How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

The Encourager’s Devotional Series is planned around a monthly theme with related posts every Wednesday according to this schedule:

  • Week 1 – main devotion
  • Week 2 – correlating Bible study
  • Week 3 – Bible study answer guide
  • Week 4 – monthly wrap-up with suggestions for application or any other additional material I’d like to bring in

So, what happens when we have a month with five Wednesdays? Well, I call that the “5th Wednesday Free-for-All.” Since the July Devotional theme was Freedom and Harmony (how to celebrate diversity while managing to get along), this month’s free-for-all question is …

How do you celebrate diversity?

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Encourager’s Devotional Series – Celebrating Diversity – July Wrap-Up

“Can you think of someone you could encourage to branch out into an area of giftedness or calling?”  That was one of the challenges I put forth in this month’s Encourager’s Devotional entitled Freedom and Harmony. One of my core values is to celebrate diversity because it is a reflection of God’s heart towards us. When I think about the fact that the Almighty God, creator of the universe, took time to fashion or “weave together” each one of us as unique individuals … I am left to declare with the psalmist, “How precious are your thoughts towards me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-18)

Sports lovers, check out http://clutchcommentary.com. And let your friends know about it.

This is why I love the ministry I do with the Grip-Birkman. I use this tool to help people discover their spiritual gifts, personalities, intellectual styles, and passions, as well as their internal and occupational motivations. Though there is a difference between spiritual gifts and inborn talents, when I lead people through these assessments, I stress that both are part of God’s design. They are an indication of how God wants to use us and how he has wired us to be most effective in what we set out to do with our lives.

Not all of the work I do with such assessment tools (I use others such as the DiSC profile) is in the realm of the church. I have worked with corporations and non-profits on things like staff development and team-building. One of the more recent groups I worked with was a local branch of the Make-A-Wish foundation for their annual staff retreat. I am glad I could play a small part in helping them regroup for the wonderful service they perform.

In all of this, I have come to a firm conviction that the church defines ministry too narrowly. Scripture says that whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God (Colossians 3:17; 23). Jesus needs people to share his love to the world in the everyday spheres of life (schools, restaurants, corporations) just as much as he needs them in the pulpit, the choir or the Sunday School room. Everywhere we go, we are ministers of the gospel.

I also have issue with the church’s restrictive definition as to what is “spiritual.” In his overwhelming creativity, God has built into each of us mechanisms by which we find rejuvenation, peace and joy. For some it is hiking, for others reading. It could be through gardening, or tinkering on cars, or … well, you fill in the blank. We should feel free to pursue these activities without guilt of “wasting time,” for by them we are refreshed and, thus, more capable of giving of ourselves to others.

I recently convinced my husband to start a sports commentary blog. I am so glad to see him doing something with this passion he has for sports. I’ve been telling him for years he should pursue this. When we’re watching games (it does not matter which sport), he is always ahead of the announcers on making calls, reeling off stats, and providing trivia. He’s a natural. You should check the blog and see for yourself (Clutch Commentary).

Now Scott (that’s my husband’s name, by the way) has also used his enthusiasm for athletics to coach, run Christian sport camps, and serve as a mentor. But that is a “pouring out” of himself, a withdrawal of his reserves, so to speak. This new endeavor is something that will fill up the tank for him. The other night Scott, my son and a friend were sitting around preparing for articles to post on the blog. I don’t even care that much for sports, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them chatter, and laugh, and talk smack because they were having so much fun with it.

And that brings me back to the initial question I posed, but let me rephrase it now. Can you think of someone you could encourage to branch out into an activity they do just for pleasure? Buy a set of paints for someone you know would love to learn that art. Or take a friend to an event they would find relaxing. And how about yourself? What can you do to refill your tank so that you’re refreshed and ready to “do ministry”?

Stepping Into The Minefield (To Those Who Love A Depressed Person)

“You can’t measure your care by the reception it receives. As is so often the case, the act of loving is itself the victory.”

john pavlovitz

mine-field1

Life with depression is precarious business.

It’s like living full-time in a minefield.

You never quite get comfortable with your surroundings, even when things seem quiet. You always move gingerly, knowing full well that any step could blow it all up and send you reeling again; a bit of bad news, a difficult moment, or worse seemingly nothing at all. And every single time something triggers the sadness and that inner detonation occurs, parts of you get ripped up and shredded—and losing a bit of yourself in this way never gets easier.

One of the things most people don’t understand is the way mental illness isolates you, how it forces you to the periphery of all of your relationships because you know how unstable the ground you walk on each day is and how quickly everything can get ugly. You desperately want to avoid the collateral damage to people you love, so you learn to keep them…

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Encourager’s Devotional Series – July Bible Study Answers

Sorry I’m late in getting out the answers to last week’s Bible study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series. I started a new job this week and it threw my schedule off. But thank the Lord for the employment.

Information

Read 1 Corinthians 12 and answer the following questions:

According to verses 4-6, what three differences should be allowed in the church?

different gifts, different ministries/services, different activities/workings

From verses 7-10 and 28-30, list some of the different gifts and functions which might be distributed throughout the church (Note: There are other lists elsewhere with additional gifts. We will look at those later in the study.):

wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation, apostles, prophets, teachers, helpers, adminstrators

What other kinds of differences are mentioned in verse 13?

  • Jew and Greek (for our cultural setting, we could expand that to “different ethnicities”)
  • slave and free (for our cultural setting, we could say different social circles, different economic circumstances, etc.)

Who decides which members are bestowed various gifts and where each member “fits” among us? (vv. 11, 18)   Holy Spirit, God

What familiar image of the church is used in this chapter? The body of Christ

Romans 12:4, which also speaks of the body of Christ, says the members of the body do not all have the same function.

What different gifts are listed in Romans 12:6-8?

prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation (same Greek word for “encourage”), giving, leading, mercy

Additional thoughts: Notice that verse 8 lists encouraging as a special gift that is given only to some people. Does this mean that only those with the gift of encouragement should strive to be encouragers? To think on this question, consider that serving, giving of finances or material things, and showing mercy are also listed as special gifts. Yet, when Paul is taking up a special offering to help one particular group of Christians (2 Corinthians 8–9), he speaks to the need for all church members to give generously. In 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 he even addresses the fact that some of us might have to overcome our reluctance in this area and not give grudgingly. (In other words, we may not have that gift, so it might not come as easily to us.) We could find similar passages to show that we are all expected to be merciful, to serve, and to encourage one another. So, if we are all supposed to encourage one another, how do you think it might be different for someone who has the gift of encouragement?

In 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul tells Timothy not to neglect the gift that is in him. Even more than that, he tells him to “fan the flame” of his gift. We all should make the development of our gifts an intentional focus of our lives.

These texts may bring up the question of whether or not the gifts are only given by “the laying on of hands” from a minister/church leader. The simple answer to that question is that the New Testament does not show this as a pattern. Paul is simply describing here how it happened with Timothy.

1 Corinthians 8 and 10:23-33 present an issue which some Christians thought was a sin while others did not. What is the disputable issue?

eating meat which had been used in idol worship

What was Paul’s conclusion on the matter in 8:8 and 10:31?  Continue reading

When Hearts are Revealed through Social Media

Reposting an older article I wrote just because I like it … and because it applies to several more current issues.

Pull Up a Chair

Lord, heal our hearts. Lord, heal our hearts.

Today my heart is grieved by those who spew hatred. I’m especially troubled by those who claim to be Christ followers yet don’t seem to realize that what they post and share on social media is saying so much about their true feelings towards others. As the St. Louis area still reels from recent events in Ferguson, the last thing we need is more people stirring up animosity.

So, I was tempted today to challenge some of the posts I’ve seen. But then I thought of the Scripture in which God says He can change people’s hardened hearts from stone to flesh. Healing for our region and beyond will require dialogue, debate, debunking and determination on the part of those trying to foster peace. In this moment, though, I am not suited for the battle because my own heart is agitated.

I’m choosing instead to make the…

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A Closer Look at Ethical Issues Involving First Christian Church of Florissant and the Counseling They are Offering to Sex Abuse Victims

No matter which “side” you’re on, or what you believe about any of the he said/she said in this terrible church situation, THIS is absolutely unacceptable! At the very least, it shows a total misunderstanding of the needs of victims. If it goes uncorrected, it shows a complete lack of true concern for them. I pray that those who attend this church will voice, in no uncertain terms, their concerns to the leadership that this is a very unwise approach to “helping” the victims.

Thank you, Julie Anne for a very insightful and thorough explanation of why this must be corrected.

An Article to Share for Bereaved Parents Awareness Month

In the January Bible Study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series, I shared several articles on how to (and NOT to) help people who are suffering with depression, grief or other life altering issues. With July being Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, I’m linking below to another great article on what you should (and should NEVER) say to a grieving parent.

I know when my sister lost her son, she found this to be true:
“People are sometimes tempted to list their own periods of grief — the death of their grandmother or a beloved family pet — as a way to sympathize, but those are not equivalent losses …”

And when I lost my sister, I finally came to see the truth of this statement (though I cannot fathom how much more true it was for her): “To try to explain to people that this is the kind of loss that transforms you into a different person, that you will never be the same person you were before this happened, is almost impossible.”

http://www.today.com/parents/child-loss-what-you-should-should-not-say-parents-t30596

Encourager’s Devotional Series – July Bible Study

This Bible study corresponds with the July devotional in the Encourager’s Devotional Series. Answers to the study will be posted next Wednesday.

Information

Read 1 Corinthians 12 and answer the following questions:

According to verses 4-6, what three differences should be allowed in the church?

From verses 7-10 and 28-30, list some of the different gifts and functions which might be distributed throughout the church. (Note: There are other lists elsewhere with additional gifts. We will look at those later in the study.)

What other kinds of differences are mentioned in verse 13?

Who decides which members are bestowed various gifts and where each member “fits” among us? (vv. 11, 18)

What familiar image of the church is used in this chapter? The ________ of __________

Romans 12:4, which also speaks of the body of Christ, says the members of the body do not all have the same ______________________.

What different gifts are listed in Romans 12:6-8?

Notice that verse 8 lists encouraging as a special gift that is given only to some people. Does this mean that only those with the gift of encouragement should strive to be encouragers? To think on this question, consider that serving, giving of finances or material things, and showing mercy are also listed as special gifts. Yet, when Paul is taking up a special offering to help one particular group of Christians (2 Corinthians 8–9), he speaks to the need for all church members to give generously. In 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 he even addresses the fact that some of us might have to overcome our reluctance in this area and not give grudgingly. (In other words, we may not have that gift, so it might not come as easily to us.) We could find similar passages to show that we are all expected to be merciful, to serve, and to encourage one another. So, if we are all supposed to encourage one another, how do you think it might be different for someone who has the gift of encouragement?

1 Corinthians 8 and 10:23-33 present an issue which some Christians thought was a sin while others did not. What is the disputable issue?

What was Paul’s conclusion on the matter in 8:8 and 10:31? Continue reading

Pushing Aside My Pride to Make Sure His Story Is Told

My Novel Project by Lisa Womble

I am a terrible fundraiser. I simply hate asking for money. For this reason, I have never taken a salary for the full-time work I do for our church plant. I just couldn’t raise funds for my own pay when the ministry needed the support. Almost two and a half years ago, I drew up plans to start a crowdfunding campaign for the book I’m writing (lacking a paycheck greatly hinders my ability to travel for the last leg of research I need to do).

But two days ago, I swallowed my pride and finally pushed the button on the campaign. As I’ve written before, I simply must get this book done as soon as possible. The friend I’m writing about has lived under an assumed name for over two decades and it’s time for him to reveal the truth about his life. He desires to do so in order to more effectively help others escape from the kind of life he used to lead. I’m honored that he’s asked me to help him tell his story. And now I’m asking if you would like to help, too.

The Go Fund Me campaign I’ve created offers rewards for this who choose to give to the project. Each reward level helps donors become increasingly more involved in the process to get this book written, published and promoted. I look forward to working with all who come along side me to get this story told. I am convinced many will be blessed by the book and by my friend’s ability to finally share how God brought him out of the “slimy belly of the underworld.”

To check out my Go Fund Me page and see the rewards I’m offering, click here or on the icon in the sidebar of this blog. And please, feel free to share with others. Your prayers will also be appreciated.