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Challenge in Discipleship

Challenge in Discipleship:

Personal and Private

One major problem revealed by this research is that millions of Christians believe that discipleship is only a personal thing with only personal and private implications. This can be attributed to what the Christians experience in their churches. There is minimal emphasis on the communal and relational nature of spiritual growth. Only one-third of Christian adults report that their church recommends meeting with a spiritual mentor. Half of their churches publically endorse studying the Bible with a group. While half recommend studying the Bible independently. 

One of the compelling findings of the study is that developmental relationships are more common in large or megachurches. Seventy-eight percent or 8 out of 10 church leaders of 500+ member churches report being currently discipled by someone else. When asked about the most eective single method of discipleship. 52% of church leaders prefer small groups and 29% for discipleship by pairs. Therefore, small groups are the disciple-making approach favored by most of today’s church leaders. 

Structure vs. Heart

Aside from prayer and quiet time with God, the pastors believe that spiritual disciplines are also essential to discipleship. such as “personal commitment to grow in Christlikeness.” “Attending a local church,” and “a deep love for God.”

According to pastors, having “a comprehensive discipleship curriculum” is by far the least essential element of eective discipleship. Only 44% of pastors considered the curriculum as crucial.  

Furthermore, when asked how church pastors and leaders will improve their discipleship programs. Most say they would “develop a more clearly articulated plan or approach to discipleship.” Church leaders and congregants need better methods of discipleship approach. They evaluate the effectiveness of their discipleship eorts.

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Free Prophecy for Everyone

Discipleship

A Survey on How Church Members Discipleship

As Christians bring the message of the Gospel to the world, eective approaches to discipleship become more critical. A research study by Barna Group revealed that church leaders exemplar discipleship ministries among US Christian adults. Moreover, the researchers also surveyed Christian educators to determine the current state of discipleship in the US.  

Survey on Discipleship Amongst Church Members

In a random sample of Christians, practicing and non-practicing, the best way to describe their process of growing spiritually is by “becoming more Christ-like” (43%), followed by “spiritual growth” (31%), and “spiritual journey” (28%). The term “discipleship” only ranked fourth on the list and was only selected by fewer than one in five Christians (18%). Moreover, among those who did not choose the term “discipleship,” only one-quarter consider discipleship still relevant to their Christian experience. This implies that while spiritual growth is significant, the language and terminology surrounding discipleship change.  

In terms of the effectiveness of discipleship, Christian adults still believe their churches are doing well. About 52 percent of those who attended church in the past six months believe their church is doing a good job helping people grow spiritually.” On the other hand,  40 percent said, “it probably does so.”

About two-thirds of Christians (67%) attending church, who have considered spiritual growth as necessary, claim that their church places “a lot” of emphasis on spiritual growth. Conversely, 27 percent say their church only gives “some” focus.  

Only one (1) percent believes that today’s churches are doing very well in reaching out to new and young believers. A majority of 6 out of 10 (60%) feel that the churches are not discipling too well. Pastors give their church higher marks than churches overall, but only a few believe that churches excel in discipleship.  

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Free Prophecy for Everyone

Small Groups

Impact of Small Groups to the Church

Impact of Small Groups to the Church

The Current Use of Small Group:

In a research survey conducted by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger among churchgoers in the United States and Canada. Results revealed that almost 8 out of 10 or 79 percent of those surveyed agreed that small groups are significant in their church. Two-thirds said that their church regularly starts new small groups. It also revealed a widespread agreement but not overall engagement.  

Stetzer notes that small group members comprise only 50 percent of the Sunday morning attendance. Statistically, this is low.  The people who are genuinely involved in the church genuinely involved must also be plugged into the small community. Further, he mentioned that in reality, 70 percent is not an unreachable goal for churches that correctly give importance to small groups. There are even traditional churches with 94 percent involvement in small groups. We can consider this number high but doable. 

Community involvement is vital because relationships within the church body are essential. As we preach the gospel to one another in a tight-knit community. Spiritual growth changes us from the individual level to the church as a whole. This change allows the church to direct an outward focus and encourage gospel transformation to the communities outside the church’s walls.  

There is something uniquely powerful with intimate gatherings, whether in a living room, a classroom, or a dining table, that allows people to think and act differently than with the whole of the church gathering for corporate worship. Within small groups, much of the theology taught in pulpits begins to be fleshed out in conversations and actions.  

Church on a mission

Stetzer emphasized that for a church to be on a mission, it should be taught from the pulpit, and leaders must equip the members to wrestle with it in their small groups. It may not be easy, but it is fruitful. Community matters are enough to be prioritized and need to be part of the church’s focus.  

There is nothing more important ministry in the life of our church than our small groups. Therefore, Stetzer concludes that whatever the plans or programs the church has for small groups, it should always keep in mind why small groups are good and take advantage of the good they can bring into the church.

Author, Jeremy Linneman, pointed out that there must be a definite goal of small-group ministry. It can be fellowship, friendship, Bible literacy, missional engagement, and neighborhood services. With his more than a decade of leading and overseeing small groups in different contexts, Linneman relates that he is convinced that the single, unifying goal of community ministries should be no other than discipleship.  

Focus on Christ’s Commission

Since Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), our highest goal for the small groups is not just fellowship or increase. It must be increasing our knowledge of Jesus. It must also be staying in church. Our goal must be to become mature disciples, who are men and women full of the life of Christ. To develop a paradigm for discipleship, start from where true discipleship begins — the earthly life and ministry of Jesus. 

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Small Groups

Discipleship

D1-6: A Discipleship Model

D1-6: A Discipleship Model

Joel Comiskey, the founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California, has the same stand by noting that Jesus wants us to become like him.

He pointed out that the Scripture tells us that we are called to be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29).

He discussed the next step in small group ministry by maturing the believers, moving them forward, and helping them depend on Jesus. In Comiskey’s book, Making Disciples in the 21 Century Church, he emphasized how small or cell groups are instrumental in helping God’s people become more like Jesus. He developed a paradigm that is practical in building disciples through small groups. He called this process of discipleship “D1-6.” 

D-1

The first step is that of a “D-1 disciple”, a person who participates in a cell group,uses gifts, and takes the equipping class for discipleship. In this step, an individual attends the service to hear God’s Word and worship with other believers. Next, in this process, an individual is baptized. They are taught to obey all the things that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Finally, the essential components in the training process of a “D-1 disciple” include doctrinal teaching and holiness. It also included baptism, evangelism, and preparation to minister to others.  

D-2

The next step is that of a “D-2 disciple”, a person who lives out in practice what they learn and serves as part of the leadership team. Moreover, the disciple plays a significant role in the small group. Also prepares to launch and participate in a new group. 

D-3

Next is the “D-3 disciple”, a person who is the point leader of a group. In this step, a disciple gathers people together and leads a small group. Also, they have graduated from the training track provided by the church.

D-4

This is followed by a “D-4 disciple”, an already coaching or mentoring someone else. In this stage, a disciple has developed another disciple is also leading their cell group. Comiskey considered a “D-4 disciple” as a multiplication leader. 

Moreover, Comiskey’s discipleship paradigm does not stop with a “D-4 disciple”.

D-5

He further notes that some disciples will become staff of the church or the “D-5 disciples.” Also, others will even go and plant new churches, which he calls the “D-6 disciples”.

D-6 

This paradigm of discipleship is intended to help a believer through a clearly defined equipping process. In this light, the vision of the small group system is to help members take the next step and level up in their discipleship walk. The practical goal of Comiskey’s small group paradigm is to make mature disciples in taking the next step in ministry and ultimately grow more like Jesus.

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Free Prophecy for EveryoneDiscipleship Model

Back to Basics Part 2

In the last post, you read about going back to basics and being straightforward in your discipleship system, and keeping accurate to the model Jesus exhibited. What are other tips we can follow?

The fourth principle of Fuhs is, “Don’t blend the genders.” There will be concerns about the individual lives of the group members that they will not be comfortable sharing or confessing in the presence of the opposite sex. Lastly, “Content Matters.” Fuhs noted that while all scripture is God-breathed, not all scripture will have equal weight in transforming lives and multiplying disciples. What we teach in our small groups is what they will teach in their small groups.

There are countless principles that we can memorize and apply in our discipleship groups. There are also numerous discipleship models and frameworks that we can copy and utilize. However, just like how Jesus and the first disciples did it before, we need not complicate things. Problems arise when we get too strategic that we go beyond and forget the basics. 

Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church Oklahoma, Alan Danielson, shared in an article, “The right way to do small groups,” the lessons he learned from years of small group consulting. He emphasized that some discipleship models do work but are not effective for others. Danielson noticed that some discipleship pastors and leaders are more focused on the process while overlooking their small group’s fundamentals.  

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Back to Basics Part 2

Personal & Relational

A Personal Invite

Discipleship must first and foremost begin with an acceptance to a personal invitation to a life with Jesus. It is this simple. One cannot say he is a disciple of Jesus without having an intimate relationship with him. Discipleship must have an element of life on life. People are nurtured in relationships, not in the transference of knowledge or any content. Moreover, Stevenson enumerated vital principles that influence effective discipleship in the 21st Century.  

Aside from being relational, discipleship must also be biblical, applicable, accountable, and reproducible. The word of God should remain to be the central basis for making disciples. There is no better way to follow Jesus than to read about who he was, how he thought, and what he did. Discipleship must bring impact to others. If not, then it is merely a religious practice. Discipleship also holds the followers of Christ accountable to a life of faith in their daily lives. Lastly, genuine discipleship can only happen when disciples make disciples. It’s a multiplication process.

Movement across generations

In the article “Twenty-first Century Discipleship: A Biblical Theology for Changing Times,” written by Dr. Michael J. Wilkins, he described the changing waves of discipleship across different eras. Like the ocean waves, he noted that the waves of church movements that impact us today are usually generated by far away and long ago.

And, to ride them effectively, we need to know as much as possible about the forces that have brought them about and how they impact us today. Moreover, Dr. Wilkins noted that discipleship is not a recent or unique phenomenon. More than 2,000 years ago,  Jesus Christ entered human history and called out to men and women, “Follow Me!”  

Just like what Phil Stevenson has emphasized, Dr. Wilkins considers discipleship as one that originates with a gracious call from Jesus to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. It begins with intentional evangelism that challenges people to count the cost of accepting Jesus’ call to life in the kingdom of God. Across forces and times, discipleship is simply living in this world with Jesus Christ. It’s about conforming to his image through the Holy Spirit’s power. Moreover, it would help if you allowed yourself to be nurtured by a community of believers. You also need to fulfill your purpose to make disciples.

Moreover, Dr. Wilkins considers other essentials of discipleship in the present Century aside from being generated by Jesus. The Holy Spirit initiated and empowered people for discipleship. God’s Word continually guides. They are also nurtured in communities of faith. Christians must carry it out by sojourning in our everyday, watching world.

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Why Your Church Needs a Small Group Ministry?

Reasons for Establishing a Small Group Ministry

In his article, “10 Reasons Why Your Church Should Have Small Groups”, Daniel Threlfall identifies the importance of small groups. First on his list is that small groups foster close relationships and basic community. A small group atmosphere is good for establishing friendships since individuals tend to talk more in small groups.  

The second is that small groups provide a comfortable environment to welcome nonbelievers to the Christian faith.

A natural and understandable fear common among us is fear in forming relationships, especially if it involves sharing our faith and beliefs with other people.

However, inviting someone to a small group meeting provides a way to involve a nonbeliever in the church. A nonbeliever is more likely to ask questions, get answers, and form relationships with a small group of believers. Thus, small groups can be a powerful missional tool, allowing for the greater spread of the gospel among nonbelievers in the community.  

Third, small groups provide a good way to care for the needs of people within the church.

When a small group member is struggling, it is much easier for the other group members to notice. They can already provide assistance. The structure of a small group is essentially a community of friends of the same faith. As a result, friends are meant to help one another, especially if they are friends in Christ.  

Fourth, small groups allow Christians to live out their faith instead of becoming churchgoers and mere Gospel listeners.

Since members discuss the Sunday preaching, talk about their personal and spiritual battles, and/or pray for one another during meetings, small groups provide a setting for Christians to live out their faith.  

Fifth on Threlfall’s list is that small groups provide focused prayer for one another.

Threlfall noted that in a small group meeting, each of the present people took a few minutes to tell others about their particular challenges or concerns. Then, as soon as one is finished, the person next to him will take some time to pray for him. Small groups are a great place for prayer meetings.  

Sixth, small groups offer a comfortable atmosphere for openness.

One admirable thing about small groups is that members often meet in the comfort of their homes, where people can open up, listen, learn, and grow. Threlfall pointed out that this is the same with the first disciples of Jesus who are meeting in houses or being part of a household.  

Seventh, small groups allow for mutual edification among believers.

Believers tend to depend upon the leaders for spiritual food and nourishment easily. However, the Scripture states otherwise, for God also gives spiritual gifts to all believers, not just to the preachers and leaders. The whole church benefits from it.

Every Christian should minister to other Christians with their gifts, and this happens most naturally, effectively, and purposefully within small groups.   

Eight, small groups encourage better learning.

Listening to a Sunday preaching is a great way to learn the Word, but it is easy to become detached from the message, making us passive listeners. This is not the case within a small group. As a few people gather together, every individual is expected to be involved and to participate. Active involvement is an effective way to learn better.  

Ninth, small groups are a source of encouragement and accountability.

It is easy to go in and out of the church and not be noticed. This is common with megachurches, but it also happens in an average-sized church of 100 or 150 attendees.

People come for each Sunday service but do not get themselves involved. These individuals need accountability in their lives, encouragement in their walk with God, and/or help in some way in which small groups can provide.  

Lastly, small groups cultivate leadership within the church.

Someone is necessary to lead a small group meeting or at least facilitate the discussion. Thus, there is a need for leaders other than the pastor. Small groups provide opportunities for leadership development among members within the church.

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Why Your Church Needs a Small Group Ministry?

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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Highlight: Beware of the Birds

Highlight: Beware of the Birds

God is the Sower. Ultimately, nothing grows if He did not plant it. He uses people to establish His purposes. Most of the time, He can use you to share the Gospel with your friend. However, it’s also only God who can make things grow. 

Sometimes, we are the field by which God sows things. Unfortunately, there are times when we become the birds who snatch away the good that God has planted in the hearts of others.

Who are the Birds?

The church can attract different sets of people. Sometimes, the people are like the birds in the parable of Jesus.

Jesus uses these parables to warn us. There would be members of the church who can steal or kill or destroy what God has been doing. The enemy is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Every Christian must be vigilant. In fact, even Christians can be stirred in the wrong direction and become birds at one point in their lives.

Some people may also take advantage of the church community. They become members not because of their faith but because they want to be served. They want to benefit from belonging to the church. However, since there is no genuine repentance and Lordship in their lives, it ends up in chaos. Church leaders must be vigilant that “birds” do not steal the seed that has been planted for the church to grow. Birds snatch up the seed. They steal the seed so they cannot take root and bloom.

As true believers, we can take comfort in the fact that we can ask for wisdom from God. We must be careful to weed out such people so that they don’t steal away the fruits that have the potential to grow in our lives. God can sow a prophetic word in your heart, but birds (fear or doubt) can snatch them away. Nevertheless, birds have a purpose in the story.

Jesus still allowed the presence of Judas Iscariot as one of his chosen twelve even when he knew that Judas was bound to betray him (Jn. 6:70). This shows us that Jesus, in fact, allows or permits evil to coexist with good under his sovereignty and use it for his purposes. 

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Highlight: The Mustard Seed

Seed: In the last post, we talked about how it is crucial to plant good soil for the seed to grow.  Sometimes, we are the farmer who can sow seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of others when we interact with them. In other times, we are the field by which God Himself sow greatness. In both cases, if the soil of the field is hard, nothing will grow.

The Mustard Seed

Scholars note that it is odd to call a mustard a tree. The fact is it’s only grown to be a shrub. Jesus certainly did not make a mistake in his word choice. The people who were listening to him understood that mustard seeds don’t really grow into trees.

This metaphor implies that a mustard seed growing into a tree is unnatural and could not happen if agricultural laws apply.  

If you notice this, you’ll see Jesus’ warnings. There will be many churches and Christians that seem to grow unnaturally. While we can chalk this up to the supernatural grace of God, this can also mean that there are perversions in the way Christians and churches are produced.  Jesus wants to warn Christians about this unnatural way of being.

Shrub vs. Tree Potential

A shrub differs from a tree.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit develops a true Christian. This individual will differ from one who has a superficial faith. The Christian can live and make decisions by the grace of God. Conversely, the other who claims to be Christian is only borne out of good works and trivial human effort. Somehow, a part of us shrivels in discomfort when we enter a church or encounter a Christian that may appear God-honoring on the outside but is truly self-gratifying on the inside. Even the least discerning of us get uncomfortable around certain people because we know that the way they present themselves is fake and unnatural.  

The Lack of Authenticity in the Church

When watermelons grow naturally, they are oval in shape, full of seeds, and are covered by a green, striped outer skin. Yet these days, we will find watermelons that are square, seedless, and monochromic. These are unnatural, produced by the interference of human hands. While we enjoy eating a seedless watermelon for its convenience, watermelons were never really designed or created to be this way.

In the same way, some churches have become perverted when it comes to their doctrines, values, and objectives; thus, they take on a new nature – one that is not of God. They may identify as a church of Christ in the same way that the mustard tree is identified as something that stemmed from the mustard seed, but the way they present themselves and what makes them up differ. They grow because they placed their own hands in the process.  As a result, we will encounter churches with resounding accusations of secularism, manipulation, abuse, purposeful connection with authoritative figures to acquire power, and unnecessary extensive expenses on marketing and advertising.

 

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why the megachurch is criticized

Why The Megachurch is Criticized

The Risk of Disengagement

Despite these efforts, the megachurch has been constantly criticized for the sheer number of attendees per service would mean that there will be people who won’t get engaged or given enough attention.

Additionally, the setup of the worship service with a high stage and a large number of congregants can give off the impression of a concert.

Consequently, the attendees are mere spectators and faces in a crowd. Thousands more choose to attend for the thousands of people who choose to commit to the megachurch and get involved. They do so simply because they get to live in some anonymity. They cannot do that if they join a smaller church.

A large number of attendees attend each service. Therefore, some locations can host more than 5,000 people at a time. The multiple services run each weekend.

The majority of the people are scrambling out of the venue even before the service has ended. There isn’t really time to talk with friends afterward, nor can people loiter inside the hall because everyone has to be cleared out, and the room must be re-done completely within 15 minutes.

 Some consider megachurches’ worship time as mere experiential performances. Similar to rock concerts, the music team leads worship with fog machines and synchronized lights.

We are guilty of pointing a lot of fingers in the way of megachurches for their strict programs. The traditional churches would claim that these megachurches leave no room for the Holy Spirit.

Moreover,  they would accuse the megachurch of the “specularization” of something that is supposed to be sacred.

Is it too personality-driven?

A harsher criticism is that megachurches follow a largely questionable ideology. 

For instance,  megachurches are largely leader-driven, with one specific point person that most churches look up to.

This can be the senior pastor or the president of an organization of ministries. But while this leader is almost certainly of ministerial position, this leader is a minister who cannot attend to everything. Most attendees have probably never met the leader in person.

The purpose then of the leader is to embody a vision and get the members to act on this. The criticism for Christian celebrities is present. It adds to the seemingly impersonal setup of megachurch services. 

Opening Doors for More People

At the end of the day, megachurches have done their part in making ministries and discipleship available for all who attend. To balance out the distance between the senior minister and the general attendee, they have employed small groups, also known as Bible studies, care groups, or fellowship groups.

As a solution to the increasing number of attendees, the megachurch has chosen to empower its leaders and allow them the authority to shepherd and disciple their communities within these groups. In this context, they really get to build relationships with each other and discuss their personal problems, along with Biblical truths. Those who attend small groups are active members. Most megachurches make it a foundational requirement for volunteers and leaders. In this scenario, the small group leader then takes on the role of being a minister to his or her members.  

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PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION

EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PROTECTION: 

King Hezekiah began his independent reign when he broke the treaty which his father Ahaz made with the Assyrians (2 Kgs. 16:7), probably during the reign of Sargon II (722-705 B.C.). Sargon’s successor Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) decided to bring Judah into line, and he led a campaign against Hezekiah in the king’s 14th year (2 Kgs. 18:13). Hoping to prevent Jerusalem’s capture, Hezekiah hid the city by concealing the outside water supplies (2 Chron. 32:3-4).

He also repaired any weak spots in the wall and built towers around it (1 Kgs. 9:24), and added to the weapon supply. He also mobilized the people under army officers. He encouraged them not to feat, but to trust the Lord — a power far superior to a nation like Assyria. Hezekiah assured the people that the Lord was with them to help them.

What was Hezekiah doing in the previous chapter? (Protection)

He was securing the tithes of the people and also making sure the priests are provided for and encouraging people to be consistent about their giving.

He took care of the priests — God’s workers. As a result, God protected Hezekiah’s reign and gave him victory.

In 2 Chronicles 32:9-15, Sennacherib boasted that no other god had been able to protect his people from the Assyrians. He was mocking the God of the Israelites, saying He was just another God. After his taunting through letters and addresses through his messengers, he would send delegates to speak in Hebrew on the wall to demoralize the people about their God.

Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom.

Hezekiah turned to the Lord with the Prophet Isaiah. With the help of the prophet, they prayed for divine deliverance. God gave the king assurance through the prophet (2 Kgs. 19:20-34). God sent an angel to destroy the Assyrian host forcing Sennacherib to retreat in humility (2 Chron. 32:20-21a). Hezekiah took care of the provision for the priest. In return, the Lord protected him and his kingdom. He upheld Hezekiah’s throne against the Assyrian army. This protection only comes from God.

 

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PROTECTION