Last night, I got together with a wonderful Christian woman who has been teaching local women the Bible for years. We sat down to a delicious dinner at a local Italian restaurant, with my list of questions, and a natural compatibility. I dug into my shrimp scampi with gusto (remember, I am 18 weeks pregnant), and Sherilyn encouraged me from start-to-finish.

One of the first things she asked me was, “Are you sure you don’t have the spiritual gift of exhortation with the skill of teaching?” Somehow, I knew the answer right away, but I asked her to explain. She said that the gift of exhortation is when you love to shine the light of God’s Word, inviting people to see, live, and think rightly.  Teaching involves a much more systematic approach, with notes, homework, and careful assessment. I told her I thought she was onto something…

When I got home, I pulled down my big, fat Strong’s Concordance and looked up all the references for “exhort” and “exhortation”. In Scripture, it usually occurs alongside teaching (and patience!).

From the Greek dictionary:

exhort (parakaleo) = “to call near, invite, invoke (by imploration, giving advise, or consolation), beseech, call for, be of good comfort, desire, intreat, pray.” This totally reminds me of my rough-draft tagline! “Inviting you to live in the light of God’s Word.” Coincidence? Of course not!

From the Webster’s dictionary:

exhort = to incite by words or advice, to advise or warn earnestly.

If you know me well, you can answer her question for me. Um, YES! I LOVE TO EXHORT. Love it. Love it. Love it.

I love to give the best advice possible and explain Scripture clearly so that people see a great, big lightbulb and say, “OH! What MAGNIFICENT TRUTH!”

I’m laughing out loud with glee just typing about it.

I also love to teach, but I can see now why God would be leading me into a season of developing my ability to teach the Bible. Because it’s a skill that I can improve and, with God’s help and guidance, I’ll keep on.

This may be “Day 31 of 31″ in the blogosphere, but in real-time, I’ve just begun…

 

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Amy Carroll recommends that speakers develop taglines that answers everyone’s question: “What do you speak about??”

This tagline goes at the top of your webpage and bio sheet; it’s also helpful in the elevator. To start the brainstorming process, she wrote two helpful posts:

Writing a Tagline, Part 1 of 2

Writing a Tagline, Part 2 of 2

She recommends that you get started by writing a list of things that you… speak about!

When I worked on this assignment – jotting down my themes, buzz words, soapboxes, and passions, I thought, “everybody speaks about these things”.  I thought I was SO stealing everybody else’s taglines and ideas. But then I looked around the web and realized that female speakers have taken specific slants that are very distinct from mine. To some, living by faith is the focus of their messages. To others, it’s simple living, or confidence, purity, motherhood, or wisdom. Seeing that God has actually given each of us a unique passion, interest, story, and theme gave me confidence to stop cowering and write a tagline that pinpoints what I love teaching. (Lia expressed it perfectly, “Your tagline should be, “I love to speak about Jesus.” Oh, that amazing girl.)

My soapbox: the wonders of God and His Word; the brilliance of living in the light of God’s Word, whether it concern marriage, motherhood, sisterhood, or moment-by-moment living…

These are the (so far) possibilities. Do you like one more than another? Or, do you have another possibility for the list?

“Inviting you to live in the light of God’s Word.”

OH. Hmmm. So it turns out there’s just one possibility so far. Oops. I’m supposed to have a list of 2 or 3 really good ones.

Help??

 

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With extreme reservation, I asked the tec-savvy sound guys at the Christian school if it was possible: could they, maybe, if it really wasn’t any problem, (and they certainly could say no if they needed to), but maybe, could they possibly record my talk??

Of course, the tec-savvy sound guys at the Christian school said, “No problem!”

They recorded it happily. I winced.

They said, “We’ll get that to your dropbox as soon as possible!” I winced again.

I’ve never listened to one of my talks before. Never. Oh, I wish I could stay in my ignorant and happy place forever! But Andy Stanley says “don’t you dare”. He says the best way to improve at public speaking is to nit-pick your way through every recording, identifying strong points and noting areas of growth.

So…

I…

am going to…

listentomyself.

Yikes. I can hardly type that without hiding under the table.

I’ll let you know if I survive.

(Have you ever done this terrible thing? Did you actually survive??)

 

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It was the day I was scheduled to speak at the local Christian high school, and I was late. I forgot all of the handouts and props that I planned to use. My clothes were splattered with grime, and I forgot to switch my sneakers for heels. When I got up front, I realized that my mouth was full of the stickiest gum in the world. It was coating my teeth and tongue, making me gag. I turned my back to the audience so I could get it out, but I couldn’t pull it out no matter how frantically I tried.

That was my dream two nights ago.

It was one of those dreams that *BETTER* just be revealing my worst fears – and not serving as a premonition of terrible things to come. (I mean, it was pretty bad with the gum and all. Yuk.)

So when I woke up this morning to a glorious day, feeling clear-headed and organized, I PRAISED GOD. When I packed the car and realized that I had everything I needed, I was thrilled. When I actually remembered to switch my slippers with my black heels, I practically did a back flip. And during the drive there, I praised God that I could speak clearly! I was on time! And all was well. The terror of my dream opened my heart to gratitude for this awesome opportunity to serve God. It took my mind off of my typical obsessions and fears and focused my eyes on the glorious calling we each have as members of the Body of Christ. What a gift He has given us!

Today’s chapel talk was a wonderful opportunity for me to apply some of the things that God has been teaching me this month.

For example…

TRUST. It was so good for me to trust God. I had to trust Him to redeem past mistakes. I had to trust Him to work through me. I had to trust Him to glorify Himself despite my humble offering.

FOCUS. It was good for me to focus on the people in the audience – and not on myself. My love for them grew as I prayed – weeks ahead of time – in pursuit of compassion and understanding. This shaped my lesson, my delivery, my application, and my generosity. I am so grateful for this insight.

TRUTH. It was good for me to share biblical truths that won’t change over time. I love that I can count on the beauty, endurance, and power of God’s Word to speak in ways I cannot fathom.

Thank you for your prayers, if you prayed them. Thank you for your support and care. All was well. May God alone be glorified and may each of us love Him more because of today.

 

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When it comes to teaching, my greatest hope is to offer solid biblical teaching and life-changing application so that every person may walk in the light of God’s Word.

Kevin DeYoung just finished up an excellent series about the importance of each person studying the Bible to discover the truth for him/herself. This is my hope for you, me, and everyone else.

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 1 of 3)

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 2 of 3)

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 3 of 3)

 

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I’ve been preparing for Monday’s chapel talk. The  headmaster asked me to talk about the Scripture that they are memorizing this week: John 8:12 “And Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” What a glorious topic! What an enormous topic!

As I sort through my pages of notes hoping to glean 30 minutes of solid, beneficial teaching,  I’m asking four big questions about the students:

1. What do they need to know?

2. Why do they need to know it?

3. What do they need to do?

4. Why do they need to do it?

(Thanks, Andy Stanley for helping me to think more strategically…)

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Song of the Day (Day 23)

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This past Sunday, our whole family sat on the couch, nursing colds and exhaustion. Instead of going to church, we watched Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon about the 3rd Commandment. As always, listen until the very end. Your heart will melt, throb, kneel, and wonder… in reverence for God.

Not related to the 3rd Commandment: One part of his sermon inadvertantly addressed my fear of teaching the Bible.

Driscoll showed a photo of himself several years ago, preaching a sermon series called “Vintage Jesus”. In the photo, he was wearing a T-shirt with the word “JESUS” on it and a screen printing of a man’s face (presumably Jesus). He said that, since that sermon, his conviction about reverencing Jesus has grown so much that he wouldn’t wear that T-shirt today. (And not just because it doesn’t fit him any more.) He humbly explained that Christians are ever-growing, and that God gives us grace so to keep learning.

Driscoll’s example was particularly sweet to me as I prepare a chapel talk for the Christian high school where I originally taught something totally wrong from the Bible. Yup, as I embark on this venture with God, my first opportunity “just happens to be” a return visit to the place where I got spooked about teaching the Bible in the first place.

Eight years ago, I promised myself I would never teach at Chapel again because I felt wrecked for teaching something so blatantly wrong to impressionable students. But, God has poured His grace into my heart and shown me that it’s not the end of the world. What I’ve forgotten is that in the same hour of misspeaking on God’s behalf, I was able to correct the wrong teaching in front of the students and take full responsibility for getting it wrong. I emphasized the truth so that they wouldn’t be confused. They asked some questions and then… they were over it. They probably haven’t thought about it since. But sheesh, it’s taken me a bit longer to shake off. The staff are happy to have me return (and would have been happy to have me back the day after I messed up… they are so gracious).

I believe that this is the door that God has opened for me. So, here I go.

Would you pray for me as I walk in the grace that God gives to each of us?

It’s the grace to learn, to grow, and to move forward victoriously in Christ.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

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rose

I could have kept this journey to myself. Some days, I think I should have kept this journey to myself. After Day 1 of 31, I admitted to Ryan that this endeavor would be far more humiliating than I anticipated. But if I had kept it to myself, I wouldn’t be half as honest. Nor would I work as hard as I’m working.

Making this journey public has the distinct benefits of humility and accountability: both are blessings from God.

What’s more? Simply letting other people know that I’d like to grow, I’ve received such generous advice. I’ve been so blessed by friends who’ve jumped right on board and pushed me along (please, don’t stop now!).

For example, in the past 24 hours…

* Stef recommended that I contact the Christian organizations on campus in our university town. She confided that her college Bible study was always looking for guest speakers and would have loved to have known that there were women in the community who were eager to help. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this on my own, but I needed Steph to point it out for me.  So, I got right to work and sent some emails out!

* Then, one of Ryan’s co-workers emailed a book suggestion and placed the book on Ryan’s desk that very day. Thanks, Chris!

* Two other friends sent the link to a fabulous article, “Pastors Need Women Teachers (and Vice-Versa)” that answered many of my yet-unspoken fears (Did you think  I actually expressed all of them in a few measly posts?! Not a chance.) Thanks, Jen! And Dan!

 ***

As it turns out, people want to see me grow. And I desperately need their help. This is the way it is meant to be.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

…from 1 Corinthians 12

I guess what I’m saying is, imagine what might come your way if you just happened to mention that you’d like to grow…

 

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This isn’t the type of book I read in one sitting. Or even five. This is the type of book that I work through word by word, prayer by prayer. Through it, God is shoring up my heart.

“Have you ever agreed with the whispers of doubt and found yourself living with a sense of discouragement and defeat? Have you felt paralyzed by insecurity, and let it stop you from living confidently? If so, you are not alone.” p. 22

I’ve had an autographed copy sitting on the shelf for two years. I didn’t read it because I didn’t want to face my self-doubt. Strangely, hiding behind certain insecurities felt safe. But when God began beckoning me to grow as a Bible teacher, I had to come face-to-face with my insecurities. (Remember all of those fears I listed? They were steeped in insecurity!) One day in September, Renee Swope’s A Confident Heartpractically jumped off the bookshelf at me. I knew it was time to dig in.

“Those of us who struggle with insecurity and find ourselves in the shadow of doubt often get there because we are seeking our validation in people’s opinions, our worth in accomplishments, and our identity in excessive commitments. It can only go on for so long before something breaks.” p. 52

The message of Renee’s book is based on the daily practice of identifying our insecurities and replacing them with the truth of God’s Word. Not a new approach, just a new and personal application for me.  It’s truly relieving.

“We become secure as we know and rely on His love more and more. It is a moment by moment, day by day experience where we process our thoughts, emotions, and decisions with God, positioning our hearts to let His perspective redefine ours.” p. 62

Renee thoroughly addresses the common self-doubts of “I’m not good enough,” “I’m such a failure,” “I don’t have anything special to offer”, “I can’t stop worrying,” and “I can’t follow God consistently.” I am basking in the scriptures that she highlights… God is so good at soothing the frail Christian soul. At the back of the book, Renee includes a list of 31 Doubts-Replaced-By-God’s-Truth (my title, not hers). These are like gold to me because I do shut down when I feel weak, embarrassed, or inadequate. I desperately need the relief of God’s Word for my heart and mind.

It just so happens that A Confident Heart is the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ book study right now. They just started and would be delighted for you to join in, too!

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