Can We Unify?

can we unify

There seems to be a lot of tension in my country these days. A lot of division. (At least this is what the media portrays.)

Between people of different skin tones. People from different cultures. People of different genders.

Oftentimes I can’t make out what’s being said amidst all the clamor and voices filled with bitterness and pain, but it seems to come down to this:

The “black person” against the “white person” and the woman against the man. The white person against the black person and the man against the woman.

Blame. Accuse. Point fingers. Demean. Insult. Shame. Yell. Scream.

“Black people are …” “White people can’t …” “Men don’t … ” “Women always …”

Refuse to listen. Refuse to empathize. Refuse to forgive. Refuse to seek change. Refuse to unify. They make everyone simply a label and refuse to see them as people made in the image of God.

Romans 12:14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

 

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I can’t say I’m well-versed in all the history, politics, and agendas behind these conflicts.

I do know that there have been periods of time in history where men have been very oppressive toward women – treating them like possessions rather than people. A hideous crime. I know that still, in other parts of the world, women are horrifically oppressed. And this is grievous to my heart.

I know that slavery is a real thing and millions of people were enslaved over the course of history – people still are today! I know that in the history of this country, people originating from Africa were held as slaves. And it was an inhumane, heinous, ungodly sin.

Thank the Lord for the many soldiers and activists of old who fought for freedom and equal rights.

We have come a long way since then. But, sadly, there is still prejudice and hate from individuals toward people of a different skin tone, sex, or culture.

But, when we start twisting stories, pointing fingers, and playing the blame-game, it only causes more hate & division. It’s no way to help fix the problems. We need to be unified. As a country. As a people. And, especially as a Church.

Colossians 3:12-15

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Psalm 133:1

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

We are all part of the human race! Although cultures can differ, our skin colors do not make us a different race or a different kind of people.

We all hurt. We all suffer. We all cry. We all need each other. And most of all, we all need Christ Jesus.

My skin color doesn’t dictate who I am. How I feel. What I think. What I do. Culture, upbringing, and family can factor into all of this. But still, each person has their own free will and ability to think for themselves.

So we’re different …

I may not know some of their lingo. Maybe I tend to be stoic and reserved whereas they’re expressive and emotional. Maybe I don’t know how to do something normal in their culture, because I’ve lived differently – I have no experience. And they’ve perhaps never had homemade pannukakku, nissu, or pasty. 😉 Differences are something to be celebrated, not feel insecure over, or lord over one another.

Well, maybe most of my ancestors come from Finland, and most of theirs come from India. Or Uganda. Or Ireland. Or Iran. Or Russia. Or Japan. Or Australia. …so we haven’t experienced some of each other’s traditions, cultures, history, or personality traits.

But we are all people, in the end. People with beating hearts, pumping red blood. People with aching souls, silently crying out for their Creator. People needing to be loved and longing for purpose.

People created in the image of the Creator. Fearfully and wonderfully.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

So me. Partly Finnish, and partly Irish, English, Swedish, Asian, French, African, etc., etc., etc. (or something to that extent). Me, with my white skin and blonde hair, am created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of the Almighty God.

And you, with your black skin and curly black hair, are created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of the Almighty God.

And you, with your pale skin and flaming red hair, are created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of the Almighty God.

And you, with your brown skin and brown hair, are created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of the Almighty God.

And you, with your light skin and silky black hair, are created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of the Almighty God.

And every variation. If you are human, you are created in the image of the triune God. And I believe it pleased God greatly to create such a beautiful array of different faces, colors, attributes, and forms.

Genesis 1:26-28

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2:7

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

No human should ever elevate or think of themselves as better than another.

To do so is disturbingly arrogant and a grave sin against the God of the universe.

Rather, we should elevate God, and make much of His name. Together. Every tongue, every tribe, and every nation. Loving each other in our love of Him.

Revelation 5:9-10

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 7:9

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

When we meet a person who professes to be a Christian, we should joyfully see them as family in Christ – whether they share the same skin color, culture, or gender, or not. Because we are family. Closer than our own flesh-and-blood family. And this is sometimes hard for us to realize. But one day, we are going to spend eternity together when our Lord, Jesus Christ, returns for His Bride.

We are His Bride. Together. How can there be division, tension, strife, and even hate within His one Bride?

1 Corinthians 1:10

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

We need to stop.

This division is such a grievous thing, especially within the Church. Whether it comes from “racial” differences, gender differences, culture differences, or denominational differences, it is wrong to have division within the Body. We are called to unity.

We need to hate prejudice, not people. We are all sinners in need of grace. We need to hate division, not ethnicity. We need to blame sin, not people groups. And take steps to eradicate the sin while striving for unity. For love.

Let’s insert ourselves and our groups and our people and our agendas into this verse:

Galatians 3:26-28

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither “white people” nor “black people”, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither Finnish nor Chinese, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither rich nor poor, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This means that our identity as “Christ-followers” trumps every other identity we have by a long shot.

Woman. Finnish. American. Conservative. Writer. Blogger. Sister. Daughter. My identity in Christ is so soul-deep and all-consuming that when compared to these other identities I take, the latter simply fade into the background under its magnitude.

Now. This doesn’t mean that we sit back and ignore real and disturbing issues. God is a God of justice. Of unity. Or responsibility. Of peace. Of love.

If we see prejudice toward a people group, we stand with those people. We preach equality in God. We love. We welcome. We unify. We vehemently reject the idea that one so-called “race” is better than another. (If you’ve never studied into the idea of there being only one race, I would highly recommend checking out some of Ken Ham‘s books and resources.)

Galatians 6:2-3

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

If there is sexual abuse or crime, we fight tirelessly against it. We do all within our power to move the victim out of harm’s way. To guard others against experiencing this. We strive to educate, equip, and protect in order to diminish the number of women (or men) who experience such a horrible thing.

As Christians, we should fight against hate, prejudice, pride, abuse, lies, and discrimination. It doesn’t matter who the victim is: black or white. Male or female.

We should stand up for the things that Christ stood up for.

Never in the Bible do I see God call for any kind of division and separation between Christ-followers of different cultures or ethnicity. Attend whichever church you want to – so long as it’s Christ-glorifying and tight-knit in love. Marry whoever you want to – only in the Lord. Be friends with whoever you want to – as long as they’re spurring you on toward Christ. Etc.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another,

2 Corinthians 6:14-16

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. 

1 Corinthians 15:33-34

33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

Nowhere in the Bible do I feel God endorse or encourage me to feel ashamed of my skin color, or demean & shame other people because of theirs. Rather we should praise the Lord for who He made us to be (Psalm 139), and rejoice in our differences. It is glorious.

Never in the Bible do I find grounds to shame, demean, or try to elevate myself over men because of past oppression, individual acts of sexual sin toward women, or anything else. Rather I should honor, respect, and encourage the men in my life, and even seek out the loving leadership and protective covering of a godly man. (In father or husband.)

1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

I do see that I am to love my neighbor, whether they be in America, Egypt, Finland, China, Brazil, England, Kenya, or anywhere else.

I am to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only news that can truly set you free and make you whole.

I am to edify the Church and make disciples in Christ.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Ephesians 4:15-16

15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

I have not experienced all the same experiences as you, dear reader. I can’t understand some of the things you have gone through. But I can pray for you. For healing, and hope, and unity. And hopefully come alongside you as a sister as we seek our Creator and Lord together.

Galatians 6:10

10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

We need to help each other. Fight for unity. Fight for the faith. Spread the gospel. Fight for the traditional family – for stable, healthy home lives. Fight for emotional health. Fight for education. Fight for protection. Fight for peace.

I don’t believe in different “races” and division. I don’t believe in using divisive rhetoric and hateful speech.

I believe in truth. Peace. Unity. Love.

Especially within the circle of believers.

So let’s start looking at people through Christ’s eyes.

John 17:20-23

20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Derek Minor (feat. Hollyn) – CHANGE THE WORLD

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Book Review: Woman by Divine Design by Dr. Jeffrey L. Seif

woman by divine design

Woman by Divine Design by Dr. Jeffrey L. Seif and Sandra Levitt

My Personal Review ~ 3.5 stars ~

Woman by Divine Design was an interesting read, but not overwhelmingly insightful. Basically the authors went over portions of Scripture and gave their thoughts and insights, most of which were things I’d already interpreted these certain Bible passages to mean. They  didn’t go really in-depth or present much new information, for me personally.

This book does come in an attempt to defend Scripture’s stance on women to a group who believes Jesus, and especially Paul, are out to demean and restrict women. I have no such view of my Lord, His Word, or His apostles, so I suppose that’s why it felt like Woman by Divine Design was just brushing on things that I already know or have thought of/pondered before. It didn’t go much in God’s design for women as just talk about (mainly) Paul’s encounters with women and what some of his teachings mean.

Paul used the word kephale. This word means head … . Kephale is also a military term, meaning one who ‘leads’, but not in the sense of a [military] director … a ‘general’, or a ‘captain’ who orders troops from a distance; quite the opposite, kephale was the one who went before the troops, the leader in the sense of being in the lead, [and thus] the first into battle.” (Woman by Divine Design – pg. 79)

However, it was still a good read for the most part, and there were a few thoughtful angles presented and enlightening aspects explained that I hadn’t heard much about before (particularly pgs. 83-90).

I’m sure this book could be helpful for people who are new to reading the Bible and are wondering about how Jesus Christ and Apostle Paul related to women. Or for people who have a harsh view of Biblical womanhood, and have never attempted to dig below the surface of what they were taught certain Bible verses or words meant. I feel that, at least for the most part, it is Biblically-sound.

… the design is found in connection and not in distinction. (Woman by Divine Design – pg. 98)

Open Your Hands

open hands

We all have desires, right? Hopes and dreams for our life. We make plans. We work toward something we want. We pursue a certain job or establish a certain ministry. We form relationships. We pray for good things we feel that God might want as a part of our life.

I believe that God gives us desires, passions, and goals. I believe He fashions into our souls the drive to pursue things such as:

  • a job that we love & are good at
  • a ministry that we have a gift for & are energized through
  • a godly marriage
  • a healthy family
  • a friend group that spurs us on toward Christ
  • etc.

Maybe, this year of 2019, you feel it’s time.

Time to …

find that godly spouse to partner with

move out of your parent’s house

become intimately part of a godly church

get that great, fulfilling job

have a baby

pursue your passion by starting college

start that small group for women

move overseas & begin your work as a missionary

publish a book

adopt a child

propose or be proposed to 😉

find physical healing

make a best friend

move to a different state where you feel there is more potential for growth

Whatever it might be. Maybe you’re ready for it. You feel 2019 is the year. And, my dear friend, maybe this is the year for your breakthrough. And that is exciting! Praise the Lord!

But I want to encourage you to keep perspective. Recently, I wrote a post called To Live is Christ. And that is the perspective we must always keep, whether we are pursuing a passion, moving out, getting married, starting a ministry, or getting a new job.

Our Lord says to seek first the kingdom of God …

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

…and even if you feel this desire of yours is part of seeking God’s kingdom (and it may very well be!) remember that our King can see the whole picture, while you can’t. And His plans will prevail. And it is good! You can trust Him.

Proverbs 16:9

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 37:23

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Proverbs 16:1-3

The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.

Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

Psalm 32:8

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

So open your hands, sweet soul.

Hold life with open hands.

So if God plans to give you what you are desiring and pursuing, you will be ready to receive it with the right heart of humility and joy.

So if God turns your plans upside down, your open hands will be able to receive the grace & strength you need to seek His face and rest in His peace.

Open your hands, so He can give you blessings that you never thought to ask for. Maybe blessings you never imagined you’d want.

So He can take things from your life that are actually not good for you (even if you thought they were, at first!)

Hold life with open hands so that you may flee from idols.

1 John 5:21

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Marriage, a job, a ministry, college, a friend group, a new place, etc., these can all become idols if we grip them with desperate hands.

There weren’t meant to be idols. They were meant to be gifts! But we so easily forget God and try to heft other things into His place. And this is painful.

Our lives are for God’s glory! Not ours. We are to love Him with our soul – our whole being.

When we grip something, with desperate hands, we are keeping that aspect of our life from Him. We are not trusting Him with it. We are creating distance between us and God. Straining our relationship, and elevating a gift above the Giver.

We have become idolatrous.

And believe me, dear friend, having idols is painful. It hurts because it is not what we are designed for. It is not God’s good design – it is not how things are supposed to work. Having idols causes invalid and irrational anxiety, fear, suspicion, and anger. It turns our heart against God.

We need our heart’s desire to draw us to God, not away from Him. To draw us to glorify Him, not fill our heart with suspicion that He is not good.

And perhaps it’s not your desire that is the problem, but your heart.

Me desiring a husband and children is not a problem. But if this desire turns in bitterness, passivity, and resentment because I don’t have it, then my heart has wandered from God and His goodness, and strayed down Satan’s dark path.

A woman having a husband and children is not a problem. But if she clings to them so tightly that she is riddled with anxiety & fear, and is filled with suspicion toward God … What if He takes one of them from me? then she has moved out of God’s perfect love and given into Satan’s age-old tactic.

I struggle with anxiety. Probably both of the medical variety, and just a form that is practiced and becomes part of life if one doesn’t reject it.

I’ve often worried, through the years of my life, that if I were in a relationship I’d be anxious … what if this isn’t God’s desired path for me?

If I were engaged and planning a wedding … what if God takes this away from me, for some reason, right when I almost have it?

Married with children … what if one of them dies? How could I bear it?

This anxiety … this doubt … this fear … this questioning of God’s goodness … this sin … this idolatry … It has lessened as I’ve experienced God’s goodness and learned that I can and should abide in Christ. It’s still something that I struggle with. That aspect of my humanity that I wrestle through. That “old man” that I fight.

It is hard, my friends, I know! Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just press into God. Repent. Surrender. Ask Him to reveal, more deeply, His infinite love and grace to you, that you may not live with a legalistic, fearful heart, but a joyful, peace-filled, trusting, knowing one.

I have had some thoughts that have helped me. They go something like this:

***

If the opportunity to enter a romantic relationship comes my way, I will pray about it and get godly counsel from spiritual mentors … and I will entrust it into God’s hands. I will hold it lightly and pay attention to the words of the wise, the opinions of my family, and the peace – or lack of it – that I feel inside. God has shown me that He is at work in the details of my life before, so I know He will be directing my every step in this also. I won’t refuse to feel pain. If this is of Him, hallelujah! If it’s not, then He has better plans in store.

***

If God is so gracious to me as to bless me with a husband and children, I will strive to hold each of them … precious gifts that they are … with open hands. Because they belong to God before they are ever mine. I don’t get to call the shots. But rather, live in daily thankfulness and entrust them, and myself, into my Father’s loving and powerful Hands.

***

I think if you try this method of trust, humble surrender, and gratefulness, you will find it much preferable to your method of white-knuckled, anxiety-ridden, painful, peace-less, fake control.

Because, sweet friend, you are not in control. And you pretending that you are is not helping anything. In fact, it’s destroying your peace and your ability to live life more abundantly.

It’s Satan’s attempt to steal from you what the Almighty God has give you.

John 10:10

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

This post is not to say to just expect not to receive what you desire from the Father, but to rest in His peace through the process!

Let go.

Open your hands.

Rejoice in your loving Father above. ❤

Psalm 31:3, 14-15, 19-22 & 24

For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in Your hand;

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion

21 Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
22 For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.

Hollyn – ISAAC

Aaron Cole (feat. Tobymac) – RIGHT ON TIME

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

one thousand gifts

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

My Personal Review ~ 5 stars ~

Truly a worthwhile read! This book surprised me and moved me. I am in love with Ann Voskamp’s writing style … it is poetic, deep, and rich. It reaches in and takes a hold of me at a soul-deep level. Oh, it was beautiful – pulling at deep, deep parts of me. Making me strive to understand, and also feel like maybe I could just let go and rest in God’s goodness and love.

Could it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? ~ Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are is bittersweet, and triumphant, and marvelously revealing. My heart wept for the tragedy endured, yet exulted for the glory, and freedom, and love discovered! Ann Voskamp is very honest and vulnerable, sharing openly from her heart. I get a glimpse into this life of a farmer’s wife and a mother of six. This woman who has faced raw heartbreak and hardship, and struggles against anxiety and listlessness.

In the messy, Jesus whispers, “What do you want?” and in the ugly, I cry, “I want to see – see You in these faces.” He speaks soft, “Seek My face.” ~ Ann Voskamp

I loved reading about the day-to-day experiences and getting a look at Ann’s relationship with God as she cries out, grows, wrestles, surrenders, and rests in the security of Christ. I loved the triumph, the bittersweet, the struggle, the hope, and the glorious beauty.

When I choose – and it is a choice – to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness? ~ Ann Voskamp

This is a thought-provoking book that changed me. And I pray that I live in this change. I am so thankful to my God, and to Ann Voskamp for sharing her testimony.

What a book. I just really loved it and highly recommend. Such deep content. If you struggle with fear … depression … ingratitude … One-Thousand Gifts will challenge you and lift your heart.

I am a child in His arms and His breath falls warm upon my face and what I feel for this daughter He feels for me, and the gifts, all these gifts I keep counting, they are His love gifts and they’re slowly waking me up to the tenderest, fiercest Love of all. ~ Ann Voskamp

To Live is Christ

Good morning, beloved readers!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the freedom that Christ gives us, and wondering … are we stepping into that freedom? Taking hold of it? Living it? Do we believe in that freedom?

sand-690150_1920 (1)

At the conference that I recently went to, the theme was missions. Reaching the nations for Christ. Pouring out your life for the sake of the Gospel. Going boldly into dangerous situations in order to tell every soul. I heard radical stories and saw hearts passionate for Jesus Christ.

When this kind of radical living is on display, fear often sneaks up on unsuspecting persons such as myself.

That sounds terrifying.

Would I be able to bear such things?

What if I’m called to physically give my life?

So the question is, how do we fight this fear? And how to we get to the place where these Christian figures are? Seemingly fearless and excited to follow God wherever He would lead. No matter the cost.

1. You must have an encounter with Jesus Christ.

And I don’t mean some man-made encounter where you recite a prayer, go through confirmation, or obediently get baptized. I mean a personal encounter, where you truly believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you glimpse His glory, you trust His love & sacrifice, and this transforms your life. You feel the Holy Spirit literally changing your heart.

Maybe this encounter comes in a moment for some people. For me, it was more like a process. An encounter over many moments, days, months, and even years.

A process where God pursued my heart, and kept drawing me back to seek Him.

And, slowly but surely, I’m changing from a very frightened, very insecure, very unsteady, very weak girl into an increasingly free woman.

A Christ-following woman who thinks:

If, someday, I am led to the flames to die because of Christ, I hope my heart will be saying to the Lover of my soul: “May this be a sweet-smelling sacrifice to You, O Lord.”

And this thought is peace-filled. Like somehow, into this frail heart of mine, the Holy Spirit is gently whispering that it would be an honor to die for my King. And that I would feel peace. And be glad to be a sacrifice for Him if I must be put to death by the wicked of this world. And that I would be inwardly rejoicing, so ready to see His face. So ready to be welcomed in His arms and into my home.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

Psalm 116:15

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

And I know, friends. To some of you, this sounds absolutely crazy. And it feels kind of crazy even as I’m writing it. And fear wants to rear his ugly head. I am, by no means, perfected. Sometimes I relapse back into my anxiety-stricken self. But, I promise you, this thought did press itself into my mind and on my heart … and it is becoming more firmly planted. This I know, God is working in and through me. And I hold onto that.

You must know Jesus Christ. You must have a real relationship with Him. You must believe His radical love for you. You must see His glory. Otherwise death, sacrifice, evangelism, yes, even the routine Christian life, is ridiculous.

1 Corinthians 15:14 & 17-19

14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Why do we do what we do as Christians? It is because of Jesus. For His glory and because of His love. There is no other reason than Christ Jesus. And if we don’t see Christ for who He truly is, then we are confused and weak creatures indeed.

So you must have a real encounter with the living Savior. Accept His sacrifice for sin. And invite Him in as lord of your life. And then …

2. You must allow Him to grow you.

You have to grow, my friends. Don’t quench the Holy Spirit. Don’t allow fear, anxiety, pride, depression, pain, insecurity, weakness, and your own selfish desires to have free reign in your life. Fight them. Allow the Spirit into your decisions, that He may strengthen you to do what is difficult, and even what seems impossible. Surrender.

In essence, it wasn’t you who invited Jesus into your life, but Jesus who invited you into His, drawing your heart to believe in Him. So live in Him.

Continuing on. You need to grow. And I believe this growth comes in four parts:

// Studying God’s Word // Prayer // Community within the Body // Suffering & trials //

Open your Bible everyday. Study it. Memorize it. Read it from cover to cover. Let it refresh your soul. It is like your sword, your weapon of defense. Read Scripture against the attacks of Satan. Don’t cower under his lies – HE IS DEFEATED. Don’t be defeated with him!

Ephesians 6:17

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

Matthew 4:4

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ 

Pray. Pray continually. Invite the Lord into every moment and every aspect of your life. Wake up early to pray. Pray in the very midst of temptation and fear. Pray when you can’t sleep. Pray with friends. Ask people to pray over you. Commune with your good Father! Press into Him. Allow Him to be your hiding place.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

19 Do not quench the Spirit20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Become a part of the local Body of Christ. Get involved in a loving, tight-knit, Christ-like church. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. You need other believers, my dear friend! God gave you brothers and sisters in Him to help strengthen your faith, comfort your heart, and keep you in obedience. Don’t underestimate the power of doing life with other strong Christians who are passionate for Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Suffering and trials. As hard as it is, don’t despise these things, but ask God to open your eyes to how He might be at work. For example, if you’re suffering from lingering health issues or a chronic illness, don’t get consumed in doubt, despair, and desperate prayers for healing. Now, to clarify, I believe it is good to pray for healing from sickness. For yourself, and for the brotherhood. But also, pray for God to draw you into closer intimacy with Him during this painful process.

1 Peter 1:6-9

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christwhom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

James 5:13-16

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Perhaps He is trying to teach you something that you are stubbornly resisting. Or perhaps it’s just a general growing of perseverance and faith. Whatever the case, God knows you, your body, and the plans He has for your life. Trust Him.

3. You must seek Christ as your supreme treasure.

You desire Him. You long for His love. You want to see His face. You want to live for His glory.

I fully believe that as God grows you in Him, Christ will become your supreme treasure. And that is the key.

To be FEARLESS. JOYFUL. CONFIDENT. FREE.

If Christ is your all-in-all, then you know that nothing can take away your greatest treasure. Because it is Christ and no one can take Christ from you. No one can snatch you from your Father’s Hand. And your perspective shifts from the here-and-now to the eternal, because your beloved Jesus Christ is eternal.

Apostle Paul says in his letter to the church in Philippi that for him, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Like, living life and obeying Christ are one and the same. Living and glorifying Christ are synonymous for him. There is not one without the other.

Philippians 1:21

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

He does not hesitate because of discomfort or run away because of danger. He does all for the glory of God. Each decision he makes is made with glorifying God in mind.

To disobey. To be led by fear. To live for his own glory … that is not living at all.

Paul knows that to be spiritually dead is much, much worse than physical death. In fact, actually departing from this world is gain, because he gets to be with the Lover of his soul! Death means going home! Death means uniting with Love!

Revelation 22:3-5

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheadsThere shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

To live for anything less than for Christ is to not live at all.

Do you want to live?

Perhaps you don’t feel the magnitude of this concept, but it is mind-blowing for me. And so completely freeing! I can stop struggling, tripping, and being violently dragged here and there by the slave-master, Fear. And I can step into the freedom of simply living for the glory of Christ. To make every decision to His glory. To put His glory above all else and rest fully in His love.

And the best thing is, the Holy Spirit will enable me to do this!

Philippians 2:13

13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Oh, hallelujah! Praise the Lord, o my soul!

Whether He call me to far-off nations and daily danger, to crowds of people listening to my little voice, or to a simple, quiet life of making disciples in my small, American community & living as an example in a self-consumed culture … I am free to live fearless and all for His glory.

I am free to hide myself in His love, knowing He is absolutely capable of caring for me.

Psalm 31:19-20 & 23-24

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion
From the strife of tongues.

23 Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.
24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.

Dear readers, to live is Christ.

I pray that you will live in Him and for Him. I pray that I will live in Him and for Him. And may we band together and love & strengthen each other in this lifestyle!

❤ Lady Grace

My Quiet Time

Good morning, readers and friends! I hope this second Saturday of the new year finds you well. ^_^ Today I wanted to take a little bit of time to share with you what my quiet time looks like.

It is so vitally important to be reading the Word and talking to your Heavenly Father. And just literally having quiet time. Where your mind is at rest and you quiet your heart. When the stress eases away and you can sort through your thoughts or simply be still.

So, make a goal for 2019! Make time for God, and for rest.

***

First thing I do when I wake up to a new day … PRAY. The more I discover prayer, the more passionate I am about it. Prayer is a heart-changer, a life-changer, a world-changer. It strengthens your soul, calms your heart, and shows you the sweetness of communion with God like few other things can.

I want to pray more. So this year I took the leap. I’m getting up at least a half an hour earlier than the rest of my family so that I have quiet time to pray. Now, I do not like getting up early. I am not a morning person. But I knew this day would come. So here I am, getting up before I “have” to … and loving it.

So, talk to God for a half hour or so.

Then I get up, get ready for the day, and usually do my Bible-reading while eating breakfast. I started my second read-through of the Bible in October of last year. So I’m currently in Deuteronomy and Mark. (*whispers* … a little behind, but I’ll catch up!)

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I highlight, underline, and write things on sticky notes. Yep, I’m that kind of person. And it’s helpful for me!

Also, I read the NKJV as of now. What translations do you all like to read?

I started a little gratitude journal. So usually jot down some things in there each day.

I’m currently not working outside the home, so after breakfast I clean up the kitchen and do other chores … whatever needs to be done. Many times I put in my earbuds and either listen to music or sermons/inspirational talks/whatever while cleaning.

J.D. Greear, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Dale & VeronicaPriscilla Shirer, Daily Disciple, FarAwayDistance, Paul & Morgan, Girl Defined, Joseph Solomon, Emily Wilson, Coffee Girls … there is a surprising amount of godly brothers and sisters on Youtube who have some amazing wisdom to share.

Of course, I love to read! My goal this year is to read a Christian Living nonfiction for every novel I read. (I go a little more into this on my other blog.) So perhaps during lunch I’ll pull out my nonfiction or novel and do a little reading. Now with nonfiction, I like to highlight and underline. That way I can go back through my books and re-read those bits of wisdom that I had gleaned.

Right now I’m working through One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp (which has been amazing), and Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. I’m not sure why I hadn’t discovered this little Christian allegory before! It’s been quite lovely.

A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I  begin to live. ~ Ann Voskamp

This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear”. ~ Hannah Hurnard

I’m also going through Max Lucado’s Grace For The Moment. It takes so little time to read each day’s devotional, but if I feel like it gets to be just one thing too many, I may put this book aside.

I know a lot of people say they don’t have time to read, but I would encourage you to make time. Not only is reading a chapter or two a day said to greatly help to reduce stress, but you can glean so much helpful & amazing wisdom and information from books! Connect with your brothers & sisters in Christ from all over the world by reading their books, and let them show you what God has been teaching them!

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I would like to journal more regularly this year. It’s a way sort through and process things, reduce stress, and record what God is doing in my life & heart! I also enjoy writing letters to my future husband on occasion in a journal. 🙂

These are ways for me to slow down and refocus.

And listening to music! Listening to great songs, worshiping, dancing around the house, lifting up my hands and soul to the Lover of my soul! That’s some time well-spent, I believe. There’s something about good music that can definitely relieve tension and stress. And good lyrics that put my focus back on Christ & glorifying Him. Right where it needs to be.

Well, there it is. That pretty much sums up my quiet time and restful, stress-relieving activities. I’m trying to live my days intentionally, to the glory of God, and these things help so much.

Now, to become intimately part of the local Body of Christ! ❤

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR QUIET TIME!

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C.R.O.S.S.19

Happy new year, my dear readers! I pray that January 2019 began full of hope for you. And that you continue in the strength and joy of the Lord each day!

I have the absolute honor and joy of telling you about what God has been doing in my life & heart already this brand new year. Friends, He is so good. I’m nearly in tears just thinking about this past week and my faithful Father.

The year of 2018 had some tough points for me. So good things, too. But it seemed that amidst all the little blessings in December, I did a lot of wrestling and just struggling against anxiety and depression.

Like, what did I even do to make a difference this year? Am I any different? What is my life? I can’t do this, Lord. I don’t know what it’s all for. I don’t know why I’m even here.

I have a family. But I don’t feel like I belong in my home.

I have a church. But I don’t feel like I’m intimately a part of them.

I have people. But I don’t feel like they see me. Really.

I have ministries and opportunities. But I don’t think I’m using them to their full potential.

I have Christ. But I feel like I’m drowning and keep losing sight of Him.

So I prayed. And prayed. And reached out to godly friends for counsel. Had many phone calls. And prayed some more.

I couldn’t do anything but pray! And God began to teach me something powerful through that.

Surrender, Shantelle. I’ve got this.

You worth is not found in what you accomplish, Shantelle. Or in other’s opinions of you. Or if someone validates you. Your worth is found in ME.

Pray, Shantelle! It’s the best thing you could do!!

Do you not see how mighty I am, Shantelle? I’m taking care of you right now, daughter.

***

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So. My long-distance friends asked me if I’d like to go to a conference about missions with them. And I was like … I guess? I mean, I hadn’t seen them for about three/four years and really wanted to! And maybe a Christian conference was just the refreshment God wanted to give me.

After some prayer, I decided to go. And then I prayed a lot leading up to the conference, for a variety of things.

And God worked out every detail beautifully and in His time. What food I should pack (what with all my diet restrictions). Travel and transportation plans. The needed funds. Peace. Confidence. And even what outfits I would wear.

The beginning of this year I traveled to the C.R.O.S.S.19 conference, met up with my friends and their church group, and experienced one of the biggest blessings of my life.

I’m not exaggerating. It was beautiful. ❤

I prayed for provision. Peace. Grace. Outfits. Manageable travel plans. Food. Joy. Fellowship. Friendship. Growth. Community worship. Awe for Jesus Christ. A deeper understanding of what my part is in global missions.

And I believe God answered each of these prayers so richly through the C.R.O.S.S. conference.

I caught a glimpse of what it is like to be part of a tight-knit, loving, Christ-like, passionate, local church. And that vision has captured my heart.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.

I have moved and bounced around from one big church to another for almost all of my life. I’ve never been intimately involved in my church. I’ve lacked solid, godly, loving people to disciple me and shepherd my heart. I’ve rarely (if ever) associated godly, beautiful fellowship with Sunday morning worship. I’ve suffocated under the burdens I bear, feeling like there was nowhere to turn to for help. I’ve grasped desperately for faith & cowered in terror under unanswered confusion … while pasting on a smile every week at church.

I feel like I’ve been alone … living inside the scary realm of my mind, for most of my life.

But at this conference, one of the big focuses was the importance of being part of your local church. Truly part. Like, they’re your family. They know you. And you know them. And you work together for the glory of God. You love each other deeply. And you together share a heart to reach all people for Christ. Ephesians 4 sums it up so perfectly!

Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

My long-distance friends who went to the conference with me have an awesome home church. So, simply being part of their group for four days gave me a taste of belonging to a church family and encouraged and strengthened me in ways I cannot even describe. My heart is so full!

I had good conversations with almost every one in the group. (And for my quiet, rather introverted self who sometimes takes long to really open up and show my real self … especially to men … I found this an exceptionally wonderful surprise.)

We had incredible prayer time together. In little groups of two or three during the conference, praying for unreached peoples. And with our whole group of eleven. And seriously, this was one of the highlights of my week. Seeking God & sharing your heart with Him along with some of His other children who you know care about you. It’s amazing! Beautiful! Delightful! It shifts something in my heart, soul, and mind.

We sat under the incredible teaching of God’s Word together. We learned. We shared. We exclaimed in excitement for what we were hearing. We encouraged each other in the Lord.

We worshiped together! We praised the name of Jesus together. The worship truly was sweet. Lifting our voices together along with about 7,000 others. Seeing your brothers’ and sisters’ awe for the Lord can so encourage you! We sang a lot of hymns, which was so lovely.

We laughed together!

We ate together.

Got coffee together. 🙂

I saw personally the passion and seeking hearts of ten of my brothers & sisters in Christ, being within this group for a time. And this strengthened me in my own faith.

I was able to go to members of the group with questions or concerns I had. And they gave me godly advice and thoughtful guidance. This is such a gift! It’s like a beautiful, awesome revelation that I don’t have to struggle through this life alone. God did not mean for me to.

I made lovely connections, and remembered what it was like to have close girl friends who are my own age! Such a sweet joy!

I felt comfortable and safe to talk with my brothers in the group. And this strengthened my heart … I think just seeing their passion for the Lord, and them caring enough to stop and talk with me. I feel like it’s vital for women to have brothers in Christ who speak into their lives … without it having anything to do with romantic interest.

I received hugs from old and new friends alike! I like hugs. 🙂

My friends’ pastor was with our group, and he is such a shepherd.

1 Peter 5:2-4

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Numbers 27:15-17

15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pastor with such a shepherd’s heart. He saw me. He cared. He empathized. And he gave me solid, godly, loving wisdom. I was beyond blessed. I felt like he shepherded my heart for a brief time, and I came out more grounded in Christ because of it.

One thing he told me that especially stuck out was: “Every decision we make, we make to the glory of God.” Basically, don’t let feelings of fear, pain, vulnerability, pride, despair, etc. get in the way of you bringing glory to God in every area of your life.

I was welcomed into this group. Treated as part of them. Seen. Cared for. Discipled. Guided. Given wisdom. Prayed over. Prayed with.

It was incredible.

***

But now to the actual conference! I heard from absolutely amazing speakers such as J.D. Greear, David Platt, John Piper, Trip Lee, and so on. I learned about missions, making disciples, goers and senders, local churches, God’s glory, God’s love, Jesus Christ, discerning a call, and just so much!

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I would very much recommend going to the C.R.O.S.S. website and listening to the sermons and outbreak sessions! So much wisdom and practical advice!

So I sat under phenomenal teaching.

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I was prayed over by strangers and friends alike.

I was encouraged in the gifts and talents God has given me, bolstering my faith that He is indeed doing a work in my life and is going to use me in His kingdom, for His glory, and for the reaching of souls!

I received a bunch of free books!

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I had Christ and His love & glory proclaimed to me along with a group of thousands, and also was taken aside personally and taught from the Word of God. Which is just an extreme blessing! Even to be taught individually … I felt like my heart is being guided in Christ.

I found a peace about being a sender for now. But also a passion about being a disciple-maker as part of a local church, and an openness to going the mission field should God ever call me there in years to come.

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

I was able to encourage others.

I was convicted that my view of God has been too small. I was amazed by the POWER of the Holy Spirit! Even in my own insignificant, weak, struggling life!

I was led in prayer for unreached people groups.

I heard awesome stories of God’s glory, love, power, and grace!

I saw unashamed passion for Jesus Christ from so many!

I was able to get some valuable and helpful advice from breakout sessions … “Should I Just Do Something?: Discerning a Call to the Missions” by Kevin DeYoung and “I Think I’m a Sender?” by David Platt.

Oh, my heart is full and I am just in awe. What a perfect way to start a new year.

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I would highly recommend that you go listen to The Gospels: The Commission of Christ by J.D. Greear, 1 Corinthians-Jude: The Significance of the Church by Trip Lee, and Revelation: The Urgency of Eternity by David Platt. Or just go listen to them all! I learned from each of them.

I hope to share more with you about what I learned from the main talks and breakout sessions specifically, but for now I’ll just leave you with a question Pastor J.D. Greear asked, and pray that you consider it as you start off 2019:

“Am I going to take up a supporting role in Christ’s story?”

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