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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Earth-Shattering Shout

Heaven 2Key Bible Verse:  God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked”.  – Psalm 75:2

Bonus Reading: Revelation 6: 10-11

Many of the students in the makeshift little Ugandan Bible school lived with horrendous reminders of what they’d endured during the murderous reign of Idi Amin.

Some of these pastors of village churches were missing an eye or an arm.  Several had bulging red scars from deep machete wounds.

The professor was lecturing from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which the apostle is teaching about Christ’s return to reign forever in glory, wiping away every tear and setting straight every injustice.

A student’s hand went up when he came to Chapter 4, verse 16: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.”

“Yes?” said the professor.

“What will the Lord shout?” the man asked softly.

The professor didn’t know what to say.  Yet the accumulated suffering of the students in that classroom seemed to demand some kind of answer.

What will the Lord say when he finally humbles all his enemies?  “I don’t know,” the professor admitted. “What do you think he’ll shout?”

A student’s voice came from the back: “I think he’ll shout, ‘Enough!'”

That’s a good answer.  Justice will come when God’s inexplicable wisdom and love have determined that there has been enough suffering for the sake of his name.

—Ben Patterson in God’s Prayer Book

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – No Frills, No Flair

Simple PrayerKey Bible Verse:  O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  Psalm 139:1

Bonus Reading:   Psalm 139: 2-18

There was a time in my life when it seemed as if everyone wanted me to pray aloud at group gatherings.  So I would pray, in properly respectful yet down-to-earth tones, choosing my words carefully.

I found myself mimicking my public “performances” in my private times with God.  It was during one of these times, late at night, that I felt God speaking to my heart: Mike, exactly who are you praying for?

For months I had been so bent on shaping my prayers for audiences that I’d forgotten I was whispering directly into the ear of God.

I learned something that night: When we come to God in prayer, we must come as we are.  No amount of flowery words will impress God.

He knows our sinful thoughts and secret desires better than we do.  We can’t fool him with impressive praying.

No, if we want to be people who passionately pursue intimacy with God, we must first and foremost have the courage to approach him honestly, completely revealing who we are, what we’ve done, and how we feel each time we call his name.

To do less than that is an insult to God and to the miracle of prayer he’s given us.

—Mike Nappa in The Courage to Be a Christian


My Response: When I pray, am I always aware that I’m “whispering directly into the ear of God”?


Thought to Apply: In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart—John Bunyan (British writer & preacher)

Adapted from The Courage to Be a Christian (Howard, 2001)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Noteworthy Distractions

Jotting Down a NoteKey Bible Verse:  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  – James 5:16

Bonus Reading:  James 5: 13-18

For a long time I had been disturbed about the problem of a wandering mind during my time of prayer.

I would be trying to pray and suddenly my mind would jump to a business appointment I needed to make or something else I had to do.  For years I had forced these things out of my mind to get back to “spiritual things.”

But now, thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Donn Moomaw, I began to keep a notebook by my side; and when the thought came to me to call someone, to make an appointment, or to do something for the family, I would jot it down and then go back to God.

I was at last realizing that God is interested in my total life and that these things which came into my mind during my time of prayer might be significant things for me to do, or places for me to go.  This also made it easier for me to get my mind immediately back to my other prayers.

Sometimes a vision of someone I resented would come floating into my prayers.  Instead of trying my best to suppress it, I began to ask God to make my thoughts about this person more like His.

Before I knew it, I discovered that God was touching more and more of my life through this time of prayer.

—Keith Miller in The Edge of Adventure


My Response: I will strive to include all aspects of my life in my prayers by …


Thought to Apply: I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is.—Charles Spurgeon (British preacher)

Adapted from The Edge of Adventure (WaterBrook, 2005)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Just Stammer Away

Prayer 6Key Bible Verse:  We don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  – Romans 8:26

Bonus Reading: Psalm 63: 1-8

We don’t like to stand speechless or stammering before God, but that doesn’t mean God holds it against us when we do.

I remember a vacation with my parents in France when I was in high school.  I had just completed two years of French, hardly enough to make me fluent.  Still, there we were, tourists wanting to make the most of our time.

So when we needed a bathroom, when we wanted to find a cafe, or when I lost my eyeglasses on the steps of L’Eglise du Sacre-Coeur, I falteringly used my butchered French.  I was trying—to the politely suppressed laughter of others—to speak the language.  But I remember more than the townspeople’s bemusement.

I remember how they warmly received my efforts.  They strained to hear past my fractured sentences.  They honored me by responding.

Is God any less generous?

He hears all that arises from us—the words of our mouth, the longings of our hearts, the thoughts of our minds, the intentions of our wills.  Regret, grief, thanksgiving, hope—God hears our emotions, not just our grammar.

Because of his grace, not our eloquence, we can pray.  Even if we stammer.

—Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer


My Response: I know God hears my feeble words and stammered prayers because …


Thought to Apply: Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.—W. S. Bowden (Methodist bishop)

Adapted from The Art of Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Guilt Free A to Z

Prayer 5Key Bible Verse:  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  1 Timothy 2:1

Bonus Reading:  Daniel 9: 1-19

Have you ever created a massive prayer list and then broken it down for each day of the week?

If you have, you’ve probably discovered that this approach works well—at producing a whole lot of guilt!

The first day you miss your prayer time, you decide to double up the next day so that no name gets skipped.  But this requires that tomorrow you pray for a boatload of people.  Eventually, you’ll let dropped days stay dropped—and then feel guilty about all those people for whom you failed to pray.

Let me offer you a guilt-free approach.

I keep an A to Z list of friends on one page, front and back, in a notebook I use to record my daily insights from Scripture.  I stick a little Post-it note under the person’s name I last prayed for.  Some days I have the time to pray for five or six people.

Other days I’m in a hurry and may get to only one or two names.  And occasionally I miss interceding for others altogether.  I just pick up where I left off and continue down my list.  It may take a few weeks to cover everyone, but there’s a steady thoroughness to this approach that gives me a sense of deep satisfaction.

—James Nicodem in Prayer Coach


My Response: Without increasing guilt, how might I improve my own intercessory prayer times?


Thought to Apply: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men!—Phillips Brooks (American clergyman & author)

Adapted from Prayer Coach (Crossway, 2008)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Crank Your Engine

LentWho Said It … Peter Lundell

Peter Lundell is a former missionary to Japan and currently pastors Walnut Community Church in Walnut, California.  Along with publishing articles in numerous magazines, he’s the author of Armed for Battle, When God Bursts In, and the recently published Prayer Power.

Peter’s hobbies include woodworking and surfing the Pacific with a specially designed “surf kayak.”  He has a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  Peter and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.

What He Said … Crank Your Engine

When the automobile was first invented, no one had conceived of a starter.  So while one person sat at the wheel, another person stood in front of the car and cranked a handle connected to the engine.  

Round and round they’d heave the crank until the engine started.  This led to phrases like “crank the engine” and “crank it up.”

Sometimes prayer may feel like a dead engine, and it takes deliberate cranking to get the communication started.

Too many times I have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  I may sit or stand or walk while I try to talk with God, but my mind is like a dead engine.  These are times when I “start in the flesh and end in the Spirit.”

Starting in the flesh and ending in the Spirit means that we may not feel like praying, but we go ahead and pray anyway.  As we do this, our prayer starts to flow naturally.

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – At a Loss for Words?

Prayer 4Key Bible Verse:  Never stop praying.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 86: 1-7

Some Christians may dismiss written prayers as leftovers of a formal church style they’d just as soon bury.  Yet when we feel down or dull, reading a prayer may get us going when otherwise we wouldn’t pray at all.  When we read the prayer and truly pray it as we read, the written prayer becomes our own expression to God.

The largest source of written prayers is the book of Psalms.  With 150 to choose from, we can always find one to start off our prayer (like Psalm 86: 1-7).

We have psalms of praise, comfort, and encouragement.  Most of all we find laments—over a third of the Psalms begin with complaints.  (People are often surprised to discover that God actually lets us complain to him.)

Psalms of lament start with expressing sadness, frustration, or even anger to God.  Then they generally progress toward finding hope and comfort in God.  They’re a great example of dumping our problems on God and turning to the path of faith and optimism.

Reading written prayers can also stimulate our own prayers when we internalize the words and express them as if they were our own.  This gets the flow of our thoughts going.  Then we can set the written prayer aside and go on praying.

—Peter Lundell in Prayer Power


My Response: How might written prayers enliven my own times of prayer?

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.




Everyday Ways Dads Can Say “I Love You”


Dads sometimes find it challenging to express the pride and joy their children bring them. Some, like John Wesley’s father, wait for big moments to share what we feel. Taking some small steps will help dads (and moms) share their love for their children every day.

Proud papa

By most accounts, John and Charles Wesley’s dad, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, was not the warmest guy, but there were at least two times he expressed his love for his family.

The first came when John and Charles were very young. Following a horrific house fire, the Wesley family gathered in their garden. John Wesley would later remember that when Samuel saw that his wife and children were all safe, he cried out, “Let us give thanks to God! He has given me all my eight Children: let the house go: I am rich enough!”

A father and daughter share time together while serving a prayer ministry.

Dads can find many ways to connect with their children, including serving together in a prayer ministry. File photo courtesy of Bob Dickson and his daughter Rachel, Madison (Georgia) First United Methodist Church.

The second came 17 years later when John Wesley was elected to a fellowship at Lincoln College. Through the fellowship, he would receive free room and board, students to teach, and a salary for life, as long as he remained single. This was a big deal!

Two weeks later, Samuel wrote a letter of congratulations to John, whom the family called Jacky, gushing, “Wherever I am, my Jacky is Fellow of Lincoln.”

Dads, however, need not wait for milestone events like a life-threatening fire or a prominent promotion to express their love and pride to their children. With some small steps, fathers everywhere can develop skills to share their hearts with their children every day.

Easy tips for dads (and the rest of us)


Bedtime blessing: When children are small, many have bedtime rituals. Parents have them take a bath, brush their teeth, and then maybe they read a story and say a prayer together. Dads can add a special blessing to that daily rhythm. Something as simple as “The grace of Jesus Christ enfold you this night” (United Methodist Hymnal 879) can be an expression of not only God’s love for them, but yours as well.

Morning ritual: Family schedules can be crazy. When the kids reach a certain age, afternoons and evenings are filled with games, recitals, practices, rehearsals, play dates, homework, and more. Mornings may be the only time the whole family is awake and together. Take some time each morning with your children. Share breakfast. Talk about the day ahead. What are each of you looking forward to or dreading? Then pray for God’s grace to be with you and your child in the day ahead.

A father and daughter were ordained during the same ordination service.

The Rev. Tiffany Nagel Monroe and her dad the Rev. Alan Nagel share much, including being ordained the same day. Photo by Hugh Scott, Oklahoma Annual Conference.

School matters: School is the center of a child’s experience for 13 years in the US (and beyond for some). During this season of life, it is pretty easy for dads (and moms) to get caught up in the results—test scores, grades, honor roll, etc.—but much more happens in school. Relationships are formed, deepened, and lost. Interactions with adults and peers sometimes go well, but not always. Responsibilities and challenges are met sometimes and other times become learning opportunities. Stay involved. It shows interest in that which takes most of your child’s time and attention.

Undivided attention: Most families struggle to find one activity that everyone enjoys. That’s a great opportunity to spend one-on-one time with each child. Play catch with your athletic daughter and listen with your musical son to his favorite band. Lose a round in their favorite video game or watch their favorite movie for the 40th time. One of the basic needs children have is for the attention of their parents. Time we spend focused on them is an expression of love.

Seize every opportunity: Let’s face it, some dads overthink things. Often, while internally debating whether this is a good time to say it, or how to phrase it properly, the moment passes. Don’t wait. Simply say, “I’m so proud of you.” Without thinking, blurt out, “I love you.” We teach our kids that words matter. Share some great ones with your children.

The power of touch: Not only do words matter, but so do hugs, hands placed on shoulders, and kisses on the forehead. Sometimes the child will squirm. For seasons, you may have to stop the kisses. But finding ways to keep in physical contact with your children can be a great way of expressing love and pride without saying a word.

The Rev. Samuel Wesley may not have been the warmest father.

The Rev. Samuel Wesley may not have been very demonstrative of his love for his family. Image public domain.

Model love: Parents know they are never off the clock. The eyes in the rooms down the hall are monitoring them to learn all aspects of behavior. Work to grow in the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—and thereby model the love of God to your kids.

Why wait?

Samuel Wesley may not have been the most effusive parent. History, however, offers glimpses of the love for his family in his heart, and the pride he took in the accomplishments of his children. Dads can learn from Samuel not to wait for monumental life events to express their love to their kids. Instead, fathers can find ways every day to let their children know how much they love them and how proud they are of what they do.

Special thanks to the Rev. Matt Tuggle, Director of Family Ministries at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, for contributing to this story.

*Joe Iovino works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

Radical Repentance – Running on Empty

Jim RyunKey Bible Verse:  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.  Philippians 3:7

Bonus Reading:  John 6:22-58

At the age of 25, according to the world’s standards, I was successful.  I was a world record holder in the mile, had been on several Olympic teams, and had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

However, in May of 1972, in front of a nationally televised audience, I finished last during a race in the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  I was angry, humiliated, and empty.

Shortly after that race, my wife, Anne, and I visited our friends Bernie and Clara Taylor.  During our visit, I noticed Bernie reading over something and asked him what it was.

“It’s my testimony of coming to know Christ,” he said.

Even though I had been raised in the Church, and Christian friends had shared Christ with me over the years, I didn’t know what Bernie was talking about.  So, that evening, he and his wife shared with Anne and me what it meant to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

That night, it became clear that life was not about running faster or winning an Olympic medal; those things could never fill the void in me—only Christ could do that.  A few weeks later, Anne and I accepted Christ. It was the best decision we ever made.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run


My Response: When have I allowed my personal pursuits to get in the way of pursuing Christ with my whole heart?


Thought to Apply: Never let success hide its emptiness from you.—Dag Hammarskjold (Swedish statesmen)

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.




Radical Repentance – A Jesus Freak Is Born (Again)

Key Bible Verse:  If yCampfire 2ou confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

Bonus ReadingJohn 3: 1-17

Most everybody knows Toby McKeehan as the artist who performed “Jesus Freak” with his fellow band mates in DC Talk.  But as a kid, Toby (now known as solo artist tobyMac) went to Church because his mom dragged him there.  He would often ditch Sunday school.

But 12-year-old Toby’s life changed because of Harold, one of the church’s youth leaders.  Along with showing an interest in Toby, Harold invited him to a camp.

“I thought it was a sports camp,” Toby says.  “But when we got off that bus, we went straight into this worship service where this preacher was talking for hours.”

While Toby disliked the preaching, he appreciated the conversations back at the cabin.  “Harold would take time to talk to us,” Toby says.  “He’d share about his past and told us about Jesus.”

One night Toby lay in his sleeping bag with a lot on his mind.  He wanted to have a relationship with Jesus, but he didn’t know how.  Finally, he went and woke up Harold.

“He led me in asking Christ to forgive me and asking him into life,” Toby says.  “My life just went in a totally different direction right there.”

—Todd Hertz in Ignite Your Faith


My Response:  Because of Christ, my life has changed in the following ways: …


Thought to Apply:  The Lord has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.—Clement of Alexandria (early Church Father)

Adapted from an article in Ignite Your Faith magazine (1-2/05)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.




Radical Repentance – Free Behind Bars

Prayer in Prison 2Key Bible Verse:  Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  – Ephesians 2:1

Bonus ReadingEphesians 2: 2-10

David Berkowitz was sentenced to consecutive life sentences for killing six people and wounding numerous others in New York City.  Known as “Son of Sam,” he terrorized the city for months until his capture in 1977.

Berkowitz confessed to the crimes to avoid the death penalty.  Though up for parole several times, he has consistently been denied freedom.

For many, this seems a fitting end to a madman’s life—dying a slow death in jail haunted by his past crimes.

But that’s not the end.

In 1987, an inmate talked to Berkowitz about Christ.  He gave Berkowitz a Bible.

According to Berkowitz, the book changed his life: “Everything seemed to hit me at once.  The guilt from what I did … the disgust at what I had become. … I got down on my knees and began to cry out. … I asked Jesus to forgive me. … A peace flooded over me. … I knew that my life, somehow, was going to be different.”

Berkowitz now has CDs and videos of his conversion available through Focus on the Family.  He has appeared on Dr. D. James Kennedy’s TV show, and he has endorsements from Chuck Colson.

—Mark Herringshow & Jennifer Schuchmann in Six Prayers God Always Answers


My Response: Why might I find it hard to accept that someone like David Berkowitz could be a genuine Christian?


Thought to Apply: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. —John Newton (British clergyman and former slave-ship captain)

Adapted from Prayer Power (Tyndale, 2008)



Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.




Radical Repentance – A President’s Greatest Need

Gerald Ford Becomes Vice President

Gerald Ford Becomes Vice President

Key Bible Verse:  I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.Philippians 3:10

Bonus ReadingActs 9: 1-30

As a young Michigan Congressman, Gerald Ford met a gospel-film executive named Billy Zeoli who came by his office and gave him a Bible.  Over the next few years, the two men became close.

Among their bonds was a love of sports: Ford had been an All-American football player, and Zeoli had a ministry to pro athletes.  At a pre-game chapel for the Dallas Cowboys, in Washington to play the Redskins, Ford went to hear Zeoli preach on “God’s game plan.”

Ford was especially moved by the sermon and talked with Zeoli afterward about Christ and forgiveness and what it meant.  The inquiry felt real and raw; but was that the moment Ford committed himself to Christ?

“It’s hard to say when a man does that,” Zeoli says plainly.  “That’s a God thing.  But I think that day is the day he looked back to as an extremely important day of knowing Christ.”

When Ford became vice president in 1973, Zeoli began sending him a weekly devotional memo.  Zeoli sent 146 devotionals in all, every week through Ford’s presidency.  Beyond the memos, Ford and Zeoli would meet privately every four or five weeks for prayer and Bible study.

—Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy in Time


My Response:  One thing I will do this week to get to know Christ better is …


Thought to Apply:  Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on Earth! —Jim Elliot (slain missionary to Ecuador)

Adapted from “The Other Born-Again President,” Time (1/15/07)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.



Radical Repentance – God’s Huge Heart

Prayer in PrisonKey Bible Verse: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  – Romans 8:1

Bonus readingRomans 8: 31-39

As I met with Fernando in his prison cell, he confessed that he had committed a lot of sins.  He just couldn’t see how God could possibly forgive him.  I drove home the above Bible verse and emphasized the complete forgiveness God offers to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.

At the end of our short time together, God broke this man.  We got down on our knees and Fernando asked the Lord for forgiveness.

After his release from prison, Fernando moved to London.  During one of our trips to England, Pat and I invited him over to our hotel for tea.  When Pat greeted him in the lobby, he greeted her with the words: “The thing that got me was that your husband assured me from the Bible that ALL my sins were forgiven in one moment, forever, never to be brought up again.”  He could not get over the forgiving heart of God.

A few days later, Fernando told his story to a group of English businessmen.  “I never would have listened to the message of Christ if I hadn’t been in jail,” he admitted.  “I was too arrogant, too proud.  But I was desperate, I was in crisis—and God used it.”

—Luis Palau in High Definition Life


My Response: When I struggle with experiencing God’s forgiveness, I will remind myself that God’s heart is huge and his forgiveness is unending.

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.




This Fathers’ Day – Be a Better Man!

All of us, men and women know we aren’t all we want to be in our Christian lives.

To help us along, here are some links to a variety of resources to help men grow in their spiritual lives.  Such contemplation might not be a cuddly, upbeat way to celebrate Father’s Day, but it might have an eternal impact that is far more important.

Be a better man

Explore or start a personal relationship with Jesus


Grow in the Basics of Christianity


 Start or become involved with a Men’s Ministry

Learn to defend the Christian faith

Two great sites that will answer your questions and prepare you to answer others

Recover from an addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits, please note that the current website status is not reflective of the quality of the ministry.

Overall resources for recovery, good explanation of Celebrate Recovery


Pornography, sexual addition, related issues


Download an ap with daily Bible encouragements and other resources


Help with internet filters, accountability, online help





Radical Repentance – A Load of Sin

1884 Methodist Hymnal - #532 - O That My Load of Sin Were Gone

1884 Methodist Hymnal – #532 – O That My Load of Sin Were Gone

Who Said It … Luis Palau

Luis Palau leads the Luis Palau Association—a ministry committed to innovative evangelism worldwide.  He’s shared Christ with more than 1 billion people through such avenues as television, radio, the internet, and festivals.  

Luis has authored nearly 50 books, including A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian.  He and his wife, Pat, live in Portland, Oregon, and have 11 grandchildren.


What He Said … A Load of Sin

Fernando Montero had wealth, prestige, power, influence.  Armed with an MBA from Harvard University, he had climbed the political ladder to become Columbia’s secretary for defense. A t age 37, he ran the nations army and directed its attacks against the powerful Cali drug cartel.  Then something went terribly wrong.

Accused of financing the president’s political campaign with drug money, Fernando landed in a military penitentiary.  Prison officials cut him off from contact with the outside world.

Eventually a friend smuggled a Bible into Fernando’s cell, urging him to read Romans.  The book both intrigued and confused him.

During a visit to Colombia, I was asked to try to visit Fernando.  I agreed.  I thought the guards would turn me away at the gate, but to my surprise, they let me in.

I entered the compound and spent 45 minutes with the weary Fernando.  He told me he had read Romans, but said, “I just don’t get it.”  It became clear that Fernando’s main problem was the load of sin he carried.

Adapted from High Definition Life (Revell, 2005)


Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to know that in you there is no condemnation and nothing can ever separate me from your love.




The Benefits of Being in Church Choir

– by Christopher Fenoglio

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
“Many singers in our choirs say that their lives are impacted dramatically by singing here,” says Bill Mathis, Music & Fine Arts minister at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, whose choirs are shown here.

There they are, on the seventh page of the United Methodist Hymnal, “Directions for Singing” from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism:

“Sing all… Sing lustily and with good courage… Sing in time… Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing… So shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

Rewards in heaven? Sounds like a good enough reason to sing in a church choir.

Be sure to add the alt. text

The Celebration Choir of the Poteau First United Methodist Church, which includes ten-year-old Warrick Quarry, sings at a Sunday worship service. Photo courtesy of Kaycee Quarry.

But what is it about singing that seems to be part of our Wesleyan DNA? How does singing help choir members enjoy a greater understanding of how and why we worship our God, a deeper connection with one’s church and community, and even better health?

“It’s natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. They are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When singing in the key of C and they slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of them, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By joining in harmony, they somehow promise that they will not forsake each other.” – Attributed to Garrison Keillor

Better Worship

A common statement about singing in church is “To sing is to pray twice.” Although the statement is often attributed to Augustine, the actual author is unknown. Still, the sentiment is true. Music is an art form that lifts up ordinary text to another level that inspires us and nurtures our souls.

“Music is an integral part of how we relate to God,” says the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, program director of the United Methodist Alton L. Collins Retreat Center in Eagle Creek, Oregon, and leader of the Great Hymns of Faith Retreat. “It is how we understand at a deeper level what goes beyond words, what our relationship is with the Divine, and how we are shaped together as a community of faith.”

Of all the art forms, “music is one of the most easily accessible type of art in worship,” says Bartlett. “There’s nearly always an opportunity to open your mouth and make music together with the rest of the people in that service. Right there you’ve got an opportunity to experience the Divine in a different way than just to listen to someone read about God,” she says.

“Christianity is not a solitary religion,” says the Rev. Karen Westerfield Tucker, professor of worship at Boston University School of Theology, “John Wesley certainly made the case that it is a ‘social’ religion — both in its worship and in its concern for the care of the neighbor,” says Tucker.

Better Community

Be sure to add the alt. text

Singers and musicians lead singing during the opening worship service of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Communications.

The benefit of singing with and caring for others goes beyond church walls, as many community choirs will attest. In these days of an increasingly polarized culture, music can be a common bond between peoples.

“Through music, we can build community,” says Dr. Jonathan Palant, Minister of Music at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Palant is also the founder and director of Credo Choir and Dallas Street Choir.

“We bring people together in peace and harmony. I know it sounds trite, but it’s exactly what we do. In a choral setting, not only are we creating friendships with each other, but the audience can see, between the Dallas Street Choir and Credo, people in different socio-economic groups, skin colors, sexual orientations and religious affiliations,” he says.

“By singing in a choir, regardless where (church, community, university, secondary school, etc.), music becomes the conduit that brings us together in a very safe and equal environment,” says Palant. “We come together in song; everything else (about individual choir members) is irrelevant. We come together in worship, in song, in prayer, to learn and to be better citizens of this world.

Better Health

“We believe singing in a choir and other creative arts can promote healthy aging,” says Dr. Julene Johnson, a University of California at San Francisco professor and founder and director of the Community of Voices study. “We were looking for a way for older people to remain independent and engaged. We knew that to have an effect the activity had to be meaningful, engaging and challenging. The creative arts do that.”

A similar study on the health benefits of singing for older adults is being conducted in Finland. Preliminary results suggest that community choral singing does indeed provide a better quality of life for participants.

Increased lung capacity and greater oxygenation of the blood resulting in improved alertness are all associated with singing. Singing is also good for the brain, especially when memorization is involved. “Singing is of great interest to neuroscientists as it would seem that there is more of the brain given over to the processing of music than almost any other activity,” says Dr. Graham Welch, professor at the Institute of Education in London.

One of his studies involved four- to five-year-old children and found that those with musical training showed enhanced language abilities and memory for words. There was also evidence that taking part in singing and other musical activities improves certain aspects of non-verbal reasoning, literacy and working with numbers.

So with this evidence that one’s health is improved through singing, how important is singing to our faith as United Methodists?

“It all goes back to Wesley’s words ‘Do all the good you can,’” says Palant. “This is the outlet that singers choose to act upon those words. Choir members find their spirituality and their faith through song and through the choral community.”

*Christopher Fenoglio works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by e-mail or at (615) 312-3734.

Letting God Lead – Everyday Sacrifices

Your Choices Make YouKey Bible Verse:  I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing.  That’s the most sensible way to serve God.  Romans 12:1, CEV

Dig Deeper:  Romans 12:2

What does offering your body to God look like in our everyday lives?

Maybe it’s when you sit down at your computer and there’s a message from “Desperate Debbie” with the subject line “XXX: Click here!”  You close your eyes and pray, “Lord, everything in me wants to check this out.  I pray for your help. Lord, my eyes are only for you.”  Then, by faith, you click “delete.”  Your eyes have become a living sacrifice.

It’s when you turn on the radio to listen to music that tells you to go smoke something, drink something, have sex with somebody, curse somebody, and then you pray, “Lord, I like the song.  Everything within me wants to listen.  Help me, Lord.  By faith, I’m not going to listen.  Jesus, my ears are only for you.”  Then you change station.  Your ears are a living sacrifice.

Maybe you’re with friends and you have a dirty joke that if shared will make you the flavor of the moment.  Yet instead of telling the joke, you pray, “Lord God, I confess I want the attention.  I want the popularity.  Help me, Lord, to obey you.  Jesus, my lips are for you alone.”  Then, by faith, you bite your tongue.  In that moment your lips have become a living sacrifice.

—Jarrod Jones in The Backward Life


My Response: How might I apply Jarrod’s devotional to something I struggle with or to a moral choice I’m faced with on a regular basis?


Thought to Apply: The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar.—Rick Warren (pastor, writer)

Adapted from The Backward Life (Revell, 2006)


Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Letting God Lead – Football or God?

Football Player PrayingKey Bible Verse:  You must not have any other god but me.   – Exodus 20:3

Dig Deeper:  Isaiah 43: 10-11

Late one evening in our room at the Steelers training camp, I told Donnie Shell, “I don’t know that I’m going to make this team. … There are other new guys who are looking to do what I did last year—take somebody’s spot.  This is just not going according to plan.”

“Tony, I think you’re at a crossroads,” Donnie said. ” … You tell everybody that God has first place in your life.  Now, when your career looks like it’s teetering, we’re getting a chance to see what really is in first place for you.”

I thought about that all day and then came back to the conversation with Donnie.

“You’re probably right,” I told him. “I feel like I’ve been learning from Christian guys like you and growing. … But all of a sudden, I come to a crisis point, and I begin to panic. …”

Donnie measured me squarely: “All the Lord is trying to do is find out what’s in first place in your life, and right now, it looks like football is.”

I immediately knew Donnie was right, and I felt convicted.

It was the first time I was able to look at football as something God was allowing me to do, not something that should define me. I had to consciously make sure that God was in first place.

—Tony Dungy in Quiet Strength


My Response:  If my neighbors were asked what has first place in my life, they would probably say I value this the most: …


Thought to Apply: Whatever a man seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, this is the god of his idolatry.—William B. Ullathorne (British Benedictine monk, bishop)

Adapted from Quiet Strength (Tyndale, 2007)



Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Green is the Color of the Season of Pentecost

When we start paying special attention, we see green everywhere in all of its differences and variations. It’s the same with the stories of this season. When we start paying special attention to the stories of ordinary lives and relationships, we begin to see the variety of tones and hues of God’s presence.  ~ from Living Pentecost 1 at Home.

Pentecost Sunday was June 4 this year, marking the last Sunday of the Lent/Easter lectionary season.

The Pentecost season begins after Pentecost Sunday and ends August 27. Pentecost, observed 50 days (pente cost in Greek) after Easter, is known as the Birthday of the Church.

According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles praying together on this day, and gifted them the ability to speak other languages, which allowed the message of Jesus Christ to be shared all around the world.




Letting God Lead – Freedom in Obedience

Let God Lead 4Key Bible Verse:  And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day.   – Deuteronomy 6:24

Dig Deeper:  Deuteronomy 6

I was asked to lead an organization that I loved.  I had been in business leadership and consulting for more than 30 years.  It seemed like everything I had accomplished had prepared me for this appointment.  From that experience the normal approach would be to develop a formal process for this company with a vision, strategy, and plan, and then to work that plan.

However, I had begun to sense the need to listen for God’s direction, agree with him, and then act in obedience.  Now, this was quite different from how I would normally have approached leadership.

Over the next few months, I continued to ask God for his direction and listened when he gave it.  His direction came through the wisdom of trusted friends, through the hundreds of emails  I received, through prayer, through time spent in the Word of God, and in the correcting and confirming peace sent by God.

The agreement of our board and leadership regarding this new direction gave us the confidence to make hard decisions, change the way we did things, and to carry on—even when things didn’t go as anticipated.  There was freedom and fulfillment in this kind of action.

—Dan Brokke in I³—Identity, Integrity, Impact


My Response: A time I experienced freedom and fulfillment through obedience was …


Thought to Apply: Obedience is the road to freedom.—C. S. Lewis (British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from I³—Identity, Integrity, Impact (Summerside Press, 2009)



Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Today in Christian History – The YMCA

June 6, 1844: English merchant George Williams founds the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) out of his London meetings for prayer and Bible reading.

Letting God Lead – Unexplainable…

Letting God Lead 2Key Bible Verses:  The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”  So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed.  – Genesis 12:1, 4

Dig Deeper:  Genesis 12: 1-9 James 2: 21-26

To embrace life in God, to experience his presence, and to follow his lead will inevitably place you in the realm of the unexplainable.  You’ll find yourself feeling, thinking, speaking, acting, and relating in ways leading unquestionably to the conclusion that “God did it.”

God may lead you to pass up a promotion because of the additional hours and responsibilities that would negatively impact your family and current ministry involvements.

You may be led by God to write a check that will be unexplainable to your financial planner.

You may feel unexplainably prompted to share your faith with someone who previously made it clear he or she had no interest in God.

You may feel unexplainably compelled to befriend and express love to someone whom most others choose to avoid.

Whatever it is, God wants to lead you into this realm of the “unexplainable apart from him”—so your life points to him.

Paul describes this new realm in these words: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Cor. 2:9, NASB).  Wow!  Count me in!

—Don Cousins in Unexplainable


My Response: One unexplainable faith-step I have taken in obedience to God is …

Adapted from Unexplainable (Cook, 2009)



Prayer for the WeekLord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Letting God Lead – Giving Up the Right to Lead

Let God LeadWho Said It … Bill Hull

Bill Hull has a passion for helping the church return to its disciple-making roots.  So much so that he considers himself a “discipleship evangelist.”   Having fine-tuned his unique perspectives through 20 years of pastoral service, Bill currently oversees a discipleship ministry called Choose the Life.

Bill’s latest book for the serious Christ-follower is Christlike: The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience.

Bill and his wife, Jane, live in Long Beach, California, and are the parents of two adult sons.

What He Said … Giving up the Right to Lead

The deepest sin of my life is holding on to the right to lead my own life.  

I am a high achiever.  I like to be in control.  I enjoy accomplishment.  I love to “go for it.”  I like to think that I have all kinds of options available to me, that I can create, create, create.  

If I want to be transformed, I have to give that all up.  I first confess my sin of insisting on leading my own life.

That is how I got started on the road to becoming a true disciple.  I humbled myself and asked God to lead me.  I know it sounds trite and common, but when you get it, when you understand what it means to choose the life of following Jesus, it is the most liberating experience in life.

Jesus said it for us: “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).  We must choose.

Adapted from Choose the Life (Baker, 2004)


Prayer for the Week:  Lord, it’s easy to say I follow you; it’s much harder to show it by the way I live; help me, with your empowering Spirit, to choose daily to live in obedience to your calling.




Just Say No – The Bare Essentials

Mountain ClimberKey Bible Verse:  “And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life.”  – 2 Timothy 2: 4

Bonus Reading  2 Timothy 2: 1-7

The story is told of a group of people who were preparing to climb Mount Blanc in the Swiss Alps.

On the evening before the climb, the guide outlined the prerequisite for reaching the top.  Due to the difficulty of the climb, he warned them, one could reach the top by taking only the bare essentials of equipment.  All unnecessary accessories must be left behind.

A young Englishman refused to listen.  He brought along an extra blanket, a cap, and a fancy notebook in his backpack.

On the way to the summit of Mount Blanc, the guide began to notice certain items of excess baggage left behind in the snow.  First the blanket.  Then the notebook.  Later the cap.

This epitomizes what must happen in our lives spiritually if we are to win the race.  Every unnecessary weight must be cast aside if we are to make it to the top.  We must let go of the good if we are to achieve the best.

Running with maximum speed requires stripping down.  Even small encumbrances can keep us from victory.  The difference between victory and defeat is often very small.

—- Steven Lawson in “Men Who Win”


My Response:  A “good” that may be in the way of God’s best for me is… …


Thought to Apply:  If you begin by denying yourself nothing, the world later is apt to do your denying for you.
—- B. F. Forbes (writer)

Adapted from: “Men Who Win” (NavPress, 1992)



Pentecost Sunday – June 4, 2017


PentecostPentecost Sunday is on June 4 this year.  Pentecost represents an ending as well as a beginning: the end of the “Great Fifty Days” of the Easter Season (Pentecost means “the 50th day” in Greek) and the beginning of the commemorations of the early church.  Pentecost also gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves the question, “What is our community ‘on fire’ about?”

For the early church, Pentecost was the second most important part of the Christian year after Pascha or Easter.  Originally, it commemorated both the Ascension of Jesus and the descending of the Holy Spirit, but became two distinct celebrations by the end of the fourth century.  (As Christianity became legal, there was no reason not to have as many celebrations as possible.)

Pentecost also became a favorite time for baptisms with its focus on the work of the Holy Spirit within the church and within our lives.  The holy day continues to be a wonderful celebrative time for rites of passage including baptism, confirmation and the reception of new members.

Just Say No – Goose Truth

Geese in FlightQ.  What if there are things I should walk away from, but I’ve been unable to resist?

A.  I mustn’t believe the lie that says I can’t change or take control.  Because God’s Spirit is in me, God’s strength is in me.

But sometimes I feel so helpless.  In late autumn, my family likes to travel to southern Illinois around Horseshoe Lake where the geese are flying.  Each time, I’m reminded of how foolish it is to believe that God would make Christians helpless to resist the destructive forces of sin.

When you travel down Highway 3, which slices right across the flyway of thousands of migrating waterfowl, you see the grain fields the conservation people have planted for the geese.  The birds gather in this reserve by the hundreds of thousands, blanketing the ground until sunset.  Then at dusk an amazing change occurs.  Like huge puffs of smoke, the birds rise from the ground by the thousands and cross the highway.

Why?  You’d think it would be far easier to fly by day.

One side of the highway is all game reserve.  The other side of the road is private farmland where hunters gather by the score.  The old-timers say the reason the birds wait till sunset to cross is that they’ve learned the hunters’ time limit is over at sundown.

Wow, if a goose with a pea brain, driven by instinct, has the ability to change behaviors that would lead to its own destruction, how can we with the mind of Christ and controlled by the Spirit of God claim that we can’t?

          Bryan Chapell is president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri

Adapted from: “The Promises of Grace”  (Baker, 2001)



Just Say No – Margin of Victory

Racing ShoesKey Bible Verse:  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” Hebrews 12:1

Bonus Reading  Hebrews 12: 1-4

Runner Gil Dodds was once preparing for a race.  After a series of stretching exercises, Dodds ran several warmup laps around the track.  Just before the race began, he quickly changed into some other track shoes.

One of the onlookers asked why he was changing shoes.  Dodds tossed to the inquirer one of his warmup shoes.  Then one of his racing shoes.

The man was still puzzled.  There was no detectable difference in the two shoes.  Both looked the same.  Both seemed to weigh the same.

Then Dodds explained.  There was indeed a difference.  The warmup shoes were slightly heavier than his racing shoes.  Though only a small difference, saving even that much weight for the race could spell the difference between victory and defeat.

The same is true in our spiritual lives.

No encumbrance, large or small, can be tolerated in our life.  Not if we’re to win. The above Scripture for today says, “strip off every weight that slows us down.”

Not some, but every.  So every impediment must go.  Anything that would hold us back must be relinquished.

—- Steven Lawson in Men Who Win


My Response: A “little” weight that I should seriously think about shedding is…


Thought to Apply: There are many activities I must cut out simply because I desire to excel in my pursuit after God and holiness. – Wendell Price (speaker)

Adapted from: Men Who Win (NavPress, 1992)



Just Say No – Too Good to Turn Down?

Prisoner of WarKey Bible Verses: Peter took him aside.  Jesus said to Peter very sternly, “Get away from me, Satan!” Matthew 16: 23.

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 16: 21-28

In 1968, John McCain, now a U.S. Senator, was a naval aviator who’d been shot down over Hanoi.  Already held captive for more than a year, he was still recovering from the broken leg and arm he’d sustained during his capture.  He was suffering from dysentery and heat rash.

That’s when the prison commandant made him an incredible offer.  “You can go home right now,” the commandant said.

Can you imagine McCain’s emotions?

But what he didn’t know was that his father had just been named commander of all forces in the Pacific.  The Vietnamese wanted to release John as a propaganda ploy, using his special treatment as a way to demoralize the other prisoners.  But there was a code of honor for the men in the prison camps:  First in, first to leave.

Five men had been there longer than McCain.  And so he thought about it, prayed about it, and finally said, “No. I’m not going home until they do.”  By saying no to the early release, he said yes to four more years of beatings, torture, and hardship.

Saying no to second-best isn’t easy.  But it’ll strengthen your character and your relationships. I t can even make you more like God’s Son.

– John Trent in “Christian Parenting Today”


My Response:  I’m stronger because I’ve said no to…


Thought to Apply:  To deny self is to become a nonconformist.  The Bible tells us not to conform to this world— physically, intellectually or spiritually.  – Billy Graham

Adapted from: Christian Parenting Today (1-2/00)



Just Say No – No Seconds?

No moreKey Bible Verses: You who lounge in luxury, eating the meat of tender lambs and choice calves.  Suddenly, all your revelry will end.  Amos 6: 1-7

After graduating from college, I was awarded a scholarship for graduate study at Clark University.  It carried a stipend that allowed for lunch and dinner six days a week.  Feeling the need for a breakfast as well, I used the little money I had to buy each week a box of shredded wheat, a can of condensed milk, and a pound of brown sugar.  For two semesters I had the same breakfast daily.

I confess it was some years before I could enjoy shredded wheat again, but the discipline dictated by my lack of funds was good for me.  I appreciated my education more.  And later I certainly valued the more varied breakfasts I could afford.

Yet if we can afford to eat lots of rich foods, should we do so?  Long before the medical profession urged moderation and balance in our diets, the Bible condemned gluttony.  Slowly we are learning that a proper diet contributes to our wellbeing, but overindulgence can give us serious health problems.

—- Hudson Armerding in The Heart of Godly Leadership


My Response: I’ll purposely limit myself in the area of…. …


Thought to Apply: Self-control may be defined as the ability to carry a credit card and not abuse it.
—- Anonymous

          Adapted from: The Heart of Godly Leadership (Crossway, 1992)



A Prayer for Memorial Day

Gracious, Sovereign God, Lord of all nations,

On this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings. We offer our prayers of thanks and intercession.

Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish, and for the security of our land.

Thank you for those who have served in the armed services of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.

Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me.

Thank you for a day set apart, not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.

O Lord, may we be more aware of just how blessed we are as a nation. May we be more grateful for our blessings, more faithful in stewarding them well, more eager to share them with others.

We pray today for the families and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation. May they be comforted in their sadness. May they be reassured that the sacrifice of their loved ones contributes to a worthy cause. May they be proud of those they have lost, entrusting their ultimate fate into your gracious hands.

Even as we remember those who have given their lives in the past, we also think of those whose lives are on the line today. We consider especially the men and women who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other places of conflict and violence. Protect them. Encourage them. Bring them home safely…and soon.

Give wisdom to the leaders of our armed services, that they might know how best to deploy the troops in the cause of freedom. May their efforts be successful, so that peace with justice might be established in our world.

Guide those who lead our nation in international affairs. Help them to pursue diplomatic paths that prevent needless conflict. May they have your wisdom about when and how to use the military might you have entrusted to us.

God of peace, stir in the hearts of the leaders of all nations and in all who would use violence to further their cause. Change their hearts and minds. Give them a passion for peace. Bring an end to the pain, suffering, injustice, and violence in our world.

We know, dear Lord, that ultimate peace will not come until your kingdom is here in all of its fullness. Nevertheless, we pray for a foretaste of the future. We ask for the growth of peace throughout our world today, so that fewer and fewer men and women will have to risk and even to sacrifice their lives. We long for the day when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:4).

May your kingdom come, Lord, and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!

All praise be to you, God of grace, God of mercy, God of justice, God of peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords!




Just Say No – Say No to Second Best

Just Say NoKey Bible Verses:  Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”  But Jesus told him, “No!”  – Luke 4: 3-4


Bonus Reading:  Luke 4: 1-13

As I was walking across campus one afternoon, Dr. Howard Hendricks walked up alongside me.  “Hi John,” he said.  “How are your classes going?”

I told him the truth. I was struggling to keep up and scared I might not make it through my first year.

“Can I give you a suggestion?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I answered and waited for some study secret.

“John,” he said, “You need to learn to say no to at least one thing a day.  Even if it’s just a second piece of pie, or some mindless television show, if you learn to say no to the things that don’t matter, you’ll find the time to say yes to the things that do.”

Try it.  

  • Say no when tempted to gossip about your boss at the water cooler and watch your personal integrity grow.
  •  Say no to that extra late movie and notice how much happier and focused you are the next day.  
  •  Say no when that voice in your head says, “I know my daughter has a soccer game today, but my friend just called with a free tee time at that great course . …” or “I know I promised my wife I’d get that chore done, but there’s a web site I really wanted to check out,” and see your family grow closer.

—- John Trent in Christian Parenting Today

My Response:

Today I’m saying No to…. …


Thought to Apply:

What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.   – Aristotle (Greek philosopher)

Adapted from: Christian Parenting Today (1-2/00).



Just Say No – What Tipped the Odds

JockeyKey Bible Verse:  “All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize”.  – 1 Corinthians 9:25

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

Laffit Pincay was the winning jockey at the Belmont Stakes in 1984.  I once overheard a group of men discussing his abilities.  One said, “Don’t ever bet your money against that fellow.”

It seems that Pincay was sitting next to him in the first-class section of an airplane once when a fine dinner was served.  He said, “The only thing he even touched on his plate was a sack of peanuts.  He opened the cellophane wrapper, took out a single peanut and set it on his tray. Then he took his knife, cut the peanut in two and ate one-half of it.”

Even a nongambler like me had no trouble understanding why you shouldn’t wager against a disciplined guy like that.  Pincay knows he must exercise self-discipline to keep his weight down yet be strong enough to manage and control a 1,500-pound thoroughbred in a racing situation.

Apparently, his efforts at self-discipline are still paying off.  I noticed in the sports section of a newspaper that Pincay recently won a million-dollar race at the Santa Anita Handicap.

—- Paul Faulkner in Making Things Right When Thing Go Wrong


Prayer:  Dear God, please empower me to resist all that would dilute my commitment to You and Your will for me.

          Adapted from: Making Things Right When Thing Go Wrong (Howard, 1996).


The Touch That Transforms – Lessons from Feet Washing

Foot WashingWashing the feet of guests upon their arrival was a menial task, normally performed by a household servant.  Apparently at this pre-arranged location for celebrating the Passover meal, there was no servant.  And no one else volunteered.  So later, during the meal, Jesus deliberately assumed this role to demonstrate humility and selfless service—the kind he would soon exemplify on the cross.

God’s Word:  John 13: 1-5, 12-17

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 1 7 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


Interact with God’s Word: 

  1. Twice (vv. 1 & 3) John mentioned that Jesus was aware that he was about to leave his disciples.  Why do you think he did this?
  2. Why did a stripped-down-for-work Jesus (v. 4) clash with his “Teacher” or “Master” status (v. 12)?
  3. Jesus asked (v. 12) if his disciples “got” the thrust of his acted-out illustration.  Do you think they did?  What was he trying to teach them?
  4. If the rabbi—God in the flesh—was willing to perform the most menial service for his disciples (v. 14), how should we relate to each other?
  5. Was Jesus just trying to get his disciples to be nice to each other?  How would moving into the world with a selfless, serving attitude extend his mission after his departure?
  6. Is a sympathetic feel for those who are hurting an adequate response (v. 17)?   How could you step onto this path of blessing?


Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to make you not only willing to serve others in any way that would glorify him, but deliberately purposeful in finding a way to do so.




The Touch That Transforms – Soft-Drink Sell

Key Bible Verse:  “If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of these … you will surely be rewarded.”  Matthew 10:42

Child DrinkingBonus Reading:  Matthew 25: 31-46

While working alone one Saturday I stepped outside for a break.  I heard children playing beneath a tractor-trailer.  One saw me, yelled, “There’s the man,” and started running.

“Wait,” I called. “Would you like something cold to drink?” Four or five little kids followed me into the plant where I opened the soft drink machine and gave one to each.

On Monday afternoon I heard a commotion in the lobby. Walking down the hallway, I heard one youngster ask the receptionist, “Where’s the big man with the beard?”  Turning the corner, I saw 16 kids waiting for the man with the key to the drink machine.

By the end of the week, 35 unkempt, undisciplined, and often-hungry children, whose addicted parents left them to fend for themselves, were coming to my office every afternoon after school.  I worked at my drafting table, surrounded by kids on the floor busily coloring or doing other crafts I’d brought.

Thus began the journey that would change my world.  Ten years after I first reached out to the Cleveland Arms kids, I sold my share of the business to my partner and started Metro Inner City Sunday School.  When the kids got older, we started youth groups and teen programs.

—Terry Lane in Today’s Christian


My Response: Someone in my neighborhood I could reach out to with a kind act is ____.

Adapted from an article in Today’s Christian.



Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



The Touch That Transforms – Salvaging a Bad Move

Boy with BasketballWho Said It … Terry Lane

Terry Lane operates the Jacksonville, Florida-based Metro Kids Konnection, which feeds over 145 children—physically and spiritually.

Terry and his wife, Kathy, have gone from enjoying a six-figure annual income to subsisting on $12,000 a year.  But, Terry reports, “Nothing can replace the joy of having a little child crawl into my lap with a hug for ‘Pastor Terry,’ or for a young man who’s been rescued from a probable drug-dealing life shake my hand and say, ‘Thanks, P.T.'”

What He Said … Salvaging a Bad Move

My cabinet-making business with its 40-man staff had outgrown its building.  So we built a new plant in Jacksonville.  But every night the alarm sounded, revealing broken windows, bullet holes, and stolen equipment.

“What possessed you to build a plant next to the Cleveland Arms?” a policeman asked me.  He informed me that this subsidized housing complex, occupied by drug dealers, prostitutes, and felons, sold the most crack cocaine in Jacksonville.

As I stood on the loading dock one afternoon, glaring into the complex, a crystal-clear thought came to me: If you’ll love those who despitefully use you, I’ll take care of it.

Stunned at God’s gentle command, I sensed him add, Look past the drug dealers; look at the children.  I prayed for days about how to connect with the complex, then bought about $200-worth of basketballs, wrote “Jesus loves you” and “Mr. Lane loves you” on them, and threw them over the fence. […continued tomorrow in “Soft-Drink Sell”]

Adapted from an article in Today’s Christian.



Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



The Touch That Transforms – Going for Broke

Key Bible Verse:  “I know all the things you do … You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”  Revelation 3:8

Couple Working in Homeless ShelterBonus Reading:  Revelation 3: 7-13

Our Willow Creek Community Church has partnered with several churches in Waveland, Mississippi, a Gulf Coast town hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.  Rick Long, pastor of Orange Beach, Alabama’s, small but dynamic Christian Life Church, realized God had opened a door for his Church to walk through in the wake of the hurricane damage.

They started organizing an incredible relief effort.  They even used the money they’d been collecting for a new building.  Needless to say, they quickly burned through all of it.

As Rick said, “Our little church [was] way in over its head.”  At one point they were feeding 6,000 people a day and providing all their supplies and clothes.  But this little Church’s relief effort is now being called one of the best the National Health Department has ever seen.

That’s the kind of Church Jesus was speaking to in the above Key Bible Verse.

The key to our effectiveness is to realize how little our strength is and stay dependent upon the one who has the strength—the holy and true one, the one who holds the keys.  You don’t have to be big, impressive, or well-known to be effective.  You just have to follow his voice.

—Mike Breaux in Preaching Today


My Response: A vision for service that could excite my church would be …


Thought to Apply: True heroism is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.  —Arthur Ashe (tennis pro)

Adapted from an article in Preaching Today


Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



The Touch That Transforms – Riches-to-Rags Story

Key Bible Verse:  “Everyone who has given up … property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return”.  Matthew 19:29

Bonus Reading:   Matthew 19: 27-30Couple Working in Homeless Shelter

In the 1980s, Kevin Bradley was engrossed in the fast-paced, big-money world of a Baltimore stockbroker.  He and his wife Marilyn led a comfortable life.  But God was drawing him away from the rich to the homeless.

He’d seen them weekdays as he walked to the office, and began to occasionally take the people he met to breakfast,  “I got really interested,” he says, “in who they were and how they got to where they were.”

After much prayer, Kevin quit his job in 1991 to start the non-profit Outreach Foundation, dedicated to helping the homeless become independent citizens.  The foundation meets emergency needs and offers the Wings Life Skills Training Program that Kevin developed—teaching men and women how to channel their God-given talents and desires into productive careers.

At first, the Bradleys lived off their savings, but that became tough since they were raising less than $10,000 a year.  “At times we had less food in our pantry than some of the people we were helping” recalls Kevin. Eventually, their perseverance paid off.

Today, with many financial backers, the Outreach Foundation continues to grow, and the Wings program is being used nationwide.

—Randy Bishop in Christian Reader

My Response: A person I could listen to and care about is ____.


Thought to Apply: Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier. —Albert Schweitzer (French medical missionary & musician)

Adapted from an article in Christian Reader


Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



The Touch That Transforms – “Audacious Act”

Key Bible Verse:  Now he loved them to the very end… . he began to wash the disciples’ feet.  John 13:1,5

Bonus Reading:  John 13: 1-5, 12-17Foot Washing

In Portland, Oregon, the homeless gather under the Burnside Bridge.  For more than three years, carloads of Christians from Bridgetown Ministries have shown up on Friday nights to serve these needy men and women.

In addition to providing hot meals, shaves, and haircuts, some of the volunteers wash the homeless people’s feet.  Tom Krattenmaker, a writer for USA Today, was stunned by the display, calling it “one of the most audacious acts of compassion and humility I’ve witnessed.”

These outcasts of society had their bare feet immersed in warm water, scrubbed, dried, powdered, and placed in clean socks.  One man reported with a smile, “I can’t find the words to describe how good that felt.”

“Washing someone’s feet is an act best performed while kneeling,'” Krattenmaker commented.  “Given the washer’s position, and the unpleasant appearance and odor of a homeless person’s feet, it’s hard to imagine an act more humbling.”

In preparation for their outreach, the leader of Bridgetown Ministries said, “When you go out there tonight, I want you to look for Jesus.  You might see him in the eyes of a drunk person, a homeless person … we’re just out there to love on people.”

—John Beukema in


My Response: How might I “look for Jesus” in my community?


Thought to Apply: Christianity demands a level of caring that transcends human inclinations.        —Erwin Lutzer (pastor)

Adapted from an article on


Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



The Touch That Transforms – The Little Church That Could

Small Rural ChurchKey Bible Verse:   And note this: “Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then”  – Luke 13:30.

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 8: 1-5

A Church in South Africa split; the pastor departed with most of the members.  The remnant couldn’t afford to maintain the facility, let alone pay a pastor.  

But God led John to them.  He asked his flock of fewer than 40 to consider what God wanted to do through them.  They focused on the massive Black squatters’ camp nearby that this Caucasian Church had ignored.  Unemployment was widespread, venereal disease epidemic, with a high percentage of residents HIV-positive.

They began by meeting the most pressing needs.  These programs gradually expanded to distributing AIDS medicines, an AIDS hospice, food and clothing pantries, a furniture bank, skills and nutrition training, childcare instruction, medical care, education, and a radio station.  The Church was soon filled with new members, excited to be part of a Church making such a difference.

Then the U.S. launched a campaign to combat AIDS in Africa, including grants to groups already dealing with the problem.  More than 400 groups applied, but only two were approved.  

This Church was one!  The U.S. government now provides $450,000 annually to support its AIDS efforts.  Even the White House wants to be involved with this once insignificant Church!

—Richard Blackaby in Unlimiting God


My Response: In engaging my community, do I focus on my limitations or God’s power?


Thought to Apply: The great thing about serving the poor is that there’s no competition. —Eugene Rivers (pastor)

Adapted from Unlimiting God (Multnomah, 2008


Prayer for the Week:  Please make my life count, Lord, by helping to transform the lives of those who are hurting.



Returning Good for Evil: The Power of “Hot Coals”

Hot CoalsQ.  In Proverbs 25: 21-22, Solomon writes that if you give a hungry, thirsty enemy food and water, “you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  What does that mean?

A.  My “enemy” is almost always a friend, colleague or family member who’s hurt me in some way.  An enemy is like a chisel God uses to chip away at the rough spots in my life.  God uses people close to you to expose the weak areas in your life.

Can a wife be your enemy?  Yes, because she sees the real you that no one else ever sees.  If she loves you, she’ll have to be your enemy from time to time.  Otherwise, how are you ever going to get better?

What would qualify as “hot coals?”

A kind word, a phone call, a brief note, a flower, a meal, a small gift, a letter of recommendation, running an errand, offering a ride, helping them complete a project, rewriting their report, stepping in to save a project that was failing, putting in a good word with their superiors, going bowling with them.

The list is endless, because “hot coals” refers to any act of kindness you do for an enemy.  Your only limit is your creativity.

How will God reward those who show kindness to their enemies?

It’s hard to say.  One obvious answer might be to cause your “hot coals” to turn your enemy into a friend.  Or He might promote you or pour out new blessing or grant you answers to your prayers or give you new spiritual growth.  Not to worry.  If you do your part, God will do His.  You can count on that.

          Ray Pritchard is pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois.

Adapted from The ABC’s of Wisdom (Moody Press, Moody Bible Institute, 1997).



Returning Good for Evil: Stumping the Investigators

InterrogationKey Bible Verse: If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  Proverbs 25:21

Bonus Reading:  Samuel 26: 13-25

It’s natural to respond to life’s difficulties with self-pity, focusing (often accurately) on the fact that we don’t deserve it— “Why me?”  Or we can easily become resentful either toward the person responsible for the suffering or toward God himself.

Middle Eastern Christians show us the necessity of developing a check-and-balance attitude.  I once spent time with a Protestant pastor of one of the largest churches in Egypt.  He’s an expert on the doctrine and beliefs of Islam, the majority religion in his country.  

For years he’s been summoned by the secret police for interrogation, often at the most inconvenient times, such as late at night or just before an international trip.  Yet as he recounted these frustrating occurrences, it was obvious how much he cared for the police and has sincerely befriended them.  

He knows his interrogators by name and is concerned about their families.  He even knows the desserts they like and sometimes, when summoned to the police station, takes them desserts his wife has made.  The police don’t know how to handle his kindness.  

In the midst of, or perhaps as a result of, these difficulties, he’s absolutely radiant and doesn’t have an ounce of anger or bitterness in him.

—- Paul-Gordon Chandler in “God’s Global Mosaic”



Would you suffer for God?


Thought to Apply:

In taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.

—- Thomas Fuller (author, 18th century)

Adapted from “God’s Global Mosaic” (InterVarsity, 1997).



Returning Good for Evil: Corporal Punishment

Praying SoldierKey Bible Verse: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

Bonus Reading:   1 Samuel 26: 1-12

An army sergeant and his buddies were all “hard men”; none harder than one corporal.  But then the corporal gave his life to Christ and was baptized.  He was transformed: no more booze, foul language, brawling or lascivious stories.  The soldiers were first amused, then skeptical, then awed.  But eventually they began to provoke the corporal with insults, jeers, vile jokes, bawdy songs, drunken truculence and threats of violence.

One day the men returned from a long day’s march, mud covered and bone weary.  The sergeant pulled off his boots and collapsed on his cot.  Glancing across the tent, he saw the corporal down on his knees by his cot.  Irritated, he grabbed a muddy boot and flung it at the man, hitting him on the shoulder.  The corporal continued to pray.  

Now the sergeant, incensed, grabbed the other boot, and flung it hard at the praying man’s head.  It struck home, and the corporal grunted and rubbed and rubbed his head and prayed and prayed.

Later the sergeant wakened to find the corporal gone and his own filthy boots shined and polished, sitting by his cot.  That, said the sergeant, was the last straw.  He, too, turned to God.

—- Jim McGuiggan in Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul



What compels you to love people who hurt you?


Thought to Apply:

If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you.

—- Peter Marshall (late Senate chaplain)

Adapted from Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul (Howard, 1998).



Returning Good for Evil: How Lincoln Destroyed Enemies

LincolnKey Bible Verse: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge. …I am the Lord.  Leviticus 19: 18

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 25: 18-42

At his inauguration in 1861, Abraham Lincoln said passionately, “We must not be enemies.”  For many, his unimpressive appearance didn’t match his impressive words.  Some, like Stanton, Lincoln’s political opponent in the election, made fun of his craggy nose and gaunt cheeks.

But after naming men he trusted to his cabinet, Lincoln chose Stanton to fill the critical post of secretary of war.  “Mr. President,” his advisers protested, “do you know the ugly things Stanton has said about you?  He’s your enemy.  He’ll seek to sabotage your program.”

Lincoln’s brusque response: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton.  I’m aware of what he’s said about me.  But after looking over the nation, I find that he’s the best man for the job.”

Stanton, to his critics’ surprise, served the president and nation with distinction.  When Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton stood near the body of the man he had once hated and referred to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Lincoln spoke kindly not only to his enemies but about his enemies.  Overhearing Lincoln say a kind word about the South, an infuriated bystander confronted him about it.  

“Madam,” he answered, “don’t I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

—- John Trent in Choosing to Live the Blessing



Pray for someone you struggle to get along with.


Thought to Apply:

You can’t win by trying to even the score.

—- Anonymous

Adapted from Choosing to Live the Blessing (Conari, 1999).



Returning Good for Evil: Jerk Reaction

IntimidationKey Bible Verse: “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:28

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 25: 1-17

I was away from home and family, working on my doctorate at Duke University.  Another Christian student and I were belittled for our faith.  Once someone broke into my friend’s room; when he returned he found beer cans stacked around the room and pornographic pictures plastered on the walls and ceiling.

On my floor, a group of medical students would regularly go out drinking late at night.  After midnight they’d pound loudly on my door and shout obscenities.  I’d lie in the dark praying, but with growing resentment.

I was home one weekend wondering what to do.  During my quiet time, I read Luke 6:28.  Love those jerks?  I couldn’t stand them, but I prayed God would not only change my attitude but maybe even the attitude of my dormmates.

I brought back from home a box of my wife’s chocolate chip cookies and took them across the hall to the ringleader.  He looked shocked to see me at his door.  “My wife baked a batch of cookies and I thought you’d like some.”  Struck speechless, he took the box, mumbling something I assumed was a “Thank you.”  The bashing on my door and the obscenities stopped.

—- Anonymous in “Christian Acts of Kindness”



What’s a simple way you can show kindness this week?


Thought to Apply:

Repay evil with good and you deprive the evildoer of all the pleasure of his wickedness.

—- Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist, 19th century)

Adapted from Christian Acts of Kindness (Conari, 1999).



Returning Good for Evil: Where There’s a Will…

Last Will and TestamentKey Bible Verse: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven”   Matthew 5:  44b-45a

Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 24: 8-22

An old movie, “Stars in My Crown”, portrays life in one frontier community where a valuable deposit of copper was discovered.  It ran straight under the little parcel of land on which an elderly black believer lived.  

It was the only home he’d ever known.  So when several local business leaders offered to buy the man’s property, he refused.  When they couldn’t buy out the old man, the businessmen resorted to intimidation.  They posted a note on the door that if he wasn’t off the property by sundown the next night, members of the local Ku Klux Klan would hang him from the nearest tree.

The minister got wind of this.  The next night he was there at the house with the old man when the hooded figures arrived.

He told them his friend had asked him to prepare a will to read to them before they hung him.  The old man willed the property to the businessmen – left his rifle to another person, his fishing rod to a third and so on – lovingly relinquishing everything he had to those who’d come to take his life.

One by one, in shameful silence, the lynching mob members slipped into the darkness.

—- John Claypool in Mending the Heart


Take courage as you risk to love others.  God is watching over you.


Thought to Apply: Abashed the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is.

—- John Milton (English poet, 17th century)

Adapted from Mending the Heart (Cowley, 1999).



Returning Good for Evil: Deion Gets Personal

BaseballKey Bible Verse:  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2: 23


Bonus Reading:  1 Samuel 24: 1-7

Deion Sanders recalls the following incident from his life:  I remember playing in the outfield during a Reds game down in Houston, and there was some loudmouth out there yelling at me, “Deion, you *#*!*?* jerk.  You garbage.  You suck!”  

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to take much more of that, so at the end of the inning I ran over to the wall where this guy was sitting, and when I was about ten feet away I just said, “Hey, man, you know what? God loves you. God bless you!”  After that I didn’t hear a peep out of him the rest of the night.

But we had another game down there the next night, and this time there was a whole group of them screaming obscenities and acting hateful, and I went over to where they were sitting and I said, “Man, I’m just so thankful to be here.  God is good, and He loves you too.  God bless y’all!”

As I trotted back to my position in the outfield, one of those guys stood up and yelled at me, “Hey, Deion, you don’t have to get personal!”  That really got to them.  I never heard another word from them after that either.

—- Deion Sanders in “Power, Money, & Sex”

Prayer for the Week:

Father, give me a heart of love for the people You died for.




Answers to Key Tithing Questions – The Widow’s Mite

The Widow's Mite by James TissotThe passage for today offers a stark contrast between the giving practices of the rich and a poor widow.  

In commenting about this passage, The Handbook of Bible Application says, “In the Lord’s eyes, this poor widow gave far more than all the others put together, though her gift was by far the smallest.  The value of a gift is not determined by its amount, but by the spirit in which it is given.  A gift given grudgingly or for recognition loses its value.  When you give, remember—no matter how small or large your income, your tithe is pleasing to God when given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity.”

 Key Study Passage:  Mark 12: 41-44

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”


  1. What’s the biggest monetary gift you’ve ever given?  Why did you give this gift?  What kind of a strain did it put on your budget?


  1. Why are we often impressed by—or envious of—the biggest gift-givers of a major church building campaign or other major fund drives?  What “course correction” does today’s passage offer for this kind of thinking?


  1. List several attitudes that you think reflect the rich in this passage.  List several attitudes you think reflect the poor widow.  Compare the two lists.


  1. If you are fairly well off, what is one lesson you can take from this passage? I f you struggle to make ends meet, what is one lesson you can take from this passage?


Spend Time in Prayer: Thank God for taking care of your day-to-day financial needs; confess any sins related to your own attitude toward money and giving; ask God to help you develop the generous heart of the poor widow.


Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).



Mom, This Is for You

Mother's Day 2This is the special occasion little ones use crayons to write “I Love You Mommy,” Dad slips mom a mushy card on her pillow, and the family gathers for an all-you-can-eat buffet honoring Mom.

On this Mother’s Day, we encourage you to “grab a hankie” and watch a video greeting card featuring real moms, real families and real stories about moms who have chosen to help the world by raising children to be good human beings.

As the photographer flips between a myriad of memories, you’ll hear these words repeatedly, “Without my mom, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”  

Share this Mother’s Day tribute with the whole family.

Enjoy “ A Mother’s Blessing: Real Life Reflections Message.

This Mother’s Day, give Mom something better than flowers or chocolate

Mother's Day 3Better than flowers or chocolate-how can that be?  Flowers are a treasured tradition and chocolate is, well  – chocolate – what more needs to be said?

You know Mom will appreciate these things, but there is something that would mean even more.

You already know what that is.  You know she would love it if every Sunday you were where you are now, with her in Church.

It isn’t simply your physical presence that is meaningful, although she loves to be with you.  What would make it meaningful is if you were coming as a faithful follower of Jesus.

There may be many reasons why “faithful follower of Jesus” does not describe your life today. Maybe:

  •  When you were young, you were excited about the Church and Jesus, but you feel you’ve outgrown it.
  •  You had questions the Church couldn’t answer, so you went looking elsewhere and never came back.
  •  Life is simply too busy and Church never was much of a priority.

Whatever the reason, take some time to consider Jesus.  Here are some websites that might be useful:

Mother's DayAfter doing that-tell Mom about it, talk about it and give her joy that won’t fade like even the most beautiful flowers do.

Answers to Key Tithing Questions – Tithe to Friends?

TithingKey Bible Verse:  “Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be enough food in my Temple.  Test me in this,” says the LORD All-Powerful.  “I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.”Malachi 3:10, NCV.

Dig Deeper:  Malachi 3: 6-12


Q:  Is it okay to give some of my tithe money to family and friends who need financial assistance?

 A:   God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house” (Mal. 3:10, NASB).  In the Old Testament there was a storehouse in the sanctuary, built for depositing the tithes and offerings of the people.  The New Testament counterpart of this principle is that the Church members give all their tithes to the local Church.  

“Storehouse tithing” means to bring your tithes to the Church where your membership is established, your spiritual life is nourished, and your Church privileges are enjoyed.

However, if you absolutely have no other funds from which you can help, say, a sibling in dire straits, I believe it’s okay to use some of your tithe money to assist them.  The assistance, though, should only be occasional and not a lifestyle.  You could actually be hurting them by always bailing them out financially.  

Sometimes, giving people money is not the solution to their problems.  However, I do believe that God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.  Just be careful not to substitute what belongs in God’s house by putting it in someone else’s house.

—Lee Jenkins in Lee Jenkins on Money


My Response: What various charities and needy causes am I giving to?  What percentage of my gift money goes directly to my Church?





Thought to Apply: The world asks, “How much does he give?” Christ asks, “Why does he give?”—John R. Mott (Nobel Peace Prize winner)

Adapted from Lee Jenkins on Money (Moody, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Provider, speak to my heart about giving more generously and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7-9); even during difficult financial times, may I learn from the example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44).