Category Archives: Ways to Grow articles

Growing in God through Renewing our minds (refresh, renew and don’t recycle the garbage in your mind)

“A girl’s praise” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, March 2020

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

During our last article, we journeyed through growing in kindness.  Kindness can be hard to define initially, but it is something all of us desperately need.  It’s a flavour of love. It’s loving kindness, like the Old Testament Hebrew word “chesed.”  It’s also goodness in action, as shown in the New Testament. It’s an active virtue that God seeds into our hearts directly through the Holy Spirit and through the kindness of others.  The kindnesses of God, or T.K.O.G as we Copples call it, are mercies that God gives us every day. Some are small, and others are supernaturally big.  The kindness of God leads us to repentance, since it melts our frozen or stony hearts. Ezekiel 36:26 shares that God “will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. God uses moments and acts of kindness to reach us in ways that make us feel deeply noticed, loved and cared for.  We aren’t alone.

Once we realize that we aren’t alone, we know that God is there for us.  He helps us to navigate difficult territory and bad news.  Sometimes fears and old taunts that have been thrown at us can surface at these times.   I call these playing the ‘old tapes’ from past experiences. Some of these experiences are from childhood, and others more recent. But they all play on each other until they are resolved.  The child inside us still remembers incidents with childhood bullies, or a throw-away line in anger from a parent. The child doesn’t understand, and these events and words can limit, wound, and sometimes paralyze us with fear. The words limit growing past the experiences that brought pain, and the person will continue to react to anything similar until the issue is dealt with.  Until the experience is resolved, it may continue to be a barrier for emotional and spiritual growth.  Sometimes inner vows are made in moments of pain that only made the pain worse.  These are vows like “I’ll never do this, or I’ll never allow that.” 

When I was ten years old, I unofficially changed my name from Laurie-Ann to Laurie.  I told myself that from then on, Laurie-Ann was dead, but that Laurie would survive.  I would become a new girl, since my parents and I were also moving from one neighbourhood to another.  We moved neighbourhoods partially due to childhood bullies and to start over in a new area.  But the name change made things worse, and I had even more emotional pain.  My original name of Laurie-Ann actually means Victory through Grace, whereas Laurie means victory.  When I dropped the hyphen and Ann, I actually dropped the promise of grace in my name.  I strived in my own strength to please others, and became a people pleaser.  I didn’t grow stronger at all, but more enmeshed in pain and in a prison of lies.  I needed to be set free, and to renew my way of thinking.  The Holy Spirit helps us do this.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that we need to renew our minds.  Romans 12:2 tells us to “not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, acceptable and perfect.”   I had tried to please other people, but a person cannot please God until their mind is renewed.  Romans 8: 5-8 says, “those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  The sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”    My sinful nature was to try to push down my experiences, instead of bring them to God for healing.  I didn’t yet know God at that time, but even many Christians also strive in their own strength. They don’t bring their painful experiences to him for healing. And then they make wrong promises to themselves that only bring death and pain.  That road may lead to addiction, broken relationships and more pain down the road.  But we don’t know that at the time.  We’re only trying to protect ourselves.  We need to be transformed. 

A person whose mind is not renewed by the Holy Spirit cannot receive all that God has designed and planned for their life. They cannot reach their inheritance and destiny.  They and we need to be transformed. What is transformation?  It’s a “complete change of character of something or someone, so that they are improved.” [Shellie Counts, “Renewing the Mind” Foundations for Counselling Ministry] A good example of this kind of transformation is in the Francine Rivers book “Redeeming Love,” where a broken girl who is forced into prostitution is loved and transformed into the woman God intended.  It was the love of God and the love of her husband who melted her frozen heart. This dismantled all the lies that held her pain in place.  But then she had to learn to think in new ways. She had to remember that she was no longer a prostitute, but she was now a beloved child of God.  Biblical transformation is the key that unlocks how we need to be.  This is a process where your old self can pass away.  The Apostle Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4:21-24: “ Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”  Both Gideon in Judges chapters 6 – 7, and David in 1 Samuel 16 – 17 had to undergo a major mind shift so that they could come into their inheritance.  

Why do we specifically need to renew our mind?  Think of it as your mind being a computer.  When you go through computer maintenance, you need to run scan disk and defrag your hard drive.  You clean out the junk and empty the recycle bin.  But then you find other harmful things on your computer, so you to clean those things out as well.  Otherwise you can’t run programmes properly.  The computer will be erratic because it’s trying to do too many things at once.  This is the same with us when we may try to do something that looks simple, but since our minds and hearts are full of junk, we can’t handle it and have a meltdown.   

Our mind is where we process info, thoughts and feelings.  It’s also the place where we make decisions and choose our actions through our will.  It is how we think that shapes our feelings and our behaviour.  When I went to seminary, I studied for a major in counselling.  We learned many approaches, but the one that worked best with me was cognitive therapy.  That’s basically working with how you think.  How you think actually helps shape how you feel.  And your heart may be locked away by the lies that you believe.   Francis Frangipane wrote the book The Three Battlegrounds. In this book, he reminds us that the blood of Jesus Christ was spilled at the place called Golgotha, which means the “place of the skull.” [Robert S Miller, Spiritual survival for Cross-Cultural Workers, p 222]  Ironically, a fierce battle is still raging in the ‘place of the skull,’ which is the realm of our thoughts.  Think back to a time when you were so upset that your mind was racing.  It feels like your mind is taken over by a tornado.  There is no peace.   I’ve had this happen quite a few times in the midst of stress of university studies, emotional flare-ups and rejection issues.  When we are hurting, everything seems to be a big storm around us, when it is not as big as we think.  Lance Wallnau believes that we need to “allow God to change and adjust your perception filters to see as God does.   This was what Jesus meant [when he talked] about wine-skins. Mark 2:22 is about changing wine-skins!  Is YOUR mind-skin old and rigid or is it new and flexible?  Here’s the scripture:  “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins. The wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”  So just like new wine needs new wine-skins, so the new way of thinking, requires cleaning out all the old, wrong ways of thinking. It requires a new start.

One of the best people to teach you about re-wiring your thought patterns takes you beyond inner healing and cognitive therapy to use neurolinguistic programming.  Her name is Caroline Leaf.  I saw her speak for two days when I was at a leadership conference at one of my Ottawa churches in June 2015.  She takes cognitive therapy and renewing your mind to a new level.  She comes at it not only from a spiritual perspective, but of looking at the wiring of the brain itself.   I remember she shared how negative thought patterns and complaining essentially re-wires your synapses in a harmful way, which can lead to illness. When you think positively on a specific struggle, over at least 21 days, the synapsis begins to repair itself. Changing your thinking is essential to detox your brain.  If you consciously control your thought-life, you do not let thoughts rampage through your mind.  [https://drleaf.com › about › toxic-thoughts]   Caroline says that “every moment of every day, you are changing your brain with your thoughts in a positive or negative direction. Every time you think and choose, you cause structural change in your brain.  Your thoughts impact your spirit, soul and body.” [https://21daybraindetox.com/] This is one of the reasons why critically ill cancer patients are urged to think positively and choose life when they are battling through their illness.  I was told this personally by an oncologist counsellor at CapeGate, and a nurse who sat by my side after I had port-insertion surgery in late August 2019.  Thinking positively with and choosing to focus on God with hope and faith is a huge part of the battle.

I used to struggle with old messages and lies told to me in haste by bullies, relatives and teachers.  Each week we have in South Africa brings us discoveries of this kind of damage done to the children we love.  As a child, Tony was told by his father that if he didn’t work hard at his studies, or in life, he would end up as a road sweeper.   His dad used harsh words to get Tony to be a hard working responsible boy, likely at a cost of performance orientation.  We need to replace the lies and misbeliefs we believe with the truth.  Jesus told us in John 8:32, that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” There is however a process, as we uproot each and every one of these lies.  I remember being told by our pastor friend Mark Redner, that the only thing that can entrap us is a lie that the devil uses to hold us in bondage.  Once we are free, he has no power over us.  It’s true. All the fear, doubt and confusion are smoke and mirrors.  Don’t believe it.  Unfortunately, many times we do, since lies are filled up with just enough truth to make you believe it. William Backus and Marie Chapman wrote a book called Telling yourself the Truth.  [Backus and Chapman, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1980), pp. 15-22.]  They label our negative thought patterns as ‘misbeliefs.’ Misbeliefs generally appear to be true to the one who is repeating them to themselves. They are hard to decypher because most of the time there is an element of truth in them. We have also said them to ourselves for years. These misbeliefs are even more of a challenge to decypher, because we live in societies that daily feed us misbeliefs through media. Some counselors who are not trained in this therapy may not even recognize these misbeliefs when they are confronted with them. Some examples of misbeliefs are, “no one cares about me so it doesn’t matter anyway”, “Nobody wants to be around me”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I must please everyone”. If you believe these types of statements, it is important to look deeper at them.  Are they really true?  No they are not! They are full of error.

This is important because what we think determines how we feel and behave. Let me give you two examples. Say that you tell yourself your father-in-law is a horrible man that is good for nothing. Then you will believe what you tell yourself. As you accept these words, your feelings and actions will follow. This may cause you to feel anxious around him and treat him more as an enemy than as family member. Or maybe you have an employer who is difficult to work with and you tell yourself that they hate you. As this thought persists, it won’t be long before you find it hard to continue showing up for work. More than likely, your father-in-law or boss gave you some reason to tell yourself these things, so you feel justified with your beliefs about them. That is why it makes it hard for us to see our own misbeliefs.

We often want to put blame on someone or something else. We may say, “if my husband were easier to get along with, life would be easier”, or “my church is full of hypocrites and that is the problem,” or “my family is a disappointment”. We learn from Proverbs 23:7, which says in the New King James Version, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”  What we think determines how we will feel. This is so important for us to understand. We can stop getting angry, upset or misunderstanding someone in one fell swoop.  If we think that a certain person is out to get us, we will respond in anger, defensiveness or fear.  But it may not be the truth!

Consider these misbeliefs and the truth: Someone feels they are a failure at everything, including their marriage.  This is extremely limiting and feels like a smothering blanket.  Here’s the truth in perspective: Their marriage is struggling but they are deeply loved by their family and God.  Or in the case of work: I hate my job because it is terrible.  Instead, the truth would be: This is not my favorite job but it’s just for now. I can function well until I find better job.   

I used to harbour mis-beliefs about doctors, since I met quite a few arrogant ones who didn’t listen to me or want to know my thoughts on the matter.  I have met some who are kind, competent and helpful in Canada.  But I’ve been absolutely blessed by most or all of the doctors who I’ve met in South Africa.  Actually, I had been deeply blessed by the doctors on my cancer journey.  We also became good friends with an emergency room doctor that I clicked with immediately in a social setting. He was even in the recovery room after I had my mastectomy.  How comforting that was!  I had to overcome my misbelief, so I could receive the kindness and care of these wonderful people.

Angela Duval shares that our first step to overcome these misbeliefs is to realize that they are LIES that bring us down. [Angela Duval, “ Life of Freedom – Changing the Way You Think Part 1” https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing/]   We need to remove these lies from our thinking. This takes time and practice. Caroline Leaf says it takes 21 days to overcome one lie and replace it with truth. So be patient. Over time, we can become more skilled at recognizing the lies. Then, we must replace the lies with what is actually true. This on what is good! How do we know what is true? We need to read scripture, so we can learn what God’s truths are. “For example, it does us no good to say, “no one cares about me,” when we know that scripture teaches us that the God of this universe loves us with an everlasting love. Listen to Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” If you say to yourself, “I can’t do anything right,” remind yourself of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you learn to replace false beliefs with the truth, you will experience a new kind of joy and freedom in your life. I believe that God desires us to live a life of freedom, and the truth has freeing power within it.

Other times our misbeliefs are the result any painful life circumstance. Trauma can hide all kinds of reactions and lies in our memories. So, we must evaluate where these beliefs came from and see whether or not they are true. As we discover those misbeliefs, we must verify whether they are true or false. In Philippians 4:8 we find the key to gauge the validity of our thinking. In it the apostle Paul shows how important it is where our mind chooses to focus. Notice that he is not suggesting a good idea;  this is a command.  He writes:  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” [Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W. Founder, Walking Worthy and Angela Duval M.Ed. https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing-part-2/

Do your problematic lies follow the lines of Paul’s command?  Probably not. So follow four steps in weeding out the lies in your minds and hearts:   One: decide that you won’t be the victim of your thoughts, and make a conscious choice to disregard them as lies.  Two: evaluate your thoughts and beliefs using the standard I shared earlier from Philippians 4. Write in your journal which thoughts are healthy and helpful. Write which ones are lovely and praiseworthy and which are not.  Three: give your thoughts and beliefs to God.  Ask him to help change your thought patterns.  Jesus came that we might have abundant life.   Four: understand that changing how you think helps you change how you react to life’s circumstances.  It also makes it easier to receive God’s peace, comfort and hope.   Listen to Philippians 4:7:  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”    Elodia Flynn shares that “peace does not come from putting ourselves down, but rather it comes from learning to have peace within ourselves.  It comes from having an understanding of God’s Word and choosing to believe it no matter what life and experience throw at us.” [Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W. Founder, Walking Worthy and Angela Duval M.Ed. https://walkingworthyjourney.org/walking-it-out/life-freedom-changing-part-2/

Edgar Iraheta goes beyond renewing the mind to the heart – since both are affected by what we believe.  Both are impacted by lies, and we may make judgements that make our heart condition worse. We will dive into that pearl of wisdom another time.  In the meantime, renewing our minds is an essential start to transform us by rooting out lies, and becoming more and more in tune with the mind of Christ.  This is part of our inheritance.  Remember the Apostle Paul’s words I mentioned earlier.  Here is another version of Romans 12:2:  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good, pleasing and perfect.”

Lord, I ask you to conform our thoughts and minds more into your mind of Christ.  We don’t always realize where the lies and misbeliefs are embedded in our memories.  Help us to identify them, and weed them out.  Help us to replace them with your truth.  And as we do, fill us with your love, grace and hope. Fill us with your peace, as you go beyond our minds, and into our hearts.  We thank you for carrying us through difficult times, and walking beside us in good times. Lord, thank you for all your kindness to us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #63!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits, and the awaited plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar has been postponed, since the surgeon was concerned about me being exposed to covid.  

I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada. 

Meanwhile, we are still waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay until May 2021.  According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process. 

We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery and other issues. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

 We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through Kindness

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

During our last article, we journeyed through establishing legacy.  Legacy applies to families, relationships, and investing in others. It also applies to passing on skills and education.  Legacy in a spiritual sense is about discipleship.  It’s not in creating other versions of yourself like a franchise, but in training up leaders in their callings.  While we have different gifts, we all have the same ministry – that of passing on God’s love in some way.  And Legacy is also something that Tony and I have in mind for leaving something behind in Worcester that will last long after we leave South Africa.  We also offer these Ways to Grow in God podcasts as part of our legacy to you.  Legacy is also a gift – which is ultimately based in the kindness of those who have invested in us, and also the kindness of God.  Let’s journey through the field of kindness.  

We need kindness.  Even the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who always said, “Always try to be nice, and never fail to be kind.”  [https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2017-12-26/did-you-spot-all-the-doctor-who-references-in-peter-capaldis-regeneration-speech/ ] He’s right.  But what is kindness?   Kindness is often hard to define unless you use synonyms. When you Google it, the answer comes up as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.”  It also comes up as decency. Yet the definition goes beyond that to include tenderness, good-will, affection, warmth, concern, care, thoughtfulness, altruism, hospitality, generosity and graciousness.

Christian Cheong believes that “we all need kindness. It is a language the dumb can speak, the deaf can hear, and the blind can see. Kindness is far more than loving people. It is loving people more than they deserve.  “Kindness is ‘going the extra mile’, it is grace put into action.”  https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-kindness-of-god-christian-cheong-sermon-on-grace-136864 Stephen Wittmer believes that “Kindness is underrated. [Some people] equate it with being nice or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. It seems a rather mundane virtue. ”- [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything But kindness is NOT mundane.  Kindness deeply touches hearts.  It can melt past emotional defences and anger to soften a stone-cold heart.  The Old Testament ties kindness and mercy into one word: that is ‘Chesed.’   This word comes up 35 times in the Psalms and in 1 Chronicles; within the context of worship and decrees.  How often have you heard this tune, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” 

That love is not just any love – it’s loving KINDNESS.  It’s also mercy!  When you look up 1 Chronicles 16:34 in the NLT version, it says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”  In other versions, faithful love comes up as: mercy, love, loyal love, grace, and loving kindness.  My Old Testament professor in Tyndale Seminary taught us the importance of God’s loving kindness. Some misinformed people think the God of the Old Testament is mean and vindictive, while Jesus is (more) loving. However, The Father is also love. Jesus told Philip that he who has seen the son has seen the Father.   They have the same character.  John 14:9 states: “ Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” This loving kindness is something that can be counted on. This is like God’s faithfulness like a father, because He is THE Father.

So, this love, this loving kindness has been here all along.  Just as love searches out the beloved, so kindness does the same.  Kindness is an active virtue. We as believers try to act in God’s kindness.  Bible scholar David Huttar believes that “human imitation of God’s kindness does not come naturally. In fact, ultimately no one is kind. Psalm 14:3 and Romans 3:12 have the same message, that “all have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Kindness can be a consistent part of the believer’s experience because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  [David Huttar, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/kindness/]  Kindness is supernatural, as shown in Galatians 5:22-23. Notice that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Kindness also made the list of the Apostle Paul’s fruit in the midst of suffering.  Stephen Wittmer says, Paul proved to the Corinthian church that he was a true apostle. He did this by detailing three things.  These were the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel, the inner grace God gave him despite his suffering, and the God-produced fruit in his life. Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13.  In the midst of all kinds of suffering, verse 6 shows that Paul had “purity, understanding, patience and kindness.”  Wittmer shares Paul’s defense this way:  “You want proof I’m an apostle?” he said, in effect. “Okay, here it is: I’m kind.”  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything Kindness within the context of being wronged, is similar to Jesus’ command to love our enemies.  True kindness is Spirit-produced. It’s a supernaturally generous turning of our hearts toward other people. This means we do this even when the other doesn’t deserve it or doesn’t love us in return. God himself is kind in this way.  God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance which means if we haven’t yet turned to him, we are not yet his friends.  Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

When Tony and I were preparing to go back to Canada for our home visit, I prayed about the topics we would share.  We wanted not to just have a show and tell of slides of the teens and children. We’re always happy to share stories, but sometimes there is a specific message for the people who come to see us.  We minister as much to them as we do on our South African mission field.   

Prior to our arrival, I woke up from a nap while thinking about the “kindness of God.”  Part of this was tied to the Romans 2 scripture, but the kindness of God leads to more than repentance.  Kindness leads us closer to God, because he softens our hearts.  This is also tied to the loving kindness and care that was mentioned in the Old Testament.  Loving kindness is about deep care and compassion.  It’s tied to mercy because we don’t deserve it. 

Sometimes kindness is to those who don’t love you at all. Proverbs 25: 21-22 tells us that, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.”  I always wondered what that scripture meant. It has to do with extending kindness on God’s behalf, even to those who have been mean to you. They may re-think their meanness.  While some wrongly interpret the coals would actually burn, there is a meaning behind the instruction.  In the time when Proverbs were being documented for posterity by Solomon, people heated their homes and cooked with coal or wood fire. Jeremy Myers from redeeminggod.com shares sometimes if your fire went out, you would go ask a neighbour for a coal to relight the fire. He interprets this scripture as, if the fire of your enemy goes out, and they come asking for a coal to relight their fire, to be generous.  “Instead of turning them away or giving just one [coal], we should be  extravagantly generous. How? You must keep one coal for yourself, and give all the rest of the burning coals to our enemy.” [Jeremy Myers  https://redeeminggod.com/heap-burning-coals-on-your-enemies/]

This example gives us a lot to ponder. King David was kind to his friend Jonathan, and even more to his surviving son Mephibosheth.  While other royals killed the last remaining children of their enemies, he did not.  Jonathan’s son was the grandson of King Saul.  Saul was the same leader who ruthlessly tried to have David killed multiple times. But David was intentionally kind.   2 Samuel 9:3 says, “The king then asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.”  Four verses later, we see that David’s kindness was not a short-term thing.  King David says to him, “you shall eat bread at my table continually.” Later verses show David meant this promise. This kindness was a commitment. This is also a reflection of God’s loving kindness to us.

What happens when you are kind?  It stops people in their tracks. It also gets at your own heart. Sometimes it even exposes your sin for God to take away.  Loving Kindness in the Old Testament may reflect mercy.  In the New Testament, the Greek word for kindness means “goodness in action.”  Kindness and goodness are kissing cousins, and are two of the nine fruit of the Spirit. When God’s goodness is prompted to us, it feels like tenderness and compassion.  [http://www.christianmessenger.org/kindnessofgod.htm] I often speak about stopping for the one, or divine appointments.  What happens during those special moments?  They are acts of deep kindness. This kindness is received not only from the person who stops, but also directly from the Holy Spirit.  They are like a spiritual love letter, and you feel deeply noticed. You’re not invisible. God has searched for you and found you. Stephen Witmer says that “kindness is no small thing. It yields marvelous fruit both in our lives and the lives of those around us.”  Proverbs 21:21 says that “whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” We open ourselves to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we ask him to produce in us kind hearts that overflow through kind lips. [Stephen Witmer https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything

We need to ask God for his kindness before we give kindness to others.  While people can do kind gestures for others, real kindness flows from compassion.  Human kindness falls short of that.  What can the kindness of God do for us?  It opens our eyes to God’s care for us.

Tony and I have an expression that we’ve come to embody since before we arrived in South Africa.  We say that the kindness of God chases us down.  God wants to be kind to us.  He draws us to him like a tender lover, even though we sometimes run from Him.  We have so many examples of what we call T-K-O-G – the kindness of God – in our lives.  Heidi Baker said recently at an Australian conference that “God wants to open your eyes and open your heart. When your eyes are closed, you can only feed your family of four.”  She was referring to the first time that the Holy Spirit stretched a pot of chili and rice to feed not only her family, but over 300 children.  An experience like this is eye-opening.  So were ours, even if they weren’t as dramatic.   We had a T.K.O.G moment in the speedy process of our South African visa. Normally it takes 8 weeks. We had a call to pick up ours in 24 hours.   We were led on where to live – and found our gated retirement village house is perfect in size for ministry, and safe to live in.  It was available right when our guest house lodgings were finished.   We were given renters to live in our Ottawa condo at just the right time for us to leave. Only one couple was interested, but that’s all we needed.  Their rent enables us to pay for our rent in South Africa.

We were led to our local church and bi-weekly connect group through expat YWAM missionaries that we had met through advisors. And we found that our connect group met in our prearranged guest house. This was a great kindness.  We were drawn into a loving church family who, while Afrikaans, made provision for translation stations, and have been there for us in prayer and encouragement ever since we arrived. They even prayed for us while we were in Canada.  We had another T.K.O.G connection when we were invited to become teachers, and I was reminded of an impression I received four years earlier.  The image showed me teaching art to African children – and I was asked to teach art.  We had similar experiences for many of our other ministry involvements, which are too many to mention. But in every case we have experienced sheer pleasure in ministering. That is also T.K.O.G.  We have been lovingly guided on every step.  We were even given expert and kind care by multiple doctors, from GPs, gynecologists, surgeons, urologists, cardiologist, oncologist and other specialists.  Each has been wonderful in hearing us out, and doing the very best they can. We don’t always get that in Canada.  We even had a confirmed diagnosis from an ailment that I suffer from within months, when the average is seven years.   

And while we haven’t had the miracles of stretching food like Heidi Baker, we’ve had our own resources stretch when we need it.  We’ve had entrepreneurial ideas for art, resources and colouring books. We’ve had special connections and networks, and have been blessed by breaks and getaways just when we need them. Even when I was enduring my first and worst flare-up, Tony was an amazing nurse.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I experienced the kindness of God through his love and service.  Another T.K.O.G was when my parents gifted us with the cost of our rental car on our home visit.  All of these gifts and more have been manifestations of the kindness of God.  His kindness and compassion are to provide for us, guide us, and give us joy every day. He’s opened our eyes to see the smallest everyday kindnesses as well as the larger ones. So even when we’re not in good health, we have peace because we know our issues will be resolved. This certainly was the case during my inflammatory breast cancer journey from August 2019 until recently in December 2020.  Even though this was a horrific season (super-imposed on a glorious mission season) in having a deadly disease, my husband and I were carried by the grace of God through the treatments.  A shower of crowd-funding fell at my feet, since our insurance company refused to no longer cover me. We were given the very best of care, and there were so many tangible manifestations of God’s kindnesses extended to us. 

Even after we attempted to return to Canada for surgery in April 2020, we were locked down tight due to severe covid-19 restrictions all over the world.  God’s kindness at that time became emergency mastectomy (where the surgeon had excellent margins for the cancer, which he called a miracle), and following treatments of radiation, lymphedema massage, compression therapy and Herceptin injections, which ended in November 2020.  We were kept away from covid-19 far more where we were than if we had returned to Canada.  We are now waiting on medical visas, to carry us into May 2021, for a spring return to Canada. We trust that the visa acceptance would be another kindness of God.   What about the cancer journey, you may ask.  How is that the kindness of God?  Well, cancer is NOT the kindness of God.  However, God was kind in the midst of it.  While he was healing me of the cancer through medical professionals, he was also working on other things – including my heart, the discovery of undiagnosed lymphedema in my legs.  None of the pain and tears are wasted.

Is God kind to you also?  I would believe that he is; but just ask God to help you notice the ways He is kind to you and to those around you.   God’s kindness may also affect others in particular ways. God shows His kindness through the ongoing provision described in Acts 14:17: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”
God’s kindness is part of His nature. It’s easy to overlook the everyday expressions of His kindness, but if you intentionally look for them, you become more aware of God’s love.

As we think on God’s kindness, we discover four things;  these are: that God IS kind, we choose to be kind, that kindness has a flavour, and that we can pass on that kindness to others.  It’s just like paying it forward.  Being kind is a choice. You make choices every day; some big and some small. Think about all the choices you’ve made in the last hour. These may be what food to eat first at dinner, where to sit while reading your Bible, and who to share compliments with; those are all choices. I believe that God wants you to choose to be kind.  Boaz was kind with Ruth, as she gleaned from his field.  Sometimes kindness is a choice to share what you have with someone in need. Other times, it’s a decision to encourage someone with a sincere compliment.  When you do, you grow as you actively practice being kind.  Remember Matthew chapter 25, when Jesus compared the sheep and the goats.  The sheep were kind, the goats were not.

Kindness also has a flavour, and it is sweet. Sweet words are like honey to the soul. The words we say to others make a difference. Words can be sour, or they can be sweet. They can hurt feelings, or they can repair relationships. Words can build people up or tear people down. You need to choose your words carefully because they are powerful. The apostle Paul urges believers In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to “encourage one another and build each other up.” When you choose kind words, you’re giving others a taste of God’s kindness, and that brings Him honour.  It also honours them.

Divine Kindness is essential to be reflected in our human experience.  Both the books of Hosea and Matthew note that expressing kindness to others is more important than religious rituals. We are to love kindness. We are to love kindness and mercy.  Hosea 6:6-8 remind us that if we really want to please God, burnt offerings, deep sacrifices and other offerings are not what God really wants.  Verse 8 gets right to the point. “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:  to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” In other words, to be kind.  There are many other scriptures that confirm this, before we even examine the nine fruit of the Spirit.  

What are some ways you can show kindness to those around you every day?  Could you let God use your loving touch and words to encourage others with kindness?   Part of this is addressed in the Iris way of “stopping for the one.”  You can also intentionally be kind to everyone, in the style of Steve Sjogren, who wrote the book Conspiracy of Kindness. While this is a gentle book on low risk, high grace evangelism, being kind does more than bring people to faith.  It also brings healing and deepens relationship.   Kind deeds, and kind words create “phone wires’ for sensitively transmitting love into people’s hearts. The Kindness of God does that with us – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through other people. That heart melt helps bring a wave of emotional healing and good things to come.  Don’t close your heart to it, and don’t shut down if someone rejects it.  Even a little kindness is a great blessing.

The Apostle Paul experienced the kindness of God when after he encountered Jesus, he was cared for by some Damascus Christians. He was accepted.  The power of this acceptance confirmed his direct experience with Jesus.  It proved to him that the love of Jesus is real.  People come to faith when they realise God’s kindness – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through those who can represent God.  We can represent God when we are filled with kindness and compassion. Both are from him.  Ask him to fill you with both, since he really wants to do that.  God loves to bless his children with kindness – just look at all the acts of kindness he’s done for us.  And we pass this on to those we love and serve.  We let the overflow go to others.  How?  Go to him and ask him to fill you, and open your eyes to those you would miss.

The kindness of God opens our eyes to others in special moments.  Steve Sjogren shares that kindness includes the art of noticing people.  Most people are lonely. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 35]  This includes our neighbours.  Jesus asked a lawyer who had challenged his authority by asking him the greatest commandment.  When Jesus answered him correctly, he offered deeper insight into the second commandment – that of loving your neighbour.  Your neighbour is the person right in front of you with a need in their life. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 86]  The kindness is in noticing them, and not expecting anything in return.  Sjogren shares that “we are by nature completely selfish. But when Christ comes in, something elemental changes. [Early Christians were known for] their generosity towards others.” [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 80]  That generosity – one of the flavours of kindness – breaks the hardness and fear in your own heart as you reach out to bless someone else. 

Don’t be afraid to be kind – we have opportunity to sow the seeds of kindness every day.  And as we do, we’re not doing this out of the desire to gain influence or power, but in the pure joy of sowing.  There is a law of reaping what we sow. Galatians 6:7-10 shares that we should not be be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” This works for good and bad.  If it is to “live to please the Spirit, [you] will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.”

Lord, thank you for  T.K.O.G’s – you’ve given us so many. You’ve blessed us here on our mission field in South Africa, in family, church family and ministry family.  You are giving us kindness and blessings every day, whether we know you yet or not.  I ask that your kindness with melt hearts so they turn to you.   Melt hearts so they can also bless each other through your kindness.  I ask that you be praised for being so faithful.  Help us to reach out to others with your kindness.  Your kindness leads us to repentance, and that’s a good thing.  It leads us closer to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #61!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits, and I am awaiting plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar (on January 12th). We have been given favour from the plastic surgeon who is waiving his surgical fees!  We are waiting on my cardiologist for the echocardiogram results to be sent to us, so the anesthetist can feel safe about sedating me.  We find this surprising, since I had two surgeries with general anesthetic, including the first (chemo port insertion) surgery right before the echocardiogram was done.  I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada. 

Meanwhile, we are still waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa.  According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process.  

We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 – 20 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

 We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!  We also wish you a blessed and happy Christmas!

Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through establishing legacy

“The Bridegroom Awaits” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, March 2020.

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

During our last article, we journeyed through finding family.  Many of us come from broken families: with absent fathers, frazzled mothers and confusing boundaries.  Many parents are just trying to survive, whether they’re in South Africa or in Canada.  If people can’t find a sense of family and safety, they will try to find it elsewhere.  This can be through like-minded people, gangs and people who aren’t safe at all.  But God sets the lonely in families.  It’s a promise in Psalm 68.   

These families are set in place by God to bring healing to the fatherless, confused and broken people.  We are healed through godly relationships, and need the love, support and guidance that a community group can bring.  These can be through small church groups, and mentors that are brought into our lives. Some of them become even closer than mentors. They in a sense become second parents.  Real family is a safe place where you can be yourself.  True family sticks together.  You grow within a family that loves you to life.

Legacy is something that family at its best leaves as a blessing for later generations.  Some of this is financial.  Tony’s learned much from a South African organization called Generational Inheritance Group.  They operate from a biblical principle learned in Proverbs 3:22, that encourages planning family finances in a three-generation model.  Instead of just providing for themselves, and sometimes their children, it’s about building something that lasts for generations.  The whole family needs to be involved, and after a while, the extended family.  These principles can even be taught to struggling township folk and working poor to get beyond living paycheque to paycheque, or worse, handout to handout, for a lifetime.  You can read more in Jasper Cloete’s book “Legacy,” which we serialize from time to time on CWCP Worcester Reports.

Legacy is also something that Tony and I have in mind for leaving something behind in Worcester that will last long after we leave South Africa.  We are only two people, with limited Afrikaans. We teach, we love children and are involved in different after school kids’ clubs, as well as a morning Legacy Relay ministry.  We tried to minister to as many Avian Park children as we could on Monday afternoons.  Yet more and more children came – some came to learn about Jesus, some to sing, but others for the food. There were too many to manage.  They were way too loud for our borrowed library space, so we were eventually asked to leave.  We didn’t know what to do, but asked God for help.  Jan Buchanan, leader of My Father’s House ministry, had used The Mailbox Club materials in the past, so we contacted them and were delighted when they offered to give an introductory training in our home to explain their curriculum and the way they minister to kids.  We were advised that we should split the children into small groups of no more than ten.  We needed to train up teens who would lead small Bible studies with the younger children.  Six girls initially volunteered to be trained, and since then we added two more.

What we’ve found is that we’ve invested time, love, training and discipleship with these teen girls. In some ways we are like their second parents. Legacy involves family and children.  Yet these girls are growing up. They are taking a hand in ministering to children and are gaining confidence that they also can make a difference.  While each girl is uniquely themselves, they represent Jesus AND us. They are part of our legacy – in reaching one or more Worcester township children, ten kids at a time.  Not too long ago I had wondered if we were doing the right thing with these girls. Some days are hard – after all, they are teens. They push boundaries, test our limits, but know ultimately that we love them. They grow. We grow.   One of our Canadian intercessors is named Peter.  He is very prophetic and speaks into our lives at just the right time.  He had told us before we arrived in Worcester that there would be times when we felt that what we would be doing, is tiny. This would be despite having a full schedule.  Yet, we were to concentrate on these girls, as well as depositing in a few others. God would use these specific girls to make a difference in their own communities.   Peter reminded us later that while the teens are one of the hardest ministries, it’s the one with the most eternal significance.  We would minister into the girls, but also inherit the fruit of the children they would love.  It’s like a stone thrown into water.  We create the ripples, but with the enthusiasm they are gaining the girls, will continue on after we’ve left South Africa, spawning new clubs as they develop new leaders from their clubs.

Legacy is also something that is fostered within the Iris movement.  Mentors are called Mama and Papa – for example, Mama Heidi and Papa Rolland Baker.  Mama Pamela and Papa Tony Maxwell are in charge of the Harvest Mission Schools that used to be in Pemba, Mozambique, and now travel to several locations.  These schools specialize in training missionaries where a high percent of alumni become long-term within that movement.   Mentorship and legacy go hand in hand.  When Heidi and Rolland speak in the first world at different conferences, they don’t bring up the topic of money – unless there is a specific emergency relief need.  Their focus is on connecting people to their destiny calling.  Many of these callings are to be missionaries – if not forever, than at least for a time.  This too, is about legacy.

We met many wonderful teachers during our Harvest School in 2016. We had teachers from all over the globe – Canadians like Stacey Campbell, Americans like my Iris papa Brian Britton, Matt Sorger, Jason Lee Jones and other Irisers like Will Hart. There were also Europeans like Matteus Van der Steen and Georgian Banov, and as well as Africans like Surpresa Sithole and regional Mozambican leaders.  Different schools had other distinctive leaders, but all were special with a different mix of cultures, experiences and deep teaching.   One couple that blessed me was Jim and Pat Banks.  Both have a legacy of training people to become spiritual parents, as well as acting like wise, loving mentors to the young. Both were heavily booked up for in-depth counselling sessions from things that would arise during intense learning, spiritual warfare and living in close quarters with other young people.   Jim taught an afternoon session, that both Tony and I attended, on making the last part of your life count.  He spoke a lot on legacy, mentorship and letting the next generations stand on our shoulders.  This contradicts the wrong thinking that the sons and daughters of successful men and women often express.  They proudly declare that they don’t want to be seen as carrying on excellence developed by their parents, but want to do something that they create independently.  This destroys legacy, and is actually self-aggrandisement.    

I had a chance to read one of Jim’s books in Kindle format.  This is the easiest format for me since it doesn’t require me to fill up a bookshelf that I may have to take back with me to Canada. The name of Jim’s book is One Calling, One Ministry: A Couples Guide for Finding Your Calling.   This title grabbed at me, since Tony and I may have had the shared ministries of the Alpha Course, prison ministry and radio since the early days of our marriage, but this was not a full calling together.  While we aren’t joined at the hip in everything, we are now far more in step with each other in South Africa than we ever were.  We share being spiritual parents to township teens.  We share loving on township kids, even if we use our different skills.  We share our internet radio ministry.  We support each other in the divergent ministries, such as finance, bookkeeping, art, and teaching different topics.  And Tony is amazing at pastoral care.   Where is the legacy in this?  Our legacy is in God using what we have in our hands to bless others.  We share reproducible skills.  I’ll go back to that concept a bit later.

Jim Banks shares that legacy is an ultimate ministry objective.  He says, “when you think about it for a moment, legacy had to be the bottom line for Adam and Eve.  God had the same goal for them on earth as their personal assignment; to reproduce after their own kind.  They were perfectly equipped to do that both physically and spiritually.  The Garden of Eden was certainly large enough to require more than one care taker.  Having no other help, they were going to have to raise their own, a tradition that every rural farming family has carried on faithfully. “

The Lord caused the yet-to-be-named Elijah-Elisha principle of mentor multiplication to be in effect as a natural foundational element of society even before anyone thought about naming it. What did they need to learn?  What did they need to pass on?  This was not only true from the work of their hands, but with their relationship with God.”

There is a natural way in the parent-child relationship that should be the natural order of all relationships.  Parents don’t want their children to suffer the consequences of the same mistakes they made.  We want them to have a better life than we did. We want them to be wiser, better educated and able to make better decisions than we did.  “They only way to make that happen is to teach them, train them and give them the benefit of our acquired knowledge.  That’s what family members do for one another.  That’s what supervisors should be doing for the employees under them. In religious terms, we call that discipleship.”

In the west, there is a tugging away from learning from earlier generations.  Post-modern society is more independent and extremely mobile.  Jim notes that “very few people live in the same area as their parents or grandparents.  Consequently, grandchildren are seldom raised around their grandparents, which robs them of another source of connection, emotional support and earned wisdom.“

Unfortunately, this narcissistic society has made it all about “us” and short term returns on investment.  Jim says that “legacy is only something we think about in terms of inheritances and plastics recycling.  As we consider our lives and our personal ministry, one of its components has to be legacy; what kind of mark will it leave on the lives of those we encounter? Think about that for a moment. What would happen if there were ten unbroken generations of Elijah-Elisha level mentoring accomplished in a single family?  With the anointing doubling through each of ten generations, a man or woman would be walking in 512 times whatever level the first generation walked in. Now you know why the enemy is after every parental relationship to try and destroy it.”

When trust in parents and authority erodes, these parents can lose the platform of mentoring and discipling their own kids. I was very fortunate to have parents who taught me some skills.  I remember my dad teaching me how to tie my shoes, and to tell time, and there were many other things.  He also is good at drawing and I learned some of that from him. My mom taught me some cooking skills, that I decided to surpass, simply because I wanted to do so.   Tony learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and about engineering, classical art and music history from his Father.  This is about culture and practical things.  I also taught my sister about art when she was little, and found she has quite an eye for colour and composition. 

Since we were already primed to pass on our skills, as well as our faith to Worcester’s children, we were recently approached by our pharmacist Carica and her husband Louis Le Grange.  They had an inspiration for some of the residents of our retirement village to teach skills to the children in one of the local primary schools.  Some other residents took up the challenge and brought their stories, knitting, crocheting and other crafts to the learners.  Tony and I were among the first of the group.  We went in as if we were starting a kids’ club and shared children’s songs about Jesus, a little science, and some art. They got to colour some of my colouring sheets, and recently began to draw their own inspired work while listening to soft worship music.  This is the same type of music that we play before and after our CWCP Worcester Reports broadcasts. 

Louis and Carica’s dream was for the children to not miss out on skills and topics that aren’t taught in schools anymore.  Art and music are often topics that are cut out of curricula due to costs of materials and time.  Crafts and stories are other things that are missing from teacher’s plans. These happen to be skills that many of the Afrikaaner seniors have. This is a win-win situation, where the seniors are feeling useful and worthy – they have so much to give.  And the children are hungry for love, for touch and to learn.  We are thankful for the two teachers we’ve encountered. They are willing to work with us, as we give them a heads up on what we feel inspired to share, and they let us know what they feel the kids need.  They are learning with us, as their academic knowledge is being blended into something beautiful in this pilot project.  We trust that some of these kids are receiving something special in learning that we can all learn from each other.  And so, this too is legacy.  In legacy, nothing is wasted, and the kids grow from experience, rather than re-inventing themselves.  These kids can learn and know who they are!  They can learn their identity in Jesus!  They can learn and grow as being part of the Rainbow Nation together.   Part of South Africa’s legacy is a heritage of different cultures.  This proudly includes many African tribes, as well as the English and Afrikaaner heritage.  It also includes those of Cape Malay-Khok-koi heritage.   Legacy includes history.  Legacy includes mentoring, legacy includes family.   What mark would you like to leave on posterity?  Rather than try to leave a monument that may crumble into dust, leave a mark of love on those you encounter.  Make them stronger people.  This is exactly what South Africa needs.  It’s what every country needs.  Making a difference also gives us deep satisfaction as we fulfill destiny callings to be mamas and papas. 

There is one more legacy gift that Tony and I have left to many – and that’s these Worcester Reports programmes.  We podcast these shows, as well as my Ways to Grow in God devotionals.  While we had weekly broadcasts, I also post a written version of the devotionals here on my devotional website, waystogrowinGod.org.  We’ve always done this without asking for funds.  We trust God for those.  There are people all over the world who have either come to faith in Jesus Christ or grown in the faith they have.  For this, we are thankful.  This is an intentional legacy that we pass on to you.

Lord, thank you that we can leave a lasting legacy in you.  You are the same God – of yesterday, today and forever.  You know the people who have lived before us  – help us to learn from their victories and their mistakes.  Help us to learn from each other, and gain strength.  But even more important, help us to learn more from you about sharing what we have in our hands.  If our hands seem empty, they really are NOT.  You filled our hearts with love and our minds with wisdom.  Help us to pass this on and mentor others.  Thank you for your wisdom that calls at the gates, and that ultimately, Jesus, you are that wisdom.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #60!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am finished the expensive Herceptin injections!  I only need to have my chemotherapy port flushed once every three months.  I have decided to keep the chemo port for now. I continue MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada.   We are seeking quotes on a small surgery to L-A’s mastectomy scar, whether it’s done by a plastic surgeon or her regular surgeon. This is to ease care of L-A’s mastectomy scars. If it is done by a plastic surgeon, we may lessen the lymphedema swelling in the surgical area.  

Meanwhile, we are waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa.  According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process.  We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 – 20 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann

 

Growing in God through finding family

“Jesus in our School” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2019.

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

During my last article, we journeyed through forgiveness.  We learned through the story of Joseph that forgiveness is a process; and it is a choice.  Sometimes we need to forgive those who hurt us more than once.  It’s important to keep our hearts soft, and not full of bitterness.  When we give God the person who has hurt us, we give him the right to deal out justice.  Sometimes his justice turns to mercy, as it did when Stephen the martyr forgave those who stoned him. This includes Saul of Tarsus, who looked after the persecutors’ cloaks.  Joseph showed discretion in dealing with his brothers’ sin against him.  Since he did not openly share the transgression, it showed that he deeply forgave. This discretion allowed the family pain to be dealt with without his Egyptian colleagues getting involved. It saved face.   We also learned through Corrie ten Boom’s story, that when you forgive your enemies, it brings special grace from the Lord, indeed.  It took a miracle of grace inside her heart to forgive a concentration camp guard who was cruel to her family.  But she trusted the Lord. He brought healing to her heart, and likely to that of her former enemy.  God has a wonderful way of turning former enemies into family in Christ.  He did this with Corrie ten Boom.  He did this with Nate Saint’s family, after missionaries Nate Saint and Jim Eliott were killed by South American Aucas.  Later on, the killers came to faith in Jesus Christ.  One of the redeemed killers even baptized Nate’s son.  That’s forgiveness.  That’s a sign of real Christian family.    We’re going to explore how we can grow in family.

A healthy family is a real blessing.  Many families are very dysfunctional.  Some are controlling, and others enmeshed.  My own family lacked boundaries in some areas of their lives, and there was much confusion.  Many families lack a real sense of having fathers, since they would be absent in some way.  Some dads would be working and be always away from the family.  Others may be addicted and demanding, or expecting their children to perform well at all they do, and yet others not caring at all.  They may be there in person, but they aren’t there in their hearts.  Their children can tell.  I went through a lot of inner healing when it came to my father.  He teased me all the time, as did bullies at school.  There didn’t seem to be a safe place for me. So I collected big brothers who would protect me.  Sometimes if you don’t seem to have a good sense of safety in a family, you try to find one elsewhere.  Some kids find this in gangs, where they feel they belong. They feel safe, even if they aren’t safe.   Now I actually had a loving father, who cared and cares very deeply for me and my sister.  He was just insecure.  He needed love and safety just as much as I did.  And when I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I had spiritual dads who flowed from the heart of God the Father to me.  This filled the deficit that I had – since my own dad could never have loved me as deeply as that.  He still doesn’t know Jesus yet.

There are many kids who are fatherless.  I’ve seen this in Ottawa, especially among the single-parent households in the poorer areas of town.  Yet it’s even more evident in South Africa.  Teen pregnancies are common in the Western Cape townships, and likely in other areas of the Rainbow Nation.  Where are the fathers?  Some are in jail.  We’ve ministered to some of those in both Ottawa and Worcester.  Others have taken off and fathered other families.  We saw this in Mozambique.  Others have died, since they have led hard lives as labourers, or were killed off in violence.  So boys and girls grow up with their moms, who are struggling to make ends meet.  While the mom may have help from her own mother or sisters, she is continually stressed. Sometimes in desperation she spends the baby bonus on cheap wine. The kids go hungry.   Some of these kids have managed, but many of them have a sense of orphan spirit, where you can feel a sense of desperation and detachment.  They feel abandoned.  In some cases they are, but in others, their moms are trying to survive by working. 

Before covid-19 hit, we would see farm kids in one of our after school kids clubs.  Their parents work as farm labourers, and are in the fields for hours.  They don’t see their parents much, so they’ve been left to raise themselves.  We’ve found them to be some of the brashest, toughest kids we’ve ever known. They tested us at every turn, screamed, shouted and want to destroy things. Some have fetal alcohol syndrome. Yet, some will respond to steady love and discipline.  Tony and I tried to love them this way. However, since our Afrikaans isn’t strong, they needed that added commonality of a shared love language. In came their Afrikaaner leaders, Flip and Inge-Lize, who love with discipline in their language.  They were acting as parents, as family, even closer to them than Uncle Tony and Tannie Laurie-Ann.  We loved them, but they needed surrogate parents. Family draws you IN, and helps you belong.  Family usually speaks the same language.

We are created to grow in relationship.  I remember learning this deeply when I was studying counselling in Tyndale Seminary.  I remember writing about integrating different kinds of psychology and theology into counselling strategies.  When I prayed about combining different counselling methods, what came to me was a Holy Spirit insight.  Our faith isn’t just theology. It is something that is often thought through and lived out of.  It’s a foundation.  Everything needs to be based on that.  If counselling methods are to work, it needs to be thoroughly drenched in our Christian world-view – not as a fake-imposed religion, but out of genuine compassion.  God is our source of healing.  He heals the counsellee, and he heals us.    Since God is a God of relationship, as Father, so he also puts the lonely into families for healing. Psalm 68:5-6 says “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families. He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”   

Many of us have been hurt in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.  One of our natural responses is to run away. Others fight or freeze. I was the one who froze, or at least hid as much as I could.  But the pain would always follow.  I realized while I worked on this essay that a deep key of healing is actually received through godly relationships.  God uses them to minister to others, especially if they can see Jesus in you.  They respond to the compassion and light.   I shared this insight with two leaders who had a healing ministry in the church I then attended.  They looked at me with joy and told me I was ready to read Tom Marshall. Marshall wrote that relationships bring healing. To receive this healing, we need to connect with each other. This means your real face, rather than a mask; not a projection that is not yourself.  Real family is a safe place where you can be yourself.

To add to the confusion of the fatherless generation, there are more and more blended families.  Some of the teen girls we love and disciple are in blended families.  They don’t know their fathers, but they know their mother’s boyfriends. The relationships aren’t stable.  Other kids are jammed in with them in tiny houses.  Some kids have different fathers, with confusing family dynamics.  One pair of boys that we taught in school looked like brothers, yet the younger one was the uncle of the older boy.  The kids we taught last year were so hungry for love.  They loved the hugs and kisses I gave them, as well as the hugs and discipline Tony shared. They were unruly and had been given conflicting messages from their parents.  One of the boys said in class that he wished that he’d never been born.  Tony was shocked by this and asked him why.  The boy replied, “It’s because I’m so boring.”  This boy is anything BUT boring.  He’s a caring gentleman, loves music and is quite endearing. Does this sound like an exasperated relative told him to shut up, and that he’s boring?  Perhaps, but that sounds like a curse.  And then there is the “S” word that is banded about – “stupid.”  A bit later, the learners taunted each other with that word until I put a stop to it.  I told them not to be silly – and that NONE of them is stupid. They ALL got high marks in my art class.    This group is a dysfunctional family but we’re worked hard on fixing this by being consistent with them.  Sometimes you spend more time with classmates than you do with family members, so they are family too. Unfortunately, school can also be a place of much pain, as it was for me.  Childhood bullies are still a common problem, both in person or online. But we didn’t allow it in our school.    While Tony and I were on furlough, our school was left in the care of Helena. She is very loving South African;  both wise and strict. She doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to discipline. And while I once heard one of the boys complain to me about her, I found that some of them have grown more confident in their personalities due to her influence: especially the youngest child, Delivenance. 

I have continued to learn about family through the Iris movement.  Small groups and Bible studies had their place in my personal healing, but what I heard and my heart drank in through Iris, was transformational.  I always had a longing to belong.  I needed to know my ‘tribe.’  In Ottawa, I was part of three churches – one liturgical, one new Pentecostal, and one in the Catch the Fire stream. One fed me in communion and symbol, another in great teaching, and the third in deep worship, including prophetic drawing.  I was allowed to thrive in that gifting. I worked hard for all of the churches at different times as I was needed. Each has been supportive in their own way.  In 2014, I discovered Iris in Virginia, led by a dear Iris mentor, Brian Britton.  He offered a taste of healthy, very connected family.  Most members were loosely based, and were mostly sent out on the mission fields of South America, the US, Africa, Asia and Australia.  But this was a supportive network that encouraged you in your own destiny calling.  They believe that no one has a cookie-cutter ministry.  We are all unique. In an earlier Ways to Grow article, I have spoken of how we grow in the communion of saints. This is a deep sense of church community.  I’ve also shared about deep friendships, mentors and networking.     But this was something greater than these relationships.  This was Holy Spirit drenched connections, like deeply nourishing family.  I met people there that I call forever friends, people like Brenda and her husband Danny, who nurture deep faith and wisdom.  Then there’s Dennis and Cindy, who minister to the hidden poor in Williamsburg. And people in Richmond who are equally authentic in their faith, who treat the broken like long-lost cousins.   I know what that’s like, since I met two first cousins-once removed through Ancestry.ca recently.  One of them, Cousin Bonnie, is becoming a forever friend.

Heidi Baker always tells us that “love looks like something.”  How does that look in the West?  It looks like family with the same core values and community days, meeting together. It looks like being intentional.  You WANT to connect as family.  You love being together.  My mentor Brian says that “family is the new wineskin.  Iris is also like a family.  The church is supposed to be like that.  We need fathers and mothers – but often we quit on people.  Family does NOT and should not do that. True family sticks together. We really need consistent fathers and mothers.  We need to BE WITH people and not treat them as a project.”  We need to love unconditionally, with humility.  [Brian Britton, backporch talk on Iris in the west, June 15, 2016, Harvest School 24]    This is the environment that I was attracted towards. I found this to some extent at Harvest School, but personally, that school was a pressure cooker for me.  Where I really learned and absorbed family identity, was at the base where we are now connected.  We were being prepared as spiritual parents by seeing it modelled by Johan and Marie Fourie.

We spent 22 days at Iris Western Cape base after two months in Mozambique.  We came ‘home’ to be poured into, to rest, and to receive love.  This was incredibly freeing.  My art was unleashed as I was inspired.  Johan and Marie encouraged me to draw the beautiful landscape of the Langeberg range, foothills and bushveld.  I even drew their beloved field of flags by their winery business.  The Fouries poured into our whole team in a deeply loving, yet in a laid-back way.  I will always remember Johan telling us that “it’s all about family.” Heidi Baker had the revelation of making love practical, and being hungry for God; but the Fouries brought me deep relationship of another kind to the table.  Johan was and is a papa.

Each Iris base is different. We have experienced three bases: in Mozambique and South Africa.  We also know two affiliates: one in Virginia, and the other in East London, Eastern Cape.  The bases had a sense of family, which seemed strongest at Footprints near Jo’burg, and here at Western Cape.  Since our base is not the traditional compound base with a children’s centre, a different strategy is needed. Johan’s dream is to put missionary couples and families in a ring of towns around the base and farm.  We are to all link with other ministries and churches.  These ministries aren’t Iris, but they are still family.  And that is exactly what we’ve done.  We’re further apart geographically from the other Iriser’s than we’d like, but since we link arms with other ministries, we flourish in our own callings.  Some of us are with children, others with seniors.  It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.  We are intentionally sowing into our Iris family, as well as the family clusters we’ve joined. 

Tony and I joined with several YWAM ministries, and they’ve become family.  The teen girls who we share Saturdays and Mondays with, have become family.  Our cellgroup at church is a very tight-knit family; we’re always in touch on a Whatsapp group. We can share the need for prayer at any time.  This is the ex-pat group in our church, and is perfect for being ourselves. We don’t need to always be in ministry-mode, unless the Holy Spirit prompts us. We’ve found this group is very real; if you need them, they will come help you.  We’re so thankful for this kind of family. I had a similar experience of family when I was let go from my job in British Columbia.  I became very close to some church leaders, the women’s group, and my connect group.  They became my life-line.  It’s been the same of certain female friends – they are like sisters to me. Even my relationship with own sister has become stronger in the past few years. 

Families are actually the building block of a sturdy civilization.  Families are being attacked all the time by the enemy of our souls.  Marriages are as well. And so, this brings us to one of the core reasons why Tony and I were called to South Africa.  We are called to be mom and dad, tannie and oom to the abandoned latch-key kids of the townships.  We are like second parents, loving them, teaching them, and discipling them in the faith.  We allow them freedom to love and make mistakes; to learn and grow. Yet we have healthy boundaries and are teaching them about honour.  One of the girls, Jamelia, told me that we are her second parents. She tells me that she is very thankful for us.  Another girl, Chantelle, calls me Mommy, although she still calls Tony “Uncle” Tony.  We love them all.  As we spend time with them, they grow.  They really just need our intentional time and love.  This takes commitment, especially during covid times.  The girls had been in turn, loving younger township kids through small Bible studies.  They got to be big sisters.  That’s family.  This is how family should be.  We’re not perfect, and neither are they.  But when there’s grace and unconditional love through the Holy Spirit, we can bless each other. We can grow like plants in good soil.  I pray that this may be this way in your own lives too. 

Are you part of family like this?  If you’re not, would you like to be?  Seek God – he can draw you to the right place.  It won’t be in a gang that seeks to harm and destroy.  It will be in within family that loves you to life.

Let us pray together. Lord, thank you that you set the lonely into families. May you pick us up and out of destructive relationships and bring healing.  For the broken, I ask that you father us in a way that only you can.  Minister deeply to hearts, restore a sense of their identity in you, as your child. We ask for more spiritual moms and dads.  There are so many needed, not just the Copples and the Fouries. Not just Brian Britton and Rolland Baker.  Fill our arms with the broken prodigals and those who need family.  Prepare our hearts.  We thank you that you create the best family. May you bring your deep healing and love. And may we continue to grow in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #59!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am almost finished the expensive Herceptin injections, with just one to go!  I do not need tamoxifen, although will need to have my chemotherapy port flushed.  I have decided to keep the port for now. I am continuing MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada.  We are applying for medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa.  The medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 20 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

 We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (and Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through forgiveness

“Commune with Me” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

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

During my last article, we journeyed through a difficult field – of how to navigate during a season of silence – whether it’s the silence of God, or what seems to be shut doors in the hallway of whatever season we’re journeying through in our lives.  Yet we discovered that after we look past those closed doors, there is companionship in the silence. God woos our hearts, with just being there, even if he seems silent.  It’s a season of growing trust in our hearts. Sometimes we too need to join that silence and just … rest.

Rest is something that also comes to our hearts when we forgive those who have wronged us.  Near the centre of the Lord’s Prayer is the phrase, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”   This is essential, since unforgiveness raises up barriers against God’s love.  It makes us bitter, broken people.  Let’s learn about forgiveness.

One of the teachers at our Harvest Missions School was RT Kendall.  He spoke on two topics – not grieving the Holy Spirit, and on total forgiveness.  He actually connected the two together.  Unforgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit in such a way that we lose the intimacy of his presence.  Our hearts become cold.  He gave the example of Joseph from the book of Genesis – from when he shared his dreams in chapter 37, was sold into Egyptian slavery, had troubles, and eventually rose in favour.  Through all those years, Joseph could have easily become bitter, especially when he was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  However, he remained with a soft heart, full of forgiveness, with his eyes fixed on the Lord.  And he was given insight that brought him favour – so much that he was released from prison, into Pharoah’s palace as second in command in the land. In Genesis 45, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, who had come for help and food.  He asks them no longer to feel guilty, for he had been given insight that God used their bad action of selling him into slavery with eventual good results. God turned the slavery and prison time into favour in the highest court.  Genesis 45:5-7 says, “ Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of youFor two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Because Joseph had forgiven his brothers, he was given the ultimate re-frame of what God’s plans were. When we forgive, God can work through us so much better, since he can fill us with pure love that won’t be contaminated by our bitterness.  Forgiveness itself is a witness to those who don’t know God. Who can forgive like Jesus?  That’s what he does. He made it possible for us to forgive completely, since he takes our burdens from our hands and hearts.

RT Kendall also shared at our Harvest School that because Joseph forgave, he was able to grow in all the difficulties he faced.  Since he resisted sexual temptation with Potiphar’s wife, he was eventually made Prime Minister of Egypt. It was a perfect set up for his upcoming family reunion. Joseph knew the moment would come because of his dreams, although he really should not have shared his dream with his brothers. It was too early to share and he was misunderstood.  However, when the brothers come to Egypt for help, he could have said “gotcha!” to his brothers, but he didn’t.  He was a changed Joseph.  Instead, he weeps for them.  Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

RT shared that the GREATER you have suffered, the greater the anointing you will have when God uses your story for others. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and be bitter. God will use it. It could take as long as it did for Joseph.  If you have forgiven, God will give you the grace to persevere.  Forgiveness can be a process.  How do you know you have forgiven the people who have hurt you?  Total forgiveness is an act of the will.  Don’t wait for God to make you feel total forgiveness.   You choose forgiveness, again and again.  And with each choice, YOU are made stronger. Forget about harbouring unforgiveness. It doesn’t punish those who have hurt you at ALL.  What it does is to give that person free rent in your head.  Forgiveness gives YOU peace of mind.

Your forgiveness also allows God to touch the perpetrator’s heart.  I remember when I took a Father Heart of God course for a week in 1992.  It was life transforming. One truth that impacted me was that when Stephen, the first martyr, was being stoned, he asked God to forgive those who were causing him harm.  He essentially forgave those who were stoning him, as well as Saul of Tarsus, who was holding the cloaks of those who were being violent.  Acts 7:59-60 says, “ While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

My seminar teacher Jack Winter shared that because Stephen had released Saul and the others in forgiveness, it allowed Jesus to touch Saul in that dramatic way while he contemplated persecuting other Christians in Damascus.  Stephen released these people into Jesus’ hands, so that they could be dealt with in the way that God wanted to do. Shortly afterwards, Saul encountered Jesus supernaturally while on the road to Damascus.  Forgiveness also brings much healing – whether for small offences or large. Anglican pastor Dale Lang forgave a school shooter who killed his son in 1999.  This was the Canadian version of the horrible Columbine school massacre, the first of many in North America.  He and his wife chose to forgive, despite their pain.  Dale goes into many schools to share his story of how forgiveness heals. This includes the decision to forgive early before the emotional damage becomes worse. This is also applicable to family arguments.  Rev. Lang shares, “Life is too short to stay angry long at the people we really care about. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger; it really does make a difference.” Dale also shared that if even one person had befriended the boy who killed his son, that boy would never have killed him.  He needed a positive message in his life. I see unforgiveness as negative, and forgiveness as positive.  [Dale Lang, Forgiveness 5, YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5dMNpHcMpE]  (Unfortunately, this video is no longer available).

There are also beautiful stories of forgiveness in the Alpha Course.  Nicky Gumbel shares that when we came to Jesus we were forgiven. That is justification. Our sins are forgiven; but then there’s also the slower process of “becoming LIKE Jesus.” That’s sanctification. Just like we keep on being forgiven, so we keep on forgiving.

Nicky shares, “for me, experiencing God’s forgiveness made all the difference. Before I was a Christian, if someone had offended me, I’d hold a grudge against that person. But holding a grudge is like allowing a person to live rent-free in your head. I used to hold onto unforgiveness, thinking I was doing the other person harm. But now I can see that unforgiveness did far more harm to me than it did to the other person. As someone said, “not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and thinking the other person is going to die.” Once you’ve experienced God’s forgiveness – God forgives YOU, you have to forgive YOURSELF.  And that’s what I find the hardest.  But we have to do it, because CS Lewis points out, “not forgiving ourselves, is like setting ourselves as a higher tribunal than God.”  If God forgives, you must forgive yourself.  And we forgive others, because we’ve been forgiven so much. Forgiveness is a choice, but it’s not an option. And it’s not easy.  CS Lewis said, “everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, and then, it’s really hard.”

But it really is true that the first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest.  One of Nicky’s great heroes is Corrie Ten Boom; she was a Dutch Christian who hid Jews during World War 2.  She was caught. Corrie, her sister and her father went to Ravensbrook Concentration Camp. Her father and her sister Betsey died there. She’s an amazing woman, and after the war, she went and spoke to others about forgiveness. She was speaking in a church in Germany one time, and at the end of her talk, she recognized the man coming up to her.  She saw that he was one of the most cruel guards from Ravensbrook concentration camp. She pictured him as he was then. And as he came up to her, he said, “I was a guard at Ravensbrook.  He didn’t recognize her, but she knew, she recognized him. She could see him – she remembered walking naked past him.  She said she felt so cold and so angry. He said, “I’ve become a Christian now. I know I did some very cruel things, but I’ve received God’s forgiveness for the cruelty I’ve done.  And I ask God’s grace for the opportunity to ask one of my victims for forgiveness.

Corrie realized she was being asked if she would forgive him.  She found this very difficult and she initially could not.  She could only remember the suffering of her dying sister through his cruelty.  Because he was evil, Corrie could only hate him.  But then she prayed, “Thank you Jesus, thank you that you have brought into my heart  God’s love through the Holy Spirit. And thank you, Father, that your love is stronger than my hatred and unforgiveness.  That same moment, I was free, and I could say, “Brother, give me your hand, and I shook hands with him.  It was as if I felt God’s love stream through my arms. Your soul is never touched so much as when you experience the depth of God’s love through forgiving your enemies.  Can you forgive?  No. I can’t either. But He can.” [Corrie Ten Boom, as quoted in Alpha Course video, “Why did Jesus Die?”]

This is total, unlimited forgiveness. This same phenomenon can transform a marriage, family life, friendships and more.   Just watch the movie “The War Room.”  The wife went through a process of forgiveness and learning to actively pray for her family.  The result was transformation.

I’ve also experienced forgiveness in my own life. I came to faith at a Dennis Bennett seminar in 1988. He and his wife Rita were strong inner healing teachers, and I learned early about forgiveness through their teaching and books.  I forgave my childhood bullies who teased me, mocked me, beat me up and told me lies about myself.  I forgave my parents for their mistakes and for others who had hurt me intentionally or unintentionally.  And later I forgave the evil man who molested me as a child. I had tried to block my memory of those times so I could cope, but my real healing came after I was able to forgive and then process what happened.  Then I was able to feel again.  That could only have happened through forgiveness.  It gave me a key to my own heart.

I went through a further experience of forgiveness two or three months before my mother died.  She basically died of a condition that made her weaker and weaker, until finally in January 2020, she died.  I could not come to her because I was in the middle of weekly chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.  But before then, I was told by a friend who ministers in inner healing.  She told me that there was some kind of barrier between my mother and myself.  I couldn’t see it, but I was willing to ask the Holy Spirit to help me discover any sin, and to repent of it.  It turned out that I still saw nothing until I was nudged to write a simple email to my mom, asking for her forgiveness.  Tony was using my computer, so I was going to delay, but I then had an urgent nudge to email her on my iPad instead.  As I wrote that I wanted to honour her for all the good things she had done for me, but I also wanted to repent of the sin of dishonouring her.  That’s the word that came to me – dishonour.  We are meant to honour our parents no matter what. So I told her that in my younger years I had judged her for her mistakes, and that was wrong.  She was only trying to do the best she could. I sent off this email, asking for her forgiveness.  She replied very simply, “I forgive you, will you forgive me?”  I was so touched by her gentle response, and from then on, we had no barriers between us; just love.   The disdain that had grown in my heart towards my mother was basically a build-up of daily mistakes and offences.

Please learn from my lesson, and don’t let these bother you for more time than it should.  Don’t let our enemy the devil steal your joy and your peace.  On the day before Mom died, I sent my sister a message on WhatsApp and asked her to relay it verbatim to Mom as a goodbye.  In the message, I thanked Mom for all she had encouraged in me:  my art, writing, missions, travel and more.  I also encouraged her to trust Jesus, since he cares so very much for her.  While my sister is not a believer, she was faithful to read my message verbatim, and she had the opportunity of being with mom when she died.  I hope that she realizes that this was a gift, and that her own grieving process will be lighter because of seeing Mom at the end.  She was still harbouring unforgiveness, and I trust that she is also working through letting that go.  Forgiveness and choosing not to take offence in the first place prevents so much pain. RT Kendall shared with our Harvest School seven principles of forgiveness.

Principle 1 is:  You don’t tell anyone else about what the perpetrator did to you.  Joseph sent away his co-workers before he talked to his family.  Joseph knew that if the Egyptians knew what his brothers did to him, they would be hated.  There are two exceptions to sharing about what someone has done to you.  We need to tell God first, then tell one person for therapeutic reasons. Psalm 142:2 says,  “I pour out before him my complaint;  before him I tell my trouble.”  Telling a counsellor is good, because they are bound not to tell anyone.  The other exception is if the offence is a crime; reporting it to the legal authorities is necessary, to protect others.

RT shared with us that some people turn their sharing into a form of revenge and venting. That’s not forgiveness. He says, “What’s the real reason to tell of the sin against you?  Revenge?  Perhaps anger?  Is it so they’re not liked? That can violate God forgiving you.  Remember the Lord’s prayer and that he has forgiven you.

Principle 2 is not to let them be afraid of you. Joseph’s brothers were afraid, until he calmed them down.  They felt guilty. They were guilty, but they were also forgiven. Joseph just wanted to love them. Otherwise they were nervous.  Like forgiveness, 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that LOVE keeps no record of wrongs. We often keep records to show that we have paid.  Forgiveness pays the offence and throws away the receipt.

RT also reminded us about the importance of forgiveness in everyday life. “Marriages can be healed if both partners stop pointing the finger at each other.”  I believe that if we even stop saying things like ‘you always and you never’ in our speech to each other that it would also not inflame disagreements into hurtful arguments.

Principle 3 is that we want them to forgive themselves. Nine out of ten people we forgive don’t actually know they did wrong.  Does it really help at that time to share what they did to you? It may be part of their own brokenness. Pray and ask God. Also forgive them when they are NOT sorry.  For example, Jesus forgave when he was dying on the cross.  He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Principle 4 is to let them “save face.” This protects their ego.  Joseph says to his brothers – “It was God who sent me first [to Egypt for their survival].”  This shows the big picture, and brings God into the picture.

Principle 5 is to protect them from their darkest secret.  Joseph didn’t want to reveal to his father what his brothers did to him. It would have broken his dad’s heart. He did this for his family’s sake.  This is helpful for sins that would hurt the whole family. There are many cases of families who have been ripped apart by dark sins – including incest, either real or false memories. Does this mean that you would maximize the pain or ignore the pain caused by not sharing widely?  No, by no means!  But it does mean that there needs to be discretion.

Principle 6 reminds us that total forgiveness is a life-long lifestyle. Joseph likely had to forgive them over and over as a process.  It was 17 years from when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, to when they met him again.  Don’t just forgive them once. You may get mad and get bitter again.  The anointing and healing kicks in best when you keep forgiving the perpetrator.

Finally with principle 7, you bless them. When you do this, really mean it.  Pray for them.  After you have this lifestyle of forgiveness, God opens doors of favour for you.  I learned to do this when I was hurt by family members, Christian leaders and friends, whether or not they meant it.  Sometimes we just make mistakes and hurt each other without even realizing it.   When I forgave my dad of his endless teasing, I was set free in my heart.  He was just an insecure man who also needed love.  Since I love and encourage him whenever we speak, he lights up and speaks words of love back.  He no longer teases me.  And the Christian leaders who hurt me never realized that they did.  I even spoke to one and while he apologized, he was amazed that he had actually hurt me.

Finally, I learned something new about forgiveness when I took a debriefing course with LeRucher Ministries in June 2018.  When we forgive, we give God the right to avenge.  He has the justice of setting things right.  If we’ve said we’ve forgiven but we still want harm to come to the offenders, then we haven’t fully forgiven.  But we can do this today.

Lord Jesus, I offer up my friends, and all who are reading this article.  We offer up those who have hurt us and we again forgive.  We give you the right to justice for the offences against us. We ask for you to transform our lives and theirs.  May you bring your deep healing and love. And may we continue to grow in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen drop-down menu).  Click here (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #58!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:

For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I just finished 16 radiotherapy sessions in Cape Town.  My oncologist is pleased with the results of all the treatments, and I only have three more expensive Herceptin injections left.  The end of the cancer journey is in sight – and it was all done in South Africa.  I’m also in MLD and compression therapy for lymphedema, which is swelling of the lymphatic system.  While we explored that that this condition is a result of the mastectomy surgery, I actually had primary lymphedema in my legs since 2006.  I’m thankful that it was discovered and is being treated by controlling it.  Click here for the medical campaign page for info:

https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html

We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (we will be almost $2,000 Cdn in debt this week).  If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our paypal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s Colouring BookIf you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of Laurie-Ann’s colouring books, they are available at the OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near PicknPay), in Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson), and through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for journeying with us!

Blessings to all,

Laurie-Ann Copple

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pray. Lord, open our hearts to be at the centre between Word and Spirit.  Take away any bitterness, and offence we may have against others.  We forgive those who have hurt us, and ask for you to heal and soften our hearts.  We want to walk to hear your voice, experience your joy and be at peace as we love others through you.  Bring us to balance and show us mercy, as you transform our character.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the Coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen drop-down menu).  Click here  and scroll down to #56!

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

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

Blessings to all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

 

Learning the balance between Word and Spirit

 

“Worshipping Family” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to all,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God: Learning how to hear God’s voice part 2

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Laurie-Ann

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!  Please let me know if this blessed you!

Blessings, Laurie-Ann