Look Before Your Leave

Christianity may have more to offer than you have experienced so far

Show Notes

Have you ever bought something only to find that you already had it at home?

Some people leave the Christian faith to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for not realizing that it was there all the time.

What some people are looking for that they don’t always experience in Christianity or in the local church

  • to be less busy and invest time in meaningful activity – (not usually found in church meetings!)
  • to connect with nature because it makes them feel calm, peaceful and connected with God

Psalm 8: 3,4

Revelation 21:1-2

  • joy
  • connect with people on a deeper level

Acts 2:42-47; 4:32

Biblical Christianity offers all this and more. Don’t give up on the Christian faith or on your local church just because you have not yet experienced these.

CONNECT WITH ME

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DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY.

What is the Church’s ‘One Thing’?

Show Notes

The One Thing – the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results, published in 2013 was written by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. 

The ‘one thing’ is important to ask ourselves if we seek to be productive and focus on what is most important.

It is essential for the local church to know its ‘one thing’.

Things a local church may do well

  • worship music
  • preaching
  • youth ministry
  • church suppers and yard sales!

But what SHOULD be the local church’s priority?

It is found in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19,20 – to make disciples.

This priority was not only commanded by Jesus, it was demonstrated by Jesus. He was able to leave His work to be carried on by the men He had discipled.

Story of the landlord and his parking lot – from Ruth Soukup –www.livingwellspendingless.com.

Do you agree?

Let me know if you agree or not. If you don’t, tell me what you think the church’s ‘one thing’ is supposed to be. You can comment on my blog at www.shirleydemerchant.com or on the LOOKING FOR MORE PODCAST COMMUNITY Facebook page.

Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY.

Forget Google Play. Try Google “Pray”!

How to use Google Calendar to improve your prayer life

 

Show Notes

3 reasons why I like Google Calendar for prayer:

  1. Quick and easy to input requests.
  2. Many options for scheduling your prayer requests – Different frequency choices throughout a calendar month or several times during the day.  An old hymn  – “Whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon, whisper a prayer in the evening, ’twill keep your heart in tune. “
  3. Easy to update. Use the note section for recording the details of the prayer request. When you update that information “Save for future events” and all subsequent times that name or need appears on the calendar will be updated.

 

Use Google Calendar (or another digital calendar) to help you remember:

who to pray for by putting each name or need on your schedule

what to pray for by using the note section

when to pray by scheduling the frequency of a request

By using this tool,  you will free up your mind from trying to remember details so that you can concentrate on actually bringing those needs before the Lord.

Make technology work to improve your prayer life so that you can “Pray without ceasing”.

 

LET ME KNOW what digital tools you use for prayer by leaving a comment on the blog post or on the LOOKING FOR MORE PODCAST COMMUNITY Facebook page.

 

Subscribe – iTunes and Stitcher

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY.

What Color Are You Wearing Today?

Why you should wear black on Thursdays

Show Notes

My 2nd episode of the National Podcast Post Month (NAPODPOMO).

Why wear black on Thursdays? Participate in the worldwide movement called Thursdays in Black (TiB) –  a campaign of solidarity and advocacy against all forms of sexual and gender-based violence.

If you live in Canada you can order TiB pins from the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada in Toronto. (Sorry, no international shipping.)

Resources on gender-based violence (GBV), pins, bookmarks and T-shirts (mailed from South Africa) can be found at  www.thursdaysinblack.co.za.

 

On that website you can sign the following pledge:

By supporting Thursdays in Black I stand:

– In protest against systems and societies that encourage violence in any form,

– In solidarity with 1 in 4 women worldwide who face violence in their lives,

– In mourning for men, women and children who are harmed and killed in sexual violence,

– For awareness and information about the challenges of GBV,

– In the hope that a different reality is possible.”

 

History of the Thursdays in Black Movement 

Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, World Council of Churches programme executive for Women in Church and Society said in 2013,

Thursdays in Black is a united global expression of the desire for safe communities where we can all walk safely without fear of being raped, shot at, beaten up, verbally abused and discriminated against due to one’s gender or sexual orientation.”

TAKE ACTION

  1. Dress down – Wear black.
  2. Identify the cause – Wear a pin or TiB T-shirt.
  3. Speak up – Be prepared to answer the questions, “Why are you wearing black?” or “What is Thursdays in Black?”
  4. Be informed – Know what resources are in your community for women who are victims of rape and violence.
  5. Pray – Ask God to lead you to people who need to know people care.

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15 )

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY.

 

Want to Know God’s Will? Ask the Right Question.

Show Notes

My 1st episode for National Podcast Post Month (NAPODPOMO).

One reason people sometimes feel disconnected with the church is because their focus is too narrow. They don’t have the big picture in mind.

Two Questions

Asking, ”What’s God’s will for my life?” is incomplete and too narrow in focus. It treats our lives as a complete picture – the whole puzzle.

Asking, “What’s God’s will for my life, in light of His will for His people and the world?” is a better question. It considers the big picture of God’s will and our lives as an important part, but as a piece of the puzzle and not the whole puzzle.

God Has a Plan

I Samuel 15 tells us that God rejected Saul because of his disobedience and His plan was to give the kingdom to someone else, someone better than Saul (v.28).

1 Samuel 16: 1-13 shows how God’s will was fulfilled by three people responding in three different ways to His will as revealed to them.

Three people. Three parts of the plan.

  • Samuel – Obey the next step
  • Jesse (father of David) – Relinquish control of his son
  • David – Submit to God’s will

Your Part

Which one of these do you relate to most at this point in your life?

Do you need to just take the next step?
Do you need to relinquish control over someone you love so they can follow God’s will as they understand it?
Do you, like David, need to accept God’s will for yourself, with all your unanswered questions, and just submit to His will?

Seeing God’s will from the perspective of God’s plan for His people and the world shows how God demands different things of different people depending on the circumstances.

Seeing the big picture can help us experience DEEPER FAITH and GREATER JOY.

Mentoring – The Power of a Team of Two

The spiritual friendship of David and Jonathan

Show Notes

Ways to listen to this podcast:

National Podcast Month starts next week. The challenge – 30 podcasts in 30 days during the month of November. Let me know if you have suggestions for topics for November.

Canadian singer Anne Murray tells of her embarrassing moment of meeting Queen Elizabeth II in her book, All of Me.

Mentoring can help us face new and challenging situations with more confidence than if we are facing that challenge alone.

DAVID AND JONATHAN

David became the 2nd king of Israel.

Jonathan was the son of the 1st king of Israel.

They were probably about the same age.

The two men had two things in common – courage and commitment.

1. Courage

Jonathan demonstrated courage in the face of a battle with limited resources (1 Samuel 13:22-14:23).

David showed courage in facing Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-50).

Jonathan was drawn to David because of his courage (1 Samuel 18:1).

2. Commitment

a. To each other

Saul’s threats on David’s life could have torn their friendship apart but it brought them closer together (1 Samuel 20:1-42).

Jonathan kept his word and warned David so David could run to safety.

David kept his word to Jonathan by caring for his handicapped son Mephibosheth after Jonathan’s death (2 Samuel 9:1-13). 

b. To God

More significant than their commitment to each other was their commitment to the will of God.

Consider the potential conflicts they faced:

  • King Saul wanted to kill David but Jonathan did not believe that at first.
  • David was chosen by God to be the next king but that meant Saul’s son, Jonathan could not be king. That must have felt awkward. It must have taken a great deal of humility for Jonathan to accept this. Both men were committed to doing God’s will.

Courage brought them together but their commitment to each other and to God kept them together.

Having a mentor in our life makes us stronger and helps us to make difficult choices.

The power of two

In a blog post by Jim Stoval called Horse Sense, the author explains that one draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds, but two draft horses together can pull 24,000 pounds. However, two horses that are familiar with each other and have worked together before can pull 32,000, four times what one horse could pull.

Mentoring is like that – making two people much stronger together.

Interested in mentoring?

Do you have a mentor in your life?

Would you like to be mentored or learn to be a mentor?

Let me know on the Looking For More podcast Community Facebook page.

My desire for you…DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY.

Mentoring – It Doesn’t Add Up. It Multiplies!

The power of spiritual friendships

Show Notes

I’m challenged!

I’m participating in the 2017 National Podcast Post Month (Napodpomo) from November 1-30. The challenge is to produce 30 podcasts in 30 days.

If you have suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in November contact me by:

The numbers in the Bible often don’t add up.

  • Three in one
  • Two fish + five loaves =  5000 + people fed + 12 baskets of leftovers (Mark 6:30-44)
  • 12 disciples -1 betrayer= powerful team that changes the world by living and preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to some numbers in the Bible they don’t add up. I wonder if God feels addition is just too slow. He accelerates the impact of what He does!

One of the best examples of this is the impact of mentoring on the lives of individual believers.

This week’s and next week’s episodes will cover two mentoring relationships in the Bible.

This week: The relationship between 2 women

Next week: The relationship between 2 men

Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:26-45)

The news announced by the angel Gabriel to Mary about God’s will for her life was astounding (vv.31-33). She would give birth to the Son of God.

Her reaction also was astounding (v.38).

I WOULD HAVE HAD SO MANY QUESTIONS AND SO MANY OBJECTIONS! I would have at least asked if I could go home and pray about it first!

But Mary said “Yes”.

God did not expect Mary to face this challenge alone. He gave her Elizabeth to mentor her (vv.36, 37).

Mary seeks out Elizabeth

After the angel gave Mary his message, she headed for the house of Elizabeth (vv. 39,40).

Before Mary opened her mouth she learned that Elizabeth knew and understood (vv.41-45).

This passage shows how gracious God is! He gave her a friend to walk the difficult road ahead.

Observations:

  1. God already had someone in mind to help Mary when He gave her the unique and difficult assignment. Take note: When God gives us an assignment, He gives us the resources we need in order to be successful, resources like people.
  2. Elizabeth could relate to Mary in many ways.
  • She too had experienced a miracle, pregnant in her old age.
  • She knew about Gabriel, for he told her husband Zachariah that they would have a son (Luke 1:5-25).
  • She was further ahead of Mary in her pregnancy and could help Mary as a first-time mother.
  • She too was carrying a special child, John the Baptist, and knew the responsibility of playing a very significant role in what God was doing.

God Provides

Incomplete – “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Complete – “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle using the resources He provides.”

Mentors are one of those resources.

Mary’s Choices

Mary could have chosen to be embarrassed by her pregnancy and gone into hiding. She could have chosen not to believe the angel and to wait it out to see if she, in fact, was with child.

However, she chose to seek out Elizabeth.

We too need to seek out believers who can help us grow in our faith and obey God’s will for our lives.

Finding a mentor

Has God given you a task that you feel is too big and too hard for you? How different would it be if you had even one other person to mentor you who understood you, helped you and supported you as you endeavor to follow Christ?

The local church is where we should be able to find people who can help us grow in faith through mentoring.

But often a mentor cannot be found, or potential mentors are too busy or lack the confidence that they have the ability to help someone else grow.

Technology 

Today’s technology can help us overcome some of the limitations of the local church by connecting believers online who want to grow spiritually and who want to help others grow.

Are you interested in being mentored or being a mentor?

I have mentored a few people over the years and would like to train people to mentor others.

If you want to explore this topic, please let me know on our Facebook Page. I would be interested in hearing

  • if you’ve had any experience with mentoring
  • what areas you would like help in
  • if you would like to learn to be a mentor

For the present time, the Facebook page is open for anyone to comment. If there is enough interest in a group then we can form a closed group for more personal conversations.

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY

Are Your Minister’s Sermons Changing Lives?

How to increase the impact of Sunday's message

Show Notes

Wall Street Journal article, “I Can’t Understand a Word My Priest Says” by Mary Shelley (October 5, 2017)

Three questions arose as I read this article:

I. If she could accept a priest she could not understand, then are the rest of us expecting too much of our ministers?

THE PERFECT PASTOR

Good news! Finally, the model pastor has been found—one who will please every church member. He is twenty-six years old and has been preaching for thirty years. He is tall, short, thin, heavy set, and handsome, with one brown eye and one blue. His hair is parted in the middle. The left side is blond and straight; the right side is dark and curly. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with older folks. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes fifteen calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing the lost, and never leaves his office.

II. If we do expect too much of our ministers, what then is the bare minimum we should require?

In 2010, the Vatican came out with the recommendation that homilies should be no longer than 8 minutes.

“Few sinners are saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon.” Mark Twain

III. Are we limiting the impact of God’s Word to what we hear from the preacher on Sunday morning? 

Reasons for asking this question:

1. The traditional structure of church sanctuaries is like a concert hall where:

  • the audience sits in straight rows facing the stage.
  • the audience does not interact with others in the audience or with the person on the stage.
  • the role of the audience is passive – listen and enjoy.

Surely worship is meant to be more than this!

2. The pressure on the pastor to carry the service. The congregation gathers to hear what one person has to say. The pastors I know take their role as preacher very seriously and prepare their messages thoughtfully and prayerfully. But is this focus on one person’s preparation what worship was intended to be?

Don’t get me wrong! I believe in the power of preaching. I have been humbled over and over again at how my sermons have impacted people’s lives. It always surprises me! I also experience a miracle every time I prepare a sermon. The process of going from a blank page to an idea, to a mess of ideas that look like a ball of yarn, to a message that is orderly, biblical, thoughtful and impactful. Time and time again – a humbling and delightful experience!

But it seems to me that the impact of God’s Word would be greater if it was experienced differently than just by listening to the message by the pastor.

TWO APPROACHES TO INCREASE THE IMPACT OF THE SERMON

Sermons prepared by a team

In some larger churches, there is a team approach to sermon preparation. The pastor delivers the message but there have been contributions by others who have shaped the message, the presentation and the application of biblical principles. This allows the Word to impact more people during the preparation of the message and should result in more balanced messages that are easier to understand and relevant to most of the people in the congregation.

Most churches in Canada though are small where the minister does all the pastoral work and most of the administrative work as well. There is no team. This second approach though would work in any congregation regardless of the size.

Using the sermon as the basis for small group discussions

Some churches are not using the sermon as a stand-alone message. Instead, it is being used as the main focus of small groups that meet weekly to discuss the sermon, to go deeper into the Bible, to ask questions and to be challenged to live out what they learn in their personal and work lives.

Small groups that are well led can increase the impact of the Word on the lives of individuals by providing opportunities for:

  1. Clarification – What did the minister say?
  2. Application – How do I apply this truth?
  3. Modelling – What does this look like?
  4. Accountability – Who will help me keep my commitment?

These four aspects of integrating God’s truth into our lives is almost impossible to do in the role of listener, but in the context of discussion and trusting relationships this can lead to the transformation of lives!

Besides transforming lives and connecting with other believers, this approach honors the time and effort that the minister put into the sermon preparation and delivery.

Most sermons are heard only once by the congregation. With podcasting and the Internet, the message can reach a broader audience and that is good, but the people the minister wants to influence most are those who sit in the congregation on Sunday mornings. This should be the responsibility of more than just the minister and requires more than just listening to a sermon.

NEXT STEPS

Form a small group – If you see the value of this approach and if your church does not have such a small group, ask if it would be possible to start one. If there is no one to lead it or few people seem interested, you could meet with one or two other people to do this. Most ministers I know would be so pleased to know that people were putting more effort into understanding and applying Sunday’s message.

Comment on the Looking For More Podcast Community Facebook page. Share your ideas, questions, and comments.

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY!

 

Facing Present Crises By Looking To The Past

Understanding God in the rearview mirror

 

SHOW NOTES

The news these days is scary and disturbing:

  • floods and hurricanes in the southern US
  • hurricanes in the Caribbean devastating places like Puerto Rico
  • the earthquake in Mexico
  • the threats between Trump and North Korea
  • and just this week, the mass shooting in Las Vegas

There is a lot of anxiety in our world today!

How should we as God’s people respond to such troubling times where there is so much suffering and so many reasons to be afraid?

God reveals himself in rearview mirrors.”     

Ann VosKamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), p. 157

Look back to see what God has done to make sense of the present.

Learning from three Old Testament characters

  • How did they handle the crises of their day?
  • How did God work in their circumstances?
  • What can we learn from their examples?
  1. JOSEPH (Genesis 37-50)

God used a family crisis to put Joseph in Egypt to save many lives during a famine, even the lives of his own family.

As a slave and as a prisoner, it was obvious to others that God was with Joseph (Genesis 39:3-5; 20-23).

When Joseph was able to interpret the dream of the king of Egypt he was put in charge of preparing for a famine (Genesis 41:40,41).

Joseph wept (Genesis 42:24; 43;30; 45:2,14-15; 46:29).

GOD was at work

  1. ESTHER

A crisis in the palace became a national crisis with the search for a new queen. This became a crisis for Esther and eventually for her people when threatened with extermination.

Esther won the favor of others (Esther 2:9,15,17).

A courageous decision (Esther 4:14,16).

  1. DANIEL

Daniel’s crisis began when he was taken as a captive from Jerusalem to Babylon where he was forced into a three-year retraining program.

Daniel’s first of many stands (Daniel 1:8).

God’s favor upon Daniel (Daniel 1:9,17,19).

Daniel’s life of integrity (Daniel 6:3-5).

Daniel survives the lion’s den (Daniel 6:23).

LESSONS for facing crises today:

  1. Don’t cower in fear but move forward in faith.
  2. Live a godly life. Don’t just talk about it.
  3. Choose action over bitterness, anger and fear.

One major way in which our times are different than Old Testament times is the power of instant and constant media coverage of events that bombard us. We need to balance disturbing images and news with positive thoughts, truth and inspiration.

I would like to share with you my list of 31 Fear-Fighting, Faith-Building Bible Verses for your encouragement.

Click here to download.

When we look back into the history of God’s interaction with His people we see His sovereignty – bringing His people through one crisis after another in order to make a difference in their world, protecting His people and fulfilling His purposes for His people and the world.

The world may seem to be out of control. Look in the rearview mirror and be reminded that God was in control back then and He is still in control today.

Deeper faith. Greater joy!

Who’s “You” in chUrch?

Why "you" may be misunderstanding the Bible

SHOW NOTES
From “Cinderella With Amnesia – A practical discussion of the relevance of the church” by Michael Griffiths:

“The Bible talks about ‘the bride of Christ’, but the church today seems like a ragged Cinderella, hideous among the ashes. She has forgotten that she is supposed to be growing up…to be a beautiful lady! Many Christians can rattle off glibly the various biblical pictures of the church as ‘building’, and ‘body’, and ‘bride’; but in their experience, these ideas have never got beyond a theoretical stage, and they continue to be disappointed with , and disillusioned by, the church as they know it. I have often noticed … that many of the apparently individual problems of Christians, stem from the inadequacy of their congregational involvement, and their consequent dissatisfaction with the church.”, p. 7

“The younger generation is alienated by the hideous disfigurement, the repulsive ‘spots’ and ‘wrinkles’ of the institutional church, and is so disturbed and disenchanted that the church becomes an embarrassment to be explained away and replaced by new forms. As a result there is currently a noticeable retreat from corporate responsibility into a subjective stress on private experience…” p. 9

These words sound so contemporary but this book was written in 1975! The decline of the Christian church in western countries is not new. It’s not a fad.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

There are many reasons for the diminishing role of the Christian church in Western cultures but I just want to mention three.

1.Our focus on the individual (or obsession!) which influences our perspective when reading the Bible and even in our praying.

Even when the pronouns “we”, “us”, and “our” are used, we think instead of “me”, “my” and “mine”.

This is clearly obvious in the way we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Here are some of the key lines from that prayer:

  • “our” father who is in heaven
  • give “us” this day “our” daily bread
  • forgive “us our” trespasses
  • lead “us” not into temptation
  • deliver “us” from evil

It has been my experience that most people do not see this as a corporate prayer for God’s people but a prayer focusing on their own needs.

NOT ALL CULTURES HAVE THIS FOCUS

I lived in South Korea for over ten years. This culture is very communal which is reflected in their language. Koreans are more likely to say “our house” and “our mother” than English speakers. They even say “our husband”! I told my Korean friends that if I ever find a husband he won’t be “our” husband, but “mine”, “mine” – all “mine”!

2. The limitation of the English language that does not distinguish between the singular “you” and the plural “you”.  We often forget that the Bible was not first written in English. When applying scripture it can be confusing to know if “you” means one person or a group of people.

These two factors contribute to the third problem.

3. Applying passages of the Bible to the individual “you” when the intended “you” is a group of people.

Many of the passages of the Bible can be applied personally.  I am so grateful for the many promises in scripture that belong to every believer and for the comfort found in many parts of both the Old and New Testaments.

However, parts of the Bible are addressed to specific groups of people, like Paul’s epistles to churches. Understanding the “you” to be referring to the individual, whether it is written “y-o-u” or just implied, can drastically change the interpretation of a passage and its application.

Here are just two examples of passages that are applied very differently depending on if the focus is individual or corporate.

a. THE LOVE CHAPTER

I Corinthians 13, often referred to as “The Love Chapter,” is most commonly used as a text read at weddings as a declaration of the love between two individuals and their commitment to one another. It is so appropriate for this occasion, but this is not the context of this portion of scripture.

The context is that this passage was written to a church, the church at Corinth. It was a church that had many problems that created divisions and disunity. 1 Corinthians 13 was written to remind them of how they were to treat one another and to remember that love is essential in the body of Christ.

Listen as I read this chapter and imagine what it would be like to have this read in a church service addressing the whole church, or during the Communion Service, or at the beginning of each church business meeting.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a part of a church that made these words central to their teaching and practice and not just limited to a great text for weddings?

If churches practiced these words, there would be less division and a greater impact on the lives of people in the church AND outside the church.

b. SPIRITUAL GIFTS

In the chapter just before this description of love,  several spiritual gifts are listed, followed by an explanation of how there can be both diversity and unity in the church. Paul uses an analogy of the human body which is one unit made up of various parts.

That is followed by the statement, “Now (you) eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31, emphasis mine).

Who is being addressed?

Individuals have taken this to mean they should seek better gifts – different gifts than they have been given. Some denominations have stressed here the importance of seeking the gift of speaking in tongues. Regardless of which gift the individual considers better, it has created discontentment, envy, pride and division by (mis)applying a verse in a chapter focused on unity!

The context is Paul telling this church to seek the greatest gifts and 1 Corinthians 13 states that the greatest gifts are faith, hope and love and that the greatest of these is love (v.13).

Can you see how misunderstanding the “you” being addressed can lead to a different and potentially destructive application?

These limitations of our culture and language can be overcome by understanding how to read and study scripture. I will talk about this more in future podcasts.

I would like to hear from “you” (you figure it out!)

In these two episodes of Looking For More, I have mentioned some of the issues about the church and Christian discipleship that concern me. I would like to hear from you and know if you share the same concerns or if there are other issues on your mind.

There are several ways you can give me feedback:

DEEPER FAITH. GREATER JOY!