It’s Been That Kind of a Season

I’ve confessed before that my attentiveness to blogging can get ‘bogged’ down at times. I have intentions of writing this post or that on some subject with which the Lord stirs my heart. And my excuse for not writing it is usually along the lines of ‘I’m busy doing ministry. I don’t have time to write about it, too!’

Of course, it is an excuse. It’s just not a very good reason. So it’s been a while since I’ve been here. My last post on October 5 was about the cultural response to the death of Steve Jobs and why it was a great opportunity for us, as believers, to share our faith. Interestingly, the next time I had a burning urge to write was at the news of the death of Whitney Houston. I seriously started a blog post and then realized that my last post was of a similar nature.

That seemed morbid to me…so I decided not to write.

Lest you think I truly neglected my writing in between those two events, I should point out that I wrote some Bible study materials during that time. You can find Snapshots in Acts and More Snapshots in Acts  under the Just for You tab above. But mostly I’ve been devoting my time to leading Precept studies and overseeing our Tuesday Morning Women’s Life program.

And losing weight…a spiritual battle that has been raging in me for some time.

And meeting with some amazing women…some who are faithful friends and encouragers in my life. Others that I have the privilege of encouraging as well.

And traveling…to be with my grandson and his mommy (my daughter) and daddy.

It has been a season of great joy and also a season of some of my deepest struggles and pain. And I probably will write more about these experiences at some point. For now, I am processing the propensity I have toward guilt over not keeping up on this particular piece of my life and ministry.

These feelings aren’t unique to me. I talk with women more often than not about the feeling that we are not keeping up with the things we ‘ought’ to be doing. The conversation usually begins “I’m sorry I haven’t been to Bible study…” or “I’m feeling like I need some time off from…” Sometimes those statements are followed by tears. Then by more discourse on how to set priorities or discern God’s leading. These conversations never cease to cause me to evaluate my own activities and they have often helped shape me both personally and as a ministry leader.

There are two passages of Scripture that generally come to mind during these times. I’m sure you can guess the first:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Sometimes we just need to do one thing over the other. Maybe both are ‘good’ things but one seems to be the best at that moment. We should always feel free to do the best thing despite what others around us may think or do for themselves. The tricky part is discerning which of the things is ‘best.’ In these cases we should continue to implore God through prayer and the Word and confirmation by His Spirit and through His people until we have a sense of the rightness of our decision.

Which brings up that second verse:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 (NASB)

God forbid I should ever tell a woman “I think God wants you to do this” when in reality He wants her to do “that.” That doesn’t mean I won’t participate in her discernment process, but it is so important for those of us in ministry to recognize that we are not all meant to do the same thing that others around us are doing. I hope that I’m the kind of leader that asks the right questions to help and not harm that process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these things as I have personally been faced with evaluating the method of weight loss I’ve been using (a medical weight loss trial that requires more time and energy than I feel I have.) I’m also faced, as a leader, with the resignation of a key team member in the middle of a vital Bible study.

In my situation, a good friend called me on my attitude of rebellion in the matter and I’m happy to say I am back on course, doing what I know to be good and right. In the case of my team member I am having to wait and see what the Lord will reveal to us about the situation. There is more truth that needs to be ferreted out before I can say I know what to do.

Frankly, it’s been that kind of season…one where decisions about priorities have been plenty and sometimes needed to be confessed when all was said and done. The context of the verse from James helps us keep these things in perspective:

‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”  You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”…So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.’ James 4:13-17

We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We do know that time is of the essence. We should feel free to do that to which the Lord call us. And we should do it well. (see Colossians 3:17, 23)

What’s happening in your season right now? Where do you turn when you need encouragement?

Blessings,

Tina

 

 

Death ~ An Opportunity for the Gospel

Yesterday many were saddened by the news that a brilliant innovator and businessman had succumbed to his battle with pancreatic cancer. Facebook statuses across the world read “RIP Steve Jobs” and news stories streamed in all afternoon, and well into the evening, with remembrances of the profound impact Mr. Jobs had on our culture and lifestyle.

Although not many of us knew Mr. Jobs personally, his death seems to have had as much an impact on us as his life. And I think this reaction reflects much more than just his influence on the technological advances of our day. As President Obama observed, “there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” Without a doubt, Mr. Jobs’ contributions to the technological and business worlds will influence our culture long into our future.

Truthfully, I was surprised by the level of grief being expressed as I perused the news stream on my Facebook feed and watched the stories spring up all over the internet. Many of my friends commented on Mr. Jobs passing. Many of the news and information pages I suscribe to commented about it. And most everyone expressed a deep and abiding sorrow over the news.

I imagine that the water cooler talk at many workplaces will be focused on this topic for days to come. People will likely make mention of it to their fellow travelers on the morning and evening commute. And coffee shops and internet cafes will be a little subdued today, as people speak in hushed tones of the loss to our nation and the world of such a talented person.

Indeed, the news of his passing was a stark reminder that death is indiscriminate. As I heard it put recently: “One out of every one person dies.” Or as Scripture puts it “…it is appointed for men (people) to die once…” (Hebrews 9:27)

I don’t think people are so much worried that Apple Inc. will suddenly fall off the map, depriving us of future technological advances, as I think they are confronted with their own mortality. And from what I’ve seen in the last almost 24 hours, Jobs’ death seems to have stirred up some of our most troubling emotions brought on by bereavement.

So I woke up this morning thinking…”What an opportunity the Church has today to share the gospel!” Perhaps it was the new Wednesday Night Life Series that began last night…the one focused on Evangelism…that prompted this musing. Or maybe it was merely the anxiety I sensed in people’s responses. But I really believe that the next few days could be an amazing opportunity for followers of Jesus Christ to be able to “give an account for the hope that is in” us. 1 Peter 3:15

The verse from Hebrews that I mentioned earlier in its entirety reads this way: “Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment.” I think that God has put it on all people’s hearts to be aware of sin, and righteousness and judgment. (see John 16:8 and Acts 2:17) And when events like the death of celebrity occur, it causes us all to consider our own mortality. What better time for the Holy Spirit to prompt our hearts to make a mental account of our lives?

Many realize, without even knowing the source (John 14:16-17,) that our lives do not measure up to God’s standards. And so fear sets in and the sorrow we express often reflects our own inadequacies in regard to God’s judgment. I suspect that more people think of standing before God with fear in their hearts, than inexpressible joy at the thought of finally being with their Savior.

As believers we have the unique opportunity over the next few days to help people cope with their fears. If we would but boldly enter into the water cooler talk with a thought toward heaven and the hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, think of the impact we can have on the kingdom, as we share our own peace and excitement for the day we get to be with our Lord and King forever!

Even if the thought of evangelism terrifies you, consider how you might respond today to someone whose thoughts on death and dying seem to overwhelm them as they remember Steve Jobs and his contributions to our society. What is one phrase you can use to comfort someone in their grief, not only today, but in the future as we encounter friends and loved ones experiencing loss? How will you participate in sharing the Good News that Jesus has already conquered the grave? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Take courage, Christian! The Holy Spirit will go with you. Take every opportunity in this time to share your faith, to extend the grace that has been given to you, to proclaim the gospel of our Lord! And may the Lord bless you in every effort!

Blessings,

Tina

The Lord Directs Our Steps

I love that when I workout at our local YMCA I hear the encouragement of my favorite Christian artists piped through the music system, and that the last thing I see as I leave is encouragement from God’s word ~ a verse written daily on the white board near the exit.

On second thought, today might have been a little embarrasing as tears rolled down my cheeks upon hearing Matt Maher’s ‘Christ is Risen.’ Hopefully, my fellow Y athletes just thought I working through the burn…well, nevermind.

The verse though was one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I’ve been thinking about this verse for the past couple of weeks since a new reality in my life has to do with the pedometer affixed to my clothing on a daily basis. As a participant in a medical trial, one of the requirements is to try to log in 10,ooo steps a day. You might know that this is the current recommended level of minimum activity for fitness. And if you know me, my former existence fell far short of the minimum. And yet I am determined to meet the goal.

Even with my newfound determination logging in 10,000 steps isn’t always easy. I’m finding it certainly takes a trip to the Y most days, which requires me to plan well to set aside the time. “The mind of a woman plans her way…” This is how the verse first came to me. I was dutifully headed to the Y to log in my steps when my cell phone rang.

My friend had just come in to town and wanted to have coffee. Knowing she’s been having a rough time lately I figured I could visit the Y later, so I agreed to meet her. “…but the Lord directs my steps.” In these moments, a friendship was deepened. We spoke words of encouragement to one another. And God was praised for His goodness. I never did make it to the Y that day.

That’s when the verse came to my mind. And a gentle whisper from the Lord about priorities and balance. Ironically, it was another, not-so-gentle, whisper that had prompted me to join the medical trial and so when this nudge came it reminded me that no matter what God asks me to do, it is my obedience to the thing He places before me at the moment that matters.

Adding steps to my pedometer may help my waistline and my overall health. And it’s tempting to guard that time from anything that seems like an interruption in my life. But, as we learned this summer in Priscilla Shirer’s Jonah study, the decision to go or not go to coffee with a friend in need could have eternal consequences. It is more likely that God has arranged a divine intervention for His own plans and purposes.

May we never hold too tightly to our own plans that we miss the opportunity to participate in His. As He says in Isaiah 55 ~ His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. I pray that we each one would seek Him daily to be in tune to the Spirit whom He uses to direct our steps.

Speaking of steps, anyone wanna go to the Y?

An Awe-Sensing Church

“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43

This description of the early church in the apostle Luke’s account never ceases to stir my heart. In the margin of my Bible, I once wrote: ‘The sign of a committed church,’ probably in response to a sermon I had heard. Often as I come to this passage I reflect on how our church measures up in relationship to the verse.

Yesterday was a different story. Throughout the morning I was in awe at the things I observed during our worship service: A musician just back from the mission field, playing his instrument with renewed passion. An overflow of donated school supplies on the steps to the platform. The prayers of my friend’s daughters, who had been invited to participate as part of Family Worship Month.

As we came to a time of communion, I was actually reminded of this verse as I observed interactions between people in the pews with people who were making their way down the aisles. We always have an exuberant time of ‘family greetings’ each Sunday, but this was something entirely different.

In those few short moments I saw people reach out of the pews to greet one another: the young man who had fallen ill while at a sports competition in a foreign country, whom we had prayed for, was now home and on the mend with an incredible story of God’s grace and mercy; the couple who had been very active in revitalizing our small group ministry before moving away to be nearer to their children and grandchildren had come for a visit; the woman whose daughter had passed away recently from cancer attending with her son and daughter-in-law.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I saw hand after hand reach out to greet, comfort, and love on one another. And the delight and care that passed from person to person. All this after hearing a powerful sermon from Oxford University mathematician, and one of the premier apologists of our day, Professor John Lennox on the power of God to transcend the laws of nature ~ gravity to be specific ~ such that He was able to miraculously raise Jesus from the dead. And how that foundational truth of our faith is proven by Luke’s description as he reiterated that it had been seen, observed, witnessed by many. Now these witnesses were taking the gospel into a sick and hurting world, as Lennox pointed out, taking the word of God which was increasing such that the church was growing.

It was not lost on me, however, as I found myself sitting next to my friend whose wife was at home with her father, sitting vigil by his bedside as he succumbs to Alzheimer’s, that when Lennox spoke of the equally miraculous return of Jesus, yet to come, we must continue to devote ourselves to the word and to one another. There is still much sickness and hurt that needs to be covered by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

We were reminded by the Professor, that we each have been invited to participate in this gospel so that others will see, observe and witness the difference our Savior’s miraculous resurrection has made in our lives. The difference it can make in their lives. Participation requires commitment. A commitment to God’s word, and a commitment to His people.

Yesterday, I was truly in awe of my brothers and sisters who modeled that kind of commitment. A commitment to love one another, a commitment to provide for the community, a commitment to share God’s love in a hurting world. Don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder to be a part of the bread-breaking, praying, awe-sensing Church … I hope you are too!

Rejoicing with you,

Tina

“You Shall Receive Power”

I love a good summer Bible study! Something about summertime makes gathering around the word a less harried and lingering thing. I’m not sure why it feels that way. But I love it!

Of course it helps when the group you’re studying with has your two of your best friends who love the word of God at least as much you do, along with a handful of women eager to learn whatever they can. In any event, our study of the book of Acts this summer has been invigorating so far!

I’m sure that over the next few posts you will see me referencing the themes of this book and I hope we have some stimulating discussions around these themes. Of course I am also facilitating another study with two more good friends on the book of Jonah so we might get our feet wet in that book too!

One thing I noticed immediately in the book of Acts is that Jesus’ disciples ~ the twelve whom He chose ~ get a change in their job description.

For the most part throughout the four gospels these men are designated as THE disciples. In the Greek, mathetes, it means simply a pupil, a learner. As it is applied in Scripture however, the nuance of the word implied someone who followed one’s teaching, which then became a basis for their conduct. For example, when Jesus taught that we are to be forgiving, these men who were following him would have taken that to heart and become more forgiving people.

They would also have taken seriously their charge to make more disciples of the nations, and the presumption from Matthew 28:19 is that disciples make disciples who can make more disciples.

As believers we too are His disciples. Therefore as we come to know and understand what Jesus asks of us, we use this as the basis for our conduct. When Jesus asks us to trust, we practice trusting. When He asks us to have faith, we practice being firmly persuaded that He is who He says, and can do what He says. When He asks us to go or do or be, we practice going and doing and being.

By practice I mean, as expressed in Scripture, we make this a habit, something that characterizes our lives. It is the rule of our lives rather than the exception. This does not necessarily mean we respond this way each and every time ~ it means that we strive for that standard in our lives.

If we look at the conduct of Jesus’ disciple Peter, we see the many times when Peter failed to put his faith into practice, but we also see a man who slowly but surely was being transformed into a disciple of great character. He certainly had a special place in Christ’s heart for his loyalty and eagerness to learn.

Eventually though, these men in Jesus’ life became more than disciples. When the time drew near for Christ to go the cross, as He labored to teach them all that He could in a short period of time, He became confident that this small band of hand-picked disciples were ready for their next task.

After He had been crucified, buried and raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples teaching them over a period of about 40 days. At the end of the book of Luke Jesus tells them, just before He ascends to the Father, that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” and that they will be His witnesses, matures. They are the ones who have knowledge of what had happened and therefore are able to shed light on these events that others who may not have been there might also believe.

When Luke takes up the account of what follows in the book of Acts, he uses a new designation for the disciples in chapter one, verse two. He calls them the apostles. Having learned all that Jesus taught them they are no longer pupils. They have now been called as witnesses, but so much more. They are now ambassadors, ones sent out with a message.

Do you remember the message from Luke’s gospel? To proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name. With their first-hand knowledge of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they are now able to shed light on this message of repentance. That Jesus paid the debt for our sins, therefore upon repentance we are cleansed from our sins and have salvation in His name.

Before the apostles would head out to fulfill their comission though they must obey one last command that Jesus had given them ~ wait. He had made them a promise and wanted to fulfill that promise first. Indeed, they would need what He had promised in order to carry out their new objective. Of course, we know that they then “received power when the Holy Spirit came” upon them as described in Acts 2:8. Immediately they began to witness as ambassadors of Christ in all the world ~ apostles working by the power of the Spirit to bring a message in Jesus name.

It would seem then that this designation apostle rested only on those who had an eye-witness account of the resurrection and had been charged with this comission. Yet we see the names of other who were not part of the twelve tagged with the term apostle. Paul, Barnabas, and Silas. Paul called Titus and Timothy his fellow-workers in the gospel. And a pair who only receive one mention in Scripture.

Who on earth were Andronicus and Junias? Paul in his letter to the Romans says, “Greet Andronicus (a male) and Junias (a female), my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7) We hear no other mention of these two anywhere else in Scripture but know that Paul always loved to commend those whom he felt had been of particular service to him or the saints.

Does the inclusion of these people mean that all of Christ’s disciples eventually become apostles? No. Unlike disciples which can be made, apostles are gifted disciples as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These gifts are given by the Spirit and a part of a person’s Ephesians 2:10 calling.

We also know that although not apostles, all disciples since the time of Pentecost receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38.) Only we don’t have to wait for that power come. We receive it instantly when we hear and believe His gospel (Acts 10.) It is what gives us the power to accomplish much for the kingdom!

For your consideration:

Where do you sense the power of the Spirit acting in your life? What has God given you the power to accomplish as His disciple? Part of growing up in Christ is learning to employ our area of gifting for the work of the gospel. Spend some time considering Ephesians 2:10, I Corinthians 12, Romans 12:6-8, and 1 Peter 4:10.

Rejoicing with you,

Tina

 

And the Winner …

of a $20 coupon to Dayspring.com is Diane V! Congrats Diane =)

Be watching for other opportunities to win…

Rejoicing with you,

Tina

Let Me Introduce You…

I wanted to let you know that I added a new blog to my blogroll today.

That’s usually not postable news, because most of the blogs I follow are general interest for women like us. They are from a Christian perspective on varying topics that you or I might find useful and intetesting.

But this new blog ~ it’s special. Let me tell you why:

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” 1 Peter 4:10

I first met Emily’s extended family at the small church we attended where my husband and I met. We had been involved with some of the youth events and had the opportunity to get to know her uncles who were still in high school, twin boys who were deeply committed believers, and were like everyone’s big brothers. They had a genuine care for all around them and my daughters in particular adored them.

Not long after they graduated and moved away, I had the opportunity to meet their parents. It was obvious that their faith had been instilled in their sons along with a deep family bond. I understood that they also had an older daughter who was married, but who lived in another town and had young children. After several years, I finally met the daughter and her daughter by chance at the little fruit stand where I worked.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Let me just say that I loved Kristen and Emily immediately! Partly because they were an extension of the people I already knew and loved, and partly because they themselves are inspiring people. I was doing the baking and cooking for this little fruit stand, and for a short time I was able to have Emily as an apprentice of sorts in the kitchen with me. For reasons beyond my control, it was as I recall a VERY short time. But in that time, I think I learned a lot more from Emily than she ever learned from me. Did I mention she was only about 12 at the time?

Emily’s passion for cooking amazed me. She loved to be in the kitchen and had been making trips across the state for cooking classes. She loved to share recipes ~ I still have the recipe for her grandma’s golden syrup cookies. Yum!! But the thing I remember most about our time together is just how grateful she was for any opportunity to participate and how sweet and kind and insightful she was. What a joy she was to me!

“A joyful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

So it was with a heavy heart that I had to tell her mom that the owner of the fruit stand wasn’t going to let her come anymore. It wasn’t anything that had happened, I think just the owner’s own fears about building a growing business. But it was heart-wrenching for me. I eventually left that job over similar arbitrary decisions made by the owner, but that’s a different story.

My next opportunity to work with Emily came a short time later as Kristen asked me to help put on her husband’s birthday party. What a fun day that was! Emily was clearly the master mind in the kitchen and it was a privilege to be a part of the festivities and create a wonderful atmosphere for a great party. I don’t remember all the particulars (but Emily says she has a great memory so I’m sure she’ll remind me ~ maybe in a guest post here someday?) but I remember how I felt at the end of the day.

We had worked long and hard together, preparing the food and the atmosphere. Of course, I had been hired to do a job, and I remember I was paid well, but I remember thinking it was too much for what I had actually done. And the gratitude of both Emily and her mother was so heartfelt and…well, profuse. I remember thinking I’d never met such grateful people.

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Ephesians 5:18-20

By the end of that summer and through a whirlwind series of events my husband and I had moved across state for his job opportunity and I haven’t seen Emily for a few years. But through the wonder of social media I came back into contact with her grandmother and mother, and more recently with her to wish her happy birthday. What a sweet thing to realize what an amazing godly young woman she’s become. Smart, beautiful, a talented chef and writer, and so in love with Jesus.

I also realized, she is on a journey. She could use our prayers as she faces a painful battle that takes strength that only Jesus can give her. Again I am finding that Emily is teaching me so much ~ about joy, and gratitude, and faith ~ and I would love for you to learn along with me. Once you read just a bit of her online journal you will see why I just had to announce this special addition to my blogroll! So without further ado, let me introduce my friend Emily and her blog …

Because You Shine

Rejoicing with you,

Tina

“Therefore, Encourage One Another…”

I flew into San Diego on a Sunday so I missed church that day. One week into my 3-week stay we headed to my daughter and son-in-law’s church, a small church startup that promotes family participation. The congregation of about 40 people, meeting in the all-purpose room of a local elementary school, ranged in age from infants, my grandson among them, to grey-haired grandparents, which of course does not include me!

It was not their typical Sunday as the pastor and his wife were traveling to visit relatives. Apparently the pastor’s wife normally leads the worship band and they mentioned more than once that they felt ill-prepared in her absence. In reality they were well-enough prepared musically, it was their confidence that needed some bolstering.

The worship set was well-laid out and their execution was beautiful, even without a drum set. But it was the heartfelt encouragement they received from an unlikely congregant that transformed their offering into a truly joyful noise.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The custom at this family church is for the youngsters who will be leaving for children’s church to sit on the front row during worship. Part way through the worship band’s set a young girl of about 3 or 4 years of age started clapping at the end of a song. The congregation realized they might follow suit. And then…the most precious words came out of this little girl’s mouth: “Good job! That was really great!!” Then she stood up beaming from ear to ear and went to her mother. “Wasn’t that great?”

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Spoken by Jesus in Matthew 18:4

I thought my heart would burst right out of my chest just then, as that sweet little encourager lead that congregation in the purest moment of worship we would share that morning. And it started me thinking anew about ways to encourage those around me.

I have to admit, my voice is not always like that of the young girl, applauding and praising other’s efforts. Even as I type those words I cringe a little. I could say “Well, my spiritual gifts lean more towards equipping than encouraging.” And that would be true… Equipping, by its very nature, is more practical than reassuring, more clinical than compassionate. But I don’t think that lets me off the hook to develop my ability in this area.

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24

One of the first definitions I found for ‘encourage’ said ‘to stimulate spiritually.’ I could end my post here and feel quite satisfied about having made a point. Except that as I looked into the Greek word for stimulate I found an interesting tidbit. The Greek word, paroxusmos, evolved into our English word paroxysm. Commonly used as a negative connotation in our language these days, it means ‘an uncontrollable outburst’ and is often associated with anger.

However, it can also carry positive connotations. The dictionary provided this explanation: a paroxysm of giggling. Well, of course! My dear friend and ministry partner often sit in her office discussing options for ministry. I already knew that our sometimes uncontrollable outbursts of giggling really do spur us on in ministry! But seriously,  as I looked at these definitions and considered its meaning in the Greek (to stir up, provoke, goad ~ in a positive sense to rouse one to action or emotion) I realized that indeed I have a responsibility to encourage those around me.

The author of the book of Hebrews provides a small prescriptive for how to provide such stimulation. In verse 25 we see:

“Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some”

The word forsaking here is the same word Jesus used on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In the Greek it means to utterly abandon or desert. As we head into summer I think of some of my church family that I will likely not see again until Fall programs kick-off. One of my greatest heartaches in ministry is to see churches that shut down any formal Bible study or gathering over the summer.

Not to get on my soap box, but ‘summer vacation’ did not begin this way. Summer break allowed students time to help with the growing and harvesting seasons on their family farms. Now however, when such measures are no longer necessary, we have made summer break the reason to check out of our normal routines. My motto lately has become ‘God doesn’t take the summer off and neither should I.’ This doesn’t mean I don’t take time to get away on occasion. Truthfully, I am enjoying a little down time from my very full ministry schedule. However, I don’t make it a habit to utterly abandon these responsibilities.

I often think that if we would observe a more consistent ‘sabbath rest’ we wouldn’t need extended periods of vacation. But that is a post for another day! In any event, I am excited that our church has some exciting plans for gathering this summer, not the least of which is some solid teaching by a well-know apologetist and some great summer study/book club opportunities. Wherever you’re at I encourage you to find a place to get into the word this summer!

The second prescriptive found in Hebrews 10:25 seems a little redundant:

“Encouraging one another”

It seems redundant until I realize that the word ‘encouraging’ comes from the word ‘parakaleo’ which is the root of the word sometimes used to describe the Holy Spirit ~ Paraklete. Literally, the word means ‘called alongside’ and reminds me that our encouragement of one another is part of our high calling as believers. It is not merely something we do for one another, it is part of who we are to each other.

What is interesting here is that often we think of encouraging as comforting, especially where we see the Holy Spirit called The Comforter. But the word also has connotations, especially in this instance, of admonishment and exhortation. These words are most often used in terms of warning or calling upon toward action, not necessarily drawing the person being encouraged into a place of comfort, but of obedience.

I am fortunate to have (and hopefully provide) this kind of sister-in Christ relationship with a few good friends. In our culture today though I find that this intention needs to be declared outright. It is too easy to let our behavior be governed by socially acceptable practices than by the Word of God unless we allow each other to speak into our lives. Some of the greatest encouragement I’ve received has come in the form of a sister speaking up when she could as easily have let me wallow in my bad behavior. Sweet friends, hear me when I say ~ Go find you some friends like that. You will not be sorry!

Of course when the day is done and we’ve exhorted and admonished and come alongside one another it never hurts to say those words “Good job! That was really great!!” So find some friends like that too! And be this kind of friend to one another…

Rejoicing with you,

Tina

p.s. If you are looking to spend more time in the word this summer try making a list of all the ‘one another’ statements in the New Testament and ask God to show you which one(s) He would have you work on!

Product Review and Giveaway!

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” This verse was extremely important to my husband and I as we prepared for our wedding 16 years ago. About to marry a single mom with two daughters my husband was getting a ready-made family. That, and the fact that I was a new believer at the time, made us very aware that Christ must be the center of our home. We had a small plaque with this verse displayed prominently where visitors entered our home.

Over the years we acquired other such declarations of our devotion to Christ. One my favorites is a red sign with white lettering that simply reads “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” I have two favorite necklaces ~ a set of three crosses on black cords and a recent purchase – a keyhole bearing the word faith with a key dangling beside it. Not only are these symbols declarations of our faith in Christ, they are also ways that we can identify with other believers who cross our paths.

One of the most common symbols of Christianity is the ichthys (Greek for ‘fish’) symbol, most prominently seen in our culture on the rear end of vehicles. I’ve always thought these little plastic car ornaments were a bit tacky and never really desired to own an ichthys of any kind…until recently when I discovered the symbol’s true meaning.

The letters of the word ‘ichthys’ or ‘ichthus’ in the Greek became an acrostic: Ieous CHristos, Theos HUios, Soter. Translated: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. Wow! If that isn’t a decalaration of one’s belief I don’t know what is.

This acrostic was developed and used by early Christians who were under the threat of perscution for speaking out about their faith. The symbol was used on the grave markers of those martyred for their faith. For a broader explanation see the article here.

Shortly after reading about the history of ‘ichthys’ I was presented with the opportunity to review a beautiful product, the Wood Carved Ichthys Wall Hanging available from Dayspring. I now proudly display my ‘ichthys’ alongside my other declarations of faith in my home!

When I first opened my package from Dayspring I was a little disappointed that the mango wood seemed so dark. I was hoping for a brighter look in my living room. But as you can see by the picture, once illuminated the wood makes for a striking presentation of the symbol. This sturdy piece hangs well with two brass picture nails, and I think it contrasts well with my light mustard walls.

I have to admit I love the scroll detail inside and around the fish. So classic and unlike its bumper counterpart made of plastic…oh so not tacky. I absolutely recommend this piece as a lovely addition to your home., as a stand-alone piece or grouped with other wall hangings.

It also makes for a great conversation piece. My mom, who became a brand-new believer at the age of 70 last fall, noticed it right away. “That’s beautiful. What does it mean?” I had my newfound knowledge ready for such a question. My mom seemed duly impressed, and I think she wants one now too!

As an added bonus today, I am able to offer a $20 one-time use coupon code for Dayspring to one lucky reader. If you would like a chance to win this coupon, go to Dayspring and leave me a link below with a comment for the product or symbol you would consider using your code for. Winner will be drawn on Pentecost Sunday (June 12) using random.org The coupon code expires on August 31, 2011 and shipping charges will apply to the winner’s order.

(Note: In compliance with FTC rules, I am obligated to tell you that I received a free wall hanging in exchange for my review here today. All opinions of this product are my own.)

Fully Outfitted Through the Word

I have a confession to make. It’s been a long time since I posted an entry on this blog and my confession is that I’ve been dragging my heels a bit. Ok, a bunch! You see after I got this blog up and running I began to have doubts. Doubts that I could do what I think God wants me to do with this. Doubts that I could reach many, or any for that matter, with what I have to say. And fear that what I’m doing here might not measure up to God’s standards.

Do you see my problem here? I have been focusing not on what God wants to do, but on my own lack of ability to accomplish something. Have I not learned “Apart from Me (Christ) you can do nothing” and “With God all things are possible?”

Recently our Monday night class did an extensive word study on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteous, that the man (woman, person) of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (Parentheses mine) We looked at what each benefit of Scripture means to the believer and what it means to be adequate and equipped. This study got me fired up as I thought about my life verse – Ephesians 2:10 “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

When we look at the two principles of these verses together we see that when we interact with Scripture such that we are transformed by the teaching, reproof, correction and training it provides, we are then adequate and equipped to walk in the good works that God has prepared for us.

That word ‘adequate’ in the Greek, artios, means sufficient, completely qualified. And ‘equipped’, exartizo, from the same root word as ‘adequate’, conveys a heightened understanding of the word with a slight nuance. It means ‘to furnish or fit completely.’ We might paraphrase the verse this way:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable … that the believer might be completely qualified because they are fully outfitted for every good work.”

A favorite store in the county we used to live in bore the sign ‘Western Outfitters.’ They had every conceivable accessory for the modern cowboy or girl: boots, jeans, work shirts, rodeo garb, tack, saddles. You name it, they had it. They carried every possible accoutrement that could make a person completely qualified in the horse business, whether they were a rancher, a rider on the rodeo circuit, a horseman of any kind. Of course, we went only to be outfitted to watch the rodeo.

The apostle Paul was telling his protégé Timothy that God’s word completely outfits the believer for every good work that God Himself calls us to. Not only that, but when we have applied ourselves to Scripture, conforming our lives to the text, we are completely qualified to carry out that work in confidence.

It isn’t that I haven’t been in the word, it’s that I was forgetting that anything I had to say was from the word itself. Why would I doubt that what I had to say through the word could reach anyone? O, me of little faith!

A few days after our study of this text, I read in David Platt’s book Radical Together, the example of a guest speaker at a gathering Platt was attending. The speaker started out by apologizing that he had forgotten his Bible and declared that through a process of prayer he felt that God must not have had anything to say to them that night. The speaker prayed and sat down. Platt rightly appraised that this speaker’s apparent neglect of God’s word had influenced his presentation and went on to say that God through His word always has something to say. Leave it to God to give me a double whammy!

The day after reading this example,  a dear friend and accountability partner left me a message in Facebook calling me out for neglecting my ministry on the blog – and she’s not even studying 2 Timothy or reading Platt’s book yet, I might add! Luckily God had already been prompting me, so that I was able to see her message for what it was, a gentle reminder that God has work for me to do. Ok, it felt more like a kick in the bottom, which is precisely what I needed!

How about you dear sister? Is there something that you know God wants you to do, but you are at a loss as to how to do it, or having doubts that you can accomplish it? Get into His Word! Let it teach you, reprove you, correct you and train you in His righteousness that you will be completely qualified and perfectly outfitted to do His will.

I gave myself a little pep talk from His word this morning. From 2 Peter 1:1-8:

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are  increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rejoicing with you, Tina

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Copyright (c) 2011. Rejoicing Our Hearts. Tina M. Picard ~ All rights reserved.

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