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Battling the Blues – The Road Test

Spiritual EncouragementWho Said It … Wayde Goodall

Wayde Goodall pastors a thriving Assemblies of God congregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In addition to theology, he has studied counseling and psychology.

Wayde and his wife Rosalyn were previously missionaries in Austria, where they founded the Vienna Christian Center, one of Europe’s largest evangelical churches.

Dr. Goodall is an author, has hosted the TCT television network, and coaches other pastors.

What He Said … The Road Test

Living in the Wake Forest-Duke-North Carolina University “triad,” I can attend many ACC basketball games. When playing at home, the rush that comes to a team from the affirming crowd is amazing. A team at the bottom of the conference has been known to take down the top-rated leader.

But to be the best, I’ve discovered, a team has to know how to win on the road. The discouraging drain that comes from an away-game crowd can take a talented team down in front of the nation. Their skill, lineup, or experience didn’t change—just how they felt. To win on the road, players must learn to ignore negative emotions.

We all have moods—it’s just a matter of degree. For any of us, the pressures of life can add up. Too much pressure in too short a time can overwhelm anyone. Most of us don’t have a psychological disorder. But thinking you aren’t susceptible is a mistake. Learn to fight through your down times while paying attention to possible burnout or depression.

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

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2016 Charge Conference

Charge ConferenceCentral Church’s 2016 Charge Conference will be held on Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 7 pm.

Following the retirement of Pastor Cleary on June 30, and effective with the bishop’s appointment of Pastor Jan Davis to Central Church on July 1, Central changed from being part of a 4-Church Joint Charge to returning to a single-Church charge for the first time in 20 years.

Our Charge Conference this year will be in the form of a mini-cluster Charge Conference with Bennett’s Run UMC to be held at Bennett’s Run Church.

Prior to the Charge Conference, Rev. Joel Garrett, our District Superintendent for the Butler District, will meet with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committees from each Church at 6 pm.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend our Charge Conference at Bennett’s Run UMC this year!

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthPaul had never visited Colosse. Evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels.

The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine.

Paul warns them against shifting from faith in Christ alone to any beliefs based on self-effort.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 2:5-8

  1. What (v. 5) about the believers in Colosse made Paul feel good?
  2. What concerned Paul (v. 8) about these believers?
  3. What (v. 6) was the foundational belief of the Colossian Christians?
  4. So how should this foundation lead them to live out their faith?
  5. How (v. 7) does a plant draw nourishment from the soil? How can you derive life-giving strength by sinking your “roots” into Christ?
  6. What are indicators that a person is growing in his faith?
  7. How does being thankful to Christ for your salvation protect you from being diverted to false philosophies or religion?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a genuine gratitude for your salvation that helps you keep grounded and growing in your faith.

Colossians 2:5-8

5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.

6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Finishers’ Formula

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in faith … and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians: 2:6-7

Bonus Reading: Col. 2:5-8

In 2005 the Chicago White Sox battled through adversity and injury, individual slumps, and losing streaks. Refusing to believe “experts” who said they didn’t have what it takes, they stuck with the fundamentals of the game—and ended up champions!

Bryan Hickerson, the White Sox’s chaplain, said he’s convinced that the greatest challenge a major league ball player faces is the mental and physical grind of a baseball season. Christians, he notes, face similar challenges spiritually.

Paul, [in today’s Key Bible Verses], spelled out what it would take for the believers in Colosse to stay on track. It would take work; it would be a process. They’d need to be …

  • Grounded (rooted). By faith, you’ve been rooted in Christ, drawing from him all you need.
  • Growing (built up). Trusting Christ placed you on a solid foundation. Now keep building on this. How? Paul urged the Colossians to do so by putting into practice what their leader, Epaphras (Col. 1:7), had taught them.
  • Grateful (overflowing with thankfulness). Paul taught that when the believer is under attack, gratitude protects him from loss of peace and joy.

—Harry Genet

My Response: How am I grounded? How am I growing? How thankful am I?

Thought to Apply: The Christian walk is much like riding a bicycle; we are either moving forward or falling off. —Robert Tuttle

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Be in the “Now”

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize. Philippians 3:13-14

Bonus Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

As a high school basketball coach, I’ve observed that after a winning streak, my players sometimes begin to believe they’re better than they actually are. Such overconfidence can lead to deflating defeats. Yet a losing streak produces a mirror-image result: the team loses confidence in their abilities.

To avoid either of these, I remind my players to focus on what lies ahead rather than on the past. After each game, I say, “The season starts tomorrow.” This helps us remember what we, as a team can become.

As Christians, we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves when we reflect on our past sins. Satan can use this to try to make us feel unworthy of God and his kingdom. The truth is that as sinners we are all unworthy. But we’re not unlovable. Salvation is never something we earn, which is why Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross so we could be saved.

God can still do great things with us regardless of our past. He says to each of us, “Your Christian life begins today because I love you.” In return, the greatest gift we can offer others is the good news that God looks beyond our pasts to give us grace for the future—if only we’ll receive it!

—Chip Mehaffey in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How can I plan for steady growth moving forward?

Thought to Apply: Don’t let your highs be too high, or your lows too low.  —John Wooden (college basketball coach)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Strength Coaching

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk. 1 Peter 2:2

Bonus Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

During my first playing season, Jeff Reitz, an assistant strength coach, challenged me. “You’re a good Christian kid,” he told me, “But you need to grow.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Here’s a math problem,” Jeff said. “Every day you’re either spending time with Jesus or Satan. If you only read your Bible, pray, and worship God on Sunday, how many days a week are you with the Lord?”

“One,” I said.

“Right. And how many days are you with Satan?”

I started laughing. “Okay—I got you, Jeff. Cool.”

“You go to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings on Wednesday nights,” he continued. “Now—how many days do you spend with the Lord?”

“Two.”

“How many with Satan?”

“Five.”

“Right. There’s no way you can go against five of something with two and still win.”

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“Every day I get up and read my Bible, Shaun,” he answered. “I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot, just a little. And once a week I memorize a Scripture verse.” It sounded good to me. I was willing to give it a try.

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How consistent is my Scripture intake? What needs to change?

Thought to Apply: Let the Bible fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. —Henrietta Mears

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – For Best Results

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. 1 Timothy 4:7

Bonus Reading: 2 Peter 1:5-8

When I began my relationship with Christ, I was “discipled” as to what I needed to do: pray, read my Bible, go to church, tithe … At the same time I was trying to stop swearing, manage my hormones, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.

I was also encouraged to join a small group and expected to begin a ministry. I tried, but it was too much to begin at the same time. I failed miserably—and came perilously close to abandoning all spiritual investments.

It’s best to begin with one thing. Whether it’s to rise at 5 a.m. or have a family meal three times a week, we should drive that single stake into the ground and do all we can to establish its place in our life. Once a behavior is maintained for six weeks, we’re told, it has become a habit.

And once a habit, it no longer demands emotional, physical, and mental energy to sustain. It’s become part of who we are. Then we rise naturally at 5 a.m., or we naturally sit down together as a family to eat a meal on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Once a single practice reaches this point, we’re ready to add another to our life … then another.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What one thing will I concentrate on for now?

Thought to Apply: Instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. But gradual growth in grace I see clearly taught and urged.  —Ryle (British pastor)

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Letdown Setup

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: You couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.  – 1 Corinthians 3:2

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

What if you developed a daily schedule this way? You decide: Here is what I want in my life. I want to work out at the gym, have a quiet time, eat a cooked breakfast, get to work early, come home, sit down with the family for dinner, help my children with homework, read, write a letter to a friend, catch the game on TV, and be in bed by ten.

You do the math and find it takes a 34-hour day. You do more math, a little cutting here and there, and figure you can squeeze most of it in by rising at 4 a.m. You fill in the time blocks, set the alarm and go to bed, ready for your new life to begin.

At 4:20 a.m., after you’ve hit the snooze button for the second time, you wonder what you were thinking. You skip the gym, settle for a toasted bagel, and pray in the car on the way to work. You push on through the day, but it only gets worse. You throw in the towel by noon.

It was simply too much to do at once, so you end up in defeat, going back to life as lived before.

It’s seldom wise to attempt a regimen that begins with everything you can think of doing.   [continued tomorrow]

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What can I learn from my big plans for a disciplined life, and miserable failures?

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Inches Theory

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It … Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl victory on February 4, 2007, the first such win for an African American coach. He is committed to the importance of Christian parenting, strongly supporting the All Pro Dad organization.

To build his teams, he urges players to avoid concentrating on individual players, specific teams, or emotional highs and lows; instead they should focus on steadily refining the fundamentals of the game.

What He Said … Inches Theory

In the first meeting of the Colts 2004 training camp, I showed a clip from the movie, Von Ryan’s Express. In this film, a man who has fired a machine gun and thrown grenades at his pursuers—Nazis—sprints to catch up with a transport train that he and his fellow POWs have commandeered. He closes in on it, running with his hand out … and is shot and killed with his hand just inches from his fellow prisoners and only feet from the Swiss border and safety.

When the clip ended, I explained to the team the theory of death by inches. It wasn’t big things that had tripped us up in previous years but a combination of details. One detail at a time builds the whole. By focusing on these—inches— we could, rather than coming up just short, reach our Super Bowl goal.

“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” I told them. “We’re going to do what we do, only better. We’re going to make it by doing the little things right.”

Adapted from Quiet Strength (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Required to Reconnect – Reconciliation

Reconciliation3Paul’s letter to the Colossians first powerfully portrays what Christ has done—paying for our sin, reconciling us to God, and giving us the power to grow spiritually.

He then turns to what believers need to do to experience union with Christ and live in constant contact and communication with him.

After that, he offers practical guidance for experiencing unity with fellow believers.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 3:12-15

  1. When you think of holiness, what words come to mind? How does Paul’s list (v. 12) compare with yours?
  2. Why (v. 13) is it so difficult to make allowances for others’ faults? Why is it important to do so?
  3. What does Paul say is the key to forgiving someone who has offended you?
  4. How (v. 14) can we hold differing opinions and still be bound together in harmony?
  5. When it comes to unity and genuine community, why is love essential?
  6. Verse 15 pictures Christ’s peace as a referee. How can the “calls” by peace help you choose actions that will promote harmony in your church? … in your own soul?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to help you make allowance for others’ faults and to live in peace with them.

Colossians 3:12-15

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. To be sung to the tune “Dove on Distant Oaks.”

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Attack Dog’s Retreat

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: Do not testify spitefully against innocent neighbors. … And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me! I’ll get even!”  – Proverbs 24:28-29

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

In the 1980s, Lee Atwater, a high-ranking consultant for the National Republican Party, was the ultimate political attack dog. He specialized in ruining his opponents’ reputations by planting bogus, demeaning stories about them in the media.

Then, at the height of his influence, Atwater was stricken by a grave disease. A Washington, D.C., Christian witnessed to him about Jesus. Lee confessed his faith in Christ, even doing so publicly at a presidential prayer breakfast.

A remorseful Atwater next sought forgiveness and reconciliation from those on whom he’d played his infamous dirty tricks. He made phone calls and wrote letters. One was to a Democratic politician, whose life Atwater had nearly ruined by revealing an “episode” in his past. “It is very important to me,” he wrote, “that I let you know that one of the low points in my career remains the so-called ‘… episode.'”

Moved by the apology, this Christian attended Atwater’s funeral, and later observed, “I hope young political consultants who emulate Atwater’s tactics will realize that, confronting death, he became, through God’s grace, an advocate of the politics of love and reconciliation.”

—Timothy George and John Woodbridge in The Mark of Jesus

My Response: Am I willing to forgive someone who hurt me deeply?

Thought to Apply: When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.—Alan Paton (of South Africa)

Adapted from The Mark of Jesus (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Bishop Moore-Koikoi – New Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference – Effective September 1, 2016

Bishop Cynthia Moore-KoikoiNew United Methodist Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi “can’t wait to see how God is going to work in and through and among us,” she told Western Pennsylvania delegates and leaders shortly after being assigned to serve in the Pittsburgh Area. She will begin her new assignment on September 1, the same day Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton will become bishop of the New York Area.

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi meeting
with WPAUMC delegates and leaders.
See more photos

The daughter of a United Methodist pastor who served 40 years in ministry in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Bishop Moore-Koikoi said that as a bishop she is committed to work toward a “vision of a diverse church that embraces justice and the life-saving love of Christ.”

She acknowledges that it won’t be easy, but said, “I remind myself that God has got this. God is in control. My role and the church’s role is to experience the reign of God here on earth and point that out to people.”

Acknowledging deep divisions in the denomination around human sexuality issues, she said that after being notified of her assignment, “God said to me: “Cynthia, you’ve been talking about this.  We have an opportunity to show the world what unity really looks like.  You asked for this.’

“I know there are folks in the room who are diametrically opposed to what I believe about this issue,” she added. “But we have an opportunity to show the world what it might look like for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity. And it is going to be that witness that claims souls for Jesus the Christ!

“We won’t have to say a word about who God is,” she pointed out.  “Seeing us working together….is going to say something about who God is. And there are going to be people who will say,  ‘If they can do it, they must have something inside of them that is greater than what is outside in that world.  And I want to find out about that!’

“This, I believe, just might be our call,” the Bishop added. “This just might be our call!”

On Wednesday night, July 13, she became just the second African-American woman to be elected a Bishop in the Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ), receiving 64 percent of the vote on the 11th ballot.  Another African-American woman, LaTrelle Miller Easterling of the New England Conference, was elected the following morning after several other candidates withdrew from the process.

Moore-Koikoi is familiar with church life and ministry in rural, urban and suburban settings. Growing up in a preacher’s family, she said, “you experience about every kind of church you can serve.  When she was in elementary school, her father served a rural church “on the top of a very, very long hill, and in the back yard was a cemetery. Beside the church property was a farm with cows that would frequently get out and we would have to call up to the farm and ask them to come and round up their herd. “

Later, her father served a church in suburban Silver Spring, MD, where she went to junior high and high school.

Bishop Moore-Koikoi earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Loyola College in Maryland in 1988, and a Masters of Arts and advanced certification in school psychology from the University of Maryland in 1992. She worked as a school psychologist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools for 17 years before answering her call to the ordained ministry.

Attending Wesley Seminary, she was appointed as a student pastor to “a small congregation with a proud EUB heritage in a section of East Baltimore that was experiencing change.” The first wave was African-American, then Hispanic, she said, and the congregation had to learn how to navigate that change. Later she was appointed associate pastor at Calvary UMC, an affluent congregation in Annapolis.

Ordained an elder in 2010, she served on the Conference staff working with churches on discipleship. She later served as district superintendent for the Greater Washington Area, and most recently as superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District.

In that role, she played a pivotal spiritual role in the city following the unrest in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. She helped to organize United Methodist Churches to open their doors and minister to children and families whose schools were closed, and to meet other basic needs. She became the face of the United Methodist Church, and church volunteers in red T-shirts were visible praying for and ministering to the neighborhoods. Read her commentary Is Baltimore rising a year after Freddie Gray’s death?

Newly consecrated Bishops Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
and Latrelle Miller Easterling

Bishop Moore Koikoi answered her call to ministry while a member of Sharp Street Memorial UMC in Baltimore, her great-grandfather’s church and the church which sent her father into ministry. Her husband of three years, the Rev. Raphael Koikoi, currently serves as pastor there.

“We are in an area where people struggle daily…to feed their children,” Pastor Raphael Koikoi told the Western Pennsylvania group. “We are in one of the five zip codes where we fund the prison system. In other words, the majority of people who are in prison in Maryland come from one of those five zip codes. My heart is with youth ministry; my heart is with the marginalized, the disenfranchised.”

The new Bishop also loves working with youth and doing mission work, she said.

“I love painting stuff, building stuff. I love doing that with youth because they have that work-play balance.  They know how to do the fellowship stuff while they do the building stuff. Sometimes the adults get so focused on finishing the project that we forget that it’s important to just stop and be with each other. So youth help us get that right,” she said.

“I also feel increasingly called to do the kind of mission work where we are dismantling systems; where we are speaking truth to power; where we are showing the world the true power of God. God’s power includes making sure that everyone is fed, but God’s power also includes speaking truth to powerful people.

She told the Western Pennsylvania delegates and leaders: “What you see is what you get. Know that you can trust me—what you see is what you get.  And that’s what I require of you also — that you be honest and open.”

As she told her husband when they were contemplating marriage, she said: “If you have a problem, if there is some issue, you need to tell me about it rather than having me find out about it. And I can work through anything! I can work through anything as long as you tell me about it and we can work together.   That’s who I am.”

Standing at the podium of the NEJ Conference after her election, she said the being elected Bishop is a sacred trust.  “I’m going to need your prayers so that I can fulfill that trust,” she said. “…God spoke through you tonight, and that’s going to continue.”

The newly elected Bishop said she once sang in a group called Tapestry.  “Sometimes, God took all of the single chords and wove them together into something spectacular,” she said. “We need to show the world that God is more than just a good and beautiful God; God is a spectacular God.”

In overseeing the work of the church, “working prophetically, evangelically and apostolically with all,” she said bishops must “leave space for the transforming movement of the Holy Spirit, especially at this time, when the denomination is divided and many people may be wondering about what the future might hold.

“That’s spiritual work — remembering who God is and who God has called us to be,” she said. “We got God, so we got this.” – See more at:  http://www.wpaumc.org/newsdetail/bishop-moore-koikoi-god-is-in-control-5374553#sthash.0vsXXQRO.dpuf

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Dial First, Power Will Follow

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “Go with the strength you have … I am sending you.”  – Judges 6:14

Bonus Reading: Judges 6:11b-14, 25-27

Awhile ago, I knew I should reconcile with someone I’d mistreated, but felt too intimidated and embarrassed to do it. It was going to be hard for me to admit fault. I was afraid he might rage at me. I wasn’t even sure how I’d bring up the subject without being awkward about it.

So I admitted that I needed God’s strength. I affirmed that he’s powerful and that he’s with me. I knew I was aligned with his will, because the Bible tells me, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Romans 12:18). And I prayed, asking God for the courage to follow through.

Instead of feeling electrified with power, I still felt apprehensive and inadequate. Even so, I consciously decided to step out. That meant I had to act by doing what I knew God wanted me to do.

I went over to the phone and forced myself to dial the man’s number, knowing that if I walked down the road of obedience, God would give me power as power was needed. And sure enough, as the conversation unfolded that night, God emboldened me and strengthened me through that very difficult talk, and today I’m reconciled with that friend.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: A time when I stepped out in obedience and felt God’s power was …

Thought to Apply: Reconciliation demands courage … sometimes heroism, an overcoming of oneself rather than of one’s adversary.  —Pope Paul VI

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

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Unfinished Business

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “Where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them.”  – Matthew 18:20

Bonus Reading: Matthew 18:15-22

Evangelist Sammy Tippet grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Four courageous African-American girls endured humiliation to attend his all-white high school. One lunch hour, more than 100 students surrounded one of the girls, screaming racial slurs at her. Sammy didn’t participate, but did nothing to stop this harassment.

After Sammy’s conversion, he began praying for a chance to apologize for his cowardice to these girls—now probably married and scattered. But how to find them?

The Tippet family moved to San Antonio and, 21 years later, Sammy enrolled in a CPR class. “If you don’t understand my accent,” the African-American teacher began, “it’s because I grew up in Baton Rouge.” After class, Sammy approached her. She was one of those girls! He begged forgiveness for how she’d been treated.

“I accept your apology,” she responded. “Most importantly, God accepts your apology. Thank you for speaking up now. The sadness I felt turned to joy, knowing there are people like you, lovers of God, making this right.”

Jesus spoke in today’s Key Bible Verse in the context of reconciliation. Sammy’s prayer was answered because God is in the reconciliation business.

—Erwin Lutzer in When You’ve Been Wronged

My Response: A wrong I need to pray about righting is ____.

Thought to Apply: Racial reconciliation is one of the best roads to humility we can take because of the opportunity to die to self. —Glen Kehrein

Adapted from When You’ve Been Wronged (Moody, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – First Impression

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”  –  John 17:23 NIV

Bonus Reading: Philippians 2:1-2

Cindy, a fellow college student, attended a church that provided little biblical teaching. Since she was struggling in her spiritual life, I invited her to visit my church.

I was unprepared for what took place after we took our seats. My pastor asked one of the elders to join him at the pulpit. “As most of you know, Kent and I argued during Sunday school last week,” he said. “Our emotions got out of hand, and we said things that should have been discussed in private.” Of all days to bring someone to church, I thought, why did I pick this one?

Pastor Woods put his arm around Kent’s shoulders. “We want you to know that we met that same afternoon to resolve our differences. By God’s grace we came to understand each other and were fully reconciled. But we are sorry for disrupting the unity of this fellowship and ask your forgiveness.”

The rest of the service was a blur, and I hoped Cindy would forget the whole incident. But after the service, as I was driving her home, she exclaimed, “I still can’t believe this morning. I’ve never met a minister who had the courage and humility to do what yours did. I’d like to come to your church again.”

—Ken Sande in The Peacemaker

My Response: What is it about an act of reconciliation that is so powerful?

Thought to Apply: Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. —Ken Sande (lawyer & Christian conciliator)

Adapted from The Peacemaker (Baker, 1991, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – A Pierced Heart

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: If you … remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled. Matthew 5:23-24

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

[continued from yesterday]  Over the next several days, every time I went to prayer, God kept bringing to my mind Job 31:13-14: “If I have been unfair to my … servants, if I have refused to hear their complaints, how could I face God?”

I could feel God calling me to account. But I kept trying to tell God I have the right to talk to anyone any way I want. I make the law here.

Okay, I could sense God’s reply, but if you want to argue technicalities … And he reminded me of Jesus’ confrontation with the legalists in Matthew 23:23: “How terrible it will be for you … for you are careful to tithe … but you ignore … justice, mercy, and faith.”

Most of all, God used [today’s Key Bible Verse] to really pierce my heart. I knew my brother had something against me. I knew his heart was hurting.

So, humbled, I called the sergeant into my room and we sat down together. I asked him to forgive me for being hard of heart and for yelling. As we prayed, all the barriers vanished. My shoulders felt 50 pounds lighter!

Upon leaving, he smiled and said, “I knew you’d do the right thing.”

—Chris Plekenpol in Faith in the Fog of War

My Response: Who needs to hear me say “I’m sorry”?

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Concert Cancellation – Saturday, August 6, 2016

Grace DiversifiedCentral Church’s concert featuring Grace Diversified has been cancelled due to a car accident this week involving their lead singer, Uriah.  We hope to reschedule them at a future date.

In the meantime, please hold Uriah and the other members of Grace Diversified up in prayer.

Required to Reconnect – I’m the Commander!

Reconciliation3Who Said It … Chris Plekenpol

Chris Plekenpol earned his mechanical engineering degree from West Point in 1999. His baptism the same year marked a drastic change in his perspective on the Army and life.

After qualifying for Airborne, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, and Ranger, Chris deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a tank company commander. He lost six of his men while helping take Fallujah. Now returned to civilian life, Chris is studying to become a pastor.

What He Said … Chris Plekenpol

In the Ramadi sector of Iraq we were patrolling, an insurgent had planted a makeshift bomb and then escaped. So I went outside to tell the gunner from my tank, who was filling in for SSG Burton, to let the tank and Bradley crews stand down.

“Sir,” he shot back, frustrated, “where are my guys at?”

“What!?” I screamed, stunned by his disrespect. “Get up here, sergeant!” He did and stood at attention. “Don’t you ever ask me where your men are! That’s your responsibility. Do you understand me?” He tried to respond, but I cut him off. “This conversation is over!”

It was the first day that this sergeant—a good leader and amazing Christian—had controlled a Quick Reaction Force. So he was already stressed out. Another sergeant, I learned later, had taken the QRF tank crew to chow at the mess hall—a big no-no. So he’d taken my full wrath for something not his fault. Still, I’m the commander, I rationalized. A sergeant should know where his soldiers are.   [continued tomorrow]

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – Avoiding Temptation

Avoiding TemptationThe first nine chapters of Proverbs are laid out as fatherly advice to a son. But men of all ages are vulnerable to the temptations against which Solomon warns.

And all should consider the contrasting paths of life these chapters portray—one a straightforward path of integrity and far-sighted discipline, the other a slippery path of pragmatism and short-sighted indulgence.

Interact with God’s Word:  Proverbs 7:4-26

  1. What tactics did the immoral woman use (vv. 10, 13-21) to entice the young man?
  2. How does Solomon characterize the man (v. 7) for willingly succumbing to her seduction?
  3. What qualities (v. 4) would have spared this man from his downfall?
  4. What are the results (vv. 22-23, 27) of giving in to sexual temptation?
  5. What steps should he have taken (vv. 24-25) to avoid his fate?
  6. How would taking the long view (v. 26) have caused this man to think twice before accepting the woman’s proposition?
  7. How can you guard your mind so that your heart doesn’t stray and you don’t wander off the straight path?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you apply this ancient wisdom to the blatant forms of this temptation in our contemporary culture.

Proverbs 7:4-26

4 Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family. 5 Let them protect you from an affair with an immoral woman, from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman.

6 While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain, 7 I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.

8 He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house. 9 It was at twilight, in the evening, as deep darkness fell.

10 The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. 11 She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. 12 She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner.

13 She threw her arms around him and kissed him, and with a brazen look she said, 14 “I’ve just made my peace offerings and fulfilled my vows. 15 You’re the one I was looking for! I came out to find you, and here you are!

16 My bed is spread with beautiful blankets, with colored sheets of Egyptian linen. 17 I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

18 Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses, 19 for my husband is not home. He’s away on a long trip.

20 He has taken a wallet full of money with him and won’t return until later this month.” 21 So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery.

22 He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, 23 awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life.

24 So listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words. 25 Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path. 26 For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – Survival Instinct

Avoiding TemptationKey Bible Verse: She came and grabbed him … Joseph tore himself away … and ran from the house. Genesis 39:12

Bonus Reading: Genesis 39:6-19

When a big buck hears a noise he’s not familiar with, he doesn’t wait to check it out. He bolts. Automatically. He does not need to understand it. He immediately associates it with danger and he’s outta there!

Let’s say you’re just surfing the internet and you misspell the name of a website for power tools. What appears before your eyes next is not a nail gun but a naked woman. See, porn sites do that to you. They’re set up with fake domain names so that men can accidentally wind up there and get drawn in.

Okay, here you are, faced with a situation. How are you going to respond? The key to success here is being prepared. And the time to prepare is not when your heart is beating fast with temptation. It’s before the battle ever begins, when you’re levelheaded and unemotional. It’s then that you make a covenant with yourself and God that if by chance you should encounter a porn site, you’ll back out.

No hesitation. No long looks. Immediately!

If you’re not prepared, you may give in, because you waited until the attack to make a rational decision. And you can’t be rational when you’re being bombarded with all of Satan’s arsenal. You must be instinctive.

—Jimmy Sites in Into the High Country

My Response: Have I predetermined my reflexive response when temptation strikes?

Thought to Apply: If you don’t make up your mind, your unmade mind will unmake you.—E. Stanley Jones

Adapted from Into the High Country (Broadman & Holman, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – Ambushed

Avoiding TemptationKey Bible Verse: Equally amazing is how an adulterous woman can satisfy her sexual appetite, shrug her shoulders, and then say “What’s wrong with that?” Proverbs 30:20

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

After I spoke at a men’s retreat, the corporate executive grabbed my arm and asked to speak with me privately. His eyes were red with strain and tears were running down his cheeks.

He trembled as he blurted out, “I had sex with a person that I worked with. She was just an employee who worked for one of the supervisors. I had no physical attraction to her and had never even thought about her sexually.

“I was going to the office costume party and needed to change after work,” he explained. “I went into a back room where we stored supplies and was changing my clothes for the party.

“She walked in the door and I was in my underwear. She didn’t hesitate as she walked over to me and just embraced me. Within a minute or two, we were in a passionate frenzy that included intercourse. It was finished in less than five minutes.

“She redressed, turned, and walked out of the room to the party. I stood there in a daze. For months now we’ve seen each other at work, but neither of us has even mentioned the encounter. I have a great marriage. I’m sick because of what I did, and feel I’ll never be able to get over it.”

—Wayde Goodall in Why Great Men Fall

My Response: I’ll pray today for strength to overcome such temptations.

Thought to Apply: It takes two to make a successful temptation, and you’re one of the two.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – Rude Dude?

Avoiding TemptationKey Bible Verse: So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 5:15-23

In the mid-’90s, Sports Illustrated did a cover feature entitled “St. David,” on David Robinson, the MVP center for the San Antonio Spurs.

One segment described how Robinson handled himself, as a professing Christian, husband, and father, in the midst of the NBA’s intense temptations. For example, during television breaks, he’d sit on the bench and stare studiously at the floor to avoid looking at the gyrating cheerleaders out on the court.

The article also mentioned that like all NBA players, Robinson was constantly being approached by attractive women who wanted to talk to him … and were probably offering more than just witty conversation. Apparently, he would rather brusquely brush them off.

When asked to comment on that seemingly “rude” practice, he said something like this: “If any woman is going to get her feelings hurt, it’s not going to be my wife.”

A protector and hero in action.

Each day your wife and mine hold out to us their intense, God-given, little-girl desire (and right) to be treasured. Each day she’s threatened on all sides by an offensive and abusive world. And each day—with kind words and faithful eyes—we, too, can be our wife’s protector and hero.

—Jeff Feldhahn in For Men Only

My Response: Can my wife feel confident that I have eyes only for her?

Thought to Apply: Temptation is a woman’s weapon and man’s excuse.—H.L. Mencken (journalist)

Adapted from For Men Only (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – The Creature

Avoiding TemptationKey Bible Verse: Don’t lust for her beauty. Don’t let her coyness seduce you.  – Proverbs 6:25

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 5:3-8

En route to Des Moines, I had a layover in Omaha. I got out of my middle seat and stretched in the back of the plane.

That’s when I saw this surreal Creature heading down the aisle: six foot and some change; short, bleached blonde hair; long black lashes; Broadway performance make-up; Texas-size ruby red lips; Ferrari chasse; short red leather vest cut to reveal Cleveland, Ohio; fitted white Capri pants; black spike heels.

You’d have to be a robot not to notice. I’m no robot. My exact thought process: Wow! Wonder what all the attention grabbing is about. Boy, the enemy never quits. Thank God for Chrissy.

All of a sudden, I felt a stinging whap on my shoulder. “You guys love that sort of stuff,” a voice behind me whispered. A flight attendant had seen me notice the Creature. She wanted me to know she knew what I was thinking.

I quickly reached into my wallet and pulled out a picture of Chrissy. “Why look at that when you can look at this?” I smiled, tapped the picture, puffed up my chest and looked directly in her eyes. Not expecting my response, she tried to cover the stunned look on her face, muttered something about how beautiful Chrissy was, and shuttled up the aisle.

—Kenny Luck in Dream

My Response: Do I have a ready way to redirect such temptations?

Thought to Apply: Opportunity knocks only once; temptation leans on the doorbell.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Dream (WaterBrook, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – With Angels Like These…

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

Bonus Reading: Matthew 5:27-30

Ryan, my nine-year-old, and I were watching an NFL playoff game when the Victoria’s Secret “angels” hit the screen with only their wings on. The remote wasn’t nearby, so I immediately turned to Ryan and blabbered, “Hey, Ryan, how’s it going? How you doing? What’s going on?” I engaged him in conversation to draw my eyes—and his—away from the skin belonging to our fine-feathered friends.

He looked at me (okay, my ploy worked), and then asked, “Dad, what are you doing?

“Dude, there are some ladies on TV right now without any clothes on, and I don’t want to look at any other woman that way except your mom. So you can help me out by talking to me.”

My son, who still thinks girls have cooties, shrugged his shoulders. “Okay,” he said.

Two weeks later, Ryan and his younger sister were downstairs watching football, and I heard the same Victoria’s Secret ad come on. I was about to rush downstairs when I heard Ryan say, “Hey, Cara, how’s it going? How you doing? What’s going on?”

Think I felt God’s pleasure? Up and down my spine! It happened because I wanted to bounce my eyes from sexy images and stay loyal to God and my son.

—Kenny Luck in Every Man, God’s Man

My Response: Can I point to a recent win against lust that increased my confidence as God’s man?

Adapted from Every Man, God’s Man (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

Escape and Evasion – Blindsided

Avoiding TemptationWho Said It…Jerry White

Jerry White has worn more hats than most: A mission controller at Cape Kennedy after earning his doctorate in astronautics. An officer in the Air Force, retiring from the reserves as a major general. And president and CEO of The Navigators.

During his stint at Nav headquarters in Colorado Springs in 1990, his grown son was brutally murdered. Several of Jerry’s books deal with how he and his wife, Mary, re-examined what they believed about God’s sovereignty and love.

What He Said…Blindsided

The dangers we need to fear the most are the ones we don’t see until it’s too late. It’s like traveling in a country where cars drive on the opposite side of the road. As pedestrians, all our instincts tell us to look in the wrong direction for traffic. Many times when traveling, I’ve been protected by a friend who knew I’d make that mistake and restrained me.

Danger is like a cancer that grows within us, unknown until it sinks roots of death into our bodies. Danger is like the cholesterol clogging our arteries, building silently until we have a heart attack. Even for a committed believer in Christ, these silent and subtle dangers are always present. Not just casual or halfhearted believers are at risk.

Most of us believe that “Satan walks about seeking whom he can devour.” True, but it also takes a more sinister form: “Satan sneaks about seeking whom he can entice and coax into the first delicious steps of seemingly harmless indiscretion.”

Adapted from Dangers Men Face (NavPress, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, our culture preys on my vulnerabilities. I need Your strength to stand tall and true.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Faith and Feelings

Faith and FeelingsThe psalms are packed with all kinds of emotions—from fear to grief to anger to over-the-top joy and happiness. And today’s study passage is certainly no exception.

In fact, a wide range of feelings are covered right within this psalm’s 20 verses. As you read and study Psalm 77, note how the writer appears to move from anguish to hope as he reflects on how God rescued his people in the past.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 77

  1. In verses 1 through 3, what feelings are being expressed and experienced by the psalmist?
  2. In what ways do the psalmist’s painful feelings intensify in verses 4 through 10? What are indications that he has fallen into deep despair? (See especially vv. 8-10).
  3. What shift takes place in verse 11? Why would constantly thinking about God’s past deeds have helped give the psalmist hope?
  4. What does this psalm imply about expressing emotions? About turning to God when life seems the darkest?
  5. When life seems particularly difficult, try to turn to this psalm (or others like it) for comfort, encouragement, and hope.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Confess your tendency to keep your feelings bottled up or to express them in harmful ways; ask God’s Spirit to help you practice self-control; thank God for feelings of joy and for feelings that move you to repentance and positive action.

Psalm 77

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of Asaph.

1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help.
Interlude

4 You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
Interlude

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Interlude

16 When the Red Sea saw you, O God,
its waters looked and trembled!
The sea quaked to its very depths.
17 The clouds poured down rain;
the thunder rumbled in the sky.
Your arrows of lightning flashed.
18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;
the lightning lit up the world!
The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your road led through the sea,
your pathway through the mighty waters—
a pathway no one knew was there!
20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,
with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

 

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Not an Emotional Guy

Faith and FeelingsKey Bible Verse: I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.  – Psalm 120:1

Dig Deeper: Psalm 77

Joe was a tall and athletic man in his mid-50s. He had grown up on the Sand Hills of western Nebraska and had been a cattle rancher all of his life. When he came into my counseling office the first thing he said was, “I want you to know that I’m just not an emotional kind of guy.”

He went on to explain that some people, especially women, have a lot of emotions and some people don’t. He was convinced that he was someone who didn’t have or need many emotions.

That stoic philosophy had worked for most of his life. However, when land prices fell and he found out that his wife had cancer, his emotion-free world began to crumble, and he discovered that he didn’t have the resources to deal with all of his newly discovered emotions.

Here’s the deal. Some people are more aware of their emotions than others, but the experience of emotions isn’t optional. Regardless of gender, age, race, or socioeconomic level, emotions are an integral part of our standard equipment.

The only thing that’s optional is how we choose to express them. I can’t always choose what I’m going to feel. But I can choose how long I feel it. With God’s help we can change our emotional pattern.

—Gary Oliver in Mad About Us

My Response: When it comes to how I respond to or deal with my emotions, one change I might need to make is …

Thought to Apply: There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.—Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist)

Adapted from Mad About Us (Bethany, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Our Painful Feelings

Faith and FeelingsKey Bible Verse: For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29

Dig Deeper: Job 1; James 5:10-11

[One harmful view of Christian experience says] the Christian life is to be a pain-free zone. As Christians, we must not only expect hand-to-hand combat with sin, but we must also know there is no exemption from suffering in this life. Suffering is not indicative of a lack of faith. Pain is not the direct result of our sins and failures.

Certainly all suffering and pain is ultimately rooted in sin, but the notion that my pain and suffering is a payback from God is unbiblical. That is the theology of Job’s comforters. A theology of Christian experience that says only blessing, health, and prosperity are the lot of the faithful is a recipe for emotional disaster with deep accompanying damage to faith. Such teaching is void of the very gospel itself.

If we expect that “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before”we will be in for some serious disappointments. If we expect that victory over sin will be one uninterrupted triumph after another, we will become disillusioned with God, his Word, ourselves, or all of the above. A sound theology of Christian experience makes room for the struggle of the war-faring pilgrim and the suffering of the wayfaring pilgrim.

—Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

My Response: Someone I admire for his or her ability to keep trusting God in the midst of great personal suffering is …

Thought to Apply: Can we follow the Savior far, who have no wound or scar?—Amy Carmichael (Irish missionary)

Adapted from Feelings and Faith (Crossway, 2009)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – When Emotions Mislead

Faith and FeelingsKey Bible Verse: The hotheaded do things they’ll later regret; the coldhearted get the cold shoulder.  – Proverbs 14:17, The message

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 9:7-9

Some years ago I made a presentation to a group to whom I was accountable for leading an organization. I was asking authorization for something I wanted to do, and they said no. I did not respond well. I became silent, probably sullen, and for the rest of the evening I spoke only when spoken to. Even then my voice must have been edgy. After the meeting, a friend steered me out the door and into a corner. His words, I shall not forget.

“You know, your behavior in there was not very classy. Those people were there to help you and to save you from making a bad mistake. But if they learn that you don’t like hearing the word no on occasion, they’ll stop telling you what they think, and you’ll have to face the consequences all on your own.”

My friend’s rebuke prompted an examination of my own emotional reactions. He was right, and I knew it.

What I learned that night has stuck with me for years and years. When I feel things going against me and feelings of anger or resentment begin to rise, it is time to stop and ask what is happening. Is this for the greater good or not? Is God speaking through this moment, or isn’t he? I must not let my emotions mislead me.

—Gordon MacDonald in A Resilient Life

My Response: What is my usual response when things don’t go my way? How might Gordon’s two questions help me in the future?

Thought to Apply: Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.—Vincent Van Gogh (French painter)

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Thomas Nelson, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Gaining Self-Control

Faith and FeelingsKey Bible Verse: A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.  – Proverbs 25:28

Dig Deeper: 2 Timothy 1:7

Not only does God command certain emotions, but he also commands that we exercise self-control. Self-control is about as popular as root canals. However, there is a serious requirement for believers to exercise self-control. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and a gift of grace. God straightforwardly expects us to exercise self-control (2 Pet.1:6).

What is it about self that we are to control? We must control every aspect of our lives, especially our emotions. As Spirit-filled believers, we are to be sober-minded, reasonable, sensible, exercising good judgment and prudence (Rom. 12:3; 1 Pet. 4:7). The presumption is that our emotions are under the control of God’s Word and Spirit and sound mental judgment.

The Bible commands us to be in control of our emotions through Spirit-empowered self-control. [But] how do we obey these commands? Let me quickly say that there [are] no seven easy steps. When we stop believing the lies of the Devil—that certain aspects of our life will never change—when Scripture begins to infuse us with the hope, and when we start practicing the truth we believe, there is change. Under the influence of the Word and Spirit, we really can begin to handle our emotions.

—Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

My Response: How have I bought into the lie that I can’t change my out-of-control emotions?

Thought to Apply: I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.—Aristotle (Greek philosopher)

Adapted from Feelings and Faith (Crossway, 2009)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Commanded to Feel

Faith and FeelingsKey Bible Verse: Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  – Romans 12:15

Dig Deeper: John 16:20-24

A careful reader of the Bible will conclude as indefensible any view that says, “The emotions are off-limits.”Our emotions are a part of our humanity that needs to be sanctified and brought under the authority of God’s Word.

John Piper has accurately pointed out that the Bible commands all kinds of emotions. There is the divine imperative to be joyful or to rejoice (Phil. 4:4). There is the command to “forgive your brother from the heart”(Matt. 18:35, ESV, et al).

Anyone who has dealt with forgiveness (who hasn’t?) often says something to this effect: “I don’t feel like I can forgive him yet.”Forgiveness is more than an emotion, but whether we like it or not, it has an emotional element to it. We are also commanded to love. But “love is not a feeling,”say a few Christian pop songs and teachers. This will not do. We are told to “love one another with brotherly affection”(Rom. 12:10). Love may be more than a feeling, but never less.

What about the command to mourn? “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom”(James 4:9). God commands us to mourn, which engages the emotions.

—Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

My Response: Of those emotions commanded in today’s devotional, which one or ones do I find most difficult to express? Easiest?

Adapted from Feelings and Faith (Crossway, 2009)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day

How Does God Feel About Feelings? – God Feels. You Feel.

Faith and FeelingsWho Said It … Pete Scazzero

Pete Scazzero is author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a groundbreaking book on the integration of emotional health and spirituality.

Pete is the founder and senior pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City, a multiracial, international church representing over 65 countries. Pete and his wife, Geri, are co-founders of a ministry called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (emotionallyhealthy.org).

What He Said … God Feels. You Feel.

Scripture reveals God as an emotional being who feels—a Person. Consider the following (emphasis provided; all verses from the NIV):

  • “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain“(Genesis 6:6).
  • “‘My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused‘”(Hosea 11:8).
  • “[Jesus] began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death'”(Matthew 26:37-38).
  • “[Jesus] looked around them in anger and, deeply distressed“(Mark 3:5).
  • “Jesus [was] full of joy through the Holy Spirit”(Luke 10:21).

Reflect on the implications of our God feeling. You are made in his image. God feels. You feel. At the very least, the call of discipleship includes experiencing our feelings, reflecting on our feelings, and then thoughtfully responding to our feelings under the Lordship of Jesus.

Adapted from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Integrity, 2006).

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too; help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

 

Radical Repentance

Radical RepentanceWhen discussing Radical Repentance, we can’t overlook the conversion of Paul.

A well-known persecutor of the church, Paul not only witnessed but gave his approval to the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Many had no doubt labeled him “The Least Likely to Receive Christ.” But then this self-proclaimed “Pharisee” encountered Jesus and became a passionate early missionary and author of several New Testament letters.

In today’s passage, we dig into his dramatic conversion story.

Interact with God’s Word:  Acts 9:1-30

  1. The Lord himself told Ananias of Paul’s conversion, yet Ananias responded with skepticism. Why?
  2. Why is it sometimes difficult to believe a dramatic conversion story?
  3. What were some signs that Paul’s conversion was genuine (vv. 20 & 22)?
  4. What important role did Barnabas play in Paul’s adjustment to the life of faith (vv. 26-27)?
  5. What important role can you play in helping a new Christian adjust to the life of faith?
  6. What can you learn from Paul’s story about God’s ability to save those you’ve pretty much given up on? (See also Luke 15:1-31.)

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for your own conversion experience and ask him to show you how to share Christ’s love with the so-called “hopeless cases” in your life.

Acts 9:1-30

1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem

Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”

22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. 24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.

26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.

28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

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 – Running on Empty

Radical RepentanceKey Bible Verse: I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Philippians 3:7.

Bonus Reading: John 6:22-58

At the age of 25, according to the world’s standards, I was successful. I was a world record holder in the mile, had been on several Olympic teams, and had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. However, in May of 1972, in front of a nationally televised audience, I finished last during a race in the Coliseum in Los Angeles. I was angry, humiliated, and empty.

Shortly after that race, my wife, Anne, and I visited our friends Bernie and Clara Taylor. During our visit, I noticed Bernie reading over something and asked him what it was.

“It’s my testimony of coming to know Christ,” he said.

Even though I had been raised in the church, and Christian friends had shared Christ with me over the years, I didn’t know what Bernie was talking about. So, that evening, he and his wife shared with Anne and me what it meant to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

That night, it became clear that life was not about running faster or winning an Olympic medal; those things could never fill the void in me—only Christ could do that. A few weeks later, Anne and I accepted Christ. It was the best decision we ever made.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run

My Response: When have I allowed my personal pursuits to get in the way of pursuing Christ with my whole heart?

Thought to Apply: Never let success hide its emptiness from you.—Dag Hammarskjold (Swedish statesmen)

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)

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.