Posts Tagged 2 Corinthians

The Advantages of the Suffering Servant

Psalm 133 1

If there’s anything that has made me crazy over the years of leading a “disability” ministry, it has been hearing time and time again, “Oh, I would help, but I’m just so busy.”  There’s no way to say this without seeming like a total jerk, so here goes.  Find someone in this day and age who isn’t busy!  Try to hold down the average responsibilities of a life with the added challenges of special needs piled on top of them!  If anyone would have an excuse to opt out, it would be the person who is always at doctor or therapy appointments, the one whose hands, feet or voice may not work properly, or the one who faces serious financial difficulties.  Yet, we all seem to find time for that which we deem a priority.  The excuse-maker’s “I’m too busy,” comes across to me as, “Your mission is not important to me.”  As I am crying out, “Lord of the harvest, send more workers,” these types of individuals are on yet another fluffy retreat, or at another relaxing party, or playing Candy Crush Saga online.

Whew!  Now that my nasty rant is over with, let me share with you what it looks like as I watch those families who are suffering, yet still serve.  Let me explain how God is using them powerfully as they make time for His priorities, rather than their own.  Allow me to describe for you how their service actually is a blessing to them, rather than an increased burden:

  • Suffering servants are on the cutting edge of current issues because they are in the thick of it.  Nothing can match the intense relief that comes from one who is walking the same journey as you are.  When people are willing to volunteer their time as they are going through intense situations in their own life, they know what current treatments are for different health issues, what the latest challenges are in the schools, how insurance companies are currently treating payment for given therapies, and so forth.  While there is definitely great value to having some space between our time of deepest suffering and our service to those undergoing the same, the further we move away from it, the more we seem to forget what that suffering was like.
  • Suffering servants find purpose in their pain by offering compassion to others.  If there’s one question we all tend to ask when we suffer, it is the circular question “Why?”.  As we reach out to another, despite our challenges, we discover the real-life, here-and-now truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)  We are blessed to be a blessing to another.
  • Suffering servants shrink their own problems by focusing on the troubles of another.  We have all heard the phrase, “It could always be worse.”  That truth becomes reality when we reach out to another person in trouble while we are in the midst of our own storms.  While we can get a chip on our shoulder sometimes, thinking, “I wish I had it as easy as them!”, the truth remains that few of us would exchange our crises or trials for our neighbor’s.  The size of our own troubles can suddenly diminish in size when we hold them up against the challenges of those who need our help.
  • Suffering servants live out the Christ-life as an example to all those around them.  When others see those who have a disability, illness or difficulty serving in spite of those things, they suddenly are without excuse.  Not that the goal is to shame others, but rather to show them what practical, relentless, Christ-like love looks like.  Our children learn the beauty of volunteerism when they watch us serve in spite of our own issues.  Neighbors, fellow church members, friends and others around us are inspired by watching our simple acts of kindness.  The ripple effect is quite transformational, especially in today’s self-absorbed culture.

Who wouldn’t want to be used by God in such ways!  I am so very grateful to say that the majority of our ministry’s most effective volunteers are those who are undergoing all sorts of challenges.  When we started this organization, I lived under the false impression that those were the ones that should only be served and not allowed to serve.  Over a decade of transformation, I incrementally learned how erroneous that thinking can be.  These volunteers inspire me, and are my encouragement to press on in faith every single day.

 

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Depression and Leadership in Special Needs Ministry

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2013 has not provided the most refreshing Summer for my family.  In fact, since May I have dealt with 2 hospitalizations, shuttling kids to 1 pediatrician and 6 specialists, my eldest being diagnosed with a new chronic illness, and even a dog that had issues.  At the same time, God has been doing incredible things in and through the ministry I have the privilege of leading.  Couple all of this together with a woman who fights chronic depression, and it can be hard to get out of bed some days.

In pondering my current status, I wonder what sort of leader a mess like me can really be in such an important area of ministry.  After all, I think special needs ministry can be far more intensive than some other areas of service because we often meet people at a place of isolation, grief, challenge or brokenness.  Programs or services can be much more unpredictable when participants might have to skip attendance at the last minute due to an ER visit or autism meltdown.  This field of ministry calls us not only to be accepting and inclusive, but also highly adaptable.  How flexible is a leader like me, if I so frequently fall into an emotional slump?

Yet, in doing some digging on this topic, I found some encouraging news.  While many church leadership articles point to warning signs for depression or how to recover from burn-out, a secular article in the Wall Street Journal I uncovered took a different approach.  In his July 30, 2011 article entitled Depression in Command, Nassir Ghaemi profiles 4 great leaders in history that battled depression.  He details how the very affliction I think could disqualify me from being a “good” leader, might actually equip me to be an excellent leader.  Ghaemi notes that depression tends to make individuals much more empathetic and realistic in their view.  If this is true, disability ministry leadership could quite possibly be the perfect vocation for a person like me.

Do you ever struggle with depression as a leader?  Even if it isn’t a chronic illness for you, we all get discouraged and frustrated from time to time.  How does that affect your view of yourself in your leadership role?  Maybe, like me, you are living out the truth of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “…For when I am weak, I am strong.”

Image courtesy of:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The Price of Complacency

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, NIV)

Today I heard one young Christian leader query as to how many people actually come to know their Savior by way of debating politics.  With election season upon us, opinions are flying from all directions.  There are those who believe that there is no place for churches or faith-based organizations in the public square or political arena.     But we have a nation in distress, and people are sadly more often passionate about their politics than their faith.  Those who are politically outspoken often lose sight of the big picture, thinking our only hope lays in a particular candidate or party.  We know that, as believers, we have a hope greater than anything that takes place in this world.  Yet, as the quote attributed to Edmund Burke states, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  The church is commanded to preach the gospel to all nations, calling all to repentance and lives that are set apart from typical human behavior.  What is a leader to do?

I also saw another Christian leader share an article today on a young man with autism who is being denied a much-needed heart transplant.  The inhumanity of it had me aghast and heartbroken imagining if the same had happened to my own son.  I was equally disturbed by my own research for the day, coming across an article about an 11 year old Christian girl with Down Syndrome in Pakistan who has been beaten and arrested because it is believed that she burned pages containing Islamic religious text.  If I focused on these types of stories, which painfully march across my desk every day, stories of abuse, abandonment, injustice and utter human depravity, I would have no hope.  What is a leader to do?

We live in a time of extreme cultural incongruity.  You get a far more severe punishment for abusing an animal than for killing a child.  People proclaim, “What I do in my bedroom is none of your business,” but are then featured in a news release where they are announced as the first “pansexual” lawmaker.  True, our political debates, already at ugly heights prior to the November election, win no one to Christ.  And at the same time, our culture slides towards total destruction lest we decry the unjust, depraved things we witness going on around us.

It begs the question, what does God expect of us as leaders?  There is a fine line we walk, respecting the rules agreed to when obtaining 501(c)(3) non-profit status.  And yet, Christ calls us to be salt and light.  In a self-destructive world, God knows that the price of complacency is too great for believers to remain silent.

My hope is to encourage each leader who reads this today to continue on in obedience to our Savior and Ultimate Boss, Jesus.  The Lord calls us leaders to stand solid for what is right, no matter what the cost.  We are His image-bearers to a hurting, messed-up world.  And that world needs to see the difference in us as leaders.  Even in a practical business sense, acclaimed business author, Patricik Lencioni recently taught at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, “A core value is something you’re willing to get punished for.”  Lencioni further went on to announce that successful businesses and leaders remain unwilling to compromise those core values that define them.  Rest assured that as successful Christian leaders, we make a difference in our world by recognizing sin, calling it out and encouraging others to turn from it.  That difference also includes love, compassion, forgiveness and the fresh start that our God alone offers.  And as we drive our stake in the ground, we can draw our own strength from these key reminders in God’s word:

  • “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” ~ John 3:20, NIV
  • “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14, NLT
  • “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” ~ John 15:18-19, NIV

Stand strong, my fellow leader.  Don’t yield to complacency.  And you will remain a strong beacon for Christ in a dark world.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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10 QUESTIONS EVERY MENTOR OF A SPECIAL NEEDS PARENT SHOULD BE PREPARED TO FACE – White Paper Summary

Now that we’ve had a chance to briefly pull apart each of these questions on video, here we have the main points summarized for you in one spot.  Hopefully, this will become a resource you refer back to again and again.  You can be sure that this is a solid entry point for parents, in that you will explore verses from 18 out of the 66 books of the Bible (27%) in just these 10 questions alone.  We appreciate any feedback from you, so that we can make this the best tool possible for parents of children with special needs.

1. WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: John 9:1-3, Romans 3:23

• You may not have done anything to “deserve” having a child with special needs. In fact, this may be a hidden blessing that has not yet become apparent to you. We all sin. We live in a fallen world. And because of this, bad things happen, whether we deserve it or not. The good news is that God can and does recycle these pains for our good and His glory!

2. HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW THIS?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Hebrews 12:5-11, Romans 8:32, 2 Timothy 2:13

• Because we have a free will, sin came into the world through Adam and Eve. In this fallen world, bad things happen, contrary to the way God originally intended for us. In order to save us from the terrible consequences of sin, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins, dying on the cross. God loves each of us so much that He was willing to make that excruciating sacrifice just so we can be with Him in heaven forever. He is faithful and loving. On that you can always rely!

3. IS GOD PUNISHING ME?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: 1 John 1:9, Revelation 12:10; Philippians 3:12-14

• How will you ever know if God is truly punishing you? This may be an example of God allowing your circumstances in order to put His awesome work on display! (See question 1) Even if you are absolutely certain in your soul that your child’s special need is a direct result of your sinful actions (fetal alcohol syndrome may be an example), God offers you complete forgiveness. Furthermore, we cannot turn back the hands of time to rewrite certain lines of our life story. God wants us to put our past sins behind us, and strain forward toward the precious life He is offering us. Don’t let “the accuser” hold you captive in wondering if your child’s diagnosis is a punishment from God!

4. WHY MY CHILD?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Matthew 5:45, Matthew 18:14, Genesis 1:31

• Maybe the question should be “Why NOT my child?” If rain falls on the lives of both the good and the evil, and if His desire is that NONE should perish, why is any child deserving of a special need over another?

5. WILL MY CHILD GO TO HEAVEN IF THEY NEVER HAVE THE CAPACITY TO ACCEPT CHRIST AS THEIR SAVIOR?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Psalm 11:7, Psalm 140:12, Ephesians 2:4-7

• Time and again in God’s word He confirms to us that He is completely just and completely merciful. He tells us He is close to the brokenhearted. We can feel confident in knowing that He will not forsake our children who do not have the capacity to accept Christ as their Savior. And we must not forget that only God fully knows what is inside the hearts of our special children. There may be a relationship with the Lord that our child may not be able to express, but God is fully engaged in!

6. WILL MY CHILD UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Isaiah 55:10-11, Matthew 18:3-5, 1 Corinthians 1:25-29

• In His Word, God assures us that when we share the good news, it will not be in vain. Therefore, we can be comforted by know that whether it be through music, pictures or the spoken word, our loving Father is creating positive change in our child’s heart that we may not fully recognize as “understanding the gospel”.

7. WAS THIS CHILD AN ACCIDENT?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Job 14:5, Psalm 139:13-16, Luke 12:4-7

• Each of us was known before we were ever born. That’s no accident! God’s permitting will allowed this child to affect the world around them with the differences they have in order to serve a specific purpose for their lives. When days seem dark, that’s pretty exciting, precious news!

8. WHY WON’T GOD HEAL MY CHILD?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Genesis 32:24-30, Exodus 4:10-12, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

• First know that God always heals. That healing may come in the form of changing our hearts or physical freedom. We can be certain that all physical suffering will be removed from us when we reach heaven. But on this earth, God may allow a special needs or illness to remain in order to increase our faith, to increase our full reliance on Him or to reach others with the Good News.

9. WHAT GOOD CAN COME OUT OF THIS?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: Genesis 50:20, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

• What culture fails to recognize is that God is glorified and life enriched through those who are weak or challenged. When people see our kids, who would have every reason to be continually angry, sad or demanding with a smile on their face, they wonder why. This gives us the opportunity to point to our Strength, the Lord. Comforting others who suffer can also be another wonderful good that comes out of our difficulties.

10. WILL THINGS EVER GET BETTER?

• BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS: John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 1:3-9,

Revelation 21:3-5

• Although some days parenting a child with special needs can feel heavy and never-ending, in light of eternity, it is only temporary. In fact, Jesus promised us that there will be troubles in this life. In light of that fact, the good days should bring us great joy. Victories may be measured in inches rather than miles. But when they come, they are beautiful. And when we reach heaven, there will be so much more for us to celebrate than for those who did not face these struggles on earth.

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10 Questions the Mentor of a Special Needs Parent Should be Prepared to Face — Question 10

Having trouble viewing this episode?  You may also view it on our YouTube Channel at http://youtu.be/Lq6Hdq2THkk

WILL THINGS EVER GET BETTER?

  • BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS:  John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 1:3-9,  Revelation 21:3-5
  • Although some days parenting a child with special needs can feel heavy and never-ending, in light of eternity, it is only temporary.  In fact, Jesus promised us that there will be troubles in this life.  In light of that fact, the good days should bring us great joy.  Victories may be measured in inches rather than miles.  But when they come, they are beautiful.  And when we reach heaven, there will be so much more for us to celebrate than for those who did not face these struggles on earth.

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10 Questions the Mentor of a Special Needs Parent Should be Prepared to Face — Question 9

  Having trouble viewing this episode?  You may also view it on our YouTube Channel at http://youtu.be/pXiJ1gn8yeA

WHAT GOOD CAN COME OUT OF THIS?
•    BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS:  Genesis 50:20, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,  2 Corinthians 12:9-10
•    What culture fails to recognize is that God is glorified and life enriched through those who are weak or challenged.  When people see our kids, who would have every reason to be continually angry, sad or demanding with a smile on their face, they wonder why.  This gives us the opportunity to point to our Strength, the Lord.  Comforting others who suffer can also be another wonderful good that comes out of our difficulties.

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10 QUESTIONS EVERY MENTOR OF A SPECIAL NEEDS PARENT SHOULD BE PREPARED TO FACE – Question 8

Having trouble viewing this episode?  You may also view it on our YouTube Channel at http://youtu.be/cIJ9zFlkFPs

WHY WON’T GOD HEAL MY CHILD?

  • BIBLICAL REFERENCE POINTS:  Genesis 32:24-30, Exodus 4:10-12, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
  • First know that God always heals.  That healing may come in the form of changing our hearts or physical freedom.  We can be certain that all physical suffering will be removed from us when we reach heaven.  But on this earth, God may allow a special needs or illness to remain in order to increase our faith, to increase our full reliance on Him or to reach others with the Good News.

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