Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. NKJV
I live in a quiet suburb in Hermanus, South Africa. Through serving our local homeless community, I met a precious lady, about my age (60ish). A low-key friendship developed between us over the past two years. She started sharing some personal issues and lately she asked if I would pray for her. I realised that a regular meeting time around the Word would certainly encourage her and be of great benefit, but I didn't feel free to just suggest it - so I prayed about it! I felt the Lord say that He was already busy and that I needed to wait! Exciting, isn't it!! I didn't have long to wait ...
About two months ago she invited me for a coffee date. We had hardly sat down when she popped the question: would I be willing to lead a Bible study with her and some friends? She was the surprised one when I immediately said "YES" with a broad smile! She was quite overcome when I told her how the Lord had already put the desire in my heart and that He had put the desire in her heart and so we were both sure that we were in the Lord's will with this venture!! Awesome, isn't it!!
As I prayed about it I know the Lord put Jan Whitmore's book "Sow what!" on my heart as the book to use for this Bible study meeting. I was so excited and especially when the books arrived the day before our first meeting. Isn't God just precious in all His ways! Such a testimony of His leading us! We have had the first three meetings already - what an incredible blessing!!
The Lord is using the material in Jan's book with such powerful effect! Many questions and issues come to light and can be spoken about around the topic of learning to be aware of and train our SPIRITUAL senses and to understand that it is the Word taking root in our hearts that will bring the change. The Lord has already brought so many things to the surface shedding new light and deeper understanding with life-changing effect on them! It's such a humbling exciting joy to watch the Lord at work through this book!
A significant key was the questions at the end of chapter one. Even though we all felt quite vulnerable about sharing on that level, it really challenged us to take a good hard look at where we really are spiritually and of course what we plan to do about it. The two ladies (we are only three) both declared that they've never experienced something like this before and that they are so very glad that we started the group and that they are looking forward to doing the rest of the book!!
Thank you, Jan, for your obedience in writing the book!! We are so very grateful for this incredibly powerful tool the Lord has placed in our hands to help us grow spiritually in such a practical way!! May the Lord bless you abundantly, Jan, and I KNOW for sure that anyone who reads this book and/or uses it as Jan intended for a life group, will be amazed at what God can and will do! The Holy Spirit does ALL the work - just be available for Him to work through you!! Much love and blessings in His Name. Maritha Esterhuizen Hermnus, South Africa
Does life move in circles or does it follow an individual linear path? Depending on what nationality we may speak to, there will be different answers. However, whatever the culture, God is the Eternal Weaver of life. Given permission, He powerfully and precisely intertwines the cords of His life with the threads of ours. He weaves shapes and creates His gracious character and will in us. He works in us individually, but life does not find its true meaning in isolation. Here’s an awesome truth: When my whole life was placed fully into His hands, He had the means on earth of rewarding the faith of another who was seeking His help.
In the 1990’s, I travelled in a campervan with my colleague and friend, Mintie Nel, to pastorally visit missionaries on the mission field. We were – and still are – God’s encouragers. Just as Paul journeyed, dispensing encouragement and stirring the saints to faith in God and His Word, so we travelled in our motorhome coming alongside many serving missionaries in Europe. The adventure kindled spiritual fire in our bones.
In July 1996, we pulled up our packed motorhome alongside the home of a single missionary in Holland. Jenny Lowen, a South African, worked at the YWAM Base in Heidebeek. She was a joy to visit and any encouragement shared was refreshingly mutual. In usual meticulous fashion, we had prepared a beautiful gift-box full of fragrant and sweet delights to convey God’s personal and unconditional love, and His appreciation of her obedience to His bidding. It was a short but effective visit. From Holland, we moved on into Eastern Europe, remaining in email contact with Jenny, tracing her missionary movements with love and care. Jenny is an itinerant Discipleship Training School teacher in YWAM. Whilst she was based in Holland, Switzerland or the UK, in reality God trekked her all over the world. Our paths have touched for brief moments during the last 20 years.
The last few years have vigorously exercised Mintie and me. In 2007, when I married the most darling of men – Des Whitmore, our home situation dramatically changed. Having shared a home with Mintie for 15 years, Des was sent to gloriously “upset the apple-cart”. God was shaking our nest and as difficult as it was, our living arrangements had to change. Des insisted the ministry progressed and that Mintie lived with us, so he built a beautiful self-contained annexe to our house in Ferring - thoughtfully accommodating Mintie’s disability. He would live in Mintie’s house and Mintie would live next door in his! However, after Des passed away in 2011, we found ourselves sitting in a house that was far more than we personally needed, or indeed could naturally afford. Should we move? Should we downsize? It was a matter of prayer. Only God could decide.
Last year (2014) news reached our ears that Jenny, now based at YWAM, Holmsted Manor, UK, had suffered terrible flooding in her basement apartment. Treasured and sentimentally valuable items belonging to her family (now with the Lord) ruined by sewage. She was homeless. Disturbed by the details of the flood and Jenny’s worsening health, we sent word that we were praying for her. Many friends gathered to her aid and God opened up comfortable but temporary accommodation.
Some weeks later, during lunch with a mutual friend of Jenny, once again the extent of her plight reached the ears of Mintie and I. I asked, “What exactly is Jenny praying for? Does she want to move away from Holmsted Manor? Is it time to leave community living?” Our friend answered, “Jenny is actively looking in the vicinity of the YWAM base for an annexe attached to a house – it is most probably all she can afford”.
The words quickened to our spirits and had penetration. Mintie and I kicked one another under the table. Were we the instrument of God to bring blessing and shelter? Two weeks of prayer and conversation led us to offer Jenny the annexe to our home. Mintie would move back into her old bedroom in the main house and Jenny would live in the annexe. She was overwhelmed with joy at the offer and in March 2015 she became our lodger / neighbour.
In April 2015, whilst sorting through her many unpacked boxes, Jenny found some old personal journals. Randomly opening one she read the following:
Taken from Jenny Lowen’s journal:
25 August 1996: ‘I’ve had 2 dreams since Jan and Mintie came at the end of July…. (1996)
Dream 1) “I dreamt that J & M moved into a BIG space and proceeded to make rooms of it and furnish it. They were very organised. Towards the end of the dream, I realised that I was moving into the room next door.
Dream 2) “I moved into a big space and needed to start furnishing it – I could do it sparsely but people gave me things to put into it. To me, this means my home is being found and being furnished!”
Then I received a word from the Lord on 23rd January 1997
“I am assured I’m going in God’s will and He’s prepared a place for me. A warm lovely little HOME, roses, flowers, a little dog; preparing a hospitable place for those who’re tired; all my needs provided”.
Jenny may have long forgotten those words but our covenant keeping God had not. We had no idea they existed.
In 1996, when God spoke to Jenny in the dreams, Mintie and I owned a motorhome and lived in a small mortgaged house in Worthing, UK. In 2002, God clearly instructed us “to go bigger”. We sensed He had plans for a home to bless missionaries. We didn’t have the money but we stepped out in faith, sowing all that we had into His will. God provided us with our present “bigger” house – mortgage free. Hallelujah! It was a house with modest grounds and good potential. In 2007, my surprise from God arrived - Des came along and extended it ostensibly for Mintie. Then, compassionately, upon hearing God speak to her heart, Mintie moved back into her old bedroom in the main house and made room for Jenny to make a new home in the Annexe. All this God had revealed in a dream to Jenny long before any of it was substance. But what about the prophesied “little dog”?
Two years ago (2013), after years of patiently waiting, Mintie felt it was the right time to choose a little puppy to become part of the family – she called her Tikva, which is Hebrew for “hope”. Did God see Tikva when He spoke in a dream to Jenny in 1997? Of course, He did, and arranged for Tikva to be here for Jenny’s arrival in 2015. He knows the end from the beginning. He weaves all the details together. He knows and always acts for our blessing and good. Never doubt that the Master Weaver is at work. It is only by faith we recognise His handiwork!
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” NKJV
The essence of discipleship is remarkably simple, yet deeply profound – it is learning to walk with God by faith. Not some kind of weak hopefulness, but faith that has a solid and strong conviction and confidence that “God is and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb.11:6). Faith rises when we know in our experience that God is love, holy, just, sufficient, everlasting, a keeper of covenant and much more besides! Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us that faith operates in the realm of “the unseen” and the “hoped for”. Conviction of “the unseen” - the glorious eternal realm of God, is the bedrock of confidence for things yet to come to pass. Spiritual growth ignites when we allow God to develop within us spiritual conviction and confidence. Walking with God, by the Word and the Spirit, the reality of God’s unseen heavenly realm - God’s spiritual realm – the realm of the Kingdom of God - the realm of the Holy Spirit – comes alive in us. We hear His voice. From my limited travels, Christians all over the world are longing for that sort of inner conviction, confidence and walk in life! Just think, when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we invoke that glorious power of the“ unseen” realm into our earthly realm. It is a powerful prayer.
I am in Jerusalem bringing encouragement to God’s workers, watching this play out in and around my life. Wednesday morning my colleague Mintie Nel and I prayed for our day – a simple prayer, “Lord, lead us by Your Holy Spirit.” The debriefing appointment went very well and after lunch we said, “let’s take a walk in the direction of the Garden Tomb and catch a taxi for the part when Mintie’s legs would not go farther”. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis. Outside the King David Hotel, Mintie realised that she now needed a ride. A taxi was just there. As we got inside, Mintie felt the Holy Spirit touch her powerfully. Immediately, the driver said, “Are you believers in Yeshua (Jesus)? I am a Jewish believer (Messianic) Yeshua came to me!” Thoroughly taken aback at his open and forthright testimony, I said, “Yes, we are Christians – we are believers in Yeshua!” Exuberant praise came out of his mouth. He had sat for four hours, praying for someone to need his taxi – “Yeshua send someone, I need work” he prayed, and along we came. The taxi ride led to a visit to the beautiful Garden Tomb complex and was followed by another taxi ride with the radiant Jewish taxi driver. We met two of his friends and had a time of lively fellowship and mutual prayer. It was like the accounts of the early church in Jerusalem. Our Jewish brother could hardly keep his feet on the ground as he prayed for us in Hebrew – he was full of the Holy Spirit.
In 2000, Yeshua miraculously appeared to him in his room and revealed that He was the Jewish Messiah. For two more nights Yeshua appeared again, telling him more about Himself. He had no previous knowledge of anyone called Yeshua. Dramatically, he surrendered his life to the Lord, and is now on fire. His family disowned him, but in another extraordinary turn of events, his wife and children also received Yeshua. What happened there? We walked with God to His appointment.
Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24)and that precious walk of faith eventually translated him directly into the presence of God, without seeing death. He was taken up. It sounds so good. However, what does walking with God by faith mean? G Campbell Morgan, in his inspiring old book “Triumphs of Faith”, describes it this way:
Walking under Divine direction
Walking in perfect agreement with God
Walking, trusting God about yourself
Walking in step with God
Enoch walked with God. That means he lived under Divine direction. He had personal communication with God. God speaks with one who diligently seeks Him. It is interesting to note that God actually “walks”. However, where is He walking that we must accompany Him? It is a good question! This week, in one instance, we found out. But I think it means much more than walking with God into His appointments. Everything in this world is in transition – it is moving, and if God is standing in sovereign control behind it all, then He is involved. He is working out His purposes in and through world events. He is on the move in the nations. He wants all humankind to be reconciled to Him. God is manoeuvring and moving. So we need to watch and pray so that when He moves we move. Are we walking with Him as He moves? Are we watchful? Are we interceding for the matters on His heart? Are we walking with Him in uncompromising, unceasing and unabated hostility to sin? He marches to war against sin and His campaign is against all forms of evil. General William Booth caught that vision and formed the Salvation Army. Enoch walked with God in His divine purposes and plans.
Walking with God also means walking in perfect agreement with Him. This is much more than having a general doctrinal agreement with Him – a pally nod of agreement . It means having no opposition to Him or His will in our lives. It means the end of personal opinion. God’s word is His word and, therefore, the final word which we accept obediently. We may praise the Sermon on the Mount and even love it’s words, but not live it. We are not walking with God. Walking with God is the end of personal controversy with Him. For those who accompany Him it is His will and His way. Enoch walked with God.
Enoch trusted God, that is why he walked with Him. Have you ever tried following someone you don’t trust? Amazingly, God also trusted Enoch; He knew his heart of devotion and commitment. He trusted Enoch for 300 years. They moved in the same direction, in perfect agreement, trusting each other.
God can only share His heart with those who are close to Him. We are told that the Children of Israel had to wait to see what God would do, but Moses was told beforehand. Why? God trusted Moses. Walking with God is entrusting ourselves to Him. Enoch walked with God.
Enoch also kept in step with God. He didn’t move ahead with misplaced zeal, and he did not drag his feet in unbelief. Unfettered zeal can outrun faith; unbelief drops behind the pace. A disciple of Jesus neither runs ahead or lags behind. A disciple keeps in step with God all the way. Enoch walked with God.
We might think that Enoch’s day was easier than today, but it wasn’t. There was abuse and godlessness, and independence from control. As annoying as it is for believers, man was remarkably successful, in spite of rebellion against God. Sound familiar? Yet, even in the midst of that, Enoch walked with God. He stood out from the crowd by his position next to our holy God as He was walking.
Is it possible in our rebellious day, to move along under Divine direction, to be in agreement with God, to trust and know Him; going step by step, waiting for His movements and accompanying Him on His journey? Yes. This is the path of discipleship.
After my husband, Des, passed away, 4 April 2011, I began to experience unexplained episodes of nerve-pain. His passing was expected but the shock hit me harder than I could have imagined. I entered a lonely and dark tunnel of deep loss. In the beginning, the physical pain was mild, but as grief, compounded with other losses, became acute. I seemed to have nerve-end flare-ups simultaneously with surges of emotional upset or nervousness.
Earlier this year (2014), in South Africa, it flared up again. Pain soared and energy levels sank to an all-time low. A South African doctor diagnosed fibromyalgia and treated the symptoms with regular cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory tablets. It soothed and certainly helped, but it did not heal.
Fibromyalgia is a debilitating illness. Symptoms include intense muscle pain that may change location and grow worse from day to day, disturbed sleep, raw nerve ends, as well as extremely tender and painful points on the body. It is believed that trauma and stress lie at the root.
For twenty-two years, Mintie Nel and I have co-directed a mission work called Mission Encouragement Trust (MET). MET is a registered UK Charity (1063403) which worked in close association with international Christian mission agencies since 1992, bringing care, support and encouragement to the worldwide mission community. In the early years, we travelled in a campervan pastorally visiting missionaries in Eastern Europe. For the latter 12 years, we hosted retreats for single missionaries in E. Europe, South Africa, UK and Israel. Now we were at the close of the ministry of MET, passing on the baton of care giving to others who share a call to encourage and support missionaries. God had a new assignment for us!
In May 2013, we hosted our final MET training retreat in the Czech Republic. Twenty-nine missionaries, single and married, all appointed caregivers within their own mission-agency or local church registered.
One evening, as I taught on the value and necessity of debriefing missionaries, I reflected on the structured debriefing (Debriefing at the Cross) I had received at Le Rucher, a pastoral care centre for missionaries in France (www.lerucher.org), in February 2012. However, just retelling my story of pain and loss once again made the nerve ends raw and sensitive. The bottom of my feet burned and my waistline and scalp were on fire. Exhaustion set in and I struggled to finish my seminar. As the evening ended, I slumped in a chair wiped out. Mintie duly gathered staff and missionaries to lay on hands and pray. I felt absolutely nothing, but I had a strong sense of Jesus standing beside me.
As I got into bed that night, I could not even bear the sheet over me. My body throbbed and I called Mintie to pray again. With 5 days of the retreat to run, I knew I was in trouble as I had many leadership responsibilities yet to see through. I was desperate. I took a high dose of pain medication and an anti-inflammatory, and fell into a deep sleep. Amazingly, I woke in the morning thoroughly refreshed and pain free! I could hardly believe how well I felt. Was I healed? I was not sure and decided to wait and see if pain returned.
Months passed without pain. There was no doubt; God had healed me of fibromyalgia. Added to that, the joy of the Holy Spirit had returned! I praise and thank God for His divine intervention in my life.