enemies. President Museveni was persuaded to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he acknowledged his own faith. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: A time I sensed God using me in answer to prayer was …

Thought to Apply: History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being.—Walter Wink

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Peace with Justice Sunday – Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peace with Justice 4

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Cover a Continent

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved. Romans 10:1

Bonus Reading: Matthew 9:35-38

“Pray for something bigger than yourself,” Doug Coe told Bob Hunter, a new Christian who asked his friend how to pray. “Pick a city like Washington, a state like Virginia, a country like Russia, or even a continent like Africa. If you stick with it for 25 years, you’ll see God move mountains.”

For some reason, the thought of praying for Africa stuck with Bob. He and one other man studied a map to learn the names of countries formed since they were in high school. Then they began praying for this vast continent. A couple of other men soon joined them.

Back in the 1970s Idi Amin was executing thousands in Uganda. So the group prayed in earnest for Uganda. They asked God to raise up a worker from its capital, Kampala, whom they could support.

Then Bob attended a retreat at a hotel. A group gathering after lunch to pray for Africa was joined by a missionary nurse not attending the retreat. It turned out she worked at Mengo Hospital in Kampala! Bob invited her to visit his family and go to church with them for “Missions Sunday.” When the scheduled missionary speaker failed to show, the nurse from Kampala took his place. Bob’s church soon made the hospital its ongoing project. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: Something bigger than myself that I feel led to pray for is ____.

Thought to Apply: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.—Alfred Tennyson (English poet)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Target Your Boss

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people … for kings and all others who are in authority. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Bad-mouthing a manager is commonplace today. Employees crack jokes and bash their leader out of lack of respect, distrust, and dislike. But this behavior only worsens what might already be a bad situation.

Imagine what work would be like if, instead, all the employees began praying for their leaders. If we all chose to lift up in prayer the people we feel at odds with, great things could happen, not just for them but for us as well.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that we’re to pray for everyone. He singled out governmental authorities; but his directive could also apply to leaders in virtually all organizations.

Why pray for your boss? Because God allows us to help Him change people and situations. The more we acknowledge others in prayer, the more God will work in them and the circumstances surrounding them. God helps you through your prayers to see your boss through His eyes—and your heart will begin softening toward this person for whom you’ve previously felt anger, bitterness, or contempt.

Before you leave for work each morning, pray for your boss. This could avert a snide remark or words spoken in anger.

—Stephen Graves and Thomas Addington in Deep Focus

My Response: I’ll commit to pray weekly for ______, my supervisor.

Thought to Apply: God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. —Oswald Chambers (British teacher, chaplain)

Adapted from Deep Focus (Jossey-Bass, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

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Peace with Justice Sunday – Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peace with Justice Sunday 3

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Bless That Bozo?

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Bonus Reading: Colossians 1:9-12

I became close with five guys in a Bible study on our campus. But one evening a 6’5″ football player burst into our quiet gathering, extended his hand in all directions, and bellowed out his name. Big Wally was joining our group. During the weeks that followed, I listened resentfully to this primitive extrovert boom out his airhead religious views. Wally had ruined our tranquil, reflective atmosphere.

Fortunately, our study leader altered how we opened our sharing time. He asked us to pray silently for each group member, thinking of their needs and claiming God’s assistance in their lives. I prayed for the person on my right and left and then came to Wally, sitting across from me. I tried to pray about the biology test he was facing and the girlfriend who’d dumped him.

That simple act jolted me awake. I just couldn’t think of Wally in the same way. He required my help, and I needed his. I began to see things I admired in this guy. The more we prayed together, the more I came to like Wally, until one evening I found myself jumping on a sofa with him, wildly celebrating an answer to prayer. His raw enthusiasm had become infectious rather than offensive.

—Steven Mosley in Secrets of the Mustard Seed

My Response: Starting today, I’ll pray for _____, who rubs me the wrong way.

Adapted from Secrets of the Mustard Seed (Nav Press, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Visible and Vulnerable

Prayer 9Who Said It…John Stackhouse Jr.

John teaches theology and culture at Regent College, a graduate school of Christian studies affiliated with the University of British Columbia. He frequently comments on contemporary religion and culture in the news media.

John enjoys skiing the Vancouver-area mountains with his wife and three sons, and playing basketball and hockey with his students. He also loves to play jazz—on piano, guitar, or electric bass.

What He Said…Visible and Vulnerable

Are those currently riding high in Christian esteem immune to the sins that beset the rest of us?

Even in spiritual matters, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The very traits that help people succeed make them vulnerable to pride, lust, and greed.

I remember a bishop respected for his compassion for the poor who confessed to financial mismanagement—and a Christian pop singer whose affair with another performer broke up her marriage. I’ve prayed for these and other disgraced heroes, those they hurt, and those left to pick up the pieces.

But I’ve resolved to pray regularly for several leaders who’ve blessed me and have not fallen. I pray that they’ll remain morally upright, care properly for their families, discern how God would best use them, and enjoy walking with Him more and more.

Whose ministry are you glad for? Your pastor? A local writer, speaker, or singer? A renowned Christian whose work has impressed you?

Why not select a few leaders to protect with your prayers?

Adapted from Faith Today (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week:  Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

How to Dis Discontent – Being Content

Contentment 2Ephesus was a wealthy city, and the Ephesian church probably had some prosperous members.

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

Paul’s counsel fits our era just as well.

Interact with God’s Word

1 Timothy 6:5-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

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

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

1 Timothy 6:5-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

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

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

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

 

How to Dis Discontent – Gear Glut

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: True religion with contentment is great wealth.  – 1 Timothy 6:6

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

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

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

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

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

 

Pentecost – Come, Holy Ghost: A Wesleyan perspective on the Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Today’s issue of the UMNS Daily Digest, produced by United Methodist News Service, contains the following article of interest on the Holy Spirit as we prepare for the arrival of Pentecost Sunday this weekend.

While most United Methodists can articulate what they believe about Jesus and are reasonably comfortable talking about God, our confidence might waver when talking about the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is because we can relate to Jesus as a human being and understand God through personified imagery like “Heavenly Father.”

The symbols we use to talk about the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are far less human. At Pentecost we read about the Spirit as fire and wind. In Baptism, we recognize the work of the Spirit through water and a dove. Not to mention the confusion caused by referring to the Spirit as the Holy Ghost.

Additionally, cultural understandings talk of specific work attributed to the Spirit like ecstatic utterances and other highly emotive responses. While we do not discount those experiences, many of us have not had them and wonder about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, may be able to help. The unimaginatively titled sermon “On the Holy Spirit,” from the 1872 edition of The Sermons of John Wesley, seeks to address not the “particularly extraordinary gifts” of the Spirit, but “what the Holy Spirit is to every believer.”

Hymn writer Charles Wesley, brother of John, wrote a song known to many United Methodist congregations even today. “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire” (The United Methodist Hymnal 603) shares many of the same themes that help us better understand the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Harbinger of Day of Resurrection

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wesley understood the Holy Spirit as the fullness of God at work in our broken world.

The “sin of Adam,” as the events of Genesis 3 are described in the sermon, distanced human beings from the image of God we were created to be. Addressing Adam’s desire to cover up after sinning, the sermon states, “Well might Adam now find himself naked; nothing less than God was departed from him.”

In Jesus, God has bridged this separation by overcoming sin. “[W]hat we lost in Adam,” the sermon reads, “we might receive in Christ Jesus.”

While that process of reconciliation begins when we put our trust in Jesus, it will not be complete until the Day of Resurrection to come. The Holy Spirit is a harbinger of our future with us in the present.

Spiritual Gifts

Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ.

Fountain of love

From the earliest days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley sought to help Christians live faith in the midst of ordinary lives of family, friends, work, bills, and more. He encouraged the Methodists to participate in what he called the “means of grace,” which included acts of piety like worship and prayer, along with acts of service like feeding the hungry and giving to the poor.

These acts are gifts strengthening us to live into the two-fold nature of discipleship: loving God and our neighbors.

In his hymn, Charles invites the Holy Ghost to strengthen us to live our faith daily.

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire, let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire, fountain of life and love.

Revealer of truth

John Wesley often called himself a “man of one book.” That book, of course, was the Bible.

Wesley was an ardent student of the Scriptures. He knew that the same Spirit that inspired the authors would also move in the hearts of readers centuries later, revealing God’s truth to us. The sermon states that the Holy Spirit is “a light to discern the fallacies of flesh and blood, [and] to reject the irreligious maxims of the world.”

In the second verse of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles prayerfully asks the Holy Ghost to come to reveal God’s word to us.

Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee the prophets wrote and spoke),
unlock the truth, thyself the key, unseal the sacred book.

Holy SpiritBearer of New Creation

Having the Holy Spirit among us, a sign of that future day of restoration, also gives us the ability to live as people of that future now. Through the Spirit we see the world not only as it is, but as it will be, and are invited to participate in the work of reconciliation.

In the sermon we read that the Holy Spirit “is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us.”

When we sing verse 3 of Charles’ hymn, we pray for that day to come. Using an allusion to the presence of God’s Spirit moving over the face of the deep before the first day of Creation (see Genesis 1:2), we long for the new creation.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove, brood o’er our nature’s night;
on our disordered spirits move, and let there now be light.

Assurance of salvationHoly Spirit 2

If you have ever wondered if you are really saved, you are not alone. Many Christians, including John Wesley, have gone through seasons of similar struggles. This sermon points to evidence in the gifts we see in our lives.

In “On the Holy Spirit” we read, “[W]here that divine Guest enters, the laws of another world must be observed.” A shift the Spirit brings to our priorities is then described. Where we once were primarily concerned about ourselves, the Spirit enables us to focus on our love of God and others.

In verse four of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles Wesley writes how love flowing through us is evidence of the Spirit living in us.

God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine,
and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.

It may be difficult for some of us to articulate a relationship with one described as fire, water, wind, or a dove. What we need to know is that the Spirit is the presence of the Holy in and around us each day, enabling us to live into the people God created us to be and will be restored to one day.

The Spirit is the presence of the Holy … enabling us to live as the people God created us to be.

Learn more about the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, and take an online assessment to help you discover and cultivate your gifts.

Peace with Justice Sunday – Sunday, May 31

Peace with Justice Sunday 2

How to Dis Discontent – Reach for Less

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.  – Ecclesiastes 4:6, NIV

Bonus Reading: Luke 14:28-30

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

Jesus rebuked those who started a tower without calculating what it would take to finish it. We must know our strengths, and limitations. Our lives were meant to be built on the capabilities and personality strengths a good God has given us.

We don’t need to strain to be somebody else. There’s great satisfaction in focused energy and completed towers. If your reach will compromise a quiet center or push you beyond the boundaries of peace, consider it too expensive.

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

To be content with our life position cancels out the reach for more. It means that who we are is okay—our looks, our abilities, our singleness.

Where we are is okay too—our address, our school, our job, our position. And contentment includes how we are, even in a sickbed or with an empty wallet.

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

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

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

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

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

 

How to Dis Discontent – Equalize the Pressure

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me.  – Psalm 116:7

Bonus Reading: Psalm 78:18-28

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

First, we need to renew our confidence in our secure Source. When something happens to our paycheck or our best friend, we feel fearful and restless. But those are only vehicles of God’s supply, not the Source.

He’s infinitely creative in finding other ways to send what we need. After all, our Father invented manna in the wilderness, water from a rock, and food delivered free by ravens. If we belong to Him, our Source is beyond the reach of any recession, depression, or hydrogen bomb.

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

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

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

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

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

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

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

 

After Ebola: A devastated country picks up the pieces

EbolaThe Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone is busy. Crisis responders from all over the world gather around the luggage carousel.  Staff for non-governmental organizations — representing Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, France, Iceland, China and the United States — are easily identified by their uniforms, luggage tags or dialects.  As the many containers of medical supplies and equipment spill onto the conveyor belt, the responders seem prepared to saturate the country with their enthusiastic support, resources, knowledge and skills in an effort to finally contain the Ebola virus.

With the easing of public health restrictions, Sierra Leoneans not only are weary of the virus but also are becoming more complacent in facing this formidable foe. While hand-washing stations are abundant throughout the capital city of Freetown, many simply ignore them. Public buses are packed beyond shoulder to shoulder, and those manning Ebola checkpoints in and out of the city often wave people through without a glance. All these factors allow the virus to maintain a stubborn grip on the health and psyche of a nation.

Even though Liberia was recently declared Ebola-free, the virus is proving to be an unshakable foe in Sierra Leone. It was difficult to tally accurate statistics at the peak of the outbreak, but the World Health Organization reports that nearly 11,000 have died of Ebola in west Africa, and more than 26,000 were infected. Even now, Sierra Leone reports a few cases a day, but more districts than not seem to have broken the transmission chain that originally fueled the outbreak so virulently in the last quarter of 2014.  More than 12,000 have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and nearly 4,000 have died.

Nobody knew what Ebola was

We were there when Ebola first took hold in Sierra Leone.

At the end of May 2014, a United Methodist News Service team was covering the distribution of 400,000 insecticide treated bed nets through the church’s Imagine No Malaria ministry when we heard that Ebola had made its way to the far corner of the country.

The news team and United Methodist Committee on Relief representatives headed for Kenema Government Hospital to confer with the government health team treating Ebola patients. We wanted to communicate the facts to the many United Methodist Church doctors and nurses who might come into contact with Ebola patients.  That was 12 months ago.

Since then, the world has witnessed the devastating effects of Ebola in West Africa. Thousands have died and the fallout has devastated the health, education, and economic sectors of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

From the beginning of the deadly outbreak, United Methodist leaders in West Africa have been on the frontlines. As the virus begins to show signs of retreating, it was time for United Methodist News Service to return to Sierra Leone to investigate how the church might be called upon in the coming years to rebuild all that has been lost during the outbreak.

Despite all the effort that has gone into controlling the epidemic, across the street from the modern hotel that accommodates responders from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, an entire neighborhood endures quarantine. The orange plastic fencing draping the area indicates that for 21 days no one inside the fence can legally leave and their health will be monitored for any sign of the virus.

Joseph Bangura is one of the more than 300 living behind this flimsy barrier. He earns his living at the fish market where a boat arrived a few days ago with a handful of passengers from a northern village. One man on board was already dead from Ebola and the others were whisked away to treatment facilities. Bangura misses his family and has no means of earning a living while quarantined. “I am worried about my family and they are worried about me.”

Over the last year, Bishop John K. Yambasu has witnessed the far-reaching repercussions of Ebola. The United Methodist bishop for Sierra Leone has lost parishioners and pastors to the virus. He has experienced the death of a beloved surgeon, the closing of United Methodist health clinics and schools. And, he has prayed with his countrymen as they struggled to earn a living as society ground to a halt.

“My heart bleeds,” he says, “Ebola broke out in this country and nobody had any idea what it was.”

‘We all came together’

Yambasu steers the Religious Leaders Task Force on Ebola. Early in the outbreak, he directed training of all faith-based health institutions across the country. Nearly 300 attended the information sessions about the deadly virus.

“We all came together, imams and pastors and trained in the area of basic prevention,” Yambasu says. It was this task force that pressured the government to declare Ebola a national health emergency and put into place more stringent controls.

Throughout the unprecedented outbreak, the church has remained a trusted source of information. With the help of United Methodist Communications, Yambasu and Liberian Bishop John Innis have sent daily text messages of encouragement and information to their pastors.

Early on, the messages helped to amplify the reality of the outbreak and empower faith leaders to guide their congregations through the crisis.  Nearly 700 recipients received messages such as, “Ebola is real. It kills with little warning,” and “Don’t fix our eyes on Ebola but on God’s presence…God’s grace is eternal.” The agency also co-produced an award-winning animation, recorded in indigenous languages, to persuade cynics that the virus had become an undeniable reality in the region.

To date, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has poured over $630,000 into the Ebola response in Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as Côte d’Ivoire, where proximity to the two nations put the country at risk.

“Most of our grants included multiple elements like purchase of medical supplies and feeding people in hospitals,” says Francesco Paganini, the manager of International Response.  The mission agency, United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry individually contributed to education and prevention efforts, as well. The United Methodist Women also distributed food to those quarantined and out of work because of Ebola.

On the frontlines in the affected countries, local church leaders organized information campaigns and distributed medical equipment and resources.  When large numbers of people were quarantined, the church delivered food and water to help ease the burden of total shutdown.

Yambasu says it was sobering to witness the breakdown of nearly every social system in the country. “Ebola brought a lot of evil upon this nation but it opened our eyes to realities,” he says. When the outbreak first occurred, Sierra Leone had just a handful of ambulances. Yambasu explains that patients suffering from a variety of ailments, such as malaria or even high blood pressure, often were transported in the vehicles with those suffering from Ebola.

Because of the toxic mix, ambulances were regarded as “death wagons.”  In Kailahun, an area where whole families were wiped out by the virus, villagers rioted when an ambulance approached to pick up a patient.  An influx of new ambulances, a change in procedures and an extensive government campaign is slowly convincing a skeptical society that ambulances are not to be feared.

The recovery plan

The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone is facing tremendous challenges as a result of Ebola and conference leaders have formulated a Post-Ebola Recovery Response Strategic Plan.  The two-year plan addresses the resuscitation and enhancement of all forms of outreach – including health, education and agriculture – while addressing demands created by the sheer numbers of Ebola orphans and widows.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The United Methodist Churches in Sierra Leone and Liberia are struggling to recover from the Ebola epidemic. You can donate to the conference relief efforts online through the Advance.

Sierra Leone Undesignated Advance #00387A

Liberia Undesignated Advance #00382A

You can also give to the International Disaster Response fund Advance #982450 of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Read full coverage of Ebola and The United Methodist Church.

The 18-page report underscores the growing number of vulnerable people in an already overstressed country, especially those who have lost parents or spouses and have no means of support. In addition, the document acknowledges that without a functioning health care system, many chronic diseases have been left untreated, which has resulted in even more deaths and disability than are being reported.

Strengthening the efforts to engage everyone from grassroots to governmental levels, the annual conference report emphasizes the urgent need to reopen the four United Methodist health facilities that were closed in the midst of the outbreak. The Sierra Leone Conference operates 10 hospitals and clinics throughout the country. The plan addresses operational vulnerabilities that were exposed because of the Ebola outbreak with the goal of transforming the facilities into a “robust first class health care system.”

In addition to health care, the church operates more than 300 primary schools and 50 secondary schools. The United Methodist University, slated to open in 2016, will inaugurate curricula that will address food security and nutrition, nursing and evangelization.

This recovery plan will serve as a framework for Sierra Leone Partners Conferences in Germany and Norway this month and in the United States in August.

How to Dis Discontent – Virus Protection

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: I have learned to get along happily whether I have much or little. Philippians 4:11

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:10-20

Life is never good enough for some people, while others have great joy even though their lives are plagued by problems.

According to the apostle Paul, the problem for those who are never happy is that “their minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15, NIV).

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

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

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

—Craig Barnes in An Extravagant Mercy

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

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

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

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

 

Re-Creation at Central Church

Re-Creation joined us on Sunday night, May 17, 2015 for a wonderful night filled with music and joyful worship.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to join us, here are a few photos of the evening:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next concert:

will be with the the Southern Gospel group, the GloryWay Quartet, featuring their beautiful four-part harmony at Central Church at 6:00 on Sunday, July 19.

Mark your calendars and plan to join us for another wonderful evening of music in praise of our God.

GloryWay Quartet

 

 

 

How to Dis Discontent – 4-Wheel Dream

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! Ecclesiastes 5:10

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

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

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

“Should we make it diesel?” I asked.

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

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

Peter sat there stunned and undecided. He’d always thought, When I get to this level and have these things, then I’ll be content. Was that his conscious thinking? No. Was it his practical behavior? Yes.

As is true for most of us. Our culture has conditioned us to believe our contentment is something “out there.” “When I get the right job …” “When we can afford to move to a larger house …” “When we can afford to retire …”

“When” never gets here.

—Neil Atkinson in The Shrewd Christian

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

Adapted from The Shrewd Christian (WaterBrook, 2004)

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

 

Pentecost Sunday – May 24, 2015

PentecostPentecost Sunday is on May 24 this year.  Pentecost represents an ending as well as a beginning: the end of the “Great Fifty Days” of the Easter Season (Pentecost means “the 50th day” in Greek) and the beginning of the commemorations of the early church.  Pentecost also gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves the question, “What is our community ‘on fire’ about?”

For the early church, Pentecost was the second most important part of the Christian year after Pascha or Easter.  Originally, it commemorated both the Ascension of Jesus and the descending of the Holy Spirit, but became two distinct celebrations by the end of the fourth century.  (As Christianity became legal, there was no reason not to have as many celebrations as possible.)

Pentecost also became a favorite time for baptisms with its focus on the work of the Holy Spirit within the church and within our lives.  The holy day continues to be a wonderful celebrative time for rites of passage including baptism, confirmation and the reception of new members.

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

Contentment 2Who Said It…Richard Bewes

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

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

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

What He Said…”There’s Your Model”

Missionary Ken Ogden used his skills as a carpenter to good effect in one of the developing countries.

At one point he’d shown his local pupils how to build a church. They did it together. They were just about to embark on the final lesson of making the seating when the blow fell. The totalitarian government of the day found fault with Ken and ordered him out of the country with 24 hours notice.

What would you have done? Run ’round to the bank and try to extricate what funds you could? Frantically gather your most precious belongings for a hasty exit?

Ken did none of that. Those last hours he spent with his pupils, and made one seat for the new church. “There!” he said when it was done. “There’s your model. Now I’m going, but you finish the rest.”

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

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

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

 

Honesty – Being Honest with God

Honesty 2This psalm may have been written to celebrate moving the Ark of the Covenant from Obededom’s house to Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 6:10-12.

Tradition says that this psalm was sung on the first day of each week in the Temple services.

We focus today on the verses that tell who is worthy to join in such a celebration of worship.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 24:3-6

  1. What qualifications are stated in verse 4 for being a worshipper whom God accepts?
  2. In what way would dishonesty contaminate a heart?
  3. What could complete truthfulness cost you in terms of entitlements, comfort level, or how you are perceived?
  4. How does deceiving others lead to self-deception?
  5. Why is God unable to hear you or speak to you if you are building a wall of self-deception?
  6. What is promised (v. 5) to those who keep their hands and hearts pure?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Lord, I realize that unless I am absolutely honest, a relationship with You is impossible. Please help me to strip away all pretense in my life.

Psalm 24:3-6

3Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.

5They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior. 6They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.

 

Prayer for the Week:  Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Truth and Consequences

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: We can say with … a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings. 2 Corinthians 1:12

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 24:3-6

A couple of years ago a man in my congregation sold his business in order to run for political office. He wanted to invest his life in making a difference in the world.

Though it was John’s first political campaign, he won the election handily. His introduction to California politics wasn’t altogether friendly, however.

As he began to serve in his elected capacity, he soon found himself in trouble with powerful political operatives.

How did he get into this fix? By telling the truth as he saw it, rejecting the “make nice” compromises of political expediency. Before long John faced a stark decision, either to continue to speak truthfully and put his political future at risk or to bend the truth and become “one of the boys.”

When I met with John, he’d decided which course to take, but he wanted some pastoral encouragement. “If I stick with the truth,” he explained, “it might very well be the end of my career in politics. But I need to do what’s right and leave the results to the Lord.”

John’s confidence in God gave him the strength to uphold the truth. The fact of God’s sovereignty and love emboldened him to be truthful in an arena where, sadly, truth is so often lacking.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: I’ll commit to live the truth, and ask God to take care of the consequences.

Thought to Apply: When I lay down the reins of this administration, I want to have one friend left. And that friend is inside myself.—Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Broken Barrier

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 36:1-3

Employees who watch their boss or leader be dishonest to a supplier become uneasy about their job security.

I recently heard about a situation a person found himself in. “I was talking to our president and some other people on the executive team after some difficult negotiations with a major supplier, and I wasn’t comfortable with how it had gone. One of the vice presidents had lied to the supplier to get the price down. I don’t remember my exact words, but I put it as diplomatically as I knew how that I wasn’t comfortable with that, and that it could undermine our relationship with the supplier.

“The president rolled his eyes and laughed. ‘Look at Jack! He’s shocked, shocked, that we sometimes tell stories to suppliers!’

“Everyone laughed, and someone said, ‘Grow up, Jack.’

“Well, I turned red, but I remember thinking, If they are willing to lie to suppliers, why not employees? I never trusted the executive team after that.”

When we break an ethical barrier, it is just like breaking a pane of glass: it’s gone; it does not exist anymore. Not only do people within our organizations begin to mistrust, but also they begin setting their own moral bar lower. The “broken glass” can’t be repaired to look flawless.

—Wayde Goodall in Why Great Men Fall

My Response: How could I help raise the moral bar where I work?

Thought to Apply: He that once deceives is ever suspected.—George Herbert (English poet & priest)

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – End-of-the-Tunnel Light?

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: They say to themselves, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us! We will be free of trouble forever!”Psalm 10:6

Bonus Reading:  2 Chronicles 18:3-22

In early 1968, the Commandant of the Marine Corps came to Danang for a visit, and I was assigned to the briefing team.

A colonel called me aside and suggested, “Tell him about the MiGs you encountered over Hanoi.” I answered “Well, you know, I never really encountered any myself.” He quickly replied with a note of consternation in his voice, “Well, somebody encountered them, so you’re the person who needs to talk about them.”

He added another subject: “Make sure you tell the Commandant about evasive maneuvers when multiple surface-to-air missiles were sent your way.” Again I felt obliged to reply, “I never had more than a single surface-to-air missile come my way at one time.” He was having a hard time making his point. “Yes, but there were other people who must have had SAMs shot at them in multiple configurations. Tell them about that.”

That briefing, and the not-so-subtle shift from what was factually correct, became a microcosm of the entire war. As the war went on, sometimes supported by little lies and sometimes by a total absence of truth, we lost faith in reality. We lost that faith because no one had the courage to tell the truth.

—Robert Seiple in Ambassadors of Hope

My Response: In what settings do I find truth elusive?

Thought to Apply: So long as we are able to distinguish any space whatever between the truth and us, we remain outside it.—HENRI AMIEL (Swiss philosopher)

Adapted from Ambassadors of Hope (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Parsonage – FIRE

Central Church - Parsonage Fire - 5-12-2015

Central Church – Parsonage Fire – 5-12-2015

There was a significant fire at Central’s Parsonage this afternoon. Our tenant’s 13-year-old grandson was playing with a lighter in one of the bedrooms and set the mattress alight.

The 4-Alarm blaze brought in fire fighters from Beaver Falls, New Brighton, Patterson, and Big Beaver.

Everyone escaped the building without injury, but the preliminary damage estimate to Central’s Parsonage is in excess of $80,000.

We had a restoration company started on the work before the fire trucks departed late this afternoon, but the work will not be concluded until late this year at the earliest.

Nevertheless, in the light of what could have happened, our prayers are prayers of Thanks to God today that no one was injured.Central - Parsonage Fire 2 - 5-12-2015

 

Honesty – Check-in Checkup

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart.  –  Psalm 51:5-6

Bonus Reading: Jeremiah 9:3-9

I arrived late at the airport only to discover that I’d forgotten to refuel the rental car. That really shouldn’t have been a problem since the rental company will gladly refuel the car for about $4.00 a gallon.

But when the agent at the check-in counter asked me if I had refueled the car, I lied, or at least I used the “truth” to deceive. Instead of simply answering no, I said, “The fuel gauge is registering full.”

Without looking up from her paperwork she asked, “Do you have a receipt for the gasoline?”

Once again I had an opportunity to do the right thing. All I had to was tell her that I had not refueled the car. Instead, I simply said, “No.” She must have have sensed I wasn’t being completely truthful because she pressed me. “What,” she asked, “was the name of the gasoline station where you refueled the car?”

This time I didn’t even pretend to tell the truth. “I don’t remember,” I mumbled as I turned away and walked toward the concourse. I could feel her eyes boring into me, but I didn’t look back. Such duplicity! Such deceit! And for what? Less than ten dollars worth of gasoline.

—Richard Exley in Man of Valor

My Response: How have I cultivated or suppressed a God-honoring conscience?

Thought to Apply: A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent.—William Blake (English artist & writer)

Adapted from Man of Valor (White Stone Books, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Technically True

Honesty 200Key Bible Verse: Our responsibility is never to oppose the truth, but to stand for the truth at all times.  2 Corinthians 13:8

Bonus Reading: Jeremiah 17:9-10

During graduate school, I managed a center that offered tutoring to students preparing to take standardized exams. Part of my job was to promote our program. The best promotion was to showcase the improved test scores of our clients—improvements we could demonstrate.

Most of our students showed a significant gain on the SAT—an average of 120 points among those whose scores improved. However, a few students actually received lower scores!

If my promotional material spoke of the average improvement, rather than the average overall change, I could eliminate the scores of the students who didn’t improve. However, if I took them into account, the average student improved by only 90 points.

I faced a dilemma. If I spoke of average improvement, I was putting a deceptive spin on the truth. I’m sad to say that I failed to renounce the trickery of this world. I stated the literal truth—”the average improvement after taking our class is 120 points”—in a way that led people to believe that the average student increased his or her score by that margin.

Our promotional literature escaped an outright lie, but it didn’t tell the complete truth.

—Mark Roberts in the Dare to Be True

My Response: From what deceptive spin do I need to distance myself?

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Burying His Hatchet

Honesty 200Who Said It…Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson, a tough marine turned Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man,” was converted as the Watergate scandal closed in on the President’s inner circle. Skeptics saw this as a devious ploy. When an interviewer questioned his conversion, Colson said the evidence would be his life ten years later. The then second-most hated man in America is now the softened, forgiveness-seeking founder of Prison Fellowship.

What He Said…Burying His Hatchet

After fighting to prove his innocence, Colson’s born-again conscience led him to change course. An offered plea bargain was designed to let him off with probation. But he rejected it because he’d have to testify that he ordered a break-in at the offices of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg—something he hadn’t done.

But God helped him to see that his lack of direct involvement in the break-in was pure happenstance. He’d obtained the money to pay for a covert operation against Ellsberg, and tried to smear him in the press. So Colson told his law-firm partner, David Shapiro, that he’d decided to plead guilty to disseminating derogatory information to the press about Ellsberg while he was a criminal defendant.

“It’s not a crime!” retorted Shapiro. “No one’s ever been charged with that.”

Colson said that the prosecutor might accept it as an obstruction of justice charge.

“You’re an idiot,” shouted Shapiro. “You’re going to end up in the slammer.”

“I know,” was the soft answer.

Adapted from Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Tithe

TithingTithing is a spiritual discipline many Christians practice.

In its simplest form, it means giving back to God 10 percent of what you make.

I’ve practiced it for years as a regular part of my giving.  I tithe ‘plus’ to my local church and I give to other causes on top of that.

However, I’ve seen 10 common reasons that church people give for not tithing. I list them below with a counterpoint below each.

1. It’s all mine anyway. Why should I give?

2. I give elsewhere.

This is the person who counts his giving to secular causes, his time or paying for his child’s Christian school tuition as his tithe.

  • Counterpoint:  Do causes around the purposes of God get the lion’s share of your giving?

3. Tithing is not in the New Testament.

This is one of the most common.

  •         CounterpointWhen Jesus fulfilled the law, He didn’t revise spirituality downward.

4. God will provide through other people. 

This person believes that other people will give to support the cause of Christ in their church.

  •          Counterpoint: God chose to release His resources through all believers.

5. My gifts don’t really count. 

This person thinks that because he can’t give much, his giving really doesn’t matter.

  •         CounterpointDon’t minimize the size of any gift (recall the story of the poor widow in Mark 12.41-44).

Tithing Statistics6. I don’t trust preachers.

This is understandable due to the few high profile ministers who misuse God’s money.

  • CounterpointIf you lead a church, make sure you instill the highest standards of stewardship and accountability.

7. I only give to projects I like.

This is the control freak who only gives to projects he or she can designate funds to. Some people in this category even hold back their giving in their church because they haven’t gotten their way.

  • Counterpoint: Trust your church leadership to wisely manage God’s money.

8. I have no control over my finances. My husband does.

In this case (and it’s almost always a wife in this position) her husband controls the finances and although the wife wants to give, he prohibits it.

  •   CounterpointRest in the Lord, He knows your heart.

9. I will tithe when I can afford it.

  • CounterpointIf you wait, you probably never will. Research shows that contrary to what we might assume, the more money a person makes, the less percentage they give.

10. I’m afraid to. (These people honestly fear what might happen to them or their family if they give.)

  • CounterpointStep out in faith knowing that God promises to meet your needs.

 

The Founding Mothers of Mother’s Day

Mother's Day 1In the late 1860s, before there was an official Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., a Methodist mom organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

When Ann Jarvis was working to establish Mother’s Day as a national event, and when her daughter picked up the mantle from her, they were not thinking about greeting cards and flowers.  Instead the Methodist women who invented the idea in America wanted to honor mothers in a deeper way.

They were thinking about the work of women and the significant testimony that women could give about the need for peace.  Ann Reeves Jarvis organized women’s clubs in the 1860s to serve suffering mothers and children.

Women came together with their sisters in their locations to respond to the needs that they could see. For Ann, she was in a coal mining part of what is now West Virginia. And she could see the needs of women and children. And she could see the effect of the economy of her day on the people that she cared for most directly.  She started mothers clubs. And she talked to them about hydration for fevered babies, about sanitation and nutrition. And then the Civil War came along and they put a field hospital right outside Grafton.

Ann recruited nurses for military hospitals, and after the war formed friendship clubs to promote reconciliation.  Ann Jarvis was convinced that mothers, women, but especially mothers, had to work for peace because they could see the ravages of war in their husbands and in their sons, in a way that was so focused and so clear that their voices would be powerful. And that’s what’s at the genesis of the current Mother’s Day.

In May 1908, Anna Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia.  There was also a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Phila00delphia on the same day.

Mother's Day 2In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the USA. Others like Julia Ward Howe and Juliet Calhoun Blakely also advocated for a Mother’s Day type recognition in the U.S. in the late 19th century also.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in a variety of countries.  In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.  In Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the United States, Mother’s Day in 2015 will be celebrated on Sunday, May 10.

Endurance Test – Enduring Faith

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1The Christians addressed in the letter to the Hebrews had placed their faith in Christ for what He’d done for them in the past.

But times of persecution had struck. And some—ceasing to trust Christ for their present and future—were abandoning their faith.

The writer argues from the Hebrew Scriptures that if faith doesn’t lead to endurance, it’s not for real.

Interact with God’s Word

Hebrews 10:33-38

  1. The inspired writer tells us never to forget our early days as believers. What stands out in your memory about this time in your life?
  2. What does the writer specially want us to remember (vv. 32, 34)?
  3. What is the basis for this faithfulness and joy (v. 34b)?
  4. Do you know someone whose confident trust in the Lord has eroded?
  5. What kind of self-reminder would have prevented that (v. 35)?
  6. What quality should this expectation enable in your life (v. 36)?
  7. Verses 37 and 38 quote the then-current Greek translation of Habakkuk 2:3-4. Is your faith for today and tomorrow solid enough to insure that you won’t “turn away”?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a faith that doesn’t fluctuate, but stays steady regardless of distractions, disappointments, or attacks.

Hebrews 10:32-38

32 Don’t ever forget those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail. When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity. 35 Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. 37 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. 38 Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you!

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

Endurance Test – God Isn’t a Quitter

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work. John 4:34

Bonus Reading: John 17:4, 7-8, 12

Once, while Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, “What would you do if you were suddenly told you’d die at sunset today?” He replied, “I’d finish hoeing my garden.”

Our perseverance doesn’t change God—it changes us. If we’re willing to continue—even when we feel like quitting—we’ll learn lessons of compassion, understanding, and dependability.

Jesus is our ultimate example of not quitting. Even as a child of 12, He reminded His distraught parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV).  Later, during His public ministry, He told His disciples, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work.”

Even when Jesus was dying, He rejected the challenge of the crowd: “Save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:30). It is so human to let go and quit when under fire. However, it is divine to hang in there. At the end of His ordeal, Jesus said, “‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

Many people are letting go, giving in, and coming down—quitting after 10, 20, or 30 years. How sad to someday realize that we didn’t finish our assignment.

—George Sweeting in Too Soon to Quit

My Response: On which long-term assignment do I need to firm up my grip?

Thought to Apply: The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.—David Sarnoff (broadcaster)

Adapted from Too Soon to Quit (Moody, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

Why Should We Give?

OfferingEvery day, we are given the opportunity to open our hearts to the many gifts we have been given by our God. We are asked at that time, to consider what we can give back to God, through our giving. We should remember that giving is not seasonal, but continual.

When considering our giving, there are several questions we need to ask ourselves.

 

• Are we giving for the right reasons?
• Are we giving to our Church to “keep the lights on” or to advance God’s word?
• Are we looking inward or outward?
• Are we giving for mortar or missions?
• Are we giving out of a feeling of begrudged obligation or out of gratitude?
• Do we give only to the ministries we agree with rather than to the overall mission of the church?

There are several reasons people don’t like to give to the church.

• Some may feel that they need to spend the money on themselves and their families.
• Some may have disagreements with church leaders over how the money is spent.
• Perhaps some fear the future – not knowing if they will have enough.

For all the reasons we may have for not being a faithful steward, the Bible gives us reasons why we should.

So, why should we give?

  • We give financially to God because he has given us everything.
  • When we give to God, we are expressing our love to him.
  • We should give to expand his Son’s church.
  • When we give financially to God, we will become rich in every way, but especially spiritually.
  • God gives to us so that we are able to give yet some more.
  • Every possession we have is through God.
  • He provides for us so that we can use His resources to bring Him glory and expand His kingdom.
  • God deserves and expects us to give to Him first before anything else.
  • He expects us to give cheerfully and to give regularly and in accordance with our income.

Please prayerfully consider all these principals today and every day when determining your level of giving.

Deuteronomy 15:10

10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

 

Tithing – Why I Give

Shannon Meister, laywoman, talks about her faith in tithing.

Shannon Meister, laywoman, talks about her faith in tithing.

Recently, someone asked me to provide a testimony about why I give my resources and my gifts to the church. I grew up in The United Methodist Church and was always taught about giving and tithing. Yet, giving a testimony really made me think and reflect about why I truly give.

My parents always made a point to give money every Sunday we were in church, which was nearly every Sunday. My mom used to write the check and let me put it in the offering plate. That left an impression on me because of her faithfulness in this act.

When I was in middle school or high school, I remember having a conversation with our pastor about how and why she tithed 10 percent of her income before taxes. I remember as a young teenager how that simply blew my mind. That memorable conversation has stuck with me so much that as I have gone through various jobs and wages, I have strived to do the same.

One wise pastor often preached that giving is not about the church’s need for money but about our need to give. Isn’t that true of all of our gifts and resources in the church? It is about our need to be a part of something bigger than we are. It is about hope for a better world that we believe and know is possible.

Much too often, it is easy to be caught up in our consumer society where it is all about us. We want better, newer and faster everything. I find this especially true with the technological gadgets in my life. However, we, as Christians, know that this is not where our treasure lies. We know these things are not what is truly important. Yet, we are still tempted, aren’t we?

As I further reflect, I know I have friends who have a lot more time and money than I do. Some days, this bothers me. But when I think about it, I know they probably don’t tithe their resources; and they don’t have something bigger to believe in and live for.

“Crazy,” a song by Mercy Me, states, “Even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.” Even though the world often thinks of Christians as crazy for the things we do and the sacrifices we make, we know there is a bigger picture than just life on this earth, don’t we? That is why I give and why I believe. It is about something bigger than the hour I spend at a missions meeting or the check that I write. It is even about something bigger than a weekend with several thousand youth. It is about how we can pool our resources and change the world by the grace of God.

Adapted from a story by Shannon Meister, director of Culture & Connections at The Way

United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Persecution of Christians – After Removing 400 Crosses, China Proposes Where Churches Can Put Them Instead

After Removing 400 Crosses, China Proposes Where Churches Can Put Them InsteadCourtesy of China Aid
Government workers remove a cross in Zhejiang city of Lishui on May 4.

Christianity Today reported this morning that days after at least a dozen crosses were forcibly removed from churches, China formally protested a United States report on its lack of religious freedom.

Now a proposal has surfaced to ban crosses entirely from the rooftops of churches in Zhejiang, one of China’s most Christian provinces.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

In March, a Chinese bishop reported that the government was finally halting a campaign which has removed hundreds of crosses from “China’s Jerusalem,” the coastal city of Wenzhou. (An interactive timeline was produced by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.)

But stories of more removals continued to surface. The Chinese government now says it won’t stop the campaign until 2016, according to China Aid, which has closely tracked the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign.

In fact, officials have proposed a new rule that would prevent future crosses from topping churches. According to the Associated Press:

A draft of rules on religious structures released by government agencies this week says the crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade’s height. The symbol also must fit with the facade and the surroundings, the proposal says. The draft does not provide the rationale for the proposal.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

Last week, Zhejiang officials removed 12 crosses from churches in the city of Lishui, burning one when a removal machine malfunctioned. On Monday, the Chinese national government filed a diplomatic protest over this year’s annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which labeled Chinese religious freedom violations “severe” and “systematic.”

“This report … is full of political bias and makes arbitrary and unfounded criticism of China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told news outlets in a daily briefing. She said that Chinese citizens had “ample” freedom religious freedom under law.

But USCIRF’s 2015 report noted that more than 400 Chinese churches in Zhejiang have had their crosses removed or torn down in the past year, and in some cases those who protested were arrested or imprisoned. The report also states that China designated some house churches “cults” and then issued a directive to “eradicate” them over the next 10 years. One example: more than 100 Christians were arrested during a single raid on a house church last year in Foshan City.

Zhejiang cross removalImage: Courtesy of China Aid

Zhejiang cross removal

“People of faith continue to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences, and in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship,” the report stated. “Based on the alarming increase in systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses, USCIRF again recommends China be designated a ‘country of particular concern.’” USCIRF recommended that China be relisted as a top offender, along with countries such as Myanmar and North Korea.

Meanwhile, China Aid’s 2014 report, released last month, said that persecution in China increased 150 percent over the course of last year, with nearly 3,000 detained and close to 1,300 sentenced.

Please remember in prayer our Christian brothers and sisters and their Churches as they continue to be persecuted in Communist China.

Endurance Test – What Kick?

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  – Hebrews 3:14

Bonus Reading: Joshua 14:6-12

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Dave Wottle, wearing his trademark baseball cap, was dead last in the 800-meter race. As the final lap around the track began, Wottle charged through the pack. “Watch out for the kick of Dave Wottle!” the TV announcer screamed. Wottle overtook the leaders in the last 20 meters and won the gold medal by three-tenths of a second!

Many think, That’s exciting—that’s how I want to run. It doesn’t matter if I fall behind; I’ll make it back with a big kick as everyone cheers me on.

But in remarks at a prep-school chapel service in Chattanooga, Wottle set the record straight. “The other runners went out so fast at the beginning that they slowed down at the end; I was able to maintain the same pace that I started with. … Even though I looked like I was kicking on them, they were coming back to me.”

Wottle, one track expert explained, was “just maintaining in a dying field.”

Endurance is maintaining our walk with Christ even when no one else is. In a society of flash-in-the-pan celebrities and trendy spirituality, endurance is putting our faith to work by showing up for Christ every day, in every circumstance until the race of life is done.

—Tod Bolsinger in Show Time

My Response: What adjustments would help me maintain even pacing for the long haul?

Thought to Apply: To become a champion, fight one more round.—James Corbett (world champion boxer)

Adapted from Show Time (Baker, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

Endurance Test – Ridgeline Reruns

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Hebrews 10:36

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 10:32-38

Hiking north to south on the Appalachian Trail, I found the Smoky Mountains stretch that leads up to Mollies Ridge demoralizing. I felt like an ant climbing a giant staircase. I’d see the peak just ahead and, after a steep climb, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I did it! Then I’d round a corner, and there would be an up-until-then hidden summit. What? There’s more? There were several premature celebrations before the satisfaction of finally reaching the Mollies Ridge shelter.

The ascent to holiness is like that. One peak after another appears as God fine-tunes our faith. In Hebrews 10:36, the writer of Hebrews calls for persevering on the path of improvement. Perseverance is by definition an ongoing pursuit; but receiving the crown of life is a one-time event. We strive to be holy for that moment when God will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Does your pursuit of righteousness seem to be nothing but an uphill climb? Be encouraged. This is the path God wants you on. He longs for Christians unafraid to take the trail all the way to the top. He’ll hike alongside you and give you rest when you’re weary. And the final reward is being with Him forever!

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

My Response: How do I respond to a succession of tests?

Thought to Apply: Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more.—Louis L’Amour (novelist)

Adapted from With God on the Hiking Trail (Harvest, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

Endurance Test – The Q Word

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. James 1:4, NLT

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1

The summer before my last year of prep school, I decided to quit Coach Marvin Goldberg’s cross-country team. I was tired of grueling workouts. I wanted some free time for things like dating. Come spring, I told myself, I’d get serious again and run on his track team, but I wanted out of the fall schedule of long-distance competition, where our team frequently contended in 10k races against college freshmen teams.

I wrote Coach about my decision. His typed reply arrived. The gist: By not running with the cross-country team this fall, you’ll disappoint your teammates, who depend on you to help them win races, and turn your back on the team’s supporters, who show up at every race to cheer your team on. But most of all, whenever you’re faced with a challenge you don’t like, or that seems too difficult, or that asks for too great a sacrifice, you’ll find it easier and easier to walk away from it.

I changed my mind, returned to the cross-country team, and helped lead it to a league championship. I can’t claim that I enjoyed myself in that effort, but at a deeper level I learned the satisfaction of accomplishing something that ended well. Perhaps in the long view of life that’s more important.

—Gordon MacDonald in A Resilient Life

My Response: How can I learn to savor satisfaction that runs deeper than enjoyment?

Thought to Apply: It is always too soon to quit. —V. Raymond Edman (missionary, educator)

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Nelson, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

Endurance Test – Enthusiasm Leak

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: Don’t get tired of doing what is good … For we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  – Galatians 6:9

Bonus Reading: Matthew 24:45-51

On the first good day of spring, you get into the spirit of car washing. You wash and dry it with a chamois. You vacuum it out, take some cleaner to the bug spots, and start waxing and polishing. This is going so well that you see yourself moving on to clean out the garage and mow the lawn.

But then, as you wax and whistle, your back starts to ache, your right arm to feel sore. Your whistling slides into a slower rhythm and shifts into a minor key. Perhaps you’d better leave the lawn for another day. The garage can wait too, you guess. Doing this car is a big enough job all by itself. Well, leave the rest of the car for next Saturday too. Now find a hammock!

The sense of adventure and the rush of enthusiasm for doing good in the name of Christ can turn into a sinking sense of futility when others don’t notice or care. We’ve also felt a pain in the neck and all the adventure running off in sweat. Galatians 6:9 is a word for us spent-out Christians who’ve served until we can’t make one more phone call: we’ll reap the fruit of the Spirit in a life that never ends—if we don’t give up.

—Neal Plantinga in Beyond Doubt

My Response: A good cause for which my initial motivation is growing thin is …

Adapted from Beyond Doubt (Eerdmans, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

 

National Day of Prayer – May 7, 2015

National Day of Prayer - 5-7-2015The 64th annual National Day of Prayer, May 7, 2015, will have profound significance for our country.  It is an unprecedented opportunity to see the Lord’s healing and renewing power made manifest as citizens are called upon to humbly come before His throne.

The theme for 2015 is Lord, Hear Our Cry, emphasizing the need for individuals, corporately and individually, to place their faith in the unfailing character of their Creator, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men.  To further highlight our theme, I Kings 8:28 has been chosen as the Scripture for this year: Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”

For the May 7th observances, Dr. Jack Graham, the 2015 Honorary Chairman, wrote a special prayer to be simultaneously read throughout the nation at noon (EDT).  This recitation will create a huge wave of prayer, flowing from one coast to the other, illustrating the unity of God’s people and acknowledging His dominion over the circumstances facing us.  Millions of people will gather to pray at thousands of events facilitated by volunteer coordinators and people just like you!

At this crucial time for our nation, we can do nothing more important than pray.  Please set aside time to participate in the National Day of Prayer this year, and may the Lord’s peace fill your heart as you rest in Him throughout the days ahead.

Endurance Test – Roll of Rejection

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Who Said It…Gary L. Thomas

Gary is a Bellingham, Washington-based writer and speaker. In the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, which he founded, he shares how believers can learn a great deal from historic Christian traditions without compromising the essential tenets of what makes them evangelical Christians.

Gary says he is a big-time introvert who runs marathons and takes his wife, Lisa, and their three kids to Starbucks “far too often.”

What He Said…Roll of Rejection

I’d been invited to deliver a commencement address as an author who also speaks widely. But I wanted the students to see someone wondering if anyone would ever want to hear what he believed God had given him to say. I knew that 99 percent of the kids wouldn’t remember a thing I said. So I prayed about providing a picture that would stick with them.

I found it in my rejections box. My family helped me staple and tape together over 150 rejection letters I’d received from publishers over the years: editors telling me my work wasn’t wanted.

When I told the young graduates that God’s calling doesn’t mean there’ll be no setbacks, I nodded to a few students who began to unroll my rejection letters. Murmurs, laughs, and gasps were unleashed throughout the auditorium as the roll grew longer and longer, ultimately stretching across the entire ballroom.

You see, many Christians don’t fail; they just quit before they get ripe.

Adapted from Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross. Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Fruits of the Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

How come the Holy Spirit manages an “extreme makeover” in some lives but barely makes a dent in others?

As you work through this passage, ask yourself: “Do I really want to hear from the Spirit?” “Am I ready to take action on what He reveals?” and “Am I making a good-faith effort to distinguish between my own ‘druthers’ and His promptings?”

Interact with God’s Word

Galatians 5:16-25

  1. What two sets of desires, according to verse 17, are in conflict in your life?
  2. Review the list (vv. 19-21a) of “what the sinful nature desires.” Which of these still threaten to trip you up?
  3. Review the list (vv. 22-23) of “what the Holy Spirit wants.” Which of these needs work in your life?
  4. What drastic action is required (v. 24) to insure that “what the Holy Spirit wants” comes out on top?
  5. How can you be confident that you’re being “directed by the Holy Spirit” (v. 18)?
  6. To assure the Spirit’s control, which people or things trying to determine your values and standards must you push aside?
  7. Paul urges us (v. 25) to follow the Spirit’s leading “in every part of our lives.” Ask yourself if He’s in control of the emotional, physical, social, intellectual, and vocational aspects of your life.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to give you an ear that amplifies the Spirit’s voice while suppressing competing voices, and a will prepared to make the changes He calls for.

Galatians 5:16-25

16 So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. 18 But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Christian Persecution

Christian Persecution

What is Christian Persecution?

Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian. From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.

According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Prayer is vital. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.Hebrews 13:3

 

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Emotional Scale

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.  – Revelation 1:10

Bonus Reading: John 4:23-24

I treasure the Holy Spirit because He feels things. The word “ecstasy” figures prominently in descriptions of revival through the centuries. When God sweeps into the middle of our lives, we laugh, we cry, we bow, we rejoice, we’re “alive in the Spirit.” If we don’t feel these things in worship, we’re prone to say God isn’t present in our praise.

Many of my Pentecostal friends seem to have a need to feel their religion more than my Episcopal friends do. Yet I can’t castigate them for this. I suspect that how we respond to joy has much to do with the kind of personalities we have.

Some souls seem more buoyant by nature and therefore require a more demonstrative expression of their faith. Most Italians seem more jolly to me than Nordic peoples. I don’t disparage either group for being who they are. I feel the same about different worship styles.

Don’t I have my own preferred kind of worship? Sure. I like the heritage and content of Episcopal worship. I like the open, confessional, warm style of the Assemblies of God. I feel generally happy in a Baptist church, which gives me a little of each. I feel most comfortable about half way between Billy Sunday and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: Am I wired to respond to the Spirit more in deep calm or vibrant exuberance?

Thought to Apply: Holy Wind, blow across my mind; free me of the things that bind.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

John 6:37

John 6--37