The Bridge-Building Ministry of Encouragement

Debbie Kitterman’s class comprised a delightful balance of both brown and white faces, and when she overheard the symphony of Spanish and English conversations, her curiosity was piqued. At the first opportunity, she approached the pastor of the Hispanic congregation that was hosting her class.

“How come half of my class doesn’t speak Spanish?” she queried. “Do they attend your congregation?”

“No,” he replied. “During our joint staff meeting, I mentioned to the pastoral staff I was going to have you come teach my congregation on how to hear from God, so word got out.”

The desire to hear God’s Truth and to encourage others through His Word was strong enough to bridge the gap between two cultures, and if we were honest, this is a bridge upon which we all need to place the soles of our feet. Finding that Christians everywhere need a bit of help getting outside our comfort zones, Debbie Kitterman has shared her own journey along with the good news that God intends for us to build one another up as we speak words of Truth. In The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others, we find Kitterman’s confidence and fervor flow from years of learning alongside biblical characters like little Samuel that the voice of God in our ears and in our hearts requires action on our part.

God the Holy Spirit is Living and Active

Debbie’s ministry trumpets the “freelance nature of the Holy Spirit.” The third Person of the Trinity is living and active, through His Word and in His people. Those who put Him in a box miss out on the full display of His power at work in ordinary people.  Furthermore, we are built for connection, for relationship with God and with each other. Living in harmony with the example of Jesus means embracing a lifestyle of encouragement. “Jesus had radical encounters with ordinary people every day. By listening to the Father’s voice and doing what the Father said, Jesus was able to release heaven into the situations and lives of those He encountered.” (21)

When we take the risk of sharing God’s truth with others for the purpose of encouraging them in their walk with God, that movement into obedience may have the domino effect of moving them into obedience as well. As we align our words and our actions with the plumb line of Scripture, we will find ourselves swept up into the bridge-building ministry of a God whose invitation is open and full of hope:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:18, 19)

Many thanks to Chosen Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Rejoicing in God’s Redemptive Work,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Created to Make a Difference

“God spends the day elsewhere, but He sleeps in Rwanda.”

This may be a popular saying in that East African country, but my view of Rwanda has been shaped by 1990’s era news reports of violence, genocide, and war.  Jonathan David Golden has spent a few nights in Rwanda himself, and the result of that is a multi-million dollar coffee business that promotes justice through partnering directly with Rwandan farmers to make excellent coffee — and to make a difference.

Be You.  Do Good. tells the story of Jonathan’s journey from conflicted and confused to confident and called.  On his way to “The Land of a Thousand Hills” (the name of his company and another nickname for Rwanda), he extracts twelve principles that shaped his missional world view:

  1.  Let Go of the Myths – We believe all kinds of false statements about calling and vocation that keep us mired in indecision.
  2. Be Who You Are – Life is a “cosmic collaboration” in which God works through the person he created to do a great thing.  Don’t put that self on the shelf.
  3. Use What You Have — Take the first step, and don’t wait. Notice who is nearby to help, and live scrappy!
  4. Get What You Can — Sounds pretty radical, right? Jonathan is a believer in “The Big Ask.”  Tempered by the truth that it’s not about you, but about the call, this is a legitimate position:  you are inviting others into God’s work.
  5. Follow the Inkling — God invites us into adventure.  Our experiences and gifts are custom-made to equip us for that faithful following.
  6. Pursue What Makes You Come Alive — Sensitive to social injustice from the time he was a boy, Jonathan realized that his entrepreneurial spirit and his heart for ministry could make a difference in Rwanda through the production of coffee.  This chemistry of passion and ability is what we all need to find.
  7. Find a People to Serve — A healthy community is one in which everyone blesses and everyone is blessed in return.  For Jonathan, it was a matter of not being “The Rich White Guy.”  Serve and be served.
  8. Growing Little by Little — The work of forgiveness, finding your calling, reaching your goals:  these are all works of slow grace.
  9. March Through Challenges — One foot ahead of the other requires a mundane soldiering through the hard times.  Jonathan shares his “liturgy for life” which, essentially, is a daily turning of his face toward what is true.
  10. Follow, Don’t Force — Forging through with one’s own agenda can be dangerous.  Pause and allow the Holy Spirit to show the next step.
  11. Stand Back Up — When the wheels come off our plans, the choice between give-up and stand-up is a tough one.  The myth of “easy” can keep us from persevering.
  12. Stay Open to New Possibilities — Open eyes to the needs around us and open hearts to hear the voice of the Spirit are essential to readiness.

Intensely practical and yet highly motivational, Be You. Do Good. is a call to gritty obedience and a faithful following that honors God’s unique gifting of the believer.  When the Spirit whispers, take one brave step.  Then, see what God does with your availability.

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Interested in more details about Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co.?  Check out the story here.

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Your Gift Is a Platform for God’s Glory

“Look at all that beauty!” I thought to myself as I drove by the fallow winter field.

Tall, gangly sunflowers, slightly stooped, and in all likelihood stripped bare by hungrily harvesting chipmunks, stood in a huddled threesome at each corner of a fenced-off garden spot.  I love sunflowers in all their seasons, but it would never have occurred to me to place them so beautifully that even in death they were decorative.

I have made peace with my ineptitude for making beauty happen with flowers.  That doesn’t mean I don’t plant them all over the place and then cheer as they grow — I’ve learned to delight in their wild elegance and vivid colors.  However, I have found that my bouquets tend to be lackluster and awkward affairs which I’ve started calling “poke-ays” because they look as if I just poked the flowers into the vase.  (Oddly enough, my artistic friends say that’s all they do too, but with very different results.)

There was a time when this really irritated me, but these days, I’m feeling blessed rather than threatened by my gifted sisters in Christ who arrange flowers and curate spaces of beauty in their homes and in our church.  Rather than feeling diminished by their abilities, I’m enhanced  — and, best of all, I’m invited into the truth of I Peter 4:11:

“If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”

Any spiritual gift or ability is evidence of the work of Christ in the believer, and, when put on display, it becomes a platform for God’s glory.  Encouraged by the successful and glorious efforts of my friends, I spend summer and fall hauling in armloads of whatever’s growing in my garden or whatever I find that’s showcasing the work of God’s hand in the fields behind my house.  Then I labor over my “poke-ays” without fear of failure or humiliation.  After all, the “magnificently varied grace of God” (v. 10) is being put on display in other ways in my life.  It’s God’s  job to distribute the gifts — it’s our job to use them.

Meanwhile, my talented sisters in Christ glorify God in ways that might not have occurred to me if left to myself:

  • The patient fortitude of my friend who ministers to kids in an after school Bible club
  • The loving heart of helpfulness that motivates a dear wife to care for her blind husband and his mother
  • The holy boldness of the woman who witnesses to the unsuspecting delivery drivers who come to her home and who gives gifts of food to a struggling clerk she meets in passing at a drug store
  • Our beautiful pastor’s wife who transforms flower, butter, eggs and sugar into magnificent cakes that enhance celebration and delight the honored guest
  • The sweet friend who came racing into church at the last minute with just the right bow for the flower arrangement on the piano
In this rainbow of varied expressions, I hear the words of Peter to first-century believers (who, incidentally, were living in an age of intense persecution):  “As each on has received a gift, minister it to one another.”  There is so much that needs to be done, and it’s all kingdom work!  I certainly am not gifted to do it all, but God has equipped the Body with abundance — not for the exaltation of the one with the gift, but for the glory of the Giver and the benefit of the church.
This richness makes my heart long for the day when God’s grace will be put on display for all to see in His heavenly home, for we will all gather around the table where the Lamb Himself will preside over the feast.
Are there any volunteers to make the bouquets?

 

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.