Pray for your leaders.Encourage your leaders. Pour into your leaders. Love your leaders. Sacrifice your time for them. Inconvenience yourself.
I had the privilege of praying with a few friends this morning in my home. I guess you could say I called an intervention on behalf of someone who has spent about a decade pouring into me, mentoring me, and loving me, even when I could be oh-so-yucky in heart. No more accepting surface answers that would allow this friend to change the subject away from herself. It was time for it to be about her. (It was actually past due, but better late than never.)
I called in two other dear friends of hers who are business owners with full schedules, at the last minute, to drop what they were doing on a Friday morning and just shower her with love and prayer. Was it hard? Did I have to pull their teeth and convince them to make it work in their busy schedules? No. Why? Because of the way this friend has poured out and sacrificed and supported those in her life without reserve. They asked no questions. Literally, not one question other than “what’s your address”; they just said yes and showed up. It was time to give back what we had so graciously been given from our dear and loyal friend. This was our opportunity to take the initiative and help carry her burdens without waiting for her to ask.
Take a second to picture the leaders and people of influence in your life. Let their faces sweep through your memory right now. Call to mind the specific times in your life that you know their support had a major impact on your life. Now, when was the last time they reached out to you for support? Told you they needed someone to lean on? Showed the slightest amount of weakness? Are those memories harder to recall than the memories of when they were there for you in times of need? These instances are likely few in number.
I sat at a table of leaders yesterday, all women who are leading the charge in some area or another. Strong, competent, capable women. None of them alluding to the slightest ounce of discontentment in conversation or otherwise. My assumption in these situations is that if they appear so put together, there must not be anything too heavy going on in their lives, because otherwise there would be some evidence of it. WRONG! We started off by praying for each other and soon after each lady started sharing what they could use prayer for, my false assumptions were incinerated.
Death in the family, tragic diagnosis in spouse’s health, financial struggles, loneliness, cancer..
This is a small list of what was shared among these women of faith. I was stunned. I could not have imagined the group sitting around this small table was carrying so much pain. Sometimes we have no choice but to press on, so it can appear we are okay, and it can be easy to fly under the radar with our struggles while the pain goes unnoticed. The very true reality is that we cannot walk these trials alone. Leader or not, there is a pouring in that our souls will ache for when we are in a season of suffering. That is why scripture offers us this little tip…
Share each other’s burdens and in this way obey the law of Christ.
I’ve noticed (this is just my observation) that leaders and people in positions of authority are less likely to reach out. We can try to evaluate why, but I think we have much more important questions to ask ourselves:
Are we willing to be more observant in regard to this?
Will we resolve to help them carry their burdens in an appropriate capacity, no matter how big or small the situation calls for?
This can be a little tricky to approach. What do we do when it is time for a shift in the dynamics in a relationship, and the one who normally is pouring out, needs some pouring in? There is no uniform answer or formula. It is going to require us to use discernment, prayer, and put some of that maturity they’ve modeled for us into practice and maybe, for some of us, a little bit of courage.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
The last thing we want to do is create another problem for those who are in need of encouragement. If we are not careful a well-meaning but awkward attempt to help could be just that. Another problem. A safe place to start would be to ask yourself some questions about your ideas before jumping the gun. I would encourage you to consider the following:
Have you prayed for them yet?
Will this attempt to help preserve their privacy?
Will this attempt to help cause any kind of inconvenience to them?
Have you first acknowledged it is not your job to try and fix whatever the situation is?
What can you do today to help give your leaders the ability to continue to lead with joy and help renew their strength? Ask God to show you how it is that you can be a blessing of encouragement to those who have already prayed the same for you. I promise you, they have.
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
Toni Burns was raised in a missionary family, they lived in Italy until she was 11.Upon returning to the states her family worked in South Dakota. While in college at Oklahoma State Toni did a summer mission trip to Ukraine. The following year she moved to Lubbock, Texas to attend missions school.She interned in Kosice, Slovakia for 13 months.After her internship she finished missions school and got a degree in Human Development from Texas Tech.Toni and her family lived in Guadalajara, Mexicofor 10 years.During that time they helped plant churches and minister to the Mexican people.Toni and her husband, Cory, mentored 21 year long interns during their stay in Guadalajara. Currently Toni is a Realtor® in Lubbock, Texas and enjoys ministering to those she helps buy and sell houses.
Summer is my favorite time of the year. I love the warm weather and traveling. Over half my life, I have been blessed to do mission work and travel to other countries. I have worked in Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, and most recently spent ten years in Mexico.
There is no greater joy than traveling around God’s creation sharing Jesus with others. Many of you might be preparing to leave, or have a loved one leaving for summer mission trips. I would love to share some things with you that I have learned about missions to prepare you for this great experience.
1. The American way is not the only way.
Yes, we live in a great country and are very blessed in many ways. Please do not expect or want natives to act as Americans do. They are God’s creation just as much as you are, but they might do things differently than you do. It’s not a question of right or wrong–it’s just different. Embrace the differences and praise God that we are all different even though we are made in His image. Praise God for the diversity in cultures.
Enjoy the culture you are visiting. Try new foods, activities, and enjoy the sights.
2. Bless the people, but at the same time make your work simple and reproducible.
It’s fun to bless the natives with neat gifts and crafts from the United States. Just make sure that you are not making it an environment where they think the only way they can bless others is by having neat things that they might not be able to get. Help them see that sharing God’s message can be simple and is reproducible.
3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
You will fall in love with people and places on your trip. Please don’t tell them you will come visit or promise to send them gifts, etc. Remember, “let your yes be yes.” It is easy to build a deep love for those you will serve. As you leave you will want to promise them that you will see them again. Hopefully that is true, but realistically you might not ever get to go back. They will hold on to that promise and will be disappointed or bitter when you can’t fulfill your promise.
4. Be more like Jesus every day.
While living on the mission field my husband and I mentored twenty-one interns. One of the most important things we tried to instill in them was that being more like Jesus every day is all that is expected of them. God will do the rest. We go on these mission trips wanting to save the world. If we go with expectations of baptizing and converting we might come home feeling like a failure. This is one of the devil’s ways of discouraging the church. Did you come home more like Jesus? Do you have more of a vision for what God wants? Did others see Jesus through you? Don’t define your success with things that are out of your control.
5. Don’t expect those at home to understand what you have experienced.
You will come back a changed person. Unfortunately many people back home will not understand how life-changing the experience was. They might not even think to ask you about how it went. Before you leave, set up some times to meet with people when you come back. Maybe you can host a breakfast or lunch for your supporters, missions committee, and family. Plan times when you can talk about your experience so you can bless others with what you learned.
6. Have a great time and keep your eyes open to His blessings!
The year was 1982. When I was twenty-seven years old, God began the breakthrough to His prodigal daughter. I was pregnant with our first child. Realizing that my husband and I were not capable of raising a child without God’s help, I decided to find a place to worship. I knew we needed to get back to God. A co-worker suggested a particular church so I went there. It’s difficult to walk into a place where you don’t know anyone, but I met a lot of “friendly strangers” that first visit. I was so happy to begin my walk with God again.
Each Sunday for the next few months, I encountered these “friendly strangers” once a week at worship, bible class, and other church activities. In my ninth month of pregnancy, I waddled down the aisle to the front pew, asking for prayers and to be restored and to become a member of that congregation. What a glorious day for me!
Just a few weeks after placing my membership, our first child was born. A few weeks later, one of the church ladies contacted me about hosting a baby shower for our baby girl at her home. I didn’t want to be impolite and ungrateful, so I agreed to it. But immediately, I started to think, who would I invite? My family lived out of state. I had a few friends from work who might come. This could be an embarrassing experience–a baby shower given in your honor and no guests! I begged my sister to travel from Tennessee to Houston for the baby shower. At least I would have her to share in my embarrassing moment.
On the evening of the shower, I was so nervous. My sister and I arrived early, and the hostesses were so kind and welcoming. I didn’t know all the hostesses, and they hardly knew me. It felt strange for these women to host my baby shower. I began to experience a lump in my throat which lasted throughout the evening. This act of love was a humbling experience. The table full of food triggered another anxious thought: Who is going to eat all this food they have prepared? If a few “friendly strangers” from church attended I would be so excited. And then I had another anxious thought: Who attends a shower for someone who is a mere acquaintance? I admit my head talk was crazy!
The next part of my story is God’s story! He showed me a beautiful picture of his church that night. As a baby Christian, I had never experienced an outpouring of love like this before. When the doorbell rang and guests began arriving, my nervousness turned to excitement. It continued to ring and soon women, both young and old, filled the home. These ladies came together to celebrate and encourage this new baby Christian and her newborn baby. Love, laughter, fellowship, friendship, and food filled not only the home, but my heart as well. God poured out his showers of blessings on me through these wonderful Christian women.
With each gift I opened, I fought back tears of joy for a beautiful church family, tears of joy for God’s sweet provision. This baby shower was God’s version of the feast He prepared for his prodigal daughter who had come home. I don’t remember conversations that night, or who attended, but I do remember how the church made me feel: loved and encouraged.
God used a baby shower that night to demonstrate his love, encouragement, grace, compassion, kindness, and hope. It reminds me of the song “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave.
I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.
I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
From before the earth ever existed, God had a plan to redeem the people He knew would sin before He even created them. The idea that he has been setting the stage for Jesus to come hits my heart and reemphasizes how much He truly loves us.
But one thing has always intrigued me, even as a child: Why did God choose the exact moment He did to send Jesus to the cross?
Why didn’t God send Jesus sooner?
Like, immediately after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden?
If Jesus had just arrived on the scene without any forewarning, would anyone have believed him to be the Son of the living God? Many had a difficult time with that already. But because God set the stage for Jesus’ coming, He could point back and say, “Yes, indeed this is me! I am the Messiah, the One you have been waiting for. I AM the One the I AM was talking about!”
Why didn’t God wait longer?
Can you imagine if Jesus showed up today? I think we would all be so distracted by celebrity “X” or our phones that we wouldn’t even look up and notice the miracles he performed. Or Jesus would perform a miracle and people would claim it was only special effects or computer-generated.
Obviously, I don’t claim to know the answer to this question. It is one I have on my list to ask God when I get to heaven. But as I’ve studied the Scriptures more, I am constantly in awe of how God’s timing works and I’ve noticed so many wonderful events that set the stage for Jesus’s first coming!
Peter’s and Paul’s Explanations
In 1 Peter 1, the apostle Peter writes:
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:20
And in Acts, Luke records Paul’s words:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
God planned out everything in this way so that YOU and I would seek him!
What stuns me is what a methodical planner God is. Seeing how he works through the smallest details just puts me even more in awe of Him. He takes his time, lays out ALL the necessary elements for THE perfect entrance into the world and THE perfect time for Christ’s death and resurrection.
God knew that many would claim to be the Messiah. It seems like He wanted there to be no doubt as to whom the chosen Messiah actually was. He clearly told John to look for the One who has a dove come down on him:
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
I’ve read the Old Testament many times, so I have read all the things that the prophets had done. But for the first time ever, I started seeing how God used all the miracles done by previous prophets to prepare people for the Messiah and to cement the fact that Jesus was who he claimed to be. I sat in amazement.
It was almost as if God was slowly over centuries building trust in His people, so that they could look back at the Scriptures and verify God did indeed work in this way. God did use prophets to perform miracles like this in the past and now here is One, the Messiah, who doesn’t perform just a few miracles but is able to do all these things that have been done and so much more!
God wanted his people to know that his son was greater than Moses and Elijah, the greatest prophets, and all the other prophets. He did this by allowing a few of the apostles to see Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses and then declared Jesus greater than them!
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5
Yes, indeed Jesus was not the first to heal people or even raise them from the dead, but He was the only one who did ALL of these things and so much more. Jesus also cast out demons, made the blind see, and ultimately FREED us from the chains of death for all eternity! He fulfilled prophecies to show himself the One that they’ve been waiting for:
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
There are many beautiful parallels in the Old and New Testaments. The one that stands out to me the most is the parallel between God sending a rescuer to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt and sending the ultimate rescuer to deliver humanity from the slavery of sin.
When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, they waited for the prophesied rescuer to come. 400 years later, he came in the form of a baby, born in a time when baby boys were being killed. He was hidden away and raised in a way that the people did not expect. When he came in the name of the Lord to lead them, it took miracles and God confirmed that Moses was indeed the chosen leader. Not only did Moses, through the power of God deliver the people from slavery, he:
Much like someone else the Israelites were waiting for so many years later….
Four hundred years passed between the last Old Testament book and the first New Testament book. The Israelites were waiting for the Messiah. Their rescuer also came as a baby, whose life soon became endangered because Herod demanded the death of all baby boys under age two. He too was hidden away and raised in a way the people did not expect. When he came, it took miracles and God to confirm that yes, Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen one!
The Bible is so full of amazing details that lead back to God’s perfect timing! Delve into the scriptures for yourself. See how God set the stage from the beginning for everything to happen at the right time for your sake!
Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.
Growing up in church, there are several Bible stories you get used to hearing over and over again. As a child, it’s usually Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors, and so on. As a teenager, it’s generally lessons about obeying authority, modesty, and relationship advice. Moving into young adulthood, we’re generally exposed to the rest of the Bible. Believe it or not, there are actually many parts of the Bible that are still foreign to me, and may be to you as well.
I always find myself surprised when I hear a parable I don’t recognize–not that I feel like I know the Bible in its entirety. However, the parables are usually prime picking for good lessons, so they’re generally pretty well-known. I ran into one the other day when I was doing my morning devotional that really spoke to me. Now I’d like to share it so it can speak to you too!
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Jesus Tells the Parable of the Persistent Widow Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?”
Perhaps you are familiar with that particular parable, but I wasn’t. I also wasn’t raised with the mindset that you pester someone until you get what you want. I was raised with a more “southern charm” set of manners. Don’t backtalk, always say please and thank you, and if you ask a question once, you don’t keep asking because that will result in a punishment because it’s just rude. But the point Jesus makes is very clear.
Jesus wants us to pester the Father.
Be persistent. Carry on. Ask repeatedly. Insist on being heard. Pretty much the opposite of the general manners I grew up with.
Honestly, this one has proven difficult for me. The idea of continuing to petition God the Father day and night makes me uncomfortable. All of my good manners say, ask once and leave it. Maybe ask twice if it seems really important, but more than that is just rude. But Jesus clearly says…
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice and quickly.”
The words are clear. We are to petition the Lord and he will see that justice is served quickly.
Will you join me in throwing manners out the window and getting down to the business of being open and real with God?
Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of four. After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home mom. In any spare time, she enjoys leisure reading and also enjoys writing on her blog (chroniclesofakeeper.com). Out of all the little adventures of life - her greatest joy is found in her relationship with God. Walking in His grace, living in His peace and resting in His redemption is something she is very passionate about sharing with others.
“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often–will it be for always?–how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
The Barren Land of Grief
The presence of grief is felt thick and its roots are deep in the hidden places of our soul. It is a spiraling entity that immobilizes us and causes us to ache for what once was…or for that which never had been. Grief spirals us into a land barren and unknown.
Where it is lodged secretly, no one knows of its depths. Not even the most intimate of relationships are aware of its overwhelming presence. We find comfort in the pain. We draw strength from the agony, but our light flickers dim as the darkness overtakes every nook and cranny of our grieving being. The comfort and strength gained wanes and becomes our undoing. The grief paralyzes.
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.”
We hold tight to our comfortable uncomfortable, as grief has become part of our essence. But He who is light brings out the darkness. Nothing is hidden from His embodiment of knowledge. He sees our grief buried–our secret made known. He sees the darkness that has crept in, the grief that has taken hold. He knows what is in the darkness…and He offers us light.
For the grief-burdened soul, there is hope in the Gospel message.
When brokenness entered that once-perfect garden, it also birthed grief into a once joyful and peaceful place. We often speak of our rescue from sin, of a Savior who died bearing the weight of our iniquities. But do we not also share that the day sin and shame were hurled onto the beaten body of Perfection hanging on a cross, so also was the enormous weight of all that is broken dumped heavily and fully onto the Sacrificial Lamb. Grief, in its complete form, crushed He who was Hope and Joy.
For the sake of mercy…for the sake of hope and joy complete.
Finding Comfort in Jesus
In knowing that Christ carried our grief fully on the cross, we can now find comfort as He walks through waters dark with us. Knowing that He defeated grief through His death and resurrection, we can now find hope in a rescue from its prison. When our vulnerable bodies can fall onto bruised knee and stretch out shaky hands in surrender, He will meet us in our state of fragility and hold us close. He is the balm that heals our broken heart. His love saturates deep as it fills complete.
“When I survey the occurrences of my life, and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies.”
Sir Thomas Browne
Is that, then, the hope in grief? Are the feelings of emptiness and the bone-deep aches drawing us into His place of mercy? It is then that we find all we lost is recovered that much more in His redemption. Do we dare hope to feel again, laugh again…do we dare hope to live again? Is grace so strong that it restores the soul tattered and torn by grief’s long reign? In the mass of mercies given, there is such an amazing grace.
A New Perspective
The grace received brings on new perspective. Our grief buried can be His peace resurrected. Letting go is scary and hard. When the pain does not drench into our pores, we feel as if we might have betrayed. But to live is not to forget. Our life for His glory, our sadness for His joy, our emptiness for His fullness–this is when and how He walks in the grief with us. He beckons us close and He breathes life into our soul. We can ache for that which we grieve, because in the aching we can surrender. We surrender our grief to the One who knew the ultimate grief on the cross. So then, we do not abandon grief itself. Instead, we allow it to be made full through His mass of mercies–allow it to draw us deeper into the heart of God.
“The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God.”