Summer Reading

As Christian workers, our busy lives sometimes don’t leave much time for reading for pleasure. When was the last time you read a Christian novel? Maybe Christian fiction seems like a waste of time when you could be doing something more profitable, but consider this:

  • Stories broaden your world and help you understand other points of view.
  • Reading builds vocabulary, writing skills, and creativity.
  • Reading slows memory loss in later life.
  • Reading helps you escape from your problems and rest.
  • Reading relieves stress (and who doesn’t need that?)
  • Reading good Christian novels fills your mind with good things.
  • You can read wherever you go, even while you are waiting.
  • Reading is fun!

This summer as you head toward the mountains, the beach, a national park, or your relatives, don’t forget to take a book or two. Load up your e-reader with quality Christian fiction and be ready for everything from  a peaceful quiet time to a long ride in a car.

Need help to get started? Check out my list of 5 fiction books and 2 nonfiction books about cross-cultural relationships and ministry.

 

New and Original Christian Children’s Song

Technology has finally caught up to what I can do with scissors and glue. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, my use of technology and my online tools have brought me to a better place. At any rate, I am now able to offer my Road Sign Song for free download. I wrote this song some years ago for our ministry in New Zealand, cutting and pasting cardboard signs to paper. Thanks to Canva (https://www.canva.com) I’m now at a point when I can offer both a print and PowerPoint option for the visualized version of this song. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

If you’ve sung the “Stop” and “Go” song in your children’s ministry, (and who hasn’t?) you’ve seen how this song brings excitement to each new generation as kids take turns holding the signs. My Road Sign Song uses eleven different road signs to present a strong Christian message. I originally used it when teaching the book of Acts, but it can be used at any time. I hope many can use it so effectively communicate Christian truth.

You can download the sheet music, a printed visual or PowerPoint version of the words here.

Allergy Friendly Communion Bread

People with allergies can be such a problem, especially if you aren’t used to cooking for them! They are, however, real people with real needs. They deal with their allergies every day of their lives. The church can be a blessing to them by finding out about their allergies and working with them. Communion time is a great time to show love and respect for sincere Christians who have to deal with allergies.

Communion bread is easy to make using my recipe. Using gluten free flour makes the bread gluten free. If you choose your gluten free flour carefully, you can also make it soy free or maize free.  My husband is pastor of our mission church and must eat gluten free. We also have people who need soy free or dairy free diets. I make all our communion bread with this recipe that can work for everyone in our church.

Just recently I’ve discovered some crackers that also work for communion. If you hunt around, you may also find some that work for you.

If you picture yourself as a Christian who, because of allergies, could never again take communion, you’ll realize what a blessing your allergy friendly communion bread can be.  With a little effort you can include every Christian in your church in your communion service.

What does God want me to do? Part 3—Choosing a Ministry

In February I talked about how to find God’s will for your life. I talked about finding God’s will through the Bible, positioning ourselves to do His will, getting godly counsel, and rattling doorknobs.  I promised to give you some personal examples of how I found God’s will in several areas of my life. In March I talked about the way the Lord has led me in writing for Christian publication. Today I’ll talk about how the Lord has led me in ministry. I hope this will help some of you who may be looking for guidance in your own ministry.

I became a Christian at age five and, as a teen, told God I would do whatever he wanted me to do. I was raised in a pastor’s home and always had a special heart for ministry. It only made sense to go to a Bible college, since Bible college training is a pre-requisite for many kinds of ministry. I thought it would be great if the Lord would lead me to become a pastor’s wife, but for several years no would-be pastors asked me out. During my junior year at Faith Baptist Bible College I felt God leading me to write for Christian publication, but that didn’t rule out other ministry at the same time.

Suddenly I became aware that Art Brammer was interested in me. After dating 2 weeks he informed me that God had called him to be a missionary to Taiwan. He asked if that was an option I would consider. It sounded a bit like a proposal, but it wasn’t. He just didn’t want to waste time and emotional energy dating if there was no future in it. Being a missionary wife sounded more daunting than being a pastor’s wife, but I told him I believed it could be an option. We continued to date, asking the Lord to lead us apart if this wasn’t his will for us. God continued to lead us together. We married in 1978 and I believed God had called me to my husband and the field of Taiwan as well.

After about fifteen years in Taiwan we came to a scary place in our ministry. We had started one ministry and helped with another. In a period of about a year it became clear that both of the ministries weren’t really going forward. We didn’t want to quit and go home if the Lord wanted us to stick it out, but we also didn’t want to stay when the Lord was leading us elsewhere. How could we know what the Lord wanted?

We prayed and ask God to lead us very specifically. We sought godly counsel from our field council, mission board, and sending church. Finally we set some goals for our ministry that would help us discern the Lord’s leading. The goals were high enough to show progress, but low enough to be reasonable. If the ministries met these goals we believed God would continue to build those ministries and we should stay with them. If the goals were not met however, we would take that as a sign that the Lord was moving us on.

Within about six months the Lord made his will very clear. Neither of the ministries came close to meeting the goals. It was time for us to move, but we had no idea about what to do next. Art had planned on missions in Taiwan since he was a teenager. It had been difficult for him to even consider any other ministry. But sensing God’s leading, we brought our two high-school-aged daughters back to the US and began the search for a new ministry.

At first we looked at Chinese ministries in the US and Canada. Some sounded promising, but when we actually visited them, we didn’t feel like they were a good fit for us. God didn’t give us peace about them. Each time we “rattled a doorknob” we found the door was locked. After a couple of months in the States our field administrator from our mission board called. “Would you consider pastoring a church in New Zealand?” he asked. On the southern tip of New Zealand was a church that had been started by a missionary who felt the Lord leading him away.  We said sure, we’d consider it. Then we got out our maps. Where in the world was New Zealand?

Within about a month Art and I flew down to Invercargill, New Zealand for ten days so we could meet the church people and he could candidate as pastor. We visited the church and toured a bit of the South Island. Soon after we returned, the church voted to extend the call to Art to be their pastor. We talked about it with our kids, prayed about it, and God gave us peace. We’ve been in that ministry for twenty years now.

Early on in our ministry here, God showed us that this new place of ministry was right for us. Our daughters both had opportunities to share in our ministry before they moved away from home.

Most ministries go through ups and downs. Sometimes God brings us through down times to times of more apparent blessing. It’s not always easy to know when to leave a ministry and when to hold on. But if we really want to know God’s will, because we want to do it, because we love him, he will show us his way. We may only be able to see the next step, but when he shows us that step, we can take it in confidence. God will help us through all the necessary changes.

Are you confused about the direction of your ministry today? Are there godly counsellors you can talk to? Have you made long range goals and short range goals to get to the long range ones? Are you flexible enough to sense when God is leading you in a different direction? Are you moving forward, rattling some doorknobs to see which ones are locked?

My prayer for you today is that God will lead you to make good decisions and you will find the place or ministry where you can best serve him. May you find joy in serving him today.

What does God want me to do? Part 1

Does God want me to be a missionary? Should I make a career change? How should I treat a new unmarried couple in church who claim to be Christians but are living together? Should I pursue a new interest or join a community group? How often should I go to church if my unsaved husband doesn’t want me to go at all?

These can be tough questions without clear answers. Thankfully, God does want us to know his will, if we want to do it because we love him. I’ve been a Christian for fifty-seven years. I’ve had to find out what God wanted me to do about ministry choices, friends, writing for publication, people problems, and many other things. When I need guidance about a decision these are the things I consider.

  1. What does the Bible say?

The Bible speaks clearly on many issues. It defines morality, forbids stealing, gossip, and using God’s name in vain. I don’t have to pray about whether or not to do something when God commands me to do it or not to do it. I must obey.

Other things are not specifically dealt with in Scripture, but Scriptural principles apply. The Bible doesn’t tell me not to smoke or view pornography. It does, however, tell me that my body belongs to God. It’s a temple of the Holy Spirit. I need to take care of it. Jesus taught that lustful desires in the heart are the root sin of physical immorality. These principles help me to know what God wants me to do in many cases.

Some churches today actually teach that the Bible doesn’t apply to life today! I can’t imagine that, as we have a Bible in about every room of our house. As people come to talk over their problems we are constantly reaching for a Bible. In any decision we make, we need to consult the Bible first. If it tells us what to do, we don’t need to second guess it. We only need to obey.

  1. Position yourself to do God’s will.

Let’s say you want to become a great basketball player. You find out there’s a great team in town that you can join, and the coach is fantastic. You go down to the gym and watch practices, hang out, ask the coach questions. At first the coach answers your questions. Members of the team show you a few tips. But if you keep asking for help, but don’t want to join the team, what will the coach say? “Hey, buddy, if you want me to give you advice, join the team! Let’s see some commitment and then I’ll help you all I can.”

Salvation is the first step to positioning yourself to do God’s will. When you get saved, you “join God’s team.” God wants us to accept his Son Jesus as our Savior and commit to living for him. Why should he give us advice if we won’t even get on the same side as he is and work for the same things? (John 1:12)

We also need to give our lives to God, promising to do whatever he wants us to do. God doesn’t reveal his will so we can vote on it. When we show God we’re serious about doing his will, he will let us know what that is.

Often we ask God to show us his will, and then expect it to be terrible. “Lord, if you really want me to, I’ll be a missionary to reach the hardest tribe with the most difficult language and live in conditions that will cause me to balance on the edge of death even though it is totally opposite to all my spiritual and natural gifts and I know I’ll hate it.” We may be surprised to find that, when we truly find God’s will, it is a place that fits us well and we can enjoy serving in that capacity.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Some people think this means, “he will give me anything I want.” Actually I believe this means that if we delight ourselves in the Lord he will give us the desire to serve him in the way he wants us to serve.

How do we “delight ourselves in the Lord”? The same way we delight ourselves in people we love very much. We listen to him by reading the Bible and learning about it. We talk to him in prayer about the things that matter to us. We hang out with him by talking with him throughout the day’s activities. We grow to know him better and love him more. As we do this, God will make his will clear to us. 

  1. Ask for godly counsel.

We can always find friends who will tell us what we want to hear, but we need to search out counsellors who care about pleasing God and finding his best for us. Proverbs 11:14 tells us there is safety in this approach. That doesn’t mean the counsellor makes our decisions for us. It does mean that the counsellor can point out things we might not see on our own. Pros and cons of a certain decision. Helpful hints. Biblical principles we may have missed. The other side to the story. 

  1. Rattle some doorknobs.

God can steer us best if we are moving forward. If we truly want God’s will, he will close the doors we should not go through and open doors we should. (Revelation 3:7-8.) Sometimes we need to rattle a doorknob to see if the door is locked.

One way of doing this is to set a long range goal that we want to ultimately achieve, and then set short range goals of activities that will help us reach the long range goals.

Sometimes God wants us to stand still and wait until he leads definitely, but many times we can prayerfully proceed in a certain direction, asking God to lead us in a different direction if that’s what he wants. He won’t speak in an audible voice, but he will lead us through circumstances and giving us peace about certain steps.

Maybe these points all sound good, but you don’t know how to put them into practice. Need to see them spelled out in actual circumstances? In the March and April blogs I’m going to give several personal examples of my search for God’s will in a number of areas. I hope this will give you some ideas that help you search out God’s will for your life.

Part 2 gives an example of how I found God’s will for my life in writing for Christian publication.

Part 3 gives an example of how God led me into missions and to the place we now serve in missions.