Easter Series: Crowned in Hope

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53: 5-6.

When a loved one passes away, one of the hardest things to do is plan their funeral.  It’s in the thickness of grief that family members are forced to pick out floral arrangements, songs, program designs, and other silly things that in a twisted, parallel universe are also key elements in weddings.

Many hold celebration of life services for their Christian loved ones in lieu of a funeral.  People might wear the deceased’s favorite color, they may exchange stories, and there is usually some type of gathering afterwards to fellowship and celebrate their life.  And always, in every Christian funeral that I’ve been to, the Gospel was preached.  Funerals are when people think the most about death.  It’s when they wonder what comes after life.  And it’s one of the few times that they’re most open to receiving the Gospel.

When Jesus calls a believer home, there is peace.  Tremendous peace.  Peace which surpasses all understanding.  We have this peace because we know that they are in a place better than even the best that our world has to offer, better than even what paradise looks like in our most creative imaginations.  Whatever maladies they had are gone.  We celebrate their victory from this life and yet we grieve because they are no longer with us.  We grieve for the missed moments that we’ll never get to experience with them in this lifetime.

If they’re not a believer, we mourn and grieve for their souls while holding on to the faintest of hopes that they accepted Christ into their life before taking their final breath.  And we vow to use their passing as motivation for us to share Jesus with Christians in the making.

On March 30th 2018, Christians all over the world will grieve.  We will reflect.  Many wear black on Good Friday as an outward nod to remember that day on Calvary.  And we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.  Good Friday is in many ways a funeral.  Only, it’s not.  It’s a celebration of life – Christ’s and ours.

We take communion to acknowledge Jesus’s sacrifice for us on the cross.  The bread represents His body – pierced by nails, whipped by lashes tenfold, crushed by a crown of thorns, and broken – completely broken by the weight of His enemies’ sins.  And the cup is a representation of His blood which dripped from His brow and out of the lashes and wounds which were meant for us.

Christ was beaten, betrayed, and brutally murdered.  In today’s world if an innocent man were executed in the same way He was and especially for the “benefit” of others, there would be riots, reform, and restitution.  There might even be anarchy for weeks, months, possibly years.  But what if the entire world collectively, because of our own shortcomings decided to savagely murder this innocent man?

As Jesus hung on the cross, about to give His last breath, pleading with God the Father that if it is so His will then please let the cup pass from Him, the crowd jeered.  They threw on Him a robe fit for a king and mocked Him.  Some even spit on Him.  Others flogged Him.  But He endured, because for Jesus, it was worth it.  The physical torment was worth it.  The social humiliation and ostracization was worth it.  Even bearing the combined weight of humanity’s sins was worth it.  The single toughest thing for Jesus to do though was break communion with God the Father.  Never in the history of histories had this happened before.  But the only way for us to be reconciled to God was for this precious and holiest of holy communions to be severed.  There was and is absolutely no other way that our relationship with God can be restored.  He though perfect had to bear our imperfections so that we can be made unblemished.  He fell to redeem ‘The Fall’.  And to Him, it was absolutely worth it.  Every last drop of blood, every second of public humiliation, every stripe, even His separation from God was worth it.  Because to Him, you’re worth it.

We should feel unsettled by Jesus’s death.  We should grieve it.  But we should also commemorate it with a celebration of life service, with fellowship, and with stories of Jesus’s 33 years on earth.  We should share stories of our relationship with Christ, and especially of that time He literally saved us from spiritual death.  And we should also share His famous last words with others.

When Jesus said it is finished, He meant it with His entire life.

It is finished because He died on the cross for our sins.

It is finished because death as we know it is finished.  He conquered death and is very much alive today.

Jesus, by dying on the cross, gave the death blow to Satan.  It is finished.  Done.  No more.

Gone are the Old Testament days of making sacrifices to atone for our sins.

Gone is that veil which separated us from Him.

Gone are our sins if we believe in Him.  Jesus was and is the final Passover.  Our sins are passed over because the blood of the Lamb is on our souls.

It’s done.  Our sins are gone.  It is finished.

Next week, our blog will visit Silent Saturday – the “in waiting” day that’s not often talked about but nonetheless important. Then, as the sun begins to peak through the horizon, we rejoice.

Because Sunday is here.

Written by Christine Hu

Easter Series: Receiving Our King

Christine|Editor’s note: With Easter only a few weeks away, it is our hope that you take time to reflect on the major events leading up to the Greatest day for humanity. In the month of March, our blog will feature an Easter Series to help facilitate that reflection. Below, Joyce Young imagines the beauty that is the first Palm Sunday. I hope you’re encouraged by it!

I love Jerusalem this time of year. The crowds of thousands, the excitement, and the warm smell of unleavened bread lingers in the air. As a family, we come to celebrate the entire week leading up to the day of Passover…the great celebration and feast. It is different this time, though. The Roman soldiers are scattered throughout the streets and in the squares…watching us Jews with stern glares, almost ready to draw their weapons. They hush us when they think we are too noisy. They rush in and break us up when we are in groups they think are too large. It is strange and intimidating. We just want to celebrate. We have much to celebrate because God is good and He has been faithful to us, His people, each generation. I think people are a little more excited because there are whispers that a king is entering the city today. Some say he is the One God has sent to save us…possibly the Messiah.

There is a commotion at the gates. Is it him? The stories I have heard make me long to finally lay eyes on this man. They say he performs miracles. He teaches lessons of God through the telling of mysterious stories. One by one, I see men and women throwing their cloaks on the ground. Others are reaching for, tearing off and laying down palm branches. That means the king is entering! I see a man slowly moving down the path of cloaks and palm leaves. He is low and I cannot see well over the heads of the people in front of me. I peak around people’s heads and shoulders. I hear the soft hoof steps of a donkey and see her foal. Then, I finally catch a glimpse of Him. Is he our Messiah? He rides on the two small beasts and looks about the crowd with gentle eyes, not what you would expect from nobility. He looks at each person as if he recognizes each face. He is not wearing royal robes, but a simple tunic. He is not followed by an army. Not even one soldier. Just plain, simple men who appear bewildered. The crowd starts chanting…”Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Is this really the One? The One the prophets said would come to save us? The fanfare is fitting for a king. But he appears so simple. Yet, I see joy in the eyes of those around me. I feel a quickening in my own heart, as well. My fear of the Roman soldiers dissipates. Then I see Pharisees approach him. I cannot hear their words, but their faces are angry. I strain to hear him say to them, “…if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” It is true. Looking around, everyone and everything appears to be dancing and shouting with joy. I join in…

This is unlike any other Passover celebration I’ve seen in my days…even as a young girl. I believe that my eyes have seen the One who will be our Savior.

The above you just read is how I imagine a Jewish woman’s experience that day was. Palm Sunday is the day when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ reception into the city of Jerusalem. And it’s a paradox. Because as He was received and hailed as a king, in just five short days, He was to be convicted and sentenced to death on a cross, having committed no crime. The king for whom people were laying down their cloaks and palm branches down for would be the same man who would be humiliated, brutalized and beaten for the sin of the world. On this day, they shouted, ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ On that Friday, they would spit on him.

But this king isn’t just any other king. He would break the weapons of warfare, by the brokenness of the cross and the blood of His covenant. No other king could replace the darkness and evil, with a reign of grace and a kingdom of peace.

Lord Jesus, you are the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace and the Governor of Grace. You reign and we look forward to the day when your Kingdom comes and we can live in peace, by the power of your gospel. Enable us, Lord to rejoice in hope, knowing that the day of redemption is coming. You are the only King who defeated death and will make all things new. There will come another day, where we will receive you as our King and the celebrations will be endless. Amen!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you doubleZech. 9:9-12 (NIV)


Matthew 21: 1-11

Luke 19: 28-40

Dignified Spring Launch!

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing,” ~ John 15:5.

John 15 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. The truth contained within its lines is so salty to me, and I have lived out the brokenness that apart from Jesus I can do nothing.

In all honesty, I have accomplished lots and lots of nothing in my half-a-century-plus.

Some years ago, God began to etch a deep desire on my heart to live a vine-birthed life: A lifetime of abiding in the singular source of my being: Jesus Christ. My deepest desire is to do that which will bear lasting fruit, and to be intimately in tune with the knowledge that I am a branch attached to the one true vine that is the Creator of the Universe, and the Designer of all He intends for each of us to be.

God has been speaking much to me these past few days with regard to the careful consideration of To What I am sowing.

Am I sowing to joy, loving-kindness, generosity, encouragement, gratitude, physical health and peace? Or am I sowing to more negative fields?

To live a life that is vine-birthed, I must envelop myself in the truth of Scripture, and bend my knee to wisdom and prudence. The definition of prudence reminded me of this state of thought: it is a choosing to live a life of ongoing consideration and circumspection.

To sow well is to be led by the Holy Spirit who has the singular goal of leading each of us in the way of Biblical truth.

Having lived foolishly, I prayed and asked God specifically for prudence, wisdom, and to remain in Him so that my life might be a large print book worth reading for my family and to those who He would bring me.

This has become my desire for every woman, man, and child that I now meet.

This hunger in me seems to grow by leaps and bounds, as if the Vine that I am attached to has nourished and strengthened the branch in order that it might bear the heaviness of healthy fruit. This is my hope for each woman I encounter — that she will bear healthy fruit that will last into eternity.

The wisdom writer pens these words in Proverbs 14:15: “The prudent carefully consider their steps.”

One pastor shared this thought: “Prudence (is when) we act with care, displaying thoughtfulness to what every word, attitude and action can lead to in the future. A prudent person does not say everything they want to say. They acknowledge when is the right time & place for each word and action.”

Less than a decade ago God began to reshape the desire of my heart as he healed the broken shards of my past choices. In the years just before this, He had led me daily through the book of Proverbs several times over and showed me the wisdom of a prudent life. By His Spirit, He was transforming me.  I found myself wanting this healing and transformation for other women, and it became my prayer to be useful in His hands.

The more I knew Jesus, the more I wanted to make him known through encouraging women in their wounded days, in their hopeful days, and in their day-to-day’s.

This became the cry and goal of my life.

As I write this, I have had the privilege for months of coming alongside the women of She is Dignified who desire to stay securely connected to the nourishing vine that is Jesus Christ and to allow their lives and wisdom to be used to bring newness and transformation to other women.

In the Spring of this year, I hope you will celebrate with me as these amazing women come together to Know Jesus and Make Him Known through the following ministries:

• The launch of She is Dignified Care & Coaching for women seeking to grow strong in Christ.

• The launch of women-only Rooted groups to be led by qualified and trained facilitators who will form Bible study life groups from each Rooted group.

• The launch of our She is Dignified Infertility & Miscarriage Care team that will meet monthly on EFree Diamond Bar’s campus. This team will seek to bring comfort to women who have suffered and struggled through the grief of physical loss and loss of hope, and will reach beyond our borders and into the community.

I am also excited for the opportunity to join with many of you on May 4-5 at the Murrieta Hot Springs Christian Conference Center as we learn how to live and walk in in the spiritual disciplines at the Come Away with Me retreat.

In late summer, we will join together for a time of intergenerational conversation at A Voice for All Seasons, as we listen to a panel of our own women from 18-80 grapple with serving Christ through the generations.

Stay tuned here on the blog, on our Facebook and Instagram pages, at efreedb.org/dignified, or email me at staceym@efreedb.org for more information. Also, in the near future keep your eyes out for information outside the women’s office on the second floor of the worship center, as well as in the entry area to the women’s restroom.

Pastoral Quote taken from Sermon Series by C. Booher

Written by Stacey Monaco, Director of Women’s Ministry|She is Dignified

Five Reasons I Love Rooted

As soon as I got wind that EFree Diamond Bar was launching Rooted, I was chomping at the bit to be a part of it. My poor husband probably got tired of me reminding him that “we” wanted to lead a group. I’m sure I reminded him at least twice a week for a few months. Rooted has always had a special place in my heart. I was part of the Rooted pilot group at my former church and became heavily involved as they continued to make it available. I have genuinely enjoyed each Rooted group I have been part of, but this particular group has been an answer to prayer. I have journeyed through five weeks of this amazing discipleship experience with a group of people that I absolutely adore.

God Formed Our Group

Now let’s be honest the first meeting is always a little uncomfortable and full of awkward moments of silence. You get a group of people together with different personalities, who don’t really know each other and you ask them to start talking. The very unique thing about Rooted is that the leaders role is not to teach but to facilitate the conversation, so moments of silence will happen as you give everyone the opportunity to share if they feel led. On the first day, we asked everyone what brought them to Rooted. Over half of our team said they had a longing to be part of a community and actually know people within the church – it’s almost as if God ordained each one to be in our group. We are all over the spectrum with a wide range of ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and life stages, but God clearly joined all of us together to be in this group at this time in our lives. I continue to be amazed by God’s sovereignty by how multiple members of our group can relate to similar experiences and through that they continue to bless one another. Each and every person was meant to be in our group.

Nothing is Off-Limits

Rooted has a way of leading to conversations that bring freedom, clarity, encouragement, and truth. Some of our best conversations have been spurred on by difficult questions and they are discussed free of judgment and shame. We can openly discuss how certain sections of scripture are challenging as we live out our faith. There are no questions off limits. We can freely process questions together on the spot without having it all figured out. We don’t have to come with our theology and biblical doctrine wrapped up in a nice bow. We can come with our doubts, our fears, our hesitations and work through them together. The weekly topics addressed in Rooted are well structured and well written, but they open the door to much deeper and thought-provoking discussions. Each week, I look forward to seeing where our conversation will lead, and I love the freedom of not needing a cookie cutter answer. We are all in the same boat working out our faith together and desiring to lean on the truth of God with one another.

Real Relationships

I shared earlier that Rooted was an answer to my prayer. Many things in my life have changed since being married. One of the biggest changes I have continued to adjust to is a new church. Leaving my home church of over fifteen years was very difficult. I continue to see my husband’s deep love and passion for EFree Diamond Bar and I am encouraged, but I have longed to be connected to this community that he loves so dearly. I was encouraged to hear I was not the only one longing for community during our first Rooted meeting. To get to know the nine people (even my husband) in my group has been life to my thirsty soul. This community being built is not like the momentary relationships I build at school. These are real relationships. These are people that I don’t have to be a perfect Christian with. I can be vulnerable. I can be honest. I can share my ugly and they freely accept me. We genuinely care about each other. We are only five weeks in and we have managed to laugh, pray, talk, and ugly cry with one another. This is what it looks like to walk alongside fellow believers. I now go to church on Sunday excited to see the faces of the people in my group, excited to run up to them and give them a huge hug. The relationships being built are far deeper than a Sunday morning “hello”– they are a “come share your life with me and we will journey together in Christ.” If you come into Rooted agreeing to be involved and be present, then you will build deep relationships with one another. It’s inevitable.

A Front Row Seat

One of my favorite things about Rooted is that I get a front row seat to God’s work in people’s lives. The nature of this discipleship experience is growth and I have seen that in each member of our group. I can think of two very specific weeks where God did a miraculous work in the lives of our group. Not only am I humbled to be part of what God is doing, but I’m also left in awe of who He is. We serve a God that didn’t just save us so we can go to heaven, but He continues to save us and transform us. He has no intention to leave us where we are but to transform our lives to reflect His glory and His beauty. God is not done working in our lives, no matter how long we have been walking with Him. The longer you have been walking with Christ the easier it is to think you’ve arrived. You look back to how far you have come in your life and somehow think God’s transforming days in your life are behind you. Rooted has reminded me that God is not done transforming my life and He is not done redeeming His people. Seeing God bring healing and freedom to those around me has reignited my faith and has showed me how desperate I am for His work in my life.

Ministering With My Best Friend

I have always prayed for Dale and myself to have opportunities to minister alongside one another. Both of us are heavily involved in our separate ministries from occupational to volunteer. But this is the first opportunity we have had in our whopping 5 months of marriage to be partners in a specific ministry. It has been a true blessing to lead alongside my husband and for our gifts and talents to be used together. We have learned new strengths about one another and learned how to let the other lead in their strengths. I can definitely say we are better as a team than as individuals. We have learned how to honor, encourage, and respect one another as we learn how to lead together. Rooted has helped grow an aspect of our relationship that we never experienced. Leading as a couple has been unifying, encouraging, honoring, and just fun.

I look forward to sharing another five weeks with our group and seeing what is to come. I know God will use this group to encourage, connect, equip, and disciple one another.  It has been a wonderful journey that I don’t want to end.

Written by Tamara Chamberlain

Thrive Where You’re Planted!

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” John 15:13.

We all can name Christian women who have greatly influenced our lives.  They’re our “spiritual mothers” – strong in their faiths yet gentle in spirit, compassionate yet ready to rebuke with love.

They embody the Proverbs 31 woman.  They’re able to whip up a delicious meal for 30 at a moment’s notice.  They teach, lead, listen, and pray.  Pray mighty prayers they do.  These women open up their homes and arms for us. They lay down their lives for us without hesitation.  They’re our mothers, our teachers, our mentors, and our friends.

When I think of selfless women, I think of missionaries. I think about the women who live in remote areas of the world, who have chosen to surrender the comforts of home so that they can surrender to God’s call in their lives to spread the Gospel to the unreached.  I think about our domestic missionaries, missionaries like Jessica Schutte who serves with ReachGlobal to help rebuild homes and heal hearts damaged by natural disasters long forgotten by mainstream media.  I think of Jen Berk who serves with Cru to bring the Gospel to college students.  I also think of the women who live out their testimonies daily for their kids, their community, their friends, their coworkers and students, for the woman behind her in line at the grocery store, and for the next generation of missionaries.

One of these selfless women in my life is Jeanne Hopper. Along with leading and shepherding EFree for nearly 30 years with her husband Mark, Jeanne was the leader of a 3 year discipleship program that myself and two other young women were in. But she did way more than just lead.  Jeanne invested in our lives. She taught us, fed us, prayed for us, was there for us whenever we needed her, and put our needs before hers. Jeanne is passionate about spreading the Gospel through global and local missions. Two of her daughters are missionaries in Slovenia and Portugal and she has herself served on and led multiple missions teams. In 2014, I had the great honor of being part of her team in Russia where we ran an English camp for the locals. Because we were the only two women on the team, I got to know Jeanne really well and she showed me so much about living for the Lord and serving Him wholeheartedly.

Another extremely influential woman is Linda Venti. She has a smile that can be seen from miles away. Linda and her husband John have faithfully taught the littlest of littles in Sunday school for many years. She gives healing hugs and is passionate about the Lord and enthusiastically shares the Gospel with others.

In the fall, Linda and Jeanne served with Thrive Ministry in Papua New Guinea as women missionaries for women missionaries.

Below is a glimpse into their experience and also a sneak peek into an opportunity for you to serve with Thrive.

Can you tell us about your experience as a Thrive missionary in PNG?

JH:  PNG is a very difficult field – it’s very dark spiritually. We served with Thrive to these amazing heroes of the faith!! Most of these missionaries serve with Wycliffe or New Tribes Mission – they work on the field in tribes learning the language and trying to translate the Bible into that language or they serve in support to those people.  These women are teachers, doctors, secretaries, IT support personnel, etc.

There are two major compounds where the missionaries live.  It is unsafe for them to leave the compound because lawlessness abounds.  The heat is intense all year long and goods are not often available as everything must be flown in .  There are very few roads in the country due to the rigid terrain and heavy rainfall.  Serving in PNG is very difficult.  The country has only been independent for about 35 years and the government struggles to meet the needs of the people.  There is almost no infrastructure such as roads, educational and medical services.

Many of the gals who attended were young mothers – they were so happy to get time away to rest and be renewed emotionally and spiritually.  They listened to a remarkable speaker, great worship in English and got to choose to have a haircut, counseling, pedicures, back massage and individual prayer time as well.

The girls are placed in a small group and these groups meet each time after the speaker speaks.  Linda Venti and I served as group leader/facilitators.  We let the girls do the talking as they know the best way to help each other.  Thrive has been running these retreats for many years and they really have the system running well.  It’s a pleasure to be a part of the ministry.  This summer we are encouraging ladies to apply to serve in Colorado in July.   The training is done on site before the attendees arrive.  There is also time for debriefing after the ladies leave.  It’s a great experience!

LV: It was such a privilege to serve our PNG missionaries. They really are on the front lines and have a faithful, “Lord, I’ll follow you even if …” heart.

It takes a community to reach the unreached. Every person who serves in the field loves the Lord but they can’t effectively serve on their own. The missionaries come across unforeseen, unimaginable obstacles which discourage and exhaust them. They need a team with them to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to encourage them. For example, nurses need translators to minister to their patients because there are over 800 different dialects spoken in PNG! They’re also raising kids while they’re in the missions field and everybody, young and old, plays a role in making sure that the Gospel is reached. New missionary families that come are trained on a compound that have 1 or 2 teachers who live there year-round. Missionary kids are sent away to continue their education elsewhere after the 3rd or 4th grade because by that time, the children have reached an education level beyond what the teachers are able to teach.

Due to the minimal infrastructure, these families have to carry their suitcases with them on unpaved roads as they travel. There is no easily accessible transportation. Families even need to hike hills and mountains to get to the main roads. And they walk for miles daily to minister to the unreached.

The PNG missionaries were so thankful for Thrive and for the air conditioned buildings that they stayed in. They were thankful for the food that was served too! On the field, PNG missionaries have little variety to choose from – one kind of meat (canned tuna), few fruits and vegetables, scant electricity, and no running water.

They talk to doctors on walkie talkies and don’t have nearby hospitals. The doctors will diagnose them through walkie talkies and medicine is air dropped by helicopter to their location if necessary.

But despite these and other obstacles, there is so much joy amongst the missionaries! The joy for the Lord is so evident within and amongst them and these missionary families are truly one family under God.

How can we be praying for the missionaries?

JH: An easy way to pray of our missionaries is to use the materials EFree provided with quarterly updates and the new current book with pictures of the missionary families.  Please also pray for the day-to-day.  For example, when your car breaks or when your child is sick or when your washer is broken, you can be praying for a missionary who is experiencing the same things.  If you’re feeling lonely or sad. .. it may be a missionary is feeling that way.  Be committed to praying for a few families and do it well – get on their prayer lists. Communicate with them- it’s so easy to do that nowadays.

Can you tell us a little more about Thrive-Colorado?

(Sidenote – Linda will be serving with Thrive-Colorado this summer).

LV: Yes, absolutely!  If you’re a woman, please prayerfully consider serving at this retreat. We need prayer partners, makeup artists, counselors, worship leaders, women who love doing nails, personal trainers, small group leaders, and those who love fashion.  We need YOU!  The retreat dates are July 7th to July 15th. It’s a great opportunity to hear their stories, get to know them, and pray for them while they’re in the field.

We will be serving global missionaries who have been serving in their respective mission fields for 10+ years. This will be their first Thrive retreat. They are in the States on home assignment and will be speaking to churches and raising support. This will be a spiritual retreat for them and our mission is to spiritually and physically refresh and rejuvenate them so that they can hit the ground running when they return to their fields.

Everything our missionaries use is second-hand. In July, we’re surprising them with brand-new items that have tags still attached. If you are unable to join us in Colorado and still want to support our missionaries, I suggest going on a shopping spree for our missionaries this summer! I will be collecting new clothes with tags still on, new toiletries, and other necessities in their original packaging and taking them with me to Colorado to bless our missionaries.

If you’re interested in learning more about Thrive and ways that you can help, please click here.

Written by Christine Hu. Extra special thanks to Jeanne Hopper and Linda Venti!!

IF: Dignified Diamond Bar

Disciple a generation. If the Holy Spirit whispered that to your heart, what would you do? My personal response would be, “Wait…who, me?”

While a young Jennie Allen was supporting her husband, Zac, as he pastored a church plant and she was leading Bible studies with women, those three words were exactly what she heard…and not just once: Disciple a generation. Gather, equip and unleash a generation of women. The ever-growing worldwide ministry, IF: Gathering, is what later birthed from her obedience to that call. IF is a ministry that encompasses several Bible studies, including videos and simulcasts, leadership training, prayer events and providing women leaders with the tools to host their own IF: Gatherings. This ministry has enabled women in churches and in their communities to host mini-women’s conferences in their living rooms, basements, church fellowship halls…even in their own bedrooms. Gathering hundreds of women, or just a few—sitting on a full size bed watching a the screen of a laptop computer. Yet together, they are worshipping, praying, learning, being challenged and being commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).

One question I asked once was, “Where does the name IF come from? It seems kind of strange to call a ministry by a conjunction and nothing else.” I learned, from watching a recording of Jennie Allen speaking at the very first IF: Gathering in 2014, that after hearing God’s call, she doubted that she, a then stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife could accomplish the daunting task of gathering, equipping and unleashing anyone, really. She shared with a friend who said to her, “If it’s God, then He’s going to give you everything you need to accomplish His purposes.” And well, after she stepped out in faith, He did just that. IF: Gatherings have been held all over the world in several countries, in multiple languages, including American Sign Language (ASL), and have even taken place in women’s maximum-security state penitentiaries. Yep, that means prisons.

This year will mark EFree Diamond Bar’s first IF: Gathering on February 9 and 10. I am so eager for this event, and not just because it’s new to EFree, but how much I love the ministry of IF, and its founder, Jennie Allen, and the numerous female writers and teachers associated with IF who will participate as speakers for IF: Gathering. I look forward to being encouraged and empowered, hearing the Holy Spirit speak through these godly women. But most of all, I am excited to gather with my sisters from my own church family and meet new ones from the community. This will be a safe place for women to worship freely, lay their burdens before their God and His daughters, hear the preaching of His Word with sound doctrine, and just be held. And knowing that we, along with thousands of other women across the globe will be sharing these same experiences at the same time gives me tingles. Just a small glimpse of eternity.

The current speaker line-up for that weekend include: Amena Brown Owen, Angie Smith,Ann VoskampAnnie Downs, Bianca Olthoff, Christine Caine, Christy Nockels, Danielle Walker, Debbie EatonEsther Havens, Gloria Adyambo, Jamie Ivey, Jennie Allen, Jo Saxton, Katie Davis Majors, Katina Butler, Kirsten Singleton, Latoria Wilson, Lauren Chandler, Margaret Feinberg, Nick Vjuvic, Rebekah Lyons, Ruth Chou Simons, Sarah Harmeyer, Tasha Morrison, Vivian Mabuni and Jeanne Stevens.

If these names are unfamiliar to you, don’t let that discourage you. I promise you, you will find that most of these women (and the one man!) speak the heart of God to your soul. So, sister, please join us at IF: Dignified Diamond Bar next week. IF God is real, what should our response be? Let us gather, be equipped and be unleashed to know Jesus and make Him known.

Sign up here!

Written by Joyce Young

Seeking Sabbath

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days you shall labor and do all of your work,

But the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God…”

Exodus 20:10

The spiritual discipline of Sabbath is one that the earliest Christians would have embraced as a normal and gracious rhythm of weekly life. A day of sacred rest in which the people of God could withdraw from the mundane and routine, and celebrate with understanding, their own finite being as well as their need for the God by whom they were created. These New Testament believers did not mark the coming of their Messiah as a time to turn back from the commandments written on stone by God’s very finger, but rather as Jesus instructed, they understood He came to fulfill each and every line of those Ten Commandments, breathed out for the well being of God’s chosen people.

The term Sabbath takes its names from the Hebrew word Shabbat. Still to this day many Jewish people celebrate weekly from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown. Yes, they celebrate. The marking of Sabbath is met with the greeting Shabbat Shalom. The term shalom is rich and beautifully layered intimating the fullness of peace, wellbeing, and completeness. The threads of redemption are breathed out in the word shalom. It evokes thoughts of Creation before the fall, of mankind void of sin, and of a Sacrificial Lamb for whom all of nature groans, so that it might be returned to a rest that only He can bring.

Shabbat. Sabbath. Rest that recognizes that we are creatures set apart by the hand of a holy God who made us with bodies and souls that are in need of refreshment.

Shalom. The fullness of peace that is beyond understanding and which requires that we recognize and honor the God of our design, acknowledging with joy that we are dependent upon him. This is the express purpose of Sabbath.

As a Christ-follower the concept of Sabbath has been familiar to me for some time, and had become firmly planted in my mind as a facet of the Old Testament. It simply was not practical for today. The old had passed away, and the new had come. Sunday was for church, unless I had been scheduled to work, and then of course that was more important, especially in the days of being a single mom of many. It was burdensome to think of trying to take an entire day off. It was old covenant. So
I tucked my fellowship in where I could get it, a women’s group on a weekday, church on a Saturday night, and the concept of rest and a day of delight in God and in his goodness was dismissed within my entrenched theology. I completely missed the concept of the sacred amidst the busyness, and believing in an ethic of hard work, I worked hard. Jesus was my Sabbath. He removed the heavy burden of my sin. Wasn’t that enough of a rest? How could I ask for more?

“Jesus said to them,

“The Sabbath was made for man

… not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

I read these words with a mind toward the law. Jesus freed me from the law. I failed to see the lines laced with shalom. The sweet sacred of Sabbath that declared,

“Come to me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

The Sabbath was made for man. It is a gift. And just as every one of the commandments etched on stone tablets were given for the purpose of healthy relationships either toward God or others, Sabbath invites us into a space that focuses on praise and appreciation toward our Creator and Savior, peaceful relationship with loved ones, and a place of rest for our finite bodies.

Shabbat Shalom is the idea of unplugging from “laborious work” and striving, in order to reset our focus on God and our rhythms on relationship and gratitude toward the Giver of all good things. The question God began to ask me was “Do you trust me enough to rest?” It is an earth-shaking query in a world that robs us of rest, even in the things we consider restful. It was also an invitation back into the pages of Scripture to find that it is lined with references to rest, to a redemptive return to life before the fall, and to celebration toward the God who designed and called all of it very good.

Ours is not a faith of doing, but a faith of DONE. Yes, the Holy Spirit will lead us to serve faithfully and sometimes sacrificially in joy-laced love and gratitude. But He also leads us into the green pastures of rest. There is much to be said about Sabbath, and how one might dip their toes into this practice if it is unfamiliar. A first step might be to simply agree with God that we are finite human beings clearly made from the beginning for rest. A Scripture study of words such as rest, peace, and Sabbath can also introduce you to God’s heart for mankind, and his desire that we cease from our striving and find our rest in Him.

Author and pastor Peter Scazzero notes that Sabbath is a way to embrace our limits. He encourages the following four rhythms for Christ-follower’s as they seek to embrace Shabbat Shalom:

Stop– All work paid and unpaid. In other words, don’t answer every email that comes in as you are in the midst of recognizing the glory of a sunset. Joy in some quiet or the sounds of children and loved ones as your heart is attuned to the goodness of all God has provided.

Rest– The story of creation indicates that after God pronounced that it was very good, He Himself stopped and rested. There is no biblical evidence that he was tired, but moreover that he was giving us the example to cease from one’s work as we rest and take it all in. It is a rhythm designed for the well being of the human soul.

Delight– Just as God delighted in His creation work, so are we called to delight. Sabbath sets a tone for joy in the God by whom we were created and redeemed, in our loved one’s and mankind, in creation, in the work of our hands, and in the simplicity of rest. We may even choose to include in our Sabbath some time in a location which nourishes this gratitude. A walk by the seaside, or minutes spent stargazing, a quiet moment reading, a candle lit just to enjoy the beauty of the flame, the Scriptures opened to Psalm 8 or 19, or the taste of fresh pineapple on our tongue. Each of these, and so many other God-given gifts of perfection can lead us to a place of delight.

Contemplate– Scazzero affirms that the central concept of Sabbath is simply pondering the love of God. When we start with this as our foundation, as opposed to a set of rules and expectations, we can release ourselves into the hands of a loving God and embrace the rhythms of trusting the God who made the Sabbath as a gracious gift to reset our focus on all that is lovely, excellent and praiseworthy.

Author Jennie Allen states in her study Proven, “Only when you have seen and believe in His power will you let go of control…”

I am in a season of learning to be intentional in the act of releasing my weakness into the hands of the mighty God of the Universe, in order to let it be replaced by his strength. He is quite simply, my only hope. So this past week I found the first empty Saturday on our calendar and scrolled Sabbath in big beautiful script.

Yes, Lord, I trust you enough to rest.

For more reading on this subject:

Breathe by Priscilla Shirer

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero

Written by Stacey Monaco

Spiritual Discipline Series: Dignified Through Fellowship

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” Acts 2: 42-47.

I have a confession to make: as a kid, I was not a fan of fellowshipping.  The definition of fellowship in my limited grade school/jr. high knowledge meant hanging around church after service as my mom spent thirty minutes which felt more like thirty yearsconversing with her friends.  It meant that I had to find something entertaining to do to occupy my time. Fellowship meant 30 more minutes of wearing a scratchy dress I didn’t like when I could’ve been watching cartoons or kicking a ball or riding my bike.

As a kid, I begrudgingly (and sparsely) went to Sunday School and junior high youth group.  Yet even though I accepted Christ in high school, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I went to my friend’s high school youth group and fellowshipped with my peers.  I can count on one hand the number of minutes I attended a Christian Club meeting at my high school.  Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I continued this tradition of not fellowshipping by excelling at being a lone-wolf Christian.  I understood the concept and importance of community and got plugged into a Christian fellowship but it never really felt like the simple, beautiful Acts community of people doing life together that my Christian friends always raved about having.  And I think I know why.  In college, everyone puts up a front about who they are because we’re children trapped in adult bodies masquerading as individuals who have it all together.  It’s impossible to have genuine fellowship when people are masquerading.

Though authentic fellowship was sparse in college, one of the things I took away from my college fellowship experience was the importance of finding a church after graduation. So after about a year of praying for a church to attend, I came to EFree literally as a lone-wolf. Through time and more prayer, God gave me amazing friends here at EFree whom I’ve done and continue to do life with.  He’s given me my Acts community. And it’s way, way better than being a lone-wolf Christian.

My friends and I have not only served in ministries alongside each other, but we’ve been through the highs and lows of life together – road trips, job promotions, graduations, engagements, broken hearts, weddings, deaths, job losses, car accidents, and really deep, dark, ugly things and issues and problems in life that no one should have to go through alone because we have each other. Somewhere in my 20’s, I became the person who enjoys Instagrammable brunches and tea parties and four hour lunches and … oh my goodness I’ve become a millennial version of my mother.

Despite the Acts community I have now, observing this spiritual discipline of fellowship is a lifelong work in progress.

To understand what fellowship is, we need to look at both the word fellowship and the Word itself.

The Anglo word fellowship comes from the word koinonia. And if koinonia looks Greek to you, well, it is. It means Christian fellowship, communion, participation, sharing, and every synonym under the sun that’s associated with believers doing life together.

We fellowship because we were each uniquely created in God’s image.  And this triune deity that we believe in, on which eternity stands upon, is one that craves fellowship with us.

Matt Perman wrote an informative article about the Trinity on DesiringGod.Com which says in part that, “The personhood of each member of the Trinity means that each Person has a distinct center of consciousness. Thus, they relate to each other personally — the Father regards himself as “I” while he regards the Son and Holy Spirit as “you.” Likewise, the Son regards himself as “I,” but the Father and the Holy Spirit as “you.””

In other words, God created us to be relational because He is relational.  Each part of the Holy Trinity, though different, are each fully God and together is God.  And each part fellowships with the others.  God values fellowship. Fellowship existed within in the Trinity before humanity was ever created (Gen 1: 26-31).  Because God exists in this triune fellowship and has existed, exists, and will forever exist, fellowship began before the world was ever created. And as we fellowship with each other and with God, we’re partaking in one of the most beautiful, sacred disciplines that Christ has called us to.

Fellowship with God

There are multiple ways to fellowship with God.  The Gospels paint a beautiful picture of Christ fellowshipping with God the Father.  At the start of His ministry, Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, and in solitude (fellowship) with God (Matthew 4).  During His ministry, we see Jesus breaking bread with His disciples, feeding the masses, healing people, doing miracles, and so much more.  Christ’s ministry was extraordinary because He was in full communion with God.  At the very end of His life, Jesus cried out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He cried out in vain, desperately seeking fellowship with God even as it was being temporarily severed so that our fellowship with God, once marred by sin, can be restored.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians and, in doing so, we have this amazing, automatic, 24/7 access to Creator of the universe.  Examples of ways that we can fellowship with God include creating worship music, writing (how meta!), painting scripture-inspired images, and reading the Bible.

The easiest and perhaps most commonly underutilized way to fellowship with God is through prayer. Stacey Monaco wrote a must-read article on prayer back in November. Prayer can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.  God doesn’t require or ask for beautiful, poetic words when we pray.  How do you talk to your family and friends?  Fellowship with God in the same way.  Best of all, you don’t even need to talk.  He knows the thoughts you think, so use them to communicate with Him.

Fellowship with one another

The Bible is filled with examples of fellowship.  In almost every passage that mentions Jesus, He’s either fellowshipping with someone or with a group of people. The Old Testament is laden with examples of fellowship too – Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, and large parts of Exodus and Leviticus to name a few.

Acts 2: 42-47 offers concrete ways that we can fellowship with each other.  In these 6 verses, we see the early Christians sharing meals, praying, sharing possessions, giving to those in need, congregating in corporate worship, praising God, and inviting others to their homes to partake in life together.  As a result of this fellowship, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,(v. 47).  Daily. How amazing would it be to witness this happening today?  Humans have an inherent need for community. We weren’t created to be in permanent solitude. These early Christians set an example for non-believers for what it means to commune with God and with each other. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in this community, many who witnessed and partook in their fellowship were saved. May we be like this early church and lead by example through fellowship for God, ourselves, the church, and for Christians in the making.

Lastly, fellowshipping with one another is the blessed gateway to accountability and discipleship, and experiencing and knowing Christ more fully and deeply.  He strives to have this intimate fellowship with us.  

May we strive to do the same.

Written by Christine Hu

Spiritual Discipline Series: Fasting with Dignity

I was 18 years old and traveling throughout South Africa in the dead of summer, sharing every waking hour with 8 people I had never met before. During this 4-month long mission trip, my faith was stretched and I was pushed far outside of my comfort zone. I could share countless ways God used this trip to draw me closer to Him and cling to specific spiritual disciplines that had been lacking in my life. There is something about being stripped of everything you know, something about being stretched to a point of desperation that causes you to cleave to the stability of Christ as if nothing else existed. It was there, in that place, that I began to not only see the importance of spiritual disciplines, but also how not being submerged in the Word of God, worship, prayer, and fellowship was spiritually detrimental.

Moreover, during this season of growth, my misguided understanding of fasting was brought to light. Every Thursday for four months we were required to fast as a team. I dreaded it. I’m sure no one enjoys being hungry. But I’m one of those people you see in the Snickers commercials that gets hangry. So, Thursday after Thursday I was miserable, because all I could think about was how hungry I was. I knew fasting was in the Bible—something I should be doing as a follower of Christ. But all I could think about was getting through Thursday. My experience with fasting was extremely misguided and self-centered.

The problem is that I didn’t understand fasting from a Biblical perspective, I just knew it was the Biblical thing to do. Fasting is used as a way to prepare our hearts and minds to draw closer to God and hear His encouragement and direction.

Fasting is found throughout the entire Bible. Daniel fasted and sought the Lord on behalf of the Israelites (Daniel 9:3-2). He read the word of the Lord given through the prophet Jeremiah that God promised to deliver His people. Daniel longed for the mercies of God on the Israelites and for Him to do a mighty work among them. His fasting and prayer was done out of his deep spiritual longing to see the people of Israel redeemed.

The Old Testament gives us great insight into the discipline of fasting, and we see the early church seeking the Lord through fasting as well. Multiple times, we see accounts of congregations turning to fasting and prayer to make important decisions and to guide them during times of special need (Acts 13 & 14). Jesus Himself fasted before launching into ministry. Often times we read the accounts of Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights and we focus on the way He used scripture during a time of temptation. Yet, before this, He fasted. Instead of looking to Christ as an example of the importance and necessity of fasting, it becomes a detail we often overlook.

In fact, we as believers and followers of Christ are called to fast. Jesus does not teach about what to do “if” we fast, but “when” we fast (Matthew 6:16-18). There is an expectation for Christians to fast just as they are to read their Bible, prayer, and be in community. This spiritual discipline is a gift and opportunity to grow deeper in your relationship with God. It is not the work of fasting itself that grows us, but the work of Christ through this important yet too often neglected spiritual discipline that cultivates our souls.

Here are a few things that have helped me better understand fasting from a Biblical perspective:

God is the center

Our motives behind fasting should begin and end with God. It’s too easy to enter into a period of fasting with the thoughts of prayer, spiritual insights, or even physical benefits in mind, rather than God Himself. These are secondary benefits to fasting but our hearts, minds, and motives should enter into this time with the primary benefit – God and God alone. “First, let [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven” (John Wesley).

Your inner self is revealed

During a time of fasting, you are setting a period of time to abstain from a daily pleasure in your life. Traditionally, this is food, but it doesn’t have to be. It is very interesting to see how this time of abstinence brings to surface the things that control us. In my fasting experience, I often struggled with a spirit of anger. In the beginning, I would blame it on my hunger. But the more I searched and prayed through this, the more I realized that anger was something that controlled me, even in a subtle way. I would often make excuses for my anger, blaming it on whatever I could to not actually face it. This was something that boiled to the surface and became very evident during my time of fasting. God uses this spiritual discipline of fasting to make us more like Christ. It is used to not only draw us closer to Him but to actually transform who we are.

Fasting doesn’t make you more spiritual

Growing up in church, fasting was often viewed as the spiritual thing to do. And I think that’s because it may be one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to practice. Fasting is hard and it requires self-denial every time you want to enjoy the pleasure you are fasting from. But, to look at fasting as another activity you can add to your spiritual list is an incredible disservice. Fasting often brings the ugly out of people for God to deal with and make them more like Christ. So, if anything, in the period of fasting you will probably appear far less spiritual than you would like. Fasting, as like all of the spiritual disciplines, is not meant to be added to your resume of being a good Christian. It is used by God to draw you closer to Him and to make you more like Christ. And through this, we are able to live a life that is gospel-centered and reflective of His glory.

I know this is a hard discipline to develop in our lives, and by no means is it one that I have mastered. But as Dignified women of Christ we can work together to discipline ourselves in this way. May our hearts long more for the goodness of God in our lives and may that longing exceed our hunger for food. Even in a temporary state of abstaining, we can find that the Lord will sustain us. We can taste and see that He is good!

Written by Tamara Chamberlain

Spiritual Discipline Series: The Dignified Art of Worship

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12: 1,2

During the 90s, while I was in high school and college, I loved romantic comedies. I dragged my then, boyfriend (now, husband) to movie theaters to watch the most recent romantic comedy starring actresses like Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Reese Witherspoon. I recently thought about these favored movies of mine from my youth (because I now prefer historical period dramas…go figure), trying to determine why they appealed to me (and let’s face it…so many other women) so much. I concluded that it is the thrill of the chase. Guy pursues girl. Guy gets girl. Pursuit. Who doesn’t want to feel the flattery of pursuit?

Here’s the kicker…none of those pursuits depicted on the silver screen can compare to how GOD pursues us to worship Him. Richard J. Foster wrote in Celebration of Discipline that “God is actively seeking worshipers…It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is the human response to the divine initiative.” While speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus told her in John 4:23 [italics added], “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” God is very much like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32) who, upon seeing his son in the distance, “…saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (v. 20).”

Worship, then, is our response to the love that pours from the Father’s heart. The Hebrew word for the glory or radiance of God dwelling in the midst of His people is shekinah. Foster tells us that in worshipping God we get to break into or become invaded by the shekinah of God. This infers that the presence of God is immediate, as opposed to a God who is abstract or aloof. God is present in our lives and He’s down here with us in our miry pits: our hurts, our struggles, our burdens. He’s also in our triumphs, joy and contentedness… and just generally the whole combination of the beautiful and the ugly. He’s in it with us. He’s ALL IN.

In light of this, we need to recognize that worship should happen all the time…not just during Sunday service. It is all important and pleasing to God when our hearts are properly aligned to worship. Here are some steps into worship from Celebration of Discipline we can take:

  1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily. Paul urged the Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Try sprinkling your day with brief whisperings of adoration, praise and thanksgiving. Along with that, having personal time of worship through Bible study and prayer and confession. I personally find that journaling my prayers is a great way to organize my thoughts before God and down the road, I can also look back to see the ways the Lord answered those prayers or changed my heart towards specific situations, and I get to worship Him more then, too!
  2. Have many different experiences of worship. Worship God when you’re alone. In addition to reading the Bible, I have procured some playlists that I will play and sing aloud to God or sometimes I won’t sing and I will just listen and meditate on the words. My husband is a worship leader so we often have beautiful worship music blasting through our house whether he’s practicing on the guitar or listening to a recording. I worship right along as I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry. Also, worship with a smaller group. If you are not currently plugged into a life group, I would strongly encourage you to join a Rooted group, which will begin January 16. Many things happen in a smaller group setting when you offer up praises together. It’s something that just does not happen in a large corporate worship setting, just plainly due to size.
  3. Find ways to prepare yourself for Sunday worship service. One huge part of getting the most of your worship experience is being on time. Now, as the mother of two young kids, I am no stranger to a harried Sunday morning trying to get myself and two little girls fed, dressed and in the car on time. But if you’re able to get to bed earlier, prepare outfits ahead of time, set the coffee maker the night before…being able to sit in the worship center before the actual worship service begins can give you a moment to pause, pray and ask God to prepare your heart for worship and let go of internal distractions so that you can fully participate.
  4. Be willing to be let go of your own agenda. This point is interesting to me because we don’t realize that most of us have any sort of agenda as we enter the worship center. I personally believe this comes from our society’s consumer mentality—judging how the elements of the worship service serve to bless us as individuals. But we need to be willing to submit to the ways of God, and to one another in Christian fellowship. For instance, the song choices may not be your favorite, or the message topic or speaker may feel like they do not resonate with you at that moment, but if you view the worship service as something that is pleasing to God, it’s the collective desire for God’s power to rise and minister to the entire group, not just within one individual.
  5. Cultivate holy dependency. This means that you are completely and utterly dependent on God for anything significant to happen. You look forward to God moving and acting and winning. The work is His and not ours.
  6. Receive distractions with gratitude. Instead of huffing and puffing about a noise or distraction, consider taking it in and conquering it instead. Don’t allow a cell phone alert tone, a fussy toddler, or a conversation between a few people behind you deter you from worshipping God. Take it in as part of the experience and even thank God for those people responsible for the disruption because they have still chosen to be in the presence of God and His people.
  7. Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. There probably have been or will be times when you just don’t feel like worshipping. You feel like God is distant and you don’t sense His power or presence very powerfully. Or you’re hurt by someone…possibly someone worshipping in the same room. But you need to go anyway. And you need to offer a sacrifice of worship. It’s called a sacrifice because you won’t want to do it. It might even be painful. Foster writes that “you need to be with the people of God and say, ‘These are my people. As stiff-necked and hard-hearted and sinful as we may be, together we come to God.” If making the sacrifice continues to be too difficult, confess it to God. Be honest in saying to Him that you don’t feel like worshipping, but that the time belongs to Him and you will give it to Him anyway. Go anyway. Pray anyway. And still expect and look for God to do a new and living work among you.

Sisters, these seven steps are tough, I know. I’ve read them a few times over and think, Oof. I needed to be reminded of this. But we are in it together. Let’s encourage each other through this. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). Let’s journey together as we strive towards practice worshipping the true and living God, who is doing a good work in each of us. Because unlike the fictional characters played by Hollywood starlets in those romantic comedies, we really are being pursued by the King of Kings and we can run to Him and respond to His divine initiative.

Written by Joyce Young