One Word: 2017

joy

For the past month, I’ve been up early nearly every morning, quietly reflecting, praying, thinking, reading about this past year and sitting in anticipation for what’s next. I’ve been looking back to remember God’s faithfulness and His closeness through this year. A few of us have made a practice of choosing one word for the year.

My word for 2016 was: with.

I wanted to focus on being with Jesus. I started this year with so much margin, needing time to rest and catch my breath after 2 years of intense ministry and seminary, and my soul craved slow, quiet, time with Jesus.

Immanuel, God with us.

I ended the year after a season of studying, writing, and teaching through Philippians in the midst of infertility treatments, hormone swings, the ups and downs of grief and failed treatments, and this time my soul needed Immanuel, God with us . . . with me.

I made it my aim to keep the main thing, the main thing: being with Jesus.

As the year ends, I’m thinking about what’s next. What will 2017 be about? I have dreams and goals, ideas and plans, of course. But how will I live on purpose this next year? How do I, as Jess Connolly said, “work from rest, instead of rest from work”? I want to stay living close to Jesus, with Him in work and rest, with Him through joy and suffering, with His yoke that is easy, His burden that is light. I want to know His unforced rhythms of grace.

I kept thinking about that word surrender. I want to live surrendered. Seems like after this last season of life, I have nothing left to do but surrender. I started to lean toward that word, making it my aim in 2017 until I realized, I wanted more. I wanted to live surrendered, but I also wanted to live beyond surrender. I wanted the life and life abundant, and I want it now! I know, I’m a greedy little taker.

Because the God I know promises us freedom is found in surrender, yes, but He also promises us abundance, hope, and JOY. We will not be free from suffering this side of heaven, so I wanted to learn how to live with JOY in the midst of suffering.

I studied Philippians for a good portion of 2016, and I found JOY in the midst of suffering. The apostle Paul and Jesus, two men who experienced more suffering on earth than most, and both had JOY. JOY didn’t come after the trial, it didn’t come when circumstances changed or the suffering lifted. It came right there in the midst of suffering. . . because true JOY is found in the presence of Christ.

JOY is found in surrender, in abiding, in delighting, in being with Christ.

I want that. More than anything I want a closeness and a fellowship with Jesus like never before. I want to sit with the Holy Spirit and be comforted and empowered to walk in His strength. I want to know the love of the Father in the deepest way.

I want JOY! And I know where to find it.

As I’ve moved on from Philippians, a study we titled “Joy in All Things”, and moved right into James, guess what I found?

Joy . . . and . . . suffering.

Right there, from the very beginning, another author telling us how to find joy—to consider it all joy, when we’re in trials.

There’s a mingling of suffering and joy, side by side, they dance together. So if we surrender to knowing we won’t escape suffering, than we can also surrender to knowing we’ll find JOY, right there in the midst. Joy in the presence of Jesus.

That’s what I want 2017 to be about.

 

 

 

Lent: Week 5 {Serving}

Little did I know when I planned on practicing a different spiritual discipline each week during lent, the discipline of serving would end up on the same week as Serve Fresno.  How perfect is that?  This time of year, many of the churches in our city come together to serve our city through different projects.  We unite as the Church to be the Church and serve the least, the lost, the broken, the underprivileged and more.

We love because He first loved us.  We serve because our King first came as a servant, to serve many.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45

The call to serve others is the natural overflow of the Christian life.  When we understand what Christ did for us on the Cross, our response to the Gospel is to love and serve others.  This week, the women from our bible study will be cleaning out their closets to give away clothes, shoes, and more to women in need in our city.  Women serving women through the basic necessity of clothing.  We will be delivering the clothing to several non-profits in town that work with women coming out of abuse, addiction, or incarceration.

If you want to serve with us, you can sign up here: Clothing Drive 

Serving is actually easier for me when it’s a planned, organized one time event.  I thought of it, I put it on my calendar, I know the start and end time. The places of service I struggle with the most are the small, daily, mundane places of service.  I forget that doing  dishes, or being interrupted with a phone call, or listening to someone in line at the grocery store (when I’m in a rush) is a place of service too.  Serving those who’ve hurt me or loving those that are hard to love seem to be the much deeper places of service that I can’t do without God’s help.

While we can muster up the strength to serve others, we know that right motives matter to Jesus, more than just right action.  Serving to feel good or look good is not the point of Christian service.  We serve for an audience of One.  We serve because Jesus served us by dying on our behalf.  It’s only when we serve out of an overflow of His love, that we can love the unlovable. Let’s let the Gospel influence our serving this week.  May it be done with thanksgiving and gratitude for all that’s been done for us.

As you focus on serving this week  . . .

How does seeing what Jesus did for us on the Cross influence the way you serve?

What needs do you see around you?  How can you respond to those needs?

Who in your life is hard to love?  How can you serve them this week?

How can you look to Jesus in times of struggle or grumbling when your serving?

Just for fun, who can you bring a meal?  Drop off a note?  Take a coffee?

Who can you serve through prayer?  Call them and let them know you’re praying for them!

How can you serve in secret?  Bless someone with a gift or leave a surprise on their porch, with no name?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ -Jesus (Matthew 25:35-40)         

What is Worship?

IMG_6458

In an article from Christianity Today, Delesslyn A. Kennebrew says, “Worship is not the slow song that the choir sings. Worship is not the amount you place in the offering basket. Worship is not volunteering in children’s church. Yes, these may be acts or expressions of worship, but they do not define what true worship really is. There are numerous definitions of the word worship. Yet, one in particular encapsulates the priority we should give to worship as a spiritual discipline: Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary). True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.”

In other words, worship is not about action or singing, but is a posture of heart. A heart that submits to God, a heart that reveres God, and a heart that honors God. While there are many expressions of worship (singing, dancing, praising, serving, standing in awe), worship first begins with devotion to the One True God.

To worship God means to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy.  -Donald Whitney

Our God desires us to worship in both Spirit and Truth. As Jen Wilkin says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know”. True worship is more than a feeling, though certainly not less. It’s a response to what we know. True worship starts with communion—fellowship with the Father, joy, knowledge, delight and gratitude for Who God is and what He’s done for us through Christ.

What is True Worship?

It’s giving our lives as an offering, a complete surrender to God and living in response to His love and mercy. It’s letting our heart be conformed to His; it’s letting our minds be transformed by Him.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

It’s standing in awe of God and magnifying Him to a world around you.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 43:3)

It’s serving because he served us.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

It’s love because He first loved us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
 
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

It’s singing because He’s put a new song in our mouth.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:3)

It’s celebrating, dancing, and praising because He has done a great thing!
“Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; 
Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150: 1-6)

It’s humility and adoration because He is exalted.
And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. (Revelation 4:8)

It’s forgiving because He forgave us.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

It’s calling out to Him because He called us.
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

It’s devotion because He will never leave or forsake us.
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

It’s breaking bread, giving thanks, and remembering the cup because His body was broken and His blood was poured out for us.

Worship is an overflow, an expression of understanding God and responding to Him. It’s loving Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s delighting in and desiring Him above all things. It’s our whole life being offered back to God because he gave His life for us.

This week, as we practice the spiritual discipline of worship, how can you meditate on Who God is and What He’s done? How can this knowledge of Him lead you into worship?

Other Resources:

The Cathedral Within by Sam Hart

Redefining Worship by Dorina Gilmore

Living the Ultimate Life by Michele Slayden

Oh the grace reaching out for me . . .

 

*Photo Credit: My little sister Jennifer Payne, who captured this picture on a walk in her hometown.

 

Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer {Week 2}

In this week’s panel, we’ll discuss prayer. Make sure you’ve completed p.20-26 in the study prior to the video.

Which type of prayer from our study was new to you? Have you tried praying differently this week? Comment below!

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/119399613″>2015 02 10 – Women's Bible Study Week 3</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/twcc”>The Well Community Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Spiritual Disciplines: Bible Study {Week 1}

This week on the panel, we’ll hear from a variety of women, in different seasons of life share how they study the Bible. Prior to watching the video, complete Week 1 in the study (p.7-18). This will be the longest week of homework we have since bible study is the foundation for most of the other disciplines!

After you’ve watched the video, leave a comment below with one new insight you had from this week’s homework or the panel.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/118777229″>2015 02 03 – Women’s Bible Study Week 2</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/twcc”>The Well Community Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>