THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. SO MANY VOICES, SO LITTLE TIME
Those People Matter to You?
III. RECONCILING OTHERS TO GOD THROUGH EVANGELISM
I Wouldn't Know What to Say
IV. BIBLE STUDY: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
V. PRAYER: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
Your Tempted by the Power of Prayer?
VI. FELLOWSHIP: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
in the Church
VII. RECONCILING OURSELVES TO OTHERS
How Do You Forgive a Person Who Has Hurt You?
Christians are given the charge of bringing the message of reconciliation to the world. We are Christ’s ambassadors. It is our obligation to reconcile others to God through evangelism. In preparation for this evangelism effort, we must reconcile ourselves to God through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. And we must reconcile ourselves to others to restore unity and harmony within the body of Christ.
The World Book
Dictionary defines the word "reconcile"1 as follows:
The World Book Dictionary (Chicago, Illinois: World Book, Inc., 1993), p. 1745.
Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, New International Version. Copyright Ó 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
SO MANY VOICES, SO LITTLE TIME
Do Those People Matter to You?
§ If you were a child starving in Africa, would you like someone who had all the food he wants to think of you as a "prop" in his play?
§ If you were someone (anywhere in the world) who hadn't heard of Christ, would you want His message to you to be cut off because you were only a statistic?
you were a person involved in drugs and could see no way out, would you want
your hope to be smashed to pieces because you were no more important than a
Those people matter to God. (Matthew 18:12-14 ) And they should matter to you.
It is not important if you are in Act I or Act IV of the play. This is the key issue: Are you going to keep memorizing and repeating your own lines? Or are you going to start listening to God's voice? Let your remaining Acts be governed by God's will and His desire for you to reach out to others. Then you will be ready for that Final Curtain Call.
Let God make a miracle happen to someone through your openness and your obedience to God. Reach out and take the hand of a "wooden dummy", and breathe a spark of life into its soul through Christ!
The following diagrams show how God can multiply a person's effort (and effect) to bring astounding results. If a whole Church were working together with God multiplying their efforts, can you imagine the effect that Church could have on its community? Can you imagine the effect a Church or group of Churches could have in reaching to the far corners of the world? There isn’t enough paper to draw a diagram of power to that magnitude!
How can we reach out in Christian love to so many people with so many needs? More specifically, what can I, just one person, do? What can one person do with God's help?
Each of these big boxes shows what God can do through one person.
little box shows what
This little box shows what a
(Actually, a person can't do anything without God's help.)
What can two people do, working together with God's help?
This great, big box
shows what God can do through those same two
These two little boxes show what each of the two people can do.
One Step at a Time
You might say, "Witnessing sounds so complicated that I don't know where to begin." It is true that a person's life can be a complex puzzle. But don't worry about solving the whole puzzle or having all the answers. In your life or someone else's life, you can deal with only one piece of the puzzle at a time.
A person develops a relationship with God in much the same way as you construct a building. A person needs only one building block at a time, since he can lay only one block in place at a time. If you are handing someone building blocks too quickly, he may be able to stockpile some of them for later use. But he can lay in place only one block at a time. Listen carefully to know the right building block -- which one comes next? Don't forget that Christ must be the cornerstone of this building. (1 Peter Chapter 2)
A person needs to search himself and find some of the answers on his own. That is part of the growing process. You can give him an answer, but he has to examine his life and his heart to see if he can accept the answer.
The main question people need answered is, "Does God love me" and then, "Do other people love me?" Then, "How is God's love expressed to me and you by God and other people?" Then, "How do I express my love to God?" and "How can I express God's love to other people?"
As you can see, there are a thousand variations, but all the questions come back to, "Is God's love real, and if so, how can it be real in my life?"
Does God love us? Yes, He does! He gave His Son to be a pathway to lead us to Him. He gave us His Spirit to live in us and guide us. He gave us His Word, in the Bible to help us know Him better.
If you feel led to witness to someone, don't say, "I am a Christian. I am a wonderful person. If you try really hard, you can be just like me." You are not the example. Christ is the cornerstone and the perfect example. If you want someone to know you are a Christian, he will get the message much more quickly if you show him you are a Christian, rather than if you tell him you are a Christian.
People should see God's love through your life -- in your words and your actions. Christ is working through you to lead them to God. But they should be looking to Christ for the answers, not you. John 1:8 says this about John the Baptist: "He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light."
RECONCILING OTHERS TO GOD THROUGH EVANGELISM
But I Wouldn't Know What to Say
Our congregation scheduled a "No Excuse Sunday." Wouldn't it be glorious how Christ's power could be shown through a no excuse month or life! The most common excuse for not witnessing is, "But I wouldn't know what to say!"
Interpersonal dynamics are a tricky matter. I will show you how anyone can be effective at dealing with relationships with a little help from God. I am going to illustrate this with a chain of events we have all experienced -- Staggered Parallel Progression. This sounds too technical or mathematical, but it’s really quite easy to follow. We've all done it and can learn from it.
I would like to define Staggered Parallel Progression (SPP for short) as several situations in your life that can become interwoven such that they interact and build upon and from each other. Insights gained from one experience can be used in or applied to another experience, causing a progression to a higher level of maturity or growth. See the following diagram for a graphic representation of SPP.
Staggered Parallel Progression
Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV
The insights or steps referred to in the diagram are the same building blocks referred to in "One Step at a Time." You may learn something (an idea, a Bible passage, a method, etc.) in one situation and say to yourself that this idea is applicable in other situations. Quite often, several people you know have the same concerns. If one person can overcome his problems, ask him how he did it and try to apply his solution to help other people with the same problem. Maybe get them together to discuss it.
SPP can be recognized in many areas of Christian living. An experience or situation can be a relationship with a non Christian. Actually, it can be any witnessing situation, whether to a non Christian or to a Christian. SPP can be seen in the many ways we encourage and support our brothers and sisters in Christ.
SPP can be recognized in a problem with which we are dealing, or a problem with which we are helping someone else deal. It can be seen in how we are praying for someone regularly. It can be seen in any way we are working for the Lord and growing. SPP can be seen in any ongoing part of your life, like work, play, school, housework you do (or work around the house), any social or business activities.
Knowing what to say doesn't always mean going "Yakety-Yak." Sometimes it means knowing when to say something, as well as when to be silent -- to just listen and be there for someone.
As with anything in life, you must work toward and prepare for SPP. You must pray and read the Bible daily. How can you know God's will in your life (or someone else's) if you don't take the time to listen to what God will reveal to you through prayer and Bible study?
SPP shows that if you are obedient to God (prayer and Bible study are a great start) and express to God a willingness to do His work, He is very anxious to assist your efforts. You have to do your homework and prepare. Then when the insight of all your life experiences are combined (through the Holy Spirit), God will work things out so events can just fall into place. You will find that the words you feared never could come from your lips were right there all along! Or perhaps God timed it so that you will learn just what you need to say right before you need to say it! Only God has timing like that.
Watch for SPP in your life, and praise God for how it helps you.
For each step in the diagram I drew, I have specific, actual insights or building blocks that I transferred from one experience to another. As I watched experiences and situations, I used SPP to pull together the ideas for this chapter. While examining the ideas, I discovered the relationships and then drew the diagram. I will illustrate three general examples of this.
I work for a company that sells computers and computer services. My title is Systems Analyst. That just means I'm a computer programmer who talks a lot. I have a sincere desire to help people who use computers. I use my job to make other people's jobs easier. I use my intelligence to make their jobs easier and to keep me in a position to be able to help them.
In my occupation, I have learned that actions speak louder than words. I don't tell people I want to help them. I don't tell people I care. I don't tell people I'm intelligent.
I do my work to the best of my abilities and try to be responsive to the job-related needs of people using the computers. My work and effort (my actions) tell the story better than my words could. Words can be hollow. People tell me they are glad they have me to help them because I care about them. I don't tell them. They tell me this.
Does this sound familiar? In learning to be an effective employee, or worker, God has shown me how to be an effective witness, or worker for the Lord. In "Remaining Focused" I mentioned how actions speak louder than words. People will see me as an effective witness because of my actions -- not by my making hollow claims of being a Christian.
My job also requires me to communicate with people from different departments and with different levels of expertise. I have to look at a problem or need and consider viewpoints of different departments. I have to take very complex conditions or conditions and break them down into sets of simpler situations so that people at all levels of expertise can understand what is required of them.
Does this sound familiar? In "One Step at a Time", I discussed how we can deal with a puzzle only one piece at a time. We still have to consider the whole picture, but we can act on only one piece or building block at a time. Again, I have transferred an insight or skill from one experience or situation to another.
This has the following advantage: You can become comfortable with one situation and learn in it and then carry that confidence and knowledge to other situations to express God's love.
One more example is a relationship with someone in another department where I work. I knew she was a Christian and I wanted to talk to her about being a Christian in the workplace. I was too scared to bring it up and didn't know what words to use. I prayed about it and God took care of introducing the topic of religion.
One day we were talking about my work. She asked me how I became a programmer. I told her I had a degree in Business Administration and had never planned on being a programmer. My college required me to take some computer courses. That is how I discovered I could understand how computers work.
I told her, in fact, I had taken a test in high school to determine my interests (not abilities). I answered many, many questions and the results were supposed to tell the occupations in which I would be interested. So far, so good.
The Holy Spirit was guiding our conversations. I told her the test said that programming was at the bottom of the list of what I would be interested in doing.
Then the lightning struck! She asked me what was at the top of the list. I felt a panic and didn't know what to say. Then I realized she was led to the question. What was at the top of the list? Interior Decorator, Florist, and Minister!
I told her the top three occupations and we were both immediately at ease and began sharing. I didn't know how to approach her so I expressed to God a desire to talk to her. He arranged the rest.
It turned out that she was excited to discuss evangelism. Her husband teaches classes on it. We discussed how they train people by taking them along on house calls. What a coincidence! Our conversations encouraged me to keep working on this chapter. I learned things from our discussion that I had not been exposed to previously.
Discovering the Answers
If you are asking questions in your life, you can find the answers from many places all around you. If you pray for guidance to do God's will, the Holy Spirit will lead you to His will.
Sources of answers include Prayer, Bible Study, Sermons, Sunday School, Wednesday Night Bible Study, Christian Publications, and Newsletters.
You can learn from conversations with friends. You can get answers from songs, TV ads, and billboards. Much information is available on the internet. You can receive insights from watching everyday happenings and even nature itself.
You can think of a question from one experience. You can find the answer from any number of experiences, if God is guiding your will. You are not limited to finding answers in one particular place or manner. You are also not limited to expressing God's love in one particular place or manner. There are so many possibilities!
When you get up in the morning, say "Something wonderful is going to happen today!" and believe it. Have faith that God is going to work through you, in both long-term and short-term relationships. By "wonderful" I mean something that will bring glory to God. It may not always seem like fun to you at the time, though.
You can't pick or choose what is going to happen -- you have to let the Holy Spirit lead you to God's will. You may express to God a desire to witness, but the Holy Spirit has to lead you to a person. At the same time, He leads that person to a point in his life that he is ready to make a commitment. You are following God's cue and the other person's cue. You can't decide they are ready because you want them to be ready.
You don't start by telling them that you have all the answers. They might not be asking any questions. You start by living a certain lifestyle that conveys God's love and attracts them to that love. The Holy Spirit can lead you to knowing the building block they need, when they are ready to look for it and accept it (it being Christ).
Don't be discouraged if they do not respond to you. Keep praying. Perhaps your caring attitude and loving spirit will sustain them until they are ready to receive Jesus or until someone else can reach them. If they have hard hearts, perhaps your caring can soften their hearts enough to let Christ's love in.
If Christ's love shows in your life, people will know there is something different about you. If they are looking for answers (a building block), they will look to you because of the image you project and your openness. If they are searching (for peace, love, etc.), there has to be some peace or love in your life that says to them that you can lead them to an answer.
In long-term relationships, you don't even have to announce, "I am a Christian. Do you want to be one, too?" at the start of a relationship. Your actions will tell them that you're a Christian and you can confirm their curiosity by bringing it into the conversation. When they ask how your weekend was say "Oh I had a great time at a Lock-in" and explain or, "The minister at Church told a good joke yesterday." This approach won’t embarrass them. They will know you are ready to talk about Christ, but they aren't forced to talk until they are ready or can feel more comfortable about it.
If someone asks you what you're doing this weekend, you might say that you're going to a certain Church function or outing (name it), and follow up by saying "I think you'd enjoy it, want to come along?" That still isn't as threatening to him as asking him specifically if he knows Christ or would like to know Him.
Maybe you have the personality to be able to be very direct, but some people (both the Witnesser and the Witnessee) don't have either the confidence or the ability to make the other person fill at ease enough to be direct at first. Praise God if you can!
Pray for assistance in this area. Pray for confidence to speak. Pray for God to direct you to a natural way of leading the conversation to Christ -- a way that you both can feel more comfortable about.
Some short-term relationships do require a more direct approach. But, again, you are not trying to solve all their problems or answer all their questions. You are extending an invitation to which they may respond, if they feel a need in their lives.
An example of a short-term contact is going door-to-door to invite people to church. An approach might be to simply state "I am <your name> and I worship God at <your Church's name>. We have discovered God's love and would like to extend an open invitation to come share His love in our fellowship." Leave a bulletin, calling card, list of Church programs, and/or a pamphlet on the steps to salvation. Tell them if they have any needs now or in the future to call you or come to a worship service and let your needs be known. You could ask if they are currently attending a Church and if they have a relationship with Christ.
Your own level of faith or personality may make other approaches effective. Ask God for guidance in this matter.
It is helpful in witnessing situations when you can make the other person feel at ease, and when you are at ease yourself. There will be times, however, that it will not be possible for everyone to be comfortable with what you are saying. You may be challenging their beliefs and immoral lifestyles.
Evolution is an example of this. Witnessing may even result in your being ridiculed. What if you are in a class situation or a discussion about evolution? Genesis explains the events of Creation as spanning seven days (six days to create and one day of rest). If you state the Bible's stance on this matter, you may leave yourself open to ridicule and mockery. Pray for the strength to continue believing in your convictions and for the courage to stand up for them.
Opportunities to Share
If you are cheerful and are humming at work (or school or wherever) and someone asks you why you are in such a good mood on such a dark and dreary day, tell him. You are happy because of your relationship with Jesus Christ. You are happy because God loves you. You are happy because you were working on something for the Lord last night and you feel good about it.
People at work sometimes make references to God and the Church. Even non Christians voice their opinions about the Church, God, and Bible-related matters. Seize that opportunity to put in a few words about what the Bible really says about what they just mentioned.
If someone has a problem at work, let him know you are concerned and are praying for him. Ask if there is anything you can do to help.
People talk about the miracle of childbirth. Make a comment that recognizes God's power to create a human being.
Do you know what these examples have in common? You do not have to try to get someone else to say or do something for which you have a rehearsed line. You simply respond to what people say and do everyday!
He Came, He Went, He’s Coming Back!
I set out to prove that you can gain an insight from one situation or event and then transfer that insight to an unrelated situation or event. I have given some examples of collecting insights to distribute them where needed. But did I ever really prove there is such a thing as an unrelated event in your life?
Every situation that you experience (everything that you see, hear, smell, touch, or feel) becomes a part of your being. These experiences become resources. How do you use your resources?
Everything in your environment affects you. How do you affect your environment? Remember that everything you do and say has an impact on those around you. When you affect people's lives, will those effects be beneficial or detrimental? What kind of impact do you have on those around you? What kind of impact would you like to have on those around you?
The old Carpenter's hit song began like this:
"Sing ... Sing a Song ... Make it simple, to last your whole life long."
The wisdom of this song is that God's message is simple. Keep it simple to make it last. Continue to grow, but hold on to God's love and His message.
When you are witnessing to a new Christian, you have to keep the message simple and direct.
The Bible's simple message about Christ is this: He Came, He Went, He's Coming Back.
Read Acts 1:1-11. He came, He taught, He died, He arose, He's coming back. He made a sacrifice -- so our sins could be forgiven.
When you go through trials and tests in your own life and all your logic and complicated reasoning are stripped away, you must hold on to some simple truth. But what will that be? One simple message: God's love. If you remember that, you can build anything with Christ as the cornerstone.
Although the message is simple, keep growing in your faith and knowledge of the Word.
One time when I went to the doctor for a sinus infection, he said to take all the antibiotics in the bottle. He said the medicine would make me feel better in two or three days, but to keep taking the medicine because the infection would still be there. If you stop the medicine after two or three days, you may end up sicker than before you saw the doctor.
Studying the Bible and prayer (along with other elements of Christian living) are medicine to your soul. If you start praying and studying, you will start to feel better and start growing in Christ. You will see fruit from your labors. But don't stop taking your medicine because you think you have gotten what you need to do Christ's work. Keep on growing and keep taking your medicine.
BIBLE STUDY: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
1. God sent Christ to die for us, in our place. Christ sacrificed Himself to become a sin offering. His blood covered and washed away our sins.
2. Christ is the bridge between man's sinful past and God's promised future. We have to confess our sins specifically and individually so that we may be acceptable to God. Grace is unmerited favor, that which cannot be earned. We don’t deserve His pardoning of our sins.
3. Our sins (once forgiven) are erased from God's mind. He does not hold our sins against us or bring them up again.
4. We have to ask God's forgiveness. His forgiveness required action on God’s part, Jesus dying on the cross and then arising from the dead. And it requires action on our part, through confession and repentance.
5. We have to try to do better in the future. We have to try to learn from our mistakes and ask God how to avoid the same sins. We have to ask for God's help.
What Does the Bible Tell As About Salvation?
(adapted from Walter Scott)
Bible Study Notes
1. Set aside a quiet, undisturbed time for reading the Bible.
2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you toward God's will. Pray for His help in interpreting the Scriptures.
3. Don't read just one or two verses -- read the preceding and the following verses to see the context in which the verse is used.
4. What was the meaning in the original language, not the English translation? Does the word in the Bible as you understand it translate back to the original meaning? What were the customs in Biblical times that might affect the significance of certain circumstances. How were these customs reflected in the people’s attitudes?
5. What do other passages in the Bible say about the same topic?
6. Whom is the author of the Book in the Bible and whom is the intended audience? Is it written to a sinner, a Christian, a special interest group, or everyone in general? I am not implying that there are parts of the Bible that can be ignored because they were written "for someone else." Sometimes a passage was originally written to a specific group of people.
7. Ask a more mature Christian his interpretation of the passage, but don't assume he has to be right. Discuss your viewpoints and what led each of you to your views.
8. Most people don’t have enough formal education about the Bible to follow some of these guidelines on their own. However, there are many reference books available on Biblical customs, history, and people. There are also study Bibles with introductions to each chapter that give a background and explanations of the events. There are dictionaries, concordances, etc. The internet has many Christian websites that offer daily Bible studies and devotionals on the sites as well as through email. There are several Bible software packages that can provide a wealth of information on your PC.
9. Sunday School classes, sermons, and Bible study groups also provide additional insight into the meaning of the Scriptures.
PRAYER: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
Are Your Tempted by the Power of Prayer?
God has power and wisdom of such magnitude that we cannot even begin to comprehend it. That power and wisdom is available to us through prayer.
Would you like the feeling of having unlimited power? Would you like the feeling of having infinite wisdom? How do you go about unleashing and harnessing all that power without getting overwhelmed, controlled, and possibly destroyed by the very power you wished to control?
Would you like to drive a powerful, expensive sports car? Can you imagine the thrill and the exhilaration you would feel when you press down on the accelerator as the car rockets from 0 to 150 MPH? All that power at your disposal. What a feeling!
Would you like to be able to pray in such a way that you can find God's accelerator, or "gas pedal"? Would you like to know the right buttons to push to get what you want? If you answered, "Yes" to those questions, I believe you are missing the whole purpose of prayer.
How Should We Pray? Why Should We Pray?
Jesus did give us a guideline, or example, of how to pray in the Lord's Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4) We pray to honor God, to praise God, to ask that God's will be done, to ask that our needs are met and to give thanks, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask help to overcome sin. Even Jesus prayed to God saying, "...yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
How can this be summarized further? We pray to align our goals (our will) more closely to God's goals (His will). We have to continually search for God's will in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Part of this search includes daily Bible study and prayer.
God's power and wisdom are not made available to us when we ask God for the power and the wisdom to achieve our goals (our will).
God's power and wisdom are made available to us when we don't ask for it. Instead, we ask God to bring our will closer to His will. Try to think of specific ways specific people can do God's specific will.
When you are trying to do God's will, forget about wanting to control the power and the wisdom; they are not ours to control. We cannot control what should be done or how it should be done.
God will guide us to what He wants us to do. He will show us how we should do it. He will provide us with all the resources we need to do His will. But only if we are seeking to do what is necessary to accomplish God's will and are not seeking the power and the wisdom to accomplish our own will.
This is summarized by the title of the song: "To God be the Glory, Great Things He Hast Done." If you are not seeking the glory, God can accomplish anything through you.
A Sample Prayer
1. God, I want to do your will. Please explain it to me.
2. God, I trust you to know what is best for me. Thank you for your love and for caring about me.
3. God, I need your help.
4. God, I want you to remove any obstacles in my life to doing and understanding your will.
5. God, I need your love, guidance, and forgiveness. I need to feel your presence. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me, so that I can know when I am headed in the right direction.
6. God, I expect something to happen. I don't know what, or when, or how. You decide that. But when it happens, I have faith in you that I will know the time is right and I will know what to do and say.
7. We ask all these things in Jesus' name.
FELLOWSHIP: PREPARING OURSELVES FOR EVANGELISM
Prayer in the Church
physical concerns: specific people's specific health problems.
o Examples: God,
please be with John Smith who broke his leg. God, please help heal Sarah
Miller and comfort her as she prepares for surgery Tuesday.
spiritual problems: specific people's specific spiritual tests or trials.
o Examples: God,
please be with Frank Huntley as he is coping with two jobs to deal with
financial pressures. God, please strengthen Mary Simpson, who is having
problems within her family.
spiritual growth: general, vague requests for no one in particular.
o Examples: God, please help us to be better Christians. Please help us to do your will and to share your love with others.
Praying for people's
physical concerns and spiritual problems is very specific. We are telling God
exactly for whom we are praying and exactly what our expectations are.
Fellowship in the Church
Christians need to
learn to verbalize their spiritual needs. We need to be able to express what
can be done to meet those needs and foster spiritual growth. Identify one specific
area of spiritual growth, like the need to learn to verbalize our convictions
and beliefs. It is easier to start discussing your feelings with other
Christians. If you can't talk about God with other Christians, how can you
hope to talk about God with someone who doesn't know Christ?
Maybe we should be less concerned with "How" to tell someone about Jesus, and more concerned with "Why" we would want to tell someone about Jesus.
The "Why" we would want to tell someone about Jesus is that we have experienced His great love and forgiveness. We have been rescued from an eternity in Hell’s fires. We know Jesus loves us and we love Him. That love should fill us with such joy that His love should just naturally overflow from us and we will want to tell others about Jesus' love (to share that love). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
We can ask God to help us to know "How" to witness to others. Don't worry about the words: let God take care of that. Then you can focus your attention on the "Why" (Jesus' love) instead of the "How" (a series of words).
People in small groups can learn together how to combine the "Why should I want to" with the power of prayer to help focus their attention on their ability and their desire to share Christ's love.
There can be two focal points for small groups. First, discuss why you would want to tell someone about Christ (your relationship with Him). Secondly, pray together to bring your specific will (goals) closer to God's specific will (goals).
Wouldn't praying for each other supply the "Why"? The strength and encouragement drawn from this type of supportive prayer would cause the lives of the participants to overflow with Christ's love. Their lives would overflow with so much love, in fact, that they couldn't hide it under a bushel basket! “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
This kind of meeting format could be an integral part of fulfilling some of the functions of a shepherding program. The format and topics could be modified to fit any area of Christian growth.
Prayer concerns for a small group:
§ Pray for God to help you understand His will. Pray for God to lead you to His will.
§ Tell God you can't do anything by yourself and you need His help. Ask Him to show you what He wants and He will. He will show you and He will help you.
§ Refer to the discussion of the Lord's Prayer in the "How Should We Pray?" section.
§ The participants can add their own ideas about what is important to them at prayer time.
§ Many of the prayer concerns are applicable in both the small group prayers and in praying done in pairs. However, some concerns will be more effectively and more comfortably dealt with in pairs. But results discussed in pairs should be shared with the small group.
Prayer concerns for pairs:
§ Pray for any area of your Christian life that needs improvement, even if it does not seem to concern evangelism. Whatever strengthens your relationship with Christ will make you want to share His love with others.
§ When you have heard someone else pray about something for himself or another, pray with him for the same things he prayed. This way he can be strengthen and supported by your prayers.
§ God knows our every thought and motive. But we still have to reveal ourselves to Him and to others in an open and complete manner before He will reveal Himself to us more completely and freely.
§ Pray about specific things for yourself that may be a roadblock or an obstacle to achieving God's goals. An obstacle could be some sinful nature that might stand in the way or merely a statement of fear of being inadequate for the task. An obstacle could be a health or job problem, boredom, an emotional scar, or anything else that stands in the way of your feeling closer to God. Again, it might not be a problem or a failure, it might be some area that needs to be strengthened.
I am not as concerned with getting rid of the unpleasant situation as much as I am concerned with relieving the preoccupation and the distraction the unpleasant situation may be causing. If something is diverting your attention away from God, you must try to deal with it and try to remove the diversion. Again, it may not be possible to remove the situation, but don't let the situation pull your attention away from God.
§ Set specific goals (things to do outside of the meetings).
o Read the Bible daily.
o Set aside a specific amount of time that you will pray every day.
o Practice good attitude characteristics, like smiling and being cheerful. If you try to look more pleasant, you will feel more pleasant, and people will respond to that.
o Set a goal to tell someone within a certain timeframe about Jesus.
o Report your goals and accomplishments to the small group so that others will be strengthened and encouraged by your commitment and your growth.
God’s Specific Will
How do you know if the Holy Spirit is leading you in a certain direction? Ask God to tell you!
It may be as simple as experiencing joy or peace when you act or think in a certain way, in a way that pleases the Lord.
Maybe you are being led toward something if your mind keeps going back to it.
Maybe you worry about something; if you don't do it, it won't get done.
Maybe something irritates or agitates you. Maybe God is planting a thorn so that you will try to deal with the irritation. The process of removing the irritation will lead you to God's will. You will know you have found God's will when you are no longer agitated and are at peace again.
If you think about something and try to make a lot of excuses why you cannot do it, ask God why.
There are many ways of expressing God's love, depending on your talents. But love must be expressed through all your efforts. See 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.
In summary, doing the will of God will always result in your feeling closer to Him. Not doing the will of God will always result in your feeling like you are ashamed or you want to push God away. These feelings are barometers and guides to help you recognize what God expects of you. Listen to them!
RECONCILING OURSELVES TO OTHERS
How Do You Forgive a Person Who Has Hurt You?
1. Pray about it. Admit that you are human. Admit that you are inadequate and need God's help. Ask God to help you forgive that person; you can't do it without God's help.
2. Ask others to pray about it. Admit to them that you are human and need help.
to someone you trust about the situation. Sometimes others can offer ideas
that help, or offer Scriptures or thoughts on approaches to prayer. Someone
else (who is less involved) may be able to deal with it better than you can.
3. Do you need to accept any of the blame for the situation? Did you say or do anything (or not say or do anything) that contributed to the situation?
a. Once the situation began, did you say or do anything to aggravate the situation or to provoke it further?
4. The person who hurt you has made you give up something important to you. That is the definition of "hurt" -- to cause a loss.
a. Recognize the loss, mourn for it (if necessary), and go on with your life. Cry about it to release the pain, but then look for the joys in life.
5. When someone has hurt you, you generally respond by hating the person (to some degree). You have to ask God to forgive you for the sin of hate. When possible, ask the person to forgive you for your feelings of hate and for judging him.
Ask God to forgive that person. And don't forget to forgive yourself.
By hating the person, you may also be judging the person. Try to look at the situation from his perspective. What motivated him? What positive elements were missing from his life? What negative elements did he encounter in his life that influenced his actions? Pray for the person.
Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2) Read Luke 6:37-42 about judging others.
Thank God if your experiences have been more positive so that you haven't felt the desire to act the way he does.
Is there some way that you could be a positive influence in his life to change his behavior in the future? If there is some way, carrying it out would be a giant step toward forgiveness.
Remember in the story about the adulteress, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees wanted to stone her. Jesus said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:1-11)
Read Luke 6:27-36 concerning loving your enemies.
6. If others are involved in the same situation, discuss your feelings with them. Pray with them. Don't try to help just yourself. Try to help the others and you will forget your own pain.
7. The pain of the situation is a known factor. It is familiar and more "comfortable" than change. Ask God for the strength and the courage to let go of the known and head on into more productive, unknown circumstances.
8. Our human minds are like sponges or traps; we tend to hold on to and dwell on hurtful memories. We have to ask God to help us refocus our minds, our wills, and our goals on more positive, productive, loving attitudes and activities.
9. Ask God to point out what joys and gains He has given you in place of what you gave up. Sometimes the loss is painful, but you gain more in the long run.
10. If you have learned anything from this type of growth process, don't hoard the knowledge gained from dealing with the conflict. Try to help others facing the same conflict you have already fought against.
11. The other person has caused you to give up something. By your delaying the forgiving process (which is a healing process), you are giving up more than the person took from you. You are giving up peace of mind and a clear mind with which to do God's work.
You may not be making a deliberate, conscious decision to delay the forgiving/healing process. Perhaps you just don't know how to start the process.
But by not forgiving the person, you may be giving that person exactly what he wanted in the first place -- CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.
Tell God you want Him to help you get control of your life back so that you will be better able to serve Him. He will help you.
God wants to control your life because He loves you. He cares for you. He knows and wants what is best for you. Believe that. The other person trying to control your life does not know or want what is best for you.
Which person (man or God) will YOU choose to control your life?
12. Take a break from the problem. One of the reasons we dwell on a problem is that we think it can never be solved unless we keep going over it again and again in search of a solution. While it is true that we usually do need to make a concentrated effort to solve a problem, there is little to be gained by your beating yourself to death over it.
Ask God to work on the problem in the "background." Tell Him you want to resolve it, but have not yet been able to without His help. Turn it over to Him. Trust Him. Believe in Him. Have faith in Him.
Then turn your thoughts and efforts to more positive goals. Mark some future date on your calendar to remind you to reassess the situation to see how God has been working on it. It is all right to continue to mention the problem to God in your daily prayers, but don't dwell on it.
13. Keep in mind that you are not alone in your struggles. Every human has had to deal with such problems. Try to find encouragement in the fact that you haven't been singled out to carry some unique burden. Others can help you carry your load because they have carried the same load, too.
Jesus Christ understands what you are experiencing. He has dealt with it on Earth. He can really relate to your feelings of betrayal or any other problem you may face. Remember Judas, one of the twelve Disciples, betrayed Jesus. (Matthew 26:14-16)
Ask Jesus to help you since He really does understand. He really does care. He is just waiting for you to ask for His help.
Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, New International Version. Copyright Ó 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
The World Book Dictionary. Chicago, Illinois: World Book, Inc., 1993.