sharing God’s love
By Linda Rex
Last Saturday I held the Sharing God’s Love women’s retreat at my home. It was a small gathering—altogether there were nine of us who participated. I have limited space in my downstairs, so it was a tight squeeze for everyone to have a place to sit, especially around the dining table at lunchtime. But we did it, and I believe we all had a good time together.
We began our event with an icebreaker where we shared some things we didn’t know about each other. Then we moved into contemplative prayer where we invited the Holy Spirit to show us areas in our hearts and lives where God would like to bring healing and transformation. We wrote these things down as God showed them to us.
I talked briefly about the spiritual discipline of inner-healing prayer and how God uses it to bring healing and renewal in each of our lives. I used as a reference the book The Handbook of Spiritual Disciplines by Calhoun. The ladies then split up into pairs and prayed for one another, specifically keeping the concerns in mind God had showed them earlier. I saw tears and heard laughter. It was a moving experience for those involved.
We paused to have lunch together, and then I began the afternoon session. I read Acts 2:42-47 and showed how what we had done so far that day was like what the early church experienced shortly after Pentecost. We had spent time hearing the Word of God, we had prayed together, and had fellowshipped and shared a meal together. They each had received a small gift. The ladies had also each brought an item to the event to give away, and put it in one of the baskets we would be giving away to some of our Community Café visitors in February.
During the afternoon session we continued in the spirit of the early church and created something to give to others. We began making Valentine’s Day cards using some templates and precut items Pat and I had made earlier in the week. Some wrote messages on the cards, others just pasted scriptures and greetings on the cards. It was all a simple project. We ended up with about 65 cards to give away.
We split these cards up between two people. Teresa would be taking some to the nursing home where her mother was, and Valinta would be giving some away at work. Our goal is to have them return and report to the church the way the early apostles would do after a trip sharing the gospel. So, we all gathered hands and prayed for Teresa and Valinta and God’s blessing on their efforts to share the message of God’s love with all those who received the cards. We followed this with communion and a benediction.
We had hosted one of these two years ago at Mercy Convent here in Nashville. That had been quite a different experience since we had the use of the chapel, the porch and the grounds during that event. But no matter the location, gathering together to share in spiritual community in this way is often healing, and creates a sense of refreshment and renewal.
I believe there is something significant which is lost when we do not slow down long enough to experience renewal with others. I’m afraid we are often so busy being individuals with our own plans and agendas, we don’t have time or even the desire to sit and be silent, or to share important parts of ourselves with others who can pray with us and for us, and be a part of helping us to heal and to be renewed.
The irony about this event, in my experience, was what happened afterwards in my own personal life. As a pastor, often we are the ones hosting these types of sessions, and we are not always the participants. Because this is the case, we don’t often experience the renewal others experience while participating in them. We had an uneven number of ladies on Saturday, so when we split into pairs to pray, I sat out. I prayed silently while they were praying, but did not specifically participate in the inner-healing prayer.
Indeed, God had brought a particular thing to my mind during the contemplative prayer session, but I held onto it, thinking the Lord and I would work it out together later. I would have some downtime later, and we would talk about it then. And God did address it with me, but not as I expected.
The next day I had a busy day at church. I not only played keyboard in the band during worship, but I also preached. That is draining enough, but I also had a meeting following the service which I felt was very important. So by the time I left the church building and headed home, this introvert was pretty drained.
I got into the car and started up the road. I vaguely realized I needed gas for the car, so I started looking for the brand of gas I prefer to use. And I just started driving, and driving, and driving. I finally realized I was just driving absentmindedly, and stopped to fill the tank. I had not realized how overcome with grief I was until that moment when I felt I could just keep driving and not look back.
I wasn’t really very far from home, so I went there, parked the car, and called one of my team members. I explained what had happened and asked her to pray for me. And as she prayed, I cried. God had called me into inner-healing prayer in spite of my neglect of it at the retreat. God knew I was grieving and needed to grieve, but also knew I needed to grieve with someone. God works healing within the context of relationships, whether we like it or not.
It’s tough to let go of our rugged individualism and humble ourselves enough to confess our brokenness and need to someone so they may pray for us and we may be healed. But this is what God encourages us to do (James 5:16). This is extremely difficult to do in a culture where such spiritual, emotional intimacy is mistaken for other types of relationships, but it’s what we were created for. God did not intend for us to live as islands—we were created for deep, close, loving relationships with him and with one another.
If I might share this piece of encouragement—find a safe person who you feel you can trust, and who loves the Lord, and ask them to pray with you and for you. Don’t keep your grief, struggles, and brokenness to yourself. If you don’t have one, begin seeking one out, asking God for direction and wisdom. God never meant for you to carry this all alone. And if I might help, I would be more than happy to pray with and for you—just ask.
Abba, thank you for surrounding us with caring people who are willing to pray for and with us when we are in need. Make us more aware of the love which you have placed in our lives—show us how you share your love with us day by day through all the caring relationships we participate in. If we do not have these, then Lord, I pray—shower us with your love. Without you, and without one another, we are truly lost. Thank you for your faithful love, through Jesus and by your Spirit, we pray. Amen.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42–47 NASB
by Linda Rex
It’s amazing the things that come to mind when I begin to write a blog. Usually they are lots of reasons that I not write it—other things I need to be doing. It seems that it is easy to let life get in the way of sharing God’s good news with others.
Reading books or hearing speakers that attempt to motivate me to share my faith can be quite intimidating. Some have a particular method of proclamation. Others insist on a certain venue or recommend a particular tract or movie to assist in sharing the gospel. Attempting to share one’s faith seems to be a huge, difficult project that requires special techniques, talents and acuteness.
When I begin to be overwhelmed with the hugeness of sharing the gospel, then I remember the simplicity Jesus called us to when it comes to sharing our faith in him. In reality, sharing the gospel is simply extending our relationship with God out to include others.
Including others in our relationship with God does not require a lot of the things we think it requires. It merely requires love—something that is a gift of God in the Spirit. God pours over us and into us his love for others and we express it. It is God’s peace—the peace in the midst of conflict and struggle that passes understanding—that we share with others who are in conflict and are struggling.
It is significant that Jesus commanded his followers to remain in Jerusalem until they were clothed with the power of God, the Holy Spirit. It was when they received the gift Jesus breathed on them that they were able to go where Jesus was sending them and do the work he had given them to do.
Sharing the life and words of Jesus is simply living and walking in the Spirit. It is sharing the life God has given us through his Son. God gave himself to us in his Son Jesus, through his life, death, resurrection and ascension. Now that that eternal life we have in Christ is coming into real existence in our life, our human existence, through the Spirit. What is true objectively—our life is hidden with God in Christ—becomes true for us ontologically—we are conformed to the image of Christ.
As we are conformed into the image of Christ, that life includes others we are close to or who we share life with. As we share that life we have in Christ with others, the grace of God becomes manifest in their lives as well. God shares his life with us in Christ, we receive it, and we share that life with others. God makes room for us in his life. We make room for others in our life and therefore in his life. There’s that lovely word perichoresis again—making room for one another.
The Father sent Jesus so we would be included in the life and love of God as Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus sent us so that others might be included in his life and love as well. Sharing the gospel is simply sharing life—the life God has given us in his Son and has empowered us to share with others by the Holy Spirit.
This leaves me with no excuse—I must share with you, what God has given me in his Son Jesus. It is too wonderful to keep to myself…
Thank you Father, for including us in your life through your Son Jesus. Thank you for the gift of the Spirit who brings us to life in Jesus. Thank you for empowering us to share that life with others. Please bring those people into our lives that you would have us share life with and grant us the courage and love to include them in our life with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John 20:21-22 NASB