A few months ago, my local church hosted a simulcast with Priscilla Shirer. She is a mother of three young children who ministers to women all over the country. During that seminar, three of us decided it would be awesome to go to the Deeper Still conference coming up in Kentucky. Started in 2008, Deeper Still was a conference in which Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer ministered to several thousand women over a two day event. The conference coming up in Louisville was to be the last one ever to be held. Within days, we had our tickets purchased, rooms booked, and travel plans made. I was beside myself with excitement to spend a weekend bathed in the Word, with no other responsibilities at home to become entangled with.
I have been to several conferences over the years in my Christian life, but none of them have compared to this past weekend. There is something about breaking down the barriers of denominations (which personally, I think God hurts to see His people so deeply divided in this way) and worshipping as one body in Christ. It's like a hint of what's to come in Heaven- a place that I am ECSTATIC to see and experience for eternity.
I learned so much this weekend, and fell even more deeply in love with my Savior. I took notes like crazy, excited to keep them for future reference. I even read over them again Saturday night before going to bed in our hotel. Sadly though- I can't find my notes!! I even called the hotel while on the road to home once I realized they were missing, but the staff said that even after searching the maid's trash, they couldn't locate my book of notes anywhere. I'd like to think that God purposed for someone else to find and read them, and point that person to Himself. I'd hate to think I was simply irresponsible in losing them, and that no one will benefit from the notes! Thankfully I paid close enough attention to remember most of what was said by the speakers. I want to share so much, so this may end up being a three part blog series. I hope you don't mind!
That first night Kay Arthur spoke on God's love. She took us to Malachi, where the Lord told His people that He loved them. The people responded accusingly, "In what way have You loved us?" The Lord then patiently went on to explain just exactly how He loved them. And then, He was silent for the next four hundred years, leaving them His Word to recall His love for them. Until one day, an angel appeared to a man named Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist,forerunner of Christ; and another angel, Gabriel, appeared to a man named Joseph, and announced the birth of a Son, Jesus, whose kingdom will have no end. I John 4:10 says, In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitation for our sins." Ms. Arthur expounded on Christ's sacrifice on the cross, describing in detail the physical torment He experienced that day, His body literally being ripped to shreds, His flesh hanging in ribbons. He was whipped, beaten, spit upon, and mocked. He was marred beyond recognition. At any point He could have summoned 10,000 angels- but He didn't. He went through it, even the death of the cross, for all for us. All for me. All for you.
The point of Ms. Arthur's message was this: Do you question God's love for you? Or do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happens in your life, He loves you? If you do have doubts, you should also doubt whether you are truly saved. Anyone who has accepted Christ as their Savior understands His sacrifice, and His love- His deep, profound, breath-taking love for us. Oh, reader, how He LOVES you and me. He took our sin upon Him on that cross, so that we may have life in Him! When I sit and really think of His love, my eyes overflow with tears and I am overwhelmed. I have NO doubt of His love. God in His soverignty allows negative things to happen to us, and we may not always understand, but know this: HE. LOVES. YOU. He loves you!!! "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."( I John 4:9) I pray that anyone reading this who does not trust Christ will be stirred inside to know more, to seek Him, and to trust Him.
During Friday night's message, one verse kept resonating with me: I John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." It was one of those things that as I listened, that phrase kept popping up- "There is no fear in love...perfect love casts out fear..." I would say that the verse repeated in my mind almost to the point of annoyance. I even prayed, "Yes Lord, I know- I trust you!" I have made strides in trusting my children in His hands, and I couldn't understand why He wanted me to pay attention to that verse, especially when it was evident that was not the main point of Ms. Arthur's message.
Later that night, I texted Bill before bed to see whether he was still working. The kids were sleeping at my parents', and I knew that Bill didn't like coming home to an empty house, or sleeping in our bed without me. The day that our oldest child Brooke was born, Bill wasn't allowed to stay overnight with me in the hospital, and so he gave my mom our bed that night because he didn't want to sleep in it without me. So sweet, huh? So I assumed Friday night he'd work as late as possible. He texted back he was working, and I asked him to text me when he got home. I later woke up at 3am and noticed he never texted me. I sent him a message, and no response. I immediately started praying, and I John 4:18 popped in mind. "I know Lord," I prayed, "he's in Your hands, but the human part of me is scared! Please let me know he's alright!" I've experienced instant peace before, and have felt the Lord telling me all was ok- but He didn't provide that peace this time. That made me even more scared and freaked out. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't, waiting for him to text. I tossed and turned and prayed the rest of the night. At 6:00am, I began calling and texting like crazy, but no response. I even called OnStar to locate our vehicle- the operator would only tell me that the airbags had not been deployed (small reassurance) but wouldn't tell me the location of the car unless the police were involved. I then called our neighbor to see if his car was in the driveway, but it wasn't. Bill doesn't have a desk job, and getting hurt with no help around is a true reality, so at this point I was pretty freaked out. I was keeping it inward, and my friend Kelly did her best to help reassure me, but I just wanted the knot in my stomach to go away. I tried calling the local police, but Bill works out of a very small town, and no one was answering at the station. I was running out of ideas, short of calling 911.
Before we went downstairs to breakfast, my friends gathered around me to pray. I immediately started hysterically sobbing. I was so scared I was going to be left without a husband, and my children without their father. I knew God's love and that He would provide, but that is not at all what I had pictured for our family. As they prayed, I felt myself calm down, but I still didn't feel peace inside that he was ok. So I started to mentally prepare for the worst.
Finally, at 8:00am, Bill texted that he was ok. He had worked through the night, and hadn't wanted to wake me. He never heard his phone that entire night. I was so relieved to know he was ok! I went immediately from that experience back to Freedom Hall where the conference was held, to hear a woman named Tammy Head lead the morning devotion. She spoke from Luke 2, about a woman named Anna. The Word says she was a widow of 84 years, and that she never departed the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. She went from being married, to suddenly having no husband at a young age, yet she continued to worship God. Tammy then spoke about an experience on a recent vacation, in which she stood on the beach, worshipping God, and then felt God lead her to some commotion on the beach where a man had been dragged out of the water, not breathing. With God's leading, she prayed over him that he may live through this. Instead, sadly the man died. Then, right after that experience, she went to a massage that her husband had previously scheduled. Tammy said, that's how life in Christ can be. We go from worship to warfare, then back to worship. I just sat in awe that this was the message I was hearing. The night before, I was worshipping with thousands of women, feeling the power and presence of the Holy Spirit heavily among us, then right into a night of fear and worry, and then straight back into worship again. I almost had to laugh out loud from the perfect timing- God was talking directly to me. He had tried to prepare me the night before for what I was about to experience, pointing out I John 4:18 to me over and over. What a glorious God I serve. I doubt I will never fear again- as I said, I am human and far from being perfect, but I pray that I will continue to trust Him more, no matter the outcome He has in store. I am treasured by the God of this universe, and that is enough.