I always thought you had to be FOREVER faithful to people, programs, and institutions to the very end. (One of my key values is loyalty and integrity.) Sadly, I learned the hard way some things and relationships must come to an end. Ouch. Sigh. After years of investing in some thing and someone, if there is no fruit, one must seek the Lord on what to do. Sometimes, He calls us to release.
We are called to be faithful to Jesus first and foremost.
“Endings are necessary, but the truth is that we often do not do them well. Although we need them for good results to happen and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them.
• We hang on too long when we should end something now.
• We do not know if an ending is actually necessary, or if “it” or “he/she” is fixable.
• We are afraid of the unknown.
• We are afraid of hurting someone.
• We are afraid of letting go and the sadness associated with an ending.
• We do not possess the skills to execute the ending.
• We do not even know the right words to use.
• We have had too many and too painful endings in our personal history, so we avoid another one.
• When they are forced upon us, we do not know how to process them, and we swing or flounder.
• We do not learn from them, so we repeat the same mistakes over and over.”
Interestingly, I learned about this film on September 11… You will soon learn why…
“The fastest growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth,” according to “Sheep Among Wolves,” the outstanding two-hour documentary about the revival that has taken place inside Iran. “The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.”
A quote from the film:
“Anytime God goes against a religious spirit, He uses women and puts them in the centre of the room.”
The stories of these women are incredible.
I am apart of a Ministers Association who supports house churches and disciple making movements. The documentary I reference (you can watch it below) explains what I am apart of, but of course on a much different scale in Canada. These women in the film are incredible heroes and makes the abuse I have walked through in North American as a female leader, nothing in comparison.
You will want to watch this on a large screen without interruptions.
So incredibly powerful and worth it…
“Mr Moody, there must be more prayer. The speaking here is excellent but there is too much of it in proportion to prayer. We do not have time to pray. We get tired when going to meetings, listening to men. We must have more time to speak to God and to listen to Him.” – Andrew Murray to D.L. Moody (founder of Moody Bible Institute)
I just came across this quote above written in a book on prayer in 1915.
I love seeing this shift over and over with more people hungry to hear God and less what others say about God or on behalf of God. This is why I love teaching people how to hear God’s voice.
People ask me, “What do you think? What should I do?”
Let’s ask Jesus.
After we pray together listening to God, we always test it…
Does it line up with Scripture?
Does it line up with the fruit of Holy Spirit? (If I did what He told me, would it produce love, joy, peace…)
More of Him.
Less of me!
(There is a time for a sermon, but when a sermon is your main course meal and only meal, you lack knowing how to go to God to be fed. You miss out on a direct relationship with God and you have put your pastor in His place. Oops. That is idolatry.)
Jesus wants to be in fellowship with us and that is one reason He gives us His Holy Spirit—so we would never have to be alone. One of the things Jesus promised us is that the Holy Spirit would speak to us, so that we could maintain our intimate relationship with Him. (1 John 14:16-21).
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27 (NIV)
Last night, in my backyard with a bunch of friends sitting in a circle, my husband and I enjoyed discussing with a new friend and traveling evangelist (who has been excellent at equipping others) …some of the things around church. Our friend shared how the Greeks were the ones who introduced the lecture sermon, whereas in the Jewish synagogue, people were sitting around in the circle and anyone could enter in and read Scripture. Like a Discovery Bible study! Anyone could read the Scriptures in the synagogue. (Perhaps, this is why Jesus could read and teach in the synagogue as a carpenter?)
So basically, the way that we often do institutional church is not God’s original way of teaching. Lectures came in and moved things in a different focus. (Notice how with a lecture, the focus is usually on the human teacher?)
When you read Paul’s letters to the churches, there’s instructions on how to gather together. It’s much more community-driven than listening to one talking head at the front of the room. Each person is invited to contribute in different ways.
The way the rabbis taught was with exploration questions (like I do as a Life Coach in my coaching circles) or like how Jesus asked questions, and with apprenticeship (modelling/mentoring). I love coaching small groups and inviting people to meet together and interact. We learn from each other’s stories. (One of my gifts is networking. I love introducing people to each other. My friends tease me about this.)
The synagogue had different scriptures they were given to read at specific times. (Think for a second – how often is the Word actually read in church? Often, sadly, the sermon is merely a motivational message, or someone talking about what the Bible says and sadly often taken out of context.) When I gather people around the Word, I have us all go around reading aloud portions of Scripture. Faith comes by hearing the Word.
God’s people told their children the stories of their ancestors. (Testimonies! We rarely hear stories in an institutional church because we are afraid someone might take more than 3 minutes). The Bible says the enemy will be defeated by the Jesus’ blood and testimonies – stories of God at work! (See Revelation 12:11). Often, when I gather with people, I ask them – since we last met, what are they thankful for? Out comes stories of God’s provision and healing!
The Jews also had festivals (gatherings to celebrate together and eat together). Eating together is enjoying food while facing each other and visiting! As a family, in our house church, I also have deeply loved taking communion at our dining room table facing each other – in community. We have relationship with each other. We look in each other’s eyes as we reflect what Jesus has done for us. So often, when we take communion in church services, it’s as we sit side by side without any interaction with each other and there’s no celebration.
Our discussion last night reminded me of the book that I once read on Pagan Christianity where the author looks at the ways we do church. Most things we do in churches today did not originate from Jesus, but sadly from the world. As a result, so much of the DNA of what Jesus intended for His family has been lost. Today, you will find ads on how to market the growth of your church. Yikes. Jesus never did it that way. We have more to unlearn. (In fact, Jesus’ message – which always included powerful miracles – turned MANY people away!)
After last night, my husband went and did some more research on the Jewish synagogue. It was all in small groups sharing together in community. Basically, it sounds more and more like what Holy Spirit has been leading my family and I to do weekly in our house several times a week with various groups who come in, and when we go into other people’s homes like a true Disciple Making Movement does. (It’s learning to shift culture within our mindsets of GOING to church and getting back to BEING the church!)
I currently have 3 more people interested in doing a Discovery Bible Study (besides my core group)… so I need to plan now to go into their homes and coach them for 2-4 weeks and then turn them lose listening to Holy Spirit… I have a group (4 of us) that I have been meeting with for 2.5 years and they wanted to add more people. I said, “No. Go and start new groups!” 😀 One woman has started about 2 groups in about a month!!
Our little core group is made up of long time believers raised in institutional churches. Together, we have been unlearning together in order to re-learn how to let Holy Spirit teach rather than follow a video curriculum… and then sadly do nothing about what we are learning. :0 lol… we have been having to break the temptation like crazy to add more people to the group… rather, we want to multiply!
If you know the truth but don’t live it out, this is living a lie.
Believing lies, makes liars of ourselves and makes it possible for greater deception to ensnare us more deeply.
When we believe lies, we are more easily frightened and anxious and worried. When we believe lies, we are more easily hurt, wounded, and resentful. When we do not believe truth, we believe we are more important than others, and resort to controlling other people.
When we believe lies, we insist on being right and making others wrong. We do not listen to others properly. We hear only what we want to hear. We use sarcasm and cynicism to respond to other people.
When we believe lies, we dominate people. We control others. We believe God has given us people to help us succeed. We use and discard people for our own benefit.
Sometimes God gives us relationships and partnerships for different seasons, but when we live in lies, we dominate people rather than relate to them.
When we live in lies, we go along with people and circumstances even though we hate what is happening and we fail to confront abusive leaders in love.
When we believe lies, we find our identity in being a victim.
When we believe lies, we blame others.
When we believe lies, we delete, distort, and generalize as a way of life.
When we believe lies, we justify our own bad behavior by the negative behavior of others. Reacting to people’s behavior, instead of responding to God’s nature, means that we do not live out what is true of Jesus.
Believing lies is expensive. It costs us deeply, it damages our relationships, our relationship with God, and our own identity.
This is what I see daily when people come to my office for help. When they walk through truth in our sessions, I see re-birth!
Just recently, a client said she felt like she went to the spa! She said her head was so much brighter!! Together, we asked Jesus what lies she had been believing around a specific memory. Along came a huge list! When she stood back and looked at the list, she saw how it had paralyzed her for years. In prayer, we did an exchange of lies for truth from God’s Word about her identity.
This morning on St Paddy’s day, my family and I gathered for communion and then reflected on a portion of his famously penned prayer…
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Then, we did a little reflection together…
What follows is a reflection based on the second half of St Patrick’s Breastplate (Prayer). We may not wear combat gear in our daily lives but this prayer/reflection on St. Patrick’s Breastplate may function as divine armour to protect against the difficulties we may face in life.
Silently, become aware of what is going on around you. Close your eyes and sit in a comfortable upright position in their chair. Become aware of your breathing. Once you are in a prayerful state, keep your eyes closed and listen openly to the reflection.
Christ with me – Invite Christ quietly into your heart.
Christ before me – Think about events or things coming up over the next few days/weeks that you may be worried about. Ask Christ to help you face these challenges that lie ahead.
Christ behind me – Consider moments in your past that you may have found difficult. Spend a few minutes thinking about how Christ was present in these moments.
Christ in me – Do you spend quiet time in the day deepening your relationship with Christ? Make a commitment to set aside some time each day to talk and listen to God who is always with you.
Christ beneath me – All of us need help at points in our lives. It is at the lowest points that Christ is there carrying us through. Ask God now if there is anything you need help with.
Christ above me- Just as an umbrella protects us from the rain, Christ protects all of us. Think about somebodyclose to you that needs God’s protective care at thismoment. Ask God to help them.
Christ on my right hand – Christ uses your hands to helpand comfort others in today’s world. How can you use your hands to further God’s kingdom here on earth?
Christ on my left hand – God is always by your side even though you might not realise it. Thank God for never giving up on you even during those moments when you have turned away from him.
Christ when I lie down – Even when we sleep God is there watching over us and protecting us. Thank God quietly for his loving protective presence in your life.
Christ when I arise – When you wake up in the morning do you notice the beauty of the world around you? Thank God for his beautiful gift of creation.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me –
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me – If someone who knows you really well were to give an honest answer to the question – What is the best thing about your friend? What do you think their answer would be? Would others say the same about you?
Christ in every eye that sees me – Imagine that somebody took a photograph of you this morning interacting with your family/friends without you realising it. Do you think you would be happy with what the image captured? Did you speak kind or harsh words to a loved one? Did you help your family member/friend or were you angry with them?
Christ in every ear that hears me – Think back over the conversations you have had with others this week. Have you been kind and thoughtful in what you have said or have your words been hurtful or damaging to others?
St. Patrick came to Ireland to help people discover your loving presence. May I take comfort from the fact that whatever challenges I may face in life you will always be there at my side to help and guide me through. Help me to be your witness in the world, showing others your loving presence through my words and actions.
Tears of healing began to roll down my face. I didn’t know what was happening in me at the time, but I found myself in a culture of honour – observing and experiencing men honouring women and vice versa. It was so powerful JUST WITNESSING IT.
I wept deeply… healing much of the diagnosed psychological, emotional, and spiritual abuse I had experienced with certain male leaders in my church that led to my health crash years ago. My doctor ordered me to leave the church leadership situation immediately and my church conference insurance paid me for two years of resting.*
When I left that church environment several years ago, I entered a time of rest and detox.
My time of rest included a visit to a different church – one with a culture of honour. It was there, tears rolled down my face when I saw it was indeed possible for men to honour women in leadership. I sensed Jesus smiling over it all. My heart, my mind, and my spirit began to welcome the healing.
Today! Years later, after some incredible healing rest… I get to walk pastors, ministry leaders, and lay people (both male and female) through healing of unfortunate abusive ‘church’ experiences.
When we try to ‘do’ church led by fear, instead of ‘being’ the church led by Holy Spirit, the damage is painful. When we walk in fear, rather than Christ-like love, we unknowingly or knowingly cause damage.
When a church is led by fear, the fruit is damage.
Thankfully, Jesus loves to restore and heal – revealing to those who are wounded and doing the wounding, that He has so much more!
Men who honour women, and women who honour men – is what Christ calls us to!
Let’s choose to walk in love and honour…
Recently, I was blessed with this…
Honor All People ￼ Transcript:
Hi, this is Bill Vanderbush. I pastor Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration, Florida. I want to talk to you a little bit about honor. When you think of honor, people think about academia, or academic achievement. The honor roll, honors society, or maybe you are one of those people where the closest thing you ever got ot honor was, “Yes, your Honor, no, your Honor.”
I want to define it a little bit differently today. Honor is where you live to make somebody else like a genius. It is where you actually treat somebody as if they were Jesus. You may think, “That sounds kind of blasphemous. I can’t treat anybody like that.” We are all image-bearers. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. I believe God is calling us to be a culture of honor, to release honor everywhere we go.
1 Peter 2:17 says, “Honor all men.” Honor all people, actually it means. That is actually where he stops. He finishes that thought. Honor everybody without reservation. Honor is not to be given as a reward, it is given as a gift. Think of it like this, God doesn’t honor us because we are good. He honors us because He is good. He doesn’t love us because we are good, He loves us because He is good. He releases love, and honor, and grace because that is what He is like. That is what He has called us to do. He has called us to release honor because we are an honorable people.
How do you release honor over somebody that is dishonorable? That might be a difficult thing to do, but the reality is that when you release honor, you are actually digging for the treasure that is inside of a person. You are seeing them from Heaven’s perspective. In Matthew 13, Jesus goes home to His hometown – the Son of God. He tries to perform miracles and people get offended at Him. It says they became intellectually offended at Him. They said, “We know His mom, we know His brothers, we know His sisters.” They said, “How is this guy doing what He is doing?” They became offended at Him. Jesus responds and says, “A prophet is not without honor except in His home country, in His own town.”
I think a lot of times God calls us to begin ministry at home because He wants us to learn to do it without honor. He doesn’t want us to stay in a place of dishonor. The result of that is He could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief. Here is the thing about dishonor. Dishonor shuts down the anointing every time. In 25 years of pastoring, I have never seen a revival birthed in a culture of dishonor. Dishonor often times shows up in the middle of a revival and we wonder why the revival shut down. God is calling us to protect one another, to speak encouragement over one another.
There is a thin line between honor and flattery. We don’t want to get into flattery. Honor is calling out the gold in a person. It is coming into agreement with how God sees a person and shifting our perspective to Heaven’s perspective. Beginning to speak honor over their life. In doing that, we suddenly become a culture where from the outside looking in, there are people who are orphaned in their mind and their heart. They look at the Body of Christ and say, “I want to be loved just like that.” If we grab a hold of the culture of honor like this we would see the nations shaped and changed. In a generation or two there would be people that would once again know that God is to be famous for love.
I pray that you would become a person of honor. You would release honor in your words and your declarations. In everything you do, you would demonstrate the honor of Heaven. From a prophetic standpoint you would put Heaven on display in all that you do. I believe we will see revival breaking out all over our nation. Amen.
*My medical team and insurance ordered me to rest for 2 years. My doctor wept when I initially answered her intake questions.
Clearly, I had endured more than I thought.
I had been putting up with abuse, giving grace to the men over and over around their behaviours with women. I had loved my brothers in leadership. Looking back, I saw the potential in the men and kept forgiving them – until it caused my health to crash when I witnessed their treatment of another woman.
Seeing how they treated another woman with public dishonour was a shock to my system; literally.
I was assigned a medical team to interview me. Learning that the behaviour was abusive was a wake up. My brothers had started off so encouraging in the beginning but, over the years, looking back I now see how their fear of man replaced their fear of God and this turned their behaviour into control, manipulation, and abuse of women. The Conference Minister asked what I learned about myself. Apparently, I can endure abuse but when I see other women experience mistreatment, that’s the last straw.
Thankfully, God has a way of turning painful situations into redeeming ones. As mentioned above, having gone through my experience and falling in love with Jesus because He showed me more of who He is outside of the box, I now am a life coach and spiritual director for pastors, ministry leaders and lay people as they walk their way out of church abuse, burnout and depression. God indeed raises the dead! Then, he teaches them to share new life! 😀
Today’s lent devotional (below) was extremely timely as I walk several clients through ‘church’ abuse in multiple churches in my area. When churches practice witchcraft – control and manipulation, there is even trauma around reading God’s Word.
Breaks my heart.
Thankfully, Jesus loves to heal! His message to a very religious culture of His day was freedom!
This reminder was good: “…rule of thumb: if someone arrives claiming to be a prophet, but asking for money, they are false. We might expand that into the usual trio: money is so often linked with sex and power.”
Hmmm…basically : “Do as I say… and give me your money.”
I often find myself saying to clients – “What does the fruit tell you? That gives you clues as to the kind of tree.”
My prayer: Jesus, Thank you for freedom through your shed blood on the cross! Pour your Spirit on all churches and burn up what is not of you! Yes & Amen!
Here was the devotional today… (Source at the bottom.)
WEEK 1: WEDNESDAY
One of the great lies of our time is to suppose that because Jesus brings forgiveness, and urges us to be forgiving people, meek and gentle, there is no sharp edge to his message. To hear some people, you’d think the whole of the Christian message was simply a call to accept one another, never to judge another person. Indeed, doesn’t Jesus himself tell us not to judge, at the start of this very chapter (Matthew 7.1)? That verse is quoted again and again by people who would do well to ponder this present passage.
Jesus is quite clear that there are such persons as false prophets, as people who appear to be his followers but who in fact have never known him. Life would be a lot simpler if we could tell at a glance who the true and the false prophets were, but the only guide Jesus offers is the picture of the tree. Sooner or later — and it may be a lot later, or it may happen quite suddenly — the fruit of someone’s life will appear, and then you can tell whether they were real or whether they were fooling themselves and others.
In Jesus’ own day there was no shortage of such people. Jesus spoke more than once about people who would turn up and declare that they were prophesying in his name, or in God’s name, and would lead people astray. The second and third generation of the church faced the same problem, and developed an interesting rule of thumb: if someone arrives claiming to be a prophet, but asking for money, they are false. We might expand that into the usual trio: money is so often linked with sex and power. Some false teachers offer their followers sexual licence in contrast to Jesus’ rigorous standard, as in 5.27—30, 15.19—20 and 19.3—12; part of the lie, today, is that Jesus didn’t mind about such things. Others are eager for personal power, as you can tell when someone challenges them. And, yes, some today are in it for the money.
When Jesus uses the image of the tree, he is drawing, as so often, on an ancient biblical picture. The first Psalm speaks of God’s true people like trees planted by streams of water, which will produce fruit at the right time, while the wicked are like chaff blown around by the wind. Jeremiah develops this picture (17.8), thinking of the tree that sends out its roots to look for the water it needs. Lent is a time when we should be doing that: sending out our roots to look for the water of life. The challenge of these verses isn’t simply one of learning to recognize true Christian teaching from false. The challenge is to become, ourselves, trees that bear good fruit, people who not only say ‘Lord, Lord’ when it suits us, but who apply ourselves to the much harder task of discerning and doing God’s will.
Read this beautiful passage below:
(Interestingly, Jesus gave me this passage over and over on my Sabbatical in 2015 when I was in pastoral ministry.)