"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our Lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

27 February 2006

Christian Thumb Wars?

I moved to a new office today at work. As I was sifting through all my papers I found a print out of a Spiritual Gifts Test which I have mentioned here before. Since the topic of discernment has been discussed recently I started to read through the descriptions of the gifts to see if I could gain any wisdom.

I thought the descriptions were quite interesting as they paralleled some things I have said recently and I had to laugh when I read the description of my main gift as it fits me to a tee. I’d like to highlight two gifts in particular here: The Perceiver and The Encourager. I hope by looking at the differences between these two you can see how they could fall on opposite extremes on some issues. Yet God gave each of us our own gifts to be used in conjunction with other members of the body. (I list my own results at the end)

Descriptions Taken from www.gifttest.org:

The Perceiver
The first motivational gift in Romans 12 is the gift of perceiving. The Greek word for this gift is "propheteia". In scripture, we can see specific traits and behaviors of the gift of perceiving. They are: 1) the ability to interpret scripture, 2) to reveal information to others, and 3) an ability to speak the mind of God.

Perceivers have a keen sense of right and wrong. This is a form of discernment that we have seen in Christians and non-Christians alike. It is because of this sense of right and wrong that perceivers hold very high standards. They tend to be perfectionists because of their high standards and often become their own worst critics. In some cases, perceivers do not realize their gift and they can become very critical of other people or situations, which emerges as a pessimistic attitude.

The primary function of this gift is to reveal information the perceiver has discerned in a way that will help others. This information is not always positive and well received. As a result, perceivers sometimes appear direct, blunt, or inconsiderate of the feelings of others particularly when sharing this information with people possessing different motivational gifts. This is a classic case of the gift being misunderstood because their real intention is to help people.
In contrast, at times the primary function of the gift is not to reveal the information the perceiver has discerned – in these cases, God has allowed the perceiver to discern such things so they can pray about them. Often when people do not understand the purpose of this gift, they can feel (and become) judgmental instead of prayerful. Make no mistake about it, this information is purposefully shown to the perceiver for a reason!

The Encourager
The Greek root word for encouraging is "paraklesis". The scriptures show that the gift of encouragement will 1) edify and exhort 2) give peace to a troubled mind through speaking a message of encouragement and 3) bring joy and comfort.

Encouragers have the ability to call forth the best in others through encouragement and motivation. Thus naturally, people with the gift of encouragement feel comfortable around people and tend to have extraverted personalities. Anecdotal research shows that encouragers not only encourage others but also like to prescribe practical advice. Encouragers want to see people improve and succeed. They have an ability to bring new life to people who have lost their determination and feel burnt out.

Encouragers are good with every personality and gift. However, because encouragers are considerate of the feelings of others, they can easily be offended when people are not considerate toward them. Encouragers love to "fix" things and make the world a happier place!

Hmmm. “Perceivers sometimes appear direct, blunt, or inconsiderate of the feelings of others” while “Encouragers…can easily be offended when people are not considerate toward them”. So should the Perceiver not be so blunt or should the encourager not be so sensitive? I guess it depends on who you ask.

If you haven’t taken this test yourself, give it a try and find out which areas you are most gifted (you get a percentage for each of the 7 gifts). I found the descriptions very helpful in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of my own gifts and the gifts of others. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries did a great series on the pros and cons of each spiritual gift recently but unfortunately the outlines don’t appear to be posted on their website (but I’m hoping they will show up).

My top gift was teaching and sounds just like me (some excerpts from www.gifttest.org):
“People with the gift of teaching are consummate debaters.”
“Teachers need to know the reasoning behind concepts or ideas. They do not take anything at face value. Teachers can appear argumentative while they are simply trying to gain further understanding.”

I do learn by debating as I need to understand the logic behind things before it sinks in for me. Some days I’m denser than others. I have also been misinterpreted as being argumentative so I have become a wee bit better at how I approach my “debates” (maybe I should change that "wee" to "teeny-tiny"...)

If you take the test stop back over and let me know your results!

24 February 2006

When to Just Walk Away...

Well, I wasn't expecting as much commentary on my previous post as I got. Clearly things have simmered down a bit but there are still opposing views. It was never my intent to mix things up any further or get into lengthy debates, but I have to tell you that I still have an uneasiness about the whole "dispute".

My original intent in writing my last post was primarily to defend Marla. I do not know Marla personally and I had only visited her site once or twice before this controversy, but I felt the need to stand up for her a bit anyway. My understanding of what she had said that started off the whole controversy, which was initially based only on reading other people's posts/comments in response to her posts, was not the same conclusion that I reached when I actually went through and read her posts myself. I felt that some of what she had said was misinterpreted and some of it blown a bit out of proportion so I felt the need to give my point of view on the whole thing.

That said, I still feel like some of the facts are being missed. Do I post again on the subject in hopes to find clarity or do I just walk away? That's what I have been struggling with. There have been times in my life where I have gotten into a debate with someone and finally had to just give up because it was clear that the other person and I were on two different wavelengths. They were arguing about why an orange is orange and I was arguing about why an apple is red. Those are the times it's just better to walk away.

I'm thinking this may be one of those times.

However I am struggling because I feel like in a way that I've backed down. In an attempt to keep peace, I have backed off a bit on my stance so as not to upset others. But sometimes the truth is upsetting.

I did go back and read through Marla's posts again - a print out of all of her posts - and went through it slowly, making notes. I do disagree with a few of her points but I agree with even more. I thought all of her posts were very well-written and well thought-out. Could she have said things in a more neutral manner so as not to upset other people? Sure. Does that then negate everything she said? I don't think so. There were alot of nuggets of truth in her posts and I am glad that she's willing to stand up for what she thinks is important.

So if you read this Marla, I still support you.

Sometimes Christians get stuck on the minutia and miss the big picture - it happens. Sometimes Christians disagree on the non-doctrinal stuff - that's okay. And some Christians duck the hard stuff while other Christians get tired of being politically-correct: I'm not sure which is worse.

But we are still one body and should treat each other with as much if not more dignity than we would treat someone outside the body.

And please, if your knowledge of Marla's stance on this issue is all second-hand, please read through all of her posts before deciding your opinion on what you think she has to say.

And if you think anything I have said thus far is unscriptural, please let me know.

22 February 2006

My Thoughts on Mormons and Christians

Apparently there was some controversy in the blog world recently, at least amongst a small group of Christian women bloggers. I came in to the whole business a bit late and in all honesty it’s really not that big of a deal, but it did get me thinking. So bear with me as I don’t think I have all the facts but I won’t let me stop from commenting anyway.

Here’s a recap for those who have no clue what I’m talking about. Recently a blog held an award contest looking for nominations for things like “best blog design” and “most inspiring blog” and some mom stuff. Anyone nominated could post a little button on their blog saying they were nominated and anyone could vote for their favorite blog in a particular category. I was nominated in one of the categories (and I’m pretty sure I know by who) and posted the button on my sidebar.

Now here is where I may be a little fuzzy on the details but I think the jist of it will suffice for what I have to say. I guess Marla made a post pointing out her observation that the majority of the blogs nominated for these awards were either Mormon or Christian. Strange bedfellows…but nothing overtly wrong with the whole thing, there were no prerequisites for the nominations with regards to religion. But Marla’s ensuing posts over her observation obviously upset some people and I guess some mud-slinging occurred, mostly at Marla.

My original tip-off to this whole mess was based on a post by one of my favorite bloggers - Carol at She Lives. Carol made a very thoughtful, gentle argument against there being any problem with being nominated in a blog contest alongside non-Christians. I don’t disagree with one thing she said. But when I went over to read Marla’s posts on the subject, I didn’t feel like she was saying that a Christian shouldn’t be in a blog contest with Mormons, she was just making an observation that the mix of Mormons and Christians together was a bit curious.

Now, Marla did go on to offer a discernment award for anyone that could pick out the Mormon vs Christian blogs. I think this tactic is what upset people the most, but I think her main point may have been missed. I believe her point was that there are many Mormons who could be mistaken as Christians based of the content their blogs (ie quotes from Christian authors). Lump Mormon and Christian blogs together in a contest and perhaps the line between the two becomes a bit more blurred for non-believers or less-mature believers.

Here’s where I think Marla got the short end of the stick. I think her observation is worth taking a look at, just as a point of caution. It is clear to me that Marla has the gift of discernment and one of the benefits of that gift is seeing trouble coming long before anyone else. That is also a downfall of the gift for the discerner as sometimes their distress calls are seen as judgemental or oversensitive. Discerners can seem like troublemakers or chicken littles and often don’t get any credit when their “prophesies” finally come to pass.

Now, am I convinced that the intermingling of Christian and Mormon bloggers is a sign of something bad to come? No. But I do think it’s something to be aware of and keep an eye on. Especially if Mormons are starting to call themselves “Christians”. Mormons are not Christians, they are a cult as Marla explained and if you don’t know much about them I suggest you read Marla’s posts. I wouldn’t want a seeker or immature Christian to think that there is any common ground between Christianity and Mormonism and personally, that has made me question my own involvement in the blogger contest run by a Mormon site.

But to be honest, I’m not sure what I think is right or wrong for me in this case, but it has helped me to make clear decisions about things I could run in to in the future. For one, I wouldn’t put a Mormon blog link on my sidebar. I wouldn’t want a visitor to think I support the Mormon religion in any shape or form. Jesus is the one and only way to heaven and any religion that says anything different is leading people astray and I can’t tolerate that. I’m sure there are some very lovely Mormon ladies who have blogs and I have nothing against them personally, but they have been deceived and I pray that they will be set free and turn to Christ.

Last point (I think). The one thing that I noticed about this controversy that breaks my heart was that some self-described Christians attacked Marla (I'm not talking about Carol's post here - Carol did a good job of expressing her differing opinion without attacking anyone). As I said, I really don’t believe Marla did anything wrong, but even if she did, her fellow sisters in Christ should not be saying bad things about her or posting nasty comments. If genuine reproof were warranted then it should have been done in a loving, gentle manner and best by private email. A differing opinion is certainly fair game for the public arena but it too should not be done in attack mode.

I was once part of an email group of Christian women and saw a similar type of attack happen when one member made a comment about how she disciplines her kids. Other members starting throwing around labels like "child abuse" and just belittled this mother. I was astonished. One of the things that became apparent to me was that anyone can call themselves a Christian – that doesn’t make it true. Christian women should never be associated with the words "cat fight".

Well, I think I hit all my main points. I don’t have any strong feelings about this whole issue, but I thought it was an interesting lesson on human nature, discernment, and the pitfalls of written communication. I think that a lot of what Marla had to say was simply misconstrued to be bigger and worst than it was intended to be. It was in my opinion an interesting observation that brought up some good thinking points for true believers.

Finally, I was reminded of these verses as I thought over all of this:

1Corinthians 10:18-33 (NIV)

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

19 February 2006

Switching Gears?

I'd love to continue on the topic of the Christian's responsibility to the poor but as I did more research I realized that I need to spend alot more time studying the scripture and doing a more in-depth study on this topic. I have to say, I'm feeling a bit conflicted and confused by what I've come up with so far and need to take some time out to really delve into the issue.

I also haven't been "with it" enough to put together a coherent discussion. I wish I had the time to read and study my bible and write more about my thoughts, but all the other components of my life seem to keep me too busy. Something has to give.

So I think I'm gonna take a short break and try to get organized. I'm not sure yet if that means I won't write at all or a may just keep more of a journal of my day to day stuff. My original intent with this blog was to write inspirational content but I seem to have run out of steam after just a few months. Maybe it's time to switch gears?

16 February 2006

A Christian's Obligation to the Poor Continued

As I stated in my previous post, there are many verses that talk of “the poor”. Let’s look at a few more:

Proverbs 31:20
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Acts 9:36
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor.

Acts 10:4
The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.

Look how the people mentioned above were honored for their gifts to the poor.

Proverbs 31 is a very well-known verse that is used to exemplify the character of a Godly woman. Among those characteristics highlighted is the woman’s help to the needy and poor. In Acts we see a brief mention of a disciple named Tabitha whose claim to fame was her good works, specifically helping the poor.

Now look at Cornelius, a gentile who was singled out by the Lord to hear the gospel. His prayers and gifts to the poor were a memorial before God. These were actions that pleased the Lord.

Once again, I’m short on time so I’ll have to continue with this later. I’ll leave you all to start drawing your own conclusions. What is your memorial before God?

15 February 2006

Bono, Africa and the Christian

Carol at She Lives had some links about Bono from U2 on her blog that got me to thinking. I was hoping to spend some time developing this post more but I don’t see that happening in the near future, so in the interest of timeliness I’ll just say a few things.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of Bono but I did catch him on an interview a few months back on Fox News (maybe with Bill O’Reilly?) and was impressed with his eloquence and his passion for humanitarian work. Bono has a real heart for the continent of Africa and I appreciate his efforts to use his celebrity status to try and improve the situation there.

So I was interested to read the articles that Carol had linked to regarding Bono’s speech at The National Prayer Breakfast. In that speech Bono quoted some scripture (not sure that he is a believer, maybe still a seeker) and particularly mentioned how often the Bible speaks of poverty. I guess I was struck by this since this was a more recent revelation of my own in doing some research around giving. God has a lot to say about the poor, let’s take a look:

Leviticus 19:10
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:22
" 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' "

Leviticus 25:35
" 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you

Deuteronomy 15:11
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Proverbs 14:31
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 17:5
He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 19:17
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

Proverbs 21:13
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

Proverbs 22:9
A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

I haven’t even made it out of the Old Testament, but in the interest of time I’ll continue with more verses in another post. Take my word for it, there are a lot of verses concerning the treatment of the poor.

The poverty, disease, and constant turmoil in Africa breaks my heart. It’s never seemed right to me that we in America can live in such luxury while other human beings in the world can live in such darkness. I’m glad that Bono mentioned in his speech the involvement of the church in this crisis and it’s convicted me to look for more ways to contribute.

But are we doing enough? This is something I’d like to explore a little more at a later date.

13 February 2006

The Love in Food

When I first saw the topic of this week’s Carnival of Beauty was “comfort food” I did not intend to submit a post. The reason I initially recoiled at this particular topic was the suggestion of posting a recipe to share. I do not like to cook nor am I any good at cooking, so it’s better that I not share any of my “recipes” (experiments). However, the topic made me think of my Grandmother who passed away recently, so I decided to write something in honor of her.

My Grandmother was a wonderful cook. Growing up we did not live terribly close to my Grandparents, but we did visit at Thanksgiving and Christmas when we were able to enjoy the wonderful meals my Grandmother would prepare. She never made anything terribly fancy, but it was delicious. And she made it all look easy. As someone who doesn’t cook well, I have really come to appreciate her cooking talents.

But it’s not really all about the food. It’s about the love behind the food. My Grandmother was a very family-oriented person who enjoyed showing her love through keeping her family well-fed. Being at my Grandparents house was like a never-ending feast, but there was also a very special quality to the food that I just can’t describe. You really could almost taste the love.

Of course, my Grandmother had many special qualities that I appreciate and remember her by. But it’s her cooking that I remember most fondly, maybe because of my own deficiency in that area. Unfortunately though, I never got any of her recipes. I did however find a recipe online for something she made at our holiday dinners so that will have to do. It’s not exactly comfort food, but it was simple enough that I was able to remember.

Pistachio Jello Salad:
1 (3 oz.) pkg. pistachio instant pudding
1 (8 oz.) container cool whip
1 large can crushed pineapple, with juice
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix together dry pudding mix and pineapple; fold in cool whip. Add nuts and stir. Must set 4 hours before serving.

I think this is one of the few things I actually helped make – four ingredients mixed together is just my speed. What can you say. It's easy, it's green-good for potlucks.

My Grandmother was a great woman, completely devoted to her family and very well-loved. While I may never be able to cook as well from her, I can still model her character in other ways. What will my grandchildren say about me? That’s something I need to work on.

12 February 2006

The Body is Weak

I have been suffering from some sort of a head cold for a week now which has kept me from posting. At least I'm hoping it's a cold. I've basically been suffering from a sinus-pressure-like headache but no other real symptoms.

I don't get headaches very often so I started getting a little paranoid that maybe I have an aneurysm or something as my biological aunt died from an aneurysm less than a year ago. Totally crazy, but I can't help myself sometimes. If it's God's will to take me, that's fine, but I have to pray to the contrary or I'm afraid my children will never wear matching clothes again. A little joke for my husband.

Anyway, I was looking at my blog traffic and after checking one of the links noticed that I was nominated at One Woman's World (along with many others) under the Most Inspiring category! I don't have too many regular readers but am very touched that someone would nominate me. Thank you. I also see that some of my favorite bloggers are over there, so check it out.

08 February 2006

The Secret of Contentment

I missed the deadline for the Carnival of Beauty this week as I’ve been keeping busy with other things. However, when I noticed that the topic was Contentment I decided to look up some verses quickly to see what the Bible had to say. Here’s what I found:

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

1 Timothy 6:5-7
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Philippians 4:11-12
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

Job 36:11
If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.

As I read these words I felt convicted. I do not have the contentment that I should as a child of God. Not that I lust after riches or don’t appreciate the blessings the Lord has given me, but in my daily life I always seem to be waiting for things to get better. My life always feels like it’s in a transition and I never can settle in and get comfortable.

I realize now that it’s not the circumstances of my life that cause this discontentment, but my own choice not to rest in the Lord. Certainly my life is less chaotic than the Apostle Paul who was always on the move enduring beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and imprisonments. And yet he had found “the secret” of being content in every situation (Phil 4:12). Now that I know the secret I hope that I can learn to be content also.

06 February 2006

Christian Charities Continued

Blogger must be having some difficulties as I received notification of 3 comments on my last post by email, the main post states there are 2 comments, but when you go to the comments section there is only 1 comment (it is Carol, but still). Hmmm.

Anyway, Vicki left a comment about CRI which I appreciated. I did some searching myself and wasn't happy with what I found, so I'm taking CRI off my list of favorite charities.

One of my family members sent me an email about donating to local homeless shelters but was unsure of any Christian affiliation. That got me to thinking about my own philosophy on giving which may not be popular.

I tend to only give to Christian organizations, at least planned giving. Yes, I'll throw a dollar into the fireman's boot at the intersection but in general I like to only give to Christian charities. The reason being that I believe the only true gift I can give someone is the gift of the Gospel. Without salvation, not much else matters.

I'm not saying that giving to non-Christian charities is wrong, it's just that I want as much of my giving as possible to go to furthering the kingdom of God. If I feel a burden to give to the homeless, then I try to find a Christian organization that will not only provide for the physical needs of the homeless but also for the spiritual. I do want to give to the poor and needy (as the Bible mandates), but I want the recipients of that giving to know that the care they receive is coming from the Lord so that they too can have the hope that is in Christ.

So that's my philosophy on giving. Just thought I would share.

Proverbs 19:17
"He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done."

02 February 2006

Favorite Charities?

My husband and I have some money set aside from some recent blessings that we want to give to some Christian charities/ministries. We already have money earmarked for our church as I believe that one's local church should be the first place you give, but this is some extra money that we would like to give to other causes. I thought it would be fun to hear from others about their favorite Christian charities. If you have any to recommend, please leave a comment.

One of my favorite charities is Compassion International. We have a compassion child that we support, but they always have needs for more support for unsponsored children and other projects. Children are such an important ministry, if you don't sponsor a child already, I highly recommend this organization.

One of my newer favorite charities is The Bible League. They pass out bibles throughout the world and what could be more important to spreading God's word than, well, spreading God's Word.

Other ministries I like are radio ministries which help encourage and edify fellow Christians. Some of my favorites are The Christian Research Institute (The Bible Answer Man), In Touch Ministries, and Focus on the Family. I also like the Prison Fellowship ministry (Chuck Colson/Breakpoint/Angeltree).

Those are some of my favorites but I’m always looking for new ministries. Sometimes it becomes a bit overwhelming because there are so many good organizations in need of funds, but there are only so many any one person can support. This is an area where I also think it is imperative to be a good steward when deciding where to give. Like the parable of the talents, we want to get the most return on our investment.

Please stop by the comments section and tell me about your favorite Christian charity.

01 February 2006

Strength to the Weary

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

I've been feeling weary lately. I needed these verses!

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