Readiness and Renewal

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At the midpoint of my college career, I overlooked a great need of change. During the first few years of undergraduate school, I had surrounded myself with friends who influenced me in a way that seemed completely healthy. It took me two years to realize it was not healthy at all. They had instilled in me the desire to break rules and feel no remorse along the way. I chose to conform to a lifestyle because it seemed different and more exciting than anything I had ever known.

Attending a small Christian college made it easy to take a negative stance on the administration. With the hefty amount of rules set in place, I felt as though I had all authoritative eyes on me. I viewed my professors and resident assistants as my babysitters who all watched and waited for me to slip up so I could be punished. As much as I loved breaking rules, I hated getting into trouble.

After those two years, I decided I would transfer to a public university where I would find more freedom. After all, that is what my friends were doing, and I could not imagine being left behind at private school. The people I cared about most were dragging me along with them. While they were not necessarily leading me away from God, they were indeed pulling me away from the place where I would soon find renewal.


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Don’t Panic, Start Again

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How worried should you be about your local church? Do any of these represent your church?

  • People are a little discouraged.
  • It’s hard to get volunteers.
  • Not many new folks show up.
  • When new people do come, they don’t come back.
  • Everybody in church knows everybody.
  • The problem isn’t a lack of vision; it’s too many different visions.
  • Much attention is paid to minor decisions.
  • Financial pressures block every attempt to innovate.
  • The purpose statement that hangs on the wall of your church doesn’t represent what really
  • The age of those attending church is older than the community around it.
  • We seem to love our way of doing things more than we love lost people.
  • You (yes, even you) have wondered about switching churches.

How did you do on this quiz? Did you check more than half of the boxes? If you did, your church might need to recalibrate. Did you check them all? You definitely need to recalibrate!


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Make the Serious Choice to Have Fun in Your Marriage

By Jim Burns and Doug Fields

 

There’s no doubt you’ve heard the expression “Laughter is good medicine.” That same idea is also found in Scripture: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT) We believe with all our hearts that this is also a truism for marriage. This may sound like an oversimplification, but couples who have fun, play, and laugh together are the same couples who enjoy a deep and gratifying relational connection.

Marriage researchers report that strong emotional connections are more often the result of fun rather than from checking off the “to do” list or telling one another what’s wrong with the relationship. We’re not sure how much those researchers got paid to uncover that learning, but you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the truth behind their discovery. Fun is fun! When fun is evident in a marriage, couples communicate more effectively. You want your spouse to talk more? Then have more fun!


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Let’s Recalibrate!

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Some time ago, my wife, Lavone, and I were driving somewhere, not on the interstate but on a two-lane highway through the countryside. We came up over a bluff, and, immediately before us, we saw an absolutely lovely country church. It struck us as a perfect model for those idyllic country church paintings you see from time to time. As we drew nearer, however, we were stunned to find it was not a church at all, though it had been once. Now the sign outside read, “Antiques!” From a distance, it looked picture-perfect. Up close, it turned out to be a place to browse and buy old stuff (some would say, “junk”).

Once I was in Houston for a church leaders conference and had an opportunity to interact with a number of colleagues and friends. We stayed at a nice hotel downtown with a plush lobby and glass elevators to lift us to our rooms. After one session, a friend and I walked to the elevator to return to our rooms. As we entered the elevator and the doors closed, we were having a stimulating conversation, sharing our concerns and joys. Our fellowship deepened and continued. Indeed, only after several minutes of animated dialogue, did we realize neither of us had pushed a button. There we were in the glass elevator, closed to all but us, having a delightful time together in the full view of Houston but going absolutely nowhere. We were like too many churches are: small, warm, exclusive clubs not moving in any direction in the full view of the world.


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Going in the Direction of Your Purpose

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After high school, I left home for the first time and went into the Navy. I didn’t need to pack much to go, and the Navy taught me my purpose for that time of my life. After military service and wild living, however, I came back home to my parents’ house.

Sometimes you must relaunch at least three times. I remember when I relaunched and moved into my first apartment. Mom folded my clothes and assisted in packing my suitcase to be nice and neat. She bought curtains and helped decorate the apartment. Parents typically do this on the first and second launch, such as college and your first apartment.

Sometimes life gets hard, and you change directions and return home one more time to get back on your feet. On that third relaunch, you may have to go back home when your parents are enjoying their empty nest. They may say, “This is the last time, and when you leave this time, pack your own bags by yourself because we already taught you how to pack for life!”

My point is “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). While on earth, you might mess up a few times, but don’t mess up your purpose for living. Don’t reject the grace of God and His gift of eternal life, because there is a time limit to get right with God.

There’s an urgency for you to fulfill your purpose.


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Where I Messed Up

by Jonathan McKee

 
 

Learning from Past Parenting Mistakes

(The following is an exclusive excerpt from Jonathan McKee’s brand new book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, released this week.)

Most parents don’t advertise, “Here’s where I messed up!

It’s embarrassing!

So they keep it to themselves. Sadly, this keeps other parents from learning from each other’s mistakes.

What a missed opportunity!

In my travels, I occasionally encountered settings where parents felt safe getting vulnerable with each other, sharing mistakes and asking for prayer and counsel. Most of these venues stimulated others to share similar struggles, and even humble advice, “Here’s what I learned.”

People were hungry for this kind of counsel. I know I was. I loved hearing wisdom from more experienced parents. “I tried this with my son and it didn’t work.”

So this prompted me to begin asking parents:


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Mosaix Strengthens Multiethnic Church

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Free Methodists played a key role as more than 1,200 people gathered Nov. 1–3 at NorthWood Church near Dallas, Texas, for the Mosaix Multiethnic Church Conference.

The Free Methodist Church – USA was a gold sponsor of the conference that occurs every three years. A Free Methodist video played repeatedly between conference sessions. Each conference attendee received a copy of Light + Life Publishing’s “Multiply Ministry: The Mustard Seed Tribe” book by conference attendee (and 2013 speaker) Larry Walkemeyer, a superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California and the lead pastor of Light & Life Christian Fellowship in Long Beach. Mosaix attracted pastors and lay members of the Oregon, River, Southern California and Wabash conferences.

Free Methodists received prominent speaking spots among well-known pastors and authors such as Matt Chandler, Wilfredo De Jesús, Miles McPherson and Ed Stetzer. Bishop Matthew Thomas shared a brief history of the Free Methodist Church. While some participating denominations had to repent of past support for slavery and segregation, Thomas told how Free Methodists have a long history as a “multicultural, multiracial movement” supporting freedom, equality and unity. “We were birthed as an abolition movement,” he said.


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The Recalibrating Martins

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While editing this issue and considering its “change of direction” theme, I thought about a couple of my favorite historical figures who have a name and much more in common. In the following pages, you’ll find multiple references to “recalibration,” and these two men became great recalibrators who changed the directions of both the church and the society of their times by advocating for needed changes.

Martin Luther first made news in 1517 by posting his “95 Theses” on a church door (Facebook didn’t exist yet) in Germany, and he’s still a big deal. He’s pictured on the cover of the January/February issue of Christianity Today magazine that proclaims “his Reformation still looks pretty great at 500.” He’s even popular in the toy world. The toymaker Playmobil had its fastest-selling item in its four-decade history when it created a Luther figurine in 2015.


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Parents, Stop Idolizing Your Children

by Jeremy Bell
 
 
 
Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.(Leviticus 19:4)

We read these prohibitions against idolatry, and too often we quickly pass over them. After all, idols are nothing more than man-made stone statues or carved pieces of wood, right? While idols can be created by human hands, idol worship is far more pervasive and serious. Idol worship is dangerous because an idol is anything we elevate and worship above God in our hearts.

Idols come in many different shapes and forms. Some idols are made of wood. Others are made of metal. But in western culture, some idols are even made of flesh and blood. Because in America, we’re tempted to idolize our children.

You may be thinking — correctly — that the Bible teaches children are a blessing from God. Children indeed are a blessing (cf. Psalm 127:3-5). Children are not the problem, and having children is not the problem. However, when we elevate children from a

good thing to be celebrated to a god

thing to be worshiped, we begin to dip into the dangerous waters of idol worship.

Many of us have been swimming in these dangerous waters, and we are not even aware of it. Here are four symptoms of a heart that has idolized children.


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How Should Christians Respond to President Trump

by Nathaniel Williams
 
 

Today marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. Donald Trump officially becomes the 45th President of the United States.

So far, Americans have responded to President Trump with everything from glowing adulation to outright contempt. As Christians, everything we say and do should be guided by scripture — including how we react to our elected leaders. How, then, should Christians respond to President Trump?

1. Pray for President Trump.

As President Trump begins one of the world’s most difficult jobs, Christians have a God-given responsibility to pray for him. Paul explains the importance of praying for our leaders in his letter to Timothy. He writes,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

As Christians, we need to heed Paul’s words to pray for President Trump and our elected leaders. Pray that President Trump would grow in wisdom and that he would surround himself with wise counsel. Pray that he would be a man of integrity, fearing God more than men. Pray for a safe, peaceful transition of power. And, most importantly, pray that he would repent of his sins and believe in Christ, if he has not done so already.

Play an active role in reweaving the social fabric that was torn by the 2016 election.


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