What’s The Occasion?

It has been heartwarming over the past few days to see so many of my friends and family–and their friends and family–share Facebook posts and photos about Easter.  Families dressed up to attend church, extended families gathering for a meal, egg and candy hunts with little ones.  It’s been fun.  And I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of loved ones far away making new memories together.

I’ve also been blessed by the posts that remind us of the true occasion we’ve been celebrating–the very heart of the gospel message.  Jesus Christ, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, left His home in Heaven to take His place on a humble cross and die for the sins of mankind.  But it wasn’t the end of the story.  On the third day He rose again, conquering death.  And that is cause for rejoicing and extended celebration!

“Then the angel spoke to the women.  ’Don’t be afraid!’ he said.  ’I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.”  Matthew 28:5-6

Because Jesus lives we have the promise of an eternity in Heaven with Him when we accept His outstretched hand and trust Him as Savior.  (See John 3:16)

Because Jesus lives we can face whatever tomorrow might bring (even in turbulent political and economic times) when we choose to trust His promise to be with us always.  (See Matthew 28:20)

Because Jesus lives we have the power to overcome sin in our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit–the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead!  Wow!  (See Ephesians 1:19-20)

Because Jesus lives we are so amazingly, incredibly, abundantly blessed!  Not just on Easter, but every day of every year.

So when the colors of Easter fade–when the dyed eggs have all been eaten or tossed, the decorations have been packed away for another year, and pretty dresses are hung back in the closet–what do you do to carry the celebration with you throughout the year?  How will you hold on to the joy of the Resurrection so it doesn’t fade away along with the colors of the Easter holiday?

In just over three weeks, on April 22, we’ll be gathering together again with our LIFT loved ones.  We’ll rejoice in our shared faith, lift our voices in worship, encourage each other in our lives and ministries, pray for each other, and learn new ways to be effective as Christian women and as leaders.  Kerri Willoughby will bless us this time with lessons on leadership from the book of Nehemiah, continuing on with our 2016 theme of Leading With Love.

LIFT events are one of my favorite ways to continue, and multiply, and  expand on the joy of belonging to Jesus–of knowing He LIVES!  I always come away refreshed and renewed and full of joy.  I hope you will join us.

In the meantime, post a comment here and share with us how you keep the joy fresh in your life.

Blessings,

Deborah Barber

 

 

“As I Have Loved You”

“Equipping and Encouraging Leaders in Women’s Ministry.”  This is our mission here at LIFT, and it’s one we take very seriously.  Our themes for each year and each LIFT event are formed around this intent and with this prayer–that you will go out from every LIFT event encouraged, and with new ideas and tools to help you in your role as leaders of women.

The LIFT theme for 2016 is “Leading With Love.”  At first glance it seems simple and basic, and obvious.  After all, isn’t this the first thing we’re supposed to do as Christians–to love each other?

In our theme verse for the year, 1 Peter 4:8, Peter urged Christians to continue to show deep love for each other, calling it the most important thing of all.  Then in the first chapter of Peter’s second letter he listed this quality of love as the culmination of Christian growth.

Shortly before His death, when Jesus was giving His final instructions to His disciples in the book of John (see chapters 13-15) He repeated this instruction several times:  ”Love each other.”  But He didn’t leave it at that.  His words took it much deeper.

“Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. . . . So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  Matthew 13:33-35

Now that’s a tall order.  The greatest ministry leader who ever lived told us to do it like He did.  The One who set aside all His glory to become one of us.  The One who humbled Himself and laid down His life to prove His love.  ”Love each other like I have loved you,” He said.

As ministry leaders it’s easy to get caught up in programs and Bible studies and organizing events.  Things can get hectic when we have busy schedules and lots of responsibility.  We want to do the best job we possibly can of teaching, leading, and nurturing our members and attracting new people.  And so we should.  These are important pieces of ministry.

Still, we all need to stop from time to time and listen again to the words of Jesus.  ”Love like I do.  When you do, the world will take notice.  That’s when they’ll really know that you belong to Me–when you love like I love.”

I hope you make time to be with us at all four LIFT events this year as we examine this theme of Leading With Love.  And I challenge you to take some quiet moments, as each of us should, to look at the way we lead.  Is our ministry method first and foremost a reflection of the love Jesus showed us?

Love and blessings,

Deborah

Soaked or Steeped?

In the well-known devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” Oswald Chambers calls it being “put into soak.”  I’ve often thought about it more like steeping a tea bag.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, soaking means being “immersed until thoroughly saturated,” and steeping is “to infuse or subject thoroughly to.”

Whichever one you want to call it–soaking or steeping–it’s a good thing when it comes to Christians absorbing the Word of God.  And there was an abundance of it going on at our latest LIFT event.

From the words of the worship music, to the scripture-laced teaching by Robyn Bloomquist, to the table discussions of specific verses, God’s Word was opened and searched and absorbed.

As we looked at principles for conflict resolution we referred to the Bible as our “instruction manual” for life.  That’s the way Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3:16.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

This truth–that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God–is one of the founding principles of LIFT.  We want to make sure everything taught at LIFT is true to God’s Word.  When we base our lives, our ministries, and our interactions on the truths of scripture we are bound together in faith, in purpose, and in love.

And that is a beautiful thing.  God is honored.  Christians are LIFTed up and encouraged.  Ministries grow.

Our LIFT schedule of events for 2015 has come to an end.  This has been a year of growth, blessing, and stretching.  We’ve seen God’s hand on LIFT in amazing ways.  As a team, we are honored to serve with you for God’s glory and the building up of the Kingdom.

Our next LIFT event will be on February 19, 2016.  You can be sure the LIFT team and Board of Directors will be searching the scriptures, LIFTing you up in prayer, and preparing for another awesome year of “Encouraging and Equipping Leaders in Women’s Ministry.”

In the meantime, as you go through the busy holiday season ahead, I hope you make time for some quiet moments.  Maybe you’ll look at a tea bag steeping in a cup of hot water and consider the way God’s Word infuses and changes us.

Soaking our minds in truth, allowing Bible principles to become part of us, we are transformed and renewed–for God’s glory.

Many blessings,

Deborah Barber

Alike–Yet Very Different!

Introvert or extrovert, which are you?  At our September LIFT event we explored this question.  We also talked about differences in personality types and behavior tendencies. It was interesting and delightful to observe and learn from women of different personality types as they shared with the group.  The conclusion for the day:  We are alike in many ways!  And different in many ways!  And God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, we were carefully knit together in our mother’s womb by the hand of a loving God.  (See Psalm 139)  With delicate precision He crafted each one of us, giving us the characteristics He knew we would need to accomplish the purposes He had in mind for us long before we were born.

 

 

 

 

 

Our precious six-month-old twin granddaughters bring this lesson home to me even more.  Crowded together into one womb, still God lovingly designed and created each one with her own look and very distinct little personality.  One quiet, one boisterous; one dark-haired, one with soft blond fuzz; one patient, one not so much; one more solid, one delicate.  Both with ready smiles and kisses and snuggles.

My prayer for these little ones is for them to grow up celebrating their differences and also the traits they share.  To recognize God’s plan and purpose for them and to step into it with joy and confidence.

I pray the same for you.

One of the most life-changing and freeing exercises I’ve experienced in my life has been to discover and acknowledge my own personality type and tendencies.  It has been life-changing to recognize that some of what I considered faults are really God’s gift of provision and preparation for the work He has for me to do.

And freedom comes through accepting and embracing the plans of Almighty God, expressed with infinite love and careful craftsmanship in each individual.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.  ’Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

Have you taken the time to explore your own personality yet?  And then looked through that lens at the work God intentionally prepared you to do?  As you do I pray God will open your heart and mind to your own unique and wonderful possibilities.

You, my friend, are beautiful inside and out–carefully designed and created by our gracious God, whose great love for you is far beyond comprehension.

What will you do with your unique God-given beauty?

Many blessings,

Deborah

P.S. Until we can learn to love our own uniqueness it’s difficult to see the differences in others as beautiful.  We might even consider them faults or annoyances.  It’s not necessary to become personality experts, but awareness goes a long way toward understanding.

Along those lines, join us November 6 as we explore the subjects of conflict, godly resolution, and team building.