The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

The first thing I must say about this book is – It should be mandatory reading prior to getting married.  That is right, I felt this book would be a great tool in marriage – even those of us already married can ascertain valuable insights and help from this book.

 

Art Ranier has broken down a financially successful marriage into 12 chapters, with an additional 4 chapters to highlight issues, as he calls them marriage dividers, that can hinder your success as a couple.

Don’t get me wrong this book is NOT a God wants you to be rich heresy, but rather a step by step plan to live biblically with your finances.

 

One of my favorite parts of the book are the challenges at the end of each chapter for couples to do together.

 

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  A must read

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-marriage-challenge-P005805333

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Like a Shepherd Lead Us

When I wrote a previous post, talking about leaders as shepherds, I was reminded of this hymn.  The writer is unknown, but it first appeared in a children’s hymnal compiled by Dorothy Thrump  in 1832;  turns out adults like it, too.  The words are clearly inspired by the 23rd Psalm, and Christ’s words in the 10th chapter of John:  “I am the good shepherd.”

An interesting story about  how this hymn saved a life was reported by Ira Stankey,, a musician who worked closely with Dwight Moody.  Follow the link below if you would like to read it:

https://www.sermonwriter.com/hymn-stories/savior-like-shepherd-lead-us/

Then enjoy this one, as I do!

 

MBWA?

Our life is full of acronyms and I’m going to teach you  a new one. We learned this from the recent CD that the Fanning the Flame team reviewed together.   MBWA = Ministry By Walking Around.  What does this mean?  Well, leaders must be visible and accessible.  You’ve heard of managers having an “open door policy”?  This takes it a step further.  Leaders must go out and mingle with their followers;  they must hear what they have to say;  they must know what’s going on in their lives;  they must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  This develops relationships and trust.  It helps the leader accurately access where his followers are now and how to guide them to the place he wants them to be.

Maybe that’s why Jesus is sometimes called our shepherd.  A shepherd lives with the sheep:  he knows them and they know him.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Sheep trust their shepherd — they are willing to go where he leads because they have learned that he has their best interests at heart.

In our church, I notice my husband, the Pastor, doing some of this MBWA.  Every Sunday he is in the sanctuary early to meet people as they come in.  He takes time to ask them how things are going, and take prayer requests for the service.  Even if he is not working at a particular congregational event, he tries to spend some time just being there.  He often chats with people when they stop by the church during the week to do some chore or drop something off.  I have also learned the value of just taking an interest in the hobbies or interests of others.  It goes a long way toward building friendships.

Woody Allen once said, 80% of success is just showing up.  There’s some truth in that.  If you’re in a leadership position, do you show up?  It’s a good question to ponder and pray about.

 

What Are Those Church Leaders Doing?

I remember years ago, a friend at our church told me that as a child, he had no idea that so many chores that went into keeping the church in good condition.  He just showed up on Sundays and found everything working and in the right place, just as it should be.  Then he grew up and became the Property Chairman — what a shock to learn that someone (and usually more than one someone) was constantly working to be sure that happened.  So, if you’re a new Christian, or even the member of a large church, you may not be aware of exactly what those church leaders are doing every month or week to make your experience of worship, fellowship and Christian education a good one.

Here are some of the things different members of our Church Council do:  they attend monthly meetings;  they manage the church’s money — that means making deposits, record keeping and preparing a budget;  if something breaks down, they fix it or hire someone who can;  they may have to get estimates for needed work;  they do routine maintenance around the church;  they get the snow shoveled;  they schedule events;  they keep minutes of every meeting;  and more.

The Board of Elders help the Pastor with visiting and staying in touch with those who are ill or shut in;  they contact inactive members;  they help with planning worship services;  they pray for the whole congregation.  They make sure that worship continues when the Pastor is ill or on vacation

Then there are Sunday School teachers who plan lessons and review educational materials;  women’s leaders who provide food for fellowship luncheons;  the list could go on and on.

All of these people are volunteers.  They do these things for Jesus and for others. They spend their time, and often money, to keep the church running smoothly. They deserve our gratitude and appreciation, but often their efforts are ignored, or worse yet, criticized.

There are many easy ways to encourage our church leaders.  I still remember the person who thanked me for serving on the church council!  That’s all it takes to make someone’s day.  Send a note, make a call, ask what you can do to help your church  or just show up.  Tell them you pray for them every day, and then do it!  You don’t have to be a leader to help your leaders.  Your efforts will be appreciated more than you know.

So You Need a Theophany?

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21

In the time of Moses, God led his people in a very visible way. There was the burning bush, the storm on Mt. Sinai, and the pillars of cloud and fire. The big theological word for this is theophany.  Sometimes we wish God would act in the same way today.  Wouldn’t it be easier if we could actually see God?  If we could all just get in our cars and drive off in a convoy with God leading the way?  Wouldn’t we be less likely to go astray?  Surely we’d get things right if God would just make himself plain.

The thing is, He has.  For one thing, we have His word, the Bible.  It has plenty of instructions the ancient Israelites had to do without.  We also have the example of Jesus.  Jesus was the ultimate theophany, God made man.  The Israelites didn’t have Him either;  they had Moses, a prophet, but just a man who spoke with God, not God Himself.  So what is our excuse?

Well, it’s true that we’re only human, filled with original sin.  The best of us can misunderstand, be tempted, or lose our way.  However, in the long run, we don’t have an excuse.  Most of the time we know we’re not following our leader, because we simply chose to go our own way. We’re no different than Adam and Eve who decided it would be okay to eat that fruit because it looked desirable.  We’re no different than the people in the days of the Judges who “did what was right in their own eyes.”

So what should we do if we’re really intent on following God?  Read His word — He gave it to us for a reason.  Take it as it stands.  Don’t try to weasel out of what God has made clear.  Imitate Christ.  The Bible says He was tempted, just as we are, but did not sin.  Pray.  Lay your decisions at God’s feet.  Communicate your fears, frustrations and hopes.  God is the leader who won’t let you down;  but you have to follow.

 

 

Who Me?

Maybe you don’t think you’re not good enough to lead.  You have sins in your past (not to mention present);  you don’t have the right skill set;  you aren’t educated enough and so on.  If you feel this way, take a closer look at some of the great leaders of the Bible.

Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!

I’m not sure where this quote originated, but it hits the nail on the head.  Those Biblical heroes we admire had plenty of problems and flaws.  They weren’t perfect.  They didn’t get it right the first time. They often messed up more than once. They did have one big thing in common:  they loved God and they followed Him.  They allowed Him to take their lives, warts and all, and mold them into vessels He could use.  If you have that quality, you, too can be used by God to lead somebody.  Humility and dependence upon God are key qualities of Christian leadership.

I am reminded of a hymn written by Monsenor Cesareo Gabarin,  who was a  well known composer of Spanish liturgical music.  It’s called “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore” and expresses Gabrains’ admiration for the humble Christians he encountered during his ministry.  Here it is.  I think you’ll love it like I do:

Servant Leadership

“So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men.” Genesis 24:59

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and was buried under the oak below Bethel.  So it was named Allon Bacuth (oak of weeping).”  Genesis 35:8

When I was a pilgrim on my first Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, I was quite excited to be assigned to sit at the table of Deborah.  After all, everyone has heard of Deborah, right?  Deborah, the warrior, Deborah, the woman who was famous as a leader in a patriarchal society.  What a role model!  Who wouldn’t be honored to sit at her table?

However, my bubble was burst when I read the name card on the center of our table more closely.  I discovered that I was not sitting at the table of Deborah the judge–I was sitting at the table of Deborah, the nursemaid.  You probably don’t even know who she is — I didn’t.  She is mentioned only twice in the Bible, and only once by name.  Frankly, I was disappointed.  I resolved that secretly, I would continue to think of my table as the table of Deborah the judge.

In the years since my weekend, I’ve had time to rethink that position.  I’ve read the two references to Deborah and what comes between them.  Do you realize that Deborah served Rebekah and her family for over eighty years?  She must have been greatly loved and greatly mourned for her death to be noted at all.  She was buried with honor under a venerable oak, symbol of long life.

When I think about it, I realize that as a leader, I’m a lot more like Deborah the nursemaid than Deborah the judge–in fact most Christians are.  We may not be famous, but we can be faithful servants and examples to those around us.