The Day Colby Told Our Church to Stop Tithing

“What do you think would happen if I told our church to stop tithing?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked over at Colby who was preparing for Sunday’s message at the kitchen table.

“Well, I’m not sure…” I responded, feeling both a level of pride in my scholarly pastor-husband who was parsing Old Testament Law…and a fear that I would soon need to start applying for a part-time job.

“I mean, tithing was an Old Testament command given to ISRAEL as a part of the OLD covenant.  There is just no scriptural basis for tithing anymore,” Colby continued.

Colby recently preached this sermon about tithing and I thought it was so brilliant that it needed to be shared.   In my experience, the Old Testament has been misunderstood and therefore not taught well.

The audio of the sermon can be found HERE as well and the notes are below if you like a visual (my comments are in orange).  Grab a pile of laundry to fold and listen to some great teaching that will not only help you better understand the stipulations of the Old Covenant, but also give you better motivations for giving than the law.

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Sermon Notes: Colby Garman (1-18-15)

I want you to have absolute clarity when it comes to what the Bible teaches about financial giving and the church.

  1. Tithing and Giving are two very different things. (Why have I been a Christian for roughly thirty years and never heard this?)

Deuteronomy 14:[22] “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. [23] And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. [24] And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, [25] then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses [26] and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. [27] And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

[28] “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. [29] And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

 

(Deuteronomy 14:22-29 ESV)

a.Tithing was the practice and command of designating 10%(tithe means tenth) of the yield of the land/livestock to be set aside for the Levite Priests, the celebration of certain religious festivals, and care of the needy.

b.Tithing was an Old Testament command given to Israel in association with the Old Covenant. It was a way in which they acknowledged God’s ownership of the land and provided for the Levites who served God as priests.

 

  1. Tithing is not what New Testament Christians do when they give to a church or other charity even if they give ten percent. Tithing was a commanded exaction under Old Testament Law. There is no such command in the New Testament in this regard.
    1. The implications are that it is not disobedient to give less than 10% of your income. If you have heard someone say, to give less than 10% is stealing from God, you should know that they are wrong. (This is so beautifully blunt. I just love my husband.)
    2. It is also means that generous giving for a Christian in different times and places may exceed 10% significantly. It is not a box to be checked. (I think we like boxes to check…I do at least.)

 

Illustration: John Wesley as told by John Piper

 Take John Wesley for example. He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

When he died in 1791 at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote,

I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.

In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. (Quotes from Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 1994, nos. 9–10, pp. 23–24.)

I’ll finish with what Piper said on the subject: –

“I want us to value our riches in Christ, Freedom from Sin, Our Gospel so highly that we would LOVE to give. Possibly even outgive those who were under the law. Brothers and Sisters, why would we want to do less. Everything is greater in the New Covenant.”

 

  1. What sort of things did churches collect money for in the New Testament?
    1. Collections that supported the widows and the poor. Acts 2:44-45; Acts 6
    2. Collections that helped others continue in the mission of spreading the gospel. Philippians 4:10-20
    3. Collections that supported local gospel ministers. 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:14
    4. Collections that provided for other Christians who were suffering. 2 Corinthians 8-9

 

10 Motivations for Giving that are Better than the Law:

Let your giving be motivated by:

  1. The example of generosity by those who have less. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
    1. Maybe you, like me have at some time been struck by the generosity of someone who is less financially secure than you. It is worth bearing in mind brothers and sisters that we live in one of the wealthiest times and places in history. In addition we live in one of the wealthiest counties in our very nation. That means two things. First, We should read our names in all the Biblical warnings on the dangers of wealth to numb us to spiritual things.
    2. Second, we should consider with great carefulness how we contribute resources to the work of the gospel.

 

  1. The love of Christ in the gospel. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9
    1. The most important point made in this passage furnishes our second motivation for generous giving. Our Salvation itself was accomplished by a great exchange of wealth in which Christ who possessed all of the riches of heaven became poor. And why did Christ who had rightful claim to enjoy these riches become poor. So that we through his poverty might become rich.
    2. I love what Tim Keller said in one of his sermons on giving. Here is what Paul wants us to understand. Tim Keller – Don’t sit down with a calculator to give your money away sit down with a cross.

 

  1. The faithfulness of those who are administering the funds. 2 Corinthians 8:19-21
    1. There is a third motivation found in this passage. It is the faithfulness of those administering the funds. Here we have a motivation for being involved in and giving to a church where you are committed and have confidence in the gospel ministry being done together.
    2. There are many charities or missions that I could recommend to you that do good work. But there there is greater confidence when you have the ability to assess for yourself the faithfulness of those administering the funds. One reason I would direct you to give the greatest portion of your gospel giving through a local church is that you should have a greater confidence in those who are administering the funds.
  • Paul goes to great lengths in this passage to show how they will honorably take care of the collection. He expects them to give only because of their confidence in those who are watching over the whole matter. This is also one of the reasons we function the way we do here at Pillar. The 5 men who serve the church as Elders and recommend financial decisions to the congregation can be examined by you yourselves. You can observe our manner of life and our financial activities here at Pillar Church are open to all. If you ever have questions or a desire to know more you can. I would hope that this would motivate you to great confidence through our faithfulness to the Lord.

 

  1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping. 2 Corinthians 9:6
    1. For the farmer who rightly understands the multitude of conditions that are outside of his control that must go well for him to have a success. Sowing is an act of faith.
    2. Sowing a little and keeping back a great deal just in case will mean reaping quite a bit less as well.
  • Spiritually this remains true. Sowing to eternal things puts great faith in God’s ability to reward us in the reaping. There is nothing wrong with being motivated in this manner. If you sow to your own abilities you will reap your own rewards. Those who sow to Spiritual/Eternal things put their faith in God’s power and love and stand to reap fruit of their faith.
  1. Here we do not have some formula for getting yourself rich at the Lord’s hands. That is still all about getting ourselves rich. There is an old story about a boy and a king. The King had given the boy an allotment of land to tend…

 

  1. The Joy of God in cheerful giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7

 

Charles Spurgeon “But you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the Gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality! There is no law to tell me what I should give my father on his birthday. There is no rule laid down in any law book to decide what present a husband should give to his wife, nor what token of affection we should bestow upon others whom we love. No, the gift must be a free one, or it has lost all its sweetness.”

 

  1. The ability of God to provide for your needs. 2 Corinthians 9:8
    1. Paul adds to our motivation for generous giving by remind us that God is our security and the one who has the greatest ability to provide for our needs.
    2. When out of sincere motivation we give generously to the work of the gospel, we are placing our faith in the Lord’s future provision.

 

  1. The promise of God to increase your seed to sow. 2 Corinthians 9:11
    1. We see this principle in the parable of the talents and other parables that Jesus told. God provides greater levels of responsibility as we increase in faithfulness.
    2. Paul uses that to say here that one reason we are compelled to give generously with our small portion is that God uses it to prepare us for the time at which he will entrust us with a greater portion to administer.
  • We practice this as a church corporately and teach it regularly to our church planters. There is not some great wealthy time later when we should begin giving money to work that is about the extension of the mission and not just our own work at the present. We give to missions and church planting from the beginning even when it means going without things ourselves.
  1. We do this knowing that it is faithful to the Lord and also prepares us with the necessary mindset in the days when God entrusts us with greater resources. If God is looking for a Christian to entrust with greater resources, would an examination of your giving to the gospel cause Him to entrust you with more.

 

  1. The needs of the saints. 2 Corinthians 9:12
    1. Our giving to gospel work helps to provide for the needs of the saints. Increased giving will lead to a greater preparedness to do so. There are multiple additional organizations that I could point you to that do this as well. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Baptist Global Response, an the IMB all do a great deal of work to care for the needs of Christians and communities around the world. Christians are like family to us. IF you have little motivation for giving I would encourage you to become more directly involved with other Christians around the world.
    2. Here is what personal involvement does. Over the past two years we have been helping Gunnar transition his time to establishing a church in Reykjavik Iceland. He has taken steps of faith and it has been financially difficult for them at times. I remember one day when we were Skyping they were discouraged by the difficulty. As Clint and I left conversations like that we felt more motivated than ever to help connect people to them to give. Clint even took a trip with several other pastors just to expose them to the work in Iceland and urge them to consider helping provide for Gunnar to lead it.
  • Involvement leads to generosity.

 

  1. The harvest of thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:12
    1. I cannot think of a better motivation than the one found here in verse twelve. Can the use of my money and resources lead to a greater amount of thanksgiving to God.
    2. When we were in South Asia with Robert this past fall, I was struck by the financial need for the ministry. Robert told us about how powerfully the gospel was advancing in different regions they had been working. Their trainings were making an impact and people were being used by God to bring others to faith.
  • The major limit they had for doing a greater number of trainings, was not time. It was money. They had more opportunities than they had money available.
  1. Here was a ministry where the money provided for training and the training was resulting in people coming to faith in Christ and an increase of people praising and giving thanks to God. Evangelism increases worship. When we give our giving produces thanksgiving to God in a multitude of ways.

 

  1. The love and prayers of those who benefit from your giving. 2 Corinthians 9:14
    1. The tenth and final motivation is the prayers of those who are blessed by our support and giving. I have sat with people in different places in the world and heard them pray for our churches and give thanks to God for them. I have heard them fervently ask God to bless our work and help us remain strong and persevere. I have heard them pray for me and other individuals who have given and often wondered how God has used those prayers to continually sustain our work. When we give we also receive. We receive a harvest of prayers for our lives and our work. Do not underestimate the power of these thankful prayers. We may have money at times but our brothers and sister pray with a fervency that makes us look poor.

New Content Coming!

I’ve been trying to spend more time on my blog, tweaking things, adding more content, ect.  Over the next couple of days, I’ll be adding to the “Laughs” section and posting cute things my kids have said over the years. I really am still trying to learn how this blog works, so bear with me as I learn!

Happy Reading!

“In an Orchard Stands a Tree”

“This is my dream come true,” Haley comments slowly and with awe. We are all looking out the window of our van at snowdrifts that tower over us like giants. The Northeast apparently hasn’t recovered from the winter storms and we find ourselves in a scene straight out of “Frozen.”

A few minutes later, we pull up the driveway to my grandparent’s home. Only, for the first time in my life, my grandpa won’t be there.

Even though it’s below freezing, the kids beg to go outside and play and I follow them out to the backyard.

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I love my grandparent’s backyard. I think it’s the most beautiful thing in all of Marlborough, Connecticut. My Grandpa, after building a home for his family with his bare hands, planted fruit trees and cultivated them until he had a full-out orchard.

My childhood glows with memories of this orchard. We played, we climbed, we ate, we laughed, we enjoyed the fruit of his labor. Literally.

At the funeral, many stories are told of my grandpa’s life. The main themes are hard work, sacrifice, endurance, and patience. The best grandpa quote shared is, “Time will still pass whether or not you plant a tree.” This generation that my grandfather was a piece of, this generation that is slowly leaving us, radiates with lessons I must learn.

I pause so I can learn them well.

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On the drive home Colby and I talk about this and try to write a book about it together.

“In an orchard stands a tree, surrounded by the fruit of many seasons,” he begins.

I begin to choke up. We never finish it.

The fruit has been born of diligence, perseverance, and love. The fruit…this family…we all are who we are and where we are today because of how sacrificially Grandpa provided for his family. I am grateful and forever indebted to this tree. I am grateful to have called him my Grandpa.

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Last Visit

Before nap time today, I read “Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel” to my small kids. If you’ve never heard of this classic, it’s about a steam shovel that has grown old and begins to feel useless in a world that is moving and changing. On the last page, I couldn’t even read I was so choked up. Besides the fact that I’m highly emotional today, the story struck a chord with me because of our recent trip to see my grandparents in Connecticut.

 

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My grandpa is 92 and my grandma isn’t too far behind. We drove there knowing that it would be an emotional trip as my grandpa is receiving 24 hour hospice care. Grandpa Bob was doing better than I expected, but was only able to speak one or two sentences before getting winded. He was asleep in his chair for most of our visit, but we sat in the same room, the kids playing at his feet, oblivious of the ninety-two years of life that his withering body represented.

One time when Grandpa woke up, he began to recite the following poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

He could only get through the first paragraph before needing to close his eyes and rest his voice. We looked up the rest of the poem and read it aloud for him. He began to shake his head in agreement when we got to the last paragraph,

Toiling,–rejoicing,–sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

My grandpa was a hard working World War II vet and could resonate with the Village Blacksmith who the poem was about.  Grandpa’s eyes had a dim light that was fading still and looking into his eyes was like watching a beautiful sunset. I told him thank you as many times as I could.  It was a really special visit.

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2014 Year in Review

Here we are at the end of another year! I guess we all KNOW that time passes quickly, but it’s mind boggling to actually experience it.  Kind of like the difference between STUDYING space travel and actually DOING it.  Not that I can verify this…Let’s move on…

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Penelope Raine is now two.  The terrible twos (which began somewhere around 15 months) don’t seem to be AS terrible anymore and she is charming us with her new language skills and baby blues.  Her favorite words to say are “lolly-poo-pa” (lollypop) and “SHELF!” (self…as in, “let me do it MYSELF, will ya?!”).  Penelope loves running across our couch, baby dolls, jumping on the trampoline, painting, riding her trike, and saying the pledge of allegiance.

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We recently found our little P-Nella BUCK STARK NAKED in her crib at night, which the pediatrician tells us is a sign of potty-training readiness…  Speaking of potty training

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Gracie Kane is FOUR and explodes with joy.  She is going to a class once a week called “Classical Conversations” and consistently wakes me up early asking if it’s Thursday yet. She is blowing us away as she memorizes the states and capitals and history sentences.  I love learning along side her and we have fun “playing school” at home every day.  She recently shared with me her career aspirations (can’t decide between a doctor or a pilot), but after watching some men cut trees down in our neighborhood she now has her sights set on becoming a “TREE CUTTER.”

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Gracie had a procedure this fall patching up a hole in her heart and we’re so thankful that her oxygen levels are now at 97%.  She did so great during the whole thing although later she asked me if the procedure was because she can’t/won’t poop in the potty.  Ah yes, potty training.  We began potty training August 10th of 2013, which means we’ve been potty training for roughly 498 days…but sheesh….who’s counting?!  Gracie tells us that she WILL poop on the potty tomorrow, though, so (whew!), are we ever relieved and looking forward to THAT.  (insert eye roll here).

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Darcy Elaine is eight which means she’s not too old for snuggling. Darcy came home from school last week and told me she wants to spend the rest of her life studying computer science and writing computer code.  For this, I am thankful for our local public schools…

Darc ran her first 5K this fall and won her age category!  Never mind that she was the only participant in her age category…we couldn’t be prouder of our little runner.

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Darcy continues to love the outdoors, science experiments, math worksheets, and has recently fallen in love with reading chapter books.  She loves reading to her baby sister and playing school with Gracie.  She is very thoughtful and gets a lot of joy doing random acts of kindness for others.

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Haley Jane is TEN and officially a teeny-bopper.  We are working on showering with more consistency, using deodorant regularly and flossing. Yesterday I found Haley sitting on the couch with my computer memorizing PI.  She had 3.141592653597932384 down and was working on the next set. I’m not sure how I birthed mathematicians and scientists, but we’re rolling with it.

BAHAMAS, January 2014

BAHAMAS, January 2014

Haley is a huge help with her little sisters and they adore her so much!  She stays busy writing songs with her best friends and band, Three-In-One (You’ve got to check out their website here…so precious!),  playing with beanie boos, singing in the Honors Chorus and drawing on any piece of parchment she can find. Haley took tennis lessons and soccer lessons and even a drama camp along with Darcy this year. She is currently our most level-headed child. :)

 

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Colby continues to stay busy pastoring Pillar Church and training church planters to send out.  He does a good job balancing all his responsibilities and loving all his girls well.  He coached Darcy’s soccer team (Haley tagged along to practices) and offered tennis lessons to the kids of Pillar Church this fall.  In his free time, he managed to squeeze in a missions trip to Nepal. Colby ran his first marathon this year and did amazing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been running my own kind of marathon as I stay at home with the little ones. I had the chance to lead a missions trip to Iceland this year, attend a writer’s conference, attend a Global Think Tank, and grow in joy and contentment as a mom and wife.

After experiencing hip pain for awhile, I eventually went to the doctor and was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and a torn labrum. This means that I can no longer run and instead walk laps around the house or do low-impact aerobic you-tube videos for my cardio workouts.  I think I’m adjusting to my new life quite well…

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All in all, the Garmans are thankful that there is hope in Jesus beyond this life.  We’ve been reminded of the brevity of this life this year as we lost our precious friend Noel and three other friends from church.

We hope you choose to close 2014 with grateful hearts to the God who sustains you.

God bless!

The Garman Six

(Better luck getting a complete family photo next year)

 

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What Does it EVEN MEAN That God Protects Us?

This morning my eight year old and I found a quiet moment to read a devotional together.

“The Lord is our Shepherd,” the page read, “Always watching over us and protecting us.”

I began to read the line and then purposefully skipped over the words “and protecting us.”

I wasn’t exactly sure why I skipped it, and if I had two bodies, ONE of me would have put her hands on her hips and turned her head to look at the other me in confusion. I kissed Darcy on her forehead and she ran out the door to the bus stop. I sat in silence for a couple of minutes, unsure of things.

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The truth was I had become cynical when reading verses like, “The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life,” (Psalms 121:7).

Maybe it was the violent murder of my friend earlier this year.

Maybe it was my new habit of watching the nightly news.

Maybe it was the reminder of the Sandy Hook Massacre in my newsfeed.

Maybe it was the reality of life under this sun.

If it’s true that God protects us, what could that possibly mean? I actually typed the words into the google search engine.  I took advantage of the silence and spent the next few minutes of the morning looking for answers.

Through Scripture and this old article from Christianity Today, my understanding of protection became clearer.

“The fact is, God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical health. Our bodies are going to die. Our souls are going to live forever. And God’s ability to protect our souls from eternal judgment and eternal death is more significant than his ability to protect our bodies from disease or death.”

What does it mean that God protects us?  Well, it can’t possibly mean that he shields us from physical maladies, traffic accidents, or even the loss of a loved one.  It can’t because we experience all those things, yet His Word is true.  His protection must scan something wider.

I’m thankful for the whole of God’s Word that informs us how to think.  Unclear passages (Like Psalms 91 and Psalms 121) should always be measured by clearer passages in Scripture. This is a helpful principle for understanding Scripture instead of becoming cynical about it.

 

The Imperfect Pastor

Today I called my friend who just happens to be a pastor’s wife.

“How are ya?” I ask casually.

“Not good,” she says, not trying to pretend in the least.

My ears perk up and I can feel myself getting excited by her rawness.

“Okay, so what’s going on?” I dig a little until I run into some roots.

“We’re just having trouble this week… I don’t feel very loved by him…”

After several minutes of conversation, we come to the source of their primary struggle: she was frustrated that her husband didn’t respond perfectly to her meager attempts of apologizing. “It’s just that…he’s a pastor. He shouldn’t treat me this way,” she says.

 Wow…How had she found and read my journal entry from last month? I am standing at the window now, wiping dust off the sill as I think out loud.

“Yeah, he’s a pastor….but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect,” I say with such ease that I’m kind of surprised. The moment the words leave my mouth, I put my hands on my hips at God who I picture getting a good laugh at my advice.

Clearly my heart is thristy for these words first and foremost.

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I continue to work out my thoughts out loud. “I mean, in one sense, you’re right. He’s a pastor, therefore, he’s held to a higher standard…” I look up at the sky as I talk, an epiphany beginning to occur in my heart and mind. “He IS expected to be self-controlled, sober minded and above reproach. The qualifications of an elder are kind of steep. But, that’s why he needs you. He needs your love and your support because he DOES have more pressure on him.”

Long after we hung up the phone, I continued chewing on the insights that had left my mouth. Our husbands have been called to do something unique and supernatural.

Yes, we ALL are called to live supernatural lives that can only be accomplished through dependence on the Holy Spirit, but at the same time we have to recognize the unique pressures of our husband’s roles. There is a burden that they are bearing up under constantly, and it’s easy to be resentful about that instead of helpful.  

We get to see the pastor of the church when he’s worn out, frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged and short tempered. Everyone else sees him when he’s slightly shinier. Instead of being critical of that, we need to be understanding. James 3:2 says, “For we ALL stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

The temptation is to hold over our husband’s head harsh reminders of their shortcomings. First, we should recognize that temptation. Second, we must confront ourselves first and foremost, remembering that “We ALL stumble in many ways.”  

 Pretty sure that ‘all’ includes US.

 

“I Have a Dream…”

Just yesterday I gathered my children around me to share how God had been working in my heart.

“I have a dream…” I began. I didn’t even get to my fifth word and my eight-year-old barged in, sharing her dream from the previous night. And then my four-year-old. And then my two-year-old.

After somehow managing to get back control, I showed them the map titled “Global Status of Evangelical Christianity” that I have been watching evolve for the past decade.

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After explaining what each color meant, I was on to my next activity. “Do you know what a refugee is?”

Their blue eyes were big as I defined this new term and explained that many refugees were coming to America. From where? was their next question. It was a perfect lead-in. I got out a chart I had recently been introduced to through the IMB.

2012

Refugee U.S. Arrivals by Country of Nationality

Bhutan 15,070

Burma 14,160

Iraq 12,163

Somalia 4,911

Cuba 1,948

Congo, Democratic Republic 1,863

Iran 1,758

Eritrea 1,346

Sudan 1,077

Ethiopia 620

All other countries, including

Unknown 3,263

Total 58,179

 

I was hoping they were connecting the dots, but just in case they weren’t, I went on to explain. “Where are most of the refugees coming from?” I asked. “Which region of the world?” They are coming from the RED PART of the map. The part of the world that is mostly unreached and unengaged with the gospel.

“…So, maybe they’ll hear the gospel in America…” My eight-year-old was starting to get it. “…and go back and share it in THEIR countries…” The lightbulb was going on for Darcy and I had a front row seat to watch.

“Yes, Darcy! Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m talking about!”

“Not only are there refugees in our county, but there are also many internationals….people who weren’t born here. So, my dream…My dream is that we could offer English classes to the refugees and the internationals who are living in our city. English classes that use the BIBLE as our curriculum. English classes that teach them about their Creator and their Savior…What do you guys think about that?”

I think they liked the idea, although for the next thirty minutes the conversation derailed to various dreams about spelling bees, swimming pools, and ponies.

This idea of starting an ESL ministry at our church in Northern Virginia is one that I’ve been thinking about for the past three years. After spending some time at the first annual Global Think Tank at the IMB headquarters, I feel more compelled than ever by the mission of God. This is God’s mission and He has sent us, the church, to accomplish this.

Please pray that God will send help as I try to launch an ESL ministry at our church.  I’m praying for 30 people to get involved loving on internationals in our town.  We will be starting a Preschool ESL ministry and a ministry to the international students at our local community college (NOVA Woodbridge).

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38

How I Learned to Make Adult Friendships

College dorm life was a dream come true for an extrovert like me. Coming from a small family with only one brother, I loved having seventy girls on my hall to hang out with at any hour of the day. Not only that, but each of my roommates became my new soul sister. It felt like glorified, year-round Bible camp.

In 2001, I left dorm 19-2 of Liberty University, got married, and moved to Northern Virginia. Although being married to my best friend was amazing, it was still an adjustment. Our new church didn’t have many young girls my age and life suddenly got busy with a full time job and ministry. My life went from busting with friends to a barrenness of friends.

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One year the women of my church and I went to a women’s conference and one of the sessions was on developing close friendships. I can remember feeling awful and actually leaving the room to sit in the hallway for some reflection. It was bad enough that I didn’t have close friendships with anyone where we lived, but now I was being told that I really should. I mean, that’s what I longed for, so why were intimate friendships so elusive?

I went home and wept in my husband’s arms, emoting about how hard it was to make friends. Every relationship in my new life was so shallow and I longed for more.

After he patiently listened and explored my distress, he finally said the most profound thing. “You’re too concerned about HAVING friends and not concerned enough about BEING a friend.”

Woah.

He single-handledly, in one sentence, turned everything I’d thought about the subject on its head.

“You’re making this too hard. Just be a friend to the women in your life, and don’t worry so much about what you get back.”

Huh? Focus less on myself and more on others? That sounded familiar. Philippians 2:3. “In humility, count others as more significant than yourselves.”

Why had I thought this subject was an exception to this principle? For me, I was very focused on having heart-to-heart conversations and felt frustrated when my new friends were not meeting this “need.”

Colby continued. “Every friendship is different, and you can’t expect to connect with EVERYONE on a heart level like you did with your college roommates.”

This conversation was something I would chew on and wrestle with and explore for the next decade.

In the last ten years of living in the transient, urban congestion of Northern Virginia, I have learned a lot about friendships.

They are precious.

They are a gift from God.

They are each unique, just as each person is unique.

They are designed to sharpen us.

They are made to mold us more into the image of our Creator.

Relationships are more important than anything else in this life. We know this, but do our schedules reflect this? Do we leave margins in our lives for relationships? Are we willing to drop our tasks at a moment’s notice for a significant conversation or a friend who is in need?

Let’s not make this subject more complicated than it needs to be. Be a friend to the people God places in your life. Nurture relationships with time, kindness and trust. Some relationships will be deeper than others. But all of them contribute to a beautiful mosaic that makes life richer.

The Night I Asked For Prayer instead of Chocolate

 

Recently I called two friends and asked if we could get together for prayer and accountability. I knew it wasn’t going to be much fun. I mean, I would have much rather asked them to go to Applebees for a Triple Chocolate Meltdown, but I knew I needed this. I needed to reach out and admit that I wasn’t doing okay and that I needed prayer. It was the last thing on earth that I wanted to do–be vulnerable and share my sin struggles. It’s a lot easier to put on like I’m strong and have things together. It’s a lot easier to pretend like marriage is easy and never a struggle.

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My friends counseled me late into the night, much later than stay-at-home moms should stay up. They gave me tools for my toolbox, truths to chew on, and verses to savor (at one point I even asked for a pen and paper so I could take notes). They listened. They led me like a groping blind person who just needed to find her way.

 Some of my notes that night included:

      1. God is a great recycler.God doesn’t waste our marriage struggles. He uses them    to expose our sin, humble us, and make us cling to Him like never before.

  1. You can either be miserable or LET THINGS GO (!!). Choose wisely.
  1. Focus on loving instead of being loved. The question, “How can I make HIS life happy and peaceful?” should be on the forefront of your mind. (P.S. The flesh will HATE this activity and kick and scream like a toddler who has just had a toy stolen)
  1. Put it in perspective. Your husband loves you, but is also a depraved sinner. You are too, by the way.
  1. Trust God and respond lovingly when you feel you are being wronged. Look to Jesus for this example.
  1. When you lean entirely on your husband to meet your need for attention, affection, affirmation, encouragement, you will most surely fall. He is not God.
  1. You need to practice saying the words, “Yes. You are right. I AM that sinful.”
  1. You have equal opportunity in the relationship to set the tone/mood/thermostat. If he is headed down, you have the power to help him. And, by the way, helping him is the better choice than throwing a temper tantrum.
  1. Sometimes we lose our way and need to ask for prayer. We need to be strong enough to admit weakness (I’m pretty sure Beth Moore came up with that quote and not me). It doesn’t help anyone when you pretend you have it together.

I’m thankful that I reached out for prayer and counsel when I felt the sting of relational stress recently.

What about you? Do you reach out to a trusted friend or do you try to cope alone? I understand both sides of this argument, but I would encourage you to find someone you can trust when marital stress or life in general begins to rub you raw. Ask God to help you have wisdom to know who to talk to and when.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to GOD and not to us.” (2 Corinithians 4:7).