Chapter 25: A Long Life

Chapter 25: A Long Life

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

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

1.  Honouring the Elderly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Deep Respect for the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Integrity and Truthfulness

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

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

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

• do not speak evil

• do not tell lies

• refuse to participate in evil

• be a peacemaker

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

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

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

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

4.  Obedience to the Lord

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

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

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

• where we, 3. Walk in integrity and truthfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.  Trusting on Christ for our Righteousness

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

Are you honouring your parents? 

Have you forgiven them? 

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

Have you visited them lately? 

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

God do what is right. 

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

Summary – a long life

We honour the elderly.   Exodus 20:12

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

We obey God.  Jeremiah 7:23

We trust Christ for our righteousness.  Philippians 3:9 

Chapter 24: Scandalous Love

Chapter 24: Scandalous Love

God’s ways are not our ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was a shocking story that Jesus told.

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

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

And even today there are many cultures the same.

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

How might this change how you view God today?

How might this change the way you interact with others?

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

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

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

How might we be shocking in our love for others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We pray that we would be the same.

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

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

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

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

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

Application

Who might you love today? 

Go do that. 

Summary – scandalous love 

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

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

 

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

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

Module One Appendix One – For Men & Women

CCIM College: Appendix ONE – for Men & Women  

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

For Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contents to Come

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

Stewardship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women are Equal Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are Enough in Christ

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

We are told, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life has Problems and Pain but also Healing and Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One day at a time

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

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

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

Commitment to a bigger way – gentleness, vulnerability

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

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

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

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

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

Loose off Guilt by the Power of Jesus Christ

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

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

We therefore give our guilt to God, 

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

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

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

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

Take on His Compassion and Sacrificial Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Models Regard for Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Live with your wife in an understanding way

2. Show honour to her as a weaker vessel

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

4. Do this so your prayers will be answered

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

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

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

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

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

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

We find similar admonition towards care for wives in Malachi, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men head of the household – leaders take 100% responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are More Powerful than you Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand before God, well done!

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

The first thing to do is found in Proverbs, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Churches Response to Women  

What We know: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A church that holds these things true: 

• Women have great worth and honour

• Men are called to give honour  and to serve women

• Honour and then honour will come back to you

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

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

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

• Demand to be served

• Be violent when you don’t get your way

• Use your own best judgment in these things

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

Chapter 23: Women

Chapter 23: Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women give testimony of the majesty of our creator.

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

Ever since Satan has hated SHE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What difference does this verse make to you?

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

In Peter we find this,

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

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

And therefore Peter gives a few explicit directions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is pretty strong language, and pretty profound consequences.

We all need our prayers answered.  Simple as that.

Prayer

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

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

Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary – women

Both male and female represent God.  Genesis 1:27

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

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

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

Footnotes: 

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter 22: Servants

Chapter 22: Servants

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

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

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

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

Hear Jesus’ words on the next page: 

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

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

Isaiah 42:1b NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

trust no trust picture

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

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

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

Summary – servants

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

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

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

Chapter 21: Compassion

Chapter 21: Compassion

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

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

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

Hosea 11:4 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion demands that we leave our judgements and condemnations behind. 

Compassion has no room for such.

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion exhibits this kind of power.

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

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

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

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

We find the story in John 8:

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

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

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

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

John 8: 2-11 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

Application

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

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

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

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

good thought pic

The Bible actually calls choice #2 sin.

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

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

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

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

Summary – compassion 

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 20: Forgiveness

Chapter 20: Forgiveness

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

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

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

Now we know that the wages of sin is death:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel proclaimed:

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness is a gift.

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

We either receive it or we push it away.

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

In order to receive forgiveness we must put ourselves aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We get on with living.

We get on with serving.

We get on with loving the Lord our God.

Prayer

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

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

Summary – forgiveness

God has forgiven us.  Psalm 130:4

We receive his forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7

We forgive others. 1 John 1:7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing Model For Justice

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

1. CONFESSION: we speak out our specific sin 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. CANCELLING: forgiving ourselves and other involved individuals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. SEALING: we serve Jesus by helping others 

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

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

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

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

healing model for justice picture

healing model for justice picture 2

Congratulations. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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