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Church: It’s Not About Me – Why Not Leave?

ReconciliationKey Bible Verse:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2: 5-11

The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness.  A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries.  A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay.

Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

You’ve been caught in a sin.  You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it.  Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.  The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

You’ve had a conflict with someone.  When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation.  Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing.  Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches.

—Kevin and Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love


My Response: When I’ve sinned, am I committed to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?


Thought to Apply:  The house of God is not a safe place.  It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeleine L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)



Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.



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Church: It’s Not About Me – The Right Question

Spiritual Maturity 3Key Bible Verse:  I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.  Romans 12:3

Bonus Reading:  Romans 12:3-7; Ephesians 4:4-6.

When I attended Michigan State during the ’70s, the basketball team wasn’t very good even though there were good players on the team.

Norte Dame was in town and we were the underdogs.  It was a close game all the way. You could sense that it was going to come down to the last shot.  And there was a senior guard who was a great shot.  If the game was on the line, you wanted the ball in his hands.

There was another player on the team who was a young, cocky freshman and, although he had a lot of promise, he still had a long way to go.  You guessed it.  As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, the ball was in the hands of this freshman.

Instead of passing the ball to the senior guard, the freshman took the shot and missed.  His desire to be the hero lost the game.  Team unity is based on asking the right question: “What is best for the team?”  The freshman didn’t ask the right question.

Church unity is also based on asking the right question: “What is best for the church?”  You may not agree with the pastor.  You may not agree with the Sunday school superintendent.  But you must ask yourself the question: “What is best for the church?”

—Joe Williams


My Response: What is one decision being made in my church that may not be best for me but is still best for the church?


Thought to Apply: When Christians meet … their purpose is not—or should not be—to ascertain what is the mind of the majority, but what is the mind of the Holy Spirit.—Margaret Thatcher (British prime minister)


Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.



Church: It’s Not About Me – Having It God’s Way

Spiritual Maturity 2Key Bible Verse:  I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Romans 12:1, NIV

Bonus Reading:  Philippians 2:1-5

“Please turn in your hymnals to page 158,” says the pastor, “and bring your sheep to the front to be slaughtered.”

That’s not exactly what we hear in church every weekend.  In the Old Testament, worship and sacrifice went hand-in-hand, but today these two are not as easily connected.  Maybe they should be.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve grumbled to my wife about a worship song that was “so 1990s.”  I’ve complained that my favorite pastor wasn’t teaching.  Not my finer moments.

Now, it’s normal and okay to have preferences.  But I’m concerned with how we respond when things are done according to another’s preferences.

Complaining and grumbling reveal a heart of selfishness and entitlement.  On the other hand, I can choose to sacrifice having it “my way.”  I can peacefully and joyfully sit through a song I don’t like, realizing that the church is not there to serve me.

I am there to worship God—the God who unselfishly sacrificed his Son for me.

Thankfully we don’t offer animals to God anymore (too messy on the new carpet), but we are still called to sacrifice in our worship gatherings.  Let’s put our preferences aside and turn the focus back on God.  This is our worship.

—Jason Kliewer


My response:  How do I respond to worship preferences that aren’t my preferences?


Thought to Apply:  The church exists to train its member through the practice of the presence of God to be servants of others, to the end that Christlikeness may become common property.—William Adams Brown (clergyman and theologian)



Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.



Church: It’s Not About Me – Serving Customers?

Spiritual MaturityKey Bible Verse:  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Hebrews 5:12

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3

He walked confidently up to me one Sunday morning, introduced himself, and said he’d been attending for over a month.  The teaching met his standards, he told me; the music was acceptable, and he was pleased with the children’s and youth ministries.  He was married, he said, and had several children.

When I asked him where they were, he explained that they weren’t yet allowed to attend; he wanted to first check us out to make sure the products and services were in line with what he felt his family needed.

This wasn’t about theology; this was all about customer service.

Since we’ve been taught that we’re the center of the universe, we evaluate everything on its ability to meet our needs.  Some of the best communicators of the Scriptures I know have had people leave their churches because they’re not “being fed.”

I know that we’re all the sheep of God, and sheep require a shepherd to feed them.  But there must come a time when we become shepherds who feed others.  Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.  Is this also true in the arena of personal spirituality?

Are we too much about us getting fed and too little about exercising our faith?

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force


My Response: What changes might I need to make so that my church involvement is about more than consuming “products and services”?

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)



Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

Church: It’s Not About Me – The Membership Benefits?

Membership PrivilegesWho Said It … Erwin McManus

Erwin McManus is lead pastor of Mosaic, a congregation that meets in various locations throughout Los Angeles, and founding partner of The Awaken Group, a global leadership development consulting firm.

Erwin is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Southwestern Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books including Soul Cravings, Wide Awake, and An Unstoppable Force.

He and his wife, Kim, have two children, Aaron and Mariah, and a foster daughter, Paty.


What He Said … The Membership Benefits?

Three denominational leaders visited our congregation. “What are the benefits of membership at Mosaic?” they asked.  Their question surprised me.  I suddenly felt like we were American Express.  So I asked our pastoral team what exactly were the benefits of being a member.

One responded, “Members are entrusted with responsibility.”  We started laughing at the irony of realizing that membership was the entryway to service.  The only benefit was the privilege to serve!

Becoming a member of Mosaic is a declaration that you’re moving from being a consumer to being an investor; that you’re joining not simply the community of Christ, but the cause of Christ.

On a deeper level, it is an invitation to genuine intimacy.  People who become members say they’re submitting to the spiritual authority of this community and welcoming genuine accountability in their spiritual journeys.

So up front, we ask for this sincere commitment: to allow God to work in and through them as they invest their passions, their service, their resources, and their relationships for the sake of the Kingdom.

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)


Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.



Endurance Test – Patient Endurance

Patient EnduranceThe Christians addressed in the letter to the Hebrews had placed their faith in Christ for what He’d done for them in the past.  

But times of persecution had struck.  And some—ceasing to trust Christ for their present and future—were abandoning their faith.

The writer argues from the Hebrew Scriptures that if faith doesn’t lead to endurance, it’s not for real.


Interact with God’s Word

Hebrews 10:33-38

  1. The inspired writer tells us never to forget our early days as believers. What stands out in your memory about this time in your life?


  1. What does the writer specially want us to remember (vv. 32, 34)?


  1. What is the basis for this faithfulness and joy (v. 34b)?


  1. Do you know someone whose confident trust in the Lord has eroded?


  1. What kind of self-reminder would have prevented that (v. 35)?


  1. What quality should this expectation enable in your life (v. 36)?


  1. Verses 37 and 38 quote the then-current Greek translation of Habakkuk 2:3-4.  Is your faith for today and tomorrow solid enough to insure that you won’t “turn away”?


Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a faith that doesn’t fluctuate, but stays steady regardless of distractions, disappointments, or attacks.

Hebrews 10:32-38

32 Don’t ever forget those early days when you first learned about Christ.  Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail.  When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy.  You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity. 35 Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens.  Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will.  Then you will receive all that he has promised. 37 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. 38 Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you!



Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



Endurance Test – God Isn’t a Quitter

Francis of AssisiKey Bible Verse:  My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work.  – John 4:34

Bonus Reading:  John 17:4, 7-8, 12

Once, while Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, “What would you do if you were suddenly told you’d die at sunset today?”  He replied, “I’d finish hoeing my garden.”

Our perseverance doesn’t change God—it changes us.  If we’re willing to continue—even when we feel like quitting—we’ll learn lessons of compassion, understanding, and dependability.

Jesus is our ultimate example of not quitting.  Even as a child of 12, He reminded His distraught parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV).

Later, during His public ministry, He told His disciples, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work.”  (John 4:34)

Even when Jesus was dying, He rejected the challenge of the crowd: “Save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:30).

It is so human to let go and quit when under fire.  However, it is divine to hang in there.  At the end of His ordeal, Jesus said, “‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

Many people are letting go, giving in, and coming down—quitting after 10, 20, or 30 years.  How sad to someday realize that we didn’t finish our assignment.

—George Sweeting in Too Soon to Quit


My Response: On which long-term assignment do I need to firm up my grip?


Thought to Apply: The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.—David Sarnoff (broadcaster)

Adapted from Too Soon to Quit (Moody, 1999)



Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



Endurance Test – What Kick?

Race - Final KickKey Bible Verse:  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Hebrews 3:14

Bonus Reading:  Joshua 14:6-12

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Dave Wottle, wearing his trademark baseball cap, was dead last in the 800-meter race.  As the final lap around the track began, Wottle charged through the pack.

“Watch out for the kick of Dave Wottle!” the TV announcer screamed.  Wottle overtook the leaders in the last 20 meters and won the gold medal by three-tenths of a second!

Many think, That’s exciting—that’s how I want to run. It doesn’t matter if I fall behind; I’ll make it back with a big kick as everyone cheers me on.

But in remarks at a prep-school chapel service in Chattanooga, Wottle set the record straight. “The other runners went out so fast at the beginning that they slowed down at the end; I was able to maintain the same pace that I started with. … Even though I looked like I was kicking on them, they were coming back to me.”

Wottle, one track expert explained, was “just maintaining in a dying field.”

Endurance is maintaining our walk with Christ even when no one else is.  In a society of flash-in-the-pan celebrities and trendy spirituality, endurance is putting our faith to work by showing up for Christ every day, in every circumstance until the race of life is done.

—Tod Bolsinger in Show Time


My Response: What adjustments would help me maintain even pacing for the long haul?


Thought to Apply: To become a champion, fight one more round.—James Corbett (world champion boxer)

Adapted from Show Time (Baker, 2004)



Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



Endurance Test – Ridgeline Reruns

Mollies RidgeKey Bible Verse:  Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will.  – Hebrews 10:36

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 10:32-38

Hiking north to south on the Appalachian Trail, I found the Smoky Mountains stretch that leads up to Mollies Ridge demoralizing.  I felt like an ant climbing a giant staircase.  I’d see the peak just ahead and, after a steep climb, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I did it!

Then I’d round a corner, and there would be an up-until-then hidden summit.

What?  There’s more?  There were several premature celebrations before the satisfaction of finally reaching the Mollies Ridge shelter.

The ascent to holiness is like that.  One peak after another appears as God fine-tunes our faith.

In Hebrews 10:36, the writer of Hebrews calls for persevering on the path of improvement.  Perseverance is by definition an ongoing pursuit; but receiving the crown of life is a one-time event.  We strive to be holy for that moment when God will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Does your pursuit of righteousness seem to be nothing but an uphill climb?

Be encouraged.  This is the path God wants you on.  He longs for Christians unafraid to take the trail all the way to the top.

He’ll hike alongside you and give you rest when you’re weary.  And the final reward is being with Him forever!

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail


My Response: How do I respond to a succession of tests?


Thought to Apply: Victory is not won in miles but in inches.  Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more.—Louis L’Amour (novelist)

Adapted from With God on the Hiking Trail (Harvest, 2002)



Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



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Endurance Test – The Q Word

Run the Race with EnduranceKey Bible Verse:  When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.  James 1:4, NLT

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 12:1

The summer before my last year of prep school, I decided to quit Coach Marvin Goldberg’s cross-country team.  I was tired of grueling workouts.  I wanted some free time for things like dating.

Come spring, I told myself, I’d get serious again and run on his track team, but I wanted out of the fall schedule of long-distance competition, where our team frequently contended in 10k races against college freshmen teams.

I wrote Coach about my decision.  His typed reply arrived.  The gist: By not running with the cross-country team this fall, you’ll disappoint your teammates, who depend on you to help them win races, and turn your back on the team’s supporters, who show up at every race to cheer your team on.

But most of all, whenever you’re faced with a challenge you don’t like, or that seems too difficult, or that asks for too great a sacrifice, you’ll find it easier and easier to walk away from it.

I changed my mind, returned to the cross-country team, and helped lead it to a league championship.  I can’t claim that I enjoyed myself in that effort, but at a deeper level I learned the satisfaction of accomplishing something that ended well.  Perhaps in the long view of life that’s more important.

—Gordon MacDonald in A Resilient Life


My Response: How can I learn to savor satisfaction that runs deeper than enjoyment?


Thought to Apply: It is always too soon to quit. —V. Raymond Edman (missionary, educator)

Adapted from A Resilient Life  (Nelson, 2005)



Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.

Endurance Test – Enthusiasm Leak

Lack of EnthusiasmKey Bible Verse:  Don’t get tired of doing what is good … For we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Galatians 6:9

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 24:45-51

On the first good day of spring, you get into the spirit of car washing.  You wash and dry it with a chamois.  You vacuum it out, take some cleaner to the bug spots, and start waxing and polishing.  This is going so well that you see yourself moving on to clean out the garage and mow the lawn.

But then, as you wax and whistle, your back starts to ache, your right arm to feel sore.  Your whistling slides into a slower rhythm and shifts into a minor key.

Perhaps you’d better leave the lawn for another day.  The garage can wait too, you guess.  Doing this car is a big enough job all by itself.  Well, leave the rest of the car for next Saturday too.  Now find a hammock!

The sense of adventure and the rush of enthusiasm for doing good in the name of Christ can turn into a sinking sense of futility when others don’t notice or care.  We’ve also felt a pain in the neck and all the adventure running off in sweat.  Galatians 6:9 is a word for us spent-out Christians who’ve served until we can’t make one more phone call: we’ll reap the fruit of the Spirit in a life that never ends—if we don’t give up.

—Neal Plantinga in Beyond Doubt


My Response: A good cause for which my initial motivation is growing thin is …

Adapted from Beyond Doubt (Eerdmans, 2002)


Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



Endurance Test – Roll of Rejection

RejectionWho Said It…Gary L. Thomas

Gary is a Bellingham, Washington-based writer and speaker.  In the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, which he founded, he shares how believers can learn a great deal from historic Christian traditions without compromising the essential tenets of what makes them evangelical Christians.

Gary says he is a big-time introvert who runs marathons and takes his wife, Lisa, and their three kids to Starbucks “far too often.”

What He Said…Roll of Rejection

I‘d been invited to deliver a commencement address as an author who also speaks widely.  But I wanted the students to see someone wondering if anyone would ever want to hear what he believed God had given him to say.

I knew that 99 percent of the kids wouldn’t remember a thing I said.  So I prayed about providing a picture that would stick with them.

I found it in my rejections box.  My family helped me staple and tape together over 150 rejection letters I’d received from publishers over the years: editors telling me my work wasn’t wanted.

When I told the young graduates that God’s calling doesn’t mean there’ll be no setbacks, I nodded to a few students who began to unroll my rejection letters. Murmurs, laughs, and gasps were unleashed throughout the auditorium as the roll grew longer and longer, ultimately stretching across the entire ballroom.

You see, many Christians don’t fail; they just quit before they get ripe.

Adapted from Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2002)


Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Savior, for enduring all the way to the cross.  Give me the stamina to be a finisher.



A Bulletproof Faith – Our New Bodies

SunriseThe Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know about our resurrected bodies, but it does assure us that we’ll still have personalities and recognizable characteristics. And what it does describe stirs anticipation of a state perfect beyond anything we’ve experienced. 

Some passages to whet your appetite for your future in Christ are 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3:2, and Revelation 21:4.


Interact with God’s Word

2 Corinthians 5:1-8

  1. In what ways is your present body (v. 1) as temporary a home as a camping tent?  How will your transformed body compare to it?
  2. How has your body made you grow weary, groan, and sigh (vv 2-3)?
  3. How does Paul make clear (v. 4) that heavenly existence isn’t, as was believed in Greek culture, a matter of souls without bodies?
  4. What hopes do you have for your heavenly existence?  What fears?
  5. The Bible teaches that the body and the soul are not permanently separated.  How will our “dying bodies” be “swallowed up by life”? (See 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
  6. How (vv. 6-8) does Paul turn the saying “seeing is believing” on its head?  What factors (in v. 5) bolster our confidence?  (See also Ecclesiastes 3:11 & 2 Corinthians 1:22.)


Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God for a solid confidence in your future with him that outweighs any hurt of separation from loved ones and anxiety about the unknown.


2 Corinthians 5:1-8

1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.


Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

The Secret to Forgiveness: Focus Within

Letting go of resentment can be difficult. A United Methodist counselor offers tips on moving from a grudge to forgiveness.

–  A Feature by Joe Iovino*

Forgiveness is hard.

United Methodists know we ought to be forgiving people. The Bible instructs us, “As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other,” (Colossians 3:13), but that is often much easier said than done. Letting go of resentment can be difficult.

 “Overcoming harm is not a comfortable process,” Joshua Bynum, Clinical Director of the Methodist Counseling Center in Boise, Idaho acknowledges. “It’s a painful one.”

Grudges happen when we avoid that difficult process, and offer no movement toward healing. The hurt lingers.

“No matter what harm has happened in my life,” Bynum continues, “resentment about it is never going to help me; not forgiving is never going to benefit me.”

For those longing to come to a place of forgiveness, Bynum recommends two things. First, we should examine ourselves to identify the harm done to us. Then, we work to change that which we control.

What am I holding onto?

“The first step for me in anything that has to do with resentment or forgiving of others,” Bynum shares, “is to recognize your own physical feeling of discomfort associated with that person or situation.”

He often asks clients to describe the physical sensations in their bodies when they think about the person or situation that harmed them, rather than talking about emotions.

“The words fear, anger, sadness, and others, are symbols that represent or symbolize a physical feeling,” he explains. “My face gets hot. My hands get tense. I get a lump in my throat and a hollow feeling in my stomach or a tightness in my chest. Then I call that combination anger.”

Those sensations are unpleasant, so we avoid stimuli that bring them on. We dodge the person who hurt us. We refuse to think about what happened. We pretend, and say everything is okay when it isn’t.

“People aren’t trying to hold on to their resentments,” Bynum explains. “They are trying to avoid thinking about the things that give them a physical feeling of discomfort.”

Forgiveness, however, requires entering those uncomfortable feelings to arrive at a place of healing on the other side.

What can I control?

“God created our brains in such a way that there is a process to doing this,” Bynum teaches. “There is an internal confrontation that needs to happen with ourselves.”

When one holds a grudge, “the focus is very much on that other person,” Bynum explains. We want them to apologize, to show remorse, to recognize that they hurt us. Then we will forgive them, we say.

“You can never guarantee that another person is going to offer you all of the things you want so that you’ll be able to forgive them,” Bynum soberly advises. “I can’t make somebody else be forgivable.”

Bynum instead encourages us to turn our focus inward because “the only person who has any control over whether or not I let go of resentment, is me.”

Reconciliation is not necessary for forgiveness to occur. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

This may sound like we are letting the other person off the hook. We’re not. Instead, we are choosing to turn our attention toward things we can change in ourselves and letting go of that which we cannot change in the other person.

“There are things I can do to forgive another person that include interacting with that other person,” Bynum explains. “I may be able to go and tell them why I have a resentment against them—what I feel they did wrong and what I’m trying to deal with—and maybe that would be helpful.”

Other times, however, that is not prudent or possible. The perpetrator may be a threat. A parent may no longer be living. The coworker may have moved on to another job.

None of this means we no longer have an opportunity to forgive. “You can have forgiveness without repairing a relationship,” Bynum states.

Forgiveness is about addressing the hurt within, and that work is not dependent upon anyone but us.

You are a beloved child of God

Forgiveness requires a difficult, inward journey, but as people of faith we know God travels with us.

“When we’re in community with God, when the Spirit is at work, there’s no other place to look but inward,” Bynum adds.

It also helps during this tough time, to remember that you are one of God’s beloved children, especially when the harm tempts you to think otherwise.

Letting go of resentment is not easy. The journey can be long and unpleasant. A counselor like Bynum can be a helpful guide along the way.

“It’s very difficult sometimes to do this work,” Bynum concludes. “That’s why it takes a little bit of time.”

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



A Bulletproof Faith – In-Your-Face Sermon

Funeral ServiceKey Bible Verse:  We want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.  2 Corinthians 5:4

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:1-8

I went to my first black funeral when I was 16.  A friend of mine, Clarence, had died.  From the pulpit the pastor talked about the resurrection in beautiful terms.  Then he descended from the pulpit, went to the family, and comforted them from John 14: “Let not your heart be troubled … Clarence has gone to heavenly mansions.”

Then for the last 20 minutes he preached to the open casket. “Clarence! Clarence!”  He yelled at the corpse with such authority, I wouldn’t have been surprised had there been an answer.

“Clarence,” he said, “there were a lot of things we should have said to you but never did.   You got away too fast, Clarence.” He went down this litany of commendable things Clarence had done for people.

When he finished, he said, “That’s it, Clarence.  There’s nothing more to say.  Goodnight, Clarence.”  Grabbing the casket lid, he slammed it shut.

Lifting his head with a smile, he concluded, “Goodnight, Clarence, because I know that God is going to give you a good morning.”

The choir started singing “On that great getting-up morning we shall rise.”  We were dancing in the aisles and hugging each other with the joy of the Lord, because for us there was no sting to death.

—Tony Campolo in Preaching Today


My Response:  Does sobs of pain over death being overwhelmed by cheers of victory strike you as plausible?


Thought to Apply: So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. —John Bunyan

Adapted from Preaching Today (212).



Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

10 Reasons You Should Go to Church Every Week

When I was growing up, my grandmother went to church every week. It was a part of our family’s culture and a value I still follow today.

But in today’s day and age with sports activities and working on weekends, culture has made attending church once a month the new norm.

It is easy to miss church if you feel you don’t fit or feel like no one would miss you if you were gone.

Church has improved my life in so many ways; I rarely miss a Sunday.

Here are ten reasons you’ll want to attend your next church service:

  1. So You Can Enjoy Community

The number one reason why I love my church is for the community I receive. There is a reason why Scripture refers to members of churches and “brothers and sisters.” Church is not just a place to go to on Sundays, but rather a gathering of people who have committed to walking their spiritual journeys interdependently rather than independently. Some of the people I call my dearest friends are those I have met within the church and have had the pleasure of serving alongside.

  1. So You Can Use Your Gifts

God has gifted each one of us not only with natural talents, like singing or playing an instrument, but also with spiritual gifts, that when used, build up the church body in unique ways. If you don’t know what your gifts are, I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts inventory or read biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. If you still don’t know what they are, find someone who can affirm the gifts they see in you. Sometimes others can see what we have trouble seeing in ourselves. Once you have confirmed those gifts, talk to a pastor or ministry head and see where you might best be suited to use those gifts. Maybe it is an existing ministry, or maybe your church is missing an important ministry that you can create yourself! The possibilities are endless.

  1. So You Can Discover Your Purpose

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has a plan for all of us. He knows the hairs on our heads and has ordered every one of our steps. But finding out what that purpose and plan is easier said than done. As members of your church get to know you, they can speak words of encouragement and affirmation into your life. They can help navigate through the muddy waters we call life. Seeking wise counsel is one of the many benefits of being a part of a church, and something that is difficult to find outside family members and close friends.

  1. So You Can Find Connection

I have met many people not only during my time in ministry but also my time being a Christian. Some people are exactly like me while others are the complete opposite. I get the chance to meet and connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise if it were not for being a regular church attender. Being in relationship with people who are the opposite of me can be frustrating at times but it helps me work on making me a better person because of those relationships. In either scenario, I connect with people in a unique way and discover things about myself I would have never had the opportunity to do otherwise.

  1. So You Can Worship

Worship can happen any time of the day and any day of the week. I can worship in the car, in my room or when I’m feeling down. But there is nothing like getting together in a room full of other worshippers and singing my heart out to God with others who share that same desire. My life is enriched when I worship with others and I can’t do that sitting at home by myself.

  1. So You Can Learn the Word

I admit, I don’t read my Bible as often as I should, and I don’t take the time to study the Word through concordances and other Bible study tools on a regular basis. But when I go to church on Sunday, I get the opportunity to hear the Word preached in ways that help me understand it better and in unique ways I may not have seen myself if I was studying it on my own.

  1. So You Can Participate in Missions

My church has a high emphasis on missions. Our church is in the process of organizing a Missions trip so that members of the congregation can share the love of Jesus with those who have never heard His name before. When I regularly attend church, I get to share the good news with people to whom the name of Jesus is foreign. I also experience cultures and see the world I would not have seen if not for low cost opportunities like those presented by a church. Often, churches offer scholarships and ways to work off costs and fees so everyone can experience what it is like to be a part of a Missions trip.

  1. So You Can Practice Generosity

When I give of my money, I often think of how far reaching my money goes. I imagine getting to heaven and meeting people I never met on earth whose life was touched because I gave to a missions fund or general fund. What if a person walked into our newly renovated church building heard about Jesus and dedicated his life to Him who couldn’t attend previously because the sanctuary was too small. Where else can I allow my dollars to create such an impact on others’ lives?

  1. So You Can Forge Lifelong Friendships

Scripture references church members as the body of Christ. Once you make friends at church, you are forever bonded to them through your desire to follow Jesus. Even if you don’t attend that church anymore, there is a special connection you share because of the Savior. Who can’t use another friend or two in their lives?

  1. So You Can Enjoy Food

Last of all, the food! Potlucks bring a sense of coziness and family like nothing else. Coming to church with a dish you learned from your grandmother and having the opportunity to share it with the people I love not only lets me practice hospitality but also share the intimacy that comes from sitting around a table eating and getting to know those around me. And, well, who doesn’t love a free meal?

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Get in the habit of going to church regularly. The positives outweigh the negatives and you never know what opportunity God may present you with because of your attendance.



Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children’s Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers’ workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at



A Bulletproof Faith – Accelerating Tempo

Number Our DaysKey Bible Verse:  “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.”  Psalm 39:4

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 39:5-7, 11-12

The death of a parent not only confronts us with the truth about death, but also with the truth about life.  We mutter, “Where did the years go?” “It seems like just yesterday,” and other telling phrases.

The idea of a “long life” touches on a misconception of youth about the length of a year, a decade, or a life.  

For a child, a year seems very long; for an adult, it seems like an instant.  That’s because as a person ages, a year represents an increasingly smaller portion of his life.

If a junior-high history teacher says, “That happened only ten years ago,” the students think, Only ten years?  That’s more than two thirds of my lifetime!  But adults, especially those older than 50, feel as though the events of a decade ago occurred just yesterday.

As a child, you may have thought something like this: Let’s see, in 2010, I’ll be ___ years old, and in 2020, I’ll be ____.  Most young children have trouble imagining themselves older than 25 or 30.  And 40 seems ancient.

Well, you’re there now.  It didn’t take very long did it?

—Dave Veerman & Bruce Barton in When Your Father Dies


My Response:  How has grieving the loss of a loved one adjusted my perspective on life?


Thought to Apply:  After 60 years, the stern sentence of the burial service seems to have a meaning that one did not notice in former years.  There begins to be something personal about it. —Oliver Wendell Holmes (physician and author)

Adapted from When Your Father Dies (Nelson, 2003).


Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

Why Your Church Needs You to Volunteer for the Not-So Glamorous Ministries

At the heart of every thriving church, you will find a dedicated team of volunteers who come alongside the staff and give sacrificially so that life can happen.

When I picture volunteer support in the local church, I see an iceberg. The visible portion of an iceberg is also the smallest portion, while the base of its power can be found below the water. Similarly, many of the vital support roles in the church are less visible, or at least less glamorous, but each is critically important. They are the jobs where nobody notices when you do them, but everyone notices when they are not getting done.

The question of whether or not everyone should volunteer is a conversation for another day, but consider this…how do we view our local churches?

  • Is it a Panera-like experience where we slip in, grab some coffee and a bagel, enjoy a service being provided and then slip back out?
  • Or is it a family thing…a community thing…where we show up early to help brew the coffee, pour it for each other, worship together and clean up our mess before leaving?

Serving is not just about helping meet the practical needs of the church; it is largely about the ways we grow, individually and as a community, throughout the process.

Assuming we are all on the same page about being involved, the next question is what to do.

This is where our hearts are laid bare.  Are we willing to serve in the quiet, unseen places, even if we feel “over-qualified”?  Are we willing to say, “Put me wherever you need me”?

When I was nineteen, I was hired as a director on the student ministries staff in the church I grew up in. I spent the next five years working in a wonderful, energetic community – teaching multiple times per week, counseling students, and planning large events.

During that time, I met my husband and he joined the student ministries staff as well. At a certain point, we felt God calling us to trust Him in new places and we moved out in faith to step down from our positions and put all our focus into finishing school. Today, he is on staff full-time in a new church that has become our home, and when I first offered to volunteer, my heart and mind were confronted with this difficult question. Am I willing to let go of what I’ve done in the past and serve wherever I am needed now?  I will not pretend it was an easy question for me to answer.

Three years later, I connect new volunteers with teams needing help. A couple months ago, we received a registration card from a man who did not request a specific team, rather he asked to be put in whichever place we needed him.  Others had made similar notes, but I was especially struck by what he included at the end – “I don’t mind working outside either, if there is a need for people to do grass or pick up trash.”  Such humble words and pure motives. I thank God for people like this; they show me Jesus.

I am not making light of the skills and experiences we each bring to the table. God has given us those gifts for the benefit of the whole church (1 Corinthians 12). But perhaps those skills are going to be used in different ways, or maybe we will find ourselves in seasons where we are asked to set them aside in order to serve the places of greatest need.

Let me tell you about a married couple I know and admire. He is one of the most talented guitarists I have met and a regular on our worship team. She is warm, friendly and great with people. They both serve in a variety of high-level leadership roles. They also restock the bathrooms with toilet paper and soap. It is often a thankless job, but a true gift when 2000 people show up for weekend services.

“Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

I am struck by the belief that I could be more “qualified” to do anything. It is a lie.  Jesus, the anointed Son of God, washed the dirty, cracked feet of his friends. He was perfectly holy and yet He died for me, a sinner to my core.

Paul, a scholar, exemplary Jewish priest and one of the single greatest leaders in the church, wrote four of his thirteen New Testament letters from a prison cell; and yet he continued to rejoice and give thanks. Peter, the rock upon which Christ said the church would be built, was arrested and crucified upside down.

So how can I ever think I am “over-qualified” for anything?  Who am I to argue that I deserve a position of higher authority or recognition?

When I picture the early church, huddled around a room…bringing food to share, maybe passing around a blanket to stay warm…singing, praying, teaching, laughing, crying…getting up and cleaning the room together…hugging each other and heading home…sacrificing their reputations and personal safety for the sake of the Gospel…I am quite sure I do not deserve anything grand. And I am reminded of how deeply I hope to look like Jesus and the people who serve Him with sincere humility.

  • Are you a gifted teacher in a church that really needs help in the nursery?
  • Have you led worship for years but your community needs someone to manage parking?
  • Do you have a decade of experience with small group leadership but you are most needed with Sunday morning clean up?

Maybe this is what it looks like to lay down our lives in western church culture.  Maybe signing up to take out the trash requires changes in corners of our hearts that would otherwise remain untouched.

When we let go of the myth of qualifications and we embrace serving the church in these humble places, God will surely meet us there and transform us through the process.

Cara Joyner spends her days chasing a toddler, nursing an infant, starting cups of coffee she rarely has time to finish and thinking about how much she needs to clean her house. Years of working in ministry and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology have led her to graduate school, where she is working towards a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. While waiting to finish grad school, she is working as a professional birth doula and freelance writer. Cara writes about family, health, faith and intentional living at She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.



Our Trustees at Work

Armed with a 40-pound bag of cement, our Trustees patched some of our gaping holes in our 13th Street sidewalk today.

From the top of the picture, you will see four arrows.

Arrows 1, 3, and 4 point to holes in our sidewalk resulting from the City’s removal of the parking meters.  In some cases, the City put blacktop in the holes, which broke down into gravel over several years and washed away.  These holes have now been filled with cement for a more durable (and hopefully permanent) repair.

Arrow 2 points to a large break in the sidewalk.  You can see the two large pieces of concrete that were removed to begin the repair.  The rain water running down  13th Street has also undermined the slab, so a more comprehensive repair will be needed.  I used the cement that we had on hand to smooth out the top a bit, although it is still not flush with the rest of the slab.  More cement will also need to be packed under the slab to stabilize it and keep further rain water from undermining the repair.

There is much more that needs to be done to eliminate our sidewalk issues on 13th Street, including repairing or replacing missing curb stones along this upper part of 13th Street, but we can at least claim victory today over these 3 parking meter holes.




“Bringing in the Sheaves!”

Last week, in the midst of all of the activity surrounding Tony DeSalle’s viewing and funeral at Central, Dex volunteered to weed-whack the weeds on our 6th Avenue and 13th Street sidewalks.

We then blew off the sidewalks, and Chrissy followed-up by spraying another dose of weed killer on where the weeds had been popping up.

Hopefully, this 1, 2, 3 treatment will knock those pesky weeds down for the rest of the summer.

A big Thank-You to Dex and Chrissy for stepping in when we were crushed for time to help make our Church presentable for Tony’s final send-off.



A Bulletproof Faith – Rich Mullin’s Morality Awareness

ElijahKey Bible Verse:  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  2 Corinthians 4:16

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Singer/songwriter Rich Mullins spoke and sang so much about death that some of us thought he had a morbid streak.  I once asked, of all the songs he wrote, which was his favorite.  Without hesitation he replied, “Elijah”—a song about his own death.

Rich understood death not as something to be feared but as something to be mindful of as we live.

He said, “Once you come to understand that life is unbelievably brief, and that we really can’t do anything that’s gonna change anything, that we don’t really amount to a hill of beans—then all of a sudden you go, ‘So it doesn’t really matter if I’m not that great.  And if I don’t have to be great, that means I can fail.  And if I can fail, that means I can try.  And if I can try, that means I’m gonna have a good time.'”

Rich believed that death isn’t the end, but the beginning of life.  In one of his songs he wrote, “Live like you’ll die tomorrow; die knowin’ you’ll live forever.”

He demonstrated how to live well by making the most of one’s time—living hard, laughing hard, and departing this world, as predicted in his favorite song (see Thought to Apply below).

—James Bryan Smith in HomeLife


My Response:  How does being mindful of death “teach us to make the most of our time” (Psalm 90:12)?


Thought to Apply:  But when I leave, I want to go out like Elijah, with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire.  —Rich Mullins (in “Elijah”)

Adapted from HomeLife (8/00)



Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

Ask the UMC: Where did the use of Acolytes originate?

Acolytes have been part of the church in one form or another for nearly 2,000 years.

The word acolyte comes from the Greek word akolouthos, meaning follower, a helper or assistant. In the early church, acolytes were a clerical order. Acolytes carry into worship the light, processional cross, banners or Bible and assist the pastor with communion, baptism and other duties. Children and youth often serve as acolytes, but adults can serve as well.

“Jesus said: ‘I am the light of the world’” (John 8:12). The presence of the light reminds us of Jesus coming into our world and into our lives. The light is carried into the worship service as a symbol of Jesus coming into the presence of the worshiping community.

Many congregations use two candles on the altar to point out that Jesus was both a human being and God. At the end of the service, the light is carried out into the world to show that Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere. … This symbolizes the light of Jesus Christ going out into the world where believers are to serve.” (Worship Matters, Vol II, “The Work of Acolytes”)

Read more about the history of acolytes.

Chuck Knows Church: Acolytes

Have questions? Ask the UMC. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

A Bulletproof Faith – The Big One

CemeteryKey Bible Verse:  “I am the First and the Last … and I hold the keys of death and the grave.”  Revelation 1:17-18

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 11:6

For the twentieth anniversary of the Larry King Live television talk show in 2005, the well-known host sat in the guest chair, while Barbara Walters interviewed him.  She hit Larry with her usual barrage of blunt questions. “Are you very rich?” “What living person do you most admire?”

Eventually she arrived at “What is your greatest fear?”

Larry King’s prompt, serious one-word answer: “Death.”

He didn’t say, “That my show might get canceled,” “That my ratings might drop,” or “That my broker might embezzle all my money.”  No, to Larry, the thought of dying was worse than any of these.

Barbara quickly moved to the next question. “Do you believe in God?”

Larry’s forthright answer: “Not sure.  I’m an agnostic.”

As soon as I heard that, I thought, The two answers fit together, don’t they?  To be uncertain about the reality of God leaves a big problem when it comes to death.  It means being cast out into a void, unsure of what or whom to grasp.

But if you know there’s a God, and you’ve come to terms with him by accepting his offer of forgiveness and salvation, you know what eternity holds.  You know God is there already to welcome you as one of his family.

—Jeff Streucker in The Road to Unafraid


My Response: How has my God-confidence diminished my death-fear? To what extent?

Adapted from The Road to Unafraid (W Publishing, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

A Bulletproof Faith – Just in Case

Plane Water LandingKey Bible Verse:  No man can live forever; all will die.  No one can escape the power of the grave.  – Psalm 89:48

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 90:3-6, 10

I was on an airplane and the flight attendant started going through the pre-flight spiel, instructing us on what to do “in case of a water landing.”

I looked around.  We were on a 747 jet.  This plane isn’t equipped with pontoons.  A 747 doesn’t “land” on the water.  It explodes on impact into pieces the size of my toenail.

The proper way to prepare for an event like this is not to stick your head between your knees (as if there were room to do that anyway) but to scream until your throat bleeds and pray in six languages at once.

I arrived home (without experiencing a water landing, thankfully) and turned on the TV, and a commercial came on for life insurance.  This guy walks onto the set all somber-looking and explains the benefits of their policy.  Then he says I should sign up so my family will be taken care of “in case the unthinkable should happen.”  Of course, by “the unthinkable,” he means “In case you die.”

But the thing is, death isn’t unthinkable; it’s inevitable.

What kind of culture calls things that are inevitable un-thinkable?  What kind of world refuses to think about what is certain but instead spends its time worrying about things that aren’t?

—Steven James in Sailing Between the Stars


My Response: Why does our culture consider this inevitable event unthinkable?

Adapted from Sailing Between the Stars (Revell, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

A Bulletproof Faith – Sober Reflection

Vietnam MemorialWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max’s beer-drinking, girl-chasing lifestyle was as barren as the West Texas land he grew up in.

Then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University. He abruptly shifted from law studies to missions preparation.

After five years in Brazil with his wife, Denalyn, he returned to pastor in the U.S.  A collection of storytelling columns written for a church newsletter formed his first book in a long string of best-sellers.

Max is pulpit minister of the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.


What He Said … Sober Reflection

On a dull, drizzly day I visited the wailing wall of a generation: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. With the Washington Monument to my left and the Lincoln Memorial to my back, it stretched before me. Black marble tablets carved with names that read like the roster of a high school football team more than a list of dead soldiers—Walter Faith, Richard Sala, Michael Andrews, Roy Burris, Emmet Stanton.

Each name a young life.  Behind each name a bereaved widow … an anguished mother … a fatherless child.

It was then that I stopped looking at the names and stared at the monument . I relaxed my focus from the lettering and looked at the tablet.  What I saw was sobering.  I saw myself, my own reflection.  My face looked at me from the shiny marble.

It reminded me that I, too, have been dying as long as I’ve been living.  I, too, will someday have my name carved in a granite stone.  Someday I, too, will face death.

Adapted from Six Hours One Friday (Multnomah, 1989).


Prayer for the Week:  Give me a heightened awareness of the next life, Lord, so that I may strike a truer balance in this one.

Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – Cultivating a Heart of Grace

Forgiveness 4Forgiving those who’ve hurt us is about so much more than simply saying, “I forgive you.”

It’s about understanding our shortcomings and sinfulness before our loving and merciful God.

 It’s about cultivating a heart and attitude of grace, mercy, and humility.

And it’s about striving to live out—through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit—the commands and principles found in today’s study passage.


Key Study Passage:

Romans 12: 14-21

  1. Read this passage two or three times, and then write down or discuss the traits of a man who lives out these verses.  Think about or describe someone you know who takes the commands of this passage seriously.


  1. What sayings of Jesus does Paul allude to in verse 14? (See  Matthew 5:44; Luke 6: 27-28.)



  1. Why is it so important to live in “harmony with each other” (v. 16)? (See John 13: 34-35.)


  1. According to the last part of verse 16 and the first part of 17, what helps promote harmony?



  1. Instead of seeking revenge, what are we commanded to do? (See vv. 19-20.)


  1. Write down or discuss a practical way to practice verse 21.


Spend Time in Prayer:

Turn three or four commands from today’sdevotional passage into prayers that would be appropriate for your current situation (i.e., prayers of thanksgiving, confession, specific requests for personal help/guidance).


Romans 12:14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – Facing My Hard Heart

Forgiveness 3Key Bible Verse:  “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”   Mark 11:25

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 18: 21-35

The greater the hurt or injustice, the less I want to move toward forgiveness.  It seems as though it lets the people who hurt me get away with it.

That’s when I turn to what I call the prayer of permission.  It’s a prayer I pray when I have no desire or motivation to do what I know I should do.

It’s a simple prayer in which I give God permission to change the way I feel about a person or situation.

I don’t ask him to help me forgive.  I’ve usually asked that and gotten nowhere, because I didn’t really want to forgive in the first place.  So I back up one step and give God permission to change the way I feel, to make me want to forgive.

The beauty of this prayer is that it forces me to squarely face the hardness of my heart and my subconscious resistance.  I quit fighting.

Once I do, the result is almost always a rapid shift in my thinking.  Forgiving no longer seems like such a bad idea.  And once it no longer seems like a bad idea, it’s not so hard to do.

—Larry Osborne in Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe


My Response: The next time I struggle with forgiving someone, I will pray my own version of Larry’s prayer of permission.


Thought to Apply: I choose peace.… I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.—Max Lucado (pastor, writer)

Adapted from Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe (Multnomah, 2009)



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – God’s Gift

"After the Battle of Grunwald: The Solidarity of the Northern Slavs."

“After the Battle of Grunwald: The Solidarity of the Northern Slavs.”

Key Bible Verse:  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.  – Romans 12:19

Dig Deeper:  Romans 12: 14-21

Sam (not his real name) sat in my counseling office one rainy morning, holding his head in his hands and sobbing uncontrollably.  In the middle of his tears, he cried out, “But I just can’t forgive him for what he has done to me.  I just can’t let him get away with that.”

It took a lot of persuading to convince Sam that his unforgiveness was never going to affect the person responsible for his pain—a guy who lived many miles away.

Sam spent more than half his life drinking the poison of unforgiveness, fully expecting to poison the one who’d brought him so much pain.  But all he managed to accomplish was to make himself sick.

By allowing the one who caused his pain to rent space inside his head, Sam experienced daily torment for many years.

Sam was unwilling to forgive until he finally understood that forgiveness was God’s gift to him.  He was the one who stood to benefit by forgiving the one who’d hurt him.

In his prayer that morning, Sam asked Jesus to make him willing to remove his hands from around his perpetrator’s throat.  He made the decision to leave judgment and revenge in God’s hands.

The one who was set free in my office that morning was Sam, not the one responsible for Sam’s pain.

—Lew Gervais


My Response:  Why is it healthy to believe that God is the final judge and the final avenger?


Thought to Apply:  There is no torment like the inner torment of an unforgiving spirit. —Chuck Swindoll (pastor, writer)



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.


United Methodist Sacraments, Rites, & Rituals

United Methodist Sacraments, Rites, and Rituals

The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments, baptism and communion. These two acts have a special place in the church because Jesus commanded them and participated in them.

Through the years, Christians have used other sacramental acts to draw closer to God. While we do not recognize these others as sacraments, we participate in many of them in some way.

In the following articles, we explore how United Methodists understand baptism, communion, and rites and rituals other Christian churches view as sacraments.

Sacrament of Baptism

All baptized persons are members of their local church, the denomination, and the church universal. Photo by Mary Catherine Phillips, Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference.

Renewing waters: How United Methodists understand baptism

In baptism, we reject sin and begin our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. Learn more of what United Methodists teach about the sacrament. Read More

Sacrament of Holy Communion

The Rev. Tonya Elmore, pastor at Enterprise First United Methodist Church, takes communion from the Rev. Virginia Kagoro, pastor at Locust Bluff United Methodist Church. Holy Communion was part of the Service of Remembrance at the 2015 Alabama-West Florida Conference on June 1, where 33 clergy and clergy spouses were memorialized. Photo by Luke Lucas, Alabama-West Florida Conference

An open table: How United Methodists understand communion

The sacrament is such a common part of our worship that its uncommon richness can get lost. Learn more about The Lord’s Supper. Read More


Confirmation classes journey together toward their first profession of their intent to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Photo courtesy of Brecksville (Ohio) United Methodist Church.

Beyond baptism: What confirmation means to United Methodists

Confirmation is not a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, but an important step in our journey of faith. Read More


We confess our sins before God and one another. Stock photo by, Creative Commons 0.

Before God and one another: United Methodists and confession

Confession is not a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, but we confess our sins in worship and small groups to receive forgiveness and strength. Read More


Rings sit on text from the wedding service in the United Methodist Book of Worship. Photo illustration by Fran Walsh, United Methodist Communications.

I do: How United Methodists understand Christian marriage

In weddings and marriage, we celebrate love: the love of the couple, the love of God for us, and the love Christ calls us to share with the world. Read More

Anointing the Sick

The body of 107-year-old Rev. Isaac Momoh Ndanema is led out of church for burial. Often called “Pa Ndanema,” he chose to live simply and served as a peacemaker and social evangelist while encouraging the local language.Phileas Jusu, United Methodist Communications.

God is with us: Blessing the dying and those who grieve

As people come to the end of life, United Methodist pastors offer the strength, hope, and peace of Christ in this difficult yet sacred time. Read More

Ordination (Holy Orders)

At ordination, United Methodist clergy are prayed over, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and authorized by the church for their life and work. Photo by Emily Green, Indiana Conference.

Spirit empowered, church authorized: United Methodist ordination

What does The United Methodist Church teach about ordination? Learn more about the steps and blessings to become a deacon or elder. Read More




Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – The Choice

Forgiveness 2Key Bible Verse:  “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”  Matthew 6:12

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 6: 12-14

A Christian acquaintance whose wife had an open fling with another man told of how he felt the inner sanctum of his heart had been trashed.  Even after she returned and said it had been a mistake, he felt the inevitability of divorce.  But while sorting out his options, he was surprised to be given, as a Christian, not only the grace to forgive at a specific moment, but more importantly, the possibility to live in forgiveness.

Of course, it was work.  But all told, in the midst of his anguish, he eventually could not think of anything important that he would lose by forgiving—except his “pride.”  He could choose to see his wife as having temporarily lost her bearings.  How human she was, to trade lifelong integrity for momentary flaring desire.  How outrageous! How deserving she was of being despised!

But at the same time there was another option: the pain-discovered possibility of the unique joy in forgiveness.  What, my friend asked himself, would be gained by not accepting this option?  And what was his Lord calling him to?  What was the satisfaction of wounded pride worth, in the long run?  Is forgiveness any more illogical than vengeance?

—John Ruth in Forgiveness


My Response: If I were the guy in this story, would I be willing to do the hard work of forgiveness?  Why or why not?


Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is God’s command. —Martin Luther (leader of the Protestant Reformation)

Adapted from Forgiveness (Herald Press, 2007)



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – The Road of Faith

Forgiveness 3Key Bible Verse:  “Love your enemies! Do good to them.”  Luke 6:35

Dig Deeper:  Luke 6: 35-37

[continued from yesterday]  “I know lots of young people my age who are bitter, who are acting out violently,” said Cathy.  “Some of them are even dead now.… Fighting terror with terror is not the way.”

To forgive another person takes a tremendous act of faith, because in forgiving we choose to surrender our need to control a situation to satisfy our longings and intentions. To transfer a situation from our hands into God’s requires one to believe that God has witnessed the wrong and that God will not dismiss that wrong as something trivial or insignificant.

In the process of forgiving we say, “I give this situation to God and believe that in the eternal scheme of things, God’s justice and grace will bring about a resolution better than I could ever make.”

Fortunately, a mother in Northern Ireland years ago decided that her home would not become a haven of anger and hatred, a breeding ground for young terrorists.  Instead, she took the road of faith.

Because of that choice, her 20-year-old daughter now serves as a missionary to children in the inner city.  She is a young woman who loves instead of hates, who gives life instead of destroys it, and who lives each day as a witness to the power of forgiveness.

—Bruce Main in Spotting the Sacred


My Response: What messages am I communicating to my family about revenge and forgiveness?  To friends?  To neighbors?  To co-workers?


Thought to Apply: Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.  —Edwin Hubbel Chapin (preacher, writer, editor)

Adapted from Spotting the Sacred (Baker, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



In Memoriam: Anthony DeSalle – UPDATED Funeral Arrangements

On August 7, 2017,  Anthony DeSalle passed into the Church Triumphant.

A tireless worker and active member of Central Church for 51 years, Tony also served as Chaplin at the Medical Center in Beaver as well as at the Beaver Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chippewa.

Over his many years at Central, Tony held virtually every office, including serving as our Chairman of the Stewardship and Finance Committee, as a Certified Lay Speaker, and as Lay Leader of Central Church in his final years.  He also was a faithful member of our Church Choir over several decades.

In an era in which the Church is often viewed as just another community commodity, with people coming and going on slight breezes of whim, Tony provided a solid and continuous example of what it really means to be a faithful follower of Christ.  We will all missing his good humor and endless willingness to engage in the work of God’s Kingdom.

All of the funeral arrangements will be at Central Church on Friday, August 11, 2017.

Family Viewing will be from 12 Noon – 1 pm in Central’s Parlor.

General Viewing will follow, from 1-6 pm, also in the Parlor.

The funeral worship service, planned by Tony himself in 1999, will be held in the Sanctuary at 6 pm.

Following the funeral service, a funeral luncheon will be served downstairs in the Fellowship Hall.  (A private interment will be subsequently conducted at Sylvania Hills.)

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made in memory of Tony to the Memorial Fund of Central Church.

Please remember his daughter, Debbie, and the rest of his family in prayer as they move through this difficult time.


I Do: How United Methodists Understand Christian Marriage

Rings sit on text from the wedding service in the United Methodist Book of Worship. Photo illustration by Fran Walsh, United Methodist Communications.

 A bride and groom holding handsChristian marriage is not a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, but those who marry enter into a sacred covenant.

It is a beautiful moment. A couple stands before a congregation of family and friends. They make lifelong promises to one another and maybe exchange rings. In a moment, their lives are changed. The two who have entered separately leave as one, joined together in marriage.

Christian marriage is not a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, but those who choose to marry enter into “a sacred covenant reflecting the Baptismal Covenant” (The United Methodist Book of Worship 115), and more specifically “a sacred covenant reflecting Christ’s covenant with the church” (The United Methodist Hymnal 864).

Baptism is our initiation into God’s covenant with us through Christ and marks the beginning of a lifetime of growing as followers of Jesus. In Christian marriage, that covenant is reaffirmed.

“The marriage vows specify how the couple will live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the context of their relationship with each other,” explains the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources with Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

In Christian marriage, the bride and groom “enter into union with each other through the grace of Jesus Christ, who calls [them] into union with himself as acknowledged in [their] baptism” (from the “Declaration of Intention” of A Service of Christian Marriage).

A service of worship

A service of Christian marriage in The United Methodist Church is a worship service similar to a typical Sunday service. In addition to the elements specific to marriage, there is a time of gathering and greeting, Scripture readings and a sermon, prayers and songs, a time for response to God’s word that may include the sacrament of Holy Communion, and a sending forth.

A bride and groom cut their wedding cake in front of their guests

The congregation gathered for a wedding represents the community of faith who will support the couple in their marriage.

“Everything about the service,” its introduction states, “is designed to witness that this is a Christian marriage.”

This does not preclude a United Methodist pastor from participating in an interfaith wedding, though care must be taken to include the faith leaders of the other tradition. For example, if a United Methodist is marrying a person of the Jewish faith, the pastor must work with the rabbi to ensure the ceremony properly represents both traditions. Each faith leader should then participate in the parts of the ceremony reflecting her/his tradition. Find more information for pastors about interfaith ceremonies here.

A community of support

While some may think a marriage ceremony is all about the couple (others might say it is all about the bride), the family and friends present are important participants. They are more than passive spectators.

“It is not just a ceremony for the couple,” Burton-Edwards explains. “It is the ceremony in which the whole community is part of the witnessing and blessing of the vows the couple make to one another.”

In addition to participating in prayers, singing, and worship, those gathered bless and offer support to the bride and groom.

After the couple declares their intention to enter into marriage, the pastor for the blessing of their families on the couple. Next, she asks the entire congregation if they will, by the grace of God, “uphold and care for these two persons in their marriage.”

Married couples benefit from the love and encouragement of family, friends, and the church throughout their marriages. Those who attend their wedding represent the community that promises to support the couple throughout their life together.

Celebrating love

A service of Christian marriage is a celebration of love, but not simply the romantic love between husband and wife. It also celebrates the love of God for us, and the love Jesus calls us Christians to share with the world.

Love to last a lifetime.

A Christian marriage is a celebration of love that will last a lifetime.

The Dismissal of “A Service of Christian Marriage” illustrates this well. After offering a brief prayer of blessing over the couple, the pastor charges the couple to a lifetime of mission, saying, “Go to serve God and your neighbor in all that you do.”

The pastor then addresses the whole congregation with these words, “Bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that those to whom love is a stranger will find in you generous friends.”

A wedding is a beautiful moment that ushers in a new era for the bride and groom, and a worship service reminding us of the love God has shown us in Christ Jesus. In Christian marriage, we are called to be witnesses of that love and to share it with others.

In Christian marriage, we are called to be witnesses to the love of God and share that love with others.

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


Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – Aren’t You Angry?

Frustrated Mother and DaughterKey Bible Verse:  And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me!  I’ll get even with them!”  Proverbs 24:29

Dig Deeper:  Ephesians 4: 31-32

The university class I was teaching had just finished reading some fascinating and troubling material on the impact of sustained violence on children in various parts of the world.

“They didn’t write about Northern Ireland,” complained Roz in her thick Belfast brogue.  “There’s three of us from Ireland in this class.  We grew up with violence all around us.”

“My father was killed by an IRA bomb when I was 6,” another young woman said abruptly.  The class was silent, and I was caught off guard.

“Aren’t you angry, Cathy?” I asked her, wondering how a young woman whose father was brutally murdered could not be.

“No,” she said without an edge to her voice.  “I was raised in a home by a mother who taught me to forgive, so the seeds of anger and bitterness never had a chance to grow.  My mother modeled forgiveness for all us children.”

She had no hint of repressed bitterness in her voice.  Rather, she had chosen to forgive, which obviously had made a profound difference for her.  That choice had separated her from others her own age—others who had chosen to hold on to their anger, allowing it to fester into suppressed rage. [continued tomorrow]

—Bruce Main in Spotting the Sacred


My Response:  How can I tell if I or someone I know has truly forgiven or is simply living with “repressed bitterness”?

Adapted from Spotting the Sacred (Baker, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



Forgiving: Take the Risk, Find the Joy – What Forgiving Others Isn’t

Forgiveness 2Who Said It … N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar currently at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Prior to his position at St. Andrews, N. T. served as the bishop of Durham in the Church of England.

He is the author of numerous books including Justification, Surprised by Hope, Simply Christian, and Evil and the Justice of God—the book from which today’s devotional is taken.

N. T. and his wife, Maggie, have four adult children and three grandchildren.


What He Said … What Forgiving Others Isn’t

Forgiveness doesn’t mean “I didn’t really mind” or “it didn’t really matter.” I did mind and it did matter, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to forgive, merely something to adjust my attitudes about.

Nor is forgiveness the same as saying, “Let’s pretend it didn’t really happen.”  This is a little trickier because part of the point of forgiveness is that I am committing myself to work toward the point where I can behave as if it hadn’t happened.

But it did happen, and forgiveness is looking hard at the fact that it did and making a conscious choice—a decision of the moral will—to set it aside so that it doesn’t come as a barrier between us.

In other words, forgiveness presupposes that the thing which happened was indeed evil and it cannot simply be set aside as irrelevant.  Along that route lies suppressed anger and a steady distancing of people who no longer trust one another.

A much better plan is to put things out on the table and deal with them.

Adapted from Evil and the Justice of God (IVP, 2006)


This week’s Key Study Passage:  Romans 12: 14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


a.       Or willing to do menial work

b.      Deut. 32:35

c.       Prov. 25:21,22



Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being a loving God who daily extends grace and mercy!  Forgive me for those times I refuse to let go of anger and bitterness.  Give me the grace and mercy needed to forgive those who’ve wronged me.



Leading with Love: The Key to Success

What is Agape.bmpWithout love, anything we do is futile (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  That goes for work too.

People who take advantage of others in order to climb the corporate ladder often say they are just “getting ahead.”  They also often justify bending the rules to earn more profit.  This kind of thinking couldn’t be more warped.

Ultimately, any undertaking that is not motivated by love is destined for failure.  We as Christians should be at the forefront of modeling work practices that encourage love for neighbor and coworker.

Key Study Passage:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

  1. Why do you think these eight verses are so widely quoted?  Why is love such a central teaching of the Christian faith?


  1. Which of the characteristics of love (vv. 4-7) do you see on display at your workplace?  Which ones are lacking?


  1. What steps can you take to make your work culture and environment more conducive to loving others?


  1. Talk to some friends at your church and compare notes about good practices you can apply to your respective workplaces.


Spend Time in Prayer: Thank God for your workplace and coworkers; ask him to make you an agent of his agape love.


1 Corinthians 13:1-8

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!



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: Love Actually Works

What is Agape.bmpKey Bible Verses:  My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.  1 John 3:18-19, The message

Dig Deeper:  2 Peter 1:5-8

If agape love builds healthy relationships in all walks of life, why shouldn’t we always use it to build our organizations as well?

Why isn’t there more dialogue about how to create and maintain healthy relationships at work?   After all, common sense tells us that people will perform better if they are treated with respect and trust.

I have served in large and small organizations, public and private, and also on boards of several nonprofit and for-profit organizations.  After more than 30 years of witnessing all forms of organizational structures, I am still surprised at how willingly we discuss strategy and how to increase profit but how loath we are to discuss how to build and maintain a successful corporate culture by consistently treating all employees in a way that attracts and keeps the best talent in all levels of the organization.

Agape love is a leadership principle that holds leaders accountable and helps any organization become healthier and more enthusiastic.  That is why I submit that we should never leave love at the door when we come to work.

On the contrary, love works.  Think about love the verb, not love the emotion.  Think commitment and will, not feelings, and you will start to see how love works.

—Joel Manby in Love Works


My Response:  What lessons have I learned this week that I can apply to my own life?


Thought to Apply:  When love is felt, the message is heard.—Jim Vaus (converted former gangster)

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: From the Handbook

What is Agape.bmpKey Bible Verse:  Love never fails.  – 1 Corinthians 13:8, NIV

Dig Deeper:  1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Basing the leadership behavior of an organization on the definition of agape love may strike you as a new or even revolutionary idea—and in the context of modern American organization practices, it is.

But the inspiration for using agape love as a leadership principle actually comes from one of the oldest and most respected authorities on human behavior in the world: the Bible.

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is known as the “love chapter” because there the apostle Paul wrote: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).

This is agape—and these are principles that will transform your organization, from the bottom line to the bottom of your employees’ hearts.  Love is patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated.

How these words get worked out in the context of a successful organization may surprise you, but remember, they are never an excuse to ignore poor performance or neglect the bottom line.

—Joel Manby in Love Works


My Response:  Which characteristics of love do I most need to work on?


Thought to Apply:  Joy is love exalted; peace is love in repose; long-suffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love in school; and temperance is love in training.—D. L. Moody (minister, evangelist)

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: The Meaning of Agape

What is Agape.bmpKey Bible Verse:  Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

Dig Deeper:  Ephesians 4:1-6

Agape is unconditional.  It is a decision, a matter of will.

The key principle is to think of agape as a verb, not an emotion.

Agape love is the foundation for the best and noblest relationships that humans are capable of.  It is deliberate and unconditional love that is the result of choices and behaviors rather than feelings and emotions.

In that regard, agape love is about the values we embrace as a way of life, and it is a determination to behave in a certain way that stems from our regard for other human beings, regardless of how we may feel about them.

For leaders, demonstrating agape love is about behavior, not emotion.  This is a critical distinction that explains why agape love can be the motivating force of a successful organization.

Agape love can exist in the most hostile environments—even work!  Agape can stand the test of time.  In fact, with agape love, you can dislike someone or be frustrated with them and still treat them with love.

Agape love will promote healthy relationships among employees and their leaders, allowing people to perform at their very best, all the while withstanding the pressure and tension that can exist in a high-performance organization.

—Joel Manby in Love Works


My Response: How can I cultivate agape love in all my relationships?


Thought to Apply:  To love we must give of ourselves, of our time, … of whatever it takes to show love; for giving is fundamental to the biblical idea of love.—Jay E. Adams (author)

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: Love in Action

Love is a VerbKey Bible Verse:  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.  This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 5:43-48

I could accept the fact that HFE employees loved working for the Herschends, and even that the Herschends loved them back.  But I was struggling with the word love and how to define it in a way the employees would understand and accept.  Then I remembered a talk I’d heard many years before.

On our wedding day, our pastor Terry told my wife, Marki, and me, “You can’t imagine this today, but there will come a day when you are frustrated with each other; you may not feel like you love each other.  You may not even feel like you like each other in the moment.  Joel and Marki, that’s when you need to behave like you love each other.”

Treating someone with love regardless of how you feel about that person is a very powerful principle.  This type of love is the basis for all healthy relationships, bringing out the best in ourselves and others.  It can make us great spouses, great parents, and great friends.  Great leaders too.

All too often, however, when we read the word love, we automatically think about romantic love—the emotional kind.

What I’m talking about, however, is love the verb, agape in Greek, not the emotion.  I’m talking about actions, not feelings.

—Joel Manby in Love Works


My Response: How do my actions demonstrate love for those I lead?


Thought to Apply:  Selfless love serves for the sake of the one being served, and serves in the way it likes being served—whether it ever receives such service or not.—John Macarthur (pastor)

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.