Casting Out Demons Training

Casting Out Demons Training

Casting out demons training is not offered many places, yet this kind of training is critical. The name of Christ is stronger than demons. The word demon or demons appear over 70 times in the Bible. Demons are fallen angels who are aligned with Satan.

Christian Leaders may be asked to cast out demons.  Jesus sent out his disciples to preach the Gospel. Part of their assignment may be to cast out demons.

Matthew 10:7-10  7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Jesus gave casting out demon training with good reason. Demons affected people in Jesus’s days and still do today.

This Christian Leaders Institute student experienced the exorcism of his wife by a Spirit filled pastors. This pastor received casting out demon training that prepared him for such a time as this.

Listen to this CLI student’s story…

I was raised as a Christian, but really never knew Jesus. I lived most of my life without really knowing Jesus. I got married to a Buddhist and she had a strong connection with her spirituality. Her family used black magic to trick her into channeling spirits, who she thought were family Amakua’s, but really turned out to demons. The demons took over, and it became so bad that she was no longer eating or sleeping. We were completely desperate, with no where to turn. Then she saw the sign of the cross – formed by clouds in the sky. We immediately went to the nearest church. The local pastor called a spirit-filled pastor, we accepted Christ as our Savior and were saved by the grace & power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We went through spiritual warfare, battling demons with the Holy Spirit night and day.

This experience has completely transformed our lives and turning us into sons and daughters. We are witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit, seeing darkness defeated and God’s love overpowering all. We know in our hearts that Jesus is real and the Holy Spirit is alive and well today.

What does Casting out Demons Training consist of?

1. Explore your call into ministry. Are you called to be sent out to proclaim the gospel as a Christian Leader?

2. Get grounded in the Word of God and Ministry Training.

3. Develop your devotions and prayer life. Christian Leaders Institute has a class just on prayer.

4. Develop your understanding of Spiritual warfare.  The CLI Ethics class studies a book on Spiritual Warfare.

5. Keep a strong connection to a local Spirit-filled body of believers.

6. Be sensitive to the giftings given to you. Some Christian Leaders have the gift of Exorcism. Get to know people who have that gift, especially if for difficult cases.

7.  Learn how to cast out demons without becoming puffed up because demons submit to you. Jesus once warned his disciples about that in Luke 10:20.

When you sense the presence of demons, pray in the name of Jesus, that they leave you, the place you at or the person or persons you are with at the time. Be careful to do this quietly if you are with others. It is not ministry people smart or loving to randomly “cast out demons” publically. Pray quietly, unless invited to do so publically.

At Christian Leaders Institute you will be given casting out demons training because you need it and Jesus has given you authority over demons.

Luke 10:18-19     He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Reach Out In Ministry – Denham’s Story

Denham Anthony Schokman, from Moscow in Russia, has a desire to Reach Out In Ministry, and enrolled at Christian Leaders Institute to help spread the Good News of Christianity to his country! Here is his story…

Reach Out In Ministry – Denham’s Story

I was born in 1977, in the small island nation of  Sri Lanka, to Roman Catholic parents. I am the eldest in the family followed by a younger sister. In a predominantly Buddhist society, I attended a prominent Roman Catholic school, so I had the privilege of studying the Bible at a very young age. The gospel of Luke was part of our curriculum, and it was customary for the school day to start and end in prayer. We were made to understand both at school and at home that our God was good to children who did good and punished those who did badly. For me, God was more like Santa Clause sitting on a throne with angels around him.

In 1983, at the tender age of 6, my impression about God changed significantly because of a situation that our family had to go through. My mother’s younger sister who happened to live with us was possessed by a demon. She would regularly go into uncontrollable fits and speak in a foul language. She was restrained with ropes to keep her from hurting herself. I remember how fearful we were, especially in the night. It was only me and my mother at home since my father was working overseas. My mother went to various people trying to deliver her sister from this bondage, including the parish priest, but to no avail.

One day my mother’s unmarried aunt visited us, she had been banished by her family for changing her Roman Catholic beliefs and following a new religion. She said she found the true living God and that all worship and honor belonged to Him. For the first time in my life, I overheard the message of the Gospel, and it was preached to my mother. She prayed with us, and I was much fascinated when I heard how she prayed. There were no memorized prayers, there were no prayers to saints, she spoke to God as if He were her friend. To my surprise, my demon possessed aunt screamed in agony, asking her to stop praying. The dominating demon spirit, which I had known, was now begging for mercy. It left her, and she was instantly delivered.

My mother accepted Jesus as her Savior that day. A few weeks later she got water baptized along with my dad. We started going to a new church where worship was much different, God prophesied through people, they prayed in strange tongues, and where there were no icons or candles, this was all new to me. My parents got involved in church work and grew in their faith. With these wonderful changes taking place in my family and all going so well, the enemy started to attack us. My father and mother had problems in their marriage; my father lost his job and I and my family drifted away from God. I so much wish now, if only my parents had had proper biblical training and mentoring, they would have been able to sail through the storm.

I finished school and started working as a sales executive while pursuing higher studies. I lived an immoral life, but deep inside of me, I believed in God and knew He truly existed. Occasionally I read the bible but felt too guilty and unworthy to pray to God. By this time, my father had left us and my mother was getting closer to the Lord, stronger than ever before. She started going to church and got saved, but I continued to live my life as I wanted to, in spite of her asking me to come to the Lord.

In this backdrop, in the year 2002, I had to visit a client for a sales presentation about 70km from my home. At that time, I was using a company motor bike. During my return from the meeting, it began to rain, and I had to find shelter to settle down until the rain stopped. To my astonishment, the only building that I could find at that moment was the church that my mother and father had gotten baptized in. I went in and stood under the portico of the church waiting for the rain to seize. I could hear people in the church singing hymns and praying. I had a strong urge to go into the church, but I told myself it was not for me. The urge became so strong that finally, I went in, in spite of being soaking wet. So after many years, I prayed, repenting for all that I had done. I asked God to forgive me and change me and to use me. He answered my prayer!

Many things have happened that day and now. The Lord has blessed me with all that I desired in just eight years. I became a CEO of a leading- multinational company, held several board positions in other firms, traveled the world, made connections with prominent people, planted a church, became an elder of a church at a time the church was being persecuted in Sri Lanka, and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Just when all seemed perfect, the success got the better of me, and I slowly slide back into my old immoral lifestyle. Looking back, I now attribute my failures to the lack of maturity and not building my life on the word of the Lord. Instead, I thought my position in the church, in society and my spiritual gifts would be enough to fight my flesh and the enemy. I thought my walk with God was perfect, and complacency crept into my being. I was arrogant, I misused Gods blessings, and I failed terribly.

Escaping from all this I moved to Russia in 2012, I didn’t want the job, the money, the position or the riches. The Holy Spirit convicted me that I had to reorganize my life and priorities, bring discipline into my life, and it was obvious to me I couldn’t bring about this transformation on my own, and I needed to get back to God. I had lost faith in myself, and I wanted God to take control. In the last three years, I have been going through a season of seeking the Lord and His will for my life. It has been a wonderful experience and a time of revelation in my life. He has forgiven me and humbled me. Its my “wilderness time” which the Lord is using to prepare me to launch into the ministry. “Prep time” for me to remove all that is hindering God’s purpose from taking place in my life on this earth. I now have a family here in Russia; I do not have a job nor the luxuries I use to have, but I do know the Lord is restoring all that I lost. We go to a Protestant church in Moscow; we are a God-fearing, devotion-centered family, and the Lord is blessing everything we do. The joy and peace we have now surpasses any material riches we could have ever possessed.

I desire this CLI scholarship firstly as it is my spiritual goal that my family and I have a deeper understanding of God’s word and a more intimate walk with Him. Secondly, to reach out to the lost souls who are in need of the good news. I truly believe, my past life experiences, the failures, and the relocation to Russia is a divine plan to manifest God’s purpose and calling in my life. Russia and other ex-Soviet countries are in desperate need to hear the good news. This part of the world opened up for evangelism just over 20 years ago but many of the Orthodox Christians are content with confining their lives to a liturgical lifestyle only and have been completely blinded to the truth. I have a constant tugging in my spirit to reach out to as many souls as I can.

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Free International Online Bible School – The Mission of CLI

If you’re feeling called to be a pastor, there are thousands of voices around the world clamoring for your attention and your wallet. But what if you could attend a free international online bible school? What if the internet could bring everything you need to be trained up as a pastor or a leader in the church directly to your home? What if you didn’t have to relocate to a physical campus area and find thousands of dollars annually to pay high tuition costs?

What we are seeing today is that these questions are no longer hypothetical. The internet and other technologies have advanced to the point where what was unthinkable even 10 years ago is now an emerging reality. As time goes on, distance education and online learning have made it possible for people to receive training from colleges and universities around the world, no matter where they live physically.

Of course, there’s one problem for many people. It’s still not free. The cost may be lower than physically relocating and paying full tuition for a university or seminary, but the cost is still there. Many people in western culture may think of the cost as minimal enough to be negligible. However, the reality is that there are people all over the world who can’t afford even this marginal expense to complete the necessary training.

Christian Leaders Institute Develops a Free International Online Bible School

According to Wikipedia, the first distance learning program utilizing the internet as its primary media was developed in 1996 and named Jones International University. In the first decade, online study saw little growth, with only 8% of students studying at post-secondary schools being enrolled in online classes by 2004. However, by 2008 that number had grown to around 20%, and today more than a third of all post-secondary students are enrolled in at least one online course.

In the early stages of online education, Christian Leaders Institute founder and president Henry Reyenga received his calling to train leaders for Christ all over the world. As God connected him to the right people, he began to develop a free international online bible school. This bible school, named “Christian Leaders Institute,” launched it’s first courses with only six students. Over the next decade, President Henry Reyenga and a dedicated staff constantly tested and improved the CLI online learning model. In about 10 years, Christian Leaders Institute has grown to more than thousands of active graduates and graduates and over 30,000 applications processed in 2013.

Through that time the resolve was tested. Was it really the best option to not charge students anything for this training? Shouldn’t they be required to pay for ministry classes of this caliber? These are questions that came up often as Christian Leaders Institute grew. It was the dedication to the mission – to bring high quality pastoral training to those who couldn’t afford it – that is the reason that CLI still does not require students to pay for these classes.

Why a Free International Online Bible School and not a Missionary School?

For centuries now the church has been operating with a missionary model in foreign countries. Missionaries would go out and establish churches in countries that were not yet reached for Christ. In the middle east, missionary schools were founded as a means to connect to a native populace that was hostile toward Christianity. Schools were also used in countries like India, the Philippines, and other poor countries as a means to reach the local populace.

The concept of a mission school is fairly simple. First the organizer of the school project will seek to raise sufficient funds for the school to be built. Then a missionary team will be trained in the native language, or classes will be offered in English if the natives speak the language. After that, the team will be sent out the country to build the school, giving the people education while sharing the gospel with them at the same time.

Not only does this provide educational benefits for the native populaces of these countries, it also seems to accelerate church growth in the regions where such schools are implemented. Church meetings are often held in the same building as the schools. The parents of the children who are receiving their education – which of course includes information about the Bible, God, and the work of Jesus on the cross – will be brought to the church either by their children or by invitation of the missionaries. Once the first is brought in, more will follow.

So why not do the same thing for pastoral training? The concept could be the same. Raise money, send in a specialized team, and establish a local seminary building right in the area you want to go. You don’t need a traditional campus in the local area. Something large enough to hold a few students and books would be sufficient.

Yet, regardless of how we consider the implementation of a free international online bible school there is no way to reach more geographically diverse locations with greater speed or more financial efficiency than the internet. The internet is now present in most if not all countries in the world. While a local seminary can reach a fairly large local geographic area, the internet is not constrained by geographic locality. Each new area would require a new bible school to be built, which in turn would require more money to be raised and a new team to be trained and sent out. It is for these reasons that when all methods of implementation were considered, the internet stood out above all other possibilities.

The Focus on Ministry Training

Christian Leaders Institute recognizes that there are already many organizations that are sending and commissioning people with the goal of gaining new disciples for Christ. Our goal is not to compete with these people and organizations. Rather, we seek to find a specific group of people among indigenous disciples of Christ – those called to lead His people. We want to provide training for those who are called to be pastors and evangelists throughout the world so that they are better prepared to preach the word and instruct people in sound doctrine and in the living out of the Christian faith.

While some organizations in the past have tried to maintain western cultural control in the areas that they visit, Christian Leaders Institute wants to train leaders who are indigenous to the environment. We believe leaders who are native to the country where they serve God will be more effective than foreigners transplanted from other, often more wealthy, countries. This is why we seek to provide training in sound biblical doctrine and living a reproducible walk with God to people all over the world, and we are determined that there will never be mandatory cost associated with this training. By the Lord’s will we will remain a free international online bible school where many leaders of His church receive their training.

Called by God to be a Minister of the Gospel

Men and women have been called by God to various roles for as long as mankind has existed. Noah was called to build an ark so that humans could survive a global flood. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and his kindred for a new land that was promised. Gideon was called to lead a small battle force against the Midianites. The Bible is full of examples of how God has called people to do His work on earth.

Called by GodWhen the time of Christ came, the people of God (the Jews) thought they had things pretty well figured out. They were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah who would save them from the Romans. There must have been hundreds of wealthy Jews who were just waiting to put their fortunes and their money behind the king who would deliver them from the hands of their Roman oppressors. Many would have willingly offered as much money as they were asked to gain the favor of the king.

Yet, when the prophesied Messiah came, He didn’t go to the rich people in Israel. He didn’t find the people with power and offer them places of honor in His coming kingdom. He came to the poor and despised – the fishermen, the sinners, and the tax collectors. In fact, Jesus core group of disciples must have seemed a rag-tag bunch to the people of His day. Their families weren’t wealthy enough to be in the courts of those who had it all figured out. They wouldn’t be seen at the feasts of the Pharisees or the teachers of the law. They were poor men – men without means or power. Men without anything, until they were called by their “Rabbi” to become His disciples.

What Does it Mean to be Called by God to the Ministry?

If we were to imagine Jesus coming to the United States today, calling people from their places of work as He did in the day of His coming, there would be plenty who would consider themselves most worthy to be His disciples. After all, so many of us today have it all figured out. We know how Jesus wants us to live. We’ve figured out the rules. We’re on our way to heaven. If the Messiah was to come today, surely He would offer us places of honor in His kingdom!

But are we trying to disciple the people Christ would have called? Perhaps if Jesus had come to our time and our way of life, He would have gone to the people who were working the family business, stuck in a job that would guarantee mediocrity. Perhaps He would have gone to the men who dropped out of high school to help feed their families. Perhaps He would have gone to the people who just weren’t worthy of being members of the church.

Perhaps Jesus still does disciple these people. When leaders are called by God to preach His word, they are pulled to the ministry no matter what else they might try to do. Whether they have money, power, or means to pursue traditional seminary education, they are compelled by the calling of God to serve in the capacity He is calling them to. Jonah is a great picture of what happens when somebody who is called by God to a task attempts to take other paths. God will always bring His servants back on track.

Of course, we know from the word of God that He prefers that we serve Him with our whole hearts. Therefore, everyone who is called to the ministry should serve willingly and to the best of their abilities. Perhaps the apostle Paul best portrays what it means to be called in his epistle to the Corinthians:

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (1 Corinthians 9:16-17 ESV)

Called by God or Called by Money?

There’s no question that everybody needs to earn a living. Even if you are called to the ministry, your body needs food and water to survive. Shelter is required to keep from being exposed to the elements. In the world today, it is all but impossible to come by these things without money.

However, some people who grow up in the church seek the pastoral position without feeling the pull of the Spirit to the ministry. Some seek it because it is a noble office. Others look to pastoral ministry because of the accolades they hope to receive. Some pursue ministry because it is what their parents want or expect of them.

As long as any of these people have the means, they can obtain training and ordination in any denomination. The willingness to spend money not only on a college education but also on a seminary afterward is a barrier, certainly, but not one that cannot be overcome by determined people with the financial means. On the other hand, it is a barrier that can’t be overcome by people without the monetary means. The monetary barrier is one that is not easily overcome, especially if God calls somebody who already has a family to provide for.

But many say, “if God really called you, then He’ll provide the money you need for your education.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. After all, nothing is impossible with God. However, another possibility is that if God really called you, He’ll provide the education without the cost. If we look at it in this light, as Christians, it becomes important that we take as much of the money barrier away from God’s called leaders as we can. Those who don’t have great financial means often display astounding faith, as the apostle Paul has said.

Calling – the Secret Ingredient at Christian Leaders Institute

Bush’s ran a series of television commercials at one point that featured the family dog. The commercials were always focused around the dog’s endless search to discover the “secret ingredient” that made Bush’s beans the best. No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to find that secret ingredient.

Many years later, Pixar came out with an animated movie that was focused around the “secret ingredient.” They named the movie “Kung Fu Panda.” The movie starts with the panda in question working in his “father’s” soup kitchen. Early in the movie his father tells him that it’s almost time for him to learn the secret ingredient in the family soup.

Later in the movie, the panda (Po) is dejected after opening the legendary dragon scroll and finding nothing inside. He returns to the soup kitchen with all his dreams of becoming a great Kung Fu warrior. His father sees that he’s troubled, and finally decides to reveal something. The secret ingredient to the soup.

Bush’s beans commercials never end with the dog discovering the secret ingredient. The competitors who he’s trying to sell it to are never able to get what they’re after. The secret ingredient remains an unanswered question.

In “Kung Fu Panda,” however, we are given an answer. Po’s father tells him that there is no secret ingredient. “The secret ingredient is you.” The years spent making the soup, learning how the flavors blend, and finding that perfect combination of spices is the secret ingredient. One might imagine that this is also the “secret ingredient” in Bush’s baked beans.

At Christian Leaders Institute, we find that every student who is successful has a secret ingredient. Some might say that the secret ingredient is the determination to work hard. Some might say that it’s finding a mentor to help them through their studies. Others might say it’s just having enough intellect to complete all the course work.

This is all true, to an extent, but all of these things stem from the true secret ingredient. The real difference that we see in all of our students who have found success in their studies is that they are called by God to be ministers of His word. That calling drives them to complete their work. It drives them to find mentors who can guide them and give them feedback in their studies. It drives them to obtain the ministry training they need to be more effective stewards of all that God has entrusted them with. This is the secret ingredient, and it is one that no money in the world can buy.

Are you called by God to be a leader in His kingdom? If so, you already have everything you’ll need to succeed at Christian Leaders Institute.

Not My Own – The Joy of Belonging

Not My OwnThere is a line in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that reads: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

In our world today, we often find ourselves wondering about belonging. When we see tragic events unfolding in various countries, we wonder if that will come near to us, maybe even engulf us. When we see and hear of war, starvation, heartless oppression of the poor, or painful illness, we wonder if we belong. In the news recently I have been reading of an outbreak of the Ebola virus which kills with seemingly random efficiency. When one person comes down with a fever, others around them quickly move out of the danger zone and the person is left to suffer on their own. They must ask themselves, as I know I would, “Is there no one who will stand with me? Is there no one who will say I belong to them and they will not abandon me?”

One of the most common “illnesses” of the soul is the pain of loneliness. The pain can arise in any number of ways.

  1. It can come from our sense of alienation from a close friend due to a conflict of opinion.
  2.  It can arise from being alone in a big city. Everything familiar has been left behind and now even in a pressing crowd, the loneliness is painful.
  3. It can come from being confined in a prison cell. The loneliness engulfs us and overwhelms even the strongest person.
  4. It can arise from one’s experience of a family structure that leaves one feeling abandoned in the midst of what should and could be one of the places with the best comfort level.
  5. Name your own issue here. We all have one or fifty.

In the Church, we train people, both men and women, to be physicians of the soul. In the church we discover that the pain of loneliness can be overcome by the power of a God who calls us his children, who has bought us at a price that is called “blood money.” God bought us with the life-blood of his Son, Jesus. Now we are not our own, we belong to God. He gives to the church gifted people who can discern our loneliness and find ways of treating that very real illness.

In the Bible, we discover God addressing our deepest issue of loneliness again and again. Do you know why? What happens when we are lonely? We become afraid. In the Bible we find God saying again and again, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” Not just a few times, over 350 times. Each time God calls us to not be afraid, he always adds a line about his presence. We discover in our very hearts God’s holy presence. We are, says the Apostle Paul, a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own, we belong to God as his personal residence in the world today.

I Am Not My Own

In Old Testament times, the mountain of Zion was spoken of as God’s residence on earth. If you were going to send an email to God, it needed to go to the email account @templemount.jerusalem. Since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus after which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church, the bodies of God’s people, all over the earth, are where God is living in his holy temple.

For centuries the Church has used a series of questions and answers as a method of teaching the principles of the Christian faith. There are many such catechisms found in various religious communities around the earth. One that I am very familiar with is one that is 450 years old now. It has been in use for centuries in many churches all over the earth. It is called the Heidelberg Catechism. It begins with the following question and answer.

Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

What is so interesting to me is that 450 years ago, the first issue to be addressed in the training of Christians about what it meant to be a Jesus follower was loneliness and belonging. “I am not my own, but I belong…” No matter what comes my way, no matter how desperate my feelings of loneliness, no matter if I stray far from God, as a Christian I belong to Jesus. I am now a temple of the Holy Spirit. Even if all humans may forsake me and run in fear because of something that is going on with me, God says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. Your very body is my temple. I bought you with a price. So glorify Me with your body.”

Think on These Things – Controlling Your Mind in a Sinful World

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Think on These ThingsI am convinced that this pair of sentences in Philippians 4 is one of the most helpful couplets for getting control of our minds. No matter where we live in the world today, we have many difficult things upon which we can focus. Our thoughts get dragged down, away from God. We find ourselves pondering evil and its effects in each of our cultures.

Just recall with me (but don’t dwell on these things!) how often we hear of murder, of starvation, of cheating, of corruption. We get a heavy dose of bad news as we simply go about our daily routines. Day after day, death, disease, danger, and distress all gnaw away at our hearts and our hopes. Until finally, these are the only things that occupy our thoughts.

In these few words which we find in one of his letters, Paul gives us a mind-full of things that can occupy us each day. God knows that evil stalks us. God knows we are caught up in the powerful sway of that which wants to destroy our peace. So God inspired the Apostle Paul to give us better things to ponder, to occupy our thoughts. He gives us instructions here because this is not what we find ourselves pursuing on our own.

Think on These Things – Changing Your Thought Patterns to Change Your Life

Think on these things: whatever is true. Do not give any credence to the lies we hear every day. Be done with shading the truth ourselves. Give the true things in life a chance to pervade our thought processes. This takes some effort. This takes a commitment to following God’s call to our minds. But the truth, says, Jesus will set you free!

Think on these things: whatever is noble. The word noble is one which refers to things which are worthy of our honor. In our world, no matter where we live, we discover that to be honorable and noble is to be considered strange. It is out of step with how life is. We are encouraged to go along to get along. Soon we find ourselves walking in places we should not go, speaking things we do not want to say, and doing things of which we are ashamed. God calls us to be thinking about honorable things. Then we will not be enamored of the sickly things that are all too common in our lives.

Think on these things: whatever is right. The pain of loss, the burden of work which dehumanizes us, the corruption of those who are supposed to work for our good, and the suffering that comes from fighting against that which is wrong all turn us into cynical people. Our thoughts become filled with the knowledge of evil and not of good. So, God calls us to get focused on the things that are right. In each of our lives, we can find something that is right. God says, ponder that. Ponder the good. Block out the wrong but fill your mind with the right.

Think on these things: whatever is pure. In our world today there seems to be nothing sacred anymore. Recently on American television a man many like to listen to went on a rant in which he declared that God was actually an evil being. And he cursed the idea of God. The Word of God calls us to not give the man a second thought. Instead let us focus on what is sacred and pure. We will never overcome evil by countering it with hatred and spite. But we can overcome evil with good. The only way for our minds to be prepared for such a battle is for us to ponder the pure and sacred things of God.

Think on these things: whatever is lovely. Our eyes are drawn to the ugly side of life. We see the wasted lives, the sadness in a grieving parent’s eyes, the hopelessness of those with no work, the hollow look of those addicted to a drug or to some other substance. God calls us to find something lovely to focus our eyes on. Find a tree and ponder it. A bush with a blossom bringing splash of color to your waiting eyes. A baby with fresh young skin that has not yet lost its tender luster in life. Look at and ponder these things says God. Let these lovely visions remind you of the creation God made before humanity corrupted it. Let your mind gain fresh hope from seeing a glimpse of God’s creative handiwork which draws you toward him every day.

Think on these things: whatever is admirable. The world is filled with the glory of God if we just stop to ponder the power of the creator who made the sun which blazes in the sky and gives energy to the earth. The earth is filled with the glory of God who has made us all with such a delicate balance in our very cellular structure that we can actually live! The sky is filled with the glory of God who made the moon and placed it in orbit around the earth. The earth is filled with the glory of God who gave us feelings to express, the words to do so, the love to bind us together, and the joy which radiates from one person to the next.

If anything is anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things. Why? Because when we do, the peace of God will fill us. The peace of God will calm our worried souls. The peace of God that no one can understand will guard us when the times are terrible, when the pressures of life are unbearable, when the hope feels like it has drained away, then God will fill us with his hope, his love, his faith.

Treasure in Clay Jars

In a book entitled Treasure in Clay Jars, we can find this statement which (among several others) describes a congregation on a mission from God. “The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.” (Barrett, et al, Eerdmans, 2004)

Clay JarsA congregation that is going to change the community in which it finds itself needs to understand this fact. In a class I once took, we studied “the mission of God in the Old Testament.” In that class, we focused on the many facets of God’s mission as we see it in the prophets, in the temple rituals, in the everyday affairs of Israel in the ancient times, and in the role God gave to the leaders of his people. In many ways the people of God were expected to be noticeably different from the culture that surrounded them. They were to be a unique people whose lives and culture raised the question of “Why?” among the nations surrounding ancient Israel.

A couple of “for examples” might be helpful here. The nation of Israel, in its infancy, had no king by God’s won design. They were to live in God’s Promised Land without the need of a King who would be their national leader. They had God as their king. They did not need a cheap knock-off of the real thing. The question would arise among those who saw it, “Why would no one take control of this people and its land?” The answer would be that God’s people already had all they needed in God’s Book of the Torah to shape their lives with justice, with mercy, and with humility. What more could a king do? Or, as another for example, all the rituals in the Temple which had been carefully circumscribed by God as He taught Moses how worship was to be carried on were for the purpose of creating a “Why?” in the minds of those who observed their worship. Why was there no visible image of God? Why was there just one family whose lineage gave the whole nation their priests? Why was there just one central location for worship? From our perspective thousands of years later, it is clear that God was demonstrating that he was not like anything humanity could imagine for themselves. He was the One who was the Truth, and there was no other.

History teaches us that such wonder was simply too great for the humans who made up God’s people in the ancient times. It was a treasure that was carried around in clay jars. Those pots would crack and break and fall to pieces. In the process something of the wonder of God among his people would be lost and the “Why?” of the peoples around Israel would be muted. It looked all too often as if God’s people were just like the culture around them and the beauty of life in the presence of God would go unlived and unknown.

But God was not deterred for He was committed to bring his Good News to the lives and hearts of the people he loved. Finally, in the fullness of time, as the Bible puts it, Jesus was born. God’s own Son came into the world. Finally, here was a jar made of clay that could withstand the threats of breakage. It was because God himself was in Christ so that he could reconcile the world to himself. Of course, there were those who thought they could destroy that clay jar. But, in his death, Jesus paid for the sinful debt of mankind, in his resurrection he demonstrated for all that the clay jar could withstand even death itself. Now he lives at God’s right hand as the Great King that he is. No, cheap knock-off, Jesus is the real thing!

We are Clay Jars, Jesus is the Treasure!

Today the church/congregation that sees itself as participating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus finds that the mission of Jesus becomes their mission as well. We will readily admit that we are clay jars! But we carry the treasure of God in these clay jars and we know that in Christ, we shall change the very life character of the communities of which we are a part.

At Christian Leaders Institute we are providing training to Christian leaders so that they can participate more effectively in their churches in enabling the churches to be caught up fully in the Mission of God in the world today, For example, Vee writes the following:

“The main goal I feel I am being called to and hope to attain is to be an active working tool of God. I want training so that I can help give light on the foot paths of so many who have accepted that a dark and brooding way of life is all there is for them. To be able to share the love of a wondrous and caring God through His word and creation is a huge blessing to so many. To be able to help someone over what might seem like an insurmountable hurdle, all the while watching God grow inside of them and feeling the peacefulness that blossoms, is such a truly wonderful miracle.”

Another of our students, Uwegba writes of how he sees his calling to participate in the life of Jesus and so bring the light of Jesus to others who do not have that life. He writes,

“I have a project I am currently about to do in Nigeria which is a medical outreach for people in rural areas. I am currently gathering medical and nursing Christians who have volunteered to be part of our mission. My dream is to put a smile in the faces of many by introducing them to Jesus through doing good for them, just as Jesus went about doing good.”

While each of us and our congregations as well may only be jars of clay, the treasure we carry is extremely valuable. You too, even if you see yourself as a cracked jar of clay, maybe thinking you are useless, you can participate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In so dong, you can carry the treasure God has been entrusting to his people for millennia.

What is the Evidence? Why Analyzing God is Foolish

In recent years I have been teaching courses online for a secular university. My students want to gain an understanding of what I call the truth about life. But sometimes, it gets to be very difficult for them to discern just what might be the truth. For many, it’s a matter of evidence.

The reason is that there are many competing voices which claim to be the truth or which attempt in various ways to deny that we can ever actually know the truth. Instead, these voices tell us that it is hopeless to figure out where truth is to be found in our world. One day, a student asked me in our online classroom, “So here is a very big question – Is it better to become one with god (therefore becoming god) or to serve God and bask in his glory for eternity?” We were discussing the teachings of various Eastern religions at the time and he wanted to compare what we were learning about Buddhism in particular with what he could recall he had been taught in a Christian church as a youth.

EvidenceThe question he asked was difficult to answer in the context of the secular university. There we, as faculty, tend to try to keep our religious commitments to ourselves. To do otherwise is to proselytize which is frowned upon as not being academically sound. What has taken place over the years is that the many different universities in the world have made a commitment to doubting anything which is not scientifically or rationally provable. In the secular university, there are only two ways to gain knowledge that is solid and worthy of being called truth. The first method is by means of carefully evaluating evidence that shows the matter under consideration is true. The so-called scientific method of investigating the world fits into this mold. The second is by the careful, systematic rational evaluation of an existing object or an historical thought can lead to the truth. This is the way that many in the fields of literature and history develop their theories and conclusions.

The problem is that neither of these ways of addressing the reality we find around us will give a reliable way of knowing God. God cannot be known by means of the scientific method nor of a rational, cognitive approach to our world. We end up with the evidence pointing to two irrefutable conclusions: ‘If God is good, God is not great. If God is great, God is not good.” This is where the evidence points when we approach it from a rational point of view.

God is not Found by Dissecting Scientific Evidence

So we, who are people of faith, need to take a different approach. This is the approach of faith. We who are people of faith begin by saying as the Bible does, “In the beginning, God…” We start from the point which can posit the truth that God is real and God is active in the world. That is a matter of faith. Faith is the source of the evidence. Faith is the basis for the (apparently) irrational statement that God is real.

The issue then becomes which God we find taught by various spiritual leaders in the world is the true God? Hence the question from my student. The course we were studying was called “Religions of the World.” During the course of a mere nine weeks, we were looking at the central teachings of a total of twelve different religious faiths broadly speaking. He wanted to know which one was the truth. Why spend his time wandering around in darkness when he could just ask me and get right to the truth?

His question is similar to the story told by one of the students at Christian Leaders Institute. The student writes,
My faith in Christ really flourished just a couple of years ago. I’ve always known of him, but now I know that I never knew him. And since I was just a toddler, I’ve always felt this strong pull towards the light…but refused to surrender until a couple years ago when the world was no longer a distraction for me. I was in jail. I had never been arrested before until the end of 2009, and for the next year and a half to follow, I continued to get in extreme trouble. I didn’t care about myself. Why? Because at that point in my life, nobody in my life cared about me, so why should I care about me? So I fell apart.

How does one find the truth? What is the truth? Jesus tells us that we can know the truth and the truth will set us free. (The Gospel of John chapter 8) Then later he explains, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John ch 14) Jesus is the One who embodies in himself the truth of who God is. He embodies the truth of what God is like. He tells us, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John ch 14) Taken all together, what we discover is that in order for us to know what way to follow, we need to give up our ideas of how we can discover God on our own. Instead, we need to rely on Jesus who is the One who reveals God to us. We cannot experimentally prove God to the scientist who demands proof in a laboratory. We cannot rationally prove God to someone who demands that we be entirely logical and committed to rationality alone. No, we lay hold of Jesus by faith. We know him by seeing his work in our lives and in the lives of other Christians. And by means of his Word, the Holy Bible, we know the True God. (John ch 17)

At Christian Leaders Institute, we are committed to training our students to know God from his Word as they see Him at work in their lives. We do so in order to give the students the training they need to help others who are still in darkness to find the light that is seen in Jesus. He alone is the Light of the World. (John Ch 8)

Am I good enough?

Good EnoughDo you know what it is to be rejected? Have you ever had that feeling that you just are not good enough for your family, for your friends, especially for God? I have known many people like that over the years I have spent in ministry.

One young woman had dropped out of school and her single Mom had gotten very angry with her. She felt that she had so disappointed her mother that all she could do was run away from home. I met her a few years later. She had been living on the streets of New York City with no hope and without God in her life. God gave me the opportunity to help her get her life back on track. While she did not reconcile with her mother at the time that I knew her, she had that as a goal to be achieved in a year or two. First she had to get herself out of the gutter of her mistakes, she told herself, or her mother would still not accept her. She wasn’t good enough even for her mother.

A man who had a bad temper had, some 20 years before I met him, gotten into a fight and his opponent had ended up mortally wounded. He then spent his next 20 years in a prison to pay his debt to society because he had lost his temper one night. When he was due for release from his prison, he was afraid that his family and friends would not take him back after all he had done. His friends had “learned” from his mistake and had straightened out their lives. Now they were husbands and fathers with kids of their own. He doubted that any of them would want to introduce him to the kids for fear his might “infect” them with his temper. He wasn’t good enough for those with whom he had gone to school and with whom he had enjoyed friendship. He was sure he would be rejected as soon as they saw his face.

A group of friends gathered regularly in a little coffee shop to talk about faith and their own personal approaches to faith. They were what one might call the underclass of the city in which I lived at the time. They had found each other somewhat by accident. It was the love of a great cup of low priced coffee that brought them together. They would intentionally get together with each other at least weekly to discuss Wiccan, Native American Spirituality, Buddhism, and agnosticism (each one’s faith perspective). It was somewhat by accident that I came to know one of them and was invited to join the group as the one who would take the Christian perspective with them. So each Wednesday afternoon, I made my way over to the little café to share a cup of coffee and my perspective on faith. What I discovered as I talked with them was that each had decided to pursue the faith they were because they were convinced that they did not fit into the Christian faith. They knew they were not good enough for God. They told themselves that they, if they showed up in a congregation of Christians, would not be happily received. Quite the contrary, they were sure they would be ushered out if only because of their poor dress. They were not worthy of being in the company of Christians as they knew them and they knew they were not worthy of Jesus as they had heard of him. They were not even good enough for the people who looked at our motley little group with a look of scorn each Wednesday.

Good Enough for God – Because of Christ

My heart breaks for people like this. They all have a very special characteristic that they find it very difficult to accept: each one is made in the image of God and God calls each one to come home from the far country to which they have gone. In the Bible we find a story which is called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It tells us about a young man who takes his inheritance while his father is still alive, goes off to a ”far country” and loses everything in wild living. After a while he “comes to himself” and decides to go back to his father with this thought, “I will say that I am not worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your servants.” He discovers that his father will have none of that idea. He is welcomed as the long lost son that he is.

One of our students at Christian Leaders Institute, as she reflects on growing up in the church in her homeland of South Africa writes the following,

“I didn’t really understand what I was being told. I was just going through the motions. Then I fell pregnant before I was married. Even though I was engaged to the father of my baby and had never been promiscuous, the church turned its back on me and I was ‘condemned to burn in hell’. I left the church and for many years just drifted in and out of faith. In 2009, God answered a very big prayer!! Since then I have grown and grown.”

She goes on to tell us about a talk she had with God.

“The talk-with-God wasn’t the proverbial whisper, it was more like a hit to the solar plexus. I now know that the Almighty Father wants me to use the talents He has given me, to spread the word, to show others the way to reaching Heaven. There are many people who think they are rejected by God, all because someone else told them so, and all because they fail to reach what they think is the “mark to reach” before God will accept them as they are. Mostly, I wish to help the youth of my country who are so lost.”

Our own perceptions are often so wrong. We need to come to our right mind and discover the awesome truth that God will welcome us when we humbly come in the name of Jesus. That is the message we are training people all over the earth to carry to others on behalf of God, the Great King of Heaven. It’s a message for you too!