Saturday, September 22, 2012

My "True Woman" Experience

I am sitting in a hotel room right now, unable to attend the final session of the True Woman conference because I woke up with a locked back that will let me move only tiny bits. On this day especially I wanted to be at this conference, to be surrounded by other Christian women praising our Lord. Today is the 7th anniversary of my dad entering Glory and I just want to feel close to him today. While disappointed, I am still completely overwhelmed by what God has already shown me this weekend. I arrived at the True Woman '12 conference Thursday morning for the leadership pre-session and sat at a table of strangers. Some were fellow pastor's wives, some ladies ministry leaders, and others leaders of other ministries. As we shared around the table a little bit about ourselves and we all answered questions about our lives and ministries, I was met with the ever familiar withered look from women that I get when I share that I own a salon, homeschool my kids, and run our ladies program at our growing church of almost 300 now. I've learned never to say those things all in the same sentence, but when women ask questions and put the pieces together, that's when they get a look of disbelief. Just a quick note here, when you respond to me with a withered stare and the comment "that's just too much, how can you do all that?" I immediately feel defeated and start to question if I'm doing something wrong. All I know is that I love my husband, I love my children, and God has put in me a deep desire to see girls and women grow in their walk with the Lord, beginning with myself. He has orchestrated situations and events in my life to get me to where I am today and I am right where He wants me. So, back to the conference! The leadership speakers revived in me the call of what I'm doing. Women have so many needs that go so much deeper than her hair color. When a woman sits in my salon chair, I'm not just there to give her a great cut. I'm there to listen to her, be a friend, give her godly counsel when necessary and point her to the savior. I can't meet every need, only God can. But, I can point a woman to the Truth. I can share my life with her, pray for her and with her, and teach the Word of God which is the ONLY book to live by. As I entered the evening main conference session on Thursday I felt good about myself, about what I do for the Lord. I won't go into detail out of respect for my family, but I found out on Thursday afternoon that we have just entered a very serious point of crisis and here I am at a conference all weekend torn between staying and toughing it out or heading home. Either way, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it and I came to this weekend to get alone with God and hear from Him, so I stayed. I went on to the first session even though I wanted to stay curled up on the hotel bed talking to God about this crisis. So, there I was in the session with 8,000 other women, feeling revived and quite proud of myself for making the decision to stay. (Pride goes before a fall). After a while they get to the "prayer experience" of the night. Oh boy, I was raised Baptist and this is usually the part where I say this is too charismatic for me and slip out, but this time I stayed, and it changed me forever. Every woman usher started to get up and grab this long paper linked chain (like the ones you'd make in grade school) and began carrying this thing all around the giant arena, wrapping several times over. The thing was huge! The man leading the prayer experience shared with us that this chain was made up of individual links, and every single link had the name of someone at this conference on it as well as a prayer for each one of us. He also shared with us that for MONTHS this chain has been being created and that each one of us has been being prayed over, NOT by pastors wives, NOT by churches, NOT by the staff (although they all prayed too), but by PRISONERS in a women's prison who had been spiritually free'd through salvation and they were praying that every woman at this conference would experience God's FREEDOM! You can imagine, I lost it right there. I can't even go into the experience I felt at that moment and the next hour as the tears wouldn't stop. They showed the LIVE stream of these women who were virtually joining the conference from their prison and I know that there were women at this conference locked inside their own prison who are a thousand times more captive than these women are. That opened our prayer experience and I can't do it justice to explain in words, but He led us 8,000 women through a time of scripture fed, spirit led, worship focused prayer that changed my entire view of prayer. Not only did God pull me out of my comfort zone as I prayed about personal things with a group of about 4 other strangers, but He showed me how to seek His face in prayer. As if that experience wasn't enough, God chose to use one of these complete strangers who I don't even know her name, to meet a need in my life this weekend. I will probably never see this woman again and she probably doesn't even know the magnitude of what she did for me, but God was speaking to me. He let me know in a VERY REAL way that He is right here with me. I "know" this truth and trust completely that He will never leave me or forsake me. God has given me many experiences over the years that have developed in me the knowledge of His faithfulness, but none through the broken, raw experience of truly seeking His face in prayer like this. I know I'm a Baptist and writing this out all makes it sound so emotional, touchy-feely, and may make you uncomfortable. To that I say shame on US for living for so many years with such a cut-and-dry belief about prayer that we forget how big our God is and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. I've been struggling for weeks over how to go about teaching a Bible Study on prayer to our ladies this fall and God graciously gave me my answer this weekend. Friday was amazing too and my heart is so overflowing with truth that I am still processing it all and I am sure it will come forth as future blogs because the heart can only pour out so much in one setting. :o)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Call to Holiness

I Peter 1:13-16 says "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'." I posed two questions on Facebook this week to begin thinking about this passage. The first question was "do you agree or disagree with the statement 'the closer you get to being holy the more you realize how far you are from being holy'?" The second question was "how does the passage above affect your view of holiness, what does holiness look like, and can it be achieved on this earth?" A little bit of background is necessary to understand where Peter is coming from and where he is going with this passage. (Remember to join us beginning September 23 as we go through the rest of I Peter,II Peter, and Jude.) Peter is writing to those gentiles who had chosen to turn from their wickedness and put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He knew that they were used to living a certain way and that they needed to be taught about God's holiness and what was expected of His children. He begins by telling them to get ready! "Gird up the loins of your mind" is a reference to getting prepared for action. We cannot go into battle without being mentally prepared and physically prepared, and we cannot go into spiritual battle without also being spiritually prepared. I cannot say enough how extremely important it is to be in God's word, studying it, memorizing it, APPLYING it and OBEYING it! We have to let it sink in, shape us, and change us. Equally important is our prayer life. All throughout the gospel we see Jesus going off alone to pray, almost always right after and/or directly before a huge ordeal, including his praying in the garden right before the crucifixion. (The prayer life of Jesus is an amazing study too by the way). If Jesus (who IS God) had to spend hours at a time in prayer with God, how much more time should we be spending in prayer! We cannot fulfill the function in the next few verses if we aren't practicing getting prepared. Now we can move on to what Peter tells us in the rest of the passage. No longer are we to continue doing the things we did before salvation. Peter calls this former behavior our "ignorance" as it was the way of life before we knew Christ. Now that we have seen our need for a savior and have trusted in Christ to pay the price for our sins we are a child of God. Verse 14 calls us to a life of obedience, not one of conforming to our former way of life. We are not supposed to continue fulfilling our own lusts, we should replace that mentality with one of holiness according to the next line that says to be holy in ALL your conduct. God has called His children to a life of holiness, so it stands to reason that He would not command us to do something that isn't possible to do. True, complete holiness will only come in eternity in Heaven, but I firmly believe that we CAN achieve a life of GROWING holiness, continually getting closer and closer to the person God desires us to be. The most basic definition of holiness is to be set apart. Study scripture for even a little while and you will see that God wants His children to be different from the world. All through I Peter we are referred to as aliens, pilgrims, travelers through a strange land. We must remember that this world is NOT home for a believer. We are only here for a short time and we can either waste it by fulfilling our temporary pleasures, or we can fulfill our God given purpose and continually develop a life of holy living that is pleasing to God. Too often I hear people hide behind the truths of Grace in order to live in their sin. This is not at all what scripture teaches. A right understanding of God's grace WILL drive us to pursue a life of holiness. A false understanding....well, that's a whole other blog!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Sure Hope

I'm working on preparations for an upcoming Bible Study that I am leading. If you go to my Facebook page and view my posts you can join in the discussion! For those of you who are attending, we are actually beginning on the fourth week of this study. So, a lot of the discussion in the next several weeks will be on the first few lessons to prepare us to jump right in to lesson 4. Here are just a few initial thoughts to begin our journey through 1&2 Peter and Jude. Peter starts out his letter introducing himself and addressing the people he is writing to. His writings were to several specific groups of Christians, but an important note is that in verse 1 he refers to them as "pilgrims" or "elect sojourners", temporary residents, Christians who are living in a land that is not their home. In my opinion, this is a fundamental truth in the Christian's life. If you are born again through Jesus Christ then your home is Heaven and we are strangers on this earth. We are here for a specific purpose until we are finally able to go home. Understanding this seemingly simple fact will go miles in our ability to survive and thrive amid tough times. Verse 3 begins to talk about the "living hope" that God has so graciously given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. This hope is not a wishful thinking kind of hope. Some people "hope" that they are going to heaven. They "hope" that they have done enough good things to outweigh the bad, or that they might make it if they give enough money or pray hard enough. This is not the hope that God speaks of. It is a "LIVING hope", a "SURE hope", a looking forward to that I know I will be in Heaven when my time on earth is over because I am trusting in the promise that Jesus Christ has covered me with his blood when I accepted Him as my savior. The passage goes on in verse 4 and 5 to tell us our SURE hope is for an eternal inheritance in heaven to those of us who are part of God's forever family. It is THIS hope that verse 6 tells us to rejoice in when we find ourselves in the midst of difficult times, trials, and griefs. Did you know that the vast majority of Americans consider themselves to be "Christians"? Do you also know that a lot of those people have no idea the truth about what a Christian truly is? Being a good, moral person will not make you a Christian. Saying the "sinners prayer" when your a kid does not necessarily mean you're a Christian. You aren't born that way, you can't go through a church ritual to become one, and you can't buy it. It is only through REPENTANCE of our sins and ACCEPTANCE of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior that you can be saved. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 10:9) Now that we got that cleared up, let's finish up by looking at verses 6-7 of 1 Peter 1. "...though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith.....may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I left out the phrase in the middle for clarity, to show the thought process of why we go through trials. The middle phrase compares the trying of our faith to the refining of gold in a fire. The fire is there to remove impurities from the gold, to test it and shape it. Peter says that our faith is so much more precious than gold and when it's tested the truth (genuineness) of our faith will be made known. We endure trials now, and we maintain our sure hope and REJOICE in that Hope through our trials, knowing that one day we will be home. This is only scratching the surface of this Bible study. Can't wait to get into it!!