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Bible Study Backstory From My Beloved Friend of 34 Years

With tremendous joy, I’d love to introduce you to Johnnie Haines, one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had. She is my coworker here at Living Proof but, girlfriend, she was my coworker long before either of us dreamed there would ever be an actual ministry building. We go way, way back to the days when my tiny dining room was stacked to the sky and strewn to the winds with the complete chaos of somebody who’d just fallen in love with the Scriptures. I’ll hand this to her and let her tell you a little bit about our story together.

 

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Hi, my name is Johnnie and I am blessed to answer your emails concerning Bible Studies here at Living Proof Ministries. This week I received an email from a young woman who wanted to know how she could get started writing and teaching Bible Studies. She wanted to know how Beth got started. The answer to that question was just too long for an email answer so I thought I might share with all of you a little bit of Living Proof history.

 

I met Beth in the fall of 1980. I had one little boy and I had just left the corporate world to stay home with my little guy. I applied for a part time job to teach Mother’s Day Out at my church. There just happened to be an opening in a classroom where another young mom was teaching. That young mom had one little girl and she, like me, was looking for a little income to supplement the family budget. I was introduced to Beth Moore and we became fast friends on the very first day. (This is me, Beth, with a short interjection: picture that I had a side pony-tail and my skirt was too short.) We bonded over peanut butter sandwiches and little children. (Beth again: we ate their leftovers.) As time went on, we solved most of our world’s problems either at her kitchen table or mine. We worked on our marriages, our homes and our extended families. (Beth again: what Johnnie is not telling you is that I’d sometimes decide to leave Keith after he’d head out for work but drop by her house on my way to my mother’s and she’d talk me into going back to him by afternoon. It is such a funny, warm memory to me now. Gotta have friends like that. She’d listen. She’d understand. Then after a few hours, she’d ask me if I felt better after talking it out and I always did. Then I’d go on back home without Keith knowing that I’d left him that day. Now, back to Johnnie…) We both went on to have another child, me a boy, she another girl. Our children were raised jointly between us. Life was good for these two young moms in northwest Houston.

 

After a few years, God opened different doors for ministry for us both. Beth taught Sunday School and had begun to speak at churches outside our area. I was the Director of Women’s Ministries at a local church. She wanted a place to teach week-day Bible Study and I had a group that needed a teacher! For the first couple of semesters, she prepared and taught faithfully. Then, the women wanted homework of all things. We prayed about it and Beth knew God was calling her to write, so she decided to see how God was going to work it all out.

 

By now, we both had young school age children. So, as soon as the bus picked up her girls, she sat down at her dining room table and began to work on a “word-processor.” It was long before computers and she was blessed to have a glorified typewriter that had a little bit of memory. As soon as mine got on the bus, I headed to the church to my job there. By 2:30, she was getting up from the dining room table to get ready to welcome the girls back home and get dinner ready for the family. I was doing the same thing at my house.

 

Bible study met on Thursday mornings at 9:30. Most weeks, she would finish the week’s homework on Wednesday afternoon. I would leave my office and run by her house to pick up the work she had placed in her mailbox. As soon as my family was fed dinner, I would leave my husband in charge and run to the church and begin copying the homework, loading it in the back of my mini-van as I finished. Each week was more than 30 pages in length. On Thursday morning, I would unload the mound of pages on to tables in the fellowship hall of my church. Ladies volunteered to come in early and put them together for the almost 300 women who would show up faithfully at 9:30. For those of you who are into details, that was over 9000 sheets of print each week!

 

I’m not sure either of us imagined what God was going to do with those studies. She wrote 3 studies for our little group before the first one was ever published. It was an amazing thing for me to hold that first workbook in my hand and then pass them out to my women for Bible Study. I was so blessed to share her hard work with my women. I still feel the very same way when someone calls to order a study for their women’s group or ask a question about the studies.

 

So, to answer that young woman’s question, “How do I get started writing Bible Studies?” I would tell you to work hard right where you are today. Use the talents, circumstances, and resources God has given you today. Study hard, surrounding yourself with good teachers. Be faithful with today’s gifts, trusting Him with the results of tomorrow. You just never know what may happen!

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Goodbyes and Strong Ties

If I could write a post to list my favorite things about serving with a houseful of women at Living Proof Ministries, it would be the longest article in Siestaville history. And you who have been around a while and tarried over posts that scrolled down three feet long know that’s really saying something.

 

My least favorite part about serving with this staunch group of women only takes me one sentence to convey. I don’t have to mull it over. I don’t have to weigh it alongside other difficulties. It stands alone. My least favorite part is ever having to say goodbye, even when I know God has something better for that mighty woman of God. I love my coworkers like my own flesh and blood. I see them day in and day out of every single workweek. I have lunch with them and laugh with them and cry with them and serve with them and seek Jesus on my face with them. They are family to me.

 

With tenderness and tears we hugged our beloved Lindsee goodbye this week. We knew when she came, as young as she is, that this would be a pause on her path rather than God’s ultimate objective for her work life. Her dearest loves and biggest passions are singing/co-leading worship and girls’ ministry. Living Proof is a hustling bustling busy, busy place for women’s ministry: college-age to the grave. But we are unable to develop a girls’ ministry (middle school and high school) the way that it deserves to be built. It truly needs its own complete attention instead of adaptation which is what we were trying to do.

 

Thankfully, because we are so crazy about her, many of us on staff will continue to see Lindsee on a regular basis because she is in our lives and hearts and not just in our ministry. (I get to stay in ongoing touch with my beloved Michelle who served LPM for 2 years and that thought encourages me greatly right now.) Lindsee and I serve the same body of believers at church and we are personal friends and sisters. I don’t just love Lindsee at LPM. I love her anywhere. I say that with a smile.

 

The sad thing for our blog community, however, is that you won’t see her on an ongoing basis here as you have for so long. (You have a letter from her below mine.)  She has worked her tail off on this blog and told me that, when all was said and done, it had been where she’d learned and grown the most. She loves you tremendously. I do not have a big enough font or bold enough letters to express my extreme gratitude to her. She has kept this big boat afloat for three solid years.  Oh mercy, I am so thankful for her.

 

The blog will continue going because this community is one of the dearest things about Living Proof to me personally. I will be the primary (and only permanent) contributor so that means that posts may not go up as often but they will go up with much love as God impresses various things – both of a serious nature and just plain silly – on my heart. I will also have some guest posts here and there (a fun one on Monday from my friend of 34 years)  and we certainly have plans for SSMT in January.  We keep Melissa very, very busy with technical research, writing, and with Greek and Hebrew but maybe she will also write some blog articles again.

 

We also have a fun idea for some video blogs I’m going to do with questions and answers. Hopefully you will see more about that coming up very soon. Within the next week, I’ll do a post where you get to register questions and they can be ridiculous or serious. I think we will end up having some interesting conversations out of it.

 

For now, however, I want you to have an opportunity to say thank you to a young woman who has served you so well and who was thrown headlong into very large and deep waters here on this blog. She served diligently here, and courageously.

 

Lindsee Eddy, I will love you forever. Thank you so much for stopping by this big house full of women for three solid years. With everything our hearts have to give, we bless you in your journey and ministry and send you forth with loud cheers and the strong fragrance of anointing oil. We will miss your gorgeous face underneath this roof but we will see it many times in our personal friendships and relationships and church-lives with you.

 

May the Lord continue to make His face shine upon you. You are loved ferociously here at Living Proof.

 

Beth

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From Lindsee to you:

 

Yesterday I sat down with my computer, opened up a blank Word document and tried to put into words what I am feeling in my heart. Usually, the written word comes easily to me, but not so much yesterday. I struggled to write, because I’m struggling to say goodbye to a community I have fallen in love with. You can’t invest your life and your love somewhere for three years and walk away without ALL THE FEELS, as I sometimes like to say. So, today, I will try and convey ALL THE FEELS without, as Beth said, taking up five feet of blog space. As I’ve heard one wise woman say, “You don’t have to say everything to say something.” I kind of love her. If you know what ‘her’ I’m talking about. Grin.

 

A few weeks ago during our Monday staff devotional, Beth literally got us up off our feet and marched us to our downstairs lobby where she had set up a row of chairs. We were told to pick a chair, any chair, and sit in it. For you visual folk, just imagine a line of 10 chairs long, each chair facing the back of another. Our fearless leader then went on to talk about rowing, as in, row, row, row your boat. This hypothetical boat was our boat, the Living Proof Ministries boat.  A boat that we all have the honor and privilege of rowing together, not alone, and serving woman from all over. And occasionally even singing a few boat songs together along the way. (Of course I’m going to talk about singing songs. It might be my favorite part. Grin.) (And also, how many times can I use the word boat.) As usual, it was a good, convicting and edifying word that we all received very personally. The visual of acting this out was so powerful because we’re all in this boat together. We need each other and we’ve got each others’ backs. Needless to say, it resonated with us. With me.

 

Like Beth mentioned above, my heart beats for people in general, and women, but the Lord has given me a unique love for high school girls. Yes, they may be an anomaly at times, but they’re fascinating and so stinking funny if you really get the chance to just listen to them. I often say as young girls come in and out of my home, that if while they’re there I can get them at least thinking about Jesus, then I feel like I’ve struck gold. Because you talk about what you think about, which means if they’re thinking about Jesus, they’ll talk about Him.

 

And that right there is my heart. To see girls at a young age fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ.

 

I don’t know of ANY ministry that serves women of all ages like Living Proof Ministries does. They are trailblazers. They work hard. They pray hard. They play hard. And they have a leader that loves Jesus and loves people like no one else I’ve ever known. I’m forever grateful that the Lord allowed me to row the boat with this group of women for three solid years. I’ll look back on these years for the rest of my life knowing that wherever God takes me, He could not have taken me there without planting me here first.

 

But this I know right now, He’s asking me to walk on the water. Into the unknown, where I know for certain, if my eyes are on Him, He won’t let me go.

 

And if I know and have learned anything, I know I’m not alone. He’s inviting you out onto the water as well.

 

With a lump in my throat and tears on my face, I want you to hear me say thank you, dear Siestas, for letting me serve you for such a time as this. I will love YOU forever. Your faces will forever be engraved upon my heart. And your kind words will carry me for a long time. This isn’t goodbye, it’s just “see you later”!

 

I love you all so dearly.

 

I love Living Proof Ministries so dearly.

 

But most importantly, I love Jesus Christ so dearly.

Love,
Lindsee

P.S. This isn’t everyone, but this is our most recent picture. I love this Village so much. Forever in my heart.

photo-3

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The LPL Simulcast Recap

Good Wednesday morning, ladies! We usually aim to post the recap on Mondays after the LPL event, but because y’all had been very busy on the blog (grin) and because we had some new friends joining us here, we didn’t wan’t all of the Simulcast downloads to get buried. So we decided to press hold on posting until today! We are so thankful to Rich for the hard work he put into having this in my inbox really late Sunday evening. You’ll want to watch and remember all the Lord did this past weekend!

Living Proof Live | Ft. Wayne from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

Also, about a million of you (that might be a bit of an exaggeration) have asked for the Identity Declaration song that the girls in the praise team led on Saturday. I’ve talked to a handful of you that can’t find it anywhere, and that’s because it’s not out yet! It was a song they wrote specifically for the Simulcast, which means two things: 1) They are very gifted in the Spirt, and 2) They are working on a way to see if they can get it recorded and into your hands. If and when that happens, we will certainly let you all know! Just know we are working out the details and most likely you will find information about all of that on the blog when that time comes!

Y’all are a joy to serve!

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For My Simulcast Sisters

I cannot thank you enough for the privilege to serve you at our Living Proof Live 2014 Simulcast. I do not take it lightly. I will think of you for many months to come and will remember this day for years. My deepest hope and prayer is that Christ broke through every distraction and any works of flesh and blood and revealed Himself profoundly, personally, and permanently to you. Forward, Sister. No going back. Your life faces forward from here on out and what you’re doing on this planet means something. Get to it, gifted woman of God, with unwavering confidence in Christ. I pray that every single word He has sown into you will take root and bring forth a harvest. Above all, I pray that God moved upon you and opened your female heart to RESPOND. Not just receive. RESPOND. Do not wait a single moment to take your first responding steps. Move immediately and obediently into what He’s shown you. Blessed is she who believed.

 

As promised, here are three writings from the simulcast for anyone who wants a copy:

 

First, the Identity Declaration:

Identity_final[1]

(Click on the picture to enlarge and save.)

 

Second, the writing called “What does a woman of God look like?” It’s silly, really, and way too wordy but if it broadens our concept, it is worth putting out there. I originally set out to write it as prose on Wednesday before the simulcast as it started turning in my head that morning, but as I fooled with it that day, I just couldn’t resist the rhyme.  (Click on the link to pull up in a separate window.)

“What does a woman of God look like?”

 

Third, the commissioning we spoke over one another at the conclusion.

LPL Simulcast 2014 Final Commissioning:

My Beloved Sister,
Jesus drew you to this day
To call you to respond.
What will you do
With what He has said?
God chose you and gifted you
For this very generation.
You are the exact woman
Jesus came looking for today.
Stop telling yourself
This is about someone else
You are the one He wants.
You’re not too young.
You’re not too old.
You haven’t strayed too far
Or waited too long.
Let Jesus step fully into your story
And write a narrative for your life
That does the world good
And gives God glory.
People out there need what you have to offer.
Quit listening to your fears and insecurities.
Stand up and step out and meet some needs.
You are my sister.
I’ll cheer you on.
I will support you and love you
I’ll stop competing and comparing.
I want to be a woman women can trust.
Let’s do this thing side by side.
We’re so much stronger together.
Sister, stay in His Word
Fight for love and keep your faith.
Follow hard after Jesus
All the rest of your days.
He will never do you wrong.
He will never reject or betray you.
He will make something beautiful
Out of all your pain.
In every loss
He will be your gain.
A lost world is waiting out there.
The darkness is aching for light.
Get out there and serve with all your might.
Because, my beloved sister.
You
Are
A woman
Of God.
Go show somebody what she looks like.

 

Sister, thank you so much. Your time is so valuable. Money is scarce. You could have done many other things with the precious resources you have. You chose to join us for this simulcast. May God take every word He’s entrusted to you this day and cause it to yield a 100-fold harvest. (Luke 8:8)

Stick together out there, Sisters. We are a mighty army in the Kingdom of God. Stay close. Be kind. And be danged courageous.

I love you,

Beth

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Women’s Survey 2014 – Comments Now Closed!

Hey ladies! We want to express our deep gratitude for you honest participation in this survey. Your answers and your sincere vulnerability are gold to us and we do not take them lightly. They will be a source of insight to us for years to come as we seek to serve you. For now we will leave the post up but will close the comments. We appreciate and love you so much! Many blessings to you on this day!

 

 

Thank you so much for stopping by! In case you’re new to this blog spot, I’ll take just a second to set the tone for what makes us tick around here. I have had the joy, privilege and responsibility of serving God by serving women for over 3 decades. If you’re a girl, you are an interest to me. I love men. I respect men. I have fabulous guys in my life. But my entire work life is geared toward women. Every few years I pitch a survey of some kind out into the public sphere to gain some fresh insight into the hearts and lives and current challenges of women. So, that’s what this is all about.

 

If you’re willing to take the survey, your honesty is absolutely crucial. If you’ve gotta lie, pass on by. But, if you’re willing to stick around and tell the truth, your privacy will be completely protected. All comments/survey responses to this post will be kept confidential and out of public view.  That’s why the zero will continue to appear in the comment space.

 

There is no hidden agenda in this survey.  Rest assured that you will not be contacted or added to any kind of listserv. The purpose is straight forward: to gain insight in order to serve and represent women more effectively in teaching, writing, and communicating. In order to block these comments from public view, it will be necessary for us to close comments to previous posts until Thursday. Thank you for your patience while we temporarily give all of our blog attention to this survey.

 

Your participation in the survey is, however, your permission for me to quote you (anonymously and with your identity protected)  whether in writing or in speaking and to involve your responses in survey calculations, findings, and conclusions.

 

A few ground rules: Try to answer all the questions or as many of the questions as possible. Stay succinct on the ones that require explanations but by all means speak your heart. I try to read all survey responses myself. Answers that are short and to the point are a tremendous help.

 

I cannot thank you enough for participating. Your insight is solid gold to me. May God bless you for your time and input here and may the findings of this survey be used by Him to benefit you and women like you.

 

Alright. Let’s get started.

 

Women’s Survey

1. Biographical: Age? Single or Married? City and State (and country if outside the U.S.)?

 

2. Your biggest struggle or challenge as a woman. 

 

 

3. Your biggest struggle or challenge with other women.

 

 

4. Do you have good (women) friends at this season of your life?

 

 

5. What is something you’ve lost that you wish you could have back again?

 

 

6.  What one word would best describe you right now?

 

 

7. Do you have a religious affiliation? If so, what?

 

 

That’s it! You have helped me so much! I am tremendously grateful. May God reveal Himself to you in a very personal way in these coming days.

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For the Love of Bible Study

This could be the shortest blog post of my life because I’m in my pajamas, face washed, on the bed, ready to call it a day, and needing to get up way before dawn in the morning. But a tidal wave of grace hit my heart this evening and I want to try to put it into words right now at the tall foamy crest of it. I’ve gotten so many tweets from women starting Bible studies over these last 3 days. It’s, of course, because September is such a great time for getting back to some of our disciplines as summer has come to an end. As I’ve scrolled through the feed, a number of women are giving shout-outs about starting Children of the Day this week. Another sister told me on Twitter earlier today she’d just started Beloved Disciple. Another Stepping Up. Someone brand new to the whole concept asked me where she should start and I told her, among our own offerings, Jesus the One and Only.

 

 

A different woman told me yesterday she was starting A Woman’s Heart. The mention of that one always brings me close to tears because it was my maiden voyage into a life of study that by God’s unfathomable kindness and grace I, to date, have never gotten over. I almost couldn’t get up off the floor over that one. I fell so in love with Jesus and into such awe over His Word in that journey that it was nearly painful. Each study means so much to me because it overlays a stretch of my own personal life –  miles of ups and downs and hopes and dreams and disappointments and detours and uncertain destinations – upon the life of Jesus, the Holy Son of God, on the pages of His own Word. I hope you could describe something similar when you spend weeks of a Bible study series with Him. Our imperfect, insecure lives converge with the fullness of the holy Christ right there on the page through the work of the Spirit and the result is transformation.

 

I want to say something to you girls. It has been and will continue to be, God willing, the honor of my ministry life to serve you in Bible study. One woman I heard from today has done all 15. Another one was starting her first one. I was overwhelmed by the grace of it. In February LifeWay and I will celebrate 20 years of Bible studies together. We never had a single thought that there would be a second one. We begged God early on to grant us diversity of reach in the Body of Christ so that we could see women’s Bible studies invade barriers and make heavy investments of heart into unity. He has done it. You are from all sorts of churches and backgrounds and denominations. Many who are coming into Bible studies in these last few years have no religious background at all. First generation Christians.

 

We have studied hard together and graced each other where we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye. We’ve given each other the grace to be different. We’ve esteemed each other as equally cherished by God, saved by the cross of Jesus Christ, and invited to the dining table where divine words become the feasts of queens.

 

I just want you to know I am sitting on the bed tonight deeply moved and with tears in my eyes. God has been so merciful. What grace to have gotten to be part of your lives though Bible study journeys. Thank you. I don’t even know how to say those words with the volume and force that my heart feels them right now.

 

Thank you.

 

It has never gotten old to me. I have never taken it for granted. And my past is too bad for me to take any credit. I know what a mess this woman was in and I know the miracle He did in me with His Word. He completely bathed and reworked and rebooted my brain until I was a completely different woman. And He keeps doing it because I keep needing considerable help. That drive – believing with all my heart that if He can do it for me, He can do it for anybody – keeps me in it every single day, even when days get hard.

 

Someone asked me in the last post if “Breaking Camp” meant I was saying any personal goodbyes. Not one single one, Sister. Not that I know of. Not unless somebody kicks me out. Smile. I don’t agree with everyone. But I will dang well serve anyone. I’m so thankful right now in my life not to feel enclosed and cramped in a camp. Just blessed by gracious communities. To see women discipled in God’s Word is the passion of my life. The air in my lungs. My partnership with LifeWay through curriculum  and women’s events has been in an environment of truest community just like my church and LPM. I am blessed out of my mind.

 

 

So, anyway. That’s all I wanted to say. That I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude tonight. If God should ever decide to sweep me home suddenly, I’d have wanted there to be a place somewhere in public record where I just said these words:

 

Sisters: Feverishly following Jesus with you has been the greatest adventure of my life. THANK YOU.

 

So grateful to serve you and honored beyond words to serve this generation of women with other Bible teachers and communicators like Priscilla Shirer, Kelly Minter, Lisa Harper, Jennie Allen, Tammie Head, Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, Sheila Walsh, Angie Smith, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, Lisa Bevere, Anne Graham Lotz, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Ann Voskamp, Lysa TerKeurst, and other stellar women I could name and write about all night. Great things are happening in women’s discipleship all over the globe. GREAT THINGS AMONG OUR YOUNG WOMEN. Great things among the seasoned and all those in between. Most of us don’t care whose Bible study you’re in or if it’s even a formal curriculum. We just want to see women with their faces planted into that Book so their feet will be planted on that Rock.

 

The gorgeous, glorious, breath of God on the sacred page.

 

Maybe this is a great post for you to tell us if you happen to be in a Bible study of any kind (by anybody! share the wealth!) or just diving into the Scriptures on your own this September of 2014. It would be so much fun to have you share it and somebody undecided might get an idea for her own pursuit of Scripture this Fall. Let us hear from you if you get the chance.

 

And thanks for listening. It wasn’t short after all. Why couldn’t it just ONCE BE SHORT????

I love you,

Beth

 

 

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Break Camp

“Break camp and advance… See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession…” Deuteronomy 1:7a,8a  NIV

 

The opening chapter of Deuteronomy lifts a curtain on a scene in the land of Moab where the people of God are gathered before His servant, Moses. The day is memorialized in Scripture with pin-point precision: it was the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month.

 

That’s Day 1 of Month 11 in Year 40.

 

The stopwatch on this forty-year time frame took its first tick just as precisely. It was on the fourteenth day of the first month of the first year. The day carved out on God’s sovereign schedule for their massive exodus from Egypt.

 

 

That’s Day 14 of Month 1 in Year 1.

 

 

Endure the tedium of the dates for a moment because each set swells with significance. The first twelve months in the wilderness were calendared by God for the construction of a dwelling place for His glory. According to Numbers 10:11-13,  in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud then lifted above the tabernacle of the testimony to advance the people of God toward the land He’d solemnly promised to their father Abraham. 

 

That’s Day 20 of Month 2 in Year 2.

 

Thirty eight harrowing years had flown by at a sloth’s pace when Moses gathered the people of God on the damp edges of Canaan for the renewal of the covenant recorded in Deuteronomy. The skeletons of the faithless were scattered across the desert, picked clean by jackals, bleached white by a searing sun. Idolatry had fed gold to a bonfire and brought forth a graven calf in pangs of revelry to the tunes of slurring songs. Spies had returned from Canaan weighted down with the paradox of fruit and fear.

 

The delay had not come because the people disbelieved that God could do wonders. They’d seen Him split the sea, swallow their foes, shower down bread, and spit water from rocks. What they disbelieved was that God could do wonders through them.

 

We are not able…for they are stronger than us…The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants. Numbers 13:31,32

 

As it turned out, they were devoured not by their foes in their land of promise but by their faithlessness in a desert where, ironically, every dawn sprayed sunshine on a twinkling blanket of wonders. (Exodus 16:14-15)

 

But in the fortieth year and the eleventh month, something different happened. The sun rose bold and bright over Moab on a brand new day. Before Moses stood a new generation.

 

A generation ready to break camp and advance. We are not told that they were taller than their predecessors or that the giants across the river had shriveled and shrunk. In all their human frailty leaned against the gargantuan task, that new generation simply believed, broke camp, and advanced. Even without the leader who’d raised his staff to the Red Sea, rousing an east wind that made walls out of waters.

 

Fast forward thousands of years. Same God, looking for the same thing: people with bona fide faith who will swallow their fear and step out there into the unknown to make His praise glorious.

 

Every generation of Christ-followers is commissioned to advance the work of His kingdom across this globe, not to dispossess but to disciple, until a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages can cry out with a loud voice,

 

Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Revelation 7:9-10)

 

Many of the generations behind us stepped up to the challenge and did the work of the gospel, even if it killed them. We read about them. We marvel over them. We quote them. But we’re the ones dotting the landscape now. This is our tenure. They had nothing that we do not have. We have the same Savior, the same commissioning, the same Scriptures, and the same indwelling Spirit. We’re on.

 

But if we really want to advance, it’s probably time to break some camps.

 

 

Our camps are stalling us. They’re distracting us, dividing us, detouring us and detaining us. They are depleting the energy we need for the supreme task: to see people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ with a clock ticking so fast and furiously that our heads are spinning like tops.

 

God forbid in this metaphor that we’d confuse a camp with a community. Community is essential within the Body of Christ for individuals to flourish.We’d be hard-pressed to fulfill our callings apart from community. We can’t forsake meeting together. Nothing could be further from my mind than all of us out there on our own, unattached, unaccounted for, and unaccountable.

 

But camps are something else. They call for allegiance.

 

We’re all drawn to camps because they help satisfy our bone-deep desire to belong. But our pledge of allegiance to a camp will become a snare to us over and over. Our camp will eventually come into direct conflict with our allegiance to Christ because He will personally see to it. Jesus will systematically challenge every single confederation we hold dear in order to make sure that His authority stands completely alone and uncontested. Even good affiliations. Even godly ones. Those, in fact, can be the biggest competitors for authority in the lives of believers in Christ.

 

As a pen to the ink of the Spirit, Paul described the tendency of spiritual people to wrap a death grip around precepts and religious practices instead of “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Colossians 2:19)

 

There is a growth that is not necessarily from God.

 

If we want the only kind that matters to Him, we’ve got to hold fast to the Head.

 

Not to the camp.

 

To the Head.

 

The camp does not equal the Head.

 

When our loyalty to Christ or camp is tested and the camp wins, we lose. Our advancements with the gospel work will eventually either brake to the pace of an inchworm, screech to a stop, or reverse directions entirely until we’re inadvertently working in opposition to the Holy Spirit. The bleakest part is that we could be the last to know. A camp vision can get so thick, cloudy, and all-encompassing that we don’t even realize we’re missing a move of God. A banner can become a blindfold.

 

One way we’ll know the difference between a camp and a community is how freely we can move within it, around it, and even out of it. A camp elicits adherence. If departure would feel like a break up and differing perceived as disloyalty, we’ve probably got ourselves a camp.

 

Any organization or system in Christendom becomes a camp when it holds sway in our spiritual identity. We are known, not so much for being Jesus-followers as for being a  ___________________________________.

 

 

Camps have more flag bearers than cross-bearers.

 

Camps consider significant differences as one of two basic things: menacing threats or colossal signs of ignorance.

 

If you can go wholeheartedly with Jesus and still stay in a group and flourish, you’ve got yourself a fine community. Your calling and your community can peacefully coexist for years on end. But, if what you’ve got on your hands is a camp and you risk adjusting your doctrine according to what you’re learning right there on the pages of Scripture, you can count on a head-on collision. To decide exactly what we believe by the time we’re 30, choose our camp, and carefully reaffirm that exact line of belief till our dying breath will freeze our feet on the field. Getting people to come to us will eventually and invasively replace our *going  to them.  (*Mt. 28:19)

 

 

We can’t cram for life in the Spirit. It’s not a degree and the Bible’s not a diploma. We are summoned by the Spirit to study the Scriptures and seek Christ all our lives, increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)  A life-long disciple is a life-long learner. That means that we take the risk of realizing that maybe we were wrong about a strong stand we took. If we’re in a community, that can be okay. If we’re in a camp, that’s a cat fight.

 

Hold fast to the Head.

 

Not to the camp.

 

Look up from the huddle to fields white for harvest.

 

 

If we want to advance with the gospel of Jesus Christ on the battlefield of this globe where the carnage amounts to millions of souls, we are not called to keep camp.

 

We are not called to trade camps. (This will be the natural tendency of the long-term camper who feels the need for change. Simply hop on one foot to another one.)

 

Nope.

 

We are called to break camp.

 

Break camp and advance.

 


Here we get to pledge our affection to every brother and sister but here we pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ alone.

 

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Not Be A They

The other day I read something written to me that, while I understand was meant to encourage me, actually ended up slightly offending me. I was a little taken back at the offense because I’m usually not the type that ends up easily offended. A few days later I heard the exact same thing and all of the sudden, I took up my defense and simultaneously had the sudden revelation of why I was offended in the first place. Thank you, Lord.

 

I was offended because I was being associated with something and defined by something I didn’t want to be known as. It was something I had no control over. There was nothing I could do to create change and while it wasn’t rude, or bad, or even ugly, I just know it’s nothing permanent.

 

I realize I’m being vague but the point is not what I was categorized into, the point is that we do this to people all the time without even realizing what we’re doing.

 

We constantly are associating people with something whether it be their job, their marital status, their gifts, their friends, their family, their finances, their church attendance, their weight, their height, their clothes, and all manner of things I’m not listing. This list is exhaustive.

 

My mind immediately went to Zacchaeus.  (And let me just go ahead and categorize, if you grew up in church, go ahead and sing along with me. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he…” And seriously, what man wants to be labeled as a wee little man?!)

 

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

 

Here we learn that Zacchaeus was a tax collector, he was rich, he was small in stature and he was obviously a sinner, so they grumbled because Jesus chose to go stay with a sinner. Gasp!

 

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a they. Shame on me.

 

I’ve seen Jesus do things for people that I didn’t think they deserved because of this or that, and no doubt, the Lord put me back in my place.

 

But thank you, Lord, for grace and mercy. As one of my favorite authors puts it, “Grace doesn’t seem fair until you need some.” Bob Goff.

 

Last night I got to pray for a girl who confessed to a group of people that she just wants to love people. It was obvious that her heart matched her confession. And that’s what I want, too.

 

Whether it be positive or negative, so often we base our love on the conditional, the seen and the status.

 

I’ve realized in my own life there are two dangers to categorizing.

 

Either they’re better than me or I’m better than them.

 

Admitting that makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. Gag!

 

When we associate people by being “better” than them, we feel like we have so much to offer that person and try our hardest to mold that person into someone we think they should be. Or, we ignore them because they simply don’t deserve our attention. We don’t give them the time of day because the more “important” people deserve it. It is sickening.

 

The danger in placing people in a category better than us is that instead of seeing and loving them as Jesus sees them, we start acting out of intimidation and performance because we want them to accept us.  We believe they would never accept the real, messy us because certainly he or she never struggles, so we place them on a pedestal and put on a mask.

 

And in both cases, we end up withholding love.

 

In either situation, there is no real relationship. Only pride. And pride keeps people at arms length while humility invites people in.

 

But when we put on lenses to see people by Jesus’ eyes, we remember that we’re no less or more loved than the person standing in front of us. That we ALL fell short of the glory of God and Jesus came to see and to save the lost, which, if you needed a reminder like me, was all of us at one point or another.

 

It’s a reminder that our love for people is no comparison to God’s love for people. Nor do our ideas about someone else determine God’s love for them. Or what He’s doing in them. Or how He wants to use them.

 

I often have to remind myself that if I were in a large group and asked those of us to raise our hands that have ever struggled with any sin, whether it be bitterness, anger, lust, laziness, or addiction, just to name a few, the hands raised would represent two groups of people: those who were raised in church and those who were not, but don’t we categorize people into those two groups? Don’t we assume that churchgoers struggle with less? My point being, we’re all flesh and blood born sinners, churched or not.

 

Lest we forget, church does not cause transformation, only the power of Jesus Christ does. Nor does perfect church attendance equal godliness.

 

But when we greet and see people and honor people with the love of Jesus, despite where they work, what they do, or who they are or who they’re not, or what gifts they’ve been given, we can relate because we’re all just human and we’re all struggle in one way or another. And that alone is comforting.

 

And all of the sudden we realize we’re just one of them, instead of a they.

 

It’s all grace.

 

Dear Lord, help us. Give us eyes to see and hearts to love. In Jesus’ name.

 

“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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

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LPL Memphis Recap (Watch this!)

Well. I don’t know much about this past weekend in Memphis because I wasn’t there myself, but I can only imagine how the power of the Holy Spirit showed up simply based on this most excellent recap. I just told Rich this morning, one of our LPL photographers, that this is one of my favorite recaps. And coupled with the song “Awesome” off Travis’ new I’m Living Proof CD, it’s nearly perfect.

So, I don’t know if you normally take the four minutes to watch these recaps or not, but I’d encourage you to stop what you’re doing and watch this one.

If you just sent your Kindergartner off to school for the first time, watch this.

If you showed up to work this Monday morning discouraged again, watch this.

If you are in a season of joy, watch this.

If you are in a season of crushing, watch this.

It’s so good, y’all. Trust me.

Living Proof Live | Memphis from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

I can’t wait to hear about the weekend. Have a happy Monday!

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In Which I Introduce a Few of my Favorite Worship Albums!

I started working on a little post yesterday, but set that aside for the time being to talk to y’all about music.

Yes, music.

I don’t know what else to say except that I love, love it. Any and all kinds, I’m not very picky and so easily pleased. When people ask me to recommend some music, I usually send them no less than 10 albums. I’ve also been known to have a lot of favorites.

Since we’ve been sharing so much this week about the ways God has used us to creatively serve others, I thought it would be sweet to share how some of that creativity has ministered to me!

So, if you’re looking for some new worship music, allow me to share with you some favorites as of late.

In no particular order:

  1. Travis Cottrell: I’m Living Proof – Travis and team released a CD just yesterday! I know many of you are familiar with and love him through our Living Proof Live conferences, so you’ll be thrilled to know this album is a compilation of songs they sing at the conferences. I’ve had it playing all day and I love it. I’m especially fond of Take Me to the King and Victor’s Crown.
  2. Matt Redman: Your Grace Finds Me – I’ll be honest, it took me a few listens to get into this album, but once I did, I was sold. The lyrics. The melodies. The Truth. The everything. It’s so, so good.
  3. Hillsong Worship: No Other Name – This is their newest release and I think I adore every song on the album. That doesn’t always happen!
  4. Hillsong Young & Free: We are Young and Free – If you’re looking for an upbeat CD to workout to, this is it. It’s young and free and awesome.
  5. Bethel Music: You Make Me Brave – Little known fact, this album was recorded live at a women’s conference, even more reason why you should get it. Grin. (This is the CD that It Is Well comes from, the song I blogged about a few weeks ago.)
  6. All Sons & Daughters: All Sons & Daughters – I’ve listened to this CD for a year straight and I’ve never tired of it. Amazing. The whole thing. I so appreciate not only their gifts of creating music, but also their pastoral hearts.
  7. Passion: Take It All – This CD includes songs from Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, David Crowder, Matt Redman and some others recorded live at the Passion Conference. Just imagine worshiping along with 20,000 college students as you sign your way through this CD.
  8. Kari Jobe: Majestic – If you can only purchase one song off this entire album, don’t miss Forever. It’s breathtaking!
  9. Audrey Assad: Fortune Fall – I know I’ve mentioned Audrey on this blog before, but Audrey has the unique ability to pen lyrics that are so full of truth and straight from scripture and sometimes all I can say is, she’s so speaking my language right now.
  10. Lindsay McCaul: One More Step – Lindsay is the daughter-in-law to one of our beloved staff members, so naturally, we all love her, too. But I think you would love her as well if you heard her sing. Angelic! The song With the Brokenhearted is worth the entire CD.  God is WITH us. Amen? Amen.

My list extends far beyond these 10 albums, but if you’re looking for some good Jesus music, this is at least a start.

Also, Beth is heading to Memphis as I type this. (By the way, we are out of our fifty tickets! So sorry, ladies!) Will you all join us in praying for her and the LPL team this weekend? We’re praying that the enemy would be bound from that arena and the Holy Spirit would do an extreme work in every individual heart there. He is more than capable to bring people to salvation and cause miracles to happen. Let it be, Lord! Break down walls and build up faith. In Jesus’ name!

Happy Thursday, y’all!

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