Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unexpected Fires

I once started a fire in my kitchen while attempting a home remedy to remove trapped water from my son’s ear. A friend had suggested that I heat equal parts vinegar and alcohol in a spoon and then dispense it into his ear. I carefully poured the vinegar and alcohol into the center of a large spoon, grabbed a lighter from the kitchen drawer, and cautiously held the flame under the liquid.

After about thirty seconds (just as I was about to extinguish the lighter) the mixture ignited. Looking at the flames in disbelief, I panicked and dropped the spoon, spilling the flaming liquid onto the counter. I quickly ran to the sink, turned on the faucet, cupped my hands under the running water, and tossed a handful onto the flames. The small puddle of fiery liquid suddenly became a stream of flames, flowing across the counter.

Shaking his head and rolling his eyes, my son, Brandon, calmly grabbed a dish towel from the drawer, soaked the towel under the running faucet, and threw it over the fire. The flames immediately disappeared. We stared at each other for a few seconds and then burst into simultaneous laughter.

How do you respond to the unexpected fires of life? Unfortunately, many of us respond to the loss of a job, a car accident, or a serious illness, much like I reacted to the flaming spoon that day in my kitchen —with utter panic and careless action.

Ephesians 6:16 tells believers to “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” We take up our shield of faith by choosing to trust God when we encounter an unexpected trial. When your supervisor hands you a pink slip, instead of making a bee-line to the nearest mall and purchasing three new interview outfits on credit, or placing your house on the market that afternoon, choose (as my son did that day in my kitchen) to remain calm. Take time to pray, and seek God’s guidance before taking action.

By choosing to trust God, you will extinguish the fiery darts of fear, confusion, and doubt that can cause you to react with reckless haste. Not to mention, you just might avoid the humbling experience of turning a small fiery puddle into a flowing stream of flames.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Join Me for a Virtual Blog Tour August 16th Through September 1st

Blogs are a great forum for sharing our thoughts and I typically utilize this space on the world-wide web to post articles or teaching from God’s Word. This month, however, I will be taking a blog-tour August 16th through September 1st and want to make you aware of my virtual stops. This is a new adventure for me and I invite you to participate by visiting the tour blogs, commenting on posts, asking questions (which I'll be happy to answer), or reading and/or listening to interviews.

I’ve posted the schedule for the tour below. There will be book giveaways and contests. Stop by one (or several) of the spots.

August 16th - Debbie White will be reviewing Walking with God: From Slavery to Freedom; Living the Promised Life

August 17th – Sarah Caiafa will be reviewing Hugs Bible Reflections for Women

August 18th – Jill Jones will be reviewing The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 19th – I will join Marnie Swedberg, host of Marie and Friends Blog Talk Radio, for a Training for Ladies’ Bible Study leaders

August 20th – Verlina Adame will be doing a highlight of Fruitful Word Ministries

August 21st – Tammy Litke will be doing a review of The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 23rd – Michelle Vasquez will be doing a review of The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 24th – I'll be answering questions for Amy Thue's interview

August 25th – Amy Thue will be doing a review of The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 26th – Molly Edwards will be reviewing Hugs Bible Reflections for Women

August 27th - Ashley Dodd will be reviewing Walking with God: From Slavery to Freedom; Living the Promised Life

August 28th – Verlina Adame will be reviewing The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 30th – Liberty Speidel will be reviewing The Women in Jesus’ Life

August 31st – Kristi Herbrand will be reviewing The Women in Jesus’ Life

September 1st – Lori Kasbeer will be reviewing The Women in Jesus’ Life

I look forward to interacting with you along the way!

Mindy Ferguson

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Importance of Focus in Ministry

Do you feel like you have to fill every open spot or get involved in every activity at your church? Last week as I was preparing to teach my women’s Sunday school class, God reminded me to stay focused in ministry.

As the number of disciples in the early church increased, there were widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The twelve apostles gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2 NIV). Instead of taking their focus off the work Jesus had commissioned them to do, the apostles delegated the work of distributing food to seven wise, spirit-filled men who could handle the responsibility. The apostles then said, “We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4 NIV).

God used these passages to remind me to delegate in my role as Women’s Ministry Director and to be purposeful in my writing and speaking ministry. There have been a number of projects that I’ve considered working on in recent months, but God reminded me that I need to stay focused. Although a few of the projects I considered were worthwhile and exciting, He has commissioned me to encourage and equip women through the study of His Word.

Every believer in Christ is called to serve God in some form of ministry. Is there work you are neglecting because you are trying to fill too many different roles at your church or in your ministry? Prayerfully seek God about your service. Give your attention to the tasks God has gifted you to complete. Delegate other responsibilities to spirit-filled folks who are willing and able to serve.

The apostles stayed focused and delegated effectively. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7 NIV). Likewise, when we are faithful to seek God and serve as He directs, our Lord accomplishes His purposes in our lives and ministries.

-Mindy Ferguson
Copyright © 2010 Fruitful Word Ministries, Inc.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sovereign Philosophy

Is God sovereign? That was the first question on my son’s worksheet for a college philosophy class. His lap-top computer wasn’t routing properly to the home printer, so he emailed the worksheet to me so I could print it out before he left for class. Like any good mother would… I peeked at his answer (as well as several others). I must say, the years of Sunday school, family devotions, and church youth functions appear to have been fruitful.

I wondered what the Philosophy professor might discuss in the class. I struggled with the idea of an unknown teacher debating the sovereignty of our Lord with my son (without using Scripture!). The truth of God’s sovereign rule and ability to work through His people (and sometimes in spite of His people) to bring about His divine will is best revealed through His Word. Immediately, I thought of an incident in Scripture that helped me solidify the concept of God’s sovereignty.

There was a Centurion in the Italian Regiment named Cornelius. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:2 NIV). In a vision, Cornelius saw an angel who told him to send men to the home of tanner who lived in Joppa. The Apostle Peter was staying with the tanner at the time. The angel instructed Cornelius to have the men bring Peter to his house. Cornelius sent two of his servants and a devout soldier to Joppa as the angel instructed.

About the time the men were approaching the city of Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the tanner’s house to pray. Peter fell into a trance and also saw a vision. In Peter’s vision, He saw something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat” (Acts 10:11-13 NIV). The sheet contained not only animals that Jews would consider “kosher” or “clean” and acceptable to eat, but also many that were considered “unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15 NIV). While Peter was still trying to understand the vision, Cornelius’s men arrived at the house asking for him.

The Spirit said to Peter, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (Vs. 19-20). The next day Peter went with the men to Cornelius’s house in Caesarea. Interestingly, Cornelius had gathered his relatives and close friends at this house, anticipating Peter’s arrival. Peter stepped inside and said, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Isn’t that amazing? Peter left with Cornelius’s men even though it was against Jewish law to associate with Gentiles, and he went without even knowing the purpose of the visit. Peter was told by the Spirit not to hesitate and he obeyed, without objection, without question. Peter was a man deeply devoted to the Jewish laws. Only a work of God upon his heart could have persuaded him to break Jewish law and visit a Gentile home.

And how does the story end? Peter preached and shared that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and told the group that Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead on the third day. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44-45 NIV). The entire group was baptized and salvation was extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, just as God promised Abraham about two thousand years earlier when He said, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3).

God spoke to two men living in different cities with precise timing. The messages were specific enough to clearly guide each man’s decisions. Our Lord is indeed sovereign. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:21-22). And Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25). For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities –all things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

We can rest in the truth that the One who created all things in heaven and on earth is the same God who works out everything according to His divine purposes and even grants wisdom to those who consider themselves wise. Yes, our God has a sovereign philosophy.

Hmm... I wonder if I can slip into that class!

-Mindy Ferguson

Copyright 2010 © Fruitful Word Ministries, Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Partying Light

“Mom! I need to talk to you!” she yelled with a notable tone of urgency in her voice. The door slammed and muffled pounding erupted from the stairs as she quickly made her way to my study. Recognizing a “mom moment” in the making, I abandoned the fragmented sentence on my computer screen and turned attentively toward my usually up-beat daughter.

She threw herself into the brown suede lounge chair that was positioned in the corner of the room. Her lips quivered and tears began streaming down her sunburned cheeks as she struggled to speak. “I’m not going to that party,” she finally whispered through her tears. My soon-to-be junior high schooler had been invited to a birthday party by a slighter older girl who lived down the street. A number of eighth grade girls were planning to attend the girly gathering and this was my pre-teen’s first invitation to a “Jr. High” sleepover.

Quickly deserting my seat, I knelt on the floor beside my daughter, brushing a tear from her chin. I listened as she explained some of the activities that the adventurous teenage host had planned for her party, which included midnight festivities around a Ouija board. My daughter then said, “I told her I didn’t want to play that game.”

After a short pause, she sadly declared, “I’m not going to go to the party, Mom.” Tears began streaming down my cheeks as my heart swelled with a mixture of motherly pride and compassion. We talked and prayed together for a few minutes, praising God for alerting her to the party agenda ahead of time. After a few words of affirmation, she wiped her tears and slowly made her way to her bedroom to talk to a friend. As I returned to my place in front of the computer screen, I marveled at how much my little girl had grown up. I praised God for giving my fun-loving pre-teen the strength and courage to make such a difficult decision.

Later that day, my daughter asked if she could attend a portion of the party. After further discussion about the importance of steering clear from any activities that involved the contacting of spirits (Leviticus 19:31), I agreed. She attended the party for a few hours, enjoyed a visit to the swimming pool and some beauty tips from a cosmetic consultant. But as the son began to set, she thanked the girl for inviting her and then quietly walked back home for the night.

I must admit, I sometimes struggle to find the proper balance between separating myself from wordly activities and going to the extreme of isolating myself so completely from mainstream society that I become indifferent to those who need a glimpse of the Savior.

When interceding for His disciples, Jesus prayed:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (John 17:16-19 NIV).

Jesus’ prayer made it clear that sanctification, which means to set apart for God’s use, does not mean isolation. We need to know the Word of God, live it out as best we can, and depend upon the Holy Spirit to guide our steps. We have to be careful not to withdraw ourselves so completely that we no longer reflect Christ to people around us. We are called to live out our faith before the world in order to glorify God and draw others to Him.

You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lamp stand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NCV).

We are the light of the world. We must remain committed to purity, separating ourselves from activities that can contaminate our spirits or tempt us to sin. But we also must be careful not to completely isolate ourselves from people who need exposure to Jesus Christ. Like my daughter, sometimes that means we should be “partying light.”

-Mindy Ferguson
As appeared in P31 Magazine, February 2006 edition

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pressure Free Interview

As I drove at a snail’s pace in rush-hour-traffic toward the Fox affiliate station in Houston, Texas, I began running through some possible responses to questions I anticipated from the station’s news anchor. I had been asked to appear on the morning news program for an interview about my recent book, Hugs Bible Reflections for Women.

When scheduling the interview, my publicist told me she hoped to send a copy of the interview to Fox’s national news coordinator with the goal of securing an appearance on Fox’s national morning news program. She ended the call by enthusiastically saying, “I’ll be watching you!”

I felt tremendous pressure to make the message in my book appeal to the diverse audience that would be viewing a mainstream news program. I’d done enough media interviews to understand that the station would expect me to use terms like “my faith” instead of “Christianity”. I knew full well that it was politically correct to avoid using the name of Jesus. I tried to convince myself that toning down my message would enable the book to get into the hands of more women who wouldn’t normally study the Bible.

However, as I thought through ways to avoid offending the non-believing viewers, I had a sick feeling come over me. I realized that the only motivation for rehearsing politically correct responses would be to secure more interviews with secular media outlets.

I thought of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit...” A spirit of conviction came over me as I my life verse began playing in my head, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

Tears welled up in my eyes and I cried out to God, “All I want to do is glorify You! This interview is Yours. Please give me the words, Lord God, and forgive me for allowing selfish ambition to enter my heart.”

I pulled into the parking lot of the station with a heavy heart. But as I entered the double glass doors, a sense of peace engulfed me. The pressure was gone and I didn’t step into the studio with canned responses ready to roll eloquently off my tongue. Instead, I entered as a humbled servant on a mission, dependent upon the Spirit of my Jesus to guide me through that interview.

The tape of that interview will probably never make its way to the station’s national news coordinator. I wasn’t disrespectful of the station’s format during the interview, but I was honest and transparent about my faith. I am at peace that the only name that was advanced that day was the name of Jesus. And with that, I am at peace.

Have you ever taken a stand for Jesus when it wasn’t socially or professionally expedient to do so? If so, please share by posting a comment.