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

The Problem with Meddling

SUE TELL|GUEST Do you practice the habit of having a word of the year? In 2021 the word God gave me (or two words) was pull back. Why? What does that look like? I started praying and was stopped in my tracks when I read Peter’s admonition, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” (I Peter 4:15, emphasis mine) Is meddling really in the same category as murder, theft, and evil? And are there areas where meddling is God’s reason for my pulling back? I began to pray. I began to seek the wisdom of my friends. I began to hear stories. And I began to hear God whispers. Three lessons rose to the surface: We who are entrusted with leadership are highly susceptible to meddling. Meddling can have serious consequences. When I don’t pull back and cease meddling, my time, capacity, and energy to give myself to God’s purposes designed for me are in jeopardy...

The Problem with Meddling2022-06-09T18:23:05+00:00

John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another

TARA GIBBS|GUEST “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn.13:34-35). Good news: If you have read your Bible much before today, you can skip today’s devotional. You probably already know the foundational role of love in our Christian lives. Perhaps you have it on a t-shirt or a mug. It’s woven throughout the story of Scripture. It’s found in Leviticus, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD,” (Lev. 19:18). It’s found in the teaching of Jesus when he asserts that all the law and the prophets hang on loving God and loving our neighbor (Mt. 22:40). It’s in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love, does not know God.” As a matter of fact, this is such a basic truth, Jesus says the whole world will be able to identify us by the extraordinary love we show to one another. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples…” Anyone in the world who has access to Christ’s people can testify to “love” being the first adjective that comes to mind when describing them, right? “Wait just a second,” you say. You and I both know this is not always the case.

John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another2022-05-04T00:43:06+00:00

Engaging Singles in the Body of Christ

JENILYN SWETT|GUEST For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Rom. 12:4–5). Paul’s use of body imagery to describe the church is both helpful and – at times – humorous. In 1 Corinthians, he wonders about what would happen if the whole body were an eye. Have you ever stopped to picture that? Or to picture a foot saying “That hand is so elegant and functional. Lil’ ol’ me isn’t needed here”? His point is made clearly: we need every part of the body to show up and function well (1 Cor. 12:14-19). As a single woman on the verge of 40, there can be times when the church body starts to feel like one giant eye made up of families with kids. And much like that foot, I have many single friends who struggle to feel like there is a place, a desire, a need for them to be part of the church body. Yet Paul tells us that in Christ, we are all, in fact, “members of one another.” When we take membership vows in the church, we make promises to help one another grow and pursue faithfulness. This is a commitment we make regardless of marital status, stage of life, vocational pursuits, or any other aspect of difference or commonality we may have. So how can the hand and the foot, the ear and the eye, the lungs and the kneecap, grow in relationship and more fully enjoy being part of the body together? This certainly comes through worshiping, studying God’s Word, and serving together within your church community. But let me share a few other ways that members of my church body have helped to assure me of my belonging to the body and to affirm our interdependence on one another:[1] Four Practical Ways to Engage Singles in the Body of Christ Seek to include and befriend. In the midst of all of our busy lives, it can be easy to overlook those whose lives and routines are unlike our own. But consider how you can include single people even in the midst of what your life already entails. Invite someone to join you in the pew or for lunch after church. I’ve loved being included in chaotic weeknight dinners, family birthday celebrations and movie nights, and joining in the cheering section at a kiddo’s soccer game. If it crosses your mind to extend an invitation, don’t talk yourself out of it – do it! Pursuit and companionship are great gifts in what can be a solitary season....

Engaging Singles in the Body of Christ2022-05-04T23:28:45+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

From the Basement to the Throne Room: The Power of Hearing Your Name

ALICE KIM|GUEST In the spring of 2020, my parents were planning a road trip from Toronto, Canada to visit me and my family in Virginia. Then COVID-19 suddenly halted their plans, putting an indefinite pause to our reunion. Now, it’s been almost two and a half years since we’ve seen them; we’re still eagerly anticipating their visit. During this in-between time, phone calls and texts serve as substitutes for face-to-face interactions. Memories of my parents   have moved to the forefront of remembrance and reminiscing, including those of my mom and dad praying. My Parent's Prayers After twelve plus hours of being on their feet, preparing meals at their local eatery or punching the cash register at a one-stop convenience store, my mom would prepare one of her go-to, from scratch meals: a Korean stew, a pot of steaming rice, and an assortment of staple side dishes. My dad’s footsteps would echo past the wooden hallway, down into the basement. He would find a spot on the carpet. Without restraint, a roar started from within his chest then reverberated down into his stomach. On his exhale, he cried aloud, “Lord!” “Lord!” “Lord!” in Korean. His pleas of utter dependence were balanced with moments of silence. He made room for tears to express his gratitude and grief. And as his voice carried through the air vents leading up into my room, I laid over the edge of my bed, leaned in with my ear inches away from the ground. I just listened. My mom on the other hand, was less pronounced. I would call out for her, “Umma” and find her in the walk-in closet with her back facing the open doorframe. She didn’t budge and break focus; she continued. The top of her foot and knees kissed the ground as her body rocked rhythmically back and forth. Each word bled into the next and created a harmonious alto hum. If you paid close attention, you could hear the distinct groans, desires, and thanksgivings. Rather than retracing my steps back into the hallway, I lingered. I listened for my name. It’s been a long time since my dad’s booming crescendos and mom’s soft murmurs contributed to my daily concert of background noise, but it doesn’t take much imagination to hear them once again. And when they tell me, “I’m praying for you and your family,” I can see them praying for me as they did when I was a child...

From the Basement to the Throne Room: The Power of Hearing Your Name2022-05-04T23:24:44+00:00

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR In first grade, there was a girl in my class who told me that my eyes looked like goldfish. For the love of fish.   I’m still not quite sure what that meant, but I do know that I spent too much time starring at myself in the mirror due to a concern over my fish-like eyeballs. In Highschool, a boy told me I was “pretty cool,” but he tagged that with: “It’s just that guys aren’t going to date a pastor’s daughter.”   And so, I kept that aspect of my identity a secret for as long as I could, coming up with alternative ways to explain my father’s profession.  In college, after playing piano for a chapel service, a student remarked that I swayed a lot when playing. “It looks funny.” I told him he looked funny. It was, admittedly, a terrible comeback and didn’t help my cause at all. But for years, I was conscious of my “movements” while playing at the piano. The Significance of Our Words Words don’t just disappear. At times I wish they did, but from the moment they leave our mouth, they often make their way into the small crevasses of a hearer’s memory and nestle in, sometimes remaining for a lifetime. If our words have this kind of impact, it’s essential that as believers we use them wisely. God certainly intended for us to speak; we’re created in His image, and He is a speaking God giving the world His inspired words for our benefit. But we’re sinners, trudging through a broken world. Every one of us has messed up with our words, and we will likely do damage with them again. God in His graciousness forgives fully and completely, but that doesn’t mean that what we say won’t have a lasting impact. It’s only wise, then, that as believers we give careful consideration to what the Bible has to say about the words we speak. Our Words Reveal the Condition of our Heart “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt. 12:34-35). These two verses are incredibly convicting. Our spiritual condition is made manifest by our words. This doesn’t mean, believer, that your unthoughtful or unkind words are unforgiveable. What it does mean is that we have a responsibility before God to consider the reasons underlying our harsh or rash words...   

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me2022-05-04T23:24:56+00:00

Small Acts of Faithfulness

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST I remember marveling at how small it was, that tiny little coffin. It still wasn’t real. 4 months old. Was he really gone? Was my friend actually mourning her first child? I have never felt so helpless, so unable to do anything to help. As I stood at the cemetery, I heard a familiar voice begin to speak. I couldn’t see him, but I’d recognize that kind voice with a slight lisp anywhere. He spoke of God’s love and hope amidst maybe the worst tragedy a young mother could suffer. As I looked around at my co-workers, most of them unbelievers, my heart breathed a sigh of relief. That familiar voice belonged to a youth pastor I encountered in my teen years. This soft-spoken, kind, humble man was a pastor at a friend’s church when I was in high school. We were never particularly close, but his presence was God’s gift to me (and many others) that day. God was there in this seemingly hopeless situation using this man to bring my friend (and myself) the comfort we both needed. I saw him a few months later, and thanked him for his message on that sad day, but he will never know just how much his presence meant to me in that season of my life. You see, that year was full of tragedy for my family. My father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and passed within a few months; my mother-in-law’s health was failing; and my son’s nine-year-old classmate had suddenly passed away from complications with the flu. My children were young- five and eight-and while we were trying to help them navigate all of this loss, I was unknowingly mourning these young deaths as if they were my own children. Recently, I reflected on this pastor’s seemingly small role in my life...

Small Acts of Faithfulness2022-05-04T23:25:55+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
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