Category Archives: South Africa

Growing in God through Simplicity

During my last article, we discovered that we can grow in God through giving him our timetable.  Not just our timetable, but out time, period. We need to have intentional dates with God, so we are filled with love, and not just to utilize him as a filling station.  Our time with God is to deepen our relationship. Some of this time with God includes being still before him.  This is a simple, yet profound practice. Simplicity is something that I’ve been drawn to for years.  What is simplicity?  Simplicity cultivates the great art of letting go. Simplicity aims at loosening inordinate attachment to owning and having. Simplicity brings freedom, and with it, generosity. While I spent endless hours doing ministry, study and other things, I often burned out.  I loved variety and adventure, and yet would be refreshed by quietness.  I loved to do different things but was not content with what I had.  I was always longing for more, and I don’t mean just more of God.  I felt empty and wanted to just be filled.   My life felt so… complicated and chaotic.

At the same time, I was strangely drawn to desert spirituality, and the idea of simple living. I researched and loved the stories of the Irish missionary monks who lived from the time of Columba of Iona to the 11th century.    One day when I was helping lead a retreat, I was drawn to a special little book in the bookstore. The book is called “Simple Living” by a native American Franciscan sister called Jose Hobday.  It’s revolutionary.  I seemed to sense that I would need this book in a future downsizing stage in my life.  I tried to read it several times, but I didn’t understand it at the time.  I kept the book through my moves to British Columbia, back to Kanata, downsizing to an Ottawa condo, and then moving to South Africa.  I only had room to take a shoebox worth of physical books with me.  Books are heavy!  My first encounters of simplicity were when I worked with street people in Toronto, and on other mission fields.  I learned a little more when I visited the Open Gate in Lindisfarne, which is part of the order of St Aidan and Hilda.  They have Ten Elements in their Way of Life, including simplicity.

I’m not the only one who has had this irresistible pull towards simplicity.  Part of this includes actual downsizing.  In Canada, it’s a phenomenon for aging baby-boomers who decide to simplify their lives. They move into small houses, or apartment condos so they can avoid yard or house maintenance.

In 2013, I moved from Ottawa to British Columbia, on the other side of Canada, for a radio job.  I had to downsize as much as I could very quickly – especially books and clothes.  I could only bring one car load, since my car wasn’t strong enough to pull a trailer.  This made for hard choices. I trusted Tony to downsize other items and sell the house so he could follow me. But it didn’t turn out as expected.  By the time he arrived to help me move back, I actually had accumulated again. Many items were gifts that were unique to the area.  So I didn’t exactly learn about living simply, did I?  Yet, I am thankful for my time in that province. It gave me a love for mountains, learning to do things on my own, and the wonder of an amazing Christian community that does outreach to the homeless.

We discovered during our further downsizes that many Ottawans didn’t want to buy second hand furniture, which is completely different to the attitude in British Columbia!  We did garage sales, and church ‘car boot’ sales.  I began to fret about certain items that we couldn`t  fit in our condo, since the previous owner had left it nearly furnished! We eventually put cherished items, like a unique childhood dresser, on the front lawn. We offered them for free.  I prayed about the dresser and I decided to trust God.  I was relieved that Tony met someone who loved my dresser, and returned with a pick-up truck to take it home.  He helped the man lift the dresser into the truck, and told him, “I trust your family will enjoy this dresser – it is my wife’s pride and joy. But we just don’t have room in our new condo.”

After we had sold the house and fully moved into the condo, we left the country for a three month mission school.  On our return, we confirmed our missions call to South Africa.  We have noticed some missionaries have a turnaround from ‘home’ to long-term mission field within a few months.  With us, our last extreme downsize was part of the preparation process.  Tony spent months digitizing a very large music and video collection.  I scanned hundreds of photographs and sketches.  It took us 15 months of preparing and downsizing, to arrive in South Africa.  It could have easily taken 2 years.  The books were the most difficult.    When we came to South Africa, we felt free that we could live with the contents of our seven suitcases and two trunks. Since we do a lot of media work, art, music and Alpha ministry, we needed what we brought. There isn’t anything that we haven’t used – from medication to art pens.  However, something amusing happened when we were at our Paris stopover. We had six suitcases, one ‘wheely’ bag full of laptops, my backpack and Tony’s guitar. We had trouble finding a taxi to take us to our hotel.  The bag carriers made fun of me. They thought I was carrying all these bags to use on a holiday.  Our first guesthouse hosts in Cape Town thought the same. They visited us in our room so they could see my drawings, and were curious why we had so many suitcases – until they realized that we were moving to South Africa. We weren’t on holiday.  Then everything was clear.  However, people have moved with far less.

Downsizing, moving, transition and simplifying your life is scary. Is it really all about living a simple life?  I believe simplicity is an excellent virtue. What is essential? What can we live without?  I learned to drop things in my life so I could have more room to be creative. Creativity gives me energy, since I was born to be creative. I also had to listen to my body to only do so much, otherwise I would be forced to stay in bed for a couple of days.  But one thing that does give me energy is my faith. So this is what I’ve learned from personal experience.  Let’s discover some of what others teach about simplicity.

The first place that I heard about simplicity is through the Community of Aidan and Hilda.  I already was drawn toward the Celtic Christian stream, due to my interest on Patrick, Columba, Aidan and Cuthbert in church history.  I first visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in January 2008, right after my second mission trip in Pakistan.  I returned multiple times with my mother, my husband Tony and again on my own.  Tony truly understood the pull on me, and even joined me on a special barefoot pilgrim walk we did on the mud flats, during low tide.  We also discovered the well balanced, beautiful form of Christian faith from this community.  While they include the special centres of Lindisfarne and Iona, they also have a world-wide community.  Their way includes three promises: that of simplicity, purity and obedience.  This is further expanded into ten elements of the Celtic way. Each of these elements deserves attention.  Yet I was most drawn to the ones I needed most: spiritual journey, rhythm of prayer, rest and recreation, simplicity of lifestyle and mission.

Their promise reads: “We are willing to be rich or poor for God, according to God’s direction. We resist the temptation to be greedy or possessive. We will not manipulate people or creation for our own ends. We aim to be bold in using all we have for God, without fear of possible poverty. However, if God demanded it of us, it would actually become a blessing.”  While this is not the vow of poverty that monks and nuns make, it is powerful choice not to let greed or fear of lack get in the way of a life calling.

Simplicity as a life-style is based on an understanding that our financial income, savings and possessions are not solely ours.  We are stewards of all we have: whether they are in our possession for a short time or a long time. It’s a matter of being in tune with creation.  “Our belongings, activities and relationships should be ordered in a way that liberates the spirit. We aim to cut out those things that overload or clutter the spirit.” It’s not a life of denial. There are times to feast and celebrate as well as to fast. “We stand against the influence of the god of mammon in our society by our life-style, by our hospitality, our intercession and by regular and generous giving.”  “We also feel that having a good balance in prayer, work and recreation usually also helps to keep things simple.  The more complex things become, the more stress we feel!”

These promises still ring in my heart. As I read these and other teachings, the process of simplifying didn’t seem simple at all.  It involves many different aspects of our lives, from what we buy, what we choose to keep and learning to hold everything we have in life lightly – whether it’s our possessions, time, or money.  As Christians, our life is not entirely our own anyway.  It’s God’s.  So let’s sift through the process of pushing away what distracts us from our goal.

The pull of our Western culture is to accumulate. The advertising on all kinds of media shouts this sentiment even louder. I had two pulls on my heart.  I do not worship money, but I found myself drawn by the advertising jingles that make me giggle.  Advertising is everywhere and part of every media. The message is repeated: consume, buy, get, then do it some more. Jose Hobday shares that “Gluttony is no longer a vice, it’s a triumph.  The two most used words in advertising are ‘new’ and ‘improved.’ The third is ‘Now!’ Everything must be instant and immediate. It does not allow for saving, pacing, waiting and setting goals.”

Richard Foster shares in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ some gems from Francois Fenelon.  He said, “Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage.  Simplicity brings joy and balance.  Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.”  To be pulled in two directions is like double-mindedness, and to suffer from a divided heart.  We are called to have an undivided heart with a single focus.  How rare that is.  When we see it, it’s a treasure.  Yet, if we allow God to work in our hearts, we can have this too.  We can learn to let go, in baby steps.  That was what faced me.  I thought, “Wow, this is great, but how do I begin?”  And I didn’t feel my baby steps were enough. However, I still had some momentum, which increased with the moves and forced downsizes.  Ecclesiastes 7: 29 tells us: “God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.”  We do make life far more complex than we need to. We get caught up in the details!  Adele Calhoun shares on the spiritual discipline of simplicity.  “Keeping it simple has fallen on hard times. And though we like the idea, we also like our choices.”

Jesus teaches us that freedom is found neither in having or doing. Rather, it is in keeping God first.  He shared in Matthew 6 to not store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Instead, store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be. Jesus wants us to know that we don’t NEED all the things and experiences that we think we do. What we really need is to keep things first: Jesus and his kingdom.  Life becomes simpler when only one thing matters most.  This doesn’t mean that we are to be beggars in the street.  It does mean that we are called to be free of the grip of these ‘things’ on us.

Even Jesus dealt with a rich seeker who came to him seeking eternal life – yet he also loved money.  Matthew 16 shares the seeker’s plight.   He asked, “Teacher, what good things shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” So Jesus shared with him the top commandments, including loving neighbours. The young man replied, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 The answer was “If you wish to be [complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”

The man’s wealth wasn’t the problem. His attitude and attachment to it was.  In his case, he really DID need to give away his wealth.   Orphans and those who have an orphan spirit, feel that they need possessions and hoard them. They also become chained to what they have or don’t have.  They don’t realize that who we are is not based on what we have or what we do.  Their fists are closed so they cannot receive what they really need. They are living in fear of going without.  Those who are living by consumerism alone have the very same outlook. To begin to let go of things and give them away requires faith.  We discover what we really don’t need.  Barbara Sorenson shares that “choosing a simple life is not a cookie-cutter philosophy. Each one of us lives it out in our own circumstances and situations as we accept the grace to do so. Voluntary simplicity does not mean we all have to sell our homes. It doesn’t even mean we can’t have nice things. It may mean that we can’t have all of them.”   So consumerism, leave the room.  Now we’ll deal with what to do with all we have.  Most of us have too much.

There is a song that goes, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.” Simplicity requires discipline but it is also a gift of God.  Our longing to be simple is often the sign of the presence of this grace. Once we are free from the pull of consumerism, we can remember to share what we have.  We are no longer bound by things, so we can pass them on to others who need them more than we do.  This is freeing.  As Elizabeth Ann Seton says, “Let us live simply, so that others may simply live.”  So we need to think about our use of resources.

In the West, we use an excessive amount of precious fossil fuel just to live.  It is a destructive pattern. We don’t have a global view of our consumption patterns.  We have little realization of our degree of spending. In 1998, North America was 5% of the world’s population, consuming 82% of the world’s raw materials. [Figures from Simple Living by Jose Hobday.] This figure may have fallen with the rise of  China and India, but still we have the same attitude. “Our mindset finds it hard to understand that less can be more.”

Jose Hobday shares that simplicity is one of those great words that can’t be defined easily.  But it can be described and it can be distinguished from things that just look little like it.  If we persevere, we can recognize simplicity when we experience it in others and, more importantly, when we practice it. This now goes beyond resources to all aspects of our lifestyle.  Simple living is not about elegant frugality.  It is not really about deprivation.  It is not about harsh rules. To live simply, one has to consider priorities more than variety. Simple living is about the freedom to choose space rather than clutter. It’s choosing open and generous living, instead of a hoarding mentality that imprisons you.  Freedom is about choices:  Freedom to choose less rather than more. It’s about choosing time for people and ideas, and what makes you grow. It’s not about keeping, guarding and possessing what you have.  Simple living is about moving through life rather lightly, delighting in the plain and the subtle.”  When our friend Maggie moved from England to South Africa in months, she was moving more freely than we were. But we also learned.

Simplicity also is welcoming.  We need to live in a way that all people feel welcome in our home.  When they come to visit, they don’t have to worry that they might soil good furniture, or break expensive glassware, or leave fingerprints on something precious.

Simplicity includes the rhythm of nature.  Life does not stop. Neither does the universe around us. We are always moving forward in cycles and seasons.  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 mentions this fact. This was picked up by Pete Seeger in his song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  So the secret is to be carried by the harmony and rhythm of all creation.  Enjoy quality of life around you! This mystery is celebrated in the Celtic Christian stream I mentioned earlier. If you don’t move forward, you become stuck – and out of step. Simplicity keeps you walking with what is real.  Hobday says, “Simple living forces you to attend to value, insisting on quality over quantity.”

Simplicity also involves our time. In Africa, time is elastic. It is not pinned to specific tasks or events.  Relationships are more valued.  This view of time may drive task-oriented people crazy, but the simplicity of waiting is actually a good thing.  Too many times we try to fill every moment with activity, like I used to fill my academic papers past the regular margins. I did not think simply.  My professors could not explain things simply. Some things are difficult to share in only a few words – and simplicity is one of them.  When you are in a hurry, it is terrible to wait. But in a simple life, we might think about what we can do with the space of waiting five to thirty minutes.  The space can give us a sense of openness, fullness, and a keen sense of delight.  We suddenly have much more time to stand and look, to appreciate, enjoy, think and feel.  We can read another chapter of that book we love. We become less time-conscious.  Instead of fretting, ideas and desires and possibilities come to mind. You become creative.  If you also create empty space in your calendar and give it to God, you are creating a container for God to fill.  It is an empty space or margin on the page of your life.  You can breathe, because you have chosen to focus on priorities.

Downsizing in quantity reminds you that your priority is quality. This is more than simplifying your lifestyle, finances, possessions, and timetable.  They include space to just breathe and know your dreams, and your heart. It may seem trite that less clutter is easier on our soul, but it really is easier on us.

Yet when you are ready to downsize right, go in steps. Hobday takes an inventory:   Note your items in categories like food, clothing, shelter, transport and work.  Then you itemize them further into must have needs, what is helpful, what is your preference and what is luxury in each category. Go through each category, with a separate list. When you’ve finished each list, pray over them. Ask yourself questions. Do you need this in home, or work?  Is this helpful? Do you actually wear this blouse?  When was the last time you wore those shoes?  Is this a luxury?

Hobday says it is fine to have luxuries, but just once in a while.  Each person has different needs, so don’t just copy someone else.  What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?  Are you to give a certain item away?  Have you met someone who needs that item?  One time when I was listening to a friend play her drum, I was given an image in my mind’s eye of one of my percussion instruments.  Was I meant to give her that drum? I asked if she had been looking for more drums.  It turned out that she was.   So I gave her the drum.  Sometimes it is that easy.  And other times, it is hard.

So to downsize, we must take actual steps. Choose the area of your life that you would like to simplify first. We must physically clear out the excess, we must take steps to prevent accumulation.  We can’t do it in our heads. Simplicity is not just an idea, it is practical.  Use your list, but be kind to yourself.  It took Jose Hobday TWO YEARS to simplify after she became a Franciscan nun.  So at the start, pray.   It will make the process easier. You need to take small steps in progression. Let Holy Spirit guide you on what to discard. If you do, it will also bless areas of your inner life. It will give you discernment. Living simply is not about looking poor, or depriving yourself of something you really need.  It’s about less is more.  Jose shares that “true simplicity teaches us joy with less.” The “stuff” you don’t need is no longer in your way. But say you discover that something you really need has to be replaced?  Then replace it.  Do you need to keep it, or give it away?

Discernment shows you the difference between being simple and stingy. Stinginess is self-centred and narrow, just the opposite of the expansiveness of simplicity.  Stinginess doesn’t share. We hoard out of fear, just the opposite of faith.  Stinginess is selfishness, but simplicity is real love for ourselves and others.” Simplicity gives. Stinginess is greed, and clutters our lives.  Simplicity is to look carefully at what is needed, while still being generous.

Jesus’ call to simplicity is a call to complete contentment in him that overflows into every area of our lives:  our prayer life, our shopping habits, our schedules, and our comforts we run to when we are stressed. All of this should carry the flavour of Jesus.  So as I was reading all these wonderful truths from various writers, it seemed overwhelming. So I sought for some truths to sum up what I believe about simplicity.

Simplicity is about honouring God first with an undivided heart, and to use your resources as tools for the kingdom of God. Either you can give away what you have, as Jesus advised the rich young ruler who struggled between God and money, OR you can use it as God directs.  Simplicity is about honouring others with your hospitality and not looking down on them.  It includes sharing resources and identifying with other humans. It is humility with grace.

Simplicity is honouring the simple Gospel and not being distracted by fashion or advertising.  Simplicity is knowing that you are a child of God, without having to hoard things as if you were an orphan.  Your things are not just for you.  Simplicity is harmony with creation and to not let cultural difference and view of time shock you.  Be flexible. Simplicity is a focused discipline and requires work. And simplicity is so much more, including being content.  The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4  that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. He said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

May we too learn that source of contentment, as we ask Holy Spirit to help us learn the simple life step by step.

If you would like to hear the audio version of this article, go to the podcast page, and scroll down to #16

Blessings, Laurie-Ann Copple
Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa

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Growing in God through time with God

During my last article, we discovered the power of blessing others.  We bless others intentionally by smiles, hugs, kindness, prophetic words, and sowing blessings into each other.  This is an intentional act that you can cultivate as a lifestyle.  Just as Tony and I choose to stop for the divine opportunities God brings our way, we also choose to bless. Sometimes this is done in practical ways, since love looks like something.  However, other times it’s simpler in forms of touching, hugging, listening as wells as speaking hope and positive encouragement for their future.  All of these ways of blessing and validating others involves time.  It’s important to spend good relational time with people. It’s a two way blessing.

Before we spend this valuable time with other people, we need to spend time with God even more so.  When Tony and I attended the Iris Global Harvest School, we learned from many local and international speakers.  Rolland Baker was among my favourites. He would amaze us with incredible wisdom, and yet sometimes he would simply want to touch downcast hearts with deep joy.  I came to love Rolland when I first saw him at a September 2014 conference in in Richmond, Virginia. God has gifted him with a sense of knowing when someone is secretly depressed.  During the conference, he followed me around during ministry time; and he did not let up.  I was secretly sad and grieving because no job was open to me at the time. I still didn’t have a paying job until two years later, shortly after Tony and I returned from our ministry in Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.  Rolland imparted to me a deep trust-joy in my heart through the Holy Spirit. This deep trust laid a foundation so I could spend more time waiting before God.

When I spent time with God, I wasn’t as restless before him as I was. I already practiced soaking prayer; which is a devotional time of silently listening to God with your spiritual ears, while also listening to soft worship music with your physical ears.  This is a form of contemplation.  But now was a time to go even deeper.   Heidi Baker says, there is always more, and it’s true. She always cries out for more, and God responds.  Do we cry out for more time with God?  I believe that God wants to spend more time with us. He’s very patient for us to come invite him.  Hollman Hunt created a series of paintings of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  There were a lot of overgrown weeds around the door, and there was no handle on the door. The door could only be opened from the inside – by the person who owns the house.  But think, we are the house.  The house represents our lives, and Jesus won’t come in, unless we open the door. It’s amazing how patient Jesus is! This surely shows his mercy and kindness.

Heidi also shared with the All Nations Church in Arizona after a women’s conference. I attended this conference in an earlier year. At that time, I had the pleasure of Heidi ministering to me in a special way. Heidi was led to walk towards me with a bouquet of roses.  She approached me with the flowers, a hug and a kiss, before she continued on her way to her seat at the front of the church. Basically, she was stopping for the one – and I was the one that she stopped for! It was an incredibly humbling experience – where I felt I was being loved on by Jesus himself. I was!  She spends so much time daily with the Lord, despite being incredibly busy.  This is her secret.  She is so filled with the love of Jesus, that she really does pour out his love.  Before she approached me, I stood worshipping in the back row of the church. The only thing that caused me to open my eyes was that I sensed the strong presence of Jesus beside me.  It was like Jesus himself was standing right beside me.  So I opened my eyes, and there was Heidi!   This wasn’t the only time that I could clearly and powerfully see Jesus in another person.  It happened before with Dennis Bennett, the man who led me to Jesus in 1988.  Then it happened again through two of my professors in Tyndale Seminary.  Every once and a while, I again get a similar experience.

Could we be filled with Jesus’ love that? Could we touch others with the love of God? Perhaps so deeply that you can see the difference it makes?  The answer is simple.  We can.  Spend time with God.  We desperately need him, not just for ministry – but for our own needs too. Both Heidi and Rolland speak at length about this essential need.  We need God. We really do.

Jesus was asked by a religious law expert on what was the most important commandment of the Torah.  His reply cut to the heart of the matter.  Jesus said, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

The first commandment is absolutely crucial.  You need to spend time loving him, and letting him love you.  Loving God with your heart could involve worship and realizing that God is our treasure.  He is the pearl of great price.  Loving God with your soul would be acts of service just for him in obedience, humility and integrity.  Loving God with your mind could involve reading scripture while praying, and actively meditating on him.  My Afrikaaner pastor Pieter-Louis says to love God in this way is to actively cultivate your ‘dianoia.’  This is your active imagination – it is part of how you think.  When you give this to God, you allow Holy Spirit to speak to you through pictures, impressions and words.  You can also imagine him right with you, which of course, he actually is.  Through this practice, your eyes can actually open to see him more and more.

The version of the story I shared is in Matthew 22, but in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus is also quoted as including loving God with all your strength.  Jesus was actually quoting Deuteronomy 6:5.  What does it look like to love God with all your strength?   To love the Lord with all our strength is to love him with reckless abandon out of simple devotion.  Heidi and Rolland have a daily devotional book called Reckless Devotion. It captures a taste of being completely wrecked by the love of God, in a way that you become love-sick for him.   Here’s another example – the woman who broke open an alabaster jar of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet. It’s likely she had this jar as a treasure for her wedding night – but instead, she recklessly shared it with Jesus – her spiritual bridegroom.   So this greatest commandment is definitely not one we should skip.  However, too often, that is exactly what happens. Some of this distraction is by little things that come up in our day, which rob us from our time with God.  The most sad distraction is one that has the best of intentions!

Rolland Baker shared with us at Harvest School that even many missionaries skip the first commandment to get to the second commandment.  They move too quickly through their devotions because they see the great need of those around them.  YES, we need to reach out.  But if you reach out without the love, power and leading of God, you have nothing to give them but human sympathy.  Human love runs out quickly, and you get exhausted.  It’s far better to take the time, before you go out to the people.  While I’m not a morning person, morning is probably the best time, unless you’re working and ministering at night.  Without loving God with all of you, you will have no energy to do the commandment of loving your neighbour.

So we need to pursue God with reckless pursuit, and he will fill us with all we need to do life.  This is life in ministry, the workplace, family, studies and everything else you can think of.  I can honestly say that I was helped by God to excel in university, seminary and radio school.  I didn’t do as well in art school, before I knew Jesus.

So we need to give God our time – our calendar, and all that is in it.  We need to schedule dates with God that can’t easily be moved. One of my Afrikaaner pastors and his wife have a date with God every night at 9.  You can see the life and love of God in their lives.  They shine for Jesus like bright lamps in the darkness.   So let’s think back of Heidi speaking in that Arizona church.  I watched on a webcast and could not tear my eyes away.  She was speaking on the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25: 1-13, and she began singing her prophetic wisdom from Holy Spirit.

So I’ve done some searching on this story. Five of the virgins were prepared and had enough oil while they waited for the bridegroom overnight. Five weren’t prepared and didn’t have enough oil – they couldn’t borrow oil from the others, and had to go buy some. The five wise virgins couldn’t even transfer some of their oil.  The others had to go get their own.  There is a deeper meaning of this story other than the suddenness of the bridegroom’s arrival.  What is the oil?  The Holy Spirit?  Yes.  But wait, there’s more.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is often symbolized by oil, fire, water and wind.  But there’s more.   Perhaps grace?  Yes, grace is a gift of God but there’s more.  Perhaps the oil is gained through obedient Christian living?  Yes, but there’s still more.

So what’s the more?  The very thing that God sees as our precious gift we give to him.  It’s TIME.  How do you get the oil?  By your TIME spent with God.  God takes the gift we’ve given by our lived out space in our calendars – to become the very oil that we need.  Not just the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit, but something deep within, so that we shine from the inside.  We become like a lamp.

I think I’d like to stay and think on this revelation. I’m thankful that Heidi obeyed Holy Spirit when she shared it.  So please, do not hesitate to give God your time.  It may not be the hours that Heidi spends – but your own date with God.  You can worship, ask questions, read the Bible, and so much more. This is a date journey with God, and he’s inviting you right now.

I’d like to pray with you.  Sorry Lord, that we’ve been neglecting you – Christians and non-Christians alike.  Thank you for dying for us.  We give you our calendars, and our lives.  Cleanse us from all we have done wrong, and the tendency to go our own way.  Please fill us with your Holy Spirit.  Help us to respond to your invitation to spend time with us.  Bless my friends who are reading this article. Touch their lives, as they take time for you. In Jesus name.

If you’d like to hear audio podcasts of Ways to Grow in God, they are available on our missions/radio website coppleswesterncape.ca  Here is the direct link to the Ways to Grow in God podcast page:   WTGIG Podcasts

You can also hear them Thursdays on CWCP via Galcom audio streamer  on Thursdays 8 pm SAST, or on the CWCP podcast page as full radio shows.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann

Laurie-Ann Copple
Worcester, South Africa

 

Growing in God through the power of blessing

 

 

 

 

During my last article, we discovered the power of encouraging others.  We encourage others by smiles, hugs, kindness, prophetic words, and sowing blessings.  When my husband and I got married, we took our commitment to encourage each other seriously. We included the phrase ‘to love, honour and encourage’ each other in our wedding vows.  It’s a lifetime commitment to bless others, including your spouse.  When we sow blessing into others, we reap blessing.  The law of sowing and reaping is a biblical principle that’s often talked about concerning finances.  But this is about far more than money.

Let’s take the idea of encouragement further into blessing.  In the last article, I spoke of my encouragement to singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson, who now is blossoming in her music career.  And we discovered another example – that of Anne Sullivan – who was deeply loved into life by a nurse that gave her brownies and a loving, listening ear.  That young girl later was to mentor Helen Keller.  When you bless others, who knows how far that can reach?

One of the missionaries that we work with in Worcester, South Africa is Mella Davis.  She is a missionary and an educator.  We teach in her school, and help her with a kids club in Riverview township. These kids have responded sweetly to her strong and loving personality. When she gives discipline, it’s done with love, and deep blessing.  One thing that she does at the end of the time together is to have the children and helpers join hands in a circle.  We sing together of the power of blessing into each other, and the surrounding world.  Believe it or not, this song is known as an Aretha Franklin Song!

She sings, “Reach out touch somebody’s hand, make this a better place, if you can.”  The kids love it, and everyone’s heart is warmed by the sharing and the song.  Here are the lyrics of the song:

Chorus: Reach out and touch Somebody’s hand;
Make this world a better place, If you can (x2).
Take a little time out of your busy day To give encouragement To someone who’s lost the way;
Or would I be talking to a stone, if I asked you to share a problem that’s not your own;
We can change things if we start giving.
Chorus: Reach out and touch Somebody’s hand;
Make this world a better place, If you can (x2).
If you see an old friend on the street, and he’s down,  Remember his shoes could fit your feet; Try a little kindness you’ll see, It’s something that comes very naturally. We can change things if we start giving.

Here is the song sung by Diana Ross: video
Here is the song sung by Aretha Franklin video

These well-known African-American singers are basically encouraging us to bless.  There are so many scriptures that back this up.  Paul in Romans 12 reminds us that we are to remember to bless and pray for those who curse us.  This is intentional.  You have to choose to bless – whether it’s the one person in front of you, or many who are watching. We all need blessing – one at a time.

Yet sometimes we do the opposite of blessing.  We may be mean without even realizing it.  Complaints, sarcasm, and cutting comments can strike a person’s soul deep within in.  If the target is a child, it’s even worse.   And if you’re a teacher, like we are… this is a warning.  These kids have more than enough discouragement in their lives without adding un-intentional curses from us.  So we need to stand guard and make it a habit to be kind at all times.

The writer of the book of James makes clear how easy it is to control our tongue. If you control it, you can intentionally bless and not discourage by mistake.  James 3: 1-11 goes as follows:

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.   We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?”

Another form of ‘cursing’ is teasing.  I shared in another article that my father used to constantly tease me.  And then I endured it at school so much that we had to move neighbourhoods.   I am not talking about light natured teasing, where you don’t mind because you know you are loved by the person.  I am talking about the feeling of wilting under constant negative words.  They cause you to shut down inside, rather than to grow and blossom.

I travelled to Lahore, Pakistan for a mission in January 2006.  I went alone and stayed with a local ministry.  It’s not generally a good idea to go alone on missions, but no one else would join me at the time.  And I found that both India and Pakistan were lands where most people I saw were thin.  In Pakistan, if you were a little overweight, you’d be teased lightly until you lost the weight.  And then they saw me.  I think I shook their cultural constructs of what a missionary could look like.  In my case, the gospel message came in a different package.

So I at first got light natured teasing, and I just laughed it off with something like, “no sweets for me.”  That was easy, since I found Pakistani sweets too sugary for my liking, but I did like their ice cream.  But then the teasing increased exponentially.  It seemed like I would be teased at least four times an hour.  That’s once every fifteen minutes.  I took a day off to visit a friend in another neighbourhood, and was at peace, since there was no teasing.  However, that’s when the teasing caught up with me, and I realized there was something wrong.  That night I cried and couldn’t fully sleep. I prayed through the night, and in the morning, I had a strong sense of peace.  Somehow I had learned of a local Punjabi proverb that was “there is no need to state the obvious.”  So I was greeted by the cook, who teased me.  I was filled with peace from God, so it was easier to respond in a positive way. I said good morning, then that proverb, and that I would love some chai. Then my hostess came in and also teased me, and I smiled and said, “Esther, if you really loved me, you wouldn’t say that. Let’s move on and talk about something else.” And then it happened a third time, and again, I stood up with kindness.

However, I was exhausted, and later had to lie down.  Unfortunately, my bed was in their main living room, where they did ministry.  So I asked the ministry leader to just ignore me resting, and to carry on with his work. After his guest left, he asked me why I needed to sleep during the day.  I explained to him about the sleepless night I just had, as well as the effect of all the teasing.  He was familiar with spiritual warfare, and that Satan was using these words to shame me. While this was true, the source of the poison came from the tongues of those who worked under him.  Their teasing was like curses.

I explained that I understood Pakistan has a culture of thin people, and if anyone was bigger than that, they would be teased. However, I said in my own culture, it was seen as an offense to go on and on about it.  That was not teasing, it was fat shaming. Then I asked if they have bees in Pakistan, and when was I told that there were, I used an analogy of bee stings.  I said, “unless you are allergic to bees, if one or two bees sting you, they won’t kill you.  You’ll just get a sore arm.  But if you get many bee stings, it can kill you.”  The leader’s eyes opened wide in surprise, and from then on, all teasing stopped.  They learned through my example what little stings of teasing can do.  Even as a Christian, they can get under your guard, when you least expect it.  So bless them back.

My friend Tanya shared with me another story.  She was shown three bowls of cooked white rice that were stored in different rooms.  The first bowl of rice was blessed and people spoke kind words over it.  The rice in that bowl turned pink!  The second bowl was ignored, and the rice stayed white.  Finally, the third rice bowl was cursed, and people spoke negative words over it.  The rice in the third bowl turned black!    There have also been similar experiments over plants – they respond to blessing and cursing.  I have to look more into this to confirm these reports, but I can say that I’m not surprised.  Both Blessing and cursing have a powerful effect on the environment.  So WHY do we curse when we can bless?

American prophet James Goll shared an online “Elijah List” article about blessing back in 2015. He said that we are indeed blessed to BE a blessing. We are to proclaim blessings over our families, churches, cities and nations.  Even if our own parents haven’t blessed us, there are some people who have.  And God always blesses, he does not curse.

We are all crying out for encouragement and to be blessed.  It doesn’t have to be a priest or pastor who does it, although that’s special too. And a father’s blessing is absolutely essential for a child to come into their own during puberty.  It’s like the child needs this blessing to grow into their masculinity or femininity. But still anyone can bless.  And if you have come to faith, you have Jesus living inside of you.  You can bless with real spiritual power.

Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote about expressing blessings, in their book The Blessing.   The First is to TOUCH.  Through touch, we can impart life, warmth, compassion and blessing. There is a reason why leaders and prayer people touch you when you ask for prayer. This could be a light touch on the hand, shoulder, or a hug. You are connecting and imparting love and care to that person. The Apostle Paul told the Romans in Romans 1:11 that he wanted to be with them so he could impart a blessing to them.   Touch is also one of my husband Tony’s love languages, so when I touch him, he feels loved.  We have been married for (almost) nineteen years, but we still hold hands all of the time. And Tony is not alone in receiving love this way.  This is the same with many people.

The second way to bless is through a spoken word.  This can be prophetic as in giving specific hope to people, or it can be as simple as a sincere, loving compliment.  The third way to bless is to attach high value to the person that you are blessing. This means you don’t give the same words of blessing to everyone.  Sometimes a blessing in words is specific.  The important thing is to honour the person, for honour is the language of heaven.  Stop and offer an arrow prayer to God.  What would Holy Spirit say to that person?  Or give that person thanks for something good they have been doing.  When you really notice people, it validates them. They are not invisible.  They matter. Choose to notice and bless them.

The fourth way to bless is to give them a taste of favour for their future.  Blessings help move people into their destiny.  Why?  Because someone believes in them!  Whether your blessing is general or something just for them, that person now has a deposit of hope and joy to see their future in a brighter light.

And the fifth way to bless is to commit to follow-up on the person you blessed.  How are they doing?  Encourage them, that the blessing was not a mistake, and that they are valued.

And so, I take it as an honour to bless all of you.  May the Holy Spirit pull out any darts in your hearts that brought shame and discouragement. You matter. You really do.  Please don’t allow the words of the past to haunt you and follow you all of your days.  And if you’re looking for the blessing of a mother, I give it.  Grow, child in Jesus’ name.  You are loved. You were created to be loved.  Forgive those who have hurt you so that you can receive even more blessings.  It’s time to open your heart.  You are safe.

As I write this article, I am reading this scripture over you from Numbers 6: 24-27: May the Lord bless you, and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace.

And so Lord, fill my friends with your peace, in Jesus’ name.   Now, let’s all choose to bless!

Growing in God through encouragement

 

 

 

 

During my last written article, we discovered the near joy of finally depending on God completely.  Sometimes we are forced to do so through health concerns or disability.  Yet, what may seem like disability to people, actually can be turned positive for God.

One thing that helps anyone who is struggling in life – whether disabled, ill, or insecure is encouragement.  Encouragement is a spiritual service gift mentioned in Romans 12:8.  The Apostle Paul tells us “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.”  Encouragement means to exhort, comfort, counsel or help.  It means to offer thanks or appreciation, and to cheer someone on.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t have enough encouragers – most people complain or are critical.  But is that actually helpful?  Complaining is different than stating a fact and moving on.  Complaining and criticism actually tear down, rather than build up.

One of my former pastors was named Dale.  He used to say that encouragement is the oxygen of life.  And so it is.  When we encourage with love, words and action we positively impact the people around us.  When we encourage in love, we change the atmosphere,  and God can bless others through us.  And they just may bless us back.

Smiles can particularly encourage.  I’ve been told many times that my smile blesses people – it disarms shyness and breaks down barriers.  I’ve had this happen in church, divine appointments, and on the mission field.   It’s the same with calling people by name.

Tony and I feel so strongly about encouragement, that we changed the regular wedding vows.  Tony did not say he would love, honour and cherish me and I did not say I would love, honour and obey him.  Instead, we chose to bless each other with the same promise:  to love, honour and encourage. We took that further and promised to always forgive and always strengthen each other.  Through 19 years, we have worked to do that.  Sometimes it’s been easy, and other times it’s been more difficult.  Yet always there is love. Always there is encouragement that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Choosing to encourage is a commitment.

When you choose to encourage daily – it affects your spouse, your friends, and all those around you.  Tony and I are called to underprivileged children.  Some of them are latch-key kids.  Others are orphans. And yet others have parents, but still need all the love and encouragement they can get.  It’s a real blessing to pour this kind of love into people.  And really, it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s kindness. It’s just one of the love languages that make people thrive.

Encouragement and kindness are linked.  Kindness can take many forms. Some of these acts of kindness are practical deeds.  Sometimes they are called random acts of kindness.  This can be going out into the community and helping a senior clean their home or garden.  Or perhaps to provide a sandwich and glass of juice to a child.  It could be taking a disabled friend to go do their grocery shopping.  In a sense, this is not just something that missionaries do.  We can all do this!  We have opportunities to be kind every day.  EVERY day!

Okay, so you’ve had your eyes open to human kindness – which is everywhere.  It’s not exclusive to Christians.  There isn’t just darkness and evil around, although there is a lot of that.  But think of God’s kindness.  Think of how he encourages us with love, joy and peace in our hearts. He opens our hearts to more.  When we act on and live in this compassion, we grow the fruit of the spirit KINDNESS.  The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  It is the exact opposite to a lot of the evil in the world.

We are also encouraged in Colossians 3:12 to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  These aren’t something we can grow on our own.  We need to keep spending time asking to be filled with these things – even patience.  However, kindness and encouragement are a lot more fun to grow in than patience!

So what are some other ways to grow this gift?  It happens with practice! Also when we continue to encourage, we can also receive some back.  Remember, what you sow, you also reap. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Galatians 6:7.  If you sow kindness, you reap kindness.  Patricia King once told a story that she was led to give away many of her clothes.  She did this time and again.  Each time she did this, she was given more clothes!  That’s just a side benefit. But basically, if you are sowing blessings, you will reap blessings. If you sow curses, even if they seem to be deserved curses, guess what comes back your way?  Better to stop the cursing right now.  There’s way too much of that around.  Remember what Paul says to us in Romans 12: Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

So here’s some ideas to grow that gift of encouragement in your life.  Write someone a letter.  Visit a sick person in the hospital or hospice.  Pat someone on the shoulder or back. Sit with someone who has just lost a family member.  Listen to someone who is struggling.   Ask God what to say, or even, if you’re not meant to speak.  Sometimes encouragement is not saying anything at all, but is just to be there with someone – especially if they are grieving.

Here’s a good example of encouragement.  A young girl known as Little Annie was locked up in a mental institution outside Boston in the US.  Doctors saw her as hopelessly insane.  Yet an old nurse felt compassion and kindness for Annie, and in time, she responded to the nurse’s attention and regular gifts of brownies.   Eventually, Annie was completely changed and wanted to give back to the other patients. Annie became Anne Sullivan, the woman who loved and encouraged Helen Keller.  Through Anne’s encouragement through the years, Helen blossomed, despite being blind and deaf in the years before the cochlea implants.

Encouragement is indeed the oxygen of life, as the words used also nourish our souls deep within.  Choose to bless someone with encouraging words, or actions today. Once you make this a habit, it will become a wonderful lifestyle.  We were created to love.  We were created to grow in love.  So choose to be kind and encourage, even when you don’t feel like it.

Here’s a small example of my own.  When I still lived in Ottawa, I had two radio shows on CKCU.  One is a Christian show called Over My Head, where we would play music from artists from a Christian world-view. This could be music of any genre – from contemporary classical, to jazz, to blues, to folk. The other show was Window of Opportunity, a folk show where we would especially encourage up and coming folk musicians. Some were local, others from further afield.  Two musicians played in our studio live – Shane and Lynne.  Shane is a bluesy folk artist, who was accompanied by his then-girlfriend Lynne.  Lynne was and is a great musician in her own right.  She has a warm clear voice, and light touch on the acoustic guitar.  I was given insight during my interview with them, and encouraged Lynne on the spot.  I asked her, “What about your own music, Lynne?  I think you have wonderful potential.”  Lynne had a pained expression on her face, and unfortunately I can’t remember what she said.  However, apparently she needed to hear my encouragement.  She in time released her first cd, “Things I miss.”  This was the first of many cds to come.  She wrote a lovely note in the thanks section of that cd liner.  She gave thanks to “Laurie-Ann for saying the right thing just when I most needed to hear it.”  While I made a point of encouraging all of the artists who I had on the show, it was even more special when what I said made a turnaround for Lynne.  And what a turnaround it was!  Not only is Lynne an amazing singer-songwriter, but she also pairs with Lynn Miles as part of the Two Lynn(e)s!  So never underestimate the power of encouragement.  And when you are the one to encourage, it blesses you back.

Now think of all the people who need encouragement out there.  Too often some people work or minister for years and never know whether know how well they are doing.  They get no positive feedback, and eventually if they make a mistake, they only receive criticism!   Please encourage the people around you.  Like Lynne, this may be the moment they need it the most.

Lord Jesus, I lift up my friends who are reading this and ask that you enlarged their hearts.  Also enlarge mine. Give us the promptings to be kind and encourage at just the right time.  Thank you for how I could encourage Lynne.  Please give my all who are reading, the special opportunity to bless and encourage.  Let it become something that will catch on as they pay it forward.  In Jesus’ name.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcasts on coppleswesterncape.ca

Click the link here: Ways to Grow in God podcasts   This particular podcast is #12  It comes up as after the podcast on Growing in God through Bible Study.  The audio versions are in a completely different order than the articles on this website.  The audio versions are sometimes updated stories, but other times are completely new.  However you receive these teachings, I pray they will bless you.

Love, Laurie-Ann Copple

Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

 

Can God use those who are weak? Growing through leaning on God

 

 

 

 

 

During my last article, we discovered the near joy of letting go of our self-sufficiency. We often need to come to the end of ourselves to find God.  We realize that there is something more.  Heidi Baker often cries out “More!” in her pre-talk prayers.  Andrew Murray had to come to the end of himself so that he could lean more on God – in his preaching, devotions and impact on others.  He was used as one of the leaders of the 1860- 1862 Cape Awakening here in South Africa.  Sometimes those with incredible abilities have to put them aside so that they don’t coast through life on those abilities.  These are incredible gifts, yes, but God has so much more.

When it comes to the extraordinary, brilliance often comes through imperfect vessels.  This is the case in secular society outside the church, like Stephen Hawking’s science done in a body trapped by ALS.  But it shows up even more so in the lives of people like Joni Eriksen Tada, who was a very active person until she had a diving accident at age 18.  She became paralysed from the shoulders down.  However, she shines with brilliance in ministry and reaches out – she’s written 51 books, hosts a radio show and so much more.  She’s an inspiration.  Joni posted on Facebook about God being her support and stay recently.  While some people would say, “Hey, why hasn’t God healed you?”  I say, sometimes God chooses another way.  Yes, absolutely God heals.  I’ve received healing for some problems myself.  I’ve prayed for others and they’ve received healing.  But sometimes, for a season, God blesses in a different way.  Joni shared “God has used my many years in a wheelchair to remind me that yes, I am completely inadequate and anything but competent – goodness, I’m just a quadroplegic!  But my weaknesses keep pointing me to the source of all authority and ability, God, and God alone.  Praise the Lord, He makes us competent as ministers of the new covenant!”

Don’t ever think that because you have a disability or struggle with illness that you can’t have God give you a life filled with purpose.  I can think of countless times that God has used me on the mission field to surprise people.  The gospel, and especially the cross can be offensive to some people. And if it comes in a different package then what your culture expects, wow.  This happened to me the first time I went to Pakistan.  During that time, I could still walk without a cane, since the osteo-arthritis did not yet appear in my knees.  But I was still plus-size in a land where most people were rail thin.  If anyone was overweight, they would be lightly teased.  In my case, teasing came, and I just laughed it off, until it increased and I finally got it to stop. That’s a whole different story.  However, the matter was that the people of Kot Lakphat in Lahore got a taste of the gospel through a different package, an offensive one. And…it got them to think.  God is still doing the same for me in South Africa.

If God can use a donkey to rebuke and stop someone causing harm, as he did with Balaam in the Old Testament, he can surely use everyone.  Everyone has a story. Everyone has a purpose – whether they are able bodied or not.

So we’re going to hear some stories!  In Kenya, being disabled is considered a curse. Stereotyping and social exclusion are common problems among the disabled in Kenya, according to Anjeline Okola of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network. I’ve ministered in Kenya four times, and last stopped there while Tony and I were on our way to Sierra Leone. Thankfully for me I was not disabled at the time.  However,  I’ve learned of an inspiring Kenyan female pastor who co-pastors in the Bahati neighbourhood of Nairobi.  The Bahati neighbourhood isn’t far from the Eastleigh area where I used to minister to Somali refugees.  This pastor’s name is Dawn Gikandi, and she was ordained by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.  She was born disabled due to her mother being hit by a car when crossing the road.  When her mother was advised to abort her child.  She was told that her child would never walk and may suffer severe deformities.  But instead, the child was loved on. She was given the name Dawn, which signified the beginning of their joy.

Dawn wears a back brace tightened around her back to give it strength and uses a walking stick for stability. She says these do not stop her from enjoying her work.  She seeks to make God real to people, and says that God is not limited to choosing able-bodied people for service. She said that “God can use anything or anybody for his work.”

To learn more about Dawn: click here

Ron Piggott:  My long-time friend Ron is another example.  Ron practically lives in a power wheelchair. I met him when I was in seminary and he was in Bible College.  He became like my little brother.  He had several surgeries on his hips when he was a little boy due to Leg Perthes disease.  He was fine and quite active in online ministry and work with youth until his hip joints deteriorated. He had four surgeries, and stayed with Tony and me during some of that time.  After his hips began to finally work, his knee joints also became very bad.  He has managed life in a power wheelchair for years now.   Many people have prayed over him for healing, but instead, Ron was given a deep grace to endure.  He has wisdom beyond his years, with an attitude of grace and perseverance. He is thankful for Holy Spirit helping him manage his life, as well as being able to reach out to others.  He continues to minister online through several websites devoted to evangelism and Bible verses.   Local youth randomly drop in on him and he pours love and encouragement into their lives.  Recently one of them shared to Ron that a few years ago, he came to visit with secret plans of suicide.  Ron spoke life into the boy without him even realizing what was in his heart.  Another boy shared that Ron taught and showed him how to be a man.  Normally a father figure does this for his son, but Ron did this instead. The mission field was coming to his house.

Ron even turns the chance encounters of curious people asking about his wheelchair to opportunities to pour God’s love into people.  And since Ron is no stranger to the internet, he set up a You-Tube channel to minister to struggling people on life skills and on dealing with disability in a positive way.  My little brother is just as much a missionary as I am, and people are receiving life through Jesus.

Avis Goodhart: Avis Goodhart got a taste of missions when she went on her first mission at age 50.  That’s not as unusual as you may think – Tony’s first was at age 64.  She had dyslexia, permanent nerve damage from Bells palsy, and a life of past abuse.  She was let go as a special eds teacher, and God used her skills on the mission of Peru.  And although he calls herself an unlikely missionary, she founded a children’s centre and school, which has lasted for more than 20 years.  She often says “Don’t waste your pain.”

I had the opportunity to meet Henri Nouwen, who was a wonderful Dutch devotional speaker and writer.  Later in life he worked with L’Arche, a French ministry to the developmentally disabled.  And he often fought depression through his life, and chose to keep ministering by allowing himself to be a wounded healer.  I saw him speak at my University – with the encouragement to put our brokenness under the blessing of Jesus.  Jesus transforms our pain and brokenness, just like he did his own.   It was a perfect example of 2 Corinthians 5:4 – He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Andrew White:  I was also blessed in hearing Canon Andrew White in person.  He’s a charismatic Anglican priest, who started out in England and eventually earned the nickname of “Vicar” of Baghdad.  He was the only western Anglican priest in what was originally an expat church.  During Andrew’s ministry in Baghdad, the congregation was all Iraqi.

He has a huge heart of reconciliation in the Middle East, and compassion for the persecuted Iraqi Christians. Had it not become incredibly dangerous, he would still be ministering there.  He was like a dear uncle to many children and the poor. He is not only a priest, but is also a medical professional.  He had a medical outreach in his church that provided free medical care, dental care and prescriptions to Muslims and Christians alike.  Yet he is disabled himself through MS.  His own clinic found a way to treat him with his own stem cells, which gave him further perseverance in his ministry.  He is often in Jordan with his Iraqi refugees, making sure the Iraqi church remnant survives, and there is a school for the children.   And while he walks with a cane and has to limit his ministry time, the time he spends with those he is with is very, very precious. You would feel like you were a beloved member of his congregation.

Michele Perry:  I was amazed to discover that there is an Iris example of a disabled leader.  Michele Perry has an amazing story. She accomplished much after coming to faith at age seven, including motivational speaking, leadership training, consulting and writing before she was 16.  She also “stopped for the one” in the American inner-city streets, the streets of Calcutta, and later in Bangladesh.  She was led to Iris after seeing Papa Rolland speak in Denver and went off to Harvest School, like Tony and I did years later. She even arrived at the school with shingles, which was healed by God in Mozambique.  She was the one who pioneered the Iris base in South Sudan, which is now led by Carolyn Figioli.

Michele endured the war-torn South Sudan bush with only having one leg. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, but her book “Love has a Face” describes all the walking and ministry she did, so she must have been fit.  Add to her situation that she stood out. The fact that she was so white, among very black Sudanese, was already a contrast.  She said, “If I had been Sudanese, no one would have cast a second glance. But I am very white and everyone was fascinated. In addition, I have one leg and walk with crutches, making my white appearance all the more fascinating.”   They probably gave her the same curious looks that I received in Pemba when I was walking around with a cane, only having one leg is even more obvious. She was already forced to depend on God physically, and her time in Sudan taught her even more about extreme dependence on God in other ways.  We cannot love people to life on our own – it’s entirely with his life.  It’s entirely through Him transforming our hearts to reflect His.  Having a less than perfect body even shows the point even more. It’s only by His grace.

Michele came to faith in the hospital.  She said she was no stranger to hospitals. She was born missing her left hip, leg and kidney.  She also had other birth defects that needed 23 surgeries before she was 13.  So she walks with crutches.

Michele came to faith when Jesus gave her a physical encounter in her hospital room. He was pure love. She said, “there he was in my room. He looked with eyes that saw me and loved every part. The good parts, the not-so-good parts, the broken parts – He loved them all.”  Michele was not invisible, she was seen.  She later learned that others were invisible too, and part of her ministry was to see them, to notice them, and to love them.  In Bangledesh, she shared with beggars on the corners who wondered why she was not begging as well.  They told her, “you only have one leg, you should be in your country begging, and you definitely should not be happy.”  So she introduced them to the One who took care of her needs and gave her joy.  She didn’t let her disability stop her.  In fact, Jesus made her thrive, because she completely depended on him.   She loved on her Sudanese community as well, and had many children under her care.  Some of them were fearless and loved three year olds, who knew how to pray with confidence.  Her personal favourite prayer was offered up by such a child.  It was, “Jesus, please bring Mama her leg.  I know it is in heaven.  Bring it here now, Leg grow.”  Michele said, “If I ever had a doubt of my leg being restored, my children’s faith has sure helped to banish it.”  While she still has one leg, Michele continues to be used of the Lord to touch many lives.

Speaking of Christian leaders missing a body part, here is another example.  Bethany Hamilton is a surfer, who often speaks to youth to encourage them.  She even went on a mission trip to Thailand a year or two after the horrible tsunami in 2004. Bethany unfortunately lost one arm to a shark attack.  She struggled with what to do with her life after this event, and eventually re-learned how to surf professionally.  You can see her story in the movie Soul Surfer.

Andrew Murray:  In my last talk, I shared about how Andrew Murray’s strengths or attitudes of self-effort could get in the way.  Eventually he learned that he simply could not minister in his strength, especially when it came to writing.  He had to dictate his writings to his daughter Annie (or another relative).  He was forced to do this because he couldn’t hold a pen for long.  When he was 21, he never completely recovered from malaria and overwork in his early ministry tours in what was the Transvaal).

Andrew shared when he was praying about whether to leave his first pastorate of Bloemfontein for one further north, where there were no pastors. His mother encouraged him that God may speak of his limitation through his health.  He was encouraged to use this as an opportunity to lean on God in ministry, rather than take up another pastorate based on his human strengths and gifts alone. She was concerned that he would burn out and eventually leave the ministry. Unfortunately many pastors do this!  Andrew shared that he had “painful tingles in his arms, hands and back whenever he doesn’t get enough rest.” (Olea Nel – 2nd Andrew Murray novel)

Each of these Christian leader’s stories show that they brought their disabilities to God.  Dawn Gikandi resisted her call due to her disabilities, but then trusted God to make her able to minister his love.  This is in a country where the disabled are  shunned.   My little brother Ron has peace with how God uses him to touch lives, even when he is in daily pain.  His resilience surely is a gift from God. Avis Goodhart was given a chance to turn her life into something beautiful – so the unlikely missionary to Peru poured the love of Jesus into kids.

Henri Nouwen may not have been a missionary, but he took his own brokenness and gave it to God.  He was used to bless many, including the disabled in the L’Arche community.  Andrew White has a difficult life physically, but is ONE of the most joy filled people I’ve ever known.  He shines with the same deep light of the persecuted church, and is given the ability to minister to persecuted Iraqi Christians in the midst of his own pain.

Michele Perry founded Iris South Sudan, although she had to give it up after 13 bouts of serious malaria and other problems. But she endured the bush for seven years, plus ministry in many other slums – with one leg. And still she keeps going, because of her dependence on God.

And lastly Andrew Murray learned to depend on God once again – first he had to give God his strengths.  Now he had to give God his weakness – and he could write through help of dictation.  After all, having a co-writer wasn’t new. The Apostle Paul did this as well.

So, what are your strengths?  Give them to Jesus.  Don’t let them get in the way, so you burn out for God. Don’t live by your strengths.  Give them to God.

What are your weaknesses?  Give them to God as well.  He will make them strengths in a way that seems like a paradox.  Yet it isn’t.  Jesus promises us that we can do all things through him who strengthens us.  But this is really a promise when we rest in him and don’t strive.  Let him work through you.

Also, give him your expectations. Each of these people discovered that ministry and life would look different for them. God has a much better way. Surrender your expectations to God.  Allow him to open your eyes, and widen your horizons.  That way, it’s easier to receive God’s surprises!

Blessings to you all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

Here is a link to an eye opening article on the disabled being ignored within government websites (and other places).

 

Growing in God through letting go of self-sufficiency

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter!  He is risen. He is risen indeed. We are Easter people in a Good Friday world, as Desmond Tutu says.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what invites the presence of God in our daily lives.  This isn’t just about daily devotions, as essential as they are.  It’s about the more.  Do you want more?  I certainly do.  Heidi Baker often cries out “More!” in her pre-talk prayers, that we are invited to join in. She doesn’t do anything without God’s presence.  Without it, your cup is empty and you have little to give that will last or impact lives.

I’ve been reading up on Andrew Murray Jr, who was a beloved 19th century South African pastor. He was mediator, missionary, speaker, writer, and he bordered on the edge of apostolic.  He was a strong figure, with a vibrant personality – full of many strengths.  His roots were Scottish from his father, Andrew Murray Senior, the pastor of the Graaf-Reinet congregation. His mom was a devout lady from Cape Town, who had sixteen children.  He and his older brother John travelled to Scotland and the Netherlands for their university and seminary education. They were both highly influential, as was a third brother, William, who later trained for ministry as well.  Andrew was part of several revivals, including one that impacted both Murray brothers when they were in the very liberal Utrecht seminary.  The revival that Andrew was most known for was the Cape Awakening in 1860 – 1862, which began first in Montagu, and then spread to Worcester, where he was the new pastor at the time.  Other Christian leaders also were able to encourage this move of the Holy Spirit; that happened mostly in the Cape colony.

Andrew learned to not stifle the manifestations of crying out in intercession, and of also crying out in remorse for sins, although he at first did not understand it.  Who can completely understand God?   That’s beyond us… but pity the person that stands in his way.  So that’s about God’s power.   Earlier I mentioned about many of Andrew Murray’s gifts and strengths.  I have found  that he would have set those aside and consider them little.  Even the Apostle Paul said of his own accomplishments without Jesus as being ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish.’

Here’s what Paul said about his strong Jewish schooling and heritage in Philippians 3:  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c] For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

Paul realized that pride and self-sufficiency become stumbling blocks to growing in faith.  In his case, he even had a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.  Some have speculated that this was a health problem. If it was, I’m not surprised, for I have one of my own, as had Andrew Murray.  He could not sit down very long to write, due to injuries and illnesses he went through in his exhaustive early ministry.  I have noticed again and again that God does not always use people in perfect health to accomplish great things.

So Andrew Murray learned early that pride and self-sufficiency are stumbling blocks to faith.  He learned that lesson more than a few times, which is the case of a strong personality. Yet Jesus says in John 15: 1-8:  “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothingAnyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Do you notice the verse where non-abiding branches are to be burned?  This reminds me of the scenario of being allowed to burn out, even if it has happened within trying to do Christian things.   This also includes the scenario of just leaning on your own strengths, even if they are absolutely amazing gifts.  The lasting fruit comes from remaining in the vine. This process is called abiding in God’s presence.  It’s similar to the soaking prayer I’ve shared about previously.

If you have a strong personality with many great abilities, these are good things.  However, you may want more than good things.  If you are involved in any kind of ministry, it is important to give these to God daily.  Spend deep time with him.  Without him, these strengths can become weaknesses in which we burn out trying to accomplish good things.   For those who already have weaknesses, then you need to know your limitations and give those to God.  Weaknesses can include illness, disability, circumstances and challenges of a different sort. These that can make one feel inadequate.   One of my favourite inner healing teachers was Leanne Payne, who wrote a book called The Healing Presence.  In it, she says that we need to learn our sense of inadequacy, so that we have to depend on God.  If you are weak, you already know this, but you need to know who to turn towards. Turn to Jesus!  When we give God transcends those weaknesses to show strength, so these people can accomplish incredible things for God, in many fields – not just in the church.

Strong personalities also have to turn to God, to in a sense, save themselves from their self-effort. It’s almost like the sinner’s prayer when we come to faith.  Our faith comes alive by grace, when we accept his love and lean on God.  This is the same.  I also had an encounter, where I took a course on overcoming self and prayed a ‘selfers prayer.’  Part of this is described in chapter six of Charles Solomon’s book Handbook to Happiness.  Before one learns to live by the Holy Spirit, they feel like they are in the wilderness of self-effort.  They are living to die.  When they come to a time where they become centred in Jesus Christ, and abiding in him, they are now dying to live.  The prayer was as follows:

Father, I admit that I’m a selfer, and have been struggling in my own resources to live the Christian life.
I confess that my life is a failure and a mess.
I now give up my life and affirm with You my death with Christ. I also affirm that I have risen with Christ and am seated in Him in the heavenly places.
I give you complete control of myself and everything I’m hanging onto to meet my needs.
Do with me whatever you choose.
I now thank you that Christ is my life.

When I prayed this prayer, it was a form of surrender of my self-suffiency. This is still a process, but I am thankful for the ministry of the man who shared this book and course.

Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China around the same time period that Andrew Murray was active in South Africa. He also learned this lesson and burned out in his ministry.  He had a wonderful gift of identifying with the Chinese and becoming like them as much as he could. However, the need overwhelmed him and he became ill. During a recovery, he learned the importance of abiding in Jesus. He called it his spiritual secret and quoted John 15 as his life scripture.  Abiding became how he could do anything.  What does “to abide” mean?

Modern English gives different versions of abide, which makes light of the word; like the merely tolerate or obey.  But an older version of the word means to remain, continue, stay, persist; and even to live or dwell.  It is the word dwell or live that is closest to the biblical view of abide.  In Hebrew the word is ‘yashabh.’  This is an incredible closeness that invites us to live in the very centre of God’s heart.  He wants us to stay there.  He wants to love on us before we run off to play and work.

Abiding applies to deep daily surrender.  It’s not just a once and a while thing. God helps us to do this.  Andrew Murray wrote a book called Absolute Surrender.  In it, he encourages us that it is not impossible to give everything to God. How is this so?  It is because it is God himself who helps us.  It was the Holy Spirit who helped me to pray that selfer’s prayer, and it was God that continued my ongoing surrender, so that I could live more and more in peace and not in strife.

Andrew wrote: “God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.”  He also quotes Philippians 2 verse 13:   For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Jesus also lived his life dependent on the Father (as well as the Holy Spirit). Jesus  said in John 5 verse 19, that he only did what he saw the Father doing.  He didn’t get burned out, he relied on the Holy Spirit and spent times alone in prayer with the Father. While he could have done miracles because of his own divinity, he chose to put this aside until after his resurrection and ascension to heaven.  Philippians 2: 5 – 11 shares this attitude:

Though he was God,[ahe did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus gave the ultimate absolute surrender.  Andrew Murray said that the life of absolute surrender has two sides:  on one side, to work what God wants you to do, [and] on the other side, to let God work what HE wants to do.”   This is a process, but God helps you on the journey.  Then the blessings flow out onto you, because now your cup is empty and waiting – to be filled with and by Holy Spirit!

The whole idea of being filled with God’s peace, love and purpose is to allow the blessings.  The blessings are one part of experiencing God’s love.   Earlier (in other posts) I talked about allowing grace to overcome obstacles.  Those obstacles were like speedbumps. This journey is the same process, but from a deeper perspective.  This is a continuation from receiving Holy Spirit for our own lives to receiving Holy Spirit continually to reach out to other people.

Those other people may include your friends, family and your sphere of influence.  In our case, our current sphere isn’t just in Canada, but is also in our new community of Worcester, South Africa.  We could easily burnout if we rely on our own strength.  I can tell you, there are some days it can be difficult – especially with our crowded schedules.  We can continually practice the presence of God (which is something I will share about another time). However, we need to have adequate time for God.  Give him your schedule.  Make a space for him. We need to take a specific time and set it in your calendar – think of it as a date with God.  And in your daily life, allow his interruptions – they usually involve unexpected blessings that you can’t ignore.  These flow from your time with God.

One of our Afrikaans pastors, Pieter-Louis and his wife Sume, make a date with God every evening after nine.  This is a great sacrifice of time – but since they do this, I can say that this dear couple are so full of the love of God that they are wonderful to be around. Their ministry is a genuine one.  Their sufficiency is not in themselves, and they are growing in God as a result.  The fruit of the Spirit is easy to see in their lives.

My last example is that of our Iris ministry founder, Heidi Baker.  While her schedule is even more intense than ours, she and her husband Rolland spend hours with God.  They have no sufficiency in themselves, even with doctoral degrees.  Their lives in Pemba, Mozambique have crazy interruptions, intense difficulties, spiritual warfare, and the many challenges that can arise in African countries.  They rely on God for finances to feed, clothes, educate and minister to thousands in Pemba alone.  That doesn’t include the mercy and relief ministries they do throughout the world. Throughout the difficulties, they are in prayer and worship. They know they face impossible tasks.  Each time,  they put their lives and ministry COMPLETELY in God’s hands.

Heidi often shares of the time where she was so burned out that she no longer wanted to be a missionary.  She instead wanted to go work in K-Mart (a American budget department store, similar to PEP in South Africa).   So, she surrendered it all again to God.  It didn’t take long for God to restore her, although the next season of her life was intense and difficult.  But now the Holy Spirit could strengthen her in perseverance.

It’s at times like this that we realize it is impossible to continue your ministry, or any long-term task that matters with God.  Then we can relax and depend on God’s faithfulness.  He doesn’t let us down. So remember, surrender that self-sufficiency.  Learn from the examples of Jesus, the apostle Paul, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, Leanne Payne, Heidi Baker and others I’ve mentioned.  I will share more on this soon. Allow God to help you as he did them.  You won’t regret it.

Blessings to you all,

Laurie-Ann Copple
Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

You can hear Laurie-Ann share Ways to Grow in God on CWCP – Copples Western Cape Radio on Thursdays, 8 pm South African Standard Time.

You can also listen via the podcasts of the Worcester Reports  and Ways to Grow in God

Growing in God through hunger and thirst

 

 

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about what draws the presence of God in a tangible way. It’s to hunger and thirst for him.  Psalm 42:2 says, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”  We are urged by James that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). This principle is true, even during desert experiences, and hard times.

Right now Tony and I are living in South Africa, at a time of serious drought.  Many have been praying for rain, and we will gather with Angus Buchan for a massive corporate gathering to pray for rain and spiritual rain of awareness of God, turning away from our sin and cravings for evil, and being deeply satisfied in him within our beings.  The reservoirs in the region are very low, and while the city and environs of Cape Town are by the south Atlantic Ocean, there is virtually no desalinisation, although two short term plants are under construction.  Residents of the region are urged to use no more than 50 litres of water per person per day.  Think of how little that is, including showers, cooking, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and hydrating during a very hot summer. Then there’s agricultural and industrial use.  Water is something we absolutely need for everyday life.   This draught not only affects South Africa, but other southern Africa countries as well.  I was also in northern Kenya during a drought, and they were afraid for their cattle.

Hunger is similar – we need food as well – spiritual and physical.  Tony and I were in Mozambique for the Iris Global Harvest School from June – August 2016.  We saw the hungry people with our own eyes. Since they were that hungry, they would eat large amounts of scrawny chicken, beans, rice, bony fish if it was available to them simply to feel full again.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that far in deficit for food and water, but they were.

We learned from the Mozambicans on Monday mornings for our cross-cultural class.  We sat on the floor with the mamas and connected with the Makua pastors.  On our last Monday, Heidi Baker had some of the pastors share what the extreme hunger did to their families.  Pastor Pedro shared that some of his family members died of hunger and extreme want (during the colonial period of persecution before 1976).  Pedro became very hungry for justice on the earth, and through his prayers, God has raised five people from the dead (as of July 2016).  Hunger caused him to break through so many difficulties – spiritual and otherwise.  Tragedy made him not bitter, but better.  It made him hungry for justice – God’s justice; God’s righteousness.  The beatitudes scripture about righteousness surely applies to such a man:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV).”

Pedro and these other Mozambican pastors may be physically hungry now, but their spiritual hunger has been so intense that this has brought them so many answers to prayer from God.

Fasting from food was of use in this context.  It can make you hungry for righteousness and justice in ministry and needs.  Pedro fasted for six days, with prayer for someone who just died, and that person came back to life. Then Pedro became even more hungry.   Every week he fasts for two days.  He was healed of the painful family memories and turned their hunger into his own supernatural hunger.  He no longer feels the pain from the past, but has extreme trust in God for the future.  This invites us to trust and believe to press in for more hunger for God.

Hunger is a gift. While I have often thought I was hungry for God, it hasn’t been as deep as these Mozambican pastors. Their hunger and gratitude are a shining example for us to follow.  I want some of that.

Heidi then asked for the Mozambican pastors to pray over all the international Harvest School students, Tony and myself included. TWO pastors laid hands on me and did not stop for some time.  I felt like huge electric shocks ran down my body, and in my mind’s eye, I could see a picture of myself.  I was not the plus-sized lady that I see when I look in the mirror.  I was like one of the latch-key children in Africa.  I was standing beside an empty well, with no water and no food.  I was pitifully thin and no longer felt hungry, since I had learned to “just get by” with my own resources.  Even though I love the Lord, I am still learning complete dependence on him.  It’s a life-long process.  When I saw the empty cistern and the thin child, I was reminded of Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water.  And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.”

While I’m not saying that drought is necessarily caused by sin, there is an element of leaning on God, and being responsible for what he gives. So that day, I was filled upon filled with a new level of electricity… which needs to be refilled daily, of course.  I sense that’s only the start of a journey learning about hunger and thirst for God.  Jesus’ own 40 day fast in the desert is also telling.  When he is tempted by the bread, he rebukes Satan by telling him, “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”   Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

The Israelites’ time in the desert was a time of utter dependence.  Not all of them learned that lesson, so some died in the wastelands, and the next generation was finally able to cross the Jordan river.

They did not act on their spiritual hunger and seek God, but instead had an attitude of complaint and entitlement.  They did not use their time of want into an intentional fast as a sacrifice to the Lord. Their time was wasted.

I remember going on a Power Weight Loss seminar with Patricia King.  She encouraged a lot of common sense, temperance and once a week fasting (sometimes more).  The fasts weren’t necessarily fore-going specific foods, but rather eating specific soup that would target cleansing of the lymphatic system and other areas of the body, along with additional time of prayer. She said that when we fast, we flip the basic needs pyramid (Mazlo’s hierarchy of needs) so that the spiritual needs are the most important, and food slides to the lesser need. For some reason, this activates something in us in our prayer life.  Normally when one goes without food, the metabolism decides to hibernate. This is certainly the case with my very slow thyroid. It makes fasting a challenge.  However, if this is done properly, it can kick-start a breakthrough of a journey.  Yet it’s a daily and weekly discipline, as is our daily hunger for God.

I found a devotional blog by Francine Winslow that shares about the magnet of spiritual hunger for God’s presence. Spiritual hunger is a gift, that God then honours and fans into flame. God is looking for hearts that are open to him, in order to stir up a hunger that leads to a deep romance of the soul. The Holy Spirit draws us. (Luke 24:32)  We need to follow that burning sensation in our hearts – to read the Bible, ask questions, be with other Christians who are loving God, and spend time with him in worship and prayer.  It’s simple and yet hard.  We need time with him.

Act on that hunger, or it will fade. That hunger is an invitation to God’s banqueting table (Song of Songs 2:4) and to what will satisfy your heart (Isaiah 55:2).  If you feed that hunger, it will grow.  If you ignore it, it will fade and you’ll be left with eating crumbs, when you could have had the richest of foods. Francine urges us that we must RSVP to that invitation.

Hunger increases more hunger.  This is just like the example of Pastor Pedro. As he fasted, he became more hungry for justice and righteousness.  He became more hungry for God. Just like our physical appetites for certain foods can easily become larger as we develop, so it is the same with spiritual appetites.  Don’t settle for crumbs, when you can have so much more! Francine says, “the more you get, the more you will continue to have.  The more you taste, the more you want.  It’s a cycle of spiritual life and growth!”  If we decline our spiritual hunger, we can dangerously fall into apathy and lose our joy.  That’s not the way to go. Instead, turn to God daily, and ask for more hunger.  Be thankful always in the process and he will bless you even more for what you really need. I’m not talking about riches, I’m talking about joy, refreshment, and deep satisfaction that comes from eating and drinking what the Lord gives us daily.

In John 4, Jesus invited the woman at the well to taste the living water.  When his disciples offered him food, he told his disciples that he had eaten a different kind of food and he was satisfied. Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work  (John 4:34).  Again, this is spiritual food.

So I invite you to join me at the banqueting table, where the banner over us is love.  May we come to the living river, where those who have no money can still buy what we need (Isaiah 55). Listen to the words of Revelation 22:17.  It’s an invitation to you and to me.

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”  Let the one who hears, say “Come.”  And let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost.”

Even so, come Lord Jesus.  Bring us your rain in Cape Town.  Bring us your spiritual rain, and fill our hunger for you.  Amen.

Blessings to you all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

To listen to Ways to Grow in God podcasts (from CWCP-Copples Western Cape Radio) – click here  

If you are led to donate to Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple’s ministry work in South Africa, you can donate via Canada Helps Iris Ministries Canada portal – click the link and scroll down to South Africa-Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple on the fund drop down box.  Thank you and bless you!