Principles in Kingdom Building

Rev. Michael A. Milton of Faith for Living ministry in North Carolina compared the impact of the minor things we do in God’s Kingdom to the Parable of the Mustard Seed teaching of Jesus Christ. Rev. Milton wrote two principles on kingdom growth.

1st Principle: The Kingdom of God is Invisible to the Physical Eye

The first principle is, The Kingdom of God is often imperceptible by sight but staggering in cosmic potential. He quoted the testimony of Benjamin Franklin saying, “Church planting is just one evangelist on fire with a vision of the kingdom of God that has come into his own life, and, now, into this community. Others come to see this marvel, and some of them begin to catch on fire, too. Thus, the Church spreads.” Rev. Milton emphasized that there is no secret to the revival of a church or a denomination. It is only by seeing with eyes of faith the truth of the kingdom of God that the invisible is filled with power.  

2nd Principle: The Kingdom of God has Transforming Power

The second principle is, The Kingdom of God is often insignificant in influence but abounding in transforming power. Rev. Milton pointed out that there is not much about the mustard seed, thus making it negligible. But, as we ask the birds of the air that make their nests in that tree, it will no longer be insignificant. No ministry or small group activity is unimportant, for things are often upside down in the Kingdom of God. We should not look at the impact of the Church in the same way we look upon a business. Those who are most important may not be the significant ones. There are some mustard seeds that we cannot see, but they are already at work.

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Back to Basics

Back to Basics: 

Like any relationship, discipleship is flexible and continually evolving.  We should be looking after effective models of genuine discipleship.

With all the rising and falling discipleship movements and the changes in churches brought by the waves of time, we should not forget the essentials. The heart of discipleship which was is, and will always be Jesus. The most effective discipleship model in the 21st Century is the way Jesus modeled it to his first disciples.  

The System of Simplicity 

There will always be hardships that come along with discipleship. The first disciples of Jesus did not have an easy life as they took on the great commission of making disciples of all nations. They were uneducated, ordinary citizens who were once fishermen and tax collectors, to name a few.

They were not schooled in any theological college or seminary, but they thrived on being the best followers of Jesus, who once left their fishing nets to become fishers of men.

Their mission was not easy and more complex than what we face in the 21st Century. However, we can learn from their system of simplicity that enables discipleship to thrive from their generation to the present. 

Growth takes time

According to Bob Fuhs, small discipleship groups can be made simple. There are discipleship principles in small groups that we can apply. First, we need to know and remember that “Growth takes place over time.” Since growth takes time, small group structure needs to respect that with their members. Small groups should create an environment where people can grow without being rushed or forced to mature.  

Jesus chose the people he’d minister to

The second principle of Fuhs is that “Jesus practiced selection.” In the Gospels, we can see that Jesus selected or handpicked only 12 men to work closely with him and trained them in ministry. Jesus did not run after people. There are times that he secluded himself from large crowds.

When Jesus offered the words of eternal life, many of his followers turned their backs and no longer walked with him.  

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and we have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve? …”

Small group structure and leadership development system

The third principle of Fuhs is that “Your small group structure is your leadership development structure. Jesus never commanded us to go and lead Bible studies. His command was to make disciples.”

Further, he notes that the Bible is our textbook and guide, but our small groups’ overall purpose is not to get to know the Bible better.

In the same light, the goal of our small groups is to build leaders, to build disciples, more specifically — to build multiplying disciples.  

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We Need a Community

In a study on discipleship conducted by Thad Harvey, one of his significant findings revealed that the church has lost the meaning of being a disciple of Jesus Christ because it has lost the practice of having Jesus as the teacher. Moreover, the church has the opportunity to respond to the changing world, which is first to rediscover the Lordship of Jesus. In discovering Jesus again, we need to know him as a personal teacher, not just a teacher, but ‘the teacher.’ If Jesus is not the teacher, then we cannot be his disciples. Anyone can be a disciple of whoever their teacher is.  

Best Done in a Prophetic Community

The approach to rediscovering the Lordship of Jesus and encountering the Bible is best made within a prophetic community. Individual reading of the Bible and intimate communion with the Holy Spirit are essential. However, the disciples need not keep their relationship with Jesus Christ isolated. This is why Harvey pointed us back to how Christians are to be a part of the body of Christ, which compels living in a community with other disciples of Jesus. It is not enough for people to attend church.

They must get connected to fellow believers. The community can nurture and train them to reach out to others. In a prophetic community, we take the ultimate prophetic word we have, the Bible. We declare it over our lives and the future as a group of believers.

Let’s refocus on building and maintaining relationships, first and foremost with Jesus, then to other disciples of Jesus, especially those who do not know Jesus yet.

Discipleship must always be relational, Biblical, Holy Spirit-driven, lived day by day, and should be passed on to others.   

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An Effective Model for 21st Century Discipleship

An Effective Model for 21st Century Discipleship

Jesus showed us how to do church and small groups

Jesus modeled discipleship in a very personal and relational way without any sign of complexity. The Messiah called each disciple through a personal invitation. He only used simple words that opened the doors to a transformed life to everyone whom he invited.  

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him

 “Follow Me” are two simple words that are very clear and personal. Jesus did not say, “come to me and follow me only if you do this thing or if you know that doctrine.” He did not invite people to come and join his causes or the principles he believed in. Rather, Jesus said, “Follow ‘Me.’” Jesus called out his first disciples to a relationship with him. This simple invitation of Jesus should remain the same for all generations.  

21st Century Church

Discipleship in the 21st Century should follow the way Jesus modeled it. It must first and foremost begin with a clear and compelling invitation. Moreover, there is something more to discipleship than just the invitation. Phil Stevenson describes the invitation of Jesus as clear, consistent, and challenging.  

When Jesus invited Peter and Andrew, they left their nets at once and immediately followed Jesus. They had to let go of what they already had to discover what could be there in Jesus. In contrast, Jesus extended the same invitation to a wealthy man who had so many possessions to let go of, so he responded to the invitation by holding on to what he owns and knows at the expense of living the unknown with Jesus.

As it was in the 1st Century, so it is in the 21st Century; Jesus is inviting us to respond to the opportunity extended by Jesus to follow him. Those who respond set out on the path of discipleship, following the way Jesus modeled it to them.    

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Teach Them to Follow Jesus – Not You!

Imparting Christ-Like Leadership

We must teach our potential leaders about the true nature of leadership – the kind of leadership that Jesus exhibited. Whereas some congregations consider church leadership as synonymous with lordship, we know that Biblical leadership is, in fact, servant leadership. We must show our small group members that we do not adhere to the special treatment, entitlement, and commanding authority that some church leaders enjoy utilizing. Instead, we will impart to them that the key characteristic needed to lead others is not the ability to command or wield fear; rather, it is the ability to maintain humility, love, and grace even in a position that seemingly functions in power.

The truth is, there can be a dark side to small group leadership in the sense that the position can sometimes lead the leaders to exercise an unreasonable amount of control over the lives of the small group members – even when this should not be so. In this scenario, the leader will try to manipulate the members into doing only whatever he approves they do.  

Do Not Manipulate Your Small Group Members

For instance, we have heard of cases wherein the small group leader refuses to acknowledge the romantic interest of someone in the group because the leader does not approve of this person or because the leader wants someone else for the member. We need to remember that this is not a decision that the small group leader can make for the member. Furthermore, the small group members do not need their leader’s approval when they actually do want to date someone.  

Respect Boundaries

Sadly, this is not a unique situation and has been repeatedly seen in congregations around the world. In fact, many Christians left particular churches because they experienced manipulation within their small groups.  They also faced disapproval when they refused to concede. Since entrusted sensitive and personal information within the community, they had to grapple with the fear of this information being turned against them and used as a control tool. We need to establish with our potential leaders that as much as they can speak into the lives of their members, there are also boundaries that they cannot cross.  

If the small group members ask for counsel, it is then that the leader will speak truthfully and graciously. However, if the advice is unsolicited, the leader must remember that he has the liberty to speak into all areas of his members’ lives. The leader can only have as much access as the members would allow. And when he does give advice, he should not issue directives. The leader has no right to tell them what they can and cannot do – even if they ask.  

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Established Members Equipped Leaders

Established Members Equipped Leaders:

Relationships in the Group: Boon or Blessing?

While the strength of a small group is hinged on the relationships built within the circle, this can also become its weakness. Some small group members can become so comfortable that they no longer are interested in building relationships with people outside their group. This becomes a problem not just because this features exclusivity but also because it means that within the small group is a culture that allows complacency, leaving the members with no intention to move beyond their current role. As such, we need to start being more deliberate about raising our members as leaders who can take on their own small groups. We need to maintain a small group culture that remains missional just as much as it is spiritual and relational. 

Train Up Future Leaders

Practically, we need to start identifying the small group members who can become small group leaders. This does not mean that we are to pick and choose only those seemingly special because the goal is to have everyone eventually become leaders who lead their own small groups. But it does mean that we will be strategic in raising our small group members to become leaders. To begin, we need to look at who has the most potential at this point and who has the most initiative and maturity to handle leading other people.  

When the apostle Paul was mentoring Timothy, he had this to say: 

2 and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.  

(2 Timothy 2:2) 

We also need to learn to entrust the message we have been given to others who can teach it to others. Like Jesus, we need to look for people who can become our interns. And once we have our interns, we start equip them and guide them as they go through the process of becoming a leader.  

Model Leadership

It usually just starts with us leading a small group meeting and our interns observing. Afterward, we set some time with them to discuss the things that they have learned from observation. Eventually, once they have enough information and foresight, we can ask them to help us as we lead the small group by giving them time to share or by letting them facilitate the discussion.  

We can provide them with feedback thereafter to grow in the way they discuss with and handle the group. Then once we think that they are ready to go to the next level, we will switch positions with them and have them lead the groups we are handling while we merely observe and support them as safety nets. We will allow them the freedom to teach the group and navigate the discussion as we note what we could improve. After a few meetings of having them lead, we can finally release them with several other group members to begin their own small group.

Check back in the next post for more of establishing members & equipping leaders.

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Equipping Leaders to Lead Small Groups

Last Words

Before Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, his last command was for his followers to make disciples. He made sure to spend his last days on earth giving instructions to his disciples and speaking about the kingdom of God. Before he went up on a cloud, he had this conversation with his disciples:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:6-9) 

However, we will see in recent studies that even though Jesus gave his own variation of a dying wish, many Christians have failed to live out what he wanted – discipleship. In fact, only 20% of Christians are involved in discipleship. This percentage already includes participation in various activities such as mentorship, accountability, Bible studies, and small groups.

Partially, it’s due to a lack of commitment on the believer’s part. On the other hand, it can also be due to the lack of initiative from the leaders in the church to establish discipleship as an important part of their congregation’s culture. Several Christians even claim that they handle their spiritual growth better if they are by themselves. While this is largely due to the individualistic western culture we have, it can also be due to the church’s lack of substantial community interaction.

God’s Design for Community

This is a dangerous mindset that has started to go around in Christian circles, and we need to put a stop to it while we still can. We need to remember that God designed us to be in a community and should start being more deliberate about establishing an environment where our leaders and members can truly flourish as children of God.

Furthermore, it has been seen that particularly traditional churches have been set on a particular slate of leaders and refuse to integrate and empower new ones. This discourages those interested in disciplining others, as the structure refuses to make room for them. Meanwhile, some Christians believe that discipleship is only for the ministers and those in full-time ministry. This view could not be further from the truth. A church can have the best programs, the most active ministries, and the greatest technological advancements anyone could possess. Still, if they fail to disciple others, then they fail at actually being the church.

The Great Commission

In another version of the great commission, Jesus had this to say:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).  

Jesus empowered all those in his small group. Jesus modeled how to make more disciples, teaching them and baptizing them as they go along. Christ called them to devote their entire lives to this cause. If they were truly to permeate the whole world with the Gospel as Jesus wanted. We also need to make disciples who also make disciples.

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Small Groups and Changed Lives

How Christ Changed Peter

A specific disciple whose life we can look at is the apostle Peter, who famously walked with Jesus on water. He is the perfect depiction of a three-dimensional human being who struggles with his own strengths and weaknesses. We see this conflict in him unfold when he encountered Jesus walking outside of their boat: 

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30). 

Jesus Was Patient With Peter

In the span of three verses, we see how bold, impulsive, presumptuous, and fearful Peter could be. Remember when Peter sliced off the high priests’ servant’s ear. Peter fought for Jesus when they were arresting Jesus.

Nevertheless, Jesus had to tell him to put his sword away. Peter’s interference is actually getting in the way of the will of God (Jn. 18:10). Every situation became a teaching moment. There was also an instance when Jesus started to prophesy about his future suffering and death. Peter rebuked Jesus.

Can you imagine that? Jesus sternly rebuked Peter in return. Jesus said he was a stumbling block and that he had no concern for the things of God (Matt. 16:21-23). 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that all of them would stumble and end up scattered. Peter, in all his sincerity, said that everyone else might stumble but not him. Yet Jesus continually warned him that. In fact, on that very day before the rooster crows, Peter would have denied him not just once but three times. Still, Peter could not reconcile himself with this and refused to accept it. Eventually, what Jesus said came to pass, and Peter was left hurt and in disbelief over what he had done (Lk. 22:54-62). 

Yet it was through this that he came upon his turning point. He understood the gravity of what he had done. When he came face to face with Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, Jesus asked him three times if Peter truly did love him. One for every time Peter betrayed him.

Understandably, he was hurt that Jesus asked him thrice. Yet, when Jesus responded affirmatively and told Peter to feed and tend to his lambs, Peter decided to hinge his entire life doing exactly that. He went on to continue serving the cause of Christ after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Consequently, Peter set an example of what it meant to be a good servant-leader.

Leaders Must Be Patient Like Jesus Was

Leaders need to remember that Peter had to go through all these challenges to come out as the man he ended up being after the Pentecost. The change wasn’t immediate, and he made stupid decisions, but Jesus still restored him to the group.

In the same way, we as leaders must extend the same amount of patience and grace to our small group members. There will be times that the people in our small group will mess up as Peter did.  

In a small group, we establish friendships with others. Relationships are forged. As in any other relationship, conflicts and hurt can occur. 

We are all works in progress

There will be moments when we wonder why it takes such a long time for some people to change. Why are people so proud or stubborn?  Like the Twelve, we were still undergoing sanctification and transformation. 

They were still immature even after spending every day with Jesus for three years. Therefore, we shouldn’t be pushy with the members of our small groups.

We can sometimes find ourselves struggling with leadership and thinking of ourselves as unworthy vessels of Christ. But we can look to the twelve disciples. Remember, we’re not really that different from them.

The fact that Jesus chose ordinary, broken, flawed people to be his chosen twelve shows us that no matter how difficult some disciples are, they are still working in progress.  

As long as someone is willing to stay in a small group and wants to change, we should do our utmost best to lead them like how Jesus led the disciples. It was through the small group that Jesus largely taught and modeled what it meant to follow God, and it was through this close contact and interaction that the disciples ultimately changed. 

Jesus Cared About His Small Group

This is because Jesus didn’t view his small group as a mere organization model established to attain a goal. He didn’t do it to fulfill all righteousness. He cared more about the relationships being built and the spiritual foundations being established. More than anything else, the trust, love, and respect built that the disciples felt for him transformed their lives.

 Like the rest of us, Jesus could have chosen to stay neutral and detached, establishing his role in the lives of the disciples simply as a leader and nothing more. Yet, he allowed himself to be vulnerable to his disciples, allowing himself to be anguished and pained before them and asking for their support when he knew that the time for his arrest and crucifixion has come (Matt. 26:36-46). 

Foundations and Fellowship

Some of us don’t allow room for vulnerability in our relationships with the people in our small group because we want to be perceived a certain way. For certain people, it is their form of establishing their leadership over others, acting as if they’re too busy for small groups because they have so much to do in general ministry. However, this was not the model Jesus gave us, and this goes against how he designed and functioned in small groups. He allowed himself to move in a small group setting before moving into his more public ministry. And at the end of every big gathering held, he returned to mentoring his disciples and processing things with them after. 

Jesus built the very first small group by building the important foundations in their lives. He cared for them, he shared his lives with them, he served them and served with them, then he went on to empower them to make disciples even after he had gone. And it was because of this, what began as a small group of twelve turned into the billions of Christians that we have today. 

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The Church Caters to the People

The Diverse Church 

Megachurch leaders designed today’s church ministries to cater to the needs of the particular context they are in.  As a result, they have a variety of congregations. The preaching style and the genre of worship music already vary within churches in a city.  For example, if we flesh out the details of their congregation, we will find stark differences in every church. However, megachurches have an advantage over other churches. They can cater to a wide array of needs due to their very nature.  

Social observers have time and again likened the megachurch to a shopping mall. The consumer-driven ministries are viewed as seasonal offerings. Consequently, you can liken them to specialized boutiques. People come in and out of the mall depending on what they need. 

On the other hand, people can think of the core ministries as anchor stores. Their existence continues to draw people to enter the church even if the need for seasonal offerings falls. This structure provides members a continuous supply of activities to suit their needs and tastes. Meanwhile, it also gives active volunteers the option to choose which particular ministry they want to serve. Therefore, in the megachurch, there is something for everyone. 

Ministries in the Traditional Church

The traditional church has a limited number of ministries, and perhaps the only art-based ministry they have is the choir. However, in the megachurch, people are given more opportunities to use their natural talents in the arts.

Aside from the music team, most megachurches also have dance troupes, video presentations, and interpretative dancing. Those gifted in making visual arts can use their talent to create posters for the weekly sermon and special events, and the painters create backdrops for the stage. Several churches are even known to do elaborate stage plays and musical performances during special events and holidays, involving the children doing Sunday school as they do. 

The weekly worship services held by the megachurch further prove the variety. While local churches only commonly hold a weekly Sunday service, megachurches conduct various services throughout the week to cater to different people and leanings. For instance, there will be Wednesday services for working young professionals, Friday evening services catered to the youth, Saturday prayer meetings, and Sunday services are separated by language for multi-racial congregations.

Worship styles can also differ as the worship team adjusts this based on the crowd they are serving. Overall gives people the option to choose a particular service and time that works best for them.  

Targetting Specific Groups

This also helps the megachurch narrow down their statistics and connect with their target groups of audience.

The youth attending Friday services will find it easier to know their crowd and make friends. In contrast, the internationals attending language-specific Sunday services will immediately feel a sense of belonging, thus making it easier for the leaders to reach out to them.

The singles ministry won’t have too much difficulty gathering people for relationship-themed training and events as most people are already together in one service.

In contrast, those who joined the dance troupe have an automatic set of acquaintances they have something in common with. 

Family-centered events such as Mothers’ Day Outs and game nights provide both parents and children the avenue to build relationships with their own age groups and life stages. Since the megachurch is large, the narrowed audiences per service and ministry provide the avenue not to make people feel as if the large overall congregation swallows them up. 

Interestingly enough, even with the apparent segregation of different cultures and life-stages to make people feel more like they belong, megachurches also excel in integrating these people and blending different social statuses, races, and life groups. As such, a megachurch experiences higher involvement and participation rates from its members than other churches.

There is the value given to volunteerism and social activity. Because the structure itself needs hundreds if not thousands of workers to function, even the non-committed members find themselves helping out. And eventually, it is through their volunteering that they become planted in the church even more. 

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A Prophetic Tale

It is a Prophetic Tale:

When I was a child, thinking about the future had always intrigued me. “Is there a way to see it?” is a question that always tingled in my mind. Growing up there were all these books that I’ve used to sincerely engage within the pursuit of an answer, from Dean Buonomano’s “Your Brain is a Time Machine” to historical texts and studies of the future. Kids in school used to push me around because of what I used to read. But I never ceased to follow what my heart was inspired and fascinated by; a free prophecy solely about my life’s Prophetic Tale.

It was a perpetuated dive into the science of the future. It was worth it, but then I realized that books of science weren’t the answer to a question that for so long both haunted and inspired my being. For so long, I searched for that free prophecy in the wrong place.

This resonated with a quote my mother has often repeated to me before she passed: “Sometimes the things you seek are right in front of you”; a saying that solidified in my heart. It was Christianity, the religion my mother taught me about, and one which I have been ignoring throughout the voyage of my life. It was about time I turned my focus towards what was true and holy. So I spent my time reading the bible and indulging in its mysteries.

A certain verse that piqued my curiosity read “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7), and as I studied further, it seemed to be that prophets and prophetesses can be the answer to my complicated question.

They are religious extensions to the sanctity of the Lord, and the purpose of it is not just to understand the substance of the future but to accomplish my instrumentality as a servant of God. Suddenly it wasn’t the future I only wanted. “What does God think about my decisions? Will I ever accomplish my pure desires? Does my innocent soul jeopardize the message of God?” I guess my childhood questions have grown different branches, vigorously dissimilar to what I was looking for. However, it finally felt like I was seeking something original; something true for Prophetic Tale.

My search included reading what stands in opposition to this religious theory. I am intrinsically convinced about what I believe in and stand in solidarity for. After graduating from college and working in different places around New York to reshape my life in a productive way.

I had the opportunity of attending a biblical educational talk hosted by Zoe Ministries church.

It was beautiful, and that’s all I can say. Archbishop Jordan – a man known for his spirituality – is the one that offered me my first prophetic prayer. This prophetic word is something I still do not fully understand, but what I do know is that weeks after, my life has changed. I am married to the loveliest woman that God blessed me with, and working as a successful chef at a prospering restaurant. I am writing this because I want to give back to him and to God for this blessing of a transformed life.

 

You can request a free prophetic prayer from archbishop Jordan anytime and anywhere. This beautiful and exquisite opportunity is something every proud Christian and servant of God deserves.

 

A Prophetic Tale

 

The Dry Season

The Dry Season is no doubt a tough season. You have probably gone through different moments in your life that have been characterized by a lack — whether it be a lack of motivation, a lack of resources, or a lack of confidence. It’s a season where you feel lack.

For believers, it’s usually called a spiritual dryness or a dry season. We cannot bring ourselves to speak a prophetic word, much alone a word of encouragement.

For believers, it’s usually called spiritual dryness or a dry season. We cannot bring ourselves to speak a prophetic word, much alone a word of encouragement. We feel that we cannot minister to others because we ourselves need to be encouraged. It’s when God is quiet — or we feel we cannot hear His voice or sense His presence as we once did — that we feel emptiness. There are seasons when God seems very distant.

One of the keys to getting through this challenging season is realizing that you are in the dry season and press through it. Know that despite the experience of lack and the feeling of distance between you and God, you are destined for abundance and that Christ is still in you. As you recognize that you are in this season, you must draw closer to Him. Do not wither up. Continue reading His Word. Speak to God even though He is quiet.

Check your heart when you find yourself in a dry season.

God is still on the throne. According to Psalm 37:7,

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.”

Check your heart when you find yourself in the dry season.

 

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