Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Healthy Margins Series: Ministry 2

            Do you feel maxed out in every direction and wonder if that’s really how God intends it to be? This series, which began May 11, reveals that it is definitely NOT God’s intent. We are the ones who push ourselves to the edge in every facet of life, teetering on the edge of exhaustion – because of a wrong understanding of our role, guilt, peer pressure, poor planning etc.
            Today I’m going to wrap up this series on Healthy Margins with some final words on Ministry. If you’ve missed any posts along the way, I encourage you to take your time to read through them – especially the scripture. My prayer is they will help you examine your life from a biblical perspective and see where you need more breathing space. I am continuing to do the same.
            Here are the last two margins we need in the Ministry aspect of life.





Unique Gifts:
We need to give ourselves and others space to appreciate our unique giftedness. We’re not meant to be copy and paste versions of each other. God designs one of a kind people to benefit the Body of Christ. Some gifts we’re born with and others we receive when we choose to follow Him. Occasionally, God will ask us to do something we’re not gifted in. These assignments stretch us, and build our trust. We know anything good that comes of it is all because of Him!
            I love the use of the word “let” in the 1985 version of Romans 12:5-8 in the NIV, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in accordance with his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is  encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is to leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Too often we try to squeeze others or ourselves into a mold made for someone else. That is not from God.
            The following scriptures reveal how valuable each of us is in God’s kingdom.
Everyone is different – 1 Cor. 7:7
Creative gifts serve a special purpose – Ex. 35:30 & 31:1-6
God is glorified through our uniqueness – 1 Cor. 10:31
The Holy Spirit bestows gifts for the common good – 1 Cor. 12:4-11
We use our gifts to serve others – 1 Pet. 4:9-11
            The last margin we need to allow for in ministry is…

Seasons of Life:
            Some areas of ministry will remain much the same over the years, while others are temporary assignments. These change according to our season of life. For instance, I’ve been a writer and teacher since I was in high school, but the way I’ve used those gifts has changed significantly – from Bible study with my peers, to beginning writer, to Director of Women’s Ministry, to homeschool mom, to author and speaker, Sunday school teacher, and now writing and teaching in a variety of venues. These are what I would call my lifelong gifts.
            There is another gift, however, which I assumed would be a lifelong calling that seems to be winding down. And I have mixed feelings about it. I have played clarinet for forty years, and been involved in music since I was young. However, because of changing worship styles and changes in my life since moving to a new community, I no longer have opportunities to play. I’m wondering if it’s time to let it go. Part of me is sad, but another part is ready to make space for what God has for me next.
            The key is to obey as He leads - both in and out of various opportunities. I trust He’ll provide the wisdom and grace to let go when the time is right. This can be tricky; we tend to get attached to things we’ve poured our passion and energy into over the years. But styles change, our abilities wane, our energy is limited, and the needs of our community shift. If we trust God for each new season, He will minister to us as we minister to others.
There is a time and season for everything – Ecc. 3:1-8, 11
God has a proper time and procedure in mind – Ecc. 8:5-6
Drink deeply of His living water – Psa. 1:1-3
Fully commit yourself to God for a harvest – Gal. 6:8-10
Be prepared for every opportunity – 2 Tim 4:2       

Final note:
            Recently I returned from vacationing at my sister’s where we had many conversations about margins. I sat down to watch a sermon that taped while I was away, which turned out to be Andy Stanley’s “Breathing Room” series. Another confirmation that this is God’s timely word for us! If you’d like to learn more on this topic of margins from a delightfully gifted, on-target pastor, here’s the link to his four part series:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Healthy Margins Series: Ministry 1

Since I began this series, God keeps confirming the timeliness of this message. The comments and notes I’m receiving from readers tell me we’re all struggling to reclaim some space in our lives. We must pull back from the edge to reclaim the beauty of healthy living.
            One reader sent me this powerful quote from Bill Hybels’ Simplify: Ten practices to unclutter your soul. “That was my rock-bottom moment, when I finally realized the price of depletion…I just sat there, asking God, ‘How did this happen? How did I become this overwhelmed, overscheduled, exhausted person who is devoid of compassion and angry at everybody?’...Before I left the parking lot that day, I made a vow:  Never again will I allow myself to get this depleted.  The cost is too high.  Never again.  And to this day I have a maniacal aversion to depletion.  I know what I’m like when I get to the edge.  I know what I’m capable of.  And I’m not going there again.”
            Before I tackle this final subject, I want to add a disclaimer. I understand situations arise when God allows us to spill into the margins for emergencies. When that happens, and it is indeed His idea, He will supply the resources we need to meet the crisis.





            However, too often, we decide we must continue to function in the margins. We have the mistaken idea that burnout is more holy than trusting God; that things won’t get done if we don’t do them ourselves. I know this is true, because I’ve been guilty of this most of my life, and God is calling me to account.
            With that said, it’s time to explore the final frontier “Margins in Ministry.” If you’re a Christian, all of life is ministry. No matter what you’re doing, you’re also “in” ministry. And yet, God gives guidelines even here, to prevent burnout or fruitless activity. Ministry should look and feel healthy and beautiful.
            The first margin God calls all Christians to maintain in ministry is:
 Put Home First:

We who work for the kingdom of God, as professionals or laymen, are called to minister at home. Those in our home or family should be the first to receive our love, service, counsel, compassion, and giving. This doesn’t mean preaching at them, but demonstrating grace and truth in lavish abundance. Unfortunately, this is often where we serve the least.
            To the man who wanted to follow Him after He healed him of demons Jesus said, “Go home and tell them what God has done for you” (Luke 8:38-39, emphasis added). What better witness could there be to the change in us than to the people who’ve seen us at our worst? Other examples of ministry at home:
Manage your family before you lead others - 1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12
Provide for your family first - 1 Tim. 5:8
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ - Eph. 5:21-6:3
 Fathers don’t exasperate your children. What’s more frustrating than a father who’s there for everyone else, but never for you? - Eph. 6:4
Message and Method:
            The Good News that Jesus brought 2,000 years ago hasn’t changed, but the methods for reaching people change continually. What works in one culture or political climate doesn’t in another. And some methods and programs that worked in past centuries have become outdated and unfruitful. This is difficult for some of us who’ve grown up in the church to accept. We can get more attached to traditional Methods than to the Message itself.
            Camp Meetings, Revival services, street preaching, Sunday night services, Sunday school and other forms of ministry are giving way to Facebook, small groups, coffeehouse evangelism, podcasts, Celebrate Recovery, and an increasing use of technology around the world. I’m not saying to stop any of these things if they’re working in your church. But if we insist on doing things “the way we’ve always done them” and refuse to adjust to the needs of our culture, we will become irrelevant. Why waste precious time and energy doing things that no longer work?

            We have limitations, but God does not. He needs no margins or boundaries. He brings innovative methods at the perfect time for each generation. We need to “rediscover the boundlessness of God” (Mrs. Charles E. Cowman).
            Paul said it well in this excerpt from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel” (emphasis added). The New Testament is rich with examples of diverse methods for ministry.
Build relationships by meeting physical needs – James 1:27
Answering questions people were already asking – Acts 17:22-23
Teaching large groups – Acts 2:14, 40-41
Through healing – Acts 3:1-16
In response to opposition and persecution – Acts 4:1-4
One on one conversation – Acts 8:26-39
Going outside comfort zones – Acts 10:1-48
Taking a stand against evil – Acts 13:6-12
            We also need to minister to those already in the Church:
Lean on the Holy Spirit for every task, no matter how menial – Acts 6:1-7
Providing further education for believers – Acts 18:24-28
Teach, rebuke, correct, and train believers – 2 Tim. 3:16
            Next week I’ll post part two of this final subject of the Margins series. As always, I’d love to hear your comments and how this is working out in your life.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Healthy Margins Series: Thoughts and Emotions, Part 2

In my last post, I introduced two biblical margins needed for our Thoughts and Emotions – Love and Focus. I’m excited by the reports I’m getting from readers of how this series is touching them. One reader shared and commented on the post at Bible study. That’s terrific news! I encourage you to share Epiphany with your friends – email the link, share it on Facebook, or print it out and read the scriptures together with your small group or family. And be sure to let them know how they can access the blog themselves. That’s what it’s all about.
            Today, we’ll explore the margins needed for our Mind and Emotions. The final two are – Motive and Unity.





            There’s a reason why we think and feel the way we do. We may not realize it, but we have motives. Why not invite God to examine our motives and adjust our attitudes before we act in destructive ways. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jer. 17:10).
            The Holy Spirit helps us learn to examine ourselves as well, asking questions like: Why do I feel so angry? Why am I worrying about this? Where is this jealousy coming from? Why am I being deceived when I know the truth?
            Here are a few powerful scriptures that delve into the motives behind sinful thoughts:
We need to be fully committed - 1 Ch 28:9
Our hearts need to be cleansed - Mt 15:19
We need to let the Bible read us - Heb 4:12
Clutter can hinder our prayers - 1 Pe 4:7
We must desire what is morally beneficial - 2 Pe 3:1
This is tough stuff, I know, but cleansing and freeing to get to the root of the problem.

            The last margin we need to make in our relationships is to pursue unity with fellow believers. So often we allow our thoughts and emotions spill over into negative comments. These cause division. Jesus’ spent himself praying for the unity of His followers, knowing it would be convincing proof of the truth of His message. If people from vastly different families, cultures, social status, opinions, and personalities can hang out together and truly love each other, the world will stop and take notice!
            We must train our mind and emotions (remember the puppy) to seek harmony with fellow believers, both those we feel a natural kinship with, as well as those we disagree with on non-essentials (like what kind of music and what color carpet and chairs). Here are just a few scriptures on unity: 1 Ch 30:12; Ac 4:32; 1 Co 1:10; & 2 Co 13:11.
            The word “emotions” is not used in most translations of the Bible. Instead, emotions are dealt with individually. The Message paraphrase has fifteen occurrences of the word. They confirm that emotions without healthy margins will take control and cause destruction in our relationship with God, others, and to us personally.
            Here’s what I found in the Bible about emotions:
Runaway emotions cause serious physical ailments - Pr 14:30 & Mt 4:23-25 and fights - Pr 30:32-33
They make us susceptible to wrong teaching - Mt 7:15-20.
Conversions to Christ based on emotion don’t last; we need depth to face difficulties.
Emotion is a natural part of worship - Mt 13:20-21 & Ac 28:14-16
The truth of the message is not dependent on an emotional presentation - 1 Co 2:3-5
Beware of so-called believers who take advantage of you with emotional appeals - 1 Ti 5:3-8.
            I hope you will take the time to read these verses on your own. They are rich with wisdom and solid food for the mature, and the maturing, in order to obtain emotions lovingly trained by the Master. He knows what’s best and gives us everything we need for life and godliness.
            The last post of this series is coming next week: “Margins in Spiritual Life and Ministry.” May God show you how to create room to breathe and grow stronger in each vital area of life.