January 3, 2015

The Countdown has begun...

It is the Saturday before Spring semester begins. I am ready, tentatively ready, for teaching my classes at GCU. I have my power points created from last semester (and the previous one). I need to tweak them a bit, and rearrange some content, but generally I have everything good to go for next week. I am getting a bit nervous, which is weird considering that I am confident about the subject matter and feel good about my weekly schedule (time commitment). I am just feeling that rush of the new year starting, and the queasy feeling of starting over (new classes, new students).

The new year has started off with a slight spurt and sputter. I had hoped to be completely ready for school to begin, but with the Christmas rush, and then New Year's stomach flu, I have found myself sidelined. I am well-rested, thanks be to God, but I do feel a little bit panicked over getting everything done by tomorrow. I know that I will -- Lord willing -- but there is the human part of me that struggles to control all of the "what if" details that stretch out through the semester. I need to focus on the little bites of today, tomorrow and the next day only. The key to not becoming overwhelmed -- take one step at a time -- and do one task only. Whenever we begin to project all of our tomorrows onto today, we lose the ability to do what matters most, the one thing that must be accomplished now. Forgoing the need to think about all those tomorrows will help control the sense of dread, fear, and general overwhelm that sinks our very efforts.

Words to the wise, so to speak.

So today is a day when I am determined to accomplish one task only. The rest of the day is devoted to rest and continued relaxation before the rush-rush of the semester begins. It is funny when I stop and think about all the plans I have made regarding this semester. Even before I knew which courses I would be teaching, I was already planning out what I would do, say or think. As I remember it now, I was so concerned about all the things I wanted to do, how I would do this or that differently. Now I am sitting with 48 hours left to prep, and all those ideas have flown the coop. I am thinking of what "must" be done to teach successfully through this semester. Oh, how I over plan and over think my entire life! I need to RE-LAX more...

Psalm 62:1-2 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Today is a day of rest, a day of peace, and a day of contemplation. I feel quiet in my soul, at rest in my work, and generally, at ease with what my future holds. Even though I do not know what tomorrow will bring or what the exact plans are for my life, I feel this gentle quiet and calm spirit that says to me "relax and rest." I feel the whisper of the Lord say to me "I am well pleased. You are resting in my work, letting me take the credit for what I am doing, and allowing me to move you where I desire you to go." Yes, Lord, may it be so. May the Lord be pleased to complete the work He has began in me, and may the Lord have His way in my life, in all areas of my life, so that His work is accomplished. Selah!

It is an amazing feeling to experience the peace of the Lord. I have experienced it before, but right now I feel such an outpouring of His peace. It feels like a warm blanket on a cold day, a warm hug from that special someone who loves and affirms you, and a warm mug of your favorite beverage that quenches your thirst while sending warm sensations all the way down to your inner most parts. 

Philippians 4: 6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I am trying to put my finger on when this peaceful feeling came over me, but I think it was today, earlier today when I was blessing my special friend with words of encouragement. I was speaking words of truth into his life, and I had this overwhelming sensation that the Lord was speaking through me. I was typing of course but the words were coming out of me without me really thinking about them or controlling them. The result was a blessing, and I was thankful to the Lord for speaking those words so that my friend could be encouraged. Afterward, I returned to my blog and started to post this article. It was when I started to write about my prep work, about my to-do list, and about all the things I needed to do today, that I felt His peace pour over me, and run all the way through me. I think now that my earlier conversation was significant, not just because I was blessing someone as the Lord was leading me, but rather because I received confirmation of my spiritual gift and my ministry work WHILE I was giving the blessing. Let me explain...

I have known for many years that my spiritual gift was as an encourager or exhorter. The Word instructs each believer to use their spiritual gifts as they are given to them by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 12:7-8 we read,

"if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."

Exhortation or encouragement are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Merriam-Webster defines exhortation or exhorting as "to give urgent advice, recommendations, or warnings." It is also synonymous with the word encourage, which means to "to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence." The idea is that the encourager or exhorter is a person whose gift is to minister to the body of Christ expressly to build up the individual members and the body as a whole to fulfill their calling in Christ Jesus. Encouragers are used by God to inspire and to urge other believers to action -- to pursue something or adopt a position for the purpose of better living, better understanding, and better acknowledgement of God's Will in their lives. We seek to disciple, to mentor, to affirm, and to equip the body for God's service, and in doing so, we often enable believers to come to know and to understand their specific calling and ministry. 

I find myself naturally encouraging other people to seek the Lord, to study the Word of God, to trust the work of the Holy Spirit, and to be at peace (specifically with one another). My heart seeks to comfort other people (hence the word, Paraclete, or helper) through the ministering gift of helps. I love to help, I love to support, I love to encourage, I love to hope, and I love to see men and women achieve understanding of what God is calling them to do. My heart is encouraged, filled with hope, and settled in peace when I am doing the very thing God has called me to do, and that is to build up His Church for more effective service and ministry.

As a Communication scholar, one of the things I am acutely aware of is how important communication is to the process of equipping and encouraging workers. I have studied communication for the past couple years, and I am convinced that so many of the Church's problems stem from a lack of honest and open communication. Relationships are damaged and broken because of poor communication. Moreover, men and women are living crushed and unfulfilled lives because they are not receiving the benefit of spiritual encouragement from their brothers and sisters in Christ. We all can encourage, but those of us who are called as comforters, encouragers, exhorters must seek to use their gift readily so that the blessing of hope is shared with those who desperately need it most.

I realized today that my role as educator is secondary to my role as encourager. I teach because the Lord has opened a door for me to teach, but I encourage because the Holy Spirit has called and has equipped me for this very good work. In everything I do, I encourage. In every relationship, I seek to build up and to affirm, to heal and to liberate individuals from their self-imposed isolation and loneliness where they often retreat when they are deeply hurt and wounded by the callous and uncaring world (and sometimes, the Church). Yes, my heart's desire is to bring healing and hope to a hurting world through the powerful presence and use of words -- words that are spiritually charged and targeted -- toward a precise individual so that God's calling and His work can be confirmed in their life. This is my purpose, my life goal, and my ministry -- to be the voice and the vessel the Lord chooses -- to spread hope and to inspire others to seek the Lord with their whole heart.

As I sit here today, I am amazed and in awe of what the Lord has graciously equipped me to do. Of the spiritual gifts available to believers, the Holy Spirit has specifically called me to be a blessing to others. What an awesome opportunity I have been given, to share the love of our Lord so practically so that men and women can be moved toward a deeper, more sincere, and more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I love the fact that the Lord has chosen this specific ministry for me. I love that I get to witness the gifts the Lord gives, that I get to be the first one (often) to confirm that gifting, and I love that I get the privileged of ministering through my words in order to help the brother or sister become effective in their individual role as they use their gift within the body of Christ. It is an unique and wonderful calling that I possess, and I am thankful to the blessed Holy Spirit for choosing it for me, and for helping me learn how to use it so that I can do His work as He leads and He guides me. God be praised forevermore because He is good, so very good!

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