Skip to content

Archive for

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – In vs. Of

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.  – 1 Corinthians 14:20

Bonus Reading: 1 Cor. 5:9-13

I know a man who desperately needed to buy a warehouse, but when a liquor company offered to sell him one, he balked. He asked me if he should buy it.

“There’s no sin in purchasing real estate from the sinful,” I told him, “unless you cheat someone else or use it sinfully yourself.”

“Yes,” he objected. “But what about using my money to prosper them.”

“Look,” I explained. “We live in a complicated world. You buy groceries at stores that sell liquor, fly on airplanes that give it away in first class, and stay in hotels that have bars. In the world isn’t the same as of it.”

On the other hand, a deep, close bond in business or a relationship with an unsaved partner is rife with danger. Unbelievers, sensing they’ll also be blessed for the sake of the righteous, often want to partner with Christians. Potiphar and Pharaoh saw that hope in Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar saw it in Daniel.

The biblical admonition, “don’t team up with those who are unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14) is ignored at great risk. Ahab was spared because he was with Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18:1-27), but Jehoshaphat nearly died because he was with Ahab. Don’t link your destiny with another uncommitted to the God you serve.

—Mark Rutland in God of the Valleys

My Response: To function in the world without becoming aligned with it, I need to …

Adapted from God of the Valleys (Servant, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Steep Learning Curve

living-in-an-unholy-worldWho Said It … John Ensor

John Ensor is Executive Director of the Urban Initiative Program of Heartbeat Inter-national. H.I. trains Christian communities in providing life-saving, life-changing assistance to women and couples unprepared for pregnancy. J

ohn is completing a two-year effort to establish ultrasound-equipped Pregnancy Help Clinics in needy neighborhoods of Miami, a city with nearly 40 abortion facilities. John previously served as a pastor and founded a network of six clinics in the Boston area.

What He Said … Steep Learning Curve

Because I wanted it badly, I looked right past the red flags. I ended up back where I started, but poorer, embarrassed, and feeling used and stupid. I’m talking about a used car. I went online and was defrauded out of $4,000. Proverbs 14:15 had me fingered: “Only simpletons believe everything they’re told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.”

The webmaster knew about people at their predatory worst who feed on the gullible. So right there on the website, in a section about online fraud, he spelled out the sure signs to look for. He also provided straightforward guidelines for doing things right when buying a used car online. But never dreaming I’d be a victim of fraud, I failed to read the link before barging ahead.

One Proverb (14:12) warns about the path that seems right but ends in death. I think this refers to our tendency to follow our own judgment without informing it with the wisdom of others or instructing it with a sense of right and wrong, wise and foolish.

Adapted from Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart (Crossway, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Living in the World

holy-livingWe think of salt as seasoning, and also a melting and water-softening agent. But until recent times, its primary use was to preserve. That made it a metaphor for permanence.

The term translated “everlasting covenant” in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5, is literally “covenant of salt.” “Season all your grain offerings with salt,” God told his chosen people (in Leviticus 2:13), “to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.”

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 5:13-16

  1. What is the value of seasoning that has no flavor? What is implied here about the value of Christians who make no effort to affect the world around them?
  2. What are some ways Christians can affect their society positively, bringing out its best flavor?
  3. What warning does Jesus’ remark about flavorless salt being thrown out carry for Christians who simply blend in with their culture?
  4. What qualities of Jesus’ disciples make them a source of light in their communities?
  5. What are some ways in which Christians hide their light?
  6. How can our good deeds lead not to smugness but to praise for our heavenly Father?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for courage to stand out from the crowd coupled with a selfless caring that makes the faith you live attractively compelling

Matthew 5:13-16

13 You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Deep End Economics

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  Psalm 112:9

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians :7-13

An Arizona church had a clothing drive to help a ministry that operates a summer day-camp for hundreds of poor children. One of their favorite activities is going to a city swimming pool. But a swimsuit is required at the pool, and few children own one. When this need was announced at the church, an out-of-town visitor was moved to donate $1,000 to buy swimsuits!

David, a church member, checked out several stores. At the store that offered the best discount, he carefully selected 150 children’s swimsuits, and piled them all in front of the cashier! Several people behind him reacted with dismay, knowing this big purchase would delay them. An older woman asked if he had a large family. “No,” he laughingly replied, and explained who the swimsuits were for.

The woman continued to watch as the clerk totaled the cost. Finally, the total reached $1,000, which paid for 125 suits. David told the clerk he’d put the remaining 25 swimsuits back on the sales rack. “No!” the woman interjected, “I’d like to pay for those.” David, astounded by this woman’s generosity, was sure he’d just seen another example of Kingdom mathematics.

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

My Response: A community need my church is—or could be—addressing is …

Thought to Apply: A true community’s members are making the transition from “the community for myself” to “myself for the community.” —Jean Vanier (Canadian social worker)

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Extreme Outreach

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: … shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Philippians 2:15

Bonus Reading: Mark 2:14-17

A striking example of engagement with the world is the story of Craig Gross and Mike Foster and their quest to redeem the porn industry. Founders of (now under the umbrella of Fireproof Ministries), these two men have withstood withering criticism from within the Christian community for their attempts to reach out to the purveyors (and the victims) of the multibillion-dollar pornography empire.

They attend porn conventions (with their wives, no less), handing out “Jesus loves porn stars” T-shirts and challenging people to go without porn for seven days. They even inaugurated a “porn Sunday” in 2005, calling on churches to wake up to the reality of porn and porn addiction in their midst.

I don’t know these men personally but I have benefited from their ministry (their accountability software is on my computer) and admire their courage in seeking to bring the light and life of Jesus into the darkest of places. They didn’t wait for the lost to come to them—they went to where those people were and by their actions demonstrated the grace and truth of the gospel.

—Mike Erre in The Jesus of Suburbia

My Response: A hangout for the unchurched that I could “salt” with a Christian presence is …

Thought to Apply: Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it. —John Stott (British preacher)

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Apple Dumpling Days Are Here !!

Central Church's Delicious Apple Dumplings

Central Church’s Delicious Apple Dumplings

Orders are now being accepted for Central Church’s delicious Apple Dumplings that will be baked each Thursday morning for pick-up at the Church on 6th Avenue and 13th Street between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. on:

  • Thursday, November 10, and

  • Thursday, November 17

Apple Dumplings are still only $3.00

Available as Baked, Unbaked, or Frozen

Call (724)   846-5072   to place your order now.


Culture Can Be Redeemed – Refurbished Reputation

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading: 1 John 3:16-19

Our church recognized that its reputation in the community had deteriorated as the church grew. We were known as “the church that causes traffic jams.” Add this to the fact that we paid no taxes and you’ll see why the local government saw us as takers rather than contributors to the community.

So we went to the city manager and asked, “What can we do to serve the community?” He looked at us skeptically and said, “I’ll get back to you.” Three months later he called and asked us to deliver more than 17,000 town directories to every household. “Can you do it?” he inquired. We said yes.

Our church is large, but it was still a challenge to martial more than 200 volunteers to give a September Saturday to deliver these directories. We found the volunteers, and we decided to make this practical service event into a prayer walk—praying for every home in our community as we walked. The service project/prayer walk opened new ideas and opportunities for community outreach, and we entered that fall with a new sense of anticipation of God working through us.

—Paul Borthwick in Stop Witnessing and Start Loving

My Response: Is my church viewed as a negative, irrelevant, or positive factor in my community? What might change that?

Thought to Apply: According to the New Testament, God wills that the church be a people who show what God is like. —Stanley Grenz (theologian)

Adapted from Stop Witnessing and Start Loving (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Proactive Culture Changer

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Philippians 4:8

Bonus Reading: 2 Cor.10:3-5

Film executive Micheal Flaherty, now 40, was first an educator who designed a program that dramatically increased the enrollment of minority students at elite Boston prep schools and co-founded a successful charter school.

After the Columbine tragedy of 1999, Flaherty noted that while Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott loved wholesome films, the gunmen preferred dark flicks like Natural Born Killers. This inspired him to transition professionally to Hollywood to make movies that would positively influence youth.

He contacted his old college roommate Cary Granat, then president of Dimension Films. Granat caught Flaherty’s vision and they co-founded Walden Media.

Most of Walden’s films are adaptations of well-known novels. Flaherty hopes to provide librarians, teachers, pastors, and parents with resources for teaching kids positive, even biblical, values. In an industry skittish about portraying religious themes, Flaherty is bucking the trend. “We’re after great stories,” he says, “and a key element of a great story is faith.”

Walden’s credits include The Chronicles of Narnia megahits, plus adaptations of children’s classics such as Charlotte’s Web, and Amazing Grace, about the life of William Wilberforce. They are starting to give Hollywood a good name.

—Drew Dyck in Today’s Christian

My Response: I think Christians are known more for darkness-cursing than candle-lighting because …

Thought to Apply: Better to light a one small candle than to curse the darkness. —Chinese proverb

Adapted from Today’s Christian (3-4/07).

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Who Do We Appreciate?

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: So let’s not get tired of doing what is good … We will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:9-13

A group wanted “to do something special beyond its church walls to make God smile!” They decided “to honor, encourage, respect, and applaud” the young adults working as cafeteria workers and nurse’s aids at a nursing home. They sent a warm letter to 14 workers, inviting them to a dinner and celebration in their honor at the home of one of the group members.

After an icebreaker, a group member thanked the workers for their service to the elderly and announced the team’s plan to serve them this evening. The church women cooked, and the men served the dinner and cleaned. After the meal, the guests and hosts each told a little about themselves.

Several group members spoke, and the leader read scriptures such as today’s Key Bible Verse designed to affirm that each person is created in God’s image for a special purpose. Each guest received a decorative bowl from Mexico, a houseplant, and an encouraging book. To end the evening, the workers stood in a circle and received a group blessing.

One letter of thanks said, “It was wonderful to be appreciated. I’ll never forget it. The book really made me think how much I can achieve.”

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

My Response: A way I’d like to “make God smile” is …

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Three Ways to Relate

holy-livingWho Said It … Mike Erre

Mike Erre is the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, California, where he lives with his wife, Justina, and their two children. He is the author of Why Guys Need God.

Mike is an avid fan of Buckeye football, the music of Pearl Jam, and the mythology of Star Wars.

What He Said … Three Ways to Relate

The Jews of Jesus’ day responded to the Greco-Roman culture of their occupiers in three ways: embracing it (Sadducees), separating from it (Pharisees), or attempting to take it over (Zealots).

Today’s Christians relate to culture in similar ways. Some, like the Amish and Mennonites, attempt to withdraw from culture. Many evangelicals partially withdraw by forming a Christian subculture with its own schools, music, novels, and movies. Still others—today’s collaborationists—have excised those parts of the Bible offensive to modern ears. And Zealots no longer advocate armed revolt but rather use political and legal power to attempt to return the West to its “Christian” roots.

Jesus only direct response was to the many questions of his contemporaries, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). But how he interacted with his culture speaks volumes. He didn’t withdraw from it (like the Pharisees) nor embrace it (like the Sadducees). He didn’t advocate armed revolution (as did the Zealots). He simply sought to redeem culture wherever he found it.

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Integrity

integrityThis passage is saturated with God’s passion for integrity and justice. In it, as in many prophetic passages, Isaiah deals with more than one time period.

He touches both on how God will deliver Judah from Assyrian aggression (see 37:30-38 for a record of the fulfillment), and with the reaction of Jerusalem’s residents, both those in the ancient city and those in the New Jerusalem (v. 5 and Revelation 21:2).

Interact with God’s Word:  Isaiah 33:1, 5-6, 14-16a

  1. Name some non-monetary treasures that people are often driven by.
  2. Judging by what you think and dream about (v. 21), what are your treasures?
  3. How susceptible are these treasures (v. 19) to losing their luster or being wiped out?
  4. What are some treasures (v. 20) that can withstand these hazards?
  5. How does what you assign value to tend to define what will command your time and efforts?
  6. Why do you think desire is a more potent motivator than duty?
  7. What (v. 21) is the correlation between your treasures and your desires? If what you concentrate on and dream about changes, could your treasures remain unchanged?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you concentrate more on His eternal heavenly economy and lessen your preoccupation with earth’s transitory economy.

Isaiah 33:1, 5-6, 14-16a

1 What sorrow awaits you Assyrians, who have destroyed others
but have never been destroyed yourselves.
You betray others,
but you have never been betrayed.
When you are done destroying,
you will be destroyed.
When you are done betraying,
you will be betrayed.

5 Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven,
he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
6 In that day he will be your sure foundation,
providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.

14 The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear.
Terror seizes the godless.
“Who can live with this devouring fire?” they cry.
“Who can survive this all-consuming fire?”
15 Those who are honest and fair,
who refuse to profit by fraud,
who stay far away from bribes,
who refuse to listen to those who plot murder,
who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong—
16 these are the ones who will dwell on high.
The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress.
Food will be supplied to them,
and they will have water in abundance.

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Cost of Doing Business?

integrityKey Bible Verse: The wicked accept secret bribes to pervert justice. Proverbs 17:23

Bonus Reading: Micah 7:2-4

When Christians are known as commitment-keepers and scrupulously ethical business people, we stand out from society’s background noise of deceit, deception, and dishonesty. And that positions us positively in the marketplace.

The business of a friend of mine required frequent interaction with a certain branch of government in Cook County, Illinois. Usually one of his assistants handled those transactions, but one day when no one else was around, my friend went to the county building himself.

He encountered a petty form of extortion that everyone else had been tolerating for years as merely a cost of doing business. But instead of participating in the illegal activity, my friend simply said, “No, I’m not going to pay off.”

He didn’t shout or cause a scene. But his quiet but decisive refusal set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a federal grand jury investigation, a government crackdown, and eventually one little corner of county government getting cleaned up.

The truth is that the ethical temperature of a company, an industry, or an entire nation will notch up only when individuals make the commitment, one by one, to morality in business.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: What kind of “pay offs” have I been tempted to make?

Thought to Apply: This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. There are men who can’t be bought. —Carl Sandburg (journalist, historian, biographer, & poet)

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

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.

Rated Trustworthy – Clean Hits on the Gridiron

integrityKey Bible Verse: The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done it,” he said to his men. “It is a serious thing to attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.”  – 1 Samuel 24:6

Bonus Reading: Job 1:6-8

Some linebackers don’t play fair. They try to knock an opposing quarterback out of a game by driving their helmet into his ribs when his arm is up.

Others look to hit an opponent’s knees. If a player loses his knees, he loses his livelihood. Players who take cheap shots like these lack class—and integrity.

I refused to take cheap shots. If a guy had his back turned and wasn’t part of the play, I wouldn’t hit him. I’d go full-tilt within the rules. If the quarterback still had the ball, even though his back was to me, I would hit him hard, but high. I wouldn’t hit him low. I’d hit him right.

Once I accidentally hit an opponent the wrong way and hurt him, but the referee didn’t make the call. I told the ref, “It was my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I did it. You should penalize me.” I wanted the ref and the other player to know I was honest and would take responsibility for my mistakes.

The ref thought I was nuts. If Buddy Ryan had known, he’d have yanked me back to the sidelines. I don’t even want to think about what Ditka would have said.

I wanted to win, but only by competing at the highest level.

—Mike Singletary in Mike Singletary: One-on-One

My Response: In my line of work, I take “cheap shots” when I …

Thought to Apply: I value people with a conscience. It’s like a beeper from God.  —Robert Orben (screenwriter, humorist)

Adapted from Mike Singletary: One-on-One (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Buyer on the Take

integrityKey Bible Verse: He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. Acts 24:26

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 12:1-5

My friend Dean Borgman was until recently the CEO of Sikorsky Aircraft, a manufacturer of Black Hawk and other helicopters. Dean had traveled to a smaller Mideastern country to pin down specifications for 12 new-model helicopters it planned to buy. His company was eager to make the sale.

Oddly, the first scheduled event was a private dinner for Dean only at the home of the country’s military chief. After initial pleasantries, his host brazenly made clear that he could determine who would be awarded the contract, and expected to be significantly “rewarded” for his support.

Losing this order could ultimately cost Sikorsky hundreds of millions of dollars. But the request violated U.S. government contracting laws, his company’s ethics policy, and, above all, his values as a Christian. So Dean politely but firmly closed off the conversation—and his host abruptly cut the evening short.

The helicopter order went to a European supplier. Dean was disappointed, but knew he’d done the right thing. In an ironic twist, the military chief was removed from office not long after this incident. Meanwhile, Sikorsky’s stature as a company that could be trusted grew.

—John Beckett in Mastering Monday

My Response: On a smaller scale, how have I dealt with unethical practices I’ve encountered?

Thought to Apply: You must consider the bottom line, but make it integrity before profits. —Dennis Waitley

Adapted from Mastering Monday (InterVarsity, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – A Better Deal

integrityKey Bible Verse: No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. Psalm 89:34

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

Soon after I agreed to go to Alabama on a scholarship, a Florida State representative phoned. “We know you told Alabama you’ll go there,” he said. “But it’s not yet signing day, and we’ve recruited the best quarterback and the best wide receiver in the country.

Like you, they’d verbally committed to attend different schools. Then both came to visit Florida State. Once here, they realized we’re the school for them.”

The quarterback, I learned, planned to go to Penn State before changing his mind, and the receiver originally planned to enroll at Notre Dame. “We want you, Shaun,” the man pleaded. “With you as the top running back, we’ll have an unbeatable combination.”

The lessons I’d received as a kid at home and in church were so strong, I didn’t even feel tempted. “I appreciate the offer,” I told him, “but I’ve given Alabama my word.”

“You didn’t write anything down,” he countered.

“I didn’t have to,” I replied, “to know what I said.”

To talk me out of my decision, he made a lot of promises about what Florida State would do for me.

“I said I’d go to Alabama,” I told him. “That’s what I meant; that’s what I’ll do.”

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How has internalizing God’s Word reinforced my ability to resist temptation?

Thought to Apply: Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of tricks and duplicity than straightforward and simple integrity in another. —Charles Colton (author)

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Everyone Does It? Not Us

integrityKey Bible Verse: Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and will believe. 1 Peter 2:12

Bonus Reading: Job 31:1-4, 9-12

I have spent my career in the music business. In this world—driven mostly by fear and ego—I want to be remembered as someone with character.

I want to deal honestly with people, telling them the truth about our potential business together or why it’s not going to happen. I want to deal with employees in a straightforward manner.

God is constantly building my character—and yours—through our everyday choices. These determine our course in life, and, ultimately, what will be said about us when we’re gone.

In 1994 my company, Warner Alliance, took a stand on a gospel singer who’d had an affair with one of his background singers. We terminated the singer’s contract. The local newspaper marveled that a for-profit organization would take a clear-cut moral stand.

All too frequently we hear of another corporate scandal, another doping scandal in sports, another case of plagiarism by a journalist or student—even another instance of a minister stealing sermons off of the internet. As my former pastor observed, “North America continues to need preaching on ethical issues such as this, but what it desperately needs is positive examples.”

—Barry Landis in Devotional Ventures

My Response: A Christian whom I’ve watched raise the integrity bar is ____.

Adapted from Devotional Ventures (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Taking Stock

integrityWho Said It … Michael Zigarelli

Michael Zigarelli is dean of Regent University’s School of Business. Back in 2000-2001 he was named the university’s professor of the year.

While Mike holds a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in employee management, he has also studied theology, so management and law are fused with ethics and practical theology in his teaching and writing.

His most recent books are Influencing Like Jesus and The Christian on Monday Morning. Mike and his wife Tara live in Virginia with their four children.

What He Said … Taking Stock

I had a dentist who told me during one of those monologues-to-the-mute that he’d gotten insider information on a new, top-secret technology that a dental company was about to roll out. Based on that tip (an illegal tip, mind you, and he knew it), he bought lots of stock in that company, netting him “a 1,000-percent profit” of about 30 grand. “Not bad for a week’s work!” he chuckled to his captive audience.

After regaling me with his market killing and completing his tooth filling, he made a sales pitch for me to bring my four kids to see him. Sure, I’ll sign them right up! I thought, amused at how someone so smart could be so dumb. You do illegal things and then brag about them, and I should trust you with my kids?

His 1,000-percent profit story culminated in 0 percent influence with me. People filter our words through our behavior. Efforts to persuade will get us nowhere unless we’re becoming the type of person others will follow.

Adapted from Influencing Like Jesus (B&H Publishing, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Walk Away from Worry – Trusting in God

trusting-in-godLegitimate concern that leads to planning and action is healthy and can alleviate worry.

Worry, on the other hand, is unhealthy, tends to immobilize the worrier, and reduces his ability to trust in God.

Maybe that’s why Jesus devoted a good chunk of his teaching on the mountainside to the topic of worry.

Interact with God’s Word:  Matthew 6:25-34

  1. What reason (v. 27) did Jesus give for not worrying about our needs?
  2. What did Jesus observe (vv. 26-30) about the welfare of birds and flowers?
  3. What conclusions about worrying (vv. 26 & 30) did Jesus draw from this?
  4. What (vv. 31-32) should distinguish Jesus followers from the unbelievers around them?
  5. What frees them up to be different?
  6. What is promised in verse 33? What must we do to receive this promise?
  7. What does verse 34 tell us about daily struggles? Why do you think Jesus ended his words on worry with these sobering thoughts?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Three times in this passage, Jesus told his disciples not to worry. Ask God for the resolve to treat this as a command rather than take-it-or-leave-it advice.

Matthew 6:25-34

25″That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28″And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31″So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34″So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



Walk Away from Worry – Rose-Colored Glasses?

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many troubles and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 43:1-4

Some people will tell you that the best way to overcome worry is to put it out of your mind. “Just don’t think about it,” they’ll say. But you can’t do that for long. The best way to overcome worry is to face the truth: You’ll have trouble in the world, but God will enable you to get through it.

Paul wrote from a prison cell, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Philippians 4:12-13).

The providence of God isn’t shallow. Jesus didn’t say, “Nothing bad is ever going to happen to you; everything is going to be fine, so quit worrying.”

If you think nothing really bad will happen to you, your peace is unrealistic and temporary. You’re going to be devastated when hard times hit—and they will hit.

God’s providence doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen to you, but it does mean that God will reinforce and strengthen you through whatever tragedy you face.

—Bob Russell in Jesus, Lord of Your Personality

My Response: A threat I need to pray for the strength to face is ____.

Thought to Apply: The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.  —Tom Watson (founder of IBM)

Adapted from Jesus, Lord of Your Personality (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



Walk Away from Worry – Joblessness Jitters

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: Give you burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.  – Psalm 55:22

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:6-7

I graduated from college carefree, confident that a high-tech job was waiting for me. But then, as day after day went by with a lot of interviews that produced no job offers, I began to grow concerned. I wondered if I would have nothing to show for all my hard study.

Soon frustration turned to constant worry. I began to question why I’d gone to college and to wonder if something was wrong with me. Friends couldn’t help me and, as my self-esteem plummeted, I began avoiding them.

God hadn’t been a priority for me at college. But now, with plenty of time on my hands, I returned to seek his face. As I prayed, peace gradually replaced my panic. And as my perspective shifted, I regained sight of those abilities that could help me win employment.

Then, out of the blue, a friend from my past contacted me and asked if I was working anywhere. Before I knew it, I was employed—at a job I love!

Now those long, high-anxiety jobless days are just a memory. But as I thank God for my job, I’m equally grateful for the valuable lessons from those days of waiting—about praying for my needs, focusing on the blessings God has given, and allowing his peace to rule my heart.

—M. Z. in Illinois

My Response: A lesson I’ve learned from waiting is …

Thought to Apply: All worry and anxiety come from the fact that we have calculated without God. —Oswald Chambers (British teacher & chaplain)

Adapted from Mike Singletary: One-on-One (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



Walk Away from Worry – The Respectable Sin

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! Luke 12:28

Bonus Reading: Psalm 35:1-10

The main reason we worry is that we want to control our own lives rather than trusting God to take care of the future. That’s behaving like pagans. When you worry, you’re saying, “I don’t believe God will do what he promised to do.” Worry calls God a liar.

  1. God says, “I’ll provide your every need while you’re here on this earth.” Worry says, “I’m not sure he will come through.”
  2. God says, “When you have problems, I’ll make sure you can cope. I won’t give you more temptation than you can bear.” Worry says, “No way. I won’t be able to deal with this.”
  3. God says, “Trust me. In the end all things work together for your good.” Worry says, “I don’t see how any good can come out of this.”
  4. God says, “When the time comes for you to die, I’ll take you to be with me.” Worry says, “I’m afraid to die, because I’m not sure what will happen to me.”

Oswald Chambers said that worry is “infidelity” because we’re conveying that we don’t believe God looks after the details of our lives. Disobeying God’s command not to worry may be a “respectable” sin among Christians; it’s still a sin.

—Bob Russell in Jesus, Lord of Your Personality

My Response: The promise from God that worry keeps me from believing is …

Thought to Apply: Worry is putting question marks where God has put periods. —John R. Rice (evangelist)

Adapted from Jesus, Lord of Your Personality (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



Walk Away from Worry – Weed Control

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!  – Isaiah 26:3

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:8-9

In some parts of my lawn, the grass is thick and green. In other areas, it’s sparse and dry. There are even a few places where the grass is missing entirely.

When I mow the lawn, I notice that where the grass is healthy, there are no weeds. Where the lawn is sparse, there are a few. Where there’s no grass, the weeds flourish.

Every time I notice the weedy spots, I think, I really need to pull those things. So I do, but within a few weeks they’re back—and I’m pulling them again. One day it hit me: I don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I needed to invest time making the grass as healthy as possible. The more grass I had, the fewer weeds I’d have to pull.

The same applies to worry. Worry is like the weeds. God’s peace is the grass. Instead of just focusing on eliminating my worries, I needed to cultivate God’s peace.

Just as I care for my lawn by providing water, nutrients, and insect control, I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading [today’s Bonus Reading] is like reading the ingredient list on a bag of grass seed. It tells me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind.

—Mike Bechtle in Discipleship Journal

My Response: To focus my thinking on God and what is good and pure, I need to …

Thought to Apply: I’ve learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart. —Ruth Bell Graham (wife of the evangelist)

Adapted from Discipleship Journal (11-12/03)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



All Saints Day: A Holy Day John Wesley Loved

John Wesley was fond of All Saints Day. Image licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

John Wesley was fond of All Saints Day. “John Wesley. Stipple engraving by J. Posselwhite” licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

November 1 is All Saints Day, a sometimes-overlooked holy day in United Methodist congregations. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The following year he calls it “a day that I peculiarly love.”

This may sound odd. United Methodists don’t believe in saints. Right?

Well, yes… and no.

Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard. The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—Of Purgatory, Book of Discipline ¶104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating.

However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether.

John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement, celebrated All Saints Day, calling it a “festival I truly love.”

Tradition: A Theological Guideline

In studying John Wesley’s theological method, scholars have found four, inter-related theological guidelines: Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. These are the sources of our understanding of our faith.

By tradition we mean all that has gone before us in the Christian church. We are part of a long history that goes back through John Wesley, to the early days of the Church, and the apostles of Jesus. When we think theologically we need to keep in mind the creeds, prayers, sermons, books, music, and all other ways Christians have understood the work of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in their lives.

In an All Saints Day journal entry dated Monday, November 1, 1756, Wesley writes, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” If your 18th century English is as rusty as mine, it might help to know that the word scruple means, “to be unwilling to do something because you think it is improper, morally wrong, etc.” (

Those to glory gone

All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for all those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history, what United Methodists call the tradition of the church.

From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on.

Charles Wesley, John’s brother, picks up on this theme in his hymn that appears in our United Methodist Hymnal as “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above,” #709. In the first verse, he offers a wonderful image of the Church through the ages:

Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone,
for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.

On All Saints Day we remember all those—famous or obscure—who are part of the “communion of saints” we confess whenever we recite The Apostles’ Creed. We tell the stories of the saints “to glory gone.”

Charles Wesley wrote hymns that express his theology.

Charles Wesley wrote hymns that express his theology. “Charles-Wesley-preaching” by William Gush, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Alongside the likes of Paul from the New Testament, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley, we tell stories of the grandmother who took us to church every Sunday. We remember the pastor who prayed with us in the hospital, and the neighbor who changed the oil in the family car. We give thanks for the youth leader who told us Jesus loved us, the kindergarten Sunday school teacher who showered us with that love, and the woman in the church who bought us groceries when we were out of work.

Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints encourage us to be all God has created us to be.

Saints on earth

Charles Wesley’s hymn tells us those “to glory gone” are joined by the “saints on earth,” whom we also celebrate on All Saints Day. We think of the inspirational people with whom we worship on Sunday, and those across the world we will never meet. We celebrate fellow United Methodists who inspire us, and those of other denominations whose lives encourage us. We give thanks for those with whom we agree, as well as those whose views we do not share.

Additionally, we remember and pray for our sisters and brothers in Christ who faithfully follow Jesus in places where being labeled a Christian puts them in harm’s way.

One song

On All Saints Day, we recognize that we are part of a giant choir singing the same song. It is the song Jesus taught his disciples; a tune that has resonated for more than 2,000 years; a melody sung in glory and on the earth. Our great privilege is to add our voices to this chorus.

The last verse of “Come, Let Us Join our Friends Above” encourages us to sing faithfully while on earth, so we might join the heavenly chorus one day.

Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
and shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.

O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in heaven.

On All Saints Day, let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have led us to Jesus. As they have shared the gospel with us, may we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for the lives of his saints.


Walk Away from Worry – Racing in Neutral

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  Of course not.” Matthew 6:27

Bonus Reading: John 14:27

For you, is worry just an occasional nervousness that takes the joy out of the day? Or is it chest pains, insomnia, or daily medication? Whether your worries are mild or chronic, Jesus Christ wants to free you of them. He wants your personality to be transformed from panic to peace.

Let’s distinguish between legitimate concern and worry. Concern focuses on probable difficulties and produces action to alleviate stress. Are you nervous about the upcoming test? Then study! Are you concerned about your finances? Put yourself on a budget. Are you anxious about your health? Go to a doctor and follow his counsel.

Worry, on the other hand, focuses on improbable difficulties or circumstances you can’t control or change. You studied for the test, but you worry, What if I forget everything? What if I fail? Your finances are in order, but you worry, What if the car breaks down? What if I get laid off? You’re in good health, but you still worry, What if I get cancer? What if I’m in an accident?

Worry is like racing your engine when the car’s in neutral. You’re wasting gasoline, putting unnecessary stress on the motor, and making no progress. That kind of unproductive behavior is what Jesus wants us to avoid.

—Bob Russell in Jesus, Lord of Your Personality

My Response: One of my genuine concerns is ____. One of my biggest worries is ____.

Adapted from Jesus, Lord of Your Personality (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.


FAQs: Communion

communion-2How often do United Methodists take communion?

Each local United Methodist church determines how often to serve communion. Read More

I am not a member of The United Methodist Church.  Can I still receive communion?

The table of Holy Communion is Christ’s table, not the table of The United Methodist Church or of the local congregation. The table is open to anyone who seeks to… Read More

Do United Methodists believe the communion elements actually become the body and blood of Christ?

Learn more about communion. Read More

May a person who has not been baptized participate in Holy Communion?

Yes, our church does not seek to close God’s Table, although the historic and normal Christian order of the sacraments is baptism first – as birth into the family -… Read More

Can children take communion?

In The United Methodist Church, children are welcome to receive communion. Parents may decide when their child should begin receiving communion. Read More

Why do most Methodist churches serve grape juice instead of wine for Holy Communion?

Grape juice or wine? Read More

Who can assist the pastor in communion?

Communion is one of the responsibilities and duties of a pastor. The pastor may “train deacons and lay members to serve the consecrated communion elements.” Read More

I am allergic to wheat.  Will I be able to take communion?

Will I be able to take communion if I have a wheat allergy? Read More

I am concerned about the risk of infection and hygiene issues during communion.

What should you do? Read More

Should we use unleavened bread for communion?

Either leavened or unleavened bread is acceptable. Read More

What is an Agape Meal?

The Agape Meal, or Love Feast, is a Christian fellowship meal that is often practiced in Covenant Discipleship groups or other small groups. Read More

What is the United Methodist view of online Communion?


A team of pastors, church leaders and theologians share background on Holy Communion and perspectives about offering the sacrament online. Read More




Ask the UMC: Why say “the body of Christ, broken for you”?

As we give the bread we have broken at the Great Thanksgiving as Jesus did at the Last Supper, we also say the words Jesus said. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications. Cropped from original.

Learn the two reasons those words are spoken at communion. Read More




United Methodist sacraments, rites and rituals

Some chuEpiscopalians and United Methodists share Communion at the U.S. National Cathedral. Photo Melissa Lauber, courtesy the Baltimore-Washington Conference.rches recognize 7 sacraments; United Methodists only 2. This series of articles explores each of these important acts in the life of a Christian. More



Book of Resolutions: This Holy Mystery

C0mmunion bread at a meeting of the Connectional Table in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Diane Degnan.

Read more  about United Methodist teachings on the sacrament of Holy Communion. More





Methodist History: Communion Cups

communion-cupsUnited Methodist Churches welcome everyone to take communion. While this open table is the custom throughout the denomination, you may see slight differences in the way communion is offered.

Some churches break loaves of bread to dip in a common cup and other churches prefer individual servings of grape juice. The way we take communion has changed over the years.

In this 2-minute video, Mark Shenise from the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History gives a look at some carefully designed communion cups which allowed Methodists to maintain decorum during Victorian times:




Walk Away from Worry – It’s in My Genes

trusting-in-godWho Said It … Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien is assistant editor of Men of Integrity’s sister publication, Leadership Journal, and moderates its blog. He also prepares downloads for

Brandon and his wife Amy are members of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois, where he plays guitar and teaches Sunday school.

What He Said … It’s in My Genes

I hail from a long line of worriers. From my dad, I inherited an inability to sleep until I resolve whatever issue is currently on my mind; from my mom, I received a proclivity for stomach aches before exams.

Of course some concerns are well founded. One Saturday night I went to sleep unprepared for the sermon I was set to deliver the next morning. I dreamed all my biblical studies professors, previous pastors, and mentors arrived at church to hear me preach, only to discover that I was shooting from the hip. I woke up in a cold sweat and worked on my sermon till morning.

I’d like to think my tendency to worry is evidence of my unwavering sense of responsibility. Truth is, worry reveals a deep-seated self-reliance. I might say with Oliver Cromwell, “Put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry.”

But when I remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and that he alone has brought me through, I’m able to replace worry with worship. Then my faith isn’t in my keeping the powder dry, but in God’s promise to secure the victory.

Adapted from (Fall/80).

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



Psalms Help You Get Real – Approaching God

approaching-godBelievers down the centuries have identified with the whole range of human experiences expressed in the Psalms.

That’s because David and the other writers honestly poured out their true feelings.

They cried out to God from the depths of despair. They sang to him in the heights of celebration.

Let David’s honesty in this psalm prod you to pray to God with greater intensity and openness.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 143:1-12

  1. Have you ever felt the way David did (vv. 3-4)? Do you feel that way right now?
  2. Have you, like David (v. 1), told God about your fear or despair?
  3. When you are in a tight spot, do you try to tough it out, or do you respond like David did (vv. 6-7, 9)?
  4. What did David ask God to do (vv. 9, 12)? What reasons did he cite (v. 11) for why God should rescue him?
  5. How might reviewing God’s help in the past (v. 5) provide perspective?
  6. In the midst of his urgent prayer, how (v. 8) does David express his confidence in God?
  7. What longer-term outcomes (v. 10) did David expect?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to use the Psalms to help you level with God about what you are feeling, surrender your frustrations to him, and mirror the uninhibited, extravagant praise they offer up.

Psalm 143:1-12

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my plea!
Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.
2 Don’t put your servant on trial,
for no one is innocent before you.
3 My enemy has chased me.
He has knocked me to the ground
and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.
4 I am losing all hope;
I am paralyzed with fear.
5 I remember the days of old.
I ponder all your great works
and think about what you have done.
6 I lift my hands to you in prayer.
I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.

7 Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,
for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me,
or I will die.
8 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
for I give myself to you.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
I run to you to hide me.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
on a firm footing.
11 For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.
12 In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies
and destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Psalms Help You Get Real – Junk Ejector

approaching-godKey Bible Verse: Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O Lord! … May they be like snails that dissolve into slime. Psalm 58: 6, 8

Bonus Reading: Psalm 55:12-14, 20-23

A colleague of mine on the Hollywood Presbyterian Church staff, whom I’ll call Jim, was a close friend. But then Jim turned against me. He never would tell me what I’d done or said that injured him. I felt betrayed.

Reading one of the vengeance-seeking psalms one day, I realized I felt about Jim much like the psalmist felt about those who’d maligned him. I sensed the Spirit leading me to pray not just “Lord, I have these wrathful feelings about Jim,” but “Lord, pour out your wrath on Jim.” I didn’t ask for teeth-breaking, snail-sliming, or anything that creative. But I did ask him to make Jim feel the pain he’d inflicted on me. And after confessing my spitefulness, I dissolved into a pool of tears—broken before God, and feeling like snail goo myself.

I don’t know what God did to Jim in response to my prayer. That’s not my business; I’d turned all that over to God. But I do know that as I offered my sinful, hurt, bitter heart to God, the Holy Spirit lanced an infected spiritual boil. Ugly junk flowed out; in its place God’s healing love flowed in. I even began to feel genuine compassion for Jim, and a new capacity to forgive him.

—Mark Roberts in No Holds Barred

My Response: Someone I’d like to see pay for the pain he’s caused me is ___.

Thought to Apply: The Psalms in Hebrew are earthy and rough. They aren’t prayers of nice people couched in genteel language.  —Eugene Peterson (educator & translator)

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

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Apple Dumpling Days!

Central Church's Delicious Apple Dumplings

Central Church’s Delicious Apple Dumplings

Central’s famous Apple Dumpling Gang will soon begin making our famous Apple Dumplings

This year, all dumplings are just $3 – baked, unbaked, or frozen. 

Call (724) 846-5072 to preorder, and come to the Church to pick them up on Thursday, November 10 and Thursday, November 17 from Noon to 12:30 pm.

Don’t miss this opportunity to get these delicious seasonal treats!

Psalms Help You Get Real – Comeuppance: from Whom?

approaching-godKey Bible Verse: Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, For it is written, “… I will repay those who deserve it.”  – Romans 12:19

Bonus Reading: Psalm 69:22-25, 27-28

The open vindictiveness expressed in the Psalms unsettles those who’ve learned to bottle up such feelings. But when David asked God to erase his enemies from the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28), he gave up his own right to do the erasing. “Such rage isn’t only brought into Yahweh’s presence,” notes Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, “it’s submitted and relinquished to him.”

Human nature being what it is, we might try to retrieve our rage and act on it. But if we continue praying in the mode of the Psalms, over time we’ll surrender our vindictiveness to the One who claims the sole right to it—who alone can execute vengeance justly.

Begin offering to God your hurts and desires to get even. Don’t mentally rehearse ways to make your boss pay for treating you unfairly. Don’t give your wife the silent treatment. Instead, hand situations like these over to God to deal with.

The psalms won’t let you hide yourself from God for long. As you pray them, take inventory of your heart. Ask God to show you any vengeful feelings you need to release. Then you can turn the other cheek, rather than slapping the cheek of the one who hurt you.

—Mark Roberts in No Holds Barred

My Response: A deep hurt I need to turn over to God is ____.

Thought to Apply: When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me, and about me.”  —Soren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher)

Adapted from Mike Singletary: One-on-One (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Psalms Help You Get Real – Pro-Victim, Anti-Villain Prayers

approaching-godKey Bible Verse: The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged. … Then at last everyone will say … “surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.”Psalm 58:10-11

Bonus Reading: Psalm 35:1-10

At an L.A. community college, I was leading a Bible study on Jesus’ command to love your enemies. I offered that God helps us love those who hurt us. “But sometimes it’s very hard,” Ricardo observed.

I agreed, but again made such love sound simple. Ricardo kept stressing its difficulty. So I asked, “Do you have a hard time loving your enemies?”

“Very hard,” he responded. As a teenager in Central America, he told us, he was part of a movement of Jesus followers that shared the gospel with its neighbors. They had no political agenda. But local government officials, fearing that they would become politically uncooperative, ordered them to cease their evangelistic efforts.

Ricardo and his friends refused to comply out of faithfulness to Christ. Police stormed a prayer meeting they were holding, grabbed the leaders, took them outside, and shot them. Ricardo escaped and fled his homeland.

Since hearing Ricardo’s story, when praying through the Psalms, I’ve put myself in the shoes of victims, and prayed in solidarity with them. The vindictive psalms help us pray both for and with suffering Christians. As we do, we also learn to pray against the enemies of God.

—Mark Roberts in No Holds Barred

My Response: The next time I pray, I’ll stand in the shoes of ____.

Thought to Apply: Most scriptures speak to us; the Psalms speak for us. —Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria)

Adapted from Mastering Monday (InterVarsity, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Psalms Help You Get Real – Convicted Convict

approaching-godKey Bible Verse: Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Psalm 51:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 51:1-4, 7, 9-10

Jason Richards, a prisoner, stumbled onto what the Bible is all about. Here’s the way he describes it:

“I hadn’t been long in my sentence and I was very confused. I was carrying an awful lot of guilt. I was looking for answers. I read a lot. I read Buddhism. I read Islam. I started reading the Bible. And the more I read the Scriptures, the more I became aware of God.

“I didn’t believe in God. I was actually an atheist—or at least I thought I was. But the more I read, the more I came to believe that God existed. And the more I became aware of God, the more I became aware that I was a sinner—and I got more and more desperate.

“Then one night I opened the Bible at the very first psalm. I started reading, and when I got to Psalms 50 and 51, I realized that God would forgive me. I didn’t know [why Psalm 51 had been written] then. But the thing I knew was today’s Key Bible Verse. I knew that God would forgive me. I didn’t know anything about Jesus or the Bible or the Church. I just knew.

“I read all the rest of the psalms on my knees—and almost from that point for me they became psalms of praise. It was like I was beginning to worship, and I didn’t know what worship was!”

—Tom Wright in For All God’s Worth

My Response: I felt a desperate need for forgiveness, and the elation of being set free, when …

Thought to Apply: Saving faith is grasping God with the heart. —source unknown

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Psalms Help You Get Real – Warts and All

approaching-godKey Bible Verse: I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. For I am overwhelmed.  – Psalm 142: 2-3

Bonus Reading: Psalm 142:1-7

The Psalms are an extended refutation of the widespread notion that prayer is “being nice” before God, politely raising our hand when we have a question about what he’s teaching us.

Prayer, the Psalms shows us, is something quite different. It’s engaging God. And that, at least in its initial stages, is more like a quarrel than a conventional greeting, more like a wrestling match than a warm embrace.

After all, this isn’t a neat and tidy world in which we’re in control—and that scares us. It’s not a dream world in which everything works out according to our adolescent expectations. There’s suffering, poverty, and abuse at which we cry out in pain and indignation, “You can’t let this happen!”

Using the Psalms as a school of prayer, we get a feel for how to bring our lives into attentive and worshiping response to God as he speaks to us. As we do this, we begin to realize that in prayer anything goes.

Virtually nothing human is excluded as appropriate material for prayer: reflections and observations, fear and anger, guilt and sin, questions and doubts, needs and desires, praise and gratitude, suffering and death. Prayer is an offering of ourselves, just as we are.

—Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book

My Response: When was the last time I prayed an honest, intense, from-the-heart prayer?

Adapted from Devotional Ventures (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You. Help me learn from them.



Psalms Help You Get Real – I Brake for Psalms

approaching-godWho Said It … Steven Graves

As a partner in The Cornerstone Group, Steve, an expert in organizational analysis and strategic planning, mentors and speaks at business seminars.

Prior to his work with Cornerstone, he spent a number of years as a high school teacher and football coach. Later he earned a doctorate in ministry and launched Opening the Bible Ministries. Steve is an avid fisherman.

What He Said … I Brake for Psalms

A professor at a religious college once told me that he liked to speed-read the Psalms. In his opinion, there wasn’t much substance in those 150 chapters, and themes just kept repeating themselves. I remember thinking that of any book in the Bible where the need-for-speed impulse ought to be avoided, Psalms was it.

Why?  Because essentially each is a prayer between a needy individual and his great God. David, and other authors in that collection of poetic intercession and praise, used them as time-stoppers and as speed bumps.

They’re supposed to slow us down, to act as brakes—not as accelerators—on our daily rhythm. Whatever block of time we have to give to devotions in our schedule and wherever they take place—from a quiet corner in the house, to your office, to Starbucks—they ought to redirect our focus for some span of time. The Psalms should serve as thought-provoking, bite-sized morsels of truth that give us pause. They need to be read after taking a deep breath.

Adapted from Influencing Like Jesus (B&H Publishing, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for psalms that show how a man after Your own heart approached You.  Help me learn from them.



Thankful? For What? – Appreciation

giving-thanks-to-godTempted by the Devil to turn the wilderness stones into loaves of bread (Matthew 4:3-4), Jesus quoted from this section of Moses’ address to the Hebrews preparing to enter the Promised Land. Real life, he affirmed, is based on more than satisfying our appetites.

Recalling what God has provided should lead us to total commitment to him—and grateful praise.

Interact with God’s Word:  Deuteronomy 8:2-18

  1. Memories of the preceding 40 years centered (vv. 3, 15) on how God supplied manna and water. What are obvious ways God has provided for you?
  2. Less obvious were the negative outcomes (v. 4) from which they’d been spared. List some easy-to-take-for-granted blessings that you experience daily.
  3. Verses 6-9 describe a land where they will lack nothing. How (v. 10) should the people respond?
  4. When (vv. 12-13) do God’s people especially need to be on their guard?
  5. What dangers associated with prosperity (vv. 11, 14) were the Israelites about to face?
  6. Why (vv. 17-18) would crediting your standard of living to your own hard work and cleverness be off base?
  7. How can a person experience life more fully by feeding on every word of the Lord (v. 3)? How should feeding on God’s Word promote trust, obedience, and praise?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a fresh appreciation of His provision and protection, both material and immaterial, and praise Him for thes

Deuteronomy 8:2-18

2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.


Prayer for the Week: Give me a fresh awareness, Lord, of those gifts I’ve taken for granted.