The Space In Between

We spend a lot of time waiting. We wait at traffic lights. We wait at the doctor’s office. There is waiting from when you first ooh and aah over the ultrasound pictures until the baby arrives. I love ordering books on line, but then have to wait two weeks or more to receive them.

Some waiting is so accepted by us that we pretty much ignore it. Waiting at a traffic light raises my stress way more than waiting for a book to arrive. Some waiting consumes our every thought; think of a soon-to-be mom who spends the nine months preparing for the new arrival.

Sometimes we wait for God to work. A few years ago I went through a time of waiting on God. Both my wife and I were convinced that God had told us to wait. I was in between ministry positions and had no way of rushing the process of what was next for us. I sent many resumes to a number of different ministry opportunities. No ministry positions came my way, but then again, God had said wait.

King Saul Didn’t Wait

That “time in between” one thing or another, that time of waiting on God is important. We can’t rush when God wants us to wait. I am reminded of King Saul in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 13: 8-9 we read:

            Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Samuel was the priest. Saul was the king. The king was not to offer sacrifices, but he felt he had waited long enough, and he was worried because all of his men were leaving. He had to do something, didn’t he?

Then Samuel arrives just as King Saul is finishing the sacrifice. He chastises the king, “what have you done?”

And this is what happens to Saul as a result of not waiting: 13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Saul was tired of waiting. The in between time was making him nervous. He decided to act, and God punished him for it.

The Disciples Waited

There are times that God wants us to wait, so wait we should.

In Acts 1: 4-5 we read what Jesus told the disciples just before he left this earth after his resurrection: “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So, the disciples waited. For ten days. Waiting, and praying. And then something incredible happened as the promised Holy Spirit showed up. Acts 2 describes tongues of fire and a roaring sound like a mighty wind, as well as those present speaking in languages they had not known before.

There was great benefit in waiting as they received the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would be his replacement for them.

Faithful Waiting

There are other examples in scripture, and in our own lives, where we have been in the in between time. Sometimes we know there is something else, something better, coming. Other times we are just hoping for something better. In the meantime, we wait. In the waiting, our number one purpose is to remain faithful to God.

Maybe you are waiting for a new job or a new ministry position. You are convinced that you need to move on from where you are. Maybe you have even resigned. As you look for the next position, you are getting impatient. It seems like God is too slow. I want to encourage you to be patient, and wait faithfully for God to work.

Maybe you are waiting for something you think you deserve and it is just not happening. Maybe you are wishing you were married. You long for someone to live the rest of your life with. Remain faithful to God in the waiting. Do not look for a shortcut that will ruin your future. Continue to honor him and trust him to provide for you.

Maybe you are a parent who is longing for the return of a prodigal. You have a child who decided they wanted to live their own life, and to deliberately live it opposite to what you taught him or her. And now you wait, and pray, and try to trust God to bring that wayward child back.

Continue to faithfully wait. Trust God. Pray for your child regularly. If you have an opportunity to connect with a visit or even an email or card, do what you can, and trust God to continue to work as you love this child and long for them to return to you and to God.

Waiting is often really hard. Like Saul, we look for shortcuts. But remember how drastically that one mistake affected Saul and his family forever. God had wanted to make a kingly line through him, now that was done and God moved on to another, to David.

Be faithful to God in the waiting. Trust that he truly has the best in mind for you. That waiting time God had us go through a few years ago were not the easiest. We relied on God in a way we hadn’t for quite a while. He provided encouragement along the way. And then he began showing us that he was shifting us into a new type of ministry. The waiting was necessary to readjust my heart, to show me that I needed to go in a different direction than I had ever considered. He has blessed in numerous ways as we have come out of these years of waiting.

Remain faithful during the in between time.

Keep looking up

Andy

Clarify Your God-Given Dreams

I believe God has certain roles He wants each of us to fill in this world. If Jesus is our Lord, we have surrendered our life to Him. This means that all we do is out of a desire to honor him. God has certain things He wants each of us to do.

Many of us have read the directives from Jesus to all believers to: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind… and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37 & 39). Every believer is also challenged: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28: 19-20). We might even look at verses like 1 Corinthians 10: 31, which tells us, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

These are some of the general duties of all who love Jesus and want to live for God.

There are also examples where God called individuals in the Bible to do certain things or go to certain places.

God told Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 1-3).

God told Jeremiah the prophet,

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.

On the other hand, there are times when God specifically told someone not to do a certain thing. God told Balaam in Numbers 22: 12, “Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!” And God said to King David, “You must not build a Temple to honour my name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.” (1 Chronicles 28: 3).

I think that God is asking each of us to do certain things as well, beyond the general directives He has given to all believers. He gives us dreams for our lives, for our families, for our community and nation, for our church or our work.

What dreams has God given to you? Is it possible that God has a certain plan He has been revealing to you over time? It probably has to do with who you are as a person. God has given you certain gifts and talents and skills which you have learned over time. God has placed you in a certain community and among a specific group of people.

You live in a specific neighbourhood and country. Maybe you have recognized a need somewhere. An experience opened your eyes to the need in a personal way, and you just can’t shake the feeling that God wants you to do something about it. You love God and want to obey him, and you are trying to discern what God is actually asking you to do.

What dreams has God given to you? Is it possible that God has a certain plan He has been revealing to you over time? It probably has to do with who you are as a person. God has given you certain gifts and talents and skills which you have learned over time. God has placed you in a certain community and among a specific group of people. You live in a specific neighbourhood and country. Maybe you have recognized a need somewhere. An experience opened your eyes to the need in a personal way, and you just can’t shake the feeling that God wants you to do something about it. You love God and want to obey him, and you are trying to discern what God is actually asking you to do.

If you are struggling with what God is really wanting you to do, can I suggest a few options you might consider as you try to determine God’s dreams for you?

First, pray. As a Christian you are probably already praying. Don’t quit. Keep on asking God for clarity. Ask him to speak to you directly in some way. I believe that God still speaks, if we only listen. Pray as if you are in a real conversation with God. This means you present your requests and concerns, and expect him to reply. Listen to what He is saying. You might do well to invite a few close friends to pray with you.

Second, read scripture. One way God speaks is through His Word. Spend time reading and meditating on scripture. Use scripture in your prayers, and watch for what God may be saying directly to you through scripture.

Third, invite the wise counsel of trusted advisors. Proverbs 20:18: “Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice.” There is value in asking the advice of others. Hopefully you have some wise and godly older men or women you can call on.

Fourth, research. Find out all you can about what you believe God is calling you to. Are others doing similar things? See if you can pick their brain about it. Find out what the real needs are in the areas of concern you believe God is placing on your heart.

Fifth, trust God’s wisdom. God’s Word tells us in James 5:1, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.” God says that if we ask for wisdom, we should just ask and we will get it. Begin to move ahead in the direction your God-given dreams are leading. It’s okay if you aren’t clear on exactly what it will look like, but begin to move and allow God to refine your direction as you trust in His wisdom. I have had to make small course corrections along the way as God continues to direct.

I believe that God puts certain dreams on each of our hearts. Some of us have them clearly articulated while others may not and are instead faithfully doing what they can to love God and love people.

Each of us can figure out exactly where we fit, where the person we are with our gifts and skills and even our unique idiosyncrasies, can serve the needs God has place on our hearts. I hope you can find a way to never feel like a square peg in a round hole again.

Keep looking up

Andy Wiebe

Rejuvenating the Crushed Spirit

The human spirit can endure a sick body,

    but who can bear a crushed spirit?

Proverbs 18:14

I came across this verse in my daily readings and immediately saw its application in today’s covid-ravaged world. Covid has hit many people, millions around the world. Many of us know someone who has been hospitalized, and even died. It’s amazing how positive some people can be in the middle of physical pain, even as they are facing death. Some people can keep their faith strong and their spirits up in the battle against physical odds. But the same people can be utterly crushed by loneliness, and despair, and frustration, and discouragement.

When we are sick, we know we have to fight the disease. Others join the battle with us – doctors and nurses who minister to us in the hospital, or friends and family that bring us food or look after our family while we are down and out with physical issues.

When we are sick in our spirit, it is harder to find the ones who will battle through it with us. We are less likely to open up about it to others. And when we do, people aren’t sure how to offer help. A friend told me a colleague had asked how he was doing. He answered, “Actually, I am having a pretty hard time right now.” The other answered, “Well we are all having a hard time right now”, and walked away. My friend had been hoping for some words of encouragement or at least an understanding that his spirit was crushed more than it had been in a long time.

Who is standing with you as you endure and try to “bear a crushed spirit”?

Some of us have a loving and caring spouse who can walk with us in our low times. We have agreed to be there for each other in “sickness and health… in good times and bad.” I have marveled at how many times God has arranged for me or my wife to be the one who supports the other. Often when my wife is feeling crushed, I am strong, and when I feel crushed in my spirit, she has been strong. But it is not always the case, and not everyone has a supportive spouse.

Some of us have the benefit of great friends. We have people in our lives that have gotten to know us and have stuck with us through the years. We can call on them and they will show up. A few years ago, we moved in with another couple for a few months. God arranged for us to support these friends even as they supported us. We were able to encourage and pray for each other. But not all of us have friends like that.

Some of us have great benefits or financial means to be able to go to a counsellor or therapist who can walk with us in our crushed spirits. Professionals like this can be a big help. They often have tools to use to encourage us, or even know how to refer us to others for further help. But not all of us have access to professional help.

I don’t know where you turn for help when yours spirit is crushed and you are barely hanging on. I hope you have someone.

I think one of the best places to find that supportive uplifting help we need is our church. Hopefully you have a church family that loves you and encourages you. If you don’t, I’m sure there is a church in your neighborhood that would love to welcome you in and support you and encourage you.

Church services are great because they point us to Christ. Jesus knows all about us. He lived the life of a human on our earth for 33 years. He understands our crushed spirit pain – and wants to help. When we sing songs of praise and worship we are encouraged. My wife and I were in a low point when we began attending a new church. It was amazing how God used the worship services and encouragement of the pastors and congregation to lift us up and to revive our spirit. If you do not have a church where you are being revived, then look for another one where you will be.

Some of you are pastors. You are the leaders of a church and you are not sure you are getting that reviving that I am talking about. You feel that no one is noticing how low you are, and no one seems to have time to care for you. That may be true. You know your situation. If this is you, then look for places where people specifically love to minister to pastors. My wife and I would highly recommend places like Focus on the Family’s Kerith Retreats. They exist specifically to encourage those in ministry.

If you are bearing a crushed spirit, Jesus wants to be your life. As you surrender your life to him, he truly wants to give you life, and life abundantly. Take time to talk with him. Pour out your heart. Maybe you want to write down your prayers and present them to God. Maybe you need to just cry out to him and ask him to move.

Do not give up. God wants to revive you. He wants to restore your crushed spirit to new life and new energy and joy. I pray that you will find that renewal in Him.

Keep looking up.

Andy Wiebe

http://www.elevatecoaching-consulting.com

Prayer Journaling Helps Me Hear God Better

There is a longing deep within me to be in continued close communication with God. Yet I am never satisfied, there always feels like there should be more. I want to be able to talk with God, not just to God. I want to be able to have the wisdom God offers the praying individual in the book of James. I want to know when He says yes or no to a decision I am about to make. Too often I have seesawed back and forth between yes and no even when facing decisions that were not life changing.

A few years ago, I was able to take in a “Hearing God” seminar out of Southland Church in Steinback, Manitoba. After a couple of months of weekly teaching, I was feeling much more clarity in my conversations with God.

The Hearing God seminar focuses on teaching you how to prayer journal, how to write out a conversation with God. This has helped me make decisions, both small and large, with more confidence. Since practicing prayer journaling almost daily for the last couple of years, Lynnette and I have made moves with confidence that seemed strange to others. We have heard God speaking as we moved to new places, bought a house again after years of renting, began a new ministry, and even in our daily decisions.

The seminar teaches you to write down your question for God. You can even put your initial down (A for Andy), then ask your question. Then on the next line put “G” for God, and write what you believe God is saying. Check the example below.

A: God, what do you want to say to me this morning?

G: …

As you listen, you can expect God to speak. Sometimes it takes a little time to get clarity, but I believe what the seminar teaches: God wants to speak to his children. This format helps me have more of a dialog with God. I actually wait and expect him to speak. I don’t just keep rattling on with my desires and concerns, but actually stop to hear God speak. The next step is to write what you think God is saying and evaluate it later. Don’t take actions unless you have confirmed that you heard correctly.

There is no scripture that says you need to journal when talking with God. Some people may even call it a fad. Maybe, but it is a fad that I am benefiting from. I hear God speak to me more than I ever have before. The act of writing helps me to slow down and listen.

Some people like to go back over their journals from time to time to see what God has been saying and how he has worked in your life. This is a great way to spark your thanksgiving as you celebrate how you have seen God answer and work. I don’t often go back over my journals, but love how it helps me focus in the moment.

In the church where I was taught the Hearing God seminar, prayer journaling was commonplace. It was part of their church culture. The pastor often referred to his own journaling experience in his sermons, and encouraged church member to write in their journals as they heard God speak during the service.

Church prayer times were connected to the prayer journal too. Those attending prayer meetings were encouraged to bring their journals and there were times of personal journaling on certain topics and then sharing what people believed God had said.

One concern with prayer journaling is that some people may speak something as from God or with his authority, but they may have not heard clearly. What you believe God is saying to you must always line up with scripture. If it does not, then either you are not hearing God, or you just need to wait on him for more clarity. Be cautious about saying, “God said…” when referring to your prayer journal. I would preface what I believed God had said with something like: “I believe God is saying…”, or “It seems God is saying…” This gives opportunity for others, maybe leadership, to speak into or confirm or clarify what you believe God is saying. If you believe God is saying something to the congregation as a whole, then others will usually confirm that they are hearing God say something similar. Be willing to test your words from God with scripture, or the input of other believers.

You want to hear God speak. God wants to speak to you. Take time to slow down when you pray and expect Him to speak. Why not try journaling?

This is a tool that could help deepen your prayer life, so why not try it? If it is a meaningless exercise for you after trying it for a while, then go back to what works better for you. If you miss a day or two, just pick back up where you left off the next time you come back to the journal.

Keep looking up

Andy Wiebe

www.elevatecoaching-consulting.com

Find Ways to Enjoy Every Season of Your Life

The yellow and red leaves on the trees are ushering in our Fall season. I love the different seasons we have in Canada. There is a clear winter, usually with lots of snow and cold weather. There is a clear summer where it can get quite warm. We had 40 degrees Celsius this summer in northern Alberta. In between we have Spring where nature around us is waking up from its long winter nap. And we have Fall, when we see the green of summer change to the red and yellow of fall, and then the white of winter. Each season has an official day of beginning and ending, but nature follows its own schedule.

Each season has certain activities associated with it. Winter means more time indoors, or outdoors if you are a fan of the cold and snow. Summer is the natural time for vacations as students get a break from school. Summer is sometimes also referred to as the “construction season”, as crews try to do road construction before the cold returns.

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Ecclesiastes 3 has a famous poem about seasons:

1There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Our lives have seasons, as does our work life. There are times when life slows down a little, and there are times when life is so full that we feel we can hardly think. I have been in a busy season as my wife and I recently bought a new house, I changed jobs, and began my first Transition Pastor position.

The house required a couple of inspections, a lot of work to get the mortgage and insurance completed, some additional maintenance on the house, and the actual move. We had to clean out our rental and get it ready for the final walk through. We cleaned out our storage unit and started going through boxes to see what we had and where to put it.

My job required all the usual paperwork of a new job and joining a denomination I had not been part of for almost five years. I had to have Elder meetings and develop a Transition Plan. I had to get used to how things were working at the church and how I would schedule my week with them as I am commuting 110 km to serve them.

SLOW SEASONS

Some of you may be in a season that allows you to slow down a bit. You have some time to catch up with your jobs around the house that you have been putting aside. Maybe you are able to catch up with your spouse and with friends. Enjoy this season, and do the things you have been neglecting in your busy seasons. Be purposeful during this time to pursue the relationships that matter. Even though you still read your Bible and spend time with God, and connect with your spouse and family, use this time to dig in. Take more concentrated time to just be with Jesus, reading and mulling over what the scriptures say. Take time to go on that needed vacation with your family, or that date with your spouse. Enjoy sleeping in a bit. Bears hibernate so they are ready for spring. Use this time to be ready for the busy season that is most likely coming.

BUSY SEASONS

Maybe you are in a busy season right now. You feel overwhelmed with all that is demanded of you. You recognize that your emotions are at a limit, you get angry much quicker than usual. And you wonder how you will be able to hold it all together.

If you are in a busy season, here are a few things you might want to consider, not necessarily in any order:

1. Is this a capacity issue, or are you really this busy? Some of us can handle more than others, which of course means that some of us can handle less than others. We need to know how to work at our capacity, and find ways to expand that capacity. Be diligent about scheduling and arranging your days and weeks in the way that will give you the best time and energy to tackle all you need to do.

2. Determine what is yours and what you can hand off to someone else. Sometimes we are carrying a load that we do not need to carry. It may be that you are doing things that someone else can do. At work, do you have someone else on staff, or a volunteer, who can take some of the things you are doing? Have you taken on something that isn’t even yours? Hand that off, or even just put it aside. If you are doing things that are not your responsibility at work, why? If you are carrying things in your personal life that are not yours, let them go. Some of us are such caring “people persons” that we carry loads that are not ours to worry about. Give good advice, pray for people, and encourage them to work on solving their own issues.

3. Pray. Did you ever notice how Jesus took time to pray in his busy days? In Mark 1: 35-39 we read:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Jesus had just had some very busy day of people and ministry. Very early the next day, the first thing he did was find a quiet place away from everyone, and pray. He needed to spend time with the Father before going about the work of ministry. And…the time of prayer helped him to renew his commitment to what God’s plan was. He didn’t work to appease the crowds, but continued on with what he knew his purpose was.

So, pray. Reset yourself to see and know God as the one who is truly in charge of your day, who will remind you what your main priorities of this season should be.

We all have seasons we go through in life. Some are very busy, but make sure you continue to remind yourself of what is truly your responsibility and what is not.

May God guide you and give you joy in all seasons of your life.

Keep looking up!

Andy

13 Ways to Make Prayer a Priority

I hope I don’t have to convince you that prayer needs to be a priority in your church. If I do, just take some time to skim through the gospels and notice how many times and circumstances you see Jesus praying. He gives thanks for a lunch, teaches the disciples the “Lord’s Prayer”, prays for future believers, and on and on. If the Son of God felt the need to talk with his Father that much, then we should follow that example. If that is not enough, then search “prayer” on your Bible app and you will see the many times Paul taught about it. We know prayer is important, so, I am going to focus on the many ways you can make prayer a priority in your church, teaching it and practicing it.

1. Pray During Church Services

I visited a church, where the sermon was teaching on prayer and I could not recall them praying even once in the service. Open in prayer, pray for missions, offer a Pastoral Prayer, give a prayer of thanksgiving for the offering, and close with a benediction prayer.

2. Offer Prayer Following the service

Many churches give opportunity for people to come to the front or to a side room for prayer following the service. They may have heard God speak and need to spend some time in prayer or have a leader pray with them.

3. Preservice Prayer

I like the idea of people praying before the service, sometimes with all who are involved in the service. I have a caution though; I think it is very valuable for the pastor to be greeting members and newcomers before the service, so do your preservice prayer early enough that you are done in time to be available to greet people as they arrive.

4. Prayer Night

It might be good to have an occasional or regular night of prayer. You could teach a little on prayer, and then focus the rest of the time on actually praying.

5. Prayer Trios

Ask people to commit to pray with two others weekly for a certain extended period of time. They could meet at any time that is good for them for fifteen minutes or more, praying for a specific concern.

6. Small Group Prayer

If your church has small groups, encourage them to regularly have a time of prayer for and with each other.

7. Elders/ Leadership Team Prayer

Make prayer a regular part of each meeting you have with the leadership team, elders, deacons or board. Pray about your agenda, pray for specific programs and people each time you meet. Or have a monthly meeting dedicated to praying for the church.

8. Plan a Prayer Emphasis

There have been a few times where I led our church in a three-week prayer emphasis with preaching on prayer on the Sundays around it. I prepared special prayer guides for each person prepared to give direction as they prayed.

9. Teach on Prayer

Teach your congregation how to pray. You could even preach through the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus used to teach his disciples to pray!

10. Prayer Chain

The Prayer Chain was a staple in some of the churches I pastored. One person received the prayer request and then passed it on down the line, phoning the next person who phoned the next person. Today we can just email or phone everyone at once, but find a way to quickly inform your congregation of prayer needs. Use this often and regularly.

11. Pray with People

When you visit with Christian friends, take time to pray together. When someone asks you to pray for them, do it. Do it right then with them, and then commit to praying for them.

12. Pray Prayers of Dedication and Commission

There are many occasions of celebration, dedication, and commission in a church and each of these events are great opportunities to pray and ask God’s blessing, direction, and presence be involved.

  • Every September I invited all who were going to serve in the church in the next year to stand, or even come to the front, and we prayed a prayer of commissioning for them for the role they were taking on for the next year.
  • When we had missionaries come speak at the church, who were heading overseas shortly, we would pray for them as well.
  • I love Child Dedications and enjoy praying a blessing on the child incorporating the meanings of the child’s name.
  • It’s important to pray for those who have just been baptized to protect them from Satan’s attacks, like the ones Jesus faced after his baptism.

13. Pray for Healing

This is sometimes a scary thing to do, but pray for those who are sick. They may be healed, and they may not be healed. But scripture makes it clear, Jesus healed people in the Bible. James teaches that prayer should be part of the church, specifically calling on the elders of the church to pray. Go to those who call you to pray for them, or have times where you specifically invite people to come forward for prayer for healing after a service. Sometimes we would connect this to a Communion Service.

There are many creative ways to pray, teach prayer, and lead in prayer.. Make prayer a priority by doing it.

Keep looking up!

Andy