“This has been profound for me! The character of God is now engraved in me!
Now that I know that I am loved this much, I want to make Him known.
I want others to experience this God!” ~ Kezzie
For the past ten days I have been in an Eastern Africa Country as a part of a training team made up of fellow colleagues from The Mission Society along with National Church leaders. My primary responsibility has been to awaken, equip, train, and deploy with confidence the one hundred participates that represent some forty-two tribes from this war-torn Country. My investment is in the area of discipleship training and this has been one of the most productive and rewarding training experiences that I have been on during the past year.
During the full day that I spoke on this vital subject, many of the participants came up to me and said how grateful they were that I would come all this way to share with them God’s teachings on what the Bible reveals about becoming a disciplemaker. During one of the breaks a pastor quickly came to me and said, “I need you to pray for me. I have failed God. I haven’t been making disciples.” After I saw his regret and remorse, I told him that most of us who are pastors have discovered we have been focused upon many other concerns within the Church, but we have been guilty of omitting the priority of Great Commission.
As I put my arm around him, I prayed for God to ignite within him a passion to not only become a disciple of Jesus, but to resolve to become a disciplemaker.
The quote at the top of this blog is from a young lady who attended one of the four workshops that I am leading in how to disciple others in a small group setting using the Life Transformation Studies. I will never forget her eyes as she absorbed God’s truth found in John 1:18. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He as revealed God to us.” After realizing that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, Kezzie responded, “God has intentionally made Himself known to me. It’s humbling that He would do this for me. I can’t help but love Him back! I now realize that I’m not following an abstract God. He’s not distant. I’m no longer groping in the dark. He wants me to make myself vulnerable to Him. I can’t worship God the same again!!!”
Brothers and sisters, words cannot describe how privileged I feel to be here among my African brothers and sisters - t learn from them and to share with them what God has imparted to me through the years. I am extremely grateful for your prayers, your support, and your words of encouragement that have made it possible for me to have such an experience.
I pray that God will continue to challenge all of us to fully resolve to follow Jesus as His disciple throughout the world
With extreme gratitude,
Denny (standing with our brother, Duncan)
One of the men who has mentored me through his writings is Dallas Willard. Earlier this year, just before he went to be with Jesus, Dallas spoke at a seminar that focused on God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ command for us to make disciples. I’d like to leave you with a portion of one of his talks that sums up what Cindy and I have discovered this first year among God’s Church around the world.
"I think that we are on the verge of a time when the Church is going to be able to make some decisions. That may be a funny way of talking to you, but for long periods in the history of the Church, as the history of Israel, there were really no significant decisions that could have been made.
I think we've been through a pretty tough patch with the Church. I try never to criticize the Church because I know whose in charge of it. But sometimes we need to be conscious of where we're coming from and where we're going. I think that we are coming into a time when many churches and leaders and Christians who are in leadership positions will be able to say,
'It's all about discipleship and transformation into Christlikeness.'
Now if you've read the New Testament or even the Old Testament you might have come to that conclusion already.
It's hard to avoid. But circumstances and history have a way of claiming us and not letting us see what's actually happening. And we've been through a period where the dominant theology simply had nothing to do with discipleship. It had to do with proper belief, and how on the basis of that God would see to it that you didn't go to the bad place, but you got into the good place.
But the way that developed, it turned out, you could have the worst character possible and still get into the good place if you believed the right thing. And the disconnection over time became increasingly burdensome to the Church itself until you come to the point to where, as is widely discussed, in some respects there is not a clear difference between a 'Christian,' and those who aren't Christians."
I have only been home a week since returning from Bolivia where I participated in a Bolivian Discipleship Consultation with about 135 participants. I teamed up with my former professor from Asbury Seminary, Dr. Darrell Whiteman, who focused upon how to effectively share God’s Message across a variety of cultural barriers. I had about seven opportunities during the three-day gathering to focus upon discipleship and disciplemaking concepts. I had never been to Bolivia prior to this trip and I absolutely fell in love with the people and the beauty of the mountain landscape. One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five-mile walk on our final morning as we trekked high above the city at about 12,000 feet!
Beloved Family, Friends, and Partners in Ministry,
Greetings from the balmy breezes of the northern shoreline of Honduras! We have just concluded our Discipleship Training Conference here in El Porvenir this afternoon and we wanted to share our extreme gratitude for your investment of your prayers and your finances, which made this experience possible. Just to remind you, Cindy and I have been serving alongside of our dear friends and colleagues in ministry, Billy and Donna Hires. All four of us are overwhelmed by the ways the Lord made Himself known during the week. We were privileged to hear the first-hand testimonies of the participants as they shared with the entire group during our Celebration Service this afternoon.
Since you couldn’t be here to witness our time together, we have sent along a few pictures that give you a glimpse of the precious women and men that we have been training throughout the week. We have also copied below some of the responses of the participants as they reflected on what God has been saying and how He has been working in and through their lives as a result of their participation.
Three of the men shared that they have already been using the discipleship materials, which they had experienced, and that we had given them after our training sessions. They were immediately implementing this new material in their churches and in small groups.
One man put it this way, “You took off your belts and spanked us, but we received it with joy. It was a deep word shared with God’s grace. We were not resistant to your message, even though it was not easy to hear.”
“We now understand that we have a responsibility to pass the baton of the Gospel to others.”
“I realize it is my responsibility, not only my pastor’s, to make disciples! The church is NOT to revolve around the pastor, but the ‘Great Commission’ is for the entire church family.”
“We are challenged to move outside our comfort zones [to make disciples of all peoples]!”
“I was awakened by the disobedient example of Jonah as he turned away from God’s command. Missions is hard work and we must have God’s heart for other people groups. We must be more passionate about the lost than about our own comfort and security.”
One of the women stood up and shared how moved she was as she heard the first ten testimonies from men and how their lives had been transformed by the training. She saw and heard a serious commitment to disciplemaking along with action plans regarding what these men hope to accomplish.
In speaking of Billy and myself, one of the men said, “It was great to meet men who will go anywhere to teach about making disciples.”
One of the men is a college professor in a Bible school and he has committed to train ten pastors with the materials that we provided him with this week. He is meeting with them this Sunday to go over the strategy and will assign them five men each to begin discipling. As he said to all of us, “So many times we receive teaching of the Word, but we don’t put it into practice!”
One man said: “I have learned that our mission is not just to evangelize, but to make disciples. When we evangelize, the people many times soon fall away or simply don’t grow. We have learned that when we disciple others, then they will remain in the faith. We need to pass the baton to others!”
One woman mentioned, “I have learned the task is not only for pastors, but for all of us! Bless you and please come back giving us these precious lessons.”
One pastor said with great passion as he faced his Honduran brothers and sisters, “They (North Americans) came to tell us what we were not doing. They see great qualities in us to be great teachers. We are not ignorant; we’re just disobedient. They came and spoke to us and we all said, ‘Amen!’ But if a Honduran says it (the teachings we presented about making disciples and joining Jesus in His mission) we say, ‘who is this brother who has come to criticize us? We have become a mediocre church! Do the missionaries have to come and tell us to believe what God’s Word has been saying to us all along? If they see the work we can do, they will say, ‘We don’t have to come back again to Honduras!”
During our celebration time, Humberto and three other pastors demonstrated the process of discipleship by passing the baton from one to the other to show how we pass the treasure of the Gospel. Following the men, the women demonstrated the truth of how Timothy came to faith (II Timothy 1:5). Cindy represented his grandmother and passed it to Elizabeth, representing Timothy’s mother, and she passed it to “Timothy” who was Elizabeth’s 15 year old daughter, Basty, who gave her heart to Jesus on Thursday afternoon. Basty then passed the baton throughout the
congregation representing all the disciples who would come to faith!!
We closed our celebration by having the fifty participants move to the sides of our meeting room and walk among the nine flags that were hanging around the room and pray for God to move among his people in that country. It was a powerful and humbling sight to behold as these precious Hondurans passionately prayed for these neighboring countries. Then as a grand finale, we asked them to all come downstairs and gather around the Honduran flag and pray for God to move mightily throughout their own country. This was an experience that I wish each of you could have experienced. It was powerful!
Cindy and I can’t begin to thank you enough for standing with us in our new role and for believing in us as we seek to train up national leaders to disciple the nations. We feel very inadequate for the task, but at the same time we feel that God has been preparing us throughout our lives for such a strategic opportunity as this.
Looking forward to seeing you soon and sharing with you in person what God has done among us this week.
With gratitude and appreciation,
One of the verses that has influenced me and in my journey and inspired my passion for disciplemaking is Luke 9:51 -
As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
I discovered that Luke uses a common Hebrew phrase to describe the resolve of Jesus to go to Jerusalem, “he set his face….” It means that Jesus fixed his gaze upon his destination and mission. He would not be distracted or detoured from accomplishing his Father’s plan for his life. Even his looming death would not deter him from the cross. I like the way The Message translates this phrase, “he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” Now that’s what I call, resolve!
Challenged by the resolve and commitment of Jesus to fulfill his life’s mission has caused me to resolve to focus upon completing the mission God has laid out for my life. I believe I can best accomplish this by committing to a daily practice of receiving nourishment from God’s Word. I am so grateful for what God has shown me in these first few days of the journey through Luke’s Gospel. Apparently, this simple Bible Study method has been a blessing and encouragement to other fellow travelers. Listen to one couple who have resolved to the daily practice of “GEARing up for the Journey.”
Thank you so much for G.E.A.R. How can we be so old and yet still learning how to read the Bible? The entire message, from redwood trees to how to’s, was so relevant to our lives as retired and too often relaxed partners. I’ve journaled two pages, and I’m only in chapter 10! I think “R” will be the hardest part but the most needed for me. Old habits die hard, and the “senior” part of me tends to reflect too much on the past…mistakes, memories, what ifs, and why didn'ts. It’s hard to “press on" and leave all that garbage behind.
In addition, when conversation between [my husband] and me tends to dwindle and books or TV replace it, we will work at discussing specific scriptures as we plan our days. Having trod the path of all the technology that is available as well as the cares of this world, I look forward to fertilizing my roots with God’s Word in a new and deeper study. I find myself even checking out several different Bibles to improve my G.E.A.R.
And this from another outfitter:
After today’s entry, it came to me to let you know two things. One is that I’m doing the G.E.A.R. exercise and I’m not finding it a burden, but rather a solace! Secondly, it is working to get me back into a more intimate relation with God. For many reasons, I was struggling to connect – like I had abandoned HIM when I need Him the most.
If you would like to try out this simple method of Transformational Bible Study, look at my entry on February 26, “Essential G.E.A.R for Following Jesus.” I explain the process and give you a sample of how you might apply this method to a portion of Scripture.
May God honor your resolve to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
A few years ago we walked through a message series at Grace Church called “Essential G.E.A.R. for Following Jesus.” For seven weeks we took a look at a portion of Luke’s gospel that records the conversations and events of Jesus as He takes His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. In the first message of the series we offered a practical guide for reading through the Scriptures that enabled each of us to dig deeper into the Bible and to help us apply what we have read to our daily lives.
I first learned of this method while attending a pastor’s conference in February 2003. A pastor named Wayne Cordeiro, from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, challenged each of us to join him in a simple method of personal Bible study that he had used successfully for years. As a result, I have found this devotional method to be very helpful for me in digging deeper into the Scriptures. This method is also easily reproducible for others to apply to their lives. In light of our outfitter’s image of discipleship at Grace Church, I modified the method to fit within our context.
For those of you who may not remember this teaching, I’ll briefly summarize the G.E.A.R method of Transformational Bible Study.
1. Select a portion of Scripture to read. (During these next seven weeks we will be focusing upon Luke 9:51 thorough Luke 19:27.)
2. After you have read your portion for the day, select a verse or two that seems to stand out to you and that you would like to spend a few moments reflecting upon.
3. Now that you have a verse or two to focus upon, you will begin the G.E.A.R. method of Bible Study.
God’s Word: Write out word for word the Scripture you have selected for the day.
Examine: Now begin to examine what the text is saying by making observations. This is where you answer some of the following questions, “What is the context of this verse?” “What does the text say?” “Who is speaking?” “Who is the recipient?” “What is happening here?” “When is this taking place?” “Where is this happening?” “Why is this event taking place?” “How did this happen?” You also look for key or repeated words. Write down in a few sentences what you have discovered in this examination stage.
Apply: Here you answer the question: “What is God saying to ME through this Scripture?” “How should I respond?” “How does this work in MY life?” After you have a sense of how this Scripture might be applied to your life, spend a few moments writing our your thoughts.
Resolve: In light of what God has revealed and said to you, how will your life be different as a result of reading this Scripture? What will you resolve to do? To be resolved means to come to a definite decision about something, to make up your mind to obey what you have learned. Once you have a sense of how you might commit to live out a lesson that comes from this Scripture, take a moment to write it down as a prayer of commitment.
Now that I’ve unpacked the method for you, let me illustrate this method on a verse of Scripture so that you might see an example of the G.E.A.R. method.
God’s Word: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Examine: The Lord is speaking through His prophet, Jeremiah, to God’s people in Judah. They have turned from following the Lord and have placed their trust in the strength of other nations who do not worship the Lord. Unfortunately, the majority of God’s very own people have turned their hearts away from the Lord God. In these two verses Jeremiah reveals that those who determine to trust in the Lord and place their hope and confidence in Him will receive God’s blessings and favor. They will stand strong and healthy like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Even in times of drought and distress, these trees will continue to produce fruit.
Apply: Even when my life is in distress and turmoil and I am tempted to place my trust in human wisdom and strength, I must continue to trust in the Lord and His Word. When I place my hope and confidence in Him and develop a discipline of nourishing my soul from God’s Word, then I will be fruitful no matter how difficult the circumstances are at the moment.
Resolve: Lord, I want to thank you for your abundant provisions for my life. In light of this passage, I resolve to begin a daily practice of reading and studying your Word so that my spiritual roots will be nourished and my life will be fruitful and productive.
Let me encourage you to begin this time alone with God and His Word by praying for God to open your eyes to the wonderful truths in His Word. Here are a few sample prayers taken right from the Scriptures:
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Teach me, O Lord, to follow every one of your principles.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Denny & Cindy Heiberg