Here is a strange thought. What if the slow progress towards a fair society was something to do with so many in the church being weak? What if the first step to a fair society was to meet the needs of the weak within the church in such a way that it strengthens them rather than weakening them further?
When I first wrote down the concepts of the five dimensions it was pure dictation. It has only been afterwards that I have realised their importance. In fact it has amazed me just how important they are and how much effort God has put in to designing me to use this approach. He has been preparing me for this for decades giving me a variety of experiences, especially life experiences.
There again God is a gardener, or maybe I should say a vine dresser. Gardeners have compost heaps. That is where they put the prunings and the things that have grown in the wrong way or in the wrong place. He then gives the compost heap the attention it needs to change the waste into something that is very useful around the garden. Something that helps stimulates growth.
My life has included lot of growing in the wrong direction, followed by pruning and then composting. Compost is made for a purpose and there is little point making it unless it is used. This file, and in fact everything on www.godslily.com is an attempt to use that compost in such a way that it stimulates growth.
This can be expressed in a variety of ways. We cannot do this because we do not have the skills or the ability to do it. The response to this is get more training. The problem with that is we can struggle to work out what is enough training. If only I had this certificate or that one or learnt that skill then I would be good enough to do this task. The list can go on and on.
Eventually you get to the situation where you have so many that they become a disadvantage. Education and training can become a coping mechanism that is used to cover up a sense of not being enough. It is not unknown for someone to start a third PhD in an attempt to stop feeling stupid. No amount of education will deal with the inner core belief that they are stupid.
It is not just education is it? Many of us harbour beliefs that we are not good enough at this that or the other. It would not matter how hard we try we cannot make ourselves good enough. That sense of being good enough comes from inside us. It is not just individuals is it? It also groups of people. Whole churches can be infected with the attitude we are not enough.
One day I had the opportunity to compare and contrast a lady with a disability who had a variety of medical issues with her friend, an older gentleman. I was surprised. The lady was, on the inside at least, far and away the stronger one. She was positive and knew who she was and whose she was. She was constantly commenting on how often her friend’s words displayed a negative attitude. She was looking forwards to fulfilling whatever call God had on her life and wanted to play her part in mobilising and activating it. He struggled to believe that much could be done to revive the church. It was abundantly clear that the difference was her inner strength that came from knowing who she is and whose she is.
Initiation includes learning to listen to God. He can then tell you who you are and what you are good at doing. It also includes learning to accept yourself. Once you can accept yourself for who you are and what you can do you can step out and do things. The fear of not being enough and the shame of being themselves evaporates. I think it has a lot to do with the idea that perfect love casts out fear.
Recognition is about working out what you are designed to do. If God has not designed you to do something then it is OK for you not to do it. That is the reasoning behind the Find your Purpose Love your Life book. The aim is to think through the skills, abilities, talents, gifts, passions the reader has so that they can work out how God has designed them. It is a relatively short step from there to working out what they should do.
Not feeling enough or feeling ashamed of who we are stops us doing all kinds of things. Yet how many times do we read things like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” or similar verses. The intention behind these verses is to build up our inner strength. When we have that inner strength we can step out and do exploits. We become bold and courageous to move forwards rather than shrinking back saying we are not enough.
Ever thought that the reason why we do not have enough is that we are not supposed to be doing something in exactly that way? Constraints can actually help us. They might mean we cannot do ABC but we can do CDE. Doing CDE may lead to a much better outcome than doing ABC would have done so doing CDE was a good idea.
The issue is not so much the constraints but the way we look at them. We see what we are looking for. If we are looking for reasons why we cannot do something then we can become blind to the things that we can do. If we are looking at things with a positive outlook then we will find ways to overcome the constraints and go forwards.
Our beliefs can create all sorts of challenges for us. If you say you can’t then you can’t. You probably won’t even make the effort to do something because you believe there is no point trying because you can’t. If you believe that you and God together can do something then you will at least have a go. You cannot possibly succeed until you have a go. Have a go and there is the possibility of succeeding. In fact if you are working together with God and following His instructions carefully you will succeed.
It all depends how we see things. The same glass can be half full or it can be half empty. It is hard though because we are in a battle. On one side there is a God of abundance but He has an enemy who wants to steal kill and destroy. One way he steals things is by persuading us we are not good enough or that we do not have enough to do what God wants us to do.
In Judges chapter 3 it says that they were given enemies for a reason. They could only survive if they learnt to fight. They had to stick close to God and learn to fight His way and all would be well. Just look at the ups and downs in the book of Judges. Something goes wrong so God raises up a judge. The judge finds out what God wants His people to do. Often this meant leading them into battle against their enemies. They would win and stayed close to God for a while. But those who knew God died off and those who followed them forgot God and their enemies grew stronger again. The cycle goes round and round for centuries. The church is similar. Many have glory stories of the past yet today they are so much weaker than they once were.
One of the Judges was a man called Gideon. One of the things he did was raise an army but then God gave him some strange instructions. God told Gideon to set his army some tests. It was only the men who passed all the tests who would work with God to defeat the enemy. The size of the army went down from a size that was a reasonable match for the size of their opponent’s army to one that was ridiculously small.
The reason Gideon was given why God had reduced his resources was that if they were so limited then there was no way that they could succeed without God’s help. The constraint forced them to rely on God. The lack of resources was not an excuse not to try it was a reason to follow God’s instructions. Instructions that made them look as though they were a much bigger fighting force, one that their opponents ran away from rather than engaging. Talk about shaming your enemy.
Another aspect of this sense of not having enough is called a poverty mentality. Poverty basically means have a lack of some kind. In other words we can believe that we have a lack. Another way of putting this that we believe is that we do not have enough. Usually we use this to refer to money but it does not necessarily mean just money.
Whatever happened to the idea that God will meet all our needs? Money is very important in a world where money is exchanged for the things that we need. Stepping out in trust when you cannot see the way forwards is not easy.
We need to recognise who we are and what we are capable of. I once wanted the leader of a group to do something very important for me. In fact it was a repeat of something that group of people had been asked to do a few years before but they had not agreed to do it for me. Instead of asking them to do it for me I asked them why they had not done it.
They searched their memories and came up with a boatload of wrong ideas. They were the only things they could think of that were good enough reasons to say no. The real answer was that I had not asked them again but they could not see that possibility as they were looking for reasons why they had said no. I had managed to manipulate them into saying no when I wanted them to say yes.
The problem was I did not believe that they would think I was good enough for them to agree to do that thing for me. I did not recognise who I was so pushed them to think of me in the way that I thought about myself.
Some people call this the expectation belief cycle. One way of explaining it is that once we think something will happen then we will see everything that points to it happening. We expect it so we look for it and because we are looking for it we are more likely to see it. They were looking for reasons to say no because I asked them why they had said no. They had said no but for something slightly different than what I was asking them to say yes to this time.
I had expected them to say no and then had subtly manipulated them to do what I had expected them to do. We can even do this without realising what we are doing. It really only dawned on me what I had done after the event. If I had not then it would be just another reinforcement of that belief expectation cycle. Remember it is called a cycle because it normally goes round and round reinforcing itself.
The basis of a negative belief expectation cycle is an ungodly belief. In the example I just gave, I struggled to believe that they would say yes. I expected them to say so no I manipulated them into saying no. That is a typical ungodly belief that does not line up with what the Bible says. This is where the idea of taking thoughts captive is very useful. Of course you know what is right and wrong because you have spent time meditating on the Word. The aim is to replace the ungodly belief with one based on scripture. This means that instead of saying I cannot do XYZ it becomes I know that God says I can do it because He strengthens me.
Depending on the root cause of the ungodly belief it may be necessary to forgive those who sowed the seed. It may also be necessary to forgive those who reinforced it or help it grow into the obstacle it created in your life.
Remember it is not just individuals that are impacted by this mechanism. Whole churches can be soundly taught that they should not do something. For example a teacher in a previous generation could have taught them that having a cross in or on the building is wrong. They feared it would lead to idolatry. If the older generation were soundly taught this then they will struggle to have a cross on display on or in the building.
Why would God allow such a mechanism to be put in place? The thing is that when it works in a positive direction it reinforces the positive so we expect to see the positive. We expect to see things go right for us. The mechanism itself is neutral it is just that it can be used to build things up as well as to tear things down. If there were no possibilities of getting things wrong we would be programmed like robots. Our free will may get in the way sometimes but without it we would not be human.
3. We need to get involved in evangelism to increase attendance and therefore help the church survive
A church may be small and find it a struggle to do all the things that need to be done. Or it becomes obvious that numbers are going down and needs to be reversed if the church is going to survive. In those situations is incredibly tempting to say the way to solve our problem is to encourage more people to join us.
Let’s look at this in the light of the Sermon on the Mount. We are told that we are not to worry about not having our basic needs met. What we do have to do though is to seek first the Kingdom. So in other words if we do things God’s way and work to bring about the type of world that He wants to see then He will make sure our needs are met. For some churches that means enabling people to be salt and light where they are so that the world around them changes. For others it means starting projects that serve the community and meet the needs of those around them.
I wonder if a church does not have its needs met does that mean that it is not meeting God’s need? Yes God does have needs that we can meet. Those needs include being the hands and feet He needs to do the things on earth that He wants to see done. Would you tell me how God can give someone the hug that they need? He wants them to have a hug but He cannot do it. What He needs is someone to use their physical body to do what He cannot do and give someone the hug that they so desperately need. He needs people willing to be the shoulder that other people cry on.
It is not just that but He wants to see the hungry fed, the thirsty given a drink, the naked clothed, the lonely put into families amongst other things. In The Manifesto that is NOT for Wimps I go over the idea of what this could mean in practice in rather more detail.
How do the hungry get fed? OK God could organise birds to drop food in someone’s lap as they sit in the woods. Well it is possible just look at what happened to Elijah. However, it is not something He organises on a regular basis. How can He put lonely people into families if there are no families willing to receive lonely people?
There is a lot of work to do out there and not many workers around to do it. There is a lot more to do than just evangelism. There are huge levels of need out there that are currently not being met. Needs that could be met by God’s people.
It is the churches who meet the needs of the people round them who grow in quality and quantity. They attract and keep people who want to make a difference in the world. They demonstrate what God can do and that attracts more people to them. By all means share the good news but from a perspective of this is what God can do for you not from a desperation of we must bring people in or we will die.
The impartation dimension is about using spiritual skills in such a way that it enhances what you are doing in a practical sense. We can pray for the hungry or we can feed them. We may end up marvelling at the spectacular provision.
I once went to a meal after Sunday service, one of those times when you bring what you think will be useful. Before I went I said God what do I take with me. As a result I went to the supermarket and bought two things. The largest tub of coleslaw I could find and the largest bottle of pickled onions I could find. It seemed a crazy idea but it was an easy one to put into practice. I got to the meal and there was loads of cold meat and loads of salad but only one tub of coleslaw and only one jar of pickled onions. By listening to God and bringing those two things it made quite a difference to that meal.
Or what about the time when at another church we were providing our visitors with afternoon tea. I looked in the fridge and thought I had better take a bottle of milk just in case it is needed. I was not the only one who did that. It was needed so lady after lady took a bottle of milk out of their bag. I can remember being asked if a boy could have a cup of milk and knowing how little milk we had it was quite a step of faith. Yes we could have gone to the shop that was open nearby and bought some more. In fact towards the end of the afternoon someone did walk to the shop to get more milk and sugar. The crazy thing about that was that they were left unopened. We managed with what we had.
I think most of us have stories of that kind of provision. I have a whole series of stories about when something has gone wrong with my car and I have marvelled about how much worse it could have been. There was the time when I drove a poorly car 300 miles on the Friday and on the Sunday it managed 300 yards before stopping and not starting again. Those 300 yards took it closer to the garage in the village that I use. They were very busy but they made time to go to it and get it going. It was beyond their ability to fix so they directed me to a specialist who diagnosed and resolved the problem. If it had stopped and not started again on the Friday it could have been a very different story.
It is developing trust and building a relationship with God that is the backbone of the impartation dimension. It is a trust that helps us do what we are called to do. It is a relationship that is built on prayer and developing our spiritual muscles so we are strong enough to do what we are called to do.
Free enterprise is a system that exposes the character and values of the individuals involved in it. In itself it is not inherently bad or wrong. If it was wrong then Jesus would have had quite a different attitude towards the fishermen who left the family business to follow Him. There again it is quite possible that He had been in a similar position to them. In His case the fact that Joseph is not mentioned suggests that he had died before Jesus started His ministry so as the eldest son he could have run the family business. He would then have left the family business when He started his ministry. If He was a good businessman that would partly explain why His mother and brothers were looking for Him and wanted him to come back home with them.
The problem with business is that it attracts people who lust after money. They see business as a vehicle to make money. Virtually all the books on how to become rich or how to become a millionaire recommend that you start a business, especially a property business.
The real problem is not business but the love of money. It appears that Timothy had come across a church that had problems because the leaders loved money so much that they made a variety of mistakes. Once money becomes your primary motivation then all sorts of things fall by the wayside. You take the cheapest option no matter what the cost to people or the environment.
People see that and say business is not something that Christians should be involved in. My response to that is what an incredible mission field. There is plenty of opportunity to introduce Christian values.
The Old Testament prophets and even Jesus Himself condemned some ways of doing business. They wanted to see businesses that treated people fairly. They objected to businesses that ripped off customers or badly treated employees. In other words they wanted to see businesses that were socially responsible.
Businesses are a reflection of the people who founded them and run them. Sadly there are some who have been taught that the primary responsibility of a business is to make money for their investors. The whole notion of social responsibility is overlooked.
There have always been a minority who have tried to be socially responsible. Titus Salt comes to mind. He built a model village for his workers. A far cry from the slums many factory workers of his day lived in.
Today it is not just the responsibility to care for people that is recognised as being important. Caring for the environment is also seen as being important. Businesses that make products out of waste products are seen as a good idea. Of course there have always been a few that have done this but as environmental issues have come to the fore it has increasingly become something to shout about.
Good business practise has always been about meeting people’s needs. It is just a question of whose needs. It is not just the shareholder’s need to make money that is important. There are others whose needs can be met by a business. Employees get the money they need to sustain themselves. Suppliers get the money they need to keep producing things. Customers get the goods and services that they need.
Not only that but having a business linked to a church or social action project helps to provide much needed funds. This is not a new idea either. Ever heard of the Reliance Bank? It was set up in 1890 and its main aim then was to help Salvation Army Corps buy the buildings they needed to do their work. It is a business and still operates as a bank. The profits are used to resource the work of the Salvation Army. They only have one branch but in today’s world of online banking that is not much of a disadvantage.
That is not the only way that Christians have used the mechanism of business to achieve their aims. What about lowering the rate of unemployment in an area by Christians setting up a business that employs people? Or as in the case of Bishop Auckland setting up a trust that has bought a number of old buildings in the town and is working to develop it into a tourist destination. The more visitors are attracted to the town the more jobs are created in businesses that look after visitors by providing them with a place to eat or sleep. Others have developed projects that help people start a business or become self-employed.
A few years ago I was at a church conference and they were complaining that they would have to make severe cuts in the denominational support structures because their income had fallen. People just did not have the money to give them. I posed three questions to the church representatives who attended that conference.
- What are you doing to help people find a job?
- What are you doing to help people start a business or become self-employed?
- What are you doing to help those who could employ others?
I was looking further down the chain of events than they were. Help people increase their income and they will have more money to give to the churches who will then be able to provide more financial support for the denominational structures. Or put it another way help meet the needs of the community and your own needs will be met.
Embarkation is about getting started. It is the getting on board a ship so that you can make the journey to your intended destination. It is the taking of the first steps of a long journey. The thing about these early stages in something is that it takes courage to step out in faith because you don’t have a clue if it will work or not.
Back to the example of my poorly car again. That Sunday when it stopped at the end of the road I had to move it a few feet so that I could leave it in a safe place where it was legally parked. The only answer to that was to get out and push it. The thing about pushing cars is that it works a lot better if you don’t accidentally leave the parking brake on. They can also take a bit of effort to get moving but once they are moving they are easier to move and it is possible to steer them so they go where you want them to go.
Some of us try and start new things but do the equivalent of leaving the brakes on. You know the sort of thing. Let’s do this but we have to do it this way then we find that doing it that way does not work. Others of us also find that it is not easy building up the initial momentum for a project but then once that has been achieved it is possible to make it into something that is incredibly valuable for the people involved in it.
Now do you see why I put these in this order? Churches have this idea that they will have enough money when people give them the whole tithe. They push the idea of tithing and encourage people to give, sometimes going too far in their efforts. People want to give when they see the good that their money is doing. They will only be able to give if they have money. No one can give what they do not have. Help people earn more and they will have more money to give.
It is back to the idea of meeting needs again. God needs people to make the money that He can then direct them to give to others to meet the needs of those around them. He uses the earthly mechanisms to direct money towards us. He wants to meet our needs but how can He do that unless we play our part?
There are times when we pray for financial relief and we receive money. Something I have noticed when people tell stories about this happening is that somehow money had been stuck in these earthly mechanisms and God got it unstuck so that they could receive that they were due. If there is no money that should be coming to them that is stuck somewhere then they don’t receive any.
Money does not fall from the sky or just appear from nowhere. We need the wisdom to use the mechanisms set up on this earth to generate the money that can then be directed to pay for the things that God wants to see happen on earth. Yes supernatural wisdom is useful as that helps you set up a business that makes a profit. In fact anything that is included under the heading of impartation like prayer will help.
There is a problem though. How many people in the church have the practical skills and experience to run a business and then share what they know with others? There are many who teach online business who have learnt enough about how to use a particular skill so that they can use it in their circumstances. They then decide that as it works for them that they will teach others how to do what they did. The problem is that other people are not the same as they are. Their skills, their background, their circumstances are not the same so if they use exactly the same technique then there is no guarantee that it will work.
I suppose that is an advantage of wandering around the online space for a few years. You have seen so much that it is hard to find something new. Yes the fine details could change, and in fact will probably change every few weeks as things change. The basic structures rarely if ever change and if they do it is more likely to be step by step rather than with a huge fanfare.
Another advantage is that you know that it is possible to succeed if only you can join all the dots. Yes there are some people who don’t know what they are doing or who lead people astray. Yet there are enough successes to prove that it is possible if you can find the right formula for you.
There are many who think of money in terms of cheques through the letterbox or pennies from heaven. Yet what the Bible says is that we are given the power to gain wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18). Yes God gives the ideas but it takes time and effort to build up wealth. Even those who inherit wealth know that it takes effort in order to maintain the family fortune.
Many people look for the instant windfall but the truth is that so often this can do more harm than good. Think of the people who have frittered away a legacy on trinkets and used up the seed that they could have planted to gain a bigger harvest.
To get a harvest of anything means that you have planted seed then waiting and cared for the growing plants before harvesting the final crop. Planting is not always easy, weeding can be back-breaking work and harvesting has to be done in the right way at the right time and again is hard work. If you don’t keep planting to replace what you have used or eaten then your resources will diminish. It is hard work and hard work is all part of the perspiration dimension.
Those are five things that came to the top of my mind when I was thinking about the frustrations I have when I see the slow progress towards a fair society. Much to my surprise I even managed to link them with ideas based on the five dimensions of training.
Each of those five dimensions build on each other and complement each other. All too often we leave one of the dimensions out. We stop at the point where a venture is getting off the ground and the journey is just beginning and forget about the perspiration dimension. Or we forget that we need to know whose we are and who we are before we can make a success of a venture. Just think back to that story of how a wrong belief I had stopped me going forwards to do something.
It would not surprise me if there are more things that I think of once I have finished putting this document together. Do you know what? It does not matter. I can always do another document that describes those things sometime in the future. I am not saying that I will but I can do. You see that is the important thing step out and take a risk. You can always make adjustments later. Not only that but if you are a child of God He will pick you up dust your down and help you make a fresh start. After all that is what He specialises in.