The Ultimate Villain

Sometimes, in the middle of a winter that can’t decide what season it wants to be, it is good to just hear from one of our kids about what our grandchildren are doing. Usually it involves something one of them has done that is causing their parent a little bit of frustration. When we have those conversations it is always fun to remind our daughters that the mischief their kids are frustrating them with, is usually pretty close to something they may have done.

Did I just confess that their frustration may bring me a little joy?  I guess that is probably information for another article. As much fun as the mischief is, every once in a while they come out with something that just is plain amazing.

This past month our middle daughter, Rachel, put the following post on Facebook. Ryan is 6 and is one of those children that you are never certain what he may say. Emily is three and although that sounds very young, I assure you she has opinions and is very willing to express them. We pick up with Rachel’s narration of an exchange going on in the car.

Rachel: Conversation I just overheard in the back seat.

Ry – Emmy you want to fight a battle?

Emmy – of course.

Ry – great we need a villain. The ultimate villain is the devil. Did you know if you have Jesus in your heart He is fighting the most epic battle for you every day? Let’s ask Jesus to be in your heart so He can be a part of the battle.

Sometimes as life is happening we forget that it is really just that simple. Let’s allow Jesus in our hearts so He can be part of the battle. How often do we try and fight this epic battle without our Savior? Children have such a simple way of understanding the Biblical truths. Is it any wonder that Jesus said we must     become like one of these?

Matthew 18:1-5 NLT

“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.’ “

 

~Pastor Paul Parker

 

 



The Damage of Porn

by David R. Smith
Is porn a big deal?

If entertainment media is our moral barometer, then the answer is, “No.” Consider the viral preview for the brand new movie Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Another casual bit to chuckle about, right?

Is porn wrong?

According to books like the popular little devotional, Sex Matters, porn is a perversion of something to be cherished. But what do mainstream teens believe? Some would contend porn is less immoral than not recycling.

So which is it: casual, or a distortion of something precious?

Porn’s Reach
In a telling report conducted by The Barna Group, researchers uncovered troubling news about porn usage in our nation, specifically with regards to teens and Christian leaders. In the ongoing debate over porn, George Barna’s research team discovered that:


Read more...

Celebrating God’s Work in Israel

By Nabil Samara

Rejoice with us, for the Lord has done great things for us and through us!  Since its humble beginning with only five house-church meetings led by five leaders under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Nabil Samara (the first FM minister in Israel), our ministry has continued to grow.  We now have  21 house-church groups.  Most of our house-church groups are in the region of Galilee.

The mission of Impact Middle East in Israel is to reach out to the 1.6 million Arabic-speaking people, more than 90% of whom are Muslims.  Less than 10% of these people are nominal Christians belonging to the historical and traditional churches.  Our vision is to have 65 house-church groups by the end of 2017.

The ministry began in Nazareth, Jesus’ home city.  This is the same city that rejected Jesus when He was here on earth.  However, times have changed.  Nazareth is no longer a city that rejects Jesus but has become a city from which the Good News goes out to other villages and towns in the region of Galilee.  Nothing is far from God’s hand.  Jesus’ redemption is as true now as it was in the days of His time on Earth.


Read more...

The High Call of Parenting

The High Call of Parenting

If you have children, then regardless of your own career or ministry aspirations and activities, one of God’s primary callings on your life is that of godly parenting! This is a tremendously important and high calling! Parents are called not only to nurture their children to become independent and functioning adults, but to impart to them a spiritual legacy. One of my greatest fears is that parents aren’t investing the time and energy it takes to leave a spiritual legacy for their children. The average parent simply does not take a proactive role in building up the spiritual lives of their children. We may invest countless hours into our children’s education and extracurricular activities, but when it comes to spiritual development, we too often allow circumstances and chance to affect how we manage our family life and especially that of our calling as parents.

It is very clear in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7) that the primary role of a parent is to train children who will not only be faithful to their relationships with God but who will also develop their own vital vibrant faith. I’m truly thankful for the wonderful influence that churches and Christian educational institutions have – impacting and motivating the spiritual lives of our kids. Yet, far too many parents expect others to instill the spiritual values their children need. Most parents have a difficult time proactively helping their children grow spiritually because they themselves didn’t have adequate role models growing up.

The spiritual development of your kids is directly influenced by the example they see you setting at home. Kids have a highly tuned “hypocrisy” detector, so if you are tempted to project the illusion that you are a “perfect” Christian, please understand that your kids already know better, and this won’t produce a vital Christian lifestyle in their lives. Rather, it’s much better to intentionally live out a genuine faith in front of your children everyday; one that models what it means to follow Christ despite your struggles and failures. This teaches them what faith looks like as it’s lived out in the real world, both when you are at your best and when you are at your worst.

Today, there is a fresh wind inspiring parents to take an active, intentional role in nurturing the faith of their children. Be a part of what God’s Spirit is doing in this area! Fulfill your calling! Don’t miss out on perhaps the greatest legacy you can pass on to your kids: a life that demonstrates a passionate pursuit of God and love for Him. Be reminded, encouraged and challenged: The process starts with you!



How’s Your Buffer?

discipleshipfeb
Nearly a decade ago, I sat in a Spring Arbor University classroom waiting for my professor to arrive for class. During the wait, I used my computer to watch one of my favorite television shows, “The Office,” which was full of conflict and awkward human interaction. Every episode outlined humorous, yet realistic, situations inside of an office environment.

I’ve wondered what made “The Office” so popular. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter the degree of preposterous situations, the show was relatable to our society and culture. The show began before the work-from-home phenomenon, and most of the country could relate to the daily interoffice conflicts with peers and superiors.

The word “conflict” has a mark of disgrace. When I think of its synonyms, I think of “clash, incompatible, diverge, dispute and quarrel.” However, what if some things that are “bad for you” are actually quite good for you? In the previously mentioned Spring Arbor classroom, I was challenged by the book “Everything Bad Is Good for You” by Steven Johnson. The book offers a radical alternative to endless complaints about television, movies and video games. Johnson shows that mass culture is actually more sophisticated and challenging than ever, but we must focus on what our minds need to do to process the complex, multilayered messages. Rather than dumb us down, our culture can smarten us up.

In his book, “The Ministry Leader: A Guidebook for Developing Your Character, Competence and Calling,” Dr. Rob McKenna of Seattle Pacific University challenges all leaders to intentionally seek internal development. We need to be able to accept the fact that conflict is not “bad.” Children can learn conflict resolution skills simply by playing together. Giving the proper permission to resolve their circumstances is crucial in their development.

The value of play in our lives can’t be overstated. Humans are built and developed through play. When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. When dealing with conflict, people may not take a step back and allow their minds to explore. Play expands our mind in ways that allow us to explore, generate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light.

Read John 17:20-26. The calling is for one heart and mind. Jesus is praying for you (“those who will believe in me”). Read it once more, but substitute your name when you read “them” or “they.”

We live in an unpredictable world. God gives us the unique ability to non-instinctively respond in holy ways to conflictive circumstances. God calls us to respond in ways that honor Him. We have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) to mold and shape us. I like to think I have a buffer. In fact, I pray that God serves as my buffer. My relationship with Jesus keeps conflict from escalating.

Several months ago, I tried to explain the idea of a buffer to my 5-year-old daughter, Ariana. She was struggling with her reactions when things did not seem to go her way. We were driving so I tried to turn the lesson into a playful game: Imagine we needed to get to our destination (8 miles away) without stopping. Almost immediately, Ariana poked holes in my scenario. She said, “Well, that’s nice, but you have to stop sometimes.”

As a 5-year-old, she likes to instruct me on how to drive. As a driver, I can’t accurately predict what might happen around us. I don’t know if another car will suddenly swerve or how long a light will stay green. The only way to keep from crashing is to keep extra space between cars. The space acts as a buffer and gives time to respond to unexpected moves while avoiding friction. Imagine a society in which people exercised a buffer in their lives.

As a parent, I challenge myself to raise children who use their intelligence and social skills to amplify the capabilities of other people around them. My goal is to raise my kids in such a way that when they are adults, they walk into a room, light bulbs go off in people’s heads, ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the types of leaders who will change the trajectory of sin and brokenness in this world, inspire others, stretch themselves and deliver results that surpass any expectation. God is using His children to cultivate new ideas and deliver better methods to activate change in this world and drive innovation. The world needs more people who know how to engage conflict in healthy ways.

 

DISCUSS IT:

  1. How can your response to conflict make it a beneficial experience?
  2. What types of leaders do our churches require?

 

JAY CORDOVA is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.



Just “Knock It Off!”

 

bishop1feb
The Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians on the matter of unity.

“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10 NRSV).

Paul sounds like my mother. When my brothers and I had fought long enough, mom brokered our unity by saying, “Now, boys, stop it! No more fighting!”

Paul commands unity. Think about that. When we are at odds, it’s almost always because one or more of us wants to be. If we wanted to “stop it,” we could. Sometimes our principles, which we use as lofty support for contention, become a mask that hides the truth that “we just don’t want to!” (Now that I see it in print I think that “sometimes” is too conservative. “More often than not” hits closer to home.)

Honestly, very few quarrels and divisions in the church trace back to bedrock, kingdom principles we dare not violate. Instead, they trace to the quicksand of preference, comfort and whim. Paul says, “Knock it off. You can stop if you want to.”

What could make us want to? Not the best question. Better to ask who could? Paul makes his appeal “by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” What a brutal fact: Contentment with (and certainly creating) a fractured fellowship reflects disdain for Jesus. Do we want Jesus to be pleased? Do we desire the message of the cross to convey God’s power among us and through us? Then “knock it off!” You can if you want to. If not, then we’ve “dissed” Jesus and dismissed His work.

But suppose we really want to knock it off. We know that the discord results from preference, comfort or whim, and it discredits Jesus’ work. How do we begin?

Paul’s command literally reads, “I appeal to you … that all of you might say the same thing” or “all of you might speak in the same way.” Indeed, how often our words — our carefully crafted rhetoric, the cute slogans composed for verbal combat — sever the body’s living tissue like a surgeon’s scalpel.

But words can also heal. What if a divided body gave serious attention to what they said? What if they agreed to say the same things? In order to do this, they would have to ask, “What words?” What words are important enough, and true enough, that all serious believers should say them? Surely, among those words would be much of what Paul says in the rest of 1 Corinthians 1.

Let me confess, friends, I’m foolish enough to believe that Paul’s counsel offers a powerful resource for the inevitable conflicts we must face. Sometimes we just need to “stop it!” We can, if we want to, and if Jesus means as much to us as we claim. Then, if we can all say the same right, critical words, we’d find our divisions disappearing, yielding a wonderful unity of intention and purpose.

And if that is not enough, let us remember that the Holy Spirit is present and at work in every follower of Jesus and every community of such followers. It is the Spirit who inspires every good and godly impulse. Truly, we can if we want to, for we are not alone and not without Spirit power.

 

BISHOP DAVID KENDALL is an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference who was first elected to the office of Free Methodist bishop in 2005. He is the author of “God’s Call to Be Like Jesus” (fmchr.ch/dkcall).



Don’t Say Everything You Think

dontsayit

It’s not breaking news that some parents can be downright nasty to their children. Parenting includes the responsibility to verbally reprimand kids. Sometimes, something needs to be said. But how we as parents speak to our kids is important!

No parent is above making occasional snarky remarks to their kids. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We all fall short. It’s just that some parents develop a pattern for regularly criticizing their kids. Constant criticism from parents can do a lot of long-term damage to a child’s self-image and the confidence they need to become a functioning, responsible adult. A sharp remark or rebuke may feel good. It may even succeed in delivering your point — in the short-term. But frankly, criticism is a lousy long-term parenting strategy, and it will never deliver the positive results you seek in your kids.

I have a quick wit and a propensity for sarcasm, and with this amazing combination of skills, I create some really strong statements…that my kids never hear. Why? Because over the years of being a parent, I’ve learned an important key to successful communication and healthy relationships between parents and kids: Don’t say everything you think, and think before you speak.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Still, practicing self-control in what you say is an entirely biblical principle! “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” –Proverbs 21:23 [MSG]

A home filled with constant criticism is a breeding ground for rebellion and negativity. So when your child has pushed your buttons and your emotions are running hot, save the hurtful comment. Give yourself a timeout to cool off. Consider the issue that needs to be addressed. Think about what you need to say before you say it. Then, make an appropriate and constructive comment.

The bottom line is that when you make critical remarks to your kids, you don’t win! You wound your kids and create relational distance between them and you. So do yourself and your family a favor: Don’t say everything you think!

Doug is the senior director of HomeWord Center for Youth and Family. Doug speaks to thousands of leaders, teens and parents each year. He teaches youth ministry at APU, and provides leadership and resources as a part of the Youth Specialties Team. He has authored 50 books and blogs at Download Youth Ministry. Doug, Cathy and their three children live in Southern California.



Why New Year’s Resolutions Should Fail

Much is said about the rush of the Christmas season. Do we even take time to slow down and remember why we asked for new tech from our wife? Or why we gave out gift cards when we didn’t know what else to get our friends?

What I think gets missed is that the New Year comes in with as much noise as all the Christmas songs ever could. Even if we had slowed down to read again about God become a man, the hectic pace picks up exactly where it left off once the calendar year turns over.

And why not? The work our boss was kind enough to let slip in the last week of December will now require our full attention the first week of January.

And those resolutions aren’t going to write themselves. While I have no problem with people challenging themselves to new things this year, I wonder if we should start by resolving to know why we’re resolving.

My fear is that the new diet, the new exercise habit, the new reading goal, the scary business opportunity, the money saving idea….along with a myriad of other potential ideas out there, might all have one common goal.

To get us noticed.

That’s right, I wrote it! While all the resolutions could have good and sound reasons behind them, many of us might settle to just be seen bettering ourselves. As if we could improve on what the Creator created.

I’m not going to tell you I’m resolving to not do anything. I have goals. I have dreams. But I am making it my goal to not set any goal without knowing why I am setting the goal.

It’s a big world out there. It’s ok to feel small. It’s ok to be small.
As February looms, seeing most of us needing to make new resolutions, after our New Year’s resolutions were scrapped, don’t let that knowledge get you down. God made you. He loves you. I believe He has a plan for your life. But don’t ever get confused into thinking that it requires 15 minutes of fame, or even the notice of anyone besides your Heavenly Father.
by Rick Nier

 



Love: It Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

As my 3 daughters were growing up, they absolutely loved watching the movie The Princess Bride.
Often, our living room at the parsonage would be full of teens sitting on the floor reciting the lines right along with the movie. Phrases like “as you wish” and “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” would be repeated in conversations when the movie was over, and all of the teens would giggle.

Sometimes when I hear people use the word “love”, I find myself thinking, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”.

Love is regularly used in the English language in a way that is so far from the way the Bible describes it, that it almost feels like we have cheapened it.

love food, I love my dog, I love cars, I love that outfit, I love that place, I just love that actor. All phrases using the same word to describe a feeling.

In a sermon series starting February 28, we are going to talk about Perfect Love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

What type of love is this that the Bible describes as being perfect, and has the ability to cast out our fears?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to live an existence that is void of fear?

How do I get that love and how can I put it into action?

Come join with us as we explore together what God’s plan is for us as we strive to better understand His word and how it applies to our lives.

 

~Pastor Paul

 



Blueprint for Peace

The limb that fell on author Jim Lange's house was estimated by the crew that removed it to weigh 3,000 pounds.

On an afternoon a little over two years ago, I was working away in my home office. My son had just left for a doctor’s appointment when I heard a tremendous crash coinciding with our house violently shaking. My first thought was that Robert had crashed his car into our house at a high speed. But then I realized what had probably happened. I rushed outside to have my suspicions confirmed — a huge limb from an old oak tree had fallen on our house and caused considerable damage.

My next-door neighbor came out and told me that her house shook as well. Another neighbor bolted outside and said, “What was that? That was so loud!”

Meanwhile, my daughter, Molly, was in our basement, oblivious to all the commotion above. Molly asked me why she didn’t feel anything. I replied that it was because her feet were on the foundation of the house, which is firm.

Jesus spoke of this very thing in Luke 6:48 when He said, “They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

Because this man’s foundation was on rock, the house could not be shaken.

The house in Jesus’ statement is a picture of our lives. So what is it that this man did to build his “house” on such a firm foundation? In the preceding verse, Jesus said that this man “comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice,” and thus cannot be shaken. In other words, He will be at peace, even when disaster strikes.

So in order to build our “houses” (our lives) on a firm foundation that can withstand the winds of adversity, we must:

  • Come to Jesus.
  • Hear His words.
  • Live His words.

Jesus’ last point, putting into practice what He says, is critical. In verse 49 He warns, “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Don’t you agree that no architect could come up with a better blueprint to build a great life?

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

DISCUSS IT

  1. Do you have any areas in your life that feel unsettled?
  2. What is hindering you from:
    • Coming to Jesus?
    • Hearing His words?
    • Living His words?

Jim Lange is the president of Five Feet Twenty and the author of “Calming the Storm Within: How to Find Peace in this Chaotic World”  from which this article is an excerpt. He attends Crossroads Community Church in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.