Living Out Our Callings – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – September 2, 2021

Living Out Our Callings

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – Living Out Our Callings – September 2, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

 

Let’s end as we began.

Daughter. Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter-in-law. Sister-in-law. Mother-in-law. Grandma. Aunt. Cousin. Friend. Homemaker. Employee. Employer. Volunteer. Caretaker. Team member. Group leader.

We all have a variety of vocations to which God has called us. We also have been called to live out our callings as women. Our previous devotions laid the foundation of God’s unique design for men and women. Each of our own interests and gifts often determines how we carry out the responsibilities within each vocation. It is such a joy and privilege to hold these titles, but at times they also give us challenges or cause us to question if we are being faithful to what God has called us to. How can we live out our callings faithfully?

Connecting to the Source

For years I have taken a great interest in personality quizzes, gifts assessments, and—most recently—the CliftonStrengths assessment. What value is there in these assessments? I find them helpful to learn more about myself, something that will put to words what I already know through my feelings and reactions towards life’s circumstances and events. Sometimes we might turn to personal or professional development books. These are tools that can help us grow in our relationships and help us understand better the behavior of others. They can teach us how to work well with others in various realms of our life.

Yet I think we can all agree that any secular sources we use to help us hone our strengths are not fully worthwhile unless we understand our identity in Christ. We need to connect to the source where we find our guide for life: God’s inspired Word.

We need to connect to the source where we find our guide for life: God’s inspired Word. Let’s look at the list from 1 Peter again. This list shows us our worth.

Let’s look at the list from 1 Peter again. This list shows us our worth.

A chosen people: God loved the world so that he gave his one and only Son. God also loved you so that he gave you faith and brought you to himself through the waters of holy baptism.

A royal priesthood: Not only were you made to be royalty—adopted into the royal family in heaven—but you were also anointed to the priesthood of all believers, giving you full access to God through Jesus and equipping you to live a life of service. It is now our mission to proclaim the Lord’s greatness.

A holy nation: You were made holy by the blood of Jesus and are part of a body of believers that works together.

God’s special possession: God calls us each by name; he calls us his own. We are his whom he takes great care to provide for and nourish.

Serving in His Kingdom

God made you unique and chose specifically for you all the qualities, traits, and gifts that will enable you to serve his kingdom. As you consider how to carry out your calling, take into account your strengths and the strengths of those around you. And yes, consider your weaknesses too. You can rest assured that it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

It can sometimes be a challenge to look at our strengths with humility. Yet we strive to carry out our callings and serve others, but not out of selfish pride or gain. We want all we do to be for God’s glory and for his good purpose. In this way, we are a reflection of God’s love. God will delight in the works of service done to his glory.

Because of this, we continue to test our desires and actions against the true and inerrant Word of God as we serve in his kingdom. “But whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).

Embracing Your Unique Calling

How do you embrace your unique calling in your home? Enlightened by his Word and Holy Spirit, God becomes and remains first in your own life, resides at the center of your marriage, and is the true north for your family. When you communicate with open hearts and minds, you show love and respect to those you hold most dear. As husband and wife walk in step with the Spirit, they will carry out their callings in the best interest of each other and the children.

Your spouse will have different abilities and gifts than you. Think about how you complement each other, then partner together and serve your family with the abilities God has given each of you. As you selflessly yield to your husband’s leadership as God intended, you will be rewarded. Your husband and family will be blessed. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:28-30).

Serve God with the gifts he has given you. Think about what you’re passionate about, what God has given you, and what your spiritual gifts are. Think about how you could use your time, talents, and treasures.

How do you embrace your unique calling in the church? Serve God with the gifts he has given you. Think about what you’re passionate about, what God has given you, and what your spiritual gifts are. Think about how you could use your time, talents, and treasures. Then ask your pastor how you can use those gifts to serve. Has God given you the gift of hospitality? Find ways to reach out to new members. Are you blessed with time and communication skills? Ask your pastor or other women for the names of those who could use a companion or home visit. Has God given you the gift of leadership, a love for youth, or a desire to encourage young moms and families? Talk with your pastor about organizing youth events or leading a Bible study for new moms.

A selfless servant helps others fulfill their God-given callings. In this way, you can be a great help to your pastor and a blessing to your church family. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, 27).

How do you embrace your unique calling in the world? It may very well be most challenging to carry out your calling in an unbelieving world that has no understanding of the principle of head and helper. Yet God calls us to be lights to a dark world. In the workforce, you may be in a leadership role over a man, either now or at some time in the future. You can still honor the principle by working with him in humility and helping him fulfill his role, not lording it over him.

Maybe you will find that you can work within that realm and still honor the principle. Maybe there will come a time when it doesn’t feel right. You may have to consider how to work through that. Might one person decide one way and another person another way? Likely. God has not prescribed exactly what to do in every situation. Yet as you honor those God has placed in your path, you honor his unique design for men and women. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

As we have said before, how we carry out our calling will look different among different people and situations. There will be times we will miss the mark. In fact, there are many times we will walk in the complete opposite direction of God’s will. But thanks be to God—he forgives us for these missteps and grants us grace to walk anew in his ways.

Honor those God has placed as your authority, those who are your heads. They have received those roles from God himself to be a blessing to you. As you model respect for the principle, you open the door to give a reason for the hope you have. As you fill yourself with God’s Word, the Holy Spirit prepares you to declare God’s praises. We are all working towards the same goal: to point others to Jesus that they may join us in heaven.

For Further Reflection

  1. Think of and then write out at least one other portion of Scripture that reminds you of the identity you have in Christ.
  2. What are some of your strengths? How can you use them to serve others? What are some of your weaknesses? How can you work together with others to complement each other?
  3. Name some specific ways that you will honor God as you live out your unique calling as his dearly loved daughter in the home, the church, and the world.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, you have been with us throughout this study of your Word on the unique callings of men and women. Open our hearts to hear your truth. Send your Holy Spirit to fill us with your love that we may be a reflection of the great love you have for us. Cause men and women to live their holy callings in service to you. Equip us to speak your praises that the lives we touch may proclaim you as God and Lord. In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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You Are Chosen – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 31, 2021

You Are Chosen

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – You Are Chosen – August 31, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

 

Likely we all know what it feels like not to be chosen—for the team, for the girls’ night out, for the college, for the job, or maybe even for the engagement ring. When we’re not chosen, we feel like something is wrong with us. What could I have done differently? How could I be more qualified?

When God first looked at us, there was something wrong with us: sin. Our text even tells us we were in darkness—the dark depths of sin, bound for eternal punishment in hell. My whole being, your whole being, was hostile toward God and most certainly not qualified to be on his team or part of his family. Yet God still chose us. He chose you! And not only did he choose us, but he also gave us the task to represent him to those around us.

What a journey these past 12 weeks have been with you! We have learned that men and women have equal status before God and unique callings for their work on earth. We have learned how God uses his special design for men and women to be a blessing. By creating man and woman, God showed us already at the beginning of creation that each was needed to complete the other. We know that he meant this for our good because after he made man and woman, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). We can praise God that he has the best in mind for us. Because he wills it, we want to faithfully fulfill the duties of our unique callings.

We can praise God that he has the best in mind for us. Because he wills it, we want to faithfully fulfill the duties of our unique callings. That means we will walk out of step with the world, and we might suffer for it.

That means we will walk out of step with the world, and we might suffer for it. At best, others might think we are old-fashioned or an out-of-touch church body; at worst, we’re accused of being discriminatory towards women or having an unloving God who imposes restrictive commands on us. Yet we can be confident that God’s design is meant to be a blessing to us, and by keeping this as our firm belief, we are walking in step with our Lord. The way we live is a reflection of our Savior. Filled with the Spirit, we now walk as children of the light and shine that light to those on our path.

Will we always get it right here? No. At times, we wrestle with what submission means for our lives and how we should carry out our callings. We strive to apply God’s design correctly, but we won’t always achieve that goal. We talk positively about the callings for men and women, yet at times we bristle as we make a meager attempt to carry out those roles in a world that doesn’t believe in them. When our thoughts, words, or actions do not match our understanding of God’s Word, we ask for God’s forgiveness and know that he gives it—every time.

When our thoughts, words, or actions do not match our understanding of God’s Word, we ask for God’s forgiveness and know that he gives it—every time. Because of God’s forgiveness, we then extend grace to others.

Because of God’s forgiveness, we then extend grace to others. Taking words and actions in the kindest possible way, we seek to understand our brothers and sisters when they strive to apply a principle that has many ways in which to live it out.

When we take to heart again the words of Peter, we continue to proclaim God’s love and his desire to bless us.

You are:
A chosen people.
A royal priesthood.
A holy nation.
God’s special possession.

Each of you. Man and woman. Working together to proclaim God’s wonderful news of hope and salvation.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how the words of 1 Peter 2:9-10 change the way you live and act towards others.

Closing Prayer

O God, my Redeemer, even though I was unworthy, you still chose me. Thank you for making me part of your family, one of your very own. Guard my heart from the temptation to use my status selfishly. Create in me a clean heart and send your Holy Spirit to give me power to proclaim your Word to an unbelieving world. Cause men and women to work together for the benefit of each other, the Church, and society. Be with us as we look to your Word for the truth to share with others. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Less About the Fence, More About the Playground – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 26, 2021

Less About the Fence, More About the Playground

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Less About the Fence, More About the Playground – August 26, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV84).

 

I recently read a blog post that painted the following picture: a city is building a new playground. It’s going to be a beautiful playground full of slides and swings and monkey bars, but unfortunately the only park space available is near a busy intersection. Before the playground opens, the city installs a large fence around it—a fence intended to let the children play safely.

Once the playground opens, it becomes clear that the fence is indeed doing its job. Children are having fun on the playground within the fence’s confines, and there’s no worry from parents that their children will run out into the busy intersection.

But one day a new family comes to the playground, a family that wants to make sure their daughter knows why the fence is there. They tell her that the fence is the only reason she’s able to play on the playground at all, remind her to always keep her eyes on the fence, and admonish her to never try to climb it.

What’s going to happen? That child is going to play, yes, but her playing is always going to be shaped and influenced by the fence. She might even stay farther away from the fence than she normally would just to make sure her parents know she isn’t trying to climb it. She’s not really thinking about the playground in the same way the other children are. She’s thinking about the fence.

Don’t teach authoritatively, don’t act in a way that violates headship—these are important topics to contemplate. But when they are overemphasized, when they become the main point of the conversation, it’s easy to lose sight of our unique callings and instead feel overly restricted.

I’m sure you see the point of this analogy. When it comes to women and the church, it sometimes feels like all we talk about is the fence. Don’t teach authoritatively, don’t act in a way that violates headship—these are important topics to contemplate. But when they are overemphasized, when they become the main point of the conversation, it’s easy to lose sight of our unique callings and instead feel overly restricted. We’ve talked previously about focusing more on what we as women can do rather than what we can’t do. How else can we keep the spotlight on the playground rather than on the fence?

Can vs. Should

As I mentioned earlier this week, my conversations on women and the church originally began with the question “What can a woman do in the church?” Or, to make it more personal, I always tried to ask, “Can I do this?” when determining if I could serve in a certain way at my congregation. I never asked with malicious motives; I wasn’t trying to push the boundaries beyond what God says in his Word. But I was trying to determine if the places my local congregation didn’t permit me to serve—for example, ushering or facilitating Bible study at a home-based growth group—were really places I couldn’t serve or were instead unnecessary restrictions.

It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally come to the point where my question has changed. Instead of asking “Can I do this?” I’m now much more likely to ask “Should I do this?” There are times when the answer to those two questions is the same, but there are also times when the answer is different. Previously, I thought this mismatch was bad and unnecessarily restrictive to me as a female. I thought that if I could do something, I should be able to do it, especially if that meant completing a job that was currently incomplete or fulfilling a need that was currently unfilled.

There are other things to think about than whether or not I as a female should be able to do something at church. There are other factors to weigh besides just a job left incomplete or a need left unfilled.

Over the course of many conversations, much prayer, and quite a bit of study and growth, I’ve come to a place where I understand that “Can I do this?” isn’t always the right question to ask. There are other things to think about than whether or not I as a female should be able to do something at church. There are other factors to weigh besides just a job left incomplete or a need left unfilled.

Building Up the Body of Christ

This week’s earlier devotion discussed one of the most important considerations: permissible vs. beneficial, especially as related to the body of Christ. You might be serving in the most helpful way, taking care of something that isn’t on anyone else’s radar, or making the church a better place by your contribution. But if you’re creating pangs of conscience for a fellow believer, if you cause other congregations to question your actions, if you inadvertently make the conversation more about you than about the ministry you are carrying out, then the good you are doing may be coming at a cost.

Another consideration circles back to the role for which we as women were created: the role of ezer, of helper. What follows is a stereotype, but like any stereotype, it is somewhat rooted in truth. When a need is identified, women are more likely than men to step up and fill that need. This will often be done without much fanfare, with very little need for recognition. We as women see something that needs to get done and we can take care of it, so we do. It’s as simple as that.

But in the church, this can turn into taking opportunities away from males to serve or giving them opportunities to abdicate their leadership. I am not saying that any of this is being done intentionally or with sinister motives. However, we are all sinful creatures, and original sin gives us all the propensity—at varying levels—to step out of our God-given roles.

As a female who likes to take care of things, stepping back sometimes feels like I’m selling out. Something isn’t being done? And I’m capable of doing it without violating headship? Why wouldn’t I do it? Again, I’ve come to learn that there are other ways to help accomplish the task, ways that allow me to serve as a helper, ways that let me build up the body of Christ and encourage men in their unique calling. Sometimes these ways are harder in the short run but much more beneficial—for a wider audience than just me—in the long run.

Exercising Leadership

We’ve talked about the difference between leadership and authority several times this summer, but I want to emphasize that difference again because it is such an important concept. Everything I’ve mentioned above—framing questions in terms of “can vs. should” and giving those around me the opportunity to fulfill their God-given callings—does not mean women can’t lead in the church.

No, there are still ways that those of us who have been gifted with leadership can use that gift in the church—not by trying to take charge, but by partnering with fellow members of the body of Christ in service to one another and in service to our neighbors.

No, there are still ways that those of us who have been gifted with leadership can use that gift in the church—not by trying to take charge, but by partnering with fellow members of the body of Christ in service to one another and in service to our neighbors. For me personally, this means working with my pastor to execute the worship plans he’s created, crafting communication pieces that convey decisions made by the church council and the board of elders, and taking point on a host of other supportive tasks.

What does this look like for you in your congregation? If you don’t know, I’d encourage you to have a conversation with your pastor to try and answer that question. This might be intimidating. It might be scary. It might seem like a topic that is best left by the wayside because your pastor has so many other things to deal with. But instead, I pray that such a conversation will be valuable, both for you and for him.

God created the fence before sin entered the world; therefore the fence is perfect. Our sinful nature can cause us to chafe at the existence of the fence, but that’s not the fault of the fence nor of the One who put the fence in place. And as often as we talk about the fence, it’s not there to restrict our time on the playground. It’s there to keep us safe and to establish good order, to enable us to play on the playground at all, and to help us make the most of our time on the playground.

As women, as congregations, as a synod, let’s keep our eyes more on the playground and less on the fence. We can then enjoy the playground in freedom—freedom that the fence itself gives.

For Further Reflection

  1. In changing the question from “Can I do this?” to “Should I do this?”, how can you come to peace with situations where the answers to those two questions are “yes” and “no,” respectively?
  2. What are some specific ways you can encourage the males in your congregation, especially as they seek to fulfill their responsibility of living out their unique calling of head?
  3. How does the conversation change when you are told, “No, the Bible says you can’t do this,” when there is actually no such prohibition in Scripture? How must the conversation change at this point in order to remain faithful to God’s teaching on Christian freedom?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we thank you for perfectly creating unique callings for men and women. Guide us as we continue to wrestle with how to live out those callings in a sin-darkened world. Remind us that we are a part of the body of Christ, and motivate us to always build up and edify that body with our words and actions. You have created countless opportunities for us to serve you; show us how we can best embrace these opportunities in all that we do. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 24, 2021

Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Adiaphora: The Beginning of the Conversation – August 24, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV84).

 

Several years ago, over the course of a few months, one of my pastors and I had a number of conversations on the unique callings of men and women. These conversations were productive and fruitful, helped me refine my thinking on the subject and bring it more into line with what God says in his Word, and formed much of the basis for this summer’s devotional series.

What stands out the most, though, isn’t the particular topics we discussed nor the places where we agreed or disagreed. No, I mainly remember our differing approaches to the question of “What can a woman do in the church?” I wanted to talk about whether a woman could usher, serve on a board, read a Scripture lesson—in short, I wanted to answer the question!

On the other hand, it seemed like all my pastor wanted to talk about was how the practices of our local congregation might be received, both by our members and by other nearby WELS congregations. I was so frustrated with him at the time because it felt like he was completely ignoring the question. But now…now I understand his motivation and reason for approaching the question the way that he did; now I understand the importance of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.

It is first important to note what Paul is not saying in these verses. The quotation marks around “Everything is permissible” indicate that he was likely quoting a mantra that had sprung up in the Corinthian congregation. We dare not take Paul’s words as permitting anything that is explicitly forbidden elsewhere in the Bible. In particular, as we discussed last week, the prohibition on women teaching authoritatively found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 still applies.

With this background in mind, we can turn to Paul’s approach for dealing with those matters that God neither explicitly commands nor forbids: matters of adiaphora. In these matters, we are each free to come to our own conclusions, and we are certainly free to come to a conclusion different than that of a fellow Christian. Paul doesn’t stop there, though, and neither can we.

Can women do more in the WELS than they are currently permitted to do? Perhaps, and that’s a question that will be tackled more thoroughly in this week’s second devotion.

We need to consider Paul’s additions to the Corinthians’ mantra: not everything is beneficial; not everything is constructive. Can women do more in the WELS than they are currently permitted to do? Perhaps, and that’s a question that will be tackled more thoroughly in this week’s second devotion. But it is equally important to ask the related question: if women are permitted to do more, would that be beneficial and constructive? These questions aren’t at odds; instead, they’re two sides of the same coin.

In verse 24, Paul gives even more guidance for shaping the conversation. We shouldn’t only think about what is beneficial or constructive for ourselves. In addition, when approaching matters of adiaphora, we should seek the good of others and build up the body of Christ. That might mean giving up some of our freedoms because acting in a certain way will harm the faith of a fellow believer—something incredibly difficult to do, but also an outstanding display of Christian love.

One final caution: we must exercise care not to attribute words to Paul that he did not intend to write. Acting out of Christian love for our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith is key. But if a fellow brother or sister issues a prohibition where God has not, if they incorrectly claim a woman is not permitted to do something even though there is no such command in Scripture, then we are compelled to respectfully disagree. Even more than that, we are free to engage in the very activity that is being prohibited—not out of spite or malice, but again out of love: love that strives neither to abuse nor to restrict our Christian freedom.

“Can a woman do…?” Sometimes “yes”; sometimes “no”; more often than not “maybe.” That’s not always the best question to ask, however, and it’s certainly never the only question to ask.

“Can a woman do…?” Sometimes “yes”; sometimes “no”; more often than not “maybe.” That’s not always the best question to ask, however, and it’s certainly never the only question to ask. It’s the beginning of the conversation, not the end—a conversation that continues later this week.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how you can balance Christian freedom with the desire to build up fellow believers in their faith. What might cause your thinking to change from “I can do this…” to “Out of Christian love, I shouldn’t do this…”?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you call us to exercise our Christian freedom in a way that is both pleasing to you and edifying to the body of Christ. Give us wisdom as we deal with matters of adiaphora, peace when we need to set aside our own desires to seek the good of others, and a desire to glorify you in all things—both in what we do and in what we choose to forego. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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“I Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 19, 2021

“I Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – “I Do Not Permit…” Is Only the Beginning – August 19, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

A woman should learn in a quiet manner with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but it was the woman who was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2:11-14, EHV).

 

I love math. My dad is a civil engineer and my mom is an accountant, so math has always been part of my life. I remember going on family vacations and begging my dad to give me another math problem during a long day of driving. When considering my future career, I knew I wanted to teach math—but after a semester of student teaching, I decided the high school classroom wasn’t the place for me. Instead, I went to graduate school in hopes of being able to teach math at the college level.

After five years of grad school, I finished up my Ph.D. and accepted a call back to Wisconsin Lutheran College (my alma mater) to serve as a mathematics professor. I’ve taught there for 15 years and have also chaired the mathematics department for the past several years. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I am blessed to be in a confessional Lutheran environment—an environment where I can both teach mathematical content and act as a Christian role model for my students.

I don’t blame you if you’re a bit confused at this point. This is supposed to be a devotion on the unique callings of men and women, and here I am talking about math. What’s the connection?

It’s a thought that never crossed my mind when I was considering my career choice, but it has in recent years: as a female college professor teaching male students, as a female serving as department chair, am I violating 1 Timothy 2:11-14?

I think many of us would immediately answer “No, of course not!” Why not, though? How can we be so sure? And since both Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran College have female professors—professors teaching males whom we recognize as being of legal age—then what does Paul prohibit in today’s section of Scripture?

Authority Is…

It’s important to consider the context of Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2. Biblical section headings are not inspired, but they often provide us with valuable information and reminders on the section of Scripture being read. The EHV heading for this chapter is “Instructions About Worship”—a section heading that helps us see that Paul is writing these words to Timothy in the context of worship and of the church. Therefore, we should take care not to extend Paul’s words farther than he intended.

Paul is writing these words to Timothy in the context of worship and of the church. Therefore, we should take care not to extend Paul’s words farther than he intended.

We also need to return to the original language when considering exactly what Paul meant by prohibiting a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. The Greek word that Paul uses in verse 12—the word translated as “teach”—is a form of the verb didasko. This verb is also related to the noun didaskolos: “teacher.” In the New Testament, didaskolos and didasko are most often used to refer to Jesus: to his role as teacher and to his teaching ministry. The kind of teaching encompassed by these words is the kind of teaching done by someone who has been called by God to teach with authority; it is the teaching that instructs disciples in the truths of God’s Word.

In the church today, we can clearly see authoritative teaching in the role of pastor. A pastor is a shepherd, a spiritual leader, one entrusted by God to instruct those God has placed under his care. And although it is not teaching, we can also see authority exercised in other ways in the church: for example, in carrying out church discipline or in extending pastor, teacher, or staff minister calls. These functions, then, are rightly entrusted to the men of our congregations in accordance with the biblical principle of headship.

Authority Is Not…

As discussed in a previous week, however, it is extremely important not to conflate authority with leadership. Some earlier papers written by WELS pastors—papers generally, although not entirely, written before the mid-1980s—use “leadership” and “authority” synonymously. Some positions of leadership are also imbued with authority, but other positions are not. Therefore, it is possible for women to hold positions of leadership without assuming authority over men or violating the principle of headship.

It certainly would be easier to say “Women cannot serve as principals of WELS grade schools” or “Women cannot serve as WELS college professors” and be done with the matter. But such a blanket prohibition is both an unjustifiable reading of Paul’s words and an unnecessary restriction on women, particularly women who have been blessed with gifts of leadership.

Not every leadership position is the same, and care must be exercised to determine whether a woman holding a leadership position is also in a position of inappropriately overruling male headship. At the same time, Christian love must be exercised in situations where congregations view leadership roles differently.

If the WELS congregation down the road or in the next town has a female principal—and there are WELS congregations that do—we ought not immediately assume they are ignoring or reinterpreting the unique callings of men and women.

If the WELS congregation down the road or in the next town has a female principal—and there are WELS congregations that do—we ought not immediately assume they are ignoring or reinterpreting the unique callings of men and women. Similarly, that WELS congregation has a responsibility to attempt to lovingly explain—as best as they can—why their structure does not in fact violate headship. Conversations are key—conversations with those directly involved that attempt to take everyone’s words and actions in the kindest possible way.

Authority in the World

In the secular world, there are once again multiple biblical principles at play. We are no longer always blessed to be working together with fellow believers; we often deal with unbelievers, with a society that does not conform to God’s will for men and women. We are called to spread the gospel, to carry out the Great Commission, and to be lights in a sin-darkened world when interacting with those around us. And while these Great-Commission actions are not in conflict with our unique callings, they will no doubt shape and inform how we live out our unique callings.

Special care needs to be taken, then, not to make blanket allowances for nor blanket prohibitions against women serving in leadership positions. Not every Christian will be led to act the same way in every situation. It is entirely possible that two Christians will make different decisions—both made for godly reasons, both correct decisions for their situations, both decisions that are in keeping with God’s Word.

Special care needs to be taken, then, not to make blanket allowances for nor blanket prohibitions against women serving in leadership positions. Not every Christian will be led to act the same way in every situation.

As in the church, Christian love is paramount in worldly situations where the actions of believers differ. We must take care not to bind consciences by making rules where God has not, and we must be careful not to act in ways that could give the appearance of disregard for God’s timeless commands. Rather than judging a woman who is comfortable serving in a secular position of leadership, give thanks that she is able to lead those under her with Christian care and concern. Rather than judging a woman who is not comfortable serving in a secular position of leadership, give thanks that she is able to serve those above her joyfully and wholeheartedly.

We live in a world where women have never had more freedom or opportunities, and moving from that world to a church where I cannot vote or serve on a board is difficult and constraining at times. As a modern woman—one who is most definitely opinionated and chafes under virtually any restrictions imposed on me—it is tempting to dismiss Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as merely cultural and no longer applicable today. A proper understanding of this text does not permit such an interpretation.

But when we talk about what it means to exercise authority, we must do more than simply quote 1 Timothy 2:11-14. We must differentiate between biblical principles and applications. We must remember that the unique callings of men and women were established by God to bestow blessings on his people. We must emphasize that the role of helper is not a mark of inferiority and is not primarily intended to limit how women can serve in the church. And we must always use the gifts God has given us to the best of our ability. When Christian men and women live within the unique callings God established, we are freed to serve him by working together in the church as the body of Christ and freed to bring glory to his name.

For Further Reflection

  1. In your congregation, what other positions besides those mentioned above would constitute having authority or teaching authoritatively? What about these positions causes them to be imbued with authority?
  2. In your congregation, what leadership positions exist that are not imbued with authority? Does your congregation make it clear that women can serve in these positions? If not, how could that be better communicated?
  3. What is your own particular comfort level with assuming leadership positions in a secular society? How can you use this comfort level to faithfully serve those around you and bring glory to God?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we thank you for those called to teach and instruct us. Bless them as they shepherd your flock, and help us to support and encourage them in whatever ways we can. Help us also to be mindful of our role in your kingdom: to spread the gospel and witness the reason for the hope that we have to a world so desperately in need of a Savior. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless? – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 17, 2021

Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless?

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless? – August 17, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

A woman should learn in a quiet manner with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but it was the woman who was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2:11-14, EHV).

 

One of my pastors is growing his hair out. I don’t mean he’s going from a buzz cut to something slightly longer. I mean it’s been about three years since he’s had a haircut, and his hair is now well past his shoulders. As far as I know, no one has reported him to the district president for violating 1 Corinthians 11:14. In contrast, we still hold to Paul’s prohibition found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14: a prohibition on women exercising authority in the church. Why? What’s the difference?

Throughout this devotional series, we’ve talked about the importance of distinguishing principle from application, and 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 are no exception. Separating principle from application can be difficult. To do so, we need to consider hermeneutics: the science and art of biblical interpretation. In particular, we need to view Scripture through two lenses. Scripture is history, written at a particular time and in a particular place. And Scripture is literature, written using artistic structure and rhetorical techniques.

Looking at the context of a Scripture passage—both the wide and the narrow context, both the verses and chapters surrounding the passage and all of Scripture as a whole—is particularly important in viewing Scripture as literature. In 1 Timothy 2, we see Paul refer back to what is sometimes known as the “order of creation”: Adam was created first, then Eve. As we’ve seen previously, this does not mean that Adam was of greater worth or value or importance than Eve.

Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve. And although the fall into sin tarnished these relationships, we cannot set these relationships aside simply because we live in a fallen and imperfect world.

Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve.

As mentioned earlier in the summer, it is too strong to say that sin came into the world mainly because Adam and Eve stepped outside of their unique callings. However, Eve did listen to the serpent instead of submitting to the authority of Adam, and Adam did fail to exercise his headship role in his relationship with Eve. The ultimate evil came into the world when—not necessarily because, but when—Adam and Eve stepped out of their God-given callings as male and female.

With this context in mind, we can more easily see Paul’s line of thought in these verses from 1 Timothy 2. He is reminding Timothy that the men and women of his church should take care not to follow Adam and Eve’s example. Rather, they should strive to live out their unique callings—callings that are intended to bring blessings both to individual believers and to the church. Since Paul bases his prohibition of women exercising authority on the order of creation—an order that continues to exist today, albeit imperfectly—we also still hold to this prohibition.

A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority? We have now moved into the realm of applications—applications that require us to view Scripture as history, to consider the time period in which Paul was writing. As has been our practice throughout this devotional series, we’ll consider these applications in more depth later this week.

A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority?

For now, we do well to remember that the principle at play still holds. God has established unique callings for men and women—callings that reflect the order instilled in a perfect creation, callings intended to bring us blessings, callings that we strive to live out joyfully in our lives—callings that are intended to begin the conversation on applications, not stifle the conversation or shut it down.

For Further Reflection

When a baseball game is played, everybody is in their appropriate place: pitcher, catcher, umpire, etc. There are also certain “things” that are in their appropriate places: the pitcher has the ball, the hitter has a bat, the field has foul lines marked and base bags placed. If these placements are disrupted—for example, if the center fielder is standing behind home plate—order is lost and chaos ensues. Meditate on or write about how this analogy demonstrates the relationships that exist within and are encompassed by the phrase “order of creation.”

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you established unique callings for men and women at the very dawn of time. Although these unique callings have been fragmented and fractured by sin, we thank you that they still reflect the perfect relationships you originally created. Give us guidance and wisdom as we seek to faithfully serve your church to the fullest of our ability in a way that respects your order of creation. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Partnering Together to Carry Out God’s Gift of Ministry – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 12, 2021

Partnering Together to Carry Out God’s Gift of Ministry

by Sally Valleskey

Ongoing Discussion – Partnering Together to Carry Out God’s Gift of Ministry – August 12, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:11-16).

 

Gifting continues!

Today, let’s look further into the gift of ministry as talked about in the previous devotion. Christ himself gave an amazing gift of public-ministry servants to the church. When we know the Giver, his power and identity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier who fills the whole universe, we’re led to give in return. We give our praise and honor and respect for the Giver and the gifts.

We noted that God’s gift comes with a plan. The plan continues to unfold in this same section of Scripture: Ephesians 4:11-16. It’s packed with action words to guide us as we apply the truths of the previous devotion.

Equipped to Work Together

“Equip” is an action word first given to those in leadership: today’s pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. They are called to equip others. What equipping goes on in your congregation? It’s important to note that God equips those he calls. The equipping tool provided by Christ himself is his Word and sacraments. We’re tempted to take this for granted. Without the foundation of regular spiritual growth, all other equipping is limited.

Here’s an example. We know that the mission of the church is gospel nurture and outreach. One aspect of nurture is member visitation. A busy pastor needs help making visits to the elderly. Any person could go stop by to say hello and even visit for an hour—talk about family or current events or learn about what life was like 80 years ago. That’s all valuable, but because you’ve been equipped by your pastor to go beyond small talk, you are able to give spiritual encouragement. You can talk about the lesson from last Sunday, how it helped you see your sin and Savior more clearly, and how it might apply to the one you’re talking to. Learn to look at your Bible study and worship opportunities as treasured moments that equip you for God’s service.

When we talk about being equipped by the Word, we jump ahead to verse 15 and see the word “truth.” Holding to the truth is a critical part of reaching Christ’s goal of unity and maturity for the church. We don’t have to think very long to acknowledge that it takes time to learn the truth. God has called faithful pastors and teachers and staff ministers to spend hours and days and years getting to know the truth revealed in God’s Word. It’s a key reason to pause to give thanks to God for equipping those who equip us.

Note that Paul’s letter comes with a warning in regard to the truth (verse 14). It’s the devil producing the wind and waves of deceit. The result is being “tossed back and forth”—a much different result than the unity and harmony of mature believers working together and building each other up. God’s intent is that we not remain infants in the faith but that we take hold of opportunities to grow.

Grow in discernment. Check your itching ears. Does it seem like there should be something better elsewhere—something more appealing, something requiring less time, something of your own design? Go back to the truth of God’s Word! Go back to those who are equipping you to know the truth. Then you’ll not only know the truth, but you’ll also be equipped to encourage others in the truth as well.

Being equipped in the truth of God’s Word moves us in the direction of unity and maturity in faith. We’re better equipped to handle delicate situations that arise. Think about a time of service that involved challenging decisions. Maybe it was a building project or adjustments in regard to the pandemic. Maybe the situation became overwhelming with plans disrupted and strong opinions expressed. What a difference it makes to have as our first thought the oneness we all have—“one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all…” (Ephesians 4:4).

Being equipped in the truth of God’s Word moves us in the direction of unity and maturity in faith. We’re better equipped to handle delicate situations that arise.

Be the one to dispel discord. Think through how you might respond. “You know, we really don’t agree on this, but because of our oneness in Christ, I know we’ll get through it. Let’s take a moment to pray about it.” Your called workers equip you to do this. Honor and respect them for it. You are one with them and with each other.

Supporting and Encouraging One Another

We continue to unpack action words in this rich section of Scripture. The concept of building up includes giving support and being an encourager. A congregation of members who support each other with encouragement is a congregation that thrives. We may not always realize the impact we have on others through our support and encouragement.

Just one example among many in Scripture is the account of Barnabas and Saul/Paul (Acts 4:36-37, 9:26-28). Because of Saul’s background as one who was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” the disciples in Jerusalem were afraid of him. It was Barnabas (meaning son of encouragement) who stepped forward to encourage others to accept Saul. Look at the significant results in the life and ministry of the one we know as the apostle Paul. What a huge gift was given to every generation of the church through both Barnabas and Paul. We’re recipients to this very day!

What kind of support and encouragement might you give to those called to be the equippers in your congregation? How can you build them up? Make a list of individuals, and make it part of your family devotions to pray for them. Your children will come to know how much you honor and respect the gift of ministry you’re given. Be intentional in building up your called workers in your conversations with others—with members and with any in your community. What a great way to draw others to know Jesus. When we show love for members of the body of Christ, we show love for Christ himself. Others see and want to know more.

What kind of support and encouragement might you give to those called to be the equippers in your congregation? How can you build them up?

There are so many who need building up in our midst! Those called to public ministry can’t reach them all. As women especially, look around. Look to offer a simple greeting and word of encouragement from Scripture to our confirmands, to those who aren’t of our cultural background, to newer members, to those on the front lines of being a Christian in a non-Christian workplace, to new moms, to the elderly, to those who’ve drifted, to those who are hurting. Ask God to make you sensitive to those in need of encouragement.

In ministry, we have to admit that sin is a reality. We go back to the gift analogy. Oftentimes a gift comes with an insert explaining that if the gift is used incorrectly, parts will be damaged and eventually the whole thing might be useless and discarded. We keep in mind that because of our own sinful nature, because we live in a world of sin, and because we’re all vulnerable to the devil’s schemes, ministry in the church will not always reflect the order established by Christ our head. Things break. Chaos, dissension, confusion, mistrust, jealousy, and discontent are all signs of what can happen when we disregard the true head and follow another. We do well to acknowledge our contribution to this sinful alternative. Through repentance and forgiveness, we’re renewed by the Spirit to be restored to meaningful service.

Tying It All Together With Love

That leads us to one more action word: “love.” As we’re equipped in the truth, we note that love must be a part of it (verse 14). There’s a familiar quote by the Christian writer Warren Wiersbe: “Truth without love is brutality; love without truth is hypocrisy.” Have you experienced one without the other? I think we all have.

How many have been turned away from knowing Jesus (or knowing him better) because of well-meaning but brutal zeal for the truth with no regard for loving the soul? The Pharisees of Jesus’ day come to mind (Matthew 23). Do you want to be right, or do you want to build a relationship of trust to show someone how to love Jesus the way you do? On the other hand, do you want so much to please someone that all you can do is “love” them with no regard for leading them to the truth? The truth is often painful, but couched in God’s love it leads to maturity and the fullness of Christ, and finally to eternal life.

The truth is often painful, but couched in God’s love it leads to maturity and the fullness of Christ, and finally to eternal life.

Christ’s gift of ministry comes with the plan for equipping all God’s people for the work of ministry. It calls for honor and respect, and it calls for action. When God’s plan is carried out as he intends, the outcome is maturity in faith and unity of mission and purpose.

For Further Reflection

  1. What kind of equipping is going on in your congregation? In what areas do you personally see a need for specific training? Check with your congregational leadership to explore resources (programs, training tutorials, podcasts, etc.).
  2. Think of a time when you were on the receiving end of someone’s encouragement. What did you learn? What are practical ways you’re able to build up those called to public ministry in your congregation, synodical school, or world mission setting? Be specific; set a time to pray and act.
  3. Truth and love go hand in hand. From the section of Ephesians we have before us in this devotion, tell how it’s loving to reveal the truth of Scripture. Give specific examples. What cautions does love bring when we are proclaiming the truth?

Closing Prayer

May God’s Holy Spirit continue to work in each of us as “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Honoring God’s Gift of Ministry – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 10, 2021

Honoring God’s Gift of Ministry

by Sally Valleskey

Ongoing Discussion – Honoring God’s Gift of Ministry – August 10, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:11-16).

 

Gifts.

Have you received any lately? Some gifts are quite creative, some are thoughtful “just for you,” and some are meaningful because of how you can share them with others.

Did you know the church receives gifts?

Oh yes, there are envelopes and an offering plate, there’s online giving, and there are larger estate planning gifts. These are very important gifts to the church, but pulling back to take in a broader view, we see an array of gifts from a different perspective.

Paul gives us insight into this broader perspective in his letter to the Ephesians—particularly in Ephesians 4:11-16. Right away in verse 11, we see a short list of some of the gifts given to the church—a short list but one with a large impact. This gift is a package of public ministry positions that God provides for equipping his church. The list names apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers.

Gifts indicate a giver, so let’s do some source tracing. Where do these gifts to the church come from? The answer is quite clear right there in verse 11. Christ himself is the giver (“So Christ himself gave…”). Backing up to verse 10, we read that this is the very one who fills the whole universe. (“He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.”) Quite a gift giver! Of course, the whole of Scripture reveals to us who God is as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Here is one whose gifts merit our highest regard and honor. We join the psalmist who proclaims “How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!” (Psalm 47:2).

Of course, the whole of Scripture reveals to us who God is as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Here is one whose gifts merit our highest regard and honor.

God packages his gifts with a plan. The leadership list is just what is needed to carry out the mission of the church, namely, nurture and outreach (Matthew 28:19, Isaiah 54:2) grounded in the message of law and gospel. Critical to the plan is that those called to the leadership positions are not to do the work alone. Christ himself as the head of the church establishes an equipping process for his people, and through this process God’s people are engaged in ministry.

What else is packed into this section of the letter to the Ephesians? God’s living, breathing, creative ministry plan calls for action and outcomes. Look at all the words calling us to ministry! Building, growing, speaking, loving, working! The goal is to reach unity, maturity, and stability—all fueled by Christ’s love. Of course, the final goal will not be realized until we’re given the ultimate gift of eternal salvation in heaven. This earthly ministry package will have its corners bruised, its contents broken, and its route disrupted…and yet, our God of grace and forgiveness remains the head of the church. He will bring about for his people that they attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13).

This earthly ministry package will have its corners bruised, its contents broken, and its route disrupted…and yet, our God of grace and forgiveness remains the head of the church. He will bring about for his people that they attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Take time to recognize the gifts, the Giver, the purpose, the outcome, and the blessings that constitute God’s ministry plan for the church. The more we focus on God’s plan, the more we will be led to honor those he calls into the various positions of leadership. We’re held together to work together—uniquely called, but all equipped with the same goal and purpose in mind.

With this biblical foundation in place, in the sequel to this devotion we will see how Christ also makes us a part of his gift by equipping us for service.

For Further Reflection

Read Ephesians 4:1-6. (It’s so important to read Scripture in its context.) Meditate on or write about how the unity God has already given us in Christ works toward fulfilling the ministry plan described in 4:7-13.

Closing Prayer

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen (Revelation 1:5b-6).

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Teachers of What Is Good – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 5, 2021

Teachers of What Is Good

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – Teachers of What Is Good – August 5, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Likewise, encourage older women to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, but teachers of what is good, so that they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands, that the word of God might not be slandered (Titus 2:3-5, EHV).

 

“Likewise…” at the beginning of a passage always reminds us to consider what else is being referred to. Paul has already stressed teaching “sound doctrine” to Titus as a requirement for leaders in the congregation by using the word “must” in Chapter 1. The motivation for Christ-like behavior is secondary to sound doctrine. I want to live a sanctified life because—by faith—I grasp the magnitude of what Christ has done for me.

While that grace in and of itself would be enough motivation, I have also been called by God to be Christ’s ambassador proclaiming the message of reconciliation: that in Christ the sins of the world have been forgiven. That is how we “shine among [unbelievers] like lights in the world, as [we] hold onto the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-15). It seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? If that awesome role were up to me alone, I’d surely fall so short. Yet I have been assured that the Holy Spirit will work in me “both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). As Paul turns to guide Titus in instructing various groups in the congregation, the “likewise” connects sound doctrine with the teaching that underscores women teaching other women.

Sound Doctrine Produces Sanctified Living

There are many examples in Scripture that help us see sound doctrine producing sanctified action in God’s daughters’ lives. Mary is the obvious example of sitting at Jesus’ feet even while other important tasks needed to be done. But Martha too is a wonderful example. I feel badly for Martha, as she often is pictured as the less noble of the sisters. Her determination to take care of Jesus’ needs as well as the needs of his followers while in her home, however, is exemplary. Lydia was compelled to care for Paul’s needs as well as for Timothy and Silas who were with him. Both women did so because they knew by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Christ.

Martha is the one who again rushed to meet Jesus when he came to Bethany after Lazarus died. Her confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ was stated clearly, and she knew her brother would rise again at the last day. That’s the comfort of sound doctrine, and Martha was living it. So was Mary. Her conviction that her brother wouldn’t have died if Jesus had been there is true for all of us, isn’t it? Because Jesus IS here, we don’t die—not eternally. Because Jesus is here, we have opportunities all the time to proclaim him as the Christ—the Son of the living God—when those around us see how differently we live our lives. They see how differently we speak about and treat our family members, especially our husbands and children if that is part of God’s plan for our lives.

How to treat family and friends doesn’t come naturally to the sinful nature each one of us is born with. It must be taught. It flows from sound doctrine as we are being renewed in the image of God. What then am I to be teaching if I’m an older Christian woman, and what am I to be looking to learn if I’m a younger Christian woman?

What then am I to be teaching if I’m an older Christian woman, and what am I to be looking to learn if I’m a younger Christian woman?

Teach What Is Good

In his instructions to Titus, Paul begins by encouraging women to use their communication skills in a God-pleasing way. Slander and gossip are so popular in the culture in which we live. Social media is now a way to feel popular if that gossip or slander garners more “likes” than speaking well of others or putting the best construction on everything. But that is not the blessing for others that the Lord intended for women when he built them as the suitable helper. Paul further cautions to watch the wine. There’s nothing like alcohol to loosen the tongue—and not in good ways.

After the caution on use of communication skills found in rich measure in women, the attention turns to what should be taught: “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands” (verses 4-5). Beginning the list with “love their husbands and children” is the foundation of blessed, strong relationships. Relationships were so important to mankind that creation was “not good” until the man had a partner built from him with whom to have a relationship. The woman named Eve, the mother of all the living, was made to be the blessing from God to build blessed relationships with her family and acquaintances. Every woman has a family to whom she can be a blessing, whether in a marriage setting, a daughter setting, or the family-of-God setting. Every woman is part of a family.

But every woman needs to be taught to love her family. That’s a bold statement, isn’t it? The love needing to be taught isn’t the self-serving, self-gratifying emotion of the world around us. The love here is the Greek word agape. Agape is defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love does not fail.” Love, agape, does not come naturally to sinful human beings. Agape describes God’s love in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Those who are being renewed in the image of God are able to model God’s love for the people around them. This is the foundation of blessed, strong relationships. This relationship insight and emphasis is part of the “not good” to “very good” truth that occurred with the building of the woman from the man. Christian women—with the foundation of sound doctrine—are able to model and teach how to love those around them.

Those who are being renewed in the image of God are able to model God’s love for the people around them. This is the foundation of blessed, strong relationships.

This is the love, then, that will compel the actions that follow in Titus. For an example of what it looks like “to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands,” refer to Proverbs 31:10-31 and Ruth 1:16—3:14. Both examples describe women: “noble” women, women of “strong character.” These examples aren’t there to give Christian women today a “to do” list. Instead, they are the “older women” we can look to today to see application of the encouragements Paul instructs Titus to raise up women—“teachers of what is good”—who are for many reasons best suited to teach younger women what is so vital to all of us, yet what does not come naturally.

A Vital Part of the Body of Christ

The agape that women have responsibility to teach other women is not only vital in blessed relationship in homes and families. Those families are a microcosm of the blessed relationships found in Christian congregations. Christian congregations, founded on sound doctrine, will grow together as the body of Christ. The body of Christ works together—men and women as a team—to strengthen one another and reach out to the dying world around it with the message of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ who died for all in the world. We then, as Christian women and Christian congregations, no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us and was raised again.

In a world which is so confused by sin, a world that has no idea of what love really is, a world that is intent on denying the God who made us and then redeemed us, the body of Christ—with Christ as its head—has a lot of work to do. This is not our work, but rather it is God’s work planned for us from before creation.

In a world which is so confused by sin, a world that has no idea of what love really is, a world that is intent on denying the God who made us and then redeemed us, the body of Christ—with Christ as its head—has a lot of work to do. This is not our work, but rather it is God’s work planned for us from before creation. It is work that is filled with purpose for our lives no matter what gifts God has showered on us as individuals or what callings in life for which he has prepared. It is work that God has designed for men and women to accomplish together, each using the strengths God has given while being mindful of sinful attempts to make those strengths self-fulfilling rather than of service to others.

For Further Reflection

Spend time reading and meditating on Proverbs 31:10-3, the book of Ruth (God’s loving message to his daughters through the ages), 2 Corinthians 5:14—6:2, and Ephesians (God’s message to Christian congregations).

  1. As an older woman, how can I model and teach others—especially younger women—what it is to love husband and children as a married woman or family and co-workers and friends as a single woman?
  2. As a younger woman, to whom can I look to see what it means to be a “strong woman” in today’s world?
  3. As a Christian woman, young or old, married or single, how can I be part of strengthening the relationships within the body of Christ so we all can boldly and clearly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to the world around us and glorify him with our lives?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see your gracious and loving plan for me as a woman: valuable in so many ways and walking in the plans you have also laid out for my life here on earth. Open my eyes to see the value of my sisters in Christ as we all live out the unique plans you have for us, plans that bring great joy and blessing to the lives of all around us. Keep our eyes focused on your Son, who paid what I owe so I can be with you for all eternity. In his name I kneel before you. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Strengths, Responsibilities, and Words of Caution – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – August 3, 2021

Strengths, Responsibilities, and Words of Caution

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – Strengths, Responsibilities, and Words of Caution – August 3, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Likewise, encourage older women to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, but teachers of what is good, so that they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands, that the word of God might not be slandered (Titus 2:3-5, EHV).

 

Growing up on a farm with six brothers and sisters, we learned how to work together as a family. My sisters and mom sometimes helped with farm chores and field work, such as driving the tractor to disc, cultivate, or chop hay. We couldn’t repair the equipment, though, or do the literal heavy lifting necessary for such tasks. On the other hand, my dad and brothers could certainly get a meal for themselves. However, they relied on my mom, my sisters, and me to do the baking of bread, desserts, and preparation of vegetables, fruit, meat, etc., produced by the farm so they had something to get for their meal.

Furthermore, my parents very wisely “played to our strengths” as individuals during those years, while at the same time guiding those strengths as we grew into them. For instance, one of my sisters could get things done very quickly but sometimes needed to be sent back to finish missed steps or perhaps even redo something. I, on the other hand, always ended with as close to a “perfect” job done as possible but required many encouragements to get moving and actually get the job finished.

From Paul’s letter to Titus, it’s easy to see that in many ways the family of God gathered together in congregations is similar to my family experience growing up. In Titus 2, Paul has specific encouragements and cautions for older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and employees (as slaves of the time would be referred to today). Although Paul significantly uses the words “likewise” or “similarly” a few times, his inspired guidance for each group is different and reflects both general strengths and cautions for men and women as they grow together in God’s family.

Although Paul significantly uses the words “likewise” or “similarly” a few times, his inspired guidance for each group is different and reflects both general strengths and cautions for men and women as they grow together in God’s family.

As older men fulfill their God-given responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the congregation under congregation overseers, Paul speaks of sound doctrine and being worthy of respect as they model faith, love, and endurance. Younger men need encouragement to be self-controlled. Titus, a young man himself, is to show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech in his teaching. Why? “…so that the one who opposes us will be put to shame, because he has nothing bad to say about us” (verse 8). Employees are to demonstrate trustworthiness, “so that they may show the teaching of God our Savior to be attractive in every way” (verse 10).

In today’s reading, we hear Paul instruct Titus, “Likewise, encourage older women to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, but teachers of what is good, so that they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands, that the word of God might not be slandered.”

For young and old alike, for male and female, by inspiration Paul guides the young pastor Titus in speaking to both the strengths and responsibilities of the men and women making up the new congregation. Paul also has inspired words of caution for each group in areas where their strengths can be especially vulnerable to being distorted by sin.

For young and old alike, for male and female, by inspiration Paul guides the young pastor Titus in speaking to both the strengths and responsibilities of the men and women making up the new congregation.

For women, referring back to the devotion on from “not good” to “very good,” it becomes clear through the pages of Scripture that two very significant pieces were built into the woman for the blessing of mankind. One of those pieces is the ability to speak. Studies have shown that on average, women have a much greater vocabulary than men do, and they use it. How many times is it heard that either “women talk too much” when a man is commenting on communication or “men don’t ever talk about things” when a woman is commenting?

The second—and perhaps overriding—difference in men and women is the created ability God gave in rich measure to women to see and treasure relationships. While it’s true of relationships of all kinds, the predominant relationships have to do with husband and children, families, and work associates. Relationships are, for women, often the most important part of life.

Looking forward to this week’s second devotion, take time to read all of Titus to get a fuller picture of Paul’s instructions to Titus, the young pastor of a young congregation totally new to the idea of a loving God and a Savior. Then spend some time thinking about women in Scripture who demonstrated use of verbal skills and relationship-building skills. Were these God-pleasing uses or not? Finally, ponder how women of God learned to be women of God.

For Further Reflection

In view of the Creator’s design and plan for mankind, meditate on or write about how God sees you as valuable and the blessings he intends to bring to your family, congregation, the whole Christian church, and to society through you.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see your gracious and loving plan for me as a woman: valuable in so many ways and walking in the plans you have also laid out for my life here on earth. Open my eyes to see the value of my sisters in Christ as we all live out the unique plans you have for us, plans that bring great joy and blessing to the lives of all around us. Keep our eyes focused on your Son, who paid what I owe so I can be with you for all eternity. In his name I kneel before you. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Walking Through Life With Each Other – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 29, 2021

Walking Through Life With Each Other

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – Walking Through Life With Each Other – July 29, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:21-33).

 

For years, my husband and I have wanted to take dance lessons together. Early this past December, I saw an ad for online dance lessons: downloadable videos would be sent directly to us. I dropped the hint, yup, just dropped the link directly to my husband’s inbox. And then on Christmas Eve I received a beautiful and very professional-looking coupon for the online dance lessons. He got the hint!

So one night in early January, we planned a date to learn something we’ve never done before: ballroom dancing. It was sure a lesson in letting him lead. In fact, that’s what the instructors told us: “It’s his job to make you look beautiful as you both glide across the dance floor. It’s your job to follow his lead.”

A marriage relationship was designed in a way that can imitate a beautiful dance, one in which the wife respects her husband and allows him to lead, and the husband loves his wife and leads in a way that produces bountiful blessings for his wife and children—and as a result, for himself too.

The Marriage Union

God created every person uniquely different, and for good reason! We complement each other. Each person will bring their unique and varying gifts to a marriage. We all have areas of strengths that are not matched in our spouse. My weaknesses are often overcome by his strengths, and vice versa. Exactly how a man and woman partner together will look different in each home. Husband and wife will do well to communicate about their interests, gifts, and desires for the family.

Exactly how a man and woman partner together will look different in each home. Husband and wife will do well to communicate about their interests, gifts, and desires for the family.

In today’s busy schedules and full lives, finding time for productive and healthy communication might mean scheduling regular times to meet. In our marriage, it means setting aside at least two dates per month, several nights per week to connect, and also times to discuss finances, parenting decisions or long-term goals. Making decisions together is key in moving forward together—from the little things (who will do the laundry?) to the big things (what are our priorities when parenting the children?). Husbands and wives can take the time to get to know each other better, recognizing the gifts God gave each of them. Then each will use those gifts to benefit the family.

Will husband and wife always agree on the numerous aspects of life? Most certainly not. We all come with different experiences, expectations, and knowledge. So when a disagreement arises, spouses work together towards an understanding. It becomes much easier to love and forgive someone whom you think of as God’s dearly loved child. A husband who has put God first in his life will want to do what’s best for his wife and family, and he will value what she thinks and how she feels. Wives, we might not always understand the reasoning behind our husband’s decisions, but we know that God has called us to submit to our husbands, knowing we are submitting also to God’s will.

God has blessed our union with six children. My husband and I might not always agree with every aspect of parenting, but there is always one thing we do agree on: that the children see we are united. Sometimes we need to discuss something in private before we come to an agreement. At times, when I share my thoughts and ideas with my husband, he changes his mind about the situation. At other times, he persuades me, and I understand that his way is wiser than my own. There are times that I don’t understand, I don’t like it, yet I submit to my husband. I ask God to help me do this not with a stubborn attitude, but with a respectful and loving heart.

And then, there are those times when I foolishly override my husband’s leadership. When I realize what I’ve done, it takes me right back to the Garden of Eden. Eve overstepped her God-given role, instead paving her own path—and we know what resulted from that. I, too, have seen the results of my selfishness. I see how poorly things turn out when I act with no regard for my husband. I then realize I should have submitted to my husband rather than be like Eve who took matters into her own hands. Wives, in those times, seek forgiveness from God and your husband, and know that Jesus’ robe of righteousness covers you just as the beautiful white gown did on your wedding day.

As the head of the marriage and family, the husband is called first and foremost to be the spiritual leader for the family, to lead his family in devotions and prayers, and to point them to Jesus for forgiveness and guidance. A husband can love his wife best when he loves God most. A wife can love her husband best when she loves God most. Through the love and respect of husband and wife, God blesses the family unit.

The Unbelieving Husband

A husband who submits to Christ as his head is God’s will for all marriages. Yet we know that this is not always the situation. What does God ask of a wife married to an unbelieving husband? Does she still need to submit? Yes, she does! God tells us through the words of Peter that the principle still applies: “Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they might be won over without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your respectful and holy behavior” (1 Peter 3:1-2).

An unbelieving husband will see the love of Christ by the way his Christian wife lives her life. When she shows respect to her husband, she is also showing respect to Christ and for God’s perfect design.

When Christians live as bright shining lights for Jesus, people begin to notice. In this way, a wife will be ready to give an answer for the hope she has—not only to her husband, but anyone else who asks how she can be a submissive, respectful, and loving wife. God will continue to bless her through her obedience to his will.

When Christians live as bright shining lights for Jesus, people begin to notice. In this way, a wife will be ready to give an answer for the hope she has—not only to her husband, but anyone else who asks how she can be a submissive, respectful, and loving wife.

The Single Person

Christians who are single also desire to follow God’s perfect design for man and woman. When it comes to marriage, though, they might find it difficult to know how they can follow God’s design for man and woman in the home. However, people who are not married can honor this principle in a number of ways.

If you are a single person, let this be an encouragement to you: it is a blessing when you encourage and support husbands and wives in their callings, especially encouraging wives through your friendships. You can discourage the pity party and refuse to join in tearing a husband down when a wife is frustrated with him or his behavior. You can speak well of God’s design and the blessings a marriage brings to the family unit and society. When you use your words to heal, not harm, God is using you to help build up marriages of those around you.

When you use your words to heal, not harm, God is using you to help build up marriages of those around you.

Those who are single can also honor God’s perfect design of head and helper in all areas of their own lives, showing they respect God’s will for man and woman.

Pray for marriages. Pray that husbands and wives put Christ as the head and center of their marriages. Pray for husbands that they will lead in a way that is God-pleasing and builds up their families. Pray for wives that they may turn to their husbands for guidance and submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Pray that both husband and wife will honor God in their unique callings, using their gifts for the benefit of their family and to glorify him.

We see how the church submits to Christ. We see how Christ submitted to his Father’s holy and perfect will. We know what God’s Word tells us—how to honor him, lead holy lives, and work together in our marriages to have beautiful partnerships. Yet we are sinful humans. We fell right along with Adam and Eve in the Garden when they sinned against God. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners…”

But listen to this! Here’s the good part! “…so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

Christ’s perfect life and innocent death won for us salvation. We can walk through life with each other, knowing that God has blessed and strengthened man and woman—husband and wife—with his grace.

For Further Reflection

  1. Wives, what are three ways you can show your husband you honor him as your head?
  2. How can a Christian wife submit to her unbelieving husband when it seems he only cares for himself?
  3. What is one specific thing you can do this week to build up a marriage?

Closing Prayer

O gracious Father, you have so wonderfully blessed us with this beautiful design for a husband and wife. You have given us your perfect example in Christ. Yet we stumble and fall and go our own way. Forgive us for the times when we have not honored our husbands, have failed to be a selfless helper to them, or have not supported marriages through our words and prayers. Use us to build each other up in the roles you have graciously given us. Thank you for strengthening our faith through your Word. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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A Beautiful Partnership – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 27, 2021

A Beautiful Partnership

by Paula Sulzle

Ongoing Discussion – A Beautiful Partnership – July 27, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:21-33).

 

We start this section of Scripture with what seems to be a strong command. In our culture, “submit” has become a word that often conjures feelings of angst or rebellion, a place where selfish pride takes root. Even as Christian women, we have succumbed to the ways of the world and scoffed at the word and all that it entails. But why is that? Is it because we haven’t seen submission carried out in a God-pleasing and selfless way? Maybe we’ve seen submissive women getting trampled on by those placed in the headship roles. Let’s take a look at what godly submission truly is, and we’ll see that we will want to embrace submission because we know God wills it. He will bless us through it.

The Bible, in its original languages, was not written with chapters, verses, or headings. At times I feel like the chapters create a break in our minds, like we should stop reading and come back to it later. Yet when we do that, we may lose the continuity of the message. Our text today is a good example. Earlier in Chapter 5, Paul urges us to understand what the Lord’s will is. He tells us to “be filled with the Spirit” and gives us several ways in which we do that. Submitting is one of those ways. Now, as we see in our text, he gives us one setting in which submission is carried out: the home, with husband and wife.

We see God’s unique calls to husband and wife as he instructs wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as they carry out their unique calling as the head. In each circumstance, Paul brings our focus back to Christ. We all submit to Christ first and then carry out our unique callings to make this marriage partnership a beautiful dance.

In each circumstance, Paul brings our focus back to Christ. We all submit to Christ first and then carry out our unique callings to make this marriage partnership a beautiful dance.

Wives, we submit to our husbands not as inferior to them. No, we’ve already studied how we have equal status before God. We submit to them as to the Lord. Submission is honoring our God-given head and respecting his leadership. Through it we receive God’s protection, care, and guidance since God is working through him. When I allow my husband to lead as God called him to, my role as his suitable helper becomes a true joy.

Husbands love their wives because Christ’s complete and perfect love compels them to do so. God has given husbands a bit of his authority. This is a huge responsibility—but one a husband carries out as a selfless and loving leader.

Will I submit perfectly and at all times? No. Will my husband lead and love perfectly and at all times? No. Will God cover us with his grace perfectly and at all times? Yes! When both husband and wife follow God’s design for them, this relationship will be a beautiful partnership, one in which the family grows closer to Christ and closer to each other.

Will I submit perfectly and at all times? No. Will my husband lead and love perfectly and at all times? No. Will God cover us with his grace perfectly and at all times? Yes!

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how you feel about submission after reading this devotion. What blessings do you see from this beautiful partnership—either in your own life or in the marriages you see around you?

Closing Prayer

Dear God our Father, Creator of marriage, forgive me for the times I have resented my role of being a submissive wife and suitable helper to my husband. Help me to honor and follow your design for head and helper in my marriage. Cause husbands and wives to respect your will for their marriage and help them carry out their unique roles. You promise to bless marriages and families as they submit to Christ as their head. Guide us through your precious Word. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 22, 2021

Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Gifts and Callings: Refining the Conversation – July 22, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

 

If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that I would enjoy wrangling microphones, livestreaming church services, and pre-recording choir songs for worship, I’d have told you that you were crazy. Sure, I knew how to run the church AV system, but I was by no means good at it, nor did I operate it regularly. And recording and microphones? Nope. Not a chance. Putting together a slide show of still pictures set to music pushed my tech limits.

But then the pandemic hit, church services became entirely virtual, and I found myself volunteering to run AV so that we could have a consistent and steady presence in the AV booth. Although those first couple of weeks (OK, the first couple of months) were absolutely terrifying, now I love it. And in a twist that I never would have predicted, I’m good at it. I discovered a gift that I didn’t know I had, a gift that I’m blessed to be able to use on a regular basis.

It’s been an incredible privilege to partner with so many people in this area. Pastors and teachers, organists and musicians, congregational leaders and members—all of us come together to make a worship service happen. Partnerships like these can be seen in all aspects of the body of Christ, and—in the vein of this devotional series—they can especially be seen when men and women come together and use their spiritual gifts in service to one another, to the church, and to their Lord.

Partnerships in the Home

This partnership is perhaps seen most clearly in the home. As we discussed previously, Adam and Eve were created to complement each other, to complete each other, to do for the other what each could not do on their own. Next week, we’ll dive more deeply into how this partnership plays out in the home, in marriages, and in unions that produce children. For now, a couple of brief thoughts are appropriate.

Husbands and wives are called to use their spiritual gifts and partner in their marriage and their family, but they are called to do so while also respecting their unique roles. Husbands are called to be the head, to assume spiritual responsibility, to love their wives, to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Wives are called to submit to their husbands, to respect them, to support them as they seek to fulfill their role as spiritual leader.

This isn’t going to look the same in every marriage; it certainly shouldn’t look like a dictatorial husband and a cowering wife. The specifics are up to each family unit. Open and honest conversations, along with time spent together in God’s Word and in prayer, are key. The general principle still holds, though: husbands and wives have been given different roles and different spiritual gifts. When they live within these roles and work together using these spiritual gifts, they live out God’s plan for their marriage and reflect the beautiful and mysterious union between Christ and the church.

This isn’t going to look the same in every marriage; it certainly shouldn’t look like a dictatorial husband and a cowering wife. The specifics are up to each family unit.

Partnerships in the Church

I’ll be honest: partnerships between men and women in the church are sometimes hard for me to deal with. It’s not because I have difficulty seeing the value of these partnerships. As a female who works closely with her pastors, I can clearly see how my gifts complement theirs. I can see how I view issues differently as a female than they might as males—different viewpoints that are not in conflict but rather come together in harmony to form a more complete perspective.

No, I have difficulty with male and female partnerships in the church because it seems as though we so often focus on what women can’t do. Can’t serve as a pastor? Check. Can’t distribute the Lord’s Supper? Check. Can’t authoritatively teach a Bible study? Check. It doesn’t matter that all of these prohibitions are biblical. It doesn’t even matter that I probably wouldn’t want to do most of these things anyway. My sinful nature hears “can’t, can’t, can’t,” I immediately become angry and irritated, and all the while I continue to feel more and more restricted.

But these prohibitions are a very small snapshot of what goes on in the church. Don’t misunderstand my meaning: I’m not saying serving as a pastor or distributing the Lord’s Supper or authoritatively teaching a Bible study is unimportant. I am, however, saying that these roles are not the majority of places where partnerships in the church occur, and they’re certainly not the place where most people—men and women alike—are going to serve.

What should be done? Let’s change the conversation. Instead of focusing on what women can’t do in the church, let’s focus on what women can do. Simply by sheer volume, the list of “cans” is much longer than the list of “can’ts.” Each one of us has the privilege and joy of finding our own “can,” our own place to serve that utilizes our spiritual gifts. When we look for our “can” instead of concentrating on our “can’t,” our mindset changes and we are able to pay attention to the positives rather than the negatives.

Let’s change the conversation. Instead of focusing on what women can’t do in the church, let’s focus on what women can do. Simply by sheer volume, the list of “cans” is much longer than the list of “can’ts.”

Is this easy? No, absolutely not. Will there still be “can’ts” for females, “can’ts” that make us feel as though we aren’t serving to our full potential? Certainly. Are all of these “can’ts” biblically commanded? Likely not, and that adds a whole other wrinkle—a wrinkle that we’ll consider in an upcoming devotion. For me personally, that wrinkle is particularly difficult to navigate. But again, focusing on the “cans” rather than the “can’ts” brings a renewed sense of joy and purpose as I seek to build up the body of Christ through my service.

Women and Leadership

When it comes to partnerships and callings in the church, one more important point needs to be made. We hold to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 on women not exercising authority, words that we will explore more fully later this summer. The terms “authority” and “leadership” are sometimes used interchangeably, and some leadership positions are positions that are also imbued with authority. At the same time, however, leadership and authority are not the same concept, and one should not treat them as such.

Many women—myself included—are blessed with gifts of leadership. It is entirely possible for a woman to exercise her gifts of leadership properly without stepping out of her helper calling. It is also entirely possible for a woman to exercise her gifts of leadership improperly by usurping the role of head. Women must be careful, then, in how we exercise our gifts of leadership, but it is certainly possible for us to exercise these gifts in a God-pleasing way.

Women must be careful, then, in how we exercise our gifts of leadership, but it is certainly possible for us to exercise these gifts in a God-pleasing way.

This was made clear to me in a conversation I had several years ago with one of my pastors. We were discussing the unique callings of women in the church in general and church structure and governance in particular. I lamented that as a single female unable to vote in the church, I had no official mechanism for expressing my voice in any church decisions made by the voters’ assembly. My pastor said something that has stuck with me: essentially, that I should not conflate not being able to vote with not having influence in the church.

Since then, I have come to see that in spite of being female, I do indeed have a significant amount of influence in my church, and I do serve in multiple leadership roles. I say this not to be boastful nor in an attempt to circumvent the calling of helper which I have been given. Rather, I strive to remember that God has put me where he wants me to be and has given me the gifts he wants me to have. Therefore, I have a responsibility to use those gifts as best as I possibly can—not in violation of my unique calling, but in harmony with it.

Life would be pretty unbalanced if we were all good at the exact same things. Some tasks would get done very well, but other equally important tasks would remain unfinished or be ignored entirely. Similarly, our family of believers would be unbalanced if we were all gifted with the exact same spiritual gifts. Some aspects of home and church life would be enhanced, but the vast majority would instead suffer, and the body of Christ wouldn’t function as God intended it.

By God’s grace, he has given each one of us just the right spiritual gifts. By God’s grace, we come together as males and females to use these gifts in service to each other and to the church. And when we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, our attitude changes and—by God’s grace—we are privileged to carry his message of salvation to a sin-darkened world so desperately in need of a Savior.

For Further Reflection

  1. If you are married, how do you and your spouse partner with each other and enhance each other’s spiritual gifts? If you are single, what other partnerships do you participate in where you also enhance someone else’s spiritual gifts?
  2. Does the conversation in your congregation focus on “can’t” or “can”? If it focuses on “can’t,” what can you do to change and reshape the conversation?
  3. How would you explain the relationship and connection between leadership and authority? How would you explain the differences between these two concepts?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, we do not deserve any of the gifts you shower upon us. Lead us always to give thanks for our gifts rather than desiring gifts that we do not have. Grant that we might always use our gifts to work for the common good and bring glory to your name. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Different Gifts, Same Lord – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 20, 2021

Different Gifts, Same Lord

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Different Gifts, Same Lord – July 20, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

 

I’m a natural organizer. Color-coded file folders in my cabinets, books organized by author and genre on my shelves, clothes hung by function, style, and color in my closet—these satisfy my need and desire for order. This sense of organization also extends to people. Among my various circles of friends, I’m the one who keeps track of when we saw each other last, and I’m generally the one to initiate the e-mail or text thread scheduling our next dinner or outing.

I am not, however, naturally empathetic. I love my friends, I love spending time with them, and I love organizing the details of our get-togethers. But I don’t always do as well with checking in regularly to see how my friends are doing. I don’t always recognize when they’re in the midst of a busy or challenging time and need support. I don’t always see when they’re struggling spiritually, and I’m not always there to offer Christian comfort and prayer. Therefore, I greatly appreciate my friends who do have this gift of empathy, and I treasure the encouragement they so easily and instinctively provide.

As we read in today’s verses, we see the same concept at play within the body of Christ. Before talking about the differences in the gifts we have been given, note the sameness that Paul brings out in these verses. We see all three persons of the Trinity in these verses, presented in reverse order. All our spiritual gifts come from the same source: God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because all of our spiritual gifts come from this same source, they are all good, useful, and beneficial gifts. And all of our spiritual gifts come together for a common goal: to build up and strengthen the body of Christ.

All our spiritual gifts come from the same source: God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because all of our spiritual gifts come from this same source, they are all good, useful, and beneficial gifts.

Paul contrasts this sense of sameness—of a common source, value, and goal—with a repetition of the differences among our gifts. There are different kinds of gifts, of service, of working, differences for which we should be extremely thankful! In his wisdom, God gives his church a wide variety of spiritual gifts and equips it with everything it needs to fulfill its Great Commission calling. Rather than separating us, our differences should unite us as we use our gifts in service alongside others—others who have different gifts but serve the same Lord.

Related to this devotional series, we see believers working together in the church in different ways. Believers naturally come together—for service, fellowship, and mutual encouragement and edification—along gender lines, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My church has a men’s Bible study and a women’s Bible study, and many other churches do as well. We share an organic connection with those of our same gender, and oftentimes it’s easier to serve alongside them and grow in God’s Word together with them.

At the same time, we would lose part of the body of Christ if we didn’t also partner across gender lines. Personal experience and anecdotal evidence show us that—broadly speaking—men and women are blessed with different gifts and different ways of working to accomplish a task. When we bring these differences together in the body of Christ, when we work alongside each other, when we complement each other’s strengths and counterbalance each other’s weaknesses, we unite in using all of our spiritual gifts to serve both God and neighbor.

When we bring these differences together in the body of Christ, when we work alongside each other, when we complement each other’s strengths and counterbalance each other’s weaknesses, we unite in using all of our spiritual gifts to serve both God and neighbor.

As we’ll explore later this week, this isn’t always easy. It’s tempting to covet another’s spiritual gifts, to chafe under aspects of our unique callings that seem to restrict the use of our gifts, to fail to use our gifts to the best of our ability because they seem unappreciated or even unwelcome. But when these temptations come, remember the sameness in Paul’s words. Remember the same God, the same Lord, the same Spirit from whom our gifts come. Remember God’s perfect wisdom in giving these gifts—to both men and women—and give thanks that we are privileged to use these gifts in his service.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about the spiritual gifts you have been given. How are you using these gifts to build up the body of Christ?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, in your grace and wisdom you chose different spiritual gifts for different believers. We thank you for the diversity of gifts you bestow upon us and for the opportunity to use these gifts to carry out the work you have called us to do: sharing the good news with those around us and building up the body of Christ. Keep us faithful in this work, and bless our efforts according to your good and gracious will. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 15, 2021

A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – A Perfect Design From a Perfect Designer – July 15, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, EHV)

 

As noted earlier this week and indeed earlier in this devotion series, the progression of good to very good involved the creation of mankind in the image of God, the Triune God. Hopefully there was opportunity to ponder the questions and thoughts at the close of this week’s first devotion—the thoughts for further consideration being addressed today.

Good to Very Good: From the Man and For the Man

God pronounces each step of creation up to the creation of man in God’s image as “good.” Then the LORD God tells us that man by himself was “not good.” God concludes, however, at the end of the six days of creation with man and woman created in his own image and installed as stewards of his entire earthly creation, that it is “very good.” God’s plan from the beginning was to have man, created in his own image, be the stewards of that creation. And his verdict was “it was very good.” It was exactly according to plan: perfect, nothing missing or left out.

An indispensable piece of “very good,” of perfect, was that God created mankind in his own image to be the perfect stewards of all he had created. At creation Adam and Eve, the man and the one who would be the mother of all the living, knew what God knew, loved what God loved, and wanted what God wanted.

This is both awesome and in my current fallen state distorted by sin. It is impossible to fully comprehend, yet we get glances of the full and perfect image of God. Man, Adam, formed from the dust of the ground with the breath of life breathed into his nostrils becoming a living being is the beginning. But it’s “not good,” not complete, because the man is alone. Then the LORD God takes a rib of the man, builds a woman, and brings her to the man. Now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Adam sings out, it is very good, perfect and complete. And she will be the mother of all the living. The man will remain united with his wife and they will become one flesh; each unique, each indispensable, yet one.

Then the LORD God takes a rib of the man, builds a woman, and brings her to the man. Now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Adam sings out, it is very good, perfect and complete.

When reading the full account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, did you notice that before Eve was created, the LORD God put the man into the Garden to work it and take care of it? In this same section, he gives the man responsibility for the relationship the man will have with his Creator. Immediately thereafter, the LORD God states, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

The man cannot do the work, which is a blessing from God, by himself. He certainly can’t produce anyone to help him by himself. So from the man God builds the perfect answer to the situation. He specifically builds the woman—who is part of the man—to be the perfect partner. She will, as the man names her later, be the mother of all the living: Eve.

Made in the Image of the Triune God

In our previous and upcoming devotions, we read what God has revealed through his inspired writers. We, who have put off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10), are blessed to be able to listen and grow.

We are blessed to have guidance and insight into the perfect design from the designer himself in a sin-filled world—a world that is hostile to the perfect design of a loving God and Savior, that is clueless about the perfect world created by God. We are blessed to hear of God’s love—a love that forgives and redeems us as his children in spite of what we have done to his creation and what our sins deserve. We are assured and confident that we have been forgiven, and by God’s grace will not get what we deserve because God (Elohim, a name of God which is plural and reflects the Triune God) is LORD God (Yahweh Elohim).

We are blessed to have guidance and insight into the perfect design from the designer himself in a sin-filled world—a world that is hostile to the perfect design of a loving God and Savior, that is clueless about the perfect world created by God.

It is no mere coincidence that the name of God (Elohim) is further revealed as LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) as soon as Genesis moves into describing those created in God’s image. God knew that mankind would fall into sin and need rescue even before he created them. He knew he’d be revealing himself as the God of free and everlasting grace and the God of perfect justice in one being, as incomprehensible as that is. He knew he’d have to rescue mankind from the slavery of sin, and he’d have to teach them who he is through actions of love and laws modeling godly actions. He knew he’d have to redeem us from that slavery and cleanse us in the blood of the perfect Lamb, the Lamb of God. He knew he’d have to renew us in his image through the power of his own Spirit in Word and Sacrament so we too could be raised from the dead to live with him for all eternity. He knew it all and revealed it to mankind in his very name already in the Garden of Eden.

Differences in Men and Women: Created by and Highly Valued by God

What relevance do all of these awesome truths have in my everyday sojourn as a Christian woman? As a redeemed child of God, I am called to be Christ’s ambassador here on earth. I am privileged to proclaim with my mouth who this marvelous God is. I am called to demonstrate with my life and actions what Christ is like. I understand that while I’m unique and indispensable, I am also not called to carry out these tasks in isolation. I am to carry them out as a member of the body of Christ, in partnership with my Christian brothers and the men God has ordained to be here on earth with me.

I am to carry them out as a member of the body of Christ, in partnership with my Christian brothers and the men God has ordained to be here on earth with me.

Our previous and upcoming devotions all look to God’s Word for direction as we live out the unique callings God has created for us as Christian women. He had a perfect design that we rebelled against, yet through the power of the Spirit he shows us how to live out that perfect design. As sinners, we will be tempted to listen to the father of lies. As a woman, it’s the father of lies who tells me I am inferior to men or that submitting to God’s authority and those to whom he’s given it is demeaning. It’s the father of lies who tells me some lives aren’t worth the time and effort to care for or that caring for the sick and weak is a waste of my talents and gifts. It’s the father of lies who says it’s second class to nurture the young. It’s the father of lies who says serving and being humble is foolish or that my value is determined by how much power or money I have or demand. But our designer and the one who created us in his own image says the opposite.

God—the one who designed Eve as the mother of all the living—says to the man that it’s not good to be unable to be fruitful and increase in number. It’s not good to not have insight into relationships. It’s not good to have no one to nurture other human beings—and those outside of the human family as well—if you have dominion over the birds and animals and fish. It’s not good to be alone!

To the man to whom God has given responsibility, God says, “You need a helper suitable to get the whole assignment done. I the LORD God will build one for you.”

He did. And it was very good.

For Further Reflection

  1. We don’t have to repeat the same sins the world engages in over and over again because the Word shows us the good and right way. The Lord will work in us “both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure” so that we, “shine among [unbelievers] like lights in the world, as [we] hold onto the word of life” (Philippians 2:13, 15, 16). How can you make regular time with the Lord in the Word a reality?
  2. Make no mistake, we are out of step with the world. But we know, as much as our sinful minds can comprehend, what God’s design for men and women looks like. We know the blessings it holds for us as we respect and trust God’s plan for us to be working together as men and women, working together with the rest of the body of Christ with Christ as our head. How can you demonstrate and explain this truth to those around you in terms they can understand and relate to?
  3. As his body, we proclaim who Jesus Christ is and what he’s done for every human being on earth. We can be part of sharing the awesome Triune God we have—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in whose image we were created and are now being renewed. How can you use those unique qualities God has given you as a woman—a woman part of a congregation—to communicate to, interact with, and serve those you are especially gifted to work with in your congregation?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of all life and of mankind, Creator of me, as I live out my life as your daughter here on earth, equip me with the full armor of God. Give me the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Keep me alert and remind me to pray for all the saints, the whole body of Christ. Whenever I open my mouth, Lord, please give me words filled with love, understanding, compassion, and your truth that I may fearlessly make known the gospel of your Son, my Redeemer and my Maker too, to all those for whom you have suffered and died. In his name I lay my prayers at your feet. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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From Good to Very Good – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 13, 2021

From Good to Very Good

by Kathie Wendland

Ongoing Discussion – From Good to Very Good – July 13, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man
For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, EHV)

 

Those who like putting puzzles together know how frustrating it is if someone has thrown away the box that has the picture on it. How can I put the puzzle together if I don’t know how it’s supposed to look, if some wrong pieces may have been tossed into the mix, or if some of the pieces are marred or stained in some way?

For the first five weeks of this devotion series, the attention has been on some important pieces as we try to understand God’s plan for us as Christian women in this world. However, the pieces as we look at them have been marred and stained by the world around us, by the selfishness that’s within us, and by the father of lies himself. How is the relationship between men and women, the two interdependent components of mankind according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, supposed to look and be lived out?

How is the relationship between men and women, the two interdependent components of mankind according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, supposed to look and be lived out?

Genesis 1 and 2 provide the beautiful picture of God’s perfect design and purpose for mankind. There is, though, a common feature of Hebrew literature that confuses our western minds. We usually read things chronologically, assuming that what we have read first occurred first.

In contrast, it’s not uncommon for Hebrew literature to begin with a summary account and then expand on a specific portion of the story. Genesis 1 and 2 are a perfect example. Genesis 1 gives the summary of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and—in passing, it seems—goes from describing creation as “good” multiple times from day three on to describing it as “very good” at the completion of the sixth day. Prior to declaring everything “very good,” though, God created mankind, man and woman, and installed them together as stewards over all creation.

With that thought in mind, read the following excerpts from Genesis 1 and 2 in chronological order: Genesis 1:25-27, 2:7,18,20b-24, 1:27-28,31a (EHV).

God made the wild animals according to their own kind, and the livestock according to their own kind, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its own kind. God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is a suitable partner for him.”

The man gave names to all the livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal, but for Adam no helper was found who was a suitable partner for him. The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, the LORD God took a rib and closed up the flesh where it had been. The LORD God built a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man and brought her to the man.

The man said,
Now this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man

For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother
and will remain united with his wife,
and they will become one flesh.

God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God saw everything he made and, indeed, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning—the sixth day.

As you think about and look forward to this week’s second devotion, spend some time reading and mediating on the entirety of Genesis 1 and 2. Keep the following thoughts in mind—thoughts that we will explore more fully later this week.

  • God declares every complete part of creation “good,” only to state that it is “not good” that man is alone. And after woman has been built from and for him, Adam refers to her as “woman” (a Hebrew word that is derived from the Hebrew word for “man,” just like we see with the English words “woman” and “man”), thus making God’s creation “very good.”
  • God says “Let US make man in OUR image” (Genesis 1:26). God (Elohim) says, “Let us…” yet when we read the account of the creation of mankind it’s always, “The LORD God…” (Yahweh Elohim). Why the difference?
  • Think of some accounts in Scripture that illustrate the general differences between men and women and their dependence on one another. Can you think of any examples of a man or a woman acting entirely independently of one another, whether or not within a marriage relationship?

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how understanding the chronology of Genesis 1 and 2 gives a fuller picture and better understanding of the account of creation. How does this help you understand the interdependence between man and woman?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and all therein, open our eyes and hearts to the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of you. Help us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love for us, that we may appreciate more fully and trust your perfect design—a glorious design to work together as brothers and sisters who make up the body of Christ here on earth. For Jesus’ sake, we have every confidence that you will hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 8, 2021

Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Modern Women Embracing an Ancient Calling – July 8, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:18-20)

 

Earlier this week, we took a somewhat academic look at a word study of “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament. What we found was enlightening: God most often acts as an ezer or gives ezer, this ezer is given to those undeserving of it without any expectation for reciprocation or repayment, and the role of ezer in no way indicates inferiority. This type of academic study is useful for a proper understanding of the role of ezer, and it’s a valuable exercise to work through.

This type of study doesn’t always remove the baggage that is so often associated with the role of helper, however. Knowing that God acts as an ezer doesn’t always make it easier for us to act in the same way. Knowing that being an ezer in no way indicates lesser worth doesn’t always erase the feeling of inferiority that sometimes lingers when the phrase “head and helper” is used. So how can we deal with this baggage? How can we get past our hang-ups and our misgivings and instead willingly and gladly embrace our helper role?

Acknowledging the Baggage

Let’s start with a quick trip through the good old Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The OED defines “helper” as “one who (or that which) helps or assists, an auxiliary.” There aren’t exactly negative connotations here, but looking at the entry for “auxiliary” is interesting: “an organization which is subsidiary to a parent body, frequently performing ancillary or associated functions.” And going one layer deeper, “ancillary” is defined as “subservient, subordinate, ministering (to).”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere; we’ve come to the crux of the matter. Tracing all the way back up through the definitions could indeed indicate that the role of “helper”—the role for which Eve was created—is a lesser or lower position. When we as modern-day English speakers hear that we too were created for a “helper” role, it’s entirely understandable for the thought to fester that our role is therefore lesser or lower. But is this truly accurate? Was Eve created as a subordinate to Adam? Yes… and no…

When we as modern-day English speakers hear that we too were created for a “helper” role, it’s entirely understandable for the thought to fester that our role is therefore lesser or lower. But is this truly accurate?

Yes, Eve was Adam’s subordinate in the sense that he was her head. Yes, she was his subordinate in the sense that she ultimately depended upon Adam for direction and guidance. Yes, she was his subordinate in the sense that she was under him and provided assistance for him in the things that he needed to do but ultimately could not do by himself.

However, if subordinate is understood as being of lesser importance, worth, character, or quality, then Eve was absolutely not subordinate to Adam. Perhaps the best word to describe Adam and Eve’s relationship is complementary. As we learned in a previous devotion, God created an interdependent partnership for Adam and Eve: a partnership in which each needs the other, in which each provides something unique and different.

Joyfully Living Out Our Calling

We too are blessed to be in partnerships where we serve in a “helper” role—complementary partnerships, interdependent partnerships, partnerships where we can provide our male counterparts with something they need. When considering our various partnerships, the home is often at the forefront of our minds. Husband and wife—male and female—naturally work together to create a loving environment, raise their children, and keep Christ at the center of their marriage.

I’m certainly not the one to tell you what that should look like for you, because it’s going to look different for everyone. There isn’t one list of “husband/head” jobs and tasks and a separate “wife/helper” list. No, each family unit will have to figure out what it means for the husband to act as head and the wife to act as helper—always keeping in mind that neither role is of greater or lesser value. But when open and honest conversations occur, when husband and wife strive to celebrate each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses, God is honored and the family unit becomes a place where Christ dwells.

These complementary partnerships also manifest themselves in the church. Later this summer, we’ll consider what it means for men and women to come together as the body of Christ and how this specifically relates to our unique callings. For now, it’s sufficient to note that there are again many ways for women to serve as helpers in their local congregations. I’m not just talking about the traditional ways such as serving on Altar Guild or singing in choir. Chances are if you can think of a way to help, it would likely be welcomed and appreciated at your congregation.

Chances are if you can think of a way to help, it would likely be welcomed and appreciated at your congregation.

Again, this is going to look different for every woman in every church, and it’s not my place to dictate what it looks like for you. I can, however, tell you what it looks like for me: answering questions, solving problems, and working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. In short, I try to take what I can off my pastors’ plates so that they have more time to carry out the aspects of ministry that only they can do. And when I willingly embark on that partnership—when I serve in a way that is both helpful and that utilizes my gifts of focus and organization—I find myself living out my helper calling in a way that brings joy, both to me and to those around me. I’m confident the same will be true for you.

When Our Calling Isn’t Recognized…

It’s not so easy, though, in an unbelieving world. We aren’t always surrounded by fellow Christians with whom we share a common goal of building each other up in the faith. We aren’t always interacting with friends and acquaintances who understand that our desire to help is not a weakness but is a strength as we live out our role. We aren’t always dealing with a culture that sees the blessing that helping brings.

It’s tempting to throw in the towel and limit our helper role to the home and the church. But as we discovered in the very first week, the unique callings of men and women do not only apply in the home and in the church. This means that we are called to act as helpers—even when it comes to how we act in an unbelieving world.

Note well what I am and am not saying here. I am not saying that every act, every task, and every interaction between a woman and a man is an instance where the woman is helping. Neither am I saying that every woman is called to act as a helper to every man, nor that it is always inappropriate for women to be in positions where they are in authority over others—both males and females. I am, however, saying that our helper role applies both in Christian and in secular environments. That shows itself in our mindsets, in our willingness to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, in our desire to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5).

That shows itself in our mindsets, in our willingness to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, in our desire to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:4-5).

I’ll close today as I did earlier in the week: for me personally, joyfully living out my helper role is an ongoing struggle. My old Adam delights in whispering “Inferior! Restricted!” in my ear, and my new man is often woefully unequipped to deal with such accusations. A trip back to the Garden of Eden and through the pages of the Old Testament quiets these claims, but the whispers of “Outdated! Old fashioned!” still continue. If I’m being honest, what helps the most is simply finding a way to serve—a way that I’m good at, that fills a need, that brings joy to others. What a blessing it is for that joy to be contagious and make its way back to me!

For Further Reflection

  1. The term “complementary” implies an equality, a correspondence, and a difference. How do we see each of these in the relationship between Adam and Eve? In our relationships today?
  2. Sometimes it can be hard to find ways to live out your helper role in your congregation. Think of something you’re particularly good at, of a skill that you have been particularly blessed with. How could you use that skill to help at your local congregation? With whom could you talk in order to begin serving in a way that makes use of that skill?
  3. How does your attitude change the way you view your helper role in an unbelieving world?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, our sinful nature never ceases to attack our faith and challenge our worth. When these challenges come in relation to our helper role, remind us that you have uniquely created this role for us. Keep us always mindful for ways that we can faithfully live out this calling, and quiet the world’s claims that serving as a helper makes us of lesser value and worth. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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An Ezer Suitable for Him – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 6, 2021

An Ezer Suitable for Him

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – An Ezer Suitable for Him – July 6, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:18-20)

 

There’s something about helping people that brings joy. Seeing what a person needs (sometimes even before they ask) and taking care of that need in a quiet and unobtrusive way, without any desire for repayment or even recognition, brings feelings of contentment and satisfaction. When assisting another person—whether via a grand gesture or through a seemingly small act, whether that assistance is given to a close friend or a random stranger on the street—we often delight and find fulfillment in giving aid.

But when we read that Eve was created to be a helper for Adam, when that “helper” role is applied to women in general, many of us bristle. Our sinful nature tends to view our helper role as demeaning and of lesser status—as a role that reduces our worth and makes us less important than men. A study of the use of the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament, however, is extremely enlightening when it comes to understanding just what the role of “helper” entails.

A study of the use of the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer, pronounced ay-zer) in the Old Testament, however, is extremely enlightening when it comes to understanding just what the role of “helper” entails.

Of the more than 20 uses of ezer in the Old Testament, by far the most common use is in reference to God—either God acting as an ezer or God providing ezer to his people. Deuteronomy 33:26-29 shows us that this is no flawed earthly help; it is the perfect help of the almighty God, help that was an incredible blessing to the children of Israel, help that set the Israelites apart and made them more powerful than their enemies.

This theme continues in the Psalms, where the psalmists—particularly King David—recognize and acknowledge that Israel’s past success was entirely due to the Lord’s help, and their future success depends entirely on his continued help. There is no worry that the Lord might not be able to act as an ezer; there is only confidence that the Lord will indeed answer his people when they are in distress. No matter what forces and weapons their enemies muster against them, Israel can put their trust in the Lord, their ezer and their shield. Yes, David is a mighty warrior, but he still needs the ezer that the Lord provides. This ezer is solely due to the Lord’s love and mercy, and it is bestowed on those who are totally and completely undeserving of it.

The role of ezer, therefore, does not imply inferiority. God is clearly in no way inferior to his fallen race, to those to whom he offers ezer. Neither was Eve inferior to Adam, nor are women inferior to men. In God’s eyes, we are all equal in our sinfulness and our need for a Savior; we are all God’s dearly-loved, blood-bought children—children who were created perfectly in his image and who long to have that image perfectly restored one day.

The role of ezer, therefore, does not imply inferiority. God is clearly in no way inferior to his fallen race, to those to whom he offers ezer. Neither was Eve inferior to Adam, nor are women inferior to men.

So then, being an ezer is a high and honored calling, a calling that God himself most often fulfills throughout the Old Testament, a calling that God uses to bless his people even though we are most unworthy of it. Being an ezer was a respected calling for Eve, a calling that enabled her to do for Adam what he could not do on his own, a calling that allowed the two of them to complete each other. And similarly, being an ezer should be a calling in which women today find joy.

Great, I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up. Women today shouldn’t feel any consternation with or have any reservations about their helper role, right? Yeah … no. It’s definitely not that easy for me. My struggle with my helper role likely isn’t going to be settled on this side of heaven, and I suspect many of you are in the same boat. How then can we come to peace with this “helper” role and joyfully live it out in our everyday lives? Stay tuned …

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about the connotations you associate with the biblical word “helper.” How do these connotations change when you consider that God is the one most often acting as a helper?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you are our ezer and our shield; we wait for you in hope. What a marvel that you call us to the same role that you yourself perform! Instill in us a sense of satisfaction and contentment as we seek to faithfully live out our helper role, and grant that we might always find joy and fulfillment in the calling you have so lovingly given to us. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Equal but Unique – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – July 1, 2021

Equal but Unique

by Marilyn Miller

Ongoing Discussion – Equal but Unique – July 1, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

When I look at the world around me, it is sometimes shocking and depressing and sometimes pleasant and enticing.

I can’t wrap my head around why someone would change their gender and attempt to live out their life as if God made a mistake when he knit them together in their mother’s womb. But it’s happening more and more, so it must make sense to some. I can’t wrap my head around why women would make men second-class citizens, demean and disrespect them, rob them of the role God had planned for them in this world, and take that role for themselves. But it’s happening more and more, so it must make sense to some.

I can understand a bit better how women—and men—get absorbed in their career, their social standing, their appearance, or one of their other passions to the neglect of God and his will. I can see the “It’s all about me” and the “You deserve it” messages being proclaimed from the rooftops. Sometimes I fall for it myself and have to beg forgiveness. Satan can be so “in your face” it hurts, or he can be so subtle that you don’t even notice.

A Bigger Picture—Considered Sons of God

Let’s get beyond this worldview for a minute. God loves us so much that in his mercy “[he] sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts … So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:5-7). This blessing is for all believers. All are raised to the high position of an heir. None of the things that tend to mean so much in this life, things like race, gender, social standing, or wealth, make any difference in our standing in God’s family. All are equal.

To be adopted means to leave one’s natural family and enter into the privileges and responsibilities of another. So also God is the Father who in Christ graciously adopts believers into his spiritual family and grants them all the privileges of heirship. In ancient cultures, only the sons (including adopted sons) in a family were considered heirs. But Scripture tells us God made all believers, not just the males, sons of the family. As sons of God, all believers become heirs of eternal life in heaven. Ladies, this is the time to wholeheartedly claim your position as a son. Thus God’s plan brings all believers back into fellowship with him, much like what Adam and Eve originally had in the Garden.

As sons of God, all believers become heirs of eternal life in heaven. Ladies, this is the time to wholeheartedly claim your position as a son.

As we walk (and sometimes run) through life, we seek to thank God for this marvelous gift of grace. It colors our entire world. As sons of God’s family, we take on the name of that family and live in a way that does not dishonor the family or its patriarch. We call God “Abba, Father” and put our trust in that Father to supply us with all of our earthly needs and to set beneficial guidelines for our lives. Fulfilling the unique callings that God has designed for us is just one of the many ways we show our gratitude.

Worldly Challenges All Around

But Satan is not at all happy that we are honored members of God’s family. He has only our short time of grace to pull us away, he works hard at his task, and he is very good at it. He makes us see an enticing world around us, but a world where our Father is not loved or honored. Satan constantly seeks to drive a wedge between us and our loving Father, wanting us to throw away our positions as heirs.

Earlier in the week we looked at some of the ways Satan comes at us with subtle lies, showing us a plethora of things that look good, pleasing, and desirable. He employs peer pressure with the simple “everyone’s doing it” phrase that certainly didn’t work with my mother when I was a child. Then we hear the “you deserve it” message in all kinds of advertising. The old standby is “I don’t have time” for Bible study, Sunday worship, daily devotions … or any other thing that our Father uses to keep us close. Satan sends us friends that don’t love the Father and Sunday morning soccer games. His attacks are endless.

God gave women a unique calling as the interdependent and complementary partner of a head when he created us. One of the many arrows in Satan’s quiver is the message that God’s unique calling for me as a woman is archaic, doesn’t work in today’s world, is demeaning, can’t be understood, or doesn’t make use of my gifts.

One of the many arrows in Satan’s quiver is the message that God’s unique calling for me as a woman is archaic, doesn’t work in today’s world, is demeaning, can’t be understood, or doesn’t make use of my gifts.

One can somewhat see how the callings play out in the home, though not always, and our families have often taken on complex structures that complicate things. Besides, Satan likes to feed us excuses why it can’t work in any given situation.

When it comes to the church, too often we just don’t like what’s being said. I have to admit some congregations don’t allow women to use their gifts even in ways that God allows. And in some congregations, women go beyond what is pleasing to God. This calls for a study of Scripture for men and women alike, not for taking offense and throwing out the principle or pointing out how it is not in line with society.

When it comes to putting these callings into practice when dealing with unbelievers, it often doesn’t seem logical to us at all. Should a woman who has a man working for her see him as her head or he see her as his helper? Should a woman even work in a position where she has men working for her? This troubled me greatly for many years. Again this calls for study of Scripture and prayerful considerations, with input from valued Christian friends, and with an eye toward informing one’s conscience. There is no absolute right or wrong decision because there are many different good principles in play. There is room for one woman to make one decision and another to make the complete opposite decision, and neither is wrong. This principle is not a trump card that outweighs all others, such as supporting your family or witnessing to the world around you. It is one of God’s good principles that he gives us as guides for our lives. But Satan doesn’t want us to see it this way.

We are wise to study all the decisions we make in light of our position as heirs of eternal life and as members of God’s family who want to thank and praise him with our lives. We are wise to study the decisions we make, asking God for wisdom to uncover Satan’s schemes.

Are Equal Status and Unique Callings in Conflict?

We have talked about all being equal in status in God’s sight. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” from the Galatians reading above is one of many passages throughout Scripture that reinforces this truth. Everyone’s favorite—John 3:16—“For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” makes this truth emphatically clear because everyone is part of that world. Thus in God’s eyes everyone who believes in Christ Jesus has equal status; they were dead in their sins but now are alive and are his children.

In his wisdom God created man, then said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him … So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:18-22). The man rejoiced. As we’ll explore next week, being a helper suitable for the man is not demeaning or second class but is a high and holy calling. It’s a special calling designed from eternity and modeled after God’s saving help for his people.

Thus those God has called as helpers are assured they have equal standing before God and will inherit eternal life in the same way that heads will.

Thus those God has called as helpers are assured they have equal standing before God and will inherit eternal life in the same way that heads will. Since God also created the unique calling as a helper, those called to this position can be assured that living out a calling of complementary and interdependent partnership with a head is of great importance to God. While Satan frequently makes us chafe at this calling, God calls it his will, and it is meant as a blessing to his people.

For Further Reflection

  1. What blessings have you experienced when you have been faithful to your calling as a helper?
  2. Where does your congregation have room to grow in the implementation of the godly callings of men and women? How might you help? Where do you see Satan’s schemes at work?
  3. Where have you had difficulties implementing your calling as a helper in your life? Study Scripture; meditate on this; ask Christian friends and/or your pastor for insight. Ask God to direct your thoughts and guide your decisions.

Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank and praise you for making us your sons, your heirs of eternal life. We are in awe of such love and mercy. In grateful thanksgiving we ask your help in living our lives according to your will. Let your holy angels be with us that Satan may have no power over us. Let all that we do be pleasing in your sight. Help us in areas where we struggle so that your will be done. We humbly come to you in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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A Glorious Promise – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 29, 2021

A Glorious Promise

by Marilyn Miller

Ongoing Discussion – A Glorious Promise – June 29, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

What a comforting, red-letter passage this is—Christ died for everyone on this earth, and through faith we take hold of this gift of grace and are made co-heirs of eternal life. This thought colors our whole perspective on life. We want to hold this truth tight to our hearts. In thanksgiving we look at the wisdom God has shown in laying out how this world should operate, and we see his ways as blessings that we want to embrace to the fullest. That’s the new man in us. All would be wonderful if we could stop there.

The old man in us, the one whom is by nature an enemy of God, keeps butting in to mar that picture.

However, the old man in us, the one whom is by nature an enemy of God, keeps butting in to mar that picture. He complicates how we see God’s design and has wrecked things so badly it is hard to visualize how God’s plan could ever play out in our lives. Through our baptism we continually try to drown that old man, but he keeps popping up over and over.

One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to make us feel superior—or at least equal—to God. He used this one on Eve, and we know where that led. Satan knows that Scripture means much to us, so he tells us that to understand some passages, like the words of Galatians above, we must use our logic. He says, “Yes, God gave you unique callings in the beginning, but this passage says there is no difference between males and females, so everyone is the same now. The unique callings have been done away with. Besides, that concept is so outdated.” WHAT? God says we’re all equal in salvation, but this passage from Galatians doesn’t say anything about the unique callings that we have been given.

Our society makes it particularly hard to continue to cling to the difference in callings based on gender that God tells us when the script constantly harps on equality. In the church, women can do the same work as men and anyone who says differently is misogynistic and outdated. In our country, men can be women and women can be men, all because they say it makes them feel better. In so many places the message is that super women run the world and men are only needed for procreation. In popular cartoons and sitcoms, men are made out to be buffoons and given no respect.

In a world with such a perverted view of men and women, we lose our identity as the blood-bought children of God. Our wealth (or lack thereof), our career, our social standing become our identity and the source of our fulfillment and desires. Where is God when we worship the created instead of the Creator? Where is our peace, our fulfillment as an heir of salvation? It gets lost in the clutter.

Instead of letting Satan do away with the unique callings that God has assigned to his men and women, we can revel in them and see them as a great blessing.

Instead of letting Satan do away with the unique callings that God has assigned to his men and women, we can revel in them and see them as a great blessing. Men are told to be the head; the one who controls the rudder of life; the one who loves others totally, unconditionally, and sacrificially as Christ loves his church; the one who was created for this purpose. That’s a tall order, but it’s very possible with God himself as the example and the One who empowers men to carry out this calling of head.

Women are told to be his interdependent and complementary partner submitting to his direction. Our world, again, keys off the word “submit” to make it ugly and demeaning. Is anything from God ugly and demeaning? Absolutely not! Genesis 2:18 tells us “It is not good for man to be alone.” Women have been created to complement the thoughts and ways of the man. Women can find this calling very difficult, but living out this calling is also very possible and fulfilling with Jesus as the example and the One who frees women to carry out this calling of helper. Jesus submitted to his Father and suffered and died for the unworthy—for me. Praise be to God for his submission.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about what it means to you to “fit into” the calling that God has given you. What are some aspects of God’s designated calling that bother you?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, when you created me you also gave me a calling that should guide my life, but Satan continually attempts to attack us and drive a wedge between me and you. Send your holy angels to help me fight those battles that I may remain your blessed child. Send your Holy Spirit to be with me that I may grow in grace and knowledge of your Word. Help me overcome what the world tells me about myself as I meditate on what you tell me. I come to you in the name of Jesus, my Savior and Redeemer, confident that you hear my prayer. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Trusting God’s Design – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 24, 2021

Trusting God’s Design

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Trusting God’s Design – June 24, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

To the woman [God] said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:6, 7, 16-19).

As a math professor, I’ve come to realize that my students sometimes have a hard time with certain concepts. They generally understand most of these concepts without too much difficulty. But they struggle with the reason that the concepts are important. Why does it matter whether they include a dx or not, when they’ll get the right answer either way?

Unfortunately, my students don’t have the necessary background to grasp why these concepts are indeed important. I, on the other hand, do comprehend their importance—because I can see the whole picture. I know that although including a dx now doesn’t make any difference, it will be absolutely crucial in future classes. As much as I might try, though, I can’t explain that to my students right now. They lack the perspective to see what is coming.

What do I do? I ask my students to trust me. I’m usually honest in telling them that they don’t understand now why these concepts are important. And it’s possible, depending on how many more math classes they take, that they’ll never learn about that importance. They just need to trust that I am leading them down the right path and emphasizing these concepts for a good reason.

Similarly, God sees the whole picture in a way that we cannot. His wisdom is absolute, and his creation was perfect, although it is now marred by sin. We can always trust that he has our good in mind, even though that’s sometimes hard to see—especially when it comes to various facets of the unique callings of men and women.

Looking At the Positives

Sometimes, living out our helper calling is hard and uncomfortable. It can feel inferior, restrictive, of lesser worth and value. There is plenty of baggage associated with the word “helper,” and we’ll explore that more fully in a couple of weeks. We’ll also be talking in more detail about the purpose for which Eve was created. For now, remember that Eve was created for Adam and from Adam to be his perfect partner and helper.

Although our sinful nature might try to convince us otherwise, the point isn’t that Adam was more important because he was created first. Nor is the point that Adam was to rule over Eve in a dictatorial way. No, the point is that God gave Adam and Eve unique callings in order to bring order to his newly created world, to foster and cultivate the relationships that exist among all living things, and to enable Adam and Eve to carry out his command of filling the earth and subduing it. When we focus on these positives, it’s easier to understand our unique calling as women and our place in God’s creation.

God gave Adam and Eve unique callings in order to bring order to his newly created world, to foster and cultivate the relationships that exist among all living things, and to enable Adam and Eve to carry out his command of filling the earth and subduing it.

That’s not enough to fully put the issue to bed for many of us, though, and we’ll continue to work through those feelings and concepts over the course of this devotional series. Despite having thoroughly studied—and even written several academic papers on—the biblical principles involved with the unique calling of men and women, there are still plenty of times when I struggle with my helper calling. But as long as I am not actively rebelling—as long as I am not giving in to my sinful nature—those struggles are OK for me to have, and they’re OK for you to have too.

Dealing With Other Imperfect People

Women aren’t the only ones who struggle with their helper calling. Sometimes men also have a hard time faithfully living out their own unique calling of head. That’s a whole other topic for a whole other devotional series, but it would be disingenuous to write a devotion on struggling with our callings without at least mentioning the subject. Every situation is different, and so there are no helpful blanket statements, no specific lists of “dos” and “don’ts” when dealing with a man who is not fulfilling his role of head. However, some general thoughts may be helpful.

Every situation is different, and so there are no helpful blanket statements, no specific lists of “dos” and “don’ts” when dealing with a man who is not fulfilling his role of head.

In the home, a husband and father can abdicate his responsibility and fail to act as the spiritual head of his household. In this situation, wives are first called to support their husband and encourage him to take this spiritual responsibility, offering this support in whatever way is appropriate for their marriage and relationship. If a husband still fails to take spiritual responsibility for his family, then a wife is called upon to take on that responsibility herself and make sure her children are being trained in the way of the Lord. This can be uncomfortable and difficult, and I don’t mean to minimize those difficulties. Instead, remember that it isn’t inappropriate for wives to step up and assume spiritual responsibility if their husband fails to do so.

In the church, it can also feel as though men are failing to step up and lead—especially when there are vacant board positions or when certain tasks just don’t seem to be getting done. Again, serving as an encourager is important here. If there’s someone you know who would be a perfect fit for a vacant position, say that to him. If there’s a way you can support those in authority and enable them to faithfully live out their callings, do so, especially by remembering them in your prayers.

Explaining Our Unique Callings to the World

Trying to explain the unique callings of men and women to those around us often seems like a battle that simply isn’t worth fighting. More often than not, we’ll be told that these callings are outdated and misogynistic, that they are demeaning to women, or that they are overly restrictive and inappropriate for today’s day and age.

But God’s original intent still stands, and we can trust in that intent even when the good and the blessings are hard to see.

When dealing with such comments, remember the theme that will be a constant throughout this summer devotional series: God established these callings to establish good order and to bring us blessings. The fall into sin made that much more difficult than it was in the perfection of creation. But God’s original intent still stands, and we can trust in that intent even when the good and the blessings are hard to see.

Since we are discussing applications, it’s also important to note that applications are not prescribed nor commanded by God. In particular, different congregations are organized and function in different ways because of different situations and different ministry circumstances. As long as congregations are organized and function in ways that are in line with the biblical principles, not all congregations need to apply these biblical principles in the same way. It is not wrong for congregations to differ from each other in practice as long as these practices—these applications—are faithful to the principles found in God’s Word.

We see God’s wisdom fully on display in his plan of salvation. From the first promise of the Savior in Genesis 3 to the fulfillment of that promise in a Bethlehem stable, from Jesus’ sinless life to his innocent death to his glorious resurrection on Easter morning, we can see God bring everything together perfectly to redeem a sinful and fallen human race.

And because we can trust God’s wisdom as it plays out in his plan of salvation, we can also trust this wisdom in all other aspects of our lives. In particular, although we can’t always see the full picture when it comes to our unique callings, we can trust that God designed these callings wisely and for our good. Although these callings have been tainted and tarnished by sin, they are still designed to bring us blessings—blessings that trump all the consternation and discomfort our unique callings sometimes bring.

For Further Reflection

  1. What blessings have you found in living out your unique calling?
  2. How well does everyone in your local congregation fulfill their unique callings? If there’s room for growth (and—because we live in a sinful world—there likely is), how could you help facilitate this growth?
  3. What conversations have you had with those outside the church regarding the WELS’ position on the unique callings of men and women? How were you able to witness to God’s wisdom even if the other person didn’t fully understand why these unique callings still exist in today’s “modern” world?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, Adam and Eve rebelled against you in the Garden of Eden, and the entire human race has been rebelling against you ever since. Forgive us when we resist the unique callings you have created for us. Bless our efforts to faithfully live out these callings in the home, the church, and the world, and give us the words to share the blessings associated with these callings to a skeptical and unbelieving world around us. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Changed But Not Set Aside – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 22, 2021

Changed But Not Set Aside

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Changed But Not Set Aside – June 22, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

To the woman [God] said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:6, 7, 16-19).

Last week, we read about that which was “very good”: man and woman created in the image of God and fashioned as complementary beings—beings intended to work together to benefit all of creation. How long did this “very goodness” last? In terms of time, we don’t know for sure, although many Bible scholars speculate a shorter rather than longer timeframe. In terms of literature, the answer is clear: just two chapters.

The beauty, perfection, and life of Genesis 1-2 gave way to the ugliness, sin, and death of Genesis 3.

The beauty, perfection, and life of Genesis 1-2 gave way to the ugliness, sin, and death of Genesis 3. Instead of faithfully living out her unique calling of helper—a calling we will examine more closely in a couple of weeks—Eve took on Adam’s role of headship. She saw, she took, she ate, she gave.

We dare not place all the blame on Eve; her abandonment of her calling is certainly not the only sin committed in Genesis 3 nor the only reason evil came into the world. But she did sin by abandoning her calling, and consequences ensued—both for Eve and for all women of all time. No longer would Eve’s unique calling be solely a source of blessing. No longer would she joyfully live out this calling in perfect harmony and contentment. Now she would struggle against this calling and experience trouble and anguish because of it.

We also dare not insinuate that Eve was the only one who stepped out of her unique calling. Where was Adam in all of this? He was there. He was with Eve. Rather than being the head, the one providing direction and guidance, he instead followed and took what Eve gave. Adam too took on a role that was not his, he too sinned in this way, and he too would experience consequences. No longer would Adam’s calling as head be well-received or easy to exercise. No longer would his headship be absolute over the world that God had created and called him to rule. Now even the soil would turn against him.

But in the midst of all the ugliness, sin, and death found in Genesis 3, there’s also beauty, redemption, and life: forgiveness for Adam and Eve’s sin and the first promise of the coming Savior. God forgave Adam and Eve for abandoning their unique callings just as he forgives us for the times we abandon our unique callings.

God forgave Adam and Eve for abandoning their unique callings just as he forgives us for the times we abandon our unique callings.

And because of this forgiveness, we are motivated to give thanks for our unique callings—callings that are marred and broken by sin, but callings that are not erased or set aside. Because of this forgiveness, we strive to live within these callings in our lives. Stick with us throughout this summer as we explore more deeply what living within our unique callings looks like in various situations and aspects of life.

One final closing reminder is beneficial—a reminder you’ve heard many times before, but a reminder that your sinful nature needs to hear again and again. There’s one more thing that the fall into sin did not change: Adam and Eve’s equal status before God. Their relationship with God certainly changed, as did their newfound need for a Savior. But their equality in God’s sight did not change. Both Adam and Eve remained dearly loved children of God.

As Christian men and women, we too share that equal status before God: adopted sons and daughters, heirs of his promise, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession. Sin prevents us from fully appreciating that status on this side of heaven, but it doesn’t prevent us from giving thanks for the love God continues to show to us; for Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection that once again makes us right with God; and for the Holy Spirit bringing us to faith so that one day we too can enjoy the perfection that Adam and Eve were blessed to experience at the very dawn of time.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about how sin affects the way you live out your unique calling. What struggles do you deal with because of sin? What Scripture references can you turn to for strength and comfort when you are in the midst of these struggles?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, sin entered the world through one man, but we too suffer the consequences of sin in every aspect of our lives, including in living out our unique callings. Give us confidence when we doubt, strength when we are weak, and forgiveness when we fail. When we are tempted to set aside our unique callings, show us how these callings are still intended to bring blessings, even in the midst of a sin-darkened world. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Living God’s Design – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 17, 2021

Living God’s Design

by Naomi Schmidt

Ongoing Discussion – Living God’s Design – June 17, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”
God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27, EHV)

In a sinful world, the pursuit of living God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image will always fall short of the holy design God intended for his people.

  • Where God has created equal value and loving unity, we question whether God’s design is really a good gift.
  • Where God has created an interdependent partnership of one man and one woman, sin works to degrade the design and make it seem dysfunctional.
  • Where the gospel compels us to live with love and unity, sin blurs and chafes against distinctions where we have separate callings.
The Goodness of the Gift

In the beauty of the Garden, there is never a question of equality. As we seek to grasp God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image, our fallen minds struggle to understand its perfection. We fight the temptation to feel belittling separation, jealous division, or prideful ranking in the order of God’s holy creation. The design of one image that embraces absolute equality in the breadth of humanity is more than we can even imagine.

The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Men and women serve together in an interdependent partnership.

The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory.

In this setting, there is more than equality. There is an essence of unity.

But unity doesn’t mean uniformity.

The design is different. One man. One woman.

For six days, every step of creation revealed a brilliant design, a holy plan, and an intentional purpose. Every unique, interdependent piece was perfect. The precision of the solar system, the ecosystems in nature, and the interdependence of men and women all followed patterns set by God. Before sin entered the world, God created orderly interdependence for the benefit of humanity.

So, when sin destroyed the perfection of creation, were the plan and design nullified or made worthless? No. But like sand poured into a complex gear, our sinful nature grinds against God’s gift of order, and the design doesn’t work as he intended. Humanity gnashes in fear, pride, unwillingness, rebellion, and ignorance. Only the Holy Spirit can wash away the grit of sin and enable us to glimpse the beauty of the design.

And what do we see with eyes of faith?

A fully functioning, engaged, united body of Christ that embraces masculinity, femininity, and holiness. Are there callings, plans, and order? Absolutely. These do not bind the body of Christ. These gifts help us move toward a life that reflects God’s design and holy image. The design is for our benefit—the image we bear is a witness to the world.

We start learning about the design of creation by accepting that it is good. It is intended to be a blessing, so we start with trust in the Creator and his plan.

The Flawless Design

So here we are in the 21st century.

There are tremendous challenges which cannot be solved in a sinful world. But let’s start the conversation by looking back to the Garden and remembering one man, one woman, and one image.

We live in a society that resists the ideas of masculinity, femininity, and Christianity. As we reflect God’s image to the world, the way we live gives evidence of God’s plan that men will be men—and women will be women.

  • Masculinity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
  • Femininity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
  • Men treat women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.
  • Women treat men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
  • Men treat other men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
  • Women treat other women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.

Society and the evil heart of humanity will challenge this godly thinking every step of the way. But as believers, we pursue these biblical goals. We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings. It is our joy to live with this attitude because we trust the Creator who made the plan. We see it with eyes of faith.

We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings.

The world does not see the Creator or the design given by God in love. The world is limited to its own morality, human wisdom, and personal desires for guidance. There is no foundation, framework, or guide for life. Humanity can only look to itself for a solution and rebels against God’s design in search of self-redemption and personal fulfillment. Humanity is helpless to understand the real problem or figure out a solution for sin.

God’s solution is beyond what humanity could ever imagine. It is Jesus. But the mystery of the gospel must be revealed by the Spirit and cannot be found apart from his Word.

Enter the witness of believers.

We need to understand why it is so important for us to live according to God’s design. Is our obedience to the design merely a yoke of the law intended to limit our gifts? It cannot be. Is its purpose to point to the line with a shaking fist? No. It is meant to help us thrive within the design with rich love and selfless encouragement. It brightens our witness with joy, love, and fulfilled purpose as we point to Christ.

Love for the goodness of the design does three things.

  • It glorifies and honors God as we do his will.
  • It blesses believers and the church because we are living according to God’s design.
  • It is a witness that stands out in the world. It points to the goodness of the Lord as we appreciate and model masculinity or femininity. The unity, sacrifices, and respect we show each other stand in sharp contrast to a world that does not know God’s love.

How do we live this? Is our first priority the pursuit of godly masculinity and femininity? Do we rush to the design to seek “one man” and “one woman”?

No.

We seek the image of the Designer before we pursue the image of his design.

We bow in humility before the one who lived it perfectly on our behalf. We reverently strive to reflect the image of the Creator God. His grace compels us to love, honor, and embrace the design. As we learn and grow with open and humble hearts, “one man” and “one woman” will flow from our renewed spirit and transformed mind.

One image.

One man. One woman.

Gospel Motivation

Through the power of Christ, we are compelled to love and unity. Through the clarity and truth of the Word, we are equipped for Christian living. Gifted as men and women, we partner in sharing the gospel of Christ.

But every morning our eyes open to a darkened world where life’s problems are complex and simple solutions don’t exist. The gears are gritty, and life is messy. Blame and resentment echo loudly from the Garden. Blood continues to be spilled because of sin despite the one atoning sacrifice. Sin has ruined everything.

What is your response? Apathy with acceptance that the world will not be fixed? Set your sights on heaven and wait it out? Or perhaps you prime your power washer and let it loose.

God’s solution is an anointing with the oil of joy. He washes the sin away and fills us with desire, wisdom, and hope through the Word and sacraments. Grace compels us to keep in step with the Spirit as we walk through life. Unity connects us as one body of Christ that reflects God’s image. Self-sacrificing love looks to the good of others and builds the body. Believers are interested and invested in helping others use their gifts in kingdom work.

One image is radiant.

And an amazing thing happens. Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced. They work together. His love, redemption of souls, and divine design are radiant in believers—highlighted with beams of light that are distinctly male and distinctly female.

Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced.

We all share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The Holy Spirit unites us as God’s holy people. Just as we look for ways to share the gospel, we also look for ways to encourage the unique opportunities women have to be godly women. We praise God for the times that men can be witnesses of God’s plan for men. Our godly desire is to help one another use every gift, quality, and characteristic in a way that reflects God’s holiness. Some of that service will be uniquely feminine or uniquely masculine but it will always reflect the holiness of God.

One image.

One man. One woman.

For Further Reflection

  1. Aside from corporate worship, how do Christian men and women express or demonstrate unity and equality with one another?
  2. What glimpses of God’s image give evidence of his design for men—or for women?
  3. What do you appreciate about godly men or godly women? How can you express that to one another or encourage others in that way?

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, what a beautiful image you have won for us. Your holy life demonstrates perfect love for souls, compassionate kindness, and justice that is completely righteous. Your holy death tore open the veil of sin that separated us from God, and now you dwell within us. Let the purity and beauty of your image pour from our lives in thoughts, words, and actions that honor you. Make us vessels of grace, reflecting all that is good. Open our eyes to see when we can honor your design with special opportunities to be godly men or godly women. Open our mouths to express appreciation for the godly men and women who live with us in the body of Christ. Help and compel us to build one another up, look to the interests of others, and work selflessly to enable others to serve. Let this be a witness of joy and light that comes from willing and humbled hearts. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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One Image – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 15, 2021

One Image

by Naomi Schmidt

Ongoing Discussion – One Image – June 15, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”
God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27, EHV)

It is so helpful when God says things twice.

In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” The repetition draws you to linger over the truth of God’s image given to humanity.

Then, in Genesis 1:27, God says it twice again, “God created the man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.” He makes his point pretty clear.

One man, one woman, one image.

After six days of creating galaxies, living creatures, and rhythms of sustenance, the moment came for the crown of God’s creation. The Triune God consulted with himself, crafted the first human being in his own image, and gave Adam the breath of life. The image gifted to humanity was a spiritual relationship where God’s thoughts, desires, and knowledge would be reflected in the single, precious race of humanity.

The image gifted to humanity was a spiritual relationship where God’s thoughts, desires, and knowledge would be reflected in the single, precious race of humanity.

Then, in his infinite wisdom, God led every wild animal and bird of the sky to Adam. As Adam named each creature, his need for a companion and counterpart was clearly evident. Adam experienced what God already knew: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The interdependent partnership of humanity was not complete until God designed woman from the side of man—and gave her his image. When God was done creating, humanity was complete. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

One man, one woman, one image.

And then they fell into sin, and the one image was shattered.

The precision and repetition of Scripture leave no doubt about God’s original and perfect design for humanity. In the sinless beauty of creation, Adam and Eve had a holy need for one another. God wanted each of them to be unique not just for marriage or procreation but because he knew that male and female together is “very good.” Men and women were fashioned to benefit all of humanity together. God wants us to embrace and celebrate the interdependence of male and female as part of his holy design. So as the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our faith and restore God’s image in our lives, what can we expect? A glimpse of the Garden.

One man, one woman, one image.

The harder question is, “What does that look like in a fallen world?” We yearn to understand and struggle to find the best way to reflect God’s one image as uniquely restored men and women. But God’s Word is clear—it is one image. First and foremost, it is the image of God: loving what is pure and right; desiring all things that are holy; thinking only about what is lovely, admirable, noble, true, and excellent. As we grow closer to the restored image of God, our lives will look more like those first moments in the Garden. Distinctly male. Distinctly female. Distinctly holy.

As we grow closer to the restored image of God, our lives will look more like those first moments in the Garden. Distinctly male. Distinctly female. Distinctly holy.

Spiritual growth does not move us toward a diminished distinction. Rather, it moves us toward the design. In that movement we intentionally live in spiritual unity and interdependence with some unique callings that are masculine or feminine—but always holy. We labor together serving one Lord with one faith for one purpose. We honor the Father of all who revealed his plan in perfect wisdom and holiness. We are the created beings who bear the image and design of the Creator.

One man. One woman. One image.

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about Christian character and/or the spiritual qualities that make it easier to embrace the unique designs and interdependence of men and women.

Closing Prayer

Lord God, the majesty of your creation is a mere glimpse of who you are—but it reveals you as a master designer and displays your love for humanity. You designed man and woman to bear your one holy image, and we humbly pray that you would strengthen us toward that goal. Help us understand when your image is to be uniquely displayed in men and women, and make that the desire of our hearts. Increase our wisdom and encourage us with the gospel as we reflect your loving image in a world that does not know you. Amen.

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Home, Church, World—What Applies Where? – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 10, 2021

Home, Church, World—What Applies Where?

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Home, Church, World—What Applies Where? – June 10, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Altar Guild member. Handbell choir director. AV volunteer. Professor. Department chair. Committee member. Friend. Neighbor. Student. This is only a sampling of my various vocations and the different roles in which I serve. And although your list isn’t the same as mine, I’m confident that you also use your God-given gifts and talents in a variety of vocations and roles.

In addition, there’s another calling that we have: God’s unique callings for men and women. Throughout this devotional series, we’ll be examining how these unique callings play out. Before looking more specifically at applications in various areas of life—including in the home, in the church, and in the world—it’s important to understand both how Scripture talks about these areas and how differing circumstances impact the way we live out our callings.

In the Home

It’s clear that our unique callings have application in marriage and in the home. God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, and he showed this “not goodness” to Adam through his naming of all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20). So God created Eve to be a helper for Adam, a role that she fulfilled in her vocation as his wife (Genesis 2:24). Through the establishment of their family and the population of the earth, Adam and Eve lived out their unique callings in the home and established a pattern for all of us as we also strive to live out these unique callings.

We also have significant guidance in the New Testament on how our unique callings play out in the home. Passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 are specifically addressed to husbands and wives. The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings. And as families are created, husbands and wives again have the opportunity to live out their unique callings in parenting their children and bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings.

That’s not to say that everyone’s home situation is going to look the same, however, and it would be disingenuous to imply that applying our unique callings to the home is easy. Unbelieving spouses, single-parent households, blended families—all of these create nuanced situations in which the application of our unique callings differs. And for those of us who are single—especially those of us who are single females—there’s yet another wrinkle to navigate in determining what our unique callings look like in our own personal home situation.

All that said, we do still know that our unique callings apply in the home. We know that wives are called to “submit” by putting themselves under their husbands, yielding to them, and supporting them as they carry out their role as the household’s head. Conversely, husbands are called to “love” their wives by reflecting a Christ-like sacrificial love, regarding their wife’s welfare ahead of their own, and showing this love not only in their words but also in their actions.

So yes, everyone’s home situation will look different. And yes, each individual husband and wife pair must prayerfully consider how to apply their unique callings to their own relationship and their own marriage. But there is no question that the guidance God gives through the inspired writings of Peter and Paul still applies to marriages today.

In the Church

Speaking personally, application in the church is the hardest for me to navigate when it comes to the unique callings of men and women—and, if I’m being honest, the hardest to accept. I’m sure I’m not alone in some of my struggles, struggles that we’ll explore throughout the course of this summer devotional series. What roles can a woman fulfill in the church? Can she usher? Lead or facilitate a small-group Bible study? Serve as a lector and read Scripture during the worship service? What about a woman who has been blessed with gifts of leadership? Can she carry out this leadership in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on teaching authoritatively (1 Timothy 2:11-12)?

And, regarding Paul’s writings on women in the church, how do we know that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 still applies today? Why don’t we consider it an outdated cultural relic similar to Paul’s directives on women covering their heads in worship (1 Corinthians 11:5-6) or keeping their hair long as a covering (1 Corinthians 11:15)? For that matter, what about single women? Is there any way for them to have a voice in the church while still respecting whichever Scripture passages might apply today?

Answering each of these questions could easily be a devotion in and of itself, and we will tackle many of these questions over the course of this series. For now, we again need to remember the difference between principle and applications. Biblical principles are timeless and still hold true—as they were originally written—even though we live in a world far removed in time and space from that original writing. Applications of these principles, on the other hand, can (and do!) change from time to time, from culture to culture, from situation to situation, from believer to believer.

In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles.

In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it is always a consideration that should be at the forefront of our minds when reading and studying Paul’s writings on the unique callings of men and women, especially as these writings relate to the church.

In the World

But what about in the world? In an unbelieving world that routinely rejects God’s Word and his plans for creation, that thinks of traditional gender roles as archaic and unenlightened, that encourages women to shatter the glass ceiling—in such a world, do the biblical principles surrounding the unique callings of men and women still apply?

Saying “yes” is not a popular answer; yet it is the answer that we must give. God does not have a separate will for Christians and another will for society, and therefore our topic extends to the world as well.

It is too strong to say that this “yes” needs to be qualified, but it does need to be understood properly. In the world—unlike in the church—we do not have the gift of being surrounded by the body of Christ. For many of us, we interact more often with unbelievers than with fellow Christians in our daily lives. There are multiple biblical principles at play in each of those interactions, and we need to consider how to properly balance and navigate those biblical principles—all while also striving to be salt and light to a world lost in sin and darkness.

We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way.

We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way. An action that causes one woman no pangs of conscience whatsoever may bind the conscience of another. A role that one woman assumes without any hesitation may bring consternation or discomfort to another. As long as both women are acting with biblical motivation, neither woman is wrong, and yet their applications of the same biblical principle look entirely different. Instead of giving in to our sinful inclination to judge, we should take the opportunity to have open and honest conversations on this topic—conversations that are always solidly based on God’s Word.

We are so grateful to be able to regularly have these conversations as a WELS Women’s Ministry team, and we’re looking forward to sharing the fruits of these conversations with you this summer. We also encourage you to have these conversations within your own sphere of influence. In your home, in your church, in your world, engage in open and honest dialogue on the biblical principles and their applications. Time spent in the Word is never time wasted, and we pray that your time spent with us on the unique callings of men and women might lead to more fruitful conversations—wherever those conversations occur.

For Further Reflection

  1. What does your own personal home situation look like? How do you live your unique calling in your home?
  2. Are you content with the way your church applies the unique callings of men and women? If yes, how can you support your church leadership as they continue in their application of this biblical principle? If no, where does your discontentment come from? Is it appropriate?
  3. What other biblical principles are at play in our interactions with an unbelieving world? How do you navigate these principles in your daily life?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, thank you for placing us in various roles and vocations within the home, the church, and the world. Guide us as we strive to faithfully apply your principles, and help us to view different applications as opportunities to engage in discussion and build others up rather than to gossip and tear others down. Bring us together as the body of Christ, and let all that we do be done to your glory. Amen.

 

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Intended to Bring Blessings – Reflections on Our Unique Callings – June 8, 2021

Intended to Bring Blessings

by Kristi Meyer

Ongoing Discussion – Intended to Bring Blessings – June 8, 2021
Listen as this spiritual conversation is taken to a deeper level in today’s ongoing discussion.

See series: Reflections on Our Unique Callings:Men, Women, and the Body of Christ

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).

In the midst of all things pandemic, you might have missed an anniversary last summer. On August 18, 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment and gave women the right to vote. One hundred years later, we live in a time and place where women enjoy unprecedented freedom. “Be all that you can be” doesn’t apply only to the US Army. Congresswoman, stay-at-home mom, CEO, astronaut, doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, engineer, and even vice president—never before have women had so many paths available to them.

When I tell people that I belong to the WELS, I commonly hear “That’s the church that doesn’t let women vote, isn’t it? Why would you, as a strong and independent female, belong to that church?”

And yet, there is often a sharp contrast between a society that offers seemingly endless possibilities for women and a church body where it can feel as though more doors are closed for women than are open. When I tell people that I belong to the WELS, I commonly hear “That’s the church that doesn’t let women vote, isn’t it? Why would you, as a strong and independent female, belong to that church?” Passages like 1 Corinthians 14:34 (“Women should remain silent in the churches…”) and 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…”) sound archaic and outdated to our modern ears. I’ll be honest: these passages tend to make me bristle, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this initial reaction to them.

But that’s not the intent of these passages, and that certainly wasn’t God’s intent in establishing unique callings for men and women. It’s so easy to forget why God designed men and women the way that he did. It was a design instituted in a perfect world at the very dawn of time, a design intended to maintain order in this newly created world, a design that allowed Adam and Eve to complement each other and work together as partners without any hint of superiority or inferiority in God’s eyes. In short, God established his design for men and women to bring them blessings.

Our world is no longer perfect, however, and this imperfection shows itself in all aspects of life—including in our rebellion against embracing and living out our unique callings. In the home, in the church, in the world, we may covet the calling we don’t have and fixate on what we can’t do. We might chafe against what feels at times like an outdated and misogynistic system—a system sometimes seems to stand in contrast to the world’s empowerment of women—and we are susceptible to losing sight of the blessings God intended to impart.

Our unique callings once again become a blessing rather than a burden, and we once again learn to balance the beauty of God’s design with its implementation in today’s modern world.

What’s the antidote to these sinful reactions? It’s simple yet profound: time spent in the Word. Careful study of the passages surrounding the unique callings of men and women reminds us anew of the perfection of God’s design—the design of our Father God, the one who loves us and who planned for our salvation from eternity. Our unique callings once again become a blessing rather than a burden, and we once again learn to balance the beauty of God’s design with its implementation in today’s modern world.

This devotional series is intended to guide and assist you in that journey of spending time in the Word. Throughout the summer, we’ll be looking at the unique callings of men and women through related but differing lenses. Each week, we’ll bring you two devotions: first, a devotion examining a timeless biblical principle—a doctrine that has remained constant since its verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit, a foundational teaching that is crucial to understand; and second, a devotion diving deeper into applications—specific ways in which these principles play out in our lives, ways that look different both from biblical times to now and from one modern situation to another.

Permit me one final note…we at WELS Women’s Ministry are incredibly excited about this devotional series. We are so thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts on the unique callings of men and women—thoughts of confessional Lutheran women, thoughts that are thoroughly grounded in and shaped by study of the Word. Our prayer for this series is simple: that it might be as beneficial for you as it has been for us. May God richly bless our journey together this summer!

For Further Reflection

Meditate on or write about your personal experience with the doctrine of the unique callings of men and women. How has this doctrine been a blessing to you? How have you struggled with it?

Closing Prayer

Lord God, all of your designs are intended to bring us blessings. Yet in a sinful world, we still struggle with some of these designs and fail to bask in the blessings you so eagerly desire to bring us. Keep these blessings in front of us as we study the unique callings of men and women. Through your Word, increase our understanding of and our appreciation for our unique callings, and help us always to use our various callings and vocations to serve you and those around us. Amen.

 

PROMO CODE

When you visit nph.net and purchase the Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life student workbook, you’ll also receive the Heirs Together downloadable leader’s guide FREE. Be sure to add both products to your cart, and use the code CALLINGS21 at checkout. Offer expires 9/15/21. Please note that only one discount code per order may be used.

Subscribe to receive Reflections on Our Unique Callings in your e-mail inbox.

Reflections on our Unique Callings is brought to you by WELS Women’s Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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