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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

Endurance Test – Enduring Faith

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

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

Hebrews 10:33-38

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

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

Hebrews 10:32-38

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

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

 

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How Religious Are You?

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

  • What category to you fall into?

 

Endurance Test – God Isn’t a Quitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—George Sweeting in Too Soon to Quit

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

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

Adapted from Too Soon to Quit (Moody, 1999)

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

 

Endurance Test – What Kick?

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

Bonus Reading: Joshua 14:6-12

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

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

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

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

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

—Tod Bolsinger in Show Time

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

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

Adapted from Show Time (Baker, 2004)

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

 

Endurance Test – Ridgeline Reruns

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

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 10:32-38

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

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

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

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

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

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

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

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

 

Endurance Test – The Q Word

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

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1

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

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

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

—Gordon MacDonald in A Resilient Life

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

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

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Nelson, 2005)

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

 

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

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


Church is wonderful. Church is important.

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

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

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

I know you are more like me than unlike me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you allowing yourself to be confronted?

God bless

Paul Tripp

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

The Real Cost of Christian Marriage

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


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

I didn’t think so either.

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

The truth is this: Marriage will cost you.

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

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

It will cost you yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE BEFORE ME.

That’s what marriage will cost you. 

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

But they’ve got it all wrong.

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

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

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

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

Endurance Test – Enthusiasm Leak

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

Bonus Reading: Matthew 24:45-51

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

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

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

—Neal Plantinga in Beyond Doubt

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

Adapted from Beyond Doubt (Eerdmans, 2002)

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

 

Endurance Test – Roll of Rejection

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

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

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

What He Said…Roll of Rejection

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

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

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

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

Adapted from Authentic Faith (Zondervan, 2002)

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

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Fruits of the Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

Galatians 5:16-25

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

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

Galatians 5:16-25

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

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

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Emotional Scale

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

Bonus Reading: John 4:23-24

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

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

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

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

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

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

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

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

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

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – What Next?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

Bonus Reading: Acts 8:26-39

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

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

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

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

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

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

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

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

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

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

 

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

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

Bonus Reading: Acts 2:43-47

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

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

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

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

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

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

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

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

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

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

 

China Bans Beijing’s Biggest House Church

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – An Attending Presence

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

Bonus Reading: Romans 10:13-15

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

“Yes,” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

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

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

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

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

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Proof Positive

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

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

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

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

“What’s wrong, Matsuyama San?”

“I’m not a Christian any longer.”

“What happened?”

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

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

“All the time.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“Only if I got beat.”

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

—Robertson McQuilkin in 00

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

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

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

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Spirit of Creation

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window00

Who Said It…Ted Haggard

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

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

What He Said…The Spirit of Creation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 19:7-11

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

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

Psalm 19:7-11

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

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

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

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Right Verdict

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:137-144

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

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

How do you cope with this?

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

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

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

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

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Muddle Eraser

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:129-136

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

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

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

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

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

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

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

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – In Sync

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

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

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Wise Up!

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

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

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

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

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

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

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

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

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

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Extreme Makeover

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 19:7-11

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

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

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

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

What the Good Book Is Good for – Always Current

The BibleWho Said It…James MacDonald

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

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

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

What He Said…Always Current

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

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

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

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

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

 

Peace Under Pressure – A Special Blessing

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

Numbers 6:22-27

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

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

Numbers 6:22-27

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

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

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

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

Peace Under Pressure – Tantalizing Tranquility

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7

Bonus Reading: Psalm 46:1-11

A friend asked me to have lunch with him and a fellow he’d been sharing Christ with for nine years. I’m thinking, after nine years Gill (the unbeliever) ought to be ready to tell this guy to shove off.

So I asked him what it was that kept him in this prolonged dialogue. He laughed. “That’s simple,” he said. “Jimmy’s got something I want. He doesn’t worry.”

Do you know why peace shines so brightly in this world? Because everybody you meet entered adulthood with a picture of what they hoped for.  Now, years into the pursuit, they’ve accumulated lots of the stuff they set out for. But they aren’t happy and don’t know what to do about it.

When they finally meet someone who has peace, they take note. It highlights their emotional emptiness. And it confronts them with the fact that peace is achievable.

What if my peace isn’t merely for my benefit? What if God wants to use it to cause those I come into contact with to pause and wonder? What if the purpose of dark circumstances is to give my peace a chance to attract more attention than in the wrinkle-free days when everything goes right? What if God wants to use it to make my faith authentic for someone?

—Andy Stanley in Visioneering

My Response: Is there a dark circumstance that I should by faith thank God for?

Thought to Apply: First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.—Thomas À Kempis (Christian writer)

Adapted from Visioneering (Multnomah, 1999)

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

Peace Under Pressure – Quiet Dinner

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: The peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. John 14:27

Bonus Reading: John 14:27; 16:33

Arriving at my mother’s New York apartment for dinner for the two of us, we sat down to a festive table. Just then the phone rang—for me. My teaching colleague’s voice broke, and I realized to my horror that he was weeping. A West Coast collision had landed his parents and sister in intensive care. He was at the airport. Could I come sit with him until his flight departed? I’d come if I possibly could, I responded, but I had to take care of some things first. Would he call back in ten minutes.

Back at the table, my mother called my friend’s request unreasonable and juvenile. She insisted that I not ruin our evening by going. Hearing what I’d been saying to myself expressed aloud made it appalling. I resolved to go as soon as he rang again. But when he called, he said he’d gotten hold of himself; I no longer needed to come.

This apartment was a haven from everything that seemed to threaten my peace. My friend’s broken voice on the phone was calling me out into a dangerous world not simply for his sake, I suddenly saw, but also for mine. The true peace that passes understanding isn’t found in retreat from the battle—only in the thick of it.

—Frederick Buechner in The Sacred Journey

My Response: Is the peace I’m protecting robust enough to invade turmoil?

Thought to Apply: The peace of God, in the midst of the uproar around us, gives us the assurance that everything is all right.—Bob Mumford (writer, speaker)

Adapted from The Sacred Journey (Harper & Row, 1982)

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

Peace Under Pressure – Stress Mess

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  – Colossians 3:15

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:6-7

In the early 1960s, my load in the grocery company was heavy. Several close co-workers were in open conflict, and I had to referee. I was still traveling a lot on the lay-preaching circuit. We had three small children. About seven o’clock one evening, I left the office, trudged down the long, steep stairs to my car, and headed home. Several urgent choices involving business, travel, and family faced me. I felt indecisive on every front. My stomach churned.

As I drove toward home, I tried to pray, generically committing the whole mess to God. Suddenly there came to my mind Colossians 3:15. This familiar scripture hit me like a shaft of calmness from heaven.

Immediately I knew what God was saying to me. “Howard, never go against your deepest sense of peace. Never ignore your sense of inner agitation, of uneasy disquiet, that intuitive buzzing. That unquiet feeling is telling you to back off, not to plunge ahead just to get rid of the issue. It doesn’t matter who gets upset or whom you disappoint. Forget who cheers or who boos. Follow the relaxation in your gut.”

It was a life-changing moment for me. To this very day that wait-for-the-calm principle clarifies my decision-making.

—Howard Butt Jr. in Who Can You Trust?

My Response: One area in which I need to wait for the calm is …

Thought to Apply: Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace. Whenever peace doesn’t come, tarry till it does or find out why it doesn’t.—Oswald Chambers

Adapted from Who Can You Trust? (Crossway, 2002)

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

Peace Under Pressure – Pre-Game Jitters

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: I have discarded everything else … so that I may have Christ. Philippians 3:8

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:4-9a

In Philadelphia in 1983, the night before the final game of the World Series, I lay there tossing and turning, plunged into joy and excitement one minute, panic and tension the next. If I was going to get any sleep at all, I desperately needed a sense of peace for my jumbled emotions.

Four years earlier, I’d invited Jesus Christ into my life. So I reached for my Bible and turned to Philippians 3:4-9a, where the Apostle Paul recalls how he was born in the right place to the right family, got the right education, and did all the right things. Yet he’d discounted it all “that I may have Christ.”

That verse could be talking about me! I realized.

My World Series and All-Star successes wouldn’t make a bit of difference when it came down to where I’d spend eternity. Only my relationship with Jesus would matter then. I was able to sleep peacefully after that, then went out on the mound the next day and pitched one of my best games ever. Our Baltimore Orioles won the series over Philly, and I was elated! But most exciting was to know that the peace within me wasn’t dependent on winning, but on knowing that God loved me.

—Scott McGregor in Winning

My Response: I’ll draw stability from my status and future in Christ.

Thought to Apply: Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne. —Edward Bickersteth (English pastor and hymn writer)

Adapted from Winning (Regal, 1990)

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

 

Peace Under Pressure – Blanket Coverage

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 5:1

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:1-11

The “peace of God” shouldn’t be confused with “peace with God.”

The “peace of God” is the inner state of well-being that is the birthright of those who’ve responded to God’s offer of forgiveness and been brought into a position called “peace with God.”

The peace of God is a result of having peace with God.

The Israelites had been called by God to be His unique people, and the blessing pronounced by the high priest (Numbers 6:22-27), designated them as such. The people would exhibit the divine favor by demonstrating to the surrounding peoples that God had given them His wholeness or well-being.

This inner sense of wholeness can’t be explained in purely human terms. Anyone can seem at peace when he’s eradicated all stress and negotiated the end of all hostility. But we enjoy the peace of God while the stress continues unabated and the hostility persists.

How can this be? When we’ve committed ourselves to the Captain of our salvation in ongoing, trusting obedience, He’ll make our well-being His personal responsibility.

0So we can rest assured in His benevolence and competence in the midst of the storms of life. We can live with composure that defies description and surpasses belief.

—Stuart Briscoe in One Year Book of Devotions for Men

My Response: Am I enjoying the benefits of my birthright? Why or why not?

Adapted from One Year Book of Devotions for Men (Tyndale, 2000)

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

 

Peace Under Pressure – Stretched Splendor

Peace Under Pressure00Who Said It…Randy Rowland

Randy Rowland is lead pastor of Sanctuary, an emerging church in Seattle, Washington. He has served as the public address announcer for the Seattle Seahawks.

Randy is also president of Sound Images, Inc., a media and marketing consulting and production firm. He has taught at Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business and Economics, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Pacific School of Religion. Randy calls himself a water dog.

What He Said…Stretched Splendor

Peace isn’t passive or wimpy; it’s brilliantly powerful. Peace is having everything in its right place, being used toward its right purpose.

Sailboats are equipped with numerous sails for different purposes. Unused sails are stored in nylon bags in a locker. But are stored sails at peace? I don’t think so. They’re just sidelined fabric. A sail is at peace when it’s unfurled, trimmed by the winch, and stretched to its maximum by a turn into the wind. Every grommet and rope on that sail is being yanked at magnum force. The material of the sail strains as it meets its destiny.

A good sail, well deployed, is a vision of peace. It possesses beauty in spite of the savage forces pulling it at every corner. Its beauty comes from its wholeness and purpose. You never look out on the water at a colorful spinnaker on a fast-moving sailboat and think, Oh that poor thing, just look at the stress it’s under, being pulled from all directions. What you do think is, Wow! That’s beautiful.

Adapted from Sins We Love (Doubleday, 2000)

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

 

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Waltrip’s Good Wipeout

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. … I can make you as white as wool.”  – Isaiah 1:18

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 51:1-17

I did some terrible things in my past—stuff that was against God’s will, offensive to Him, sin.  Some things were worse than others but God hated them all.  I had to confess them.  Then He wiped the slate clean.

But it took a while for me to believe the slate was really clean.  I thought of it more like writing something on a piece of paper and then erasing it.  The words are erased, but if you hold the paper just right, you can still see the letters.  That’s how I felt.  I thought, Okay, it’s not there anymore; but if I turn it just right, I can see where it used to be.

It’s hard to accept the fact that the slate is clean.  It’s natural to think we can never be totally forgiven for things we’ve done.

A lot of people don’t fully understand how God treats confession.  They live in the past.  They won’t move on.

But I’ve confessed my sins to God.  I know God forgives.  The Bible declares that He does.  No image remains.  That means I can have a clear conscience about where I am today.  Christ died so that we could be forgiven of our sins.  We’ve got to realize that, and take advantage of it.

— Darrell Waltrip in Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One

My Response: Am I shackled to my past, or am I moving on in the freedom of forgiveness?

Adapted from Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Scrub Nurse

Repentance 2Who Said It…Tom Eisenman

Tom Eisenman dropped out of high school at 15, went on the road with a rock-and-roll band, and never lived at home again. He became a high school teacher and then a pastor.

A self-described NFL nut, Tom and his wife, Judie, have led Bible studies for the San Francisco 49ers.   Tom’s books include Temptations Men Face, and The Accountable Man.  He pastors the College Center Church in San Diego, California.  And to relax, he builds fine furniture.

What He Said…Scrub Nurse

A car ran a stop sign and hit me nearly head-on while I was on my motorcycle.  My injuries were extensive.

I remember the nurse who was working on my torn-up right leg, trying to clean it with a sponge.  The leg was opened up with a number of large lacerations, and sand, dirt, and small bits of blacktop were embedded in the wounds.  The sponge wasn’t getting it all out, so the nurse warned me she would have to use the stiff brush.  She said simply, “It has to be clean for it to heal.”

Getting clean can be a painful experience.  It was for me that day.  But I’ve always remembered the nurse’s little phrase and have thought how true it is in the spiritual realm.

All healing requires cleansing.  Confession is painful.  But when we confess our sin, we open the door for God’s love to rush in.  The open wound is cleaned up through forgiveness and treated with the love and grace of God.

Adapted from The Accountable Man (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – The Joy of Forgiveness

Repentance 2David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had engineered her husband’s murder.

And until the prophet Nathan confronted him about it, he had tried to cover it up.

2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 recount this story.  This Psalm and Psalm 32 are David’s first-person accounts of the misery of unconfessed sin and the release that follows confessing and being forgiven.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 51:1-17

  1. Why did David tell God (v. 4) that the sin he had committed was against Him?
  2. What effects of his sin did David fear (vv. 9, 11)?
  3. What toll had his sin already taken (v. 12)?
  4. What is the essential nature of confession (v. 4)?
  5. What attitude is God looking for from the offender (v. 17)?
  6. What qualities of God’s nature (v. 1) assure the repenting sinner that he will be taken back?
  7. What is the result of being forgiven (vv. 2, 7, 9)?
  8. What are the effects on the person forgiven (vv. 12-15)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God that there is always hope and a fresh start for the man who knows his sin and is willing to repent of it.

Psalm 51:1-17

1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. 3 For I recognize my shameful deeds—they haunt me day and night.

4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. 5 For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. 6 But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.

7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

13 Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. 14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. 15 Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you.

16 You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. 17 The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Burden Lifting

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. Galatians 6:1

Bonus Reading: James 5:19-20

The priestly system, a human mediator between sinners and God, was done away with when Jesus gave his life once and for all on the cross. But there’s something beautiful about how God designed the body of Christ so that meaningful life sharing takes place in important areas like confession and absolution.

When a friend is weighed down under a burden of sin, we can lovingly invite him to speak about what’s troubling him. Confession is painful to do, but when you give permission for your friend to bring his sin into the light and you hear his confession, you help lift the burden from him. Help your brother name the sin. Then be ready to speak a loving absolution.

You may even want to rise and lay hands on your brother. In an attitude of prayer, say: “What you have just told me is a confession. The Bible says we are to confess our sins to one another so that we may receive God’s forgiveness and healing. I am convinced that you’re truly sorry for this. Therefore, in the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.”

With continued prayer support and accountability, your friend will experience complete healing and restoration.

—Tom Eisenman in The Accountable Man

My Response: Am I willing to hear another man’s confession and offer him the forgiveness that is promised in Christ?

Thought to Apply: We have a free, full, final, forever forgiveness in the atoning work of Christ.—J. Sidlow Baxter (preacher)

Adapted from The Accountable Man (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Self-Blame Blaster

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: “Come now, let us argue this out,” says the Lord. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it.”  Isaiah 1:18

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 103:12

Rich came to my office to talk about his struggle to accept God’s forgiveness. He had fought in the Vietnam War and had done things he didn’t want to remember, much less tell others about. These things were done in the line of duty, but he still felt guilt and shame. He knew God forgave him, but he had times when he struggled to forgive himself.

As Rich shared his story, I longed for this brother to walk in the freedom and joy of forgiveness. I had no idea what to say. There is no easy answer or quick fix for a man struggling with such deep guilt. During our conversation, the Holy Spirit put a thought in my mind and words on my lips that helped this struggling man.

I asked Rich if he was certain God had forgiven him. He gave an emphatic, “Yes!” I asked him again, if he was confident, in the core of his heart that forgiveness of Jesus Christ on the cross was enough to wash his sins away. He looked at me as if I were a bit dense and said, “I have no problem understanding God’s forgiveness; my problem is I can’t forgive myself.”

What I said in response to his assertion could have angered or offended him, but it didn’t. I said, “You have to forgive yourself; you are placing yourself above God.”

He stared at me in stunned amazement. “I never looked at it that way. That’s true. I do have to forgive myself.”

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: Have I accepted God’s “Not guilty!” verdict for my confessed sin?

Thought to Apply: There can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant!—Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russian novelist)

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Chill Factors

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:9

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 103:1-14

“I can’t understand how you put up with those cold winters!” The comment was directed to me by a Florida friend as I was visiting him in February a couple of years ago. He was speaking of my home in Montana, where winter temperatures often drop below zero.

Actually, I was thinking something similar about his winter climate. The outside temperature was 42 degrees, but because of the damp Florida climate, I felt colder than I do in Montana with the temperature in the teens.

But my feelings were deceiving me. They can do that in many areas of life. Today’s Key Bible Verse tells us that God forgives us as we confess our sins. This isn’t hard to believe—except for those times when we really blow it or, worse, keeping blowing it over and over. Then we may feel like God can’t or won’t forgive us.

But like a thermometer that tells the true temperature regardless of how we feel, God’s Word tells us the truth about Him irrespective of our feelings. When we confess, He forgives. Every time. No exceptions. When we accept the truth about God’s complete and unconditional forgiveness, we’re released from feelings of doubt and guilt, and begin to feel forgiven.

—Mike Raether

My Response: If I don’t feel forgiven, I’ll read today’s Bonus Reading out loud until I do.

Thought to Apply: If his conditions are met, God is bound by His Word to forgive any man or any woman of any sin because of Christ.—Billy Graham (evangelist)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Prime Suspect

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  – Psalm 32:1

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 32:1-7

My 10-inch miter saw was broken. I was steamed. Apparently one of my heavier children held onto the handle like a chin-up bar and lifted his feet off the floor. Three of my kids were immediately ruled out because of their light weight. That left two.

I had an idea who the guilty culprit was, but I wanted to be fair before I hung anyone. I went to my oldest son first. “Did you break my saw?” I questioned. From the surprised look on his face, I knew he was innocent—this time. That left Sam.

Sam is about the happiest kid you’ll ever meet, but he breaks things. He doesn’t mean to, but he does. I approached Sam and asked sternly, “Sam, did you break my saw?”

A shadow of guilt covered his face, and then I ranted and raved about foolishness and the cost of my saw, and warned that it had better not happen again. He promised and left.

Within an hour, Sam came back and nuzzled up to me. “Dad, I’m sorry about the saw,” he said softly. “Will you forgive me?” My heart melted, and we were restored.

That’s what repentance does: it restores hearts and relationships—especially with God.

—Todd Wilson in Indiana

My Response: Do I picture God more as a judge or as a father?

Thought to Apply: The man who is truly forgiven and knows it, is a man who forgives.—Martyn Lloyd-Jones (British preacher)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.

How God Gets Our Attention – Reaching for the Top Rung

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

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 31:17-20

Guy had started as a part-time employee of a successful airline company.  Now, 25 years later, after earlier moving his family around every two to three years, he was securely settled at corporate headquarters.

He was a vice president with more than 5,000 employees under his charge, and the president’s heir apparent.  Guy and his wife acknowledged God’s blessings showered on them.

Along the way, though, Guy began taking matters into his own capable hands and leaving God out of the daily decision-making process.  The required travel meant that he and his wife saw each other very little.  And the demands of the job had edged others out of his life as well.

Then a hostile corporate takeover threat emerged.  After a long fight in the courts, the stock exchange, and state legislatures, Guy’s company changed hands.  On the night of the takeover, Guy’s friend, the company president, committed suicide.

Guy’s personal walk with God was almost nonexistent, his marriage of 23 years was failing, and his corporate aspirations were quickly fading.  It was like being on a sinking ship with no lifeboats. [continued tomorrow]

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: How could my perspective of success become skewed?

Thought to Apply: To have all the props pulled out from under us … gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.—Madeleine L’Engle (author)

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

 

How God Gets Our Attention – Take That!

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29

Bonus Reading:  1 Peter 4:12-19

A muscular offensive lineman from the Florida State University football team was distributing Christian literature at an event sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.  A younger, slightly built student perused one of the Christian brochures, looked squarely into the football player’s face, and spit at him.  “That’s what I think of your Jesus!” he said.

The natural response for the lineman would have been a massive cross-body block.  But this new Christian had been taught that he might receive persecution when standing up for Christ.

The Holy Spirit enabled him to respond in love.  Pulling out his handkerchief, he said, “I want you to know that Jesus can wipe away your sins just as easily as I wipe this spit from my face.”  He quietly walked away, avoiding an ugly confrontation, and also attracting an unlikely individual into the kingdom of God.

More than the brochure, the love of Christ embodied in the football player’s humility and gentleness delivered a convincing message.  One year later, both men were serving in Christian ministry together.

Obstacles become opportunities when we see persecution as a unique privilege.

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: Am I open to “suffering according to God’s will”?

Thought to Apply: The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – Listening to God

How God Gets Our AttentionJeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings.  He prophesied the fall of Jerusalem—and lived to see it fulfilled.

But he also predicted the return from exile (in Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10)—a prophecy that sustained Daniel (Daniel 9:2) during the closing years of Judah’s captivity.

Jeremiah’s sweeping theme that the God who must judge is also eager to restore is capsulized in this brief passage.

Interact with God’s Word:  Jeremiah 31:17-20

  1. “I had to punish him,” Jeremiah quotes God as saying about Israel (in v. 20). Can you picture a situation for yourself or another that might call for divine intervention?
  2. “I deserved it,” (v. 18) is the response that Jeremiah attributes to Israel. Do you think you would be able to say this after an unwelcome turn of events in your life?
  3. Verse 19 expresses what someone who’s taken God’s intervention to heart might conclude. Have you had a similar experience?
  4. God says “there is hope for your future” to the same ones He singles out for discipline. How could this outlook help you or a friend up against it right now?

Spend Time in Prayer:  I thank You, Lord, that although You sometimes discipline us for our good, You would much prefer to express Your love in mercy.

Jeremiah 31:17-20

17″There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land. 18I have heard Israel saying, ‘You disciplined me severely, but I deserved it. I was like a calf that needed to be trained for the yoke and plow. Turn me again to you and restore me, for you alone are the LORD my God.

19I turned away from God, but then I was sorry. I kicked myself for my stupidity! I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.'” 20″Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” asks the LORD. “I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.”

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – Blessing and Breaking

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  Jesus … asked God’s blessing on the food.  Breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples to give to the people. Luke 9:16

Bonus Reading:  Luke 9:10-17

It is easy to label life’s moments.  This one is good; that one is bad.  This is a rich blessing; that’s a real setback.  But it’s in the interworkings of the two that the deep meaning, power, and beauty of living in union with God comes through.

Last spring one of my close friends had a heart attack.  For a while it didn’t look like he’d make it.  But he grew better and was finally strong enough for the surgery that was supposed to give him a new lease on life.  In the fall we had a conversation something like this:

“Well, how did you like your heart attack?”

“It scared me to death, almost.”

“Does your life mean more to you now than before?”

“Well, yes.”

“You and Nell have always had a beautiful marriage, but are you closer now than ever?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a new compassion for people—a deeper understanding and sympathy?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know the Lord in a deeper, richer fellowship than you had ever realized could be possible?”

“Yes.”

“W.T., how’d you like your heart attack?”

Silence was his answer.

—Bob Benson in See You at the House

My Response: I’ll thank God for a setback that corrected my perspective.

Thought to Apply: Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.—Christian Bovee (English scholar & explorer)

Adapted from See You at the House (Generoux, 1986)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – The Almost CEO

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.  – Psalm 119:67

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 32:8-9

[continued from yesterday]  After trying to make things work the first year after the takeover, Guy resigned and put out his ré;sumé;.  Weeks and months passed.  After a year, he still had no job.  For the first time in his life, he was unable to pay his bills.

But as Guy and his wife worked together on the extended job search, they began to rediscover each other.  The trial of joblessness and financial insecurity continued for several years, during which Guy’s relationship with his wife and with other Christians became his greatest security.

Now, more than 12 years have passed since those years of unemployment and near poverty.  Guy says, “I haven’t had a prestigious job like the one I had.  But I’d probably have had a life of marital strife if God hadn’t intervened.  God taught us that we could live very well on much less than we were accustomed to.  When we had need, we’d often get a call from our church telling us some money had been left anonymously.  I still marvel at God’s grace.”

Trials get our attention like nothing else.  In Guy’s case, adversity delivered him from a life of self-centeredness to one centered on deeply valued relationships; from a life of power and materialism to one of commitment; from spiritual poverty to a richer walk with God.

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: May God be speaking to me through a trial to get me back on track?

Thought to Apply: A season of suffering is a small price to pay for a clear view of God.—Max Lucado (Texas pastor)

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – Fall-Induced Focus

How God Gets Our Attention00Key Bible Verse: The suffering you sent was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your principles. Psalm 119:71

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:7-11

Craig DeMartino is a member of an exclusive club: people happy just to be alive. He didn’t seek out the honor, and the initiation almost killed him.

Now he’s had his right leg amputated below the knee and undergone reconstructive surgery on his left foot. He’s back on his mountain bike and back on the mountain, with a prosthetic leg made specifically for climbing. “I still love climbing,” he says.

But the experience dramatically changed him, and not just physically. “It made me do a complete 180,” said DeMartino, a photographer for Group Publishing, the Loveland, Colorado-based producer of church youth group materials. “I was a Christian before, but I was basically just going through the motions.”

Someone gave DeMartino a devotional book when he was in the hospital. The message for July 21, the day of his fall: “How far does God have to go to get your attention?”

The fall was God’s way of doing that, he believes. “It kind of stripped everything down,” he said, and made him painfully aware of what was and was not important in his life. DeMartino now sees each day as a gift, and tries to keep things simple and focus on what really is important—his relationship with God and his family.

—Craig Young in the Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald

My Response: Does God really have my attention?

Adapted from Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald(8/28/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

 

How God Gets Our Attention – God’s Fingerprints

How God Gets Our AttentionWho Said It…Craig DeMartino

Craig DeMartino and veteran climbing partner Steve Gorham tackled the difficult “White-man” climb on Sundance Buttress in Rocky Mountain National Park on July 21, 2002.

DeMartino reached the top, and Gorham, at the bottom of the cliff, unhooked the belaying line.  Because of a miscommunication, DeMartino didn’t know he wasn’t still protected, leaned back, and plummeted feet-first onto the brutal rocks 100 feet below.  His feet and ankles were mangled, and a vertebra in his lower back was crushed.

What He Said…God’s Fingerprints

DeMartino never should have survived the disaster,” wrote Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald reporter Craig Young, “let alone be walking, cycling, and climbing again.

DeMartino cites a ‘whole list of things that to me are miraculous’:”

  • Gorham usually never carried a cell phone while climbing, but did that day.
  • Wildfires were burning in the area, so crews were on standby nearby.  “Within 45 minutes of hitting the ground, I had two paramedics on scene.”
  • Crews had recently rescued a climber in the same area, and knew the best routes to get him out.
  • At the Fort Collins hospital he was flown to, “two of the best neurosurgeons were both on duty”—a rare occurrence.  “They decompressed my spine and kept me from being a paraplegic.”
  • Dr. Doug Lundy, a top trauma surgeon, was also on duty. ” He saved my left foot.”00

Adapted from Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald (8/28/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

Firm but Fair – Godly Parenting

ParentingNumerous Bible passages develop our understanding of God as the righteous one who judges our sin.

But this passage balances that aspect of His character with His incredible compassion and mercy.

This Psalm, it is true, is primarily about God’s care of His people. But it also implies a good deal about the characteristics of a model human father.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 103:6-14

  1. What beneficial side of God’s action as judge is highlighted in verse 6?
  2. What indicators has God given us as to what He is really like (v. 7)?
  3. What two things (vv. 8-9) are noted about God’s anger?
  4. How does this compare with your boiling point and cool-off rate?
  5. What do David’s word pictures (vv. 11—12, tell you about the extent of God’s love and forgiveness?
  6. Do you hold resentments about past rule infractions by your kids that have been dealt with?
  7. How is our heavenly Father like a model human father (vv. 13-14)?
  8. What does this say about allowances you need to make for immaturity in your children?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the ability to mirror His love and control as you raise your children.

Psalm 103:6-14

6 The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. 7 He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.

9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

12 He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

Firm but Fair – Beat the Boomerang

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  Your own actions have brought this upon you. Jeremiah 4:18

Bonus Reading:  Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-30

Your teenagers will attempt to shift the discipline focus, blaming you: “You’re making me do my chores so I can’t be with my friends.”

Like most teens, my son didn’t rise early.  His habit of sleeping in put the whole family behind in the morning.

He also began getting tardy slips at school.  So Patsy and I found ourselves in a power struggle.

One morning, I briefly considered going into his room to drag him out.  Instead, we decided to transfer to him the responsibility for this choice.  We worked it out with the school that if he received six tardy slips, he’d have to stay after school for two hours, cleaning up trash around the grounds.

“We’re not going to argue with you any more about getting out of bed,” I told my son, “but if you get up late, we’re also not going to rush to get you to school on time.  If you’re late, you’re late.  It’s your choice.  And you know the consequences.”

Guess how many tardy slips he had at the end of the semester?  That’s right, five.  He never seemed to get the sixth one.  Somehow he found the strength to get out of bed every morning because we transferred the responsibility to him.

—Patrick Morley in The Dad in the Mirror

My Response: Here’s one area in which I can transfer responsibility …

Thought to Apply: Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.—Booker T. Washington (educator)

Adapted from The Dad in the Mirror (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

 

Firm but Fair – Room for the Golden Rule

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. Proverbs 22:6

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 7:1-5,12

Let’s look back at yesterday’s situation to see why I call it “firm but fair.”

If Roger’s father had wanted to, he could have been strictly firm and said, “No game for you this morning. The rule is ‘No chores, no soccer.'”

Instead, however, he bent a little bit and let Roger do his chores, then drove him to the game.  Being late was consequence enough for Roger in this situation.

But if Roger continues to fail to get his chores done by Friday night, then his dad will probably have to simply say “No game at all.”

The firm-but-fair family works to build a sound sense of self-worth in all the members, including the parents.  It avoids the extremes of being too rigid or a wimp.  You’re willing to listen, understand, and, on occasion, bend a little.

The parent is left in charge but, in the flexible atmosphere, children have freedom to think, ask questions, and disagree with parents.  They can feel angry, frustrated, sad, or afraid, and express this in an appropriate way.  They can learn from their mistakes without feeling crushed or stifled by authoritarian insensitivity.

Being firm but fair applies the Golden Rule of parenting: “Treat your kids as you would want to be treated.”

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: Why would rigidly sticking to the agreement terms not be the best solution?

Thought to Apply: A father who teaches his children responsibility provides them with a fortune.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

Firm but Fair – Scored Point

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful!  But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  – Hebrews 12:11

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:5-11

Eleven–year–old Roger has again neglected his weekly assigned chores—cleaning his room and the dog pen.  He’s supposed to have these tasks done by Friday night.  But it’s now 8:30 Saturday morning.  His soccer game starts in half an hour.

Dad tells Roger, “You’re room isn’t clean and the dog pen’s filthy.  Our agreement is that these chores are to be done by Friday night.”

“But, Dad, there was such a good program on TV, and I just forgot.”

“Well, you’d better get your room and the pen cleaned up right now.”

“But, Dad, I’m going to be late for my soccer game.  The team needs me.  I’m the only goalie we’ve got!”

“Roger, ol’ buddy, I know you’re going to be late, but you’re just going to be later if all you do is argue.”

Roger rolls his eyes and goes off muttering to clean his room.  Twenty-eight minutes later he’s done.   By the time his dad drives him across town to the field, he’s a good 35 minutes late and the game is underway. Roger’s coach is unhappy and benches him until the second half.  Roger’s team loses by one goal—scored in the first half.

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: Why would overlooking Roger’s lapse in doing his chores be a mistake?

Thought to Apply: Better the child should cry now than the father later.—German Proverb

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.