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Leading with Love: Beyond the Bottom Line

Undercover Boss 2Key Bible Verse:  And masters, treat your servants considerately.  Be fair with them.  Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven.  Colossians 4:1, The message

Dig Deeper: 1 Peter 5:1-4

Before I came to HFE, I had been living by the numbers because numbers were all my leaders seemed to care about.  If I had any deeper principles, I needed to check them at the company door, because once I was at work, it was all about financial performance.

When I performed well, I was rewarded and respected.  When I failed, I felt like I was kicked to the curb.  It was that simple.

Inside I longed for a better way.  I wanted to care about the people I worked with and for.  I wanted to work somewhere that rejected the false dichotomy between profit and people or profit and principles.

But I had been in business long enough to know that was a nearly impossible dream.

My experience at HFE has revolutionized the way I see leadership.  I am convinced that leading with love is the best way to run an organization.  Any organization.

The bottom line is best served when leaders lead with love.

I understand that this is a controversial claim, but I also now understand that it is true.  Love isn’t a feeling, but an action, an action by which leaders and entire organizations can experience almost unimaginable success and personal fulfillment.


My Response:  What’s my initial reaction to the idea of leading with love?  Why do I feel this way?

Adapted from Love Works (Zondervan, 2012)



Prayer for the Week:  Lord, in the situations where I am a leader, help me to submit my pride and ambition to you and lead with love for those who follow.




Leading with Love: A Different Kind of Leadership

Undercover BossWho Said It … Joel Manby

Joel Manby is president and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation (HFE). He was featured on the hit CBS reality-TV series, Undercover Boss, where he and the employees of HFE demonstrated their unique approach to leadership to millions of viewers.

Joel is the author of Love Works. He and his wife, Marki, have four daughters and live in suburban Atlanta.


What he Said … A Different Kind of Leadership

More than 18 million viewers saw HFE’s episode of Undercover Boss, making it the highest-rated program on CBS that week and the second most popular show on any network, trailing only American Idol.

People who witnessed our employees in action wanted us to know that they wished their own places of work were more like what they had seen on Undercover Boss—in other words, more respectful, cooperative, joyful and, well, more loving.

The most satisfying part about appearing on Undercover Boss was that it confirmed the wise management philosophy that the leaders at HFE had been nurturing for half a century: leading with love.

Leading with love is counterintuitive in today’s business environment because it turns many so-called leadership principles upside-down. Yet the outpouring of support from people who had never even heard of HFE convinced me that while we might be doing something slightly crazy by leading with love, we were also doing something that people were hungry to be part of.


Key Study Passage:  1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Adapted from Love Works (Zondervan, 2012)


Prayer for the Week:  Lord, in the situations where I am a leader, help me to submit my pride and ambition to you and lead with love for those who follow.

This Sunday’s Altar Flowers

Our July 30 altar flowers are given to the glory of God and in memory of one of our oldest members, James C. Balmer, who entered the Church Triumphant on Saturday, July 22, 2017.

Jim was a member of Central Church for 49 years, and previously served as Church Treasurer, President of the Board of Trustees, and member of the Administrative Council.

Jim is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Ruth & Douglas Aley, and two grandchildren, Dexter (Lindsay) Aley and Amber Aley, all members of Central Church.

In addition, Jim is survived by two brothers, Richard (Diedre) Balmer and Matthew (Mary) Balmer, all of Beaver Falls; his sister-in-law, Janice Balmer, of Darlington, PA.; several nieces, nephews, and cousins; and his second wife, Arlene (Grguras) Balmer, and her daughter and granddaughter, Lori & Sabrina Ross, of Sigel, PA.

If desired, contributions can be made in James’ name to the Central United Methodist Church, PO Box 311, Beaver Falls PA 15010.


Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Identifying False Teachers

Identifying False TeachersJude 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.


Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Deceptive Spirits

False ProphetKey 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.


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?

PreacherKey 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; 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

Religious CampusKey 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; John 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

Secular CampusKey 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; 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.

  •  Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”[a]

  •  John 17:17 –  Sanctify them by[a] the truth; your word is truth.

—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.


Develop Your Spiritual Insight – In vs. Of

Liquor WarehouseKey Bible Verse:  Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.  1 Corinthians 14:20

Bonus Reading:  1 Cor. 5: 9-13

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

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

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

“Look,” I explained. “We live in a complicated world.  You buy groceries at stores that sell liquor, fly on airplanes that give it away in first class, and stay in hotels that have bars.

In the world isn’t the same as of it.”

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

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

—Mark Rutland in God of the Valleys


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

Adapted from God of the Valleys (Servant, 2000)



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


Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Steep Learning Curve

Used CarsWho Said It … John Ensor

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

John is completing a two-year effort to establish ultrasound-equipped Pregnancy Help Clinics in needy neighborhoods of Miami, a city with nearly 40 abortion facilities.

John previously served as a pastor and founded a network of six clinics in the Boston area.


What He Said … Steep Learning Curve

Because I wanted it badly, I looked right past the red flags.  I ended up back where I started, but poorer, embarrassed, and feeling used and stupid.

I’m talking about a used car.  I went online and was defrauded out of $4,000.  

Proverbs 14:15 had me fingered: “Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!  The prudent carefully consider their steps.”

The webmaster knew about people at their predatory worst who feed on the gullible.  So right there on the website, in a section about online fraud, he spelled out the sure signs to look for.

He also provided straightforward guidelines for doing things right when buying a used car online.  But never dreaming I’d be a victim of fraud, I failed to read the link before barging ahead.

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

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


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

Grasping God’s Grace – God’s Gift

God's GracePaul begins and ends his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:2and 6:24) with a prayer that they would share in God’s grace.

The most important things in life—forgiveness, a right relationship with God, acceptance into God’s family, eternal life, the transforming power of his Holy Spirit—are all God’s gifts for those made his own by his grace.

Believers should respond by joyfully praising God for this grace and by letting their lives reflect their gratitude. In the Greek language, significantly, the words grace, joy, and thanksgiving are related.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 2:4-9:

  1.   When, according to verse 8, was God’s grace applied to your life?
  2.   What (v. 5) was your status before God’s grace penetrated your life? What is it since you were saved?
  3.   How much of this transformation (vv. 8-9) can you take credit for?
  4.     When someone gives you a gift, do you say, “That’s very nice—now how much do I owe you?” What is the appropriate response?
  5.     Have you felt obligated to try to work your way to God?
  6.     Do you think of yourself as “Exhibit A” of the “incredible wealth” of God’s grace and kindness (v. 7)? Should you?


Spend Time in Prayer

Thank God for taking the initiative to provide for your salvation even though you had done nothing to deserve it.


Ephesians 2:4-9

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.  (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.



Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.



Grasping God’s Grace – Bow-wow

Man Feeding DogKey Bible Verse:  How kind the Lord is! So merciful, this God of ours!  Psalm 116:5

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 116:8, 12-13

We used to have two dogs.  They belonged to my son, but when he wasn’t home, I took care of them.

These dogs had a good life.  They found food sitting on their plates, got fresh water every day, and had a warm spot to sleep.

One day I was trying to get one of the dogs to move while I fed it, and it growled at me.  I looked at that brother and thought, You’re a fool. I’m here feeding and watering you at no cost to you.  I don’t want to do it, don’t need to do it, don’t feel like doing it.  And you’re growling at me?

That dog didn’t understand that he ate, drank, and had a place to sleep by grace.  The only thing that dog should have said to me when I came out was, “Thank you, bow-wow,” because everything he had was by grace.

When you decide to live by a kingdom agenda, you no longer say, “This is my food, and you’d better give it to me, God.  You’d better supply my drink and keep clothes on my back.  This is my house, and you’d better keep it paid for.”

The only thing you say when you get up in the morning is, “Thank you, God, bow-wow.”

—Tony Evans in The Kingdom Agenda: What a Way to Live!


My Response:  Do my expectations of God reveal a taking for granted of his amazing grace?


Thought to Apply: Thou hast given so much to me, give me one thing more—a grateful heart … whose pulse may be thy praise. —George Herbert (English pastor & poet)

Adapted from The Kingdom Agenda: What a Way to Live! (Word, 1997)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.

Grasping God’s Grace – The Table

Dining Room TableKey Bible Verse:  “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”  Jeremiah 31:34

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 10:11-18

It was going to be a short job—swapping out one light fixture for another.  While installing the new light, I needed a slightly different angle to get at a screw.  Standing on a chair, the thought occurred to me that our oak dining room table would make a perfect support for me to reach the screw, or so I thought.

Stepping lightly on the table, there was a sudden, sickening sound of splintering wood.  The table came crashing down.  I could do nothing to stop it.  It was broken.

For the rest of the evening I was angry—angry at my wife, at the light, at the table, but mostly with myself.  I couldn’t forgive myself.  But that is what God’s grace is about—forgiveness.

Jesus extended His grace and forgiveness to everyone he came into contact with.  It didn’t matter if they were an unclean leper, a convicted thief, a crazed demoniac, or a prostitute.  Jesus loved them all, forgave them all and held out his grace to them all.  It was up to them to grasp God’s grace.

God’s grace is an astonishing gift.  Sometimes we need it when we sin greatly.  Sometimes we need it when we break the dining room table and can’t forgive ourselves.

—Joe Williams in Ohio


My Response: Am I underrating God’s grace by continuing to blame myself for what he has stopped remembering?


Thought to Apply: Wonderful Grace of Jesus,/Greater than all my sin;/How shall my tongue describe it?/Where shall its praise begin? —Haldor Lillenas (hymn writer)

Adapted from The Barbarian Way (Nelson, 2005)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.



Grasping God’s Grace – A New Lease on Life

Writing ChecksKey Bible Verse:  He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  – Titus 3:5

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2: 4-9

A young man and his wife opened a coffeehouse as a ministry in a run-down part of town.

The lease for the property was reasonable.  They invested money, long hours, and sweat in improvements, steadily gained customers, and then took the risk of expanding to a similar neighborhood across town.

Their first landlord now decided her now-improved property should bring a much higher rent.  The couple had understood their lease wouldn’t change, but an attorney said the contract language was “open to interpretation.”

Since they couldn’t justify the expense of going to court, they were forced to move out of the first store.  But the new store couldn’t begin to pay the mountain of debt from both start-ups.  They saw no hope of avoiding bankruptcy.

Then the young man’s mother, a small business owner herself, visited and asked to see the shop’s books.  As each debt was identified, she wrote out a check—to a total of some $50,000!  Their debts were erased.

Now when conversation in the coffeehouse turns to faith, this young man tells the story of his mother’s sacrifice.  That, he explains, is an earthly picture of how his heavenly Father erased his ultimate debt.

—Sam House in HomeLife


My Response: I’ll thank God for delivering me from my moral bankruptcy.


Thought to Apply: Our faults are like a grain of sand beside the great mountain of the mercies of God. —Jean Baptiste Vianney (French priest)

Adapted from HomeLife (Lifeway, 4/03)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.

Grasping God’s Grace – Bargaining Chips?

God's Grace 2Key Bible Verse:  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  Ephesians 1:7

Bonus Reading:  Romans 3:22-24, 11:6

An old tale tells of a man who died and faced the angel Gabriel at heaven’s gates.

“Here’s how this works,” Gabriel explained. “You need 100 points to make it into heaven. Tell me all the good things you’ve done, and on the basis of how much good there is in each, I’ll assign a number of points.  When you reach 100 points, you’re in.”

“Okay,” the man said, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says Gabriel, “that’s worth three points.”

“Three points?” said the man incredulously. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my money and service.”

“Terrific!” said Gabriel, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point?” said the man, beginning to show a bit of panic. “Well, how about this:

I opened a shelter for the homeless in my city, and fed needy people by the hundreds during holidays.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” said the angel.

Two points?” cried the man in desperation. “At this rate the only way that I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Come on in,” said Gabriel.

—Bryan Chapell in Holiness by Grace


My Response: How can I guard against reverting to a saved-by-works mindset?


Thought to Apply: Grace is the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind. —Matthew Henry

Adapted from Holiness by Grace(Crossway, 2003)


Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.



Grasping God’s Grace – Family Values?

"The Feast in the House of Levi" - Pablo Veronese

“The Feast in the House of Levi” – Pablo Veronese

Key Bible Verse:  Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain. Luke 15:1-2

Bonus Reading:  Luke 15: 11-32

In the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice hangs a painting by Pablo Veronese that got him in trouble with the Inquisition.  It depicts Jesus at a banquet with his disciples, complete with Roman soldiers playing in one corner, a few drunks, and North African blacks.

Called before the inquisition to explain these irreverences,  Veronese showed from the Gospels that these were the very kinds of people Jesus mingled.  The scandalized Inquisitors made him change the painting’s title and make the scene secular rather than religious.

In doing so, of course, the Inquisitors replicated the attitude of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.  They too were scandalized by the tax collectors, half-breeds, foreigners, and women of ill repute who hung out with Jesus.

They too had trouble swallowing the notion that these are the people God loves.  While Jesus was captivating the crowd with his parables of grace, Pharisees stood by grumbling.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, provocatively, Jesus brought in the older brother to voice proper outrage at his father for rewarding irresponsible behavior.  What kind of virtue would throwing a party for such a renegade encourage?

—Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace?


My Response: Is an us vs. them attitude of mine undercutting God’s grace?

Adapted from What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Zondervan, 1997)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.



Grasping God’s Grace – He Had It Coming

God's GraceWho Said It … Glenn Stanton

Glenn Stanton is a director of social research and cultural affairs at the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.  As a media spokesperson for Focus, he had been interviewed by hundreds of print and media outlets.

A husband and father of five, Glenn says that he and his wife, Jacqueline, have little sleep but much joy!

Glenn has written The Little Big Book for Dads and The Fatherhood Movement: A Call to Action.  He won the Amy Foundation writing award in 2001 and was featured in the PBS documentary, Affluenza.


What He Said … He Had It Coming

Our friend Steve, as our mothers might say, is a good Lutheran boy.  When he was in college, he got himself arrested for driving while intoxicated.  He felt horrible for being so foolish.

He had to call his parents from the police station and was afraid his father would hammer him even more than he had hammered himself for his irresponsibility.  He explained his situation to his dad and waited for the angry lecture.  That’s not what Steve got.

His dad said instead, “Son, how can I help you through this?” Steve’s heart melted.

Steve says this incident is one of the most powerful pictures he ever experienced of God’s grace.  It was a small picture of the story of the prodigal son and the forgiving father.

This kind of grace is a powerful part of the nature of God. Satan condemns and oppresses us.  God forgives and offers us freedom.  Grace is Satan’s most bitter pill, because he wants us condemned.

Adapted from My Crazy Imperfect Christian Family (NavPress, 2004) by permission.


Prayer for the Week:  I’m blown away, Lord, by your gift of salvation, which I could neither earn nor repay.  I’ll be forever grateful.




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Being Salt

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

The term translated “everlasting covenant” in Numbers 18:19and 2 Chronicles 13:5, is literally “covenant of salt.”

Season all your grain offerings with salt,” God told his chosen people (in Leviticus 2:13), “to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.”


Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 5: 13-16

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


Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God for courage to stand out from the crowd coupled with a selfless caring that makes the faith you live attractively compelling.

Matthew 5:13-16

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

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


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




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Deep End Economics

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

Bonus Reading  2 Corinthians 9: 7-13

An Arizona church had a clothing drive to help a ministry that operates a summer day-camp for hundreds of poor children.

One of their favorite activities is going to a city swimming pool.  But a swimsuit is required at the pool, and few children own one.  When this need was announced at the church, an out-of-town visitor was moved to donate $1,000 to buy swimsuits!

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

The woman continued to watch as the clerk totaled the cost.  Finally, the total reached $1,000, which paid for 125 suits.  David told the clerk he’d put the remaining 25 swimsuits back on the sales rack.

“No!” the woman interjected, “I’d like to pay for those.”  David, astounded by this woman’s generosity, was sure he’d just seen another example of Kingdom mathematics.

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor


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


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

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006



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




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Extreme Outreach

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

Bonus Reading: Mark 2: 14-17

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

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

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

—Mike Erre in The Jesus of Suburbia


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


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

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



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




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Refurbished Reputation

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

Bonus Reading:  1 John 3: 16-19

Our church recognized that its reputation in the community had deteriorated as the church grew.  We were known as “the church that causes traffic jams.”

Add this to the fact that we paid no taxes and you’ll see why the local government saw us as takers rather than contributors to the community.

So we went to the city manager and asked, “What can we do to serve the community?”  He looked at us skeptically and said, “I’ll get back to you.”

Three months later he called and asked us to deliver more than 17,000 town directories to every household.  “Can you do it?” he inquired.  We said yes.

Our church is large, but it was still a challenge to martial more than 200 volunteers to give a September Saturday to deliver these directories.  We found the volunteers, and we decided to make this practical service event into a prayer walk—praying for every home in our community as we walked.

The service project/prayer walk opened new ideas and opportunities for community outreach, and we entered that fall with a new sense of anticipation of God working through us.

—Paul Borthwick in Stop Witnessing and Start Loving


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


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

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



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




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Proactive Culture Changer

The Chronicles of NarniaKey Bible Verse:  Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Philippians 4:8

Bonus Reading:  2 Cor. 10: 3-5

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

After the Columbine tragedy of 1999, Flaherty noted that while Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott loved wholesome films, the gunmen preferred dark flicks like Natural Born Killers.

This inspired him to transition professionally to Hollywood to make movies that would positively influence youth. He contacted his old college roommate Cary Granat, then president of Dimension Films.  Granat caught Flaherty’s vision and they co-founded Walden Media.

Most of Walden’s films are adaptations of well-known novels.  Flaherty hopes to provide librarians, teachers, pastors, and parents with resources for teaching kids positive, even biblical, values.

In an industry skittish about portraying religious themes, Flaherty is bucking the trend. “We’re after great stories,” he says, “and a key element of a great story is faith.”

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

—Drew Dyck in Today’s Christian


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


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

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



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



Letting God Lead – Out of the Wilderness

Wilderness of the ExodusAfter 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel is poised to enter the Promised Land.  But before they can prosper in the “land flowing with mild and honey,” Moses reminds them that they must love God wholeheartedly and obey his commands.

In today’s study passage, we see a clear connection between a deep love for God and obedience to him. The same principle remains true today: “If you love me,” Jesus says in John 14:15, “obey my commands.”

Interact with God’s Word:

Deuteronomy 6

  1. Israel’s economic prosperity was tied to obedience (v. 3).  What kinds of “riches” are promised to those who obey Christ? (See Romans 8:17, 23, 29-30; Col. 1: 12-14.)


  1. Practically speaking, how are Christians called to live out verses 4 and 5?



  1. What does it really mean to “fear the LORD your God” (v. 13)?  (See Hebrews 12: 28-29; Psalm 33: 8-22, Psalm 118:4, Proverbs 23:17.)


  1. What “gods” (v. 14) are Christian men in our culture most tempted to worship?



  1. How are Christians “counted as righteous” (v. 25)?  (See Romans 4: 1-5.)


  1. Since we aren’t saved by our good deeds, why do them? (See James 1: 22-25, James 2: 14-26.)


Spend Time in Prayer:

Confess ways in the past week you’ve failed to put God first; ask him to help you demonstrate your faith and love for him through both your thoughts and actions.

Deuteronomy 6

A Call for Wholehearted Commitment

“These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, 2 and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. 3 Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. 11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 13 You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.

14 “You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, 15 for the Lord your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. 16 You must not test the Lord your God as you did when you complained at Massah. 17 You must diligently obey the commands of the Lord your God—all the laws and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so all will go well with you. Then you will enter and occupy the good land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors. 19 You will drive out all the enemies living in the land, just as the Lord said you would.

20 “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the Lord our God has commanded us to obey?’

21 “Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand. 22 The Lord did miraculous signs and wonders before our eyes, dealing terrifying blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people. 23 He brought us out of Egypt so he could give us this land he had sworn to give our ancestors. 24 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. 25 For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.’



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.




Culture Can Be Redeemed – Who Do We Appreciate?

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

Bonus Reading:  Romans 12: 9-13

A group wanted “to do something special beyond [its] church walls to make God smile!”

They decided “to honor, encourage, respect, and applaud” the young adults working as cafeteria workers and nurse’s aids at a nursing home.  They sent a warm letter to 14 workers, inviting them to a dinner and celebration in their honor at the home of one of the group members.

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

After the meal, the guests and hosts each told a little about themselves.  Several group members spoke, and the leader read scriptures [such as today’s Key Bible Verse] designed to affirm that each person is created in God’s image for a special purpose.

Each guest received a decorative bowl from Mexico, a houseplant, and an encouraging book.  To end the evening, the workers stood in a circle and received a group blessing.

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

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor


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

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006)



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

Culture Can Be Redeemed – Three Ways to Relate

Engaging CultureWho Said It … Mike Erre

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

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

What He Said … Three Ways to Relate

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

Today’s Christians relate to culture in similar ways.  

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

Jesus only direct response was to the many questions of his contemporaries, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17).  

But how he interacted with his culture speaks volumes.  He didn’t withdraw from it (like the Pharisees) nor embrace it (like the Sadducees).  He didn’t advocate armed revolution (as did the Zealots).  He simply sought to redeem culture wherever he found it.

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006

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



Converting to Wind Power – Sending the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit 3Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.  The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading.  And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities?  How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you?  Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?


Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.


John 14:15-26:

John 14

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.  The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him.  But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.  18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.  19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.  Since I live, you also will live.  20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.  And because they love me, my Father will love them.  And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.  My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.  24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.  And remember, my words are not my own.  What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.  25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.  26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.




Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Holy Spirit 2Key Bible Verse:  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature.  You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading:  Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm.  It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water.  If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour.  Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me.  I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward.  That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power?  

Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life.  You detach your life from your own control.  You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you.  You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you.  You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio


My Response:  Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?


Thought to Apply:  The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control.  His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.




Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Valley of Dry Bones

Valley of Dry Bones

Key Bible Verse:  I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.   Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading:  Ezekiel 37: 1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower.  They earned spending money mowing lawns with it.  

The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil.  If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way.  We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down.  

The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine.  If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens.  Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth.

Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [below in today’s Thought to Apply].  In a sense that’s what happens.  

Who we are doesn’t cease to be.  But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today


My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).


Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.




Letting God Lead – Ready to Suffer?

Key Bible Verse:  I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.  Philippians 3:10

Dig Deeper:  Philippians 3: 3-14Let God Lead 3

Saints are really sinners on spiritual steroids.  They are people like you and me, people who want to know Christ more and more.  The difference is that they are much more willing than the rest of us to do what it takes to know Christ.

They want to know Christ in his holiness.  They want to know him in his power.  They want to know his love.  They want to know him in his glory.  So far so good, we say.

Saints want to know Jesus completely and love him fully, and that means they want to know him in his humiliation.  They want to know the Christ who is deserted by the disciples and abandoned by the Father.  They want to know not just the resurrection but also the sufferings.

To know God—to be godly in the deepest sense—is to know the suffering of God, the utter grief he knows because of our abandoning him.  This is, in part, what Christ experienced on the cross—the abandonment of all.  It is what we must experience if we are to know Christ intimately and to be like Christ.  It is what we must experience if we are to truly understand, at a place deep in our souls, the measure of God’s love for us.

—Mark Galli in Jesus Mean and Wild


My Response: I will take time to reflect on what it means to suffer with Christ and share in his death.


Thought to Apply: Wicked men obey out of fear; good men, out of love.—Aristotle (Greek philosopher)

Adapted from Jesus Mean and Wild (Baker, 2006)



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.




Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be With You?

Holy SpiritKey Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 2: 9-12; 1 Corinthians 2: 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains.  Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions.  But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force.  You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you.  Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person.

As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it.  Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns.  

The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal.  It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit


My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?


Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/, 1999)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.




Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Reality CheckKey Bible Verse:  Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God.  Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading:  John 3: 3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.”  Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language.  

For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory.  Although invisible, it was not immaterial.  It had visible effects.  Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places


My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?


Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005).



Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.




Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Impossible ChallengeKey Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”   John 14:18

Bonus Reading:  John 14: 15-17

“Life is difficult.”  That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled.  

The opening words of Peck’s sequel,,Further Along the Road Less Traveled, are “Life is complex.”

Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.”  This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal.  Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way.  He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them.  These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual person living in a fallen world.  You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live.  That is, not under our own power.  We need help.  We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit


My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/, 1999)



Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Rowboat on the OceanWho Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.

He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.


What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us.  I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature.  That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean.  It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful.

Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.”  They’re like drifters on a raft.  They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there.  Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind.  We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly.

Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides.  That’s true transformation.

Adapted from Leadership Journal (Summer.02)


Prayer for the Week:  I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own.  Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.



Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Supportive Friends

Supportive Friends 3Today’s Bible passage looks at only four brief verses from Proverbs.  But like all of the adages found throughout this wisdom-filled book, these tersely crafted verses are jam-packed with powerful, practical, and timeless insights.

And in keeping with this week’s theme, the insights go straight to the heart and soul of what it means to be someone who seeks to bring out the best in his friends.

So, dig into these four short verses and then put them to work in your friendships.

Interact with God’s Word:

Proverbs 27: 5-6, 9, 17

1.      When have you been grateful for a friend’s “open rebuke” (v. 5)?  Why was this rebuke helpful to you?

2.      How does a wound from a “sincere friend” (v. 6) differ from a wound from an insincere friend?

3.      Why are wounds from a “sincere friend” better than “kisses from an enemy”?

4.      When was a time “heartfelt counsel” (v. 9) kept you from making a mistake or gave you the courage to do what was right?

5.      Who is a friend you could “sharpen” (v. 17) through an encouraging word, a piece of timely advice, or a loving rebuke?

6.      Take time to memorize one or two of the verses from this week’s study.


Spend Time in Prayer:

Thank God for friends who offer you encouragement and who seek to bring out the best in you; ask God to guide you and give you wisdom as you seek to encourage and challenge your own friends to greater godliness.


Proverbs 27: 5-6, 9, 17:

5 An open rebuke
is better than hidden love!

6 Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.

9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense.

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.