My beloved sisters,
I am so blessed to ring in a new year with you and to anticipate God’s goodness and faithfulness in the coming 12 months. Let’s allow 2014 to be more than the next number on a calendar. Let’s deliberately enter into a fresh season and invite Jesus to do something brand new in us and thank Him in advance for what He has planned. His ways are always right. Always fitting. Without having a clue what is ahead in 2014, you can have unshakable confidence that your God will be good to you. He holds you securely in the palm of His hand.
I am deeply thankful for you this day and all you mean to His Kingdom. You are staunch servants. Mighty, mighty women of God. I am amazed by all you do in His Name and for the beauty and creativity of His holy calling displayed and parceled among you. You sharpen me and keep me running my race at full speed toward the one and only goal worth setting: the finish line where Jesus stands, urging us forward and waiting to welcome us home.
I have a simple truth on my heart this new year but it is washing over my soul like a waterfall.
I want to obey God.
In mid-November of 2012, God dropped a word so convicting on my heart through another teacher’s lesson that my face instantly burned. You’ve had those times, too, when you look around the room sheepishly to see if everyone is glaring at you, hoping you got it so that the congregation can all move on to the next point. This was the word:
Stop sowing over and over in the exact same field.
I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t ask for it. I was happy where I was. Like many of you, I like things to stay the same. I loved my circle of relationships and the familiar places I got to serve. I’ve never lost a passion for those places and have often wept with thanksgiving to God for the privilege of walking through some of the same doors again and again. I have a history of long relationships and staying put and that’s how I like things. But I knew God was talking to me. It burned like a branding iron.
Every single day for nearly 14 months, that same word has reverberated in my soul and troubled my feet.
I have made some strides and taken some steps. The Living Proof Live event team and I felt the urging of the Holy Spirit almost simultaneously to continue to do what we’ve been doing – calling people to worship and the Word – but to become very proactive about reaching the lost and the less-discipled. You will hear us become vocal about this initiative in the coming months leading up to our new LPL calendar year that launches in April. We are passionate to still serve women who know Christ well but we’re also hoping they will join us shoulder-to-shoulder in the accelerated outreach effort that God is blazing in our souls. We are praying earnestly that women will come bringing the lost and the searching and the broken and the untaught. A dying world surrounds us. One that Jesus loves. One that He died and rose again to redeem.
The process of change is not simple. It takes forethought and prayerful preparation. We are, for instance, deliberating on ways to make tickets available because we know that lost people aren’t prone to buy tickets to Christian events. We’re trusting God to show us what to do and how to do it. The free ebooks that we’re putting out for the first 10 days of January are part of this initiative. We’re very aware that, when it comes to reaching the unreached, free is key.
So strides have been made but they are only first steps.
I shared with you the date in 2012 that this word came to me so that, if you needed it, you’d have some assurance that I’m not knee jerking or reacting impulsively. I have had all these months to pray and study and listen to Jesus and ponder His leadership.
Fast forward 12 months exactly to the most recent November. A year after hearing from God so clearly about sowing further than the field that I’d loved and served in for so long, I had a very disturbing dream. I can count the significant dreams I’ve had through the decades on one hand so I’m not prone to look for messages in my sleep to keep from having to actually pray and read the Bible. That God can speak through dreams is clear in our own Bibles, of course, but for many of us it is unusual. I don’t feel the release right now to describe the dream though I may someday. What I do feel is a strong compelling to share with you what I knew beyond a doubt it meant. I believe that I can either be obedient to God in the faith walk He is setting before me or He will take my voice. I do not feel that it was a rebuke. I felt that it was a warning.
I was saved in childhood but I was 18 years old the first time I ever had a vivid encounter with God and it accompanied my calling. Christ has been so merciful to remain with me through harrowing ups and downs, fears and failings, and flaws and frailties. Good grief, what grace He has poured on my life. What forgiveness flows from His wounds on the cross. I’ve been so foolish at times and learned many things the hard way but I am not new to the believing walk. I don’t look to the air for my words from God. I look to the Scriptures. It is my daily bread. I want revelation any way Jesus wants to give it but I’ve been around long enough to know that, if it is unrecognizable in His Word, it is not of Him.
38 years have come and gone since that day I received my calling.
And I have rarely – if ever – received clearer orders from God.
I share this with you because I love and esteem you so much and want you to know that I haven’t lost my footing or had a dramatic change in my theology as I tread into a wider perimeter than I’ve served before. I say this to you before I have a single invitation on the docket that is out of the ordinary. I’m not manipulating you in advance of announcing some big plan to you. No such plan exists. No such invitations have yet come that I know of. But when they do, I will take them prayerfully before God and if He says go, Sister, I’m going to go. I must.
For lack of a better way to say it, I am not picking up and moving across the fence. I think this is more about dismantling a fence anyway. I’m not leaving Living Proof Ministries. I’m not departing from our mission statement of many years: to encourage people toward knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ through the study of His Word. I’m by no means leaving my beloved church, Bayou City Fellowship. I’m not saying goodbye to the blog or this community. On the contrary, we have an active year before us and summer Bible study right around the corner. I hope to enjoy many more years of fruitful friendship and partnership with LifeWay through in-depth Bible studies and Living Proof Live events. They have been so gracious and willing to exceed denominational boundaries. I praise God for them.
We must all be willing to exceed denominational boundaries. Revival is at stake. Nearsightedness will trip us and disunity will slay us in the perilous days to come. We can prioritize our denominations over the Scriptures if we want to but we will shrivel up and die on the vine if we do.
We who are called to teach must teach the Scriptures even if – and especially when – they differ from our long-held stance. That we will answer for.
These are days for bravery.
To avail ourselves to the Holy Spirit and a fresh work of Christ in our midst, our healthy fear of God must far exceed our fear of man. I say this with tremendous love. Those who refuse to rock the boat when Jesus is tossing the waves in their faces will never know the thrill of the water beneath their feet.
For without faith it is impossible to please Him. Hebrews 11:6
Change is on the horizon and certainly not only where I live and serve. The winds of the Holy Spirit are picking up. We can dig our feet in the ground and demand to stay right where we are. We can toil to maintain things just as they have been for years. And we can be left out of a coming awakening that could one day be recorded in the annals of Christian history.
We can throw our boundaries up at God, keep stacking our divisive bricks, and insist that He obey us.
Or we can obey Him.
God help me, that’s what I want to do. I am too old anymore to let the bullies boss me. And I am too young to quit.
Out of the stunning grace of God, I have had the joy of serving among some of the most well-discipled women in the Bible belt. Many of them take notes each week as their pastors preach. They listen to podcasts in their cars on the way to work. They serve their local congregations, feed the poor, and minister to the sick. Many of them have done every Bible study on the market by every teacher available. They keep their faces in the Scriptures. They memorize and evangelize and sacrifice. They are warriors. I’m not worthy of them but I so dearly love them. I have no words to convey how honored I am to have served among them and I deeply hope to serve among them still. But to serve them only – or even primarily – lacks stewardship. God is telling me to get my ear pressed to the ground for opportunities to serve in environments where women are less commonly studying the Bible in-depth. Some of those places may look very different from those I’ve visited before. I make this promise. I will hold tight to the Word and seek with everything in me to teach it soundly. I will hold onto Jesus as the love of my life. I will pray hard and you’ll never waste a prayer on me.
The days are short. The times, urgent. For all of us.
Need is a part of what steers a call.
I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea where God will send me or if those places will seem different to many of you. But this I do know: if I do not tell Him wholeheartedly that I am willing to go anywhere He leads and serve anyone He says, He is going to do His good pleasure anyway. And without me.
I have to go with Jesus on this or my soul will collect an inch of dust on the lifeless, wooden altar of safety and sameness.
Thank you for your patience. You have been so gracious to bear with me through this lengthy letter. When all is said and done, I pray with my whole heart that this post will turn out to have been more than just about me. That’s so nauseating. I could have done that at home by myself and saved you the time. But maybe God wants to say something similar to someone else. Maybe it’s time for your next step, too, even if you have no idea where your foot is going to land.
Maybe you’ve been raised to keep your faith to yourself…and it’s time to start sharing it.
Maybe you’ve studied and studied for years…and it’s time for you to get up and teach.
Maybe you’ve been mentored so well that you know it all by heart…and it’s time for you to mentor others.
Maybe you’ve been the focal point of much compassionate ministry and you thank God for it…but it’s time now to pay it forward and minister to others.
Maybe you’ve been breaking free for 10 years…and it’s time for you to live free and show somebody how it’s done.
Maybe all our risk-free living is not really living.
And maybe I’ve missed it. But I am about to take that chance.