I just finished C.S. Lewis’s classic book The Screwtape Letters and was inspired to write a modern version of one of the letters that relates to how the devil can tempt us with our phones. It’s written from the perspective of a senior demon writing to a junior demon. In this letter, as in Lewis’s book, “Our Father Below” refers to Satan and “the Enemy” refers to God.
My dear Wormwood,
I’m very pleased it seems your client has picked up a very useful tool that can be used to our advantage. The little black box is the perfect size for our uses because it fits in his hand and in his pocket so he is never without it. Our most obvious application will be to get him to waste time. In fact, he will even waste time looking for ways to waste time. Smarter humans will invent ways to get others addicted so that they can sell things. Our man is a prime target for these traps.
But don’t get over-excited about the mere wasting of time. Don’t get me wrong, we celebrate any hour your man is neglecting his family and not placing his attention on our Enemy. But can you see our real use for this delightful little box? It is to get him focused on himself. The very first letter of name of the box suggests it – “i”. There is nothing more glorifying to Our Father Below than a man fully absorbed in himself. We don’t have to get him to worship Our Father; we just need him to worship himself. Start by getting him to use the delightfully, ironically named “social” media applications. This is the fastest way to get him isolated. The key is to fill his page with “friends” who seem to have it a little better and a little worse than him. Make sure these are mostly people whom he really doesn’t see, because we want to keep him from as much human connection as possible.
Our goal is to get him to compare. Our Father has been using Jealousy ever since the first two brothers, and it will still work today. We need a few people on his “newsfeed” who he thinks are better looking than him. (Though how any of those ugly creatures think they are beautiful is beyond me.) Find someone with a picture-perfect house. Get several people who always seem to be traveling to exotic places just out of our man’s reach. Find someone with more followers. Get someone more clever. And especially focus on the men who are in his field who are a little more successful than he is. Don’t worry about filling his page with celebrities or super rich people, that’s not necessary, just give him people that are just a little beyond him in one area. Every day, remind him of how great their life is and bland his life is. You can use this growing discontent to draw him toward fantasies. A discontent man is one Our Father Below can greatly use!
When he sees these pristine pages, he will starting thinking of how he can top them or at least attain these standards himself. Time, money and energy will be spent curating a carefully crafted page. You will be tickled when he neglects his responsibilities to go somewhere just so he can post about it. Help him get just enough followers and “likes” that he starts feeling good about himself. The more the better, really. But make sure he feels the pressure to keep producing better and better posts to get the same amounts of likes.
Be careful that he doesn’t become aware of this wonderful growing addiction. You can help him feel better about it by allowing him to “help people” – maybe by quoting some words from the Enemy, as long as they are out of context and throughly twisted. Get our man so absorbed in the amount of likes he gets that he checks it multiple times a day. If we can get him to base his happiness on his likes then we can control him.
Also put people who he thinks himself better than on his feed as well. As long as to him they seem uglier, poorer or have worse style, it’s good for him to have a people he can look down on. It’s even better to help him feel the great rush of pleasure we so enjoy when someone he once envied fails. There is no joy so sweet to Our Father Below than to see our patient delighting in evil. If we can get him hoping for his “friends” to have bad times we are winning.
Our primary goal is to slowly increase his pride, so he becomes more and more absorbed in himself, his image, and how he is compared to both those above him and those weaklings below him. This “magic window” serves us best when used to reflect our patients image back to him and give him a better picture than reality. But my one fear is that one day he will look into the box and hate what he sees. He might want to get rid of it, but by then he will be addicted and Our Father Below is the expert at using addiction. We can use his self-hate just as much as self-love. After all, they are basically the same thing. As long as our man is focused on himself we got him. With self-hate we can get him to attempt more and more desperate attempts at attention. Also this will allow us to tempt him with darker, lustful offerings I will write to you more about later.
This box is of so much use to us, but be careful because we are never beyond our Enemy’s reach. Even the Enemy’s Book can be accessed on this box. No doubt our patient will want to get Enemy’s Book on his screen to make him feel better. But be careful he doesn’t go beyond that. Especially don’t let him start a reading plan. If he must look at the “verse of day” or open it occasionally we can live with that, as long as he doesn’t make a habit of actually reading it. If he starts a daily reading plan and becomes aware of his pride, our entire plot might be ruined. Your goal should be to get him checking his notifications first thing in the morning when he wakes up, and looking at his newsfeed last thing before he goes to bed. This will keep his mind where we want it to be. Make sure he doesn’t open then Enemy’s Book first thing in the morning! Our Enemy has also created ways for our client to connect with other followers of His using this box. Our client can listen to preachers, and even attend church online, but I wouldn’t worry much about that as long as he doesn’t have to share about what’s really going on in his life. Even those things are safe as long as we can keep him hidden behind the screen.
The most beautiful thing about this box is that it keeps our patient away from engaging the calling he has been given from our Enemy. If he’s attached to the device then he’s not playing with his son. He’s not listening to his wife. He’s not seeing the needs of people around him, and most of all he’s not connecting with the Enemy personally. If we can limit as much of his life to this box as possible, we can get him to waste his life.
Your affectionate uncle,
It started as a half joke that one of my staff members, Josh, made in a talk. “There is a book called “An Unhurried Life” that changed my life. Well, the title changed life, because I’ve been too hurried to read it!”
That became a joke among our staff and students. Any time someone was late to a meeting, we gave them a hard time, saying, “So you’re just being unhurried, huh?” But an even funnier thing happened in the culture of our group. We actually began to hurry less! Just being aware of hurry sickness really has impacted my life. I found Alan Fadling’s encouragement to be true, “Hurry rushes toward the destination and fails to enjoy the journey” and that, “hurry squeezes the life out of the present moment.”
I saw difference unhurry was making in our team so much I actually slowed down enough to buy the book! I even sat down in a chair to speed-read it! Just kidding, I read at a normal pace. As I digested the pages, I was simultaneously comforted and convicted.
Jesus himself modeled the unhurried life. He invites us to walk with him rather than run for him.
Alan shared, “I’ve also learned that “making things happen” isn’t as helpful as learning to respond with courage to whatever God is doing. He makes things happen, and I would be wise to choose to work with him. My hurry is what often makes the yoke of life and ministry heavier than Jesus means it to be.”
Have I been busy working FOR God or have I been working WITH God?
It’s far to easy for me to seek to fulfill the COMMISSION of Jesus, make disciples of all nations, with out COMMUNION with Jesus, even though he promised to be with us!
Fadling asked a powerful question for ministry leaders, “Do our conversations about ministry revolve around growing numbers of participants, successful programs or other easily measured outcomes? Or do we tell stories about particular people who are responding to Jesus, stories of seeds of gospel truth sown in people’s hearts that will grow into the fruit of Christlikeness?”
In other words, are we “more oriented toward attracting a crowd or making apprentices of Jesus?”
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to grow or reach more people; it’s about what you celebrate and where you focus your energy. Unhurriedness is not laziness. “I didn’t write this book so that more people will live a life of leisure. That’s not at all the kind of unhurry I’ve had in mind. Instead, I am hungry to be part of a community of men and women who are living more fully and deeply in unhurried communion with Jesus, who are walking with him, serving him and working with him.”
The more unhurried you are, the more effective you will be at what is actually important. “Being unhurried does not at all mean being unresponsive to divine nudges. Being unhurried enables us to notice those nudges and to respond.”
The greatest commands God gave us are to love Him deeply and to love each other sacrificially. We can’t do either effectively without being present with God and present with people. “Living each moment in the light of eternity enables us to remain unhurried and engaged in the work God has for us in the present moment.”
This lifestyle allows for a healthy seasonal rhythm of work and rest. “We tend to see rest as the place we fall into after we’ve worn ourselves out with work. But what if our best work begins from a place of rest?”
Hurry often comes from when we mistakenly “establish our identity through our work rather than realizing that our identity is shaped and strengthened in the place of Sabbath rest and then expressed in our work.”
In other words we “only feel valuable when we are checking something off our to-do list. We therefore struggle to enter into the gift of rest as a good in itself.”
An unhurried person begins to see interruptions as opportunities instead of obstacles. Henri Nouwen said, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”
I, too, find myself struggling with what Fadling admits to here, “When I’m obsessed with efficiency, love feels like it gets in the way of my reaching that goal.” BUT LOVE IS THE GOAL! Am I slowing down enough to actually see the people God has placed in my life to love? Falding said, “Hurry glances. Love gazes.”
Jesus also modeled regular unhurried prayer. He often withdrew to lonely places to pray early in the morning and late at night. “Perhaps Jesus realized that he needed the soul-rest that comes in communion with his Father even more than he needed physical rest in sleep.” We must learn to unplug long enough for God to speak to us. “A person who is always available is not worth enough when they are available.”
I personally need to get serious about regularly praying for the people in my life and ministry. “One of the single most fruitful activities in which a leader can engage is praying—praying for the people God has entrusted to our care.”
As leaders, we must be patient with people we are helping grow, and we must be patient with ourselves as we seek to grow. “An unhurried vision of growth and maturity brings freedom and encouragement because we have a whole lifetime to grow.”
But we must realize that “Christian maturity is not a matter of doing more for God; it is God doing more in and through us. Immaturity is noisy with anxiety-fueled self-importance. Maturity is quietly content to pursue a life of obedient humility.”
Hurry operates from a mentality of scarcity; unhurry operates from an eternal perspective of abundance. “Every time I say the words “I don’t have time,” I am strengthening the hold that hurry has on me. The reality is that all of us on this planet have the same amount of time day by day, and, in Christ, we have all of eternity.” The truth is that “I have all the time I need for whatever God is giving me to do or inviting me into.”
It would help us to ask ourselves, “How would our pace of life be affected if we fully realized that, as followers of Christ, we are living eternal life now? Since eternal life isn’t just a dim future promise but a vital present reality.”
An eternal perspective is an unhurried perspective. “Eternal life is not so much a matter of mere duration or a guarantee of a pleasant future. Eternal life is an ongoing relationship of mutual love with the One who is Life… Eternal life is unhurried life in relationship with our loving heavenly Father, and my present physical life offers only a glimpse of that forever life.”
Hurry up and get this book so you don’t waste any more time hurrying!
Quotes in the order they appear listed by kindle number.1 101, 2 2491, 3 175, 4 362, 5 359, 6 2608, 7 495, 8 549, 9 1514, 10 1583, 11 671, 12 1159, 13 1209, 14 1108, 15 1326, 16 2393, 17 1463 18 2215, 19 2283, 20 2220, 21 2476, 22 2477, 23 205, 24 2495, 2528
I have a hearing problem, not because of all the punk concerts I went to in high school.
My problem is a spiritual hearing problem.
I’m addicted to… a lot of things.
- Technology – I bring my iPhone in to the bathroom so I can check Facebook on the toilet.
- Busyness – I want to brag about how many important meetings I had.
- Music – I’m listening to Angels and Airwaves as I right this.
- Entertainment – I watched the 1st six seasons of the Office in a matter of weeks.
These addictions have one thing in common…
They drown out the voice of God.
I just finished re-reading the classic “Practicing the Presence of God” by 18th century monk named Brother Lawrence. The description of his intimate, ongoing intimacy with the almighty has inspired God lovers for centuries.
I found myself asking…
Why am I not…
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In Indiana Jones The Temple of Doom there is a scene where “Indy” is eating with the natives and they have a dish called snake surprise. It was live snakes that they were supposed to eat. Numbers has it’s own version of a snake surprise.
The book of Numbers, perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, highlights the judgment of God and the severity of his wrath. Over and over the people of Israel rebel and then God exacts his righteous judgment.
Specifically in Number 21 the people started becoming impatient from the long jaunt though the wilderness. They were tired of manna and tired of waiting to enter the promise land. They didn’t appreciate God’s provision for them and didn’t trust in his plan even though they were very close to where they would enter the promised land. Their complaining was showing a heart that didn’t trust God. Whenever we chose to complain we are basically saying to God, “what you have provided for me isn’t enough.”
In response to their complaints God sent a slew of snakes to ravage the whining wimps. Moses prayed for the people asking for his mercy. God used this situation as a way to illustrate how Jesus would save those who look upon him in faith from the penalty of our sin. God instructed Moses to make a replica of the snake and place it on a pole and those who look upon it would be healed.
Jesus uses this story as an illustration of how he saves us from our sin. “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” John 3:14-15
Just as those who complained and were bitten as a result of their sin were healed by looking upon the bronze snake, so those who admit their sin and look upon what Jesus did upon the cross will be forgiven of their sin and will be given eternal life.
Even back in the Old Testament people were justified by their faith and not by the righteous things they did. This story reminds me to trust God even when I am in the wilderness and not complain if he is not meeting my needs in the way that I prefer. It also reminds me that looking to him is the only way I can experience healing from the results of my sin.
Everyone wants to be happy, but where does happiness come from?
This thoughtful documentary explores human happiness and what contributes to it. The pursuit of happiness is not a shallow pursuit but a pursuit of living the way God has designed us to live. Actually, as the documentary states,
“Happiness can help you reach your other goals.”
I enjoyed learning about what these non-Christian researchers found about what makes people happy. God has designed the world to work in a way that when we are connected to him and with others, we are living the life for which we are intended.
Of course, since the documentary is not made from a Christian perspective, the dots are not connected between what God tells us in the Bible and the research. But it was easy for me to see the connections. Here are 6 principles from “Happy.”
1. Happiness is not primarily about circumstances.
According to the documentary, factors that contribute to our happiness are as follows:
50% of your happiness is based on your genetic makeup.
40% can be developed through intentional activity.
10% is based on your external circumstances you may or may not be able to control.
So many people complain about the 10% they can’t control instead of working on the 40% that they can. The Apostle Paul also teaches that contentment and happiness are not based on circumstances. Instead we can trust Jesus to give us strength to be content and experience joy no matter what.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11–13
It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, you can be happy either way. The documentary shows examples of people who work hard under tough conditions and live simple lifestyles but experience happiness.
People over-estimate how good or bad things will affect them. In general, people do really well when things go really bad. People often bounce back from extreme tragedy if they have the right mentality and set of tools to cope. In the same way, extremely happy experiences do not last.
2. The experience of “Flow” is connected to happiness.
The reason many types of physical exercise and activity are pleasurable is because they help us experience “flow.” Flow is the feeling that you are doing something that you enjoy and it comes natural to you. It causes you to forget about yourself and other problems in your life. An example for me is surfing. When I am surfing in the right conditions, I can experience an extreme high because I have that “in the zone” experience many athletes have. I am engaged in an activity that I can succeed at.
People who experience flow on a regular basis live happier lives. These experiences release dopamine (the neurotransmitter that produces happiness) and keep our happy juices flowing.
3. Money won’t buy you happiness.
Many people say this, but few actually believe it. Money does help us be happier by getting us to a point where our needs are being met. But once our basic needs are met, then there is not much of a difference in the happiness between the super rich and the middle class. As the documentary puts it:
“Once basic needs are met, more money does not equal more happiness.”
Whatever amount of money you have, you will always adapt to it and then desire more. This endless desire to acquire shows us that money will never fully satisfy us.
Our culture teaches us to chase what are called “extrinsic goals.” These are things like money, image, and status. Studies have shown that the people who chase after these things end up more depressed. Even those who succeed at the game eventually will lose.
On the other hand, true happiness is found in pursuing “intrinsic goals” like personal growth, relationships, and the desire to help others. Studies have shown that people who pursue these things are more happy.
These intrinsic goals are exactly what the church provides people. We get a relationship with God and others. We get the ultimate personal growth opportunity and we have a mission that is far bigger than ourselves. Christians should be some of the happiest people out there!
4. Happiness is found in loving community.
Over and over in the documentary we see that happiness can NOT be achieved in isolation. Loving community has proven to be the greatest contributor to human happiness because we are made for community.
In the documentary, several countries were highlighted. Japan is a very modernized society but values hard work over family. In the film, we saw the devastating effects of how tireless work causes some people to die of over-working! They even have a name for it, Karoshi, which means working to death.
On the other hand, places like Denmark prioritize community. They have more people living in communities where they share meals and live together than any modern country. Sometimes 20 families live in the same complex! They sacrifice living space for a life full of community.
This type of communal living and sharing reminds me of the early church in Acts 2, which was described as a contagiously joyful community.
5. Happiness comes from serving others.
Happiness is experienced when we give our lives away. God designed us to live lives of service for others. Compassion leads to happiness.
In the film, they interviewed a German man who sacrificed his successful business career to work in Calcutta in “The Home for the Dying” that Mother Theresa founded. This man experienced happiness through helping others.
We learn that there is more to life than just taking care of yourself. When we show people that we care and take the burden away from others, we get a sense of happiness in return.
If you only seek your own happiness, it’s a selfish thing. But when you care about things bigger than yourself, you will experience the joy of a well-lived life.
6. Thankfulness and focusing on love leads to happiness.
One section of the documentary that is clearly contrary to Christianity is about Eastern meditation. Even though the application is different, Christians are told to set our minds on God and his love. We are told to meditate on God’s word. Paul told us in Phil 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
When we focus on God and the good gifts he provides us, we will have a better life. This does not mean that we ignore the negative things of life. We should see them the way God sees them, as effects of sin and as temporary. As followers of Jesus, we can look forward to heaven where there will be no more suffering or death.
Developing an attitude of gratitude will lead to a happier life.
I believe that Roko Belic has tapped into some deep keys to human happiness in this documentary. My prayer is that I would apply these principles in a Biblical way and lead my family and those in my ministry to experience happier and more purposeful lives for God’s glory.
Work is an important and under-emphasized topic in many Christian circles.
Timothy Keller does a great job in “Every God Endeavor” giving a solid biblical understanding of work. As a college minister, I have students going into many different types of work when they graduate. This book will serve as a valuable tool to help teach vocation as a part of God’s mission in the world.
As with most Timothy Keller books, I had a ton of highlights. Here are 10 of the major points of the book to cheek out. (The numbers after the quotes are the kindle locations.)
1. God’s work is an model for our work.
God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration. 366God is Creator of the world, and our work mirrors his creative work. 2207
2. Work was part of paradise, so it is GOOD!
The fact that God put work in paradise is startling to us because we so often think of work as a necessary evil or even punishment. 391
“There is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot” (Ecclesiastes 3:22). Yes, work is our inescapable “lot,” and so satisfaction in that realm is essential to a satisfactory life. 1304
3. Work itself is cursed, along with the rest of the world.
Work is not itself a curse, but it now lies with all other aspects of human life under the curse of sin… Part of the curse of work in a fallen world is its frequent fruitlessness. 1030, 1033“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:17…That is, while many workers are frustrated by unconsummated skills and unfulfilled aspirations, many others experience no satisfaction or fulfillment in their work even when they have realized their aspirations and become successful. 1129, 1132
Whether quickly or slowly, all the results of our toil will be wiped away by history. 1182
Work can even isolate us from one another. “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business!” (Ecclesiastes 4:7–8). This man is “alone”—without friends or family—as a result of his work. 1230
4. Work is how we cultivate the world.
God left creation with deep untapped potential for cultivation that people were to unlock through their labor. 379
Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and “unfold” creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development. 669
The difference between [a wilderness] and culture is simply, work. 886
5. Work is valuable, but must not become an idol.
According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives. 410
If you make any work the purpose of your life—even if that work is church ministry—you create an idol that rivals God. 441
6. All types of upright work have dignity.
Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. We learn not only that work has dignity in itself, but also that all kinds of work have dignity. 544
All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good. 571
Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs. 927
7. Our vocation is a calling, not just a job.
Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others. And that is exactly how the Bible teaches us to view work. 755
8. God uses our work to provide for our needs and the needs of others.
Luther writes: “God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting, but he does not want to do so.” 807
Imagine that everyone quits working, right now! What happens? Civilized life quickly melts away. Food vanishes from the shelves, gas dries up at the pumps, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end, utilities go dead. Those who survive at all are soon huddled around campfires, sleeping in caves, clothed in raw animal hides. 883
9. Over-work and under-work lead to trouble.
If we begin to work as if we were serving the Lord, we will be freed from both overwork and underwork. 2609
Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:5–6…Tranquility without toil will not bring us satisfaction; neither will toil without tranquility. There will be both toil and tranquility. 1308, 1314Resting, or practicing Sabbath, is also a way to help us get perspective on our work and put it in its proper place. Often we can’t see our work properly until we get some distance from it and reimmerse ourselves in other activities. 2855Overwork or underwork violates that nature and leads to breakdown. To rest is actually a way to enjoy and honor the goodness of God’s creation and our own. To violate the rhythm of work and rest (in either direction) leads to chaos in our life and in the world around us. Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design. 2874Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities. 2882“Zeal” is the translation of a Greek word meaning a combination of urgency and diligence. It is possible to be frenetic—to be urgent without focus and discipline. It is possible to be plodding, or diligent without a sense of urgency. But God’s charge means that you are to be both urgent and disciplined. 2831
10. The gospel motivates Christians to approach work differently than the world.
Without an understanding of the gospel, we will be either naïvely utopian or cynically disillusioned. 1928
The more serious danger associated with an under-emphasis on work as the vehicle of God’s providence is that it leads Christians to undervalue the good work done by nonbelievers. 2226
Love, then, occupies a supreme place in the Christian imagination. As Jesus says, to be fully human boils down to loving God and loving our neighbor. 2497
If not for the Christian view of the individual, for example, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have emerged… Christianity held that all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore have an inviolable right to be treated with honor and love, regardless of whether they culturally, morally, and personally appeal to or offend us. 2522, 2523
Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: mine… Understanding common grace is key to our humility and appreciation of God’s sovereignty. 2973, 301
Do the work of reading this book and it will give you a Biblical vision of your work.
“Jesus Continued… Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You” by JD Greear is the best book I have read on the Holy Spirit.
Greear’s work is helpful for any Christian, from Baptists to Pentecostals to “Bapti-costals”. We all can agree the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in our relationship with God and the mission of the Church. This book made me very grateful for the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and gave me a desire to experience more of his presence through prayer and listening for His guidance. The main point of the book is that having the Spirit inside of us is even better than if Jesus was standing right beside us!
“The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them (167).”
Here are 12 ways Greear highlights how the Spirit works in or lives and our churches.
1. The Spirit and the gospel always work together.
“Where the gospel is not cherished, the Spirit will not be experienced. And, on the flip side, where the Spirit is not sought, there will be no deep, experiential knowledge of the gospel (327).”
2. God’s Spirit works in conjunction with God’s Word.
“The Word issues the command and establishes the foundations; the Spirit quickens and makes alive… The Word is eternal and unchanging. The Spirit’s direction is temporary and varied… The Spirit makes God’s Word personal to us… We aren’t told to seek the Spirit apart from the Word; we are to seek him in the Word (421, 424, 438, 539).”
3. The Spirit empowers Christians to prophesy today, but it never trumps scripture.
“Scripture is infallible; contemporary believers speaking prophetically are not… But evidently, when he speaks through his church in the gift of prophecy, he does not guarantee that we will get all his movements, impressions, and instructions exactly right. We must “test” what is being said (2385, 2391).” “Never claim the authority of God on your words, even if you feel convinced the Holy Spirit might be speaking through you… Words of prophecy should always be given with a lot of humility… Because, you see, when you claim the authority of God, you put the other person in a terrible position; he must either fully heed your word or feel like he is rebelling against God. Or think you’re a quack. (2463, 2467, 2468).” “Prophetic speech is strongest when tied to actual Scripture… When you pass Scripture on to others, you can be sure that what you are saying is from God, even if your timing and application are not (2470, 2473).”
4. We don’t serve as a way to work for Jesus, by the Spirit’s power we to work WITH Jesus!
“It’s not that we’re doing this for God so much as we’re doing it with him. He is working through us. And it sometimes feels like we’re just along for the ride (485).” “The weight of responsibility for the mission does not rest on our shoulders, but on Jesus’ shoulders. He leads; we follow. He commands; we obey. He supplies; we steward. He delivers; we worship… God can do more through one simple act of obedience than we can do through our most extravagant plans. (1337, 1361).” “Engaging in the mission of God is not just about asking, “What would Jesus do?” but also, “What does Jesus want to do through me?… The question is no longer whether God wants us involved in his mission, only where and how? (1462, 1596)” “Blackaby shows that following God means “perceiving where God is at work and joining him in it.” Believers are not out working for God, he says, as much as God is working through them… Too many well-meaning Christian organizations today are attempting to work for God and then asking for his blessing, rather than seeking to work with the Holy Spirit, where the blessing is “pre-built-in (2941, 2953).” “A spiritual gift bestows an unusual effectiveness in a responsibility given to all believers… We discover our spiritual gifts as we actively pursue those responsibilities (2046, 2051).”
5. There is a mystery to how we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.
“If we fail to acknowledge this mystery, we either reduce God’s working to a formula that will cause us to miss the Spirit’s genuine movement in our lives, or (and perhaps worse) we become over-confident in what we think he is saying to us, elevating our interpretation of his movements to a level of authority we should only give to Scripture… Regarding the guidance of the Spirit, Scripture gives us a basic pattern, but not a detailed prescription; a general model, but not a precise formula (563, 656).”
6. The Holy Spirit fills and empowers those who are obeying what they have already received.
“So, seek the Spirit in the Word. His guidance functions something like steering a bicycle: It works only once you’re moving. The Spirit steers as you obey God’s commands. You start pedaling in obedience; he’ll start directing (703).
7. The Spirit empowers the Church to be a movement, not just a meeting place.
“Movements (by definition) move, and that means if you’re not moving, then you’re not really part of the movement. Where there is no movement, there is no Spirit (794).” “As we live on mission we get the privilege of experiencing the work of the Spirit in more tangible ways. A friend of mine likens Jesus to a spiritual cyclone: he never pulls you in without also, almost instantaneously, hurling you back out. The moment you are converted to Jesus, you are sent out into mission (886).”
8. The Spirit empowers all believers to share our faith.
“It’s true that God has given some believers the gift to be “evangelists” (Eph. 4:11). But a spiritual gift is really just a specialization in an assignment given to all Christians… I’ve heard evangelism defined as “two nervous people talking to each other.” But here’s the thing: Isn’t the message important enough for a little weirdness?(929, 963).”
9. A Spirit-filled church is a mission-focused church.
“Churches and Christians not devoted to this mission are not filled with the Spirit, no matter how vibrant their worship, how sanctified their imaginations, or how sacred their demeanor… There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled Christian who does not become a mouthpiece for Christ. (1006, 1016).” “The church is not a cruise ship… Let’s be aircraft carriers. Battleships fight their battles on or near the ship. But the last place an aircraft carrier wants to fight its battles is near itself! Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle to the enemy (3870).”
10. The Spirit shows us how to pray, inspires us to pray and works through our prayers.
“Prayers that start in heaven are heard by heaven. So we should look to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to inform and guide us as we pray (2604).” “The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray . . . Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power . . . It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer. — Samuel Chadwick (3507).” “The outpouring of the Holy Spirit will come, he says, when we persist in asking… What if we aren’t experiencing God’s power in our communities, in our churches, or in our families — simply because we are not persistent in asking? (3566, 3588).” “Don’t miss the order: they prayed; the Spirit shook them; then they shook the world (3607).” “He walked the pastor down to the church’s basement, where he showed him three hundred people on their faces praying as the service went on upstairs (3684).”
11. The Spirit empowers revival.
“Tim Keller says a revival is “the intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration and sanctification, assurance of salvation) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, etc.)… Revival is the intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (3333, 3408).”
12. The Spirit only fills the humble.
“Unconfessed, secret, or willful sin deeply grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and where it is cherished, the Spirit will not be present. Nothing quenches the fire of the Holy Spirit faster than unconfessed sin (3434).” “You can never know that Jesus is all that you need, you see, until he’s all that you have… Don’t waste your white space. Not much may occur in the white space that seems worth writing down in a book, but a lot is being written into you. (3136, 3175).” “God’s power comes as a gift only to the empty-spirited. He blesses the poor in spirit because their empty spirits make good vessels for his own… Here’s the bottom line: You will never be full of the Spirit so long as you are full of yourself (3751, 3753).” “Dependence, not strength, is God’s objective for you. And if dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage (3799).” “Remember, he didn’t call you because he needed you. He called you because he loves you, he wants you to know his wonder and be amazed by his glory, and he wants to show off his power in you (3830).”
(The numbers by the quotes are the kindle location numbers.)
Humility is a classic, must-read book for every Christian.
No other book I know of does a better job of explaining the utter importance of humility. Andrew Murray defines humility by pointing to Jesus. The following is a collection of the key quotes that stood out to me as I read. I encourage you to read these humbly and evaluate how you are doing in this important area.
“His humility became our salvation. His salvation is our humility (17).”
“And so pride – loss of humility is the root of every sin and evil… it was when the serpent breathed the poison of his pride – the desire to be as God – into the hearts of our first parents, that they too fell from their high estate… pride or self-exhalation is the very gateway to hell (16).”
“Humility is the only soil in which virtue takes root; a lack of humility is the explanation of every defect and failure (17).”
“He teaches us where true humility begins and finds it’s strength – in the knowledge that it is God who works all in all, that our place is to yield to Him in perfect resignation and dependence (33).”
We are “nothing but a vessel, a channel through which the living God can manifest the riches of His wisdom, power, and goodness (34).”
“Humility is the only ladder to honor in God’s kingdom (38).”
“Just as water seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and the bless (41).”
“Humility is one of the chief and highest virtues, one of the most difficult to attain, and one to which our first and greatest efforts ought to be directed (46).”
“We have our pride from Adam, we must have our humility from Christ (47).”
“Our humility towards others is the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real (53).”
“Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all. The holiest will be the humblest (63).”
“Our only place of blessing before God is among those whose highest joy is to confess that they are sinners saved by Grace (72).”
“Let the glory of the all glorious God be everything to you. You will be freed from the glory of men and of self and be content and glad to be nothing (80).”
“Let us learn the lesson that the greatest holiness comes in the deepest humility (92).”
“It is indeed the deepest happiness of heaven to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all and we are nothing (92-93).”
“The danger of pride is greater and nearer than we think, and especially at the time of our greatest experience (93).”
“The highest glory of the creature is in being a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be everything. Water always fills first the lowest places. The lower, the emptier a man lies before God, the speedier and the fuller will be the inflow of the divine glory (99).”
Quotes taken from the 2001 Bethany House version updated for the modern reader. You can purchase an even more updated 2012 version here.
Every leader going into Christian ministry should read this book!
Unlike many “Christian” leadership books Spiritual Leadership actually get’s it’s content directly from God’s Word. J Oswald Sanders is a master at hitting on the topics that Christian leaders most commonly face. He brings scriptural principles to life with practical illustrations and hard hitting truths. Some of the points he highlighted are…
Leadership is an Honorable Ambition
Sanders assures us that Christian leadership is an honorable ambition as long as we are not doing it for ourselves.
“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” Jer 45:5
Selfishness has no place in the life of a Spiritual leader. We are called to serve.
Leadership Requires Character
Sanders helps leaders look at the Biblical qualifications of leadership. Through out the book, Sanders reminds us that character and servanthood are the bedrock on which the leader must base his ministry. There is a reason leaders in the Bible are most commonly called servants.
Leadership is Influence
The leader must exhibit natural and spiritual leadership. “The best test of whether one is qualified to lead, is to find out whether anyone is following.” (DE Hoste) You are not a shepherd if you don’t have any sheep!
Prayer is the work of the ministry. A spiritual leader must set the example of prayer to his people. If he is not much in prayer he probably won’t be much of a leader. Sanders writes “The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all in prayer (83).”
Leaders are Readers
Sanders shares a powerful chapter on the importance of keeping the mind sharp through reading. He writes, “If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is reflected in the books he reads (104).”
Leadership is Costly
Leaders must be willing “to pay a price higher than others are willing to pay” (115). Spiritual leadership is not for the faint of heart! It is a perilous occupation. As leaders we face self-sacrifice, criticism, rejection, pressure, loneliness, and fatigue. He writes, “The world is run by tired men.” It is hard but it is worth it!
Leaders Make More Leaders
“The ultimate test of a person’s leadership is the health of the organization when the organizer is gone (143).” Leaders who are worth their salt will replace themselves. Raising up more leaders and delegating is the mark of a great leader.
There is no reward for doing more than your share of the work! Sanders quotes DL Moody in saying, “he would rather put a thousand men to work that do the work of a thousand men” (137). You are not leading if you are doing everything yourself.
Do yourself and your church a favor and devour this classic book! The kingdom of God will be better for it!
For most college ministries our large groups swell in size with many new visitors at the beginning of each semester!
Unfortunately, usually in a few weeks that number splits in half. This happens for a many reasons, but one reason is that many of us don’t have good systems to follow up new students.
One tool that we have used to help connect new students with Jesus and with our group is called a “Connection Meeting.” (Click the link to see the sheet we use for it.)
The goal for our ministry is to meet personally for a connection meeting with EVERY new person!
We believe that in this ministry principle,
“The more personal, the more powerful.”
We have discovered that no matter how awesome your large group is, people probably won’t come back unless they have connected with someone personally.
Over the years our ministry has seen around 100 people receive Christ and the vast majority has been in meetings similar to the one I will describe. Here’s how to do it!
Get The Meeting
At your large group or info table get the persons contact info and text them something like this,
“Hey Joe it’s David with Challenge, thanks for coming last night! Want to get lunch or coffee tomorrow or thurs and I could tell you more about what Challenge is all about?”
You can also ask them in person and confirm via text. Be sure and remind them about the meeting the day of! They are college students after all!
Connect With Them
Obviously, an important part of a connection meeting is CONNECTING! Pretty much every leadership guru says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Ask them about their hobbies, interests and background with God. You can ask,
“Growing up did you go to church or anything like that?”
Connect Them To Jesus
Once the topic of God has come up you can say,
“I wanted to tell you more about Challenge, and the most important thing we emphasize is how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I have a sheet that explains more about that. Do you want to read it together?”
On the first page of the sheet there is a very clear gospel presentation that gives them an opportunity to receive Christ.
It is amazing! When we actually share the gospel people actually get saved!
Some people will already be Christians and that’s okay. Many of them need to be reminded about the truth of the gospel and what it means to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.
Connect Them With Your Ministry
The second page of the sheet is where the “Connection Meeting” is different from the “Gospel Appointment.” On this page, we explain the Biblical reasons for community and briefly explain all the ways they can connect with our ministry. We ask them which of the opportunities they can commit to being a part of.
Clearly explaining what our ministry does helps the student decide if they are going to plug in. At the end of the sheet we explain baptism and the importance of Bible study as well.
One reason this tool is effective is because anyone who can read can do it!
It is heartbreaking that so many of our ministries spend so much time gathering crowds, but are not intentional about getting to know the people! I believe that the ministries that start using “Connection Meetings” will start seeing more people stick to their ministries and more people coming to Christ, and become disciples who make disciples! That’s what it’s all about right?
My brother Paul Worcester has written serval very helpful articles about a similar tool called “Gospel Appointments.” Read those for more advice on how to make these types of meetings successful!