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Dependency: Reliance and Trust

By Lindsay Solava

Ed. Note: We’re delighted to share today’s post from Lindsay Solava, wife of Troy, First Free’s Director of Student Ministries. Lindsay and Troy were married two years ago, shortly after Troy joined our ministry team. Lindsay has lived in Rockford for two years and is employed as an RN, in addition to her involvement in Student Ministries and co-leading the freshman girls’ Life Group.

It all started in December of 2013. I graduated college, two weeks later married my high school sweetheart, and a week after that moved nine hours away to Rockford, Illinois. My poor parents, right? Before I knew what happened, I was sitting in our apartment thinking, “what do I do now?”

I was waiting to sit for my nursing board exams while simultaneously searching for a job. It was January and freezing outside. I barely knew how to get to the grocery store, much less knowing about five people at this point! This threw me into a season of real dependency upon God. You see, I had my life planned out to a tee for the last couple months. I knew exactly how everything was going to work out, and then I found myself without many answers to some pretty big questions like, “Where am I going to work?”, “What does a godly wife actually look like in the day to day?”, and “Where is my place in this thing called ministry?”

Jesus calls us to depend on Him.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Matthew 22:37 Wow! I don’t know about you, but most days I’m pretty dependent upon myself. I’m pretty reliant upon my job to provide for my needs/wants. I trust in my own abilities to accomplish tasks. But the Lord has been reminding me how sweet it is to depend on Him. When I recognize my need for Him, that’s when I grow the most!

As a newlywed, without a job, and not many friends, I depended on Him to provide all of this to teach me, and He did! He is faithful to His people! He is our good Father who knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11).

So why don’t we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? For me, it’s because I feel the need to be in control of things. So when I need answers, I find them for myself. When I need a tangible item, I work hard to get it myself, completely ignoring the promises He has given me.

So I asked myself, “Would my life look any different without Jesus?” I want you to ask yourself this same question. I know we each desire a life dependent on Christ, but do our actions show it? Are we placing ourselves in situations where we know we cannot be successful on our own and that we will need to depend upon Christ to provide the power/resources/finances/etc.?

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” We know this to be true, but the way we live our lives can be the opposite! Instead of really depending on Him, we work hard for OUR money, we work hard for OUR reputation; but the truth is the Lord is enough. He is trustworthy.

My challenge for myself and for you is to pray that God would make you dependent upon Him, no matter what. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a scary prayer! Especially if you’re anything like me and need to have a little bit of a handle on things! But the Lord is gracious; He will be with you every step of the way! God desires for us to become more like His Son, which means we require a lot of pruning. Pruning is uncomfortable, but necessary.

So what does dependency tangibly look like? For me it’s consistent prayer, obedience to the Spirit’s leading, and an attitude of gratefulness. I’ve found that if I’m consistently in prayer for dependency, God will provide opportunities in my life to be dependent! Funny how that works, huh? This is why it’s so very important for me to be in the Word and in prayer because when I am walking in the Spirit, when opportunities arise I am sensitive to His leading and can respond in obedience (John 10:27).

And lastly, if I am serious about depending upon God, then I will be grateful for the opportunities to be more like Him. Is it always easy, never awkward, or tough? Absolutely not, but it is worth it!

We serve a powerful God who loves us and desires for us to experience the full life He offers! Oh, how I pray we join Him!

Women’s Spring Event

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Original Women

We are so excited to announce our spring event! For nine years, our neighbors at Rockford First have been hosting an awesome women’s conference called Original Women, April 21—23, 2016.  This is their tenth year and we are going to take advantage of the fact that such a great event is literally right across the street from us. We are going to partner with them by offering our parking lot and shuttle service to and from the conference. Please join us as we support them and learn from such a great line up of women.

The conference kicks off on Thursday evening with a session at 7:00pm. There are three sessions throughout the day on Friday and one in the evening as well. The weekend closes with two morning sessions on Saturday. When you register with our group we will have reserved seating.

 

frescoRockfordFriday @Fresco

We are also excited about Friday during the break between the afternoon and evening sessions. We have booked Fresco at Anderson Gardens from 3:00pm-6:00pm to hang out, drink coffee together, walk the gardens (weather permitting) and enjoy a buffet dinner just for First Free Women. Tickets will be available at the First Free Event Desk in April.

 

 

Early Bird Group Rate: $75 until April 1 [after April 1 $125]

To register with our group and get in on the Early Bird Group Rate before it ends on April 1st go to http://www.originalconference.com/

  1. Click the button to REGISTER
  2. Click the button JOIN A GROUP
  3. In the JOIN A TEAM box enter: firstfreewomen [lowercase, no spaces]
  4. Enter PASSWORD: firstfreewomen
  5. Complete payment information and purchase tickets.

Once you are registered, we will contact you about gathering times throughout the weekend. We hope you will join us!

 

How to Find Your Purpose in Parenting

By Susan Merrill, Founder of www.imom.com

I know many of you can’t picture this day, but it will come. The day you drop your child off at college. When we dropped off my oldest child at her dorm and drove away, my husband was in tears. I couldn’t cry because I was thinking of the 500 things I wanted to make sure she knew! I kept asking myself, is she ready to stand on her own?

That day changed my thinking in how I would parent the children I still had at home. It made me zero in on my purpose in parenting, to help my children develop a solid faith that would enable them to make wise choices.

What is the purpose for your parenting? If you don’t know, we want to show you how to find your purpose… and believe me, having a clear purpose will help you with so many aspects of your job as a mom.

To get started, you’ll need to answer these three questions: What are your core beliefs? What is your goal for your children? What is your purpose as a mother and how will you work it to reach your goal? Every mom will answer these questions differently. For me, the answers to those questions started with a passion, purpose, and plan—that was the core from which all of my parenting decisions came. Having that clarity helped me define my purpose in parenting.

Here is how I described the process in my book, The Passionate Mom.

As a mom, if you are passionate about your children, then you must have a purpose for your parenting. What core values would you like to instill in your child? What goal would you like to reach as a parent? If you can answer these questions, you can define your purpose—the reason you exist as a parent—and you can determine to fulfill it.

Ed.Note: To read the rest of Susan’s article click here: Read more

Intentional Appropriation

Perhaps, like me, you find yourself entering the new year with a tired heart. It can be hard to admit, and even harder to deny.

The “big ball” dropped in Times Square to herald the arrival of 2016, as thousands of revelers cheered. But a quick scan of the headlines shows that nothing is really “new” yet.  The prince of this world continues to sow mayhem, to lie, to steal, and to destroy. What’s happening out in the world can weigh heavily on our inner life, as well.

It can be hard to remember that, above and around us, there exists a spiritual realm (more real than the one we inhabit now) out of which, one day, the Savior will again enter human history in visible form. For now, He continues to intercede for us “at the right hand of God,” [Romans 8:33-34, Hebrews 4:14-15].

No power can nullify God’s completed, supernaturally inspired Word to us. Scripture, authoritative and authentic, continues to be published for many, smuggled to others, and translated for the yet unreached.

Many who are reading this blog post have heard the Gospel, repented, and surrendered to Christ in saving faith; we are aliens and pilgrims progressing toward the eternal city “whose architect and builder is God[Hebrews 11:10].

All of this is true and beyond the reach of our enemy.

So, why does the victorious, abundant life that Jesus promises –“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” — [John 10:10] so often seem to elude us? Too often, I feel more tired than victorious.

It isn’t only a matter of living in a fallen world. In Christ, we are new creatures [2 Cor. 5:17], “…rescued …from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” [Col.1:13 NIV].

In my case, and perhaps in yours, I think it’s because I know life-changing truth, but I don’t consistently live out of it. I haven’t been mindful to regularly seek the Holy Spirit’s help to actively APPROPRIATE what is mine in Christ.

What do I mean?

To appropriate is to take to or for oneself, to take possession of an object or quality in such a way as to make it part of who we are and, thus, be changed by it. Those who appropriate a new identity no longer know or are known as they once were. There has been a change, not just in status or category, but in how one understands and proceeds with life.

The transformation that occurs when we put off the old self and take on the nature of Christ, through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, has the power to make a difference that not only is undeniable but also easy to see: “…they realized that they had been with Jesus,”  [Acts 4:13].

Is it reasonable to assume that, when saved, we should live sinless lives in a fallen world or that we should despair when we fall short of God’s standard of perfection? No; while it’s true that we are sealed in Him — “having believed, you were sealed with His Spirit,” [Ephes. 1:13] — we continue to inhabit our “earthly tents” until God takes us out of this world, through death or Christ’s return.

We continue to build His kingdom and to serve as examples of what it looks like to have the Holy Spirit as the controlling reality of a person’s life. To do this requires power we can only access from the Holy Spirit, and Satan opposes us as we do so.

This is where actively appropriating truth comes in. No matter the details of our daily lives, those who are in Christ are eternally secure in Him:

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My and. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” [John 10:28-29].

If I am growing in consistently living God’s truth, what might this look like in my life?

  • For one thing, I would more consistently have God’s perspective on what’s happening around me and on my own shortcomings. No, this isn’t heaven, but that is my destination. As I learn over and over that the Rock I stand on is immovable, His presence in my life will become more noticeable.
  • When I’m discouraged at my own lack of discipline, what’s the truth about this? Yesterday is over, but “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” [Lam.3:22-23], When I am weak, His power rests on me so that, with Paul, I can say, “when I am weak, I am strong,” [2 Cor. 12:10 NIV]. I can acknowledge my need for His help, request it, and carry on in confidence of His covenant relationship with me.
  • When I’m moved to lift my hands in praise, all alone in my bedroom, because an awareness of His goodness washes over me, I know He sees that and is pleased that I am growing in my knowledge of Him which, in turn, enriches my testimony to others.
  • When I’m frustrated by yet another family discussion that reveals how one of our young adults continues to straddle the fence of competing truth claims, I can tell myself the truth: my assignment is to continually press on in prayer and leave with Him the burden that is not meant for me to carry.
  • When I’m aghast upon reading that a professor at a trusted evangelical institution is teaching falsehood, I can register my dismay and then stay actively anchored on the Truth that no lies can alter. Our God, alone, is the Rock. This deluded instructor does damage, but she cannot undo Truth; in His own way and in His own timing, God will hold her accountable.

“You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” [Isaiah 44:8 NIV; N.B. 1 Sam. 2:2; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:5; Exo. 8:10; Ps. 18:31, etc.]

  • When my testimony is scoffed at, I can recognize this as [mild] persecution, which I should expect, and recall God’s track record in my life, which is unassailable.

Keep in mind that in this life, we reside in enemy territory. Before each of us came to be, God’s perfect design for creation had already been corrupted. God’s holiness is immutable. Our ability to be close enough to Him to sense His presence, as Adam and Eve did* was not immutable. In fact, it was devastated by original sin.

* Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid [Gen. 3:8 NIV]

Since the world we occupy is not as it was meant to be, it should not surprise us that living in relationship with God, in Christ, is “unnatural”. Rather, it requires His supernatural redemption. Miraculously, this is available to us.

After salvation, we are restored creatures living in an inverted world. While we won’t be made perfect on this side of eternity, we can sink our roots deep into the soil of His truth and grow to be more like Him, as we were originally meant to be. Christlikeness is a potent witness to others.

Scripture tells us that His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him… 2 Peter 1:3 NIV].  A key element, I believe, is to consistently ask the Lord to give us the mind of Christ – which is amazing, when you think about it.

“…who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  But we have the mind of Christ. [1 Cor 2:16]

This helps us to see and understand, to think and act, as He does. It helps us to appropriate truth, of which He is the only source.

Written by Kathy Holliday

 

 

Read a Good Book Lately?

Here on the First Free Women’s Blog, we’re interested in posting content that is encouraging, informative, thought-provoking, and Christ-honoring. Since First Free is blessed with a great library, bookstore, and Bible studies, not to mention our own Book Club, we know there are engaged readers here!

Have you recently read a Christian book [fiction or non-fiction] that brought you new insight or challenge? One that memorably transported you to another place or time? Maybe a study or devotional that helped you make a significant step in your spiritual walk?

If so, we’d like you to consider writing a 1-2 paragraph summary or review and submitting it to us for possible posting on our blog. All submissions are appreciated, all will be subject to minor editing, and we cannot guarantee that all will be posted within a certain time frame, but we value your voice.  We reserve the right to determine which reviews will and won’t be posted to our blog. All book summary or review content that is posted will include the name of the reviewer who submitted it.  Book Club titles are welcome as well.

Please send any submissions to Kathy Holliday; electronic files may be attached to an e-mail and sent to kateye7hollidays@comcast.net. Hard copy [paper] files may be sent to Kathy’s attention at First Free Church, 2223 N. Mulford Rd., Rockford, IL 61107.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

“See how everyone everywhere is putting up Christmas trees…? And when you open up God’s love letter to us, the Bible, do you know what you find? You find the family tree of Jesus…And you go all the way back to the very beginning — to our beginning. And when you’re tracing that family tree of Jesus, guess what you find? People who were big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and all the beaten up and brokenhearted… God doesn’t cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and brokenhearted from His family tree — He makes families just like these perfectly His! He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives us His family name. He gives us His absolute perfectness and makes us alive and fully free. Jesus comes right to your Christmas tree and looks at your family tree and says, ‘I am your Rescuer, and I will set you free from all the brokenness and sinfulness and sadness. I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Will you take Me?'”

Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas

Element: Giving

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Last night in our High School Ministry, Element, we looked at the Christmas story in Luke 2. We focused on how God has come to us in order to save us. He came to GIVE to us life…a gift we did not deserve. So I challenged the students to do 2 things as a result of this Christmas story. The first was to use every opportunity to share what Christmas is actually about: God coming to save us. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, but also about the cross. So we have a great opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus this season.

The second thing I challenged our students to do is to give. Just like how Jesus gave to us, we are called to give to others. We have decided that next Wednesday, the 9th, we will be raising money through Compassion International. For just $180, we can provide food for a baby and mother for 1 whole year. For just another $134, we can provide a water well for 4 families. So we have set a goal of $314. This is roughly just $5 a student. And we believe that we can give above and beyond.

I am excited to see our students GIVE. They are excited to give, not for the attention, but because they are excited to follow Jesus in his example. So please pray for our students but also if you are a parent of one of these students, remind them of why we are giving.

Merry Christmas!

Conversation Starters

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Eternal encouragement and good hope. Wow, what wonderful promises God offers us–and all because He loves us! Does this encourage your heart and strengthen you? Do you know of a person who could use some encouragement? Sometimes giving a thoughtful gift is an easy way to step out of your comfort zone to offer tangible, and perhaps unexpected, encouragement to another.

We can show God’s love to people anytime and in many ways. Gift-giving is just one way and, while it may come more easily for some than for others, it’s an effective way to reach out and demonstrate God’s love…coming from Him, through you, to another. After all, He has taken the initiative to be in relationship with us!

We are told many times in Scripture to love one another, so let’s see what this might look like in your life, and in the lives of those you come in contact with. Think of the following ideas as conversation starters!

For people you know a little about, fill a container with their favorite things (sweet treats, lip gloss, gift cards, beverage packets, nail polish, or anything else they love). For those you don’t know as well, maybe the mail carrier, your hair dresser, or the person at the bank drive-up window, do a theme-type gift.

  • Peanuts in the shell in a baseball hat of their favorite team
  • Movie gift card attached to a bag of popcorn
  • Bag of fall flower bulbs and garden gloves

If you love baking, cookies or candy are almost always a welcome treat. If baking isn’t your thing–which might be the case if you don’t own an apron, or when a recipe says, “Separate two eggs” you put one in the living room and one in the bathroom!– you probably won’t go that route. So keep it simple and use store-bought items, putting them in an out of the ordinary container [see below], and you will have a special gift to share.

  • Basket of apples with a container of dipping caramel
  • Hot cider mix and a dozen donuts
  • Hot chocolate packets, a bag of marshmallows, and peppermint sticks
  • Pre-made soup mix and a box of crackers

Keep a collection of containers on hand for packing your gifts. Some ideas: baskets, jars, small plastic pails, to-go boxes, clay flower pots, and liter bottles. Be sure to put a tag on the gift, maybe adding a Scripture verse on it like the one above. Remember you want to give hope and encouragement!

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Let’s Go Out: Week 2

 

letsgoout

Element High School Ministry is in a series called “Let’s Go Out.” We looked at the topic of love the first week, and this past week, we looked at the topic of sex. We looked at 4 questions and compared culture’s answer to God’s.

What is Sex?
1. Culture says that sex is just PHYSICAL.

God says that sex is becoming ONE.

Here we looked at Genesis 2:21-25 and the beauty of marriage. In this passage, the key theme is “Unity.” Not only was Eve created with Adam’s rib, but they “became one flesh” through sex. Sex is not just a physical act or entertainment. It is bringing two people together to become one. Thus, God created sex to be in marriage and to reveal commitment to one another.

2. What’s at Stake?
Culture says that sex is just for FUN.
God says that sex affects YOU and your future SPOUSE.

Culture says sex is just fun and has no consequences. But God shows us in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that any type of sexual sin damages ourselves. When we sin sexually, we are sinning against God, our future spouse, and ourselves. A little decision can have big effects

3.What do I do now?
Students are years away from marriage and thus years away from God’s design for sex in marriage. So what do they do now? We gave them 3 action steps.

RUN AWAY from all that encourages sex.
PRAY for yourself and your future relationships
-Determine what STORY I want to tell.
This last action step came from Andy Stanley. Here is an excerpt of his thoughts:
one day you will have to share your past with your future spouse and you can share 1 of the following 3 stories with them.

  1. When I was a teenager I messed up sexually. I got carried away with someone I was dating. I figured that since I did it once, it didn’t matter if I did it again. So I slept with several people along the way to meeting you.
  2. When I was a teenager I messed up sexually. But when I was in high school, I learned what God’s design was for sex and purity. So I committed to following those standards and have stuck with them. I saved myself from high school on for you.
  3. When I was a teenager I realized that God knows more about sex than anyone. Since he created sex for marriage, I decided to wait. I have saved myself for you. Determine what story you will tell your future spouse. And commit to it.

4. What if I mess up?

God is full of GRACE and His PEOPLE are too.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20

 Grace abounds when shame and mistakes and sin rise. Thankfully, no matter where we mess up, we have a God who forgives.

 

Help to Hide His Word

Featured Blog: MYB

“Beeswax”…that’s what I thought of when I first came across the letters “MYB” on the landing page of a Christian women’s blog recently. Huh! Not very gracious or welcoming to tell readers to Mind Your [own] Business, or Beeswax [as we used to say with a sassy nod, back in the day!]

Fortunately, I kept reading and found myself in a wonderfully encouraging blog that is actually entitled “Managing Your Blessings”. It’s an excellent perspective, combining the heaven-rooted truth that as Christ-followers we are abundantly blessed while, at the same time, acknowledging that while we’re here on earth, life can get messy and feel out of control.

What I especially appreciate about this blog is that the author effectively applies the mind of God to our circumstances by emphasizing Scripture memorization…learning God’s Word “by heart”, a nugget at a time, knowing that He uses it to transform us to be more like Him.
The blog author and Managing Your Blessings Founder, Carlie Kercheval, is a Christian wife, mom, homeschooler, blogger, and servant of the Savior.

Click on the link below to get to her blog and acquaint yourself with her Weekly Bible Memorization Challenge, which includes a new [realistically brief!] verse each week along with a devotional, free printable verse to download, and a supportive online community of Godly women.

The blog also includes an abundance of posts on other relevant topics.  www.managingyourblessings.com