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Showing posts from July, 2019

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Only Place To StartGalatians 1:6-12
If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.(Gal 1:9) When a publishing company asked me to write an endorsement for a new book, I said I’d be glad to. It appeared to be a helpful effort directed to young people, challenging them to live for God in a changing world. But as I read the book, something troubled me. Although it had lots of Scripture and great spiritual advice, it didn’t explain that the starting point for any relationship with God is salvation through Jesus Christ. The writer seemed to imply that the essence of living spiritually in modern society is based totally on action—good deeds—and not on saving faith in Christ. I didn’t write the endorsement. The culture of the church is changing rapidly. Often left behind in the rush to find exciting new ideas is the essential nature of the gospel. The apostle Paul was astonished that people so readily embraced a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). Wha…

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Getting Involved
Luke 10:30-37
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. (Psalms 111:4) Isn’t anybody going to help that poor guy?” Fred exclaimed as he and my husband, Tom, realized what had been causing traffic to creep down the busy five-lane road. A man lay sprawled between the lanes, bicycle on top of him, as vehicles simply drove around him. Fred turned on the warning flashers and blocked traffic with his car. Then both guys jumped out to help the shaken man. Fred and Tom got involved, as did the Samaritan man in Jesus’ story in Luke 10. Like him, they overcame any reluctance they might have had to reach out to a man in distress. The Samaritan also had to overcome racial and cultural prejudice. The people we would have expected to help showed indifference to the injured man’s plight. It’s easy to find reasons not to get involved. Busyness, indifference, and fear often top the list. Yet as we seek to follow our Lord faithfully, we will become more aware of opportunities to show the…

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HomecomingPsalms 73:21-28
You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalms 73:24) One of my favorite pastimes as a boy was walking the creek behind our home. Those walks were high adventure for me: rocks to skip, birds to watch, dams to build, animal tracks to follow. And if I made it to the mouth of the creek, my dog and I would sit and share lunch while we watched the biplanes land across the lake. We’d linger as long as we could, but only so long, for my father wanted me home before sunset. The shadows grew long and the hollows got dark fast in the woods. I’d be wishing along the way that I was already home. Our house sat on a hill behind some trees, but the light was always on until all the family was in. Often my father would be sitting on the back porch, reading the paper, waiting for me. “How did it go?” he would ask. “Pretty good,” I’d say. “But it sure is good to be home.” Those memories of walking that creek make me think of another journey—the one …

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

The Value Of Friends1 Samuel 20:12-17
Jonathan . . . loved [David] as he loved his own soul. (1 Sam 20:17) John Chrysostom (347–407) was one of the great preachers in the early church. He was given the name Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed,” because of his eloquent sermons. Here is one of his insights on the value of friends: “Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as . . . flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell. With friends even poverty is pleasant. . . . It would be better for us that the sun were exhausted than that we should be without friends.” The story of Jonathan and David illustrates the value of friendship. Though David was hunted by the demented King Saul, he drew encouragement from his friendship with Saul’s son. “Jonathan . . . loved [David] as he loved his own soul” (1 Sam. 20:17). Their relationship was characterized by trust, understanding, and encouragement…

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God’s Heart RevealedRevelation 3:14-22
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.(Rev 3:19) It’s easy to think of God as a divine fly-swatter, just waiting for you to land so that—whap—He can nail you for your sins. But that’s not what we see in Revelation 2–3 in His letters to the seven churches. The pattern of the letters demonstrates God’s loving heart for wayward people. Jesus began many of these letters by affirming the good things His people had done. This shows us that when we do what is good and right, the Lord is pleased. But Jesus is also concerned about the faults in our lives. His commendation in these letters was often followed by clear words of reproof. And while it’s not comfortable to hear Him say, “Nevertheless I have this against you” (2:4; see vv.14,20), He reveals what needs to be changed in our lives to keep us from self-deceit. This moves us to the real heart of the matter—repentance. When the Lord told these churches to repent, He was r…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Role ModelsPhilippians 2:12-18
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault.(Philippians 2:14-15) During a summer of international sports scandals involving gambling and substance abuse, two athletes were applauded for their character as much as their professional accomplishments. A record crowd of 75,000 cheered Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn during their 2007 induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “Whether we like it or not,” Ripken said, “as big leaguers, we are role models. The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative?” Gwynn echoed the sentiment: “There’s more than just playing the game of baseball. . . . You’re responsible, you’ve got to make good decisions and show people how things are supposed to be done.” Every day, people are watching us. As followers of Christ, we are guided by Paul’s challenge to “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the mids…

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Change Your MindActs 26:12-23
. . . repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.(Acts 26:20) One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips features Charlie Brown saying to Snoopy, “I hear you’re writing a book on theology. I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy responds, “I have the perfect title: Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?” Snoopy’s title reminds us that our understanding of God and what He requires of us is sometimes twisted. Because our wrong beliefs lead to wrong behavior, we need to “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). The Greek word translated “repent” is metanoeo, which means “change your mind.” As Paul indicated, repentance does not mean just nodding in polite agreement with God, and continuing the same way we were going. When we turn our thoughts toward God—when we truly agree with Him about what is right—our behavior will follow. Like a car, we go in the direction we are pointed. So, when we truly turn our minds and…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Walk The Walk1 Timothy 4:6-16
Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.(1 Tim 4:12) The preacher was speaking tongue-in-cheek when he complained, “My wife is absolutely unreasonable. She actually expects me to live everything I preach!” It’s so much easier to tell someone what is right than to practice it personally. When my son and I play golf together, I can tell him exactly how to play the hole and hit the shots. But my own ability to hit those shots is sadly limited. I suppose this is what is meant when we refer to athletes who “talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.” Anyone can talk a good game, but actually performing well is far more difficult. This is particularly true in the challenge of following Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to talk about faith—we must live out our faith. Perhaps that is why Paul, after giving instructions to his young protégé Timothy about how to preach, included this reminder: “Let no one despise you…

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Ready To Speak1 Peter 3:13-22
Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Pet 3:15) Lee Eclov and his wife were at a coffee shop in Estes Park, Colorado. At another table sat four men, one of whom was mocking Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus. Lee could sense the Lord telling him to respond. But his fear kept him from doing so. Finally, he knew he had to make a stand. So he walked over to the men and began giving historical evidence for the resurrection. How do we respond when we’re in a similar situation? The apostle Peter encouraged his readers to make a commitment to stand up for Jesus, especially during extreme suffering. This commitment meant not remaining speechless when circumstances warranted them to defend their faith. He said, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Their readiness to answer req…

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Who Is Deaf?Isaiah 42:1-4,23-25
The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save . . . . [But] your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2) A man told his doctor that he thought his wife was going deaf. The doctor told him to conduct a simple test. When the man reached the front door of his home, he called out, “Darling, is dinner ready?” Hearing no response, he walked inside and repeated himself. Still no reply. On the third try, when he was just behind her, he finally heard her say, “For the third time, yes!” Similarly, the ancient Israelites thought God was deaf when the problem was actually with them. Isaiah was a prophet sent to warn God’s people about impending judgment, but his message fell on deaf ears. Instead of being God’s covenant people, who were to bring light to those in darkness and release them from the dungeons of sin (42:7), they refused to hear Him. “They would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His law” (v.24). T…

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Eternity In Our HeartsEcclesiastes 3:9-17
He has put eternity in their hearts. (Eccleas 3:11) I once came across a scene of beauty outside Anchorage, Alaska. Against a slate-gray sky, the water of an ocean inlet had a slight greenish cast, interrupted by small whitecaps. Soon I saw these were not whitecaps at all but whales—silvery white beluga whales in a pod feeding no more than 50 feet offshore. I stood with other onlookers, listening to the rhythmic motion of the sea, following the graceful, ghostly crescents of surfacing whales. The crowd was hushed, even reverent. For just a moment, nothing else mattered. The author of Ecclesiastes would have understood the crowd’s response. He sees with dazzling clarity the beauty in the created world and that God “has put eternity in their hearts” (3:11). Such an elegant phrase applies to much in human experience. Surely it hints at a religious instinct. Our hearts perceive eternity in ways other than the religious. Ecclesiastes presents both side…

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Small Step—Giant LeapEphesians 4:17-24 Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (Eph 4:23) In July 1969, I was at Fort Benning, Georgia, training to become a US Army officer. Infantry Officer Candidate School was intense and highly regimented with only rare moments of free time. Surprisingly, on the evening of July 20, we were ordered to our company Day Room, seated in front of a flickering television set, and told simply, “This is history.” Amazed, we watched Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first human to set foot on the moon as he said, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Our usual curfew was suspended and we talked late into the night—not only about what we had witnessed but about life, God, and eternity. Our demanding routine had been interrupted, and our attention was shifted to what truly matters. All of us need to shift our focus on a daily basis. Maintaining a regular time alone with God allows us to step away from our demanding jobs, break the…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Till He Became Strong2 Chronicles 26:3-15
His fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong.(2 Chroni 26:15) In George MacDonald’s fairy tale Lilith, giants live among normal people. These giants must conduct their daily affairs very carefully. When they sleep, their snoring is disruptive. When they turn over, houses may be crushed under their weight. In the Bible, Uzziah became a “giant” of a man after becoming king at age 16. The keys to his success are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26. His father Amaziah set a good example for him (v.4). The prophet Zechariah instructed him (v.5). He had an army of fighting men and capable generals who helped him (vv.11-15). And God prospered him (v.5). Clearly, King Uzziah became a “giant” through the Lord’s blessing. But after attaining success, he grew careless and stumbled badly. The clue to his demise is found in the phrase “he was marvelously helped till he became strong” (v.15). Those last four words serve as a dire war…

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A Donkey In Lion’s ClothingMatthew 7:15-23
Beware of false prophets . . . in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.(Matthew 7:15) In the final book of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, a devious ape named Shift finds an old lion’s skin and persuades a simpleminded donkey to put it on. Shift then claims that the disguised donkey is Aslan (the Lion who is the rightful king of Narnia) and forms an alliance with Narnia’s enemies. Together they set out to control and enslave the subjects of Narnia. Young King Tirian, however, can’t believe that Aslan would actually be involved with such brutal practices. So, with the help of the real Aslan, he defeats Shift and his counterfeit lion. The Bible tells us that the devil is in the business of imitating God. His goal is “to be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:12-15). Through deception, Satan tries to replace Christ with a substitute. Jesus Himself warned us of false prophets and false christs: “Take heed that no one …

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

When The Ground ShakesPsalms 18:1-6
In my distress, I called upon the Lord.(Psalms 18:6) Several days after a devastating earthquake in the San Francisco area, a young boy was seen rocking and swaying on the school playground. His principal asked him if he was okay, and the boy nodded yes and said, “I am moving like the earth, so if there’s another earthquake I won’t feel it.” He wanted to prepare himself for another shaking of the ground. Sometimes after a trauma, we brace ourselves for what might be coming next. If we’ve had a phone call that brought bad news, every time the phone rings we feel panicky and wonder, What has happened now? The “ground was shaking” for the psalmist David after King Saul tried to kill him (1 Sam. 19:10). He ran and hid. He thought death was next and told his friend Jonathan, “There is but a step between me and death” (20:3). He wrote, “The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid” (Ps. 18:4). David cried to the Lord in his di…

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Behind The Building1 Peter 4:8-11
Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.(1 Cor 15:58) Where we were working was hot, dirty, and it smelled bad. We had traveled thousands of miles to do some work projects, and on this day we were painting the back of a classroom building at a school for the deaf. The only people who would ever see this part of the building would be the guy who cut the grass and any unfortunate person who would have to work on the septic pit. Yet, as the young adults diligently painted away, one of the girls, Melissa, put it in perspective by saying, “Nobody will ever come back here to see this, but God will see it. So let’s make it look nice.” And so we did. Sometimes we sit at our desk and think no one sees our work. Or we stand at a line assembling item after endless item. Perhaps we take care of crying babies in the church nursery. Or we live the best Christian life we can—without anyone not…

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One PassionLuke 14:25-35
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.(Luke 14:26) Nechayev, a 19th-century disciple of Karl Marx who had a role in the assassination of Czar Alexander II, wrote: “The revolutionary man . . . has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.” Although his motives and goals were wrong, Nechayev’s statement shows the singlemindedness of commitment. Jesus wanted true commitment from His disciples. In Luke 14, we read that large crowds joined Him as He traveled toward Jerusalem (v.25). Perhaps these casual followers considered themselves to be His true disciples, but Jesus taught that following Him was more than just knowing facts about Him. He explained what it really meant to be His disciple when He …

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CHRISTIAN EDUCATION FORUM
Word for the Day
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". 
Psalm 119:105
Love Is For Losers?1 Corinthians 13
Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13) You can learn a lot about a person by what his or her T-shirt says. Recently, one of these messages caught my attention as I walked through a local shopping mall. A young woman wore a bright red T-shirt that said, “Love Is for Losers.” Maybe she thought it was clever or provocative, even funny. Or perhaps she had been hurt by a relationship and had pulled away from others rather than risk being hurt again. Either way, the T-shirt got me thinking. Is love for losers? The fact is, when we love, we take risks. People could very well hurt us, disappoint us, or even leave us. Love can lead to loss. The Bible, though, challenges us to higher ground in loving others. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes what it means to live out God’s kind of love. T…

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Not Saying GoodbyePhilippians 4:1-9
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9) Francis Allen led me to Jesus, and now it was nearly time for Francis to meet Jesus face to face. I was at his home as it grew time for him to say goodbye. I wanted to say something memorable and meaningful. For nearly an hour I stood by his bed. He laughed hard at the stories I told on myself. Then he got tired, we got serious, and he spent his energy rounding off some rough edges he still saw in my life. I listened, even as I tried to sort out how to say goodbye. He stopped me before I got the chance. “You remember, Randy, what I’ve always told you. We have nothing to fear from the story of life because we know how it ends. I’m not afraid. You go do what I’ve taught you.” Those challenging words reminded me of what the apostle Paul said to the believers in Philippi: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw …