It didn't take long after our arrival to realize the church as a whole was in disarray and the women's ministry was in a constant state of confusion. Knowing where to start was overwhelming and felt akin to trying to get your kids clean after they played in a mud puddle…sometimes hosing them down in the front yard is your only option. The spiritual equivalent of "hosing them down" began and it was quickly apparent that some wanted to be clean and would make the trip, but there were some who had wallowed for so long that getting clean would take too much effort in their minds and so they left. (I must insert a caveat here because I realize not everyone left for this reason, but many made it known that did not take kindly to the changes that were taking place.) This process took a while and didn't always end well which hurt my heart, but I had to stay focused on those who remained.
During this time I spent many hours asking the Lord for direction so I would know how to lead these women who had been placed in my care. There were some very vocal spokeswomen during that time who felt they had all the answers, but I knew that I would ultimately be held responsible for the outcome and so I took the weight of this decision as to how to lead very seriously.
After much prayer and seeking the Lord, He reminded me that leading a church was essentially no different than leading the Bible studies Tim and I had led for all those years, even though the church was exponentially larger. It all hinged on sharing truth freely because of the relationships that had been built and sharing with each other how this truth was changing our hearts, our lives and those around us. I had my answer, but implementing it would prove to require plenty of patience and steadfastnesses because, for many, this was a very foreign and scary plan of action. It would require allowing ourselves to be known by others by dropping our masks of perfection, self-protection and indifference. The Lord kept placing Revelation 12:10-11 on my heart and it only served to confirm that this was the direction we should take...
"Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
“It has come at last—
salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters
has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die."
I felt it was necessary to lay this groundwork so we could see where we began and where we find ourselves now, for yesterday was a powerful day at The Cross Loganville. Tim has been teaching a series entitled "This is War" and his message yesterday was about sexual strongholds. He shared in a very transparent way and laid out the truth of what is needed to not be a pawn of the enemy in this area. We know from 25 years of ministering and counseling that this is one of the most effective ways satan uses to keep believers in bondage and we sensed that just hearing a message would not be sufficient. So, in keeping with that thought, last night anyone who wanted to continue the discussion gathered together…women with women and men with men.
To say that there was tangible evidence of the Spirit at work would be an understatement. So many shared their stories. Stories of sexual abuse, misuse and bondage. Some of their stories involved freedom that had already been experienced while others were still in process. It was a beautiful portrait of that passage in Revelation for the accuser of the brethren was being thrown down and many were being set free by the blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimonies!!!
Unfortunately I had to hear about everything that took place yesterday morning and last night secondhand because I was out with a stomach bug. I SO hated to not be there, but being home and hearing from so many throughout the day gave me much time to reflect about where we began and where we are 5 1/2 years later. One of our Bloom leadership girls called me last night to let me know how it went and as she excitedly shared what God had done I felt my eyes begin to fill with tears. I was overwhelmed with His goodness to us, but I was overwhelmed by the way He had confirmed to me in such a powerful way that I had, in deed, heard from Him and no more second-guessing was necessary. Teaching and studying Truth is essential and we are ultimately set free by the blood of the Lamb, but we cannot discount how much we benefit from the word of our own testimony and the testimonies of those we are walking this road with on a daily basis.
Timothy Keller said…
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
I am so thankful for these people I get to do life with day in and day out. Leading and shepherding is an exhausting job, but seeing my friends step forward with the courage needed to share their stories and walk forward into freedom makes all the tiring days and sleepless nights worth it. One of the passages that the Lord showed me many years ago as it pertains to our ministry is Thessalonians 2:3-13. I am going to leave you with these verses so you may know how full my heart is this morning…
3-5 God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.
6-8 Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.
9-12 You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren’t freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.
13 And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!