by Nora Ross
Since the early church, people have had disagreements, which caused them to separate. Paul and Barnabas worked together to bring the message of the Gospel to many. They decided to return to areas that had been very successful. Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them and Paul disagreed. There was such disagreement Paul and Barnabas separated. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark. As a result of this separation, the Gospel was spread to a greater area and number of people.
This passage may sound familiar to you. You may know it from the personal experience of people leaving your church or ministry. People you have worked with for years have left. Maybe, they were there to move you into your home or parsonage when you arrived. Your families have grown together. You are there for them during their triumphs and losses. They are there for you in the good and the bad. You consider them your best friends. You wonder if Barnabas and Paul had this type of relationship. When your friends and partners in ministry leave, it hurts. There have been some who have left without even saying goodbye. There are others you wish would have only said, “Goodbye.” It seems Paul and Barnabas parted on terms that helped them both to succeed in ministry. Paul even seems to have forgiven Mark and speaks favorably of both in his later writings.
There was a time when a family member did something that made the local news. As my husband tried to read the prepared statement, the church wept with us. They followed the request not to discuss the situation. Many of them asked how they could help. When they asked to bring meals and we refused, they delivered them anyway. The newspaper printed our address and people attacked our home. It was only pellet guns; but it was frightening. People from our church offered to come and sit on our porch and protect us. No one left the church as a result of that situation. However, we have had people leave over misunderstood statements and gossip. It seems gossip leads to feelings of entitlement. Everything we know as a Christian is thrown out with the hurt feelings and the need to confide in others. We spiral into a frenzy that becomes difficult to overcome. As pastors and leaders, we need to be careful not to partake in the “prayer request” mentality that says I can talk about this to this person and this person and that person whether they are a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. We are the leaders and should lead by example. We need to question our motives as we share information and listen to information. As we receive and give information, we need to think about whether we would want a member of our congregation hearing or saying this. If it is not appropriate for them, it is not appropriate for us.
A lead pastor once told us that people are as loyal as the last thing you did for them. If we had lived by that choice nugget of pastoral wisdom, we would no longer be in ministry. We would have burned out trying to keep everyone loyal; or, we would have become bitter because we felt we had to give to keep people loyal to us. We minister as God leads us, not with the thoughts of who will leave next, or wondering how long someone will stay. As we live righteously with servants’ hearts, God will provide for us and for those who leave, just as He did for Paul and Barnabas.
by Anna Maschmeyer
A ministry family seems to either exist in the assurance of their mission and longevity of their position or in a state of uncertainty and desire for transition. My ministry family recently took a leap and moved to a new church and city across the state. Transition means many things in the ministry, but for me it meant an opportunity to move in faith into untried territory.
For years I served the church as pastor and volunteer and taught full-time in a public high school. It was the most rewarding and exhausting life. The students are apathetic, curriculum is challenging to implement, assessments are labor intensive, actual learning is complex to assess, and federal and administrative regulation is exhausting. I loved teaching, but the all-encompassing nature of my pastor life and my teacher life took everything out of me.
Roughly three years ago, I began to pray for a better way to do life. I wanted to devote more time to our family and serve the church in a healthier capacity. Our family deserved more of me than it was getting. I intensely wanted to reserve the best of me for my girls, husband, and church. As I sought the Lord for a way to accomplish this, two things became clear. First, God spoke deeply into my heart that my calling was not about my career, but about being more like Him. I had preached this for years. Yet suddenly, it wasn’t just something to say. Jesus did not need my effort at school, my worries over the job, my time preparing lessons and grading; He needed my heart. My job was distracting me from giving Him my full attention. I was in essence serving two masters.
A year ago, we began thinking about transition to a new position. One of the things I wrote in my journal as we began to pray over the transition was, “Lord, I want to be free of the classroom.” I was not trying to be a stay-at-home-mom. As a driven, independent woman, I champion college and career ambition for my female students. So I looked for a position in a school, but out of the classroom. I thought just being out of the classroom would be enough.
When we relocated, the timing of the move meant teaching jobs were not available. As I’ve sought the Lord and explored options, more and more I was called to walk away from my career to be more like Jesus. Since August, I have started teaching our oldest to cook and do laundry. We finally have a regular chore schedule (something I never had time to put together before) for all three girls. My husband and I have been on a date every week since we’ve moved. I've written a 5-week Sunday School curriculum and taught it. The girls and I have had deep conversations about real things like politics, Jesus, and how to make friends. A couple of times my husband has asked, “Who are you?” because I am not falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM or cranky for no reason.
Don’t get me wrong, many of those things I listed above happened in small doses while I was teaching. My girls had chores; we did homework together; we read at night sometimes. My husband and I did date. Our family was not falling apart, but there wasn’t the structure or purpose in our home that I wanted. It was good, but not great. I had two masters constantly pulling me in different directions. The message is that there are good things we can do in our lives and there are God things. Our family was doing good things, but the God things were being squeezed out by exhaustion, stress, time, and mess. Although the budget is tight, I have not been this happy, nor this at peace, in a long time.
The lesson I am learning is that discerning His will is seldom about finding a place or a career, but it is always about becoming more like Him. Peace is there for us when we finally submit every area of ourselves, including our careers, to His Lordship. Our obedience even in the anxiety of transition makes us more like Jesus.
QUESTIONS: What have you learned in a ministry transition? About your faith? About yourself?
by Majetta Morris
A fellow children’s minister approached me in the foyer of our church to ask if I had a baby puppet he could borrow for a ministry engagement. I told him I didn’t, but as the discussion continued, I learned a doll would be appropriate. I informed him I had a life-sized baby doll I use as Baby Jesus at Christmas because it is newborn infant-like. He assured me that he would only need to use the doll during the month of July and it would be returned well before Christmas.
“I don’t need Jesus during July,” I informed him as I walked away. When I saw the aghast looks on bystander’s faces, I immediately realized the faux pas. I turned back blubbering and stumbling over words as I tried to backtrack and rephrase, “I mean, I don’t need the Jesus doll during July.” The damage was already done! The words already said! Others in the vicinity were either staring open-mouthed or laughing aloud.
I’m ashamed to say that sometimes my attitude says, “Jesus, I don’t need you today…or this month. I can handle this by myself.” I plan my day so full of all the things I want to do for Jesus that I fail to ask Him what He would like to do with/through me. Sometimes I go so intensely through my day without realizing that the expression on my face or the acerbity of my speech is telling others that I don’t think I need Jesus to go with me that day. The negative side is that it usually multiplies into more than just one day. It becomes an unintended vacation from Jesus.
It is easy to get so busy working for Him that our relationship with Jesus is put aside; or we take for granted that He will just come along. To start the day, we may have even taken time for a quick devotion to tell Jesus how He can meet our need for the day, instead of asking how we can worship and be with Him throughout the day.
Each day I need to intentionally invite Jesus not to just follow me around, but to walk beside me and before me, allowing me to follow in His steps. Throughout each day, I talk with Him as a friend. I cannot ever go a day, let alone a month, without Jesus. I need Jesus every day in July and every other month! Not just at Christmas.
Majetta Morris, a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, began her first Sunday School teaching assignment when she was twelve. With husband, Wayne, and daughters, Scarlett and Keena, she ministered throughout the southwest U.S. in Kids Krusades for ten years before going to Okinawa, Japan to minister in schools, churches, and the local community for a total of sixteen years. After retiring in Springfield, MO in 2007, she began professionally editing as a freelancer at the request of a friend. Majetta loves reading, writing, crafting, teaching, and editing. Contact Majetta at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance to publish your writing projects.
by Kelly Godzwa
Every woman loves finding a good deal, right? Me, too. That’s why I got excited when some of my Mexican friends got to talking about visiting one of the larger ‘tianguis’ (tea-on'-geese) in our city of Mérida. Sounds interesting, right? Picture an enormous flea market with about a hundred different booths covered partially by tarps to keep the sun off the numerous shoppers meandering the narrow makeshift aisles. You can find everything here—from clothing to beauty products, from tropical fish to “fast food,” i.e., homemade quesadillas prepared before your eyes.
Despite my many years in Mexico, I had never gone to this particular tianguis opened on Fridays from about 8 AM to 1 PM, which my friends said was similar to the type you’d find in Mexico City. To my surprise, a few of them hadn’t even gone! So, on Friday morning we met at my house and set out together on our adventure. Glad to have found a parking spot about a block away, we entered near the front-middle of the covered park. We shopped together splitting into mini-groups at times, each looking for a bargain on something we needed. I didn’t have anything particular in mind, but near the end of our time, two of us found a booth where a new bundle of clothing had been dumped on a low table for us to rummage through. Jackpot!
This mass pile of new American items included shirts, pants, and skirts of various sizes from reputable manufacturers–Talbots, American Eagle, etc. All were priced between 60 and 120 pesos, about $3-$6 USD a piece. With our cell phones, we gave directions to the others to let them know where we were in order to get in on the deals. We were there for at least thirty minutes. While I looked, one friend wandered to the booth across the way and returned with a little trinket. She took a hold of the collar of my shirt and place a pin there. Smiling, she clasped the back to the two linked flags of the US and Mexico. When I saw it, I barely managed to hold back the tears. You see, that small action communicated her acceptance of me despite our different upbringings; it told me that our friendship went beyond borders and was valuable to her. I love that this simple shopping excursion provided the backdrop for her meaningful display of affection!
Have you experienced small displays of affection that have had a huge impact on you? This experience makes me aware of how in seemingly small ways I can communicate love through my actions in the day-to-day that may actually speak volumes to another.
“Father, make me mindful of ways I can touch others with Your love.”
As we finished our shopping, we paid and headed out, happy to have shared this experience, wondering, perhaps, when our next outing together would be. Little did I know as we said our good-byes that my personal tianguis story had yet another chapter. (Check back soon for Part 2.)
Kelly and her husband, Dave, have served as Southern Missouri District missionaries to Mexico since 2006. While one of her ministry roles includes a position as Mexico field treasurer, she also has been active online in the Refresh Connect groups and leadership team. They have 3 teenage children and a mini schnauzer.
By Terry Magness
Have you ever found yourself so caught up in your day that you forgot to eat? I confess I have, but not often. Usually, my body signals when it is hungry or thirsty, and well, you know the rest.
It's a fact: we need food and water in order to live.
According to Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D, records show that severe symptoms of starvation appear approximately thirty-five to forty days in someone deprived of food. Death usually results within forty-five to sixty-one days, that is, if the individual has a source of hydration. In a vegetative, inactive state without food and water, survival would only be ten to fourteen days. The more active the person is the more resources he uses, therefore, lessening his time of survival.
Did you know the less we drink, the less we want to drink? Likewise, when we fast for several days, our sense of hunger diminishes, so that after a week or so, we no longer desire food. Perhaps our internal warning system simply shuts down, or we somehow fail to hear the signals. It remains, unless we decide to eat and drink, and our body dies.
Could the same be true of the human heart deprived of daily intimate fellowship with the Spirit of the living God and His Word? God said through His prophet Ezekiel, "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
I remember clearly the day when God took my dry, hardened heart and replaced it with a soft, pliable, and tender heart, one not afraid to be vulnerable. For the first time in many years, I could feel again. I was no longer in survival mode, but I was alive. Once again I could cry tears that had long ago dried up.
We all experience some desert places in our lives. A good question we can ask ourselves during those dry times is, "Am I malnourished or dehydrated in my spirit?" In order to find the answer to that question, I do a pulse check.
"Has my intimacy with Jesus diminished? How is my Word intake level?" If the answer is "yes", I run, not walk, to the Wellspring of Life, and spend some quality time with Him.
Are you feeling parched and dry? Are the pressures of life and ministry mounting? Do you feel yourself going through the motions, or maybe even shutting down? Are the pangs of hunger in your soul acute or are they dangerously fading away?
Stop! Take a break.
Breathe. Nothing is more important than this moment.
Nestle back in your chair and prepare your heart to be filled by Jesus, the Bread of Life. He knows you. You can rest in his Presence. Tip the cup of remembrance to your lips as you sip the essence of His peace, His goodness, His kindness, His love. Let your mind feast on His Word. Drink deeply of the living waters of His Spirit. Acknowledge His eternal life within you, and give thanks for the dawn of a new day.
Terry Magness has been in Christian ministry for forty years, is a licensed minister, author, pastoral counselor to church leaders, missionary, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Bible based international teaching and discipleship ministry to women. She oversees and teaches needs-based Overcomers classes in her local church, dedicated to helping men and women apply Biblical principles to every life situation. Terry is a lover of people in general, and her family in particular. She enjoys good friends, stimulating conversation, writing, photography, and fishing with her husband, Don.
by Majetta Morris
In preparation to begin service, the in-charge teen technician attempted to start the projector using the remote. After several tries, another worker tried by going to different areas of the room and pushing the button on the remote control. The magic place could not be found. So, the back of the remote was removed and the batteries jiggled. Another attempt was made, but still no working projector. Someone went to purchase new batteries for the remote. Twenty minutes later with new batteries, we tried again. Nothing happened.
The projector had worked fine just a few days earlier. It was mounted on the ceiling, so we knew no one had disturbed it. I visually checked the cord from the computer to the projector. It was connected. We concluded the problem had to be the remote control, but there seemed to be no solution. The laser light came on with the ON button, so the remote must work.
Finally, at worship time, we gave up and stumbled through without words to our songs being projected.
Later that evening, after we finished and went home, a thought occurred to me: Someone had used a small electrical appliance in our multi-use area earlier; maybe the cord had been unplugged at the wall. It was late, I was home, so I didn’t immediately return to check the possibility of the cord being unplugged. However, as soon as I arrived at church the next time, I went immediately to check out my summation of the problem. Sure enough, the plug into the wall was unplugged. All that was needed was the connection to the source and all was well.
This reminds me of the many times I look at everything else, try everything else, do everything else, but fail to check my life to ensure I am still connected to the Source. It is so easy to get disconnected. Little things arise, circumstances take priority, and I don’t even realize I am disconnected.
He says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6 (NKJV). There is only ONE Source to electrify our lives. Stay plugged in.
Majetta Morris, a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, began her first Sunday School teaching assignment when she was twelve. With husband, Wayne, and daughters, Scarlett and Keena, she ministered throughout the southwest U.S. in Kids Krusades for ten years before going to Okinawa, Japan to minister in schools, churches, and the local community for a total of sixteen years. After retiring in Springfield, MO in 2007, she began professionally editing as a freelancer at the request of a friend. Majetta loves reading, writing, crafting, teaching, and editing. Contact Majetta at email@example.com for assistance to publish your writing projects. crafting, teaching, and editing.
Alignment. It’s a word that has stuck in my head this year. I even found a way to create a text widget and put that word in bubble letters on the home page of my phone. What kind of images come to mind when you hear it? Cars? Margins on a page? For me, it brings to mind things matching up, namely priorities and actions.
I recently read an article by Christine Hoover that touched on this very idea. In it, she writes about juggling family, work, and ministry, and expresses how it’s "so helpful to know our God-given priorities, because our priorities help us sift and sort fairly quickly.”
That seems to be the starting point. What are my priorities? Do I know them? Have I written them down? Sometimes, that's the hardest part - slowing down long enough and quieting our spirit to get out a pen and paper and simply make a list, writing down our thoughts about what is most important to us.
For some of us, the list-making task is easy enough, but it can tend toward having the “to-dos” or the schedule lined out before evaluating what drives that list. This is where alignment comes into play. If I prioritize an ordered home, for example, I should probably include a task that involves decluttering or a daily routine that reduces the intake of excess stuff. How good would that feel to have our daily tasks, even mundane ones, supporting our priorities? On the flip side, maybe it's a matter of looking at that to-do list and determining what tasks we could consider eliminating. Dare I suggest cutting out some items? If I take a hard look at my own life, I see some things that don't even make it to a list but that I kind of end up doing by default. Ouch. Lord, please fix my default mode. When I'm not working on a task, I want my default mode to line up with my priorities, too.
Let's align our lives with our priorities as we, together, 'consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.' (Hebrews 10:24 ESV)
Would you consider sharing how you align your priorities with your tasks in the comments below? Each one of us will view this topic from our own unique perspective. We'd love to hear your thoughts! If you're in need of some practical tips to get you jumpstarted, feel free to check out Christine's article.
Read full referenced article written by Christine Hoover at her website gracecoversme.com. This article was written by Kelly Godzwa for Refresh Ministry Women.
Discipline...sometimes I cringe when I hear that word. In some ways it comes across negative to me: hard work, restriction, sacrifice, failure. But deep down I know discipline is good for me, especially if I'm the one imposing it upon myself. I'm just not good at it.
This is one definition of discipline from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
c : self-control
Basically, we're talking about creating habits in our life. It seems that it's easy to create bad habits. Ever try to stop yourself from eating ice cream when you're sad? But good habits can be hard to create; it takes time, self-control, and determination. Remember hearing it takes 21-days to create a habit? Well, now they say that's a myth. Science now says it takes anywhere between 18 days and 8.5 months. Can it get any harder!
In her Propelwomen.org article, Building a Better Life Through the Power of Discipline, Hannah Brencher says,
It’s said that discipline leads to freedom, and I fully believe that now. When you learn to take care of yourself and order your tasks, your mind gets freed up. You're able to love people better and experience more peace.
Is it true that taking control of yourself, disciplining yourself in things you know are good for you, in things that you want for yourself, can make you happier? God's Word says yes!
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
I also know from personal experience that when I succeed in creating a good habit in my life or breaking a bad habit, it brings an overall good feeling of well-being, accomplishment, and happiness. For example, several years ago I took on the Whole 30 challenge. It was hard, but in the end I found out what was causing me to feel unwell...dairy...and I kicked a years-long habit of using Sweet 'n Low. Just that one thing alone, taking artificial sweetener out of my life, has made me feel like I accomplished a good thing and I am living a healthier life.
So, if disciplining myself is such a good thing, why is it so hard? I think it's hard for me because I'm weak and selfish - most of the time. I'm busy, distracted, and tired. When do I have time to add 'habit-making' to my agenda, let alone finding the energy to implement it? I don't think it's as hard as I make it out to be. Those excuses just might be my mechanism to justify not putting forth the effort.
But there are ways to make this habit-making or goal-making easier. Hannah Brencher suggests steps to start adding good and better habits to our lives:
I was recently having coffee with a girl about setting monthly goals. We were talking about how we love setting goals for the month and she told me that, for some unknown reason, she wasn’t nailing any of her goals. When she elaborated, I pointed out that her goals were really extreme. These goals were asking her to completely stop living one way and make a hard left turn in in the opposite direction.
So, what's keeping you from creating some good habits in your life? You know you've thought about it. Whether it's drinking more water, quitting artificial sweetener, reading the Bible in a year, or you name it, adding a good habit or deleting a bad habit in your life is good for you. And God's Word tells us we all have the power.
"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Read full article written by Hannah Brencher for Propelwomen.org here. This article written by Lisa Harris for Refresh Ministry Women.
Adoption is a very exciting thing! On June 15, 2018 our lives will forever be changed. We will become an official on- paper family. The course of a 9-year-old boy’s life will forever be changed. That is something to celebrate!
But a couple years ago, a mother made a decision that forever altered her life. She signed away the rights to her son, her flesh and blood, in the hopes that he could have a better life. She knew that someone else could provide the things that she could not. In those moments, a piece of her died. And that is something that I mourn over. I sure did not plan on feeling this way.
Throughout this adoption experience, God has been teaching me what His command to love really looks like. It is really easy to love the people who are kind to you. It’s not hard to show you care when someone is treating people that you care about correctly. Having compassion on the woman who gave away her child, my child, is not something I thought I could do. But I am doing it.
Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” He didn’t say “this is my suggestion.” He commands us to love. And he doesn’t just stop at love. He says to love them as He loves us. Jesus laid down his life for me.
"As I continue to walk out compassionate love, it gets easier with each step."
Would I lay down my life for my son’s birth mom? As time goes on, I find myself thinking about her, praying for her, and wondering how she is doing. Does she know that God loves her? As I continue to walk out compassionate love, it gets easier with each step. Jesus saved me just like He one day will hopefully save her. His love is the same for her as it is for me. Humble our hearts Jesus, if we ever think of ourselves as better than others.
Yes, on June 15, you better believe we will be celebrating! We will have some kind of party and enjoy the day that God has divinely brought together. Every year we will celebrate the day we became a family. But on that day, I will also be remembering and praying for someone who is hurting, because in my situation, that’s what loving like Jesus looks like. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan. I did not plan to have such a love for this woman, but with God in control, things always turn out better.
Matthew 22:37-38 “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Who is Jesus calling you to compassionately love?
(All scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation.)
The Southern Missouri District recognizes and supports churches in the crucial and viable ministry to foster and adoptive parents. The following organizations may be of help in the development of this type of ministry:
Things certainly don't turn out the way you plan.
God knew what he was doing when he brought Kris into our lives. He planned everything out right down to the very last detail. He laughed as we bought cribs and strollers. He waited patiently as we begged him for a baby. And I know that He must have smiled the day that we moved all of our son's stuff into our house for good.
Our licensing worker actually laughed at us the other day when we came to a foster care training and dropped him off in the babysitting room. She asked how things were going, and when we said they were going great, she said "Age range zero to one? Hah!"
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." (The Message)
Yes, things certainly don't turn out the way you plan...they turn out better!
The Southern Missouri District recognizes and supports churches in the crucial and viable ministry to foster and adoptive parents. The following organizations may be of help in the development of this type of ministry: