Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How Are You Feeding Yourself?


I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. 
I Corinthians 3:2-3

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Hebrews 5:11-14

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  
2 Timothy 2:15

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.  
Titus 1:9

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Dear Sisters,

It's that time of year when organizations and people start sharing summer reading lists.  I think this is a good time to jump on that bandwagon and share out my list of books that have helped me grow spiritually.

First up, the Bible.
I never want any of you to think that I put other books above the Word.  I don't.  I do find other books helpful but I want to encourage you to be in the Word on a regular basis.  If you struggle with getting started with a reading plan, I would suggest that you pick one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John - and read one chapter a day for a month.  Baby steps!

Maybe for the rest of the year you rotate through a different Gospel a month.  If this is successful for you, at the beginning of the new year you could switch over to a reading plan that has you reading the entire New Testament in a year or even the entire Bible in a year.  If you need to take this progression slowly, read through each of the Gospel's at least once for the rest of this year, then in January you read through the New Testament, and then the following year read through the entire Bible.  I highly recommend a chronological reading of Scripture at least a few times in your life even if it keeps you in the Old Testament for a majority of the year.  You learn so much about God by reading the Old Testament. 

I've placed a few different reading plans in this folder: Bible Reading Plans.  There are many different plans out there.  A simple internet search will provide many results.  Some can be printed out and others are electronic.  Personally, I like plans I can print on paper so I can cross off that section of reading after it's completed.

Next, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
It was at a church conference last year that I heard about this book.  I am so glad that I've read it.  I like it so much that I've given a copy of the book to each of the ladies in my Sunday School class. I purchase used copies often to pass out to other women and I have the audio version as well.

James uses Mary and Martha of Bethany to help explain how important our theology of God is.  Do not let that word "theology" scare you.  Theology is the study of God and when you learn about Him and talk about Him you are being a theologian.  Yes, this is a simplified definition but I don't want any of you to be scared by the word "theology."  Being a Christian means we are theologians. 

In three parts, the book starts us at the feet of Jesus where we learn our theology and then moves us to the trenches of life where our practice of theology is deepened and then to how our theology helps us minister to others. 

My summary here is brief and barely adequate to cover the good biblical stuff in the book.  If you have room for one more book to read this summer, please make it this book.  I can't recommend the book enough.  

Next, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
I don't remember what led me to add this book to my list for purchase in the used book section of my favorite store.  Sometimes my list of books to find comes from the resources and end notes of other books I'm reading. 

Since I read this book the first time, I've picked up an updated copy of the book and am starting to read through it again.  I want to be more regular with my blogging so my plan is to blog about each spiritual discipline in the book.  You really should get your own copy of the book so when the blogging happens you can add to the discussion in the comments.

But my purpose here is to talk about the book so I should probably do that now.  :)  Whitney is very clear that the purpose of practicing the spiritual disciplines is not to check off a box and say "See, God, I did one of Your things."  Practicing spiritual disciplines in a check-the-box manner turns Christianity into a religion on work and not of grace.  The purpose of doing a spiritual discipline is godliness (I Timothy 4:7).  The disciplines will help us grow more mature in our Christian walk and thereby bring us closer to God.  The disciplines are God's way of working on us from the inside out.

Whitney covers 12 different disciplines from studying and memorizing Scripture to prayer to serving to stewardship to learning to persevering in the disciplines.  Each discipline he discusses is supported by Scripture.    Each discipline is explained, methods and suggestions provided, and a section on more applications given.  The final chapter on perseverance is helpful because it reminds us not to give up.  He encourages us to "practice the Spiritual Disciplines in light of eternity." 

If you have room, add this book to your summer book stack.  Or get it after the summer for those cozy fall and winter reading times.

A listening list:
If you are busy this summer with travel or outside activities that are not conducive to reading the words of a book in paper or electronic format, I think the following audio resources are worth the listening time.

Church Ministries Conference.  This conference is one I attend as often as I can.  They just started recording the breakout sessions a couple years ago and have posted them online.  There are so many good session recordings from 2017 and 2016 found here: http://churchministriesconference.com/audio/    I especially like Rosalie De Rosset's session on "Reading as a Scriptural Exercise."  And as it is the summer months, Stacie Johnson's session on "A Theology of Modesty" is quite appropriate.   Hint, modesty isn't just for women and it isn't just about clothing.

Together for the Gospel Conference.  This conference takes place every two years.  I attended a couple years ago and enjoyed the preaching and the workshop sessions.  All of those sessions are recorded which helps when you can't be everywhere at once.  I especially like what and how Ligon Duncan preaches from the Word:  http://t4g.org/speakers/ligon-duncan/

Audible.  Because of my travels for work, I've had a subscription for a couple years.  I still have lots of books to get through but I highly recommend John Piper's sermons on the entire book of Romans.  This is for those long trips (over 150 hours of sermons) and well worth the Audible credit.  Yes, you can get the sermons for free from desiringGod.org but I like the audio book format so I don't have to remember where I left off when I decide to listen to another book or some music while traveling.

I hope my suggestions help you feed yourself spiritually through the rest of this year.  If you have any other suggested readings, please share them in the comments so we can learn from each other.

Sincerely,
Sister Jane
Psalms 18:30

Monday, July 4, 2016

Thankfulness


This God - His way is perfect;  the word of the Lord proves true;  He is a shield to all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

 Dear Sisters,

Over the past 2 years the above verses have become very important to me.  Many times when I have been greatly distressed and in great emotional pain, I have prayed the first verse over and over and over again.

The desire to write this post has been strong for over a year.  A few painful events took place and I did want to share them with you while I was going through them but I wasn't done learning what God had for me out of those events so I thought it best to stay quiet while I dealt with the pain, praying that when I did share those events with you I would do so with a better view of God and His work in my life.

The picture at the top of the post is of a small portion of a dress.  This dress is simple looking with a small amount of lace and beading.  This dress hangs in a bag in my closet.  This dress is my wedding dress.  Over 2 years ago this dress did not make it to the wedding and neither did I. 

Sisters, I am thankful that I didn't make it to that wedding.  The reason for my thankfulness is because God saved me from marrying a predatory controlling abuser.

Looking back, I should have ended the relationship early with the person that became my fiance.  The control and emotional abuse were observable early on but I didn't see those behaviors for what they were.  So, why didn't I end things earlier?  Why didn't I see the bad behaviors?  Simply put: I loved that person and they told me they loved me too.

I am thankful that about a month and half before the wedding my eyes were opened to the controlling behavior and the relationship ended.  There was a lot of pain when that relationship stopped.  I don't like pain.  But the pain drove me to my knees to plead with God for reconciliation.  As the weeks and months passed, my eyes were opened to the emotional and spiritual abuse I had been submitting myself to and I became thankful that God had answered "no" to my pleas.

I am sorry that some people were hit with the 'shrapnel' of the relationship as it ended.  Some of the relationships with some people stopped immediately because they proved untrustworthy and some relationships continued for a short time until they proved to bring more grief than healing.  Right or wrong, some relationships ended because I didn't want to bring conflict between spouses so I pulled myself away to preserve marital harmony.

I am thankful for the resources that God put before me to help me learn about forgiveness.  The pastors at the church I was attending at the time were never able to explain forgiveness to me nor were they able to understand the abuse that I had suffered.  My mom send me a book called How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has reached the point of knowing they need to forgive someone but are struggling to do it.  The most important thing I learned from the book is that when I chose to forgive the person who abused me, I was not excusing their behavior.  Forgiving that person means that I am handing them over to God and trusting that God will deal with that person in His perfect way and in His perfect timing.

I am thankful that when the relationship ended, it ended in an area where I had good friends.  I don't even want to imagine what it would have been like if the breakup had happened in a place where I was isolated and knew no one.  I am thankful they were there to offer support, listen to me sob, and just be present when I was feeling lonely.

I am thankful for the family and friends who lived far away and prayed for me and sent me notes of encouragement.  Those notes and phone calls were the breaths of fresh air that I needed when grief felt like it was suffocating me.

I am thankful that I was able to find another church to attend.  I am not one that advocates for people jump from church to church but I wasn't able to remain at the church the person and I had attended together.  I couldn't stay at a church where people put him on a pedestal because of his salvation story and manipulative behavior.  I couldn't stay at a church where I did not feel spiritually, emotionally, and physically safe.  The church I now attend is one where God has put me to work to minister to other people so they may grow in their knowledge of Him.

I am thankful there are people who have answered God's call in their life to be Christian counselors.  Sisters, never consider it a sign of weakness to go to Christian counseling for help.  Pastors do not always have the awareness or skills to deal with abuse within the church.  I won't get into the nitty-gritty details but I do remember one counseling session where I stated many of the controlling and abusive events that had happened during the relationship.  In God's perfect timing, that session came after a time where my mind had started to tell me I must have made things worse than they really were.  Having to list out all of those events proved to me that I had not exaggerated things.  Counseling provided me with more tools to help me with my grief and recovery.

I am thankful that there are no acceptable reasons for abuse.  I am not perfect; I'm a sinful creature saved by God's grace.  But my imperfections are no excuse for abuse.

I am thankful that I turned to God more and more as I recovered from the pain. I found a renewed joy in reading and studying His Word.  I desire to share that joy with others and to encourage others to dig into Scripture on a regular basis.

I am thankful that the lessons I learned from my experience have allowed me to minister to other ladies and to allow them to minister to me.  I have found a sisterhood at my church which has become an important part of my healing process.

I am thankful that I can pray for his new fiance.  I pray regularly that God will protect her from the abuse and control of the person she is engaged to marry.  I also pray that the people this person ministers to will only hear and see God through that ministry and not the person that enjoys being the center of attention.


I know that I am not done learning from my experience.  My prayer is that my eyes and heart will stay open to what God has for me to learn and that maybe the words in this post will be helpful to another sister. 

As I post this on America's Independence Day, I encourage you, sisters, to find the freedom to be thankful for God's work in your life even in those painful times in our lives.

Sister Jane
Psalms 18:30



Resources I recommend for further study on forgiveness, abuse, and growing in the Lord:
+ Forgiveness: http://www.hopefortheheart.org/forgiveness/
+ When Love Hurts: When Abuse is Worse than Divorce- a 4 part video program looking at understanding and healing abuse:  http://dod.org/programs/when-love-hurts-understanding-and-healing-domestic-abuse-when-abuse-is-worse-than-divorce-part-i/
+ Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse by Steven Tracy
+ How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt
+ When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
+ Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen? by Kay Arthur
+ Shepherding a Women's Heart by Beverly Hislop
+ Shepherding Women in Pain by Beverly Hislop

I didn't provide links for the books because I don't want to influence people to purchase them from a specific location.  Check with your local library, local book store, local Christian store, or any online store you use to get books (CBD, AbeBooks, or Amazon).  If you have resources to recommend as well, please share them in the comments. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So It's Been a While


Dear Sisters,

Yes, I've been quiet for a bit.  Sorry about that.  I do have at least one larger post brewing - steeping would be a better term - and will share it out when the time is right.

I've been living in a new place for over 2 years and this summer noticed that a new Frank was making an appearance.  Odd, yes, but I was happy to see him.  I miss my Northern Frank.  This past weekend I got a couple new bird feeders and a squirrel feeder as well.   So far I've only put out the bird feeders as I need to grab my screwdriver and figure out the placement for the squirrel feeder on the bush in front of the window. 

I came down the stairs this morning to see the cats looking intently through the window at something outside.  I rounded the corner and saw that Southern Frank was enjoying the suet cake I had put out for the birds.  He made a mess of it but was thoroughly enjoying it.

It looks like I need to hang up the squirrel feeder I picked up this past weekend.  Soon.


Sincerely,

Sister Jane
Psalm 18:30

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seasons of Life - What Do You Read?



This God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true;  
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

Dear Sisters,

There are seasons to our lives like there are seasons during the year.  Some seasons we look forward to, some seasons we can't wait for them to finish.  This past year has been a season for me that I wouldn't wish on anyone and it's one that I hope is nearing the end.

No matter the season of life, Scripture is important.  Ground yourself in the Word during the good and the not-so-pleasant seasons.  During this season I'm in, I have found that reading some additional books to help me make sense of Scripture has been good practice.  Below is the list of books that I found helpful and they are listed in no particular order.

The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on Suffering and the Glory of God by Greg Harris:
I had actually started reading this book before the not-so-pleasant season began.  Looking back I can see God's hand at work with me finding the book and picking it to add to my nighttime reading pile. Harris does a great job using Scripture to explain suffering.  This is not a book to read through fast.  Take it slow so that you may fully understand and process the concepts that Harris is discussing.  Sometimes Greek words are pulled into the discussion but the words are defined well and not in such away as to be above anyone's head.

As Silver Refined: Answers to Life's Disappointments by Kay Arthur:
This not a short book but Arthur's style of writing demonstrates how much she cares for her readers; how much she wants them to see God at work in the disappointments we go through in life and to trust in God and His sovereignty.  There is also a Bible study section at the back of the book in case you want to use that to help you dig even deeper into the concepts Arthur discusses in the book.

Living Victoriously in Difficult Times by Kay Arthur and Bob & Diane Vereen:
This is a simple way to do inductive Bible study that you can do on your own or with other people.  The first half of the study focuses on suffering: how we are not immune to it, it will not separate us from the love of God, and it is part of God's process to refine and purify us to reflect His image.  The last half of the study looks at how we are to live out the truths of suffering in our daily lives.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian:
Tchividjian sets out to look at the reality of suffering in this book.  He points out that suffering is going to happen - Scripture says so - and that there is a wrong way to look at suffering.  When suffering brings us to your knees, we should be looking to the cross remembering Who suffered for us and suffers with us and the grace He provides us. 

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero:
'It's impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.'  Scazzero sets out to prove this through Scripture, research, and his own personal journey as a pastor, husband, and father. There is a discussion of the symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality,  the six stages of faith, how to deal with the 'Wall- the dark night of the soul', and how to grow into an emotionally mature adult.  Each chapter also ends with a prayer.  Give this book a try to learn more about your own emotional maturity level and how it affects your spiritually.

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero:
Written by the wife of the pastor that wrote Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, she talks about 8 things that women need to quit.  Quit being afraid of what others think and quit denying anger, sadness, and fear are 2 of the 'quits' that she covers.  Scazzero uses Scripture, her own personal experience, and research to support her list of 'quits.'

How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt:
This is a book that my mom gave me.  I'm thankful that God pointed her in the direction of this book to have it sent my way.  This is a great book to give to someone who is struggling to forgive another person.  I wouldn't recommend giving it to a person right after they have experienced a painful event (abuse, an attack, betrayal, etc), but when the person comes around to knowing that they need to forgive the other person, this book is a great resource.  I also recommend that people read it even if they have no one in particular to forgive.  The book does a great job of using Scripture to define what forgiveness is and is not and that is extremely important because not everyone has the correct definition of forgiveness.  Examples: Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation; forgiveness is not excusing the wrong or letting the guilty 'get away with it;' Forgiveness is handing the offender over to God and trusting that God will provide the consequences to the offender in His time and in His way.

Sisters, what books have been helpful to you during various seasons of your life? Please share those books and how they helped you in the comments.

Thank you!

Sister Jane
Ps 18:30

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Single in a Couples World


Dear Sisters,

Events in my life over the past couple months have been interesting.  Some bad things happened, some difficult things happened.  God's grace has carried me through and I am thankful.  Through all of this I observed that many churches don't know how to deal with single people who haven't fulfilled the American church model of coupling up in high school or college and being married soon after. 

Families / couples in churches have a rhythm in their lives.  It's a rhythm that can be similar from one family / couple to another.  That's why you see families hanging out together because maybe their kids are of similar age or are in similar after-school activities.  Or you see couples that hang out together because they have things like activities, jobs, or backgrounds in common.  These are good things.  It's good for people to fellowship with others.  

The issue that I've observed is that many families / couples in churches don't know how to incorporate single people into their rhythm.  Single people seem to disrupt the flow and ruin the harmony.  This is not how it should be.  True, Single Adult J will not fit in with every family at church but there should be at least 1 family that they harmonize with beautifully.  The single person may alter the rhythm a little but maybe a family could use a little jazz in their lives. 

Yea for musical inspiration!  Single people can only make a family's or couple's rhythm better.  They may have the unique sound the family band has been waiting for to make it even better than before.  I have friends outside of church where we make great music together.  I fit right in and that is one of the best things for me as I live in an area far from my family.  For me the hard part has been trying to find a family / couple band to join in the church.  It has not been an easy task and it is incomplete.  I work during the day so I can pay my bills which means that doing things with other ladies in the church during the day time when many are available is nearly impossible for me.  It's awkward trying to schedule things on a weekend with families because for many people that is family time and I feel like I'm intruding into the family's rhythm instead of providing a delightful musical accent.  It's a work in progress and I'm doing my best not to give up.

Sisters, maybe you are part of a couple and have been thinking about similar things lately.  Maybe you're a single person who struggles with this as much as I do.  As I've thought through this topic over the past few weeks I've come up with a few tips and thoughts that might be of some use.  The order given does not indicate any preference or rank to the tip.

Tips for families / couples:
1. Find ways to include a single person into your family.  Invite them over for game night, to go out with you on a fun shopping trip that involves a shared hobby or interest, to join you for lunch.  Make them feel welcome and not like they are intruding.
2. When traditional family holidays come around (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) consider inviting them over to join your family.  The single person may be far from family and being with a different family can help lessen the loneliness. I am extremely thankful for the people that invited me to join them during their family's gatherings. 
3. A single person could become an additional "aunt" or "uncle" to your children.  Be careful though about  taking advantage of them by turning them into free babysitters and errand runners for you.  They may be willing and glad to help out but take care that you don't ruin the relationship you've developed by using them too much.  But if the single friend volunteers to watch the kids so you can have a date night, do take them up on their offer.  This is their way of saying thank you and that they care for you and your family.  Turning down that act of love isn't a good idea.
4. Don't play matchmaker for the single people in your life.  Just because you're married doesn't mean everyone else is supposed to be.  If you think you've found the "perfect" person for your single friend, take it to the Lord in prayer to be sure and WAIT on His answer.   Setting up the person could really backfire and cause the loss of the friendship you have with the single person.

Tips for churches:
1. Don't try to set up your single people with other single people in the church.  When the relationship goes bad one of those singles if not both will leave your church.  Trying to get both of them to stay after the break up will only increase the size of the wound created by the break up in the first place.
2. Single people are gifted by the Spirit as well so find ways to encourage your single people to use those gifts in the church.  Don't ignore your single women and don't assume they are only useful in children's ministries.  Many women are gifted in areas that do not involve children.    
3. Cultivate a culture in your church where everyone feels comfortable and confident in following God's will for their life even if that means being single.  Put a simpler way: stop making single people feel bad for being single.  God doesn't intend for everyone to be married. 
4. A singles ministry can be a good thing but it could also isolate the singles in your church depending on the focus and activities of that ministry.  Don't use the ministry to create couplings.  Help your singles to become a part of the church family so aim for all-inclusive church activities.

Thoughts for singles:
1. Be willing to invite yourself into a family activity.  This one is hard for me because growing up I was taught NOT to invite myself to someone's home. If you have a schedule that is very flexible as to when you can hang out, let that family know that you'd really like to hang out and that your schedule is flexible as to when that can happen.  Yes, you may feel awkward but you can do it.
2. Figure out what your spiritual gift is and find away to use it in your church. 
3. Join in with some of the group activities at church.  This could be the way that you find other people in church who have common outside-church interests.  If there are no group activities, consider organizing a game night at church.  Ask people to bring board games; set up a Wii machine with a projector; make it a potluck meal.  Interacting with people in this way can be a good thing.
4. Be careful about isolating yourself from others.  Be thankful that people are reaching out to you.  Step outside your comfort zone and say "yes" to some invites.  You never know how God will use your time with those other people. 


The above lists are what I was able to think of - I was surprised that I could come up with 4 ideas for each section  - and are by no means the authority on how singles and non-singles are to relate to one another.  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts because I'm sure I missed somethings.  Please share them in the comments.

Sister Jane
Psalm 18:30

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Consolation

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  Luke 2:25

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:18-19


Dear Sisters,

A belated Merry Christmas to you and yours.  This holiday had me busy with family and travel so posting a Christmas "hello" was not at the top of my to-do list.  But I think we all understand the busyness of the holidays and chose to have family as a priority.  The inspiration for this post did come after a long day of travel to stay with my parents for Christmas.  Last year was the first time I wasn't with my family for the holidays and I wasn't going to repeat that set of circumstances this year.

During my many hours drive, I passed through a few towns and in those towns are churches and in front of many of those churches are signs.  Because of the season many of those signs might say things like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or "Merry Christmas" or "All we want for Christmas is your Presence."  As I got closer to my parent's house, I passed a church with a sign that read "Jesus is Our Consolation."

I admit that when I first read that sign my thoughts went to the idea of consolation as in consolation prize.  The dictionary defines consolation prize as a prize that is given to someone who has not won a contest.  I was like "wait a sec, Jesus isn't a second best prize! He lived a sinless life and died so that I may have eternal life.  Jesus isn't a consolation; He's the best prize a person could have; He's the grand prize."  Maybe your thoughts go there as well when you hear people referring to Jesus as a consolation.

I rolled the idea of Jesus as our consolation around in my head some more.  If I looked that the phrase "Jesus is Our Consolation" from a different side, Jesus as a consolation prize is a great thing.  Why?  Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Taking this information and combining it with Romans 6:23 which says "the wages of sin is death."  According to Scripture, the grand prize that I deserve as a sinner is death.  Since what I deserve is death, then the last part of Romans 6:23 explains why Jesus is our consolation: "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I thought about the idea of consolation some more.  The dictionary defines consolation as the act or an instance of trying to make (someone) feel less sadness or disappointment.  A synonym for consolation is comfort.  Digging into my Bible dictionaries I found that the Greek word for consolation and comfort is paraklesis (Strongs 3874).  Paraklesis means an exhortation, admonition, or encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in the faith. 


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

Think about the comfort that we receive from God.  We know that the comfort doesn't always mean that the struggles go away but we do know that He is there for us to hold onto during the struggles.  We know that His purpose is being worked out in us; that the things taking place in our lives are not random.  Personally I find comfort in this.  Yes, we will have sufferings but we will have comfort as well.

Yes, initially my brain went in the wrong direction when I saw the sign.  But after more thought and study, we can see that Jesus IS our consolation, our comfort.  His sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection are the best consolation for which a person could ask.  That consolation prize is a free gift too! (Romans 6:23) 

Sisters, I pray that you will cling to the fact that Jesus is our consolation and comfort as we head into a new year.  Take sometime today to thank God for the comfort He has provided and will provide us.

Sincerely,
Sister Jane
Ps 18:30

ps: It's been awhile since I've shared some creature photos with you.   Here you go!

T was helping me while I worked on this post:
 
 I was packing for a trip a few months ago and S jumped in the suitcase thinking she could go with me.  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Part of a Body


For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
I Corinthians 12:12-19

Dear Sisters,

Have you ever sat in the sanctuary at church, looked around, and thought about the different functions people have at church?  There is the pastor(s), the musician(s), the choir members, the music leader, and the sound people.  Those are the people that we notice most often in the church because what they are doing is very visible.  But have you thought about the "behind-the-scenes" people?  Someone had to prepare the coffee that you picked up from the fellowship hall that morning.  Someone folded the bulletin that you picked up as you walked in the church doors.  Someone arranged the decorations in the sanctuary.  Someone is taking care of the babies and young ones during the worship service.  The worship service that you participate in wouldn't be possible without ALL of the behind-the-scenes and in-the-scenes people doing what they do.

I recently finished a study on Spiritual Gifts with a lady from church.  We discovered that the gifts given to us by God can be broken into 2 basic categories: speaking and serving.  In the early church the elders soon realized that they couldn't do it all so they needed to have people designated to serve and those designated to teach and preach (Acts 6:1-6).  The study went on to look at more gifts but without more study, I wouldn't do a good job of discussing those specific gifts here.  My goal in this post is to talk generally about spiritual gifts.


Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good... All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills. 
1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

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.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.  
Romans 12:4-6


Sisters, it is important to remember we have all been gifted by the Spirit with different gifts.  All of the gifts work together to make the church body what it is.  One gift is NOT more important than another (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:29-30).  The person who sings special music is not more important then the person who helps out in the nursery.  The preacher's spiritual gift is not more important than the hospitality gift of those working in the kitchen during a potluck.  As long as they are using the gift(s) God gave them, they are doing what they are supposed to do. (As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:10-11) 

If you are not sure what gift(s) God has given to you, there are a few resources I can recommend.  For most of these, you can fill them out online or on the computer and get a result but unless you are a member of the church from which the resources came I would recommend that you not submit your final results.
Definitions of the gifts can be found here: 


...We are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

Complete a survey or 2, ask a friend or 2 to fill one out based on what they know about you.  Compare the results to see what your likely spiritual gift(s) are.  Your task doesn't end here though.  Once you know the gift(s) with which God has blessed you, thank God for those gift(s) and then you MUST put the gift(s) to use in and for your church body.  Talk with the leaders at your church to see where your gift(s) may best be used.  If you have a gift that doesn't appear to have an outlet in your church, ask about starting a new ministry that will best use your gift.   Remember that your gifts are about bringing glory to God, not yourself. 

This post is not a complete study of the spiritual gifts given to us by God.  Doing a study on gifts with a friend or two would be a great idea because you can hold each other accountable to use your gifts in and for the church.   Brainstorming together for ways to use your gift is a great idea.

Please comment about what you've learned about your gift and how you've been able to put the gift to work to glorify God.  Remember that in order for a body to work properly all of its different parts are needed.  In the same way that a body is more than just a set of ears, we can't all be the piano player at church.  :)

Sincerely,
Sister Jane
Psalms 18:30