How do you define community?

community: picture of four children holding hands and playing in the sunI’m looking forward to starting on another online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries beginning next week. We’ll be using Limitless Life by Derwin L. Gray as the launch pad for our discussions. In preparation for this study we were encouraged to blog about what community means to us.

Here’s how Dictionary.com defines community:

community

[kuhmyoo-ni-tee] Show IPA

noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.

1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2.a locality inhabited by such a group.
3.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the  ): the business community; the community of scholars.
4.a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5.Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
Here’s how I define community:
  1. Community means support – a community is made of a group of individuals with different abilities. When you live in the community you have access to a variety of skills which you yourself don’t posses.
  2. Community brings challenges – living in community takes work. Sometimes it would be “easier” to live on our own. When you live in community you need to communicate clearly, be willing to share, and sometimes even be willing to be wronged.
  3. Community means accountability – When you grow up in a small town, you can’t “get away” with too much. If you’re not doing what’s right, someone is going to call you on it or phone your parents about it. When we live in community, we hold each other accountable, because we all want what’s best for the community.
  4. Community thrives on shared purpose – There has to be a reason for people to do the hard work of living in community. Shared purpose or a common goal provides that reason. When everybody in the community agrees on a common goal, each person is able to contribute to the betterment of the community.

What does community mean to you?

 


3 simple steps to combat the flesh and feed the spirit

Which one should I feed?
Which one should I feed?

In our Proverbs 31 online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That, we are learning many practical things about growing closer to God. For the blog hop this week, we could choose one of four topics. I’m choosing to share how we can combat the flesh and feed the spirit. If you haven’t heard the parable of the two dogs, I would encourage you to read it here.

We just finished celebrating Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection at Easter time. Why did Jesus endure betrayal, false accusations, excruciating physical pain, and unspeakable spiritual suffering? He did it so that you and I could accept His gift of salvation and be set free from the power of sin. If you’ve never taken this step of faith, and want more information, please read The Four Spiritual Laws.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Once we accept forgiveness for our sins and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we need to continually follow three steps. At first glance, they are simple. However, that doesn’t mean the steps happen without conscious effort on our part.

1. Choose to say yes to God. Wendy says:

“The more we say yes to spending time with God in His Word, the more we will recognize His voice. The more we recognize His voice, the more we will live in expectation of seeing Him at work. The more we see God at work, the more we will experience Him in our midst. And the more we experience Him, the more we will be able to trust Him in all things. It all starts with saying yes to God’s invitation to meet with Him.”

There are many things that can and will distract us from putting God first in our lives. We can be distracted by family responsibilities, our job, church activities, etc. Did you notice that these are all “good” things? Often we allow good things to crowd out the best. In Matthew 6, we are told we don’t need to worry about what we wear or what we’ll eat or anything else. Instead:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (vs. 33)

I find that I have to choose to spend time with God first thing in the morning or it doesn’t happen, because I get caught up in the daily activities of life. I would encourage you to find a consistent time when you’re alert to meet with God.

2. Saturate yourself in God’s Word

The Bible has been described as God’s love-letter to mankind. If we don’t read it, study it, and memorize it, we won’t be able to discover who God really is or what He wants us to do. Our memory verse for week two of the study was:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Wendy shares:

“The key to establishing our faith is spending time in God’s Word. We can’t accomplish it by attending worship once a week, by periodically participating in Bible studies, or by watching a televangelist on Sunday mornings. We must commit to reading and studying God’s word for ourselves.

“God’s Word is our contact with Him. It’s how we hear His voice, discover His direction, receive His correction, and obtain His hope.”

I have found all of these approaches helpful at different stages of my life:

  • Read a verse and study it in depth. Check out Heather Bleier’s suggestions on verse mapping.
  • Use a devotional such as Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Upper Room.
  • Study a book of the Bible, such as John, looking for key words or the names used for Jesus
  • Read through the Bible in a year. Our Daily Bread has a plan included with the daily devotional. There are many other plans people have put together. Find one that works for you.

3. Pray

Sylvia Gunter defines prayer as, “radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Wendy reminds us that:

“Prayer is a gift.

Prayer is a privilege.

Prayer is two-way communication with God.

Prayer is a love relationship with the God who created us.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can ‘approach (God’s) throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).”

Whole books have been written on the topic of prayer. At it’s simplest I would say that prayer is talking with God. I have found that if I start my day by focusing on God, it’s much easier to talk with Him throughout the day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. (Rick Warren says, “Everything you do can be ‘spending time with God’ if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence.” In my last post I shared a call to prayer along with many quotes on prayer. Ask God to teach you how to pray more effectively and see what happens.

Three simple choices. Will you take the first step and choose to meet with God today?


A Call to Prayer for InScribe

Pen as ICWF Prayer Prompt
When you see a pen, pray for InScribe!

This morning I was planning to write a post sharing some practical tips on getting writing done. However, God redirected me.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. This week we are focusing on prayer. At the beginning of chapter three, Wendy quotes Sylvia Gunter:

“Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Later on in the chapter, Wendy says:

Show Me God

Wendy also shares some tips from Lisa Allen on bringing watchfulness to our prayer lives:

“When you have a person for whom God calls you to pray, be creative. Think of something that reminds you of the person. Invite God to open your eyes to see that trigger and use it to remind you to pray . . . If you assign triggers to special people in your life, think of how many times throughout the day you will pray!”

In my last post I shared some thoughts from fellow executive members of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship regarding the need for prayer. I believe God is calling me to action. The prayer trigger I’ve chosen for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) is a pen. Every time I see a pen, I’m choosing to pray that God will work in and through members of our organization:

  • Wisdom and strength for executive members
  • His Imprint Conference April 26, 2014
  • Fall Conference September 26 & 27, 2014
  • God’s empowering for members as they write
  • Monthly word challenges
  • God will use our words to reach His target audience

Here are some quotes on prayer:

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”  John Wesley

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” S.D. Gordon

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” Sidlow Baxter

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” E.M. Bounds

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying. Paul E. Billheimer

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom

“0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper – and sleep too – than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber.” Andrew A. Bonar

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” E.M. Bounds

“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'” J. Hudson Taylor

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” William Cowper

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” Brother Lawrence

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”  Samuel Chadwick

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  Andrew Murray

Will you join me in praying for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship?


Chocolate Soldiers or Soldiers of the Cross?

SONY DSCThis week Christians are celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events that happened thousands of years ago still have an incredible impact on our world. Jesus died so that every person who repents of his or her sin and asks for salvation is able to receive it. Jesus conquered the power of sin and death on the cross and He invites us to live for Him.

What does it mean to live for Jesus? Some people who call themselves Christians attend church on Sunday and live the rest of the week as they please. Others sacrifice health, convenience, time, and family to serve God. (Check out Jack Popjes’ post, Why is it so Hard?)

Lately I’ve been reminded that we are in a spiritual battle, which although mostly unseen, is very real. The Apostle Paul spoke very plainly about this battle in Ephesians 6:10-19:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” (NIV from The Bible Gateway)

We can choose to ignore the battle, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Satan is not a funny little caricature with a pitchfork; He is a fallen angel intent on destroying God’s creation and leading as many people as possible away from truth and salvation. The Bible calls him a deceiver, the Father of Lies (John 8:44), and warns that often He comes disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14,15). The only way we’ll be able to stand against his attacks is by putting on God’s armor and going to war.

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C.T. Studd reprimanded people for being “Chocolate Soldiers”. Here’s part of what he said:

To the Chocolate Christian the very thought of war brings a violent attack of ague, while the call to battle always finds him with the palsy. “I really cannot move,” he says. “I only wish I could, but I can sing, and here are some of my favorite lines:

“I must be carried to the skies
On a flowery bed of ease,
Let others fight to win the prize,
Or sail thro’ bloody seas.

Mark time, Christian heroes,
Never go to war;
Stop and mind the babies
Playing on the floor.

Wash and dress and feed them
Forty times a week.
Till they’re roly poly—
Puddings so to speak.

Chorus:
Round and round the nursery
Let us ambulate,
Sugar and spice and all that’s nice
Must be on our slate.”

C. T. Studd’s complete article can be found here or you can download it as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.

God calls each of us to fulfill unique places in His army. Some people are called to intense battles against Satan and his henchmen (demons). Others are called to minister in remote areas and translate Scripture into peoples’ heart languages or mother tongues. Yet others support God’s work by skillfully and honestly running a business and donating money to missionaries or people in need. Still others of us are called to honor God in our vocation, living godly lives and impacting people where we are. All of us can enter into the battle through prayer.

At present, God has called me to be a wife, mother, music teacher, writer, and President of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. A couple weeks ago Bobbi Junior, one of our executive members, wrote a post challenging us to pray for authors. She followed that up by urging us to become Word Warriors. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Sheila Webster, another executive member. She stated:

“I feel the first thing we need is a team of at least three people that will commit to pray each day for the conferences that are upcoming.  I feel this isn’t a nicety but a necessity to have three people designated and dedicated to this task.

We are at a crucial point in the history of writing and Christianity where there is a window of opportunity to impact on a large scale the world for Christ with our words.

All leaders in higher Christian Education in Canada are pointing out to us that a larger scale persecution of Christians in Canada will be happening starting in the recent past and will escalate.”

 

Will you join me? Are you willing to count the cost and step forward as a soldier of the cross? Also, if you’re interested in supporting the work of writers who are Christians through prayer, send me an e-mail at sun dot beam3 at yahoo dot com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 


What does it mean to be a Christian writer?

Yellow Question mark and red exclamation mark

During a recent interview I was asked: “Comment on what it means to be a ‘Christian writer’”

How would you answer this question?

Here’s my response:
A Christian writer is a person who communicates from a worldview centred on God as He is presented in the Bible. The key components of being a Christian writer, from my perspective, are excellence, integrity, and compassion.

  • No matter what topic or genre I write about, my writing should be of the highest quality. I should do my best to ensure my writing is accurate, well-researched, and free of errors (grammar and spelling).
  • As a Christian writer, my personal life should reflect what I communicate in print. I should consistently spend time reading the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to highlight areas in my life that are not pleasing to God. Yes, I’m human and I will fail. However, I need to confess my sins, ask for forgiveness and continue to grow in my walk with God.
  • Christian writers should also “speak the truth in love.” Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by our love.

Here are the principles I currently use as I write:

  1. Christians are the body of Christ. We each have unique gifts, functions, and callings (I Corinthians 12).  I need to know what God has called me to and be faithful to that calling.
  2. My goal should always be to write with excellence (using correct grammar, captivating descriptions, etc.) for God’s glory (Colossians 3:23). I am called to be God’s representative in how I live and write (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
  3. I must give an answer to God for all that I do and say, including what I write (Matthew 12:35-37; Colossians 3:23). I need to be obedient to God. It is not my responsibility to judge others (Matthew 7:1).

Christian writers are called to write for varied audiences in diverse genres. We live in a broken world and are involved in a spiritual battle which is mostly unseen, but very real. Some stories may simply be for enjoyment, but we may also be asked to write about difficult, messy subjects like child abuse, demon possession, corrupt leaders, and the sex trade. No matter what we write, our aim should always be to bring honour and glory to God.

It has come to my attention that some writers who are Christians do not associate themselves with the term “Christian writer”. There are several reasons for this.

  • Some writers (who are Christians) write stories or articles that are only printed in the mainstream. Some say that these written works would not be accepted in the mainstream if people knew the authors were Christians.
  • The question has been raised: Do you call yourself a Christian mechanic or Christian plumber or Christian librarian? If we don’t tag the word Christian onto other vocational choices, why do we tag it onto our writing?
  • Some writers (who are Christians) have faced severe criticism from other Christians because of the topics or genre they choose. These writers find it less divisive to just call themselves writers.

Did I miss anything? I look forward to your comments!


God’s Calling on my life

“The Spirit of the Lord and King is on me.
The Lord has anointed me
to tell the good news to poor people.
He has sent me to comfort
those whose hearts have been broken.
He has sent me to announce freedom
for those who have been captured.
He wants me to set prisoners free
from their dark prisons.”

Isaiah 61:1 (New International Reader’s Version)

God’s calling on my life became evident to me while I was still very young. I was privileged to spend the first ten years of my life in southern Africa, where my parents were missionaries. I remember thinking it was a good thing my parents were telling these “sinful” people about God. One day I had a rude awakening. I was attending a daily vacation Bible school when I grasped my sinfulness and God’s grace. At the tender age of five I confessed my selfishness, lies, and disobedience, requesting forgiveness and empowering from my Heavenly Father.

More light was shed on God’s calling when I discovered what my names mean:

Ruth – Compassionate and Lucile – Bringer of Light

Hiker looking at map

I continued growing in my faith through my school years. My parents moved to Three Hills when I was eleven. Many godly men and women nurtured my faith. After high school, I decided to attend Prairie Bible College where I majored in Bible and minored in Christian Education. When I graduated, I was invited to stay on staff, working in the Prairie Bookroom (book store). During this time I also took my first writing course from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Life took some twists and turns. I thought God was calling me to be a missionary in Africa, like my parents. However, that door slammed shut. Instead God lead me to marriage and presented parenting children with special needs as my mission field. Several years ago the advocacy for my children widened into advocacy for all children in the Northern Lights School Division when I was elected as a school board trustee. A few months after that I entered my first writing contest and won first place in my age category. The prize was a free conference registration for Write!Canada. At the conference, it dawned on me that God has specifically gifted me and called me to be a writer.

This week I was challenged to come up with a 5-7 word tagline which describes my writing. This is what I came up with:

“Exploring life’s adventures through writing”

God has led me to write about many different topics which fit in very diverse genres: devotionals, special needs, parenting, contemporary fiction, light romance, memoir, adoption, education, Bible study, social media.

balancedchallenge-button1

In the Balanced Challenge, Tricia Goyer’s question for Day 4 (today) is:

“What have you been called by God to do? Take a few minutes away from work and family to sit with your Bible and talk to God. Believe that God placed your dreams and passions in your heart. Find a verse that speaks to you about this, and post it today on your blog.”

You saw my verse at the top of this post. I look forward to hearing about God’s calling on your life in the comments below.


Pursuing Holiness, One choice at a time

pursuingThis morning I read Ephesians 4:14-24. Here are a few thoughts that “jumped out” at me as I read:

  • I am not to be like a child who is easily tricked and led astray (vs. 14)
  • I am to allow God’s truth to ground me (like an anchor) and help me mature in my faith (vs. 15)
  • I need to choose to reject “folly, vanity, emptiness of soul and futility” (vs. 17)
  • Going my own way will result in spiritual blindness, a hard heart, and indulging in “every form of impurity that (my) depraved desires may suggest and demand” (vs. 18,19)
  • I need to reject (die to) my old nature and renew my mind (vs. 20-23)
  • Choosing to follow God will enable me to be truly righteous and holy (vs. 24)

Lysa Terkeurst says, “Pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for; want greatly; desire eagerly. The only One worthy of worship.” She sums it up this way:

” . . . the very next choice I make is a crucial one. Literally, it will determine if I am walking the path of victory or compromise. One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline . . . A place our souls were made to call home.”

Steve Green reminds me that I have to choose to die to my desires, will and plans in order order to enter into the holy life God has for me:

Enter In by Steve Green

Nothing chills the heart of man
Like passing through death’s gate
Yet to him who enters daily
Death’s a glorious fate
Dearly beloved we are gathered here
To be a holy bride
And daily cross death’s threshold
To the holy life inside

( Chorus: )
Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit’s call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

The conflict still continues
Raging deep within my soul
My spirit wars against my flesh
In a struggle for control
My only hope is full surrender
So with each borrowed breath
I inhale the Spirit’s will for me
To die a deeper death

(Chorus)

If mourners should lament
Let them weep for those alive
For only when my will is killed
Can my soul survive

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Today I choose to pursue holiness, one choice at a time:

  • I choose to get up early to spend time reading God’s Word and praying; I choose NOT to sleep in.
  • I choose to eat food that nourishes my body and gives me energy; I choose NOT to eat junk food which only provides temporary enjoyment.
  • I choose to exercise and strengthen my body; I choose NOT to be a couch potato.
  • I choose to spend time with my children, talking with them, listening to them, teaching and training them; I choose NOT to spend my time escaping by reading a book.

What about you? Are you pursuing holiness one choice at a time? I’d love to hear about the choices are you making.


The #truths I live by

Today many people claim that truth is relative. Some will even go so far as to say that there is no such thing as truth. (You can check out the various “theories” of truth here.)

compas_icon_tns

I choose to believe that the Bible is the inspired, inherent word of God, written by at least 35 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years. The truths I live by all come from the Bible. (Note: I use BibleGateway.com to look up verses. These are in the New American Standard translation.)

1. I believe that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

2. I believe that I can know where I’m going when I die

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

3. I believe that each person is uniquely created by God

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139:13-16

4. I believe my body is a holy temple of God

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” First Corinthians 3:16,17

5. I believe that I am no longer condemned

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

6. I believe that God fills me with His peace

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

7. I believe that God gives me the power and strength to do what He calls me to do

11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

So how does all this relate to me and my body?

  • God made my body just the way He wanted it to be; I need to choose to accept  the parts of my body that I can’t change, including what I perceive as “flaws”
  • God gives us food to eat and enjoy; I need to choose to eat food that will give me energy and keep me healthy
  • God gave me unique abilities; I need to choose to use my abilities to honor Him