Skip to content

Archive for

Radical Repentance – A Jesus Freak Is Born (Again)

Radical RepentanceKey Bible Verse: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Bonus Reading: John 3:1-17

Most everybody knows Toby McKeehan as the artist who performed “Jesus Freak” with his fellow band mates in DC Talk. But as a kid, Toby (now known as solo artist tobyMac) went to church because his mom dragged him there. He would often ditch Sunday school.

But 12-year-old Toby’s life changed because of Harold, one of the church’s youth leaders. Along with showing an interest in Toby, Harold invited him to a camp.

“I thought it was a sports camp,” Toby says. “But when we got off that bus, we went straight into this worship service where this preacher was talking for hours.”

While Toby disliked the preaching, he appreciated the conversations back at the cabin. “Harold would take time to talk to us,” Toby says. “He’d share about his past and told us about Jesus.”

One night Toby lay in his sleeping bag with a lot on his mind. He wanted to have a relationship with Jesus, but he didn’t know how. Finally, he went and woke up Harold.

“He led me in asking Christ to forgive me and asking him into life,” Toby says. “My life just went in a totally different direction right there.”

—Todd Hertz in Ignite Your Faith

My Response: Because of Christ, my life has changed in the following ways: …

Thought to Apply: The Lord has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.—Clement of Alexandria (early Church Father)

Adapted from our sister magazine Ignite Your Faith

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.

 

 

Advertisements

Radical Repentance – Free Behind Bars

Radical RepentanceKey Bible Verse: Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  – Ephesians 2:1

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2:2-10

David Berkowitz was sentenced to consecutive life sentences for killing six people and wounding numerous others in New York City. Known as “Son of Sam,” he terrorized the city for months until his capture in 1977.

Berkowitz confessed to the crimes to avoid the death penalty. Though up for parole several times, he has consistently been denied freedom.

For many, this seems a fitting end to a madman’s life—dying a slow death in jail haunted by his past crimes.

But that’s not the end.

In 1987, an inmate talked to Berkowitz about Christ. He gave Berkowitz a Bible.

According to Berkowitz, the book changed his life: “Everything seemed to hit me at once. The guilt from what I did … the disgust at what I had become. … I got down on my knees and began to cry out. … I asked Jesus to forgive me. … A peace flooded over me. … I knew that my life, somehow, was going to be different.”

Berkowitz now has CDs and videos of his conversion available through Focus on the Family. He has appeared on Dr. D. James Kennedy’s TV show, and he has endorsements from Chuck Colson.

—Mark Herringshow & Jennifer Schuchmann in Six Prayers God Always Answers

My Response: Why might I find it hard to accept that someone like David Berkowitz could be a genuine Christian?

Thought to Apply: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.—John Newton (British clergyman and former slave-ship captain)

Adapted from Prayer Power (Tyndale, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.

 

 

Radical Repentance – A President’s Greatest Need

Radical RepentanceKey Bible Verse: I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. Philippians 3:10.

Bonus Reading: Acts 9:1-30

As a young Michigan Congressman, Gerald Ford met a gospel-film executive named Billy Zeoli who came by his office and gave him a Bible. Over the next few years, the two men became close.

Among their bonds was a love of sports: Ford had been an All-American football player, and Zeoli had a ministry to pro athletes. At a pre-game chapel for the Dallas Cowboys, in Washington to play the Redskins, Ford went to hear Zeoli preach on “God’s game plan.”

Ford was especially moved by the sermon and talked with Zeoli afterward about Christ and forgiveness and what it meant. The inquiry felt real and raw; but was that the moment Ford committed himself to Christ? “It’s hard to say when a man does that,” Zeoli says plainly. “That’s a God thing. But I think that day is the day he looked back to as an extremely important day of knowing Christ.”

When Ford became vice president in 1973, Zeoli began sending him a weekly devotional memo. Zeoli sent 146 devotionals in all, every week through Ford’s presidency. Beyond the memos, Ford and Zeoli would meet privately every four or five weeks for prayer and Bible study.

—Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy in Time

My Response: One thing I will do this week to get to know Christ better is …

Thought to Apply: Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on Earth!—Jim Elliot (slain missionary to Ecuador)

Adapted from “The Other Born-Again President,” Time

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.

 

 

Radical Repentance – God’s Huge Heart

Radical RepentanceKey Bible Verse: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Bonus reading: Romans 8:31-39

As I met with Fernando in his prison cell, he confessed that he had committed a lot of sins. He just couldn’t see how God could possibly forgive him. I drove home today’s Key Bible Verse and emphasized the complete forgiveness God offers to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. At the end of our short time together, God broke this man. We got down on our knees and Fernando asked the Lord for forgiveness.

After his release from prison, Fernando moved to London. During one of our trips to England, Pat and I invited him over to our hotel for tea. When Pat greeted him in the lobby, he greeted her with the words: “The thing that got me was that your husband assured me from the Bible that ALL my sins were forgiven in one moment, forever, never to be brought up again.” He could not get over the forgiving heart of God.

A few days later, Fernando told his story to a group of English businessmen. “I never would have listened to the message of Christ if I hadn’t been in jail,” he admitted. “I was too arrogant, too proud. But I was desperate, I was in crisis—and God used it.”

—Luis Palau in High Definition Life

My Response: When I struggle with experiencing God’s forgiveness, I will remind myself that God’s heart is huge and his forgiveness is unending.

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.

 

 

Radical Repentance – A Load of Sin

Radical RepentanceWho Said It … Luis Palau

Luis Palau leads the Luis Palau Association—a ministry committed to innovative evangelism worldwide. He’s shared Christ with more than 1 billion people through such avenues as television, radio, the internet, and festivals.

Luis has authored nearly 50 books, including A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Portland, Oregon, and have 11 grandchildren.

Who Said It … A Load of Sin

Fernando Montero had wealth, prestige, power, influence. Armed with an MBA from Harvard University, he had climbed the political ladder to become Columbia’s secretary for defense. At age 37, he ran the nations army and directed its attacks against the powerful Cali drug cartel. Then something went terribly wrong.

Accused of financing the president’s political campaign with drug money, Fernando landed in a military penitentiary. Prison officials cut him off from contact with the outside world.

Eventually a friend smuggled a Bible into Fernando’s cell, urging him to read Romans. The book both intrigued and confused him.

During a visit to Colombia, I was asked to try to visit Fernando. I agreed. I thought the guards would turn me away at the gate, but to my surprise, they let me in.

I entered the compound and spent 45 minutes with the weary Fernando. He told me he had read Romans, but said, “I just don’t get it.” It became clear that Fernando’s main problem was the load of sin he carried.

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.

 

 

Winners and Losers – True Success

True SuccessPaul was subjected to extreme misunderstanding, opposition, and persecution. He also struggled with a personal weakness—a “thorn” in the flesh.

But in the midst of these trials he affirmed God’s faithfulness. The Holy Spirit, he claimed, recharged his spiritual batteries so that he could energize others.

Like an athlete, he focused on the eternal finish line instead of on the short-term pain.

Interact with God’s Word:  2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  1. Compare this passage with Romans 15:17-19. Would you say that Paul was success oriented?
  2. What obstacles and setbacks would have tempted Paul to give up and quit (See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28?
  3. Did Paul believe he would have been more effective if he appeared to “have it all together”?
  4. What, according to Paul (vv. 7 & 11) was the upside of being crushed, perplexed, and hunted down?
  5. What (v. 16) provides the strength to get up again and keep going?
  6. What benefits derive from our human limitations and problems? What opportunities do they provide?
  7. Why (vv. 17-18) is being at the end of your rope not the same as being at the end of hope?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to enable you to “bounce back” from failure and latch on to His overcoming power.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

The Glory Way Quartet Concert……….Tonight!

The Glory Way Quartet is coming to Central Church Tonight!

 

Where:       Central United Methodist ChurchGloryWay Quartet

6th Avenue & 13th Street

Beaver Falls, PA 15010

 

Time:                                6:00 pm

Date:                    Saturday, June 25, 2016

 

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

A freewill offering will be collected for the group.

 

Winners and Losers – Still Being Broken

True SuccessKey Bible Verse: We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18

Then came the raft trip. Everything went wrong. Food was lost. Tired men’s tempers flared. When it was over, Mac did something he’d never done. He cried. “My ministry,” he told his wife, “is over.”

“Your ministry,” she corrected, “has just begun.”

“What I realized that day, for the first time, was that it’s okay to fail. Okay to be vulnerable. All my life, my dad had taught me to keep my chin up. Why? So I could have his approval.” Some of that, Mac discovered, is good: the will to persevere, for example. But taken to extremes, it leads to frustration, because everyone must fail on occasion.

As a son, Mac began allowing himself to be broken, allowing God to compensate for his shortcomings instead of simply trying harder. But as a father, not able to see the same blind spot in himself that he saw in his father, he continued to ask the impossible of his sons.

Finally one of Mac’s sons confronted him, and the two wound up going to a counselor. Mac confessed to his sons that he hadn’t been the father they needed. He began building them up with genuine praise. For the first time, he loved them with no conditions attached.

—Bob Welch in A Father for All Seasons

My Response: What was it that Mac’s wife perceived before he did?

Thought to Apply: Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things.—T.S. Eliot (U.S.-born British poet)

Adapted from A Father for All Seasons (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

Winners and Losers – The Way Up Is Down

True SuccessKey Bible Verse: So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. 1 Peter 5:6

Bonus Reading: James 4:6-10

In walked the next customer: a long-haired hippie male, stoned to the max. Fueled more by competition than compassion, Mac walked up to the guy and said, “Hey, pal, God loves you and so do I.”

Mac’s words hit the hippie like unidentified flying objects—weird somethings that came out of nowhere and were too strange to believe.

“Do you mean that, man?” asked the hippie.

Mac glanced at the Old Man and knew it was time to get real. He told the hippie that, actually, he knew little about love. He spilled his gut to this complete stranger.

The hippie had never experienced anything like this. Before the evening was over, he’d made a commitment to Christ and flushed his drugs down the coffeehouse toilet. He’d also told Mac what happened before he walked into the coffee shop: Feeling hopeless, he and a buddy had made a suicide pact. His buddy was already dead.

Mac gave up the business world and went full-time into youth ministry at a large California church. He helped build a fledgling ministry into a youth group that attracted hundreds of young people. And he was firmly in control. [continued tomorrow]

—Bob Welch in A Father for All Seasons

My Response: When did I last get real with another guy about what matters in my life?

Thought to Apply: Those who have failed miserably are often the first to see God’s formula for success.—Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Adapted from A Father for All Seasons (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

Winners and Losers – The Old Man’s Dare

True SuccessKey Bible Verse: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”Matthew 20:26

Bonus Reading: Matthew 20:20-28

Out of the ashes of despair came Harold. He was an 80-year-old who volunteered at a church youth group that Mac had been working with. Harold’s up-front brashness would be abrasive if it wasn’t leavened with so much compassion. “Do you know what love is?” he asked Mac.

“Sure,” said Mac.

“Do you know what agape love is?” he asked Mac.

Mac shrugged.

“Meet me at the coffeehouse tonight,” said the Old Man, which is what Mac had come to call him.

The coffeehouse was an outreach ministry of the church. Over a Coke, the Old Man explained to Mac that agape love was sacrificial love—love that expects nothing in return. “But that,” he told Mac, “is tough for macho guys like you to experience.”

Mac scoffed. He was a winner. He could hit any shot that came over the net, even if it was a hot spinner like this.

“Fine,” said the Old Man. “I want you to go up to the next person who walks in that door and tell them God loves them and so do you.” Mac almost spit out his Coke. But the Old Man was serious. And Mac’s will to win didn’t allow retreat.

“Fine,” he said. [continued tomorrow]

—Bob Welch in A Father for All Seasons

My Response: Have I considered myself too macho to embrace agape love?

Thought to Apply: We mount to heaven mostly on the ruins of our cherished dreams, finding our failures were successes.—Amos Alcott (New England philosopher)

Adapted from A Father for All Seasons (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

Let There Be Light!

Central - New Outside LED Lights 3 - 6-21-2016Central Church’s hard-working Trustees have been at it again. 

Earlier tonight, they finished replacing old mercury-vapor and high-pressure sodium outside lights with new LED floodlights, doubling the amount of light while at the same time reducing our outside lighting electric usage by 50%!

Our thanks to our Trustees for working to make the outside of our Church safer and more secure!

 

Winners and Losers – Trial by Fire

True SuccessKey Bible Verse: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth … Store your treasures in heaven.”Matthew 6:19-20

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15

Besides being a young golfer who shot in the low 70s, and an ace basketball player, Mac McFarland was one of the best high school tennis players in California. He rarely lost in four years. Performance is everything, he was taught. Forget the process; results are what count. The world has no room for losers. His father’s motto? Never let ’em see you sweat. “After a big match, my father would come up to me and say, ‘Ya gotta work on that backhand.’ He could never just say, ‘Nice match.'”

Sports became the essence of who Mac was. Teachers cut him slack because he was a talented jock. Fellow students accepted him because of how hard he could hit a tennis ball. After college, Mac transferred his winning-is-everything philosophy to the world of work. He went into business with his father, and the two of them—both compulsive workers—made it a lucrative one. Mac bought the trinkets of success: a red Alfa Romeo and a plush house with the best electronics.

He was 28, married, and had two small sons when in just seven minutes his house was burned to the ground. Although the family escaped unharmed, everything was gone.   [continued tomorrow]

—Bob Welch in A Father for All Seasons

My Response: Has some form of performance become the essence of who I am?

Thought to Apply: Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure.—Kenneth Boulding (economist)

Adapted from A Father for All Seasons (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

Winners and Losers – John, the Enigma

True SuccessKey Bible Verse: God deliberately chose … those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 1 Corinthians 1:27

Bonus Reading: 1 Cor. 1:26-31

Our success-centered enterprise system has little room for failure. It is ideal for the successful but devastating for the loser. In an effort to create winners, we also create misfits.

Though John was born in a $300,000 home, he was a penniless drifter. Though he’s the son of a successful oil tycoon, John quit more things than he finished. Though his parents are gregarious and social, John is introverted, reclusive. John attended college on and off for seven years, but never graduated. His brother and sister made it, but he didn’t.

We don’t know what emotions stirred within John. Anger at a society that only reminded him of his inadequacies? Guilt? Painful reminders that “I let everybody down”? But we do know their result.

John Hinckley Jr. had every intention of killing President Reagan. For the love of a stranger and the lack of a name, he emptied a revolver into the bodies of four men. Placed in a federal prison, John tried to overdose on Tylenol—and failed.

Jesus had a place for misfits. In His book the last became first, and even the loser had value. It is our responsibility to be like Christ, to intercept a life like John Hinckley’s and fill it with value.

—Max Lucado in Shaped by God

My Response: An odd-man-out to whom I should reach out is ____.

Adapted from Shaped by God (Tyndale, 1985)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

Winners and Losers – Scoreboard

True SuccessWho Said It…Victor Santa Cruz

This son of a U.S. marine played linebacker for the University of Hawaii Warriors, then went into sales with a sport supply company. “My heart was always in coaching, but I thought coming out of college you needed to make money to be a success. I fell into that trap.”

Victor says his wife, Jamie, “saw how miserable I was,” and urged him to take up coaching. He did—and was named head coach of Azusa Pacific University’s Cougars in December 2005.

What He Said…Scoreboard

The scoreboard is a clear-cut way to determine playoff selections, but a dangerous barometer for measuring personal worth.

Feeling down after a losing season, I sought out a coaching mentor to discuss my disappointment. He asked if I knew his win-loss record from the past season. I apologized that I hadn’t followed his season. To my surprise, he informed me of his 11-1 record and a junior college bowl championship! He then asked if I cared about him, since I hadn’t followed his team’s record during the past season.

“I certainly do!” I responded. My respect for him was based on who he was as a person, not his football success.

“Then why are you in a funk because of last year’s losing season?” he asked.

The rewards of a winning record can be taken away by one “bad” year. But true success—an intimate relationship with God through Jesus—can never be taken away, because of the cross. We all are successful if we’re in Christ!

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Revell, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, move me beyond the world’s definition of failure and success to the only one that counts—Your definition.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – The Unity of the Spirit

The Unity of the SpiritJohn chapter 17 records the real Lord’s Prayer, in the sense that this ending to the upper room Passover observance isn’t a pattern prayer for His disciples, but Jesus’ own conversation with His Father.

The disciples listen in as He expresses deep longings for Himself, for the disciples gathered in that room, and for all who would join this family in the future.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 17:11; John 17:20-23

  1. Can you picture a stronger union (v. 11) than that of the triune Godhead?
  2. What does that say about the strength of unity that the Son desires for His disciples?
  3. If Jesus prayed for the unity of His future disciples while still on earth (vv. 20-21), what may you be sure remains a primary topic of His intercession for you (Hebrews 7:25) today?
  4. What actions by individual believers diminish the sense of unity in Christ’s body?
  5. What actions intensify the perception of unity?
  6. If you’re united with Christ, and all other believers are as well (v. 22), what does that say about your relationship to each other?
  7. What (v. 23) will a demonstration of unity cause outsiders to observe? What should it lead them to understand?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to make you a willing part of the answer to Jesus’ upper room prayer for unity among His followers.

John 17:11; John 17:20-23

11Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – A Match Made in Heaven

The Unity of the SpiritKey Bible Verse: Be … full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.  – 1 Peter 3:8

Bonus Reading: Colossians 2:1-2a; 3:14b-15a

[continued from yesterday]  Dave swung open the side door of his van. The passenger seat was out because he’d been working on the engine, accessible only from the inside. So the pastor had to sit on the carpet amid the crushed beer cans. I laughed nervously as I helped with his luggage. As they drove off, I envisioned the two enduring the worst night of their lives.

The next morning the host families one by one dropped off the pastors at the church until all were present except—you guessed it—Dave and the conservative little pastor. Just as the meeting was to start, Dave’s van came roaring into the parking lot. Through the glare of the windshield I could see the faces of Dave and the pastor—laughing uproariously! As they got out of the van, they exchanged addresses like two kids who’d become best friends at summer camp.

I remember feeling embarrassed about my fear the night before. I’d sold both men short. Wondering at the power of the Holy Spirit to create a near-miraculous bond of love between the least likely people, I realized I’d sold God short too.

—Ben Patterson in He Has Made Me Glad

My Response: How could I interact with a believer who is unlike me?

Thought to Apply: As we draw nearer to Christ, we shall be drawn nearer to His people; and in our search for unity with the members we shall be drawn closer to the Head.—G.T. Manley (British theologian)

Adapted from He Has Made Me Glad (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – … Meets Mr. Brown Suit

The Unity of the SpiritKey Bible Verse: So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. Romans 15:7

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:5-6

[continued from yesterday]  One year the church hosted a two-day pastors’ conference. It required that our congregation provide beds and breakfast for the 60 pastors who would attend. I asked my people to sign up. Soon every pastor had a host family.

At the end of the first day of the conference, cars began arriving to pick up their guests. Soon every pastor was gone except one. He was a little man from a farming town in the central valley of California. He wore thick glasses and a conservative brown suit with a thin dark tie, and he carried a large Bible. Everything about him said rectitude, provinciality, control. He stood smiling and waiting patiently for his host to appear.

I checked the list to see who he had been matched with. It was Dave! Surfer Dave! Dos Equis Dave! I gasped in alarm. This was not a good match at all. For a moment I considered calling Dave to tell him we didn’t need his help after all, and checking this man into a local motel. I may have done just that if Dave had not at that moment careened into the parking lot, tires squealing. So I had no choice but to introduce them to each other.  [continued tomorrow]

—Ben Patterson in He Has Made Me Glad

My Response: Would I have shared this pastor’s apprehension about this match-up?

Thought to Apply: Paul’s vision is of a unity which is not denied by diversity, but which would be denied by uniformity—in a word, the unity of a body, the body of Christ. —James Dunn (theologian)

Adapted from He Has Made Me Glad (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – Mr. Flip-Flops …

The Unity of the SpiritKey Bible Verse: Don’t try to act important but enjoy the company of ordinary people. Romans 12:16

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:4-5,; 9-10, ; 15-18

As I preached, I saw Dave standing, with arms folded skeptically, in the back of our Irvine church, wearing a wetsuit, his hair matted from surfing earlier. Our parking lot was full of Mercedes and BMWs. Most of our members were professionals. They were casual southern Californians, but their attire was on the nice end of casual. Dave clearly didn’t come from Irvine.

When we met, I learned that he’d never been in a church before that day, and had grown up on the streets in a nearby beach town. His van was plastered with bumper stickers advertising Dos Equis and Corona. Its interior was green shag carpet, with surfboards stacked on one side and crushed beer cans scattered about. Dave was a total anomaly in our good, pleasant little Christian community.

But God wanted to make us better and more pleasant. In the months that followed, Dave was embraced by the church and soon became a Christian. He was with us for years, never dressed in anything more formal than sandals, gym shorts, and a T-shirt that advertised a beer, a raceway, or a surfboard manufacturer. But now he was carrying a Bible. I loved this guy.  [continued tomorrow]

—Ben Patterson in He Has Made Me Glad

My Response: How could joy coexist with sorrow for me?

Thought to Apply: There are times when we discover that God has called us to be together as a source of life for each other.—Jean Vanier (founder of Homes for Impaired Persons)

Adapted from He Has Made Me Glad (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – Soul in the City

The Unity of the SpiritKey Bible Verse: Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them.  – John 17:23

Bonus Reading: John 17:11,; 20-23

As double-decker buses and black taxis drove busily around Trafalgar Square, 15,000 enthusiastic British Christians of all ages stood shoulder-to-shoulder doing a “wave” for Jesus. This was the climax of “Soul in the City,” an outreach I attended in the summer of 2004. In a concentrated two-week window, 772 churches participated, selecting and performing 432 service projects in their communities.

Soul in the City caused local churches that hadn’t previously done so to network and share expertise and resources—sparking a hunger for increased cooperation.

The Metropolitan Police of London gave thousands of pounds to the churches to use on their projects. Why? Because 18 months after a similar 2000 event done by churches in Manchester, juvenile crime had dropped by 48 percent over the previous year. The police realized that when churches work together on this scale, it has a significant positive transforming impact on the entire community.

Soul in the City changed many people’s perceptions about Christianity. They saw the Church getting its sleeves rolled up with energy, enthusiasm, and commitment—on their very own streets.

—David Macfarlane in FaithToday

My Response: Can I pray for the spirit of this event to be sparked where I live?

Thought to Apply: I may worship in a different building or different style from you, but all we hold dear is God’s gift in Christ Jesus, who is our Unity.—Michael Davis

Adapted from FaithToday (1-2/05)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – Restore the Citywide Church?

The Unity of the SpiritKey Bible Verse: They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.  – Acts 2:42

Bonus Reading: Acts 2:42-47

Most of us have stopped noticing that the Book of Acts and the Epistles never mention more than one church per city. So far as we can tell, the believers in Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, and Thessalonica were unified as a family.

Granted, the people didn’t meet under one roof; they gathered in private homes all across the city. But they were a “body” nonetheless, under unified leadership, caring for one another and supporting each other’s walk of faith. They belonged to each other.

Some contemporary pastors are working to reclaim this identity. On a citywide basis, they meet for prayer and mutual encouragement. They’re speaking among themselves and to their congregations about the idea of “the Church at Denver” or “the Church at Indianapolis,” meaning all of God’s people in that locale, regardless of which specific theology they embrace or which building they use.

Were we to work together across denominational lines for common causes in evangelism, ministry to the poor, guidance to troubled youth, or other needs, the watching world would see more of what unites us and less of what divides us.

—Dean Merrill in Damage Control

My Response: One way believers could work together in my community is ____.

Adapted from Damage Control (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

One Lord, One Faith, 31 Flavors – Refocusing for Worship

The Unity of the SpiritWho Said It…George Barna

George Barna started out as a political pollster. During grad school at Rutgers University, he was introduced to Jesus Christ. He shifted to media research.

Then in 1984, George and his wife, Nancy, founded the Barna Research Group to analyze cultural trends and the Christian church.

He enjoys time with his three daughters, and playing basketball and the guitar.

What He Said…Refocusing for Worship

The rampant individualism of so much of our society clearly undermines unity. But we need to realize that this me-first-and-me-only attitude is also an obstacle to genuine worship. Paul reminds us (in Romans 15:5-6) that it is only in the context of our harmony with God and His disciples that true worship occurs.

It’s rare to find a congregation defined by true unity and accountability among all the believers. So many churches remain bastions of internal politics, gossip, judgmentalism, and relational factions. Certainly, one of the cornerstones of the life-changing worship experienced by the Early Church is revealed in Acts 2:42-47: the constant fellowship, sharing, serving, accountability, and resulting worship that distinguished the Church from the rest of the religious world.

People whose eyes are riveted on themselves can’t focus upon God. How are we helping people to see beyond themselves? What will it take for us to develop a united family of believers whose first and deepest desire is to worship God rather than get their own way?

Adapted from Inside-Out Worship (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach us, Lord, how to create bonds of cooperation and fellowship that invite others instead of erecting walls of self-preservation and competition that repel.

 

 

The Righteous Warrior – Faith in Action

Faith in Action 2The religious leaders were in a bind. They thought they’d put an end to Jesus. But now his disciples claimed their miracles were performed in the power of the resurrected Jesus. Peter and John’s bind was different. They’d been arrested, held in jail overnight, and called on the carpet by the Sanhedrin, the nation’s highest Jewish ruling body.

Interact with God’s Word:  Acts 4:7-22

  1. Do you think the authorities arrested Peter and John for healing the crippled beggar or for their witnessing afterward?
  2. Did Peter back off at all here (v. 10) from his impromptu message to the curious after the healing (3:9-26)?
  3. Why (v. 13) were the council members amazed by Peter and John?
  4. How did the Sanhedrin respond (vv. 17-21) to their defense?
  5. How did the two respond (vv. 19-20) to the Sanhedrin ruling?
  6. Why (v. 21) were Peter and John let go instead of being sentenced?
  7. Would their response have been different if the outcome had been more drastic? (See vv. 29—31.)

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the wisdom to know when and how to take a stand, and the courage to carry it out.

Acts 4:7-22

7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’

12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.

16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

The Righteous Warrior – Showdown

Faith in Action 2Key Bible Verse: The Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. 1 John 3:8

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 6:19-20

Five gringos approached the Chiapas, Mexico, maximum-security prison to encourage 80 wrongfully incarcerated brothers. Ten years earlier, local mob bosses, angered by the Christians’ refusal to pay for pagan rituals, had had them framed and convicted.

Guards searched us and inspected our gifts: toothbrushes, soap, and toilet paper. Steel doors were unlocked and relocked as we were escorted inside and told to wait. A half hour later, a warden’s assistant announced we could only visit ten inmates at a time. Time constraints, we realized, would prevent us from visiting half the men. This was spiritual warfare!

We fired back that we represented these prisoners’ families, demanded to visit all 80 together, and insisted on seeing her boss. She disappeared; we prayed. Ten minutes later, the warden appeared. He was new, it turned out, and unaware of these men’s histories. We filled him in. “I’m an evangelical too,” he replied. “Come to the main courtyard. All the prisoners may meet with you!”

Keys clanked, doors slammed, men in orange jumpsuits emerged, weeping and hugging us. A throng of curious prisoners hung on every word as Alan, Hector, and I spoke, reminding these Word-starved brothers that nothing can separate them from Christ’s love.

—Kenny Luck in Dream

My Response: I’ll stand up for the gospel or justice by …

Thought to Apply: When good people cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.—Pearl Buck

Adapted from Dream (WaterBrook, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

The Righteous Warrior – Risk Factor

Faith in Action 2Key Bible Verse: “I will go into to see the king. If I must die, I am willing to die.”  – Esther 4:16

Bonus Reading: Esther 4:5-17

Speaking out carries a risk. But sometimes not speaking out carries the greater risk of violating one’s integrity. Bill, a division manager of a Fortune 500 company, faced such a choice. He was deeply concerned about succession plans at his company. The man who’d been groomed to be the next CEO had failed to gain the respect of several senior people in the company, including Bill.

After soul-searching and prayer, Bill decided he must take his concerns to the current CEO, a forceful, and at times volatile, leader. To his relief, the meeting went remarkably well. Bill’s years of effective service, coming up through the ranks, had earned his boss’s admiration. But the seed of caution planted was only a first step. It took more analysis, more meetings—some confrontational and most requiring Bill’s direct involvement—and ultimately a board no-confidence vote.

In the end, another leader was appointed, a person who brought the right balance of competence, knowledge of the company, and rapport with others. In the years since the decision, he’s proved to be an ideal CEO. Bill, with great courage, grace, and tact, had quietly guided his company through its most critical decision moving into the twenty-first century.

—John Beckett in Mastering Monday

My Response: How can I build credibility now that could give me a future hearing?

Thought to Apply: Moral courage is the rarest ingredient of character.—Felix Frankfurter (U.S. Supreme Court justice)

Adapted from Mastering Monday (InterVarsity, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

The Righteous Warrior – …and Keeping It Up

Faith in Action 2Key Bible Verse: Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.  – Proverbs 29:25

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-17

[continued from yesterday]  The teachers lounge became a hostile place for weeks. Someone would begin a sentence, stop, look sidewise at me, and say, “I guess I shouldn’t say anything; spiritual Mr. Ingram is here.”

My colleagues seemed to turn on me. When approached alone, these teachers knew they had been way out of line. They had agreed privately. But because of the way they’d responded to me publicly—with criticism, ridicule, and rejection—I lowered my flag and fled. I stopped going to the teachers lounge.

But I began to realize that the biblical challenge to be salt and light comes with no assurances like “Be salt because the world will enjoy the way you taste,” or “Be light because people will immediately thank you for pointing out their sin.” Jesus’ words, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), suddenly had a personal ring.

So what if they don’t like me, I thought. I can’t control that. But they do need to respect me. After ten days of avoiding the teacher’s lounge, I decided to return and live with the ridicule and criticism so that there’d be a believing teacher in that school.

I went back. I didn’t have to flap the flag of my faith in their faces, but people knew I had boundaries.

—Chip Ingram in Holy Ambition

My Response: When have I sensed profound respect behind surface ridicule?

Thought to Apply: When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.—Billy Graham

Adapted from Holy Ambition (Moody, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

The Righteous Warrior – Running My Flag Up…

Faith in Action 2Key Bible Verse: The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John.  –  Acts 4:13

Bonus Reading: Acts 4:7-22

My first teaching job also involved coaching. One day, I walked into the teachers’ lounge and overheard three or four coaches and one teacher huddled around a table after lunch was over and the women had cleared out. They were talking in a crude way about some of the more attractive female students of our school. I could not believe what I was hearing. I thought, How can they sit here and make explicit sexual comments about 16-and-17-year-old girls they teach?

Finally, as calmly as I could, I said, “Hey, gentlemen, I know that I’m the brand-new teacher here and the youngest in the room. But what you are saying is absolutely unprofessional and uncalled for. Imagine being a father of one of these girls listening to how you are talking about them! I think this needs to stop and stop right now.” It got very quiet. Before anything else could be said or done, the bell saved me and I left the room.

Later that day I went to each teacher and, trying my best not to come across as self-righteous, said, “I’m not down on you personally, but I think this was inappropriate. I have real convictions about this.” [continued tomorrow]

—Chip Ingram in Holy Ambition

My Response: Have I ever moved from privately held conviction to taking a stand publicly?

Thought to Apply: It is important that people know what you stand for. It is equally important that they know what you won’t stand for.—source unknown

Adapted from Holy Ambition (Moody, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

The Righteous Warrior – I Blinked

Faith in Action 2Key Bible Verse: For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ. Philippians 1:20

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 11:24-26

Shutting my office door behind him, my boss said, “I think Mike has a nose problem. I heard that he’s heavy into cocaine. I want you to get some dirt on the guy and fire him.”

I was taken aback. Mike had been one of my best salespeople for years. My first reaction was to do the right thing: I wanted to talk honestly to Mike. If, in fact, he did have a problem, I wanted to help him get his personal and professional life in order.

But when I mentioned this approach to my boss, he blew up, saying, “I don’t care how you do it, just get rid of him. I want him out of here now!” I was caught between a rock and a hard place: I could do what was right and risk being fired myself, or choose not to make waves by being a “team player,” as my boss would call it, and do the dirty work he had demanded I do.

Well, I copped out and made the easier decision, the wrong one. I saved my job by unjustly taking the job of another. My boss’s ego and my fear of unemployment hurt the entire staff. Not only did we lose a good employee, we also lost the trust of our sales team. The decision may have saved my job, but I lost a piece of my soul.

—Larry Julian in God Is My CEO

My Response: When has fear kept me from doing the right thing? How would I respond differently now?

Adapted from God Is My CEO (Adams Media, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

The Righteous Warrior – No Flinching

Faith in Action 2Who Said It…John Piper

John Piper was raised in South Carolina and majored in literature in college (he’s now a prolific author who still writes poems).

He proceeded with biblical studies at Fuller Seminary and the University of Munich, and taught courses at Bethel Seminary for six years.

But sensing “an irresistible call to preach,” John shifted to Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where he’s been senior pastor since 1980.

What He Said…No Flinching

Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ. An act takes courage if it will likely be painful. The pain may be physical, as in war and rescue operations. Or the pain may be mental, as in confrontation and controversy.

Courage is indispensable for both spreading and preserving the truth of Christ. Running from resistance in evangelism or teaching dishonors Christ. There’s a kind of cowardice that tells only the truths that are safe to tell.

Martin Luther put it like this: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Adapted from Taste and See (Multnomah, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Effective Prayer

Prayer 11Along with the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospels (Matt 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4), James’ letter also offers practical instructions on how to pray effectively.

Covering hardship, healing, happiness, and confession of sins, James gives us a glimpse into what vibrant prayer within the church community looks like.

And while personal, private prayer is essential to a healthy walk with Christ, these instructions make it equally clear that a healthy church depends on believers praying together and for one another.

Interact with God’s Word:  James 5:13-18

  1. What “hardships” were these Christians experiencing? (See Acts 11:19; James 1:1-3, 5:10.)
  2. How does prayer help believers through hardships?
  3. James encourages us to “sing praises” when we’re happy (v. 13). Why is it important to offer praise as well as prayers expressing pain?
  4. Verse 15 says “prayer offered in faith will heal the sick.” But what are important “stipulations” for answers to any kind of prayer? (See James 4:2-3; Mark 14:36).
  5. According to verse 16, what two qualities produce “great power” and “wonderful results”? How can we make sure we have these qualities?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for being a God who listens to the prayers of his people and ask him to help you pray more consistently and effectively.

James 5:13-18

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – No Frills, No Flair

Prayer 11Key Bible Verse: O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. Psalm 139:1

Bonus Reading: Psalm 139:2-18

There was a time in my life when it seemed as if everyone wanted me to pray aloud at group gatherings. So I would pray, in properly respectful yet down-to-earth tones, choosing my words carefully.

I found myself mimicking my public “performances” in my private times with God. It was during one of these times, late at night, that I felt God speaking to my heart: Mike, exactly who are you praying for?

For months I had been so bent on shaping my prayers for audiences that I’d forgotten I was whispering directly into the ear of God.

I learned something that night: When we come to God in prayer, we must come as we are. No amount of flowery words will impress God. He knows our sinful thoughts and secret desires better than we do. We can’t fool him with impressive praying.

No, if we want to be people who passionately pursue intimacy with God, we must first and foremost have the courage to approach him honestly, completely revealing who we are, what we’ve done, and how we feel each time we call his name. To do less than that is an insult to God and to the miracle of prayer he’s given us.

—Mike Nappa in The Courage to Be a Christian

My Response: When I pray, am I always aware that I’m “whispering directly into the ear of God”?

Thought to Apply: In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart—John Bunyan (British writer & preacher)

Adapted from The Courage to Be a Christian (Howard, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Noteworthy Distractions

Prayer 11Key Bible Verse: The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Bonus Reading: James 5:13-18

For a long time I had been disturbed about the problem of a wandering mind during my time of prayer.

I would be trying to pray and suddenly my mind would jump to a business appointment I needed to make or something else I had to do.

For years I had forced these things out of my mind to get back to “spiritual things.” But now, thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Donn Moomaw, I began to keep a notebook by my side; and when the thought came to me to call someone, to make an appointment, or to do something for the family, I would jot it down and then go back to God.

I was at last realizing that God is interested in my total life and that these things which came into my mind during my time of prayer might be significant things for me to do, or places for me to go. This also made it easier for me to get my mind immediately back to my other prayers.

Sometimes a vision of someone I resented would come floating into my prayers. Instead of trying my best to suppress it, I began to ask God to make my thoughts about this person more like his. Before I knew it, I discovered that God was touching more and more of my life through this time of prayer.

—Keith Miller in The Edge of Adventure

My Response: I will strive to include all aspects of my life in my prayers by …

Thought to Apply: I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is.—Charles Spurgeon (British preacher)

Adapted from The Edge of Adventure (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Just Stammer Away

Prayer 11Key Bible Verse: We don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  – Romans 8:26

Bonus Reading: Psalm 63:1-8

We don’t like to stand speechless or stammering before God, but that doesn’t mean God holds it against us when we do.

I remember a vacation with my parents in France when I was in high school. I had just completed two years of French, hardly enough to make me fluent.

Still, there we were, tourists wanting to make the most of our time. So when we needed a bathroom, when we wanted to find a cafe, or when I lost my eyeglasses on the steps of L’Eglise du Sacre-Coeur, I falteringly used my butchered French.

I was trying—to the politely suppressed laughter of others—to speak the language. But I remember more than the townspeople’s bemusement. I remember how they warmly received my efforts. They strained to hear past my fractured sentences. They honored me by responding.

Is God any less generous?

He hears all that arises from us—the words of our mouth, the longings of our hearts, the thoughts of our minds, the intentions of our wills. Regret, grief, thanksgiving, hope—God hears our emotions, not just our grammar. Because of his grace, not our eloquence, we can pray. Even if we stammer.

—Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer

My Response: I know God hears my feeble words and stammered prayers because …

Thought to Apply: Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.—W. S. Bowden (Methodist bishop)

Adapted from The Art of Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.