November 11, 2016 Leave a comment
Follow My Footsteps – K. P. Yohannan
You were not redeemed with corruptible things, silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.
February 18, 2017 Leave a comment
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY SO YOU DO NOT BECOME HARDENED BY THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN
SEE THAT NONE OF YOU BROTHERS AND SISTERS HAS UNBELIEVING HEART MAKING YOU TURN AWAY FROM THE LIVING GOD
GODS GRACE IS GREATER
I WANT TO SAY HAVE HOPE
JESUS IS GREATER THAN REJECTION AND CONFUSION
GREATER THAN IDOLATRY
GREATER THAN LUST
JESUS CHANGES PERVERTS
AND PERVERTED MINDS
JESUS IS DAD
JESUS IS MOM
PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL
PROBLEMS WITH TEACHERS
LACK OF SUBMISSION
PROBLEMS AT WORK
BEING CAPTURED BY DEVIL TO DO HIS WILL
IN THE HANDS OF SATAN
MIND CONTROLLED BY SATAN
LACK OF DISCIPLINE
LACK OF SELF CONTROL
LACK OF MATURITY
LACK OF CONSISTENCY
LACK OF VICTORY
NOT FINISHING WHAT YOU START
NO HUNGER THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
NO LOVE FOR PEOPLE
WHAT PROBLEM YOU HAVE
JESUS IS BIGGER
IDOLATRY TO FOOD
SLAVERY TO FOOD
RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD
QUENCHING THE SPIRIT
HATING BROTHERS AND SISTERS
JUDGING ACCORDING TO APPEARANCE
NOT COMING TO CHURCH
CHOOSING SELF OVER OTHERS
CHOOSING OTHER THINGS MORE THAN JESUS
LOVING THE WORLD
DESIRE OF EYES
DESIRE OF FLESH
PRIDE OF LIFE
VIOLENCE IN THE WORLD
VIOLENCE IN YOUR MIND
ALL EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS
ALL SOCIAL PROBLEMS
IGNORING THE BIBLE
AFRAID TO BE OPEN
LIVING A LIE
THAT NOBODY KNOWS
NOT ABLE TO LOVE
NOT ABLE TO GIVE
NOT ABLE TO HELP
NOT ABLE TO SERVE
NOT ABLE TO CRY
NOT ABLE TO HEAR GODS VOICE
NO PEACE IN CONSCIENCE
TURNING BACK ON JESUS
NOT FOLLOWING JESUS
NOT TAKING CROSS
NOT LOVING JESUS
NOT LOVING HIS CHURCH
NOT LOVING THE LOST
LIVING FOR SELF
JESUS IS MORE POWERFUL
HE IS BIGGER
HE IS GREATER THAN YOUR HEART
HE KNOWS ALL THINGS
THAT WHAT 1 JOHN SAY
WE PROCLAIM JESUS
HE IS THE ANSWER
HE IS LOVE
HE SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US ON THE CROSS
JESUS IS GREATER THAN UNFORGIVENESS
GREATER THAN MISTAKES
GREATER THAN ACCUSING THOUGHTS
GREATER THAN WASTED LIFE
GREATER THAN FALSE RELIGION
YOU NAME IT
LACK OF OBEDIENCE
UNSURE OF FUTURE
NOT GOING TO CHURCH
DISRESPECTING MOM AND DAD
NOT HAVING MANNERS
NOT SUBMITTING TO AUTHORITY
COMPLETELY BROKEN WASTED LIFE
TRYING TO BRING GLORY TO SELF
TRYNG TO BRING ATTENTION TO SELF
ATTENTION AT THE CHURCH
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
IDOL OF INFORMATION
NOT SUBMITTING TO JESUS
LACK OF CONFIDENCE
LACK OF BOLDNESS
LACK OF AUTHORITY
LACK OF IDENTITY
WRONG MARRIAGE PARTNERS
NO MARRIAGE PARTNERS
SHIPWRECK OF FAITH
LACK OF REVERENCE AND FEAR OF GOD
LACK OF RESPECT
LACK OF WISDOM
LACK OF BIBLE READING
NO BIBLE MEMORY
LACK OF PASSION
LACK OF ZEAL
LACK OF EVANGELISM
NOT SHARING TRUTHS GOD HAS REVEALED
NOT DOING HIS WILL
NOT KNOWING GOD AS FATHER
NOT KNOWING JESUS IS GOD
NOT SEEING THE CROSS OF JESUS
HIS GREAT LOVE
NOT HAVING FAITH
EVERY KIND OF EVIL
JESUS STAYS VICTORIOUS
GREATER THAN STUBBORNNESS
GREATER IS JESUS
GREATER THAN FEAR
GREATER THAN INADEQUACY
JESUS IS GREATER THAN LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
LACK OF CHARISMA
HE IS GREATER
HE TAKES NO PLEASURE IN EVIL
BUT REJOICES IN THE TRUTH
BEARS ALL THINGS
BELIEVES ALL THINGS
HOPES ALL THINGS
ENDURES ALL THINGS
JESUS NEVER FAILS
WHERE THERE ARE PROPHECIES
THEY WILL END
SAME WITH LANGUAGES
SAME WITH KNOWLEDGE
BUT JESUS WILL NEVER END
January 26, 2017 Leave a comment
Recently in a country in Asia, Wycliffe Bible Translators held EthnoArts and Storying workshops, designed to equip people to tell accurate Bible stories in their own language and culturally authentic storytelling style. The idea is to encourage local Christians to share the content and message of the stories with songs, music and other art forms that are rooted in their own culture.
One worker involved with the workshops reported: ‘In one location all of the language groups involved have historically used gongs for their indigenous music. In a previous training, several groups lamented that the Christians among them had given up using gongs when they became believers, and now they no longer owned any gongs. They recognized the value and power of using these traditional instruments and musical style to worship God. At the most recent workshop two groups reported that they had acquired some gongs and were composing new worship music to glorify God. One man told of playing the new songs on the gongs and four families (about 15 people) responding by deciding to follow Jesus! A man from another group told of making a recording of their new songs on the gongs and introducing this to a neighboring community. They were having trouble with people stealing the discs from each other because the music was so popular! Part of a new song: Lord, show mercy to my villagers because so many have not come to know Jesus. The coming day of Jesus Christ is so soon; He promised to come back.’
Pray for further workshops over the next year – for good attendance, participation and new, culturally authentic music that glorifies God.
January 15, 2017 Leave a comment
Impaired or Enlarged?
~ H. Stephen Ebersole
As I briefly observed my seat mate while we were buckling up prior to take off, I thought she appeared middle-aged and somewhat frazzled. She certainly did not seem to be the talkative type. “It will probably be a very quiet ride,” I mused to myself. However, when the stewardess asked her what she wanted to drink, her answer stirred my interest and suggested otherwise.
“May I please have two vodkas and a tomato juice?” she responded. “I’d like to make myself a Bloody Mary.”
Breathing a prayer, I ventured, “May I ask you, what does drinking an alcoholic beverage do for you?”
Making a guilty grimace my seat mate replied, “It takes all the tensions away that I have when I travel and need to face the crowds. In a few minutes I’ll get this warm, pleasant sensation inside and all my worries and troubles will just melt away.” As a dreamy look crossed her face she continued, “You see, I have a disorder called agoraphobia—I lock up with panic and tension when I’m in a crowd.”
She went on to tell me her story. As a teenager in Peru, she had been traumatized by being kidnaped and then held hostage for ransom. She had come through the experience without physical harm, but inside she still had many emotional struggles.
It really felt like I was venturing further into dangerous territory, but I decided to risk it anyway—“Ma’am, I have a question. I’m a minister of the gospel and last night I preached from Proverbs 31. I was speaking about the subject of what people turn to for a solution when their emotions overwhelm them. I warned them about the dangers of strong drink and how it impairs the individual’s judgment. I’d like to know from your experience if this is true?”
Opening my Bible, I offered it to her so she could read Proverbs 31:4-9. She slowly and thoughtfully read the words,
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
After reading the passage she asked, “Now what was your question again?”
I explained that we all need something to turn to when our emotions bottom out and tie us up in knots, or when we feel that life is almost more than we can handle. “So here is my question, ‘Is it true that alcohol impairs and distorts our judgment—that while making us feel we can handle our problems, it actually blinds us to the larger reality of life, and keeps us from feeling other people’s suffering?’”
“It most certainly is true,” she replied, “And what’s more, I really shouldn’t be giving myself this little liberty today. It’s just that I need the courage to face these two airplane flights and all these people.”
But then she turned toward me with another question, “Are you telling me, that in all your life you’ve never had a drink of beer or whiskey? That’s really amazing!”
“That’s true,” I said. “Our people have been taught to never even taste the stuff. But I’ll admit, that a number of our people are on different types of psychotropic medications.” Then I went on and risked yet another question, “Tell me, do you have any experience with psych meds; you know, the kind that people are given to help them deal with their emotional problems? You see, the reason for my asking is that many of our people are told by doctors that they need medications in order to handle difficulties of life. I’d like to know if that also affects people negatively?”
“I sure do have experience,” she responded. “My struggles have taken me down that road as well. I have had about all the drugs which are available that are supposed to help people with emotional issues. And I have to say that they aren’t much different than alcohol. They take effect in different ways, but they are actually designed to do the same thing. In fact, because of my experience I’ve become an advocate for individuals who are being medicated against their will.”
She went on to explain how some people use medications to control other people who should actually be allowed to work through their negative emotions, with compassionate support. “Tell your people not to go down that road! There’s no one out there who really needs medications” she asserted, “except for those who are on them and just can’t stop taking them right away. Tell them that medications will impair their judgment of life.”
Will we impair our brains?
And so this conversation raises even more questions. Many doctors and even conservative ministers encourage people struggling with emotions to turn to prescription medications for the mind. May we consider the negative impact of this? What do the experts know about these medications? What are the long-term effects of taking this route for our emotional and mental struggles? The following is a brief summary of these findings.
First, though, let us ponder what Lemuel’s mother told him almost 3,000 years ago. Consider the words she chose to describe the effects of alcohol. “Forget, pervert, forget, remember no more.” It does not say, “Give your brain enlightenment and balance.”
Like my seat mate on the plane, a person who uses alcohol to self-medicate can tell you that he chooses to drink because it makes him feel better about his problems. The tensions he feels inside temporarily melt away. Social awkwardness and other inhibitions disappear and the person feels good about himself for a while. He will often admit that it does not change his reality but rather it makes him feel different about his reality. In fact, using strong drink often makes reality much worse, but his negative reality no longer troubles him, while he is under its influence.
Sadly, it is true that the new distorted reality also narrows an individual’s perception about other people’s problems—troubles and needs are of no concern to him. Lemuel’s mother warned him that his ability to decide cases of judgment would be affected, especially where human suffering was involved. The sharp edge of living with eternal realities also fades; the will of God as written in the law subsides. Or to put it another way, the conscience is dulled and God’s still small voice becomes quieter still.
A psychology team put it this way. “If people do feel better when drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana it is because they feel better when their brain is impaired. Psychiatric drugs are no different. The people who take such drugs may feel less of their emotional suffering. They may even reach a state of relative anesthesia. But to the degree that they feel better, it is because they are experiencing intoxication with the drugs.”
This thought often surprises people, because we have been led to believe that medications are actually medicine. In reality, medications that target the brain do not bring balance to any brain chemistry, nor do they fill some void in the neural pathways. Rather, drugs that are designed for the brain are actually created to change the normal brain chemistry, based upon clinical theories, not research facts.
The following is a quote from foundationsrecoverynetwork.com. “Every type of drug, no matter how potent or addictive, has some type of effect on the person using it. These effects can range from mild to severe, and can include both physical and psychological [or spiritual] symptoms. While each drug is different, one common effect of drug use is impaired judgment. Every drug side effect has the potential to be dangerous, but impaired judgment can be especially risky to a person physically, psychologically and socially. It is essential to use drugs with extreme caution, knowing that they can impair a person’s judgment in multiple and sometimes unexpected ways.”
Another quote from the same source: “The NIDA (National Institute for Drug Abuse) also describes the changes that occur in a person’s brain while on drugs. The chemicals in the drug disrupt the communication system of the brain, changing the way it processes information by either acting like the brain’s natural neurotransmitters, or by causing the brain to release too many neurotransmitters.”
Choosing this remedy for emotional or mental suffering is sometimes described as closing out communication between the two worlds we all experience. Each of us has an ongoing dialogue between the sensations we gather from our bodies and what we tell ourselves in our minds about our world. When our bodies fail to respond the way they should, or when we become aware that our bodies are not doing what we want them to, we choose a corrective choice. For example, if we feel dizzy, or shiver, or get the impression that we are not making sense to others, we stop and choose a response in order to correct that specific problem.
When the brain is impaired by alcohol or mind-altering drugs (prescription or street), that self-dialogue and correction is minimized or stopped altogether, depending upon the substance type and the level of ingestion. An alcohol-impaired person becomes decreasingly aware of his staggering steps or his self-centered conversation. He not only stops seeing the full reality around him, but he also stops sensing it within himself. It is common for the alcoholic to resist treatment because he has lost perception about how the alcohol is affecting his actions. Not being aware of his actions, he is naive about his addiction to the substance. When he finally becomes sober he finds that he has “wounds without cause” (see Proverbs 23:29-35). This same self-blindness is also experienced, to one degree or another, across the whole spectrum of psychoactive medications.
How much of this impairment are we responsible for? Only God knows and only the judgment will reveal how He feels about all of this. What is the soul (mind) accountable for when the brain is under an impairment brought on by alcohol, psychiatric medications, or any other psychoactive substance?
If Lemuel had resisted his mother’s direction and chosen to self-medicate, he no doubt would have allowed the oppressed in his kingdom to suffer. He would have chosen a life with few inhibitions such as described in Proverbs 23:29-35. He would have come back to reality after a night of little or no self-awareness and wondered what all he had done during his drunken stupor. How much of this would he have been responsible for?
Another question about the impaired mind is this: “When our world is made smaller, what happens to our self?” Is it not true that a smaller world makes a larger self in comparison? Do any of us need to have a world where our personal story becomes more and more important and other people’s worlds matter less and less? Is it not right to treat emotional distress the same way we do physical suffering?
This is a question that is often asked.
When a person breaks a leg or suffers from a serious cut we readily seek medical assistance. Part of the remedy is to relieve the pain of the wound. So why would we imply that there are cautions in regards to seeking medical help for the emotional struggles of a broken heart, a malfunctioning mind, or for fears that seem to rage out of control?
Even more closely related to the situations of emotional agony are the physical conditions which affect our emotions. When a blood sugar condition is out of balance we know it will bring a mental instability. When hormones are involved or when there is a thyroid problem, we do not hesitate to seek medical help, even if it may involve chemical medications. We should make it clear here that when some physical organ of the body is not functioning properly, we believe the Bible supports finding medicinal relief.
So why not address emotional pain such as fear, worries, anger, distress, or grief from the same perspective? God’s Word clearly makes a difference. We all know of Luke, the beloved physician. Paul gave Timothy a medicinal remedy for a stomach problem. God’s Word gives place for physical remedies for physical problems. But in these cases the medicine enables or enhances the functions of the body.
Is this also the case when treating the mind with medications? Are minds helped because brains are enhanced or enabled? Do people find their way out of fear or guilt because their brains are sharpened by the drugs? The words of Scripture would show, and even many professionals would agree, that this is not the case. The facts of Scripture, science, and research clearly detail that in most cases, emotional help which is received through substance use or prescription drug use is, in reality, experienced as help because the brain is hindered and impaired, not because it is enhanced or enabled.
This is why we see mind issues as an entirely different matter. The mind (heart or soul) uses the brain in this life, but the mind is first and foremost spiritual in nature. The brain is considered to be a physical organ, but the mind is not. God directs us to give care to our minds, but that care is supposed to come through biblical, spiritual enhancement. The command to be sober teaches us to establish boundaries on our thought life in order to experience peace and Christian victory. The biblical direction to speak to ourselves through songs is to help establish our mind’s activity.
Promises in both the Old and New Testament focus on God’s ability to bring peace to hearts that are in turmoil. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17). The activity of true biblical worship is a wonderful mind stabilizer.
Jesus has both comforted and commanded us with His words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). We also know the promise, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galations 5:22-23). “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
This brings us to the other option regarding the seeking of help for emotional needs.
Will we enlarge our hearts?
“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged” (2 Corinthians 6:11).
The Apostle Paul is a great encouragement, perhaps most of all because of the tremendous spiritual legacy he left in his writings. We marvel at his example. When he met Christ on the Damascus road and surrendered to Jesus as Lord, he gave his life unreservedly to spreading the Gospel. Because of this choice Paul suffered unbelievable rejection and persecution. Several passages highlight what he endured, but one passage reveals the effects of the suffering—what that suffering did to his heart.
This is recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:3-8.
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:”
In 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 11, Paul gives us more insights into this account. He was repeatedly traumatized, one time even to the point that the persecutors thought they had solved the problem of Paul once for all, as they left him for dead. But through this all, Paul believed that his suffering was for a grander purpose. “Our light affliction”, as he calls it, and which he tells himself is “just for a moment”, he understood as happening for the purpose of working “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. In chapter 12 we have Paul’s thoughts recorded about a very private time in his life when he struggled, asking for a certain distress to be taken away. After repeatedly praying for God’s deliverance the answer was “No.”
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he [God] said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
In short, Paul turned to God for his comfort. Then to give him comfort, God did not dull or impair Paul’s perception, but rather helped him see the big picture and gave him strength to endure through his distress. When Paul embraced the big picture and received comfort from God, his heart and world were enlarged. Through this experience, he was then able to connect with hurting people from many different walks of life.
When we hurt or go through what the flesh does not want, God often does something for our spiritual man that He could not do any other way. We may be brought to the edge of eternity where we may see God’s purposes more vividly. We may be brought to a fuller grasp of God’s grace and what it does for us. Thus our hearts are enlarged. By going through suffering we are brought into a more complete understanding of what others may be going through.
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul again details what he went through for the church at Corinth. The list is intimidating—one could almost expect to hear him say at the end, “I am all worn out! I have no more patience for you!” But Paul rather exclaims just the opposite, “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians, we are hiding nothing, keeping nothing back, and our heart is expanded wide for you! There is no lack of room for you in our hearts…”
One of the blessed outcomes for us is that our view of our self changes when our heart is enlarged to care for others. Is it not wonderful when our self-focus shrinks to lesser importance? When our needs, our hurts, and our thoughts are not the center of our attention anymore, but rather our emphasis is on what God is doing in the lives of others?
We all experience suffering
All of us suffer. We live in a fallen world. People betray us. Events disappoint us. We may receive wounds, big or small, from both the church and the world. Sometimes, after we suffer long enough, the hurts and disappointments seem to add up to a great sense of disillusionment. No one would argue whether or not the suffering is real.
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:22-23)
During some seasons of life, many of us will struggle so much with pain that we wonder whether or not we will lose our ability to reason. Sometimes it seems like the hurts and wounds are so deep and last so long that we can no longer control our thoughts. Everything gets jumbled together until it seems almost as though we can no longer think clearly.
Maybe our struggle is depression. We feel so bad that we do not even want to get out of bed, much less face the public or our church family. The struggles of the mind affect our ability to face life with vigor and vitality. Job 3 is a good passage to read when we feel badly about life.
It is helpful to remember that it is God who created us for living on this earth. We did not create ourselves. We did not choose to live in a fallen world. God understood what we would be dealing with, even from the very beginning of time. The God who made us also assures us that we will not face temptations or struggles greater than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Just like He created us with controllable sexual desires or the ability to regulate our anger, so He also created us with the capacity to endure suffering.
Additionally, it is helpful to remember that Jesus understands whatever we face. He went through great human suffering and struggle. In eternity past He told the Father, “I delight to do thy will.” Then when He walked on this earth and finally faced the cross in a physical body, He cried out in an appeal asking for a different path. “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…”
In conclusion, which will we choose?
Impaired? Enlarged? Which will we choose? There is no doubt that God will have us suffer during our earthly journey. And the suffering isn’t only physical; some of the most challenging times we experience are in our emotional journey. We actually need this suffering, as it honors God, strengthens us, and helps us to more readily relate to others. But we still have a choice.
One option obviously leads to a narrowed view of life and a limited ability to serve others. The Bible teaches us that by choosing to see life from an eternal perspective, and to see God as being involved in our lives, that this helps us to see beyond ourselves and reach out to God and others. This also helps give us the ability to make a difference for eternity.
Which way will we choose? God’s way or the world’s way?
January 9, 2017 Leave a comment
Berki, a member of the Hamer community of southwestern Ethiopia, was a slight child. His father said he was too weak to look after the cattle, so when Berki was 16, he sent him to school. There Berki met an evangelist, who told him about Jesus, and he became a Christian.
Berki completed school and returned home to teach. When Berki told his family about his new faith, his father dismissed the notion. His parents stopped supporting him financially. After eight months of teaching and family tension, he sensed a strong prompting to leave his job and go to Dimeka.
Berki resolved to work full time in ministry. Soon, he accepted a church position.
Berki returned home for a visit. To his surprise, his family welcomed him warmly. He hoped they had softened. Even Berki’s older brother, Gadi, seemed to set aside their differences.
‘Brother, do you want to go with me to cut the honey?’ Gadi asked. Berki loved honey.
They set out the next morning, walking far from home. At dusk, Gadi and Berki walked into a valley. Gadi told Berki to rest while he walked a little way to see where they were.
What Berki didn’t know was that his family had told his brother to kill him.
As heavy rain began to fall, Berki realised his brother had left him. He climbed out of the valley to see if he recognised any landmarks.
Terrified, he sat in the mud and cried. As Berki tried to stand again, he realised a river of sand and mud had swallowed his right leg like concrete. Exhausted, Berki pleaded with God.
Lord, if you don’t take me, help me sleep. I don’t want to be awake if the wild animals attack me.
Sleep overtook him. As dawn broke, he opened his eyes. Praise God!
Berki tugged to free himself. Hyena tracks everywhere but they had not attacked. Berki climbed to the top of a nearby mountain and breathed a grateful prayer. With renewed strength, he began the long walk home.
Later, Berki attended a workshop where he’d learn to tell accurate Bible stories. Today, as a full-time evangelist, Berki wears traditional clothing and rides his bicycle to nearby villages to tell Bible stories where people welcome him.
January 8, 2017 Leave a comment
Who We Are
Movida is an international, interdenominational missions organization with the goal of motivating young people to grow in their personal relationships with Jesus by training them to use their gifts and talents to better serve their local churches and in world missions. Movida is a combination of two Spanish words: “mover” and “vidas” – “moving lives”.
1987- Movida International founders, Thomas and Mechthild Vogelin arrived in Melipilla, Chile.
1990- Thomas and Mechthild Vogelin lead the first CIMA conference, in Chile, with 23 participants.
1997- The Vogelin family moved to Argentina, thus expanding the Movida ministry to two countries (Argentina and Chile).
1999- The first CIMA took place in Argentina with 80 participants.
2002- Movida Paraguay was formed.
2002- The Short-Term Program began.
2003- Movida Editions produced the first devotional book.
2007- The first international CIMA conference was held in Argentina with 1,000 participants.
2008- Movida Bolivia was formed.
2009- Movida Peru was formed.
2010- The second international CIMA conference was held in Argentina with 2,200 participants.
2011- Movida Ecuador was formed.
2012- Movida Germany was formed.
2013- Movida USA was formed.
2014- The third international CIMA conference was held in Argentina with 2,500 participants.
2014- Movida Costa Rica was formed.
2015- Movida Brazil was formed.
2015- Movida Switzerland was formed and was gifted the “missions-central” in the town of Walzenhausen.
January 7, 2017 Leave a comment
Spiritual Revolution: The Story of Operation Mobilization by Ian Randall (2008)
As a history of the first 50 years of Operation Mobilization (OM) Spiritual Revolution is the story of a movement. First, the book is the story of the conception and development of what is now one of the largest mission agencies on earth, OM. Second, this is a story of a genuine spiritual movement. The passion in the hearts of several college boys in Illinois and their subsequent radical, authentic discipleship coupled with their visionary and empowering leadership has led to the births of hundreds, if not thousands of new ministries. The book lists 3 full single spaced pages of new ministries started by former OMer’s, among those are organizations such as Frontiers, Gospel for Asia, SAT-7, and so on.
Currently, OM has 5,400 missionaries from 91 nationalities working in 110 countries and on board 2 ocean going ships. 37 million people in more than 140 nations have been on one of OM’s ships (p. 219). The ships have welcomed 38 million people in nearly 500 cities and distributed 50 million Scripture portions. More than 125,000 young people have been drawn to the mission training of OM. Overall, over 100 million people have been touched by OM’s gospel ministry. They have impacted presidents, global influencers as well as the poorest of poor. Wow. Read those numbers again. Amazing!
I read this book to help me dream. I need help dreaming of what could be. To that end, this book was extremely satisfying, even exhilarating at points. But I also was challenged in my dreaming about what makes a “great” movement. Here are a few of my personal take aways. Please note that I am in every way an outside observer of OM having acquired almost all of my knowledge of OM from this book.
The most profound aspect of OM, especially when observed in retrospect, is its humble origins. The following is, for me, the most stirring passage in the book: “But there was no great scheme for the future when the three would-be missionaries and an old Dodge truck loaded with Gospels left Chicago, virtually unnoticed, fifty years ago. There was no thought of building a global mission agency, no idea of ships, and no strategy to mobilise tens of thousands into global missions. But clearly God had a wider design from the start and it is his sovereign purpose which has become OM’s ongoing story.” (p. 221). Oh how refreshing is the story of the origin of OM. The grand agenda in the hearts and minds of George Verwer, Dale Rhoton, and Walter Borchard was simply authentic discipleship of Jesus.
This really challenges me. I have big dreams. But do I dream of simple obedience? Do I despise the small things?
I am most personally challenged by the culture of OM and Send the Light (the first organization founded by Verwer which is now one of the largest literature distribution companies in the world): radical, simple, risky, sometimes awkward, discipleship. This is truly a “God or nothing” organization. Verwer himself is infamous for the stories of his “crazy” discipleship. Whether the story of him taking off all of his clothes to give to a poor man and then walking back to his office in his underwear, or his challenges and impassioned talks to Christian audiences, George Verwer’s legacy is simple obedience to the Lord manifested in a wartime lifestyle.
I am a missions pastor at a large influential church with tons of mobilization potential. We are tapping into some of that potential currently. But am I calling our people towards radical obedience of the Lord? Am I modeling that for them? In my analysis of the history, one of the main reasons OM grew so fast and furiously was the eccentric commitment towards radical living of its founder. In my context, I must model radical living if I am going to have any influence towards others to that end.
The most stunning aspect of OM for me is their global orientation. Think about it: the ministry started by 3 American college boys in 1957 and by 1963 had spread to both Europe and India. It grew rapidly to have its main base of operations in Europe. Now, it is perhaps the most genuinely global missions organization in the world today. This is evidence for serious gifting and commitment to raise up indigenous leadership. I am stunned as to how fast OM has been able over its 50 years to start new ministries in new countries and raise up local leadership for them.
I will remember how the story of OM is a story of organizational change. Some of the major changes in the organization’s history had to do with financial policy, the attitude towards buying property, approach to ministry (from mostly mass evangelism to holistic ministry), and policy over women in leadership. One thing that I have learned from my parents is that good leadership embraces good change. With incredibly rapid personnel mobility comes rapid change. Add on to that diverse cultural orientations of the staff and you get a constant management challenge with untold potential.
Lastly, I will remember how OM and Send the Light model pioneering effective mass evangelism techniques. Who would have thought that a ocean ship would be wildly effective for mass gospel dissemination one hundred years ago?! Just look at the numbers at the beginning of this article to see the proof that OM has literally touched tens of millions in both the word and deed of the Gospel.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to especially younger global leaders. While the names and places might bore you for a few pages, enduring to the end will bless you with the story of God’s faithfulness towards those who are obedient, not merely those who have big visions. Big dreams, after all, are mere vanity without the proof of simple obedience.
January 7, 2017 Leave a comment
In the world of missions, I know of nothing more significant than Operation World when it comes to learning about the need, opportunity and prayer points for world evangelism. Next to your Bible, Operation World will be the most important book you will own. Go nowhere without it. Pray daily, sharing the burden of our Lord.
– K.P. Yohannan
December 30, 2016 Leave a comment
Once when I told my story at a missions conference, a woman informed me I had a demon.
Another time I told my story, and shortly afterward one of our mission ships sank. Someone wrote to me that was the judgment of God on me. (Actually, we had hoped to replace the ship; no one was hurt when it sank, and we thought of it as a blessing from God.) But I’ve come to expect that kind of response.
Most people don’t want to hear Christian leaders admit their sins or say they still, on occasion, sin. And almost no one wants to hear a leader say he’s come to terms with his sinful nature. But I have. And I say so publicly.
I wouldn’t call my temptation by pornography an addiction. My exposure to it has been infrequent. I don’t look at it online. I won’t pay for it. And I haven’t had regular access to the magazines since I was a teenager.
A neighbor prayed for me for two years, she said, and at a Billy Graham crusade at age 16, I had a powerful conversion experience. After that, I knew that the pornography had to go, and so I burned my few magazines. If it were not for my conversion, pornography could have become a terrible addiction. Still, through most of my adulthood, I was subject to awful temptations and sometimes fell.
Over the years, I can honestly say, I haven’t gone looking for pornography. It comes to me. And it takes me by surprise. One time while riding to a strategic meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, I found a magazine left in the lavatory. That happened again when I was aboard an ocean liner en route to Scandinavia.
A defining moment for me occurred more than 30 years ago as I was walking in the woods outside London. From a distance I saw something hanging in the branches of a tree. It was a pornographic magazine, shot through with bullet holes. Someone had hung it there for target practice. Suddenly, I was the target.
I wish I could say I destroyed that magazine and got the victory, but the truth is, in the woods that day, that magazine made a fool out of me.
I was in the woods for quite a while after my lustful episode before I could crawl my way back to the cross and ask for forgiveness. Most of the time since then, I have been able to withstand Satan’s temptations. I wish I could say that was true every time, but I’d be lying.
And, in the woods, I found a new approach to my own sinfulness: when I sin, I ask forgiveness. Time after time.
What’s victory really look like?
What is victorious living for the sinner? The absence of sin? The defeat of Satan at every temptation? Going undefeated for a whole season? If that’s the measure, then I fail. And, I suspect, we all fail, and we will continue to fail without relief.
In my own life, giving myself the benefit of the doubt, I estimate I successfully resist temptation maybe 95 percent of the time. But with the number of temptations we face, that’s still a lot of failure!
Over the course of my 45 years as a Christian, I have failed, and not only in the area of lust. There are far worse sins than sexual failure with a magazine. In my own life, irritability and anger are greater issues. For others, it’s arrogance, or condemnation, or legalism.
Victorious living, given our sinful nature, is not the absence of sin, but knowing what to do when we sin. 1 John 2:1 says, “sin not.” It is John’s desire that his followers will not sin. But notice the verse continues, “but if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the righteous One.”
When I sin, I am ready, quickly, to confess. And when I confess, I undercut Satan’s power. Satan is the deceiver, the adversary who wants me to believe lies (either “I really haven’t done anything wrong” or “I’ve sinned so horribly that I’m disqualified to serve the Lord”).
By honest confession, my strength to battle the next temptation is bolstered by the knowledge that the Evil One has nothing with which to condemn me. Christ is my defender before the Father, and Christ says I am forgiven. Satan has nothing to say.
Since the moment of my salvation, I have never doubted God’s word about his love for me. It is vital that we realize God loves us and accepts us—even when we fail. That has been life-sustaining for me. Even when rejected by people for my sins, or for telling about my sins, I have always felt God’s love. I have an open invitation to return to him as soon as I am ready to admit that sin, once again, has gotten the better of me.
God’s love is not a license to sin. Grace without discipline can lead to disgrace. While God can forgive my disgraces, for the Christian leader, too many disgraces and my credibility and people’s ability to trust me as a leader is gone. Paul said, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:27). If I had not dealt with my habit quickly and kept it in a small arena of my life, my sin would have grown to the point that I would be disqualified. It is only through the power of Christ that I am able to bring myself under subjection.
I have made myself accountable to my wife in the area of lust, and she has been an enormous source of affirmation for me. She prays for me. She listens to me. I report my occasional struggle to her and she does not condemn me. I remember telling her, now as an older man, that a quick glimpse at pornography had caused quite a stir in me physically.
“Well,” she said, “at least it proves you’ve got something left.” I can be honest with my wife, and she with me.
A sinner mentoring sinners
I have tried to be affirming for those who seek from me an accountability relationship. As creatures bent to sinning, we cannot master our sins alone. We need others who accept our sinfulness, but who will keep us from surrendering to it.
My special “mentoring” ministry began with my own public confession. I was invited to speak to the Urbana missions conference in 1967. My message was not about missions. It was about sexual sin.
That was the first time I gave my testimony in a large setting. Some were upset that I spoke so bluntly, but I told those young people that they, like me, needed to repent of sexual immorality. Some 4,000 stood up at the invitation, many weeping with repentance.
I have spoken at Urbana three times since then, and every time, I am inundated with people who need someone who will hear their struggle without condemning them, and point them again to Christ.
One young man wrote to me from the mission field. He asked me to meet him at the border of the country where he was stationed. He was grieving over his sin. He couldn’t even verbalize it, so he typed out a page describing his addictions. I took him on as a partner for one year. (I’ve always had students traveling with me.) This gave us the time to work through his problems. Later he returned to the mission field, and today he has a wonderful wife and family.
He needed someone who would tell him, from experience, there’s hope. Too often the church gives false ideas of holiness. We all want to mature in holiness, but it takes time. Growth comes with age and experience. Legalistic principles aren’t the answer to the human sin mystery. I urged him to seek the balance between grace and discipline.
And I encouraged him to read more widely. Books about the heroes of the faith must be leavened with honest appraisals of their failings. Even the greatest among us are as much sinners as saints. We must set before ourselves realistic examples of those who have pursued holy standards and, in our halting two-steps-forward, one-step-back fashion, got near them.
Leaders who admit their vulnerabilities, and even their failures, walk with a limp. But I suppose that’s what makes it possible for hurting people to catch up with us to ask for help.
God’s service is handicapped accessible
Despite my limp, God still uses me in his service. (This is part of the mystery of grace, for me.)
As a very young Christian, I was in Indianapolis passing out tracts just outside a nightclub. The club’s billboard caught my eye, and soon I was seated in the third row watching the show. It was a striptease. Within a few minutes, a rush of emotion hit me. I realized where I was—the evangelist, his pockets stuffed with tracts, was ogling young women as they took off their clothes one piece at a time. I ran from the club to the bus station nearby and into a phone booth. I didn’t pick up the phone, but I called out to God.
“Oh, God!” I pleaded. “Forgive me, forgive me.”
I didn’t feel forgiven, but I knew his promise to forgive us if we ask. Some minutes later, I told myself, “I’m forgiven. Thank you, Lord.” And I left the phone booth.
But after the forgiveness comes the condemnation. “God can’t use you. You’ve failed him,” the Accuser said.
Before I could say anything, a man walked up to me. I expected him to ask for the time or directions to the bus, but he started telling me his troubles. In a few minutes, he asked, “What’s the answer?” Within an hour, we knelt by the War Memorial in Indianapolis, and he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
I couldn’t make up such a good story.
Satan wanted me in the strip club, going deeper and deeper into the degradation of lust and pornography. His back-up plan would have me wallowing in the anguish of the phone booth for the rest of my life. But by God’s grace, my repentance, and receiving forgiveness by faith, I got back to God’s plan, and he used me to lead this man to salvation.
If ever I needed evidence of forgiveness and restoration, I had it.
I’m a sinner, who’s growing stronger through the years, who crawls back to the cross when he sins and finds God still loves him and will still use him to bring others to Christ. That’s grace, isn’t it.
December 29, 2016 Leave a comment
Twenty years of my life were lived on the wrong side of the cross, and twenty-nine and a half were lived on this side with Christ. I can honestly say that the joy and pleasure I experienced in any week or month of these 29 years outweighs all the joy and pleasure that I could squeeze out of those first twenty.
As a little boy I began trying to get some of the world’s pleasure. I remember the first time I wanted something that I shouldn’t have had. My father had left home, and Mother was working at Woolworth’s for our living. She used to put her dimes in a little bank on her dresser. Many a time I looked at that bank but could think of no way to get those dimes out. As I watched her drop dimes in from time to time, I decided that she could not tell if one was gone. So one day I put tins in the slot, and all of a sudden the dimes dropped out. I put them all back but one.
I went down to a store and bought ten pieces of round, chocolate covered marshmallow candy, each of which had a little lead prize inside. I ate all ten pieces, though I did not know what to do with the ten prizes, because Mother would see them and ask me where I got them. I became sick from eating so much candy, but I also felt sick at heart to think that I had taken a dime from Mother.
How I wish I had been caught then! I was not caught until ten years later, when I was twenty years of age. During my teens I robbed my employer of hundreds of dollars. I had been the president of the student body of the high school and valedictorian of the graduating class. My subject was “Morality versus Legality,” yet I was stealing from the school funds. Such is the deceit of the human heart. Down in the heart of each person there is a twofold desire — a desire for happiness and a desire to be somebody and do something. Sometimes we give serious thought to these matters.
I tried to find a way out of my difficulties. I joined the Boy Scouts and took the oath to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous. etc.” I put on a Scout uniform, and I felt like a new man. But it was all on the outside. Nothing happened to change me for the better. At 14 I joined the church, but I had not met Christ. At the age of 17 I began going with a Christian girl. She asked me to go to a young people’s meeting. I went with her and kept on going until I became president of the young people’s society. Then on high school graduation night I ditched that Christian girl and went out with a beautiful unsaved girl.
THE PATH OF SIN
After that I thought, “I just can’t do what is right. It’s not in me to be good. I guess I’m one of those guys who just can’t win.” It seemed that the longer I lived, the weaker I became and the more I traveled downhill. Finally I gave up trying. I had not touched a drop of liquor until that time, but just a week after I graduated from high school I went out and got drunk at the suggestion of some of my acquaintances. They told me I would have fun. What a lie!
I woke up the next day at two o’clock in the afternoon. My suit was ruined, my vest was gone, my mind was blank and I did not know where I had been.
You would think that would have been enough, but it was only the beginning. In my twentieth year I was picked up four times and hauled away in an ambulance. Four times the police were after me. Two months after I had reached my twentieth birthday I was arrested and was on my way to jail. Mother was at home sick in bed with cancer. She must have had a premonition of this, for she had said to me that very week, “Son, you’re breaking my heart. I’m praying for you, but you know, I’m afraid if I ever hear that you are in jail, I’ll die. It will kill me.”
On the way to jail, though I was under the influence of liquor, I did what any man does when he gets into trouble — I cried out to God. I said, “O God, if You will get me out of this mess tonight, if You will keep me out of jail, I’ll do whatever you want me to.”
It frightened me as I said that, because just one month before, I was nearly drowned in a lake. The girl with whom I was swimming across the lake could not make it. I had a bad heart, and I was hardly able to make it myself. She yelled, and I grabbed her, and we both went down under the water. I just said, “God, save me! I’ll do what You want!” We bobbed up, and a couple coming along in a boat (they had not seen us until that moment) pulled us out.
I had forgotten that promise I made to God, but this time I thought, “God, if You will save me this time, I will do what You want.”
That big policeman had me by the arm, and he was angry because I had done something he rightfully hated. But the moment I cried, he looked down at me and said, “Do you like this kind of a life?”
I said, “Sir, I hate it!”
He took me to a park and made me stay there three hours, until I sobered up. Then he let me go with a promise to do better.
THE BEGINNING OF BETTER THINGS
That took place on Friday night, and Sunday evening I went to church. This was in a little town of 5,000 people, where there were four churches, with young people’s groups in all of them. And though there were some young fellows my age among them, still there was not one whom God could put His hand on and say, “I’ve got a job for you.” There was not one fellow whom God could guide to Dawson Trotman to tell him the Gospel story.
God picked out a couple of schoolteachers, Miss Mills and Miss Thomas, to have a large part in my coming to Christ. Miss Mills was a general science teacher, and I was one of her problem pupils. She wrote my name on her prayer list and prayed for me every day for six solid years.
On the Friday night I was arrested, she was home with Miss Thomas, looking up verses in the Bible, trying to find ten on the subject of salvation which they could give to the young people to memorize. Little did she know that the boy for whom she had been praying for six years was going to memorize those verses. When Sunday came along, I decided to go to young people’s meeting. The pool hall where I played billiards and gambled was about half a block from the church. That evening I looked around to make sure none of the pool hall bays were looking, and I sneaked down to the church and joined in the young people’s service.
A young couple who knew me from high school days were standing in the entrance to the church. They recognized me and gave me a warm, kindly greeting. “We’re starting a contest tonight,” they told me.
“Be on my side,” said Johnny, and Alice said, “You be on my side.” I went on Alice’s side. She gave me a piece of paper and said, “Now, you hang onto this.”
Then we went inside, and the young people had the usual preliminaries and service. I do not remember what was said, except that they discussed a party and a contest in which the points were to be given for various things, among them the memorization of Scripture.
“What do I do with this piece of paper?” I asked.
Alice said, “Do you see those numbers? They indicate the chapter and verse in the Bible. When you learn a verse, you get five points — 10 verses, 50 points.”
I went home and dug out my little Testament, and in the course of a week I learned all ten verses. Here I was, an unsaved fellow, learning, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23); “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27); “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). John 1:12 was also in that group: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God…”
My side was ahead on the following Sunday because of my 50 points, and Alice came around and gave me ten more verses. Miss Mills and Miss Thomas had thought that if anybody memorized the first ten verses, there should be ten more; and this second ten should be for new Christians, to help them live the Christian life. How they prayed that first week for me!
In the new group of ten verses were these: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17); “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
I went back the following Sunday and got another 50 points for the Reds, The Reds were ahead of the Blues, and I helped put them there. We won the contest.
GOD’S WORK IN A SOUL
One unforgettable event resulted from that. During the third week of my renewed interest in young people’s meetings I was on my way to work with these 20 verses of Scripture stored away in my memory. I walked along, minding my own business, with my lunch pail in my hand. I was back in my sin. My promise to God, made that night when the policeman was taking me to jail, did not change my life. Going to young people’s meeting on Sunday did not change me either. I was the same guy. I was spending Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the taverns and beer joints, and going to church on Sunday and feeling, “Well’ I’m a little better. I guess a little of this good won’t hurt me after all.”
But Miss Mills was praying, and the Word of God was working; and all of a sudden that morning, as I walked along, the Holy Spirit brought one of those verses to my mind: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life…” (John 5:24).
Those words “hath everlasting life” stuck in my mind. I said, “O God, that’s wonderful — everlasting life!” I pulled my little Testament out of my pocket and looked it up, and sure enough, there it was — “…hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
There for the first time I remember praying, after I had grown to be a man, when I was not in trouble with the police or something like that. I said, “O God, whatever this means, I want to have it.” And just like that the Holy Spirit brought John 1:12 to my mind: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God…” I then looked up that verse, and there it was, just as I remembered it. “O God,” I said, “whatever it means to receive Jesus, I do it right now.” That was my new birth.
Do you know how I know? I did not know the next verse, which tells of the new birth — “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13) — but a distinct change had taken place. I could no longer enjoy the dirty stories or taking of the Lord’s Name in vain. I used to think it was fun to use bad language when I lost my temper, but that grew distasteful to me. When I cried to God for help, the Holy Spirit brought one of the 20 verses to my mind. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” So I said, “Okay, God, forgive me.”
My Bible teaches that if any man can bridle his tongue, he can bridle his whole body. That was one of the first lessons I learned at the beginning of the Christian life. That is one of the reasons why I love to see a brand-new Christian begin to get the Word of God down into his heart. If it had not been for those 20 verses, I would have been back in the dance hall and the beer joints.
Immediately after my conversion I began learning verses, and I learned one a day for the first three years. In those years I learned my first thousand verses.
My preacher said to me when I went to him for help in leading others to Christ, “I’ll tell you something, lad. There is an answer in the Bible for every excuse that any man can give for not coming to Christ.” I believed him. Then I went alone to prayer and said, “God, if there is an answer to any man’s excuse, I promise You I will never be caught on the same excuse twice.”
That is a little promise to make, but it changed the course of my life. After all, there are only so many excuses. This was the seed from which the Navigator work started and grew.
ASKING GOD FOR BIG THINGS
One day I said to my second daughter, when she was about seven years old, “Now, honey, if you get all that work done by Friday night, I’ll see that you get a pony ride.”
Then I happened to hear Bruce, who was nine, whisper to her, “You may not get it. He promised me one once that I didn’t get.”
I had made Bruce that promise but had forgotten about it, and he had not come around to claim it. When I overheard him say to his sister, “It may not work, because it didn’t work with me,” he got his pony ride within 24 hours. I would not feel very good toward the man who promised his child something and then refused to give it to him.
God says in His Book, “…what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).
In line with this read what God promises in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” In substance this particular verse says that if you will ask God for something big, He will answer; and He will show you things that you have not even imagined.
For those who might say, “Well, that might have been good back there, but how about in this day and age?” there is this corresponding verse in the New Testament: “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Every person who knows Jesus Christ has a hookup with heaven.
When you say, “Father in heaven,” you have addressed God the Father, the Maker of the universe, the One who holds the worlds in His hands. What did you ask for? Did you ask for peanuts, or toys? Or did you ask for continents? It is a tragedy when we think of the little things we ask of an Almighty God. When He says, “You call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you know not,” we should believe Him to mean what He says.
A SIX WEEK PRAYER MEETING
I asked a friend of mine, whom I will call Dick, if he would join me in praying on the basis of that great promise. He agreed to. We figured that we were not going to take any chances on anything. We examined some verses of Scripture which dealt with importunity in prayer. We read that the Lord got up in the early morning and went out into a solitary place (Mark 1:35), so we decided to meet every morning up in the hills, where we would be away from noises and distractions. We agreed to meet with God from five until seven o’clock each morning of the week, including Sundays.
Dick was a plumber and I was a truck driver, and we had to be in another city ready to go to work by eight o’clock. We agreed to meet two weeks, five weeks, ten weeks — the whole year, if necessary; but we were not going to quit until somehow down in our hearts we could say to God, “We believe You’ve heard us; we believe You’re going to give us what we’ve asked for.”
We decided to ask first for the things that we were doing and for the people around us and to keep our hearts open, so that God could widen our interests to the fullest extent.
We were challenged by Acts 1:8: “… ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” We were going to let God lead us by His Holy Spirit to ask for the biggest things possible.
THE BEGINNING OF GOD’S WORKING
God had already worked in our home town. I had taken a Sunday school class of six boys, though I had been a Christian for only a short time. The superintendent of the Sunday school said to me before I had my first session, “We’re going to give you this Sunday school class, and we’re going to pray for you, because this class has killed off two teachers already.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “the two teachers have already given up; they could not get these boys to listen.” I had prayed about that, and the Lord had given me the hearts of three of these kids.
On the first Sunday they did not listen, and I prayed to the Lord about it. I said, “Lord, I had my lesson prepared, and those boys didn’t listen. How am I going to get them? You made little boys. Give me some idea.”
He gave me an idea. I went down to see George, who was the ringleader. I saw him alone, and I learned something right there. A boy is different when you get him alone. George was not blowing any beans when I looked him in the eye. I said, “George” (I had read him Mark 4, where it says that the sower tried to sow the seed, and the devil snatched it away), “you know, the devil didn’t have to be in Sunday school last Sunday. He just used you. While I was trying to give those other boys the Word, you were drawing their attention away. Those five other boys failed to hear what God wanted them to hear because of you.”
“Oh,” he said, “what’ll I do?” Now this is not good theology, but I told him, “You come back next Sunday and be a good boy and act like an angel, and maybe the Lord will forgive you. The better angel you are, the more He’s likely to forgive you.”
Although I was not very well versed in theology in those days, it worked! The class listened, and George was saved, and so were Jimmie and his other buddies. We did not get through our lessons. We found that we had to meet in the middle of the week, and that little class of six boys grew to where it was 225 boys who had accepted the Lord. The Sunday school grew from 100 to 400.
Dick and I had already seen this victory, and he was helping me with the boys. We began praying up there in the hills for each of these boys by name.
Since we had calls from other towns — San Pedro, Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena — to come over and help them because of our work with the boys, we began to pray for those cities also. We prayed for Pasadena and for Redondo Beach; as the weeks rolled on, we found ourselves praying for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego. When we began these morning prayer meetings, it seemed a big thing to pray for those towns, but soon it did not seem any bigger to pray that God would use us in those places.
About the fourth week I said, “Dick, would you be willing to pray that God would use us in every state in the United States?”
“Well, He’s big enough,” Dick said.
So we made a list of 48 states, and we prayed. Morning after morning in these little prayer meetings we would look at our list and ask God to use us and other young fellows in Washington, in Oregon, in California, and in all the other states of the Union. Five weeks went by, and we did not miss a morning. We met at four o’clock on Sunday morning and spent three hours in prayer. During the sixth week the Lord put it on our hearts to get a may of the world, and we took it up to our little cave in the hill. We began to put our fingers on Germany, France and Italy. We put them on Turkey and Greece. I remember looking at one little island near China — you had to look close to see what it was — and we prayed that God would use us in the lives of men on Formosa.
We could not have prayed like that the first week. I don’t think that time has much to do with whether God hears you or not; but I do believe that time has something to do with whether or not your faith is built up as you pray and ask. I don’t believe that God will ever give much to those who hove their little conscience-easer prayers in the morning and evening. If you cannot take 1/48th of your day to be alone with your mighty God and King, I rather doubt that He is going to do very much through you.
SOUL WINNING IN THE HOME
My wife and I took Isaiah 60:11, “…thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night…” as the motto for our home. We were married on Sunday, and we opened our home on Wednesday. It was not long until the first sailor accepted the Lord. Men from every one of the 48 states have since then found the Lord in our home. There was a period of six months when we seldom ate breakfast or our evening meal alone, because sailors were there. I believe with all my heart that one of the greatest soul saving stations in the world is the home.
WORK IN FORMOSA
Five years ago I went over to Formosa as a representative of The Navigators and got together all the ministers in the city of Taipei. There were nine churches in that city then. I met for a week with the pastors of those churches and other pastors who came in from some of the towns around, explaining how our Navigator plans worked in the Navy and Army. We inaugurated this plan in Formosa, began to work with Dick Hillis, and took charge of the follow-up.
Today there are 90 churches in Taipei. Over a sixth of a million converts, spiritually five years old or less, have finished at least one Navigator Bible study and parts of the Topical Memory System, and they have led another hundred thousand to Christ. We have 27 full-time Chinese secretaries to handle the work we are doing with both young and old in Formosa. Similar work is carried on in Okinawa, Hong Kong, Saigon, the Philippines and Korea.
Such soul winning starts in this way: First, you have to believe the Book, then you must ask, and keep on asking. Before you can touch people in 48 states, you have to touch them in one state. And before you can touch them in one state, you must touch them in one city. And before you can touch them in one city, you must be able to touch them on one street. Any person who knows how to be saved and is saved has enough knowledge, if imparted to another, to reach that one for Christ.
FEAR IN SOUL WINNING
Sometimes I am almost afraid to ask the Lord to give me a soul, because I know that if I ask Him, I am going to have to get busy. I have been a Christian for 29 years, and it still frightens me to talk to a man about his need of salvation.
Having that fear after so many years of doing personal work used to bother me. Suddenly I realized that such fear was only a little red light going on and off to remind me that it was “…not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord…” You never get to the place where you can do it on your own. You need Him.
I made such a request one day; then I began to look for a man. I was driving an old Model T at that time; and as I rode along, I saw a man hitchhiking on a six lane highway. I kept my eyes straight ahead and watched the red signal light at which I had to stop. Looking at the fellow out of the corner of my eye, I saw that he looked big and tough, so I decided that he was the wrong one. As I waited for that red light to change, I don’t know what happened to it, but it was on for a long time, it seemed. I thought the man had gone back to the curb, but when I looked at him, he was looking right at me. Inviting him in, I lost no time in getting a Gospel tract into his hand. He read it through and then handed it back to me.
“What did you think of it?” I asked.
He replied, “I think it’s wonderful.”
I was startled at his answer and said, “Oh, you’re a Christian!”
“No,” he answered, “I’m not a Christian. I’ve been going to some tent meetings down this way every night for two weeks, and I can’t get through. I have gone down to the front every night, but I can’t get through.”
“Through what?” I asked.
He answered, “Isn’t there something to get through?”
I pulled over, stopped, and said, “Buddy, I’ve got news for you. Somebody already got through.” All he needed was the simple Gospel instead of being told to do something, and he accepted Christ.
Do you know what I had been doing? I saw this rough character, and I thought, “He won’t repent. He won’t believe.” That was not my business. I have no right to decide for any other man whether or not he will accept the Lord. My business is to tell him the story and let him decide.
WE NEED TO REACH NEIGHBORS
“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). And I want to tell you that to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, it is sin (James 4:17). I do not know of any greater sin than to let a man or woman next door to you go to Hell. You have the pardon written right out in the Book; but they have never seen it, and you have not told them.
I read over in Proverbs, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).
When I first came to know the Lord, I talked to my brother about the Savior. He laughed at me and said, “I’m not interested. Don’t talk to me any more.” I do not talk to a man when he tells me not to, but I talk to the Lord.
Three years later I said, “Roland, could I talk to you for a moment about Christ?”
He said yes, and smiled a bit. The Lord had just brought him to Himself. He had seen some things that had touched his heart. Three weeks later headlines in the Los Angeles Examiner read, “Hero Gives Life To Save Girl.” How do you think I felt when I found out that my own brother was gone? What if I had not spoken to him about Christ?
The very first trip I ever took on United Airlines was on a 12 passenger Boeing plane. It was about a three-hour trip, and I wanted to witness for Christ, but it was not until the last half hour that I got up the nerve to talk to the stewardess. She said, “Do you know what? I’ve never heard this story before.”
She was a church member, but she did not know that Christ died for her. She thanked me for speaking to her about her need of salvation. Evelyn Sandino accepted the Lord just as we came into Burbank.
Three weeks later while riding on a train, I picked up a newspaper and read: “United Airliner Crashes in Utah Mountains 40 Miles From Town.” Evelyn’s picture was there. She was the stewardess on that ill-fated plane. We do not know how soon a person may die.
I do not know what it is going to take to wake up God’s people to the fact that we must get this message out now. As I look back over the past 29 years and see how God has taken a few little things and made big things out of them, I covet the same for all of God’s people.
WHY MEN LOSE OUT WITH GOD
I told you that Dick prayed with me in those early days. Do you know what he said to me about three years ago? “I’ve got my seventh church, and I don’t have one person in my church who is down to business for Jesus Christ; and I don’t know anybody I’ve had in the past six months who has been down to business in the manner you describe.”
Then he added, “Maybe it’s because I never got down to business.” No “maybe” about that!
I remembered the one event that turned the course of his life. It happened while we lived in Long Beach. The Long Beach Municipal Band used to play for all of the people who came to the seashore on Sunday afternoons. The Fishermen’s Club, of which Dick and I were members, had the right to come in at the close of the band program and announce that we were going to preach the Gospel. About ten percent of the audience would stay, and then we boys would get up and give our testimonies. It was in June, just the time when the swimming was best. We had to decide whether or not we would give our Sunday afternoons to that or to the Lord’s work. Both Dick and I made the decision that we would go to the band shell.
A couple of weeks after we stopped praying together, Dick did not show up at the band shell. The following Sunday it was the same story; and as I rode home that day after giving my testimony, I passed a car in which were Dick and his girl friend in their bathing suits. It is possible for some Christians to do that and get away with it; but I do not think it was possible for Dick, because he had made a covenant with God.
I did not say anything to him, and he did not know that I had seen them; so when I met him the next Tuesday evening at Fishermen’s Club, I gave him a little piece of paper with Isaiah 58:13-14 written on it. “Don’t look this up now,” I said to Dick, “but you go and get Nancy. Then read these verses together and pray about them. Now, promise me you won’t read this by yourself.” He gave me his word.
I left the church and went on out to catch the bus, but as I waited for one to come along, I became very thirsty and decided to go back into the basement of the church for a drink of water. There I found Dick reading by the light of a match the paper which I had given him. He had broken his promise.
Here are the verses which I wanted Dick and Nancy to read: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14).
I gave it to him to make him face the fact that maybe it was not the best thing for him to be going swimming instead of witnessing for Christ on the Lord’s Day, but he did not come back to the band shell.
GOD HAS A WORK FOR YOU
Suppose Dick had taken that word of exhortation and asked the Lord’s forgiveness. Is it possible that God would have let him zoom right ahead on His plan? It is not only possible; it is probable.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I believe that verse will hold right down to the last minute that you take a breath. If you have drifted from the Lord and from His will for you, return now. If you will do it, I believe He will permit you to go ahead in His plan for you.
BORN TO REPRODUCE
A few years ago, while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, I stood on High Street just down from the castle. As I stood there, I saw a father and a mother coming toward me pushing a baby carriage. They looked very happy, were well dressed and apparently were well-to-do. I tried to catch a glimpse of the baby as they passed and, seeing my interest, they stopped to let me look at the little, pink-cheeked member of their family.
I watched them for a little while as they walked on and thought how beautiful it is that God permits a man to chose one woman who seems the most beautiful and lovely to him, and she chooses him out of all the men whom she has ever known. Then they separate themselves to one another, and God in His plan gives them the means of reproduction! It is a wonderful thing that a little child should be born into their family, having some of the father’s characteristics and some of the mother’s, some of his looks and some of hers. Each sees in that baby a reflection of the one whom he or she loves.
Seeing that little one made me feel homesick for my own children whom I dearly love and whose faces I had not seen for some time. As I continued to stand there I saw another baby carriage, or perambulator as they call it over there, coming in my direction. It was a secondhand affair and very wobbly. Obviously the father and mother were poor. Both were dressed poorly and plainly, but when I indicated my interest in seeing their baby, they stopped and with the same pride as the other parents let me view their little, pink-cheeked, beautiful eyed child.
I thought as these went on their way, “God gave this little baby whose parents are poor everything that He gave the other. It has five little fingers on each hand, a little mouth and two eyes. Properly cared for, those little hands may someday be the hands of an artist or a musician.”
Then this other thought came to me, “Isn’t it wonderful that God did not select the wealthy and the educated and say, ‘You can have children,’ and to the poor and uneducated say, ‘You cannot.’ Everyone on earth has that privilege.”
The first order ever given to man was that he “be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, he was to reproduce after his own kind. God did not tell Adam and Eve, our first parents, to be spiritual. They were already in His image. Sin had not yet come in. He just said, “Multiply. I want more just like you, more in My own image.”
Of course, the image was marred. But Adam and Eve had children. They began to multiply. There came a time, however, when God had to destroy most of the flesh that had been born. He started over with eight people. The more than two billion people who are on the earth today came from the eight who were in the ark, because they were fruitful and multiplied.
Only a few things will ever keep human beings from multiplying themselves in the physical realm. One is that they never marry. If they are not united, they will not reproduce. This is a truth which Christians need to grasp with reference to spiritual reproduction. When a person becomes a child of God, he should realize that he is to live in union with Jesus Christ if he is going to win others to the Savior.
Another factor that can hinder reproduction is disease or impairment to some part of the body that is needed for reproductive purposes. In the spiritual realm sin is the disease that can keep one from winning the lost.
One other thing that can keep people from having children is immaturity. God in His wisdom saw to it that little children cannot have babies. A little boy must first grow to sufficient maturity to be able to earn a living, and a little girl must be old enough to care for a baby.
Everyone should be born again. That is God’s desire. God never intended that man should merely live and die — be a walking corpse to be laid in the ground. The vast majority of people know that there is something beyond the grave, and so each one who is born into God’s family should seek others to be born again.
A person is born again when he receives Jesus Christ. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God…Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13) — the new birth. It is God’s plan that these new babes in Christ grow. All provision is made for their growth into maturity, and then they are to multiply — not only the rich or the educated, but all alike. Every person who is born into God’s family is to multiply.
In the physical realm when your children have children, you become a grandparent. Your parents are then great- grandparents, and theirs are great-great-grandparents. And so it should be in the spiritual.
Wherever you find a Christian who is not leading men and women to Christ, something is wrong. He may still be a babe. I do not mean that he does not know a lot of doctrine and is not well informed through hearing good preaching. I know many people who can argue the pre-, the post- and the amillennial position and who know much about dispensations, but who are still immature. Paul said of some such in Corinth, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual (or mature), but as unto carnal, even as unto babes…” (1 Corinthians 3:1).
Because they were babes, they were immature, incapable of spiritual reproduction. In other words, they could not help other people to be born again. Paul continued, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it … ye are yet carnal (or babes): for … there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions…” (1 Corinthians 3:2,3). I know a lot of church members, Sunday school teachers and members of the women’s missionary society who will say to each other, “Have you heard about so and so?” and pass along some gossip. Such have done an abominable thing in the sight of God. How horrible it is when a Christian hears something and spreads the story! The Book says, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him…a lying tongue…” (Proverbs 6:16,17). Oh, the Christians I know, both men and women, who let lying come in!
“…he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 16:19) is another. This is walking as a babe, and I believe that it is one of the basic reasons why some Christians do not have people born again into God’s family through them. They are sick spiritually. There is something wrong. There is a spiritual disease in their lives. They are immature. There is not that union with Christ.
But when all things are right between you and the Lord, regardless of how much or how little you may know intellectually from the standpoint of the world, you can be a spiritual parent. And that, incidentally, may even be when you are very young in the Lord.
A young lady works at the telephone desk in our office in Colorado Springs. A year and a half ago she was closely associated with the young Communist league in Great Britain. She heard Billy Graham and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. Soon she and a couple other girls in her art and drama school were used of the Lord to win some girls to Christ. We taught Pat and some of the others, and they in turn taught the girls whom they led to Christ. Some of these have led still other girls to Christ, and they too are training their friends. Patricia is a great-grandmother already, though she is only about a year and four months old in the Lord.
We see this all the time. I know a sailor who, when he was only four months old in the Lord, was a great-grandfather. He had led some sailors to the Lord who in turn led other sailors to the Lord, and these last led still other sailors to the Lord — yet he was only four months old.
How was this done? God used the pure channel of these young Christians’ lives in their exuberance and first love for Christ, and out of their hearts the incorruptible seed of the Word of God was sown in the hearts of other people. It took hold. Faith came by the hearing of the Word. They were born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They observed those Christians who led them to Christ and shared in the joy, the peace and the thrill of it all. And in their joy, they wanted someone else to know.
In all our Christian audiences, I am sure there are men and women who have been Christians for five, ten or twenty years but who do not know of one person who is living for Jesus Christ today because of them. I am not talking now about merely working for Christ, but about producing for Christ. Someone may say, “I gave out a hundred thousand tracts.” That is good, but how many sheep did you bring in?”
Some time ago I talked to 29 missionary candidates. They were graduates of universities or Bible schools or seminaries. As a member of the board I interviewed each one over a period of five days, giving each candidate from half an hour to an hour. Among the questions I asked were two which are very important. The first one had to do with their devotional life. “How is your devotional life?” I asked them. “How is the time you spend with the Lord? Do you feel that your devotional life is what the Lord would have it to be?”
Out of this particular group of 29 only one person said, “I believe my devotional life is what it ought to be.” To the others my question then was, “Why is your devotional life not what it should be?”
“Well, you see, I am here at this summer school,” was a common reply. “We have a concentrated course. We do a year’s work in only ten weeks. We are so busy.”
I said, “All right. Let’s back up to when you were in college. Did you have victory in your devotional life then?”
“Well, not exactly.”
We traced back and found that never since they came to know the Savior had they had a period set aside for daily devotions. That was one of the reasons for their sterility — lack of communion with Christ.
The other question I asked them was, “You are going out to the foreign field. You hope to be used by the Lord in winning men and women to Christ. Is that right?”
“You want them to go on and live the victorious life, don’t you? You don’t want them just to make a decision and then go back into the world, do you?”
“Then may I ask you something more? How many persons do you know by name today who were won to Christ by you and are living for Him?”
“The majority had to admit that they were ready to cross an ocean and learn a foreign language, but they had not won their first soul who was going on with Jesus Christ. A number of them said that they got many people to go to church; others said they had persuaded some to go forward when the invitation was given.
I asked, “Are they living for Christ now?” Their eyes dropped. I then continued, “How do you expect that by crossing an ocean and speaking in a foreign language with people who are suspicious of you, whose way of life is unfamiliar, you will be able to do there what you have not yet done here?”
This is not for missionaries and prospective missionaries only. It is for all of God’s people. Every one of His children ought to be a reproducer.
Are you producing? If not, why not? Is it because of a lack of communion with Christ, your Lord, that closeness of fellowship which is part of the great plan? Or is it some sin in your life, an unconfessed something, that has stopped the flow? Or is it that you are still a babe? “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again…” (Hebrews 5:12).
HOW TO PRODUCE REPRODUCERS
The reason that we are not getting this Gospel to the ends of the earth is not because it is not potent enough.
Twenty-three years ago we took a born-again sailor and spent some time with him, showing him how to reproduce spiritually after his kind. It took time, lots of time. It was not a hurried, 30 minute challenge in a church service and a hasty good-bye with an invitation to come back next week. We spent time together. We took care of his problems and taught him not only to hear God’s Word and to read it, but also how to study it. We taught him how to fill the quiver of his heart with the arrows of God’s Word, so that the Spirit of God could lift an arrow from his heart and place it to the bow of his lips and pierce a heart for Christ.
He found a number of boys on his ship, but none of them would go all out for the Lord. They would go to church, but when it came right down to doing something, they were “also rans.” He came to me after a month of this and said, “Dawson, I can’t get any of these guys on the ship to get down to business.”
I said to him, “Listen, you ask God to give you one. You can’t have two until you have one. Ask God to give you a man after your own heart.”
He began to pray. One day he came to me and said, “I think I’ve found him.” Later he brought the young fellow over. Three months from the time I started to work with him, he had found a man for Christ, a man of like heart. This first sailor was not the kind of man you had to push and give prizes to before he would do something. He loved the Lord and was willing to pay a price to produce. He worked with this new babe in Christ, and those two fellows began to grow and spiritually reproduce. On that ship 125 men found the Savior before it was sunk at Pearl Harbor.
Men off that first battleship are in four continents of the world as missionaries today. The work spread from ship to ship to ship, so that when the Japanese struck at Pears Harbor, there was a testimony being given on 50 ships of the U.S. fleet. When the war closed, there was work by one or more producers (I am not talking about mere Christians), on more than a thousand of the U.S. Fleet ships and at many army camps and air bases. It had to have a start, however. The devil’s great trick is to stop anything like this if he can before it gets started. He will stop you, too, if you let him.
There are Christians whose lives run in circles who, nevertheless, have the desire to be spiritual parents. Take a typical example. You meet him in the morning as he goes to work and say to him, “Why are you going to work?”
“Well, I have to earn money.”
“What are you earning money for?” you ask.
“Well,” he replies, “I have to buy food.”
“What do you want food for?”
“I have to eat so as to have strength to go to work and earn some more money.”
“What do you want more money for?”
“I have to buy clothes so that I can be dressed to go to work and earn some more money.”
“What do you want more money for?”
“I have to buy a house or pay the rent so I will have a place to rest up, so I will be fit to work and earn some more money.” And so it goes. There are many Christians like that who are going in big circles. But you continue your questioning and ask, “What else do you do?”
“Oh, I find time to serve the Lord. I am preaching here and there.” But down behind all of this he has the one desire to be a spiritual father. He is praying that God will give him a man to teach. Perhaps it takes him six months. It need not take that long, but maybe it takes him six months to reach the other for Christ and get him started taking in the Word and giving it out and getting ready to teach a man himself.
So this first man at the end of six months has another man. Each man starts teaching another in the following six months. At the end of the year, there are just four of them. Perhaps each one teaches a Bible class or helps in a street meeting, but at the same time his main interest is seeing how the new fellow he won to the Lord is doing. So at the end of the year the four of them get together and have a prayer meeting and determine, “Now, let’s not allow anything to sidetrack us. Let’s give the Gospel out to a lot of people, but let’s check up on at least one and see him through.”
So the four of them in the next six months each get a man. That makes eight at the end of a year and a half. They all go out after another and at the end of two years there are 16 men. At the end of three years there are 64 men; the 16 have doubled twice. At the end of five years there are 1,024. At the end of fifteen and a half years there are approximately 2,147,500,000. That is the present population of the world of persons over three years of age.
But wait a minute! Suppose that after the first man, A, helps B and B is ready to get his man while A starts helping another, B is sidetracked, washes out and does not produce his first man. Fifteen and one half years later you can cut your 2,147,500,000 down to 1,073,7500 because the devil caused B to be sterile.
God promised Abraham “… in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12), so Abraham waited a long, long time for that son. God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations was all wrapped up in that one son, Isaac. If Hitler had been present and had caused Isaac’s death when Abraham had his knife poised over him on Mount Moriah, Hitler could have killed every Jew in that one stroke.
I believe that is why Satan puts all his efforts into getting the Christian busy, busy, busy, but not producing.
Men, where is your man? Women, where is your woman? Where is the one whom you led to Christ and who is now going on with Him?
There is a story in 1 Kings, chapter 20 about a man who gave a prisoner to a servant and instructed the servant to guard the prisoner well. But as the servant was busy here and there the prisoner made his escape.
The curse of today is that we are too busy. I am not talking about being busy earning money to buy food. I am talking about being busy doing Christian things. We have spiritual activity with little productivity. And productivity comes as a result of what we call “follow-up.”
MAJORING IN REPRODUCING
Five years ago, Billy Graham came to me and said, “Daws, we would like you to help with our follow-up. I’ve been studying the great evangelists and the great revivals and I fail to see that there was much of a follow-up program. We need it. We are having an average of 6,000 people come forward to decide for Christ in a month’s campaign. I feel that with the work you have done you could come in and help us.”
I said, “Billy, I can’t follow up 6,000 people. My work has always been with individuals and small groups.”
“Look, Daws,” he answered, “everywhere I go I meet Navigators. I met them in school in Wheaton. They are in my school right now. (He was president of Northwestern Schools at that time.) There must be something to this.”
“I just don’t have time.” I said.
He tackled me again. The third time he pled with me and said, “Daws, I am not able to sleep nights for thinking of what happens to the converts after a crusade is over.”
At that time I was on my way to Formosa and I said, “While I am there I will pray about it, Billy.” On the sands of a Formosan beach I paced up and down two or three hours a day praying, “Lord, how can I do this? I am not even getting the work done You have given me to do. How can I take six months of the year to give to Billy?” But God laid the burden upon my heart.
Why should Billy have asked me to do it? I had said to him that day before I left for Formosa, “Billy, you will have to get somebody else.”
He took me by the shoulders and said, “Who else? Who is majoring in this?” I had been majoring in it.
What will it take to jar us out of our complacency and send us home to pray, “God, give me a girl or man whom I can win to Christ, or let me take one who is already won, an infant in Christ, and try to train that one so that he or she will reproduce!”
How thrilled we are to see the masses fill up the seats! But where is your man? I would rather have one “Isaac” alive than a hundred dead, or sterile, or immature.
BEGINNING OF FOLLOW-UP
One day years ago, I was driving along in my little Model T Ford and saw a young man walking down the street. I stopped and picked him up. As he got into the car, he swore and said, “It’s sure tough to get a ride.” I never hear a man take my Savior’s name in vain but what my heart aches. I reached into my pocket for a tract and said, “Lad, read this.”
He looked up at me and said, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”
I looked at him closely. He looked like someone I should know. We figured out that we had met the year before on the same road. He was on his way to a golf course to caddy when I picked him up. He had gotten into my car and had started out the same way with the name “Jesus Christ.” I had taken exception to his use of that name and had opened up the New Testament and shown him the way of salvation. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. In parting I had given him Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” “God bless you, son. Read this,” I said, and sped on my merry way.
A year later, there was no more evidence of the new birth and the new creature in this boy than if he had never heard of Jesus Christ.
I had a great passion to win souls and that was my great passion. But after I met this boy the second time on the way to the golf course, I began to go back and find some of my “converts.” I want to tell you, I was sick at heart. It seemed that Philippians 1:6 was not working.
An Armenian boy came into my office one day and told me about all the souls he had won. He said that they were all Armenians and had the list to prove it.
I said, “Well, what is this one doing?”
He said, “That one isn’t doing so good. He is backslidden.”
“What about this one?” We went all down the list and there was not one living a victorious life.
I said, “Give me your Bible.” I turned to Philippians and put a cardboard right under the 6th verse, took a razor blade out of my pocket and started to come down on the page. He grabbed my hand and asked, “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to cut this verse out,” I said, “It isn’t working.”
Do you know what was wrong? I had been taking the 6th verse away from its context, verses 3 through 7. Paul was not just saying, “All right, the Lord has started something, He will finish it.” But you know, that is what some people tell me when they win a soul. They say, “Well, I just committed him to God.”
Suppose I meet someone who has a large family and say to him, “Who is taking care of your children?”
“My family? Oh, I left them with the Lord.”
Right away I would say to that one, “I have a verse for you: ‘But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he…is worse than an infidel’ (1 Timothy 5:8).”
Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “Take heed…to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…” (Acts 20:28). You cannot make God the overseer. He makes you the overseer.
We began work on follow-up. This emphasis on finding and helping some of the converts went on for a couple or three years before the Navigator work started. By that time our work included fewer converts but more time spent with the converts. Soon I could say as Paul said to the Philippians, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). He followed up his converts with daily prayer and fellowship. Then he could say, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). In keeping with this the 7th verse reads: “Even as it is meet (or proper) for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart…”
Until this time I had forgotten to follow up the people God had reached through me. But from then on I began to spend time helping them. That is why sometime later when that first sailor came to me, I saw the value of spending three months with him. I saw an Isaac in him. Isaac had Jacob, and Jacob had the twelve, and all the rest of the nation came through them.
IT TAKES TIME TO DO GOD’S WORK
You can lead a soul to Christ in from 20 minutes to a couple of hours. But it takes from 20 weeks to a couple of years to get him on the road to maturity, victorious over the sins and the recurring problems that come along. He must learn how to make right decisions. He must be warned of the various “isms” that are likely to reach out with their octopus arms and pull him in and sidetrack him.
But when you get yourself a man, you have doubled your ministry — in fact, you have more than doubled your ministry. Do you know why? When you teach your man, he sees how it is done and he imitates you.
If I were the minister of a church and had deacons or elders to pass the plate and choir members to sing, I would say, “Thank God for your help. We need you. Praise the Lord for these extra things that you do,” but I would keep pressing home the big job — “Be fruitful and multiply.” All these other things are incidental to the supreme task of winning a man or woman to Jesus Christ and then helping him or her to go on.
Where is your man? Where is your woman? Do you have one? You can ask God for one. Search your hearts. Ask the Lord, “Am I spiritually sterile? If I am, why am I?”
Don’t let your lack of knowledge stand in the way of winning the lost. It used to be the plan of The Navigators in the early days that whenever the sailors were with us for supper each fellow was asked at the end of the meal to quote a verse.
I would say it this way, “Quote a verse you have learned in the last 48 hours if you have one. Otherwise, just give us a verse.” One evening as we quoted verses around the table, my little three-year-old daughter’s turn came. There was a new sailor next to her who did not think about her quoting Scripture, so without giving her an opportunity, he began. She looked up at him as much as to say, “I am a human being,” then she quoted John 3:16 in her own way. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only forgotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” She put the emphasis on the “whosoever” because when she was first taught the verse she could not pronounce that word. Days later that sailor came over and said to me, “You know, I was going to quote that verse of Scripture. It was the only one I knew. But I didn’t really know it, not until little Ruthie quoted it. When she said ‘whosoever,’ I thought, ‘that means me.’ Back on ship I accepted the Lord.” Today that young man is a missionary in South America.
Until several years after we were married, my wife’s father did not know the Lord. Here again God used children to reach a hungry heart. When Ruthie was three and Bruce was five, they went to visit Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa tried to get them to repeat nursery rhymes. He said, “Mary had a little lamb” and “Little Boy Blue,” but the children just looked at him and asked, “Who is Little Boy Blue?” He thought they did not know very much.
Their mother said, “They know some things. Quote Romans 3:23, Bruce.” This Bruce did. Then he asked, “Shall I quote another one, Grandpa?”
“Sure,” said Grandpa.
Bruce began to quote verses of Scripture, some 15 in all, and Ruth quoted some in between. This delighted Grandpa. He took them over to the neighbors and to the aunts and uncles, showing them how well these children knew the Scriptures. In the meantime the Word of God was doing its work. It was not long before the Holy Spirit, through the voices of babes, planted the seed in his heart. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength…” (Psalm 8:2).
Soul winners are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of the Person they know, how well they know Him and how much they long for others to know Him.
“Oh, but I am afraid,” someone says. Remember, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Nothing under heaven except sin, immaturity and lack of communion will put you in a position where you cannot reproduce. Furthermore, there is not anything under heaven that can keep a newly born again one from going on with the Lord if he has a spiritual parent to take care of him and give him the spiritual food God has provided for his normal growth.
Effects obey their causes by irresistible laws. When you sow the seed of God’s Word you will get results. Not every heart will receive the Word, but some will, and the new birth will take place. When a soul is born, give it the care that Paul gave new believers. Paul believed in follow-up work. He was a busy evangelist, but he took time for follow-up. The New Testament is largely made up of the letters of Paul which were follow-up letters to the converts.
James believed in it. “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only,” he said in James 1:22. Peter believed in it, for he said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). John believed in it, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). All the writings of Peter, Paul, James and most of the writings of John are food for the new Christian.
The Gospel spread to the known world during the first century without radio, television or the printing press, because these produced ones were were reproducing. But today we have a lot of pew sitters — people who think that if they are faithful in church attendance, put good-sized gifts into the offering plate and get people to come, they have done their part.
Where is your man? Where is your woman? Where is your boy? Where is your girl? Every one of us, no matter what age we are, should get busy memorizing Scripture. In one Sunday school class a woman 72 years of age and another who was 78 finished The Navigators Topical Memory System. They then had something to give.
Load your heart with this precious Seed. You will find that God will direct you to those whom you can lead to Christ. There are many hearts ready for the Gospel now.
December 29, 2016 Leave a comment
In 1996 Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) was awarded the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to promote the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.
Fasting for 40 days
(March 11, 2001)
Bill Bright, 78, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, author of The Four Spiritual Laws and the visionary behind the Jesus film, realized that even our most ambitious evangelism efforts were not turning the tide for Christ in our world. So each year since 1994, Bright has fasted for 40 days, drinking only water and juice. He lives in Orlando, Fla.
Bright spoke with Kerry Batchman of Campus Upgrade, the Chi Alpha publication of the Assemblies of God, about fasting and its role in global evangelism.
Evangel: You recently announced your retirement as director of Campus Crusade for Christ, International. How will your retirement impact your role in global evangelism?
Bright: Not retirement, refirement. I’m simply passing the torch of the presidency of Campus Crusade for Christ. I’m still involved in many things.
One of the additional things I’m doing is promoting fasting and prayer for worldwide revival. Everything I’m doing now — the emphasis on prayer and fasting worldwide and training – will dramatically accelerate everything I’ve done for the last 50 years. Our Lord Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, and He is our model and our mentor. The greatest thing a believer can do is follow the model of the Lord Jesus to seek the lost.
Evangel: Why has there been such an emphasis on fasting in your life in the last few years?
Bright: In 1994, God led me for my first 40-day fast. I’ve had seven since, one each year, to intercede for revival. I would say it was God’s timing. I’ve fasted and prayed shorter periods for years. I simply obeyed what He called me to do. He impressed me to write a book on prayer and fasting, The Coming Revival, America’s Call To Fast, Pray, and Seek God’s Face. He called me to invite Christian leaders to come and pray with me in Orlando in December 1994. That was the beginning of a movement worldwide.
There is a deep sense of the tragic disintegration of the morals of America and that is what prompted me to seek God’s face. I realized that all the things we’re doing are not enough. God doesn’t have to help; but, for those who humble themselves and cry out to God to be merciful to them, as sinners, God hears. I’ve seen the dramatic results in pastors and individuals; ministries and churches have been revolutionized.
Evangel: What is the relationship between fasting and global evangelism?
Bright: Fasting is preparing your heart for greater intimacy with God. You don’t earn brownie points. We already have the unlimited and inexhaustible love and favor of God. When we seek His face — as it says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (NIV) — we develop an intimacy we don’t experience any other way. God hears our prayers like He heard Jesus’ prayers. The disciples couldn’t cast out demons. Jesus said it comes by prayer and fasting. Jesus fasted 40 days. He gave the Great Commission: “Teach what I taught you.”
I strongly admonish every young pastor, seminarian and leader to fast at least one 40-day period of their lives.
Evangel: How does this apply to the individual believer?
Bright: It sharpens the believer to be salt and light in a way that he or she may not be if everything was business as usual. It gives one a greater sensitivity to God, to His Word and for lost souls.
Evangel: What do you say to the person who struggles to maintain a fast?
Bright: Just fast one moment at a time. Remember, you’re fasting to seek God’s face. Humble yourself. I encourage an individual to realize Jesus not only did it himself, but also commanded us to do what He did.
Fasting is good for your physical body. Fasting is a marvelous way of bringing healing to your body. When Satan seeks to discourage and frustrate you, just fast and pray — the Lord Jesus will help you.
I recommend water and fruit and vegetable juices without added sugar. I wouldn’t recommend water only without medical attention.
Evangel: Did you experience healing in your body during one of these fasts?
Bright: I wasn’t sick to my knowledge; but, as the 40 days progressed, I became aware that little arthritic pains in my hands had lessened. So my physical body benefited from the fast. I wasn’t even hungry for the 40 days.
Sometimes Satan makes you feel it’s a great sacrifice, but it’s really a great blessing. When my wife and I fasted together, our relationship with our Lord was enhanced and our relationship with each other was enhanced. You never lose.
Evangel: What sins should the American church be repenting from as it fasts?
Bright: The sins of gross disobedience; of insulting God by removing the Bible and prayer from schools, the way our founding fathers established it. Christ was Lord of Harvard, Princeton and Yale — all the major universities. God was expelled from schools in the ’60s; by the ’70s we were legalizing the murder of unborn babies. That continual posture has brought great dishonor to our Lord and our nation.
Evangel: Do you see hope for the church in this new millennium?
Bright: I see great hope. The situation is very dark now, but there are glimmers of light. I am optimistic we’ll see revival.
Evangel: What is your bottom line on prayer and fasting?
Bright: The final word: Every believer should take seriously the admonition to fast and pray. Again, Jesus commands us to do what He did, and that included a 40-day fast. God would never command you to do anything without His blessing and ability. I would strongly admonish anyone who is able-bodied — not diabetic or hypoglycemic — to one 40-day fast for the advancement of the Great Commission and revival.
Releasing God’s Power Through Fasting By Bill Bright
A discussion on prayer would not be complete without including a subject that is an important companion to prayer in the Bible: fasting.
Combining fasting with prayer can result in a spiritual atomic bomb that pulls down spiritual strongholds and releases the power of God in your life and the life of your church, its pastor, its leaders, and its members.
Down through the centuries, godly people who have done mighty things for the Lord have testified to the necessity of prayer with fasting. John Wesley, who shook the world for God during the Great Awakening, which gave rise to the Methodist Church toward the end of the eighteenth century, is representative of such great spiritual leaders.
John Wesley so believed in this power that he urged early Methodists to fast and pray every Wednesday and Friday. He felt so strongly about fasting those two days a week that he refused to ordain anyone in Methodism who wouldn’t agree to do it.
The roll call of other great Christian leaders who determined to make prayer with fasting a part of their lives reads like a hall of fame: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, Charles Finney, Andrew Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many more.
Why were they so convinced of the need for fasting and prayer? And how does fasting cause the fire of God to fall upon the life of the individual and the Church?
OUR NEED TO FAST
The writings of Scripture, the church fathers, and many Christian leaders of today offer several biblical insights into the spiritual need for fasting:
IT IS A BIBLICAL WAY TO TRULY HUMBLE ONESELF IN THE SIGHT OF GOD (PS. 35:13;EZRA 8:21).
IT BRINGS REVELATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF A PERSON’S TRUE SPIRITUAL CONDITION, RESULTING IN BROKENNESS, REPENTANCE, AND CHANGE.
IT IS A CRUCIAL MEANS FOR PERSONAL REVIVAL BECAUSE IT BRINGS THE INNER WORKINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT INTO PLAY IN A MOST UNUSUAL, POWERFUL WAY.
IT HELPS US BETTER UNDERSTAND THE WORD OF GOD BY MAKING IT MORE MEANINGFUL, VITAL, AND PRACTICAL.
IT TRANSFORMS PRAYER INTO A RICHER AND MORE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
IT CAN RESULT IN DYNAMIC PERSONAL REVIVAL–BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT AND REGAINING A STRONG SENSE OF SPIRITUAL DETERMINATION.
IT CAN RESTORE THE LOSS OF ONE’S FIRST LOVE FOR THE LORD.
Throughout the Old and New Testament eras and during the last two thousand years, fasting was a primary means of humbling oneself before God.
In Isaiah 58:5, the prophet describes fasting as a “day for a man to afflict his soul” (NKJV). And in Psalm 69:10, David says he “chastened” his soul with fasting (NKJV). And in Psalm 35:13, he says he “humbled” his soul by abstaining from food.
Humility is an attitude of the heart. The Scripture says, “A broken and contrite heart–these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17 NKJV). God will hear us and respond to our cry when we come before Him in humility and brokenness–acknowledging and repenting of our sins, and asking Him to cleanse us by the blood of Jesus and to fill us with His Holy Spirit.
HOW DOES FASTING HELP?
Fasting is also a primary means of restoration. By humbling our souls, fasting releases the Holy Spirit to do His special work of revival in us. This changes our relationship with God forever, taking us into a deeper life in Christ and giving us a greater awareness of God’s reality and presence in our lives.
Fasting reduces the power of self so that the Holy Spirit can do a more intense work within us. It also helps in other ways:
IT BRINGS A YIELDEDNESS, EVEN A HOLY BROKENNESS, RESULTING IN INNER CALM AND SELF-CONTROL.
IT RENEWS SPIRITUAL VISION AND FAITH.
IT INSPIRES DETERMINATION TO FOLLOW GOD’S REVEALED PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE.
The discipline of fasting made a powerful impact in the life of Andrew Murray, who wrote, “Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice everything, [even] ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”
FASTING BRINGS POWER
The early church recognized fasting as a means to obtaining spiritual power. In his book God’s Chosen Fast, Arthur Wallis writes, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and [persistence] into our praying, and to give force to our pleas in the court of heaven.”
But over the years, Wallis continues, “as spirituality waned and worldliness flourished in the churches, the power and gifts of the Spirit were withdrawn.”
This same spiritual erosion can and does occur in the life of the believer today. But God’s Word declares fasting and prayer as a powerful means for causing the fire of God to fall again in a person’s life.
This fire produces the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22)–but especially the fruit of righteousness and spiritual power over lusts of the flesh and the lies of the enemy of our souls.
In is book Fasting, author and teacher Derek Prince describes fasting as “a tremendous lesson in establishing who is the master and who is the servant. Remember, your body is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” And, according to Galatians 5:17, the flesh, or carnal nature, always strives to be in control.
As fasting and prayer bring surrender of body, soul, and spirit to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they also generate a heightened sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit; they create a fresh, clean joy and a restored determination to serve God. In short, they bring personal revival. Our spiritual power does not lie in money, genius, plans, or dedicated work. Rather, power for spiritual conquest comes from the Holy Spirit as people seek God’s face in consecrated diligent prayer with fasting.
FASTING IN GOD’S WORD
As revealed by just a cursory look at any concordance, fasting is mentioned frequently in God’s Holy Word. Often it is associated with weeping and other acts of humility before God. In Joel 2:12-13 the Lord commanded:
Return to me with all your heart, With fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God.
In the Old Testament, fasting was the way individuals and the people humbled themselves (Ps. 35:13; 69:10; Isa. 58:5). God’s people have always fasted to humble themselves, to receive cleansing of their sins by effective repentance, for spiritual renewal, and for special helps. Ezra called a fast to seek God’s protection for the Jews returning from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:21).
Concerning Ezra, Edith Schaeffer writes in The Life of Prayer:
This serious fasting and prayer, bowing humbly before God with repentance and concern for His mercy, took place in the context of practical need–for protection and guidance, for help in choices and for the supply of material things.
In the New Testament, Luke records the account of a prophetess named Anna who in her eighties “never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37).
Jesus set the example by fasting forty days after His baptism. For Jesus it was a matter of when believers would fast, not if they would do it. He spoke in these terms: “When you give to the needy…when you pray…when you fast” (Matthew 6:2,5,16).
Prophets and teachers fasted at Antioch (Acts 13:1-2), and Paul–who wrote much of the New Testament–said he was “in fastings often” (2 Cor. 11:27 NKJV).
For believers, then, the question is not “Should I fast?” but ” When will I fast?”
WHEN TO FAST
Some teach that you should fast only when led or prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. But being led by the Spirit and hearing the Spirit involve a highly subjective, personal area of the Christian life. Believers do not always hear accurately, especially if God is asking them to do something they do not want to do.
The flesh will surely try to override inner promptings to abstain from food. God may be calling you to fast, but the flesh may be saying, “That’s just your imagination. How is fasting going to get you out of this situation?”
Once you learn the purpose and benefits of fasting, you are free to proclaim a fast whenever you sense the desire to draw close to God in a dynamic way or feel the need to seek special help from Him.
Those who consistently practice fasting know instinctively when to do so. They recognize certain spiritual conditions and life circumstances as the signal to “bear down” spiritually. I try to live according to Philippeans 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
In his book Fasting: A Biblical Historical Study, by R.D. Chatham tells of a pastor’s wife who kept a diary of her fasts. She recorded how she and her husband were changing pastorates and felt overwhelmed by their new responsibilities and realized they needed God’s help. Together they fasted for ten days. She said that if she had not fasted–and as a result received special strength from the Lord–she would have “gone under.”
Of course, the still, small voice of the Spirit, always consistent with the Word of God, will tell us what to do if we will only listen. There are times when the Holy Spirit will prompt you to fast. On another page in her diary, the pastor’s wife reported, “Monday: I awoke feeling the need to go on a fast.” Such prompting of the Holy Spirit can come anytime, anyplace.
It is particularly important to receive a leading of the Lord before beginning an extended spiritual fast. If you undertake a long fast simply on your own, you may run into difficulties. But if the Lord leads you into a protracted fast, He will give you the strength to carry it out.
In 1994 God impressed me over a period of several months that He wanted me to fast for forty days. But I was not sure I could fast for that long. Even so, I began my fast with the prayer, “Lord, I will fast as long as You will enable me. I am looking to You to help me. I am claiming Your promise recorded in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (NKJV). God was faithful to His promise. That fast was the greatest forty days of my life spiritually up until that time.
I have since fasted with great blessing for forty days in 1995 and again in 1996. In 1997, as I write, I am beginning my fourth forty-day fast. My wife, Vonette, is joining me in this adventure to seek God’s face.
HOW TO BEGIN AND CONDUCT YOUR FAST
How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. Permit me to suggest steps to take that will help make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding, while at the same time enhancing your physical health.
Set an Objective
The first step is to set a specific objective. Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Keeping your goal in focus will help you sustain your fast when physical desires and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it.
I personally believe the Holy Spirit has given all believers an urgent call to humble ourselves through fasting and prayer so that He may stir our souls, awaken our churches, and heal our land according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. I urge you to make personal, local, national, and world revival and the fulfillment of the Great Commission your primary purpose for fasting.
Lay a Spiritual Foundation
The second step is to prepare yourself spiritually. The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. In Scripture, God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers.
As you begin your fast, I encourage you to confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance. Include the obvious sins and those not so apparent, such as leaving your first love for the Lord, worldly-mindedness, self-centeredness, and spiritual indifference–being unwilling to share your faith in Christ with others, unwilling to help at church, unwilling to spend time in God’s Word and prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in your heart that is not pleasing to God and claim the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV).
Make Physical Preparations
The third step is to prepare yourself physically. Do not rush into a fast. If you plan to go without food for several days, you find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. This sends your mind a signal that you have entered the time of the fast, and it helps to “shrink” your stomach and appetite.
Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast.
Preparing yourself physically makes a drastic change in your eating routine a little easier. Then you can turn your full attention to the Lord in prayer.
Ask God for Guidance
The fourth step is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the kind of fast God wants you to undertake. Does He want you to go completely without food, consuming only water? Or only water and juices? Is He asking you to fast one meal a day, one day a week, or several days or weeks at a time? Is God leading you to undertake a forty-day fast? Inviting the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this matter will make your time with God more meaningful.
Token fasting, such as giving up chocolates or lemon pie or some other favorite food, may be commendable, but it does not allow the Holy Spirit to do the inner work necessary to bring about real changes in your spiritual life. Nor does it persuade God that you are serious about revival for America and the world and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
As I pointed out earlier, the biblical fast usually calls for water. I have conducted many strictly water fasts for a day or several days at a time with special blessings. However I strongly suggest adding vegetable and fruit juices to your intake, although some advice against orange or tomato juice because of acid content.
Once you know how to fast, short fasts of one to three days require no more than water. Christians who fast regularly often go ten days or longer on water–even up to forty days–with beneficial effects, both spiritually and physically, under the daily supervision of one who is knowledgeable about water fasting. You have more food reserves stored in body fat than you realize, and most of us would be more than happy to give up the fat.
However, until you build up your “fasting muscles,” or if your are undertaking a long fast, you may want to add vegetable or fruit juices (preferably without sugar or sweeteners) to your intake.
The fifth step is to limit your activity level. Exercise moderately. Rest as much as your schedule will permit. Short naps are very helpful. “Resting is not a sin,” Dr. Ruidbal explains. “Fasting in the strictest sense is physiological rest. Your body rests from the processes involved in digestion and the assimilation of food to concentrate on excretion.”
That is why during the fast you may experience side effects. “Some people experience headaches, stomach aches, nausea, foul tastes in their mouth, or a pasty tongue,” Dr. Ruibal says. “Their urine may become darker, and even their perspiration may smell worse than usual. Vomiting may occur. This is not normal but should not be cause for alarm. In a prolonged fast, it is not unusual to experience slight fever. Basically, the body is taking advantage of the fast to clean and heal itself.”
Consider Your Medications
The sixth step is to consider your medications. It is particularly important that you consult with your doctor before going on a fast if you are on any prescribed medication.
Plan Your Prayer Time
The seventh step is to set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord during your fast. The more time you spend with Him in fellowship, worship, and adoration and the more you read and meditate on His Word during your fast, the greater your effectiveness will be in prayer and the more meaningful your fast will be.
Seek God in prayer and as you meditate on His Word each morning before you leave home or go about your daily routine. Return to prayer at lunch, and come before Him again in the evening for unhurried times seeking His face. Of course, you should practice His presence and continue to have fellowship with Him constantly as your pray without ceasing throughout the day.
There is not set formula for how to pray when you fast. You may wish to pray aloud or silently, asking the Lord to grant specific requests. I suggest you make a list and add to it daily as needs come to mind. Pray earnestly for your family, your pastor, your church, your community, and our nation. Pray for revival in our land and a great worldwide spiritual harvest. Pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
You may wait before God in quiet meditation as you invite the Holy Spirit to minister to you and bring to mind those things He wants you to pray about.
You should go about your daily activities mindful that your are still fasting and seeking the Lord. Some of my deepest spiritual insights have come as I continue my ministry responsibilities while seeking His face and practicing His presence.
If you do not know what to pray for, or you feel “prayed out,” wait quietly before Him. Turn to the psalms or other favorite passages of Scripture and pray the Word of God back to Him. For example, pray each verse of Psalm 23 aloud, thanking Him for performing each of those promises in your life. Worship and praise the Lord. Tell God how much you love Him and want to serve Him. Invite His presence into your life in a fresh way.
You may wish to approach God with the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. Generally, this prayer covers everything we could possibly ask or say to God. As an introduction to this prayer, Jesus reminded His disciples that “your Father knows the things that you need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8 NKJV).
Now that you have an idea of how to go about fasting, it is time to fix your gaze upon the One who sees you and knows you–the One who delights in you and is waiting for you to come before Him.
HOW TO BREAK YOUR FAST
When your designated time of fasting is finished, you will begin to eat again. But how you break your fast is extremely important–both for your physical and spiritual well-being.
If you end your fast gradually, as you should, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will linger for days. But if you rush into eating solid foods–the prospect of food can tempt you to do that–you may experience diarrhea, sickness, fainting, and even death due to shock. This is especially true of an extended fast. Nutritionist Paul Bragg explains in The Miracle of Fasting :
When you have been on a …fast, your stomach and the thirty feet of intestinal tract have contracted, and when you are ready to break a fast, it should be done (with special care).
Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract always creates defeating effects. You can lose much of your deep sense of peace and well-being in the space of a single meal. Even a three-day fast requires reasonable precautions. It is wise to start with a little soup–something thin and nourishing, such as vegetable broth made from onion, celery, potatoes, and carrots–and fresh fruits such as watermelon and cantaloupe.
As your body accepts these foods, advance to a few tablespoons of solid food such as raw fruits and vegetables or a raw salad and baked potato. (I do not recommend milk or milk products and meat because some individuals may suffer adverse reactions to these after a fast.) Then, several hours later, try another small snack. The idea is to ease back into regular eating with several small snacks during the first few days. This requires discipline, but you will avoid the severe pain and other serious physical reactions that come from eating too much too soon.
I terminated my forty-day with a cup of soup, followed by small amounts of watermelon and other fruits every few hours for a couple of days until I was comfortable to resume my normal routine of eating. As you can imagine, that cup of soup and first few bites of solid food were ecstasy. Never had ordinary food tasted so good.
No two persons will experience the same effects of a fast because no two persons go into it in exactly the same condition or with the same needs. But if you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord in repentance, intercession, and worship and consistently meditate on His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His presence. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. And you will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed…
Most people experience a measure of revival as a result of fasting. In addition, you will begin to see God’s hand move in the situation that originally drove you to your knees and to fasting, including spiritual awakening and revival for your pastor, your church, and your church leaders.
I encourage you to join me in fasting and praying again and again until we truly experience God’s best in our lives, our homes, our churches, our beloved nation, and our world.