How do we respond when life gets tough?

The part of ourselves that controls our reactions to life has a huge impact on us.

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we have a spirit, a soul and a body. Our body is physical and receives stimuli through our senses. Our soul is generally thought to consist of our mind, will and emotions. Our spirit is that part of us that is made alive when we become followers of Jesus. We can choose which part of us we live from.

Some people choose to live from their body. They are dominated by their appetites–for food, sex. bodily comfort etc. Others choose to live from their soul. Their emotions dominate their lives, or sometimes their intellect. (I don’t feel like praying. It’s not logical, therefore I don’t believe it.)

We are supposed to live from our spirit. How can we tell if something comes from our spirit? It will be Scriptural, and it will be accompanied by the fruit of peace. The vehicle it comes through is our soul–frequently our thoughts.

A (heartfelt) example: You’ve been on an international trip and you’re suffering from jetlag. Yet you have a busy day ahead. You can decide you need a nap and tune out for a period of the day leaving others to carry your workload (living from the body). You can allow yourself to become crotchety and make sure everyone around you knows you’re suffering from a sleep deficit (living from the soul). Or you can choose to be thankful and trust God to help you through your day (living from the spirit).

As you willingly choose to live according to Scripture, even if you don’t feel like it, you will find your attitude changing. To live from the spirit brings life and peace (Romans 8:5-11)

(If you are interested to read more about this, you can download my e-book on hearing God by subscribing to this blog by email)

Photo Credit: Francois Roche (Creative Commons)

Which language do you speak?

It doesn’t matter what our heart/native tongue is. We can choose to speak one of two languages:

  1. Grumbling and complaining (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)
  2. Praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4-6)

Which one do you choose?

Guest post by Bruce: One line conversation starters with not-yet-believers

I have a job in a very busy, very intense human services setting. I often do not have more than 10-15 seconds to talk to a person. I always have a brief ‘teaser’ line that might elicit interest, and a quick follow up line that gives more info that can lead to a conversation.

Sometimes I say that I am a writer, and that my materials help people understand God a little better. I have a short booklet that I wrote about Jesus that I keep copies of to give out, and people are often interested in something that I wrote myself.

I often get prophetic words for co-workers, and that itself leads to conversations. Or I tell them that a lot of my time is spent helping people get closer to God. Or that I pray for a lot of people, and see God doing exciting things. I offer to pray for anyone, for anything.

My rule of thumb is to have a handful of very short ‘one liners’ and a matching follow up line that an interested person can follow up on later. This has worked well for me.

Sales people are trained to give their ‘elevator speech’.  We should be trained to give, not necessarily the gospel in 15 or 30 seconds (though that has its uses) but a 5 second comment that can give us an indication of who might well be approached later for more specific questions or comments, as a possible person of peace.

My teaser line is a way for almost anyone (even one as naturally timid as me) to ‘safely’ feel out the territory without being (or feeling) overtly or blatantly ‘religious’. The follow up might be a more definite comment or a question about spiritual beliefs.

Long ago, a friend from the South, when asked “How are you?” would often say, quietly and sweetly, “I’m blessed.”  That line, never heard in the region where I live, usually raises an eyebrow when I use it, and can give an indication of interest.I usually save that one for people that i suspect of a spiritual interest.

David Watson once blogged that he would say something like, “I feel like God may have spoken to me in a dream last night.”  or, “I recently realized something really powerful, that i never saw before.” and just let it sit, without another comment. If the other person didn’t say a word, he would not follow up with another word about it.But if they did, he gently followed up with comments to the level of the person’s interest, but never beyond it.

Just saying “God bless you” when finishing a brief conversation and watching reactions can also show who to follow up on.

Offering prayer about a personal situation shared in the workplace often leads to grateful responses, and lots of openings to share the goodness of God later on.

Bruce teaches church planting principles, working in many countries where security is an issue.

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Principles or techniques?

Which work best: principles or techniques?

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a Momentum conference in San Francisco. (If ever you have the opportunity to attend a Momentum conference, I highly recommend it. It was warm, inviting, participatory with plenty of time for the Holy Spirit to lead–and he did, in extraordinary ways.)

One of the speakers was Ross Rohde, author of  Viral Jesus: Recovering the contagious power of the Gospel  who blogs here.

Ross shared about the danger of turning success into a technique. Someone listens to the Lord, obeys him and sees outstanding results. Others, seeing their success, assume that if they copy what that person did, they will get the same results. The problem is, all they have done is copy a technique without listening to the Lord, who may have a totally different strategy for their situation.

Principles, on the other hand, apply in any context.

An example: you hear about someone who has great success starting a church in their local Starbucks.  It’s easy to think: here’s the answer to our group’s problem with reaching out.  Everyone in our home church should spend time in a coffee house.

It may or may not work–I’ve come across wonderful churches that have started out of the harvest when the Lord told a group to change the place where they get together to the local Starbucks. The technique is in always using the local coffee house for evangelism.

The principle is that if you want to see people become disciples, you have to get outside your Christian ghetto and into a world that so desperately needs Jesus.

How do you avoid techniques? The answer is to listen to Jesus and do what he says.

 Photo credit: pierofix (Creative Commons)

 

 

Guest post by Tony Dale: Lowering healthcare costs

Simple church life is about living for Jesus 24/7.  We listen to Him and we do what He says.  Could this have anything to do with keeping our healthcare costs down?

Sixteen years ago, as a result of an accident to my knee (that will teach me to try to keep up with the kids on a basketball court!), I needed surgery.  I was so shocked by the bills, that I challenged them all and to my amazement everybody pretty much asked me, “What are you willing to pay?”  Felicity was asking the Lord what we could do to help support ourselves in a country where our medical licenses were not recognized, and out of this came The Karis Group. Our company has since negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills for individuals, insurance companies, and for the various Christian health care sharing ministries that have grown up across America over the past 25 years.

By working with these Christian groups, and watching the incredible job they do, we found ourselves wondering how we could promote this sharing costs approach to the wider body of Christ. Most Christians are not even aware that such groups exist. But as I spoke with various ministries and churches about the huge cost savings that they would see by working in this environment, the reply was always the same,  “We love the idea behind these groups, but does it really work for a big group like ours?  Can they handle the challenges of all of our staff and any pre-existing conditions that they already have?”

At that time, the answer to those questions was not really clear.

But things have changed, and The Health Co-Op is the answer that has emerged.  Built around the foundation of what Samaritan Ministries, by far the largest of the Christian health care sharing groups, has done, we have pulled together a collection of services that mean the Christian world now has a serious, non-insurance alternative to classic major medical insurance.  We have taken our 16 years’ experience and created a service that slashes costs while enhancing and improving the way that your medical bills are paid.  The typical family or Christian group that we are helping is able to cut their medical costs by upwards of 50%.  And all of this is done is an environment that glorifies the Lord by literally helping Christians to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

I believe that the moral and ethical issues involved in health care are some of the key issues that American Christians need to grapple with.  Do we want a system that few can afford, and that does little to nothing to reward godly/healthy living?  Do we want our dollars being spent to provide for services and procedures that we actually stand against?  It is hard to say I am pro-life, and then pay into an insurance plan that puts my money towards paying for other people’s abortions!  It is to the Catholics great credit that they have been willing to challenge the way health care law is trying to shape modern medical practice in a way that is profoundly anti-Biblical.

So come and have a look at what we are doing.  You can not only probably save a lot of money, but you can do so in a context that shows The Health Co-Op providing quality answers to a challenge that may otherwise bankrupt this country.

Jesus, A Theography

When I received my advance review copy of Jesus, A Theographyopy, I was excited to delve into it.

Jesus told the Pharisees, “All Scripture points to me.” We think we know the Jesus of the New Testament, but do we really believe that he can be found throughout the pages of the Old Testament? And what difference does an encounter with him there make?

Jesus, A Theography, is a panoramic sweep of the Bible, exploring how Jesus can be seen throughout its pages. With meticulous attention to detail, and copious footnotes, Len Sweet and Frank Viola rehearse the Old Testament in light of the New, demonstrating Jesus over and over again in the stories, pictures and symbols that are found there. The research and scholarship that have gone into this work are awe-inspiring.

I’ve been reading the book for just over a week now, Bible in hand. Every so often, I’ll think to myself, “It can’t say that–surely I would have noticed that before.” I check the footnotes and references and sure enough, it’s plain to be seen. I’m thrilled to be discovering aspects about Jesus’ life that are “new” to me, delighting in aspects of his character that I’m seeing in a fresh light.

I have a shelf of classics in my library–books that are timeless in their relevance and teaching. This book will join the others on that shelf.

 

 

Greet the Church in Your House

Victor Choudhrie is one of my beloved “fathers in the Lord.” In 1992, even while a renowned cancer surgeon in India,  the Lord told Victor to stop medicine and start planting churches. The results in the past few years have been extraordinary.  One of the most outstanding disciple making movements of our day is going on in India under his loving oversight. This church planting movement has seen more than 1 million baptisms in the last decade.

Some years ago, Victor wrote a book called Greet the Ekklesia, which I had the privilege of editing. (It was a privilege because it meant that I studied every sentence very carefully to make sure it made sense, and therefore I had to understand at a gut level the principles he was enumerating. Anything I didn’t understand, I emailed Victor until we both knew that I had the meaning right. ) Victor has since updated the book, and it has been made available for the Kindle. I was asked to write the foreword.

Greet the church in your house is not a comfortable read. Victor challenges all our nice presuppositions about church and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.  But if we, here in the West, want to learn the secrets of rapid church multiplication, we do well to learn from a master.

Here are two of the endorsements for the book by David Garrison and Floyd McClung:

Dr. Choudhrie’s “Greet the Church in Your House” ruffled more than a few feathers when it first appeared in 1999. Defenders of traditional church planting and mission models found the book’s ideas iconoclastic and deeply troubling. I first met Dr. Victor Choudhrie in 2002, while serving as a missionary in India. Even before that, though, I seemed to hear his name from everyone who was seeing multiplying movements of new churches in India. All roads to movements seemed to pass through Dr. Choudhrie’s influence. Victor and Bindu’s passion for the unreached and deep insights into Scriptural models for the Christian life, made them natural gurus for generations of young missionaries and local church planters who wanted to see fidelity to New Testament patterns and the dynamism that accompanied it in their own ministries. The Choudhrie’s did not disappoint.

Despite whatever grumblings accompanied Dr. Choudhrie’s “Greet the Church in Your House” many readers also found his ideas strangely familiar. Weren’t these the same images of church that emerged from the pages of the New Testament? Wasn’t this the vibrant life of faith promised by Christ and His apostles?

Though exegetical in nature, Choudhrie’s writings have never been limited to biblical exegesis. A Bible expositor, Dr. Choudhrie is also a pioneer church planter and mentor of church-planting movements. This on-the-ground experience keeps his ideas fresh and relevant to missionaries and church planters who need real-life applications to the biblical lessons they’ve learned all their life.

Choudhrie describes his training as a medical school model. Just as medical students are rigorously steeped in the doctrines of their profession, so too must today’s church planter master the faith handed down to the saints once for all. However, no medical student’s training is complete without practical skill development and mentoring by seasoned elders.

It is small wonder that Dr. Choudhrie’s writings have inspired a new generation of pioneer missionaries and church planters to press on to the fulfillment of our Lord’s Great Commission. I personally would not consider the pursuit of an indigenous movement of multiplying churches in South Asia without first consulting this wonderful mentor and friend.

David Garrison, PhD–missionary, author Church Planting Movements

Greet the Church in Your House is a radical, hard hitting plea to examine how we do church in order to change how we do church – for the sake of reaching the lost. Victor Choudhrie is a prophet crying in the wilderness – a voice from India that pleads with us to heed the call of Jesus to a new covenant and a new way of being God’s people.

Floyd McClung – author You See Bones, I See an Army: changing the way we do church

You want to see someone become a Jesus follower? Try spiritual warfare

For the past two months Tony and I have been engaged in some of the most intense spiritual warfare of our lives.

We were in Taiwan when we received a phone call detailing a situation very close to the heart of our family.  God challenged us to be willing to pray and intercede over it, and especially that one of the people concerned would surrender their life to the Lord–something we had been praying about for years. We knew from previous experience what this could mean–every spare minute engaged in intercession and warfare. It would mean that some nights we would be up half the night in prayer–not because we had chosen to but because the Lord would wake us. No more lazy evenings watching TV. Up early in the mornings so we could fit in extra prayer time.

The verses that we sensed we were to pray over particularly come in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

A book by Paul Billheimer, which I highly recommend, called Destined for the Throne: How Spiritual Warfare Prepares the Bride of Christ for Her Eternal Destiny first alerted me many years ago to the fact that these verses apply primarily to non-believers. We are to destroy every proud obstacle that keeps them from knowing God. And the way we do this isn’t through human logic or argument and discussion, but through the spiritual tools Jesus has given us–praise  and thanksgiving (Psalm 149:6-9), the Word (Ephesians 6:17), claiming his promises (Romans 3:4; 2 Corinthians 1:20), binding and loosing (Matthew 16:18-19; 18:18), the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony and the fact that are willing to lay down our lives (Revelation 12:11).

Within two days, we saw our first, very small breakthrough.

Shortly after this at one of our home church gatherings, everyone broke into small groups to pray about the “impossible situations” they were facing in their lives–for example, two families wanted to pray for people with serious drug and alcohol problems. Maybe 5 or 6 people were prayed for.

Within a month, the person Tony and I were praying for had found the Lord due to a remarkable series of circumstances–thank you Jesus, we are so very grateful–and had led someone else to Christ.  Another one of the other “impossible situations” had become a Christian too  And it is very clear that God is working in two more.

Yes, the timing was right in our particular battle, but spiritual warfare will result in people finding Christ.

The end of this story has not been written yet–it is still an ongoing journey. We have won the first battle and that gives us confidence that we can press through to see the war won. We know that Jesus has won the  overall victory.

If anyone would like a list of the verses we use in spiritual warfare, let me know.

I’d love to hear any stories where you have seen something similar.

 

 

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Our spiritual weapons: praise

I often picture spiritual warfare like storming a castle in medieval times using a battering ram to destroy its gates. You cannot break through with one blow; it has to be done repeatedly until eventually the gate yields.

When our business looked as though it might go bankrupt a few years ago, praise was one of the main ways we fought back against the enemy. We would march around our office praising God for the victory that we couldn’t yet see. We thanked him that the empty tray on Tony’s desk would soon be filled with contracts. We glorified God that companies from the north, south, east and west wanted to do business with us. We praised him that he has victory over every evil force that was out to destroy us (John 10:10). Gradually, the forces of darkness yielded to the spiritual pressure. Finally, we were solvent again and rapidly became profitable.

There are two notable pictures of praise as warfare in the Old Testament. The first is in the battle of Jericho. As the Children of Israel marched around the walls the seventh day, they shouted as loud as they could and “the walls came a-tumblin’ down.”

The second comes in 2 Chronicles 6. King Jehoshaphat is facing a vast army from Edom. There’s no way he can win. As he seeks the Lord’s face and reminds him of his promises, the Lord assures him that he has the battle in hand. So Joshua takes God at his word and sends out singers before his army. At the very moment they start singing and praising God, confusion spreads among the enemy and they fight each other. All that’s left for Jehoshaphat and his army to do is collect the spoil.

A key passage on praise as spiritual warfare comes in Psalm 149:6-9

Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands—
to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains,
to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones.

As we praise God and use the Word of God (the sharp sword–Ephesians 6:17), we cause the enemy to flee.

Photo Credit: nmmacedo  (Creative Commons)

 

Our spiritual weapons–the Word of God

I suffered from many diseases when I was in medical school–all of them imaginary, and all based on the most painful and potentially fatal conditions I happened to be studying at the time. But the fear was not imaginary–it was frequently crippling and overwhelming.

I had a spirit of fear.

One day, the realization came to me. “None of these fatal illnesses have come to pass. The problem is in my thinking.” I recognized that demonic powers were  behind the fear.

I remembered that Jesus had used the Word of God when he fought Satan in the wilderness. “It is written…”  and he would quote Scripture.

So I armed myself with several verses that talk about how Jesus has overcome Satan, and I set out to do battle. As soon as a fearful thought came into my mind, I would quote verses–”It is written that God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). I stand against every fearful thought and spirit of fear in Jesus’ name.” And the fear would leave. Sometimes it would come back again within a few minutes. “God’s word says that if I resist the devil, he has to flee from me (James 4:7). I resist you in Jesus’ name.” Always the fear would go.

At the beginning, I had to battle many times a day, but as the days went by, it became less and less frequent, until after a couple of months I was set completely free.

Second Corinthians 10:4 says that the weapons of our warfare are not natural, but they are spiritual and can pull down strongholds. The Word of God is one of the most powerful weapons in our armory. It is our sword (Ephesians 6:17; Psalm 149:6-9). As we learn to wield these spiritual weapons God has given us, he trains us to wage warfare effectively (Psalm 18:34).

Have you found the Word to be effective in your battle against the enemy?

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If any of you tried to download my e-book on hearing God and couldn’t get the link to work, my apologies. It has now been fixed