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Tackling the TV Threat – Spectator Sport?

Key Bible Verse: We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Is TV viewing a spectator sport?  Hardly.  With split-second accuracy, you must change channels, zap commercials, or even shut the whole thing down.

This year I was with a group of friends watching the Super Bowl.  My pastor, C.J. Mahaney, had the remote.  As soon as commercials came on he’d switch to C-SPAN, possibly the safest channel available.

Why does he practice “active remote” television viewing?  Doesn’t he know how entertaining the Super Bowl commercials can be?

Yes, and he also knows how often they use sex to sell their products.  He knows that nothing he might miss is worth exposing himself to lustful images.

Well, it’s just a commercial, I’ve rationalized.  It’s going to be over in a few seconds.  It can’t be that bad.  But that’s a lie.  A sinful image can lodge itself in my mind in much less than 30 seconds.

At times when I’ve traveled and stayed at hotels, I’ve sinned against God by mindlessly surfing through the channels, knowing there’s a good chance something will flash before my eyes.  This is an expression of lust.  TV InfluenceBecause of my poor track record, I no longer turn the TV on in a hotel.

—Joshua Harris in Not Even a Hint

My Response: I’ll agree with my wife on what will automatically trigger termination of a show or commercial.

Thought to Apply: In Beverly Hills they don’t throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows.—Woody Allen (director, comedian)

Adapted from Not Even a Hint (Multnomah, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Tackling the TV Threat – Where Did They Get That Idea?

TV InfluenceKey Bible Verse: These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Isaiah 29:13

Bonus Reading: 1 John 2:15-17; 24-27

A dozen years ago, Bob Briner wrote in Roaring Lambs about his experience trying to get a New Year’s Eve concert on the air.  The concert featured several Christian stars, many of whom were also popular in the secular market.

Although he had 20 years of experience in program distribution, he couldn’t get one network to air the program.  Briner commented, “The main over-the-air networks do not believe that Christians in America are an identifiable, reliable audience.  Their view is that Christians protest against bad programs but watch them anyway.”

If the lambs of today are letting themselves be shepherded into the TV industry’s neat and tidy little demographic categories with everyone else, is it any wonder that popular culture is rapidly sliding into the sewer?

What has happened to our mission to challenge cultural assumptions from a Christian point of view?

We tend to blur the old line between “in the world” and “of the world” until it’s almost unrecognizable, and we’ve stopped pushing the media to produce something better, instead trying to make the best of what’s already there—or worse yet, thoroughly enjoying it.

—Gina Dalfonzo in BreakPoint WorldView

My Response: To what extent are the network assumptions justified judging by my Christian friends?

Thought to Apply: Why should people pay good money to go out and see bad films when they can stay home and see bad television for nothing? —Samuel Goldwyn (film producer)

Adapted from BreakPoint WorldView (12/02)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Tackling the TV Threat – Familiarity Breeds…Acceptance?

TV InfluenceKey Bible Verse: I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.  – Psalm 101:3

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:22-23

The first time you heard a curse word, saw a sex scene, or witnessed a televised kiss between two people of the same sex, you likely reacted with disdain. But the more you’re exposed to things that you may consider wrong, the less negative reaction you’ll have to them.

If these subjects are presented in a favorable, acceptable manner, you may begin to accept them as the norm and possibly even decide to indulge in such acts yourself.  Our initial reaction of being repulsed by something can change with oversaturation and move us to acceptance, and, even worse, make us approve.

The phenomenon of oversaturation changing the views of the public about what’s considered normal, tolerable, and appropriate can be easily seen in the difference in today’s television, movies, magazines, and advertising as compared to just a couple of decades ago.

Overexposure to the many vices of the world through the media has caused our views of what’s right and wrong to dim to the point that today those views are barely visible. As our views of right and wrong change, we find ourselves experiencing appetites for things that just a few short years ago we’d have run away from.

—Debra Cherry in Feeding Your Appetites

My Response: One thing I’ve begun to tolerate that used to be off limits is …

Thought to Apply: We Americans have always considered Hollywood, at best, a sinkhole of depravity. And, of course, it is. It is not a Protective Monastery of Aesthetic Truth.—David Mamet (playwright)

Adapted from Feeding Your Appetites (Integrity Publishers, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Tackling the TV Threat – Why TV Threatens Families

TV InfluenceKey Bible Verse: We are … fighting against … the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. Ephesians 6:12

Bonus Reading: Psalm 128:1-6

What societal threat poses the greatest threat to Christian families?  According to a survey of FamilyLife Conference guests we conducted, it’s television.

Why?  Because …

  • TV replaces real relationships.

Communication ceases when the TV is turned on. Who can compete with million-dollar commercials, and programs that parade sexy bodies in front of us? I agree with Erma Bombeck, who said that if a woman has a husband who watches three consecutive TV football games on a Saturday, she should have him declared legally dead and have his estate probated!

  • TV often undermines the commitments and moral integrity that bind a family together.

Shows that honor the family have been replaced by sitcoms that glorify adultery, premarital sex, and perverted behavior.

  • TV robs families of time—both in quality and quantity.

After attending a marriage conference, one dad went home, unplugged the TV, and lugged it to the garage. In its place he hung a picture of the family. Their five-year-old-son stared at the portrait; then he looked up at his dad and asked, “Does this mean we’re going to be a family now?”

—Dennis Rainey in Moments Together for a Peaceful Home

My Response: A positive alternative to tube time I could lead my family in is …

Thought to Apply: It is not that [TV content] is always directly hurtful. The evil lies rather in the forfeiture of what the child might be doing if not watching. —George Kennan

Adapted from Moments Together for a Peaceful Home (Regal, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Tackling the TV Threat – TV Takeover

TV InfluenceKey Bible Verse: Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.  – Proverbs 4:23

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 4:18-27

For years Barb and I had two TVs in the home—the family room and the master bedroom. We’d routinely invite the kids to plop on our bed just before bedtime. On occasion, if there was something interesting on, we’d watch TV together.

When Scott turned 15, he asked if he could have a TV in his bedroom. Because I wasn’t as sensitized to this issue as I am now, I discounted Barb’s concerns and told Scott he could get a TV as long as he bought it with his own money.

What a mistake!  That TV was like a large magnet for Scott, who was sucked into his bedroom about 15 seconds after he finished his last bite of dessert, and we wouldn’t see him again until the next morning.

It pulled him away from our family, and we had no idea what he watched. I have a sneaking suspicion Scott succumbed to the temptation to watch late-night television shows on school nights, which cut into his sleep time and made him more tired in the morning.

Allowing teens to watch what they want when they want is like inviting a total stranger who doesn’t share your values to spend a lot of quality time with them.

—Walt Larimore in God’s Design for a Highly Healthy Teen

My Response: How am I exercising spiritual leadership of my family’s viewing habits?

Adapted from God’s Design for a Highly Healthy Teen (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Tackling the TV Threat – 3 Entertainment Industry Lies

TV InfluenceWho Said It …Michael Medved

Michael Medved is a radio talk show host and veteran film critic.  After his Hollywood vs. America was published in 1992, the entertainment establishment denounced him as “a Nazi” and “a fundamentalist Christian fanatic.”

That, says Michael, is “no way to talk about a nice Jewish boy.”  As a Yale freshman, he suffered frostbite in Omaha while hitchhiking home to California in tennis shoes. By the time he graduated, Michael had hitchhiked more than 80,000 miles!

What He Said …3 Entertainment Industry Lies

1.  It’s only entertainment; it doesn’t influence anybody.

Advertisers wouldn’t be paying multiple millions of dollars airing commercials and supporting programs that influenced no one. Networks wouldn’t be pulling out all the stops to increase their shows’ ratings if it truly were “only entertainment.”

2.  We just reflect reality.  Don’t blame us, blame society.

About 7 of the approximately 350 characters appearing on primetime television each evening are murdered. If this homicide rate reflected the real world, then in less than two months every person in America would be killed and the last left could turn off the TV.

3.  We give the public what it wants.  If people don’t like it, they can turn it off.

For over two decades, G- and PG-rated films for family audiences have earned twice as much as R-rated films. But instead of increasing production of lower-rated films, Hollywood has upped the number of R-rated films to nearly two-thirds of all releases. Many of these R titles never even earn a profit for their producers.

Adapted from Reader’s Digest (10/95)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, when I relax, it’s easy to let my guard down. Please keep me spiritually vigilant all the time.

 

Parsonage Restoration – Exterior Painting!

Parsonage - Old Colors - 7-26-2015As part of the Parsonage restoration following our recent fire, the exterior of the Parsonage is to be repainted.

Here is the existing blue and white color scheme:

The Trustees met after this morning’s worship service and selected the following exterior colors for the Parsonage:

• Body:     Rare Gray       SW 6199

Parsonage - New Colors 2 - 7-26-2015
• Trim:     Casa Blanca    SW 7571

• Accent:  Pewter Green SW 6208

(You can see this color combination in the “Suburban Traditional – exterior inland colors” folder at Sherwin-Williams.)Parsonage - New Colors 1 - 7-26-2015

Our thanks to our God for his continual provisioning for us, to our Trustees for coordinating the restoration process, to Mazzant Painting and Restoration for all of their continuing hard work, and to Liberty Mutual for their prompt and cooperative spirit working with all of us to get our Parsonage back into shape.

The scaffolding is already up at the Parsonage, so the exterior painting should begin in the next few days!

A Relationship Redefined – Loving Spouse and Family

FamilyThe religious experts arrived from the big city to check out reports of irregularities in the hinterland.

But in response to the first question on their checklist, Jesus countered with a more basic question: what was the basis for the checklist itself?

He then condemned their nifty attempt to checkmate the clear teaching of the law by misapplying another regulation (Numbers 30:2).

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 15:3-6

  1. What are some traditions that add richness and meaning to life?
  2. When do traditions cross a line from good to wrong (v. 3)?
  3. Is the biblical concept of “honor” limited to showing love and respect (v. 5)?
  4. Does our society’s tradition of living in nuclear rather than extended families release us from an obligation to care for them personally?
  5. Do our society’s “traditions” of corporate and governmental pension and health care provisions release us from an obligation to provide financially for our parents?
  6. Can you think of other ways in which we may have substituted man-made expectations for God’s commands?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you determine how you should observe the Fifth Commandment in a manner that honors Him, as well as your parents.

Matthew 15:3-6

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’

5 But you say, ‘You don’t need to honor your parents by caring for their needs if you give the money to God instead.’ 6 And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of God.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

A Relationship Redefined – Softened “Fence Post”

FamilyKey Bible Verse: His father said to him, “Look, dear son, you and I are very close … ” Luke 15:31

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Running a Kansas farm with his parents and six brothers and sisters taught Marvin solid values that would serve him well as a surgeon. But after he left the farm for college, Marvin began to feel an elusive void. It gradually took the shape of a simple sentence he and his father had never spoken to each other: I love you. Marvin knew his father loved him. But his love was understood, not felt. And it was something, like respect, to be earned. As he learned of better, deeper relationships, Marvin longed for more.

On a break from college, Marvin spoke those three words, “I love you,” and hugged his father. His father remained silent—cold yet compliant, unsure of what to do with his emotions. “It felt like hugging a fence post,” Marvin recalls.

But he repeated the scene during the next six months. The response to his words and hugs was always an unbroken silence. But after the tenth time, Marvin’s father looked his son in the eyes and said, “Son, I love you, too.”

This turning point “opened up unexplored territory in our relationship,” Marvin says. Over time, he and his father were able to share heart-to-heart their dreams, failures, and joys.

—Ken Canfield in The Heart of a Father

My Response: What “unexplored territory” do I need to probe with my father?

Thought to Apply: Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.—Karl Menninger (psychiatrist)

Adapted from The Heart of a Father (Northfield, 1996)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

A Relationship Redefined – Pumping Positives

FamilyKey Bible Verse: May God … give you grace and peace. Every time I think of you, I give thanks to God. Philippians 1:2-3

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 23:22-25

How many of us thank God every time we remember our parents? Almost everyone has negative memories of his childhood. But you can balance this with positive memories of your home. Here are pump primers to get these positive thoughts flowing:

  • Where did your parents take you on vacation, and what did you do?
  • What did you most enjoy doing with your dad? With your mom?
  • What was your favorite family tradition?
  • What were the family jokes?
  • What special phrases or nicknames did your family invent?
  • What was your favorite Christmas? Your favorite birthday?
  • What problems did your parents help you through when you were a teenager?
  • What values from your childhood home are you trying to pass on to your children?

As you think about these questions, thank God for the positive memories and their power to give your own home strength and stability. Write some of your thoughts down and send them in a letter to your parents. It’s a tangible way to let them know you wish them “grace and peace.”

—Dennis Rainey in Moments Together for Growing Closer to God

My Response: What are the positive childhood memories I’m grateful for?

Thought to Apply: The real histories of families aren’t the records of births, deaths, and marriages. They are the stories told after dessert.—Frederick Waterman (writer)

Adapted from Moments Together for Growing Closer to God (Regal, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

A Relationship Redefined – Dad’s Mistake

FamilyKey Bible Verse: You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Colossians 3:13

Bonus Reading: Colossians 3:12-14

My love growing up was baseball. Dad worked long hours and didn’t come to my games. But my last year in Little League, we played the league-leading team in a real stadium! I was so proud to have Dad finally see me play center field. I got two hits off one of the league’s best pitchers. The game ended. I felt good, ready for Dad to congratulate me on my hitting. Instead: “You missed that fly ball. You should have charged it. You could have caught it.” I was devastated.

I held it against him for years. But then I started going to my son Sam’s games. As we’d drive home, it would take everything in me to not say, “You took a called strike three.” That’s when I really forgave Dad. Now I see that Dad saw the potential and wanted me to be better. He knew I could have caught that ball if I’d charged it. But all I could see back then was that I was a failure in his eyes.

Loving our parents means we quit holding their humanness against them. We let them be fallible, like us. God wants your parents to experience forgiveness from any place they can get it—especially from you.

—Paul Tokunaga in Faith on the Edge

My Response: I’ll ask God to dissolve resentment for how I may have been hurt by my parents.

Thought to Apply: Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.—Oscar Wilde (playwright)

Adapted from Faith on the Edge (InterVarsity, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

UMC Market Relaunches with New User-Friendly Website

UMC Market 5

Your Giving Matters

An upgraded version of the UMCmarket program has been launched with new features and an enhanced user experience. The General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church is pleased to present UMCmarket, a tremendously rewarding opportunity to earn money for Central Church. UMCmarket makes it possible for our church to receive donations from retailers every time you make an online purchase. The best thing is that you don’t need to change anything from how you shop today, and every small donation makes a difference. This allows our church family to do together what we cannot do alone.

How it Works.

Every store at UMCmarket is happy to pay a percentage of the purchased amount as a donation. There is no additional cost or charge for either you or our church. The stores send UMCmarket the contributions within a variable time frame of 30-90 days. Once our church reaches $100 in total donations, a check will be mailed.

Signing Up is Free!

You can easily sign up for free. When you go to http://www.UMCMarket.org, you will click on the “Get Started” button. You will have the option to sign up with your Facebook account or enter your email and create a password. You will then be prompted to download the Easy Give Button and find our church. With these three simple steps, you are ready to shop and donate!

Easy Give Button.

Using the Easy Give Button App is the easiest way for you to shop and donate. Once it’s downloaded, you will see the UMC Cross and Flame icon in your browser toolbar. This Easy Give Button will allow you to shop directly at store websites and let you know that you are connected.

Research shows that members who download the Easy Give Button generate more than double the amount of donations to their church. You don’t have to remember to visit UMCmarket.org before you start shopping!

Share UMCmarket with your friends!

We hope you will sign up, designate Central Church to receive the donations you create, try UMCmarket out, and share with our church family and friends. It’s easy and free, so why not rally your fellow members and friends to do the same? See how fast your donations will make a difference! For help or any questions, UMCmarket’s customer service team is ready to help. Just email them at info@umcmarket.org.

We live in a global village, and the world is our parish.  When we give generously, our gifts do wonderful, life-changing things in the name of Jesus Christ.

UMC Market 6

A Relationship Redefined – Two Strings to Cut

FamilyKey Bible Verse: There will be a division between father and son, mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Luke 12:53

Bonus Reading: Exodus 18:13-27

The first apron string to sever is the counseling string. When issues arise between a husband and wife, they should never first call mom and dad for advice. Rather, using the principles laid out in God’s Word, they should prayerfully work out their own problems, seeking outside counsel only if necessary.

Setting up your own household doesn’t mean you must terminate the relationship with your parents. You’re to leave them, not forsake them or forgo all their influence. Their hard-won experience can still play a vital role in your lives. Consider the biblical examples of Naomi, the mother-in-law who had a beautiful relationship with her daughter-in-law Ruth. And recall Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who pulled him aside and told him he was working himself to death. Taking his advice made Moses’ service to God much more effective.

The second string to cut is the economic string. It’s hard for some married children to leave behind the security of the homes and lifestyles in which they grew up. But if you want a healthy marriage, you must leave the “safety net” of your parents behind and create your own “home, sweet home.”

—Ed Young in The 10 Commandments of Marriage

My Response: One way I can still benefit from parental experience is …

Thought to Apply: Behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law. —Hubert H. Humphrey (American politician, vice president)

Adapted from The 10 Commandments of Marriage (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

A Relationship Redefined – Commuter Marriage

FamilyKey Bible Verse: This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united. Genesis 2:24

Bonus Reading: Genesis 24:50-61

Doug’s dad had deserted, leaving his mom to sacrifice for her son’s welfare. So when Lisa, Doug’s new wife, began experiencing tensions with her mother-in-law, Doug sided with the woman who’d always been his hero—his mother. Whenever Doug suggested to Lisa changes in her behavior, she suspected he was parroting his mother’s concerns, and resisted. The icy intensity between wife and mother grew.

“How can I get Lisa to make these reasonable changes my mother wants her to make?” Doug asked his valued friend Sam.

“It sounds to me like you need to run away from home,” Sam said, quoting Genesis 2:24. “You’ve been trying to live in two homes. When you got married, you moved your stuff in with Lisa, but your heart never left your mother. This is your deal, my friend—not Lisa’s. Until you completely move in with Lisa, you’ll never get this fixed.”

Doug resolved that whenever Lisa and his mother were on opposite sides of an issue, he’d side with Lisa. Over the next months, Doug’s mother tried anger, tears, and guilt. Competing with Lisa, he told her, was a battle she’d lose.

—M. Robert Wolgemuth in The Most Important Year in a Man’s Life

My Response: Have I declared my primary loyalty to my wife in a way that’s clear to both her and my parents?

Adapted from The Most Important Year in a Man’s Life (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

A Relationship Redefined – Forgotten Commandment

FamilyWho Said It …Dennis Rainey

Dennis Rainey is the executive director and cofounder of FamilyLife, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Dennis lives in Little Rock and has spoken at Promise Keepers events across North America. He serves as host of the daily radio program, FamilyLife Today, where Barbara, his wife, is a frequent guest.

What He Said …Forgotten Commandment

Honoring your parents is a command for children of all ages. There’s no exception clause that exempts you as an adult child from responsibility. But what does honoring your parents involve now?

Honoring your parents doesn’t place you back under their authority or give them permission to manipulate you. It’s not endorsing irresponsibility or sin by denying what they’ve done wrong as parents. It’s not flattering them by “emotionally stuffing” the mistakes they’ve made or denying the pain they may have caused you.

Honoring your parents does mean forgiving them as Christ has forgiven you. It means recognizing the sacrifices they made for you and what they did right. It means praising them for the legacy they’ve passed on to you. It means seeing them through the eyes of Christ, with understanding and compassion. It means taking the initiative to improve your relationship.

It’s an attitude accompanied by actions that say to your parents, “You are worthy. You have value. You’re the person God sovereignly placed in my life.”

Adapted from Moments Together for Growing Closer to God (Regal, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that honoring my parents is a part of fully honoring You. Help me to lovingly fulfill this obligation.

 

The Glory Way Quartet!

Please Invite All of Your Friends!

GloryWay Quartet

The Glory Way Quartet

is coming to Central Church!

Where:      Central United Methodist Church
                     6th Avenue & 13th Street
                     Beaver Falls, PA 15010

Time:         6:00 pm
Date:         Sunday, July 19, 2015

 

The Glory Way Quartet sings good old gospel music that touches the hearts and souls of everyone who hears them.  It’s laughter, fellowship, and a moving of God’s Holy Spirit in our midst while we usher in the glory of the Lord.

A freewill offering will be collected for the group.

 

How God’s Word Works – Reading the Bible

Bible 2Timothy’s Jewish mother had made sure that he was taught the content of our Old Testament.

Some materials included in our New Testament weren’t yet written when Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy.

But others were already considered equal in authority to the Old Testament.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, for instance, he identified (in5:18) quotations from both Deuteronomy and Luke as Scripture.

Interact with God’s Word

2 Timothy 3:14-17

  1. What are some Old Testament truths about God and mankind that lay the groundwork (v. 15) for trusting in Jesus as the Messiah?
  2. How does the assertion of verse 16 that all Scripture is God-breathed make the Bible different from every other book?
  3. So what weight should you give its pronouncements as you evaluate other truth claims?
  4. How systematically are you internalizing truth benchmarks from God’s Word?
  5. How has Scripture made you realize that an area of your life has been deficient?
  6. How has Scripture prodded you to straighten out some aspect of your behavior?
  7. How fully equipped do you feel (v. 17) for living as a disciple? … for defending God’s truth?
  8. What influences could tempt you to not remain faithful (v. 14) to the truths of Scripture?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to use His Word in your life for its purpose: to strengthen your faith and lead you to do good.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – Fade or Flourish?

Bible 2Key Bible Verse: These instructions are not mere words—they are your life! Deuteronomy 32:47

Bonus Reading: Psalm 19:7-11

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Fort Myers, Florida, is home to a small fern that grows on the trunk and limbs of many swamp trees.

The Audubon Companion Field Guide I bought at the entrance to the sanctuary asked, “Can you tell when the last rainfall occurred at Corkscrew? Check the resurrection fern.

If the leaves are curled, brown, and dead looking, rain has not fallen recently. However, within 30 minutes of a rainfall, the ‘dead’ leaves uncurl and return to a vibrant green.”

I am like the resurrection fern. Without the daily spiritual nourishment that the Scriptures provide, I’m often “curled, brown, and dead looking” too. At least that’s how I feel.

I’ve discovered that just six minutes a day with my Bible can make the difference between a dry, ordinary day and a refreshing, vibrant day.

It was a simple decision.

My wife Jane and I made the choice together. We stopped watching television. We cancelled the subscriptions to most of the magazines coming into our home.

Overnight, we created the free time we needed to devote to God. Now we begin each day in Scripture study and silent prayer. This spiritual resurrection has changed our lives!

—Cliff Denay Jr. in Michigan

My Response: In order to keep a time-slot reserved for refreshing from God’s Word, I’ll …

Thought to Apply: The Bible redirects my will, cleanses my emotions, enlightens my mind, and quickens my total being.—E. Stanley Jones (missionary to India)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – Pay Dirt

Bible 2Key Bible Verse: I rejoice in your word like one who finds a great treasure.  – Psalm 119:162

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:2;2 Peter 3:15-16

Launching into my treasure-hunting hobby, I bought my first metal detector. The salesman gave me two pieces of advice. Once I found something buried, he told me, before filling in the hole, I should always scan the hole again. Where there was one coin, there’d often be others.

And secondly, he told me, never believe that a place has been “hunted out,” meaning that all the treasure has been taken. “For the patient hunter,” he said, “there’ll likely be another treasure waiting.”

I soon proved him right. I’d been told the site of a home built in the late 1700s was hunted out.

I obtained permission to hunt the property. I started scanning early one morning, and hunted for six hours without finding a thing. But just as I was ready to give up, I started getting signals—one right after the other. I dug out so many coins that they filled both of my pants pockets. One was an 1865 three-cent piece, worth about $70.

In the same way, new Christians desiring the milk of the Word can sweep over the Scriptures and find a host of marvelous treasures. And veteran students of the Bible can be sure that, no matter how much we dig, it will never be hunted out.

—Van Morris in PreachingToday.com

My Response: What very familiar parts of Scripture should I revisit?

Thought to Apply: If you want to grow in the Word of God, become a person with a chisel and quarry the Word—look, explore, seek.—Max Lucado (Texas pastor & writer)

Adapted from PreachingToday.com (12/05/05)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – 31-Day Trial

Bible 2Key Bible Verse: For these commands and this teaching are a lamp to light the way ahead of you. Proverbs 6:23

Bonus Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“I can’t read the Bible,” Brian said. “It’s way over my head. Nothing in it has anything to do with my life.”

“Brian,” his pastor responded, “why don’t you read just one chapter of the Book of Proverbs a day and see what happens?” The pastor knew that Brian had sat in church for years but never really tried to dig into the Bible.

Brian took the challenge. After a few weeks, he met with his pastor. “Well, Brian, did you learn anything?”

Brian looked embarrassed. “Yes,” he said, “I learned that I’m a fool, and so are most of my friends!”

“Why do you say that?” asked the pastor.

“Because most of the things Proverbs says about a fool apply to me and those I hang out with. Very few things it says about a wise person sounded like me and my friends.”

“What are you going to do about it?” the pastor asked. Brian had lots of answers that led to great conversation and, more importantly, to changes in his lifestyle.

“Do you still think the Bible has little to say to your life?” the pastor asked.

“Now,” Brian admitted, “I’m worried that it has too much to say!”

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: To more deliberately dig into the Bible, I need to …

Thought to Apply: It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand.—Mark Twain (author)

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – Active Ingredients

Bible 2Key Bible Verse: The word of God is living and active. … It penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  – Hebrews 4:12, NIV

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Like any father of three, I’m experienced at dispensing medicine. If he has a fever, give him Tylenol, or maybe Advil. If she has an ear infection, administer an antibiotic. If you’re going on a long plane ride, and really want them to sleep, give them Benadryl.

Medicine labels list active and inactive ingredients. Active ingredients address the problem at hand; inactive ingredients are extras, like flavorings and colorings. (We have a big red stain on the carpet upstairs from an inactive ingredient!)

Ever heard of the active ingredient Guaifenesin? If you’re not a pharmacist and you knew it was an expectorant, chances are you’ve spent bleary-eyed nights reviewing pharmaceutical names on the cold-medicine row at your local drug store.

We fill the rest of our lives with active and inactive ingredients. What better cure for life’s problems than the most active ingredient of all, the Bible?

It has a unique supernatural ability to address any problem you might have. But just like a medicine, it can’t work if it’s left on the shelf. Medicines must be taken to start working on the cells and tissues of the body.

The Bible must be taken—not just read, but consumed—if it is to go to work in the way God intends.

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: I know God’s Word is at work in my life because …

Thought to Apply: Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself.—Johann Bengel

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – Cyber-Search Results

Bible 2Key Bible Verse: “My word … will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Isaiah 55:11

Bonus Reading: Jeremiah 29:11-14a

Spiritual matters had never concerned George Ponsford. But now doctors had determined he had lymphoma and gave him only a few months to live.

Fear awakened concern about his standing with God. He began searching the internet for answers. A key word search using “religion” then “Bible” led him to the Net Bible website (http://www.bible.org). He downloaded passages on heaven, sin, and forgiveness, and memorized several.

Seminary prof Michael Pocock had come to know George and his family through one of his sons. Mike’s son told him that George, now hospitalized, wanted to speak with him.

Though in pain, George was able to talk. He told Mike about his computer search and quoted what he’d memorized. Mike asked George if he believed the promises those passages contained. “Yes,” he replied. As nurses worked on George, Mike led him in a simple prayer of thanksgiving for God’s salvation.

Two days later—with George feeling much better—they talked alone. Mike asked George if he deserved to be admitted into heaven. “No way,” he replied. “I’m a sinner.”

“So that’s it? You don’t get to enter heaven?”

“Oh yes I do,” he said, “because Jesus Christ died for my sin.”

—Douglas McConnell in The Changing Face of Missions

My Response: The way God’s Word invaded my life was …

Adapted from The Changing Face of Missions (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

How God’s Word Works – Bible Boycott

Bible 2Who Said It…Kevin Harney

Kevin Harney is the teaching pastor at Corinth Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He and his wife, Sherry, have three teenage boys: Zach, Josh, and Nate.

In the summer Kevin enjoys golfing and in the winter he loves to snowboard.

In his book Seismic Shifts, Kevin has written about “the little changes that make a big difference in your life.” He’s co-authored an Old Testament curriculum and, with Sherry, written or co-written many small group study guides.

What He Said…Bible Boycott

Bill had grown up in a home with no faith but met Jesus and became a new man. He fell in love with the Bible, read it every day, and gave his best effort to following what it taught. Then one day he put down his Bible and refused to read anymore.

When a Christian friend asked him why, he was honest. He said, “I really like reading the Bible, but when I read it, it keeps pointing out things I’m doing that I shouldn’t do. Or sometimes it tells me to start doing things I don’t think I really want to do. I started feeling uncomfortable, even a little guilty, so I thought I’d stop reading.”

Bill’s response is sad because he gave up reading the Bible, at least for a time. But it’s refreshing because Bill said what many people feel but rarely articulate.

He didn’t complain that the Bible was unclear or ambiguous. He admitted that his problem was that the words of Scripture cut like a knife and revealed things he didn’t want to see.

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me a fresh grasp of Your truth as I open myself to Your Word.

 

New Kitchen Exhaust Fans!

New Exhaust Fan installed over the Kitchen sinks.

New Exhaust Fan installed over the Kitchen sinks.

Our dedicated Trustees have been very busy lately.

The latest evidence of their activity are the two new exhaust fans that have been installed in the Church Kitchen in place of our old two exhaust fans – one over the sinks and one over the stove.

And, by the way, no more plugging in the fans to electrical outlets when we want to use them. Oh no, no no.

We now have very nice tilt tablet switches mounted on the walls near each fan so we will no longer risk electrocution when trying to plug in the old fans with wet hands.

(After all, even though we have future homes in heaven, there’s no need to rush things!)

New Exhaust Fan installed over the Kitchen stove.

New Exhaust Fan installed over the Kitchen stove.

The new exhaust fans are one of the improvement projects that has been made possible by the recent Ken Finney Bequest.

A big THANK YOU to our Trustees for their continuing efforts to update and beautify our Church!

Supernatural Animation – Achieving Your Potential

Unlocking Our PotentialRomans chapter 12 begins with an appeal for believers to give themselves to God as living sacrifices.

But the verses that follow make clear that each person’s sacrifice will look different.

As you surrender yourself to God, He’ll help you gauge your strengths and understand what He wants you to do with them. He promises that you’ll find the result “good and pleasing and perfect.”

Interact with God’s Word

Romans 12:4-11

  1. How aware are you of needing every other believer to perform his or her “special function” (v. 4)?
  2. Do you have a feel for what your special function might be?
  3. The list of abilities, in verses 6-8, is far from complete. But who in your group is bold and articulate? Faithful and loyal? A motivator? Generous and trusting? A good organizer and manager? Caring and happy to give his time to others?
  4. Are you aware of a special ability God has given you? How would you describe it?
  5. In what ways does Scripture urge you to exercise this ability (vv. 6-8, 11)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for people He has gifted in ways completely different from you. Pray for their strengths to balance your weaknesses, and vice versa.

Romans 12:4-11

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others. 6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you.

7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. 9 Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good.

10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Supernatural Animation – Conductor or Resistor?

Unlocking Our PotentialKey Bible Verse: “If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.”John 7:38

Bonus Reading: Matthew 4:18-20Mark 10:28-30

An analogy from electricity can help us think about our response to God.

The difference between a conductor and a resistor can be put like this: A conductor is willing to let go. It’s not generating its own power; it is simply a conduit. It’s open and receptive to the flow of current that can change the world from darkness to light. Every other desire has to take a back seat to this one absolute quest. The conductor prays, “As you wish.”

A resistor, by contrast, doesn’t want to let go. It hangs onto its electrons. It clings to the status quo. It’s afraid to let go because it wants to keep its possessions intact. And so it does. But the resistor never knows much power. The resistor prays, “Leave me alone.”

We live in a spiritually charged universe. The flow of the Holy Spirit is all around us. We did not invent it, but it has now become fully available.

When Jesus uttered today’s Key Bible Verse, John’s gospel explains that Jesus was talking about the Spirit. We do not have much power in our wills, but we can choose whether we will be resistors or conductors. And our prayer will be answered.

—John Ortberg in God Is Closer Than You Think

My Response: Do I lean toward cautious reluctance or joyful surrender?

Thought to Apply: The Gulf Stream can pass through a straw if the straw aligns itself with the Gulf Stream.—Anne Lamott (author)

Adapted from God Is Closer Than You Think (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Supernatural Animation – The Tool for the Job

Unlocking Our PotentialKey Bible Verse: There are different ways God works in our lives, but … does the work through all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:6

Bonus Reading: 1 Cor. 12:4-11

Brian had a passion for Christian camps, but our association had no camping program. As Brian shared his burden with our church, others sensed God speaking.

With them and others from our sister churches, Brian organized our first children’s camp. It was a tremendous success! The volunteers served as counselors, cooks, and nurses, and came back exuberant about how God had worked.

Later God brought another Brian to our church. His passion was barefoot waterskiing! Only God, I thought, can take a passion like that and use it for His kingdom! But God did.

Our children’s camp was held at the lake where this Brian had a cabin. During camp week he brought his ski boat to the camp and with some friends gave a barefoot water-ski demonstration. Then he gave lessons to the kids. It was the highlight of the week!

While teaching the kids how to ski, Brian discovered that he was good at working with kids. When he returned home, Brian volunteered to be a children’s Sunday school teacher. He became popular with the kids and was used by God to bless our church.

—Henry Blackaby in Hearing God’s Voice

My Response: I’ll ask God to show me how He could use a skill of mine.

Thought to Apply: People who never get carried away should be.—Malcolm Forbes (publisher & businessman)

Adapted from Hearing God’s Voice (Broadman & Holman, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Supernatural Animation – Thrill Zone

Unlocking Our PotentialKey Bible Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:10-14

[continued from yesterday]  Mission field? Rich chuckled. What work of God needs a whiz at budgets and flow charts? World Vision. They called in 1998: Would you become our CEO? Rich knew this ministry championed the cause of the poor. But why did they want him to take a 75 percent pay cut to head, not a business, but a ministry? He declined.

World Vision persisted, persuading Rich to take a day-long skills inventory. The results convinced its board that Rich was made for the job. “This is a chance to marry your gifts with God’s call,” urged board member Bill Hybels. “When you do that, you enter the zone in which you were made to live.” Rich prayed—and took the leap, swapping porcelain sales for relief efforts, marketing meetings for strategy sessions on AIDS.

Has he regretted it? “This is the fulfillment of who I was created to be,” Rich Stearns insists. He quotes today’s Key Bible Verse. “Looking back, I can see the plan. I wonder why I waited 23 years.”

World Vision has no regrets either. In Rich’s first six years, its annual budget jumped from $350- to $807 million, making it the largest relief organization ever. Now the underdog from Syracuse helps the world’s underdogs—and loves every minute.

—Max Lucado in Cure for the Common Life

My Response: How may fulfillment be different from fun?

Thought to Apply: I became my own only when I gave myself to Another.—C.S. Lewis (British scholar & apologist)

Adapted from Cure for the Common Life (W Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Supernatural Animation – Underdog to Top Dog

Unlocking Our PotentialKey Bible Verse: God has given gifts to each of you … so that God’s generosity can flow through you. 1 Peter 4:10

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 4:10-11

Ten-year-old Rich trembled as his parents yelled in the next room. Father drinking again. Never enough money or work.

My parents can’t help me, he realized. I’ve got to make it on my own. Education would be his bus ticket out of scarcity. A scholarship got him to Cornell; hard work made the grades. Rich recruited a ragtag team of students like himself to play volleyball. They trounced the prestigious frat squads!

Awarded a scholarship to Wharton, Rich earned an MBA and found the two loves of his life: Reneé and Jesus. Reneé suggested registering their wedding at a department store’s china section. The advocate for the underdog refused. “As long as there are hungry children, we shouldn’t have china or crystal.”

The business world came easily for Rich. By age 33 he occupied the CEO office for Parker Brothers, the game company. Eleven years later he was CEO of Lenox China and Crystal. But something seemed off balance. The groom who’d resisted the china registry was selling fine dinnerware to the wealthy! Rich restlessly considered moving to Boca Raton and playing golf. “No way!” Reneé retorted. “If we retire, it’ll be to the mission field.”  [continued tomorrow]

—Max Lucado in Cure for the Common Life

My Response: I’ll make time to review what my passion is.

Thought to Apply: The giants of faith all had one thing in common: neither victory not success, but passion.—Philip Yancey (author)

Adapted from Cure for the Common Life (W Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Supernatural Animation – Max’s Lost Max

Unlocking Our PotentialKey Bible Verse: God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.  – Romans 12:6

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:4-11

“Describe times when you did something you love to do and did it well” was my assignment from organizational consultant Rick Wellock.  My list included:

  • Delivering an election-winning speech to the high school freshman class.
  • Neglecting other homework to write and rewrite short stories for a literature course.
  • Presenting my first Bible lesson. Stunned that the middle schoolers listened.

The counselor studied my list, then asked, “What one word describes your passion?”

“Message,” I replied without hesitation.

“Does your calendar reflect your passion?” he asked. We reviewed six months of meetings, fund-raising, and facility development. “Seems like you are sitting on a lot of planning committees,” he observed.

“I assumed I should since I’m the minister.”

“What do you discuss in these meetings?”

“Paint color. Parking lot size. City building codes.”

“Do you enjoy them?”

“Slightly more than open-heart surgery.”

“Do people turn to you for strategic-planning advice?”

“No.”

My exhaustion made sudden sense. I was operating out of my weakness, doing the most what I do the worst!

—Max Lucado in Cure for the Common Life

My Response: Am I neglecting my strengths?

Adapted from Cure for the Common Life (W Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

But What Does the Bible Say?

The following article appeared last week as a post on The Gospel Coalition that provides Bible-based insight from Kevin DeYoung on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.

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Bible 3Now that the Supreme Court has issued its sweeping ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, we can expect an avalanche of commentary, analysis, and punditry. I’m not a law professor, a politician, a talk show host, or a public intellectual (whatever that is). I’m a pastor. I study and teach the Bible for a living. Which means, among all the things I may not be an expert on, I may be able to say something meaningful from the Scriptures. So as we pour over legal opinions and internet commentary, let us not forget what the Bible says.

The Bible says the Lord alone is God and we should have no other gods before him (Ex. 20:2-3). Not the state, not the Supreme Court, not our families, not our friends, not our favorite authors, not our cultural cache. No gods but God.

The Bible says we should love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). And who is your neighbor deserving of such love? Wrong question, just worry about being the neighbor you’d want for yourself (Luke 10:25-37).

The Bible says love is not the same as unconditional affirmation (James 5:19-20). Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

The Bible says that disciples of Jesus will be hated as Jesus was hated (John 15:18-25; 2 Tim. 3:12). If the world loves us, it is not a sign of our brilliance, but that we belong to the world.

The Bible says that when reviled we should not revile in return (1 Peter 2:21-25). We should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

The Bible says Jesus came into the world to save sinners, especially the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). That means people like me, like you, and like the Apostle Paul who at one time opposed everyone and everything he later came to love and defend.

The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-25; Mal. 2:15; Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) and that homosexual practice is sin (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10; Jude 7), but a sin from which we can be washed clean (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Any Christian who really believes the Bible must believe all of the Bible. You can’t applaud what Jesus says about loving your neighbor from Leviticus 19, if Leviticus 18 and 20 are throwaway chapters. You can’t unpack the good news of Romans 8, if Romans 1 is overstuffed with cultural baggage. You can’t marvel at the goodness of God’s creation, if there is no good design in how he created things. Either the Bible is God’s Word or we are sufficiently godlike to determine which words stay and which words go.

The cultural breezes are blowing against us. The worldly winds are stiff in our faces. But the hard parts of the Bible are no less true for being less popular. The Bible says what it says, so let us be honest enough to say whether we think what the Bible says is right or wrong. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a decorated church historian and gay man who left the church over the issue of homosexuality, has stated the issue with refreshing candor:

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. (The Reformation: A History, 705).

Yes, those are the only alternatives. I know books are right now being written by the dozens trying to make the case that the Bible is really keen on gay marriage, but it can’t be done. Not with exegetical and historical integrity.

Not with gospel integrity either.

A holy God sends his holy Son to die as an atoning sacrifice for unholy people so that by the power of the Holy Spirit they can live holy lives and enjoy God forever in the holy place that is the new heaven and new earth. Is this the story celebrated and sermonized in open and affirming churches? What about twenty years from now? And what if we flesh out the gospel story and include the tough bits about the exclusivity of Christ and the reality of hell?  What if the story centers on Calvary, not as a generic example that love (defined in whatever we choose) wins, but as beautifully scandalous picture of a love so costly that God sent his Son into the world to be the wrath-bearing propitiation for our sins? What if the story summons us to faith and repentance? What if the story calls us to lay down everything–our ease, our desires, our family, our preferences, our sexuality, our stuff, our very selves–for the sake of the Storyteller? What if part of the story is believing that every jot and tittle in the Storybook is completely true?

I’d rather not talk about homosexuality again. But the world hasn’t stopped talking about it. And the Bible hasn’t stopped saying what it has always said. So let’s not be shrill and let’s not be silent. If you already know what the Bible says about homosexuality, don’t forget what the Bible says about all of life and godliness. We can be right about marriage and still wrong about everything else that matters. And if you like most everything else the Bible says, why would you on this matter of homosexuality decide the Bible suddenly can’t be trusted? If you won’t count the cost here, what else will you be willing to sell? The support for homosexual behavior almost always goes hand in hand with the diluting of robust, 100-proof orthodoxy, either as the cause or the effect. The spirits which cause one to go wobbly on biblical sexuality are the same spirits which befog the head and heart when it comes to the doctrine of creation, the historical accuracy of the Old Testament, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection, the second coming, the reality of hell, the plight of those who do not know Christ, the necessity of the new birth, the full inspiration and authority of the Bible, and the centrality of a bloody cross.

If Jesus is right and the Scriptures were spoken by God himself (Matt. 19:4-5) and utterly unbreakable (John 10:35), then the place to start when it comes to something as fundamental as marriage is also the place to end, and that’s by asking the question “But what does the Bible say?” As Christians living in the midst of controversy, we must keep three things open: our heads, our hearts, and our Bibles. Don’t settle for slogans and put-downs. Don’t look to bumper stickers and Facebook avatars for ethical direction. And don’t give up on the idea that God has a clear word and a good word on this issue. God has already spoken, and he specializes in gracious reminders, so long as we stay humble, honest, and hungry for the truth. After all, man does not live by bread alone (or sex alone), but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

ISIS Executes 160 Children and Women for refusing to fast during Ramadan, sorcery

During the weekend that the United States celebrates its Independence Day, with the Freedom of Religion and other basic freedoms that Americans enjoy, the news of religious persecution elsewhere starkly highlights the sad fact that simply being a Christian is reason enough to be killed in many corners of our world.

The following article, released this week by Christianity Today and appearing below, includes a description of how two children were crucified by ISIS this week for “improper fasting” during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

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ISIS gunmen prepare to execute five young men by the roadside for various alleged offenses including refusal to fast during Ramadan.

ISIS gunmen prepare to execute five young men by the roadside for various alleged offenses including refusal to fast during Ramadan.

Islamic State militants recently executed 160 children and women for a variety of alleged offences including refusal to fast during Ramadan and sorcery, the UK-based organisation Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed.

The latest killings brought the number of ISIS victims in the Middle East to over 3,000 since the jihadists declared a state or caliphate of their own in June last year, the Syrian Observatory said.

 “Many of the charges against those executed are recorded as blasphemy and spying, but others include sorcery, sodomy, practising as a Shia Muslim,” the human rights group said.

The children and women met unholy deaths in the hands of ISIS as they were accused of practising “magic” and for refusing to fast, Fox News reported.

This week, two children were crucified in the Mayadin, Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria after ISIS leaders accused them of “improper fasting” during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which runs from June 17 to July 17.

The bodies of the children, whose ages were left out, were put on public display on crossbars, each with a sign stating their offence.

The jihadist group has been trying to justify its inhumane executions by its twisted and medieval interpretation of the Koran as it claims that its followers are the true practitioners of Islam, according to experts.

“Underlying all these executions is the apocalypse ideology of the final battle between the believers and the unbelievers,” said Jasmine Opperman, the director of Southern Africa Operations at the Terrorism, Research & Analysis Consortium.

“ISIS is using executions to show its followers—and would-be followers—that the group is the only true representative of believers, not only in word, but action, which is why executions are featured so prominently.”

Other children, said the Syrian Observatory, died fighting for their lives.

“The violent Islamist group appears to demonstrate a particular interest in children, releasing videos of children fighting in cages and undertaking military training,” the human rights group said.

The report also detailed moves undertaken by the group to entice children to join, which include setting up offices called “cubs of the caliphate” that recruit children to fight for ISIS.

Children from different backgrounds, including Kurdish, Yazidi, Christian and even Muslim, have been victims of ISIS, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a report submitted in February. They have been tortured, crucified, buried alive, used as suicide bombers and sold as sex slaves. Even those mentally-challenged have not been spared from the ISIS’ terror campaign.

“ISIS is hoping to spur current supporters around the world who are dormant—of which there are millions—into joining their caliphate by advertising acts like these,” said Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst for the non-profit group Clarion Project.

“They know that they can greatly increase their numbers by appealing to current radicals rather than the broader masses,” he said.

Women have not been shown mercy by the ISIS either, with ISIS beheading two married couples in public this week for “sorcery.”

“The Islamic State group executed two women by beheading them in Deir Ezzor province, and this is the first time the Observatory has documented women being killed by the group in this manner,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The practising of anything that is not approved by the Islamic State under their very strict interpretation of Islam is ‘haram’ or forbidden,” said Veryan Khan, editorial director for the Florida-based Terrorism, Research & Analysis Consortium.

“If the Islamic State thinks that sorcery is real, then black magic would be a threat to them and seen as a danger.”

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As Americans celebrate our freedoms this week, please pause for a moment to pray for the people around the world who can only dream of living in a country where the freedom to worship God is a fundamental, protected right, and where your Christian faith does not automatically condemn you to a barbaric and painful death.

 

Supernatural Animation – Living Color

Unlocking Our PotentialWho Said It…Lee Strobel

Lee Strobel grew up in a Christian home, but turned atheist after encountering evolution in high school. He studied journalism and law, becoming an investigative reporter, then legal affairs editor at the Chicago Tribune.

A chance news assignment renewed his interest in God. After a nearly two-year investigation of the evidence for Jesus, Strobel received Christ as his forgiver and leader. Here he shares what nudged him to a new role as an author and teacher of apologetics.

What He Said…Living Color

One day, out of nowhere, my boss at the newspaper asked me why I was a Christian. I’d never explained that to anybody. But I closed his office door and talked for 45 minutes about the difference Jesus was making in my life and what it means to become His follower.

When I emerged from his office, it was as if my entire life up until that meeting had been a movie shot in very grainy black-and-white film with scratchy sound—but this 45 minutes had been in bright, vivid Technicolor with rich Dolby stereo! Instantly I knew that from that day forward I wanted to develop and deploy my evangelism gift in any way I could.

There’s a unique sense of fulfillment that comes when we submit our gifts to God’s use and ask him to energize them in a supernatural way—and then step back to watch what He does. It can be the difference between merely existing in black and white and living a life in full, brilliant color.

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You designed me, Lord. Show me how my potential can be fully harnessed for Your kingdom.

 

Face Down Your Fears – Peace from God

PeaceWhen David wrote this psalm, his courageous slaying of Goliath was a distant memory. That victory aroused King Saul’s jealousy, and he’d deliberately placed David in harm’s way. When that failed, he ordered his capture.

So David, on the run, escaped into the Philistine territory of Gath for sanctuary (see 1 Samuel 21:10-15).

But King Achish’s officers were suspicious. So, in a desperate ploy to save his skin, our hero stooped to faking insanity.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 56:1-13

  1. Viewed from ground level (vv. 1-2, 5-6), how grim is David’s situation?
  2. What is David’s natural reaction to this (v. 3)?
  3. What is David’s gut-level reaction (v. 7) to his enemies’ treachery?
  4. How would David’s previous experience (v. 13a) bolster trust now?
  5. How does David say he’ll respond (v. 12) to the Lord’s past protection?
  6. Does David see God as remote or uncaring (v. 8)?
  7. What is his basis (vv. 4, 11) for shaking off fear?
  8. How confident is he (v. 9) of God’s future protection?
  9. What stance (v. 13b) does David’s God-is-on-my-side review lead him to?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a growing freedom from your fears as you verify God’s ability to shield you from harm.

Psalm 56:1-13

1 O God, have mercy on me. The enemy troops press in on me. My foes attack me all day long. 2 My slanderers hound me constantly, and many are boldly attacking me. 3 But when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

4 O God, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? 5 They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting ways to harm me. 6 They come together to spy on me— watching my every step, eager to kill me.

7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, throw them to the ground. 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. 9 On the very day I call to you for help, my enemies will retreat. This I know: God is on my side.

10 O God, I praise your word. Yes, LORD, I praise your word. 11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? 12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. 13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

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.

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day

Freedom is a Choice

Independence DayKey Bible Verse: Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.   – Joshua 24:15

Bonus Reading:  Joshua 24:1-28

In America, every year July 4th brings with it festivities, fun, food, family and friends, and fireworks—all as a celebration of national freedom.  But even with all the celebrating and fun, many Americans are still caught in the web of bondage on a mental, emotional, relational, financial, vocational or spiritual level.  Most often, we ourselves create the chains that bind us by making poor or sinful choices.

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that life is a series of choices, each choice has a consequence, and we must live with the consequences of our choices.

In order to have true freedom in your life, then, you must make wise choices.

Will you choose:

Good over evil (Psalm 34:14; Romans 12:21)?

Obedience over rebellion (Proverbs 10:8; Hebrews 13:17)?

Truth over deceit (Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 12:22)?

Kindness over dishonor (Ephesians 4:32; Proverbs 14:2)?

Every day you make hundreds of choices and these form the basis for your lifestyle.

Seek God’s wisdom in all of your decisions, not the wisdom of the world, the flesh or the devil (James 3:17).

Take the sometimes difficult step of saying, “I’ll do it God’s way!” even though it may mean avoiding the easy road.  In the long run, the freedom that comes with making godly choices is definitely something to celebrate!

– Ann Shorb

Prayer for the Day:  Lord, we lift to You our praise and adoration for the blessings You give us each day as we choose to walk Your way.

 

Face Down Your Fears – Fear’s Shackles

PeaceKey Bible Verse: But when I am afraid I put my trust in you.  – Psalm 56:3

Bonus Reading: Psalm 56:1-13

Facing two death sentences in 1997, I was brought from prison into an Iranian courthouse to make them official. As I took my place before the judge on the witness stand, he looked at me intently and said, “Mr. Baumann, tell us why you came to Iran.”

Scared and intimidated by the fear of man, I took a long pause as I considered what to say. The judge waited for my answer. The video cameras also waited.

I knew that this judge had the power to order my execution right then and there. I knew that he might do just that if I answered honestly. But I also knew I had to tell the truth about why I came to Iran.

As I opened my mouth, the truth is I struggled to speak and was much afraid.

But then something stronger than fear rose up within me. The Spirit of God gave me courage and confidence. I looked directly at the judge and said, “I came to Iran to tell people like you about Jesus Christ.”

God gave me strength to share my heart. The more I shared my faith, the bolder I became, and the less my fears beset me.

On that day in the Iranian courtroom, I realized I was free. My fear had been overcome! [Baumann was released after 63 days of incarceration.]

—Dan Baumann in A Beautiful Way

My Response: A fear that has me intimidated is ____. To overcome it, I need to …

Thought to Apply: It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.—John Witherspoon (colonial president of Princeton University)

Adapted from A Beautiful Way (YWAM, 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 happens.

 

Face Down Your Fears – Here’s the Drill

PeaceKey Bible Verse: “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 41:10,13

I am a wimp when it comes to the dentist. The word macho is nowhere in my vocabulary or personality when I walk into the dentist’s office and settle myself into his chair. You’ve heard stories of guys telling the dentist, “No pain medication, Doc. Just go ahead and drill.” That’s not me! I ask for everything possible to keep me from feeling any nerve twinges.

I’ve faced down a drunk who was threatening to kill his family, offering myself as a substitute hostage. I’ve sat with a potential suicide victim as he waved his gun around, saying he’d take me with him. But when the dentist’s drill starts toward my mouth, sweat breaks out.

Of what—or whom—are you afraid?

Maybe you can face a hostile situation without fear, but wondering what will happen to your children as they grow older keeps you awake at night. Perhaps the state of your marriage paralyzes you emotionally and keeps you from trusting in God as you should.

The Lord knows the situation you’re facing right now. He promises to give you both the wisdom and the strength to make it through your trials. And in the middle of those trials, God also promises to give you his peace.

—Mark Sutton in Still God’s Man

My Response: I’ll memorize today’s Key Bible Verse—and repeat it as needed.

Thought to Apply: He who is afraid of a thing gives it power over him.—Moorish Proverb

Adapted from Still God’s Man (Kregel, 2003)

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.

 

Face Down Your Fears – …and Contrasting Cool

PeaceKey Bible Verse: Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.  – 1 John 4:18

Bonus Reading: 1 John 4:13-18

[continued from yesterday]  I glanced across to check on my fourth passenger in the front seat. In contrast with the three in the backseat, he was staring ahead, contemplative and detached. Even casual. “Yu no gat pret?” I asked him. (“Aren’t you afraid?”)

He looked me in the eyes and responded deliberately. “Skin bilong mi tasol I pret.” (“Only my skin is afraid.”)

“What about the rest of you?” I asked.

Pointing out of the window, he answered in his pidgin English. “I see the mountains. They are so close. I see the trees and the rocks as they rush by. I see the rain, and I hear it beating on the glass. I see the clouds all around us. I didn’t know that this big bird of yours shook like this. There is much to be afraid of here. But,” he continued with a smile, “my fear is only as deep as my skin.”

“What about under your skin?” I asked.

“I’m not afraid under my skin,” he said. “I know the One who made the mountains. I know the One who made the rocks and the trees. I know the One who made the clouds and the rain. He’s told me that I don’t need to be afraid? Why? Because He lives inside my skin. And He promised never to leave me. Because of that, I am not afraid.”

—Max Meyer in Riding the Heavens

My Response: What circumstance beyond my control is testing my trust in God?

Thought to Apply: Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? “Don’t be afraid. Fear not. Don’t be afraid.”—N.T. Wright (British scientist turned cleric)

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 happens.