Am I a Spiritual Hoarder?

by Edie Melson

 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.                                                                                                                      I Corinthians 4:2 NASB

When I think of stewardship, I think about managing something that is owned by someone else. I don’t often think of my own life in that context, and I especially don’t think of my struggles that way.

I think of my struggles as part of the journey. And in a lot of ways that’s what they are.

Truthfully, though, they’re much more than that. The difficulties I face go beyond just being bumps in the road. The things I struggle with are circumstances and experiences that mold me into a clearer representation of Jesus. The situations I’ve been a part of, the things I’ve learned along the way, even the people I’ve come into contact with, make up a very real part of who I am.

And I’ve come to realize that every aspect of this life—along with these struggles—is a gift from God. Each one is something He’s given me to make me into the person He knows I can be. Some of these experiences have been resolved and ended up in places of joy. Others have led me through great sorrow. Each one has added something to who I am.

This process of accepting the necessity of struggle has led me to think deeper about them; to question the purpose of the difficulties I’ve faced.

What if these experiences aren’t just for me?

I’ve learned that they aren’t just for me. God hasn’t given me these experiences to have me squander and hoard them only for my benefit. I believe He expects me to share my experiences with others. He wants to use them to show others His faithfulness, and allow them to learn difficult lessons through my experiences.

Paul talks about this in his second letter to the Corinthians. He’d seen wonderful success in his ministry: many souls won to Christ, numerous local churches planted, and deep friendships formed. He’d also been through some terrible times: imprisonment, beaten and whipped numerous times, stoned, and shipwrecked. After listing the difficulties, he summarized: “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30 NASB).

What would be the benefit of sharing those struggles with others? Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). Paul shared God’s faithfulness in each of his experiences to help others in their own relationship with Him.

So instead of hoarding my struggles, I’m going to share them. I’m going to trust that God has a bigger purpose than just me. I’m going to quit hiding away my experiences, letting them gather dust in the dim corners of my memory. From this moment forward, I’m throwing open the doors and inviting those around me see the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What past experiences have you shared with others? What were you hoping they would learn?

Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash

In Tune with Each Other

by Afton Rorvik

Some days my head spins with details on my to-do lists and my heart feels as if it could literally crack under the weight of concerns for people I love.

On these days I crawl into my favorite chair and talk to God about it all and beg Him for perspective and strength. If only I could stay in this chair all day, wrapping God’s love around me like a warm blanket. But life calls: responsibilities, decisions, opportunities, people.

And, truthfully, it is the people part of life that so often disrupts my sense of peace and sends me back to my chair. Because I care about people, I hear and see their pain. I want to listen. I want to help.

Most days.

Other days I just want to block it all out—no emails, no texts, no phone calls, no conversations. Just Jesus and me. Peace! Quiet! Solitude!

Life with people is messy. And joy-filled. Challenging. And life-giving.

The other day, while sitting in my perspective-setting chair, I read this in Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.” (MSG)

I have read this verse many times in the NIV but reading it in a different version brought a new perspective. I saw, as I had never seen before, the connection between the peace of Christ and the ability to keep in tune with each other.

So many times I have hugged the peace of Christ to myself in order to feel better. I have NOT regarded the peace of Christ as something that helps me reach out, something to help me live life with people. And, when faced with a challenging situation, I have thought to myself over and over, I can do this. I will just roll up my sleeves and do this.

This verse reminds me that the peace of Christ should become my fuel for reaching toward people and working to develop relationships with them, something that resembles a complicated, beautiful song. It also reminds me that a song sounds richer and stronger with multiple voices. Living for Jesus is not a solo act.

Just like any driver of a traditional car, I must refuel frequently—fill up my tank with the peace of Christ. I can do that in my chair, yes. But then I must push myself to stand up and leave that chair and go connect with messy, encouraging, hurting, thoughtful people.

Many congregations as part of their weekly service encourage members to turn to someone around them and extend a handshake and a greeting: “The peace of Christ be with you.” Congregants often respond: “And also with you.”

What a beautiful sound as a building buzzes with the words, “The peace of Christ.” And what a clear, visual reminder that the peace of Christ is meant to be shared, not hugged to ourselves in a comfortable chair in a serene living room.

Life with people. Life fueled by the peace of Christ.

“. . .so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18 NASB

afton rorvik2About the author: Afton Rorvik loves shaping words, reading books, listening to music, drinking coffee with friends, traveling, and savoring the words in her favorite book—the Bible. In 2014 Afton published Storm Sisters (Worthy), a story-filled book about learning to stick around when storms hit a friend’s life. You can connect with Afton on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Join the conversation: How has God’s peace affected your relationships?

 

 

Designed for Community

by Julie Coleman

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

It might not be a great idea in June, but I love a warm fire on a cold winter’s night. My husband Steve is an excellent fire-builder. He often makes a nice crackling fire for me when we relax in the evenings or entertain guests during the cold winter months. But inevitably, when Steve leaves the room for more than a few minutes, his roaring blaze begins to sputter and die. It’s not for lack of effort on my part; I add new logs and juggle what is already burning to the best of my ability. But in the end, I prove inadequate for the job.

I finally asked Steve: “What am I doing wrong?”

He informed me I was mistaken about the logistics of a fire. I thought that the logs should be separated, to allow a free flow of oxygen. Big mistake. To keep a fire going, the logs must remain in close proximity to each other. When the pieces are separated, the fire will quickly die out.

What I learned that night became a metaphor for another kind of struggle I was having. I had been deeply offended by someone at our church. And rather than continuing to struggle with the blinding anger I was feeling, in my heart, I yearned to walk away from the community.

The problem is we are not created to go it alone. There is a reason the writer of Hebrews admonished his readers to “not give up meeting together…” Simply put, we need each other.

Even the Son of God felt a need for fellowship. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He begged His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

We are created for community. This is most evident in the Spirit’s distribution of spiritual gifts. We have received differing abilities, which, when combined, make us a complete and effective entity. Another benefit of community is in the potential perspective and wisdom available from those traveling the same road. Spending time worshipping and praying together flares our spiritual fire as well. Fellowship is as vital to spiritual health as food is to our physical bodies.

Seeing those logs burn brightly together gave me resolve to work out my differences with that offending person. We are commissioned to be lights in the darkness. That light will be exponentially brighter when we choose to join forces with like minds. Though our fellowship may be imperfect, and even at times undesirable, in the end as we persevere in our relationships and work through our differences, the reward will be great. We are meant for community.

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What benefits have you experienced through the fellowship of fellow believers?

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Sapphire Friends

by Sheri Schofield

She was quiet and shy. Her two sons, ages seven and eleven, sat in the pew, glued to their iPhones. I introduced myself and said, “I’m teaching a children’s church class for ages seven to ten. Would your younger son be interested?”

The son looked up briefly and shrugged. “I might come,” he said, and went right back to his game. He never came. Our youth pastor later explained that the boys probably avoided connecting with people because of constantly moving to get away from their abusive father. A few weeks later, I read in the newspaper that the father had violated a restraining order and had been arrested. The mother and her sons disappeared. They wanted to be safe.

Sometimes Christians have similar fears. Having been hurt or offended before, they keep to the fringes of the church, ready to run at the first hint of anything unpleasant.

We know that everyone has their failings, so there can be no perfect relationship. But is it really better to isolate oneself to keep peace of mind? Or is it worth developing strong, Christian friendships and risk possible hurt?

Here in Montana, we have locations where sapphires can be dug by hand. Many people visit these locations to hunt for the beautiful blue gems. They dig up a shovelful of dirt, sift it carefully, then toss it aside if they find no sapphires. Finding a jewel is always exciting! The finder takes the gem to be cut, has it set into jewelry, and treasures it.

At church, we need to make the effort to know and to be known. If we do not, we are not functioning as God designed us to function. He’s gifted us for the purpose of building up others. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NASB). We are urged not to forsake assembling together, but to encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

We were designed for community. Without it, we could very well doom ourselves to emotional and spiritual poverty.

When we do find a sapphire-friend, we rejoice! Our lives are richer for the relationship. We get to mutually share our joys and sorrows and help each other to be strong in Jesus.

We have something worth sharing with others. Remember the man Jesus delivered from demons in Gerasenes? He wanted to follow Jesus! He wanted to get out of town! But Jesus told him to stay there to tell others what great things God had done for him (Mark 5:2-20). Let’s reach out and share our own unique stories of God-moments with each other. Together we will be built up in the love of Christ and find ways to tune our lives to His.  It’s worth the risk.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. . .”  Hebrews 10:24, 25 NIV

 sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What benefits have you enjoyed by participating in Church life or fellowship?