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Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul, devotionals to help you in your busy life, written by NEWIM board members and staff. 

Living in the Real World

Kim Johnson

And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times,
to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred;
and all their brethren were at their commandment.” 
                                                                                   —1 Chronicles 12:32 (KJV)

Driving to work one day, I got behind a car with a double dose of stickers. Among them were a cross, a star and the ever-popular icon for the saying, “not of this world.” I thought about that for a few minutes as I waited for a light to turn green. With all the extreme events in the world, from hurricanes to earthquakes, floods and shootings, to all the other tragedies, it was good to remember this is not my eternal home. Yet even as the thought came into my head, the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me that being “not of this world” is not an insulation from reality. I can’t wrap myself in a cocoon and I can’t hide my head in the sand, especially as a leader.

The children of Issachar had the same issue. They were one of the twelve tribes of Israel, from the fifth son of Leah and Jacob. Each of the tribes were struggling to know what God wanted of them. Should they follow King Saul, who was proving to be unfit, or fall in with the new guy, David, who was emerging as God’s chosen one? From this scripture we see they knew what to do. They were a people who uniquely understood the times and seasons, as well as their position under God and what He wanted them to do. So they followed David.

It would be great if we didn’t need to worry about the myriad issues plaguing our society today. Sadly, the enemy of our souls has not stopped his quest for success. Satan wants nothing more than to limit our leadership and create chaos in our ministry. Thus, we must continue to be cognizant of anything he puts in our path.

Strive to be like the children of Issachar. Seek God in developing discernment and wisdom to understand the times in which we live. Ask for insight to see clearly the way to best utilize giftedness in meeting the needs of those living in a fallen world. While it might be easier to ignore what is happening in real life, it is our responsibility to know what we ought to do for His Kingdom and glory. 

“All Christians are but God’s stewards.
Everything we have is on loan from the Lord,
entrusted to use for a while in serving him.”

                                                                        —John MacArthur

Make It Count

Kim Johnson

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

                                                            —Psalm 90:12 (KJV)

It is the end of one year and the beginning of another. Every year at this time I fill in my new calendar. Capturing significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries is my main goal, as well as penciling in trips or events already planned. It’s fun to reminisce as I’m reminded of events, parties and people that filled my previous year. Keeping my calendar current helps me stay organized.

With that in mind, I did some reminder reading about time management. One piece I read ended with the above verse. It was a good parallel but for some reason instead of considering ways to manage my life I thought about the shortness of it. During 2017 I lost two good friends whom I had known since high school and it made me think of them. The plans we made for 2018 now will never happen. I pondered what it meant to “number ‘my’ days.” It is most definitely prudent to plan, yet I have no guarantee for anything past today or even past this moment.      

As I considered this, I realized the point is not just to be organized. That certainly helps, but the real wisdom lies in being mindful of my limited time. I have an expiration date and since I don’t know when it is, my planning must contain a sense of urgency. What goals has God placed on my heart? What is the best way to accomplish them? Have I maximized purpose in my plans? Too often we become so focused on structuring our time we lose sight of the actual objective: using it effectively.

2018 is a new year and not just a clean slate, but another opportunity to wisely use the time God has given us. We have no control over the count of our days but we can control how we make them count. Always prepare for tomorrow while living today as if it won’t come.

 “This is our time on the history line of God. This is it. What will we do with the one deep exhale of God on this earth? For we are but a vapor and we have to make it count. We’re on. Direct us, Lord, and get us on our feet.”

Beth Moore

Great Gifts

Kim Johnson

“. . .but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

                                                                                          —Romans 6:23b (NIV)

December is here and that means CHRISTMAS is right around the corner. Without a doubt we know the true meaning of this time of year. And while we try to keep our focus on Jesus’ birthday, we still worry about the gifts on our list. That list can be short or it can be long but it’s the same question year after year. What will I buy?

The problem is not the gift, but who the gift is for. We spend our entire holiday season buying things to give to our family, our friends, our co-workers and even the gardener. Yet we rarely consider what we could give to Jesus. It is, after all, His birthday. What is a great gift for Him? The best answer comes from the example of those who were actually a part of the Christmas story.

  • Mary gave Him her faith. Engaged to Joseph, she was only a teenager when God’s angel visited her and shared the plan for God’s Son. Even though she was rightfully afraid, she believed the angel and humbly rejoiced in God her Savior.
  • Joseph gave Him his obedience. Hearing his fiancee was pregnant with someone else’s baby, Joseph must have been extremely disappointed and hurt. He apparently truly loved Mary as he planned to keep her secret and break the engagement quietly. Yet, when God shared the plan with him through an angel, he willingly took Mary as his wife and became Jesus’ step-father.
  • Shepherds gave Him their worship. At the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to those tending their flocks by night announcing that the Savior of the world had been born. They immediately went in search of the baby, finding Joseph, Mary and Jesus in Bethlehem. They left praising and glorifying God.
  • Magi gave Him their belief. The Magi from the east saw a great star which they had heard would signify the birth of the King of the Jews. They immediately traveled in search of the baby. The trip was long and no doubt exhausting, but they finally found Him, offering treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

The gifts given by each of these people were not based on cost, selfish desires or personal gain. Instead, each was a sincere response to an extraordinary offering from a loving God.

Of all our Christmas customs, it is not the external practices of gift-giving, attending a service, lighting candles or even singing happy birthday to Jesus that matter. What counts is the sincere example of a heartfelt response to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no better gift in all the world than giving Him our faith, obedience, belief and worship.

“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”

                                                                                                                  Eleanor Powell

Learning and Leadership

Kim Johnson

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

                                                                        —Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)

Leadership is hard work. There is always something to do, whether it is teaching, motivating, creating, influencing or taking care of smaller, administrative details. Not only that, life situations are becoming more complex and challenging every day. Taking the time to improve leadership skill sets may seem unnecessary. Lawyers, teachers, CPAs, general contractors and many other professions are required to take continuing education courses in order to stay up-to-date with the latest laws and/or guidelines. What about those in church ministry? If we are to remain relevant in our role, learning must never stop. So what can women in ministry leadership do to “get wisdom?” Here are a few practical suggestions.

Focus first on God’s Word. At the center of lifelong learning for any Christian is knowing God Himself. The best way to do this is to remain rooted in Christ through the written word of the Bible. It is not merely reading a daily devotional but exploring God’s Word, meditating on and memorizing Scripture.   

Expand Your Resources. We often limit our learning by restricting our resources. God’s Word is always first but a myriad of other sources of substance is available. Personal conversations, for instance, can hold hidden morsels of material to tuck away. Take classes, listen to different speakers or read books. There are countless ways to enlarge your options for new information.

Create a space. Most likely you are not only a woman in leadership, but a wife, mom, grandmother or sibling. Other obligations can make it difficult to find room in an already overflowing life. So it may be a challenge to create little windows of learning time. Perhaps ten minutes with a book before bed would work. Try lingering five or ten minutes more over Scripture in the morning or listening to a podcast in the car. Endeavor to peruse one article a day from an substantive online site. No matter how short the time, use it.

Upgrade your media. While holding a real book in your hands can be comforting, it is less and less practical to keep a large personal library. With the wealth of available media, be open to letting technology care for and keep your papers and books.

Become a learner. Maybe “Learner” is not in your top five from StrengthsFinder (Tom Rath). You can, however, still cultivate an aptitude for learning by always being deliberate, curious and committed to your growth.   

God has called us to our respective roles but our effectiveness is limited when we attend to the needs of everyone else and ignore our own progress. God did not create us to stagnate and it is just as important for Him to do His work in us as well as through us. Learning and leadership is your most powerful partnership.

Clearing the Air

Kim Johnson

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
                                                                                                Proverbs 15: 1 (NIV)

As a leader, it is sometimes difficult to trust God when it comes to justice—for ourselves. Although unusual, it is not uncommon to be hurt by those we work with in our field of ministry. If we believe the offense to be unjust, our human response is to want the offender punished. Left unresolved, the situation can cause bitterness and ultimately impact our relationship with that person, our team and even our Lord.

A great example of this is the little-known story behind the famous painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci had an adversary who was also a painter. Just before da Vinci began to paint this famous picture, he had a terrible argument with this person. It went unresolved and da Vinci was apparently beset with bitterness. So when da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot, he decided to use the face of his foe as the reference for the face of the one who betrayed Jesus.

What better revenge than for everyone to see his adversary as the face of the man who betrayed the Lord. However, as he continued painting the faces of the other disciples and often tried to paint the face of Jesus, he could not make any progress. Annoyed and perplexed, it took some time but da Vinci finally realized what was wrong. His bitterness and hatred was keeping him from finishing the face of Jesus. When he ultimately made peace with his fellow painter, he repainted the face of Judas and with a humble heart was able to paint the face of Jesus.

God is absolutely just and only He can ensure justice is given. If we seek revenge based upon our need for righting a wrong, then we presume we are wiser than He. Many disagreements are misunderstandings that stem from unrelated problems. So even when we are deeply hurt, it is our responsibility as a leader to trust God and be the first to forgive. Attacks are not always personal and tempering our reaction can keep a minor matter from becoming unnecessarily monumental. It is also wise, however, to ask God to reveal sinful or selfish intentions in the situation. While forgiveness is immediate, consequences may remain and rebuilding trust can take time. Being cautious does not mean we haven’t forgiven (Proverbs 22:3). It is merely being a prudent leader, willing to clear the air and forgive an offense while guarding our heart and ministry.

“You don’t have to trust someone in order to forgive them, but you do have to forgive them in order to make trust possible again.”
                                                                                   —David Willis