Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Revelations




We're one week into the new year, and I still haven't made any resolutions. Instead, I've opted to: 1. revisit the lessons of 2010 and 2. discover God's purposes for me in this new year. Today I'll share lessons of 2010. Next week, join me again as I share God's purposes for me in 2011.

The Lessons of 2010
Before I can share last year's lessons, I have to share my personal journey over the last twelve months. I welcomed the year of 2010 as a resident of Northern Virginia. Having moved back to the East Coast from Franklin, Tennessee back in August of 2009, Anthony and I had just hosted my family for Christmas dinner. It had been a decade since we'd been able to host an extended family dinner, and it felt wonderful. 

Although we missed our old church (Strong Tower) and our friends back in Tennessee, we were excited to be closer to home. We were blessed to be starting a new church, One Community Bible Church. And I was elated to be near the nation's capital, with its cool vibe and profound political and cultural history. Not to mention I had attended college at Howard University in D.C. HU!!! (Couldn't resist a shout-out!)

We hadn't lived in NoVA long before the Lord began to reveal a different plan for us. After clearly hearing His voice, I felt strongly that instead of starting a new ministry, Ant was supposed to join the staff of an existing church. The small detail that God didn't clue me in on: the existing church he would join was in Little Rock, Arkansas. Who knew that exactly twelve months after moving to NoVA, we'd be relocating once again?

So for the lessons I've learned:
1. It's Not About Me
Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life, sold over 30 million copies. His first chapter begins with the words "It's not about you". And ain't that the truth? All other messages of our culture conflict with this theme. Commercials tell us to "Have it your way!" And the media cheers America on as we overindulge in food, sex and material things. Reality television reveals a culture that's pining for more and more pleasure, yet never fully satisfied.

As a lover of Christ, I know satisfaction only comes from Him. And the weirdest paradox has taken root in my soul: the more I give up my own rights and give them over to Him, the more joy I feel. During the months of uncertainty and instability in 2010, I was confronted with this reality. When I felt overwhelmed, confused, discouraged, and lonely -- it wasn't about me. When I pondered how difficult a life of obedience can be -- it wasn't about me. When I considered my other options, which were basically different roads to disobedience -- it wasn't about me. It was all about Him and His plans to use me.

Yesterday I heard a wise young woman share about servant leadership at our Mosaic Church leadership conference. In ten words Tyfnae Benz summarized the mindset of a true servant leader: "I am not the most important person in the room." So simple, yet so profound. And it is valid no matter what room I find myself in. God is always supreme in my life. Everyone else -- my family, friends, fellow church members, neighbors, and especially those not yet in relationship with Christ -- must be second. I am a far third. If I am to ever grow as a follower of Christ, this must be my mantra. It's not about me.

2. God Speaks To Me
Another confirmation over the last year was, if I'm listening for God's voice, I will hear it. God has never spoken to me through an audible voice, but through an inaudible voice in my spirit. When I began my relationship with Christ, I believed that He only spoke to His children through His Word. I was leery of people who gave testimonies of how He had spoken to them directly, especially if their bible was nowhere nearby! I used to label these people as overly-charismatic, and disregarded the validity of their testimonies.

Over the years, I have had several experiences of God "speaking a word" to me. Sometimes I've received these words while reading my Bible, like the time He told me I would give birth to another child. I was having my regular time in the Word and I read in Genesis that God had promised Joseph that he would have another child from his own body. While reading that scripture, the Lord strongly impressed in my spirit that although His words had primarily been for Joseph a very long time ago, they were also for me that day. I knew from that point on that I would have another biological child. Two years later I was pregnant with my baby girl Jada.

Other times, however, I've heard from the Lord when my bible was nowhere around. He has spoken to me during neighborhood walks. He has spoken to me while doing housework. He's even spoken His truths to me while watching secular movies and reading mainstream books. God's message of truth and love have reached out to me at some of the least conventional times. Now mind you, those messages never contradict His word, and they are always confirmed in time by His people and/or circumstances. But He will not be put in a box. So I'm learning to stop trying to put Him in one.

One of my favorite songs is "God Speaking" by Mandisa. Here are a few of her lyrics:
"Who knows how He'll get a hold of us?
Get our attention to prove He is enough.
He'll do and He'll use whatever He want to
To tell us, I love you.

His ways are higher
His ways are better
Though sometimes strange
What could be stranger than God in a manger?"

Last year God proved that if I'm willing to open my heart to hear, I will hear His voice of conviction, direction and, most importantly, love. No matter where you are in your spiritual story, I pray that He will speak to you too in 2011.

Listening to His Voice of Love,

Carla

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