The theme was LOVE, based on John 4:7, which says: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”.
During the two-day conference, Pastor Michelle di Somma and guest speakers Yvonne Brooks and Marion Meyers unpicked what it means to love God, ourselves and our ‘neighbour’.
The teaching was too powerful not to share, so I’ll give you some titbits from Yvonne Brooks, first assistant pastor at the New Jerusalem Apostolic Church in Birmingham who, by the way, is absolutely hilarious.
If He can love me, I can
Pastor Yvonne’s first teaching session focused on the importance of loving ourselves. She explained that in Matthew 22:39, Jesus likens the second commandment – ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ – to the first – ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. From this we can see how God presupposes that we already love ourselves.
“God, the king of heaven and earth, loves us!” she exclaims. “He has set his love upon us.”
According to Pastor Yvonne, we deflect our feelings onto others, making them appear ugly because we feel ugly ourselves. She joked that since she started loving herself, all the ugly people have disappeared! On a serious note, though, her advice was for all of us to go through our ‘emotional closets’; to face our ‘unlovable’ parts, deal with them and move on.
She drew attention to the fact that Matthew 19:19, Luke 10:27 and James 2:8 reiterate the importance of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves, adding that when scripture refers to something over and over again, it means that it’s a subject that is close to God’s heart. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that in order to love our neighbour we must first love ourselves.
“We need to see what God sees when He looks at us,” Pastor Yvonne says. “Satan will give you ten good reasons why you shouldn’t love yourself; he’s your enemy! But God has given us the victory again and again and again.” She claims that if we can just learn to love God, ourselves and our neighbour, all the other commandments will be taken care of!
“Neither do I condemn you”
Pastor Yvonne also took the final session on Saturday evening, basing it on the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8). She reminded us how with one sentence – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” – Jesus silenced and disarmed the woman’s accusers.
If anybody could have judged, condemned and lectured, it was Jesus. But He didn’t even entertain the idea, and neither should we. “God won’t listen to anyone’s accusations about you,” she said reassuringly. “Now is the time of grace.”
According to Pastor Yvonne, Jesus came so the woman could be free, justified and live outside the shadow of her past. After coming face to face with Jesus it is very unlikely she went back to her old way of life, and neither should we, she concluded.
Loving myself isn’t something I had spent much time thinking about, but the teaching made it clear that it is one of God’s commands and that it is important to Him. It doesn’t mean we should be arrogant and think we are better than anyone else, it simply means that we should consider ourselves as our heavenly father does – with mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love.
Often we’re our own harshest critics, going over and over the mistakes we’ve made and continually condemning ourselves for them. For many of us it’s time to draw a line in the sand, and to allow God’s forgiveness to liberate us from sin and condemnation.
You can register now for the 2013 conference at www.exceptionalwomen.co.uk.
Read more from Joy in the upcoming edition of Liberti magazine.