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.


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?

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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.


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.

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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.


 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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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.


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.

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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:


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.

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In the early 1980’s while I was a college student in Fresno California, I attended a church where the pastor taught that believers are to pray for the sick.  In those days, the idea that all believers are to heal the sick was unacceptable to many. That became the beginning of a journey of learning to partner with God in the work of his kingdom here on the earth. Followers of Christ are expected to do the same things Jesus did while he was here on the earth. Here are some things I’ve learned about praying for healing:


1. Use every opportunity to pray for healing

I realize that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil are in conflict and not everyone will be healed. But until the fullness of God’s Kingdom comes, I want to take every opportunity to pray for healing. I’d like to take the challenge in engaging in another battle for the Kingdom (unless I have clear direction from God that there will not be healing in a particular situation).

2. Listen carefully to the person and the Holy Spirit

Ask the person where the pain is and listen to them carefully. Value them as a person to listen to the expressions of their hurt and the pain of their hearts as well. While you listen to them, listen to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will give you direction on how to pray for them.

3. Identify the symptoms

By asking appropriate questions, clarify where the person experiences pain. Do they experience the pain at all times or only at certain times of the day? Is the pain more when they do some kind of physical activity like standing, sitting, bending, kneeling, or other activities.

4. Pray with faith

Begin with the understanding that the “war” of the Kingdoms has already been won with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Have faith in God that He can and will accomplish the task of healing. Sometimes it happens gradually, so you may need to pray several times. At other times, the healing is instantaneously.

5. Keep your eyes open

While praying for healing, it is a good practice to keep your eyes open. You will be able to see the effects of the Holy Spirit on that person. Ask the person to keep their eyes closed so they will have better concentration. But you need to concentrate on the entire process of prayer and healing. For that, your eyes need to be open. Sometimes you will see manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and at other times you will see demonic responses on the person.

6. Be interactive with the person and the Holy Spirit

During the prayer, continue to listen the the voice of the Spirit. Along with that, interact with the person and ask if there are changes in their physical situation. Be in constant communication with the Spirit and the person. This will help to guide your prayer time and make it more effective.

7. Give final encouragement and instructions.

Whether the person is completely healed or not, make sure to encourage the person with some instructions. Maybe you can direct them to stay focused and maintain their healing. Maybe there is sin to avoid or habits to be changed. Help them to get set on the right path. 

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After being involved in several church plants at various levels, I still feel the urge to go plant another one. I am not sure If I still have the stamina that I had during my earlier years, but the desire is still there. Every time I talk to a church planter, my heart is ignited. I am excited to see how God works in a fresh way each time in every new setting.


  1. Confirm your calling

Because of the challenging nature of church planting, it is vital that you solidify your calling. The entire family needs to be on the same page with your committment to being a church planter. If one person is unsure, that becomes the weak link that you struggle with for the entire church plant.

  1. Have a clear vision

There needs to be a clear view of what you want the church to be like. What are the most important values that you have? How will those values be worked out in the ministry that you do? Allow your values to impact your outreach, caring, and leadership.

  1. Money follows vision

I heard this great and empowering statement from Steve Nicholson: “Money follows vision”. People respond to a clear and definitive vision. When others detect a compelling vision in you and in your team, they respond with open hearts and open hands. I believe God is just like that. If you are planting without a vision and just setting up an “organization” just for the sake of it, people are not impressed, and God certainly is not. Therefore I affirm that “money follows vision.”

  1. Learn to embrace loneliness

Even with a strong church planting team with you, the life of a planter is a lonely task. You have a team, share the vision, and develop leaders, but ultimately, you are responsible for the entire process. The risk is high, and that certainly leads to a sense of lonliness that others will not understand. Nevertheless, learn to embrace loneliness in your journey.

  1. Don’t fear the uncertain future; God is already there

I like to work from the perspective that God has already seen the beginning to the end. The future is clearly in God’s view. Although our view is limited, we can lean heavily on him knowing that he sees much further ahead. So relax. God has already seen the future, and He is with you.

  1. Be a team player

Always develop a church planting team. The best option is to have a team go with you from the church you are being sent out of. But if for some reason that is not possible, develop a new team whever you are. Share your vision with every person you meet. Share it clearly and with a passion. Repeat your vision so often that you are mumbling it in your sleep. As you repeat your vision, God will draw the hearts of some who will come alongside you and share your vision.

  1. Spend your time for the broken and needy

Jesus came for those whose world is simply broken or shattered. Spend your time and efforts for such people. The broken are not only the poor. In every social and economic strata of socitey, brokenness is rampant. When you step into the lives of people, you begin to see how intense and how broad that brokenness is.

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Through my years of being a pastor, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do as well as what to do. Each year was a learning experience as I have ministered on two continents. In both situations, I have learned much over these years, but the most important lesson is that the pastoral ministry and the local church are not to be ignored. God has a great plan for the local church, and he will use pastors who are selflessly committed to the task.

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  1. Know who you are and what you are passionate about.

If you don’t recognize who you are and what is important to you, you will always remain unstable. This unstability will cause you to vacilate in the midst of important decisions that need to be made in your leadership.

  1. Be sure of your calling and know who called you.

Whenever people tell me they feel called to ministry, I ask them to have it confirmed. You’ve got to be sure of your calling and be firm that God has called you to the pastoral ministry.

  1. Listen to everyone but follow your heart.

Be open to listen to every kind of idea and opinion. But as you do that, be sure to follow your heart. Of course, this implies you know what your heart tells you. Calm yourself down each day and listen. Listen intently for the voice of the Holy Spirit as he speaks to your heart. Ultimately it is that voice that you must heed.

  1. Turn rare commodities into common items

Sometimes we see people who use their spiritual gifts to gain prominence and recognition. Those particular giftings are seen as rare commodities in churches. But when we train a large number of people to operate in their spiritual gifts, the situation changes. All of a sudden, that which was rare becomes a common aspect. The same principle can be used with leadership, teaching, preaching, serving, or other practices. Make it common and ordinary.

  1. Genuinely love people .

It is imperative that you as the pastor love the people and express it in a genuine way. If you can’t or don’t experss it genuinely, then they may never sense it.

  1. Stay out of politics even if it kills you

Politics will kill your vison. Once your vision is gone, you are just as good as dead.

  1. Plan on staying for a long time in the same church.

Just as the concept of follow-through is important in sports, it is vital in your pastoral ministry. Be willing to stick it out in the long run.

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My first sermon was at the age of 15 to a small group in DeWitt Clinton High School, and then on the streets in New York. I’ve always had a desire to be faithful to the text of scripture, communicate clearly, and to see life change. Here is a list of seven things I’ve learned about preaching. I’ve kept my explanations to a minimum as this is written for a wider audience.


  1. Preparation begins much before the sermon preparation begins.

Life is preparation. Your sermon is developed not just from a study of the text, but it develops through your life. The same message preached by two different people will be completely different since these two individuals are entirely different. Their lives have been entirely different.

  1. Preach to yourself first

Allow time for the message of the sermon to do its work in you. Only then will your sermon be complete. Sermons prepared at the last minute will have much less impact than sermons that have been lived out in the preacher.

  1. Preach from your heart.

Be faithful to the text and do good exegesis and exposition, but when you preach it, allow it to come from the heart. When something comes from your heart, it best communicates to the hearts of your listeners.

  1. Appeal to their minds

Make sure your sermon flows logically. Otherwise, your listeners will block it from going down to their hearts. Allow the sermon to appeal to their minds first, and the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and make the appropriate change of mind, heart, and life.

  1. Aim for their hearts

As you appeal to their minds, make sure your ultimate aim is to impact their hearts. Only a true heart change will impact a life change that is genuine and lasting.

  1. Leave the rest to the Holy Spirit

When you conclude your message, trust the Holy Spirit to convict and apply the message to their lives. Don’t try too hard to push for results. You’ve been faithful to the task of preaching, and the Holy Spirit will be faithful to the task of convicting and bringing life change.

  1. When you finish, walk away.

As you allow the Holy Spirit to work in the conclusion by convicting and applying, learn the art of “walking away.” It’s not about you anyway. Its his church, and its his ministry. Don’t take the entire burden on yourself, and don’t take the credit for yourself either. It all belongs to God.

Were the above points helpful? Please leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

How Long Will God Continue to Forgive?

Love and betrayal

“Where are they coming from? Where are they going?” He frantically searched with bewilderment, but couldn’t find where the ants were coming from. They were crawling in and out of his laptop computer from every conceivable location. Surprised by this intrusion, he continued his search to figure out where they were coming from.


Matthew was a very careful user of his computer. A few months prior to this incident, he experienced “the mother of all computer disasters” – a crashed hard disk, with no warning signs. After going through the long process of getting it repaired under warranty, this intrusion by the ants was totally unexpected, and brought further fears of an impending disaster.

 Surprise turns to fear

When he finally found the hiding place of the encroachers, his surprise turned to fear. The computer case, of all places, meant to protect his computer from such intrusions became the home for these ants! I’m sure he felt cheated and betrayed by the very instrument meant to protect his computer.

 First class betrayal

Often, those who should protect, are the ones who deny and hurt. Jesus experienced a similar scenario when he was betrayed by one of his 12 disciples. While he was on the Mount of Olives praying with them, Judas came to betray him into the hands of his enemies. Jesus said, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) Our closest friends are the ones we least expect to betray us, yet Jesus knew Judas’ plans much in advance.

Throughout the four gospels, we see the love of Jesus expressed in various ways. Second only to the Cross, was his prayer for his disciples in John 17. He distinguished his disciples from the rest of the world; for they belonged to the Father. He protected them and kept them safe by the name given to him by the Father. He wanted them to have joy to the fullest measure. The culmination of his prayer was his desire to see the love of the Father in them, and that Jesus be in them. Such close love and union was his desire for his disciples.

It was immediately after prayer, that Judas came to betray him with a kiss. This reminds me of Michael Card’s song that says, “why did he use a kiss to show them -that’s not what a kiss is for.” After experiencing a relationship with Jesus closer than most of the people, he was willing to betray him with a kiss.

 How much will God forgive?

At the cross, he showed his love for all people, including his enemies, when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Could this prayer apply for Judas also? Why not? Are there limits to the love of Jesus?

 Does God still love me?

Many continue to struggle with their failures and weaknesses. Somehow they are afraid that there is no longer any possibility for God to love them. They fear that they have crossed the point of no return with God. But the reality is that God is not angry at you. He still loves you. His ultimate aim is to develop you into the image of his son Jesus.

 So, go to him. He loves you.

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