Tag Archives: Heidi Baker

Growing in God through Honour: Part 1 Developing a culture of honour

Image is from Bethel Church, Ottawa, Ontario.

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 growing in God in the midst of windstorms.  There is evil in the world, and sometimes that really feels like a damaging firestorm that brings pain, loss, and more.  Jesus warned us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.  But he gives abundant life.  He is our windbreaker to combat evil through the armour of God.  The Holy Spirit is also like a true Cape Doctor, in bringing healing, hope, comfort, truth and refining. Allow yourself to set your face on God, and he’ll bring that sweet wind to lift you up and give you strength for your journey. If the Holy Spirit is the holy wind, we are the sail.

Grace is something that is very prevalent in our faith as we choose to trust God and follow where he leads us.  God is faithful and shows this in many ways. We can even see this faithfulness reflected in others.  Sometimes God’s characteristics like love and faithfulness can be understood as a language that people can understand without words. A wonderful way to see God’s language reflected in you is through developing a culture of honour.  The military have a sense of honour that manifests as a code of conduct. It shows as valour, chivalry, honesty and compassion.  These are good traits.  Honour sometimes is understood how one may look in the eyes of other people – in a positive way, people can see the goodness and compassion inside a person and call them “honourable.”  In a negative way, this may be a mask hiding what really is inside, or perhaps honour could be construed as “face.”  Face is very important in Chinese cultures, as honour of purity is important in Middle Eastern culture.  But true honour is even deeper than that.

Honour is relational.  In the West, it’s not popular to speak well of people until after they die.  You could work for years in a company or NGO and find that many people don’t bother saying nice things about you.  It’s simply assumed that you know that you are well liked.  Yet if you make a mistake, complaints are issued quickly.  We certainly find this attitude online on Facebook and Twitter.  However, when someone dies, people like to share wonderful stories about how you touched their lives in a positive way.  Eulogies and telling stories of people who have blessed you is a good thing!  However, you need not wait until a person dies to say good things about them.  These people really need to hear this when it really matters to them!  The first time I learned about honour as an expression of blessing, was through two Canadians in ministry: Patricia King, and Faytene Grassechi.

Faytene has a heart for change through social justice, prayer and encouragement.  One of the ministries that she developed visits and prays for different people in the Canadian government.  They include young leaders who honour and serving these Canadian politicians. They basically represent the voice of Christian youth to Canadian parliament.  They don’t put down the leaders. But rather, they encourage them for what they are doing well.  They honour them and listen to them.  These leaders are blessed by the encouragement. They feel that they have been honoured, not criticized.  Faytene was encouraged to have honour as an important component to her ministry, as taught by her mentor Patricia King, who is also Canadian.  I was a supporter of Patricia for over ten years, while I was able.  Patricia is a generous, kind and honour-bearing person. She never speaks badly of any who speak badly of her. She chooses to bless her opponents and to honour them.  This goes beyond forgiveness. It’s a lifestyle of choosing to bless and note all the good things her opponent is doing.

Patricia notes that to honour is to hold someone is respect or esteem.  She says that it’s “interesting that the word Hebrew word “kabod,”or glory, means ‘weight.’  This word is often used in scripture to give honour.  It is an interchangeable word for honour, although it also shows splendour, glory and dignity.  It’s really interesting that honour is so tied in with the glory of God and the weight of his presence.  God loves honour and he hates dishonour.”  Patricia has seen over the years, that when there is an individual of honour, (who exercises honour intentionally), doors fly open for them. Promotion comes from the Lord to them, and blessing comes on their lives.  Patricia has also seen the exact opposite when a person is given to dishonour.   When there is dishonour in their lives, they dishonour leaders, and they dishonour their parents, the exact opposite happens. It’s like a curse comes over their lives.  The doors are closed.  She has even seen people with tremendous anointing and ministry callings; but because they are people of such dishonour, their spiritual gifts NEVER break open. They never get established, yet they’ve got so many gifts to release out to people.  One of the biggest secrets to advancement is to honour others.  It’s tied in with humility.  Tony Morgan notes that “if you want to receive honour, you have to give honour.  If you want to experience honour, you have to embrace humility.”

So honour promotes and dishonour demotes. Honour blesses and dishonour curses. Honour builds strong relationships, dishonour destroys relationships.  Honour is pleasant, dishonour is unpleasant.

Rob Packer teaches about honour in his excellent book, The Life Giving Power of Honour.  He says that “Honour is the recognition of a person’s value and the expression appropriate to that value.”  When you are honoured and recognized for who you are, you are valued.  You are also released to BE who you are.  When you honour others, you release them to be who they are to you.  They feel safe to be who they are. Dishonour is just the opposite.  It shuts down the relationship between you and the other person.  You can’t receive what they have to give you, since they aren’t allowed to do so.  It was the same when Jesus wasn’t given honour in his hometown.  He wasn’t allowed to love on his town and people, except in a very limited way.  No wonder he couldn’t do any more than a few healings in Nazareth!

Tony and I are involved with the Iris Global movement as Iris Ministries Canada missionaries. This movement’s slogan says, “love looks like something.” And so it does.  Love is active. Love and honour easily work together; in fact, if you love someone, there must be honour involved.  Our Mama Heidi was shown the importance of honour when she had a problem.  She prayed over bush outreach struggles that were happening in northern Mozambique.  There was resistance. People threw stones, and Heidi was tired of it.  She knew something was missing, so she asked God what it wasThen the Holy Spirit revealed to her that she needed to meet the village leaders, and to honour them. She was instructed to do something different. Before this, she ignored the leaders, and set up competing movies and evangelism that were louder than their own meetings.  Now, she was directed to meet these leaders. She needed to get to know them and to honour them.

She brought the international Harvest School students who were with her, and asked them to bow before the leaders, and introduce themselves to each leader.  The leaders were now in a relationship with Heidi. They felt ready to welcome and invite the students to their villages. Gifts were given to the leaders. Concerns were genuinely addressed.  Since that time, all Harvest School students go into the bush with Heidi or other senior leaders. This is a special time of publicly honouring the village leaders.  The blessing goes both ways. It really does.

Tony and I experienced this honour ceremony in Linde, Mozambique.  We shook hands with the leaders. They were genuinely happy to see us. We experienced a welcome that was truly heart-felt.  Honour truly IS the language of the God’s kingdom. It opens doors.  It blesses hearts.   The Bible has much to say about honour.  Let’s start the honour countdown with eight examples of honour!

Number one: It all starts with honouring God.  Rev. 5:12   gives us a picture of honour in heaven, when all there sing in a mighty chorus:  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honor and glory and blessing.”  Patricia King reminds us that “God is to be honoured, and not just on Sunday mornings! And not just in our songs, but in everything that we do.” This means that we would give him honour in and through our lives.

Number twoHonour your parents.  Exodus 20 says to honour your father and mother.  It’s the first commandment with a promise.  When you honour your folks, “you will live a long and full life in the land.”  Another version says that your days may be prolonged. Jesus even quoted this commandment in Matt 15: 4.

God is very clear about honouring father and mother.  Some of us may have had fathers and mothers that perhaps in your mind don’t deserve to be honoured.  But this commandment is clear despite how imperfect our parents are. Patricia King says that “when you position yourself in honour, it positions you for blessing.  You will live long in the land that the Lord gives you, which is his kingdom. It’s his promises, the land of his goodness, the land of his abundant life.  So when you honour your parents, it positions you in the blessing of the Lord.”

In the case of where parents have abused you,  this honour is not about their wrong deeds and harm they have done. You need to forgive them for that.  But you can’t empower evil. In this case, as a step, at least don’t dishonour them.  It’s not about what they deserve, but rather, to honour that they are your parents.  My mother used to tell me, “Laurie-Ann, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  So sometimes it’s better not to say anything.  Sometimes honouring a parent is simply to not dishonour them.

Here’s a Biblical example of not honouring a parent.  We know that in the case of Noah, he had one son who uncovered his nakedness.  Ham and his son Canaan were cursed.  Why?  Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness. He exposed him; when the other sons covered him.   He dishonoured his father’s dignity, rather than honoured him. God wants us to walk in honour, so this goes for your spiritual parents too.  Most of us have had spiritual parents who have nurtured us, but no one is perfect.  There’s been areas where they have been a blessing to you and not been a blessing to you, but we need to honour them as well.

Tony and I saw a beautiful example of honour when we visited Bethel Church in Redding, California. This is the same famous church known for contemporary worship music and great teaching. They have a 14-7 prayer house, healing rooms, outreach, and so much more.  We arrived at the early service on Father’s Day 2017.  Eric Johnson chose to not only honour the fathers, but also the single moms in the house.  These women were trying to fill the place of both mother AND father to their children.  He encouraged the congregation to bless them financially and with a hug.  And so they did, including my own Tony.   This same honour attitude was also extended to those who came to faith that day.  In many churches I’ve been involved with, they have everyone close their eyes and people can slip hands up anonymously.  I understand why they do that, but at the same time, those people can also be frightened from any contact, so it’s good to welcome them in honour.  Eric told them that they acknowledge them in the open, so they can be encouraged, rather than to hide.   They are seen as that important.   Parents also need to honour their children, so that you allow them to be who they truly are. The Apostle Paul warns fathers in Eph. 6:4, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Message)

Number threeHonour our elders.  Lev. 19:32  says to   “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.”  Tony and I have noticed there is more of a culture of honour in South Africa towards the tannies and ooms then we have in North America. We celebrate that.    We found the same in Sierra Leone, where their strong culture of honour is helping heal divisions from their civil war. Rob Packer says there is a prevalent mindset in western culture that expects people who are over 60 to retire from work, get their pension, play bowls, move to an old folks home and wait to die.  They say they have done their bit, they have had their day, and now they should move over and let the younger ones do their thing.  That is such a strategy from the enemy!  Older folk have the greatest time availability, greatest life experience, and financial resources.  Many great businesses, inventions, and art is produced by people aged 60 to 90.   Patricia King also encourages seniors to get out there on the front lines of ministry.  She says the second half of life of these people can be greater than their first half was.

Yet in the west, there is the rise of elder abuse.   We see elderly people taken advantage of financially. They are targeted in scams with no conscience against it whatsoever. Some of these seniors are left absolutely bankrupt with no way to care for themselves.  Even some family members, have been abused rather than honoured. They’re just put in a home, and forgotten and never visited.   I’ve been fortunate in my family.  My maternal grandparents were cared by my aunt, uncle and cousins.  I even took three months off from volunteer work to care for my own parents in 2015.  It was an honour to do so.  Right now, we live in a retirement community and are always happy to see family visit our neighbours.  We even plan to visit the most frail of our community. This gives us great joy. I look forward to seeing my folks again on our home visit next year.  We always pray for their health and life.   Our friend and co-worker Maggie loves and ministers in the old-age home in nearby Robertson, as well as many seniors in that community. She is a real representation of honouring the elderly, in a special, loving way.  That love and honour that she shows them pleases God. It touches them and Maggie is blessed in the giving.

Number fourHonour widows. The Apostle Paul mentions honouring real widows in 1 Tim 5:3.   Some of these widows and widowers are just barely getting by. They are lonely and need to be honoured; they need to be loved on. They need to be esteemed, blessed, invited out, and given affirmations.  Sometimes they need finances, so every once and a while, slip them some rand notes when you shake their hand.  Some people call this a Pentecostal handshake, although I can say that Anglicans and Baptists have done this to me when wishing me well on short-term mission trips.  Psalm 68 mentions about God placing the lonely into families.  I’ve always understood this scripture as the long-term singles, since I was one until Tony scooped me up.  However, it also applies to the widowed.  Perhaps there is a lonely widow or widower in your community that you can adopt as your own tannie or oom.  I can think of a few here in Worcester.

Number fiveHonour church leaders.  We need to give special honour to church leaders for their care of preaching and teaching.  Paul encourages us to give double honour in 1 Tim 5:17, as well as the reminder in 1 Thess. 5:13 that we must esteem them, because they are working hard for you.  I know that my Ottawa pastors of John, Shawn, David and Trisha often would endure complaints as well as praise. David and Trisha even stepped down from one of my churches in a painful situation.  They are still in my prayers.  Sometimes a few of my past pastors have made mistakes and hurt my feelings.  But they were not intentional.  Our leaders are human, just like we are.

Sometimes famous Christian leaders are slammed, judged, and criticized openly and behind their backs. There are many Facebook posts of others that are in agreement, who also dishonour them.    Patricia King asked her own parishioners to not do post any posts on their Facebook pages that are negative, critical and cruel.   She asks them to stop negative talk, and to speak positively or not at all.  I personally take that stance.  I also remember Heidi Baker making a joke that she doesn’t  type her name into Google.  Some people have pegged her and other charismatic leaders as outright demonic.  Now THAT is dishonouring. And she’s not the only target.  Unfortunately people who do that create a culture of dishonour.  Even Jesus was pegged as demonic by some of the Pharisees.

Our Afrikaaner pastors,  Johan and Peter-Louis, have treated us with honour. It is easy to love and honour them back.  But even then, they and their families need our prayers. So does your own pastor, and all the leadership that works with them.  Please do pray for them and choose to honour them.  It will bless both you and them.

Number sixHonour other leaders who may not be as visible as those on stage.  1 Corinthians teaches to give more honour to the invisible ones.  In honouring them, scripture doesn’t say to honour them only if they are perfect and flawless. Criticism and judgmental attitudes hurt those leaders. It also hurts those who criticize. It’s dishonouring, so best to pray for the leader. Deal with your own attitude and forgive mistakes.   In the case of dealing with abuse, assault and the like; well, that must be reported. But if we’re talking criticism and complaining over minor issues, it’s time to forgive and move on in a gentle way.  A critical spirit is only going to harm your own walk with God. It will drag down your health and relationships.  Instead, choose to honour. Find kind ways to express disagreement without causing harm.

Number sevenHonour our government leaders; and our employers. Paul wrote in 1 Tim 6:1 to regard your masters as worthy of all honour.  Even if they are nasty, you must honour your employer. This means to not bad mouth them to other employees.  You are to honour them so that God himself won’t be looked upon in a bad way. We are to be absolutely blameless in this sense.  We are to be people of honour.

Even in the political realm, there’s a lot of people – even Christians – that will slam leaders terribly, with a critical attitude.   This isn’t just about US president Trump, but every leader.  These people may need constructive criticism but not curses. They need our prayers for difficult decisions. We pray all the time for Cyril Ramaphosa.

Patricia King loves the example of David and King Saul in 1 Sam 24: 2-13. In this story, David had an actual opportunity to take Saul out.  Patricia says that “Saul was the appointed king.  David was anointed as king, but he wasn’t appointed yet. He wasn’t in position yet, but he was blessed to be king. So he could have flaunted his authority.  But he didn’t.  He actually repented –  even from taking a piece of Saul’s garment. He had still ‘touched’ the anointed of God in a negative way. He did not take his life, he did not harm him in any way.  He said to Saul, “why are you doing this to me? I’ve only honoured you.” Saul made his own choice before God.  Patricia thinks that the reason why David got promoted was because he was a man of honour. Despite his mistakes, he was a man after God’s own heart.

David was greatly honoured, because he sowed honour.  He passed his honour test.  Patricia shares that “you will always be watched by God before you go into promotion. You have to pass your honour test.  Because if you fail an honour test,  you will not be able to properly stand in your next place very well. You will fail in that place. God wants you to always pass the test of honour; and you will be tested.”

You might think, ‘well, that person doesn’t deserve my honour.”  David could have thought this way, but he didn’t!  If he did take that attitude in his heart towards Saul, he would have failed the honour test.  But instead, he passed the honour test. “He held the honour test strong, right to the finish, because even after that, he didn’t become king right away. He had to still walk that out. He chose to be humble and he honoured the king.  It takes time to honour in that way, but it sets up a good foundation for the future.

Number eight: Honour each other!  This includes our spouses, best friends and everyone else. If you thought you were being missed out in this honour-fest, well, you’re in the party!  You’ve not been forgotten.  The Apostle Paul asks us in Phil 2:3 to esteem or honour others. In Rom. 12:10, Paul says to love each other with genuine affection, and to take delight in honouring each other.”   I’ve watched this love and honour in action at Iris gatherings where they all scramble to pay the bill.  I know our Iris leaders have certainly honoured and encouraged us.  We’ve been honoured and loved on by Janis, our Iris Ministries Canada director.  And sure enough, she bought me lunch.  We all need to grow in giving honour.  We could see this as a positive challenge.

If you value something you will take care of it, you will honour it.  For example, if you have a three carat diamond ring, you see the value in that. You’re not going to be careless with that diamond ring. You’re not just going to take it off your finger and forget where you put it; because you value that ring.  In the US, there is a company who markets caramel popcorn and peanuts in a box and call it “Cracker Jack.”  Inside the Cracker Jack box is a ring.  If you pull out the ring from a Cracker Jack box, you may like it, but you’re not going to value it the same as the diamond ring.  It doesn’t have the value of the diamond ring.

Whatever you value, you will honour.  I believe that God wants us to learn to value each other like he values us.  When he looks at each of you as individuals, he values you beyond anything you can understand.  He is willing to give everything to you because you have such great value to him.  When we look at each other, and we can’t see value, just ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to our hearts.  He will help us honour each other.  He reveals our value.  You might look at the person and think, nah, … they’re losers.  But they are not losers in God’s eyes.  When you look through his eyes, and ask him to reveal his heart for that person, it will change the way that you see them.

If you can change the way that you see them, and see the value in them, you will honour them.   This is the core truth in many Facebook posts about seeing the gold in people, rather than the dirt.  Yes, we all have dirt, but we also have gold.  So it’s easy to honour what you value. I believe that God wants us to see the pure gold in each other. He wants us to see the potential.  He wants us to encourage that potential in each other. One of the BEST things about raising children is to NOT tell them how bad they are. Don’t point out all the bad things that they’re doing, and all their mistakes.   They better fix this, fix that, do this and do that, ‘cause you’re just not making the mark.  If you do that, you’ll destroy your child. They’ll become people-pleasing strivers and not know who they are.

If you’re doing that, you’ll find out that you’re destroying their self-image, you’ll destroy everything about them.  Instead, start speaking into them, who they really are. When you  discipline them, call them up into who they are. This transforms the way that they live and the way that they grow up.  They’ll grow up strong and straight, because they’re being valued. If you feel valued by someone, you’ll live differently, than you will if you feel like you’ve been hated by people.   Have you ever gone into an environment where you’ve felt despised?  It’s just like you want to hide, you fumble, you’re not yourself, you don’t rise up in confidence; but when you go into a place where you know you are valued and loved, it just pulls up in you the fullness of who you are.

Despite our mistakes, if we honour each other, and see potential in each other, we’ll see each other grow.  It will be so beautiful.  So honour is a key in building strong people, community and family.  Honour is a big deal in countries like Sierra Leone, who is still healing from their civil war. And honour is due to the one who eternally loves us.

So we have learned there is so much to establishing a culture of honour.  When we choose to honour, we will in turn be honoured ourselves. It isn’t all one way.  So as we choose to honour God, our parents, our leaders, the widows, the vulnerable and each other, we are also within that honour matrix.  In earlier broadcasts we learned about encouragement and blessing.  To honour is to take that further.  In our next broadcast, we will learn further HOW we can honour.

Lord, I ask you to please teach us deeply in our hearts about honour.  Show us ways that we have been dishonouring to others. Show us how we complain and speak to our hearts about how to stop these habits. Show us your way, the way of honour, the way of love.  Show us what honour looks like.  We thank you for your faithfulness to us and give you all the honour of making our lives beautiful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you would like to hear an audio version of this article, please follow this link to CopplesWesternCape.ca and scroll down to #36

We’ll continue to journey through honour as part of a four-part series.

Blessings and love
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God through God moments at Christmas

Okay, with the above picture, it shows that even if this is our second Christmas in the southern hemisphere, the weight of so many northern hemisphere Christmases is still stronger.  But it’s still Christmas!   Where ever we are – on a skating rink, the mall, the beach, or in church – there are lots of opportunities to stop for the one at Christmas (or what South Africans call ‘the festive season.’)

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have spent Christmas in Northern Ireland, England, Pakistan, St. Maarten, Canada and South Africa. This time, it’s Christmas in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.    In our last article, I shared about learning to thrive in God despite disappointment.  We are to pause, ponder, praise and psalm.  It’s at times like this that we remember God’s faithfulness.  The Psalms often mention “Selah” or pause. A friend of mine just named their little one this precious name.  And what beautiful one wouldn’t cause a parent’s heart to pause and ponder?  So it is the same as we think of the heavenly child, Jesus, who came to earth for us.  We also praise Jesus for every good thing that he’s brought us, including our very lives and salvation. Psalming is a beautiful devotional practice that allows you to voice disappointments to God, choose to lay them at his feet, and then trust him.  If you’re disappointed during this Christmas season, then I recommend you do this.  Your perspective may get deeper, as you realize that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us.  God is with you – he is closer than you think.

During my last two broadcasts on CWCP Radio, I spoke about depending on God for all our strength when we have none of our own.  Sometimes disabilities sap us of strength and other times, we are brought into weakness when we use up our own strengths.  We can’t run on our strengths and gifts alone. The Apostle Paul shared with us to use our weakness as an opportunity to lean on God.  2 Corinthians 12: 10 says, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”   Gideon was transformed from a fearful man to become a great hero.   We can do more in our weakness that we realize.  If you have any form of disability, it does not stop you from doing great things in God. There are many other examples of people that  God worked through their weakness.  I recommend you visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Coppleswesterncape.ca website to learn more. These are #40 and #41 on the page.   

When I was in the acceptance process to become a long-term Iris missionary, my health was a question that topped the list.  Our base co-founder Johan Fourie, defended me and said, that while I couldn’t do certain things more ‘able-bodied’ missionaries could do, I could do a lot of other things.  These things include our call to love, teach, disciple and befriend vulnerable farm kids and township kids.  It includes our prison ministry, my artwork, bookkeeping, and webwork.  It includes writing, CWCP Radio, and stopping for the one.

Tony and I often talk about stopping for the one, wherever we are.  It’s something that our Iris Global co-founder Heidi Baker says all the time.  When people ask her how she does ministry in a nutshell, she often says “We just stop for the one, it’s not complicated.”    Heidi also says that love looks like something – and it does.  This means that love has different flavours.  This isn’t about chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but about the many different ways of showing love in practical ways.  To a single-mom, it’s about practical help in fixing things, and being a support to their children, as well as her.  To a lonely senior, it’s in lovingly listening to their stories and encouraging them that they still have purpose.  It’s in relationship.  To a person with various disabilities, it’s in bringing practical help that they need and want, while respecting their dignity.  There are so many examples.

To a love-starved child, it means being like a loving aunt and uncle. Sometimes, well maybe a lot more often than sometimes, this means giving them something good to eat, while listening to them, teaching them, and holding them close to you – that is, once they trust you enough to hug them.

I’m fortunate; some kids have warmed up to me right away, since they see I’m not threatening.  And many kids love Uncle Tony and have wormed their way into Tony’s heart.  Sometimes it’s a ride in Avian Park, one of our townships in Worcester, and other times it’s a ride to church.  We also disciple and love on eight or more teen girls from Avian Park.  They love to come up to our retirement village home, for the wifi, sandwiches, Bible study and the love.   These are often planned times of ministry – usually on Monday and Saturday afternoons.  We have many times of planned ministry, and we give these times to God for opportunities for what God would have us do beyond our planned items.  In other words, our agenda is very loose, so we can allow for what the girls want and we would like to share.   We also have many beautiful God moments with the Brandvlei inmates on Saturday mornings; it is amazing what happens within the space of two hours.  It’s the same when we are teaching at MasterPeace Academy – we are teachers, but in some of those moments, we have God opportunities to bless each child, depending on their needs and the Holy Spirit’s leading.  The most needy child is Mpho, who has ADHD, but learns and receives love by touch.  So I always hug him and touch him gently and appropriately to show him that we love him and are there for him.  Sometimes stopping for Mpho in the context of school is to encourage him that he can still learn despite his disability.  He actually came top of the class in the art exam last term.

Then there are the moments that are in-between planned activities.  They go beyond Tony’s visits in the Hospice, which involve healing, prayer and pastoral care.

These are the moments when we meet people in cafes, grocery stores, on holiday and in need anywhere at all.  Ministry time isn’t just for planned times during the week.  This can be for anyone at all, not just full-time missionaries or pastors.  But the biggest step is to intentionally go beyond your comfort zone and trust the Holy Spirit’s leading.  It’s a little adventure that can be a great blessing.

God often sets up little divine appointments in our lives.  Ask God to set them up for you, and they will be most fulfilling. The person we are to connect with could be anyone at all – male, female, teen or child. The key that I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you.  Any fear for the unknown becomes overwhelmed by a wave of compassion towards that person.  That is the key.  Then you know that this is the person that you are to speak to.  This person could be a lonely person in a café, and you find you have something in common. Say you’re reading the same book.  Or you feel a nudge to give them a little treat to share with their tea.

Tony finds opportunities like this to find people to interview for the Worcester Reports.  Sometimes we may find a place or a person seemingly by accident, and yet it’s no accident at all.  Tony found the Iris affiliate couple Josh and Rachel Minter of the East London ministry, Global Mercy Missions when I searched out ministries near our Grahamstown B&B.  He found the co-founder of the Rooibos Teahouse in Clanwilliam while we stayed in the Cedarberg just before Christmas. She brought us the rooibos experience, and we even shared our faith together, with wonderful stories on both sides.   Sometimes stopping for the one involves people you don’t expect – including family members.

Stopping for the one at Christmas involves insight into those who are lonely and alone.  Some of these people are seniors, but they also include busy single-moms and caregivers.  Christmas can be a stressful time, and a lonely one for those who are on their own.   One way is to invite someone to Christmas dinner (or another festive meal) and love on them.  Make their Christmas.  Another way may be to help a working poor person with a Christmas purchase.  Say you’re in the queue at a store, and the person in front of you is short a few rand for an important meal purchase, or toy for their child.  If you feel that wave of compassion, then reach out, and help their Christmas.  Or help someone struggling with their grocery bags.  You may see someone in obvious physical pain.  They may need practical help and prayer.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  People rarely say no, and you can bring a touch of hope into their lives.  You may even be asked why you’re filled with such love and joy.  Or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you.  It’s Jesus!

The key components of stopping for the one during the festive season, as they call it in South Africa, are the same as the other times of the year, with more opportunities.  Most people are actually more open to receive at this time of year. Christmas carols, gift-gifting and special meals don’t always require financial resources.  These are opportunities for giving and showing love.   The components of stopping for the one include: that you need to allow God to love others through you, and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.  You don’t need fancy words or a formula.  Be yourself.  Be willing to be humble.  Don’t rush.  Heidi Baker was always telling us at Harvest School to “go low and go slow.”  This means to be humble and to take your time. And if you  work with children, lower yourself down to their level.  Your divine appointments with people are not a project.  They are real people, with real needs.  They also give unique blessings that can blossom into special friendships.

The journey can be a wonderful one, especially if you can allow God to give a special “Kairos” God moment to someone at Christmas.   Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you.  You don’t have to go to Bible School, seminary or missions school to stop for the one. Sometimes it’s as simple as bringing your neighbour cupcakes, tea and a loving chat.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the Christmas season.  Open our eyes to see the moments right in front of us.  Let us see you in others, and allow others to see you in us.  Fill us with your compassion, and give us direction to love on specific people at this time.  We give you our calendars to fill with your appointments.  Open our eyes to see them and you, and our ears to hear your loving voice.  Thank you for coming to earth to show the Father’s love that we never could have received without you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be blessed my friends, and have a lovely Christmas.   May you encounter Jesus today.

Love, Laurie-Ann

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, it’s on the CWCP podcast page as #42, and will be broadcast December 27, 2018

Growing in God through letting go of self-sufficiency

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you all,

Laurie-Ann Copple
Waystogrowingod.org
Coppleswesterncape.ca

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

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

Growing in God: Suffering and Joy

suffering-joy

Last time we discovered that thankfulness and gratitude are key to managing suffering.  This helps us in natural ways, but also gives opportunity for God to work supernaturally in our lives in the midst of difficulty. Jesus suffered for us (dying on a cross, 39 lashes) so he is no stranger to pain. He endured because of the joy awaiting him (Hebrews 12:2).  Part of that joy was for us to come to know God through him. He didn’t bemoan his situation. When we refuse to practise negativity in the midst of difficulties, our hearts are ready to receive the supernatural help to get through situations that are near impossible. God gives his grace, and in the midst of it, that grace can even bring joy.

When I wrote my earlier article on suffering, I only partly understood what it really means.  My understanding was incomplete, even though I had met Christians who had suffered greatly in northern Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.  I understood key aspects of successfully living through suffering.  My article suggested that most of these keys included attitude, gaining a refined identity as children of God, ministering comfort toward others, humility and realizing that God will somehow make sense out of the suffering.  Through these things the Holy Spirit would develop in us a deep perseverance, as well as character and hope (see Romans 5:4).  All of this is true; scripture implores us over and over again to not give up in the face of difficulty.  However, I still didn’t truly understand the paradox of joy and suffering. I have been pondering the issue of suffering for years.  Many people have, which is why it’s the number one topic in Nicky Gumbel’s book Searching Issues.

I had just returned from my first mission trip to Kenya in 1993.  I attended an evening service in Toronto with a friend who had journeyed with me through some of my own difficulties. My then-pastor Dale, had preached on Hebrews 12:1-3:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Most people would have focused on our cheerleaders in heaven (the great cloud of witnesses), or perhaps the encouragement to not give up (run our race with perseverance, and not losing heart). This again gives us good reason to not give up.  Never, never give up (I’ve given up too early many times in the past). Yet I was drawn to the phrase “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.”  Joy?  In the cross?  In suffering?  I also had heard of persecuted Christians who showed joy at surprising times but I wasn’t yet ready to read the stories.  I was afraid to hear their stories but I needed to read them.  I remember going up for prayer to Dale’s wife, Linda. I asked her that I may understand what joy and suffering meant, and to understand joy in the context of the cross. I don’t think she understood what I really wanted, but she did pray (albeit with a perplexed look on her face).

When I studied in Tyndale Seminary, I took a New Testament course called Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon).  The Apostle Paul wrote these letters while he was under house arrest in Rome. I remember Paul often writing about joy in the midst of the letter to the Philippians. It’s known as the book of joy. Joy, or rejoicing is mentioned 16 times in this letter! Yet, this is the apostle who endured so much persecution (read 2 Corinthians 1:8, 4:8-12, 6:4-5, and especially 11:16-33).  Paul was no wimp. He suffered out of love to reach as many people as possible. Yet in that time, God gave him the grace of joy.   I remember I had a brief flash of insight when I was writing the final exam in the Prison Epistles course.  It was about the paradox of suffering and joy – and I believed that Paul’s statement of being content in all circumstances was the key.  I still sought the core of that inner contentment – what was it?  What came to me was a very small, but bright intuitive flash – the centre of that joy, that contentment was trust.  Pure and deep trust in God, no matter what. Since I was still working on that part of my life, I didn’t get to expound on my discovery.  Paul’s contentment is made plain in Philippians 4: 10-14 (Message Version):

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

That trust is something I saw in the eyes of the people in Shantinagar, Pakistan. I remember seeing them as glowing, shining stars for Christ: humble, loving, full of radiant love.  I saw the same thing through the eyes of missionary Heidi Baker.  She is an apostle of radical love.  She and her husband head up Iris Global, a huge movement of missions, mercy and radical lovers.  She approached me once in a women’s conference and gave me roses. I remember the deep love of Jesus that poured out of her.  Here is one person who so completely loves and trusts God that she never says no to him. She laughs out of joy, simply because she is so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Heidi’s husband Rolland is just as amazing as his wife. I got to meet Rolland while at an Iris conference hosted by Iris Virginia (Richmond/Williamsburg).  I began my relationship with this community in June 2014, and continue to correspond, visit, pray with and minister with these folks as much as I can. I am awaiting my fourth visit in September. My second visit was for this conference and I was given the opportunity to receive lots of ministry.  Heidi had declared on the first night that some people needed to receive God’s joy in order to be used effectively for the gospel. I didn’t quite walk into that crowd at the altar, but I wasn’t far from them.  I should have been closer.  I was often sad and still grieving the loss of my only full-time job; and I still missed the Nelson, British Columbia community I came to love while I was working there. I had given my loss to God, but I didn’t yet have the joy/trust to overcome my loss. Heidi asked for Rolland to pray for all who were depressed.  Many wept deeply.  Sometime during that evening, someone had prayed for me, and I went down.  I spent a long time on that carpet, weeping almost as much as the poor people on stage.

The next night, I stood between the Iris book table and a pole in the church lobby with my new friend Ryan. Ryan was a philosophy student at Boston University and is brilliant (as Rolland himself is). While Ryan and I discussed and debated, Rolland tried to touch us many times on the arm or shoulder (he was deeply filled by the Holy Spirit, and wanted to share with us).  Rolland giggled and had a mischievous glint in his eye.  Sure enough, Ryan and I laughed and giggled as Rolland prayed for us.  I hugged a supporting pole in the church lobby and didn’t want to fall on the floor.  There was no carpet, this was hard tile!  It was also difficult for me to get up!  It didn’t matter.  Rolland was relentless and we received (although we did not fall down).

The next evening, much of the crowd didn’t return, since Heidi had gone on to another conference, far away from Richmond.  But Rolland and Mel Tari were still there. I was able to actually say hello to Rolland, and when I asked him how he was, he said, “Hi, I’ve come looking for revival, have I come to the right place?”  Surely he must have been joking, but I prayed for him anyway!  What a privilege (I was to get the same honour of praying for Heidi only four months later in Toronto)!  That night, holy laughter broke out in the meeting between the worship time and the sermon.  Rolland didn’t want to wait, and it seemed the right time to change the ‘usual format’ of the service. He invited people up to the front to receive. He jokingly called himself “Doctor tee-hee;” for he really does have a Doctor of Ministry degree (as Heidi has a PhD).  I ran up and stood right in front of him, so I ended up being one of the first “hit.”  Rolland thrust his microphone into my stomach and down I went.  It took me ages to get up later, so I sat at his feet while he talked.  While I was on the floor, the rest of my sadness poured out.  I was at peace.

You would think that Rolland would then speak on the theological nature of joy, or of God’s love.  But, no.  He gave a sermon of pure gold. He spoke on holiness and sin.  He spoke on what we desperately need in the church – repentance; and of all that keeps us from leading a holy life. Perhaps we were able to hear Rolland more clearly because we had already received ministry. Yet through it, I remembered Rolland’s words when he was praying for people earlier,  “That the joy was necessary as God was preparing us to die.”  What did Rolland mean by that?  Death of self?  Perhaps!  Many times our own selfish nature gets in the way. Or maybe he meant about inevitable suffering that comes in ministry and when you’re an outspoken Christian?  I had a sense that was what he meant.    The following day, I asked Mel Tari to pray over me that I would become fearless. He smiled and said, “I’d like to pray for you to come into your destiny instead.”  And so Mel did. By the end of the conference, and weeks afterward, I had a lasting taste of what the ‘Joy of the Lord’ meant (Nehemiah 8:10).  It really is about trust, child-like trust that is intermingled with contentment. It is deeper than a feeling, but includes emotion. It is love, trust, and joy that is not connected to circumstances.  Happiness is connected to circumstances, joy is not. I finally could understand joy.   I guess that meant that I was now prepared for suffering, but rather, what came in the wake was more subtle refining.  Some of this was: preparation for future ministry, learning to live on no income of my own, pouring out many volunteer hours in pastoral care (at Kingdom Culture and other places).

I am praying about attending a future Iris Harvest Mission School, and have been reading their required list for over a year.  I found more teaching on suffering and joy through Surprise Sithole’s biography, Surprise in the Night. As I mentioned in my last article (Growing in Gratitude: Paradox and Ministry), Surprise has an amazing way of seeing all of life through joy, despite the tremendous suffering he has endured. He can still have a “good day” every day. Rolland shares in his doctoral dissertation the five values of Iris: God can be found, dependence on miracles, humility/going to the least of these, being willing to suffer and rejoicing in the Lord.  He ties the last two values together when he says, “the joy of the Lord is not optional, and it far outweighs our suffering. In Jesus, it becomes our motivation, reward and spiritual weapon.  In his presence is fullness of joy, and with Paul we testify that in all our troubles, our joy knows no bounds (2 Cor. 7:4). It is our strength and energy, without which we die.” (Rolland Baker, Toward a Biblical Strategy of Mission. P 112)

That extreme dependence on God puts one in a good place, because then God can give us the grace, and the joy we need as we trust him.  This trust isn’t harmed if you’re deeply suffering, because you’re already rooted into his unshakeable grace. Neither is it harmed if you’re in preparation and want to run ahead but know you cannot.  You’re stuck in the place of trusting and waiting on God – for his hand in provision, direction and ministry.  He is the same God, but through this experience, he changes you and his glory inside you begins to shine out of you.  Why do many persecuted Christians seem to smile in the midst of such torture?  The glory within them leaks out. Their eyes are focused on Jesus, and they become even more filled with grace, and that’s what the persecutors see. How are these people carried?  By deep and sure grace.  Strange joy in the midst of horrible circumstances.  Now that I understand, it’s impossible to ignore.  Lord Jesus, help us to learn from those of us who lead the way in shining for you.  May we shine for you as much as these people shine in persecution and even death.

Rolland’s wife Heidi shares a vision she was given of at least a million needy children.  Her voice clip is included in Jason Lee Jones’ song “Song of the Martyr” (which is on his cd, Face to Face).  The children from Heidi’s vision were from all nations.  Jesus said to Heidi, Go give them something to eat, but Heidi was overwhelmed.  Then Jesus took a piece of his broken body and said to her, “Because I died, there will always be enough.”  I believe it was about more than just enough food and enough gospel message.  Heidi took the piece of flesh and it turned into bread, and the bread multiplied over and over. She was also shown that she would drink the cup of suffering, but she would also drink the cup of joy.  Joy is necessary to overcome; after all it is rooted in deep trust! Below I have posted a video of Jason Lee Jones singing a special song about some of the martyrs.  This is a live version, rather than the version on his cd, Face to Face (which I highly recommend) May you be as impacted as I was.

Next time we will explore growing in our identity in the midst of transition.

Blessings,
Laurie-Ann Copple


Jason Lee Jones “Song of the Martyrs”
Jason’s website is: http://godbreed.org/  He is one of the leaders of the Iris base at Savannah Georgia, USA.

flower-in-sidewalk

Growing in Gratitude: The Cup of Thanksgiving

thankfulness chest

These past months, we have explored growing in our faith through thankfulness to God (and in a smaller way, to others). We learned to be thankful for the good, or what will turn to ultimate good in our lives. Thanksgiving can be found in acts of worship, and in thinking far outside our circumstances.  Thankfulness is an expression, or fruit of having a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone (Eze. 36:26-27). We also began to explore seeing through the eyes of thankfulness.  Sometimes the word gratitude is shown as an expression of thankfulness. I mentioned gratitude eight times in December’s article due to the intimate connection between thankfulness and gratitude.

In January, I discovered there was so much more to thankfulness and gratitude. I was impressed that this area of our faith walk deserves a pause to think deeply about thankfulness. Thankfulness is part of our healing and re-storying our lives through the eyes of faith. Many Psalm writers did this in ancient Israel, including King David. Thankfulness can be combined with soaking prayer so that our act of thankfulness goes even deeper into our soul.  This means that through the Holy Spirit, thankfulness is a key that God can use to transform us. Thanks is also part of the very prayer we use to come to initial faith in Jesus Christ (often called the ‘sinner’s prayer’ but simplified in the Alpha movement as “sorry-thank you-please”).  Thankfulness needs to be a daily part of our walk – it helps us keep our eyes on Jesus, especially if you are experiencing difficult times or you’re in transition from one stage of life and ministry to another stage.  Let’s explore thankfulness and gratitude further.

Is there a difference between thankfulness and gratitude? Or are they aspects of the same thing?  I researched the two words, and often the two concepts are interchangeable. However, I had a sense that gratitude is deeper than thanks. Gratitude is an internal emotion of deep thankfulness. The act of giving thanks is an outward action term; it’s a desire to offer your thanks for something that’s been given to you; or something that you already have.   Personal coach Linda Ryan believes that “being grateful is appreciating something that you have not yet received, but [you] have faith it’s coming.”  She looks at it like this:  “I am thankful for my wonderful family and friends; I am grateful for all the great people I am going to meet.  Being in a state of gratitude keeps us mentally and emotionally connected to our goals.”  http://www.coachlindaryan.com/2011/11/dont-just-be-thankful-be-grateful/ 

So being grateful also makes us more confident and less restless in life’s “in-between” times; it gives us focus.  Michael Austin Witty  (Looking for the Faith-Gratitude Connection) takes this further when he says:  “Before a miracle happens, thankfulness is faith.  Afterwards it is gratitude.” This statement implies that thankfulness and gratitude are a process that we can grow in, which makes good sense to me.  However, I believe you can experience gratitude when you receive God’s love right now, not just in the future. Say God is radically touching your heart, by healing a deep emotional wound. Right now, the Holy Spirit fills you with love and forgiveness. Your entire being feels light, loved and full of hope. So then, what’s the primary emotion you will feel if not gratitude?  Say God uses you in a very special way that you did not expect!  He brings a hurting person to you and you are given an encouraging word, compassion and a gift of healing right when they need it most.  He has had you ‘stop for the one.’  So you are grateful that you got to be a part of that special moment – God is here with us right now!

God doesn’t just work in the past and the future.  Too many of us lose the opportunity of receiving what God wants to bless us with today – this happens if we only focus on the future.   Here’s an example:  I applied to a three-month mission school in southern Africa over five weeks ago. I became more and more anxious on whether or not I’ve been accepted. I kept looking at the ministry site a couple of times a day to know one way or another.  While it is normal to be excited at the possibility of ministering in Africa in the coming months, the anxiety drew my eyes away from God. I was beginning to lose focus on what God is doing right now during my time of preparation.  I began to grow restless and lose my peace.  However, I was gently reminded by a close friend that I need to “live in the now and let God take care of tomorrow.”  Does this sound familiar to you, like  Matthew 6:33? (Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well)  While the biblical concept of seeking God first is about worry and provision, it also deals with trusting God’s sovereignty. Trusting that God is in control and being grateful that he is in charge, opens up a deeper place in our hearts for God.  While we wait for answers, Jesus calls us to that secret place where your eyes are only on him.  You spend valuable time with him.  How can one work in the mission field or any kind of ministry without spending time with God first?  It is essential.

So, I can sing along with the writer of the worship song “Give thanks with a grateful heart” – that God has my back.  I can trust him to work out what I need and what I will be doing.  And while I wait, I’m deeply grateful for being carried like the person Jesus carries in the Footprints poem written by Mary Stevenson.  When you are in gratitude, God gives you even more of what you need. This includes better health, peace of mind, less stress, alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. One way to help expedite this process is to go on a negativity fast for at least 21 days (read Dr. Caroline Leaf and/or Steve and Wendy Backland). By the end of that time, you will have trained yourself to no longer be a complainer.

Gratitude is connected to deep faith, and even joy.  One blogger says that “faith and thanksgiving are close friends.  If you have faith in God, you will be thankful because you know his loving hand is upon you, even though you are in a lion’s den.  That will give you a deep sense of joy, and joy is the barometer of the depth of faith you have in God.” [http://christiananswers.net/q-comfort/growing-thanksgiving.html] That gratitude grows in two ways: one, as you are completely dependent on God (as in the Footprints poem) and two, as you actually see answers to prayer happen in your life.  When this happens, don’t forget these little victories.

Thanks and gratitude can and do change your perspective in the best way.  A “treasure chest of thanks” or a “gratitude jar” can help you remember and itemize each day’s blessings.  When I was part of Kootenay Christian Fellowship in Nelson BC, I set up a prayer jar in the back of the church so I could collect prayer requests for the email prayer team.  Had I stayed in Nelson, I would have added a gratitude jar of answered prayers and other blessings.  You can also have a gratitude jar in your own home!  Some churches have times where they share testimonies with the leaders (and congregation).  This time is like an audible gratitude jar!  What is a testimony? Some dictionaries call a testimony: a legal proof, a divine decree or a recounting of a religious experience.  Others, such as Merrium-Webster, add “an open sign,” an open acknowledgement, an evidence and a “firsthand authentication of a fact.” These are real blessings that have come our way. Remember them and be grateful, since the God who gave them won’t stop in blessing you.

Let’s look at the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospel of Matthew. Before the miracle that stretched the bread and fish, Jesus gave thanks.  That thanks opened the door to God’s miracle of provision.  Something similar happened to Iris Global’s Heidi Baker when she was in a difficult situation.  They had just been kicked out of an orphanage and had limited resources.  A friend from the US Embassy decided to bless Heidi’s family with a pot of chili and rice. The food was enough for Heidi’s family of four, but after a prayer of thanks over the food, the meal stretched to feed everyone present. This wasn’t just a case of adding a little more rice to the mix, but a literal miracle.  Heidi said, “We began serving and right from the start, I gave everyone a full bowl. I barely understood at the time what a wonderful thing was happening. But all our children ate, the staff ate, my friend ate, and even our family of four ate. Everyone had enough.” (Rolland and Heidi Baker, There is Always Enough, pg. 52)  Heidi even says near the closing of the Iris movie Compelled by Love, that she is so grateful for what God is doing each day. That gratitude grows daily.

Gratitude like this becomes an everyday lifestyle and a discipline. Earlier I had mentioned doing on a negativity fast.  One action Steve and Wendy Backland had tried with their congregation was to give some people a ‘no-complaint wristband.’ You can also look in your gratitude jar and read some of the entries if you are feeling down that day.  Gratitude can be developed as a discipline by choice.  Henri Nouwen wrote that “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.” (Henri Nouwen as quoted in Robert Jonas, Henri Nouwen.)  Henri Nouwen also noted that “The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Because every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace. There is an Estonian proverb that says: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace. (Henri Nouwen, The return of the Prodigal Son, pg.85)

Gratitude is also like a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The named fruit of the Spirit are:   love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5: 22-23).  It is a by-product of deeply abiding in the grace of God and relationship with him.  Henri Nouwen also talks about the fruitfulness of grace.  He says,  Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is, is a divine gift born of love and freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.  The more we touch the intimate love of God which creates, sustains, and guides us, the more we recognise the multitude of fruits that come forth from that love (Robert Jonas, pg 68).  Without a spirit of gratitude, life flattens out and becomes dull and boring. But when we continue to be surprised by new manifestations of life and continue to praise and thank God and our neighbour, routine and boredom cannot take hold. Then all of life becomes a reason for saying thanks. Thus, fruitfulness and gratitude can never be separated. (Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns. P.70-71)

Gratitude brings us to the cup of thanksgiving!
In the New Testament, thanksgiving is the very essence of the Church’s life. In liturgical churches, the word eucharist actually means thanksgiving!The very centre of the Church’s liturgical worship of God is when, in remembrance of all His saving acts in Christ, the faithful “lift up their hearts” and “give thanks unto the Lord.” (Orthodox church in America)

Pastor Jim Reimer from Nelson, BC shared the connection of gratitude and the Cup of Thanksgiving (1 Cor 10:16 NIV) while I was still part of his congregation. He noted that there is a deep connection between Eucharist (or in some churches, Communion or the Lord’s Supper) and thankfulness.  As we receive the wine and bread, we are thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. We remember what he did for us.  But even more, we are grateful for his presence in our lives, and what he continues to do.  He brings us to more and more freedom. He does not leave us the way we came to faith, but causes us to grow.

Gratitude becomes the drink in which we grow in love.  Gratitude keeps us connected and wanting to connect to Jesus in a deeper way. And in a sense, everyone has a cup to drink.  1 Thess. 5:18 encourages us to give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  So instead of our cup being half empty or half full, OUR cup, the cup of thanksgiving, runs over (Psalm 23:5).  The paradox is that Jesus’s experienced his cup of pain, suffering, treason and death (1 Cor. 10:16), but through Christ, it is our deliverance.  Jesus becomes our cup of thanksgiving.  For this, and him, I am deeply grateful.

Next time, we will continue to explore gratitude, and what we can do when life just isn’t going our way. Meanwhile, drink deep of the Cup of Thanksgiving.

Blessings, Laurie-Ann Copple
Ottawa, Canada