Who’s Entering Your Tent?

ESTHER BAIRD|GUEST This summer I’m teaching the I AM statements of Jesus in a ‘Spiritual Life Tent.’ It’s part of a conference center in the Adirondacks near where we live in the summer. And while there are some Christians in the organization, it is not explicitly a Christian center. In fact, it’s intentionally interfaith and ecumenical. So each week when I walk into my tent, (truly it’s a tent, like the sort you’d set up for a large family picnic with four screened walls to keep out the bugs… but do they ever really keep the bugs out?) I never know who might show up, or what they might believe or not believe, or even harbor anger that they were once associated with the church. The classes are small, perhaps 3-4 people on any given week, which means I can’t hide behind lecture style teaching. If people have different views, I know it. Immediately. The classes are more like conversations where I’ve chosen the topic. And yet, one of the I AM statements is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” At first, I worried about teaching that specific week. How could I actually tell whoever walked into the tent that Jesus was the only way in an interfaith setting? What if they were Buddhist? What if they’d left the church and were angry at God? What if they thought Christians in America were obnoxious know-it-alls? Thankfully, I’ve seen again and again that Jesus not only is the answer, but he shows us how to explain the answer...

Who’s Entering Your Tent?2023-03-24T18:17:06+00:00

Investing in Those We Minister To

This fall I began teaching another Bible study at my church, something I have done for many years. As I addressed the women in the room, I rejoiced at how many had been faithful to study God’s Word over the years and how they had grown in their faith as they applied truth to the hardships of their lives. As I looked out at their faces, I also felt a huge responsibility: How would I invest in these women over the next year? In writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul states, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7-8). As I studied these verses, as well as the surrounding context, I was struck by Paul’s affection for God’s people. Even amid conflict, Paul displayed godly conduct and gave thanks in all circumstances. In our service to others, you and I are called to do the same.    Conflict in Serving Paul served the Thessalonians in the midst of his own conflict, or suffering. Think about the last time you experienced conflict or suffering in ministry. Maybe the suffering came from chronic physical pain or maybe a fellow believer discouraged you in your role. Whatever the cause, doing ministry while in conflict is hard. We’re tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits until we feel better, or until the other person stops discouraging us. We might think of taking some time off to recoup and refresh before heading back into ministry work. But conflict, by God’s grace, often becomes the catalyst for declaring Christ. God uses our service in the midst of suffering to spread His gospel. I have experienced this in my own life. In fact, the first day of teaching this fall I was in tremendous physical pain from a chronic GI complication I have had since 2006. But I have learned over the years the truth of the Lord’s words to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Ministering to others in our suffering is an opportunity to magnify the Lord’s strength. Conduct in Serving Paul also displayed godly conduct as he served. God entrusted us with a message and His Spirit empowers us to proclaim it. The Lord refines us as we serve, oftentimes uprooting sinful motives in our hearts, such as gaining man’s approval, and replacing them with gentleness, love, and a heart that seeks God’s glory...

Investing in Those We Minister To2022-08-06T22:24:51+00:00
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