The Christian Word for Anger

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Anger is funny, funny thing.  It masks itself in many ways.  Some are more obvious (like withdrawal, sarcasm, and the like).  Others are a bit more subtle, which was revealed to me just after my Personal Retreat and during the course of The Gospel Coalition conference.

If you recall in my last piece, my twenty four hour Personal Retreat revealed that I was holding onto some anger that I didn’t realize was there.  People I needed to forgive was a priority on my list.  But the Lord wasn’t done revealing to me the ways in which anger had penetrated my life.

During the conference, I had an opportunity to sign up for bonus events being held alongside the conference.  One of which was an event put together by Serge.org, which not only had a two morning breakfast with speakers from their mentoring and leadership team but offered a one hour mentor session.  I jumped at the opportunity to speak with a veteran in the ministry field for advice/direction/suggestions for the ministry work I was involved in.

In my session with Hunter Dockery, I laid out exactly what my ministry work was about and where I saw it going.  Then I shared some obstacles I was facing in that process.  I thought that this was the place Hunter would be able to help me.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Hunter was less interested in the work, and more interested in me.  How was I personally being affected, how was my marriage, etc.  This was personal, and exactly what I needed to explore… I just didn’t know it.

I’m going to spend my time on this piece speaking to just one of the questions I was asked, but I’ll probably talk more about this in future blogs.

As I shared about some of my obstacles, and how I felt as if I was failing those I was serving… Hunter basically asked me how I felt about those who were impeding the work.  I said that I was frustrated, and that is when he laid it out there…

Frustrated is the Christian word for angry.

Well, crap.  If frustrated is the Christian word for angry, I may be angrier about more things than I realized.  Between my personal retreat and this moment, I was seeing things with more clarity.  I imagine it like a large room that is completely dark, without any single light source but multiple lamps scattered through the room.  The Lord was taking me one step at a time, turning on one lamp at a time.  Illuminating the room a little bit more versus flooding me with more light than my eyes could handle in one flip of a switch.

I was being put into a position where I would have to face and own these feelings, in order to correct them.  And the only one way that was going to happen, was to keep turning on more lights.

I’m thankful for my time with Hunter, not just because he helped me to see this underlying emotion but instead the greater gift came with the next question.

“When you imagine the Lord speaking directly to you, what does He say?”

I imagined a God who was frustrated with me.  Those were not my exact words to Hunter, but something that I understood later.

Well, if frustrated is the Christian word for angry… then I realized that I imagined that God was angry with me.  Let down.  Disappointed.   It was in a flash of clarity that I realized that while I believed God’s promises for others, truly and deeply… there was a part of me that saw myself still broken.  That my daily mistakes and failures were evidence that I still wasn’t living up to the par.

Hunter said words that will stick with me forever.

“You need to preach the Gospel to yourself, every morning.”

I’ve since thought about that, and made a choice that I need to shut down and replace the words that roll through my head.

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Chart based on a presentation by Lysa TerKeurst on Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 App.

  I had listened to too many lines, believe the lies, labeled myself based on what others have said or done, and it became a liability that was holding me back from living in the freedom gifted by Jesus Christ.  The Gospel wasn’t just something to share with unbelievers but something that we believers need to be reminded of constantly.  The world tries to overwhelm our senses to the point we forget the promises that God has made to us.

This is an issue that I am still working through, with the Lord’s help.  Lamps are still being turned on.  However, I find myself already more at peace as I preach the Good News to myself, every morning.

And a few times throughout the day, as needed.

Because God so loved the world (and Gena) that He sent His only Son, and whoever (this means Gena too) believes in Him will have ever lasting life.

Jesus paid the wages of (Gena’s) sin.   You (and I) are new creations in Christ, washed clean by the blood of the lamb.  Sons and Daughters (including me) that were adopted into His family, where nothing can separate (even me) from Him.

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The ABC’s of Christianity

FaithWords/Hatchette Book Group sent ABC’s of Christianity for the purpose of my honest review.  While this book was gifted to me for this purpose, the review is my honest opinion of the book’s content and not influenced by the author or publisher in anyway.

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I love to read, but I also don’t like to waste my time reading.  What that means is that when a book takes too long to get to the point, I check out.  I don’t always need 100 illustrations to get a point, nor do I need to know every detail of your backstory in discovering a biblical truth, new perspective, etc.  I do feel that some authors take way too long to get to the point vs. spending enough time expounding on that point regarding what it means to the reader.

THIS IS NOT THAT TYPE OF BOOK.  Praise God, for that too.

ABCs of Christianity  by Terdema Ussery is probably going to become one of my favorite quick reference books for my own personal research purposes, and for sharing the scriptures with new believers.    It covers the overarching BIG story of the scripture in a way that is concise, bullet pointed, and to the point.  Each section has a brief overview, supporting bullet points, and scripture references.  The author helps us to take the information from then and apply it to the now in which we are living.

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The book would be a great introduction to the scriptures for a new believer, which would walk them through the over all points of the scriptures and faith.  It can serve as a bridge between the moment one accepts Christ and the moment where they begin their own independent scripture study.  It’s a mixture of doctrine and apologetics, presented in a “these are the facts” way, with simple interpretation and application to today.  Then as a person moves into individual scripture study it becomes the launching point of their interpretation because they have a base knowledge to start with.

For the seasoned believer this can become a quick reference guide in your own study and research, as well as a tool to share with those whom you are discipling or evangelizing to.  This is a book I feel like I could hand over to someone without any biblical knowledge or history, and they could read through it and have a basic understanding of what Christianity is.

Currently the book is available in Kindle and Hardcover… I look forward to seeing paperback versions and hopefully other language translations.  It could be a great mission tool as well.

For the Love of Women’s Ministry

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This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

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As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.

BLESSINGS OF MENTORSHIP

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Early in my walk, as a Christian, I really didn’t have a mentor.  I did have a few people in my life I could ask questions of… and they didn’t look at me as a fool.  They understood that I was growing.  But, I didn’t have anyone who took me under their wing and helped guide me on my walk.

Now, much later in my walk, I have several mentors in my life.  I recently was meeting with one of them.  We were talking about the book of Revelation and the churches listed in Chapters 2 & 3. We were discussing how these different churches mirrored our current world….. the attitudes not just of countries but even of our churches today.

The church in Ephesus had the head knowledge but not the heart knowledge.  They kept up the beliefs, the traditions, etc…without understanding why.  It was empty.  They were on auto pilot.  Serving Jesus without loving Jesus.

It was then my friend, and mentor, mentioned how important it was that we have mentors in our walk from very early on.  Without a mentor we can allow ourselves to get caught up in the rules, the deeds, the work of our faith without actually having real faith.  We know all the things we should do and shouldn’t do, but yet we don’t really understand the why and more importantly the WHO behind it.

As we continue to grow in our knowledge, without a mentor to guide us, we can end up just like the church of Ephesus.  We will have the head knowledge without the heart knowledge.  And then eventually we become like the pharisees.  We stand firm and strong in our righteous knowledge, without loving the least of these…. the poor in spirit, the broken, the lost.

Mentors help us to see the bigger picture.  They help us to learn from their wisdom and experience that our impact on others has to start from a place of love.  Loving them in spite of their faults, not excusing them.  But understanding that we have to start from a place of love and not condemnation.

When you first love a person, taking the time to get to know them and understand them, you build your credibility with them. They learn to trust you.  Trusting that you really care for them and this isn’t just your attempt to add another success story to your book of people’s lives that you have changed.

In your attempts to share the Gospel, a mentor reminds you that it is not your job to change them.  But to love them.  The Holy Spirit will change them.  Your greatest testimony comes from your example.  We have all know of people who were considered “great” and looked up to, and the moment the truth of their depravity came out… it contradicted all the good they had done.

A mentor tells you to focus more on making yourself better, your walk better, your testimony better than trying to change others.  In fact, dear one, YOU are not as big of a part of their testimony as you think.  In fact, you are quite insignificant to the transformation that Christ does in them.

My mentor told me that she can tell relatively quickly when someone has been mentored or not.  You can see it in their attitude towards others.

If you don’t have a mentor, maybe it is time to find one.  In fact, you may need more than one.

Wondering how to find a mentor?

1) Pray.  Pray that God will reveal the person to you.
2) Let Go.  Let go of all the preconceptions of what a mentor should be.  Do not base it on age, years as a Christian, family size.  I remember once a woman in the church came to me for advice on marriage.  She was much older than I was, and I was caught off guard.  I found out as we talked, that she had only been married a few years.  While I was significantly younger than her, I had 10+ more years of marriage experience than she.
3) Be Open.  Be open to having just one mentor, or more.  God will bring those whom you need, don’t turn away wisdom because you “already have one”.
4) Talk to your Pastor or his wife.  If you need mentorship in a specific area, they may know just the right person for you.
5) Don’t Give Up.  You may try out a mentor relationship & it just isn’t working.  That is ok, you can change mentors. But make sure you are changing them because it’s not the right fit… and not because they are saying things you don’t want to hear.