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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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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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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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SELINA, THE LESS-THAN-PERFECT SERVANT

By Susan Verstraete

Selina was discouraged. The evangelist John Wesley, her friend, had assured her that it was possible for Christians to attain a state of sinless perfection in this life. Try as she might, the strong-willed and devoted Selina could not accomplish this lofty goal. She felt her failure deeply, and wondered if she could ever be useful in the kingdom of God.

By <span class="fn value"><span lang="en">Unknown</span><a href="https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q4233718" title="wikidata:Q4233718"></a></span> - BBC your pictures <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/selina-hastings-countess-of-huntingdon">[1]</a>, Public Domain, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25144537">Link</a>

(c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, was converted early in the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century. From the beginning, she was determined to use every asset she had in the service of God. She soon found ways to use her position in society to persuade many of the English nobility to listen to the gospel, especially as preached by the evangelist George Whitefield and the brothers John and Charles Wesley, leaders in the early Methodist societies in England.

This was no easy task, as the nobility frowned on the Methodist movement. For example, the Duchess of Buckingham described the movement as “repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect toward their superiors.” While thousands of the common people of England flocked to hear the Wesleys and Whitefield preach in the open air, the Church of England tried to break up their meetings and made it increasingly difficult for Methodist preachers to be ordained. Selina used her influence with the king and others on behalf of the evangelists, going so far as to hire Whitefield as her personal chaplain to insure his ability to continue preaching in England.

Even though many of the nobility disapproved of Selina’s “excesses” in religious matters, others happily enjoyed her company. Selina filled her drawing rooms with musicians, poets, lords and ladies, statesmen, and philosophers for exciting discussions of religion. Often she asked Whitefield or another visiting evangelist to address the group. At the same time she was entertaining nobility in the drawing rooms, her kitchens might be filled with the poor and needy, to whom she dispensed both spiritual advice and material assistance. Selina took every opportunity to talk with her family, friends, and servants about God. Lady Huntingdon was also devoted to her husband and six children. But still, the perfection that John Wesley taught could be hers eluded Selina.

About this time, an older woman who lived on Huntingdon estate began to wonder what might happen to her own soul, should she die suddenly. Selina’s biographer recounts the story:

Speaking gently but firmly, the Countess pointed out the total inadequacy of any good works to save the soul. But that was not the woman’s problem. “It will not do,” she retorted, “I am too bad to be saved.” “Well, now that you are quite lost, you will find Him who came to seek and to save just such as you are,” was Selina’s reply. 1

Without knowing it, Selina had answered both the question of the elderly lady (who was later joyfully converted) and the problem of her own soul. She’d stumbled on the solution—dependence on divine grace. Even though our flesh (the part of our nature that is at enmity with God) was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), as Martin Luther said, “the old man dies hard.” Remnants of the flesh remain to be battled as long as we live in our present bodies. Someone able to live in a state of sinless perfection might no longer feel his or her need for a Savior. Instead we are compelled to realize our moment-by-moment dependence on the grace of God to save us, to keep us from sin, and to forgive us when we do sin.

Over time, with prayer, and after counsel from Whitefield, Selina did give up the doctrine of Christian perfection, but never stopped using her every asset for the kingdom. Some of her many and varied accomplishments include founding a theological seminary, funding the building of 64 chapels, financing missionaries, and personally paying the debts of dozens of men so that they might be released from debtors prison. The Countess founded a group of churches later called “Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion,” some of which still exist today.

Did she do all these things without sinning? No. Selina was described as an autocratic ruler of the churches she founded and failed to set up Biblical church government in them, for one example. Still, at the end of her life, everyone who knew her believed she was a woman of tremendous faith. Thomas Wills, a man harshly treated by Selina, described her this way:

. . . one of the brightest luminaries that had ever shown in the Gospel hemisphere, though like other stars shining with a borrowed or reflected light. . . . Thousands, I say tens of thousands, in various parts of the kingdom have heard the gospel through her instrumentality that in all probability would never have heard it at all; and I believe through eternity will have cause to bless God that she ever existed. She was truly and emphatically a Mother in Israel, and though she was far from perfect in character, yet I hesitate not to say that among the illustrious and noble of the country she has not left her equal. 2

___________________________
1Cook, Faith, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon: Her Pivotal Role in the 18th Century Evangelical Awakening, Banner of Truth Trust 2001, p. 79-80.

2Ibid, p. 422.

 

Susan is the church secretary at FCC.

Posted in: Biography

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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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Just Like the Rest of ’em

By Whitney Standlea

One thing that is special about being a mother is that I am absolutely convinced that there is no child in the world as wonderful or special as my own. Carson’s eyes must be the most beautiful eyes of any child anywhere. Justus’ passion for construction trucks and hot dogs must rival any boy’s or man’s. And of course, that flowered dress wouldn’t look near as pretty on any other little girl but Joy. When my children smile, it lights up my whole world.just-like-the-rest-of-em

What I find fascinating about this is that I know other parents feel the same way about their children. And it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I want them to think that way about their children. While it can be taken to unhealthy extremes, I think this is a good gift to give our children. Many benefits come from having a high view of the individuality, beauty and talent of our children. One of the most important in my mind is a unique foretaste of the great blessedness of being a child of God. When parents lovingly express the specialness and uniqueness of a child, I believe it can lay a foundation for being able to believe that God would uniquely and specially love us as His own child. But I digress…

The real reason I bring this up is to draw parents to an offensive little phrase I noticed in Scripture. It is this: “Like the rest of mankind.” I think I would be either appalled or offended if anyone walked up to me and said, “Your daughter is just like the rest of ‘em. Smiles like them. Looks like them.” So is your son or daughter just like the rest of them? Let’s walk through Ephesians 2 and see what is so important about this annoying little phrase.

In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul graciously reminds us that our salvation is so great because of who we once were. He tells us we were dead, disobedient, separated from Christ, and children of wrath! The point of the passage is to remind us that God is rich in mercy because He still chose to save us even though we were just like the rest of the world walking in all the lusts of our flesh. There was absolutely nothing different about us. But something struck me as I was studying this text. As much as I hate to admit it, Paul gave only two categories for mankind: children of wrath and children of God. I can admit that I used to be a “child of wrath” but I preferred there be a third category: “Children of Whitney Standlea.” But there isn’t. I had to place my children in the context of one or the other, and at this time my children are “children of wrath like the rest of mankind.” Being honest, once I thought about it I didn’t really like that idea.

This is very sobering. My little sons that struggle to obey my voice are in the same general category as the rapist on the news last night. My daughter in all her beauty is really no different than the promiscuous teen that I would never allow to babysit her. These little children that I care for, tend to, get frustrated with, adore, and love every day are children of wrath in their very nature. They are separated from Christ, pursuing anything their hearts and minds desire.

Of what help is this unpleasant truth? If you can move past the splendid uniqueness of the gift God has given you, what good does it do us as parents to recognize that our children are really just like the rest of ‘em. I think this unpleasant realization is of eternal significance. It is perhaps the most propelling part of the particular love a parent has for her own child. The more we can understand and grasp at this truth, the more eager I believe we will be to share the great love of God with our children. As we see that their lives, their gifts and talents, their eternities (that we value so much) are of little worth unless surrendered to the Savior, we can refocus on the most important calling we have as parents: to constantly call on our heavenly Father and avail ourselves of every means God has given us to make our children become His children. In reality, if they only remain our children, they merely remain “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

So let us strive with all diligence to bring them before our Father in prayer and turn their hearts to the love of the Savior. Let us remember that their eyes are always watching and their ears always listening. May our tongues speak constantly of His love and our hearts overflow with tenderness and patience toward them just as God has demonstrated great kindness and patience with us. May we be eager to seize the moment by moment opportunities we have to live and speak the Gospel to our children with as great an eagerness as we would with any other lost soul we have the opportunity to encounter. And as our hearts become impatient and hardened toward our children, which they do, let us run back to the great manner of love that God has bestowed on us-that we the former children of wrath should now be called the children of God!

 

Whitney Standlea is a wife, mother and FCC member. She teaches music at Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Home Management 101

BY ANGELA SWAIN

Home Management. These two simple words can evoke a range of emotions and describe many different kinds of experiences—excitement, success, failure, and even stress! Whether single or married; with or without children; young or old; home-owner or home-renter; large bank account or small, most of us desire to manage the stuff-of-life well. We want to be good stewards and be found faithful with all the Lord has given to us or entrusted to our care. From health and home maintenance, monthly budgets, retirement savings, daily schedules and meal planning, to ministering to the needs of others and loving well the people in our lives, this ever-growing list of desires and responsibilities can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted—especially during seasons of sacrifice. Knowing how best to steward over these areas requires wisdom and help, yet there are as many different definitions, opinions, and philosophies on the subject of home management as there is air time on talk radio or shelf space at the local bookstore.

An Improvised Laundry - Princess Beatrice Camp Beaumarais, Calais by Beatrice Lithiby (OBE) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An Improvised Laundry

I am certainly no expert on the subject.  Even now there exists a mountain-sized pile of unfolded clothes on my dining-room table.  Thanks to a disorganized and cluttered (again) back-door entry, along with another rousing game of “find-the-kid’s-missing-belts-and-shoes,” I lost my temper—en route to church! And despite our poignant efforts to eat healthier and watch our food budget, my children received yet another dose of the golden arches. After all, my overloaded calendar didn’t account for dinner on this week’s busiest night.

But no matter my royal mess-ups or continued failures, I have learned some valuable home-management lessons over the years. Thanks to the wisdom, counsel, humility, and transparency of some amazing women in my life, I have learned a key lesson which undergirds everything I do as I strive to be a good steward. While I do think it is critical to develop a gospel-focused philosophy of stewardship and also create and implement a practical plan for managing the home, the greatest lesson cuts to the heart of the matter: learning to be content.

Better a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil.  Proverbs 15:16

Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt

Stewardship describes our responsibility as believers. Webster’s dictionary defines it this way: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Stewarding over what we have been given involves more than mere oversight. When we consider how best we may care for the things God has graciously given to us, it is important to realize that we can only do so with humble hearts of thankfulness. Such hearts will recognize from whom these various gifts and resources came and on whom the spotlight will shine when they are cared for well and carry out their divine purpose. From food, clothing, and shelter to relationships, how we use our time, and seasons of testing or renewal—all that we have, all that we need, and all that we experience is a precious gift from a Sovereign and Gracious God. Even our act of obedience and worship through tithing echoes the same. “…who has ever first given to Him and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:35-36).

The Apostle Paul also helps us connect a direct line between recognizing this sovereign rule in our lives and being content with what we have when, in Philippians 4:11-13, he states,

“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little and…a lot.  In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Contentment is often considered a state of being happy or satisfied. Certainly, Christ was Paul’s portion, and he was satisfied—never striving after vain things. In fact, any gain to him he considered loss “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

But that’s not all Paul has to say about the subject. In 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul teaches that if godliness is not promoted in either doctrine or in teaching, there runs the risk of believers becoming discontent. And discontent, he warns, leads to a whole host of potential sins—from ongoing envy to a form of godliness used as a means to gain material possession.  But the form of godliness with contentment, he says to us, is a great gain! To this, he admonishes us to “avoid the foolish and harmful desires and temptations which plunge people into ruin and destruction—that by doing so, we may be kept from wandering away from the faith or being pierced by many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Most importantly, He reminds us of our humble and needy status before a holy and sovereign God, “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt, St Paul At His Writing Desk

Paul is not the only one who recognized God’s sovereignty over circumstance and possessions.  You may also recall that Job, after hearing the final bit of news regarding his profound and tragic loss of both material possessions and family members, “…stood up, tore his robe…fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yaweh!’” (Job 1:21).

What about you, friend? Do you find yourself in a difficult season?  Do you have a physical need? A deep spiritual need? Perhaps you have plenty. Or, are you dealing with pride or sense of dissatisfaction—wanting more or struggling with your portion? For what are you waiting upon the Lord? Do you have a heart of thankfulness in any season?

I admonish you to remember that your ultimate act of stewardship is entrusting your soul to God’s sovereign watch-care.  To love Him. To serve Him. To obey Him. To trust Him completely. He is a good Father who longs for each of us, as believers, to look more and more like Christ. And it is Christ Himself who reminds us not to worry about our needs but to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. May we forever “…be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Angela Swain is a member of FCC.

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For Parents: Training your Children to Participate in the Worship Service

By Whitney StandleaTraining

When we first came to Faith it was neat to see all of the young children that participated in worship services with their families. Without any kids of our own, we begin asking questions about how the children were trained to sit still for so long. I tucked some ideas away and believed I would have happy, quiet children in the worship service with me by the time they were a year or two old.

Now that I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old, I can assert that training your children to sit in the service is no easy task. As a greenhorn in reigning in my youngsters, you may be wondering what in the world my intentions are for writing an article about children sitting in the service. What could I possibly say of any value to you? I’m not writing to share my success story or personal how-to’s. Rather, my intentions are three-fold: share resources, ignite vision, and create dialogue.

For parents of infants to teenagers, I wanted to share two helpful resources I have found for dealing with the issue of training your children to sit in the service. The first is an excellent book by Noel Piper called, Treasuring God in our Traditions. In the back of this book is an appendix called, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It is a very short read on the Pipers’ experience of training their own children in the worship service. It includes a biblical perspective on the issue as well as very practical ways to introduce young children to worship. [This can be downloaded for free from www.desiringGod.org.]

The second resource is much more thorough. Parenting in the Pew is a 132-page book by Robbie Castleman with the purpose of helping “parents train children in the only ‘proper behavior’ for church: worship!” Not only is this book a hilarious read with tons of anecdotes, but Castleman provides suggestions for every area of the worship service and covers everything from toddlers to teens.

The thing that impacted me the most about these two resources, however, were not the clever tips and creative ideas. What I valued the most was a recasting of my vision for my children to be in service with me. They helped me move beyond wanting my children not to be a distraction in worship, to wanting them to participate in worship. Castleman explains it by asking whether or not we are teaching our children to “count bricks or encounter God.” Now I am so excited to teach my children to engage in the worship, focus on the sermon, and learn as much as they can about God.

While I think we can all share in that goal, there is a degree of Christian liberty here: using the nursery till your child’s two, four, or never? Gradually introducing them to the service, or full-immersion? Sometimes our different perspectives in these side-issues can lead us to divert from discourse about the main goal. However, I strongly feel that this challenging, significant task deserves to be talked about. The more we can share our struggles, successes, ideas, and questions with each other on this issue, the more we can equip and encourage one another to lead our children into the presence of God.

Posted in: Christian Living, Women's Ministry

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The Love of a Mother for Her Son

By Sherrie Holman

Cold blue points of light in a silent winter’s sky,
The strength of waves beneath the dawning creation,
The whispers and the shadows of lives gone by,
And silently within the womb – love’s celebration!

Beginning the love of a mother for her son.

Her thankfulness only God can measure
For the gift received, though only for a short while.
She gazes in rapture at the tiny earthen treasure;
Her full heart forces to her lips an adoring smile
Capturing the love of a mother for her son.

The rude world loudly beckons; but she turns it down
To answer the sweet demands of charity, and she is blest.
Her home, her husband, and her posterity are her crown.
Softly embraced, enveloped in peace, there is time to rest,

Deepening the love of a mother for her son.

Now a youth with eyes whimsical and bright with zeal,
Yet blind and prey to nefarious powers that assail.
She defends with light and truth, his tender heart to seal
With heaven’s promises which are trustworthy to prevail.

Proving the love of a mother for her son.

Prayers have shod the young man’s feet for the run;
He presses onward endowed with unseen shield and sword.
Because, for the want of brave men, the world is undone;
It is there that Providence counts worthy to record.

Owing to the love of a mother for her son.

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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