In February 2017, I had the opportunity to attend my local IF Gathering and hear from Godly women over the course of a 24-hour conference. It’s similar to a Women of Faith setting, but smaller in the local videoconference places, and with opportunities for small group conversation (I love talking/reflecting with others about what I just heard). The focus was on the book of Acts and discipleship. Here’s what impacted me:
The infamous Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to bring you a hope and a future.” I have clung to this scripture since college. It’s pretty much the Christian’s best answer to coping with the unknown. But I learned this verse tends to be overrated.
What people don’t realize is that while it gives God’s promise for a hope, a future, etc., you have to understand the role God asks of you – to be in relationship with Him. Consider…do you read your Bible or pray more than you are on social media on a daily basis? (Umm…of course not is my honest answer to this. And a real slap in the face – it’s something I know, but definitely do not practice.) Do you initiate God-focused conversation with others? How are you building your relationship with him – both inwardly and outwardly?
We must be disciplined in following God. When we get too involved in this world, we become lonely, discontent, and compare ourselves to others. In Acts 4:13, the men following Jesus weren’t specially educated. However, they had power because they had been with Jesus. Intimacy is needed before we can go out and take Jesus to others.
At the time of this conference, being asked to be involved in discipleship was honestly not a desire of mine because I felt exhausted. And I fear I felt that way because I wasn’t spending time deepening my relationship with God – therefore resulting in a lack of desire. I wanted to shut down everything that was being spoken to me.
But then the focus shifted to considering who and how we can pour into others – simply as seeing our “mission field” or sphere of influence as the ones who live in our same home and who we see everyday at work. Basically, stop making this “discipleship” phrase an overwhelming, big dang deal. One mother spoke of her children being a manageable mission field. And shared this nugget that helped me cope with the never-ending guilt factor of not being a “perfect” mother. This mother told her teen girl: “Child, don’t put your trust in me because I will always fail you. Put your trust in Jesus because He is powerful and will never fail you.”
He will never fail any of us. Our everyday habits are our everyday idolatries. You are what you love. Are you living for the weekend or the next vacation day? Or is everyday enjoyable because you experience Jesus’s joy in every task and conversation? (Jeez, talk about a perspective giver for me…) I felt emboldened to seek out God more and give myself a break when it comes to being a “good” Christian.
Finally, I always need clear next steps to help me take action. I challenged myself to do the following. (And as I review this list I wrote in Feb 2017 to today, Jan 2018, I realize I’ve really sucked at doing most of this. But that’s why we review, people!!)
- Act. Be a Disciple. Love Him. Have a passion for Him. Read about Him. Be like Him. Live for Him.
- Be intentional about community. The disciples ate together and shared needs – including physical items. Find people unlike you (a big conversation on racial relations ensued – an important topic I’m learning so much about) to include in your community too.
- Continually live “on mission” – at work, with family, at the store.
- Pray about who you can invest in.
In 2017, I’ve also spent a lot of time praying about who I can invite to IF 2018. A couple offers have been declined, but one was accepted (yea, JB!). I’m so looking forward to the experience again. This year’s IF Gathering is in Lincoln on February 9-10. Come with me! It’ll be worth the 24 hours. I know there is one in Papillion, York, and Auburn for you Nebraskans. Check out more sites around the world on the IF Gathering webpage.
P.S. As I reflect on my 2017, I’m also identifying photos from these times and remembering fun adventures with my people. Enjoy my February 2017 photo with my little co-pilot. When other cars drive slow and don’t take risks, we tell them to “Be Bold!” (It’s better than the alternative: my foul mouth.)