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Lead Me On: I Love Me, I Love Me Not

What we think about ourselves matters

Former NBC anchor Brian Williams has had a rough 2015, and last month it got worse.

His viewing audience was informed earlier this year that Williams lied about certain experiences he claimed happened to him during his time reporting in war-torn Afghanistan, and after several months of suspension it looks as if he will not return to the anchor chair.

Pundits say Williams lied because he felt insecure about colleagues with more substantial war and journalism experience. Maybe so, but surely a prime spot in our culture’s coveted television news anchor chair could boost his self-talk into a feel-good-about-himself status?

Nope.

At the end of the day, that did not fuel a confidence in him that was, well, confident.

As believers, we can sigh in pious relief because we know how to turn to God for our assurance, strength, and sense of self-worth.

Except at the end of the day, that regularly does not fuel a confidence that is, well, confident. For many of us, at our core is still a resistance to confidently do what is ours to do, and, in turn, leave to God what is God’s to do.

Why? Because we pretty much doubt that he will. A lot of the time, we don’t even know what that means.

Which leaves us in a position not unlike Williams’. If I am out to sea here, I had better start crafting my own lifeboat. And that is going to require some exaggerations, because I know that what I have to offer is not going to cover me all the way.

Case in point: Abraham.

A few pages after Abraham set out to a new land and a new life with the one true God, Abraham pawned his wife off as his sister to get in good with an ungodly Pharaoh.

This was not a God-is-my-shield-my-very-great-reward kind of thing to ...

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Thu, 2 July 2015 08:00:00 CST
Can We Really Be Like Christ?

Rethinking the incarnational ministry model

Jesus is the example par excellence of obedience and self-sacrifice held up to the church, but Paul also uses his experiences, and those of his coworker Timothy and his friend Epaphroditus, as examples of selfless service. In recent years, an attempt to connect the Christ hymn with the modern church’s responsibility toward missions has given rise to a movement known as “incarnational ministry.” As with any movement, there is a range of views, but essentially this approach to evangelism, pastoral work, and cross-cultural ministry focuses on being incarnate to the group to which you are called to minister. By this is meant learning the language and customs of the new group’s culture in order to represent the gospel to them.

The Christ hymn becomes paradigmatic for missions in the following way: just as Jesus lived among to the Jewish people and learned Aramaic and their customs, so too missionaries today must live among the people they are called to serve. Alan Hirsch, a proponent of incarnational ministry explains, “The Incarnation not only qualifies God’s acts in the world, but must also qualify ours. If God's central way of reaching his world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational.”

The incarnational approach is right to critique patterns of missionary behavior that sequestered the missionary from the wider culture, sheltering their mission station with greater privileges than those to whom they taught the gospel. It is important that missionaries acculturate themselves into their new surroundings. Again, the approach rightly stresses relationships above programs. Much of the movement’s strengths come ...

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Mon, 29 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World

A Book Review

The book:

Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World

By Carolyn Custis James

Published by Zondervan

Why I Picked Up This Book:

I attended the Missio Alliance National Conference, where men and women gathered to consider what it means to be #TrulyHuman. Author Carolyn Custis James introduced the book to that audience and shared her continued hope and vision for men and women living as a blessed alliance of image bearers in the kingdom of God.

Who Should Read Malestrom:

Carolyn typically writes for a female audience, yet this book in particular is an important consideration for men and specifically for male leaders in the church.

What’s In Store for You:

When addressing the dangers of patriarchy and the issues of violence in the world, Carolyn does a cultural and social analysis. From the start, it is helpful for the reader to have a clear definition regarding maelstrom: “The malestrom is the particular ways in which the fall impacts the male of the human species—causing a man to lose himself, his identity and purpose as a man, and above all to lose sight of God’s original vision for his sons.”

In the forward, Dr. Frank James wrote, “The maelstrom produces schizophrenic males.” The author continues, “The malestrom is one of the Enemy’s single most ingenious and successful strategies.”

Perhaps the primary deception of the human race since the fall is the belief that any one “type” of human being has dominion or power “over” another human being. This incorrect narrative has played itself out in various forms of sin throughout history, including genocide, gender-based violence, slavery, human trafficking, ...

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Thu, 25 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
The Church that Cliques

There is nothing godly about groups that exclude others

My husband and I were visiting a church while out of town. Upon arrival we noticed very quickly we were not greeted with friendly faces. After making it inside, an elder introduced us and helped us find children's church then walked us into the sanctuary. During the meet and greet, my husband and I were greeted by the person in front of us, we turned to the person behind us, and then we stood for almost five minutes as we watched the entire sanctuary socialize with one another. Not one person approached us. After service we hung out in the coffee area as I filled out a visitor form. Again, no one but the same elder asked if we enjoyed service. Either no one noticed that we were a new family­—or no one cared.

We've visited other churches where people have walked across the room to greet, so we know there are some friendly churches out there. However, I've noticed more and more that people in church usually cling to their comfort of friends and surroundings instead of expecting some poor lost soul, who needs Jesus, to walk through the doors.

What's the Prerequisite?

We have no idea why we were ignored when visiting that church. I am sure there were no personal reasons. Cliques are formed either knowingly or unknowingly and tend to ignore those who are looking for a place to call home. Church cliques have a huge impact in society as these exclusive groups weaken the kingdom of God.

Cliques can be formed in many ways, separating those deemed important from the people designated as less important. The Bible, however, teaches us how we are to treat everyone who comes into our churches:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor ...

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Mon, 22 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Finding Gods Strength in Our Weakness

We do not win battles on our own

I have a long history of denial—of masking my weaknesses and soldiering on. I’m not exactly sure how or when I learned this paradigm or, more importantly, why I believed it was somehow more spiritual than other options. It worked as both a ministry model and a lifestyle until just a few years ago.

I had battled fibromyalgia for nearly a decade. In the midst of the fight, I gained back some of my strength and mobility and then made peace, for the most part, with my new limitations. Then another equally perplexing issue surfaced.

While in Virginia on a photography assignment, I woke up with unbearable pain in my left shoulder. I assumed I must have just slept on it oddly, popped some Motrin, and embarked upon my day. After 30 minutes, rather than subside, the pain increased. For days. Two months later, the shoulder specialist delivered his diagnosis: “Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder. You can expect excruciating pain for six months. It should gradually diminish, but it may take two years to regain mobility of the joint. Any questions?” I drove home stunned.

In a matter of weeks, I could not raise my arm above my waist. I had to sleep sitting up at a 45-degree angle to ease any pressure on the joint. And in truth, I no longer slept but napped because the intensity of the pain necessitated icing every two hours. I could no longer carry my cameras. I couldn’t even fix my hair. This all happened less than a month before the start of the six-month healing program my husband and I run at church. My first instinct was to back out, to simply tell my team and the participants that due to an unexpected illness, the program would be cancelled for the year.

Later that week, as ...

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Thu, 18 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Trusting God When the Answers Dont Come

Regardless of my circumstances, his care will remain the same

I was on my knees one night right before going to bed. Not knowing what to say, I considered my options. I thought perhaps I could seek comfort in worship, but I didn’t really have the serenity at the moment. Neither had I the strength to pray intensely. The reason I couldn’t do that was probably because I had already done so, many times. Yet I was at the same place.

I was at that point where you keep looking back and forth thinking that you must have missed something, given your lack of comprehension. After much exploration, a sense of hopelessness inevitably surrounded me. I was completely lost and, because of it, this time was quite different from many nights. I was there on my knees venting everything that had been going on.

So there I was exposing my “arguments” to God. Along with my vivid narration of how things were turning out, I made a huge effort to prove God was in the picture. At the same time I was trying to figure out how to trust him. But how could I when this whole riddle in my mind asked what was happening and how it seemed that God wouldn’t do anything and what in the world could God expect from me. Yes, I overthink stuff just a tiny bit.

After concluding all my ventilation, I realized that I was actually having my arguments with my situation, not with God. Finally it was time to turn to God. I took a deep breath and while exhaling, I stopped looking for answers. It was time to submit my arguments to the scrutiny of my faith.

I started reminding myself who God is, and I said, “God, the timeframe of my situation and the lack of significant change are telling me that maybe you are not here, or that you haven’t listened and because of that, I am having a ...

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Mon, 15 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Married in Ministry? Keep Your Sense of Humor

Laughing together makes your marriage sustainable

I married a solemn man. He is an intense person who takes ministry very seriously. That intensity gave him the courage and impetus to plant a church, which he pastored for 27 years. When he resigned, it was to train pastors in third-world countries, so as I said, he takes ministry seriously.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it, he married a goofball of a wife. I find humor everywhere, even in the most unlikely places. For example, when my husband went to seminary, we were impoverished and exhausted. Having two kids, working part-time, and my husband’s constant studying left us on the edge. To cope, I began finding humor everywhere.

At one point, my husband left the house at 7:00 in the morning and returned at 11:00 at night. I worked part-time and kept the kiddos mostly in line. However, when I got sick enough with the stomach flu to take to my bed for the day, the children had the time of their lives. They lived on cereal, which the 6-year-old got for the 4-year-old. But even better than that, they decided to eat it while watching TV. So he would happily pour the milk on the cereal and hand the bowl to his sister. They cheerfully marched downstairs to the TV, slopping the gooey stuff all over the carpet on the way.

When they finished eating, my son realized that someone usually did the dishes. Since I was out of commission, he decided they would do it. I heard water run and run, so I finally dragged myself out of bed to see what was happening. They had done the dishes and then decided to wash the floors and all the windows with the dirty dishwater.

I was too sick to care much, so I told them that was enough washing and they should go back to watching TV. Wasn’t I a wonderful ...

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Thu, 11 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Move Forward in Faith

Let fear motivate you to accomplish your purpose

Fear is not a component of progression. When we become intimidated by things that are ahead, we put the seed of doubt in our minds. We start to question our decisions, actions, and plans—resulting in procrastination. The ordinary type of procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. When fear comes into that equation, the time becomes even more prolonged, resulting in years of delaying or postponing. Years of procrastination can result in depression, worthlessness, anger, regret, and blaming others for our own faults and shortcomings.

It took me a long while to walk this Christian lifestyle because I was fearful. I was intimidated by the thought of letting God down by some of my own selfish actions that were not pleasing in his sight. Indeed we are to fear God alone, but this was the type of fear that made me feel as if I was unworthy to step foot on holy ground. I was hurting myself more than helping. My conscience convicted me to a point that I almost lost my mind. I was struggling with where God wanted to take me versus where I thought I wanted to go. Anytime that you straddle the fence of living right for Christ and attempting to be validated by worldly conformities, it is always a battle that only you can fight. Fighting with fear leaves an open door for a loss.

I thought that I would be judged by other Christians on behalf of the way that I talked or the way I lived. I thought that no one would want to hear what I had to say about anything in life when it comes to God because I truly felt unworthy. My self-confidence and self-esteem were at their lowest in life. I could not offer anything else to God besides what I had in me. I absolutely had nothing. I was lost, confused, and needing ...

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Mon, 8 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Alone in Marriage

How church leaders can support spiritually single women

Married, spiritually single women may be the most underserved segment of the church, primarily because many church leaders don’t understand how best to support them. As a woman whose husband doesn’t share her faith, I’ve learned that church leaders play a pivotal role in the lives of spiritually single women—for good or for bad.

Here is an honest, no-holds-barred look into the lives of a handful of married, spiritually single women, myself included, and some practical tips about how to support them.

I came to faith a year after I married, much to the dismay of my husband, who initially considered my passion for God a fluke, something that would pass. Over time, it became clear that my faith was more than a passing fad. By the time I started attending weekly Bible studies, he had had enough. He grew increasingly sullen and withdrawn, shutting me out of his life.

“You don’t need me anymore. God is enough for you,” he said at one point. Granted, if I had fallen in love with another man, he might have tried to compete. But who can compete with God?

Over time, my husband’s sullenness morphed into criticism and contempt. He expressed his unhappiness in verbal jabs and workaholism. As he pulled away from me, my emotional tank emptied and I grew depressed.

So I did what any good Christian woman would do: I spent hours in prayer and reading Scripture, and I sought out my pastor for counseling. Although I can’t recall exactly what he said, the essence of it was something like this: “Just love him and submit to his authority. Things will get better over time.”

Unfortunately, things got worse. Much worse.

My mild depression blossomed into major depression, ...

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Thu, 4 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
Missio Alliance Gathering 2015: Highlights and Reflections

A conference review

This month, the Missio Alliance hosted its second national conference at the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. With the theme Being Truly Human: Re-imaging the Resurrectional Life, approximately 600 Christian leaders, pastors, advocates, scholars, and theologians gathered to contemplate the importance of living the resurrection in our daily lives as citizens in the kingdom of God.

The following are a few reflections on my experience:

Worth the Price of Admission

· Platform: This conference was intentionally diverse—including gender, race and ethnicity, and generational representation—in its conference platform

· Engagement: The conference offered several models of presentation and engagement. Experts presented during plenary sessions, while committing to more personal interaction and conversations during the forums and workshops. Several sub-gatherings were also offered for those interested in particular focus areas.

· Missio Alliance has taken the Synergy Women’s Network under its umbrella and has embraced the “blessed alliance” message from the prophetic voice of author and theologian Carolyn Custis James. This was the first national conference since the partnership, and I am looking forward to moving ahead with those committed to the idea of men and women working together to advance the kingdom of God.

Fun Factor

· Perfect location and logistics! The historic downtown Alexandria, Virginia, area is simply beautiful at springtime, and the Maryland seafood cannot be beat! Shopping and eating with conference attendees was within walking distance for those who arrived early or didn’t mind staying up late. The conference ...

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Mon, 1 June 2015 08:00:00 CST
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