Midday Connection

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Archive for the tag “God’s Word”

Midday blog: Failure in Love

The late founder of L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland and author of The Mark of a Christian, Francis Schaeffer, wrote about Jesus’ desire for His people. (You can find it in John 13:34, 35.)

“The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture. How, then, is the dying culture going to consider us? Jesus says, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.” (italics mine) He adds: “That’s pretty frightening.” I agree. Since Jesus gave the world the authority to judge us, we might ask ourselves, “How are we doing?”

From my perch, more and more I am struck with increasing polarization within our evangelical community. Of course, we will often find differences in our interpretation of God’s truth. (Not much different from the differences of the early churches, right? Take a look at the letters of the New Testament as well as books that cover early church history.) But how are we handling those conversations in these days? Are we expressing our thoughts cautiously, kindly, lovingly with old-fashioned good manners, or do we use combative, superior, self-righteous language? I fear the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, blogs), with its opportunities for a growing number of faceless conversations, has given us a false sense of empowerment to frame our thoughts and responses in boldly Jesus-vision-less ways.

Schaeffer sums up, “In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative Jesus gave them.”

Or in Jesus words,  “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) Ah, there it is: humility.

God, please give us hearts of love toward our own, so that we may authentically show the world: we are Yours!

Melinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. Twitter: @melindaschmidtMelinda Schmidt

Midday blog: Codependents Identified

“My name is Mark… and I’m codependent.”

In those seven simple words, I’m opening up a door of vulnerability.

One of the definitions for codependency on Wikipedia states that it’s “the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.”

On the first read, how could that be a bad thing? Romans 15 encourages us to serve others and not please ourselves. Verse 3 says that Christ is the example of this!

I hope you sense my slight sarcasm and see the challenge I myself have found to think more deeply about this. The Wikipedia article also says that “codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.”

There are those in my life that I consider close – whether they are my blood family or “brothers from another mother.” There aren’t many things that I wouldn’t do for any of them. I enjoy nearly every minute I spend with them. I want to make sure they know how much I care about them.

You might say, “That’s so great, Mark. You love deeply and care intensely.” Okay, I might agree with you! But as some of my relationships grew, at a certain point, I had realized how much I had depended heavily on some of these people for my happiness. If I wasn’t doing something fun or hanging out with them, it bummed me out – to the point where I was sad and emotionally paralyzed.

I eventually had to realize that I couldn’t rely on other people to be happy. It was definitely easier said than done, and it didn’t happen overnight. But through self-examination and reading God’s Word, I can say I’ve experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding – and as Philippians 4:7 says, it guards my heart and mind through Christ.

Do I still struggle with it? Every day.

Are there times – or people – that cause you to lose focus on yourself, or on God? How do you reset when you face those times?

 

Mark BretaMark Breta has been with Moody Radio since 2007 and has worked with many of its programs. Mark currently works with Midday Connection, the Bring to Mind podcast and Treasured Truth. He has led worship at conferences and events, and more recently, at Chicago area churches in Arlington Heights and Oak Park. Mark has been posting a daily audio blog throughout the month of June at his website.

 

 

Midday blog: Holy Neediness

I used to be defensive about needing God. I’d push back on the language that described God or religion as a crutch. Certainly, I’d roll my eyes at Karl Marx’s famous words that “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Until last week, when I ran across that quote and thought, My word. Karl Marx is right!

Well, kinda, sorta.

Opium, of course, is dangerous stuff. It lures people in with promises of relieving pain, with mountain-top highs. But ultimately, opium leaves its users depleted, empty.

Nothing like God.

But here’s what Marx got right: opium leaves its users needy, desperate, looking everywhere for it.

Though God doesn’t promise pain relief or mountain-top highs—instead, he promises walking with us in our pain, in both valleys and mountains—and certainly doesn’t leave us haggard and depleted, truth be told: true intimacy with God does leave us needy, desperate, on the lookout for God everywhere.

At least, it has with me. And I’ve found needing God—as a crutch! As our hope!—is one of the great blessings in life. Learning to lean on God and God alone for our peace, our joy, our strength, our comfort, our security, our rest is how we learn that God is able, that he is trustworthy.

Caryn Rivadeniera

Caryn Rivadeneira is an author, editor and speaker. She earned a B.A. in English from Calvin College and attended the University of Chicago’s publishing program. Caryn lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Rafael, her three kids, and a rescued pit bull terrier. Caryn and her family are members of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Elmhurst, Ill.  To learn more about Caryn, please visit her website. Twitter: @carynrivadeneir

 

Midday Blog: His Sovereignty in the Unknown

Don’t God’s responses to your questions usually surprise you? Don’t they seem to make no sense at times?  We ask questions because we obviously need some answers, answers that contain information our hearts are longing for.  We feel pressure, nervousness, fear, and so on.

We’ve all encountered situations when we don’t seem to be fit at all for the task assigned.  A speech in front of a multitude? A new position at work or in your church? A friend asking you for advice or people seeking your help?

Some of us, though, face tougher situations. Maybe you didn’t know how you were going to provide for your family the very next day. Maybe you had to make a decision such as ending a relationship or stepping down from a position at work.

The unknown is all around us, yet the good news are that we belong to an all-knowing God, the One who has total knowledge, awareness, and understanding. Nothing escapes His mind and nothing takes Him by surprise. His answers to our questions are the most suitable ones. They might not make sense when given to us and they might not fulfill our longing, but they are what we need to hear.

In Exodus 3 we see God revealing to Moses through the burning bush. In this particular theophany, He calls Moses to rescue His chosen people from under the Egyptian bondage (talk about the unknown!). Moses’ immediate question is: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (verse 11)  Naturally we would expect God to start pointing to Moses’ strengths and explain to him why is he the chosen one for this task.  But, God gives the unexpected answer: “Certainly I will be with you…” (verse 12).

Moses asks who is he to take on such a responsibility and God answers by telling Moses that He will be with Him.  Doesn’t that seem the answer to a different question? You are asking God one thing, and He tells you another. He tells you He will undoubtedly be there with you. When He gives you the unexpected answers, know that those are the best. And in the darkest unknown, be sure that He is there with you.

Adelina GhileaAdelina Ghilea comes from the city of Arad, Romania. Her previous experience as a volunteer radio show host and producer not only deeply shaped her vocation and calling, but also brought her to Moody Bible Institute. She is currently a senior in the communications department and is serving as station manager for the campus station. Adelina is also serving with JoyFm, a new Reach Beyond (HCJB Global) radio plant in her hometown. After graduation, she is planning to return home and invest in the ministry there. Twitter: @AdeGhilea

Midday blog: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

As a worship leader, I continue to learn and grow in how to choose songs for a church service. Years ago, I used to think that a song that has a repetitive chorus was shallow (or that the songwriter was lazy. Ha!).

I discovered, though, that there are times when repetitive songs can be used effectively.

I recently came across this worship song, and God has been using it in my life over the last week or so.

“There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

To break every chain

Break every chain, break every chain.”

It has been a great reminder to me, while sorting the stuff of life – that nothing has to bind me.

Are there any songs, Bible verses or meaningful quotes that run through your mind throughout the day that have brought you encouragement lately?

Mark BretaMark Breta has been with Moody Radio since 2007 and has worked with many of its programs. Mark currently works with Midday Connection, the Bring to Mind podcast and Treasured Truth. He has led worship at conferences and events, and more recently, at Chicago area churches in Arlington Heights and Oak Park.  You can follow Mark at his website.

Midday blog: Can we shape another’s personality?

Have you ever noticed the subtle suggestion out there that parents can actually shape the personality of their child? Beyond the natural desire to guide children toward Biblical character development, there’s this hint that we can turn them into something – else. Something better?

The Biblical stories of Jacob, Cain, Abel, Esther, Mary the mother of Jesus, Paul, Joseph, his brothers, and others demonstrate that each were born with a unique personality that sometimes served them well (Mary, Esther, Abel) and other times did not (Samson, Jacob, Ham, Jezebel).  Some lives came to good ends (Jews still celebrate Esther’s Purim today) while others came to tragic ends (Lot), never able to overcome their bents. Jacob continued to wrestle with his personality into adulthood and eventually wrestled with God, figuratively and literally in Genesis 32.

And actually, none of these Biblical characters were perfect.

You’ve probably scratched your head wondering how children can come from the same parents but be so different! There’s no doubt genetics play a part in who we are, but from the beginnings of humankind, we understand that God is the Creator of us all (Psalm 139). We arrive on earth imperfect, but we can gift others with God’s love, joy and truth with the Holy Spirit’s power. After that, their next steps are their own.

As we send an aroma of prayer to God (Ps. 141:2), and let our loved one go, releasing them into God’s hands, we give them freedom to accept or resist truth. They are making their own choices. Will I carry my anxieties and worries about my loved one to God, and confirm my trust in Him? Fill in the blanks of Psalm 31:15 with your loved one’s name: “ _____’s times are in your hands; deliver _____from the hands of _______’s enemies (Satan for one! as well as drugs, an emotional affair, deceit, etc.), from those who pursue _______ (evil friends or ideas or destructive habits, or other temptations).”

Melinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. Twitter: @melindaschmidtMelinda Schmidt

Midday blog: Good Samaritan

As I’ve heard Anita talk about the release of her novel that she wrote with Caryn Rivadeniera called Shades of Mercy, she has said that the book addresses, “Who is my neighbor?”  That got me thinking, so the other day, I read Luke chapter 10.  And there I read about the religious leader who asked Jesus that very question… Then Jesus answered by telling the parable about the good Samaritan.  I was struck again at the sacrifice of time and money that the Samaritan gave.  It made me think – Do I have the margin in my life to give like he did?  Or (a bigger issue for me), am I willing to have my plans derailed when something more important arises?  Do I recognize that greater importance or am I too stuck on my to do list to deviate?  I thought about this as I passed a homeless man on my way to work.  Am I willing to stop and say hello and risk an uncomfortable few minutes to buy him a meal?  I thought about this as I waded through the crowd of morning train commuters.  Am I seeing people as God’s image bearers, each with their own stories or do I see them as annoying delays in my way?  I’m sitting with this parable for a while.  I’m beginning to see it as more than just doing more and serving more, but it’s also a deeper attitude of respect, honor and dignity toward our fellow humans.

Take a couple of minutes and read Luke 10:30-37. There’s a lot in this parable. What do you sense God bringing to your attention?

Lori Neff

Lori Neff is the senior producer of Midday Connection and editor/contributor for Daily Seeds: From Women Who Walk in Faith and Tending the Soul (Moody Publishers). She grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. Lori is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and she’s currently in school again studying counseling and spiritual direction. Her interests include art, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John (and their three fiesty cats). For more information and her blog please visit Lori’s website.

Midday blog: Does Fear Hold You Back?

I’m all about communicating Freedom to Women. I believe that is my calling but often I find that fear holds me back. Fear is the antithesis of freedom. So how can we live free and fearless? A number of years ago God answered that question for me in an unexpected way.

A piece of my story is about divorce. I went through a divorce about 12 years ago and one of my biggest fears was that life was over, I was finished, all washed up! God couldn’t use a divorced woman. I believed I’d been sidelined. That’s what some people told me, and that was my perception after growing up and spending most of my life inside the Church. God, however, had another idea! He sent some amazing people into my life to speak a different message into my heart and soul, a message of life, hope and healing. Today I speak to thousands of women every day on Midday Connection and get to share that same message of freedom and healing and life.

Here is one of my favorite verses in Scripture on the topic of freedom, Galatians 5:1.  “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” How about it, will you stay free along with me?

What’s your story? What is one of your biggest fears that you’ve watched God dismantle as he helped you see His truth?

Anita LustreaAnita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

Guest blog: In Praise of Large (and Small) Families

It’s one of those cases where both sides are completely wrong.

In one corner, you’ve got Christians who proclaim that large families are the Christian ideal. They argue that the more kids you have, the more spiritual you are. As a result, they frown upon small families. They carry an air of self-righteous superiority as they pull their 12 passenger vans into the church parking lot.In the other corner are Christians who scoff at large families. They decry the financial irresponsibility of having more than two children, citing the need for massive college funds, new cars and annual trips to Disneyland. They roll their eyes at those weird people pulling 12 passenger vans into the church parking lot. I know. My examples are a bit melodramatic. But you get the point.

Full disclosure – My fifth child is due early this year, and I own a 12 passenger van. That makes me no better or worse than you. Instead, I’m convinced that large family advocates and large family scoffers are ultimately flawed in their thinking.

In spite of their errors, each side has some valid points. For example, the Bible clearly states that children are a blessing. Proponents of large families rightly remind us that children are one of the only Biblical blessings that people willfully reject. You don’t often hear prayers for less health or financial stability. So why dramatically limit what God calls a blessing?

At the same time, large family fanatics all too often callously forget the pain of infertility. In their zeal, they send a hurtful message to those God has clearly called not to have a large family. That’s why numbers aren’t the issue.  
God’s calling is the issue.
It’s common to hear someone desperately pleading for God’s calling for their career path. We quickly yield to His plans for our relationships and our ministry work. But I’ve rarely encountered followers of Jesus who bother to consult God when determining how many children to have. Instead, many turn inward for this major life decision.
I’m not aware of any Biblical equation for determining how many kids to have. So where do you start when seeking God’s intentions for your family size? Here’s a few questions to consider that have been helpful for me:
  • What are your motives for preventing more kids in your family? The Bible doesn’t have a directive regarding family size. So, we’re forced to closely examine our motives. Can your reasons for not having any more kids be supported by Scripture? Are you guided by selfishness, or by Godly thinking?
  • What physiological messages have you received? A few friends of mine have one child. It’s not that they don’t want more kids. They simply can’t have more kids. And they praise God for His clear answer regarding their family size. On the other hand, some women experience severe physical or emotional distress after multiple pregnancies. These complications may make it unwise and unhealthy to have more children. Either way, take time to consider what God may be telling you through your emotional and physiological realities.
  • Where is your heart regarding your finances? American culture can easily corrupt Godly thinking about money. Society tells us that we deserve the newest and best of everything. Sadly, this message creeps into our thinking about having kids. Many believers cite finances as the primary motive for not having any more kids. But is that what God really has in mind for us? Be sure to prayerfully reflect upon what He says about the love of money, and the storing-up of treasures on earth.
  • Are your “can’ts” really “won’ts”? I’m not a fan of the contraction “can’t”. Why? Because it’s seldom accurately applied. I do this all the time in my own life. I’ll say, “Honey, I can’t take out the trash right now”. What I really mean is that I won’t take out the trash now. Carefully evaluate all of your “can’ts” when thinking about not having any more kids. Meanwhile, don’t forget that responding to God’s call isn’t necessarily going to be easy. In fact, Biblical precedent would indicate that it’s usually pretty challenging. How is God convicting your heart about your true “can’ts” and “won’ts”?
  • Are you unintentionally limiting God’s ability to provide for you? Faith is often the act of doing the right thing with confidence, even in the face of an uncertain outcome. Do you feel called to have more kids, but are afraid of the logistics? Is money a concern? Be careful not to limit God’s divine ability to provide you with everything you need to answer His calling. Not all that you may want, but all that you need.
Please don’t read into my questions looking for implied answers. There aren’t any. I’m simply sharing my conviction that we should seek God’s divine direction when deciding how many children to have. In the end, if you’re upset by some of my inquiries, perhaps it’s because you’re uncomfortable with your answers.

Brian DahlenBrian Dahlen is a broadcaster, teacher and musician who loves to talk and appreciates the value of sarcasm and bad jokes. He blogs about faith, life, radio and race at  briandahlen.com. He and his wife Sara have four kids and live on the South Side of Chicago.

Brian Dahlen was a part of the Millrose Club on December 13, 2013, where we talked about this topic.  You can listen to that program on our website. 

Guest post: I Don’t Believe Everyone Should Adopt

In you the orphan finds mercy.

Hosea 14:3

adoptionA few years ago, I received a phone call from a woman I’d met just once or twice. She was nearly breathless and clearly on a mission. She said she knew my husband and I had adopted our younger daughter. She wanted me to help spread the word about an adoption event and the message that every family should adopt a child.

Everyone?

“I have to stop you,” I said. “But I don’t believe that everyone should adopt.”

There was silence for a moment, but then she began speaking faster, citing figures about the number of orphans in the U.S. and abroad and reminding me that God mandates that we care for them. 160 million orphans. True religion is caring for widows and orphans.

“We are so fortunate,” she said. “Look around. We have so much to share.”

I had to explain that of course I agreed that every child deserves a family. I like how the ethical adoption organization Both Ends Burning puts it: “Growing up in a family is a child’s most basic human right.” And I’m quite sure as people of faith, we are directed to serve and protect vulnerable children.

In my adoption memoir, I explored what I believe is a Christian’s responsibility to the poor. I also tried to articulate, as clearly as I could, that there are many, many effective ways to care for widows and orphans that don’t entail adopting a child. We can, for example, support humanitarian organizations such as World Vision, CARE, and Sustainable Harvest International that work to alleviate poverty and empower women and girls all over the globe.

In Love You More, I wrote that, “In finding our children and falling in love with a country far from home, many adoptive parents find a calling to change their lives and serve those whom they have met there. They know that members of their children’s first families struggle just to survive; suddenly the crisis of global poverty is personal. Is that part of the divine plan of adoption? Not only to give permanent loving families to orphaned children and to answer the prayers of the childless, but to link those who have much with those who do not have enough? To make us all, truly, extended family?”

November is National Adoption Month. In what ways can you and I be Christ’s hands and feet in the world and show mercy to orphans?

jennifer grantJennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by Skeptics, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels (co-editor, forthcoming, 2014), and 12: A Daybook for a Wholehearted Year (forthcoming, 2014). She is a grateful believer, a reader, a sometime poet, a dog lover, and, with her husband of 25 years, mother to four wonderfully creative and quirky tween and teenaged children. Learn more at jennifergrant.com.

Jennifer Grant’s memoir, Love You More (in e-book format) is now on sale for just $1.99 for National Adoption Month (November).

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