Stepping Out, Not Missing Out

MARLYS ROOS|GUEST Do you remember the story of the little red hen? She asked each of her friends on the farm, “Who will help me plant these wheat seeds?” But each replied, “Not I.” (They used correct grammar!) So, she did it herself. When the wheat had grown, she asked each to help her harvest it, but each replied, “Not I.” The same thing happened when she asked for help to carry the wheat to the miller to be ground and even when she asked them to help her bake the bread. Then, as soon as the bread was ready and the rich aroma wafted across the farmyard, she asked, “Who will help me eat this bread?” All her so-called friends eagerly replied, “I will!” She, nevertheless, informed them, “No, you won’t. I will eat it myself.” Although it was first published in 1918, I’m sure this folktale has been around longer. Parents and teachers (as well as Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo, if you’re old enough to remember them) used it as a parable to teach children the value of hard work and the consequences of laziness. I think it has an even broader application—for the times we just don’t want to bother or be bothered―and we miss out...

Stepping Out, Not Missing Out2022-06-21T14:53:11+00:00

John 17: Lord, Make Us One

AMANDA PETERSON|GUEST “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:23 John 17 is a glimpse into the heart of Christ as we get to see His final prayer to the Father the night of His arrest. He is burdened for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him through their word, which includes us, His people! Jesus repeatedly prays to the Father that His people would be one. He is not just praying for comradery, but He is praying for all believers to be perfectly one as a witness to the world of the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the oneness of His people was so heavy on His heart and mind, we then should seek to rightly understand how we can live as one Body to the watching world...

John 17: Lord, Make Us One2022-05-04T14:44:59+00:00

Want to Love Your Friend? Ask Her Questions

HOPE BLANTON|GUEST I have loved questions for as long as I can remember. I was that annoying kid who asked questions during every movie I ever watched, leaving my parents to say over and over, “We are watching the same movie you are, Hope.” Now my love of questions has turned into a career as a therapist and a question writer for our Bible study company. But nowhere have I seen the power of questions more on display than when asked between friends where one is struggling. When we ask suffering people questions, it makes them feel seen. It makes them feel like they’re not alone and tells them we’re willing to step into it with them, even if we don’t know what’s helpful in the moment. We make whatever they’re going through, big or small, important to us. When I’ve brought this up with people they often say, “Well, that’s easy for you to say. You’re a therapist,” or “I don’t even know what to ask,” or “I don’t want to pry or get too personal.” You don’t need a degree in counseling or an extra special ability to put things into words. You just need a desire to understand what someone you love is going through and how you can be present in that with them. How Do We Do It? I once counted how many times Jesus asked a question as I studied a gospel. I was shocked. He asked questions all over the place to the Pharisees, his disciples, and to people coming to him for healing. It was one of the primary tools he used to help people see their own hearts, even though he already knew. But we are not Jesus, and while we mimic him in this way, we do it for different purposes: we do it to help people feel seen and loved and to safeguard against our own hearts. Often, we think we know why someone is suffering or what they need to hear to feel better because we have been through something similar or know someone who has. We launch into advice and skip asking questions. We are so eager to live out this proverb to our suffering friend: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). We think that some wise thought will calm their pain. But how can we do that when we don’t know if the word we are giving them is actually apt or suitable for the circumstances? Then we become a fool who, “takes no pleasure in understanding, but in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2). That is not helpful to our suffering friend. This is where the powerful tool of questions comes into play....

Want to Love Your Friend? Ask Her Questions2022-05-04T23:24:20+00:00

We Agree, Right?

HOLLY MACKLE|CONTRIBUTOR I’ve noticed a curious trend lately: in conversations with acquaintances or strangers I realize my conversation partner presumes I believe the same way they do on a given topic. Sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, whether the topic is politics, pandemic, or Pandora stations—it just keeps happening. This presumption often feels like some funny math on their part. You’re an educated, thoughtful sort of person who is also walking with God. Therefore, you must believe the way I do. In my former life as a high school Spanish teacher, my students and I would discuss a common conversational quirk known as a tag question. These simplistic, formulaic interrogatives are commonly tacked onto a statement and invite agreement. In Spanish, it’s often ¿no? As in, right? Turns out a similar accompaniment frequents British English and German. Ah, a habit common to human experience. Becoming alert to my own tag question tic has led me to realize how frequently and subtly I presume agreement, and unwittingly cast a pallor of condescension on anyone who may have disagreed with my college girl diatribes on unconditional election or my modern day assertions on the gospel according to Ted Lasso. As believers in Jesus longing for the redemption of every area of life, what alternative does Christ offer for this kind of presumption? The answer may be unexpected: curiosity. When we remember curiosity we invite the correct power orientation between ourselves and God, which puts us in the best possible headspace for interacting with others in a God-honoring way...

We Agree, Right?2022-05-04T23:26:20+00:00

Meet Me In the Margins

KAREN HODGE|CONTRIBUTOR Back in pre-pandemic days, I traveled all the time. Reentry back home after a trip can be a bit daunting. Who did I miss while I was away? What will be waiting for me in the sink?  Is it realistic to try to make up for lost time on my task list? All these unknowns feel overwhelming. As you stand on the edge of in-person life and ministry reentry, how is your heart doing? This summer, it has been a joy to study the lives of several messy women along with women all over the PCA. They have shown us what it looks like to move from the unknown to the known. To be outside the community and be enfolded into community. Let's spend a few more minutes with one of those women, Ruth, and see what she can teach us about God's hesed love. Hesed is God's steadfast, merciful, gracious, kind, good, and loving character toward us. Hesed Love Creates Community Ruth, the gleaner, is hungry and in need. She embodies scarcity, while Boaz embodies abundance. Boaz, reflecting the sacrificial love of God, our great Husbandman, provides an access point. Ruth, the Moabite outsider, enters the fields with courage. Boaz has instructed his men to be intentionally generous and leave some sheaves for her on the margins or edges of the field. Boaz is not only a provider but also a protector as he orders his men not to rebuke her. Ruth enters this grace exchange looking expectantly for provision. She picks up the barley stalk by stalk. In her neediness, she doesn't hoard the harvest for herself; instead, she returns to the city and shares what she has with Naomi. Would it be enough? Ruth 2 tells us this generous provision satisfies these women. COVID Classroom I can hear your spiritual tummy rumbling. You may not have thought this when you looked in the mirror this morning, but you are also a gleaner who is hungry to access the nourishment God’s Word and community provide. Perhaps you have taken inventory of your life as we reenter life and ministry and find this season a bit lacking. We have been disembodied in a year filled with locked buildings and online ministry. Cancel culture, isolation, and missed opportunities look like a few measly morsels of grain. COVID has universally impacted everyone, and yet our experiences are not universally similar. God enrolled the world in a master's level class on His sovereignty. We learned things about Him and ourselves. It was the class you forgot was on your schedule. You have something to share that will satisfy. Reentry is a stewardship moment to reflect and invest what He has entrusted to us during this classroom of waiting on Him. Center of Community We crave community. Isolated Christianity is incomplete. On our "hangry" days, we may desire a community that is fashioned with us at the center. When individualism fuels our concept of community, we will always be left disappointed. True relational nourishment is found in interdependence. It is the place where as we enter, we ask who can I love instead of who loves me. Christ must be the center of covenant community. And after a year of being enrolled in our pandemic classroom, we are keenly aware it takes the whole community of God to understand the whole hesed love of God. Space for Grace Biblical community requires us to meet in the margins. Boaz’s grain offering reveals the access point where gracious provision can be found. One definition of margin is to make space. It is pleasing, such as the lovely white edges of a book. A generous community requires margin and space. Space for family reunions. Space to listen. Space for thanksgivings. Space for lament over loss. Space for new people and opportunities to serve. Space to hear what you learned in your COVID classroom. Space to steward what we have learned. Covenant Community is not found but created. Reentry will require faith to create spaces of grace. Dying to Love Reentry to biblical community will also require death. Ruth had to die to her pride and self-sufficiency. She risked shame and being ostracized. She died to temporal security by sharing with Naomi. Boaz, her kinsman, died to his comfort and convenience...

Meet Me In the Margins2022-05-04T23:18:15+00:00

Encouraging Your Own Village

SHARON BETTERS|GUEST Our world cries out for purpose and hope. The need for an encourager to arise amid a desperate situation is not new. In Judges 4, we meet Deborah, a woman whom God used to perform that task for the nation of Israel. Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. (Judges 4:4-5 NIV) Deborah’s passion for God made her available to Him, and accessible to the people of Israel. According to Deborah’s own words, “Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Our Villages Deborah’s obedience infused with the power of God’s Spirit enabled her to lead the Israelites out of bondage. Although God may not call all of us to a position of national leadership, He does exhort each of us to take new life to our own villages. This is not as difficult as you may think. Consider Merriam Webster’s definition of village: “A settlement usually larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town.” Now consider your circle of influence. In most villages, a large country house is at the center. Consider yourself that country house and realize God is not asking you to encourage the whole world. Just your part of it...

Encouraging Your Own Village2022-05-04T23:20:19+00:00

Creating Community

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN|GUEST This evening I was sitting alone in the dark, rocking back and forth. The baby wouldn’t settle, and I started thinking about how many hours I had sat in that chair, rocking alone. I wondered how many of the other young mothers were also around the world rocking back and forth—all of us separated but joined in the community of the rocking chair. I receive many messages on Instagram from moms everywhere longing for friendship. From moms who feel lonely. From moms who long for connection with others. Why does community seem so hard and overwhelming to find as adults? Why is there not more practical advice on how we can build adult relationships? The messages I received from other moms revealed we sort ourselves into two camps: Women who are longing for friendship, but don’t even know where to start. Women who have walked alone so long they don’t even realize they need other women beside them. These women often claim all they need are their families. However, the Bible teaches that we are created to have community with one another. We are created in the image of God and reflect His character. If we had been created in the image of a solitary God, then claiming to not need friends would make sense; however, we are created in the image of a triune God. Our God, in His essence, represents community! This means, we image Him when we are in relationship with others.   This means, we weren’t crafted to just observe the lives of others on social media, read the stories of others in books, and learn about motherhood from magazines. We were created to learn from one another; hear and grow through the stories and lives of others; and live in a physical way with the body of Christ in our communities.  We Need Community When we isolate ourselves, it is easy to think we are alone in our struggles, rather than realizing the verse “There is no temptation that has over taken you, except that which is common to man” is true for all of us. It also opens us to comparison to people who are not real. Or we can get so stuck in our head with all we’ve learned, that we lose compassion for real people with real stories! When I was first married, I had just moved to a new city, and finding community was hard. I was very discouraged. My husband challenged me to pray that I would find a friend. I wish I could say I responded gratefully to his wisdom, but instead I yelled, “It doesn’t work that way!!!” But I did pray, and just weeks later, I found someone who has now been a friend nearly 10 years....

Creating Community2022-05-04T23:20:28+00:00

Embracing Diversity in the Body of Christ

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST One of my favorite hobbies is hiking. The cool mountain air, the refreshing scent of pine, the sound of rushing water from a mountain stream, the exhilaration of reaching the summit—nothing is quite like it. This year, with so many activities shut down, our family even tried our hands (or feet) at winter hiking and found it to be a surprisingly peaceful way to experience God’s creation. This spring, however, I was introduced to another new hiking experience. After a lifetime of hiking in the Rockies and Yellowstone, I had an opportunity to hike in a new environment, the desert. I’ll admit, I was somewhat biased. After all, while the mountains were equally as beautiful and rugged, they were speckled not with pine trees but tall shade-less cacti. Instead of scurrying squirrels, stealth geckos silently darted in and out from among the rocks, and the only water was the in the bottles we carried. It was in many ways a foreign experience, but my boys still climbed rocks, and the treeless landscape made the vast views spectacular. After a few different desert hikes, while a little sunburnt, I had a new appreciation for my favorite hobby in a new context. Just like doing an activity in a new environment, confronting the issue of diversity in the body of Christ can be an uncomfortable activity. Different buildings (or none at all), music, worship styles, prayers, congregants, school choices, and political leanings are just a few of the challenges that can make us feel uneasy. While diversity is a “hot button” issue in secular society, it is not one we, as believers are at liberty to ignore. Consider the following: Heaven will be filled with different music, languages, customs, etc. The book of Revelation mentions “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne…” (7:9) as a result of the command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Heaven will house people with whom we’ve disagreed on secondary matters. In Romans 14, Paul addressed such disagreements: “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables…” (14:2). He emphasized the importance of their unity and appealed to their common faith in the Lord, … “we belong to the Lord” (v.8). Heaven will host many ability levels and talents. As 1 Corinthians 12 relates, “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty. . . .God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (12:20-25)...

Embracing Diversity in the Body of Christ2022-05-04T23:16:28+00:00

How to Navigate Church Conflicts

MEGAN HILL|GUEST I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2–3) The Philippian church began well. Under Paul’s ministry, a prominent businesswoman and faithful prayer-meeting attendee came to Christ along with her whole family (see Acts 16:13–15). She was soon joined by a girl who had been set free from her demons (see vv. 16–18) and a corrections officer who, along with his family, was both hospitable and joyful (see vv. 32–34). From the moment of its first assembly, this little church committed itself to the spread of the gospel (see Phil. 1:5, 27–30). But it was not a perfectly peaceful church. Paul starts the fourth chapter of his letter to Philippi with these words: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (v. 2)...

How to Navigate Church Conflicts2022-05-04T23:13:28+00:00
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