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There are two things I love outside of my family: writing and knitting. Oh, and the color blue. Give me anything blue and I’m the happiest woman in the world! Yet, if I had to choose, I’d write until I had no life left. Unfortunately, Ninja Turtles barge in with swords and masked faces to interrupt all that I hold dear, if for no other reason than to keep my attitude in check so I’m reminded of what’s really important.
Knitting is a lot like writing. It has a tendency to keep you isolated. I could visit my favorite shop and sit with other ladies and knit until my heart is content. But at some point, I always find myself in my favorite chair knitting alone. Writers are also loners. It doesn’t bother them to sit for hours at a time to create a story. I, for one, don’t need anyone to keep me company; and I don’t need to be inside a knitting store to get excited over a new project or new skeins of yarn.
Because I’m wearing a lot of the scarves I’ve made, my knitting projects have come to the attention of many at my congregation. Unexpectedly, knitting is doing something out of the ordinary. It’s drawing people into my inner circle. And this unexpected gift is what has inspired this article.
Weeks ago I had a new knitter come visit me and we sat and knitted while we talked. Since she’s been knitting for a little over a year now, I challenged her to spread her wings and tap into new knitting techniques; to try SSK (slip, slip, knit), simple basket weave patterns, and new ways to cast on. As I tried to demonstrate the Provisional Cast On method, I noticed she continuously asked if this was the only technique used to perform a Provisional Cast On. I said yes, then hesitated, realizing rather quickly there are several ways to perform a Provisional Cast On—with a crochet hook, or with a knitting needle and two different colored yarns.
I wondered: Why does she need a road map for each new technique?
Then something occurred to me. More often than not we all want to know what’s ahead of us. Where is the next turn? How far do we need to go? Will we make it by dark? Is there enough food? Will the pain be bearable or longsuffering? Just how long are patients on a waiting list for a transplant? Will mine occur soon enough? Is there a cure? Will it hurt to die?
I grew impatient with this probe into the unknown. I wanted to get on with knitting. I had a learn-as-you-go attitude. I have no fear of this adventure because I’m accustomed to it. My new knitting partner, however, had no idea where she was headed. She was afraid. Reluctant. And it didn’t take long for her anxieties to transform her lazy way of talking into a rapid, almost breathless screech of despair. Her hands shook. Her voice raised a decibel or two. Without warning, she declared rather loudly that all she wanted to do was knit and purl as before, not be thrown into an abyss.
Can you imagine laboring over half-filled fishing nets, dragging them to shore as you weigh your debts against your menial profit? Then from out of nowhere, a fisherman calls out to you, “Come, follow me!”
I’m certain my initial response would not be: Drop the net and follow the stranger. I don’t care how peaceful or loving he appears, I’m not following anyone I don’t know. My deep, furrowed brow would convey my reluctance and my thoughts would be: Has this guy lost his mind? I’ve got a family to feed.
Dread would surely consume me if an angel entered my dreams and said, “Behold, Donna, the Son of God is growing inside your womb.” No way I’d hear the announcement that I should name the child Emanuel, the Prince of Peace. Not me. This angel chose the wrong woman. Sorry, Gabriel, but you got the wrong house. I think you meant Mary across the street. I’m telling you, I’d leave my bed and take out in a dead run, stopping only when I felt safe and out of harm’s way.
For God to stop me on any road to confront me and redirect my path to Damascus would have scared me so bad that my heart would probably burst open. And not being able to see would have caused sheer panic and soiled garments.
And yet . . .
I can’t find a place in the New Testament where one of the disciples ever asked, Why? Where are we going? How long is the journey? I’ll be right back. Let me call my wife.
Who are these men? What’s driving their faith? Aren’t they worried about the unknown?
To answer these questions, I had to get real and dig deep into my journey as a knitter.
There was always something intriguing about using a single strand of thread (yarn) to create a garment. I desperately needed to know how to manipulate this strand . . . how to twist and stretch and whirl it around so it would lay neat and flat in all its splendor. My curiosity intensified to the point that I ignored fears of entering a store to inquire how to knit. That visit led to another, and before I knew it I was knitting a child’s sweater.
I think that’s the way it happened with the disciples. Jesus didn’t just hastily spring upon them. I tend to believe the coming Messiah was so much on their hearts and minds that they spent hours upon hours hashing and rehashing how he’d appear . . . when he’d appear . . . imagining how much raucous he’d cause once he showed up. John the Baptist’s preaching of the Messiah fed their anticipation, their desire for him reaching unimaginable proportions. By the time Jesus stood along the shore and beckoned them to, “Come, follow me,” they were eager to obey.
See, they didn’t need to ask, Why? They understood why. Of course, their reasons for his coming and what he’d do once he came were misconstrued. But their hearts never waivered at his appearing. Their soul and spirit knew.
We also know.
Amid all the noise, turbulent storms, strife and heartaches, sickness and despair, we know.
We just need reminders. Encouragement. Refreshed hope. (“I take great joy and encouragement in your love, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7)
Every last one of us wants a bright and prosperous future. And we don’t want anything to impede our hopes for it. But that’s unrealistic. Broken hearts need mending. Those who promote social injustice need repentant hearts and forgiveness. Truth needs to replace lies. Diseases need to be cured. And the dead, spiritual and physical, need raising.
When prayers for such things go unanswered and the road map leads in another direction, we proclaim God isn’t listening. Surely, if he loved me . . .
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . .” (2 Timothy 3:12)
What if God gave you this warning:
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11)
Why is any of this significant?
Because God does not promise we won’t encounter hardship. One of you may be overtaken by a deadly disease. Another, by injustice. Yet another, by poverty. And then another, by famine.
If the ire of those who suffer go against God, who will be left to serve and praise him? Are there any righteous among you?
I declare to you: God is alive and hears every plea placed before his throne.
“When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held the golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8)
God is a fine architect. The finest of all. He has designed a segue of pillars and floors and walls and roofs to protect and keep you safe.
He knows the number of hairs on your head; knows everything about you; and can read the heart of man and discern his intent. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
For us to declare that we know what and how God will do what he sets out to do is foolishness. No matter how we spin it, we will never know the fullness of God until we meet him face to face. My knees shake as I think of what it will be like to see him, to bow in his presence, to feel him, to encounter his endless love.
It is absolutely useless for us to fret over what’s around the corner. We are like children, holding daddy’s hand as he leads us through life’s supermarket of twists and turns. We can no more guess what’s ahead of us than we can predict the return of the risen Savior.
Our time is better spent reflecting and praising God for all that he’s brought us through. It’s time for us to go down Memory Lane and smile at all the times he rescued us from the perils of our own misdeeds. It’s time to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for his endless mercy. To remind ourselves of the grace we’ve been given and don’t deserve.
Life is indeed a supermarket with gnarled speed bumps in the aisles. Some of those bumps slow us down and hamper our goals toward success. Often those speed bumps are so dangerous that we must choose another route. We often become disappointed and discouraged by these detours, only to find out much later that God had something better in mind for us.
We cannot second guess God. We need to stop trying to do so.
There is, however, one thing certain.
He loves me! He truly loves me!! And he wishes no harm come to me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God will never lead you astray, leave you alone, or allow you to fall farther than he can reach. He doesn’t know how to fail. And he surely didn’t fail when he created you. He designed every fiber of your being with his masterful hand. No mistakes made. Everything is set in its proper place. And you, dear friend, are a masterpiece. Unique. One of a kind. Special. Kept completely whole and continuously cleaned by the blood of Jesus Christ.
You are a living and breathing child of God. Only he knows what’s best for you. He’s created a road map specifically for YOUR life. Your destination: heaven. At a long, splendid and elaborately set table is a seat for you and in the next room is a place to lay your head. You know your starting point. You know your end. Everything in between is a marvelous, adventurous journey with testy steep hills, high winds, rainy Sundays, and at last, brilliant Son-Rises. We must find joy while on our journey and not get distracted and sidetracked along the way.
Trust and be obedient to God and he will save you.
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
The next time you set out on your spiritual journey, pack the sword of truth. Set aside your anguish. Gird yourself with joy, peace, love, and hope. Because just over the hill, to the right, in that bend in the road is a shining light waiting for your arrival. Prepare yourself. Strap in tight. For God Almighty is about to reveal himself in all his glory. And with outstretched arms, he’s soothing all that aches inside you.
Take a deep breath and feel his presence.
Donna B. Comeaux
At the beginning of each year, we have the good intention to achieve new and important goals. But I can’t recall a time when I’ve intentionally given up anything to the point of death. I’m not referring to the giving of my time, or putting extra money in a collection plate, or filling someone’s gas tank. All of those things are within my power. The type of sacrifice I’m speaking of is one that hurts through the marrow of your bones; a sacrifice you’ve chosen to perform that causes great spiritual and emotional anguish.
The one real life example that comes to mind is a situation one of our brothers is in today. He’s been accused of stealing money from the church, but unbeknown to his accusers he and another brother are the ones who donated money to make needed repairs to the church building when the church didn’t have enough funds to pay for the repairs. The accuser is threatening to take one of the brothers to court, claiming he’s been threatened with bodily harm. Of course, there’s no basis for this accusation, but the accusation embellishes the accuser’s point so he can acquire sympathy and support from others.
The question is this: Who will back down? Who will deny themselves? And how did things escalate to this point?
Testosterone is high and each man’s pride is at stake. One saying: “You better pray because I’m not backing down for anybody.” The other saying: “I’ve been at this church forever and there’s no way an outsider is gonna come in here and take over my church.”
Is it possible to clamp down on your pride and fall to your knees before the Lord and give him your burden? What happens to us when we face encounters like this? Are we so bent on getting our way that we lose focus on the Word of God? Does it no longer matter what we’ve been taught by the scriptures? As I await your comments to these questions, and perhaps the sharing of your own stories in similar situations in the church, read about another sacrifice that was made, one that, despite all the noise, was given out of a unimpeded freewill to save others.
John Griffith, the Bridge Operator
(Originally posted on CRI at http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/ )
This is a story that takes place in the roaring 20’s in Oklahoma:
John Griffith was in his early twenties. He was newly married and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful baby. He was living the American dream. But then came 1929—the Great Stock Market Crash—the shattering of the American economy that devastated John’s dreams. The winds that howled through Oklahoma were strangely symbolic of the gale force that was sweeping away his hopes and his dreams. And so, brokenhearted, John packed up his few possessions, and with his wife and his little son, headed East in an old Ford Model A. They made their way to the edge of the mighty Mississippi River and found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges there.
Day after day, John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Each day, he looked on sadly as those ships carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.
It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be birthed in John’s heart. His young son was now eight years old and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life, a life in which Greg, his little son, would work shoulder to shoulder with him. The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and fresh purpose. Excitedly, they packed their lunches and headed off towards the immense bridge.
Greg looked on in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive. He marveled that his Dad could singlehandedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure.
Before they knew it, Noon time had arrived. John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through. And then taking his son by the hand, they headed off towards lunch.
As they ate, John told his son in vivid detail stories about the marvelous destinations of the ships that glided below them. Enveloped in a world of thought, he related story after story, his son hanging on his every word.
Then, suddenly, in the midst of telling a tale about the time that the river had overflowed its banks, he and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that it was already 1:07. Immediately he remembered that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express would be by in just minutes.
In the calmest tone he could muster he instructed his son “Stay put.” Quickly, he leaped to his feet, he jumped onto the catwalk. As the precious seconds flew by, he ran at full-tilt to the steer ladder leading into the control house.
Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight. And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below. As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest. For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.
Apparently Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gear box. Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed. Then an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind. Lowering the bridge would mean killing the apple of his eye.
Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down towards his son, pulling him back to safety. Then in an instant, he would move back down towards the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.
As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the futility of his plan. Instantly he knew there just wouldn’t be enough time. Frustration began to beat on John’s brow, terror written over every inch of his face. His mind darted here and there, vainly searching for yet another solution.
His agonized mind considered the four hundred people that were moving inextricably closer and closer to the bridge. Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed, but this was his son…his only son…his pride…his joy.
He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do. He knew he would have to do it. And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express—with its 400 passengers—roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.
John Griffith lifted his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the morning newspaper. A uniformed conductor was glancing nonchalantly as his large vest pocket watch. Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars. A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a large dish of ice cream. Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.
No one even looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gear box that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and his dreams.
In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room. He cried out “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? What’s wrong with you?”
No one answered. No one heard. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. The train disappeared moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.
Even now as I retell this story, I’m moved by emotion. For this is but a faint glimpse of what the Father did in sacrificing his Son to atone for the sins of the world. Unlike the Memphis Express, however, an express that caught John Griffith by surprise, God in His great love and according to His sovereign will and purpose, determined to sacrifice his Son so that we might live. Not only so, but the consummate love of Christ is demonstrated in that He was not accidentally caught as was John’s son. Rather, He willingly sacrificed his life for the sins of mankind.
Well, the story of course doesn’t end there. Three days later, Jesus arose from the grave. For this reason, we celebrate throughout the year and particularly during Easter, the broken body, the shed blood, the mangled remains of our Savior with joy, because Jesus overcame death and the grave through His resurrection. Moreover, like Jesus, we too shall rise. You, I, John Griffith, his son, and those who believe, we will live forever with our resurrected Lord in Paradise Restored.
This story was taken from The Christian Research Institute and can be found at: http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_out/john-griffith-the-bridge-operator/
Keeping in mind God’s sacrifice for us, is it really so hard to give of yourself in order to serve or save others? Is it not godly for us to suffer for what is right rather than escalating a situation and making it worse? (I Peter 3:8-22) And isn’t it moments like these that reveal who we really are in Christ Jesus?
What’s your agenda? Are you willing to deny yourself for the cause of Christ Jesus?
by Donna B. Comeaux
Need another nudge toward forgiveness?
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
“. . . but the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth,
and the desire for other things come in and choke the word,
and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19)
Everyone is angry. Those who don’t approve of the new transgender law imposed by North Carolina; the LBGT community who thinks many Christians are hypocritical in their determination to stay in line with the scriptures; the highly educated, riled by their fruitless efforts to find a decent job; and marginalized wage-earners who picket for a better pay raise. All of us live with a degree of fear because of constant terrorist threats. If that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, consider how consumed parents are over their daily warfare against outside influences on their children.
It doesn’t give us any comfort when, on top of all of our concerns, we must also deal with the political change in our country and a dysfunctional judicial system.
I could probably impress upon you how different things were when I was a girl, but in all honesty every generation has had its burden to bear. I think of the 1940s and 50s when pop, R&B, and jazz artists like Billie Holliday, along with young wayward teenagers, struggled with drug abuse. All Jackie Robinson wanted to do was play baseball, but he had to muddle through years of racial discrimination. It’s the twenty-first century and women are still fighting for equality. Amazing how the poor is still hungry and living in poverty and the rich is much richer and living lavishly—a fact that’s held true no matter which generation you examine.
Pinpoint a day in time and see if there weren’t problems induced by evil forces, cultural changes, different ideologies, wavering opinions, or religious traditions that didn’t create stumbling blocks.
Comparing generations is simply a waste of time, doing nothing more than further alienating us from the young. Evil has always challenged and weakened leadership, and will continue to do so until the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We shouldn’t look at life in generational increments. If we think our country didn’t have evil and complicated issues to overcome generations before, then we have arrived at erroneous conclusions about the realities of the world in which we live. Sin is just as prevalent today as it was centuries ago and it’s constantly spinning and devouring everyone in its path.
It’s more about what you and I do about our relationship with God and man than how we perceive the changing times.
I hate to admit this, but murmurs for a new political party or new presidential candidate sound a lot like the Israelites’ plea for a king. God wasn’t enough for them. Thousands of years later we still tend to think that if we get a new president in office we’ll somehow find our footing and put this country back on track.
Do we need to be reminded who is really in control?
Consider this: God promised Abram that he’d be the father of nations and his sons and daughters would be as numerous as the stars. Through faith Abram believed though he experienced several failures because of his human reasoning (lying about Sarai being his sister; laying with his handmaiden instead of waiting on the promise to be fulfilled).
Unlike Abraham, you and I have the scriptures for daily guidance and spiritual strength. Within it are examples of many who have endured and suffered great trials (for I’ve never wandered through a desert for 40 years, fought my enemy with a sword, or been stoned and left for dead).
The brotherhood needs to renew their focus and concentrate more on their individual relationship with God. Our aim should be to fall in love with the Holy One . . . to place no one above him. That involves a daily dying to self, spending quality time with God, questioning him, voicing our requests, nurturing our families with his holy word, placing the burdens of the church at his feet, and praying for the brotherhood of believers—especially those undergoing persecution.
The Holy One has not left us defenseless as the wicked one would have you believe. God cares about us and provides a way out long before we discover we’re in a sticky situation. The last thing God wants you to do is feel so much weight of the world on your shoulders that it distracts you from what is really important—your relationship with him.
God is so sensitive to our needs that all he asks is that you have the faith of a mustard seed. A mustard seed is not much bigger than the eye of a needle, so why would God request such little faith? Because the Holy Father in all his glory will do the rest.
This past year has been a treacherous mountain for me to climb. My family is dealing with a bone disease and other health problems, in-law issues, personal failures, distrust, and anger. In all the imperfect ways that I’ve reacted to my situation, God kept bringing me back into his presence. I had no one to confide in, no one to ease my burdens with laughter. It is clear that the Holy One is gently telling me that his grace is sufficient.
Like me, you may be on a journey that seems unfair and too heavy. Let me be the first to encourage you that you’re not climbing steep mountains alone. See, that’s what the evil one wants you to believe—that you’re alone and no one cares about you. Too often we forget that we are surrounded by a heavenly host, in a spiritual brotherhood, clothed with godly love. Think of it this way—
You and I are in a canoe, riding the rough waves of life. Violent waters almost overturn the canoe and threaten to throw each of us into an angry sea. But off in the distance is a constant light, guiding us, encouraging us to press forward. Some brothers and sisters are thrown overboard by turbulent waves and we struggle to rescue them. With all our might, we tug and pull, frantic to get them back inside the boat. The reasons our sisters and brothers fell from the boat are numerous, many of the reasons like my own—weakness, fatigue, loneliness, a ghastly past, a hopeless future, a sense of worthlessness. But the light shining in the distance gives us strength then we pass our strength onto another, then another, until an unbreakable chain forms and we’re able to pull another from the vicious grips of destruction.
You and I are never alone. Each one of us is significant. We’re in the canoe together fighting the same fight; battling the same sins; harboring the same anger; constantly being distracted by the evil one. But the light binds and strengthens our faith.
Listen to these scriptures and believe:
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)
9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ 11Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. (Isaiah 41:9-11)
. . . If God is for us, who can be against us! (Romans 8:31)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:8-10)
4My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 6Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. (I Corinthians 2:4-7)
Believe and build your future on these words of truth. Do not allow the weight of the world to distract or interfere with your love for the Lord and brotherhood of believers. Replace your fears with faith and don’t grow weary with doing good. The world will always be evil, to one degree or another, but you have been given a way out, an escape from death and destruction. Empower and gird yourselves with the whole armor of God and live by it. For by doing so, you may influence those around you and win many to Christ. (Galations 6:9; II Thessalonians 3:13; I Corinthians 10:12-13; and Ephesians 6:11-13)
Donna B. Comeaux is a Christian writer, poet, and author who resides in Oklahoma. She is married, has two children and eight grandchildren. She is part of the Ruby for Women blog team: http://www.rubyforwomen.com.
Ministry and Missionary Workers who are heavily involved in the Lord’s work are usually so absorbed with taking care of others that they neglect to properly care for themselves.
Years ago when I was Nursery Coordinator for a large congregation, I had to undergo many failures before I finally learned how to rest. When I wasn’t rested and refreshed, there was no way I’d be any good to those I served. Remember this passage:
21Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace. . . . (Exodus 18:21-23)
In order to become a more effective minister of God’s word, there are several things you must do. They are:
1. Don’t set out on a mission or go into a ministry without a life jacket.
– Be well-equipped (or well-versed) in the word of God. You can’t teach what you don’t know.
– Have a well-established prayer life. Don’t pray only when things go bad; pray always, and pray about everything. To lead without seeking God is like the blind leading the blind. We can do nothing without his counsel and leadership. Our earthly wisdom will not go far enough.
– Memorize songs of thanksgiving. We forget that songs of thanksgiving are expressions of our joy in Christ Jesus. Express your joy through song. These songs of praise and thanksgiving will also refresh your spirit.
– Daily remind yourself of your priorities: God first, spouse second, children, local church family, those in need. The moment you get these priorities out of order, expect trouble. Watch for warning signs that indicate you’re spending too much time outside of the home. What good is your ministry to the world, if you can’t first take care of your home? Our diligent service to our families is a testament to the world.
2. Accountability with a purpose.
– Choose spiritually strong individuals who will hold you accountable. You want people in your life who will not “sugarcoat” issues that cause you to stray and disrupt your relationship with God and with your family.
Don’t buy into the idea that you can walk this Christian life alone. Though we constantly fail one another, we are to keep fighting the good fight and press forward. Relationships are messy, no matter how few or how many you may have. It’s better to pray for and continue your pursuit for meaningful relationships than to muddle through life alone. Don’t buy into Satan’s schemes by allowing him to convince you that you can do this all by yourself.
– Share weaknesses and stumbling blocks that you experience in your ministry work.
– Plead with these individuals to pray for you.
– Meet and share with these individuals on a regular basis. Be mindful not to treat these meetings as gripe or gossip sessions. This is about your relationship with God and if you are aligned with his will.
3. Set aside specific times to sit and do nothing.
– Plan the day, week, month, time, and place to have your quiet time.
– Be responsible by informing your family and other ministry workers that you are taking time off for yourself. For safety reasons, be sure to give them a return date, a phone number, and a place you can be reached in case of an emergency.
– Quiet time is so important that Jesus Christ went to the mountain to pray and rest. Notice in John 6:3 below, Jesus has led his disciples up a mountain, pulled them aside, and the crowd is still waiting.
12It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles . . . (Luke 6:12-13)
2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. (John 6:2-3)
– Take a fresh look at reasons for having quiet time: (a) it allows you to rest; (b) it offers you a moment to refuel; (c) it gives you more opportunity to commune with God; and (d) it helps you look at things from a different perspective.
4. Self-Reflect / Introspect.
Meaning: Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. (Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection)
– Self-reflection is a key element needed in order to become an effective minister of God’s word. During your quiet time:
— self-reflect by re-examining your spiritual purpose / ministry;
— meditate and pray;
— sing spiritual songs;
— recite / memorize new passages of scripture;
— remember the trials and tribulations God brought you through; and
— remember God’s blessings in as much detail as possible.
– Visit your favorite beauty salon / barber shop.
– Indulge in a spa treatment.
– Take a walk (no jogging; you are to rest, not continue a rigorous schedule).
– Wake early. Sit with God . . . just sit in his presence. Drink tea / coffee and admire God’s beauty from a porch or mountainside.
– Soak in a bubble bath (don’t shower – showers are quick and easy; remember you are trying to slow down and refuel).
– Take a nap or gaze at the stars at nightfall.
6. Seek Help With Your Ministry.
– Don’t be afraid to revisit with those of whom you’ve previously solicited help. These people might be in a better position to offer you assistance with your ministry.
Stopping long enough to refuel is hard. I constantly battle with physical and mental exhaustion. At times, I’m not aware that I’m on overload until it’s too late. It’s only then that I’m forced to stop everything and regroup. If I don’t stop, it will take me twice as long to get back up. I have come to the realization that if I’m to be an effective sister in Christ Jesus, I must:
12. . . work out your (my own) salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
If I don’t rest, I won’t be able to:
14Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. (Philippians 2:14-17)
And neither will I be able to:
- Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
- Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Being overwhelmed is a real issue in the family of God. We must be diligent to overcome this weakness by implementing a plan of attack against this stumbling block.
Hopefully, these steps will help reboost your energy and stabilize your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I pray you will spend more time with God and become an effective leader in the church . . . rather than an exhausted leader.
May your love for the Lord grow deeper each day.
Donna B. Comeaux
No notable pedigrees, other than being
your sister in Christ Jesus our Lord
(as originally published in the 2015 Autumn Issue of Ruby for Women at http://www.rubyforwomen.com)
I closed my eyes and prayed. Then I stood at the plate and swung my bat. The ball landed in the catcher’s mitt with a loud pop. I missed. I tucked my bottom lip between my teeth and bore down—HARD. The ball came at me a second time, aiming for the center of my bat. I swung again. Missed. I moved away from the plate then kicked the dirt, telling myself I had to keep my eye on the ball. “Get mean,” I mumbled. I squared my shoulders, took in a deep, deep breath, went to the plate, and determined to hit that ball out of the park.
I hit it alright. Straight up. It landed in the catcher’s mitt before I got halfway to first base. Like the girly girl that I am, I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I snatched my bat off the ground and threw it in the corner of the dugout.
You ever felt defeated?
Sometimes when I kneel and pray for something, I get off my knees determined to do the right thing, knowing that at my next opportunity, if I aim right, I’ll hit God’s message out of the park. But it never fails that just as I am determined to drive God’s message home, I end up missing the ball.
I had an opportunity a week ago to show a sister in Christ how Satan was using her. I started the conversation with good intentions, but when I saw that Satan was using her to get at me, I got angry. Before I knew it, I raised my voice in an effort to penetrate her weakness. If only she’d let go of anger, I thought. “Forgive others and focus on your own sin,” I told her, “instead of focusing on your brother’s sin.” Then and only then would she recognize how much freedom she had in Christ.
At the end of that conversation, I felt her pain through the telephone line. It took me almost a week to fully see what I had done.
I was so focused on her attacking me, or shall I say, Satan attacking me again, that I missed the opportunity to help her. And I’m not sure if I’ll ever get another opportunity to right this wrong.
When we kneel in prayer and ask God for his guidance, we must let him guide. The minute I felt anything other than compassion during that conversation, I should have stopped and prayed for us. I didn’t need God’s answers in the palm of my hands in order to feel useful. People don’t expect you to know everything. What they expect is human compassion and understanding—to know and feel you’ve been in their shoes.
I have no doubt that if I’d offered my sister compassion and a listening ear instead of a mountain of knowledge and scoldings, I would have encouraged her and helped place her in a position to seek God and trust him.
As it stands, she’s still troubled and I’m disgusted with myself.
Prayer: God, please help me to place my will on the altar. Father, may your will be done in me. Refresh my spirit, oh God, and help me to know that even in my weakness you are strong. As you release your love through me, may it also flow from me to the brotherhood of believers.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
I John 3:21-23
21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. 23This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. . . .
“Is Your All On The Altar?”
by C.L. Fairchild
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love
one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”
I never did well in accounting. As long as assets and liabilities were clearly defined, I’d pass my tests. But terms like “loss contingency,” “LIFO reserve,” or “debt service fund” plummet my hopes of ever successfully completing Basic Accounting.
Often we measure love against our hopes, dreams, and selfish ambitions. As long as others align themselves with our agendas, love is anchored deep. It’s solid. Immovable. But if others succeed in their personal endeavors and leave us behind, they are seen as a threat.
We are to glorify God through our love for one another, not use love as a measuring stick for personal triumph. Think not about how we should gratify our sinful nature, but rather have sincere affections one for another.
Prayer: God, please teach me to love.
Think: For every bill you owe, is your indebtedness to love far greater?
Read: Romans 12:9-10; Romans 13:8-14; I Corinthians 13:1-13