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The Difference One Can Make – Faith in Action

Faith in ActionThe Philistines’ well-supplied army dominated Canaan, conducting raids at will.

And they enforced a monopoly on that era’s advanced technology: iron blacksmithing.

No wonder King Saul’s badly outnumbered, demoralized troops were stalled in defensive position at Gibeah, making no effort to retake the Philistine-controlled Micmash pass.

Interact with God’s Word: 1 Samuel 14:1-16, 1 Samuel 14:20-22

  1. In the Israel/Philistine face-off (see 1 Samuel 13:5, 15, 22) what were the human odds?
  2. How did Jonathan view these odds (v. 6)?
  3. Why do you think Jonathan didn’t alert his father to his plans?
  4. How did Jonathan allow for God to abort this thrust if it wasn’t in His will (vv. 8-10)?
  5. What exertions were required of Jonathan and his armor bearer (vv.13-14)?
  6. How did God turn a skirmish upset into the route of an entire army (v. 15)?
  7. How did Jonathan’s initiative motivate his fellow Israelites (vv. 20-22)?
  8. What overwhelming odds do you think need turning around in our society?
  9. What counter-measures could you take for starters? What resources could you commit to this venture?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to give you the courage to tackle a daunting problem, using your efforts to trigger events leading to victory.

1 Samuel 14:1-16, 20-22

1 One day Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to where the Philistines have their outpost.” But Jonathan did not tell his father what he was doing. 2 Meanwhile, Saul and his 600 men were camped on the outskirts of Gibeah, around the pomegranate tree at Migron. 3 Among Saul’s men was Ahijah the priest, who was wearing the ephod, the priestly vest. Ahijah was the son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord who had served at Shiloh. No one realized that Jonathan had left the Israelite camp.

4 To reach the Philistine outpost, Jonathan had to go down between two rocky cliffs that were called Bozez and Seneh. 5 The cliff on the north was in front of Micmash, and the one on the south was in front of Geba. 6 “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!”

7 “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.” 8 “All right then,” Jonathan told him. “We will cross over and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them.

10 But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.” 11 When the Philistines saw them coming, they shouted, “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes!” 12 Then the men from the outpost shouted to Jonathan, “Come on up here, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” “Come on, climb right behind me,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “for the Lord will help us defeat them!”

13 So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. 14 They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre. 15 Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified. 16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction.

20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away.

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

Giving to the World Service Fund

“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. … Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” —Colossians 3:1-2, NRSV

Did you know the General Council on Finance and Administration is much more than a legal entity? In fact, GCFA plays a big role in the church’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, while nurturing United Methodists on their faith journey.

The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 801) introduces the council’s task: “The work of the Church requires the support of our people. Participation through service and gifts is a Christian duty, a means of grace, and an expression of our love to God.”

From the GCFA website , United Methodists can glean a wealth of information. We can find Frequently Asked Questions—and answers—about the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, apportionment giving and Judicial Council rulings. Another link provides information about giving to each general church apportioned fund, and a line-item breakdown by conference and general church agency.

But that’s not all. The finance agency, branded as UMCSupport, also offers resources, tools and information to assist local churches. These include creative and innovative fund-raising for church ministries, a guide to ministry partners that provide discounts or special offers for United Methodist churches, a quick online resource for acquiring a group ruling for United Methodist churches, an online shopping portal that generates donations for ministries, discounted airport parking for United Methodists, and a group-purchasing portal for supplies and goods ordered by United Methodist congregations.

When our congregation pays its World Service Fund apportionment, we help GCFA fulfill its mission, support the global connection and discover benefits UMCSupport provides. Thank you!


The Difference One Can Make – Waging Peace

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became afraid. “Now Joseph will pay us back,” … they said. Genesis 50:15

Bonus Reading: Genesis 50:14-21

William Rodriguez, a kickboxing champion as well as a black belt in karate, knew how to fight and win.

Even so, when gang members killed his son, Rodriguez refused to respond violently. Instead of seeking revenge, he sought a just and lasting reconciliation.

After learning that one of his son’s convicted killers was wrongly sentenced, Rodriguez asked the judge for mercy on the young man. “I just believed it was the right thing to do.  That’s my faith,” he recalled.

As a result of involvement in his son’s murder trial, Rodriguez began to orchestrate peace treaties among warring gangs. The kick-boxer spoke to feuding groups about living for the future rather than in bondage to the past.

Seeing that Rodriguez was living that message, many gang members listened. Soon, to his own surprise, Rodriguez was hosting reconciliation meetings.

Rodriguez’s peacemaking illustrates human beings’ overarching vocation as followers of Jesus Christ.

Just as God cares for His entire universe, we’re called to be caretakers of His world. God calls us to love Jesus by caring for and about our neighbor, participating in Christ’s renewal of all things.

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

My Response: In what situation should I respond compassionately instead of instinctively protecting my status?

Thought to Apply: It is idle for us to say that we know that God has forgiven us if we are not loving and forgiving ourselves.—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Welsh preacher)

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.


The Difference One Can Make – Hanging Tough in the Tenderloin

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “Everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours.”  – 1 Samuel 17:47

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-37

Leaving his job in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district one day, Roger Huang discovered that he had a flat tire.

While waiting for a tow truck, he watched a group of teens pick on a younger boy and wondered what he’d do if it were his son.

For the next eight years, Roger worked two jobs to support a rescue mission that he leads there. He also started a Christian school.

The 35-block neighborhood has at least 48 liquor stores and 14 porn shops. Some 10,000 homeless pass through it every night. Tenderloin averages three major crimes per hour.

Tired of it all, in 2004 Roger decided to get city leaders’ attention. He sat outside city hall on a hunger strike.

Prodded to action, Mayor Gavin Newsome initiated a “scrubdown”: the police department assigned more officers to walk the streets to detain those suspected of drug-related activity. The public works department ordered more sweepers to clean up.

One city supervisor studied limiting liquor licenses; another introduced legislation to prohibit new strip clubs and porn shops within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers. After 33 days, when he felt the city had made enough progress, Roger ended his hunger strike.

—Rob Moll in Leadership

My Response: What should be turned around in my community? Where could I start?

Thought to Apply: God is always calling on us to do the impossible, [but] anything Jesus did here on earth is something we should be able to do, too.—Madeleine L’Engle

Adapted from Leadership (Summer/04)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.



The Difference One Can Make – Borderline Situation

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. James 3:18

Bonus Reading: Nehemiah 6:1-13

Aqeela Sherrills lived in Watts, a part of Los Angeles ravaged by feuding youth gangs.  His neighborhood was wedged between a district dominated by the Bloods and another by the Crips, with bystanders often caught in the crossfire.  He escaped Watts by going east to college.

But there Aqeela became convinced that he was created to make a difference in gangland. So he returned to L.A. in 1989 and organized members of his neighborhood to agitate for “Peace for Peace’s Sake.”

“Both gangs tolerated us,” Aqeela said, “allowing us to march, even listening to our rhetoric.” At first nothing changed. But they joined forces with football great Jim Brown to form Amer-I-Can.  In it, older men began mentoring younger men, steering them toward positive goals.

Then Aqeela and his brother, Daude, held a meeting to motivate the group to appeal directly to the gangs. “We were afraid for our lives,” Aqeela said. “But I said to the group, ‘We’re on the border. So we should be the ones to stand between the Bloods and Crips and bring the neighborhoods together.’

We committed to march into both territories with a message of reconciliation.”  Their intervention led to a “peace treaty,” and eventually to reconciliation.

—Everett Worthington Jr. in Forgiving and Reconciling

My Response: I’ll ask God to show me for what I was created to make a difference.

Adapted from Forgiving and Reconciling (InterVarsity, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.


Finding Common Ground – Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism 2Levi is better known by his other name: Matthew.

Jesus’ invitation to join His crew meant guaranteed unemployment.  Yet he didn’t hesitate.

Was that because he sensed genuine acceptance by Jesus?  Jesus gave him a new purpose for his record-keeping skills as he compiled his gospel narrative.

Interact with God’s Word:  Luke 5:27-32

  1. Why were the religious leaders so upset by the way Jesus mingled with irreligious people from different social levels?
  2. Which do you think Jesus perceived as more receptive to His gospel: the religious leaders or those outside their synagogues?
  3. Would you say the non-Christians you know are hostile to the gospel or have never meaningfully encountered it?
  4. By socializing with the tax collectors and “sinners,” was Jesus endorsing their practices and lifestyles?
  5. For Levi, did leaving his tax-collecting business to be Jesus’ disciple mean breaking off contact with his colleagues and friends?
  6. Do you have as many non-Christian friends now as you did when you first became a believer?
  7. How could you introduce your friendship network to Jesus, like Levi did with his banquet?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you find creative ways to get involved in the lives of people who are not yet Christ followers.

Luke 5:27-32

27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. 29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them.

30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” 31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.

Finding Common Ground – My So-What Testimony

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: I want to find a way to make the Jews want what you Gentiles have, and … save some of them. Romans 11:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 71:15-16

During the first week of school, a freshman, David, attended one of our meetings because a friend invited him. But he said he didn’t see what difference some guy’s martyrdom thousands of years ago made in his life today.

So instead of dwelling on the “content” of the gospel, I focused on how being a Christian helps me now. I sense a purpose and meaning to life, I said, I never feel alone, and—because I feel accepted by God—more willingly accept other people.

Being a Christian, I added, makes my marriage better, gives me a clear conscience, and fills me with optimism and hope.  Then I changed the subject and asked how he was adjusting to our big urban campus.

He seemed lost.  His rambling answer disclosed that he’d made few friends, liked classical music, and hated cafeteria food.

I told him that I’d been a music major in my undergrad days.  We talked about Debussy and Dvorak, and how students could get free tickets for on-campus concerts.  Then I invited him to play volleyball with us the next night to meet people, eat watermelon, and have fun.

David came and then, shortly thereafter, started attending a student-led Bible study in a dorm.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: How could I share my life with another so as to create thirst for the abundant life Jesus offers?

Thought to Apply: How many people have you made homesick for God?—Oswald Chambers (British teacher)

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Finding Common Ground – Admit You Need Help

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.  –  1 Corinthians 9:22

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:20-23

How can you compensate for your weaknesses and get to know your neighbors better in the process?  Ask for help!

I often begin projects without knowing how they’ll end.  I experiment and learn as I go.

This usually works, but when I started to build a go-cart out of a cast-off riding lawnmower, I was soon in over my head.  So I invited a technically proficient neighbor to help me, and we had fun for four hours.  During that time, he also shared several deep concerns.

Another time, when Amanda and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment, friends of ours from college days, Paul and Tina, arrived for a visit in an old car with worn-out brakes.  I volunteered to help Paul replace them.  We pulled off a wheel and began removing springs and other brake parts, but soon I knew we were in trouble.

“Hey,” I called out to a man walking by, “you know anything about brakes?”

He hesitated and then grinned.  “A little bit.”  He passed along a few pointers and gave me his apartment number in the adjoining complex.

That simple conversation developed into a relationship with him and his wife that lasted almost 25 years.  And he became a Christian!

—Stephen Sorenson in Like Your Neighbor

My Response: How could being vulnerable help me connect with a neighbor?

Thought to Apply: The Holy Spirit can’t save seats or saints. If we don’t know any non-Christians, how can we introduce them to the Savior?—Paul Little (evangelist)

Adapted from Like Your Neighbor (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Finding Common Ground – Share-Wear

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.  –  1 Corinthians 9:12

Bonus Reading: Matthew 4:18-20

In the summer of 2005, as part of National Trails Day, a few friends and I helped build a trail on Davidson Mesa, overlooking the city of Boulder, Colorado.  I wore a T-shirt with a picture of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz, who was tragically killed in a bizarre murder a few years back.

One of the guys pushing wheelbarrows up and down hills with me saw my shirt and asked me about it.  He had wrestled in college, and when I told him I was a grappler, as were both my boys, we became fast friends over this common ground.

During the day we joked around and even locked up once or twice.  By the end of the day, I was able to speak about some of my passions—engaging the church’s needs and sharing dreams for the community.  He responded by telling me he was on the board of a large human-service agency that was looking for ways to engage the faith community in its work. Imagine that!

How different it may have been had I worn a T-shirt with “His Pain, Your Gain” or a hat with “WWJD.”  It would have been hard to get someone to look me in the eye.

—Eric Swanson in Living a Life on Loan

My Response: How could I become more likeable and accessible to non-Christians I encounter?

Thought to Apply: Witnessing is removing the various barriers of our self-love to allow Christ, living within us, to show Himself to our neighbors.—Paul Frost (writer)

Adapted from Living a Life on Loan (NavPress, 1978)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Finding Common Ground – People, Not Projects

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him [Zacchaeus] who are lost.”  – Luke 19:10

Bonus Reading: Luke 19:1-10

At an evangelism conference session I led, a man asked, “What do I do if I’m trying to reach out to someone, but have little in common with him?  Actually,” he added, “I don’t really enjoy being with him.”

“If this person never came to faith in Jesus,” I asked, “would you still be his friend? … still hang out with him?”

The man swallowed hard and said, “I’m not sure I’d still connect with him if I wasn’t trying to win him to Christ.”

I encouraged the man to consider stepping away from this person for a time and praying for his own heart to change.  When we reach out to people out of guilt or duty, they’ll smell it and know that we see them as a chore on our checklist of things to do.  When we make people our personal outreach projects without really loving them, we may actually push them away from Jesus.

However, when we walk with people on their spiritual journey because the love of God overflows in our hearts and because we see them through the eyes of Jesus—this is powerful. People outside of the family will know they’re loved by God long before they enter a relationship with Jesus.

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: You have placed _____ in my life. I’ll commit to care about and spend time with him.

Thought to Apply: We must know people—like, enjoy, and take trouble for them—before it may even be right to speak to them about spiritual matters.  —Sam Shoemaker

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Finding Common Ground – Running Encounter

Personal Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough.”  – Luke 5:32

Bonus Reading: Luke 5:27-32

Norm Wakefield, author and professor at Phoenix Seminary, led a home church back in the ’80s, when it was generally unthinkable to skip Sunday morning services.  The group met for worship on Sunday nights instead.

They found that it didn’t usually work to invite people to a service on Sunday mornings, because that was likely their morning to sleep in, go running, and hang out at the bagel shop.  For most, dressing up and going to church didn’t provide a suitable alternative to this favorite time of week.

So Norm’s small “congregation” spent Sunday mornings running together and going to bagel shops for coffee.  They would invite their friends to come with them to worship, and the response was amazing.

They didn’t look at their friends as projects. They just genuinely cared, got involved in their lives, and built relationships.  As a natural result, the Sunday morning connection time brought more people to faith than most churches see in a year of services.

Of course, they had to put up with criticism from churches that thought it was improper to skip church on Sunday morning—that form was more important than function.

—Mike Bechtle in Evangelism for the Rest of Us

My Response: What, besides church, could I invite an unchurched friend to share with me?

Adapted from Evangelism for the Rest of Us (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Finding Common Ground – Where’s the Bait

Personal Evangelism 2Who Said It…Mike Bechtle

Mike Bechtle has taught more than 2,000 time- and life-management seminars, many for Fortune 500 companies.  He’s been speaking at conventions and churches since 1974.

He and his wife, Diane, serve as mentors to a young married couples class at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California.  Mike’s doctorate is in higher and adult education from Arizona State University.  He also has a degree from Talbot School of Theology.

What He Said…Where’s the Bait?

If your goal is to catch fish, you could put a hook on the line, hold it about a foot above the water, and call, “C’mon, fish. Here, fish. Come and get it.”

But you’d get no results because you’re trying to get the fish to leave the environment in which he can breathe.   And there’s no worm or bug on the hook.  You need to put something the fish likes on the hook and place it in the water.  It’s not your job to beat the fish with the bait.  If he’s hungry, he’ll notice the bait and check it out.

It’s important to go where those who need Christ live, rubbing shoulders with them.  That’s why a university professor and his wife have become actively engaged in an animal rescue group—an area where they have personal passion—and get to build real, caring relationships with people who might not be interested in coming to church.

The personal transformation we may be undergoing will be ineffective for evangelism if we’re not close enough for anyone to see it.

Adapted from Evangelism for the Rest of Us (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, how to live the gospel naturally among those that You care deeply about.


Look for That Silver Lining – Trust in God

Look for the Silver LiningThe prisoner Paul, having appealed to Caesar, was transferred by ship from Caesarea to Rome. There, according to Acts 28:16, he “was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.”

Able to receive visitors, he boldly witnessed and taught about Jesus. The final sentence of the Book of Acts observes, “And no one tried to stop him.”

Interact with God’s Word

Philippians 1:12-18

  1. What reversals (see Acts 21:15-28:6) are included in Paul’s “everything that has happened to me” (v. 12)?
  2. How would most unjustly imprisoned persons react: Give up? … Turn bitter?
  3. Do you think God planned Paul’s imprisonment to penetrate the center of Roman political power?
  4. Who did Paul regard (v. 13) as his “captive” audience?
  5. How do we know his witness to them was effective (see Philippians 4:22)?
  6. What benefits from his confinement (v. 14) did Paul see for believers?
  7. How did Paul react (vv. 15-18) to those taking advantage of his custody?
  8. When have you seen God snatch ultimate good from apparent tragedy?
  9. What’s at center stage in your life? … Achieving personal comfort? … Contributing to gospel advance?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the ability to trust Him to use apparent setbacks in your life for your growth in discipleship, and for the advancement of His kingdom.

Philippians 1:12-18

12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News.

17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.

Look for That Silver Lining – “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. James 1:2

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4

Oswald Chambers, author of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, served as a chaplain to British troops in Egypt during World War I.

The sweltering heat of the midday could reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit inside a tent. But with no shade to protect from the scorching sun, inside was the better option. Add to this the threat of malaria, and the thousands of flies hatched in the waste of horses, and it’s easy to understand why serving in this area of the war was hated by virtually every soldier.

Chambers, on the other hand, found that miserable place a blessing. He was constantly busy serving the spiritual and physical needs of the troops. His diary frequently recorded fits of exuberance. How could Chambers’s experience be so different from that of the others stationed there? Oswald knew the holy Lord of glory, and trusted in His ability to bring good out of evil.

In Christ, God turned the evil act of crucifying an entirely innocent man into something life-saving and redeeming. We must begin to cultivate this outlook in our own lives so that we no longer see suffering as an evil to be avoided, but something to be expected, necessary, and, yes, even a joy-producing privilege.

—Victor Kuligin in Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said

My Response: Is my outlook dependent on, or independent of, my circumstances?

Thought to Apply: Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.—Rudyard Kipling (English writer born in India)

Adapted from Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Holy Communion on the Moon

On July 20, 1969, from more than a quarter million miles away, on that Sunday five decades ago when Neil Armstrong became the first human being to ever walk on another world, something else was happening.  For even as he prepared for that historic “giant leap for mankind,” his companion, Buzz Aldrin, prepared for something else inside the Eagle, unpacking bread and wine from plastic containers and placing them on the abort guidance system computer.

Radioing back to earth, he invited everyone listening in “whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” 

And then, switching his radio off, Aldrin read privately from the Gospel of John before pouring the wine into a chalice, where in the lessened gravity of the moon the wine “curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,” and he followed that by taking communion.

In short, as Aldrin later wrote in a Guideposts magazine article, “the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

Charles Anderson, who has served as a Methodist pastor to many in the NASA community over the years, has eloquently put it this way:  “How both poignant and appropriate, that the greatest technological achievement in human history carried within it the sacramental reminder of the greatest act of salvific love in all history–namely, the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ that binds the past to the present, and the heavens to the earth. The greatest distance that humans have ever traveled from our celestial home was still within reach of the promise and presence of the living God.” 

Or as Charles goes on to add, “we can never ever journey to a place so far where God is not.”

And fifty years later, we’ve still never been able to do so, even with a Saturn V rocket behind us.  Maybe that’s why when Jesus gave us the sacrament, He told us to remember Him in this way whenever we can.  And wherever too, we might add.


Look for That Silver Lining – Doubly Displaced

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. Philippians 1:12

Bonus Reading: Philippians 1:13-18

In the 1930s, thousands fled what is now North Korea as the Japanese invaded.  Many settled around Vladivostok.

When Joseph Stalin began developing a weapons manufacturing center there, he deemed the Koreans a security risk.  So he relocated them in five areas around the Soviet Union.

One was Tashkent, hub of the 20-million-strong Uzbek people.  The staunchly Muslim Uzbeks had for centuries violently resisted any efforts to introduce Christianity.  But the Uzbeks welcomed the Koreans for their industry and kindness.  Within a few decades, they were included in all facets of Uzbek cultural life.

In His orchestration of global events, God had planted strong pockets of believers among these transplants.  Little did Stalin suspect that revival would sweep through the Koreans, and that their Uzbek and Kazak friends would begin coming to Christ.

The first public sign of the breakthrough came on June 2, 1990, when a young Korean from America preached to a swelling crowd in the streets of Alma-Ata, capital of Kazakhstan.  Whole Uzbek villages were converted to Christ in the wake of the first open-air Christian meeting in the history of Soviet Central Asia.

—Bill & Amy Stearns in Catch the Vision 2000

My Response: Can I welcome upheaval in my life to benefit God’s greater kingdom?

Thought to Apply: There’s nothing written in the Bible that says if you believe in Me, you ain’t going to have no troubles.—Ray Charles (singer)

Adapted from Catch the Vision 2000 (Bethany, 1991)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Look for That Silver Lining – Eviction Notice

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 42:16

For the first nine months of 1996, with attendance averaging 25, the group I pastored—National Community Church—met in a public school.

Then the person in charge of leasing the DC schools left a voicemail: Due to fire code violations, the school we met in was being closed.  We were about to become a homeless church!  On September 27 I wrote in my journal, “I feel like we’ve been backed into a corner.”

We explored rental options on Capitol Hill.  Only one door opened: the movie theaters at Union Station.  Looking back, I can’t imagine a more strategic location.  More than 25 million people pass through the station every year.  It’s served by a subway system, bus stop, and parking garage.  There are 40 food-court restaurants right outside our theater marquee.

God perfectly positioned us.  Now, doing church in the middle of the marketplace is part of our DNA.  Our long-term vision is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area.  But it took a setback—a 500-pound opportunity disguised as a daunting problem—to get us where God wanted us to go.

—Mark Batterson in In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

My Response: Could a setback I’m facing be reframed as an opportunity?

Thought to Apply: Often God has to shut a door in our face so that He can subsequently open the door through which He wants us to go.—Catherine Marshall  (author)

Adapted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Look for That Silver Lining – Taking It on the Chin

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: “You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will be accused before kings and governors of being my followers.  This will be your opportunity to tell them about me.”  – Luke 21:12-13

Bonus Reading: Matthew 5:10-11

Perspective is essential for a person to endure personally directed hostility.  You must see this event as part of a larger picture.

Russian Jewish believer Boris Fishbein tells of an incident in downtown Kiev as he was distributing gospel literature.

“A tall guy asked me, ‘Are you Jewish?’

“I answered, ‘Yes.’

“‘Who do you believe in?’ he asked.

“I replied, ‘Jesus is my God.’

“‘And I believe in Perun (a Ukrainian pagan god),’ he replied.  Then he spat at me and hit me hard on the jaw.

“It hurt.  There was darkness in my eyes.  When I came around, he was gone, but another young man, Vadim, was standing nearby.

Vadim had observed the whole encounter and asked me, ‘Why did he hit you so hard?’

This seeking person stopped to talk to me because he witnessed another’s ill will.  Vadim later prayed with me to receive Christ into his heart. In a sense, the blow on my jaw brought about good results.”

For Boris, the pain he endured was only a small part of a great story of a man’s redemption.

—Susan Perlman in World Pulse

My Response: When has a personal reversal created an opening for the gospel?

Thought to Apply: Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.—PAUL CLAUDE (French diplomat, author, playwright)

Adapted from World Pulse (8/9/02)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Look for That Silver Lining – Lucky Break

Look for the Silver LiningKey Bible Verse: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us.  – Romans 5:3

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:2-5

In high school I’d tried for years to dunk a basketball.  It was my holy grail.  Ironically, it took a broken ankle for me to first achieve that goal.

As a sophomore, I was just running down the court in one of our drills, and tripped over a line on the floor.  I spent the next month in a cast, and remember questioning God.  After all, He could have kept it from happening.

Here’s what did happen.  That semester my classes seemed to alternate between the top and bottom floors of our three-floor high school.  So after every period I was hopping up and down flights of stairs like a human pogo stick.  When you’re injured in one place, you’ve got to draw more strength from somewhere else.

In a process called remodeling, my right leg grew stronger to compensate for my broken left ankle.  The brokenness actually increased my capacity.  I dunked my first basketball while wearing a cast!

Like a broken bone that needs to be reset, God breaks us where we need to be broken.  He fractures the pride and lust and anger in our lives, but He does it to remodel us into His image.  And once we heal, we end up stronger than we were to begin with.

—Mark Batterson in In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

My Response: Where have I been broken? How may God be increasing my capacity?

Adapted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Look for That Silver Lining – From Struggle to Struggle

Look for the Silver LiningWho Said It…Dave Burchett

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director for Fox Sports, ESPN, and Jefferson Pilot Sports. For over 20 years, Dave has directed telecasts of Southwestern Conference basketball and Texas Rangers baseball. Highlights: televising a Nolan Ryan no-hit game and his 300th win. Dave is also an author and speaker. He and his wife, Joni, have three grown sons. They are former staff members of Campus Crusade’s Athletes in Action.

What He Said…From Struggle to Strength

God gave me the privilege of being wounded early in life. My struggles as an overweight, geeky, and generally outcast adolescent molded my heart to empathize with those hurt and ostracized by their peers.

Had I been the coolest guy, the best athlete, or the most handsome dude, I most likely wouldn’t have developed a sensitive spirit to others. So God gave me the opportunity to develop a heart of compassion for wounded others.

I didn’t enjoy that period of my life. I’d have given anything to be one of the popular kids—to be the starting quarterback or big man on campus.

But with the benefit of hindsight, I’m grateful for every refining difficulty and problem I’ve experienced. Such a dramatic change in attitude came over time, through growth in my relationship with Jesus and my trust in the truth of His promises.

Had I been freed of the burden of my tough teenage passage, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Adapted from Bring Em Back Alive (WaterBrook, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Help me, Lord, not to fret or fume about troubles, but to accept them as part of Your plan for the ultimate good of Your kingdom—and me.


Liberated Words – Godly Communication

Godly CommunicationOne of the themes that Paul stresses in his letter to the Ephesians is that Christ-followers make up one family.

Because God through Christ paid our penalty for sin and forgave us, we’ve been reconciled—brought near to him.

We’re a new society. Being united with Christ means we’re to treat one another as family members and live in harmony with each other.

Interact with God’s Word:  Ephesians 4:23-32

  1. When you became a new person in Christ (v. 24) were your thoughts and attitudes renewed overnight? How would you describe the transformation process?
  2. Why (v. 25) is transparent honesty essential to building mutual trust?
  3. Does the way you deal with your anger (vv. 26-27) undermine relationships? How could you harness it for constructive results?
  4. How can you shape your conversations (v. 29) to make them “good and helpful” to others?
  5. How can you be alert to the other person’s need and choose your words to challenge or encourage him?
  6. How can you create appropriate occasions for constructive dialogue?
  7. What self-serving talk of yours (v. 30) has grieved the Lord and others? How can the damage be patched up?
  8. Has realizing the extent of God’s forgiveness (v. 32) made you more ready to extend forgiveness to others?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you speak as his ambassador in all your interactions, expressing more of his agenda for humankind and less of what vindicates you.

Ephesians 4:23-32

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


The Blessing of an Excellent Wife

Here is an important recent article by Dr. Steven J. Lawson, who is senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama.  He is author of “The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards.”

Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31.10–31″>Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.

Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her.

Her Service

First, this extraordinary wife tirelessly serves him. Not sitting by idly, she actively “seeks wool and flax,” then extends a “willing hand” (v. 13) to spin thread and make material. She is “like a merchant ship” (v. 14), launching out to find the best fabric, at the best price, in order to make the best clothes. This selfless wife “rises while it is yet night” (v. 15) to prepare food for her family. An excellent manager, she oversees “her maidens” as they serve alongside her in the household.

Her Success

Second, this enterprising woman exercises sound judgment in her many dealings. She shrewdly “considers a field,” then buys it. There, she plants a “vineyard” (v. 16). By her “strong” (v. 17) resolve, she earns disposable income for her family. These business dealings are “profitable” (v. 18), providing additional resources to share with others. She labors well into the “night” with her “distaff” and “spindle” (v. 19) to make garments for her family.

Her Sacrifice

Third, this diligent woman gives generously to “the poor” and “the needy” (v. 20). As “the snow” approaches, she also gives to her family. She has planned ahead, making “scarlet” garments (v. 21) for her household. She spares no effort or cost in providing the best she can. After providing for others, this industrious wife makes “bed coverings” and clothes “for herself” with “fine linen and purple” (v. 22). Her ability to give expensive garments is clear evidence of God’s favor upon her labors.

Her Savvy

Fourth, her many virtues enhance her husband’s position in “the gates” (v. 23), where city leaders meet. With keen savvy, this excellent wife “makes,” “sells” and “delivers” (v. 24) her goods. Despite being very competent, she does not compete with her husband’s leadership, but undergirds it by her humble submission—and everyone knows it.

Her Strength

Fifth, this treasured wife looks to the future with inner “strength” and “dignity” (v. 25). Though she anticipates many challenges, she nevertheless “laughs” (v. 25) with positive confidence in the Lord’s providential care. She is expectant that heaven’s supply will meet her family’s every need. As people seek her counsel, she speaks words of “wisdom” and “kindness” (v. 26) to them. Though busy outside the home, she does not neglect “her household” (v. 27).

Her Supremacy

Sixth, she is such a fine mother that as her children observe her excellence, they “call her blessed” (v. 28). Her husband sees her character traits in parenting and “praises her.” He boasts that among women, “[she] surpass[es] them all” (v. 29). In his eyes, there are none who can legitimately claim to be her equal.

Her Spirituality

Seventh, this woman’s true greatness is her spiritual devotion. She “fears the Lord” (v. 30). “Charm” and “beauty” alone are “deceitful” and “vain.” Her real attraction to him is her reverence for God. Even the city leaders “praise her” in the “gates” (v. 31), recognizing the integrity of her life. Her husband prizes her fidelity and industry. He is the most blessed of men.

Is it any wonder that her husband trusts her? The reality of God in her life makes her worthy of his full confidence. By every estimate, she is “the crown of her husband” (12:4). Only God can provide such an excellent helpmate.

  • Has the Lord given you such an excellent wife?  Do you see how she is specifically suited for you?  Do you recognize how she has increased your effectiveness for the Lord?  Then give thanks to God for such a woman in whom your heart trusts.


Liberated Words – Consider the Process

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …Ephesians 4:29-30 NIV

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 15:4, 23; 16:21, 23-24

Ambassadorial communication isn’t just about the content of our words, but delivering them in a manner that will “benefit those who listen.”

We often choose to say the right thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time. Confronting a teenager five minutes before she leaves for school isn’t helpful, even if the content is accurate.

Rebuking a friend for an offense in front of others isn’t helpful. Asking your wife to consider how she hurt you as she’s trying to get to sleep isn’t helpful.

Paul’s practical model to guide our words ends with: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” When you and I speak as mini-kings to get our own way, not only do we hurt and grieve other people, we also grieve the Lord.

Our relationships have been designed as workrooms for redemption, not shelters for human happiness. If we’re ever going to give grace when we talk, we need grace to free us from our bondage to ourselves.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: I’ll ask God to use my words today to be redemptively constructive in someone’s life.

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 (English journalist)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.



Liberated Words – Consider the Problem

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.  – Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:1

Every word an ambassador speaks is directed by the king’s interest and will. What we say must be driven by what God is seeking to accomplish in us and in the other person. God is intent on reconciliation.

He is working in every situation and relationship to reclaim our wandering hearts. He wants to make us people who are more interested in what he wants for us than what we want for ourselves. He won’t relent until we are free from our slavery to an agenda of personal happiness.

God is calling us to speak in a way that has his reconciliation agenda in view. When we do, we can be confident that our words will produce a harvest of comfort, encouragement, hope, insight, unity, and joy, and that they will stimulate love.

An ambassador is always asking, “What is the problem at this moment?”

Before I speak, I must think about what you are struggling with and what you most need. Do you need encouragement, comfort, hope, direction, wisdom, courage, rebuke, warning, forgiveness, patience, teaching, correction, thanks, insight, a job description, or something else?  An ambassador’s words always address the person’s true need of the moment.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: Today I’ll shape my words to meet ____ at his/her current need.

Thought to Apply: Good words are worth much and cost little. —George Herbert (English cleric & author)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


Liberated Words – Consider the Person

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up … Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:2-3

The friendship of a couple I knew was amazing. They were able to say the toughest things to each other, things that are hard both to say and to hear, yet they could say them with love. They seemed to avoid self-serving flattery and unloving criticism. They didn’t trim the truth with one another yet said what needed to be said in the best possible way.

I was impressed by their enormous respect for each other, how easily their communication flowed, and how readily they seemed to listen to the other.

Wholesome communication is other-centered communication. Paul says I should never say anything to you that is not helpful for you. Since God is focused on remaking you into his image, I should speak in a way that builds you up. This is not just a matter of what I say but how I say it.

I now have a redemptive agenda for talking about everything. I want all of our talk to be redemptively constructive, from the most mundane details to the huge life decisions. I never want my words to be an obstacle to the work God is doing. The words of an ambassador are always other- centered.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: Today I’ll work at making my listening and responding less me-centered, more you-centered.

Thought to Apply: Apt words have power to assuage the tumors of the troubled mind.—John Milton (English poet)

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


Liberated Words – A Mini-King or an Ambassador?

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him. … We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  – 2 Corinthians 5:15, 20 NIV

Bonus Reading: Romans 14:7-9

A mini-king is always seeking to establish his will rather than submit to God’s will.  He flatters his friend because he wants to be liked.  He trims the truth to avoid conflict.  He yells at his child about his messy room.  Winning an argument is all he cares about.

There’s no end to the battle of words when two mini-kings talk to each other!  His words reflect the self-focused desires of his heart rather than God’s work of reconciliation.

An ambassador, on the other hand, is seeking to be part of what the King is doing. He does one thing only—represent. Every word he speaks is directed by the king’s interests and will. What he says is driven by what God is seeking to accomplish in him and in the other person.

Does that mean that an ambassador quotes Scripture incessantly or constantly points out the sin in others? Does it mean he can never talk about sports, the weather, or family schedules? Speaking as an ambassador isn’t about using biblical words; it’s about speaking with a biblical agenda.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A self-promoting spin on my words that I should abandon is …

Thought to Apply: What is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. —Westminster Shorter Catechism

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


Liberated Words – “Everyday” Doesn’t Mean “Insignificant”

Godly CommunicationKey Bible Verse: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

Bonus Reading: Matthew 12:33-37

Your everyday communication influences the shape, quality, and direction of your relationships. Every day your words give your relationships their tone.

Every day you tell  people what you think of them, what you want from them, and what you’d like to enjoy with them.

But you don’t do this in grand moments of oratory. You do it in quick side comments in the bedroom as you get ready for work, at the curb as you hop into your car, in the kitchen as you grab a sandwich, over dessert at the local bistro, or in the family room during a commercial.

Because our talk lives in the world of the ordinary, it’s easy to forget its true significance. It’s easy to forget the impact our words have on every relationship.

There has never been a good relationship without good communication. And there has never been a bad relationship that didn’t get that way in part because of something that was said.

Our ability to express ourselves verbally is anything but ordinary. It gets right to the heart of who God made us as our Creator, and how he is remaking us as our Savior. The Bible can help you diagnose where you are in your talk and how to get where you need to be.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A recent casual comment of mine that threatened a relationship was …

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


Liberated Words – Word Problems Are Heart Problems

Godly CommunicationWho Said It … Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Tim Lane and Paul Tripp work together as counselors at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation in Glenside, PA. They lead church-based counseling training courses and also lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Both men were previously pastors—Tim in Clemson, SC, and Paul in Scranton, PA. Books they’ve co-authored are How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.

What He Said … Word Problems Are Heart Problems

Did you ever say, “Oops, I didn’t mean to say that!”

Would it have been more accurate to say, “I’m sorry I said what I meant”?

Proverbs tells us that “the tongue can kill or nourish life” (Proverbs 18:21). Jesus said that what a person says is an “overflow of his heart.”

You stain your relationships with thoughtless words as you gossip on the phone.  You turn the gift of words into a weapon as you criticize your wife at dinner or publicly mock a friend.  If the thought, attitude, desire, emotion, or purpose hadn’t been in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

Sometimes we all put our feet in our mouths.  But our problem with words isn’t primarily a matter of vocabulary, skill, or timing.

Christ asks us to own the connection between our thoughts, desires, and words.  Our real communication problem—what we want to say and why we want to say it—is shaped by the heart. So if we hope to transform the way we talk with one another, the heart must change first.

Adapted from Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth Press, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, to stop using my words selfishly and instead shape them to help advance your kingdom.


Exterior Painting!

A new coat of paint to the top of our building!

Our Trustees have again been busy this week, working with a painting crew to renew the exterior paint on the fascia high up along the roof line, and even including our tower windows, 60 feet from the ground.

Armed with a 60′ lift, our angels with paint brushes have been flying around the top of the Church all week in the heat and humidity.

What a difference a little scraping and a lot of paint can make to spruce up Central Church for years to come.  (And it looks even better in person!)

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for their tireless work to maintain and improve out Church building!



Effective Stewardship – Month #11

Money can be a blessing or a curse,

depending on our attitude towards it.

“For the love of money is a root

of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).



“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

How would people describe you?  Are you one who “loves” money?  Is your life marked by a continual inordinate concern about and striving for money?  If so, then perhaps you are one who truly “loves” money.

Money is neutral. It is neither good nor bad.  What matters is our attitude towards it.  If we view it as a means to an end, a means of exchange, and something God can use in our lives to bring glory to Himself, then we probably do not love money.

On the other hand, if we are always wanting more and more money, if we will do just about anything to obtain it, and if we think about money more than anything or anyone else, we likely are guilty of loving money.  In that situation, it has become a “god” to us, and we bow at its altar in continuing service in order to obtain more of it.

If you are determined to get rich, no matter what, before you continue that lifestyle, read Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10.  Consider Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs 11:28 and Ecclesiastes 5:10-11.

And think about the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:24, who said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Or as Jesus would say, “Let anyone with ears listen.”




Weed Out Worry – Eliminate Worry

Peace of MindDavid wrote this psalm after his own son, Absalom, had staged a coup and had himself crowned king. David and his men (see 2 Samuel 15-19), fled Jerusalem and retreated across the Jordan River.

Eventually, in a battle there, Absalom was killed and his army defeated. David was reinstated as king and returned to his capital.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 62:1-8

  1. From ground level (vv. 3-4) how does David describe his situation?
  2. Do you think David feels resentment toward those who’ve placed him in harm’s way?
  3. How does David believe his antagonists evaluate his position?
  4. How does a “bird’s-eye” view (v. 7) alter the equation?
  5. What key conviction about God does David repeat (vv. 1-2 & 5-6) to shore up his own confidence?
  6. What does David see as his appropriate response to this confidence?
  7. Why did David write so many psalms? What is his advice to his people (v. 8) when they face periods of stress?
  8. Do you find that laying out your anxieties before God in prayer releases tensions you’ve been feeling?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to forgive you for worrying and for forgetting how much He loves you and cares for you.

Psalm 62:1-8

1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken. 3 So many enemies against one man—all of them trying to kill me. To them I’m just a broken-down wall or a tottering fence.

4 They plan to topple me from my high position. They delight in telling lies about me. They praise me to my face but curse me in their hearts. 5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.

7 My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8 O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.



Weed Out Worry – Distrustful Thoughts

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 8:11-13

One morning as I fretted about an important decision in my life, I took a walk to clear my head. Across a park lawn, I saw a beautiful golden retriever frolicking alongside his loving master.

Oh, I mused, to be as carefree as that dog, to play and run freely, knowing that your master will provide for all your needs.

Even as I thought this, I sensed God’s voice respond to my heart. “Don’t you know that I’m your faithful Master? Don’t you believe that I care for you more than any earthly master could ever care for his dog? You, too, can run free of worry? I’m the good Master. Trust in Me.”

When we worry, we’ve unthinkingly questioned God’s wisdom (that He knows what’s best), His love and goodness (that He cares for us and wants what’s best), and His sovereignty (that He’s able to do what’s best).

I recalled a cowering stray dog a friend of mine had found. Even after she adopted it, the dog trembled each time someone reached to pet it. My friend believes the dog was probably abused by its former owner. When I allow my heart to tremble in anxiety, am I communicating to others that my Master is uncaring and unfaithful?

—Stacey Padrick in Discipleship Journal

My Response: Could my anxiety stem from unbelief or doubt in God’s character?

Thought to Apply: Those who fear God face life fearlessly. Those who do not fear God end up fearing everything.—Richard Halverson (former U.S. Senate chaplain)

Adapted from Discipleship Journal (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.


4th of July – Thankfulness

God Bless America

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

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

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

Weed Out Worry – Shaky or Sheltered?

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: Just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds and protects his people. Psalm 125:2 

Bonus Reading: Psalm 125:1-5

As a child I walked a mile to school with my two best friends. Along a quarter of that distance was a railway. We always walked on the rails. Each wanted to make it that whole stretch without falling off, but didn’t want the others to similarly succeed. We’d throw things at each other to upset balance, or say things to divert attention, cry out that the train was coming, or announce that there was a dead body in the ditch.

Some have supposed that that’s what Christian living is: teetering and wobbling along a rail, taunted by the devil. With some skill and a lot of luck, we might just make it to heaven, but it’s an uncertain business at best.

Psalm 125 says it’s not that way at all. Being a Christian is like sitting in Jerusalem, fortified and secure. So the last sentence is “Let Israel have quietness and peace.”  A colloquial, but in the context accurate, translation would be “Relax.”  We’re secure. God is running the show. Neither our feelings of depression nor the facts of suffering are evidence that God has abandoned us. There’s nothing more certain than that He’ll accomplish His salvation in our lives and perfect His will in our histories.

—Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

My Response: How can I factor God’s protection and provision into my outlook?

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

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

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.


Weed Out Worry – It’s the Big One

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.Psalm 121:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 121:1-8

One summer we visited Yolanda’s parents in Desert Hot Springs, California, where temperatures hit 119 degrees.

As I began a late-morning run down the street, the dry heat felt invigorating. But after more than two miles of virtually effortless gliding, I decided to turn around and head for the house.

Desert Hot Springs is perched on a 15-degree incline, and my in-laws’ house is near the top. Facing more than two uphill miles in triple-digit heat under a cloudless sky, I ran four blocks, walked one; ran two blocks, walked one; ran 30 feet, walked the rest. By the time I lurched through the front door, I was seeing spots.

An hour after hydrating and a cooling shower, I still felt weak. Yolanda and I left for a drive to Palm Springs, but my anxiety heightened as I drove. Everything seemed dark. I’d never passed out before; was I about to? Was I having a heart attack? An aneurysm? Heat stroke? Glaucoma?

For miles I bravely kept my fears to myself. But after ten minutes of agony, it was too much. I tried to be delicate in notifying Yolanda of my imminent death. “Everything’s going black!” I whimpered. “I don’t know what’s happening!”

She took it well. “Oh, yeah,” she said, “it’s the eclipse.”

—Chris Blake in Searching for a God to Love

My Response: A major worry of mine that proved to be baseless was …

Thought to Apply: Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.—Swedish Proverb

Adapted from Searching for a God to Love (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.


Weed Out Worry – Pregame Jitters

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  Of course not!”  – Luke 12:25

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:22-26

I look around the locker room and see my players trying to get into the “zone.” I’ve worked hard to get them prepared, but the team has the pregame jitters!

Maybe they think they aren’t as talented as their opponent. Or they lack confidence in the game plan. Maybe they don’t want to look bad in front of all those fans and media. Or they’re nervous that they won’t live up to their own expectations. Whatever, the result is worry and a lack of focus.

All of us who’ve competed know that pit-of-the-stomach feeling. Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s fear or excitement, whether we should scream or cry. The men around Jesus had the jitters, too. Like us, they had anxiety about everyday life.

But in today’s Bonus Reading, Jesus put the “game” in proper perspective for His followers. He told them that if God takes care of the needs of ravens, He’ll also take care of those worth much more to Him than birds.

Jesus went on to remind His disciples that worrying is wasted energy. Then, in case they were still tempted to worry, He went further, proving God’s faithfulness by willingly taking their sins to the cross!

So why should we worry about our game?

—Michael Hill in Heart of a Coach

My Response: On what can I focus to replace my fears?

Thought to Apply: Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.—Reggie White (football defensive end)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.


New Ceiling Fan!

After enduring some time with an old, squeaky ceiling fan in our Sanctuary that had seen better days, our Trustees arranged to have it replaced today in a marathon of uninstalling the old one, and rewiring the fixture, and installing a brand new, white, commercial ceiling fan that should give us many years of service (as well as occasional gale-force winds).

(Note – remember that for our next Pentecost service!)

Our new ceiling fan.


Many thanks to our dedicated Trustees for their continuing work to maintain and improve our Church building!

Rest in Peace, El Squeako!



Church Alley Trees Trimmed!

The unusually-severe storm we had on Saturday night snapped the electric line from Duquesne Light to our pipe organ, so we used the piano on Sunday.  (In case you’re wondering, our pipe organ has historically had its own, separate electric meter, and all the rest of our Church was operated from a second, separate electric meter, so we had lights, but no pipe organ on Sunday.)

In preparation to have the pipe organ’s wire restrung to the Church tomorrow, the alley-side trees were trimmed back today, and a big improvement it is!

The alley-side trees before trimming.

The alley-side trees after being trimmed to size!

A big thanks to our dedicated Trustees for always working to improve our Church building!


Weed Out Worry – Too Vulnerable?

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: You are my hiding place.  – Psalm 32:7;    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  – Psalm 56:3

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Michael sat on his bed in a rented room in Tucson, Arizona. With guitar in hand and Scriptures open before him, he experimented with setting part of Psalm 32 to song.

At 27, Michael Ledner was on fire for God—but also separated from his wife of nearly ten years, and feeling rejected. Writing “You Are My Hiding Place” in an hour or so was cathartic. He recorded it, put the tape on a shelf, and ignored it for nearly a year.

“I’d be in congregations sharing songs, but I didn’t do anything with that song,” he says. “It has words I felt were not real manly: hiding, afraid, and weak. Later I realized that we all hide.

What’s important is what we do with that. When I’m afraid, I can try to do something in my own strength to make me feel strong, or in weakness I can go to the Lord and really be strong in Him.”

When his publisher learned about the song and released it, people immediately identified with it. Eventually, Michael says, he realized, “Hey, it’s honest, good, and manly even, to sing that.”

—Phil Christensen & Shari MacDonald in Celebrate Jesus

My Response: What do I do when feeling inadequate or rejected?

Adapted from Celebrate Jesus (Kregel, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.