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High-Profile Turnarounds – The Goal

Paul HendersonKey Bible Verse: The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:2

Bonus Reading:  Romans 8:1-11

Most mature Canadians know exactly where they were on September 28, 1972, during the final hockey “Summit Series” game against the Russians. With 34 seconds left, Team Canada’s left winger Paul Henderson banged home the winner!

Despite the ensuing fame and fortune, within months Paul grew restless. “I’d buy a new car or set of clubs,” he says, “and in two weeks, I was bored with them.” What’s wrong with me? he wondered. Why can’t I sleep at night?

Paul pictured God as a cosmic killjoy; a man’s man, he assumed, couldn’t be a follower of Christ. But finally, in desperation, he picked up a Bible he’d received as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For two-and-a-half years he laboriously studied it and grilled a Christian friend. “I came to believe there really was a God, and that He loved me,” he says.

But in the same breath in which he surrendered his life to Christ, Paul warned God, “Don’t expect me to tell anybody about this! I’ll never have the guts to do it.” Today, as director of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada’s Leadership Group, he’s told tens of thousands about something more important to him than scoring The Goal.

—Judy Nelson in Worldwide Challenge

My Response: With whom could I share the story of my own turnaround?

Thought to Apply: Once I was blind … and now I see! And the difference is the good news of God’s love. —Walter Brueggemann (professor)

Adapted from Worldwide Challenge (3-4/98)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

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High-Profile Turnarounds – Mel Gibson’s Search

Mel GibsonKey Bible Verse: He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 2:13-15

At the height of his stardom, Mel Gibson had achieved everything he ever hoped for—except a sense of purpose. Gibson felt he was drowning in fame, wealth, drink, and despair. This led the one-time “sexiest man alive” to his knees and back to God. In a Reader’s Digest interview, Gibson told Peggy Noonan, “I was really searching, asking ‘What’s on the other side? Why am I here?’ I might have looked like I’m living the high life, making movies and jetting around the world, but true happiness resides within. I was spiritually bankrupt. It was like a spiritual cancer starting to eat its way through. I simply had to do something or it was going to take me.”

This 12-year pilgrimage led Gibson to the Gospels and the passion of Christ. He realized what Jesus did on the cross. Gibson described it to Noonan this way: “The purpose of the sacrifice [of Christ] was to expiate the transgressions of all mankind. The testimonies from the Gospels speak of love, of ransom, and a complete forgetting of self for the sake of all others, which is really the height of heroism. Jesus became the whipping boy so that we have a chance, because we can’t make it on our own.”

—Matt Neace in PreachingToday.com

My Response: I’ll thank Jesus for becoming the “whipping boy” for my sins.

Thought to Apply: Once I was lost … and now I am found. And the difference is the Gospel.—Walter Brueggemann (professor)

Adapted from PreachingToday.com (4/4/04)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

High-Profile Turnarounds – “Pat Summerall Here”

Pat Summerall and John MaddenKey Bible Verse: But God is so rich in mercy … that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life.  – Ephesians 2:4-5

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 2:1-10

For 45 years Pat Summerall’s voice and face have spelled football. After his own career as a star kicker, Pat went into broadcasting, at first covering golf and tennis. Teamed for years with John Madden, he was a Sunday afternoon voice of Fox TV NFL football.

But Pat was an only child whose parents divorced before he was born, leaving him feeling empty and alone. He became an alcoholic, living from drink to drink as his body broke down. During the 1994 Masters tournament, he faced up: “I’d been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood—and I got sick again at 4 a.m. I looked in the mirror, saw what a terrible sight I was, and said to myself, ‘This isn’t how I want to live.'”

Pat spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California. This helped alleviate his alcohol problems but didn’t address his spiritual vacuum. Then he bumped into his old coach, Tom Landry, who explained about his spiritual need and connected him with Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Weber. Pat’s life was transformed, and he was baptized at age 69. “Summerall was once the life of every party with a drink in his hand,” Weber says. “Now he gets his power from another source.”

—Art Stricklin in Sports Spectrum

My Response: How has the Spirit’s power broken destructive patterns in my life?

Thought to Apply: Once I was enslaved … and now I am free! And the difference is God’s rescuing merc —Walter Brueggmann (professor)

Adapted from Sports Spectrum (11-12/01)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Here on Memorial Day, below please find an insightful reflection by Roger Brady, retired as a general from the United States Air Force,that appears in today’s issue of Christianity Today online:


Whether we wear a uniform or not, we all have sacrificial service to offer.

Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Image: Ken Holmes / Lightstock

Memorial Day likely conjures up memories for all of us. Mine start from when I was too young to know what the day meant.

When I was a young boy, it was a family time, a holiday from school or other obligations, and a time for picnics, multi-generational baseball games in an open field, and reunions with seldom-seen relatives.

Over the years I have gained a much greater appreciation for this day and what it means. From my first assignment in Vietnam to my last in Germany, I was continually reminded of the extraordinary sense of commitment and service in the young men and women with whom I was privileged to serve.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

During my last assignment, as 33rd commander of the US Air Forces in Europe, I routinely received invitations to speak at memorial events at one or more of the many cemeteries in Europe where young Americans are interred. I was particularly moved by an event in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe.

The heavy traffic that normally circles that beautiful edifice at a frantic pace had been stopped, and a crowd had gathered to remember and honor French and American men and women who had given their lives in the horrible wars of the 20th century. Many living veterans of those conflicts wore the uniform they had first donned at a much earlier age, and some of them still bore the scars of war. It was humbling to be in their company that day.

For four decades, I was honored to serve with thousands of dedicated young men and women. Some of them would die in service to their country. We were extremely sad at their loss as we comforted their loved ones and each other. They gave their very best, and we were reminded that we must do the same. They died serving something bigger than themselves—the transcendent ideals that make America the country we cherish.

For us as Christians, this day should have an even more poignant meaning. Many of the same values that our nation hopes to nurture and the traits military members are challenged to embody are consistent with those perfectly modeled for us by our Savior. He was the quintessential example of service and sacrifice.

In his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul said, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7–8).

But before he died, he lived. Boy, did he live! To the consternation of those watching him, he invited himself to the home of a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus, he challenged the hypocrisy of religious leaders by coming to the rescue of a prostitute, he exposed the meaninglessness of their religiosity by healing the sick on the Sabbath, and he challenged bigotry and insensitivity by publicly engaging in conversation with a Samaritan woman that his society said was unworthy of his time.

As Christians, this example is our heritage also, regardless of our earthly citizenship. Citizenship in his kingdom, after all, is the one that counts. Do not mistake what I am saying. I am grateful every day for that I am a citizen of America, and there is no other place on earth I would rather call home. Like most Americans, I am here by virtue of circumstances over which I had no control. I cannot explain it. I can just be thankful for it.

Patriotism and Piety

As I now view life in America as a private citizen, I am struck by the similarity of our expressions of patriotism and faith. Occasionally I wonder if we get the cross and the flag confused. As American Christians, we are indeed twice-blessed, but we should not get the two confused. America is an imperfect place, an unfinished project, an ideal we hope to make a reality.

Our citizenship in the kingdom of God is a gift extended to us freely by God’s grace. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8–10).

The society in which Jesus lived also had many problems. There was hypocrisy, bigotry, poverty, and oppression of the weak by the strong, and he condemned all of that. America is probably a better place than that for even the most marginalized of our citizens, but it is not always what it should be for all of us. As Christians, regardless of our earthly citizenship, this is part of the work he left us to do. Is it our duty as Americans? Yes, it is—but even more so as citizens of his kingdom.

I do not always understand how God’s providence works. I cannot explain why those extraordinary individuals we now call our “founding fathers” came together when they did. They created a country based on their belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” Their belief in these universal, eternal truths—however imperfect their understanding and expression of those truths—yielded a society in which people of faith can function with more freedom than anywhere else in the world.

Does this mean that God favors America? I often hear people express that belief, but what I read in his Word is that he favors people who rely on him, who place their trust in him, and who proclaim him as their God, regardless of their earthly citizenship. Does that ensure their health and wealth and a life of ease? No, it ensures us of the opportunity to be his sons and daughters, to tell others of the salvation that was freely given to us, to share in his suffering, and to live with him eternally.

The American writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, once said we should give loyalty to our country always and to the government when it deserves it. I believe he meant that our only true loyalty is to those eternal principles to which governments aspire but do not always demonstrate. There may well come times when our government takes a path we cannot in good conscience follow, and we must stand where God stands. But it is right that we devote time to remember and honor those fellow citizens who gave their all for us—we are forever in their debt.

Living a Life of Service

Most Americans will never serve in the military—actually less than one percent of our population do so.  And even among those of us who do, very, very few of us are asked to give that last full measure of devotion.  So what is the question for us on this day as we remember those Americans who died on our behalf?

I believe that question is —for what shall we live?  Whether or not we wear the uniform of our country, we all have a service to offer, a service to those ideals that reflect God’s universal truths and that our American ancestors captured in the formation of this country.

When Jesus left this earth to take his place at the right hand of the Father, he left us, his bride, the church, to carry on his work.  So when evil strikes in the form of a school shooting or when nature unleashes its fury and devastates property and lives, when children suffer, when people are hungry or homeless and ask “Where is God?!” we must be there and have them see him in us.

We must bring his comfort and his healing to this world. When we live lives of service to those around us, we honor the God who saved us and we honor all those who gave that last full measure to secure for us all the things we enjoy in this nation.  Someday we will find ourselves at the end of our lives looking back, and we will ask ourselves what it was all for.

At that moment, we will all want to recall a life of service to something larger than ourselves, to children who needed our teaching and our example of service, to people whom we gave a hand up in time of need, to friends and colleagues whom we comforted in times of sorrow, lives with whom we shared the many physical and spiritual blessings that have been bestowed on us.

If we live that life of service, we will have fulfilled the challenge of the Savior when he said, “Whatever you did for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

So on Memorial Day, and every day, we need to ask ourselves, for what shall we live? How are we doing at fulfilling not just the ideals of our American forefathers but those universal values set in place by the one who made us in his image, who sent his only begotten son to secure our salvation, the one who “created us in him to do good works?”

Roger Brady retired as a general from the United States Air Force. He speaks and writes on principled leadership and serves as minister of adult education in his local congregation. His books include Forget Success!! and Nothing Has Changed.

 

High-Profile Turnarounds – Holy Edge?

Franklin and Billy GrahamKey Bible Verse: Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God”  – John 3:3

Bonus Reading:  John 3:4-17

Upbringing is never enough to give anyone an “extra push” into heaven. Ask Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy. Talk about having spiritual connections! But Franklin will be the first to tell you that it wasn’t enough. Raised in the spiritual greenhouse of the Graham home, Franklin went through the right motions: baptism, regular church attendance, and exposure to a steady diet of the gospel. But deep inside, Franklin knew he was hollow.

One evening in Switzerland Billy Graham confronted his son. “Your mother and I sense that you’re struggling in your heart, Franklin. You need to face the truth; you need to make your own decision. Until you do, you won’t have peace.”

Angered by his father’s words, Franklin decided to run from the truth. He ran to several Middle East countries trying to fill his life without committing it to Christ. Then one night in a hotel room in Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus had conversation with Nicodemus[John 3:4-17], Franklin decided Jesus was right. He prayed, received Him into his life, and was born again. Now he was more than the son of a world-renowned preacher. He was a child of the living God.

—Skip Heitzig in Jesus Up Close

My Response: Do I sense that I’m hollow … or know that I’ve been reborn?

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

High-Profile Turnarounds – My 180-degree Turn

Darrell WaltripWho Said It…Darrell Waltrip

Darrell started racing go-carts at age 12 and entered his first stock car race just four years later. He became a full-time NASCAR Winston Cup competitor in 1975. In the 1980s, he earned its Driver of the Decade award. Today, he holds 84 Winston Cup victories.

Darrell is currently a commentator for NASCAR Fox Sports and hosts a weekly Bible study in his garage for 75 men. He and his wife, Stevie, have two children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

What He Said…My 180–degree Turn

I was a church kid. So I knew when I was doing something wrong, but I’d do it anyway. I lived that way as an adult, too.

After Stevie put Jesus first in her life, she was on me about going to church. I raced on Sunday; that was my excuse for not going. Then a friend told us about a church that met in a high school on Wednesday night, and I lost my excuse. We went. Everything the pastor said seemed directed my way. God was getting my attention.

We were at church one July night in 1983. That racing season wasn’t going well; neither was our marriage. I was desperate enough to ask our pastor to pray for us. Then I prayed. I asked the Lord to come into my life and get me out of the mess I was in. I told Him I was a sinner and asked Him to forgive me.

God didn’t flip a switch; rather, my life and outlook slowly started to improve. God had changed me.

Adapted from Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.Psalm 51:1

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Divorce

DivorceThe Pharisees were trying to corner Jesus by getting him to take sides in a controversy over interpreting Moses’ regulation about divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Could it be granted for a variety of reasons, or only for marital unfaithfulness? By quoting Genesis 1:17 and 2:24, Jesus pushed the discussion back to the prior question of God’s design for marriage.

Interact with God’s Word: Matthew 19:3-9

  1. Why, according to Jesus (in v. 6), does dividing a husband and wife run counter to God’s plan?
  2. Why (v. 6) are human attempts to justify separation usurping God’s authority?
  3. To what human failings does God attribute the breakup of a marriage (v. 8)?
  4. How does Jesus describe God’s allowance of Moses’ provision for divorce (v. 8)?
  5. How should current rationales for divorce, such as “incompatibility,” be viewed in light of Jesus’ statement in verse 9?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God for the unshakeable resolve and sacrificial love required to keep your marriage intact for a lifetime.

Matthew 19:3-9

3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’

6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say a man could merely write an official letter of divorce and send her away?” they asked.

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Renewable Vows

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does … let her remain single or else go back to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Bonus Reading:  Hosea 2:7, 14, 23; 3:1

John Cayce, the chief justice of the Court of Appeals for Texas’s Second District, and his lovely wife, Diane, have two daughters and one lively granddaughter. There were the usual struggles early in their marriage. They occasionally fought. Eventually the tensions crowded out the romance, and John and Diane were divorced.

After being separated for around four years, John and Diane remarried—each other! They worked through their hurt, anger, frustration, and rebellion—and found their love on the other side. Whatever they had before wound up being replaced by something more beautiful and enduring. Romantic love became mature, complete love. The solution, as John and Diane happily tell anyone who’ll listen, is inviting God to the marriage, not just the wedding.

As miraculous as their renewed vows seem in our disposable society, John and Diane didn’t stop there. They now host a Marriage Reconciliation seminar in their church. Since it was initiated several years ago, more than 100 other couples have renewed their vows—with a beaming Chief Justice John Cayce presiding, and a proud Diane and one fidgety granddaughter looking on.

—Jody Dean in Finding God in the Evening News

My Response: I’ll set a time with my wife to repeat our wedding vows.

Thought to Apply: A successful marriage demands a divorce—a divorce from your own self-love.—Paul Frost

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

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Bailout?

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.  – Luke 9:62

Bonus Reading:  1 King 19:19-21

Hernando Cortés had a plan. He wanted to lead an expedition into Mexico to capture its vast treasures. When he told the Spanish governor of Cuba his strategy, the governor got so excited that he gave him 11 ships and 700 men. Little did the governor know that Cortés had failed to tell him the entire plan.

After months of sailing, the 11 ships landed at Veracruz in the spring of 1519. As soon as the men unloaded the ships, Cortés instituted the rest of his plan. He ran the ships aground and dismantled them!

Like it or not, they were now committed. By disassembling the ships, Cortés eliminated the options. He didn’t know what he’d encounter on his expeditions to the interior. He didn’t know the strength of the people he’d be fighting. But he did know this: There were no escape routes for his men. If the fighting got too fierce, or the expedition got too exhausting, there’d be no talk of going back to Veracruz and sailing home. In one fell swoop Cortés had eliminated their options and created an intensely powerful motivation to succeed.

Men, there’s only one way to save our marriages. Commitment is saying that no matter what comes in the future, we’re going to stick it out. We have to dismantle our ships.

—Steve Farrar in Point Man

My Response: What escapes from a difficult marriage am I ruling out?

Thought to Apply: When the Coast Guard band strikes up “Semper Fidelis” and your husband says, “They’re playing our song,” you know you’re married.—Erma Bombeck

Adapted from Point Man (Multnomah, 1990)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

God Didn’t Make That, but He Loves You and Other Truths About the Homosexual Lifestyle

This article is the third in a series concerning the issue of whether of whether the United Methodist Church should retain its current language in the Discipline concerning homosexuality will be the subject of a special General Conference in 2019.

The current Discipline language currently provides that:

  • All people, including homosexuals, are persons of sacred worth.
  • Nevertheless, the practice of homosexuality in incompatible with Christian teaching.
  • Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals cannot serve as clergy (since pastors serve as role models and therefore cannot openly advocate by their lifestyle any sin (e.g., adultery, homosexuality, embezzlement) as acceptable).

The following material is excerpted from article by Susan Wright dealing with Scripture’s position on homosexuality that was published on May 21. 

(Susan’s article focused particularly on the appropriate response to sexual sins committed by priests in the Roman Catholic Church, and those comments are not reproduced below since they add an additional level to the discussion that is not currently under discussion in the United Methodist Church.  However, you can read her complete article at:  “God Didn’t Make That…”.)

God did not create homosexuality or make anyone gay.

To believe this is to believe our Father in Heaven changes and contradicts Himself.  He does not (Malachi 3:6).

I’ve heard this corrupted line of reasoning before, that those caught in the gay lifestyle were created that way.

In Genesis 2:24, God lays the groundwork for sexuality and marriage. This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.”

It’s specific.  There’s no room left for interpretation.  Father, mother, man, wife.

The harsher, pre-grace Old Testament version specifically notes in Leviticus 18:22You shall not lie [intimately] with a male as one lies with a female; it is repulsive.”

So what about the New Testament?  Did Jesus come and wipe away the old rules and make it an anything goes society?  Not at all.

Mark 10:6-9But ‘God made them male and female’[a] from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife,[b] and the two are united into one.’[c] Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

Romans 1:26-2726 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

God’s Word is clear, from beginning to end.  And He will not contradict Himself to create that which He calls repulsive or an abomination.  To suggest it makes no sense and distorts the truth of Who God is.

The more likely scenario that is troublesome and against human nature here is that homosexuality is a result of the Fall of Man from the beginning.

Adam’s first act of pride and disobedience in the Garden of Eden introduced sin into the world. As a result, the children born after carried the DNA of Adam, a sinful man.

Sickness, birth defects, disorders, and every manner of perversion were visited through the seed of Adam.

Are people “born gay”?

I believe they are, but they were never meant to live that life, any more than the original intent for life was to be born deaf or blind.

Am I calling homosexuality a “birth defect”?

I’m saying it is a perversion of God’s plan. It is a spiritual defect, exacerbated by a church that has failed to exhibit the compassion of Christ for far too long, and a dark world that tells them they can live outside of God’s will, as long as it “feels good” right now.

If God can love the lame and destitute, as Jesus Christ showed by preaching and healing the sick or granting forgiveness to the woman caught in adultery, He can surely love the homosexual.

There are no levels of sin, except in our own view.

God loves all sinners, but He calls them all to abandon their flesh and to live according to His way, because He knows best for us.

God showed that He loves us, even in our sin, by sending His best to stand as a sacrifice for those sins, but it’s a free gift of grace that only becomes valid when it is accepted.

This world has burdened us all with struggles, some more devastating than others.  We were told to expect troubles in this world.  We were, however, given a promise of something better, if we have faith, grow and persevere, dying to self and picking up the cross of Christ.

There is grace and forgiveness at the cross for the homosexual, loved by an almighty God, in spite of the worldly stumbling block placed on them.

That being said, God does not ignore sin, and has given ample warning through His Word.  To suggest anything outside of that is dangerous.

We should also pray for the LGBT community, that they understand that their worth in the eyes of God is immeasurable.  There is grace available to them, and that a rejection of the LGBT lifestyle by Christians is not a rejection of them, as human beings.  They are loved.

We, the Body of Christ, need to do more to get that message across.

 

 

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Faceoff

DivorceKey Bible Verse: Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Luke 16:18

Bonus Reading: Matthew 19:3-9

I heard that Alan was divorcing Karen. I immediately called Alan and arranged to meet. His first words: “You don’t know the whole picture, Kenny.”

“Really?” I replied. “Can I tell you what I do know, Bro? I think you’re throwing your wife under the bus after 15 years of a good marriage. In a matter of three months, she’s somehow gone from being the best thing that ever happened to you to becoming Cruella de Vil. How convenient for you and your new friend!”

“It’s best for me and for Karen,” Alan responded defensively.

“Right! Alan. You get to have sex with a beautiful woman half your age. You don’t have to change or grow or take responsibility for the day-to-day demands of raising the kids. You can have your cake and eat it too.”

Alan mumbled that he’d “think about” what I said, but I could tell he believed his sin nature’s lies: “It can’t be God’s plan for you to live in a miserable marriage. The kids will eventually understand, and you make enough money to provide for them.” Otherwise, how does a guy go from being dedicated to God, his wife, and kids to becoming an alimony-paying divorcee living in a one-bedroom apartment?

—Kenny Luck in Every Man, God’s Man

My Response: What steps could I take to redeem a “miserable” marriage?

Thought to Apply: Marriage is our last best chance to grow up.—Joseph Barth (pastor)

Adapted from Every Man, God’s Man (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ask The UMC: Can you explain Way Forward plans, COB recommendation?

The issue of whether of whether the United Methodist Church should retain its current language in the Discipline concerning homosexuality will be the subject of a special General Conference in 2019.

The UMC’s Council of Bishops has abandoned its role of working to discern God’s will from Scripture on this issue and is instead focusing on marketing in an effort to avoid members leaving the Church.

The current Discipline language currently provides that:

  • All people, including homosexuals, are persons of sacred worth.
  • Nevertheless, the practice of homosexuality in incompatible with Christian teaching.
  • Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals cannot serve as clergy (since pastors serve as role models and therefore cannot openly advocate by their lifestyle any sin (e.g., adultery, homosexuality, embezzlement) as acceptable).

Click here to see the first article on this issue from May 18.

Below please find an additional explanation from the Council of Bishops.  As you read it, ask yourself whether Scriptural analysis or marketing analysis was used when the Bishops decided to abandon the UMC’s current, Bible-based position in favor of not taking any position at all?


Could you explain the plans of the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops recommendation?

The Council of Bishops considered three plans developed by the Commission on a Way Forward. The Council of Bishops has indicated its majority recommendation for the One Church Plan, which could allow for different approaches in different places.  Their report to the special called 2019 General Conference will also include information about the other two plans.

  • One Church Plan (recommended): The one-church model would allow different United Methodists in different places to make different decisions regarding ministry with or by LGBTQ persons rather than maintaining a single standard that operates everywhere throughout the worldwide church. This plan would remove restrictive language from the Book of Discipline and give conferences, churches and pastors the flexibility to “uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality without changing the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.”

United Methodists in central conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe would retain the authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and could continue to include their traditional language and values. 

This plan would also protect the rights of United Methodists whose theological convictions will not allow them to perform same-sex weddings or ordain LGBTQ people.  

  • Traditionalist Plan: This plan would affirm the current language about homosexuality in the Book of Discipline and seek to strengthen enforcement for violations of church law.

  • Connectional-Conference Plan: This plan would create three connectional conferences based on theology or perspective, each having clearly defined values (accountability, contextualization and justice). The three connectional conferences would function throughout the worldwide church and the five existing U.S. jurisdictions would be abolished. 

Adaptations to the Book of Discipline would be allowed by each connectional conference. Annual conferences would determine their affiliation with a connectional conference. Local churches who choose a branch other than the one chosen by their annual conference could vote to join another conference. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.

The full report and legislation will be available following translation into the official languages of the General Conference. The estimated release date is July 8, 2018.

The 2019 General Conference will receive the report and legislation and make decisions about whether or how to change our current connectional relationships.

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

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Bedrock

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  “I hate divorce!” says the Lord. … “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.” Malachi 2:16

Bonus Reading: Malachi 2:13-16

Our culture treats marriage as a contract—a civil agreement between two parties that can be broken if either feels its terms have been violated. Most people don’t take divorce lightly, but many see it as a back door exit if their marriage doesn’t “work out.”

In contrast, Scripture teaches us that marriage is a lifelong union. God’s relational power and presence mysteriously bring two people together and make them one. The bond between a man and a wife is a covenant, a binding promise both partners make to one another, with their Maker as a witness. This bedrock, upon which a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman can be built, requires much of both spouses. Yet it offers life, protection, and security as no mere legal contract can.

Our individualistic culture has profoundly shaped me. The covenant of marriage demands that I lay down my imbedded independence and self-sufficiency for the sake of another. God doesn’t grant me permission to renege on my promise if disappointment or suffering in marriage seems overwhelming. The marriage covenant is a solemn oath before God to honor, esteem, and care for my wife—’til death do us part.

—Adam Holz in Discipleship Journal

My Response: How may cultural assumptions about marriage have eroded my allegiance to the biblical standard?

Thought to Apply: A covenant cannot be terminated. It can only be violated.—Ross T. Bender (seminary professor)

– Adapted from Discipleship Journal (7-8/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Two Phony ‘Facts’

DivorceKey Bible Verse:  The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favor from the Lord.  – Proverbs 18:22

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 5:31-33

  • “Everyone is sleeping around.” – Despite what you hear in popular music and on TV sitcoms, research reveals a high degree of fidelity.

A study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center showed that 83 percent of Americans slept with only one person or else none in the course of a year. That leaves just 17 percent who were promiscuous.

  • “The annual American divorce rate is one out of two.” – This, pollster Louis Harris writes, “is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetuated.”

Think about it. On the block where you live, is every second home breaking up?

Out of the roughly 55 million current U.S. marriages, a tragic 1.2 million will end in divorce this year. But the other 53.8 million marriages, Harris notes, “just keep flowing along like Ol’ Man River.”

The one-in-two superstition arose by comparing 1.2 million divorces in a year with 2.4 million weddings in a year. But the couples getting divorced aren’t the same couples who just got married; the two numbers have no direct link. So Generation X shouldn’t be afraid of getting married! You can make a go of it—especially if you put God at the center of your relationship.

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: I’ll ask God to preserve the marriages of families in my community.

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Ban the ‘D’ Word – Shatterproof Homes

DivorceWho Said It…Richard Land

Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Commission works to keep the public informed on critical issues facing the family and the nation.

He was also appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Dr. Land (with a Ph.D. from Oxford University), has also served as pastor, professor, and adviser to a former Texas governor.

What He Said…Shatterproof Homes

Speaking at his father’s funeral, former Vice President Al Gore said something penetrating, “My father, Albert Gore Sr., was the greatest man I ever knew. And the greatest lesson that my father ever taught me was the way he loved my mother. I knew that nothing was ever going to shatter my world.”

What did he mean by this observation? Quite simply this: he knew that his dad was never going to leave his mother.

God intends that kind of security for every child. It’s a telling difference that the biggest differences in lifestyle and personality between Al Gore and George W. Bush on the one hand, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich on the other, can be traced to the fact that Al Gore and George W. Bush were raised in homes in which they knew their dad loved their mom and wouldn’t leave, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich didn’t.

Evidence continues to mount that divorce has devastating effects on children well into their adulthood.

Adapted from Real Homeland Security (Broadman & Holman, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, make my marriage a faithful illustration of Your eternal love for the church.

Pentecost – Come Down, O Love Divine (Down Ampney)

King's College, Cambridge, England

This Sunday, May 20, 2018, is Pentecost Sunday.

Come Down O Love Divine, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is a hymn loved around the world that is often sung at Pentecost.

This particular version is performed by the world renowned choir of King’s College Cambridge and led by director of music Stephen Cleobury.

Verse 2 is particularly charming as the male only first half breaks into a full choir fortissimo harmony for the second half.

Click on either the photo or the hymn name to go to the YouTube video of the King’s College Choir in Cambridge, England singing this beautiful hymn.

Come Down O Love Divine

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

 

A Heart for Holiness – Impure Thoughts

Impure ThoughtsMuch of the letter of Paul’s that we call 2 Corinthians is an emotional response to sniping by his detractors. He acknowledges that his actions may appear to be out on the edge—even a bit crazy. But he explains what drives him to his extreme behavior.

The primary thrust of this section is about evangelism; but a strong secondary emphasis concerns a lifestyle that zeroes in on God.

Interact with God’s Word:  2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

  1. What is the reason for our “solemn fear of the Lord” (v. 11)?
  2. Have you absorbed the teaching of Scripture that God’s gracious gift of eternal life doesn’t exempt you from standing personally before God’s judgment seat?
  3. What motivation is stronger than fear for Paul (v. 14)?
  4. What evidence is there that you have died with Christ to the old life you used to live?
  5. What indicators can you cite that demonstrate you are no longer living to please yourself, but to please Christ?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank Jesus Christ for dying for you. Ask for His power to live the new resurrection life that will please Him.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies. 11 It is because we know this solemn fear of the Lord that we work so hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.

14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

Community Pentecost Service – Sunday, May 20, 2018

Instead of having its regular Sunday worship service, Central Church will join with other area Churches for a Community Pentecost Service in the LGI at the Beaver Falls High School at 10:30 am on Sunday, May 20.

See you there!

 

Pentecost Sunday – May 20, 2018

 

PentecostPentecost Sunday is on May 20 this year.  Pentecost represents an ending as well as a beginning: the end of the “Great Fifty Days” of the Easter Season (Pentecost means “the 50th day” in Greek) and the beginning of the commemorations of the early church.  Pentecost also gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves the question, “What is our community ‘on fire’ about?”

For the early church, Pentecost was the second most important part of the Christian year after Pascha or Easter.  Originally, it commemorated both the Ascension of Jesus and the descending of the Holy Spirit, but became two distinct celebrations by the end of the fourth century.  (As Christianity became legal, there was no reason not to have as many celebrations as possible.)

Pentecost also became a favorite time for baptisms with its focus on the work of the Holy Spirit within the church and within our lives.  The holy day continues to be a wonderful celebrative time for rites of passage including baptism, confirmation and the reception of new members.

A Heart for Holiness – Worth Fighting For

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: To others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Jude 23

Bonus Reading:  Revelation 3:4-6

An ermine is a cute little animal that lives in northern regions. It has shiny black eyes, short legs and a narrow body. In summer its coat is a rich chocolate brown. But in winter the color changes to snow-white, broken only by a black tip on the tail. The ermine seems to realize the beauty of its coat and takes great pride in maintaining it. Indeed, the animal’s most unusual characteristic is its hatred of anything that might soil its fur.

Hunters who know this will fill an ermine’s burrow with filth and wait with their dogs for it to return. Once the ermine spots the dogs, it will dart for the safety of its burrow. But finding its home fouled, the ermine won’t enter, but will fight the dogs to the death, preferring to die with a bloodstained coat than live with a dirty one. Its instinct for purity outweighs its survival instinct. That’s why for centuries the robes of European rulers and judges have been lined with ermine fur. It symbolizes the purity of justice.

Christian men need a similar instinct. When we understand the holiness of our God that He’s imparted to us through His Son, we’ll realize that personal holiness is a value worth fighting for.

—Bill Perkins in Six Battles Every Man Must Win

My Response: How have I fought for holiness this week?

Thought to Apply: The Christian must be consumed by the conviction of the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin.—Thomas Carlyle (Scottish historian)

Adapted from Six Battles Every Man Must Win (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

Just Say No– To “Local Church” Options for the UMC

The issue of whether of whether the United Methodist Church should retain its current language in the Discipline concerning homosexuality will be the subject of a special General Conference in 2019.

The UMC’s Council of Bishops has abandoned its role of working to discern God’s will from Scripture on this issue and is instead focusing on marketing in an effort to avoid members leaving the Church.

The current Discipline language currently provides that:

  • All people, including homosexuals, are persons of sacred worth.
  • Nevertheless, the practice of homosexuality in incompatible with Christian teaching.
  • Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals cannot serve as clergy (since pastors serve as role models and therefore cannot openly advocate by their lifestyle any sin (e.g., adultery, homosexuality, embezzlement) as acceptable).

The Council of Bishops has identified three options:

  1. The Traditional alternative (“the Traditionalist Plan”) – Retain the current Discipline language;
  2. Punt (“the One Church Plan”) – The UMC won’t decide so let the local congregations decide for themselves; or
  3. Anything Goes (“the Connectional Conference Plan”) – The UMC will split into separate groups (all retaining the United Methodist name) so each local congregation can choose to belong to the Traditional group (homosexuality is a sin) or a group advocating that homosexuality is not a sin).

The Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan, on Friday, May 4, after nearly a week of meetings in Chicago.  The Bishops will submit a report to the special session including all three plans and  a narrative of the council’s discernment process regarding those plans, but they are recommending the One Church Plan.

  • The May 9, 2018 article below by Ben Witherington advocates for the retention of the UMC’s current Traditionalist position.

Annual Conferences are just around the corner all over the USA and there will be petitions submitted to annual conferences suggesting something along the lines of a local church option when it comes to defining what counts as Christian marriage, what counts as proper sexual morality, what counts as moral fitness for ordination.

It is no use denying our beloved and belabored Methodist Church is in a crisis, but neither of the local church options that are currently being noised about in the council of bishops and elsewhere are viable solutions to our problems.

Why not?

First of all, because they are profoundly un-Methodist.  Methodists do not decide major issues of doctrine or polity at the local church level, nor even at the annual conference level.  They are quite rightly decided at the General Conference level, which is the only body which can speak for the whole church on such matters.

This is why we have A United Methodist book of Discipline, which includes the doctrines and sanctioned practices in it. This has been the Methodist way for basically our entire existence.

Ours is not a Baptist or Congregational church polity, nor should it become one. If it did that we would lose the genius that is Methodist connectionalism.

So NO!— the local church should not suddenly become the arbiters of truth as to what counts as holy matrimony, what counts as being morally fit for ordination, what counts as appropriate Christian sexual behavior.  No, no,no.  Whatever solutions we may come up with to deal with our difficulties this is a ploy of desperation that denudes us of our Methodism and should be soundly rejected.

Secondly, for the entire existence of the Christian church, including the Methodist church, Christian marriage has been rightly and Biblical defined as when God joins together one man and one woman– period!

This is exactly what Jesus himself directly says in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, and the only second option he gives in Matthew 19 is to be celibate for the sake of the kingdom.  He even uses the dramatic term being a eunuch for the Kingdom.

To change our view of what counts as Christian marriage is to disfellowship ourselves from the larger body of Christ— the Catholics, the Orthodox, most Baptists and Congregationalists, and so on.  We should not go there if we care at all about ecumenism.  Modern cultural trends that have affected and infected some of the Protestant mainline denominations here, and in a few places abroad, should not be allowed to overturn 2,000 years of what the church has said about proper Christian marriage.

Thirdly, it was Chaucer who said about priests ‘if gold rusts, what then will iron do’?  He was saying that clergy should be absolutely above reproach morally speaking because otherwise they will set a horrible example for congregations and mislead them.

When a church is divided about appropriate sexual behavior, for example, the clergy above all, should be those who err on the side of caution, on the side of Christian tradition, on the side of what the Scripture actually says— which is that same sex sexual activity (whether involving men or women) is a sin.  And of course if that activity is a sin, then so-called ‘gay’ marriage is non-starter.

St. Paul was right in insists that what we cannot do in good faith and in good conscience, we should not do at all, for it will be a sin for us. In other words, if one has any doubts about the ethics of these local option proposals, in whatever form they take, then one should vote against them as good Methodists. I speak to those who are wavering in one direction or another.

I remember a day long ago when I was watching the Watergate hearings and my own senator, Sam Ervin was sick and tired of what he was hearing from John Dean. He finally shook his finger at Mr. Dean and quoted Galatians— ‘Mr Dean, God is not mocked, whatsoever you sow, that you shall also reap. Tell the truth!’

Well, God is watching, and we should have been watching what happened to the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant Denominations who have already gone the way Methodists are now contemplating going.  If you will know the tree by the fruit it bears— the fruit that such moves have borne is just bad fruit— membership decline, laws suits over property, more rancoring because now the fight takes place in the local churches.

Methodists have a chance to not kick the can into the local church sanctuary and make each one, or each annual conference decide these matters.  We should take this opportunity to just say NO!

 

A Heart for Holiness – Foundational Fear

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: God has come in this way to show you His awesome power. From now on, let your fear of Him keep you from sinning! Exodus 20:20

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 14-15

I recently phoned an influential organization leader who I’d covenanted to call regularly. “Henry,” he told me, “I’m so grateful you called. You’ve no idea how important this call is.”

When I asked why, he said, “I’ve never been been so utterly terrified. God began to deal with sin in my life bringing to mind what He sees as sin and how serious it is with Him. For three weeks, he brought up things I haven’t thought about for years. Things from my youth I’ve never dealt with—things that have affected my marriage and my assignment. A few days ago I cried out to God and asked why He was doing this to me. He responded, ‘Because you’ve lost your fear of Me.'”

When you don’t fear God, you won’t fear sin. There’s a direct relationship. Many people believe that as long as they don’t feel something is bad, it isn’t; as long as they feel okay about it—and God doesn’t deal with them immediately—it must be okay. They can continue to do it.

People in Old Testament times would have been put to death for many things people do today. We’re moving closer to an absolute confrontation with a God who makes no exceptions.

—Henry Blackaby in Holiness

My Response: An area of my life about which God is dealing with me is …

Thought to Apply: When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is left in him. —C. S. Lewis (British scholar & writer)

Adapted from Holiness (Nelson, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Hard Drive Dilemma

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable … excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 6:10-12

When I bought my computer two years ago, I thought a 40 GB hard drive would be plenty big. But soon, with bigger programs and my penchant for keeping things, I found it nearly filled.

After checking into the cost of upgrading my hard drive, I realized there had to be another answer: cleaning out the garbage. When I did so, I found that more than half the space had been taken by stuff I didn’t need anymore!

What about my brain?

For 50 years I’d been stuffing information into it. Could my gray matter be needing a storage upgrade? Or did it also just need a good cleaning? I asked God to show me.

He revealed sin areas that were putting stress on my operating system, pointed out past offenses still stored there, and showed me erroneous thoughts still logged in my memory bank.

Through repentance, I moved all that garbage to the recycling bin and clicked to empty it. Up popped a message asking if I was sure I wanted to permanently eliminate those files. My fingers hesitated as the enemy whispered in my ear all the reasons I should hang on to that stuff. But God’s voice was stronger; I clicked the yes button.

—Rod Nichols in Washington

My Response: I’ll ask God to reveal the garbage that needs to be deleted from my mind.

Thought to Apply: Spring cleaning should begin with the head and end with the heart.—Source Unknown

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Traffic Flow

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Romans 7:19

Bonus Reading:  Romans 7:15-25

One morning I was driving alone to speak at a men’s Bible study, enjoying the uninterrupted flow of my private thoughts.

The thick traffic flowed steadily. As I slowed for a traffic light, I was relieved to see that I would make it through the intersection on the next green light. As I braked, the car next to me saw a “hairline crack” in front of me and, without warning, swerved over. I slammed on the brakes and checked the rearview mirror. So far so good. Anger swept over me but, since I was on my way to speak at a Bible study, I quickly recovered and kept my spiritual glow. I even forgave the bum for being such a spiritual degenerate.

The light turned green and the long line inched toward the intersection. Guess who was the last car to make it through the light? You guessed it! He made it, but I was stuck in line at the red light. That did it for me, Bible study or not! I let out an audible expletive that came from a part of me not surrendered to God.

If this were an isolated incident, then I wouldn’t be too concerned. But every day we each battle for control of our thought life. The real battlefield for the Christian is the mind.

—Patrick Morley in The Man in the Mirror

My Response: Am I chalking up any victories on this battlefield?

Thought to Apply: Sanctification is the mind coming more and more under the Holy Spirit’s control.—David Jackman (British pastor)

Adapted from The Man in the Mirror (Zondervan, 1989)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Displacement Dictum

Impure ThoughtsKey Bible Verse: I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 77:11-12; 104:34; 119:48, 97

As you set out to rid your mind of years of impure thoughts, remember that merely trying to stop thinking bad thoughts won’t work. You must fill your mind with the crystal-clear Word of God. There is no alternative plan. We overcome the father of lies by choosing the truth!

Picture your polluted mind as a pot filled to the brim with stale black coffee. It’s dark and smelly. There’s no way to get the pollution of coffee out of the liquid. However, sitting beside the coffeepot is a huge bowl of clear ice cubes. Your goal is to purify the contents of the pot by adding ice cubes to it every day. I wish there were a way to dump all the cubes (words of the Bible) in at one time, but there isn’t. Every cube dilutes the mixture, though, making it a little purer. Since you can only put in one or two cubes a day, the process seems futile at first. But over the course of time, the liquid begins to look less and less polluted, and the taste and smell of coffee decreases.

The process will continue to work. But only if you don’t add more coffee grounds! If you read your Bible then look at pornography, you’re treading water at best.

—Neil Anderson in Finding Freedom in a Sex-Obsessed World

My Response: What am I displacing impure thoughts with?

Adapted from Finding Freedom in a Sex-Obsessed World (Harvest, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

A Heart for Holiness – Fierce Fight

Impure ThoughtsWho Said It…Neil Anderson

Neil was raised on a Minnesota farm. After his Navy stint, he became an aerospace engineer. But then he switched to pastoral ministry for more than 20 years.

Neil next turned to teaching at Talbot School of Theology. He founded Freedom in Christ Ministries to equip churches to enable recovery from addictions.

Now retired in Carefree, Arizona, Neil works on his golf game and keeps on writing books about Christ-centered living.

What He Said…Fierce Fight

When I was a young Christian, I decided to clean up my mind. I had had a good upbringing, for which I am thankful, and had become a Christian in my twenties.

After four years in the Navy, however, my mind was polluted with a lot of junk. I had seen enough pornography aboard ship to plague me for years. Images would dance in my mind for months after one look. I hated it. I struggled every time I went to a place where pornography was available.

When I made the decision to clean up my mind, do you think the battle got easier or harder? It got harder, of course. Temptation isn’t much of a battle if you easily give in to it. It is fierce when you decide to stand against it.

Although you may despair, with all your steps backward, God won’t give up on you. Remember, your sins are already forgiven. This is a winnable battle, because you are alive in Christ and dead to sin, you can become all God has called you to be. The bigger war has already been won by Christ.

Adapted from Finding Freedom in a Sex-Obsessed World (Harvest, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.

This Mother’s Day, give Mom something better than flowers or chocolate

Mother's Day 3Better than flowers or chocolate-how can that be?  Flowers are a treasured tradition and chocolate is, well  – chocolate – what more needs to be said?

You know Mom will appreciate these things, but there is something that would mean even more.

You already know what that is.  You know she would love it if every Sunday you were where you are now, with her in Church.

It isn’t simply your physical presence that is meaningful, although she loves to be with you.  What would make it meaningful is if you were coming as a faithful follower of Jesus.

There may be many reasons why “faithful follower of Jesus” does not describe your life today. Maybe:

  •  When you were young, you were excited about the Church and Jesus, but you feel you’ve outgrown it.
  •  You had questions the Church couldn’t answer, so you went looking elsewhere and never came back.
  •  Life is simply too busy and Church never was much of a priority.

Whatever the reason, take some time to consider Jesus.  Here are some websites that might be useful:

http://www.whoisjesus-really.com

http:1lwww.allaboutjesuschrist.org/who-is-jesus-n.htm

http:1lwww.christiananswers.net/jesus/home.html http://www.whosjesus.com

Mother's DayAfter doing that-tell Mom about it, talk about it and give her joy that won’t fade like even the most beautiful flowers do.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Happy Mother’s Day from your friends at Central Church!

Give God Glory – Passionate Worship

Passionate WorshipMost of the psalms are prayer songs, and most include praise to God.

Praise expresses admiration, appreciation, and thanks to God, not only for what He does—His creation, His blessings, His forgiveness—but also for who He is—loving, just, faithful, forgiving, patient.

In Psalm 145, David anticipates a time when all people will join together in recognizing and worshiping God.

Interact with God’s Word:

Psalm 145:1-13

  1. If God blesses someone, His favor and protection assures that person’s well-being. But what does it mean (vv. 1-2) for you to bless God?
  2. Read verses 8 and 9 several times as an example from David of blessing God.
  3. How can you become one of the “faithful followers” (v. 10) who bless and praise God every day?
  4. Does the pace of your life leave room for meditation (v. 5)? Should it?
  5. In what ways is giving God glory a group exercise (vv. 4, 7, 11-12)?
  6. David assumes that every child of God will be talking about Him. List the verbs he uses to express this in verses 6-7 and 10-12.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Try just praising and blessing God in your own words.

Psalm 145:1-13

1 I will praise you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 I will bless you every day, and I will praise you forever. 3 Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! His greatness is beyond discovery!

4 Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts. 5 I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. 6 Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.

7 Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to get angry, full of unfailing love. 9 The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.

10 All of your works will thank you, LORD, and your faithful followers will bless you. 11 They will talk together about the glory of your kingdom; they will celebrate examples of your power. 12 They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. 13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule generation after generation. The LORD is faithful in all he says; he is gracious in all he does.

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God.  Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – Weekday Worship

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. Psalm 44:8

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 63:1-8

Would it seem odd to worship God in a checkout line, sitting in traffic, or waiting for your computer to boot up?

Our lives weren’t made to turn off and on between the spiritual and the worldly. There’s no time or place to which our worship of God should be restricted. So how could I begin?

  • Speak praise to God (sometimes out loud, sometimes not). In your own words tell the Lord you love Him and are glad to be His son. Thank Him for His faithfulness. Review His attributes. Personalize verses that come to mind.
  • Sing songs to the Lord. Ask God to bring a song to mind that expresses your love for Him. Don’t worry about the vocal quality. Concentrate on truly meaning the words, and stay focused on the Lord.
  • Don’t neglect the physical. Lift up your hands to God. Kneel before Him. Bow down in reverence. Or walk about, praising the Lord with every part of you.
  • Meditate on the Word. Mull over a line of Scripture and ask God to reveal Himself through this biblical concept.
  • Give quiet adoration. There are also times to simply sit before the Lord and, in awe-inspired adoration, feel the joy of His closeness.

—Patrick Kavanaugh in Raising Children to Adore God

My Response: A recurring time in my schedule I could earmark for worship is …

Thought to Apply: Singing is for believers. The relevant question is not “Do you have a voice?” but “Do you have a song?”—Donald Hustad (church musician)

Adapted from Raising Children to Adore God (Chosen, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God.  Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – Hallelujah!

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being.  – Psalm 148:5

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 148:1-14

We praise each other by saying something to one degree or another complimentary, with the implication that if someone’s generous deed turned out to be self-serving, a different response altogether would have been called for.

The way Psalm 148 describes it, praising God is about as measured as a volcanic eruption. There’s no implication that under any conceivable circumstances it could be anything other than what it is.

The whole of creation is in on the act—the sun and moon, the sea, fire and snow, Holstein cows and white-throated sparrows, old men in walkers and infants. Their praise isn’t chiefly a matter of saying anything, because most of creation doesn’t deal in words. Instead, the snow whirls, the fire roars, the Holstein bellows, the old man watches the moon rise. Their praise isn’t something that at their most complimentary they say, but something that at their truest they are.

We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the rain. Learn how to say “Hallelujah” from the ones who say it right.

—Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words

My Response: I sensed God’s creation praising Him when …

Thought to Apply: Worship is the overflow of the heart that asks nothing of God.—Carl Armending (pastor)

Adapted from Beyond Words (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – Let’s Hear It!

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you.  – Psalm 51:15

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 145:1-13

I remember the first Promise Keepers conference held in a stadium. Twenty-two thousand men showed up. I was talking with my son when suddenly, from one side of the stands, I heard, “We love Jesus. Yes, we do. We love Jesus. How ’bout you?” I looked up in amazement. The other side of the stadium responded, only louder, “We love Jesus. Yes, we do. We love Jesus. How ’bout you?”

With each antiphonal response, the volume grew louder until it was almost deafening. Those 22,000 men were telling each other, God, and anybody within a mile radius that they loved Jesus! I’m quite sure that until that moment most of those men had never been so loud or enthusiastic about their love for Jesus. They hadn’t known it was appropriate for them to do that.

Telling God of our love isn’t just for crowded stadiums. Just as those men were unashamed to tell the world of their love for God as a group, so we need to tell our heavenly Father of our love as we pray individually. A fulfilling experience in prayer is hearing God say, “I love you,” and telling Him, “I love You too.” As simple as this sounds, our churches are filled with men unaware of the intimate side of prayer.

—Dale Schlafer in Fight on Your Knees

My Response: Right now, I’ll tell God how I feel about Him.

Thought to Apply: A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot.—Augustine of Hippo (Fourth century bishop)

Adapted from Fight on Your Knees (NavPress, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – What True Worship Does

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: Not to us, O LORD, but to you goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.  – Psalm 115:1

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 89:8-18

Failure to worship consigns us to a life of spasms and jerks, at the mercy of every advertisement, every seduction. Without worship we live manipulated lives. We move in either frightened panic, alarmed by specters, or deluded lethargy, soothed by placebos. If there’s no center, there’s no circumference. People who don’t worship are swept into a vast restlessness, epidemic in the world, with no steady direction and no sustaining purpose.

  • True worship centers our attention. We begin to see Him—not our own ego—as the center of everything. We start thinking solely in reference to God and His agenda.
  • It gathers people together.  As we worship, we become part of a family. It’s an inclusive, not exclusive, activity.
  • It reveals truth. Familiar patterns of life suddenly expand to become new vistas of experience. We’re uplifted and renewed in mind and spirit.
  • It makes us sing. We can’t hold it back. Worshiping Christians are always singing. Indeed, Christians can sing even when others weep.
  • It affirms. We respond to God’s great promises with a resounding “Amen,” with thousands of voices united in saying “Yes!” to God.

—Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder

My Response: How has worship moved me beyond my personal agenda?

Thought to Apply: The life that is too busy for worship is busier than God intended it to be. While work exhausts, worship renews.—Stuart Holden (British pastor)

Adapted from Reversed Thunder (Harper & Row, 1988)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – Chip Removal

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: I went into your sanctuary, O God … Then I realized how bitter I had become. Psalm 73:17, 21

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 73:13-26

I have often gone into church with a huge spiritual chip on my shoulder. I find things misspelled in the worship bulletin. Look at how little the man in the next row put in the offering plate; he ought to feel ashamed. The preacher should have studied more before coming out to preach.

Then the praise begins! Dumb songs! The choir mumbles. One choir member has over-dyed her hair. The alto soloist sounds too nasal.

More praise! And now, somehow, church doesn’t seem quite as dumb as it did when we first took our place in the pew. The more we sing, the better the over-dyed lady in the choir looks. Finally, she doesn’t look bad at all. Gradually the church seems better and all things offensive look better.

But why? Because we’re being changed. That’s what praise does to us. It scrapes away our negative spirits and replaces them with a smile and a better attitude.

There’s a sense in which we “fake it ’til we make it.” In practicing a happier mood, we somehow become happier people. It really is easier to praise ourselves into a new attitude, than to attitude ourselves into a new way of praise.

— Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: Next time I feel down, I’ll try the praise antidote.

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – One Thing

African WorshipWho Said It…Tim Hughes

First encountering enthusiastic praise to God at age 11 led Tim, a Brit, to profess his own faith. Five years later, he attended one of the first annual festivals of Soul Survivor, soaking up a passion to reach his own generation for Christ through music.

At 18, Tim spent a year in South Africa working with kids and leading worship. Tim is now a Dove-award winning songwriter of songs like “Here I Am to Worship.”

What He Said…One Thing

The Prince of Peace congregation was gathering. Sweat poured down my face. Looking toward the front of the church, I saw no drums, amps, or keyboards—not even any microphones or speakers. How on earth were we going to worship?

Then a loud voice pierced the silence. Instantly all the people were on their feet singing their hearts out. Beautiful harmonies and melodies filled the air. Infectious joy and heartfelt adoration lit up their faces.

I was confused. This was the impoverished Inanda Township in Durban, South Africa, where aids is rife and suffering part of everyday life.  Surely their songs should be dirges!

But as the service progressed, the reason for their joy struck me. Although well aware of their present, they’d encountered Jesus and were wholly consumed with Him. Whatever life threw at them couldn’t rob them of the glorious riches of knowing God. They understood where they were going.

Worship, I learned that Sunday morning, isn’t about music.

It’s about Jesus.

Adapted from Here I Am to Worship (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Faith Handoff – Discipleship

DiscipleshipTimothy is the first second-generation Christian mentioned in the New Testament. His grandmother Lois and mother Eunice had probably heard Paul preach in Lystra during his first visit there.

They had become believers and faithfully influenced Timothy for the Lord. But his father apparently wasn’t a Christian. Paul stepped in to recruit Timothy as an aide, and also to act as his spiritual father.

Interact with God’s Word

2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:2

  1. How was Paul intentional about discipling Timothy (see Acts 16:1-5)?
  2. How had Timothy acquired his understanding of the “great truths” that he was to pass on (2:2a)?
  3. How was Timothy to evaluate and safeguard what he had learned from Paul (2:2a and 1:14)?
  4. How can you tell that Paul’s assignment to Timothy (in 2:2b) was to do individual mentoring?
  5. What kind of mentoring would produce learners able to pass their faith on?
  6. How would your church expand if every believer was winning someone else to faith and equipping him to pass on his faith?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to set spiritual multiplication in motion in your church. Ask Him to begin the process with you, turning you into a reproducing disciple.

2 Timothy 1:13-14

13 Hold on to the pattern of right teaching you learned from me. And remember to live in the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 With the help of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard what has been entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 2:2

2 You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – Incalculable Impact

MentoringKey Bible Verse: You imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you yourselves became an example. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

By recalling how Dave had mentored me, I resolved simply to model for other men what he’d demonstrated for me. I remembered that my unfinished assignments never bothered him. And it hadn’t been assignments that had begun to turn my life around anyway. It was the fact that Dave was there, ready to offer comfort and encouragement when needed, along with hope for a very frightened mentoring partner.

Dave helped me find the balance my life needed so desperately, provided much-needed insight for my struggling business, showed me how to climb out of a deep hole of debt, and stood by me as I met and then prepared to marry the woman of my dreams.

One of his goals, during that stage of my life, had been to bring me to a point where I was prepared to work with others. Most of all, Dave reflected the joy and fulfillment that comes from “giving your life away”—investing time, energy, and genuine care in another person.

As we met week by week, month after month, Dave was preparing me for a totally new stage in my life. Under his wing, I grew from a child to a peer, developing my own heart for mentoring others.

—David A. Stoddard in The Heart of Mentoring

My Response: Have I ever experienced the joy of “giving my life away”?

Thought to Apply: It is impossible to estimate the value of the moment when two lives intersect for the first time.—Michael Card (singer, songwriter)

Adapted from The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – More than Lunch

Men at LunchKey Bible Verse: Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions. Mark 3:14

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:1, 6-10

Greg, who taught high school, intentionally explored ways to invest in young lives. He even established a fund with which to take young men out to lunch. If you know male teenagers, you know they never turn down a free lunch!

But these meals weren’t merely to have casual conversation or establish friendships. Greg targeted certain young men in his class, invited them out for lunch, and then was intentional about providing accountability, direction, and insight into their questions, commitments, and decisions.

These kids so yearned for this depth of communication and relationship that they eagerly responded to Greg’s effort. But for this to happen, Greg needed to be intentional, to make a time (and financial) commitment, and to risk by going beneath the surface in a relationship with a young person.

The payoff was huge, however, as Greg became a spiritual guide to a generation of young men whose lives he pointed toward living in light of eternity. Greg has performed weddings, attended graduations and reunions, and stayed in contact with his protégés as they made an effort to keep him in the loop of their lives. He was their spiritual guide.

—Daniel Egeler in Shaping the Next Generation

My Response: How could I turn an acquaintance into an intentional growth opportunity?

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

Adapted from Shaping the Next Generation (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Today is the National Day of Prayer

Please take a moment today to remember our country in prayer.

Faith Handoff – Case Study

Harvard Business School ClassKey Bible Verse: Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here.  – Acts 17:6

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 28:18-20

The Harvard Business School normally evaluates international corporations. But for the first time in its history, the school took a look at a church.

On the day that they discussed the case, Dr. Leonard Schlesinger began by turning to a student in the front row. Looking her in the eye, he asked, “Okay, what do you think of the one-sentence mission statement of Willow Creek Community Church?”

“Well,” she said, “they say they’re trying to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.”

The popular professor shook his head… “No! No! No!'” he said vigorously. “I didn’t ask you what the mission statement was. I want to know what you think about it! What’s your visceral reaction? How do you feel about it?”

The young student was clearly flustered but said, “Uh, I don’t really come from a religious background. But when they say that they’re trying to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ, it sounds to me like they’re well … like they’re trying to turn atheists into missionaries!”

And then, collecting her thoughts, she added, “And frankly, sir, I see that as being one hell of a challenge!”

—James Emery White in You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life

My Response: I’ll ask God for His power to accomplish the otherwise impossible.

Thought to Apply: The only adequate answer [to an aggressively pagan world] is for Christians to recover the New Testament power of spiritual aggression.—Karl Barth

Adapted from You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – How Daws Told It

Navy MenKey Bible Verse: Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!  – Matthew 4:19

Bonus Reading:  John 1:40-42; Matthew 4:18-22

Twenty-three years ago, I took a born-again sailor and spent time with him, showing him how to reproduce spiritually after his kind. It took lots of time. I taught him how to study God’s Word and how to fill the quiver of his heart with the arrows of God’s Word, so that the Spirit of God could lift an arrow from his heart, place it to the bow of his lips, and pierce a heart for Christ.

He found a number of men on his ship who’d go to church with him, but none would go all out for the Lord. He came to me after a month of this and said, “Dawson, I can’t get any of these guys to get down to business.”

“Listen,” I told him, “You can’t have two until you have one. Ask God to give you one man after your own heart.”

He began to pray. One day he came to me and said, “I think I’ve found him.” He worked with this new believer, and those two fellows began to grow and spiritually reproduce. On that ship 125 men found the Savior before it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Men off that first battleship are in four continents as missionaries today. It was necessary to make a start, however. The devil’s trick is to stop anything like this before it gets started.

—Dawson Trotman in Born to Reproduce

My Response: I’ll ask God to give me one man to disciple.

Thought to Apply: Men are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of Who they know, how well they know Him, and how much they long for others to know Him.—Dawson Trotman

Adapted from Born to Reproduce (NavPress, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.