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The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Drive Away?

Car TroubleKey Bible Verse: “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”  – Matthew 25:40

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:14-3:5

Walking out of the packed mall, I prayed, “God, help me connect with people in ways that make a difference for Your kingdom.” As I neared my car in the lot, I noticed a pickup with a man working under the hood. “Not now!” I silently objected, “I’ll be late for my meeting.” “Can I help?” I asked, hoping he’d say no.

He said yes. I cranked the starter when he said to. Between cranks he said he’d done lots wrong but had worked with a Christian in his former job. Now unemployed, he was traveling to where he hoped a job was waiting. Learning that I was a Christian, he asked about Jesus’ forgiveness. Our discussion turned to the Bible. He would read it, he said, if he had a copy.

I helped him borrow tools from a nearby shop, talked through repair options with him, and kept cranking the starter till he got the engine running and the distributor adjusted. I offered to buy him dinner, but he didn’t have time. After he left to return the tools, I placed a note and money for a Bible or a meal on his steering wheel.

When I got home, my daughter asked, “Did you help a guy in a parking lot?” He’d called to thank me.

—Stephen Sorenson in Like Your Neighbor?

My Response: I’ll pray Stephen’s shopping-mall prayer today.

Thought to Apply: We must not spare our hand where it can perform a service [nor] assume that our schedule is our own to manage.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor)

Adapted from Like Your Neighbor? (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley
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The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Skill Position

Throwing a Football to a ChildKey Bible Verse: God has given to each of you … spiritual gifts … so that God’s generosity can flow through you.   – 1 Peter 4:10

Bonus Reading:  Mark 9:33-37

José Morena spends his workdays sweeping trash, wiping toilets, and scrubbing floors as a custodian at Lincoln Elementary School in Oxnard, California. Though he excels at his work, it isn’t what he’s known for at the school.

During recess, Morena’s a quarterback. With his ring of keys jangling from his belt loop, he throws spirals to pint-sized receivers. His presence on the field makes the friendly games more fun and prevents spats, according to the students. He does the same on the basketball court.

Morena also helps the teachers in the classroom. Because he’s bilingual, he can translate between teachers and parents. He also stands in for teachers when they have to leave their classrooms. Morena has two daughters of his own, but he also acts as a father figure to many students, particularly boys, who don’t have fathers at home.

The kids on the playground light up when asked about Morena: “José has always been there for me. He’s someone you can talk to, and he understands,” says ten-year-old Amber Castillo. He’s living proof that you don’t have to have an impressive job or powerful position to impact lives. Being important is about serving others, about being a role model for kids.

—Bill McCartney in 4th and Goal

My Response: Who am I uniquely positioned to serve today?

Thought to Apply: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.—Charles Dickens

Adapted from 4th and Goal (Tyndale, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Millennial Success Sequence

Millennials are taking a dizzying array of paths into adulthood. But, according to AEI Visiting Scholar W. Bradford Wilcox, one path is more likely to lead away from poverty and to the American Dream.
 
The sequence for success that two authors have outlined is:
 
1. Complete your EDUCATION (high school minimum);
2. Get a full-time JOB;
 
3. Get MARRIED (before having children);
 
4. Have CHILDREN.
 
Click on the photo for a 1-minute video explanation from one of the authors.

Their compilation of data indicates that you will have a 97% success rate if you follow this sequence.
 
* What do you think?
.
* How closely does this sequence track what Scripture lays out as the model for our lives?
 
 

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Snow Job

Brushing Snow from CarKey Bible Verse: You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:1-4

I had worked later than usual one winter evening and hadn’t noticed the steadily accumulating blanket of white. Walking out into our office parking lot, I was startled. Each of the handful of cars left in the lot looked like a huge white marshmallow. I located mine, started the engine, and climbed back out with brush and window scraper. The soft, fluffy coating came off so easily that I was almost disappointed to finish so quickly.

I looked around at the three other cars in the lot. One belonged to my friend Julie. I’d just said good-bye to her, and it looked like she was going to be working for quite a while yet. Clearing off her car was great fun. I pictured her coming outside, shocked at the amount of snow, worrying about trudging around in a dark, vacant parking lot—then seeing her car all cleared off and ready to go. Imagining her smile made me smile too. Cleaning off the other two cars was also fun.

A day or two later, Julie figured out who’d done it and expressed her appreciation. But Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4 tell me that perhaps clearing off the other two cars had the greater value.

—Nate Adams in The Home Team

My Response: How do I guess God will reward “undercover” good deeds?

Thought to Apply: The reward for a good deed is to have done it.—Proverb

Adapted from The Home Team (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Biscuits in the ‘Hood

Pot on StoveKey Bible Verse: Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Each year, a few days before the holidays, members of the True Love Missionary Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, spend a Saturday morning gathering food for the needy in the neighborhood.

On this side of Dallas, there’s a lot of need. There are burglar bars on most of the windows, and the used car lots are surrounded by fences topped with razor wire. Even though the church is far from opulent, it puts aside its own needs to serve others less fortunate.

When I got to the church to produce a special radio documentary for the holiday season, the back door was wide open. No one was around, so I went inside. The only sound came from the kitchen in the family center where you could hear someone preparing breakfast for the volunteers who’d show up later. The smell of scrambled eggs, biscuits, grits, and bacon was incredible. I followed the aroma, carrying my tape recorder and microphone, and met a middle-aged woman with a cast-iron skillet in her hand. She never even looked up to ask who I was or what I wanted. She asked only one question: “Are you hungry?”

When the first thing a person says to you is “are you hungry?” that is a church.

—Jody Dean in Finding God in the Evening News

My Response: What action of mine has modeled Christ’s compassion?

Adapted from Finding God in the Evening News (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Into the Game

ChurchWho Said It…Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. Its Willow Creek Association serves as a resource to thousands of churches that share an “outward-focused” emphasis, aiming to “turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”

Bill is a sailing buff. He and Lynne are the parents of two adult children.

What He Said…Into the Game

Every churchgoer has a choice to make. He can either (a) park in his usual spot in the church parking lot, make his way to a favorite seat, experience a good service, chat with friends, and go home—a nice, safe Sunday morning experience. Or (b) throw himself into an adventure by rolling up his sleeves, joining a team of like-minded servants, and helping to build the local church God has called him to be a part of.

“Three years ago,” one person wrote, “you challenged me to get involved as a volunteer. I was hesitant at first, but you wouldn’t let up. Now I can’t thank you enough. The meaning I derive, the sense of ownership I feel, the friendships I have built, the spiritual growth I’ve experienced—it’s all directly related to finding my niche in serving.”

Most who commit to serving feel scared or think they have little to offer, but they decide to take a first step. Some serve faithfully in less-than-ideal situations before they discover what they’re really good at—the perfect volunteer niche for them.

Adapted from The Volunteer Revolution (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

A Bother…and a Joy – Energy and Rewards

Helping OthersThe verses we’re focusing in on are embedded in Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies.

Of course, you can’t “fall into” this kind of love; it takes a conscious act of the will. But so does demonstrating love to others around us who are more neutral.

Today we look at the energy required for this kind of involvement—and the rewards promised.

Interact with God’s Word

Luke 6:30-34, 36, 38

  1. Being kind and thoughtful to your family and friends requires a fair amount of effort. Do Jesus’ words in verses 32-33 seem harsh?
  2. Does expecting you to extend your favors to those who are hostile or demanding (v. 30) seem reasonable?
  3. How does the “golden rule” (v. 31) move beyond the usual belief that you should avoid harming others?
  4. According to verse 36, does the requirement that you care for others in this way depend on whether they deserve it? What is it based on?
  5. Would you describe your level of caring and giving as a small or large measure (v. 38)?
  6. Have you experienced the payback for investing in others’ lives that Jesus described? Can you give an example?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to expand your willingness to deliberately invest in others, and your joy in seeing fruit in their lives.

Luke 6:30-34, 36, 38

30 “Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do for others as you would like them to do for you. 32 Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that!

33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even sinners will lend to their own kind for a full return.

36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

38 If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Buckling by the Book

Baby on AirplaneKey Bible Verse: Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 21:28-31a

Beat after two weeks of Calcutta’s filth and heat, Doug Nichols boarded the clean, air-conditioned Thai jumbo jet. His seat flanked an empty center section, where he anticipated stretching out after takeoff. But then workers streamed into the cabin carrying large baskets, and set one on each vacant seat. Babies! Two per basket. Close to 100 orphans for adoption, with only two Indian caretakers.

As they taxied, an alarmed flight attendant yelled excitedly in Thai at one uncomprehending caretaker. Grasping the problem, Doug reached across, fastened the belt over a basket, went to the next, buckled it … row after row. Securing the last basket, he jumped into his seat as the plane lifted off.

“You must really like babies!” exclaimed his seatmate.

“Not particularly.”

“Then why’d you do that?”

“I didn’t want to sin.”

“What’s buckling babies got to do with sin?”

“I’m a Christian,” said Doug, “and try to live the way God tells me. His Word says ‘Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.'”

“You sure that’s in the Bible?” he asked, skeptically.

“I sure hope so,” said Doug, opening his New Testament, pointing, and sharing the gospel with his seatmate all the way to Bangkok.

—Phil Callaway in Who Put My Life on Fast-Forward?

My Response: What would help me see and respond to needs more quickly?

Thought to Apply: We say we must do all we can. Jesus says we must let God do all we can.—Oswald Chambers

Adapted from Who Put My Life on Fast-Forward? (Harvest, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – High Fives

Sunday School TeacherKey Bible Verse: Who is adequate for such a task as this? 2 Corinthians 2:16

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:14-3:5

You’re a scoutmaster.  Surely you can handle fifth-grade Sunday schoolers.”  And that’s how Bill became a volunteer.

“I was a new Christian and was worried that I didn’t know enough. I started with an easy story—Noah. I knew I had to keep the boys busy. We researched the ark and built a scale papier-mâché model six feet long. We went to a lake to study how a flood affects an area. As I struggled with how to teach the Bible, the Holy Spirit taught those kids through me.”

The class asked Bill to move up with them when they went to sixth grade, and he was honored. Now that first class is grown; four of those boys are spending their lives in full-time Christian service.

There is no greater calling than teacher, no more important job in the church. But it’s easy to miss the “high fives from God” that every Sunday school teacher receives. “There’s no way I could have been that good a teacher,” Bill said. “The Lord knew I needed the encouragement of success at that early point in my Christian life, and He helped me. I’ve got a word for new teachers. Don’t be overwhelmed. With God’s help, you’ll never be inadequate.”

—Marlene LeFever, Cook Communications Ministries

My Response: A way I’d consider being stretched is by taking on _____.

Thought to Apply:  Significance is making a difference in the lives of people over time.—Phil Downer (Discipleship Network of America president)

Adapted from Christian Education Article Service (Cook, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Whom God Uses

Retirement Home WorshipKey Bible Verse: All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us.  – 2 Corinthians 4:5

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 25:31-40

[continued from yesterday]  When I left Carl, an aide asked if I’d visit Alex in his room. Alex’s body is permanently twisted from cerebral palsy. I remembered his efforts at previous services to sing the hymns and the joy that radiated from his disfigured face at hearing God’s Word.

As Alex struggled to shape his words, I tried to understand. We talked about the goodness of God. I happened to look up at the room’s two closet doors. One said ALEX, the other CARL. Then it dawned on me. Carl’s attendance at the worship service must have been the result of his being Alex’s roommate.

I told Alex that Carl had just prayed to receive Christ. Alex threw his head back and grinned from ear to ear, excited that God had used him.

That Sunday afternoon, Norma and I discovered that we don’t have to look far to bless someone else. All we need is to be willing to serve, and God will direct.

Through the requests of residents and with the backing of our church, Norma and I were given permission to conduct weekly Bible readings at the nursing home. I spent time with Carl, prayed with him, and watched as he faded from the effects of his stroke. Alex remains a faithful group member.

—Dave Pagani in Decision

My Response: Today, I’ll ask God to direct me to someone I can bless.

Thought to Apply: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.—Charles Dickens (English novelist)

Adapted from Decision (6/01, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Nixed Nap

Retirement Home WorshipKey Bible Verse:  Serve each other in humility, for “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.”1 Peter 5:5

Bonus Reading:  Luke 14:7-14

As my wife, Norma, and I drove to church on a spring Sunday morning, I was just getting over jet lag from a long overseas trip. So I was anticipating a quiet, peaceful afternoon. But then I remembered that today was our church’s turn to hold the afternoon worship service at a local nursing home. I needed the rest, I kept telling myself; but as Norma and I talked, we decided we’d be at the nursing home.

After the service, we mingled and chatted with the residents. Carl, an 86-year-old who’d suffered a stroke, sat quietly in his wheelchair with his face lowered, his hymnal still in his lap. I went over to say hello. As he looked up, I saw distress on his face. So I asked, “Do you know if you’re on your way to heaven?”

“I hope so.”

“Would you like to know for sure?”

“Yes” he answered clearly and emphatically, “but no one’s ever told me how.”

I opened my Bible, read several verses, and told Carl how Jesus had willingly died on the cross to pay for all our sin. Carl prayed for forgiveness and surrendered to Jesus. An 86-year-old, tears rolling down his face, had joined God’s family as a newborn. [continued tomorrow]

—Dave Pagani in Decision

My Response: When did I last let another’s needs trump my convenient routine?

Thought to Apply: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving You.—JOHN WESLEY (founder of Methodism)

Adapted from Decision (6/01, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Whump!

Black JaguarKey Bible Verse:  Dear children, let us stop saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading:  James 2:14-18

As Josh was sailing down a Chicago neighborhood street in his two-months-old, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, a brick sailed through the air and struck its shiny, black passenger door. Brakes slammed, gears ground into reverse, and tires spun the Jaguar back to the spot from which the missile had been launched.

The young executive jumped out, grabbed the kid, and pushed him against a fender. “That’s my new Jag,” he shouted. “That brick you threw is gonna cost you lots of money!”

“I’m sorry, mister! No one would stop! I didn’t know what else to do,” the youngster sobbed, pointing. “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb, fell out of his wheelchair, and is hurt. He’s too heavy for me. Please, help me lift him back.”

Josh’s head of steam evaporated. Straining, he lifted the boy’s brother into the wheelchair, wiped the scrapes and cuts with his handkerchief, and checked to see that there was no serious injury. He then watched the younger brother push the wheelchair down the sidewalk toward their home.

Josh never did fix his door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone would have to throw a brick to get his attention.

—Skip Heitzig in Jesus Up Close

My Response: Someone I know whose actions reveal an urgent need for my help is _____.

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – A Good Heart, But…

Church People Helping PeopleWho 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…A Good Heart, But …

(Scene—Sunday a.m. assembly; silent prayer)

Max: God, I want to do great things.

God: You do?

Max: You bet! I want to teach millions! I want to fill the Rose Bowl! I want all the world to know Your saving power! I dream of the day …

God: That’s great, Max. In fact, I can use you today after church.

Max: Super! How about some radio and television work or—or—or an engagement to speak to Congress?

God: Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. See that fellow sitting next to you?

Max: Yes.

God: He needs a ride home.

Max (quietly): What?

God: He needs a ride home. And while you’re at it, one of the older ladies sitting near you is worried about getting a refrigerator moved. Why not drop by this afternoon and …

Max (pleading): But, God, what about the world?

God (smiling): Think about it.

Adapted from Shaped by God (Tyndale, 1985)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Belonging to a Church

Church Membership 4How does God make believers grow up into Christ?

The answer, Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, is that He forms us into a body—a group of individuals united in their purpose and love for each other and for the Lord.

If one person stumbles, the rest of the group is there to pick him up and help him walk with God again. The group witnesses to God’s truth as each member carries out his special role.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

  1. What is the body of Christ that all believers belong to (v. 12)?
  2. What two family characteristics that we share does Paul mention in verse 4?
  3. What is the special assignment of those in leadership roles (v. 12)?
  4. What is the assignment of all members of this body (vv. 13, 15)?
  5. What are the marks (v. 6) of a healthy church?
  6. What is required of the members to achieve this ideal?
  7. Do you have a sense for what role you are being fitted to fill?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to reveal to you what your “own special work” in the church should be, and enable you to perform it in a way that will contribute to your local congregation “measuring up.”

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.

11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Faith vs. Myth: Why is Friday the 13th bad?

You may not know the name for it, paraskevidekatriaphobia, but you probably know about the fear of Friday the 13th. According to legend, learning to pronounce the word keeps one from being paraskevidekatriaphobic.

How Friday the 13th got the reputation as a day when bad things happen, no one knows for sure, but the theories are interesting.

Unlucky 13

Thirteen has long been considered an unlucky number in some cultures. Skyscrapers occasionally omit labeling a 13th floor and airlines have skipped over row 13 when assigning seat numbers.

The Last Supper was attended by 13 people, Jesus and his 12 disciples.

The Last Supper was attended by 13 people: Jesus and his 12 disciples. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

The reason may be rooted in an ancient understanding of twelve as a complete number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock, 12 tribes of Israel, and Jesus called 12 disciples. A thirteenth disturbs this completeness.

Some trace the fear of the number 13, triskaidekaphobia, to a Norse myth—pay attention Avengers fans. According to the legend, 12 gods were having a dinner party in Valhalla when a 13th and uninvited guest arrived. The gatecrasher, a god named Loki, tricked the god of darkness to shoot the god of joy and gladness, with an arrow made of mistletoe, the only substance to which he was not impervious. The tale states that when Balder the Beautiful died, a deep darkness fell upon the earth. Because Loki was the 13th guest, people associated darkness and dread with the number 13.

Long before Norse mythology however, Jesus and the disciples gathered in an upper room for the Last Supper. Thirteen people were at the table on the night Jesus was betrayed.

Some historians wonder about possible evidence from a much earlier source. The ancient Code of Hammurabi, written more than 1,700 years before the birth of Jesus, has no thirteenth law. The numbering skips from 12 to 14. Most scholars attribute this to a simple clerical error literally etched in stone, but it could be early evidence of triskaidekaphobia.

The Code of Hammurabi skips the number 13 in its listing of laws.

The Code of Hammurabi reportedly has no law 13. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Unlucky Friday

Friday was also considered unlucky, long before anyone called it Fri-yay on Facebook. Geoffrey Chaucer receives much of the credit for popularizing this idea in the 1300s. In The Canterbury Tales he writes, “And on a Friday fell all this mischance.”

Other explanations go back to the Bible. It was once believed that the day of the week Adam and Eve first sinned, Cain killed Abel, rain began to fall on Noah, and God scattered the nations at the Tower of Babel, were all Fridays. There is no biblical evidence to support dating those stories that way, but we know that Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

Doubly unlucky Friday the 13th

An unlucky number falling on an unlucky day sounds like a recipe for double the bad luck to those who believe these superstitions.

Author Thomas William Lawson may deserve the blame for putting these two unlucky signs together. In his 1907 novel Friday, the Thirteenth, a New York City stockbroker makes a fortune by preying on people’s fears of Friday the 13th to create chaos in the market.

Interestingly, one warning about the 13th of the month dates all the way back to the eighth century BC. An ancient farmer’s almanac called Works and Days, warns, “Avoid the thirteenth of the waxing month for beginning to sow.” Unfortunately, the author offers no reason for this admonition.

Many historians are convinced that Friday the thirteenth’s reputation is likely rooted in the story of Holy Week. Jesus was betrayed by one at the Last Supper, a table around which 13 gathered, and crucified on a Friday.

God's love and presence are with us every day.

God’s love and presence are with us every day… even on Friday the 13th. Photo by Austin Bond Photography.

Let us rejoice

If the calendar happens to say Friday the 13th when you spill coffee on your favorite outfit, you may smile and jokingly attribute your misfortune to this “unlucky” day. As people of faith, however, we know that God is with us every day, including these certain Fridays that occur at least once and at most three times in a year.

When tempted to buy into a negative way of thinking or to believe something sinister is in the air on Friday the 13th, it might help to learn to pronounce paraskevidekatriaphobia.

It will be far more effective however, to remember the words of scripture, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NRSV). Even when it is Friday the 13th.

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

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Why Not to Leave a Church

Church MembershipKey Bible Verse: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do.  – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:5-11

  • You’re feeling convicted of the truth. 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 & Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love

My Response: Am I committed, when I’ve sinned, 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.—Madeline 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 remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – It’s Not an Elective

Church Membership 3Key Bible Verse: Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.  – John 13:35

Bonus Reading:  John 17:20-24

An unsettling revelation to most Christ followers, in light of our fierce individualism, is how many marks of a Christian involve other people.

So much of what is involved in truly following Christ is tied to the “one anothers” of Scripture. Originally sent as apostolic admonishments to Christians gathered in local churches, they include such directives as:

These are clear in their command, decisive in spiritual formation, and impossible to fulfill apart from a local community of faith.

Jesus maintained in John 13:35 that the practice of such community life in and through the church, would offer the ultimate witness to the world about His own life and ministry. He was convinced that the church, functioning as a community of love and witness, would arrest the attention of the world and give ultimate affirmation to His message of salvation. If we fail to participate in this community, we undermine how Christ envisioned His message being affirmed in the eyes of the world.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: How well am I connecting with my local fellow believers?

Thought to Apply: We hear about those who like Christ but do not like the church. How can we like the Head, but not the Body, the Groom, but not the Bride?—Vance Havner

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Special Offering – Sunday, April 15, 2018

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Membership Benefits

Church Membership 2Key Bible Verse: As each part does its own special work … the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  – Ephesians 4:16

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

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 public service. The only benefit was the privilege to serve!

Today we clearly express that 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 their lives to the spiritual authority of this community and welcoming genuine accountability in their spiritual journeys.

So up front, we ask for this sincere, God-motivated 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.

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

My Response: How is my church benefiting from my witness, serving, and giving?

Thought to Apply: The church isn’t a dormitory for sleepers, it’s an institution for workers; it’s not a rest camp, it’s a front-line trench.—Billy Sunday (baseball player, evangelist)

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

When is Easter over? What comes next?

For Christians, Easter is not just one day, but rather a season of 50 days. Easter season begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends with Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

Easter season is more than an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season when persons who wished to become Christians were learning how to live the way of Jesus and preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday. The original purpose of the Easter season was to continue the formation of new Christians in the faith.

Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what we mean when we say Christ is risen and that we, as the church, are the body of the Risen Lord. It’s a season for focusing on the core doctrines and mysteries of the faith and for preparing for the ministries the Spirit has empowered us to undertake in Jesus’ name.

Many churches use these weeks to teach the theology of the sacraments and help people discern their spiritual gifts and callings. These congregations may include a service of commissioning laypersons into ministry as part of their celebration of the day of Pentecost.

The season after Pentecost begins with Trinity Sunday and concludes with Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. The purpose of this season is to support our common work of using the gifts we have been given accountability in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because our contexts for ministry can vary widely, the lectionary readings were chosen to permit more flexibility during this season. The three readings are not related to each other. Pastors and worship planners can create series that follow any one of the three different streams of texts (Old Testament, Epistle, or Gospel), whichever seems to be speaking into the missional context of the local church the best.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Order of Service

Hospital HallwayKey Bible Verse: And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. 1 Peter 2:5

 Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-6

A soldier was wounded in a battle and ordered to the nearest military hospital. Arriving at the entrance, he saw two doors, one marked “For Minor Wounds,” the other “For Serious Wounds.”

He entered the first door and walked down a long hallway. At the end of the hall, he saw two more doors. The first said “For Officers,” the other “For Enlisted Men.” The soldier went through the second door.

Again, he found himself walking down a long hallway with two doors at the end. One said “For Party Members,” the other “For Non-Party Members.” The wounded soldier took the second door and found himself back out on the street.

When he got back to his unit, his buddies asked, “How’d your trip to the hospital go?”

“The people really didn’t help me much,” he said, “but, man, are they organized!”

Sound like a church you’ve known? We can be loaded to the gills with organization but not a lot of help to the walking wounded. The church has the greatest message ever told, the life-changing reality of what it is to know God! Yet people aren’t getting the message. Maybe the church in America is serving up too many bland dishes.

—Andy Cook in The Search for God’s Own Heart

My Response: Could a visitor to my church feel like the wounded soldier? Why or why not?

Thought to Apply: The church is not a museum for finished products. It’s a hospital for the sick.—Bruce Larson

Adapted from The Search for God’s Own Heart (Kregel, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Am I Being Fed?

Find a ChurchKey Bible Verse: You have been Christians a long time now, and 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 about my church involvement makes me more than a consumer?

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – My Church History

Looking for a ChurchWho Said It…Craig Dunham

Craig majored in geography at the University of Missouri. But after graduation he and Doug Serven, also from Mizzou, both began serving with The Navigators, a ministry to young adults. Together, they lead TwentySomeone conferences, seminars, and events.

Craig is also the director of programs and marketing for the Navs’ camping/conference ministry. A musician and songwriter, Craig has recorded five original albums.

What He Said…My Church History

In my twenties, I knew there was no such thing as the perfect church. I evaluated churches and their pastors unfairly. There were, I judged, the megachurch wannabes, the small corner churches, the legalistic churches, and the anything-goes churches.

But my preferences left me in the dark as to exactly what I was looking for. So churches and pastors passed like street signs in the headlights—most of them were hard to read; none led to where I thought I wanted to go.

I was relentless in my reasoning about why I didn’t really need church, falling into the trap of asking, “What’s in it for me?” instead of, “What’s in it for God?”

As a result, I missed out on some great opportunities to meet new people and grow together with them. The only answer this experience provided to “Who am I?” was that I was a judgmental church consumer preoccupied with his own inclinations and opinions. That answer couldn’t help me much in my twenties … or in life.

Adapted from TwentySomeone (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Resurrection Reverberations – Set Free

Colossians 3-4Every believer knows that Jesus’ death on the cross canceled out the penalty for our sin, freeing us from divine condemnation. But what is the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on our lives?

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul shows how we, too, are “set free from the evil powers of this world” (2:20). In the section we’ll look at today, he lays out the mindset that Christ’s resurrection should produce in us.

Interact with God’s Word

Colossians 2:12 Colossians 3:1-4

  1. What sinful desires that used to get the upper hand should you consciously consider “buried”?
  2. What does your new life with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, free you to enjoy?
  3. How can you “set your sights on the realities of heaven” in daily practice?
  4. To “let heaven fill your thoughts,” which values do you need to concentrate on? … to marginalize?
  5. How should knowing that your life is “hidden” with Christ—concealed and safe—give you hope for the future and confidence now?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to give you an eternal perspective, eager anticipation of the joys of heaven, and until then, a resolve to live in His resurrection power.

Colossians 2:12

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2 Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.

3 For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Prayer for the Week:  Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

China Bans Bibles from Online Sellers Like Amazon

The following article appeared in the April 5, 2018 issue of Christianity Today:

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As atheist government pledges to promote “Chinese-style Christianity and theology,” changes at JD.com, Taobao, and Dang Dang may revive debate over Bible access.

China Bans Bibles from Online Sellers Like Amazon

Last week, Chinese social media users began noticing that they couldn’t find Bibles listed on some of their nation’s most popular e-commerce platforms.

Shoppers who searched the word Bible on retailers such as Taobao, Jingdong, Dang Dang, and Amazon.cn began receiving a “no results” response, reported the South China Morning Post.

Search analytics revealed a significant spike in the keyword Bible on March 30. But by April 1, analytics showed a zero, suggesting that the word may have been censored, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote “Chinese Christianity” over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.”

Among China’s main religions—which include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and folk beliefs—Christianity is unique for having its holy text banned from commercial brick-and-mortar bookstores. Until the internet, Bibles could only be obtained via church bookstores (because they lacked a barcode), a reality that in the past has dissuaded house church Christians wary of official Three-Self churches from purchasing the text.

China’s Bible crackdown may renew a debate about whether Bibles should be smuggled into the world’s most populous country. As Gary Russell, now the president of China Harvest, told CT in 2010:

Amity Press Bibles are legal, authentic, and available in many areas, and have made a substantial contribution to the need. But the Amity route is limited in quantity, variety, and distribution. Editions for children and pastors have barely been addressed. And millions of Chinese still have no regular access to a Bible.

Given these realities, covertly supplying Bibles to China is not only legitimate—it is a necessary element of obedience to Christ. While civil authorities are to be honored and respected, their authority is delegated by and limited under God. Restrictions against evangelizing and providing Scripture are not legitimate, and those who love God and China serve well by increasing the country’s Bible supply.

This latest crackdown on China’s Christian community comes two months after the government began implementing a number of regulations on faith. Under these restrictions, religious groups must gain government approval for any sort of religious activity, including using one’s personal home for a religious practice, publishing religious materials, calling oneself a pastor, or studying theology.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would drop presidency term limits, effectively allowing current president Xi Jinping to serve indefinitely. Few Christians may back this development. Overall, Xi’s first (and current) five-year term has not been particularly positive for believers. A provincial government engaged in a multi-year campaign to remove crosses from the tops of churches, while Xi has suggested that religions that inadequately conformed to Communist ideals threatened the country’s government and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.”

Last fall, the Communist party reportedly visited Christian households in Jiangxi province, forcibly removing dozens of Christian symbols from living rooms and replacing them with pictures of Xi.

In the midst of these crackdowns, some Christians have still chosen to speak out against the government, said Fenggang Yang, the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, who joined CT’s Quick to Listen podcast recently.

Yang read a social media post by a Chinese pastor angry at Xi’s term limit extension and clampdown on Christians, calling him a tyrant: “Making politics a religion is an evil act and a violation of the Ten Commandments. This will make the country once again fall into the idolatry of worshipping a person as a God. This will make the nation once again fall into sin provoking Jehovah’s wrath.”

 

Resurrection Reverberations – Courage Corps

MissionaryKey Bible Verse:  While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die we go to be with the Lord.  – Romans 14:8

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 3:1-4

Tom Yoder was frustrated. For six months as a Peace Corps volunteer he’d worked diligently to earn the trust of an African tribe. He was eager to share with them plans for irrigation ditches, lessons about crop rotation, and new ways to market their surplus fruits and vegetables. But he remained a distrusted outsider.

One day a young boy came to Tom’s hut. He pointed to the far end of the village and said, “The family that lives in that hut has fallen ill. They’ve been abandoned to die. But the children are my friends. Can you help?”

Tom rushed to the forbidden hut, entered, and immediately realized that the family had contracted yellow fever. For the next six days, Yoder bathed, fed, and nursed the family until each was strong enough to be transported 90 miles to a hospital. Each family member returned later, completely healed.

The villagers then called Yoder the “great fearless one.” From then on they listened to him, accepting all his farming ideas.

Tom wrote about this amazing turn in his journal: “It’s easy to be fearless when you’ve been vaccinated against a disease.” Followers of Christ have substituted all fear of death with God’s promise of everlasting security.

—Dennis Hensley in More than Meets the Eye

My Response: Do others sense my “wonderful expectation” of my own resurrection?

Thought to Apply: It is the Devil’s business to keep Christians mourning beside the cross instead of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.—Ray Stedman

Adapted from More than Meets the Eye (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Resurrection Reverberations – Daring Death Defyers

ResurrectionKey Bible Verse: Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died. Romans 14:9

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The thought of death has always intimidated. Today most people buy life insurance and try not to think about it. Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch says secularists live on a “borrowed credit card,” glossing over the problem of death with “wishful dreams” based on inherited Christian views. But what ultimate meaning is there to an existence that after eight or nine decades passes into sheer nothingness?

Christians believe that death isn’t a passage into nothingness but a transition into a glorious eternity.

Why? Because one person, Jesus of Nazareth, has already returned from the dead. For Christians, death doesn’t terrify because the tomb was empty, because the One with whom the disciples had lived appeared to them and assured them that He is alive forevermore. So we declare with Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

That’s why the Christian can act courageously. Our motto isn’t life at any cost; death for the King’s cause is no disaster. Since we await the risen Lord, we dare to face down racists, go as missionaries to danger spots, leave secure homes to join the poor in oppressive situations, and apply His call to peace and justice in our governments.

—Ronald Sider in The Gospel with Extra Salt

My Response: Am I refusing to face ultimate life-and-death issues?

Thought to Apply: The Resurrection is not only the Good News, it is the best news imaginable.—Ray Stedman

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Resurrection Reverberations – Last Rites First

CannibalsKey Bible Verse: I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  – Galatians 2:20

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 2:6-12

In 1837 three young Methodist ministers—James Calvert, John Hunt, and Thomas Jagar—and their wives set out from England for the Fiji Islands. Theirs was a difficult assignment. The venture was only three years old, and the people were still cannibals. They saw hardly any fruit during their first few years of service.

Then in 1845 revival swept through the islands. Chief Thadkombau, who’d been the main opponent of Christianity, was converted. Within a few years the islands were completely transformed as the gospel took hold of the people there.

Earlier, the captain of the ship that transported the three couples from England tried to dissuade them from going to the islands. He told James Calvert, “You’ll lose your lives and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.”

Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

In the previous century, the founder of their movement, John Wesley, said, “Give me a hundred men who love God with all their hearts and fear nothing but sin, and I will move the world.”  Those three young missionaries were part of God’s answer to Wesley’s prayer—and a demonstration of living in resurrection power.

—Leighton Ford in Good News Is for Sharing

My Response: What have I died to for Christ? How have I drawn on resurrection power?

Thought to Apply: I became my own only when I gave myself to Another.—C. S. LEWIS (British scholar, writer)

Adapted from Good News Is for Sharing (Cook, 1977)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Prayer Request – Food Ministry – Update!

Yesterday at our “Soup Tuesday” food ministry outreach, a young man suffered a grand mal seizure, and we promptly called for paramedics to come to assist him.

That, and especially the abundance of prayers from Central’s corporeal and online communities, appears to have saved that young man’s life.

As emergency treatment continued at the Medical Center, they discovered that the seizure had been triggered by the combination of a number of very potent medications from several different sources that in combination produced a violent reaction.

The young man was successfully stabilized yesterday, and has now been released from the Medical Center!

We thank God for the skill and prompt treatment provided by medical professionals and praise Him for the quick answer to so many prayers offered for our young man’s care and well being.

We also thank God for the continuing ministry of our community food outreach program. Although we might at times take this important source of nutrition and socialization for granted, If our young man had suffered his violent reaction while at alone home or elsewhere, this story might have had a much more tragic ending.

 

 

Resurrection Reverberations – Energy Emission

Romans 6-4 (3)Key Bible Verse:  Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  – Romans 6:4

Bonus Reading:  Romans 6:1-11

The New Testament says that when people believe in Jesus Christ, then the same divine power that raised Jesus from the dead now works in believers to empower them to live the way Jesus did.

Just as Christ died and was raised, so by faith we can die to the old life of selfishness and rise to a new life in Christ. “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism” (Romans 6:4).

Now that the risen Lord lives in those who believe in Him, they will for His sake live for others.  This may mean rejecting or abandoning an attractive position in Toronto or Vancouver to work with the poor in the Third World.  It may mean deciding to live in the scarred inner city rather than in the pleasant suburbs.  It will certainly mean risking the disapproval of friends, colleagues, and parishioners by clearly and persistently announcing the biblical word that God is on the side of the poor and calls us to be peacemakers.

Because Christ lives in us, we have the spiritual energy to choose the difficult. We’ll be able to exhibit the same kind of love Christ revealed in dying for us precisely because the God who raised our Lord Jesus now raises us to a new life for others.

—Ronald Sider in The Gospel with Extra Salt

My Response: How is my resurrection life flowing out to others?

Thought to Apply: Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the Resurrection.—John Stott (British pastor)

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Prayer Request – Food Ministry

Central Church provides over 10,000 free, nutritious meals to our community each year, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase as we move through 2018, all through the generosity of many small givers and an active congregation of less than 20 dedicated souls.

Today, we are asking for prayers for a man who suffered a grand mal epileptic seizure while participating in our “Soup Tuesday” luncheon outreach.  We called paramedics to assist and medical personnel are attending to him now.

 

Resurrection Reverberations – The Great Omission

John 14-6Key Bible Verse:  I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.   John 14:6

Bonus Reading:   Colossians 1:15-22

I was thrilled that our President called the nation to prayer on the Friday after the terrorist attack. The previously cynical press embraced the event like eager altar boys. Dignitaries and beltway politicians lined the front rows like approving deacons and elders.

“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was sung with power. President Bush delivered a reverent yet moving message peppered with biblical references. Billy Graham spoke of his faith in Jesus and pointed to the cross on the wall.

But afterward, as I basked in the glow of the momentous cathedral service, a friend said to me, “Did you notice that when ‘A Mighty Fortress’ was sung they omitted the second stanza?” I hadn’t, and quickly recalled the words:

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, From age to age the same, and He must win the battle.

In post-9/11 America, God was back but Jesus was not. The thought of Jesus as the supreme and exclusive victor over evil, was too disruptive. Too divisive.

—Joseph Stowell in The Trouble with Jesus

My Response:  How prepared am I to stick up for Jesus as the world’s “only way” Savior?

Adapted from The Trouble with Jesus (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Tablets

2 Easter Myths

Although Easter Sunday is over, Eastertide is just beginning.

Easter for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

While the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is still fresh in our minds it’s a good time to bust some Easter myths you may have seen circulating online.

* Myth #1: Easter is a pagan holiday. Sorry atheists and grumpy, keep-bunnies-out-of-Easter Christians, but this one’s not true. Christians didn’t rip off Easter from a fertility goddess or hijack the holiday from a bunny cult.

It turns out Christians were celebrating Easter by the second century. It’s not as exciting as the conspiracy theories but it turns out that Easter simply traces back to the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God from the dead.

* Myth #2: Easter celebrates the glorious fact that Jesus didn’t die or go to purgatory. If you haven’t heard this one, the respected news outlet, NPR, fell for it.  Thankfully they ran a retraction: “An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Easter as ‘the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven.'”

Happy Eastertide!

Resurrection Reverberations – Radical Redefinition

Every Knee Shall BowWho Said It…Ronald Sider

Ron shook North American Christians in 1977 with his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  Since then he’s continued to live in inner-city Philadelphia, promoting community development, writing provocative books, and publishing Prism magazine.

Sider, raised in Canada, is the professor of theology and culture at Eastern Seminary, and the founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

What He Said…Radical Redefinition

Before the Resurrection, Jesus’ followers called him “Master,” “Rabbi,” “Teacher.” Afterward they called him “Messiah,” “Son of God,” “Lord.”

This word lord (Greek kurios) was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to translate the word Yahweh—the name for the one God at the center of Jewish monotheism. It became a frequently used title for Jesus.

Paul applied to Jesus the words from Isaiah 45:23, which the monotheistic prophet had used for Yahweh.  After mocking the idols, Yahweh insisted that He alone was God: “Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name.”

The rabbinically trained Paul—an uncompromising monotheist in his day—took those words from the mouth of Yahweh and applied them to Jesus, declaring that “at the name of Jesus every knew will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). The carpenter is kurios—God!

Adapted from The Gospel with Extra Salt (Judson, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Please show me, Lord, how the reality of Easter should impact my day-to-day life.

Happy Easter Monday!

Lenten Devotional – Easter Monday – Wounds Run Deep

EasterKey Bible Verse:  “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? …”  – John 21:15a

Bonus Reading:  John 21:1-19

We are often cut to the core by our own sins, by the hasty words and hurtful things we have done and by our failure to do the good things God put it in our power to do. The scar of our personal failings can run very deep in us, just as the scar of Peter’s three denials ran deep.

After His resurrection our Lord went to work right away healing that wound. Luke tells us that Jesus made an appearance to Peter on the afternoon of His resurrection (Luke 24:34). And in today’s reading John records another special conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Easter 2On that dark night in Jerusalem Simon denied His Savior three times. Now, on this bright morning at the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus leads Peter to confess his devotion to His Savior three times. Then Jesus gives Peter a glorious promise. In the future, when Peter’s life is in danger for Jesus’ sake, he will not weaken in denial. Simon Peter will remain faithful in his confession and die as a martyr of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died and rose again for your sins—each and every one of them. They are all forgiven. This is something He constantly reminds you through His Word, through the waters of your Baptism and by the body and blood He gives you in worship— the price He willingly paid for your eternal salvation. His Holy Spirit will keep you strong in the confession of His Name, until our Lord welcomes you into paradise.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, let Your light continue to shine in this dark world, that with boldness and confidence I may live for You, until You come again and scatter the darkness forever. I pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

Lenten Devotional – Easter Sunday – The Light Shines

Easter - Resurrection SundayKey Bible Verse:  “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ …” John 20:16a

Bonus Reading:  John 20:1-18

After the long, dark weekend, Mary Magdalene left early Sunday morning to go out to Jesus’ tomb. Already filled with grief and sorrow she saw the tomb broken open and Jesus’ body missing.

She ran to tell the disciples someone had stolen His body. Peter and John ran out to investigate, then went back into hiding to consider what they had seen. Mary stayed behind at the tomb, overwhelmed with sorrow.

Have you ever stood at a graveside totally lost and immersed in unspeakable grief ? Imagine Mary’s pain, totally shattered by the brutal murder of her Lord.

But Jesus had already told His disciples how the story would end. This was a day of joy and victory; it was not a day of grief and loss. And so Jesus came up to her and at the sound of her name on His lips, the light burst forth and scattered the darkness of Mary’s grief.

When we stand by a loved one’s grave, this is a moment to remember. On the Last Day our loved ones who are now separated from us, hidden in the darkness of the grave will stand before us shining. Their voices that are now still in death will be music in our ears once again when the Light comes to raise the dead and vanquish the darkness forever.

We will see Jesus with our own eyes just as Mary did on that great day of resurrection. And we will shine in that glorious light forever and ever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for bursting out of the tomb on this glorious day, revealing our future and that of our loved ones who have died in faith. Give us joy, courage and hope as we await that glorious day of Your return, and help us share it with all. We pray in Your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

See you at Central Church – Easter Sunday Service at 11 am!

Happy Easter!

As believers, we celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, but on Easter, we have the opportunity to be even more intentional. We remember and celebrate our salvation resulting from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These truths have the power to dramatically change our lives every day of the year.

We pray that as you celebrate Easter with family, friends, and your church, you remember and share the power of the resurrection.

 

 

Easter Blessings!

Easter 2The blessing of the Lord be upon you…  

Psalms 129:8 

 

May the glory and the promise of this joyous time of year

Bring peace and happiness to you and those you hold most dear,

And may Christ, Our Risen Saviour, always be there by your side

To bless you most abundantly and be your loving guide.

 

 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter