Congregational Health

As you can well imagine I go to a lot of churches. I often joke that my job is going to church. As I minister overseas I am sometimes in three different churches in one day. Preaching, praying, and rushing to the next. This, of course, is not really my favourite way of ministering but sometimes it happens. More often I am in one or two churches in a day, for as many days in a row as you can imagine. Out of this I have seen a great many congregations and have observed a great many things.

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Through A Life

It has been a lovely few days. Grandma is an 80-year bundle of spunk and love for the Lord. She is set with purpose for each day and carries in her heart many souls before the Lord. I spent one night in her home, enjoyed her roof-top terrace, sat on her front patio, ate at her table, and managed to sit on the floor beside her as she sorted vegetables (there is always much protest when I try to sit on a floor).

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Morning Prayer & Song

I am in Bangalore, India. My room is right across from the Bible College that I am visiting for these next days. This morning, as dawn approaches, and because I have the doors to my little patio open, I could hear (they only just finished) the students as they gathered in the top room singing praises to the Lord.

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Alongside the Faithful

For many years now the pattern has been that God brings us at CCIM alongside those He is bringing into new levels of influence and spiritual authority within the body of Christ.

As leaders move forward and beyond themselves in ministry it is imperative that hearts and spirits are both cleansed of past residue and strain and simultaneously filled with the grace and peace of our Lord.

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In Truth

I’ve watched numerous biographical movies and read many biographical books of those arrested under communist regimes. There is always one point that remains the same from story to story. It doesn’t matter which continent or country in every story the one under arrest must agree to their guilt by signing a paper indicating, ‘Yes this charge against me is true.’

Of course, the charge is never true. And much, the entirety in fact, of the person’s time in prison is spent by the prison authorities working to obtain this agreement of their guilt. All of the tortures and atrocities are meant to break a person whereby they end up saying, ‘Yes what you say about me is true.’

It is as though the regime, the authorities, have no clear way of determining punishment until the agreement is made.

But isn’t this the same in all our lives?

Isn’t this but an extreme example of the same battle each and every day where we must choose to stand up for who we are, truly are, or give way to the barrage of lies about us.

We give the second witness that determines our future. We either agree to the lies or we stand in the truth.

There is no two ways about it. It truly is one or the other.

Which are you agreeing to today?

Open Doors

The Lord really began telling me about the work I was to do in the year 2000. And as I slowly came to believe and trust that this was indeed from God I entered into a process of waiting. Way back in 2002 I have in a journal entry, ‘the time is now, pray that the way would be opened.’ In 2004 another journal entry records, ‘pray that the doors would be opened for all over the world do I choose to use you.’ In 2008, ‘pray that the doors would be opened.’

And so I entered into the longing and the waiting and the praying alongside these directions of the Holy Spirit. I spent my time investing in my own inner healing and wholeness, for I knew that if these prophecies and the accompanying visions were true I would need to be a clean vessel for the Lord. Come forward to 2010 and our Capturing Courage team prayer times recorded, ‘pray that the doors would be opened.’

Well, the doors are open. Internationally speaking its been just over two years since the doors opened and we couldn’t now shut them if we wanted. I have invitations to 11 countries on three continents. Most of those countries have multiple invitations representing hundreds of churches and a number of Bible Schools.

The doors are so open that we cannot go through all of them at once. Most invites are followed by about 2 years of long-distance communication and relationship building before I ever arrive at that particular place,  and every time I do travel the invites become multiplied to that country.

The doors are so open that we have now entered into more waiting. I recently wrote about the power of longing (which is closely tied with waiting, you can read it here), and yet I hardly have the words to speak of the incredible investment made in the wait. I feel I am barely poking at the significance each time I write about it.

When I was young I was a ‘I’d like it yesterday thank-you very much’ kind of person. I like to say I’m a recovered driver-personality. I am now a firm believer of waiting and I encourage leaders and would-be-leaders to enter into waiting whole-heartedly and with faithfulness.

This duo of longing and waiting is in many, many ways the work. Really. Longing and waiting IS THE WORK. And I realize now when I travel and as I write and encourage and equip even over email and Facebook and phone calls that this is the harvest season for me. The multiplication of the waiting has already, and is still continuing, to take place.

All those years back then when I could hardly see my hand in front of my face for all the waiting on the Lord I was doing (many personal things as well as CCI), I never imagined that I was in fact and in that faithfulness doing the work. But I was. Today, we are simply reaping the harvest.

I’m so glad I didn’t go around the waiting. Thank-you Lord for keeping me faithful.

It’s interesting though that the ones closest in during those waiting years seem to have missed the significance of them. To them I was just going through difficulty and trial. Even the ones who knew of the visions and prophecies spoken over my life, even a few who did the prophesying, cannot believe it today.

And I think this is so true of all of us. We see waiting and we see the outward difficulties and we miss the work going on under the surface. We aren’t able to realize that faithfulness produces its own harvest. That staying the course alongside our Lord is an investment in great things to come. God looks at the heart after all, we on the other hand, seem to have trouble doing this.

Today, thought its a bit different, I am still waiting. Where will I go in 2014? I don’t know. I know my first trip will be back to Uganda, but when, what month? I don’t know. And I can’t know when I will know. What about the other places and people pressing in on my heart, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Burundi, Northern Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana?

Names I’ve come to love: Timothy, Ravi, Ravindra, Esther, Alex, Charagh, Philip, Michael, Caliph, Walter, Daniel, Innocent, Patrick, Elizabeth, John, Irene, Edward, Praise, Evan, Joyce, Victor, Whisky, Edison, June, Annet, Grace, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Mildred, Swen, Pascal, Lydia, Scholastic, Geoffrey, Nicholas, Mehtab, Anthony, Peterson, Kigozi, David, Alex, Mamma Bosa, Edith, Aaron, Nelson, Godwin, Bena, Elijah, Paul, Nabeel, Mathias, Honey, Jacob, Anniebel, Stephen, Isabel, Daniel, Camota, Vologa, Huda, John, Dombay, Paul, Isaiah, Lino, Rui, Armando, Oondo, (please forgive me if I missed you).

I’m waiting on the Lord. It’s really hard work. Every day I bear the load of it and invest of the longing alongside it. Yet gladly and with great privilege.

Not for myself any longer, but for those that the Lord chooses to touch and heal and make glad. My job is to show up. The Lord does the rest.

What has become very amazing is that I’m not waiting alone. Weekly I receive emails and phone calls reminding me that they are waiting for me. Hundreds of people in multiple communities are praying and praying and praying for me to travel to where they are. How many full days and services have been set aside over the past couple years for the express purpose of praying for me and my journeying I have no idea. I just keep hearing about them.

It’s an amazing thing. And I get it now. I’m not the only one waiting. Rather, we wait together. And in this I am convinced that the compounding investment of our communal waiting will bring about the Kingdom of God in mighty and powerful transformations of lives and leaders and churches within the body of Christ.

We wait on you Father. Together.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:15

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

Amen and amen.

Serving Up A Feast

NOTE: This is a reblog from our Capturing Courage Website and is the basic template of a message I gave a number of times during my recent ministry trip to Mozambique:

I have a friend named George. He makes his living bringing out the best in other people. Every time I get together with George over a cup of tea I receive a great big hug and an ‘I love you’.

George makes it his mission in life ensuring that everyone he comes across knows they are loved. (Everyone gets a hug!) I have learned a lot from George in the time that I’ve known him.

Forefront for him is ensuring his wife and three kids know his love. There isn’t a time I have tea with George but he isn’t sharing the latest things he has been doing for his wife and kids. In his decisions and manner of being he is committed to serving his family well.

So we might ask, how it is that George can get away with hugging women who are not his wife? I tell you, it’s this: It’s because the feast, the real banquet of love and respect, of honour and regard, is happening at home.

The rest of us are just getting in on the crumbs from the table.

I propose that if we want to change our cultures and communities for God that we begin with a feast at home. Building a culture of regard, tenderness, compassion, acceptance, value, honour, mercy, dignity, justice, love, and understanding in our homes will in fact impact our world.

It begins between a husband and his wife. Men, you have more power than you know.

If you treat your wife with regard and respect each and every day she will shine. Look her in the eyes, acknowledge what she does, thank her for her sacrifices for you and your children. Take the time to ask her about her day and really listen to her. Be tender and understanding.

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

It has been said that a woman is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4) and I ask you men, how shiny is your crown? For the quality of a man can be found in the light in his wife’s eyes, the countenance of her face, and how she carries herself.

A woman treated well, who knows she is safe and secure, is accepted and valued, will do most anything for her man. Women are naturally wired to open themselves to their man. Women are naturally wired to pour themselves out to their families and beyond. Who is pouring into her?

Perhaps you might pour into her so that she might continue giving out and opening herself to you and others.

There is a verse in Ephesians, “For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.” Ephesians 5:23, and from what I can tell this means that men are given the awesome and terrifying responsibility to answer before God one day for the health and well-being of his wife and family.

It is his role to assume 100% responsibility before God. It is a grand opportunity to become like Christ and to lay down his life in service and sacrifice.

But how is a man to take on this terrifying responsibility successfully? Well, he has been given a helper. The same word used to describe the Holy Spirit. His wife.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

She knows things and sees things that can help you as a husband and father. Women intuit how things are and they have particular wisdom that, if respected and regarded and listened to well, will enable you as a man to stand before God one day and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” She is uniquely designed to help you be wildly successful.

A man who takes on the challenge of setting an every-day feast of regard and respect, love and compassion, acceptance and patience, understanding and value, will not only have a wife who shines but will have children who also know these same things. Your children will be secure and settled and they will learn faster and they will mature easier.

A wife who is stressed, afraid, unsure, has children who are stressed, afraid and unsure, and the whole family begins to suffer. A wife who is not stressed makes a soft landing place for her children and her husband will one day reap the rewards of his due care and diligence as he watches the well-lived lives of his children.

As leader of the home you set the standard, you show the way, you model Christ. We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that Christ’s ministry is one of reconciling the world to himself.

Reconciling is accomplished through careful listening, by taking 100% of the responsibility for the messes around us, and through understanding. Men are called to this same ministry of reconciliation.

And not only our men, but our churches too. What if your church was to commit to holding their women in high regard? What if you as a church made sure that you uphold the safety and security and value of all your women and those round about? What kind of a difference might this make in your community and beyond?

Christ calls us to be set apart and different from the world. Well, the world disregards women. The assignments against women have been long-lasting the world over and for centuries. We the body of Christ are called to be different.

While men are creating a feast at home it must also be followed up on by the church. Are we willing as a body of Christ to support our women? Are we willing to ensure they need not remain in abusive marriages?

Are we opening up all levels of leadership within the church so that they really know they are fully welcomed and wanted? Are our churches safe for women? Will we make the honouring and dignity of our women a priority as we create church policy?

For not only does all this hold a space of value for women but it holds a space of honour and value for our men.

For men are not just beasts to be obeyed. Men are not like children who can only see their own need. Men need not be given over to rage and violence.

Rather, men are called to enlarge and strengthen the lives of everyone around them. And out of this feast that begins at home everyone else round about gets in on the crumbs and we are all changed in the process.

The feast in the Kingdom of God is for everyone and our understanding of the gospel is ultimately reflected in our ministry to women and children.

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27

The feast begins at home. The church carries it on. Everyone gets in on the crumbs. None of us remain the same.

“Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:12