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Live the Adventure – The Christian Life

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

With Judas out of the picture, the 11 remaining disciples gathered at the mountain where the resurrected Jesus had told them to meet him. When Jesus showed up, they all worshiped him, even those who struggled with their doubts. Then Jesus prepared them for the most exciting adventure ever with these words:

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  1. Before Jesus gave his disciples specific instructions for reaching the world, he said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Why is this significant? (See Luke 10:22; John 5:19; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 1:15-19.)
  2. Do you believe the instructions in today’s passage apply to every Christian? Why or why not? (See John 8:31-32, 15:4-9, 17:9-26.)
  3. Why is it essential to realize that we can’t live the faith adventure on our own power? (See John 15:5; Eph. 2:4-10; James 4:4-10;2 Pet. 1:2-4.)

Spend Time in Prayer: Pray for two or three men you’d like to see come to faith or live as better disciples. Ask God to show you how you might help at least one of these men on their faith journey.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

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Live the Adventure – Never a Dull Moment

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God.   – Luke 9:2

Dig Deeper: Luke 9:1-6

When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, the average person in the first century never traveled outside a 30-mile radius of their birthplace. These men were planning on living their entire lives fishing the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus sent them to the ends of the earth. He took them adventuring with him—they hiked the Mount of Transfiguration, sailed the Sea of Galilee, and went on long camping trips.

Along the way, they witnessed remarkable miracles on a regular basis. And they did more than witness them. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish and ate it. They toasted the water that Jesus turned into wine and then drank it to the dregs. They hugged Lazarus while he still had his grave clothes on. You can’t put a price tag on those kind of experiences, but once you’ve had them, they define you forever.

The very nature of the gospel is Jesus inviting the disciples on an adventure. To do what they’d never done and go where they’d never gone. Never a dull moment!

Jesus is calling you to the same adventure as his original disciples. He is offering you a life full of daring. Don’t you want in on the action? The moment you say yes, the adventure begins.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What adventure might Jesus be inviting me to? What would keep me from taking on this adventure?

Thought to Apply: I am discovering that in trying to find God’s will and the shape of the Christian life I have begun an adventure so great that its total completion will always be ahead. —Keith Miller (Christian writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Join the Adventure

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  – John 8:12, ESV

Dig Deeper: John 12:44-46

Jesus was the quintessential adventurer. Leaving the comfort of heaven, he entered the four dimensions of space and time. He created and set out on the craziest adventure of them all: restoring broken image-bearers to himself. He didn’t do it with angel armies. He didn’t overthrow the Roman government or claim the kingship that was rightfully his. He was a middle-of-the-marketplace Messiah, who rubbed elbows with the masses.

He hung out at wells and in living rooms and on hillsides and invited anyone and everyone to join him. Jesus didn’t come with an agenda; he was the agenda. He came that he might draw all men unto himself. With his grace, with his truth, he lets us get in on the action with a life-altering invitation: “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19).

When Jesus invites us to do life with him, he invites us to rub elbows with those he loves: the lost, the broken, the misled, and the misfits. Just like Jesus, we need to find ourselves in the middle of the marketplace. If we are separating ourselves from the world around us, we are off mission. And even worse? We are missing out on the adventure Jesus has for us.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What ministries in my church or service programs in my community might help me more consistently “rub elbows with those Jesus loves: the lost, the broken, and the misfits”?

Thought to Apply: We can find and fulfill our purpose by responding to the clear, simple call of Jesus Christ: “Follow me.” He is the doorway to fulfilling our destiny, where our divine design and God-ordained purpose live in perfect harmony. —Charles Swindoll (pastor, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Boldly Go

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  – Mark 4:41

Dig Deeper: Mark 4:35-41

Jesus meets us where we are and says, “I’ve got a place for you. A new life. A new character. A new way of seeing things. How would you like to go on an adventure?”

Sometimes getting a clear view of Jesus is the greatest challenge to following him. Time and distance can obscure him and make him insipid.

Dorothy Sayers said:

The people who hanged the Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality. … We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

I don’t want to muffle up the shattering personality. I want to revel in it, then reflect it.

When we go adventuring with Jesus, he takes us places we never dreamed we could go and gives us ideas we never thought we could have.

Source of quote: A Matter of Eternity: Selected writings of Dorothy L. Sayers.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: In what ways has the church in America tamed Jesus? According to the four gospels, what is Jesus like? What sets him apart from other religious leaders?

Thought to Apply: “Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain; if we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”—Dorothy Sayers (British crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Gather Experiences

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  – Matthew 6:20, NET

Dig Deeper: Matthew 6:19-24

May 27, 2005, ranks as one of the most memorable days of my life, and I learned a lesson that has defined my life ever since. It was the last day of our mission trip to Ethiopia.

The date is stamped in my memory because it was one of the craziest days of my life. After a week of intense ministry, our team journeyed into the wilderness of the Ethiopian outback. We got held up at gunpoint by shepherds with AK-47s, went swimming in a natural spring heated by a volcano, and did a game drive through Awash National Park—all in a day’s adventure. We ended the day worshiping God around a campfire.

That night, tucked away in my pup tent, I was journaling about the amazing day I had just experienced and I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Mark, don’t accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences.” That moment, in the middle of an African game park, reshaped the way I viewed life.

That two-word mantra—accumulate experiences—is my modus operandi. It frames my life. It also frames our family. Lora and I want our kids to get in on the action, and it’s our job to engineer those experiences.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What are the benefits of accumulating possessions? What are the benefits of accumulating experiences?

Thought to Apply: The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped—it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory.—Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Designer Destinies

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.  – Psalm 16:11, The Message

Dig Deeper: Psalm 16

I have come to believe that from the moment of conception, we are being formed with an adventure in mind. We were created to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear life. Our Creator has big plans for us. No settling for mediocrity. Rather, we have a high calling etched into our bones and written on our hearts.

God wants to engage us from first squall to last drawn breath and deliver us into a life he has dreamed for us. Whether our earliest memories are sailing the high seas in a steamship or walking in a kindergarten class by ourselves for the first time, the exploration of the world within us and around us is a drumbeat. And the beat goes on.

We were made to explore. For some of us that exploration is more outward than inward, like Admiral Robert Peary going to the North Pole. For others it is more inward than outward, like Blaise Pascal and his thoughts or Thomas Merton’s contemplations. Whichever it is, we were made for curiosity and more. That design drives us. It shapes our thinking and our dreams. It forms expectations of what life should be and lays the foundation of who we will become. It shapes our destiny.

I would submit it is our destiny.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What specific experiences have shaped my life and faith?

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Defining Moments

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

Who Said It … Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. He is The New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and three children. Visit him at markbatterson.com.

Mark and his friend Richard Foth, minister-at-large in Washington, DC, coauthored A Trip Around the Sun—the source of this week’s readings.

What he Said … Defining Moments

Alfred Adler, the famed psychologist, is said to have begun every counseling session by asking his clients to tell him about their earliest memory. They would share those memories, and no matter what their answer was, Adler would say, “And so life is.”

If your earliest memory is flying in an airplane to visit your grandparents, life is a journey. If your first recollection is huddling under the covers on a summer’s night as thunder claps and lightning strikes, life is a storm.

I genuinely believe our outlook on life is determined by a few defining moments when God meets us and we meet God. It’s Jacob’s wrestling match with God. It’s Moses at the burning bush. It’s Peter walking on water. Those moments are more than memories. They are the lenses through which we perceive the present and dream of the future. Those are the moments when God helps us see ourselves for who we really are.

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Missions: From Start to Finish

Caleb provides the biblical ideal for a “finisher.” Over a lifetime he has consistently served as a tribal leader for Judah.

At age 85, he is still alert and fit. What’s more, he is chomping at the bit to take on a fresh challenge. What a model to emulate!

 Interact with God’s Word:  Joshua 14:6-14

  1. What was Caleb’s role (Numbers 13:3-16) when he was selected for the Canaan scouting expedition?
  2. The scouting party majority was intimidated by the Anakites (Numbers 13:31-33). How did the outlook of Caleb and Joshua differ from their “grasshopper complex”?
  3. Why (v. 7) were Caleb’s words (Numbers 13:1, 30) a “good report”?
  4. How do we know (v. 12) that Caleb was not a naïve optimist?
  5. Why did God consider the majority report a rejection of Him (Numbers 14:11)?
  6. How does Caleb’s appeal to Joshua (v. 12) contrast with the usual assumption in our day about retirement pursuits?
  7. What (vv. 11-12) was Caleb’s assessment of his retirement-age capabilities? What was his ambition?
  8. What (vv. 13-14) was the outcome of Caleb’s venture?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to make you receptive to any assignment He may have for you, regardless of its location, duration, or your age.

Joshua 14:6-14

6 A delegation from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea. 7 I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report, 8 but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. 9 So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’

10 “Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. 11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. 12 So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”

13 So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave Hebron to him as his portion of land. 14 Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

Missions: From Start to Finish – A Nurseryman Finisher

Key Bible Verse: “Let’s go at once to take the land,” Caleb said. “We can certainly conquer it!” Numbers 13:30

Bonus Reading: Joshua 14:6-14

The Sahara Desert advancing across Mauritania is forcing this country’s once nomadic population to its two cities. The National Geographic called the result “the largest refugee camp in the world.” The government asked Impact Teams International for help. That’s how Bill Stoffregen, a Christian nurseryman from North Carolina, landed in Mauritania. Appalled at the intense heat and lack of water, Bill questioned if any cash crop would grow there—until he spied a row of green trees. “What are those?” he asked.

“Neem trees,” said his interpreter. Bill knew that neem is an ingredient in insecticides. A computer search divulged that neem products treat wounds and a variety of ailments. And because the tree’s roots grow three feet underground for every foot above, it might hold drifting sands in place.

Excited by Bill’s report, Mauritanian officials agreed to explore the tree’s commercial potential. The research, which Bill funded from his savings, revealed that $1 million invested in planting trees and building a processing plant would create many jobs. Commercial shipments have now begun. Bill has no doubt that God used him to launch this project.

—Anne Garris in Today’s Christian

My Response: To explore ways to invest my experience or resources in Christ’s kingdom, I’ll ____.

Thought to Apply: What we give up for Christ we gain. What we keep back for ourselves is our real loss. ;mdash;J. Hudson Taylor (English missionary to China)

Adapted from our sister publication Today’s Christian(9-10/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – The Business Plan

Key Bible Verse: “If you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”  – Mark 8:35

Bonus Reading: Mark 8:34-35

Rusty met the Lord as a college athlete and accepted His call to penetrate China’s bamboo curtain with the gospel. Convinced that the best entry was through business, Rusty learned sales working for a world-class retailer in Seattle. Next, he spent two years in Taiwan learning the Mandarin language and Chinese culture. He was hired by an international manufacturer and through hard work, Rusty quickly advanced in the company, becoming its lead representative in Beijing.

Today, 15 years on, Rusty is one of the most respected Christian businessmen in China. An article about Rusty in a Beijing newspaper noted his contributions to the Chinese people and characterized him as trustworthy. His business platform provided the basis for a reputation that opened the minds and hearts of many.

He’s witnessed to thousands of Chinese business people and led many to Christ. He’s supported the Chinese church and helped hundreds of mission workers and Chinese believers establish themselves in business and ministry.

—Mike Barnett in The Changing Face of World Missions

My Response: In what arena am I—or could I become—qualified to demonstrate what a follower of Jesus is like?

Thought to Apply: There comes to many of us the choice between a life of contraction and one of expansion; a life of small dimensions and one of widening horizons. ;mdash;John R. Mott (Student Volunteer movement leader)

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

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

10 fascinating facts about John Wesley and United Methodism

Here is a fascinating article by Jeremy Steele published this morning by United Methodist Communications.

John Wesley 1History is more than facts and figures. It is full of real people with real stories.

Connecting with those people and stories helps us understand our lives and discern God’s direction for our future. That is why it is important constantly to connect our teaching back to the important people in our history.

To help you do that, we have gathered some interesting, and maybe even surprising, facts about John Wesley to help you connect United Methodist history to your next lesson.

1.  John Wesley wrote one of the all-time bestselling medical texts.

Wesley was deeply convicted that God is concerned about our earthly life as well as our heavenly one. To that end, he wrote a medical text for the everyday person titled Primitive Physick. Check out Global Ministries’ summary or read the full version. The book detailed the current knowledge about home remedies and went through 32 editions, making it one of the most widely read books in England.

United Methodist Fact #1: Wesley wrote “Primitive Physick,” one of the bestselling medical texts of all time TWEET THIS

Many of Wesley’s cures and tips on healthy living remain widely accepted. While some of his advice was wishful thinking, the most important part of his philosophy was his insistence on continual observation to support hypotheses. Wesley boldly questioned modern doctors — how they sometimes treated humans like machines; that much of their “medicine” lacked merit and they lacked evidence to support its efficacy. By the same token, some of Wesley’s beliefs certainly needed more supportive evidence.

For instance, Wesley recommended holding a puppy against the stomach to cure stomach pain. He offered dried and powdered toad pills for asthma. He also enjoyed regular dips in cold bathwater, thought to be a near panacea. It sounds strange to us, but many leading minds during Wesley’s time, espoused these sorts of folk remedies. And honestly, who doesn’t feel better after holding a puppy? The point is, like David — who had the heart of God and still fell short — even the greatest leaders with the biggest hearts are fallible.

This portrait conforms to the popular image of Wesley, as a rather thin, austere figure. Statue by sculptor, Arthur G. Walker, dating back to the 1930s. Photo by Bob Speel.

2.  John Wesley coined the term “agree to disagree.”

Over the years, Wesley had serious theological differences with another popular pastor named George Whitefield. Though they both argued passionately, Wesley reflected on these differences in a memorial sermon for Whitefield by saying:  “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature. … In these, we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’

But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials. …” This appears to be the first recorded use of the term. It was a hallmark of Wesley’s way of holding to his convictions while remaining in connection with those with whom he disagreed.

3.  John Wesley rode far enough on horseback to circle the earth 10 times.John Wesley 2

Wesley rode 250,000 miles! He was convinced that it was important for him personally to spread the gospel through relationships and continue to grow closer to God in those relationships. Asked if he would consider walking instead of riding, he replied, “Nay.”

United Methodist Fact #3: Wesley rode far enough on horseback to circle the earth 10 times! TWEET THIS

4.  Wesley had serious doubts about his faith.

Questioning one’s faith should not be disparaged. Doubts are essential to making any belief system one’s own. They do not mean that one will let it go. In fact, even as Wesley struggled with deep doubts about faith, he followed the wise instruction of a mentor who told him to “preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” Even as we struggle, we can maintain our hold on the truths we question until we can settle all of our doubts.

5.  “Methodist” was originally a derogatory term.

Though the origins of the term “methodist” are in dispute, it is clear that it was originally used by outsiders to mock John Wesley and his early societies because of their dedication to following a method for growing closer to God. They ended up accepting the term, considering it a positive descriptor of their movement. Way to own it, Methodists!

United Methodist fact #5: “Methodist” was originally a derogatory term. TWEET THIS

6.  Wesley counseled people to “eat a little less than you desire.”

Staying slim was far from Wesley’s goal (1), though he did weigh in around 128 pounds.

This was not the result of dieting, but rather of a practice to ensure that people were not ruled by their natural desires, but exercising control over them.

7.  Wesley never intended to split from the Church of England.

However, when the revolution happened in the American colonies, most of the Anglican priests returned home. Faced with the fact that none of the Methodists in the colonies could receive the sacraments, Wesley ordained ministers whom he sent to do the same in America (he was practical even when it caused problems).

That act was the beginning of the separation that formed the Methodist Church (2) in America. The Methodist Church in England did not officially form until after Wesley’s death.

8.  Wesley never said this famous quote attributed to him.

It has been on the back of more than one United Methodist youth camp T-shirt: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, as long as ever you can.” Though the quote is often attributed to John Wesley and is consistent with his perspective on life, many historians have confirmed there is no record of Wesley ever saying that.

9.  Wesley believed you could not be a Christian on your own.

He said that we needed to be involved in “social holiness.” Though some often think this term is synonymous with “social justice,” its meaning is quite different. Wesley believed we could only grow as Christians in community.

In his preface to the 1739 hymnal, he was adamant that “the gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness.”

10.  Methodism grew from four to 132,000 members in Wesley’s lifetime.

The beginning of Methodism (3) was a group of four who called themselves the “holy club” at Oxford. When Wesley died in 1791, he left behind a movement with 72,000 members in the British Isles and 60,000 in America.

Want to read more about our history as United Methodists? Global Ministries offers many of Wesley’s writings and sermons online.

United Methodist Communications and the General Commission on Archives and History teamed to test your knowledge of more than 200 years of our church’s past. So after you study up, take the United Methodist Church History Quiz and share it with your friends and family!

References:

  1. Guerrant, William C. Organic Wesley. Franklin: Seedbed, 2015. Page 47.
  2. Heitzenrater,  Richard P. Wesley and the People Called Methodist. Nashville: Abingdon, 2013. Page 320.
  3. ibid. Page 46.

When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Al. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – Brief Task, Lasting Results

Key Bible Verse: And you know that the way we lived among you was further proof of the truth of our message.  – 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Bonus Reading: 1 Thess. 1:4-10a

Four university students from Canada partnered with four from Daystar University in Nairobi for six weeks in the summer of 1996. They were assigned to Olepolis, a Masai village in a Kenya area with almost no Christians. Some 80 percent of the population was alcoholic, with women brewing corn beer for their families.

Sarone, my Masai friend, arranged for the team to camp on his family’s farm. Together they built a bridge of rocks across the local river, which annually cut the village off from the outside world for up to four weeks. They also spent hours visiting families in the shade of trees outside their homes, “chewing the news.”

In response to their demonstration of the gospel and God’s love, the villagers requested that another Christian mazungu (white man) be sent to live with them and help them develop their land.

Seven years later, during meetings in Nairobi, I bumped into Sarone, with three elders from the new Masai church in Olepolis. They recalled the impact of seeing young Masai and Canadian Christians living and serving together. Over 300 members, they reported, were the fruit of the seeds the team had planted! Then they shared their plans for evangelizing surrounding villages.

—Randy Friesen in EMQ

My Response: Should I be content to plant seeds, trusting God for long-term fruit, or __?

Thought to Apply: It may be He has only sent me here as a stopgap. Part of a soldier’s duty is to fill gaps, you know. ;mdash;Amy Carmichael (British missionary to India)

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 10/05)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

General Conference 2016: Turning the page on The United Methodist Hymnal

United Methodist HymnalA cutting-edge hymnal? It seems like a contradiction in terms.

But if the 2016 General Conference approves, The United Methodist Church will start on a five-year path toward a new hymnal that is Internet cloud-based and printed on demand, with each congregation able to customize its selections, beyond a core group of hymns.

It will work for those who want a book for the faithful to hold and those who want to download and project onto screens praise and worship songs that reflect Wesleyan theology.

“The new United Methodist hymnal will blaze a new path for what a hymnal is,” said the Rev. Taylor Burton–Edwards, director of worship resources for United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. “No longer a static collection limited by the size of a pew rack or one set of decisions about ritual resources and congregational song every 20 or 30 years, the new hymnal project will be an ever-expanding suite of resources fit for an ever-diversifying world.”

Discipleship Ministries and The United Methodist Publishing House share responsibility for the denomination’s hymnal. They are asking delegates to General Conference 2016 – set for May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon – for permission to take the first big steps toward a new version.

That means creation of a 15-member Hymnal Revision Committee, which is standard procedure. But the agencies also are asking for a standing nine-member Hymnal Advisory Committee to recommend additions to the hymnal to future General Conferences. The cloud-based, print-on-demand approach makes an expanded hymnal possible.

The 2020 General Conference would need to approve the Hymnal Advisory Committee’s recommendations, with release of the new hymnal coming as early as 2021.

The United Methodist Publishing House is responsible for production and sales, and officials there said it is too early to predict pricing for the new hymnal, or the expense of creating it.

“We are confident that UMPH, which receives no general church funding, will craft a plan so that the sales of affordable electronic and print formats of the next hymnal will cover all the costs – just as we’ve done in the past,” said the Rev. Brian Milford, current book editor and chief content officer, and designated president/CEO.

Pent-up demand

The United Methodist Hymnal currently in use debuted in 1989. Nearly 6 million copies have been distributed. Though many churches now feature praise bands and lyrics projected on screens, the hymnal still sells some 25,000 copies a year.

The 2008 General Conference approved creation of a Hymnal Revision Committee, but the recession intervened and the agencies backed away from bringing out a new hymnal.

“There was great uncertainty about managing the financial viability of the project in a tumultuous economic climate,” Milford said.

Milford added that a study of the market, combined with anecdotal reports, suggests the timing is right.

“The big `why’ in all of this is that people are asking for it,” said Burton-Edwards.

The new hymnal is to have a core of a few hundred hymns and other worship resources that the Hymnal Revision Committee recommends to General Conference as essential for United Methodist worship and identity. But hymnal purchasers could also select from a much larger selection of supplemental resources, also approved by General Conference, and use them in book or digital formats.

Burton-Edwards said many churches now use Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI), particularly its SongSelect service, for acquiring lyrics and music for contemporary worship songs. But United Methodist churches don’t have a one-stop place to go to for music consistent with Wesleyan theology.

The new hymnal would correct that, with the Hymnal Advisory Committee recommending more materials for approval to each new General Conference.

“The key to a denominational hymnal is vetting,” Burton-Edwards said. “We’re making a selection of resources, out of the vast possible selection, that we’re saying represent us as United Methodists. They speak our theology. They sing our theology. They reflect our commitments to personal and social holiness.”

Possible digital divide

The United Methodist Church has thousands of small churches, many with limited technological resources, which could challenge access to the full resources of a new hymnal.

The Rev. Joe Stobaugh, executive minister of worship and arts at Grace Avenue United Methodist Church in Frisco, Texas, and immediate past president of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, strongly supports the new hymnal. But he sees the potential for a digital divide.

“The key is going to be making the cloud part of it very accessible and easy to use,” he said.

Another potential concern of General Conference delegates is the focus on the U.S. market.

Milford said the use and sale of copyrighted music is often granted only for specific countries, and commercial regulations can restrict international distribution. He noted “challenges with respect to cultural fit and worship styles,” and even practical concerns such as altered page formatting due to language differences.

“But we are working diligently to resolve as many constraints and make the next hymnal as widely available as possible,” he said.

Tied to identity

The goal of keeping the hymnal central to United Methodist life is important to the Rev. Jackson Henry. He joined the staff of Discipleship Ministries in September, but for 12 years before that was music minister at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and earlier served other churches of varying sizes.

At all those stops, his congregations used The United Methodist Hymnal.

A new hymnal “would not be contextual” now without a digital format, Henry believes. But he considers the hymnal – however it is delivered – to be as crucial as ever.

“The hymnal for United Methodists is tied into our identity as a singing people, as a praying people, and really as an evangelic people,” he said. “When people sing, they become active proclaimers of the faith, and that’s a very public thing.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – From Short to Long

Key Bible Verse: It is right for me to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Romans 15:17

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:15b-21

Straight out of high school, Ken went to work for a water drilling company in the mountains of North Carolina. A believer, he not only loved his work, but he also fell in love with and married Carolyn, the boss’s daughter.

After two volunteer short-term assignments in West Africa, he and Carolyn started praying about a way to serve overseas. But with no formal training, God’s answer looked to them like a no.

Then a friend introduced Ken to a young man who wanted a well dug at his farm home. Ken remembers saying, “Franklin, if you ever need to find water where you’re working in Africa, let me know.”

Months later Franklin Graham took Ken up on his offer, asking him to go to Ethiopia to explore drilling wells there. Ken launched a major well-drilling program for the National Evangelical Church, showing the love of Christ to thousands with pure, clean, crystal-clear drinking water.

As international director of projects for Samaritan’s Purse, Ken Isaacs now oversees work in nearly 100 countries. How did he land there? “God raised me up,” he marvels, “literally from the mud, as a blue-collar well driller.”

—Melvin Cheatham in Make a Difference

My Response: I’ll pray about using my skills among the world’s poor.

Thought to Apply: In 1944 the Lord called me from aviation to Himself, and now He has sent me back to aviation for Himself.  – Nate Saint (missionary pilot martyred in Ecuador)

Adapted from Make a Difference (W Publishing, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – A Cyclist Starter

Key Bible Verse: The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old. Proverbs 20:29

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:5

Ted Webb of Uxbridge, Ontario, traveled to Malawi three years ago on a mission trip, and discovered the importance of bicycles to impoverished Malawians. With his years of fixing, building, and selling bikes, the 21-year-old avid cyclist observed people walking downhill because their brakes had fallen apart, or uphill because the single gear made it impossible to ride!

Ted saw a great opportunity. “So many bikes collect dust in North American garages,” he says, “and they’re so desperately needed in Africa. Once refurbished, they’re of much better quality than those typically available there.”

Africycle was born in 2004 as Ted and his friends collected 180 used bicycles, restored them to top condition, and packed them in a container. Ted and three friends flew to Malawi to meet the shipment and distribute the donated bikes to pastors, orphans, and trades people.

They offered workshops on repairing and maintaining them. When an Africycle team returned in 2006, they found pastors traveling greater distances and reaching more people.

Africycle sent more bicycles to Malawi last year and set up a sale and repair shop. The small fee for the bikes pays locals to work in the shop and funds a school for orphans and disabled kids.

—Sandra Reimer in FaithToday

My Response: What interest of mine might God harness to advance His kingdom?

Adapted from FaithToday (1-2/07)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

Why Are There So Many Denominations? (and how do I know which ones teach the right things?)

Here is an interesting article by Jim Burns from today’s issue of “Ignite Your Faith”.

 Why Are There So Many Denominations?

How do I know which ones teach the right things? ?

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

Why are there so many different Christian denominations? And how do I know which ones teach the right things? I’m kind of confused.

This may sound strange, but I appreciate different denominations—even if I don’t always agree with everything each one says. Why? They allow Christians to worship and serve in ways that best suit them. It’s sort of like choosing a meal. If your favorite type of food is Italian, that choice may be based on family heritage, mom’s cooking, or simple likes and dislikes. Well, people also choose a different way of worship for a number of personal reasons. They could choose a denomination because of family background, a style of worship or a particular theological emphasis.

Some denominations have significant differences (like whether or not to participate in war or whether or not to place women in leadership). Sometimes, they have differences that seem a bit more subtle. While some denominations baptize by dunking you into water, others baptize by sprinkling drops on your forehead. Some use formal readings in worship while others have a freer approach.

With all the differences, how do we choose a denomination? Well, I believe what matters to a Christian is this: Does the denomination look at the Bible as the authority on how to live and worship, and believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord?

As you look for a church, seek out one that 1) bases its ministry on the Bible and 2) fits your personal worship and service style. Seek the advice of people you respect and ask them the differences in specific denominations that you are interested in.

Some people may disagree with me, but I think when God looks at all the Christ–honoring, Bible–following churches in your city he sees the body of Christ—not specific denominations. Here is a quote that’s guided a lot of churches over the ages: “In essentials, unity. In non–essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” Think about what that quote means. Let’s be sure we are united on the stuff that’s really important (like Christ), that we allow freedom for those things that aren’t “essential,” and always practice love when we disagree.

Jim is a well–respected youth pastor, speaker and radio host.

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – An Accountant Finisher

Who Said It…Jim Reapsome

Jim Reapsome, at 77, has just completed a stint as interim pastor of Western Springs, IL Baptist Church.

That follows retiring from a journalism career: public relations director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, editor of The Sunday School Times and Evangelical Missions Quarterly, and managing editor of Christianity Today. And oh yes, he’s pastored a Pennsylvania congregation.

Jim also gardens, golfs, and roots for the Phillies.

What He Said…An Accountant Finisher

Howard and Marilyn Schmidt represent a host of Christians (called “finishers” in missions lingo) who’ve chosen missionary work as their second career. In 1966, Howard took a year of leave from his managerial job at U.S. Steel, and went to Nigeria with their three children. There he served as a field auditor for Charlotte, NC-based SIM International, traveling among SIM’s bases of operations reviewing their financial books.

This short-term experience was so successful that it proved to be a long-term turning point for this family. Howard stayed with U.S. Steel long enough to qualify for a minimum pension (about the same as SIM’s allowance for a missionary couple). By this time their children had finished their college educations, and the Schmidts were free to rejoin SIM in 1981, bringing their own support.

The Schmidts 21-year second career took them all over the world for SIM. He installed financial systems and trained missionaries in a number of countries.

Adapted from World Pulse (8/6/04)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Christian Witness

Christian WitnessThrough various sources, Paul in Ephesus (in modern Turkey) had received reports of problems in the church he had founded in Corinth (in modern Greece).

These included jealousy, divisiveness, sexual immorality, and failure to discipline members.

This letter confronted these issues head on. But Paul added the section we explore today to place his strong words in a broader perspective.

Interact with God’s Word

1 Corinthians 4:14-17

  1. How (v. 15) had Paul become spiritual father to the believers in Corinth?
  2. Do you think that Paul’s statement in verse 14 rang true? Why should the Corinthians sense that Paul’s tough words were motivated by love?
  3. What special privileges does being a spiritual role model bestow? What special responsibilities come with that?
  4. Paul was only human. So why was it appropriate for him (v. 16) to offer himself as an example to follow?
  5. Why (v. 17) would Timothy be able to help the Corin-thians follow Paul’s example? (See 1 Timothy 1:2.)
  6. If you have children, how are you functioning as a spiritual father to them?
  7. If you don’t have children, for whom might you serve as a discipleship pattern?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to enable you to walk so close to Him that your life becomes an authentic example to other Christians.

1 Corinthians 4:14-17:

14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 16 So I urge you to imitate me.

17 That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

“Watch Me”? – Product Recall

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example.  – 1 Peter 5:3

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

A few days after Carl had finished his ordination council, I was reviewing his performance with another council member. As we discussed Carl’s presentation, I was critical of his seeming inability to quote the Scriptures from memory. When looking for a reason for this lack, I accused the seminary, and I blamed the campus organization he had been involved with in college.

My fellow reviewer listened calmly, and then replied, “But Paul, whose ministry has Carl been under for these past three years”

My accusations were silenced. Carl had been my protégé in ministry. If he seemed weak in his ability to accurately handle the Scriptures, who was to blame? All fingers now pointed at me. I hadn’t been an example of Scripture memory. I hadn’t been thorough in leading him by the example of my own life. His performance at that council was a reflection on the person he’d modeled himself after—me.

The greatest sermon any leader can preach is his life. Paul exhorted Timothy (in 1 Timothy 4:12) to pay attention to his life—his example—first. We are the “types” or “patterns” that others are looking to follow.

—Paul Borthwick in Leading the Way

My Response: I need to work on how I live out the values I endorse in the area of …

Thought to Apply: We preachers cannot expect to communicate from the pulpit if visually out of it we contradict ourselves. —John Stott

Adapted from Leading the Way(Gabriel Publishing, 1969)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

New Study Starting Next Week!

Half Truths 1True or false:

  1. Everything happens for a reason.
  2. God helps those who help themselves.
  3. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  4. God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
  5. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

All true?   Not so fast.

They are simple phrases. They sound Christian—like something you might find in the Bible. We’ve all heard these words. Maybe we’ve said them.

They capture some element of truth, yet they miss the point in important ways.

Join Adam Hamilton in this 5-week Bible study to search for the whole truth by comparing common Christian clichés with the wisdom found in Scripture.

Join us starting next Sunday, April 24, 2016, at 10 am downstairs in the UMYF Room!

Half Truths 2

“Watch Me”? – Stay Sharp

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: So I ask you to follow my example and do as I do.  – 1 Corinthians 4:16

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:14-17

In the dead of winter, while his fields slept, Monroe Dourte built things. I remember standing in my grandpa’s workshop as a nine-year-old boy, warming my backside at a little cast iron stove. I marveled at his meticulous craftsmanship, especially since he’d lost the fingers of his left hand in a corn shredder 40 years before. I treasured my time with him because of his quick wit and light heart. Most of all, I admired his unwavering love for God. The perpetual humming of old hymns, his spontaneous recall of psalms and poems, and the twinkle in his eye gave this impressionable youngster the idea that hard work and attention to detail were the marks of a great man.

On one of these early-morning vigils in his workshop, Grandpa Dourte showed me his tools. Pulling each from its assigned place, he told me what it was for.

“Wow!” I said, after touching one of the sharp knives, “isn’t this dangerous?”

“No, Bobby,” he explained, “sharp is what they’re supposed to be. Nothing is more dangerous than a dull knife.”

On the point is where you and I are supposed to be with our children. Nothing is more dangerous for a child than a dad who refuses to do what he’s been called to do—be a leader.

—Robert Wolgemuth in Daddy@Work

My Response: How am I proactively modeling scriptural values to the next generation?

Thought to Apply: Precept guides, but example draws. —Proverb

Adapted from Daddy@Work (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Role Model?

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: But you must be careful with this freedom of yours. Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble.  – 1 Corinthians 8:9

Bonus Reading: Titus 2:6-8

When I was in high school, the mother of one of the girls in our church youth group stopped me after the evening service and said, “My daughter went to the movies the other night and was horrified at the terrible language in the film. She had never heard such language in her life.”

I couldn’t figure out why she was telling me about her daughter’s experience unless it was because she considered me to be such a spiritual giant in our group. So I took the bait and asked, “If the movie was so bad, why did your daughter go?” Once the mom had me hooked, she replied, “Well, a week earlier she was driving past the theater and saw you and your date waiting in line to see the film. She reasoned to herself, If this movie is okay for Robert Jeffress, then it must be okay for me.” I quickly looked for the nearest pew to crawl under.

None of us lives in a vacuum. The choices we make have a profound impact on others and therefore on the kingdom of God. They either encourage others to be fully devoted followers of Christ or discourage them. Realizing that provides most of the guidance we need when considering the gray areas of behavior.

—Robert Jeffress in Grace Gone Wild!

My Response: What activity have I foregone to avoid tripping up a friend?

Thought to Apply: We must not deceive ourselves: the eyes of all men are fixed on us.—Jacques Ellul

Adapted from Grace Gone Wild! (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

“Watch Me”? – Memory Maker

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. Philippians 3:17

Bonus Reading: Phil. 3:17-4:1

Years ago Howard Hendricks, one of my Dallas Seminary professors, told us in class about twin boys, former students, who stopped by his office after class one day to talk. During the course of the conversation, Hendricks asked them about their father, a prominent Christian leader, “Guys, what do you remember most about your dad as you were growing up?”

After a short pause, one of the young men said, “I’ll never forget the times he would spend wrestling with us on the floor. Even as teenagers, he would clear out the den furniture and roll around the floor laughing with us.”

The other son reflected, “What I remember most about my dad was, when we were in high school, I threw a paper route and I’d have to get up early in the morning to deliver the paper. Each morning, I’d walk past my dad’s bedroom door and it would be cracked open. I’d see him in there down on his knees and I knew he was praying for us. That’s what I remember most about my dad.”

Then “Prof” Hendricks delivered the punch. He leaned across the podium, peered over the top of his glasses, and asked the penetrating question, “By the way, what will your kids remember you for?”

—Steven Lawson in The Legacy

My Response: Here’s how I’d answer Prof Hendricks’s question: ____

Thought to Apply: Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.—James Baldwin (author)

Adapted from The Legacy (Multnomah, 1998)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

The Glory Way Quartet – Saturday, June 25, 2016

GloryWay Quartet

The Glory Way Quartet

Saturday, June 25, 2016, 6 pm

Central United Methodist Church

“Watch Me”? – Influence Peddler

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Ephesians 4:20

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 4:17-20

Kid after kid was being hauled before a judge in a juvenile court, most from one inner-city neighborhood. Exasperated, he asked one young offender, “Where did you learn to do this stuff?”

The adolescent replied, ‘”Rocko taught me.”

When the next case came up, the judge asked, “Who taught you to steal?”

“Rocko did.”

Over the next three days, the judge found 33 juvenile delinquents who’d picked up their criminal skills from Rocko. Realizing that he was the key to cutting the crime rate, the judge instructed the district attorney to find him and bring him in. Two days later, Rocko stood before the bench.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” the judge demanded. “I’ve got a jail full of minors whose lives you’ve corrupted. How could you do such a thing?”

“Eddie taught me,” the young man replied.

In a perverted but potent way, gangs do what the community of faith ought to have been doing all along—multiplying themselves by using the influence of personal relationships to affect attitudes and behavior.

—Howard Hendricks in Standing Together

My Response: An instance I’ve observed of modeling positive behaviors is …

Adapted from Standing Together (Vision, 1995)

 Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

“Watch Me”? – A Leader’s Best Ally

Christian WitnessWho Said It…John Wooden

John Wooden is the only person inducted into both the basketball Players’ and Coaches’ Halls of Fame. Before he retired in 1976, his UCLA Bruins had won 10 NCAA basketball championships. In one 1971-to-’74 stretch, they won 88 games straight!

“There has never been another coach like Wooden,” wrote Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated, “quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way.”

What He Said…A Leader’s Best Ally

I began smoking during World War II. I’d quit during basketball season—stopping on my birthday in October and starting again when the season ended. I never smoked in front of the boys. I finally quit to improve my example. I was convicted. I couldn’t expect my players not to do what I was doing.

A leader’s most powerful ally is his own example. There’s hypocrisy to the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” I refused to make demands on my boys that I wasn’t willing to live out in my own life. Hypocrisy undermines respect, and if people don’t respect you, they won’t willingly follow you. One of my players complimented me greatly when he said, “Coach, you walked the talk.”

At the beginning of each season I’d give my players a letter. Part of it went like this: “Cleanliness, neatness, politeness, and good manners are qualities that should be characteristic of those who are of great influence on young people, and you certainly qualify for that category. Be a good example.”

Adapted from Coach Wooden: One-on-One (Regal, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthIn 539 B.C., a Persian king named Cyrus marched his army on Babylon and conquered its empire.

God—who rarely reveals his plans—had tipped off Isaiah 150 years earlier.

Cyrus never became a worshiper of God, but God used him (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5) to allow more than 42,000 Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.

Interact with God’s Word:  Isaiah 44:28-45:13

  1. How could Isaiah call Cyrus God’s “shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed one” (45:1)?
  2. What verbs (in 45:1, 2, 5, & 13) sum up how God would shape Cyrus’s fortunes?
  3. What does understanding God’s rule do to the concepts of luck, chance, and coincidence?
  4. How do you react to God’s assertion (45:7) that he sends both good and bad times?
  5. Judging from 45:8, what are God’s primary objectives in both the good and bad times he sends?
  6. When have you been tempted to tell God (45:9), “Stop, you are doing it wrong”? Which do you think Isaiah is condemning: questions about how to understand God’s actions or a challenging of his right to take them?
  7. Why do humans arch their backs when God declares (45:13), “I, the Lord Almighty, have spoken”?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the trust to embrace your life situation as something that God, according to his good purpose, has sovereignly allowed.

Isaiah 44:28-45:13

44:28 When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.'”

Isaiah 45

1 This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. 2 This is what the Lord says:

“I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

4 “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. 5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, 6 so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Question

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: No wisdom, no insight, no plan … can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Proverbs 21:30-31 NIV

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:1-2, 13-26

Today’s Key Bible Verses have become a sort of North Star that I use to keep me on track. Whether I’m working on a small project, a large initiative, or my life mission, they’ve helped me to keep focused, and not to run away every time the weeds get deep, or puff up with self-important pride whenever success shows up.

Final outcomes are in the Lord’s hands. It’s his will that prevails. No wisdom, insight, or plan can thwart it, whether mine or my enemy’s.

But these verses pointed out the one thing I could control and also, by inference, the one thing I’ll be held responsible for: How well was I preparing my horse for battle?

It caused me to realize that during my apprehensive years

I was asking the wrong question. I asked, “How are things going?” I should have asked, “Am I doing the right things? Am I preparing my horse for victory?” What God wants for me is to simply focus my energy and efforts on the one and only thing I can control. That’s the only thing he will hold me accountable for: How well have I prepared the horse for battle?

After that, I’ve learned, it’s God’s call—not mine.

—Larry Osborne in A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

My Response: Am I taking too much credit for successes, too much blame for setbacks?

Thought to Apply: Man drives, but it is God who holds the reins.—Jewish proverb

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Direction?

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

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:29-32

In 1990, I’d been a pastor outside of Dallas, Texas, for eight years, and knew God was up to something new in our future. I prayed he’d send us east, closer to family and support, as one of my teenage sons was beginning a rebellious streak.

God’s call came, and it was west! Theresa and all four kids were crying as we pulled out for the 2,000-mile drive to our new life. They didn’t stop crying until Amarillo. We were obeying the clear orders of the King, but taking my family away from friends, family, and all that was familiar felt terrible. The adjustments were hard, the new church presented challenges I’d never faced, and my son became more rebellious. I felt alone, confused, and often deeply discouraged.

Fast-forward ten years. The new church developed skills, character, and ministry beyond my wildest dreams. The adversity brought a deeper unity into our family and took our marriage to a whole new level. With opportunities in music that were nonexistent in Texas, the rebellious son did “a one-eighty,” becoming a Christian songwriter and worship leader. God grew a church and launched a radio ministry. What felt like disaster was the hand of a sovereign God working out his highest, best purposes for us.

—Chip Ingram in God: As He Longs for You to See Him

My Response: Am I resisting or trusting my Father’s control?

Thought to Apply: Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plans.—George MacDonald

Adapted from God: As He Longs for You to See Him (Baker, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Faith or Fantasy?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: I know, O Lord, that your decisions are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it. Psalm 119:75

Bonus Reading: Job 9:4-7, 12

The missionary aircraft piloted by Jim Bowers was blown out of the sky by a Peruvian jet in April 2001, killing his wife Roni and their infant daughter Charity. Humanly speaking, it was a tragedy that never should have happened. Many bullets sprayed the tiny plane, but a single one took the life of his wife and daughter. Looking back, Jim Bowers called it a “sovereign bullet.”

Only a man who knows God can say a thing like that. But that’s exactly what the psalmist is saying in the Key Bible Verse above. As he looks back over his life—the good times and bad, the happy days and sad nights—he knows that all that has happened to him isn’t by chance, fate, or some cosmic roulette. Nothing can happen to him that God has not faithfully planned for his own glory and his children’s ultimate benefit.

Jim Bowers declared his total faith in God’s sovereignty in the death of his wife and daughter. “Nothing bad happened to them,” he said. “They got to heaven quicker than we did.” Those are the words of a man who, out of great personal loss, has rested his faith in the promises of God. Even the worst tragedy doesn’t appear as such when viewed from heaven’s perspective.

—Ray Pritchard in The God You Can Trust

My Response: Could I rest my faith in God’s promises while undergoing great personal loss?

Thought to Apply: Either I’m going to get bent and eventually bitter, or I’m going to allow God to be God.—James MacDonald (Illinois pastor)

Adapted from The God You Can Trust (Harvest, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Orthodox Creed, Deist Actions

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who … say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  – Isaiah 52:7 NIV

Bonus Reading: Exodus 19:3-6

Every Christian believes that God—the all-powerful Creator of Genesis 1—used to be in charge of this world.

And all agree that God will be in charge at the end. On that fateful day our eternal destiny will rest in the hands of our Judge.

But what about the interim? Is God in charge here and now, or has he momentarily lost his grip? Has our continent spun off into a renegade orbit he’s unaware of or powerless to correct?

I don’t believe that, and neither do you.

So why do we act that way? In thousands of churches every week, Christians stand and sing the chorus “Our God Reigns.” They may raise their hands, swaying back and forth to words based on the above Key Bible Verse. But they go right on worrying and “stressing” about what the local school board did the previous week or what the latest tax reform bill failed to include.

I call this the” New Evangelical Deism”, after the eighteenth-century philosophy that said that God perhaps created the universe in the beginning but then wound it up like a clock and left it to run on its own.

It’s time once again to hear the thunderous voice from Sinai: “All the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5).

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: To bring my actions into line with my beliefs about God’s control, I need to …

Thought to Apply: God’s calling the shots. He’s running the show. Either he’s in full control or he’s off his throne.—Charles Swindoll (pastor, educator, & author)

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Where the Buck Really Stops – Your Move – Or Is It?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “The Lord Almighty has spoken—who can change his plans?  When his hand moves, who can stop him?”  –  Isaiah 14:27

Bonus Reading: Isa. 14:24-27

A few years ago I was in Indonesia and got to play against a chess master. It was brutal. There were ten of us, each with a chessboard setup, and he played us all at once. He’d walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In 15 minutes, we were all out of the game!

That’s a bit how God works. We make our moves, but his purposes aren’t affected by them. If we make a good move, God knows the next move. If we make a bad move, God knows instantly what he’ll do. He’s always known both what we’d choose and what he’d do. But God isn’t playing a game with us. We’re stuck in time, while he made all his moves in eternity past!

In some twisted way, we think we’re more secure when we’ve got God figured out. He’s way beyond our figuring out. That’s not only okay, that’s how it needs to be. Imagine how small God would be if we could comprehend all he allows and why. If the smartest and wisest of all mankind ran the universe, can you imagine the cosmic mess we’d be in? It only makes sense that an element of mystery surrounds God’s person and ways.

—James MacDonald in Gripped by the Greatness of God

My Response: Is asking questions of God wrong? Must I be resigned to leave some unanswered?

Adapted from Gripped by the Greatness of God (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Cosmic Consultant?

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It …Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne is an author who says, “I’ve always had a heart for the regular guy, the one who can’t imagine ever becoming a ‘super saint.’ I like starting where people are, not where they should be, and pointing them towards the path of growth.”

Larry is also the innovative lead pastor of North Coast Church in California’s San Diego County, which is credited with originating the concept of video venues.

What He Said…Cosmic Consultant?

When God gives advice or guidance, it’s not coming from a potentially fallible source. It’s not the mere advice of a pastor or friend; it’s the counsel of God!

When God speaks, it doesn’t make much sense to push back or give him ten reasons why it won’t work. That’s an argument we can’t win.

But who hasn’t done this? We’ve all had times when we knew exactly what God wanted us to do, but we still decided that in our particular case our wisdom was better than his.

Every time that happens, our relationship with him goes through a fundamental role-reversal. He stops being our God and becomes our cosmic consultant.

Now a consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, we make the final decision. That’s why they’re called consultants.

Here’s the problem: God doesn’t do consulting. Never has. Never will. He does God. When we treat him as a consultant, he simply stops showing up to the meetings. We may think he’s there. But he’s not.

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Are You for Real? – Performance Appraisal

Living Uo to Your FaithWho Said It… Lane McGullion

Lane McGullion manages projects for a power generating company in Georgia, and is a leader in his church’s men’s ministry. Its claim to fame is constructing an 80 percent scale model of the Tabernacle—that’s 12′ tall, 24′ wide, and 36′ long—with furnishings.

Lane’s wife, Sonya, serves as the children’s church coordinator. They have two girls and a boy. Lane likes to sing and is a die-hard Auburn University football fan.

What He Said… Performance Appraisal

Remember your first review at a new company? Have I lived up to the references’ glowing description of my abilities? you wondered. Or should I bring an empty box to pack my belongings?

As a Christ follower, you may never be called into a conference room, but you face a different kind of workplace appraisal. During a conversation about current events, politics, or what you did this weekend, your biblical worldview will surface (hopefully you’re not trying to hide it). Your words will challenge and possibly offend.

That’s when the performance appraisal begins. Your coworkers will begin watching with the zeal of a private detective to see if you measure up to the bar you’ve set so high. You’ll have the opportunity to share the words of life, but if you also tell off-color jokes, will anyone take you seriously?

You maintain that Christ gave himself up for others, but if you fail to lend a hand to a coworker who’s falling behind, your words will fall on deaf (and lost) ears. So make sure your deeds back up your words.

Adapted from Practical Justice (InterVarsity, 2006) by permission.

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Are You for Real? – Pocket Book Probe

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: “I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there.”  –  1 Chronicles 29:17

Bonus Reading: Genesis 4:1-12

The phone rang. The owner of a large apartment complex had been referred to me by a mutual acquaintance. She’d had a pricing evaluation done on her property and wanted a second opinion before selling. Commercial real estate is viciously competitive. You only get paid when you close a deal. A “team mentality” isn’t taught. If I priced her property aggressively, she’d probably use me as her agent.

But another agent in my office, the woman disclosed, had done the first pricing analysis. For several months I’d been sharing Christ with him because he was in debt and looking for answers the world wasn’t providing. I could undermine his weeks of excellent effort by telling the caller that he was less experienced, and that I could get a higher price for the property. Or I could do what Jesus would want. I told the woman the agent was capable, and that his pricing conclusions were sound. She went with him.

Just this week, the building transaction closed, and he was able to pay off all his debts. “Nobody else in this office would have done that for me,” he confided. “You really live out your faith.” He invited me to lunch—another opportunity to share my Christian hope.

—Danny Kapic in Devotional Ventures

My Response: If Danny had snatched the listing for himself, what might have transpired?

Thought to Apply: Our task is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious.—Paul Tournier (Swiss psychologist)

Adapted from Devotional Ventures (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.