What an incredible season we are living in! Despite the state of the world today, the words of Jesus still rings true!
Matthew 16:18: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
The church that Christ is building on this earth is an advancing church, and Jesus is returning for a radiant and a glorious Bride.
I believe that God is allowing everything that can be shaken to be shaken so that what isn’t shaken will remain. As written in Ephesians 6: “after having done all, the saints must know what it means to stand.”
Putting on the armour of God culminates the believer’s life into a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer keeps the armour alive and active in a believers life. At the same time, the armour keeps our prayer pure and true.
Paul, after writing on the armour of God, continues on to prayer.
Ephesians 6:18: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
“Praying always” means to stay connected to the Father continually. Talking to God about anything and everything is the kind of living that opens up our lives to the flow of God’s power.
“In The Spirit”
Paul gives us a key when praying: “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Praying in the Spirit is praying empowered by the Spirit (1 Cor 14:4) and it is also praying prayers directed by the Spirit.
This is powerful. When we pray led by the Spirit we are praying for the win!
Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The key is to tap into what heaven in saying. I have found that He often wants to lead us into specific underlying issues that need to be addressed first before full breakthrough comes.
However, the opposite of praying in the spirit is praying in the flesh. Praying in the Spirit needs to first be accompanied by wearing the full armour of God. If not, it is possible to find yourself praying for something that is completely opposite from the will of God.
We need to familiarize ourselves with truth, we need to deeply study the Word (the belt of truth), we need the Word to transform our thinking (the helmet of salvation), we need to firmly tighten the breastplate of righteousness around our heart to keep us from praying from a place of selfish ambition, pride and lust.
Paul goes on to say, “being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication.”
This means to have the alertness of a guard at night. To be on alert with a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around us. We can only remain faithful when we are devoted to prayer. In prayer, we continually allow God to forgive us, cleanse us, teach us, and strengthen us to obey Him.
“And For Me”
In the last few verses, Paul encouraged the church to pray for all the saints and for himself. It’s interesting to me that Paul looked for prayers outside his own in order to be strengthened.
Never underestimate your prayers for others. It makes a difference more often than you think.
I believe the church will not just be known as a place where you can find great worship, where you can find a great Word, a place where love abounds and great community is built, but that this community will also be known as a House of Prayer. That it will be known as a place of power and spiritual authority. It will be a place where Kings and Priest meet to decree and declare the Word of the Lord over the land and its people.
In this hour, we need every soldier on board.
Will you join what God wants to establish here on the earth? It’s not complicated when you realise it’s about listening in to the heartbeat of God and praying powerful prayers led by the Spirit all the while fully dressed in the armour of God.
And this, my friends, is how we pray prayers for the win!
Covid has been a season in which we have all been reminded that community is the core of who we are – as Christians and as C3.
Also, isolation and restrictions in gathering do have an emotional and mental health impact on our outlook and wellbeing.
As humans, we have an inherent desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this, is because God created us with the need to be in community.
In Genesis 1:26 NKJV, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” In those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature.
The words “us” and “our” are the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community.
The creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose image we are created, and since God exists in community, we are meant to as well!
The need for relationship was part of God’s created order.
In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realised we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to grow and develop in our understanding of the importance of community.
Remember the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks? His character, Chuck Noland is stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash and he has to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive physically, emotionally and mentally in his new environment: isolation.
To keep his sanity, he creates a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball that drifts ashore from the plane wreckage.
During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Chuck face and overcome many storms together, but when Chuck and Wilson make their final attempt to be rescued by building a raft and setting sail, another storm sweeps over them at sea, almost destroying the raft and sadly causing Wilson to be lost.
Chuck, having lost his one and only friend, floats aimlessly at sea. Through a stroke of unbelievable luck, a commercial tanker finds and rescues Chuck, who is now an emotionally depleted man.
Cast Away so accurately displays our need for relationship and community, which was hard-wired into our DNA from the day we were created.
A wonderful example of what community looks like is seen in Acts 2:42-47.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
From these verses, it’s clear that if we want to experience life as God intended for us, and maintain emotionally and mentally healthy lives, we need to intentionally commit to building community. This is one of the primary reasons for church: to gather in community with God and others.
The Bible tells us how we are to live, and outwork our faith, with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament. These passages remind us how much emphasis scripture places on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.
Read: Rom 15:5,6; Phil 2:1-4; Col 3:12-17; and 1 Thes 5:11-13.
Life is all about relationships! So, as we come out of Covid isolation and restrictions, “let us not forsake in gathering together” in community.
Let’s renew our love for gathering in the House of God and gathering with one another.
See you in church, C3, because we are better together.
Imagine yourself taking an informal poll asking your friends and loved ones this question,
“Are You Thriving?”
How many would confidently and enthusiastically answer “YES?”
Honestly… how would you answer?
The Word of God is clear. We can thrive regardless of the circumstances we face today.
Over the last 30 years, I have had the opportunity to travel the globe working with Apostles, Pastors and Leaders in both the first and developing world. The cross-cultural experiences on the mission field have challenged me to dig deeper, love more passionately, and live more purposely. I discovered I didn’t know how much I needed Jesus until I met those believers to whom Jesus was all they had.
I met many leaders in the developing world who daily faced peril, yet they were full of joy. They diminished their dire circumstances while, at the same time, magnified the Lord. They were passionate in their worship and love for Christ. They took care of one another and generously shared the meager portion they possessed. In spite of their hardships, they were thriving, and the Lord was gloriously present in all their endeavors. The astounding thing was they lived this way every day.
Following are some of the qualities that I observed in them:
People Who Thrive are Joyful.
In conversation, we often interchange happiness and joy. On the contrary, being happy and being joyful are two different things. Happiness is extrinsic. It ebbs and flows with our circumstances.
Joy on the other hand is intrinsic. Being joyful is a decision. It is born of an internal belief in the sovereignty of God. Being joyful is a daily agreement of heart that with practice can become permanent. We quickly learn as Nehemiah reminds us “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
People Who Thrive are Grateful.
A few years ago I heard Oprah Winfrey share her thoughts about the importance of gratitude. She had a “gratitude journal” on her nightstand and each evening she would record a few things for which she was grateful. People who thrive begin and end each day with a grateful heart. Gratitude is the gateway into the presence of God. The Psalmist reminds us to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. He says we should “be thankful to Him and bless His name.”
People Who Thrive Have the Right Mindset.
I’m a country music fan. Willie Nelson has a perennial hit song titled, “You Were Always on My Mind.” Sometimes I think the opposite is true for most Christians. We could retitle the song, “I Was Always on My Mind.” Having the right mindset can be easily summarized by this statement – “Get your mind off you!” People who thrive have their mindset on the things of God. They focus on the people around them with a mind set on service, hospitality, affirmation, and encouragement. Paul exhorts the Colossians to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
People Who Thrive Have A Clear Vision.
Jesus has given us a crystal-clear vision to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He commanded.
We win souls. We make disciples. We train leaders, and we reach the world through planting churches. Our heartbeat is to help people everywhere encounter Jesus. God told Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain, that he may run who reads it.”
People Who Thrive are Generous.
Thriving people are giving people. They give of their time. They give of their talent. They give of their treasure. They are generous in praising others. Giving is not a burden for them—it’s a privilege!
Many times, I was humbled to tears lodging in the homes of believers in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Experiencing their generosity as we broke bread together has been a great joy of my life. They reminded me of the churches in Macedonia. “Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others. They gave not only what they could afford but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to and not because of nagging on my part.”
Finally, people who thrive are faith people, not fear people. They connect and serve in a vibrant Christ-centered community. They live each day passionately allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them through life. As a result, the character they develop becomes proof that an encounter with Jesus is life-changing!
So, back to the poll…
Are you thriving?
To thrive means to flourish; to prosper.
It is the “progress toward” or the “realization of” a goal.
Thriving is an Invitation.
I don’t think of thriving as a command. I think of it as an invitation. Through God’s word, He has issued an open invitation for us to thrive.
The Bible is clear. Regardless of the external circumstances — pandemics, injustice, political turmoil, instability, chaos, financial hardship, sickness, and disease — we can thrive.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37 NLT
Jesus loves us. He wants us to be close and intimate with Him. And because He dwells in a place of thriving, He invites us to join Him there as we thrive too!
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper (thrive) in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (thrives.) 3 John 2
Thriving is a Choice.
Thriving is always a choice. At times, I don’t feel like thriving. I have to confess that there are moments when quitting seems easier. It is in those times of discouragement I realize that I need help from above. I call upon the spiritual might of the Lord.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Thriving doesn’t mean that we have it all together. Thriving is a joyful, peaceful reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Thriving is a choice we make to overcome our feelings and win the battle of the mind. We choose to seek, to discover and to hear God’s Word, then confidently exercise our faith by confessing and walking in the reality of it.
Thriving Begins on the Inside.
You must first thrive on the inside before you can flourish on the outside. When you are right with God and in right standing with others, there is a corresponding grace that brings peace and joy to your heart. It’s not something that you can manufacture. It is something that shines through your countenance.
…for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
So, how’s your countenance? Are you right with God? Are you at peace? Are you experiencing the joy of the Lord? If not, you have an invitation to thrive!
Thriving is Better Caught Than Taught.
If you think about it, most of us learn to thrive through observation. We see and experience the resolve, the mindset, and the vision of those who have gone before us. Authentic righteousness, peace, and joy are really hard to fake, because associated with these is an anointing from God.
Craig Groeschel wrote a book titled, “It.” His book describes the powerful life-changing force that draws you into the presence of God. When “it” is present you feel it, you see it, and you experience it. Thriving is the same way. When you’re around people who are thriving, you see and feel the favor they experience, and that favor makes you want to be closer to God.
…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
Thriving Can Become a Culture.
When you thrive personally, a culture is created around you where others can thrive too.
During times of adversity and hardship people are watching how we live more than what we say. Hardship exposes the deficits of our character—not to destroy us, but to allow Christlikeness to be formed in us.
When we choose to turn from our self-reliance and put our trust in Jesus, we open the door for The Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Putting our trust in the Lord creates an opportunity for those around us to begin to thrive as well.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
You Can Thrive.
You have an invitation to draw near to Him. He promises if you will draw near to Him, then He will draw near to you. Embrace the opportunity you have today and take the first step with a fresh resolve to thrive. As you thrive, you will find the never-ending joy of living your life in such a way that it counts for eternity!
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor.4:7 NIV
Faith is the Holy Grail of our walk with God. We walk by faith!
Faith is also the well-worn ground of our faith-full leader Ps Phil.
The wisdom of faith is faith’s practical, essential, application in life.
Faith without wisdom is simply foolishness! Don’t I know this first hand.
Do I encounter the WORD or does the WORD encounter me? I read it daily and find that something surprising can happen. It’s like time bends in these moments. The eternal steps into the temporal. I will be reading the word when suddenly it’s reading me. It’s like faith comes knock-knock-knocking on heavens door.
Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing”. How does that happen exactly? “Am I even listening or just reading.” I find it annoying when I read, “He who has ears let him hear.” If you have ears what exactly could be stopping them from hearing anyway? It’s in these moments that I try to stop, listen, reflect, meditate… and slowly I begin to see with eyes of faith. Why? Because the eyes of my heart start to see.
Physical eyes connect to our brains. The fact is, we also have eyes that connect and translate the beliefs of our hearts.
I wrongly assumed the scripture, “We walk by faith not by sight,” meant that faith was blind. It turns out, biblical faith isn’t. It sees perfectly when our spiritual eyes are opened. How else can we, “fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:18) unless this is referring to some other eyes? When Jesus said he came to “restore sight” was this purely physical? Hmmm, let me think about that…
Definitions are extremely important to me. Here’s why: because we have the naive tendency to think that because we speak the same language, use the same words, we must share the same definitions… right? I find that this is almost never true.
It is even more rarely true when discussing the scriptures. Once we assume a specific definition, each time the word is used it evokes specific thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and concepts.
Hebrews 11:1 had been my definition of faith in the past. Now I see it as a description of faith.
Hebrews 11:3 has become my definition of faith. Because without the understanding of faith there will be no practical application of faith. 11:3 says, “By faith we understand….”
- Wisdom for me is the practical application of truth.
- Understanding for me is the coherent joining together of concepts, principles, or knowledge.
- Knowledge is simply information. Knowledge without wisdom is simply arrogance.
The Wisdom of faith in the life of the Father of faith. “..Who gives life to the dead and calls which did not exist as though they did.” Ro. 4:17 WOW! He is seeing and saying stuff about an entirely different dimension. If Abraham can do it so can we. Me. Us. You.
I see two unmovable pillars that the wisdom of faith rests on: creation and identity.
If you don’t believe in the biblical account of creation or the one whose image you bear, you will find that faith is only hope, never a reality. This was the turning point for me.
You will notice a lot of songs being written about hope that sound like faith. “I see breakthrough is coming,” is a hope statement, not faith (by my definition anyway). Faith would say, “I have already broken through,” a current reality based on eternal truth; seeing and staying aligned with the truth that has already been revealed.
Faith is synonymous with trust. Words are only as trustworthy as the one who spoke them.
Faith establishes trust in the goodness of God. I think there is only one reason people don’t trust God, and that is because they don’t know Him. Some are afraid of Him. Some think He is angry. No one trusts someone they are afraid of.
Faith is not to get things from God; it’s to establish His image in my life. To use faith to get things is a perversion because it assumes he is withholding something. Faith is always now. Hope is future. Faith is the current reality of something good. I have often confused faith with hope. Hope is a precursor of faith.
Before God spoke creation into being He had intention. He was motivated by love and speaking what he saw.
You and I, now in the image of God, function exactly the same.
We can call things which do not yet exist physically as though they are – by faith that has experienced truth and now speaks out because it sees the invisible.
He never just spoke out generally. He was specific and deliberate. Every word had intention, forethought, logic, love that focused on the end.
To be clear, we don’t put faith in faith, but our faith is in the nature and goodness of God.
I try to pay close attention to motive. Biblical faith has intention and motive before speaking. It comes from somewhere.
Galatians 5:6 says, “Faith works by love,” in the KJV. The NLT says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. I cannot express what I have not experienced. You will find you can’t trust someone beyond the love they hold for you. Faith works by love! Love that is unexpressed is useless. So faith without corresponding actions is useless. “Faith without works is dead.”
If you read Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the evidence of things not seen,” you reach the illogical conclusion that faith is blind. An erratic leap into the unknown.
Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, that what we see now did not come from anything that can be seen”. There you have it! What we see didn’t come from what was seen, not from what didn’t exist, not from what was not real. Only what was not seen with physical eyes… yet.
The outcome of our words is first conceived in our hearts before they are spoken.
They express the evidence of things not seen…(yet)! We only believe what we have the most evidence for. Faith needs evidence. Faith is never believing without evidence – that’s superstition. Trust based on intellectual persuasion can be changed by another compelling idea. This is not faith in God, it is faith in self.
When asked how I deal with a crisis of faith, I reply “Faith has never had a crisis!” Faith sustains us through a crisis! Don’t you love Hebrews 11:27b, “Moses kept right on going (faith is unstoppable, it keeps you moving) because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” WHAT??? How do you see the one who is invisible? With eyes of faith.
Faith sees better than ever and allows us to live today as though our future has arrived. It’s a prophetic memory. Faith overcomes the consequences of life and the chaotic cultures of our day. Faith is not trusting what God will do, it’s trusting who He is. It is not convincing ourselves that a promise is mine but trusting the One who made the promise.
The Wisdom of Faith agrees with the finished work of Christ along with every promise purchased on the cross.
In Christ, I am a partaker in His inheritance for me. Every promise is “Yes” & “Amen” now.
Faith is being certain, fully persuaded in the character and nature of God. Faith is deep assurance in His goodness, perceives Him clearly, sees the future confidently while recognizing and trusting His good promises. Our faith is built by discovering how faithful God is to His word and hearing that in our hearts.
No man can change Him. He never changes. We do.
1 John 5:4b in the NIV says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world even our faith.”
A crisis is what it is: a time of intense difficulty and danger. And this is never nice or a good thing. As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on health, finances and overall wellbeing, people have been talking about a big “re-set” and taking time to refocus on the things that matter. I like these ideas, but with a future that seems uncertain, with the swirl of bad news, losses and death, it’s hard, on a day-to-day basis, to look on the bright side, to make the most of a bad situation, no matter how positive or faith-filled you might be.
When this is over, we’ll all look back and see the places of shelter in the storm, but right now that might be difficult, and as far as I’m concerned that’s ok.
Here’s what I am finding though, and for my part I am making every effort I can to use this time for this purpose: sharing the good news of what Christ has done for me – and all humanity. People are worried and scared, and they need, more than ever, a saviour.
The brightest, the boldest, the best are all in it together. No one, in over 48 countries (and counting), is exempt. This is happening to 1.5 billion of us. We are in lockdown, the things we’ve always taken for granted, a casual trip to the grocery store for something as ordinary as milk, has become a complicated chore. Never mind the poor and disadvantaged in our cities, the ones that have always had it hard. For them, sadly, it’s even harder now, in some cases fatally so.
Right now, I am doing all I can to share the love of Jesus. There are open doors all around, people we work with, family members that have never taken kindly to our faith, neighbours we’ve wanted to chat to about Jesus but were afraid it would ruin the delicate fabric of our social structure. This is the time. If there ever was a good time, this would be it. And you don’t have to hit them over the head with the Bible, all you have to do is offer to pray for them when they’re feeling down, maybe share a scripture, or how your faith in Jesus is giving you strength.
The door is open, we just have to ask permission to walk through it, and very few people are saying no.
I’ve had so many opportunities to share, and there have been moments where I’ve thought, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe later.” There might never be another time. For me THIS is the time to share the love we live in with those who need it so, so much. I’ve read Psalm 91 over co-workers, prayed for someone who had their team furloughed, explained that this week I was ruminating over the fact that Jesus forgave my SIN even though I continue to sin, and how that helps me feel safe and free while making me want to do better.
If you’re reading this post my biggest hope is that you will step outside of your comfort zone during this crisis and make the effort, no matter how uncomfortable, to share Jesus with those around you.
If you’re leading a church, encourage your people in this great opportunity. With all the bad news being communicated all day long, people are more open than ever to hearing some good news. And guess what – we’ve got it. Don’t be afraid, don’t wait for later, let’s share it – now.
For 21 years I was a paramedic.
I’d put on the uniform, get in the road ambulance or medical helicopter, and respond to emergency calls for help, ranging from the most minor of falls to the most unspeakable of disasters. And despite extensive on-going training, and exposure to almost any situation you could conjure in your mind, that sense of heading to the scene and feeling unprepared for what lay ahead never went away.
As we journey through this global pandemic, the feeling of being unprepared as a pastor is very real and is very present.
From providing counselling sessions via Zoom, to preaching in empty halls or even your own living rooms, to passing worship teams in the hallway of make-shift recording studios at acceptable distances . . . pastors have suddenly found themselves positioned on the very frontline of a community that is crying out for help, and doing it without some of the tools of the trade we’ve used for so long.
In 1 Kings 17, we read where Elijah responds to a call from God, sent to help a widow in the village of Zarephath. The call is firm, yet also vague and unusual. In a time of drought, Elijah is to ask a widow to feed him: counter-cultural for the times, and counter-cultural for a minister of God.
As a paramedic working on the frontline, I rarely received clarity in the initial call for help. In fact, often the information received added more confusion, building up that feeling that I was unprepared for what I was about to step into.
Elijah does exactly what God tells him to do, and then is thrust into a situation that he neither asked for nor had the natural skills to deal with. The widow’s son would get sick, very sick, and we read in v17, “he grew worse and worse, and finally he died.” Elijah was not a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic; in fact I’m not sure he expected to be thrust onto the frontline of this kind of crisis. Yet here he was – faced with the dead son of a widow. In a desperate call to God, Elijah cries out to save the boy’s life, and God moves. The boy is raised back to life, as God responds to Elijah’s obedience and faith, even though he was unprepared on the frontline of a crisis.
You may not have signed up to be pastoring on the front line of a global pandemic, yet God chose you, and will use your obedience as healing for His people.
Elijah didn’t have the skills or training to deal with his situation either, but he responded to the call, and he had faith in God.
On so many occasions, I would fly into a situation feeling unsure of what to do next… but I knew then, and I know now, that God is on the throne, and He is always in control.
We find ourselves living in days of rapid acceleration on many fronts. There is an acceleration of change and uncertainty within the world. Yet there’s also an acceleration of opportunity for believers.
The Kingdom of God never stands still, so we need to be prepared for an acceleration as we enter this season of harvest.
The way we disciple new believers during this season may also need to accelerate, leaning more towards a ‘hands on, learn as you work’ approach, driven by the urgency of the harvest at hand. We see this model of ‘hands-on’ discipleship during a harvest, within the book of Ruth.
We meet the recently bereaved Naomi, who has been living away from God’s people in enemy territory for years. She hears a report that ‘the Lord has given His people a good harvest.’ Good news – God has turned up in a big way, and is moving unmistakably! Stuff is happening, both blessing & harvest! Naomi wanted in, so she made the very significant move to position herself with God’s people, in God’s harvest field.
This prodigal brought along a ‘plus one’ – her pagan, Moabite daughter in law, Ruth.
I believe this is a prophetic picture of the last days harvest we’re entering into now. The prodigals will return. They’ll hear that God’s moving amongst His people, they’ll get a bad case of FOMO, and, not wanting to miss out, they’ll come home!
We need to get ready and make room for the ‘Naomis’, (the prodigals & backsliders) because they’re about to come home en-masse to God’s house, bringing their ‘Ruths’ (their unbelieving friends & family) with them.
Ruth declared her commitment to God in a vow, confessing faith in Naomi’s God. Their arrival back home coincides with the start of a bumper harvest, one they have not seen the like of for many years. Enter Boaz, a type/picture of Jesus. He is Lord of the harvest, owner of the whole field. Their place of meeting is significant – in the harvest field.
It is interesting to note that Boaz did not make Ruth jump through any hoops to prove her experience in reaping. He fully comprehended that she was a new believer, yet he let her have a go at harvesting! He didn’t make her get a theology degree first. Neither did he require her to firstly attain a semblance of maturity, or at least be saved for 5 years!
He simply encouraged Ruth to do her part and serve.
He instructed her to follow his workers, then let her loose in the harvest field. She learned about the Lord as she worked alongside His people in the field. Ruth was simultaneously discipled as she served. She didn’t learn about God in a class, she was immediately mobilised to work. Ruth learned by doing, by working alongside Boaz and his workers.
Today also, we are all called to make disciples – to mobilise God’s people, even new believers, and not to hinder them.
There is no hierarchy here. We’re all just workers in Jesus’ harvest field.
The need to release as many workers as we can into the harvest field now, is an urgent one. These new believers need not be sidelined by Christian bureaucracy of lengthy theory lessons within discipleship classes; they can simply be discipled as they serve alongside us in Jesus’ harvest field.
He needs them.
Luke 10:2 (Jesus) ‘The fields are ripe but the labourers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into the harvest field.’
Self-care. Me time. Mindfulness.
Principles and practices, certainly in Western culture, that are elevated high above our fast-paced blur right now. And at its core, self-care is obviously good. Clearly the scriptures call us to look after ourselves, to carve out rest, to run our own race. Yet, like many of these principles they can become diluted and then largely hedonistic when the world takes them on. I would argue that self-care is currently wearing worldly (ill-fitting) pants.
So how do we negotiate this space? I think a semantic shift can be aligning for us as disciples.
In recent times I have shifted to thinking of self-care as soul-care. The state of my soul – that is, my being, my essence, the beautiful combination of my emotions and spirit – this is the landscape that requires care, attention and focus.
And yet this process is not cookie-cutter nor scientific. Our soul is at home in art, and art lives in expression, emotion, risk, colour and creativity. Art breathes in paradox and nuance. Art shimmies up beside vulnerability and makes friends with it. Art is messy and beautiful.
So caring for our soul means a willingness to roll up our beige sleeves and get down to a gritty but creative business.
1. Engagement, not escapism.
Shouted from the worldly rooftops is the claim that self-care requires a moving away, an escaping to an island, a café, a bathtub, a cave of Netflix, a vortex of social media. That, to truly regroup, we must escape.
The art of soul-care, however, modelled time and again with our Jesus and superbly encapsulated by David in Psalms 23, is a that our soul is best cared for, nurtured and restored when we are engaged with the Good Shepherd.
2. Slow, sacred Sabbath.
I have been on a glorious journey of redefining the Sabbath in my life. Father God models this to us in Genesis 1-2. After six days of strategic, deliberate, purposeful, masterful creation he takes a day off – surely he wasn’t tired, right? And yet he took a definable time to exhale, to delight in his creation, to not work.
What is especially profound about this is the Sabbath here is described as holy (Genesis 2:3) – the only aspect of creative activity that is. Carving out a weekly designated space is essential for the care of our soul – a day where we are slower; a day where we feast and play and dream and rest and delight. To Sabbath is a truly sacred, and in fact holy, practise.
3. Regular rhythms.
The life of discipleship was never a call to balance, but a call to rhythm. The Message version of Matthew 11:28 remains one of my soul-care favourites – here Jesus says “walk with me, work with me, learn how I do it; learn the unforced rhythms of grace”.
Grace has a rhythm; discipleship has a rhythm; soul-care has a rhythm. That is, it ebbs and flows; it has valleys and peaks; light and shade, fullness and quietness; grace and grit. Jesus lived in rhythms and modelled these to his disciples, and then calls us to the same story.
4. Energy tanks.
Our time is static, but our energy isn’t. We can create and replenish our energy tanks by being deliberate and experimental in terms of understanding what fills and depletes our four internal reservoirs – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. We may even find one activity that replenishes all four tanks simultaneously and this is like a targeted soul downpour from a heavenly rain cloud.
Like most of the human experience, soul care requires a good dose of art and dust and beauty, yet a great measure of strategy and form and structure.
Let’s continue to spend our days watching and learning from the master Jesus at work (and rest) guided by the soul-filling, soul-anchoring, soul-aligning Holy Spirit.
Balance… that silly little word we throw around in ministry and in life, yet we never really achieve it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that “all things are possible with God,” yet I don’t know if He ever asks us to live a “balanced” life? Thou shalt live a balanced life (insert sarcastic religious voice), is not the 11th commandment. Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly and He wants us to prosper in all things, in every area of our lives!
Balance by sheer definition would make us believe we need to give equal parts of ourselves to every part of our lives in order to be steady and successful. Yet I’m not convinced every part of our lives needs to have an even distribution of our time and energy in order to be full of life, to be prospering, and to be healthy.
I think we need to throw the notion of “balance” out the window, as well as the guilt that comes along with it!
I believe the right question is, is my marriage healthy? Is my family healthy? Is my ministry healthy? Because healthy things grow, healthy things flourish, healthy things prosper and that is what our Heavenly Father wants for us. And, if one of those areas is not flourishing, then could it be that we have neglected an area that needs to be nurtured?
In life, in ministry, in marriage and family, there will be constant ebbs and flows. In one season, ministry may be demanding the majority of your time, and that’s ok! And in another season, your children may require the majority of your time, and that’s ok too!
However, I think we need to be able to recognize when one area of our life has taken priority over the others and then intentionally create a season where the neglected areas can be nurtured again.
I know my husband Jon and I have had to be very intentional when it comes to the health of our marriage, our family and our ministry. Knowing the ins and outs of our ministry lives, our family nights and family vacations are absolutely non-negotiable. So are vacations for just Jon and I (because we all know family trips are amazing, but not necessarily a “vacation”… and all the parents said amen!)
Jon and I look at our calendar every year and anticipate busy seasons in ministry, and we purposefully plan our getaways or days off after those busy seasons so that we can reconnect, refresh, and nurture our relationships with our children and with each other. This has created such strength and health in our marriage and with our kids, not to mention amazing memories! And a beautiful bi-product is that we are happier, healthier leaders and pastors to those who God has entrusted to us!
I believe it’s so important as leaders and pastors to model what hard work and commitment looks like, but equally as important to model what it looks like to rest, to be refreshed, and to keep a sabbath.
Because, people who aren’t rested tend to make silly decisions, and people who only rest don’t accomplish anything. So let’s be smart. Let’s be healthy. Let’s give it our all whether we are resting or working. And, let’s remember to continually re-evaluate our season of life and nurture those things which may have been neglected, back into a place of strength and health. Amen!