Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Practicing Real Love

The beautiful d├ęcor!

This past Saturday, over 100 women gathered together at our church for the  annual GEM Conference.  This year's speaker was Bianca Olthoff and our special music guest was Moriah Peters.  This year's theme was entitled "Authentic."
"Authentic" was the vision from a group of courageous, and bold women who felt an overwhelming response from last year's conference, that there was a desperate need for authenticity. As a team, we each committed to memorizing (I challenge you to do the same!) 1 Chron. 29:17 which says: "I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface, you want us, our true selves, and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily." This verse became our hearts, it became the backbone for this year's conference theme, and then we became INSPIRED!
fun group selfie!
The truth is sisters, we all crave authenticity in our relationships.  There is something in our spiritual DNA that has a longing to be real with ourselves and others. We also want to know that we're not alone in our struggles! But know this, your story matters! Bianca shared with us, that when we are free, we have the obligation to free others. The way we free others, is to share our stories! The very cool thing about this, is scripture encourages us to do so! Here is one verse my dear friend, Kris, Shared with our team; that stuck out most to me:
1 John 3:18-20: "My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality.  It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it."
(L. to R.) Kris, Bianca, and Tiffany
I LOVE THIS!!  How many of us have dealt with the evil, debilitating self-criticism? The antidote is found in practicing REAL love; or  AUTHENTIC love! Ladies, I encourage you to practice the authentic love, share your story and see before your eyes, how God uses that to free others....and yourself!
Yours in the journey,
Shannon :)

girlfriend selfie!
Moriah Peters rockin' out!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Authentic Faith Leads to GEM

The definition of faith is clear. It's confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. More than that though, it's our identity. Our is faith is who we are. Everyone puts their faith in something and it's that faith in something that defines you. Of all things, I could put my faith in, I'm glad it's in the One who is always faithful. 

I've been studying the book of Hebrews, which is one faith-filled book! As the Lord's Word always does, it got me thinking about the strength of my faith. Some have called chapter 11, the "hall of fame" of the Bible. Rightly so, I guess, but I would venture to call it the "hall of God's faithfulness". It's the story of what God did through normal people, like you and me. I often wonder if my name would be among those listed in this famous chapter. Not so that I would receive glory, rather that my life would be a life lived in surrendering obedience to God. As I read the names, I am captured by their legacy.  They are not remembered for their mistakes or misjudgments, but by their actions toward the one in whom their identity comes from. 

When we know who we are and where we come from, we behave differently. There is a new found purpose and passion. It's the hope that sets us apart. And because we are confident about who our Creator is; we can approach his throne boldly! When our faith in God becomes who are we, there is no longer a separation of identities. You can't be one way here and another way there. You're all in! That's what pleases God. Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) Additionally, faith without action is dead. (James 2:17)

Having authentic faith isn't about having it all together, quite the opposite in fact! It's about letting others see God's faithfulness in our imperfections. He chooses you time and time again to work out His Will. That's why our lives are a testimony to his greatness. We need each other because our faith is built stronger when we see other people's actions of faith. That's why chapter 11 exists, to strengthen our faith with the legacy of others. As our faith grows, our identity grows and our confidence grows. As our confidence grows, our actions become more pleasing to God! That's a cycle I want to be a part of! Come with me! 

Finally, let me encourage you to attend the GEM Conference at First Assembly on March 21st. GEM stands for God Enriching Moments and it will deliver one of those, for this I am sure. As you continue to walk in faith, discovering your true identity, I pray that you would savor the God Enriching Moments in your life. And as you do, your faith with grow!

Until the whole world hears,