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God’s Love Demonstrated – Art Appreciation

CompassionKey Bible Verse: He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Bonus Reading: Mark 10:42-44

Art Clark’s party was in full swing.  At least 200 people milled about, each trying to get close enough to shake his hand.  This loving man who’d brought great joy into his work was set to retire.

As I watched Art, I tried to imagine Jesus as a retiree.  What would His party have looked like?  Just like this, I thought.  Art and Jesus are a lot alike—God’s “gracious messengers of impossible love.”

I surveyed the room.  We were a hodgepodge of students and staff, young and old, children and grandparents, colleagues and neighbors, friends and family.  But different as we were, we were alike in the most important respect: we all loved Art.

Then, I shared a story about the end of a cold February workday.  I’d set out for my car through fading daylight and blowing snow.  Head down, I stepped off the drifting sidewalk, surprised to discover a cleared path ahead of me.  Someone had used a snow blower to lead me to my car.  Who did this? I wondered.

At that moment, I heard Art’s horn push through the wind.  Looking up, I watched his truck lights fading into the night, his outstretched gloved hand waving a farewell.  Impossible love?  Not for Jesus, or Art Clark.

—Clifford Denay Jr.

My Response: Someone I know whose joy in serving gladdens others is ____.

Thought to Apply: God does not so much need people to do extraordinary things as he needs people who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.—William Barclay

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

God’s Love Demonstrated – Puzzling Presence

CompassionKey Bible Verse: I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. Philippians 2:20

Bonus Reading: Romans 13:8-10

I will never forget the day Arthur Clark reported to work at our local community college.  He introduced himself as “Art,” and warmly smiled as he offered a handshake.  His eyes were filled with life and laughter, empathy and understanding, kindness and compassion.  Art gave complete attention when he looked at me.  I was taken aback.  Where did this man come from? I wondered.

From God, it turned out.  Art treated folks as Jesus would have.  He didn’t preach God’s love; he demonstrated it in everyday acts of kindness and courtesy.  Throughout his 31-year career, Art’s gracious attitude never changed.  Stories of his love for students and staff alike flowed.  If a new student was lost, Art would often be seen walking him or her to the correct classroom.  He encouraged the discouraged, befriended the lonely, smiled at strangers, joked with friends, and always said yes to requests for help.

Countless times I watched him jump-start stalled student cars in the bitter cold of our northern Michigan winters.  Art always arrived on the frozen scene with a smile and battery cables poised for action.

Like Jesus, Art appeared where he was most needed and least expected.   [continued tomorrow]

—Clifford Denay Jr.

My Response: Where am I most needed this week?

Thought to Apply: Do little things as if they were great because of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in you.—Blaise Pascal (French scientist & philosopher)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

God’s Love Demonstrated – What Fuels Them?

CompassionKey Bible Verse: “I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard.”  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: Luke 10:25-37

As a cub reporter for the Chicago Tribune, I was assigned to write a 30-part series on the poor of Chicago.  Roaming the city in search of appropriate families to write about, my eyes were opened to the vast, informal network of Christians sacrificially serving the poor. I came upon food pantries, homeless shelters, clothing centers, job-training institutes, nursing homes, drug rehab programs, sports ministries for kids—all run by Christian charities.

An emergency shelter for homeless families operated by the Salvation Army especially inspired me.  I became a regular there, hanging around to talk with displaced families but also observing the volunteers who poured their lives into serving these otherwise forgotten people. For me personally, the Tribune assignment faded into the background as I began focusing on the much larger story of what was motivating these Christians to give so much of their time, energy, and money to helping others.

These volunteers weren’t serving reluctantly.  On the contrary, it appeared to energize them, flowing naturally out of their lives.  I got the sense that they simply couldn’t not serve.

As an atheist, it didn’t make sense to me.  I wanted to know why.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: When have I been energized by serving someone?

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

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

God’s Love Demonstrated – Mop Duty

CompassionWho Said It…Bill Pollard

Bill Pollard began his career in corporate and tax law.  He then used this expertise as a Wheaton College vice president.

But in 1977 he joined The ServiceMaster Company, a firm that provides management services for hospitals and schools and serves the residential market under brand names such as Merry Maids, TruGreen, and Terminix.  Bill served as its CEO and now chairs its board.

He also chairs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Executive Committee.

What He Said …Mop Duty

As a new member of the ServiceMaster leadership team, my orientation included We Serve Day. On that day every leader in the organization directly serves customers, like front-line employees do every day.

I was working in a busy corridor of Chicago’s Lutheran General Hospital. I had just set out my wet-floor signs and was about to mop the floor. Suddenly a passing woman stopped and asked me, “Aren’t you Bill Pollard?”

I responded that I was, and she identified herself as a distant relative of my wife. She looked at me and my mop, shook her head, and asked, “Aren’t you a lawyer?”

“No,” I said. “I have a new job.” Noticing other people gathering around, the embarrassed woman leaned toward me and whispered, “Is everything all right at home?”

Like the Twelve, too many shun “foot-washing” tasks that lack status but reveal a serving heart.

Adapted from The Soul of the Firm (Harper Business/Zondervan, 1996)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Following God’s Will

Discerning the Will of GodFor new insight, try looking at a familiar Scripture passage from a fresh perspective. Take the story of the Woman at the Well—usually viewed as a case study in pointing someone to God.

Today, look at it from the angle of an exhausted Jesus and what it was that actually recharged his batteries.

This was early in Jesus’ ministry, and with His growing acclaim, He had apparently decided to withdraw from Judea to avoid immediate direct confrontation with the Pharisees.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 4:3-8 John 4:27-38

  1. Based on verses 6-8, how would you picture Jesus’ physical and emotional posture at this time?
  2. What did Jesus’ disciples assume would revive their exhausted rabbi?
  3. What did Jesus hint (in v. 31) had already lifted His spirits?
  4. How will knowing you are doing God’s will in His power (v. 34) bring a sense of fulfillment?
  5. Share an example of how you felt rewarded with “good wages” and joy (v. 36) from being part of God’s planting-and-harvesting team.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to empower you to make the shift from resisting or reluctantly accepting His will to gladly embracing it.

John 4:3-8 John 4:27-38

3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe[a] for harvest.

36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

Whose Will Be Done? – Listen to Your Coach

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse:  “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”  – Luke 22:42

Bonus Reading: Matthew 26:36-46

With his 2006 British Open victory, Tiger Woods had amassed victories in 11 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.  This victory was particularly emotional for Tiger with the recent loss of his father.  After his final putt he embraced his caddie and the tears fell freely.  To become the world’s best golfer, Tiger relied on his father as coach, mentor, and friend.  But I’m sure, like any other kid, there were days when Tiger simply didn’t want to practice.  Then dad was there to keep him focused on the goal.

Our Savior had a similar experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As He braced to shoulder the sins of the world, Jesus reached the limits of His humanity.  He cried out to His Father, pleading for another solution.  But the Father knew the ultimate goal.  Jesus relied on His Father’s perfect will and continued down the path to the cross, where He achieved an eternal victory.

Are you relying on your Father?  Do you hear His voice in desperate times?  “Don’t give up,” He whispers. “Victory is just around the corner. Keep walking with me, and we’ll make it through this.”  Listen for the encouraging words of your Coach, and you’ll be on your way to victory.

—Lane McGullion in Georgia

My Response: What might be required for God to keep me focused on His goal for me?

Thought to Apply: The basic decision, after all, is to let God be God, to say “yes” to the work of the Lord.  —Luke Timothy Johnson (monk turned theology prof)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Clear Vision, Murky Path

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: How can we understand the road we travel?  It is the Lord who directs our steps.  –  Proverbs 20:24

Bonus Reading: Numbers 9:15-23

As a computer professional, I worked for one company for 13 years, moving from hardware and software technician to officer and partner. Eventually I owned almost a quarter of the firm.

As my contributions to the bottom line increased, the company tried to tighten its grip on my heart.  But years ago I’d felt God’s call to deliver a message to the church.  A day would come, I believed, to leave my firm and become a full-time author.  I didn’t know how God would bring this about.  But on the side I learned the writing craft by attending conferences and producing magazine articles.

My vision remained sharp.  But my loyalty and sense of obligation to my company weighed heavily.  If I left, its survival was not assured.

Should I keep waiting? I tensely wondered.  Maybe God wants me to keep working and write part-time.  O God, show me what You want me to do!

Then God, in His mercy, solved my dilemma.  Another company, with its own computer systems, purchased ours.  Within a few months, I’d transferred our client data and transaction history.  I was then free to bow out with no harm to the firm.  And the sale provided me with money to live on as I pursued writing full-time.

—Bryan Davis in Spit and Polish for Husbands

My Response: In what situation am I waiting for God to act?

Thought to Apply: God always gives his very best to those who leave the choice with Him.—J. Hudson Taylor

Adapted from Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG Publishers, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Who Calls the Shots?

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: “May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.”  – Matthew 6:10

Bonus Reading: John 4:31-34

What if we ask for guidance and God guides us in ways we don’t want to follow? What if we pray for wisdom and the wisdom we receive seems more like nonsense? What if we pray for patience and the answer means nothing but trouble for us?

All of this shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus hinted at the problem when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Included in that model prayer were the words [of today’s Key Bible Verse]. The basic difficulty comes clear if we lay it out in a syllogism:

  1. God has a will (or desire) for your life.
  2. But you also have a will (or desire) for your life.
  3. Therefore, when you pray, “Your will be done,” you are asking that His will take precedence over yours.

Only one will can be done at a time. Either He is in control or you are. It’s not easy to pray like that because when you ask that God’s will be done, you’re implicitly asking that your will be overturned, if necessary. It’s not easy to pray that way when you’re standing beside the hospital bed of someone you love.

But then you’re not really in control anyway. It only seems that way.

—Ray Pritchard in The Incredible Journey of Faith

My Response: In what situation am I now prepared to pray, “Your will be done”?

Thought to Apply: Ninety-five percent of knowing the will of God consists in being prepared to do it before you know what it is.—Donlad Grey Barnhouse (Philadelphia pastor)

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

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Support for Community Outreach!

Local OutreachYour generous compassion has made a tremendous difference for homeless and hungry people in our community.  We’re reaching out to you today to thank you for helping so many find the help they need here at Central Church.

Now, we need your help more than ever.  If you’ve given recently, thank you!  You helped make a big difference in the lives of many people by providing over 10,000 hot, nutritious meals to hurting people right here in the Beaver Falls area.

As we move into colder months, we’re expecting to provide many more hearty meals to hungry, lonely, and homeless men, women and children.  It takes a lot of work and extra financial support now to get ready.  That’s why we’ve launched our “early bird” Thanksgiving Campaign – to ask caring people like you to help us prepare for this busy season.

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

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

Please join once again with your friends and neighbors who support this life-changing work by clicking on the “Donate” button on the right of this page!

Thank you and may God bless you.  For all of the people who can’t tell you personally what a difference you’ve made in their lives, thank you.  You are valued more than words can say.

Whose Will Be Done? – Accepting Helplessness

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God.”  – Psalm 31:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 31:9-20

[continued from yesterday]  Hearing my pregnant wife’s cancer diagnosis taught me what it meant to pray, “Your will, not mine.”

As much as I wanted Cathy’s health restored and a healthy baby, I knew there was nothing I could do to affect the outcome.  Accustomed to forcing outcomes at work and at home, here I was truly powerless.  It frustrated me, but, at the same time, offered an unexpected peace.  For once in my life, I had to place it all in God’s hands. I had no alternative; there was nothing more I could do.

Despite the chaos of having a healthy newborn and a wife drained from weeks of chemo and radiation treatments, I rejoiced as my daughter, Ellen, and Cathy progressed in their growth and recovery. I was ecstatic that, in this case, God’s will was to ordain an outcome that matched my own desires.

In the process, He taught me what true obedience felt like. Now, when I face much more trivial instances of wanting my will done, I remember that turning the situation over to God gives a sense of power in the midst of weakness. Sometimes the first step to accepting God’s blessings is setting my desires aside to receive them.

—Tom Petersen in Iowa

My Response: How has God responded in my life when I’ve prayed, “Your will be done,” and meant it?

Thought to Apply: The will of God is either a burden we carry or a power which carries us.—Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch concentration camp survivor)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Unwelcome News

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. Isaiah 50:10

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

Cathy and I were thrilled when the doctor confirmed her pregnancy.  Married for only a few years, we’d been praying for a child and were giddy at the prospect of this first addition to our family.

Time passed quickly until about six months into the pregnancy.  In addition to the usual odd cravings and inability to go more than 20 minutes without a bathroom break, Cathy assumed her night sweats and the lump growing on her neck were related to her pregnancy.  Conversations with our doctor provided no clear information.

Finally we pressed the issue.  She referred us to a surgeon to take a tissue sample.

We met with an oncologist after the biopsy. Cathy, he grimly informed us, had Hodgkin’s disease. The bottom fell out of our happy world.

The oncologist recommended inducing her pregnancy, in hopes that the seven-month-old fetus was old enough to survive.  That would clear the way for Cathy to begin chemotherapy treatments without further delay.

Suddenly, the pending joy of a baby’s birth was overshadowed by the coming struggle to defeat the cancer—and the uncertain final outcome. [continued tomorrow]

—Tom Petersen in Iowa

My Response: When have I found it hard to trust God?

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – A Draftteam Named Desire

Discerning the Will of GodWho Said It…Danny Wuerffel

Danny Wuerffel won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 as the Florida Gators quarterback.  Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, he got involved in ministry in the country’s second-largest housing project.

Desire Street Ministries, which Danny now directs, builds and restores houses, operates a pediatric clinic and Desire Street Academy (with 192 grade-7-12 boys enrolled before Hurricane Katrina), conducts Bible studies, and sponsors a church in the district.

What He Said…A Draftteam Named Desire

How could a talented quarterback walk away from the NFL to work in the inner city when he could still play at the game’s highest level? asked Sports Spectrum writer Rob Bentz.

“I was planning to keep playing,” Wuerffel explained. “In the mornings I’d train to be a pro football player. In the afternoons I’d work at Desire Street Ministries.  But after a month, walking into our gym to visit with one of our kids, I passed on a desk a newspaper with a story about Peyton Manning throwing a touchdown pass to break Dan Merino’s record.  As I looked at the kids, I thought, I wouldn’t trade places with Peyton for anything. I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.

“After Katrina, an incredible moment was when we found a 4-H camp in Florida to temporarily house the academy. It’s run by my alma mater, the University of Florida! ‘Danny, we’re going to make this work,’ the officials told me.  They did, and also donated $50,000!”

Adapted from Sports Spectrum (11-12/05).

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Overcoming Selfishness

Overcoming SelfishnessPaul’s letter to the Philippians gives us a snapshot of him in prison, laying aside his personal needs and concerns as he tells members of the imperial household the Good News about Jesus, and as he crafts letters to firm up young believers.

So the self-denying perspective of his “thank you” to the Philippian believers for their gift rings true.

Interact with God’s Word:  Philippians 4:10-20

  1. Paul refers, in verse 14, to his “present difficulty.” What was his situation when he wrote this letter?
  2. How could Paul state, in verse 11, that he had never been in need? Doesn’t he add that he has learned to live on “almost nothing” and with an empty stomach?
  3. When you’ve heard verse 13 quoted, is managing with plenty or little what has come to your mind?
  4. How about the promise of verse 19? Is it unconditional? Or is it offered to those living sacrificial and generous lives?
  5. How do you distinguish between your needs and your wants?
  6. How do you square Paul’s insistence that God is taking care of him with the circumstantial extremes he has just cited?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you focus less on your material situation and more on bringing glory to Him.

Philippians 4:10-20

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.

16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

Loosen Your Grip – The Envelope Tradition

Overcoming SelfishnessKey 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 9:11-15

Our son Kevin, 12, had a non-league wrestling match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, in ragged sneakers and no headgear to protect their ears, contrasted with our boys in their spiffy uniforms and shoes. We took every weight class.

My husband Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly. “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “This could take the heart right out of them.”

That’s when I got the idea.  Knowing Mike hated the commercial aspects of Christmas, I went to a sporting-goods store, bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.

On Christmas Eve, I tucked an envelope in the branches of our tree with a note inside telling Mike what I’d done as my gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.

For succeeding Christmases, I followed the new tradition—sending a group of mentally disabled youngsters to a hockey game, and so on.  The unmarked envelope became our Christmas highlight.

Our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree—always the last gift opened—to reveal its contents.

—Anonymous in Ken Canfield’s They Call Me Dad

My Response: What giving element could I work into our Christmas traditions?

Thought to Apply: Nothing is really ours until we share it.—C.S. Lewis (British scholar & writer)

Adapted from They Call Me Dad (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – A “Provision Kiss”

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Our first provision miracle happened with a rental property. After Gail and I married, we lived in a Wisconsin apartment we mockingly called “the Palace.” It had one space heater and a toilet and tiny shower in the closet. We were paying $90 a month.

Friends of ours in St. Louis told us how they got a home for $240 a month in a market where similar homes were going for close to $500. They’d looked at their budget and asked God for a home in that price range.

God might do the same for us, we thought.  We examined our budget.  It would be a stretch, but we could afford $125.  We prayed, “Lord, Your Word says You care about these things.  We ask You to give us a home for $125 a month.”  Then we watched the paper.

For the preceding month it had listed no rental homes for less than $300. But three days later, an ad appeared for a two-bedroom home—for $125!  We went to see it, then called the owner. “I’m probably asking too little for the house,” an elderly lady said. “I’ve had so many calls about it.”

We went to meet with her.  As we were talking, a junior college professor called and offered her more.  “Thanks,” she replied, “but I want to give it to this nice young couple.”

—Ed Gungor in Religiously Transmitted Diseases

My Response: Have I ever prayed about my budgeting?  Should I?

Thought to Apply: You will never need more than God can supply.—J.I. Packer (Canadian theologian)

Adapted from Religiously Transmitted Diseases (Nelson Ignite, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Urge to Splurge

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

Slick, colorful brochures lie on my desk. They’re from sales representatives eager for me to use their state-of-the-art equipment.

But nothing will be purchased until Materials Management scrutinizes my justification letter, explaining why, when, where, and how the equipment will be used. These requirements methodically expose any emotional attachments I have to an apparatus’s newness. I’m forced to honestly measure its value to my department.

And since I know Materials Management won’t approve a purchase based on a letter filled with feelings, I usually don’t waste my time writing one—and throw 98 percent of the pretty brochures into the trash!

Composing a mental “justification letter” is a savvy practice that works great in everyday life, too.

I used to get so excited about the newest high-tech gadget that I’d practically run to buy it, never questioning its value to my life. Soon it would be added to my I-felt-I-had-to-have-it dust collectors.

But my growth in Christ has taught me to be still when the urge to spend strikes. If I pause to allow the Holy Spirit to put my feelings in check, I can honestly measure any product’s value to my life—and break the chain of foolish spending.

—Howard Swann in Texas

My Response: Could I justify my latest major purchase by Material Management criteria?

Thought to Apply: You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?—Steven Wright (humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

 

Loosen Your Grip – Whose Wheels?

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse: All the believers … felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.  – Acts 4:32

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Several years ago when my mom had to stop driving, I picked up her car, a Ford Escort. Slow but economical, it became my transportation between home and the church I pastored 90 miles away.

After I resigned, it became an extra car.  We knew it belonged to God, so we sometimes loaned out “God’s car” to friends in need. A buddy from a home Bible study needed short-term wheels, so I let him use it. He liked it and asked to buy it.

We agreed on a price, he made a small down payment, and promptly quit paying. He didn’t change the registration with the state, so we remained liable.

Soon after, he quit returning my calls. He did respond to an e-mail, saying he’d take care of the registration. He never did.

Months later I received notice of a parking violation and other problems. I contacted our church, and he’d quit attending. Short of tracking him down and taking him to court, Mom’s car and the money have disappeared. That ticks me off. We had counted on that money and didn’t have a lot to spare. Justice plays a role in my anger.

But, I try to remind myself, God owns that car. He didn’t “steal” it from me, but from God.

Renouncing ownership means we keep a loose grip on our stuff; we try not to get too attached.

—Tim Riter in Not a Safe God

My Response: The part of Tim’s response I can relate to is …

Thought to Apply: All you are unable to give possesses you.—Andre Gide (French author)

Adapted from Not a Safe God (Broadman & Holman, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Found Wanting

Overcoming SelfishnessKey Bible Verse:  “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”  – Luke 12:15

Bonus Reading:  Job 31:24-25

Growing up, my brothers and I were notorious present-beggars. We’d get our minds set on the ultimate Christmas toy, then beg relentlessly.

As we got older we became more skilled (or so we thought), strategically placing the Sears toy catalog open to the right page in places we knew Mom and Dad would look: in his recliner, under her pillow, in the refrigerator.

One year we set our sights on a big yellow G.I. Joe troop transport with six oversized knobby wheels. The commercials showed it careening through rugged battlefields, rushing Joe and his Kung Fu grip to the action.

Well, our subtle “product placement” worked; we got the toy for Christmas. We rushed out to play with it, and quickly realized our yard was pretty much … flat. No rugged battlefield to be found.

Sure, with a little imagination we made the toy work, but I couldn’t escape a tinge of disappointment.

So it goes with stuff—and the chase isn’t confined to childhood.  Many people have convinced themselves they should pull the trigger on the bigger TV, the fancier fly rod, the sportier car. It never satisfies, does it?

Solomon said that “Those who love money will never have enough” (Eccl. 5:10).

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: What potential possession am I emotionally chasing? Can it deliver on my expectations?

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Loosen Your Grip – Lend Your Stuff

Overcoming SelfishnessWho Said It…Tim Stafford

Tim Stafford started his writing career with what is now Ignite Your Faith magazine (then Youth for Christ’s Campus Life). Next he moved his family to Kenya and founded Step magazine, for Christian youth in Africa.

With Philip Yancey, he co-authored notes for the popular Student Bible. Now Tim’s family, including wife Popie, a counselor, and three children, live in Santa Rosa, California.

Tim is a senior writer for Christianity Today and has written many books, including a historical fiction trilogy.

What He Said…Lend Your Stuff

For some people no act of generosity comes harder than lending because they’re emotionally attached to their possessions and can’t let go.

Something seizes up inside at the thought of letting your new car go on the church ski trip or lending your power tools to the group going to Mexico to build houses. The car may get dented. The tools may get lost or broken.

However, such tangible acts of generosity make sense to children in a way that the abstract writing of checks might not.

We made it a family policy, when we bought a new minivan, to make it available to the church or school anytime they needed it. And they needed it frequently!

We sent a full minivan to Mexico, into the Sierra for ski trips, and to a great variety of other destinations.

I almost always found it a little hard to let the car out of my hands. However, I am quite sure my children will remember these small acts of generosity and want to imitate them.

Adapted from Never Mind the Joneses (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Help me, Lord, to break the small child’s compulsion to say, ‘Mine! Mine!’ and loosen my grasp on things.

 

Devious Diversions – Transform My Mind

Transform My MindThe Roman empire Paul crisscrossed lacked our modern media.  But the principles he laid out for Christian living in his letter to the Ephesus church apply well to our day also.

Paul had lived in Ephesus for at least three years. His quotation here isn’t directly from Scripture.  It’s probably the text of a hymn they’d often sung together, loosely based on Isaiah 26:19; 15:17; 52:1; 60:1) and Malachi 4:2).

Interact with God’s Word:  Ephesians 5:4-16

  1. How do the electronic media excuse sins that God condemns? Do you risk being fooled into discounting God’s anger with impurity?
  2. Clearly, we’re to avoid acting out sinful behaviors (v. 7), but could viewing/listening to it as entertainment be a form of participation?
  3. Paul’s quotation (in verse 14) is meant to be a wake-up call. What “darkness” (vv. 8-13) should you steer clear of? What “light” should you shine on evil to expose it?
  4. Paul characterized his days (v. 16) as evil. How would you size up our days?
  5. How do you determine (v. 10) what is pleasing to the Lord?
  6. What changes might be required (vv. 15-16) to live wisely and make opportunities for doing good?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the ability to retain a pure mind in an environment of obscene stories and coarse jokes.

Ephesians 5:4-16

4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.

7 Don’t participate in the things these people do.8 for once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!9 for this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.

13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them,14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,”Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

Devious Diversions – Vast Wasteland

Transform My MindKey Bible Verse: So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 5:29-30

Movies, TV, and music so dominate the lives of many, including Christians, that they have no time to think about anything spiritual.

Add net-surfing, computer games, sports, and other hobbies, and we have a society drowning in entertainment!

Our souls are so constantly submerged in a sea of pleasure-seeking that we rarely break the surface to study the Scriptures, worship God, and serve others.

Satan wants you to waste your time.  Too often our pursuit of pleasure preoccupies the mind, consumes the energies of the body, and drains the checkbook.  So we fulfill Paul’s forecast of the last days (2 Timothy 3:4), when people “love pleasure rather than God.”  That’s why you must set strict limits on the amount of time and money you spend on entertainment.

The application of the surgical language in today’s Bonus Reading to your entertainment choices is clear: If something you watch, read, or listen to influences you toward evil in your heart or actions, stay away from it.

If you find yourself consumed with a particular hobby, get it out of your life until such a time that you can enjoy it in moderation and propriety.

—Dave Swavely in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: To be a faithful disciple, I need to eliminate or cut back on …

Thought to Apply: I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.—Orson Welles

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (P & R Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

A Prayer for the Anniversary of 9/11

9-11 MemorialO God, our hope and refuge,
in our distress we come quickly to you.
Shock and horror of that tragic day have subsided,
replaced now with an emptiness,
a longing for an innocence lost.

We come remembering those who lost their lives
in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.

We are mindful of the sacrifice of public servants
who demonstrated the greatest love of all
by laying down their lives for friends.
We commit their souls to your eternal care
and celebrate their gifts to a fallen humanity.

We come remembering
and we come in hope,
not in ourselves, but in you.

As foundations we once thought secure have been shaken,
we are reminded of the illusion of security.

In commemorating this tragedy,
we give you thanks for your presence
in our time of need
and we seek to worship you in Spirit and in truth,
our guide and our guardian. Amen.

Devious Diversions – Joker and Monty Python

Transform My MindKey Bible Verse: But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires. Romans 13:14

Bonus Reading:  1 John 2:15-16

In the movie Batman, Jack Nicholson’s Joker has more fun by far than anyone else, leading audiences to appreciate and remember this psychotic murderer more than any of the good guys.

Another surprising example of the glorification of evil is a Bibleman episode in which the Scripture-quoting hero is boring compared to the villain, who gets to star in his own MTV-like video.  After watching this show, my children couldn’t quote any of the Bible verses, but danced around singing over and over, “I am the prince of pride; I’ve got an ego ten miles wide!”

The concern of today’s Bonus Reading is the heart.  John doesn’t say that we can’t view or listen to anything that comes from worldly artists, but he does say we’re not to love the lust and pride in them, and often presented by them.

So I can split my sides with my friends and older children as we enjoy the unique, insightful humor in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while skipping scenes like the “virgins in the castle” and the cartoons depicting God.

I can expose those examples of inappropriate humor by explaining to my family and others why those parts are wrong, and in doing so we can enjoy a spiritual benefit as well as a good laugh.

—Dave Swavely in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: I’ll plan to lead an informal evaluation of the next movie or TV show we watch together.

Thought to Apply: Indifference to evil is complicity with evil.—Sourcer Unknown

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (P & R Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

 

Joint Charge – 2015 Charge Conference – Rescheduled Date

Charge Conference InfoDue to the recent illness of our District Superintendent, our 2015 Joint Charge Charge Conference has been pushed back from September 16 to November 15.

Instead of a stand-alone Charge Conference, we will be grouped with 15 other Churches. The location will be at one of the Churches in Rochester.

Devious Diversions – Laugh Lines

Transform My MindKey Bible Verse: Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes; these are not for you. … Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins. Ephesians 5:4, 6

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 5:4-14

God hates sin.  It is therefore wrong for us to enjoy it in any way.

Unfortunately, much of modern entertainment is designed to make money by appealing to our sinful nature. This is obviously the purpose of most sexual content, and much of the violence motivated by ungodly revenge and uncontrolled rage.

But the popular arts appeal to our sinful nature in more subtle ways, such as our covetousness (beautiful stars, rich characters, exotic locations) and pride (motivations of self-glory).

In today’s popular art, God and religion are played for laughs, and jokes about sex have almost become synonymous with the concept of comedy.

But the Bible is very clear that both of these matters are not to be played for laughs.  The third commandment says, “Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7), and the hottest hell is reserved for those who mock God.

Today’s Bonus Reading uses similar language in regard to sexuality.  It is a sin worthy of God’s anger and condemnation to be amused by jokes about Him.  It is equally wrong to laugh at coarse sexual humor.

—Dave Swavely in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: Have I ever turned off a TV show part way through it or walked out of a movie or play?  Should I have?

Thought to Apply: Television makes so much [money] at its worst that it can’t afford to do its best.—Fred Friendly (broadcast news producer)

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (P & R Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

 

Devious Diversions – Talk Back

Transform My MindKey Bible Verse: Test everything that is said.  Hold on to what is good.  Keep away from every kind of evil.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:8

If you soak up the media with your brain in neutral, you’ll be captured by the enemy’s destructive ideas.

To apply today’s Key Bible Verse to the entertainment you enjoy, keep your brain in gear, know your Bible, and evaluate based on what it says.

Talk back mentally to your TV, music, books, and the movie screen.  When you see or hear something good, note the truth communicated or illustrated.  If it’s bad, note how and why it displeases God.  That’s conquering rebellious ideas and teaching them to obey Christ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5).

If I enjoy a certain kind of music, I can thank God for giving musicians the talent to produce it. But when the words aren’t coming from hearts that love Christ, I’ll often intentionally hear or sing them with an elevated meaning.

Many songs on love and sex written about an unmarried couple can apply to my relationship with my wife.  Single people can think of the lyrics as describing a future marriage relationship.

This is applying today’s Bonus Reading command by finding the good in the things we observe and disciplining our minds to dwell on that.  Of course I don’t sing or let my mind dwell on songs that can’t possibly be reinterpreted like this.

—Dave Swavely in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: Do I passively accept media messages or do I talk back to them?

Thought to Apply: All television is educational television. The only question is, what is it teaching?—Nicholas Johnson (former Federal Communications Comm. chairman)

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (P & R Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

 

Devious Diversions – Take Jesus to a Movie?

Transform My MindKey Bible Verse: And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1

When you view or listen to some form of the arts, your motive can’t be merely to please yourself, and it certainly can’t be to enjoy ungodly pleasures.

Your motive must be to please God. Jesus said, “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” (Matthew 4:10)  Today’s Bonus Reading says you should engage in only what you can thank God for, and what brings Him glory.

Many Christians haven’t learned how to enjoy the popular arts in a way that brings glory to God. They’ve watched movies, for instance, only because they wanted to pass the time, or experience the thrill of action, romance, or a good laugh. Or the movies have been a time they were spending apart from God, because they were deriving enjoyment from things He wouldn’t like.

So when a friend asks, “Would you watch that if Jesus were sitting next to you?” (a good question to ask, by the way), they could never honestly say yes, because they’ve never taken Jesus with them to see a movie!

But I’ve watched many movies fully aware that Jesus is with me, and I’ve communed with Him during the entire movie. Next, we’ll discuss how.

—Dave Swavely in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: Would Jesus have accepted an invitation to the last movie I saw?

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (P & R Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

Devious Diversions – On a Scale of 1 to…

Transform My MindWho Said It…Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier should know entertainment.  He was the first black actor to gain widespread acceptance by audiences of all races.

In 1963 he won an Oscar for Lilies of the Field, and in 1967 he memorably played Detective Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night.

But as a young Bahamian immigrant, Poitier arrived in New York city with an accent so thick that—after his first audition—the director told him to become a dishwasher.

What He Said…On a Scale of 1 to …

It’s late at night as I lie in bed in the blue glow of the television set. I have the remote control in my hand and I go from 1 to 97, scrolling through the channels.

I find nothing that warrants my attention, nothing that amuses me. So I scroll up again, channel by channel from bottom to top.

This vast, sophisticated technology and … nothing.  It’s given me not one smidgen of pleasure.  It’s informed me of nothing beyond my own ignorance and my own frailties.

But then I have the audacity to go up again!  And what do I find?  Nothing, of course.

So at last, filled with self-disgust, I punch the TV off and throw the clicker across the room, muttering to myself, “What am I doing with my time?”

It’s not as if I’m without other resources—treasured books and art objects, photographs and mementos.  I have a rich network of friends, whom I could reach on the phone within seconds.  So what am I doing with my time?

Adapted from The Measure of a Man (HarperSanFrancisco, 2000).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, transform my life by renewing my mind in accordance with Your good and perfect will.

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day 2As summer ends and life kicks into “high gear”, Central Church prays that you are blessed this Labor Day Weekend!

 Ecclesiastes 3:13 focuses us on how God blesses us with work, and the realization that the fruit of our work is a gift from Him.

 This weekend, may you be blessed with a chance to rest and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Let us praise God together for the work that we have before us!Labor Day

Have a great holiday weekend!

Staying Power – Strength through Adversity

StrengthFor the first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception.

Paul holds out encouragement to his hard-pressed readers by painting a portrait of what they will eventually become.

But this is no escapism.  Spliced together with that vision of the future is the understanding that we must overcome now before we can become then.

Interact with God’s Word:  Romans 5:3-5

  1. Is Paul telling us that we should learn to like pain or deny the tragedy of suffering?
  2. If not, why should we rejoice when we encounter difficulties?
  3. If, as verse 5 claims, God dearly loves you, why may He be permitting trials in your life?
  4. How does the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit underscore God’s love?
  5. What does Christ’s death tell you about your value to God?
  6. Why would a strengthened character promote deepened confidence about the future?
  7. How can you deal with the problems you face daily in God’s strength?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for what you are confidently expecting. Ask Him for the strength of character to grow strong through endurance.

Romans 5:3-5

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Steady Steve

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:3-5

When I think of people who demonstrate endurance, I think of my friend Steve.  Steve is a faithful husband, the father of two girls, an elder in the church, and a real-estate appraiser.  He cares for his aging parents, gives generously to the work of Christ, and can tell a great joke.

He does nothing spectacular. He’ll never receive a standing ovation, and his hometown will probably never have Steve Day in his honor. But every day he eats his oatmeal, reads his Bible, does honest work, plays with his daughters, sends e-mail to friends, hugs his wife, and says his prayers before he goes to sleep.

When others left his church during the hard times, he stepped into leadership. When others compromised their ethics to get ahead financially, he stayed true. When colleagues sacrificed family to get promoted, he scaled back, preferring more time with his daughters to having more stuff in his garage.

When others are cynical, Steve is hopeful. When friends are in trouble, Steve is there with a smile, a helping hand, an open wallet. He is a solid, dependable, caring man whom I can count on for anything, from walking my dog to raising my children if I should die.

—Tod Bolsinger in ShowTime

My Response: A “Steve” in my church whom I’d like to emulate is …

Thought to Apply: It is better to be faithful than famous.—Source Unknown

Adapted from ShowTime (Baker, 2004).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Called to What?

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:24

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:21-26

[continued from yesterday]  Winding my way through dark city streets, I found myself wishing for light. In today’s exchanges with four friends serving at the extreme ends of society, no trite God-has-you-here-for-a-reason advice would be helpful. Their questioning of their own calling, though fearful, was necessary. Questioning God was honest. Their doubts had integrity.

Surely God doesn’t toy with the emotions of those who desire to follow Him. But when we’ve listened as carefully as we know how and have positioned ourselves as best we can discern in the epicenter of His will, why would we encounter so much resistance, frustration, and stress?

Spiritual warfare?  Lack of faith?  Wrong method or timing?  I can’t give an answer.  But regardless, there seems but one appropriate response to this holy entrapment: endure.

Could it be that divine calling isn’t even about accomplishment?

What if success is defined not in measurable productivity but in the quality of our interactions with others?

What if the criterion by which we’re ultimately evaluated is faithfulness rather than performance?

Even more baffling, what if calling isn’t primarily about effecting change but rather about being changed ourselves?

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: If God has called me, can I expect the results to be visible?

Thought to Apply: Don’t bother to give God instructions; just report for duty.—Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch speaker & author)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Facing Frustrations

StrengthKey Bible Verse: “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?”  – Jeremiah 12:5

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:12-13

[continued from yesterday]  My day ended at a restaurant in a converted warehouse with Dana Walker and Kerry Reid, in from D.C. for a conference they’d initiated.  “Why is doing good so hard?” these leaders of President Bush’s faith-based initiative asked as we dipped sourdough bread chunks into a saucer of garlic and olive oil.

These dynamic, visionary leaders, elevated to positions of responsibility at a high level of government, confessed their weariness in doing their best to accomplish a kingdom mission, only to have their efforts challenged, undermined, ignored, and devalued by both government and church.

The President, committed to the church’s re-engagement as a service provider, had inspired them both to join him in this mission. But his handlers, they soon discovered, had other priorities, diverting his attention from the faith-based agenda.

Career bureaucrats proved resistant to new ideas that disrupt their familiar routines. And the church is suspicious of government involvement, afraid of “strings,” fearful of trading away its message for the seduction of easy money.

“We’re not sure now that this is where we should be.”  Consternation and doubt were etched on their faces. [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How do political, psychological, or spiritual opposition factor into my understanding of God’s guidance?

Thought to Apply: Our extremity is God’s opportunity.—Rees Howells (Welsh miner turned Bible school founder)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Dealing with Doubts

StrengthKey Bible Verse: And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.  – 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Bonus Reading: Luke 9:57-62

My day began over an early breakfast at the Good News Café with Chris and Rebecca Gray.  They dove right into a matter heavy on their minds.

“Why is doing good so hard?” Rebecca teared up as she uttered the words.  “We do our best, we’re as responsible as we know how to be, we try to stay sensitive to God’s leading … yet something always derails our plans.  Our best efforts don’t accomplish half what they should for the kingdom!”

The Grays aren’t complainers.  Far from it!  They’re high-capacity military officers who left active duty four years ago to assume a leadership role in our ministry.

But serious fatigue registered on Rebecca’s face. Weight loss from stress-aggravated digestive disorder added to her anxiety.  Chris, unflappable and rock steady, wore a concerned expression.

No couple I’ve met has grasped the essence of urban ministry as well and quickly as the Grays.  The moment they hit the ground in Atlanta, they began to distinguish themselves as capable and sensitive leaders.

Called, visionary, unthreatened, and unthreatening, they combine all the gifts required to lead Family Consultation Service into the future.  Yet Rebecca implored, “Have we made a huge mistake?” [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How should the Grays view job offers for more money with less stress?

Thought to Apply: God gives burdens, also shoulders.—Yiddish Proverb

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.