Dying to Self {Guest Journal}

We are so pleased to welcome our sister Victoria Baker as a guest writer on the blog today. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
— Matthew 16:24-26, NLT

Right now, the Lord is teaching me something sacred and painful, yet completely life-giving. What may you ask is this? Wait for it...wait for it... dying to self. Yes, He is teaching me what it looks like to take up my cross and follow after Him. To be okay with the world not seeing Victoria: but through her death, seeing Jesus. He has paid the price and died in my place and gifted me with Himself.

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At a young age, I came to know and believe in Jesus. He was a friend. He was where my mom and I would sit down and pray, where I felt peace. As the years progressed and life was life, I found my understanding of Him changing. I was discovering how much I was leaning on my own "strength" (which is really nothing) and through years of eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism, He drew near. He drew near to the little girl who lived in a world of people pleasing, approval needs, and fear. He began to show me how much shame and guilt was a part of my life. He began to show me that I was His and He never wanted me to try and atone for my sins in human ways. He began to flip my world upside down and inside out.

In college, I was baptized. Late high school into early college was when He and I went deeper and deeper; my faith became what felt like my own. He began to show me how tangled I was (even more than I realized) and he held me dearly. He began to shift my understandings of what love looked like, what my identity was rooted in and how I was secure.

As a perfectionist, security was something I cherished. He showed me how nothing was secure in my life apart from Him. Because of what He had done, I could rest securely. This is something that even to this day I am growing in. Even in my failures and flaws. He peeled off so many layers. He was patient as I denied Him so many times, choosing myself and other things. He continued to carry me to the foot of the cross and to His throne room.

Soon, the nations began to captivate my heart and international outreach became a passion. Empowering women and seeking to find the beauty in the mundane was the adventure my heart longed for. He met me in sunflowers, in tears, in praying for widows and in the ridding of myself. I returned from a year abroad and struggled to resettle at home in Miamisburg. I revisited old struggles, OCD panic attacks, eating disorder lies and falls, as well as seeing again the vastness of my brokenness. He began to speak to my heart in new ways: pictures, metaphors, whispers. The truth of His Word, which had been proven through all of this to be alive, gained even more momentum despite my continued failings.

Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has been laying many prayers on my heart. Even the prayer for me to ask the Lord to mold my prayers while praying! He has brought up heart motives, marriage, perseverance, humility, dying to self and truly growing in living out what loving people and loving Him looks like.

As a dreamer by nature, He is growing me in practicality and I am stoked for His continued workings. He continues to teach me that apart from Him I can do nothing. He reminds me that self-flogging does not make us right with Him: only the power of His blood can do that. He continues to teach me to take the posture of a humble servant. He continues to grow me in walking in grace. He has helped to grow the desire to be nothing, and for Him to take full stage.

Dying to self is hard. It's a lifelong thing. It doesn't end. I have been around for almost 26 short years and have barely skimmed the surface of growing in this. But He remains faithful despite my faithlessness. He reminds me that I never have to be perfect because He has already paved the path and simply desires for me to keep my eyes on Him. However He asks me to die, so ultimately I may live, is for the best: for He is better. This truth has been echoing in my heart as I reach for him and I cry out to be rid of me; the me who blocks so much life.

He reveals that He is Perfect Love. And perfect love is a humble servant.

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
— 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NLT

This morning, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I was reminded of a picture: a rope that is tangled. I was reminded of how Jesus and the power of His Perfect Love enters into our lives and helps to untangle us. We are freed of ourselves, the ones who are all tangled within and afraid of being nothing. He unties the knots, and in the process, helps us to see that there is no fear in love; but hope. Hope in losing ourselves for the sake of the Gospel and for His name. We have hope that like Paul says, it is only Jesus and the power of the Spirit that allows us to keep our bearings and become to a Jew like a Jew, a slave like a slave, and to sit in wisdom.

Oh, how Love is on the move. Oh, how newness and deeper understandings are on the horizon. He is making all things new, and that includes our understanding of His love and how in it, there is no fear.

To be a servant. A humble servant. To simply be okay with being a clear vessel, a rope. For people to grab hold of the good news, resting in Christ and holding onto the rope; by the power of the Spirit and all by His doing, following the invitation and taking a seat at the table...where a spot has been prepared for them!

He is life. As I grow in getting out of the way, He shows how much true life is found in Him. He is fully satisfying and abundant. He continues to show with patience and love that He is better. The dying of me will allow for more of the invading of Him!

Victoria wants to live in a world where servanthood is the desired career of choice, love is tangible, and self is tossed at the door so people may see how life is found no where in self but in Christ.  When she's not teaching young kiddos how to grow in a love for reading, you can find her sitting around the table soaking in conversations, out and about in the forest, and exploring the beauty that breathes around her. Whimsy, adventure, truth and grace inspire her as she is uncovering the beauty of humble servanthood. Her favorite Scriptures are...Philippians 3 and Psalm 103!  Feel free to connect and share in conversation anytime: victoriabaker193@gmail.com.

An Evening of Prayer {Recap}

The following post is a recap of An Evening of Prayer, an event held on May 25, 2017 with our ministry partners, IF:Dayton.

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Prayer is not secondary. It is not optional.  It is not dessert!

Prayer is primary. It is essential. It is the main course!

God has been teaching our ministry and me personally that prayer is not "extra credit" in the Christian life, but rather a defining characteristic of people who love and follow Jesus. When we pray to the one true God, we enter into a relationship with Him. We are listening and talking, getting to know Him, learning how to be like Him. We are no longer looking at the distractions of this world or to ourselves. No, we are looking to God, focusing our eyes, hearts, lives totally around Him. Ah! What relief! There you are, Lord! What a joy when we seek Him and find Him! When He shows us Himself through prayer! When He cups our chin and takes our hand and leads us in the way everlasting!

When we pray to our Father, we are right where we were always supposed to be.

I once heard John Piper share that as he was studying the Word one day, he shut his Bible abruptly. He realized he had not yet prayed over his study. This great modern theologian chuckled at himself, thinking it was truly comical to believe he could understand anything about God's Word without inviting God's Holy Spirit into the process.

It is also true with us, sisters. DWITW's entire ministry is dedicated to understanding God's Word; yes. However, only through God can we accomplish this. We desperately need God to help us understand His Word, to make our hearts ripe for the conviction it brings, and to change us. Without prayer, we have no true relationship with the Lord. Without prayer, we are merely making ourselves acquainted with facts and history and numbers. Without prayer, God's Word is just another book.

With prayer, however, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to change everything. Our ministry will do nothing in the hearts of the women of our city unless faithful prayer is our foundation.

Last week, we led one another to follow this conviction to our knees. DWITW had the privilege of partnering with IF: Gathering Dayton in an evening of prayer held at Good Samaritan Hospital's chapel. As the sunset streamed through the stained glass, we held one another's hands in deep intercessory prayer.

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
— Matthew 6:9-13, KJV

The night began as Breanna McGowen opened our time of prayer with her gift for Spoken Word. Following that, we heard the Lord's Prayer in three different languages. As I listened, I thought once again that heaven must sound a little like this, all tribes and tongues communing with God. Emily and Nehemiah Park, worship leaders at Christian Life Center, then led us in a time of singing.

Throughout the evening, ministry leaders serving all over the Dayton region led us in four separate calls to prayer. These prayer calls were modeled after Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Together, we answered the call to offer our gratitude; to pray for God's people, the church; to pray for the world;  and to pray for unity and love. We responded by praying corporately, individually and in small groups. As time allowed, we prayed over the suggested additional Scriptures that went with each call to prayer. 

O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
— John 17:25-26, ESV

IF:Dayton provided a prayer journal modeled after Jesus' prayer that served as the framework of the evening. If you did not get to attend the evening of prayer, you can download the PDF of the prayer journal here

Jesus modeled for us how to pray in John 17. As we practiced this discipline together, we were reminded that the call to prayer did not end when we said 'Amen.' The call to prayer is ever present for the Christian and essential in our daily lives. Will you join our ministries in this call to pray? Will you allow your knees to hit the floor, even now, and join us in prayers of gratitude, for God's church, the world, and for unity and love? Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. 

Jillian Vincent loves Jesus. She's a wife, mother of two boys and a Dayton enthusiast. Jillian currently is a stay at home mama and spends nap times jotting on her blog and discipling other women. She would (almost) die for an avocado, a cup of coffee made by her husband, a novel that makes her cry, and a bouquet of sunflowers.