Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Loving and Encouraging One Another (Part 2)

The following is the second part of an excellent talk that Linda A. gave at a recent "Wise Women" segment on Wednesday nights. You can read Part 1 here, which examines some basic ways we can love and encourage one another.

Now, what about the rest? A sudden phone call that someone needs a babysitter, driven to the doctor, just wants to talk for an indefinite amount of time...........you supply the rest. What do you do? Your initial inclination is to say "yes" to everything! I don't have the perfect answer, because there isn't one. We each have to examine our own lives and the demands made upon us already. If you're a homeschooling mother, you often receive calls like that, because people know you're home and assume you're available. They forget that you're educating your children, and that's a full time job. If it's an emergency, of course, you help a friend out by babysitting or driving her somewhere, or spending time with her. However, you can't make it a regular habit or your own children will suffer. If you're not teaching them, then nobody else is. Ultimately, you're abdicating your responsibility to them.

Whatever our situation in life: single, married, married with small children, married with older kids, empty nesters, or widowed, we are unique. We can't compare ourselves to others, even if they appear to be similarly situated. We all have different levels of stamina, different family relationships, and different demands on our time.... If you are able to involve yourself in various areas of ministry without causing your family to suffer, then that is great. However, please don't judge someone else who appears to be in a similar situation to yourself and doesn't get as involved as you do. Contrarily, please don't beat yourself up by thinking you're somehow inadequate, because you're not doing as much as your friend.

This is my encouragement to you - and to myself! We do need to love each other in word and deed. We need to examine our lives and our different commitments. If we have no time left to help someone else, then that's a problem. However, as long as we are honestly desiring to help each other and endeavoring to meet other's needs without detriment to our own health or families, then we have no need to feel guilty. We are not God. He is! He'll put different people and situations on our hearts at different times, and it should become apparent what He would have us do.

Now, there's another way we can show love to the body and that is by not taking offense if one of our needs is not being met. Our church used to have a reputation for being cold. It was said that we knew the Word but we didn't love one another. Unfortunately, I've heard that a few times recently - mainly by those who no longer attend here. That is so very sad that anyone would feel that way. I've thought about it a lot and sought the Lord about it. Here is what I think.

If we truly deny ourselves and love others more than ourselves, then we would only think the best of others and extend grace to them. For example, you say "hello" to someone and they walk on by. Instead of thinking that they're ignoring you, give them grace and assume that they didn't see you or were preoccupied. Perhaps you've been in hospital and very few people from the church came to visit, or you've recently lost a loved one and you didn't receive many condolence cards or - you supply the need. You continually read "thank-you's" in the bulletin for all the cards, visits, meals, etc. accorded to other people who have been ill, lost a loved one, etc. You begin to think that you're not considered as important as they are. This is your opportunity to extend grace and love. Do you remember to send a card to everyone who has been ill or has lost a loved one? Do you make time to visit everyone who is in hospital? When you see people at church, do you remember every single person who has recently lost a loved one? If you're like me, then the answer is "no."

It's unfair to put expectations on others. Our hope is in the Lord - not in each other. The sad truth is that we will always let each other down. Our responsibility is to do what we know we should be doing - not police everybody else! It's kind of like what they say about a marriage relationship - the husband and wife each giving 100%. We should do our best to give our 100% in our relationship with Christ, whether other believers are doing it or not. We shouldn't keep score!

We should also remember that when we do what is right, we're not doing anything extra. We shouldn't expect a reward. Everything should point back to God (Matt. 5:16 "Even so, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." ) We shouldn't expect recognition or thanks. (Matt. 6:1 -4 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. … but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.")

I have a funny anecdote about that. When Miss Billie Kirkpatrick was still alive, a few of us would take turns going over to visit and clean her house a wee bit. She had over thirteen cats at one point, so it was quite a monumental job trying to keep her house sanitary! :) Anyway, one of my friends, Sandy, was faithful to go over every week and clean Billie's house as thoroughly as she could. I would visit too, but my visits were much more leisurely - a quick flick of a duster here and there - and then I'd sit down to pet the cats and chat with Miss Billie. Billie would get our names mixed-up and would always call Sandy "Linda." While Sandy was diligently scrubbing the base boards and mopping the floor, she'd hear Miss Billie on the phone saying, "Oh yes, Linda is over here visiting and cleaning my house." Poor Sandy! She did all the work and I got all the credit! It was a salutary lesson that our good deeds have to be to the glory of God! Fortunately, Sandy had the right attitude.

One last thing: when someone who is experiencing a painful situation comes to you, please, please, please, DO NOT say "I know how you feel." Erase that from your vocabulary! It doesn't help at all and is only turning the conversation back onto you. It's not about you. It's about this other person who is in pain. Even if you have experienced something very similar, your reaction may have been totally different. We need to remember that God has made us all unique. Someone who is in pain needs to be allowed to express her own emotions. There's a tendency to say that someone is "handling something well" if they don't actually articulate the pain they're experiencing but instead speak in elevated terms of it all being God's will. Of course, that is the bottom line. It is God's will. We know that. However, we need to allow someone to speak about the pain they feel without feeling that we're judging them for a lack of faith and trust in God. If you've been in this church for any time at all, of course you've been taught that nothing happens outside of God's control. However, some people have to walk very dark paths. They need to know that we understand the depths of their despair, hurt for them, and are earnestly praying for them. Later on, if they begin to indulge in self pity, then we can gently speak to them of God's sovereignty.

To summarize, we are commanded to love and serve one another. If we have no desire to do that, then we should be concerned. However, we need to examine our own situations and assess exactly what we are capable of doing. We must not and should not compare ourselves to each other - whether favorably or unfavorably. We also must remember that we are supposed to crucify our own flesh - not our loved ones'!

It's quite easy to run off and minister to someone else, leaving our husband, children, or other family members to fend for themselves. I remember years ago, a lady speaking about her mother. Her mother wasn't a Christian but loved to minister to others. She was very well respected and renowned in her small town for being the one to bring meals when someone had just had a baby, or was sick, or had experienced the loss of a loved one. However, while she was taking delicious meals to others, do you know what her husband and children were eating? Sandwiches! We have to have balance. God has given each of us our own set of responsibilities. They have to take priority.

As I said, I don't have the answers. There are some things we can definitely do and should do them without excusing ourselves. There are other things that we may be able to do. I think God puts certain people on our hearts. If we're honest with ourselves, we know who they are. God will arrange our circumstances to enable us to minister to them.

What an honor and privilege that a Holy God would speak to our hearts and use us for His glory! In Him be all glory and honor forever and ever, amen!

If you would like to download a PDF version of this entire talk, you can find it here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Loving and Encouraging One Another (Part 1)

The following is an excellent talk that Linda A. gave at a recent "Wise Women" segment on Wednesday nights. Since it is quite long, we will post this in 2 parts.

When I first read the e-mail to the elders' and deacons' wives asking us to choose a topic on which to speak at the Ladies' Bible Study on Wednesday nights, my first reaction was "I don't think so!" I know there are many gifted ladies in our church, and I felt that I didn't have anything of "import to impart", as they say! However, there have been various ideas - notions - observations – questions - hovering on the periphery of my thoughts for a while now. I felt as though the Lord was gathering that whole amorphous mass into an articulate whole that I can share with you. I may provoke more questions than answers, but we can help each other, can't we?

I asked if I could speak on encouragement, but a more accurate title would be "Serving and loving one another, prioritizing our time, and not feeling guilty when we can't meet every need."

I want to say at the outset that there is nothing in us that wants to do good - it all comes from the Lord. Any desire to read the Bible, to pray, to be unselfish, generous, kind - none of these things is within us. It's all God. Even the good that unbelievers do is because of common grace. I also want to say that when you are pointing a finger at others, you are pointing three fingers back at yourself. I am speaking to myself even more than I am speaking to you!

Encouragement - we all need it. It can give us strength to continue a difficult task. It can spur us on to new endeavors. It can transform a gloomy, grudging attitude into one of thankfulness. In Hebrews 10: 24-25, it says "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." In 1 John 3:14, it says "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death." In 1 John 3:18, it says, "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."

There are many, many other verses instructing us to love and serve one another, but you get the point: if we have the honor of calling ourselves by the name Christian, then we should subdue this old flesh, and seek others' good and not our own.

The problem is that there are so many needs, aren't there? On any given Sunday, you can read in the church bulletin that there is a need for nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, AWANA leaders, youth workers, IFO friendship partners, STEP mentors, and volunteers to answer the phone in the church office. That's only the church itself. Individuals need someone to watch their children, drive them to doctor appointments, cook meals, clean house, call them regularly and devote time to listening to their concerns. The list goes on and on. Now, what do you do? You want to serve. After all, we are God's hands and feet on this earth, aren't we?

However, it's pretty obvious that there is no way one person can be involved in so many areas. So, what is a Christian woman to do?

There is one thing every single one of us can do and you know exactly what that is: PRAY. Pray specifically. Use the church prayer list. It's updated every week, so you can pray intelligently.

We can let others know we're praying for them and ask how the current situation is going. I will tell you that that is an enormous encouragement when you are going through a trial. I remember when Kenny had leukemia back in 1994. He had to go through chemo treatments and be hospitalized for almost a week, every month for over a year. His blood counts would plummet, making him susceptible to infection. I had a friend who was not only faithful to pray but also kept up with exactly where he was in his chemo cycle. She would say things like, "He had chemo last week didn't he, so how is he feeling right now?" I cannot tell you how encouraging that was to me. It really showed she cared.

So, we should not only pray for each other, but we should pray intelligently.

We can send cards of encouragement. (That kind of goes along with letting someone know you're praying for them.) Referring back to the leukemia, Kenny and I received tons of encouraging cards initially. However, there were a couple of ladies who would continue to send "praying for you" cards for several years. When the chemo treatments stopped, there was a very high chance of his losing his remission. Their cards would usually arrive when I was feeling discouraged. It was a precious reminder of our Lord's care for us.

We can call to encourage someone and let her know that we are praying and care about her situation. I like to make phone calls when I'm walking my dog. At home, I really don't have much time to spend on the phone. I think that goes for most of us.

Most of us can make extra meals to take to someone. Even if we're living on a small income, we could supply bread to go with someone else's meal or a small dessert. We have to cook anyway, so why not just make extra? Now, I say that as though I find it very easy. I will tell you I don't! Not because I don't want to make a meal for someone else but because I'm always worried that they won't like it. I have a standard casserole type dish that I take. Since I don't eat meat, I don't have a clue what it tastes like, but my family likes it. If I have to take a second meal, I panic!!! (Just kidding! I take taco soup.) Bottom line: making a meal for someone else should not be a huge sacrifice.

We can look for ways to serve while we are at church. There is always a need for nursery workers. In an ideal situation, no mothers of babies and young children should ever have to serve in the nursery or pre-school. When you have several children, you can spend a lot of time back in the nursery and hardly ever receive spiritual food.

Tomorrow we will look at other ways we can serve and examine our motivation for serving and our attitudes about serving and being served.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Secret of a Happy Mother (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a 4-part series. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Looking one last time at 1 Tim. 2:15:

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness.

Holiness means to be set apart for God’s use. This is the job of a mother: to be used by God. Mothers and fathers get to be the ones to point their children to God!

Deuteronomy tells parents to:
  • Teach your children about God as you teach them about God’s creation
  • Teach them all the time – whenever you are with them
  • Teach them to obey
  • Teach them about sin and salvation (God will do the saving, but you get to be the evangelist! If you try to save your child – you will not be a happy mother – because you can’t do it.)

Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

God made children with the need to have instruction and boundaries. God is the law-giver – we needed instructions. Mothers, if you fail to do your job of instructing your children, they will be frustrated, and it will be your fault. When giving instruction, tell your child specifically what you want them to do and how to do it. Then let them practice obeying. This takes time but is so helpful.

If you don’t obey Ephesians 6:4, then Proverbs 29:15 awaits …

A child left to himself disgraces his mother.

This is not the way to be a happy mother. This is the way to be the mother we so easily can find – the angry, self-focused mother we see in the world - the frustrated mother who doesn’t know God and of His plan for her sanctification through raising children. The real difference between the two mothers is their focus. The happy mother is God-focused, knowing God, and that his plans for her sanctification are for her good. The unhappy mother is self-focused and concerned with her circumstances only.

God is so good to have given us the body of Christ – our church body – to help us. Our church is full of ladies who have either gone before you in this task of mothering, will walk through it with you, or will begin after you are past it, and you will find yourself being the ‘older lady’ who knows the secret! Listen to the older ladies who have gone before you and have proven God’s word faithful and true. Follow their examples of continuing in faith, love, and holiness, and you too will be a happy mother of children.

Click here to download a PDF version of all 4 parts in this series.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Secret of a Happy Mother (Part 3)

This is the third post in a 4-part series. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Looking again at 1 Timothy 2:15:

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness.

A mother’s love will grow as she matures in her faith. The classic verse on love is 1 Cor. 13:4-7.

Love is patient - 777 thousand diapers later
Love is kind - when they constantly ask, “Why, Mommy?”
Love does not envy – other people’s “perfect children”
Love does not boast and is not proud – in your child’s accomplishments
Love is not rude – when having to use the Mommy Voice
Love is not self-seeking
Love is not easily angered – when sinned against
Love keeps not record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When a mother focuses on loving her husband and children like this love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7, she will be a happy mother as she sees God working this love in her according to His plan.

There are many things that creep into a woman’s life and, if allowed to grow, can take over and become regretful obstacles to her pursuit of love. They really are Enemies of Love: busyness, laziness, disorganization, obsessiveness, and wrong thinking.

These enemies need to be replaced by Friends of Love: routines, organization, realistic expectations, humor (sometimes it’s funny to run out of diapers – but not all the time), rest, and margin (leave time for the unexpected to happen).

Enemies of love become slave drivers, making it hard for mothers to respond in love. Friends of love serve women in their quest to be happy mothers.

Tomorrow we will look at a mother's holiness.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Secret of a Happy Mother (Part 2)

This is the second part in a 4-part series. You can read Part 1 here.

First we will look at a mother’s faith.

It takes faith to believe God’s promises – especially when things aren’t going as you thought or wanted or had hoped.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear God and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)

A mother needs to trust that what God brings into her life is good for her and part of His plan to sanctify her. Some days of motherhood are such joy and blessing: days of celebration or the “perfect routine” day. Other days are upsetting and challenging: days full of discipline, crying, rebellion, or disappointments. Our responses to these days become the opportunity God has to show us our sin. Sins of pride and boasting, sins of anger, despair, or envy….all manner of sin will surface in a mother. But a mother of faith, a God-focused mother, will remember to rejoice in this – we can turn and repent and find forgiveness from God again and again. And in time, we can find victory over various sinful habits.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The humility of a dependent, trusting, and unpretentious child is what the end result of our sanctification looks like. As a mother holds and does everything for her newborn baby, this helpless and trusting baby is the picture of how we must trust God.

It takes faith to see past where you are now. There are seasons in life, and seasons in raising children. Some seasons seem to last forever, like the pregnant season, the diaper season, or the car seat and runny nose season. But like all things, they do fade into new seasons. Wait on the Lord as you are in each season, trust that He is perfectly working out all things for your good. Practice being content with where God has you in life, and be thankful for the work He is doing in you during each season.

Tomorrow we will look at a mother's love.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Secret of a Happy Mother (Part 1)

This week, we are reprinting a devotion that Carol G. gave at a recent baby shower. Since it is quite long, we are dividing it into 4 parts.

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
(Psalm 113:9)

Have you noticed how rare it is to find a truly happy mother? Almost anywhere, such as in Wal-Mart, you can find frustrated mothers, fearful mothers, fed-up mothers, hurried mothers, stressed-out mothers, or pre-occupied, prideful, impatient, harsh, jealous, arguing, angry, self-focused mothers. We can all act like this at times, but to be characterized as a happy mother is what every mother wants.

So, what makes for a happy mother of children? For surely we all want to be happy mothers. Is there a secret to being a happy mother? A double-latte from Starbucks? The perfect paper towel? The perfect house? Mr. Clean for the perfect house? The perfect baby? A better diaper? The perfect husband? Maybe Dr. Phil can help? What about the Nanny? Maybe she has all the answers? The world will try to sell you a million things that supposedly will make you a happy mother.

Notice from Psalm 113:9 that it is God who settles or establishes the happy mother of children. It is God Himself who makes the mother happy. A mother who knows God and knows God’s ways (or purposes or plans) will be able to be a happy mother, regardless of her circumstances.

There is a strange verse in Scripture that actually tells us what God’s plan is for women who become mothers.

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:15)

This verse sounds strange because it uses the word “saved.” “Saved” here doesn’t mean “actual salvation,” but it means “continuing salvation” or sanctification. We know that sanctification is the process of becoming more like Christ. So this verse says that motherhood is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Children become tools in God’s hand to sanctify mothers.

So how does understanding this strange verse and God’s plan help a woman to be a happy mother? It should serve as a warning for her to be prepared to struggle with sin - her own sin. Now, this might not sound right to you: that the way to make a mother happy is to tell her to expect a struggle with sin. But the rest of the verse tells how the mother can overcome the sin struggle and be sanctified. It says for her to continue in faith, love, and holiness.

Tomorrow we will look at the first of these: faith.

Friday, March 18, 2011

25 Ways to Pursue Joy in Christ

God promises his children joy, and many times he fills us with it without our asking. But at other times, especially when we go through trials, we must fight for it. Much of the battle lies in fighting to believe God’s word.

For some the battle for joy is much harder than others. Some must deal with their own tendencies to being downcast. Depression and hard, long, sad afflictions can make Jesus’ joy seem beyond reach. Yet God’s word says it’s his intent to give us his joy both in this life and especially in the next. So here are some ways to pursue joy in Christ:

  1. Praise God for the cross: for his mercy and grace in saving you.

  2. Thank him for all his spiritual benefits: forgiveness, adoption, the Word, spiritual gifts, the church.

  3. Ask Jesus to fill you with his own joy (John 15:11).

  4. Thank him for his steadfast love that never ceases.

  5. Thank God for your temporal blessings: your spouse, kids, health, sight, food, strength, home, computer and coffee.

  6. Praise God for his attributes: his greatness, sovereignty, goodness, love, wisdom and power.

  7. Praise Jesus for being a compassionate high priest who intercedes for you.

  8. Thank him for all the specific good he is producing in you through trials: patience, perseverance, and faith.

  9. Thank God for his past faithfulness.

  10. Give to the kingdom.

  11. Give to the poor.

  12. Serve others (Philippians 1:25).

  13. Don’t dwell on whether you are joyful or not. Try to forget yourself.

  14. Thank the Lord that he is making you like Christ.

  15. Seek God’s presence in prayer (Psalm 16.11; Psalm 43.4).

  16. Read the Word – it produces joy (Psalm 119.111; Jeremiah 15:16).

  17. Thank God that he will never turn away from doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40).

  18. Ask others to pray for God to fill you with joy.

  19. Ask the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of joy in you.

  20. Confess your sins to God and ask him to restore the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12).

  21. Memorize God’s promises to give you joy and ask him to fulfill them (John 16:24; Romans 14:17; 15:13; Psalm 4:7; 30:5; 68:3; 97:11; 126:6).

  22. Consider others who have it much worse than you.

  23. Pray for others who are suffering.

  24. Contemplate the joys of heaven and the world to come.

  25. Read John Piper’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy

Written by Mark Altrogge, reposted from The Blazing Center blog (HT: Challies).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recommended Reading List

Are you looking for a good book on hospitality? Marriage? Evangelism? Or some other topic?

If so, you'll want to check out the newly-updated Women's Ministry Recommended Reading List (click on the link to open). This excellent resource lists books and authors that are approved and recommended by our pastors and their wives.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is very long and divided into categories. We hope that this tool helps you when you are looking for a book on a specific topic.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Parable of Fishless Fishermen

This "Parable of Fishless Fishermen" by John M. Drescher was used in a sermon illustration during our recent missions conference. If you were unable to attend, you can listen to the sermon here.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further, they said, “The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans such as “Fishing is the task of every fisherman,” and “Every fisherman is a fisher,” and “A fisherman’s outpost for every fisherman’s club.” They sponsored special meetings called “Fishermen’s Campaigns” and “The Month for Fishermen to Fish.” They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing, to promote fishing, and hear about all the ways of fishing, such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait was discovered.

These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however—they didn’t fish.

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what was needed was a board which could challenge fishermen to be faithful in fishing. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived.

Also, the board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about. But the staff and committee members did not fish. Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years, courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and were given fishing licenses. They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters that were filled with fish.

Some spent much study and travel to learn the history of fishing and to see faraway places where the founding fathers did great fishing in the centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years before who handed down the idea of fishing.

Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night to produce materials solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment, and programs to arrange and to encourage meetings to talk about fishing. A speakers’ bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.

Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like fishermen back home, they never fished. Like the fishermen back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish, and tractors to plow new waterways. They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries. Some also said they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Other felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors and how loving and kind they were was enough.

After one stirring meeting on “The Necessity for Fishing,” one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fishermen’s General Board as a person having considerable experience.

Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen’s clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who didn’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn’t fishing?

This article is from the God Squad. www.godsquad.com © 2001 Campus Crusade for Christ International. Permission granted to copy for personal or ministry use provided this credit line is included and content remains unchanged. gswebmaster@uscm.org

What are you doing to catch fish?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Using Our Homes for Hospitality

Below is the outline from Gail H.'s recent Wise Women segment on "Using Our Homes for Hospitality"

  1. Reflect on the Biblical definition of hospitality.
    • Entertains strangers
    • Fond of guests
    • Hospitable/friendly

  2. Remind yourself that all are to be involved in showing hospitality.
    • Laymen
      Romans 12:13 “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

      I Peter 4:8-9 “Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

    • Leaders
      I Timothy 3:2 “An overseer, then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”

      Titus 1:8 “but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self

  3. Regard former saints who have modeled hospitality.
    • Old Testament examples
      1. Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8)
      2. Lot (Genesis 19:1-3)
      3. The Proverbs 31 Woman (Proverbs 31:23)

    • New Testament examples
      1. Mary & Martha (Luke 10:40-41; John 12:1-3)
      2. Zaccheaus (Luke 19:1-10)
      3. Lydia (Acts 16: 14-15; 40)

  4. Reject common excuses that preempt hospitality.
    • “My home/apartment is too small.”
    • “That’s not my gift. Someone else can do it.”
    • “I am single.”
    • “I don’t have much money or fine dishes.”
    • “Everything is not in perfect order.”
    • “Everything is in perfect order and they’ll mess it up.”
    • “I’m afraid.”

  5. Resolve to be hospitable.
    • Intentionally plan strategic hospitality. (Seek your husband’s direction.)
    • Make a simple meal and decorate a simple but pretty table.
    • Be ready and willing to offer hospitality unexpectedly.
    • Look for ways to make it a time of true Kononia instead of a social event.

  6. Rejoice in the reward of extending hospitality.
    • Realize personal pleasure in loving others. (Proverbs 31:18a)
    • Recognize your service in reaching the lost. (John 13:35)
    • Return glory to God for the commendation received. (Proverbs 31:23;29-30)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

8 Purposes for Trials

From John MacArthur's sermon "The Purpose of Trials":
1)Trials reveal to you and me the strength or lack of faith...so that we can move along the path to greater strength. They reveal what is in our hearts...that our faith is weak and we need to trust God more.

2) Trials come to humble us.

3) They wean us from wordly things. During a trial we see the utter inability for *things* to solve any problem or even provide any real resource or comfort.

4) The trials call us to an eternal hope...heaven becomes sweeter than ever.

5) They reveal what we truly love. Was there anything more dear to Abraham than Isaac? He was willing to give up what he loved.

6) Trials teach us to value the blessing of God. In the midst of a trial, we obey and are blessed. Psalm 63:3 tells us that God's lovingkindess is the best thing there is. We truly learn to believe this when going through a trial or testing.

7) Suffering helps us to help others in their suffering.

8) Trials develop enduring strength for greater usefulness. The worth of a soldier is never known in times of peace. It is in times of war that we see what is inside a man. The more you are strengthened, the more useful to God's kingdom you become.