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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Back to Back

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 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

My first real experience with Titus Women was the 2011 Discipleship Summit. I had known Beth Coppedge and Stephanie Hogan for a few years, so I had a vague idea about what the ministry did. At that Summit though, I got my first real glimpse into the heart of Titus Women—and one defining phrase I heard that weekend still stands out in my mind: back to back.

See, part of what it means to be a Titus Woman (or, really, a Christian) is to never go alone. Never. It’s not a safe world Jesus sends us out into, and He knows one by herself is more easily overpowered. So He asks us to have each other’s backs: in prayer, in encouragement, in just simply caring, and sometimes in literally going out together. We all know what a comfort it is to just know someone else is there.

I think it’s the sweetest thing that God doesn’t ask us to stand alone. He actually designed us so that we come in webs of relationships, and so that what happens in one person affects everyone around her. It’s not just that you can make a difference in someone’s life—you are, whether you like it or not. So when we each surrender to Jesus, when we pray for each other, when we stand together, it quite literally changes things.

In this way, we all have a sacred responsibility to one another, to stand back to back. I know many of you have this kind of community in your lives, and I hope you’re really entering into it. I also know some of you only wish you did, and you feel very much like you’re going alone. It’s a painful and exhausting place to be. But here’s the thing: you have at least one person standing back to back with you. You’ve probably never met me, but I’m praying today for you. I’m asking Jesus to give you strength, and I’m asking Him to bring others into your life to hold your arms up. If you want, you can drop me a line (erin.hill@francisasburysociety.com) and let me know how to pray more specifically. I mean it.

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One Body, Many Parts

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For the body does not consist of one member but of many…. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20, ESV)

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Wilmot, Ohio. 65 women have gathered here for this year’s Discipleship Summit: women from different parts of the country, different families, different stages of life. I happen to be a single, 26-year-old, creative-type woman, and I have lots of friends with similar lifestyles and interests to mine. Not many of them are here this weekend, though, and I kind of love that.

It’s amazing and beautiful to see such a diverse group worshipping and praying together, or to hear them laughing even now outside my door. The relationships I’ve formed with many of them are the most precious part of being involved with Titus Women. My life is different and much fuller because of them. And tonight I was struck by what I would miss out on if I only ever surrounded myself with people similar to me. It’s easy to do, because it’s more comfortable. But that sort of monochromatic community lacks the depth and richness the Body of Christ should have.

Jesus called His disciples from different places and walks of life. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots. One has only to look at Peter and John to realize these men were not all the same. I bet they confused one another—I bet they frustrated one another. But, we know they loved each other, and together they (quite literally) changed the world. I think Jesus knew they needed each other to accomplish what He had planned.

Our eyes should be opened in community to a world so much bigger than what any one of us can see on our own. We need people around us who think and see differently. We need people in our lives with different tastes and preferences. We need people with different skills and passions. Otherwise, our world is just too small. And not only that, the advance of the Kingdom is slowed.

So heres the deal: if you’re a foot in this Body of Christ, be a foot. If you’re a nose, be the best nose ever. But don’t just hang out with all the other noses. How are you ever going to get anywhere that way?

Fellowship in the Light

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But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

I love John’s first epistle, and I especially love this verse. What a beautiful summation of a profound truth. It reminds me, too, of a sweet time in my life when I experienced this verse firsthand. I was nineteen, and in the midst of forming the friendships that are my dearest today. 1 John 1:7 was the theme verse for our residence hall, and it was perfect. Over the last year, the Holy Spirit had completely transformed my heart and mind, and He was faithful to give me friends who walked each step of the journey with me. The intimate fellowship we experienced as a result of our mutual transformation was, and is, precious. Up to that point, I had never been quite so known.

It started, though, with a realigning of my heart. The link between sanctification and community cannot be understated. Real fellowship cannot happen in the darkness of sin and selfishness. Our fallen nature is severed not only from God, but from one another. We long to know and be known, but that kind of connection is impossible unless we are recreated. How many relationships have fallen prey to pride, secrecy, or anger? Only the love of Jesus transforming my heart can enable me to love others as I should.

The fellowship John writes about comes only as we walk in the light. As we bring all we are and have to the feet of Jesus, we will find that not only are we free to approach God, but we are free in relationships with one another. And the intimacy we find as we together share in the life of the Trinity is one of life’s greatest joys. It is difficult and sometimes painful, for it requires constant humility that sometimes takes the form of an apology or a tearful confession.

But it is there in that place of humble transparency that we really come to be known. That kind of fellowship, I can tell you, is freeing and beautiful.

The Joy and the Mess

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And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40, ESV)

Over the last few months, we’ve been looking deeper into the foundation stones of Titus Women—the key principles that define our lives and our ministry. First, we talked about God’s invitation to know Him personally, intimately. This intimacy flows into transformed living, so last month we talked about the Holy Spirit’s work in us to make us like Jesus. Transformation, though, always takes place in the context of community.

If you read through Leviticus (which is really much more fascinating than it sounds), two things become clear: God wants His people to love Him wholeheartedly, and He wants them to demonstrate this love by treating each other well. (In a word, He wants them to be holy.) Loving God and loving your neighbor are inextricably linked, and Jesus confirmed this in the Gospels.

John Wesley put it this way: “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” We simply can’t follow Jesus alone, which is simultaneously the best and the most annoying news. Holiness would be easy if it weren’t for other people. (Amen?) The truth is, I need other people around to get under my skin and get me out of my own head. Otherwise, I easily fall into a self-deceptive, Erin-centered world. But honestly, it’s scary to really let others into my world. People are fallen: we hurt each other, say the wrong things, break our promises. Community is always messy.

Messy, yes—and Jesus calls us right into the middle of it. Because He knows, just like you and I do, what irreplaceable joy and strength we find in relationships. Two really are better than one. I’m excited to write more about this over the next few weeks, because I’ve realized that, in His pursuit of me, Jesus has been revealing Himself through the people He’s placed in my life. Through them I have learned more than any theology text can teach, and my life has been irreversibly and beautifully changed.

For now though, I want to challenge us all to let the Holy Spirit show us any places in our lives where we’re trying to go it alone. Then, let’s trust Him to lead us into transforming, redemptive community.