Written and Compiled by Ryan C. Nielsen
Copyright 1997-2009 by Ryan C. Nielsen
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Tools, weapons, combat techniques,
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“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
I Peter 4:7-11
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Assurance of Salvation................................................................................ 3
Regular Time Alone With God..................................................................... 4
Modern Day Parable................................................................................. 10
God’s Will--Good, Better, Best................................................................... 11
Understanding God’s Will.......................................................................... 13
An Eternal Perspective.............................................................................. 15
Reasons to Read the Bible.......................................................................... 17
Hints for Studying the Bible....................................................................... 19
Bible Interpretation.................................................................................... 22
Storing God’s Word in Your Heart............................................................. 25
A Message Regarding Prayer..................................................................... 29
Pray Powerfully....................................................................................... 35
The Heart of a Servant.............................................................................. 41
Light of the Storage Closet........................................................................ 45
Blessed to Be a Blessing............................................................................. 49
Why Evangelism....................................................................................... 55
Keys to Sharing Your Faith........................................................................ 57
Accountability--a natural result................................................................... 59
Spiritual Gifts in the Body.......................................................................... 60
Fellowship--A Form of Companionship....................................................... 63
Where the Action is.................................................................................. 65
Basic Training for Small Groups................................................................. 69
Preparing a Personal Testimony................................................................. 71
Testimony to Small Groups....................................................................... 74
Using Questions to Keep Discussion Going.................................................. 75
Tyranny of the Urgent............................................................................... 76
Time Management.................................................................................... 81
Spiritual Report Card................................................................................. 84
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
When we make a commitment to Christ and trust our lives to Him, it is an eternal decision. Therefore, it is crucial to have assurance of our salvation in Jesus Christ and to understand what that means in our own relationship with Him.
Our faith in Jesus Christ is not based on feelings or emotions, thus it is vital to know the facts in the Christian faith. Although we change, grow, experience, and endure good and bad circumstances throughout our walk with the Lord -- the fact of our salvation does not depend on anything but God’s promises in His Word. This train illustration depicts our assurance of salvation in action.
Obviously trains run from the engine (FACTS) and not the caboose (FEELINGS). FAITH holds the train together. Imagine what would happen if the caboose were in charge! Our lives would have no direction or foundation -- our ever changing emotions would be running the show.
Before we accepted Jesus and began a relationship with Him, this critical issue of settling our faith began with the work of the Holy Spirit and concluded by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. Now that the decision is made, it is absurd to think humanity with our ups and downs could alter that. Feelings do not change the facts of our salvation. Webster’s dictionary defines assurace as: security; safety; confidence; insurance; the state of being sure or certain. Salvation is defined as: deliverance from the power and effects of evil (death & sin).
Here are some scriptures that assure us of our salvation:
John 5:24 -- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
John 10:27-30 -- “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Romans 10:9-11 -- “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and beleive in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever beleives in Him will not be disappointed.’”
1 John 5:11-13 -- “And the Witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
REGULAR TIME ALONE WITH GOD
This is time spent with God when you allow God to speak to you through the Bible and Holy Spirit, and you speak to God in prayer. Without it on a daily basis, we will never grow the way God wants us to. We must determine this is not just important, but ESSENTIAL. Here are some suggestions as to how:
1) GET A READABLE TRANSLATION
I recommend the New International Version (NIV). Don’t get bogged down
with old, hard-to-read translations.
2) SET A TIME
Early morning seems to be best for most, following Jesus’ example (Mark 1:35).
If that isn’t possible, maybe evening, during lunch, or between classes. Most
importantly, MAKE TIME--Satan will try to keep you from it--and keep it daily.
3) SET A PLACE
Make it as quiet a place as possible. You can’t zero in on God with TV blaring,
a loud stereo, phone distractions or other interruptions. Get alone with God.
4) ASK GOD FOR WISDOM AND DIRECTION
James 1:5 said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives
generously to all. Before beginning, take a minute to realize you are in God’s
presence, then ask Him for wisdom to understand the Scripture you are reading
that day. Claim the promise of James 1:5 and ask the Lord, “What do you want
me to learn today? Teach me what you want me to know from your Word.”
5) HAVE A PLAN -- Example of a Quiet Time
* Quiet your thoughts as you enter into your time. Praise/thanks.
* Repentance. Begin your time with a clean heart. Confess sin and clear the
lines of communication with God.
* Read God’s Word (devotion book, 2-3 chapters in Bible from Old & New
Testament, “Read Through the Bible,” Proverbs/Psalms combo). There
are many systems, just choose one you like. If you find yourself getting
in a rut, change your system.
* Try and remove wandering thoughts, distractions, lies, condemnation...during
the spiritual battle that exists during our quiet time.
* Prayer/intercession. (See following materials on Prayer)
* Commit the day and what you have learned to the Lord. Look for application
throughout the day.
6) HAVE VARIETY
You do not have to do you Quiet Time in exactly the same way every day.
Have a plan, but vary that plan. For example, if you are reading through the
Bible 4-5 chapters per day, you may (in fact, you probably will) get bogged
down in Leviticus with the many laws and regulations. Don’t quit, just skip to
Matthew in the New Testament for a week, and then come back and start where
you left off. You may read straight through books for an overall view at times,
and at other times read various different books for thirty days in a row.
Remember, variety is the spice of life.
7) MEET WITH GOD
You will if your time is not just a legalistic ritual, but rather a personal,
intimate fellowship with Almighty God. Imagine, God desires our fellowship--
He longs for it! And He honors our willingness to spend time with Him.
8) DON’T TAKE COPIOUS NOTES
Save that for more in-depth study times. Try to record one or two special
insights or promises that God gives you each day. You will soon have a bundle
of precious jewels from God that you can refer back to and review in times of
need and spiritual dryness. (Yes, dry times do come.)
9) BE PRACTICAL AND CONSISTENT
Some days you won’t feel like having a Quiet Time. Do your best to at least
have a short one, even if it is only ten minutes reviewing underlined passages
that God impressed on you in weeks and months before. Be practical in this--
keep it related personally to you. Read to meet Christ personally each day.
“What is God saying to me?”
10) SCHEDULE YOUR TIME
If your Quiet Time is early morning, then go to bed at night! And get up when
the alarm goes off! Satan will do everything possible to squeeze too many
activities into our day, so as to squeeze out our Quiet Time. Plan accordingly.
11) MEDITATE ON WHAT YOU READ
A good way to keep in mind what you read is to check up on yourself
throughout the day. Ask yourself, “What did I read in my Quiet Time today?”
See if you can recall the highlights. If not, review those chapters when you get
home at night. As you recall them, ask God to help you apply them throughout
the day and in your life and ministry.
12) ENJOY YOUR QUIET TIME
It should not be legalism, or drudgery, or painful. Psalm 37 says to “delight
ourselves in the Lord.”
13) FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE
Even the Son of God realized the utmost importance of daily fellowship alone
with God, and made it a high priority. If Christ needed it, we can be confident
that we need it too.
Keep a notebook written to God. Write down how you are feeling and what
you are learning. Over a period of time you will be amazed how much you are
growing and learning.
15) APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN OR ARE CONVICTED OF
The idea of the Lordship of Christ is that God desires that we turn our lives completely over to Him. God receives us each where we are and doesn’t expect any degree of spiritual knowledge or skill. Like any parent, He wants to see us grow to maturity. Just as it grieves a parent not to see his/her child grow, so also it grieves God’s heart to see us remain spiritual infants.
What is Lordship? Lordship is giving back to God the controls of our life so that He may use us to accomplish and fulfill His will through us. It involves complete surrender of our plans and will to the Lord.
The Lordship issue is what the apostle Paul was speaking of in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is ceasing to live for myself and beginning to live by God’s power for God’s purpose. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of Worship.” 2 Cor. 5:15 states, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
Why do we need God’s Lordship? Satan used deception initially with Adam and Eve and he continues to cause people to rebel against Christ. God created man in His image with a WILL, an INTELLECT and EMOTIONS. These attributes, which are key ingredients in choice or decision making, require that God provide man with an environment where He could use them. God knew when He did this that man might disobey, but His great love and desire to give man a free choice causes Him to provide that environment.
When Satan tempted Eve, he appealed to these three attributes. He played upon her emotions by causing her to desire what God had forbidden. He appealed to her intellect with his deceptive reasoning. And he caused her to use her will to break God’s law. In appealing to her intellect or power to reason, Satan deceived her by making her think God’s plan was restrictive.
We think restrictions are bad. This isn’t true because God’s restrictions are for our own good and for the purpose of allowing us to use our will, intellect, and emotions to choose Him. He could have created robots which needed no restrictions because they were programmed to do only what He desired. But He didn’t. He created people in His image. So, Eve must have concluded God’s plan is bad. She bought the conclusion that God must be holding out on them and that disobedience to God’s plan would profit them. The consequence, then, is that sin entered the world through disobedience. Man became the Lord of his own life in independence from God. This is perhaps the simplest definition of sin: Independence from God.
The only way to escape Satan’s logic and begin to grow in the Christian life is by again crowning Christ Lord of our lives -- turning the controls back to Him. He is the only one worthy and able to run our lives. Not only is He Lord, but its right that He is.
How Do We Make Christ Lord?
1) Recognize His Universal Lordship?
The entire message of the faith is that Jesus is in fact Lord of All. Acts
2:36; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-18. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God
has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” “Therefore
God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above
every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on
earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father.” “He is the image of the invisible God, the
firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers
or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all
things and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the
church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in
everything He might have supremacy.”
Jesus is the sovereign ruler of the universe and His will is being carried
out according to the exact prophecies of God. History is unfolding according to
God’s will, with or without man’s approval and cooperation.
2) His Personal Lordship.
This ownership of Christ is true on at least three counts:
A. By Creation. We were created by Him (Genesis 1:27).
B. By redemption. We were purchased by Christ’s blood. He owns us. we no
longer have the right to run our lives. 1 Cor. 6:20 -- “You were bought at
at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
C. By re-birth. We are His son or daughter (John 1:12). So, is He a person
worthy of giving your life over to? Think of it like a doctor that is going
to give you an important surgery. You want to know that He is able to
do the job. Christ is able to do the job for us in every area of our lives.
3) Recognize I Cannot be Independent.
True independence is not one of the options given to man. We can be
independent from something, but that will automatically make us dependent
upon, or enclave to, something else. The moment we depart form God, we
become a slave of sin and Satan.
Many times people think they don’t have to follow either God or Satan
but can do their own thing. This is not possible. We are created to be
dependent, and independence from one master means enslavement to the
other. This is what Paul says in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that when you
present yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one
whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or slaves
to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
4) Recognize the Cost.
Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 16:24-26 says,
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny
himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it
be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a
man give in exchange for his soul?’” Christ warned that following Him was
not an easy path. It means carrying our cross. The road is often very difficult.
5) Surrender Ourselves Back to God.
This is a voluntary act on the part of every believer. He/She alone can
make that decision. He/She may make an initial surrender at the time he/she
receives Christ, but as he/she grows in the Christian life, he/she must yield
each aspect of his/her life to God.
We must each start with our own personal body, and its members. As
we yield them to the Lordship of Christ, we become free or independent from
sin’s control. (See Romans 6:13-14, 18)
Surrendering Lordship to its rightful owner is a daily duty (Luke 9:23).
We do not have the Biblical option to be a Christian and not have Jesus as Lord
of our life. The decision to receive Christ as savior should include a decision to
make Him Lord of our life as well.
A MODERN DAY PARABLE
By Jeris E. Bragan
Once there was a family who fell on hard times. They were proud and independent people, so they refused to ask anybody for help. Soon all their money was gone, and the cupboards were empty of food.
“God is our last help,” the father said. “Let’s pray for food.” They all knelt and poured out their heart to God. No sooner had their prayers stopped when they heard a loud knock at the door. Everybody smiled as the father opened the door; they knew somebody would be there with an armload of groceries.
But nobody was there. Instead, a small box was sitting on the welcome mat. Curious, the family gathered around as the father opened the box. Their faces fell when they saw the contents: just a small rock.
“God is testing our faith,” the father explained. “We’ll pray again tomorrow.”
They prayed more fervently the following night. Their prayers for food were punctuated by the sound of growling stomachs. Once again a loud knock greeted the end of the last prayers. The mother rushed to the door, her face covered with a tight smile. It vanished as she saw another, larger box on the mat. Inside was a slightly larger rock.
“We ask the Lord for bread and He gives us a stone,” the father whispered bitterly. But he didn’t give up his faith. Each night the family prayed as before, and each night the last amen was answered by a knock on the door. The boxes kept getting larger, but the contents were always the same: a progressively heavier rock.
Finally they prayed no more. They gave up on God and waited for starvation to finish them off. Fortunately, a neighbor came by just before they perished. Hastily ambulances took each one off to the hospital, where they would be nursed back to health.
Back at the house a confused and astonished police officer wandered from room to room, looking at the yellow rocks scattered about the house. “I don’t understand it,” he muttered shaking his head. “These people were starving to death while stacked all over the house was a King’s ransom in pure gold!”
“GOD’S WILL--GOOD, BETTER, BEST?”
Some fine words and reflections from Stan Mooneyham, President, World Vision International:
I recall hearing a famous preacher say, “To find the will of God is the greatest discovery; to do the will of God is the magnificent achievement.”
That it was good theology I had no doubt. But no one could tell me for sure how to know the will of God and how to be sure I was doing God’s will and not my own. Pointer, I got. And hints and suggestions.
However, it was communicated to me subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, that God had two wills for me. One was His perfect will, which I was urged to seek, find and do. But (and this was said almost in a whisper), if I aimed for the top and fell short, God would reluctantly grant me His permissive will. The implication was that beneath His perfect best for me are ranked His less desirable second best, third best, etc.
I had no reason to question that concept at the time, but I do now for I see what it does. It shifts sovereignty from Creator to created. If that view is right, I can, by my disobedience, obstinance, or ignorance, force God to fall back to a second or third line of action and maneuver within whatever leeway I have left Him. Furthermore, because “the will of God” in a given circumstance often cannot be precisely defined (we have inherited many of our problems and any solutions will be less than perfect by our measure) many fear they may miss the will of God simply because they don’t know the formula for finding it, thereby cheating themselves and handicapping God.
I don’t think “best” and “next best” describe the way God works. I have found nothing in the Bible nor in my experience that validates this multi-will concept. It pushes out of shape both God’s sovereignty and God’s grace.
To be sovereign, God is not dependent upon my ability to make right choices. Ted Engstrom, a colleague of mine says, “A Christian is the only person I know who can choose any one of four different directions and have it be right!” In my heart, I know he’s right. It isn’t that a “wrong” choice may accidentally turn out to be “right.” It’s that the grace of God redeems “wrong” choices.
Indeed, in the light of Romans 8:28, one must ask if there is such a thing as an unredeemable choice for one who loves God and is called according to His purpose. All things work together for good--wise decisions and unwise ones. Who, in fact, can be certain at the time which are which and who at the time of decision making can discern, except through faith, the good that is working together? Good, as we tend to recognize it, means plenty rather than want,
comfort rather than discomfort, harmony rather than tension. But God seems to place more value on ultimate results than on short-term benefits.
Take the conflict between Paul and Barnabas over the young disciple, John Mark (Acts 15:36-41, NEB), Mark had disappointed Paul by turning back and failing to complete their first missionary journey so Paul refused to take him again. “The dispute was so sharp that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark. . . Paul chose Silas.”
Surely both of these men were seeking God’s will. I cannot believe that God caused the disagreement in order to separate them into two teams, thus making them twice as effective, and, not incidentally, bringing Timothy into the picture with Paul (16:3). I believe God redeemed the choices of two men who loved Him. He used even their humanness, their temperaments; yes, their tempers. We will never know what would have happened had they not quarreled, but I am sure God was not placed at the mercy of their disagreement, and neither were they.
The Scriptures confirm that sometimes God does give direct guidance by the Holy Spirit. But if not, He does not allow “wrong” choices to go unredeemed. It can’t be otherwise. If not, who would be willing to choose when faced by two paths at a fork in the road? We would be paralyzed with fear of making the wrong choice. Or having finally made a choice, we would live always with the agonizing possibility that the other path might have been better. So, in grace, God redeems the choices of His children. That is what grace is--undeserved favor. God does not coerce me, manipulate me, or violate my will. He does not play from a stacked deck. He respects the powers which He created within me. As one who loved Him and is called according to His purpose, I am free to choose--and God elects my choice to be right.
All of which says to me, “Love God, relax, and get on with the business of living!” The principle that God is sovereign over not only my life but my choices liberates me to live with assurance instead of apprehension that I may blow it.
Since I am free, I may indeed blow it. If I violate the principles of life which God has woven into the very fabric of the universe, I cannot escape the consequences. Choices do have consequences. David paid sorely for his sin even though God regarded him as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). But God was sovereign even over the consequences. Though God did not “elect” David to sin, the sovereign result was that Israel received Solomon, the wisest king in the nation’s history.
When the potter remade the marred clay into “another vessel as seemed good” (Jeremiah 18:4), he was not making something that was second best. The final product, according to the story, was still what the potter wanted to make. God says we can expect Him to do at least as much. For me, it is more than enough.
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WILL
In understanding God’s will, we often set out on a quest to “find God’s Will.” God’s will is not lost, but we are called to diligently seek Him and understand His will in the process. In order to begin understanding God’s will we must first understand what His will is for the World.
We know that all men are separated from God by sin. God desires to redeem all men to Himself (Gal. 1:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).
This plan involves all nations (Matt. 24:14). We have an impact on when Christ will come again, which shows there is a strategy involved to reach the world. Obviously, there is still much work to be done.
How does this relate to God’s will for our lives?
First, we must look at Christ’s life. Jesus saw that God’s will was made manifest by doing His Father’s work and finishing the task (John 4:34). The task was the work of training His disciples, who in turn trained others. Since then, it has been passed on to us (John 17:18; Matt. 28:18-20).
Now, to bring this big picture into focus for specifics of our daily walk/ decisions, there are a few factors to consider:
1) Go to God’s Word. The bible has many answers to our everyday questions.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness...” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2) Follow leading of the Holy Spirit through Prayer. Some people are more
sensitive than others to feelings of what God would want/not want them
to do. (Acts 16:6-10).
3) Evaluate the Circumstances. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
List out the pros and cons of the decision.
4) Ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who
gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to
him.” (James 1:5)
5) Seek Wise Counsel. Go to those who know you and have more experience
than you. This doesn’t mean you need to talk with as many people as
possible about your situation, but definitely seek the counsel of those
whom you view as a spiritual mentor. “Pride only breeds quarrels, but
wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Prov. 13:10) “Listen to
advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Prov.
6) Be Committed to Letting Go of the Decision for God’s Sake. We must
commit the decision, choice or uncertainty to Him. A sure sign of
relinquishing our will is peace from God. (John 14:27)
Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie, author of God’s Will in Your Life, offers these questions to ask when making decisions or considering action:
1) Is it consistent with the 10 commandments?
2) Will it deepen my relationship with Christ?
3) Is it an extension of Christ’s life, message, and kingdom?
4) If I do it, will it glorify Him and enable me to grow as His disciple?
5) Is there a scriptural basis for it?
6) Is it an expression of authentic love, and will it bring ultimate good in the
lives of people involved?
7) Will it be consistent what my basic purpose to love the Lord and be a
communicator of His love to others?
8) Will it enable me to grow in the talents and gifts the Lord has given me?
9) Will my expenditures still allow tithing plus generous giving of my money
for the Lord’s work and the needs of others?
Take a careful look at these questions. All may not apply, but most will. These apply to big decisions, not those like, “Should I buy white or wheat bread today?”
If you have done the previous things, and are being honest before God, then make your decision by faith. God said He will give you wisdom and He will if we believe and seek it.
The following article should help in shedding some light on the subject of understanding God’s will.
AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is “no vision” the people will perish. Today we live in a world which is perishing. It perishes not because it can’t be reached, but for lack of vision on the part of God’s people. God wants to use us to reach a lost and dying world that has been separated from Him because of sin. Like God, we were made to live for the eternal. Unfortunately, many of God’s children have let the eternal slip out of focus and are locked into the temporal things of the world.
--- “Layman Great Commission” from Navigators
In God’s incredible plan He could have chosen any method in revealing Himself to us. The plan He chose involves the common layman (people like you and I) to share our lives and the message of Christ with those we encounter. It is a calling for all Christians not just those in full-time Christian ministry (See Ephesians 4:11-12). When Jesus came it fulfilled God’s promise to send His only Son, to live a sinless life as a man, die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead to reign as the King of Kings forever. Two thousand years have passed since Christ came and now we are here at our life. A tiny gap in the expanse of history.
What is eternity like for us? Here is an illustration.
Our life is comprised of three major events:
(1) Our birth -- This is where our life first intersects the time line and where
we become part of history;
(2) Determining our future -- The decision we each make about Jesus Christ.
This decision determines where we spend eternity once our life on earth
(3) Our death -- The day our earthly body will die. Our days on earth will
determine where we will spend eternity.
The average person has about 70 years of life, some more and some less. It is not certain how long any of us will live. In relation to eternity, 70 years is a very short time. With this portion of life that I have, what am I going to invest my life in?
The three things that last forever are:
(1) God (Ps. 102:25-27);
(2) His Word (Mark 13:31); and
(3) People (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Everything else in this world does not have eternal or lasting value.
We can play a significant role in eternity based on what we do in our life on earth. Each of us is very important!!!
Remember 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
REASONS FROM PSALM 119 TO READ THE BIBLE
If we really want to know God, then what better source to go to than His Word where He literally tells us about Himself, what He has been up to, and what He is going to do. In addition to all that, He teaches us how we fit into all that on an eternal and daily basis.
Now, if you really wanted to know the story of Moby Dick inside and out so you could apply radical whaling principles to your life, camping out in chapters 5 and 23-38 would not be the best way to get the whole story. In fact, you could not get the whole story that way.
At this point in time, the point should be poignant and obvious. Set out on a course to read through the whole Bible. And by golly there are various ways to do it. Some folks have already set up “One Year Bibles” that have daily readings. Another way is to simply use a bookmark. That way you can do your various Bible studies and reading, but that bookmark brings you right back to where you were (obvious, but true). Also realize that it probably will take some time to do, and God reveals Himself in every book of the Bible.
Reasons from Psalm 119 to Read the Bible:
Why is God’s Word so essential? Why do I need to feed on it daily, like I do on food? Let me share a few reasons from Psalm 119 why I (and you) so desperately need to be in His word daily.
Vs. 9-11 God’s Word keeps my way pure. “How can a young man keep his way
pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in
my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Vs. 24 God’s Word is my counselor. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my
Vs. 25 God’s Word renews me. “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life
according to your Word.”
Vs. 28 God’s Word strengthens me. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen
me according to your Word.”
Vs. 42 God’s Word give me answers. “...then I will answer the one who taunts
me, for I trust in your Word.”
Vs. 52 God’s Word comforts me. “I remember your ancient law, O Lord, and I
find comfort in them.”
Vs. 66 God’s Word gives me knowledge and good judgment. “Teach me
knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.”
Vs. 105 God’s Word give me light. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light
for my path.”
Vs. 116 God’s Word sustains me. “Sustain me according to Your promise, and I
will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”
SOME HELPFUL HINTS FOR STUDYING THE BIBLE
By Scott Emerick
I. Why Study the Bible?
A. Hebrews 4:12 -- “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any
double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints
and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
B. 2 Timothy 3:16 -- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
C. To know God better and knowing God is real life. John 17:3 -- “Now this is
eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom You have sent.”
II. Helpful Tools to Study the Bible
A. A good study Bible (in a modern translation) -- Thompson Chain Reference
Bible, Open Bible, NIV Study Bible, etc.
B. A good commentary.
C. As many English translations as you can get your hands on.
D. Vine’s expository Dictionary of New Testament Words in conjunction with a
Parallel or Interlinear Greek New Testament.
How to Use: Find the word or passage you are studying in the Greek
Interlinear. This will tell you the original Greek work. Then look that
up in your Vine’s Greek dictionary. It is that simple.
E. A good concordance.
1) One can be found in most good study Bibles.
2) Exhaustive concordances are also available.
III. Types of Studies
A. Study of a Book of the Bible
1) Find out the historical setting.
2) Find out who wrote the book.
3) Find out who the book was written to (if anyone).
4) What was the purpose of the book?
e) Any combination of the above
5) Read the book straight through , fairly quickly
6) Then go back through, applying the 3 steps of observation,
interpretation, and application (to be discussed later).
7) Remember each book of the Bible fits into the whole and must be
interpreted in light of the whole Bible.
B. Topical Study
1) Choose a topic (ex.: faith, prayer, sin, the Holy Spirit).
2) Look in a concordance to find all references to your topic.
3) Study each passage in and of itself and how it relates to the others,
and remember to keep each passage in context of the book.
C. Character Study
1) Choose a Biblical character.
2) Study the areas of Scripture that deal with that particular person (use a
topical index to locate those references -- can also be found in your
3) Work to understand the whole setting the person was in.
4) Try to put yourself in that person’s sandals/pumps.
5) Ask yourself questions as to why the person’s life was the way it was.
D. Historical Study
Study the historical books of the Bible (e.g. Genesis, Exodus, 1 and 2
Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Joshua, Judges, Ezra, Nehemiah, The Gospels, and
IV. Steps to Studying the Scriptures
Simply observe the facts! (Who? When? Where? Why written?
Context?! Commands! Promises! Other observations.)
1) Determine what the passage means.
Ask: what is the author trying to say to the audience?
2) Ask God to Give you understanding of the passage.
The Holy Spirit’s guidance is essential to truly understand the
depth of Scripture. John 14:26 -- “But the Counselor, the Holy
Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all
things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
1 John 2:27 -- “As for you, the anointing you received from Him
remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as
His anointing teaches you about all things and as the anointing is
real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in Him.”
3) Use the tools at the beginning of the outline to help you.
4) Carefully read, dissecting each passage, verse, sentence, and word.
5) Try to understand the grammar. (Why are “therefores” there for?)
6) Look for cause and effect relationships.
7) Remember context and to use cross-references in other parts of the
The Bible is designed to change our lives and build our relationship with our Lord.
James 1:22 -- “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (By dependence on the Holy Spirit, we can obey what the Word says.)
1) Ask what the passage means to you, and how it can be applied to your
2) Note any of the following:
a) Needed attitude change
b) Sins to confess and forsake
c) Actions to take/avoid
d) Examples to follow
e) Promises to claim
f) Other personal applications
3) Then apply them.
I hope these hints are helpful!
A. THE BASIC PRINCIPLES
Our approach to the matter of Bible interpretation should be based on the premise that we are committed to the Bible as “The Word of God” and that we sincerely want to know what God has said. If God has really spoken through this Book, then it must convey a harmonious, intelligible system of truth. Our study of its pages is designed to increase our understanding of its Author and bring us into conformity with his ideas and purposes. Thus, Bible Study holds great promise of reward to the earnest seeker after the knowledge of God.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF BIBLE INTERPRETATION
1) Interpret Literally
2) Interpret in Light of the Context
3) Examine Word Meanings
4) Look to the Original Language as the Final Authority
5) Compare Scripture with other Scripture
6) Observe the Facts Surrounding the Scripture Portion you are Studying
The rules of Bible interpretation are as fundamental to the understanding of God’s Word as the rules of grammar are to the understanding of English.
Nothing but first-hand knowledge of God’s Word will suffice to fulfill God’s purpose for us and give us the rewarding sense of “discovery” that stimulates and satisfies. The application of the rules of interpretation is necessary to help us acquire this first-hand knowledge and the attendant benefits.
God’s Word on this matter is: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Explanation of each of the above principles is made in the following pages.
1. INTERPRET LITERALLY
Not figuratively or allegorically, unless the language is clearly figurative or allegorical. Deal with it as you would other writings. God’s Word is meant to be understood. Most of the Bible makes the best sense interpreted literally. This means we take the simplest, basic meaning of the words. “If the plain sense makes sense, then seek no other sense.”
This does not mean that there are not symbolic portions of the Scripture, however. For example, the book of Revelation is full of symbolism. Allegories are used, such as Hagar and
Sarah in Galations 4, but these are clearly recognizable. Similes are common as well, such that when Christ says “I am the bread of life” we do not picture Him as a literal loaf of bread.
Figures of speech are used in our own conversation and we have no trouble understanding these -- even so with the Bible.
2. INTERPRET IN LIGHT OF THE CONTEXT
Any writing, including the Bible, can be perverted by the use of isolated “proof texts.” Lifting verses out of their setting and building a theology on these, without reference to the whole, is handling the Word of God deceitfully. This will never result in the knowledge of God’s truth as He has set it forth. This is a common failing of the false religions who often use the Bible in this way to prove their own false doctrines. It is thus seen to be imperative when studying the scriptures to take time to read the context before deciding on its meaning.
3. EXAMINE WORD MEANINGS
Words are the building blocks of thoughts. Individual words must be clearly defined in our own understanding. We cannot understand the whole without understanding its parts. Bible Dictionaries and Concordances are Essential Tools!!!
4. LOOK TO THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE AS THE FINAL AUTHORITY
Since the Bible is inspired and inerrant in the original writings, any final, authoritative interpretation must be based on the original language.
5. COMPARE SCRIPTURE WITH OTHER SCRIPTURE
Many obscure passages will yield to the understanding when one views them in light of the clear teaching of other passages.
6. OBSERVE THESE FACTS
a. Who is speaking?
b. To whom is he or she speaking?
c. The condition of each.
d. The circumstances surrounding the actions.
e. The historical and cultural background.
f. The literary mold.
g. The purpose for writing and the argument of the writer.
These factors can make a great deal of difference as to whether we get the intended meaning or a false interpretation.
B. FURTHER PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION
1. The Bible is anthropomorphic, that is, divine truth is brought down to the
human level and expressed in human concepts.
2. The Bible is a progressive revelation from God to man, and thus each
passage of Scripture must be interpreted in light of its historical context.
3. The clearest and most evident interpretation of a passage is to be preferred,
and for this reason obscure passages must give way to the clear teaching
4. Everything essential in Scripture is clearly revealed and based on sufficient
5. Interpret the Bible so that it presents a consistent system of theology, free
from all contradictions. However, if two apparently contradictory
doctrines are clearly taught, accept both of them.
6. The Bible is to be interpreted to discover what God says, not just to verify
traditional interpretations or theological prejudices. However,
interpretations which vary considerably from established doctrinal
system and the sound exegetical commentaries of the past are to be
treated with suspicion.
7. No passage of Scripture should be interpreted as having more than one
meaning unless unusually strong reasons warrant it. Similarly,
determine the correct interpretation of a passage before making spiritual
application of the passage.
8. Interpret personal experience in light of Scripture and not Scripture in light
of personal experience.
9. Each Christian has the right and responsibility to investigate and interpret
the Word of God for himself or herself.
10. Church history is important but not decisive in the interpretation of
STORING GOD’S WORD IN YOUR HEART
Okay, you’ve probably thought about it once or twice, but I bet you’ve asked yourself what it means and the big twinkie, how to do it. First of all, what does it mean . . . ?
Storing God’s Word -- Scriptures exhort, plead, and command us to store up God’s Word, namely in our hearts and minds. The two are not mutually exclusive by the way. Inherent within this desire to store up His Word is the deep recognition of our desperate, radical need for God. This must be the prime motivation or else your conviction, or your heart to do so, fades fast and becomes fickle. God wants all of our heart, not just part of it. Now that we know what the motivation is, let’s take a brief look at some passages that shed some light on the subject.
Some words from Mark Littleton: “The Shema of Israel, from Deuteronomy 6, was the first Scriptural passage a Jew memorized. He repeated it every time he went into his house, into the temple, and into worship. In it God said, ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deut. 6:6-7). God’s words were to lodge securely in the heart, never to be excised. A father who placed them in his heart would so overflow with their truth and goodness that he’d be teaching his sons everywhere he went. That was the idea. But few Christians do it. Again, God spoke to Joshua and warned him, ‘Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful’ (Joshua 1:8).”
And finally, the Psalmist asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure, by guarding it according to thy word. I have laid up thy word in my heart that I might not sin against thee” (Psalms 119:9,11).
There are two ways a Scripture passage can become firmly fixed in your mind and heart. Reading the same passage of Scripture over and over again sometimes ingrains them on our brain. You’ve literally read it over so many times, you could repeat it back verbatim. Or, plain and simple, after reading the passage, you decide to commit it to memory. Either way, the Holy Spirit has taught your heart something from God’s Holy, inerrant Word and has prompted you to store up this truth which leads to another thing the Scriptures command us to do.
We are commanded to meditate upon the Word. To mull it over, think about it, ponder, reflect, even digest it. You can bet your bippy that the Holy Spirit will continue to teach you and counsel your heart if you’ve had the brains and the gumption to put something there. It’s mighty hard, and I dare say impossible, to meditate upon God’s Word if it isn’t firmly planted in your mind. It’s like trying to drive without spark plugs or gas. They are inconstruably and inextricably linked together.
THE NITTY GRITTY STUFF
If you have decided to store God’s Word, there are a couple of things you might do to further your journey into God’s Word. The first suggestion is to write it down. Sometimes writing things down helps your memory process to recall things. Another option is to ask somebody you know to quiz you on whatever you have stored up.
Some benefits form memorizing, or storing up, God’s Word:
1) Knowing Scripture by heart enables you to meditate on the Word anywhere,
any time. David often spoke of meditating on God “in the night
watches” (Ps. 63:6-8). I don’t think he poured over a scroll at those
moments. I’m certain he replayed in his mind words he’d long ago
memorized, perhaps even composed himself. One man I know likes to
meditate on God’s Word while shaving. Another does it on his way to
work. A woman friend meditates while jogging. They can meditate at
those times because the Word is written on their hearts. This is
accomplished only through rigorous memorization.
2) It’s a key to walking in the Spirit. The first is Eph. 5:18-21, the passage about
being filled with the Spirit. The other is Col. 3:16-17. Interestingly
enough, both passages refer to the results of a certain action -- “Speak to
one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,” and “giving
thanks for all things.” But the preceding actions in each section are
different. In Ephesians, it’s “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to
debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another”
(Eph. 5:18). In Colossians, Paul’s dictum is, “Let the Word of Christ
dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). Do you get the idea that being “filled
with the Spirit” and “letting God’s Word dwell in you richly” could be
closely related? If that is true, then memorizing God’s Word gives the
Spirit the power to lead, guide, challenge, and instruct us. Like a
maestro at the piano, He is enabled to play upon our spirits and remind
us of the truths of God in every situation of the day.
3) The Spirit can apply the Word you have memorized to a particular situation.
The key to applying God’s Word is learning to apply it according to its
meaning and context. If you read the story of the temptation of Jesus in
the wilderness in Mt. 4:1-11, it’s awe-inspiring to see Him quote
Scripture to the devil. In each situation Jesus chose precisely the words
that applied to His need and specific circumstances. I once heard John
MacArthur say, “Whenever I think about sinning, the Spirit hits me with
six verses against it. I can’t just sin anymore and enjoy it. I know too
much Scripture.” People who sink deep roots in the Word are not blown
over by gusts.
4) The Spirit continually gives you insight into God and the truths of Scripture.
when you memorize God’s Word and know it by heart, you’ll find that
God speaks to you at the strangest moments. You’ll be driving along
thinking about nothing important, when suddenly the Spirit strikes. An
insight about a verse or truth lodges in your mind. Instantly, there is a
sense of joy and discovery that draws you closer to the Lord.
5) The Holy Spirit shows you the unity of a whole book. If you memorize
whole books of the Bible, you’ll find an amazing thing: You’ll begin not
only to understand the book better, but you’ll begin to understand its
unity, integrity, and depth. The Holy Spirit will open your mind to
Scripture in dramatic, illuminating ways.
6) It enables you to know the triune God intimately. I’ve often wondered how
other people think, what goes on in their minds. But have you ever
thought about how God thinks, what goes on in His mind? You needn’t
speculate. The Bible is His mind revealed. By knowing God’s Word, we
literally know His own thoughts on every conceivable subject. As I
studied the book of Jonah some time ago, I was amazed at the process of
discipline revealed in the book. By the end of it, I saw one thing in
graphic detail: God wanted Jonah, more than anything else, to
understand His heart. He wanted Jonah to see why He loved the people
in Ninevah and why He didn’t want to destroy them. As I studied, it
really hit me: The Bible is much more than a volume of stories and
theology, it’s the revelation of God’s very heart.
7) You begin to see connections between passages. You become a walking
concordance. You can connect all sorts of ideas through relating one
verse you’ve memorized to another, especially if you begin memorizing
whole books of Scripture. You become able to correlate truths and
concepts, not just words.
8) God gives you the mental capacity for more. One thing I’ve always worried
about in memorizing Scripture was reaching a saturation point. Would
my mind reach a point where there was just too much? Would I begin to
overflow, unable to retain more? I’ve been memorizing for over
seventeen years now and there’s no stopping point in sight. In fact, my
mind has become keener, more logical, more able to assimilate data than
ever before. It carries over into everything--my work, my home, my
hobbies. The beauty of Bible memorization is that with commitment,
anyone, anywhere, can do it. You don’t have to be a genius. But it does
take discipline. You just have to decide that you’ll do it. The question is,
The Wrong Reasons for Memorizing Scripture:
1) Because the group does it and demands it. One man I know confessed to is
businessmen’s group, “I was memorizing new verses because I knew I’d
have to recite one each Friday. I finally just stopped. I felt that was
legalism.” He was right. If his only reason was to impress a group of
men in his Friday Bible study, he was memorizing for the wrong reason.
2) Because I’ll get an award. Awards for children in Pioneer Clubs and Awana
groups are strong motivators. But sooner or later you have to move
beyond “lollipop motivation.” Whether the lollipop is a little patch to
sew on your sleeve or a trip to Paris really doesn’t matter. It’s not the
kind of motivation God desires.
3) Because someone I respect does it. Maybe you want to be like someone who
has memorized a vast amount of Scripture. Fine, but you’d better find
stronger reasons or you’ll give up when that person ceases to be an
important example for your life.
4) Because my pastor said to do it. The pastor may have said such a thing, but
why did he say it? You have to get beyond the pastor and back to God’s
truth, or it won’t last.
5) It’s sort of a family thing. Traditions, family or otherwise, are great. But
again, you have to get past them to the foundational reasons for the
6) Because I think it will make me more spiritual. Indeed it will help you grow
spiritually. But, simply memorizing Scripture isn’t what makes a person
spiritual or mature. It’s the application of Scripture to life that matters.
7) Because I want to win arguments. Strangely enough, some people
memorize Scripture so that they can whip others in theological or
evangelistic debates. It’s certainly wise to know what you believe and
why, but becoming a “walking Bible concordance” is not the purpose of
A MESSAGE REGARDING PRAYER
I have put together some ideas so that we can take a closer look at the importance of prayer and how we can, and should, incorporate it into our lives and our Bible studies. The following quotes are from the book Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds.
“Prayer that affects our ministry must first give depth to our private lives. When put into the golden censer and offered up to God, true prayer works mighty spiritual changes. The character of our praying will determine the character of our ministries. Prayer makes our words strong, gives them power, makes them stick. We must be pre-eminently people of prayer. Our hearts must graduate in the school of prayer, for only in the school of prayer can the heart learn to minister. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study will supply its lack.
Talking to others for God is a great thing. But talking to God for others is greater still. We will never speak to people for God with real success until we have learned how to speak to God.
Prayer, in the Christian’s life, in the Christian’s study, in the Christian’s ministry, must be a conspicuous and all-encompassing force. It must play no secondary part. We need to be with our Lord ‘all night in prayer’” (Luke 6:12). (Bounds, pp. 35-36, 39)
To train ourselves in self-denying prayer, we must look to the Bible and to the Master:
In the beginning it was clear that prayer was not only essential, but unique. “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?” Deut. 4:7. When His people honored Him by praying to Him, God did miraculous things.
When Hezekiah prayed in 2 Kings 19:14-19 to be delivered from the hands of the Assyrians, God denounced the Assyrians in verse 20, and sent an angel to destroy their army, in verse 35, thus answering Hezekiah’s prayer.
Later, God sent His son who exemplified the act of prayer. As Robert Munger points out in his article “Prayer Power,” “He prayed early; he prayed late; he prayed all night. He prayed alone; he prayed with others. He prayed with confidence; he prayed in deep agony; he even prayed on the cross. And he teaches us to pray.” We cannot list here all the prayers but we encourage you to seek them out, by getting a hold of a Bible with a help section that has them listed. In John 17, Jesus prays for himself, then he does an interesting thing, he prays for all his disciples and then for all believers. If we are dedicated to being Christ-like, then as he prayed for his disciples and prayed for us, we likewise should be praying for those we are discipling through small groups.
Jesus’ disciples continued his prayer ministry by focusing on the power and urgency of prayer. Paul in his letter to the Colossians wrote to them explaining his deep commitment to praying for them (1:9-11). In concluding this letter (4:2-6), he carries his prayer message further by calling them to be devoted to prayer. He pleads the Colossians to pray for him, showing us the importance of a reciprocal prayer relationship with those in our studies.
Jesus shows us that a strong devotion to prayer is essential. Paul challenges us to extend this to our relationships with others. He shows us the fellowship we share through prayer. By this we can conclude that no small group is complete without the dedication to praying for one another.
As a leader, try to discern the spiritual maturity of the small group, so that you may encourage prayer in a way that is both reasonable and challenging. Keep in mind that every group is unique. As a leader you must try to meet the others where they are. Above all, be flexible and willing to try new things and change methods when you see a need for further growth.
In all of the different kinds of small groups, the leader’s example is probably the most important way to encourage prayer. If you value prayer and are excited about praying, your small group will be too!
The following is a list of possible kinds of groups and ideas for encouraging prayer in them:
DISCOVERY GROUP -- includes new Christians and even some non-Christians.
Provide a foundation of prayer.
-- Explain what prayer is using Biblical explanations and examples.
-- Explain the elements of prayer acrostics such as ACTS help (in Servantship
-- Try to install a desire to pray.
-- Don’t neglect praying. It is real easy to leave it out, especially with new
Christians. Schedule it into your time (i.e. open and close with prayer).
-- Try praying as a group, and realize the Spirit will lead it -- don’t worry about
who isn’t praying -- just relax.
-- When asking people to pray, give them specific things to pray about.
Encourage prayer outside of the group.
-- Incorporate Biblical stories about the great things God has done through
-- Consider keeping a prayer journal with each person’s requests and watch
what God is doing in your group.
FELLOWSHIP GROUP -- Relationship-building study. Oriented towards discipleship
and interaction. (Core groups included)
Things to remember:
-- You can spend a significant time praying. 20-30 minutes isn’t too long.
-- Take time to just praise God to get focused before praying for each other.
-- Be sure to encourage your group to share God’s answers and blessings too!
-- Have your group draw names and pray for the person they picked.
-- Be creative!!!
INTENSE BIBLE STUDY -- A group which studies God’s Word in-depth, and does not
emphasize fellowship as much.
-- Seeking God through an in-depth study of His word is a powerful foundation
for prayer (great for topical group studies). As a group, pray to God
asking for understanding and praise Him for what he’s taught you so far.
-- To keep from running out of time, have your group prayer time at the
beginning or set a time to stop discussion and begin praying!
-- Have prayer partners. Encourage them to get together to pray during the
-- Encourage one another’s personal prayer lives as well. Challenge them to be
praying every day for the requests made at your study.
-- As group leader, contact those with major prayer requests later in the week.
I. What is Prayer?
Prayer is communication with God. It is a conversation between you and God. It involves our talking to God and also listening to what God has to say to us. In any healthy, growing relationship there needs to be good communication or it will never last. Think of your best friend. You became close because you shared yourself (thoughts, dreams, desires, feelings) with each other. Our relationship with God is no different. In James 4:8 we are told “if you draw near to God He will draw near to us.” The more we open ourselves up to God, the more of Himself He will reveal to us.
II. Important Things to Remember About Prayer
1) Believe that God hears you and that He care for your needs. He wants to be
intimately involved in your life (Jeremiah 29:11-13 and 1 Peter 5:6-7).
2) Be honest. God wants to know what is on your heart. Don’t be afraid to tell
Him your deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings. Remember, He knows
them anyway (Matthew 6:7-8).
Often times we try to over-spiritualize our prayers. We pray what we think God wants to hear rather than what is in our hearts. Let your feelings show! God is big enough to handle them. Read Psalm 77 and Jeremiah 20:7-18. Even Jesus in the Garden before He was to be crucified asked God if there was another way He could go (Matthew 26:36-46). It is important to remember that after we have vented our feelings, we come back to God as Christ did and say, “not my will but your will be done.”
3) Be yourself. Talk normally. God knows your voice and He likes to hear it.
Remember He made it that way.
4) Don’t count on your feelings. You may not always want to pray -- Do it
anyway! The Bible says in Colossians 4:2 to be devoted to prayer. The
true growing times come when you do things even when you don’t want
to. Prayer is not a magical fix-it-all. Sometimes we have these great
expectations of what we will get when we pray, and it just doesn’t
happen. Even though we don’t feel any different inside, our spirits are
growing stronger and closer to God.
5) Keep at it. Jesus told a few stories on why you should not give up (Luke
11:5-8; 18:1-8). Even if it seems like God is silent in answering, He will
always bring Himself. And, in the end, I that is what we all really want.
III. Does God Answer Prayer?
Four answers: Yes, No, Wait, and I’ve got another way! God doesn’t always answer in the way we might think. We need to have open hearts and minds. God is creative. Keep in the mind-set of 1 Thess. 5:17, “pray without ceasing.”
IV. Some Guidelines for Prayer
Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. He said to them, “when you pray, pray like this. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil...”
1) Give God His proper place. Only after we put God in the center of our lives
can we turn to see our own needs in their proper light. Everything else
takes its proper place when we put God in the center. One fault of prayer
is that it often becomes self-centered.
a) We become so busy thinking of what we want, we often forget to ask
Him what He might want for us.
b) We get so caught up in our future plans, dreams, and goals that we
forget to ask God what His will for us might be.
c) We are so busy talking that we never stop to listen to what God might
want to say. Jesus tells us to slow down for a moment and honor
the Father. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
2) Elements of Prayer (ACTS)
ADORATION -- Refocusing my ways and praising God for who He is
(Hebrews 13:15; Daniel 4:34-35).
CONFESSION -- Agreement and recognition of my sinfulness and my
need for the Lord’s cleansing (1 John 1:9; Psalm 38:18).
THANKSGIVING -- Acknowledgment of the Lord and for the many
things He is doing (Phil. 1:6; Eph. 5:20).
SUPPLICATION -- Petition for our needs (1 Timothy 2:1-3; James 1:5) and
intercession for others’ needs (1 Samuel 12:23; James 5:14-15).
3) Practical Tips
a) Use of a prayer journal, notebook, file cards, daily prayer list, etc.
Helps us to be disciplined and not so lazy.
b) Be still and quiet. It is not so much the position of your body but the
condition of your heart. Consider kneeling and walking as
opposed to laying down.
c) 3 R’s. (Realize, Remember, and Report.) Realize God has answered
your prayer; Remember His faithfulness when things appear
crazy; Report His answers to the rest of the Body.
4) Places Where People Prayed
The hills -- Mark 6:46
The roof -- Acts 10:9
Solitary place -- Mark 1:35
The Temple -- Luke 18:10
Inside a Fish -- Jonah 2:1
Standing with face to the wall -- 2 Kings 20:2
In lonely places -- Luke 5:16
At the beach -- Acts 21:5
Face to the Ground -- Matt. 26:39
Most importantly, before the God of Heaven -- Neh. 1:4
5) Obstacles to Prayer
There are many obstacles to effective prayer. If we are aware of these, it can enhance and protect our prayer life.
a) Unrepentant Sin can short circuit God’s availability in prayer. If we
confess our sin (1 John 1:9) God will cleanse us and our prayers
can be heard and answered (Is. 59:2).
b) A Major obstacle: Lack of Planning. To not have a specific time and
place to pray leaves us open to crowding prayer out of our busy
life and schedule. It is wise to allocate a time and a place to pray.
c) The primary obstacle of prayer is the spiritual battle. It does exist.
This manifests itself in many forms. Satan tries to distract us,
detain us, or detour us. This manifests itself through an emotional
cloud hanging over head or a temptation to worry or work rather
than pray (Eph. 6:10-19).
By Trudy Vander Veen
Do you ever have trouble knowing what or whom to pray for? You’ll be amazed how much guidance you’ll find right in your Bible.
Most of us would hardly think of going out in public without checking our personal grooming. And we always plan carefully before entertaining guests in our homes. But many of us drop casually to our knees with little notion of how we are going to spend out time with the Lord. Sometimes we don’t have in mind anything to pray for, but start to pray automatically because “it’s time,” or we’re conscious that our list of petitions and praises far outnumbers the moments we have allotted for prayer.
Without a plan, our prayer time and thoughts are erratic: we voice a quick thanksgiving, state a need, confess a sin, raise up a friend’s prayer request, and so on. All the while we’re fighting the tendency to dwell on the many pressing tasks that need doing.
Undoubtedly such casual, unplanned prayer is better than no prayer at all. And often we need simply to resort to the Lord in prayer without a specific plan for that time: we need time in His presence more than we need specific communication. But for our prayers to be “powerful and effective” (James 5:16), we need to follow Peter’s advice: “The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7).
One way to be clear minded during prayer is to use a memory device, “Pray Powerfully.” After we’ve practiced using this device for a while, the letter in “pray” should call to mind four elements of praise, while those in “powerfully” should remind us of ten types of petitions. In our family, we don’t use the acrostic in a regimented way that takes away the spontaneous nature of communion with God. It is simply an aid in bringing specific aspects of prayer into focus so that we can give each appropriate attention. And since we cover so many elements in praying according to this pattern, we realize that sometimes we’ll have to choose to cover only a few in a given period of prayer.
Praise the Lord, Proclaim His Greatness. “I will praise you , O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave” (Ps. 86:12-13).
In the Lord’s Prayer, praise comes first. Our prayers should follow that pattern. Praise is giving God the adoration of our hearts simply for who He is. It is expressing to God His worth. The Old English root of the word “worship” is “worth-ship.”
We find voicing our praises aloud to be a helpful exercise, particularly toward concentrating. Forming the words with our lips and listening to what we are saying give reality and depth to our expressions of praise. We may borrow from the words of the Psalms, making them our own. Or we may sing or read hymns from the “praise” section of a hymnal or sing along with praise selections on a record or tape. Whatever way is most natural and meaningful to us, we tell the Lord that we love and adore Him.
REMEMBER AND REJOICE WITH THANKSGIVING
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song” (Ps. 95:1-2).
Perhaps nothing so grieves the heart of God as the sin of ingratitude. We need to say to ourselves often, as did David, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:2).
Thanksgiving is a form of praise. After focusing on who God is, we recall what He has done in the spiritual, physical, social, and occupational areas of our lives.
ACKNOWLEDGE SINS, ASK FORGIVENESS
“For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Ps. 25:11).
Looking at God’s character and His good acts toward us awakens us to our sinfulness. We need to confess our sins with humility and sorrow. We need to acknowledge that we have broken God’s Law and offended Him by failing to respond to His love or to meet the needs of others. We should ask the Lord to forgive us and to reveal hidden areas in our lives that are unsurrendered (Ps. 139:23-24). Then we can claim a new promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
YIELD TO GOD’S GUIDANCE
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
True confession includes more than sorrow for sin. It involves a sincere intention to turn from our sin. Such change requires the power of the Holy Spirit, and He can change us as we yield ourselves to Him. In this final phase of our praise time, we yield everything we have to God presenting ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to Him so that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).
Elements of this petitioning:
God gives us the privilege of being His co-workers in redeeming and transforming His creation, and we can do this by intercessory prayer that is done POWERFULLY.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Not only our president, but our legislators, judges, governors, ambassadors, cabinet members, mayors, and all others involved in the government need our prayers. Their decisions affect for good or evil not only our lives, but also the lives of hundreds and millions of other Christians and non-Christians. So we ask the Lord to reveal His will to them, to give them God-fearing advisors so that they will gain wisdom, to protect them fro assassins, and to grant them health and family harmony.
Political leaders in other nations also need our prayers. We should not think that just because they are more powerful than we are that our prayers will be of no effect, for “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases” (Prov. 21:1).
OPPRESSED AND OUTCAST PEOPLE
“Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless” (Ps. 10:12).
Many people have been hungry and homeless all their lives; innocent victims of hate, political greed, famine, or war. Some have seen their homes reduced to rubble by enemy shells, others have been forced from their homelands and have nowhere to go and nothing to feed their starving children.
Boat people are brutally attacked by pirates. Other refugees, crowded into dismal tent cities, wait long, hopeless years for sponsors. Behind the Iron Curtain, Christians worshipped underground for fear of imprisonment, secretly sharing precious pages torn form a forbidden bible to nurture their faith.
We should plead with our compassionate Savior to have mercy on all such suffering people. WE can ask Him to keep alive in us the desire to share, the willingness to sacrifice. We need Him to show us, who have been give so much, how we can help the oppressed.
WEAK, WOUNDED, WORRIED PEOPLE
“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:15).
Next we pray for all those who are ill physically or mentally, and also for those who are wounded in spirit, grieving the death of a loved one, stinging from the rejection of divorce. We think of those who experience family turmoil due to infidelity, unemployment, rebellious children, drug and alcohol addiction or other heartaches. Naming these persons specifically, we ask God to send them relief and comfort, and to use their sufferings to bring them closer to Him.
EMERGENCIES ON EARTH
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matt. 24:6-8).
Media reports of erupting volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, and famines pointing out man’s helplessness in the face of nature’s fury. Repeated brutal murders impress on us the depth of man’s sin and depravity, and tragic deaths in crashes remind us of life’s brevity.
In our prayers we ask God to speak clearly in these disasters, causing people to turn to Him as their only sure refuge. We also ask Him to show mercy to the survivors of these tragedies and to use these events to bring many people repentance and faith in Christ.
Newscasts remind us to pray as well for national elections and peace talks for favorable weather and good harvest for cessation of pollution and for protection from nuclear holocaust, for equality in race relations--indeed, for any worthy issue.
REVIVAL AND READINESS FOR CHRIST’S RETURN
“...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear form heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Having viewed a world groaning from a load of sin and its awful consequences, we are moved to pray for revival--that will begin in our own lives and homes, spread to our churches, and then to our schools, workplaces, and society as a whole.
We pray for a movement of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and bring about a re-awakening in churches that will result in greater interest in and loyalty to the Word of God. And we pray for a rededication of individual Christians to a deeper walk with the Lord and a greater longing for Jesus’ return in glory.
FAMILY, FRIENDS, FELLOW CHRISTIANS
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy...I have you in my heart....” (Phil. 1:3,4,7).
Beginning with our nearest relatives, we bring the needs of our family members to the Lord. As much as possible, we find promises from God’s word that apply to them and ask the Lord to fulfill those promises. We reach out further to the extended family, to friends, co-workers, neighbors, and members of our church family. When we don’t know their specific needs, we can pray with Paul that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith, that they may be rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp the love of Christ, and may know His love and be filled with the measure of the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17-19).
UNSAVED AND UNCOMMITTED PEOPLE
“The Lord is...patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Our heart’s desire is that all our friends and loved ones be saved (Romans 10:1). So we pray that God will send into the lives of our unsaved family members and friends the message or messenger that will cause them to turn their lives over to Christ. We ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veil from their eyes.
We also petition for immature Christians and those who know Christ as Savior but are not walking with Him and not using their lives in His service, consequently missing the best He has for them.
LEADERS AND LABORERS IN THE KINGDOM
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Col. 4:3-4).
Our own pastors and church staff deserve and need our faithful prayers. In addition, we intercede for home and foreign missionaries; radio and television ministers; Christian teachers, speakers, and counselors; Bible translators and distributors; youth pastors and campus pastors; those who work in prisons, hospitals, relief organizations, child welfare agencies, and others.
When we can we pray for these people by name, asking the Lord to strengthen them for their daily responsibilities, to use them to spread the gospel, to bring healing and wholeness to those who suffer. We pray for Christians who are in important and highly visible positions of leadership, asking that they be kept from the temptations that accompany popularity and success.
LONELY AND LEAST
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Loneliness is epidemic in our modern world. The elderly grandmother in the nursing home who has no visitors, the prisoner whose family has forgotten him, the serviceman in a far-away country, the single parent or widowed person who feels unsupported, the unmarried pregnant girl who doesn’t know where to turn--all need our prayers.
We ask God also to be a loving Father to little children who are victims of abuse or are handicapped or orphaned. In our prayers we ask that unborn children be given a chance to live and that they be accepted by loving, caring parents. Aged, senile persons who seemingly have no reason to continue living are surely among the “least” of Christian brothers for whom He would have us pray.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Finally, we bring to the Lord our own needs--those pertaining to our personal lives, our spiritual condition, our health or finances, any aspect of our existence.
We ask God to bless the work we do, inside and outside the home. We ask His guidance and blessing for our plans, the relationships we have with others, and our long-held dreams. Each hurt, worry, and confusing or troubling situation we lay before Him. We reflect on His great love and power, believing that He can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). We place our lives in our Father’s hands and entrust to Him our bodies and souls.
We cannot run to all of the needy people of the world, bind up their wounds, put food in their stomachs, or hold their trembling hands. But we can exercise the healing power of Jesus and make Him present in their lives, as well as in our own lives, when we pray POWERFULLY.
(Discipleship Journal, 1985)
“The Heart of a Servant”
By Bill Mills
“Let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” Phi. 2:3
In the midst of a world where people casually destroy one another for the sake of position, God speaks words that are almost too much to believe! Instead of using each other to gain for ourselves, we are to give ourselves up for one another. Most of us would sell ourselves cheaply for even a few moments of importance, and now God is talking about looking at one another as more important than ourselves.
How in the midst of this world, with all of our hearts turned inward, with all of our instincts growing out of a depraved mind and heart, can God teach us to live this way? By means of God’s greatest miracle, the new creation, He transforms our hearts and our relationships! His Son becomes both the pattern and the power for this new way of life. Paul continues his teaching to the Philippians:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Phil. 2:4-7
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with all of His infinite power and position, all of His righteousness and glory, His eternal resources, became a man, He took on the form of a bond-servant and submitted to death on the cross. Willingly, the lowest form of man, the death of a common criminal. Christ was a servant to that degree, and God wants that attitude to characterize our lives also. He tells us that our relationships will be transformed (Phil. 2:1-4) as we learn to respond in this way.
We talk so much in Christianity about giving our heart to Christ. That is a beautiful statement and has much truth in it. But we must realize that the Christian life has far more to do with Christ giving His heart to us than us giving our heart to Him. The very process of discipleship is one of God building into us a heart like His own. And we must make no mistake about it; when God gives His heart to us, it will be the heart of a servant. No only our life, but all of our relationships will be transformed by His heart.
Can you see how invalid this way of life would be? Picture with me a husband and wife whose relationship together has been built on competition, as the world teaches them how to live. Now they try to out do each other in being one another’s servant. Instead of trying to look better, they now try to get their partner to look better. Instead of seeking to manipulate their partner to do something for them, they seek to give themselves up for their partner. This
servant’s heart has become a catalyst to transform entirely how they see each other, feel about each other, respond to each other. Because of the life of God within them and the power of His love, a dynamic has been created within their relationship which has changed everything about their lives.
Think about a family where children multiply the hurts they receive in the world into their own home. Now, rather than reproducing the pain over and over again that comes from not measuring up to whatever standards are set out there (physically, mentally, socially), there is the reinforcement of love and affirmation in the midst of failure. We have been taught to return evil for evil, but now we give blessings instead. A community of servants, people building up one another, healing taking place in a home that has now become a sanctuary in the midst of a world where pain might very well be the most visible characteristics of people’s lives.
Visualize with me now a church. When we are honest about it, we know that all too often, our church relationships are very much like what we experience in the world. Too often we are hurt rather than healed and built up. Sometimes the people we see there are seeking to take the best place, the highest position. Once in a while we see the same kind of competition, the harsh words, the selfish attitudes in our brothers and sisters that we see in the faces of our enemies and hear in their voices. We are not perfect people; we do fail one another.
Can you dream with me about churches that are communities of servants, sanctuaries, like the family we just described? A place where we look into the eyes of a brother or a sister and say, “How can I give myself up for you? What can I do to serve you? What do you need that I can give you in order that you might grow into everything God desires you to be?” Oh! Can you visualize with me what a church would look like where the members tried with al their hearts to be one another’s servants? It is not insignificant that Jesus’ new commandment came just after washing the disciples’ feet and instructing them to follow His example. That servant’s heart is obviously the main characteristics of the love to which we are called.
Jesus said, “The first will be last; the rich will be poor; to gain your life, you must lose your life...” In that same context, I have found that to be a leader, you need to be a servant.
Jesus Christ Himself set the example for us where in Mark 10:45 He says, “For I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Philippians 2:3-8 describes Christ’s character and His willingness to be a servant on behalf of all mankind.
The Bible is filled with examples of other people who were servants (such as Barnabus, Ruth, Jonathan, Rehab, Daniel, Good Samaritan, etc.) and we also have modern day role models of servants.
The Apostle Paul was another man who had all the world credentials (Phil. 3:4-6), but it was “all counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7-14). Because Paul was willing to be a servant, he had three definite characteristics:
1) Transparent humanity -- He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t afraid to admit it (Romans 7).
2) Genuine humility -- Focus on God and not himself. He just wanted to help others.
3) Absolute honesty -- A life of integrity, void of ulterior motives and hidden meanings.
Because these areas were in order, Paul could speak the words he did as described in Philippians 2:1-5.
Other verses: 1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10; Luke 14:11. When God becomes the focus, not yourself, then He can use you in tremendous ways in this world.
What are some of the characteristics of a servant? Here is a partial list: Humility, unselfish, selfless, compassionate, hospitable, merciful, committed, available, anticipates needs, love, cheerfulness, joy, sacrificial, obedient, good listener, forgiving spirit, honest, peacemaker, generous with time and money, great faith, acceptance of others, encouraging, patient, not looking for credit, caring, devoted.
Consequences of Being a Servant:
1) May suffer for doing right.
2) May feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
a) Realize that NOTHING touches me that has not passed through the
hands of my Heavenly Father first.
b) EVERYTHING I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others
more effectively. It is a necessary part of the preparation process.
“Things may not be logical and fair, but when God is directing the
events of our life, they are right.”
3) May feel unused and unappreciated.
4) Potential exists for others to resent you.
Some Miscellaneous Thoughts on Servanthood:
1) Servants have a cheerful spirit. They look to the positive, not the negative.
2) They are unselfish with their time and money.
3) They have an uncanny ability to perceive and anticipate needs.
4) A hospitable spirit. At dinner parties they are the ones behind the scenes
washing the dishes.
5) They are sometimes anonymous. Anonymous giving can be so fun!
6) They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will do anything to see
honesty and righteousness prevail. Speak and act the truth.
7) They are persistent and diligent. Some of the hardest workers you will ever
have. Not just putting in their time, but willing to do what it takes to get
the job done right.
8) Forgiving spirit when they are the offender (Matt. 5:23-24) or the offended
(Matt. 18:21-35). True servants not only forgive, but they forget. Their
pride is defeated.
9) They do not keep records of who did what, and they don’t look to others to
receive the credit.
10) Servant’s are in the minority...We are the salt and the light that is referred to
in Matthew 5.
11) “Christ’s system of leadership proclaims a message fundamentally different
from that of the unbelieving world: to be first, be last. The key to
leadership is servanthood, vulnerability, crucifixion. In short, Christian
leaders must be willing to admit and confront their mistakes and failures
rather than covering or denying them. To be truly Christ-like is to be
fully human, vulnerable, tractable, as the Son of Man chose to be.”
-- Penelope Stokes
12) “Is there a job description for ministers? You bet. It’s found in 1 Timothy,
Chapter 3. The Apostle Paul outlines the characteristics a pastor must
have. First on the list is that he or she be ‘above reproach.’ The pastor
must also be ‘self-controlled, respectable, able to teach, not a lover of
money’ and have a good reputation. The point is not that a pastor is
sinless, which is impossible, but that his conduct is such that he can speak
with authority in telling others how to live their lives.”
-- Cal Thomas
What I’ve learned: To keep my eyes open for opportunities, my wallet open for giving, my time open for flexibility, my heart open for availability, and my ears open for listening -- even the unspoken needs.
Recommended Reading: “Improving Your Serve” by Chuck Swindoll.
LIGHT OF THE . . . STORAGE CLOSET?
By Max Lucado
A few nights ago a peculiar thing happened.
An electrical storm caused a blackout in our neighborhood. When the lights went out, I felt my way through the darkness into the storage closet where we keep the candles for nights like this. Through the glow of a lit match I looked up on the shelf where the candles were stored. There they were, already positioned in their stands, melted to various degrees by previous missions. I took my match and lit four of them.
How they illuminated the storage room! What had been a veil of blackness suddenly radiated with soft, golden light! I could see the freezer I had just bumped with my knee. And I could see my tools that needed to be straightened.
“How great it is to have light!” I said out loud. I then spoke to the candles. “If you do such a good job here in the storage closet, just wait until I get you out where you’re really needed! I’ll put one of you on the table so we can eat. I’ll put one of you on my desk so I can read. I’ll give one of you to Denalyn so she can cross-stitch. And I’ll set you,” I took down the largest one, “in the living room where you can light up the whole area.” (I felt a bit foolish talking to candles--but what do you do when the lights go out?)
I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice, “Now, hold it right there.”
I stopped. “Somebody’s in here!” I thought. Then I relaxed. “It’s just Denalyn, teasing me for talking to the candles.”
“OK, honey, cut the kidding,” I said in the semi-darkness. No answer. Hmm, maybe it was the wind. I took another step.
“Hold it, I said!” There was that voice again. My hands began to sweat.
“Who said that?”
“I did.” The voice was near my hand.
“Who are you? What are you?”
“I’m a candle.” I looked at the candle I was holding. It was burning a strong, golden flame. It was red and sat on a heavy wooden candle holder that had a firm handle.
I looked around once more to see if the voice could be coming from another source. “There’s no one here but you, me, and the rest of us candles, “ the voice informed.
I lifted up the candle to take a closer look. You won’t believe what I saw. There was a tiny face in the wax. (I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.)
Not just a wax face that someone had carved, but a moving, functioning, flesh-like face full of expression and life.
“Don’t take me out of here!”
“I said, don’t take me out of this room.”
“What do you mean? I have to take you out. You’re a candle. Your job is to give light. It’s dark out there. People are stubbing their toes and walking into walls. You have to come out and light up the place!”
“But you can’t take me out. I’m not ready,” the candle explained with pleading eyes. “I need more preparation.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “More preparation?”
“Yeah, I’ve decided I need to research this job of light-giving so I won’t go out and make a bunch of mistakes. You’d be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be. So I’m doing some studying. I just finished a book on wind resistance. I’m in the middle of a great series of tapes on wick build-up and conservation--and I’m reading the new bestseller on flame display. Have you heard of it?”
“No,” I answered.
“You might like it. It’s called Waxing Eloquently.”
“That really sounds inter--” I caught myself. What am I doing? I’m in here conversing with a candle while my wife and daughters are out there in the darkness!
“All right then,” I said. “You’re not the only candle on the shelf. I’ll blow you out and take the others!”
But just as I got my cheeks full of air, I heard other voices.
“We aren’t going either!”
It was a conspiracy. I turned around and looked at the three other candles; each with flames dancing above a miniature face.
I was beyond feeling awkward about talking to candles. I was getting miffed.
“You are candles and your job is to light dark places!”
“Well, that may be what you think” said the candle on the far left--a long, thin fellow with a goatee and a British accent. “You may think we have to go, but I’m busy.”
“Yes, I’m meditating.”
“What? A candle that meditates?”
“Yes. I’m meditating on the importance of light. It’s really enlightening.”
I decided to reason with them. “Listen, I appreciate what you guys are doing. I’m all for meditation time. And everyone needs to study and research; but for goodness sake, you guys have been in here for weeks! Haven’t you had enough time to get your wick on straight?”
“And you other two,” I asked, “are you going to stay in here as well?”
A short, fat, purple candle with plump cheeks that reminded me of Santa Claus spoke up. “I’m waiting to get my life together. I’m not stable enough. I lose my temper easily. I guess you could say that I’m a hothead.”
The last candle had a female voice, very pleasant to the ear. “I’d like to help,” she explained, “but lighting the darkness is not my gift.”
All this was sounding too familiar. “Not your gift? What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly.” Without asking my permission she began a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” (I have to admit, she had a good voice.)
The other three joined in, filling the storage room with singing.
“Hey,” I shouted above the music, “I don’t mind if you sing while you work! In fact, we could use a little music out there!”
They didn’t hear me. They were singing too loudly. I yelled louder.
“Come on, you guys. There’s plenty of time for this later. We’ve got a crisis on our hands.”
They wouldn’t stop. I put the big candle on the shelf and took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Four perfectly healthy candles singing to each other about light but refusing to come out of the closet. I had all I could take. One by one I blew them out. They kept singing to the end. The last one to flicker was the female. I snuffed her out right in the “puff” part of “won’t let Satan puff me out.”
I stuck my hands in my pocket and walked back out in the darkness. I bumped my knee on the same freezer. Then I bumped into my wife.
“Where are the candles?” she asked.
“They don’t . . . they won’t work. Where did you buy those candles anyway?”
“Oh, they’re church candles. Remember the church that closed down across town? I bought them there.”
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
When most people think of the great commission and God’s commitment to reach the whole world, including the Gentile or non-Jewish nations, they think of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” But Jesus was actually restating a commitment God has to reaching all the nations that can be seen throughout the Old Testament.
In 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 we can see that God made us for the very purpose of being with Him in His presence in eternal life, or “so what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” And “life” is knowing God (John 17:3). But people on earth followed the evil desires of their hearts instead of following God. Yet God loved all mankind and wanted them to be in a love relationship with Him. He could have come down in fearful power and told all the rebellious humans of His love. Instead, He chose to use a man.
Genesis 12:1-3 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’” Here God made a covenant, or contract, with old Abraham.
In those times when two people made a contract they would cut an animal in half and then walk between two halves of the animal together to seal the contract. By this action they were saying, “If one of us does not keep his end of the contract, may the same happen to that person as this animal.”
What, in the Old Testament, did God often appear as? He usually appeared as fire (pillar of fire, burning bush). Why bring up these issues of contracts and fire? Read Genesis Chapter 15. I know you may be rushing past this, but please stop for a while and read it. It is important that you do!
God committed Himself to fulfilling His promise to bless all nations through Abraham. In Genesis 15 the burning pot (God) passed through the animals by Himself saying that He was going to make the covenant work and that Abraham was not responsible for making the covenant work.
Galatians 3:8-9, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
We see from this that there is a faith that brings men back into the relationship with Himself.
Look at Matthew 1:1-17 and follow the lineage from Abraham to Jesus.
Galatians 3:14, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
Yes, God would bless all nations through Abraham.
Isaiah 53:4-6, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham.
The last words of Jesus to his disciples before He ascended into heaven were these, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Let’s dissect this “Great Commission” step by step and see what we find. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore...” The United States was at the edge of a cliff, on the verge of attacking a defiant Iraqi army. Our nation was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. At this time, President Bush assured our nation that if our people went to war, they would be backed by every resource and power of the United States. The soldiers would not be in there half cocked, half armed, and half backed. They would be fully backed. Jesus told us as the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe that we would be backed fully by His authority in Heaven and on earth. In addition, if you always obey a commanding officer, how much more the commander with unmatched authority.
Now Jesus commanded us to do three things: make disciples; baptize; and teach. In the original language there is one dominant command and two supportive commands. It is generally thought that the main command is “go,’ but it is not. What the beginning of verse 19 says is, “as you are going, make disciples of all nations.” The emphasis being on making disciples. If a person is not making disciples where they are at, how can they expect to go to a different place and make disciples? The best foreign missionaries are those who are missionaries wherever they are at now, whether home or abroad. The main command in the Great Commission then is: as you are going from the cradle to the grave, choose to actively pursue making disciples of all nations.
This main thrust is supported by two other commands that give the main command some tracks to run on. These are baptize and teach. Let’s first deal with baptize. In our day in America, if a person tells you they were baptized, it probably will not give you much of a feel of whether or not they have really accepted Jesus. Being baptized is almost a cultural event of growing up remotely related to a church. This was not true in many cultures of the past or in
other parts of the world today. Baptism is designed by Jesus to cause us to radically and publicly identify ourselves with Him. It is saying to all who know you that you have been buried with Christ and risen a new person in Christ, symbolized in the picture of the “water grave.” Symbolically, you go in one person and come out a new creation.
Baptism: a public statement of your changed life in Christ. Christ wants us to publicly, and unmistakably identify ourselves with Himself. If we are going to make disciples of all nations, those that claim to be disciples must be willing to make this radical identification. It is the step that separates the faith that says, “I believe in Jesus but that doesn’t make much of a difference to me,” from the faith that says, “I believe in Jesus and that makes all the difference in my life.”
The other rail of the track in making disciples is teaching. Jesus said, “and teaching them to obey.” Teach them to obey what? “...everything I have commanded you,” said Jesus. When people get involved in “making disciples” it becomes very easy and expedient to set out X number of things we need to teach a disciple. Then after those X number of things are taught, they are a disciple and your job is done.
There is a difference, though, between teaching someone all that Jesus commanded and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded. The focus here is on teaching them to obey Jesus.
Discipleship: How can I teach someone to obey Jesus?
How am I supposed to disciple people?
To disciple means to teach; the most powerful way of learning is through personal experience. That is why a person’s faith must be their own, not their parent’s, friend’s, or pastor’s. The second most powerful way a person learns is by watching another do something. How did Jesus teach His disciples? They never had an official Bible study, or classroom, or textbook. Jesus’ life was their textbook. Jesus called them to follow Him and watch Him pray, heal diseases, and interact with people. Then, if something was not clear, Jesus would explain it to them.
Bible studies are important and seminaries have their place, but teaching people to obey Jesus is letting them see you obey Jesus. This takes consistent and close relationships with those we are teaching. Remember the greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. This applies to those you’re teaching. Love them deeply from the heart.
In addition to love, scripture gives us a blueprint for discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Think about it. What an ingenious plan. You could preach awesome things to a crowd of thousands, and yet days later most will have forgotten everything you’ve said. Is that any lasting impact?
Try this on for size. If you share your faith with 1,000 people a day, it would take you about 21,000 years to share your faith with 7 billion people on the planet (a very conservative estimate). Now that is just sharing your faith; not building any depth or helping them grow. Let’s look what could “mathematically” happen if we did something else. If one person disciples two people for two years and those two go disciple two people themselves and so on. How long would it mathematically take to reach the planet? Approximately thirty-six years. That’s not just sharing your faith with a person, but loving them and helping each one grow for two years. The two years is just for giving some guidelines to do the math, but this example does show us to think in terms of multiplication, not addition. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
As a disciple it is important to realize that each follower learns from many people. Therefore, each Christian would have many folks “discipling” them, so encourage those you are discipling to learn from other Christians beside yourself.
THE FOLLOWING IDEAS SHOULD BE VALUABLE
IN DISCIPLING PEOPLE
It is often thought that Jesus just called His disciples to follow Him once. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Actually Jesus had three calls to at least three of His disciples.
In John 1:35-42, we see Jesus’ 1st Call -- to Relationship
The men asked where Jesus was staying. Jesus told them to come and see. Then they went and spent that day with Him in Bethany. He called them to relationship.
In Matthew 4:18-19 we see the 2nd Call -- to Training
This call was to the same men by the Sea of Galilee which is seventy miles north of Bethany. They already knew Jesus. He was calling them to training. “I will make you fishers of men.”
In Luke 5:1-11 we see the 3rd Call -- to Ministry
Jesus told the same men that from that time on they would catch men. He was calling them to ministry.
I think this sets a pattern for us to build relationships with people. With those who are reliable and able to teach others also, we are to let them watch our lives up close. We need to
teach them and help them grow. Then we need to challenge them to be involved in being fishers of other men.
Here are eleven points on Being a Discipler:
1) Do the things Jesus did.
-- Come alongside people in everyday life.
-- know where they are at.
2) Are you sharing opinions or scripture?
3) Be consistent in the time together.
4) Be available outside of set time.
5) Be yourself.
6) Be in prayer for them.
7) Challenge them.
8) Let the disciple push you to the limits.
9) Be humble.
10) Make time to play together.
11) Be willing to play a large or small role in someone’s life. Remember:
discipleship just for the sake of discipling someone, void of love, is nothing.
Jesus’ Style of Ministry -- His Approach:
1) Offered people His friendship
2) Started where they were
-- Woman at the well
3) Listened to what they had to say
-- He had more to say than we do
4) He sought the root of their problem
-- Rich Young Ruler
5) He took their questions seriously
-- Woman at the well
-- Luke 10
6) He sometimes asked favors of them
-- Woman at the well
-- Only a true friend would ask me to help them
-- We tend to be self-sufficient, but no self-serving
7) Did not force Himself upon others
-- James and John fire down
8) He knew the value of eating with people
-- 4000 & 5000
-- Simon the Pharisee
9) He was confrontational
-- He who is not with me is against me
-- House on rock
10) Led them to definite faith in Himself
-- “I AM” statements
11) Gave them something to do
-- Fetch me a donkey
-- Take up mat
-- It is better to have a hundred men work than to do the work of a
Now, if we go back to the Great Commission after Jesus commanded His disciples to (1) go and make disciples of all nations, (2) baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (identification with Jesus), and (3) teach them to obey all. Jesus then says, “and surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Well, it is not the end of the age yet. That seems to say we are included in this awesome commission! We are Christ’s ambassadors and we have been given the ministry of making this story known to the nations (2 Cor. 5:11-21).
Further Recommended Reading:
Destination 2000 by Bob Sjogren
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Coleman
Evangelism simply means presenting your life and the message of Jesus Christ to others. Why is it necessary?
1) 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “always be ready” to give an account of the hope that
is within you.
2) 2 Timothy 4:1-5 tells us to “preach the Word in season and out of season. Do
the work of an evangelist.” This did not appear to be one of Timothy’s
gifts, yet Paul encouraged him to be one.
3) The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) tells us to “Go and make
disciples.” (See earlier comments on Great Commission).
4) Matthew 4:19 -- “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers
5) It stretches our own faith. Allows us to see God’s power.
6) No experience is more exciting for us to see than when people believe.
7) Philemon 6 -- “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that
you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in
There are many other supporting verses, yet each of them is not simply a request but a command with a related promise. The Lord will honor you for sharing your life with other people.
This is not to say that all of us are gifted evangelists. Yet, all of us are called to be witnesses. You may never lead someone to the Lord, yet you can still sow seeds. Why don’t people evangelize? Here are a few reasons:
1) Fear of rejection
2) Feel inadequate in what to say
3) Don’t want to be pushy
4) Too busy
How do we get over these fears and questions?
1) Pray. For the individual and yourself before, during and after sharing
2) Realize God is at work and not you on your own. People don’t reject you,
but the message of Christ. God alone, by His Spirit, produces faith and
changes hearts (John 16:8; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Cor. 3:7).
3) Meet them where they are at, not where you want them to be. Jesus
illustrates this beautifully with the woman at the well in John 4.
4) Maintains balance. Expose our faith, don’t impose it. You can’t make
anyone accept Christ. If they don’t want to talk about it, then don’t. God
has people at different places. Don’t crush the seed you’ve planted.
5) Be confident (2 Tim. 1:7). God is with you. He promised He would be.
The actual act of evangelism can take place in many situations. On a plane, buts, at the park, etc. With the people whom you live with, work with, play with, etc. With some people you will only have one time to share you faith. With others, your faith is very evident. Remember that “your actions speak very loudly.” Also “evangelism isn’t necessarily something that you do, it is a lifestyle.”
There are people we see day after day. Identify yourself with Jesus to these people. Then love them day after day and know that the fact that you claim to know Christ and your life shows Him makes a radical difference in their lives. Then, look for opportunities to share the specifics of what it means to know Christ. This, after all, is the reason why we are different!
KEYS TO SHARING YOUR FAITH
Evangelism is preaching the Gospel. Thus, an evangelist is a preacher of the Gospel. Evangelism is one of the spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:11). A witness on the other hand is one who sees or knows by personal presence and perception and testifies of that knowledge. We are all called to be witnesses for Christ (1 Peter 3:15, Acts 1:8). Remember, Christ says to be His witnesses.
Fears can hinder any witness. Questions like: Do I now enough? Will I have the right answers? What If I get embarrassed or scared? Calm down, God is a big God. He wants you to be honest and let Him do the rest. We all use excuses because down deep we are afraid.
In sharing your faith, remember Jesus’ example. He asked lots of questions to get to the heart of a person (John 4, Luke 18:18). He was caring, sensitive, compassionate, perceptive, consistent, and He enjoyed people. He also showed genuine concern for the people He was with.
Other keys to sharing your faith are:
1) Be yourself. Tell people about your life. Don’t hide what God is doing in
you and through you.
2) Evangelism isn’t so much going out and talking to people about Jesus, but it
is looking for opportunities to share in your daily life.
3) Ask some leading questions about what is going on in the world or on
campus. Ask people their opinion on issues such as drugs, sex, AIDS, the
homeless, TV preachers, etc.
4) Ask personal questions about situations they may be going through. If they
don’t want to talk about it, they won’t. Don’t be afraid to get into their
life. And don’t be scared to reveal yourself to them also. People need to
see our life, to share their life.
5) Talk normally. Throw away the Christian jargon.
6) Don’t have a “holier than thou” attitude. Share your struggles.
7) Try not to get caught up in needless questions like predestination or
creation/evolution (you can answer those questions at another time).
Your life is a testimony of God’s love. People cannot argue against that.
8) List, Listen, Listen and Pray, Pray Pray! Everyone can talk, that’s easy. Most
people are dying for someone to listen to them.
9) There is no “magic formula.” Every situation is different. We are called to
do our best and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Thus, relax and don’t be
afraid of telling someone you don’t know all the answers or relaying
your own fears. “God will not allow my fear or lack of knowledge from
preventing a person from knowing Him.”
10) It is not our responsibility to see someone accept Jesus. Our responsibility
is to tell them the Good News in love and with genuine concern.
11) Don’t assume someone is not open to Christianity. Try and see where they
are coming from and identify with their situation.
12) Try to understand why they think the way they do. Put yourself in their
shoes. This can give insight into how to relate to them and increase your
compassion for them.
In life-style evangelism, they will know we are Christians by our love for each other and for them. But we must not think that this is a substitute to telling people about Jesus. Initiative evangelism (taking the initiative to tell someone about Christ) and lifestyle evangelism work together to maximize our witness.
ACCOUNTABILITY: A NATURAL RESULT OF
In our modern, depersonalized society, we are taught to stand on our own two feet and NOT depend on others. Above all, we are told “do not let anyone see your mistakes, failures, or pain.” Is this a biblical picture?
Instead, Romans 12:9 tells us, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” In addition, 1 Peter 1:22 commands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, deeply, from the heart.
It is too easy in life to keep people at a distance; to not allow them to see the “real” us (problems and all). Being transparent can be both scary and difficult. But, as we can see form the previous verses, God wants us to be in close relationship to some Christians. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “...encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Be careful that your heart does not become hardened.
Encouragement from one another works to keep this from happening. Allow other Christians to see your whole life. James 5:16 tells us to “confess our sins to one another and pray for each other so that we can be healed.”
Be accountable to someone. No one wants to be accountable to someone else. Accountability breeds transparency. If we let someone know us than they will really know who we are. And they may encourage us to change and that is something we don’t want to do because it is hard. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As we are open and honest with our friends in Christ we help each other to deal with the struggles of life. Ecclesiastes 4:10 reminds us that we need one another, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”
*Warning: Shear accountability without love in the relationship becomes a law, and a “law” is powerless in helping us overcome SIN. Love has to be overarching, undergirding, and yes, even permeating accountability.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
There is a lot of confusion today about spiritual gifts, just as there was in the first century. Paul said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1). Thus, we must make special effort to understand their place and importance.
Christ revealed Himself first in the human body, through which all His attributes were manifest. Now He has a new body--the Church--a spiritual body. We who know Christ are that Body. Each Christian is a vital member of the Body, and just as a human body must work totally together to be healthy, so we must function in interdependence for the unity of this spiritual body. God’s plan for the healthy function of the Body is this: each believer has been given certain Holy Spirit abilities, called “grace gifts” or “spiritual gifts.” Through these gifts, the Holy Spirit ministers to the other members of the Body and this network of inter-mutual ministry strengthens every part and allows the whole body to grow healthy and strong.
DEFINITION: A spiritual gift is a special capacity for ministry in the Body of Christ, given by the Holy Spirit, for use in building up the Body.
Following are some basic principles regarding the use and function of spiritual gifts in the Body:
1) Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents. The Spirit may elect to use
a person in the area of their natural ability, and gift them in that area--
or He may not. The Spirit is not limited in either direction. Remember:
A talent is a natural ability give at your first birth. A spiritual gift is a
supernatural ability given at your second birth (your spiritual birth).
2) Spiritual gifts are not the same as the Fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. “But
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no
law.” We each have only certain gifts, but all of us should have all of the
fruit of the Spirit. The fruit relates to our character and walk, the gifts
relate to our service and ministry.
3) Spiritual gifts are no sign or guarantee of spirituality. All believers possess
them, even the carnal believers (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), and the gift can be
counterfeited and operated in the energy of the flesh. Having a gift is
also no guarantee of being right in the area of your gift (1 Cor. 14:29, 32,
37). Gifts can be misused in a fleshly manner, as the Corinthians and
tongues for example, and Satan can pervert the gifts to his use. The use
and results of gifts must square with Scripture.
4) Every Christian has a gift or gifts -- 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Cor. 12:7. However, we
do no always exercise them, as in 1 Timothy 4:14, maybe because we
have not always identified them.
5) There are a variety of gifts, which are exercised in a variety of ministries,
with varying degrees of results -- 1 Cor. 12:4-6. Not every instance or
every person will see the same degree of results at all times.
6) Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, as He chooses to give them -- 1
Cor. 12:11, 18, 28. The same Spirit give to all -- this is the common
ground of all gifts and the reason that if they all operate as they should,
apart from the flesh, they will only unite, never divide. If there is
division, it means the gifts are not operative or they operate in the flesh.
For the Spirit will not divide Himself, so if He has given all gifts, they
7) Spiritual gifts are given for service in the Body, and we are stewards of those
gifts -- 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Cor. 12:7. When the gifts are used, the Body profits.
Both the one who uses the gift and the recipients of its ministry profit,
and that makes a healthy body. As I minister to you, you are built up in
the areas of your lack, and as you minister to me, I am built up in the
areas I lack. These gifts are for the good of the body, not self.
8) Spiritual gifts must be exercised for the supreme goal of bringing glory to
God and not to self -- 1 Peter 4:11. When wrongly used they bring
disorder, confusion, doubt, division, and self-glorification.
9) There is not standardization of gifts among believers, with no one gift given
to all and each with a different gift mix -- 1 Cor. 12:14-26.
10) It is imperative that each Christian discover and develop their gift for use
within the Body. Ignorance is not bliss -- we are accountable for using
what God has given us as good stewards. These gifts are essential for the
health of the Body, because they are vehicles or channels through which
the Holy Spirit ministers to the Body.
“HELP FOR DETERMINING YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS”
We must remember: There are no hard and fast rules to determine what our gifts are. The Bible does not give a “Five Easy Steps” set of rules, perhaps for two reasons:
1) As a gift, they are given and evident, not mysterious and impossible to
2) Spiritual maturity is first priority, and with maturity comes the awareness
and development of gifts.
Helps in Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts:
1) Explore the possibilities -- read the Bible, information on gifts, etc.
2) Pray and ask God to help you to know and use your gifts He has given you.
3) Experiment with those you think may be your gifts.
4) Examine your feelings -- is it a satisfying ministry, do you desire to do it?
5) Evaluate your effectiveness -- are there results, fruit born?
6) Expect confirmation from others -- do they see it as a gift, are others blessed?
Spiritual Gifts Check List:
1) Do I know what my spiritual gift is?
2) Have I made an honest attempt to discover my gift?
3) How am I exercising my gift in the local church body?
4) Can I point to some instance in the last few days where my gift was used?
5) Is my gift being exercised by Holy Spirit power?
6) Is my gift adorned with the fruit of the Spirit?
7) Which fruit am I most lacking and am I growing in that area?
8) Is the use of my gift beamed at the number one goal, the Glory of God?
What to Do with Your Gifts:
1) Find a way to exercise your gifts.
2) Take advantage of opportunities to improve it.
3) Remember its value, not its visibility.
4) See it in relationship to the entire Body.
5) Use it in determining God’s will and priorities for you.
6) Develop it to the fullest.
FELLOWSHIP: A FORM OF COMPANIONSHIP
You can get fellowship at church, small groups and Bible Studies (to name just a few places).
1) Why Fellowship?
a) You need to be around those who love you and want your best. “And let us
consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the day
approaching” Hebrews 10:24-25.
b) You’re around people who are different than you so you can learn and be
c) Christ says we are the light of the world so let it shine (Matt. 5:14). People
will know we are Christians by our love for one another.
d) We need each other (1 Cor. 12:12).
e) Christ says He is there with us when 2 or 3 are together (Matt. 18:20).
2) Hindrances to Fellowship
a) Sin -- “I can’t go. I’m not spiritual enough. I have all this sin in my life.
What will people think.” When you have non-negotiable sin in your
your life, you don’t want to be around other Christians.
b) “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m too busy.”
3) The Role of a Church
a) The church is a powerful and effective resource especially when the outlook
is similar to the ones found in Acts 2:43-48 and Acts 4:32-35.
b) “Going to church won’t make you a Christian, just as putting yourself in a
garage won’t make you a car.” But being involved in a church brings
about a component of fellowship which is critical to growth and
maturity in Christ. Don’t be a spectator at church--get involved!
In choosing a church look for one which has: Christ in the center, teaches scripture accurately, has a vision for people home and abroad, has small groups, has giving attitudes, a
missions program, and a variety of ages and types of people. Finally, seek a church which provides you with a place to serve.
“WHERE THE ACTION IS”
A spark was in the air. You could almost hear it crackle, see it arc into visual reality, or feel its tingle. It is happening here and now. Places and circumstances differ and descriptions are confusing. The power of Pentecost, the warmth of the fire that Jesus built for His disciples and the intimacy of the upper room have become a part of the contemporary experience of small groups of Christians in today’s world.
The spark has begun a fire on college campuses in small groups of struggling Christians coming to grips with their world. To them, the titles do not matter. From early beginnings in the “unions” of Great Britain, Inter-Varsity chapters are buzzing with “cell groups”, “fell groups”, and “link groups.” On both campus and military bases, the Navigators find that “core groups” are reshaping men and women’s lives.
In homes and business offices, shops and schools, Christians are finding strength and outreach in “groups for strugglers,” “conversation prayer cells,” “home Bible studies,” “groups sharing,” and “disciple groups.” The spark has begun to fan the flame that consumed the world of the first century. In our fragmented, frantic, depersonalized age, we are returning to the methods of the carpenter of Nazareth and rediscovering the dynamic of primitive Christianity.
Lyman Coleman’s pointed observation strikes at the heart of the matter, “... in the fellowship of a small face-to-face group, the church has rediscovered an ancient method for ministering to modern man.
The current explosion of small groups in the life of the Christian community raises some interesting questions. Why have small groups of interacting Christians been able to find this new vitality of fellowship and witness? But more important than this is an even more pressing question. Why have we ignored the use of small, face-to-face groups for so long in our churches? Why are we not using them to the extent that we could on our campuses? The central figure of the history of the church is a man who spent the three years of His active ministry with a small band of twelve men. The history of the early church in Acts records the struggle of small groups who prayed, shared, studied, and suffered together. Here the “incendiary fellowship” was in action, and the whole world was inflamed. For too long, Christian educators and churchmen have overlooked the Biblical emphasis of the dynamic use of small groups.
Jesus Christ was not known as a rebel nor as a creative genius, but rather as a teacher. Two functions can be seen woven together in the early ministry of Christ. The first function was that of a proclaimer. John the Baptist had proclaimed the kingdom was at hand, and Christ began His ministry with that same proclamation. But the nation of Israel was not ready for a proclamation; they were unresponsive and confused. As the rejection of the nation became apparent, Christ’s ministry turned to teaching. The second function, the one that dominated His earthly ministry, was that of teaching. It was that kind of particular people-centered teaching that was to characterize His life.
As Christ turned form proclamation to teaching, those who followed Him became known as disciples, which simply means “learners.” Although Christ often taught large groups of people, the very center and heart of His approach was the involvement and interaction of the small group of twelve disciples. This, in a sense, was Christ’s “Core Group.” The entire ministry of Christ revolves around this group. His basic method was discipleship. Why? Because this was the pattern which Christ expected the disciples to use to start the Church. Christ was very explicit about it in His last instructions to them in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The pattern that God chose to begin the church was the method of discipleship worked out primarily in a small group. This same pattern was intended to become the method of the early New Testament Church. Within this basic method, many principles can be seen. At least four of them are significant as an introduction to Biblical group dynamics.
The first principle that our Lord used was the principle of quality, not quantity. A careful study of the Gospels reveals that the major ministry Jesus Christ sustained was not to the multitude. The concentration was on a handful of men who could personally grow. Christ forsook a ministry to the multitude in order to sustain a ministry to a group of men simply because He knew that quality developed quantity. God’s plan was to reach the world. The question is: How do you reach the world? The answer is by building qualitatively into the lives of a few.
Christ’s concern is not a matter of question -- He died for the world. The question is: How do you reach a world? Jesus said and did a work in the lives of a few. In the light of this principle of quality, not quantity, the Christian’s responsibility becomes crystal clear. The measure of a ministry is not how many, but what kind of relationships we sustain.
The second principle is to employ the method of multiplication, not addition. As soon as we have licked the battle of concentration on deep and lasting relationships with a few individuals, the second principle comes into play. It is basic spiritual mathematics that it is better to multiply quality than to add quantity. Christ conceived of each man as a center of reproducing ministry. Whenever you build qualitatively into the life of one man, you start a process that never ends. That’s what makes it sobering. The largest responsibility in the whole world rests on a man working with a small group of people. 2 Timothy 2:2 is simply a Pauline expression of a Christological principle. “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” This is a very clear statement of the principle of multiplication and an indication of how hugely infected the apostle Paul was with the mentality of Christ.
The third principle is that of priority, not pressure. This is one which we had better keep in the forefront of our thinking today or our spiritual vitality will be crushed out. Probably the greatest problem that can confront any campus staff at the onset of a day is how to use their time most constructively for God. The primary difference that distinguishes people is how they use their time. This is the common denominator of our lives; we don’t have equal gifts, but we all have equal time.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, He probably had less time than we do, but He had all of the time necessary to do the Father’s will. Throughout the whole gospel narrative, we never find an occasion when Christ was in a hurry or too busy for people. There is a sharp and bitter barrenness in busyness. It seems that we are always in a hurry, but seldom have time to do God’s will. When this is true, there is something fundamentally wrong with our concepts of Christian responsibility. A few years ago in reading through the Gospels, these words leaped out, “... and Jesus went about doing good.” Most of our lives could be summarized, “and he went about, period” -- actually without accomplishment.
Jesus Christ had three-and-one-half years to do the job, to launch worldwide ministry. Was this pressure? No, Christ was never under pressure because He operated with a priority. He knew exactly the one pattern to follow and never got bogged down. He was always with a small group of men. After he was gone, this qualitative ministry would multiply. The result was so cataclysmic that the pagan world testified of His “Core Group,” “these are they who have turned the world upside down!”
A fourth principle that can be discovered in Jesus Christ’s ministry is the focus on potential, no problems. The demand of discipleship is that we meet people as individuals with a fresh personal vitality. To form relationships of this quality with one person or ten brings us to a painful awareness of each individual’s needs and problems. The basic issue is our perspective. Do we relate to individuals on the basis of problems or of potential?
Take careful note of the men with whom Jesus chose to work. Quite frankly, it was an unimpressive lot. Jesus was faced with the prospect of launching a world-wide enterprise. Peter Marshall noted that if the twelve disciples were reviewed by a church examining committee in our day, they would be abruptly turned down. Does this not reflect a basic attitude that is carried by all of us? Would we have picked Peter? Here was a man who had a tremendous ability for opening his mouth and putting both feet into it. Or how about adding Thomas to our outreach committee? By the time someone brought up an idea, he would have twenty-seven reasons why it wouldn’t work. The amazing fact is that after prayerful consideration, Jesus chose twelve men.
The purpose for this small group was that these men might be with Him to share His life so that eventually He might send them forth to minister to others (Mark 3:13-14). Of all the multitudes that followed Him, Jesus chose twelve men, and one of them was Judas.
God never chooses men on the basis of what they are, but on the basis of what they are to become. Christianity is the revolutionary business of transforming men’s lives from the inside out. One of the unique things about Christianity is that it begins with a realistic acceptance of who and what we are. The very beginning point of Christian experience is the painful awareness of our problems -- our rebellion, separation from God and hopeless condition. God chose to work within the stuff of problem-riddled human life. God in Christ was choosing to work with men on the basis of what they were to become.
Jesus operated on the basis of potential, not problems. The frustration of small, face-to-face groups like the twelve disciples comes with the realization of the tremendous conflicts, weaknesses, and problems that are encountered. One way to avoid this frustration is to run from deep relationships with people. One excuse goes something like this, “Well, this is real nice, this working in-depth with a small group, but you should see the students with whom I have to work.” Another way to avoid the frustration of using Jesus’ methods would be to work only with programs, or large masses of people. Ceaseless activity or treating people as a faceless, monolithic mass can keep us insulated from people and their problems. When this happens, the very example of our Lord Himself is being violated and the rich and personal people-changing potential of Christianity becomes hidden in depersonalized rituals, programs, and mass meetings.
The challenge of discipleship and working with small groups is the challenge to see beyond people’s problems to what they can potentially become in Christ. This perspective brings a revolutionary honesty and a life-changing dynamic into our relationships with people. The challenge is to relationships of two or more with Christ at the center. In this way, Christ worked qualitatively through men in small groups. He multiplied through a core of men who were ornery, ignorant fishermen with no formal education. The priority of His three year ministry was to spend time with them and to grow into their lives. He saw them in terms of potential, of what could be accomplished by God through their lives.
BASIC TRAINING FOR SMALL GROUPS
Ground Rules for Bible Study:
1) Personal things said in this room stay in this room. Confidentiality is vital to a
healthy discussion. The only time it should be broken is when a group
member reveals plans to harm himself or another person.
2) No put-downs. Sarcasm and unkind remarks have no place in a discussion. If
someone disagrees with another’s comment, they should raise their hand and
express their opinion of the comment, but not of the person who made it. It is
permissible to attack ideas, but not each other.
3) There is no such thing as a dumb question. Asking questions is the best way to
4) No one is forced to talk. Anyone can remain silent about any question.
Create a Great Discussion with Open-Ended Questions
There are really only two kinds of discussion questions, good discussion questions and bad discussion questions. Good discussion questions invite people to talk, motivate them to contribute, encourage participation, stimulate new questions, and affirm the significance of each person’s opinion. Bad discussion questions discourage participation, affirm that only the leader’s opinion matters, threaten timid contributors, and motivate the group to keep quiet.
Good questions focus on a person’s opinion (what would you tell a friend who asked you if she should get an abortion?) or his experience (has anyone ever known someone who tried to commit suicide?) or a person’s faith (when you are depressed, does your faith in God make any difference?). Bad questions assume there is one right answer or don’t require any answers at all.
The following are examples of bad questions, questions that stifle discussions:
* LOADED QUESTIONS
Who should our example be, the Apostle Paul or Charles Manson?
Some people who call themselves Christians say they believe that abortion is okay, but what does the Bible say?
* FILL-IN-THE BLANK QUESTIONS
John 3:16 says, God so love the What? And that whosoever what shall not what? How do we know that God so loved the world?
* RHETORICAL QUESTIONS
Since God made our bodies, don’t you think he would have a good reason to say that getting drunk is wrong? God knows what’s best for us, so don’t you think you should listen when he says that sexual contact before marriage is destructive? Our bodies are the temple of God, so what should you do about smoking?
* INTIMIDATING QUESTIONS
If you really loved God, what should you do? Obviously, God is telling us to what? This is a famous parable, John, what do you think it means? Jesus is making three powerful statements here, what are they? Do you think God is pleased with what we’ve just talked about?
Good questions create an open, accepting atmosphere that lets every participant in the discussion know that every contribution is appreciated. Bad questions create a closed, threatening atmosphere that lets every participant in the discussion know that only acceptable contributions are appreciated.
PREPARING A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
(To Be Spoken Before a Large Group)
I. Why prepare a personal testimony?
A. Careful organization insures that your testimony will be clear, simple, and
B. Common objections to a prepared testimony are that it will be “canned,”
“stiff,” or unnatural. However, a prepared testimony will:
1) Free you to be yourself.
2) Keep you from being repetitious.
3) Enable you to always cover the points which you feel are the most
4) Enable you to be brief.
II. How to prepare a personal testimony
1) Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance as you prepare.
2) Follow a three-point outline:
a) Life before knowing Christ (your goal in presenting a
testimony is not to tell “YOUR STORY” but to present, in an
interesting way HOW a person can come to know Christ
personally and WHY by telling how it happened to you!).
b) How you came to know Christ.
c) Life after you received Christ (changes He has made; what He
means to you now).
3) Emphasize point “c” above, if you became a Christian as a small child
4) Begin with an interesting, attention-getting sentence and close with a
good conclusion. Include relevant, thought-provoking secular
facts and experiences.
5) Speak in such a way that others will feel associated with you in past
and present experiences.
6) Give enough detail to arouse interest.
7) Use at least one, but no more than two scripture verses.
8) Edit carefully and change as necessary before you give your
1) Use Christian jargon. Words such as: saved, convicted, converted,
born-again, etc. do not communicate truth to the average non-
Christian. Remember your audience.
2) Be too wordy, beat around the bush, or emphasize how bad you used
3) Speak in glittering generalities. Avoid words like “wonderful”,
4) Mention church denominations, especially in a negative way.
5) Speak critically or negatively about any other individual or group.
6) Give the impression the Christian life is a bed of roses.
III. How to present a personal testimony
A. Before sharing your testimony:
1) Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you -- Eph. 5:5-18; Acts 1:8.
2) Be very familiar with your testimony and practice it.
B. While sharing your testimony:
1) Speak loudly and clearly in a natural, relaxed voice.
2) Avoid mannerisms when you speak, such as: rubbing your nose,
jingling coins in your pocket, swaying, clearing your throat, using
“uh’s”, and “ah’s”.
3) Avoid arguing and other high pressure methods of getting a
“decision” for Christ.
4) Avoid preaching at people. Present your testimony, not a
Before I received Christ I lived and thought this way:
How I received Christ:
After I received Christ these changes have taken (or are still taking) place:
TESTIMONY TO INDIVIDUALS OR SMALL GROUPS
Telling your testimony in this context can be used two ways. First, if you’re speaking to Christians you are basically telling them your story. In this context, you could take anywhere from 1 minute to 30 minutes. It just depends on the group and how much time the group has.
The second way your testimony can be used in a small group or person-to-person context is in an evangelistic way. The purpose here is to be a witness for what Jesus has done in your life. Anyone can argue with your beliefs, but nobody can argue with your personal testimony.
In order to be effective in sharing your testimony with non-believers, know your story of what Christ has done in your life well. Sometimes the details of how we came to Christ can be a little fuzzy. Think it through and know the major events. Remember, you don’t need to share every little detail from age three. Similar to sharing before a large group, you’ll want to share a little about your life before you received Christ, how you received Christ, and the changes that have taken place since. If you are Christ’s, he has done a mighty work in your life and it gives glory to Him if you share that with others.
USING QUESTIONS TO KEEP A
The ideas on previous pages give you dozens of creative ways to start your people talking -- but it’s up to you to keep discussion going by asking clarifying questions, by helping the group members resolve conflicts, by probing issues more deeply, and by involving everyone in the discussion and relationship building process.
Use these questions to clarify what someone just said:
* “Can you give me an example or two about . . . ?”
* “What do you mean by . . . ?”
* “Why do you believe that?”
* “What is the basis for you conclusions/feelings?”
* “Would you explain what you just said for us?”
If you want to probe or go more deeply into an answer, ask these kinds of questions:
* “What else are you feeling?”
* “Could you tell me more about . . . ?”
* “Could you explain what you mean by . . . ?”
To redirect the discussion to someone else, try these ideas:
* “Jane, what do you think about what Alex just said?”
* “Let’s hear what Bob thinks.”
* “John, I’m glad you’ve got so much to say on this topic. I wonder if anyone
else has something to add?”
If after trying to keep a discussion going, you still have some in your group who resist participating, they probably had a bad experience talking in a group. The only way to overcome the damage done by bad experiences is to start having good experiences.
Christian leaders are a great resource to get guidance on how to start a Bible Study, what material to cover, what commitment level those in attendance should have, and how to deal with frustrations. Ask them.
Ideas for groups we are around that we could possibly start Bible Studies with: In your . . .
* Place of Work
* Middle School/High School
TYRANNY OF THE URGENT
By Charles E. Hummed
Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends, unwritten articles, and unread books haunt quiet moments when we stop to evaluate. We desperately need relief.
But would a thirty-hour day really solve the problem? Wouldn’t we soon be just as frustrated as we are now with our twenty-four allotment? A mother’s work is never finished, and neither is that of any student, teacher, minister, or anyone else we know. Nor will the passage of time help us catch up. Children grow in number and age to require more of our time. Greater experience in profession and church brings more exacting assignments. So we find ourselves working more and enjoying it less.
JUMBLED PRIORITIES ... ?
When we stop to evaluate, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically the problem of priorities. Hard work does not hurt us. We all know what it is to go full speed for long hours, totally involved in an important task. The resulting weariness is matched by a sense of achievement and joy. Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or year and become oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks. We sense uneasily that we may have failed to do the important. The winds of other people’s demands have driven us onto a reef of frustration. WE confess, quite apart from our sins, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”
Several years ago an experienced cottonmill manager said to me, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” He didn’t realize how hard his maxim hit. It often returns to haunt and rebuke me by raising the critical problem of priorities.
We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study, a visit with that non-Christian friend, careful study of an important book: these projects can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action -- endless demands pressure every hour and day.
A man’s home is no longer his castle; it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because the telephone breaches the walls with imperious demands. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important tasks pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.
CAN YOU ESCAPE ... ?
Is there any escape from this pattern of living? The answer lies in the life of our Lord. On the night before He died, Jesus made an astonishing claim. In the great prayer of John 17 He said, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (verse 4).
How could Jesus use the word “finished?” His three-year ministry seemed all too short. A prostitute at Simon’s banquet had found forgiveness and a new life, but many others still walked the street without forgiveness and a new life. For every ten withered muscles that had flexed into health, a hundred remained impotent. Yet on that last night, with many useful tasks undone and urgent human needs unmet, the Lord had peace; He new He had finished God’s work.
The Gospel records show that Jesus worked hard. After describing a busy day Mark writes, “That evening, at sundown, they brought to Him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered about the door. And He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (1:32-34).
On another occasion the demand of the ill and maimed caused Him to miss supper and to work so late that His disciples thought He was beside Himself (Mark 3:21). One day after a strenuous teaching session, Jesus and His disciples went out in a boat. Even a storm didn’t awaken Him (Matthew 4:37-38). What a picture of exhaustion.
Yet His life was never feverish; He had time for people. He could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well. His life showed a wonderful balance, a sense of timing. When His brothers wanted Him to go to Judea, He replied, “My time has not yet come” (John 7:6). Jesus did not ruin His gifts by haste. In “The Disciple and Culture of the Spiritual Life,” A.E. Whiteham observes: “Here in this Man is adequate purpose ... inward rest, that gives an air of leisure to His crowded life: above all there is in this Man a secret and a power of dealing with the waste-products of life, the waste of pain, disappointment, enmity, death--turning to divine uses the abuses of man, transforming arid places of pain to fruitfulness, triumphing at last in death, and making a short life of thirty years or so, abruptly cut off, to be a “finished” life. We cannot admire the poise and beauty of this human life, and then ignore the things that made it.”
WAIT FOR INSTRUCTIONS ...
What was the secret of Jesus’ work? We find a clue following Mark’s account of Jesus’ busy day. Mark observes that “ ... in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and went out to a lonely place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). Here is the secret of Jesus’ life and work for God: He prayerfully waited for His Father’s instructions and for the strength to follow them. Jesus had no divinely-drawn blueprint; He discerned the Father’s will day by day in a life of prayer. By this means He warded off the urgent and accomplished the important.
Lazarus’ death illustrates this principle. What could have been more important than the urgent message from Mary and Martha? “Lord, he whom You love is ill” (John 11:3). John records the Lord’s response in these paradoxical words: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was” (verses 5-6). What was the urgent need? Obviously to prevent the death of this beloved brother. But the important thing from God’s point of view was to raise Lazarus from the dead. So Lazarus was allowed to die. Later Jesus revived him as a sign of His magnificent claim, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me though he die, yet shall he live” (verse 25).
We may wonder why our Lord’s ministry was so short, why it could not have lasted another five or ten years, why so many wretched sufferers were left in their misery. Scripture gives no answer to these questions, and we leave them in the mystery of God’s purposes. But we do know that Jesus’ prayerful waiting for God’s instructions freed Him from the tyranny of the urgent. It gave Him a sense of direction, set a steady pace, and enabled Him to do every task God assigned. And on the last night He could say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.”
DEPENDENCE MAKES YOU FREE ...
Freedom from the tyranny of the urgent is found in the example and promise of our Lord. At the end of a vigorous debate with the Pharisees in Jerusalem, Jesus said to those who believed in Him: “If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free ... Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin .... So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36).
Many of us have experienced Christ’s deliverance from the penalty of sin. Are we letting Him free us from the tyranny of the urgent? He points the way: “If you continue in My Word.” This is the way to freedom. Through prayerful meditation on God’s Word we gain His perspective.
P.T. Forsyth once said, “The worst sin is prayerlessness.” We usually think of murder, adultery, or theft as among the worst. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency--independence from God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength we are saying, with our actions if no our lips, that we do not need Him. How much of our service is characterized by “going it alone”?
The opposite of such independence is prayer in which we acknowledge our need to God’s instruction and supply. Concerning a dependent relationship with God, Donald Baillie says: “Jesus lived His life in complete dependence upon God, as we all ought to live our lives. But such dependence does not destroy human personality. Man is never so truly and fully personal as when he is living in complete dependence upon God. This is how personality comes into its own. This is humanity at its most personal.”
Prayerful waiting on God is indispensable to effective service. Like the time-out in a football game, it enables us to catch our breath and fix new strategy. As we wait for directions the Lord frees us from the tyranny of the urgent. He shows us the truth about Himself, ourselves, and our tasks. He impresses on our minds the assignments He wants us to undertake. The need itself is not the call; the call must come from the God who knows our limitations. “The Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). It is not God who loads us until we bend or crack with an ulcer, nervous breakdown, heart attack, or stroke. These come from our inner compulsions coupled with the pressure of circumstances.
The modern businessman recognizes this principle of taking time out for evaluation. When Greenwalt was president of DuPont, he said, “one minute spent in planning saves three or four minutes in execution.” Many salesmen have revolutionized their business and multiplied their profits by setting aside Friday afternoon to plan carefully the major activities for the coming week. If an executive is too busy to stop and plan, he may find himself replaced by another man who takes time to plan. If the Christian is too busy to stop, take spiritual inventory, and receive his assignments from God, he becomes a slave to the tyranny of the urgent. He may work day and night to achieve much that seems significant to himself and others, but he will not finish the work God has for him to do.
A quiet time of meditation and prayer at the start of the day refocuses our relationship with God. Recommit yourself to His will as you think of the hours that follow. In these unhurried moments list in order of priority the tasks to be done, taking into account commitments already made. A competent general always draws up his battle plan before he engages the enemy; he does not postpone basic decisions until the firing starts. But he is also prepared to change his plans if an emergency demands it. So try to implement the plans you have made before the day’s battle against the clock begins. But be open to any emergency interruptions or unexpected person who may call.
You may also find it necessary to resist the temptation to accept an engagement when the invitation first comes over the telephone. No matter how clear the calendar may look at the moment, ask for a day or two to pray for guidance before committing yourself. Surprisingly the engagement often appears less imperative after the pleading voice has become silent. If you can withstand the urgency of the initial moment, you will be in a better position to weigh the cost and discern whether the task is God’s will for you.
In addition to your daily quiet time, set aside one hour a week for spiritual inventory. Write an evaluation of the past, record anything God may be teaching you, and plan objectives for the future. Also try to reserve most of one day each month for a similar inventory of longer range. Often you will fail. Ironically, the busier you get the more you need this time of inventory, but the less you seem to be able to take it. You become like the fanatic, who, when unsure of his direction, doubles his speed. And frenetic service for God can become an escape
from God. But when you prayerfully take inventory and plan your days, it provides fresh perspective on your work.
CONTINUE THE EFFORT ...
Over the years the greatest continuing struggle in the Christian life is the effort to make adequate time for daily waiting on God, weekly inventory, and monthly planning. Since this time for receiving marching orders is so important, Satan will do everything he can to squeeze it out. Yet we know from experience that only by this means can we escape the tyranny of the urgent. This is how Jesus succeeded. He did not finish all the urgent tasks in Palestine or all the things He would have liked to do, but He did finish the work which God gave Him to do. The only alternative to frustration is to be sure that we are doing what God wants. Nothing substitutes for knowing that this day, this hour, in this place we are doing the will of the Father. Then and only then can we think of all the other unfinished tasks with equanimity and leave them with God.
Sometime ago Simba bullets killed a young man, Dr. Paul Carlson. In the providence of God his life’s work was finished. Most of us will live longer and die more quietly, but when the end comes, what could give us greater joy than being sure that we have finished the work God gave us to do? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ makes this fulfillment possible. He has promised deliverance from sin and the power to serve God in the tasks of His choice. The way is clear. If we continue in the Word of our Lord, we are truly His disciples. And He will free us from the tyranny of the urgent, free us to do the important, which is the will of God.
© 1967 by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Reprinted by permission of Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 60515.
“When God chose to create us, along with life itself came his gift of time to all the world. We have the same amount of time in every day as everyone else. Whether paperboy or president, author or housewife, farmer or financier, the clocks we buy run at the same rate. We have the same number of minutes in our hours as everyone else has. No one has any more time than anyone else.”
-- Ted W. Engstrom
But what now? Results of bad time management:
* You can be over-committed, involved in too many activities (even too many
* You could end up filling your schedule with activities that have nothing to do
with your objectives and priorities.
* You could feel forced into things because you feel guilty saying “no.”
* Hours, days and months fly by and you have done virtually nothing.
“Plan your day or someone else will plan it for you.”
“Plan your work, then work your plan.”
-- Grandma Wolfe
“Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their life-styles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.”
-- Gordon Dahl
RECOMMENDED TIME SAVERS -- Remember time is something YOU can control!!!
You can never go back and recapture time. If you do not use it, it is gone forever. Thus time is valuable and you should not waste it unless you choose to do so. Most people who have good time management skills utilize some or all of the following things:
1) Plan out your daily routine and schedule in advance (sometimes even
months ahead). Consider even budgeting quiet times, days of rest, (i.e.
take a Sabbath, God commanded it), personal study days, time with
family, date nights, play days, vacation, etc. After these are scheduled,
then all the other things can drop into your calendar. This includes
2) Command control of your time. Don’t let strong willed people dominate
3) Use a schedule book and carry it with you (You don’t need too elaborate of a
4) Don’t be governed by every emergency. Find out what is urgent and what is
important. Important tasks are not emergency situations and can
normally be addressed later. (See “Tyranny of the Urgent”)
5) Don’t let “great public appearances” get in the way of what your goals and
6) Some tasks are better performed at certain times and under certain
conditions. Know your own “prime time” and work smart, not just hard
and long. We should all know our rhythms and be in touch with how to
maximize our time under the appropriate environment. This includes
knowing when our best study time is and when we should play.
7) Develop solid criteria for selecting and rejecting various opportunities. Be
willing to say “NO” to certain things in order to say “YES” to the best
things. Do you want the good or the very best?
8) Learn to delegate and find people who are skilled to perform the task. We
tend to cling to the things we can do well. Often times we can help
others do it and discover they are better at it than we.
9) Don’t put off something that can be done now. “Only pick up things once.”
10) make a list of all unfinished projects. Do the hardest one first. When you
list things out it helps give you perspective. You can then do them one
at a time.
11) Avoid clutter. Try not to do everything at once.
12) Don’t be a perfectionist unless it is mandatory. You can’t do everything
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE
-- Time with the Lord: Quiet Time/Prayer/Memory Work/Bible Study/Etc.
-- Physical Fitness: Exercise, sleep and food.
-- Mental Fitness: Books/newspapers/tapes/experiences/sharing.
-- Time with people: Family/friends/special relationships
--Time for Self: Healthy outlets for venting frustrations. Take time to pick a
*** Don’t overextend yourself. Relax! ***
SPIRITUAL REPORT CARD
This is an exercise to be completed by each person individually. Take a few minutes to grade yourself (A through F) in the following areas. There are no cum laude honors nor does anyone flunk out for not having a passing grade. Honestly evaluate where you are in each of these areas and indicate what things (if any) that you plan on doing to improve your grade in the upcoming weeks/months.
HOW YOU PLAN
AREA GRADE ON IMPROVING
OUTSIDE THE CUP:
Regular Time Alone
Ministry to Others
INSIDE THE CUP:
Dealing with Sin/
Love for God
Love for Others
Take the results of this test and honestly make some realistic goals for the upcoming weeks and months to improve your weak areas. Periodically go back and evaluate your progress in each area.