A little over a month ago, a long-time member of our Tuesday morning community shared these thoughts with us about how our bible study ministry has helped her grow in Christ. Please take a moment to read these words from my dear friend, Laurie Hovendick.
When I was growing up, I remember one of my favorite things to do was play with my Fisher Price toys. I loved setting up little communities, playing with the little people as they would journey throughout the town swinging on the swing set and riding the carousel. Even as a little girl, I understood the value and uniqueness of community. I found joy in community.
My daughter was two years old when I started attending this bible study group here at Lincoln Berean and now she is preparing to marry and is involved in her own small group bible study! Although the name of this group has changed over the years, the purpose has not. I am so thankful that Claudine and many others realized that we cannot journey through life alone. We need a community of sisters-in-Christ to help us and love us along the way.
My life has been one of a transformation journey. I did not grow up understanding the love of Christ for me. Not because I wasn’t exposed to His love story, but because I had a hardened heart and was too busy seeking love and affirmation in other places. I came to recognize my desperate need for Christ after I graduated from college, two weeks before I was to be married. Like the little people I played with, on the slide and bridges, I’ve experienced ups and downs on my faith journey, but I found the assurance of His promises written on the pages of His word.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13
One of the first classes I took on Tuesday mornings was Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. Blackaby’s theme for this study is “knowing and doing the will of God.” I’ve recently been going through an “evaluating” stage in my life–trying to linger in my experiences with God to see and hear what His will is for me. This verse from the amplified version still resonates with me:
“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and clearly.” 1 John 5:13
As I spend time with God, a couple of themes continue to surface. One is the need for rest . . . to be still . . . “to cease striving and KNOW that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). My very favorite, all time toy was the chair ride. Sometimes, I find myself on a crazy ride in life and I need to get off and rest. Any of you feel that way sometimes?
The other theme that continues to surface is the desire . . . the need to cultivate a heart of gratitude, to be purposeful and intentional in looking for ways to be thankful regardless of circumstances.
One of the seven realities of experiencing God that Blackaby shares in his study states, “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.”
I consider “church” God’s community. I am thankful for the various ways I can experience God’s community in my Life Group and bible studies, but I have been especially grateful for some of the very specific blessings of these Tuesday morning bible studies. From the moment we enter, we are greeted by women who start our morning with a genuine smile and welcome, regardless of what is going on in their lives. Karen and Patti have been so faithful over the years in having fresh brewed coffee ready for us. I call that the “mood ministry.”
Laura and the worship team calm our hearts and direct our focus off ourselves and on to God, to ready our hearts and minds so we can experience God through the study of scripture and teaching. I’m thankful for the women who have invested in me and you throughout the years, spending hours to prepare their lessons, relying on God and equipping us with what we need to fight our spiritual battles.
I see faces of godly women that I am so thankful for, women that have given of themselves for years to help us love Jesus. Just like these toys have been exposed to different generations, we too are exposed to different generations and the wisdom each has to share.
I am grateful for the thought and care Jill has taken to guide our prayer groups. Over and over, I am amazed at how God puts together a small group of women–binds them in the Spirit–to pray for, support and love one another. These groups have loved me through a diagnosis of a progressive disease and the wounds of a prodigal child. They’ve rejoiced with me in the joys of a wedding, prayed for the daily details of my life, heard my confessions of sin and shared lots of laughter and victories in Christ. They’ve encouraged me to take time to rest and know God. This is the reality I’ve lived in experiencing God in community.
How do you experience God? Do you experience Him through His community? I invite you to join me in answering these questions.