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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

The Righteous Warrior – No Flinching

Faith in Action 2Who Said It…John Piper

John Piper was raised in South Carolina and majored in literature in college (he’s now a prolific author who still writes poems).

He proceeded with biblical studies at Fuller Seminary and the University of Munich, and taught courses at Bethel Seminary for six years.

But sensing “an irresistible call to preach,” John shifted to Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where he’s been senior pastor since 1980.

What He Said…No Flinching

Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ. An act takes courage if it will likely be painful. The pain may be physical, as in war and rescue operations. Or the pain may be mental, as in confrontation and controversy.

Courage is indispensable for both spreading and preserving the truth of Christ. Running from resistance in evangelism or teaching dishonors Christ. There’s a kind of cowardice that tells only the truths that are safe to tell.

Martin Luther put it like this: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Adapted from Taste and See (Multnomah, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Give me the courage, Lord, to take a bold stand for truth and justice, even when it’s risky.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Effective Prayer

Prayer 11Along with the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospels (Matt 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4), James’ letter also offers practical instructions on how to pray effectively.

Covering hardship, healing, happiness, and confession of sins, James gives us a glimpse into what vibrant prayer within the church community looks like.

And while personal, private prayer is essential to a healthy walk with Christ, these instructions make it equally clear that a healthy church depends on believers praying together and for one another.

Interact with God’s Word:  James 5:13-18

  1. What “hardships” were these Christians experiencing? (See Acts 11:19; James 1:1-3, 5:10.)
  2. How does prayer help believers through hardships?
  3. James encourages us to “sing praises” when we’re happy (v. 13). Why is it important to offer praise as well as prayers expressing pain?
  4. Verse 15 says “prayer offered in faith will heal the sick.” But what are important “stipulations” for answers to any kind of prayer? (See James 4:2-3; Mark 14:36).
  5. According to verse 16, what two qualities produce “great power” and “wonderful results”? How can we make sure we have these qualities?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for being a God who listens to the prayers of his people and ask him to help you pray more consistently and effectively.

James 5:13-18

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

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

Prayer 11Key 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

Prayer 11Key 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 11Key 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 11Key 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 lof 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 – At a Loss for Words?

Prayer 11Key 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 today’s Bonus Reading).

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.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Crank Your Engine

Prayer 11Who 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.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends

FriendsToday’s Bible study looks at only four brief verses from Proverbs. But like all of the adages found throughout this wisdom-filled book, these tersely crafted verses are jam-packed with powerful, practical, and timeless insights.

And in keeping with this week’s theme, the insights go straight to the heart and soul of what it means to be someone who seeks to bring out the best in his friends. So, dig into these four short verses and then put them to work in your friendships.

Interact with God’s Word:  Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

  1. When have you been grateful for a friend’s “open rebuke” (v. 5)? Why was this rebuke helpful to you?
  2. How does a wound from a “sincere friend” (v. 6) differ from a wound from an insincere friend?
  3. Why are wounds from a “sincere friend” better than “kisses from an enemy”?
  4. When was a time “heartfelt counsel” (v. 9) kept you from making a mistake or gave you the courage to do what was right?
  5. Who is a friend you could “sharpen” (v. 17) through an encouraging word, a piece of timely advice, or a loving rebuke?
  6. Take time to memorize one or two of the verses from this week’s study.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for friends who offer you encouragement and who seek to bring out the best in you; ask God to guide you and give you wisdom as you seek to encourage and challenge your own friends to greater godliness.

Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

5 An open rebuke
is better than hidden love!

6 Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.

9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense.

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – We Need Each Other

FriendsKey Bible Verse: I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:4-6

Mark (not his real name) took the courageous step of joining a church group that encourages men who want to grow out of destructive patterns. I had been urging him to take advantage of this group.

When he did so, I told him how my respect for him had risen. But as I looked with the eyes of God, I saw a shadow in his face, a touch of discouragement, even a hint of fear. He needed some encouragement.

“But you know,” I added, “when you read the classics, they stress how once a believer begins taking God more seriously, Satan is likely to unleash his most fierce temptations against that person.”

The relief that flooded Mark’s face was immediate. “Thank you for sharing that,” he said. “It helps me understand what’s been going on.”

Just hours before I talked to Mark, two of my friends had spoken to me, ministering God’s presence and wisdom. If they hadn’t lifted me up, I don’t know if I would have been available to encourage Mark. True transformation is a community effort. We need each other.

—Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight

My Response: Who is a friend I need to thank for being there to encourage me?

Adapted from The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan, 2007) .

Thought to Apply: A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.—Arnold Glasgow (writer, humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Get Real, Go Deep

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, The message

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

If you were to share with a trusted friend that you struggle with watching television shows you know you shouldn’t, your friend could react in a number of ways. The reaction you receive will most likely reveal the depth of your friend’s commitment to you.

Your friend could say to you, “Well, just turn off the TV and pray about it.” In this case, your friend probably can’t really relate to your problem, but he thinks telling you this will help. He might be truly concerned, however, even though he doesn’t really understand. Or he may simply practice doling out spiritual-sounding advice.

On the other hand, imagine the difference if that friend makes a committed effort to help you. Think how you’ll feel if your friend says, “Let’s talk about your problem some more. Why do you think you’re having this struggle? Let’s pray about this together.”

The two of you spend some time talking over the struggle you’re experiencing—and then you spend some more time beside each other in prayer. Your friend is committed to helping you—as long as it takes—until you get through this problem. Now that’s a committed friendship.

—David Wardell and Jeff Leever in Daily Disciples

My Response: How can I best demonstrate empathy toward a struggling friend?

Thought to Apply: We are born helpless. … We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.—C. S. Lewis(British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from Daily Disciples (Promise, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Was It Worth It?

FriendsKey Bible Verse: When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.   – Romans 1:12

Bonus Reading: Philemon 7

To encourage the guys in a Bible study I recently led, I telephoned each of them every week, asking how things were going and how I could pray for them. One of the men was reticent on the phone, often answering my general questions with one or two words. Our typical conversation lasted for only a minute or two.

Was he uncomfortable talking with me? I wondered after each call. Was I annoying him with my repeated phone calls? Did he not even like me? Perhaps I should just stop calling him.

Before making any decisions, though, I needed some expert advice. I talked to my wife.

“I wouldn’t give up,” she said. “Those calls probably mean more to him than you think.”

I took my wife’s advice and called that man again. As usual, he shared little and offered no prayer requests. As I began to wrap up another uncomfortable conversation, he said something that stunned me.

“Jon,” he said, “I just want you to know that I really appreciate your calls. It’s encouraging to hear a friendly voice every week.”

With tears forming in my eyes, I thanked him for his kind words. I hung up the phone and looked forward to calling him the following week.

—Jonathan Wakefield

My Response: How do I react when guys don’t seem to respond positively to my attempts to reach out and encourage them?

Thought to Apply:Q: How can you tell if a person needs encouragement? A: If they are breathing.”—Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – A Team of Huggers

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

Bonus Reading: Acts 4:36, 11:22-24

Coach Peacock’s team had just won a state championship. They were celebrating in the locker room, and Coach was hugging his players right and left. As the congratulations continued, the coach noticed one player in particular sitting alone on a bench, watching him.

Coach Peacock knew that the young man’s parents were divorced and also that his dad was an alcoholic who never attended any of his son’s games. So he walked over to the player and asked if he was okay. The young man responded, “Yes, Coach, but I was just wondering … could I have another hug?”

The experience was a milestone in Coach’s life, leading him on a campaign to become a “team of huggers.” Starting with the coaching staff, Coach Peacock wouldn’t settle for a wimpy hug. It had to be a “bear hug.” Soon, the coaches began sharing hugs with their players.

Most of us would agree that hugs encourage us and remind us that someone cares about us. Of course, there are many ways to encourage others. Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to consider how to stimulate and encourage one another to good deeds. Let’s consider all the ways that we might encourage our fellow coaches, teachers, players, family members, and neighbors.

—Bill Burnett in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How do I feel about hugging my guy friends? Why do I feel this way?

Thought to Apply: There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.—George M. Adams (writer)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Training Partners

FriendsKey Bible Verse: If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  – Ecclesiastes 4:10

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 27:6, 9, 17

For a runner, there is nothing as wearing or as boring as a solo workout. The workout seems endless. For this reason, I always appreciated having training partners. When I ran with them, I was stretched, pulled, and extended beyond what I thought I could do. That’s the benefit of having quality training partners. They push and press us to better performances.

To me friendships are life’s training partners; they push and press us through everyday life. Henry Van Dyke once wrote that the mark of a friend is that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him. Good friends, like good personal training partners, pull us forward. They make us better. They stretch us.

Good friends challenge us when they see blind spots in our lives. Poor friends have the exact opposite effect—they drag us down. That’s why I believe friends are such a critical component to a successful life and are to be chosen wisely. It does matter who we hang out with.

Proverbs 13:20 reads: “He who walks with wise men will be wise. But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (NKJV). Let us be wise people in the company that we keep and the friends that we make.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run

My Response: How am I encouraging and challenging my friends? How are my friends encouraging and challenging me?

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Push Each Other to the Top

FriendsWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max Lucado grew up in west Texas and pretty much partied his way through high school—giving little attention to God. But then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University.

Today, this best-selling Christian author has sold more than 65 million books—including Bible studies, commentaries, devotionals, and books for kids. Max regularly preaches his down-home, story-driven sermons from the pulpit of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church.

What He Said … Push Each Other to the Top

Every Thursday during a Young Life summer camp, four hundred students make the fourteen-thousand-foot climb up Colorado’s Mount Chrysolite. Several Young Life leaders and I walk with them.

On a recent trip, somewhere around the number four thousand, Matthew decided to call it quits. I coaxed him, begged him, negotiated a plan with him: thirty steps of walking, sixty seconds of resting. Finally we stood within a thousand feet of the peek. But the last stretch of the trail rose up as straight as a fireman’s ladder.

We got serious. Two guys came up beside Matt, each taking an arm. I pushed from the rear. We all but dragged Matt past the timberline and to the awesome view at the top.

That’s when we heard the applause. Four hundred campers on the crest of Mount Chrysolite gave Matt a standing ovation. As I slumped down to rest, a thought steamrolled my way: There it is, Max, a perfect picture of my plan. Do all you can to push each other to the top. Was this a message from God? Well, it does sound like something he’d say.

Adapted from The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.

The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading. And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities? How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you? Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.

John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm. It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water. If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour. Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me. I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward. That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power? Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life. You detach your life from your own control. You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you. You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you. You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio

My Response: Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?

Thought to Apply: The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control. His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  – Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower. They earned spending money mowing lawns with it. The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil. If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way. We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down. The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine. If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens. Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth. Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [today’s Thought to Apply]. In a sense that’s what happens. Who we are doesn’t cease to be. But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today

My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be with You?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains. Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions. But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force. You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you. Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person. As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it. Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns. The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal. It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?

Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading: John 3:3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.” Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language. For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory. Although invisible, it was not immaterial. It had visible effects. Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

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

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  –  John 14:18

Bonus Reading: John 14:15-17

Life is difficult.” That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled. The opening words of Peck’s sequel,Further Along the Road Less Traveled are “Life is complex.” Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.” This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way. He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them. These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual man living in a fallen world. You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live. That is, not under our own power. We need help. We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Chinese Churches Forced to Replace 10 Commandments

Chinese officials have replaced the 10 Commandments with quotes from President Xi Jinping in just about every Three-Self church in a county of Luoyang city in Henan province. This is just another in a series of steps the government is taking to systematically destroy all of the country’s churches, one pastor told Bitter Winter, which monitors religious and human rights violations in China.

(The Three Self Patriotic Movement, 三自愛國運動). is the “united Protestant Church”, established in 1954 and strictly controlled by the CCP

It stands for Chinese Communist Party, which from 1949 controls all social and political life in China. Members of CCP should in principle be self-proclaimed atheists. The ultimate goal of CCP is suppression of religion. However, how this goal is achieved has varied during time, and after Chairman Mao’s death the CCP has acknowledged that, notwithstanding its efforts, religions may survive in China for a long time.

“>Chinese Communist Party (CPP), which appoints its leaders and pastors. It is part of the Red Market

In the terminology of sociologist Fenggang Yang, the segment of religion in China including the five associations—Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Protestant (the Three Self Church) and Catholic (the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association)—allowed by the CCP, which appoint its leaders, to operate legally, although with restrictions.

“>Red Market. The CCP’s project was, and is, that all Chinese Protestants should join this Church, but many resist and gather in House Churches

(家庭教會). Protestant Chinese Churches (some may have millions of members, so that the label house Churches may be somewhat misleading, as is the alternative translation “family churches”) that refuse to join the government-controlled Three Self Church. The majority of Chinese Protestants belong to the house churches. Part of the gray market (except those the CCP decides to label as xie jiao, thus moving them to the black market), they are increasingly persecuted under the new Regulation on Religious Affairs.

“>house churches.)

“The Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to ‘become God,’” he said. “This is what the devil has always done.”

10 Commandments Removed 

An anonymous source told Bitter Winter that after the church finally gave into the state’s demands to replace the 10 Commandments, officials still reprimanded the congregation. At the end of June, authorities told them, “The Party must be obeyed in every respect. You have to do whatever the Party tells you to do. If you contradict, your church will be shut down immediately.”

Officials have already shut down some Three-Self churches for not complying with its demands, while other congregations were told they might be blacklisted. Being blacklisted would mean the government would impose restrictions on members’ travel, future employment, and their children’s education. 

This is not the first time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tampered with the 10 Commandments. Last December, Bitter Winter reported that 30 officials inspected a church in Dongcun (also in Henan province) and ordered the first of the 10 Commandments to be erased. This is the command saying, “You shall have no other gods before me.” According to the report, one of the officials told the offending church, “Xi Jinping opposes this statement. Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country.”

Different Varieties of Oppression

Xi Jinping has expressly stated the CCP is pursuing the sinicization of religion in China. To “sinicize” means “to make Chinese.” Per the government’s interpretation of what that means, sinicizing Christianity includes compelling churches to use a government-approved translation of the Bible, school textbook censorship that removes terms like “God” and “Bible,”  and the re-education of Chinese pastors so that their preaching complies with the wishes of the CCP. Fox News also reports that the government has banned minors from attending church, although that can be difficult to enforce.

It’s not just Christianity that the government is targeting, but any religion it perceives as a threat. In inner Mongolia, the state has eliminated writing in Arabic, as well as symbols associated with Islam, such as the moon and star and even halal symbols on grocery bags.

And this is not to mention the overt oppression that is taking place in China against Christians and other groups. The state’s persecution of Early Rain Church in Sichuan that ChurchLeaders reported on in December is a story that continues to develop. Pastor Wang Yi is still imprisoned, and an associate with ChinaAid told the Washington Examiner, “Based on past imprisonments of previous people, he is almost definitely being tortured.” This is only one example of many of how the government has been putting various levels of pressure on Chinese churches in recent months.

Furthermore, the state is committing extensive and troubling human rights violations against the Uighur people, a predominantly Muslim people group living in China. These abuses include detaining, re-educating, and at times torturing at least a million people for crimes like having “extremist thoughts.”

The Gospel Is Growing

Despite the government’s attempts to suppress the gospel, Christianity is growing in China. One group estimates that if underground Christians are taken into account, there could be close to 100 million believers in the country.

Let us continue to remember and pray for people across the world who are suffering under oppressive regimes.

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Who Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.

What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That’s true transformation.

Adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal (Summer, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement

EncouragementThe 23rd Psalm is quite possibly the best loved and most quoted psalm in the Bible. Penned by King David, this psalm provides comfort for the grieving, hope for the hopeless, and encouragement to persevere through dark and desperate times.

As you read, study, and mediate on these familiar words, look for fresh insights that will deepen your trust in your good and loving shepherd.

Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

  1. In verse 1, David claims, “I have all I need.” How is that possible? How do you think David defines “need”?
  2. Consider the image created in verse 2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” When was the last time you experienced the kind of peace and tranquility pictured in this verse?
  3. What is your role in having your strength renewed (v. 3)? (See Job 17:9; Ps. 138:3; Isa. 40:31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
  4. List ways that a shepherd might “protect and comfort” his sheep (v. 4). When have you recently felt protected and comforted by God? What did God’s protection and comfort look like in this situation?
  5. Look for ways you experience God’s “goodness and unfailing love” (v. 6).

Spend Time in Prayer: Read Psalm 23 slowly, letting God use each verse to speak life-giving truth into your heart. Read the psalm a second time, turning each verse into a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or supplication.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Ultimate Life Coach

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The Eternal One will never leave you; he will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength.  – Isaiah 58:11, The Voice

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:7-14

Believe in God’s ability to mentor you, to teach you, to groom you, and to be your life coach. You have heard of the coach-of-the-year award. Well, God is the coach of all generations, and he is offering to teach you to live life as he intends.

God’s inspiring Word contains compelling evidence of his desire to be your companion for life. He is there when you need to grow. When you call on him for a lift, he will hear. He is always with you.

Let these additional words of encouragement inspire you to turn to your heavenly Father:

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What verses from this week’s readings have encouraged or helped me the most? I will try to commit at least one of those verses to memory.

Thought to Apply: Without the message of the Scriptures we would have nothing with which to encourage one another.—Gene Getz (pastor, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Best Guide Ever

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.   Psalm 69:32

Dig Deeper: Psalm 69

God encourages us. We may not be able to meet with a mentoring friend each time we need encouragement, but at any time we can chat with our heavenly Father. He listens to us and promises to meet us in our time of need. As David declared in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (NIV, et al.).

Your Lord genuinely desires to hear from you and develop an intimate, hope-filled relationship with you. Talk to him through heartfelt prayer, and let his Spirit affirm you.

God is a holy mentor. Are you skeptical that God wants to play the role of mentor in your life? Consider what he intends when he says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Jesus promised his support, too, when he stated this in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” These Scriptures confirm the truth that God desires to guide us throughout our lives. Trust him; you could have no better guide.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: In what areas of my life do I need God’s guidance right now?

Thought to Apply: I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German theologian, pastor)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Encourage Yourself

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Dig Deeper: Philippians 4:4-9

As beneficial as the support of positive companions is, we still need to encourage ourselves.

For my own self-encouragement, I have an expandable folder labeled “When I Need a Lift.” I keep my folder in a drawer next to the desk in my home study.

This folder contains numerous letters and cards from loved ones and friends that I have accumulated over the years. It serves as tangible evidence of lives I have touched or lives that have reached out to touch me. It is a reminder of joyous moments when I let the Lord work in me and through my life. Flipping through this folder brings joy to my heart when I need it most.

Perhaps the best part about this encouraging tool is that it takes no effort at all to start and maintain. Just grab a folder and start filling it with Scriptures highlighting God’s promises to you, notes from family members sharing their love for you, special cards from birthdays and other occasions, e-mails of special significance to your life, photos that remind you of your blessings and value, and whatever else tends to lift your spirit when you’re down and not thinking clearly.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What do I usually do when I’m down or having a bad day? How might I benefit from creating and maintaining a “When I Need a Lift” folder? What would help me get the most out of this “encouraging tool”?

Thought to Apply: Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.—George M. Adams (politician)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Nourishment

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Companionship with those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a tool God often uses to nourish us with encouragement. Fellowship with believers is a divine resource that we should not miss.

The Lord also uses fellow Christians who have suffered a hardship or endured a painful experience to encourage others who are going through similar situations. Let them love on you and restore you.

And one of the ways God works all things for good (Rom. 8:28) is by comforting us in our times of trouble and so equipping us to comfort others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NIV).

Whether you start with an encouraging friend, an uplifting mentor, or the companionship of other believers, make sure to regularly feed your mind, heart, and soul with encouragement. Take the necessary measures to guard against becoming mentally and spiritually malnourished.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: When have I been comforted or encouraged by someone who has faced past difficulties or struggles? When has God used my own struggles to comfort and encourage someone else?

Thought to Apply: Often the most loving thing we can do when a friend is in pain is to share the pain—to be there even when we have nothing to offer except our presence and even when being there is painful for ourselves.—M. Scott Peck (psychiatrist, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Listen to Your Heart

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. Proverbs 10:11

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 10:10-14

When we need the nourishment of food, our stomachs get our attention, either with hunger pains or the sounds of gurgling. We tend to respond to these signs of hunger like responding to the call of a dinner bell. We seek snacks and sit down for meals like clockwork. However, we often ignore the longing of our hearts for a serving of life-sustaining encouragement.

When we deprive ourselves of encouragement, our attitudes and self-esteem dwindle. A shortage of inspiration negatively affects our performance and severely stunts our growth. A lack of affirmation shrivels our confidence and hope.

Are your mind and soul starving for encouragement? Listen to your heart. Is it signaling that it is feeding time? If so, take the initiative, and tend to this need.

This is my challenge: find a dependable, encouraging friend or mentor to build you up with affirming words and needed encouragement. Strive to meet with this person at least once a month. Let your mentor’s uplifting spirit feed you with right thinking and positive motivation. Consume that fruitful energy as if you were drinking a high-impact smoothie. Let your friend’s encouraging words satisfy your inner hunger and thirst.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: A friend who speaks words of encouragement into my soul is … Who needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

EncouragementKey Study Passage: Psalm 23

Who Said It … Steve Kubicek

Steve Kubicek has more than 30 years of corporate experience, including 18 years as an executive with Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company—the world’s largest publicly traded copper company. Retired since 2005, Steve leads a men’s group at his church and is involved in various other ministries. He is the author of Up and In.

What he Said … Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

Encouragement spurs on the downtrodden and heavy-burdened like a cool, refreshing drink can restore a weary traveler on a sunny day. Imagine packaging liquid encouragement in bottles and offering it to the masses. Just think of the spirit that would prevail throughout the world if we could all reach into our cabinets or refrigerators and pull out a bottle of refreshing encouragement, the lemonade for the soul, which truly would be an uplifting drink.

Medical science has observed that our bodies require a balanced supply of nutrients for good health and long-term sustainability. When the body lacks an essential nutrient, physical symptoms appear that highlight the deficiency. These symptoms serve as warning signals so that we can recognize the issue and take remedial measures. Does the same principle hold true for the essential life ingredient of encouragement? I contend it does. Our bodies signal us when we need to correct our encouragement deficiency. We receive warning messages when we are about to go down like a sinking ship.

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Live the Adventure – The Christian Life

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

With Judas out of the picture, the 11 remaining disciples gathered at the mountain where the resurrected Jesus had told them to meet him. When Jesus showed up, they all worshiped him, even those who struggled with their doubts. Then Jesus prepared them for the most exciting adventure ever with these words:

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  1. Before Jesus gave his disciples specific instructions for reaching the world, he said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Why is this significant? (See Luke 10:22; John 5:19; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 1:15-19.)
  2. Do you believe the instructions in today’s passage apply to every Christian? Why or why not? (See John 8:31-32, 15:4-9, 17:9-26.)
  3. Why is it essential to realize that we can’t live the faith adventure on our own power? (See John 15:5; Eph. 2:4-10; James 4:4-10;2 Pet. 1:2-4.)

Spend Time in Prayer: Pray for two or three men you’d like to see come to faith or live as better disciples. Ask God to show you how you might help at least one of these men on their faith journey.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Never a Dull Moment

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God.   – Luke 9:2

Dig Deeper: Luke 9:1-6

When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, the average person in the first century never traveled outside a 30-mile radius of their birthplace. These men were planning on living their entire lives fishing the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus sent them to the ends of the earth. He took them adventuring with him—they hiked the Mount of Transfiguration, sailed the Sea of Galilee, and went on long camping trips.

Along the way, they witnessed remarkable miracles on a regular basis. And they did more than witness them. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish and ate it. They toasted the water that Jesus turned into wine and then drank it to the dregs. They hugged Lazarus while he still had his grave clothes on. You can’t put a price tag on those kind of experiences, but once you’ve had them, they define you forever.

The very nature of the gospel is Jesus inviting the disciples on an adventure. To do what they’d never done and go where they’d never gone. Never a dull moment!

Jesus is calling you to the same adventure as his original disciples. He is offering you a life full of daring. Don’t you want in on the action? The moment you say yes, the adventure begins.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What adventure might Jesus be inviting me to? What would keep me from taking on this adventure?

Thought to Apply: I am discovering that in trying to find God’s will and the shape of the Christian life I have begun an adventure so great that its total completion will always be ahead. —Keith Miller (Christian writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Join the Adventure

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  – John 8:12, ESV

Dig Deeper: John 12:44-46

Jesus was the quintessential adventurer. Leaving the comfort of heaven, he entered the four dimensions of space and time. He created and set out on the craziest adventure of them all: restoring broken image-bearers to himself. He didn’t do it with angel armies. He didn’t overthrow the Roman government or claim the kingship that was rightfully his. He was a middle-of-the-marketplace Messiah, who rubbed elbows with the masses.

He hung out at wells and in living rooms and on hillsides and invited anyone and everyone to join him. Jesus didn’t come with an agenda; he was the agenda. He came that he might draw all men unto himself. With his grace, with his truth, he lets us get in on the action with a life-altering invitation: “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19).

When Jesus invites us to do life with him, he invites us to rub elbows with those he loves: the lost, the broken, the misled, and the misfits. Just like Jesus, we need to find ourselves in the middle of the marketplace. If we are separating ourselves from the world around us, we are off mission. And even worse? We are missing out on the adventure Jesus has for us.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What ministries in my church or service programs in my community might help me more consistently “rub elbows with those Jesus loves: the lost, the broken, and the misfits”?

Thought to Apply: We can find and fulfill our purpose by responding to the clear, simple call of Jesus Christ: “Follow me.” He is the doorway to fulfilling our destiny, where our divine design and God-ordained purpose live in perfect harmony. —Charles Swindoll (pastor, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Boldly Go

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  – Mark 4:41

Dig Deeper: Mark 4:35-41

Jesus meets us where we are and says, “I’ve got a place for you. A new life. A new character. A new way of seeing things. How would you like to go on an adventure?”

Sometimes getting a clear view of Jesus is the greatest challenge to following him. Time and distance can obscure him and make him insipid.

Dorothy Sayers said:

The people who hanged the Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality. … We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

I don’t want to muffle up the shattering personality. I want to revel in it, then reflect it.

When we go adventuring with Jesus, he takes us places we never dreamed we could go and gives us ideas we never thought we could have.

Source of quote: A Matter of Eternity: Selected writings of Dorothy L. Sayers.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: In what ways has the church in America tamed Jesus? According to the four gospels, what is Jesus like? What sets him apart from other religious leaders?

Thought to Apply: “Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain; if we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”—Dorothy Sayers (British crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Gather Experiences

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  – Matthew 6:20, NET

Dig Deeper: Matthew 6:19-24

May 27, 2005, ranks as one of the most memorable days of my life, and I learned a lesson that has defined my life ever since. It was the last day of our mission trip to Ethiopia.

The date is stamped in my memory because it was one of the craziest days of my life. After a week of intense ministry, our team journeyed into the wilderness of the Ethiopian outback. We got held up at gunpoint by shepherds with AK-47s, went swimming in a natural spring heated by a volcano, and did a game drive through Awash National Park—all in a day’s adventure. We ended the day worshiping God around a campfire.

That night, tucked away in my pup tent, I was journaling about the amazing day I had just experienced and I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Mark, don’t accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences.” That moment, in the middle of an African game park, reshaped the way I viewed life.

That two-word mantra—accumulate experiences—is my modus operandi. It frames my life. It also frames our family. Lora and I want our kids to get in on the action, and it’s our job to engineer those experiences.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What are the benefits of accumulating possessions? What are the benefits of accumulating experiences?

Thought to Apply: The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped—it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory.—Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Designer Destinies

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.  – Psalm 16:11, The Message

Dig Deeper: Psalm 16

I have come to believe that from the moment of conception, we are being formed with an adventure in mind. We were created to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear life. Our Creator has big plans for us. No settling for mediocrity. Rather, we have a high calling etched into our bones and written on our hearts.

God wants to engage us from first squall to last drawn breath and deliver us into a life he has dreamed for us. Whether our earliest memories are sailing the high seas in a steamship or walking in a kindergarten class by ourselves for the first time, the exploration of the world within us and around us is a drumbeat. And the beat goes on.

We were made to explore. For some of us that exploration is more outward than inward, like Admiral Robert Peary going to the North Pole. For others it is more inward than outward, like Blaise Pascal and his thoughts or Thomas Merton’s contemplations. Whichever it is, we were made for curiosity and more. That design drives us. It shapes our thinking and our dreams. It forms expectations of what life should be and lays the foundation of who we will become. It shapes our destiny.

I would submit it is our destiny.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What specific experiences have shaped my life and faith?

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Live the Adventure – Defining Moments

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

Who Said It … Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. He is The New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and three children. Visit him at markbatterson.com.

Mark and his friend Richard Foth, minister-at-large in Washington, DC, coauthored A Trip Around the Sun—the source of this week’s readings.

What he Said … Defining Moments

Alfred Adler, the famed psychologist, is said to have begun every counseling session by asking his clients to tell him about their earliest memory. They would share those memories, and no matter what their answer was, Adler would say, “And so life is.”

If your earliest memory is flying in an airplane to visit your grandparents, life is a journey. If your first recollection is huddling under the covers on a summer’s night as thunder claps and lightning strikes, life is a storm.

I genuinely believe our outlook on life is determined by a few defining moments when God meets us and we meet God. It’s Jacob’s wrestling match with God. It’s Moses at the burning bush. It’s Peter walking on water. Those moments are more than memories. They are the lenses through which we perceive the present and dream of the future. Those are the moments when God helps us see ourselves for who we really are.

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

Missions: From Start to Finish

Caleb provides the biblical ideal for a “finisher.” Over a lifetime he has consistently served as a tribal leader for Judah.

At age 85, he is still alert and fit. What’s more, he is chomping at the bit to take on a fresh challenge. What a model to emulate!

 Interact with God’s Word:  Joshua 14:6-14

  1. What was Caleb’s role (Numbers 13:3-16) when he was selected for the Canaan scouting expedition?
  2. The scouting party majority was intimidated by the Anakites (Numbers 13:31-33). How did the outlook of Caleb and Joshua differ from their “grasshopper complex”?
  3. Why (v. 7) were Caleb’s words (Numbers 13:1, 30) a “good report”?
  4. How do we know (v. 12) that Caleb was not a naïve optimist?
  5. Why did God consider the majority report a rejection of Him (Numbers 14:11)?
  6. How does Caleb’s appeal to Joshua (v. 12) contrast with the usual assumption in our day about retirement pursuits?
  7. What (vv. 11-12) was Caleb’s assessment of his retirement-age capabilities? What was his ambition?
  8. What (vv. 13-14) was the outcome of Caleb’s venture?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to make you receptive to any assignment He may have for you, regardless of its location, duration, or your age.

Joshua 14:6-14

6 A delegation from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea. 7 I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report, 8 but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. 9 So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’

10 “Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. 11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. 12 So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”

13 So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave Hebron to him as his portion of land. 14 Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

Missions: From Start to Finish – A Nurseryman Finisher

Key Bible Verse: “Let’s go at once to take the land,” Caleb said. “We can certainly conquer it!” Numbers 13:30

Bonus Reading: Joshua 14:6-14

The Sahara Desert advancing across Mauritania is forcing this country’s once nomadic population to its two cities. The National Geographic called the result “the largest refugee camp in the world.” The government asked Impact Teams International for help. That’s how Bill Stoffregen, a Christian nurseryman from North Carolina, landed in Mauritania. Appalled at the intense heat and lack of water, Bill questioned if any cash crop would grow there—until he spied a row of green trees. “What are those?” he asked.

“Neem trees,” said his interpreter. Bill knew that neem is an ingredient in insecticides. A computer search divulged that neem products treat wounds and a variety of ailments. And because the tree’s roots grow three feet underground for every foot above, it might hold drifting sands in place.

Excited by Bill’s report, Mauritanian officials agreed to explore the tree’s commercial potential. The research, which Bill funded from his savings, revealed that $1 million invested in planting trees and building a processing plant would create many jobs. Commercial shipments have now begun. Bill has no doubt that God used him to launch this project.

—Anne Garris in Today’s Christian

My Response: To explore ways to invest my experience or resources in Christ’s kingdom, I’ll ____.

Thought to Apply: What we give up for Christ we gain. What we keep back for ourselves is our real loss. ;mdash;J. Hudson Taylor (English missionary to China)

Adapted from our sister publication Today’s Christian(9-10/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – The Business Plan

Key Bible Verse: “If you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”  – Mark 8:35

Bonus Reading: Mark 8:34-35

Rusty met the Lord as a college athlete and accepted His call to penetrate China’s bamboo curtain with the gospel. Convinced that the best entry was through business, Rusty learned sales working for a world-class retailer in Seattle. Next, he spent two years in Taiwan learning the Mandarin language and Chinese culture. He was hired by an international manufacturer and through hard work, Rusty quickly advanced in the company, becoming its lead representative in Beijing.

Today, 15 years on, Rusty is one of the most respected Christian businessmen in China. An article about Rusty in a Beijing newspaper noted his contributions to the Chinese people and characterized him as trustworthy. His business platform provided the basis for a reputation that opened the minds and hearts of many.

He’s witnessed to thousands of Chinese business people and led many to Christ. He’s supported the Chinese church and helped hundreds of mission workers and Chinese believers establish themselves in business and ministry.

—Mike Barnett in The Changing Face of World Missions

My Response: In what arena am I—or could I become—qualified to demonstrate what a follower of Jesus is like?

Thought to Apply: There comes to many of us the choice between a life of contraction and one of expansion; a life of small dimensions and one of widening horizons. ;mdash;John R. Mott (Student Volunteer movement leader)

Adapted from The Changing Face of World Missions (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – Brief Task, Lasting Results

Key Bible Verse: And you know that the way we lived among you was further proof of the truth of our message.  – 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Bonus Reading: 1 Thess. 1:4-10a

Four university students from Canada partnered with four from Daystar University in Nairobi for six weeks in the summer of 1996. They were assigned to Olepolis, a Masai village in a Kenya area with almost no Christians. Some 80 percent of the population was alcoholic, with women brewing corn beer for their families.

Sarone, my Masai friend, arranged for the team to camp on his family’s farm. Together they built a bridge of rocks across the local river, which annually cut the village off from the outside world for up to four weeks. They also spent hours visiting families in the shade of trees outside their homes, “chewing the news.”

In response to their demonstration of the gospel and God’s love, the villagers requested that another Christian mazungu (white man) be sent to live with them and help them develop their land.

Seven years later, during meetings in Nairobi, I bumped into Sarone, with three elders from the new Masai church in Olepolis. They recalled the impact of seeing young Masai and Canadian Christians living and serving together. Over 300 members, they reported, were the fruit of the seeds the team had planted! Then they shared their plans for evangelizing surrounding villages.

—Randy Friesen in EMQ

My Response: Should I be content to plant seeds, trusting God for long-term fruit, or __?

Thought to Apply: It may be He has only sent me here as a stopgap. Part of a soldier’s duty is to fill gaps, you know. ;mdash;Amy Carmichael (British missionary to India)

Adapted from EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 10/05)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – From Short to Long

Key Bible Verse: It is right for me to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Romans 15:17

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:15b-21

Straight out of high school, Ken went to work for a water drilling company in the mountains of North Carolina. A believer, he not only loved his work, but he also fell in love with and married Carolyn, the boss’s daughter.

After two volunteer short-term assignments in West Africa, he and Carolyn started praying about a way to serve overseas. But with no formal training, God’s answer looked to them like a no.

Then a friend introduced Ken to a young man who wanted a well dug at his farm home. Ken remembers saying, “Franklin, if you ever need to find water where you’re working in Africa, let me know.”

Months later Franklin Graham took Ken up on his offer, asking him to go to Ethiopia to explore drilling wells there. Ken launched a major well-drilling program for the National Evangelical Church, showing the love of Christ to thousands with pure, clean, crystal-clear drinking water.

As international director of projects for Samaritan’s Purse, Ken Isaacs now oversees work in nearly 100 countries. How did he land there? “God raised me up,” he marvels, “literally from the mud, as a blue-collar well driller.”

—Melvin Cheatham in Make a Difference

My Response: I’ll pray about using my skills among the world’s poor.

Thought to Apply: In 1944 the Lord called me from aviation to Himself, and now He has sent me back to aviation for Himself.  – Nate Saint (missionary pilot martyred in Ecuador)

Adapted from Make a Difference (W Publishing, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – A Cyclist Starter

Key Bible Verse: The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old. Proverbs 20:29

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:5

Ted Webb of Uxbridge, Ontario, traveled to Malawi three years ago on a mission trip, and discovered the importance of bicycles to impoverished Malawians. With his years of fixing, building, and selling bikes, the 21-year-old avid cyclist observed people walking downhill because their brakes had fallen apart, or uphill because the single gear made it impossible to ride!

Ted saw a great opportunity. “So many bikes collect dust in North American garages,” he says, “and they’re so desperately needed in Africa. Once refurbished, they’re of much better quality than those typically available there.”

Africycle was born in 2004 as Ted and his friends collected 180 used bicycles, restored them to top condition, and packed them in a container. Ted and three friends flew to Malawi to meet the shipment and distribute the donated bikes to pastors, orphans, and trades people.

They offered workshops on repairing and maintaining them. When an Africycle team returned in 2006, they found pastors traveling greater distances and reaching more people.

Africycle sent more bicycles to Malawi last year and set up a sale and repair shop. The small fee for the bikes pays locals to work in the shop and funds a school for orphans and disabled kids.

—Sandra Reimer in FaithToday

My Response: What interest of mine might God harness to advance His kingdom?

Adapted from FaithToday (1-2/07)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

Missions: From Start to Finish – An Accountant Finisher

Who Said It…Jim Reapsome

Jim Reapsome, at 77, has just completed a stint as interim pastor of Western Springs, IL Baptist Church.

That follows retiring from a journalism career: public relations director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, editor of The Sunday School Times and Evangelical Missions Quarterly, and managing editor of Christianity Today. And oh yes, he’s pastored a Pennsylvania congregation.

Jim also gardens, golfs, and roots for the Phillies.

What He Said…An Accountant Finisher

Howard and Marilyn Schmidt represent a host of Christians (called “finishers” in missions lingo) who’ve chosen missionary work as their second career. In 1966, Howard took a year of leave from his managerial job at U.S. Steel, and went to Nigeria with their three children. There he served as a field auditor for Charlotte, NC-based SIM International, traveling among SIM’s bases of operations reviewing their financial books.

This short-term experience was so successful that it proved to be a long-term turning point for this family. Howard stayed with U.S. Steel long enough to qualify for a minimum pension (about the same as SIM’s allowance for a missionary couple). By this time their children had finished their college educations, and the Schmidts were free to rejoin SIM in 1981, bringing their own support.

The Schmidts 21-year second career took them all over the world for SIM. He installed financial systems and trained missionaries in a number of countries.

Adapted from World Pulse (8/6/04)

Prayer for the Week: Prevent me, sovereign Lord, from placing age or place restrictions on my readiness to serve You.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Christian Witness

Christian WitnessThrough various sources, Paul in Ephesus (in modern Turkey) had received reports of problems in the church he had founded in Corinth (in modern Greece).

These included jealousy, divisiveness, sexual immorality, and failure to discipline members.

This letter confronted these issues head on. But Paul added the section we explore today to place his strong words in a broader perspective.

Interact with God’s Word

1 Corinthians 4:14-17

  1. How (v. 15) had Paul become spiritual father to the believers in Corinth?
  2. Do you think that Paul’s statement in verse 14 rang true? Why should the Corinthians sense that Paul’s tough words were motivated by love?
  3. What special privileges does being a spiritual role model bestow? What special responsibilities come with that?
  4. Paul was only human. So why was it appropriate for him (v. 16) to offer himself as an example to follow?
  5. Why (v. 17) would Timothy be able to help the Corin-thians follow Paul’s example? (See 1 Timothy 1:2.)
  6. If you have children, how are you functioning as a spiritual father to them?
  7. If you don’t have children, for whom might you serve as a discipleship pattern?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to enable you to walk so close to Him that your life becomes an authentic example to other Christians.

1 Corinthians 4:14-17:

14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 16 So I urge you to imitate me.

17 That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

“Watch Me”? – Product Recall

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example.  – 1 Peter 5:3

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

A few days after Carl had finished his ordination council, I was reviewing his performance with another council member. As we discussed Carl’s presentation, I was critical of his seeming inability to quote the Scriptures from memory. When looking for a reason for this lack, I accused the seminary, and I blamed the campus organization he had been involved with in college.

My fellow reviewer listened calmly, and then replied, “But Paul, whose ministry has Carl been under for these past three years”

My accusations were silenced. Carl had been my protégé in ministry. If he seemed weak in his ability to accurately handle the Scriptures, who was to blame? All fingers now pointed at me. I hadn’t been an example of Scripture memory. I hadn’t been thorough in leading him by the example of my own life. His performance at that council was a reflection on the person he’d modeled himself after—me.

The greatest sermon any leader can preach is his life. Paul exhorted Timothy (in 1 Timothy 4:12) to pay attention to his life—his example—first. We are the “types” or “patterns” that others are looking to follow.

—Paul Borthwick in Leading the Way

My Response: I need to work on how I live out the values I endorse in the area of …

Thought to Apply: We preachers cannot expect to communicate from the pulpit if visually out of it we contradict ourselves. —John Stott

Adapted from Leading the Way(Gabriel Publishing, 1969)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Stay Sharp

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: So I ask you to follow my example and do as I do.  – 1 Corinthians 4:16

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:14-17

In the dead of winter, while his fields slept, Monroe Dourte built things. I remember standing in my grandpa’s workshop as a nine-year-old boy, warming my backside at a little cast iron stove. I marveled at his meticulous craftsmanship, especially since he’d lost the fingers of his left hand in a corn shredder 40 years before. I treasured my time with him because of his quick wit and light heart. Most of all, I admired his unwavering love for God. The perpetual humming of old hymns, his spontaneous recall of psalms and poems, and the twinkle in his eye gave this impressionable youngster the idea that hard work and attention to detail were the marks of a great man.

On one of these early-morning vigils in his workshop, Grandpa Dourte showed me his tools. Pulling each from its assigned place, he told me what it was for.

“Wow!” I said, after touching one of the sharp knives, “isn’t this dangerous?”

“No, Bobby,” he explained, “sharp is what they’re supposed to be. Nothing is more dangerous than a dull knife.”

On the point is where you and I are supposed to be with our children. Nothing is more dangerous for a child than a dad who refuses to do what he’s been called to do—be a leader.

—Robert Wolgemuth in Daddy@Work

My Response: How am I proactively modeling scriptural values to the next generation?

Thought to Apply: Precept guides, but example draws. —Proverb

Adapted from Daddy@Work (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Role Model?

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: But you must be careful with this freedom of yours. Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble.  – 1 Corinthians 8:9

Bonus Reading: Titus 2:6-8

When I was in high school, the mother of one of the girls in our church youth group stopped me after the evening service and said, “My daughter went to the movies the other night and was horrified at the terrible language in the film. She had never heard such language in her life.”

I couldn’t figure out why she was telling me about her daughter’s experience unless it was because she considered me to be such a spiritual giant in our group. So I took the bait and asked, “If the movie was so bad, why did your daughter go?” Once the mom had me hooked, she replied, “Well, a week earlier she was driving past the theater and saw you and your date waiting in line to see the film. She reasoned to herself, If this movie is okay for Robert Jeffress, then it must be okay for me.” I quickly looked for the nearest pew to crawl under.

None of us lives in a vacuum. The choices we make have a profound impact on others and therefore on the kingdom of God. They either encourage others to be fully devoted followers of Christ or discourage them. Realizing that provides most of the guidance we need when considering the gray areas of behavior.

—Robert Jeffress in Grace Gone Wild!

My Response: What activity have I foregone to avoid tripping up a friend?

Thought to Apply: We must not deceive ourselves: the eyes of all men are fixed on us.—Jacques Ellul

Adapted from Grace Gone Wild! (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

“Watch Me”? – Memory Maker

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. Philippians 3:17

Bonus Reading: Phil. 3:17-4:1

Years ago Howard Hendricks, one of my Dallas Seminary professors, told us in class about twin boys, former students, who stopped by his office after class one day to talk. During the course of the conversation, Hendricks asked them about their father, a prominent Christian leader, “Guys, what do you remember most about your dad as you were growing up?”

After a short pause, one of the young men said, “I’ll never forget the times he would spend wrestling with us on the floor. Even as teenagers, he would clear out the den furniture and roll around the floor laughing with us.”

The other son reflected, “What I remember most about my dad was, when we were in high school, I threw a paper route and I’d have to get up early in the morning to deliver the paper. Each morning, I’d walk past my dad’s bedroom door and it would be cracked open. I’d see him in there down on his knees and I knew he was praying for us. That’s what I remember most about my dad.”

Then “Prof” Hendricks delivered the punch. He leaned across the podium, peered over the top of his glasses, and asked the penetrating question, “By the way, what will your kids remember you for?”

—Steven Lawson in The Legacy

My Response: Here’s how I’d answer Prof Hendricks’s question: ____

Thought to Apply: Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.—James Baldwin (author)

Adapted from The Legacy (Multnomah, 1998)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.

 

 

“Watch Me”? – Influence Peddler

Christian WitnessKey Bible Verse: But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Ephesians 4:20

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 4:17-20

Kid after kid was being hauled before a judge in a juvenile court, most from one inner-city neighborhood. Exasperated, he asked one young offender, “Where did you learn to do this stuff?”

The adolescent replied, ‘”Rocko taught me.”

When the next case came up, the judge asked, “Who taught you to steal?”

“Rocko did.”

Over the next three days, the judge found 33 juvenile delinquents who’d picked up their criminal skills from Rocko. Realizing that he was the key to cutting the crime rate, the judge instructed the district attorney to find him and bring him in. Two days later, Rocko stood before the bench.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” the judge demanded. “I’ve got a jail full of minors whose lives you’ve corrupted. How could you do such a thing?”

“Eddie taught me,” the young man replied.

In a perverted but potent way, gangs do what the community of faith ought to have been doing all along—multiplying themselves by using the influence of personal relationships to affect attitudes and behavior.

—Howard Hendricks in Standing Together

My Response: An instance I’ve observed of modeling positive behaviors is …

Adapted from Standing Together (Vision, 1995)

 Prayer for the Week: Lord, give me the resolve and stamina to become a living demonstration of godliness.