I am a big fan of Conferences and Retreats, they are places where we get to pull away from the every day and put all of our focus on Him. There are no distractions, there are no interruptions. They are an opportunity for total immersion into fellowship with your brethren in Christ as well as God himself.
This weekend, my home church held a women’s retreat. We were blessed that a few other local small churches joined us for this time of fellowship and communion.
Speaker Michelle Howe pointed us toward having a “Swept Away” life in the Lord. It is easy to be swept away by the world, the enemy… but it is a great thing to be swept away into relationship with God. She suggested these daily actions:
- REJOICE (Isaiah 44:2) — the Lord has swept away our sins, therefore we have cause to sing for joy! Rejoice in thanksgiving, prayers, song, praises, gratitude.
- REBUILD (Nehemiah) — when our walls are dropped, we rebuild them with HOPE that is found in the Lord and find we are restored.
- RENAME (1 Cor 5:17) — we are a new creation in Christ, the new is here and the old is gone. Our new name is Image Bearer, Christ Follower… not the labels of our oldself.
She then had the women at each table write their name at the top of a piece of paper. Then, we were to pass them to our right. As we received another woman’s paper, we were to allow the spirit to lead us to a word or statement about that woman… and write it down. I’ve done this exercise before, but it has always been with a group of women that know me. This time, with so many women at the event, many of us were seated among women we had never met or at least didn’t know very well.
After we received our paper back, we were instructed to circle 3 things… a statement that surprised us, a statement we expected, and a statement that we longed for. What I found interesting was that the word I circled that surprised me, was the same thing I knew the Lord has been working on in me. PATIENCE. I don’t see myself as patient, but I have released my need to know and control the Lord. It was interesting that someone would see that in me, a work that is coming to fruition. The second word, was something I expected which was STUDENT. I’m a student of the word in many ways. But the third, the thing that I longed for someone to see in me was CHRIST. In the past, when I’ve done this exercise… I’ve gotten a lot of great compliments. But I’ve always longed for CHRIST LIKE to be in that list. It’s been a “few” years since I’ve completed this exercise… and a woman wrote I was “light, like a city on a hill”. It means my love for Christ, is no longer something that is inside of me… but a light that shines for others to see. PRAISE GOD.
You can view Michelle’s full presentation notes here: How to Live a Swept Away Life
A member of our church then shared her testimony, and I’ll respect that sharing by letting her story remain her’s to tell. But I wanted to share a few things that I took away from it personally.
- We do not fool the believers around us. Whether we speak up or not, believers can sense when we are struggling and will pray on our behalf. The Lord brings our names to the attention of our intercessors in the church. You have people praying for you, and you may not know it.
- We swim at our own risk. We may see the signs that the waves are dangerous, we know what lurks in the ocean. We may dip our toes in the ocean of sin, slowly walking deeper and deeper. There will be those of us who feel a little nibble, take heed, and return to shore. Yet, some of us will continue to wade deeper, ignoring the bites. We may not be paying attention to the waves coming overhead… or we are pulled into the riptide. Taken deeper, unable to save ourselves from our circumstances. Life may be a “swim at your own risk” event, but Jesus is the Life Guard who is always on duty.
- Pursue the Lord in PRAYER, HIS WORD, IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM
Speaker and Counselor, Amy Oliver spoke directly to my heart as she engaged us on the importance of seeking God directly in His Word, as well as a solid perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman. Some highlights of her presentation:
- Knowing who Jesus is, and being thankful for Jesus is not enough. We must be in active submission to His Lordship.
- Our prayer accepting Christ as our savior is not a stopping point, but a launching point.
- The Word constantly and consistently calls us to RETURN TO GOD, to FOLLOW JESUS.
- There is a difference between REGRET (being caught) and REPENT (broken and called to change).
- His Word helps us to not only know WHO God is but to recognize the counterfeit that the world and enemy will try and sell us.
- The fruit of our spirit is not a works based faith, but instead a natural response to act in obedience to the Lord.
- In Christ there is REAL FREEDOM, in the enemy/the world there is an ILLUSION of freedom (but a price will be paid).
- Good Christian things can become an IDOL in our lives if we allow them to take precedence first and foremost over our personal, devoted time to God.
A Proverbs 31 Woman is:
- FIXED – she is rooted/grounded/secure in her role as an image bearer.
- Women have a tendency to shift their identity as their circumstances or seasons of life shift. If our identity is in Christ, then we need not shift but be rooted, so that no matter how things shift or change… we are still first an image bearer.
- Women’s image or worth is not found in comparison with other women or the amount of likes a photo or story gets on social media.
- Media tries to tell us who we SHOULD BE, God tells us WHO WE ARE.
- The standards of the word are cheap, and they don’t last.
- God knows our BEST, he is our MEASURE or STANDARD
- FOCUSED – she is focused on HER mission, not the mission or calling of others.
- Her success is not based on the success of her husband, her children, or her activities. Her success is based on the mission the Lord has given her, thus what things we say YES to matters, why we say YES matters.
- Requests of her time are weighed against her God given mission, she seeks the kingdom first.
- Her life looks distinctly different from non-believers because she is mission focused. Distinctly different, reflecting him, illustrating redemption.
- FIERCE – she is fiercely dedicated to her task, she is not distracted or strayed.
- She does not multi-task between her walk with God and the ways of the world, it is impossible to do so. She is sold out for the better, kingdom calling… abandoning the world for Him.
- She doesn’t have a guilty pleasure that is of the world, because she knows that it bears no fruit. It does not set her apart from the world as a redeemed follower.
- She does not repeat bad choices or behavior with a false expectation that this time it will turn out differently. She knows the result of all sin is the same.
- She wears the full armor of God, saturating herself in the Word.
- FEARLESS – she is not afraid of this world, but fears the Lord.
- Fear of the world = anxiety, depression, worry, etc.
- Fear of the Lord = awe, reverence, worship, trust, etc.
- Fear of the Lord casts out all other fears from the world.
When we have an encounter with God, we are changed. There is a visible and noticeable difference. How do we encounter God, how are we changed?
- Know Him in His Word – evaluate the things in your life closely to know if this is something wasteful or worthy. Anything outside of Jesus is fake, when we know Him through his word and our relationship with him, we can identify what is false and counterfeit.
- Know Your Place in Him – Image bearer, then wife, then mother… and so on. You are a priority to God, He gave his son for you. Find your value and worth in knowing you are a priority to God, not based on what the world sells as valued. Don’t try to be someone else, envious of their gifts and talents. Instead, know what you are good at and DO IT.
- Know How to Care for Yourself – your spiritual health is important, be intentional about your time with God, take a break away and invest in your spiritual health. Jesus often retreated to be alone with God, to hear from Him and be away from the noise and distraction of the world. When our spiritual health is in check we are mission focused, dedicated in prayer, deepening our relationship with Jesus. Learn to set boundaries. Find contentment with what the Lord has blessed you with instead of what others have that you lack.
Thoughts => Feelings => Beliefs => Words => Actions => Habits => Character => Destiny
(=> means influences, builds)
You can view Amy Oliver’s full presentation notes here: Swept Away!
This will be continued on Thursday with some take away notes from our breakout discussions/presentations.