Wednesday, February 10, 2016

IF-Gathering 2016

This past weekend I again had the opportunity to participate in an IF-Local which is a gathering of hundreds of thousands of women across the world who were all coming together to listen and glean insight from God's word from some of the funniest, most godly women (along with a couple of men thrown in) who are in Christian ministry today.  Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Shelly Giglio and David Platt were just a few of my favorite speakers.  The weekend focused around the topic of What IF we lived like Jesus?   It was a wonderful time of deep, heart felt worship and lots and lots of inspiring truths.  After each session I felt a little bit warn out from all the passionate preaching but excited and challenged as well.  I did enjoy how they planned for "down time" in between the sessions.  Time that allowed me to process through some questions for myself while sharing thoughts with friends and getting to hear what their take aways were too.  Getting to do life with these ladies is by far one of my greatest blessings!
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One of my favorite talks was from Eugene Cho's talk from John 14:6, which talks about how Jesus is "the Way, the truth and the life."   He posed these questions, "If Jesus isn't the way, the truth and the life, then what are we doing here this weekend?   Is Christ who He says He is?  And he went a step further and asked "Is it possible that we're more in love with the idea of Jesus then we are with actually following Jesus Christ?  These were all very penetrating and thought provoking questions that all come back to a critical point---everything hinges on the fact that Jesus is the Way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  He encouraged us to preach to ourselves everyday that Jesus loves us, He knows everything about us (the good, and ALL the bad) and He still chose me, and He still chooses you.  He pursues us and desires a relationship with us and we must remember that "apart from Him we can do nothing." Cho implored us to remind ourselves to let the Holy Spirit be a dominate voice in our heads.  He said, so often we think the grass will be greener on the other side but what we need to think to ourselves when this lie enters our mind is, maybe the Holy Spirit is just saying, "water your own grass?"  It's a simple thought and not totally a new concept but when he posed the question, it really resonated with me.   Of course!  When I feel compelled to compare myself with others or I think "this too shall pass----but when?" I just need to simply water my own grass, feed my soul with the bread of life, drink of Jesus, the living water and be grateful for what I do have instead of focusing on what is going wrong at the time.

I was very inspired by hearing the personal testimony of a woman who was caught in an awful situation in India. This beautiful woman stood before tens of thousands of people and shared her gut wrenching story of how God took her tattered clothing (her old sari) and gave her a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:1-3).  She went on to share how God had taken the most difficult, hopeless situation and turned it around for good.  She spoke of the 11.1 million bonded laborers in India who endure extreme violence and suffering and how she has been able to help free 10,000 people with the International Justice Mission (IJM) which has turned her own pain to hope while offering hope to others.  She kept sharing that God is good, even through all the pain and suffering she'd experienced, regardless of the stinch of sin around her, God washed the stain away and eventually made all things new.  To hear this woman share her story and then pose the question "can we be life giving to someone" by supporting a ministry like IJM, by helping a friend or by being willing to simply share our struggles with another who also may be struggling? We have no idea how freeing it might be or encouraging to the one hearing or receiving our words.  She has such a remarkable testimony!
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The other session that I really enjoyed was David Platt's discussion of John 17.  Again he reiterated that God loves me and "God loves the world so much that He gave His one and only Son".   He encouraged us to recognize the unique places where God has put us, to realize what is at stake in the lives of those around us and to remember the simple purpose that He's given us--to share the love of God with others.  He said for those 2.8 billion people in the world who've not rejected God, but who have literally never ever heard about God (because they are in such rural, hard to reach places where the Bible hasn't been translated into their language)--it's those people who don't know how much God loves them.  Platt went on to say He doesn't just love them "that He sent His one and only Son"---God loves them SO He sends them me and you!  Platt shared of a time during a speech he gave in college where he shared the good news of Jesus.  Afterward, a young woman came up to him and was extremely offended by his statement that "no one comes to the Father except through Jesus"…she couldn't get over the arrogance of it all.  Filled with anger the girl said, that's the most hateful thing I've ever heard--to think that your God is the only way to heaven.  He went on to say that in all actuality it would be more arrogant and hateful to not share the true way to eternal life with God if we know how to get there.  Platt asked the question, "what does it take for us to be intolerable to the fact of unreached people groups?" "What if the 500,000 people who are doing the IF gathering were to share the gosple with those around them?"  What a challenging question.  He said we don't have to go start an organization or write a blog…we just need to tell the people in our sphere of influence about the truths of God's love for them.  Instead of living out of fear of being offensive, I should live in confidence knowing that God truly is THE way, THE truth and THE life.
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The whole weekend was inspiring and challenging.   As I continue to process the words that were spoken and the stories that I heard, I pray that God will continue to stir in my heart and show me ways that I can engage with Him in kingdom work that is of eternal value and significance.  I pray that I will hear God's Holy Spirit more often as He whispers to me "this is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)

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