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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

What are the origins of Thanksgiving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving

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Face Down Your Fears – Peace from God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 56:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

Face Down Your Fears – Fear’s Shackles

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 56:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Dan Baumann in A Beautiful Way

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

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

Adapted from A Beautiful Way (YWAM, 2005)

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

 

Face Down Your Fears – Here’s the Drill

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

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 41:10,13

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

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

Of what—or whom—are you afraid?

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

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

—Mark Sutton in Still God’s Man

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

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

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

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

 

Face Down Your Fears – …and Contrasting Cool

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

Bonus Reading: 1 John 4:13-18

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

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

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

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

“What about under your skin?” I asked.

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

—Max Meyer in Riding the Heavens

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

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

Adapted from Riding the Heavens (Zondervan, 2000)

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

 

Face Down Your Fears – Terrified Tribesmen…

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

Bonus Reading: Psalm 116:1-9

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

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

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

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

—Max Meyers in Riding the Heavens

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

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

Adapted from Riding the Heavens (Zondervan, 2000)

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

happens.

Face Down Your Fears – Elephant in the Workplace

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

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 51:12-13

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

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

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

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

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

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

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

happens.

Face Down Your Fears – What Fear Does to Us

PeaceWho Said It…John Ortberg

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

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

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

What He Said…What Fear Does to Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Downsizing with Class – Possessions and Priorities

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

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

Interact with God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Downsizing with Class – God’s Combo

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

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:9-13

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

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

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

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

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

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

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

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

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

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

 

Downsizing with Class – Beat the System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Downsizing with Class – When Less Is More

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

Bonus Reading: Job 31:24-28

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

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

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

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

—Grant McDowell in Alberta

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

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

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

 

Downsizing with Class – Staying Freed Up

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

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

—Patrick Morley in New Man

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

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

Adapted from New Man (7-8/00)

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

 

Downsizing with Class – The Good Old Days

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

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

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

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

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

Michaels goes on to remind us that:

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

—M. Craig Barnes in Hustling God

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

Adapted from Hustling God (Zondervan, 1999)

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

 

Downsizing with Class – Bucking the Trend

PossessionsWho Said It …Cliff Denay

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

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

What He Said …Bucking the Trend

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

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

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

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

“How big were you thinking,” she asked.

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

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

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

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

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – True Success

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

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

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

 

 

Interact with God’s Word

Luke 12:13-21

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

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

Luke 12:13-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:7-9a

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

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

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

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

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

—Jedd Medifind in The Revolutionary Communicator

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

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

Adapted from The Revolutionary Communicator (Relevant Books, 2004)

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

 

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Goal to Go

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

Bonus Reading: James 4:13-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Larry Julian in God Is My Success

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

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

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

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

 

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Whose Dream?

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. Joshua 1:8

Bonus Reading: Psalm 1:1-3

I had been sold a bag of goods. I’d embraced the American Dream as the way to happiness, and come up empty. All the outward signs of success were mine: a beautiful home, nice car, blooming career, and lovely wife. But inside I felt like a desert. Something was missing.

I began to search the Scriptures and talk to God about my emptiness. My eyes soon came to rest on today’s Key Bible Verse. Joshua had been given the huge task of leading his people in occupying the land God had promised them. They’d have to fight for it. But God assured Joshua that he’d succeed if he made sure to do things His way.

Suddenly it hit me: I’d let culture define success for me. But God’s idea of success is to pursue His plans for our lives, obey His Word, and use our lives for the good of others. Joshua got the message, and he and his people won big.

I decided to do life God’s way. I filled my mind with Scripture and sought God’s plans for my life. Good things happened. Like Joshua, I saw God work through me in wonderful ways. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I never found while pursuing the American Dream became mine.

—Mike Raether in Montana

My Response: Which take on success is more motivating to me? Why?

Thought to Apply: Don’t be grieved if you don’t enjoy popular favor; grieve rather that you don’t live as well and carefully as befits a servant of God.—Thomas  à Kempis

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

 

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Speechless in Seattle

SuccessKey Bible Verse: How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! Ecclesiastes 5:10

Bonus Reading: Psalm 128:1-4

A corporation president called to offer me a job. He’d triple whatever I was making now. I’d never heard God’s voice so clearly! As my wife and I climbed on a plane, I envisioned a bigger house, newer car, security, success.

During the job interview I asked how much time I’d be on the road. “Most of the time,” admitted the president. As we began the flight home my wife said, “The kids and I want to remember you for more than your rear end going out the front door.” But I was determined to take that job.

During a short layover in Seattle, suddenly the restroom I was in began to shake. Knowing I was going to die, images flashed before me of friends and family—but not one of a car, home, or bulging bank account. It took an earthquake to teach me that a hundred years from now, no one will remember what my house looked like, the model of my car, or the thickness of my wallet.

Back on the plane I scribbled these words on a napkin: “I’ll consider myself a success when I’m walking close to Jesus every day, building a strong marriage, loving my kids, performing meaningful work, and making others homesick for heaven.”

—Phil Callaway in Alberta

My Response: To me, real success is …

Thought to Apply: The man who lives for himself—even if he gains much wealth, position, or power—is a failure. The man who lives for others has achieved true success.—Norman Vincent Peale (minister & author)

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

 

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Keeping Up Appearances

SuccessKey Bible Verse: Most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 4:4

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:17-19

To most people, according to author Denis Haack, “Success means attaining some measure of money, fame, power, and self-fulfillment—and then looking the part.”

I’d say that’s a pretty accurate definition of our society’s version of success. I mean, think about it. Why are you wearing the clothes you have on? Or why do you drive the car you do? Why do you live in the house or the neighborhood you do?

“But Steve,” you say, “I can’t afford a nicer car or a better house.”

That’s right. But if you had the money to get a better car, nicer clothes, or a bigger home, you’d buy them, right? Most of us would. Why? So people will notice and think we’re successful. After all, in our society, how successful are we—really—if no one notices?

Once, when Socrates saw a woman all dressed up for a trip to the city, he remarked, “I suspect that your trip is not to see the city, but for the city to see you.” It’s sobering, even heartbreaking, to realize how much of our lives we spend on the futile and frantic attempt to become and appear more successful than the very people Jesus has called us to serve and to honor above ourselves.

—Steven James in Becoming Real

My Response: How have I sometimes let concerns about image trump substance?

Adapted from Becoming Real (Howard, 2005)

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

 

Success? By Whose Yardstick? – Distinction by Device

SuccessWho Said It…Tom Petersen

Young Tom first darkened a church door when he needed a pastor’s signature on his Eagle Scout application. That started him on the path to faith. He followed his grandfather and mother into the newspaper business.

Now in the corporate world, Tom looks for the humor in work to ensure that it doesn’t become an idol. A founding elder in his church, he’s developed a passion for encouraging others who, like him, struggle to balance jobs, family, and faith.

What He Said…Distinction by Device

The work world has dozens of ways to measure your success: your salary, your title, or the number of people who report to you. These days, even electronic gadgets can confer status.

The competition to have the latest things can become a virtual electronic arms race. One guy (they are always guys when it comes to technology one-upmanship) shows up at a meeting with a color screen cell phone. Someone brings a camera phone that connects with the Internet. Someone else shows up with the combination cell phone and PDA (Precocious Demanding Accessory) with built-in GPS (Gratuitous Place Specifier). It finally gets out of hand when the boss arrives with his combination laptop, photocopier, espresso machine, and electronic fish finder.

We mustn’t let trivial things define our success. It’s good to be recognized for our good work. But beyond that, a lasting, beautiful way of defining ourselves should be to center our identities in Jesus Christ. We’re to set our hearts and minds on things above.

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

 

From Career to Calling – What Is My Calling?

From Career to CallingJeremiah’s 40-year career was an assignment from God. As a prophet to Judah, he never achieved material success or influence, and often became discouraged.

But he remained faithful to his depressing task through imprisonment, the fall of Jerusalem (which he had warned about), and deportation.

Interact with God’s Word

Jeremiah 1:4-10

  1. What words did God use (vv. 5, 10) to describe His action in giving Jeremiah his life’s work?
  2. Do you see this assignment as arbitrary or based on God’s intimate knowledge of Jeremiah’s potential?
  3. What was the nature of Jeremiah’s assignment?
  4. What did Jeremiah say (v. 6) made him unqualified for this assignment?
  5. How did God deal with Jeremiah’s objection?
  6. Do you respond to new challenges with self-confidence?
  7. Are you confident that if God gives you a job to do He will provide all you need to do it?
  8. Did God’s promise to protect Jeremiah (v. 8) insulate him from trouble?
  9. Do you believe God has given you a specific call or assignment?
  10. If not, what mission, common to all believers, should you pursue—unless or until His guidance becomes more specific?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for an understanding of what His calling for you is, and for your ability to reflect glory on Him as you fill it cheerfully, competently, and diligently.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 The LORD gave me a message. He said, 5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” 6 “O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

7 “Don’t say that,” the LORD replied, “for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8 And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” 9 Then the LORD touched my mouth and said, “See, I have put my words in your mouth!

10 Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them. You are to build others up and plant them.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

From Career to Calling – Career Path

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t!  – Jeremiah 45:5

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 1:4-10

Too often we make our career decisions strictly based on salary, benefits, position, influence, and titles. But Jesus warned that you can have all those things and still lose your soul.

The question isn’t, what are you doing for a living? The deeper issue is, what are you doing with your life? Why did God put you here on the earth? We need to move beyond a career orientation to a mission focus.

A friend took me out to lunch to share what God was doing in his life. He’s worked for about ten years as a business consultant with multinational corporations in England, Brazil, and Italy. Now he’s starting his own consulting firm in the Midwest. “If you’re happy and productive in your current job,” he remarked, “the only reason to take a promotion is to leverage your position for the Kingdom of God.”

That’s a tremendous insight. Don’t just climb the ladder to get to the top. Use the higher position to impact the world for Jesus Christ. Realize that God has put you where you are “for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Understand that behind every open door stands the Lord God who rules heaven and earth. What a huge difference it makes to see all of life as belonging to Him!

—Ray Pritchard in The Incredible Journey of Faith

My Response: Shifting from a career to a mission focus would involve …

Thought to Apply: Life is not just a few years to spend on self-indulgence and career advancement. It is a privilege, a responsibility, a stewardship to be lived according to a much higher calling, God’s calling.—Elizabeth Dole

Adapted from The Incredible Journey of Faith (Crossway, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

From Career to Calling – Man of Influence

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: They must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.  – Titus 2:10

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:11-14

Sitting in a waiting room while my Honda was being repaired, I noticed a man with shaggy white hair make coffee, pile doughnuts on a plate, and place literature on a table. Salesmen walking through the room addressed him with affection and respect.

After he left I studied the literature; it was Christ-honoring. I learned from an employee that the man owned this and other dealerships, and that his take-charge decisiveness, coupled with kindness and humility, made him great to work for.

When the man reappeared, I introduced myself and voiced appreciation for how he used publications to introduce customers to the gospel. He sat down. Soon after emigrating from Germany to America, he told me, Christ captured his imagination and secured his devotion and commitment. Achieving position and financial strength became subordinate to honoring his newfound King.

The owner didn’t appear rushed, but attentive and thoughtful. If I weren’t yet a believer, I thought, his interest in me would draw me in and awaken interest in his literature. As he walked away, with friendly, cheerful demeanor, I thanked God for impacting many others through him.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: How might God use my interactions with coworkers to attract them to Him?

Thought to Apply: [Christians must] regain a lost sense of work as a divine calling.—Emil Brunner (Swiss theologian)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

John Wesley, All Saints’ Day and Halloween

“All-Saints” 15th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

What did John Wesley have to say about All Saints’ Day?

The Great Plains Conference has a slightly spooky video that answers this question.

Watch video

From Career to Calling – Dream Job

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: We can do [nothing] of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.  – 2 Corinthians 3:5

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Some of us go to work that excites us, demands our best, and rewards us with recognition. We are doing something significant that makes a difference and also makes money to take care of ourselves and our dependents. But after a few weeks or months, sometimes years, doing this work, the feelings and convictions that clustered around our becoming Christians become background to the center-stage drama of our work with its strenuous demands, energizing stimuli, and rich satisfactions.

Along the way the primacy of God and His work in our lives gives way ever so slightly to the primacy of our work in God’s kingdom. The shift is barely perceptible, and it takes a long time for its significance to show up. But when it does, it turns out that we have not so much been worshiping God as enlisting him as a trusted and valuable assistant.

On the job, we are dealing with what we know, and what we are good at. Why not ask God to help us in our work?

He invited us to, didn’t He, when He said, “Ask … and you will receive”? Well, yes, He did.

The problem is that reducing God to what I can use for my purposes, however noble and useful, becomes an act of idolatry.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Am I working for God? Or asking God to work for me?

Thought to Apply: It’s not what I do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through me. God doesn’t want my success; He wants me.—Elizabeth Dole

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

From Career to Calling – Academic Grind

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Those who become Christians become new persons. … A new life has begun!2 Corinthians 5:17

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 4:25-27

It happens every semester at our university. I enthusiastically put together the syllabus, think of innovative teaching strategies, and fill out a spreadsheet with my class rolls. As classes begin, I meet the students, tell corny jokes, and try to get everyone as motivated as I am.

A few weeks pass. I’ve given the first exam. Some students are catching on; others have done poorly. Some are missing classes. By mid-term I struggle to maintain my energy level. My corny jokes have gotten cornier. By the 10th week I realize just how long a 15-week semester is. We’re all dragging. I remind myself that I’m blessed to have this job and I’m responsible for those students. But still routines become, well, routine. Life starts to feel pretty old.

We all long for more. God placed that longing in us. It’s what led many of us to seek and find Him in the first place. But His transforming power extends well beyond the moment of conversion.

When Paul wrote, “A new life has begun,” he didn’t mean that the disciple has shifted to a new routine. He was describing an adventure in newness. The key: get yourself out of the way, and allow Christ, the very genesis of creativity, to transform you every routine day.

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: How can I honor Christ by the way I tackle my job today?

Thought to Apply: If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it.—George Hubbs

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

New Age Christians and the Danger They Don’t Know They’re In

Here are excerpts from a recent article in Church & Culture with a Bible-based discussion of issues many are reluctant to address.


Amanda, a 28-year-old Los Angeles resident, prays nightly and believes in Jesus.

She also chants, goes to Kundalini (yoga), meditates with a group and is into crystals. “The energy they hold is this ancient energy,” she said. “It helps your own energy when you work with them; when you’re near them.”

According to a recent Pew Research poll, she’s not alone. Most Americans “mix traditional faith with beliefs in psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy that they say can be found in physical objects such as mountains, trees and crystals.”

  • A staggering 41 percent of Americans believe in psychics.
  • A stunning 42 percent believe spiritual energy can be located in physical objects.

I recently did a series on the paranormal. You can get the installments in .pdf or .mp3 format HERE. I could tell it was one of the more eye-opening series I had ever done. Why? Because people genuinely didn’t know the difference between authentic spirituality and the world of the occult.

I started off by mapping the spiritual world, specifically the great spiritual conflict in the heavens and the nature and work of angels and demons.

Then I took the rest of the series to walk through the three marks of the occult:

1.  The disclosure or communication of unknown information unavailable to humans through normal means.

This involves things like horoscopes, fortune-telling, psychic hotlines and tarot cards.

That knowledge comes from somewhere—and if it’s not from God through the sources God has ordained, then it is through the evil one and his forces.

There is no neutral and impersonal “Power” just floating around out there. Nothing that has a voice or can be tapped into—some kind of cosmic consciousness for secret knowledge about the future of a human life.  Everything falls under heaven or hell, good or evil, God or the evil one.

Just so we’re clear:

“You have trusted in your wickedness…your wisdom and knowledge mislead you… Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away…keep on, then, with your magic spells and with your many sorceries…let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month…they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves…each of them goes on in his error.” (Isaiah 47:10-15, NIV)

“…diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” (Zechariah 10:2, NIV)

“I am the Lord, the Creator of all things. I alone stretched out the heavens… I make fools of fortunetellers and frustrate the predictions of astrologers.” (Isaiah 44:24-25, GN)

“Let no one be found among you who…practices divination or…interprets omens… Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NIV)

2.  The placing of persons in contact with supernatural powers, paranormal energies or demonic forces.

This involves things like spiritual energy in a crystal or any other entity, attempting to summon up a spirit or a deceased relative through a séance, channeling a spirit, or procuring the services of someone claiming to be a medium.

Here is Scripture’s clear witness:

“Let no one be found among you who…is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NIV)

  • “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?” (Isaiah 8:19, NIV)

So what is happening when you get in touch with a ghost?

It’s not a ghost. There is no such thing as a ghost.  So what happens at a séance when Uncle John suddenly seems to appear or to talk through a medium?

You are either being tricked (and many really are just flat out hoaxes) or you are in contact with a demon impersonating who you hoped to connect with.

The first scenario makes you out to be a fool; the second is simply nightmarish.

But in both cases, you are receiving knowledge, contact and advice that is not of God—it’s either of human origin or of demonic origin.

Look at the words on this from the prophet Jeremiah:

“So do not listen to…your diviners…your mediums… They prophesy lies to you… ‘I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are prophesying lies in my name.’” (Jeremiah 27:9-10, 15, NIV)

3.  Any attempt to gain and master paranormal power in order to manipulate or influence other people into certain actions.

In other words, all forms of witchcraft and the casting of spells.

Being clear on this is important because of the rise of modern day witchcraft, which goes by the name of Wicca.

Again, Scripture is clear:

“Let no one be found among you who…practices…sorcery…engages in witchcraft, or casts spells… Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NIV)

So there you have it.  A map of the supernatural world.

On the one side you have God and His faithful angels.  On the other side the world of the paranormal, or the occult, which is the world of Satan and his demons.

These are the only two worlds.  These are the only two forces.  These are the only two sets of beings.  There isn’t anything else.

One of them is good, the other is evil.

There are a lot of ways, sadly, that Satan and his team seduces us to engage the evil side—to open our lives to it and to invite it in without even knowing it.  And when we do, whether we are aware of it or not, we are engaging the forces of darkness.

We are connecting with Satan and his demons.

We are willfully opening up the door of our life to their presence and activity.

And they will enter.

And nothing could be more dangerous.

Initially it might seem benign, even innocent, for as the Bible says, Satan positions himself as an angel of light. But then the evil engulfs you.

And it’s even more than playing with fire. It’s dousing yourself with gasoline and then lighting the match.

It is spiritual suicide.

 

From Career to Calling – “Hardwired” for Work

From Career to CallingKey Bible Verse: Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6:7

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 6:5-8

Our innate desire for dignity and self-respect can be satisfied only when we discover our purpose, which will embrace our work. When we can use our gifts and creativity on the job, we find great satisfaction in it.

“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live,” wrote English novelist Dorothy Sayers, “but the thing one lives to do.”

Businessman Howard Butt Jr. tells of a friend who stopped by a garage to have a tire repaired. He watched the mechanic pop the hubcap off with a tire iron, spin loose the bolts with his wrench, and mount the wheel on his tire changer. With the mechanic’s guidance the machine soon worked the old tire off and the new one on. In ten minutes or less, the mechanic had tightened down the last bolt on the restored tire. Then he said, not to his customer, but as if speaking to the new tire, “There, another good job done by me.” Butt said of the mechanic, “Changing tires didn’t define him, but doing a good job did.”

Anyone who hasn’t had a similar experience, doing a concrete task well, with the pleasure that brings, has had a poor life indeed. We all feel connected to the truly good things in life through work.

—Charles Colson in The Good Life

My Response: A task I take pleasure in performing well is …

Adapted from The Good Life (Tyndale, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

From Career to Calling – Novocain, No; Prayer, Yes

From Career to CallingWho Said It…Don Couchman

Don Couchman is a dentist in Colorado Springs. He and his staff of six pray for ways to minister to their patients. “If we feel the Lord is giving us a certain Scripture to pass along,” Don says, “we just underline the Scripture in one of the Bibles we have in each room, then give the patient the Bible to take home.”

Don and his artist wife, Cathy, also give out “a whole lot” of Bibles at their Westcliffe, Colorado, ranch ministry.

What He Said…Novocain, No; Prayer, Yes

One patient the Lord sent my way was a biker who considered himself too tough to use anesthetic for his dental treatments. But in conversation during his treatment, the man revealed that he was concerned about his son, who was in trouble with the law. “Would it be all right with you if we prayed for your son?” I asked. The man said it would be great, so we did.

I moved on to the next treatment room, but I heard the biker’s cell phone ringing next door. When I came back into the room where the biker waited, the guy was just shaking his head. “That stuff works fast!” he told me. “That was the D.A.’s office calling me to say they are going to send my son into mediation instead of making him stand trial.”

“Then we have to pray again to thank Jesus and ask him to make this a positive experience in the young man’s life!” I said, and we did. Two weeks later when the father returned, he reported that his son was given probation and has to “keep his nose clean” for the next two years—a positive outcome.

Adapted from Catalog (International Bible Society, Fall/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, let me know clearly the work You are calling me to do in life. And grant me the courage, love, and lasting dedication to answer Your call. —Saint Meinrad

 

Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Boldness

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.  – Ephesians 6:20

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Fear can be crippling. For weeks after the robbery of her car at gunpoint, one missionary colleague feared to leave the safety of her home at night.

It became a very real challenge to participate wholeheartedly in the ministries in which she served, especially in light of the fact that the people to whom she ministered were part of a night-oriented culture. In such circumstances, missionaries need the prayers of their partners for fearlessness in sharing the gospel.

On one occasion our youth drama team was the first group allowed to perform in the main square of a city we’d entered. The city, known for its rugged and independent individuals, had very few evangelicals and had in the past been hostile toward any group that openly proclaimed the gospel.

Knowing that we would need a special God-given boldness to take advantage of the opportunity we’d been afforded, we spent much time in prayer. God answered those prayers and calmed our doubts and fears. In spite of hecklers, a car accident that took place as we performed our drama, and the loud music of a nightclub nearby, we were able to share testimonies of the transforming power of Christ in our lives.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for calm courage for a missionary in a threatening situation.

Thought to Apply: For five years we never went outside our doors without a volley of curses from our neighbors.—C.T. Studd (British missionary to Central Africa)

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Clear Communications

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.  – Colossians 4:4

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:6-11

In Rome, Paul wasn’t addressing his audience in his mother tongue. His prayer request for clarity wasn’t just about making a suitable defense to his accusers. He was soliciting divine help for addressing the spiritual condition of his hearers.

This prayer request obviously applies to those learning a new language. Clarity of expression means much more than knowing how to buy goods or exchange money in the marketplace. It involves cultural understanding, application of idiomatic expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Because language learning involves becoming childlike and relying upon the help of others, it’s a task not easily accepted by those with many years of education and ministry experience behind them.

This request isn’t limited to missionaries in their first term of service. No matter how long a missionary has served, his adopted language is still his second language. When he is tired or under the attacks of the enemy, speech doesn’t necessarily flow easily in the same manner as with the mother tongue. Even veteran missionaries need God’s help in talking to heart issues and adequately conveying the life-transforming good news of Christ to a people.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for one missionary friend to become proficient in his target group’s heart language.

Thought to Apply: His colloquial Turkish was famous, and he knew the folklore, the emotional reactions, and religious beliefs of the people. —Friend (speaking of Lyman MacCallum)

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

Target Your Missions Petitions – Prayers for Missionaries

Pray for MissionariesAlthough Paul was a missionary pioneer, he was no lone ranger. He was keenly aware of his need for prayer backing. In his letters to young congregations, he typically solicited their prayers for him. His requests tell us a lot about how we should be praying for the gospel ambassadors we know today.

Interact with God’s Word

Colossians 4:2-4; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

  1. Why do you think an alert mind is required (Col. 4:2) for effective intercession?
  2. What might devoting yourself to prayer involve in your case?
  3. How can you counter the out-of-sight-out-of-mind tendency (Col. 4:3) in your praying?
  4. What clues does Paul’s request for bold witness in confinement (Eph. 6:19-20), instead of release from it, give you about how you should pray for those in unsettled situations?
  5. Are you aware (2 Thess. 3:1) of areas where the Lord’s message is spreading rapidly? How about areas where it appears to be stalled? How should you pray for each?
  6. Recognizing that missionaries are on the “front lines” of spiritual warfare (2 Thess. 3:2), what kind of “prayer cover” is essential?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to help you discern specific real needs of a Christian worker and persistently pray for His answers.

Colossians 4:2-4

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Don’t forget to pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to preach about his secret plan—that Christ is also for you Gentiles. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Ephesians 6:19-20

19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God’s secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too. 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message as God’s ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey

Here are some interesting extracts from an article in October’s Christianity Today about what we believe.


American evangelicals are “deeply confused” about some core doctrines of the Christian faith.

For the third time, Ligonier Ministries has examined the State of Theology in the United States, conducted by LifeWay Research and based on interviews with 3,000 Americans.

The survey, also conducted in 2014 and 2016, offers a detailed look at the favorite heresies of evangelicals and of Americans at large.

Superficial (and Wrong) Beliefs

Overall, US adults appear to have a superficial attachment to well-known Christian beliefs. For example, a majority agreed that Jesus died on the cross for sin and that he rose from the dead.

However, they rejected the Bible’s teaching on (1) the gravity of man’s sin, (2) the importance of the church’s gathering together for worship, and (3) the Holy Spirit.

For example:

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans disagree that the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation—and 58 percent strongly disagree. Ligonier finds this “alarming.”
  • A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.
  • A majority of US adults (59%) say that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.



Relativism

Ligonier cites relativism for such a “casual outlook.” In the survey, 6 in 10 Americans agree that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth”—and 1 in 3 evangelicals (32%) say the same.

When it comes to Americans with “evangelical beliefs, the survey found that a majority say:

  • Most people are basically good (52%)
  • God accepts the worship of all religions (51%)
  • Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father (78%)

“However, all these beliefs are contrary to the historic Christian faith,” stated Ligonier, citing Romans 3:10 on sin, John 14:6 on God, and John 1:1 on Jesus.

For example, while an overwhelming 97 percent of evangelicals do believe that “there is one true God in three persons,” 3 out of 4 of them attempt to give Jesus first-place honors even though that belief “has been rejected by the church down through the centuries.”

Confusion about Jesus

Strangely, while most evangelicals strongly believe in justification by faith alone, they are confused about the person of Jesus Christ. On one hand, virtually all evangelicals express support for Trinitarian doctrine. Yet at the same time, most agree that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God, which was a view espoused by the ancient heretic Arius.

Arius was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381. Yet the number of American evangelicals who agree with his view has increased from 2016, when 71 percent agreed and 23 percent disagreed, to today when 78 percent agree and 18 percent disagree.

“These results show the pressing need for Christians to be taught Christology, especially as the outcome has gotten worse since 2016,” stated Ligonier. “There is a general lack of teaching today on the person of Christ, a doctrine for which the early church fought so hard.”

Social Issues

On social issues, the 2018 edition is the first of Ligonier’s three surveys to find that more Americans agree than disagree that “the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today” (44% vs. 41%).

On abortion, it found that a “slim majority” of Americans believe that the procedure is a sin (52% vs. 38%), including 57 percent of those ages 18 to 34.

It’s never been popular to talk about mankind’s sinfulness or the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. But at a time when a darkened world needs the light of the gospel, it’s disheartening to see many within the evangelical church confused about what the Bible teaches.

“These results are a serious cause for concern,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer and president of Reformation Bible College. “… The evangelical world is in great danger of slipping into irrelevance when it casually forgets the Bible’s doctrine.”

Ligonier’s complete findings can be found at thestateoftheology.com.

Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Protection

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people. 2 Thessalonians 3:2

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:30-32

I don’t know how many times my wife and I have looked at each other and exclaimed, “There must have been people praying for us!”

One such experience was in the fall of 1994. I had a number of errands to run and had taken our daughter with me to give my wife some time alone. I first went to the bank near our Porto Alegre home and encountered a terrible line-up at the tellers. Like any North American, I chafed over the wasted time and the difficulty of keeping a three-year-old entertained in the line.

When we finally got out of the bank, we headed for item two on my list—send some letters. We headed on foot for the post office, and were surprised to see three or four police cars and an ambulance parked nearby. When I enquired, I learned that 20 minutes before there’d been an armed robbery, with shots fired and two customers injured.

Looking at my watch, I realized that a bank line-up had saved us from being in the line of the robbery fire! That night we gave thanks as a family for bank line-ups, for God’s perfect timing, and for the many people we knew were praying for our personal safety.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for safety and physical and emotional health for a missionary friend.

Thought to Apply: One feels a deep, inward consciousness that though we are absolutely shut off from every human help, yet we have protection more secure than any consul can afford.—Alexander Mackay (missionary to Uganda)

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

Target Your Missions Petitions – Pray for Opened Doors

Pray for MissionariesKey Bible Verse: Pray … that God will give us many opportunities to preach about his secret plan. Colossians 4:3

Bonus Reading: Acts 16:6-10

I asked people to commit to praying for opened doors for the ministry I served in Porto Alegre, Brazil. A small group began to pray specifically for this.

God surprised us by the doors He opened in response to the prayers of our partners. The opportunity to work together with Campus Crusade for Christ and use the Jesus film with many other Christians in our city was indeed a welcomed window of opportunity that we hadn’t anticipated.

We saw another door opened when a senator welcomed us and worked with us in seeing an outreach planned for high-level city and state government officials.

What we experienced in the unity and fruitfulness of the Jesus Film Project in 1998 can only be explained by the people praying for such open doors.

Many doors remain closed. Some are large and reflect the greatest challenges for the church in the new millennium. These are the nations and people groups where access is restricted or hindered.

Some doors represent influential people in a city or tribal situation. These unopened doors present a tremendous opportunity for God’s people to enter into a prayer partnership with missionaries, seeing them opened to the gospel.

—Dwayne Buhler in EMQ

My Response: I’ll pray for one closed door to open for a missionary I know.

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

Target Your Missions Petitions – Beyond Foggy Prayers

Pray for MissionariesWho Said It…Dwayne Buhler

Dwayne and his wife Rhonda are Canadian missionaries currently serving with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Mexico City. He directs the Leadership Training Institute know as CETA, which offers a program of evening and weekend classes that provide training for believers. They previously served in Brazil for ten years, and in Canada.

What He Said…Beyond Foggy Prayers

In the battlefield of today’s missionary efforts, Satan uses many weapons. At times these weapons are obviously directly sent from him to obstruct or discourage God’s messengers. Other times his weapons are people who are unaware that they are being manipulated to achieve his hellish goals. Many times his weapons are also subtle circumstances that dissuade, discourage, or distract the missionary from accomplishing God’s purposes.

That’s why prayer for missionaries mustn’t be a vague, uninformed exercise. “Lord, bless the missionaries, whoever they are, wherever they are, and whatever they are doing—I’m sure they need your help” isn’t an effective way to be a partner with God in and through missionaries. As a missionary I often struggle with the task of writing prayer letters that creatively communicate the very real needs that my family and I face. I desire to do so in such a way that their prayers and participation will be effective and rewarding. My experience is that when God’s people pray specifically, He answers those prayers specifically.

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 1/04)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to grasp the critical needs of one missionary well enough that You can specifically respond to my prayers on his behalf.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Constant Prayer

Prayer 9God’s ambassador, as Paul referred to himself, wrote his letters to the churches of Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi from prison.

But his upbeat emphasis is on evangelism, discipling, and prayer. In this paragraph (and a parallel one, Colossians 4:24) he lets his readers know why intercessory prayer is vital.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 6:18-20

  1. How can anyone pray at all times?
  2. How does the Holy Spirit empower your prayers?
  3. Are you praying for the growth of Christians you know?
  4. How can you pray for believers around the world?
  5. What two qualities did Paul single out (in. v. 18) as key in intercessory prayer?
  6. Why do you think these qualities are essential?
  7. What two prayer requests did Paul present for his own ministry?
  8. What lesson is there for us in what Paul did not request prayer for?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the resolve to be alert and persistent in your prayer life, experiencing His power working on behalf of believers both nearby and at a distance.

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God’s secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too. 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message as God’s ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

Raise Your Prayer Sights – …and More

Prayer 9

Key Bible Verse: I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. Matthew 21:21

Bonus Reading: Matthew 21:18-22

[continued from yesterday] President Museveni asked Bob to help organize a prayer breakfast for Uganda. People of every tribe, religion, and station attended. Speakers admitted the hate they’d held for others, and told how much they’d been changed by God.

Back in his office, Museveni asked Bob how he viewed the situation in South Africa. Bob replied that the country was heading in the right direction after releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. Museveni agreed. “I’m now chairman of the Organization of African Unity,” he said. “I want to send a delegation to South Africa to say that love and reconciliation are the answer to the bloodshed predicted for their country. What do you think?”

“That sounds like a great idea,” said Bob.

“Can you go? We need a white in the delegation to demonstrate our point.”

Bob went and met with Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi, and other leaders. He read 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s love chapter. Christians from Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda spoke of how forgiveness was critical to South Africa’s success. This message proved pivotal in that nation’s bloodless transition from white to majority rule.

Bob Hunter’s little group is still meeting to pray for Africa. And mountains keep moving!

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: What “mountain” have I witnessed being moved in response to prayer?

Thought to Apply: Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power, like a mighty locomotive, can come.—Watchman Nee (Chinese pastor)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

An open table: How United Methodists understand Communion

During a Confirmation Class, the pastor asked a group of mostly 13- and 14-year-old students to name some things Christians—and specifically United Methodists—do that most other people do not.

One of the girls raised her hand and said with a smile, “We dunk our bread in grape juice.”

Yes, that is different.

The sacrament of Holy Communion is such a common occurrence in the landscape of our worship that its uncommon richness sometimes gets lost.

Regular Communion

Due to a lack of ordained clergy in the early days of the church in the United States, a history of receiving the sacrament quarterly (four times per year) is the habit in some places.

The vast majority of United Methodist congregations in the United States (97% in the most recent study) now celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once per month.

One sacrament, several names

The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and the Eucharist are all names for this sacrament celebrated by United Methodists. Each of these names highlights an aspect of this act of worship.

  • The Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus Christ is the host and that we participate at Christ’s invitation. Jesus invites us to take part in the special meal he ate with his disciples the night before his crucifixion, and other meals he shared in homes and on hillsides.
  • The term Holy Communion invites us to focus on the self-giving of the Holy God which makes the sacrament an occasion of grace, and on the holiness of our communion with God and one another.
  • Finally, “Eucharist, from the Greek word for thanksgiving, reminds us that the sacrament is thanksgiving to God for the gifts of creation and salvation.

Open Communion”

“Ecumenically, the term ‘open communion’ … means that all of the baptized are welcome to receive,” explains the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources with Discipleship Ministries.

  • This distinguishes our invitation from some other Christian denominations that may require additional rites before one is welcome to the table.
  • “United Methodists do not practice ‘wide open communion,’” Burton-Edwards continues. “We are instructed to use the invitation as it appears in our ritual to make clear whom Christ does invite to his table.
  • It is those who ‘love him, earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to be at peace with one another.’ While we serve all who present themselves, not questioning their integrity in response to the invitation, these are actual conditions.”

Invitation

Our communion liturgy begins with words spoken on Jesus’ behalf inviting “all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.”

There are no conditions for church membership or completion of a class required.

The baptized present are all invited, even if they belong to a different church. Those not baptized are not barred from receiving, but should be counseled and nurtured toward baptism as soon as possible,

In addition, there is no minimum age.  Even baptized infants are invited.  To whatever degree they’re able to participate in the Great Thanksgiving—even if that’s simply being held in their mother’s arms while they sleep—they are there. They are part of what we are all doing together, so they are welcome to receive.

Confession, Pardon, and Peace

During the next part of the service, we prepare ourselves to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving by repenting of sin and seeking to live in peace with one another.

After praying a prayer of confession, we share words of pardon that remind us of the grace freely available to all who repent, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!”

The Peace then follows, where we offer one another signs of reconciliation and love, affirming our desire to live as a reconciled community in Christ.

The Elements of Communion

The Bread

It is appropriate that the bread eaten in Holy Communion both look and taste like bread.

The use of a whole loaf best signifies the unity of the church as the body of Christ and, when it is broken and shared, our fellowship in that body.

 The Cup
A single cup or chalice may be used for intinction—dipping the bread into the wine—or for drinking,

The use of a common chalice best represents Christian unity, but individual cups are used in many congregations.

This story uses the word juice over wine because historically, United Methodists have been committed to use “the pure, unfermented juice of the grape.”  That came out of our involvement in the temperance movement in the 19th century and into the 20th century.  It is also out of an ongoing concern for persons for whom alcohol may be a problem.

The Great Thanksgiving

During the next part of the service, the pastor leads the congregation in a prayer called The Great Thanksgiving.

Our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is The Great Thanksgiving. That’s why it’s essential that the people participate actively in this.

We join in the ancient tradition of sacrifice by offering God our praise and thanksgiving for the wondrous gift of salvation (see Psalm 141).

We offer ourselves and our gifts of bread and wine to God with thanksgiving.  Then we ask for the Holy Spirit to be poured upon us and these gifts, that they may become for us the body and blood of Christ, nourishing us, who have been redeemed by his blood, to be the body of Christ in the world.

We conclude praising the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—before uniting our voices in the Lord’s Prayer.

Then the bread is broken, and the body and blood of Christ are given to those who come to receive.

Prayer after receiving

Holy Communion brings together our worship and our work in the world.

Communion is our meal,  It is our feeding.  We need that sustenance and we need it regularly.

In the prayer after receiving, we affirm this.  We pray, “Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

All this is God’s gift to us.  We are fed with the body of Christ by the Father and empowered by the Spirit to live as Christ’s body in the world.

Dipping bread into juice may seem a little odd, but it is an important sign of our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.

What we’re doing in the Eucharist is two things:

  • When we receive ‘the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood,’ we are remembering.
  • At the same time, we are also re-membered, put back together again. We pray that we may be ‘one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.’

God’s work of making us one and uniting us with Christ, with each other and in our witness and life in the world—is the ordinary way by which God feeds us, sustains us, and empowers us to live as Christians in the world.

 

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – One Mountain…

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: If you had faith … you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. Matthew 17:20

Bonus Reading: John 17:20-21

[continued from yesterday]  Bob took his first trip to Uganda to visit the hospital just as dictator Idi Amin was being pushed out. Convinced that helping the hospital was futile without working on reconciliation in the ravaged country, Bob met the parliamentary leaders friendly to the new president, Milton Obote, and those who opposed him. He found each side willing to meet with him but not with each other.

“Lord, how can we get these guys to sit together and heal their land?” he prayed.

The answer came quickly. Waiting for his plane during a layover at the Nairobi airport, Bob sat next to an American missionary. She was the daughter of Andrew Young, then mayor of Atlanta. She suggested that Bob call her father and ask him to visit Uganda. Bob called. Andrew Young agreed.

They started a process of reconciliation that included opposition rebels, one of whom, Yoweri Museveni, became president in due course. A Museveni adviser who believed in Jesus Christ met with Bob; they talked about forgiveness, reconciliation, and love for one’s enemies. President Museveni was persuaded to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he acknowledged his own faith. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: A time I sensed God using me in answer to prayer was …

Thought to Apply: History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being.—Walter Wink

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Cover a Continent

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved. Romans 10:1

Bonus Reading: Matthew 9:35-38

“Pray for something bigger than yourself,” Doug Coe told Bob Hunter, a new Christian who asked his friend how to pray. “Pick a city like Washington, a state like Virginia, a country like Russia, or even a continent like Africa. If you stick with it for 25 years, you’ll see God move mountains.”

For some reason, the thought of praying for Africa stuck with Bob. He and one other man studied a map to learn the names of countries formed since they were in high school. Then they began praying for this vast continent. A couple of other men soon joined them.

Back in the 1970s Idi Amin was executing thousands in Uganda. So the group prayed in earnest for Uganda. They asked God to raise up a worker from its capital, Kampala, whom they could support.

Then Bob attended a retreat at a hotel. A group gathering after lunch to pray for Africa was joined by a missionary nurse not attending the retreat. It turned out she worked at Mengo Hospital in Kampala! Bob invited her to visit his family and go to church with them for “Missions Sunday.” When the scheduled missionary speaker failed to show, the nurse from Kampala took his place. Bob’s church soon made the hospital its ongoing project. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: Something bigger than myself that I feel led to pray for is ____.

Thought to Apply: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.—Alfred Tennyson (English poet)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Target Your Boss

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people … for kings and all others who are in authority. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Bad-mouthing a manager is commonplace today. Employees crack jokes and bash their leader out of lack of respect, distrust, and dislike. But this behavior only worsens what might already be a bad situation.

Imagine what work would be like if, instead, all the employees began praying for their leaders. If we all chose to lift up in prayer the people we feel at odds with, great things could happen, not just for them but for us as well.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that we’re to pray for everyone. He singled out governmental authorities; but his directive could also apply to leaders in virtually all organizations.

Why pray for your boss? Because God allows us to help Him change people and situations. The more we acknowledge others in prayer, the more God will work in them and the circumstances surrounding them. God helps you through your prayers to see your boss through His eyes—and your heart will begin softening toward this person for whom you’ve previously felt anger, bitterness, or contempt.

Before you leave for work each morning, pray for your boss. This could avert a snide remark or words spoken in anger.

—Stephen Graves and Thomas Addington in Deep Focus

My Response: I’ll commit to pray weekly for ______, my supervisor.

Thought to Apply: God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. —Oswald Chambers (British teacher, chaplain)

Adapted from Deep Focus (Jossey-Bass, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

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Raise Your Prayer Sights – Bless That Bozo?

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Bonus Reading: Colossians 1:9-12

I became close with five guys in a Bible study on our campus. But one evening a 6’5″ football player burst into our quiet gathering, extended his hand in all directions, and bellowed out his name. Big Wally was joining our group. During the weeks that followed, I listened resentfully to this primitive extrovert boom out his airhead religious views. Wally had ruined our tranquil, reflective atmosphere.

Fortunately, our study leader altered how we opened our sharing time. He asked us to pray silently for each group member, thinking of their needs and claiming God’s assistance in their lives. I prayed for the person on my right and left and then came to Wally, sitting across from me. I tried to pray about the biology test he was facing and the girlfriend who’d dumped him.

That simple act jolted me awake. I just couldn’t think of Wally in the same way. He required my help, and I needed his. I began to see things I admired in this guy. The more we prayed together, the more I came to like Wally, until one evening I found myself jumping on a sofa with him, wildly celebrating an answer to prayer. His raw enthusiasm had become infectious rather than offensive.

—Steven Mosley in Secrets of the Mustard Seed

My Response: Starting today, I’ll pray for _____, who rubs me the wrong way.

Adapted from Secrets of the Mustard Seed (Nav Press, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Visible and Vulnerable

Prayer 9Who Said It…John Stackhouse Jr.

John teaches theology and culture at Regent College, a graduate school of Christian studies affiliated with the University of British Columbia. He frequently comments on contemporary religion and culture in the news media.

John enjoys skiing the Vancouver-area mountains with his wife and three sons, and playing basketball and hockey with his students. He also loves to play jazz—on piano, guitar, or electric bass.

What He Said…Visible and Vulnerable

Are those currently riding high in Christian esteem immune to the sins that beset the rest of us?

Even in spiritual matters, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The very traits that help people succeed make them vulnerable to pride, lust, and greed.

I remember a bishop respected for his compassion for the poor who confessed to financial mismanagement—and a Christian pop singer whose affair with another performer broke up her marriage. I’ve prayed for these and other disgraced heroes, those they hurt, and those left to pick up the pieces.

But I’ve resolved to pray regularly for several leaders who’ve blessed me and have not fallen. I pray that they’ll remain morally upright, care properly for their families, discern how God would best use them, and enjoy walking with Him more and more.

Whose ministry are you glad for? Your pastor? A local writer, speaker, or singer? A renowned Christian whose work has impressed you?

Why not select a few leaders to protect with your prayers?

Adapted from Faith Today (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week:  Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

How to Dis Discontent – Being Content

Contentment 2Ephesus was a wealthy city, and the Ephesian church probably had some prosperous members.

Paul advised Timothy to instruct them about how to regard and use their resources. But he also warned Timothy to be on his guard against those whose involvement in the church was based on greed.

Paul’s counsel fits our era just as well.

Interact with God’s Word

1 Timothy 6:5-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

  1. If religion shouldn’t be seen as a way to get rich, how can it be the source of great wealth?
  2. How can the perspective of verses 7-8 help you distinguish between needs and wants?
  3. To what extent can advertising to stimulate demand in our consumption-driven economy undermine the contentment urged in these verses?
  4. How much do you think your outlook has been affected by this advertising?
  5. How have you seen greed ruin marriages, friendships, or business relationships?
  6. Why is trusting in the security of savings (v. 17) a trap?
  7. What is the antidote for relying on accumulated wealth (vv. 18-19)?
  8. Do you really share Paul’s confidence (v. 17b) about how God relates to His children?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for satisfaction when your basic needs are met, acceptance of what He’s doing in your life, and fulfillment in relating to others in His work.

1 Timothy 6:5-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they don’t tell the truth. To them religion is just a way to get rich. 6 Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. 7 After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 11 But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

17 Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.

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

 

How to Dis Discontent – Gear Glut

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: True religion with contentment is great wealth.  – 1 Timothy 6:6

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 6:5b-11, 17-19

I entered a shelter along the Appalachian Trail late one afternoon after witnessing incredible overlooks and enjoying nature’s beauty up close. But there was one problem—my pack was too heavy. My shoulders were aching, and my neck felt like it needed one of those thick, padded braces.

I’d packed way too much food and dreaded lugging the heavy pack the next day. So I started giving away dried fruit and granola bars to the other hikers settling in for the night. They probably thought it odd, but accepted the provisions I’d (unknowingly) been carrying for them. I’d never been such a cheerful giver!

Today’s verse reminds me that if I carry too much bartering power, my journey will suffer. Understanding my limitations has become the most efficient, least painful way to carry my pack.

Some of us are stronger than others. A friend of mine carries large bank accounts in his “life pack,” and it seems to never slow him down. However, for others of us, our loads are lighter because our heavenly Father knows what we’re able to heft.

Seeking to fill our packs and pockets is a grave mistake. As we learn to trust God more fully, we know He’ll meet all our needs—so there’s no need to overpack!

—Nathan Chapman in With God on the Hiking Trail

My Response: To lighten my “life pack,” I need to …

Thought to Apply: God doesn’t call upon us to give up a single thing that adds to our happiness; all He wants us to give up are the things which blight our lives.—D.L. Moody

Adapted from With God on the Hiking Trail (Doubleday, 2001)

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

 

How to Dis Discontent – Reach for Less

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.  – Ecclesiastes 4:6, NIV

Bonus Reading: Luke 14:28-30

[continued from yesterday]  The third weapon of contentment is a realistic reach. Before you set a goal, candidly assess the time, the talents, and the resources you have.

Jesus rebuked those who started a tower without calculating what it would take to finish it. We must know our strengths, and limitations. Our lives were meant to be built on the capabilities and personality strengths a good God has given us.

We don’t need to strain to be somebody else. There’s great satisfaction in focused energy and completed towers. If your reach will compromise a quiet center or push you beyond the boundaries of peace, consider it too expensive.

King David revealed the secret of his relaxed spirit: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me. But I have stilled and quieted myself” (Psalm 131:1-2).

To be content with our life position cancels out the reach for more. It means that who we are is okay—our looks, our abilities, our singleness.

Where we are is okay too—our address, our school, our job, our position. And contentment includes how we are, even in a sickbed or with an empty wallet.

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

My Response: When has my appetite for more created the stress I deplore?

Thought to Apply: To feel that one has a place in life solves half the problem of contentment.—George Woodberry (college professor & poet)

Adapted from Living Peacefully in a Stressful World (Discovery, 1985, 2000)

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

 

How to Dis Discontent – Equalize the Pressure

Contentment 2Key Bible Verse: Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me.  – Psalm 116:7

Bonus Reading: Psalm 78:18-28

Our outside environment pushes us to compare, complain, compete, and conquer. To avoid chronic discontent, we need to counter with three kinds of inside pressure.

First, we need to renew our confidence in our secure Source. When something happens to our paycheck or our best friend, we feel fearful and restless. But those are only vehicles of God’s supply, not the Source.

He’s infinitely creative in finding other ways to send what we need. After all, our Father invented manna in the wilderness, water from a rock, and food delivered free by ravens. If we belong to Him, our Source is beyond the reach of any recession, depression, or hydrogen bomb.

Second, we fight discontent with a grateful memory. David’s memory was working well when he told King Saul, “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine [Goliath]!” (1 Samuel 17:37).

God sends His gifts to us daily, but because we’re too busy to notice or say thanks, we lack David’s poise. Regular, specific thanks warms our Father’s heart, and reconfirms our contentment. If He’s done it before, He’ll do it again!” [continued tomorrow]

—Ron Hutchcraft in Living Peacefully in a Stressful World

My Response: Is my ultimate security based on savings, investments, or insurance?

Thought to Apply: We should spend as much time in thanking God for His benefits as we do in asking Him for them.—Vincent De Paul (French clergyman)

Adapted from Living Peacefully in a Stressful World (Discovery, 1985, 2000)

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