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Weed Out Worry – This Climb’s a Cinch

Peace of MindWho Said It…Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is known for his contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message. But this Montana-raised man isn’t in to public acclaim. He’d rather teach a class than speak to a large audience. After years as a pastor in Maryland and as professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in British Columbia, he’s now retired.

Eugene used to climb mountains and run the Boston Marathon. Those activities are out now, but still in are picking banjo and telling bear stories.

What He Said…This Climb’s a Cinch

When mountain climbers are in dangerous terrain, on the face of a cliff or the slopes of a glacier, they rope themselves together. Sometimes one of them slips and falls—backslides. But not everyone falls at once, and so those who are still on their feet are able to keep the backslider from falling away completely.

And of course, in any group of climbers there is a veteran climber in the lead, identified for us in the letter to the Hebrews as “Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:2MSG).

Traveling in the way of faith and climbing the ascent to Christ may be difficult, but it is not worrisome. The weather may be adverse, but it is never fatal. We may slip and stumble and fall, but the rope will hold us.

Three times in his great Sermon, Jesus, knowing how easily we imagine the worst, repeats the reassuring command “Don’t worry” (Matthew 6:25,31,34).  Our life with God is a sure thing.

Adapted from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (InterVarsity, 1980, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  You are my hiding place.

Defining Choices – Choices

ChoicesWe think of the Psalms as wonderful examples of praise to God and powerful expressions of the range of human emotions in relating to God.

We probably don’t think of them as instructional.  But here’s a catechism lesson!

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 15:1-5

  1. What does David’s question imply about God? … about what separates people from Him?
  2. Why isn’t David’s answer about ritual purity or offering sacrifices?
  3. Is the conduct David describes an unreachable ideal or a basic reflex that can be drilled into our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit?
  4. What kinds of consistency are required by verse 2 over time? … between words and actions? … between the public and private? … between ends and means?
  5. Does mere external conformity to moral standards cut it for David?
  6. Could you do the things to be avoided (in v. 3) while remaining strictly truthful?
  7. What does verse 4 tell you about being morally discerning?
  8. In our interest-based economy, what kinds of “gouging” are still prohibited?
  9. What does “stand firm forever” mean? How does it refer back to David’s question?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the strength of character to actually be what you claim—as a model to those who observe your life, and to prepare you to live in His presence.

Psalm 15:1-5

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.

4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts.

5 Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

Defining Choices – Hot Hauler

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 101:1-5

Years ago I purchased a dilapidated trailer to haul our family bikes for vacations. Several summers later, I took it to the local U-Haul to have work done on the taillights for an upcoming trip. Soon after the mechanics went to work, the store manager came out and informed me that the trailer I owned was stolen!

We couldn’t find a serial number, but the design matched an older model of U-Haul trailers that he showed me in a catalog. Scratching through several layers of paint, we uncovered U-Haul’s trademark orange color. The company never sells used trailers to the public, the manager assured me, so this had to be stolen.

When I came home and reported, my kids loved it: “Dad bought stolen goods!” But I knew they were watching me closely, wondering, What’s he going to do? I really wanted to get on with the trip, but knew I had to give up the trailer.

Soon after I told my family this, the manager called and offered the use of one of his trailers for our trip—free of charge. Because I made the right choice that day, my kids learned a powerful lesson: God takes care of you when you honor Him with your actions.

—Ken Canfield in They Call Me Dad

My Response: A lesson in integrity my family learned from me was …

Thought to Apply: I begin to find that too good a character is inconvenient.—Sir Walter Scott (Scottish author)

Adapted from They Call Me Dad (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Defining Choices – Envelope Flap

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: The Lord demands fairness in every business deal; he sets the standard.  – Proverbs 16:11

Bonus Reading: Deuteronomy 25:13-16

In the very early days of Inmac, we received a shipment of tear-resistant envelopes from a supplier. During the unpacking, I accidentally sliced into one-third of the envelopes. It sickened me, because those represented 5 percent of the money for our fledgling company’s inventory. I couldn’t bring myself to remove the damaged items from the inventory.

When the first order for those envelopes arrived, I shipped a number of defective ones without thinking twice about it. Suddenly all of our orders stopped. Not a single call for three days.

As I was praying that night, I remembered those envelopes and sensed that God was trying to get my attention. I asked Him to forgive me for cheating that customer and vowed to make it right.

First thing the next morning, utterly embarrassed, I apologized for my mistake to my bewildered part-time employee. Then I rushed out a replacement shipment to the customer.

Normally, we experienced our lowest volume on Thursdays, but that day the orders came pouring in again—making up the entire shortfall from the beginning of the week! I believe the Lord was saying to me, “Ken, if I can’t trust you in the little things, how can I trust you in the big ones?”

—Ken Eldred in God Is at Work

My Response: How am I practicing honesty, service, and excellence on the job?

Thought to Apply: You must consider the bottom line, but make it integrity before profits.—Denis Waitley

Adapted from God Is at Work (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Defining Choices – Sacrifice Play

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: Those who … keep their promises even when it hurts … such people will stand firm forever.  – Psalm 15:4,5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 15:1-5

When our younger son, Bryndan, played Little League baseball, he was on the Atlanta team one summer that played in the Little League World Series. At season’s end, the team invited him to play with them the next summer. When Bryndan heard about it, he was really excited. (So were Karen and I.)

But there was a hitch: Long before the LLWS team opportunity came up, Bryndan had given the coach of his neighborhood team his word (and so had I) that he would be playing with his team that summer.

This was a dilemma; if Bryndan played on the LLWS team, the skill level, exposure, and number of games would really contribute to his development. Yet, as we thought and prayed about it, I concluded that Bryndan’s word meant more than taking advantage of a great opportunity.

“Son,” I told him, “I’m not going to let you do that. We promised our neighborhood coach that you’d be on his team this year. This is a test. It’s important that you grow up to be an honorable man who won’t walk away from what you say you’ll do. If God wants you to play baseball on a team like the other one, He’ll give you that opportunity without sacrificing your integrity.”

—Crawford Loritts Jr. in Never Walk Away

My Response: A time when sticking to my word really cost me was …

Thought to Apply: One thing you can give and still keep is your word.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Never Walk Away (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Defining Choices – Mickey Mouse Rules?

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: “Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and hate every kind of deception.” Proverbs 8:6-7

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 11:1-6

While in line for tickets at a theme park, I suddenly realized, “I’m a liar and I’m teaching my children to lie.” That horrible moment of realization came shortly after I told my 11-year-old daughter, “If they ask, tell them you’re 10.”

It wasn’t a huge lie. People do it all the time. It was easily rationalized: She wasn’t tall enough to ride all the rides, so we shouldn’t have to pay full price for her ticket. Those parks are ridiculously overpriced anyway. And besides, if they cared enough, they’d be more scrupulous about checking age.

Those excuses flooded in but were stopped in an instant by a simple fact: I was being dishonest. Worse, I was modeling dishonesty to my child, and even dragging her into it. Hardly worth a $20 difference in the price of a ticket!

Since that day, I’ve made a commitment to play by the rules. If the menu says kids’ meals are for a certain age, we abide by it. If the adult-priced ticket costs too much, we don’t rationalize; we just stay home.

My track record so far isn’t perfect. But I know that every time I follow the rules, even when no one else does, I’m placing another block of character in my fortress, ready for the larger tests ahead.

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: One way I recently chose the path of integrity was …

Thought to Apply: When you have a fight with your conscience and get licked, you win.—Grit

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Defining Choices – Flight Plan

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: “Be just and fair to all,” says the Lord. “Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you. Blessed are those who are careful to do this.” Isaiah 56:1-2

Bonus Reading: Psalm 25:1-5,21

My tires screeched rounding a corner at the airport parking garage. Debbie and I were running late. I spotted an open parking space. Backing up to squeeze in, I forgot about the trailer hitch we’d just installed. It hit the car behind me. I jumped out to inspect a slightly damaged bumper.

What to do?

The right thing was to leave a note—but taking the time to do so would make us miss our flight. Besides, the car was old, with dents and scratches. The damaged plastic probably would have no effect on the car’s owner, I told myself; but missing our flight would have a big effect on us. “We’ve got to get to that plane!” I announced, and headed for the terminal.

But I hadn’t gotten very far when a voice called inside me. “Is catching a plane so important,” it asked, “that it’s worth forfeiting God’s favor?” I stopped in my tracks, turned to Debbie, and said, “I’m sorry, Honey. I just have to leave a note.”

“I know,” she replied without a hint of misgiving. So I wrote a note with my phone number, and left it on the damaged car.

We did miss our flight, but lined up a later one and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

—Robert Morris in From Dream to Destiny

My Response: Am I attempting to ignore, or listening for, that inner voice?

Adapted from From Dream to Destiny (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Defining Choices – Stroke of Lick?

ChoicesWho Said It…Kris Young

Kris Young has worked as a screenwriter for more than 20 years and currently teaches screenwriting at UCLA and the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. In his courses, “Emphasis is given to the role of Christian faith and values as they relate to script content.”

Kris lives in the Southern California foothills with his wife, Celine, and son, Skye. His love of dogs shines in Four Paws from Heaven, a book he co-authored.

What He Said…Stroke of Lick?

Once in a while I’ve gotten letters and packages with uncanceled postage stamps. Finding one used to be like winning a micro-mini lottery. I’d cut out the stamp, soak it off, and reuse it, thinking I was doing some positive “recycling.”

One day I received an unblemished 55-cent stamp and proceeded to do what I’d always done. Suddenly, a Scripture came to mind: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV). My brain launched into dialogue with my Creator.

God: “Kris, why are you reusing that stamp?”

Me: “Because as a freelance writer, I’ve sometimes worked for years without earning a penny, so I’m trained to take advantage of any and every rebate.”

God: “Why?”

Me: “Because I don’t really believe You’ll meet my needs.”

Now any uncanceled stamp I receive in the mail I toss into the trash. God doesn’t want me to cheat over a stamp when as His child He’s promised to meet all my needs.

Adapted from Four Paws from Heaven (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.


Impatience and What’s Behind It – Patience

Patience“Look at the prophets,” James advises, as examples of godly suffering. But a lot closer to home for most of us is an example of how to go about waiting.

For that, James declares, “consider the farmers.”  They can’t hurry the growth of their crops. But neither can they take the summer off. There’s work to be done in the fields as they wait for the harvest to ripen.

Interact with God’s Word

James 5:7-8, James 5:10-11

  1. Can the farmer force his crops to ripen any faster? Can we hasten the Lord’s return?
  2. Are you eagerly looking for His return? Why (v. 8) should you take courage?
  3. How does patient waiting for the Second Coming apply to other kinds of waiting?
  4. James cites Job (v. 11) as an example of patience. Why does Job-like endurance deserve “great honor”?
  5. How did Job’s trust finally end in good (see Job 42:10-17)?
  6. Might you, like Job, never have God explain to you the reason for frustrations or delays you experience?
  7. But can you, like Job, ultimately bank on God’s character, described here as “full of tenderness and mercy”?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God for humility and hope that will transform your approach from irritable impatience to steady endurance.

James 5:7-8, James 5:10-11

7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Why Wait?

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles … run and not grow weary … walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Bonus Reading: James 5:7-8, 10-11

A friend walked into the study of the great 19th-century preacher Phillips Brooks and found him pacing back and forth, terribly agitated.

“Dr. Brooks! What on earth is the matter?” he asked.

“I’m in a hurry,” he said, “but God is not!”

Isn’t that the way it often seems to be with God? You desperately want something apparently legitimate and worthwhile, and you’re forced to wait. I’ve become convinced that at least as important as the things we wait for is the work God wants to do in us as we wait.

Waiting with grace requires humility. Our culture scorns humility. It values people who “take charge of their lives” and seize life by the throat rather than wait. You and I will receive no applause for waiting. Our humility comes from being clear that we exist for God’s sake, not He for ours.

And hope is essential to waiting. There’s a logic to the world’s frenetic grasping for everything now. It has given up on a future that is anything more than an extension of the present. Since it has no great eternal hope to wait for, why wait for anything else? And many Christians live as though there were no tomorrow that shines with God’s promises.

—Ben Patterson in Waiting

My Response: Could how I’m “going for it” betray a deficiency in my hope?

Thought to Apply: God is not in your appointment book; you’re in His.—Chuck Swindoll (pastor & educator)

Adapted from Waiting (InterVarsity, 1989)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.


Impatience and What’s Behind It – Stop, Look, and Listen

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 40:1-3

I don’t like to wait and I don’t wait very well. I’m the guy who cuts across the grass to get there faster. When there’s a line at the market, I watch for another check-stand to open and try to get there first. When I played baseball, I wouldn’t wait on the curve ball, and in track I’d jump the gun at the start.

But my friend Don Springer, a retired fisherman, taught me a lesson about waiting. I love to snorkel. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do than swim in the clear blue waters of the world looking at tropical fish, coral, and the underwater world.

Don and I went snorkeling in Napili Bay, Maui, Hawaii. He drove me crazy. He couldn’t swim for six feet without stopping for minutes at a time.

But a funny thing happened when I waited for Don. I saw more fish, more eels, more movements in the water than I’d ever seen before. Although I’d snorkeled at Napili Bay before, I never truly experienced Napili Bay until Don showed me how to wait.

It’s a good lesson for life. Maybe we should quit rushing around trying to find God. Maybe we should stop, look, listen, and wait. He’s here. He has something to reveal and say to you today.

—Jim Burns in Devotions on the Run

My Response: I could open up space in my schedule for God-listening by …

Thought to Apply: Exasperation is the mind’s way of spinning its wheels until patience restores traction.—George Griggs (writer & novelist)

Adapted from Devotions on the Run (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.



Impatience and What’s Behind It – Purpose-Driven or Just Driven?

PatienceKey Bible Verse: We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. Psalm 39:6

Bonus Readings: Matthew 6:26-30; Luke 7:36-48; 17:11-19

Driven people are fanatical time managers. Living on purpose requires skillful time management, true, but not the kind that turns brittle, that attempts to quarantine most of what makes life itself—the mess, the surprise, the breakdowns, the breakthroughs.

Too much rigidity stifles purpose. I find that the more I try to manage time, the more anxious I get about it. And the more prone I am to lose my purpose.

The truly purposeful manage time less and pay attention more. The most purposeful people I know rarely over-manage time, and when they do it’s usually because they’re lapsing into a loss of purpose for which they over-compensate with mere busyness.

No, the distinguishing mark of the purposeful is that they notice. They’re fully awake.

Jesus, for example. He veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan other than His single, overarching one: get to Jerusalem and die. But He noticed.

And those driven to get and spend, to judge and exclude, He called to attention. Look at the birds! Do you see this woman? Where are the other nine?

—Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God

My Response: How is my desire for efficiency hurting my relationships?

Thought to Apply: My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.—Henri Nouwen (Dutch-born priest and professor)

Adapted from The Rest of God (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.


Impatience and What’s Behind It – Measure Twice

PatienceKey Bible Verse: But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: Love, joy, peace, patience …Galatians 5:22-23

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:19-26

My father is a gifted carpenter. When I was young, I spent many hours with him carrying lumber or fetching his tools. I learned the name of every tool in the box, and what they’re for.

Dad is retired now. He and Mom sometimes come to visit so he can help me with a project: building steps from our deck or a new piece of furniture. And I’m still learning from him.

Especially about patience. In the time it takes him to meticulously measure and cut every board just right, my mind has raced ahead, dreaming up more “efficient” ways to speed up the process. I have to stop and ask myself why.

Those hours with Dad are a blessing, and I know from experience that his slow, steady methods are better than mine. Nevertheless, I often feel impatience creeping in.

Patience isn’t natural. It’s supernatural. It’s an outgrowth of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

We can’t muster it well on our own, and frequent impatience is often a signal that we’re not fully connected with God’s presence in our lives. When I think about Dad’s patience, I’m even more grateful for God’s patience when I’m sure I know a better way.

— Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: The next time I feel impatient, I’ll pause and thank God for His patience.

Thought to Apply: This would be a fine world if all men showed as much patience all the time as they do while waiting for fish to bite.  —Vaughn Monroe (big band era singer)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.



Church Pipe Organ for Sale!

The pipe organ is located in the former First United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  It has a rich sound and considerable versatility considering its comparatively compact size.  (It is installed in the Church’s Choir Loft elevation and the front of the Sanctuary, immediately behind the altar rail and communion table.)  It was completely restored about ten years ago.

After First UMC’s congregation disbanded a few years ago, the Church property was eventually sold by the UMC’s Conference Trustees to a nondenominational church group named “Reach”.  Reach has now vacated the building and has sold the church building and contents to Tiger Pause (a Christ-centered organization that cultivates community by offering holistic programs to Beaver County’s young people and their families).

Tiger Pause is selling all of the Church-centric furniture and fixtures in order to use the building as a broader outreach facility.  The long, wooden pews have recently been sold for just $148 each, so it is likely that the pipe organ could also be obtained for a reasonable price.  Other worship-related items may also be available at reasonable prices.

For more information, please contact Matt Nance, the director of Tiger Pause, at the following coordinates:

Tiger Pause Youth Ministry
P.O. Box 34
Beaver Falls, PA 15010
Office Phone: 724-843-2384


Impatience and What’s Behind It – The Long and the Short of It

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Love is patient. … Love is not irritable.  – 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:3-5

What happens when your wife inconveniences you?  Does she have habits that “get on your nerves”?

For example, you ask her about her day, and she tells you—in Technicolor, with footnotes!  You get links to other sites in her brain along the way.  And all the time, you’re thinking, Will you please land this plane! What’s the point? What’s the main idea?

In older translations of today’s Key Bible Verses, you’ll read, “love suffereth long (ASV).

The root of impatience is usually selfishness. We’re not getting what we want or what we think we deserve. We don’t suffer long; rather, we think we’ve suffered long enough!

A young Christian man asked an older believer to intercede for him. “Pray that I’ll grow in patience,” he asked earnestly. His friend suggested that they pray together right then and there.

“Lord,” the older man began, “I pray that You’ll bring trials and tribulations into Ben’s life this very day. I pray that he’ll experience trouble this morning and again this afternoon. I pray … “

“Wait, please!” the younger man interrupted. “I wanted you to pray that I’d grow in patience!”

“That’s what I was doing,” the older man replied.

—Bob Lepine in The Christian Husband

My Response: What irritant may God be using in my life to produce endurance?

Adapted from The Christian Husband (Regal, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Post Office Ponderings

PatienceWho Said It…Gordon MacDonald

Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for more than 40 years, chairs the World Relief board, and is an avid hiker. He writes mostly about issues of self-discipline, ordering one’s priorities, and developing a deep spiritual life.

“I think that’s kind of a joke,” he says, “because these are all things that didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve connected with readers because I’m not afraid to put my own life out there as an example of struggle, failure, and what I’ve learned from it.”

What He Said…Post Office Ponderings

I am standing in line at the post office and feeling this impatience. I used to think of myself as a patient man, but now I’m not so sure. I find a flicker of irritability rising in me at other times too: when everyone else decided to clog up the interstate at the same time I wanted to drive it, when someone sends me an e-mail file that takes ten minutes to download. I have a suspicion that these bits of impatience really echo other aspects—maybe more significant aspects—of my life that I refuse to face.

So I push myself to stop and think about my idiotic, immature reaction. Why am I upset because I’m going to lose four or more minutes in my schedule? What’s the deeper impatience? Where’s the anger coming from?

This moment in the line becomes a tutorial for my character. There will be moments ahead when this “fruit of the Spirit” will be needed for far greater issues than this one. Learn patience here so that you’ll have it then.

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Nelson, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.


Showing Our True Colors – Multicultural Worship

Multicultural WorshipBefore God ushered in the Church, Paul acknowledges, Jews were the accepted insiders while the Gentiles were the excluded outsiders. But now, he insists, these barriers of exclusivity, both religious and racial, have been dismantled.

So to what extent has the elimination of these barriers been reflected in our congregations?

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 2:14-18

  1. What characteristics differentiate people in your church from those in other churches in your community—theological perspective? Age? Political persuasion? Race? Economic status? Intelligence? Appearance?
  2. Is it fair to consider any of these to be dividing walls?
  3. In what specific ways (vv. 14, 16, 18) has Jesus’ death removed the walls that people erect between themselves?
  4. How, according to verse 15, did Jesus break down the “wall of hostility” between two groups?
  5. Do you think that continuing to think and react in terms of separate groups undercuts Christ’s sacrifice for you?
  6. Spell out how the unity of the Church involves each member of the Trinity (v. 18).

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for wisdom to discern the extent to which the diversity of His Church universal ought to be duplicated in your local fellowship.

Ephesians 2:14-18

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.


Showing Our True Colors – Local Flavor

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent.  – Acts 6:1

Bonus Reading: Acts 6:1-7

At the inner-city Chicago high school where he coached, Wayne Gordon launched a Fellowship of Christian Athletes program. Guys lifted weights in his storefront apartment and talked about serious issues.

When Wayne’s bride, Anne, moved into the ‘hood with him, the gathering took on a coed flavor. The newlyweds urged several youths who became followers of Christ to become involved in a good church. But after an in-depth Bible study on the subject, the youth determined that their fellowship was a church and that Wayne was their pastor!

Soon the Gordons’ storefront living room was packed, and guitar-strumming young professionals showed up to lend support. The teenage “elders,” concerned that white folk were molding the young church to their own cultural preferences, called a closed meeting. They unanimously voted that while others could attend, only neighborhood residents could belong to their Lawndale Community Church.

Curious parents began joining. Professional outsiders relocated to the community. Today 600 families attend the church, which has reclaimed entire city blocks, started small businesses, and operates a health clinic and a residential drug rehab program.

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: Do I see ruling out commuter church growth as negative or positive?

Thought to Apply: What I am is God’s gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him.—Warren Wiersbe (pastor & author)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.


The Greatest Father In History

God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), but He’s also seeking godly fathers after His own heart.

A Protective Father

Scripture is clear about God and His nature as a protective Father. The Bible says that He is “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5). God also knows how to answer our prayers; it can be yes, no, or not now. It might even be, “I’ve got something better for you,” or “No, you’ll hurt yourself. All we need to do is to “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent” (Matt 7:7-10)?  Verse ten points out that God will not give us something that will hurt us. We can ask, seek, and knock, and He still won’t give us a scorpion. A stone and bread may have looked similar in Jesus’ day, so we may not always recognize if something we’re praying for is really good for us. God always knows. Human fathers are protective fathers, but none approach God as a Father, so “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni.

A Forgiving Father

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the father was waiting and watching for his son to return…knowing that in time, he’d come. Jesus says that the prodigal finally “arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:10). Rather undignified in the day to have a father running out to meet a returning prodigal. Instead, fathers would be waiting to give the boy a lecture and the dreaded, “I told you so,” but not so with a forgiving father, as God the Father is. The Apostle John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). It’s not hard to find places in Scripture where it shows “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1). Earthly fathers are forgiving, but not in the way that God the Father is.

A Blessing Father

God blesses us beyond measure in Jesus Christ, so we must rightly say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). Believers understand that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). The Apostle Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). If we just look around us, we can see that God as He cares for His creatures. A simple example is to take a “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they” (Matt 6:26)? Of course you are.

A Disciplining Father

Love and discipline go hand in hand. That’s why we’re told to “not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3:11-12). Rather than despise God’s discipline, we should recognize that “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law” (Psalm 94:12). The Book of Proverbs is rich in the study of discipline and love, but so is the New Testament. You often see one with the other, like in Hebrews 12:6 which says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof” (Heb 12:6). At times, it might feel like “The Lord has disciplined me severely” (Psalm 118:18a), but in reality we know that “he has not given me over to death” (Psalm 118:18b). The fact is, “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Prov 3:11).

A Comforting Father

I hope you had a comforting father. If not, we know that God the Father is comforting. He was thinking of us by sending His Son as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), so God is a comforter. The Bible says that it is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4). God comforts us in our afflictions, but He uses others as a means to do so. He may also use us to comfort others in the same way we received comfort when we needed it. Just as a human “father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13). We can also take comfort in the fact that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:9).


God made mankind radically different from the rest of His creation. The Triune God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26). God’s relationship with mankind is infinitely different than animals. We can know God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament prophet Hosea (1:10), writing, “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18). Still not sure about what the Father is like? Jesus says “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (John 14:9b). When we read about Jesus, we read about the Father. He is a protective Father; a forgiving Father; a blessing Father; a disciplining Father; and a comforting Father…and abundantly, a Father of love (1 John 4:8, 16).

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is an ordained elder of the Brethren Church and a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas, but also a writer at Christian Quotes and What Christians Want to Know which address questions about the Bible, and a published author of four books. He also plants ministries like nursing home ministries, Outreach for the poor, and other evangelistic activities, and check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

Showing Our True Colors – Well, Excuse You!

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

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:5-9

Seven of us spent the summer in England, extending ourselves to international students who’d come to study in Oxford. This was my second summer mission, so I felt I’d mastered how to be a team player. But one team member started to drive me crazy. During meals Susan would reach over to my plate, grab one of my french fries (“chips” in England), and proceed with dinner as if nothing had just transpired. Where was “May I have one?” or “Do you mind?”

One morning I was in the kitchen preparing food at the counter. Susan needed something on the other side of me. Without saying a word, she reached across me to get it. That was the last straw!

“Susan,” I blurted, “you can’t keep violating my personal space any time you feel like it.” In Korean culture, she explained, a sign of friendship is to treat one another like family. There’s no need for such formalities as “Excuse me” or “May I try some of your food?” She’d just been paying me the compliment of being relaxed in my presence. As Susan spoke, I became aware of my own unwritten rules. We white people, I thought, are very dependent on verbal cues for interactions.

—Doug Schaupp in Being White

My Response: Do I let a friend shape how I view him or just make up my mind about him on my own?

Thought to Apply: To get a person to understand our point of view, we must first get to understand his.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Being White (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.


Peace with Justice Sunday


Sunday is “Peace with Justice Sunday” in the United Methodist Church.

A special offering will be received to support denominational outreach initiatives.

Showing Our True Colors – Who Died?

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples”. John 13:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-18

A dozen years ago, my wife and I parachuted into Columbia, Maryland, to start a multicultural church. This community of 95,000 is racially diverse; we hoped that would increase our odds for success. But you can count on one hand the churches there with significant integration. Planting Bridgeway Community Church proved difficult.

What church consultants were saying was no help. One told me, “David, I’ve never seen a racially mixed church grow without one culture having to die. If there were blacks and whites in the church, then one of the cultures died.”

This statement perturbed me. I went back to my congregation of 50, composed mainly of whites and blacks at the time. After repeating the consultant’s statement, I threw my hands in the air and bellowed, “Why can’t we both die? Let’s all make a pact to die to ourselves to build a new culture, a multicultural army of devoted followers of Christ!”

The inspiration and resolve from that Sunday lives on. Today Bridgeway is 60 percent African-American; 13 percent Asian, Latino, or other ethnicity; and 27 percent Caucasian. We celebrate the beauty in the body of Christ within our congregation. And it’s rich!

—David A. Anderson in Multicultural Ministry

My Response: What cultural preferences might I have to forego in a diverse fellowship?

Thought to Apply: Racial reconciliation is one of the best roads to humility we can take because of the opportunity to die to self.—Glen Kehrein (Chicago ministry leader)

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

Showing Our True Colors – Dealing the Race Card

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. Ephesians 2:14

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2:14-17

Moving to an urban Boston neighborhood after high school opened my eyes to the tensions between African- and Asian-American residents. “They call us ‘chinks’; we call them ‘niggers’!” blurted out the Korean-American owner of a mom-and-pop store who lived across the street. Today he visits his son and grandchildren in a multi-ethnic church that is a sister congregation to our own.

Our church is intentionally becoming multi-ethnic. But my wife and I at times grit our teeth as we entrust our kids to the nursery or Sunday school classroom. Why? Because “red and yellow, black and white” make comments about each other without thinking.

“Why do your eyes slant? Because you’re Korean!” my adopted Chinese daughters heard from one classroom.

“I don’t want to put my kids in a class with inner-city kids!” exclaimed a suburban African-American dad another week.

“That teacher is a Jew!” muttered an Arab man, shaking his head as he exited our English-as-a-second-language (ESL) class.

We need God’s power to work through our weakness so we can live out the reality that Christ has smashed the wall, and so we can enter a “conspiracy of kindness.”

—Doug Perkins in Delaware

My Response: Does my church conform to, or resist, community racial patterns?

Thought to Apply: All the people like us are we, and everyone else is they.  —Rudyard Kipling (English author)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.


Fathers’ Day

Join us this Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 11 am at Central Church!

Showing Our True Colors – All Souls

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: “Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”.  – Revelation 5:9

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:9-10

During a research stint at Oxford University, I visited historic All Souls Church in London. The preaching of its eminent pastor John Stott was insightful. But it was the array of nationalities that amazed me. I was greeted by people from all over the world. This, I thought, must be what heaven is like!

The apostle John must have been captivated to find himself peering into a worship service in heaven. If he were writing today, I imagine he’d express his vision like this: “Wow! I was amazed to see brothers and sisters from every conceivable people group worshiping our Savior. Some had slanted eyes and straight hair. Others had dark skin and thick lips. There were men and women, light and dark, young and old, sincerely worshiping our God.”

This vivid picture of the church purchased by the blood of the Lamb isn’t only in the mind of John but in the heart of God. Can you imagine segregated worship services in heaven? Are only white Anglo-Saxon Protestants there? Black Baptists? Korean Presbyterians? Latino Pentecostals? Of course not! So now picture a colorful rainbow of saints singing a chorus of worship and praise to the Lamb here on earth.

—David A. Anderson in Multicultural Ministry

My Response: When have I experienced a true cross-section of Christ’s church all together?

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.


Pentecost – Come, Holy Ghost: A Wesleyan perspective on the Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

While most United Methodists can articulate what they believe about Jesus and are reasonably comfortable talking about God, our confidence might waver when talking about the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is because we can relate to Jesus as a human being and understand God through personified imagery like “Heavenly Father.”

The symbols we use to talk about the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are far less human. At Pentecost we read about the Spirit as fire and wind. In Baptism, we recognize the work of the Spirit through water and a dove. Not to mention the confusion caused by referring to the Spirit as the Holy Ghost.

Additionally, cultural understandings talk of specific work attributed to the Spirit like ecstatic utterances and other highly emotive responses. While we do not discount those experiences, many of us have not had them and wonder about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, may be able to help. The unimaginatively titled sermon “On the Holy Spirit,” from the 1872 edition of The Sermons of John Wesley, seeks to address not the “particularly extraordinary gifts” of the Spirit, but “what the Holy Spirit is to every believer.”

Hymn writer Charles Wesley, brother of John, wrote a song known to many United Methodist congregations even today. “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire” (The United Methodist Hymnal 603) shares many of the same themes that help us better understand the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Harbinger of Day of Resurrection

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wesley understood the Holy Spirit as the fullness of God at work in our broken world.

The “sin of Adam,” as the events of Genesis 3 are described in the sermon, distanced human beings from the image of God we were created to be. Addressing Adam’s desire to cover up after sinning, the sermon states, “Well might Adam now find himself naked; nothing less than God was departed from him.”

In Jesus, God has bridged this separation by overcoming sin. “[W]hat we lost in Adam,” the sermon reads, “we might receive in Christ Jesus.”

While that process of reconciliation begins when we put our trust in Jesus, it will not be complete until the Day of Resurrection to come. The Holy Spirit is a harbinger of our future with us in the present.

Spiritual Gifts

Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ.

Fountain of love

From the earliest days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley sought to help Christians live faith in the midst of ordinary lives of family, friends, work, bills, and more. He encouraged the Methodists to participate in what he called the “means of grace,” which included acts of piety like worship and prayer, along with acts of service like feeding the hungry and giving to the poor.

These acts are gifts strengthening us to live into the two-fold nature of discipleship: loving God and our neighbors.

In his hymn, Charles invites the Holy Ghost to strengthen us to live our faith daily.

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire, let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire, fountain of life and love.

Revealer of truth

John Wesley often called himself a “man of one book.” That book, of course, was the Bible.

Wesley was an ardent student of the Scriptures. He knew that the same Spirit that inspired the authors would also move in the hearts of readers centuries later, revealing God’s truth to us. The sermon states that the Holy Spirit is “a light to discern the fallacies of flesh and blood, [and] to reject the irreligious maxims of the world.”

In the second verse of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles prayerfully asks the Holy Ghost to come to reveal God’s word to us.

Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee the prophets wrote and spoke),
unlock the truth, thyself the key, unseal the sacred book.

Holy SpiritBearer of New Creation

Having the Holy Spirit among us, a sign of that future day of restoration, also gives us the ability to live as people of that future now. Through the Spirit we see the world not only as it is, but as it will be, and are invited to participate in the work of reconciliation.

In the sermon we read that the Holy Spirit “is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us.”

When we sing verse 3 of Charles’ hymn, we pray for that day to come. Using an allusion to the presence of God’s Spirit moving over the face of the deep before the first day of Creation (see Genesis 1:2), we long for the new creation.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove, brood o’er our nature’s night;
on our disordered spirits move, and let there now be light.

Assurance of salvationHoly Spirit 2

If you have ever wondered if you are really saved, you are not alone. Many Christians, including John Wesley, have gone through seasons of similar struggles. This sermon points to evidence in the gifts we see in our lives.

In “On the Holy Spirit” we read, “[W]here that divine Guest enters, the laws of another world must be observed.” A shift the Spirit brings to our priorities is then described. Where we once were primarily concerned about ourselves, the Spirit enables us to focus on our love of God and others.

In verse four of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles Wesley writes how love flowing through us is evidence of the Spirit living in us.

God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine,
and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.

It may be difficult for some of us to articulate a relationship with one described as fire, water, wind, or a dove. What we need to know is that the Spirit is the presence of the Holy in and around us each day, enabling us to live into the people God created us to be and will be restored to one day.

The Spirit is the presence of the Holy … enabling us to live as the people God created us to be.

Learn more about the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, and take an online assessment to help you discover and cultivate your gifts.

Showing Our True Colors – As It Is in Wal-Mart…

Multicultural WorshipWho Said It…David A. Anderson

David A. Anderson is the founder and pastor of Bridgeway Community Church, a multicultural congregation in Columbia, Maryland.

He earned a doctorate in sociology and religion from Oxford University and teaches cultural diversity at the University of Phoenix’s Columbia campus. He also hosts Reconciliation Live!—a Washington DC, radio talk show on race relations.

What He Said…As It Is in Wal-Mart …

I was in Orlando as a consultant on diversity for business leaders. I was surprised at how segregated Orlando is. But near our meeting place was a Wal-Mart. When I walked through its doors, I bumped into Koreans and Puerto Ricans, whites and blacks, the disabled, the young, and the aged.

Hmm. While churches worship uniculturally, Wal-Mart spans color, class, and cultural lines by meeting the common needs of various groups. The common value that draws people to the Wal-Mart is their desire for a myriad of products for less money. Rich or poor, white or black, young or old, most people want to save money.

Your vision for ministry, if it doesn’t include cultural diversity, isn’t 20/20! What is the church’s common value that will cause people to come together? How will our churches become places where the common needs of all are met? How can they learn to be a place where everyone feels welcome, included, and valued? When we discover the answers, people will surface from pockets of obscurity.

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

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

King's College, Cambridge, England

This Sunday, June 9, 2019, is Pentecost Sunday.

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

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

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

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

Come Down O Love Divine

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

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

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

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


Community Pentecost Service – Sunday, June 9, 2019

Instead of having our regular Sunday worship service, Central Church will join with other area Churches for a Community Pentecost Service in the LGI at the Beaver Falls High School at 10:30 am on Sunday, June 9.

See you there!


Down with Put Downs – Gentle Speech

Gentle SpeechIn his letter, James contrasts “God’s kind of wisdom” with that which is “motivated by the Devil.”

Satan-speak, he declares, is full of bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, earthly concerns and desires, unspiritual thoughts and ideas, disorder, and evil.

God-speak, on the other hand, is characterized by purity, peace, consideration for others, submission, mercy, sincerity, impartiality, and goodness.

Interact with God’s Word

James 3:2-12

  1. Do verses 9 and 10 describe your own mixed record of positive and negative speech patterns?
  2. Which kind of speech reflects your true identity?
  3. Which kind of speech serves as a sobering reminder of your basic sinful nature?
  4. Is it really possible to “take back” words spoken carelessly or in anger?
  5. What is the ultimate source (v. 6) of the poisonous words we utter?
  6. Does James’s verdict, in verse 8, mean that it is hopeless to attempt to control your tongue? What does his exclamation in verse 10 imply?
  7. What resource can we draw on in our battle to assert control of our tongues?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to change you from the inside out, by His Spirit increasing your power to monitor and control what you say.

James 3:2-12

2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.

5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

Down with Put Downs – Clearing the Air

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.  – Ephesians 4:29

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 4:31-32;5:4

Fourteen men, including the pastor and elders, led a church’s weekly home Bible study/sharing groups. They met once a month for breakfast to compare experiences in their home groups and their own lives. The 14 became tight, helping each other grow in their leadership roles and personal qualities.

But then, beginning with a couple of men, put-down humor crept in. This spread. Their motive—to connect and have fun with shared humor—was right. But humor, conveyed in a sarcastic tone and containing an element of truth, carries a bite. Sometimes they walked away wondering What did he mean by that? This injected suspicion and disquiet, and undermined mutual trust.

During a church retreat, the Christian camp staff overheard, and became recipients of, this mocking banter. The camp director shared their concern with the pastor, who passed it on to the leaders. They discussed it as a group and agreed to put a stop to the practice. Unhindered by put-down humor, their friendships and sense of shared mission continued to deepen. And the entire congregation benefited from the cleared air.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: A group I’d like to see agree to desist from cutting humor is …

Thought to Apply: Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.  —George Sala

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


Down with Put Downs – Play the B.U.G.

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.  – Proverbs 12:18.

Bonus Reading: Romans 1:11-12

Even as the words float off the end of my tongue, I realize that I’ve blown it. This kind of situation usually involves me saying negative words to my teammates or others. It’s so easy to become the “cut-down king.”

You know the routine. You call one of your teammates a name, and your other teammates laugh. You may try to justify your unkind remarks with the fact that everyone does it, but the truth is that those reckless words cut. They pierce like a sword and cause damage.

Instead of just going with the flow and drifting into the Cut Down Game, God desires us to play the B.U.G., or the Build Up Game. This game takes effort, and we have to be intentional to play. It doesn’t come naturally, either. But when it’s played, it’s awesome.

The B.U.G. blesses so many people. A friend of mine once said that everyone in the world is under-encouraged. I agree! I ask the Lord to show me ways that I can encourage teammates, friends, family members, and even people I don’t know. I want to build others up and show love through my words.

I believe that the tongue can heal. Are you ready to play the B.U.G.?

—Dan Britton in Heart of an Athlete

My Response: Have I realized that my words can heal? Where could I start?

Thought to Apply: Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.—Mother Theresa (Albanian missionary to India)

Adapted from Heart of an Athlete (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


What is Ordinary Time?

The Christian year includes two central cycles focused on major events in the life of Christ: the Christmas cycle (Advent-Christmas-Epiphany) and Easter cycle (Lent-Easter-Pentecost).

Each of these seasons begins with a time of preparation and anticipation followed by a time of celebration. Ordinary Time follows each cycle.

The word “ordinary” here does not mean “routine” or “not special.” Instead, it refers to the “ordinal numbers” (first, second, third, etc.) used to name and count the Sundays (such as the Third Sunday after Epiphany). This term comes from the Latin ordinalis, meaning “numbered” or “ordered,” and tempus ordinarium, “measured time.”

The first period of Ordinary Time, called the Season after Epiphany, begins on Epiphany Day and ends on the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). The central theme of this season is the calling of disciples and the early ministry of Jesus.

For some congregations, this will mean a focus on evangelism, as found in the Old Testament and Gospel readings for each week. For others, the focus will be preparing to help others grow in their discipleship. The Epistle reading each week emphasizes this.

The second period of Ordinary Time, the Season after Pentecost, follows the Easter cycle. It begins the day after Pentecost and continues to Advent. The purpose of this season is to support new disciples and the whole congregation in living out the gifts and callings discerned during the Easter Season and commissioned on the Day of Pentecost.

Every year, Christians experience the contrast between the central seasons of Christmas and Easter, where we see God in the events around the coming of Christ, and the in-between times, where we see, speak about and join God’s ongoing work in the world.

We thus experience two regular cycles of preparation, celebration and action in ministry each year, with the Ordinary Times as the primary periods of action.

Have questions? Ask The UMC or find a pastor near you to talk with. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications. First published June 4, 2019.




Down with Put Downs – A Joke or a Jab?

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 16:24;18:21b;26:19-19

One verbal maneuver inflicts intentional pain, then hides behind a phrase such as “Can’t you take a joke?”

It’s the coward’s approach. It’s saying, I have an issue with my spouse, but I’m too chicken to bring it up honestly where I might face disapproval or anger. So I’ll come up with a joke, often in the company of other people, designed to hit at the heart of some tender area between us.

Not long ago I was commenting on the fact that when our children were little they didn’t pull all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and play with them like so many toddlers do. I was wondering why that might be, and John responded that maybe it was because they’d never seen the pots and pans.

Translation: I wish you’d do more of that home-cooked meal thing. But it was easy to hide behind, “Oh no, I was just kidding.”

One decisive husband we know loses no opportunity to jokingly tease his wife about being unable to decide how much salt to put on her salad or what dress she’s going to wear. Sadly, now their sons are also doing it.

It would be better for that couple to have a discussion in which they say, “I wish you could make decisions better” or “Can it be okay that I have trouble making decisions and you don’t?”

—Nancy Ortberg in Marriage Partnership

My Response: How have I teased others in a hurtful way? How could I be more aware?

Thought to Apply: Words are loaded pistols.—Jean Paul Sartre (French philosopher)

Adapted from Marriage Partnership (Spring/06)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


Down with Put Downs – “Your Mission…”

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: No one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8

Bonus Reading: James 3:2-12

“Innocent” jests that inflict minor wounds have become accepted practice in every setting, from sporting events to church socials. We’re exposed to a culture of trash talking, one-upmanship, and a false masculinity reinforced by every macho stereotype in society.

If someone gives a man a verbal jab, he has to come up with a better one. The man who isn’t quick enough with his comeback skulks away as the loser while the “guys” pat the glib-tongued winner on the back. As James declares in today’s Bonus Reading, “this is not right!”

To tackle this deeply rooted problem, let’s borrow the classic style of the show Mission Impossible as we craft a mission for men:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Phelps. It seems that a wild beast is loose in the dark regions of your mouth. It has the ability to spew acidic venom, causing the rapid breakdown of marital harmony.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, requires you to tame this tantrum-throwing, invective-spitting, complaint-mumbling tyrant—your tongue. As usual, once your tongue begins to speak consistently with grace and kindness, your mission will be complete. Good luck, Jim.”

—Bryan Davis in Spit and Polish for Husbands

My Response: Does taming my tongue seem an impossible mission? How could I begin?

Thought to Apply: A word rashly spoken cannot be brought back by a chariot and four horses.—Chinese Proverb

Adapted from Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG Publishers, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


Down with Put Downs – A T for the Tongue

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Those who control their tongue will have a long life; a quick retort can ruin everything. Proverbs 13:3

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 15:28 21:23; 29:20; Psalm 141:3

As a young basketball coach I had a short fuse, especially when it came to dealing with men in stripes. It was hard keeping my mouth shut, and I often said things that got me in trouble.

One game in particular, I thought my team was being treated unfairly and was quick to point it out. Late in the game, I stood up and yelled, “What?!” It was only one word, but the officials had heard enough. I got a technical foul that cost my team the game.

Controlling the tongue is a problem for many coaches and athletes. Many times, we create more problems with our mouths than with our actions. Why? In my case, it was because I wouldn’t think before I spoke.

Why does God want us to keep our tongues in check? When we speak before thinking, we usually do not honor Him with our speech. He would much rather we say nothing at all than speak too quickly.

It’s the most difficult thing in the world to tame the tongue, but God’s Spirit living in us through the work of Jesus can help us think before we speak—even in the midst of challenging situations!

—Jere Johnson in Heart of a Coach

My Response: What came out of my mouth the last time I was under pressure?

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


Down with Put Downs – Attitude Check

Gentle SpeechWho Said It…Dan Britton

Dan Britton is a senior vice president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, overseeing its camps and its campus, sport-specific, and coaches’ ministries.

Both the Virginia high-school football and lacrosse teams he captained won conference and state honors. At the University of Delaware, he was the lacrosse team captain and a leading scorer. He then spent four years as a starter for the Baltimore Thunder.

What He Said…Attitude Check

Carson Palmer, a Heisman Trophy winner and the number one NFL draft pick in 2003, signed a $49 million, six-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. $10 million of it was his signing bonus.

However, that $10 million wasn’t contingent upon his great throwing arm, his intelligence as a quarterback, or his great play-calling.  It was contingent upon his not saying anything negative about his team, coaches, or management.

Basically the $10 million signing bonus was a loyalty pledge in which Carson guaranteed that he wouldn’t be critical.  If he ripped into his team, he lost the cash.

After someone has wronged us on the field or in the locker room, it’s easy to lash out.  God desires not only for us to keep our mouths from cursing but also to keep them positive.

The tongue is only a reflection of what is in our heart.  When you’re under pressure, what comes out?  Criticism or encouragement?  You might not get paid $10 million for having a Christlike tongue, but your Savior will be glorified!

Adapted from Heart of an Athlete (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


Concert in Our Area

Effective Stewardship – Month #10

God uses money as a testimony in the lives of His people.

“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).


“ . . . if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away . . . everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Christians should have a different outlook on life, including money and material possessions.  They realize that they own nothing, that everything they have belongs to God, and that they are only managers and stewards of what God has entrusted to them.  Because of that, Christians should have a different attitude towards “things.”

That attitude demonstrates itself in many different ways.

For example, Christians show mercy and give, in contrast to the those who borrow and do not repay (Psalm 37:21).

Christians should hold possessions with an open hand, and “refresh” others with their bounty (Proverbs 11:24-25).

They are honest and demonstrate their faith by their work and integrity (1 Thes. 4:11-12).

They give to those in need and thereby demonstrate to a watching world the love of God (1 John 3:17).

When this kind of lifestyle is present in our lives, Jesus said that people will see our good works — our different attitude and perspective — and will glorify our heavenly Father (Matt. 5:16).  And as we seek His kingdom first and foremost, we have His promise that He will provide what we need (Matt. 6:33).

As others observe you and your lifestyle, do they see any difference because of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

As they observe your relationship to “things,” especially to money, do they realize you are a manager, a steward, and not an owner?

Or stated another way, is the manner in which you handle money and material possessions a testimony to your faith in Christ?




Heaven Is the Finish Line – The Hope of Heaven

The Hope of HeavenPeter’s letters were written to encourage believers who would likely face trials and persecution under Emperor Nero.  So he exhorted them to take the long view and focus on God’s salvation that would deliver them from the hostility of an unbelieving world.

Of course his readers understood that, in another sense, their salvation had already commenced from the moment they were “born again.”

Interact with God’s Word:  1 Peter 1:3-6

  1. When were you included among those to whom God has bequeathed a “priceless inheritance”?
  2. What is the solid basis (v. 3) for your confidence that you will obtain this inheritance?
  3. What does Peter say (v. 4) is the advantage of having your inheritance reserved for you in heaven?
  4. What, according to verse 5, is your outlook for living now? And for the future?
  5. Why should you be glad now (v. 6) for joy that is still future?
  6. Some have ridiculed the believer’s hope as “pie in the sky bye and bye.” What is inadequate about the perspective of these critics?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to deliver you from the human tendency to a shortsightedness that overvalues the temporary and under-rates the permanent.

1 Peter 1:3-6

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for the hope of heaven. Use it in my earthly life to inspire and sustain my passion and purpose.