The Blessing of a Conference

I absolutely love going to conferences, if I could… I would go to them all.  So, if you know of anyone hiring a Christian Conference Reviewer please give them my name.  There is something special about conferences, different than church … different than my own personal study time… different than discussing theology over coffee with a group of friends.

This past weekend, I was with 7,200 other women who clearly feel the same way I do.  Many traveled far to be here, most were repeat attenders who might have brought along a friend or family member for their first time.  I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t planning to come to the next one.

Worshiping in a room with that many people is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Listening to anointed teachers, scrawling notes, tears streaming, hands clapping, audible gasps when a point hits home….  THANK YOU, JESUS!

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What makes conferences so special to me?  In part, it’s the opportunity to get away from the comfort and familiarity of my home town.  I’ve never feared traveling alone, and I love the opportunity to see new places and meet new people.  Flying absolutely astounds me and I could look out the window the entire flight… to think that I am suspended in the air, a God’s eye view to His creation.  The colors, patterns, lights… it’s really breathtaking.

As a person who has put on mini-conferences and women’s retreats in the past, I can also appreciate the amount of work that goes into an event of this magnitude.  Knowing that every detail was meticulously planned, each speaker vetted and prepared, content that can speak as clearly to 7,200 women as it does to just 1.  Conferences give me an opportunity to learn about ministries that I can share with our local women.  And, hey… when the International Mission Board wants to give a girl coffee… we’re best friends.  (The coffee was amazing. by the way).

As a reader, the fact that most conferences have a book store….  it’s a beautiful thing.  Add in that there is usually special conference prices on the books; this means I can grab books that I have been wanting but also take risk on some new titles.  So many of the women who have shared their book haul from this conference share about the gifts they purchased for friends who couldn’t come.  Women’s Ministry Leaders and Pastor’s Wives are bringing home books to plan out their Small Groups for the year.

There is even something to be said for those moments when I saw a woman thumbing through the pages of a book, contemplating the purchase… and I could say:

“That is one of my favorites.”  or  “You won’t regret buying that one.”

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Yes, all of these things are parts of what make going to conferences special.  There is something to be said about spending several days, unplugged from your every day life, worshiping with other women, seeing new sites, and meeting new faces.

However the thing that makes them so special to me and draws me in, every time, is the access to amazing people who have been walking this road ahead of me.  Men and women who are not only anointed with wisdom but called to share that wisdom with others.  Men and women who are apart of those called to not only be in the fray of this fallen world, but invest in raising up other leaders and equipping them for the battle we fight every day.

So that, when the day is done, my hands are tender from writing pages of notes and my brain is swollen from all of the Good Word that was injected into it.  Interpretation I had not considered, application that I did not see, and from that the burn to share that with others.  Immersed in the Word, surrounded by my sisters & brothers… all there for one reason, the same reason.

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This is incredibly special, a wonderful opportunity to glean form the sages of different walks, ages, and stages.

While this is what makes conferences special to me, it is the blessing that comes from the conferences that always puts me on my knees in gratitude.   If you follow me on social media, you will know that I got a bit whiny due to flight delays and complications.

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A friend responded:  There must be a huge blessing for you in Indianapolis!

And boy was she right.  In fact, every year when I have gone to this conference I have entered the conference with something weighing on my heart.  Every year, when I leave… there has been an answer, affirmation, or direction given.  Every single year.   If I gained nothing from the conferences other than this, I would still call it my favorite and I would still call it blessed.

The Lord blesses us when we surrender our time and ourselves to His Word and His teachers.   He blesses us when we humbly put our issues at the foot of the cross, and lean into His guidance.  God blesses us with the people whom He puts in our pathways to say “just the right thing” even when they have no idea what you are struggling with.  The Lord blesses us in a place like this, when we are all together for one purpose in one accord… and the Holy Spirit moves throughout the space.  Touching hearts, healing wounds, directing steps, giving wisdom, developing gifts, sharing tissues… THANK YOU, JESUS.

It comes in the plenary sessions, seated among 7,200 others.   It comes in the workshops for a few hundred to just 15 women sitting in a circle, who say:  “You too?”

We find so much in this COMMUNITY….

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And of course, it is nice to come home and find out you were missed..

Watch & listen for yourself, by clicking the banner below.

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Pre-Conference Sessions on Prayer

All Conference Main Plenary Sessions

And a thorough selection from the many workshops offered.

TGC Women’s Conference Notes, Part 5 – Nehemiah Sessions #5-6 (Ch 9-12)

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These are my notes on the book of Nehemiah from The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference.  There were 7 total sessions, covering all 13 chapters.

Session #5– John Piper,  Nehemiah Chapters 9 & 10   (VIDEO: Nehemiah 9-10: John Piper http://vimeo.com/99775552)

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah we see the Israelites, those of Jewish descent, have separated themselves from the foreigners.  They read from the book of law, they confessed their sins.  First we see their humility and their reverence for God.  They acknowledge God for who He is and what He has done for them.  They recognized that God was clear and straightforward with what He asked of them.  Then they literally begin to detail out all of the times that their people, the previous generations, have rebelled against God; and also the mercy of God in each of those situations.  They acknowledged that in each instance that discipline was given, that it was just and they deserved it.  They didn’t point the fingers at others, but assumed the blame as a community.  They wanted to make binding agreement with God.

In Chapter 10 of Nehemiah there is another detailed list of everyone who signed this agreement, and what they were promising.  Reality was that this wasn’t exactly a new covenant, but instead a new generation who was agreeing to the covenant established with the forefathers.

From John Piper

The stories that are in the bible are not their for our enjoyment, like an entertaining story to share with our kids.  Instead they are there for our enjoyment of the Lord, so that we can remember and acknowledge Him, give him the glory, and truly appreciate the gift of grace we are given.  The entire point of any and every story in the Bible is to point toward Jesus.  It is the foundation, the groundwork, the steps that take place to lead us to the time of Jesus’ arrival, and the foretelling of that arrival.  It all points toward Jesus.  It’s not about Adam and Eve, it’s about Jesus.  It’s not about King David, it’s about Jesus.  It’s not about doubting Thomas, it’s about Jesus.

And, the point of the entire universe is to tell the glory of God.  History glorifies God, because it is His story.  God wrote it, produced it, directed it, acted in it… to make Himself known.  And He is known!  (Neh. 9:10)

As speakers, writers, witnesses, pastors, leaders, etc… ALL OF OUR MESSAGES ARE TO AID GOD IN MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF.

It is not my story or your story, it is His story.  When I am sharing my story… it isn’t about me at all. Not about myself, or my situation.  Our story is the means in which we tell others of how the hands of the Holy Spirit can change the heart of man to know God, love God and enjoy God for who He really is.

Nehemiah was in distress.  Those who love God’s people are often in distress.   Nehemiah’s people were in distress, over how they have failed to live up to God’s statues, rebelled against Him, forgot Him.  How did they handle it? They cried out to God in prayer, over 30 times.

To often when people find themselves in distress they think God put them there as discipline, some ask for help out of the situation without acknowledging they brought themselves there in the first place, some won’t cry out to God because they feel like the deserve to be in that bad place because of their actions.  BUT NONE MAY ESCAPE THE GOOD NEWS!  Jesus died for all of our sins.  We cry out to God because of who He is, no who we are or what we have done… because we all fall short.

When people feel guilt & refuse to cry out to God in prayer…. they don’t want help, because they feel the deserve the consequences of sin in their life… THEY DIMINISH THE CROSS & EXALT THEMSELVES IN THEIR SIN.

Here the Israelites are praying back to God a full retelling of everything that God has done for them.  Why? Because they needed to know that there was hope for them, and the answer was found in the history, in the stories.  It was a reminder to them not just of what God did… but reinforced the promise of what God would do.   And God keeps his promises because He is RIGHTEOUS.

In their prayers the people praised God, humbled themselves, accepted God as the standard of their living – we are image bearers, seek pity from God because they fail, reestablish the covenant & establish consequences.  Should we pray like this?  NO!  Why?  Because 1) they had the odds stacked against them already, a history of failing to live up to their promises to God.  2) They point to his righteousness & promises as a protection for their lives.   They own their faults, but they forget that God doesn’t need them in order to keep His righteousness.  He could wipe all of these people off the face of the earth & raise Abraham from the dead, create a new lineage…. and still keep His promise.

There is going to be a cycle of failure amongst God’s people until His work is done.  At the end of the OT, God has not acted to end sin or taken payment of the wages of sin.  If the OT ended at Malachi, what a terrible ending, it’s a perpetual cycle of failure, sin and rebellion.   It also illustrates God passing over the past sins of his people without holding them accountable, in order for God to be righteous he can’t allow their sins to go unpunished.  There must be atonement.  God must do something.

And, God does… in the New Testament, when Jesus Christ was sent … a Savior, a Redeemer.  He was, and is, HOPE for a stiff necked rebellious people.  At the Last Supper, Jesus creates a new covenant… bought with His blood ending the external law that demanded obedience and creating an internal spirit that moves our desires toward obedience.  Through this God made Himself known again, proving Himself true to His Word, character and very being.

Session #6- Kathleen Nielson, Jenny Salt & Carrie Sandom, Nehemiah Chapters 11 & 12   (VIDEO:  Nehemiah 11-12  http://vimeo.com/100122592)

Chapter 11 –  The Israelite leaders settled in to Jerusalem, the holy city.  Everyone else was in the surrounding towns (their ancestral property).  In order to populate the rest of Jerusalem, of these surrounding towns they began to cast lots (lottery).  One out of every ten would move into the city.  A detailed list is given of the new residents in Jerusalem from their descended tribes, through to the gatekeepers and officers.

Chapter 12 – We are given a complete list of the Priests and Levites within the community.  When the wall was completed they were called to the city to dedicate the wall.  They ceremonially cleansed themselves and then purified the people, the gates and the wall.  There was a celebration of singing (choirs giving thanks), musical instruments (as David prescribed),  made sacrifices to the Lord.  The sound of the celebration could be heard from far away.  Appointments were made for the keeping of the storehouse, tithes were taken from the people & given to the priests, who tithed from their portion to the descendants of Aaron.

From Carrie Sandom:

Again, we need to recognize that the list of names was important.  The Jews were meticulous record keepers which gives credibility to historical authenticity.  It validates how important each person and the role God has given them is to God, His story.  These names connected them to their past, as they were grouped by their tribes and forefathers.    It also served as a reminder that God had not forgotten His promises/covenant to these particular people.  It also acknowledges the collaborative effort it took to bring this city & these people back to Jerusalem, their promised land.

Lists are important.  When we are present at an event, and names are being read off a list… we listen closer… we want to hear our name, we want to be included, we don’t want to miss hearing our name called out.  We are more attentive.

With their renewed covenant, they needed to repopulate the city, rededicate the wall and reorganize the temple and storerooms.   They couldn’t just rebuild, they had to actually live there. Their willingness to sacrifice illustrates that God was at work in the people.  There was joyful anticipation within the people, they were bringing God back to the center of their lives, sacrificial system was back in place again (something that had been abandoned when they were enslaved)…. life was springing back in Jerusalem.

They will full of courage, joy and anticipation; but at this time period, people still didn’t have direct access to God (Holy of Holies, located in the temple, for the High Priest to enter only).  We should rejoice even MORE because we DO have direct access to God through Jesus!

There will be a new list of inhabitants… of the New Jerusalem.  We will be waiting, with eager anticipation… for our names to be read off that list.

From Jenny Salt:

In these chapters we watch the Israelites full of joy, anticipating the return to their ways of worship & God’s favor.

Our Joy:

1) It is God Centered:  We get our joy from His presence in our life, and from Him directly.  It’s not just about meeting in a place, like church… but also communing directly with God.

2) It Comes in Remembering God’s Faithfulness: The gospel truths help get us through our tough times.  We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves!

3) It Focuses on Thankfulness:  Joy combats depression, dispair and fear.

—–I had to leave the room during part of Jenny’s presentation, and missed some of the presentation.  The Gospel Coalition is still working on the media from the event.  I’ll post a link when available, and you will be able to catch what I missed.

From Kathleen Nielson:

People are called to move, and to do.  To celebrate, and rejoice.

We learn from the OT commands that there is an order an structure to their lives, to keep things going smoothly and in accordance with God’s will.

The Israelites were establishing this order to the city, as they were returning as inhabitants.

1) They didn’t make up these rules, but rather they were according to God’s Word

– Example… tithes and offerings, done in a certain way & on a regular basis.

2) Structure helps pass the information and traditions on to our future generations.

– Example… the order of our church services, prayers, etc. Structure = duplicatible = easy to remember = easy to teach.  It becomes habitual.

3)  When done in accordance to God’s will, structure helps focus on satisfying God… over ourselves.

–  We may want to do it another way, but by doing it God’s way, we take ourselves out of the equation & put the focus and credit on Him.

4)  Structure brings joy because it makes us dependent upon His promises.

Having order has been in existence since the beginning.  God didn’t just do everything all at once, simultaneously.  He did each step of creation independently and saw that it was good.   He took joy in each step.

As we head into Chapter 13… we will see that while their intentions were good… THEY COULD NOT DO IT.

Previous Related Posts:

Pre-Conference Part 1 – Male and Female, He Created Them – Speaker Panels

Pre-Conference Part 2 – Male and Female, He Created Them – Don Carson

Conference Part 3 – Nehemiah:  Sessions 1 &  2 (Chapters 1-4)

Conference Part 4 – Nehemiah: Sessions 3 & 4 (Chapters 5-8)

 

The Gospel Coalition, Women’s Conference:  NEHEMIAH VIDEOS

Nehemiah 1-2 Kathy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99765572

Nehemiah 3-4 Timothy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99790975

Nehemiah 5-6 Paige Brown: http://vimeo.com/99776947

Nehemiah 7-8 Nancy Guthrie: http://vimeo.com/99775551

Nehemiah 9-10: John Piper http://vimeo.com/99775552

Nehemiah 11-12 Sandom/Salt/Neilsen http://vimeo.com/100122592

 

IN REVIEW – The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference (Part 1)

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When I shared that I would be attending The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference, my friends asked for my notes before I even left.  First of all, this illustrates that my friends know me well.  I am a note taker.  Second, my friends know that my notes are good.  It isn’t because I have a keen ability to key into the important things that are being said.  Not at all.  It’s quite the opposite. I write everything down.  Like, everything.  I came home with well over 100 pages of notes.  There was a distinct moment, about half way through the conference, I realized I may not have bought a large enough notebook.

I do this style of note taking for 3 reasons.

1) I’m generally overwhelmed with information, and I can’t always detect what “the point” is.  Writing it down allows me to reflect on it later, when my head isn’t so clogged with thoughts and information.

2) My memory isn’t as good as it used to me (thank you Hashimotos).  If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it.  Writing it down helps me commit it to memory.  Sometimes the full information, sometimes all my memory catches is a brief synopsis but tags in my head “you wrote that down in the blue notebook from the conference”.   I can almost always find that information I can’t remember.

3)  I believe that God can use the same notes I took today, ten years from now to tell me something else.   I don’t perceive any information as invaluable.  It may not matter or make sense today, but 10 years from now… it very well could.

So, on to the conference notes… that my friends are so eagerly awaiting.  Let me assure you, I am not posting 100+ pages of notes here.  I’m going to give out some highlights, things that jumped out at me when I looked back over the notes.  If anyone would like more specifics, I’m sure we can work something out.  🙂

I am going to also be providing these notes in installments.  So, consider this:  Installment 1:  The Pre-Conference.  I’ll then move onto the Main Conference,The Workshops, and finally my overall review of the conference itself, as a whole.    I’m going to be working on these as I have time.  So I make no promises of the notes being posted on a set schedule.  I may knock out a few in a week, or it may take me a few months.   Also, several of the speakers have their own website and blogs.  I am going to try and link as many as possible, as they are excellent sources of information on a variety of topics. I encourage you to seek them out.  Others may not have blogs or websites, but have written books.  I will do my best to link to pages that list those books, so that you can seek out great reads.

INSTALLMENT ONE:   THE PRE-CONFERENCE – Male and Female, He Created Them

The pre-conference was basically a “bonus” for those of us arriving early.  It wasn’t exactly related to the main conference theme.  But the information was valuable, none the less.  It was broken up into three sessions.   The first was a panel made up of men & women (Don Carson, Tim & Kathy Keller, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper).   The second panel was made up of all women (Trillia Newbell, Kathleen Nielson, Noel Piper, Jenny Salt, Carrie Sandom).  Both panels were handled in question/answer sytle, where the third session was a topical presentation from Don Corson.

First things first, the panel were all in agreement on their “complimentarian” beliefs.  This falls between the idea of “egalitarian” and “patriarchal”.  Big words, I know.  I had to look one of them up during the conference to ensure I knew what they were talking about.  Smart phone, for the win.  Egalitarians, in short, believe that all are created equal, “have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race” (wikipedia).  Patriarchals, in short, believe in very distinct gender roles.  They believe “that God has ordained a specific family order, and that this family order must be followed. The husband leads, the wife submits, and the children obey. (patheos.com).  Complimentarian falls somewhere in between.  It agrees with egalitarian beliefs that we are created equal before God to use our gifts as God has called us to, despite class or race.  However, when it comes to gender it bends slightly toward the patriarchal side.  The complimentarian belief is that we are created equal but different.  Equally valued, equally purposed, equally important, equally loved.  Different roles and responsibilities, that compliment one another.  It supports biblical submission, that the man is the head of the household.  However, it doesn’t fall to the extremism that patriarchal Christians can take.  It doesn’t support abuse or even dictatorship in the home.  It doesn’t even imply that certain tasks are for the men, and other for the women.  One of the speakers shared how when his father was away at work, his mother filled the role of his father in his absense.   She would fix things around the house, mow the lawn, discipline and train the children, take care of the finances, etc.  However, upon his father’s return, she would return all of those duties back to him.  He was given back his authority, and frankly she was given a reprieve.

I can relate to this, especially during certain times of the year, when my husband is working 12-14 hour days, 13 days in a row with only a single day off before he starts over again.  Military wives can relate to this when their husbands are away on deployment.  Too often when they return home we can still try and run the roost because we are accustomed to it.  We need the reprieve of handing it back over, and they need it too!  And, it’s good for our children to see that changing of the guard.  He isn’t just a man who pays the bills, he leads the family.

What I also appreciated about these sessions was that all of the speakers had a very clear definition of what “biblical submission” is, and what it isn’t.  This is a subject that can spark a lot of controversy.  Biblical submission is a mutual relationship where the wife submits to her husband’s leadership… not the wife becomes the husbands doormat.  In return the husband loves his wife, like Christ loved the church… by willing sacrifice.  Christ sacrificed his very life for the church, and husbands should be willing to die to self for their wives.  In this mutual relationship of submission and love, we have a wife who has her feelings, wants and desires considered.  She is allowed to voice her opinions to her husband, and he considers them in his decision.  But ultimately the final decision (and accountability  for that decision) rests on his shoulders.  The wife is not cast aside, while her husband runs the home like a dictatorship.  A great line from the women’s panel said “Men often see leadership as authoritarian, but that is wrong.  Leadership is sacrificial”.

Between the panels they related that the idea of husband and wife are wound throughout scripture, from Genesis through Revelation.  They confirmed that while these roles are biblically supported, they are not salvation issues.  However understanding this “equal, but different” complementary relationship will create a ripple effect that impacts how you read scripture.   No one gender is better or worse, but have different gifts by the very nature of their gender.  John Piper referred to his mother as “omni-competent”, clarifying that biblical submission is not competence based.  It’s not about what you CAN do, but what you SHOULD do… what God has called you to do.

This complementary relationship isn’t a “women’s issue” because it is important to the husband, and the children whom it is modeled before.  So while yes, women should be invested in biblical submission from the standpoint of their responsibility … so too, should the husband.  Don Carson very strongly implicated that men do not know enough & should learn more about what REAL biblical headship looks like.

And, what I thought was FANTASTIC about the panel… was that they addressed what this looks like in the life of the single man, or single woman.  If you are not married, there are still applicable lessons here for your relationship with the church.  As a single man, are you stepping up into leadership within your church?  Mentoring?  Leading a study?  Women, are you submitting to the authority of your Pastors (please do not read that in any sort of way that supports abuse of position, or that women should be silent in the church)?  Are you stepping up and mentoring, leading studies, helping with the children’s ministries, etc?

The panel was also very clear that these relationships are not hard lined, but flexible.  We can allow denominational differences to try and say “the way our church does it, is the right way”…. and we can do it personally by saying “the way my family lives this, is the right way”.  But that is simply not true.  This mutual relationship of Biblical Submission (wife) and Biblical Headship (husband) is going to look very different from home to home.  It will not look the same in the home of a deployed soldier and a full time missionary.

Biblical Headship (husband) puts the weight of the burden on the family on his shoulders.  He is accountable before God for every decision he makes for the family.  It’s not a power trip, it is leadership.  He doesn’t rule from over you, he leads from the front lines of the family.

Biblical Submission (wife) is beautiful and she is pleased by his leadership when it is well.  And, while the panels didn’t say this, I’d add in… when he is wrong, God honors her for her obedience to His word and protects the family from his errors and helps them recover.

From the women’s panel, Carrie Sandom referenced that 70’s feminism taught us that we, as women, can do anything a man can do… in fact, even better.  However, God promises us even BETTER when we are in alignment with HIS WORD, HIS DIRECTION, HIS PLAN.  In fact, we are seeing more and more women abandoning feminism and returning to the word because they were lacking satisfaction in the “equality” that feminism brought.

In the Complementarian Christian churches you will not find a woman as Pastor, they believe this is a role God clearly defines for me.  However, they do not discount the role of women as teachers and leaders.  In fact, Completementarian Churches strongly support their women’s ministries, because “the ministry of women to women beautiful and connects in a way men can’t”.  It is within these ministries that God uses our gifts and talents.  This is where our gifts of administration, stewardships, leadership, organizaton, etc all SHINE just as equally as our ability to create, nuture and love.    We have a goal to encourage and shape women, to grow in godliness, understand the gospel, and teach other women and to make these things happen we have to be able to organize and prepare.  Either on our own, or paired up with someone who compliments us.  Where one is weak, the other is strong.

Equality.  Diversity.  Unity.  Order.  – It’s all biblical. Found in the Word.  It’s not a single topic, but woven throughout.

We need to be grounded in the word to fight against the culture that is changing around us.  We need mentors who have wisdom to share.  We need to be studying the word alone, but also with others.  We need to be involved in ministry work, somewhere… somehow.

The ladies panel was very adamant that there should be a role in the body for everyone to serve.  That while yes, some women want recognition, most really just want to feel needed.   They addressed some of the benefits and difficulties of women working in ministry with men, which really supported the idea that we are indeed made equal, but different.  We see things different, process things differently, and respond differently.  I’m going to save some of these bits for a future post.

The women’s panel wrapped up their portion with 3 key things we can do to encourage strong biblical leadership… model it in your marriage, speak respectfully about your church leaders and pray for them & your relationship with them.

Don Carson’s presentation (3rd part of the pre-conference) really deserves it’s own space.  So, I will be writing on that next.  It really goes into detail about “Complimentarianism” with scriptural support.  I am HOPING, that I can save my fingers and your eyes, and that in the next few days they will have the video from the pere-conference on their website.  Then you can watch it for yourself. 🙂