Saturday, November 15, 2014

Notes from Session #3 (Saturday) At Trailhead Church Fall 2014 Women's Retreat: Be Thou My Vision

Notes from the last session of our Trailhead Church Fall 2014 Women's Retreat. (For Session #1 - click here.)

Be Thou My Vision - Filling Our Vision With Jesus As We Love Each Other Well

[Before I type out the content of my notes, I want to let you know that our team of women's ministry leaders spent much time in prayer over the subjects we would be speaking on.  This session was particularly difficult to narrow down.  There are so many different directions a message on loving each other well can go.  I know that this is the direction that God wanted us to go.  It is not meant to condemn or discourage - but to point us to Jesus who loves us well!!  Remember, condemnation says you are not good enough, not ever.  Conviction is when the Holy Spirit puts pressure on one specific point that he wants you to address.  Don't be condemned!  Look to Jesus!  He does not condemn.]

I am so grateful and excited that this section follows our Friday night and Saturday morning sessions.
 Loving each other well begins by being in the Word and being in prayer.  We cannot discuss what God has for us in community without looking at Jesus.  How did He love those around him?  How does that inform how we are to love those around us?

Think about your closes relationships.  Give me some words to describe those relationships.  "Encouraging.  Fun.  Faithful.  Life-giving."
No one said what could also be the truth:  "Shallow.  Condemning.  Hard."

Before we look closely at how we interact, let's look at Jesus.  Read Philippians 2:1-8.
So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus is living out perfect community here.  Self-sacrificing.  Humility.  No rivalry.  No conceit.  Sacrificed to the point of death.  FOR US.

Now turn to John 13:4-17.  We see Jesus' self-sacrificing played out on a very personal level.
Jesus... rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"  Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand."

Steve [lead Pastor] spent two weeks talking about our foot washing God.  You can listen to those messages here.  Jesus humbly served in a beautiful precursor to His ultimate sacrifice which was on the cross.

Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 13.  I know!  We all panic - the marriage passage!  But it is NOT the marriage chapter.  This is the CHURCH chapter.  Paul is telling believers how to behave in the church.  In community.  In relationship.  Let's read it:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Did you see Christ in verses 1-3?  We see Christ in verses 4-7.  Let's specifically see him in light of the story of washing the disciple's feet.  We are going to compile John 13 and 1 Corinthians 13.  What would Jesus have said to those men as he served them?  What would he have thought?  Let's look at what Jesus did NOT say as he washed the feet of the men he had spent three years serving, loving and teaching.  (And since we are a room full of women, we are going to use "she" instead of "he".)

"Love is patient and kind."  > Jesus did NOT say:  "Boy, I am so tired of washing her feet!"
"Love does not envy or boast."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "I wish I had her sandles so my feet wouldn't be so dirty."  Or, "Good thing she has me to wash her feet!"
"It is not arrogant or rude."  > Jesus did NOT say:  "Wow!  Thank goodness I don't have her life!  She has the most disgusting feet!"
"It does not insist on its own way."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "I sure wish she would walk the way I tell her so that her feet wouldn't get so dirty."
"It does not rejoice at wrong doing."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "She is SO muddy.  Now everyone will see!"

But you know what?  Jesus didn't care about the disciples outward appearance.  He didn't care about how clean their feet were.  He cared about their hearts!  What does he NOT say about our hearts?

"Love is patient and kind."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "I am so tired of forgiving this woman!  She's a mess!"
"Love does not envy or boast."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "She would really be so much better off if she would let me clean her heart."
"It is not arrogant or rude."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "She is the worst!  She has the worst heart I have ever seen.  How ugly."
"It does not insist on its own way."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "Stop.  Sinning.  Now."
"It is not irritable or resentful."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "Sinful, sinful, sinful.  I am so tired of your wicked heart."
"It does not rejoice at wrongdoing."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "I knew it!  I knew your heart would mess up like that!  I told you so!"

Now let's look at how we respond to each other through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13.  But we cannot skip over verses 1-3.  Without love we are defeating our goals of true community.  If we serve and teach and help but show no love, we are offensive!  Destructive!  Dangerous!  Things are going to get pointed now...

Love is patient.  >  This is the hardest one!  We must learn to wait - not have our own time frame for our friends.  You may want a friend to change or grow.  But only the Spirit prompts change!  Can you patiently, lovingly wait and serve as your friend stumbles and struggles with sin.  Jesus is patiently, kindly waiting.  We must be slow to speak, even in those time.  Is the Spirit prompting me to speak?  Or is the Spirit working and asking you to be patiently silent?  Do not assume that it is your right or responsibility to point out a friend's sin.  Wait patiently.  Pray and wait patiently some more.  If the Spirit prompts, speak.  If the Spirit doesn't, be quiet.  Love is patient.

Love is kind.  >  Can you give a kind word when you feel mistreated?  You will be mistreated by a friend.  It is part of life.  Can we be kind even in this?  Not in our own strength.  And not without love.  And most definitely, not without prayer for yourself and your friend!

Here I want to take a second and talk about two things.  Often before we are kind to someone we make them earn our approval or our kindness.  This is the opposite of how Jesus loves us.  We are given love and acceptance freely.  We need to learn to give kindness freely - even to the one who hasn't earned it.  Kindness is a gift we give, not a payment for good behavior toward us.  And dignity!!  A friend posted a quote from a Huffington Post article:  "Jesus' love, even if it came with hard words, somehow always seemed and felt like love.  People were seen.  They were heard.  They were touched.  They were left with more dignity than when they started."  Ladies!  That article was written by someone who isn't even a Christ follower!  Do we reflect this Christ-like quality?  Do we offer dignity along with kindness?

Love does not envy or boast.  >  Oh ladies!  We DO envy and we do boast.  Some of us envy that we can't afford to eat all organic.  Some of us boast that we are married.  Some of us envy those who have children.  Some of us envy those who don't have children!  The list goes on and on.  All we can boast about is Christ.  And envy is so, so destructive.  When we do this, we mentally or even physically divide ourselves into groups.  Those who have and those who don't have.  Those who do and those who don't do any number of things.  We as women have divided ourselves into many splinter groups - married, unmarried, have kids, don't homeschool, eat healthy, love Twinkies.  Once we envy and boast we divide.  Once we divide we are unable to love and serve the body of Christ well.  I was us to glory in our differences.  Serve each other well.  Care for that person who has nothing in common with you.  Heaven will not have divisions.  Why do we have them now?  Spend time with people who are different from you.  Move outside of your comfort friends and get to know that person who has different circumstances but the same Savior as you.

Love is not arrogant or rude.  >  The definition of arrogant is "having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities.  Friends, some of us need to practice the 5 question rule!  You cannot say anything at all about yourself until you have asked 5 questions about the person you are speaking to.  We find it too easy to talk about ourselves, our abilities and importance.  The definition of rude is "offensively impolite, ill mannered."  I think that speaks for itself!  Jesus was never ill mannered.  Was his message offensive?  Yes!  The Gospel, the Truth, is offensive to some.  But Jesus has called us to be lacking in rudeness.  Think you might be rude?  Ask your friends.  They'll tell you if you ask in humility.

Love does not insist on its own way.  >  Are we building kingdoms of people we have recruited to our ways?  Or are we seeking to point others to Jesus only?  Never say:  Be like me!  I don't care how healthy or organized or educated you are!  We are redeemed not to achieve earthly perfection, but for the glory of God!
[For your benefit here - I had to confess that just one paragraph up I had asked people to follow a rule I had.  The 5 question rule.  We laughed that I was saying don't ask people to be like me but was also telling people to do something I have done.  My apologies.]

Love is not irritable or resentful.   >  Have you ever had someone resent you?  Or show you how irritated they are with you?  How painful!  Jesus calls us to lay aside that frustration and speak words of lovingkindness.  We should not give ourselves the freedom to be short, or even sarcastic!  Be careful with your sarcasm.  Sarcasm is defined as "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt."  Yuck!  When Steve and I first got married we fell into the habit of shooting sarcastic barbs at one another.  All in good fun, right?  But soon my mom had to point out that we were continually cutting each other down in the name of humor.  And we weren't very pleasant to be around, much less seen as two people who actually cared for one another in a loving and kind way.  Ouch!  But it was so true.  Be careful how you use your sarcasm and just where you point that mockery and contempt.

Love does not rejoice in wrong doing.  >  Oooh!  We do not often see someone who rejoices when a woman sins.  That isn't our typical issue.  What do we do?  We pull out the sledgehammer of truth!  Ladies, let me caution you.  If you see someone in sin - unless the Spirit has given you the right to speak, unless the Spirit is calling you to speak, you better keep your mouth closed!  And if you cannot speak that truth without speaking softly, gently, in love, then you have to right to speak at all.  Keep quiet.  If you cannot speak without getting angry, keep quiet.  Notice, it says but "rejoices in the truth"!  Joy.  Truth spoken with love, in gentleness, brings rejoicing.  Do your words bring rejoicing?

And finally - LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS.  LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS.  LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS.  Our hope is in Jesus, not our own words or actions or deeds.  Love does endure all things - by keeping our eyes on Jesus!

I want to close with a few verses out of a book my mom gave me when I got married.  So long ago!  It is from IF, by Amy Carmichael [another blog about that book here].  The verses are poetry.  She uses the phrase "then I know nothing of Calvary love" which is used as a contrast for our actions.  Obviously we do know about Calvary love and we are recipients of that grace.  So just listen,  keeping our eyes on Jesus for his grace and mercy and continued growth.

Love is patient:
"If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
Love is kind:
"If I have not compassion on my fellow-servant even s my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love does not rejoice at wrong doing:
"If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any:  if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love does not insist on its own way:
"If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love is not arrogant:
"If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Let's refocus.  I am not speaking condemnation.  In Christ Jesus we are not condemned.  But we are called to fight the good fight - to struggle together.  We want to be those strong pillars from Psalm 144.  We are called to be women of the Word, to be women of prayer and to be women who love well.
Psalm 144:12  "May our daughters by like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Notes from Session #1 (Friday) at Trailhead Church Fall 2014 Women's Retreat - Be Thou My Vision

We did not record our first session at the women's retreat... so I have been asked to type out my notes.  For what it's worth...

Be Thou My Vision, Session #1 - Filling Our Vision with Jesus by Being Women of the Word

If you were at the last women's breakfast you will have heard me share this verse.  It is my hearts desire for us as women.
Psalm 144 is a Psalm of battle, or war.  David is speaking.  Verses one and two read:  "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge..." That sets the tone.  Then we move down to verse 12:  "May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, and our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace..."  THIS is my desire for every woman in this room.  I think we talk often about being strong.  But it is in the context of relationship - to men or friends or students or government or our children.  But when we really dig into the Word of God we see where that strength comes from and what it is in relation to.   Turn to Psalm 1.  Verses one through two:  "Blessed is the man (woman!) who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers but his (her!) delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night."  This is where true strength is grown - in the delighting and meditating on the Word of God.  And when we do that we will see what happens.  See verse three.  "He (She!) is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he (she) does, she prospers."  This delighting and meditating produces a strength that yields fruit and does not wither and prospers.  This is our desire.  This what we are praying for this weekend.  So - let's dig in!

From Psalm 1 we wee that strength comes from delighting in the Word, from meditating on the Word.  What is there in this Bible, in the Scripture for us to know - to meditate on?  We must start with a good beginning.  I highly recommend that you listen to Steve's second message from the Great Adventure series.  (Click   We were given a clear view of the story arc of Scripture.  This is a story.  We have a story telling God.  It speaks of creation and rebellion and promise and redemption and mission and restoration.  This is the story of God.

It is NOT the story of us.  Matt Chandler has one of my favorite quotes:  "The Bible is about Jesus.  It isn't about you.  You're in there but your part is not attractive."  So true.  But we often choose to ignore this fact.  We need to wrap our brains around the fast that this is the Word of God - Jesus (the Logos of John 1).  We are called to know Him.  To study Him.  This book, the Bible, boldly and clearly reveals God on every page!

So many of us as Christ followers spend our time longing to be Christ like.  Our goal is to be transformed into the image of God.  Jen Wilkin says:  "It has been said that we become what we behold.  I believe there is nothing more transformative to our lives than beholding God in His Word.  After all, how can we conform to the image of a God we have not beheld?"  So often we spend our time in the Word beholding ourselves.  Who am I?  What should I do with my life?  When we come to the Word with these two questions we are making the Word centrally about us and how we feel - not who God is.  Our hearts and our emotions are important - but we need to use our brains to dig deep into this Word and study our God.   Our hearts cannot love what our brains don't know.  And in learning and love the Word we are transformed as Christ followers.  We sometimes go through our day meditating on us in the Word.  I want to encourage you to study GOD in the Word.  It is how He reveals Himself.

Let's say I have a friend.  I love her dearly.  I talk about her all the time.  But I never let her speak.  Ever.  Would I really know this friend?  Would I know her heart?  No!  In order to speak on her behalf I would have to construct a whole identity for her - a context and personality and likes and dislikes.  I could construct something - but it would likely be false.  Do I do this with God?  I can confess to love him.  But, if I do not let Him speak for Himself and study what He has to say about Himself and His story, then I have to construct my own version of Him and His story.  How awful would that be?  To speak for the God of this universe?  Especially when He has given me a beautiful resource in which He has revealed Himself.  I must let God speak for Himself, reveal Himself.

 And I can take joy in the words he uses to reveal Himself.  Jeremiah15:16 says: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts."
Colossians 3:16 says to "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly..."  Psalm 119:2 "Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole hearts."

So... who are we seeking?  Read Isaiah 6:1-5.  Put yourself there in the temple with Isaiah.  Be overwhelmed with God's glory.  "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings;  with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:  'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said:  'Woes is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'"

This is who we study.

[At this point I asked all the women to stand for reading of the next passage of God's Word.  Often we lose sight of who our God is.  Let's remind ourselves.]

Revelation 19:6-16  [And maybe I got pretty emotional when I read this out loud...]
"Then I hear what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' for the linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  And the angel said to me, 'Write this:  Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'  And he said to me, 'These are the tru words of God.'  Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, 'You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God,'  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothes in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." The Word of the Lord

Take a moment - since you are reading.  Read it again!

Now - we are going to get practical.  How are you doing studying the Word of God.  Jen Wilkins in her book talks about some different ways we study.  Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • Letting the wind pick the passage!  I actually did this last month while trying to decide what to speak on tonight!  Not a good idea.  Ever.
  • "Xanax approach" - from Women of the Word - Using the Bible to address our issues.  I am anxious I will read Philippians 4:6.  I am tired so I will read Matthew 11.  I am feeling ugly so I will read Psalm 139.  Sure, there is a time for each of these readings... but this cannot be how we study continually.  Remember, the Bible is the complete story of God - we are not the center.
  • "Magic 8 Ball" - again from Women of the Word - I have questions.  I have a problem.  I need a yes or a no from Scripture.  Then I find a passage about ME!
  • Telephone Game - This is where we rely on what other people are learning in the Word.  Other people read it, study it, digest it, and then feed us.  Ms. Wilkin writes:  "We're called to love the Lord our God with all of our mind, not John Piper's mind."  Hilarious!
What ways have you studied the Word of God before?  There are lots! 

Let's look instead at four ways we can effectively study the Word of God.  Four ways that will help us to be those strong women spoken of in Psalm 144.

Four Questions -  From The Journey (St. Louis) and SOMA (Tacoma, WA)

  1. Who is God?  When we study God’s word, we always want to start with God himself. Write in your journal what you see in the passage about God and his character.
  2. What had He done?  God’s character is often expressed in his actions. What do we see God intending and doing in the passage? Write it down in your journal.
  3. Who are we?  The Bible reveals the people were made in God’s image, and so our identity is rooted in and derived from who God is. We also learn that people have rebelled against God, and so we are identified that way too. Write in your journal what we learn about people as rebels against God, but even more importantly, write about what we learn about what people are made to be as image bearers of God.
  4. What are we to do?  How does this passage call us to trust God to empower us to change in response to who he has created us to be and to how he is changing us into the image of Jesus? Write it down in your journal. Note: some Christians would call this the “application”, but because it is rooted in God’s character and actions first and foremost, rather than in our morality or self-righteousness, we try to avoid that word and it’s Christian sub-cultural implications.
Analytical Study Method
Choose a section of Scripture.  Begin broadly  by getting an overview of the book you have chosen.  Read your passage carefully and repeatedly.  Understand the context of the chapter then narrow your focus to the paragraph you have chosen.  Within that paragraph focus on one verse, then possibly even one phrase or word that peaks your interest and speaks to you.  Consider using Bible dictionaries and commentaries to expand your understanding of the passage.  Often it is helpful to spend days or even weeks in the same chapter to delve into the meanings of words and phrases within the context of your chosen paragraph, chapter and book.  Always being mindful of  what God is revealing about himself and how the passage fits into the overall story arc of Scripture.

  • ROAD - From the Journey (St. Louis)
    There are many different methods for reading the Bible. This one is fairly simple: It’s called R.O.A.D. journaling. The acronym R.O.A.D. contains the directions. We encourage you to actually write down your thoughts (ie journaling) if you use this method. Here’s the meaning of the acrony
    • R (Read)  Pray for understanding, then read through the text slowly and deliberately. If you have time, read the text twice.
    • O (Observe)  Observe the details of the text and try to understand what the author is saying. For example, pay attention to things like: facts (Who? What? When? Where? Why?), repetition, contrast, cause and effect, definitions, explanations, questions, quotations, commands, prohibitions, warnings, promises, etc.
    • A (Apply)  Answer two questions: What do I hear God saying in this text? What am I going to do about it?
    • D (Depend)  Pray for continued understanding, trust, and obedience. Ask God’s Spirit to help you apply these truths to your life right now. As the Spirit leads, feel free to praise God, confess and repent of sin, embrace God’s grace, etc.
  • The Five P’s from Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
    Study with PURPOSE
    • Understand where your text fits into the Big Story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration
    Study with PERSPECTIVE
    • Understand the “archeology” of your text (its historical and cultural context)
    Study with PATIENCE
    • Resolve not to hurry; set a realistic expectation for your pace of study, focusing on the long term
    Study with PROCESS
    • Begin methodically reading for comprehension, interpretation, and application
    Study with PRAYER
    • Ask the Father to help you before, during, and after your study time 

Now, in closing let's read Ephesians 3:14-20  This is my prayer for us.  This is how we become strong women!  
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.  The Word of the Lord