Monday, 17 June 2013

Rise and Shine! 5 Reasons It's Great to Be an Early Riser.

I sat down, wanting to make this an article about the benefits of getting up early, but I know I can't be a hypocrite about it...

Fact #1: I am NOT by any means whatsoever a morning person. People do not like me in the morning because I am known to be slightly less than enjoyable to be around. Heh.

Fact #2: I need to get up early because (1) my mama is not a fan of me sleeping in, (2) I end up sleeping away half of the day that could be spent wisely, and (3) my accountability buddy depends on her to get up early.

Ahhh, yes. This subject is not one that is near-and-dear to my heart, but one that I can talk about on a personal level. And yes, I know it's summer time and no one wants to get up early when we can lounge around in our cozy beds all day. But then again, truth is not situational...Check out this verse on the subject: 

Proverbs 31:15 “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

As women of the faith, we look up to the Proverbs 31 woman, but often, she makes us internally groan..."I have to do that!?" (see Philippians 4:13 for some encouragement). This one definitely made me do "bleh-ing" on the inside. But, this is what God calls of us. There are many examples in the Bible of people getting up early to spend time with God and in prayer and being about His work (see Exodus 24:4, Exodus 34:4, 2 Chronicles 29:20, Mark 1:35). There are so many benefits to getting up early. I've listed just a few that came to mind...

1. You have so much more time in the day. Rising at 6 or 7 A.M. rather than 10 or 11 gives you an average of 4 and a half more hours in the day (assuming you go to bed around 10). And if you're like me, with a to-do list down to the floor, you could really use those four extra hours. Your day has just increased! And time flies too. Why waste any of the precious life that God has given us?

2. You're able to get things done. With more time, you can finally begin to check off those items on your to do list that you've been putting of for "lack of time."

3. You feel more productive. Getting things accomplished feels nice, doesn't it? Once you begin, your stress levels go down and you have more time for the things you actually enjoy doing.

4. You can spend quiet time with God without distraction. If you have lots of siblings, you may know what it's like at my house in the mornings. My younger siblings wake up around 7 or 8 and bound down the stairs, which is oh-so-nice because then they proceed to be their crazy selves outside of my bottom-floor bedroom. Then, my dogs like to bark in my ear every morning promptly at 7:30 AM to let me know they need to go to the bathroom. I love my family and my pets are great, but it does get very loud at my house at times. I don't know about you, but I could really use those few quiet hours in the morning to get alone with God. It's hard to find silence sometimes, but getting up early could definitely change that. I do recommend getting out of bed first, though. I've fallen asleep facedown in my Bible more than a few times. :)

5. You can see the sunrise! Mornings are one of the best parts of the day as far as beauty goes. Birds chirping, fresh cool air, dew on the grass, the sun beginning to peep through trees and bushes. Mornings are wonderful things. 

Let's join each other in prayer that we'll use our days wisely and our best to get up early and make our days productive for Jesus! 

Ephesians 5:15-16 "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Why You Should Bake Cookies… Erm, Build Community

This guest post was written by Rachelle Rea.

About fifteen young women piled into the small apartment that day and split into two groups. Most chose the living room as headquarters and plopped down on the couches and the floor. Their job? Writing Bible verses and encouraging notes on slips of paper to go in the bags of goodies we were making. A few of the girls—including myself—chose the kitchen as base. Our first order of business? Searching the cabinets for pans and bowls.

I love to bake, so when I learned that my Bible study group was meeting to bake cookies for a campus event, I knew I wanted to go. I thought I was going to bake. What I did was laugh, smile, joke around, and talk about Jesus.

You see, somewhere along the line of living this set-apart life I equated separate with loner. Big mistake.

Our Bible study met on Wednesday afternoons last semester in one of the dorm lounges, and Wednesday afternoons quickly cemented itself as my favorite time of the week. Those times of prayer, fellowship, and digging into the Word right alongside young women my age meant a lot to me—those are memories I treasure. The icing on the cake was that the girls who sat around me were just as in love with Jesus as I.

As the scent of cookies baking permeated the small apartment, music wafted from the living room. Bags that would soon hold cookies were beginning to take shape. The cookies themselves were starting to take shape, too, beneath several sets of doughy fingers.

After pulling a green bowl from one of the cavernous cabinets, I mixed one batch of cookie dough and rolled cookie circles until my wrists were sore. But I hardly noticed because we were laughing and talking and having a good time swapping stories of how our semesters were going.

Sister, don’t make my mistake. Don’t trade in the fellowship and think holy means lonely.

I learned last semester that spring can be a time of renewing in so many more ways than one. I saw God’s love play out every Wednesday afternoon and in our cookie-baking excursion. I see His love even now, because those friendships have endured.

If there’s one thing I could tell you today it would be this: make time for the cookie-baking, erm, community building. Find those kindred spirits and rub shoulders with them in a squeezed-tight kitchen. You won’t regret it.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Many Members=One Body

     Thanks to Mary Kate and Abigail, we now have some idea of what spiritual gifts are and how to find them. Let's say that after months of soul searching, you believe that God has revealed your gift to you.
...Now what?
     In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul speaks to the church in Corinth about their eagerness to speak in tongues and to have manifestations of the Spirit, and over and over he exhorts the Christians to "build up the church" using what they have been given. He makes it clear that it's fine if all the members can speak in tongues, but if they all speak at once just for the sake of it, there would be chaos in the church, and that would most definitely not be beneficial to the members. 

     We are each given gifts according the perfect wisdom of our Creator, and what better way to use it than to build up the body of Christ? It will both bring glory to God (one of the reasons why we were made) and bless the church. 

       Paul also makes it clear that there are many different gifts and many different ways to utilize them. After all...

     "The body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”---1 Corinthians 12:14-21

     Since there are so many different kinds of people all brought together by Christ in His church, there is bound to be some diversity. Keeping with the Biblical analogy of "the body," think for a moment about how many different basic parts make up your body: hand, foot, eye, ear, nose, mouth, tongue, heart, stomach, liver, etc. Consider how drastic the differences are between the roles that these parts play for your body. And these are the basics. 

     Suppose that we replaced the body parts with gifts, as if they were specific people. Using the list that Abigail provided in this post as a guide, allow me to reword this passage:
     "For the body does not consist of one 'kind of person' but of many. If 'Administration' should say, "Because I am not good at 'Miracles', I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if 'Mercy' should say, "Because I am not 'Evangelism', I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were 'Leadership', where would be the 'Followers'? If the whole body was a 'Teacher', where would be the 'Listeners'? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member (or all alike), where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 'Miracles' cannot say to 'Giving', " I have no need of you," nor again the 'Pastor-teacher' to 'Administration', "I have no need of you."

   Do you see it? No one gift is really better than the others. Sure, every church really needs a pastor in order to function, but what's a pastor without a congregation to listen? We are all very different members of the same body, but we can all come together and use what we have been given.   

    No matter what your "area of expertise" is, you can use it to serve your church and to build up the body of Christ. Do you love music? Try putting together a song to sing with your friends for special music and bless those around you. Love little ones? Why not volunteer to work in the nursery or Sunday school?  Like computers and technology? Maybe you could help record sermons or work the lights. The possibilities are nearly endless. 

     How can YOU serve your church with what God has given you? 



Saturday, 1 June 2013

How to Find Your Spiritual Gift

Have you ever wondered whether or not you have a spiritual gift?

I have been studying this topic in Bible school, asking hard questions and delving into the unique ways God has equipped me to further His kingdom. Though I usually think of something spectacular and special whenever I consider spiritual gifts, I know that Paul wrote about them to believers like you and me. Just because you've never spoken in tongues, performed a miraculous healing, or proclaimed a prophecy doesn't mean that you don't have a gift of the Holy Spirit! But how do you know which one you have?

As Mary Kate explained on her post about what the Bible says about spiritual gifts, all of them come from God, and it is up to Him to choose which one each person receives. Unlike natural talents, spiritual gifts are not genetic. It's not something you inherit from your parents, it's just what it sounds like: a gift from the Holy Spirit to you. Isn't it great to know that if you are a Christian then you have a special ability straight from God? He knows what your future looks like and He knows how He created you, so this gift is absolutely perfect for you.

Here are some of the gifts mentioned in Scripture: 
  • Administration
  • Apostelship
  • Distinguishing between spirits
  • Evangelism
  • Exhortation
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healing
  • Giving
  • Helps
  • Interpretation of tongues
  • Leadership
  • Mercy
  • Miracles
  • Pastor-teacher
  • Prophecy
  • Serving
  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Word of knowledge
  • Word of wisdom

If you type "spiritual gift" into Google you'll come up with many tests, questionnaires, and analyses that will supposedly reveal the way God has equipped you to work for Him. These can be useful for determining your strengths--I just took one and found that I ranked high in hospitality, service, and giving--but is this an ironclad word from the Lord? 

Not necessarily. I think that we have to be careful to not limit ourselves only to those areas where we appear to be gifted, because we might have a gift lying dormant, just waiting for the opportune moment to be recognized. Also, we might not be given a gift once and for all and never get another one. We can actually pursue some spiritual gifts rather than others (1 Corinthians 14). Something that test results might not take into consideration is that gifts need to be cultivated. If you have the gift of teaching, it's not guaranteed that at the moment of coming to faith in Christ you will become an absolutely fabulous teacher. You'll have to hone that gift just as you'd hone a natural talent. 

So a test won't tell you everything, but there are other ways of discovering your gift. Here's a process that I would encourage you to follow with me as I stumble along this learning experience toward using my spiritual gifting:

  1. Look inside: Consider taking a test or inventory of your gifts.
  2. Read and pray: Dwell on the Word and talk with God to get an idea of His purpose for you.
  3. Ask others: See if someone else recognizes a gift in you.
  4. Don't focus on it: Stand strong in the knowledge that God has equipped you for His purposes, but don't get fixated on what your gift is. If you don't find out right now, have patience! It may not be the right time.

Whatever your gift is, I encourage you to embrace such an amazing life, such an adventure, such a mission, that you cannot do it without using everything God has given you. 

Have you struggled with finding your spiritual gift? 
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to discover theirs?
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