Becoming who God Intended

“I can’t lead communion, I’m not the Pastor!” the excuse popped into my mind almost as fast as my husband’s request. He had double-booked himself and could not stay for the final hour of the small group meeting. The solution? Me. Leading Communion is one of the churchly duties that I laid squarely with the minister, not the wife. It’s up there with marrying and burying, belonging squarely on my husband’s shoulders. But Jon, needed my help and I could choose to help or make an excuse. I chose to push through my feelings of inadequacy and lead the communion.

Do you find yourself holding back?
Settling for mediocracy instead of climbing to full potential?
Not the ideal family background for ministry? Memories of the past plaguing you with pain or fear? Wondering if your testimony is too boring to interest anyone? Paralyzing questions that keep you settling for good instead of straining towards greatness.

 

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13 &14

 

As a persecutor of the early church, apostle Paul had plenty to forget about. The faces and voices of Christians that he ordered to be beaten or killed. Penned from his own personal experience, He Forgot, Strained and Pressed on. He chose to throw his energy towards a new life in Christ and how God would direct him to serve. Whether it is mistakes, inadequacies or family history forget and strain to what God is calling us to be.

Reading the stories of David’s sin-filled past, Peter’s lack of education or Gideon’s fear, each of these bible heroes chose to forget the past and pressed on toward a goal that God had for them.

David Eckman’s book, “Becoming Who God Intended” https://www.whatgodintended.org/store/ has helped me forget many pointless excuses and press into God. Especially valuing his description of three basic family types. To see in writing the strengths and weaknesses of different family types has renewed my hope that God has a future for all of us. The things that our enemy intended for evil, God uses for good. No matter how long your list of explanations, fears, and excuses are, God desires to use your life and for you to enjoy the fulfillment of being who He intended you to be.

Over the years as I worked with these groups, I have pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of each…

1. Family Group One (healthy family background)
Strength. The words, pictures, and emotions they have match each other. They can become a great help to others from the other family groups because they innately understand health.
Weakness. They often approach the problems of life with platitudes. They have good emotions, but they lack real compassion for the abused of this world because that would is so foreign to them. As a result, they may lack courage and confidence in the gospel to change lives. Often they will act like Christianity is just the moral wing of the Republican Party.

2. Family Group Two (confused family background)
Strength. They do have positive emotions to build on, and they can feel deeply the pain of life. They can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Weakness. They instinctively want to earn love; and the emotions they have, they will mismanage. Often they will mistake knowing biblical information for integrating biblical truth.

3. Family Group Three (dysfunctional family background)
Strength. They have an understanding of the deep pain of life, and often as not, they are not afraid of life. Also, they often become the most daring and creative Christian leaders.
Weakness. In the face of suspicion, they need to consciously choose to walk by faith daily. If they become Christian leaders, they may institutionalize their dysfunctions. They have to consciously work against that.   David Eckman’s “Becoming who God Intended”

We can see how God makes beauty out of our ashes. He has a way of taking our personal history, redeeming it and using it for His glory.
May the above descriptions kick excuses out of our hearts and release us to become who God Intended us to be.

What to do with Worry?

When I was young I enjoyed the pleasure of Springtime mud. Stomping around in the puddle until it holds a stickiness that taunts you to step in. Wet clay is threatening to swallow your rubber boots. Imagining it’s a bottomless pit of quicksand just challenges you to go further in. And then it happens, you lift your leg just to discover that the boot stayed behind. No matter how much you wiggle and yank you’re stuck in the middle of a mud puddle.

Our childhood mud puddles are minor compared to what we can find ourselves stuck in as adults. My biggest adult puddle is worry, nothing puts my energy and my faith at a standstill faster. Worry keeps us stuck with “What If?” questions, “What if I lose my job? What if the test results are positive? What if they get hurt?” The questions just pull us downward into a mire of anxiety. The deeper we sink, the more we focus on ourselves and our problems. The sticky mess makes it difficult to step out of the past and into what God has for us. When we’re at a standstill with God it’s easy to begin throwing sludge at others. We can choose to stomp around in the puddle of worry and find ourselves sucked into a fear that God never intended or we can choose to use the onset of worry to drives us towards prayer.

In Philippians 4:6&7 Paul admonishes us to take our worries to God in prayer;

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

Our worry has a purpose to drive us to prayer. The kind of prayers that squelch your worries are the prayers that are soaked in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness in the past, taking time to reflect on how God has been faithful to us through the years. Then, you move on to your current circumstances, and begin to declare God’s faithfulness in your life right now. Proclaim the promises of God from His Word regarding whatever is troubling you.

Finally, wait on God to speak to you regarding the future. What is God’s plan regarding the situation? What does this circumstance look like from His perspective? Now we sit quietly in God’s presence and allow him to speak to us concerning our worries. Give him time to reveal his preferred future concerning the matter. It’s in our moments of stillness that God is able to reveal Himself to us.

I remember my thoughts attending a prayer meeting the day before boarding a flight to the states, I was consumed with worry over a matter stateside. I hadn’t mentioned the concern to anyone. Following the meeting, a young lady walked up to me and shared that she had been was praying for me that is past week and the Holy Spirit had given her a word for me “You don’t have to worry about…” I was shocked and I knew she had no way of knowing the details of my concern. This was an answer from God. I boarded the flight with a refreshed light-heartedness, knowing that God had it under His control. This specific Word from God continues to comfort me till this day and has become a guide as I bring my petitions before God. My worry turns to peace when God reveals to me the victory that is ahead. It’s that peace that guards my thoughts from returning to the mud puddle of worry. Verse 7 of the same chapter teaches,

“And the peace God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

We all know that our worry affects our home, our church and our own peace of mind. Let’s use our worries to motivate us to thankful prayer for what God has done in the Past, Present and will do in the Future. Then we can rest in peace, pray with understanding and enjoy watching the hand of God at work.

edited by Lydia King

 

5 mistakes when disappointed

I said to myself, “Slow down! Don’t react!” I had a few choice words I was ready to unleash. A snappy defense to put my verbal attacker in place. They deserved it. But I knew from past mistakes that this would only escalate the conflict, intensify the anger, and make things worse. Deserved or not deserved, I did not want this relationship to be strained even more. To lash back in the moment, though hurt and disappointed, would not lead to the results I was looking for.Pastoring people can be

Pastoring people can be messy. Whether it’s staff members or members of your congregation, over time you will walk through your fair share of misunderstandings, disappointments, and temptations to respond in anger.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” Luke 17:1

Jesus tells us that people will disappoint. It’s not a matter of if, but when disappointment will come. With this in mind we need to have an action plan in place for when disappointment comes.

When others disappoint, it’s easy to slip into a reactionary mode and respond in a wise manner. Here are five common mistakes people make when disappointed by others.

1. Pre-mature Written Communication.

Jane’s husband had been filling as youth pastor at their church, while the senior pastor looked for a new youth pastor. Jane had great hope that the pastor would look no further and hire her husband. Frustrated when the senior pastor hired a young man from out of state for the position, Jane, with little thought, fired off a text message;

“Why didn’t you hire my husband as the youth pastor?”

Jane’s text message not only embarrassed her husband but caused awkwardness in their relationship with their pastor. Writing words to express disappointment can be a terrible idea. The recipient of a text or email that expresses disappointment will often read the negative words over and over again. Written communication is also easily misinterpreted. Words of a text can take on a much harsher tone than what we meant for them to convey. When we communicate by voice or even better face to face, the warmth of our humanity in itself can often rise above the cause of our disappointment. Whenever possible avoid responding to disappointment by using written communication.

2) Mistake number two, Arguing.

When we’ve been disappointed, understanding where the other person is coming from should be our first response. Our knee-jerk reaction might be to defend our reputation, to respond with a good argument as to why we are right. But rather than becoming argumentative in self-defense, begin first with a sincere desire to understand where the other person is coming from. Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen share in their book “Difficult Conversations,”

“Arguing creates another problem in difficult conversations: it inhibits change. Telling someone to change makes it less rather than more likely that they will. This is because people almost never change without first feeling understood… To get anywhere in a disagreement, we need to understand the other person’s story well enough to see how their conclusions make sense within it. “

3) Mistake number three, Burning Bridges.

A desire to completely cut off all communication when you’ve been hurt is common. Our tendency is to want to erect an emotional boundary that will shield us from further hurt. So we isolate ourselves from the offender. We burn relational bridges with phrases like “I don’t want to see you again.” “This is it, it’s over between us.” These pain-filled phrases unnecessarily burn a bridge. When disappointed we must avoid actions and words that will potentially lead to a place of no return. In the heat of the battle, if not on our guard, we say things that make it difficult to later return to a normal relationship. Or we assume that a permanent ending is in our best interest. But unresolved conflicts tend to go with us, and in the end, the only real solution to disappointment is going to be reconciliation. You are going to need a bridge to which to return. Don’t burn your bridges behind you.

4) Mistake number four, Only Looking At The Surface.

Early on in our careers while my husband and I lived in Hong Kong, we enjoyed the excitement of helping develop a new ministry. Thinking we were at the height of our ministry, I shared with the Hong Kong team, “I can’t imagine our lives being any more effective than they are right now!” Time passed, relationships became strained, disappointment came, and a change in ministry was necessary. I was left wondering if our future would be as exciting as our past. All we could do was step out in faith and wait upon the Lord. A change in location was coming, a new ministry would be necessary. On the surface this disappointment seemed to lead to something less than we had had previously had, but in the end, God used this change to launch us into a new ministry that has surpassed our every dream. Following disappointment, on the surface it seemed we were leaving the best thing ever. But God knew it would be through this challenge in relationships, this disappointment, that a better plan would be revealed. When facing disappoint with others, there is often something deeper at work below the surface that can lead to new ministry opportunities.

5) Mistake number five, Holding On To Offense

Holding on to an offense can be subtle. Just when you think you’ve gotten over it, all is forgiven, ugly thoughts can come racing back and startle you. “Oh, I am still holding on to something here. Offenses can be like a sticky glue that cling to us even after much effort in their removal. We hold on to offenses for a variety of reasons

  • Gives you a feeling of power over the offender.
  • Puts you in the position of being the victim, making you the good guy and the offender the bad guy.
  • Allows you to distant yourself from the pain, instead walking through the discipline of forgiveness and healing.
  • Keeps personal pride in tact often blinding you from an accurate account of what took place.

We have all been disappointed by others. How we respond will impact our own emotional health, the well being of the offender, and in the end move us towards reconciliation or away from it. You can keep the problem small and be on the road towards forgiveness or you can complicate the problem with an emotional reaction that adds layers of pain for you and others. Our ability to avoid reactionary comments, verbal or written, will make the difference on how quickly we are able to forgive and move forward with our ministries.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14,15

 

 

 

How to take charge of your Misfit Ministry

We’ve done a lot of things as pastor’s wives, setting up tables, cleaning up after events, holding babies in the nursery, but I never thought I’d be launching a men’s ministry! Yes, I was asked to step into a position giving ministry leadership to; children, youth, young adults, women’s and—men’s ministry!

In the following weeks, I organized a men’s ministry interest meeting. Asking a woman to lead a men’s ministry is like asking a man to lead a group of pregnant women in exploring giving care for newborns. At the interest meeting, which I had organized, I asked a potential leader if he would lead the meeting, as I quickly coached him on some suggested meeting goals. I slipped to the back and tried not to be seen. From my meager shy efforts a group of men began meeting and a men’s ministry was launched.

We all have similar stories of how we have filled a ministry role that was a complete misfit. The ministry assignment failed to fit our gift set, our ministry experience, and like me, maybe didn’t fit our gender! How do we take charge of our misfitted ministry requests without letting it sour our attitude.

First, remember that someone in our church family is cleaning the toilets. There are tasks that just have to be done. Mowing lawns, washing windows, taking out the garbage, all help move the church forward, but seemingly do little to advance one’s gifts or skills. At times the Lord may be asking us to explore servanthood as opposed to seeing our gifts utilized. When Jesus’ washed his disciple’s feet, he was placing an emphasis on servanthood over the exercising of gifts. His team had dirty feet and someone had to wash them before they could eat with clean feet. As we are called into ministry, and as we become more like Jesus, the heart of a servant within will often lead us to taking on tasks that may seem a misfit for our calling and gifting.

Second, take some time to review how past experiences outside your gifting helped form your current ministry passion. Many of our dreams and much of our passion comes to us as we must trust God as we do things that are beyond us. My love for children’s ministry grew out of an experience from my teen years when a teacher asked if I could be her assistant. Over the years I continued to serve with children and before I knew it, children’s ministry became my passion. Often our dreams and burdens follow what our hands have come to do, simply by responding in obedience to a need. As we serve in the perceived insignificant roles related to ministry, roles that don’t necessarily complement our gifts, we not only grow in appreciation for the wider body of Christ, we also might just discover what our real passion is.

Thirdly, talk to your spouse. If you are a couple in ministry I believe you will be surprised at how much you husband longs to see you find fulfillment in ministry. At times it may seem our husbands are just putting on us what they can’t find anyone else to do. And that happens. But as you share your heart with your husband and he begins to have a picture of your preferred ministry expression, I believe he will do everything he can to empower you to see that ministry dream become a reality.

Now, one last thought. Lets consider together the 80/20 rule made popular by the pastor turned leadership expert, John Maxwell. In this principle it is noted that 20% of seeds planted produce 80% of the yield. We use this principle to understand that God does want you to operate in your “sweet spot.” You have areas of strength that when leveraged for God will give great return. You also have areas of weakness, areas that if given too much time, will greatly hinder your fruitfulness. People that lack math skills should not spend a whole lot of time in bookkeeping for the church. We can have a servants heart, and take up “misfit” responsibilities for a season, but in the end God does want to see us flourish in the gifts he has given us. You will find that somethings just come easy for you. It might be leading worship, counseling women, organizing events, any number of things. This 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, tells us that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the cause. In other words you have gifts that give great payback when used. Yes, we should be open to misfit ministry experiences, but in the end we want to discover what God has placed with in us that when unleashed really makes a difference for His Kingdom.

As Pastor’s wives we see the big picture of the church. We understand the importance of men’s ministry, changing diapers in the nursery and setting up microphones. It’s this big picture perspective that has nurtured our servanthood and often propels us into that 20% instead of serving where we can really be most effective for God. The Apostle Paul’s words give us balance,

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)

The prayers your kids will love!

“Mom it was those prayers in the entryway that carried me.”

My adult daughter described the difficulties of returning to the homeland for her junior year of High School and shared the significance of a small daily routine in our home. Prayers, specifically Entryway prayers.

In our morning routine, before the kids headed out the door for school, the four of us paused in the entryway to our home. They dropped their backpacks, and we grasped hands to pray together as a family. Jon made it a habit of asking the kids if they had anything specific to pray about. The goal was to pray for the child’s needs, the things that worried them. No matter, if the request was big or small it received our attention in the Entryway.

I learned early on in parenting that our good heavenly Father delights in answering the prayers of our children, despite how unimportant it may seem to us parents. When Kristen was in middle school, she was especially fond of the band “Jars of Clay.” One time we were home on furlough, checking out C.D.’s in the local Christian bookstore when she spotted a Jars of Clay Poster,

“Mom, look they are coming to Portland!”

She grabbed a flyer and stared at it all the way home.

“I really want to go to hear them!”

The concert was on a Friday night, and four hours away from our home. I was doubtful that it could come together. So I downplayed the opportunity to avoid generating excitement that most likely would bring disappointment later.

Our daughter, however, did just the opposite, she hung the flyer on the wall of her bedroom and began to pray. A couple of weeks later, Jon received a phone call from a Portland pastor that we had never met, from a church that didn’t yet support us. He was asking if we could come on a Friday night for a banquet and talk about China. And I’m sure you guessed it was the same Friday night as the concert. We were able to drop our kids off at the concert, attend the banquet and pick them up afterward. Our good heavenly father answered our daughter’s prayer! Answering her prayer didn’t bring souls into the kingdom, and it didn’t raise funds for China or call anyone into the ministry, but responding to that prayer spoke volumes to my little girl’s heart about the Father’s love.

When we think about nurturing our child’s love for God, it’s important that we are praying about for the needs that matter most to them. When those are answered, it will make a huge impact on their own walk with God. Through their prayers, they will personally be experience the Father’s love for themselves.

Whether you pray with your kids in the entryway, around the table or at their bedside, take the time to ask them what their prayers and make praying for their needs the priority.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”
Matthew 19:14,15

edited by Lydia King

Breaking the Lie of Insignificance

“Some of you, think that God can’t use you because of your family background.”
The speaker’s words put a lump in my throat. Hearing him verbalize my twenty-year inner struggle was more than my emotions could contain.

I loved being a pastor’s wife in Beijing. But, I often wondered if God had picked me for this role or had I just happened to fall into it. I had fallen in love with a guy called to the ministry. Rather than having a strong sense of calling to ministry myself, I just felt like I had come into ministry through the backdoor. Did God really want to use me?

When Jon and I were married I had one goal—“don’t get in the way!”. My husband’s love for God was apparent and God’s desire to use him was equally apparent. I just needed to be a good wife and not mess things up. Sounds admirable? Closer examination reveals something disturbing. I could see God using my husband but not me. I was clueless that God had a unique ministry plan for my life as well. My goals were set around the thought that God’s anointing was on my husband but not on me.

My lack of confidence was rooted in my past. I came to know the Lord through a Sunday school bus ministry. My husband hand grown up in a pastor’s home. My conclusion, God can use people if they have the right family history.

Listening to this afternoon speaker nail my “family background” issue was a break-through moment. The Holy Spirit was helping me confront a deeply embedded lie. The lie of insignificance. It had whispered to me for years. God could use my husband in ministry, but not me. Following the workshop, I approached the speaker. He was surrounded by our church members peppering him with questions.

I began to share how meaningful his talk was. Before I could finish my sentence, I was sobbing in front of the gathered crowd. The speaker listened to my story, then paused, asking if he could pray for me. That day his simple prayer set me free from a lie and sealed the truth in my heart. God wanted to use me, family history and all.

After the seminar Jon and I grabbed a taxi to head back to our apartment. I scooted across the back seat, looked at Jon and said-

“I feel like a weight of bricks has fallen off my shoulders.”

I had learned an important truth, God desired to use and anoint my life. Never again will I go back to the lie of insignificance. God longs for all of us to serve with His anointing and to walk through life knowing that we are making a difference.

Beth Moore writes in “Praying God’s Word”,

“You must believe Him, Believe He can do what He says He can do. Believe you can do what He says you can do. Believe He is who He says He is. And believe you are who He says you are.”

You have been created to be fruitful in the Lord’s vineyard. I hope that your husband has a powerful calling upon his life, but I pray even so that you will be experiencing the anointing that he has for your ministry as well.

3 Things to Foil the Enemy

I was sitting at our newly purchased patio table picking up a sticky BBQ chicken when some uninvited guests buzzed past me. The guests were a half dozen yellow jackets which quickly drove us indoors. Last year Jon bought a yellow jacket trap, but for some reason, not one bug was lured inside. We headed back to the hardware store to pick up a replacement filter, an attractant kit. The kit was supplied with a triple bait: Attractant Bottle, Attractant Vial and Attractant Tube. If any flying yellow jacket caught a whiff of this trap, it’s buzzing days would soon be confined to a 3-inch plastic tube!

I carried out the kit, a pair of scissors, along with the reading glasses and passed them over to Jon one by one. He carefully went step by step through the detailed instructions on the trap. We hung the bright yellow trap on a tree branch and watched as within the hour yellow jackets were lured in by the sweet smelling attractants.  All we needed was an upgrade.

The enemy of our souls is busy upgrading his traps as well. They are tempting us with multiples of attractants.

Today’s teens are trapped in internet gaming with multiple layers of attractants. They are lured by small wins, like the thrill of the wins at the slot machine it keeps them pulling at that magical arm. Our teens are kept hooked by every level they move up affirming them that they can win the game. They take ownership as they design their own character. As they explore new places it feeds their desire for adventure. In the game, they build relationships with other online players where they feel accepted. Many games now boast about how sexy their characters are, rewarding the players with more seductive characters as they move up to higher levels.

Adults are trapped into thinking that a simple visit to a clinic will wipe away any unwanted pregnancy. They are lured into the decisions by varying attractants. A fear of what their new future will look like, financial resources won’t be enough, a boyfriend will bail and rejection from family members. The list goes on and on of ways the enemy lures a lady into his trap of abortion. It’s a trap that leaves Men and Women emotionally wounded after they realize that they quietly took the life of the child they were given to protect. In China, the one-child policy has given them the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world. That simple visit to the clinic has left 47% of the visitors struggling with depression.

Scripture gives us step by step instructions on how to keep clear of Satan’s multiple layered attractants:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings
1 Peter 5:7-9

1) Cast your worries over to God. When we struggle with this act, it’s a sure sign that we are not pondering on the promises for his children.

2) Be Alert and Sober. We are daily bombarded with the enemy’s attractants. I can get sucked into a T.V. show, just like most of you. We need to be quick to change the channel when compromising topics, language or images are coming into our homes.

3) Resist and Stand. Switch the channel, turn your eyes away, reject the thought. Resist and stand firm in the faith. Put your thoughts on trusting God. He is our Joy and our satisfaction. What the enemy lures us with are only cheap corruptions of what God offers.

Norman Geisler writes in his book “If God, Why Evil? :

“Evil is like a wound in an arm. It is real to have a wound. But as wound is not a “thing.” Rather, wounds only exist in good things.
Evil is like Rust to a Car. Rust is a corruption of a good thing, but rust does not exist in and of itself.
Evil is like Moth Holes in Wool. Moths can corrupt a woolen sweater, but holes do not exist in themselves.”

Much of the evils/temptations that we face are actually corruptions or counterfeits of a greater, genuine experience that God has to offer. Peeling back the veneer of a temptation and understanding how it is a fake, short-lived high is a means of being alert, sober and empowering us to resist and stand on what is truth, our relationship with God. May we all be vigilant to foil the enemy with these three keys from scripture.

Edited by Lydia King