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Face Down Your Fears – Terrified Tribesmen…

PeaceKey Bible Verse: Death had its hand around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. Psalm 116:3

Bonus Reading: Psalm 116:1-9

The four brown-skinned men of Papua New Guinea’s southern highlands were sick and needed treatment. The small mission clinic at Samberigi was insufficient. And knowing that I was planning to fly my Cessna across the mountains to the north coast, the station nurse asked me to drop these men off along the way. Mendi, a 20-minute flight to the northwest, had a regional hospital.

As I fastened their seatbelts, I explained as best I could what they should expect on this short flight. I noticed the deteriorating weather and thought it could be a daunting experience for me, let alone for these warriors who’d grown up in the Stone Age and never flown.

Soon after takeoff, rain began to fall and the clouds grew ominous atop the mountain peaks. If I climbed above them, it would be difficult to find a way down again. So I concentrated on threading the inhospitable gray tunnels formed by the narrow valleys. Totally absorbed, I paid no attention to my passengers.

Suddenly I heard a low, drawn-out moan coming from the backseat. I turned back. Staring back at me were three terror-filled pairs of eyes. Three of my mountain men were locked in a speechless embrace of abject fear. [continued tomorrow]

—Max Meyers in Riding the Heavens

My Response: A time when I felt paralyzed by fear was …

Thought to Apply: Fear has the largest eyes of all.—Boris Pasternak (Russian author)

Adapted from Riding the Heavens (Zondervan, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what



Face Down Your Fears – Elephant in the Workplace

Peace0Key Bible Verse: Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety. Proverbs 29:25

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 51:12-13

As a leadership development consultant, I’ve seen an entire executive committee change strategies based on fear of the competition. I’ve seen a talented salesperson throw away a career because he “fudged” his sales numbers out of fear of not meeting his monthly quota. I’ve seen a marketing executive run around like Henny Penny, screaming “The sky is falling!” every month as the sales deadline approached.

At a corporate planning retreat in Detroit that I was facilitating, a board member asked the CEO a challenging, yet fair, question about a past initiative. The CEO paused, reached down into his briefcase, took out an extra-large bottle of antacids, twisted the cap off, tilted his head back, and downed Tums like a cold glass of water on a hot summer day.

He crunched away at a mouthful of the chalky tablets, took a sip of water, and then calmly answered the board member’s question. He went through the same process four of five times that day. And he didn’t even notice how ridiculous he looked because it was a normal daily occurrence! This guy had accepted that fear, worry, and heartburn were parts of his job description.

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

My Response: Is fear a factor for others where I work? For me?

Adapted from God Is My Success (Warner Faith, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what


Face Down Your Fears – What Fear Does to Us

PeaceWho Said It…John Ortberg

John Ortberg is a teaching pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

Earlier he pastored a church in Southern California, then for several years he filled a teaching role at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.

John has written several books. The latest is God Is Closer Than You Think. He and Nancy have three teenage children.

What He Said…What Fear Does to Us

A friend asked me a question about an area in my life for which the true answer would have been embarrassing, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed. So I just lied.

I had to go back and do repair work that was very painful for me. When I look back on it, I wonder, Why did I lie? Why do I ever lie? Usually to avoid pain. I’m afraid of what will happen if I tell the truth. Fear prompts me to lie.

And it’s not just deceit. When people are gossiping, I join in even though I know it’s wrong because I’m afraid of being left out. I hoard possessions because I’m afraid I’ll be bored or insecure if I don’t have a lot of stuff. I flatter someone because I’m afraid he or she won’t like me if I don’t.

Look at most sin and underneath it you’ll find fear. I’m afraid that if I risk obeying God, He won’t take care of me. I won’t be all right and something will happen that I can’t handle.

Adapted from If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Zondervan, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.


Downsizing with Class – Possessions and Priorities

PossessionsFrom start to finish, the thrust of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was that God’s way of living contradicts the world’s way.

If you want to live for God, He warned, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. His first-century words about what people work for read as if they were specifically spoken for the benefit of our consumer-driven age.

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:31-33

  1. What is the answer to Jesus’ question in verse 25b? What else is there?
  2. Why don’t we need to be preoccupied by these things, according to verses 26-30?
  3. What are typical “treasures” for upwardly mobile people in our society?
  4. Why did Jesus say that majoring on accumulating these things is a mistake?
  5. Verse 21 says that our thoughts will gravitate toward whatever our treasure is. How can we shift our focus, according to verses 20 and 33?
  6. What is the divine guarantee (v. 33) for those who make following His will their priority?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you trust Him for your basic needs and to keep your focus on Kingdom concerns.

Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-33

19 Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.

25 So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?

31 So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – God’s Combo

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  –  Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:9-13

Recently my adult daughter decided that she was no longer going to play her drum set because she’d acquired other interests. We agreed to get rid of the set since it cluttered our family room.

Initially we talked about selling the set, but we decided that we’d take a few days to think about other options. We prayed for inspiration.

Eventually we came up with the idea of giving the drums to a percussion student at an inner-city school. I called the school on Friday and told the secretary that we’d like to donate the instruments to a student. She promised to explore the possibilities.

The following Monday I received a call from the school’s music director. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “We were talking last week about starting a band and wondering where we’d get a saxophone and drums. When I came into the office today, I discovered a donated sax and a note from you about drums.”

That day my daughter and I delivered the set to the school. Initially we thought we were doing a good deed by giving away the drums. We discovered instead that God had called us to be caretakers of His drums.

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

My Response: I sensed I was “caretaker” of what God had entrusted to me when …

Thought to Apply: We have been called to stretch out the hands of God to a lonely, needy world.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


See the Shine – Part 2!

Central - Parlor Floor Refinishing 3 - 6-26-2015Our upstairs Entryway and Parlor floors have been refinished!


Our thanks to Chrissy and Josh for helping lift the Parlor furniture onto the stage and roll up the carpet temporarily so the we could work on the floors.

We almost hate to cover up parts of the floor by moving the carpet and furniture back!Central - Parlor Floor Refinishing 2 - 6-26-2015Central - Parlor Floor Refinishing 1 - 6-26-2015

2015 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference Report

W PA Conference UMC LogoAbout 1,500 United Methodist clergy and elected lay members gathered at Grove City College June 11-14 for the 2015 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference session, which was focused on the theme Reaching Higher, both spiritually and as church leaders.

From Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton’s opening worship message emphasizing the need to lead from within, through celebrations of the ministry of 21 clergy who retired, to the commissioning of four younger clergy as provisional members and the ordination of four new elders, the emphasis was on excellence in leadership.

Four new elders were received into membership and ordained at a service of Reafffirmation of Baptism, Ordination, and Holy Communion. They are: Alison M. Berkey, Gary L. Hilton, Anthony R.C. Hita, and Scott Shaffer. Recognized as an Associate Member was Wade S. Barto.

Four new provisional members –Jack L. Tickle III, Benjamin Phipps, John D. Mize, and Andrew Bell Jr. were commissioned.

Imagine No Malaria

At the opening worship Thursday afternoon, conference members brought forward $91,059.53 in offerings from individuals and churches for the Imagine No Malaria campaign to end deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Bishop Bickerton leads the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria effort, which has reached 88 percent of its $75 million fundraising goal.

State of the Church Report

In his State of the Church address, Bickerton outlined what he described as hills and valleys Western Pennsylvania United Methodist churches and people have been through over the past few years.

Assisted by the Rev. Greg Cox, director of connectional ministries, he highlighted the work of the cabinet and conference staff in evaluating the current situation using a book by Bishop Robert Schnase, then developing some short-term goals and creating a list to “Key Performance Indicators” or KPI’s to hold themselves accountable and make an impact on ministry with the Conference.

Among the examples:

  • A robust plan for New Church Starts. “Amy Wagner and our Parish & Community Development Committee is doing great work in our midst to lay a solid foundation for this transformation,” the bishop said.
  • Making Clergy Peer Learning and Excellence in Ministry a priority. Susan Moudry has joined the staff to develop opportunities for learning, engagement, and leadership development among those in ministry.
  • Congregational Intervention— both intervention when there is a crisis and intervention to assist a church on the journey toward excellence.
  • Called & Sent – a collaborative effort between the Camping & Retreat Ministries and the board of ordained ministry to improve the manner in which a life-changing camping experience might be transformed into a specific call from God to consider ministry as a life vocation.

General/Jurisdictional Conference elections

Throughout the conference, members cast ballots to elect clergy and lay delegates for the denomination’s 2016 General Conference and the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Balloting continued until 24 delegates and 12 alternates were selected.

  • UMC US Annual ConferencesLaity elected as General Conference delegates were: Conference Lay Leader Sharon Gregory, Nancy Denardo of Port Vue United Methodist Church; Rich Hoffman of Charter Oak United Methodist Church; Paul Morelli of Lakeside United Methodist Church in DuBois; Diane Miller, president of the Conference United Methodist Women, and Vicki Stahlman, Conference Sessions Team Chair and member of Brookville Evangelical United Methodist Church.
  • Clergy delegates to General Conference 2016 are the Revs. Eric Park, pastor of Butler First United Methodist Church; Johnstown District Supt. Alyce Weaver Dunn; Robert Zilhaver, pastor of Lakeside United Methodist Church in DuBois; Amy Wagner, Conference director of Congregational Development and Revitalization; William B. Meekins Jr., Assistant to the Bishop, and John Seth, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Youngwood.
  • NE Jurisdiction UMCElected as Northeasten Jurisdiction clergy delegates were the Revs. Seth McPherson, associate pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park; Sung Shik Chung, pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greensburg; Greg Cox, conference director of connectional ministries; Randy Bain, pastor of Oakland United Methodist Church in Johnstown; Stephanie Gottschalk, Conference Missions Coordinator; and John Ciampa, pastor of Harrison City Community United Methodist Church.
  • Alternate NEJ clergy delegates are: Greensburg District Superintendent Pat Nelson; Tom Parkinson, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel; Butler District Suptintendent Joel Garrett; Joseph Stains, pastor of Mt. Hope United Methodist Church in South Fork; Janet Lord, Conference Coordinator of Ministerial Services; Thomas Strandburg, pastor of Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church.
  • Lay delegates to the NEJ include Erie-Meadville Lay Leader Don Blystone; Tina Whitehead, who serves as a volunteer missionary in Israel/Palestine; Faith Geer of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Allison Park; Peggy Ward of Greenstone United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh; Kayla Schwanke of Russell United Methodist Church in Kane District, and Tracy Merrick of First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh.
  • NEJ alternate lay delegates are: Joe Emigh of Cochranton United Methodist Church; Donna Burkhart of First United Methodist Church in Erie, Eric Duda of Lowville United Methodist Church, Conference Treasurer Larry Bridge, Richard Thomas of Port Vue United Methodist Church, and Sydney Widdersheim of Christ Community United Methodist Church in Butler.


In legislative action, conference members approved a shared ministry budget of $9.7 million; increased the basic cash compensation for clergy by 3 percent to $40,334 for elders serving full time; approved three general evangelists—Christine Rogan, John Zimmerman and Luella Krieger; and set policies and practices for Conference mission partnerships. In addition, after debate, the conference members approved forming a task force to research companies that may be contributing to the occupation of Palestine and whether divestment of these companies would be advisable. The task force would formulate recommendations to the 2016 annual conference regarding possible divestment from Conference portfolios.

Conference members also accepted a petition of Roulette: Riverside and Fishing Creek United Methodist Churchess, in the Kane District, just east of Port Allegany, to become part of the Western PA Conference. Pastor Randy Headley of the Port Allegany Charge has been providing pastoral care and oversight of the two churches since July 2014 and both congregations voted by a two-thirds majority to join WPAUMC.

General Conference Petitions

Also approved was a petition to the General Conference to change the Book of Disciple to set term limits for bishops. The petition, approved on the consent calendar, would elminate life terms for bishops elected in U.S. Jurisdictions and replace it with an initial eight year terms with the possibility of re-election quadrennially. It would not apply to incumbent bishops.

Petitions growing out of recommendations made in Judicial Council rulings (Decision 1230) involving complaints and administrative actions brought against East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula were approved and will be sent to the General Conference. One notes that the appeal process in administrative matters is not clearly delineated and proposes several changes to the Book of Discipline to provide clarity by creating an administrative review process.

Another petition would change P.50 of the Constitution to give the Council of Bishops the authority to hold its individual members accountable for the work. In addition changes are proposed to Disciplinary paragraphs dealing with the Episcopal complaint process that would “enhance the accountability of bishops and increase consistency by lodging the accountability function in the global church.” Some of the proposed changes are designed to ensure that complainants receive fair hearing in proceedings.

Other petitions to the General Conference that were approved, called for the denomination to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights; to change language of Paragraph 161J of The Book of Discipline regarding the sanctity of life and abortion. The petitioners said the current wording “has been used by some United Methodists as a means for one-sidely advocating for public policies advancing elective abortion.” Their proposed amendments “would more clearly align our church with biblical, historic Christian teaching that defends unborn children and their mothers from abortion.”

Hands-On Efforts

The Districts of the Western PA Conference

The Districts of the Western PA Conference

During the annual conference, members volunteered to pack meals for Stop Hunger Now and completed 50,000. Many also filled a large truck with used shoes to be reclaimed or recycled by Funds2org, which, in turn, gives money to the Erie UM Alliance for ministries to the homeless and to All God’s Children ministry to those with disabilities. Members also brought UMCOR kits and material, which were collected by volunteers from the Eastbrook Mission Barn, an UMCOR Depot.

New Church Starts

Amy Wagner, director of Congregational Development and Revitalization, gave a history of new church starts that occurred during the 1700s and 1800s. She explained that never in our history has there been more than four years without starting a new church. Currently, there are several new worshipping communities supported in part by our annual conference: The Heights Faith Community, Allegheny River Valley, Roots of Faith, Faith Acts, Faith on 68 (formerly Zion UMC) (Rochester), Connect Church (Blairsville), Charter Oak Crossroads Campus, Point Marion Fijian Language Community, and Laketon Heights.

  • Worship attendance stands at 54,085 down from 56,053 the previous year.
  • There were 1922 new members entering by profession of faith, down from 2201 the previous year.
  • There were 32,296 youth, young adults and adults in Christian formation groups, up from 25,466 the previous year.
  • Sunday School attendance was 15,960.
  • The number of people engaged in mission was 11,288, up from 7532 the previous year, with 1488 participating in UM Volunteers in Mission work. That total is up from 1464 the previous year.
  • Mission engagement 11,288 up from 7532.

See archived videos, photos, the Daily Proceedings, a narrative budget, the text of Bishop Bickerton’s messages, and more at



Downsizing with Class – Beat the System

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Doesn’t life consist of more than food or clothing? … Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things. Matthew 6:25-32

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-34

My wife and I enjoy finding ways around the economic pressures of our world. Bargain hunting, using coupons, and looking for deals can help us acquire the things we need without being extravagant.

When we were engaged, Christie started looking for a wedding gown. Several of our friends had spent in excess of $1,000 for theirs, but no matter how romantic we felt, we simply couldn’t rationalize such an expenditure for the sake of a six-hour afternoon.

We prayed about it, and she went bargain hunting. The end result? A beautiful gown in Filenes’ Basement in Boston for $29.

During my seminary days, I needed a suit for leadership in Sunday worship, but I had no suit and little money. Again, we prayed. Then we headed off to a “railroad salvage” warehouse to start shopping. For only $25 I got a Pierre Cardin suit that looked tailored to me and perfectly met my needs.

Beat the system. Used cars, discount outlets, buying in volume through cooperatives, and taking the time to research before purchasing can enhance our stewardship and cut back our spending. In the process, we can have fun.

—Paul Borthwick in How to Be a World-Class Christian

My Response: One way I’ve found to “beat the system” is to …

Thought to Apply: Resolve not to be poor; whatever you have, spend less.—Samuel Johnson (English writer)

Adapted from How to Be a World-Class Christian (OM Literature, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – When Less Is More

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. Psalm 4:7

Bonus Reading: Job 31:24-28

Because we’ve lived on a modest income through most of our marriage, my wife wondered out loud one day if she should get a job to ease financial pressures. Yet if she worked even part-time, we realized, we’d pay more income tax and the net financial benefit would be minimal.

We reviewed the benefits of Donna remaining a stay-at-home parent. We eat nutritious meals because she invests time in planning and preparing meals. At the same time we save money because she makes time to be an excellent purchaser, not relying on packaged meals or fast food.  Her creative gifts are obvious through how she cares for and decorates our home.

The greatest advantage has been her availability to our children. She involved them in projects for both work and play when they were younger so that creativity, instead of television, nurtured their development.

Though we’re closing in on the empty nest, the kids thrive on knowing that she’s available when one of them needs reassurance, help, or advice. We’re able to plan our schedules without considering another job commitment. And her involvement in teaching small group Bible studies has changed other women’s lives.

—Grant McDowell in Alberta

My Response: Is a second family income required for subsistence or elected to support lifestyle choices?

Thought to Apply: One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.—Sidney Coe Howard (playwright)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – Staying Freed Up

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: If your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.  – Psalm 62:10

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:16-21

How do you decide what you’ll buy and own?

For seven years my wife and I owned a weekend lake house just outside of town. Virtually every Friday afternoon we’d “kidnap” our children and spend the weekend doing country things.

When our daughter turned 11, though, her in-town friends became very important to her. We only went to the lake house once that year, so I decided to sell the property to a neighbor who’d expressed an interest in purchasing it. That decision, and similar ones I’ve made since—to not own anything we don’t use on a regular basis—has kept my wife and me lean and responsive to God’s leading in our lives.

A neighbor of mine owns a 1957 Chris Craft Sportsman inboard boat. It’s magnificent. He’s completely restored the mahogany to its original luster. I love the throaty purr of its engine when he drives by.

Three years ago I told him that I’d be interested if he ever wanted to sell the boat. He recently decided to take me up on that offer. But as we prepared to close the deal, I had second thoughts. I concluded that I shouldn’t buy something just because I can, that denying myself the boat would be a good lesson in self-restraint and personal discipline.

—Patrick Morley in New Man

My Response: How can I tell whether I own my things or they own me?

Thought to Apply: He has much who needs least. Don’t create necessities for yourself. —Jose Escriva (Spanish founder of Opus Dei)

Adapted from New Man (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – The Good Old Days

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Enjoy prosperity while you can. But when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.  – Ecclesiastes 7:14

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

“When you are my age,” wrote James Michaels in Forbes magazine, “You don’t have to ask: Are Americans really materially better off than they were in the recent past?

Those of us born in the 1920s and with vivid memories of the Depression simply know how much better things are today. … If he was fortunate enough to have central heating (less than one third of the population did in 1920), the middle class dad had to pull himself from bed at 4:00 a.m. on cold winter mornings to unbank the furnace and shovel coal; if he overslept, the pipes froze.

But he usually didn’t have to rake leaves or shovel snow. Not in the 1930s. That was done by shabby, humble men who knocked at the back door in the mornings asking for a warm meal in return for doing chores.”

Michaels goes on to remind us that:

  • 80 years ago the typical workweek was at least 60 hours.
  • The leisure industry didn’t exist because no one had leisure.
  • For half of the population, the family toilet was a hole in the backyard.
  • Life expectancy was about 54 years, which was just as well, because there were few pensions beyond what a gold watch may have brought at a pawnshop.

—M. Craig Barnes in Hustling God

My Response: I’ll thank God for the prosperity I enjoy compared to other times and places.

Adapted from Hustling God (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Brighter Light – for Less!

Central - Sanctuary Lights with New LED Lights 2a - 6-20-2015

Our Sanctuary floodlights have been replaced by state-of-the-art, high output LED floodlights, providing us with double the lumens of light for less than one-third the cost of operating our old floodlights!

Our thanks to our Trustees who are continuously exercising good stewardship over our Church building and working to make our Church more energy efficient!



Downsizing with Class – Bucking the Trend

PossessionsWho Said It …Cliff Denay

Clifford E. Denay Jr. is an outdoorsman who loves running, walking, hiking, bicycling, and kayaking with his wife Jane. They have camped and traveled regularly with their children Nathaniel and Emily, now young adults.

Cliff teaches psychology at the community college in Petoskey, Michigan, and also provides its students with mental health counseling. He’s involved in the leadership of his church.

What He Said …Bucking the Trend

I had been out of the real estate market for 17 years. Recently I walked back in—and quickly discovered that you can’t always have what you want.

I’m not talking about affordability. Sure, cost is always an issue. But I’m talking about size—the restrictions that developers place on the size of dwellings. I examined the restrictions on the lot we were considering. The homes on either side were big. “This may not be the property for us,” I told our realtor.

“Why not, Cliff?” she asked. “You said it’s what you’re looking for.”

“The square footage requirement. It’s too big.”

“How big were you thinking,” she asked.

“Small,” I answered. “Smaller than you think.” I sighed.

My wife and I are clearly out of step with the times, but in step with Solomon who said, “have the wisdom to show restraint” (Proverbs 23:4, NIV).

Neither of us believes that “trophy” homes are a good use of the earth’s resources. It’s hard to think small in a “super-sized” culture. Hard, but not impossible.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

The Best Shave Ever: A Father’s Day Remembrance

ShavingIt would not be a long visit. Dad was in the hospital. The cancer had come back, and the outlook was bleak. “I know you’re busy Richard, the holidays and all,” Mom had said, “But I think Dad would like to see you.” She didn’t have to finish the sentence. She never did anyway. I knew. I was on the next plane.

You’re never quite prepared to see you father in the hospital. You’d rather be bowling, or golfing, or working in the gardens together — anywhere else. That was in the past now. He smiled when I came into the room. “I’m glad you came, Son.” I leaned over his bed and gave him a hug, careful not to hurt him. We had never been hugging men; but that, too, was in the past now. “I’m glad I’m here.”

We talked nonstop. It was unusual for us. In the past we could spend hours side by side, and just a few words would suffice. In the season that we had grown apart we didn’t talk at all. Now the shared memories came spilling out as we put the finishing touches on our relationship. There was a procession of visitors — neighbors, friends, his pastor, even one of my old girl friends. Every one had a story, and it surprised me how much laughter and how little sadness was in the room.

The two days went quickly, too quickly. I stopped in at the hospital on the morning of the last day before heading to the airport. We were quieter. The words weren’t necessary for what we had begun to feel. “I’ll have to be going in a little while.”

“I know. It’s OK, Son. It was good to see you.”

“Can I do anything for you before I go, Dad?”

He hesitated, then said: “Yes, would you be willing to give me a shave? I haven’t had a good shave since I got to the hospital.”

I was stunned. As a child I loved to watch my daddy shave. We’d stand in the bathroom in our underwear. He’d lather up and then soap my face just like his. And while he shaved, I pretended. It was a silly, sacred ritual — a bonding that I had all but forgotten. Now he was asking me for a shave.

I found his old razor and the tube of shaving creme in the kit he had brought with him — they were so familiar even after all these years. I filled a bowl with hot water and found a face cloth. With the bed raised, the pillow fluffed and a towel spread under his chin to keep him dry, I began the ritual. First the face cloth, warmed with the hot water, wrung out and held gently to his face to soften the whiskers. Then a little bit of water on the face to receive the cream. When I opened the tube, it was the same aroma I remembered as a child. Dad’s eyes were closed but he was clearly enjoying this. I spread the creme and prepared the razor. I was so afraid that I would cut him. He was so trusting. Dip the razor in the water, shave a few strokes. Dip, shave. Dip, shave. It didn’t take that long. When we finished shaving, I got some clean hot water and washed his face. He put his hand up and felt his face and smiled. I handed him the mirror and he took a long, satisfied look. “Son, that’s the best shave ever. Thanks!

Soon it was time to go. We hugged, gently. “I love you, Dad.” “I love you too, Son.” We had only lately learned to say that. It felt good. What felt better was the trust that had finally established itself between us — a trust that had made it possible for a son to give his father the best shave ever. It is a holy remembrance, sacramental even. Love is like that — born in due season of common things made holy by the amazing grace and surprising Presence of God.

The Rev. Richard Garland

The Rev. Richard Garland is a retired United Methodist elder who currently lives in Rhode Island. You may read more of the Rev. Garland’s essays on his web page “From Where I Sit.” He is also a composer, and a number of his works are on the Discipleship Ministries worship website.


Happy Father’s Day

Fathers Day

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – True Success

SuccessProblems, like the inheritance dispute brought to Jesus here, were often submitted to rabbis to settle.

Jesus’ response to this unnamed questioner sidestepped his surface issue. But it zeroed in on his heart.

Similarly, when we bring a problem to God in prayer, instead of providing the surface solution we’ve requested, He may reveal what we need to change.



Interact with God’s Word

Luke 12:13-21

  1. The prosperous farmer of Jesus’ hypothetical illustration was well positioned (v. 19) for retirement. Was this what Jesus was criticizing?
  2. What attitude, implied in verse 15b, made this landowner a fool?
  3. What, judging from verse 21, was omitted from the farmer’s priorities?
  4. How does the advertising industry work at cross-purposes to the admonition of verse 15a?
  5. Are you taking Jesus’ warning seriously? Have you found a way to tune out the constant enticements to buy?
  6. How can you concentrate more on your relationship with God and on doing His work?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to work on your dreams, bringing them into alignment with His “good and pleasing and perfect” will for your life.

Luke 12:13-21

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

16 And he gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. 18 So he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store everything.

19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Caught Up in the Game

SuccessKey Bible Verse: “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it!” Jeremiah 45:5

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:7-9a

They couldn’t have been more than 15 years old, parentless boys in an orphanage outside of Moscow. My traveling companions and I spoke at their assembly.

Afterwards several boys challenged us to a soccer match on the snow-crusted field. It was a rousing game. Toward the end, though, I began to push my teammates. I didn’t want just to play; I wanted to win. I goaded them on, and even got a bit rough in my play.

That evening one of my friends called me on it. “What were we there for?” he asked. “It seemed like you were more fixed on winning a game than on connecting with the kids or caring for them.” He was right. Our purpose for visiting the orphanage was to show love to the children there. But caught up in the game, my actions were guided by an entirely different goal.

I articulate Jesus’ definition of success (“Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant”) to myself. But then, more often than I’d like to admit, I get caught up in the game and indulge in silliness like this—not so much in sports now, but in regards to career, financial resources, or reputation.

That’s why I must consistently take time to question myself and refocus, and to be accountable to others pursuing a similar path.

—Jedd Medifind in The Revolutionary Communicator

My Response: How can I stay focused on what’s really important?

Thought to Apply: Ever notice that people never say “It’s only a game” when they’re winning?—Ivern Bell (writer)

Adapted from The Revolutionary Communicator (Relevant Books, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


See the Shine!

Central's Fellowship Hall floor has been refinished!

Central’s Fellowship Hall floor has been refinished!

Our downstairs Fellowship Hall and Basement Hallway floors have been refinished!


Our thanks to Barb, and Dave & Shirley for helping clear out the tables and chairs at the beginning of the multi-day process, and to Harriet & Chrissy for helping repopulate the Fellowship Hall once the refinishing was completed.

Central's downstairs Hallway floor is so shiny!

Central’s downstairs Hallway floor is so shiny!

Be sure to wear your sunglasses the next time you go to the Fellowship Hall to avoid permanent damage to your retinas!




Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Goal to Go

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us. 2 Corinthians 10:13

Bonus Reading: James 4:13-16

I recently heard an interview with a football player ready to start the NFL season. He said, “Anything short of winning the Super Bowl will be considered a failure.”

Hmmm. That’s all well and good, but what about the successes along the way? What about the relationships that he could enjoy, the people he could help, the honor he could bring to God by being a good man instead of just being a good athlete?

This NFL player probably made his coach and team owner happy by thinking this way. But when the season is over and he looks at himself in the mirror, he’s probably still asking himself, “Why am I here?”

We’re not in control of the outcome; God is. So why do we base our success on something that isn’t in our control? Why do we allow some other person to dictate our success? Why do we allow some goal to determine our joy?

Unless we surrender the outcome to God, the goal will become our god, and we will bow down to that.

God designed you to live fully and to celebrate life regardless of your circumstances. Part of success is surrendering the outcome to God and being content that God has you exactly where He wants you.

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

My Response: How could I focus less on career goals and, instead, celebrate more little successes along the way?

Thought to Apply: To find his place and fill it is success for a man.—Phillips Brooks (New England minister)

Adapted from God Is My Success (Warner Faith, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Whose Dream?

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. Joshua 1:8

Bonus Reading: Psalm 1:1-3

I had been sold a bag of goods. I’d embraced the American Dream as the way to happiness, and come up empty. All the outward signs of success were mine: a beautiful home, nice car, blooming career, and lovely wife. But inside I felt like a desert. Something was missing.

I began to search the Scriptures and talk to God about my emptiness. My eyes soon came to rest on today’s Key Bible Verse. Joshua had been given the huge task of leading his people in occupying the land God had promised them. They’d have to fight for it. But God assured Joshua that he’d succeed if he made sure to do things His way.

Suddenly it hit me: I’d let culture define success for me. But God’s idea of success is to pursue His plans for our lives, obey His Word, and use our lives for the good of others. Joshua got the message, and he and his people won big.

I decided to do life God’s way. I filled my mind with Scripture and sought God’s plans for my life. Good things happened. Like Joshua, I saw God work through me in wonderful ways. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I never found while pursuing the American Dream became mine.

—Mike Raether in Montana

My Response: Which take on success is more motivating to me? Why?

Thought to Apply: Don’t be grieved if you don’t enjoy popular favor; grieve rather that you don’t live as well and carefully as befits a servant of God.—Thomas  à Kempis

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Speechless in Seattle

SuccessKey Bible Verse: How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! Ecclesiastes 5:10

Bonus Reading: Psalm 128:1-4

A corporation president called to offer me a job. He’d triple whatever I was making now. I’d never heard God’s voice so clearly! As my wife and I climbed on a plane, I envisioned a bigger house, newer car, security, success.

During the job interview I asked how much time I’d be on the road. “Most of the time,” admitted the president. As we began the flight home my wife said, “The kids and I want to remember you for more than your rear end going out the front door.” But I was determined to take that job.

During a short layover in Seattle, suddenly the restroom I was in began to shake. Knowing I was going to die, images flashed before me of friends and family—but not one of a car, home, or bulging bank account. It took an earthquake to teach me that a hundred years from now, no one will remember what my house looked like, the model of my car, or the thickness of my wallet.

Back on the plane I scribbled these words on a napkin: “I’ll consider myself a success when I’m walking close to Jesus every day, building a strong marriage, loving my kids, performing meaningful work, and making others homesick for heaven.”

—Phil Callaway in Alberta

My Response: To me, real success is …

Thought to Apply: The man who lives for himself—even if he gains much wealth, position, or power—is a failure. The man who lives for others has achieved true success.—Norman Vincent Peale (minister & author)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


A Prayer for Pastors and Churches in Transition

Prayer 9It’s that time of year again for many churches and pastors – time to say goodbye and hello.  It’s a bittersweet time of year, really.

On the one hand, change is exciting.  New pastors mean new ideas.  New churches mean new people to develop relationships and share ministry with.

On the other hand, change is really hard.  Some pastors are leaving great churches filled with many close friends – friends who have shared life’s ups and downs.  Some churches are losing pastors who have meant a great deal to them – pastors who have shared life’s ups and downs in a variety of ways.

Central Church will not experience a change in pastors until July 1, 2016 when Pastor Wayne retires.  Although pastors are frequently moved between local Churches by the Conferences in the United Methodist Church, the transitions are not without a tinge of pain and sadness.

Knowing in advance that we must say goodbye to our pastor in just 12 months makes us more mindful than in most years to what many congregations – and their pastors – are experiencing with pastoral transitions this year, and we share this prayer written by Bgosden for all pastors and churches who are experiencing transition.

Almighty God, You who called the universe into being,  You who formed our inmost parts and called us to be your people:Group Prayer

We give you thanks for you constant presence.  Through seasons of constancy and even change, you are with us – calling us into deeper waters, calling us together in your spirit of unity, calling us out of ourselves into the world to serve others.

Grant that those pastors bring called into new waters might hold fast to unending love and mercy as a buoy – a love that promised to hold onto us even as we go where your Spirit leads us.  May the Churches that receive them be communities of mercy and grace.

May the Churches experiencing loss and change hold fast to the promise that your mission is bigger than any single pastor, local Church, or annual conference.  Grant that such a promise would bring both comfort and discomfort – comfort in a season of change and discomfort as it drives us all to love you and each other more.

Strengthen us to be your Church in all times and seasons of life – a place where all are truly welcomed and embraced in your love (even new pastors and Church members); a place where we find ways you are active among us and calling us to join in your saving work (even in communities that weren’t our top choice to move to); a place where the story of your love and grace and mercy are embodied (even if it comes in shapes and sizes and languages that are new to us).

We offer our prayers in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Keeping Up Appearances

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 4:4

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:17-19

To most people, according to author Denis Haack, “Success means attaining some measure of money, fame, power, and self-fulfillment—and then looking the part.”

I’d say that’s a pretty accurate definition of our society’s version of success. I mean, think about it. Why are you wearing the clothes you have on? Or why do you drive the car you do? Why do you live in the house or the neighborhood you do?

“But Steve,” you say, “I can’t afford a nicer car or a better house.”

That’s right. But if you had the money to get a better car, nicer clothes, or a bigger home, you’d buy them, right? Most of us would. Why? So people will notice and think we’re successful. After all, in our society, how successful are we—really—if no one notices?

Once, when Socrates saw a woman all dressed up for a trip to the city, he remarked, “I suspect that your trip is not to see the city, but for the city to see you.” It’s sobering, even heartbreaking, to realize how much of our lives we spend on the futile and frantic attempt to become and appear more successful than the very people Jesus has called us to serve and to honor above ourselves.

—Steven James in Becoming Real

My Response: How have I sometimes let concerns about image trump substance?

Adapted from Becoming Real (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Distinction by Device

SuccessWho Said It…Tom Petersen

Young Tom first darkened a church door when he needed a pastor’s signature on his Eagle Scout application. That started him on the path to faith. He followed his grandfather and mother into the newspaper business.

Now in the corporate world, Tom looks for the humor in work to ensure that it doesn’t become an idol. A founding elder in his church, he’s developed a passion for encouraging others who, like him, struggle to balance jobs, family, and faith.

What He Said…Distinction by Device

The work world has dozens of ways to measure your success: your salary, your title, or the number of people who report to you. These days, even electronic gadgets can confer status.

The competition to have the latest things can become a virtual electronic arms race. One guy (they are always guys when it comes to technology one-upmanship) shows up at a meeting with a color screen cell phone. Someone brings a camera phone that connects with the Internet. Someone else shows up with the combination cell phone and PDA (Precocious Demanding Accessory) with built-in GPS (Gratuitous Place Specifier). It finally gets out of hand when the boss arrives with his combination laptop, photocopier, espresso machine, and electronic fish finder.

We mustn’t let trivial things define our success. It’s good to be recognized for our good work. But beyond that, a lasting, beautiful way of defining ourselves should be to center our identities in Jesus Christ. We’re to set our hearts and minds on things above.

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


From Career to Calling – What Is My Calling?

From Career to CallingJeremiah’s 40-year career was an assignment from God. As a prophet to Judah, he never achieved material success or influence, and often became discouraged.

But he remained faithful to his depressing task through imprisonment, the fall of Jerusalem (which he had warned about), and deportation.

Interact with God’s Word

Jeremiah 1:4-10

  1. What words did God use (vv. 5, 10) to describe His action in giving Jeremiah his life’s work?
  2. Do you see this assignment as arbitrary or based on God’s intimate knowledge of Jeremiah’s potential?
  3. What was the nature of Jeremiah’s assignment?
  4. What did Jeremiah say (v. 6) made him unqualified for this assignment?
  5. How did God deal with Jeremiah’s objection?
  6. Do you respond to new challenges with self-confidence?
  7. Are you confident that if God gives you a job to do He will provide all you need to do it?
  8. Did God’s promise to protect Jeremiah (v. 8) insulate him from trouble?
  9. Do you believe God has given you a specific call or assignment?
  10. If not, what mission, common to all believers, should you pursue—unless or until His guidance becomes more specific?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for an understanding of what His calling for you is, and for your ability to reflect glory on Him as you fill it cheerfully, competently, and diligently.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 The LORD gave me a message. He said, 5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” 6 “O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

7 “Don’t say that,” the LORD replied, “for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8 And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” 9 Then the LORD touched my mouth and said, “See, I have put my words in your mouth!

10 Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them. You are to build others up and plant them.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – Career Path

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t!  – Jeremiah 45:5

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 1:4-10

Too often we make our career decisions strictly based on salary, benefits, position, influence, and titles. But Jesus warned that you can have all those things and still lose your soul.

The question isn’t, what are you doing for a living? The deeper issue is, what are you doing with your life? Why did God put you here on the earth? We need to move beyond a career orientation to a mission focus.

A friend took me out to lunch to share what God was doing in his life. He’s worked for about ten years as a business consultant with multinational corporations in England, Brazil, and Italy. Now he’s starting his own consulting firm in the Midwest. “If you’re happy and productive in your current job,” he remarked, “the only reason to take a promotion is to leverage your position for the Kingdom of God.”

That’s a tremendous insight. Don’t just climb the ladder to get to the top. Use the higher position to impact the world for Jesus Christ. Realize that God has put you where you are “for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Understand that behind every open door stands the Lord God who rules heaven and earth. What a huge difference it makes to see all of life as belonging to Him!

—Ray Pritchard in The Incredible Journey of Faith

My Response: Shifting from a career to a mission focus would involve …

Thought to Apply: Life is not just a few years to spend on self-indulgence and career advancement. It is a privilege, a responsibility, a stewardship to be lived according to a much higher calling, God’s calling.—Elizabeth Dole

Adapted from The Incredible Journey of Faith (Crossway, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – Man of Influence

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: They must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.  – Titus 2:10

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:11-14

Sitting in a waiting room while my Honda was being repaired, I noticed a man with shaggy white hair make coffee, pile doughnuts on a plate, and place literature on a table. Salesmen walking through the room addressed him with affection and respect.

After he left I studied the literature; it was Christ-honoring. I learned from an employee that the man owned this and other dealerships, and that his take-charge decisiveness, coupled with kindness and humility, made him great to work for.

When the man reappeared, I introduced myself and voiced appreciation for how he used publications to introduce customers to the gospel. He sat down. Soon after emigrating from Germany to America, he told me, Christ captured his imagination and secured his devotion and commitment. Achieving position and financial strength became subordinate to honoring his newfound King.

The owner didn’t appear rushed, but attentive and thoughtful. If I weren’t yet a believer, I thought, his interest in me would draw me in and awaken interest in his literature. As he walked away, with friendly, cheerful demeanor, I thanked God for impacting many others through him.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: How might God use my interactions with coworkers to attract them to Him?

Thought to Apply: [Christians must] regain a lost sense of work as a divine calling.—Emil Brunner (Swiss theologian)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – Dream Job

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: We can do [nothing] of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.  – 2 Corinthians 3:5

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Some of us go to work that excites us, demands our best, and rewards us with recognition. We are doing something significant that makes a difference and also makes money to take care of ourselves and our dependents. But after a few weeks or months, sometimes years, doing this work, the feelings and convictions that clustered around our becoming Christians become background to the center-stage drama of our work with its strenuous demands, energizing stimuli, and rich satisfactions.

Along the way the primacy of God and His work in our lives gives way ever so slightly to the primacy of our work in God’s kingdom. The shift is barely perceptible, and it takes a long time for its significance to show up. But when it does, it turns out that we have not so much been worshiping God as enlisting him as a trusted and valuable assistant.

On the job, we are dealing with what we know, and what we are good at. Why not ask God to help us in our work?

He invited us to, didn’t He, when He said, “Ask … and you will receive”? Well, yes, He did.

The problem is that reducing God to what I can use for my purposes, however noble and useful, becomes an act of idolatry.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Am I working for God? Or asking God to work for me?

Thought to Apply: It’s not what I do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through me. God doesn’t want my success; He wants me.—Elizabeth Dole

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – Academic Grind

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Those who become Christians become new persons. … A new life has begun!2 Corinthians 5:17

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 4:25-27

It happens every semester at our university. I enthusiastically put together the syllabus, think of innovative teaching strategies, and fill out a spreadsheet with my class rolls. As classes begin, I meet the students, tell corny jokes, and try to get everyone as motivated as I am.

A few weeks pass. I’ve given the first exam. Some students are catching on; others have done poorly. Some are missing classes. By mid-term I struggle to maintain my energy level. My corny jokes have gotten cornier. By the 10th week I realize just how long a 15-week semester is. We’re all dragging. I remind myself that I’m blessed to have this job and I’m responsible for those students. But still routines become, well, routine. Life starts to feel pretty old.

We all long for more. God placed that longing in us. It’s what led many of us to seek and find Him in the first place. But His transforming power extends well beyond the moment of conversion.

When Paul wrote, “A new life has begun,” he didn’t mean that the disciple has shifted to a new routine. He was describing an adventure in newness. The key: get yourself out of the way, and allow Christ, the very genesis of creativity, to transform you every routine day.

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: How can I honor Christ by the way I tackle my job today?

Thought to Apply: If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it.—George Hubbs

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – “Hardwired” for Work

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6:7

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 6:5-8

Our innate desire for dignity and self-respect can be satisfied only when we discover our purpose, which will embrace our work. When we can use our gifts and creativity on the job, we find great satisfaction in it.

“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live,” wrote English novelist Dorothy Sayers, “but the thing one lives to do.”

Businessman Howard Butt Jr. tells of a friend who stopped by a garage to have a tire repaired. He watched the mechanic pop the hubcap off with a tire iron, spin loose the bolts with his wrench, and mount the wheel on his tire changer. With the mechanic’s guidance the machine soon worked the old tire off and the new one on. In ten minutes or less, the mechanic had tightened down the last bolt on the restored tire. Then he said, not to his customer, but as if speaking to the new tire, “There, another good job done by me.” Butt said of the mechanic, “Changing tires didn’t define him, but doing a good job did.”

Anyone who hasn’t had a similar experience, doing a concrete task well, with the pleasure that brings, has had a poor life indeed. We all feel connected to the truly good things in life through work.

—Charles Colson in The Good Life

My Response: A task I take pleasure in performing well is …

Adapted from The Good Life (Tyndale, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


From Career to Calling – Novocain, No; Prayer, Yes

From Career to CallingWho Said It…Don Couchman

Don Couchman is a dentist in Colorado Springs. He and his staff of six pray for ways to minister to their patients. “If we feel the Lord is giving us a certain Scripture to pass along,” Don says, “we just underline the Scripture in one of the Bibles we have in each room, then give the patient the Bible to take home.”

Don and his artist wife, Cathy, also give out “a whole lot” of Bibles at their Westcliffe, Colorado, ranch ministry.

What He Said…Novocain, No; Prayer, Yes

One patient the Lord sent my way was a biker who considered himself too tough to use anesthetic for his dental treatments. But in conversation during his treatment, the man revealed that he was concerned about his son, who was in trouble with the law. “Would it be all right with you if we prayed for your son?” I asked. The man said it would be great, so we did.

I moved on to the next treatment room, but I heard the biker’s cell phone ringing next door. When I came back into the room where the biker waited, the guy was just shaking his head. “That stuff works fast!” he told me. “That was the D.A.’s office calling me to say they are going to send my son into mediation instead of making him stand trial.”

“Then we have to pray again to thank Jesus and ask him to make this a positive experience in the young man’s life!” I said, and we did. Two weeks later when the father returned, he reported that his son was given probation and has to “keep his nose clean” for the next two years—a positive outcome.

Adapted from Catalog (International Bible Society, Fall/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad


Target Your Missions Petitions – Prayers for Missionaries

Pray for MissionariesAlthough Paul was a missionary pioneer, he was no lone ranger. He was keenly aware of his need for prayer backing. In his letters to young congregations, he typically solicited their prayers for him. His requests tell us a lot about how we should be praying for the gospel ambassadors we know today.

Interact with God’s Word

Colossians 4:2-4; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

  1. Why do you think an alert mind is required (Col. 4:2) for effective intercession?
  2. What might devoting yourself to prayer involve in your case?
  3. How can you counter the out-of-sight-out-of-mind tendency (Col. 4:3) in your praying?
  4. What clues does Paul’s request for bold witness in confinement (Eph. 6:19-20), instead of release from it, give you about how you should pray for those in unsettled situations?
  5. Are you aware (2 Thess. 3:1) of areas where the Lord’s message is spreading rapidly? How about areas where it appears to be stalled? How should you pray for each?
  6. Recognizing that missionaries are on the “front lines” of spiritual warfare (2 Thess. 3:2), what kind of “prayer cover” is essential?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to help you discern specific real needs of a Christian worker and persistently pray for His answers.

Colossians 4:2-4

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Don’t forget to pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to preach about his secret plan—that Christ is also for you Gentiles. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Ephesians 6:19-20

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.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord.

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.

Vatican and Pat Robertson Agree: Don’t Play the ‘Charlie, Charlie’ Game

The Charlie Charlie game has its origins in Spanish culture.

The Charlie Charlie game has its origins in Spanish culture.

Christianity Today reports today on a disturbing game currently circulating.

The game starts with: “Charlie, Charlie, are you here? Charlie, Charlie, can you play?”

Players recite these words sitting around table with two pencils, one carefully balanced on top of the other. Underneath the pencils is a sheet of white paper marked with “yes” and “no” in cross-shaped grid. After the invocation, if the top pencil mysteriously swings to ‘yes,’ the players start asking Charlie questions just as is done with the Ouija board.

In April and May, American teens embraced the game and spread it quickly through social media and online video, receiving millions of views on YouTube. It has also gone viral through the hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge, receiving more than 1.6 million tweets in recent weeks. This prompted religious leaders from the Vatican, the Bahamas to the Virginia Beach studios of 700 Club televangelist Pat Robertson to condemn the game as a “demonic” summoning of spirits.

“Demons are real. They are not playthings and they are certainly not parlor games. For any little kids to begin to play these games and think it’s cool, it’s not,” Robertson said. “I know what the Bible says about it, but I am just telling you what I am saying about it—they are real. They desire to destroy human beings.”

Roman Catholic experts in demonology are also sounding the alarm. “Some spirits who are at the root of that practice will harass some of those who play the game,” said José Antonio Fortea, a Madrid-based and Vatican-approved exorcist for the Catholic Church. Demon possession is unlikely, he said, but participation in the game “will result in other spirits beginning to enter into even more frequent communication. Then the person really can suffer much worse consequences from the demons.”

The Catholic News Agency reported:

Catholic experts have noted that occult activity and the resulting need for exorcisms has reached a critical level worldwide. The International Association of Exorcists (AIE) met for their 12th annual conference in Rome last October. According to AIE spokesperson Dr. Valter Cascioli, an increasing number of bishops and cardinals asked to participate in the conference due to an increase in demonic activity. “It’s becoming a pastoral emergency,” Cascioli told CNA. “At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise.”

Skeptics of the #CharlieCharlieChallenge are doubtful of demonic activity. They say an internet hoax, a clever marketing scheme, and gravity are more likely explanations. Some news media report that the game is a marketing campaign for The Gallows, a “found footage” genre horror film due for release in July that is centered around the accidental death a boy named Charlie.

Snopes, the website famed for exposing internet fraud and hoaxes, said:

It seems fairly evident that the connection between the social-media-driven “Charlie Charlie challenge” and the upcoming film The Gallows emerged well after the former had come and gone from Internet “trending” lists.

Others said gravity explained the pencil’s movement. “What’s actually moving the pencils? Gravity, and the awkward positioning of some pencils. They just wouldn’t sit still even if you wanted them to,” according to a report in The Independent.

These explanations have done little to calm reaction in the Christian community in some parts of the world. In the Bahamas, a high school guidance counselor sent a letter to local pastors asking them to visit campus and pray for students who were summoning “a Mexican demon.”

A Washington Post columnist wrote that a Dominican Republic television news report about a “Satanic game” overtaking local schools in April likely triggered the social media virus, which then easily crossed over from Spanish into English. A traditional Spanish “school-yard game” Lapicera, called the poor man’s Ouija board, is its likely origin.

In Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, schools, many primary school children became so frightened over the game that teachers forbid students to play it or even discuss it.

One prominent Baptist pastor issued a warning about the game on Twitter.

“Christians should run — not walk away from any attempt to contact or harness demonic powers through @CharlieCharlie,” warned Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.


Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Protection

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people. 2 Thessalonians 3:2

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:30-32

I don’t know how many times my wife and I have looked at each other and exclaimed, “There must have been people praying for us!”

One such experience was in the fall of 1994. I had a number of errands to run and had taken our daughter with me to give my wife some time alone. I first went to the bank near our Porto Alegre home and encountered a terrible line-up at the tellers. Like any North American, I chafed over the wasted time and the difficulty of keeping a three-year-old entertained in the line.

When we finally got out of the bank, we headed for item two on my list—send some letters. We headed on foot for the post office, and were surprised to see three or four police cars and an ambulance parked nearby. When I enquired, I learned that 20 minutes before there’d been an armed robbery, with shots fired and two customers injured.

Looking at my watch, I realized that a bank line-up had saved us from being in the line of the robbery fire! That night we gave thanks as a family for bank line-ups, for God’s perfect timing, and for the many people we knew were praying for our personal safety.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for safety and physical and emotional health for a missionary friend.

Thought to Apply: One feels a deep, inward consciousness that though we are absolutely shut off from every human help, yet we have protection more secure than any consul can afford.—Alexander Mackay (missionary to Uganda)

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.


Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Responsiveness

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes.  – 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10a

Among some peoples the gospel, which is the power of God to change lives, has moved in and made wonderful transformations. Other groups—in large, sprawling cities as well as distant jungles—are hostile, untrusting, and unresponsive to missionary efforts. Many resistant peoples still have little or no visible Christian church.

Missionaries go out in God’s power, knowing they aren’t always guaranteed success but longing to see the hearts and minds of the people they’ve come to love changed, to see whole cultures bend their knee to the lordship of Christ.

Jack Campbell, a missionary to Guinea, West Africa, shared the joy of seeing a substantial number come to the Lord from the tribal group with which he works. Fifty years of previous missionary efforts had produced only a handful of believers. The turning point, he says, was when a large group of people began to fast and pray specifically for the responsiveness of this tribe.

So pray that your missionaries may find the favor and love of the people to whom they minister. Pray that the gospel will be fruitful and well received among them, as it was with you.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll ask God to direct a missionary friend to someone whose heart He has already prepared.

Thought to Apply: I don’t know how to make a man think seriously about sin and judgment, and must look to the Holy Spirit for any such working.—Jim Elliot

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.


Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Boldness

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.  – Ephesians 6:20

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Fear can be crippling. For weeks after the robbery of her car at gunpoint, one missionary colleague feared to leave the safety of her home at night.

It became a very real challenge to participate wholeheartedly in the ministries in which she served, especially in light of the fact that the people to whom she ministered were part of a night-oriented culture. In such circumstances, missionaries need the prayers of their partners for fearlessness in sharing the gospel.

On one occasion our youth drama team was the first group allowed to perform in the main square of a city we’d entered. The city, known for its rugged and independent individuals, had very few evangelicals and had in the past been hostile toward any group that openly proclaimed the gospel.

Knowing that we would need a special God-given boldness to take advantage of the opportunity we’d been afforded, we spent much time in prayer. God answered those prayers and calmed our doubts and fears. In spite of hecklers, a car accident that took place as we performed our drama, and the loud music of a nightclub nearby, we were able to share testimonies of the transforming power of Christ in our lives.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for calm courage for a missionary in a threatening situation.

Thought to Apply: For five years we never went outside our doors without a volley of curses from our neighbors.—C.T. Studd (British missionary to Central Africa)

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.


Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Clear Communications

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.  – Colossians 4:4

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:6-11

In Rome, Paul wasn’t addressing his audience in his mother tongue. His prayer request for clarity wasn’t just about making a suitable defense to his accusers. He was soliciting divine help for addressing the spiritual condition of his hearers.

This prayer request obviously applies to those learning a new language. Clarity of expression means much more than knowing how to buy goods or exchange money in the marketplace. It involves cultural understanding, application of idiomatic expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Because language learning involves becoming childlike and relying upon the help of others, it’s a task not easily accepted by those with many years of education and ministry experience behind them.

This request isn’t limited to missionaries in their first term of service. No matter how long a missionary has served, his adopted language is still his second language. When he is tired or under the attacks of the enemy, speech doesn’t necessarily flow easily in the same manner as with the mother tongue. Even veteran missionaries need God’s help in talking to heart issues and adequately conveying the life-transforming good news of Christ to a people.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for one missionary friend to become proficient in his target group’s heart language.

Thought to Apply: His colloquial Turkish was famous, and he knew the folklore, the emotional reactions, and religious beliefs of the people. —Friend (speaking of Lyman MacCallum)

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.


Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Opened Doors

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray … that God will give us many opportunities to preach about his secret plan. Colossians 4:3

Bonus Reading: Acts 16:6-10

I asked people to commit to praying for opened doors for the ministry I served in Porto Alegre, Brazil. A small group began to pray specifically for this.

God surprised us by the doors He opened in response to the prayers of our partners. The opportunity to work together with Campus Crusade for Christ and use the Jesus film with many other Christians in our city was indeed a welcomed window of opportunity that we hadn’t anticipated.

We saw another door opened when a senator welcomed us and worked with us in seeing an outreach planned for high-level city and state government officials.

What we experienced in the unity and fruitfulness of the Jesus Film Project in 1998 can only be explained by the people praying for such open doors.

Many doors remain closed. Some are large and reflect the greatest challenges for the church in the new millennium. These are the nations and people groups where access is restricted or hindered.

Some doors represent influential people in a city or tribal situation. These unopened doors present a tremendous opportunity for God’s people to enter into a prayer partnership with missionaries, seeing them opened to the gospel.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for one closed door to open for a missionary I know.

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.