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Our last class!
I have invited everyone who is here tonight to add their reflections on this study and add what their plan is for the next 30 days!

I really enjoyed this opportunity to seek personal revival in a group setting. It was great to hear the experiences of the other group members. Thank you, Irmgarde for leading the group. I hope to continue with your Mary/Martha class this Fall.
Saundra

It has been wonderful reconnecting with God during this study. This has been very revealing and
life changing. I will trust in God’s grace to help me keep it up. Our conversation was transparent
and real much of the time. I really appreciated that aspect of the class. Thanks, Irmgarde for bring us through.
Terri

What a wonderful renewing study. God never ceases to amaze me and woo me when doing a study like this. This study is a good reminder for me when life gets tough to come back to God . I want to expieriece all he has for me!!

This has been an excellent bible study. an eye opener and makes one more aware of God. We get so caught up in life things that we do tend to shuffle God to the side only to pull him out when we need him. BUT… this bible study has placed our need for God in the front of our lives at all times. We need to be humble and ask for forgiveness every moment b/c we have a sinful nature. Knowing Jesus as our Lord and savior purifies us. thank-you.

Irmgarde, thank you for being such a beacon! I appreciate your honesty and how your words were able to mentor us through this process. I feel very blessed to have met you, and am fortunate to have the Lord continue to call me back to His loving arms. I feel honored to have met such lovely people and feel less alone..there are so many of us struggling to remain faithful. I am ready for my 30 day commitment, and have my devotional open and ready! I look forward to your blogs, and God willing will be back in the fall for your next endeavor..Alyce

Seeking Him came into my life at just the right time. I enjoyed my time with the book each night. The classes were a perfect way to sum the lesson up each week. Now that this revival has started in my heart, I can’t wait to keep the process going. I plan to get into another study, pronto, whether it is with another group or with a book by myself. Thanks to everyone for sharing their heart with us!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been in this class. The Lord was alive and well and evident in the teachings. From the animated spirit-led presentation by Nancy and Irmegard to the honest, open revelations and sharing by everyone I was truly blessed. I pray God’s help and direction to continue following Jesus. Praise and thanks to the Lord.

Thank you Class! You were all great. Hope to see you in the Fall for our next study.

After the discussing the DeMoss video which gave a good word picture of the Holy Spirit in our lives being like the Niagara Falls. In the same way that the Falls weren’t used for power-generating until the early 20th century, so many of us have failed to harness (use effectively – not control” the true power of the Spirit within us. Reread Romans 7 and 8 for a complete review of how the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the “law of sin.” She also gave a word picture for these concepts in considering “sin” to be like the law of gravity, always there and always “pulling on us” while the Holy Spirit fuels the “law of aerodynamics” that gives us the power to overcome the “law of gravity” and to soar in freedom. That’s all good stuff to hang onto as we move into our final week of study!

After the video, we asked those participants who missed last week, to share their 2-minute testimonies. Again, the glory of God’s power in the lives of a believer.

As we considered the Holy Spirit, I felt we should also discuss some of the historically different experiences of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For myself, I came into the Lord during the heyday of the “charismatic movement” in the 70’s. During this time, there was much emphasis on being “drunk in the spirit” and there was great joy, but there was also some misplaced seeking for the “signs and wonders” instead of seeking for the Spirit who was the author of them.

Many in our group came from this same time period and several shared their own personal “Holy Spirit” baptism. No matter how you define it, there is nothing like that deep presence of God… for some this happened in a “whoosh” like a waterfall and for others, it was a steady stream.

The “faith builder” story from the workbook led us into a long discussion of how difficult experiences in our past, particular abusive situations, are healed. We agreed that the story seemed to “simplify” the process. Clearly, anyone who has had those experiences has a choice in how he/she will respond to the circumstances. There is that moment when the person must “choose” to open up to God’s power through the Holy Spirit. Once those gates are open, healing can begin. It may not always happen quickly or immediately, but God is faithful. (“…Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” II Timothy 1:12)

We also talked about the idea of being a victim or having a “victim mentality.” Clearly, there is a tension when coming to the Lord for healing. Victims are generally the ones who feel powerless and if they have survived a traumatic situation, then generally, they have also built a complex array of defense systems to “protect” themselves from further hurt. But, to accept healing from God, one has to open the doors of the heart. One must, literally, give power fully to the Lord. This is not easy.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.

9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Selah (Psalm 24: 6-10)

Can you think of these gates being the gates of your heart? He will do battle for you, He will overcome. This King of Glory is the Holy Spirit!

What else does the Holy Spirit do in our lives?

  • counselor
  • teacher
  • brings conviction
  • brings “fruits of the spirit”
  • intercedes for us
  • reminds us of God’s love for us
  • empowers us
  • guides us into truth
  • heals
  • glorifies the Lord
  • helps in the sanctification process

Sanctification is the walking out of our salvation. Sanctification is initiated by the Holy Spirit and supported by the church and fellow believers. Sanctification is a process! Are ever finished? Not until that day we see our Lord face to face. It’s the journey and not the destination.

It is on that we must choose daily to give the Holy Spirit reign of our lives. As we submit (and isn’t this the full circle of our study … going all the way back to humility?) … the Holy Spirit manifests the power of God in our lives. We become “other-oriented.” We become joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. We know the Truth (Christ Jesus) and we are set free. We experience intimacy with God. Amen.

“For this is is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (I Thessalonians 4:3)

Why is it important to discuss sexual purity in the midst of a study on personal revival? Because we are a “whole” … the body, the mind, and the spirit. Our bodies are are a temple… and how we treat our bodies and how we use our bodies is important.

Clearly, when sexual purity is examined in the midst of a marriage, then adultery (all kinds … including lust or too close friendships) can cause damage: broken trust, defilement, lying, reproach to God, guilt and shame for the family, self-centeredness, confusion, strife, anger, frustration, and living in a fantasy. Some safeguards we discussed that might help (in a pro-active way) to prevent adultery might include open communication, accountability, transparency, honesty, building hedges, establish mutually agreed upon boundaries, benchmarks, avoiding compromising situations, NOT complaining about mate to a member of the opposite sex, and most important of all, praying for one another. So often, adultery occurs because of a slow “withering away” in the relationship and it is not “checked” early enough in the process. The “other” appears to be better and so, we begin to “live a lie.”

Adultery and sexual sins have actually become prevalent even in the church. Most of us agree that the power of the secular world and its “messages” sets the stage for infidelity. I believe that “loss of intimacy” with God can cause a loss of intimacy with a mate and as a result, send us out looking elsewhere for that intimacy. I believe women crave intimacy!

One of the questions DeMoss asks in her workbook is “what advice would you give to a teenage son or daughter about why or how to keep morally pure.” We all had a laugh as we waited for others speak, hoping someone else would have a “good idea” that might actually work! Some of the suggestions were that we talk about “consequence” – not just in the face of sex and the possible consequences there, but consequences for all of our actions. Other suggestions were to tell the teen that abstinence sets the stage for giving a “precious gift” to your marriage partner and on the flip side, by having sex before marraige, you are also “stealing that gift from that person’s spouse of the future.” In the end, we agreed that it’s important to communicate the importance of choice! I also added that we should share with our teens that every sexual liaison creates a binding … a literal spiritual thread… that remains forever unless supernaturally cut by Christ’s “sword of truth.”

Because of my interest in word pictures, I asked the group to brainstorm a bit on the word “purity.” What are some of the word associations that you have for purity?

  • white
  • harmony
  • not contaminated
  • without spot or blemish
  • 100%
  • not blended
  • clean
  • whole
  • innocence
  • fresh
  • bright
  • unadulterated

Interesting collections of words I think.

In the end, we must choose to nurture these words in our lives. If we have failed, then it is critical that we confess. If we ask for purity in our lives, then we must also expect the refining process.
“Refiner’s Fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy… ”

In our previous session we focused on achieving a clear conscience by putting a spotlight on our offenses toward others, but this week, the topic is forgiveness, with the spotlight on the offenses of others toward us…. and the grave responsibility and mandate we have to forgive. When we withhold forgiveness, we literally plant a seed of bitterness that grows slowly but steadily, ready to consume our hearts and souls. And as a result, our situation becomes worse.

This week, as a result of the video discussion, we spent some special time in ministry. I think it’s important to be responsive to these moments… particularly in the area of forgiveness and spiritual ‘captivity.’ So often, we allow unholy connections from former relationships … like the strands of a spider web… to remain attached to our spirits. These strands can only be broken by the sword of truth… Christ Jesus. This cutting is a very specific prayer… for the cutting and the setting free.

After our ministry time, we returned to the workbook and talked about realizing that forgiveness is not done alone, but through Christ. Someone reminded us of the Corrie Ten Boom story again, when Corrie had to face the reality of forgiving one of the brutal Nazi guards from her concentration camp. We also talked about the difficulty in extending forgiveness in the face of a cruel parent or abuser. Truly, only the presence of the Holy Spirit can bring that kind of courage and freedom.

Each person then gave their 2-minute “elevator” testimonies. All were powerful as we saw the unique way God touched our lives in order to bring us into relationship with Him. It was amazing, of the 9 or 10 of us there that night, that 6 were raised Catholic but only found their true relationship with Christ later in life. For some, the discovery of Christ came through a traumatic experience like the death of a child, for others, it was the dropping of a veil in the mind, for another, an altar call at a Billy Graham crusade, and still another through the reading of God’s word. I was humbled by the depth and breadth of God’s love with each one of the stories… some with joy and some with tears. For some, the memories of who they were before knowing the Lord was difficult. But I say again, as I said that night, each of us has that part of God’s story that only we can tell. Our lives have value to him. Our tears, He collects in a bottle. Our pain is part of the story because of its power to impact someone else’s story. We should never be ashamed of our story nor fear the pain. God is speaking.

Sometimes it takes walking through sin, pain, or difficulties in our lives to fully appreciate the depth of Woman who washed Jesus\' feet; Special thanks to Daniel GerhartzHis grace… when we are forgiven much, we are more willing to forgive (and love) others as He loved us. (Luke 7:47) I often add to my own testimony that “I am the woman at the well…,” I am the woman who “washed Jesus’ feet with her hair.” In my life, God has forgiven much… how can I do less?

And lastly, we talked about the servant who begged a King to be forgiven of a great debt. The King agreed to do so, but then, the servant turned around and treated someone badly who owed him money. When the King heard of it, he cast that servant into jail. (Matthew 18:23-35) There are many truths to be gleaned from this passage, but the one the Lord laid on my heart is that forgiveness is not cheap. God does not treat our forgiveness of others lightly. There is a cost as well as a freedom. The King who forgave the servant lost millions… but he was willing to do it. When we forgive someone who does not deserve it, we do bear a cost as well. But the freedom is immeasurable. And in the end, it is our forgiveness… our letting go… that really matters. God will avenge the rest.

Next week, we will be discussing sexual purity … and although this message alone has value… I encourage everyone to expand the topic to include other sins of the flesh… what else seduces us? What seduces women today? Is it just men… or something else as well?

We will hold the rest of the testimonies (those who were missing last week) until the following week when we study the “spirit-filled” life. See you then. We’re almost to the end of our journey!

For more prints like the one in this post, see Daniel Gerhartz site. (used by permission)

Clearing the conscience is a process of drawing closer to God by letting go of the obstacles that are scattered along the path to Him. It’s a serious endeavor and should not be taken lightly.

I think, so many times, we view this process as something that children must do while growing up. But clearly, there is work here for all of us. It is even more important if our first reaction to “clearing the Even the little things...conscience” is that there isn’t much to do. We may have become too complacent, having lost a sensitivity to the little things that can ultimately mushroom into the big things. (The video told the story of a young adult who was quickened to confess the mis-use of a postage stamp.)

In the “faith builder” story about the government man who decided to confess to drug use years and years before and, as a result, temporarily lost his top secret clearance and was relegated to a hallway during the investigation, the process was very humbling. In the end, that process gave him opportunities to witness and in the end, get an even better job. This is so difficult for us, I think, to walk in a direction that seems counter-productive, but God turns the way toward a victory we could not have imagined.

Our group talked at length about our own reactions. What would we say if a friend or relative would tell us that he/she was going to confess to some old sin or indiscretion years ago that would negatively impact the present? Most of us had to say that we would probably not encourage the confession. We might even use scripture like II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” to justify keeping silent. And so, unwittingly, we could become like Peter in Matthew 16:23 when he tried to convince his master not to go to Jerusalem, “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” We must all take care that we don’t become an obstacle to God’s work … in us as well as in others. We need tune in to the quickenings of the Holy Spirit. God is speaking to us through our conscience.

If it is true that a clear conscience means that nothing is standing between us and Christ, that nothing “keeps us awake at night,” that we can stand before God without fear, that we are not in bondage to anything, then the converse is also true. Look to your heart.

There are two directions symbolized by the cross, the vertical is our relationship with God and the horizontal is our relationship with others. Both are needful. The horizontal relationships are the walking out of our relationship with the Lord. To the degree that we are in good relationships, we can see the reality of our relationship with God. Without the “practice” of life, holiness is mere knowledge and not wisdom.

We also discussed the process of confession when dealing with issues of conscience. DeMoss talks at length about the various types: from private confession (between you and God) to personal confession (between you and the other) and most difficult, public confession (between you and a group). I think of these as concentric circles. Start from the core. The most important is between you and God and only after that, with God’s leading, should the others be pursued. DeMoss encourages us to make a list and “work the list.” And although I think that is a good idea, my personal opinion is that much prayer should precede all the other confessions. My other personal warning is that private confessions are not an opportunity to “clear the air” and show the other person their sins… if you go this route, it is essential to keep the confession focused on the part you played and to ask for forgiveness… whether it is given or not cannot be the goal… only obedience to God’s leading for YOU to confess. Trust God.


Remember, homework for our next session: please be prepared to give a 2-minute “elevator testimony.”

The DeMoss video was quite poignant for me during class because of my personal interest and connection to the Helen Keller story having Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan from Museum of Disabilityplayed Annie Sullivan in the play, The Miracle Worker. Despite the fact I played this part almost 40 years ago, I have never lost my appreciation for this remarkable story. For DeMoss, the story offers a word picture of the trials we sometimes face in this difficult area of obedience. Annie is quoted as saying, “I shall have many battles with the little woman before she learns the only two essential things I can teach her, obedience and love.” Helen, as a child, never learned obedience or manners because she was percieved as being unable to learn these things. It was only Annie’s persistence and love that broke through and not only taught Helen how to “be obedient” but also how to trust… the primary key to obedience (and submission, by the way).

Some of the video highlights (and quotes) that class participants liked were:

  • Obedience is the gateway to knowledge and love
  • Nature and all of creation obey God – no choice but humans have a choice.
  • All “commands” of God are for our good. (Deut 4:40)
  • The call to obedience is a call to blessing. (Deut 11:26-28)
  • We cannot obey in our own strength.

We then reviewed the “faith builder” story that told of a man who confessed to stealing furniture designs and selling them as his own. When he “came clean” with those he had transgressed, they were surprised he even bothered since, “that’s a common business practice” and everyone does it. There are so many areas in our culture where this idea has become pervasive, from things like speeding to white collar crimes like stealing office supplies to outright theft of money from a cash register. Have our consciences been seared beyond repair?

DeMoss calls this level of seared conscience a “obedience quotient” and says that one way to measure it is the length of delay between what we know God wants us to do and our actually acting on it. It is important to remember that as we contemplate and weigh our own desires against what we know are God’s desires, we are becoming like King Saul (I Samuel 15:1-21)

If we can remember that our obedience to God today is actually a foundation for the trials of tomorrow, things would go so much better. In order to learn obedience, it takes practice. (See post on Repentance.) One participant reminded me of the story of the 10 virgins who remembered the oil and were ready for their bridegroom when He came (Matthew 25:1-13). Another scripture brought up was

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Again, all in support of the idea that it is our foundation of obedience that allows us freedom in our walk toward holiness.

Another key point is that obedience to God is “total” and that a partial obedience is no better than outright disobedience. (King Saul is one of the prime examples.) The repercussions for partial obedience can be just as destructive. Sometimes, our disobediences are small and seem inconsequential, but we must remember that story of the “frog in the pot” … from these small missteps can come devastating consequences.

What is your story? Do you have your own story of disobedience? Did you change your path only after the consequences began to erode your circumstances? If you look back, can you see the moment when it all started? Can you see the moment you could have chosen differently? Ask God, right now, to forgive that decision. Ask the Lord to “restore to you what the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.

This was an interesting and challenging evening for me, particularly after we viewed the video by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I guess, I was a little surprised as I didn’t find the video to match up with what I expected based on the workbook. Nonetheless, it did bring out lots of discussion and I think that is always healthy as long as we hold each other lovingly when we disagree. 🙂

In this video segment, DeMoss put a lot of emphasis on sins that block our journey toward holiness (which is true, of course), but particulary “worldly entertainments” – a phrase she uses in the workbook. In particular, she zeroed in on R rated movies, music, television, and the like. This is a bit tough for me, and I confessed this to the group, because I don’t lump all R rated movies into a “do not watch” zone. I just never have, probably because of my theatrical background and love for all forms of production and theater craft. Several people shared their own views, many confirming that they felt DeMoss was right on target. I will only share a caution here, that none of us judge too quickly, and allow our sovereign God to work His will and way with each person. May we all hold fast to our previous lesson that “grace is sufficient” and that there is “no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” Sin is sin … there is no sin more powerful, really, than another. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That’s why we are on a journey.

We then touched most of the questions, my favorite being the first one in which I encouraged folks to talk about the people they know and love who they perceive as living holy lives. I love personal storieds and many of these were very encouraging. I was so reminded of the previous lesson on honest and transparency because most of the examples confirmed that element as a key.

There are two types of holiness that we learned about this week:

  1. positional holiness – comes with our initial salvation and is based on Christ’s sacrifice and the covering of his blood. This is our “spiritual position.”
  2. personal holiness – comes with the walking out of positional holiness, also known as sanctification. This is how we think and live. It is in this area that we make daily choices.

From the “faith builder” story we learned the importance of authentic confession in the face of sin and the freedom and power that comes as a result. By our transparency and trust in God’s forgiveness, God can, not only heal us, but make us like a pebble thrown in a pond, the ripples affecting and changing those around us.

Are you ready? We could all relate to the story and word picture of the “bride of Christ” who shows up at the wedding in hair curlers and sweat pants. Is this us? Have we lost our way? Have we lost sight of the goal? I think, sometimes, we get the vision for something, but then get caught up in the doing and forget why we’re doing it in the first place. It is important to remember to “keep our eyes on the prize.” I Cor 9:24

Also, I Peter 1:13-16 and other scriptures remind us that this journey is an “active” one… in other words, the pursuit of holiness, is a VERB! There are actions we can take…. choices we can make. Ultimately, we are back to the mind… the decision to do … to change… to go… to work.

And the changes cannot just be “outward affectations” or “habitual practices.” We must stay present Beehive image of concentric circlesin the moment. Remember our earlier discussion of the movies… it is not enough to say whether you do or do not attend particular movies… what is first, is the heart. I did not get to share an image that God had given me about this… it was a beehive shape and the bottom part is the outer world and the top, narrow part is the interior world with God. Our journey towards holiness is a series of concentric circles. All are dependent on one another.

My last word picture for this week is from Isaiah 6:1-7. Just as the angel brought a “coal” to cleanse Isaiah’s “unclean lips,” there is a coal from heaven for each our sins. Oh, refiner’s fire… my heart’s one desire.

“Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need!” Hebrews 4:16

The first question of the night is “How would you define the concept of grace to a 6-year old?” It was fun to hear everyone’s stories… from a an extra slice of cake to new bicycle, the general sense captured the essence of grace being a “gift” and truly a gift that we don’t really deserve.

Rain of Grace I actually think everyone “understands” the concept of grace… the challenge is receiving grace. The Lord gave me an image of “receiving grace” as walking outside when it’s raining, lifting up my head and opening my mouth to allow all that rain to pour all over me and inside of me. Totally wet! But, instead, so many of us tend to wear raincoats! It was interesting to me that before I shared this word picture, Robin shared a similar expression of God’s grace as He calmed her spirit one night with the sound of the rain on her window.

When we discussed the “faith builder” story in the workbook, we all agreed that it was the minister’s authentic confession to his wife that opened the door to grace. Humility and honesty are keys to that door. It was then possible for God to really begin to move and to bring both the man and wife together in the next steps to clearing his conscience. Although the risks were high, God was faithful and protected both the minister and his family. I think that protection came from a truly “contrite heart.”

Because I find that word pictures are really powerful in class, we read Ephesians 2:1-9 with an emphasis on verses 4 & 5, “…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” I wanted to know what it might look like to be alive in Christ… but before we went there… we talked about being dead in Christ… or perhaps, not so dramatic, but asleep. I believe many are merely asleep: disconnected, unfeeling, self-contained, not active, immovable, in their own dream world, uncommunicative, detached… and the list goes on. I shared further about the idea of a slumbering spirit… a concept I have investigated even more thoroughly through the Elijah House ministry. And the opposite? … to be alive in Christ is to be connected, feeling fully, outward focused, responsive, sensitive to others, open, communicative, willing to bond with others! All available to us through the power of grace!

Remember, justice is “getting what you deserve” while mercy is being “released from the punishment that you do deserve” and finally, grace is receiving mercy PLUS an extra blessing that you don’t deserve. On this holy day of Good Friday, how can we not realized that His sacrifice was the Great Grace.
And it is mercy and grace that open the doors to the very throne room of God, our Father!

We talked a lot about the question, “how can God’s grace help us overcome temptation and deal with sin?” How do we get that “power” to resist temptation… to resist sin? Some felt it was that direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Is that different than an outpouring of God’s grace? For me, I am leaning to a “new” way… at least new for me… and that is approaching the Throne with open arms and open heart, seeking only His Grace to fill me… that I might love the Lord with “heart, soul, and mind” … for here, there is no room for temptations to germinate. I think I have always thought of Grace as coming “after the sin”… coming hand in hand with forgiveness (and this is true), but I believe I am learning in this study that Grace is also “pro-active” and can be a hedge against sin.

Throne of Grace Lastly, we talked about Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I encourage all of us to really investigate the fullness of what it means to “approach the throne” … this is a VERB! How do we do that? Let us not be locked in a “box” into thinking that there is only one way… we can pray, sing, dance, laugh! We can be in nature, in a closet, in church, or in the kitchen. We can approach alone, with a friend or in a group. And, as scripture says, when we approach, there is where we fill FIND grace… waiting for us. Oh, that’s so powerful!

Our last activity before praying in small groups was to share openly, one by one, an area where we specifically need God’s grace. That was such a tender time and I thank each one of the seekers who were willing to be transparent! Please, dear ones, remember, His Grace is Sufficient for You!

Happy Easter! Remember, no class next week. Take time to review the previous chapters as well as moving on to the next lesson. And… to those who have been absent… there is plenty of grace. You are warmly welcome to return to class. 🙂

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Once again an excellent discussion this week as we examined the core role of repentance in the “personal revival” process. Clearly, we all agreed that “change,” because it’s so difficult in all areas, is equally difficult in the area of repentance. Despite the fact that we know change is necessary for growth, we often choose the status quo (even, in some cases, if that norm is painful or sinful).

Repentance is a “change of mind” that results in a change of behavior! Without this change, without repentance, we will miss our chance to get closer to God.

Why do we find it so hard to look inside? Why do we, instead, tend to shift the blame for our feelings and circumstances to others? Because it’s easier! It’s so easy to “look at the speck in another’s eye” and miss the plank in our own. It’s so easy to say, “you made me feel…” This blame shifting goes all the way back to Adam & Eve.

Sometimes we forget the power of only one person changing. DeMoss tells a story of about Oradea, Romania back in the 70’s that was changed because of a “revived” pastor whose love for God sparked the revival of his church that sparked a revival in his community that sparked a revival in that nation. Didn’t Jesus do the same? We should never discount the power of the “one” … we should never discount how important it might be in God’s plan for us, as individuals, to respond to God’s call to revival. That call is happening now… today.

What are some of the results of not repenting… of not responding to God’s call for repentance? (Review what God said to the churches in Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19.) Based on these scriptures, we might experience the removal of our lampstands (His light within and the ability to see in a dark place), God would fight us in whatever we tried to do, God would allow us to experience a “bed of suffering,” God would allow our children (our offspring) to die, He would allow the thief to come in the night to “steal our stuff” (whatever we think of as valuable), and even worse, we would be unable to hear God’s knock… we would be deaf to God’s call. This is not a pleasant list to contemplate.

But, the reason I wanted us to discuss and investigate all these negatives is that we need to understand the power of the converse. If we do repent, what can expect? Our lives would be full of light, joy, children, success, safety, and a vibrant relationship with the Lord. That’s something worth getting excited about!

And in the church, can we envision how different it would be if there was true repentance (authentic repentance!) amongst the people?

  • harmony
  • changed behaviors
  • family unity
  • tithing
  • no gossip
  • no cliques
  • healings
  • presence of the Holy Spirit
  • more fellowship
  • more love
  • more reaching out to those in need
  • more reaching out to those who don’t know the Lord

The group threw out this list … what does it say about our churches? This is a list of what is missing today?

The last key I want to be sure we hold onto … we must remember that repentance, like sin, begins in the mind. As long as our minds are dwelling on other things, there will be no room, no opportunity for us to respond to God.

How do we train the mind? Practice! We must daily choose another way. We must daily choose to turn the other way. Remember, what is your commitment level (on a scale of 1-10) to have authentic repentance? If it’s anything less than a 10… what will it take for you to get to a 10? Only you can shift your mind. God is calling … God has given us free will.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19

Prayer needs: Nancy, Eileen, Patty, Bob, Tanya, Rebecca, Jan, Frank, Paige.

This week’s session was a very special one. Was it because it was about Honesty? I don’t know… but there was much more honesty coming from around the table. I was so appreciative of all the people willing to share from the heart on this night.

It started out really strong as participants discussed those lessons, scriptures, or ideas that have touched their hearts the most so far. Each person had a different take on it and that was very interesting. Several people found the humility study touched deeply. For me, it has been from the very beginning, the scripture from Hosea, “… break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord…” This sense of timing is what keeps resonating in me. There’s a reason for this study now!

I then asked people to just “brainstorm” the ways that we can be dishonest with people. It was an illuminating list: blatant lies; pretending to be something or like something that you do not; telling someone your forgive them when you don’t; covering up true feelings with agner; avoidance; overcommitment; blame shifting; coloring a story; white lies; taking credit for something that someone else did; being 2-faced; not keeping a promise; judging others. A follow-up question also had a long list as we threw out areas of our lives where we try to hide, like our mistakes; private moments; coveting; insecurities; sexual sin; indultgence (in eating or consumerism); bad habits in general; covering real feelings; heart inadequacies; disappointment; finances; addictions; family strife; regret to name a few.

Why do we hide? That was a question we gnawed on for quite awhile. There is no easy answer to that question, but definitely, we felt that shame was one piece of it as well as fear of rejection… or fear in general. If we find ourselves readily “judging” others, we are afraid of that judgment coming back at us. People are afraid of “loss of face.”

In the end, to break through these fears and barriers, it’s important to believe and understand that showing our frailities actually lets people in because they recognize their own frailities in you. The barriers we raise to protect our sins come across in a lot of different ways… but in general, we are inaccessible.

What we hope to do instead is to practice transparency … honesty! As we move toward that, we will see change. We will see for ourselves that good relationships can develop, that those relationships will be authentic, that trust is built, a weight is lifted, that we no longer carry so much baggage (because by telling or revealing our sin, we are unburdened and the weight of that sin is distributed to a trusting heart). Once we start this process of unburdening and being more transparent, it can become a “good” habit.

It’s important to trust that God will protect us when we do “open up” or share honestly about ourselves. Unfortunatley, we all have stories of putting our true selves out there and having someone stomp all over our hearts.

There is a story I did not share in class that I am reminded of right now. This story was shared by John Sandford from the Elijah House which he heard from a teacher. Apparently, there was a young boy who came to school but he always held his hands behind his back. No matter what was going on, he never showed his hands. The teacher feared that they were disfigured in some way. It was only after some patient weeks of working with the boy that she learned that his abusive father slapped his hands hard for any and every infraction. The boys’ hands became a symbol for all of his mistakes and misdeeds and he couldn’t bear to have them out. It took many many weeks before he was able to do things in class with his hands.

How we respond to the sin of others is just as important as how we respond to the sin in ourselves. The key is forgiveness, of course. As God is always ready to forgive, so must we. It is in forgiveness that we can find freedom … that we can give freedom.

Lastly, we worked on some word pictures for “walking in the light” (based on I John 1:5-9). What does it look like to walk in the light? We had several images…

Light from within

Some saw the light ahead of them on a path…

Walking in the Light 1

some saw the light from above shining on them
Walking in the Light 3

some saw the heavens full of light…
walking in the Light 4

and some just saw the path barely illuminated…

walking in the light 2

and as for me… well, it was a combination of the light from within and the light from without. To “walk in the light” according to the group means to be exposed, to experience total truth, to be clean, to be pure and white, to be illuminated both externally and internally.

And then, it occurred to me… that’s what I really want. I want to be blazin’ with light. I want to be a vessel of God’s light… a lampstand on the hill. Touch us all this week Lord that we might blaze with your glory!

Light of Christ.