Ever been to a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field? They look great from up in the stands. But have you thought about what they look like from the sidelines? Pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless. We see life from the sidelines. God sees it from the stands. As we gain perspective, we leave the sidelines and start working our way up.
With that as background, I turn now to consider some of the most frequently-asked questions about heaven. But before I jump in, I should make one preliminary point. The only things we can know for certain about heaven are the things revealed in the Bible. Everything else is just speculation and hearsay. The Bible tells us everything we need to know and I believe it also tells us everything we can know for certain about heaven.
Very often, people ask or wonder “what are the basic biblical principles for Christian giving?” As we seek God’s answer to that question and as we contemplate our own giving to the Lord’s church in response to the clear teaching of His Word, perhaps it would be wise and helpful to review those principles here.
We can see what God was up to in part, and we get a measure of peace from that. But how can we get peace if we’re headed into or in the midst of a crisis? God tells us how to do just that in Philippians 4:4.
In warfare, battles are fought on different fronts, for different reasons, and with varying degrees of intensity. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Our spiritual battles are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker. But, we can educate ourselves on how the battles are fought and how they impact our lives on a daily basis.
Have you ever noticed how many times and how many ways the Bible warns of being deceived? By clear admonition as well as by graphic example God repeatedly calls us to be on our guard against believing lies.
We often think of the unique challenges and opportunities that facing lack/need presents. In those situations we are faced with the choice of trusting God for provision, or grumbling as the Israelites in the wilderness did (cf. Exod 16–17). But less frequently recognized are the dangers that abundance/prosperity brings. There are at least four that come to mind…
Have you ever had one of those, “Woah, wait a minute!” times when reading the Bible? You’re slowly meandering your way through a chapter, trying to clear your sleep-fogged head, when suddenly a verse jumps out and slaps you in the face. I had one of those moments this morning.
President Goodluck Jonathan has described the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 as an act of God.Jonathan, who joined the faithful at the Apostolic Faith Church, Jabi in Abuja, for the last Sunday service of the year, however, identified lack of unity and love as the greatest problem facing Nigeria.He likened the nation’s challenges to those of the Israelites when they were about to move out of Egypt to the Promised Land.The President said, “As a nation, we have our challenges. Anytime I look at the history of Nigeria and the challenges we face, I remember a part of the old testament in the Bible that talks about the Israelites when they decided to move out of Egypt to the Promised Land. We have something quite similar.“As you are getting closer to the promised land, you meet more obstacles and thank God for the sermon we have heard here today(Sunday). Even the songs showed that the greatest problem we have are lack of unity and love.“Nigeria was amalgamated by our colonial masters in 1914. By January 1 next year, Nigeria will be 100 years . I totally agree with the minister that it was not by chance that we are one as a nation, it was ordained by God.“If God didn’t will it that way and at that point, the North and South would not have come together. The details of the North and South coming together make Nigeria a very great country.“I used to say that Nigeria is great not because of its oil. We have countries that produce more oil than Nigeria but nobody talks about them.“We have countries that have multi-billion dollars in their reserves and nobody talks about them but here we are, just talking about $40bn in our reserves , yet the biggest and smallest countries talk about Nigeria. Why? It is Because of the diversity from the North to the South, the human and natural resources, the potential and the population that we have.“ So, Nigeria is a country that has a special blessing from God. It is therefore left to us to appreciate God and continue to pray for his intervention for this country to continue to be great.”Jonathan again promised to bequeath a different Nigeria to the next generation.He said his administration was
committed to working hard to overcome barriers that had to do with religious or ethnic differences.The President said it was also when such barriers were crossed that Nigerian children would enjoy a better future.He said, “I promise our children that we are totally committed to making sure that they meet a different Nigeria. We will collectively work hard to overcome our barriers.“Immediately we cross the barriers and we begin to believe that we are all Nigerians and we are committed to the development of this country, our children will surely meet a better Nigeria. We will try our best but this is not the time to reel out what we are not doing, otherwise people will think I am here to campaign.“But I assure this congregation, and indeed all Nigerians, that by the grace of God and your support, I am where I am today from nowhere. Any Nigerian child can also be where I am.“I come from the smallest state in this country and even in my state (Bayelsa), my community is one of the smallest. Within my community in the state, mine is one of the smallest , but I am here today as President by the grace of God.“That is the type of Nigeria we want to create; a Nigeria where you can get what you want if you work hard, not a Nigeria where you know somebody that knows somebody that will take you to somebody.“We will work with you to help you to get to wherever you want to go.”The President also said he was now wary of what he says in public because of the fear of being misinterpreted .He said, “Because for those of us in politics, these days are not the best days to make speeches because any statement we make, people look at how to paint it. The next day when you read the newspapers, you start doubting if that is what you said.“So any statement we make is always used against us but I am quite pleased to be here with you today(Sunday) to worship with you.In his sermon titled “Living worthy of great mercies, great faithfulness of God,” Rev. Bayo Adeniran said Nigeria would be great again if its citizens learnt to forsake their evil ways and returned to God just like the people of Nineveh in the Bible did.He said, “If Nigeria believes in God like the people of Nineveh, God will heal Nigeria. The swiftness of God shall visit this country. We are so bothered about external corruption, but there is so much corruption in the heart.”“The nation starts with the individual and the family. Return to God and God will answer your prayers. Nigeria shall not die, it will live if we return to God.”
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Wildfires race up a mountainside like they are alive; the flames in our fireplace spread the same way. God compared His words to a fire (Jeremiah 23:29) and the disciples on the Emmaus road said Jesus’ words “burned” within them (Luke 24:32).
What sets God’s words apart from any other? Moses gave the first clue, telling the Israelites that the word of the covenant “is your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). Stephen, in his speech to Jewish leaders, describes the words Moses received on Mount Sinai as “living oracles” (Acts 7:38). Finally, the writer to the Hebrews expands the idea of “living” words, saying the “word of God” is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not that God’s words seem to be alive like fire — they are alive. God is life, His words are life, and they create life in us as the Holy Spirit conforms us to them. Life begets life!
As you read the Word of God today, read it with expectancy and anticipation for the changes it will make in you.
The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.
J. H. Merle d’Aubigné
Part of aging is memory loss — sometimes it is significant, and other times it is subtle. So we exercise, eat right, lay off the sugar, read, do the crosswords, juggle, play Ping-Pong, and brush our teeth with our opposite hand — all proven to strengthen the brain. But the Israelites had a different memory tool: tassels. They wore tassels on their garments so they could “look upon [ them ] and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them” (Numbers 15:37-40). Something as simple as a tassel can remind us of God, His Word, and His faithfulness.
You may not want to sew tassels on the hem of your garments, but there are plenty of other ways to remind yourself of what God has done in your life. The most permanent reminder is a written record — a diary, a journal, 3″ x 5″ cards, or notes you type on your computer. If Moses had to remind the Israelites to remember their rescue from Egypt (Exodus 13:3), how much more should we be writing down the less dramatic but equally memorable ways God has been faithful to us?
Are you keeping a record? In the challenging days of life, you will be encouraged to look back and remember how God met your needs and answered your prayers.
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” –1 John 4:9
As we enter the Christmas season, we remember that it was on the very first Christmas morning when the meaning of “Emmanuel” changed. Before that day, when the chosen people of Israel would say, “Emmanuel, God is with us,” that meant that God is on our side. But on that first Christmas when they said, “God is with us,” it meant that God was actually with us in this baby. That God put skin on and decided to dwell among us.
This baby Jesus grew up to be our Savior and the most important person in human history who also lived a perfect life – fully God, filled with God’s Spirit, and the second person of the trinity. And, he was also a regular guy who experienced real temptations, who was hungry and thirsty, who could be physically injured, and who could get his feelings hurt and feel lonely. He had to work with other people to get things done.
Jesus didn’t even start his ministry until about the age of 30. Up to that point, he was building and constructing, and in the midst of that, lived a perfect life, full, flourishing, vibrant life. Jesus set for us the perfect example of what it means to truly live. He wanted to introduce people who are living around him into this new kind of life.
In the Bible, you see that that actually happening to the apostles. Before the resurrection, the apostles, were somewhat afraid. However, after the resurrection, they’re filled with the Spirit and start to do some incredible things. They literally go around healing people, performing miracles, encouraging people, and changing the physical space around them. That’s why Jesus said to them, “Even greater things than I did, you’re going to do.’ He says the same thing to you and me. Christ says to us, even today, “You’re going to do greater things than I did.”
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to do those greater things that you would have me do. Help me to show your love to everyone I meet. Amen.
The American Pilgrims weren’t the first to give thanks with a meal: “The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning” (Leviticus 7:15, NIV 1984). Due to the lack of refrigeration, the “fellowship offering of thanksgiving” had to be offered and eaten on the same day. Today we enjoy leftovers for several days after!
The Israelites did not restrict their expressions of thanksgiving to one day. “Thank offerings” could be offered at any time as a type of “fellowship offering” (Leviticus 3; 7:11-34), one of the five categories of Old Testament sacrifices (the others were burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings). A fellowship offering was a voluntary offering. When offered for the purpose of thanksgiving, it included not only an animal sacrifice but various breads to be consumed as a meal.
Voluntary is the key word. We are free at any time to thank God for His goodness and wonderful works: “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
It is not hard to recognize someone who has spent extended time at a newsstand: His conversation overflows with the drama of current affairs. And it is not hard to discern a person who has come from a sporting event, as his face reveals the outcome of the game. Likewise, people can tell when an individual has spent extended time seeking God. An imperturbable calm guards his heart, and his countenance is radiant with light, as with the morning dew of heaven.
Beloved, to seek and find God is everything. It is to our shame that in our era church services do not focus more on actually seeking God. Yes, we do honor God and thank Him for what He has done. We hear a sermon and perhaps enjoy a time of fellowship with others. Yet only rarely do we depart a congregational meeting with the fire of eternity reflecting off our faces. Instead we fill up with information about God without actually drawing near to Him. Most of us are largely unaware of God’s presence.
While we rightly need church programs, fellowship and times for ministry training, we must not assume that religious indoctrination is the same thing as actually seeking God. And while I am often blessed listening to contemporary Christian music, even godly entertainment is no substitute for my own worship encounter with God.
Therefore let us ask ourselves: Is there a place and a time set apart in our spiritual lives where we can give ourselves to seeking God? What is the Spirit of God actually desired to manifest Himself during our worship service? Would the Lord have to wait until we finished our scheduled program? I respect and recognize the need for order; we need the scheduled times for announcements and the defined purposes that currently occupy Sunday mornings, but have we made room for God Himself?
When we first determine to draw near to God, it may seem we have little to show for our efforts. Yet be assured: Even the thought of seeking God is a step toward our transformation. Still, we often do not notice the early signs of our spiritual renewal—for as we grow increasingly more aware of God, we simultaneously grow increasingly less aware of ourselves. Though we may not see that we are changing, others certainly will.
Consider the experience of Moses. The Lord’s servant had ascended Mount Sinai and there stood before the living God. The eyes of Moses were actually filled with God’s sun-like glory; his ears actually heard the audible sound of the Lord’s voice. Yet when Moses returned to the people, the Bible says he “did not know that the skin of his face shone” (Ex. 34:29). When the Israelites saw the fire of God’s glory on the face of Moses, “they were afraid to come near him” (v. 30). They saw he had been with God.
The church needs more people who have, like Moses, climbed closer to the Almighty—people who have stood in the sacred fire of God’s presence. Instead we exhaust ourselves arguing over peripheral doctrines or styles of music in our song services. Perhaps there are benefits to constantly debating the nuances of our doctrines, but are we not more truly thirsting for the reality of God?
What happens when we seek God? The Bible says at the very moment we are drawing near to Him, the living presence of God Himself is drawing near to us (see James 4:8). Help is coming, redemption for our situation is on its way, strength will soon be arriving, and the powers of healing are activated.
But, we may argue, what if we seek Him and He does not come near? Fear not, He will. He may not manifest as we supposed, but He will come.
Our goal is to—day by day—draw nearer to God. He has commanded that we come boldly to His throne of grace. To receive the help we need, we must arrive at His throne. Remember also that our confidence comes from Christ Himself. He promises, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:8).
We are seeking a lifetime of increasing devotion, though it may certainly begin in a season of drawing near. In spite of natural and spiritual obstacles, as we persevere, the Lord assures us, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (v.11).
If we do not cease seeking and knocking, we will discover unfolding degrees of intimacy with God. Even now, He’s drawing near. The Lord promises, “Everyone who … seeks finds.”
Adapted from I Will Be Found by You by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2013, published by Passio from Charisma House. In forty-three years of seeking after God, the author has learned that it is in seeking God that we actually find Him. This book contains a collection of his best writings on the subject. It will encourage you to pursue the Lord and reap the reward of finding Him. To order your copy click here.
PRAYER POWER FOR THE WEEK OF 10/28/13
This week make it a priority to seek God’s transforming presence with worship, meditation and prayer. Set a time and put aside all distractions that would divert your attention away from Him. Let Him speak to you from His Word and thank Him for the promise that if you seek Him you will find Him. Once you’ve spent time enjoying His presence and giving Him worship, expand your prayer to include those who need salvation, revival and provision. Ask Him to direct your steps where you can be a blessing to those in need. Continue to pray for global revival and for more laborers for His harvest fields. Lift up our government leaders and pray that they will seek the Lord’s guidance to govern. Remember Israel and the persecuted church. Matt. 7:7-8; Ps. 9:10
The Bible‘s prohibitions against our misusing our sexuality are there to protect us, not to punish us.
As a Christian gynecologist, I have had the privilege of treating thousands of women during the last two decades. Many of them have had the courage to ask questions about one of the most private aspects of their lives: their sexuality. The issues have ranged from the values of virginity to sexually transmitted diseases; from wedding night romance to the challenges of geriatric sexual relations; from birth control to plastic surgery.
The majority of couples struggle with these sensitive and important issues of marriage in a spiritual vacuum. They wonder how their faith in Christ and their human sexuality can peacefully coexist. Sensing that there must be more to their sexual lives than they are experiencing but wondering if God really approves of these secret desires, they ask themselves: Is sex the forbidden fruit?
Sex Is God’s Idea
Of the many hundreds of questions I have been asked, the fundamental theme remains: What does God think about sex? The answer I give is the response I received from my pastor in my youth when I asked the same question: It’s God’s idea!
God created the sexes and sexual intercourse. He instilled the sexual drive into our bodies, knowing it would work its way into our thoughts and minds. He is not ashamed of our sexuality, nor does He regret creating it.
From the second chapter of Genesis throughout the pages of Scripture we can read about God’s plan for our sexuality. And from one passage to the next, the theme is one of pleasure, joy and fulfillment within the boundaries He has created.
Yet many Christians mistakenly perceive that the few hedges of protection God placed around our sexuality indicate that God is against sex. The truth is, our sexuality is God’s gift to us, not just for reproduction, as many in the church seem to believe, but also for intimacy and pleasure in the comfort of marriage. And yes, He knows how much fun it is. He made it that way!
But for so long, the church has looked at the way the fallen world has expressed itself sexually and closed its doors to all discussions of sex, seemingly fearing that the influences of the secular world will corrupt the holiness of the church.
The sometimes irresponsible approach of the church to human sexuality has left many sincere Christians sitting in their church pews each Sunday wondering if God is for or against sex. Is God condemning them as they struggle with questions for which they desperately need answers and for feelings that threaten their very walk with Him? The answer is, absolutely not!
I can tell you on the authority of the Bible that God is definitely interested in your sexual life—and not just so He can say, “Don’t do that!” He longs for you to experience all He has created you for from the beginning. Though we may not achieve what we would have had in the Garden of Eden, we can surely take hold of a lot more than we currently enjoy, and we can do it without the guilt and condemnation that has so often hounded the sincere Christian.
Consider God’s motivation for creating a companion for Adam and His ultimate design for their relationship. During God’s creation process, He said: “‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'” (Gen. 2:18, NIV). Then, according to Scripture, “The Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (vv. 22-24).
It was God who created a beautiful woman and brought her to Adam as His precious gift to him. When Adam saw how Eve was made, he also learned how his body fit together with hers. The two became one flesh, which is how the rest of us got here!
In fact, God’s first command to them was to “‘be fruitful and increase in number'” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, God told them to have intercourse; it was their first assignment as a couple!
Clearly, God is the one who initiated sex as an activity to be enjoyed between two people who are married to each other. However, He states in His Word that it is not to be engaged in outside this parameter. Whole chapters in the Old Testament are devoted to the regulation of sexual activity (Lev. 18; 20).
In the pagan cultures that surrounded the people of Israel, sexual activity between father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, or men and animals was not uncommon. Homosexuality was also a problem. So God established boundaries for His people and commanded them not to engage in these types of sexual activity.
The few rules He established were designed to distinguish the Israelites from the pagan cultures around them. But they were also a hedge of protection around the sanctity of the family in places where sinful sexual practices had destroyed the foundation of those cultures. God did not want the nation of Israel to fall victim to the same fate.
But some Christians read chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, in which the punishment for sexual sin is specified as death by stoning, and conclude that God is fierce and vengeful, ready at any moment to strike them down if they sin sexually. They forget that God is also a God of grace and forgiveness. The boundaries still exist to protect us, but forgiveness is ours for the asking because of Calvary.
New Testament heroes reveal little information of their marital lives to us. But Paul teaches us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy unto God (Rom. 12:1). He reminds us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we must strive to honor God with it (1 Cor. 6:18).
So how does one honor God with his body, be an acceptable temple for the Holy Spirit, live holy before God, and yet experience the joys and delights of sexual union? Many of us have thought that when the Bible says to present our bodies as living sacrifices, it really means sacrificing a fulfilling and exciting sex life.
We find ourselves envying those television and movie “role models” who seem to enjoy sex with guiltless abandon. Some of us escape into the fantasy world of romance novels, soap operas or worse, pornographic videos, to become spectators of a dark and lonely life from which we have been set free. This dilemma seems especially difficult for those of us who carry memories of a pre-conversion sexual life that was fulfilling.
Though the secular world has, admittedly, pushed the envelope of sexual exploration to extremes, we as a church have been robbed of our inheritance in Christ. The lack of proper scriptural interpretation and explanation of God’s true design for marriage hinders a mutually satisfying intimacy with our spouse.
We have had too few champions from the pulpit to encourage us to reclaim what has been stolen from us. Much preaching that touches the topic of sexuality has emphasized the sins of sex with little, if any, reference to the joy of sex that God ordained.
A New Look at Biblical and Medical Truths
Thankfully, a new generation of spiritual leaders is dedicated to reclaiming the sexually broken and to teaching young adults a godly pattern for beginning their marriages. We are living with an epidemic of divorce, adultery, fornication, sexually transmitted diseases and pornography.
Yet God has given wonderful promises in His Word to all who would hear and be set free by its truth. And, perhaps surprisingly, the Bible reveals beautiful examples of the pleasures that proper sexual expression should bring to our lives.
The Song of Solomon is undoubtedly the largest and most detailed biblical example of the beauty of sexual life God intended us to share. But it is by no means the only example. The Book of Proverbs warns against adultery while extolling the pleasures of intimacy in your own house:
“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. … Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love” (Prov. 5:15, 17-19).
This passage contains a simple instruction about enjoying sexuality in a healthy way. In the New Testament, Jesus quotes from the Book of Genesis regarding God’s intention for marriage:
“But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:6-9).
Jesus reminds us that from the very beginning it was God’s intention that man and woman come together sexually and become one flesh, a condition that occurs only in intercourse. This drive to unite is so strong that a man will leave the comforts of home and all that is familiar to begin a new life with his wife. This bond is so important to God that He commands that no man separate it.
The undeniable truth is that God wants you to have great and satisfying sex; it’s His idea. By following specific and appropriate boundaries, we can have a life and marriage that are not only satisfying to us but also pleasing to the One who made us.
Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.
Scott Farhart, M.D., the author of Intimate and Unashamed, from which this article is adapted.
God has designed change to be a process, not an event. Getting to the next level does not happen quickly. Successful transition takes time.
Certainly God is interested in the end result of the changes He orchestrates in our lives, but the growth and maturity that accompany transition are also very important to Him. For this reason, He typically works diligently, deliberately and more slowly than you and I might want.
Nevertheless, His timing is perfect. And the entire transition process is part of a grand plan for your life that will bring you great joy and fulfillment as you patiently cooperate with it.
Little by Little
One Scripture that helps us understand God’s approach to change is Deuteronomy 7:22: “The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you” (NIV).
Moses spoke these words to the people of Israel concerning their journey into the Promised Land. When the people looked around, they could easily see that in order to get to the place God promised, they needed to subdue nations that were larger and stronger than they were. This caused them to be very nervous and afraid.
The people knew that intense battles lay ahead of them, and they were not sure they could win. But Moses knew that God’s heart was for them to triumph over their formidable enemies, and he knew that God had a strategy for victory and deliverance.
What was God’s plan? Basically, one step at a time, “little by little.” The Israelites could not expect God to reach down from heaven, wipe out their enemies in one mighty sweep of His hand and give them a clear path to the Promised Land. No, in His wisdom, God knew they needed to fight for the land because when they arrived in it, they would need the strength and confidence they had gained through having to overcome along the way.
I know that God has a land of promise for you. I believe He has put vision and desires in your heart, and in your inmost being you can hear His destiny calling.
Like the children of Israel, you are on a journey toward the full possession of His promises to you, and also like them, you will face opposition as you go. But God has the same strategy for victory in your life as He had for His people centuries ago: little by little. You will get where He wants you to go one step at a time. One day at a time. One victory at a time.
God will not eliminate all the opposition against you at one time, nor will He set you in your land of promise without taking you through the experiences necessary for you to learn the lessons and develop the strength you will need in the new place, in the place your transition is taking you. Rather, He will take out your enemies, eliminating them one by one. This will take time.
Remove and Replace
If God were suddenly to remove all the obstacles before you, you would find yourself facing a big void, and this could pose a danger for you. God told the Israelites through Moses, “You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you” (Deut. 7:22).
The New King James Version of this Scripture says, “Lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.” In other words, unless God drove out the enemies slowly, the wild animals would become more dangerous to them than the armies of other nations had been.
Instead of speedily eliminating the opposition, God wants to remove and replace. He will do this with attitudes, mind-sets, circumstances, relationships and anything else that would keep you from being fully prepared and equipped to possess the promises He has given you. For example, where you are afraid, He will orchestrate a situation that will help you overcome your fear and replace it with faith.
If you are in debt, and you need a breakthrough in finances, He may send you additional work so that your bondage to your bills can be replaced with financial freedom. If there is someone in your life who would be a liability to you in the future, He may remove that person and lead you to develop a relationship with someone who has the heart and ability to be a blessing at your next level.
Such significant changes in your life will require time and patience; so don’t get frustrated in the process. Remain thankful in the time of preparation, and stay positive about the great endeavors for which God is training you. As He removes the things that would hinder you and replaces them with things that will help you, He is developing you into a strong, wise, well-equipped warrior who is able to emerge from every battle victoriously.
Change and Your Relationships
One element of transition that certainly applies to everyone is the fact that change is not a private matter. Your moving to the next level will impact the other people in your life—your spouse, your children, your church staff and business or ministry team.
In the mid-1970s, I became senior pastor of Trinity Christian Centre in Singapore. It was a small church when I started, but over the years, it grew to become one of the largest churches in the nation.
After I had been pastoring for a few years, I began to realize that I needed to prepare for a transition in the church’s leadership. Although I was not planning for it to happen in the immediate future, I knew the day would come when I would step aside, and someone else would become the senior leader. I also realized it was going to take years for this to become a reality.
My transition took at least 10 years. Ideally, if you are in pastoral leadership, you want approximately five years to watch the potential new leader develop and to check his or her character and motives. Then for the next five years, you would want to prepare the person to handle the pressures and the scope of the position.
If you are pressured into a shorter time period, know that the transition might be bumpier than a well-planned shift in leadership. You may find it more difficult to groom the new leader in all the areas necessary for successful transition.
Those of you who are pressed for time should seek the help of someone from the outside who has made a successful transition. Look for an individual with a strong apostolic anointing in this area for spiritual guidance and wisdom.
In Singapore, by God’s grace, I understood that transition would take time. I started very early because I wanted to make sure that the leadership transition went smoothly and would result in greater blessings for the new leader and for the congregation. My approach has always been to develop leaders, so instead of resigning from the church and leaving them to search for a new pastor, I began to take note of various people on my staff who might be qualified for the position. I started doing this years before a new pastor would be needed.
Over a period of time, from a pool of possible candidates, I identified the man whom I believed to be God’s choice to lead the church. I worked with him and helped him learn the things he would need to know as the senior leader, although he was not aware that he had been chosen as the new leader, until the last three years before my departure.
I encouraged him to develop skills he had not needed before, and I made sure he had new opportunities for interaction with our large staff, the congregation and leaders. Everyone needed time to adjust to the coming change. And the church needed to get to know and love the new leader through personal contact with him, and familiarity with his preaching and leadership styles.
By the time the transition actually took place in 2005, the new leader was equipped for his new position, and the congregation was eager to embrace him. Under his leadership, the church is growing, thriving and impacting more lives for God than ever before. Along with God’s grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit, a deliberate, strategic process allowed enough time for a successful transition.
You may be thinking, But I am not a pastor, so how can this help me? It can help you see the deliberate process involved in transitioning effectively. In my case, there were many others who needed time to prepare for a change in leadership: the board, pastoral staff members who had served with me for years, other levels of leaders who had served faithfully and the whole congregation.
For you, it may be your spouse, extended family members, your children, neighbors and friends. Remember, transition is never a private affair, and the preparation it requires for everyone involved cannot happen hurriedly.
In God, even the longest wait has meaning and purpose. He redeems time and restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). You can have confidence that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NIV). Not one minute of your seemingly protracted journey is a waste of time. See it instead as a priceless opportunity for learning and growth.
Anyone familiar with the human body knows that a woman cannot give birth to a child the week after she becomes pregnant. Her body needs time to stretch and adjust to the new life that is forming within her. Her mind needs to get used to the idea of being a mother, and she probably needs to prepare her home for the presence of a newborn.
At the same time, one week after conception, no one can tell whether an embryo is a boy or a girl. No matter how much the new parents would want to buy clothes and paint a nursery right then, it is best to give the baby time to develop so the parents can make the right choices about those things.
He is the image of the invisible God … For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible … All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Colossians 1:15-17
Some people try to look at the life of Jesus solely from the time He lived on earth — they see Him as a wise teacher, but nothing more. But Jesus existed before He came to earth. The prophets foretold His coming and the Israelites looked forward to the coming of the Messiah with great expectation. Everything was created by and through Christ. The miracle of life and the masterful detail of creation come from Him. What we see is only a part of His creation. The description of Christ in Colossians matches the description of God throughout Scripture, confirming Christ’s deity. In John the message is clear, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).
This is a key point — Jesus is sovereign and yet, while He lived on earth, He submitted Himself to the will of the Father. He laid aside His divinity — for us. What a glorious thought — the sinless, sovereign Son of God — loves me!
Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen. He either permits it to happen, or He brings it about Himself.