What you focus on counts

Over the many years I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’ve noticed a trend. What I focus on makes a difference.

Every few years, it seems the Lord leads me to study a certain area/doctrine. Often it’s a matter of necessity. For example, when we lived in a very poor inner city area for many years, there were so many people with major problems, I longed to find a way to help them.

Usually my study comes in the form of questions. I’ll think of all the things I want to know about the topic and then read the Bible noting every verse I can find that provides an answer. As I study, I’ll make copious notes, and read different books on the topic. Finally, I’ll usually write a summary of what I’ve found. Sometimes the subject will occupy me for  a few weeks; other times two to three years.

At the same time, I find myself involved in that area in a practical way too. It’s as though God is giving me not just the theoretical background but a useful skill set too. And then I find God uses me in whatever area it is I’ve spent time on to train others.

Some examples:

I spent two years looking at inner healing and deliverance–and have not only spent time with many people to see them set free, I’ve trained others to do the same.

When we moved here to the States, I spent much time looking at church from a different perspective–now I write books on the topic and we’re involved in training simple/organic church planters.

For years, but especially the last two to three years, I’ve been looking at the topic of women–and I’ve just finished compiling a book on this subject. Who knows where this will go.

God wires us all in different ways. I’ve been trained to think and study, and so some of this comes naturally to me. But I’ve also learned to take notice when I find myself with an interest in a certain topic or a focus on a certain need. Who knows what God wants to accomplish through that if I’ll follow it through.

Have any of you found the same?

Photo Credit: the bbp via Compfight cc

Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

Do you want to be happy or sad?

While there are some people who are unhappy because they need emotional healing from a broken heart, others choose to be pessimistic, to look on the negative side of life.

There are a couple of very interesting verses in Proverbs 15. Verses 13 and 15 say this:

A glad heart makes a happy face;  a broken heart crushes the spirit.

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

The impression, especially from verse 15, is that we can choose what kind of heart we have. Are we going to choose to be glad, or sad? Some people perceive the same event as a negative; others as a positive.

Do we choose to see the glass half empty or half full. It makes a big difference. In general, people prefer to be around someone who is encouraging and has a joyful outlook on life. Jesus was “anointed with gladness more than his companions” (Hebrews 1:9). If we want to be winsome to those who don’t yet know the Lord, we would do well to have a joyful attitude towards life.

Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons)

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)

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.

Photo Credit: procsilas (Creative Commons)

 

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

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.

Free e-book on hearing God

A year or so ago I wrote an e-book entitled A Simple Guide to Hearing God. It’s designed to be a very practical look at how to hear God’s voice. However, I decided to take a different approach.

I have many friends who know how to hear God clearly–some of the stories they tell are remarkable. Armed with my iphone, I interviewed these people asking them how God speaks to them. (The videos I produced are amateur, but what the people I interviewed say is not!) How to hear God is also a subject I have studied and practiced for many years, and the text comes out of what I have learned.

The result is an enhanced e-book–a combination of video and writing. (It therefore has to be viewed on a computer rather than a kindle).

I would now like to give this e-book away. If you subscribe to my blog, you will receive a link to the free download.