By Carri Clark
Carri is one of our LLI 2018 Transform training alumni. God used this summer to grow her love for Him and do some deep healing in her life. May her story encourage you as you walk with Jesus.
There was a table, beautiful and strong. Everyone loved it and had wonderful memories with it. The maker created it to serve people and they were influenced by it’s qualities. The table was happy to have people use it and was available day and night for anything and anyone.
But the maker knew that many people misused the table. He chased some of them away but knew he could not keep everything away. Over time, the table gathered scrapes, gouges and stains as it was bumped and damaged. It bore everything with a smile, but the maker could see it had no protection for itself and it’s structure was weak. The table continued, not realizing it was becoming worn and ready to fall apart. It hurt, and the scrapes stung, but it didn’t want to leave it’s work.
Finally the wounds took their toll and the table became discouraged. How long could it continue serving people? Some intentionally damaged it. Some didn’t even notice it. And all left their mark. The table forgot all the good it was ding and the people it had helped. It forgot how to love them. It forgot the maker that could help it…But the maker knew what was happening.
One day, the maker came and took the table away from it’s place. The table was tired and went willingly, expecting a new coat of paint or something else to cheer it up for more service. But the maker knew what it needed most. The maker began to sand the table with a rough paper. The table panicked, “This hurts! Why are you doing this?”
But the maker calmly continued his work without speaking. The maker reached every spot of the table with the paper. The table didn’t understand, “Haven’t I been through enough pain? Why are you causing more?”
The maker replied, “I am changing you. I’m going to heal the damage and make you new.”
Relieved to hear the maker’s voice at last, the table became calm. It felt peace as the maker filled every gouge, hole and scrape. Slowly, the table changed form. It became smooth and clean. But the table began to notice, it did not look the same. All it’s edges were round! All the characteristics it had were covered! New ones were being made! “This is not me! Why did you change me so much? How can I go back like this? I don’t know how to do it! I don’t want to help those people! They will just ruin all the work you’ve done! I don’t want to be marked again!”
But the maker knew his plan. He allowed the table to rest in it’s new form. People came by and touched it, admiring the maker’s work. They talked about how they could not wait to spend quiet time and meals there. They talked about how much they missed the table. But the table was not sure, it was afraid, it did not feel comfortable in it’s new form and going back to it’s old purpose. The master began applying pain, paint that protected the table from insects and small wounds. He spoke softly to the table and it began to learn many things.
It was still a table. It was still the same wood. But it had been made better, stronger and more beautiful. It had not been changed because there was something wrong with it. It had been made for a purpose and the maker would protect it. There would certainly be more scrapes and bumps, but the maker would never be far. He might not be speaking, but he will protect from the worst injuries and repair the small.
“In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”- Ephesians 2:22
by Amy Kellogg
Amy is one of LLI's first alumni. She and her husband live in California where she is completing her mental health internship. She writes, "There are so many lessons that I still use from LLI. Two of the biggest are how to continue to use my gifts as an encourager on a team. Even when encouragement seems forced, it can still change the dynamic of a team or group of people! Thank you LLI for encouraging me in that gift. I also view multicultural teams as so beneficial now as well. I would not have learned how to work with people from other cultures if it wasn't for LLI. Such a gift!"
As believers in Jesus Christ, it can feel as if we are constantly being squeezed dry by the pressures of the world. Take a second to think about the people you felt pressure from today, people that may have made you feel less than or ashamed. Did you disappoint someone? How did you feel about yourself afterwards?
The lie we often tell ourselves is, “I disappointed someone, therefore I am a disappointing person”.
This cycle becomes a search to make others happy through our behaviors so that we become a “good” person. It’s easy to fall into a dangerous cycle of people pleasing in order to make others happy. We can often justify this harmful behavior by calling it humility, or self-sacrifice, when in reality we are searching for our identity apart from Christ. This pattern will always lead to exhaustion and a desire to quit.
We can also put negative pressure on ourselves, and easily get wrapped up in a continuous cycle of trying to work hard, and please God through our actions. God calls us to a life of holiness (1st Peter 1:16), but we cannot live that life without Him. He has promised His Spirit to guide us. He tells us that He will use our trials in order to build perseverance in us.
We will make mistakes, and we will face trials from the world. However, we can trust that God is using these things to build us together. If our identity and self-worth is based on our circumstances, we will always be disappointed. Pressure will come, and we persevere when we believe that our identity is built into Jesus Christ and not our circumstances.
Pressures from this life will come, Jesus promises that in this world we will face trouble, but then He tells us how to persevere when he says, “Take heart for I have overcome the world” (1st John 16:33).
How do you take heart? We have to know what God says about us. Take some time to go through your Bible, look at verses that talk about who you are in Jesus. Romans 5:10 says we were enemies with God, but through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been reconciled to Him.
We also have to take time away from our busyness to spend time with God. We must allow God to care for our souls in order to stand up against the pressures we face. We saw Jesus do this throughout the Gospels.
Find the ways you connect with the one whose burden is light, whether through prayer, music, worship, nature, art, studying theology, journaling, or another form. Try different activities that are relaxing for you and connect you to your heavenly Father. Daily, make time to study the Word and learn more about your identity as a child of God.
What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you knew it would? When you’re staring at an uncertain future and can’t even imagine what you will be doing this time next year? When I graduated from high school I pictured going to Bible school, graduating, getting married, moving overseas to the mission field, and serving there long term. Life hasn’t turned out that way for me. Now, graduation is around the corner and I’m left wondering, what in the world is next?
A new season of life approaches with pressures and questions. “How will I find the right job and ministry? Where can I be most useful to the Lord? How will I know I got it right? Will I be able to make it financially?” It’s comforting to know that God ALREADY has a plan. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God's not looking at my experience, gifts, and training and thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder where I might be able to use her? Where might she be able to fit?” No, He has planned to use me in specific locations, jobs, ministries, and relationships.
I do find peace for my troubled, uncertain, questioning heart in saying, “God wherever I can be the most use to you, whatever I can do to bring the most glory to you, that’s what I want to do.” When I am surrendered and available for his plans, I don’t feel the pressure to find that perfect job or ministry or future for myself. I am His and open to however he wants to use me and lead me. But it can still be a struggle, each day, to trust and follow God’s plans. There is still a temptation to worry about the future. I can still be distracted by the daily challenges of life. Surrendering to God’s plans is not a one time thing. I need to surrender my life, my will, my hopes, and my plans to Him daily. My heart needs to be recalibrated toward Christ and His ways regularly.
God already has a good plan for my life. I don’t know what it looks like. So far it doesn’t look like the plan I had imagined. But I know it will involve doing good things that he has prepared especially for me to do. They will fit my skills, gifts and training. Like a good gift prepared for a loved one, how it must delight Him to watch me discover His plan for me. Maybe he can’t wait until I unwrap this next chapter to see what a perfect thing he has prepared for me!
by Brianna Yingling
Brianna grew up as an MK in Mexico where she lived for seventeen years. After graduating from High School she finished her degree in Evangelism and Discipleship at Moody Bible Institute. Currently, she is finishing a masters degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship at Moody Theological Seminary. Brianna writes, "As a missionary kid, God has given me a passion for missions, making Christ known in places where people have not heard His name. I am also passionate about discipleship ministry and helping believers grow in their walk with the Lord."
INTERCESSION — The Indispensable Priority of Relational Disciplers
“There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.” – Chuck Swindoll
Relational discipleship begins with intercession for those we have the privilege to step alongside. To understand prayer’s importance in discipleship, let’s look at examples from the prayer lives of Moses and Jesus.
Moses believed in intercession and modeled it for Joshua – Exodus 17:8-15
In the face of battle with the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua as the military commander to lead Israel in a counterattack. This was Joshua’s first act in battle as a leader and was foundational in preparing him for his future leadership role. Israel also lacked experience and now was the time for Joshua and the newly delivered nation to learn first-hand to trust God in the face of opposition.
After choosing a select band of warriors and discerning the best plan of attack, Joshua was assured by Moses all the resources he needed would be provided and Joshua would be victorious in battle. How would Moses support this young leader? He knew the most effective way to back his successor was to engage in intercession.
Moses experience with God gave him confidence that victory in battle was not achieved by numbers, past accomplishments, knowledge about God or even giftedness and skills in battle. He knew Joshua needed to learn victory in battle is God’s responsibility and it is won through intercession. Moses, Hur and Aaron journeyed to the top of a hill overlooking the battleground and focused their energies on intercession. It was a joint partnership in conflict, with each member playing an important role. However, the ultimate battle was not won on the field; it was won on the hill in prayer. God enabled them to triumph over their enemies!
Jesus believed in intercession and modeled it to Peter (Luke 22:31), and to the Twelve
Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail,” (Luke 22:32).
Another battle had ensued, this time in Peter’s life. Jesus knowing His follower completely was keenly aware Satan wanted Peter’s faith to fail. Young potential leaders are always high on Satan’s radar to knock them out of the race and in this conflict Jesus knew the coming assault would lead to Peter’s failure; yet, His intercession protected the faith of His follower. Peter denied knowing His Lord marking his life with brokenness and failure, but the experience was tailored by God in His love to reshape Peter’s heart and prepare Him to be a humble leader.
Prayer was not only a part of Jesus’ life and what He modeled, it was His life! Victory for Peter was won because Jesus knows how heaven works and He engaged in what was most important – intercession for the faith of His beloved disciple.
When entering into a discipleship relationship it is paramount for us to remember to pray. Teach us to pray Jesus so we may step alongside those you bring into our spheres of influence as we obey your commands to love others as you have loved us.
By Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
Jim, one of my mentors, lived out interceding for those he mentored. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "Intercession the Indispensable Priority in Coaching"
Antony Edge was studying for his Master’s degree in business at a university in Atlanta, Georgia. On a beautiful Spring day, he decided to change his study routine from the library to the scenic environment of a nearby state park, where thousands of acres of forest surround a huge, exposed mass of granite aptly named Stone Mountain.
Antony told his wife where he would be, and invited her to join him later in the day. He was not to be seen alive again. Tragically, his body was discovered the next day, having plunged six hundred feet (183 m) to his death. Yes, ultimately it was an accident, but only after repeated warnings had been ignored. Antony had to deliberately ignore a four-foot-high warning fence around the top of the mountain with signs that say: “Danger: Do not go beyond this point.” But, wanting to see more, and experience more, he had knowingly climbed over the fence to his own demise.
Now, the question that makes this relevant for us is this: Was this fence on Stone Mountain erected out of legalism or love? Was it placed there as a barrier to Antony’s enjoyment of life? Or, was it a life-preserving boundary to keep him safe from harm?
There is probably no fence more needed, or ignored, in our busy, multi-tasking lives than the fourth commandment: “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8). Those of us in the media-saturated, technological, Western world almost universally view it as a barrier to our freedom; a fence to prevent us from enjoying all the experiences we can grab. Seldom do we embrace it as a boundary to enhance healthy living, deeper worship, and more intimate community.
The Sabbath is modeled on God’s own behavior. Labor six days; then rest and reflect on your work. Here are three principles, stated negatively, that highlight the positive gift of rest, health, and worship that God intended for His Sabbath:
SABBATH IS NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA:
But that’s the problem. We too often put it in the category of just another good idea, kind of like organizing our closet, writing those thank-you notes, or visiting that ailing aunt in the nursing home. But this is God’s timeless moral rhythm built into the universe. We ignore it to our peril. Our calendars, stress-related illnesses, and lack of deep relationships bear evidence that we frequently climb over this fence seeking more excitement, but find only emptiness.
Don’t overly focused on the Sabbath day. Take the principle seriously. The core of this counsel is that we recognize who is God and who is not. The Sabbath principle is about ceasing and resting, not just for health, but because it is a “to the Lord your God.” We stop. We put down our tools, our competencies, or accomplishments, our busyness. We remember our Creator and our Master. It’s the best idea ever for practicing humility.
SABBATH IS NOT “GOING TO CHURCH:”
It may include corporate gathering, worship, and instruction. But this is not about checking a box. Cease working, whatever that means for you. For some, it will require going off-line, or shutting off the cell phone. For some, it will mean taking a nap or sitting under a tree with your favorite book. For others, it will include enjoyable physical movement, exploration, or creative projects. True rest is relaxing and recreating in ways that do not require extensive organization, deadlines, and production. Cease competing. Confess your worry. Put away anger and striving. Stop trying to accomplish. Play. Receive. Give thanks. Where are the spaces of time and place that create this rhythm for you?
SABBATH IS NOT NORMAL!
It is against our fallen and fleshly nature to let God be God. Rest is alien to self-sufficient humanity. Joy, rest, and play is what God gives, not what I manufacture. I have to trust Him and simply, humbly receive. But this is a cultural heresy. Sitting still, reading for leisure, lingering over a meal, or napping in a hammock appears to our frantic friends as wasting time. We will seem to be good for nothing if we aren’t producing, multi-tasking, and squeezing every drop of excitement from each milli-second. But we will be allowing God to take us away from our self-sufficiency and unbounded ambition back into His quiet, immense goodness where we glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
The Sabbath is for shutting off the kingdom of noise, comparison, measurement, requirement, and hurry, and rediscovering what really brings us joy. Your Father knows what that is. It is found in being home with Him in the warmth of worship. It is savoring the ceasing and resting which declares Him to be the Master and I the recipient. It is slipping back into the healthful rhythm of creation, stepping back from the precipice of demands. The Sabbath is a time to actually enjoy, and be thankful for the fruits of our labor. It is looking at all we have not accomplished and recognizing that our frenzied efforts will never satisfy all our desires. So instead of pressing the accelerator, we park. We rest. Trust God that He has given us enough time within the boundaries of health and wholeness to accomplish all that is necessary. And, ultimately, we will enjoy more of the life, and savor more of the beauty, in the time God has given.
By Roger Thompson
Roger has a passion for seeing men discipled in the church and has invested his life into young leaders for several decades as a pastor. In the early '90's, he and his wife Joanne took my wife and me under their wings and mentored us into ministry for which we are forever grateful. Currently, he serves as the Area Director for Man in the Mirror in the Twin Cities.
Recently I found myself sitting in my car, feeling very sorry for myself as it was being towed down the highway. Lately, a lot of things had been breaking down, and this particular day seemed to be going from bad to worse. As I thought back over the previous two days, however, I had the sudden realization that there could have been another outcome. There were, in fact, a few warning signs, or at least opportunities for other choices that would have helped me avoid the expensive towing, if not an overpriced Sunday mechanic.
The red battery light had been on for a day before we needed to start our 250 km journey. Shortly after we began, the car died on the side of the highway, only to restart again after 20 minutes. This miraculously allowed us to coast into the next gas station before dying again. There, friendly police officers made some calls to the next town over to find a mechanic, but as the car seemed to be driving again, we felt confident that we could slowly make our way back and so sped right by that exit. However, it died again shortly thereafter, but somehow we made it to the next gas station. It was at this gas station that an empty tow truck just happened to be fueling up, and I finally gave up the plan of making it to our destination.
As I sat perched high up on the tow truck, I realized there were really two different ways of telling this story. In fact, I had been putting the events in the wrong narrative structure. This wasn’t actually a “woe is me” story where everything difficult was happening in one day. Instead, it was a story about me being flippant about warnings, a story of me discarding the offers of help and provision. This was a story about me forging ahead in my own way, ignoring the subtle invitations to make wiser decisions, instead playing on chance to save a few bucks.
In Proverbs, Wisdom personified calls to those who will listen to her, and predicts calamity for those who ignore her counsel and reproof. Solomon urges his son to seek wisdom with intention: “…making your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding, if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures...” (2: 2-4)
These are complicated times in our world. It can often be difficult to make wise decisions that will help us to live, as described by the prophet Micah, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. What does this look like in the day-to-day decisions and uncertainty that we often face? Being attentive to the stories we are telling ourselves is vitally important as we seek to understand God’s ways and will in our world. When I reframed my story from one of me as the hapless victim to one depicting me as ignoring God’s continued invitation into his provision, I gained the wisdom to understand the interaction between God and myself that had been transpiring all day.
Ultimately, Solomon notes, God is the giver of wisdom, and this will ensure that “we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.”
As it turned out, acquiescing to that tow truck mysteriously waiting for us at the gas station was not about a broken down car at all—but a lesson in listening and paying attention, in repentance and acknowledgement of foolishness, and most importantly, accepting God’s extravagant provision and grace.
By Melody J. Wachsmuth
Melody is a writer and researcher, based in Croatia, who is curious about people’s lives, spirituality, and how the two intersect in their present context. Consequently, she loves to collect and write people’s stories.