What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Right Sized For Service

We have a photograph of our son when he was about two standing in his uncle’s very large work boots. He looked so proud of himself. He even tried to take a step. We all had a good-natured laugh, however, I wonder now about just what he was thinking. Was he trying to grow up fast? Was he showing us he’s a man? Was he trying to be funny?
Trying on other people’s belongings, behavior, or ministry may have that same effect – humor. In 1 Samuel 17:38-40 there’s the account of David preparing to do battle with Goliath, the Philistine. David was far smaller and younger than the 9-foot, 9-inch professional warrior Goliath, so to help prepare David, Saul gave him his battle garments to make David look fiercer. When David tried to walk decked out in Saul’s armor, he experienced great difficulty. Saul was a tall and strong man (the person the people saw fit to be their king; 1 Samuel 9:2). Saul’s armor probably hung lose and heavy on the smaller David. I picture it a comical sight, much like my son in his uncle’s boots.
“So, David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ And David took them off. He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook . . . and his sling was in his hand . . .” (1 Samuel 17:39-40). David did not try to be someone he was not. David did not try to act like a mighty warrior. David did play the role God had given him: a shepherd boy going to battle with his sling and his faith in God. (A sling was not a toy. It was a very accurate weapon in the hands of the right people. In Judges 20:16 we are told, “Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at hair and not miss.” David had already used it to protect his sheep from bears and lions. It did not seem a match for Goliath, however it fit David’s skills, personality, and faith.
When I was a young Christian, I wanted to be the next Billy Graham bringing large numbers of people to Christ at one time. That was not the weapon or skill or gifting God gave me and it never happened. As I grew in my relationship with Christ, I began to realize that my gifts from God were for small groups or one-on-one relationships and out of those relationships “many [would] see and fear, And [would] trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3). Now “many” is a relative term. I haven’t brought new people into faith in Jesus Christ in the same way or to the same extent as Billy Graham, but there have been some seeds planted, some growth toward Christ, and a few blossoming plants. Failing to wear the right armor and do the right ministry as designed by God leads to despair and hopelessness. As long as I keep using the gifts and skills God has given me, I will not fail to succeed in the tasks God sets before me.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dealing With Disappointment in Ministry

Is it hard to move on after someone has disappointed us? We grieve and we hurt, but how long should we stay there? I’ve experienced this bitterly when someone I was working with to help them grow deeper with Christ and excel at their work just stopped coming around. I contacted them. I wrote them. I prayed earnestly for them, but they had turned away from the Lord and me. I was heartbroken. It paralyzed me from seeking out others who might be interested in learning more about God. I felt I had done something wrong. Maybe my sense of pride at “my” accomplishments in that person was attacked.
Possibly, Samuel felt this way about Saul. In 1 Samuel 14 Saul didn’t follow through on God’s command to him. In 1 Samuel 15 Samuel confronts Saul and asks for him to repent and put God first in his life. Saul thought he knew better and refused to repent. In 1n 1 Samuel 16 we see how Saul’s disobedience and turning away from God affected Samuel. Samuel was grieving over Saul (vs. 1). In the New Century Version (NCV) of the Bible it says that Samuel continued to feel sorry for Saul even though God had said He was done with him. The New International Version (NIV) says Samuel was mourning over Saul. “Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul . . .?’” We don’t know how long Samuel was feeling bad for Saul. This verse seems to indicate that it had been awhile. Commentator Tom Bradford in his Torah Notes, thought that it happened pretty quickly and that there should be no chapter break between 15 and 16.
There are three possible lessons for me in this. First, I did not “make” someone follow God with his or her whole heart. Even if the person I’d been working with had continued to follow God, it wasn’t my doing – it is always God’s doing. As I didn’t make them faithful followers of Christ, I didn’t do something to make them make other choices. It’s always about individual choices. As a result, whatever happens with the people I’m working with, I need to let go and turn it all over to God. I need to let the Holy Spirit work in their lives and trust Him for the outcomes.
Second, whether it’s been a short time since a follower has wandered away from Christ or a long time, feeling some grief or regret is reasonable, even if it’s not desirable. I must use that grief to pray for those people. It’s okay to continue to love them, but a certain sense of detachment is needed, just like a parent with an adult child who wanders away from the Lord. (Side note: When opportunities arise where a parent can gently direct their child back to the ways of God, those opportunities should be taken. Key word: gently; not with heaping amounts of judgment.)
Third, God wants us to quickly take up His message again and push ahead with His agenda. I learned that there were others waiting and looking for some help in their relationships with God. If I stayed mourning too long, I might miss those needs. Staying focused on the past and on seeming failures, leads to depression or fear or discouragement, which lead us to inaction. Inaction is not God’s desire for His people. He expects us to be about doing His business. Doing so will lift our spirits and give us a new sense of purpose. We will be operating within God’s will. There’s still much to be done, and like Samuel, we need to be following God’s directives and keep moving ahead.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Healthy Fear

What do you think of when you hear the word, “fear?” Fearful? Afraid? Scary? Doom? Terror? Panic? Dread? Dismay? Distress? Horror? You might think I’m talking about watching horror movies or observing Halloween, but the way I think about fear is completely different.
I’m thinking about a different kind of fear – a Biblical definition of fear. There may be an element of feeling I need to fear the judgment of God, but that is a very small part of what it means to “fear God.” I once felt a dictionary definition when it came to fearing God. I knew I was a bad person who was unable to be the perfect person I felt the religion of my childhood expected me to be. Fear was wrapped up in having “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid” (dictionary.com). Yes, that was it. I was afraid of God and the sure punishment He would exact from me and toward me. That left me feeling hopeless, shameful, and depressed. I just knew that I could never please God.
The definition of fear does not end there when you look at it from a Biblical perspective. Online I found this quote by Robert B. Strimple: “There is the convergence of awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and yes, fear.” The article went on to say, “ . . . Some translations of the Bible, such as the New International Version, sometimes replace the work “fear” with “reverence.” Other translations use the word, “respect” instead of “fear.” A Biblical fear of God involves our recognition of His greatness. It involves recognizing His unique characteristics, such as omnipotence (all power), omnipresence (always present), and omniscience (all knowing). The Lord alone has these characteristics those (although some people may think they have these characteristics). God’s character is merciful and righteous at the same time whereas people sway between one and the other.
God’s characteristics create wonder in me. That wonder leads to the Biblical explanation of fear of Strimple’s definition above. I do have awe and reverence for God. I do adore Him and honor Him. I fall on my knees in worship and thankfulness. And, I have confidence in His love for me. That love that I cannot fully understand results from looking at God’s character and fearing Him. Each morning I pause and look at God’s character and fear Him. I worship Him. I give Him all the respect humanly possible for me to give. That’s a good place to start fearing God in the Biblical sense.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

True Success

What is a writer’s (or anybody else’s) measure of true success? Borrowing from Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young (https://www.writefromthedeep.com/), speakers at the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference, I’m going to talk about what being a successful writer means to me. These are principles for everyone to keep in mind.
Success doesn’t mean getting published. Of course, as a writer, that is a goal; it’s just not the goal. Other people have other goals – acquiring wealth, providing for their families, moving up the corporate ladder, a new car, a new house, getting married, having children, etc. Don’t get me wrong; those things are good and worthwhile to an extent. They may bring a measure of happiness to people’s lives, however, the thrill of achieving this kind of “success” will fade and people will want more. It’s that way with writing and getting published, also.
True success that lasts over long periods of time – may I even say, “over eternity” – comes from bringing God glory in all that is done. As a writer, my material or manuscript may be rejected by big publishing houses or by smaller publishing houses. That’s really out of my control, but I’m not going to measure my success by what publishers have to say. It would be nice to be appreciated and published, but that is not why or for whom I write. I write because God gave me this gift, this talent, and the mindset to pursue writing. It’s part of who I am – since childhood. It’s how I figure out what’s going on in my head and in my life. It helps me make sense of the world and my role in it.
Writing for God’s glory means I use the gifts and talents He’s given me to the best of my ability. Striving for excellence is part of it. I define “excellence” as doing the best possible with the resources, tools, and time available. Success is measured by how well, how often, and how lovingly I carry out the tasks God has given me. This is true for everyone no matter what gifts and talents God has given to an individual. If a person has the gift of being the perfect hostess (hospitality), let them exercise that skill by serving others. If a person has the gift of preaching, they better be about preaching. True success, again, is using the gifts God has given to minister to others. I do that through my writing.
Whether I ever get published or not, as long as I’m writing with God’s purposes in mind, I am being successful. If only one person reads my blog each week, if I have faithfully written as God has directed me, I am a success. That one person may be God’s intended audience. That gives new energy to my writing practices. It also gives me new motivation for doing what God has directed me to do: WRITE.