Community is something we do well at Hidden Heart Ministry, but our recent road trip to Indianapolis, Indiana for The Gospel Coalition Conference for Women was over the top: 7200 ladies from 50 states and 37 countries in attendance, more than half under the age of 35, and many with their babies in arms. Eight of us piled into two cars with luggage, donuts and other emergency essentials before 6:00 a.m. for a couple of pre-conference sessions with Tim and Kathy Keller on prayer. I’ve recently vowed to not speed on the highways, but for this particular event, I pushed the pedal to the metal because I didn’t want to miss a word. The theme for the conference was “Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering,” a deep look into one of our favorite books in the Bible – I Peter. Prayer AND I Peter – we were obligated to get there!
In his remarks on prayer taken from on Psalm 25:14, Tim Keller made the point that God invites us to a friendship with Him (telos) based on our response to His word through a vital prayer life (two-way communication) and obedience. He also suggested meditating on scripture as a bridge to communion with God and especially meditation on Jesus’ death, His vulnerability and commitment, as an act of friendship. Quoting Augustine, he said, “If God were first POWER, friendship wouldn’t be possible; but God is first relational – LOVE.”
Kathy’s remarks, titled “A Word from a Mule” were taken from Psalm 32:9. (Like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle or it will not stay with you.) Many of us nodded our heads in agreement and some with relief when the Kellers confessed that praying together was hard for them; in fact, Kathy admitted that they had been discouraged and quit at one point only to decide later to just keep it simple: daily, simple two to five minute prayers.
And then the conference began!!!! It was impossible to sample everything that was offered, but the conference was a bountiful banquet of rich teaching, panel discussions, interviews, focus gatherings, workshops, poetic recitation of scripture, and music. What a thrill to hear thousands of female voices being raised in praise to the eternal, unchanging, sovereign God accompanied by some fabulous musicians: Keith and Kristyn Getty’s group and a local girl gone Nashville, Sandra McCracken.
I Peter was such a timely focus for the conference because of the times we live in and because we’ve been told in advance we will be sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Kathleen Nielson gave us an overview of the book during the first session – an examination of Peter’s condition while writing (in prison anticipating persecution) and that of the recipients (exiled, under persecution), challenging us to embrace who we are in God’s sight and where we are in His story. “We are named and placed in His story by God!”
The message of I Peter was really brought alive for us as Nancy Guthrie facilitated a panel discussion on “The Persecuted Church Today.” We heard the stirring testimony of a young Iranian woman who had met Christ in a dream and was interrogated extensively by the government authorities because of her faith before her escape. Mindy Belz, a journalist for World Magazine told of the suffering of Iraqi Christians as they have been forced out of their homes by ISIS. Because of the trauma they’ve experienced, some of those refugees (even as young as 10 years of age) have been placed on suicide watch. Karen Ellis of International Christian Response suggested we Google the International Declaration of Human Rights to get a better understanding of how persecution is defined. She said, “When you lose the ability to call ‘sin’ sin, you’re under persecution.”
Jen Wilkin repeated Peter’s charge to put our “hope fully” in the Lord because “there’s going to be a fight – internal and external – as the old passions of the flesh are being routed out.” She warned, “Sin feels more normal to us than holiness. We need God’s Word.” Her remarks were followed by Mary Willson’s exhortation to make it our vocational mission to embrace our “strangeness,” our peculiar, unnatural conduct by resisting evil and doing good for the glory of God in all of life. She quoted Malcomb Muggeridge as having said: “Only dead fish go down stream.”
Seeing Don Carson again was like seeing an old friend; I read from his For the Love of God, Volumes I and II every morning. Speaking from the text in I Peter 3:13 to 4:19, he summarized Peter’s words to those first century Christians who had lost most everything (and so relevant for us today): 1) “Do not withdraw for Christ is your example; 2) Do not be sinful for Christ is your Savior; 3) Do not be half-hearted because Christ is your sovereign.”
I had the privilege of hearing John Piper in several of the sessions, but his wrap-up on Saturday morning carried the words of I Peter 5 to a whole new level. In reference to the “roaring lion who is prowling around seeking someone to devour,” he said, “Satan cannot roar on his own without accomplishing God’s purposes.” (The psalmist puts it this way: “All things are your servants.” 119:91) Dr. Piper continued, “I Peter is the call to a life (to think, feel, act) that only makes sense in the reality of the glory of heaven – our hope!” I ran out to get his latest book, Peculiar Glory.
We returned on Saturday afternoon, just in time for Father’s Day
- with our hearts filled with thanksgiving for having been fed by some of God’s most dedicated and gifted teachers and leaders;
- having a renewed passion for God’s Word, especially I Peter;
- inspired by some of His special forces stationed in strategic places throughout the world where God’s children are undergoing severe persecution;
- grateful that we in this nation are free to assemble to worship our God;
- amazed and humbled that “We have been named and placed in His story by God,” and
- knowing that by His providence that place includes ministry together at Hidden Heart Ministry for the glory of God.
There’s room for you! Won’t you join us on this journey?