Woman to Woman: Nov 27, 2020

by Paulette Stamper

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NET

How many times have we quoted this verse to our stressed-out friends? How many times have we been on the receiving end as well? Do we take this verse to heart or have we framed it as “Christian Wall Art” and merely hung it on our living room wall?

I’m confident that when Paul penned these words, he wasn’t envisioning them hanging in a pretty frame. Rather, what he envisioned was something quite different – he had a battle scene in mind. The peace of God that transcends our understanding isn’t merely a good feeling that allows us to sleep well at night. Instead, it acts as a weapon, like a soldier that stands guard over our heart and mind when the enemy attacks. 

Guard (phrourēsei) translates a military term which means “to protect or garrison by guarding.”[1]

Imagine being approached by an armed enemy when suddenly a group of soldiers run toward you and encircle you. Standing side by side they face outward with their weapons drawn to protect you and you are safely shielded by their presence. You are surrounded by them and nothing is getting to you. That’s the picture Paul is painting in Philippians 4:7. Don’t equate the peace of God with a soft lullaby. The peace of God is a powerful weapon that stands guard over your heart and mind. 

You and I are indeed in a battle, but there are zero reasons for us to be fearful. Why? Because we have the peace of God surrounding us to guard our hearts and minds. 

Stand firm, soldier. God has you surrounded. 

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[1] Lightner, R. P. (1985). Philippians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 664). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Be Encouraged – In Small Groups

by Bill Altman 

The image of shepherd as caregiver, provider and protector is used throughout Scripture.  It’s the prominent metaphor for leadership. We’re reminded of this from some of the most familiar passages of Scripture.  The Lord is our shepherd in Psalm 23, and in John 11, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life.

When it comes to leadership within the church, Paul places the role of shepherd in the same family as apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher (Ephesians 4).  Whether the image applies to God, Jesus or elders, the shepherd is with the flock, knows the flock and cares for each sheep.

For the past ten years, we have had a hairy shepherd living in our home.  She’s a Border Collie named Skye.  From the day we met her as a 6-week-old puppy, she had a strong instinct to herd.  The first time we tossed a ball to the other side of the room, she bounded after it and brought it right back.  After dropping it at our feet, she didn’t take her eyes off that ball until we picked it up and tossed it again.  We soon learned that if there was a ball or a frisbee to chase down and return, she would play until she collapsed in exhaustion.  Generations of breeding and training had made our puppy a natural-born shepherd. 

Sadly, shepherding doesn’t come as naturally to me.  And it probably doesn’t to you either.  We understand that shepherding is the core of what we do as leaders.  But we have limitations that my dog does not.

We lack focus.  A collie has one job.  We have many.  Most church leaders serve as volunteers with day jobs and families. 

We lack relational capacity.  On YouTube you can see a single dog herding hundreds of sheep.  It’s pretty spectacular!  But you and I can have deep shepherding relationships with only a handful of people. 

And we lack energy.  Border collies don’t need to concern themselves with rest, balance and burn-out.  To be effective, though, we have to be very careful with such matters.

Since we don’t have unlimited focus, capacity or energy, how do we shepherd the flock that has been entrusted to us?  In this post and the next, I want to suggest that healthy small groups are the very best way to shepherd our flocks.

When I first came to Crossroads, we had a dozen cookouts with gatherings of group leaders.  One of the questions I asked was, “What has been the high point of your small group leadership?”  I was expecting to hear all sorts of answers:  a meeting that went especially deep, a serving or mission experience together, or maybe going on vacation as a group.  Instead, I heard the same story 100 times. 

Each leader, without exception, told about a time the group came alongside one of its members in a tough season.  They had walked through illnesses, deaths, lay-offs, family challenges, depression and many other crises together.

I learned something through those conversations.  When a group gathers week after week to pray for one another, eat together, read and apply the Bible, it’s almost like a shepherding instinct comes out in the members of the group.  Even a leader who is so-so at guiding the actual meeting can have a super successful group when it is truly a community of care.  And this seems to happen so naturally that, from the perspective of those responsible for training and coaching small group leaders, it feels like a freebie.

If you want to increase the care people receive in your church, having a healthy small groups ministry is the best way to get there. 

In my next post, I will share some other ways groups can shepherd their members.  These, however, at not as instinctive and will require a little more intentionality and training.

Woman to Woman: Nov 20, ’20

by Paulette Stamper 

If you have ever prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what to do!” then you are in good company.

Powerful enemy armies were coming against Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat fearfully prayed, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12 (The whole story of God’s miraculous victory is in 2 Chronicles 20.) 

Fact – the armies coming against Israel were stronger than they were.

Fact – Israel could not stand against the enemy and win.

Followers of Jesus need to keep something in mind about facts. Facts may be true, but they aren’t always the Truth.

Think of it like this…

Fact – the law of nature says no one can walk on water. This is a true statement. However, the Truth is Jesus wrote the laws of nature and He can do whatever He wants, including walking on water!

It was true that the enemy armies that came against Israel were stronger and more powerful, but the Truth was, God heard their prayer and fought the battle for them, and won!

We indeed live in a divided nation full of hostility, hatred, confusion, deceit, and lawlessness. We look around and see the chaos and readily admit that we don’t always know what to do. The truth is the forces at work around us to sow discord and disunity are stronger than we are, and we are no match for the principalities of darkness that currently control the narrative. However, the Truth is, those same principalities are no match for our God! The Truth is, our God is all-powerful, almighty, and well-able to pierce the darkness with his light, to proclaim freedom to the captives, declare unity instead of disunity, and to penetrate even the hardest of hearts with his unfailing love. The Truth is, when our God leads the way, we can follow him with confidence into any battle knowing the victory is ours!

When we feel overwhelmed and helpless, may we bend our knees and turn our eyes toward heaven and pray, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes on You!” Because our God never changes, we, too, will see the deliverance and victory of the Lord on our behalf.

Be Encouraged – In the Fight

by David Roadcup 

(Dr Roadcup shared a similar post earlier on Renew.org.)

One of the most powerful points in my personal learning curve with Promise Keepers was experiencing first-hand, up close and personally, the reality of spiritual warfare.  I had experienced the work of Satan before but never with such intensity and ferocity.   

Let’s get clarity about our enemy.  He is powerful but not omnipotent.  He can go nearly anywhere but is not omnipresent.  He is smart but not omniscient.  We know he is invisible.  His domain is the earth.  He is organized.  He is cunning.  He is focused.  He wants to steal our faith in Jesus, kill our families and ministries and destroy every good and decent thing we know.  He is a dirty street fighter who will use any possible cheap shot to take us down.  Scripture is clear about who he is and what he does.  Please do not allow him to lull you into ignoring his work in your life and ministry.  Be aware always of his presence and practices. 

I had a series of sermons I had written and delivered some months before P.K. began.  After our third men’s event, I felt like going back to my office, shredding those sermons and starting all over again!  My experience was an excellent training opportunity in understanding how Satan works and how he uses his scheming methods against each of us. 

SATAN’S EXTERNAL ATTACKS 

P.K. was attacked repeatedly from the outside.  At our large events, we would have people from opposing views come and protest.  The protests were normally peaceful.  The gay movement and NOW (National Organization of Women) were present at many of our events, handing out flyers and taunting men coming into the stadiums.  The only time there was ever a ruckus, and a small one at that, was at our Stand In The Gap event in Washington, D.C. in 1997.  NOW women partially disrobed and did a small amount of damage to property in the immediate area of the Capitol building.  The external attacks could have been a lot worse. 

SATAN’S INTERNAL ATTACKS  

After 53 years of ministry and 25 years of church consulting, I know one thing for sure: when Satan wants to attack hard, he goes after relationships.  It is his most effective form of warfare.  Separating people, damaging long-standing relationships between Christ followers, fostering betrayal and disloyalty are his specialty.  I see it all the time.  Ministers oppose elders or the preacher and a couple of elders come against the youth minister and a couple of elders, etc.  The Accuser cultivates misbehavior and mistrust until an all-out battle between believers erupts.  And when this battle is raging and Christian believers are shouting at one another and accusing one another, do you know what he does?  Satan stands back and just laughs!  He makes fun of those in the fray.  He dances a jig!  He laughs and says to himself, “I have been using selfishness, the hunger for power, disunity and broken relationships for literally millennia to destroy the Church and they have never caught on!  They just don’t get it.” 

I am sorry to say that our P.K. team was not immune to such attacks.  We all had feet of clay.  Many Boards of Directors are made up of what I would call a “room full of stallions;” men (and women) who are leaders and have egos.  They are movers and shakers and are accustomed to getting their way.  Understand that there was an overpowering sense of loving each other and serving each other as members of the P.K. Board.  This was true.  But at times, power was an issue.  Personal desires sometimes seemed to come to the surface and generate a real source of dissonance.  Several of our board members were preachers.  We had staff who were former preachers.  The possibility of standing before 50- to 60,000 men to preach is heady wine.  The need for prominence and to be upfront at an event could come into play.  We normally navigated most of these potential struggles with a good deal of success.  At times, the stress was very intense as we prayed and worked through things like this together. 

And how have we seen this very same relational attack in our own circles this year?  Masks, candidates, policies, closings, openings – all have been used by the enemy to do his dirty work among us.  People have quit church families, friendships and more over such pettiness as the relational tension ratchets ever higher, conflict directly fueled by Satan and his minions.  Are our bonds of love and commitment as brothers and sisters in Jesus stronger than these attacks of Satan?  

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you… (Col. 3:12-13) 

Paul’s comments paint a picture quite different than much of our experience this year, don’t they? 

PROTECTING OURSELVES

Scripture is clear about how we protect ourselves in the heat of spiritual warfare.  From my P.K. experience, here is what I learned:

  • Don’t ignore the fact of spiritual warfare or underestimate the power of Satan to act and move.
  • Satan is absolutely ruthless and he hates the Church and those who lead it. He will stop at nothing to do his work of destruction. 
  • The Word of God is one of the main weapons at our disposal to defeat Satan.
  • Prayer is the power source for attacking and damaging the kingdom of darkness. It is the key element in finding and winning the Lord’s victory.
  • Fasting with prayer is a mighty weapon. I have seen it turn the tide in tumultuous spiritual battles. 
  • Our personal obedience, uprightness and holiness protect us when we are in the battle; “the prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
  • Remembering my identity as a son or daughter of the King is a critical acknowledgment. Knowing my identity as a warrior undergirds me as I do battle. 
  • Total and complete dependence on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in my life, my family and the ministry is key.
  • Studying and internalizing the sections of Scripture that explain Satan and his methods equips me to defeat him. Paul tells us that we must know our enemy and the elements of his activity. 
  • Specifically, knowing the pieces of the armor of God from Eph. 6:10-20 will equip me for every battle. I must remember to put on every piece, daily, to be protected in every area.  “Put on the full armor of God.” 

One last thought about spiritual warfare: as a leader, if you sense no spiritual warfare or battle in your ministry, take note of that fact.  There are two possibilities: 1) you are in a period of peace and protection and if so, enjoy these times; however, 2) it may be that our church poses no threat to the kingdom of darkness and if so, something must change.

Finally, remember that there is good news in the midst of spiritual warfare – our King has already won!   We are protected daily from the evil one (1 John 4:4.)  Until our Lord comes back, we must be at our posts, watchful and fighting the good fight.

Woman to Woman: Nov 13, 2020

by Paulette Stamper 

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and spacious…”

You probably recognize the above verses from the well-known burning bush scene in Exodus 3. God’s words to Moses revealed unchanging, fundamental truths about His character: He is the God who sees, the God who hears, the God who knows, and the God who rescues. If we have a relationship with Jesus, then we can apply these truths to our personal lives. Every day you and I can rehearse these truths:

My God sees me

My God hears me

My God knows me

My God rescues me

If we keep our feet planted firmly on these truths, then you and I can face any situation or circumstance that comes our way with absolute confidence. We can live as Spirit-filled conquerors, overcomers, and mighty warriors. We can fight any battle knowing we’ve been rescued by Almighty God and that no weapon formed against us will prosper.

You and I must choose daily to remember these foundational truths. Commit to speaking them aloud – something powerful happens when our ears hear our own voice speaking truth from God’s word. We will feel our confidence and hope in God increase with each spoken word. Go ahead, give it a try. You’ll be ready to pick up your sword and shield and take your stand against the schemes of the enemy. Nothing can stop a woman standing on the Truth!

Be Encouraged

by Gary Johnson 

Friends,

Since 2013, when we started our Friday blogs, we have sent out over 600,000 emails to encourage and equip leaders.  Now that is a lot of writing!  As God continues to grow e2, we are changing the format of our Friday blog and all in hopes of building others up in the Lord. 

Joseph, of the tribe of Levi, was a remarkable leader in the first-century church.  His story is told in the first half of Acts, and something that stands out about Joseph is his nickname, Barnabas.  We are told in Acts 4:36 that the disciples called him Barnabas, meaning “Son of Encouragement.”  Joseph earned his nickname by the way that his lived his life.  And we want the same to be said of us in this ministry.

In this season of life marked by division, disease and discouragement, people – including Christians – are tired.  We are ready for 2020 to be over and done.  A friend of mine has had an exceptionally difficult year and he said to me, “I’m staying up on New Year’s Eve this year, not to welcome the arrival of 2021, but to make certain 2020 leaves!”  If there were ever a time when people need to be encouraged, it is now.

To that end, may I encourage you to BE the answer to the prayer of Jesus?  Just hours before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed what we often call His High Priestly prayer in John 17.  In this longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Scriptures, we discover that Jesus prayed for us.

“My prayer is not for them alone” (i.e., His disciples).  “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them will be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21).

The last words of people before they die are significant and memorable.  This is certainly true of Jesus and His prayer for us.  He did not pray for the churches we lead to be burgeoning with people and all of them to be in the midst of a building program and capital campaign.  He prayed for our unity; not philosophical or doctrinal unity, but relational unity.  Jesus prayed that we would be one relationally to the same degree as He and His Father are one.  For that to happen, we must intentionally pursue two traits modeled by Jesus, that when experienced in our lives with one another, result in authentic relational unity being present.   

The first trait is that of submission.  Though positionally equal to God, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the sovereignty of God.  Every time Jesus spoke of or to God while on earth, Jesus called Him “Father.”  Only once did Jesus speak of His Father as God, and that was in the midst of His suffering on the cross – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Jesus obeyed God’s will, bending His knee to the authority of God.

The second trait is that of humility.  “Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).  Humility means to “go to a lower place,” and Jesus certainly did just that.  He, our Creator, became human and came to this lower place called earth to live among us and die for us. 

Jesus chose to live in submission and humility.  Do we?  If we “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) and “clothe ourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5), we have every greater likelihood of experiencing relational unity in the local church.  And one more thing: Jesus prayed for us to be one “so that the world may believe” that God sent Jesus.  The degree to which we are united inside the church reflects the degree to which we glorify God outside the church.  Our internal unity impacts the external glory we bring to God.

So then, be encouraged to pursue relational unity in this season of conflict.  Be encouraged that we can submit to one another in true humility, and do so in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Be encouraged to lead like Jesus, which means we must live like Jesus. 

Lead well.