Monday, June 10, 2013

From the Bars to the Pews

{I am a Woman of the Well}

If you had told me 10 years ago, I’d be working for a church someday, I would have laughed. In your face. SO HARD.

Because 10 years ago, I was the girl all you “church girls” were praying for.
10 years ago I thought Christianity was boring and narrow-minded.
10 years ago, I was really only consumed with one thing, partying.
10 years ago, the greatest joy in my life was going out, having fun, drinking, dancing, whatever! Sure I made time for work & school, but that wasn’t what my life centered around.

Until God gripped my heart.
Until I lost my earthly father.
Until I wandered into a place called “The Well”.

A place where I could sneak in to the back of the dark church, sit in the last pew, try to go unnoticed by others, and hide.

Only to be found in Christ.
A place where someone invited me to hear the Truth I didn’t even know I need to hear.
A place where my sin was confronted and His grace was made real.

The story of The Woman at the Well in John 4 never gets old. She was just going about her business in the middle of the day, filling up her jug of water at the Well. Scandalous past, naïve about her faith, not sure of the man she just stumbled upon.

Only to realize as He began to talk with her, He was the real deal. He was the Messiah! He confronted her sin, he corrected her theology, and revealed Himself to her. She understood and was so excited, that she left her jug right there, and ran into the village to tell everyone who she just found!

He offered her Truth & Grace.
She responded in gratitude and obedience.

And as a result “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony. . .” (John 4:39)

May that be true of us.
May we be brave enough to listen and hear.
Brave enough to believe.
Brave enough to repent and be saved.
Brave enough to go and tell.

10 years later, I am a church girl. The Well is my home.
10 years later, Christianity is the biggest thrill of my life.
10 years later I am still consumed with One thing.
But that One thing is knowing God, and making Him known.

I am thankful to know what it means to be a Woman of the Well (literally and figuratively). I’m grateful to have had my sin pointed out, because it showed my need for a Savior and led me to His love and grace. I am thankful because I’m no longer living in bondage to alcohol, living in shame, living lost.

And there is no other place I’d rather be found . . . than in Him.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…” (Philippians 3:8-9)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Failed Miserably

Hey, remember that one time 90 of us women set out to read the Old Testament and we failed miserably?

We tried really hard.
We started off really good.
We met together, encouraged each other, felt proud of ourselves when we finished the first few books.

And then things got real.
It started getting harder.
Too much.
The task was too big.
The goal was too far to reach.
Life started happening.

We stopped reading.
We stopped meeting.
We stopped trying.

And then we started to fall off, one by one.
We were left feeling defeated, deflated, and well, like failures.

But wait . . . is that really failure?
Isn’t the whole point of the Old Testament to show us our need?
Our need for a Savior?
Our need for a Helper?
Our need for something more?

If you felt like you set a goal you just couldn’t attain this semester, good.
If you felt like you fell short, then good.
If you felt like you couldn’t do it in your own strength, good!

Then you understand.
You understand how we can’t do things in our own strength.
Even good things.

You understand we can never live up to the text.
It’s too much.
Too overwhelming.
Too far.

We can never fully reach God. And that’s why He came down to reach us.

So maybe in this place of feeling like a failure, in feeling like you fell short, in feeling like you just couldn’t really measure up, you’ve actually found success? You’ve found the foundation to the Christian faith!

Not being good enough.

So don’t look at this as a failure. If you set out to read every single chapter of the Old Testament, and didn’t, good. That means the taste of salvation is sweet to your lips, because you know. If you set out to read every chapter, and didn’t, but read more than ever before, then great! That means you’ve tasted and seen what is good and know God more!

I hope that for those of us who didn’t finish the reading this semester, we can begin to see just how beautiful His grace is instead of how awful our inadequacies are!

“23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Journey through the Old Testament

This year, our church is teaching an overview of the bible in a series titled “Generations”. 15 of us ladies from life group decided to read along with the teaching team and set a goal of finishing the Old Testament by June!

It was a lofty goal, and we were far from perfect, but we did it! We met every week to discuss the reading and/or sermon. I don’t know if any of us read every single chapter, but we certainly completed more bible reading in 5 months than we’ve done in the past 5 years!

Most of the women in our life group have not read through the entire Old Testament before (especially not at such a rapid pace). It’s not my style to read so quickly through the bible, but because it’s a big picture/overview, I learned some new things along the way.

Some major themes I picked up on reading through the Old Testament like this were:

Throughout Israel’s history, you see them constantly looking to “other gods”, other things for fulfillment. Over and over they kept offering sacrifices at the “high places” to Baal, and ALSO worshipping YHWH. Finally, in 1 Kings 18 Elijah calls them out! “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

The people were not living distinctly. It was not obvious to the surrounding nations/people groups which God (or god) they served. Sound familiar? What in my life confuses people? Where do I say I follow YHWH, but also worship other things? Materialism? Success? Selfishness?

Partial Obedience
Another big theme in the OT is partial obedience. God over and over instructs the people of Israel to “destroy completely” a certain people group, nation, high places, etc and they only do so partially. And we learn right away that partial obedience is not obedience. As a result, you see certain nations that remain a thorn in Israel’s flesh.

Where in my life have obeyed some of what God has asked of me, but not all? I’ll surrender 9/10 of things to you oh LORD, but oh this ONE, this one I’ll keep?

Our God is a relenting God. He provides many opportunities for His people to repent, to turn and follow Him wholeheartedly. He sends prophets to His people who have one message “repent and be saved!” and they don’t listen. God desires us to repent and follow Him with everything so much that He will wait as long as He possibly can before judgment.

Though much of the nation followed after other gods, or only partially obeyed, or did not repent . . . there was a little population that did. The remnant of Israel. We read about it in Isaiah 4 and other places. Probably the most beautiful picture of this is in the book of Ruth. The book of Judges is full of darkness, sin, and depravity. It describes what happens when everyone does “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). And then comes Ruth. A picture of this family who is faithful to follow YHWH and serve Him and Him alone.

I want to be a part of the Remnant. I want to know that in the midst of darkness, chaos, sin, and depravity in the culture around me, I can keep my eyes fixed on the LORD and follow Him and Him alone.

Needless to say, we were all desperate for some HOPE after reading through the Old Testament. Story after story of sin, and judgment, and baals, and high places, and wicked kings . . . we were all weary by the end and eager for a Savior!

Isn’t that the point? We should read through the text and wait eagerly for a Messiah!

I love how one of the gals in our group put it . . . “If you had told me the bible was this salacious and scandalous, I wouldn’t have believed you! It has some REALLY good books. The bible is totally underrated.”

Couldn’t agree more. What a joy to journey through the Old Testament together, now on to the NEW!