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What are the origins of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving CornucopiaI’d stuffed many a turkey before I really understood Thanksgiving. Oh sure, I knew we were supposed to be thankful, and once I became a Christian I knew who we were thanking. But the Thanksgiving story is more than just the tale of Pilgrims and Indians. It’s a portrait of God’s hand in bringing people together to accomplish a specific purpose.

In the early 1600s the Wampanoag (Wam-pa-NO-ag) Native Americans inhabited the coast of what we now call New England. They raised crops, lived close to the ocean in summer for seafood, and moved inland in winter to set up hunting camps. Their encounters with Europeans over the years were mostly friendly. But there was one exception: In 1614 Captain Thomas Hunt captured several Wampanoag, along with a Patuxet Native American named Squanto, to be sold into slavery in Spain. A Spanish monk purchased Squanto’s freedom, taught him Spanish, introduced him to Jesus Christ and sent him to England. In 1619, Squanto returned to his native land, only to find that his tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic. Thereafter he made his home with the Wampanoag.

Meanwhile, in 1608, a British group called Separatists fled to Leyden, Holland. There they found religious freedom, but also poverty, grueling work hours, and a secular culture that threatened to undo the values they had carefully instilled in their children. In 1620, they sold all their belongings to help finance their journey to America. On the Mayflower’s voyage, the Separatists were joined by another group of people bound for America. They called these people Strangers. The two groups, 102 people altogether, were called Pilgrims.

Their journey lasted nine weeks. In one of those divine “accidents” that change the course of history, the ship lost its course and landed far north of its destination at what we now know as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Once outside the territory covered by the King’s Charter, the Pilgrims became responsible for their own government, and so they wrote a set of laws called The Mayflower Compact. On December 21, 1620, they began their new life at the place they named Plymouth.

The winter was devastating. Wind whipped through their settlement and sleet and snow chilled them to the bone. Half of the Pilgrims died. But the Separatists clung to their faith; not one person chose to return to England when the Mayflower made her return voyage.

Spring brought unexpected relief—the help of Squanto. He taught them how to grow corn, use fertilizer, stalk deer, and catch fish. William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, wrote that Squanto was “a special instrument sent of God for good beyond our expectations.” And so their first harvest was good. Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God, and the Pilgrims invited their Native American friends. Chief Massasoit and 90 members of his tribe came, along with Squanto, bearing venison and wild turkeys for everyone to share. Both groups feasted, played games, ran races, and showed their prowess with bows and arrows and muskets. With so much to be grateful for, the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving for three days!

Adapted from “Let’s Talk Turkey,” by Barbara Curtis, Click here to read the original article in its entirety.

Happy Thanksgiving


Face Down Your Fears – Peace from God

PeaceWhen David wrote this psalm, his courageous slaying of Goliath was a distant memory. That victory aroused King Saul’s jealousy, and he’d deliberately placed David in harm’s way. When that failed, he ordered his capture.

So David, on the run, escaped into the Philistine territory of Gath for sanctuary (see 1 Samuel 21:10-15).

But King Achish’s officers were suspicious. So, in a desperate ploy to save his skin, our hero stooped to faking insanity.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 56:1-13

  1. Viewed from ground level (vv. 1-2, 5-6), how grim is David’s situation?
  2. What is David’s natural reaction to this (v. 3)?
  3. What is David’s gut-level reaction (v. 7) to his enemies’ treachery?
  4. How would David’s previous experience (v. 13a) bolster trust now?
  5. How does David say he’ll respond (v. 12) to the Lord’s past protection?
  6. Does David see God as remote or uncaring (v. 8)?
  7. What is his basis (vv. 4, 11) for shaking off fear?
  8. How confident is he (v. 9) of God’s future protection?
  9. What stance (v. 13b) does David’s God-is-on-my-side review lead him to?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a growing freedom from your fears as you verify God’s ability to shield you from harm.

Psalm 56:1-13

1 O God, have mercy on me. The enemy troops press in on me. My foes attack me all day long. 2 My slanderers hound me constantly, and many are boldly attacking me. 3 But when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

4 O God, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? 5 They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting ways to harm me. 6 They come together to spy on me— watching my every step, eager to kill me.

7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, throw them to the ground. 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. 9 On the very day I call to you for help, my enemies will retreat. This I know: God is on my side.

10 O God, I praise your word. Yes, LORD, I praise your word. 11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? 12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. 13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.

Face Down Your Fears – Fear’s Shackles

PeaceKey Bible Verse: But when I am afraid I put my trust in you.  – Psalm 56:3

Bonus Reading: Psalm 56:1-13

Facing two death sentences in 1997, I was brought from prison into an Iranian courthouse to make them official. As I took my place before the judge on the witness stand, he looked at me intently and said, “Mr. Baumann, tell us why you came to Iran.”

Scared and intimidated by the fear of man, I took a long pause as I considered what to say. The judge waited for my answer. The video cameras also waited.

I knew that this judge had the power to order my execution right then and there. I knew that he might do just that if I answered honestly. But I also knew I had to tell the truth about why I came to Iran.

As I opened my mouth, the truth is I struggled to speak and was much afraid.

But then something stronger than fear rose up within me. The Spirit of God gave me courage and confidence. I looked directly at the judge and said, “I came to Iran to tell people like you about Jesus Christ.”

God gave me strength to share my heart. The more I shared my faith, the bolder I became, and the less my fears beset me.

On that day in the Iranian courtroom, I realized I was free. My fear had been overcome! [Baumann was released after 63 days of incarceration.]

—Dan Baumann in A Beautiful Way

My Response: A fear that has me intimidated is ____. To overcome it, I need to …

Thought to Apply: It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.—John Witherspoon (colonial president of Princeton University)

Adapted from A Beautiful Way (YWAM, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.


It’s Almost Thanksgiving!

Face Down Your Fears – Here’s the Drill

PeaceKey Bible Verse: “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 41:10,13

I am a wimp when it comes to the dentist. The word macho is nowhere in my vocabulary or personality when I walk into the dentist’s office and settle myself into his chair. You’ve heard stories of guys telling the dentist, “No pain medication, Doc. Just go ahead and drill.” That’s not me! I ask for everything possible to keep me from feeling any nerve twinges.

I’ve faced down a drunk who was threatening to kill his family, offering myself as a substitute hostage. I’ve sat with a potential suicide victim as he waved his gun around, saying he’d take me with him. But when the dentist’s drill starts toward my mouth, sweat breaks out.

Of what—or whom—are you afraid?

Maybe you can face a hostile situation without fear, but wondering what will happen to your children as they grow older keeps you awake at night. Perhaps the state of your marriage paralyzes you emotionally and keeps you from trusting in God as you should.

The Lord knows the situation you’re facing right now. He promises to give you both the wisdom and the strength to make it through your trials. And in the middle of those trials, God also promises to give you his peace.

—Mark Sutton in Still God’s Man

My Response: I’ll memorize today’s Key Bible Verse—and repeat it as needed.

Thought to Apply: He who is afraid of a thing gives it power over him.—Moorish Proverb

Adapted from Still God’s Man (Kregel, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.


Face Down Your Fears – …and Contrasting Cool

PeaceKey Bible Verse: Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.  – 1 John 4:18

Bonus Reading: 1 John 4:13-18

[continued from yesterday]  I glanced across to check on my fourth passenger in the front seat. In contrast with the three in the backseat, he was staring ahead, contemplative and detached. Even casual. “Yu no gat pret?” I asked him. (“Aren’t you afraid?”)

He looked me in the eyes and responded deliberately. “Skin bilong mi tasol I pret.” (“Only my skin is afraid.”)

“What about the rest of you?” I asked.

Pointing out of the window, he answered in his pidgin English. “I see the mountains. They are so close. I see the trees and the rocks as they rush by. I see the rain, and I hear it beating on the glass. I see the clouds all around us. I didn’t know that this big bird of yours shook like this. There is much to be afraid of here. But,” he continued with a smile, “my fear is only as deep as my skin.”

“What about under your skin?” I asked.

“I’m not afraid under my skin,” he said. “I know the One who made the mountains. I know the One who made the rocks and the trees. I know the One who made the clouds and the rain. He’s told me that I don’t need to be afraid? Why? Because He lives inside my skin. And He promised never to leave me. Because of that, I am not afraid.”

—Max Meyer in Riding the Heavens

My Response: What circumstance beyond my control is testing my trust in God?

Thought to Apply: Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? “Don’t be afraid. Fear not. Don’t be afraid.”—N.T. Wright (British scientist turned cleric)

Adapted from Riding the Heavens (Zondervan, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.


Face Down Your Fears – Terrified Tribesmen…

PeaceKey Bible Verse: Death had its hand around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. Psalm 116:3

Bonus Reading: Psalm 116:1-9

The four brown-skinned men of Papua New Guinea’s southern highlands were sick and needed treatment. The small mission clinic at Samberigi was insufficient. And knowing that I was planning to fly my Cessna across the mountains to the north coast, the station nurse asked me to drop these men off along the way. Mendi, a 20-minute flight to the northwest, had a regional hospital.

As I fastened their seatbelts, I explained as best I could what they should expect on this short flight. I noticed the deteriorating weather and thought it could be a daunting experience for me, let alone for these warriors who’d grown up in the Stone Age and never flown.

Soon after takeoff, rain began to fall and the clouds grew ominous atop the mountain peaks. If I climbed above them, it would be difficult to find a way down again. So I concentrated on threading the inhospitable gray tunnels formed by the narrow valleys. Totally absorbed, I paid no attention to my passengers.

Suddenly I heard a low, drawn-out moan coming from the backseat. I turned back. Staring back at me were three terror-filled pairs of eyes. Three of my mountain men were locked in a speechless embrace of abject fear. [continued tomorrow]

—Max Meyers in Riding the Heavens

My Response: A time when I felt paralyzed by fear was …

Thought to Apply: Fear has the largest eyes of all.—Boris Pasternak (Russian author)

Adapted from Riding the Heavens (Zondervan, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what


Face Down Your Fears – Elephant in the Workplace

Peace0Key Bible Verse: Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety. Proverbs 29:25

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 51:12-13

As a leadership development consultant, I’ve seen an entire executive committee change strategies based on fear of the competition. I’ve seen a talented salesperson throw away a career because he “fudged” his sales numbers out of fear of not meeting his monthly quota. I’ve seen a marketing executive run around like Henny Penny, screaming “The sky is falling!” every month as the sales deadline approached.

At a corporate planning retreat in Detroit that I was facilitating, a board member asked the CEO a challenging, yet fair, question about a past initiative. The CEO paused, reached down into his briefcase, took out an extra-large bottle of antacids, twisted the cap off, tilted his head back, and downed Tums like a cold glass of water on a hot summer day.

He crunched away at a mouthful of the chalky tablets, took a sip of water, and then calmly answered the board member’s question. He went through the same process four of five times that day. And he didn’t even notice how ridiculous he looked because it was a normal daily occurrence! This guy had accepted that fear, worry, and heartburn were parts of his job description.

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

My Response: Is fear a factor for others where I work? For me?

Adapted from God Is My Success (Warner Faith, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what


Face Down Your Fears – What Fear Does to Us

PeaceWho Said It…John Ortberg

John Ortberg is a teaching pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

Earlier he pastored a church in Southern California, then for several years he filled a teaching role at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.

John has written several books. The latest is God Is Closer Than You Think. He and Nancy have three teenage children.

What He Said…What Fear Does to Us

A friend asked me a question about an area in my life for which the true answer would have been embarrassing, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed. So I just lied.

I had to go back and do repair work that was very painful for me. When I look back on it, I wonder, Why did I lie? Why do I ever lie? Usually to avoid pain. I’m afraid of what will happen if I tell the truth. Fear prompts me to lie.

And it’s not just deceit. When people are gossiping, I join in even though I know it’s wrong because I’m afraid of being left out. I hoard possessions because I’m afraid I’ll be bored or insecure if I don’t have a lot of stuff. I flatter someone because I’m afraid he or she won’t like me if I don’t.

Look at most sin and underneath it you’ll find fear. I’m afraid that if I risk obeying God, He won’t take care of me. I won’t be all right and something will happen that I can’t handle.

Adapted from If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Zondervan, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, You know what I fear. Help me to give you that fear today. May I rest in your peace and strength no matter what happens.


Happy Veterans’ Day

Downsizing with Class – Possessions and Priorities

PossessionsFrom start to finish, the thrust of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was that God’s way of living contradicts the world’s way.

If you want to live for God, He warned, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. His first-century words about what people work for read as if they were specifically spoken for the benefit of our consumer-driven age.

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:31-33

  1. What is the answer to Jesus’ question in verse 25b? What else is there?
  2. Why don’t we need to be preoccupied by these things, according to verses 26-30?
  3. What are typical “treasures” for upwardly mobile people in our society?
  4. Why did Jesus say that majoring on accumulating these things is a mistake?
  5. Verse 21 says that our thoughts will gravitate toward whatever our treasure is. How can we shift our focus, according to verses 20 and 33?
  6. What is the divine guarantee (v. 33) for those who make following His will their priority?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you trust Him for your basic needs and to keep your focus on Kingdom concerns.

Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-33

19 Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.

25 So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?

31 So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – God’s Combo

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

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:9-13

Recently my adult daughter decided that she was no longer going to play her drum set because she’d acquired other interests. We agreed to get rid of the set since it cluttered our family room.

Initially we talked about selling the set, but we decided that we’d take a few days to think about other options. We prayed for inspiration.

Eventually we came up with the idea of giving the drums to a percussion student at an inner-city school. I called the school on Friday and told the secretary that we’d like to donate the instruments to a student. She promised to explore the possibilities.

The following Monday I received a call from the school’s music director. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “We were talking last week about starting a band and wondering where we’d get a saxophone and drums. When I came into the office today, I discovered a donated sax and a note from you about drums.”

That day my daughter and I delivered the set to the school. Initially we thought we were doing a good deed by giving away the drums. We discovered instead that God had called us to be caretakers of His drums.

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

My Response: I sensed I was “caretaker” of what God had entrusted to me when …

Thought to Apply: We have been called to stretch out the hands of God to a lonely, needy world.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – Beat the System

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Doesn’t life consist of more than food or clothing? … Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things. Matthew 6:25-32

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-34

My wife and I enjoy finding ways around the economic pressures of our world. Bargain hunting, using coupons, and looking for deals can help us acquire the things we need without being extravagant.

When we were engaged, Christie started looking for a wedding gown. Several of our friends had spent in excess of $1,000 for theirs, but no matter how romantic we felt, we simply couldn’t rationalize such an expenditure for the sake of a six-hour afternoon.

We prayed about it, and she went bargain hunting. The end result? A beautiful gown in Filenes’ Basement in Boston for $29.

During my seminary days, I needed a suit for leadership in Sunday worship, but I had no suit and little money. Again, we prayed. Then we headed off to a “railroad salvage” warehouse to start shopping. For only $25 I got a Pierre Cardin suit that looked tailored to me and perfectly met my needs.

Beat the system. Used cars, discount outlets, buying in volume through cooperatives, and taking the time to research before purchasing can enhance our stewardship and cut back our spending. In the process, we can have fun.

—Paul Borthwick in How to Be a World-Class Christian

My Response: One way I’ve found to “beat the system” is to …

Thought to Apply: Resolve not to be poor; whatever you have, spend less.—Samuel Johnson (English writer)

Adapted from How to Be a World-Class Christian (OM Literature, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – When Less Is More

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. Psalm 4:7

Bonus Reading: Job 31:24-28

Because we’ve lived on a modest income through most of our marriage, my wife wondered out loud one day if she should get a job to ease financial pressures. Yet if she worked even part-time, we realized, we’d pay more income tax and the net financial benefit would be minimal.

We reviewed the benefits of Donna remaining a stay-at-home parent. We eat nutritious meals because she invests time in planning and preparing meals. At the same time we save money because she makes time to be an excellent purchaser, not relying on packaged meals or fast food.  Her creative gifts are obvious through how she cares for and decorates our home.

The greatest advantage has been her availability to our children. She involved them in projects for both work and play when they were younger so that creativity, instead of television, nurtured their development.

Though we’re closing in on the empty nest, the kids thrive on knowing that she’s available when one of them needs reassurance, help, or advice. We’re able to plan our schedules without considering another job commitment. And her involvement in teaching small group Bible studies has changed other women’s lives.

—Grant McDowell in Alberta

My Response: Is a second family income required for subsistence or elected to support lifestyle choices?

Thought to Apply: One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.—Sidney Coe Howard (playwright)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – Staying Freed Up

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: If your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.  – Psalm 62:10

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:16-21

How do you decide what you’ll buy and own?

For seven years my wife and I owned a weekend lake house just outside of town. Virtually every Friday afternoon we’d “kidnap” our children and spend the weekend doing country things.

When our daughter turned 11, though, her in-town friends became very important to her. We only went to the lake house once that year, so I decided to sell the property to a neighbor who’d expressed an interest in purchasing it. That decision, and similar ones I’ve made since—to not own anything we don’t use on a regular basis—has kept my wife and me lean and responsive to God’s leading in our lives.

A neighbor of mine owns a 1957 Chris Craft Sportsman inboard boat. It’s magnificent. He’s completely restored the mahogany to its original luster. I love the throaty purr of its engine when he drives by.

Three years ago I told him that I’d be interested if he ever wanted to sell the boat. He recently decided to take me up on that offer. But as we prepared to close the deal, I had second thoughts. I concluded that I shouldn’t buy something just because I can, that denying myself the boat would be a good lesson in self-restraint and personal discipline.

—Patrick Morley in New Man

My Response: How can I tell whether I own my things or they own me?

Thought to Apply: He has much who needs least. Don’t create necessities for yourself. —Jose Escriva (Spanish founder of Opus Dei)

Adapted from New Man (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – The Good Old Days

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Enjoy prosperity while you can. But when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.  – Ecclesiastes 7:14

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

“When you are my age,” wrote James Michaels in Forbes magazine, “You don’t have to ask: Are Americans really materially better off than they were in the recent past?

Those of us born in the 1920s and with vivid memories of the Depression simply know how much better things are today. … If he was fortunate enough to have central heating (less than one third of the population did in 1920), the middle class dad had to pull himself from bed at 4:00 a.m. on cold winter mornings to unbank the furnace and shovel coal; if he overslept, the pipes froze.

But he usually didn’t have to rake leaves or shovel snow. Not in the 1930s. That was done by shabby, humble men who knocked at the back door in the mornings asking for a warm meal in return for doing chores.”

Michaels goes on to remind us that:

  • 80 years ago the typical workweek was at least 60 hours.
  • The leisure industry didn’t exist because no one had leisure.
  • For half of the population, the family toilet was a hole in the backyard.
  • Life expectancy was about 54 years, which was just as well, because there were few pensions beyond what a gold watch may have brought at a pawnshop.

—M. Craig Barnes in Hustling God

My Response: I’ll thank God for the prosperity I enjoy compared to other times and places.

Adapted from Hustling God (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.


Downsizing with Class – Bucking the Trend

PossessionsWho Said It …Cliff Denay

Clifford E. Denay Jr. is an outdoorsman who loves running, walking, hiking, bicycling, and kayaking with his wife Jane. They have camped and traveled regularly with their children Nathaniel and Emily, now young adults.

Cliff teaches psychology at the community college in Petoskey, Michigan, and also provides its students with mental health counseling. He’s involved in the leadership of his church.

What He Said …Bucking the Trend

I had been out of the real estate market for 17 years. Recently I walked back in—and quickly discovered that you can’t always have what you want.

I’m not talking about affordability. Sure, cost is always an issue. But I’m talking about size—the restrictions that developers place on the size of dwellings. I examined the restrictions on the lot we were considering. The homes on either side were big. “This may not be the property for us,” I told our realtor.

“Why not, Cliff?” she asked. “You said it’s what you’re looking for.”

“The square footage requirement. It’s too big.”

“How big were you thinking,” she asked.

“Small,” I answered. “Smaller than you think.” I sighed.

My wife and I are clearly out of step with the times, but in step with Solomon who said, “have the wisdom to show restraint” (Proverbs 23:4, NIV).

Neither of us believes that “trophy” homes are a good use of the earth’s resources. It’s hard to think small in a “super-sized” culture. Hard, but not impossible.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

Effective Stewardship – Month #3

Money is a neutral commodity, a means of exchange.

It is neither inherently good nor evil.

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).


Money is a neutral commodity, a means of exchange.  It is neither inherently good nor evil. But a wrong view of money can become a problem to us.

In First Timothy 6:9-10, Scripture warns about the dangers of a determination to get rich: “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil; and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

When we have a consuming desire to get rich, when we are obsessed with money so that it becomes the focus of our time and attention, then we have made it the number one priority in our lives.  In that spot, it replaces everything, including God.  We begin to find our security in money, not in God and in God alone.

However, when our view of God is right and our view of money is right, we will realize that money cannot buy security; money cannot purchase happiness; money cannot guarantee peace or joy or contentment.  God alone can provide these essentials as we “ . . . strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

In his book, The Gift of Giving, Wayne Watts said this: “God always lovingly instructs us in the path that is in our best interest and which will bring us the greatest happiness in life.  Therefore, for our good, He instructs us to put Him first in all things, and this includes how we use our money.”

  • How do you view money?
  • Is it at the center of your life, thereby perhaps replacing God’s rightful role?
  • And equally important, are you using the money God has given to you to advance His kingdom and His righteousness?

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – True Success

SuccessProblems, like the inheritance dispute brought to Jesus here, were often submitted to rabbis to settle.

Jesus’ response to this unnamed questioner sidestepped his surface issue. But it zeroed in on his heart.

Similarly, when we bring a problem to God in prayer, instead of providing the surface solution we’ve requested, He may reveal what we need to change.



Interact with God’s Word

Luke 12:13-21

  1. The prosperous farmer of Jesus’ hypothetical illustration was well positioned (v. 19) for retirement. Was this what Jesus was criticizing?
  2. What attitude, implied in verse 15b, made this landowner a fool?
  3. What, judging from verse 21, was omitted from the farmer’s priorities?
  4. How does the advertising industry work at cross-purposes to the admonition of verse 15a?
  5. Are you taking Jesus’ warning seriously? Have you found a way to tune out the constant enticements to buy?
  6. How can you concentrate more on your relationship with God and on doing His work?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to work on your dreams, bringing them into alignment with His “good and pleasing and perfect” will for your life.

Luke 12:13-21

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

16 And he gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. 18 So he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store everything.

19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Caught Up in the Game

SuccessKey Bible Verse: “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it!” Jeremiah 45:5

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:7-9a

They couldn’t have been more than 15 years old, parentless boys in an orphanage outside of Moscow. My traveling companions and I spoke at their assembly.

Afterwards several boys challenged us to a soccer match on the snow-crusted field. It was a rousing game. Toward the end, though, I began to push my teammates. I didn’t want just to play; I wanted to win. I goaded them on, and even got a bit rough in my play.

That evening one of my friends called me on it. “What were we there for?” he asked. “It seemed like you were more fixed on winning a game than on connecting with the kids or caring for them.” He was right. Our purpose for visiting the orphanage was to show love to the children there. But caught up in the game, my actions were guided by an entirely different goal.

I articulate Jesus’ definition of success (“Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant”) to myself. But then, more often than I’d like to admit, I get caught up in the game and indulge in silliness like this—not so much in sports now, but in regards to career, financial resources, or reputation.

That’s why I must consistently take time to question myself and refocus, and to be accountable to others pursuing a similar path.

—Jedd Medifind in The Revolutionary Communicator

My Response: How can I stay focused on what’s really important?

Thought to Apply: Ever notice that people never say “It’s only a game” when they’re winning?—Ivern Bell (writer)

Adapted from The Revolutionary Communicator (Relevant Books, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.


Daylight Savings Time 2018

Please remember to turn your clocks back one hour Saturday night

or you will be very early for Church on Sunday!





Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Goal to Go

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us. 2 Corinthians 10:13

Bonus Reading: James 4:13-16

I recently heard an interview with a football player ready to start the NFL season. He said, “Anything short of winning the Super Bowl will be considered a failure.”

Hmmm. That’s all well and good, but what about the successes along the way? What about the relationships that he could enjoy, the people he could help, the honor he could bring to God by being a good man instead of just being a good athlete?

This NFL player probably made his coach and team owner happy by thinking this way. But when the season is over and he looks at himself in the mirror, he’s probably still asking himself, “Why am I here?”

We’re not in control of the outcome; God is. So why do we base our success on something that isn’t in our control? Why do we allow some other person to dictate our success? Why do we allow some goal to determine our joy?

Unless we surrender the outcome to God, the goal will become our god, and we will bow down to that.

God designed you to live fully and to celebrate life regardless of your circumstances. Part of success is surrendering the outcome to God and being content that God has you exactly where He wants you.

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

My Response: How could I focus less on career goals and, instead, celebrate more little successes along the way?

Thought to Apply: To find his place and fill it is success for a man.—Phillips Brooks (New England minister)

Adapted from God Is My Success (Warner Faith, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that I can only become a success in Your eyes if I understand what true success looks like. Please show me.