Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Have you ever felt God nudge you to do something so out of the norm, so unexpected, you frantically searched for a “unless” clause? There have been countless times when God’s dropped me in something I felt ill-equipped or ill-prepared for, but looking back, those have been the times when I’ve felt closest to God and when I’ve learned the most. And each time, standing on the other side having seen God moved, I’ve been so grateful I said yes. Because God never called us to a stagnant life. Rather, He calls us to full surrender, unhindered obedience. Today my sweet friend and Maria Looking Upfellow Living by Grace hostess Maria Morgan shares a time when God thrust her out of her comfort zone and what she learned from it.

Stepping Out of the Zone by Maria Morgan

 

My comfort zone. It’s aptly named, because it’s where I feel comfortable. I’m familiar with the people and places within this zone.  I know what to expect. I can be myself and not risk rejection. It’s a safe place.

Recently, my husband, Steve, and I travelled to North Carolina for a charity golf tournament. The event was sponsored by Steve’s company, and was attended by over a hundred people. People I didn’t know.

I was definitely outside my comfort zone. And to add to my discomfort, my lack of expertise in the area of golf left me wondering what to discuss with them. Would we have anything in common?

golf

Be a friend

I wouldn’t classify myself as shy. But I don’t normally go out of my way to meet strangers either.

As the first dinner party got under way, I remembered some words of wisdom from Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24; KJV).  That was something I could do – be pleasant and welcoming, and show a genuine interest in those to whom I was introduced.  I stepped outside my ‘zone.’

 

 

Focus on others

Over the next couple days, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people, and realized an advantage of leaving my comfort zone. I was focused on others, and no longer concentrating on what was convenient for me.

On our drive back to Georgia, Steve and I talked about the importance of getting together with others. As Christians, we’re instructed to be “…given to hospitality,” (Romans 12:13b).

Make time for what’s important

We were conscious of the fact that we had allowed our schedules to prevent us from following through on this directive. When we realized what we’d been missing, it wasn’t difficult to get out the calendar and begin planning to invite friends and acquaintances over for a time of fun and fellowship.

Are you stuck in your comfort zone? What step are you willing to take today to move beyond what’s comfortable?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for challenging me to step out in faith beyond my comfort zone. Your Word provides wisdom for every situation. Help me to practice hospitality with those you bring across my path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She’s passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook God Speaking @ www.mariaimorgan.com.

Let’s talk about this!

When has God asked you to step outside your comfort zone, and what were the results? Share your thoughts and God-moments with us in the comments below or join the Facebook discussion at Living by Grace.

 

Read Full Post »

When Steve and I were first married, we took up country dancing. Well, we tried, anyway. A local bar offered free lessons one afternoon a week, so each week we’d go and do our best to scurry across the dance floor, preferably in time to the music. We weren’t very good. Actually, we stunk, so I decided to practice at home. I went to our local library and checked out dance instruction videos, and while my husband was at work, I practiced. Then I met him at the door with arms positioned, ready to dance.

The more I “learned” the worse I got. I stepped on his feet, jerked left when he wanted to go right, and combined, we created a robotic display that was anything but romantic. You see, the problem was I was so convinced I knew how to dance, I lost sight of my dance partner.

I think often, I’m like that with God. I’m so focused on what I know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, teaching a Sunday school class, or fulfilling various responsibilities, it’s easy to take my eyes off the dancer. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into rote behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. But when I surrender to the dancer, forsaking my ideas and agendas, clearing my vision of everything but my Lead Dancer, Everything flows.

Have you ever watched professional ballroom dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowd can scream and holler, cameras can flash, but they don’t see it. They are focused 100% on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully, effortlessly.

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? And what keeps us from that? What keeps us angsting, striving, and experiencing burn-out?

On Sunday I spent the afternoon studying the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are told the Holy Spirit guides us, has fellowship with us, teaches us, fills us, prays for us, and overshadows us.

2 Corinthian 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

Fellowship–intimate interaction.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Life-giving. Apart from Him, apart from full submission to Him, our efforts lead to futility. No matter how great our ministry, how in-depth our Bible study time, or how devoted our service, if it’s not ignited, guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it will be nothing but the effort of man operating on the wisdom of man to do the things of man. But we were called to more!

2 Samuel 23:2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.”

Our ultimate goal as Christians should be to be cleansed and open vessels, ready to do God’s will. Like funnels, conduits of God’s power and grace.

Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

To be filled, we must first be emptied–of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe anytime we cling to anything–even good things–other than God, they become a hinderance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, whatever it is, when we begin to strive for it, hold tight to it, we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Dancer, not the dance. Otherwise, I believe, our actions lack power. Why? Because we’ve left our dancer behind.

Lord, may we be like Paul, so driven by Your Spirit, so infused by Your presence, that Your love compels us. (1 Corinthians 9:16) Remove all expectations and obligations except that of drawing near to You in full surrender, listening to Your voice, and obeying. Draw us into Your Dance, Oh, Lord.

 
Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about living fully surrendered, Spirit-driven and empowered lives. We all want to be there, right? We all want to experience the “power of His resurrection.” Stop and consider, what are some things that get in the way of experiencing the abundant life God promised? And what steps can you take to draw near, to come empty, and to receive all that God has in store for you?

What might our churches, our homes, our cities look like if Christians joined and stayed in the divine dance?

Read Full Post »

Five to seven years ago, God nudged me to start a web-based children’s ministry. This was a major learning curve, but God was faithful, and day-by-day, the ministry grew. I traveled around the United States, from Southern California, to Maryland, speaking to various Sunday school classes, youth groups, Bible study groups, Christian school classes, and homeschool groups. (I also performed monologues, embarrassing, but effective.) My sister joined me, making the endeavor all the sweeter.

A large portion of our ministry was online. Because we believed in the power of story, we turned everything into a story, from biblical history and apologetics to devotionals.

But then things got hard. Web-hackers came in droves. One got in on my birthday and messed with a page, moving the text around. My computer started acting like it had influenza, crashing, locking up, digesting large documents. We never lost our audience, but experienced so many problems coming from so many different directions, I began to spend ALL my time doing defensive-web work and 0 time proclaiming the gospel. My sister got busy, and before long, I continued alone, climbing a steep, gravel slope, and getting nowhere.

Sermon after sermon, verse after verse, reminded me we weren’t to go it alone. That God provides partners to help us complete the ministry He has for us. This frustrated and hurt me, because I felt He had abandoned me and my ministry. After all, I didn’t choose to go it alone. I lost my partner. I didn’t realize He was laying the groundwork for a future ministry, one I wasn’t even aware of at that time.

At first I persevered, but the more I prayed about it, the more I felt God pulling me from the ministry. It didn’t make sense. Had I heard Him wrong when He first called me to it? But no, the call had been clear and I’d received ample confirmation. Had I messed up? Failed?

The latter question worried me for some time because I couldn’t wrap my head around why God would call me to launch a ministry, then pull me from it. So I kept trudging through, fighting with my computer and the hackers, ignoring the still, small voice that called me to move on.

Our site had a store. When hackers got into my online store and blocked me out, my stomach sank. I can’t quite describe the feeling. Luckily all the information on our site was encrypted and secure, but I was done–out of my league and ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught. All I wanted to do was tell people about Jesus, yet, all I was doing was fixing computer problems. Pointless, frustrating, discouraging.

So I shut it down. It broke my heart, left me more confused than ever. I began to question my ability to hear God. And again, I felt like I’d failed.

And then I stumbled upon Christ to the World Ministry, an international ministry that uses…stories…(radio dramas) to proclaim the gospel of Christ. When Dr. Art Criscoe, my editor, invited me to join the CTTW team, suddenly it all made sense. The earlier ministry wasn’t a mistake. I hadn’t heard wrong. It was merely a stepping stone, training, so I would be equipped for the one God had planned. And now, I can do what I love–write–without having to worry about computer stuff or hackers or tax forms. Plus, God’s expanded my reach, from the US to world-wide.

And had I clung to the latter, I would have missed out.

Closing our ministry was painful. Confusing. Discouraging. I had no idea what lay ahead, and I wanted to cling to the familiar, even though it wasn’t working. But to move ahead, I had to let go.

The same was true of the Israelites mentioned in the book of Ezra. After 70 years of captivity, the exiles from Judah were allowed to return. Almost 50,000 made the long journey home, but many stayed in Persia. They’d grown comfortable with their new lifestyle. Many had accumulated wealth, and the journey back to Jerusalem was long and rough. For them, embarking on the unknown wasn’t worth giving up what they had. They wouldn’t let go and therefore, remained in the land of their captivity.

As 2012 starts, I challenge you to spend some time in prayer asking God what He has for planned for you this year. Is there something you need to let go of in order to follow after His better? Is there a sin or time-sapping habit getting in the way?

Or maybe you’re still in captivity, clinging to a life that’s not really a life, afraid to take that step of faith. But like the Jewish captives, God longs to bring you freedom. The journey may not always be easy, but it will be glorious, healing, freeing, fulfilling. And you won’t have to go it alone. God will walk with, will carry you if He needs to, every step of the way.

He’s calling to you. Release the death-grip you’re holding onto your life. Let it go, so you may live.

Prayerfully listen to the words of the following song, with an open heart.

Let’s talk about this!

Join me at Living by Grace as we encourage one another to live in full surrender, letting go of those things that get in God’s way as we press toward the goal He has mapped out for us.

What about you? Has God asked you to let go of something? What made that hard? And what was the result?

Read Full Post »

Before I get too far, I want to route you over to Rose McCauley’s blog where you can read an article I wrote about my husband. Commercials bombard us with one “necessary” gift after another, but what do our spouses really want?

Now back to my top twenty of 2010. Today’s post first appeared on Ed Bahler’s site on October 27, and it reminded me of a church my husband and I used to attend in Southern California. It was a rather large church, yet it was one of the closest-knit I have ever been a part of. It was dominated by love and a sense of acceptance.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve moved a lot and as a result, I’ve been part of numerous churches. This has actually been quite a blessing. Each church has its strengths and weaknesses, along with a unique slant. Not doctrinally speaking, but one church may be passionate about small groups, another about youth ministries, and yet another about international missions. The church we attended in California was passionate about discipleship. Their motto: developing fully devoted followers of Christ. And it showed. While there, I started a Saturday youth outreach program, a family ministry, an annual Easter outreach event (not sure if it’s still going), my husband and I led a marriage study–the list goes on. What makes this unique is that each of these ministries were new. It wasn’t like the church had an established program and was looking for warm bodies to fill it. It was that I (or in the case of the marriage study, we) went to the communities pastor with an idea, and he sent us off with a warm smile, a handshake and a “You can do it!”

Because of their, “You can do it! Let us help you,” attitude, our church had a rather diverse make-up of ministries and I experienced more spiritual growth than at any other time in my walk with Christ. I remember the day I sat in the communities pastor’s office, bubbling over with my idea of starting a ministry for young families. I asked, “Why don’t we have one?” To which he replied, “Because no one’s  done it.” And viola, it was that easy. He didn’t route me to a bunch of ministry leaders, didn’t initiate countless church planning meetings. It was, “Great idea! Let me know if you need any help.”

During our time there, I got the strong impression that the programs weren’t nearly as important as the people. They were focused on the growth of each and every member of the body.  I’m sure I wore the ministry staff ragged! Because they didn’t just give the okay then cut me loose. They trained me. Staff members would sit in the meetings I organized, they invited me to free training summits, they provided training materials and with each step, they walked along side me. I often wonder, what if they’d said no? What if they’d been so focused on their programs that they viewed me and my rather explosive ideas as burdensome? Perhaps I wouldn’t be in children’s ministry today. I certainly wouldn’t have the wealth of knowledge and experience that those events allotted and the training classes provided.

As you read today’s blog, think about how you can apply this idea to your life. If you’re a parent or grandparent, how can you walk along side the children entrusted to your leadership? If you lead a study, how can you draw others in? And remember, God unites the body, not so we can turn everyone into a foot, but so that each member can do their part, as God wills and leads.

*                             *                            *

In recent discussions with leaders from around the country, the big topic is how to thrive in this new environment. Are we experiencing a reset…a step change in the way the world is working?

The prospect of career congressmen being booted from office next week would suggest that there has been a change. The major adjustments in the business landscape suggest this as well.

But what about the church?

My friend Todd Wilson (Exponential Network of church planters) believes that a major reset in ministry is at hand. In the past, the church has been institutional, with a parental attitude about Kingdom work. The message has been, “We can do it, you can help.” And most boomers were content to pay their tithe and get on with life.

But the future is different. It’s about engaging and equipping people to do the work. Home Depot got it and their home improvement slogan, “You can do it, we can help,” was a remarkable success. They picked up on the step change in how young people engage life, their career, and the church. If church leaders hope to engage the next generation then they must make this step change and buy into the ministry vision of:

“You can do it, we can help.”

So younger generation….is this where you are?

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

*                               *                               *

Ed is the CEO of Aspen Group and a church leadership coach. He’s passionate about helping churches “ALIGN” their ministry, leadership and facilities with the multi-ethnic, post Christian culture we are rapidly moving into.

Find out more about Ed by visiting the following websites: edbahler.comaspengroup.comaspengroupblog.com, theckn.com

We have one more devo for my top twenty of 2010, then, on the 31st, come back to see the top three! And remember, if you loved today’s devo, fb share it, tweet it, “like” it or leave a comment. And…Rose invites you to leave a comment on her blog as well. When you do, you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive a free book. Woo-hoo!

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 782 other followers