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Make Your Talents Count – Invest Your Talents

GenerosityKey Study Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Who Said It … Bob Westfall

Bob Westfall is president of the Westfall Group, which serves charities and Christian ministries in financial stewardship and communications. His company has helped charities raise more than $210 million in new income for their valuable work.

He frequently speaks at national conferences and to charity boards, philanthropists, churches, and other groups, and is the author of The Fulfillment Principle. He currently lives in Suwanee, Georgia, with his wife, Kim. They are the parents of four children.

What he Said … Invest Your Talents

The word “talent” spoken of in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) is a measure of weight and, in this usage, means “money.” As in many of Christ’s parables, however, the story contains multiple layers of meaning and wisdom. God gives us something of his to invest—according to our ability.

Although God may have given you five talents and me two and someone else one, he views us each the same. Just because you have more does not mean God views you as more valuable or important. Indeed, God sees us all as equal; he values us the same.

And what he truly values most is the way you and I steward the talents he’s entrusted into our lives. How do we invest those talents? Are we fruitful? Do we get good return on the deposit he’s made in our lives?

What talent—be it treasure or ability or passion or skill—has God entrusted to you according to your unique ability? What passion has he woven into your heart, and only your heart?

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

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The Difference One Can Make – Faith in Action

Faith in ActionThe Philistines’ well-supplied army dominated Canaan, conducting raids at will.

And they enforced a monopoly on that era’s advanced technology: iron blacksmithing.

No wonder King Saul’s badly outnumbered, demoralized troops were stalled in defensive position at Gibeah, making no effort to retake the Philistine-controlled Micmash pass.

Interact with God’s Word: 1 Samuel 14:1-16, 1 Samuel 14:20-22

  1. In the Israel/Philistine face-off (see 1 Samuel 13:5, 15, 22) what were the human odds?
  2. How did Jonathan view these odds (v. 6)?
  3. Why do you think Jonathan didn’t alert his father to his plans?
  4. How did Jonathan allow for God to abort this thrust if it wasn’t in His will (vv. 8-10)?
  5. What exertions were required of Jonathan and his armor bearer (vv.13-14)?
  6. How did God turn a skirmish upset into the route of an entire army (v. 15)?
  7. How did Jonathan’s initiative motivate his fellow Israelites (vv. 20-22)?
  8. What overwhelming odds do you think need turning around in our society?
  9. What counter-measures could you take for starters? What resources could you commit to this venture?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to give you the courage to tackle a daunting problem, using your efforts to trigger events leading to victory.

1 Samuel 14:1-16, 20-22

1 One day Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to where the Philistines have their outpost.” But Jonathan did not tell his father what he was doing. 2 Meanwhile, Saul and his 600 men were camped on the outskirts of Gibeah, around the pomegranate tree at Migron. 3 Among Saul’s men was Ahijah the priest, who was wearing the ephod, the priestly vest. Ahijah was the son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord who had served at Shiloh. No one realized that Jonathan had left the Israelite camp.

4 To reach the Philistine outpost, Jonathan had to go down between two rocky cliffs that were called Bozez and Seneh. 5 The cliff on the north was in front of Micmash, and the one on the south was in front of Geba. 6 “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!”

7 “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.” 8 “All right then,” Jonathan told him. “We will cross over and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them.

10 But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.” 11 When the Philistines saw them coming, they shouted, “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes!” 12 Then the men from the outpost shouted to Jonathan, “Come on up here, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” “Come on, climb right behind me,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “for the Lord will help us defeat them!”

13 So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. 14 They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre. 15 Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified. 16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction.

20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away.

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

The Difference One Can Make – Waging Peace

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became afraid. “Now Joseph will pay us back,” … they said. Genesis 50:15

Bonus Reading: Genesis 50:14-21

William Rodriguez, a kickboxing champion as well as a black belt in karate, knew how to fight and win.

Even so, when gang members killed his son, Rodriguez refused to respond violently. Instead of seeking revenge, he sought a just and lasting reconciliation.

After learning that one of his son’s convicted killers was wrongly sentenced, Rodriguez asked the judge for mercy on the young man. “I just believed it was the right thing to do.  That’s my faith,” he recalled.

As a result of involvement in his son’s murder trial, Rodriguez began to orchestrate peace treaties among warring gangs. The kick-boxer spoke to feuding groups about living for the future rather than in bondage to the past.

Seeing that Rodriguez was living that message, many gang members listened. Soon, to his own surprise, Rodriguez was hosting reconciliation meetings.

Rodriguez’s peacemaking illustrates human beings’ overarching vocation as followers of Jesus Christ.

Just as God cares for His entire universe, we’re called to be caretakers of His world. God calls us to love Jesus by caring for and about our neighbor, participating in Christ’s renewal of all things.

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

My Response: In what situation should I respond compassionately instead of instinctively protecting my status?

Thought to Apply: It is idle for us to say that we know that God has forgiven us if we are not loving and forgiving ourselves.—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Welsh preacher)

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

The Difference One Can Make – The Chattanooga Challenge

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “He can win the battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” 1 Samuel 14:6

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 14:1-16

During the 1970s and ’80s, Chattanooga, Tennessee, was decaying. Divorce was rampant.

Half of all births were to unwed mothers. Single women, many living in poverty, were the sole providers in 30 percent of homes.

Five local businessmen decided to do something about it.

In 1997 they formed the nonprofit organization First Things First. It provided classes to help couples prepare for marriage, strengthen families, reduce teen pregnancies, and encourage father involvement in the lives of their children.

Some seminars offered: “Before You Say I Do,” “Boot Camp for New Dads,” “Fighting for Your Marriage.” DVDs and videos can be checked out from its resource center.

When businessman Brad Rymer was exposed to the state of Chattanooga families, he says, “I went home and prayed, ‘Lord use me to help You save marriages.'” He ended up selling his business and assuming a mediation role with fractured families.

The results? As of 2006—less than 10 years since the program began—the city’s divorce rate has gone down by 25 percent. Cases of children having children have gone down by 26 percent. Fathers, more aware of their crucial role, spend more time with their children.

—Julie Baumgardner in Focus on the Family

My Response: What goal dare I pray for God to empower me to achieve for Him?

Thought to Apply: Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.—William Carey (missionary to India)

Adapted from Focus on the Family (8/06) and First Things First (www.firstthings.org)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

 

The Difference One Can Make – Urban Field of Dreams

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “The King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” Matthew 25:40

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:5-7

On his way to work one day, Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski saw a derelict ball field full of trash in a gang-infested neighborhood.

The kids there could use a real Little League to play in, he thought. He teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League. In “pretty wild” early practice sessions, coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm but short on fundamentals.

Each game began with a prayer. Cursing was strictly forbidden.

“While I had no illusions that I’d change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids,” said Muzikowski , converted not long before. “My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbor.”

The next year, 400 kids joined the league.

Today 900 fatherless kids in 100 Little League teams are learning self-respect and community values. Reporters wonder why a wealthy white businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people’s kids.

Muzikowski answers, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘When you’ve paid someone to do it unto the least of these. … ‘ What He said was, ‘when you have done it. … ‘”

—Charles Colson in How Now Shall We Live?

My Response: One way I could directly serve a marginalized person in my community is …

Thought to Apply: Christianity demands a level of caring that transcends human inclinations.—Erwin Lutzer

Adapted from How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

The Difference One Can Make – Hanging Tough in the Tenderloin

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “Everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours.”  – 1 Samuel 17:47

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-37

Leaving his job in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district one day, Roger Huang discovered that he had a flat tire.

While waiting for a tow truck, he watched a group of teens pick on a younger boy and wondered what he’d do if it were his son.

For the next eight years, Roger worked two jobs to support a rescue mission that he leads there. He also started a Christian school.

The 35-block neighborhood has at least 48 liquor stores and 14 porn shops. Some 10,000 homeless pass through it every night. Tenderloin averages three major crimes per hour.

Tired of it all, in 2004 Roger decided to get city leaders’ attention. He sat outside city hall on a hunger strike.

Prodded to action, Mayor Gavin Newsome initiated a “scrubdown”: the police department assigned more officers to walk the streets to detain those suspected of drug-related activity. The public works department ordered more sweepers to clean up.

One city supervisor studied limiting liquor licenses; another introduced legislation to prohibit new strip clubs and porn shops within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers. After 33 days, when he felt the city had made enough progress, Roger ended his hunger strike.

—Rob Moll in Leadership

My Response: What should be turned around in my community? Where could I start?

Thought to Apply: God is always calling on us to do the impossible, [but] anything Jesus did here on earth is something we should be able to do, too.—Madeleine L’Engle

Adapted from Leadership (Summer/04)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

 

The Difference One Can Make – Borderline Situation

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. James 3:18

Bonus Reading: Nehemiah 6:1-13

Aqeela Sherrills lived in Watts, a part of Los Angeles ravaged by feuding youth gangs.  His neighborhood was wedged between a district dominated by the Bloods and another by the Crips, with bystanders often caught in the crossfire.  He escaped Watts by going east to college.

But there Aqeela became convinced that he was created to make a difference in gangland. So he returned to L.A. in 1989 and organized members of his neighborhood to agitate for “Peace for Peace’s Sake.”

“Both gangs tolerated us,” Aqeela said, “allowing us to march, even listening to our rhetoric.” At first nothing changed. But they joined forces with football great Jim Brown to form Amer-I-Can.  In it, older men began mentoring younger men, steering them toward positive goals.

Then Aqeela and his brother, Daude, held a meeting to motivate the group to appeal directly to the gangs. “We were afraid for our lives,” Aqeela said. “But I said to the group, ‘We’re on the border. So we should be the ones to stand between the Bloods and Crips and bring the neighborhoods together.’

We committed to march into both territories with a message of reconciliation.”  Their intervention led to a “peace treaty,” and eventually to reconciliation.

—Everett Worthington Jr. in Forgiving and Reconciling

My Response: I’ll ask God to show me for what I was created to make a difference.

Adapted from Forgiving and Reconciling (InterVarsity, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

Central Church in 1905

Central Church - 1905Here’s a photo of Central Church about three years after 1902 when it was constructed, courtesy of the FaceBook page, Historic Beaver Falls.

Notice how white all the stone was over 100 years ago!

 

The Difference One Can Make – Just Imagine!

Faith in ActionWho Said It…Richard Land

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

He was also appointed by President Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Dr. Land has also served as pastor, professor, and adviser to a former Texas governor.

What He Said…Just Imagine!

What if just half of those Americans who claim to be evangelical Christians were truly to practice their faith in their local communities as responsible citizens?

Every volunteer social organization in the country seeking to meet the needs of less fortunate people would be transformed overnight.  There’d be so many volunteers they’d have to be put on waiting lists.

The databases of crisis pregnancy centers and prison transition ministries and foster-care agencies would be crammed with the names and numbers of families ready to take in young women and ex-cons and children who need hospitality, practical help, and loving care. Food pantry shelves would overflow.

Homebound senior citizens would never be isolated.  School children would have mentors for literacy programs and reading enrichment, and adults committed to staying involved in their lives. Nursing-home residents wouldn’t pass time in empty days, neglected by family and ignored by society.

Even those not influenced to accept Christ by such radical, positive changes in society would live better lives.

Adapted from Imagine! A God-Blessed America (Broadman & Holman, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

Finding Common Ground – Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism 2Levi is better known by his other name: Matthew.

Jesus’ invitation to join His crew meant guaranteed unemployment.  Yet he didn’t hesitate.

Was that because he sensed genuine acceptance by Jesus?  Jesus gave him a new purpose for his record-keeping skills as he compiled his gospel narrative.

Interact with God’s Word:  Luke 5:27-32

  1. Why were the religious leaders so upset by the way Jesus mingled with irreligious people from different social levels?
  2. Which do you think Jesus perceived as more receptive to His gospel: the religious leaders or those outside their synagogues?
  3. Would you say the non-Christians you know are hostile to the gospel or have never meaningfully encountered it?
  4. By socializing with the tax collectors and “sinners,” was Jesus endorsing their practices and lifestyles?
  5. For Levi, did leaving his tax-collecting business to be Jesus’ disciple mean breaking off contact with his colleagues and friends?
  6. Do you have as many non-Christian friends now as you did when you first became a believer?
  7. How could you introduce your friendship network to Jesus, like Levi did with his banquet?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you find creative ways to get involved in the lives of people who are not yet Christ followers.

Luke 5:27-32

27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. 29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them.

30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” 31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

Finding Common Ground – My So-What Testimony

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: I want to find a way to make the Jews want what you Gentiles have, and … save some of them. Romans 11:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 71:15-16

During the first week of school, a freshman, David, attended one of our meetings because a friend invited him. But he said he didn’t see what difference some guy’s martyrdom thousands of years ago made in his life today.

So instead of dwelling on the “content” of the gospel, I focused on how being a Christian helps me now. I sense a purpose and meaning to life, I said, I never feel alone, and—because I feel accepted by God—more willingly accept other people.

Being a Christian, I added, makes my marriage better, gives me a clear conscience, and fills me with optimism and hope.  Then I changed the subject and asked how he was adjusting to our big urban campus.

He seemed lost.  His rambling answer disclosed that he’d made few friends, liked classical music, and hated cafeteria food.

I told him that I’d been a music major in my undergrad days.  We talked about Debussy and Dvorak, and how students could get free tickets for on-campus concerts.  Then I invited him to play volleyball with us the next night to meet people, eat watermelon, and have fun.

David came and then, shortly thereafter, started attending a student-led Bible study in a dorm.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: How could I share my life with another so as to create thirst for the abundant life Jesus offers?

Thought to Apply: How many people have you made homesick for God?—Oswald Chambers (British teacher)

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

Finding Common Ground – Admit You Need Help

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.  –  1 Corinthians 9:22

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:20-23

How can you compensate for your weaknesses and get to know your neighbors better in the process?  Ask for help!

I often begin projects without knowing how they’ll end.  I experiment and learn as I go.

This usually works, but when I started to build a go-cart out of a cast-off riding lawnmower, I was soon in over my head.  So I invited a technically proficient neighbor to help me, and we had fun for four hours.  During that time, he also shared several deep concerns.

Another time, when Amanda and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment, friends of ours from college days, Paul and Tina, arrived for a visit in an old car with worn-out brakes.  I volunteered to help Paul replace them.  We pulled off a wheel and began removing springs and other brake parts, but soon I knew we were in trouble.

“Hey,” I called out to a man walking by, “you know anything about brakes?”

He hesitated and then grinned.  “A little bit.”  He passed along a few pointers and gave me his apartment number in the adjoining complex.

That simple conversation developed into a relationship with him and his wife that lasted almost 25 years.  And he became a Christian!

—Stephen Sorenson in Like Your Neighbor

My Response: How could being vulnerable help me connect with a neighbor?

Thought to Apply: The Holy Spirit can’t save seats or saints. If we don’t know any non-Christians, how can we introduce them to the Savior?—Paul Little (evangelist)

Adapted from Like Your Neighbor (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

Finding Common Ground – Share-Wear

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.  –  1 Corinthians 9:12

Bonus Reading: Matthew 4:18-20

In the summer of 2005, as part of National Trails Day, a few friends and I helped build a trail on Davidson Mesa, overlooking the city of Boulder, Colorado.  I wore a T-shirt with a picture of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz, who was tragically killed in a bizarre murder a few years back.

One of the guys pushing wheelbarrows up and down hills with me saw my shirt and asked me about it.  He had wrestled in college, and when I told him I was a grappler, as were both my boys, we became fast friends over this common ground.

During the day we joked around and even locked up once or twice.  By the end of the day, I was able to speak about some of my passions—engaging the church’s needs and sharing dreams for the community.  He responded by telling me he was on the board of a large human-service agency that was looking for ways to engage the faith community in its work. Imagine that!

How different it may have been had I worn a T-shirt with “His Pain, Your Gain” or a hat with “WWJD.”  It would have been hard to get someone to look me in the eye.

—Eric Swanson in Living a Life on Loan

My Response: How could I become more likeable and accessible to non-Christians I encounter?

Thought to Apply: Witnessing is removing the various barriers of our self-love to allow Christ, living within us, to show Himself to our neighbors.—Paul Frost (writer)

Adapted from Living a Life on Loan (NavPress, 1978)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

Finding Common Ground – People, Not Projects

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him [Zacchaeus] who are lost.”  – Luke 19:10

Bonus Reading: Luke 19:1-10

At an evangelism conference session I led, a man asked, “What do I do if I’m trying to reach out to someone, but have little in common with him?  Actually,” he added, “I don’t really enjoy being with him.”

“If this person never came to faith in Jesus,” I asked, “would you still be his friend? … still hang out with him?”

The man swallowed hard and said, “I’m not sure I’d still connect with him if I wasn’t trying to win him to Christ.”

I encouraged the man to consider stepping away from this person for a time and praying for his own heart to change.  When we reach out to people out of guilt or duty, they’ll smell it and know that we see them as a chore on our checklist of things to do.  When we make people our personal outreach projects without really loving them, we may actually push them away from Jesus.

However, when we walk with people on their spiritual journey because the love of God overflows in our hearts and because we see them through the eyes of Jesus—this is powerful. People outside of the family will know they’re loved by God long before they enter a relationship with Jesus.

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: You have placed _____ in my life. I’ll commit to care about and spend time with him.

Thought to Apply: We must know people—like, enjoy, and take trouble for them—before it may even be right to speak to them about spiritual matters.  —Sam Shoemaker

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

Finding Common Ground – Running Encounter

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough.”  – Luke 5:32

Bonus Reading: Luke 5:27-32

Norm Wakefield, author and professor at Phoenix Seminary, led a home church back in the ’80s, when it was generally unthinkable to skip Sunday morning services.  The group met for worship on Sunday nights instead.

They found that it didn’t usually work to invite people to a service on Sunday mornings, because that was likely their morning to sleep in, go running, and hang out at the bagel shop.  For most, dressing up and going to church didn’t provide a suitable alternative to this favorite time of week.

So Norm’s small “congregation” spent Sunday mornings running together and going to bagel shops for coffee.  They would invite their friends to come with them to worship, and the response was amazing.

They didn’t look at their friends as projects. They just genuinely cared, got involved in their lives, and built relationships.  As a natural result, the Sunday morning connection time brought more people to faith than most churches see in a year of services.

Of course, they had to put up with criticism from churches that thought it was improper to skip church on Sunday morning—that form was more important than function.

—Mike Bechtle in Evangelism for the Rest of Us

My Response: What, besides church, could I invite an unchurched friend to share with me?

Adapted from Evangelism for the Rest of Us (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

Finding Common Ground – Where’s the Bait

Personal Evangelism 2Who Said It…Mike Bechtle

Mike Bechtle has taught more than 2,000 time- and life-management seminars, many for Fortune 500 companies.  He’s been speaking at conventions and churches since 1974.

He and his wife, Diane, serve as mentors to a young married couples class at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California.  Mike’s doctorate is in higher and adult education from Arizona State University.  He also has a degree from Talbot School of Theology.

What He Said…Where’s the Bait?

If your goal is to catch fish, you could put a hook on the line, hold it about a foot above the water, and call, “C’mon, fish. Here, fish. Come and get it.”

But you’d get no results because you’re trying to get the fish to leave the environment in which he can breathe.   And there’s no worm or bug on the hook.  You need to put something the fish likes on the hook and place it in the water.  It’s not your job to beat the fish with the bait.  If he’s hungry, he’ll notice the bait and check it out.

It’s important to go where those who need Christ live, rubbing shoulders with them.  That’s why a university professor and his wife have become actively engaged in an animal rescue group—an area where they have personal passion—and get to build real, caring relationships with people who might not be interested in coming to church.

The personal transformation we may be undergoing will be ineffective for evangelism if we’re not close enough for anyone to see it.

Adapted from Evangelism for the Rest of Us (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

 

John – Early Lenten Study – Starts Sunday, January 24, 2016

John - Lenten Sutdy 1This Lent, come experience spiritual growth and life-changing renewal.

This six-week, DVD-based series follows the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus through the Gospel of John and will help us understand the context of some of the best-known verses in the New Testament.

This special short-term study is meant to offer pointers and keys to reading John. It is not a verse-by-verse commentary, but instead a guide to John’s major themes, exploring their meaning and offering clues that will help you read all of John.

Join us starting next Sunday at 10 am in the UMYF Room

as we start our exploration of John!

John - Lenten Sutdy 2

 

 

Look for That Silver Lining – Trust in God

Look for the Silver LiningThe prisoner Paul, having appealed to Caesar, was transferred by ship from Caesarea to Rome. There, according to Acts 28:16, he “was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.”

Able to receive visitors, he boldly witnessed and taught about Jesus. The final sentence of the Book of Acts observes, “And no one tried to stop him.”

Interact with God’s Word

Philippians 1:12-18

  1. What reversals (see Acts 21:15-28:6) are included in Paul’s “everything that has happened to me” (v. 12)?
  2. How would most unjustly imprisoned persons react: Give up? … Turn bitter?
  3. Do you think God planned Paul’s imprisonment to penetrate the center of Roman political power?
  4. Who did Paul regard (v. 13) as his “captive” audience?
  5. How do we know his witness to them was effective (see Philippians 4:22)?
  6. What benefits from his confinement (v. 14) did Paul see for believers?
  7. How did Paul react (vv. 15-18) to those taking advantage of his custody?
  8. When have you seen God snatch ultimate good from apparent tragedy?
  9. What’s at center stage in your life? … Achieving personal comfort? … Contributing to gospel advance?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the ability to trust Him to use apparent setbacks in your life for your growth in discipleship, and for the advancement of His kingdom.

Philippians 1:12-18

12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News.

17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

Look for That Silver Lining – “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. James 1:2

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4

Oswald Chambers, author of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, served as a chaplain to British troops in Egypt during World War I.

The sweltering heat of the midday could reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit inside a tent. But with no shade to protect from the scorching sun, inside was the better option. Add to this the threat of malaria, and the thousands of flies hatched in the waste of horses, and it’s easy to understand why serving in this area of the war was hated by virtually every soldier.

Chambers, on the other hand, found that miserable place a blessing. He was constantly busy serving the spiritual and physical needs of the troops. His diary frequently recorded fits of exuberance. How could Chambers’s experience be so different from that of the others stationed there? Oswald knew the holy Lord of glory, and trusted in His ability to bring good out of evil.

In Christ, God turned the evil act of crucifying an entirely innocent man into something life-saving and redeeming. We must begin to cultivate this outlook in our own lives so that we no longer see suffering as an evil to be avoided, but something to be expected, necessary, and, yes, even a joy-producing privilege.

—Victor Kuligin in Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said

My Response: Is my outlook dependent on, or independent of, my circumstances?

Thought to Apply: Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.—Rudyard Kipling (English writer born in India)

Adapted from Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Our Parsonage Restoration!

Parsonage Fire - 5-12-2015It’s been 8 long months since our Parsonage fire on May 12, 2015.
Since that time, armed with a quarter of a million dollars in funds from Liberty Mutual, a work crew from Mazzant Painting and Restoration has worked full-time to take our Parsonage down to its bare bones, haul away the damaged and destroyed portions, and rebuild it into the showcase of our City!

The Center of the Fire in the Second Floor’s Southwest Bedroom

The Center of the Fire (Second Floor, Small (SW) Bedroom - May 12, 2015

The Center of the Fire (Second Floor, Small (SW) Bedroom – May 12, 2015

 

 

The fire was centered in the small bedroom on the Second Floor at the Southwest corner of the building.

 

Parsonage Restoration - Second Floor Small (SW) Bedroom - January 14, 2016

Parsonage Restoration – Second Floor Small (SW) Bedroom – January 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

After removing and rebuilding the interior walls and ceiling, the restored bedroom shows no signs of the fire that could have incinerated the entire building.

 

 

 

 

Newly Restored Kitchen - January 14, 2016

Newly Restored Kitchen – January 14, 2016

 

 

The Kitchen, immediately below the center of the fire, was destroyed and has been rebuilt, complete with new appliances.

 

 

 

Central Church's Restored Parsonage - January 14, 2016

Central Church’s Restored Parsonage – January 14, 2016

A big thanks to our dedicated Trustees for all of their hard work throughout the long demolition and reconstruction process, and in making prompt and thoughtful decisions at critical points along the way to see the restoration through to its successful conclusion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look for That Silver Lining – Doubly Displaced

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. Philippians 1:12

Bonus Reading: Philippians 1:13-18

In the 1930s, thousands fled what is now North Korea as the Japanese invaded.  Many settled around Vladivostok.

When Joseph Stalin began developing a weapons manufacturing center there, he deemed the Koreans a security risk.  So he relocated them in five areas around the Soviet Union.

One was Tashkent, hub of the 20-million-strong Uzbek people.  The staunchly Muslim Uzbeks had for centuries violently resisted any efforts to introduce Christianity.  But the Uzbeks welcomed the Koreans for their industry and kindness.  Within a few decades, they were included in all facets of Uzbek cultural life.

In His orchestration of global events, God had planted strong pockets of believers among these transplants.  Little did Stalin suspect that revival would sweep through the Koreans, and that their Uzbek and Kazak friends would begin coming to Christ.

The first public sign of the breakthrough came on June 2, 1990, when a young Korean from America preached to a swelling crowd in the streets of Alma-Ata, capital of Kazakhstan.  Whole Uzbek villages were converted to Christ in the wake of the first open-air Christian meeting in the history of Soviet Central Asia.

—Bill & Amy Stearns in Catch the Vision 2000

My Response: Can I welcome upheaval in my life to benefit God’s greater kingdom?

Thought to Apply: There’s nothing written in the Bible that says if you believe in Me, you ain’t going to have no troubles.—Ray Charles (singer)

Adapted from Catch the Vision 2000 (Bethany, 1991)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Look for That Silver Lining – Eviction Notice

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 42:16

For the first nine months of 1996, with attendance averaging 25, the group I pastored—National Community Church—met in a public school.

Then the person in charge of leasing the DC schools left a voicemail: Due to fire code violations, the school we met in was being closed.  We were about to become a homeless church!  On September 27 I wrote in my journal, “I feel like we’ve been backed into a corner.”

We explored rental options on Capitol Hill.  Only one door opened: the movie theaters at Union Station.  Looking back, I can’t imagine a more strategic location.  More than 25 million people pass through the station every year.  It’s served by a subway system, bus stop, and parking garage.  There are 40 food-court restaurants right outside our theater marquee.

God perfectly positioned us.  Now, doing church in the middle of the marketplace is part of our DNA.  Our long-term vision is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area.  But it took a setback—a 500-pound opportunity disguised as a daunting problem—to get us where God wanted us to go.

—Mark Batterson in In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

My Response: Could a setback I’m facing be reframed as an opportunity?

Thought to Apply: Often God has to shut a door in our face so that He can subsequently open the door through which He wants us to go.—Catherine Marshall  (author)

Adapted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Look for That Silver Lining – Taking It on the Chin

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: “You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will be accused before kings and governors of being my followers.  This will be your opportunity to tell them about me.”  – Luke 21:12-13

Bonus Reading: Matthew 5:10-11

Perspective is essential for a person to endure personally directed hostility.  You must see this event as part of a larger picture.

Russian Jewish believer Boris Fishbein tells of an incident in downtown Kiev as he was distributing gospel literature.

“A tall guy asked me, ‘Are you Jewish?’

“I answered, ‘Yes.’

“‘Who do you believe in?’ he asked.

“I replied, ‘Jesus is my God.’

“‘And I believe in Perun (a Ukrainian pagan god),’ he replied.  Then he spat at me and hit me hard on the jaw.

“It hurt.  There was darkness in my eyes.  When I came around, he was gone, but another young man, Vadim, was standing nearby.

Vadim had observed the whole encounter and asked me, ‘Why did he hit you so hard?’

This seeking person stopped to talk to me because he witnessed another’s ill will.  Vadim later prayed with me to receive Christ into his heart. In a sense, the blow on my jaw brought about good results.”

For Boris, the pain he endured was only a small part of a great story of a man’s redemption.

—Susan Perlman in World Pulse

My Response: When has a personal reversal created an opening for the gospel?

Thought to Apply: Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.—PAUL CLAUDE (French diplomat, author, playwright)

Adapted from World Pulse (8/9/02)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Look for That Silver Lining – Lucky Break

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us.  – Romans 5:3

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:2-5

In high school I’d tried for years to dunk a basketball.  It was my holy grail.  Ironically, it took a broken ankle for me to first achieve that goal.

As a sophomore, I was just running down the court in one of our drills, and tripped over a line on the floor.  I spent the next month in a cast, and remember questioning God.  After all, He could have kept it from happening.

Here’s what did happen.  That semester my classes seemed to alternate between the top and bottom floors of our three-floor high school.  So after every period I was hopping up and down flights of stairs like a human pogo stick.  When you’re injured in one place, you’ve got to draw more strength from somewhere else.

In a process called remodeling, my right leg grew stronger to compensate for my broken left ankle.  The brokenness actually increased my capacity.  I dunked my first basketball while wearing a cast!

Like a broken bone that needs to be reset, God breaks us where we need to be broken.  He fractures the pride and lust and anger in our lives, but He does it to remodel us into His image.  And once we heal, we end up stronger than we were to begin with.

—Mark Batterson in In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

My Response: Where have I been broken? How may God be increasing my capacity?

Adapted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Growing Use of Local Pastors in the United Methodist Church

Local PastorOne of the more interesting trends in the UM Church is the explosion of Local Pastors.   Since 1985 the number of local pastors has almost doubled from 3,804 to 7,464 while the number of elders has decreased about 30% from 21,378 to 15,019.

The number of local pastors includes both full and part-time with part-time local pastors comprising slightly over 60% of the local pastors.

So the national average in the UM Church is 2 elders for every 1 local pastor.  In 1990 there were 5 elders to every 1 local pastor.  Numbers compiled by the Lewis Center in Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church 2015 Report.

According to the data the Lewis Center has provided, in the TN Conference there are 182 local pastors and 197 elders.  If you take out those elders in extension ministry, the TN Conference probably has more local pastors appointed as pastors of local churches than we have elders appointed as pastors of local churches in the TN Conference.

Whether this is good or bad depends on one’s point of view but certainly it is worth reflecting on.  (The Memphis Conference has 91 local pastors and 151 elders).

The top six conferences in percentage terms in use of local pastors compared to elders are in order: West Virginia; Tennessee; North Alabama; Kentucky; Missouri; East Ohio.

The four conferences using the least amount of local pastors as a percentage of elders in the conference are Oregon-Idaho; New York; Northern Illinois and New Mexico.

Many believe the trend of more and more local pastors will continue, as do I.  If this is true and we are headed to a time when we have more local pastors than elders is it time to reflex those changes in our organization structure?  For example:  is it time for a local pastor to be a DS?  This would, of course, require a change to the Book of Discipline, see P417, but it would reflect a significant signal to the way pastoral leadership occurs within the UM church.

Should we begin to include more local pastors on Conference Committees and National Boards and Agencies?  For example if the TN Conference is essentially a one to one ration of elders to local pastors, should every Conference committee have a local pastor for every elder on the committee?

If local pastors (esp. part-time local pastors) are going to become the primary way churches have clergy leadership do we need to radically rethink how we educate them?

Is the trend toward more and more local pastors a reflection of the increasing difficulty of becoming an elder, esp. in the TN Conference with its additional requirements beyond the Book of Discipline?  Or is this trend reflective of the pay package that elders require?

Another trend worth reflecting upon, I think, is the gender of local pastors.  While the trend among UM clergy is for more female elders than ever before, the number of females as local pastors is decreasing, at least among those local pastors 35 or younger.  So has the office of local pastor become a default way to try and avoid female clergy, esp. for those males who do not believe in female ordination or for those churches who “decline” a female clergyperson?

Is the explosion of local pastors a reaction against the “professionalization” of clergy who may be seen as more concerned with minimum salary, pension, health care benefits, and running the “organization” of the United Methodist Church than they may be perceived as attempting to win people for Jesus Christ?  Or is it simply the reality of churches who can no longer afford a full-time seminary educated elder as pastor?

Questions such as these, in my opinion, need to move more to the forefront of the United Methodist Church and Boards of Ordained Ministry as we contemplate, plan and pray for our future.  What do you think?  Dr. Ed Trimmer is available via email at etrimmer@martinmethodist.edu

The preceding information is excerpted from a recent article entitled, “Trimmer’s Thoughts: Brief reflections on the 2015 Report from Lewis Center on Clergy Age Trends Dr. Ed Trimmer Fall 2015 Turner Center for Church Leadership” by Dr. Ed Trimmer, appearing on the Martin Methodist College website at:  http://www.martinmethodist.edu/church-leadership/trimmers-thoughts.

 

Look for That Silver Lining – From Struggle to Struggle

Look for the Silver LiningWho Said It…Dave Burchett

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director for Fox Sports, ESPN, and Jefferson Pilot Sports. For over 20 years, Dave has directed telecasts of Southwestern Conference basketball and Texas Rangers baseball. Highlights: televising a Nolan Ryan no-hit game and his 300th win. Dave is also an author and speaker. He and his wife, Joni, have three grown sons. They are former staff members of Campus Crusade’s Athletes in Action.

What He Said…From Struggle to Strength

God gave me the privilege of being wounded early in life. My struggles as an overweight, geeky, and generally outcast adolescent molded my heart to empathize with those hurt and ostracized by their peers.

Had I been the coolest guy, the best athlete, or the most handsome dude, I most likely wouldn’t have developed a sensitive spirit to others. So God gave me the opportunity to develop a heart of compassion for wounded others.

I didn’t enjoy that period of my life. I’d have given anything to be one of the popular kids—to be the starting quarterback or big man on campus.

But with the benefit of hindsight, I’m grateful for every refining difficulty and problem I’ve experienced. Such a dramatic change in attitude came over time, through growth in my relationship with Jesus and my trust in the truth of His promises.

Had I been freed of the burden of my tough teenage passage, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Adapted from Bring Em Back Alive (WaterBrook, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

 

Liberated Words – Godly Communication

Godly CommunicationOne of the themes that Paul stresses in his letter to the Ephesians is that Christ-followers make up one family.

Because God through Christ paid our penalty for sin and forgave us, we’ve been reconciled—brought near to him.

We’re a new society. Being united with Christ means we’re to treat one another as family members and live in harmony with each other.

Interact with God’s Word:  Ephesians 4:23-32

  1. When you became a new person in Christ (v. 24) were your thoughts and attitudes renewed overnight? How would you describe the transformation process?
  2. Why (v. 25) is transparent honesty essential to building mutual trust?
  3. Does the way you deal with your anger (vv. 26-27) undermine relationships? How could you harness it for constructive results?
  4. How can you shape your conversations (v. 29) to make them “good and helpful” to others?
  5. How can you be alert to the other person’s need and choose your words to challenge or encourage him?
  6. How can you create appropriate occasions for constructive dialogue?
  7. What self-serving talk of yours (v. 30) has grieved the Lord and others? How can the damage be patched up?
  8. Has realizing the extent of God’s forgiveness (v. 32) made you more ready to extend forgiveness to others?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you speak as his ambassador in all your interactions, expressing more of his agenda for humankind and less of what vindicates you.

Ephesians 4:23-32

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

Liberated Words – Consider the Process

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …Ephesians 4:29-30 NIV

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 15:4, 23; 16:21, 23-24

Ambassadorial communication isn’t just about the content of our words, but delivering them in a manner that will “benefit those who listen.”

We often choose to say the right thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time. Confronting a teenager five minutes before she leaves for school isn’t helpful, even if the content is accurate.

Rebuking a friend for an offense in front of others isn’t helpful. Asking your wife to consider how she hurt you as she’s trying to get to sleep isn’t helpful.

Paul’s practical model to guide our words ends with: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” When you and I speak as mini-kings to get our own way, not only do we hurt and grieve other people, we also grieve the Lord.

Our relationships have been designed as workrooms for redemption, not shelters for human happiness. If we’re ever going to give grace when we talk, we need grace to free us from our bondage to ourselves.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: I’ll ask God to use my words today to be redemptively constructive in someone’s life.

Thought to Apply: Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.—George Sala (English journalist)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

 

Liberated Words – Consider the Problem

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.  – Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:1

Every word an ambassador speaks is directed by the king’s interest and will. What we say must be driven by what God is seeking to accomplish in us and in the other person. God is intent on reconciliation.

He is working in every situation and relationship to reclaim our wandering hearts. He wants to make us people who are more interested in what he wants for us than what we want for ourselves. He won’t relent until we are free from our slavery to an agenda of personal happiness.

God is calling us to speak in a way that has his reconciliation agenda in view. When we do, we can be confident that our words will produce a harvest of comfort, encouragement, hope, insight, unity, and joy, and that they will stimulate love.

An ambassador is always asking, “What is the problem at this moment?”

Before I speak, I must think about what you are struggling with and what you most need. Do you need encouragement, comfort, hope, direction, wisdom, courage, rebuke, warning, forgiveness, patience, teaching, correction, thanks, insight, a job description, or something else?  An ambassador’s words always address the person’s true need of the moment.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: Today I’ll shape my words to meet ____ at his/her current need.

Thought to Apply: Good words are worth much and cost little. —George Herbert (English cleric & author)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

Liberated Words – Consider the Person

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up … Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:2-3

The friendship of a couple I knew was amazing. They were able to say the toughest things to each other, things that are hard both to say and to hear, yet they could say them with love. They seemed to avoid self-serving flattery and unloving criticism. They didn’t trim the truth with one another yet said what needed to be said in the best possible way.

I was impressed by their enormous respect for each other, how easily their communication flowed, and how readily they seemed to listen to the other.

Wholesome communication is other-centered communication. Paul says I should never say anything to you that is not helpful for you. Since God is focused on remaking you into his image, I should speak in a way that builds you up. This is not just a matter of what I say but how I say it.

I now have a redemptive agenda for talking about everything. I want all of our talk to be redemptively constructive, from the most mundane details to the huge life decisions. I never want my words to be an obstacle to the work God is doing. The words of an ambassador are always other- centered.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: Today I’ll work at making my listening and responding less me-centered, more you-centered.

Thought to Apply: Apt words have power to assuage the tumors of the troubled mind.—John Milton (English poet)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

Epiphany Reflections

EpiphanyEpiphany
Many of us were introduced to Epiphany through the familiar silhouetted-image of Three Wise Men bearing gifts as they followed the Great Star by night. In some cultures, Epiphany is known as the Day of the Kings (Dia de los Reyes). It is also known as Twelfth Day or Twelfth Night, reflecting an old custom of giving a gift for each of the days from December 25 to January 6 for the 12 days of Christmas. The day has special meaning for a number of reasons. Several branches of Christianity celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on January 6 or January 7

The word epiphany means appearance or manifestation. Popular usage likens epiphany to words such as eureka or aha! Use of this word by some English speakers conjures images of having a light bulb turned on, or of being able to see something that was once hidden from view. The texts for the Sundays after the Epiphany dramatize the many ways that we people came to understand who Jesus was, through his baptism, the miracle at the wedding, or through that bodacious declaration in his hometown synagogue! But, this ever-widening circle of revelation began ‘outside the circle’ of Judaism, so to speak, with the Magi.

Who were the Magi?
Many versions of the Bible refer to them as the Wise Men. We often forget that these Magi or Wise Men were non-Jews.
Older sources suggest that they were priestly descendants of one of the tribes of the Medes known for their knowledge of the stars (astronomy) and their ability to interpret dreams.

What can we learn from the Wise Men?

First, the Wise Men began their journey because of their beliefs.
It was a common belief that when a world leader like a king was born that a special stellar phenomenon would appear in the sky. The Magi saw something that convinced them that they had seen the long-awaited sign. Historians tell us that the Jews, the Romans, and the Persians were all watching the skies about that time, looking for signs of the birth of an extraordinary king. A few years before, around 11 BC, Halley’s Comet had been seen. There were other stellar phenomena, including a bright star, Sirius, which appeared brightly in the daytime instead of at night. The Wise Men saw the star and began their journey.

May God give us all inspiration for this year’s journey.

Second, the Wise Men were willing to follow what they had seen into unknown territory.
Their journey took them outside their country and their comfort zone. The Wise Men risked the consequences of disobeying Herod, who was known to behave as a madman when provoked and returned to their country by another way.

The Christian journey is often an off-road excursion.

Third, the Wise Men were committed to the journey — wherever the star might lead.
The Wise Men set out to find a newborn King by following a star and ended up in finding a baby born to young, relatively poor parents! Not exactly what they expected and not exactly what befit their dignity as priests.

In this coming year, may we look to heaven for guidance and comfort and may we accept God’s blessings in whatever forms we find them, just as the Wise Men accepted that their long, expensive journey led them to a baby born to young, inexperienced parents who lived on the poor side of town.

Finally, the Wise Men brought gifts.
They did the thing that people in the East or in Africa or in India would do when visiting royalty. They brought gifts.

Gold was the kind of gift that you brought to a king.
Frankincense was the kind of gift that you would bring to a priest.
Myrrh was given to someone who was about to die.

On This Twelfth Day, or Three Kings Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, think of the gift that you will offer to God in the coming year. The gift of time? The gift of your talents? Your service in the community? Your witness and testimony? The gift of undying love and devotion?

Their greatest gift comes to us in the form of a realization. The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to recognize that Jesus belongs to everyone. Good news is for everyone, not just a select few.

Star of wonder
Star of light
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Amen.

Liberated Words – A Mini-King or an Ambassador?

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him. … We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  – 2 Corinthians 5:15, 20 NIV

Bonus Reading: Romans 14:7-9

A mini-king is always seeking to establish his will rather than submit to God’s will.  He flatters his friend because he wants to be liked.  He trims the truth to avoid conflict.  He yells at his child about his messy room.  Winning an argument is all he cares about.

There’s no end to the battle of words when two mini-kings talk to each other!  His words reflect the self-focused desires of his heart rather than God’s work of reconciliation.

An ambassador, on the other hand, is seeking to be part of what the King is doing. He does one thing only—represent. Every word he speaks is directed by the king’s interests and will. What he says is driven by what God is seeking to accomplish in him and in the other person.

Does that mean that an ambassador quotes Scripture incessantly or constantly points out the sin in others? Does it mean he can never talk about sports, the weather, or family schedules? Speaking as an ambassador isn’t about using biblical words; it’s about speaking with a biblical agenda.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A self-promoting spin on my words that I should abandon is …

Thought to Apply: What is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. —Westminster Shorter Catechism

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

Liberated Words – “Everyday” Doesn’t Mean “Insignificant”

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

Bonus Reading: Matthew 12:33-37

Your everyday communication influences the shape, quality, and direction of your relationships. Every day your words give your relationships their tone.

Every day you tell  people what you think of them, what you want from them, and what you’d like to enjoy with them.

But you don’t do this in grand moments of oratory. You do it in quick side comments in the bedroom as you get ready for work, at the curb as you hop into your car, in the kitchen as you grab a sandwich, over dessert at the local bistro, or in the family room during a commercial.

Because our talk lives in the world of the ordinary, it’s easy to forget its true significance. It’s easy to forget the impact our words have on every relationship.

There has never been a good relationship without good communication. And there has never been a bad relationship that didn’t get that way in part because of something that was said.

Our ability to express ourselves verbally is anything but ordinary. It gets right to the heart of who God made us as our Creator, and how he is remaking us as our Savior. The Bible can help you diagnose where you are in your talk and how to get where you need to be.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A recent casual comment of mine that threatened a relationship was …

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

2016 Bible Reading Plan – Chronological Bible In a Year

Read Through the Bible in 1 YearIn the course of one year, this plan reads through the entire Bible. The readings are chronological.
(There is another chronological bible plan that reads from both the Old and New Testament each day)

There are usually 3 chapters per day.

 

January 2016

Friday January 1st Genesis 1-3
Saturday January 2nd Genesis 4-7
Sunday January 3rd Genesis 8-11
Monday January 4th Job 1-5
Tuesday January 5th Job 6-9
Wednesday January 6th Job 10-13
Thursday January 7th Job 14-16
Friday January 8th Job 17-20
Saturday January 9th Job 21-23
Sunday January 10th Job 24-28
Monday January 11th Job 29-31
Tuesday January 12th Job 32-34
Wednesday January 13th Job 35-37
Thursday January 14th Job 38-39
Friday January 15th Job 40-42
Saturday January 16th Genesis 12-15
Sunday January 17th Genesis 16-18
Monday January 18th Genesis 19-21
Tuesday January 19th Genesis 22-24
Wednesday January 20th Genesis 25-26
Thursday January 21st Genesis 27-29
Friday January 22nd Genesis 30-31
Saturday January 23rd Genesis 32-34
Sunday January 24th Genesis 35-37
Monday January 25th Genesis 38-40
Tuesday January 26th Genesis 41-42
Wednesday January 27th Genesis 43-45
Thursday January 28th Genesis 46-47
Friday January 29th Genesis 48-50
Saturday January 30th Exodus 1-3
Sunday January 31st Exodus 4-6

February 2016

Monday February 1st Exodus 7-9
Tuesday February 2nd Exodus 10-12
Wednesday February 3rd Exodus 13-15
Thursday February 4th Exodus 16-18
Friday February 5th Exodus 19-21
Saturday February 6th Exodus 22-24
Sunday February 7th Exodus 25-27
Monday February 8th Exodus 28-29
Tuesday February 9th Exodus 30-32
Wednesday February 10th Exodus 33-35
Thursday February 11th Exodus 36-38
Friday February 12th Exodus 39-40
Saturday February 13th Leviticus 1-4
Sunday February 14th Leviticus 5-7
Monday February 15th Leviticus 8-10
Tuesday February 16th Leviticus 11-13
Wednesday February 17th Leviticus 14-15
Thursday February 18th Leviticus 16-18
Friday February 19th Leviticus 19-21
Saturday February 20th Leviticus 22-23
Sunday February 21st Leviticus 24-25
Monday February 22nd Leviticus 26-27
Tuesday February 23rd Numbers 1-2
Wednesday February 24th Numbers 3-4
Thursday February 25th Numbers 5-6
Friday February 26th Numbers 7
Saturday February 27th Numbers 8-10
Sunday February 28th Numbers 11-13
Monday February 29th Numbers 14-15 | Psalm 90

March 2016

Tuesday March 1st Numbers 16-17
Wednesday March 2nd Numbers 18-20
Thursday March 3rd Numbers 21-22
Friday March 4th Numbers 23-25
Saturday March 5th Numbers 26-27
Sunday March 6th Numbers 28-30
Monday March 7th Numbers 31-32
Tuesday March 8th Numbers 33-34
Wednesday March 9th Numbers 35-36
Thursday March 10th Deuteronomy 1-2
Friday March 11th Deuteronomy 3-4
Saturday March 12th Deuteronomy 5-7
Sunday March 13th Deuteronomy 8-10
Monday March 14th Deuteronomy 11-13
Tuesday March 15th Deuteronomy 14-16
Wednesday March 16th Deuteronomy 17-20
Thursday March 17th Deuteronomy 21-23
Friday March 18th Deuteronomy 24-27
Saturday March 19th Deuteronomy 28-29
Sunday March 20th Deuteronomy 30-31
Monday March 21st Deuteronomy 32-34 | Psalm 91
Tuesday March 22nd Joshua 1-4
Wednesday March 23rd Joshua 5-8
Thursday March 24th Joshua 9-11
Friday March 25th Joshua 12-15
Saturday March 26th Joshua 16-18
Sunday March 27th Joshua 19-21
Monday March 28th Joshua 22-24
Tuesday March 29th Judges 1-2
Wednesday March 30th Judges 3-5
Thursday March 31st Judges 6-7

April 2016

Friday April 1st Judges 8-9
Saturday April 2nd Judges 10-12
Sunday April 3rd Judges 13-15
Monday April 4th Judges 16-18
Tuesday April 5th Judges 19-21
Wednesday April 6th Ruth 1-4
Thursday April 7th 1 Samuel 1-3
Friday April 8th 1 Samuel 4-8
Saturday April 9th 1 Samuel 9-12
Sunday April 10th 1 Samuel 13-14
Monday April 11th 1 Samuel 15-17
Tuesday April 12th Psalm 11 | 1 Samuel 18-20 | Psalm 59
Wednesday April 13th 1 Samuel 21-24
Thursday April 14th Psalm 52 | Psalm 34 | Psalm 31 | Psalm 27 | Psalm 7
Friday April 15th Psalm 56 | Psalm 120 | Psalm 140-142
Saturday April 16th 1 Samuel 25-27
Sunday April 17th Psalm 63 | Psalm 54 | Psalm 35 | Psalm 17
Monday April 18th Psalm 18 | 1 Samuel 28-31
Tuesday April 19th Psalm 121 | Psalm 123-125 | Psalm 128-130
Wednesday April 20th 2 Samuel 1-4
Thursday April 21st Psalm 6 | Psalm 8-10 | Psalm 14 | Psalm 16 | Psalm 19 | Psalm 21
Friday April 22nd 1 Chronicles 1-2
Saturday April 23rd Psalm 87 | Psalm 84-85 | Psalm 49 | Psalm 43-45
Sunday April 24th 1 Chronicles 3-5
Monday April 25th Psalm 73 | Psalm 77-78
Tuesday April 26th 1 Chronicles 6
Wednesday April 27th Psalm 92-93 | Psalm 88 | Psalm 81
Thursday April 28th 1 Chronicles 7-10
Friday April 29th Psalm 102-104
Saturday April 30th 2 Samuel 5:1-10 | 1 Chronicles 11-12

May 2016

Sunday May 1st Psalm 133
Monday May 2nd Psalm 106-107
Tuesday May 3rd 1 Chronicles 13-16 | 2 Samuel 5:11-6:23
Wednesday May 4th Psalm 1-2 | Psalm 15 | Psalm 22-24 | Psalm 47 | Psalm 68
Thursday May 5th Psalm 132 | Psalm 105 | Psalm 101 | Psalm 100 | Psalm 96 | Psalm 89
Friday May 6th 2 Samuel 7 | 1 Chronicles 17
Saturday May 7th Psalm 39 | Psalm 36 | Psalm 33 | Psalm 29 | Psalm 25
Sunday May 8th 2 Samuel 8-9 | 1 Chronicles 18
Monday May 9th Psalm 75 | Psalm 60 | Psalm 53 | Psalm 50
Tuesday May 10th 2 Samuel 10 | 1 Chronicles 19 | Psalm 20
Wednesday May 11th Psalm 65-67 | Psalm 69-70
Thursday May 12th 1 Chronicles 20 | 2 Samuel 11-12
Friday May 13th Psalm 32 | Psalm 51 | Psalm 86 | Psalm 122
Saturday May 14th 2 Samuel 13-15
Sunday May 15th Psalm 55 | Psalm 28 | Psalm 12-13 | Psalm 3-4
Monday May 16th 2 Samuel 16-18
Tuesday May 17th Psalm 64 | Psalm 61-62 | Psalm 58 | Psalm 40 | Psalm 26
Wednesday May 18th 2 Samuel 19-21
Thursday May 19th Psalm 5 | Psalm 38 | Psalm 41-42
Friday May 20th 2 Samuel 22-23 | Psalm 57
Saturday May 21st Psalm 97-99 | Psalm 95
Sunday May 22nd 1 Chronicles 21-22 | 2 Samuel 24 | Psalm 30
Monday May 23rd Psalm 108-110
Tuesday May 24th 1 Chronicles 23-25
Wednesday May 25th Psalm 143-145 | Psalm 138-139 | Psalm 131
Thursday May 26th 1 Chronicles 26-29 | Psalm 127
Friday May 27th Psalm 111-118
Saturday May 28th 1 Kings 1-2 | Psalm 37 | Psalm 71 | Psalm 94
Sunday May 29th Psalm 119:1-88
Monday May 30th 2 Chronicles 1 | 1 Kings 3-4 | Psalm 72
Tuesday May 31st Psalm 119:89-176

June 2016

Wednesday June 1st Song of Solomon 1-8
Thursday June 2nd Proverbs 1-3
Friday June 3rd Proverbs 4-6
Saturday June 4th Proverbs 7-9
Sunday June 5th Proverbs 10-12
Monday June 6th Proverbs 13-15
Tuesday June 7th Proverbs 16-18
Wednesday June 8th Proverbs 19-21
Thursday June 9th Proverbs 22-24
Friday June 10th 2 Chronicles 2-3 | 1 Kings 5-6
Saturday June 11th 1 Kings 7 | 2 Chronicles 4
Sunday June 12th 2 Chronicles 5 | 1 Kings 8
Monday June 13th 2 Chronicles 6-7 | Psalm 136
Tuesday June 14th Psalm 134 | Psalm 146-150
Wednesday June 15th 1 Kings 9 | 2 Chronicles 8
Thursday June 16th Proverbs 25-26
Friday June 17th Proverbs 27-29
Saturday June 18th Ecclesiastes 1-6
Sunday June 19th Ecclesiastes 7-12
Monday June 20th 1 Kings 10-11 | 2 Chronicles 9
Tuesday June 21st Proverbs 30-31
Wednesday June 22nd 1 Kings 12-14
Thursday June 23rd 2 Chronicles 10-12
Friday June 24th 2 Chronicles 13-16 | 1 Kings 15:1-24
Saturday June 25th 2 Chronicles 17 | 1 Kings 15:25-16:34
Sunday June 26th 1 Kings 17-19
Monday June 27th 1 Kings 20-21
Tuesday June 28th 2 Chronicles 18 | 1 Kings 22
Wednesday June 29th 2 Chronicles 19-23
Thursday June 30th Obadiah 1 | Psalm 82-83

July 2016

Friday July 1st 2 Kings 1-4
Saturday July 2nd 2 Kings 5-8
Sunday July 3rd 2 Kings 9-11
Monday July 4th 2 Kings 12-13 | 2 Chronicles 24
Tuesday July 5th 2 Kings 14 | 2 Chronicles 25
Wednesday July 6th Jonah 1-4
Thursday July 7th 2 Chronicles 26 | 2 Kings 15
Friday July 8th Isaiah 1-4
Saturday July 9th Isaiah 5-8
Sunday July 10th Amos 1-5
Monday July 11th Amos 6-9
Tuesday July 12th Isaiah 9-12 | 2 Chronicles 27
Wednesday July 13th Micah 1-7
Thursday July 14th 2 Kings 16-17 | 2 Chronicles 28
Friday July 15th Isaiah 13-17
Saturday July 16th Isaiah 18-22
Sunday July 17th Isaiah 23-27
Monday July 18th Psalm 48 | 2 Chronicles 29-31 | 2 Kings 18:1-8
Tuesday July 19th Hosea 1-7
Wednesday July 20th Hosea 8-14
Thursday July 21st Isaiah 28-30
Friday July 22nd Isaiah 31-34
Saturday July 23rd Isaiah 35-36
Sunday July 24th Isaiah 37-39 | Psalm 76
Monday July 25th Isaiah 40-43
Tuesday July 26th Isaiah 44-48
Wednesday July 27th 2 Kings 18:9-19:37 | Psalm 46 | Psalm 80 | Psalm 135
Thursday July 28th Isaiah 49-53
Friday July 29th Isaiah 54-58
Saturday July 30th Isaiah 59-63
Sunday July 31st Isaiah 64-66

August 2016

Monday August 1st 2 Kings 20-21
Tuesday August 2nd 2 Chronicles 32-33
Wednesday August 3rd Nahum 1-3
Thursday August 4th 2 Kings 22-23 | 2 Chronicles 34-35
Friday August 5th Zephaniah 1-3
Saturday August 6th Jeremiah 1-3
Sunday August 7th Jeremiah 4-6
Monday August 8th Jeremiah 7-9
Tuesday August 9th Jeremiah 10-13
Wednesday August 10th Jeremiah 14-17
Thursday August 11th Jeremiah 18-22
Friday August 12th Jeremiah 23-25
Saturday August 13th Jeremiah 26-29
Sunday August 14th Jeremiah 30-31
Monday August 15th Jeremiah 32-34
Tuesday August 16th Jeremiah 35-37
Wednesday August 17th Jeremiah 38-40 | Psalm 74 | Psalm 79
Thursday August 18th 2 Kings 24-25 | 2 Chronicles 36
Friday August 19th Habakkuk 1-3
Saturday August 20th Jeremiah 41-45
Sunday August 21st Jeremiah 46-48
Monday August 22nd Jeremiah 49-50
Tuesday August 23rd Jeremiah 51-52
Wednesday August 24th Lamentations 1:1-3:36
Thursday August 25th Lamentations 3:37-5:22
Friday August 26th Ezekiel 1-4
Saturday August 27th Ezekiel 5-8
Sunday August 28th Ezekiel 9-12
Monday August 29th Ezekiel 13-15
Tuesday August 30th Ezekiel 16-17
Wednesday August 31st Ezekiel 18-19

September 2016

Thursday September 1st Ezekiel 20-21
Friday September 2nd Ezekiel 22-23
Saturday September 3rd Ezekiel 24-27
Sunday September 4th Ezekiel 28-31
Monday September 5th Ezekiel 32-34
Tuesday September 6th Ezekiel 35-37
Wednesday September 7th Ezekiel 38-39
Thursday September 8th Ezekiel 40-41
Friday September 9th Ezekiel 42-43
Saturday September 10th Ezekiel 44-45
Sunday September 11th Ezekiel 46-48
Monday September 12th Joel 1-3
Tuesday September 13th Daniel 1-3
Wednesday September 14th Daniel 4-6
Thursday September 15th Daniel 7-9
Friday September 16th Daniel 10-12
Saturday September 17th Ezra 1-3
Sunday September 18th Ezra 4-6 | Psalm 137
Monday September 19th Haggai 1-2
Tuesday September 20th Zechariah 1-7
Wednesday September 21st Zechariah 8-14
Thursday September 22nd Esther 1-5
Friday September 23rd Esther 6-10
Saturday September 24th Ezra 7-10
Sunday September 25th Nehemiah 1-5
Monday September 26th Nehemiah 6-7
Tuesday September 27th Nehemiah 8-10
Wednesday September 28th Nehemiah 11-13 | Psalm 126
Thursday September 29th Malachi 1-4
Friday September 30th Luke 1 | John 1:1-14

October 2016

Saturday October 1st Luke 2:1-38 | Matthew 1
Sunday October 2nd Matthew 2 | Luke 2:39-52
Monday October 3rd Mark 1 | Luke 3 | Matthew 3
Tuesday October 4th Luke 4-5 | Matthew 4 | John 1:15-51
Wednesday October 5th John 2-4
Thursday October 6th Mark 2
Friday October 7th John 5
Saturday October 8th Mark 3 | Luke 6 | Matthew 12:1-21
Sunday October 9th Matthew 5-7
Monday October 10th Luke 7 | Matthew 8:1-13
Tuesday October 11th Matthew 11
Wednesday October 12th Luke 11 | Matthew 12:22-50
Thursday October 13th Luke 8 | Matthew 13
Friday October 14th Matthew 8:14-34 | Mark 4-5
Saturday October 15th Matthew 9-10
Sunday October 16th Mark 6 | Luke 9:1-17 | Matthew 14
Monday October 17th John 6
Tuesday October 18th Matthew 15 | Mark 7
Wednesday October 19th Mark 8 | Luke 9:18-27 | Matthew 16
Thursday October 20th Mark 9 | Luke 9:28-62 | Matthew 17
Friday October 21st Matthew 18
Saturday October 22nd John 7-8
Sunday October 23rd John 9:1-10:21
Monday October 24th John 10:22-42 | Luke 10-11
Tuesday October 25th Luke 12-13
Wednesday October 26th Luke 14-15
Thursday October 27th Luke 16:1-17:10
Friday October 28th John 11
Saturday October 29th Luke 17:11-18:14
Sunday October 30th Mark 10 | Matthew 19
Monday October 31st Matthew 20-21

November 2016

Tuesday November 1st Luke 18:15-19:48
Wednesday November 2nd Mark 11 | John 12
Thursday November 3rd Matthew 22 | Mark 12
Friday November 4th Luke 20-21 | Matthew 23
Saturday November 5th Mark 13
Sunday November 6th Matthew 24
Monday November 7th Matthew 25
Tuesday November 8th Matthew 26 | Mark 14
Wednesday November 9th John 13 | Luke 22
Thursday November 10th John 14-17
Friday November 11th Mark 15 | Matthew 27
Saturday November 12th Luke 23 | John 18-19
Sunday November 13th Mark 16 | Matthew 28
Monday November 14th John 20-21 | Luke 24
Tuesday November 15th Acts 1-3
Wednesday November 16th Acts 4-6
Thursday November 17th Acts 7-8
Friday November 18th Acts 9-10
Saturday November 19th Acts 11-12
Sunday November 20th Acts 13-14
Monday November 21st James 1-5
Tuesday November 22nd Acts 15-16
Wednesday November 23rd Galatians 1-3
Thursday November 24th Galatians 4-6
Friday November 25th Acts 17:1-18:18
Saturday November 26th 2 Thessalonians 1-3 | 1 Thessalonians 1-5
Sunday November 27th Acts 18:19-19:41
Monday November 28th 1 Corinthians 1-4
Tuesday November 29th 1 Corinthians 5-8
Wednesday November 30th 1 Corinthians 9-11

December 2016

Thursday December 1st 1 Corinthians 12-14
Friday December 2nd 1 Corinthians 15-16
Saturday December 3rd 2 Corinthians 1-4
Sunday December 4th 2 Corinthians 5-9
Monday December 5th 2 Corinthians 10-13
Tuesday December 6th Romans 1-3 | Acts 20:1-3
Wednesday December 7th Romans 4-7
Thursday December 8th Romans 8-10
Friday December 9th Romans 11-13
Saturday December 10th Romans 14-16
Sunday December 11th Acts 20:4-23:35
Monday December 12th Acts 24-26
Tuesday December 13th Acts 27-28
Wednesday December 14th Philemon 1 | Colossians 1-4
Thursday December 15th Ephesians 1-6
Friday December 16th Philippians 1-4
Saturday December 17th 1 Timothy 1-6
Sunday December 18th Titus 1-3
Monday December 19th 1 Peter 1-5
Tuesday December 20th Hebrews 1-6
Wednesday December 21st Hebrews 7-10
Thursday December 22nd Hebrews 11-13
Friday December 23rd 2 Timothy 1-4
Saturday December 24th 2 Peter 1-3 | Jude 1
Sunday December 25th 1 John 1-5
Monday December 26th 2 John 1 | 3 John 1
Tuesday December 27th Revelation 1-5
Wednesday December 28th Revelation 6-11
Thursday December 29th Revelation 12-18
Friday December 30th Revelation 19-22

Liberated Words – Word Problems Are Heart Problems

Godly CommunicationWho Said It … Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Tim Lane and Paul Tripp work together as counselors at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation in Glenside, PA. They lead church-based counseling training courses and also lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Both men were previously pastors—Tim in Clemson, SC, and Paul in Scranton, PA. Books they’ve co-authored are How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.

What He Said … Word Problems Are Heart Problems

Did you ever say, “Oops, I didn’t mean to say that!”

Would it have been more accurate to say, “I’m sorry I said what I meant”?

Proverbs tells us that “the tongue can kill or nourish life” (Proverbs 18:21). Jesus said that what a person says is an “overflow of his heart.”

You stain your relationships with thoughtless words as you gossip on the phone.  You turn the gift of words into a weapon as you criticize your wife at dinner or publicly mock a friend.  If the thought, attitude, desire, emotion, or purpose hadn’t been in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

Sometimes we all put our feet in our mouths.  But our problem with words isn’t primarily a matter of vocabulary, skill, or timing.

Christ asks us to own the connection between our thoughts, desires, and words.  Our real communication problem—what we want to say and why we want to say it—is shaped by the heart. So if we hope to transform the way we talk with one another, the heart must change first.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.

 

Resolved Really!

New Year's 2015-2016Key Bible Verse: And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God. Romans 6:13

Bonus Reading: Romans 6:12–14

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century revivalist, sat down at the age of 17 and penned 21 resolutions by which he would live his life. Throughout his lifetime, he would add to this list until by his death he had 70 resolutions in all.

The unusual thing about Edwards’s is that these were not New Year’s resolutions but resolutions for life. He put at the top of his resolutions: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. Remember to read over these resolutions once a week.”

We’re conditioned by society and the media to make resolutions with a casual attitude. Christ calls us to the opposite: to be committed to change, to actively seeking to become conformed to His image. Jonathan made his list of resolves, not with the attitude of breaking them, but of living them! He regularly did a “self-check,” summing up how he was doing and seeking God’s help in the process.

—Jan Brown in Christianity Online Connection

Adapted from: Christianity Online Connection (1/8/99).

Prayer:  O Christ, You gave Your all for me. I want to give myself to You.

 

Happy New Year!

New Year's 2015-2016New Year’s Day Bible Verse: “Set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year.” … So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the new year.  – Exodus 40:2, 17

All the components and furnishings of the tabernacle have been made according to detailed instructions received at Mt. Sinai. Now comes the command to set up the tabernacle on the first day of the new year. Still today, the New Year in many cultures is the time for a fresh start. Some express this in New Year’s resolutions, but here it is God, not us, who has initiated the new beginning, as He did on the same date after the flood (Genesis 8:13, footnote in NLT).

On both occasions God acted in mercy and forgiveness after human rebellion, guaranteeing a way forward. The tabernacle is a sign of God’s intention from the beginning, when He walked in His pleasure garden with the man and woman. He will continue to meet with people.

The tabernacle materials are ready, but the go-ahead is given by the Lord; the initiative remains His. Anointing both objects and priests by sprinkling them with oil highlights their dedicated function. Every part and activity shows that here is God’s provision for meeting with Him.

How much more is this so, now that we experience God meeting us in Christ through His Spirit? His presence in our midst is a pointer to His purposes for the whole of His creation. God’s initiative in our lives brings newness, and beyond God’s present provision we look for yet more wonderful changes.

Viewed like this, New Year’s Day has all the makings of a sacred holiday.

—T.M. Moore in Encounter with God