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How to Dis Discontent – “There’s Your Model”

Contentment 2Who Said It…Richard Bewes

Richard is rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. He grew up as a missionary kid in Kenya.

His love of tennis began there and continued during secondary school in England, where he represented the combined Public Schools of Britain against the All-England Club at Wimbledon.

Richard says his family’s gospel tradition began in 1882, when his grandfather, then 14 years old, responded to a sermon by American evangelist D.L. Moody.

What He Said…”There’s Your Model”

Missionary Ken Ogden used his skills as a carpenter to good effect in one of the developing countries.

At one point he’d shown his local pupils how to build a church. They did it together. They were just about to embark on the final lesson of making the seating when the blow fell. The totalitarian government of the day found fault with Ken and ordered him out of the country with 24 hours notice.

What would you have done? Run ’round to the bank and try to extricate what funds you could? Frantically gather your most precious belongings for a hasty exit?

Ken did none of that. Those last hours he spent with his pupils, and made one seat for the new church. “There!” he said when it was done. “There’s your model. Now I’m going, but you finish the rest.”

He left them, not only with the prototype for a church seat, but also with a standard of how an integrated Christian behaves under pressure. It was the lesson of contentment.

Adapted from Words that Circled the World (Christian Focus, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, make me grateful for Your past blessings, confident of Your future provision, and at peace with my current circumstances.

 

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Honesty – Being Honest with God

Honesty 2This psalm may have been written to celebrate moving the Ark of the Covenant from Obededom’s house to Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 6:10-12.

Tradition says that this psalm was sung on the first day of each week in the Temple services.

We focus today on the verses that tell who is worthy to join in such a celebration of worship.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 24:3-6

  1. What qualifications are stated in verse 4 for being a worshipper whom God accepts?
  2. In what way would dishonesty contaminate a heart?
  3. What could complete truthfulness cost you in terms of entitlements, comfort level, or how you are perceived?
  4. How does deceiving others lead to self-deception?
  5. Why is God unable to hear you or speak to you if you are building a wall of self-deception?
  6. What is promised (v. 5) to those who keep their hands and hearts pure?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Lord, I realize that unless I am absolutely honest, a relationship with You is impossible. Please help me to strip away all pretense in my life.

Psalm 24:3-6

3Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.

5They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior. 6They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.

 

Prayer for the Week:  Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Truth and Consequences

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: We can say with … a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings. 2 Corinthians 1:12

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 24:3-6

A couple of years ago a man in my congregation sold his business in order to run for political office. He wanted to invest his life in making a difference in the world.

Though it was John’s first political campaign, he won the election handily. His introduction to California politics wasn’t altogether friendly, however.

As he began to serve in his elected capacity, he soon found himself in trouble with powerful political operatives.

How did he get into this fix? By telling the truth as he saw it, rejecting the “make nice” compromises of political expediency. Before long John faced a stark decision, either to continue to speak truthfully and put his political future at risk or to bend the truth and become “one of the boys.”

When I met with John, he’d decided which course to take, but he wanted some pastoral encouragement. “If I stick with the truth,” he explained, “it might very well be the end of my career in politics. But I need to do what’s right and leave the results to the Lord.”

John’s confidence in God gave him the strength to uphold the truth. The fact of God’s sovereignty and love emboldened him to be truthful in an arena where, sadly, truth is so often lacking.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: I’ll commit to live the truth, and ask God to take care of the consequences.

Thought to Apply: When I lay down the reins of this administration, I want to have one friend left. And that friend is inside myself.—Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Broken Barrier

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 36:1-3

Employees who watch their boss or leader be dishonest to a supplier become uneasy about their job security.

I recently heard about a situation a person found himself in. “I was talking to our president and some other people on the executive team after some difficult negotiations with a major supplier, and I wasn’t comfortable with how it had gone. One of the vice presidents had lied to the supplier to get the price down. I don’t remember my exact words, but I put it as diplomatically as I knew how that I wasn’t comfortable with that, and that it could undermine our relationship with the supplier.

“The president rolled his eyes and laughed. ‘Look at Jack! He’s shocked, shocked, that we sometimes tell stories to suppliers!’

“Everyone laughed, and someone said, ‘Grow up, Jack.’

“Well, I turned red, but I remember thinking, If they are willing to lie to suppliers, why not employees? I never trusted the executive team after that.”

When we break an ethical barrier, it is just like breaking a pane of glass: it’s gone; it does not exist anymore. Not only do people within our organizations begin to mistrust, but also they begin setting their own moral bar lower. The “broken glass” can’t be repaired to look flawless.

—Wayde Goodall in Why Great Men Fall

My Response: How could I help raise the moral bar where I work?

Thought to Apply: He that once deceives is ever suspected.—George Herbert (English poet & priest)

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – End-of-the-Tunnel Light?

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: They say to themselves, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us! We will be free of trouble forever!”Psalm 10:6

Bonus Reading:  2 Chronicles 18:3-22

In early 1968, the Commandant of the Marine Corps came to Danang for a visit, and I was assigned to the briefing team.

A colonel called me aside and suggested, “Tell him about the MiGs you encountered over Hanoi.” I answered “Well, you know, I never really encountered any myself.” He quickly replied with a note of consternation in his voice, “Well, somebody encountered them, so you’re the person who needs to talk about them.”

He added another subject: “Make sure you tell the Commandant about evasive maneuvers when multiple surface-to-air missiles were sent your way.” Again I felt obliged to reply, “I never had more than a single surface-to-air missile come my way at one time.” He was having a hard time making his point. “Yes, but there were other people who must have had SAMs shot at them in multiple configurations. Tell them about that.”

That briefing, and the not-so-subtle shift from what was factually correct, became a microcosm of the entire war. As the war went on, sometimes supported by little lies and sometimes by a total absence of truth, we lost faith in reality. We lost that faith because no one had the courage to tell the truth.

—Robert Seiple in Ambassadors of Hope

My Response: In what settings do I find truth elusive?

Thought to Apply: So long as we are able to distinguish any space whatever between the truth and us, we remain outside it.—HENRI AMIEL (Swiss philosopher)

Adapted from Ambassadors of Hope (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Check-in Checkup

Honesty 2Key Bible Verse: For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart.  –  Psalm 51:5-6

Bonus Reading: Jeremiah 9:3-9

I arrived late at the airport only to discover that I’d forgotten to refuel the rental car. That really shouldn’t have been a problem since the rental company will gladly refuel the car for about $4.00 a gallon.

But when the agent at the check-in counter asked me if I had refueled the car, I lied, or at least I used the “truth” to deceive. Instead of simply answering no, I said, “The fuel gauge is registering full.”

Without looking up from her paperwork she asked, “Do you have a receipt for the gasoline?”

Once again I had an opportunity to do the right thing. All I had to was tell her that I had not refueled the car. Instead, I simply said, “No.” She must have have sensed I wasn’t being completely truthful because she pressed me. “What,” she asked, “was the name of the gasoline station where you refueled the car?”

This time I didn’t even pretend to tell the truth. “I don’t remember,” I mumbled as I turned away and walked toward the concourse. I could feel her eyes boring into me, but I didn’t look back. Such duplicity! Such deceit! And for what? Less than ten dollars worth of gasoline.

—Richard Exley in Man of Valor

My Response: How have I cultivated or suppressed a God-honoring conscience?

Thought to Apply: A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent.—William Blake (English artist & writer)

Adapted from Man of Valor (White Stone Books, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Tithe

TithingTithing is a spiritual discipline many Christians practice.

In its simplest form, it means giving back to God 10 percent of what you make.

I’ve practiced it for years as a regular part of my giving.  I tithe ‘plus’ to my local church and I give to other causes on top of that.

However, I’ve seen 10 common reasons that church people give for not tithing. I list them below with a counterpoint below each.

1. It’s all mine anyway. Why should I give?

2. I give elsewhere.

This is the person who counts his giving to secular causes, his time or paying for his child’s Christian school tuition as his tithe.

  • Counterpoint:  Do causes around the purposes of God get the lion’s share of your giving?

3. Tithing is not in the New Testament.

This is one of the most common.

  •         CounterpointWhen Jesus fulfilled the law, He didn’t revise spirituality downward.

4. God will provide through other people. 

This person believes that other people will give to support the cause of Christ in their church.

  •          Counterpoint: God chose to release His resources through all believers.

5. My gifts don’t really count. 

This person thinks that because he can’t give much, his giving really doesn’t matter.

  •         CounterpointDon’t minimize the size of any gift (recall the story of the poor widow in Mark 12.41-44).

Tithing Statistics6. I don’t trust preachers.

This is understandable due to the few high profile ministers who misuse God’s money.

  • CounterpointIf you lead a church, make sure you instill the highest standards of stewardship and accountability.

7. I only give to projects I like.

This is the control freak who only gives to projects he or she can designate funds to. Some people in this category even hold back their giving in their church because they haven’t gotten their way.

  • Counterpoint: Trust your church leadership to wisely manage God’s money.

8. I have no control over my finances. My husband does.

In this case (and it’s almost always a wife in this position) her husband controls the finances and although the wife wants to give, he prohibits it.

  •   CounterpointRest in the Lord, He knows your heart.

9. I will tithe when I can afford it.

  • CounterpointIf you wait, you probably never will. Research shows that contrary to what we might assume, the more money a person makes, the less percentage they give.

10. I’m afraid to. (These people honestly fear what might happen to them or their family if they give.)

  • CounterpointStep out in faith knowing that God promises to meet your needs.

 

Honesty – Technically True

Honesty 200Key Bible Verse: Our responsibility is never to oppose the truth, but to stand for the truth at all times.  2 Corinthians 13:8

Bonus Reading: Jeremiah 17:9-10

During graduate school, I managed a center that offered tutoring to students preparing to take standardized exams. Part of my job was to promote our program. The best promotion was to showcase the improved test scores of our clients—improvements we could demonstrate.

Most of our students showed a significant gain on the SAT—an average of 120 points among those whose scores improved. However, a few students actually received lower scores!

If my promotional material spoke of the average improvement, rather than the average overall change, I could eliminate the scores of the students who didn’t improve. However, if I took them into account, the average student improved by only 90 points.

I faced a dilemma. If I spoke of average improvement, I was putting a deceptive spin on the truth. I’m sad to say that I failed to renounce the trickery of this world. I stated the literal truth—”the average improvement after taking our class is 120 points”—in a way that led people to believe that the average student increased his or her score by that margin.

Our promotional literature escaped an outright lie, but it didn’t tell the complete truth.

—Mark Roberts in the Dare to Be True

My Response: From what deceptive spin do I need to distance myself?

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Honesty – Burying His Hatchet

Honesty 200Who Said It…Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson, a tough marine turned Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man,” was converted as the Watergate scandal closed in on the President’s inner circle. Skeptics saw this as a devious ploy. When an interviewer questioned his conversion, Colson said the evidence would be his life ten years later. The then second-most hated man in America is now the softened, forgiveness-seeking founder of Prison Fellowship.

What He Said…Burying His Hatchet

After fighting to prove his innocence, Colson’s born-again conscience led him to change course. An offered plea bargain was designed to let him off with probation. But he rejected it because he’d have to testify that he ordered a break-in at the offices of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg—something he hadn’t done.

But God helped him to see that his lack of direct involvement in the break-in was pure happenstance. He’d obtained the money to pay for a covert operation against Ellsberg, and tried to smear him in the press. So Colson told his law-firm partner, David Shapiro, that he’d decided to plead guilty to disseminating derogatory information to the press about Ellsberg while he was a criminal defendant.

“It’s not a crime!” retorted Shapiro. “No one’s ever been charged with that.”

Colson said that the prosecutor might accept it as an obstruction of justice charge.

“You’re an idiot,” shouted Shapiro. “You’re going to end up in the slammer.”

“I know,” was the soft answer.

Adapted from Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Because You are absolute truth, Lord, give me the courage to adhere to Your standard.

 

Why Should We Give?

OfferingEvery day, we are given the opportunity to open our hearts to the many gifts we have been given by our God. We are asked at that time, to consider what we can give back to God, through our giving. We should remember that giving is not seasonal, but continual.

When considering our giving, there are several questions we need to ask ourselves.

 

• Are we giving for the right reasons?
• Are we giving to our Church to “keep the lights on” or to advance God’s word?
• Are we looking inward or outward?
• Are we giving for mortar or missions?
• Are we giving out of a feeling of begrudged obligation or out of gratitude?
• Do we give only to the ministries we agree with rather than to the overall mission of the church?

There are several reasons people don’t like to give to the church.

• Some may feel that they need to spend the money on themselves and their families.
• Some may have disagreements with church leaders over how the money is spent.
• Perhaps some fear the future – not knowing if they will have enough.

For all the reasons we may have for not being a faithful steward, the Bible gives us reasons why we should.

So, why should we give?

  • We give financially to God because he has given us everything.
  • When we give to God, we are expressing our love to him.
  • We should give to expand his Son’s church.
  • When we give financially to God, we will become rich in every way, but especially spiritually.
  • God gives to us so that we are able to give yet some more.
  • Every possession we have is through God.
  • He provides for us so that we can use His resources to bring Him glory and expand His kingdom.
  • God deserves and expects us to give to Him first before anything else.
  • He expects us to give cheerfully and to give regularly and in accordance with our income.

Please prayerfully consider all these principals today and every day when determining your level of giving.

Deuteronomy 15:10

10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

 

Endurance Test – Enduring Faith

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1The Christians addressed in the letter to the Hebrews had placed their faith in Christ for what He’d done for them in the past.

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

Hebrews 10:33-38

  1. The inspired writer tells us never to forget our early days as believers. What stands out in your memory about this time in your life?
  2. What does the writer specially want us to remember (vv. 32, 34)?
  3. What is the basis for this faithfulness and joy (v. 34b)?
  4. Do you know someone whose confident trust in the Lord has eroded?
  5. What kind of self-reminder would have prevented that (v. 35)?
  6. What quality should this expectation enable in your life (v. 36)?
  7. Verses 37 and 38 quote the then-current Greek translation of Habakkuk 2:3-4. Is your faith for today and tomorrow solid enough to insure that you won’t “turn away”?

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

Hebrews 10:32-38

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

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

 

How Religious Are You?

 

Pew Research has come up with a different way of classifying American religion.

Instead of looking at broad categories (evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants), or affiliations (denominations, religions), it has drawn up a “typology” based on how religious a person is, along with some other descriptors.

 

 

 

The Pew study based on these categories has some interesting findings.  First, here are the seven categories:

Pew defines each category with quite a few traits, including demographic and political characteristics.  See the Pew Study:  The Religious Typology:  A New Way to Categorize Americans by Religion, which is quite fascinating to dig around in.

 

One problem with the study is that it lumps together not just denominations but different religions (Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.), putting them in with “Sunday Stalwarts” if they regularly attend their religion’s services (though Muslims and Hindus aren’t really required to) and frequently read their “religious text” (though the Hindu’s use of the Bhagavad Gita is not the same as the Christian’s use of the Bible).

A better result would be obtained if researchers were to study American religious by focusing on actual religious beliefs?  (Do you believe that salvation is based on [a] how good we are [b] God’s forgiveness of sins. . . .?  Do you believe that God [a] looks down on His creation from a distance [b] is incarnate. . . .?)

  • What category to you fall into?

 

Tithing – Why I Give

Shannon Meister, laywoman, talks about her faith in tithing.

Shannon Meister, laywoman, talks about her faith in tithing.

Recently, someone asked me to provide a testimony about why I give my resources and my gifts to the church. I grew up in The United Methodist Church and was always taught about giving and tithing. Yet, giving a testimony really made me think and reflect about why I truly give.

My parents always made a point to give money every Sunday we were in church, which was nearly every Sunday. My mom used to write the check and let me put it in the offering plate. That left an impression on me because of her faithfulness in this act.

When I was in middle school or high school, I remember having a conversation with our pastor about how and why she tithed 10 percent of her income before taxes. I remember as a young teenager how that simply blew my mind. That memorable conversation has stuck with me so much that as I have gone through various jobs and wages, I have strived to do the same.

One wise pastor often preached that giving is not about the church’s need for money but about our need to give. Isn’t that true of all of our gifts and resources in the church? It is about our need to be a part of something bigger than we are. It is about hope for a better world that we believe and know is possible.

Much too often, it is easy to be caught up in our consumer society where it is all about us. We want better, newer and faster everything. I find this especially true with the technological gadgets in my life. However, we, as Christians, know that this is not where our treasure lies. We know these things are not what is truly important. Yet, we are still tempted, aren’t we?

As I further reflect, I know I have friends who have a lot more time and money than I do. Some days, this bothers me. But when I think about it, I know they probably don’t tithe their resources; and they don’t have something bigger to believe in and live for.

“Crazy,” a song by Mercy Me, states, “Even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.” Even though the world often thinks of Christians as crazy for the things we do and the sacrifices we make, we know there is a bigger picture than just life on this earth, don’t we? That is why I give and why I believe. It is about something bigger than the hour I spend at a missions meeting or the check that I write. It is even about something bigger than a weekend with several thousand youth. It is about how we can pool our resources and change the world by the grace of God.

Adapted from a story by Shannon Meister, director of Culture & Connections at The Way

United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Endurance Test – God Isn’t a Quitter

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work. John 4:34

Bonus Reading: John 17:4, 7-8, 12

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

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

Jesus is our ultimate example of not quitting. Even as a child of 12, He reminded His distraught parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV).  Later, during His public ministry, He told His disciples, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God … and from finishing his work.”

Even when Jesus was dying, He rejected the challenge of the crowd: “Save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:30). It is so human to let go and quit when under fire. However, it is divine to hang in there. At the end of His ordeal, Jesus said, “‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

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

—George Sweeting in Too Soon to Quit

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

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

Adapted from Too Soon to Quit (Moody, 1999)

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

 

Endurance Test – What Kick?

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  – Hebrews 3:14

Bonus Reading: Joshua 14:6-12

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Dave Wottle, wearing his trademark baseball cap, was dead last in the 800-meter race. As the final lap around the track began, Wottle charged through the pack. “Watch out for the kick of Dave Wottle!” the TV announcer screamed. Wottle overtook the leaders in the last 20 meters and won the gold medal by three-tenths of a second!

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

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

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

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

—Tod Bolsinger in Show Time

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

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

Adapted from Show Time (Baker, 2004)

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

 

Endurance Test – Ridgeline Reruns

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Hebrews 10:36

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 10:32-38

Hiking north to south on the Appalachian Trail, I found the Smoky Mountains stretch that leads up to Mollies Ridge demoralizing. I felt like an ant climbing a giant staircase. I’d see the peak just ahead and, after a steep climb, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I did it! Then I’d round a corner, and there would be an up-until-then hidden summit. What? There’s more? There were several premature celebrations before the satisfaction of finally reaching the Mollies Ridge shelter.

The ascent to holiness is like that. One peak after another appears as God fine-tunes our faith. In Hebrews 10:36, the writer of Hebrews calls for persevering on the path of improvement. Perseverance is by definition an ongoing pursuit; but receiving the crown of life is a one-time event. We strive to be holy for that moment when God will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Does your pursuit of righteousness seem to be nothing but an uphill climb? Be encouraged. This is the path God wants you on. He longs for Christians unafraid to take the trail all the way to the top. He’ll hike alongside you and give you rest when you’re weary. And the final reward is being with Him forever!

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

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

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

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

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

 

Endurance Test – The Q Word

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. James 1:4, NLT

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1

The summer before my last year of prep school, I decided to quit Coach Marvin Goldberg’s cross-country team. I was tired of grueling workouts. I wanted some free time for things like dating. Come spring, I told myself, I’d get serious again and run on his track team, but I wanted out of the fall schedule of long-distance competition, where our team frequently contended in 10k races against college freshmen teams.

I wrote Coach about my decision. His typed reply arrived. The gist: By not running with the cross-country team this fall, you’ll disappoint your teammates, who depend on you to help them win races, and turn your back on the team’s supporters, who show up at every race to cheer your team on. But most of all, whenever you’re faced with a challenge you don’t like, or that seems too difficult, or that asks for too great a sacrifice, you’ll find it easier and easier to walk away from it.

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

—Gordon MacDonald in A Resilient Life

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

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

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Nelson, 2005)

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

 

Why Why Even Go to Church? The Truth About Those Sundays When You Just Don’t Want to Be There

Here’s a short article by Paul Tripp with important truths for each of us.


Church is wonderful. Church is important.

Church is meant to remind us of the miserable condition in which sin left us and our world, and of the glorious rescue of redeeming grace.

The songs we sing, the Scriptures we read, the sermons we listen to and the prayers we engage in are all designed to keep us from ever taking the person and work of Jesus Christ for granted.

Despite all of this, there are some Sundays when I don’t attend church with a good attitude.

I know you are more like me than unlike me.

While there are many Sundays that we are excited for church, there are those “other Sundays” when you just don’t want to be there.

On more Sundays than I wish to admit, I grumble my way into the worship service. There are some weeks when I’m just running through the motions, going to church because I’m supposed to.

(Sometimes I go because my wife makes me! But I know that has never happened to any of you…)

But on these Sundays, something happens: The glory of God confronts my fickle heart.

God ordained for us to gather for worship because he knows us and the weaknesses of our grumbling and easily distracted hearts. He knows how soon we forget the depth of our need as sinners and the expansiveness of his provisions in Jesus Christ.

He knows that little lies can deceive us and little obstacles can discourage us. He knows that self-righteousness still has the power to delude us.

So in grace, he calls us to gather and consider glory once again, to be excited once again, and to be rescued once again.

It’s not only that these worship services remind us of God’s grace; these worship services are themselves a gift of grace.

Going to church is designed to confront you with the glory of the grace of Jesus so you won’t look for life, help and hope elsewhere.

Are you allowing yourself to be confronted?

God bless

Paul Tripp

This resource is from Paul Tripp Ministries. For additional resources, visit www.paultripp.com.

The Real Cost of Christian Marriage

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book Choosing Marriage.


Did you ever think someone could show you love through a bologna sandwich?

I didn’t think so either.

Until I found out that my then-boyfriend-now-husband (a poor, broke, medical school student at the time) spent close to two months eating bologna sandwiches every day, in order to cut down his grocery budget to $10/week. Just so he could save up enough money to buy me an engagement ring.

The truth is this: Marriage will cost you.

When you think of the cost of marriage, what comes to mind?

According to recent statistics, the average couple today spends $26,444 on a wedding. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the REAL cost of marriage. Because like it or not, marriage will cost you MORE. It will cost you something great. It will cost you a price much larger than the money you spend on a ring or a wedding or a honeymoon.

It will cost you yourself.

I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy…” and it made my stomach turn.

What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing that their main goal in life is THEIR OWN personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live. If you’re getting married with that as your main goal, to make yourself happy, you will be disappointed in a severe way.

Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about LOVE, which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving, and then doing it all over again.

No wonder we often choose divorce over commitment…because most of the time, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment—over real love.

They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small. That’s what marriage will cost you.

It’s about offering forgiveness when you’ve been hurt.

It’s about giving your time though it’s not always convenient.

It’s about sharing your heart when you’d rather hold back.

It’s about cleaning the kitchen after a long weekend, even if it’s your least favorite job.

It’s about choosing to respond with love when you’d rather respond in anger.

It’s about offering a listening ear, when you’d rather tune out or go to bed. 

It’s about putting someone else’s needs and desires before your own.

It’s about giving up that last bite of cake, just so your spouse can enjoy it.

It’s about putting aside your rights, to make space for the rights of another.

The list could go on and on, but it always ends with the same formula:

WE BEFORE ME.

That’s what marriage will cost you. 

We live in a world that DESPISES the sacrificial side of marriage and tries to explain it away. They teach us to strive for power, control and the upper hand in a relationship. They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy. And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail…to abandon ship…and to stop investing…to give up on love.

But they’ve got it all wrong.

Because the more we give, the better we become. Real love is not self-seeking, and it will ALWAYS cost you. More, and more, and more. Again, and again, and again.

It will cost your heart, your time and your money. It will cost your comfort, your rights and your pride. It will cost you to “lay down your life” for the life of another. Because only those who learn to die to themselves are the ones who get to experience the resurrection power that comes with it.

Resurrection into real love, into real life and into meaningful relationships.

This article is an excerpt from Debra Fileta’s new book, Choosing Marriage. Learn astonishing survey results, and practical steps to take in the hot topics of LOVE, SEX, INTIMACY, CONFLICT, COMMUNICATION, CONFESSION and so much more.

Endurance Test – Enthusiasm Leak

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Key Bible Verse: Don’t get tired of doing what is good … For we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  – Galatians 6:9

Bonus Reading: Matthew 24:45-51

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

But then, as you wax and whistle, your back starts to ache, your right arm to feel sore. Your whistling slides into a slower rhythm and shifts into a minor key. Perhaps you’d better leave the lawn for another day. The garage can wait too, you guess. Doing this car is a big enough job all by itself. Well, leave the rest of the car for next Saturday too. Now find a hammock!

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

—Neal Plantinga in Beyond Doubt

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

Adapted from Beyond Doubt (Eerdmans, 2002)

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

 

6th Avenue Bulletin Board Restored and Improved

Our Trustees have been busy again – this time with our outside 6th Avenue Bulletin Board.

The plexiglass window on the front door recently broke at the top left corner, leaving the inside open to the elements.  The broken plexiglass was removed and replaced with new plexiglass to give us a weather-tight seal once again.

While they were at it, the old fluorescent tube and ballast were removed and replaced with a brand new LED light fixture.

The restored 6th Avenue bulletin board is now fully functional once again, illuminating our Church’s name and washing light down over the message in the bulletin board, all while using 30% less electricity than the little we previously used with the fluorescent light.

A big Thank-You to our dedicated Trustees for another improvement to our Church!

 

 

Endurance Test – Roll of Rejection

Endurance - Hebrews 12--1Who Said It…Gary L. Thomas

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

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

What He Said…Roll of Rejection

I’d been invited to deliver a commencement address as an author who also speaks widely. But I wanted the students to see someone wondering if anyone would ever want to hear what he believed God had given him to say. I knew that 99 percent of the kids wouldn’t remember a thing I said. So I prayed about providing a picture that would stick with them.

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

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

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

Adapted from Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2002)

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

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Fruits of the Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

How come the Holy Spirit manages an “extreme makeover” in some lives but barely makes a dent in others?

As you work through this passage, ask yourself: “Do I really want to hear from the Spirit?” “Am I ready to take action on what He reveals?” and “Am I making a good-faith effort to distinguish between my own ‘druthers’ and His promptings?”

Interact with God’s Word

Galatians 5:16-25

  1. What two sets of desires, according to verse 17, are in conflict in your life?
  2. Review the list (vv. 19-21a) of “what the sinful nature desires.” Which of these still threaten to trip you up?
  3. Review the list (vv. 22-23) of “what the Holy Spirit wants.” Which of these needs work in your life?
  4. What drastic action is required (v. 24) to insure that “what the Holy Spirit wants” comes out on top?
  5. How can you be confident that you’re being “directed by the Holy Spirit” (v. 18)?
  6. To assure the Spirit’s control, which people or things trying to determine your values and standards must you push aside?
  7. Paul urges us (v. 25) to follow the Spirit’s leading “in every part of our lives.” Ask yourself if He’s in control of the emotional, physical, social, intellectual, and vocational aspects of your life.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to give you an ear that amplifies the Spirit’s voice while suppressing competing voices, and a will prepared to make the changes He calls for.

Galatians 5:16-25

16 So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. 18 But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Emotional Scale

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.  – Revelation 1:10

Bonus Reading: John 4:23-24

I treasure the Holy Spirit because He feels things. The word “ecstasy” figures prominently in descriptions of revival through the centuries. When God sweeps into the middle of our lives, we laugh, we cry, we bow, we rejoice, we’re “alive in the Spirit.” If we don’t feel these things in worship, we’re prone to say God isn’t present in our praise.

Many of my Pentecostal friends seem to have a need to feel their religion more than my Episcopal friends do. Yet I can’t castigate them for this. I suspect that how we respond to joy has much to do with the kind of personalities we have.

Some souls seem more buoyant by nature and therefore require a more demonstrative expression of their faith. Most Italians seem more jolly to me than Nordic peoples. I don’t disparage either group for being who they are. I feel the same about different worship styles.

Don’t I have my own preferred kind of worship? Sure. I like the heritage and content of Episcopal worship. I like the open, confessional, warm style of the Assemblies of God. I feel generally happy in a Baptist church, which gives me a little of each. I feel most comfortable about half way between Billy Sunday and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: Am I wired to respond to the Spirit more in deep calm or vibrant exuberance?

Thought to Apply: Holy Wind, blow across my mind; free me of the things that bind.—Source Unknown

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – What Next?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk beside the carriage”  – Acts 8:29

Bonus Reading: Acts 8:26-39

Back in 1984, a young man in our church looked out a window of his home and saw a woman sitting in her den next door. She’d been his neighbor for some time, yet he’d never spoken to her about Christ. Resolving to change that, he rang her doorbell and convinced her of her need for Christ.

The next Sunday she came forward to announce her new faith, and asked if I’d talk to her husband about Christ. During my visit in their home, he also came to faith.

That second Sunday he publicly acknowledged his conversion, and asked me to talk to their grown son, an attorney. The son, too, became a believer.

On the third Sunday, he started down the aisle to announce his newfound joy in Christ. Rising from his seat, his father met him halfway. From their tears, witnessed by our entire congregation, sprang an era of utter revival.

Over the next eight weeks, many families found healing from dysfunction as they committed themselves to Christ. The church added more than 100 members. Attending church became a priority. Who’d dare miss a service whose very existence called the world to a new order of things?

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: I’ll pray for a Spirit-driven awakening that I can be part of.

Thought to Apply: Where the Spirit is poured out on the church, it sweeps the believers along in a great river of obedience, praise, and mighty works.—Richard B. Hays

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – We Are One in the Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? … Any fellowship together in the Spirit?   – Philippians 2:1

Bonus Reading: Acts 2:43-47

The Holy Spirit is the pillar at the center of our togetherness as a community of faith. We long to be one with Christ, but the Spirit is the person of the Trinity we depend on to bring us together to act and worship in oneness.

I’ve never felt the center of God’s community so powerfully as when I visited the catacombs of Saint Sebastian in Rome. Some 525 miles of these catacombs—sunless, subterranean tubes—lace the ground beneath the city of Rome.

These narrow, soft-lava passageways housed the underground community of Christians during the persecutions of Nero and later emperors. But they served as more than hideaways. They became the places where Christians gathered to cheer on their martyrs, to hold each other up in their most desperate hours.

These catacombs furnished the arena of the Spirit’s most important kind of community. In this space ordinary souls, who never thought of themselves as valiant, suddenly found themselves in the community of the Spirit, who forged them into a union able to endure life’s hard times.

The Holy Spirit still forms the center of our best community and inflames us with a common identity and passion.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: I’m most aware of the Spirit’s presence in my church family when …

Thought to Apply: The gathered church is the place of God’s own personal presence [through] the Spirit, by whom God has now revisited His people.—Gordon Fee

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

China Bans Beijing’s Biggest House Church

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An article in Christianity Today provides a chilling tale of increasing religious persecution of Christians in China.


Beijing authorities recently threatened to close Zion Church last month after the 1,500-member congregation, one of the Chinese capital’s largest house churches, refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary.

After services on Sunday, officials delivered on their threat to the unofficial Protestant congregation, which meets in a renovated hall in northern Beijing.  Zion is now banned and its religious materials have been confiscated.

Zion, the biggest house church in Beijing, has decided it will not be swayed by the ban and instead hold services outdoors.

Zion had received a letter from city authorities in April, asking the church to install 24 closed-circuit video cameras in the building for “security reasons.”

Following the church’s refusal, state security officials and police started to harass churchgoers, going as far as contacting their workplaces and asking them to promise not to go to church.

The church was in the process of being evicted from the building it occupies, despite assurances from the landlord that it could rent the facility until 2023.

Rental leases are being used as a new weapon to suppress Chinese house churches.

Pressure is applied through opaque queries of fire protection measures, by questioning the legality of printed materials used by the church, through harsh and unfair applications of business licensing requirement.  The common feature of these legal tactics is the effort to close houses of worship for ‘non-religious reasons,’ and in so doing, sidestep the accusation of suppressing religious freedom.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s government has sought to increase control over religious affairs.

In February, revised regulations came into force on religious groups; where implemented, churches have started to face increased pressure to “sinicize”—to be “Chinese” in orientation—culturally and to be in submission to the authority of the Communist Party.

This involves burning of crosses and replacing them with the Chinese flag; showing slogans praising the Communist Party and the values of socialism in religious buildings; and taking away sacred images seen as “too Western,” according to a report by AsiaNews, referring to incidents in several provinces.

In Shangrao, a city in Jiangzi province, at least 40 churches were forced to display banners that forbid foreigners from preaching, and anyone under 18 from attending, the Catholic news site reported.

It added that in Shenyang in Liaoning province and in Xuzhou in Jiangsu province, “dozens of domestic churches have been closed … forcing communities to join the Three-Self Movement, the official government controlled Protestant community.”

Meanwhile, on August 26 the Communist Party published revised regulations for its own members, including a clause for those who are religious. 

“Party members who have religious belief should have strengthened thought education. If they still don’t change after help and education from the party organization, they should be encouraged to leave the party,” state the new rules, according to Reuters.

The rules also warn that those who attend “activities that use religion for incitement” face expulsion.


Please pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in China as they face increasing persecution.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – An Attending Presence

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25

Bonus Reading: Romans 10:13-15

A boyhood chum had terminal cancer but no faith to sustain him. I found myself praying with him as he trusted Christ, and I was holding his hand as he entered eternity. I summoned the nurse. As I was leaving his room, she arrived with an attending physician. “Were you this man’s pastor?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Can you tell me, sir, whether he knew Christ as his Savior?”

“I can,” I said. “I led him to faith some months ago.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said, “I feel so bad. I’ve been his physician for several months but never asked him if he knew Christ as his Lord.”

We parted, but abruptly sensing the leadership of the Spirit, I returned to the room, where the doctor was issuing the death certificate. “Excuse me, sir,” I said, “but I’ve visited people in this hospital for years and met a lot of physicians. But none ever told me he felt guilty for not having led a patient to Christ.” I handed him my card. “If ever you had the time, I’d count it a privilege to take you to lunch.”

The lunch we agreed to share became the first of many, cementing a life-long friendship. This man awakened my own hunger for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to become central in my life.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: One way I’m hungry to sense the Spirit’s influence in my life is …

Thought to Apply: A simple definition of the Holy Spirit is “God in action today.” —Alan Walker (Australian evangelist)

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Proof Positive

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.  – Romans 8:16

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Matsuyama slumped cross-legged on the wooden floor of his one-room apartment on the second floor of a former army barracks. His was just one of dozens of poor families housed in the ramshackle old building.

“What’s wrong, Matsuyama San?”

“I’m not a Christian any longer.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, I got drunk, some guy bad-mouthed me, and I chased him with a baseball bat. What’s worse, when I got home and told my wife, she handed me the butcher knife. She said, ‘the Bible says if your right hand does wrong, cut it off.’ I’m no Christian.”

It was out of drunkenness that Matsuyama had been saved. An excellent electrician, he descended down the river of alcohol to poverty, taking his wife and three children with him. “Did you ever get drunk and fight before you became a Christian?” I asked.

“All the time.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“Only if I got beat.”

“Don’t you see, Matsuyama San? Since the Holy Spirit lives in you, when you fail you’re miserable. Your misery is proof you really are a Christian!”

—Robertson McQuilkin in 00

My Response: I recently experienced the Spirit’s convicting role when …

Adapted from Life in the Spirit (Broadman & Holman, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Spirit of Creation

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window00

Who Said It…Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1985, Ted and his wife, Gayle, moved there with two of their now five children and started New Life Church in the basement of their home. Now its membership numbers 11,000. Ted says that his goal is to make it hard to go to hell from Colorado Springs.

He also serves as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

What He Said…The Spirit of Creation

Many churches do a good job of teaching about the power of the Holy Spirit. If we genuinely encourage people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though, we had better be prepared for the work that He will do in them.

You see, the Holy Spirit is in the business of change. He is Mr. Change; it is what He does, and He does it well. He comes into people’s lives and starts changing them, and as this process develops, He starts giving them ideas for change.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Creation. In a fallen world, He always creates change because He is the agent God uses to make the world a better place. Thus, He always improves things. He always rearranges our furniture.

He always adjusts the status quo. So when He fills His people, we all prosper if our structures facilitate change. But if our structures constrain change, it’s a matter of time before something breaks. Let’s replace resistance to change with a culture of freedom.

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Joy of Understanding

The BibleIn Psalm 19, David looks at God’s greatness through two different lenses. He first does so through God’s creation.

Then he turns to God’s Word. When you’re doing the things that God created you to do and told you to do in His Word, he writes, your life will begin to overflow with a joy you never imagined possible.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 19:7-11

  1. In verses 7-9, what names are given to Scripture? What different aspects do they highlight?
  2. What words (after “is” or “are”) are used to describe God’s Word?
  3. What six results or consequences follow for the person who takes God’s Word to heart?
  4. Taken together, what do these statements tell you about the potential impact of God’s Word in your life?
  5. What does verse 10 tell you about the Bible’s ability to satisfy your deepest needs?
  6. What negative benefit of exposure to God’s Word does verse 11 add?
  7. What positive benefit is promised to those who apply God’s Word to their lives?
  8. What form do you think that “great reward” takes?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to grant you the joy of rightly understanding His Word and consistently conforming your behavior to it.

Psalm 19:7-11

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life. 9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.

10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Right Verdict

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. Psalm 19:9b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:137-144

God made us to seek and long for true justice.  As we see crime and evil in our society escalating at a sickening pace, something hidden inside our very being rises up, yearning for wrong to be punished and justice meted out.

There used to a little feature in Reader’s Digest called “That’s Outrageous.”  Here were true stories, specific accounts of people who had been severely wronged, telling how our society and our government failed to administer the justice due.  Criminals out of jail early, committing the horrendous.  Murderers let off on a technicality and freed to murder again, all under the banner of justice.  I had to quit reading the feature; it was just too upsetting.

How do you cope with this?

The only way I know is to keep in mind that we have a God of perfect justice.  Though the final judgment of God is yet future, the Bible tells what His verdicts—His pronouncements of consequence, and punishment for sin—will be.

God is not capricious like our human judges;  He doesn’t operate according to His moods or personal circumstances.  We can be sure that He will judge fairly and precisely, consistent with all He has told us in Scripture. Ultimately He will right every wrong and silence every rebel.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: One way I can reflect God’s justice in my society is to …

Thought to Apply:You never know a line is crooked unless you have a straight one to put next to it.—Socrates

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Muddle Eraser

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life.  – Psalm 19:8b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:129-136

Remember a few years back when a new beverage came out called “Clearly Canadian”?

The product featured wonderful berry flavors with a sparkling, fresh taste, sold in a blue glass bottle.  Just describing it makes me thirsty for that clear, crisp sensation I get in my mouth when I drink it.

To me there’s just something wonderful about stuff that is clear.  When I buy something for my home, I search for things with the words on the package “no assembly required,” because I hate those manuals that are so unclear and impossible to follow.  I like clean glasses and windows, and clear highways.  No doubt about it, “clear” rocks!

That’s why I was so excited the day I understood for the first time that the Word of God is clear.  You can pick it up yourself and understand it.  The commands of God are clear, laying out the positive results of doing what he requires and the negative consequences of disobedience.

People try to say that the Bible is confusing because they don’t want to accept its message, but actually the Bible is incredibly clear in what it asserts—so crystal-clear that God promises it will bring light to the darkness in every human heart.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: When seeking an answer, I’ll commit to turn to God’s Word first.

Thought to Apply: More people are troubled by what is plain in Scripture than by what is obscure.—Roy L. Smith (pastor)

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – In Sync

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:1-8

Commandments are God’s prescriptions, pronouncements, principles.  The world has principles, too, doesn’t it?

Stuff like: “You only go around once, so go for the gusto.”

Or how about: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Everyone has heard that worldly principle—sort of like: “You might mess with me once, but don’t ever try it again.” There are hundreds of these shortsighted stupidisms.

But in contrast to all this faulty human thinking that seldom guides and never satisfies are “the commandments of the Lord.”  His principles are 100 percent right in all that they assert.  They’re not off-track, not even by a degree.  Isn’t that great to know?

Life is like a maze. The statutes of God set a right path through the maze so that we don’t wander aimlessly or get lost or sidetracked by things that don’t ultimately matter. God’s statutes take the pressure off.

Never do we have so much joy in this world as when we are living in conformity to God’s Word. Never. Like an engine firing on all cylinders. Like a gazelle running full speed. Like a symphony—every instrument pounding out the melody and harmonies in perfect tune and rhythm.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: How does God’s Word alert me to flaws in the godless thinking that surrounds me?

Thought to Apply: One who uses the Bible as his guide never loses his sense of direction.—Source Unknown

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Wise Up!

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  – Psalm 19:7b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

The first time I met Luis, he was so angry and intent on doing what he wanted with his life that he was destroying his family and himself.  But he couldn’t see it.

Luis was addicted to alcohol. And by attending a church that didn’t preach God’s Word, he was never forced to face up to the fact that he was walking on the path of destruction.

His wife had heard about our church and prayed for weeks that she could get her husband under the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word, but he refused to come.  Then out of the blue one morning, he suggested to his astonished family that they attend.

That morning I was teaching from God’s Word on the subject “Wise Up About Alcohol.”  Luis squeaked and squirmed on the pew, but the Word of God got through to his heart.

Later that week he gave his life to Jesus Christ, and by God’s grace hasn’t had a drink since.  His marriage has been healed, his life has been transformed, and his children are filled with joy.

Why?  Because God’s witness about Himself is so trustworthy that it can take a stubborn, hardhearted alcoholic, with no discernment about right and wrong, and make him skilled in daily living.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll thank God for teaching me the basics of sound living through His Word.

Thought to Apply: We must allow the Word of God to confront us, undermine our complacency, and overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior. —John Stott

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Extreme Makeover

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  – Psalm 19:7a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 19:7-11

Our church meets in a massive warehouse that was a Home Depot wanna-be.  Marty used to buy all materials there for his building projects.  Being a “tool guy” was his identity.  Sunday morning trips to buy home improvement stuff was his religion.  So he was ticked off when his “house of worship” went under and was replaced by “some stupid church.”

But when we opened, he got curious and came to check us out, defiantly sitting in the front row with his wife.  The truth of God’s Word began to penetrate his heart, and he couldn’t keep from coming back.  Before long Marty committed his life to Jesus Christ.

The word translated reviving in Psalm 19:7a means transforming. God promises that His Scripture is so totally comprehensive that whatever the condition of the individual, it can transform him to his core.  Marty had been so filled with himself that his marriage was in deep weeds; he wasn’t much of a father either.  Now he stands in front of the entire congregation to tell about the joy he’s found in following Christ and learning from the Bible.  He excitedly shares God’s truth with others, who are beginning to see their lives transformed.00

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll memorize today’s Bonus Reading to lock in my confidence in His Word.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

What the Good Book Is Good for – Always Current

The BibleWho Said It…James MacDonald

As a 27-year-old Canadian, James MacDonald was called to pastor a group of 18 believers in suburban Chicago.

Seventeen years later, the resulting Harvest Bible Chapel, composed of many new Christians, has grown to nearly 8,000 worshipers. It has also recently added two new campuses. Pastor MacDonald is heard on Walk in the Word, a daily radio broadcast.

He and his wife, Kathy, have three children, aged 18 to 14.

What He Said…Always Current

I will never forget the news conference of the Willis family after their van exploded in flames on the freeway, and their children inside were engulfed and consumed in an instant.

As they sat before those microphones, and the world listened in for insight as to whether their faith could remain in such tragedy, they began by quoting Psalm 34:1: “I will praise the Lord at all times, I will constantly speak his praises.” The Word of God was their anchor in a storm that would have quickly capsized most of the boats.

David wrote in Psalm 19—the one we’ll be walking 0through this week—“Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.” God’s Word is full-strength from cover to cover. Turning to it brings stability to every person in every generation. From the most successful athletes to people of quiet faith in the hidden corners of the globe, God’s Word is a constant, reliable source of stability in the toughest of times.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

New “Effective Stewardship” Page

Check out our new “Effective Stewardship” page!

Each month, we will feature a new Stewardship theme and reflection to help each of us be a better steward of what God has entrusted to us.

 

 

Effective Stewardship – Month #1

All that we have belongs to God.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it,

The world, and those who live in it”  (Psalm 24:1)

 

“God Owns It All” is the chapter heading in a book by a Christian author who presents this chapter first as the foundation for money management and giving.

God does own it all! That is the teaching of Psalm 24:1 which says, “The earth is the Lord’s.” Psalm 50:10 says that all of the beasts of the field belong to God, and that the cattle on a thousand hills are His. Haggai 2:8 says that God even owns the sil­ver and gold in all the mines.

Now, He allows us to use what rightfully belongs to Him, but God continues to retain the ownership. We are managers and stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Someday, when we stand before Him, we shall give an account of what kind of job we have done in managing the resources which God has allowed us to use.

That’s why every spending decision becomes a spiritual decision. Every time we use some of God’s money, we are making a decision which has eternal ramifications.

  • Are you using money and possessions as if they belong to you, or are you making spending deci­sions with the full realization that it all belongs to God?

 

Effective Stewardship

Most Christians have never been taught how to give.  The problem is not apathy, but rather, ignorance.  As a result, many Christians give God “left-overs,” i.e., what is left at the end of the month when all other financial obligations have been paid.

At Central Church, we are seeking to instill the principle that God is the owner of everything and that we are managers and stewards of what God has entrusted to us.  Once people come face to face with that principle, they either must change their lifestyle (how they live) or their conscience (what they believe).

We also believe that giving does not begin with the movement of the hand to the wallet, purse or checkbook.  Rather, as clearly taught in Exodus 25:2 and 2 Corinthians 9:7, spiritual giving begins when we give ourselves to the Lord.  When that happens, our financial resources will follow, and we will practice “first-fruits” giving, i.e., giving to God first.

The primary goal of our Effective Stewardship reflections is to help people to be better stewards of all that God has entrusted to them.

 

 

 

Peace Under Pressure – A Special Blessing

Peace Under PressureIt was customary for the Israelites to be “blessed” by the high priest. In this passage, Moses gives the wording to be used to convey that they were no ordinary people and that their God was no ordinary God.

This Aaronic Blessing not only expressed God’s special favor for His people; it also indicated what quality in their lives would best display that favor to others.

Interact with God’s Word

Numbers 6:22-27

  1. The word bless means to treat with favor. What is one indication that God is on your side because you’ve declared yourself on His?
  2. Recall one way in which you’ve recently experienced God’s protection.
  3. Verse 25a could be rendered “May the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you.” How have you sensed His smile of pleasure on your life?
  4. Being gracious goes way beyond good manners. It is to be merciful and compassionate. When have you observed this aspect of how God blesses?
  5. To show favor is to give approval. Do you sense that your obedience and trust have elicited this response from God?
  6. Do you think personal peace is a distinct gift or the effect of experiencing God’s favor, protection, pleasure, merciful compassion, and approval?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for His divine favor to rest on people you relate to. Ask that His blessing create a solid peace foundation in your own life.

Numbers 6:22-27

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, 23 “Instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:

24 ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. 25 May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. 26 May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.’

27 This is how Aaron and his sons will designate the Israelites as my people, and I myself will bless them.”

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.