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What Drives You?

Something has been on my heart and mind for a while. It’s something I have prayed much about and now want to write about: unity. A desire for the unity of our church body burns deep within me. I want to see the body thrive, not divide! As Christians, we rarely end up losing unity over some black and white evil. Rather, we lose it to passions, opinions, convictions, and desires. They are often opinions about very good things, even important things. But are they the MOST important things? So I ask you, what drives you? What are you known for?

Those of you who know me, even just a little bit, know that I am a woman of passion and conviction. In fact, my 19-year-old informed me this past week that I am the most intensely passionate person she knows! A lot of passionate convictions come from truths that I have been exposed to that then become convictions in specific areas of life. However, that does not mean my convictions and passions themselves are THE TRUTH. God has spoken about the most important things and then leaves many areas for us to have to work out. Wouldn’t we love a handbook of exact rights and wrongs for every decision we will ever face?!? But haha! That isn’t how it works and that is a good thing. We would have another religion, but it wouldn’t be Christianity. The lack of this “handbook” helps us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed upon the most important things. So, I ask again, what are the most important things? Are the most important things what you are known for above all else? Or are you more driven by a passion for secondary issues? Now let me make myself clear, secondary issues can be WONDERFUL, NECESSARY, and SHOULD be discussed. However, they should never take a higher place than what God Himself has made a priority.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I am a homeschooling fan all the way. I love homeschooling. I’m fully committed to homeschool my children because of my convictions. I can give you a passionate rationale for homeschooling and YET, there is no command in God’s word to homeschool. I could look at another parent and say, “If you love your child you will spank them” (Prov 13:24), and I can confidently tell a parent, “You are called to be extremely involved in your child’s life, teaching them God’s ways constantly” (Deut. 11:19). But even though my passion for homeschooling is based on biblical convictions, I could not look at another parent and tell them “If you love your child you will homeschool them.” There is complete freedom to choose your child’s education as long as you are fully involved in their lives with discipline and training. I should be convinced about what I do or don’t do, enjoy or don’t enjoy, eat or don’t eat (Romans 14). Yet I cannot make it an extra-biblical truth that I then use to judge others or become the standard bearer for others. This applies to countless things. And just so you know, I am very passionate about most of these things! Sometimes I find myself on one side and then sometimes on the other. I have close friends on both sides of many issues whom I love dearly. I also value their opinions. However, I never want secondary things to come between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t agree.

Let me name a few of the divisions I currently see out there…

  • A conviction to vaccinate or not vaccinate
  • Homeschool, private school, or public school
  • Traditional medicine or holistic
  • Organic/clean eating or being at peace with eating whatever
  • Vegan or meat
  • Breastfeed or formula
  • Political views
  • Starbucks or Caribou haha 😉

I could go on and on. People in our body will have opinions on all sides. Sometimes people form their opinions from a point of view or circumstance that we are unfamiliar with. So many of these topics can lead to great discussions.

Yet, while we should be convinced about what we do and don’t do, our opinions and personal convictions cannot define who we are. We are first and foremost “the called out ones.” We are followers of Christ. We are redeemed by His blood and are here on earth to make His gospel known. We are one family with a grave need to have what God deems the most important things flowing through our blood. His truth, love, and grace are what we need to be known for. When we encounter one another at church, people should be able to say of us, “There is a person who loves the Lord, His word, and stirs me to do the same.” The first thing that crosses their mind shouldn’t be, “There is the homeschool mom, the vaccine-pushing mom, or the breastfeeding only mom.” Let us never cause others to shy away because our passion has overshadowed our love.

God loves unity. He loves unity to the point His Son had to die for it. In Proverbs 6, God says there are six things He hates, seven that are an abomination. When I read through that chapter this past weekend it startled me to find the last attribute on that list along with the others. Do you know what God finds an abomination? It’s not eating meat, being vegan, using essential oils, getting vaccines or where your child is educated. What is abominable to the Lord is “the one who sows discord…” (v.19). This is pretty sobering. I had to take a hard look in the mirror and ask myself some hard questions. Do I make God’s truth or Sarah’s truth most important? I am so thankful for His truth and how it always brings me back to the most important things in life.

As you read this, I am praying for you. I pray that God’s word and gospel will be your driving force. I pray that you will be an imitator of your Lord and Savior. I pray that you will be pointing others to good works (Heb 10:24), love (Cor 13), unity (1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:13, Col 3:14, John 17:23, Psalm 133:1, Eph 4:3, Rom 12:16), self-control (2 Tim1:7, Gal 5:23 ), to discipline your children (Prov 23:13-14, Eph 6:4, Heb 12:5-11, Col 3:20), to be hospitable (1 Pet 4:9, Lev 19:33-34), and anything else God’s word is undoubtedly clear about. There are so very many truths of God that we can focus on and stir one another up to do the same. I am praying nothing else in your life burns within you more than stirring yourself and others to love in truth. I pray that your name, your Facebook page, your conversations, your Twitter account, yes— that in every single aspect of your life you will be known for your love of God’s word, the unity of His people, and His glory above all else.

Your Sister,

Sarah Bush

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

 

Posted in: Christian Living, Church life, Women's Ministry

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Women Looking on From a Distance

Mark 15:40 describes this heartbreaking scene in one short sentence.

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.

“Looking on from a distance.” How do you explain it? These women had followed Christ from Galilee. Mark 41 says they ministered to Him. But in this dark and horrible hour, they were not at the foot of the cross to offer comfort, but watching from a distance.

We can only speculate about the reason. Perhaps they feared to make His suffering worse as He watched theirs. Perhaps they could not bear to witness His face in such pain, and could not bear to leave while He still suffered. In this tension, perhaps they chose to watch from a distance. Or maybe they had a flicker of hope that He would come down off the cross to take up the reigns of the earthly kingdom, and they wanted to be there to see it.  Matthew 27:55 and Luke 23:49 tell us that they stood with many other women followers and acquaintances of Jesus, but the Bible singles out these three for our observation.

I think I know these women.

Mary Magdalene was delivered from great darkness – the Bible says that she had seven demons.  As in the passage above, her name is nearly always listed first among the women. This may mean she either was a leader among women or greatly esteemed among all the followers, or both. Mary Magdalene was likely unmarried and childless, free to travel with and grateful to serve Jesus unfettered. She had left everything for He who delivered her.  I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

Mary the mother of James and Joses came with her sons to follow Jesus. We know little about her background. Her older son, known as James the less, was one of the twelve. Like her son, she was unobtrusive in her service.  She may have been one of those people to whom Pastor Tim referred to in his recent sermon, the one working behind the scenes for the common good; the one whom God will honor. I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, whom Jesus called “The sons of thunder.” I think they might have inherited that trait from their mom. She certainly wasn’t shy about asking Jesus for places of honor in the kingdom for her two sons. Some scholars think that Salome might have been the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If this is true, it might explain her boldness a little.  I imagine Salome as that woman with a plan, the one who constantly has to remind herself that she isn’t in charge and that she shouldn’t try to manipulate others. She loves greatly and sometimes expresses it poorly. She acts the part of everyone’s mom, and was probably equally endearing and annoying. I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

These women-who-are-like-us watched from a distance. Tell me, sister, are you also watching someone from a distance? Are you straining to see or hear from an estranged child? Are you watching someone you love heading down a destructive path as they reject your advice and comfort? Are you watching helplessly and praying constantly for a parent or sibling tortured by addiction or depression?

Jesus sees.

These very women are the first ones to receive the good news of the resurrection. Jesus personally comforted Mary Magdalene outside the tomb.  He sent angels to the others. The great news that angels longed to look into came first to the women who watched, who followed His body to the tomb, and who returned to minister to Him even in death. Those heartbroken women who had served Jesus did not escape His gaze. They watched in agony from a distance. He came to them personally.

Praying today for the heartbroken men and women at Faith, that Jesus may comfort you personally, up close, through His Word and Spirit.

 

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church. She and her husband have two grown sons, Patrick and Christopher.

Posted in: Bible study, Women's Ministry

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Quiet When the List is Unfinished

By Sarah Bush

I was not ready to write my blog this month.

The due date was before me and I had not even thought about it. There are seasons of what feels like a reality T.V. show called Overload. We have had more sickness this year than ever before, trying to plan for my husband’s open heart surgery and travel, planning our daughter’s wedding, a family reunion for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday, homeschool, doctor’s appointments, out of town company, sending out small group emails, laundry to fold, and a thousand other things that all seem to be swirling around me. All things I need to do, all things I should do, all things I can’t ignore, and all things that require effort on my part.

This isn’t unique to just me though, is it? This is most of us. Sometimes for a season. Sometimes for years.

There is stress on the job, demands on our time, service to partake in, missionaries to pray for, errands to run, health issues to attend to, church ministry to do, note cards to write, children to disciple, burdens to carry with friends, meals to cook, and on and on it goes. It doesn’t end. If we are really partaking in what God has called us to it probably won’t end until we are before the throne basking in the glory of our Lord and Savior.

When I find myself scurrying around trying to do all that life requires in my own strength and efforts, I find myself anxious, defeated, edgy, complaining, and failing in everything. Any of this sound familiar? My eyes are on what I can do, what I need to do, what I can’t do. In spiritual exhaustion , I finally collapse before the Father (about 30 minutes before I sat down to write this).

As I let go of all my efforts and lay it all down, suddenly there is quiet. Though tears silently flow from my eyes, they are not ones of defeat and weariness. They are ones of being overwhelmed in the most blessed of ways.

As I dwell on who my Father, my God, my King, my Savior is, everything else slowly starts to fall in line. My view of myself, my tasks, my efforts all take a back seat as HE takes the forefront.  As I speak His truth to myself, peace seeps into my heart, soul, and mind. My Creator made me for today (Psalm 139:13). He made me for the tasks He has laid before me (Eph 2:10). Therefore, He will equip me and strengthen me (Heb 13:21). I must keep my eyes on Him as I walk, and off of myself (Psalm 16:8). Before the foundation of the world He knew where I would be today, how I would struggle, and how I would fail. All that I am was made for this time and place (Ecc 3:1-8). For this church, for this neighborhood, for these children, for this man, for this culture, for these good works, and for these trials.

He makes no mistakes, and if I really believe in His sovereignty, then I can rest even while I work out my salvation. I can rest even though I am obedient to the good works He has prepared for me. I can rest though countless things swirl around me with uncertainty. Rest won’t be found when my tasks are done, lists marked off, and my life is all calm and in control. I can rest because it is finished. I can rest because of who He is and what He has done. I can rest because He is faithful, gracious, and merciful (Ex 34:6). I can rest because He is just, He is sovereign, and He is my righteousness (Psalm 90:2). I can rest because He is seated upon the throne as ruler over all (Rev 4:9). I can rest because this Almighty Creator and Sustainer God (Col 1:16-18) loves me with a love like no other.

May we all continue to grow in the knowledge of our amazing God through the revelation of His written word, and may this knowledge of who He is change how we see life, and how we live in it. If you find yourself struggling, weary, anxious, or defeated, I pray that you will take your eyes off yourself and all that is going on around you and lay before the throne. May you rest in who God is, what He has done, and what He is going to do.

Your Sister,

Sarah

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

Posted in: Christian Living, Women's Ministry

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So Many Different Gifts!

by Sarah Bush

Did you know that there is a rich well of gifts and talents amongst the women at FCC; things that we can all benefit from as a whole; knowledge that can add a new lens to your perspective; skills that can benefit your life and those around you? Let me share a few of these with you. Here is a short list of just a few of the wonderful gifts and talents that the women at FCC possess:

– Sew amazingly

– Fantastic cooks

E.M. Lilien, “King Lemuel and His Mother”

– Budgeting

– Encouragers

– Counselors

– Teachers

– Truth tellers

– Ladies who can get a stain out of anything

– Deep wisdom

– Writers

– Musicians

– Freezer meal queens

– Artists

– Crafters

– Organizers

– Comforters

– Hospitality

– Painters

– Gardeners

– Prayer warriors

– Garage sale barterers

– Decorative skills

– Evangelists

– Someone who will listen and cry with you

– Others who will make you laugh till you cry

– Bible study leaders

– Ladies who will run to your aid in a heartbeat

I could go on and on. I have learned so much from the different women at FCC. After almost ten years of being in this body, I am still humbled and amazed at the diversity in which Christ’s church can have. It is truly a beautiful thing. I have found so many women who do things completely different than I do. They have opened my eyes to the awesome diversity of our Creator. We are each designed a little different. We think differently, enjoy different things, and excel in different areas. Sadly, I do not always see this with clear vision. My perspective can get a little jaded at times. There have been times I have avoided certain people because they were so different from me, or rolled my eyes because they took joy in something for which I saw no use. How blind I have been. I was missing out by not taking joy in, learning from, or living life with those who look, do, or act differently than I do. These other women, who are different than me, have shown me new ways to praise my Creator and value His creativity. I have learned to enjoy different ideas, add different skills to my life, and look at life from different perspectives. With each new relationship my vision becomes more enhanced with beauty and thankfulness for the body. As I learn about and from these different women, my little world has taken on new life. I see things I did not see before. I value things I once did not. I have learned skills I needed. What a sad and pathetic body we would be if all the women were like me. Downright terrifying! By God’s perfect design He puts all different types of people together so that we can function as a whole more effectively. We all need each other. We each have our place. We each have giftings to glorify God through. As our body goes through growing pains we will need to remember this all the more. We can look at this in two different ways – The first option, we HAVE to reach out and learn new women. Or, the second, we GET to reach out and learn new women. What an amazing thing to have the opportunity to tap into so many amazing people, with so many different gifts, right here within our body at FCC. And as we do tap into each other’s lives, may it unite us all the more in the most important thing: Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.

Sarah Bush is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Don’t Give Up On Doing Good For The Church

4 Ways To Fight Against The Temptation To Quit Serving The Church

by Garet Halbert

“Serving in the local church is the easiest thing to do,” said no one ever. Being a servant to the needs of the church is a delightful calling, but it can be a daunting one as well. When I talk with those who serve in the local church, I always seem to see a speck of burnout in their eyes. As I have contemplated the tragedy of burnout and the statistics of those who leave pastoral ministry prematurely, or stop serving as an usher or sound guy, or those who find their way out of nursery duty, I notice that they manifest some tell-tale signs prior to throwing in the towel. A lack in these four areas is a recipe for disaster. My prayer is that as you read this, you would be stirred up to press on in the calling God has upon your life. Rarely will anyone regret persevering; it’s quitting prematurely that haunts us. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

1) Be convinced of your calling to serve, then refuse to be convinced otherwise.
Often when the stress of serving comes, we begin to doubt if we were supposed to do this in the first place. It is so beneficial to seek God in prayer and be convinced that He wants us to join the Georges Philibert Charles Maroniez, The Ploughmannursery team, or serve as a children’s Sunday School teacher, or be a part of one of our outreach ministries before committing ourselves. Brothers and Sister, do not let the stress, the lack of recognition, or whatever else that might cause you to shy away from service or think about quitting, cloud out God’s calling for you to serve Him by serving His people. The world, the flesh, and the Devil delight in convincing people to quit things that they were once convinced of. Refuse to quit what you are convinced by God to do.

2) Remember your identity. You are a child of God before you are servant of God’s people.
Often when one serves in the church, they will struggle with their identity. What I mean by this is that in playing a significant role in a church ministry, one can mistakenly find their identity in that role rather than in Christ. I remember several years ago meeting a woman who served several roles in her church. Moreover, it was often said of her, that if she were to leave or pass away, there was nobody that could do all that she does. And while this is an example of an incredible servant’s heart, there was still a problem. She hardly talked about God and was not very Christ-like Monday-Saturday. She was the life of the party at church gatherings, but was not much for godliness outside of church. What might this indicate to us? She had an identity bound up in her roles in the church, rather than in Christ. We are to find our identity in the One who gave His life for us, that we might be forgiven of our many sins. And from the overflow of that identity of being a child of God, THEN we begin to extend ourselves out in service to our church. Even Jesus models for us the importance of seeing one’s self as a child of God before a specific role. He spent more time in His earthly ministry talking about being the Son of God than His role as Savior! I think we would benefit greatly from an identity check.

3) Always be a person of prayer IN your service to the church.
It is easy to get caught up in serving the church and forget to pray both for the ministry in which you Rembrandt, Saint James the Greaterserve and for the church body at large. But we must remember that prayer is one of the most important services to the church! When the Apostle Paul was guiding Timothy on how to lead the church at Ephesus, he wrote to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). For Paul, a great church is a praying church. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the activities that grow and aid the church, but forget Who truly builds the church (Matthew 16:18). And before we look at our last point, I want to add that prayer is the ultimate acknowledgment that we can do nothing apart from Christ. John Piper in his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, writes, “Prayer is the translation into a thousand different words of a single sentence: ‘Apart from me [Christ] you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).”

4) Don’t just serve.
Serving in a church ministry can be all work and no fellowship. Serve the church with the intention of fellowshipping as well. Most of the churches’ ministries consist of many people, so see your service as a way to fellowship with your team. Get to know one another and exchange prayer requests. Let those conversations become friendships outside of your specific ministry. One of the best ways to get connected with those in your church family is to start by connecting with those in the church ministry you serve with. As we labor together, we grow together.

Serving in a church ministry is exhausting; there is no way around it. We all have jobs, families, and the stress of life. Then on top of that, we have our responsibility to our church. These four practical tips will help us with most of the struggles we have in serving. Service to the church is exhausting, but it can be an exhilarating exhaustion. There is no better place to spend yourself for the Lord than His church. Let your exhaustion be a reminder that prior to Christ you spent yourself on things that had no heavenly reward, but now your exhaustion is not in vain, for one day you will be rewarded for your labor for our Lord. Let us, like the Apostle Paul, have the same desire as we serve the church, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry, Women's Ministry

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Teaching What is Good: Part 1: Kindness

By Whitney Standlea

In recent years, God has constantly shown me just how amazingly kind He is, and how that real, genuine kindness should flow from me to others.  I have seen just how little that is the case.

Every time I read Ephesians 4:31-32, I am again stricken by my constant struggle to be kind and tender-hearted to my children and husband.  With this constant struggle in my own life, I assume many of you struggle with this as well. I hope these thoughts on this challenging word will be an encouragement and help to you in your pursuit of Christ-likeness.

Cultivating Kindness: Fertilizer, Compost, and other Good Stuff Kindness is something that needs to be cultivated within us.  To grow a fruitful harvest of kindness, it has to be rooted in good, rich soil. We find the root of kindness toward those around us in the kindness God has extended to us. Psalm 145:17 says “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.”  I would encourage you to read this Psalm to be reminded of some of the kind ways of our mighty God.  All His works are kind, but we see the pinnacle of kindness in God’s compassion and mercy in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We see His kindness again and again as He faithfully meets all of our needs and tenderly sanctifies us despite our weakness, sin, and failure.  It is God’s kindness toward us that provides good heart-soil for extending kindness outward.  So, I ask you the question Joyce Juhnke posed to me:  “Do I see God’s kindness?”  Do you see it?  Stop and think about it.  Take time to look for it in what He has done and what He is presently doing in your life.

Tending the Garden: Remember that kindness starts in the home, where it is certainly the hardest! Do you have a roommate? A spouse? A sibling? A parent? A co-worker? A child?  These are the people we interact with the most, and we should actively seek to extend kindness to them. But just as growing plants require pruning and guiding, kindness is a work that has to be actively developed in our relationships. I love Joyce’s observations that if older women are to teach younger women to be kind, then it must not be natural! Knowing, being, doing, and excelling at kindness isn’t our natural disposition. We must seek and strive to do it and to learn how to be skilled at kindness.

So how do we strive for kindness to others?  What does it look like?  What are some skills and tools for kindness in our lives?

Some keys to kindness are:

—The Tongue: One might say this is the ultimate tool of kindness.  Scripture has much to say about the impact of kind words from our mouth.  And we all know that kind words aren’t always about the words themselves, but also the tone and volume of what comes from our lips.  The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 has “the law of kindness” always on her lips.  Check out Proverbs 15:1, 25:15, and 31:26. Do you actively choose to speak words that give grace to those who hear you?  Are your words spoken with gentleness and love?

—Acts of Service: Kindness is more than our words and includes the acts we do to show love to others.  Toilet leaning, meals for the sick, cards of encouragement, a hug, a phone call to a lonely friend are all expressions of kindness that can mean a lot to others.  Unsure of what would be kind to do for someone?  What would you have others to do for you?  That’s a great place to start!  We also can grow in our knowledge of how to be kind as we face our own difficult seasons and remember what acts of kindness meant the most to us then.

—Enjoying the Fruit: The Proverbs listed above reference the direct effect that kind words have on our relationships.  A kind mouth can certainly dissipate conflict and tension in our homes.  But more than that, kindness can ultimately turn others to the source of our own kindness:  Christ!

Joyce shared with me a beautiful story of the Lord’s kindness through others.  Some friends came into town to visit them when they were in seminary and struggling financially.  It seemed impossible to provide food for this family on the Juhnke’s tight funds.  They took their needs to the Lord, trusting that He would take care of them.  When the family arrived to stay with them, they had brought a side of beef for the Juhnkes!  This amazing act of kindness from some believers was also an act of kindness from the Lord that demonstrated and affirmed His faithfulness to the Juhnkes.

After exhorting men, women, and bondservants in Titus 2, we are urged to do these things “so that in everything [we] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”  Our kindness, which is fueled by God’s kindness toward us, ultimately points others back to the kindness of our Savior. Let us be diligent to cultivate kindness in our life! “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8)

*Thank you to Joyce Juhnke and Allison Dull for providing the content to prepare this article.

Whitney Standlea is a wife, mother, elementary music teacher at Faith Christian Academy and a member of Faith Community Church.

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Hungering for Righteousness

Adventurer Aleksander Gamme had traveled 86 days in the bitter cold. He had been hungry for weeks, walking for 10 hours every day over the frozen landscape, and had lost about 55 pounds.

As he traveled toward the South Pole weeks earlier, he buried fuel and a little gear every 200 kilometers to lighten his load, marking each spot with a flag. Then, as he retraced his steps on the return trip, he dug up each cache to see what he might find.

There’s a video of his discovery of the last cache, and I have watched it over and over. At first, he is calm, finding useful items buried like zinc ointment and power cables.

Suddenly he screams with joy! He cannot stop shouting in delight – he has stumbled on sheer bliss in the form of a bag of cheese doodles. As he screams and laughs, he suddenly freezes – everything is silent for a moment as he stares into the distance. He says, in wonderment, “Can this be real?” His delight is unfathomable – more than he can take in. Then he goes back to unpacking his bag, screaming and laughing with pleasure, even rolling in the snow as he pulls out some candy and a second bag of cheese doodles. As the scene fades to black, he is lying in the snow, clutching his treasures to his chest and singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

When was the last time you were that happy?

In an interview about the incident, he explained that the joy he experienced was directly related to his hunger. The deprivation before finding the final cache created the perfect storm – all the elements had aligned for this moment of joy. If he had not been starving and exhausted, he would never have experienced this moment of perfect exuberant happiness. A glorious, astounding, delightful bag of cheese doodles would have just been a bag of cheese doodles. I think it is interesting to point out that he was not eating the cheese doodles when he screamed in delight. It was the sure promise that his hunger would be satiated that made him so happy.

In the same way, I believe that some of our deepest experiences of joy in the Christian life may actually occur during suffering as we hunger for a glimpse of God and to see His hand of mercy. When the Bible says, “Happy (literally ‘to be envied’) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6) think about Aleksander Gamme. Our powerlessness, our exhaustion, and our total lack of innate righteousness prepare us for moments of unfathomable joy as Christ – who is our righteousness – is revealed. He is the sure promise of future satisfaction.

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at FCC.

Posted in: Bible study, Women's Ministry

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A 10 Point Theology for Getting Rid of Clutter

By Susan Verstraete

A friend of mine lost nearly everything she owned in a house fire. About a year later, I asked her about what she had learned through that trial. Looking back, she was surprised to remember all the people who expressed envy. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” they said, “but I really wish this would happen to me.”

What were they thinking? That the clutter in their homes was out of control, and the only way to be free involved the fire department.clutter

I can relate. My husband and I have reached the point in our lives where having fewer possessions is an attractive goal. Clutter causes us stress. I can’t protect my husband from workplace frustration or from traffic or from a thousand other irritations in life, but I can get rid of excess clutter and organize my home so that he can always find the scissors and the tape on the first try.

Still, though, I am often ensnared by the promise of a better life through consumerism. We never have a shortage of items to purge during my annual sweep through our home. How else can I explain accumulating five crockpots in slightly different sizes? There are just two of us. We don’t need five crockpots.

Here’s what I preach to myself as I’m combing the house for items to give away:

  1. Jesus said that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Luke 12:15
  2. Spiritual life can be choked out by clutter, which is part of “the cares and riches of this life.” Luke 8:14
  3. God is pleased when we give things away cheerfully.  2 Cor. 9:7
  4. Sharing our excess goods is one way to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Luke 3:11
  5. One of God’s names is Jehova Jira – God who provides. If we give away something and end up needing it later, we can trust God to provide. Phil. 4:19
  6. Giving to those in need stores riches for us in Heaven, and is an expression of love for the church. Luke 12:33
  7. Sharing what we have pleases God. Hebrews 13:16
  8. Everything we own has been given to us by God. We are only stewards of our stuff. Psalm 24:1
  9. God is not a God of confusion, but of order (think about how this is exemplified in creation). An orderly home reflects God’s character. Genesis 1
  10. Hoarding goods “just in case” can be a way of trusting my stuff to keep me safe instead of my God. Psalm 31:6

Sometimes it helps to remember that one day I will be called to give up everything. No physical item will go with me to Heaven. There’s nothing I own that I need to be perfectly happy and at peace with God—certainly not five crockpots.

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at FCC and works in the women’s ministry.

 

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in a Japanese Prison During WWII

Book by Darlene Deibler Rose

The last words Russell Deibler would say to his young wife were, “Remember one thing, dear: God said He would never leave us nor forsake us.”drose

That was on Friday, March 13th, 1942, when Russell Deibler was taken from the cottage where he, his wife, Darlene, and their missionary team were under house arrest. Darlene didn’t even have time to say goodbye. She thrust a pillowcase of belongings into her husband’s hands, listened to his parting words and determined not to let the Japanese soldiers see her cry.

As the truck carrying Russell traveled out of sight, she remembered specific prayer from her childhood. “Lord,” she had prayed, “I’d go anywhere with You, no matter what the cost.” Now, as a grown woman facing an uncertain future, Darlene restated her prayer: “With greater understanding I confirm to You tonight, it is still anywhere—I leave the costing to You.”

“Anywhere” would cost unimaginable suffering. Over the next four years Darlene would endure first separation from her husband and then widowhood, the brutal conditions of a WWII Japanese internment camp including near-starvation, forced labor, deplorable conditions, false accusations of espionage, serious illness, months of solitary confinement, and torture. Through it all, Darlene was sustained by God, who never left her nor forsook her, just as He had promised.

How did God sustain Darlene through her long ordeal?

Through the Word—When the news came to Darlene’s prison camp that Russell had died, she was understandably devastated. That night, alone on her thin mat in the barracks, God came to her through Scripture: “He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted . . . to comfort all that mourn . . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:1-3). “Experientially,” Darlene said, “I was beginning to understand the comfort of the Holy Spirit. . . . The sword of sorrow had pierced deep within me, but He had bathed the sword in oil.” Over and over the Holy Spirit would bring to mind memorized Scripture at just the right time to sustain her.

Through encouragement from other believers—God blessed Darlene by providing other believers in her prison barracks. Every morning and evening, they read the Bible, sang hymns and prayed together.  Serving and encouraging others helped distract the women from their own suffering, and created a feeling of community in the barracks.

When Darlene was taken away for months of solitary confinement, she remembered the last charge one of the other missionaries gave her. “Lassie, whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.” That challenge became her prayer: “Let me be a good soldier for You.”

Through prayer—Darlene learned what it meant to pray without ceasing. During her months of solitary confinement and daily interrogations, Darlene had a conversational stream of requests and praise going up at all times. She asked God for strength to endure, thanked Him for her daily portion of runny oatmeal and maggots, asked Him to heal her body and begged Him to protect her friends. Darlene realized her own powerlessness and cast herself completely on God.
 
By taking every thought captive—Darlene had to learn the hard way of the danger of letting her imagination run wild. In solitary confinement, she drifted into what she called the “spiritually unprofitable game of suppose.”

Suppose the Japanese do win the war, what then? Suppose Mother and Father are gone. Suppose my brothers are fighting in this war. What if none of us ever return home?” After only a few minutes of this thinking, Darlene would be plunged into despair. But again, God brought Scripture to mind, “The Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” Darlene remembered that Jesus was her defense; she could hope in Him and be ultimately safe. She decided to take no thought of tomorrow, but to live gratefully and dependently in the moment.

Despite her fears, Darlene would indeed return home, marry again and return to the mission field. God never left her nor forsook her. Looking back over the years that had cost her so much, Darlene was grateful. She said, quoting Charles Spurgeon, “I can thank my God for every storm that has wrecked me on the Rock, Jesus Christ.”

Evidence Not Seen is the chronicle of God’s faithfulness in the life of Darlene Rose.  I will never Leave Thee is the audio version of her testimony, and I strongly urge you to investigate both. Hearing Mrs. Rose tell her story in her own voice seemed to me to be an even more powerful testimony than her book, which is outstanding.

Listen to the audio here: http://www.ccob.org/women/default.asp?pg=drose

Purchase the audio ($12 for CDs, $1.99 for MP3 download) here: http://www.christianbook.com/i-will-never-leave-thee-iii/darlene-rose/pd/5008888

Purchase the book new at CBD or Amazon ($11.00 new, as little as $2.00 used) or check it out through the Mid-Continent Public library system.

 

Review by Susan Verstraete

Posted in: Book Review, Women's Ministry

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