This was my first trip to Hershey, PA. Six ladies from my Community Bible Study class went to the CBS Leadership Conference and stayed at the Hershey Lodge. I saw nothing else in Hershey, PA, but the lodge did not disappoint. We were given a Hershey chocolate bar upon check in and every bit of the room decor was kisses--including the sheets on the beds! There was chocolate scented shampoo, lotion, and soap. Every meal was served with a choice of chocolate butter for on bread. We were definitely in Hershey even if we didn't see the chocolate factory.
Going to the CBS Leadership Conference as a prospective leader gave me an opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” so to speak, to catch the vision of CBS and experience CBS on a broader scale.
Ladies, we have been told over and over that we are part of an excellent program, but I'm going to tell you again. God is using CBS to transform lives through His Word. We are part of an amazing organization that is MUCH larger than what is happening here in Salisbury. The mission of CBS is to provide in depth Bible Study for ALL—two new things I learned that impressed me—when a Bible study is translated into another language, it is not just directly translated from English. It is rewritten to be relevant in that language and culture for which it is written. I knew about international, mens, childrens, teens, young adults, women, and prison studies, but did you know that there are CBS Bible studies written for adults with disabilities? Bible studies are written at a level so that adults with cognitive disabilities can study the Word of God. Isn't that awesome? Or being in Hershey we would have said-- Isn't that SWEET?
The CBS Executive Director, Kim Carr, is a woman led and directed by prayer. On Friday evening she shared some of the newly developed goals for CBS. What got my attention was their process for planning. At some point in the process she gave the group of leaders each a journal, told them to pray for 60 days and write down everything the Lord told them during prayer. When they reconvened each person would share what was in their journal and only what was in their journal. Kim and the CBS staff didn't want to hear what each person had to say, they wanted to hear what GOD was saying. They looked for themes among what was shared and that was how their goals were developed. I think we can be quite confident that what is happening in CBS is from the heart of God Himself.
Friday I was thinking “this is nice.” I'm not sure what here is going to apply to me. I'm not a CBS leader. (God has told me to wait on that.) As my brain was trying to discredit my attendance at this conference, God let me know that I am a leader. It might not be at CBS, but I have other leadership roles and really all of us are called to be leaders either at home, at our churches, in our community, or any number of other places. With my confidence in place that I am a leader and determined to apply everything I was hearing to every aspect of my life—not just to CBS—Saturday morning arrived.
Matt Chandler is a pastor and leader of the Acts 29 Network. He presented the first session on Saturday morning via video. I want to share the gist of his teaching because 1. I still remember his 3 main points and 2. I think it applies to all of us.
(The following remarks are taken from my notes for Matt Chandler's sermon. The links above reference where the sermon can be purchased. Many of Matt Chandler's sermons can be found on YouTube)
“The strength for our calling comes from our unity with Jesus. (all of us are called!) So what keeps us from unity with Jesus?
1. Failure to believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone.
This is a failure to believe that forgiveness through Jesus' death and resurrection is enough for entrance to heaven. By our actions, thoughts and words we still think that we need to DO something to earn favor, to earn forgiveness, to do a more complete job of washing away our sin. The TRUTH is that Jesus is enough. His death and resurrection paid the price. We can't DO anything to make him love us more or forgive us more.
2.We have an aversion to suffering and struggle.
We seem to think that if something is difficult or painful that it couldn't possibly be God's will. God did not promise us a smooth sailing life or ministry. He promised us trouble, pain and suffering. Sometimes God's greatest gift to us is to wound us because when we are wounded, in pain, suffering we find out that underneath it all GOD IS ENOUGH.
3.We fail to understand the doctrine of adoption.
We can grasp the judicial component of God—you are forgiven. But the adoptive component is that you are chosen and loved. The idea of God delighting in us and finding joy in us. Even more joy and delight than we find in our own children. “If you believe that God delights in you, you would run to him more often in prayer and digging in His Word.” Do we? Is my heart pulled to prayer because I know that God delights in me and finds joy in my company or is it on my to do list? I don't think we find unity with God by crossing him off our to do list.
The strength for our calling comes through unity with Jesus. Unity with Jesus is knowing that we are justified through grace alone by faith alone, knowing that no matter what God is enough, and embracing God as a Father who has chosen us and delights in us. If I GET those things I will run to Him in prayer and and when we are connected to God through prayer, then nothing will be impossible for us--as we learned last week in Matthew 17.