Skip to content

Archive for

Engaging Our Communities – They’re Showing Up Here!

Community OutreachKey Bible Verse: If you pay special attention to the rich, you are committing a sin.  – James 2:9

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 10:17-19

Over 25 years Mile High Ministries had done a remarkable job of cleaning up Denver’s roughest neighborhood, and now they were beginning to work in Aurora, the edge city to which many of the poor were migrating. Director Jeff Johnsen had assumed that Aurora’s mayor, an active Christian, would be pleased to have his ministry’s support. But that wasn’t the case.

“The poor aren’t coming here,” the mayor told Jeff as they drove together toward Aurora’s poorer side. Jeff knew better. His staff was spending time and gas money shuttling folks back and forth from Aurora to their Denver center. To tactfully correct the mayor’s misperception, Jeff pointed out apartment complexes and cheap motels the migrants were moving into.

“You misunderstood me,” the mayor interrupted. “The poor are not coming here!” It was his duty, he told Jeff, to keep his city safe and prosperous. “As a Christian, I love what you’re doing. But as a public official, there’s no way I can support your bringing this kind of thing to my city.” He wanted no services that would make the masses, inclined to vice and lawlessness, feel more welcome in Aurora.

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: Do I keep my Christian ideals separate from my expectations as a citizen?

Thought to Apply: Justice can be secured in Athens only if those who are not injured feel as indignant as those who are.—Solon (Athenian statesman)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You warned us about being flavorless salt or concealed light. Help us penetrate our communities with Your love and justice.

Local Outreach

 

 

Advertisements

Engaging Our Communities – Stepping Up

Community OutreachKey Bible Verse: Pure and lasting religion … means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles.  – James 1:27

Bonus Reading:  Luke 14:12-14

Dan, a leader in our church, learned of a single mother, Karen, who was emotionally beaten up in life. She needed to move to our area from out of state, but lacked the funds. Dan arranged and paid for a moving truck. He found guys to load the truck, then drove it to her new apartment, where I joined other guys in moving her in. Karen was visibly moved by our work and the fun we had doing it.

She joined the Bible study/sharing group that met weekly in Dan’s home, and our church. Through Bible study and group discussions, Karen learned how to avoid land mines that had shaken her life and move to safe ground, God’s ground. The group coached her in sound parenting skills. Knowing she was being constantly prayed for helped Karen feel secure.

Aware that the children’s father had cut them off, some men carved out time for them. They took them on outings and played basketball and other sports with them. They guided, challenged, and encouraged them.

Karen and her kids learned that godly men exist, can be trusted, and counted on to follow through. This changed their perception of God—from distant and indifferent, to Someone they can trust.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: A way I could demonstrate God’s goodness to someone else is …

 

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You warned us about being flavorless salt or concealed light. Help us penetrate our communities with Your love and justice.

Local Outreach

 

Engaging Our Communities – Gentrification and Paranoia

Community OutreachWho Said It…Bob Lupton

Bob Lupton says, “The call I felt while serving in the armed forces in Vietnam caused me to leave a budding business career and pursue a ministry with delinquent urban youth” in Atlanta.

Realizing that a lasting impact on young lives required involvement with their families, Bob formed Family Consultation Service (FCS). Next, he reshaped it into a community development organization, FCS Urban Ministries, to combat the negative impact of their environment on families.

What He Said…Gentrification and Paranoia

Cities long in decline are experiencing an awakening. Condo conversions and rising rents are pushing low-income residents out to suburban communities. These unwelcome new neighbors trigger fears that the problems of the big city are invading the suburbs. But they are filling a host of important, difficult-to-fill jobs. And people of faith, who’ve spent millions on mission trips, can now serve the culturally different right in their own back yards.

Suburban church volunteers led the way in constructing homes in the inner city. Now they face the need for affordable housing in their own communities. It will take more than youth groups and paint-bucket brigades to get the job done. The talents of businessmen will be required to devise the essential mixed-income housing strategies.

Our protected lifestyles are about to be changed. It’s a moment that presents us with the opportunity to get it right. I hope we’re up to the challenge.

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You warned us about being flavorless salt or concealed light. Help us penetrate our communities with Your love and justice.

Local Outreach

 

Spiritual Balance – Mature Leadership

Spiritual BalanceThe apostle Paul constantly engaged young men in on-the-job training to ensure that they would be mature, balanced leadership in the churches after he was gone.

Titus traveled with Paul, was given special assignments, and then made responsible for the churches of Crete.

In this passage, Paul stresses to him how right teaching lays the basis for a pattern of right living that fits both sexes and all ages in the church.

Interact with God’s Word:  Titus 2:1-15

  1. How is right living a reflection of right teaching (vv. 1, 7b?)
  2. What qualities (v. 2) make older men deserve respect?
  3. Paul states (v. 4) that older women should pass their values on to younger women. How does this letter demonstrate that the same applies to men?
  4. In what areas (v. 6) does Paul advise that young men need encouragement?
  5. Would following Paul’s guidelines for slaves (vv.9-10) make the gospel attractive where you work?
  6. Why, according to verse 14, did Jesus give His life for us?
  7. What should this motivate us to turn away from (v. 11)?
  8. What other positive motivation (v. 13) furnished us with God’s perspective on “this evil world” in which we live?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a balanced understanding of His Word that motivates you to actively put it into practice in every area of your life.

Titus 2:1-15

1 But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching. 2 Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience. 3 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good.

4 These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5 to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. 6 In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely in all they do.

7 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. 8 Let your teaching be so correct that it can’t be criticized. Then those who want to argue will be ashamed because they won’t have anything bad to say about us.

9 Slaves must obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back. 10 or steal, but they must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.

11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.

14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right. 15 You must teach these things and encourage your people to do them, correcting them when necessary. You have the authority to do this, so don’t let anyone ignore you or disregard what you say.

 

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding.  Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Outside Steps Project is Underway!

Working closely with a contractor, this week we have removed the loose or deteriorating portions on each of our outside concrete steps to our Fellowship Hall with a hammer chisel.

The remaining concrete on the top step has been coated with a bonding agent to increase the adhesion of the new concrete.

Steel mesh is then screwed down onto the old concrete and 1½” of concrete is applied to the tread portion of the stair.  A final ½” of fine, finish concrete (i.e., with smaller aggregate) will be added to the top of the stair.

Our plan is to do the tread (top) portions of each of the other stairs, and then return to the top to apply about 2” of concrete to the riser (front) portion of each stair.

The edge of each stair will also be rounded off and the tread portion brushed to provide greater traction during bad weather.

As part of the process, the North railing (closest to 13th Street) will be re-cemented into the ground since it has loosened over years of heavy use.

Since the old concrete has degraded because of the amount of salt that must be applied during the winter to melt snow and ice on the stairs, a roof will be installed over the stairs.  The new roof will reduce the amount of snow and ice that land on the stairs, and therefore should also reduce the amount of salt that we need to apply to keep them clear during the winter.

The work should continue through the coming week.  Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for these comprehensive repairs and improvements that should give us many years of maintenance-free use!

 

 

Spiritual Balance – Warning Signs

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections.  – Psalm 26:2

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24

Like an out-of-round tire on an accelerating car, signs of an imbalanced life start out as a slow thump-thump-thump.

The truly important, eternal part of our lives—prayer, the spiritual disciplines—is usually the first to be overlooked, and ignoring the thump seems to bring no immediate consequence.  But as the pace picks up, the thump becomes louder, perhaps as the nagging complaints of loved ones and colleagues.

Turning up the car radio drowns it out, but soon the steering gear is shaking.  Your whole system’s out of whack, ready for a breakdown.

Maybe you should have run the diagnostics first:

  • Is relating to God a duty or delight?
  • Is your spouse complaining of loneliness?
  • Are you serving and enjoying fellowship in your church?
  • Do you make time to rest and enjoy leisure pursuits?
  • Have you isolated yourself from any deep, honest relationships?
  • Have you become more patient, kind, compassionate, or humble over the past year?
  • Will anything you’re doing earn eternal commendation? Or are you stuck on the hamster wheel of accumulating possessions and awards that will burn up at the end?

—Carolyn McCulley in Life@Work

My Response: Which diagnostic alerts me to a need for prayerful, prompt correction?

Thought to Apply: When [work] is carried to the extent of undermining life or unduly absorbing it, work is not praiseworthy but blameworthy.—Ralph Turnbull (writer)

Adapted from Life@Work (11-12/00)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Balance Beam

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse:  Only simpletons believe everything they are told!  The prudent carefully consider their steps. Proverbs 14:15

Bonus Reading:   Acts 17:10-12

The Devil would love for you to believe that all moderation and compromise is of him.  But balance provides a stable base for building a revolution of love.

We need to find and maintain the middle ground about:

  • Work and worship. Some feel that praising God is the be-all and end–all. Others are more anxious to get out on the streets to start the Christian revolution. But if we’re going to do an effective job, it won’t be by our own might but by the Spirit of God.
  • Reckless faith and common sense. Christians are called to have faith, not to be credulous. It’s important to pray for discernment. Just because a man has a nice face, a good build, a pleasant manner, and a reputation for being godly, doesn’t mean that every word he says is true. Many naïve Christians, believing anything that sounds spiritual or involves a miracle—particularly if it’s in book form—have been misled.
  • Submission and individual guidance. If leaders lord it over their flock, serving themselves rather than God, they begin to lose their leadership credentials. If you’re under authority, be careful not to follow blindly or to let the leader carry all the responsibility for guidance.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: Which of these three areas is my current challenge?

Thought to Apply: Enthusiasm is of the greatest value, so long as we are not carried away by it.—Johann Von Goethe (German poet)

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Either/Or Fallacies

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. … be mature and wise.  – 1 Corinthians 14:20

Bonus Reading:  Luke 11:37-42

Some believers emphasize attending retreats for a fresh peak of awareness and commitment. But it’s more than “letting go and letting God.”

The process of growth towards maturity is primarily your responsibility and should be happening 365 days a year. “Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you” (Ephesians 5:18) is a scriptural imperative.  But so is “Let the words of Christ … live in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).

Some maintain that a half-hour quiet time is indispensable. They insist on planning everything in detail.

Others feel that such disciplines are a devilish restriction of freedom, a temptation to rely on the flesh rather than the Spirit.

I’ve heard several (rather bad) sermons for which the preacher felt it was unspiritual to prepare. Yet both messages are in the Bible. There’s a time to step out in faith that things will work out—sometimes we have no choice; but there’s also a place for using the wits God gave us.

Some Christians so emphasize the anointing of the Spirit that they insist Bible schools, and careful teaching are of the Devil. What nonsense!

We desperately need trained theologians, pastors, and missionaries who are humble, broken, and filled with the Spirit.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: An “either/or” I need to start viewing as a “both/and” is …

Thought to Apply: Scripture nowhere condemns the acquisition of knowledge. It’s the wisdom of this world, not its knowledge, that is foolishness with God.—H. A. Ironside

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Negate the Negative

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse:  He is the divine Yes—God’s affirmation.  For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him.  – 2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:1-15

Many people have a basically negative outlook on life, with a streak of cynicism. If this continues to fit you, you and your wife will end up miserable, and your children will end up negative—about you!

There’s nothing wrong with seeing the negative side provided you’re prepared to work your way through to the positive side.

Sometimes we have to reprove another believer, though always in love. If you can’t speak hard truth in charity, then let someone else do it. You’re disqualified.

If we make our message and concerns 80 percent love and 20 percent judgment, then I reckon we have the balance about right.

Perhaps you’re a young Christian, anxious to impact your neighborhood with an aggressive outreach. Already you can see the elders at your church shaking their heads and muttering, “We tried that in 1954, and it didn’t work. You’ll only turn people off.”

Satan is keen to polarize old and young, pitting zeal against experience. Youths often condemn the established church.

One cult called it the “system” and urged people to leave it. Rebellious young people did so in great numbers.

Ironically, they ended up probably more regimented than in any branch of the Christian church.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: I’d score my own love/judgment ratio as …

Thought to Apply: God, help us not to despise or oppose what we do not understand.—William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania)

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

Spiritual Balance – Devilish Division

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly … and working together with one heart and purpose. Philippians 2:2

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11-6:1

Our enemy isn’t a funny character with horns and a pitchfork, but a clever, even attractive, being who deceives and sows havoc.

Once a person commits his life to Jesus, Satan does all he can to get him off on a tangent so that his Christian life will lose its impact.

His goal is to polarize us into different camps, sniping away at one another, rather than working together against him. Tempers rise, people grow upset, and start reacting to one another in the flesh. After polarizing comes paralyzing, and the Devil has won!

We are in a war situation. But that doesn’t mean our fingers always need to be on the trigger. Those who are militantly orthodox can often be unloving. It’s easy to end up with your doctrines all correctly labeled, ready to hit your neighbor over the head!

We also need to distinguish between basic Christian principles and the policies of a particular church or movement. I’m amazed at how Christians can get so uptight about trivial matters. Musical tastes, style of dress, using pews or chairs in church, all can cause confusion and division.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: A distinctive I treasure, but which should not alienate me from faith-brothers, is …

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Swinging Pendulum

Spiritual BalanceWho Said It…James I. Packer

Time recently called him a “theological traffic cop.” “The [evangelical] movement has no formal arbiter,” it noted.

But “J.I. Packer, 78, an Oxford-trained theologian, claimed the role informally with his 1973 book Knowing God, which outlined a theology deeper and more embracing than many Americans had encountered.”

Jim, a Christianity Today executive editor, teaches theology at Regent College in Vancouver.

What He Said…Swinging Pendulum

Fifty years ago, evangelicals taught Christian living legalistically: “Don’t smoke or drink, cheat, lie, or chew, and don’t team up with those who do.”

In those days, avoiding the world’s defilements was the main concern. This school of thought discounted the idea that Christians are free to enjoy God’s creation while they try to change the world for the better.

Reaction against that thinking has led now to an opposite extreme. Many Christians have uncritically bought into the self-indulgent lifestyle of the secular world. Biblical condemnation of sexual irregularity and the self-serving quest for wealth, pleasure, and power is ignored, and the behavior patterns of most Christians seem indistinguishable from those of unbelievers.

In short, ghetto legalism has given way to uninhibited worldliness. Reaction? Yes. Recovery of balance? No.

Shall we ever achieve Christlike balance and involvement in the world on the basis of being utterly different from it? Let us try!

Adapted from Leadership (Fall/88)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding.  Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spurn Spin – Honesty

HonestyWas Paul’s change in travel plans dishonest or fickle?

No, he explains. During a brief, painful visit to the church in Corinth, he’d told them when he planned to return. By then, he’d assumed, the church would have resolved its disunity.

When the time came for Paul’s scheduled return trip, however, the crisis hadn’t been fully resolved. Fearing that another visit just then might aggravate things, he decided to bypass Corinth and reschedule his visit.

Interact with God’s Word: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

  1. What two criticisms about bypassing Corinth (v. 17) does Paul anticipate or respond to?
  2. How does he characterize how “people of the world” make commitments?
  3. Why does Paul say (v. 18) he makes sure his word is reliable?
  4. What does Paul tell the Corinth church (v. 23) is the reason for putting off his visit?
  5. How does adding the sincerity element (v. 12) set the bar higher than technical honesty alone?
  6. How does Paul’s assertion that “there is nothing written between the lines” in his letters (v.13) flesh out what straightforward communication involves?
  7. Can you match Paul’s confidence and clear conscience (v. 12) about your own talk?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you filter spin out of your conversation so that it becomes transparently truthful.

2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

12 We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own earthly wisdom. That is how we have acted toward everyone, and especially toward you. 13 My letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14 even if you don’t fully understand us now. Then on the day when our Lord Jesus comes back again, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

17 You may be asking why I changed my plan. Hadn’t I made up my mind yet? Or am I like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no? 18 As surely as God is true, I am not that sort of person. My yes means yes 19 because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, never wavers between yes and no. He is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I preached to you, and he is the divine Yes–God’s affirmation.

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke.

Prayer for the Week:  I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart.  But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others.  Help me to change.

 

Spurn Spin – Polite Prevarication

HonestyKey Bible Verse: Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds.  – Colossians 3:9

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 9:3-9

When I started to scrutinize my own behavior, I was amazed—even horrified—by how often I was tempted to lie and by how often I did lie before I could stop myself.

For instance, seeing an old friend, I said, “Oh, it’s good to see you. I’ve been thinking about you so much recently.” In truth, I’d thought about this friend for only a fleeting moment a few days before our chance meeting. “So much” was more than an exaggeration; it was a lie that slipped out before I could catch it.

I know I’m not alone. Christians find it all too easy to say things such as “I’ve been praying for you” when they really haven’t been.

Or their excuses for declining an invitation leave truth in the dust. “I’m sorry, I have another engagement” sounds so much better than “I really prefer not to have dinner with you.”

Lying pervades our society. We may have become so accustomed to truth twisting that we don’t recognize the tendency until we shine the piercing light of Scripture on our lives.

If over the next few days you pay close attention to your interactions with others, odds are you’ll find yourself struggling to be fully honest.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: This weekend I’ll monitor how much my words compromise the truth.

Thought to Apply: When you add to the truth, you subtract from it.—Talmud

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Contagious Candor

HonestyKey Bible Verse: In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.  – Proverbs 28:23

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

After I preached on spurning spin, Steve promised himself and God that he would no longer place blame elsewhere to excuse his own behavior. A few days later, he told me, he failed to allow enough driving time to make it to a meeting.

Arriving 20 minutes after the meeting began, he took his seat and apologized. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he began. “I can only blame my own poor choices. I didn’t allow enough time to get here. Please forgive me.”

His honesty stunned everyone in the room. Finally, the meeting leader said, “Well, I’m sorry you’re late too, but thanks for being honest about why. That’s the kind of openness we need in this meeting.”

A lively conversation on the benefits of greater honesty in their business ensued. Then another person entered the room out of breath, offering the usual blame-everything-else kind of excuse. The others laughed because this man’s spin looked foolish in light of Steve’s gutsy honesty.

Steve said that the quality of conversation for the rest of the meeting was unusually frank. The same tone continued in the days that followed. His renunciation of spin was contagious and transformed the work environment.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Have I found telling the frank truth more often resented or appreciated?

Thought to Apply: Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of tricks and duplicity than straightforward and simple integrity in another.—Charles Caleb Colton

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

9 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe

One of the greatest gifts that God gave mankind was the Holy Bible because the Bible is literally God revealing Himself, and communicating Himself to mankind in written word. Anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know about becoming a Christian, and everything that we need to know about living the Christian life.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible was inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. It also believes that in its original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic; it is without error and fault.

However, there are many things that Jesus-following, church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical. How does this happen? Often, we’ll hear someone quote a statement that sounds nice to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in the Scriptures. Several of these unbiblical statements have gained enough traction that many people believe they’re actually Bible verses. Not only are the statements unbiblical; most of them teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Here is a list of nine popular unbiblical statements that Bible-loving Christians tend to believe:

1. God helps those who help themselves.

This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better, actually gets in the way of the work of God. Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).

2. God wants me to be happy.

It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie,” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.” Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make me feel “happy” in that moment. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

3. We’re all God’s children.

Although God has created everyone…not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father: “But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15b–16).

However, those who don’t have Jesus as their Savior, nor have the Holy Spirit of God inside of them, actually belong to Satan: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1 – 2). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

4. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

The people around you may appreciate you staying clean, but this is not Scripture. Parents may use this unbiblical statement to motivate their kids to clean their rooms. However, I’d suggest using an actual biblical statement: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

5. God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Actually, all of life is more than we can handle. The point of living in a fallen world is not for us to try really hard to carry our heavy burden, but rather give-up, quit and surrender to God, that’s what faith is all about. Everything is more than I can handle, but not more than Jesus can handle: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

6. We all worship the same God.

Yes, there is only one true and living God: “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39). However, He only accepts worship that comes through Jesus Christ, not Muhammad, Buddha, Joseph Smith, etc: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

7. Bad things happen to good people.

Often we place ourselves in the judgment seat of what is good and bad, or who is good and bad. The most popular way to make that judgment is by comparison. For example, Bob is a good guy, because he is not as bad as Sam. However, according to the Bible, we’re all on equal ground because none of us is inherently good: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10).

8. When you die, God gains another angel.

Plain and simple. Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).

9. We’re all going to the same place when we die.

There are two possible destinations when we pass: Heaven and Hell. However, only those who are in Christ will be with Him for all eternity when they physically die: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

The fact that many of us Christians believe these unbiblical statements shows our unfortunate overall biblical illiteracy. Instead of swallowing popular statements hook-line-and-sinker, may we be like the Bereans in the Book of Acts. When they heard Paul preach, they wanted to research the Scriptures themselves to authenticate what he was saying: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:10 – 11).

What are some more unbiblical statements that you’ve heard Christians commonly use?

Spurn Spin – Ends and Means

HonestyKey Bible Verse: I speak the truth and hate every kind of deception. … There is nothing crooked or twisted. Proverbs 8:7-8

Bonus Reading:  1 Thessalonians 2:1-5

At the church college group I began attending as a freshman, the college pastor delivered a stirring message on sharing the gospel with our friends. Then he passed out a “Religious Interest Survey” that featured a series of questions leading up to the clincher: “What do you believe about Jesus?” He urged us to use it to poll students in our dorms, then invited questions.

“What’s the deadline for getting these surveys back to you?” I asked.

The pastor responded with a chuckle, “Oh, don’t worry about that. We aren’t going to tabulate the results. This is simply a way to get people talking about Jesus.”

“But if we tell people this is a survey,” I followed up nervously, “aren’t we implying that we actually care about their answers? Is it honest to call this a survey when we’re not really surveying what people think?”

“Look,” he replied with a touch of irritation, “it’s a survey; we’re just not tabulating the answers. Lots of businesses and churches do things like this. It’s just a conversation starter. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to.”

I didn’t take any “surveys” back to campus. Nor did I return to that college group.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Where am I expected to bend the truth? Have I gone along?

Thought to Apply: Some people live their whole lives just around the corner from the world of truth. —CARL F. H. HENRY (journalist, theologian)

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Lying Lips, Quivering Knees

HonestyKey Bible Verse: Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed. Proverbs 12:19

Bonus Reading:  John 8:31-36

During my mid-twenties, when people asked me if I played any sports in high school, I’d always say, “Yeah, I ran track and played soccer.” Technically, that was true. I’d run around the track and I did play soccer—in P.E. class. I was never on either the soccer or track team at good ol’ Tucker High school.

But somewhere along the way I’d begun believing that a real, respectable, worthwhile man had to have accomplished something athletically. Every time I told that lie, I felt terrible and vowed not to repeat it. But I couldn’t bring myself to look somebody in the eye and say, “No, I never participated in a team sport.”

Finally, during my third year in seminary, of all places, I was forced to deal with this character flaw. A friend of mine rushed up to me at church and said he had some great news: he thought because of my athletic experience he could work it out for me to become chaplain for the SMU football team. My heart sank down into my socks. My friend was thrilled. And I felt like throwing up.

That’s when I knew I had a real problem. After a week of real soul searching, I got busy replacing those lies with truth, and soon I was free.

—Andy Stanley in Louder than Words

My Response: From what entangling deception do I need to break free?

Thought to Apply: You didn’t tell a lie, you just left a big hole in the truth.—Helen Thomas (journalist)

Adapted from Louder than Words (Multnomah, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Out for a Spin

HonestyKey Bible Verse:  So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbor the truth” because we belong to each other. Ephesians 4:25

Bonus Reading:  Zechariah 8:16-17

When my high-school friend Mike first received his driver’s license, his mom allowed him to use her car but forbade him to drive on the freeway. But Mike and I were convinced that we knew better than his mother, and bravely challenged the California freeways.

Knowing that his mom might question us about Mike’s driving, however, we crafted a brilliant spin on our behavior. Sure enough, after one of our illicit road trips, his mom asked bluntly, “Mike, did you drive on the freeway today?”

Without hesitation and with a hurt tone in his voice, Mike answered. “Mom, I know the rules. Of course I drove on the surface streets.” As he spoke, I nodded fervently. (Mike did know the rules and we had driven on the surface streets—on our way to the freeway.)

The combination of Mike’s earnest testimony and my bobbing head duped Mike’s mom. She apologized for questioning his integrity, and Mike avoided losing his driving privileges.

We didn’t tell an outright lie, but fabricated a deceptive half-truth. This was spin, pure and simple, because we intended to mislead, while failing to confess the truth that deserved to be spoken.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Have I recently spun the truth for self–protection or self–promotion?

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Church This Sunday

Few people will argue that attendance in many churches in America is declining. Whether it is due to shifting cultural standards, apathy among Christians, or a younger generation that is suspicious about joining any kind of large organization, the church is working hard to adapt and attract new members.

Have you ever wondered about the positive benefits of attending a church service? Shelby Systems recently did some research on that subject and came up with some surprising and encouraging answers. Please feel free to share these documented study results with your pastor, fellow church members, and friends who don’t attend church regularly.

  1. Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness according to the Heritage Foundation.
  2. Church attendance boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as many as 2 to 3 years to your life according to the New York Times.
  3. A 2010 Child Trends review indicates that kids who attend church are less likely to be involved in violence, theft, and vandalism or to struggle with substance abuse problems than their peers.
  4. Teens with church-going fathers are more likely to say that they enjoy spending time with Dad and that they admire him according to a recent University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
  5. According to the Pew Research Center, frequent churchgoers are happier. Those who attend church services weekly or more are happier than those who attend less often. Those who seldom or never attend services are the least likely to say they are very happy.
  6. Church involvement moves people out of poverty. It is also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem, and greater family and marital happiness according to the Heritage Foundation.
  7. According to the Hartford Institute, church participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
  8. A special report by the National Survey of Children’s Health indicates that church participation by an intact family is associated with a lower risk of developmental and behavioral problems in school-age children.
  9. Here’s a quote from a recent study: “Those who go to church more than once a week enjoy better health than those who attend only once a week. Overall the reduction in mortality attributable to church-going is 25%. This is a huge amount in epistemological studies.” Researchers thought that perhaps this was simply due to having strong supportive relationships, but non-church centered groups didn’t experience that same effect.
  10. Couples who attend church together report being more happily married and are less likely to divorce. Drawing upon three national surveys, University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox found that married church-going Americans across all racial and denominational classifications were more likely to describe themselves as very happy in their marriages than non-church-going respondents.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

In addition to worship, fellowship, and finding a higher purpose in life, the admonition in Hebrews 10: 25 includes with it a long list of amazing benefits.

Don’t miss out on all these wonderful blessings.  We hope to see you at church this Sunday.

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

 

 

Reasons I Never Go to Church

 

 

Spurn Spin – Here’s the Pitch

HonestyWho Said It…Mark Roberts

Mark has been senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California for 14 years.  Before that he was education pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Dr. Roberts’s degrees are from Harvard University.

Mark is an active blogger (www.markdroberts.com).  He enjoys hanging out with his wife Linda and their two children, biking, and playing “home improvement” around the house.

What He Said…Here’s the Pitch

As a major league pitcher puts spin on a curve ball to confuse a batter, so the verbal spinner twists the truth to keep the listener off balance.

Spin, said former CNN Crossfire host Bill Press, is hard to define. “It’s not the truth. Neither is it a lie. Spin lies somewhere in between: almost telling the truth, but not quite; bending the truth to make things look as good—or as bad—as possible; painting things in the best—or worst—possible light.”

We can’t escape spin. Politicians spin their positions. Advertisers spin their products. Coaches spin their losses. Students spin their low grades. Spouses spin their marital messes. Corporate executives spin their bottom lines. Employees spin their mistakes.

Most of us can spin with the best of them, saying things that are true in some sense, but not speaking the full truth that ought to be spoken. And we excuse our lack of truthfulness or even congratulate ourselves on our cleverness.

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Broken Wholeness – Help from God

God will hlep youDavid was in despair, pleading for help, when he wrote this psalm. Throughout history, men going through times of struggle and distress have been drawn to this and other psalms of David in which he poured out his feelings to God with tell-it-like-it-is honesty.

David modeled a dynamic, powerful, life-changing friendship with God as he confessed his sins, expressed his doubts and fears, and praised and worshiped. Let his honesty guide you into your own deep, genuine relationship with God.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 13:1-6

  1. What phrase occurs four times in verses 1-2?
  2. So what is David’s complaint?
  3. Does it have to do with God’s ability or His timing?
  4. How do David’s opponents appear to him (vv. 2, 4)?
  5. Is David taking his complaint to the right place?
  6. Trace how talking his problem out with God shifted David’s perspective—from vv. 1-2 to vv. 3-4 to vv.5-6.
  7. On what is David’s concluding optimism about his future based?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Commit to God the issues you are currently struggling with, thanking Him for past rescues and expressing your trust as you wait for His answers.

Psalm 13:1-6

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

 

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – We Are Honored

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  – 2 Timothy 2:3

Bonus Reading:  2 Timothy 3:10-12

Oh February 11, 1973, then-Captain Jeremiah Denton returned home after years of captivity as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He made his way down the steps of the plane, stopped in front of a microphone and said, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances.”

I wonder if this is how the believer will feel when he stands one day before God?

God entrusts to some of His servants—without explanation—the most difficult circumstances. Just look at Job, Joseph, Daniel, and the early martyrs.

A young man released from an oppressive, atheistic regime was asked, “What was it like, being persecuted for your faith?”

“We thought it was the normal Christian life,” was his surprising, yet candid, reply.

He was right. It is Christians in the West who are living abnormally. Personally, I am grateful for the “abnormality.” But if it doesn’t last, we must not question, complain, or become bitter. Instead let us accept each day as the Lord sends it, living obediently and faithfully and not fearing what may come. We know that the glory ahead will obliterate the grim past.

—Ruth Bell Graham in Decision

My Response: Am I open to the “honor” of suffering for Christ?

Thought to Apply: You have granted me many blessings; now let me also accept what is hard from Your hand. —Dietrich Bonhoffer (German pastor executed by Nazis)

 

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Broken Bread

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come … not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough. Luke 5:31-32

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 12:1-10

My clinical depression came to light during my first year away from home at Bible school. I came home confused, frightened, and deeply in need of help. But not appearing normal scared off the people who’d been around me before. “What happened to the old Dave?” they asked.

It’s not easy living with the reality that something’s fundamentally out of kilter with you. After a seven-year search, I found a doctor I could communicate with. He prescribed a medication that made a serious difference. The two pills I take each day quiet the waves of emotion that once crippled me. I’m now able to face the challenges of my life head on.

One Sunday as I sat and took communion, I was reminded that my dependence on God parallels my dependence on my medication to live a full life. It’s the symbol that I’m a broken and sinful man—and the symbol of the cure.

The hardest thing to do sometimes is stand up and say, “I’m broken. I need help.” But if I ever want to get well, it’s what I have to do. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in reading the Bible, it’s that God is a god of broken, imperfect people.

—David Shepherd in Alberta

My Response: I’ll tell God where I’m hurting right now—and ask for His healing.

Thought to Apply: Do not free the camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. —G. K. Chesterton (British jounalist, writer)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Shell Shocked

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Jeremiah 20:7

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 15:10-21; 20:7-18

I vacationed on a South Carolina barrier island when the 300-pound loggerhead turtles were coming ashore. One night I watched one drag herself onto the beach to lay her eggs. Afraid of disturbing her, I left but returned next morning to see if I could find where her eggs lay hidden.

Alarmingly, I found her tracks headed in the wrong direction. She’d lost her bearings and wandered into the hot dunes and certain death. Following the tracks, I found her, exhausted. I poured water on her, covering her with seaweed, and ran to notify a park ranger.

He returned in a jeep, flipped the turtle on her back, wrapped tire chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to his trailer hitch. Then he sped off, dragging her through the sand so fast her mouth filled with sand and her head bent back as if it would break.

I followed the path that the prow of her shell cut in the sand. At the edge of the ocean, he unhooked her and flipped her right side up again. At first she didn’t move. But after a large wave broke over her, she slowly moved, pushed off, and disappeared.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.

—Barbara Taylor in Leadership

My Response: Am I confused about what God’s doing in my life now? Can I trust Him anyway?

Thought to Apply: We are always on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.—Henry Ward Beecher (New York preacher)

Adapted from Leadership (Spring 1992)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Art Therapy

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: You have engulfed us with your anger … You have hidden yourself in a cloud.  – Lamentations 3:43-44

Bonus Reading:  Lamentations 3:1-26

On my office walls are several colorful mosaic crosses made of broken tiles, dinner plates, and stained glass. It was about four years ago, during my slow crawl out of depression that I began making mosaics.

After seven years of chronic pain, I’d hit a physical and emotional wall. I felt like the broken mosaic of a shattered windshield, my life splintered into a zillion tiny pieces. Every day was a strange, surreal experience, as I begged God for help and strength.

When I could see absolutely no purpose in my brokenness, God used it to bring me to a new place of wholeness. My identity had been tightly wrapped around my writing career. Hitting my lowest forced me to discover that God loved me for who I was.

So I took a year and a half off from writing. I now write my books with a pen in each hand, hunting and pecking because it eases the strain on my wrists. For someone who knows how to type fast, this is a very slow way to write a book.

The pain in my life pushed me to utter dependence on God. It taught me more than all the blessing I’ve ever received: a whole new understanding of who I am as God’s child. He began to shape the brokenness into something beautiful He wanted to use for His purpose.

—Joey O’Connor in The Longing

My Response: What lesson has God used pain to teach me?

Thought to Apply: When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.—Charles A. Beard (historian)

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Ask for Help? Me?

God will hlep youWho Said It…Joey O’Connor

As he sat at the keyboard, Joey, a writer, felt like “someone was pushing pins in my wrists, dousing them with gasoline, and then whoosh, lighting the whole mess into a finger-burning wrist flambé.”

He searched for a cure for years, then turned to voice-activated software. “After talking like a robot into a computer for a year, I wore out my vocal cords.”

Depression followed for Joey, now a pastor at Coast Hills Community Church in San Clemente, California, who also directs the Grove Center of the Arts.

What He Said…Ask for Help? Me?

“Don’t worry, God won’t give you more than you can handle.” How often do you hear that when you’re going through a rough time? Really? Show me where that verse appears in the Bible.

In this fallen world, God allows far more than we can handle to show us our true need for Him. Brokenness brings us to the end of ourselves. It brings us to our knees. It’s the very thing we need to lead us to the wholeness found in Christ.

God isn’t an almighty Advil for pain and affliction. He offers us more than relief, rest, and restoration in the midst of our pain. He offers us His presence.

As long as we’re strong, independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient, we’ll continue to depend on our own devices, ingenuity, skill, resourcefulness, and spiritual entrepreneurship to work out our salvation. We’d rather save ourselves than appear weak and needy by depending on God. We give help. We don’t ask for it.

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – When Your Wheels Fall Off

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Psalm 77:7

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 77:1-10

Our view of the victorious Christian is a bulletproof Superman who never doubts, always smiles, never struggles, and leaps tall churches in a single bound.

We want strong Christians who are always strong—not puny, weak ones who get sand kicked in their faces. In our society and even in the church, we’ve erected elaborate defenses against vulnerability, weakness, and suffering.

You and I need permission to be broken. To have seasons in our life when we don’t have it all together, just like in winter when the trees are barren of leaves. To have periods in which it’s okay to struggle.

To search for the wholeness that can come out of brokenness. To know it’s okay to have a bad day. Or week. Or month. Or year. To not have all the right answers or be able to explain why God is doing what He’s doing. To be broken simply because brokenness is part of the human condition.

But people get uneasy if your brokenness hangs around longer than a bad day. They still know the old you, the “you” before you were broken. They don’t know the new broken you and neither do you, because you’re numb just looking at all the broken shards of your life scattered at your feet.

—Joey O’Connor in The Longing

My Response: Have I equated brokenness with failure?

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Playing for Keeps – Single-minded Groom

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: He died for everyone, so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:15-17

[Continued from yesterday]  In Mexico my heart cried out to God, What can I do to awaken this nation to the life–changing gospel of Jesus Christ? Radio! We decided to get on the radio. There was only one problem. In Mexico, Christian radio was illegal. There’s got to be a way around this!

I came back to the U.S., transferred from my liberal arts college to Moody Bible Institute, organized a team of five, and headed back to Mexico. We started a bookstore. Then we went to the radio station. “We represent a bookstore. We want to advertise. We sell Bibles. The reason people don’t buy the Bible is that they don’t know what’s in it. We’d like to read from it in our commercial.” It worked. We read and explained the Scriptures over Mexican radio on a weekly, 15–minute program.

Back at Moody, I got engaged to Drena, and we were married just after graduating. We skipped the honeymoon and went straight to Mexico, trading our wedding cake for gas on the way. For six months we opened bookstores and evangelized. Then we moved to Franco’s Spain, which had little toleration for the gospel. I made it my home base while I studied Russian and prepared to launch into the Soviet Union. [Continued tomorrow]

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: Do I find George Verwer’s passion attractive or bizarre? Why?

Thought to Apply: The sense of this word [enthusiasm] among the Greeks affords the noblest definition of it: enthusiasm signifies God in us.—Germaine De Staël

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

 

Playing for Keeps – No Dull Disciple

EvangelismWho Said It…Mike Yaconelli

Michael Yaconelli passed himself off as the “Italian correspondent” for The Wittenburg Door, the magazine satirizing evangelical Christians that he edited in the 1970s and ’80s. Mike’s no-holds-barred truth telling made this founder of the San Diego-based Youth Specialties a popular speaker.

Living on the water in his boat, for years he pastored a church on weekends in Yreka, at the opposite end of California! He died in 2003 in a heart-attack-induced collision.

What He Said…No Dull Disciple

The most critical issue facing Christians is dullness. We’ve lost our astonishment. The Good News is now just okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it’s life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into “nice people.”

What happened to the un–nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? … To the gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? … To the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, spoke the truth no matter the consequence, and weren’t afraid to follow Jesus wherever He went?

I’m ready for a Christianity that “ruins” my life and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment so captivating that I’m considered wild and unpredictable. I want to be “dangerous” to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that’s considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture.

Adapted from Dangerous Wonder (NavPress, 1988, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

Who’s In? Who’s Out? – Change My Heart

Change My HeartThe church at Rome was evidently started by Jews who’d come to faith during Pentecost (Acts 2).  It had grown and begun absorbing Gentiles into its ranks.

Paul had never been to Rome. But based on what he’d heard about the church there, he sent this letter to introduce himself and to clearly explain how both groups fit into the faith.

Interact with God’s Word:  Romans 15:5-13

  1. What cultural divide among believers in Rome do you think Paul was addressing (vv. 8-9)?
  2. So what was his purpose in quoting from Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and Isaiah (vv. 9-12)?
  3. What, according to verse 7, causes God to be glorified?
  4. How were you accepted by Christ?
  5. Does He reject anyone who comes to Him in faith?
  6. What is it about mutual acceptance, according to verse 6, that glorifies God?
  7. What attitude adjustments on your part could contribute in your church to the complete harmony that Paul was advocating?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for His help in accepting and living harmoniously with believers you might naturally prefer to avoid.

Romans 15:5-13:

5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

8 Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 And he came so the Gentiles might also give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote: “I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.”

10 And in another place it is written, “Rejoice, O you Gentiles, along with his people, the Jews.” 11 And yet again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; praise him, all you people of the earth.”

12 And the prophet Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hopes on him.” 13 So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer for the Week: Lord Jesus, I tend to cold-shoulder those You reach out to with compassion.  Please change my heart.

Who’s In? Who’s Out? – Just the Way I Am

Change My HeartKey Bible Verse: When some of the teachers of the religious law … saw him eating with people like that, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” Mark 2:16

Bonus Reading:  Mark 2:14-17

How would you respond if someone confessed to the church that they had been a practicing homosexual? Having been forgiven by Jesus, they were committed to living a celibate life–style, looking to their brothers for support, prayer, and accountability. Would they be included in your next dinner party? Your small group? At the time for greeting in the service would they be as warmly greeted … hugged?

Would everyone from your town feel welcomed by the people in your church? Does your church have a reputation as an outpost of forgiveness and mercy? If Jesus accepts us just as we are, then bringing Jesus to our non–Jesus world means that we too must receive people just as they are. They’ll need to repent of their sins and seek to live godly lives. But how do we expect them to start the process if they feel that church people are too good for them or too condemning of their lifestyle?

Jesus purposefully engaged those who needed His healing grace. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do,” Jesus told the religious leaders in Mark 2:14-17. “I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.”

—Joseph Stowell in The Trouble With Jesus

My Response: Someone at the fringe of our fellowship that I’ll reach out to is _____.

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

Adapted from The Trouble With Jesus (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord Jesus, I tend to cold-shoulder those You reach out to with compassion. Please change my heart.

4th of July – Thankfulness

God Bless America

Let us be thankful to God today for the freedom that He has given us.


“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  – Galatians 5:13


“God’s purpose in redeeming men from sin is not to give them freedom to do as they please but freedom to do as He pleases, which is to live righteously.”  – John MacArthur

Who’s In? Who’s Out? – Unlikely Leader

Change My HeartKey Bible Verse: So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. Romans 15:7

Bonus Reading:  Romans 15:5-13

There’s a role for just about everyone in the body of Christ. Soon after we started New Life Church in the basement of our home, a man came along who offered to help with worship. He was great—passionate, skilled at singing and playing guitar, and sensitive to the Spirit of God.

But this brother was a chain-smoker. He’d often step outside the basement door during the sermon to smoke, then come back in for the closing prayer. His clothes were disheveled, and he couldn’t keep a job for more than a few weeks. Often I had to send someone over to his trailer to pick him up. Much to my embarrassment, he’d often beg five or ten dollars off the person giving him the ride.

This man would never have met typical church leadership requirements. But he must have met some of God’s requirements. God seemed to bless his ministry. Even though his hair went unwashed and his glasses were broken and held together with a paper clip, this brother had a kind heart toward people, a tenderness before God, and a loving and gentle spirit. Our worship times were anointed, and he was great at leading people in prayer.

—Ted Haggard in Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century

My Response: I’ll thank God for an offbeat brother, _____, whom God is using.

Thought to Apply: The church is not made up of spiritual giants; only broken men can lead others to the cross.—David Bosch (South African missiologist)

Adapted from Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Nelson, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord Jesus, I tend to cold-shoulder those You reach out to with compassion. Please change my heart.

Playing for Keeps – The Unwelcome Mat

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: I work very hard at this, as I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:29

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 1:28-29

[Continued from yesterday]  Roger Malstead and I smuggled Scripture portions and a printing press into the Soviet Union. But we got caught and were interrogated for two days. Convinced that we were religious fanatics and not CIA operatives, they expelled us at the Austrian border.

What is God doing? I wondered. I climbed a tree to get alone and spent the day in prayer. God showed me that my vision was too small, that my job was to mobilize the church, starting in Europe. He showed me how: bring people together for a summer, for a year or two, and send them on outreaches. Then send them back to their home churches and spread the vision.

In 1961, short-term missions trips were virtually unheard of. But it worked. The first summer we recruited 200 volunteers. By the second summer, our group had grown to 2,000. I moved to London, where we assembled a fleet of 120 old trucks. We crossed the English Channel, split up into teams, and drove out to reach the unreached. Within a year of my arrest in the Soviet Union, we were sending the USSR Europeans who spoke fluent Russian and could accomplish more than I ever could. [Continued tomorrow]

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: How might I have answered the “what is God doing?” question after an expulsion?

Thought to Apply: Jesus did not come to make us safe, but rather to make us disciples, citizens of God’s new age, a kingdom of surprise.—Stanley Hauerwas (educator)

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

 

Who’s In? Who’s Out? – Boundary Breaker

Change My HeartKey Bible Verse:  For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life—that I should raise them at the last day.  – John 6:40

Bonus Reading:  Mark 8:34-38John 13:34-35

Christians have a set of boundary markers, defining who’s in and who’s out of the community of believers. Read the newsletters from Christian parachurch organizations. Listen to Christian radio. Liberals are out; conservatives are in. Homosexuals are out; heterosexuals are in. Those who are pro-choice on the abortion issue are definitely out; those who are pro-life are definitely in. While I’m strongly pro-life and have actively worked for 20 years in various pro-life activities, I challenge the use of outward “badges” to identify God’s people.

Who drew lines and used identifying badges in Jesus’ day—the Pharisees or Jesus? A Pharisee believed he could tell who was one of God’s covenant people by examining how that person observed the Sabbath. Who said that prostitutes and tax collectors would get into the kingdom before many of those who were supposedly in?

Jesus’ identifying badges drastically differed from those of the Pharisees and many contemporary Christians: love, faith, mercy, compassion, self-denial, cross bearing, and being unashamed of Him or His words. Are these the badges you and I use to determine who’s in and who’s out?

—Rich Nathan in Who Is My Enemy?

My Response: Whom have I labeled “them” that Jesus might label “us”?

Adapted from Who Is My Enemy? (Tyndale, 1998)

Prayer for the Week: Lord Jesus, I tend to cold-shoulder those You reach out to with compassion. Please change my heart.

Who’s In? Who’s Out? – Damaged Goods?

Change My HeartWho Said It……..Harry Jackson

Dr. Harry R. Jackson Jr. is senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in the Washington, DC, area.  The ministry includes a Bible college and an active missions ministry involved in sending worship and teaching teams to various nations.

He appears weekly on a morning television and radio program called The Hope Connection. Prior to entering the ministry, Harvard MBA Jackson worked as a national sales and marketing manager for a Fortune 500 company.

What He Said……..Damaged Goods?

An elder of a disbanding church came to me with a dilemma about God’s leading for him. He’d left one disappointing situation and unwittingly entered another. He described his family’s delight with the new church they’d started attending. But then he’d learned that years before the pastor had been involved in a homosexual affair.

I asked the elder if he thought Jesus still sets captives free. My next statement stunned him: “If God’s power won’t work for this pastor, then perhaps it won’t work for anyone, including you and me.” I reminded him that we all have past failures we’d just as soon forget. In fact, the apostle Paul concludes an amazing list of sins by saying, “there was a time when some of you were just like that”.  (1 Corinthians 6:11)

After much prayer the elder chose to stay in the church, and his family has thrived within this body. The pastor has proved to be a godly man, protected by God from his former lifestyle.

Adapted from In-laws, Outlaws, and the Functional Family (Regal, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord Jesus, I tend to cold-shoulder those You reach out to with compassion. Please change my heart.