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!
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.
Having returned from my first Global Outreach Seminar just a few days ago I thought I would give you a few of my reflections as I look back over my experiences in India.
I will never forget the privilege of meeting, sharing with, and praying with some of the heroes of our faith disguised as ordinary people who are living out their faith with passion among the lost and unreached of India. We went with the attitude of learners, and these precious brothers and sisters taught us much of what a surrendered life to Jesus looks like compared to casual, complacent Christianity.
Among these lasting images is standing on the flat rooftops near the conclusion of each of our two Seminars in Delhi and Chennai with my hand on the shoulder of my Indian brothers and sisters as they firmly held onto their Indian flag and poured out their prayers on behalf of those within their borders to become disciples of Jesus. I was deeply moved by their sincere passion to present the gospel to not only their own people and among their own caste, but they have been inspired to take the Gospel to those beyond their boundaries.
Another image is that of kneeing down with my fellow teammates and having the participants of our Chennai Seminar lay hands on us and pray down the blessings of heaven upon us. As I heard them cry out in their native tongue, I asked God not to let me rise from the floor as the same person who knelt moments before. What a humbling experience to have these Indian believers show their great appreciation by surrounding us in fervent prayer.
Upon my arrival in Chennai, I discovered that I would be leaving in just a few short hours to speak in a United Methodist Church in Chennai. I could have never imagined how transforming that experience would be for me. When I arrived at the church building I was greeted by a couple and their family. Later in the worship service their son and daughter came up onto the platform to lead the congregation in five simple, but powerful songs of praise. The mom functioned as our worship leader as the father played the guitar, their ten-year-old son played the keyboard, and their daughter sang along. I was moved by their impact upon me, not because of my familiarity of the songs, but by the visible presence of God’s Spirit speaking and singing through them. The mother beautifully wove scripture between the songs that helped us to engage in worship at a deeper level.
By the time I arose to deliver the message I was experiencing a variety of feelings. But I tell you with all sincerity, that I have seldom sensed the presence and freedom of God’s Holy Spirit any more than I did at that moment as I shared God’s missional message of our sacred privilege and responsibility of passing the treasure of the gospel on to people of every tribe, language, and nation.
As I attempted to make the message practical to my Indian brothers and sisters, I stepped off the platform and walked over to the family that had earlier led us in worship. I told the father, “Johnson,” that God had entrusted this treasure of the gospel into his hand. He then passed it to his wife, then to her son, and finally to their daughter. I then asked the congregation, “What is Leeann’s responsibility now that she has received the treasure?” They responded “To share it with others!” Since they had already received the treasure themselves, I escorted this precious teenager out the door to pass the baton on to those who have yet to hear it.
In closing, how do you and The Mission Society measure the success of such an investment of time and resources? Unfortunately, there are practical limitations on trying to accurately measure the value of such a venture. One of the ways I have answered that question is by the response of the participants themselves.
These words came from one of the participants at the Delhi Seminar who has remained connected with me through email:
Dear Rev. Denny Heiberg,
Praise the Lord. I read the message that you had written down in my notebook, many times. It has encouraged me very much. May God bless you abundantly because of your parental love.
You remember, when we prayed for Sudan during our prayer time; on the19th, I saw a photo, which was published in The Times of India, which has touched me very much. If God allows, we both will travel to Sudan and many more poor nations (both spiritually and physically).
I learned many things from the conference, regarding global outreach. I am praying to God to use me like a good vessel in His hands. I invited my team of pastors in Delhi, tomorrow. And I called up my team of Tribal mission in Madhya Pradesh and informed them that I would visit them shortly; the reason being, that I want to equip them as leaders (disciples).
Convey my regards and love to your family. We are praying to further strengthen our relationship to reach the world. My family and I are doing well by the grace of our Lord.
Rev. Philip John
Denny & Cindy Heiberg