CCIM College Correspondence School

We’ve a short term, one year project underway.

In order to establish our CCIM College Course in an online kind of way we are testing out our instructions, pace and rhythm of the course, with a small group of students.

We will be doing this as a correspondence course direct with our Executive Director, Cyndy Lavoie, author of our College of Capturing Courage International Ministries.

It will be facilitated via email. With one or two emails a week that relay the process and instructions for taking the course bit by bit, one step at a time, we hope to help those who have been wanting to take this course.

It will be a solid year of study. It is for those wanting increase in personal renewal and leadership development before the Lord; strength from your inside out.

  • College of Capturing Courage International Ministries
  • Correspondence Course Opportunity
  • One year of study
  • August 2019 to August 2020
  • One or two emails per week from Cyndy to you
  • Instructions and step by step process for working through the course
  • With feedback and reporting expected from you on a monthly basis
  • Comes with certificates and final diploma as each section is completed

This opportunity of CCIM College Course for one-year’s correspondence with Cyndy is by application as we need to keep the number of students to 20 or less so that we can stay in good communication. Too many students would compromise the year.

  • For majority world folks there is an application process below.
  • For western folks this year’s correspondence course is offered by donation to CCIM with a suggested donation of $100 per month.

After this year of direct correspondence the course will be available as an online learning course. NOTE: If you do not take the course this year, in this way, it will be available online and at a self-paced rhythm in further years.

To see more about CCIM College and it’s contents click HERE. 

To see the Core Learning Outcomes click HERE.

Then, if you are interested please fill out this application form and press the ‘submit’ button. You will hear back from us in about two weeks time.

Chapter 28: Love

Chapter 28:  Love

I write these God’s Hearts as the Holy Spirit leads me.  I don’t have an agenda of topics chosen months in advance, I simply write in accord with the Lord’s leading.  And these last few weeks I’ve been brought back to the central truth of God’s love for us and am compelled to pass that on. 

It feels to me that the Lord wants to remind all of us that while we are working and serving alongside the Lord in His kingdom that we must not forget how much we are loved.

The heart of God’s love for us is beautifully expressed in Zephaniah,

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

Just this one verse alone reveals a depth of the heart of our Lord in regards to each one of us.

1.  God is in your midst

2.  He is the mighty one who saves

3.  He rejoices over you with gladness

4.  He quiets you with his love

5.  He exults and sings over you

Lets review these one by one.

  1. God in our midst means that we are not alone

Though the weight of our work and of life itself may press down on us we can know that God is with us. 

Immanuel means ‘God with us’ and is one of the names given to Jesus.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 ESV

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV

God with us means that God is working through us.  As we rest in the presence and work of Jesus Christ he works through us.  We take comfort in this.  The work is not all ours to do.  Rather we enter into dependance on God and as we invite Jesus Christ into our lives we agree with Him and when we agree with the Lord life takes on new satisfaction.

2.  The mighty one who saves indicates a continuous present tense

God has saved us.  God is saving us.  God will save us.  We experience the truth and presence of God in our past, present, and future.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:21 ESV

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5 ESV

The love of Father God foreknew us and prepared a way for us. Jesus Christ his Son entered into our present tense and died a sinless death so that you and I might live.  Our Holy Spirit remains with us leading and guiding us each and every day.

This work of God never ends.  It goes on in our lives and in the lives of every human being on planet earth. God is continually drawing all people unto himself in love and kindness and understanding.  This we can count on.  This we rest in.

No longer do we need to force God upon each other.  No longer must we micro-manage those around us.  No longer must we fear.  God is active in all our lives even when we cannot perceive Him.

Because of this we can come to a place of greater understanding alongside our fellow human beings.  We are released to just be people alongside people for Jesus is the one working in all our lives.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 ESV

3.  He rejoices over you with gladness 

God’s heart over us works to dispel the lies and condemnations within us.  Remember the utter joy of a child born to you?  This is the same joy (but bigger yet) that God experiences in regards to you each and every minute of every day.

I ask:  How might His joy about you change how you view yourself, God, and this life you are living?

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17 ESV

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” Psalm 16:9 ESV

Life alongside God brings us to deeper understanding of our lives.  We realize that there is another reality to living than just this earthly experience and our earthly struggles.

We learn alongside God that even though there are difficulties God is in the midst.

4.  He quiets us with His love is the exact result of God in our midst

We cannot stay stressed when we are aware of the presence of God.  In His presence our anxiety, our worry, our concerns fall to the side. We are quieted in our inner person.

“For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” Psalm 33:21 ESV

“He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Psalm 107:29 ESV

While we make our plans and do the work of our lives it takes on a new ease as we allow the Lord’s quieting over us.  We do the same work but our hearts don’t worry the same.  We carry on the same tasks but we are more relaxed and okay with God’s leading.  We do not rush to control or fix things like we once did. God quiets us and we enter into His rest.

5. He exults and sings over you and he exults and sings over each one

In this love of the Lord we realize that he loves everyone to the same extent that he loves us.  And as we realize this we begin to take greater care with those around us.  We realize that we must treat others as the great loves of God that they are.

As we experience God’s love and exulting and singing over us we bring this same spirit and manner over others.  We learn too to rejoice in our fellow human beings.  We begin to see the beauty of mankind all around us.

God’s singing over us changes how we perceive each other.  We, all of us, every single person, is precious to God, and we dare not use and abuse them.  It is God’s love that alerts us to this.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,” 1 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

John 13:35 ESV

We are reminded today that though we work to understand God more, though we work to bring justice where there is injustice, though we work to teach and guide and lead those depending on us, though we strive to accomplish much good in the countries in which we live, we remember that love and our manner alongside God and others is the most important thing of all.

We remember that how we treat each other matters first and foremost.  We remember that God loves us with a deep and abiding love and we are reminded to slow down, to take notice of our fellow human beings, to acknowledge each other in kindness and understanding.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

1 Corinthians 13 ESV

Prayer

“God we come before you today dependant on you to grow your love in us.  We cannot love as you love unless you change our hearts from the inside out.  Please give us your love.  We wait on you for this and we thank you for the work you will be doing within us.  We praise you Lord.  Thank you.” 

Application

  • Today, spend some time worshipping and thanking the Lord for his great love for you. 
  • Remain in the presence of God
  • Be silent before Him 
  • Ask to know His love more

Summary  – love 

We are not alone.  John 1:14

God delights over us.  Zephaniah 3:17

He saved us, is saving us, and continues to save us.  Matthew 11:29 

God makes us glad.  Psalm 33:21

We love others because of God’s great love for us.  John 13:35

Chapter 27: Holy Spirit

Chapter 27:  Holy Spirit

In the Amplified Bible we find Jesus telling his disciples,

“But the Comforter (Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.” John 14:26  AMP

In a regular dictionary we find the following definitions of these adjectives describing our Holy Spirit:

1. Comforter: A person or thing that provides consolation

2. Counsellor: A person trained to give guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems

3. Helper: a person who contributes to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose

4. Intercessor: (mediator) a negotiator who acts as a link between parties

5. Advocate: A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy

6. Strengthener: a device designed to provide additional strength

7. Standby: Readiness for duty or immediate deployment

Even in this simple way we can see the immediate kinds of help that the Spirit of God brings to us.

There is much to say about the Holy Spirit.  Too much for this simple study, so let’s look at just a few of the marks of the Holy Spirit, how we can recognize the Spirit of God in our lives.

The very first place where we find the Spirit is in our salvation.  When we come to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are told that the Spirit seals us in him.

1.  The Spirit Marks us and Seals us in Christ

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

This is important because when we first come to the Lord we are immature in our faith. 

Sometimes it takes years to mature and to grow to our full stature in Christ, and God understands this.

God knows that growth is a process and that while we go from immaturity to maturity, even in that process, we are marked as belonging to God by the Holy Spirit.

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 ESV  (footnote below)

Because of the intercession of the Spirit, one of the first ways that we experience the Holy Spirit is in the inner sanctum of our hearts.  Paul in Romans gives this blessing:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV

And it is in the inner experience of joy and peace and hope that we are assured of God’s presence in our lives.  We all know that we cannot conjure these things on our own. 

Rather, joy and peace and hope are gifts from God and come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And it is out of this joy and peace and hope that we are healed.

2.  The Spirit Heals us

Isaiah records it this way,

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3  ESV  (Read all of Isaiah 61)

Consider how the Psalmist describes it:

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”  Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

God in his power and majesty and by the work of the Holy Spirit enters into the depths of our hearts with comfort and joy and dancing.

In the power of God we are given back celebration and worship.  We are enabled to praise him and to experience in that praise a deep gladness of heart that transcends all that we know and understand.

I am convinced that when Peter says, “always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15b ESV, that we are to answer the basic question, “how has God made you glad?”

We might know all scripture, understand the ancient texts and languages, but if we do not know how the Lord has brought gladness to our hearts, if we do not know where our mourning has been turned to dancing, then perhaps we are missing an elemental component of walking with God.

If nothing else, know this day the impact and the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart.

It is from this touch of the Spirit to the depths of our hearts that we then walk in wisdom and understanding.

3.  The Spirit Teaches us and Gives us Wisdom

“And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:13 ESV

*Read 1 Corinthians 6:6-16

Life is complicated and fraught with confusion.  It is therefore good to know that we do not have to do life on our own understanding.  Rather we have access to the wisdom of 

God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah in his foretelling of the coming of Christ said this,

“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2-3a ESV (Read 11:1-10)

We come to reverence in the Spirit of God.  Our understanding is opened to the might and majesty of God and we are never the same.  We learn obedience and how to walk in sync with the living God.

How God moves we move.  What God is concerned about concerns us.  The manner of compassion and grace of our Lord becomes our own.  There is something different about those who walk in the Spirit.  We find in Galatians,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Our very manner of being takes on the mark of our Lord.  In this we give tangible evidence to the Holy Spirit in our lives.  This depth of the Spirit in our lives is important to God.  Consider the words found in 1 Corinthians,

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV

We may have good deeds, prophecy, knowledge, and even faith, but if we are not walking in the manner of the Holy Spirit, the place where our hearts reveal the fruit of the Spirit as Galatians teaches us, then we are missing the greatest point of walking with God – change within our inner person.

Christ didn’t die on the cross to get us to heaven.  He died and rose again so that our entire life might be redeemed and restored to the original vision of God, and this begins with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit one to another.

I’ll leave off with Peter’s blessing:

“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” 1 Peter 1:2 ESV

Application

Consider this diagram (on the next page) about the covering of Jesus Christ. Note that as we mature in Christ there are subtleties to being ‘right with God’.  Our discernment and our ability to hear and to obey the spirit must therefore become greater. 

While there are many actions and deeds that are outside of the covering of Christ, as leaders and pastors in the Kingdom of God we must begin looking at our own hearts and seeing deeper than just actions.  We must take sins of the heart seriously and this is where the Holy Spirit is particularly equipped to teach us and to equip us. 

Consider the small differences of our hearts before God when we are under the covering of Christ, to those same things of the heart without the right motive or without obedience to the Lord — Where is your life?  Are you fully under the covering of Christ or is there a habit of thought and action that would be outside of Jesus’ covering? 

Use the listening prayer process to confess and repent of what the Holy Spirit shows you. 

Summary – Holy Spirit 

The Spirit seals us in Christ.  Ephesians 1:13-14

The Spirit brings peace, joy, and hope.  Romans 15:13

The Spirit heals us.  Psalm 30:11-12

The Spirit teaches us.  1 Corinthians 2:13

We live out the fruit of the spirit (as evidence of the spirit in us).  Galatians 5:22-23

 

Footnote: God is very okay with our growth and the time it takes to mature. We must not condemn others for their growth process. Rather, we rest in the work that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing in our lives and we trust that this same work is happening in the lives of others. It is okay to serve God while we are still maturing, for he is growing us. 

Chapter 26: A Glad Heart

Chapter 26: A Glad Heart

2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” ESV

It is the cheerful heart that intrigues me.

While this verse speaks about money and our tithes and offerings, I wonder how might the ‘glad heart’ principle apply to the rest of our life?

It occurs to me that there are three things that the principle of a glad heart guide us in:

1.  It Challenges us to Check our Hearts

What are we believing and feeling about any given situation, and how might we adjust our attitude in order to find and express a gladness of heart?

It takes maturity to overlook the assumptions, expectations, and ignorance of others. 

But in order to give with a glad heart this is often what we must do.  It is, after all, what 

God has done with us.

Despite our offensiveness and sin God rose above all that to give to us with a glad heart.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

And while we are not God we can have the Lord’s help with our hearts at any time.  The Psalmist cried out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10 NIV

While we cannot change the core of our hearts we can come in honesty before the Lord.  It is honesty before the Lord that purifies and refines us.

While we cannot mandate another’s heart, we are to be responsible for our own.  In this we find God working on our behalf.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:12b-13 ESV 

The principle of a glad heart is highly personal.  It is something for each of us to work through with the Lord for ourselves.

2.  It Guides our Giving

For many of us, generosity is a way of life.  Yet, because of this there may be many who simply come to expect, and take for granted, this in us.

When expectation, without respect, is placed on us by another, our hearts alert us to this difficulty – our hearts are not able to be glad.

When we are unable to give gladly it is time to step back from giving.  Perhaps we are burnt out. Perhaps we have been taken advantage of.  Perhaps we feel compelled and manipulated.  Perhaps we intuit that our giving would end up with regret.

Here we are warned away from a generosity that would suck our life-force from us.  If we cannot give gladly, it is better to not give at all.

In some instances gladness will return, other times not.  What is inferred in “each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV is honesty and integrity in our inner core.

Our decisions and our actions must clearly align with our hearts, otherwise we are living falsely. This doesn’t bless the Lord.  And it doesn’t ultimately bless others.

We refuse to give under compulsion, or guilt, manipulation, not grudgingly or with regret.

We put boundaries against those who would dishonour us.  We do not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.  We ensure an honesty in our giving.  For we understand that it is our job to ensure we can remain in a gladness of heart.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”  Proverbs 4:23 ESV

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”  Hebrews 12:15 ESV

Do what you are glad to be doing.  Allow your heart to lead you in the activities and service you are to be about.  There are many good things to do in this world, but which good thing makes you glad?

Go after that.  Invest in that.  For therein lies your passion and the calling of your life.  Here is where there is honest living for you, and true blessing towards those you serve.

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”  2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

Keeping in mind that we do this to the extent of what we have.  While many may demand and expect of us much, we must always remember to give of what we have.

Do you have wisdom, perhaps money, expertise in crops, business savvy – a heart for school children, for other leaders, for women, for education, for trades and technical skills… what is your heart for?  Work from there.

3.  It Reminds us to not become a Weight on Others

When others cannot engage with us gladly, then we know something is off.  The lack of gladness in others reminds us to back off, to fix our approach, to reckon what might be wrong, and to give full respect for the generosity of others towards us.

We can watch for this gladness in others in a variety of situations.

While applying to our financial giving, it also applies to any situation, from the gifts we give, to help with chores around the house, and even to sexual intimacy in marriage.

I once heard it taught to men how to recognize the willingness of their woman in regards to sexual intimacy – it was this: Look for enthusiasm.  When a woman responds with enthusiasm, know that she wants sex as much as you.  Without enthusiasm, you are bordering on rape at worst, and blatant disregard at best.

Gladness of heart in the bedroom reveals the core of a marital relationship.  Gladness of heart in the bedroom indicates the level of honour and respect in the relationship.

In addition to this example from marriage, consider how this applies to leadership.  There are a number of verses throughout the Bible admonishing us to work in cooperation with our leaders, and I am convinced that gladness of heart is at the core of these requests.

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.  Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”  Hebrews 13:17 NIV

As a leader, a teacher, a mentor, when is it most amazing to lead?

When we can do so from a glad heart.

As people, we want to increase other’s gladness.  Leading is hard enough, there is no need to make it any harder.  Take care not to erode the gift of gladness to those who are spending their lives on our behalf.

For as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, the point is so that mutual give and take, blessing and being blessed, can flow back and forth within the Christian community.

We give with a glad heart out of what we have, knowing that God is taking care of us just the same.

“Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.”  

2 Corinthians 8:14 ESV

We cannot ever force another to have a glad heart. In fact, remaining in someone’s face demanding their gifts in a gladness of heart, ensures a less glad heart.

In every area of life, pushing for what we want, means we get less of what we want. 

While perseverance is good it is always to be worked out in the context of relationship with each other.  It does us no good to get what we want but to break fellowship along the way.

Gladness of heart ensures a right attitude as we give, and as we receive, and as we work and live and love alongside others.

When we invest in our own glad heart, respect the glad hearts of others around us, and when we refuse to diminish the glad hearts of others, we find a deep gladness for life itself.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.   And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:15-17 ESV

Application

The biggest violation of this glad heart principle is found in churches and their demands for a tithe from every member each and every time they enter the door of a church. 

Tithing was never meant to be a burden or to be used to manipulate and wrestle money from people.  God makes it very clear that it does not matter what we give, but it does matter if we can give it with a glad heart. 

God does not need anything. God does not need your money.  God loves a cheerful giver because he knows that giving enters us into the same work as he himself is in – but not even God forces anyone to give. 

Seek the Lord about the tithing practices in your church and ask God if you are forcing people to tithe.  Also, if you are afraid of what might happen if people didn’t give, then take these fears to the Lord and ask for healing.  Begin to trust God in a new way for your provision as pastor.  Do not use your position to violate the principle of a glad heart for your people. 

Summary – a glad heart 

Honesty with our hearts is first and foremost.  2 Corinthians 9:7

Secondly, we allow God to change our hearts.  Philippians 2:12-13

Third, we make space for other’s hearts and what they can or cannot do at any time. 2 Corinthians 9:7 

Next, we trust God to change all our hearts.  Psalm 51:10

We do not force others.  2 Corinthians 8:12

We give and we receive as The Spirit leads, without compulsion on ourselves or others. 2 Corinthians 8:14

Chapter 25: A Long Life

Chapter 25: A Long Life

The Bible speaks many things about living a life unto God and when we do this we experience good fruit. 

Today I’m outlining just five principles that lead towards a long and prosperous life.

1.  Honouring the Elderly

We will begin where the Bible begins, with one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses for the People of Israel. In Exodus we have record of the Ten Commandments with the fifth commandment,

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 ESV

In Ephesians 6:1-3 we find this commandment repeated and noted as the first commandment with a promise.

We find that honouring our parents is critical to our future satisfaction with life for honour is of God. God honours all individuals, and there is a special honour for those who have lived life before us.

The essence of this command ties into the law of sowing and reaping.  For instance,

“The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8 ESV

The law of sowing and reaping determines that when we sow (plant) honour, we will reap (receive) honour ourselves one day.

While we may in our flesh want to ignore our parents, despise the elderly and simply get on with our lives, we are told that this does not please the Lord.  Dishonour does not work in the Kingdom of God.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Galatians 6:7 ESV

Learning to reap unto the Lord begins as we grow a deep respect for the Lord.

2.  Deep Respect for the Lord

It is our honour of others that shows whether we have a deep respect for the Lord, or as it is said in Psalms 128, as one who fears the Lord.

“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” Psalm 128:1-2 ESV

A fear of the Lord is all about understanding that one day we will stand before God and answer for our life.  This is not something to be afraid of, so much as something to understand and realize with much sober mindedness.

The fear of the Lord spurs us on to live a life pleasing to God, a life that is ordered around the Lord’s principles and heart.  What God loves we love, what hurts God’s heart we stay away from.

In a very simple way it is the same deep respect that we would give to a family member, a good friend and our marriage partner.

It is about living in such a way that we do not purposefully break fellowship with our Lord.  A fear of God compels us to make good decisions, to weigh choices carefully and to walk in honour of our Lord.

When we do this we will “be blessed, and it shall be well with you”

3. Integrity and Truthfulness

Our deep respect for the Lord begins to show up in our speech and the attitudes of our hearts. God is all about integrity and truthfulness.

“Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!  Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace and work to maintain it.”  Psalms 34:12-14 NLT 

God asks here, ‘Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?’  Then here is what you do:

• do not speak evil

• do not tell lies

• refuse to participate in evil

• be a peacemaker

Peacemaking comes into this conversation because where there is evil there is no peace. 

Where we tell lies we cause trouble for ourselves and for others.  And when we speak evil we agree with the enemy and not God.

God has taken the initiative to overcome evil with good, and we are called to do the same.

This is the way to a “long and prosperous life”.

4.  Obedience to the Lord

All of these things so far, are the very ways we are to obey God.  Obedience is not often about what we do and where we are going.  While our physical choices are certainly an element of obedience, the core of following the Lord is:

• to live in a manner where our hearts are, I. Honouring our parents and the elderly.

• where we have a, 2. Deep respect and holy fear of God

• where we, 3. Walk in integrity and truthfulness

“But this command I gave them:  ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.  And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.”  Jeremiah 7:23 ESV

Walking in God’s ways is not about the letter of the law, but rather in the spirit of the law and the change that must come to our hearts.  When we do not pay attention to what is important to God and go our own way, this is what we experience,

“But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” Jeremiah 7:24 ESV

The good news is, that our lack of obedience, our inability to hear God’s heart, our lack of honor and the lies we live and the truths we avoid, can all be confessed and renounced.

We bring ourselves to the cross of Christ and we find healing and wholeness.

While we know how to live, we are unable to live it. In and of ourselves we will violate every single one of these principles.

This is why Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.  To become our righteousness.

5.  Trusting on Christ for our Righteousness

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3 ESV

It is the work of Jesus Christ that saves us, that makes us holy, and that restores us unto righteousness (right living).  It is Christ that we serve.

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 ESV

Prayer

“Jesus we welcome you into our lives today in a new and fresh way.  Where we have dishonoured our parents and the elderly around us, please show us honour, teach us to honour, may we have new habits of honour. 

Where we have not respected you or sought your ways, we ask that you would show us who you are in a fresh way.  Enable our hearts to understand your might and your holiness.  May we learn a holy fear of who you are, and may we not disregard the amazing opportunity and invitation to do life alongside your ways. 

The times we have operated out of falseness and in lies, where we have lacked integrity and truthfulness in our dealings with others, we bring ourselves to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We lay down our dishonesty today and renounce it in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Build in us new sensitivity to truthfulness and honesty.  May we not manipulate or lie to get our own way.  But rather may we trust you with our lives as we live in honesty. 

And where we have heard your voice and felt your compelling on our lives, but have not taken action, where we have not obeyed we simply bow to you today.  We are sorry.  Restore to us the ability to walk with you, to hear your voice clearly and to follow you. 

May we simply be obedient people, those who show the heart of you in everything we do, the ways we talk and the ways we love others. 

In all this, we declare our dependence on our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our salvation and the one who makes possible our life unto God. Jesus we thank-you today for making a way for us to walk with our God. Holy Spirit, please breath through our hearts and thoughts and lives today.  We invite you.

With all glory and honour to God and God alone, amen and amen.”

Application

Are you honouring your parents? 

Have you forgiven them? 

Are you caring for him or her if they are very old and frail? 

Have you visited them lately? 

Is your spouse free to minister to his or her parents? 

God do what is right. 

Ask God to show you one thing today that you can do to honour your parents. 

Summary – a long life

We honour the elderly.   Exodus 20:12

We respect the Lord and we walk in His ways.  Psalm 128:1-2

We obey God.  Jeremiah 7:23

We trust Christ for our righteousness.  Philippians 3:9 

Chapter 24: Scandalous Love

Chapter 24: Scandalous Love

God’s ways are not our ways.

It takes many years to really come to understand the heart of God.

Even though we have been given the Bible (God’s love letter to mankind), we tend to read the Bible through our own cultures, the lies and hurts that have been laid on us through the years, as well as our own developmental process.

So our understanding of God’s ways are often inaccurate.  We grow and move in understanding God in the same way we grow and understand ourselves and life.

When Jesus was on earth he met and spoke to people within their current understanding of life. God is still doing this today in and through and for all of us.

All of the stories of the Bible for instance, are told within the context of the time in which it was told and written.  This means that to really understand the story’s of the Bible, to understand God’s heart, we must first understand the context.

Let’s look at the story of the Prodigal Son.

Take the time to read Luke 15:11-32.

Let’s look at just one part of that story today.  When those of us in the west read this story we do not understand the significance of the father running to greet the son in verse twenty.

 “So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”  Luke 15:20 ESV

It is very easy for us in the west to skip over this, for in the west fathers run towards and with and for their children all the time.

But in the east the culture is that fathers and important figures never run.  In fact the more important the person the slower they walk.

When in Africa I witnessed this very slow walking, and it helped me to understand the Bible and this story even more.  Context is everything.

Here in this story, and for the people of that time, Jesus turned their expectations of God the Father upside down.

This was a shocking story that Jesus told.

For instance, not only did the father run to meet his son, but to do so he would have had to lift the hem of his robe that he was wearing. (footnote below) 

This would have revealed his ankles.  Something that was also never done at that time. 

And even today there are many cultures the same.

Yet essentially, Jesus was telling us through this story, that God loves us so much that he leaves off his ‘importance’ in order to run to meet us, he doesn’t worry about what people ‘might think’ as he comes near, and that all ‘correctness’ and ‘decency’ is cast aside in his love for us.

How might this change how you view God today?

How might this change the way you interact with others?

Thing is, God does this all the time.  God meets us within the context of our lives, and then shows himself so much different than what our understanding would allow.

The many people around us also have their own context of living.  They have the culture, the expectations, the hurts of their lives as well as being in their own developmental process.

Learning from God’s example, how might we meet people where they are?

How might we be shocking in our love for others?

How might we leaves off our ‘importance’ in order to run towards others?

How might we cast aside the worry of what people ‘might think’ in order to come near?

And how might we choose something even better than ‘correctness’ and ‘decency’ as we seek to love others?

Simply put, are we able to put aside our ideas about life so that we can meet people where they are at, in the context of their lives?

Context is everything.  By understanding context we can meet people in a way that our rules and our expectations will never manage.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.”  Zechariah 7:9 NLT

Like God we enter into service of others.  We ministers to hearts and lives in unique and possible frowned upon ways.

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”  Romans 3:24 NLT

All I have to say is to be bold in this.  Meet others where they are at. Love them without your agenda of changing them or making them ‘better’.

“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.”  2 Corinthians 6:6 NLT 

Remember the parable of the father and the son – the father ran towards the son even before he knew if his son was sorry or not or wanting to change or not.  He went towards him just because he loved him.

We pray that we would be the same.

It is not our job to fix people.  It is not our job to change people.  It is our job to love people. To express our own passionate gladness of who they are.  The Father running towards his son reveals no agenda except to love.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT 

Oh that we might have the same freedom of heart and spirit.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT

As we meet others in the context of their lives, we live from compassion and gladness and we are all simply changed.

Application

Who might you love today? 

Go do that. 

Summary – scandalous love 

God put aside his greatness to love and redeem us.  Romans 3:24

We put aside our greatness to love others.  2 Corinthians 6:6

 

Footnote: “So, why did the father run? He probably ran in order to get to his son before he entered the village. The father runs — and shames himself — in an effort to get to his son before the community gets to him, so that his son does not experience the shame and humiliation of their taunting and rejection. The village would have followed the running father, would have witnessed what took place at the edge of the village between father and son. After this emotional reuniting of the prodigal son with his father, it was clear that their would be no kezazah ceremony; there would be no rejecting this son — despite what he has done. The son had repented and returned to the father. The father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son and clearly shown to the entire community that his son was welcome back home.”  http://magazine.biola.edu/article/10-summer/the-prodigal-sons-father-shouldnt-have-run/

This is a profound picture of God and his love for us that runs to not only accept and welcome us back but to interrupt and take the punishment himself. 

Module One Appendix One – For Men & Women

CCIM College: Appendix ONE – for Men & Women  

* inserted as a follow-up from our last chapter regarding Women

For Men

This material was originally prepared in response to a request from a Pastor in India: 

“Sister I need a study or a sermon on husband and wife relationship according to Bible or marital life with Christ because in our church we have many broken families.  Women are hard working and their husbands are fully drunkards and they beat their wives like anything.  Kindly I need a sermon like how they can change their husbands …..” 

We acknowledge that without the inner transformative power of our Lord Jesus Christ none of us can ever be changed.  This material simply seeks to take men through a short study of the scriptures in regards to the value of every human being, forgiveness and redemption found at the cross of Christ, the heart of God over each of us and how these things play out in the roles and responsibilities of leadership and within the context of marriage. 

We pray the Lord’s quickening of our words, but we particularly agree to the quickening of His words found in scripture.  This we have sought to faithfully give. 

We suggest that you teach this material in smaller portions than all at once.  Take a few concepts at a time.  Most of all have the Holy Spirit lead you as you teach this. Remember that it is in compassion and safe places and in honour that we are equipped and open to changed hearts.  Lead in this way as you teach the men.  

Ensure that your own heart is in forgiveness towards them and your teaching will inhabit the heart of God for them.  We pray transformation and the peace of Christ brought to lives in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Contents to Come

  • Stewardship   
  • Women are Equal Partners
  • You are Enough in Christ
  • Life has Problems and Redemption
  • One Day at a Time
  • Commitment to a Bigger Way
  • Loose off Guilt
  • Take on Compassion
  • Jesus Models Regard for Women
  • Leaders Take 100% Responsibility
  • You are More Powerful than You Know
  • Stand Before God with a Well Done!
  • A Churches Response to Women

Stewardship

In this life everything we are given is a gift from God. Right from the beginning of the world God put Adam and Eve as overseers and stewards of all He had made. 

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 ESV

To be a steward is to be given a trust, to be entrusted with something.   As stewards of God’s kingdom we will all answer to Him one day for what we did or didn’t do with what we were entrusted.  Our actions matter, the choices we make matter. 

We have responsibility to God for how we live our lives and the manner in which we go through our days.  We have responsibility in regards to how we treat each other.  We will give account for how we brought the Spirit of Christ into all of our dealings. 

Yet right from the beginning things have gone wrong.  Adam and Eve sinned in not believing God and ever since men and women have tried to do life apart from Him. It hasn’t turned out so well. 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23 ESV

There has been much conflict and difficulty. We use and abuse each other.  We hurt and cause harm to others and ourselves.  It is easy to see that we are lost without God’s touch upon our hearts and minds and lives. 

Thankfully God stepped in by sending his son Jesus Christ to take care of our sin natures. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”   John 3:16-17 ESV

The good news is that Jesus takes full responsibility for the things we have done to each other.  He bore the burden of our sin on the cross.  We are told that we can now take hold of this new gift of life and grace that Jesus made possible for us. 

We simply receive Christ and the gift of life that he bought for us, 

“Jesus I realize that there are many things I cannot make right.  There are many things that I struggle with and on my own these are just too much.  But I hear that you are interested in walking alongside me and within me. I’d like this.  I agree today to your redeeming my life and me.  I want to do life with you.  I welcome you to guide me and to show me how to live. Amen” 

As we turn toward Jesus Christ He enables us to live different kinds of lives with ourselves and with others. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Our spiritual eyes are opened in new ways and we begin living differently. 

Women are Equal Partners

One of the first ways that God’s heart begins to show through our hearts is in our treatment of each other.  Receiving God’s love and grace and forgiveness into our own lives enables us to show God’s love and grace and forgiveness to others.  We are supernaturally equipped to do life. 

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”  Ephesians 4:2 ESV

For men this begins at home with your wife and children.  Whenever any of us come to God, turning to Christ, we realize every single human being has incredible value and worth. God has made every single one precious in His sight. 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:27 ESV

We find in fact that men and women are created equal in God’s sight and we recognize where we have been unjust in our treatment of the women around us. 

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28 ESV

At the same time we are often stuck in patterns of ill treatment towards each other.  Here too we turn to Christ and invite and rely on Him to change us from the inside out. 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 ESV

We are all entrusted with the hearts of each other to care for, to nurture, to love.  A man is gifted and entrusted with a wife; she is his most important stewardship opportunity.  One day each man will stand before God and answer for the way he treated her and her children. 

You are Enough in Christ

This is a big task and the most important work of all.  You have been gifted for the task as you live in God.  You are enough in Christ for all the difficulties that might come your way. 

We are told, 

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”   2 Peter 1:3 ESV

In regards to difficulties and this life we have some great promises of God to hold onto and to give us strength. 

“Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  John 14:1 ESV

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 ESV

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6 ESV

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”  Psalms 91:1-6 ESV (read all of Psalm 91)

Life has Problems and Pain but also Healing and Redemption

It is not easy of course.  Life is difficult and we as men and women have grown up receiving our own hurts and harms from our parents and those who raised us.  Sometimes we take the pain in our own hearts and pass it on to those around us.  In fact, it is often those closest to us that get the worst of our behaviour. 

Sometimes it is our own bitterness and hatred that drives us to hurt others.  Whether it has been hurts given us by others or the bitterness that we carry, these things we can give over to God.  Here too, instead of managing poorly in dealing with hurts and hatreds we simply turn to God with them.  We give ourselves over to God. 

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”  Acts 3:19 ESV

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8 ESV

And as we turn to God with our hurts and our hatreds God relieves us of these great burdens; we were never meant to carry hurt and hatred and bitterness.  This is the great news of Jesus Christ; we can be new people because Jesus came to carry our pain. 

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 ESV

We must remember that Christ died not only to remove our sin but also to cover over the sin of others against us.  As we give our hurts to God and he replaces them with peace and patience and with gladness and joy.  We can learn to treat others with the peace and patience that we ourselves have received from God. 

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV

One day at a time

We live this new way one day at a time.  Change comes bit by bit. Sometimes we still hurt over our past but as we come close to God we are told that he comes close to us.  In this way we are changed into the image of God. He tells us we are loved. 

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 ESV

Each day we begin with, “God I invite you into today.  Welcome into my relationships today.  I give you my pain and my sorrow. I receive from you your peace and gladness.  May I walk in you today. May I treat my wife and children as you would have me treat them.  Help me to love them as you love them; thank-you for the gift that they are in my life.  Amen” 

Commitment to a bigger way – gentleness, vulnerability

Walking each day with the Lord grows our awareness.  We begin to understand things that we never thought of before.  We realize that we don’t know everything like we once thought we did. And we see that we have made mistakes. 

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  James 5:16 ESV

These new insights can make us feel vulnerable and unsafe. “What if others reject me?” we may ask. 

Before we thought that powerful was being scary and mean.  Now we begin to see that the most powerful people are those who are gentle and kind.  We realize that to influence and to grow others, that we must have bigger thinking and understanding.  We begin to see that we can have a good impact in this world. 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  John 15:12-14 ESV

Loose off Guilt by the Power of Jesus Christ

But it is hard to take on new ways when we are burdened by the guilt of the old ways.  The good news is that Jesus Christ died to carry your guilt.  He became the scapegoat that takes away the sins of the world.  No longer do we look at each other, nor ourselves with wrath and hatred and contempt. 

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10 ESV

We therefore give our guilt to God, 

“God I see this day all the wrongs that I have done.  The guilt of these things are too much for me. I am tired and worn down by my guilt.  Today I renounce this guilt in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and I put all guilt at the foot of the cross.  I declare my guilt covered in the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ, washed away.  I simply stand as a new creation in Christ and I receive your forgiveness God. Thank-You.” 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV

And as we do this we are told that Jesus comes to us and eats with us.  He initiates forgiveness and restoration and peace to community and family. 

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

Take on His Compassion and Sacrificial Service

Once we have given our guilt to God and felt the release of His Spirit over our lives we can enter into compassion and sacrificial service.  Where before we condemned others for our bad things, we now release others to be as God created them to be.  Then we find ourselves released to love and serve them. 

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2 ESV

We realize that we are all sinners.  We all make mistakes.  The difficulties of this world have impacted all of us.  We are no better or less than anyone else.  Because of this we find new compassion flowing over us and we are now able to be compassionate to others. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

Our eyes and understanding are opened to the good that others are trying to do.  We see people with grace and understanding and this includes our wife and children.  We begin to treat them better too. 

All of this is possible because we remain in Jesus Christ, turned toward Him each day. 

“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”  John 15:4 ESV

Jesus Models Regard for Women

When Jesus was on earth he modelled a very different kind of respect and regard for women.  Traditionally all over the world and all through time women have been treated very badly. It is as though Satan has a particular hatred for women.  But Christ came to show a different way. 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 ESV

  • Jesus’ own ministry was supported through partnership with women.  Luke 8:1-3
  • He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery.   John 8:1-11
  • He took the time and risk to speak to the Samaritan woman.   John 4:5-42
  • He visited and taught women, most particularly Mary whom he commended for her heart to learn from him.   Luke 10:38-42
  • A woman anointed Jesus (Jesus came under her authority to anoint him).   Mark 14:3-9
  • After he was raised from the dead he showed himself first to the women.  John 20:1-18

His was a special relationship with women, one of full regard and respect and love for them. Jesus counteracted the culture of his day, and of ours, where women are ill treated, abused, and considered a throw-away commodity. Consider this, 

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  1 Peter 3:7 ESV

There are four vital principles for husbands in this one verse:

1. Live with your wife in an understanding way

2. Show honour to her as a weaker vessel

3. Know that women are heirs also to grace and the kingdom of God

4. Do this so your prayers will be answered

Principle one and two is a practical suggestion based on the physical ability of women.  We know today that physically women are weaker than men; men have three layers of muscle while women have two layers of muscle.  From a purely physical stand point women simply are not as strong as men. 

Because of this Peter is admonishing men to recognize this and to relate differently with their wives, to live in understanding of them. 

Where two men might ‘fight it out’ we are told in the Bible that this is not the way between men and women.  To beat a woman is to overwhelm her with violence both to her body and her heart. 

Do not beat your wife.  To do so is to dishonour her and it is a dishonour of God who made her; she is equal to you, treat her as such.  Show her honour and regard and love. 

“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.  He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.” Titus 1:7 ESV

God feels so strongly about this that we are told that a man’s prayers will be hindered to the same degree that he dishonours and ill-treats his wife. (1 Peter 3:7 as above)

We find similar admonition towards care for wives in Malachi, 

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts.  So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”  Malachi 2:16 ESV

In many cultures around the world women are treated as disposable commodities.  They are cast off at the least little thing and regarded as interchangeable and considered to be made only for man’s pleasure and convenience.  We know this to be false for every single person, man, woman, child is made in the image of God. 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:27 ESV

God is saying to not treat your wife as less than yourself.  God declares her equal before Him.  To cast her off, to beat her, to dishonour her, is to curse your self with layers of violence.  By dishonouring her you dishonour yourself.  Men, rather, are to serve their wives as Christ served the church. 

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”  Ephesians 5:25 ESV

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”  Ephesians 5:28 ESV

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”  Colossians 3:19 ESV

Men head of the household – leaders take 100% responsibility

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.”  Ephesians 5:23 ESV

We know today that to be the head of something is to take 100% responsibility.  The one in leadership is entrusted with the care and outcome of that thing and this is in regard to business, organizations, churches, and relationships of all sorts including marriage.  You are responsible. 

We also flip this around and assert that the one taking 100% responsibility is the one leading; for authority and responsibility go hand in hand.  To have authority is to have responsibility.  To have responsibility is to have authority. 

Yet, not authority to lord it over, to belittle, to put down, to curse, this type of authority is that of Satan.  The authority of Jesus Christ, and of all those who follow him, is that of lifting up, of honouring, of encouraging and bringing blessing where there has been cursing. 

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11 ESV

Quite simply we can tell the quality of a man by the look in his wife’s eyes.  A woman well cared for shines.  A woman despised carries grief and sorrow and it shows on her face and in her posture. 

If your wife is your crown we ask, “how shiny is your crown men?” How bright eyed and lovely is your wife.  A woman’s beauty comes from deep inside her soul.  This beauty is released as she is regarded, respected, with genuine care and concern. 

As leader and head of his wife a man will stand before God one day and answer for what he has done to her.  Does she reflect beauty and confidence or is she sad and despondent? 

Like all actions in leadership this is a place that refuses to cast blame and refuses to make excuses.  Rather men of leadership quality seek answers and solve problems, remembering the grace of our Lord.  They remain in Christ as we spoke of earlier.  Most of all they lead well and take great care of the hearts that have been entrusted to them. 

You are More Powerful than you Know

You have the power to make your wife shine. Each day ask your wife how she is doing. See if there is anything she might need help with. Thank her for all she does for you and for your household.  Bless her for being the mother of your children. 

Touch her in non-sexual ways, with simple touch let her know that you see her as a human being and valuable to God.  Tell her how much you appreciate her.  Thank the Lord for her daily. 

Be a safe person for your wife.  Do not make her responsible for your fears, your insecurities, your anger, and everything that has gone wrong in your life.  These things, and we all have these, are to be taken before the Lord on a daily basis.  Find your center in the Lord and become a blessing to your wife and children. 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Look into her eyes and acknowledge her. Listen to her.  Take time to just sit alongside her for a time each day.  You do not have to fix everything.  Simply assure her that you are for her and not against her.  She will begin to shine. 

God has made women to pour out to all those around her.  Women are wired to be generous and to give their lives away.  Who is pouring into her?  Who is filling her up so that she can continue in this life-giving manner given her?  You, her husband, are to be the one pouring into her. 

Just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her, so too are men to be sacrificially giving their lives to their wives.  What and how might you encourage and strengthen and gladden your wife’s heart?  Serve her.  Help her.  Offer her your strength so that her strength may not wither away. 

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 ESV

Stand before God, well done!

One day we will all stand before God and we would like to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”  As husband and head of your wife and home, as the one taking on 100% responsibility this is both an awesome and terrifying opportunity. 

The first thing to do is found in Proverbs, 

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3 ESV

The second thing to do is to receive from your wife.  She has been uniquely wired to help you be widely successful. God has given her special gifting to help you.  Listen to her.  She has wisdom, insights, and understanding that you do not have. 

It is a foolish man who will not receive (from his wife) all that she has to give him.

“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Ephesians 5:21 ESV

Submission is in many ways about receiving.  Submission is about coming under the unique gifting of each other for mutual benefit and blessing. 

Receive from your wife and you will be more successful than if you try to do life on your own.  It is the wise man that walks in understanding with his wife, creating for her safety and security that she might share her heart, her insights, her wisdom. 

For when a man listens to his wife in this way he becomes wiser too.  And he benefits from this gift given him called a wife. 

The quality of a community, a church, a home can be determined by how the women and children are treated.  Be a quality man, be part of a quality church, lead a quality home that treats women well. Bless them and do not curse them. Give to them, serve them, help them. 

How might your wife be best served today?  Ask the Lord and ask her. She will tell you.  The Lord will direct you. 

“Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.”  Psalm 25:12-13 ESV

Whatever good you think of doing for her do it!  Each and every day do the thing that comes to mind that will help and care for her.  In this way you will find God’s particular favour coming into your life and home. 

For God has entrusted your wife and children to you as most precious gifts.  She does not belong to you.  Your children do not belong to you.  They are created in the image of the most high God and belong to Him.  Treat them well for they are Gods. 

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.  Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”     Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV

A Churches Response to Women  

What We know: 

  • Churches that release women into full ministry thrive and are favoured by God
  • No person, including women, are destined to abuse and violence at home

Women marry expecting a safe place, a place to nurture their children, a place where their hearts find a companion through the difficulties. 

When, instead, a woman finds that the man she thought would lift her up, brings her down, her heart is broken.  When this happens, the fabric upon which her strength rests is fractured, the very one who was to enable her to be more than who she is becomes the very one who keeps her less than who she is; simple disregard begins this process, violence finishes it.

The church, likewise, is to be a safe place for women.  The church that tells her to return to her violence does her double harm.  When we refuse to take on injustice and minister to those affected by it we are part of the problem.  We have become the abuser.  We have participated in the sins of others. 

What if, rather than this, a church were to hold a space of safety, of honour, of dignity, for all?  What if a church were to take on the courage to support those in abusive situations?  What if a church were to take on the care for its widows and orphans, including heart widows, in simple and tangible ways? 

This sends two messages, one to men, one to women. 

To the men it sends a clear message that the care of a wife is a sacred task, thus given to men.  The environments in which their children will be raised are determined by their care. 

The light and delight in a woman’s countenance gives evidence to the kind of man that he is.  The settledness of the children gives testimony to the manner of this man. 

Studies have shown that children respond to the stress level of their mothers.  An unsettled mother, caught by stress and difficulty, makes for unsettled children. 

Unsettled children, who are themselves now stressed, cannot easily learn, are distracted by emotional triggers of danger, and are generally unable to grow into the full person they are created to be. 

It is in the best interest of the Father to care for his wife.  To create safety, to ensure opportunity to grow and become all she was meant to be. This makes for a happy wife, and a happy wife makes for a happy life. 

This in turn cares for the children, creating for them a safety in growth and maturity.  Attachment is easy and learning comes naturally.  The child grows into an emergent adult, ready and capable of taking on his/her own agency and going after God’s plan for them. 

This is the message to the Men.  The message to women is one of value and worth. 

She is valuable.  She is precious.  She is special. 

We, God and the church, will defend her.  We will stand up for her.  We will not allow harm to come to her.  We will hold out the best for her.  We will nurture her. 

She is a gift from God.  She requires special care and consideration. 

A church that upholds this space for women sets a precedent.  They declare value and worth applied to women.  Gone is the thinking that she is worth only what she can produce.  Gone is the belief that she must only serve her husband, rather the wise man, the wise church, understands that her natural bent is to serve. 

A woman is wired to give her life away.  She daily gives her life away to her children, and to her husband she will do the same, until sorrow and a broken heart leave her with nothing to give.

Because she pours her life out for others, we must ask, who is pouring into her life?  Who is standing by her to ensure that she is able to continue giving as she so desires?  This is to be her man.  A wise man pours into his wife, so that she can continue in the joy of pouring out to her children, to others and to him. 

A wise church upholds this belief in practice.  We must always ask what message are we really giving?  Are our choices and actions supporting women or are we taking them down? 

As we stand tall for the value and worth of women, we also stand for the value and worth of men.  Men need not be consumed by their anger.  Men are given the task of caring for their wives hearts, in this they also grow and learn and find their own capacity expanded. 

Men are not beasts only to be obeyed.  They are not taskmasters that cannot see past their own need. No, rather, men are to be servants to their women, as Christ became a servant to the church.  This is their highest nature.  To attain to anything less leaves the man less.  It is easy to rage and to demand and to have one’s way.  But this is closer to the behaviour of little children rather than grown men. 

The task of taking on a wife grows a man up.  There is nothing so challenging than holding back one’s strength when frustrated, of operating out of gentleness and respect when angry, but this is the higher path to which men are called. 

Holding out honour for women demands that men rise up to the full stature that he is meant to attain. To give his life away for the health and well being of his wife is godliness of great measure. 

A church that holds these things true: 

• Women have great worth and honour

• Men are called to give honour  and to serve women

• Honour and then honour will come back to you

Becomes a kind of church where the spirit of the living God is honoured and released into full measure. It is a church that stands against the ways of the world. For the world says, 

• Keep women low, deny them adulthood, deny them their own agency

• To be big you must command over and prove your bigness

• Demand to be served

• Be violent when you don’t get your way

• Use your own best judgment in these things

Christ came to bring revolution to the way we are used to things being.  The weakened nature of women is violated and exposed by the world.  Christ came to cover over and to build up women.  He defended women, and received from women the gifts they had to bring to the table.  Women were important in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth and they must become important to us as well. 

Chapter 23: Women

Chapter 23: Women

It is pressing upon me to today take a look at what the Bible says about women.  There is much assumed and categorized when it comes to women.  Much that is not in line with the heart of God, and while there is not time or space to look at everything we might discuss about women, we will look at a just a couple of thoughts today.

The Bible begins with the creation of the world we see that creation begins with wide swaths. (footnote below) Like a giant brush painting a large picture, a grand work of art, the first strokes lay out the background and the vistas of creation, light and dark, land and sea and sky.

Creation continues with God filling in the details.  Plants and trees, animals and birds, fish and creatures of the sea, are added.  Then comes mankind.  A stunning representation of God himself. Mirroring both male and female God makes mankind.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 ESV

With mankind we find the finesse and attention to detail a wonderful thing to behold. 

Breathed through with the breath of God mankind carries a spirit that is more complex and specialized than any other creature on earth.

And with one final sweep of creative energy, the soaring finale to creation, woman arrives on the scene.  She is the glory added right at the end. Like a shining pinnacle of a grand mountain, woman adds the finishing touches to creation.  Simply by who she is, woman reflects the glory of God in spectacular wonder.

Women are born and bred to carry the glory of God; to reflect God’s stunning beauty. 

Women give testimony of the majesty of our creator.

But Satan was the original one who was most beautiful, something he lost, something that woman gained.

Ever since Satan has hated SHE.

And ever since there has been unprecedented attacks and confounding over women for centuries upon centuries.  Over no other people group have the oppressions been so profound and long-lasting.

And the Bible has a few things to say about this.  We read first of all in Galatians that there is no male or female in the body of Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 ESV

Paul had written here a short list of all the ways we discriminate as human beings.  At the time of this writing a common way to discriminate was to hate Jews if one was Greek, and to hate Greeks if one was a Jew.  Then there was the discrimination around those who are slaves or those who are free, and that we still have to this day in many places, then, into the conversation another discrimination: that of being male or female.

It is no secret that world over, that still today, male babies are considered the better of the species, and that men are superior to women.  Even today there are babies aborted because they are female. Even today there are new-born baby girls killed simply because they are female.  Even today, we have much prejudice and discrimination in the world over women, simply because they are female.

Yet, “In Christ Jesus there is no male or female, we are all one”

What difference does this verse make to you?

How might this change the way we do life in our families and work places?

In Peter we find this,

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 ESV

This verse has been misapplied time and again.  We miss that the ‘weakness’ of women as described here is about the body (the vessel).  It is a woman’s body that is weaker than a man’s body.  Having only two layers of muscle where men have three layers of muscle, a woman’s body is literally not as physically strong as a man’s body.

And therefore Peter gives a few explicit directions.

1. ‘Live with your wives in an understanding way.’ In other words, get it that your wife is not as physically strong as you are.  She cannot do as much hard labor as your capability.

In terms of how this might play out in life there are numerous applications depending on culture and circumstances of life.  Yet regardless of each scenario, it sounds to me that Peter is saying to men, “Serve your wife.  Make life a little easier for her, knowing that she is not as physically capable of hard work as you are.”

Peter is also making a case here for being gentle with women.  Where two men might literally wrestle or physically fight over a disagreement, Peter is saying to understand that because of the weaker nature of a woman’s body, she should never be physically hit or fought with.  She is not on-par with a man in this way, she is the physically weaker vessel, and therefore physical violence is not the way to act with her.

Violence has no place in a marriage, if for no other reason than the woman is not as physically strong.  Violence is an injustice to women.

2.  ‘Showing honour’ The definition of honour is, “To regard or treat with honour, esteem, or respect; to revere; to treat with deference and submission.”

I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world, but in North America men show honour to women in a number of ways, things like holding open doors for women, giving women the best places to sit, carrying the heavy things so that women are spared the weight and strain on their bodies.

Within individual cultures, it comes down to a man simply asking the Holy Spirit for direction, “How might I honour my wife today?”

3.  This is all very important so that, “Your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 

Peter is making a pretty strong case for being understanding and honouring one’s wife, declaring even that if a man does not honour his wife his prayers will go unanswered. 

That is pretty strong language, and pretty profound consequences.

We all need our prayers answered.  Simple as that.

Prayer

“God we come before you today simply requesting your mercy.  All of us (women included) have been part of the enemies attack over women.  We have abused and discredited a most important part of your creation.  We have taken for granted the beauty that you have given us in women. We have heaped piles of responsibility and hardship on women.  God have mercy on us.

Please teach us to honour women.  Help us to deeply love and care for the women you have placed in our lives. May we be conduits of your love and respect and honour to women.  Thank-you for the women in my life; my Mom, my Sisters, my Aunts and my Wife.”

Application

In this month’s course focus we have been working at restoring and making right our relationships.  Today’s study begins to bring all the pieces together. 

It is important that each of us discern our involvement in keeping women in a lowered position. It is not just the men who have done this.  World-wide women participate in the mind-sets and abuses against women.  Therefore, each one of us must ask the Lord to reveal to us how we might be part of the solution towards and for women, and not part of the problem. 

Specifically, we bring what we have learned about practical confession and repentance (from the first chapter – forgiveness), we bring what we have learned about our thoughts unto good deeds (from the second chapter – compassion), and we look at our trust level with the women in our lives (from the third chapter – service), do women trust us? 

1.  As we learned in the application portion of the Forgiveness chapter, in regards to women it is very necessary to fulfill the natural requirements of justice. 

Especially here, in regards to women, there are things we have done that need to be spoken out loud and that must be confessed, both to God and to women we have offended and harmed.  

2.  Second, these offences require that we do what we can to make them right.

Coupled with this we bring forward what we learned about the thoughts we have unto good deeds towards women in general and towards the specific women in our lives.  What are the thoughts we have that are compelling us to do good to the women around us, and are we following through on these thoughts? 

3.  Finally, and most important of all, we discern if we are a trusted individual for women.  Trust is the bedrock of all relationships and this shows up nowhere else as clearly as in our relationships with women.  Do women trust you?  Does your wife trust you?  Does your daughter trust you? 

If not, then you have some serious work to attend to.  The tenor and tone of your relationships reveal the kind of person that you are.  You may know the word of God and you may know how to make church happen, but if you are not loving the women that God has placed in your care then you are defaulting on a great trust that God has given you. (footnote #2 below) 

1.  So, for this application, revisit Healing Actions as taught in the Forgiveness Application and work through that process in regards to the different women and girls in your life. 

2.  Then, we consider the thoughts and compelling unto good deeds for the women in our lives.  What have you not done that God was compelling you to do?  Make a list of the things you have not followed through on, in regards to your wife, your mother, your daughters, etc. 

Take this list and begin to work at doing these things.  Make this your top priority over the next couple of weeks.  Complete these compelling thoughts that are directing you to good deeds for the women you know. 

3.  Finally, go back to the Compassion Application regarding Trust, and with great courage ask yourself and the Lord some really hard questions – do the women in your life trust you, and if not, why? 

Ask the Lord how you might begin to rebuild any trust issues that have been broken.  Most of all, do not blame the women for your inability to be a trusting individual.  Rather, take responsibility for your actions and for the way you have been doing life and relationships.  From this point on you can begin to make the changes you need to make and life can become better. 

NOTE:  These things will take time.  You must be ready to put in a lot of effort and to go the long haul to rebuild trust and to make right what has become wrong.  But it is well worth it, and as you are faithful in this the Lord will begin to inhabit your life and prayers and ministry like never before. 

God is all about relationship and so we must also be all about relationship. 

Summary – women

Both male and female represent God.  Genesis 1:27

In the Kingdom of God gender does not matter.  Galatians 3:28

Men, live gently with your woman.  1 Peter 3:7 

Be humble with your wife and make things right with her.  Malachi 2:13-14

Footnotes: 

footnote #1 – as written in Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, 2005, 2010, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN

footnote #2 – Women are made to be reflectors. Like a mirror they reflect the kind of care they receive, the consideration that come to them, the respect give to them, how much they are loved, and more. We can tell the quality of her man by the light, her countenance, and the way she carries herself. 

A woman who is well loved and regarded walks in a strong beautiful way. A woman who is beaten down, disrespected and ill-used also reveals this in her manner, in the way she carries herself and the countenance of her face. She is the mirror that reveals the true character of the men around her. 

Men, you have great power to impact your wife. If you treat her well, if you regard her well, if you respect her, if you ask her how her day is going, if you serve her by helping her when she is overwhelmed or exhausted, if you look her in the eyes each day and tell her you love her, if you give her non-sexual touch that affirms your care for her, she will shine. 

 

Chapter 22: Servants

Chapter 22: Servants

About 700 years before Jesus was born, an amazing prophet named Isaiah lived in Israel.  God gave Isaiah many prophecies about Jesus.

One of the titles for Jesus appears in Isaiah 42.  God said, “Look at my servant – He is my chosen one.” (42:1)

So Jesus is the “chosen servant”. We know Jesus is God, yet the Father chose him to be a servant. What can be more amazing? If God is willing to serve so should we.

It is an honour to be a servant alongside Jesus.  Just as a farmer uses a yoke to harness two oxen or buffalo together, Jesus invites us to get into a yoke with him.  When you have accepted Jesus, he does not ask you to serve alone.

Hear Jesus’ words on the next page: 

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden you share with me is light.  Matthew 11:29-30 NLT

Isaiah learns more about Jesus. “I have put my Spirit upon him,” God says. 

Isaiah 42:1b NLT

The Holy Spirit walking with Jesus strengthened his desire to serve.  When we accept Jesus, we naturally find we have a desire to serve.

We ask, “How do I find where I should serve?”  We are all surrounded with needs.  Many we cannot afford but there are many that cost us nothing other than time.

Let’s just open our eyes and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.  As Christians, serving others brings us great joy and satisfaction.  This pleases God which only adds to our joy.

In God’s kingdom, the way up is down.  If you are embarrassed to serve in some simple way, God will not lift you up to do greater tasks.

So imitate Jesus: he did the job of a slave by washing his disciples feet.  He then said,

“You call me Teacher and Lord.  You are right, for that is what I am.  If I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.” John 13:13-14 ESV

We have made feet washing into a ceremony, but Jesus had in mind a lot more than that.

Jesus simply did the normal job of a slave: to wash the guests feet when they came in from the dirty village streets.  In the upper room with his disciples there were no slaves.

Jesus took on the task of washing the disciples.  He modelled that there is not any of us too high or mighty to do the ordinary tasks that are a part of every day.  Jesus Christ led the way, showing us how to serve.

How might we serve today?  Who might we serve today? 

In the words of the writer of Hebrews,  “Now may the God of peace… may He equip you with all you need for doing his will.  May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him.  All glory to him forever and ever!  Amen.”  Hebrews 13:20a -21 NLT

Application

Those who study and teach leadership have found that leading is much more than having a role and a title or position, true leadership is the influence created when we serve others and build others into the people they can become. 

In fact, we find this guideline for the work of leadership: 

    • 40% of the job is building TRUST  
    • 30% is paying attention to the NEEDS of the people
    • 20% is the IDEAS 
    • 10%  is next STEPS

This means that 70% of the job of leaders is building relationships and attending to people.  Then, and only then, are our ideas and the steps required to implement those ideas able to be accomplished. 

The people we work with and those we serve must know that we are FOR them.  If we are not for others, then people will sense that we are using them for our own purposes and they will reject our leadership, this is only normal and right. 

Yet often we take the easy way out.  We take on a position and then order people to do this or that, we come into a role and then begin telling people how to live their lives. If the people don’t know any better, this will work for a time.  Yet it will ultimately fail. 

For, when we do not pay attention to the very people we are to be in service to, we destroy any trust that might be there and without trust we are not leaders.  All leadership is built on trust. This cannot be stated too strongly. 

As leaders we are stewards of people.  We are called to build them. 

When Jesus said to build his church, he was not talking about a building or programs, he was talking about building people.  And this requires that we hold our stewardship responsibility with great care and respect.  We are called to serve, to lift up, to encourage, to build the people entrusted to us. 

This week pay attention to the people in your life and ministry and discern if they trust you or not.  For each person, your spouse, your children, your colleagues, your congregation, determine their level of trust in you.

For instance, we can use a continuum to see this clearly, with a low 1. of trust on the left hand side, and a high 10. of trust on the right hand side (on the next page):

Use a simple line to show a continuum of trust, from a low 1. on the left side, to a high 10. on the right side, mark on the line each person that you are in relationship with.  Begin with your family and those closest to you, then consider each person in your congregation, next think about those in your community and neighbourhood. 

  • Where is each person in relationship to you in terms of trust? 
  • Do people trust you? 

This is a critical survey to take.  It is important to know if others trust you or not.  For if there is a deficit in trust then all your other plans and the things you undertake will not bear fruit.  Trust is the basis for all things and this is particularly true of ministry.  You cannot afford to ignore the levels of trust between yourself and others.  

trust no trust picture

1.  For this application, simply take the time to think through all of your relationships and to mark for yourself where you think each is in terms of trust; use a continuum to plot each relationship on the line between a low 1. and a high 10. 

2.  If your trust level with people is very low, then go to the Lord in prayer and confess that you have been violating people’s trust.  Take responsibility for this and ask the Lord to help you rebuild trust. 

NOTE:  We will talk more about building trust, and I will give practical guidelines for doing this as this course progresses.  But first, for today, just take a good look at your relationships and see where you truly stand in your family, in ministry, and in your community. 

Summary – servants

We serve out of the strength of being yoked with Christ.  Matthew 11:29-30

‘How can we serve others?’ is a question to ask at all times.  John 13: 13-14

God will strengthen us as we serve others.  Hebrews 13:20-21

Chapter 21: Compassion

Chapter 21: Compassion

God has been bringing Compassion to mind.  I’ve not always been a compassionate person myself.  Years back I was rather intolerant of people.  Yet the Lord is faithful to do a work in our hearts and minds.  It is the Lord’s grace that teaches us compassion.  Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this.

For starters, the Bible is pretty clear that the only way we come to know God is because of his compassion extended to us.  We find a picture of the Father’s compassionate heart in Hosea,

“I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws and I bent down to them and fed them.” 

Hosea 11:4 ESV

This is a beautiful picture of compassion that ‘bends down’ to serve and to free.

We are only a changed people because of compassion.  There are other ways to motivate and try to change people, such as criticizing, condemning, and manipulating, but these do not create lasting change.  Only the compassion of God creates a work in our lives that cannot be undone.

Compassion is the heart of God and compassion is the hard emotional work where miracles happen. (footnote #1 below)

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  Matthew 14:14  ESV

Compassion steps us into another person’s experience and from their point of view we gain bigger perspective.  When we do not run from the hurts of others, we are exhibiting compassion. (footnote #2 below) 

The thing is, we can know all sorts of things, be wise in all measure, have education and knowledge in great ways, but without compassion all of this is a waste.  It means nothing, if we cannot connect with others hearts and lives.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

Compassion is hard because it requires that we set our own needs aside.  It is the language of the heart, not the mind.  It is a learned skill to see others with God’s heart and not through our own code of right and wrong.

But the Bible is pretty clear that compassion covers over a multitude of sins.  Compassion understands that we are human and that we have sin. Every one of us. (footnote #3) 

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offences.”  Proverbs 10:12 ESV

Compassion demands that we leave our judgements and condemnations behind. 

Compassion has no room for such.

In the professional development world we talk about the difference between force and power and how force is used by those who have no real power for force demands and threatens others to our way of right and wrong, good and bad.

Force may feel good for a short period of time, but it does not create long-lasting results. In fact, force does just the opposite.  Force undermines and destroys.  It destroys trust, it destroys affections, and it destroys influence and relationships.

Force is the opposite of compassion and we get a good picture of the effects of this lack of compassion and the use of force in Ezekiel 34.

“… you do not feed the sheep.  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.”  Ezekiel 34:3-5 ESV

Real power, on the other hand, is like a whisper.  Have you ever been in a crowd that has been noisy and needed to get someone’s attention?  Have you ever tried yelling but found no response, but then tried a whisper and were able to be heard despite the noise?

Compassion exhibits this kind of power.

In 1 Kings we have a beautiful passage about the Lord as he reveals himself to Elijah:

“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” 1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV

Consider next Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery; a fabulous example of the power of compassion.

The ‘law-keepers’ had found this woman and had brought her to Jesus.  The Jewish law at the time stated that the punishment was to be death by stoning.

We find the story in John 8:

“Early in the morning he came again to the temple.  All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?” 

…. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them,  “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, 

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said,  “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.” 

John 8: 2-11 ESV

Compassion ruled the day.  And compassion brings from each of us our best.  It does not force, it does not demand, and it does not condemn.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Colossians 3:12-13 ESV

Compassion opens our hearts and enables us to see each other and our communities with God’s heart and God’s eyes.

At the same time compassion is a work of our hearts that we cannot manufacture ourselves.  We cannot make our selfish narrow minded hearts expand, only God can do this.

So we ask him for expanded hearts, we ask for compassion to flood through us, and we step into God’s compassion for us.  When we know God’s compassion personally, we can then give it out.

Prayer

“Father God, we come to you today in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We clearly see that we cannot make compassion happen inside of ourselves.  This is a work that only you can do, and we are dependent on your doing this in our lives.  Please bring your compassion into my life.  Help me to see others with eyes of compassion.  Help me to act with compassion.

I welcome your compassion to flood my being, heart, mind, spirit and body.  Thank-you for your compassion.  Thank-you that in compassion you sent your son Jesus Christ to die for my sin and everyone’s sin.  Thank-you for extending to us fellowship of compassion with each other.  I receive you and your compassion this day in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all glory to you Father,  Amen.” 

Application

There is a book called Leadership & Self Deception.  It describes what happens when we refuse to do good for others. 

It is like this:  At the moment when we have a thought of doing something good for another person, we either move forward to do that good thing or we immediately create an excuse along with a judgment as to why we could not do that good thing. 

For instance, I once passed by a homeless person and had the thought of giving this person some money. But I did not move to share any money with the person and immediately into my mind came all the ‘reasons’ why I couldn’t share that money.  My thoughts became, “Well, he would just spend it foolishly, now I am no longer near him, and I don’t think I was to do this.” 

Can you see, in this example, how I pushed aside the thought to do good and instead chose excuse and  judgment?

good thought pic

The Bible actually calls choice #2 sin.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17 ESV

We are called to follow the conscience that the Lord has given us for it is through our conscience that the Holy Spirit speaks and directs and commands; there are things we know to do simply because our hearts compel us to do them.  This is the Holy Spirit at work within us and we best not ignore the compelling of the Lord. 

If we consistently ignore the thoughts we have for doing good to others, we will grow a hard heart and these offences (sins of omission) pile up between ourselves and others.  Unless we confess and repent we then begin to defend and deny our wrong-doing and the wall between us and others (and God) grows bigger and bigger. 

Bottom line: begin to pay attention to your own thoughts and begin to follow through on the good thoughts you have for others. 

Summary – compassion 

Compassion flows from God.  Hosea 11:4, Matthew 14:13-15

Gentleness builds people while harshness tears down.  Colossians 3:12-13

Love for others must come before everything else.  1 Corinthians 13:1

We work to remain in trust with people.  Romans 12:9-13

We do for others as our spirit tells us.  James 4:17 

Footnotes:

Footnote #1 – It seems that miracles are the place where God’s heart intersects with our hearts, where we allow ourselves to be moved by the heart of God and we call out to him, by which God’s heart is then moved by our hearts, which moves our hearts, which moves the Lord’s heart – here in this intersection between God and mankind, miracles happen. 

To allow our heart to be moved is the emotional energy of allowing compassion. In compassion we are moved beyond ourselves for the benefit of another. 

Footnote #2 – It is interesting to realize that every place where the Bible tells us that Jesus had compassion on the people, it was at times of personal weariness where the term compassion seems to indicate a putting aside of Jesus’ self-concern and an extending of himself in a way that offered more to the people than he would have humanly felt he had at that moment. 

I don’t know about you, but I can think of times when I don’t feel that I have anything to give to others, and it is at these times that we are particularly called to extend ourselves in a way that ministers to others, beyond what we feel we can give. I know that at these times, in our weakness, that God takes over and ministers through our sacrifice in a way that we can never do in our own strength. Compassion is a call to go beyond ourselves in the service of others. 

Footnote #3 – In a later part of this course we will learn more about Sulha and this profound spirit of the Lord that we can walk out in relationship with those around us. 

Chapter 20: Forgiveness

Chapter 20: Forgiveness

Today I am writing about God’s forgiveness and how it is a free gift, how we immediately receive it when we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, and how it frees us to get on with living.

It is the most amazing thing to be covered by the Lord Jesus Christ.  To be forgiven and able to have fellowship with God is a profound gift.

Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we are a forgiven people.

Now we know that the wages of sin is death:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 ESV

Jesus Christ, God coming in the form of a man, paid the price of our sin.

We are told that Jesus came born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was both man and God.  And because he was fully God he was without sin.  Because he was fully man he could stand in the gap for man’s sin.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”  Matthew 1:23 ESV

Jesus came to set things right, and that is exactly what he did.

Dying a criminal’s death when he was without sin, we are told that Jesus despised the shame.  He came intent on bringing life where there had been death.  He became the sacrificial lamb that paid for our sins.

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2 ESV

In Exodus we see a beautiful picture of this on the last night of the Israelites sojourn in Egypt. The instructions from God were to kill a lamb and to smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes and when the angel of death came that night it would ‘pass-over’ the homes where this blood was.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it… For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn of the land of Egypt, both man and beast… The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.” Exodus 12: 7, 12a-13a ESV

The blood created a covering, a protection that marked these people as God’s and therefore death passed over.  The Israelites Passover was a sign of things to come in the form of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ died and was raised to life to cover us, to bring us from a life of death to a life of real living.

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9 ESV

And with this came the forgiveness of sins.  Sins are covered over.  God sees us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

He does not see us in our natural state, he sees us in light of what Jesus did for us.  We are made new creatures in Christ and we therefore have communion and fellowship with God.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7 ESV

God offers us opportunity to focus on Him and to forget our sin.

When we accept Jesus Christ as Saviour, the work done to cover our sin by Jesus over 2000 years ago, comes forward through time and covers us now.  We are new creatures in Christ.

The act of Jesus Christ in dying and then rising from the dead works across time.

The payment for sin and the resulting forgiveness was applied back through time and then forward through time.

The writer of Psalms, long before Jesus’ coming, knew of the Lord’s forgiveness:

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  Psalm 130:4 ESV

Daniel proclaimed:

“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him”  Daniel 9:9 ESV

The work of Jesus Christ on the cross is not bound by time.  It is a continuous present tense occurrence.

We do not have to work for our forgiveness.  We cannot work for our forgiveness.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with us.  We cannot create it, make it more or less, or manage it.

Forgiveness is a gift.

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything…”  Acts 13:38-39a ESV

We either receive it or we push it away.

Having said that, receiving forgiveness can be hard work – because it is not about us.

In order to receive forgiveness we must put ourselves aside.

We must lay down our pride and accept that there is something that we cannot manage or make happen for ourselves.

Forgiveness is based on the character and work of God and God alone.  Forgiveness is not based on us.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

Because forgiveness is based on the character of God and not us, it is always present.  It is always there.  It is always available and in fact we are covered in forgiveness immediately upon accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour.

The moment we say, “Jesus I am a sinner, and I need your life, I accept your gift of life” We are forgiven.

We barely need ask for forgiveness, rather we simply receive it for God has already provided it. We must allow forgiveness to soak into our entire being; into our hearts and minds and spirits and bodies even.

Allowing and inviting God’s forgiveness to permeate our lives is our only work.  Although it is not really work, it is almost more an absence of work, because the work has been done by Jesus Christ.

We set aside our pride (the part of us that likes to take care of business), and we let this business be taken care of by the Lord.

“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14 ESV

He has done this work.  We merely rest in it.  We say ‘Thank-you’ Father for forgiveness.

It is a work that was assigned to Jesus Christ, a work that He carried out to completion, and a work that we simply accept and receive as done on our behalf.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 ESV

And then we let that work of forgiveness and covering and life soak into our beings.  We receive it as the gift that it is.  We set aside our pride that screams, ‘I am not worthy’ and we simply say ‘thank-you’.

We get on with living.

We get on with serving.

We get on with loving the Lord our God.

Prayer

“Father thank-you so much for making a way for us. For saving us from our sins, for covering us with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I receive this covering today and declare myself covered in the blood of the lamb.

I receive your forgiveness deep into every part of my being. May it soak into my very bones, into my emotions, my mind and the way I go about life. May I be marked by you and your grace and love and forgiveness. We bless you today God, in the name and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Summary – forgiveness

God has forgiven us.  Psalm 130:4

We receive his forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7

We forgive others. 1 John 1:7

We put down our self effort. Ephesians 2:8-9

We walk in his light. (trusting Jesus for forgiveness, justification, and sanctification). 1 John 1:7

We fulfill the natural requirements of justice.  Leviticus 19:11, Romans 13:7

We act out the ‘rightness’ of God.  Amos 5:24, Leviticus 19:15Application

In this quest to fully receive forgiveness into our hearts it is important to note that it is also often necessary to fulfill the natural requirements of justice. 

What I mean is this.  First, as we bring our sins to God there are things we have done that need to be spoken out loud and that must be confessed.  Second, some sins require that we do what we can to make them right, in some cases, that we pay the penalty required by human law for that sin. 

Through-out this course you have become familiar with the healing prayer model that the Lord has taught for the freedom of hearts and minds.  We can take this same model and use it for the healing of our consciences when we are burdened with sins that seem too great to be free from.  As I said, some of our sins require that justice takes place, and this healing model can guide us in this. 

Healing Model For Justice

NOTE: Healing Model for Justice is based on principles and process from freedom session.org but uses our own Healing Prayer Model as found here.

1. CONFESSION: we speak out our specific sin 

Our healing has been made to happen within the body of Christ. It is why it says in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.”

We have committed sins that weigh heavy on us. And forgiveness can only permeate our lives when we have spoken these sins out to a trustworthy and compassionate person within the body of Christ. 

Speaking out our sin is very hard to do but in the process of speaking out our sin we enter into a greater level of honesty and from this place we can enter into a grief and sorrow for our sins that is both healing and restorative. 

We do not want to remain in layers of cover-up about what we have done and the have we have caused to others. We want to bring it all out and into the open. Confession does this. 

2. REPENTANCE: we recognize the hurt we have caused and we grieve

As we speak out our sins we will come into Godly grief and repentance and we will be saved from worldly grief which the Bible describes as deadly. 

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

It is important that we come into true sorrow and repentance for the sins we have committed. Repentance is something we avoid and yet it is the key to our freedom. 

3. RENOUNCING: we go to the person we have hurt and we confess 

In the healing prayer model renouncing is where we figuratively stand up and declare alongside the Lord Jesus Christ that we want nothing more to do with our heart sin. As we work with sins that require justice we want to take renouncing into action. Rather than just our words that say, ‘No more!’ we want to declare ‘No more!’ in action. 

The first way that we act out our renouncing is to confess our sin to the person that we have sinned against. It is to own up to what we did wrong, to come in humility and repentance to the very person we have most harmed. It is to say, “I did this to you.” 

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19-20a ESV

4. BREAKING: we take action to make right what we did wrong

The second way to act out our renouncing through action is to take physical responsibility for the sin. It is to bring recompense to the one we have hurt and harmed. When we take the responsibility to try and set right what we did that was wrong, we are breaking that sins hold upon us and upon the other person. 

By our actions, by our humility required in the action, we declare a full stop to the impact of that sin. We break its hold on us. Action takes us beyond words and enters us into the restoration of our lives. 

“For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20a ESV

5. CANCELLING: forgiving ourselves and other involved individuals

Cancelling is about forgiving ourselves. It is important that we agree with the forgiveness of the Lord over our own lives. Cancelling may also be about forgiving anyone we believe is complicit in our sin, and it may even include giving up our bitterness against God. 

KEY: We take action to express forgiveness. You  might make a meal that you present to yourself or symbolically to God, to indicate that you are letting the past be the past and that you are ready to move into the future; through this meal of reconciliation you extend forgiveness to yourself, and as you eat this meal you extend forgiveness to God. 

“Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgive, and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV

6. CLAIMING: we take God’s word into our lives

In order to remain free it is important to allow the word of God to penetrate our hearts and minds. As the Psalmist declared, 

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you… I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:11,15-16

The first thing to do (if you do not have a Bible) is to get yourself a Bible. Pray about this, express your need to the Lord, and then make a plan for how you might put money aside, or how you might plant a little more maize, until you have enough to get a Bible. Make the Bible a priority in your life. 

Then, once you have a Bible take a little bit of time to read each and every day. It is best if you read only a little bit each time. If we read too much at one time we cannot meditate on it for we have too much information in our heads at one time; just read a little bit each day. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and then continue to think about what you have been reading. Day by day, bit by bit, you will find yourself transformed by the word of God. 

7. SEALING: we serve Jesus by helping others 

We take action to encourage and to be there for others who are also bringing their sins and regrets to the Lord. If we are gifted with kindness and grace then we may be the one who listens to the confessions of others.

Or we may minister to those in our communities by helping widows in their gardens, by taking hot meals to widows, by making clothes for children, by doing the laundry of an elderly person who cannot manage this on their own – there are multiple ways that we can give back to our communities and can serve Jesus as we help others. 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, ‘my brothers’, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-36,40

As we are freed by the Lord Jesus we are freed to be the kingdom of God in this world; instead of just talking about God’s ways, we live God’s ways. 

healing model for justice picture

healing model for justice picture 2

Congratulations. 

You have completed a very difficult exercise.  But it is the beginning of a heart skill that will enable you to be free of anything that is weighing you down. 

The ability to come into confession and repentance, not only before God, but before our fellow mankind, is an incredibly valuable skill. 

The perseverance and intention to set things right (to the best of our ability) is another great life habit that will enter you into the pleasure and presence of God in a new way. 

We hold these things that we have done wrong, the regrets of our earlier days, between ourselves and God and between ourselves and other people.  But when we take the responsibility for what has gone wrong and for the wrong that we have done we participate in taking these things down, and we find new fellowship and new peace with both God and others. 

Continue to use this tool for everything that the Holy Spirit brings to your attention.  Bit by bit come in this kind of transparency before God and others and you will find your life freed and whole in the Lord. 

Freedom in God is a process. It is not a one-prayer kind of thing.  And it is not about God just healing us either.  We must do our part in coming before him with our open, whole, hearts.  We bring to God all the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives and then he has the freedom to heal and to restore our lives.