4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two

As I mentioned yesterday, relationships are hard. Tanya wrote about two relationships God wanted us to cultivate–our relationship with Him, and our relationship with our spouse–and how we can do that. But there are two more relationships we must nurture: our relationship with…well, read on to see what Tanya says.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two 
By Tanya Eavenson

Yesterday, I wrote about cultivating our relationships with God and with our spouses here. Today, there are two more relationships God calls us to cultivate.

3) Cultivate your relationships within the church.

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One way you can cultivate relationships within the church is through regular attendance and getting plugged in.

  • There are many areas in your church that need helpers, like teaching a Sunday school class, helping out in the nursery, designing a church website, answering phones, or even being a part of the clean-up crew after events. You’ll never know the needs a church has until you ask.
  • Be active. Have you ever considered joining a women’s ministry? Do you participate in a Bible study? Attend conferences that encourage and refresh your soul? As Hebrews 10:24-25 says above, we gather together to encourage one another. So be active.
  • Pray for the staff and ministries. One of the most crucial and most powerful acts of love a church can offer is prayer for their church staff, ministries within the church, and those who serve in those ministries.
  • Reach out to others. Whether it’s a card, text, or phone call, reach out to others for their birthday, bereavement, thinking of you, or any occasion. It means a lot to know someone cares and is lifting you up in prayer.

4) Cultivate your relationships with those who don’t know Jesus Christ.

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Did you know that if you claim to be a Christian, you’re a testimony of God? It may or may not surprise you, but people are observing us. How we handle heartaches and difficulties, the way we love our spouses, how we talk, how we treat others, and even our joys, accomplishments, and blessings represent who God is. Not that we must worry about being perfect. We all make mistakes. The Lord knows we aren’t perfect, but while we strive to follow Him in this imperfect world, there are several things we can do to reach the lost.

  • Pray for God to give you opportunities to share the Gospel with someone as you go along your day. Ask Him to give you boldness to proclaim the joy of God’s word.
  • Give forgiveness. Forgiveness is what sets Christianity apart from other faiths. If someone has offended you, treat them kindly, with love, regardless of how they’ve mistreated you. We truly don’t know what others are going through. Perhaps what they need to hear is they aren’t alone and there is One who will be with them through it all.
  • Share your testimony of what God has done in your life. It doesn’t have to sound professional: just honest. Sometimes our testimonies can bless others and be an encouragement to those who now walk where we’ve walked.
  • Show love to the lost. The Bible also clearly states in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

The Lord has called us to share who He is with the world, and this often requires tangible actions. He calls us to go and love others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, visiting those who are sick and those in prison. Find a need within your community, your neighborhood or in another country and fill that need. How? It’s up to you. Contact your local church to see what ministries they offer, but most importantly, tell people about Jesus. It could be something as simple as passing out a Bible to a co-worker or to a stranger at the mall that leads people to Jesus and eternal life.

I’ve listed several practical ways to grow your relationships with the Lord, your spouse, your church, and with the lost, but it takes action. Cultivating anything takes time, energy, and a desire for something to grow, including our relationships. So why not start today?

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Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Buy Links:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

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Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

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Where I’ve been: Please join me over on Stitches Thru Time with Crystal L. Barnes today!

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Let’s talk about this:
 Over the past two days, Tanya has shared  four relationships God wants us to cultivate. Yesterday’s were God and our spouses, and today’s were the church and those who don’t know Christ. How do you cultivate your relationship with the church? What about those in your community? What keeps you from tending these relationships? What motivates you to seek these relationships out? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

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If You Make it Through This Post, You’re in the Top One Percent

ID-100264082They say, actually, I’ve said, blog titles matter. A lot. Most of you–like 89.7% of you, decided whether or not to read this post by my title alone.  I have a feeling this is doubly true for my subscribers. Fail. (Actually, I’m wondering if any of y’all are receiving my posts in your inbox because my hubby’s signed up but hasn’t.) Another 5% of you, well, of them because clearly if you’re still reading, you’re in the top 5.3%. … Or is that the bottom? Regardless, unlike that other 5%, you have not checked out after this long and rambling paragraph. And for that I applaud you. (Or pity you.)

But it’s the holidays, and my brain is saturated by a bit too much junk and random storylines (only one of them being my own.) Plus, I just learned from two sweet blogging friends, Renee Blare and Eileen Rife, that I’ve been nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers award.

How fun is that? I’m normally pretty bad about those types of things because well… I can be technologically lazy. But this one intrigued me, and like I said, I’m in a jing-jingaly (AKA goofy, adventurous mood), and I thought some of you might be interested in a pre-2015 update. (Is that a thing?)

Oh, but first, fun news! Book reviewer Julie Arduini chose my debut, Beyond I Do as her favorite fiction read for 2014. 🙂 You can read her review here. Here’s hoping she WhenDawnBreakspreliminary(and all of you) likes When Dawn Breaks even more! And if you’re up and looking for an encouraging message to motivate you toward spiritual greatness this New Year’s, visit Cynthia Simmons Heart of the Matter online show to listen to our discussion of surrendering our giftedness into God’s hands, enduring the often painful growth process, and allowing Him to use you and your uniqueness to minister to others and build His kingdom. You can listen live at 9:30 EST here, and I should have a link to the archive soon.

Now for the blog award. Having accepted, here are the rules I now must follow:

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

So, here’s the questions Renee posed. I’ll post and answer Eileen’s after. (For those of you really up for massive amounts of Jennifer-randomness. ha!) Come back Saturday or Monday (I’m not sure when I’ll post yet) for a regularly scheduled yet rescheduled blog post. 🙂

1. How is your blog different today versus the day it began?

You know, I think it’s pretty much the same–Christian living based, mainly testimonial in style. I do have a lot more guests now than I did initially, and I love that. I feel that makes it more well-rounded. After all, we need each other. We all have unique insights into spiritual matters, unique experiences and unique yet universal challenges. 🙂 (Come back… uh… next time (maybe Saturday?) to read a great post from Stephanie Prichard on forgiveness. (Perfect timing post the holidays, maybe?)

2. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

Easy! Spur every Christian to live out what they believe. Can you imagine what our world would be like–how many hungry would be filled and hurting would be healed if we all got off the church pew and started BigLivetangibly showing the love of Christ? I’m seeing this happen more and more at my church, and it’s awesome. Truly beautiful. Life changing, like truly. We see life change every day.

3. Who or what would be your ultimate post?

Oh, this is hard, but if I could somehow write one succinct, clear, and powerful post on surrender that stuck with my readers, truly stuck with them, I think my answer to question 2 would happen naturally. Now, if I could find and maintain a position of surrender myself…

4. In 2015, what are your plans?

Oh, my, I have a lot! Were you wanting a novel answer, Renee? 😉 First, I’m working on an exciting fundraising project for Takin it to the Streets, an Omaha Metro ministry I serve with. I also have two books releasing this year (one that has already released, When Dawn Breaks, and the other that is scheduled to release in October). So, I’ll have edits and such to complete. I’m also working on a new story, one I recently realized I need to majorly gut and start over on, but that’s a good thing. A great thing, because I know the changes will be awesome. Necessary. I’m going to the Mt. Hermon conference in Northern California this year and hope to meet my editor in person. Yay! Then my loves will meet me in San Jose and we’ll head south to San Diego. Then in September my hubby and I will celebrate our 20th in Seattle, where my 4th novel (scheduled to release in winter of 2016) is set. Busy but exciting year. 🙂

5. Do you have a favorite day of the year?

ID-100298323The one I’m in? haha. You know, when we first moved to the midwest, I hated winter. But a few years in, I’ve found I love every season. Though I probably love fall most. The colors, scents, flavors, activities. Valas Pumpkin Patch, Nebraska City with its beautiful, vibrant foliage.

Oh! Do you mean day-day? That’s Easter, hands down. My life would be devastatingly different if not for Christ’s death and resurrection.

6. Why and how did you start blogging?

I’m not entirely sure. I’ve often wondered if it’s just part of the writer’s brain, as if we need to someone include the ENTIRE WORLD in everything we think and do. It’s like I’ll be reading a Bible passage and God will speak to me through it, and I’ll think, “Oh! I need to write about this!” Or I’ll be having a fun day with friends and will absolutely have to chase down a random stranger to cajole into taking our picture so I can post it here. Or on Facebook. Most likely both. As to how, I just started. This blog is hosted by WordPress, and they make it pretty easy.

7. What do you like about blogging?

It gives me an outlet to share the 5,000 conversations zipping through my brain every day. 🙂 It also makes me feel more connected to my readers, well, when they converse back. 🙂

8. What have you discovered through blogging?

That God is amazing. Faithful. Loving. Gentle. Attentive.

9. Who or what is the one thing that means the most to you?

One thing? I’d have to say Christ, but can I add two more? My hubby and princess. Love them both to pieces. 2012-06-23 22.29.50

10. What do you want the readers of your blog to know about you?

That I have been dramatically changed by grace, and that that same grace is available to them. 🙂 Really, I hope they know less about me and more about Christ in me. Because truly, I’m a let down. But knowing Christ on an intimate level? Now that’s life abundant!

Now, for the 1.5% of you who have made it this far, you really deserve a cookie or something. Well, now, isn’t that a great idea! If you’ve made it this far, let me know in the comments what one thing you’d like me or perhaps others to know about you, and you’ll get entered to win a copy of my latest release, When Dawn Breaks. 🙂 Considering everyone else has long since closed out this window, you stand a great chance of winning. 🙂

Now for Eileen’s questions. 

1. What is your foremost prayer in this new year?
I’m not sure if it will remain my top prayer, but this morning I wrote down Psalm 105:1-4 as my first memory passage and have determined to make it a prayer. (I love personalizing and praying Scripture!) The verse is: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
ID-10075996Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
I could expand on and camp out on each line indefinitely, but I really love verse four–search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Each day, I long to do just that, asking the Holy Spirit to help me.
2. Name three goals that you’d like to shoot for.
To consistently memorize Scripture, to draw near to God at regular intervals throughout the day, and to follow a prayerfully planned schedule each day.
3. What is your current writing project?
I’m working on a sequel to Beyond I Do. Here’s the blurb:Sixty-one year old Angela Meadows is ready for a clean slate, to launch a career, and to embrace her new life in Christ. But self-loathing and remorse for a life forever lost hold her back. When she encounters a single mom married to an incarcerated felon and her children, Angela’s shame becomes swallowed by something greater—compassion. Her past draws her to them, but will it drive away the only man she’s truly loved?

4. What do you enjoy doing for fun?
Spending time with my hubby, daughter, or amazing friends. And if I can get them all in the same room, it’s even better!
5. Other than the Bible, name the book that’s had the most impact on your life and why.
thProbably Living Proof: Sharing the Gospel Naturally. It’s really helped me understand nonbelievers more, has greatly shaped my evangelism efforts, and has had a tremendous impact on how I do ministry. It’s a phenomenal book!
6. What will you do in this new year to reach out to someone else other than your family?
Oh, my, this could be a long list. 🙂 I serve in numerous ministries, so I have plenty of opportunities to share the love of Christ. Our church does a great job of facilitating events designed to get our church family off their pews and out into the community. Our next one will be an epic Easter celebration. 🙂 In addition, I’m part of a women’s connection leadership team that plans monthly events designed to facilitate closer friendships, spiritual growth, and to help each of us reach out to nonattenders. (You can read more about some of our events here.)
7. Explain why you like to write.
Writing is and has always been how I process my thoughts and feelings and dig deeper into learned truths. That God could use something He’s used to grow me for years to grow others is simply amazing.
8. What legacy do you hope to leave behind when you die?
The hope of Christ.
9. Do you consider the local church important? Why or why not?
Oh, my, yes! God has placed us in a local body for a reason, and that is to be interdependent. Our gifts can build others up, and theirs can do the same for us. The local church is also God’s action plan for bringing the world to Christ. So yeah, the local body is a big deal.
10. How can women who feel alone overcome isolation?
Hm… I know the pat answer–draw near to Christ, but even so, we all need human connection. It’s how we were created. Sometimes God places us in a period of isolation for our growth, but most times, I believe He longs to see us in deep and authentic community. I think getting connected with a local body, focusing on the needs of others, and finding ways to get plugged in (most often through serving) are great ways to form authentic, healthy connections.
So now for my questions…
1. What is the best thing that happened to you in 2014?
2. What is one thing you’d like to do differently in 2015?
3. What is one thing you learned in 2014?
4. In what ways do you grow your most important relationships?
5. What one verse has stood out to you most in the past year?
6. In what ways did you see Christ this past year?
7. In what ways did you try to reveal Christ this past year?
8. Has God given you a word to focus on for 2015?
9. How has your view of grace changed this past year and why?
10. If you could be known for one thing, what would that be?
I nominate my Writing Buddies: Carole Towriss, Marji Lane Clubine, Joanne Sher, Mary Watson Hamilton, Ginger Murphey Solomon, and Lillian Kohler.

What Does God Expect of Us?

Most of you know, our family moved from one state to another last summer. Moving is always hard, but for teens, I believe, even more so. Our daughter really struggled … but God met her, met all of us, through a loving church. Truly, the youth group helped carry our daughter through that time. Today Robin Gilbert  Luftig reminds us to be the church God desires–one that’s saturated by love and grace.

What Is Expected of Us?

loveyourneighborA young girl sits alone on the pew, hoping—yet dreading—someone will ask to sit with her. Her clothes are nondescript and she wears little makeup. Her hair is neat yet combed just right to conceal her face. She knows how to blend into a crowd. She’s had years of practice learning how not to be seen. She doesn’t seem to want to be seen … but does she?

Please, see me. Look at me. Talk to me. Let me know I matter. I have a secret I want to share, but I’m afraid to risk it with you.

An elderly man slowly walks into the church and sits down in your favorite spot. It appears he’s missed several 967875_41580221bathing opportunities and hasn’t shaved in days. His clothes are worn and his shoes flop when he shuffles. The only glint from him comes from the worn wedding ring he wears on his gnarled finger. He looks a bit sad; a bit lost.

Please, see me. My wife just passed away and I’m so lonely. I want to talk to you, but I’m afraid to show you my pain.

These or people like these sit in pews across the country every Sunday. Sadly, many of them go home just as they came in: alone and in pain, still searching for relief yet afraid to risk reaching out.

What do we do?

Jesus’ words are very clear. Get to know and involve yourself in the lives of those around you. Matthew 31:36-40, shares a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We don’t need to offer an intense theological dissertation on a point of doctrine. We may just need to smile … say “hello, my name is ______, what’s your name?” When we see and acknowledge others, they may give us the opportunity to really see them. We may even be able to show them the love Jesus talked about.

Think about that the next time you have a visitor at church. Maybe their needs are so great words won’t be spoken, until they know you care.

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Robin Gilbert Luftig has worked for many years to help broken people understand that God loves them. In 2009, she founded Renew Ministries, with the purpose of sharing with spiritually- and emotionally-broken men and women that God has a plan for their healing. She’s written From Pain to Peace: The Journey of Forgiveness After Divorce, available at Amazon.com. She is currently writing a book on accepting God’s restoration

Robin lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Lew, and counts serving broken-hearted people as one of her greatest privileges.

You can follow Robin’s blog at http://robingilbertluftig.wordpress.com/ and on Facebook at Renew Ministries with Robin Gilbert Luftig

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Books about failed marriages abound on bookstore shelves. Readers in search of resources to re-energize themselves in the wake of a divorce can find vast and varied literature on inward and outward healing. So why another book on divorce? From Pain to Peace offers a unique perspective on post-marriage relationships. The premise of this work is that everyone benefits from establishing healthy relationships after divorce-primarily ex-spouses, but also the children and other family members and friends. This book promotes the act of forgiveness that lies at the heart of the healing process. Written in a lively and engaging style and using frequent support from Scripture, this book offers a Christian view on the subject. Also included are personal experiences as well as testimonials from others to support this premise. Stories are included from people in variety of roles-for example, ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, children, and stepchildren-who share their feelings and experiences and who recount stories of their own divorce process.

Buy it here!

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LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Perhaps you are going through a difficult time right now. It might be tempting to isolate. In fact, it might seem to take too much work or energy to get involved with church activities, but what if that is precisely how God wants to reach out to you–through the love of others? Or perhaps you know of individuals entering your church sanctuary who appear withdrawn, sullen … hurting. Maybe even angry (which most often is the result of pain). How might God want to use you to reach out to them? What are some easy, non-threatening ways we can do that?

Finally, has God used church members to minister to you during a particularly painful time? Share your experience here and let us celebrate God’s love together. 🙂

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by   Grace.

Home Depot Churches by Ed Bahler

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.

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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

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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!