A Ministry PrePackaged Just for You


Parents, we all have a ministry to fulfill. We have one prepackaged just for us. Timothy tells us quite pointedly, “But as for you (put your name here), keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5).

When you think of the word “ministry” what comes to mind? Often people think of a church ministry such as, children, youth, Pastoral, leading a small group,  Bible teaching, benevolence, hospitality and all that makes a church run; some may think of missions, outreach events, etc.

But as a parent, what is your ministry?

Often we make the mistake of thinking that ministry is just outside the home. We think that we are doing nothing for the Lord unless we are serving in soup kitchens, the nursery, at youth camps or from the pulpit. The reality is this, God has placed you as a parent in a very strategic place of ministry; he has prepackaged an opportunity for you to serve His kingdom with great impact and influence. Yes, indeed, this is not where our ministry ends, but it is where it begins. Being a parent who ministers to our children doesn’t mean we do nothing outside the home for the Lord.

You see, we have two roles to fulfill:

  • Parent
  • Minister

They both are intertwined. I did not learn how to lead a Children’s Ministry because I went to seminary. I’m not against seminary, and I’m sure I would have learned much there if I had attended. But the best training ground for me was in the home. My text was the word of God and my experience was being a mom. From these I have learned to lead, coordinate, plan, fail, counsel, mentor, teach, empower, suffer, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. My prayer since my oldest was two years old has been, “Lord, teach me so that I can teach them.” This training ground has taught me how to lead a ministry to children and their parents with more than just training, it’s been with the power of the Holy Spirit and great personal conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5). It started at home. It started with my children. They were and will always be my first ministry. The good news is this, from the home God birthed more…

Parents, you have one of the greatest ministries of all kinds sitting right in your lap. They have big blue or brown or hazel eyes. They have dirt on their shoes, chocolate on their faces, runny noses; they practice your patience with temper tantrums, whining, arguing, and dirty rooms. They endear you with hugs, handmade cards, and sweet angelic sayings. They comfort you when your are sad and you comfort them when they are sad. They are thirsty, hungry, and in need of great physical care. They are tiring but awesomely wonderful. They are the creation of God that is most beautiful in our world. Nothing compares to them. They are remarkably and fearfully made by the hand of our Great God. Who cannot see that they are amazing? But they are more, they are also souls that  need saving!

They are sweet and wonderful but also filled with a sinful nature that if not extinguished, it will grow and become more and more evil in their life. If we take seriously their sinful nature and their need for a Savior by sharing with them Christ’s sacrifice, His word and His love for them, then we will grow that sweet wonderful little being into a fully devoted follower of Jesus. If not, our lack of fulfilling our ministry to them will grow their sinful desires and quench the Spirit’s purpose we have in their little life.

It is to these that you have been given the opportunity to mold as a life for Christ. Young children are more willing to receive Christ, which makes your job easier. Your teen may be in a difficult phase of life where it’s hard for them to receive from you, but you can overcome that. They are still trying to figure out who they are, so adapting to you is hard for them; your job is to adapt to them and learn how to relate to their needs. You can do this! Study your children, and meet them where they are, then lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ. This takes time, work, effort and sometimes heartache. But this is your ministry, so I challenge you live it! You have the great hope and glory of the world to share with them. I beg you to “endure the parenting hardships, do the work of an evangelist in your children’s hearts, and fulfill your God ordained ministry to them.” You will never be sorry that you did, but you will be sorry that you didn’t.

So armor up, “endure hardship with the rest of us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” and get busy! You have work to do, purpose in life, and a great adventure awaiting you! You CAN do this!

Parents loving children 1

3 Actions to Great Leadership


Character is king when it comes to leadership, but humility is king when it comes to influence. Influence promotes growth, whereas just having character can promote self. When we see our accomplishments through the eyes of “others” instead of “me” we can experience multiplication that exceeds all that we plan and seek for our family and churches.

As leaders, we lead, we make strategic plans, we create momentum and we even see fruit; these seem good, but God is clear when He outlines leadership. His definition of good is not found in our work, our to do lists, or our best effort put forward. Those are simply sacrifices and outcomes of the primary – while certainly these are profitable, they are not what God defines as the ultimate definition of leadership. His definition is found in a three simple action plan found in Micah 6:8:

  1. Act justly.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with our God.

humility a clear view of God

To act justly is to do what’s right for others. To love mercy is to be loyal to others. To walk humbly is to walk thoughtfully about others. Notice that the last one is to walk with our God. For God Himself is the Ultimate Leader, but He tells us that even though He dwells on a high and holy place, He also dwells with the contrite and the lowly. (Isaiah 57:15). As leaders, we have positions, responsibilities and power, but that power is not a power trip for us to ride on. It’s a seat of service to others. As we walk with God, we partner with Him. Like Him, we will use our positions of power to elevate the brokenhearted, underdeveloped and overlooked; our roles are opportunities to shed light on the modest and simple, so they can carry the baton onward and lead for the good cause of Christ. After all, God purposed Himself to use His throne and its entire splendor to revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite. Why would we be or do anything different as leaders? Oh how we can limit ourselves and the mission of Christ when we choose to ride on our power trips! Amen?

You might say, “But I’m not a leader.” Oh but yes you are! Do you have children? Then you are their leader. They are certainly a modest, simple, and underdeveloped and in many cases an overlooked group of people who have such potential to grow and become. You have the great honor to cultivate and advance them! Do you teach a small group of adults? Many in your group come brokenhearted, filled with life’s painful burdens. You can walk with them, teach them, partner with them and get them to a place of freedom. Are you a Christian? Being a Christian makes you an influence of God’s gospel. You can lead the lost to salvation in Christ and help them grow step by step in a closer relationship with Him. We are all leading someone, but the question is, “What action plan are we following?”

Becoming a “leader” is not the goal in life; being a servant is. When we use our roles to elevate others, make them shine, and help them get where God wants them, then we have learned the secret of great leadership. But it takes humility to get there. And humility in many cases is what culminates and propels the ability to act justly and love mercy. For without humility we will demand judgment not justice; and without humility we will make others dependent upon us vs. dependent on God’s power for their advancement.  As a parent, it has been my dream to advance each child way beyond where I have been in leadership. To do this, I have needed to not view my leadership role in their life as significant in its own right, but to see it as a launching pad for them to go far and beyond! Now that’s multiplication! 

How do we follow this action plan set by our God? How can we prepare our hearts and minds for such a leadership? First, we don’t love our position and power – instead we love the people we lead. And second we don’t use the people, instead we use our position to shape them. Thirdly, no one following us wants to look up at us, they want to see us by their side. So we choose to dwell with them not above them; just as Jesus chose to dwell with us, we will do life with those we lead.

“For thus says the High and exalted One Who lives forever, Whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place (leadership), and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit (humility), in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” (Isaiah 57:15).

Stirring Up the People, Healthy? or Destructive?


There is nothing like that first cup of coffee. It’s the first thing I go for in the morning, that and my Bible. I am seeking to wake up and wake up. The coffee stirs some energy in my system, prying my eyes open physically, but then the word of God does it’s fair share of stirring my spirit and waking it up to God’s Spirit and His mission. And today, He laid this word, stirring on my heart. As I stirred my coffee, the thought came to me as I was reading Acts 6 that some stirring is healthy but then some is destructive.

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So they stirred up the people and the elders of the teachers of the law” (Acts 6:12). In hostility, the elders and the teachers of God’s law stirred up the people to discord, dissension and eventually to persecution of one of God’s faithful servants, Stephen.

We learn from Acts 6 that Stephen, a deacon who waited on tables and served the widows had a great impact on the people. Why? He was filled with the power of the Spirit and it was oozing from him into every person he served. He performed great wonders and signs among the people and because of the impact he was having, opposition arose. The religious people of his day were jealous; their competitive nature caused them to try with all their might to pummel the impact Steven was making.  Self-glory usually does this!  

When believers submit to their competitive and jealous nature, they act much like these religious people of Stephen’s day. They hate or dislike someone who is serving Christ with impact; they end up being a stirrer of conflict. Jealousy is a dangerous trait in human nature. It feeds resentment; it makes partners rivals; it creates dissatisfaction in another’s success and works tirelessly at destroying the progress of them. Often times we don’t even know this horrible trait has hit us until we see the effect it has had on the community we live in.

A wise saying from Proverbs tells us of the six things the Lord hates, but seven He detests. 1.) haughty eyes, 2.) a lying tongue, 3.) hands that shed innocent blood, 4.) a heart that devises wicked schemes, 5.) feet that are quick to rush into evil, 6.) a false witness who pours out lies, and 7.) a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19). Notice the seventh, “a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” This one culminates all that the Lord hates and brings it to a total detestation.

Have you known a person like this? Have you been this person? What causes a person to go here? I think we would all agree we have known a person like this, we have been this person, and sinful desires with lustful eyes for ambition and personal admiration get us here.

But is all stirring wrong?

To stir means to do many things, but one is to “to set in tremulous, fluttering, or irregular motion.” To stir sets in motion a different pattern. When prompted by evil, this stirring has negative effects as mentioned earlier. When we stir up people to discord, we work against the Holy Spirit, but when we stir people up to good works and encouragement, we work in step with the Spirit of God. This kind of stirring produces unity among believers.

Consider another definition of stir: “to rouse from inactivity and complacency.” Many occasions, we as believers need some stirring when we find ourselves in this state, amen? For Titus 3:8 tells us so, “…I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for me.” Therefore let us, as Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds…encouraging one another…” A stirring of this sort brings us closer to each other and causes greater impact on the people we serve.  What is the motive of this positive stirring? It is the goal to please our Father in heaven and to make the other person successful. The aim is always glory to God and the betterment of the other person, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others” (Philippians 2:4). This is so contrary to our culture, but take note, Jesus did not come to teach us how to blend in culture, He taught us to be holy – set a part from culture.

We live in an age of success measured by popularity, achievements, and being great. But greatness is not found in our own renown, it’s found in making God famous. And to do this successfully, Jesus tells us to be servants, to die to ourselves, to love the brotherhood and to become less as He becomes more. This leads to choosing a life that is only seen hidden behind the cross. For in this manner of stirring, we become like Stephen – stoned yet “with a face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Habits of Marriage


Does your spouse ever tick you off? Are there moments where you both disagree? What is your typical response in these times? What’s your habit?

Every couple has their pressure points that can rub them right into a rubble. Dan and I do! And the one thing that can set us off is my driving skills! More on that in a moment.  Often times, it’s in these skirmishes that both partners will react with a bad habit of criticism and accusations. Why is it that we first accuse instead of encourage? For one our expectations are often too high for each other. Secondly, we are so comfortable with each other, we have no grace filter. These habits formed over years and years become our default in times of conflict. But the good news is these habits can die. Yes, they may die hard, but they can be extinguished. How?

I was reading Psalm 139 this morning and the first three verses say this: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

First of all, God knows our struggles. He is familiar with every detail. There are two key words in this passage: thoughts and ways. One feeds the other. Our thoughts feed our ways.  For example, if I think about eating that doughnut long enough, I’ll eat it. If I ponder not exercising long enough, I won’t. And if I think negative thoughts about my husband, I’ll react to him with negative actions.

The word “ways” in Hebrew is deh’-rek; and guess what it translates to? Habit! God is familiar with all our habits. And our habits stem from our thoughts. So how do we extinguish our bad habits? By changing our thoughts! When the conflict heightens in your marriage, do you default to criticism and accusations, or seek to understand and encourage your spouse? Criticism dampens their spirit, whereas encouragement strengthens their growth.

Another interesting insight that God gave me this morning that really put feet to this conviction is found in Psalm 139: 17-18, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” This propelled me to compare my thoughts to God’s when my husband makes me mad. Ouch! That convicts! For I know that when I am angry with my husband and he is angry with me, we are not thinking what God is thinking about us! So the question to ask when we are angry with each other is this, “Are my thoughts about my spouse aligning with God’s?” If they are not, then we need to renew our mind by remembering what God says about each other: we are children of God, saved by Christ’s blood, a child of great value, a priest in His kingdom, precious in His sight, worth dying for… and the list goes on. If God can grant us grace, then we can do the same for each other. After all, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! God’s thoughts about us are good and His habit with us is grace.  

Without making this story long, Dan and I have one pressure point that can send us reeling into a heated argument: my driving! I’m not the best driver on the track for sure. I have improved over the years, but for the most part, I’m terrible! So Dan would be right in saying I need do take this more seriously. But he agreed that he needed to encourage me more than criticize. And we got the chance to practice this in Atlanta, GA, last week. Yay, us! 

Upon arrival we went to pick up our rental car. I’m thinking, “Yay! A whole week without driving!” Wrong! The name on the form of payment we used had to match the driver’s name. All the cards were in my name. That meant I had to drive. I’m thinking, “This will be an interesting week. This may be our catalyst to the Atlanta divorce courts (just kidding).”  I knew the one thing we were going to learn this past week was how to deal with this conflict. It was a rough start, but in the end we both realized that our tone with each other was hurtful and we would most likely never speak that way to another person. And since we were not just husband and wife, we were also best friends; we needed to learn how to handle this conflict in love. By the end of the week, I chose to listen to my husband’s advice and he chose to speak words of encouragement to me about my driving. Finally, after almost 29 years of marriage, this was a good lesson for us to learn!

At Catalyst, we heard the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg speak on habits. I am reading his book and learning so much about habits and how to extinguish bad habits and create healthier and better ones. He speaks about creating habits by having a cue that starts a new routine and ends with a reward. Often times, our disagreements in our marriage are cues to practice a new routine – speaking in tones of love, encouraging each other instead of dampening, etc. – this new routine (habit) reaps great rewards – closeness, intimacy, friendship and a tighter bond together. What great rewards!

The Psalmist also knew how hard this was, so his prayer was this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way (habit) in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (habit)” (Psalm 130:23-24).

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#gomarriage #newhabits #greatrewards

Picture: “Silhouette Of A Couple” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One Prayer That Gives Others 7 Progressive Gifts


As Dan and I took five minutes this morning to pray together and read Colossians 1:9-12 we discovered that there are seven benefits that our prayers for each other provide for us. Keep in mind that while I am speaking of marriage partners in this blog, this same principle can be applied to anyone we pray for. Paul prayed the following for the Colossae church and we can do the same for our spouse and anyone else in our life. Look what results… ID-10032847

We continually ask God to fill you (person’s name) with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9b)

As we continued to read we saw 7 Progressive Gifts in verses 10-12 that our life will gain because of this one powerful prayer that Paul modeled. Because I have prayed this wonderful prayer for Dan and he for me, our day will include…

  1. …living a life worthy of the Lord.
  2. …pleasing the Lord in every way.
  3. ….bearing fruit in every good work that we do today.
  4. …growing in the knowledge of God.
  5. …strength with all power according to God’s glorious riches (no limits).
  6. …great endurance and patience.
  7. …a joyful thanks to our Father in Heaven.

What a great gift I could give him and one he gave me. In the midst of all these awesome gifts, God uses this prayer time between husband and wife to bind two hearts as one in His name. Praying together is the perfect reflection of a “…A cord of three strands not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  Give the gift of prayer to your spouse today!  It’s priceless!

This image is from the portfolio of “tungphoto” from  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Hope of Marriage


Our Pastor gave a great message last week on hope. As I was listening to this message again this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the many marriages that have lost hope and then acted on that hopelessness in divorce.

Pastor Zac uses the passage of Hebrews 10:23, “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” With this passage, Pastor Zac explains that we can hope in God because He is good for what He promises. Unlike many of us who promise this and that but are sometimes unable to follow through for various reasons, God is capable of following through every time. God’s promises are not only true, they are trustworthy. He has all that He needs to fulfill all that He promises.

I may not remember every single word of my wedding vows, but I do remember one passage that was read, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6). This was a pledge that my husband and I made to each other on that precious day of commitment. But it was more than a pledge; I believe it was also a promise from God to us. While we committed to not let anyone separate us, I believe that God would also not let anyone or anything separate us if we trusted Him for this promise in our marriage. On many occasions we have had people, circumstances, stress, (my driving skills!) and a whole host of things strive to separate what God joined together in us. But I will tell you, in those many times there is one thing that we did that taught us to hold on, push through and see God’s promise come to life in our marriage…

Many marriages are struggling today; some partners might think that God has broken His promise to them, but look back at what Hebrews says, “…let us hold tightly…” What are we holding tightly to? The hope of God’s promise. In a struggling marriage, it’s not that God has broken His promise; often times it’s that we have let go.

Marriage is not easy. Two different people coming together to create oneness in Christ is a journey of ups and downs; struggles and triumphs and even unity and separation. But one thing I know, if we can hold on tightly to the promise that God can unify the most desperate of marriages, He can deliver.

Dan and I have found ourselves in hopeless times in our marriage; what has kept us from the divorce courts and the way of culture? It was not love, not feelings, not romance, not sex, not even going to church – it was prayer! Prayer is a powerful adhesive that unites the most indifferent relationship. After a while, how can you hate the one you are asking God to bless? And I do mean to pray a prayer of blessing on the one who hurts you. This is not a “bring fire and brimstone upon my spouse” kind of prayer. Pray for them, not against them. Even if you don’t feel like it, do it. It works!

If you find yourself in a hopeless marriage with no light at the end of the tunnel, hold tightly to the Lord’s promise to you. I know it takes two to make this journey complete; one partner may not be so willing as the other. Or maybe you are so hurt you feel you can’t heal. You can! Trust me, you can! I suggest with earnest that in this time of waiting for the other and even for your own hurting heart to heal, pray. Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to give you power to hold on, for “after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

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Dear Lord, You are so powerful and able to heal whatever is broken in today’s world. Whatever is impossible is easy for you. I lift up the struggling marriages in our churches; I pray that you will be their glue, their magnet, their HOPE. Give them a view of Your trustworthiness and give them the courage to step out in faith and hold on and not let go. In this step of faith, be faithful as You are to heal their marriage and bring back together what You have joined. In Jesus Name, Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture By Rosen Georgiev, published on 04 April 2011