Growing in God through Seasons of Wind

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we journeyed through re-writing our story.  While past events don’t change, our perception of them can.  When we learn how to psalm, journal and reframe our memories, we can learn from past mistakes. We can grow very deeply so that in time we will not be swayed by difficult times. We may even thrive through them, since God’s hand is there.  He walks with us through the hard times, and sometimes even carries us.  Think of how the Psalms were written.  Most of those writers endured difficult times, and deep disappointments.  But they were given grace as they chose to trust in God.

Grace is something that is very prevalent in our faith as we choose to trust God and follow where he leads us. Sometimes following can include times were we endure windstorms in our lives.  We’re going to journey through different kinds of wind – both in the natural world and in the spiritual world.  The spiritual windstorms are similar to the desert experience I spoke on in an earlier week, although windstorms can definitely be more intense.

In the natural world, wind is one of the tools that the desert uses to take moisture out of the soil.  You would think it’s the sun, but it’s also the wind.   I’ve encountered wind in certain deserts and semi-deserts, such as New Mexico, Kenya, Argentina’s Patagonia and South Africa’s Little Karoo.  It’s the wind that seems biting in the cold; and bracing in the heat.   Apparently this same process of desiccation, can happen inside a freezer with an ice cube.  Have you noticed that old freezer ice cubes are smaller?

In Canada, the windiest seasons are during transition – March is a windy season, perfect for flying kites… if you are bundled up for the cold.  And November, it’s cool, rainy and windy – as the remaining autumn leaves of colour are blown off the trees.

In Worcester, the Cape Doctor wind is mainly a summer wind from the south, and there’s a winter wind that is mighty chilly. If the wind is strong, usually it signals rain.   There’s also the warm “Berg” wind that is similar to Calgary’s chinooks. Tony recently shared with me something he had been teaching in his science classes, that wind is also essential for the earth: as water evaporates  in one area, such as the sea, and accumulates in clouds, the wind blows the clouds  to other areas that may really need rain.

I recently discovered why the Cape Doctor is given its name.  The Cape Doctor is the local name for the strong, often persistent, dry south-easterly wind that blows on the South African coast from September to March – or spring to late summer in the southern hemisphere.  It’s given its name because of a local belief that it clears Cape Town of pollution and pestilence.  I’ve also been told that Brewelskloof TB hospital here in Worcester keeps its windows open for health reasons, because the wind is thought to clear bad air out of the wards.   How many times have young children been encouraged to get away from the TV, or their video games? They need to go outside and enjoy the fresh air.  So some wind is good.  It’s a matter of how MUCH wind.

Wind has always been an important source of power – for example for ships before the age of steam. Pilots can do the same if they fly along the Jetstream.  This means they can fly further with using less fuel.  We live near a glider airport in Worcester, and in some ways it’s appropriate to have gliders here.  The wind is often strong. Why not harness it?   People still go windsailing, parasailing, and  in sailboats in different waters.

One of the ways wind is harnessed now is with wind turbines.  We’ve seen a few of those in the Eastern Cape.  I’ve seen many more in the UK, Canada and in the American plains.

Wind can also be used to purify and clean.  I remember a scene in an original Star Trek television episode, called “Mudd’s Women.”  The women were used as a bargaining chip on a mining planet.  One of the women, Eve, didn’t like what was going on, and she ran off into the howling dust storm, very upset.  The lead miner rescued her, but they didn’t initially get along.  They bickered.  When the miner said that her cooking wasn’t that great, and that it tasted like his own, Eve said, “Well, you’re tasting some of it now.  I couldn’t scrub off the layers of food.”  He complained back that he had no water to clean with.  She replied, “well, hang up the pots in the wind, and let the sand scour the pots clean.”  Good thinking, Eve.  Wind can be used to purify; although in that case, it included the biting sand.   Sea salt can do the same if you’re on the edge of an ocean wind.

But wind is also destructive in higher velocity.  The wind doesn’t have to be a tornado to cause intense or long-lasting damage.  Strong winds can put plants in survival mode. I’ve seen the fynbos shrubs near Mitchell’s Plain, and near Cape Point.  They are weirdly shaped, as if crawling away from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.  I’ve seen other plants grow away from the wind in other areas, like Yorkshire in England, Patagonia in Argentina.  In the high north of Canada and Russia, there aren’t any trees. The wind is too strong for them to survive.

Gardeners share that wind greatly affects plants throughout their growth. When plants are seedlings, slight breezes help them grow sturdier. If wind is at gale strength,  it can damage or even break and blow down the strongest tree, sometimes crashing into someone’s house or car.  Winter wind is especially damaging because plants can’t replace the water they lose, so they shrink and wither.   So when the winds are destructive, you need a windbreak.  You need a protective shield.

We need to make sure that the plants have protection, and can adapt so that they’re not always directly facing the wind.  To be against the wind, as the Bob Seger anti-establishment song goes, is to act in defiance.  This actually goes against survival unless understood as a short-term endurance test.

Just before we left for South Africa in November 2017, our neighbour gave me a novel about South African history called The Covenant, by James Michener.  While many of the characters were not real, the stories behind them were based on real events and movements.  Michener uses the Van Doorn family as one of the Afrikaaner voices through four hundred years.  Free burgher Willem Van Doorn struggled with the wind damage to his attempts to establish long-lasting wine-producing vines.  His colleagues said, “In their opinion, there could be no spot in this forlorn land where the winds did not howl.” But they showed him how to plant trees to give protection.

Willem’s Malay girlfriend encouraged him to plant differently according to the wind direction. Michener says, “But she was acquainted with growing things and said, “Willem, those vines are dying.”  Willem replied, “Why? Why do they die?”  She said, “The rows run the wrong way. The wind hits them too strong.” And she showed him how, if he planted his vines along the direction from which the winds blew, and not broadside to it, only the lead plants would be affected, which the sun would be free to strike all the vines evenly.”   So if you know the direction of the wind, you can actually grow a stronger root system.

Spiritually, we also endure windstorms.  Some of these are destructive – in the evil that assaults us.  Evil comes in the form of human greed.  It also is a malevolent spiritual force that seeks to harm.  Jesus tells us in John 10 verse 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  The thief that Jesus describes, is Satan, the father of lies, as well as stealing.  Supernatural evil gives strength and fury to the already awful human evil and rebellion.  Mixed together, it becomes a horrible firestorm.  You definitely need protection from that.   This is where the spiritual windbreak comes in:  the protection against evil.  The Apostle Paul shares that our struggles really reflect what’s going on spiritually – not just face to face in the physical world.  People can be deceived by the onslaught of evil whispers to their minds, and so they fall into all kinds of sin, big and small.

Paul shares about the armour of God in Ephesians 6 verses 10 to 18.  He says, 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[e] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[f] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[g] So a spiritual windbreak, is indeed, known as the armour of God.  You can ask for this in prayer daily.  Let the armour stand against the evil winds.  Take shelter in God, although stand in him, don’t hide. Keep your focus on him in the midst of the storm.  I’ve done this many a time, in encountering evil in different countries, as well as in my own life.   Before I came to faith in Jesus, I actively participated in evil by fortune telling.  I was in complete ignorance that this was evil, and so was right in the midst of the storm.  I’m thankful that I was drawn out by the Holy Spirit speaking to me the year before I came to faith.  I remember sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, wondering what I should do about my struggling art career, and crumbling life.  I told myself that the following year would be the time to change my life.  When I said that out loud to myself, I felt like a waterfall of love flowed over me.  The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “Good! Now’s the time to find God.”  I someone knew intuitively that he meant Jesus.  So I began to search.   The Holy Spirit began blowing the winds of God to me, so that I would be carried to Jesus in my search.  I didn’t want to fight.  Why would I want to fight pure love?

So I set my face towards God, and allowed the Holy Spirit to blow me towards Jesus like a sail.  At the time I used a Star Trek metaphor and called it my holy tractor beam.  Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit provides an escape from temptation and difficulty in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.  He says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  It’s true – he does provide a way out of the storms.   So Holy Spirit can help you set your face towards Jesus in the midst of the storm.

 The Holy Spirit acts in different ways as he lifts you up. Like wind, he purifies –  He also confirms and strengthens your inner conscience when you’re making decisions, and you choose what is right.  He acts as a refining wind, in purifying our desires for good things and not selfish ones.  One of the songs I used to sing in my Vineyard church days was the song “Refiner’s Fire.”  It goes, “Refiner’s fire. My heart’s one desire, is to be holy. Set apart for you Lord, I choose to be, holy. Set apart for you, my master, ready to do your will.” That song is a prayer to be refined by the Spirit. You can through the Spirit, and faith, use life circumstances to grow emotionally and spiritually stronger.

The Holy Spirit also points you to truth, and gives you comfort when you are sad. In John 15, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and the Spirit of Truth. He confirms and points to Jesus and the Father.   He is also a woo-er, as he gently wins our hearts.  He helps us grow in our trust of God. He is our source of strength. He certainly wooed me, and rather than condemn me for the evil I was doing, he just loved me and led me to Jesus.

I eventually came to faith in Jesus at a Holy Spirit conference.  It was held at a Canadian Baptist church, and this was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for during my days as a seeker.  Although I grew up in a church, it was a liberal one, and I did not know the way of salvation.  But now I did.  I let Holy Spirit guide me, like a friend, who became more, because he is God.

So I am thankful for the winds of the Holy Spirit – which can also blow strong. But that wind is pure love.  I was in Toronto during the Toronto Blessing, and remember many times when I would be on the floor for hours. It was like a force greater than myself was causing me to be still, cry, laugh and receive deep healing in my heart.  I remember Pastor John Arnott saying that a touch from God like this could do far more in one evening than months of counselling.  I’m not knocking counselling, for I have a counselling degree.  It’s a good thing.  But the wind of God can change the way you think and feel about past memories, and bring healing.  Forgiveness and love are powerful.  So in  a sense, the Holy Spirit is the REAL Cape Doctor.  I pray that this may be the case in touching the hearts of all who live in the Cape, and well beyond.

So, as you stand in the wind, will you take shelter from the winds of evil, and allow yourself to be transformed by the wind of God?  We need to set our face to seek him.  He’s not far.  He’s just a breath and a prayer away.

Lord, I ask you to open our eyes and our hearts to see and feel your presence.  Still the wind and waves of bad storms like you did with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  You told them to be still.  Cause us to be still, and to know you are God.  Thank you that you are there in the times of transition, when it seems what we cling to, is blowing away in the wind.  Surround us with your armour, and comfort us with your wind instead.  Help us to grow in you.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you would like to hear an audio version of this talk, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the Coppleswesterncape.ca site, or click here. Then scroll down to #26.

Blessings and love!

Laurie-Ann

 

Growing in God through (re)writing your own story

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa (although we are currently on furlough in eastern Ontario, and return in July 2019).

In our last four articles, we learned about the different ways that God guides us. Some of these are very supernatural (dreams, visions, impressions, angels, scripture illumination, circumstantial signs) and others more ‘ordinary’ (wise counsel and common sense).  These directive means help you to look forward in hope.  Yet you also need to remember.  Writing your dreams, goals and aspirations in a journal also helps you to look forward as you pause and reflect on your past challenges.  When you look back, that’s when you can best see how things come into place. You can celebrate having come so far!  When you re-reading your journals, it helps you gain a new perspective of past struggles, and how you came through them.  You are reminded of God’s faithfulness.  However, you do also need to learn to say goodbye to any yet-unfulfilled hopes from earlier seasons, so they don’t hold you back.  Let’s call this the ‘goodbye’ list.

I learned this when I attended my Ottawa Cursillo weekend in March 2001. I was showered with love by the community by many notes and gifts that came in unexpected ways.  But what blessed me most was the counsel of Anglican priest Andrea Thomas.  I had been grieving certain losses from my single life in Toronto, and still hadn’t fully transitioned into my married life in Ottawa.  I was somehow stuck between the two.   I shared my very real feelings with Andrea, and she told me, you need to say goodbye to those things.  You can’t say “hello” before you’ve said “goodbye.”  Andrea was right.  I wrote down the things that I was missing from my single time in Toronto.  Things ranged from the convenience of driving my own car, to University of Toronto’s library, to friends, to Tony’s wish not to have children at our ages. So, some were small losses, others big.   I wrote this list down and shared with my Anglican priest, John Bridges.  We had a funeral for the goodbyes, and during the process, we burned the list in an incense burner.  It was like the burning list of goodbyes and failed hopes were an offering to the Lord.  I finally felt free.  This list is one form of writing as a release.

Another is to journal – as a love letter to God. It’s a good way to pour out your concerns, and your prayer requests in a tangible way.  So you write these concerns down, and then read them a year later. You would be surprised how often these prayers were answered!  I journal in this way, and when I re-read my past journals, I’ve also discern a pattern through the promises that the Holy Spirit assures me with.   God has shown himself faithful – even though there are some areas that I’m still struggling with, he is still there helping transform me.

In an earlier broadcast, I shared about psalming.  Psalming is writing poems to God, similar to the style of the Psalms in the Bible.  These include complaints and praise to God, and they ultimately end with a commitment to trust God. When you write psalms, they become a promise to God that you can stand with.  And, you’ll find that Holy Spirit will answer the cries of your psalms.   Tony has written music to some of the psalms and poems written by Ottawa prison inmates. Some of these songs have become favourites with the men we see in Worcester’s Brandvlei prison.  Tony has offered to write music from their own poems.  We are hopeful for what they will share.

Yet the deepest way to grow in God through writing – is to create your own story.  In a way, writing an autobiography could be part of this process, since it’s important to look back and remember what God has done in your life.  Too often we forget the goodness we have received, and instead complain about the present.  I know it looks shocking that the Israelites forgot about the miracles that happened in Egypt, and their Red Sea crossing.  They complained about many things, and when Moses was away with God, they instead turned to a newly-made idol and worshipped it.  How quickly we forget.

So writing helps you remember the lessons of the past as you go forward into the future.

If you see your life as a developing story, rather than one chapter on continuous repeat, you can see there is a rhythm in it.   If your page at the moment features a thunderstorm, and you feel that the wind and rain are lasting forever, they are NOT.  It just seems that way.  Are you going to be defined by only one chapter or even one page?  No! There is sun in the future forecast, and there are rainbows.  All stories have their crises, nail-biting intense parts, suffering, joys, sunshine and rainstorms. Some include romantic moments, beautiful sunsets, loving families, and joys of friendship.  You can even choose the genre of your life.  You might think that you have a sad dramatic story, but you may have moments of comedy.  And then there are the moments of overcoming.   You just need to see from a different perspective.

Surpresa Sithole is a very special Iris leader.  He is the base leader of the White River base in South Africa. He also is one of the teachers at the Harvest school that we attended three years ago.  He’s a writer and encourager of many, whether Iris missionaries, conference attenders and people he happens to meet.  He’s written two books.  One of them, Voice in the Night, is his story.  It was part of our required reading for Harvest School.  I remember I stayed up all night reading his book, since I just couldn’t put it down.  I remember when I was reading, Tony came downstairs more than once calling for me, but I kept saying, “I just need to finish the chapter.”  But of course, then I would start reading the next one.

When Tony began to read Surpresa’s book, he got so excited that he went and bought five copies of the book to give others.  Eventually he gave away them all, including my original copy.  I’m thankful that I still have my e-copy!   Surpresa has a nail-biting story where he has survived so many war-time incidents in Mozambique, as well as the murder of his witchdoctor family by rival witchdoctors.   Holy Spirit spoke to him that night and commanded him to leave the house, and when he obeyed, it saved his life.  He and his best friend were led through a forest to a home on the edge of Malawi, where they came to faith. And that was just the beginning of his life of miracles that included the gift of being given at least 12 languages supernaturally – one of them being English!  He turns all of his experience to joy in the telling.  He is not one to forget what God has done for him.

So what is Supresa’s secret?  Part of it is he’s a man who worships all the time. He prays, and has a thankful attitude.  He says that every day can be a good day, no matter the circumstances.  He doesn’t let what is happening around him sway or scare him.  He is a master of what I call the “re-frame.”  Re-framing is to look at a situation from a completely different perspective.  It’s to have a different view-point.  If six people were to view an elephant at the same time, would they see the same thing?  No, they wouldn’t – because they all have their unique perspective.  One sees the legs, another, the tail, and still another, see the trunk.  But they’re all the same elephant.   Are any of them wrong?  No, they’re not wrong – they’re just not seeing the whole picture.  So, re-framing, is to see the good in a situation, or something that you can learn from that situation.  It can even provide the way out of being under that perpetual raincloud.  This is a the storyteller’s version of a promise given in 1 Corinthians 10 verse 13: God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.  You need to look beyond your circumstances to the big picture.  That’s what storying is all about.  You write the big stories and fill in details later.

Another way to look at seeing from a higher perspective is through a scene from the movie “Dead Poets Society.”  Robin Williams plays a teacher who wants to inspire his students to see beyond the same-old, same old that they are used to.  Instead, he encourages them to stand on their school desks to see from a new perspective, a higher perspective.  Then they could change their minds and perceptions about truth, since they could see more.  It’s the same with being given God’s perspective, and to see almost prophetically like eagles.  This perspective is above the storms of life.   And this is also another secret of Surpresa’s – having God’s perspective on life.  This gives him constant joy.

Tony and I were fortunate to sit under two teaching sessions with Surpresa, as well as an extra afternoon session where many of the single missionaries begged him to pray over them to find their future spouses.  He doesn’t do that often, but he did then, and sure enough, many of those who asked for prayer are getting married or engaged. We asked him to pray over us for languages, and hoped for Afrikaans.  But sometimes you need to just work at it, right?  We are thankful for encouraging tutors who re-frame our frustration by reminding us of the strides we have made in our learning process.  Surpesa’s master re-frame is never to forget your identity as a child of God. I remember him telling us never to be discouraged. We have so much that the world is looking for. Go as a lion, not a chicken. He knows who he is. There are people who don’t like the fact that Surpresa is always smiling or laughing – but he told us that he is always enjoying God and is worshipping him.   His story is full of joy, since his perspective is always purposed by God.  Just like praise changes the atmosphere when you sing, so seeing through God’s perspective changes the atmosphere of your life.  You begin to see God’s little touches woven through your own life.

Of course, most of us are unfinished masterpieces, but we can in time become so beautiful.   Think of an art form that the Japanese have perfected.  They take broken pieces of a ceramic cup and they glue them together with gold.  When they are finished the process, the result is even more beautiful than the original cup, before it was broken.  All that was broken has been made beautiful.  The cup’s story has been re-storied with gold, and is beautiful, for all to see.

When you are thinking about your life, think of joys, not just sorrows.  You celebrate one, and overcome the second. But there are beautiful gems in those sorrows.  Your life wouldn’t be complete without them.

Think of all the characters in the Bible. Except for Jesus, every one of them was far from perfect.   All of them sinned.  Some were proud, others hesitant and afraid. Some initially said no to God’s call, like Moses and Jonah. Some were fearful, like Gideon; however, the angel called Gideon a “mighty man of God.”  Why?  Because that’s how God was remaking him.  He does the same with us.  He changes our fears to make us fearless, although this again is a process of growing in perfect love.  Love casts out all fear. So go on a search of different biblical characters.  Is there one that resonates with you?  Learn from their story.  How did they begin?  What did God do in their hearts?   God wants to do that in you, too.

You can be a super-hero in him, just like the biblical characters.  Each of these people were great BECAUSE of the Lord.  We can point to him and give him the glory.  He’s the one who has given us gifts and talents, intelligence and creativity.  And he’s especially the one who takes our weaknesses and pours his glory through like a waterfall.

Some people look at me and think I’m a wise woman.  I’ve actually always wanted to be one.  But that wisdom doesn’t all come from me.  It comes from observing from different viewpoints:  my own, others’ stories, scriptures and whispers from God.  I’m being decorated like that cup.  I’m also filled with gold lines, as God is mending broken areas in my life.

Some of the people that Tony interviews on our internet radio show “The Worcester Reports” have overcome so much.  Their stories reflect where they have come from, and the changes and hopes that they now have in Christ.  They are being remolded into unique masterpieces.

It’s important to invite Jesus into any painful memories you may have from your childhood. When you do, he can begin to heal your heart from the inside out.  I remember one such memory that surfaced when I was on a mission trip in northern Kenya.  I had a fear of public speaking, which sounds funny for someone like me who speaks all the time. When I would give presentations during seminary classes, I would be terrified, despite really knowing the topic I shared about – so I would read my talk.

During that mission, I gave a long talk on ministry of lay people in the church.  It was a very long talk – since I didn’t take into account that it would be translated as well.  That makes the talk twice as long, or more. So our mission leader wasn’t too happy with me.  That night, I was to prepare another talk for the following day and I had a struggle.  I was terrified to prepare a talk last minute.  I still like time to prepare but the terror was evil.  I shared with the other leader who was with us, a gentle pastor from Nairobi named Tom.   We prayed about this fear and I was given a sense of where this fear came from.  I had a picture in my mind’s eye of me as a frightened little girl.  I was being scolded by an older man, who was mean.  He had attempted to molest me and told me, “Don’t tell.  Don’t ever tell. Don’t speak.”  While I had long forgiven this man, I still had been held by his curse and decree over me to not tell of the abuse, or to speak.  And what is sharing a story or teaching on the mission field?  What is preaching?  It is SPEAKING.  Thankfully, I shared this impression and memory with Tom and we prayed.  We brought Jesus into the memory.  The man was again forgiven, and the power of his curse was broken.   I was free to speak, although it took time and confidence.  The following day I shared about my emotional and spiritual healing with the audience.  Previously, not many came up for prayer.  But when I shared that I too, had been healed in this very room, from childhood sexual abuse, the women came up in tears, asking for their own healing.   God used my story and his healing to bring healing to others. God showed his glory, like the gold in the Japanese cup.  And my story was transformed from being a fearful mute to an overcoming speaker.

You too can overcome your own struggles and painful memories, just as I did, and am continuing to do.  Just open the door and let him in.

Jesus, I thank you for the journey that you’ve taken me on.  We are still re-writing my story.  You’re continuing to take threads from my past to re-weave me into a beautiful tapestry.  I ask that you do the same for my friends who are reading. Knock gently on their hearts and guide them on their journey.  Bring your healing and give them new eyes to see from a higher perspective.  Give them joy where there has been sorrow, hope where there has been despair. And fill them with your peace as they look to you.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you’d like to hear a similar audio version of this article, please visit my podcast page   and scroll down to #35.

Be blessed, my friends and please visit again.

Blessings and love,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God: Learning how God guides us part 4

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last three articles, we began to learn how we can seek guidance, and some of the ways that God guides us.  The list isn’t exhaustive, but Nicky Gumbel compiles main groups of the ways under the term CSs.  These include Commanding scripture (like when scriptures come alive to us personally), and Compelling Spirit (which includes some of the many ways the Holy Spirit can speak more directly).  We were caught up in more of the supernatural ways under compelling spirit.  We can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a whisper.  We can be given impressions, full movie-like visions, dreams, and inner knowings, which is similar to intuition.  We can be helped and strengthened by angels, and some people have even had experiences of the audible voice of God.  Some of these people include Jesus, the prophet Samuel and Heidi Baker, upon her conversion when she was 16.  Heidi shared in the Compelled by Love movie that the voice told her that she “was called to be a minister and a missionary, and she was to go to Africa, Asia and England.”

The other three CSs that Nicky Gumbel mentions in the Alpha Course are common sense, counsel of the saints (or wise, praying Christians) and circumstantial signs.  Last time we journeyed through the next two – common sense and counsel of the saints.  These two keep our feet grounded in relationships and thinking things out.  Life experience is important when considering your life’s direction.  It’s important to be naturally supernatural – remembering that we are more than a thinking mind, but also not to ignore the supernatural.  After all, God IS supernatural. We are encouraged to use our minds, although with divine inspired ideas. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 to learn and grow. He told him to “think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.”

Just five months ago, I struggled about whether to help my parents during my mother’s illness. She was in the hospital for over a month, just as my father had been three years before that.  At that time, I left behind my volunteer work in Ottawa, to help my mother care for my dad, but also to help her, because she is frail. She still is, since normally my dad is her caregiver, despite his own health.  I reasoned out whether I should go by considering my options.  Leaving South Africa is a lot more expensive than leaving Ottawa for Toronto.  This was a big factor.  So was leaving Tony behind in the pre-Christmas season, right before school exams, where we are two of the teachers.  I also had remembered a dream that I had where I was promised that God would basically take care of my parents while we were on our mission.  So between the reasons of finances, mission work, our school and the dream, I had to trust God.  And it turned out well in the end.  Strangely enough, I got quite sick myself here in South Africa, but that’s a different matter. What kept me in South Africa, apart from the dream I had been given, came down to two things: common sense and trust in God.

The next CS is Counsel of the saints, where we seek wise mature Christians for prayerful advice.  These people could be mentors, pastors, other family members and people you are drawn to for their godly wisdom.  Proverbs 12 verse 15 reminds us that “A wise man listens to advice.”  However, Nicky Gumbel shares that while seeking advice is very important, we need to remember that ultimately, our decisions are between us and God. They are our responsibility. We cannot shift that responsibility onto others or seek to blame them if things go wrong.”  The counsel of the saints is part of guidance; but it is not the only part. Sometimes it may be right to go ahead in spite of the advice of others, particularly if there is other guidance that leads that way.

Now to the fifth CS of God’s guidance, which is Circumstantial signs.  Some people in church history have made it their ‘mantra’ to seek signs, particularly if they don’t know the other ways that God can guide us.  Signs can be surprise answers to prayer, and other times, they can seem like perfectly ordinary situations that are what you need right now.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a door opening with favour in a job search, and other times, more supernatural, like a manifestation of favour.  Some people are skeptical of obviously supernatural things like the occurrence of gold or crystal dust appearing on people during meetings, as well as gemstones and feathers.  These are signs of God’s glory, giving us a little peak into the wonderful aspects of what heaven is – creative, colourful, and beautiful.

However, signs also can be simply directional.  They point us towards the way we should go, like a signpost on the highway.   If you are driving on the N1 in the Karoo, you need to know where the next town will be.  You may need to stop for petrol and something to eat.  You are looking for a signpost, and direction on where to find what you need, without getting lost.  We need a map, a signpost, and assurance that we’re going in the right direction.  It is the same with our lives.  We plan our route, but sometimes there are a few detours.

God is in ultimate control of events. The writer of Proverbs points out in Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Sometimes God opens doors, as the Apostle Paul mentions a door of opportunity 1 Corinthians 16:9. He says, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”  So opposition isn’t a no to a great opportunity, it’s just a challenge.  Sometimes God closes doors.  In Acts 16:7, Luke shares: Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.”

Nicky Gumbel shares in Alpha about two occasions where God firmly closed the door on something he really wanted, and he also believed at those times that it was God’s will for the doors to be open.  He said, “I tried to force the doors open. I prayed and I struggled and I fought, but they would not open.  On both occasions I was bitterly disappointed. But I understand now, years later, why God closed those doors.  Indeed, I am grateful that he did. However, I am not sure we will ever know this side of heaven why God has closed certain doors in our lives.”

I distinctly remember a door closing to me before I came to faith in Jesus Christ.  I was a semi-professional artist and was keen to work in set design and props for theatre, film and television.  After all, I was from Toronto.  Toronto was known as Hollywood North, although that term has expanded to include Vancouver as well.  Even though I had contacts, those doors slammed tighter than ever.  If my art career didn’t come to a struggle, I might not have begun seeking God as I did.

Then later, after my third attempt to start a career ended; this time in radio broadcasting, I was stuck in a hallway with closed doors. I had been told in radio school that you normally get three opportunities as a professional in that industry.  Many people struggle with the first job, which is usually in promotions, or in the studio as a board operator.  I was a board operator.  I wasn’t the best, but I was consistent and loyal, at least until the time that I had to be away while driving my then-housemate to Alberta for a new radio job.  While I was in Alberta, I visited radio stations and creative directors to gain contacts for future jobs.  After I returned, I was let go, because one of my bosses really needed me one weekend.  It didn’t matter that this was an act of kindness to another radio person, and helping another radio station in the same company.  I was devastated.  However, I found a full-time job doing what I trained for – in creative writing, audio production and scheduling of ads.  I moved across the country for this opportunity, and carried as much as I could hold in my little car.  I found a beautiful walk-in basement apartment in Nelson, British Columbia, and commuted to Castlegar, where the creative office was.

My enthusiasm and talent carried me a long way, as well as good nutrition and vitamins.  However, after a time I burned out, simply because I stayed in the station for hours and hours at a time.  The job was more than one person could handle. Although I did have help at times from a creative pool, it really was too much for one person, especially someone who was new. So after four months, I was let go.  By this time I had given up so much to be there in BC, including a bariatric by-pass surgery, since I was now in a different province.  My flat rental lease also meant that I had to stay for nearly two more months.  Then I got some beautiful referrals from a creative director I met earlier that year in Red Deer, Alberta.  He referred me to the creative director in Lloydminster, Alberta, and I applied for a vacant position as a writer.  Two months previously he referred me to another creative director in Medicine Hat in southern Alberta, but I had told this man that I didn’t think it would be fair for me to leave my new job yet.  He accepted that explanation and told me he would ask me again at another time.

Since I had glowing references and some experience, I thought I might have a chance in a job writing ads.  This job didn’t require me to schedule ads or produce; it was one position rather than three.  I could have done this – and he seemed excited about my references. This director must have dug deeply in my past jobs, because he wasn’t happy that I was let go twice within the industry.  Unfortunately, he didn’t give me that third chance that I was hoping for, and I had to move back across the country to rejoin Tony.    Upon my return, there was a job opening as an administrator in the community radio station that I had been a part of since 2001, as a volunteer radio host and audio producer.  I thought I would have a chance at that, due to my years there, over fifteen years in admin, and two years of radio school.  I was on the short list, but I didn’t come in first.  The girl who got the job apparently had more than fifteen years admin experience, although no radio school.  So the door again closed.

I spent some time in prayer and sought wise counsel from a prophetic lady, who is now part of a pastoral team at the Ottawa Vineyard.  I told her that I was still seeking radio work in some way, although I knew I would eventually return to consider full-time ministry.  She prayed and told me, “All I see are closed doors.  It’s useless continuing in this hallway – you need to seek a different direction.  Sure enough, I had further confirmation about that. Three months later, the Medicine Hat employer emailed me again and asked if I would consider working for him.  I did consider, although I had to be honest and tell him that it didn’t work out in BC.  Unfortunately, he never replied to my email, so I expected that door was indeed shut, as my pastoral friend told me.

Sometimes God opens doors in a remarkable way!  The circumstances and the timing point clearly to the hand of God (for example, Genesis 24, where Isaac’s servant was given specific directions to find his master the perfect wife for him).  He brought home Rebecca, who was smart, loving and willing to go).   Nicky Gumbel shares a special story of open doors in an unusual way.

“Michael Bourdeaux is the head of Keston College. (This is) a research unit devoted to helping believers in what were communist lands.  His work and research are respected by governments all over the world. He studied Russian at Oxford. His Russian teacher, Dr. Zernov, sent him a letter that he had received because he thought it would interest him. (This letter showed) how monks were beaten up by the KGB and subjected to inhuman medical examinations. (It showed)  how they were being rounded up in trucks and dumped many hundreds of miles away.  This letter was written very simply, with no adornment. As he read it, Michael Bourdeaux felt he was hearing the true voice of the persecuted church. The letter was signed, “Varavva and Pronina.”

In August 1964, Michael went on a trip to Moscow. On his first evening there, he met up with old friends who shared how the persecutions were getting worse.  In particular, the old church of St Peter and St Paul had been demolished. They suggested that he go and see it for himself.

So Michael took a taxi and arrived to the location at dusk.  He came to the square where he had remembered once housed a very beautiful church. He found nothing except a twelve-foot fence, which hid the rubble where the church had been. Over on the other side of the square, were two women, who were climbing over the fence to try to see what was inside.

He watched them, and when they finally left the square, he followed them for a hundred yards, and eventually caught up with them. They asked, “Who are you?”  He told them, “I am a foreigner. I have come to find out what is happening here in the Soviet Union.”  They took him back to the house of another woman who also asked him why he had come. He said he had received a letter from the Ukraine, via Paris. When she asked who it was from, he replied, “Varavva and Pronina.”  There was silence.  He wondered if he had said something wrong.  A flood of uncontrolled sobbing followed.  The woman pointed and said, “This is Varavva and this is Pronina.”

The population of Russia was over one hundred forty million.  The Ukraine, from where the letter was written, is over eight hundred miles from Moscow.  Michael Bourdeaux had flown from England six months after the letter had been written. He and the women would not have met had either party arrived at the demolished church an hour earlier or an hour later.  That was one of the ways God called him to set up his life’s work.” If you want to learn more about Michael Bourdeaux’s story, read his book “Risen Indeed.”

Sometimes we hear God correctly, but we get the timing wrong.  Don’t be in a hurry when you are seeking direction. Sometimes, God’s guidance seems to come immediately when it is asked for.  Yet often, it takes much longer – sometimes months or even years. One example of this time lapse concerns a calling I had, to go to Sierra Leone.  I was encouraged by a career missionary named Gladys, who prayed for me a year after I returned from my first mission trip in Kenya.  Gladys shared prophetically that I was to return to Africa, and I thought she meant Kenya.  But no, she meant West Africa. She asked me if I had ever heard of Sierra Leone.  This was in 1994, and I prayed into the opportunity and found that there were no current opportunities.  A few years later, Sierra Leone descended into an awful civil war.  So I put that prophetic promise on the shelf.  Later, I discovered that Tony’s spiritual mother was from Sierra Leone, I thought that was interesting, but didn’t figure that would be a future clue.

Then 11 years later, Tony tells me that he was very blessed by his first mission trip in western Kenya.  He had no idea that it would be so fulfilling to help plant the Alpha Course in Migori, Kenya.  He told me, “hey, let’s do this again. We can do this again somewhere.”  It was then that I had a word impression from the Holy Spirit.  His still, small voice told me, “Sierra Leone.”  Sure enough, in 2009, Canadian Alpha people were offered different international opportunities, and Sierra Leone was one of them.  We were to give two Alpha course conferences in the east and west ends of Freetown – the same city where Tony’s spiritual mom, Emma, lived.   A huge door opened up for us – despite circumstances that threatened to cancel our journey.  This was the Iceland volcano eruption that cancelled all flight traffic across the Atlantic for well over a week.  We eventually arrived, but that is a whole other story, where we made it despite adverse circumstances.

So, we may have a sense that God is going to do something in our lives, but have to wait a long time for the fulfillment, as it did for me going to Sierra Leone.  It took sixteen years! On these occasions, we need patience like that of Abraham. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 6:15, that Abraham, “after waiting patiently … received what was promised.”  While he waited, he was tempted at one point to try and fulfill God’s promises by his own means – with disastrous results.  Just read Genesis chapters 16 and 21 and see what I mean.  Ishmael represents doing something in the wrong time and in our own strength.  Ishmael was not the planned promise.

Sometimes we hear God correctly, but we understand the timing completely wrongly.  The Holy Spirit spoke to Joseph in a dream about what would happen to him and his family in the future.  He probably expected immediate fulfillment, but he had to wait years. Instead of being promoted, he was sold into slavery, was dishonoured by his employer’s wife, and he then ended up in prison.

Indeed, while he was in prison, it must have been hard for him to believe that his dreams would ever be fulfilled. It took thirteen years after the original dream, to see God’s fulfillment. The waiting was part of the preparation. If you’re not familiar with Joseph’s story, read Genesis chapters 37 to 50.

In this area of guidance, we all make mistakes.  Waiting is HARD.  Bethel Music has a song about taking courage, where they sing “Take Courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting.  Hold on to your hope as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing.”  This song has given comfort to many a person trying to figure out how God will fulfill his promises.   They may believe him but are confused as to HOW and WHEN this will happen.  There is a reason why we are reminded in Proverbs 3:5-6 to  “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”  Sometimes, like Abraham, we try to fulfill God’s plans by our own wrong methods.  Or like Joseph, we get the timing wrong. Sometimes we feel that we have made too much of a mess of our lives, by the time we come to Christ, for God to do anything with us. But God is greater than that.

Joel 2:25 reminds us that God is able to “restore to you the years which the swarming locusts have eaten.  He is able to make something good out of whatever is left of our lives – whether it is a short time or a long time, if we will offer what we have to him and then cooperate with his Spirit.  It’s this same verse that gives me comfort for lost time due to my recent illness with boils, which is still ongoing. It curtails my work here in Worcester, but not completely.  God is using the circumstances to show fruit in the lives of the teens we disciple. I’m trusting that God will help us work out the details of what must be done while he’s still healing me.  Thankfully what I am able to do, is still a blessing to those we are serving.

Here’s another example from Nicky Gumbel.  Lord Radstock stayed in a hotel in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century. When he was there, he heard a little girl playing the piano down in the hallway.  She was making a terrible noise: “Plink, plunk, plink, plonk”  It was driving him mad!  Then, a man came and sat beside her at the piano bench. He began playing alongside her, and filled in the gaps.  The result was the most beautiful music!  He later discovered that the man playing alongside was the girl’s father, Alexander Borodin, the composer of the opera Prince Igor.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” As we falteringly play our part, seeking his will for our lives: the Holy Spirit comes alongside us, and helps re-story our lives in the most beautiful way.   While I waited for the Iris Harvest Missions school to accept my first application, I was shown an impression that Jesus was weaving together my three dead careers: art, ministry and radio, into something beautiful.  He was taking these skills, talents as well as other abilities, and weaving them together into something unique.  It was this weaving that helped create my ministry here in South Africa – and he’s not finished the weaving.  He’s creating more and more in me, and in Tony too.  It’s all been a learning curve.

So likewise, when you are seeking guidance from God, you begin to open yourself to the ways that you can be led.  There are many, but the main ones include reading (commanding scripture), listening (compelling spirit), thinking (common sense), talking (counsel of the saints), and finally watching (circumstantial signs and waiting).  While we open our hearts, and explore these ways, God comes and sits alongside us.  Just like the composer came alongside his daughter, he works all things for our good.  He takes our plink, plonk, plink, plonk, and makes something beautiful our of our lives.

So it’s a matter of trusting him and being open to the many ways he guides us. Be still in your heart before him, for he does hear our prayers.

Lord, I ask that you will bless those who are seeking you.  Direct them in the way they should go.  Open the right doors.  Give them dreams, impressions and let them hear your still, small voice guiding them. Let them find encouragers who can give them wise advice, and figure out what they must do through good common sense. Give them confidence, hope and a spring in their step as they sense you walking with them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you missed the first three parts of this message, we have it available as podcasts on our Copples Western Cape website.   You can also take the Alpha Course.  Much of my series on God’s guidance is influenced by the talk on “How does God guide us?  This is my favourite talk on the entire course, no matter which version I’ve viewed.  If you are seeking and need to learn more about the Christian faith, please do attend an Alpha Course. You won’t be sorry.

As for our podcasts, you can visit audio versions of this talk (and many others) at the WTGIG podcast page on Coppleswesterncape.ca.  Scroll down to podcasts 44, 45, 46 and 47.  It’s free, although we gratefully receive any free-will donations through the Iris Ministries Canada Canada Helps portal.  We are missionaries who live entirely by faith, with the exception of my husband’s pension.  God does supply our needs through surprising ways.

I hope that you’ve been blessed by this message and other articles as well.  Please do share with me if this has impacted you.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann

 

 

Growing in God: Learning how God guides us part 3

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last two articles, we began to learn how we can seek guidance and some of the ways that God guides us.  Nicky Gumbel compiles the main groups under the term CSs.  These include Commanding scripture (like when scriptures come alive to us personally), and Compelling Spirit (which includes some of the many ways the Holy Spirit can speak more directly).  We are caught up in the more supernatural ways under compelling spirit.  We can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a whisper.  We can be given impressions, full movie-like visions, dreams, and inner knowings, which is similar to intuition.  We can be helped and strengthened by angels. Some have had experiences of the audible voice of God, such as Jesus, the prophet Samuel and Heidi Baker, upon her conversion when she was 16.  Heidi shared in the Compelled by Love movie that the voice told her that she “was called to be a minister and a missionary, and she was to go to Africa, Asia and England.”

The Holy Spirit can also touch our hearts through anointed Christian music and prophetic art.  I know that some people are comforted with some of my own prophetic art.  It speaks to their souls and gives them hope.  It makes them feel loved.

The other three C.S’s that Nicky Gumbel mentions in the Alpha Course are common sense, counsel of the saints (or wise, praying Christians) and circumstantial signs.  We’ll journey through the first two.

Some Christians seem to put common sense to the side, but this kind of wisdom is important.  We learn this through life experience, and it’s also important when considering your life’s direction.   It’s important to not get “spooky spiritual” and act like every aspect of our lives is supernatural.  We need to be naturally supernatural.   We may be blessed supernaturally, and include this as a daily part of our lives, but we also live in a physical world.  We also have been given minds to think, learn, meditate and reason out things.    Psalm 32:9 reminds us to “not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” We are encouraged to use our minds, albeit with divinely inspired ideas. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 to learn and grow. He told him to “think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.”

Earlier I mentioned it’s important to be naturally supernatural, and not “spooky spiritual.”  Praying out loud in a weird voice, and being overly religious in routine matters are silly things that abandon common sense.  Nicky shares a story in Alpha about one lady who asked God for guidance on which shoes and socks and other clothing items she should wear.  Some things are left for us to decide.  As long as our clothes are clean and modest, there shouldn’t be a problem!

Nicky says, “It is true to say that God’s promises of guidance were not given so that we could avoid the strain of thinking. Indeed, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, said that God usually guided him by presenting reasons to his mind for acting in a certain way. This is important in every area – especially in the areas of marriage and jobs.”

Some people choose to take a certain course of action that seems to be in line with scripture.  They may pray to be given reasons not to go ahead If it is not His will in that case, and to be given peace if it is is the way they should take.

Back in late November 2018, my mother was in the hospital, after some emergency bowel surgery.  I prayed on whether I should return to Canada, and stay with my parents, as I had done three years previously.  My dad had been in hospital for over a month.  My sister begged me to come and care for them, since she could not.   After my dad was released, I cared for him in dispensing the right kind of medicine at the right time, while Mom and I worked on his meals.  I’m glad that I was there for them during those months.  Coming forward to last November, my initial thought when Mom was so ill was that I would be needed to help my dad care for her.  They do have a personal care support worker, although this isn’t always enough.  So I prayed.  I prayed for wisdom, a dream, an impression, and had nothing.  However, back in August 2016, I was given a dream, where I had died, but my parents continued on and even thrived without my care.  I remember sharing this dream with Marie, one of our Iris Western Cape leaders.  Marie was given the insight to say, “You’re worried about your parents.  Holy Spirit is saying that he will care for them while you are away on mission.”

I did remember this dream, so it did give me comfort, and I did have peace that they would eventually be OK.  My cousin and aunt stepped in, I had people pray, I texted Mom’s care company with a heads up, and I was able to use my iPad to Skype both parents.  I did all I could from a different continent in a different time zone.  Later, when I shared this story, my friend and colleague Maggie was given the insight that it was actually MY choice on whether I should return to Canada to help.  Yet, what kept me in South Africa, apart from the dream I had been given, came down to common sense.

I weighed pros and cons against each other.  The pros were that it would be helpful to my parents and would bless our relationship.  The cons included the cost of airfare, other transport, and food.  It also included the extra load on Tony being alone in ministry here in South Africa.  While he could have managed, there was also our western coast holiday that he would go on alone, not too exciting.  So I chose to stay and pray.  After I made that decision, I had peace.  Two other missionaries gave me comfort.  One of them told me that she had lost both parents while she was away on missions, first in Asia, and second in Africa.  It was not an easy decision.  Thankfully, Mom had good care, and my dad had some help, although he was out of his element.  We look forward to our time with them on our home visit.  We’ll have four days in July.

Common sense is one of the factors that need to be taken into account  when we choose a partner for life.  It is common sense to look at three important areas:  Note, there are exceptions to the rule, but being in line with these helps.

These include spiritual compatibility, personal compatibility, and physical compatibility.  If you are a Christian, it is best to marry a Christian, preferably at a similar level in their journey of faith.  The Apostle Paul advised that your spouse should be of the same faith, so there is no battle on whose world view comes first.  This example is more extreme, but it does state the point that there is a dissonance that happens when there is such a difference.  1 Corinthians 6: 15-17 says,  Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16 And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.  That’s the negative aspect.  People of different faiths and world views will likely clash, or one will succumb to the other.  It’s not always a happy story, although there are exceptions.

On the positive side, two Christians with like callings grow closer when praying, ministering, and studying the Bible together.  As a couple, you are drawn together not only by a shared life and sex, but by a strong spiritual bond that deeply blesses both spouses.  Tony and I acknowledged that bond in our wedding theme from Ecclesiastes 4:12:   A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”  Can you imagine what the third strand of the cord is?  One strand is the husband, the second strand, the wife.  The third strand is Jesus. If God is at the centre of the marriage, the marriage will be strong and held together by him.

Potential spouses also need personal compatibility, such as a strong friendship with shared interests that have nothing to do with sex.  Tony and I are married, but we are also friends.  We share music, faith, humour, stories, shared ministry with children and teens, a love for prison ministry and radio.  We both love many kinds of music, although we aren’t joined at the hip in all we do.  We try to support each other in our different talents and interests.  Tony encourages me in my art, and I support him and ask for his wisdom in many things, including engineering matters (his original discipline).  We enjoy each other’s company, without jealously guarding the other for each waking moment.  We do have other friends.

And we do need physical compatibility – to be attracted to each other.  Nicky Gumbel jokes in an old Alpha video that “God does not expect you to marry someone you’re not attracted to.”  This doesn’t take into account pre-arranged marriages, where couples grow to love each other, but I am thankful that these couples do find happiness that grows in their shared lives together.

Common sense is also needed in finding jobs and careers.  If you are in a specific career when you come to faith, it’s best to stay there unless you are called to something different, for a different season of your life.  When I came to faith, I was an artist, but my income was as a grocery store cashier.  I stayed there for another seven years, before I became an office worker.  But that wasn’t my career, it was my job.  Somewhere between coming to faith and giving up my cashier job, was my call into ministry.  I called it ministry with a Big M.  I didn’t know what that would look like at the time, whether I would be a hospital chaplain, assistant pastor, or a missionary.  However, coming to faith does not mean that you will be a pastor or a missionary.  You could be, but God can use you where you are.   We need godly people in all professions.

The Apostle Paul also encouraged the Corinthians who had become Christian to stay in their profession at least for a season.  Here is what he says in 1 Corinthians 7:17, and 20-24:   17 Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.  20 Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you.21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. 22 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. 23 God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.[a] 24 Each of you, dear brothers and sisters,[b] should remain as you were when God first called you.”

Yet, if you feel increasingly uncomfortable in your job, then ask yourself,  “Where is this job taking me?”  What is my long-term vision, and does this lead to it?  Or should I go in another direction?    Write out your pros and cons list, but be open to other ways that may confirm the way you go.  Just before I left my cashier position, the company told us that they were giving everyone a pay cut, and for those who would leave, they would get $750 Canadian dollars for every year they had worked for the company.  This was a buy-out.  The pay-cut was over five dollars an hour, and I wasn’t given that many hours as it was.  I was tired from long hours on my feet, and while they originally said no to my request for the buy-out, they eventually relented.  I was given enough of a pay-out to buy a computer and nice office clothes. At the time I was learning word processing and computers in between my first degree and studying for my second.   I remember at the time, that while I chose the route of leaving the job through common sense, this was confirmed by the still small voice of the Holy Spirit telling me that “this was the end of an era.”  And so it was.  I had worked as a cashier for fifteen years.

The next CS is Counsel of the saints, where we seek wise mature Christians for prayerful advice.  These people could be mentors, pastors, older family members and people you are drawn to for their godly wisdom.  When I mention the word saints, perhaps for some of you, you picture paintings or sculptures of heroes and heroines in church history.  Some of these have been canonized in the Catholic church.  I don’t specifically mean these people.  Saints in a generic sense means anyone who has come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Some of these people are very wise and very godly.  Wisdom is regarded as an excellent virtue to live by, and is elevated in the book of Proverbs.  Generally though, we can all agree with Proverbs 12:15, which is “A wise man listens to advice.”  We really don’t know everything.  We need help from each other to not make mistakes that will cause pain.   Proverbs 15:22 also reminds us that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they will succeed.”   Proverbs 20:18 advises that we need to “make plans by seeking advice.”

However, Nicky Gumbel shares that while seeking advice is very important, we need to remember that ultimately, our decisions are between us and God. They are our responsibility. We cannot shift that responsibility onto others or seek to blame them if things go wrong.”  The counsel of the saints is part of guidance; but it is not the only part. Sometimes it may be right to go ahead in spite of the advice of others, particularly if there is other guidance that leads that way.

When Tony and I were preparing to come to South Africa for three years, we were not sure what to do with our condo.  We wanted to rent it out and live there on our return.  We were advised by our financial planner to sell the condo, invest that money, and not worry about the other overhead.  This meant that on our return to Canada, we would have to rent an apartment.  Tony initially seemed OK with this, but I grew uncomfortable and even angry.  It just didn’t seem right.  So I asked my Facebook prayer group to pray into whether we should sell or just rent out our place.  We also made a pro-con list, so we were also using common sense.  Tony told me that if we sold, we would lose our equity line of credit and would not qualify for another one on our return to Canada.  Then the prayerful advice rolled in from many in the group.  Some had words of knowledge “not to sell.”  Others just had an inner knowing that it wouldn’t be right to sell.  One friend telephoned to tell me so, and that to sell would be a major distraction.  It was hard enough renting and clearing out our condo for the couple who eventually did rent.   We would have been moved significantly off our timetable if we sold.  I am thankful now that we have a place to return to when we go back from our South African assignment.

So when we are faced with a decision where we need advice, whom shall we consult?  We need wisdom.  The writer of Proverbs tells us in Proverbs 9:10 that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  This is especially the case when advice is from those who love and revere the Lord.  Nicky Gumbel says that the best advisors are usually godly Christian people with wisdom and experience whom we respect. It is also wise to seek the advice of parents whom we are to honour, even if we are past the ages of being under their authority.  Even if they are not Christians, they know us very well and can often have important insights into situations.”

Nicky has found it a real help throughout his Christian life to have someone who is a mature Christian, whom he respects and to whom he can go for advice on a whole range of issues.  Often God’s insight has come as they talked through the issues together.

When it comes to bigger decisions, it is helpful to seek a range of advice. When Nicky was facing whether to become an ordained Anglican priest, he sought the advice of his parents, his two closest friends, his pastor, and those who were involved in the official process of selection.  The people whom we ask for advice should not be chosen on the basis that they will agree with what we have already planned to do!  Don’t just choose “yes” people who will rubber stamp your leaning.  We should consult people on the basis of their spiritual authority or their relationship to us, regardless of what we may anticipate their views to be.

Take your time when you are choosing.  You don’t need to be in a rush, unless the decision is time-sensitive, as ours was for selling or renting our condo.

During this article, I’ve shared some of the more practical ways that God guides us, through common sense and counsel of the saints.  Thinking things through logically on what works best in your situation is extremely valuable. Seeking godly advice is scripturally and practically important as a foundation.  Wisdom is a godly virtue that at best points to God.  I also remember an evening in Harvest School where were learning about the prophetic ministry from David Wagner.  He called up people who had either never had a prophetic word given to them, or had never given one to someone else.  Tony went up and David took him under his wing.  By the end of the evening, Tony was prophesying over people, loving them and encouraging them.  His ears just needed to be fine-tuned.  In the midst of this teaching, David stunned everyone by these words, “I want you to know that if any of you are lacking wisdom and want it, ask Tony.  He has the gift of wisdom.”  And David wasn’t just talking about common sense, logic and compassion, which Tony has in abundance.  Now he was given a deposit of godly wisdom, in tune with the heart of the Father.  Yet still, we as a couple still need the love, and guidance of God through our Christian community, and our Iris family. We are not meant to live our faith on our own.  This is all what the counsel of the saints is all about.  We need each other.

I pray that you have been blessed by our journey through some of the ways that God has guided us.  What I’ve shared is only a taste of a much larger menu.  I encourage you to seek the scriptures yourselves.  Ask Holy Spirit to still your heart, fill you with peace and enlighten your common sense as you think through your decisions.  Also listen to his promptings on whom to seek wise advice from.  You’re not alone.

Lord, I ask that you will touch every heart that reads this article.  Point them to you. Open their inner eyes and ears to see you with them, in whatever circumstance they are in.  Surround and fill them with your love, as they seek you.  Show them that you have plans to prosper them, and not to harm them.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca and scroll down to #46

Do you have a favourite way that God speaks to you?

Blessings, Laurie-Ann Copple
Worcester, South Africa

 

Ways to Grow in God: Learning how God guides us part 2

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

In the last article, we began to learn some of the ways that God guides us.  There are Old Testament scriptures about what happened when the Hebrews, Israelites and then the Jews didn’t follow God’s plans for them. They instead did not trust God, and made their own plans. A good example of this is in Isaiah 30, when some Jews fled to Egypt, when they were asked not to do so. It broke God’s heart, yet there was always a remnant that stayed true.  Quite often, when left your own unaided decision making, you end up in places you shouldn’t be, and eventually live to regret it.  Nicky Gumbel shares that many new Christians say to him “I wish I had become a Christian five or ten years earlier. Look at my life now. It’s such a mess.” If we are to find out about God’s plans for us, we need to ask him about them.

When we are seeking guidance for our lives, there is general guidance, as shown through scripture and there is specific guidance.  When we are making major life decisions we may need confirmations in the many ways that God speaks to us.  He gives us directions, but he’s not a cosmic GPS.  He’s so much more than that.

There are five CS’s – and we started our journey through the first CS – Commanding scripture, and learned some of the second CS – Compelling Spirit.  That is the Holy Spirit.   Sometimes a scripture verse can seem to leap off the page of the Bible into your heart.  It isn’t taken out of its original context, but it’s like the Holy Spirit breathes into the words that he originally inspired – to have an encouragement just for you.  It could be about the love of God for you as his child.  It could be about having to leave your parents’ house or country to go somewhere new. This was the call of Abraham, and also the same call to many missionary monks from Ireland.    Some are called to stay single, others to get married.  Sometimes that person is shown their spouse, and other times, we are given more choices, as long as they are compatible, love God and have a similar calling.

Compelling Spirit is the second CS.  It’s one of the more supernatural ways of hearing God.   Sometimes the Holy Spirit seems to grab us through dreams, impressions during prayer, godly desires, and supernatural enlightenment of our minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit works in different ways. Some are quiet, some are not.    He speaks through our conscience, to stop and love the one.  Or to show kindness in another way, like saving a life.

God often speaks in impressions when we pray.  Shawn Bolz shared recently at a Toronto conference that God speaks to most people in impressions.  He does this in a quiet way so we lean into him for more.  It’s not like he’s shouting in an audible voice from a distance.  He’s not distant at all.

Impressions and pictures are the major ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to me.  This is because I’m an artist, and I also get guidance in how to pray and encourage others in this way.  Tony gets loving thoughts in his mind, this is also called the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.   This is one the most common ways that the Holy Spirit speaks, after illuminating scripture and impressions.  He can remind you of scripture, past events, and also give inspirational ideas for art, business and to bless relationships.

But we need to test these thoughts and pictures.  Sometimes they are from God, and other times from our own strong desires or even from the devil.  So you check if the impression promotes love, lifts up Jesus and is in line with the Bible. What is the motive behind the picture or word?  Does it give you peace or fill you with love and joy?  Here are a few examples: Impressions of greed, causing someone harm, or a fantasy of having lovers we are not married to is not from God.

God sometimes speaks to us by giving us a strong desire to do something.  During the last broadcast I shared about Tony’s change of heart to go on his first mission trip with me in Kenya.  It turned out to be a wonderful experience for him, although he was initially reluctant.  It took the Holy Spirit to change his mind – in a space of a few short minutes.  The same happened with Tony’s application to Harvest School, although this was a longer process.  It took weeks for Tony to come around and decide to answer God’s call to him as a missionary for a season.  While I had accepted my call gradually by a series of saying yes, he had to grow from no to a yes.  But since then, Tony has become an amazing and loving missionary.  It’s a calling that takes in whatever skills, talents and drives each of us possess.

God guides us in more unusual ways.  Impressions and the still small voice are ways that God often speaks to most of us, including well-known prophets.  God often does not shout, but whispers.

I have had had many gentle whispers from the Holy Spirit in my journaling times, soaking prayer times, when I am worshipping, and sometimes when I draw.  This is how I expand drawings into prophetic art, from the smallest of impressions, that grow deeper as I dive into the prophetic pool, so to speak.  I had one directive impression in 2014, when I was driving to Toronto to see my parents.  I had planned a little trip with my mother to the Finger Lakes area of New York State.  Just out of the blue, I had an impression that I would be teaching African children about art.  I had hoped that I could also teach radio, but that hasn’t happened yet.  So when I was offered the position of teaching art at Worcester’s MasterPeace Academy, it fitted.  So did turning my newer prophetic drawings into what will be a colouring book.  I know there’s so much more in store for me as I continue to walk that specific part of my calling.

Yet, there are examples of some even more fantastic ways that God can share a message with us.  God spoke to the prophet Samuel when he was a child – not with the still small voice in his heart, but an actual audible voice.   In this story, young Samuel kept hearing a voice calling to him, and he thought it was his mentor Eli, whom he lived with.  The story goes as follows:  Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”  “I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.   Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”  Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?” “I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”  Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”  Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.  10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

This was the beginning of Samuel’s ministry as a prophet to Israel.  He was used to minister to many, including King David as a boy. He was the one who prophesied he would be king, and anointed him for the eventual position.

Jesus heard the audible voice of the Father after his water baptism in the Jordan river.  Matthew 3:17 shares that the audible voice said, “This is My Son, whom I love; this is the Apple of My eye; with Him I am well pleased.”  Our own Iris Global co-founder Heidi Baker also heard the audible voice of God the day she came to faith.  She shared in the Compelled by Love movie that the voice told her that she “was called to be a minister and a missionary, and she was to go to Africa, Asia and England.”  And so she did.

There are many biblical examples of God guiding his people through angels – in the case of Abraham, Joseph and Peter.   In Abraham’s story, three angels visited him in the guise of men.  In Genesis 18, they told him that he and Sarah would have a child in a year.  In Genesis 16, an angel also came and told Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, a message of hope and survival.  An angel appeared to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, in a dream three times.  In Matthew 2:13, He was warned to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt, since King Herod was sending soldiers to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem. The same angel then told Joseph when it was safe to return home.  The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, who announced to her a special calling.  This was right before she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 12, the apostle Peter was also freed from prison by an angel.   Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist was also told by an angel about his barren, middle aged wife becoming the mother of a special prophet.

Angels have also encouraged and strengthened, such as Joshua at the city of Jericho in Joshua chapter 5, and others have been involved with commissioning, such as the angels with hot tongs, in Isaiah’s commissioning.

I’ve encountered angels in human form quite a few times, when I’ve been spared dangerous circumstances. I’ve often sensed them, but I’ve not yet seen one in angelic form with my earthly eyes.  Two prophetic leaders in my life have regular stories about them – Shawn Gabie, pastor of Kingdom Culture, and Darren Canning, a Canadian prophet, artist and writer.  I used to work as Darren’s assistant, which was a wonderful time. During that year, I once told Darren I always wanted to see an angel, and he replied that I do see them.  Have I been guided by one?  Yes, to safety.  Yes, when I worship.  But it’s more the Holy Spirit that guides me personally, although I know that angels are there to protect me and strengthen me.  I sense their presence, and I’m thankful for their ministry.

God guides through visions – These are stronger than fleeting impressions that we may have when we pray.  They can seem like full movies that come when we’re awake, but it seems that we may be in an interested trance.  Peter had such an experience on his rooftop before he was asked to come to Cornelius’s house to minister.  This experience, and the resulting time at this God-fearing Gentile’s house, transformed Peter’s ministry beyond being to Jews only.   In Acts 16, Paul also had a powerful vision showing a Macedonian man calling to him and asking for his help.  This was authoritative guidance.

God guides through dreams.  Earlier I mentioned the dreams of Joseph, the husband of Mary.  He was given two dreams concerning moving his family into and out of Egypt.  When he was engaged to Mary and still confused on how to handle her pregnancy, he also had a dream that confirmed that the baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and he had a calling to care for them.

Tony and I had many dreams leading us to South Africa. Others also had dreams that affected us.  One such dream was from one of my Ottawa pastors, Joe.  I remember going to Joe and asking for prayer and advice on whether it was the right thing to do for Tony and I to sell our house and downsize into a condo – one that had just been offered to us.  After all, we were expecting to go to Harvest missions school, how could we sell a house, and move into a condo at the same time?   Pastor Joe looked at me with an excited look on his face and told me that he had a dream that was about me.   In his dream, I had asked him to take care of a beautiful two bedroom condo while we were in Africa.   This was the first confirmation, and there were others that followed it.  So Tony concentrated on the sale of the house, we both downsized, and I concentrated on preparation for Mozambique and South Africa.  We did enjoy the condo, and know it will be there for us when we return from our time in South Africa.  It’s currently rented out, so it pays for our rent here in Worcester.

The first dream that we ourselves had leading us to South Africa was initially Tony’s.  While we were in Pemba, Mozambique, Tony woke me up in the middle of the night, after he had an intense dream.  He dreamed that I had a baby, but he didn’t get to see the baby, due to various distractions from family, work and other involvements. I knew from studying about dreams in a seminary course, that babies can symbolize something new.  That something could be a ministry, idea, or business that would require care to launch and nurture.   I remember asking Tony what colour the baby was.  Since we were in Mozambique, I expected the baby to be a beautiful brown shade.  He didn’t know the ethnicity of the baby, since he didn’t get actually to SEE the baby.  So I prayed and asked that the Holy Spirit would give me a download of what the baby looked like – whether by dream, vision or impression.  I didn’t have to wait very long. I was given an impression of the baby during worship in the Harvest School hut.  I asked to see the baby up close, and it was like I was looking at a beautiful black baby in a bassinet.  Then the baby changed colour, again and again to look like many colours.   I was confused about what that meant.  Did it mean many children all over the world?

Then came our extended outreach in South Africa’s Western Cape. We had already had impressions, feelings, general knowings, and prophetic words from others about South Africa, so we felt comfortable with the idea of exploring ministering here. Our group stopped for coffee and a picnic near Swellendam, and I shared with our Iris leaders Johan and Marie Fourie about this dream and some others.  While it’s Marie who often interprets dreams, it was Johan who confirmed this one.  Johan laughed, and said, “That is a rainbow baby. Do you know what South Africa’s nickname is?  It’s the rainbow nation.  You are called here.”

We both had other dreams that confirmed our ministry together, and I’m thankful these were written down so they weren’t lost.  I’ve re-read them since, and they’ve given comfort and confidence.    If you would like to read more about the dreams and words that called us into ministry, please go to our copplewestern.ca website, and click on the dreams page!

There is also a recorded dream in church history that gave a long-suffering praying Christian mother hope for her son’s future.  Monica prayed for her son in the fourth century AD/CE.  At the time, her son was a seeker.  He experimented with different philosophies and slept around.  He even had a child.  His mother was given a vision of her son in heaven, glorifying Jesus lovingly with all his heart.  This gave her hope to keep praying, until his conversion.  The day he did come to faith, in 386, he had a supernatural realization about reading the Bible, when a neighbourhood child was chanting “Pick up and read. Pick up and read.”   He thought the child may be singing a children’s game, but he didn’t recognize the song. Then he realized the song may be about reading scripture, so he found a Bible and opened it to the first passage he saw.  A scripture jumped off the page into his heart.  I was from Romans 13:13-14.   Augustine read, “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Augustine felt as if his heart was flooded with light. He turned his back on his former way of living, and never went back.  He became a major leader and theologian in the early church.   Never underestimate the prayers of praying Christian relatives!

God also guides supernaturally though our conscience – to do the right thing.  This is part of stopping for the one.  When we see someone in need and our heart fills with love, we know we have to act.   May our hearts be able to feel this compassion and not become too hard or uncaring.

During this article, I’ve shared some of the more supernatural ways that God guides us, with dreams, visions, impressions, angels, and the audible voice of God, which is one of the more rare ways.   In our next article, we’ll share some ways that are just as important, but may be overlooked. These are common sense, counsel of praying people, and circumstantial signs.

I pray that you have been blessed by our journey through some of the ways that God guides us.  What I’ve shared is only a taste of a much larger menu.  I encourage you to seek the scriptures yourselves.  Ask Holy Spirit for an encounter.  Ask him to show you Jesus, and the Father.

Lord, I ask that you will touch every heart that reads this article.  Point them to you. Open their inner eyes and ears to see you with them, in whatever circumstance they are in.  Surround and fill them with your love, as they seek you.  Show them that you have plans to prosper them, and not to harm them.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Be blessed my friends,
Laurie-Ann

To hear an audio version of this article, visit the podcast page  and scroll down to #45.

 

Growing in God: Learning how God guides us part 1

 

During our last article, we learned that we can fast from negativity.  As we continue the process of rooting out lies we believe, and ongoing complaints that draw us down, we become more free.  We learn a higher perspective, and see life with promise and hope.  I hope that you are continuing to live, think, see and speak positively.  While we may encounter difficult times, we don’t need to make it worse. In fact, we can receive blessings and joy even in times like those.

There is one commonality in all seasons: difficult and easy – God’s faithfulness.  He does not change and continues to carry you through thick and thin. We also discover the depth of God’s love, since this really is all we have.  We need to hear and listen to God’s voice. This is a time for learning deeper identity in Christ, where we learn that he does fulfill our deepest needs of significance and security.

It’s good to bring our major decisions to God.  We need to make decisions every day – but we have potential to grow in these decisions.  One is in how we spend our money.  Another is in how we spend our free time.  These resources are not endless, but while we can grow our finances, we can’t gain more time.  And then there are our really big decisions.  Where to live?  What career should we work towards?  Which church or ministry do we join?  If we are to marry, whom should we marry?  We all need God’s help. Guidance is part of our relationship with God.  Psalm 32:8  gives us the promise that the Lord “will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”  So we need to seek him.  Jesus taught that he is the shepherd and we are his sheep.  He was originally speaking to country folk, but he also speaks to us, today.  We must learn to know his voice.  John 10:3-4 shares that “the gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.

We need to understand our purpose and why we were put on this earth.  The first commandment is to love God. But we all have callings. Some will be creatives, others engineers, some pilots, others entrepreneurs. But that is not all we are.  The future possibilities are more varied than we think.   God has a plan for our lives.   So we are encouraged to follow the Apostle Paul’s advice in Ephesians 5:17. He said “don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”  And in Ephesians 2:10, he shared: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  God has a unique job for us?  Yes he does!  And it’s not always to be a pastor or work in a church.  Most of us are called to something in the marketplace.  You could be a godly businessman, a teacher, a writer, an astronomer, musician, chemist and so much more.  What makes your heart sing?  The prophet Jeremiah shared in Jeremiah 29:11,  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Nicky Gumbel shares, “God is saying, ‘Don’t you realize that I have a really good plan for your life? I have prepared something wonderful.’ This cry from the Lord’s heart came because he saw the mess his people had got themselves into, when they didn’t follow his plans.  All around us we see people whose lives are in a muddle. Often people say to me after they have come to Christ, ‘I wish I had become a Christian five or ten years earlier. Look at my life now. It’s such a mess.’ If we are to find out about God’s plans for us, we need to ask him about them.”

We make mistakes when we fail to ask God for help.  We stumble on our own past mistakes, bad advice, and confusion.  Sometimes we try to please our parents instead of following the path we’re meant to lead.  One example is Vincent Van Gogh’s physician, Dr. Gachet, whose father wanted him to become a doctor, but his dream was to be an artist.    And then there’s the case of rebellion.  How many of us pull a Jonah and run from God, and then end up in the belly of a fish.  Isaiah shared God’s heart in Isaiah 30:1-2:  “What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,”says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit,    thus piling up your sins.  For without consulting me,  you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade.”  Pharoah in this example is a symbol for leaning on worldly help, rather than God’s help.

Jesus led the way by consistently following the Holy Spirit.  In Luke 4:10 and John 5:19, he said that he only did what he saw the Father doing.  He also knew his purpose from the beginning, although he also had to trust the Father.

When I was baptized as an adult, I was given a scripture by my then pastor, Laurie Barber.  It’s Proverbs 3:5-6, which is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”  This has been one of my guiding words, so  I return to these verses often. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”

This guidance works whether it’s in finding a life partner, ministry partner, job or where to live.  Nicky Lee met his wife Silla in university. During that time, he came to faith, but Silla did not at that time.  He wanted to pursue his relationship with her, and asked God for guidance.  He prayed that if the relationship were to continue, she would come to faith by the end of the term. On the last day of the term, they attended a party, and at the end of it, Silla asked Nicky to go for a drive. She blurted out random directions, which brought them to a place that had great significance to her.  She turned to her boyfriend and asked to be led to Jesus.  At the very end of the term, just before midnight, Nicky had his prayer answered.    Sometimes the answer is gradual. Other times the guidance is instant, although it takes time to work through the details.

God’s guidance, as described in the Alpha course, comes down to Five CSs.  This isn’t CS Lewis, but rather: Commanding scripture, Compelling Spirit, Common Sense, Counsel of the Saints, and Circumstantial signs.  We’ll journey through the first two.

Commanding Scripture usually involves general guidance. Some general guidance shows that we can be sure about certain things that are wrong.  Here’s one example. If a married man falls in love with another woman and wants to leave his wife, can this be God’s will?  No, he is not being led by God.  It says in Exodus 20:14, that you shall not commit adultery.  Another example relates to the justification for paying our taxes. We’re shown in Romans 13:7 that paying taxes is our civic duty, and what is due to the government should be paid.

Then there is specific guidance – through scripture illumination.   There are many examples in Church history of missionaries who were given their calling and direction through one verse.  The original call and context was to Abraham, but others had a similar call to leave their homes and trust God.  They were given comfort in the Lord’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12:1, “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” This same call was repeated in Genesis 18, since Abraham had moved but still had not left yet his country. This was a common call to the Irish missionary monks that travelled all over Europe from the seventh to eleventh centuries.

However we need to be discerning when seeking scripture illumination. Nicky Gumbel  says “Sometimes a verse seems almost to leap off the page at us.”   But don’t just open a Bible at random and expect a message – it could get very confusing. Imagine if you open a Bible to the verse where Judas decides to hang himself, and then you open to the verse where Jesus says “go and do likewise.” That’s not God’s leading – it’s scripture confusion.

Let’s go back to general guidance. There are scriptures saying that we should marry a Christian and not someone of another faith. One of these is 2 Corinthians 6:14, where the Apostle Paul advises, “don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?”   But the Bible doesn’t say specifically who to marry!  God will guide you another way for that.  Paul also advises about whether you should change your job when you become a Christian.  He generally advises not to.  Job changes do happen in scripture, but it’s more common to remain in the same job with kindness and influence.   Peter and some of the disciples changed their profession of sorts. They were fishermen, and then they became fishers of people.  Levi the tax collector left his job for Jesus, but others are called to live faithful lives where they are.  Paul advises in 1 Corinthians 7:20-21, to basically, bloom where you are planted unless you are called out of your job into something better.  Paul was speaking about being an indentured slave or servant, which in his days was not like the brutal human trafficking of current days.  We can liken this scripture to employment.  Paul says,  Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it.”

Not everyone is called to be a pastor, priest or missionary.  One of the leaders of our Afrikaaner church believed she was called to full-time ministry in music and teaching.  Her outreach has touched many people, and she was the first speaker we saw in our church.  I still remember her talk about the colour purple and our identity in Christ. It tied in with a vision I was given three times in our church.  Jesus is indeed calling us into our true identity.  However, that doesn’t mean that your calling is to go into long-term full-term ministry.  Sometimes it’s for a season, and other times, it’s a part-time thing.  All of us are called into ministry, not just those who are clergy.   It turned out that Erika’s call included her very much needed medical skills.  I applaud her for having a re-think and confirming that she has more than one ministry.  Caring medical professionals in their places are indeed fulfilling a calling.  I have great respect for the South African doctors who have listened and treated me.

Nicky Gumbel has his own calling story.  He comes from a family of lawyers – barristers in particular.  He still has a very logical way of describing faith and life stories. He had fifteen different occasions where he was spoken to about leaving the law profession to become an Anglican priest.   Many of these were various scriptures in circumstances that led him to his final decision to say yes.  He finally was given a prophetic word by someone later that gave confirmation to his call.

Compelling Spirit is the second CS.   Sometimes the Holy Spirit seems to grab us through dreams, impressions during prayer, godly desires, and supernatural enlightenment of our minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit works in different ways. Some are quiet, some are not.

Sometimes this compelling comes in a way that strikes our consciences. The Apostle Paul tried to go to two provinces in what is now present day Turkey to preach the gospel and minister to the people there. Twice they were given strong leadings that said NO to going there. While these areas later accepted the gospel, God had other plans at that time.  It was then that Paul was given a strong dream of a man from Macedonia, and they knew they must go there instead.  Read Acts 16 and you’ll have the story.  If Paul had not listened, he wouldn’t have met key future leaders in the church, like Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. And there are more examples.  So listen!

God actually speaks to us when we pray.  Imagine going to a doctor and sharing a list of current and past illnesses, along with all their symptoms.  It’s like you’re reading a shopping list. Then you decide at the end of the list that it’s time to leave, so you thank the doctor and leave without hearing what they have to say.  Can you imagine how that doctor feels? They wanted to help but weren’t given the opportunity.   So if we do stop and listen, after we share our hearts, what will we hear?

God often speaks in impressions.  These can be a thought that comes into our minds, or a picture. Tony gets thoughts, I get pictures, although sometimes we can get both.  These need to be tested, since the thoughts or pictures aren’t always from God.  Sometimes they are from ourselves, or somewhere else.  Does the impression promote love?  Is it in line with the Bible?  Does it lift up Jesus?

Paul Cowley is a man who God has inspired to work with inmates, the military and the homeless.  His past life of brokenness brought him through prison, the military, two divorces and finally to a life in Christ and a loving family.  He has encouraged many inmates, ex-offenders and us personally when we drove him around on a visit to Ottawa back in 2006.  He shared in a recent Alpha Course video about how he was given an impression to bless his complaining, bitter father.  His dad was also sick and he helped care for him in hospital.  When it was time to send him home from London to Manchester, Paul was given an impression on his heart on how to bless his dad.  He brought him to Euston station, “put him on the train and sat him down.  Right in the middle of the carriage (he says he) had this overwhelming feeling of love for (his) dad.  It was really weird.  (He) almost started to cry in the carriage. Paul looked at him and felt really sad for him, that they had never really had a relationship.  (He remembers) having a meal with his father.  All that stuff came up for him. And in his mind, came this idea, to upgrade his ticket, to a first-class ticket to Manchester. Paul bought a very expensive single first-class ticket back to Manchester.  He walked him into the first-class compartment; he sat him down and kissed him on the head.   Then as Paul stood on the platform with his wife, Amanda, she asked “What on earth are you doing?” He said, you know what? I have no idea.  I just really wanted to see my dad happy.’  And as Paul looked at him through the window of the carriage, he saw his father took his hat off and put it on the table.  He hit the recline button and went back in his seat.  Then he clicked his fingers, and some of the waiters brought him a cup of tea and biscuits.  And he got his newspaper out and started to read it. And as he was doing that, he just turned to look at Paul out of the window.  He had the biggest smile on his face that you could ever see.  It was like every birthday, every Christmas had all come together.  And he was beaming.  That was the last time that Paul ever saw his father. Three weeks later, he died of a massive heart attack.  Paul then thought, “was that me, making up an idea that I might buy him that ticket?  Or was that God guiding me?  Paul has a real peace with his father now.  Despite years of heartache and grief, Paul’s image of his dad is of his beaming face from the train carriage as he drove off.”   This is a beautiful example of how a loving impression that’s acted on can bring great blessings from God.

God sometimes speaks to us by giving us a strong desire to do something. An example of this is from Philippians 2:13, “God works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.” This was a scripture that Nicky Gumbel battled with for some time.  When he first came to faith, he didn’t want to be a priest. Eventually he came round and was very happy to be one.  In time he felt it was all he wanted to do.  When God gives you a strong desire to do something, it doesn’t mean that he will give you your worst fear.  It just means that he has something for you that you will love, and he will help you prepare your heart for it.

Tony also experienced this change of heart three times.  The first time was after I encouraged him for weeks to go on a short-term mission in western Kenya.  We were invited to Migori, Kenya to plant the Alpha Course and my own early Ways to Grow in God teachings.  After a month or so, the two of us went on a Daniel fast, which is to be vegetarian, for eight days.  Many people also prayed over us, and yet Tony believed he had not yet heard from God on whether to go with me.  He kept saying no. He told me it was my thing and not his, even though this particular trip was tailored to have him encourage and teach Alpha leadership, which is and was his heart. He didn’t see that aspect of it at the time.   So I eventually put my heart’s desire and what I believed was God’s call back into God’s hands.  Only God could make it happen. I’m not God.

I went away for a weekend to Belleville, Ontario and stayed with a close family friend.  That morning I prayed with a ministry team member and shared my heart.  I finally felt peace.  That afternoon, Tony called me with a different tone in his voice.  He wasn’t harsh but rather, full of joy.  He came right out with, “I have something to tell you. We’re going to Kenya!”   I couldn’t believe my ears.  Apparently Holy Spirit spoke to him and changed his mind within a few minutes. Everything made sense to him.  What the Holy Spirit said to him floored me.  He said, “Hey you.  Your wife gave up her missionary career to marry you.  The least you can do is to make her dream come true and go to Kenya short term with her.”  It was like Tony was hit by a cricket bat.  He hadn’t always recognized the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  It takes time to recognize his voice.

Tony went through a similar process again before applying for Harvest School after his retirement, although he had two prophetic words spoken over him about a new ministry that would start a new chapter of his life.  He relented and applied for Harvest School, along with my own re-application from the year earlier.  It was the right time, and Tony was willing to go through the experience. He thought it may enhance the many different lay ministries he already did in Ottawa.  There’s nothing wrong with his ministries.  It’s just that God had a new season for him, as well as me as a couple.  It was time for us to jump into ministry together.

Tony’s experience at Harvest School began with resistance, since Heidi Baker spoke a bit too soon on the long-term call for his comfort.  She was to speak on our identity and calling, which is an essential foundation of our faith, let alone ministry.  However, there were so many young students keen on a long-term call, that Heidi responded to their yearning. So Tony was annoyed and told me that he didn’t want to be a missionary.  This upset me and I grew very sad and quiet.  People noticed, but I didn’t know what to say in my frustration.  I felt like I was stuck, but all I could do was to stay still, while the Holy Spirit refined my own heart.  Though the school, he learned to speak in tongues, recognize prophetic words, release them in ministry and he grew comfortable in stopping for the one.  By the end of the school, he told our house parents that he was “ready to be a long term, full-time missionary.”  Isn’t it amazing how hearts can change in God’s leading.  Tony’s a lot more fulfilled now in this new season, even though he enjoyed the last season in Ottawa.  God gave Tony the same desire that was in line with his life purpose – to encourage, uplift and empower people.  The only difference was a different location – from Ottawa, Canada to Worcester, South Africa.  All his skills, wisdom, knowledge would be used to teach and in other practical ways.  His love of music, internet and prison ministry would all be used.  The ministry to children however, would be a stretch, but that’s another story.

So God speaks through scripture, either directly or indirectly.  We need to know the whole Bible and its message.  Pray as you read, and listen.  Understand the message in its original context by learning about the cultures of the time.  But also read the scripture again and ask how Holy Spirit would speak to you.  Sometimes, it’s a message of love, wisdom and peace.  Sometimes it’s conviction of sin that leads to changing your mind and coming to him.   Sometimes it’s a direction leading.  It’s a wonderful adventure.

And then there is the compelling of the Holy Spirit.  We’ve shared the examples of the Irish missionary monks, Nicky Gumbel and Tony.  The Holy Spirit speaks in so many supernatural ways.  We’ll share more about that in our next article, as well as common sense, counsel of other prayerful people, and circumstantial signs.

Lord, thank you for the many ways that you guide us.  Thank you for not leaving us in limbo, but patiently drawing us to our purpose here on earth.  Thank you for your wonderful plans for us, and how you put love in our hearts. I ask that you would open our eyes and ears to hear and see you and your direction in scripture and begin to recognize your voice.  Help us to journey and experience the other ways we can hear and see you, through your Holy Spirit and the Bible. Surround and fill us with your love.  In Jesus’ name.

If you’d like to hear the audio version of this article, please listen on Ways to Grow in God podcast page, and scroll down to: #44

https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html

Blessings, Laurie-Ann

 

Growing in Gratitude and positivity: Giving up negativity for the new year

Happy New Year!  In our last article, we journeyed through divine appointments that we’re given during the Christmas holidays.  Often people are more open to receiving help at Christmas, and this opens them up to the real meaning of Christmas – about Jesus.  The gift is Jesus, not physical presents, as good as they can be sometimes.  This year Tony and I had two Christmases – a South African one with our friends Andre and Janey, and one with some of our Iris Western Cape family, Maggie, Kaysha and Kaysha’s fiancée, Alex. They are to be married on January 19th. We greatly look forward to that event and blessing their union.   We had a Christmas feast with them of hard to find turkey, honey glazed ham, stuffing, veggies, and two puddings – syllabub and Christmas pudding.  We’ve not had turkey since Canadian Thanksgiving 2017, so this was a big treat for us.  Life is a time of feasts and fasts. Tony and I have an Anglican background, so we’re familiar with the concept of both feasts and fasts.  Fasts aren’t just for lent, or when you are praying for miracle breakthroughs in healing or the mission field.  Deeper fasts involve allowing God to change US, which is a good thing.  So for the beginning of 2019, we’ll step into a refiner’s fire for something better.  I’ve heard quite a few prophetic words that 2019 will be a breakthrough year and a new season for many.  I trust that will also be the case for you and for us.  But when you step from one season to another, there is change and transition.  I’ve spoken on transition before, and how we need to keep a thankful attitude during times like this.  It opens our hearts to the wonderful surprises that we might miss if we are in complaint mode. I’m not talking about a one-off rant.  Sometimes we need that – I’m talking about stopping a lifestyle of complaining that just drags us down.

While many others are considering the New Year’s resolutions of losing weight – which is something I’ve already been doing for a months – we’re going to offer a different challenge.  How about a fast from negativity?  We can do this in small steps.  But how do we fast at all?

Some people do fasts during Lent – the season between epiphany and Easter.  It’s a devotional time to remember Jesus’s earthly ministry and his suffering.  It’s an intentional time of discipleship.  My Anglican priest John, tells us to not just give something up, but also to take something on.  So perhaps what you might take up is more devotional time – more dates with Jesus. Or maybe volunteering in a soup kitchen. Some give up coffee, tea, chocolate or sweets.  One year I gave up television, and another credit cards.  Some give up Facebook and other social media. And then in 2015, I took on a negativity fast for Lent, although sadly I didn’t continue it through the year.  In 2015, I had just finished my third Ways to Grow talk on thankfulness and gratitude.  Originally, I had planned to write only one post on being thankful.  But there was so much more on the topic than I realized – and out came four talks.  It was the same when I wrote on honour, which resulted in three talks.

I believe one major barrier to thankfulness and gratitude is a complaining attitude.  You may remember that in-gratitude, grumbling and complaining kept the Hebrews in limbo land.  Their fear and complaining kept them stuck between Egypt and Canaan, their promised land.  This attitude can also keep us stuck in the quicksand of nagging, doubts and complaints.  If it feels like we are being pulled down by this bog,  we are! This situation can even be life threatening!  Endless complaining and nagging steals the joy and life out of you, even if you try those methods to motivate, they often back fire. Husband and wives of nagging spouses can relate to this phenomenon.

Back in 2015, I was drawn to learn more about the ‘joy of the Lord.’  This is something that is called our strength in Nehemiah chapter 8:10.  He shared a message of encouragement to the disappointed Jewish refugees, after they arrived to see Jerusalem in ruins.  Nehemiah told them to “go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”  That was to be not only a feast of food, but a feast of trusting God.  The joy he describes is more of a deep contentment and trust in God. It’s not always actual laughter, but it can include this as well.  Sometimes this is like being so filled with the Holy Spirit that you can’t help laughing.  But usually, it’s an unshakeable knowing that God is faithful. You believe you will be okay despite difficult circumstances.

This is a joy that comes even in suffering, and is far deeper than the optimist’s ‘half-full’ glass.  It is more like the cup of thankfulness that runs over that King David mentions in Psalm 23:5, which depicts a feast in the midst of a difficult time.   David prayed, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honour me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  This cup of joy or blessing sustains you even in the deepest, darkest suffering. It is not diminished in persecution or difficult times. The cup sustains us because of the One who gives us the cup. When you drink this cup of joy, your eyes are completely focused on Him.

I thirsted to journey with and for more of that joy.  I took a stand on negativity and complaining in my own life, and took this stand again when Heidi Baker asked us to go on a negativity fast at Harvest School.  It was more difficult in Mozambique, since I was already in an intense refining season that was necessary for people to see Jesus in me without my own worries getting in the way.  But I did try, as I will again.   Before Harvest School, my Kingdom Culture pastor, Shawn Gabie prophesied over me and told me that I would go through a difficult refining season, but I was to not quit.  During this time, as joy and trust were worked deeper into my heart, I remembered encouragement from Heidi Baker to not quit, and that if you don’t quit, you win.  The other encouragement was from Pastor Shawn, who told me to “fix my focus forward on what the Father had for me that season.”   I need to remember these same encouragements in my current weightloss journey, which has had me lose 5 kilos, or 11 pounds so far. Slow but sure, just like our faith.

So back in February 2015, I took a stand on negativity and complaining in my life for the first time.  I declared with Shawn Gabie that “if I have a problem, there is a solution.” And if I get impatient, I will leave the struggle in God’s hands.   I then entered negativity fast.  I had some challenges along the way, and some days I completely fell off the wagon, due to disappointments, pauses and challenges.  Confusion and restlessness became my response to delays of hoped-for advances.  Yet, it’s necessary to spend time in the pause, to reflect and prepare.  We must not rush this season, as much as we want to do so.

Sometimes, life throws you more difficulties than heavy traffic and a set of red lights on the road when you’re in a hurry.  How many of us get upset in heavy traffic?  How many of us are impatient when you want to ‘do’ something, but that time is ‘not yet?’  And what about those who deal with other things that hold them back in their daily lives? It may be time for a “re-frame!”  What’s a “re-frame?”

I learned the art of “re-framing” in one of my counselling classes at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada. To re-frame is to look at a ‘bad’ situation in your life through a new perspective.   In order to do this, you must take how you perceive as a difficult situation and choose see it through a new ‘frame’ of mind. Sometimes it requires a higher perspective – that of the Holy Spirit.  A friend can also give you a different view of how they see you in your current circumstance.

When you view a difficult situation in a negative way, it seems even more menacing.   It begins to “look” like you’re facing an impossible obstacle.  What do I mean by this? Think of how you may feel if you’re having a ‘crummy’ day. You may believe the ‘crummi-ness’ will last all week.  You may feel as if a rain cloud is continually over your head, despite the weather. You might feel that negativity encompassing all of your life, when in reality, that difficulty is a very small part of your life!  So along comes a friend or counsellor who has the art of re-framing. They see possibilities in your difficulty.  They see a positive challenge that offers growth and reward on the other side.

I recently drew a prophetic drawing while having a soaking and drawing session with our girls that we minister with through My Father’s House in Avian Park.  We listened to a series of beautiful soaking songs, and then all of us drew.  Even Tony drew.  The girls drew Christian symbols of hope, faithfulness, peace and love, as did Tony.  I drew a girl who raised her umbrella up against the rain.  Although the rain was really an abundance of hearts of God’s love, and the umbrella was limiting the flow of love into her heart and life.  Then I was led to draw Jesus, carrying his cross, and the love that flowed from him to the girl.   The word that came to me with the drawing was “I love you. Don’t put a limit on my love for you. Time to put the umbrella down.  Soak in the rain of my love.”

And so that was the Holy Spirit’s perspective to one friend who limits God’s love in her heart.  Some of you may feel the same way, but don’t see that you are stuck.  So it helps to have a friend who can encourage you in this way.  However, you can also learn to do this yourself!  This doesn’t replace our need for godly friends in our lives. But does help to create a daily discipline of choosing to see every aspect of your life in a positive way. This may be a challenge, but the Holy Spirit can help us. He is the ultimate  ‘re-frame’ counsellor in our lives.  God never puts us down; he never condemns us.  He convicts us of sin, yes. But he cleanses us when we come to him and say we are sorry.  He also shows us possibilities.  He is the God of Hope.

Have you considered taking up a negativity fast? Some people may wait until Lent, but I believe the beginning of the year is even better.  The longer you practice this discipline, the more it will become a daily practice. Leaders Steve and Wendy Backland of Igniting Hope Ministries encourage this kind of fast for at least forty days.

Christian neuro-scientist Caroline Leaf also works on the same principle in a 21 day period. She concentrates on eradicating one negative thought pattern rather than many.  But if you target one negative thought or self-talk per three week period, by the end of the year, you will be free of old lies that you have believed.  You will be a much happier person!

A negativity fast also includes feasting on and thinking positive thoughts, like Philippians 4:8 encourages us to do: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Consider yourself a pilgrim in the land of the positive. I wish you well on your journey as we walk along together with thanks and gratitude.  May you have a blessed 2019, full of breakthrough and joy.

Let me pray over you:  Lord, thank you that you have plans for our future that are to prosper and not harm us.  Help us as we journey to see the joys in life that you give us.  Open our eyes to the lies we tell ourselves, and the complaints that fall from our lips. We don’t even realize it.  Set us free by renewing our minds one thought at a time.   Help us day by day as we walk out of the storm into the light.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you would like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit our podcast page, on the Copples’ missionary site – Coppleswesterncape.ca, and scroll down to #43.

Ways to Grow in God podcast page

This article will be broadcast as the devotional segment on January 3, 2018 on CWCP’s The Worcester Reports.

Blessings and love,
Laurie-Ann Copple