How To Have Clarity In Life

It was in Calcutta that the ethicist John Kavanaugh met Mother Teresa at her centre. He came there to spend three months and to get a clear answer regarding his future. When Mother Teresa asked him what she can do for him, he asked for prayer.

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At that point, she asked him his request. Happily and longingly he said, “Pray that I have clarity.”

She was quick to reply “No. I will not do that.” Then she said “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” Kavanaugh retorted that she seemed to have so much clarity – which is exactly what he wanted in life. But quickly she said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.*

Trust forfeits control and clarity. We work hard to devise a clear path to the plans we have for our lives. But life seems to ignore our plans and takes a path of its own. It goes completely out of our control. The steering wheel seems to turn on its own will. Then we see our plans in the “rear-view mirror.”

Job was a man who looked in his “rear-view mirror” and saw his plans left behind. Looking ahead, he only saw darkness, gloom, and death. But finally God broke through the darkness from above and gave him a new perspective. God said “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).

He wanted Job to know that even if his life seemed to be completely out of control, God is the creator and holds everything in his hands.

So, what do you see in your “rear-view mirror”? Are your plans lying there all shattered with the broken pieces of your life?” Then when you look ahead what do you see? You don’t even want to think about it? Complete darkness? Now, its time to look up and trust God. He holds everything firmly in his hands.

One thing God asks of you is to trust him with your life: Your career, family, health, and all your dreams for the future.

Would you share what you see in your “rear-view mirror”?

Leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

*This story comes from Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God.

What Do You Value?

Values determine who we are and what we do. They give us direction in ministry and life. Our practices are determined by what we value.

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1. Bible Teaching – Theology and Practice of The Kingdom

  • The Kingdom of God and its effects are the basis for much of the Old Testament perspectives on the coming Messiah.

  • When Jesus the Messiah came, he preached and did the works of God’s Kingdom.

  • We see the Kingdom of God as an important theme that is intertwined throughout the Bible.

  • We wish to see the “already and not yet” of the kingdom in our words and deeds.

  • This is expressed through healing that is physical, emotional, and social. It is also expressed through doing justice and deliverance for those held captive physically and spiritually.

2.Culturally Current – Culturally Relevant Mission

  • One of the vital purposes of the church is to reach out to those who are lost.

  • The Good News should be delivered to all peoples and to every type of people.

  • We are to “translate” the message of Jesus into the language and forms of various peoples an cultures.

  • We wish to be creative and innovative in doing ministry to reach those who are far away from God.

  • Simplicity – the value of the next generation. We don’t do things for the sake of “effect.”

3. Ministry to the Poor – Compassionate Ministry

  • God has a special place in his heart for the lost, poor, outcasts, and foreigners.

  • We are to reach them with the compassion of Christ.

  • There must be an attitude of mercy as we reach out to the poor.

  • We must value the words of Jesus “as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

  • We must be moved with compassion for the poor – regardless of the cause of their sufferings.

4. Evangelism – Reconciling Community

  • The basic reason for the incarnation of Jesus is to reconcile people to God and to each other.

  • We are committed to being a community of healing so that we can reconcile people to God where sin has separated them from him.

  • Our personal preferences must be put aside to minister to those who are lost.

  • We are to be a community that reconciles people to God.

  • Purposely break barriers of race, culture, gender, and class for the purpose of the Gospel.

5. Worship – Experiencing God

  • We respond to God and his love for us through worship.

  • Since God’s presence is real in our midst, we respond to him in worship.

  • Praise, adoration and expressions of our love to God are important aspects of worship.

  • We avoid hype and manipulation in our worship.

  • A natural interaction with the people and their God is our expectation in worship.

These are important core values that we value and cherish in our church. We wish to see these elements expressed and practised in the church and the lives of the believers.

This and other useful posts are listed on the Ministry Resources page.

The Good, The Bad, and the Confusing

Several years ago we lived in Bangalore for two years. At that time, Shivaji Nagar was the place where we did a lot of our shopping for basic groceries and meat.

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Once while purchasing meat I said to the man “give me something lean with less fat.” He looked at me with surprise and said “that’s the best part — why wold you want to remove it?” I said “are you serious? You really prefer the fat?” He patted his stomach with a big smile and said: “Meat is best with plenty of fat in it.”

I walked away with my purchase of lean meat with a bit of surprise. I realized what was of no value to me was of great value to that man at the meat shop. What some people consider a blessing may also be considered a curse for others.

In the book of Job, Elihu recognized this duality in relation to nature and God’s work when he said: “He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightening. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the hapitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen” (Job 37:11-13).

Elihu used rain as an example to explain that God’s work in some people is seen as a curse while others see it as a blessing. Rain may cause havoc in a land with flooding, landslides, and other calamities. This is seen as a curse. Some people say “the gods are angry at us.”

But far away, some farmer may have been waiting for the rain in its due season. For him, it is a blessing. Then I remember the words of Elihu: “Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.”

Others around you are doing so well, but you feel like life is tearing you to pieces – a confusing place to be in. Maybe you’re wondering if God still remembers you. You’re wondering if God still remembers you. You’ve probably concluded that the “pieces” of your life can never be put back together again. God has a clear and definite plan for your life. To you and to others, life may not seem to be fair, but God is busy working on your life.

You see some good, lots of bad, and you are completely confused. But just remember: “Whether for correction or for …love, he causes it to happen.” You are God’s child and you are still in his plans. He is still working on you. Give him time.

What is God doing in your life right now?

Leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

 

How To Pray For The Sick

Healing Prayer

Healing prayer for the sick has been an area of contention and misunderstanding for a long time. I believe it was God’s intention to release all the gifts of the Spirit to all of His children. At the bottom of this post, I’ve mentioned some resources you can consult to get a deeper understanding and a proper framework regarding healing.

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I.  PERSPECTIVE

We will look at healing from the perspective of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom expected

  • Throughout the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God was expected to come in the future.
  • Although the situation in the world seemed to be deteriorating, a future expectation was clear.
  • Some highlights: Creation and dominion, The fall and promise, Call of Abraham, Israel as a kingdom of priests, Kingship and the promise of a future King of Israel, Voice of the prophets, Messianic expectation, Intertestimental eschatology.

The Kingdom Now but Not Yet

  • Jesus came preaching the Good News of the Kingdom against the backdrop of these expectations.
  • God himself has come to dwell among people. The teaching and demonstration of Jesus was focused on explaining and revealing God’s kingdom on this earth.
  • Although the kingdom was inaugurated at the time of Jesus, it would only come in its fullness at a future time. For now, the Kingdom of Evil exists alongside the Kingdom of God.
  • Therefore, we see the works of the kingdom of God active through changed lives, healing, and the miraculous. But we also see the active evidence of the kingdom of Evil on this earth. So the Kingdom of God is here Now, but Not yet in its fullness.

 

II.  PRACTICE

Here are five steps to use as you heal the sick. Use it and bless others (and be blessed).

1. Ask the person about their pain.

● Find out details about their sickness.

● Find out where it hurts, when it started, and if the pain is constant intermittent. Find out if they are experiencing the pain now (at the time of prayer).

● Be loving and friendly.

2. Listen to the person and the Holy Spirit.

  • The Spirit will speak to you about their condition. He will show you the root of the problem.
  • Listen carefully to the person and get a clear understanding about their pain.

● The problem may just be a physical one.

● Often there is a spiritual dimension.

● It may be related to various issues of rejection, unforgiveness, jealousy, sin, and a host of other emotional problems may cause the sickness they are suffering.

3. Decide how to pray.

  • Based on the information from the person and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, make a decision how you should pray for this person.

● Prayer of petition

  • Help them to forgive others (deal with issues of unforgiveness)
  • They may need to confess sins to God.

● Command the sickness to leave, the body parts to be re-aligned, etc.

4. Pray

● Be focused and determined. Let your words be few. Don’t pray like a “chatter-box.”

● Have faith that God will heal, but at the same time, allow Him to be sovereign, if He doesn’t.

  • Pray with your eyes open – to see what God is doing in/on that person.
  • Speak to the condition, the body part, the pain, etc.
  • After several attempts, pray against the Spirit of Sickness and command it to leave the person’s body.

***Now, go back to step 1 and ask again how they feel. If they are completely healed, go to step 5. Otherwise, go through the first four steps several times until healing occurs. If the person is not healed after several attempts, there are several possibilities:

  • The healing will be gradual.
  • Emotional healing is required.
  • Spiritual issues need to resolved.
  • Healing will occur gradually through the use of medicines and prayer.
  • Unknown reasons that the Holy Spirit may reveal later.

5. Encourage – Give final directions

  • A word of encouragement and love will bring the prayer session to a proper close.
  • Offer a verse from the Bible as an encouragement or instruction.
  • Words of instruction also may be given on maintaining the healing
  • Encourage them to pray for the healing of others

Resources

 

How Does God Get Your Attention?

The train from Bangalore was packed with passengers after our group of about sixty people entered with our luggage. A young man in his mid twenties was frantically pushing his way through this crowd and their luggage. As he made his way closer to where I was standing, I said to him, “Where are you going?” He said “My seat is on the other side and I need to sit down.” I said “Look, you’re not getting very far through this thick crowd any time soon.”

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Just then the train jolted a bit and all the passengers were shoved to one side with the movement of the train. I saw this young man grabbing his leg with a painful expression on his face. When I asked him, he told me that for over two years he had been suffering pain from torn ligaments. He opened his bag and showed me all the medicines he had just purchased. For two years, he had been back and forth from one doctor to another. When I asked him if I could pary for him, he reluctantly agreed. After a short prayer, he was instantly healed. Soon, other passengers began tugging on my shirt, asking for prayer.

I was astonished at the response of the people and the extent of their needs. So many are in pain and in need of God’s touch. And it is this pain and brokenness that God uses to draw us to him. If it wasn’t for the pain, we may not realize our need of God. One of Job’s friends recognized this and said “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity (Job 36:15).

That young man who was healed on the train is now a follower of Jesus. It took two years of pain for God to get his attention. His Ligaments were torn due to natural causes – God didn’t cause it. But God decided to show him mercy and kindness when he healed him. It was God’s mercy that drew him to God.

What are the situations in your life that show your need of God and his mercy? What are the ways in which God is drawing you to him?

Leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

Are You Completely Shaken Up to the Core?

It was a long night of hard work. They were quite experienced and knew their craft well, but each attempt proved to be of no use. Their hearts sank as they experienced failure after failure.

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High Risk Increases Value
The survival of their families was on the line. The reputation of their business was at stake here. When all the fishermen came to shore, they will be the only ones with nothing to show for their work.

Failure Confuses the Emotions
They didn’t speak much to each other as they each felt the heaviness in their own hearts. This continued even through the time they were washing their nets after an unprofitable night of work.

Sometimes, God’s Ways Confuse the Situation Even More
After Jesus “borrowed” Peter’s boat in the most uncommon way, he made an unusual request. “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4b). It seemed more of a command than a request.

Obedience May Not Always be from the Heart
It must have been in total frustration that Simon replies “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will net down the nets” (Luke 4:5). This unusual request brought such an unusual catch of fish, that Peter was utterly shaken. How could such an impossible thing happen?

When God Does His Work, He May Shake us up Completely.
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord” (Luke 4:8).    When Peter experienced the work of Jesus, he was impacted,  even to the core of his being.

Be Quick to Repent When God Shakes You up.
Job had a similar heart-shaking experience with God. This experience literally changed him to the core. He responded: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

At what level do we know God? Do we know him well enough to shake us up to the core of our being? Or, is it just a passing acquaintance?

Give your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

From Bondage to Freedom

When Bondage is the Norm

I’ve always wondered about those animals used for farm labor. They spend most of their days toiling under the hot Sun. Carying the weight of the plow and pulling the soil apart with all their might.

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For all this hard work and effort, they are frequently rewarded with a lash of the whip. It is a similar plight experienced by various animals that are used for labor. But what about those animals in the wild that are free?

When Bondage is Unknown

When God rebuked Job for his lack of trust, this was one of the examples used. “Who has let the wild donkey free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and his salt land for his dwelling place? He scorns the tumult of the city, he hears not the shouts of the driver.” (Job 39:5-7)

But the animals used for labor have never known freedom. They have spent their entire life in captivity. This kind of life has become normal for them.

When Bondage Becomes Identity

For humans, God intended for us to be free. We were to have domonion over the whole earth. But one by one, our experiences and struggles have “enslaved” us. We have somewhat “acquired” much of the bondage that we face. In fact, for so many, their situations have such a strong grip on them that they cannot think differently. It is as if this has become their identity in life. They have never known anything different.

When Freedom Replaces Bondage

In the midst of this bondage and brokenness, God shows up with his mercy. His kingdom invades our “normal” situation of bondage and we get a glimpse of fredom.

Once we get a taste of that freedom, we are hooked. Of course, life becomes an even greater struggle of breaking out of our bondage and living in the freedom that God offers. Its a quest that continues throughout our lives, constantly moving towards more and more freedom in Christ.

Then one day we’ll reach home and know the ultimate freedom that God intended for us.

In which areas do you feel “bound” and need freedom? Share your experiences of tasting God’s freedom.

Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post by clcking here.

SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LEADING DISCUSSIONS

Discussions are quite effective for learning and integration with one’s personal life. But, effectively leading a discussion is far from easy. From my high school days, I have struggled with leading discussions. Teaching, and preaching are comparatively easier since they are mostly one-way approaches, but discussions provide a whole new set of challenges. Through the years, I have experimented with several methods of groups and styles. Here are some things I’ve learned.

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 1. Find proper seating – not prominent, but visible

When leading a discussion, you are the “leader,” but you don’t want to seem like the one with all the answers. Mostly, your role is to be a facilitator of the discussion. So, find a seat that is visible to everyone in the group, but it should not be where you seem to be in the prominent place. Each person in the group is valuable and their input is encouraged. Your seating should be strategically placed to allow such an interaction.

2. Ask open-ended questions

Questions are the fuel that propel a lively and fruitful discussion. Avoid closed-ended questions that can be answered with just one word. Use open-ended questions that require more thought and detailed answers. For example, you could ask the closed-ended question “Do you find this passage Helpful?” The obvious answer would be either yes or no. But if you can ask an open-ended question such as: “Tell us how this passage has been of help to you,” the answer requires a more thoughtful response and can move the discussion forward.

3. Draw in the silent ones

Some desire the limelight while many prefer to hide behind the shadow of others. These silent ones may seem insignificant, but can provide great insight for the discussion. Their involvement will also improve their learning and receptivity. The easiest way to draw them into the discussion is to ask a follow up question. For example, after someone answers a question, you can ask one of the silent ones “Would you like to add to that?” Or, “What do you think about this?” This allows them to tag along with the answer already given by someone.

4. Re-direct the discussion from talkative ones

The lively members of the group are certainly necessary, but they need to be directed carefully. Without hurting their feelings, learn to re-direct the conversation toward others. Use approaches like this one: “Thank you for your insight. Now Lisa, what do you say about this?” Or you can ask: “Lisa, what would you like to add to this?”

5. Ask follow-up questions to clarify, evaluate, and to provoke

During the discussion, ask questions to clarify what you have heard them say. You can say things like “So you mean to say…- is that right?” Some questions can evaluate the matter of discussion with questions like: “What other ways can we understand this issue?” Often, people need to be provoked to get them to think creatively: “If you were to disagree with this view, how would you handle this situation?” In this way, you can clarify the opinions of the people, evaluate the issues even further, and provoke the people to think more deeply and differently.

6. Strive for discussion among the members

Getting the discussion started with open-ended questions is only the first step. But the most fruitful discussion happens when the members begin to discuss among themselves. Sometimes, the discussion may only occur with the leader. It may become a question and answer session with just the leader. The discussion moves forward to a higher level when the group members begin to respond to each other.

7. Move the discussion toward application before concluding

Discussion of the topic alone can become a discussion for the sake of discussion. The ultimate aim is to lead the people to a changed thinking, changed hearts, and changed lives. Keep your eyes on the clock and at an appropriate time, move towards application. Ask directed questions like: “How can we make this useful for us this week?” Or you can ask: “Think of three ways you will accomplish this during the week.”

Leading a discussion appropriately can be a rewarding experience for the entire group. The more you lead discussions the better you will become. Just keep your focus on improving yourself as a leader (of discussions).

Please give your response in the comments section of this blog post.

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TEACHING

Teaching has been a part of my life since I was a college student. Beginning with Sunday School classes and teaching practicums, this has been a wonderful journey for me. Here are some things I have learned about the teaching process.

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1. Preparation and expertise is are ongoing processes

People who teach are on a journey. Its a journey of learning, implementing, teaching, and again back to learning. The process continues as we develop as a person and as a teacher. Its not possible to claim that you have mastered any subject. You just have some basic knowledge, and you continue to learn.

 2. Continuously put things in the broad perspective

Students need to be continually reminded of the big picture. Why are we studying what we study? This applies to classes in Sunday Schools to Seminaries. If they don’t get the big picture, they quickly loose focus.

 3. Don’t impress, but aim for clarity

Although it is important to be likable, the focus should not be to impress. Trying to impress students with your vast knowledge and ability can simply backfire. Focus your attention on providing clarity to your subject. Give them opportunities for that “Aha” moment where learning leads to discovery and passion.

 4. Focus on life-change and comprehension than finishing the lesson

As a teacher, you are responsible to finish the course outline. But that should not be your main focus. Aim for life-change. Make sure that your students leave your class as a changed person. Focus your teaching on impacting their hearts, not just their minds.

 5. Connect at a personal level rather than “positionally.”

Although you are the “Teacher,” make sure to connect with the students at a more personal level. Be vulnerable as an individual who is struggling to learn and make that life change in yourself. Go beyond your position as the teacher, and become much more.

 6. Start from where they are and bring them along with you

With whatever subject you teach, figure out where they are at the present. Ask questions at the beginning of the course. Take note of ongoing class discussions and evaluate where they are in their thinking and practice. These discussions help you to see if they are coming along with you or if you’ve left them behind much earlier.

7. Continue to learn from the Master Teacher

Jesus is our best example of one who teaches with his life. He is the Master Teacher from whom we can learn. Develop and maintain your relationship with Jesus. As your life is enriched through a relationship with Jesus, that will overflow from your life to your students.

Please leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TRAINING LEADERS

For leaders, the only way to keep moving forward is to keep developing leaders. Once you stop developing leaders, your progress also stops. Investing your life to develop other leaders is essential to the future of any leader. Here’s what I’ve learned:

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1. Everyone has leadership potential
Working with the view that there is potential in everyone can be quite rewarding. You will see the most “unlikely” people rising up to take the challenge of leadership. When given the opportunity, and when people begin to believe that more is possible, they move forward one step at a time.

2. Each person is different and leads differently
People often lead according to their own personality styles. Allow for differences in styles as you train them. Help them to see the value in the differences. These differences make them who they are in a unique way.

3. Look for FAST people
These are some amazing qualities that cannot be taught but grow out of a development of inate character. So look for people that are Faithful, Available, Submissive, and Teachable. Skills and knowledge can be taught and developed over time. So, when you find FAST type of people, grab them and invest in them.

4. Be in it for the long haul
Developing leaders is a long and ardous effort. Since it is a process which takes years, be willing to put in the time. Some develop quickly and others take time. Hang in there so you can look back in the future and see the long trail of leaders you leave behind. That will be your true leggacy and gift to the next generation.

5. Think of each encounter (and person) as an investment
Every time you encounter someone in your organization, see it as an an opportunity to develop them and bring them up to the next level. This perspective will significantly elevate the quality of your interaction with them.

6. A period of “incubation” is needed
For some people, they simply need time to develop. They may have the qualities that are needed (FAST), but still need time to deal with their personal issues.

7. Finally, release them
The leaders you develop are not yours forever. They will be with you for a time, but eventually they must be released to be on their own or to move on to another organization. Sometimes, another leader, or another situation may be what is needed to move them up to the next level. Ultimately, your true and genuine goal is to develop them.

Please leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

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