The Lord threw me a curveball this week and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d me way out of my comfort zone.
I say that to let you know that I, too, am choosing courage over comfort as we move through this study. Do you remember that was one of our introductory phrases?
I fear that my nerves, trepidation, uneasiness, may not translate well inside a blog post. You’ll have to trust me that my knees were quaking as I did my best to walk in obedience.
I admit I wasn’t fully on my game, but this study has never been about me. It’s about HIM and I took a deep breath and handed Him the reins last night. Yes, I try to do that each time we gather, but there was an air of unfamiliarity last night. New territory. I’m still praying that there was some benefit to those who attended and that the benefit will reach out to our online friends as well.
Enough intro – let’s dive in, shall we?
Celebrations and Challenges
We opened our evening by sharing struggles and victories that we’ve experienced since our study began. Some generalized comments follow:
- It’s difficult to persist with all the distractions of life – alongside spiritual opposition who does not want us to engage in prayer. However, we’ve made the study a priority and are determined that we won’t let the enemy win!
- We’ve seen specific answers to specific prayer! Praise the Lord!
- Some of the women are participating in other Bible studies alongside this one. We spent some time marveling how God brings lessons and Scripture verses together. It seems random, but it’s too specific to be a coincidence. He is sovereign and we see His hand at work!
- Praying out loud is a struggle and finding opportunities to practice is a challenge. One mom encouraged us to pray out loud with our kids or in the car.
- We’re building habits and establishing routines. Some of us pray in the morning, others in the evening. Collectively, we see that we’re offering more prayer! Praise the Lord!
- Scriptures are hitting our hearts. They are answering questions, encouraging, blessing, and strengthening us.
One of my favorite comments from last night was this: We need prayer more than our next breath. Amen and amen!
I hope that our online group will chime in too. What challenges and successes have you experienced?
Praise and Thanks – what’s the difference?
There are no hard, fast rules here, but in general, praises involve our adoration of God for who He is – His character, His nature. We’re ascribing to Him glory and honor by way of recognizing His greatness and splendor.
Our thanks often acknowledge what He’s done, answered prayer, ways that we see Him moving in our lives.
The lines between praise and thanks often blur, however. Here’s an example: We can praise God as our provider. Perhaps we use Philippians 4:19 in our praise: “God, I praise you as provider knowing that You supply all of our needs according to Your riches in Christ Jesus.”
It’s natural, at the same time, to thank him for answering a specific prayer for the provision of a new job. The praise portion is God is Provider. The thanks part is for a new job and answered prayer. But you can easily see how they blend together.
Don’t get hung up on trying to keep them separate. It’s more important that you’re giving praise and sharing gratitude, even if they come out in the same exact sentence. There were several mentions last evening of endless things for which to praise the Lord. There are also endless reasons to give Him praise. Just let them flow! 🙂
Why We Should Embrace Our Identity in Christ
This was the focus of our discussion, based on Strategy 3 of Fervent. First, we identified reasons why it’s important that we all have a firm grip on who we are in Christ:
- Our identity gives us strength in the spiritual realm. It also gives us strength as we live out our lives.
- When we know who we are we can better discern where we’re going.
- Our identity provides victory.
- Knowing who we are in Christ prevents us from believing that our identity comes from our job, our marital status, our tasks, or roles.
- Having a firm grip on who we are in Christ keeps the emphasis off our own inadequacies and helps us focus on all He is in and through us.
- When the enemy tries to convince us that we have no value, he’s ultimately trying to convince us that the Word of God is untrue.
- When we agree with the enemy, when we believe that we’re ______ (fill in the blank with a negative term), we are aligning ourselves with him, which is NOT our aim.
- Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to approach the throne of grace with bold confidence. When we’re unsure of our identity in Christ, we’re not likely to enter God’s presence with confidence.
- Our identity helps us walk in obedience because we know our strength lies in Jesus.
There are many, many reasons why we should know our identity in Christ. Yet, when we spend time drilling down to embrace our identity, we believe we’re selfish – spending too much time on internal focus. Isn’t that just like the enemy to deceive us in that way.
It’s not selfish.
We must know our identity. There is too much at stake if we neglect to acknowledge who we are in Jesus. It’s worthy of our time, our focus, our learning the truth so we can recite it by heart. As Priscilla says, “That’s where the light comes on.”
Embracing Our Identity in Christ
After a watching a worship video that focuses on God’s love (you can watch the video here), our in-person group read Scripture verses that remind us who we are in Christ. A list of the verses is below for your reference.
Next, we spent time in quiet meditation. This is the part where the Lord stretched me. I’m thankful that He filled the room with grace and with patient sisters!
Meditation is a Biblical practice that’s far different from new-age type meditation. Instead of emptying our minds and allowing outside “forces” the ability to influence, we, as Christ Ones, fill our minds with the truth of God. We ponder His Word. We reflect on His truth. We seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit – knowing full well that nothing the Spirit offers will ever contradict the Word of God. God has provided a way of accurate discernment that goes beyond our experience. The Bible is our plumb line.
I’ve never led a group in meditation before – especially those to whom this may be a new idea. I hope and trust the Lord used this time for His glory and didn’t leave our group wondering, “What was that all about, anyway?”
Our aim through the meditation was to ask the Lord to help us understand His love for us. To climb into the lap of our Abba Father and feel His delight. Through the Scriptures we’d just shared, we asked that He help us receive His love, and then we quieted our hearts and minds to listen. It’s not something I could explain easily or model. But I was positive the Lord prompted me to lead the activity.
I come from a very conservative Christian background mixed with generational exposure to (and delight in) spirit-filled living. It’s quite a mix, let me tell you. I will never apologize for something I believe the Lord prompted, but at the same time, I am often consumed with doubt wondering “Is this too weird? Will this push them (meaning all of you) away?” Perhaps, again, this is the whisper of the enemy that I need to resist.
As I prayed throughout the afternoon in preparation for out time together, the Lord reminded me that He wants us to know Him. He desires that we understand His love. He does not set us up for failure, but encourages us to take risks for His glory. And so I pressed forward with all my might.
I had no idea how this room of diverse women would receive this exercise and placed ALL my trust in God, leaving the outcome fully in His hands. I trust that His will is, and continues to be, fully accomplished despite my shortcomings, my nerves, my lack of confidence. To Him alone be the glory.
Scriptures About Our Identity in Christ
Here it is – the list of verses that we read before our time of meditation. We read them in random order. I encourage you to visit them in your own quiet time. There are scores of other verses on the topic – this is but a tiny collection.
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Peter 1:3
1 Peter 1:3-4
A Final Personal Story
As we closed, I felt the Lord’s nod to share a personal story (another risk of weirdness and potential scaring away):
Over a year ago, stuck in a personal spiritual pit, I visited a church north of our community for prayer counsel. Two women led me in prayer. Before we began, they asked that I let them know when I felt the Lord’s presence, then they helped me seek the Lord for answers to specific questions.
Instructions were simple: The leader would ask me to ask God a specific question. I’d ask Him, then needed to let her know what the Holy Spirit revealed.
“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute,” I recall saying. “I don’t know if I can trust what I believe the Spirit says.” (Please know I wasn’t lacking in trust toward the Spirit, but questioning my own discernment.) The leader counseled, “Don’t think about it or try to evaluate your answers. Just share with us the first thought, vision, idea, etc. that you receive.”
The process was beautiful and as we progressed, I had no doubt of the accuracy of what I discerned.
Not long into the prayer, the leader asked that I climb up and sit on the Father’s lap. Every once in a while, she’d ask me, “Are you still in His lap?” And I’d realized I’d wriggled away. She’d encourage me to return to that position as I sought His answers. This happened several times.
I left that prayer session knowing the Lord had set me free from many things – particularly from a bondage to fear. As a side note – ever since that prayer appointment, I’ve said a hearty YES to things that scare me. Like standing on the glass floor in the Calgary Tower, like White Water Rafting (I’m on the left in the grey cap), and like leading a group of women in quiet meditation for the very first time. Maybe you’ve heard the song lyrics, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” That’s my story in a nutshell.
Let’s fast forward now to August of this year – more than 12 months after my prayer appointment. Mike and I were out of town, headed to church and engaged in an argument (if you’re going to argue, there’s no better time than Sunday morning, right?). He said words that hit my heart like a well-placed arrow: “You need to let yourself be loved.” I knew he was right.
The worship at church that morning was profoundly Spirit-led. All the music pointed to God’s love for us. I started to tear up, then I cried, then I wept, and finally I could no longer stand and melted. Mike kept his cool, continued to worship and rubbed my back like this happens every week. 🙂
I felt the Lord whisper to my spirit, “The reason you couldn’t stay in my lap is because you haven’t received my love.” I knew, just as Mike said, I need to let myself be loved – by God.
Last night’s gathering was this weak sister encouraging all of you to let yourselves be loved. His love is great and more fully-satisfying than we can ever imagine.
Please, meditate on the Scriptures and accept them truth of a loving, Heavenly Father. It will change everything about your prayer life.
Remember, I’m praying for you through this journey.