Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Busy Day Ahead

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. Psalms 3:5

This verse jumped out at me today. I have a lot on my mind. My desire is to make right choices and get all the things done that I’ve committed to do. This verse reminds me that I wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for God. He is the creator. I am his created. I woke up this morning because the One who created me wanted me to wake up. That’s rather exciting, don’t you think?

Lord, you sustain me. May I never forget that every breath I take is because you want me to breathe. Forgive my notions that I have any real choice in my existence. Just as a brand name on a toy often speaks of its quality, may your reputation be evident in the quality of my life today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cravings that Satisfy

I used to worry about getting my son to eat healthy when he was just starting to eat table food. He seemed to eat very small amounts and ate only strawberries and cheese. My mom would tell me not to worry about it. “They will eat when they are hungry and their body will crave the foods they need.” Wisdom she had gathered from a pediatrician when I was young.

Apparently this is true with pregnant women too. While on nearly six months of bed rest I watched America’s Health Network…uhm… a lot. One OB/GYN was talking about why pregnant women have strange cravings and even eat very unusual things like dirt. Amazingly, God has designed our bodies to know what it needs even if our mind hasn’t learned this information. Did you know dirt has nutritional value for people? Makes sense, I guess, veggies are healthy, right?

I don’t fully understand what makes a pregnant woman eat dirt. Maybe she fell over and couldn’t get up and discovered dirt didn’t taste so bad. I’m guessing she also took a nap while she was down there. Anyway, the term for the behavior of eating dirt is called soil pica. It’s interesting research but I’ll leave the details for your own internet surfing enjoyment.

Lisa Bevere in Discover Your Inner Beauty was concerned about a different type of hunger for her children.

One morning as I prayed for my family, I asked God to increase my children’s hunger for Him. Deep in my spirit I heard His response, “If your children are not hungry, it is because they are already full….” To develop this spiritual hunger I will need to fast all that is not of God that tries to fill me. (Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 70)

Ouch! Did that quote hit you like it hit me? Why don’t I let my kids fill up on sweets and junk food (or dirt) before dinner? Of course, I want them to be hungry for the healthier (hopefully, tastier) food.

The same applies to my desire to hunger for God. If I want to be hungry for the things God wants to put in me, then I need to stay away from the junk. What an awesome concept, don’t you think? Why satisfy my hunger with potato chips and candy bars when God has a banquet prepared for me. I’d say his appetizer is more like strawberries with a chocolate fountain. But don’t go overboard in the fountain. Just wait ‘til you see the entrĂ©e. It is a display like nothing you’ve ever seen – even on a cruise ship. The aroma makes your taste buds stand up and begin dripping with desire before each tantalizing bite reaches your lips.

I’ve found this to be true. When I approach my quiet time with God out of a hunger for him, it is a satisfying meal like none other. When I approach him because it’s time to sit down to be with him, well, it’s not all that exciting. My mind wanders to what I’m going to do when I’m done. Just like my kids do at our supper table some days.

So maybe the key to being hungry for God isn’t forcing yourself to stomach scripture that you don’t understand or attempting to pray in a way that puts you to sleep. Maybe the key is as Bevere suggests - fasting from the things that are not of God. If you want to eat healthy meals, don’t have a bag of candy sitting at your desk all day. If you want to taste the richness of relationship with God, don’t settle for relationships that are negative and exhausting or virtual relationships like the internet or TV. Allow yourself to be lonely, hungry for something more so that your soul will cry out craving what it needs to be truly satisfied.

Honey seems tasteless to a person who is full, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. Proverbs 27:7

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Team Development - Part 2

Your Spot in the Big Picture

In Team Development Part 1 we sought out our individual calling/purpose in our role as a team leader. Now it’s time to take that piece of the puzzle and figure out where it fits within the bigger picture. Why has God called you to this particular church or organization? How will your role connect your area of responsibility to the rest of the picture?

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

Before you begin building a team, you need to be clear on the vision for the full body of Christ within your church and you need to be comfortable with what part God is calling your team to play in that bigger vision. Don’t expect the leaders of the bigger picture to tell you your role. You need to be able to tell them what God is calling you to do so that all of you are moving in the same direction with Christ.

Here’s a bit of my philosophy of women’s ministry. I picture women’s ministry as somewhat of a service station along the highway. To be fully effective as part of the church Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23, women’s ministry cannot be viewed as a separate entity from the rest of the church. God calls us to be united, not segmented. Therefore, women’s ministry should always aim at meeting the unique needs of women so that they can better function in the full body of Christ.

The church where I served as volunteer women’s ministry director had an exciting vision to be a church for those who were turned off by traditional churches. As with most churches in that era, they had the three letters that represented the various aspects of ministry. Basically those areas in any church relate to introducing Christ, discipleship, and getting involved. The twist for this church was to make the message of Christ hit the needs of people who wanted more than to be known as someone who attended church. (Yes, this church was located in the Bible belt where that mattered.) Many, including me, had a history of being skeptical or disenchanted with church. They still had questions but wanted answers that go beyond what I call “Sunday school answers.”

The task for our women’s ministry, then, was to anticipate the unique questions women ask in each of the areas of finding Christ, discipleship and getting involved? You can adjust the question to fit the unique vision of your organization and your team. The point is to focus on what God is doing in the lives of those around you then allow God to use you to blend your specific ministry into this bigger picture.

Here are some ideas for finding your ministry’s spot in the bigger picture:

  • Read the mission statement for the church.
  • Discuss the vision with those who are most directly involved in determining the direction for the church. They may not call it a vision. You may want to word it this way, “If everything goes as you expect, describe the people that will make up this congregation a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?”
  • Develop a relationship with the decision makers. Even if you are a volunteer, create a plan to meet regularly one-on-one with the staff position responsible for your ministry. Keep this person informed of what is going on and what dreams you have for the ministry. Find out what dreams he has for his bigger area of responsibility. What would he like to see happen in your area of ministry? Pray with this person each time you meet.
  • Be an observer. Ask God to open your eyes to what he is doing in your church. Who are the women in your church? What God-potential do you see in them?
  • Listen as an advocate. If you were the typical women in your church (not a leader), what questions, thoughts or actions would the weekend message stir in you?
  • Put it on paper. Either in words or with a picture, show how your ministry fits in the bigger picture. This may be parallel list showing each of the areas of ministry then a column showing how the church meets that need and another column showing how women’s ministry meets a unique need of women in that same area.

Don’t expect instant change. If you are leading an area with a long history, don’t be discouraged by the slow pace. God will lead you in the specifics day by day. As the leader, he has given you the joy of a glimpse of the big picture. Remember the leaders of the Old Testament listed in Hebrews 11 – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, Joshua and Israel, Rahab and many more.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40

Next month we’ll look at the organizational chart and how it serves as a lure in casting vision.

Are you hungry?

Even though Hannah was honored by her husband with a double portion, she could not enjoy it because she was so tormented by her adversary. How could God allow this? Notice it was God, not the devil, who closed Hannah’s womb. Why? I believe God closed it to create a divine hunger in Hannah, one greater than a child could satisfy, one only He could fulfill. (Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 65)

How long have you been hungry for the things you ask of God? Has your hunger changed? Are you seeking a temporary satisfaction or are you seeking to be filled by God?

Bevere’s quote above easily applies to women longing for a child but it can apply to anything you are seeking from God. Are you seeking relief from or answers to your pain or loneliness? To the unjust actions of others toward you or toward someone else? What do you see as the outcome of your request?

Year after year she [Hannah] prayed for a son. At first her motive might have been, “God, give me a son for my husband’s name sake.” Then it may have changed to, “God, give me a son because of my adversary.” But when it became, “God, give me a son, and I will give him to You,” God gave to her the desire of her heart. (Bevere, 66)

Watch out. You may be tempted to read that and think “oh, if I pray and say I will give this child (or whatever it is you are asking for) back to God, he’ll give it to me.” As I tell my kids, it’s not your behavior, it’s your attitude that makes a difference.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Yes, I believe God wants to give his children the desires of their heart. As a mom, there is no better joy than seeing my kids excited about getting something they have longed for. But when their desire is against God’s will, I pray they will not receive it because I know that the struggles that follow will be much more painful than the shallow desire of wanting it. And it may not be the object itself but their motive for wanting it that makes all the difference.

What are you hungry for? Is your desire bringing you closer to God? Are you childishly demanding your way or are you seeking to know God more intimately through your growing hunger?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Are you working for God or with him?

“When we work for God instead of with God, we lose sight of God’s character, nature and perspective. Our motives become distorted and mixed. We become religious (serve God our way instead of His), legalistic (by the parameters and restrictions of man), judgmental (critical of all outside our understanding) and proud of our own accomplishments (‘look how hard I have worked’).” Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 62

Have you been there? I have. Maybe I can help you recognize it.

Are you often stressed out because you can’t get everything done? Are you trying to save the world? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Read Matthew 19:23-30

Do you see people as the battle and obstacles to your efforts? Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Read Ephesians 6:10-18

Is God’s saying “no” more than “go”? Read James 4:2-4

I’ve been in church all my life. I have been active and growing with Christ for over 16 years. My husband and I have attended and been leaders in a variety of church affiliations. But it wasn’t until seven years ago when we began attending a seeker driven (that differs from seeker sensitive) church that I realized how I had been trying to work for God rather than working with him.

Seeker driven churches are not trying to make truth comfortable. They simply bring up questions that many traditional churches have quit asking.

It was in this setting that I looked around me and realized that regardless of where any of us are in our relationship with Christ, we all desire the same thing. And that is to understand our role in this world – we are all seeking truth.

I miss the conversations of the seeker driven church. It seems that anyone I talked to – believer or not-yet-believer – we asked questions of ourselves and of God. We were always open to learning something far outside the box of man’s traditional ideas of who God is and our relationship to him. In the seeker driven church I attended, there was always a sense of experiencing God in unexpected ways.

Ok, maybe I’m “painting pictures of Egypt” (great lyrics of Sara Groves). Maybe I’m only remembering what I want and leaving out what God wants to show me where I am today. Confession: it’s not what was lacking then, it’s what I’m lacking now – community.

Here’s the point I’m wandering around: when we live as seekers of God instead of servers for God, we fall in love with Christ instead of ourselves.

So, are you seeking God or are you seeking accomplishments? Do you want to impress God with what you do for him or do you want to walk hand in hand along a sunny beach with Him – listening to his dreams for your life together?

Be his Bride and enjoy the romance.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Jesus Coming for a Wife or a Bride?

I love this question posed by Lisa Bevere in Discover Your Inner Beauty. She uses an entire chapter but I can’t wait to blog about this one section of comparing Adam and Eve to Christ and his bride.

Here’s some snippets:

“John [Lisa’s husband] did not ask me to marry him because I was a good cook, a great mother, a good housekeeper, a wonderful helpmate or financially responsible…. He married me for one reason – companionship.

“God brought Eve out of Adam’s side for this same reason…. God put Adam into a deep sleep and removed a rib from his side, which God used to create Eve. Then God presented her to Adam. Eve had been hidden in Adam all along.

“In the same way, the Father has prepared us as the bride of Christ. The death of Christ…brought forth His bride, the church. Now we, as the bride, anxiously await the marriage supper of the Lamb where we will see Him face to face and be joined together with Him forever.”

I’m not doing so well in the areas of housekeeper and helpmate these days so it is refreshing to be reminded that my husband did not marry me for those qualities.

The same thought can apply to our relationship with Christ. He didn’t die so that we would serve him. As Bevere points out “we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Him, so it is foolish to think we can do anything for Him. We only produce what is acceptable and life giving when we work with Him.”

When there is laundry in the dryer or a dish washer that needs unloaded and my husband is sitting on the couch after a long day at work, sitting beside him for companionship is much more enjoyable for both of us.

Is your relationship with Christ like the joyful days of engagement before your wedding or is it more like the tiresome days of raising a family and keeping a house? We are only a bride for a short time. But the wedding that is coming will be like none other. Once we are the wife of God’s only begotten son, there will be no more sorrow, no more dirty laundry.

Enjoy the engagement!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

God, what is it that you think about me?

This question was presented by Sara Carlisle at Vineyard Columbus Women’s Summer Series last night. It’s a great question especially following the question she first encouraged us to ask: “How do I think about God?”

Most of the time, how we think about someone greatly influences our impression of what we think they think about us.

For example, several years ago I worked in an open office environment – lots of desks in one big room. One day a co-worker said something to me that still impacts me 17 years later. “Lisa, you think everyone likes you don’t you?” Stunned at first, but my response came from my heart and it applies today both in positive and negative ways. “Well, yes. I like everyone. So I assume they like me unless I give them a reason not too.”

You see. How I think about someone greatly influences how I think they think about me. Neither may be accurate but it impacts my attitude toward everything in life.

With God, I can read his word and discover that he loves me… unconditionally. There is nothing I can do to cause him not to love me.[*] If I let that truth sink in, it will influence my response to everything that goes on around me.

So, how do you think about God? Before the next question, ask God if what you think about him is true. Now, ask God what it is he thinks about you. Keeping your mind on the truth of who God is and what he thinks about you will change the way you experience today.

Keep Growing and Sowing,

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
Email for reprint permission