Last weekend I went away to the mountains with some other women from my new church here in Charlotte. The mountains, ocean, or nature in general gives me a sense of peace like nowhere indoors is able to. There is just something about being surrounded with a space so much larger than life itself that makes me feel like my soul is home. The conference was designed in such a nice way with a great balance of group message, small group gatherings, and down time to tend to your own individual soul and reflect or just physically rest. We all know how as adults we are lacking time for the naps we crave. We had an entire afternoon free, nearly 6 hrs! There were activities available if you felt inclined to get a pedicure, massage, do some art with watercolors, hike to a waterfall, or exercise to name a few. At the inn where we stayed there was also an amazing porch with rocking chairs facing the sunrise and beautiful views. So, in other words it was a very refreshing weekend away.
The theme for the retreat was Steady. We had a speaker, a close friend of someone at my church, who came all the way from Canada , and out of her public speaking comfort zone to share with us her story. Grace, God’s steadfast love, and the ability to be stable and on a firm foundation through knowing who God is. She spoke about how she believes we all have 3 chapters and to the extent we understand our chapter 1, is the extent we understand life in Christ.
Chapter 1 is death and sin. Sin has no sliding scale. Sin=Death There is different consequences for sin but no difference in sin itself. We like to believe because we haven’t committed some heinous crime based on earthly human standards we are overall a good person. The Bible teaches from the moment Adam and Eve broke God’s first and only command, sin and death entered the world. Sin isn’t something we do, it is something in us that we have no control over.
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me… Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me though Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:14-25
Chapter 2 is Being called, loved, and saved through God’s love. God loves, period. I love the way our speaker spoke about Christ’s love. I’ve heard the story of Christ’s crucifixion many times. I will admit one thing I’ve always done is focus on how He died. I’ve been to many Good Friday services where they show you the awful, gruesome way Christ was beat, tortured, and nailed to a cross to die. What I’ve missed all these years is the most important piece of His death. The way He died isn’t what the focus should be, it’s nothing special. There were two other criminals there with Him, dying the same way and many other people before and after him who were nailed to a cross to die. What makes His story different is He STAYED. His LOVE for you and I and the world in which His Father created kept Him there. He CHOSE to STAY for us because He LOVES.
He chose to stay and now we have a Chapter 2 that erases our Chapter 1. That is also why we can only understand our life and relationship with Christ to the extent we understand our chapter 1 (sin and need for a Savior) I pray that everyone will understand the extent of God’s love for them. Too many let their past or present define them. One practice we did on the retreat was fill in the blanks:
Even though (fill in the blank), I will rejoice.
Even though I’m unsteady, I will rejoice.
Even though I often lose my cool, I will rejoice.
Even though I swear more than I’d like, I will rejoice.
In Christ there is no shame. Shame is from the enemy but don’t get me wrong when you follow Christ there will be time for correction. Correction, however, does not destroy you, it changes you and stabilizes you. It lifts you up and shows you your true identity. Trust me, your identity through Christ is so much more than you could ever imagine. Which brings us to Chapter 3, how do we become who we were made to be?
Biblical Foundation. We need to know WHO GOD IS. This is where I am always growing. I’ve grown up hearing about God and been surrounded by it my entire life. However my head knowledge is not as far along as I’d like it to be. I’m insecure in my faith. I have a relationship with God but crave to KNOW HIM MORE. If this is where you are too than I encourage you to spend more time with Him. How do you get to know someone you’ve just met and are more interested in getting to know? You stalk them right? haha just kidding but you do spend as much time as possible with them. You ask them questions, have conversations over coffee or dinner. You try to find time to fit them into your crazy busy schedule. How often do you do that with God? Are you making time in your life to get to know Him more? I heard recently, God’s language is silence and in 2016 we don’t practice that well. Silence is the gateway to your soul. Practice silence and intentionally remove distractions whenever you can. You may be surprised with how much you hear when you are still and silent.
I leave you with one last thing I heard from the speaker on the retreat. We each have small subjective details in our lives unique to us. Our testimony is the same. God saved us. We were in sin, it’s His story, He saved us. We can’t add or take away from that. We were all raised from death. The story of Lazarus has a whole new meaning to me now. Jesus stands outside our graves every day. He shouts “_____ come forth” It’s up to us to rise and walk out of our grave. We all have a choice, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is standing arms stretched out, calling us by name and inviting us to join Him.