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. 

BIRTHDAY TIME!

Hello Today! You may not know but Thursday, October 25th is our Director’s Birthday. We don’t really need to tell how old Cyndy will be. Suffice to say, another year older!

In celebration of this we are sharing one of our current projects and inviting you to financially partner with us in this way.

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Click Here to Head Over to GoFund-ME

In collaboration with another, we are working on a book, a manual of sorts, about RESTORING THE WEAVE, of our lives.

All of us have experienced rips and tears in the fabric of our own lives, certainly in the fabric of our communities.

Over the years as I’ve been teaching wholeheartedness it is as though we’ve been opening great gifts of wisdom and insight about healing and wholeness, for ourselves, for each other, and for our communities and even nations.

This is what this book will teach and convey, via both words and pictures. Restoring the weave, till there are no more tears, is possible as we engage wholeheartedness for ourselves and others.

I am so excited to be working on this at this time. Furthermore, as Capturing Courage International Ministries , we are compelled to trust a vision of giving this book away around the world in the years to come!

So, all this to say, would you join us in this endeavour. It is a big work!

Our costs in the end, will be much beyond $10,000.00, but we are glad to begin with this goal in mind.

Bless you for your partnership with us in this creative offering to a world caught in chaos; RESTORING THE WEAVE, one unto another, for you, for me, for everyone.

There will be much artwork to convey the principles and life-giving ah-ha’s in this work. This image below, as well as the primary image on this page are just two of the images so far.

As we go along we will be sharing more about the process and the journey together in the midst and alongside.

To those who partner with us we will give even more inside scoops on the artwork, the writing, and the stories and insights as it all comes together.

Again, thank you for partnering with us! You Bless us to bits.

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Chapter 19: Peace

Chapter 19: Peace

God has a lot of things to say about peace:

“Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:11 ESV

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9 ESV

“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  James 3:18 ESV

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7 ESV

Our peace comes from God:

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you all.”  2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 ESV

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 ESV 

And He commands us to walk in HIs peace:

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”  1 Peter 3:9-11 ESV

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15 ESV

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Romans 14:19 ESV

Peace is a gauge by which we assess our hearts before and within the Lord.  Peace is not something that we impose on others from without, rather, peace is something that flows from the heart of God, through our hearts as we are surrendered to Him, and then out to others.

Yet the peace of the God pouring through our lives is not something that happens automatically. In our flesh-selves we find ourselves striving with each other, demanding of each other, condemning each other. Chaos and strife are our natural bent.

“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28 ESV

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”  James 3:14-16 ESV

“For you are still of the flesh.  For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” 1 Corinthians 3:3 ESV

As in all things there is a process in becoming men and women of peace.  To be conduits of peace there are a few things that must be accomplished in our own hearts and minds.

1.  First, we come to understand that we do not really know His peace.  We recognize that there is much to learn about the peace of God and we admit our need and confess the lack of peace in our own hearts and minds.  We allow the revelation of the Lord to show us our jealousies and to highlight our contentions and then we confess these things to God.  Bringing our lack of peace out into the light makes a space by which God’s peace can begin to change and inhabit our lives.

“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

2.  Second, we must bring our ego needs to the Lord.  Where we are insecure we must rest in God and what He declares about us.  We do not take our sense of self from our outward lives, but rather we settle into self that is settled in the Lord.  We come to Him and He wraps us in His peace.

“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

In this, we loose off our demanding of others.  The way of peace is the way of walking in forgiveness and understanding.

  • Are we contentious in our spirits? We need the peace of the Lord.
  • Are we unsettled in joy and faith? We need the peace of the Lord.
  • Are we unwilling to set things right with others? We need the peace of the Lord

“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 ESV

Peace is powerful and active.  Sometimes we believe peace is passive and lays down at the first hint of trouble.  But peace is far more than just refusing to engage chaos or give voice to dissension, peace is the heart of our Father God and when our hearts are transformed by his peace, our hearts become a conduit of His peace.

Out of this work of the Lord in our own lives, peace flows out of our person to others around us.  And when we walk in the peace of the Lord the darkness around us must submit to this spirit of peace carried in the love of the Lord.  Peace enters in the kingdom of God just as light illuminates a dark room.

Where there are spirits of chaos and destruction, we ignore the spirits of the enemy and instead we pray peace, “God we declare your peace in this place.” Rather than focussing on evil, we focus on God.  Instead of going after the enemy, we bring God himself.  In this way God’s ways take preeminence – peace does this.

“God, we say yes and amen to your peace over this community.”

“Jesus, we agree with your peace this day over this home.”

“Holy Spirit, bring your peace to our hearts and minds.”

“God, we enter into your peace.”

The enemy cannot stand against peace, for peace is the exact opposite of the nature of the enemy, peace is wholly the nature of God.  Most particularly, our own sin nature loses it’s power when brought into the peace of God.

 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 ESV

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.”  Jeremiah 17:14 ESV

“Creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:19  ESV

Where the enemy seeks to destroy, peace seeks to heal.  Where our hearts wish to condemn, peace forgives.  Where communities are embroiled in dissension, peace brings a balm of the Lord and tensions ease and life increases.

The peace of God changes our lives, transforming our communities.  The peace of the Lord begins in our own hearts and spreads from there.  May we become people of peace.  And as we do this may we enter in the Kingdom of God on earth.

“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.   The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.  Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”  Psalm 147:1-5 ESV (read all of Psalm 147:1-20) 

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,”  Psalm 103:2-4  ESV

Application

I want you to try an experiment:  For one month’s time I want you to stop praying against or mentioning Satan.  Instead, I want you to:

  1. Pray peace
  2. Be the light of Christ 

Here is how you pray peace: 

“God, we lift ourselves, this home, this place, this village (a person even, whatever needs the peace of the Lord) to you.  I declare your peace over them today.  I pour your peace into this place today. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we say, “Peace be upon us.” Amen.” 

Here is how you can be the light of Christ: 

At the end of the book of Matthew we read Jesus last instructions to his disciples, 

“ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the command I have given you.  And be sure of this, I am with you always and even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 NLT 

Some time back I was reading this verse and I noted that Jesus tells us to obey the commands he has given us.  And I had to think, ‘What are the commands that Jesus gave?’ 

So, I went through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and made note of the general instructions that he gave.  Here is what I came up with: 

  1. Know your heart poverty and need for Christ (5:3)
  2. Make sure to mourn when needed (5:4)
  3. Walk in humility (5:5)
  4. Be and do justice for others (5:6)
  5. Be merciful (5:7)
  6. Open your heart for the Lord’s purity (5:18)
  7. Go after peace in all things (5:9)
  8. Don’t concern yourself if you are persecuted (5:10)
  9. Thank God for your persecution (5:11-12)
  10. Be wise as you interact with the world (5:13)
  11. and be a healer and be holiness for those in the world (5:13)
  12. Be light, do not shrink back from influence (5:15)
  13. Do good deeds for others (5:16)
  14. Be aware of the nature of sin (5:17-20)
  15. Refuse to curse others in any form (5:22)
  16. Reconcile with people before coming to church service (5:23-24)
  17. Be serious about sins of the heart (5:27-30)
  18. Take sexual unity seriously, not flippantly (5:31-32)
  19. Do not make vows, just say yes or no (5:33-37)
  20. Be generous without retribution, hatred, being exacting or stingy (5:38-42)
  21. Overcome evil with Sulha, expansive forgiveness (5:43-48) (footnote below)
  22. Don’t make a big deal about your service (6:1-4) 
  23. Pray in secret, with few words, without show (6:5-13)
  24. Forgive everyone (6:14-15)
  25. Fast unto the Lord only (6:16-18)
  26. Do not store up possessions or money on earth (6:19)
  27. Invest in treasures (people) for heaven (6:20)
  28. Take care with what you view (6:22)
  29. Do not make ministry into a business (6:24)
  30. Do not be concerned with your own care and comfort (6:25-34)
  31. Do not be judgmental of others in your spirit (7:1-3)
  32. Attend to your own heart, spirit, and sin (7:4-5)
  33. Be prudent with you share the glory of God (7:6)
  34. Remain in a position of asking and receiving from the Lord (7:7-11)
  35. Be aware of how you treat others (7:12)
  36. Know what is the narrow gate versus the wide gate (7:13-14)
  37. Pay attention to the fruit of people’s lives (7:15-20)
  38. Do the will of God (7:21-23)
  39. Follow these teachings (7:24-27) 

What is interesting of course, is that Jesus did not give any commands about church or crusades, about evangelism or about being pastors or building church buildings.  Rather, he drew our attention to the kind of people we are. 

To bring the light of Christ, to be the light of Christ, we merely live out his teachings. 

I encourage you to keep this list handy.  Refer to it each day.  Let the teachings of Jesus soak deeply into your soul and life.  Focus on him and his ways.  Follow in his foot steps. 

After a time of this, stop and take note of your life.  Have there been changes?  And if so, how has it changed? 

Then, continue on in the strength of the Lord.  Find him as light in your life, then live him out to others. Be blessed in him. 

Summary – peace

God brings us peace.  2 Thessalonians 3:16

We are to walk in the peace of Christ.  Colossians 3:15

We confess our fear and worry.  Isaiah 41:10

We declare peace.  Isaiah 57:19

 

Footnote:  You will learn more about Sulha later in this course. 

Chapter 18: Sabbath

Chapter 18: Sabbath

It is hard taking a day of rest. There is this driving fear that would keep us working, working, working. Bills need to be paid, food needs to be bought; there is just always something that needs to be taken care of.

It is why it is so difficult to understand on a human level God’s rhythm, and command even, to take a weekly sabbath.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 ESV

God, at the beginning of time, set into place a rhythm for our working and our resting.  And while we do not any longer live under the law of the Old Testament, we do want to understand the principle behind this command; we want to know God’s heart and intention for us in this admonition to keep a sabbath.

In it’s simplest understanding a sabbath is a day of rest.  It is one day a week that we dedicate to ceasing from our labours and the things that must always be taken care of.

It is a fasting of sorts and an act of trusting God for our work and our livelihoods; by taking a sabbath we act out our trust in God’s keeping of our lives.  We may be tempted to believe that it is only the wealthy that can afford a day of rest, but in fact as we risk to enter into a day of rest we are then entered into the wealth of God.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV

I remember years ago when I first began keeping one day of rest a week.  It was a fearful thing to do. 

There was always work to be done, many things to be attended to, and yet I came to realize that these things would always be there.  My work would never be done on this earth and I realized that it is faulty thinking to wait until our work is done before we take a day of rest.

Taking a sabbath is in many ways a simple act of obedience to our Lord.  It truly is a way of saying, “I trust you Lord with my days and with my life.” 

Then, as we grab hold of the courage to take a day of rest we welcome into our lives a greater movement of the Lord on our behalf.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5 ESV

Think of it this way.  We can either continue trying to maintain our lives by our own hands and effort, or we can make space for the Lord in the keeping of our lives.  A sabbath helps to make space for the Lord in our lives.

We intentionally step back from our own keeping, we take our hands off our own care so to speak, and in this space, as we take our hands off, God is invited to put his hands into the mix.

Taking a Sabbath makes space for more of God in our lives.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Taking a Sabbath comes out of our hearts of worship and trust in our Lord.

Unfortunately, the ancient church leaders had made the sabbath into a weighty and unholy thing for the people.  They demanded and shamed and made the sabbath harder and harder to keep, with more and more rules and condemnation for any transgressions.

And so when Jesus arrived on the scene he modelled a healthy view of Sabbath keeping.  For instance, we find him,

“On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered.  And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them,“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.” Luke 6:6-10 ESV

He brought us back into balance that the sabbath is a gift to mankind. It is God’s rest for those who are living in his trust.

“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 ESV

And so we must walk balanced in our practice of taking a day of rest.  For those in Christian service, pastors and lay-leaders within the church, Sundays are generally not a day of rest.  Rather, they are days of much preparation, teaching, and leading.  For Pastors and Christian leaders and their wives, it is often therefore important to take another day of the week as your sabbath.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 ESV

If you are married it is as husband and wife you will want to decide together what day is going to be a sabbath for you, and you will also need to discern best how to make it a day of rest for both of you.

It is not okay for a man to announce to his wife that he will be resting on this or that day when she must remain cooking over a hot fire that same day.  Men, you want to honour the Lord and honour your wife by making room and taking up the inconvenience of giving her a day of rest also.

How might you do this?  Think creatively and be generous in your plans towards her.  Perhaps she takes a different day as her sabbath and you take care of the home as she rests with the Lord.  Perhaps you and your family fasts on the day decided as a sabbath, so that no cooking needs to be done.  Or, perhaps you help her to prepare extra food the day before your sabbath and then everyone eats cold food on your day of rest.

Men, I can guarantee you that as you take a sabbath that both honours the Lord, and honours your wife, and teaches your children to do the same, your lives will be blessed and you will experience more of the Lord in all your earthly matters.

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

There is no end of the creativity that can be taken to keep a sabbath day holy unto the Lord.  There is no right or wrong in any of this.  Remember, God has made the sabbath to be a day of rest for his people. 

It is a gift from God, and like all gifts the receivers must simply take the gift gratefully and make good use of it.

We do not make a sabbath into law for others, rather we take it as a day personally for ourselves and our family; we live it out in the spirit of a gift as God intended it to be for us.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God”  Hebrews 4:9 ESV

And finally, we must remember that the Sabbath is not an excuse to neglect people. It is not a day meant to make solid habits of laziness and disregard for responsibility. It is also not a day to make others work harder so that you may take it easy.  The Spirit of a Sabbath is about generosity of time and of entering into the rest of the Lord.

“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” Exodus 20:9-10 ESV

A rest is for everyone.  Facilitate this in your life and the lives of those around you and receive good favour from our Lord.  Taking a Sabbath brings us into the blessing of the Lord as children of God.

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”   Isaiah 58:13-14 ESV

Let’s Review

1.  Sabbath is a healthy rhythm of work and rest for our lives.

2.  A Sabbath is like a fast unto the Lord where we act out our trust in Him.

3.  Taking a Sabbath is an act of obedience whereby we respond to the Lord’s leading.

4.  A weekly habit of taking a Sabbath makes more space for God in our lives.

5.  A Sabbath can be any day of the week on which we choose to rest in the Lord.

6.  As married couples, come to agreement about the details of your Sabbath day of rest.

7.  Men, use the Sabbath to minister to your wives and children.

8.  Remember, to take the Sabbath as a gift for yourself, do not burden others with it.

As you walk with God and learn how to honour him and each other with a Sabbath I pray the Lord’s deep peace and joy upon you.  May your lives take on a new richness as you trust in Him.  Amen and Amen.

“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

Application

1.  Sit down, together with your spouse, before the Lord and think and pray.

Make a plan for establishing a sabbath rest, each week, in your home.  Try your plan. If it doesn’t completely work, then come back together and make a slightly different plan.  Try that plan.  Keep working the plans, shifting them and changing them as necessary, until you find a way for both yourself and your spouse to take a sabbath rest. 

  • Make it a joyful day in the Lord
  • Do something that brings you rest and refreshment
  • Trust the Lord for the work of your week
  • Enjoy your sabbath rest with the Lord

2.  For one month, keep a journal of your plans and sabbath days. (footnote below) 

Record what you are trying and how it is going.  Make note of your own struggles to rest.  Write down what the Lord is showing you and teaching you through this time.  Note:  this exercise and your journal is part of your final grade for this course.  Taking a sabbath is not just a nice thing to do, it is a command from the Lord.  So let’s take it seriously.

Summary – sabbath

Taking a day of rest grows and proves our trust in the Lord.  Isaiah 26:3-4

A Sabbath day is an act of worship.  Isaiah 40:31

Give a sabbath to your household as a gift from the Lord.  Hebrews 4:9

Stop, pause, and turn toward the Lord.  Isaiah 58:13-14

 

Footnote:

When we are establishing something for the first time it takes great effort to make it happen. This will be the same with establishing a day of rest each week. Know that you will have to put extra focus at the beginning. This is okay and very normal. 

One very important thing to keep in mind is to not speak too much about your plans. Please do not boast to your friend that you are going to take a sabbath day each week, for this is the surest way that your efforts will not succeed. The Bible is very clear that where we boast we usually fail. 

I suggest, therefore, that you make your plans with your spouse and then just DO the plan. Do not talk too much about it. Your energy and focus is required to take the sabbath, do not use your energy and focus to talk about taking a sabbath. Can you see the difference? You want to take the sabbath, not talk about taking the sabbath. 

So, as you go forward into your first month of seriously taking one day per week for rest, do this in humility and in a quiet way, so that you might be successful. 

Chapter 17: Simple Sermons

Chapter 17: Simple Sermons

I write this today to give some practical and simple guidelines to those who are compelled to share the word of God but may struggle with any of the following:

  • Do not have a Bible school training
  • Do not have opportunity to study the Bible for hours at a time
  • Are brand new to the Bible

This simple guide can be used by pastors and by lay persons to prepare a simple sermon, a Bible study class, or to simply share a personal testimony.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,” Proverbs 1:5  ESV

1.  Read God’s word daily

The Bible is best when we make it a part of our every day.  Bit by bit, reading little by little, we will become familiar with its pages and all that God has to teach us through it.

Reading the Bible on a daily basis is like tithing a tenth of our day to God.  It can be hard to take the time to read the Bible, but when we do we by our actions declare our trust of Him over our lives and our desire to honour him each day.

Note: always begin with a simple prayer of invitation for God to teach you. Like this,

“God I come today in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  I invite your revelation to my mind and heart and spirit.  I stand against all confusion of the enemy today.  I am dependant on your wisdom God.  I welcome you to teach me.  Amen”

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV

2.   As you read make note of what stands out to you

Rather than focussing on understanding great long texts at a time, read each day until a thought or verse stands out to you.  Sometimes this might be after 20 verses, sometimes it might be after 3 verses.

Remember that the point of Bible reading is to be impacted by the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit can work through many many verses or just a few.  Trust God to teach you as you read His word.  Do not gobble it up thinking this makes you a better pastor or person.  Take your time and really chew each story and verse.

When a portion of a verse impresses itself upon you, make note of this. Either write in the margin of your Bible where you are reading, or in a journal write out the verse and what has impacted you about it. Both are best.

Writing small notes in your Bible will help you find those places again, and will help you to recall how God has used each part in your life.  Writing longer responses (but they don’t have to be long) in a notebook will help you later as you glance back at what God has been teaching you.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

3.  After 3 months look back over your notes and see what God has been speaking to you

It is an interesting thing to be noting day after day small thoughts and impressions as given by God, and then to look at all of these impressions at one glance.  Very definite patterns emerge and themes of God’s instructions and movement in our life become apparent.

At this point take a bit of time to sit before the Lord and invite further direction and revelation, or to simply worship and thank the Lord for what He has been teaching you.

The Bible is the word of God, the voice of God, and in this we are invited to interact with it and through it to interact with God. Our study times simply become conversations with God.  So we thank Him and give honour to Him for his voice penetrating our hearts and lives.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 ESV 

4.  Begin to identify how God’s teaching is making a difference in your heart and life

After a few months of daily reading even just a little bit of your Bible you will begin to notice a difference in your thinking and in your hearts response to life.  While the changes will begin happening immediately we often cannot notice them right away; mostly because changes that last happen little bit by little bit.

God shifts our thinking in small ways. Our Lord leads us day by day.  The Holy Spirit reveals things bit by bit.

Small changes building up over time make for the longest lasting transformations.  Small is best when it comes to our walk with the Lord and our interaction with His word.  Trust him to be teaching you and in turn take the time to glance back and see the difference in your life.

Remember, we do not study the Bible just to know the Bible.  We study the Bible to be changed by the Living God.

Ask yourself:  How am I different today than I was three (or six or twelve) months ago?

This becomes a vital part of your story and of the messages the Lord is giving you to share.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26 ESV 

5.  Begin to share with others how God’s teaching is making a difference for you 

When we begin to share with others about what God is doing in our life, we want to simply give our testimony.  We simply declare how God has impacted us.  For instance, instead of sharing all of the Bible verses about how we do not need to fear, it is just as powerful to simply give testimony, “Six months ago I was afraid of many things. But today, after reading His word and seeing how much God loves me and is taking care of me, I am no longer afraid.  My courage is building.” 

This simple sharing can be done among small gatherings of friends, when you are walking with your spouse or sitting with your family.  It is the way for anyone new to this to begin passing on the messages God is giving you.

You do not need to have fancy words or big long sentences to share the Lord’s goodness in your life. 

Rest in simple testimony.  For the authority with which you speak is based on your personal encounter with the Living God.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17 ESV

6.  After a time of doing Steps 1-5 you will have plenty of material for a sermon

All that is left is to organize your thoughts.

•A. Know your main point (what do you want people to go away with?)

•B. 1st point

•C. 2nd point

•D. 3rd point

•E. Add in the verses that God used to teach you these things

•F. Include relevant stories to help tell your point

•G. Have a conclusion

Remember:  Share how God is impacting you.  What have you learned?  How have you changed?  What does God’s word say to this?

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV

7.   Close in prayer.  Be authentic and simple

The power of prayer is found in our lives alongside the Lord.  As we walk in obedience to God’s leading in our lives our prayers become stronger in their power and authority.  Big words and long sentences do not make for stronger prayers.

The people you are teaching and leading need to know that they can pray as well.  They need to know that prayer is not a big mystery but a simple conversation between us and God.  Teach them this.  Use your own prayers to model conversation with God.

Thank God for the lessons he is teaching us.  Invite Him to give more lessons.  Declare blessing over His people.  And close with an Amen.  It really can be as simple as this.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7 ESV

And finally, for those of you who are pastors or spiritual leaders in your communities, teach this simple method of study and sharing to others.  Also, make room in your church services and as small groups of believers gather for others to share in this way.

We want to be learners of our Lord through each other.  The Body of Christ is vital to our well-being and each one can bring a fresh word from our Lord. As leaders we must make room for this.  For every one of your people who have a Bible (and for those who don’t join up with someone who does), take small bits of time on a regular basis to read and discuss and learn together.

While the Bible is a big book it is best taken in small bites, and after time those small bites add up to full meals and satisfied lives.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8 ESV

Prayer

“God we come together today in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We confess that the Bible is a big book and many times we are swamped with anxiety about how to share it all.  Today we choose to rest in you. Today we settle into your leading and guiding, your wisdom and insight.

We invite you to teach us.  We open our hearts and minds to your direction.  Lead us in all things.  Most of all help us to make you and your word a priority in our lives.  Help us to read even just a little bit of your word on a daily basis. For those of us who do not have Bibles, we ask that you would enable us to have them.  For those of us who cannot read we ask that you team us up with those who can.  May we simply study together.

All in all we thank you for your movement in our lives and that we are ever changing into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We bless you Father God.  Amen”

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

Application

  • Follow the instructions for a simple sermon and then give a sermon using this method 
  • Write out a 4-6 sentence paragraph telling about your experience of using this method 

Summary – simple sermons

Read God’s word every day.  Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 1:5

Ask God to grow your understanding.  John 14:26

Allow scripture to purify you, to challenge you, and to change you. Hebrews 4:12

Share how Christ is making a difference in your inner person. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Chapter 16: Choose Christ

Chapter 16: Choose Christ

“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

God is always coming towards us, inviting us, wooing us, offering us himself to live by.  In our natural state we are against God’s ways.  In our humanness we would rather hate than love, condemn than receive.

For instance, our fallen human nature would rather put others down than lift them up.  We tell lies where there should be truth and we are jealous where there might be contentment and peace. When we see wrong we condemn instead of giving grace, and we are often demanding with each other rather than living with each other in understanding ways.

We are told, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22 ESV, and in this it is obvious to see that we need The Spirit of the living God, we need the help of our Lord Jesus Christ if we are to obtain these things in lasting measure.

Whether we have known Jesus Christ a long time or are only just coming to know Him, we can all agree that none of us can manufacture or live these ways of The Spirit of God on our own.  These things, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, are beyond our own efforts and ability.

Thankfully we are reminded that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV 

God has not destined us for wrath – that is the enemies work, yet sometimes we get the condemner and God mixed up. Sometimes in our Christian zeal we take on a spirit of condemnation, of contempt, and of impatience with the lives of others, yet this way, we must remember, is a mark of the enemy and not of our God.

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

While sin extracts death, (it always has and it always will), when we carry the mark of God upon our lives we live unto life and not unto death.  We want to live in this free gift of God for the alternative is a sin-state that is turned away from the God who IS life.  God does not punish us for our sins because sin is in fact the punishment. God’s heart, rather, is always for our good.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:32 ESV

While sin, agreement with Satan and not with God, sets our life up for difficulty, disease, despair, danger, and the like, God in his great compassion and love saw our immense difficulty, that we were stuck in these never-ending agreements with Satan and death, and He stepped in to do something about it.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV

By sending His son Jesus Christ, God made a way for us to turn from our allegiance to sin and to establish new agreements unto God.

“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

The question comes down to belief.  Do we believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross and then rose the third day? Do we believe that sin has been taken care of by Jesus? Have we allowed His grace to penetrate our hearts and minds and lives?

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”  Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV

The work and blood of Jesus Christ is a covering that we choose to come under.  When we choose Christ we come into the compassion of God, we come into pardon.  A free gift to each and every one of us when we enter into the blood of Jesus Christ, we accept his work done on our behalf.

“Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  John 11:25-26 ESV

We respond, “Yes Jesus, I realize that I am a sinner.  There are many parts of my life and being that I cannot make right on my own.  My heart and life reveals striving and self effort, a life apart from your grace, but today I choose to agree with you Jesus and with your work done for me.  I enter into your compassion and pardon. I receive you into my life.  I receive your life on my behalf.” 

And we are then told, 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”  John 5:24-26 ESV

What is profound in all of this is that God never tells us to work for our salvation.  We are never instructed to make right our lives, to prove up, to become worthy, to work harder.  Never. In fact, just the opposite.

It is when we are trying to work for our salvation, when we put trust in our own good works, when we feel justified in our habits, it is these times that we have in fact missed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”  Galatians 5:4 ESV

For those of us in the ministry of our Lord we must abide, we must remain in the grace of our Lord.  We came to Christ in grace, we must remain in grace. In zeal for what is right and wrong and for what is good and bad we can loose sight of our own sinfulness. 

The Pharisees, the church leaders at the time of Christ, had become experts in the law of the Lord, in habits of cleanness, in rituals of worship and scripture and more, but Christ called them whitewashed tombs, Matthew 23:27; they looked good on the outside but were filthy on the inside.  They demanded that people act as perfect as they and this is what Jesus said,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” Matthew 23:13 ESV

The Kingdom of God is not about how good we are, it is about the goodness of God.

The Kingdom of God is ours only as we recall our impoverished state before the Lord and enter into the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Pharisees, the church leaders, refused to enter into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in this they missed out on the Kingdom of God.

The gospel message is not just for all those ‘out there’, it is for us, each of us.  Every day gives us new opportunity and fresh experience of walking in Christ, of taking him on in our lives, of wearing his manner through our manner.

“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 NLT

Application

In Canada I do a lot of healing prayer with individuals.  One of the things that the Holy Spirit leads people to is to confess and renounce an idolatry of good.  Let me explain: 

When Adam and Eve sinned they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Ever since we have believed that it has been the knowledge of evil that has destroyed us, but we rarely consider that they also ate of the the knowledge of good and that this has destroyed us as well. 

Because, you see, when we are focussed on good we have taken our focus off of God.  When we try to be good we are in fact focussed on ourselves. 

The Bible is very clear that only God is good.  Even Jesus did not claim to be good, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked. ‘Only God is truly good’.”  Mark 10:18 NLT 

Before Adam and Eve sinned they had unhindered devotion toward God.  We are told that after sin they became self-conscious.  This means that before sin they were innocent of a focus on self, their focus was on God. But after sin their focus became themselves and their focus was turned away from God. 

This is what happened to our relationship with good. Before sin we were not aware of good or bad, right or wrong, we were only aware of God.  But after sin we became aware of good and bad, and since that time we have been serving good rather than God. 

Think about it, how often are you trying to get people to be good? How many times have you admonished your children to be good? Consider the many messages from our pulpits that are condemning those who are not good and applauding those who manage to behave in a good way. 

Now, does this mean that we aren’t to be good.  Of course not.  But quite frankly, our only goodness comes as we allow the Lord Jesus Christ to inhabit our lives and his powerful grace to transform us from the inside out.  Anything less than this is self effort unto goodness. 

If this is making sense to you, if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of a focus on good rather than a focus on God, then today you can pray through to have this stronghold broken in your life. 

I call a focus on good a stronghold, and an idolatry even, because we have for centuries within our world focussed on being good and of trying to be right with God in our own efforts.  This itself is sin.  We must put down our own goodness and our focus on that and come back into relationship with Jesus where he becomes our goodness and where we are freed to focus on God. 

Prayer

If this is for you, then you can pray something like this: 

“God, I come today in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  I recognize that I have been focussed on good rather than focussed on you. I see now that this is it’s own kind of idolatry.  I have been trusting in my own goodness rather than trusting Jesus to be my goodness.  I am sorry Lord. 

Today in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ I renounce a stronghold and an idolatry of goodness in my life; I say no more!  Today I reach back into my past to where this focus on goodness first took root and I pull it up, leaving nothing behind. I unwind the chains of goodness from around my being, heart, mind, body, soul, and I declare every link of those chains severed in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  

To all assignments, curses, and authority of the enemy that have been around and through my life because of this stronghold, today I say no more!  And I cancel all the things of the enemy that have been connected to this idolatry of good, and I send each thing to the place where the true Lord Jesus Christ chooses to send them. 

In place of this idolatry of good I receive back from my Lord Jesus Christ and unhindered ability to focus on God. 

I choose a simple love of my Lord from this day on. And I trust the power of the Holy Spirit to transform me and to change me from the inside out into the glorious image of God. 

I take this work of the Spirit in my life and I declare it sealed in the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. 

I declare myself wrapped in the love of the Father, covered in the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ, and breathed through with the breathe of my Holy Spirit. 

I give 100% of all glory and all thanks and honour and praise to you Lord.  Amen and amen.”

Summary – choose christ

God pursues us.  John 3:16-17

God loves life.  Ezekiel 18:32

Life is in Jesus.  Romans 5:8

Keep turned toward Jesus.  Isaiah 55:6-7

Do not try to keep the law.  Galatians 5:4

Rest in the work of Christ.  Matthew 11: 28-30

Chapter 15: In Weakness

Chapter 15: In Weakness

It is hard being a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For within the role is the dynamic of all of God and then all of who we are.

All of God are the miracles and the signs and the wonders.

All of us are the aches and pains and the loss and the sorrow that we each personally have.

We preach healing and we experience sickness ourselves.

We declare healthy lives and we struggle with estranged relationships.

We teach and lead others to Christ and then can barely find him for ourselves.

I am reminded of Elijah in the book of 1 Kings chapters 18 & 19.

Elijah was a mighty man of God.  He walked in obedience and risked his life time and again to bring the word of the Lord.

For instance, in 1 Kings 18 we find him battling it out with the priests of Baal with a mighty result,

“Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!”  1 Kings 18:38 NLT 

A great work of the Lord to be followed by another miracle (Read 1 Kings 18:41-44) and then special strength,

“Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah.  He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:46 NLT

All of this simply shows the Holy Spirit pouring through Elijah.  As God and Elijah worked as one, mighty miracles took place and a great witness of the Lord’s power was established.

And then that particular work was over and Elijah went off into the wilderness and we read,

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”  1 Kings 19:4b NLT

After the great works of the Lord Elijah finds himself despondent and oh so very human. 

He is dejected and tired, to the point of wanting the Lord to take him.

Don’t we all feel this in our persons?  After a work of God pouring through us we are simply reminded of our humanity and the frailty of our hearts and minds and lives.

Praying healing over a crowd, speaking God’s heart to your congregation, visiting the sick and the down-trodden, all this and more carries a mark of God upon it, and when the work ceases for a time we must simply rest.

I suggest that the exhaustion after God’s work is simply very normal.  It is something we can in fact expect, always remembering that in that exhausted place the Lord cares for us.

“Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.  But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!”  He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water!  So he ate and drank and lay down again. 

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said,  “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.  There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.”  1 Kings 19:5-9 NLT

Ministering the Lord to others is not about us being larger than life.  It is about the extraordinary of God stirring through our very ordinary lives.

If we expect to be extraordinary, we will be disappointed and disillusioned.

No, rather it is our God who is extraordinary.  And in fact, when we feel very human, we can be sure we have just encountered our living God.

For it is the contrast of us and God that reminds us of our weakness.

The good news is that where we know we are weak there the Lord is strong indeed.

Time and again we find in the Bible promises and hope for those who are weak:

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” Isaiah 40:29 NLT

Paul himself said this, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said,  “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT 

In all this we come to find that there is nothing to fear in weakness.

We find that our humanity and the frailty of being human is exactly what God wants to harness for his Kingdom.

When we know our weakness, when we feel our humanity, that is when we depend on God more than ever before, and that is when there is more room for God to work.

And through it all, the hardships, the deprivations, and the sacrifice we find as the Psalmist did,

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”  Psalm 73:26 NLT 

Be strong in the Lord today, as you bring him your weakness.  Allow the Spirit to inhabit all of your life and simply be blessed today.

Application

The only thing, and most powerful thing, to do with our weaknesses is to dedicate them to the Lord, for his glory, and unto the Kingdom of God through us. 

  • Take some time to come to prayer and bring your weaknesses to God. 
  • Confess where you have been upset and angry about your weakness. 
  • Name the difficulty accompanied with your weakness. 
  • Tell God how you feel about your weakness. 
  • Then, commit your weakness to the glory of God, dedicate your weakness to his purposes. 

Prayer 

“God, today I come in the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. Father, you know this weakness that I have, you know how I have struggled with this, and you know the purposes you have through it. Today I commit even my weakness to your glory and honour and to your plans and purposes. I declare that my weakness will contain the strength of the Lord, in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen”

Summary – In Weakness

In our weakness God proves strong.  Psalm 73:26

We serve the Lord and he does the work through us.  Philippians 2:13

God takes our ordinary and makes it extraordinary.  John 14:12

The work belongs to the Lord, we are conduits of Him.  John 5:30

Chapter 14: Our Journey

Chapter 14: Our Journey

This journey of walking with God is not always smooth.  We experience a lot of hurdles and bumps in the road.  There are times of confusion and disappointment.  There are times of frustration and upset.

These are really normal.  They are part of our experience as human beings.

Sometimes, especially when we are young in the Lord, we expect God to make everything great.

We think that if we walk with God then everything will go how we want it to go.

But this is rarely the case.  Using God in this way simply reveals us as children and God as something we would like to use.

God does not fix everything for us.  And the path he has us walk is not always smooth.  It is how we learn after all and how we come to rely on him.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4  NLT 

As we walk with God there are a few things we can do to come to greater understanding of God’s leading and guiding of us.

1.  One is to have a bigger perspective than normal.  With God we are able to step back from our own experience and lives and look at things from God’s angle.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts”, says the Lord, “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  Isaiah 55:8 NLT

How does he see this situation? How might God be leading me through this difficulty?  What might I learn from this?

“Joyful are those your discipline, Lord, those you teach with your instructions.” Psalm 94:12  NLT

There is not one wasted experience or situation in the Kingdom of God.

Everything is for our benefit and for our development. God is continually growing us and shaping us so that we can reflect Him more accurately and come to understand how much we are loved.

2.  The second thing is to allow options in our thinking.  We need bigger thinking.  Life is not all one way or another.  Often the Lord leads us in one way of thinking simply to get us to another spot.

God meets us where we are at and leads us from there.  He knows that we cannot make leaps in growth or understanding.

“Have you never heard?  Have you never understood?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of all the earth.  He never grows weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of his understanding”  Isaiah 40:28 NLT

And so while we may think that ‘A’ is the answer, he knows that ‘F’ is really the solution. 

He takes us on journey’s of thought and practice to get us from ‘A’ (our thinking) to ‘F’ (his best solution).

This can be a disheartening journey.  Often we don’t really understand where he is taking us. But that is okay.

“Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.  Teach the righteous and they will learn even more.”  Proverbs 9:9  NLT

While his leading is not a guarantee of our best wishes, he knows better than us what we need and is intent on getting us there.

God has our best interest at heart.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

3.  In this process he tests us again and again by having us lay down our desires.  Just like Abraham laying down his son’s life on the altar, we are tested the same.

Though we have good desires and pray for outcomes that will bring glory to God he sets up situations where time after time our motives are tested.

“Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.  Test my motives and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 NLT

Do we really want prayers answered for Him or for us?  Are we looking to the best interest of others, or of ourselves?

God brings hurdles and roadblocks to our lives to test us this way.  For he knows that with the wrong motives everything will come to an end.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.”  Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT 

Our reasons for praying for this or for going after that must be refined and proven solid. 

Only then is He glorified and do our lives have real satisfaction.

Through all  of these things, 1) Learning to have bigger perspective, 2) Bigger thinking, and 3) Testing of our Motives, we mature and grow up.

Rather than little children who demand this or that, who cry out ‘But you said!’ we enter into a true partnership with the Lord.

“God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:9 NLT

We are wiser, we think differently, we pray differently, and we act differently.

God is in the people development business.  God is intent on growing us up into spiritual adults.

We welcome your growth in us Lord.  Thank-You.

Application

Take some time to think about your life and ask the Lord to show you how he has led you to where you are today. 

Each of our lives have undergone big changes from time to time.  We have transitioned into who we are today, and many of these transitions have been marked by what we call life-markers.  Life-markers are times in our history that we do not notice when we are in them, but looking back we can see them. 

Not everything that occurs in our lives are markers of transition. We cannot count everything in this way. Yet, it is a good exercise to look back on our lives and see and make note of how our life has progressed. 

Take some time before the Lord and with pen and paper.  If you are 30 years old or younger, identify 5 life-markers. If you are 30 years or older, identify 8 life-markers. 

A Life-Marker could be any of the following: 

  • an event in your life where you became a different person because of that time
  • a time where you had to grow and learn at a fast pace for the circumstances
  • a time when you had a thought or new understanding that changed the direction of your life
  • a crisis that changed your life in some way
  • a realization about yourself or about God that changed you as a person

You may have to begin by naming more life-markers than just five or eight, but narrow down your list to either five or eight life-markers, depending on your age. 

As an example, here are my life-markers: 

      1. accepted Christ at 6 years of age
      2. received the Holy Spirit and wisdom at 16 years old
      3. got married at 20 years and began having babies
      4. life fell apart from 30-35 years old
      5. began my inner healing journey in 2000
      6. hit by a car in 2005
      7. became single in 2009
      8. international launch of CCIM in 2011

Once you have your list of life-markers, look at each one and note 1-3 things that led up to that life-marker, and then note 1-3 effects of that time or event. 

For example – For my 6th life-marker:   ‘hit by a car in 2005’

leading up to this: 1. ignored a warning from God 

ongoing effects since then: 1. my career changed because of my physical limitations 2. my kids lives and family life became different because of my accident 3. I began seriously writing 4. today I write for many around the world 

As you can see in my own example, that getting hit by a car dramatically changed my life.  While that event was traumatic at the time, it was definitely not all bad.  In fact, that life-marker was a very important event in getting my life headed in the specific way that God wanted and with my becoming a more serious writer.  The impact is continuing to this day with this course and other materials used by pastors and leaders in many places. 

Now it is your turn: 

  • Make Your List of Life-Markers
  • Note 1-3 things that led up to that life-marker
  • Note 1-3 effects from that time or event

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • As you look at your list of life-markers what do you notice about your life? 
  • As you make note of the continuing effects from that time or event what comes to mind? 
  • As you look at your life-markers are you noticing anything new that you never thought about before? 
  • How has God worked through these things in your life?

Give Thanks to the Lord: 

Even though our lives contain both good and bad it is a valuable skill to be able to give thanks to the Lord in all things.  It is not easy to come through hard times and it is not easy to see God’s hand in our hard times.  I pray that through this exercise that you have been able to recognize where God has been in your life.  He is with us at all times even when it does not seem this way in the moments. 

Take some time before the Lord to thank him for your unique life-markers.  Thank him for where these things have brought you.  Thank him for what he has taught you through them.  Thank him for the continuing effects and the good that you can see from these things. 

Finally, claim your life and all of its parts for the glory of God.  Give praise to God for your life and dedicate it and yourself to him anew from this day on. 

Prayer

“God, I come before you today in thankfulness for my life and for your hand upon me.  I see that you have been with me even more than I realized.  Thank you.   Today I claim my life for the glory of God and in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank you Lord for the path you have had me on.  Although it has not always been easy I give it to you and I ask that you would use my entire life for your glory and honour and for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.  Thank you for giving me a part in your big plan for this earth and my communities and I give my life to your service in this.  Amen” 

Summary – our journey 

We can ask God for bigger understanding of our lives.  Isaiah 55:8

We take our thoughts captive to the purposes of the Lord.  Romans 12:2

We accept the testing of the Lord (it proves we are his child).  Psalm 26:2

We trust him for all we do not understand and cannot see.  1 Corinthians 1:9

We dedicate our lives to the glory of God.  Romans 12:1

Chapter 13: Prophetic Lives

Chapter 13: Prophetic Lives

In Job 9:33 we read, “If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together.” NLT

Job had been talking about the utter lost-ness of his position.  That no matter how much he tried, no matter how well he kept the law, no matter how perfect he could manage to live (and he did live an innocent life before God), it didn’t bridge that gap between him and God.  We find Job’s heart crying out for a mediator between himself and God.

Read all of Job 9.

What is so amazing is that Job had lost everything a person could possibly lose.  His family was completely gone, his business and all of his finances had been completely destroyed and then, finally, he lost his health as well.

And in the midst of this he desired to draw near to God.  He wasn’t rejecting God or angry with God.  Rather, he looked to see how he might draw near to God in the very midst of his pain and sorrow.

We see in Job’s life a type of prophetic authority that embodied in his life a specific message of God.  In his pain he speaks prophetically about a Saviour to come.  Many, many years later Christ would indeed be that mediator that Job so longed for. 

In Job’s struggle despite doing everything right, we are privileged to see a message and prophetic work that is stronger than words.  This message of our desperate need for a Saviour is poured through the very life of Job and was in fact proven-up in his responses in the midst.

Our own lives can also carry prophetic messages, that something of God that shows through and speaks loud and clear of God in some way.

This was the way with many of the prophets of the Old Testament.  In Hosea we find Hosea instructed by the Lord to carry out a message of God through his very life.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover.  This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”  Hosea 3:1 NLT

Ezekiel also acted out a message of God.  This was his prophetic assignment:

“Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself.  You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side.  I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sin for 390 days – one day for each year of their sin.  After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days – one day for each year of Judah’s sin.”  Ezekiel 4:4-6 NLT

These are strange assignments.  They don’t really make sense and they go against our better judgements.  The lesson of Job’s life is the same.

Job revealed a hearts automatic response to God in the hardest of times. Even though life became inconceivably broken and devastated he responded authentically and genuinely toward God.  And in this he carried a prophetic message.  He revealed a part of God that was given to him to reveal.

This is the same of others throughout scripture.  Read about:

Daniel – Daniel chapters 1-9

Esther – the book of Esther

Noah – Genesis 6

They lived lives in the day to day, the experience of such, that would seem confusing and certainly not of God.

Our lives are often the same.  It takes faith to look to God in the difficulties and the unexpected. It takes faith to open up the camera lens on our lives so that we can see the big picture.

“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Romans 5:4-6 NLT 

It takes living a life that doesn’t always make sense and a courage to find and have this kind of life that carries a unique expression of God.

Walking with the Spirit means that we are open to things beyond ourselves.  That we exhibit wisdom in the face of the unaccountable.  And that we do not ascribe to Satan what is of God.

“but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.  This is a sin with eternal consequences.”   Mark 3:29 NLT

When we walk our days in genuine affection for the Lord, when we walk in obedience to the leading of the Spirit and when we worship the Lord regardless of our days, we have a recipe for carrying out that unique prophetic message that is ours to bear.

Thing is, walking with God in an intuitive fashion is a life lived beyond our understanding and beyond what we can make happen.

The prophetic messages of our lives happen when we simply give over our life to him. 

Total and complete surrender has the Lord’s finger in the mix of our days, taking what feels so very ordinary into what is completely extraordinary.

Praise be to our Lord and King.

“Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!”  Psalm 150:1-3 NLT

Prayer

“God we ask today for eyes that see your mix in our days.  We ask for understanding and wisdom from you.  Most of all we ask for courage to walk as you would have us walk, and for patience and understanding and a vision that sees beyond our own experiences.  We invite you Jesus into our very lives. We invite you Holy Spirit to refresh us and guide us.  Thank-You God.”

Application

We want to be quick to be obedient to the voice of the Lord.  Is there anything that the Lord has instructed you in, which you have not done? 

If so, speak this out to a trusted person, and then make a plan to take step/s of obedience to the instruction of the Lord. 

Sometimes, our hard times are because we are in direct disobedience to what God has been telling us. So, take some time to inquire of the Lord if there is anything in which you have not been obedient.  Then, become obedient.  Do the thing that God is telling you. 

Summary – prophetic lives

God directs our lives.  Psalm 23:4

God’s ways don’t always make sense to us.  Isaiah 55:8

We are called to be obedient to the voice of the Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9 

We trust God with our lives.  Jeremiah 29:11