Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reflections from the Calvary Chapel Philly Conference

I'm going to share my reflections from the Calvary Chapel women's conference in Philadelphia this past weekend. I don't normally do this, but I'm feeling challenged to do so and a few people have asked so here goes...

First of all, I just want to say that this church was huge! There were about 2,000 women there for the weekend. And it's not even as big as some of the other Calvary Chapels are. They have a school, a huge parking lot with parking attendants (speaking of parking attendants I'm a firm believer that the Trader Joe's in my area needs some of these to keep things civil), and baseball fields. When we arrived on the second day everyone was waiting in line for the doors to open - check out this line in the picture to the right! Everyone was peaceful and it was awesome to see so many people there for a conference on the gospel, this wasn't a line for a 1999 N*Sync concert or something :) (haha).

The theme for the conference was "The Glorious Gospel of Christ" centered around 2 Corinthians 4:4-18. 

In the first session by Pastor Raul Ries, we learned it's not just how we share the gospel with our words, but it's how we LIVE it. He showed us that the Glorious Gospel of Christ will set us apart (Romans 1:1), will open doors (2 Corinthians 2:12), and will reach all the ends of the world (Matthew 24:14).  His wife then spoke the following morning and one thing that stood out to me was her point that we have to focus on preaching Christ, not ourselves. The son of man came to serve (Matthew 20:27-28). And to preach is to serve, not to elevate ourselves. Similarly, the third speaker, Karyn Johnson highlighted 2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." So from the first session we learned that it is how we LIVE the gospel, but then this is qualified that it isn't focused on ourselves. So this means that we need to be setting an example for others about the truth of the gospel while also making sure that the focus isn't on us, but instead the work that God is doing in us. Great, super easy right?!

Of course it's not easy! No one is perfect at this, and God doesn't expect us to be. What a relief. 

Setting an example is something we've learned from our earliest days from our parents (hopefully :)), especially those of us who have younger siblings. People are always observing our lives, especially with social media now. Acting as an example while we put some of the most minute details of our lives on the internet can be a challenge! I think what makes this most difficult is that we never know where others are at in their lives truly. Someone may be really struggling with their job and or finances, drinking, or struggling in their marriage and a photo of us or a physical example of us drinking, posting a complaint about a co-worker or our job or making a joke about how "awful" our spouse is for something silly could change the entire focus of their day or challenge how they are feeling. We never want to be stumbling blocks to others and everything we do as examples could influence how non-believers and believers alike think about Christ. What a difficult, but great challenge. I remember thinking to myself regarding various examples and things that were posted on Facebook and that I saw in real life: "Oh! She's a believer so that must mean it's ok for me to do X or say Y" and relying on the examples of fellow believers instead of the Word.  Obviously that isn't a great practice, but for newer believers, that may be the case and it's important for us to realize. I'm also not attempting to make rules or laws for us to follow, I'm just showing examples from my personal life of how lives of other believers have influenced my idea about the Word of God. 

Several of the speakers light heartedly joked about social media and blogging, but that particularly stood out to me as I obviously am writing a blog post right now and I spend countless hours trying to pick out beautiful colors for it :). They stated that obviously these tools can be used for good, but they can also quickly turn into a "self-focused" platform. One of the speakers made a joke that we'll post a bible verse, then we'll post a selfie, then we'll post a bible verse and then we'll post a selfie. Everyone laughed, but it made me think. It's an illustration of how easy it is for some of us to quickly snap a photo of what we're looking like that day but we might not as quickly be comfortable to drop a line about how we are feeling spiritually each day when our spiritual self is SO much more important than our new hair-do (is that just a term from the 50s? I'm laughing now re-reading this before I post it) or glasses!

The speaker also told us that when our eyes are not on the treasure, they'll fall on the vessel. How true that is! I'll often talk about some of my favorite bloggers and when I explain why I like them, some of the first things out of my mind are - they are so artistic, I love her style, she posts the cutest outfits on instagram, or the blog is beautifully designed and I'll just leave everything about their Christ-centered message out.

And my favorite - one of the last sessions was Adie Camp. She talked about in order to fully understand the cross we must die to our selves daily. This literally means to give up our lives to allow Christ to reside in us. 

Adie talked about God's perfect plan and that through suffering and hard times we have a great opportunity to depend fully on the Lord. He doesn't create these bad things that happen in our world, but he does allow things to happen that he knows we can handle or be perfected through.  She mentioned the emphasis of our society to always focus on being happy and not letting things bother us, to move on, to distract ourselves from our burdens. But, she also mentioned that one can be in a time of sorrow and unhappiness but still find joy in the Lord. 

God allowing suffering is a tough thing to think about and something that many of my friends who aren't believers ask me about. For me, the foundation of my faith is that I believe in the absolute perfection of God's plan for the world and I also believe that I will never fully understand it because we just aren't able to while we are on Earth. If we understood every detail of his plan and how it works - we'd be equal with God.  As I grow in faith I find that He's revealed more and more and I've come to a fuller and better understanding that can't be easily explained. It's a gift that comes with time! Taking that into account, there are some things that I know I won't be able to figure out, but when it comes to the bad things that happen here - what if they didn't? What if the world was perfect, no evil. Would we even need God? Would we willingly choose to enter into a relationship if we can already have perfection here on Earth? He doesn't force us to believe or enter into a relationship with him, he wants us to choose that. 

In Adie's talk she talked about the importance of really understanding the cross of Christ referencing Phillipians 3:10 "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Suffering allows us to really know Him and become like him, and while the world may say this is a burden - is it really? 

I think the Lord's heart breaks for the terrible things that happen to His people, but Romans 8:28 tells us "and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." In Genesis 50:20 an example "as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." 

For me, being away from home and all of my family and friends can be really tough, but in this time when I haven't had that support system to rely on I'm closer to the Lord and I'd move out here and be "lonely" all over again for that. Now some of you may be saying "my burden is worse - that's not an extreme example of suffering", but in this point in my life I trust that the Lord knows I can handle this and knows what you can handle and he's using this period of being alone to perfect me. I am so comforted in the fact that I'll only be dealt what He knows I can handle. 

Remembering what was said before about using suffering to become more Christ like and dying to our selves, Adie gave awesome examples of what this could look like in someone's everyday life. She talked about those who were struggling in their marriage, instead of fighting based on what their emotions or feelings told them to do, choosing to give up their personal desire to defend themselves.  She also talked about those who are burdened with something as simple as their page-long list of monotonous household chores, to essentially not allow these things to frustrate us but instead give them to the Lord and tell Him your heart, because he already knows it and we don't have to hide it. And after we've been honest, we need to give these things up, die to our selves and pick up the cross that God has asked us to carry. Whatever our cross is, in carrying it and dying to our selves we allow Christ to live through us. Galations 5:24 says "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." 

Last but certainly not least, imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini's wife Naghmeh was the last speaker. Naghmeh was such a perfect example of a real life person who was living her life as an example to others, dying to her self and allowing the Lord to work through her in unbelievable ways. It was so abundantly clear that the Lord was using her. I've been following Saeed's situation for a long time now and was excited to see her. Naghmeh talked about the overwhelming peace she has received from the Lord and the amazing chances she's had to share the gospel with the UN, over 50 million Iranians via television and other world leaders she never dreamed she would meet. Every time she speaks about her husband's situation she emphasizes the peace she has and explains that this peace would not be possible without the Lord. She also explained how she does not like public speaking and she does not like flying - but through this experience she has had to die to her self almost every day and allow the Lord to use her. She is an amazing individual and her strength in the Lord is so awesome to see in person. If you haven't heard about her husband read the link above, pray, and follow along! His suffering has allowed millions to hear the gospel. He also released an Easter message about the same verses Naghmeh spoke about at our conference. You can find the letter here. 

Almost the end, I have to include something about the music! The Scott Cunningham Band from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa performed throughout the weekend, this was my favorite. I LOVE that song and their music, check it out if you don't know them!

Ok obviously that's a ton of information. On top of that we had the strangest hotel experience ever where we saw someone in a full glitter body suit, our room was a mess like someone else was already living there and we found a champagne bottle topper on the floor and then when housekeeping came to change the sheets they instead just sprayed our sheets with lysol to make it "all better." (Since then we've been refunded in full for the room without me asking for that so that was good!) I also was terrible at giving directions on the "turnpike" or whatever the crazy 12 lane road right outside of Philly is called, and we also got ourselves some true Philly cheesesteaks. All in all an awesome time.

Thanks for reading friends <3

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great conference--loved the overview!