Category Archives: South Africa

Growing in Transition: Deepening our identity in seasons of silence and the seeming “no”

 

“Breath of Heaven” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2018 (Part of Colouring with Jesus” published in South Africa, March 2020).

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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last two articles, we learned the importance of aiming to be at the middle of our faith; in a balance between Word and Spirit.  We need both to live an authentic faith.  Brian Nickens notes in his book Hunger Driven, that when we lean on Bible truth alone, it’s like hopping with a crutch.  This is one-legged Christianity.  You are handicapped. You can’t run.  If you are in the radical middle, it’s the perfect place for the Holy Spirit to prune you. He uses scripture and his love as a tool to heal and transform our hearts. He in a sense restores us to ‘factory settings’ of who we are meant to be.  He restores us with a new identity: the one that he created us for.

In an earlier broadcast, we learned about our identity, purpose, and our deepest needs: significance and security.  Father God gives us our identity as a child of God. Then we inherit an assignment of our own that brings deep fulfillment.  Yet this task isn’t part of our identity.  It is just an outflow of who we are.  Our security comes by being deeply loved. Our significance comes in doing something that lasts, that is an assignment that is perfect for us.   This is only part of our significance.  We are given joy as we do the work that is uniquely given to us.  But we were created for more than those tasks. We were created for relationship and love.

But what happens during a season of what seems to be God’s silence? How do you “sense” God’s presence?   If you can’t, you really have to trust God. You need to remember and ponder on the promises he’s already given you. God’s silence can mean many things.  Sometimes it’s an outright no.  Sometimes it’s because you have already received many words – both prophetic and scripture about an issue.  And other times, it’s because he gives you a choice.   When I sought God on whether to go see my sick mother in a Canadian hospital, which I was in South Africa, I was met with silence. I assumed this meant no, so I examined my options, and found that we couldn’t afford a visit to Canada when we were already to visit seven months later. I had peace about that.  While I thought that was a no, when I shared my heart with my friend Maggie, she told me that it was my choice.  I trust that I chose well (it turned out a year later that Mom died.  I was not able to see her or go to the funeral, since I was in the middle of chemotherapy, but we did get to see her on our home visit five months prior to her passing).

Can God speak through silence?  During my first year of seminary, I took a course called Foundation of Christian Disciplines.  We learned much, including: psalming, spiritual friendship, mentorship, and silent retreats.  I was somewhat daunted over the idea of silence.  How can God speak that way?  But He can! Our professor assured us that it’s difficult to hear God’s voice when you’re in an adrenaline rush. So we packed up for a retreat over an hour’s drive north east from Toronto. We shared our dreams from God, our journaling, and even the silence together.  You can read your Bible and be in the same room as others, but you must be silent.  It seemed at the time that the silence was actually deafening. My ears were ringing.  But God’s presence was there.  Holy Spirit settled our souls down and we focused on him.  During our silence, I had spontaneous thoughts about issues I’d not brought to God.  This was a time of coming clean.   Other times where I’ve had silent retreat was during meal times at retreat centres, and in another course.  What I noticed during those times, was that I felt strangely close to the people with whom I was sharing retreat.  We bonded in that silent time, just as lovers may cuddle together and not say a word. If the silence is comfortable, then rest in it.  It’s meant to be rest, or white space in the midst of our very busy lives.

We are too often surrounded by noise, and times of intentional silence help us tune in to God’s voice in a different way.  We can get an inner knowing during these times that can be followed up through reading through scripture.  Guideposts editor Dan Hoffman shared a similar experience when he went on retreat.  He said, “The silence around me amplified the discourse going on in my head. Then I recalled Father Carlos’s talk from the day before, when he told those in attendance that our true identities in the eyes of God had nothing to do with our attachments to our health, professions, and material goods. Father Carlos told us that [if we] believe that these things constitute who we are, [this] leads to suffering and self-hate when these things fail us.”  These things are NOT us.  So Hoffman persevered. He writes, “as always happens when I meditate, my thoughts drifted elsewhere and followed their wandering course. Then it happened—a subtle shift. It was as if I’d stepped outside of myself and was merely an impartial observer, eavesdropping on my own inner-monologue. I was appalled at how I was treating myself. The silence had its own voice, a non-judgmental one of compassion and understanding—even though it said nothing.”  [Adam Hunter, “God’s Grace,” Guideposts Sep 26, 2016, from: https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/miracles/gods-grace/can-god-speak-through-silence]

Later on, he thought back on that experience and realized that for a moment, he could see himself from God’s perspective. He had an inner knowing; something that he couldn’t explain, but it gave him comfort in the midst of pain.

So this is experiencing God in OUR silent moments. But what of the times where we just don’t seem to hear God supernaturally, other than the Bible?  Is this a dark night of the soul as spoken of by St John of the Cross? We may feel like we are abandoned, despite the truth of Jesus’ promise that he will never leave us.  Jesus commissioned many disciples in Matthew 28: 20, and then said, “behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  However, even if we practice the presence of God, we don’t always feel him.  But he is there.  I attended a Glory School with Patricia King in 2003, located near Ottawa.   Patricia told us that she had a season in her life when she didn’t feel a thing spiritually.  And yet, she is a highly influential prophet! Others around her were touched with laughter and deep joy.  She didn’t feel a thing.  Usually she does, but for this season, these emotions were turned off like you can turn off a bathroom tap.  Yet, she personally did know the goodness of God for years.  She was strongly led to just believe by faith.  During that time, she was strengthened by her choice to trust God.

Leanne Payne wrote about a similar experience in her book The Healing Presence.  This lady deeply impacted me in two Pastoral Care Ministry schools, through deep inner healing, and profound knowledge and personal prayer.  She had Word, Spirit and anointed Anglican liturgy all at once. I was so hungry for this. She realized that we need to celebrate our sense of smallness. This was her version of understanding that we need to fully depend on God.  Dependence on God is the number 2 Iris Ministries core value.  It’s the value that proclaims that God can do the impossible.  Leanne writes, that “we can go right on celebrating our smallness while leaning joyfully and heavily on the Son’s greatness and love.  We learn to practice his Presence.  We trust him to be, always, our adequacy.” [Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence, “Celebrating our Smallness” p24] Leanne takes this further in quoting CS Lewis.  Lewis wrote, “the presence of God is not the same as the sense of the presence of God. That latter may be due to imagination; the former may be attended with no ‘sensible consolation. […] It is the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes.” [CS Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, ed. Clyde S Kilby (Grand Rapid MI: Eerdmans, 1967, pp 36-37.]  Leanne adds, “this simple lesson, [as] expressed by CS Lewis, must be learned by all the saints of the church, small and great.”

Leanne shares wonderful stories from Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, Mother Theresa and Brother Lawrence.  The Healing Presence is worth every penny for this chapter alone.  She loves to talk about “incarnational reality.” This is not only representing Jesus, but being so in tune with him that people actually see him in you.  This is how I saw Jesus in Heidi Baker the day she gave me the roses. Yet, seeking just the sensations of his presence, or ‘goosebumps’ as you will, is a misdirection.  Leanne write: “often the persons with the most dramatic conversions of healings, will be the very souls who have the most difficult time figuring out that the Presence of God differs from sensations they had in their [past] experience of him.  Such persons, caught in the subjective trap of attempting to ‘realize’ God in sensory experience, will find themselves looking inward. This introspection, if [they] persist, turns into what may be called the ‘practice of the presence of self,’ or the disease of introspection.” [Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence, “Practicing the Presence” p 26].

Leanne is speaking from her own experience, which she shared with her Pastoral Care Ministry Schools, as well as this book.  She says, “I was just such a person in my youth, and through frustration born of this misunderstanding, I final left off trying to be a Christian. It was later, after hard circumstances, that I received the grace to pray, ‘Lord, if I never again […] sense your presence, I will yet obey you.’  These were the words the Lord was waiting to hear.  This understanding of the ‘practice of the Presence’ will always be an integral part of any writing or ministering I do. My failure to understand this cost me the precious years between adolescence and age twenty-six; years when I could not hear and obey God.”  [Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence, “Practicing the Presence” p 26].

Sometimes if you are a feeler, or a Spirit person, it is hard when you encounter God’s silence, or even when he says ‘no.’  But this is a refining time, when he’s actually deepening your roots, and you slowly become less ‘flighty.’ There’s one student in my art classes who is a very insecure little girl. She’s hard on herself. She’s either trying hard to please, or she feels that she isn’t good enough. It’s hard for her to just be still and quiet, although she did this once for Janey in Afrikaans class.  We need to sit still and not squirm.  We need rest.  In order to receive rest, we have to stop.  But instead of falling asleep, we need to rest and be alert at the same time.  This is all part of meditating on scripture, pondering on specific Bible stories, and promises we’re given. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “be still and know that he is God.”  This is an inner stillness. You can only get that sense of inner knowing in the silence if you are still.

Sometimes when we experience silence, it is not a punishment. It’s an invitation to trust God.  It’s an invitation to a deeper level with God to come.  God wants us to grow spiritually mature.  This is the whole point of my Ways to Grow in God.  Our roots need to grow deep, rather than shallow.  I learned that desert trees, like those in the Northern Cape and Namibia, have very deep root systems. Other trees in the Western Cape have deep roots due to the wind. They need these for their survival.  We also need deep roots in God for our survival.  This way we can continue to grow through dry seasons.   Here is a story from L.B. Cowman’s devotional, Streams in the Desert: “A woman had a dream, where she saw three people praying. As they knelt, she watched Jesus draw near and approach the first figure. [He] leaned over her tenderly, while smiling and speaking ‘in accents of purest, sweetest music.’ Then, he proceeded to the next figure. [He] placed a gentle hand on her head and nodded with ‘loving approval.’ But what happened next perplexed the dreaming woman.

[Jesus] passed the third woman without stopping for a word [with her]. The woman in her dream said to herself, ‘How greatly He must love the first one!  The second He [also] gave His approval, but none of the special demonstrations of love He gave the first. The third woman must have grieved Him deeply, for He gave her no word at all and not even a passing look.  ‘I wonder what she has done, and why He made so much difference between them?’ As she tried to account for [Jesus’] action, He Himself stood by her and said: “O woman! how wrongly [you] interpreted Me. The first kneeling woman needs all the weight of My tenderness and care to keep her feet in My narrow way. She needs My love, thought, and help every moment of the day. Without it she would fail and fall.

“The second has stronger faith and deeper love, and I can trust her to trust Me however things may go and whatever people do. “The third, whom I seemed not to notice, even to neglect, has faith and love of the finest quality. [I am training her] by quick and drastic processes for the highest and holiest service. “She knows Me so intimately, and trusts Me so utterly, that she is independent of words or looks or any outward intimation of my approval….because she knows that I am working in her for eternity, and that what I do, though she knows not the explanation now, she will understand hereafter.”  [Joanna Weaver, quoting L.B. Cowman,  Streams in the Desert  https://joannaweaverbooks.com/2018/10/11/when-god-silent/]

This sounds very much like Leanne’s unspoken invitation to trust.  I also was given a similar invitation after I had a dramatic encounter at Holy Trinity Brompton in 1995. This was right after my first mission trip in Northern Ireland, and I was led to surrender all my “ambitions, hopes and plans” as Robin Mark’s song, All for Jesus says. After that encounter, I experienced the desert for the first time. Gone were the previous cinematic visions, words of knowledge and my sense of God’s presence. Instead, I had the silence, scripture, poems, prayers with other Christians and embarking on my seminary studies.  I was beginning to grow in character, like the character “Much Afraid” in Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds Feet in High Places.

Author Joanna Weaver shares on her website that we should not be afraid of when God seems silent in his love. She offers us these two scriptures in specific versions for clarity.  Listen and receive where God’s silence is highlighted.  The first is Zephaniah 3:17, D.R.A. version: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, he will save: he will rejoice over thee with gladness, he will be silent in his love, he will be joyful over thee in praise.”  The second is Matthew 15:23 KJV, which is: “he answered her not a word. His disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.”   So believe Joanna when she writes, “God is up to something more in [our lives] than just giving us the comfort of His voice. He is working in us for eternity. He wants to be able to say of us, “[They know] Me so well. I can trust [them] with my silence.” https://joannaweaverbooks.com/2018/10/11/when-god-silent/]  God’s silence gets into you like a virus.  Oswald Chambers describes that you “become perfectly confident [because you] know God has heard [you.]” Is God able to trust you with his silence?

Blog author Jessica Wicks takes this further.  Trust is one of the pieces of the puzzle.  Another is examining your life for unconfessed sin.  Is there anything wrong between you and God?  Are you praying with wrong motives?  Sometimes this is an issue.  It doesn’t hurt to take these to God. [Jessica Wicks, “When God seems silent: Five Practical things to do when you can’t hear God’s voice” https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/prayer/learn-from-gods-silence.html]

Another puzzle piece is God’s sovereignty. This is addressed by AW Tozer. He wrote this in The Knowledge of the Holy: “God is said to be absolutely free, because no one and no thing can hinder him, or compel him or stop him. He is able to do as he pleases; always, everywhere [and] forever.”  Job also faced the choice of either accepting or rejecting God’s sovereignty.  Job’s wife responded angrily, and suggested he curse God and die.  But Job chooses to let God be God.  He answered in Job 2:10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”  Jessica Wicks notes that “accepting God’s sovereignty also means actively trusting God, realizing he is in control and can be trusted.”  [Jessica Wicks, “When God seems silent: Five Practical things to do when you can’t hear God’s voice” (site referred to earlier)]

A third reason why you haven’t heard from God, is if you already have your answer. The Bible is full of answers about what is right and wrong.  It shows God’s character and intention for us as his children. You might have had several prophetic words from people who hear God’s voice, but you’ve forgotten them.  And now you want more of the same?  To be fair, God always confirms words several times. I know he’s certainly done that for me on the matter of my healing. I’m thankful that he still chooses to encourage me to trust him, by the reminders in scripture and in loving prayerful words from others.

As you read the Bible, ask God to make the words come alive to you.  This is the best source if you’re not ‘hearing’ him otherwise.  The final component is that silence can also be a sign of God’s trust, as shown in the Streams in the Desert devotional mentioned earlier.  Oswald Chambers also shares this in My Utmost For His Highest:  “you will find that he has trusted you in the most intimate way possible; with absolute silence.  This is not a silence of despair, but [it is] one of pleasure; because he saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.”  When you are comfortable with someone, you could easily sit together and not say a single word.  So in love, silence CAN be a sign of intimacy. It’s the same with God.

It’s also the same when the teen girls that we disciple cheekily ask for something. We sometimes say no.  When Tony says no, it’s a boundary.  When I say no, it’s a sign that I just don’t want to go there. They don’t complain about that anymore. Sometimes the relationship is enough.  For Job, God’s silence was also a result of the depth of their relationship.  God knew that Job would be faithful in the end – and he was. At the end of his suffering, he was honoured for all he went through.

Sometimes God actually says ‘no.’ A friend of ours used to be senior pastor until she encountered this experience. She was led to step down from her role and became something else. She was still in ministry, but she strongly felt a ‘no’ that changed the route of how she would serve God.  While some ultra conservative Word Christians don’t like the idea of women in ministry, I don’t believe her ‘no’ was entirely due to one scriptural interpretation.  But this was meant as a door closing, so another would open.  That kind of “no” happens often.  I remember I had doors close when I sought entrance to art in the entertainment industry.  I had the contacts, but the door was closed.  Instead, the Holy Spirit approached me, and led me to Jesus.  I remember a half-prayer I spoke out in response to my stunted art career. I said, “Well, that’s it. 1988 has to be the year to change my life.”  I mostly meant my career, but it was more than that.  That was an invitation to Holy Spirit to whisper to my heart, “Good! Now’s the time to find God.”     Nicky Gumbel shares on Alpha about unanswered prayer – and mentions that Ruth Bell Graham had often said that she was thankful that God didn’t answer her previous pleas about marriage.  She said “I would have married the wrong man – several times.”  [shared on Alpha Course talk – How should we pray?]  Pastor Jack Wellman shares that Ruth “was glad, but only later, that God’s answer to her prayer was a ‘no.’ Sometimes the best answer to a prayer is ‘no, it’s not best for you.”  https://www.christianquotes.info/images/5-reasons-for-delayed-prayer/ Garth Brooks would agree with his new country song “Thank heaven for unanswered prayer.” Actually there is no unanswered prayerIt’s answered with a no.

Sometimes we may not understand when God says no. He doesn’t always say no – sometimes it’s a matter of timing, or due to a precondition, like repentance.  Other times he’s waiting for a specific person to bless you.  Author Shannon DeGarmo shares that in the times where we are disappointed with the ‘no’, there are these key things to remember.  These are:  to remember that God is good, to remember his promises to us, and to know that he is sovereign. God is God and we are not.  He also has a purpose of saying no.  We can’t see that far ahead, and we don’t always know the consequences of our actions.  Sometimes it’s for our defense, like protecting a small child from a hot stove.  God also does not leave us alone, even though we may pout and feel like an abandoned small child.  I’ve seen plenty of those in Avian Park. But this is not the case with us. https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/what-we-need-to-remember-when-god-says-no.html [DeGarmo]

Sometimes when God says no, it’s out of compassion.  Nicky Gumbel shares in the Alpha Bible app, why Jesus said no to the mother of Zebedee’s sons. She asked for a glorious position for her sons, without knowing the consequences.  Matthew 20:21-22 share her request:  “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”  But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking!”  Nicky shares that Jesus’ refusal was out of compassion. He points out that she “does not seem to understand all the implications of her request.” [Nicky Gumbel, “Three Ways God answers your prayers” Bible in One Year https://www.bibleinoneyear.org/bioy/commentary/1147]

Trials are not punishments. They are challenges to overcome.  They are an opportunity to grow, and trust God.  Listen to the words of Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

After I was let go by the radio industry, I had a very painful time. In time, I accepted that that all the doors were closed to advancement, or paid work at all.  It was difficult to spend three years as a ministry volunteer. Yet when I look back, I can see that it taught me to depend even harder on God.  Dependence on God is after all Iris core value number 2.  This time was a season of growth. It also harnessed outreach skills that I use today.  DeGarmo also notes that the opportunity where we struggle can become the very thing that glorifies God. [DeGarmo]

The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1: 6-7: “Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

King David also endured God saying no to something that was very dear to his heart.  David really wanted to build a temple to the Lord, which he shared in 1 Chronicles 28. However, he was told, “You shall not build a house for my name, because you are a man of war, and have shed blood.”  Dreams die hard.  However, David was encouraged to pass on this dream to his son Solomon, which is shared in the following chapter. When he prayed over his son, he blessed him, praised God’s greatness, and thanked God for all the blessings. He wasn’t bitter, but was thankful.  So King David shows his wisdom in response to God’s no.  He shows thankfulness, especially as he is given a glimpse of God’s plan.  Ruth Bell Graham was thankful that she was given the right husband.  There is a reason behind the no. Sometimes we understand it, other times we just have to trust God when it doesn’t make sense.  Then there is whether we discern him at all in the silence.  But look harder – he is there with you, you just don’t sense him the same way.  May you be given that sudden shift to hear God through the silence. May he increase your trust when you don’t feel him at all. May you be led to dig deeper into Scripture and discover more. And may you grow deeper as your trust grows deep roots.  This is when your identity deepens into who you are meant to be.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the Coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen drop-down menu).  Click here (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html)  and scroll down to #57!

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I’m now in the middle of 16 radiotherapy sessions in Cape Town.  My oncologist believes this may be the last major step of beating the cancer, so it doesn’t return.  I’m also in MLD and compression therapy for lymphedema (also known as lymphoedema), which is swelling of the lymphatic system.  While we explored that this condition was a side result of the mastectomy, I actually had primary lymphedema in my legs since 2006.  It’s time it’s dealt with.  Click here to the medical campaign page for info! https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html

We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments.  If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our Paypal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of Laurie-Ann’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre in Worcester, Western Cape.  They are also at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson), and through Takealot.com.  Here is the Takealot link: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Thanks for journeying with us!

Blessings to all,

Laurie-Ann Copple

[Here is Garth Brooks video for “Unanswered Prayers”]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GuA5PZx3K4

Growing in God: Word based, Spirit Directed, the Radical Middle, part 2

 

This is a drawing that I did on Good Friday.  It is called “Carol – When I survey the wondrous cross.”  It’s of my mother, who died this January in Toronto, Canada, while I was tethered to South Africa during chemo treatments.  It will be part of my second colouring book, Colouring with Jesus 2 (the first version of the colouring book is available in South Africa via Takealot). Click here if you are in South Africa and would like to purchase one.

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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last article, we learned the how important the balance of the Word and the Spirit is in our lives.  I had learned this lesson through Canadian broadcaster David Mainse.  He said, If you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life, you DRY up.  If you don’t have the Word, the Bible in your life, you BLOW up.  Yet when you receive from both the Word and Spirit together, you GROW up.  I thought that this made sense, but I didn’t ponder on it; other that I should always have a biblical base for sharing my prophetic impressions. After all, I did come to faith in a Baptist church.  They love scripture, and so they should! It’s important to have a good, solid understanding of the Bible.  We need to know the Bible, so we have a standard to go by in our faith.  Our personal devotions and words of knowledge aren’t scripture. But these often repeat scripture in a loving, personalized way.

RT Kendall was one of the speakers at our Iris Harvest School. He’s been on the Word side of the church for years, but he became Spirit-filled along the way.  Since he didn’t come from the Spirit side of the church, he keenly sees some tendencies that could pull people away from what is known as the “radical middle,” or the core of our faith.  This term is used by the Vineyard movement, especially by the late Bill Jackson. [Radical Middle ministries dot org]  I remember hearing the term “radical middle” when I was part of the Vineyard. It was certainly something that they strove for.  They even called themselves a ‘centred-set’ rather than a ‘bounded set.’  What they meant by this, was that mainline denominations have a clearly thought-out set of beliefs. Anything outside of these isn’t a part of their creed.  The Vineyard then saw themselves strongly agreeing on the central aspects that all Christians believe. Secondary, more divisive issues, were less central. Vineyardites could differ on these without it being a big deal.  This attitude seemed to change after the Vineyard distanced itself in 1995 during the Toronto Blessing revival.  Alan Hawkins is a theologian based in North Carolina. He unofficially shared with a Vineyard theology forum that he could see changes in the Vineyard after that unfortunate church split.  He said, “If you read [Bill Jackson’s book] Quest for the Radical Middle, you find an amazing record of the work of the Holy Spirit within the Vineyard. That is, until 1995, at which point the book literally changes character and tenor, and reads like a denominational report.”  If you read Jerry Steingard’s book ‘From Here to the Nations, “it reads like Jackson’s first 19 chapters.”  [unofficial report from a retired Vineyard pastor’s Facebook page, May 10, 2019]  The movement may have become ‘safe’ from scoffers, but they lost their place in the radical middle of Spirit and Word. This unfortunate split has been reconciled, and the Catch the Fire stream will always acknowledge their Vineyard roots.

So when you aim to be in the radical middle, you cling to the core truths of your faith. This helps keep us from going off the deep end.  Life is in the middle of the river, where the water is fresh.  It is in this place that many biblical truths that seem to contradict each other, actually don’t.  I would elaborate, but that’s another for another time.  What is important and what matters are the central truths of our faith. The Alpha Course movement takes that same stance. While the Course began in the Anglican Church, many different streams of the Church use it for seekers and new Christians.  Alpha includes all central aspects of Christianity, while secondary teachings like say, the differences of how to baptize, aren’t discussed. That’s what denominational classes are for. Nicky Gumbel shares an idea that he attributes to early church father Augustine, based on the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace;” but not at the expense of the truth.  Nicky gently shared seventeenth century theologian Rupertus Meldenius’s motto, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty [and] in all things, Charity” in a gentle way. (Click for quote)  Nicky’s explanation was, “In the really essential things of the faith, the things that are at the core of our belief, there would be unity. In the things that are more peripheral (the non-essentials), there be freedom. People can believe different things; that’s fine. And in everything, love.” [Alpha Course, 2009 version, “What about the Church]  This motto has been picked up by many churches, from Anglican to Moravian.  [Mark Ross]

Unfortunately, this conciliatory attitude of unity in essentials hasn’t been adopted by all.  During my research, I discovered one anonymous blog author who wrote: “balancing Spirit and Truth is like trying to balance law and grace.”(for quote click here) [Ben Eastaugh/Chris Sternal-Johnson]  I don’t think this is a fair comparison.  The Bible contains law, but we don’t live BY the law. We need to read the law section of the Old Testament. It teaches us about holiness. The apostle Paul explained Galatians 3:24: “the law was our guardian until Christ came. It protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.”  This means the law teaches and shows us what sin is. But we can’t be made holy through the law; that’s impossible. So you can’t balance living by the law against living by grace. Paul speaks about that in Galatians. That’s going backwards in our faith towards legalism.  This is actually a pitfall of the Word side of the church.  Legalism chokes the life out of you, and only makes you religious.  Danny Silk warned that if teachers play their true role in the church, they will first have to be willing to pursue a supernatural lifestyle.  They will have to be dissatisfied with the armour of their arguments and the lifelessness of their theology. […] Teachers must embrace mystery.”   [Danny Silk, Building a Culture of Honour]

So as faith is dead without works, so theology is dead without the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit helps your faith become active.  The Bible helps your faith become stable.  When Jesus taught his disciples and all those around him, he used “show and tell.” Jesus’ teaching was not passive, even when he taught his disciples to “turn the other cheek.”  This takes an active decision. The writer of Hebrews shared that the Word is alive and powerful, but this is because the Holy Spirit breathes it.  He is the author. Listen to the words of Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

RT Kendall shared in Harvest School talk about how we can grow in godly character and the fruit of the Spirit. This happens through genuine obedience and persistence in our faith, where the Holy Spirit helps us through difficult circumstances. He reforms our hearts. Scripture is an amazing tool to bring change.  Like the scripture in Hebrews 4 that I just shared, this is a living surgical tool. It’s important to not run from this and seek comfort instead.  It takes real guts to be an obedient Christian.  It takes not only head knowledge of Scripture, but also an open heart to let those words transform you.  Say you struggle with fear and insecurity.  You may feel like you are orphaned, and all alone.  Yet, as children of God, who love Jesus Christ, we aren’t orphans anymore. We are loved children.  You may read the words of scripture, but it’s the Holy Spirit that helps you take that word to heart.  It is he who transforms your heart so you can receive that truth, and the love that comes directly from God.

RT told us at Harvest School that we “need to work in the Word, to actively read it, pray it and think on it.  Too often Spirit people want a rhema, or (Holy Spirit) word, because it is quick and we are lazy” [RT Kendall – notes from HS 24, June 15, 2016].   When we pursue scripture with the Holy Spirit, he makes it come alive to us. This is where the practice of Lexio Divina comes in. This is actively reading scripture more than a few times, to allow the words to speak to you.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit can give you an impression of the context of the scripture you are reading.  Say is Jesus is speaking to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life, you can actually imagine Jesus comforting Martha on the death of her brother Lazarus with the hope that he will again be alive.   Jesus was creating a “now moment” full of God’s promise.

These “now moments” are similar to when Heidi Baker ‘stops for the one.’ She does this in obedience to a prompting from the Holy Spirit; the timing is God’s, but there is also a scriptural command to care for the orphans and widows. Some scriptures call these people the “least of these.”  James 1:27 says pure and undefiled devotion, “in the sight of God the Father, is caring for orphans and widows in their distress, and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”   The third Iris core value is to care for the least of these.  The IrisGlobal site shares:  “We look for revival among the broken, humble and lowly, and start at the bottom with ministry to the poor. God chooses the weak and despised things of the world to shame the proud, demonstrating His own strength and wisdom. Our direction is lower still.” [Iris Global site – https://www.irisglobal.org/about/core-values]

When Heidi responds to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, it’s partly by obedience to God’s general guidance in ministry to the poor. But she’s also obedient to the Holy Spirit for the time and place. Heidi shares many such stories in her books. She also was led in January 2010 to stop for me. She gave me roses, a hug and a kiss.  It took years for me to figure out that Heidi was simply led to bless me. I learned from another Iriser in East London, that Heidi often blesses specific people at conferences this way. And on that day, I was the one.  I was in the centre of that convergence. This was the morning after I responded to a missions call, by giving my yes to a life of service. I didn’t know what that would look like. A ministry team member prayed over me, and shared that I would be working with the poor. There are many kinds of poor.  In Ottawa, we have the refugee poor, the single mothers poor, and the hidden poor who work multiple low paying jobs to make ends meet.  I can identify with the latter, since I’ve only once had a job that was able to cover rent and basic expenses – and even that was short lived.  I’ve always just had a part-time job or no job at all.  If I weren’t helped by my dad or husband, I might have been on welfare, despite having two degrees, art school and radio broadcasting school.  Yet, God still supplied my needs.

Then I met the real poor in Pakistan and different African countries. I worked in Ottawa’s east-end with French-speaking west-Africans.  The poor are among us.  They are in townships and neighbourhoods, sometimes hidden in plain sight, sometimes secluded. Do we really require Holy Spirit to remind us about them?  I believe so, yes.  Sometimes we go about our daily lives, and forget about those around us, because we have tunnel vision.  It takes a prompting to shake us out of our stupor. We need to see a divine appointment that’s set up right in front of us.  I’m very thankful when Holy Spirit gives me that leading. Sometimes the Father wants to do something special right then with that specific person. When you respond to this nudge, it’s obedience to BOTH Word and Spirit. Can you reach out to people with just the Bible scripture?  Of course you can.  But will you?  Perhaps.

Brian Nickens is a valued teacher in Bethel Church, Redding. He used to be a Word Christian, and the pastor of a few Calvary Chapel churches.  He wrote a book called “Hunger Driven: Overcoming Fear and Skepticism of the Supernatural Lifestyle.”  Like RT Kendall, he has a solid foundation of scripture. He became Spirit-filled later on.  He shares on his website [brianknickens.com] that Jesus ministered by both Word and Spirit. He shared a Bible story from Luke 4:31-37:  “ Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. 32 There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority.

33 Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon—an evil spirit—cried out, shouting, 34 “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

35 But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further.  36 Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” 37 The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region.”

Nickens shares that Jesus taught the word, and acted in the Spirit in the same gathering. He says that “Jesus most often began his ministry events and then operated according to his observations as to what his Father was doing in that given moment.  Notice that response of the crowd after they witnessed the demonized man delivered. [They] said, ‘What authority and power this man’s words possess! Or, more clearly in the World English Bible, “What IS this word?This word “was the declaration and exhortation of the written word of God.  [It] literally agitated and activated the spirit realm.  Jesus did not teach a series on family living, he declared the Word of God.  This kind of example of Word and Spirit is the key that unlocks the kingdom of heaven in our midst.  [It also unlocks] the supernatural realm around us.” [brianknickens.com/word-and-spirit]

Nickens also shares that there are many Spirit people who don’t realize the journey that Bethel Redding has gone through to reach revival.  He says, “so many are reading the books, speaking the language and singing the songs of Bethel; while at the same time, [they] fail to see the big picture as to how they got there.  So many try to attach the bells and whistles of this movement to their ministry.”  [Nickens – website as prev noted]

They may expect the same result, but they won’t get it.  There is no shortcut to excellence, so there is no shortcut to revival either.   Nickens says, “you have to labour in the Word. If you trace the Bethel Redding journey, you will discover [that] it is a journey through the Word of God into the realm of the Spirit.  When … [scripture teaching] results in a move of the Spirit, Bill [Johnson] is never in a hurry to move out of that moment.  That is Revival at its core.”  [Nickens – website as prev noted]

Amos Yong is a Fuller Seminary professor. He reviewed RT Kendall’s book co-authored with Paul Cain.  Cain was to represent the Spirit side of the church, and RT the word side, and yet both were hungry for the other side. Cain encouraged Spirit people to get into scripture, and RT encouraged Word people to embrace the Holy Spirit, while having a biblical base.  Some critics had and still have a problem of using both, despite examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  Amos Yong got to the heart of the matter. He said that “the problem is [in] how to understand the Word and the Spirit as both distinct and independent on the one hand, and yet mutually related and interdependent on the other.”[Amos Yong, “Between two extremes: Balancing Word Christianity and Spirit Christianity: A Review Essay (of a Paul Cain-RT Kendall book) Feb 25, 2000]

There is no either or.  Why choose when you can have both?  Bill Jackson was a writer and Vineyard pastor in various locations. He wrote the book Quest for the Radical Middle, that I mentioned earlier. He and the then Vineyard attempted to combine evangelical Word-based faith, with the Holy Spirit. This was called “empowered evangelicalism or the Third Wave movement.  It included the Vineyard, the Anglican Mission, Soul Survivor, Acts 29, and Canada’s Anglican Renewal Ministries, or ARM Canada.  [paraphrase from radicalmiddleministries.org] I was the secretary and later bookkeeper for ARM Canada, so I was blessed to partake of the Third Wave through the Vineyard, ARM Canada, and the daughter of the Vineyard, Catch the Fire. This became part of my culture, in my own search for the radical middle.  Surprisingly many Word Christians think this middle is actually the extreme.  Yet if you don’t utilize BOTH Word and Spirit, you ARE NOT in the middle at all.

Bill Jackson’s son, who now runs his ministry, notes on their website a beautiful rendition of what is the centre of the river.  He says, “the ‘radical middle’ is the beautiful intersection of the Word and the Spirit.  As empowered evangelicals, we are grounded in the Word of God, while listening to the Spirit of God, as he leads us into mission.  Radical middle people want to be about both the Word and the works of Jesus.  Jesus both proclaimed the reality of the kingdom of God and demonstrated the power of the kingdom.  Our call is to go and do likewise.”  When Word and Spirit converge, there is action and power.

I discovered a suburban Durban church called City Hill, that includes itself in the radical middle.  This is what they say this is: “One could argue that the wheel is one of man’s best inventions. A bicycle wheel, for example, is a brilliant piece of engineering. From the centre of the wheel radiates spokes that support the tyre which rotates and propels the bike forward. If the centre of the wheel is slightly to the left or right or just a little too high or low, the spokes would not be equal lengths and the tyre would not be perfectly round and it would not function the way a wheel should. Are the spokes important? Yes! Is the tyre necessary? Yes! But they would all be redundant without that all-important middle which forms an inherent part of the wheel. The centre is radical!”  The centre is Jesus, who used both Scripture and Holy Spirit. [Bonny Dales, Culture Magazine, Issue 31, from here.

If Jesus is the centre, what does this look like in our lives?   How do we live that out? RT Kendall believes that many forget God’s sovereignty.  They say, “Lord, increase my faith, help my unbelief.”  So, ask God for mercy. You never outgrow the need for mercy. RT shared at our Harvest School that we need to remember the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. We need to respect this.  We also need to remember the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit. It’s too easy to grieve God.  Listen to Ephesians 4:30-31: “Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

The chief way we grieve the Spirit is by bitterness. This could be pointing the finger at someone else, losing your temper or road rage. But if you ask Holy Spirit to help you to overcome these, he will give you joy, peace and authenticity.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t be angry – just not vent it in a sinful way.  David took his anger to the Lord in Psalm 69. Mercy tempers anger and cools it right down, which is why we don’t outgrow the need for mercy.   If you do grieve the Spirit, you don’t lose your faith, but you can lose your sense of his presence.  So our job is to be quick to repent.  Imagine if the ungrieved Holy Spirit filled ALL of us.  No one would take offence at mistakes. There would be no bitterness and nothing to prove. This is a beautiful part of being in the middle of the river.

When you have no offence or bitterness in your heart, you can walk with integrity. This is in balance between Word and Spirit.  It becomes easier to HEAR his voice.  Ask God his opinion on the attitudes you have. Work on not grieving Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit is like a dove, gentle, untrained and wild.  Pigeons on the other hand are angry birds, that can be trained. Too often we’re like the pigeons that squawk and hurt each other.

The Spirit and Word also converge in surprises.  Allow Holy Spirit to surprise you.  This is where specific nudges come in, based on Jesus’ words to love our neighbours.  The NOW aspect is the Holy Spirit’s timing. This is just like Peter and John with the beggar at Gate Beautiful. It’s like Heidi Baker with stopping for the one. It’s like Matteus van der Steen with stopping the car to reach out to two specific Ugandan street children.  God’s plans are wonderful, as are the specific assignments he gives us. When we walk in that middle, we are in just the right spot to hear God.  So watch your heart, and don’t choose any sides.  Just look up and keep your focus on the Lord.

If we, as Christians, are to fulfill our calls, we are to be a people of love, power, morality, truth, justice and equality.  We are to be an example of how to live: in love, peace and unity with each other. We are also to manifest God’s glory and power.  When we fulfill this purpose, we become the people of the radical middle; as a conscience to our nations, and a living testimony that points to God.

Bert Farias from Charisma Magazine notes that this radical middle is a stance that God often takes in scripture. He doesn’t take sides. One example of this is when Joshua was preparing for the battle of Jericho and his eyes are opened to see the Captain of the Lord’s army.  The  captain follows the Lord’s command, not Joshua’s.  Joshua 5:13-14 shares, “When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”  14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”  So Farias advises, “let us not take sides, but let us move according to the Lord’s command.” [Bart Farias, “The Church must move from the Right Wing and Left Wing into the Radical Middle” Charisma magazine.

Let’s pray. Lord, open our hearts to be at the centre between Word and Spirit.  Take away any bitterness, and offence we may have against others.  We forgive those who have hurt us, and ask for you to heal and soften our hearts.  We want to walk to hear your voice, experience your joy and be at peace as we love others through you.  Bring us to balance and show us mercy, as you transform our character.  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 the Coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen drop-down menu).  Click here  and scroll down to #56!

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I’m now about to have a preliminary scan before 16 radiotherapy sessions in Cape Town.  My oncologist believes this may be the last major step of beating the cancer, so it doesn’t return.  I’m also in MLD and compression therapy for lymphedema (also known as lymphoedema), which is swelling of the lymphatic system.  While we explored that this condition was a side result of the mastectomy, I actually had primary lymphedema in my legs since 2006.  It’s time it’s dealt with.  Click here to the medical campaign page for info! 

Blessings to all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

 

Learning the balance between Word and Spirit

 

“Worshipping Family” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last two articles, we learned some of the different ways we hear God’s voice.  We discovered that when we seek God in the secret place, we do this from a place of intimacy.  The secret place, or our prayer closet, is our special place we go and pray.  Your prayer closet can be an actual small place like a cabin in the woods or in the desert.  It can be in a quiet room in your home.  When we are intimate with God, we hear his voice.   In John 3:10, Jesus says that his sheep hear his voice.  We are his sheep. We need to stop and listen. When you do, you’ll be surprised by his answer.  He loves to speak to us.

Mark Virkler also shares about the importance of learning to tune into the spontaneous thought flow that comes from the Holy Spirit [Four Keys to hearing God’s Voice]. After you quiet yourself down, you tune in, and focus entirely on Jesus. What comes next is a two-way conversation. It’s important to set aside the desires in your heart that threaten to consume you.  They get in the way and you won’t hear God clearly. If you don’t set these aside, you’ll get a distorted word that is a mix of your desire, and what you think is God.  You need to set aside these things and allow God to whisper to your heart about who he really is.  And so, it’s about a personal encounter with him that continues as you press in for more.

We also discovered four major prophetic personalities, and learned from some real people who teach and share at Bethel Church in Redding, California.  It was from part seven of Bethel’s Prophetic Personalities course, which is online at Bethel.TV.  We learned that the primary four ways of the prophetic are: hearing, knowing, seeing and feeling. Sometimes when people supernaturally receive in these ways, it may seem strange to people who haven’t yet opened the eyes of their hearts to God.  Yet, they still hear God through his written word: the Bible.  They may hear in common sense, or when people pray together.  Some Christians tend to lean toward the Holy Spirit side of the church, while others are on the Word side of the church.  Both ways are very important.  You can’t separate them from each other, and yet in many places, this is exactly what has happened.

RT Kendall is a renowned preacher and teacher who ministered at Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He’s written many books. He is a balanced voice speaking to both Word and Spirit churches.  He was one of our teachers at Harvest School in 2016.  His teaching impacted me in two ways.  One was on total forgiveness, which will we share about in another article.  The other was about the battle that goes on between “Word” Christians and “Spirit” Christians.  He said that we need to address the “silent divorce that has happened between Word people and Spirit people.  It’s like we are children in a family going through divorce.  Some children go with one parent, others go with the second parent. But when you keep a balance with BOTH, it is honouring God in spirit and in truth.”  [RT Kendall, personal notes from Harvest School 24].  RT believes that there is a new reformation coming of Word and Spirit together. If only the two halves would reconcile!  We need each other.   I believe that RT Kendall is right.  When we are out of balance, either one way or the other, we become arrogant and grieve the Holy Spirit.

Danny Silk is a teacher-pastor in Bethel Church.  He shares in his book Building a Culture of Honour,   that “when we focus solely on the Word, eventually we begin to fight amongst ourselves over the Word.  We begin to pull apart the Body of Christ because there is a right and a wrong.  Each teacher is compelled to be right.” That is ultimate division. What then is the role of the teacher in the church if it is not to prove that Christians are right to believe what they believe?  If teachers play their true role in the church, they will first have to be willing to pursue a supernatural lifestyle.  They will have to be dissatisfied with the armour of their arguments and the lifelessness of their theology.” They will need to increase their courage to risk and be unable to answer all the questions of their world. Teachers must embrace mystery.Basically, Danny Silk is saying that theology without the Holy Spirit is dead. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who was the author of the Bible through human writers.  He then encourages teachers to teach in line with having a supernatural component.  He likened Jesus as taking “show and tell” to a whole new level. “When Jesus taught a crowd about the Kingdom of Heaven, He always showed them the Kingdom.  His disciples were in a never-ending classroom experience.”  This is probably why churches that have both Word and Spirit include an activation session on what they are learning, rather than just learn theory and scripture.  The Holy Spirit helps you become active in your faith.  The Bible helps you become more stable in your faith.

One truth, that was taught to me early in my Christian life, was shared often by David Mainse. David was a Canadian pastor who founded Crossroads Communications, including the TV show “One-Hundred Huntley Street.”  Back in the 1970’s, the studio was located on Huntley Street, which is in downtown Toronto.  Nearly twenty years later, they moved west to Burlington, to a larger space.  They have continued to grow under the leadership of David’s son Ron since then.  David died in 2017.  While David was alive, he always spoke with such kindness and wisdom. One day, he shared on a broadcast about the importance of having balance as you grow in your faith.  If you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life, you DRY up.  You burn out.  If you don’t have the Word, the Bible in your life, you BLOW up.  Yet when you receive from both the Word and Spirit together, you GROW up.  Of course, this statement is often preached by many, but I heard it first from him. It impacted both me and my mother.

When I came to faith, I wasn’t very biblically literate. Therefore, it was important for me to get a foundation in the Bible as soon as possible.  What I read was eye-opening.  I grew up in a liberal church, where only part of the Bible was shared.  This contributed to my Biblical illiteracy. However, I have to admit that I did have a Bible, and I could have read it if I could get past the archaic language of the King James Version. I was then drawn to a different church that was biblically literate. While they were not charismatic, they were open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit touching people’s lives. They were open to new enthusiasm for Jesus, and a renewed fire for getting into the Word of God.  So this Word congregation decided to invite the Father of the Charismatic movement, Canon Dennis Bennett, to come speak at their church.  Dennis was an Episcopalian priest who spoke on the Holy Spirit at the very beginning of the charismatic movement in the American mainline church.

At the time, even though I attended church, I wasn’t yet a Christian.  I was drawn to the supernatural, but since I wasn’t Biblically literate, I became involved in the occult, which is forbidden in the Bible. The practices of fortune-telling, tarot cards, and all the things that I became good at was actually a counterfeit of the genuine prophetic gifting that comes from God.  The source was wrong, but I didn’t know that at the time. This was one of the things I learned very quickly through Dennis.  He was a breath of fresh air at a Word church. Many were impacted, and the conference drew people from different denominations.  I came to faith the first night of the conference. That night, Dennis said in the middle of his talk that you have to make a choice, and not mix your spirituality.  Too many people pragmatically mix different aspects of various religions to make up their own.  This is a common tactic of seekers and New Agers.  But since Christianity and Judaism serve and love a Holy God, we must leave all other forms of spirituality behind.  Dennis said, “you can’t be a Christian and a New Ager too.  If you’re anything other than Jewish or Christian, then this is something you walk away from.” [paraphrase of Dennis Bennett at “Spirit of Promise conference, Kingsway Baptist Church, Etobicoke, April 1988]

Dennis really got my attention!  I thought I was both a New Ager and a Christian.  So I made a choice that night.  The Holy Spirit had already spoken to my heart six months previously about finding God.  I somehow knew that he meant Jesus, and this was the time.  When Dennis led the prayer of renouncing other faiths and spirituality, I prayed that prayer.  The following morning, I then learned that all the stuff I had been in before was completely from the wrong source.  There was no neutral spirituality. Dennis told us, “after the fall of man, Satan set up the psychic world.”  That was another mind-blower.  Patricia King often shares that the seekers and New Agers are adventurous about their experience, which is good, but what matters is about their source. [Generalized comment based on many Patricia King conferences and books] If the source is anything other than God, it’s not from him; not at all.  When Holy Spirit spoke to me about finding God, there was a completely different feel behind the voice.  The voice was pure holy love, which washed over me like a waterfall.  While I had previously experienced spiritual euphoria, it was tiny and flat compared to the deep, deep love from God.  Of course I wanted more – and this hunger drew me to find that conference.

I’m sure that this church didn’t realize that when they planned for this conference, they would receive some people who would come to faith right there and then.  Once I was there, I needed to learn the Bible, and foundational teaching. I asked for someone to disciple me.  I chose a Christian counsellor who was involved at the church. She and others helped me to grow in the Bible as well as in other ways.  I desperately needed a foundation of Biblical understanding.  At the same time, I was also hungry for the Holy Spirit. I eventually found what was then the local Vineyard congregation. I found that I could attend both, since the Vineyard met in the afternoon.  Five years later, my second church became the very epicentre of the Toronto Blessing. I was there at an amazing time. But, I still needed both Word and Spirit to grow. I was so spiritually hungry that I needed to receive at more than one church.

Three years before Tony and I became long-term missionaries, I became hungry again. I became involved in three churches – one liturgical, one Pentecostal, and one very charismatic.   Since I tend towards being a “Spirit” person, I needed that foundation that I received in the Baptist “Word” church.   Years later, I also needed the liturgical structure and history to give me a good framework to express both Word and Spirit together. But that realization goes beyond the balance of Word and Spirit to the idea of a three-legged stool.  We’ll share about that model in another article (I just have to think on that some more, other than dive into Cursillo teaching).

So how does the Holy Spirit nurture us?   Imagine the Holy Spirit like one who pours out the love of God in a watering can.  He’s the one who convicts us of sin, and the most important truth that we need God.  Matteus van der Steen shares about the Holy Spirit in his book Dare to Dream.  He was another of our teachers at Harvest School alongside RT Kendall.  He shares that in the affluent West, many people think they have everything. They think that they are God and can do everything without the help of anyone else. They do not believe that God is Almighty, and that it is he who created us. [Matteus van der Steen, “Make Space for the Holy Spirit” – Dare to Dream]  This is in contrast in some third-world countries. “The acknowledgement of God is wide-spread, because prosperity has not destroyed their need for Him.”   For the west, it will take the Holy Spirit to help people realize there is a God and that they need him.  So these people need to have the same encounter I had with Holy Spirit, as he spoke to my heart that it was time to find God. It just made sense.  Holy Spirit also gives us dreams from the very heart of God for our lives. When we connect with them, and spend time with God, he transforms our hearts, and we begin to become more like what we were meant to be.  We become more like our true identity as a child of God.

The Holy Spirit gives us that confirmation that we are children of God. The Living Bible version of Romans 8:16 shares, “For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children.”  Sometimes, it takes time for this to sink into our hearts, past all our hurts and defences.  This is a classic example of Word and Spirit working together.  Even the Word people would have to agree.

Spirit people also need to learn that the Holy Spirit helps us realize the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. When we come to faith, we are awakened to the things of God.  In time, we are also anointed and prepared to carry out the tasks that God gives each of us to do.  Some tasks are the same, others different.  God has you grow in anointing of the Holy Spirit, and in understanding of the Word. Yet, you also need to work on improving your character.  Character is another aspect that must be in balance with the anointing in your life. Character includes obedience, integrity, faithfulness, and so many godly virtues that are displayed in the fruit of the Spirit.   The Holy Spirit gives them. He teaches about them through Paul’s words in Galatians 5:22-23:  The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Self-control is developed as part of our character, as something at the core of our wills.   It is impossible to achieve this in your own power. It does require our constant consent to lay down our tendency to either get out of control, or have too much control.  So, you also can’t fake these virtues. They are grown in you.  If you fake it by just using the Word, you become a religious hypocrite; just acting a role.  If you genuinely grow, you are utilizing both word and Spirit.

Van der Steen shares, “God is more interested in developing your character, which must be in balance with the anointing on your life.  This is why God will use the Holy Spirit to convict you of things that you do, that are not in line with His Word.”  So, give the Holy Spirit permission, and the opportunity to convict you of everything that is not right in your life. That is, things that which cannot be tolerated by daylight. Let your character be formed by Him.” [Matteus van der Steen, “Make Space for the Holy Spirit” – Dare to Dream]

RT Kendall goes further when he speaks about growing character.  He shared at Harvest School that “we need to work in the Word, to actively read it, pray it and think on it.  Too often Spirit people want a rhema, or (Holy Spirit) word, because it is quick and we are lazy.  We are living in a day when many people don’t read their Bibles.  Many leaders only turn to the Bible for a sermon!”   You also need a Bible reading plan, rather reading the Bible sporadically. It’s not Bible roulette.  If you chase after a rhema word, you’ll never get it. [RT Kendall – notes from Harvest School 24, June 15, 2016].   If you go after scripture, God will give you the very word you need while you read the Bible.  The words will leap off the page into your heart.

Kendall continued to encourage and admonish the mostly “Spirit” people who were at our Harvest school.  He gave us examples of what happens when Word and Spirit are acting together in Scripture.  One is that integrity is central.  Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s plan for everyone.  God always has a plan not to harm us. But we must resist temptation, especially of the sexual kind.  Remember the temptation that Joseph encountered in Genesis chapter 39, when he worked for Potiphar? His employer’s wife kept pestering him to go to bed with her. Kendall said that 75 percent of Christian servants fall due to this very same temptation. But Joseph did not. Kendall also warned Spirit people not to say, “The Lord told me.” when we share words we have received.  Our personal devotions aren’t scripture, and we aren’t Old Testament prophets. “What’s your motive in couching your word of knowledge in that way?  Is it to make you look good?  No, far better to say “I believe the Lord may be saying.”  This is again about character.  Word and Spirit work together to transform our character.     And what happens when the Word and Spirit are together?  God causes something special to happen that’s almost explosive.  Van der Steen shared of it in an example from a mission trip in Uganda.  RT Kendall shared of something similar in Acts chapter 3, when Peter and John meet a beggar by Jerusalem’s Beautiful Gate.  Both had a “now moment” that only happens when you walk in integrity and the special timing of the Holy Spirit. Something beautiful happened with the beggar, and he was healed.

Van der Steen’s sharing takes us to the streets of Kampala, Uganda. Matteus had a word of knowledge to help two specific orphans. One became a great student, whose life was radically changed.  The other went back to the streets. While some thought his attempt to love them a waste of time, he shared these words, “I believe that we were right to stop the car and share God’s love with these boys. Did I fast, pray, and ask for permission from my leaders before stopping to talk to them on the street that day?  No!  I simply chose to be obedient to God‘s leading. “Yes,” you may ask, but “what would have happened if it wasn’t the Holy Spirit that you heard?”  Well, even if it was my own idea, it was still Jesus’ heart. If you read Matthew 25, you will see that you don’t need special guidance from God to take care of orphans and widows.”  [Matteus van der Steen, “Make Space for the Holy Spirit” – Dare to Dream]  So we see here a perfect convergence of word and Spirit, as well as the purity of heart and integrity to recognize a special moment when God wants to do something.

We’ll discover more about this wonderful convergence, through more of RT Kendall in our next article.  But for now, think on this example from the Holy Ghost movie.  Jamie Galloway and Will Hart are on the streets of Salt Lake City ministering to seekers, by praying for them and introducing them to Holy Spirit.  They gently interacted with people with kindness and compassion, and showed them that God cared about them. Their method was by actively showing that God is real and loving by the action of the Holy Spirit.  Will and Jamie are Spirit People, but they are also biblically based.  They met an evangelist who stood outside the Salt Lake Temple. This man was almost entirely Word based. He used this method for reaching Mormons: that of sharing truth and scripture.  We watched him calling out to people in the temple that Jesus and Lucifer were NOT brothers. He cried that this was “such heresy!”  Then the three men meet up, as well as the Word evangelist’s wife.  The evangelist decries the mistakes and near arrogance of some Spirit people. But in the end, he allows Jamie and Will to pray for him.  He asks for more of the Holy Spirit in his preaching, and for the Word to come alive. All agree that we need the Holy Spirit.  When these three prayed together, it was indeed a special moment.  The movie creator, Darren Wilson, narrates at that moment that both ways were important in faith and outreach; Word and Spirit, and that it is explosive when they are used together.   Do we want to be in the centre of that convergence?  I know I do.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the Coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen area).  Click here and scroll down to #55.

If you’ve been blessed by this article, please let us know.

For those looking for news on my cancer journey, it looks like the surgeon got excellent margins on my mastectomy.  I’m still in recovery mode.  We’re not sure whether I need radiation therapy or not.  At this point, we are trying MLD therapy for lymphodema.  Click here to the medical campaign page for info!

Blessings to all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God: Learning how to hear God’s voice 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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

We discovered that when we seek God in the secret place, we do this from a place of intimacy.  The secret place, or our prayer closet, is known as our special place we go and pray.  Your prayer closet can be an actual small place like a cabin in the woods or in the desert.  It can be in a quiet room in your home.  It can even be as simple as showing others that you’re having God time, so not to disturb you.  Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, did this by lifting her kitchen apron over her face, so that her 10 children would be quiet for a while.   It is in intimacy that we hear God’s voice.   Often, the Holy Spirit whispers to our heart. The closer you get to him, the softer his voice appears to be. This is normal, so don’t think that you have missed it.  God just wants you to draw your ear even closer to him.    In John 3:10, Jesus says that his sheep hear his voice.  We are his sheep. We need to stop and listen. When you do, you’ll be surprised by his answer.  He loves to speak to us.

Matteus van der Steen shared that when you are in outreach to the poor, you also hear the voice of God clearly. This may be because his heart is with the poor and downtrodden.  When we are close to God’s heart, we share his intimacy in a much deeper way, than when we speak to him in our own comfort.  Jesus became one of us, and left heaven to rescue us. He ultimately stepped out towards us.  When we do likewise, we are identifying with Jesus in yet another way.  God has a heart for the broken.

Mark Virkler also shares about the importance of learning to tune into the spontaneous thought flow that comes from the Holy Spirit. After you quiet yourself down, you tune in, and focus entirely on Jesus. What comes next is a two-way conversation. But it’s important to set aside the desires in your heart that threaten to consume you.  If you don’t do this, you won’t hear God clearly. You’ll get a distorted word that is a mix of your desire, and what you think is God.  You need to set aside these things and allow God to whisper to your heart about who he really is.  And so, it’s about a personal encounter with him that continues as you press in for more.

I’ve spoken many times about hearing God’s voice with our inner ears and seeing his impressions and pictures with our inner eyes.  It’s much like the process of being inspired to write a beautiful poem, or an artist’s creative idea.  Many creatives get their ideas from God, because their spiritual antenna is tuned that way.

Havillah Cunnington at Bethel Church teaches that there are four different prophetic personalities.  These are “hearers,” “seers,”  “knowers” and “feelers.”  If you look at the different Old Testament prophets and New Testament prophetic people, they all have different ways of hearing God.  Of course they do – they all think and feel differently!  While each have small differences, these four are the strongest, most common “types” of prophetic people. Cunnington led a class on the four prophetic personalities, and had four leaders in those styles share with the audience.

Lauren shared that she dominantly “hears” Holy Spirit’s voice.  She hears through words, although these words are not outwardly audible. She shared that she also does a lot of journaling.  She likes to have conversations with God through her journal, by writing out questions. She in return, receives spontaneous words in her thoughts.  I do something similar in my journal, where I italicize the words that I hear from the Holy Spirit.  Lauren shared that it took two years to get into the rhythm of hearing God in that way. Yet through perseverance, and a focus on her relationship with God, she has been given some of the most profound words she’s ever received.  She shared of one such example when she journaled and asked God if he had a heads up – about anything she should prepare for.  She and her husband had lived in their little house for over a year as newlyweds. She received a word very quickly that she was “not going to be living there for very much longer.”  This was despite the couple re-signing another year’s lease on the house.  However, the owner approached them a few weeks later and said that he would like to sell the home.   So she went back to her journal, and there was her recollection of the “heads up” from God.   I received a similar heads up when I was about to be let go from my radio job in British Columbia.  I didn’t heed those words, but I did hear them, not once, but TWICE.

Sometimes if you have this gift, it can be difficult when you don’t hear God in that way.  This happened with me, during when I went through my first desert experience in seminary.  God was attuning me to hear in other ways, and I felt like I had been abandoned.  I didn’t get words as much, and didn’t get pictures either.  But God was still there, accessible by prayer, scripture and worship.  He still spoke through other Christians, common sense and other ways.  It’s important to be open to the many ways God speaks to us.  It really is a trust issue that often involves WAITING.

The next leader who shared was Jared Neusch. He senses Holy Spirit speaking by inner knowing.  He shared that although he heard from God, it wasn’t by hearing words, seeing pictures, or by feeling. He just knows, or as he says, “you know in your knower.”  This is a deeply internal intuition of being led by God.  He says it’s a trust thing.  He would share with his wife about a leading, and say, “I think we’re just supposed to do this.”  His wife hears words and sees pictures, so they encourage each other in how God is leading them as a couple.  God actually confirms what he says through community, for safety.  He uses this gift to hear the voice of God when he is interacting with ministry students.  He would have an idea come into his head that he is supposed to ask a specific question.  This is something that comes into his mind for the first time. It’s not something that he’s decided to implement beforehand, even though Holy Spirit does use our developed human abilities. A knower gets mini impressions, and then is led to trust and follow.

Then Ben shared, as the seer, the person seeing pictures and impressions.  He would joke that he and his wife would pack up and go somewhere because he SAW where they were going. In his case, he left Australia to come to Northern California to minister at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry.  It took a few years for his wife to catch up to him casting a vision for years ahead.  This also sounds like when Tony caught up with me in going to Harvest School and becoming Iris missionaries.  I cast the vision, and had to wait until the right time.  Ben’s wife is a knower, so once she “knew” where they were to go, she caught up to Ben’s vision and bigger picture of the future.

Ben shared that the “best way to describe how God speaks to [him], is like he puts a pair of glasses on.  This is now like the lens in which everything else in life is seen through this perception.  This includes words, information, scripture, interactions with people, and life.   People would give ordinary advice, and he’d say, “that’s great, but I’m seeing through these lenses, I know exactly where I’m going, and I’m not changing direction.”  “When God shows [Ben] something and he gets a prophetic word from someone emailed to [him], those black and white words in the email become a 3-D picture.” He also shared that when Holy Spirit gives him a simple picture, and he shares and pursues it, he’s given more pictures or a movie that follows.  Seers are also given insight. I often rely on this in teaching young children.    While it’s exciting to get these glimpses of what’s ahead, you also have to do life with people and everyday ministry in the present.  If you are a seer, it’s important to have mentors covering you as you are preparing for what’s in the future.  He says you need to be released to dream, but to dream in ‘your season and your time.’  When you submit your dreams to leadership, and are given loving guidance, this also grows trust and stability deeper in you.  While we are talking about different ways of hearing God’s voice, the core of the message is that God is growing identity in you.  He is growing you deeper, and this is done in relationship with him and with others.  Mentors help keep you “on track” and grounded.   Faith can be a component in following the dreams, visions and impressions that are given to a seer.  When you receive the pictures, it seems like this is a “now” thing, while often the unfolding of what’s to come happens in process.   Timing is a big issue.

I’ve received two words that were combinations of pictures and words recently. These were concerning my coming healing.  Both were received in South Africa, although I’ve received words before this time as well.  Every once and a while I get discouraged when this hasn’t yet happened.  I’ve been given daily strength to persevere, until this time comes.  Just recently, our Afrikaans pastor asked people to come to the altar who had unfulfilled dreams. He said that God’s timing will come to us as a surprise, and in that moment, we would receive.  When he said that, it touched my heart.  I decided to return to my seat, since I could only stand so long. As I was on my way there, I was stopped by Penelope, a lady on the ministry team.  She asked me if I had prayer yet, and I said no, although my husband had prayed for me.  She encouraged me and told me that she sensed that my surprise was to come, but that God was sure to bring it.  He wanted to say to me, through her, that he would complete what he started in me.  He would be faithful.  In the meantime, I am invited to lean on God for daily strength. Like Habbakuk 3:19, God would give me strength to endure, like hinds’ legs are strengthened to walk on a mountain.

When you get pictures like this, it feels risky to share them. This is why seers often are so relieved when the people they are speaking into, respond in a positive way.  In my case, Penelope’s words confirmed to me what I already knew deep in my heart.  They were a lovely reminder that I knew was true. As for risk; just look at how Shawn Bolz ministers.  He sees names, phone numbers, and all kinds of details, and after he connects with that person, he speaks life into their situations.  His words are like a knock to the door of their hearts. When they open the door, then Jesus can minister life, hope and blessing through Shawn to them.

Often seers can get impressions that they see right over what is physically happening around them.  My former employer, prophet Darren Canning, gets this all the time. He would see something intriguing, and get an imprint over it, like an extra dimension.  Earlier, I shared that Ben gets this as he’s given a pair of glasses to see in a new way.  I’ve had this too.  It’s like something drops over my eyes and everything around me is put in slow motion.  I perceive something, or I’m given an insight, and I share.  I’ve also seen images superimposed over people. Often it’s the face of Jesus.  This makes sense, since Jesus shared in Matthew 25 that when we serve the least of these, we serve him.  It also makes sense when we see Jesus in other Christians – by perceiving and hearing.  It’s a beautiful experience when it happens.

Abi is a feeler.  She shared of times when she would feel other people’s pain and difficulties as if they were her own. She said that it’s important to learn about who you are, and who you are not.  Often when she would feel what’s going on in the atmosphere, she would know that was because God has put her in the position to bring the opposite. So if she felt hopelessness that wasn’t hers, she would bring hope. Abi shared that many times, her feeler was actually like Jared’s knower.  She also says it’s important to know who she is, since she picks up other people’s feelings.  Since she knows how she thinks and feels, she can discern when she is overwhelmed by completely different feelings.   Abi shares that your heart and mind are meant to be a team, or “buddies.”  We hear God intellectually, and through hearing. We need both systems to be working, in order to be healthy and balanced.  It’s important to have people around you who really know you and love you.  You can be honest with them. It’s important to have this safety net.

So in each of these predominant ways of experiencing God: through hearing, knowing, seeing and feeling; we encounter him.  You may be more of one personality than another, or perhaps you’re a mix of more than one.  I’m not sure I could handle the feeling thing, but I’ve had that on occasion.  I’m much more of a seer, but I’m balanced by words and knowing.  Is one better than another?  No, by no means.  They are all good – they are just different ways of expressing God’s message.  All are meant to point to him.

Have you experienced any of these ways of hearing God’s voice? If you haven’t yet, don’t fear.  Holy Spirit still speaks through scripture, other ways of encounter, soft whispers to your heart, common sense, Christian community and more. Seek him.  Ask him to open your eyes and ears, to hear him.  Sometimes your personality is more suited to some ways, rather than others.  Since I’m an artist, I see pictures.  Tony is a thinker, and he gets spontaneous thoughts and knowing.  Our friend Tanya is a feeler and a knower, and these people are excellent prayer warriors.   But again, hearing God’s voice comes with spending time in relationship with him.  So book yourself some quiet time as a date with God.  He won’t disappoint you.  Even if you’re in the silence waiting for him, he speaks volumes through the silence, not to your head, but to your heart.  The key is patience and persistence. And remember, God wants you to find him.

I’d like to pray with you for just a moment. Lord, I ask you to help us learn the sound of your voice – however you want to speak.  Open our eyes and ears to see you.  Help us to recognize your thumbprint over nature, situations and especially scripture.  Give us dreams and visions, words, pictures and more.  We sit before you like young Samuel, when he said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  Thank you that you draw us into relationship, and you father us in a deep, loving way. Touch the hearts of all who are reading and joining in as you draw them to you.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I’m also continuing to have follow-up cancer treatments here in South Africa.  We tried to return to Canada to resume treatment, but two sets of flights were cancelled, and we were forced into what was then stage 5 lockdown (it is now at level 4, and we cannot fly out until it is at level 1). We couldn’t even move from our home as expected, but we are safe.  I had to receive life-saving cancer surgery in Worcester and am still raising funds for aftercare. At the moment, I’m still very sore from surgery removing my left breast and nearly all the anxilliary lymph nodes. But I am ALIVE, and grateful for God’s help and those who have stepped up to pray for me and to contribute towards the medical costs.  We may need radiation treatments in South Africa as well, if this lockdown continues on too much longer.  L-A’s treatment continues with expensive injections and consult fees every three weeks, as well as recovery from the radical mastectomy.

If you feel led to learn about my medical story and would like to pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow into our Paypal accounthttps://www.paypal.me/waystogrowinGod

If you’d like to hear this article in audio format, read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html)  and scroll down to #54.  Enjoy!  Please let us know if this blessed you!

Blessings, Laurie-Ann

 

 

Growing in God: Learning how to hear God’s voice through the secret place

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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last two articles, we learned of growing through humility.  When you choose the lower path of servanthood, and you remember others more, you will eventually get honoured. Yet while you are in that low place, you can also learn delights.  There is compensation of joy when you forget yourself in service. For those who live only for themselves, they already have their forced reward.  Julie Meyer shared of a time coming that is here for some already. Judgement and being found out is something that is happening among leaders. We are being warned to “go low.”  This means to adopt a humble attitude for real, and not pretend. It means being authentically you, with no pretense. If you make mistakes, as we all do, learn from them. Teach through them, and show that life does not end because you’re not perfect. It shows others how to be real too.  Julie also shared that those who are at the back of the line, when they look to the Lord, are being shown delight at the end of the line. That’s the delight of deep joy and contentment, as we serve Jesus in whatever He has gifted us to do. I get that when I am drawing – both of real things and people, but this fulfillment is even stronger when I’m drawing from impressions that I receive from the Holy Spirit.  I also get delight when Holy Spirit speaks from the secret place, the place where I learned to hear His voice.  Today we’re going to journey about that secret place and how you can carry it with you.  Next time, we’ll learn point by point into different ways you can hear or see his voice.

The secret place is something that prophetic people speak of in a way that it almost seems mystical.  The secret place is also the perfect place to run to in the midst of this current coronavirus pandemic.  Many countries are locked down, and South Africa, where we are right now, is in a severe lockdown.  While you are home, why not spend time in the prayer closet?  Jesus is calling us to intimacy.

I remember Todd Bentley speaking of the secret place when I watched his revival services in Lakeland, Florida in 2008.  What is this place?  It’s not as weird and wacky as you think.  The secret place is also called your prayer closet, or the place you go alone to pray and talk with God.  Some people don’t have the luxury of such a physical place, like Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley.  She had ten children with her almost all the time, so she didn’t have a place where she could be private.  She also grew up with 24 siblings, so she knew large family dynamics. Her signal to the children to be quiet for a time was to wear her kitchen apron over her face.  This meant that she was having time with Jesus. The children honoured her by playing quietly or doing homework assignments without disturbing her.  I find that her story is amazing. Her children must have been impacted by the importance of prayer, and may have sensed just how much she needed it.  After all, John and Charles Wesley were wonderful influencers when they grew up. Susanna’s prayer closet was public, but her face was private.  She was a public example of prayer to her children, but her inner world, or secret place, was with Jesus.

This place can be enhanced by having an actual small room where you can retreat, if it’s available.   The movie “War Room” is all about what happens in prayer birthed from a small room.  That is its purpose.  Here in Worcester, there is a single tree atop a foothill that is a wonderful foreground to the Brandwacht mountains.  This is a spot where many people go to pray.  They call it the Lonely Tree.  Whenever I look at that tree, I smile, since I know it’s a special place.

My special place is in northern England, but while I’m in South Africa and in Canada any place can become the secret place. All I need to do is play soft worship music, soak in it and be still inside my heart. I am a creative, so I’ve always been open to hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. I was that way even when I didn’t know it was he who was speaking to me. Artists stop to create, so I had an advantage.  Most people rush about doing, going and never stopping to even think, except perhaps on the fly.  Hearing God properly requires you to stop and rest.  I specifically remember David, my Foundations of Christian Spirituality professor, say that it’s nearly impossible to hear God’s voice in the midst of an adrenaline rush.  It’s true.

My Iris mentor, or papa, is Brian Britton. He leads a small church in Richmond, Virginia.  I met him in Williamsburg in June 2014, after Tony and I spent a week there.  I was then in a transition period that was to prepare me for becoming a long term missionary.  Tony decided that he wanted to see some of the American naval base in Norfolk, but we didn’t have the clearance to have a glimpse. We were advised at the Nautilus naval museum to take a boat tour that allowed us to see the periphery of the naval ships.  I’m not into naval ships, so I stayed indoors. While I was there, I enjoyed the quiet ambience.  Holy Spirit then whispered into my heart, “you’re about to meet some people who will be very important to you.  They will help grow you spiritually.” Before 2014, I regularly flew to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in conferences and teachings of Patricia King and friends.  From this time on, my “well so to speak,” became Virginia. So far, I have gone six times, with a seventh to come on our home visit this year.  We’ve been able to stay at timeshares there, so it’s a perfect place to receive and relax.

Papa Brian is just one of the people there who speak into both Tony and me. Brian was one of the speakers at our Harvest School in 2016, and I happily took notes.  His subject was about the very core of hearing Holy Spirit’s voice.  He spoke about getting into that special ‘secret’ place.   Here’s what Brian had to share about entering this place.  He based his talk on Psalm 27: 4, “The one thing I ask of the Lord, the thing I seek most, is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.”  The other scripture he read to us was from Matthew 6:6.  In this context, Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, and gave them the Lord’s Prayer as an example.   Jesus said, “ But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  While you can pray in public, it’s not about show. This is a private conversation.

Brian’s guide is simple.  It starts with listening.  First, you come into your real or imaginary prayer closet and shut the door.   You LISTEN.  You don’t just talk to God. Yes, do share your heart, but then you need shut your mouth, and quiet your mind and heart. Nicky Gumbel has a story where one goes to the doctor and shares all their different ailments, then leaves before the doctor can help him. Prayer is like this; it’s a two way conversation.  Brian says that nothing can replace the confidence and glory that you have heard his voice speak to your heart. God is always speaking to us things like “I love you, I’m proud of you, trust me, and don’t give up.”  God is our biggest encourager, and encouragement is one of his gifts.

It is in this place that we learn the sound of his voice. Our inner ears don’t hear through step by step manuals, although these can help gain understanding. We learn by actively listening and hearing the voice of Jesus, our shepherd.  Brian shared that his dad had died 15 years ago, and yet, he still knows the sound of his voice.  Nicky Gumbel also shares on Alpha about recognizing voices on the phone.  Sometimes you can’t quite place who is speaking, so you try to gather details about the person before you can get into the conversation.  Tony bypasses this when he doesn’t recognize who is speaking.  He’s not shy to ask “Who is this?”  This is especially if the person just gives their first name and Tony doesn’t know them well.  Yet if Tony heard my voice on the line, he would recognize me right away.  Nicky shares of a man who calls him Nicholas in a very specific, formal voice.  He recognizes him right away.  It’s the same with God.  The closer we get to him, and the more time we spend with him, the more we recognize his voice. We also have to be aware that not every spontaneous thought that comes into our mind is God.  Sometimes the source is evil, so bear in mind whether that voice is loving and doesn’t go against biblical teaching.  This is another reason why it’s so important to have the discernment that you’re listening to the right voice.

God always affirms you. Some people are uncomfortable with receiving God’s affirmations.  Maybe you don’t think you’re beautiful. Brian says that you have to be comfortable with letting God love you, like a child who knows they are loved.  When children know you love them, they are comfortable to sit on your lap, and in your arms.  They trust you to take their hand to guide them. They learn from you, and like them, you learn also your identity through listening to God.  Some of your identity is grown by listening to the Father sing over you through the Holy Spirit.  CS Lewis shared about this phenomenon when he wrote about Aslan, the Christ figure in the Narnia Chronicles.  Aslan sang the world of Narnia, and each being into existence.  He knew them. He loved them. He knew their identity.  God does the same with us.  Listen to the words of Zephaniah 3:17.  “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty saviour.  He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  God always sings over us. I also love to sing when I share talks.  I’ve done this in Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Kenya. I do this here in South Africa with children.  Singing over children, and even grown children like us, reaches into their hearts, and our hearts, with love.   When you’re in the secret place, you can also ask God questions. You can ask him to open your eyes on how something is made, or you can especially ask him what he thinks of you.  This is a wonderful place to begin, as He heals your heart.

Brian says that we must listen when we are in the secret place. He says that when you know that you are loved, and he has spoken over you, nothing can stop you.  The vision he gives you is yours, it’s your gift from God.  You can hear God for yourself, rather than chasing after prophetic people for words upon words.  Brian shares that prophets are great, but this doesn’t replace you hearing from God for yourself. God speaks through relationship.  Psalm 95 gives us a choice to listen.  It shares, “If only you would listen to his voice today!”  The Psalm also shares of the consequences of not listening, which is not being allowed to experience God’s rest.  While we are invited into that secret place, it is a choice. If you do respond, you will see and experience him there.  You will hear his voice there.  If you do this all the time, pretty soon you’ll see God everywhere.  You can also see Jesus in others more easily and love them more.  Brian also shared that the “secret place also empowers you in difficult times. You stop being grumpy and complaining. You won’t be afraid, because perfect love goes from his lips to your ears.”  You carry the secret place with you. It’s like a garden in your heart.

American teacher Mark Virkler taught me how to journal back in the 90’s, starting from a workshop at a Vineyard family camp. Later I learned from him at church seminars and I asked him to share at a seminary prayer retreat while I was the student prayer coordinator.

Mark shares that journalling is “to stop, listen and write what you hear Holy Spirit say to you.  He says that it’s as simple as quieting yourself down, fixing your inner eyes on Jesus, tuning into spontaneous thought (that isn’t your own), and writing.”  All Christians can do this – whether you’re an analytical thinker like he is, or a creative like me.  We can do this, because Jesus promises us in John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice.”  Virkler says that God’s voice “sounds like spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind, especially as your heart is fixed on Him.”

I learned from him in workshops, and the Communion with God course. However,  you can easily find his book “Four Keys to hearing God’s voice” on Amazon.  He speaks directly to left-brain analytical thinkers, who have difficulty getting themselves out their rigid rational, linear thought.  Do you speak in rational, linear thought when you are talking with a friend?  Or do you speak that way with family members?  No, we don’t, do we? Life and relationships aren’t science experiments.  They are interactive and sometimes messy.  So our communication with God: prayer, isn’t always linear either.

But if you do think in this way, Mark Virkler is a perfect tutor to help you overcome any blocks so you can think more easily in both ways.  Virkler says that the four keys to hearing God’s voice (whether in image or word) are:  stillness, vision, spontaneity and journalling.  Stillness means you must quiet yourself so you can hear God’s voice.  Vision is to look for vision as you pray.  This is when I look for impressions and images to draw.  Spontaneity is to recognize God’s voice as spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind.  Journalling is to write down the flow of thoughts and pictures that light upon your mind.   Journalling also gives you the added depth of returning to your writings later, and discovering deeper truths to what you initially received.  You can also learn to do this all the time, by recognizing God’s voice whatever you’re doing.  It’s all part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to never stop praying.  Other Bible versions call this “praying without ceasing.”  How do we do this?  By being tuned into God’s spontaneous thoughts to you.  This is in keeping your heart and mind open to him always, no matter what you are doing.  We often have ‘arrow prayers’ in the heat of the moment.  When Holy Spirit shares something on the spur of the moment, it’s the reverse. God shoots down an arrow communication to you. It’s for that moment. It is usually a direction, an insight, or a word to be followed up, obeyed and often shared.  We especially rely on insights like these when we are working with township children.

Matteus van der Steen was another well-known Christian leader who taught us at our Harvest School.  He wrote a book called “Dare to Dream,” which was on our recommended reading list. He shares in one chapter about caring for widows, orphans and foreigners.  This is something that his eyes were opened to when he went on short term outreach in Bosnia.  He found appalling conditions.  While he cared for these people, he found it opened his eyes and ears, as well as gave him showers of blessings.  Matteus shares, “I have seen with my own eyes what happens when people commit themselves to serving the poor, the weak, and the outcast. They can suddenly hear and understand the voice of God so much more clearly. Sometimes it’s easy for us to block out the cries of the needy if they are filtered through something our friends tell us about, the internet, or media like television and newspapers. But the more we ignore what God is calling us to do, the less we will be able to form or maintain a relationship with Him. We can also convert this warning into a promise: whoever heeds the cry of the poor will be heard and helped by God when they cry out for help.”

When we do not help these people, through sins of negligence, or deliberate selfishness, God doesn’t hear our prayers.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that people in this position have hardened their hearts so much that they continue to walk away from God. They also don’t know God’s heart of mercy for the broken. Ezekiel 16 shares that Sodom was not cursed due to its great sins, but rather for not helping the poor and the needy.  Both the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy mention that caring for the asylum seekers is part of the law – either through a partial tithe, or through harvest gleanings.  When we open our hearts and follow these principles, we hear God’s voice more clearly.  We also share in his heart, because he has compassion on these people, and loves them as much as he loves us. We are part of his solution.  So when we are in the townships, or with a person who needs the love of God, don’t be surprised if you hear direction, feel compassion and are given inspiration to do something.

Remember, the Holy Spirit speaks to you in your secret place. This is your prayer closet, which is also internalized in your heart to take with you everywhere you go. All you need to do is to find a quiet spot, still yourself and focus on Jesus.  You can do soaking prayer with music, you can journal with a pen and paper, or on your computer.  Sometimes pen and paper is better, so you don’t get distracted by social media.  Remember, hearing God’s voice is by invitation.  He is always speaking, and always inviting us.  Stop, and say yes. That’s how it starts.  Often the first way of hearing God is through reading scripture. Once you memorize and let scripture transform you, those words are now IN you.  They are flowers in the garden of your heart. Holy Spirit will remind you of specific words at specific times. This too is a part of learning how to hear God’s voice.

During our next broadcast, we will journey through steps of the different ways to hear God’s voice:  impressions, pictures, words, whispers, inner knowing and seeing his imprint over things and people.  This is a skill to develop in, but also a gift that blesses us as we grow in our relationship with God.

Lord, I ask you to help us to hear and recognize your voice.  Some people may hear you but not know that you’re speaking to them.  They may think it’s strange, and yet they don’t understand how inspiration works.  Give them the gift of getting beyond analytical thinking.  To the creatives, give the ability to discern which voice is your voice.  You are the ultimate creator, and we want to hear what is genuine, what is true.  Thank you that your words to us are life – in scripture, and spoken word to our hearts.  Help us to grow in it.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I’m also continuing to have follow up cancer treatments here in South Africa.  We tried to return to Canada to resume treatment, but two sets of flights were cancelled, and we were forced into severe lockdown. We couldn’t even move from our home as expected, but we are safe.  I may need to have surgery in South Africa, rather than what was planned in Canada. If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and/or to pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page and scroll down to #53.

Enjoy!  Please let me know if this blessed you!

Blessings, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God: Growing through humility 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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last article, we journeyed through what humility is.  It’s elusive if you seek it in your own strength, but necessary to promotion and receiving honour.  CS Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  Self-focus and self-effort only bring the very opposite of humility, even if your prime focus is to BE humble.  That brings you to religious pride, which can be a very dangerous counterfeit to true humility.  For those looking for authentic faith, this is a definite turn-off for many seekers who want to come to church.   True humility is not entitlement or selfishness in any way.  Again, that points to pride, in thinking you deserve something much more than someone else does.

Last year, I discovered a novel series about Andrew Murray, a 19th century dominee who was part of the Cape Awakening in the 1860s. He wrote a lot of wonderful books that are still available today.  He struggled with pride and self-sufficiency and learned the way of surrender and humility.  The novel writer, Olea Nel, shares about Andrew’s life in Graaf Reinet, Bloemfontein, and will eventually get to his time in Worcester.  In her third novel, she shares about a religious elder called Venter.  Venter was a “proud, psalm-singing Dopper, originally from the Northern Cape.  “Doppers,” he was told, “do not strut about showing their newest wears. That’s pride on display and against the Bible’s teaching.  No, Dominee, Doppers strive to be humble.”  [Andrew] had smiled inwardly at this retort because, contrary to his assertion of being humble, he wore his threadbare jacket with great pride.”  [He] couldn’t help thinking how appropriate the nickname Dopper was.  They were like candle snuffs, always snuffing out what they regarded to be novelties.” They didn’t like the ‘new’ hymns of the church, but sang from the book of Psalms. [Someone explained to Murray] that for the Doppers to feel free to sing hymns, they required marginal notes to be included alongside the verses, in the same fashion as they appeared opposite the Psalms in the old Staten Bybel of 1637.”   It is very easy in the struggle to be humble to fall into its counterfeit – false humility and religious pride.  Ultimately, this not only is anti-humble, but it is anti-Holy Spirit.  It would seek to shut down anything new that the Holy Spirit may want to introduce.

So what are the stumbling steps to humility?  Some blocks are subtle, like self-effort and self-focus. Other blocks include pride, ambition, arrogance, and offence.  Sometimes we forget who we are in the context of God and the world. Downton Abbey fans can imagine Mrs. Hughes asking an out of turn maid, “who do you think you are?”  But it’s true.  Who do we think we are?  Self-made people who run in circles and smugly smile and look down on others?  People who denigrate ourselves in self-hated?  I attended two Pastoral Care Ministry Schools with Leanne Payne in the 1990’s.  At one of these schools, Leanne shared that self-hatred is actually a form of pride.  It’s considering yourself worthless, when Jesus chose to die for you.  He sees you of infinite worth, and worth saving.   So we will journey through pride.

Ah, pride. The very worst of the seven deadly sins: it’s deep and devious.  It’s also the sin that caused Lucifer to fall from heaven.   And it’s the one that we must give up first to come to faith, since pride holds you back from receiving what you need most: God’s love.  The strongest scripture about that is one that the song “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord” is about.  This passage was written by Jesus’ half-brother, James, the head of the Jerusalem church.  Listen to his words from James 4:14-16:  “As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

This scripture is not against laughter and joy, but rather not to let these be tainted by pride.  This is about repentance, after all. Pride is like poison that ruins everything it touches.  Is it any wonder that God hates it.  Proverbs 11 notes that “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility, comes wisdom.”  Proverbs 16:18 states this in even stronger terms: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”   One example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son.  In Luke 15, the younger son wanted his inheritance early. He went off and squandered it.  He thought he was better than his dad and wanted his own way.  But after he was reduced to extreme poverty, where he was forced to eat pig food, he came to his senses, and returned home.   Like this prodigal, we also can be given the grace to return home as a loved child, not as a servant.

We also need to turn away from selfish ambition and pride.  Jon Bloom shares that selfish ambition is a sin that always seems to be “crouching at the door” as it did with Cain in Genesis 4:7.  This was the motivation that caused the first murder.  Bloom shares that “it contaminates our motives for doing just about anything.” It even shows up in a holy moment like the Last Supper, as it did for Judas in Luke chapter 22.  But Luke also shows us how Jesus frees us from the suicidal slavery of selfish ambition.   Bloom shares that Jesus’s final meal before the cross was perhaps the most ironic time the Twelve debated over who was the greatest.  Jesus was and is the greatest human being who would ever walk the earth, the Founder and Perfecter of their faith.” Yet, He shared dinner with them.  He was the only one in the room without sin.  He washed their feet, he served them, instituted the new Passover of communion, and he loved them.   Bloom shares that “this was no time for any disciple to assert his own greatness, except the greatness of his sin. What’s more ironic is what ignited the debate. Jesus had just revealed that one of them that very night would willingly participate in the most spectacular sin in history: the slaughter of the Son of God. And yet somehow the introspection and inquiry that followed ended up in a competition over who was greatest.”   What a contrast!

I’ve even read of examples from Heidi Baker, one of the most humble people I’ve ever met.  But even she has had moments.  During the conference season of several years, she heard other speakers whose style featured what she called “notes and quotes.” She was temporarily swayed twice to adopt that style, since she was smart enough to wow the audience with just as much intelligence.  However, both times she was stopped from sharing in this way.

The first time, she was glued to the floor by the Holy Spirit in front of the bookstore.  She just wanted to go into the store and buy the right books, speed read them and share that way.  She wasn’t allowed to, and instead when it was time, shared what the Holy Spirit wanted her to share – something deeply profound that often bypasses the mind, right to the heart.  The second time it happened, she managed to prepare a talk, using a pastor’s library.  But then she again was glued to the floor, and had to be carried onto the stage.  And her talk notes were spread everywhere.  She became a fool, and then was used to deliver the message that she was given, when she let go of her pride to receive it.

Sometimes we can be caught up in a blinding power of pride that can slip in when we’re not expecting it.  In Heidi’s example, it was when she compared herself to the other speakers. One of my Ottawa pastors, Shawn Gabie, says that “Comparison is a calling killer.”  It blinds you to your own calling, your own style, and your own message – that very message that the Holy Spirit puts in you to share.   Our friend and colleague Mella often says that we need what the Holy Spirit says through each other.  So in my case, you are receiving counsel from the Lord with the flavour of Laurie-Ann.  Other times, it’s with the flavour of Tony.  But always remember who is really speaking.  We don’t always recognize it until stops us and pierces our hearts.  Don’t be preoccupied with your own place of prominence in what God will do, or be distracted by the style of another ministry.

One prophetic worship leader has a beautiful ministry in poetry and dreams.  Her name is Julie Meyer.  She has several words on humility, and a dream on judgement, some of which is already happening.  Leaders in the church have been exposed of their secret sins, politicians are exposed in secret scandal.  This is all part of rivers of righteousness bringing justice, despite the world growing cold and ultra-liberal in other ways.    Julie shares, she believes “the eyes of the Lord are searching for those who embody and embrace humility.  Even in the conference world, you come into contact with great pride.” She says that the Lord is “really looking for those that delight in the lowest places.”  She had a dream, that made her excited.  She saw the Lord just take the Body [of Christ] and knead it like dough. If you’re the dough, it doesn’t look fun. But his eyes were always very joyful. In the dream he said, “Those who are at the front, I’m sending to the back; so they can learn with GREAT joy, [and] how to have delight at the end of the line.

Then he said, those at the back, I’m going to move to the front, because I want them to learn to embrace humility.  There are those at the front of the line that live their lives in the greatest of humility.  Their position will not be touched.  There are those at the back of the line that live their lives in great pride and ambition. This is not good. Their position would not be touched.  He said that those who feel that they are irreplaceable, will be the first ones replaced.  I tell you, because his eyes are searching for righteousness. The church right now does not look any different from the world.   [Yet] he is stirring the sound of an abundance of rain.    With every raindrop that falls to the earth, the Lord is saying, I’m giving you grace upon grace.  What he said was this, ‘it’s not like you have to climb the mountain of holiness in one day.

But he said, ‘do this. It’s day by day, step by step, choice by choice, and yes by yes.  It’s one day at a time, one step at a time, one choice at a time, one yes at a time. What that means, I just that this knowing, because I don’t know that I can live totally holy the rest of the week. It’s my heart, but I do know that my next choice today can be a yes for God.  And I do know that even that after that choice, I can make another choice that’s a yes for God.  In this dream, it was so awesome, because he said, ‘If you live this simple rule, day by day, the things that tripped you up yesterday, you will tread upon tomorrow.   He wants us to pray.  As much as you want to defend,  it is a time to go low, because it’s going to happen, so go low and pray.   We [must] pray and really press into the Lord, without offense. It’s time for us to be without offense and absolutely love and passionately position ourselves at the end of the line and learn great delight there.  We can have great delight at the back of the line, in the lowest places, because that’s how Jesus Christ lived; and that’s how he wants us to live.  I believe that we’re in for the best of times and the worst of times.   I believe that he is speaking clearer than he has spoken before.  I want to go low, I want to love back.  I want to encounter him, and we need to go low and pray.”

Julie shares another of her dreams in a song.   This dream showed an encounter of heaven, similar to what the Apostle John had in the book of Revelation.  In this context, Julie saw a coming fire and water visitation where we need to go low.  Going low means humility, but in the context of this dream, holiness and justice came like judgement from heaven to earth.  It’s too easy to fall by our own pride and selfishness, and point at others who are being exposed in scandal, whether in politics, the church or in the secular world. This isn’t about fear, but about humility.   At the core of the dream Julie shares, “I saw people looking up at this wick burning and coming to planet earth.  I saw people fall face down.  I saw people go low. But the people that remained standing were burnt like coal.  I kept asking, why?  I kept hearing ‘go low, go low.’ Humility. Pray.  As justice rolls, go low. Go low.  The angel is sent with a message, and all the people of God humble themselves and pray.  Go low so as not to be consumed.”   Wow. How important it is to remember that we can easily fall, but for the grace of God.

Arrogance also stumbles our walk into humility.  Tony and I learned about this when we attended Harvest School.  Most people recoil away from arrogance, usually by anger and self-defence.  Arrogance can show as racism, anger and snobbery. It’s ugly, and grieves the Holy Spirit.  One of the Harvest School speakers was RT Kendall, who is very wise. There were two of his talks that hit home.  One was on absolute forgiveness. The other was on a balance of Word and Spirit, where he talks on the division in the church between charismatics and Bible based believers.  We need to be both so we grow well.  But in this context, he shared how we need to be like doves, gentle and humble.

Yet many of us are like angry pigeons.  Pigeons are a nuisance.  Yet the only difference between doves and pigeons is their temperament.  Physically they are exactly the same bird. The Holy Spirit has been depicted in scripture as like a gentle dove, and when Jesus was baptized, he sat on Jesus’ shoulder in that form.  Kendall shared that the Holy Spirit wants to do that with us as well, but any sign of arrogance, pride, and the like grieves him, and he distances himself.   So when we become more humble, the Holy Spirit’s presence is more evident in our lives.

We need to journey past offence, or even better, don’t take offence at all. RT Kendall spoke about forgiveness, which is essential in getting past offence. But you can consciously choose not to be offended in the first place.  Going low is not just humility. It’s also refusing to be offended.  Patricia King calls this choice taking our place in a “love war,” where the love of God within you is being tested.  Some people really do press all our buttons, and get us upset.  Their brokenness provides evil forces to use them to test you.  But the key to stop that threat is love in humility.   And the action of humility is service.

So we journey into servanthood like Jesus.  Jesus taught us that if you want to be great, you must be the servant of all.  The kingdom is opposite to the world – the first becomes last, and the last becomes the greatest.  This service and humility is not a one-off thing that we muster for in our own strength.  That’s not humility.  That’s religion.   I recently began reading a book in preparation of our upcoming home visit to Canada.  It is called “Re-Entry – Making the Transition from Missions to a Life at Home” by Peter Jordan.  It was about the reverse culture shock returning missionaries feel, but it was also about the danger of not using your mission work as a badge of honour.  This false badge would be used to be served rather than to serve.  Jordan says that “A returning missionary should come home humble, not haughty. If your experience on the mission field has matured you, it should work itself out in your life through more patience and less criticism. Beware of criticizing your church. One of the best ways to make the adjustment back to life in the local church is through being a servant. Christ took on the form of a servant.  The meaning of the words in the original Greek make it very clear that Christ did not come into the world pretending to be a servant, or as an actor acting out the role of a servant.  Rather, He WAS a servant.”  Servanthood is the model [that] God wants [us] to follow.”

Humility is the core of remembering who Jesus is and who we are.  We are not worms to be stepped on, but we are also not equal partners with God.  Heidi Baker shares from “Living from the Presence,” that we need God, the great I AM; not an equal partner.  We need Somebody who can absolutely fix us, the One who has control, who can change hearts, finish what He began in us, and is able to present us before the throne without fault with great joy in His presence.  We need Almighty God; the one we depend on every day in Africa.  Without Him, we could never exist with all the crises we encounter.

When we press into God’s Presence seeking intimacy with Him, if we have some seriously wrong ideas about Him, our relationships will be tainted and stymied. … [Our view of him would be distorted and false]  See God for who He is and respond to him accordingly.  This will change everything.”

Humility means active submission, but not grovelling. Humility and submission are partners.  Scripture tells us that we are to submit to one another in lowliness of mind. The Apostle Peter shares in 1 Peter 5: 5-6, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  When we are submissive and “clothe ourselves with humility” we can create peace and unity with others. We are not to be so proud and high up that we can’t accept correction and constructive criticism. Neither should we be of the mindset that our own opinions and thoughts always are better than the others. Such thinking won’t lead us to spiritual maturity.

At the same time, being submissive and humble does not mean in any way, shape or form that we are to bow down to other people. We are not to be a doormat or to fall into people-pleasing. The Apostle Paul was very clear when he said that we are to serve God and God alone. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:23. “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world!” He also wrote in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Humility also does NOT mean lack of self-worth or self-esteem.  Humility gives inner strength.  Lack of self-worth seems more like a bruised, broken and traumatized spirit.  This is something that the Lord can heal as he makes us strong as our identity as a child of God.  Confident and loved children do not put themselves down, yet they are teachable.  It’s important to be submissive in accepting correction, being teachable and not thinking of ourselves as superior, we need to please God with our lives.  This should be our focus: to humble ourselves under God’s will for us; to live to keep his commands, and especially not try to meet human demands and expectations.

Humility does not mean that we are silent, or passive people.  We can serve the Lord with zeal, diligence and be what Paul calls in Romans 12:11, “fervent in spirit in serving the Lord.” This means we use our spiritual gifts, talents and abilities for him. This is done within the context that these gifts are not entirely for our benefit.  God desires to be able to use us to his glory and purpose.  Nellie Owens shares that “humility is that we use our talents and capabilities under God’s direction and leading. We need to give him the honour and glory for all that is accomplished in and through our lives.  He uses our actions, works and even our story to impact lives.  1 Peter 4:10-11 shares:   “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

And finally, humility is the key to progress in your spiritual walk.  It’s the key to promotion.  At the same time, it can be a key to progress in employment.  What employer trusts a prideful employee?  Humility opens doors to learning lessons without pain.  Humility opens the door to honour.  Proverbs 15:33 shares that the “fear of the Lord teaches wisdom [and] humility precedes honour.  And so this is the same humility that Jesus shows in Philippians 2, as I shared in my last article.

When we allow humility to grow in our hearts, wonderful things happen, even in difficult times.  You are given the grace to overcome. You are given the deepness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Like RT Kendall’s illustration, the dove will not depart from your shoulder.  Instead of grieving him, you’ve invited him to stay with you.    Nellie Owens shares that if we are of this humble mindset, we will make unbelievable progress in our Christian lives!  God pays very close attention to our hearts, and he’s eager to strengthen those who desire to live for him in this way.  Isaiah chapter 66:1–2 make this point.  “This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Could you build me a temple as good as that?  Could you build me such a resting place?  My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine.  I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”

And so the journey into humility requires climbing down.  Imagine going kloofing – hiking into narrow mountain valleys.  The hiking journey gives added strength physically, mentally, and spiritually.  And this journey takes in all that, as well as re-molding you emotionally, volitionally and spiritually.  Your choices become stronger as you choose the low road, which curiously is the highest road of all.   Along the way, you shed pride, selfish ambition, arrogance, offence and self-focus.  And on the path, you discover who you really are and who you are meant to be.  The servant becomes the star.

May the Holy Spirit bless you deeply with true humility, and strength from inside you.  When you are tempted to go the way of pride, remember you have a choice. Choose the best way.

Lord, I ask you to bless each person reading my words – with a deep realization that you have blessed us in so many ways.  Touch our hearts with the realization that you are making a home there.  Your gentle knock is at the door of our hearts.  Lord, we let you in.  Come and spend time with us.  Transform us deep within.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m also continuing cancer treatments here in South Africa.  We return to Canada to resume treatment in April 2020.  If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and/or to pitch in you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal:   https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page  and scroll down to #52.

Enjoy!  Please let me know if this blessed you!

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God: Growing through Humility Part 1

(Above is one of the images from Laurie-Ann’s first prophetic colouring book, “Colouring with Jesus.”)  We hope to publish this very soon in Worcester, South Africa).

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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we continued our journey on hope.  During the first installment on hope, we discovered many of the places where hope is mentioned in the Bible.  Hope is mentioned 190 times, especially in the book of Psalms.  The Psalms are full of passages on hope, and advise readers many times to have hope in God.  This hope is not a wispy wish, but is something as strong as a rope on a life preserver. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised.  It ties in with trust in God’s promises.   Hope doesn’t have a specific time-line, but it is future based, while faith believes more in the NOW.  Still, hope is an essential stepping stone to faith.

I conducted a survey of my Facebook friends to gauge their view of hope.  Many of the answers were very powerful, including my friend Brenda. She shared that she believes hope is “that inner joy with motivation to expect that promised thing to manifest at any moment!  Everyone seems to have their favourite scripture on hope, and the one that often comes to mind is 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.”  That hope includes restoration, healing and more.

Then we went through ten ‘take-aways” on hope, to help us remember when we hit hard times.   Hope moves us forward, so we don’t get stuck in our wallowing.  Hope gives us the energy to move.  You CAN do this.  Let’s encourage each other with hope to move on.   Hope lightens our darkness, so we can see our way forward.  Hope increases the faith that we have.

Hope is contagious – and this is where community spirit comes in.  The folkies love this aspect of hope for a great song.  But it IS true.  Hope brings healing – especially to the heart.  Hope and depression do not mix.  Hope is practical.  It does not sit passively, but works for the better.  Hope purifies us in the struggle, and especially in persecution. Hope stabilizes us in the storm, so we become stronger. And hope defends us against lies that drag us to doubt and despair.  So we do have a hope and a future.  We need only ask God for it.  He’s had it for us all along.   There is another way to grow in God that takes hands with hope.  And that is humility.

Humility is often understood as meekness, lack of vanity, modesty and lack of pride.  While humility may seem outwardly modest, it’s not just a lack of vanity or pride.   Humility is not synonymous with meekness, which is a fruit of the Spirit, though they are related.  Is meekness humility with added long suffering and perseverance?  Or are both a form of strength with a gentle touch?  Perhaps.  We’ll journey over that another day.

Humility is strong, not weak.  Jesus’s humility is a huge example for us, as is shown in Philippians 2:3-5.   “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  With these statements the Apostle Paul shares what some call the Philippians Hymn – an ancient creed that showed the depth of Jesus’ humility by how far he went to rescue us.  Due to this extreme love and self-sacrifice, he was given the highest honour.   Humility is actually a prerequisite for honour.

Here is the whole creed, from verses 5-11. “May you have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he  made himself nothing; by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I love this scripture so much, that I had it recited at our wedding. To me, it’s the very core of our faith and the nature of Jesus.  It’s love in the clothes of humility. That’s part of who Jesus is.  But what about us?  How can WE grow in humility? Honestly, I don’t think it’s something we can do on our own – it must be grown IN us.  When we are left to our own devices, we can be anything BUT humble.  If we try on our own to outwardly mimic humility, it’s fake.  And then you could brag about those humble acts, and be shown for the actor you are.  You want to be real.

There’s a reason why humility is a fruit of the Spirit, although the word humility comes up alongside the words “meekness,” “kindness,” “forebearance,” “long-suffering” and gentleness, depending on which Bible translation you use.   Fruit takes time to develop. Since humility is a key virtue in relationships, this is exactly where it needs to grow.    Pete Miller believes that true humility is a quality that many Christian men and women desire.  He says it’s “not a value to be concealed, as if it expressed weakness; but rather, it’s a precious gift that should be revealed.  Humility is the (very) opposite of pride, which caused Lucifer to be cast out from the presence of God.”

The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:2, to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Humility is the very opposite of selfish ambition or vanity.  We are to value others above ourselves.   While it’s important to remember others, it doesn’t mean that we are to treat ourselves badly. John the Baptist said in John 3:30, that He (or Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I (as in John), must become less and less.  John wasn’t putting himself down – he was putting his ministry in perspective to prepare the way for Jesus.  So how do we value others and ourselves in proper perspective?

It means that we need to think of ourselves less often. CS Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  Most of us are pretty self-focused for different reasons.  Humility is the ability to realize that and remember the person next to you.   We also need to see others through the Holy Spirit’s perspective. Mama Heidi does this when she stops for the one, or her divine appointment of that moment. She is given the insight and compassion to see them as not just someone in need, but someone that God really loves.  And in that moment, you actually feel God’s love for that person.  This has happened to me many times with children, but also with others that I’ve met.  Each time it’s deeply personal and intensely compassionate.

Becoming humble means that you don’t need to always be right in a discussion.  You don’t need to be bolstered by other people’s approval. You can be generous to the other person when they disagree.   Pete Miller shares that “people who are genuinely humble do not draw attention to themselves, or attempt to advance a personal agenda.  Although the biblical definition of humility shows lowliness of mind, it is NOT frailty, or timidity.  There is no fear or cowering.  Humble believers recognize they don’t know it all, and they seek to know God, who is all-knowing. Humility makes us teachable, and willing to submit to God’s instruction.  The humble Christian is not a doormat or a pushover.  They confidently put their trust in God, and do not act arrogantly.

Humility also means that you are not entitled to certain successes that others may have.  These successes may be well-paying jobs, a valued role in the town or church, or may even be a happy family enjoying well-earned holidays.  We need not be envious of these, for we may have different experiences.  These are blessings from God, not entitlements. They aren’t our identity.   Humility also means that we deepen our relationship with God. CS Lewis shared, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”  Humble people actually look UP.  What they see is the vast love of God for his creation, and this alters how they see everyone else.

Humility is highly relational and VERY counter-cultural in so many places.  We were shown this by the campus pastor of Hillsong Somerset West, on a recent visit.  The morning brought load shedding, so the local pastor shared how to be a counter cultural Christian to the culture around us.  He said that living in this fashion would cause people to take notice – being kind, in situations where there is just the opposite, having integrity where others are corrupt, and so many more.  Yet I remember his example of humility as being one of the most counter-cultural ways of living out the gospel, even down to Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Try that in a gang-infested township.  It doesn’t challenge the gangster’s authority, except to wonder why you are willing to hear them out.

Veronica Neffinger from Crosswalk believes that the very nature of humility seems counterintuitive to most of our cultures’ values.  In the West, we applaud independence, assertiveness, fame, success and self-reliance.  Humility “often feels like a paradox, but it’s consistent with Jesus’ teachings.”  For example, listen to Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Or perhaps this scripture passage from Mark 8:36:  “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

So how can we learn to be humble?  How can we have a teachable spirit?  We need to first pray for it.   I believe that our heavenly Pappa wants to give us good gifts.  The apostle James reminds us in James 1:17 that “whatever is good and perfect, is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”  Neffinger believes that He wants to bless us with humility – because having a humble and teachable spirit allows us to experience more joy and peace.  It opens the door for so many good things.

Second, we need to support leaders who are humble.  It’s easy to honour them, but give them encouragement, and learn how they submit their leadership to God. You may even want to be mentored by them. I was seeking that form of leadership when I found my Iris papa, Brian, who leads the Iris affiliate church in Richmond, Virginia.  It was his humility, as well as wisdom and compassion that impressed me – and still does.  He had the Iris DNA.  We’ve also learned from our own Iris base leaders, Johan and Marie, who are also gentle and humble, and yet strong and loving.

Third, imagine your worst enemy at the foot of the cross. This may be a person who has tormented you, or someone you’ve not yet forgiven.  While our real enemy is not flesh and blood, sometimes a person can seem like our worst opponent.   But if you actually pray for that person, you can begin to see that they need Jesus as much as you do.  We all need lots of grace.

Fourth, study Jesus’ humility in the Gospel of Luke.  Use a highlighter. Pay attention to how he lived his humanity in a humble way, even though he is God. Watch how he interacted with people.

Fifth, we need to “weed out” media that negatively affects how you act with others.   Neffinger advises that “social media often has the tendency to make us envious, snarky and prideful.”  Just look at Instagram with impossibly pretty faces in a perpetual pout.  In my case I may see nasty, trolling comments on Facebook, or even on Quora.  It’s important for me to put my phone away and take a break.  This nastiness has a negative impact on us.  We might rise up in pride and anger, when we need to be in the opposite.  Offence can be very dangerous and opens the door to all kinds of bitterness and pain. So put on some worship music, ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse the junk from your mind, and choose the way of humility.

Mama Heidi Baker tells us at Harvest School,  to go “Low and slow.”  This means low as in humble, and slow as in stopping to learn and not force your way forward.  While she means this in a missionary context, it’s also true with many people you meet.  Some people may be so broken,  so angry and so entrenched in their ways, that they cannot feel love.  But they can recognize kindness and humility.  They do know when they are at last being heard.

Sixth, we need to cultivate humility through the Holy Spirit. This takes time, so be patient as God works in your life. True Humility needs to be real, and not something we do in our own strength.  Humility includes self-denial, for good reasons, not out of duty, but out of love. False humility looks like religiously denying ourselves.  Most of us can spot that a mile away.   Some examples of false humility include:  Denying ourselves to make a point, denying ourselves to feel better about ourselves, and denying ourselves as an excuse to be lazy. This may look like a martyr complex, where a person says, “Whatever, we’ll do it your way,” when it’s clear that they still want their own way.   It can also look like “I’ll do this because you want to do it,” rather than “Ok, let’s do it.” That’s more people-pleasing than being humble.  The third example is not speaking your own opinion because we may be using a keep-the-peace mentality out of fear.  Again, this is people-pleasing and not truly honouring.  True humility involves being who God created us to be, and not either hiding our opinions, or cramming it down another’s throat. Humility is strong, yet gentle.

So humility is one of the inner keys in the kingdom.  I’ve heard many pastors speak on the value of the ‘incredible upside down kingdom.’ This means that God’s way is often opposite to what we encounter in the world.  Unfortunately, sometimes the world’s values in these matters are only too common in the church.  Lord, please forgive us.  It takes time to weed out the things that keep us from becoming like Jesus.  Pride, haughtiness, arrogance, and unforgiveness are among the worst that hurt our relationships with each other, and with God.  So we seek the low road of humility.  And in time, we will be honoured too.  Just look at Haman, the villain of the Book of Esther.  He was the very opposite of humble when he tried to destroy the Jews of his time.  He was brought low at the end, and the man he tried to destroy was honoured. That’s just one example in the Bible.

We’ll journey more through learning about humility next time.   May the Holy Spirit bless you deeply with true humility, and strength from inside you.  When you are tempted to go the way of pride, remember that it’s God who gives you your talent, and opens your doors.

Lord, I ask you to bless each person listening to my voice – with a deep realization that you have blessed us in so many ways.  You are the one who opens the good opportunities, and you are the one who give us talents in our work.  You make us in all different ways, and it is good.  Give us a realization that you made us deeply creative, thinking people, who are capable of great things.  Let us not forget you when we create something beautiful, for you had a hand in it.  Teach us to be humble, without having to go through the lesson of pride, tripping us up like falling over a rock on a mountain climb.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear this article in audio format read by Laurie-Ann, visit our podcast page  and scroll down to #51.

I’m also continuing cancer treatments here in South Africa.  We return to Canada to resume treatment in April 2020.  If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and or pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Maranatha singers “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord”

 

Growing in God: Growing in Hope 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, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we learned how important hope is – both the regular human hope in the midst of difficult circumstances, and the Christian hope in the resurrection and the eventual overturn of evil.  The Psalms are full of passages on hope, and advise many times for believers to hope in God.  This hope is not a wispy wish, but is something as strong as a rope on a life preserver. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised.  It ties in with trust in God’s promises.   Hope doesn’t have a specific time-line, but it is future based, while faith believes more in the NOW.  Still, hope is an essential stepping stone to faith.

Hope is mentioned in the Bible 190 times. Some of those examples give us glimpses of hope as an anchor in stormy seas. One friend told me that she sees “hope as the anchor of the soul.”  Hope is also a stabilizer that gives courage, perseverance and in a sense, joy.  My friend Brenda shares that she believes hope is “that inner joy with motivation to expect that promised thing to manifest at any moment!”  This is after the occasional times of panic and weariness while we are waiting for resolution. Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Hope brings expectation in One who is bigger than ourselves.  After all, we are given a promise in Jeremiah 29 verse 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.”  That hope includes restoration, healing and more.

Last week when I was writing on hope, I conducted a survey of my Facebook friends, asking them for their view of hope.  From folk musicians, I was given two great original folk songs about hope.  I played one of them by Eileen McGann, about looking up in hope, on one of  our Worcester Report shows on CWCP Radio.  And so, hope DOES cause us to lift up our heads, rather than look down and mourn. Hope reminds us that we have much to live for.  Not only do we have the future, but we have many gifts in the present – including friends, family, and so much more.

From non-Christians who doubt the existence of God, there was philosophical discussion about other faiths and philosophies, but not a personal view of hope.  The comment from one of them started with:  “Even though today, humanity experiences the best living conditions, greatest life expectancy, and easiest living with minimal pain and suffering in the history of mankind, life can still be unappealing to many people.  Indeed there are those (anti-natalists) who say life is not worth living at all and claim that it is immoral to bring children into the world.  Then he began to discuss religion as being a classic example of a coping mechanism. […] Hope is for those who struggle but lack the cognitive training for mindfulness. Those who don’t struggle may perhaps still hope to find a purpose in life.

When I mentioned that the current craze of superheroes also showed a strong measure of hope, I was given this answer:  Yes, fascination with superheroes is similar except people don’t think superheroes exist.  Well, it is true that the comic super-heroes may not exist, although try telling that to those who love to spend their lives in cosplay or in comic book conventions.   Do they have real hope, or are they happy to just bury their feelings and enjoy fantasy?  His wife shared that “hope can be (destructive) if it’s based on empty pipe dreams, but hope can also lead to meaningful actions that bring about the said hope. I’m thinking climate change if we as a species can pull our fingers out of our various orifices (including, but not limited to, our ears)!  This second view is on par with the folkie dream of a collective set of people coming together to make change.  This is a good thing to do in community for hope in our future generally.  However, it’s not the Christian concept of hope.   While this hope is supernaturally based, it’s also incredibly personal.   My friend Nano shared, “This winter I had a revelation of our Father God who just who enjoys me as his child so I can sing and dance with gratitude towards all He has done and all He will do. I remain open to new adventures while I pass through valleys of testing.  […]  Hope helps me rise above my circumstances knowing that I have a greater reward than anything the enemy tries to fling at me.”

Hope helps you to persevere, so your heart doesn’t get sick.  Two friends shared about not giving up.  One of them said, “Hope is never giving up.  Without hope, you have nothing.  Hope makes you move forward to the future.”  This was said by a lady who had persevered through incredibly hard times this past year, despite having a huge heart towards the downtrodden. She’s taking that hope with her this year, while walking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

Hope also is part of completely relying on God.  My regular prayer partner Diane shared of her hope, the same hope that has grown her into a very strong woman. She said, “through many experiences where I needed to depend on God completely, I have come to believe in His promises, I know He has a plan for my life and my role in life is to fulfill it. Every day, I look forward to making a difference in the lives of the people I meet, and in speaking up for good and not for evil.”  So in Diane’s example, hope inspires.   And another friend reminded me of the deepest hope of all – Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Apostle Paul wrote about the precious mystery we carry inside us – like treasure in clay pots. We are the clay – and Jesus living in us through the Holy Spirit is the hope of glory.  We are God’s plan to love the world and show them Jesus.  There is no plan B. We are messengers and ambassadors of hope.   The NLT version finishes Colossians 1 verse 27 by adding that because Christ lives IN us, “this gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”   So in a way, God can be superhero through us, but it is really God who is touching the hearts and situations.  We’re just the vessel.

We have many reasons to hope. Let’s reorient the reasons in a simple way so we have something to take home with us for later.   David Murray compiled ten ways in which Christian hope helps us in our walk with God.   Hope moves us forward.  “Christian hope is a realistic expectation of and joyful longing for future good, based on the reliable word of God. The more we long for the future, the less we will yearn for the past. Hope deletes regrets and underlines expectation.  It increases momentum towards the future.”

Hope energizes the present.  Hope makes life worth living right now, because tomorrow is so much brighter.  Murray says that “what’s doomsday for most, is coronation day for us.”  We need not fear death, because it’s not the end.  Hope lightens our darkness.  Hope doesn’t deny the reality of painful circumstances.  Yet, it does shine a brilliant light into these valleys.  It points to the light at the end of them.  The saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” is a hopeful statement that reminds us to persevere a little longer, rather than be sorrowfully impatient.

Hope increases faith.  I mentioned earlier the connection of hope and faith – that hope proceeds faith.  I still believe that, yet faith is not just the end result of hope.  We are to continue in hope.  Murray says that “Faith fuels hope, but hope also fuels faith. As Hebrews 11 makes very clear, hope and faith are very closely tied together.  Both enliven the other. Without faith we cannot soar in hope, but without hope, faith will limp home. The greatest believers are the greatest hopers.”

Hope is infectious. We can drag others down by our complaints and sadness.  Yet we can also inspire and motivate others through our inspiring hope. This attitude encourages other sagging Christians, and it also impacts depressed unbelievers who cannot but ask a reason for the hope they see in us.  Remember that people watch us through our suffering, and see how hope buoys us up. 1 Peter 3 verse 15 says, to “always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have.”  They need that hope too.

Hope brings healing.  When our friend Riana called me in the midst of my illness with the song “I raise a Hallelujah,”  she was used by God to bring me hope.  I didn’t understand at the time, for I saw it as a reminder that God is in control, even when I am not well.  It was a reminder that I had no reason to feel hopeless.  I would not always be sick.  Hope says, things will get better. There is a way out.  That hope is a step towards healing, and away from depression.

Hope is practical.  Hope isn’t passive.  We are not to just sit and wait for a perfect world to appear. No way. Hope motivates action. When we hope for better days for the church, we serve the church. When we hope for our children to come to faith in Jesus, we are motivated to share the Gospel with them. When we hope for God’s blessing on His Word, we listen to it much more intently. Hope produces action.

Hope purifies.  During our last broadcast, I spoke about many Christians and Jews going through intense persecution. Whatever persecution we experience in this world, the day is coming when we will be more like the Son of God. This is what inspires and motivates the apostle to persevere to the end and to persevere in holiness.  Paul talked about knowing Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings – and this is exactly what purifies us when we keep an attitude of hope. We grow stronger, purer, and people can see more of Jesus in us, because of the hope we have.  The apostle John shared in 1 john 3:1-3 that “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  Hope gives us the strength for the refiner’s fire.

Hope stabilizes us in the storm. David Murray shares that there “are sixty-six drawings of anchors in the [Roman] catacombs.” These are the caves and tunnels that persecuted Christians hid in during the Roman persecutions. Hope was their anchor during those dark and stormy days.  Hebrews 6 reminds us that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong.”  The writer later shares in Hebrews 10:32-34 to the persecuted church of his time. “Remember those days in the past when you first learned the truth. You had a hard struggle with many sufferings, but you continued strong. 33 Sometimes you were hurt and persecuted before crowds of people. And sometimes you shared with those who were being treated that way. 34 You helped the prisoners. And you even had joy when all that you owned was taken from you. You were joyful because you knew that you had something better and more lasting.”

Like the anchor, hope grabs what is out of sight. One Puritan author uses a similar life preserver image: “The cable of faith casts out the anchor of hope and lays hold of the steadfast rock of God’s promises.”  So once again, faith and hope are connected, and as 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, these two things are eternal, as is love.   John Piper believes that hope is actually an important component of faith, not just a stepping stone towards it.  He says, “faith can look back to [the beginning] as well as forward. So faith is the larger idea [or the container]. Faith includes hope, but is more than hope. You might put it this way: faith is our confidence in the word of God, and whenever that word points to the future, you can call our confidence in it hope. Hope is faith in the future tense.”

Speaking of storms, there is a connection between storms and our Cape of Good Hope near Cape Town.  Yes, it’s the south western tip of South Africa.  It’s not the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans – that happens further east at Cape Agualas.  Originally this peninsula was named Cape of Storms by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias.  But instead a Portuguese king renamed the Cape “Good Hope” because of the major optimism that this sea route gave to Europe.  It opened an easier way to India and the Far East.  This king proclaimed a blessing on the tip of Africa.  And may this blessing bring more than commerce, but rather what a blessing should give.

And finally, Hope defends us. Paul also depicts hope as a defensive helmet to be worn in spiritual battle.  This helmet must not be taken off and laid aside until after the battle is over. This is shown in Ephesians 6:17, which the Passion Translation shares in this way: “ Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies.”  Lies are the opposite of hope.  Lies point us to the area of greatest vulnerability and danger – our mind or thoughts. This is where Satan usually works to give us reasons to doubt and despair. And this is why we need to daily renew our minds by the power of hope.

So hope is far more powerful that we previously thought.  Let’s remember the ten take-aways that hope gives us.  Hope moves us forward, so we don’t get stuck in our wallowing.  Hope gives us the energy to move.  You CAN do this.  Let’s encourage each other with hope to move on.   Hope lightens our darkness, so we can see our way forward.  Hope increases the faith that we have.

Hope is contagious – and this is where community spirit comes in.  The folkies love this aspect of hope for a great song.  But it IS true.  Hope brings healing – especially to the heart.  Hope and depression do not mix.  Hope is practical.  It does not sit passively, but works for the better.  Hope purifies us in the struggle, and especially in persecution. Hope stabilizes us in the storm, so we become stronger. And hope defends us against lies that drag us to doubt and despair.  So we do have a hope and a future.  We need only ask God for it.  He’s had it for us all along.

Lord, thank you for the deep hope that you give us.  I ask that you pour that hope into us, so that it overflows our hearts. Strengthen us, sustain us, pull us out of the mucky mud of complaining and bitter hurts. Lift our heads in hope, so we can see a glimpse of that future hope, as well as the hope you put in our hearts.  Grow our hearts to contain more.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this message, visit our podcast page on Coppleswesterncape.ca, and scroll down to #50.  You’ll also see a video clip that I refer to in that Doctor Who episode.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann Copple

I’m also continuing chemotherapy here in South Africa.  We return to Canada to resume treatment in April 2020.  If you feel led to learn about L-A’s story and or pitch in, you can visit our medical campaign page.  You can also send whatever amount you’d like to sow to our Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Growing in God:  Growing in Hope part 1

Pastel drawing by Natalie, missionary to Sudanese

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 broadcast, we learned how important love is as the foundation of our lives – especially the agape love of God.  When we grow in love as his sons and daughters, we grow well.  We also learned of love languages and I challenged you to not only find out your own ways to best receive love, but also those of your spouse and friends.  In outreach, it goes further than that.  Can you imagine the inroads we would make in reaching out to those who hate us through their love language?   I also personalized the biblical love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.  When you stop and think about all the wonderful qualities of love – being patient, kind, not irritable, persistent and long-suffering, it appears even more real when we put our own names in love’s place.  How do we achieve those high goals?  We can’t.  Love’s goals are only possible with God’s love flowing from us.  That’s where the living water of the Holy Spirit comes in. He’s the one that gives us the compassion we need – for ourselves and others.

Near the end of 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that three things will last forever – faith, hope and love…”  Today I’ve been led to seek out hope. Hope to me is like a life preserver as you float on a sea of hard times.  Real hope is powerful, it’s not wishy-washy at all.  “Hope” is commonly used to mean ‘wish.’ In this context, its strength is the strength of the person’s desire.  But as shown in the Bible, hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and believing that he is faithful.  It ties in with trust.  Trust and hope are absolutely essential in progressing towards faith, which goes further in expectation.  Hope is future-based. Hope gives someone who is struggling in the midst of problems a positively-based goal that there will be an end to the problems and a better life ahead.  Pete Seeger wrote a folk ballad about this type of hope, and his song became a banner for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Read the words and hear their cry for hope:

We shall overcome, We shall overcome, We shall overcome, some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe,   We shall overcome, some day

We’ll walk hand in hand, We’ll walk hand in hand, We’ll walk hand in hand,
some day

We shall live in peace, We shall live in peace, We shall live in peace, some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid, We are not afraid,  We are not afraid,   today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, We shall overcome, some day.

These simple words, coupled with Martin Luther King’s speech of having a dream that showed racial equality, gave hope that difficulties do not last forever.  We will win the day.  God is in charge. There is no timeline of when the object of hope will intervene.  But there is an inner assurance that it will happen. How?  Partly, change can happen with community action, individuals being agents for change, and most importantly, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  How else should one live when in despair? God loves us and does not want us to stay in that state.  Our God is a God of hope.  Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future, it EXPECTS it to happen.

Hope is mentioned in the Bible 190 times. Some of these scriptures show human hope, such as positive desires for the future. Others show hope as a future goal. And many show God as their hope, in the form of the resurrection of the dead; as well as making things right in healing, and restoration.    Hope is given in the context of not dashing hopes: hope for a better future, hope giving courage, hope as promise, and hope as deep trust, as we depend on God. That kind of hope is like an anchor in stormy seas.  Hebrews 6:19 shares that hope in God in Christ is “a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”  This refers to Hope as essential for intimacy with God.

John Piper says that he loves the way that the psalmists wrestle, fight, and struggle to maintain their hope in God.  Often the unknown timeline puts a question mark in the minds of those seeking a way out, of their struggle. We want to say, “When, Lord? When?  Psalm 119:81 shares this anguish, when the Psalmist says,  “I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.”   But relax, there is nothing wrong with you feeling this way.  You haven’t failed, and God’s faithfulness is not at risk.  Our understanding of God’s time isn’t accurate. John Piper notes that this is a normal Christian experience.  We need to realize this is normal, or “else we may grow sluggish and negligent in our fight for hope.  And that is very dangerous.” Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength.   May the Holy Spirit fill us with a deep reservoir of hope to sustain us as we look to him.   May we not run empty.  If we persevere in trusting the Lord, our hope will not disappoint us.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the Psalms say, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, “to expect great things from God.”  William Carey was the father of modern missions, who endured much suffering as a pioneer in India.  Yet, when he turned to translating Indian languages, for both the Bible and Indian literature, his hope in reaching people was realized.  But Carey was right, biblical hope does include expectation in God – his character, his goodness, and his faithfulness to his promises.  After all, God has been called the Hope of Israel and the Hope of the Nations.  The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12:21,  shares that Jesus’ “name will be the hope of all the world.” We are given a promise 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.”  That hope includes restoration, healing and more.

I’ve been given prophetic promises for my healing, and yet, I’ve had a difficult summer full of skin diseases and viruses. However, in the midst of it, I’ve been encouraged with hope.  Our friend Riana leads the Sunday School at our church in Worcester.  She called to encourage me with the new Bethel song, “I raise a Hallelujah,” which is a song about a concert of prayer in the midst of a small child’s illness.  This child was at death’s door, and the worship leader felt hope and a determination rise in his heart, where he said NO to that child’s death.  That prayer was answered, and through this song of hope, many have been encouraged.  It’s already a well-loved song in many places across the world, including Avian Park.  The Bethel song video went viral on social media.  It gave people hope.  It reminded them that our God is a God of hope.  It reminded me in the midst of a painful rash of boils and carbuncles, that God was still in control, and that He would navigate me out of the suffering.  The hope was like a lasso to encircle me and pull me out of despair. In the North American west, and the Argentinean pampas, there are cowboys who help raise cattle.  Some cattle are lassoed to safety if they get out of step.  That is what God’s hope did with me. Another way of understanding this hope, is to imagine a swimming pool lifeguard throwing out a life preserver ring to a drowning person.  That ring is connected to the lifeguard by a floating rope.  There is help when you grab on to that ring, so you don’t sink in the water.

Job 5:15-16 share this hope. “He rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong, and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful.  And so at last, the poor have hope, and the snapping jaws of the wicked are shut.  Psalm 10:17 shares, Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. “

Hope is a constant theme in the Psalms.  It’s one of the goals of restorying your situation for the better.  David often reminded himself to not continue in grief and depression, but to look up to God, to trust him and have hope in his faithfulness.

Psalm 42:11 shares David’s heart.  “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! He also asked God for his guidance and direction in Psalm 25:5. “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Also, listen to Psalm 33:20, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.”  Hope points outside yourself towards the one who can help.

Currently, there is an obsession with superheroes – either the kind that arise from comics or those that arise from science fiction.  In these stories, Batman, Spiderman, the Flash, and Arrow all battle those who oppress the innocent.  In the case of my favourite science fiction show, Doctor Who, it is the same. The Doctor intervenes and saves earth and other planets from the monsters yet again.  One episode in season four of the new Who, has companion Martha speak to people all over the world about the Doctor. The people had been oppressed by evil Time Lord, the Master, who turned the earth into a slave state.  Martha was to instill hope in each person, so that they would think, and in a sense, pray for the Doctor’s intervention.

The Doctor was imprisoned in a cage for a year. But during that time, he patched himself into a world-wide satellite system that suppressed the thoughts, dreams and prayers of the entire population.  The Master had used this system to superimpose control over the people, as well as instilling fear from random killing.  Yet those satellites, under the Doctor’s control, could be reversed.  Instead, the people could think for themselves for one specific moment.  They all called out for the Doctor in their thoughts, and hoped for his intervention. Martha was captured on a false errand, and she was questioned by the Master in the Doctor’s company.  When she told him the real weapon she had to defeat the Master, he replied with contempt, “Is that your weapon, prayer?”  She said, “If everyone across right across the world, at one specific time thinks one word, one thought, one moment, but with fifteen satellites … and that word is, Doctor.”  Whovians know what happens next – the Doctor recovers, is released, and saves the day.  This episode is one of the strongest examples of the power of hope in that show.  If this hope is powerful, how much more would real hope be in a real and living God?  Psalm 65 verse 5 shares, “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. Psalm 125:15 reminds us, “The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it.”  And so, Psalm 78:7 encourages us to pass on our hope to the next generation. “So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.”

Hope is still future-oriented, in difficult times.  So we must renew our hope, as we renew our minds. This requires active perseverance, despite moments of heartsickness, like Proverbs 13:12 which says,  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Psalm 143:4 shows panic in the moment by sharing, “I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.”  These moments are real, and while we are stuck in them, they can seem long.  Psalm 119:81 shares that the waiting can make one weary, “I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.”

Yet, we can take comfort that hope consoles; it gives strength and renewed joy. Psalm 94:19 shares, “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 146:5 reminds us that hope and joy are connected by sharing, “But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”   In short, the Psalms are full of hope.

The New Testament gives added depth to hope.  Now we have the element of hope in the resurrection; of God’s restoration after triumphing over evil.   Peter shared during Pentecost by quoting a prophetic promise of David.  David hoped in the Messiah.  Peter shared in Acts 2: 25-27, “King David said this about Jesus: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me.    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.”

David had proclaimed his hope that he would be raised from the dead, as well as hoping for the coming Messiah.   That same hope of resurrection at the ‘end of time,’ was a theme with the Apostle Paul, especially since it was a concept that the Pharisees believed in.  In Acts 26:6, Paul shares,  “Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors.”  This same hope fulfilled was echoed when Paul says in 1 Thess. 4:13, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.”  Hope in the afterlife and restoration is the cornerstone of Christian hope.  This isn’t just about being saved from bad circumstances, but this is a complete reversal of evil in the world.

Meanwhile, we are to have hope while suffering.  No one is immune to difficulties, and suffering in different forms. Right now, persecution of Christians, and also of Jews has steadily increased.  There are more Christians who have died for their faith in the past 100 years than in all of history.  Jews are also targeted, as they have been for centuries.  It wasn’t just the Holocaust and the pogroms.

Ministries like ‘Open Doors’ and ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ share about the countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian.  I was in one of these countries; Pakistan.  I ministered with refugees from another country: the Somalis.  But there are so many more suffering people.  Has persecution stopped the growing Christian underground movement in China or Iran?  No, on the contrary, it’s only increased it.   Paul shares in Romans 5:3-5, that “ we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials; for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Hope also sustains, especially if you keep your mind and heart focused.   Don’t keep your eyes on your circumstances.  Paul shares a prayer in Romans 15:13.  He says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”   He shares another prayer in Ephesians 1:18:  “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”

It’s good that hope brings comfort, joy and sustains us.  It also brings us purpose.   As Christians, we have a purpose in our identity as sons and daughters. We are not orphans.  Paul shares in Ephesians 2:12 that in previous days, “you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”  When people around us see that we are not fearful or in despair due to what is happening in the world around us, they ask us why we are hopeful, and how we can cope.  We’re not just coping.

The closer you get to Jesus, the more you thrive; although the journey isn’t easy.  Peter shares in 1 Peter 3:13-15 about persecution.  “ Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

In the midst of sharing our hope in God’s promises, we are given the same endurance as the great heroes of our faith.   Hebrews 6:10-12 share that we are given perseverance.  A strong component of hope is to stay steadfast. This is not wishful thinking, but it is powerful.  This is the type of hope a missionary feels when they are loving and pouring into the people in their lives.  God strengthens those who stay the course, as well as those who receive hope in Jesus through them.  Here’s the passage: “  For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers,[a] as you still do. 11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.”

So let us join with the writer of Hebrews, when he says in chapter 10:23–24: 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

So hope has a component of strengthening us with the perseverance we need to carry on – in life, in work, in relationships, and in our faith.  Is hope a stepping stone to faith?  I believe it’s a part of it.   Earlier I mentioned that hope to me is like a life preserver as you float on a sea of hard times. It is future focused, with an assurance that we will be rescued. Faith is more like walking on the water of that same sea.  Both are a journey that grow us deeply.

The writer to the Hebrews shares in Hebrews 11 verse 1, that “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  So hope is the springboard to faith.  Wherever there is full assurance of hope, there is faith. Faith is the full assurance of hope.  We’ll journey together more about hope in our next broadcast.   Perhaps we’ll take a visit to our own Cape of Good Hope, here in the Western Cape.

Lord, thank you that you are indeed the God of hope, the God of Israel, and the hope of the nations.  We thank you for your preserving power that gives us strength despite difficulty, and your comfort in the midst of suffering.  Lord, fill us with your hope that will reorient us in you.  Deepen our anchor, so that we won’t be shipwrecked in the middle of the storm.  Like the Bethel song, We raise a hallelujah in the middle of the storm.  Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear our praises roar.  Up from the ashes, hope will arise.  Death is defeated; the King is alive.

May all who hear my voice now have hope rise within them.  Carry them Lord, through their difficulties.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this devotional, visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Copples Western Cape mission site and scroll down to #49.  Enjoy.

Blessings and may you have a joyful Christmas!
Laurie-Ann

Growing in God: Growing in love and living water

Naro Moro waterfalls by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

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 four articles, we learned of many of the ways God guides us – through commanding scripture, compelling spirit, dreams, visions, angels, common sense, godly counsel and circumstantial signs.  I had so many stories to share; both ours and those of others.  I am sure that you have a few stories to share of your own.  I’d love to hear them via the comment box on our website, Http://www.coppleswestern cape.ca.

I was going to venture further into how to hear the voice of God, but I was interrupted by a prompting from Holy Spirit.  It’s good to listen to what he wants to say – since it’s timely in a NOW sort of way.  I am to share about growing in love.

Our Iris mama Heidi Baker is an apostle of love.  Her husband Rolland is an apostle of joy.  They often say “Love LOOKS like something.”  That love includes noticing people and stopping to listen to them.  It includes ministering to them with the love that the Holy Spirit fills you with for these moments. These moments are divine appointments, where God puts a person for Heidi, or us to bless; one by one.  Heidi gives advice on how to start ministry in the Compelling Love movie, by sharing, “It’s not complicated, just stop for the one.”    That love shared has a different flavour and package in each place, and each culture.  Love is powerful and shows through your whole being – but love in action is very specific.

Love in the Worcester township of Avian Park looks different than it does in Camp’s Bay near Cape Town.  Love in a First nations reserve in northern Ontario looks different than it would in downtown Toronto, or in Jo’burg.  Love looks different with Robertson farm kids than with seniors from Hermanus.  What are the needs around you?  Do you feel compelled towards acts of service?  That’s one love language that we’ll share about later.

Sometimes love looks like a hug and a listening ear – so the person no longer feels invisible, but rather valued, heard and seen.  Sometimes love means a sandwich, fruit and juice to a hungry South African child.  Do you notice that these ways of showing love are ACTIVE?  They require action – which means to love is not to just sit there and feel sorry for people.  That’s pity, not love.

As humans, we communicate by language – not just English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and more.  Our words are only part of the story.  Most communication happens non-verbally – and love is expressed here very strongly.  We also speak in other ways than words and cues.  These would be called orientations, or would be best known as “love languages.”  These are personal ways that we best receive and give love.  Everyone has at least one love language, and it is easy to love others within your own way of sharing.

Some people receive more in certain areas than others.  If you’re married, find out your spouse’s love language.  It may be different than yours.  It’s definitely easier to love in your own language, but your spouse won’t really receive that love deeply.  They won’t FEEL loved. If you really want your significant other to receive your love, love them the way they can receive it.  Learn their love language.  Gary Chapman wrote an excellent book on love languages that you can read, called “The Five Love Languages.”

Here are the five love languages:  Number 1 is Words of Affirmation, which includes encouragement and the words “I love you.” Basically this is verbal encouragement. Number 2 is Acts of Service, which can include serving tea with a biscuit, fixing broken things, and so much more. Number 3 is Receiving Gifts. These could be chocolates, flowers, mementoes, box of tea or anything meaningful. It doesn’t have to be a big gift.  Homemade love notes could be part of this gift.  Number 4 is Quality Time spent together. This is an important way to receive love when you spend a lot of time ministering or serving others.  You need time with each other.  We especially need our quality time with God. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of Jesus’ love languages.  He needed his time with the Father, and we also need time with him, even if we don’t realize it.  When you create a space for quality time, you are creating a container that can be filled with all kinds of love.  And the 5th love language is Physical Touch.  This includes holding hands, hugs, kisses, and even just a touch on the shoulder. This form of love makes you feel grounded, IF you are not claustrophobically clingy.  I find that the children we teach in MasterPeace Academy receive love by hugs and kisses on the cheek, as well as verbal encouragement.  Unfortunately in Canadian schools, this is frowned upon, since some teachers in the past have abused their authority. How unfortunate for those who have been abused and those who desperately need a kind, loving, appropriate touch.

We shared about love languages with our My Father’s House teens, and surprisingly most of them said that one of their two love languages was quality time, although acts of service was also high on the list.

While these ways of sharing love are a blessing to both give and receive, each of us has two primary ways where we really receive and feel loved.  Mine happens to be Acts of Service, where Tony might help me proofread a devotional, give input on ministry, or bring me a cup of tea).  I also receive words of affirmation – being encouraged, as well as told that I am loved and appreciated.  Tony’s major love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  We hold hands all the time, and when we sit together, he has his hand on my arm, shoulder or back.  I know that while he appreciates quality time, acts of service and some gifts, he really feels satisfied when I encourage him and give him the touch he so needs.

I found a meme on Facebook that illustrated the five love languages in the form of Mexican burritos.  This is a delicious food make of meat, vegetables, cheese and spice, wrapped in a soft corn tortilla.

Words of affirmation is shared as “This is a good burrito.”  Acts of Service came across as “I made you a burrito.”  Receiving Gifts is  “Here’s a burrito.”  Quality time was shown as “Let’s go out for burritos together.” And Physical touch was sweet on hugs, when it shared, “Let me hold you and wrap my arms around you like a burrito.”  Can you imagine these languages acted out with your friends and family?  Can you bless your spouse this way?

There are also different kinds of love, since there are different relationships.  Most are shown in the Bible, such as the friendship between Jonathan and David, the loyalty between Ruth and Naomi, and especially the love of Jesus for all he encountered.  Eros is romantic love, which was named after the Greek god of love and sexual desire. Eros is also called “Cupid,” a figure often shown on Valentine’s Day cards. Phileo is brotherly love, or friendship.  The American city of Philadelphia was named as the city of brotherly love.  Storge is family love, particularly the love a parent or guardian feels for their children.  This is what Tony and I naturally feel for the children and teens that we work with. However, our love in action is steeped in far more than natural affection.  Then there are less known loves such as ludus, or playful love; pragma or long-standing love, and philautia, love of self.

The deepest love is agape, the love of God.  This is the only kind of love that is perfect.  When God pours out his love, it transforms us.  Listen to Romans 5:5 NIV: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  His love empowers all the other loves we may feel and express. The agape love of God is active and can’t help but change our hearts for the better. He transforms us.

Since we are studying love, the best place to see it in action is in the famous ‘love chapter’:  1 Corinthians 13.  This chapter is in between the stern warnings, pleadings and teachings of discipline in the midst of using spiritual gifts – in a loving, and unselfish way.  Spiritual gifts are actually not for the benefit of ourselves, but of others both in the church and outside of it.  Everything in our lives needs to be done in the CONTEXT of love.   Love is personal, and it is relational.  Most aspects of our lives are relational, whether in a work and business environment, family, friends, church, ministry and people we meet who have similar interests.

Close your eyes if it is safe to do so, as you listen to my voice.     Then imagine yourself by substituting your name in the place of where Paul says love.  You’ll see what I mean shortly.

Here’s 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  This sets up the stage for the chapter. “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

This shows love as the motivating force behind all we do.  If perfect love is our motive, we do not fail.   The next verses are where you personalize the scripture.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.”  Laurie-Ann is patient and kind.  Laurie-Ann is not jealous, boastful, proud or rude.

“Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and love keeps no record of being wronged.” Laurie-Ann does not demand her own way.  Laurie-Ann is not irritable, and she keeps no record of being wronged.

“Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”  Laurie-Ann does not rejoice about injustice but she rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  Laurie-Ann never gives up, never loses faith, she is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Wow.  I feel convicted.  Can you do this?  Can I do this?  NO, not even close.  We can only express love that way when God’s love fills us completely.  This is not just a once and a while filling of love.  We need this love all the time, like living water flowing out of us.  This means we need continually to drink of it and be in God’s presence as much as we can.

Here’s the rest of the chapter, which puts love as the foundation for everything in our lives:  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

I’m so thankful that the apostle Paul wrote these words of wisdom.  We can’t survive without love, and we were meant to live in love.  Please take these words to heart and think about how you receive love best in your love language.  Also learn the way that those around you best receive love.

But first, go receive the love of God for yourself.  He loves you so.  We are dry, thirsty vessels without the living water of love within us.  That living water is the Holy Spirit.  That is the same love that the Apostle Paul says is poured out in our hearts.  In John 7:38, Jesus himself shouted to the crowds during a Jewish festival. He said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”   Jesus gives us this invitation too.

Lord, thank you for your invitation to receive living water from you.  I say “Yes, please fill me.  We are so thirsty, Lord.”  I ask that you will soak the hearts of those listening, so that they receive your love – as much as they think they can receive, and yet more.  Show us your love in the ways we need it most.  Your love goes beyond the five love languages, but you also express yourself in those ways through your people.  Help us to express your love to those around us.  We can only do this with your love, Lord.  Thank you for your love for us, the love that goes on and on. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you enjoyed this message, and would like to hear an audio version, visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page at coppleswesterncape.ca (WTIGIG podcast page)   then scroll down to #48. May this bless you.

If you are able and willing, and would like to contribute to L-A’s life-saving chemotherapy treatments (that she is receiving in Cape Town, South Africa), please visit the medical campaign page, on how you can give by Paypal or other methods.  Thank you and may God deeply bless you.

Laurie-Ann Copple