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Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – We Need Each Other

Supportive Friends 2Key Bible Verse: I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.   2 Corinthians 13:11

Bonus Reading:  Romans 15: 4-6

Mark (not his real name) took the courageous step of joining a church group that encourages men who want to grow out of destructive patterns.

I had been urging him to take advantage of this group. When he did so, I told him how my respect for him had risen. But as I looked with the eyes of God, I saw a shadow in his face, a touch of discouragement, even a hint of fear. He needed some encouragement.

“But you know,” I added, “when you read the classics, they stress how once a believer begins taking God more seriously, Satan is likely to unleash his most fierce temptations against that person.”

The relief that flooded Mark’s face was immediate. “Thank you for sharing that,” he said. “It helps me understand what’s been going on.”

Just hours before I talked to Mark, two of my friends had spoken to me, ministering God’s presence and wisdom.  If they hadn’t lifted me up, I don’t know if I would have been available to encourage Mark.  True transformation is a community effort.  We need each other.

Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight


My Response: Who is a friend I need to thank for being there to encourage me?

Adapted from The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan, 2007

Thought to Apply: A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. —Arnold Glasgow (writer, humorist)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.




Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Get Real, Go Deep

Supportive FriendsKey Bible Verse: Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.  Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, The Message

Bonus Reading:  1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

If you were to share with a trusted friend that you struggle with watching television shows you know you shouldn’t, your friend could react in a number of ways.  The reaction you receive will most likely reveal the depth of your friend’s commitment to you.

Your friend could say to you, “Well, just turn off the TV and pray about it.”  In this case, your friend probably can’t really relate to your problem, but he thinks telling you this will help.  He might be truly concerned, however, even though he doesn’t really understand.  Or he may simply practice doling out spiritual-sounding advice.

On the other hand, imagine the difference if that friend makes a committed effort to help you.  Think how you’ll feel if your friend says, “Let’s talk about your problem some more.  Why do you think you’re having this struggle?  Let’s pray about this together.”  The two of you spend some time talking over the struggle you’re experiencing—and then you spend some more time beside each other in prayer.  Your friend is committed to helping you—as long as it takes—until you get through this problem.  Now that’s a committed friendship.

David Wardell and Jeff Leever in Daily Disciples


My Response: How can I best demonstrate empathy toward a struggling friend?


Thought to Apply: We are born helpless. … We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.—C. S. Lewis(British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from Daily Disciples (Promise, 2001)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.



Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Was It Worth It?

EncouraementKey Bible Verse:  When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.  Romans 1:12

Bonus Reading:  Philemon 1:7

To encourage the guys in a Bible study I recently led, I telephoned each of them every week, asking how things were going and how I could pray for them.

One of the men was reticent on the phone, often answering my general questions with one or two words.  Our typical conversation lasted for only a minute or two.

Was he uncomfortable talking with me?  I wondered after each call.  Was I annoying him with my repeated phone calls?  Did he not even like me?  Perhaps I should just stop calling him.

Before making any decisions, though, I needed some expert advice.  I talked to my wife.

“I wouldn’t give up,” she said.  “Those calls probably mean more to him than you think.”

I took my wife’s advice and called that man again.  As usual, he shared little and offered no prayer requests.  As I began to wrap up another uncomfortable conversation, he said something that stunned me.

“Jon,” he said, “I just want you to know that I really appreciate your calls.  It’s encouraging to hear a friendly voice every week.”

With tears forming in my eyes, I thanked him for his kind words.  I hung up the phone and looked forward to calling him the following week.

—Jonathan Wakefield


My Response: How do I react when guys don’t seem to respond positively to my attempts to reach out and encourage them?


Thought to Apply:Q: How can you tell if a person needs encouragement? A: If they are breathing.” —Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.




Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – A Team of Huggers

Hugging SportsmenKey Bible Verse:  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.   Hebrews 10:24

Bonus Reading:  Acts 4:36, 11:22-24

Coach Peacock’s team had just won a state championship.  They were celebrating in the locker room, and Coach was hugging his players right and left.

As the congratulations continued, the coach noticed one player in particular sitting alone on a bench, watching him.  Coach Peacock knew that the young man’s parents were divorced and also that his dad was an alcoholic who never attended any of his son’s games.  So he walked over to the player and asked if he was okay.  The young man responded, “Yes, Coach, but I was just wondering … could I have another hug?”

The experience was a milestone in Coach’s life, leading him on a campaign to become a “team of huggers.”  Starting with the coaching staff, Coach Peacock wouldn’t settle for a wimpy hug.  It had to be a “bear hug.”  Soon, the coaches began sharing hugs with their players.

Most of us would agree that hugs encourage us and remind us that someone cares about us.  Of course, there are many ways to encourage others.  Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to consider how to stimulate and encourage one another to good deeds.

Let’s consider all the ways that we might encourage our fellow coaches, teachers, players, family members, and neighbors.

—Bill Burnett in Heart of a Coach


My Response: How do I feel about hugging my guy friends? Why do I feel this way?


Thought to Apply: There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.—George M. Adams (writer)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.




Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Training Partners

Training PartnersKey Bible Verse:  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Ecclesiastes 4:10

Bonus Reading:  Proverbs 27: 6, 9, 17

For a runner, there is nothing as wearing or as boring as a solo workout.  The workout seems endless.

For this reason, I always appreciated having training partners.  When I ran with them, I was stretched, pulled, and extended beyond what I thought I could do.  That’s the benefit of having quality training partners.  They push and press us to better performances.

To me friendships are life’s training partners; they push and press us through everyday life.  Henry Van Dyke once wrote that the mark of a friend is that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him.

Good friends, like good personal training partners, pull us forward.  They make us better.  They stretch us.  Good friends challenge us when they see blind spots in our lives.

Poor friends have the exact opposite effect—they drag us down.

That’s why I believe friends are such a critical component to a successful life and are to be chosen wisely.  It does matter who we hang out with.

Proverbs 13:20 reads: “He who walks with wise men will be wise.  But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (NKJV).  Let us be wise people in the company that we keep and the friends that we make.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run


My Response: How am I encouraging and challenging my friends?  How are my friends encouraging and challenging me?

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.




Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Push Each Other to the Top

Mountain ClimbersWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max Lucado grew up in west Texas and pretty much partied his way through high school—giving little attention to God.  But then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University.

Today, this best-selling Christian author has sold more than 65 million books—including Bible studies, commentaries, devotionals, and books for kids.

Max regularly preaches his down-home, story-driven sermons from the pulpit of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church.

What He Said … Push Each Other to the Top

Every Thursday during a Young Life summer camp, four hundred students make the fourteen-thousand-foot climb up Colorado’s Mount Chrysolite.  Several Young Life leaders and I walk with them.

On a recent trip, somewhere around the number four thousand, Matthew decided to call it quits.  I coaxed him, begged him, negotiated a plan with him: thirty steps of walking, sixty seconds of resting.

Finally we stood within a thousand feet of the peek.  But the last stretch of the trail rose up as straight as a fireman’s ladder.

We got serious.  Two guys came up beside Matt, each taking an arm.  I pushed from the rear.  We all but dragged Matt past the timberline and to the awesome view at the top.

That’s when we heard the applause.  Four hundred campers on the crest of Mount Chrysolite gave Matt a standing ovation.  As I slumped down to rest, a thought steamrolled my way: There it is, Max, a perfect picture of my plan.  Do all you can to push each other to the top.  Was this a message from God?  Well, it does sound like something he’d say.

Adapted from The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, 2006


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.



Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Earth-Shattering Shout

Heaven 2Key Bible Verse:  God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked”.  – Psalm 75:2

Bonus Reading: Revelation 6: 10-11

Many of the students in the makeshift little Ugandan Bible school lived with horrendous reminders of what they’d endured during the murderous reign of Idi Amin.

Some of these pastors of village churches were missing an eye or an arm.  Several had bulging red scars from deep machete wounds.

The professor was lecturing from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which the apostle is teaching about Christ’s return to reign forever in glory, wiping away every tear and setting straight every injustice.

A student’s hand went up when he came to Chapter 4, verse 16: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.”

“Yes?” said the professor.

“What will the Lord shout?” the man asked softly.

The professor didn’t know what to say.  Yet the accumulated suffering of the students in that classroom seemed to demand some kind of answer.

What will the Lord say when he finally humbles all his enemies?  “I don’t know,” the professor admitted. “What do you think he’ll shout?”

A student’s voice came from the back: “I think he’ll shout, ‘Enough!'”

That’s a good answer.  Justice will come when God’s inexplicable wisdom and love have determined that there has been enough suffering for the sake of his name.

—Ben Patterson in God’s Prayer Book

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – No Frills, No Flair

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

Bonus Reading:   Psalm 139: 2-18

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

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

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

I learned something that night: When we come to God in prayer, we must come as we are.  No amount of flowery words will impress God.

He knows our sinful thoughts and secret desires better than we do.  We can’t fool him with impressive praying.

No, if we want to be people who passionately pursue intimacy with God, we must first and foremost have the courage to approach him honestly, completely revealing who we are, what we’ve done, and how we feel each time we call his name.

To do less than that is an insult to God and to the miracle of prayer he’s given us.

—Mike Nappa in The Courage to Be a Christian


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


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

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


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Noteworthy Distractions

Jotting Down a NoteKey Bible Verse:  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  – James 5:16

Bonus Reading:  James 5: 13-18

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

I would be trying to pray and suddenly my mind would jump to a business appointment I needed to make or something else I had to do.  For years I had forced these things out of my mind to get back to “spiritual things.”

But now, thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Donn Moomaw, I began to keep a notebook by my side; and when the thought came to me to call someone, to make an appointment, or to do something for the family, I would jot it down and then go back to God.

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

Sometimes a vision of someone I resented would come floating into my prayers.  Instead of trying my best to suppress it, I began to ask God to make my thoughts about this person more like His.

Before I knew it, I discovered that God was touching more and more of my life through this time of prayer.

—Keith Miller in The Edge of Adventure


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


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

Adapted from The Edge of Adventure (WaterBrook, 2005)


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Just Stammer Away

Prayer 6Key Bible Verse:  We don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  – Romans 8:26

Bonus Reading: Psalm 63: 1-8

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

I remember a vacation with my parents in France when I was in high school.  I had just completed two years of French, hardly enough to make me fluent.  Still, there we were, tourists wanting to make the most of our time.

So when we needed a bathroom, when we wanted to find a cafe, or when I lost my eyeglasses on the steps of L’Eglise du Sacre-Coeur, I falteringly used my butchered French.  I was trying—to the politely suppressed laughter of others—to speak the language.  But I remember more than the townspeople’s bemusement.

I remember how they warmly received my efforts.  They strained to hear past my fractured sentences.  They honored me by responding.

Is God any less generous?

He hears all that arises from us—the words of our mouth, the longings of our hearts, the thoughts of our minds, the intentions of our wills.  Regret, grief, thanksgiving, hope—God hears our emotions, not just our grammar.

Because of his grace, not our eloquence, we can pray.  Even if we stammer.

—Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer


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


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

Adapted from The Art of Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005)


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Guilt Free A to Z

Prayer 5Key Bible Verse:  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  1 Timothy 2:1

Bonus Reading:  Daniel 9: 1-19

Have you ever created a massive prayer list and then broken it down for each day of the week?

If you have, you’ve probably discovered that this approach works well—at producing a whole lot of guilt!

The first day you miss your prayer time, you decide to double up the next day so that no name gets skipped.  But this requires that tomorrow you pray for a boatload of people.  Eventually, you’ll let dropped days stay dropped—and then feel guilty about all those people for whom you failed to pray.

Let me offer you a guilt-free approach.

I keep an A to Z list of friends on one page, front and back, in a notebook I use to record my daily insights from Scripture.  I stick a little Post-it note under the person’s name I last prayed for.  Some days I have the time to pray for five or six people.

Other days I’m in a hurry and may get to only one or two names.  And occasionally I miss interceding for others altogether.  I just pick up where I left off and continue down my list.  It may take a few weeks to cover everyone, but there’s a steady thoroughness to this approach that gives me a sense of deep satisfaction.

—James Nicodem in Prayer Coach


My Response: Without increasing guilt, how might I improve my own intercessory prayer times?


Thought to Apply: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men!—Phillips Brooks (American clergyman & author)

Adapted from Prayer Coach (Crossway, 2008)


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Crank Your Engine

LentWho Said It … Peter Lundell

Peter Lundell is a former missionary to Japan and currently pastors Walnut Community Church in Walnut, California.  Along with publishing articles in numerous magazines, he’s the author of Armed for Battle, When God Bursts In, and the recently published Prayer Power.

Peter’s hobbies include woodworking and surfing the Pacific with a specially designed “surf kayak.”  He has a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  Peter and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.

What He Said … Crank Your Engine

When the automobile was first invented, no one had conceived of a starter.  So while one person sat at the wheel, another person stood in front of the car and cranked a handle connected to the engine.  

Round and round they’d heave the crank until the engine started.  This led to phrases like “crank the engine” and “crank it up.”

Sometimes prayer may feel like a dead engine, and it takes deliberate cranking to get the communication started.

Too many times I have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  I may sit or stand or walk while I try to talk with God, but my mind is like a dead engine.  These are times when I “start in the flesh and end in the Spirit.”

Starting in the flesh and ending in the Spirit means that we may not feel like praying, but we go ahead and pray anyway.  As we do this, our prayer starts to flow naturally.

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


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




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – At a Loss for Words?

Prayer 4Key Bible Verse:  Never stop praying.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 86: 1-7

Some Christians may dismiss written prayers as leftovers of a formal church style they’d just as soon bury.  Yet when we feel down or dull, reading a prayer may get us going when otherwise we wouldn’t pray at all.  When we read the prayer and truly pray it as we read, the written prayer becomes our own expression to God.

The largest source of written prayers is the book of Psalms.  With 150 to choose from, we can always find one to start off our prayer (like Psalm 86: 1-7).

We have psalms of praise, comfort, and encouragement.  Most of all we find laments—over a third of the Psalms begin with complaints.  (People are often surprised to discover that God actually lets us complain to him.)

Psalms of lament start with expressing sadness, frustration, or even anger to God.  Then they generally progress toward finding hope and comfort in God.  They’re a great example of dumping our problems on God and turning to the path of faith and optimism.

Reading written prayers can also stimulate our own prayers when we internalize the words and express them as if they were our own.  This gets the flow of our thoughts going.  Then we can set the written prayer aside and go on praying.

—Peter Lundell in Prayer Power


My Response: How might written prayers enliven my own times of prayer?

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


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




Happy Father’s Day

Radical Repentance – Saul’s Conversion

The Conversion of Saul

The Conversion of Saul

When discussing Radical Repentance, we can’t overlook the conversion of Paul.  A well-known persecutor of the Church, Paul not only witnessed but gave his approval to the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1).

Many had no doubt labeled him “The Least Likely to Receive Christ.”  But then this self-proclaimed “Pharisee” encountered Jesus and became a passionate early missionary and author of several New Testament letters.  

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

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

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


Spend Time in Prayer

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

Acts 9:1-30:

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

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

5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

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

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

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

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

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

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

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

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

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


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



Everyday Ways Dads Can Say “I Love You”


Dads sometimes find it challenging to express the pride and joy their children bring them. Some, like John Wesley’s father, wait for big moments to share what we feel. Taking some small steps will help dads (and moms) share their love for their children every day.

Proud papa

By most accounts, John and Charles Wesley’s dad, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, was not the warmest guy, but there were at least two times he expressed his love for his family.

The first came when John and Charles were very young. Following a horrific house fire, the Wesley family gathered in their garden. John Wesley would later remember that when Samuel saw that his wife and children were all safe, he cried out, “Let us give thanks to God! He has given me all my eight Children: let the house go: I am rich enough!”

A father and daughter share time together while serving a prayer ministry.

Dads can find many ways to connect with their children, including serving together in a prayer ministry. File photo courtesy of Bob Dickson and his daughter Rachel, Madison (Georgia) First United Methodist Church.

The second came 17 years later when John Wesley was elected to a fellowship at Lincoln College. Through the fellowship, he would receive free room and board, students to teach, and a salary for life, as long as he remained single. This was a big deal!

Two weeks later, Samuel wrote a letter of congratulations to John, whom the family called Jacky, gushing, “Wherever I am, my Jacky is Fellow of Lincoln.”

Dads, however, need not wait for milestone events like a life-threatening fire or a prominent promotion to express their love and pride to their children. With some small steps, fathers everywhere can develop skills to share their hearts with their children every day.

Easy tips for dads (and the rest of us)


Bedtime blessing: When children are small, many have bedtime rituals. Parents have them take a bath, brush their teeth, and then maybe they read a story and say a prayer together. Dads can add a special blessing to that daily rhythm. Something as simple as “The grace of Jesus Christ enfold you this night” (United Methodist Hymnal 879) can be an expression of not only God’s love for them, but yours as well.

Morning ritual: Family schedules can be crazy. When the kids reach a certain age, afternoons and evenings are filled with games, recitals, practices, rehearsals, play dates, homework, and more. Mornings may be the only time the whole family is awake and together. Take some time each morning with your children. Share breakfast. Talk about the day ahead. What are each of you looking forward to or dreading? Then pray for God’s grace to be with you and your child in the day ahead.

A father and daughter were ordained during the same ordination service.

The Rev. Tiffany Nagel Monroe and her dad the Rev. Alan Nagel share much, including being ordained the same day. Photo by Hugh Scott, Oklahoma Annual Conference.

School matters: School is the center of a child’s experience for 13 years in the US (and beyond for some). During this season of life, it is pretty easy for dads (and moms) to get caught up in the results—test scores, grades, honor roll, etc.—but much more happens in school. Relationships are formed, deepened, and lost. Interactions with adults and peers sometimes go well, but not always. Responsibilities and challenges are met sometimes and other times become learning opportunities. Stay involved. It shows interest in that which takes most of your child’s time and attention.

Undivided attention: Most families struggle to find one activity that everyone enjoys. That’s a great opportunity to spend one-on-one time with each child. Play catch with your athletic daughter and listen with your musical son to his favorite band. Lose a round in their favorite video game or watch their favorite movie for the 40th time. One of the basic needs children have is for the attention of their parents. Time we spend focused on them is an expression of love.

Seize every opportunity: Let’s face it, some dads overthink things. Often, while internally debating whether this is a good time to say it, or how to phrase it properly, the moment passes. Don’t wait. Simply say, “I’m so proud of you.” Without thinking, blurt out, “I love you.” We teach our kids that words matter. Share some great ones with your children.

The power of touch: Not only do words matter, but so do hugs, hands placed on shoulders, and kisses on the forehead. Sometimes the child will squirm. For seasons, you may have to stop the kisses. But finding ways to keep in physical contact with your children can be a great way of expressing love and pride without saying a word.

The Rev. Samuel Wesley may not have been the warmest father.

The Rev. Samuel Wesley may not have been very demonstrative of his love for his family. Image public domain.

Model love: Parents know they are never off the clock. The eyes in the rooms down the hall are monitoring them to learn all aspects of behavior. Work to grow in the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—and thereby model the love of God to your kids.

Why wait?

Samuel Wesley may not have been the most effusive parent. History, however, offers glimpses of the love for his family in his heart, and the pride he took in the accomplishments of his children. Dads can learn from Samuel not to wait for monumental life events to express their love to their kids. Instead, fathers can find ways every day to let their children know how much they love them and how proud they are of what they do.

Special thanks to the Rev. Matt Tuggle, Director of Family Ministries at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, for contributing to this story.

*Joe Iovino works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

Radical Repentance – Running on Empty

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

Bonus Reading:  John 6:22-58

At the age of 25, according to the world’s standards, I was successful.  I was a world record holder in the mile, had been on several Olympic teams, and had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

However, in May of 1972, in front of a nationally televised audience, I finished last during a race in the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  I was angry, humiliated, and empty.

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

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

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

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

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run


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


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

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)



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




Radical Repentance – A Jesus Freak Is Born (Again)

Key Bible Verse:  If yCampfire 2ou confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

Bonus ReadingJohn 3: 1-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Todd Hertz in Ignite Your Faith


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


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

Adapted from an article in Ignite Your Faith magazine (1-2/05)


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




Radical Repentance – Free Behind Bars

Prayer in Prison 2Key Bible Verse:  Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  – Ephesians 2:1

Bonus ReadingEphesians 2: 2-10

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

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

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

But that’s not the end.

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

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

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

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


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


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

Adapted from Prayer Power (Tyndale, 2008)



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




Our Fellowship Hall Gets New Glass Block Windows!

Earlier today, our dedicated Trustees replaced the old, double-hung windows in our Fellowship Hall with new, glass block windows.

 Not only is this update a beautiful change from the old, 113-year-old windows, they will give us higher energy efficiency, and greater security from break-ins.

Thanks to our dedicated Trustees and to Jeff & JoAnn for volunteering to underwrite half of the cost!

Radical Repentance – A President’s Greatest Need

Gerald Ford Becomes Vice President

Gerald Ford Becomes Vice President

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

Bonus ReadingActs 9: 1-30

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

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

Ford was especially moved by the sermon and talked with Zeoli afterward about Christ and forgiveness and what it meant.  The inquiry felt real and raw; but was that the moment Ford committed himself to Christ?

“It’s hard to say when a man does that,” Zeoli says plainly.  “That’s a God thing.  But I think that day is the day he looked back to as an extremely important day of knowing Christ.”

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

—Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy in Time


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


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

Adapted from “The Other Born-Again President,” Time (1/15/07)


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



Radical Repentance – God’s Huge Heart

Prayer in PrisonKey Bible Verse: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  – Romans 8:1

Bonus readingRomans 8: 31-39

As I met with Fernando in his prison cell, he confessed that he had committed a lot of sins.  He just couldn’t see how God could possibly forgive him.  I drove home the above Bible verse and emphasized the complete forgiveness God offers to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.

At the end of our short time together, God broke this man.  We got down on our knees and Fernando asked the Lord for forgiveness.

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

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

—Luis Palau in High Definition Life


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

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005)


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




This Fathers’ Day – Be a Better Man!

All of us, men and women know we aren’t all we want to be in our Christian lives.

To help us along, here are some links to a variety of resources to help men grow in their spiritual lives.  Such contemplation might not be a cuddly, upbeat way to celebrate Father’s Day, but it might have an eternal impact that is far more important.

Be a better man

Explore or start a personal relationship with Jesus


Grow in the Basics of Christianity


 Start or become involved with a Men’s Ministry

Learn to defend the Christian faith

Two great sites that will answer your questions and prepare you to answer others

Recover from an addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits, please note that the current website status is not reflective of the quality of the ministry.

Overall resources for recovery, good explanation of Celebrate Recovery


Pornography, sexual addition, related issues


Download an ap with daily Bible encouragements and other resources


Help with internet filters, accountability, online help





Radical Repentance – A Load of Sin

1884 Methodist Hymnal - #532 - O That My Load of Sin Were Gone

1884 Methodist Hymnal – #532 – O That My Load of Sin Were Gone

Who Said It … Luis Palau

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

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


What He Said … A Load of Sin

Fernando Montero had wealth, prestige, power, influence.  Armed with an MBA from Harvard University, he had climbed the political ladder to become Columbia’s secretary for defense. A t age 37, he ran the nations army and directed its attacks against the powerful Cali drug cartel.  Then something went terribly wrong.

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

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

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

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

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005)


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




The BF Car Cruise is Underway – Stop by Our Table for Free Ice-Cold Water & Chips

The Beaver Falls Car Cruise is underway and we are handing out free bottles of ice-cold water and chips on the corner of 7th Ave. & 10th Street.

Stop by and say Hi!

It may be hot, but the water is cold!!

The Benefits of Being in Church Choir

– by Christopher Fenoglio

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
“Many singers in our choirs say that their lives are impacted dramatically by singing here,” says Bill Mathis, Music & Fine Arts minister at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, whose choirs are shown here.

There they are, on the seventh page of the United Methodist Hymnal, “Directions for Singing” from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism:

“Sing all… Sing lustily and with good courage… Sing in time… Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing… So shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

Rewards in heaven? Sounds like a good enough reason to sing in a church choir.

Be sure to add the alt. text

The Celebration Choir of the Poteau First United Methodist Church, which includes ten-year-old Warrick Quarry, sings at a Sunday worship service. Photo courtesy of Kaycee Quarry.

But what is it about singing that seems to be part of our Wesleyan DNA? How does singing help choir members enjoy a greater understanding of how and why we worship our God, a deeper connection with one’s church and community, and even better health?

“It’s natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. They are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When singing in the key of C and they slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of them, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By joining in harmony, they somehow promise that they will not forsake each other.” – Attributed to Garrison Keillor

Better Worship

A common statement about singing in church is “To sing is to pray twice.” Although the statement is often attributed to Augustine, the actual author is unknown. Still, the sentiment is true. Music is an art form that lifts up ordinary text to another level that inspires us and nurtures our souls.

“Music is an integral part of how we relate to God,” says the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, program director of the United Methodist Alton L. Collins Retreat Center in Eagle Creek, Oregon, and leader of the Great Hymns of Faith Retreat. “It is how we understand at a deeper level what goes beyond words, what our relationship is with the Divine, and how we are shaped together as a community of faith.”

Of all the art forms, “music is one of the most easily accessible type of art in worship,” says Bartlett. “There’s nearly always an opportunity to open your mouth and make music together with the rest of the people in that service. Right there you’ve got an opportunity to experience the Divine in a different way than just to listen to someone read about God,” she says.

“Christianity is not a solitary religion,” says the Rev. Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship at Boston University School of Theology, “John Wesley certainly made the case that it is a ‘social’ religion — both in its worship and in its concern for the care of the neighbor,” says Tucker.

Better Community

Be sure to add the alt. text

Singers and musicians lead singing during the opening worship service of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Communications.

The benefit of singing with and caring for others goes beyond church walls, as many community choirs will attest. In these days of an increasingly polarized culture, music can be a common bond between peoples.

“Through music, we can build community,” says Dr. Jonathan Palant, Minister of Music at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Palant is also the founder and director of Credo Choir and Dallas Street Choir.

“We bring people together in peace and harmony. I know it sounds trite, but it’s exactly what we do. In a choral setting, not only are we creating friendships with each other, but the audience can see, between the Dallas Street Choir and Credo, people in different socio-economic groups, skin colors, sexual orientations and religious affiliations,” he says.

“By singing in a choir, regardless where (church, community, university, secondary school, etc.), music becomes the conduit that brings us together in a very safe and equal environment,” says Palant. “We come together in song; everything else (about individual choir members) is irrelevant. We come together in worship, in song, in prayer, to learn and to be better citizens of this world.

Better Health

“We believe singing in a choir and other creative arts can promote healthy aging,” says Dr. Julene Johnson, a University of California at San Francisco professor and founder and director of the Community of Voices study. “We were looking for a way for older people to remain independent and engaged. We knew that to have an effect the activity had to be meaningful, engaging and challenging. The creative arts do that.”

A similar study on the health benefits of singing for older adults is being conducted in Finland. Preliminary results suggest that community choral singing does indeed provide a better quality of life for participants.

Increased lung capacity and greater oxygenation of the blood resulting in improved alertness are all associated with singing. Singing is also good for the brain, especially when memorization is involved. “Singing is of great interest to neuroscientists as it would seem that there is more of the brain given over to the processing of music than almost any other activity,” says Dr. Graham Welch, professor at the Institute of Education in London.

One of his studies involved four- to five-year-old children and found that those with musical training showed enhanced language abilities and memory for words. There was also evidence that taking part in singing and other musical activities improves certain aspects of non-verbal reasoning, literacy and working with numbers.

So with this evidence that one’s health is improved through singing, how important is singing to our faith as United Methodists?

“It all goes back to Wesley’s words ‘Do all the good you can,’” says Palant. “This is the outlet that singers choose to act upon those words. Choir members find their spirituality and their faith through song and through the choral community.”

*Christopher Fenoglio works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by e-mail or at (615) 312-3734.

Letting God Lead – Everyday Sacrifices

Your Choices Make YouKey Bible Verse:  I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing.  That’s the most sensible way to serve God.  Romans 12:1, CEV

Dig Deeper:  Romans 12:2

What does offering your body to God look like in our everyday lives?

Maybe it’s when you sit down at your computer and there’s a message from “Desperate Debbie” with the subject line “XXX: Click here!”  You close your eyes and pray, “Lord, everything in me wants to check this out.  I pray for your help. Lord, my eyes are only for you.”  Then, by faith, you click “delete.”  Your eyes have become a living sacrifice.

It’s when you turn on the radio to listen to music that tells you to go smoke something, drink something, have sex with somebody, curse somebody, and then you pray, “Lord, I like the song.  Everything within me wants to listen.  Help me, Lord.  By faith, I’m not going to listen.  Jesus, my ears are only for you.”  Then you change station.  Your ears are a living sacrifice.

Maybe you’re with friends and you have a dirty joke that if shared will make you the flavor of the moment.  Yet instead of telling the joke, you pray, “Lord God, I confess I want the attention.  I want the popularity.  Help me, Lord, to obey you.  Jesus, my lips are for you alone.”  Then, by faith, you bite your tongue.  In that moment your lips have become a living sacrifice.

—Jarrod Jones in The Backward Life


My Response: How might I apply Jarrod’s devotional to something I struggle with or to a moral choice I’m faced with on a regular basis?


Thought to Apply: The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar.—Rick Warren (pastor, writer)

Adapted from The Backward Life (Revell, 2006)


Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Letting God Lead – Football or God?

Football Player PrayingKey Bible Verse:  You must not have any other god but me.   – Exodus 20:3

Dig Deeper:  Isaiah 43: 10-11

Late one evening in our room at the Steelers training camp, I told Donnie Shell, “I don’t know that I’m going to make this team. … There are other new guys who are looking to do what I did last year—take somebody’s spot.  This is just not going according to plan.”

“Tony, I think you’re at a crossroads,” Donnie said. ” … You tell everybody that God has first place in your life.  Now, when your career looks like it’s teetering, we’re getting a chance to see what really is in first place for you.”

I thought about that all day and then came back to the conversation with Donnie.

“You’re probably right,” I told him. “I feel like I’ve been learning from Christian guys like you and growing. … But all of a sudden, I come to a crisis point, and I begin to panic. …”

Donnie measured me squarely: “All the Lord is trying to do is find out what’s in first place in your life, and right now, it looks like football is.”

I immediately knew Donnie was right, and I felt convicted.

It was the first time I was able to look at football as something God was allowing me to do, not something that should define me. I had to consciously make sure that God was in first place.

—Tony Dungy in Quiet Strength


My Response:  If my neighbors were asked what has first place in my life, they would probably say I value this the most: …


Thought to Apply: Whatever a man seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, this is the god of his idolatry.—William B. Ullathorne (British Benedictine monk, bishop)

Adapted from Quiet Strength (Tyndale, 2007)



Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Green is the Color of the Season of Pentecost

When we start paying special attention, we see green everywhere in all of its differences and variations. It’s the same with the stories of this season. When we start paying special attention to the stories of ordinary lives and relationships, we begin to see the variety of tones and hues of God’s presence.  ~ from Living Pentecost 1 at Home.

Pentecost Sunday was June 4 this year, marking the last Sunday of the Lent/Easter lectionary season.

The Pentecost season begins after Pentecost Sunday and ends August 27. Pentecost, observed 50 days (pente cost in Greek) after Easter, is known as the Birthday of the Church.

According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles praying together on this day, and gifted them the ability to speak other languages, which allowed the message of Jesus Christ to be shared all around the world.




Letting God Lead – Freedom in Obedience

Let God Lead 4Key Bible Verse:  And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day.   – Deuteronomy 6:24

Dig Deeper:  Deuteronomy 6

I was asked to lead an organization that I loved.  I had been in business leadership and consulting for more than 30 years.  It seemed like everything I had accomplished had prepared me for this appointment.  From that experience the normal approach would be to develop a formal process for this company with a vision, strategy, and plan, and then to work that plan.

However, I had begun to sense the need to listen for God’s direction, agree with him, and then act in obedience.  Now, this was quite different from how I would normally have approached leadership.

Over the next few months, I continued to ask God for his direction and listened when he gave it.  His direction came through the wisdom of trusted friends, through the hundreds of emails  I received, through prayer, through time spent in the Word of God, and in the correcting and confirming peace sent by God.

The agreement of our board and leadership regarding this new direction gave us the confidence to make hard decisions, change the way we did things, and to carry on—even when things didn’t go as anticipated.  There was freedom and fulfillment in this kind of action.

—Dan Brokke in I³—Identity, Integrity, Impact


My Response: A time I experienced freedom and fulfillment through obedience was …


Thought to Apply: Obedience is the road to freedom.—C. S. Lewis (British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from I³—Identity, Integrity, Impact (Summerside Press, 2009)



Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




See You at the Beaver Falls Car Cruise! – Saturday, June 10, 1-9-pm

Central Church will be offering free bags of chips and bottles of ice-cold water at this year’s Car Cruise in Beaver Falls on Saturday, June 10, 2017.  The Car Cruise runs from 1-9 pm.

Our table this year will be at 10th Street and 7th Avenue, so stop by to say Hi, get a snack, and slake your thirst as we enjoy all of the interesting cars on display!

Today in Christian History – The YMCA

June 6, 1844: English merchant George Williams founds the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) out of his London meetings for prayer and Bible reading.

Letting God Lead – Unexplainable…

Letting God Lead 2Key Bible Verses:  The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”  So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed.  – Genesis 12:1, 4

Dig Deeper:  Genesis 12: 1-9 James 2: 21-26

To embrace life in God, to experience his presence, and to follow his lead will inevitably place you in the realm of the unexplainable.  You’ll find yourself feeling, thinking, speaking, acting, and relating in ways leading unquestionably to the conclusion that “God did it.”

God may lead you to pass up a promotion because of the additional hours and responsibilities that would negatively impact your family and current ministry involvements.

You may be led by God to write a check that will be unexplainable to your financial planner.

You may feel unexplainably prompted to share your faith with someone who previously made it clear he or she had no interest in God.

You may feel unexplainably compelled to befriend and express love to someone whom most others choose to avoid.

Whatever it is, God wants to lead you into this realm of the “unexplainable apart from him”—so your life points to him.

Paul describes this new realm in these words: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Cor. 2:9, NASB).  Wow!  Count me in!

—Don Cousins in Unexplainable


My Response: One unexplainable faith-step I have taken in obedience to God is …

Adapted from Unexplainable (Cook, 2009)



Prayer for the WeekLord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Letting God Lead – Giving Up the Right to Lead

Let God LeadWho Said It … Bill Hull

Bill Hull has a passion for helping the church return to its disciple-making roots.  So much so that he considers himself a “discipleship evangelist.”   Having fine-tuned his unique perspectives through 20 years of pastoral service, Bill currently oversees a discipleship ministry called Choose the Life.

Bill’s latest book for the serious Christ-follower is Christlike: The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience.

Bill and his wife, Jane, live in Long Beach, California, and are the parents of two adult sons.

What He Said … Giving up the Right to Lead

The deepest sin of my life is holding on to the right to lead my own life.  

I am a high achiever.  I like to be in control.  I enjoy accomplishment.  I love to “go for it.”  I like to think that I have all kinds of options available to me, that I can create, create, create.  

If I want to be transformed, I have to give that all up.  I first confess my sin of insisting on leading my own life.

That is how I got started on the road to becoming a true disciple.  I humbled myself and asked God to lead me.  I know it sounds trite and common, but when you get it, when you understand what it means to choose the life of following Jesus, it is the most liberating experience in life.

Jesus said it for us: “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).  We must choose.

Adapted from Choose the Life (Baker, 2004)


Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Just Say No – The Bare Essentials

Mountain ClimberKey Bible Verse:  “And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life.”  – 2 Timothy 2: 4

Bonus Reading  2 Timothy 2: 1-7

The story is told of a group of people who were preparing to climb Mount Blanc in the Swiss Alps.

On the evening before the climb, the guide outlined the prerequisite for reaching the top.  Due to the difficulty of the climb, he warned them, one could reach the top by taking only the bare essentials of equipment.  All unnecessary accessories must be left behind.

A young Englishman refused to listen.  He brought along an extra blanket, a cap, and a fancy notebook in his backpack.

On the way to the summit of Mount Blanc, the guide began to notice certain items of excess baggage left behind in the snow.  First the blanket.  Then the notebook.  Later the cap.

This epitomizes what must happen in our lives spiritually if we are to win the race.  Every unnecessary weight must be cast aside if we are to make it to the top.  We must let go of the good if we are to achieve the best.

Running with maximum speed requires stripping down.  Even small encumbrances can keep us from victory.  The difference between victory and defeat is often very small.

—- Steven Lawson in “Men Who Win”


My Response:  A “good” that may be in the way of God’s best for me is… …


Thought to Apply:  If you begin by denying yourself nothing, the world later is apt to do your denying for you.
—- B. F. Forbes (writer)

Adapted from: “Men Who Win” (NavPress, 1992)



Just Say No – Goose Truth

Geese in FlightQ.  What if there are things I should walk away from, but I’ve been unable to resist?

A.  I mustn’t believe the lie that says I can’t change or take control.  Because God’s Spirit is in me, God’s strength is in me.

But sometimes I feel so helpless.  In late autumn, my family likes to travel to southern Illinois around Horseshoe Lake where the geese are flying.  Each time, I’m reminded of how foolish it is to believe that God would make Christians helpless to resist the destructive forces of sin.

When you travel down Highway 3, which slices right across the flyway of thousands of migrating waterfowl, you see the grain fields the conservation people have planted for the geese.  The birds gather in this reserve by the hundreds of thousands, blanketing the ground until sunset.  Then at dusk an amazing change occurs.  Like huge puffs of smoke, the birds rise from the ground by the thousands and cross the highway.

Why?  You’d think it would be far easier to fly by day.

One side of the highway is all game reserve.  The other side of the road is private farmland where hunters gather by the score.  The old-timers say the reason the birds wait till sunset to cross is that they’ve learned the hunters’ time limit is over at sundown.

Wow, if a goose with a pea brain, driven by instinct, has the ability to change behaviors that would lead to its own destruction, how can we with the mind of Christ and controlled by the Spirit of God claim that we can’t?

          Bryan Chapell is president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri

Adapted from: “The Promises of Grace”  (Baker, 2001)



Just Say No – Margin of Victory

Racing ShoesKey Bible Verse:  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” Hebrews 12:1

Bonus Reading  Hebrews 12: 1-4

Runner Gil Dodds was once preparing for a race.  After a series of stretching exercises, Dodds ran several warmup laps around the track.  Just before the race began, he quickly changed into some other track shoes.

One of the onlookers asked why he was changing shoes.  Dodds tossed to the inquirer one of his warmup shoes.  Then one of his racing shoes.

The man was still puzzled.  There was no detectable difference in the two shoes.  Both looked the same.  Both seemed to weigh the same.

Then Dodds explained.  There was indeed a difference.  The warmup shoes were slightly heavier than his racing shoes.  Though only a small difference, saving even that much weight for the race could spell the difference between victory and defeat.

The same is true in our spiritual lives.

No encumbrance, large or small, can be tolerated in our life.  Not if we’re to win. The above Scripture for today says, “strip off every weight that slows us down.”

Not some, but every.  So every impediment must go.  Anything that would hold us back must be relinquished.

—- Steven Lawson in Men Who Win


My Response: A “little” weight that I should seriously think about shedding is…


Thought to Apply: There are many activities I must cut out simply because I desire to excel in my pursuit after God and holiness. – Wendell Price (speaker)

Adapted from: Men Who Win (NavPress, 1992)