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Advent Devotional – Wednesday, November 30, 2016 – We Thank God

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-213And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 14For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus:

You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

17But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy. I Thessalonians 2:13-20  

Timothy sent good news to the Apostle Paul about the new church Paul had established in Thessalonica on his second missionary trip. When Paul looked at the report of these young Christians, he ―thanked God for all he saw.  Paul saw people who received the Word of God (In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was GodJohn 1:1).

He saw people who completely trusted God to be in control. He saw people who strove to be a people who imitated God. He saw a people who served God in spite of the extreme difficulties surrounding them.  The ultimate reward for Paul‘s service to the people was not money, prestige or fame. Paul‘s ultimate reward was wrapped up in these new believers whose lives had been changed by the Word of God through Paul‘s preaching and teaching.

Thank you God, for sending your Son, the Word, so that we too may receive this Word. So that we may trust You and, in spite of difficulties, serve You.

 

 

Advent Devotional – Tuesday, November 29, 2016 – Reaching Out to Profess God’s Love

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-21You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.  As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.  8We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. I Thessalonians 2:1-12 

In reading this we gain strength to go out and tell everyone at every opportunity about the love that God has for us. We must not be beaten down by those that don‘t believe. We must continue to take the walk and hope and pray that those we come into contact with see by our actions of love for God, that God is the hope and the way of life. Life is tough, with many obstacles, and as I think of the obstacles I have had, I remember that turning it over to God has helped me lift the burden of pain and suffering to rejoice in the life I have.

So my prayer for you today is that you continue to witness, as you may never know when you have touched someone by your words or actions to help them open their heart to God.

 

 

 

Advent Devotional – Monday, November 28, 2016 – Faith, Love, Hope

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-21 Paul, Silas and Timothy,  To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:   Grace and peace to you.

2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord‘s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. I Thessalonians 1:1-10

The introduction that Paul gives to the Thessalonica Church is one of the most intimate that he gives in any of his letters. In verse 3, we see the ringing of the theme of faith, hope, and love that he uses in 1 Corinthians and many of his other letters. In verse 3 he spells out in detail that because of the work that God the Father has produced in us, by faith we now labor by love. The work that Christ does in our lives changes the way we see our fellow man, and because of the work that He produces in us, we work to show love to our fellow man. Many times when we labor in love, it becomes difficult and it is hard to see the positive results in an evil world, but the hope that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ produces an endurance to continue to do that which is produced by love.

This Advent season I trust this passage reminds you of the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ as you wait and prepare to celebrate His coming at Christmas and that whatever would seem to overtake you, that through faith and love you can endure because of the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Advent Devotional – First Sunday in Advent – Come, Lord Jesus

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-21“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’  9” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’   10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.    11“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’    12“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’    13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.     Matthew 25:1-13

What does this story have to do with Advent, you ask? To which I answer: ―everything. Advent is defined as ―the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. And so, just as the ten virgins were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the ever notable bridegroom, we are awaiting the coming arrival of our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us over and over again that He will be coming back (see Acts 1:11, John 14:3, 28, 1 Timothy 6:14, Revelation 22:20 among others).

Sometimes when I read this story, I am highly annoyed at those 5 foolish virgins. I mean, really. They knew they were going to wait on the bridegroom. Why did they not prepare? Why did they assume someone else would just share the oil they should have brought in the first place? Who gave them a sense of entitlement? Who did they think they were?

Today we are here, in our Earthly home, waiting for Christ to come and take us home—to where we were made to be: in the continuous presence of our Almighty God & Creator. But how do we prepare for His coming? We must be ready.

We must prepare ourselves so we never hear Him say ―I don‘t know you. We must spend time with Him. Daily…hourly…moment by moment if we can. We must communicate with Him. We must soak Him in. We must praise Him. Our attitude should be His attitude (Phil. 2:5), and we should love those whom He loves (Matthew 25:35-36). We must share His good news. We must invest in other‘s lives and spiritual walks. We must live our lives intentionally, not getting swept up in the business and pettiness of this life.

Come, Lord Jesus. And when You do, may You find us faithful.

 

 

 

 

What’s to Confess – Confession of Sin

confession-of-sinDuncan Campbell wrote, “Do not expect God to cover what you are not willing to uncover.”

God wants to forgive sinners. But he can only forgive confessed sins.

To confess my sin is to agree with God, acknowledging that he is right to declare that what I’ve done is sinful and that I am wrong to desire to do it.

To confess is to affirm my intention of forsaking that sin in order to follow God more faithfully.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 32:1-5

  1. 1. In verses 3 and 4, David describes the misery of a violated conscience and a futile attempt to conceal a sin. Have you had a similar experience? What was it?
  2. 2. What does David call his refusal to confess his sin (v. 5)?
  3. 3. What does David say broke his stubborn resistance to confessing his sin (v. 4)?
  4. 4. What actions by God provided the basis for David’s sense of relief (vv. 1-2 & 5)?
  5. 5. What emotion flooded David as soon as he confessed his sin (vv. 1-2)?
  6. 6.  Have you ever felt elated just knowing that you slate has been wiped clean?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you stop ration-alizing sinful thought patterns and actions, and to accept God’s evaluation of them. Ask that you would experience the release the that comes from forsaking sin, the joy of forgiveness, and restored fellowship.

Psalm 32:1-5:

1 Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Interlude

5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Interlude

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

2016 Advent Devotional – by Pastor Jan Davis

Starting Sunday, November 27, 2016 and running through Saturday, December 31, our daily “Food for Thought” selections will be taken from the 2016 Advent Devotional by Central Church’s own Pastor Jan Davis.

Please plan to check back each day and share with us in the daily reading as we prepare our hearts and minds for the miraculous gift of  Christmas.

In preparation for the first daily devotional tomorrow as Advent begins, here is a short introduction from Pastor Jan:

hope-is-born-advent-devotional-2What Are You Hoping For This Christmas?

Each year when Christmas approached, I made a list of what I was hoping to receive. I remember the hope I felt as I awoke on Christmas morning and looked expectantly under the tree. Do you still remember the intensity of that feeling?

The years have now passed and my list has certainly changed. Now what I am hoping for cannot be bought or wrapped and placed under a Christmas tree – but I continue to hope. I wonder, what are you hoping to receive this Christmas.

It is my prayer that this Advent booklet, which contains a number of devotions, will guide you throughout the Word of God to the only source of Hope I am aware of:

God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

May God truly give you the desires of your heart this year!

 – Pastor Jan

 

 

 

What’s to Confess – Make Things Right

confession-of-sinKey Bible Verse: If any of the people … betray the Lord by doing wrong to another person … they must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done. Numbers 5:6-7

Bonus Reading: Leviticus 6:1-7

When I first heard about the link between restitution and repentance,” a man in my church wrote to me, “God immediately brought four situations to mind that I needed to make right. Driving home from church, I felt a burden to get this work done as soon as I could, but it was too late to call people. I determined to contact them first thing in the morning and fell asleep figuring out what I needed to say. I was excited with hope that these broken or strained relationships would be restored.

“But as I drove in to work next morning, thinking through all I needed to accomplish that day, from nowhere crept this thought, Why was I feeling so urgent about these four phone calls? Do it another day when you’re not so busy. Gasp!

“I knew that thought didn’t come from God. I couldn’t get to my desk and to my phone calls fast enough. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I’d feared. Restitution was made, bringing amazing peace, release, and joy.

“Don’t put off the hard and humbling work of restitution or you might never do it—blocking you from receiving all God has for you.”

—James MacDonald in Downpour

My Response: An unresolved issue I need to clear up is …

Thought to Apply: You cannot build a bridge by starting in the middle. Bridge-builders begin from the side they are on. —John Paul Lederach (conflict resolution expert)

Adapted from Downpour (Broadman & Holman, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

What’s to Confess – Grappling with Guilt

confession-of-sinKey Bible Verse: Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. … And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.  – Psalm 32:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 32:1-5

I cheated. Eighteen, a new believer, and assigned to prepare 300 library research note cards for a final exam project, I’d turned in cards copied from someone else’s work.

Back at my frat house, I couldn’t eat, sleep, or pray. My dilemma was that I loved wrestling, and this godless professor was also my coach. After I gave my life to Jesus, obvious change in me led him to say, “Paul, why don’t you tell the other wrestlers what happened to you? Maybe it’ll help those rowdies too.” So my reputation was on the line. Finally the Spirit’s convicting prevailed. I asked God for forgiveness, then went to see my prof. “Coach, I cheated. Those cards we turned in I copied from another student.”

“Paul,” he replied, smirking, “I thought you were a Christian. How could you do this?”

“That’s why I became a Christian, Coach. I’m such a mess I need a Savior.” Taken aback by my honesty, he gave me a chance to save my grade. I spent a couple of days in the library and got a B. But for the rest of my college days that tough coach could hardly look me in the eyes. My repenting caused him to fear both me and the One who’d changed me that much.

—Paul Thorson in Painting in the Dark

My Response: I experienced the misery of the Spirit’s conviction when …

Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn’t mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is incredibly painful to admit our sins. —Erwin Lutzer

Adapted from Painting in the Dark (Integrity, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 4Thanksgiving is one of the great holidays we have to celebrate.

It is all about giving.

Not about presents.

Not about me.

Not about things.

It is simply about giving thanks.

Stop!

Think!

 

What are you thankful for this holiday?

A warm house – there are many out there that are cold.

  • How can you help someone stay warm on a cold day.

 

For a great feast?

  • How can you help feed some one else?

The great thing is so many are reaching out to help this holiday season to make a great meal for those who otherwise could not enjoy it.

 

For a great family?

  • How can you help someone who is all alone this holiday season?

Just being a friend, reaching out a hand of friendship.

 

Happy ThanksgivingLet’s be thankful this holiday season both for what we have and for the ability to help others.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 

 

Thanksgiving Day

Happy ThanksgivingKey Bible Verses:  May God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile with favor on us. May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere.  – Psalm 67:1-2

Dig Deeper:  Psalm 67

Scripture reveals a three-stage dynamic of blessing, which God calls each of us to enter:

  1. Receive the blessing of God. When God created humanity, He blessed us for a life of fruitful love. He made us for relationship with himself. Though we quickly rejected God’s love, He never gave up on us. Since our fall God has undertaken a massive re-blessing project in the world, and He wants to include each one of us.
  2. Return blessing to God through worship. Once we receive deeply into our hearts the blessing of God’s love, his Spirit within us prompts us to make a return. We bless God back. The more we learn to know the God who blesses, the more praise we have to render. And the more textured and passionate our worship, the more we taste God’s joy and the intimacy of our relationship deepens.
  3. Reflect the love of God by blessing others. We learn to look at people as God does, and we act toward them accordingly: in love and mercy. We begin to live to bless. We participate in God’s plan to extend his blessing to the ends of the earth. As we bless, the deep joy of God wells up through daily life.

—Gerrit Dawson in The Blessing Life

My Response: I will spend time reflecting on how the cycle of blessing plays out in my life.

Thought to Apply: Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.—W. T. Purkiser(pastor, scholar, writer)

Adapted from The Blessing Life by Gerrit Dawson (IVP, 2013)

Prayer:  Lord, please help me not to be distracted by false definitions of blessing, but instead, to live fully in the reality that true blessing is found in a deepening relationship with you.

What’s to Confess – Covered

confession-of-sinKey Bible Verse: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:6-11

The bank sent me an overdraft notice on the checking account of one of my daughters. I encourage my college-age girls to monitor their accounts. Even so, they sometimes overspend.

What should I do? Send her an angry letter? Admonition might help her later, but it won’t satisfy the bank. Phone and tell her to make a deposit? Might as well tell a fish to fly. I know her liquidity. Zero. Transfer the money from my account to hers? Seemed to be the best option. After all, I had $25.37. I could replenish her account and pay the overdraft fee as well. Since she calls me Dad, I did what dads do. I covered my daughter’s mistake.

When I told her she was overdrawn, she said she was sorry. Still, she offered no deposit. She was broke. She had one option. “Dad, could you … ” “Honey,” I interrupted, “I already have.” I met her need before she knew she had one.

Long before you knew you needed grace, your Father did the same. He made an ample deposit (see today’s Key Bible Verse). Before you knew you needed a Savior, you had one. And when you ask him for mercy, he answers, “Dear child. I’ve already given it.”

—Max Lucado in Cure for the Common Life

My Response: I’ll thank God for sending Christ to die for me before I asked for his forgiveness.

Thought to Apply: In confession … we open our lives to the healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of him who loves us in spite of what we are. —Louis Cassels

Adapted from Cure for the Common Life (W Publishing, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

What’s to Confess – Repent!

confession-of-sinKey Bible Verse: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Matthew 3:8

Bonus Reading: Luke 3:10-14

Contrary to the popular imagination, the word repent stands for a very healthy idea. To repent means to change one’s mind, to turn around and go in a different direction, to start thinking and living differently.

“The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world,” says Eugene Peterson in his classic A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. “It is a renunciation of the lies we have been told about ourselves and our neighbors and our universe.” The biblical word to describe this process is repentance. “It is always and everywhere the first word in the Christian life.”

Repentance isn’t so much an emotion or feeling sorry, though it does include that. Instead, as Peterson puts it, “it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts.”

So one of the first lies we must renounce is that repentance is outdated or irrelevant.

—Mark Galli in Jesus Mean and Wild

My Response: A “same old” thought or action I need to abandon is …

Thought to Apply: Repentance means to change your way of living. It means to change your mind. You are going in one direction in your life, but then you turn and go in another direction. —Billy Graham (evangelist)

Adapted from Jesus Mean and Wild (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

What’s to Confess – Spiritual Roadblocks

confession-of-sinKey Bible Verse: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 1 Timothy 1:15

Bonus Reading: Luke 18:9-14

Invited to speak at a church men’s dinner, I settled on a talk-show format with two coworkers at our inner-city mission. Tom, a late-in-life convert to faith, grew up in the sixties listening to the Beatles and the Grateful Dead. He brought to us his carpenter’s ability to fix anything … and ended up mentoring my other guest. Sugar Will, a son of the inner city, was 30 years Tom’s junior and loved rap music. But the two connected.  Tom played pool with Sugar Will and helped him get his life on track.

I led off with Sugar Will, “What’s Tom really like?”

“Well,” Sugar Will replied, “he doesn’t pretend to be perfect like other Christians. I guess it’s because he’s made mistakes.”

After the audience laughter subsided, I followed up: “What do you mean?”

“Most Christians I know walk around like they never done nothin’ bad, like they’re perfect. But I can talk to Tom, ’cause he’s done bad stuff too.” Sugar Will had innocently indicted all of us who inadvertently project an alienating I’ve-got-it-all-together-How-about-you? message. People like Sugar Will will never open up to those they feel judged by. And that prevents them from approaching the God they desperately need.

—Bruce Main in Spotting the Sacred

My Response: I’d be more credible if I opened up about my struggles with …

Adapted from Spotting the Sacred (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

What’s to Confess – How Do You Plead?

confession-of-sinWho Said It … Mark Galli

Mark Galli is a pastor turned editor. His pastoring occurred in Mexico City and Sacramento, California.

He came to Christianity Today International 20 years ago, first editing Leadership then Christian History & Biography. Since 2000 he’s been managing editor of Christianity Today.

Mark plays golf and loves fly-fishing with his son Luke, now graduated from college. And in good weather, he rides his motorcycle to work.

What He Said … How Do You Plead?

I wish I could foist this repentance business off to the beginning of the Christian walk, as if pagans are the only people who need to repent. I wish I could say that after becoming a Christian as a teenager, I suddenly began thinking clearly and living righteously.

But in our most honest moments, we know that Paul took the words right out of our mouths: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. … I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. … Oh what a miserable person I am!” (Romans 7:19, 22-24).

The fact that some days I can hardly imagine my need to repent just shows how shallow my faith has become—as if it’s mostly about religious and social graces and the occasional act of mercy. And though we are right to avoid false guilt and debilitating shame, there remains plenty of true guilt and healthy shame that we need to deal with all our lives.

Adapted from Jesus Mean and Wild (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: My need to confess sin and be cleansed is as great as ever. Don’t let me to pretend otherwise.

 

 

The Redemption of Scrooge

the-redemption-of-scrooge-1

New Advent Small Group Study – The Redemption of Scrooge

the-redemption-of-scrooge-1What comes to mind when you think of Christmas?

Maybe it’s a tree decorated with ornaments, or oversized socks hanging from the mantle?  Maybe you’ve recently come from Bible study, so you picture a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger?

One of the first things that comes to many minds when thinking about Christmas is the carols.  Interestingly, few of these songs are new.  Many of the most popular songs of the season are about 200 years old or older!  There’s something about Christmas carols that transcends generational divides and connects us all.

Charles Dickens’ class story A Christmas Carol was originally titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas – a curious title tothe-redemption-of-scrooge-3 say the least.  A Christmas Carol is a timeless story, not only because we hear about Scrooge’s past, present, and future, but because generations have told and retold this story.  Everyone knows what it means to be called a Scrooge, and poor little Tiny Tim still has the ability to pull on our heartstrings.  For over a hundred years now, A Christmas Carol has been a part of our pop culture.

Sometimes it’s easy to see God in the midst of culture – in the stories of Scripture and in reverent hymns.  But other times the divine is more veiled – hidden in a novel, concealed in classic rock, obscured by an impressionist’s palate.

This Sunday at 10 am and continuing through December 20, Central Church will explore Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as part of this year’s short-term Advent study as a way to examine questions and issues of the Christian faith.  Our hope and prayer is that the study will open our eyes to the spiritual truths that exist all around us in books, movies, music, and television.

As we walk with Christ, we discover the divine all around us, and, in turn, the world invites us into a deeper picture of its Creator.  Through this lens of God’s redemption story, we are invited to look at culture in a new and inviting way.  We are invited to dive into the realms of literature, art, and entertainment to explore and discover how God is working in and through us and in the world around us to tell His great story of redemption.  And if Scrooge can be redeemed, then so can we!

Please join us at 10 am at Central Church over the next five Sundays as we seek to take a look at the Christmas season through fresh eyes!

 

 

 

 

The Genuine Article – Christian Humility

christian-humilityI’m so proud of you!” we tell our loved ones and friends when they’ve performed successfully in some area.

But what about us? Is personal pride always a bad thing?

In the middle of warning the swaggering power elite of Judah about their impending judgment, the prophet Jeremiah acknowledged that there is a legitimate ground for boasting.

Interact with God’s Word:  Jeremiah 9:23-24

  1. How do intellectuals boast about their knowledge today? How do celebrities flaunt their power? How do the prosperous display their wealth?
  2. What do you want people to admire most about you?
  3. Since this passage is surrounded by predictions of judgment, what is implied about how durable these grounds for pride are?
  4. By contrast, what accomplishment and satisfaction (v. 24) is of enduring value?
  5. Do we deserve God’s “unfailing love”? So how should we respond to his passionate loyalty to all who submit to him? How can we reflect that love?
  6. How does God bring justice and righteousness? How can we reflect his priority of dealing with people on an ethical, moral level in every situation?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you find satisfaction in a deepening relationship with him and in commitment to those qualities in which he delights.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – One of the Guys

christian-humilityKey Bible Verse: Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you.  Proverbs 27:2 The Message

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18

I have known Guy for less than two years but liked him immediately. He’s laid back, not a fancy dresser, and shows a real interest in others. He doesn’t talk much about himself, yet knows how to be appropriately transparent and vulnerable. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, but comes across as real and genuine.

Eventually I learned that Guy is an attorney who owns one of the most successful law firms in his discipline. No one facing him either professionally or outside the courtroom would mistake him for anything less than a man’s man. He also owns a restaurant and expensive real estate.

Among a group, however, he’s just one of the guys. Guy will be the first to tell you he’s not perfect and be honest about what that means. He doesn’t hide behind false humility; and I marvel at how readily he fits in without pretension.

I’ve learned from others that Guy has been behind some of the most successful ministries in this country, is legendary in his generosity, and gives more that isn’t tax deductible than is acknowledged with receipts.

Active in missions, he wants the backseat support position and views his role as making others successful, not himself. Guy demonstrates that solid success doesn’t need to advertise.

—Jeff Jernigan in The Power of a Loving Man

My Response: I form a favorable opinion of someone when  …

Thought to Apply: He who takes his rank lightly raises his own dignity. —Hebrew proverb

Adapted from The Power of a Loving Man (B&H Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – Comeuppance for Cockiness

christian-humilityKey Bible Verse: Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.  – Proverbs 16:18

Bonus Reading: Luke 14:7-11

My worst day in the NFL came in 1989 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was playing the game of my life. In fact, I’d already knocked a guy out cold. That was actually a little scary. I didn’t care how big the other guy was. I told my teammate Richard Dent, “No one has ever run over me. Never!” It was true, and I was outright prideful about it.

‘Toward the end of the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay was behind, but the Buccaneers drove down the field, ready to score and win the game. James Wilder, Tampa’s running back, caught a pass from Vinny Testaverde and ran toward the side. He wanted to get out of bounds to stop the clock and give the Bucs enough time to score.

I told myself, Don’t let him run out of bounds. When you tackle him, lie on him and let the clock run out.

Instead of running toward Wilder to hit him, I ran up to grab him. I was on my heels when Wilder turned up field and put his head down. Bam! He knocked me flat on my back.

That play gave Tampa Bay the momentum to win. I kept my mouth closed after that embarrassing moment—the only time I was ever run over. The bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

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

My Response: The difference I see between confidence and cockiness is …

Thought to Apply: He who sings his own praise is usually off-key. —source unknown

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

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – Cure for a Case of Nerves

christian-humilityKey Bible Verse: “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it!”  Jeremiah 45:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 131:1-3

When I do public speaking, I am working with notes from familiar material. But the morning of my first program taping for Focus on the Family—heard by millions—the thought hit me, What if I get asked an unexpected question and freeze?

Taking refuge from a bad case of nerves in the restroom outside the studio, I started pacing in front of the sinks. Finally God’s voice broke through: “This is so not about you.”

As I listened to God’s voice—inaudible, but unmistakable—I realized that my nerves came from my pride. I wanted to make a good impression, to be the thought-provoking, entertaining type of guest Focus would want to ask back. But God wasn’t as concerned about me that day as he was about reaching families with the message contained in my book, Sacred Marriage. I heard a clear call to focus on those struggling because of a faulty understanding of Christian marriage. Once I did, the nervousness dissipated like my daughter’s beloved soap bubbles. It was just gone.

God’s words, “This is so not about you,” remain one of the most precious gifts my heavenly Father has ever given me.

—Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight

My Response: I’ll ask God to help me focus on being his servant rather than on making an impression.

Thought to Apply: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. —John the Baptist

Adapted from The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan, 2007)

Prayer of the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – Now What Went Wrong?

christian-humilityKey Bible Verse: Humility precedes honor.  – Proverbs 15:33

Bonus Reading: Psalm 138:6; Prov. 18:12; 22:4; 1 Peter 5:5

As soon as our medical products company placed a sale, we’d contact the involved distributors from our network to ship their supplies immediately. It’s bad news when vital products such as anesthesia or surgical supplies are unavailable.

One day I placed my order with a distributor, who, instead of filling it, back-ordered the product. Since the order didn’t arrive when promised, an upset hospital administrator called me. Explaining that I’d done all I was supposed to, I deflected blame to the distributor. “Cut the crap!” the administrator shot back. “This is your fault. Come in with your manager next week.” Just then [today’s Key Bible Verse] sprang to mind. “I’ll take full responsibility for this problem,” I told him.

When we met with the administrator, he told my manager everything he thought I was doing wrong. “Thanks for your feedback,” I replied. “It’s a privilege to serve you and your hospital. This incident will make me a better sales representative. From now on I’ll double-check that critical orders are properly expedited.”

A week later, the administrator called me again. Aw, man, I thought, now what went wrong? But to my shock, he gave me a huge volume of business that normally would have taken months to cultivate.

—David Stoddard in The Heart of Mentoring

My Response: I observed humility precede honor when …

Thought to Apply: The truly humble person walks with absolute confidence, knowing he is simply a vessel through whom God accomplishes his work. —Andrew Murray

Adapted from The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – Updrafts and Downfalls

christian-humilityKey Bible Verse: Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.  – Proverbs 29:23

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 11:2; Matthew 23:12

When I was 17, the Air Force sent me and 11 other Civil Air Patrol cadets to a program for learning to fly a sailplane (glider). Early in the course, the four instructor pilots placed bets on who would have the first student fly solo. In his haste to win, my instructor jumped out of my glider, early in my training, slammed down the canopy, and signaled the tow plane to take me into the air for my first solo flight.

Knowing I wasn’t ready, I executed each stage of the flight with extreme care. It was a success, and my instructor won the wager.

Later that day, after most of the students had soloed, there was time for one more flight. I quickly jumped into the glider, thinking I was now ready for anything. Initially, the flight went well—I navigated the thermals (rising columns of air) for nearly 45 minutes on a flight that should have lasted only 15.

But in my arrogance, I flew too far from the airfield and became lost and disoriented. Because gliders have no engine, you go down when the thermals disappear. I came down more than a mile from the field and was humiliated by my instructor in front of the entire corps of cadets.

—Steven Scott in The Richest Man Who Ever Lived

My Response: When has pride swelled my head or blurred my vision?

Adapted from The Richest Man Who Ever Lived (WaterBrook, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

The Genuine Article – Second Guessing the Ref

christian-humilityStephen Altrogge is a pastoral intern at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he heads up the college ministry and leads worship.

He has written several worship songs for musical projects produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Stephen enjoys playing and watching sports and is borderline fanatical over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He and his wife have one daughter.

What He Said … Second Guessing the Ref

A proud athlete is quick to disagree with questionable calls made by the referee. He feels he’s the final authority on what really took place on the playing field and doesn’t hesitate to voice (usually very loudly) his opinion to the official.

But I’ve also often found myself quietly, and pridefully, disagreeing with a call. I may not be shouting or talking back to the ref, but my quiet disagreement is just as sinful. In my pride I believe that I alone saw the play correctly and that anyone who disagrees is a fool. In reality, I’m the fool.

If I were humble I’d realize that my perspective is limited and that I could easily be wrong. To believe that I’m always right is not only arrogant, it’s absurd. I’d also understand that referees make mistakes, just like I do. God has forgiven me of far more than a simple officiating mistake.

The humble athlete refuses to argue with the referees. I can honor God by overlooking their relatively insignificant mistakes.

Adapted from Game Day for the Glory of God (Crossway, 2008)

Prayer for the Week:  Shape me, Lord, into a genuine Christ-follower: confident and secure but not self-promoting or arrogant; unassuming but no pushover.

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – Listening for God

listenThe Book of Joshua records how Israel conquered and occupied Canaan.

But entering the Promised Land across the Jordan River came first. It was spring, when this river barrier was at its highest, overflowing its banks.

Now a generation whose parents had crossed the Red Sea needed to exercise faith and experience God’s power for themselves.

Interact with God’s Word:  Joshua 3:5-16

  1. Why (v. 5) must you make sure your motives are pure and your sins dealt with before expecting God to demonstrate his power?
  2.   What (v. 9) did Joshua gather the people for on the day of the crossing?
  3.   Before rushing into your day to serve God, do you make time to hear what he is saying to you?
  4.   What would have happened (v. 13) if the priests had been afraid to take that first step into the water?
  5. Should you expect God to provide a solution to your problem before you trust him and move ahead with what you know you should do?
  6. How would the parting of the waters (v. 16) have impacted all those who crossed the riverbed?
  7.   What would have been the psychological impact on the Canaanites when the entire Israelite nation crossed the Jordan at flood stage?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to make clear to you what step of obedience he is asking you to take so that he can demonstrate his power in and through your life.

Joshua 3:5-1

5 Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”

6 In the morning Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.” And so they started out and went ahead of the people.

7 The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. 8 Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.'”

9 So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your God says. 10 Today you will know that the living God is among you. He will surely drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites ahead of you. 11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River! 12 Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.”

14 So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, 16 the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.

 

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – A Field of Dreams Moment

listenKey Bible Verse: They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word with signs following. Mark 16:20 21st Century KJV

Bonus Reading: Joshua 3:5-16

Most of us want God to part the river before we get our feet wet. Sometimes God does provide a sign that will give you just enough faith to take the first step in pursuit of your passion. But most often, in my experience, faith doesn’t follow signs; signs follow decisions.

You overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum by making tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the more potential momentum. If you want to see God moving, you need to make a move!

I learned this lesson during our first year at [Washington DC’s] National Community Church. We’d been praying for a drummer to join our worship team for months. But I felt I needed to put some feet on my faith. So I went out and bought a $400 drum set. I bought it on a Thursday. Our first drummer showed up the next Sunday. And he was good! He was actually part of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.

I can’t promise that signs will follow your step of faith in three minutes, three hours, or three days. But they will follow. God will sanctify your expectations, and you won’t be able to wait to see what God is going to do next.

—Mark Batterson in Wild Goose Chase

My Response: A way I’ll pray about putting feet to my faith is …

Thought to Apply: Attempt something so impossible that unless God is in it, it’s doomed to failure. —John Haggai

Adapted from Wild Goose Chase (Multnomah, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – Cleared for Takeoff

listenKey Bible Verse: Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat …  Matthew 14:28-29

Bonus Reading: Matthew 14:25-32

A house we rented in Los Angeles had a small window that opened from the second-story bathroom onto the roof. One evening Kim and I were in the front yard when we heard a voice from the roof calling, “Mom, Dad, look!” It was Aaron, our 8-year-old, on the ledge.

Kim ordered him back inside. But looking past his mom, he asked, “Dad, can I jump?”

I asked Aaron, “Are you going to jump sometime?”

He said, “Yeah, I think so.”

I said, “Okay, I’d rather have you jump now so if you jump and break your legs, we can take you to the hospital.”

He responded, “Dad, do you think I’ll make it?”

“I said, “You’ll make it. But try to clear the concrete and land on the grass. It’s softer.”

He stepped as far back as he could on the roof, yelled,  “Dad, catch me,” began running, and jumped.

We’ve been telling followers of Christ, “You climb back in that window. Stay in a safe place.” But we have a Father who invites us to follow him with reckless abandon. He knows when this is a jump you need to take.

—Erwin McManus in The Barbarian Way

My Response: A jump I sense the Spirit prompting me to take is …

Thought to Apply: if the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. —Thomas Aquinas (Italian theologian & philosopher)

Adapted from The Barbarian Way (Nelson, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – The First Risk Was God’s

listenKey Bible Verse: Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”  – Matthew 16:24

Bonus Reading: Matt. 7:12; 10:37-39; John 15:12-13

My natural reaction to instructions like today’s Key Bible Verse and Bonus Readings is Whoa, now! That kind of faith requires one whopping big risk!

But I find the risks inherent in some of the Bible’s hardest teachings a lot more acceptable when I realize that my personal relationship with God came at great risk to him as well. God took the initial risk at creation by granting humankind free will to choose to believe and obey—or not. Then he took an even bigger risk in sending his own Son to earth to live and die to give us a clearer idea of how we could have a personal relationship with him and what that relationship could be like.

Whether I consider taking up my cross an acceptable risk is a matter of experience and perspective. Looking back over my life, I’m aware of some short-term costs. Have there been inconveniences? Of course. Have there been things I might have liked to do but didn’t because of my faith values? Absolutely. Did I wonder if I was missing out on some things? Sure. But I will tell you this: I honestly don’t regret a single time that I ever took a risk for my faith.

—Ben Carson in Take the Risk!

My Response: I can best express my gratitude for divine risk-taking by …

Thought to Apply: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose. —Jim Elliot (slain missionary to Ecuador)

Adapted from Take the Risk! (Zondervan, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Apple Dumpling Days!

Making our famous Apple Dumplings!

Making our famous Apple Dumplings!

Calling all volunteers!  Wednesday night, November 9, is our first night to make Apple Dumplings at Central Church. 

We’ll be starting at 6 pm, so come on down to the Church and join in the fun.

Our Apple Dumplings will be available for purchase at Noon on Thursday – just $3 for baked, unbaked, or frozen.  To order, leave a message at the Church at (724) 846-3474, then come to the Church to pick them up on Thursday at Noon.

If you miss this week, you have one more chance next Wednesday and Thursday. 

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to have a blast making our Apple Dumplings on Wednesday night and/or feasting on them on Thursday!

 

Central Church's Delicious Apple Dumplings

Central Church’s Delicious Apple Dumplings

 

Take the Divine Dare – Rediscover Amazement

listenKey Bible Verse: Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.  – Isaiah 40:26

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 40:26-31

We live in an art gallery of divine creativity and yet are content to gaze only at the carpet. Or what is pathetically worse, we demand more. More signs. More proof. More hat tricks. As if God were some vaudeville magician we could summon for a dollar.

How have we grown so deaf? How have we grown so immune to awesomeness? Why are we so reluctant to be staggered or thunder-struck?

Perhaps the frequency of the miracles blinds us to their beauty. After all, what [excitement] is there in springtime or a tree blossom? Don’t the seasons come every year? Aren’t there countless seashells just like this one?

Bored, we say ho hum and replace the remarkable with the regular, the unbelievable with the anticipated. Science and statistics wave their unmagic wand across the face of life, squelching the oohs and aahs and replacing them with formulas and figures.

Would you like to see Jesus? Do you dare be an eyewitness of His Majesty? Then rediscover amazement.

The next time you hear a baby laugh or see an ocean wave, take note. Pause and listen as His Majesty whispers ever so gently, “I’m here.”

—Max Lucado in The Lucado Inspirational Reader

My Response: I will listen carefully for ways God “whispers ever so gently, ‘I’m here.'”

Thought to Apply: You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own.—Paulo Coelho (Brazilian writer)

Adapted from The Lucado Inspirational Reader (Thomas Nelson, 2011)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Creator, I praise you for everyday miracles that proclaim your glory and reveal your majesty; awaken my soul to your presence that breaks through “in the most common of earth’s corners.”

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – Weird Dorm Dialogue

listenKey Bible Verse: He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life … will live for Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:13-17

Transferring to Wheaton College as a junior made forming new friendships difficult. But one day I met a couple of students who lived on my floor and said they’d stop by my room that evening. I thought they might want to play some basketball or make an ice cream run. But when they knocked, one said, “Greg, we’re wondering what role God would have you play in what he’s doing in the world.”

 What kind of nuts are these? I thought. But I replied, “Well, uh, I haven’t really nailed that down.”

“What?” they said, with obvious astonishment. “Don’t you know that when we become followers of Jesus, we no longer live for ourselves but for him? So again, Greg, what role are you going to play in what he’s doing in the world?”

Their abrupt challenge proved a life-changing moment in my life. Those two young men took me to interview for the Student Missionary Project. And that led to short-term ministry in Japan.

In everything I’ve done with my life since—working at a recording ministry, pastoring a church, and now presiding over Trinity International University—I repeat their question: “What role would God have me play in what he’s doing in the world?”

—Gregory Waybright in College Faith

My Response: If asked this question, how would I answer?

Adapted from College Faith (Andrews Univ. Press, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Take the Divine Dare – Too Risky?

listenWho Said It … Ben Carson

Ben Carson had a childhood dream of becoming a physician. Growing up in a single-parent home with dire poverty, poor grades, and low self-esteem appeared to rule out that dream. But his mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for excellence.

As a brain surgeon, Dr. Carson has gained worldwide recognition for successfully separating several Siamese twins, and for refining techniques for radical brain surgery to stop intractable seizures.

What He Said … Too Risky?

We can’t remove all risk from faith. The idea of pursuing a personal relationship with a God we can’t see or touch, whose existence can’t be proven scientifically, seems a risky proposition in itself to many people.

Making that relationship the central motivation of your life, the foundation of your most basic values, and the inspiration of your life goals may seem an unreasonable, terrifying, even paralyzing risk.

Some people of faith pay a terribly high toll for taking a stand. Because I’m out in public doing a lot of speaking, I hear from other scientists who tell me they share my Christian beliefs but don’t feel they can be public about them. It’s just too risky to go against the politically correct conventions of the scientific community.

I can’t help wishing more of them would take heart and remember the rallying cry of the apostle Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Adapted from Take the Risk! (Zondervan, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.

 

 

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Living in the World

living-in-an-unholy-worldJude devotes his short letter to warning Christians everywhere about those who live in opposition to God and his followers.

They twist God’s words, he says, seeking to deceive and destroy the unwary.

But since God’s Word and the gift of eternal life have infinite value and have been entrusted to us, he urges us to work at grasping his truth and faithfully defending it.

Interact with God’s Word:  Jude 1:12-13,17-21

  1. How are people whose interpretations veer from balanced biblical teaching like reefs? … like irresponsible shepherds? … like clouds that produce no rain? … like fruitless trees? … like ocean breakers? … like planets?
  2. To what apostolic warnings (v. 17) might Jude have been referring? (See Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.)
  3. Why did Jude (v. 18) consider him and his readers already in “the last times”?
  4. How (v. 19) do people who “follow their natural instincts” instead of relying on the Holy Spirit create divisions in the church?
  5. What defenses against error (v. 20) does Jude mention? What is the doctrinal and ethical core that comprises our “most holy faith?”

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a balanced understanding of his Word that helps you confidently navigate complex situations based on your grasp of the basic principles he has revealed.

Jude 1:12-13,17-21

12 When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. 13 They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

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

 

 

Saturday, November 5, 2016 – Remember to Turn Your Clocks Back

Turn Clock Back

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Deceptive Spirits

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teaching that come from demons.  – 1 Timothy 4:1

Bonus Reading: Jude 1:12-13

The Greek word translated as “deceptive” in [today’s Key Bible verse] is planos, the word from which our English word “planet” is derived. The ancient Greeks called those bright orbs deceivers. Why?

In ancient times, the navigators of ships knew that they could, with reliability, sight in on most stars to accurately determine their location and thereby sail the right course to their destination. They also learned that the “deceivers” (planoi)—the wandering stars—would only lead them to confusion or destruction if they tried to determine their position by them. They, of course, didn’t know that those “stars” were actually planets that revolved around the sun.

It isn’t difficult to see why the Holy Spirit stirred the apostle Paul to use this word to warn us about the demonic enterprises of these last days. We dare not take our directions from the no-such-thing-as-absolute-truth relativism of our culture’s attitudes toward almost everything. And we would be wise to see the profound analogy between the erratic movement of a non-light-producing planet and the deceiving spirits of this world.

—Jack Hayford in The Anatomy of Seduction

My Response: Why is succumbing to deception often followed by moral compromise?

Thought to Apply: We are oftener deceived by being told some truth than none. —Fulke Greville (English courtier)

Adapted from The Anatomy of Seduction (Regal, 2004)

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 – A Godsend?

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?'”  – Deuteronomy 18:21

Bonus Readings: Deuteronomy 18:22; 13:1-3; Jeremiah 14:14; Galatians 1:8

Phil told my wife and me about attending a meeting of two or three thousand people where a priest said, “A young man is here fighting leukemia.” Phil was fighting leukemia but thought that in such a crowd there probably were several fighting leukemia.

But the priest continued, “This man is also going through a divorce.” Phil thought, Well, that’s two for two.”

Then the leader predicted that this young man would have chemo treatments and return “next September to testify to answered prayer.” That’s what happened: Phil returned to testify to his perfect healing.

Was this priest a true prophet of God? I don’t think so. Though an inaccurate prediction disqualifies a prophet, a correct prediction doesn’t automatically prove that the man or woman is to be followed.

I asked Phil, “How would this man answer this question: What does a person have to do to enter heaven?” Phil answered, “He’d say that you have to follow God and be a good person.” That, of course is “another gospel.”

—Erwin Lutzer in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: How does a spokesperson’s lifestyle bear on the validity of his message?

Thought to Apply: The gift of discernment has been neglected in charismatic circles, but is the gift that most needs to be sought and cultivated, because its exercise is the key to the right use of all the rest.—Tom Smail

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (Moody, 2002)

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 – Religious Campus Tour

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!  – 2 Timothy 3:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:160, Luke 22:70; John 10:30; 14:6; Acts 4:12

Let’s listen in on a few classes at a so-called Christian college.

  • An Old Testament Studies classroom: Professor Rationalist says, “These legends—the creation account, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus’ miracles—are symbolic stories to teach principles. Scientists offer no verification that any of these events really happened.”
  • A New Testament Studies classroom: Professor Skeptic says, “Jesus was a popular teacher in his day, but we have no evidence that divinity should be ascribed to him.”

  • A Religion 101 classroom: Professor Universalist says, “There are many religious roads, but they all lead to God. All sincere people of faith—Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Age—will arrive at the same glorified place. It’s bigoted to believe otherwise.”

If anything, deceptive teaching is harder to discern when professors mix their own non-literal views of Scripture and religious humanism beliefs with biblical Christianity. Don’t think that Satan considers colleges with a Christian heritage off limits. He’s prepared to use any tactic to distract and deceive you from being on that narrow way that leads to life.

—David Wheaton in University of Destruction

My Response: One clue that a professing Christian may not be a possessing one is …

Thought to Apply: God never meant for man to scale the heavens by strides of human wisdom.—William Cowper

Adapted from University of Destruction (Bethany, 2005)

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 – Secular Campus Tour

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12

Bonus Reading: Genesis 1:1, 27; Romans 3:10-12; John 17:17

Poke your head into a few university classrooms to sample what the professors are saying.

  • A biology classroom: “As a result of a cataclysmic explosion, the universe came into existence ten billion years ago. The fossil record shows that invertebrates made the leap from water to land two million years before humans.”

If you believe Professor Evolutionist’s claim that you are the product of random chance and evolution, what degree of purpose and meaning could your life possibly have?

  • A sociology classroom: “Humans are inherently good. If everyone were given enough education and financial resources, the result would be a united utopian world.”

If you believe Professor Humanist’s thesis, how do you explain the never-ending cycle of sin in the world—crime, violence, greed, pride, rape, lust, etc.?

  • A values and ethics classroom: “What’s wrong for you may be right for someone else in the same situation. Who are you to judge someone else? Divisive religion-based concepts of right and wrong only foster guilt and hate rather than tolerance.”

If you believe Professor Relativist’s assertion, on what basis will you make your moral choices?

Now contrast their trendy groupthink with God’s Word in today’s Bonus Readings.

—David Wheaton in University of Destruction

My Response: Is my worldview shaped by current experts or scriptural perspectives?

Thought to Apply: Intelligence and education can ascertain facts. Wisdom can discover the truth.—Max De Pree

Adapted from University of Destruction (Bethany, 2005)

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