Desire, Motivation, and Discipline

Thursday, February 07, 2019  ::   1 important comment

When women speak out their desire to learn theology (the study of God), my heart flutters and I may even do a little dance. If you've ever heard me speak in any capacity, you know I'm more than passionate about challenging and teaching women to be strong-willed in Scripture, word, and deed as opposed to weak-willed and willy-nilly, following the winds of culture. 2 Timothy 3 speaks of weak-willed women allowing false, misguided love and ideas worm their way into their homes. Heck no! Not my house! Please help me, Jesus!

My good friend, John DeSoto, recently preached a message on Psalm 112 titled Righteous Stability. In his message, he mentioned that he is digging into theology this year. It's only been a few days since he spoke and I've already received more than a few inquiries about the when, what, and how of studying theology from some of the amazing women I'm honored to lead. I love it! So, for the sake of everyone who may be curious but not asking, here is a quick-start nudge for you.

First, know this: Theology is for everyone. If that mean girl voice in your head just said, "Uh no, I can't/don't want to learn about this... It's not helpful for my daily life or I get too confused or I'm not smart enough or blah, blah, blah," tell that voice to shut its mouth and choose to believe that we all learn with different strategies, at different paces, and with different benefits. I am not an intellectual academic at all. But, through the years, I've disciplined myself to dive head first into complicated topics.

This past year Chad and I have been working on an intensive doctrinal deep-dive. Through this doctrinal study, God has been gracious to also show me new and wondrous theological concepts, as well. I'm currently muscling my way through my fifth book for this project, a couple of text books even! The last book I read had whole chapters dedicated to one Greek word and I thought my brain would explode. The point: It takes desire, motivation, and discipline. My desire is to grow my brain and heart, to work through a hard topic with Chad, and to not be left behind in learning. My motivation is to have a deeper understanding of what Scripture says about this particular topic for my own benefit as well as for the benefit of my church. My discipline is to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of my heart and to give me endurance and stamina to pick up these seemingly impossible books and read a few chapters every week. It is not easy, but it is so, so rich. (I will not be telling you the topic until we are both ready to articulate what we've learned. Don't you just hate that?! Hahaha!)

So where do you start?

Gather a few friends in order to read and grow together. I have a small book in my office for $10 to offer any of you at anytime called Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. I've read it at least half a dozen times with various women in Second Mile, including my oldest daughter. It is a great place to whet your appetite for theology. Most, if not all, of our Moxie mentoring relationships begin with this book. (Some women don't like that it is called a theology book for women. But come on, I'm a woman, am I not? I continually and gladly pick up this book written by a woman for women. Please and thank you.) For theology, I also highly recommend None Like Him and In His Image by Jen Wilkin. Again, both books are in my office waiting to be purchased and read by you.

If you are ready for the next challenge, find a fatter theology book and get going. When we moved to Tucson to start Second Mile, a large portion of our team read through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology together. There were tears, debates, frustrations, and more personal growth than any of us realized we were experiencing. John mentioned he is reading a different theology book. It is Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. I can't remember if he mentioned this, but the elders are going through it together. Together in theology is better than theology alone. Our minds and hearts need the accountability and insight of others. If we hate an idea that is actually true, we need our sisters and/or brothers to gently help us surrender our feelings in order to trust God.

At this point Second Mile does not offer any theology specific classes. (However, Chad teaches us theology on the regular in his messages.) But please do not let the lack of formal classes stop you from diving in the deep waters of theology if your interest is piqued.

  • Gather two or three trusted friends. 
  • Buy a well-known, trusted book; start with this one if you've never done this before. 
  • Set a goal of meeting once a month for a couple of hours to discuss 2-4 chapters. 
  • Finish in a year or so. As you often hear me say, this is a long obedience in the same direction for your whole life. I pray we are growing in our faith and understanding of God until the day we meet him face to face. 
  • Talk to me or a trusted leader as you progress for encouragement, trouble-shooting, and accountability. 

"We must make a study of our God: what he loves, what he hates, how he speaks and acts. We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned. We must make a study of him if we want to become like him. We must seek his face." -Jen Wilkin

"In the long run, careful theology may slow you. But in the long run, it will sustain you." -John Piper

"Sound theology is not an end it itself but must be turned into praise. Ethical compliance without fervent worship means you've given God your will but not your heart." -Timothy Keller

Also, don't forget about the giveaway I'm doing as we get ready for the Matthew message series! There are only dozen or so entries and I'm giving away three books! I'm confident we will learn deep theological truths as we study the life of Christ through Matthew.

Are you intimidated by the study of theology, do you embrace it, or somewhere in between? What is one aspect of God you wish you understood better? Have you ever read a theology book? Tell me everything. 

Stability, Abundance, and a Giveaway

Monday, February 04, 2019  ::   3 important comments

Way back in 2005, right after we moved to Tucson to plant a church called Second Mile, Chad attended a conference about starting a church. My guess is he expected to return to our new city with ideas and strategies. Instead, he shared with our small group of ten that God had only impressed on him one thing: Teach Scripture.

He often tells me he's a simple man and this one life-transformational, God-given direction demonstrates this reality in his life. From that point, my beloved husband 'simply' began systematically teaching books of the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. From his faithful obedience to teach what God told him to teach and our church's faithful obedience to take in the most delightful passages as well as the most difficult passages, our church continues to grow... in depth more than breadth, but still, both.

He shared with us a few weeks ago that we will be starting the Gospel of Matthew on February 17th. After over a year in 1st and 2nd Samuel, heading into the New Testament excites me to no end. I hope you'll join us on the journey.

To pump you up a bit, I'm going to do another give away. It turns out I love giving you things, especially books!

Jen Wilkin recently shared this new book series and it immediately sparked joy for me. They are gorgeous, individual books of the Bible, so obviously, I ordered 10 ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal: Matthew books. I think the gold-foil stamped cover is lovely. As we go through our new message series, one could use this book to journal, to take notes, to create art that moves you to worship, etc.

With joy, I'm going to give away 3 copies. Comment here, on facebook, or on instagram with why you are looking forward to Matthew. I'll give it a week or so, but don't delay. In the last giveaway I hosted, only 27 people participated... pretty good odds! I am also selling these for $6. Let me know if you would like one. I'll have them on Sundays or you can arrange to stop by my office.


On prayer and fasting:

As most of you know we recently finished up our annual Week of Prayer and Fasting. As I consider how you all engaged, I decided to share my experience to encourage you. One of my kids deeply strengthened me recently as they observed and stated that Chad and I keep pressing in, year after year, allowing God to refine us no matter how "big" or "small" some might perceive the refinement. I hope you know we are all in with you, no short cuts or easy outs for us.

January 8th was a rough day for me. I lamented to Chad that January sucks: The holidays are over, Kyle and Esther move back to their school places of living (i.e., not home), Morgan and Carah go back to school, we stop drinking coffee, we have to write the prayer booklet, and then we don't get to eat. Whhhyyyyy??? 

As you can see, I was feeling all my feelings about what was to come. Thankfully, God did not leave me in my misery and was faithful to teach and show me great and unsearchable truths despite my dread of the month.

First, physically:

Giving up caffeine was harder than ever before. Thankfully, we started our coffee fast on January 7th before we began fasting from food because my age and my addiction showed this year. I had every, single, withdrawal symptom for almost a full week. Fun times. I'm going to be more aware of my caffeine intake from now on, and next year, I will not go cold turkey. A little research goes a long way, my friends.

After we all broke our fast on January 27th, I struggled with brain fog, weakness, fatigue, and sadness, again, for almost a full week. After talking to my good friend, Aluvia, I learned that next year, I need to have quality electrolytes on hand. Of course, some of my sadness was due to the let down after a week of intense church togetherness in prayer and fasting, but the other struggles were physical. It was no joke.

(Many of you do not know this and I only share to encourage and challenge you, definitely not to boast.) Chad and I often extend our fast longer than one week. This year was the longest I've ever fasted and it was, by far, the best experience I've ever had. I'm amazed at how God designed our bodies. It's incredible. Typically in a food fast, the first week is often difficult. For me, after week one, my body settled down, my brain was quick and clear, and I felt almost invincible. Of course, I hungered, but boredom bugged me more. If you want to extend your fast in the future, let's talk. I'm happy to help and challenge you. (I do think the extended fast is what made breaking the fast more difficult. Chad and I researched how to break it, we ate only veggies and broth for almost three days. I missed the electrolyte piece, but I'm on it for next time.)

More importantly, spiritually:

Each year, extending the fast gives my heart and mind more needed time to work into the required stillness. The first week I spent wrestling. As the toxins left my physical body, I imagined the toxins leaving my soul. Prayerful tears spilled over as I began to see lack of love and patience in areas of my life, but resolve and hope didn't come until week two.

Currently, I'm studying the book of Isaiah. God used his Word to show me his love in a couple of distinct ways:

Through the years at Second Mile, I've always been one of the oldest people, if not the oldest person in our body. This reality, I believe, has kept me young, so I do not usually complain, even though I often jokingly make the observation. The last couple of years increased my awareness of my age difference. My kids are older; Chad and I will be empty nesters too soon. I'm 45 which isn't young. (Yes, I know it isn't old either. That's why it's called middle-aged.) What I didn't know, or at least didn't care to notice, was a growing angst, impatience, and isolation/self-preservation slowly threading it's dark thread through my heart. I found myself frustrated by the age difference, not caring about generational differences, wondering about my place in our community with so many cultural shifts. I felt awkward at best and irritated at worst. As he often does, God breathed kindness and gentleness into me again through prayer and scripture. It feels like a deep inhale of fresh air after the rain. What a gift to be asked to lead people! May my life continually overflow with the fruit of the Spirit. He specifically used Isaiah 33:2, 5-6. He is my arm of strength and the stability and abundance of my life.

Thursday in the prayer booklet, we were asked to spend time in confession and repentance. (Full disclosure: I wrote most of this day. What was I thinking?? Eek!) With great kindness, he pulled back the veil on great fear I've been holding in my heart about the next few years. So much (feels like too much) change and transition is coming my way. I won't get into those details, but I will say in my own self, I'm scared. Part of the fear is the wrong belief that there isn't enough to go around, there is a shortage of opportunities, friendship, space, and even love. God showed me that I do not have any doubt that there is enough for everyone else. I fully believe there is enough for all of you all the time. The darkness of my wrong thinking is that there isn't enough for me which leads to me over-protecting myself and over-loving/serving everyone else. Deep plowing of my heart and mind to be sure. Again, he graciously used Isaiah 40 to show me there is absolutely no scarcity in Christ. And, I begged him to show me how to deal with the coming changes. Instead, he showed me he has not forgotten me, he is the everlasting God, and then asked me to wait for him instead of running ahead to figure out all the answers. I imagine I'll have to cling to Jesus and these revelations many, many times over the next few years.

Friends, please do not allow what I learned through our Week of Prayer and Fasting cause you to compare, complain, or confuse what you did or did not learn. We seek communion with God when we do this; we do not seek great "experiences" of him. My main source of joy and sustenance throughout the fast was Jesus alone. This year he poured out his generosity through conviction and healing to me, but I don't expect him to work in the same ways all the time. He is enough. His Word speaks to me. His Spirit moves. I'm humbled and grateful.

What was your experience as you prayed and/or fasted? Did you engage with the booklet? What did you learn? Was it difficult and good or difficult and just difficult? Share with me. I would love to know. And don't forget about the Matthew journal giveaway. I have so much love for you all.