Our womens Bible Cafe™ study discussion today is on Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. We’ve finished reading chapter eleven and next week is our last week of study. This has been such an amazing Bible study that I hope we have an opportunity to repeat it next year. I’d put this one right alongside Beth Moore’s Breaking Free as a life-changing study!

This week we studied our relationship with fellow Christians I saw that my relationship with other Christians is rooted in His love. I speak in love. I pray in love. I forgive in love. I confess in love. Christ IS the center of my relationships…just as He is the center of my entire world. To have a relationship with another person, believer or not, I need to get out of my way and let God work through me. Period.

Some of you might not belong to local churches yet…so when you do select a church family look for one where you are an active participant, not just a spectator. These past two chapters of Experiencing God are very helpful if you’re looking for a church home!!! The “right” church is one where you feel like a member of the body.

We’ve had some exciting discussions in our small groups this week about finding a new church. Start searching for one. Listen to online sermons. Ask friends where they attend church. Pray and ask God to bring you into a local church community.

According to 1 John 1:7, when we “walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”

By nature, I am an introvert, and stepping outside to be visible is Spirit led. The greatest blessing from doing this…is when I hear someone speaking about the Lord, my soul is lifted. I connect my heart to hers. Many people feel unqualified or hide. Yet the Bible says we are ambassadors for Christ. So we should be visible.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Knowing and experiencing God, we realize the Spirit guides us in what God is going to do around us.  Being still and listening, watching, and expecting God to work helps me experience Him more. When I get away from the noise- I am more attentive to His whisper. Prayer, fellowship, worship, reading the Word- all help me hear the Spirit of God in my heart. Love inspires my obedience.

Blackaby writes, “You will be an instrument in God’s hand, so use your life to touch the world.”  And so I believe God is using me through the Bible Cafe, as a discipleship ministry. I am grateful not to know the numbers of lives change and people transformed because this is His work and His book of Life. He knows, and that is what matters most. I’m just a humble servant, a vessel of His love.

“You cannot be in true fellowship with God and out of fellowship with other believers” (Blackaby).

Acts 2:42 NIV says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.”

How do we devote ourselves? We make ourselves available for fellowship. Visible for Christ. My 2022 planner arrived and the first thing I entered…my FELLOWSHIPS. On the days I meet with women of faith, sip coffee and discuss God. It is my life priority, not something I fit into my planner when I have time. More of Jesus, Less of me

It is well with my soul when I fellowship.

My faith is nurtured when I fellowship.

My cup overflows when I fellowship. ‘

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV >> Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

When you look at this verse, there are positive and negative attributes. So we can experience BOTH. If we seem to have more of the negative attributes happening, then we can heart-check with Jesus and make it right again!

I noticed perseverance as my attribute because I have experienced a love that perseveres. Unlike human love, this love of God transcends death. It overcomes fear, lies, and darkness. It cannot be taken away or crushed.

The love of God perseveres for 2,000+ years.

If “Love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV), then why do we struggle to forgive one another? Unforgiveness is a LEARNED behavior. Jesus came to earth, walked on earth, and teaches us to conquer this. We forgive as He forgives. We see people as He sees people. We perform spiritual heart surgery- and transform bitterness into love. We forgive. Keeping records- resentment lists- is a human response. Erasing the debts – that’s Jesus!

In learning to forgive, I remember where the Lord pressed on my heart to “see this person as Jesus sees her.” Once I shifted my eyes (and wounds) off me, I started to reframe my offense. It was so beautiful…. a reflection of “more Jesus, less me.”

My church shows love through the acceptance of people who are different. We find unity in our differences. When we disagree, we do that privately and resolve conflicts with Biblical methods. We do not gossip, slander, or divide. Church love is patient and kind. Church love protects the community from sheep in wolves’ clothing.

We show love when we pray. The pastor prays blessings over his congregation. The ministry leader prays for blessings over her community. The prayer team prays for those who are hurting and praises those who are rejoicing. Communities want to see love, unity, and acceptance. When they don’t see that in a church or a ministry, the Spirit is not active there. People leave. It’s not spiritually healthy for a pastor or ministry leader to “plant” in anger. For a church of ministry to THRIVE it must be planted in LOVE.

After we moved, my husband and I started looking for a local church. Some of the things that helped us decide: 1) is the Spirit moving there 2) Is the theology sound 3) Is the pastor connected with the congregation? Because our kids are not adults, we were not looking for a church with children’s programs. And, recently with the pandemic, we have been asking ourselves… “If we pass away who will officiate our celebration of life?” Since we moved and left our church of 20 years. So these are IMPORTANT considerations when looking for a church. It’s a LIFE decision, not a COMFORT decision.