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Technology Partners

Important Note: The ShopWELS program is being discontinued effective January 1, 2019. However, we still retain strong relationships with select technology partners listed here. Some other non-technology vendor relationships also exist and can be accessed through different areas of ministry. For instance, Enterprise and Church Mutual information can be obtained through the Finance office.

AT&T Wireless

AT&T has designed an exclusive wireless program just for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. WELS’ organizations and members can get great discounts on AT&T products and services as well. Discounts also exist for residential or commercial internet and phone options including AT&T Uverse, Wireless Home Phone, and Fiber Optics. Please reach out to our account representative on their product page for more information or to sign up.

AT&T Wireless Benefits:

  • 25% discount on eligible services (i.e. primary line, most features of $25 value or higher). NOT eligible: features under $25 value, family messaging, additional lines i.e. $9.99, and unlimited talk plans.
  • Devices are much cheaper than the retail environment. (Order devices through the AT&T WELS website link and get devices starting as low as FREE on smartphones and other data and messaging devices.)

Concordia Technology Solutions

Concordia Technology Solutions (CTS) offers web and Windows-based church management software options for churches. They provide the tools they need and the flexibility they want to manage membership and financial information.

CTS believes technology should not transform ministry but rather do the things people don’t have to do so church workers can focus on the things only they can and should do. They believe church management software should help churches be efficient in the office and effective in the mission field—being a “high-touch” ministry in a “high-tech, low-touch” world.

Three of Concordia Technology Solutions’ products recommended are Shepherd’s Staff, Church360° Members, and Church360° Ledger. Find more information about each of these solutions on their product page.

FinalWeb

WELS has partnered with FinalWeb to provide a web hosting and content management solution. The relationship provides a low-cost service that allows your organization to quickly and easily produce a professional looking website. Perhaps the greatest advantage that this solution provides, however, is your ability to use the content management tools that come with your monthly subscription. These tools allow users of all levels to add, edit, and manage your website content all from a web browser. No programming experience or HTML knowledge is required. This concept will allow more people within your organization to get involved with keeping your website’s content fresh and relevant. For more information on web hosting and their other online solutions, visit their product page.

Troxell Solutions

Troxell Solutions has solutions for every room in a church or school. Whether updating one room or standardizing an entire building, Troxell Solutions partners with churches and schools to ensure the best quality technology at prices to fit your budget, backed by outstanding service and support. To find out more about their solutions and to contact them, visit their product page.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless offers exclusive savings for Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod organizations. This means you’ll get access to a reliable wireless network, plus great deals on calling plans and the latest phones and accessories.

To be eligible for the discounts provided by Verizon Wireless you must currently be employed at a WELS congregation, school, affiliate, or entity.

Benefits:

  • Save up to 22% off your Verizon Wireless monthly access fees (excluding the Verizon Unlimited plan).
  • Device payment agreement on eligible calling plans $34.99 or higher required.
  • Get 25% off eligible Verizon Wireless accessories.
  • Waived activation fee on a device payment agreement.

To find out more about their solutions and to contact them, visit their product page.

Good Digital Calendar Stewardship

Just a quick thought today on time stewardship. More and more the demands on our time stack up, almost to the point that we would struggle to function without our digital calendars. They are so handy, especially if you have a smartphone that can display your calendar and allow you manage it from the palm of your hand.

But just knowing where to be when and with who isn’t enough. Yes, your calendar can keep track of all that for you, and even remind you when to get going. Yet the tough stewardship challenge has to do with those meetings that sometimes fill it. I won’t dive into a list of all the meeting management or prep tips that are out there. Perhaps another day. Today I want to just offer up one little one that can make a world of difference in making your meetings more efficient — calendar attachments.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…

Ephesians 5:15-16

Most digital calendar tools allow you to attach documents to individual events. For example, Google Calendar, under the “more options” button in the create event window, allows the upload of almost any kind of document or links to Google Docs right into the meeting entry. Where I’ve found this to be particularly useful is for meeting agendas, reports or other documents that I know I’ll want “at the ready” in prep for or actually during the meeting. I don’t want to have to hunt around different file folders, emails or cloud services for relevant meeting materials. Having to look in only one place, i.e. your calendar entry, is a huge time-saver and stress reliever. If you “invite” or “share” the meeting with other attendees, they too would have access to the same meeting materials. You can even update this over time as more materials become available, avoiding the dreaded string of emails that are sometimes necessary to get everybody all the stuff. If a document get’s updated, especially if it’s a Google Doc, then everybody is going to be able to grab the latest copy just by opening the meeting invite/entry. Sweet.

I recorded a quick 3 minute demo of how this is done in Google Calendar. If you aren’t into Google Calendar, just check whatever tool you use for similar functionality.

Christians Under Construction – Week 23

Galatians 3:27 “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.”

Mary and her mother Marilyn were walking past the many clothing stores at the local mall. Marilyn, now a middle-aged mother, could remember the days of bell bottoms and platform shoes, long hair and enormous hoop earrings. She had been in high school at the time and almost felt like she was again, as those same styles were draped over the lifeless manikins in the store windows. She was both intrigued and amused by the rebirth of that generation’s fashions. She had worn them once, but thought better of trying to do it again. She remembered sage advise from her mother who said, “If you can remember when they were in style the first time, you’re too old to wear them now.”

As Marilyn tried to explain to her daughter how these clothes had been very popular when she was a girl, Mary couldn’t quite understand it all, but nodded and said, “They look pretty cool mom.” Mom responded with a smile, “You mean groovy?”

For many, clothes make a “statement.” Sometimes that statement is anti-establishment, like it was in the 60’s and 70’s. The fashion industry is adept at providing clothes that allow people to make statements. Clothes are a personal thing. They say something about you.

Our Bible reading today is also talking about clothes – spiritual clothes. Like clothes made of fabric, our spiritual clothes say a lot about us. They make a statement. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he wanted to make sure they understood that there was a very specific dress code they needed to follow as Christians. They needed to be “clothed with Christ.”

The beginning of chapter three finds Paul calling the Galatian congregation, “foolish Galatians!” They had been trying to put on spiritual clothing that were making the wrong statement. The clothing they were trying to wear was human made. Paul warns, “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” It’s easy to do. Satan makes those kinds of clothes readily available and very popular. He tells us we can make ourselves better by trying harder or comparing ourselves to others.

You can feel good about yourself and your spiritual condition if you believe that it’s really not your fault and God certainly can’t deny you a place in heaven for a few minor sins. The Bible has a name for those kinds of clothes – “filthy rags.” Take a closer look at Isaiah 64:6 for a good description of the clothes in our spiritual closets.

All is not lost however. Even though the Christian’s dress code is strict, God has provided us with the wardrobe we need. In fact, most of us have already received these spiritual clothes, through baptism. Paul said, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” Talk about one stop shopping! We didn’t even have to go looking for God. He came to us with water and in His Word. In fact, Father, Son and Holy Spirit were present, and clothed us with Christ and the wonderful saving faith that comes with it. Being baptized is more than just getting wet. It’s getting dressed! Before we were naked and exposed to sin. Now we are clothed with righteousness won for us on the cross.

As we look to the cross, we see our Savior who not only clothed us at baptism, but will come back some day soon with an even better set of clothes that only those in heaven get to wear. Clothes are a personal thing. They do say something about you! Be a good steward of the clothes you have been given. Wear them proudly. Make a statement.

Discussion Questions: Think of some of the clothes you have. What statement do they make about you? How does our use of time make a statement about what spiritual clothes we wear? How about use of talents? And treasures?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Galatians 3

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the clothes. We know they were bought with your blood. Help us to remember our baptisms as the day we got dressed. Amen.

Comments

More blessed to give than to receive

Have you ever purchased and wrapped the “perfect” gift for your spouse or close friend and watched with excitement as the person tore away the paper? You knew the gift would be a hit, and you could hardly stand it as the anticipation grew.

Then the magic moment came as the box was opened. You delighted in the expression of surprise and joy. You beamed as words of gratitude filled the air. Even though you were not the receiver, you had great fun giving the gift because you knew it was just what the person needed and wanted.

A well-planned charitable gift can bring happiness as well. It starts from a heart thankful for God’s generous spiritual and earthly blessings in Jesus Christ. When you take the time to discover what the needs are and how you can structure your gift to do the most good, you find yourself anticipating the actual gift. You trust it will be a blessing.

The size of the gift is not the most enjoyable part. Our Lord reminds us, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). A gift that matches a specific need and accomplishes something worthwhile can be enormously rewarding. For example, an endowment contribution that provides ongoing support for generations to come can elicit a mile-wide smile from everyone concerned.

We enjoy helping donors plan cheerful gifts. We even have a free booklet that shows various ways you can make these gifts. Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor to request this booklet or assistance. Let us help you make the perfect gift for WELS and for you.

Christians Under Construction – Week 22

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week twenty-two:

Matthew 7:24–27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Little Mary Gentry was thoroughly enjoying herself as she played in her room. She loved to build imaginary houses with blankets, sheets, clothespins, chairs and broomsticks. She had everything propped up just like she liked it. Of course, she had to be careful because one slip could bring it all crashing down. She’d done that many times before. In fact, she couldn’t even open her windows for fear that a breeze coming through would send her delicate structure to the floor.

Her brother Bill Jr. enjoyed doing the same thing, except his “house” was up in a tree and cobbled together with old wooden planks and bent nails. He had to be equally cautious. One false step and not only would his construction project come crashing down, but so would he.

Both Bill and Mary’s houses remind us of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders. One builder built his on rock and the other on sand. One could withstand wind and rain. The other could not. One took the time, planned and did it right. The other did not.

What kind of builder are you? If you believe your house is in good shape then Jesus is referring to you when he says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” If that is the case, we need not worry about the winds of earthly problems that howl at our door. If that is the case, we aren’t bothered by the rains of depression, sorrow, pain and suffering that beat down on our roofs.

What’s that you say? Some of those things do bother you? You occasionally are worried by those pesky earthly problems? You are not alone. All Christians are in the same boat. It’s not that our foundation isn’t solid. It is. It is Jesus Christ. His suffering, death and resurrection have created a rock solid base for our faith and life.

What is the problem then? It is simply the fact that we are still “Christians Under Construction.” We’ve started to build on a firm foundation, but we aren’t done yet. The roof may not be on yet, windows may be missing, tile may need to be laid. That’s a problem isn’t it? Yes and no. It’s a problem if we simply leave things in the state they are – unfinished. However, if we commit ourselves to completing the project, those winds and rains will cause fewer and fewer problems. As our construction projects move forward our faith grows. God has promised that.

God tells us that by listening to his word and putting it into practice, we will grow! It will require our time — make no mistake. But God has already done the hard part by giving up his son for our salvation. If we listen to his word regularly, our spiritual house becomes stronger. We need not worry about “taking a false step.” Even if we do, we have forgiveness and the promise from God to help us learn how to take “true steps.” Take every opportunity to listen to God’s Word. Use the time that you have to “build” in church, in Sunday School, in Bible Class, in at-home study and devotion. Build, build, build! It’s raining out!

Discussion Questions: In what ways can rain be like the problems of this world? Are you ever frustrated by how slow your building project is going? If so, how could you speed things up?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Matthew 7

Prayer: Lord, it’s raining and we are getting wet. Inspire us to listen to your words and put them into practice. With your foundation and your salvation we can build and withstand the wind and the rain of sin. Amen.

Christians Under Construction – Week 21

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week twenty-one:

Joshua 24:15 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Marilyn and Bill were pulling out of the driveway for their regular “Friday Night Date.” Early on in their marriage they had decided that they needed to have at least one night together each week. Sometimes they would go out to eat then catch a movie, or a play, or some other kind of activity.

Each Friday was a bit different. One thing, however, was always the same — the debate, or perhaps a better word, “indecision” about where to go to eat. Each Friday evening, without fail, the two would back down the driveway, look at each other and trade the same question, “Where do you want to go to eat?” The answers were also the same, “I don’t know, it’s up to you.” This would go on for a few minutes or sometimes miles down the road, until somebody would decide. Marilyn would say, “Well you are the leader of this family, make a decision.” Bill would say, “but that’s your department. You make the decision.” It’s a wonder they ever ate on Friday nights at all!

Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions, especially if those involved aren’t sure or convinced who’s in charge. Sometimes no decisions are reached, and that can be as bad as making the wrong decision. Leadership is important – in our families, our workplaces, our own personal lives and our church. Without it, decisions don’t get made. Things don’t happen, or worse, bad things happen.

In our reading today, Joshua boldly makes a decision for his family. He doesn’t debate it, or ask anybody about it. He simply fulfills his responsibility to lead by saying, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Period! End of sentence!

Joshua had observed the Marilyns and Bills of God’s people being indecisive about what god they would worship. Would it be the God that rescued them out of Egypt, the God of grace, the author of our salvation, or would it be the wooden and golden idols that some had latched on to as they passed through godless countries on their way to the promised land? They weren’t sure.

As they rode their donkeys and pulled their wagons down the road to Canaan, they debated. No one was taking a stand. No one was leading and making a decision. Joshua did. The Holy Spirit-led Joshua saw the importance of making a stand for God.

How about you and your family? Have you ever taken this stand? You may not have stood out in your front yard and shouted those words, although nothing would be wrong with that. But you speak loudly and clearly by bringing your family to church each Sunday. By resisting the temptation to “skip” you have proclaimed that your household is about serving God. Every one of them.

God calls each one of us to spiritual leadership. Sometimes he entrusts a family to us to lead — sometimes it is only ourselves. Regardless of our situation, God wants us to serve him and be decisive about it. Many people have decided not to do so. That is a sad thing and ought to motivate us to speak to them in love. Many more people have chosen to be indecisive. They don’t know who to follow or serve. We need to be concerned about them as well, for God says we are either for him or against him. There is no middle ground.

How about you and your household? Will you serve the Lord? Will you come and hear God’s word and enjoy the blessings of the Lord’s Supper, Baptism and the wonderful fellowship offered with your church family? Can you, will you, say what Joshua did?

Discussion Questions: What is the toughest decision you ever had to make? Why was it difficult? Does God make it easy or hard to be a part of his family? How can you be a better spiritual leader?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Joshua 24

Prayer: Lord, we praise you for the privilege of being a part of your family. We are honored. Help us to always serve you. Amen.

Christians Under Construction – Week 7

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week seven:

Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord.

Bill Jr. pounced on his mother Marilyn as she came home from shopping one Saturday morning, “Mom, mom, I grew an inch so far this year!” In the Gentry family, it was a tradition to mark all the children’s heights on the back of the laundry room door to track their growth.

“That’s great Bill, it must have been those nutritious meals I’ve been feeding you,” his mother replied. “Well I don’t know what it was but I hope I keep going!”

“Bill, there are many ways to grow. Sooner or later you will stop physically growing, and may actually shrink a bit.”

“Shrink?” Bill interrupted, “I don’t want to shrink. How come?”

Marilyn paused and said, “Life just tends to wear people down as they get older. Our bodies get tired. It is really because of sin. If we weren’t sinners our bodies would stay strong and healthy. In fact, we would never die. But because we are sinners we get weaker, until we die.”

Bill thought for a minute, and then said, “You mean like Grandma? I’ve seen some of her pictures when she was a lot younger and she looks so different now.”

“Yes, like grandma. But the good news is that even though we get weaker and weaker on the outside, we can get stronger and stronger on the inside. You could say, while our outside shrinks, our insides grow.”

Now Bill was really confused. He said, “Wouldn’t you just explode after a while?”

Bill’s mom could see the perplexed look on her son’s face. “What I’m talking about is growing spiritually. That takes place on the inside. And it does have a lot to do with what you eat. Not only do our bodies need food to grow, our faith does too.”

The light bulb finally went on in Bill’s head, “I remember. We learned about this in Sunday School. Mrs. Morse was talking about the early Christian church when we were studying Acts. She said that the Holy Spirit strengthened that church and it grew by leaps and bounds. She explained that the way the church did all that growing was by reading, studying and believing the Bible, and by sharing it with each other.”

“Yes, our church exists for the same reason,” Marilyn responded. “We hear God’s word, we study it, we share it and we all grow stronger together. Even though we all get older and our bodies get weaker, we get stronger on the inside. God does that through His Word. And when we grow in number, that is the reason. We share God’s Word. So in a way we do explode. We explode as we get filled up with God’s Word and the more it fills us up, the more we have to share it –the more people we want to share it with.”

Bill, somewhat satisfied with the conversation said, “I guess I don’t care if I stop getting taller, but I never want to stop growing on the inside. It’s a good thing there is Sunday School tomorrow. I can tell everybody I am growing this year, inside and out!”

Discussion Questions: What happens to our bodies when we eat food that is bad for us? How is sin like bad food? List ways that you can “eat spiritual food?” Is it possible to eat too much spiritual food? How does the spiritual food that we eat affect the spiritual gifts that God has given us to use? How have you helped someone else grow “on the inside?”

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Acts 9

 

Prayer: Dear Father, increase our appetite for your Word. We need to eat. We need to grow. Thank you for the food and the faith. Amen.

Christians Under Construction – Week 6

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week six:

Ephesians 4:15-16 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Jesus Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Marilyn and Mary strolled down the hall at the local mall on Saturday in search of the perfect gift for Bill. Mother and daughter loved this time together, since not only was it “just the girls,” but it was shopping!

As they left one store, Mary noticed a rather small man walking with a noticeable limp. “Mommy, that man walks funny.” Marilyn had noticed the man too. “Mary, it looks like one of his legs didn’t grow as fast as the other one. So when he walks he dips and rises depending on which foot is hitting the ground.”

Mary quickly responded, “I’m glad my legs are the same length. He must be very sad that he can’t walk like everybody else.”

“Mary, did you see his face? He didn’t look sad at all did he? In fact, he was smiling from ear to ear.”

“But mom, why would he be happy?” asked Mary. They walked behind the man for a bit, until he walked into the Robert Mitchell art gallery. “Those paintings are beautiful” both Marilyn and Mary thought to themselves. As they walked past the entrance, they heard the person at the cash register call out to the limping man, “Good morning, Mr. Mitchell.”

Mom turned to Mary and nodded, “He’s happy because he is able to use other things that God has given him.”

Mr. Mitchell, Marilyn and Mary all were quite different people. One couldn’t walk very well the others could. Some couldn’t paint very well, one of them could.

This is also the way it works among God’s children. He created us different physically and emotionally. He gave each of us talents, sometimes very unique ones. And as the Bible reading for today explains, we are all growing. In other words, we are all under construction.

We may all be very different in many regards, but we are all the same in one very important way. We are all a part of the same “body,” and the head of that body is Jesus Christ. Yes, some of us walk with limps. Some of us paint well. Whatever we do, whatever talents God has given us, we are all connected by one central nervous system — Christ. He is the head. He directs our lives. He gives us ways to “grow” our gifts. He gives us ways to use our gifts. And he provides his church with all the talent needed to function.

Paul said, “as each part does its work.” If some of us aren’t very good at preaching or teaching, others of us are. If some of us aren’t very good at encouraging each other, others of us are. Appreciate the diversity God has given you and His church. Just as your legs do something very different than your arms, so we each can provide very different services to God. The church needs legs AND arms. Both are important. YOU are important. Jesus Christ made it so by dying for you on the cross. God the Father made it so by creating you just the way you are. The Holy Spirit made it so by giving you spiritual gifts, and enabling you to use them.

Discussion Questions: Blind people typically have exceptional hearing. Why? What talent would you like to “grow?” How might you go about helping others to grow their gifts? Explain why the church needs to use the talents of ALL of its members. Does using your spiritual gifts make you smile “ear to ear?” Why or why not?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Ephesians 4

 

Prayer: Lord, you are the head of the body. Thank you for making us members of that body. You have made each of us unique and called each one of us to use our gifts. We want to answer that call. Help us to do so. Amen.

Christians Under Construction – Week 5

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week five:

2 Thessalonians 1:3 – “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

Marilyn Gentry was putting her daughter Mary to bed. The evening ritual was for mom to read daughter a bedtime story after prayers and then lights out.

As Marilyn left the room and closed the door, Mary shouted “I love you.” “I love you too sweetheart,” replied Marilyn, “very much.” “How much mommy?” asked Mary. Marilyn paused, “That’s hard to say Mary, but it’s a lot. More and more each day.”

Now Mary’s curiosity was peaked. “You mean you love me more today than you did yesterday?” “I guess so,” said mom. “I don’t know why, but I just do.” “I love you more too mommy.”

Marilyn went to bed that night with a smile on her face, knowing her little girl really loved her, and she really loved her little girl. In her prayers that night, she thanked God for that love, and asked that both her love and her daughter’s love would continue to grow.

The apostle Paul expressed similar thoughts when he wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica. He wrote, “We ought always to thank God for you.” Paul saw that there was a growing love among those people, and that’s a wonderful thing to watch! He wanted to offer that prayer of thanks to God, because it was God’s doing that their love for each other was growing, just as it was God’s doing that mother and daughter loved each other so much.

The reason that the Thessalonians love for each other was growing was that their faith was growing. That was also God’s doing. He is behind our spiritual growth. He puts faith and love in our hearts. What wonderful gifts!

He does the same for us. He grows our faith and love with His word. He grows our faith and love through each other.

Discussion Questions: List things we do that make it tough for people to love us. How do we grow our faith? How do we grow the faith of others? What might cause us to love somebody “less” each day? Are those valid reasons? How does the use of our spiritual gifts increase our love or faith? Why does God love us so much?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1

 

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for those who love me and those I love. Continue to grow that love. Continue to grow my faith. I love you Lord. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

Christians Under Construction Week 4

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week four:

2 Timothy 3:16- 17 All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Bill Jr. had finally saved up enough allowance to buy the model airplane he had his eye on for months. He had done odd jobs around the house, saved every penny of his allowance and always reminded himself how wonderful it would be to possess this new toy. On the Saturday afternoon after he had made the big purchase, his father, Bill Gentry, found his 12 year old son on the floor of his room crying.

“Bill, what’s wrong?” asked Bill Sr., bending down to lift his son’s chin. “I can’t make it work,” balled the distressed boy. “None of the pieces fit together right, and I think I broke one, and, and…” he let out another howl.

“Now, now, Bill, don’t cry. We’ll figure it out. Did it come with directions?” “I don’t know, I never thought to look. It looked so easy at first.” Bill Sr. responded half compassionately and half trying to hide his smile, “Well, don’t you think that might be a good place to start?”

He knew in the back of his mind that if his wife, Marilyn had been there, she would have fired off a comment like, “typical man!” He was thankful she was not.

So far this month we have been taking a look at how God has given each of us spiritual gifts to use in His service and the service of others. We talked a little about how special those gifts are and what some of those gifts might be. One thing needs to be made clear. Just because we may know what those gifts are, doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to use them. In other words, we need directions.

The obvious next question is, where can we find those directions? That is clarified for us in today’s Bible verse. It says that one of the reasons that God gave us the Bible is so that “the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible is our instruction manual for teaching us what our gifts are and how to use them. God provides better directions than any manual we have ever read, and he teaches us in many different ways. The Bible is very straightforward and addresses real questions with real answers. Funny, it almost knows the questions we need answered before we ask them. That’s because God knows what we need to know.

The Bible also provides excellent illustrations about how to use our gifts. Think of some of the parables Jesus used. Recall stories of people like David, Abraham, Moses, and Paul who could teach us a few things about how they used their spiritual gifts. What a wonderful guide to living life! And nobody should be afraid to ask for directions –men, women or children.

On occasion you will find instruction manuals that aren’t very clear, or complete. The Bible isn’t that way. In fact, not only is the Bible clear and complete, it’s compelling. It tells us how to use our gifts, and gives us motivation to do so. It tells us of Jesus, his death, his resurrection and his love for us. After reading that Good News, we want to use what God has given us “for every good work.”

Discussion Questions: Describe a time when you read directions and were even more confused than when you started. What can happen if you don’t read directions? How can that be dangerous when learning about spiritual gifts? In the verse for the day, what part of Scripture does it say is “useful”? Put together a plan to read “all Scripture.”

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: 2 Timothy 3

 

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for the Bible. Each piece of it is so valuable in helping us learn about you, your love and our Savior. Help us to use your word as a tool to instruct us and equip us for every good work. Amen.

Christians Under Construction Week 3

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. Here is week three:

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

Today was Mary Gentry’s birthday. She had waited 364 days in eager anticipation of turning six, as this meant it wouldn’t be long until she could be in kindergarten.

“Mom,” Mary shouted, running into her mother’s bedroom first thing in the morning, “is it really today? Has my birthday FINALLY come?” Marilyn Gentry, still trying to wake the sleep from her eyes responded, “Yes, Mary. It is today. But what time is it?”

Mary, now jumping up and down on her mother’s bed, screamed, “5 o’clock.” Mom replied, “Oh Mary, it’s Saturday. Mommy needs a bit more sleep if we are going to have that big party later this afternoon.”

Mary, totally ignoring her mother’s request, said, “Can I open some of my presents now? Can I? I can’t wait to see what I got!”

The afternoon finally arrived, and none to soon for Mary. She tore into her presents. Wrapping paper was flying everywhere. Before long she was done. She had no time for cake or conversation with the relatives who had arrived. She grabbed her gifts and was later found asleep with each one spread around her – totally exhausted from playing with her new toys.

Christians, in a way, have experienced the same excitement that Mary did on her 6th birthday. When we were born, or rather, reborn on our baptism day, we were given gifts. No, not the kind that our relatives or Godparents might give us, but gifts from God. And these gifts came in two varieties — the gift of faith and the gift of spiritual gifts. When we had that first birthday we were given the gift of faith by God. That faith, put into us by the Holy Spirit, knows Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. He is the one who paid the price for our sins. The gift of faith is much like a birthday gift from loving parents. It is usually the best gift we receive and the most appropriate for us. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, and through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he gives it to us – eternal life.

Faith in Jesus however was not the only thing we received at that first birthday of ours. God tells us that he has also given us different spiritual gifts. These gifts are only given to his children. They include things like the ability to serve, teach, encourage, contributing to the needs of others, giving, leadership, showing mercy and many others.

If we were baptized as babies, we probably didn’t know what to make of these gifts God had given us. We may not even know we have them. But two things are certain. Like Mary we should be very excited about receiving them and even more excited to use them.

Read Romans 12 again and determine for yourself what spiritual gifts you have been given. Ask others what they think your spiritual gifts may be. And then plan on using them until you lay exhausted on the floor from enjoying their use. What a blessing they are from God.

Discussion Questions: What makes your baptism so special? Can you think of ways that you can celebrate your spiritual birthday? Which spiritual gifts do you think you have? How about those around you? How are these spiritual gifts different than other gifts you receive?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Romans 12

 

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have given each of us very special and precious gifts. We thank and praise you for the best gift of all, the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus. But you didn’t stop with that gift. You kept on giving. Now help us to use the gifts you have given us. May we use them to your glory. Amen.

Christians Under Construction Week 2

Christians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. Here is week two:

(Please set aside an evening this week to use this devotion as your personal devotion or family devotion.)

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Bill Gentry loved his job. He worked as an advertising executive in one of the city’s largest agencies. He spent his days working with companies trying to help them create advertising campaigns, commercials and billboards. Much of what he did was to observe large companies and try to learn from their approach to advertising. One of his favorite companies to watch was Nike. “What creative campaigns they come up with!” he told a number of his associates. He especially liked their “just do it” campaign. It was simple and to the point, but you remembered it and you remembered who told you to do it – Nike. It meant that with those shoes you could do it…jump high, run fast, be like Mike, whatever. Bill was so impressed by the concept that he told others to “just do it”, he told himself to “just do it.” It was motivational for him.

Then on one Sunday morning he heard his pastor say the same thing. His pastor was talking about Ephesians 2:10, and in it he described one of God’s very own creative campaigns – God’s “just do it” campaign.

He listened intently and learned that God tells each and every one of us to “just do it” too — to do good works, God wasn’t trying to sell shoes however. He didn’t make a shoe that he claimed could make us run faster or jump higher. He didn’t stamp a swoosh on anything to identify it as something cool and hope we’d buy it. What God did do was make us. He calls us his “workmanship.” And rather than stamp us with a logo, he put faith in our hearts, a faith in Jesus our Savior.

What’s even more amazing is that he didn’t roll each of us off the same assembly line. God made each one of us by hand, gave us each faith, and determined ahead of time the “features” our model had. Wow! Each of us is unique with our own feature set.

God is so much more creative than we can even imagine! It is those God-given features that identify us as God’s workmanship–that we are made by Him and for Him. And it is those features, those spiritual gifts, that determine exactly what God wants us to do.

We don’t have a swoosh. We don’t even have to wear a cross, Christ already wore one. We simply need to “do it.” That shows the world who made us and to whom we belong. It shows God that we love him and are grateful for his craftsmanship.

God too says “just do it.” “Do what I’ve enabled you specifically to do. Do those good works I’ve prepared in advance for you to do.”

Be sure to read next week’s devotion to find out some of those “features” that God has built into us. For a sneak peak, you’ll want to read the “Family Reading” verses for today.

Discussion Questions: What have you ever been compelled to “just do?” Do you have other mottos that you live by? List some of the “features” you think God has given to you. Discuss why everybody has different spiritual gifts.

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Romans 12

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have made each of us with different gifts, but you crafted each one of us with love. Please help us be like Christ, who did it for us, who paid for our sins on the cross. Help us to do good works, those which you have prepared for us to do. Amen.

Christians Under Construction Week 1

A number of years back I developed a series of Stewardship devotions called Christians Under Construction that could be used in family devotional settings.  Their focus is on how we can best use our Time, Talent and Treasure resources. I plan to re-release these this fall as our children head back to school and help us all think about our service to the Lord. Here is the first one:

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

Bill Gentry was startled to hear screams coming from the upstairs bathroom. As he entered to see what was happening, he observed his son, Bill Jr., angrily scolding his 5 year old sister Mary. “You’ve ruined it! You’ve ruined it! What were you thinking? You’re so stupid.”

“Who’s stupid?” dad asked.

“Dad, she was using my GameBoy as a life raft for her Barbies. Now it’s ruined. She’s such a dummy!”

Bill Sr., in the most fatherly voice he could muster replied, “Now Billy, let’s just settle down for a minute. It’s clear that Mary didn’t know any better. She is only 5 years old. There are still many things she is ignorant about.”

Both Mary and Bill Jr. cocked their heads, and almost in unison sputtered, “what’s ignorant?” Billy added, “and why does that give her the right to ruin my video games?”

The family patriarch paused for a minute, sat them both down at the kitchen table and explained, “Being ignorant means not knowing those things that you haven’t learned yet. Billy, you are in 7th grade, so you haven’t learned the things that are taught in the 8th grade yet. So you are ignorant about all those things. You don’t know them. You can’t use that knowledge, because you don’t have it in your head yet. Mary doesn’t have it in her head yet that she can’t use your GameBoy as a flotation device for her Barbies, regardless of how desperate their situation might be.” Bill Sr. mustered a wry smile, just so the two of them knew he was trying to inject a bit of humor. Sometimes his kids weren’t all too sure.

He continued, “There are worse things to be ignorant about you know.” Billy responded, “like what?” “Well,” said the father, “in the Bible it says, ‘Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant’. Spiritual gifts are some of the special talents and abilities that God has given each of us to use. This Bible verse says that we should learn about those gifts so we can use them to please God.” Mary injected, “Oh I want to please God! But daddy, how do we do that?” “Good question Mary,” dad continued, “first you have to know what pleases God. The only way to learn what pleases God is to read and study the Bible. You know, like we do in our family devotions, and at church and Sunday School. There we learn about those special talents God has given us and how to use them.”

Billy’s head perked up as if he had an idea that would impress the two of them, “Dad, why don’t we use our family devotion time to talk more about those spiritual gift things the Bible mentioned? If the Bible says we should get smart about those, I think we should. I don’t want anybody calling me ignorant, especially God.”

Discussion Questions: Describe, in your own words, the word “ignorant.” Can you think of things about which you are ignorant? Why would it be bad to be ignorant about spiritual gifts? How can we become “smarter” about them? What would be the absolute worst thing to be ignorant about? Why?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

Prayer: Father in heaven, please help us to learn more and more about you and those wonderful gifts you give us. Teach us not to be ignorant about the lessons in your word. Especially help us never to forget what your son Jesus did for us. We thank and praise you for that gift, and the wonderful news that our sins are forgiven through faith in Him. Over the coming weeks help us to live lives of thanks by learning more about what you have given us. Amen.