A people of prayer
THIS IS OUR STORY...
It all began with the belief that, ‘there was more to God than this’….and every day that belief became stronger. These feelings manifested itself through episodes of frustration, irritation, unease and dissatisfaction. Change had to come. At times ‘change’ will lead gently by the hand but occasionally, ‘change’ can be overwhelming, and it leaves us with no choice but to shift within this season of transformation. When these ‘seasons of change’ knock on our doors, it sometimes leaves no room for quiet rest, contentment, comfort, self-satisfaction or peace. It demands a response of obedience, sacrifice, commitment and trust.
God is not content to allow us to function below our potential. Like an eagle, He will
begin to pluck away at our self-made securities and walls of protection. With the removal of our walls of securities, man-made guarantees of protections, and self-built boat of comfort, we are then forced to look to God alone.
This is where it began for us…it was a word from the Lord declaring, ‘You have compassed [encircled] this mountain long enough: [Now] turn’, (Deuteronomy 2:3). Change will always begin on a personal level, it will always begin with us…with this person called, ‘me’. Change involves the removal of all our excessive baggage based on ‘good ideas’, rather than ‘God’s ideas’ and a Christianity based on the ‘culture of the Church’, rather than the ‘Christ of the Church’. The Lord does not want us to base our faith on ‘how its always done’ or on how its done in ‘other ministries’. Our faith is very much ‘personal’…hence the term, ‘personal relationship’. Anything less is an error and thus ‘change’ is demanded. Of course, ‘change’ is risky, unfamiliar and frightening thus a walk of faith is required.
In August 1999, during such a period of dissatisfaction, discontent, dis-ease, and discomfort, the Lord sent a word to me entitled, ‘Times and Seasons’. He made me aware that ‘seasons’ was a wonderful gift because they bring a sense of newness, hope and fresh beginnings. He informed me of the importance of being in ‘season’ and about moving in His appointed ‘time’. He spoke about the importance of discerning the difference between ‘Chronos’ time; which is the scientific description of time, space, duration and seasons, this is how humanity differentiate periods in time. Then there is ‘Kairos’ time; which characterises content and quality of time, made significant by a divine encounter with God, for example, the ‘time’ you were born again. God wanted me to understand that there was a divine calendar before Him and His eyes were on His calendar, His clock and not ours.
This process of change progressed steadily throughout the month of September. During this period, God continued to work on us gently, yet steadily, purposefully, and unyieldingly, God’s intention was for the final product to radiate His glory. And so, September brought with it a process of sifting. The Lord highlighted Hebrews 12:26, ‘Yet once more I shake…the earth [and] heaven’. This was not the ‘Word’ I wanted to hear from the Lord, nevertheless, it was the ‘Word’ that was needed to take us to the next level. All unnecessary clutter, had to be laid aside, this included: hidden agendas, wrong motives, anger, pride, ego, arrogance, bitterness, unforgiveness but also, wrong company. Some ‘friends’ fell away during this sifting period, many did not understand what we were going through and like Job’s friends, they began to interpret our situation from their ‘spiritual perspective’. However, this was just the pruning prior to promotion.
With the removal of some friends, the Lord began to create new friendships (often referred to as ‘Divine Connection’). When the Lord decides that it is time for elevation, He also provides companions that are at a level of maturity, who can bring you up to a higher place in Christ. These are friend who are willing to pray for you and speak the ‘right word’ into your spirit. Thus, God takes us from the position of the ‘chicken’ and into the position of an ‘eagle’. It was also at this time that the Lord placed into my hands the devotional guide, ‘Word for Today’, by Bob and
Debbie Gass. This was not a coincidence, but a strategic move of God. Each personal message from the Lord, would be confirmed each day in this devotional. After the Lord spoke to me about ‘Times and Season’, the ‘Word for Today’ released a message entitled, ‘When the Seasons Change’. (1999 Edition). They wrote, ‘Change is going to be a part of your life. Once you have accepted this you are unsinkable’.
September became a month for ‘transition’. It was like being in labour. There was no point in fighting, arguing or struggling with God. Thus, all that was left for me to do was to fall into the hands of the Almighty and allow the process of transition to take place. The Lord made me aware that change could not take place without a ‘passing through’, if we do not ‘pass through’ or ‘transit’, there would be a risk that we could miscarry or we ourselves could face ‘death’.
That day I decided to take the risk and step out by faith. Later that day, I was comforted by the ‘Word for Today’, it read, ‘By faith Abraham…went out, not knowing where he was going’. The topic was, ‘Going Where You’ve Never Been’. (1999 Edition).
It is necessary for me to mention at this point that my husband, Nathan Bryan, had received clear instructions from the Lord a year before I did. Nathan had already asked to be released from all his ministerial duties, but he continued to serve faithfully whist he waited for God to speak to me. On the 13th November, the Lord spoke to me from Isaiah 6:1, ‘In the Year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up’. The Lord’s voice was clear and direct, He made me aware that anything that distracted me from seeing only Him was an idol He said it was time for this ‘idol’ to die, so that, like Isaiah, I too can ‘see the Lord’. On the 17th November I wrote a letter asking to be released from my ministry of 17 years. On the 18th November, the ‘word for Today’ read, ‘And from all your idols, will I cleanse you’, Ezekiel 36:25. The topic was, ‘Get Rid of Your Idols’. Bob Gass wrote, ‘Whatever takes God’s place in your life is an idol – and it’s got to go! To hold on…is idolatry. It takes real trust to know that you can give up what you have and get back something better! Whether it’s a job, a relationship, a ministry, a poor career choice…your Father wants to wean you from the lesser, in order to give you the greater…so whatever it costs…it’s worth the pain to make the switch’.
On the 1st December, the struggle to ‘let go’ continued. How can God ask me to change after 17 long years? Maybe I was not hearing from God clearly or maybe God might change His mind. The topic from the ‘Word for Today’ read, ‘Go All the Way’. Bob Gass wrote, ‘Give up all that inferior stuff…know Christ personally, experience His resurrection power, be a partner in His suffering and go all the way with Him’. (Philippians 3:8-10). There it is: No reservations and no regrets; just a passion to know Him better and to …’go all the way with Him’.
December 3rd, I decided to lock myself in with God and not move until He speaks to me. This time I asked for a confirmation from another minister; not from a book, a devotional, a friend, a family member or someone influenced by information they may have heard. I asked the Lord to speak to me personally, directly and precisely. I needed specific instructions, easy to understand directions. Then the phone rang. The caller did not waste time with ‘small talk’. The message was short and direct. ‘The Lord says it is time to let go. Stop fighting with me. Trust me. It is time to move forward. It is not about becoming another ‘church member’ but becoming a ‘church planter’. (This is all that I can remember…or maybe all I could take in).
On the 4th December I woke up wondering whether the Lord had found the ‘right’ leaders for the task. Neither of us were of the ‘charismatic type’ nor were we assertive, challenging or ‘influential’. We were quiet, unassuming people. Later that day, the ‘Word for Today’ read, ‘Feel the fear – And do it anyway’. The text was taken from, Deuteronomy 31:8, ‘Fear not, neither be dismayed’. Bob Gass wrote, ‘God doesn’t say, ‘don’t feel afraid’. No, He says, ‘Don’t give in to it! Anytime you do something you’ve never done before, fear will rush in – that is normal. When it does, don’t think you’re unspiritual or weak. What has God put in your heart to do? set your face like flint, feel the fear and do it anyway’.
VESSELS IN THE HANDS OF GOD
Initially, we are nothing but broken vessels in the hands of God, nevertheless, no matter how damaged a vessel we may be, He has never ever considered discarding us. His intention is always for restoration. No one is ever beyond repair. The greater the damage, the bigger its purpose. God specializes in damage goods, if we submit ourselves to Him.
Our first meeting was held in our home with 12 people in attendance, this included our family members and our children. In our second meeting there were 16 people in attendance. Most importantly, the Lord was present and there was great rejoicing in heaven.
The person we are today, we will not be tomorrow, if we allow the process of change to begin. Thus, for us to fulfil our purpose, we must synchronize all that we are with God’s will.
Delayed obedience or any failure to comply could result in us never achieving our intended purpose. To remain unchanged would equate to living in an environment of unrest, out of balance, out of alignment and ignorant of our assignment.
The Children of Israel stand out as an example of such a lifestyle choice, though they were taken out of slavery, slavery was still in them. Yes, they were out of Egypt, however, the ‘Egypt mentality’ was still in them and so they continued to think like slaves. To continue to live in the ‘beggarly elements’; (a place lower than what God originally intended), due to wrong beliefs and fraudulent thought patterns, is described as a ‘false paradigm’. What we need is a paradigm shift, this requires God changing who we are, so that we can transform where we are.
How does Artos do this? Through prayer. God has called Artos to be, ‘A People of Prayer and a People of Intercession’. Other ministries have great calling, talents, giftings and charitable deeds. However, we are not called to imitate their deeds, try to rebrand their motto or remodel their success. We are called to remain ‘A House of [fervent] Prayer for All Nations’.