VERSE OF THE DAY
Hebrews 4:12 (New Living Translation)
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
VERSE OF THE DAY
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one can resist God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
For the word of God speaks truth
You must watch what you’re mouth speaks for word pierce and cut like a knife cutting into the spirit and soul leaving scars exposing everything no matter what
What Does Hebrews 4:12 Mean? ►
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, Who is traced to every page of the Written Word of God. All that He is, stands in stark contrast to all that we are. His penetrating eyes search out all the dross that is rooted in the fallen soul of man. His Word of Truth exposes everything in me that is not of Christ: my-self, my-hypocrisy, my-insincerity, and my-unbelief.
The Word of God is living, because He is the living God Who breathes life into us and in Whom are the WORDS of eternal life. The Word of God is active. It is dynamic and miraculous. It is vigorous and lively because the Spirit of the living God is the eternal Souce of power, that moved holy men of God to pass on His supernatural message to us – through the living Word of the living God.
The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is like the razor-sharp blade of a double-edged sword, with the ability to cut into the deepest recesses of all that is spiritual and divide it from that which is soulical. It can differentiate between words, actions, thoughts, and motives, that are looking to Jesus and words, actions, thoughts, and motives, that have placed self on the throne of their life.
So penetratingly piercing is the Word of God, that it has the ability to separate the soul of man from the born-again spirit, just as the butcher’s razor-sharp blade slices the joint of meat from the marrow-bone. The Spirit of the living God is able to judge the deepest thoughts and intentions of the heart of every man.
Every spoken Word from the lips of Christ are Life and Truth. All the written Words of Scripture give wholeness and health to those who believe. How vital to take His Word deep into our hearts. God’s purpose, for all who believe, is to conform us into the image and likeness of Christ, and the stark reality of Scripture is the contrast of God’s amazing grace towards us… with our own rebellion. It contrasts His faithfulness with our unbelief.
The Word of truth exposes our deceitfulness and our unworthiness. It can cut our evil hearts to the quick just as the penetrating look of the Lord Jesus brought His denying disciple into the depths of distress and repentance. Gazing deep into the powerful Word of God is a penetrating, soul-searching exercise, for it cuts away any foolish boasting in ourselves and exposes any prideful perceptions of our own worthiness!
The action of the Word of God on the spirit and soul of every believer is a life-long process that continues to cut away all that is of the old man and conform the new life we received at Salvation into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an ongoing operation in the inner recesses of every believer, which will be fully and finally completed at the rapture/ resurrection of the Church, when we shed the last remnants of our old fallen self, through our transformation into the image and likeness of the lovely Lord JESUS.
Throughout this life, the Word of God in all its fullness, continues to lay bare the truth, in the inward parts of man, silencing forever our own weak protests and unjustifiable defences. The razor-sharpness of God’s Word can crush, to the uttermost, all that is of our old fallen flesh, and bring the believer’s old sin-nature to the end of itself.
It is in His gracious, loving-kindness that God brings each of us to face such depths, so that He can purge out the old Self and form in us the pure and holy nature of the Lord Jesus. The sharp, active, living, powerful, wonderful Word of God, is used by the Holy Spirit in each of our lives, to convict, convert, comfort, and conform us into Christ’s likeness, and to prepare us… during our lifetime, for the spiritual rest, eternal life, and future glory, that is laid-up for us in heaven.
The Word of God will continue in each of our lives to be living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, as we sojourn in a land that is not our home. The Word of God will never stop piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, on this earthly journey to our heavenly home. It will never cease splitting the good from the evil, the heavenly from the world, right from wrong, faith from fear – and that which is of Christ from that which is not – for the Word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of every heart.
Let us, in humility of heart, and patient endurance, permit the testing work of the Holy Spirit to penetrate deeply into the depth of our being as He examines truth in the inward parts, and lays bare the hidden thoughts and intentions within. Let us embrace the everlasting truth that God’s Word is living and active, powerful and sharp… and allow Him to complete the good work He has started within. May we rejoice that God’s WORD is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts deeply to the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet – for our eternal good and for His greater glory.
Thank You, Father, for the living, powerful Word of God. I pray that whatever it takes, Your Holy Spirit would continue to convict, convert, comfort, and conform me into the image of the lovely Lord Jesus, so that I become the person You want me to be. May I never hinder the work of Your Holy Spirit within, as He continues to divide my born-again spirit from my sin-sick soul. Root out all that is not of Christ and use me I pray, as a conduit through Whom You can flow, unhindered, into the lives of those around me. Thank You that You loved us so much that You purposed to change
Abiding with Christ in Humility
We want intimacy with God, but our fear and pride keep us distant. Christ shows us how to abide with him in humility.
Read, watch, and listen to this message. Listen on Spotify here, Apple Podcasts here, and Google Podcasts here.
he phrase “abiding in Christ” can be confusing. While its meaning can go deep, the basic meaning is simple:
Abiding in Christ means staying connected to Christ and not leaving.
And Jesus is clear on how we can abide: In John 15:10 he says, “If you obey my commands, you will abide in my love” (NIV).
“Abiding in Christ” is the first of five spheres of discipleship, as I describe with my coauthor Jim Putman in The Revolutionary Disciple.
The five spheres are:
• Sphere 1: Abiding in Christ
• Sphere 2: The Church Sphere
• Sphere 3: The Home Sphere
• Sphere 4: The World Sphere
• Sphere 5: The Spiritual Realm
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As we abide or remain in Christ, we don’t just want to stay and obey. We want more. As I’ve examined my life and listened to others in the church—I keep hearing: “I want more intimacy with God.”
So if we want this and God offers it, then why don’t we experience it?
This post seeks to answer that question and simply to say this:
Humility leads to intimacy with God.
Three key barriers keep us from this humility that leads to intimacy with God.
First Barrier: Fear
If you’re like me, I sometimes get afraid of what God’s going to say to me if I spend time alone with him. What will God ask us to do if we make space for him? We fear he’ll find the skeletons in our closet—the ones we know about and the ones we don’t know about.
But when this happens, we forget that he’s good.
The truth is we should not be afraid of what God will do if we draw near but what will happen if we don’t allow him into those vulnerable places to deal with our skeletons. We can’t keep the door closed on our secrets; they will come out one way or another.
Christ offers freedom from fear of intimacy.
Second Barrier: Feeling Stuck
As we seek intimacy with God, we can easily feel stuck.
Often if we take a step back and look at our discipleship journey, we can see how we started strong with obeying the call to follow Christ and understanding the Great Commission to make disciples of Christ.
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We feel like we’re not making progress, so we stay put.
But Christ offers a way to get unstuck, which I unpack below.
Third Barrier: Pride
Pride operates below the surface of our fear and feeling stuck. This pride comes from a mixture of our confusion about authority, submission, and humility.
Forgetting Christ’s authority. We can easily read the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20 and skip straight to the “Therefore, go and make disciples” and miss the first line, where Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
We can easily forget Jesus is not just a teacher but also king of the universe!
My three-year-old daughter, Emma, loves stories, so she said before nap time recently, “Tell me a story about Jesus.” So I told Emma the story of Saul on the Damascus road, where Jesus spoke to Saul.
I finished the short version of that story, and she said, “Tell me the rest of the story.”
So I said Paul went throughout the whole world at the time and shared the gospel. I concluded by saying, “Students of Jesus popped up everywhere. Did you know Jesus was a teacher?”
She said, “No, he’s king.”
It was a good reminder that Jesus isn’t just a teacher. He’s also king of the universe.
Forgetting we’re called to submit to Christ in every area of life. A disciple is essentially a learner. This means a disciple by nature submits to a teacher and follows their instructions.
We must be humble in order to submit to another person.
And we’re not to submit just at baptism or in one area of life. We’re to submit to Christ and to his delegated authorities in every area of life. This encompasses what we call the five spheres of discipleship: abiding in Christ, in the church sphere, in the home sphere, in the world sphere—where we live, work, and play—and in the spiritual realm.
It’s like allowing someone full access to your computer’s hard drive or every room in your house—nothing hidden.
Forgetting that Christ’s authority and our submission requires our humility. I can say of all the sins I’ve struggled with in my life, pride has been the most insidious and sneakiest one. Pride has been a major issue in my life—one of my core weaknesses.
So as someone who’s struggled with this but is on the path of recovery, I can say that while God has shown me my sin, he’s also shown me the way out.
Over the last twenty years of my life, I’ve thought deeply about the wreckage that pride has caused in my life and in the lives of others, and I’m convinced of this:
What’s missing for many disciples today that keeps us from intimacy with God is true, Christlike humility before God.
We see this call to be humble through the examples of Jesus and Paul.
I believe one of the major keys to abiding humbly in Christ is found in Matthew 11, which is about the humility of Christ himself. Matthew 11 comes in between the call to follow Christ in Matthew 4 and the commission to make disciples of Christ in Matthew 28.
This passage uniquely reveals Jesus’ heart of humility, and it unlocks the key to what made him truly revolutionary.
The Example of Jesus
The book is called The Revolutionary Disciple. People on the right and left are talking about a revolution and rightly so, but Jesus’ humble way of life is the only way toward a lasting revolution.
So the book’s title is first talking about Jesus.
Then, we become revolutionaries because of him and our surrendering to him in every area of life.
Jesus, a disciple?
It’s strange to think about Jesus as a disciple, but he was one. We know this because Scripture says Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).
Jesus also says in John 15:15, “Everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
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Jesus wasn’t just a disciple; he was a revolutionary—the revolutionary.
The paradox is this:
Jesus overturned the world through love and conversion, not through force and coercion.
Dallas Willard says in The Allure of Gentleness that Jesus was alluring to people not in spite of his gentleness but because of it. This is something I’m seeing more and more:
Gentleness changes the whole dynamics of a relationship.
Here’s the beautiful thing: Jesus invites us to learn this kind of humility and gentleness from him by walking with him through life. In Matthew 11:28–30, he says:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let’s spend some time in this passage because it’s so rich.
Understanding Matthew 11:28–30
1. Jesus says, “Come to me,” which is an invitation simply to be with him.
This is a surprising offer from the king of the universe to be in relationship with him!
This “with” part of discipleship matters so much for us as we make disciples and disciple our children too.
Case in point, my daughter, Emma, has been singing a Scripture song called “Be Strong and Courageous” by Seeds Family Worship, which is based on Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Recently, we were at a neighborhood family movie night, and before the movie started, Emma saw a group of kids blowing bubbles. So she started walking toward them.
Then, she saw how wild the kids were acting with the bubbles. From about ten feet apart, we locked eyes about the issue, and I told her, “Be strong and courageous.” She then came back to me, held out her hand, and said, “Come with me.”
Christ offers us “come-with-me” discipleship.
Come-with-me discipleship means a relationship with Christ and the church.
Nothing kills relationships like pride.
In fact, I believe the burden Christ describes in this passage has to do with pride.
2. Jesus’ invitation to come is for all those who are burdened.
I’m convinced, as I’ve studied the immediate context of Matthew 11:28–30, that the burden is not just the burdens of life in general but the specific burden of unrepentance due to pride.
I believe this because he has just rebuked people for not believing in him after he performed miracles: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11:21). It’s in that context that he invites all who are weary and burdened to come to him.
Pride says, “I’m okay on my own. I don’t need help. I don’t need relationships.”
I’ve seen the burden people carry when they live in pride and do not turn to Christ in an abiding relationship with Christ and his church because I’ve been there. And my heart goes out to them.
Pride not only distances us from God, but it divides churches, splits up families, causes us to get fired from our job. And the worst: it isolates us, making us vulnerable to spiritual attack.
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When Satan wants to lure us into self-destruction, he’s a one trick pony: he works us from the inside out by encouraging an overinflated ego in us through the idolatry of self with our seething yet subtle pride.
Pride says, “I don’t need anything. I’ve got it.”
But we all need help, guidance, and correction—that’s what makes us disciples.
Why do we struggle to grow in intimacy with Christ? Because we struggle at the deepest level with subtle forms of pride.
Discipleship includes both fellowship with the Son and the pruning of the Father.
We often want the teaching and training without the correcting and rebuking. Yet Jesus says, “My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1–2).
We forget God’s good and his pruning leads to his producing fruit in our lives.
We cannot be close with God until we accept the pruning of God.
This comes only by humbly submitting ourselves to his way over ours in every area of life.
And while independence is a great character trait, rugged individualism destroys our intimacy with God.
But Jesus shows us the way of humility when he says, “Come to me … take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
3. Jesus shows us humility of heart.
He says, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
Jesus was revolutionary because he was humble, but his humility was not how the world defines it. He maintained humility even with his great authority. And we can be revolutionary as we learn humility from him. That’s the core message of The Revolutionary Disciple.
How do we do this?
We unpack this in the book, but I want to emphasize in this post the importance of this first sphere. We must first be in a close, humble relationship with Christ himself.
We must learn not just the commands of Jesus but also the heart of Jesus.
Then, we can effectively walk humbly through the other spheres, and discipleship will not be burdensome—but a delight.
Paul’s Pride and God’s Prodding
I thought a lot about Acts 26:14 as I prepared for the sermon after which this post was adapted. It’s the words of Jesus to Paul on the Damascus road.
Luke replays three synoptic versions of this story in the book of Acts (in Acts 9, 22, and 26), but Acts 26 contains a detail that is absent from the other versions.
For context, it says that Paul and his friends saw a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun, and after they fell to the ground, Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Then, Jesus said:
“It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
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A “goad” is a stick with a sharp end that was used to prod oxen and other animals to move one way or another—to guide them. To “kick against the goads” was to resist God’s prodding.
Jesus said essentially, “It’s hard for you, isn’t it? That’s painful.”
So to those of you struggling with pride in one or more areas of your life, let me extend that observation to you because I think it can shed light on the reality of our pride: It’s hard for you, isn’t it? I know it has been for me.
Our Pride and God’s Prodding
In which area of your life are you currently resisting God? Let me tell you the good news: God wants to give you rest and intimacy with him. But you must stop going your own way and surrender to God’s way.
Here’s a truth you can hang your hat on:
The pain of kicking against the goads is greater than the pain of growth.
And you can take these words from James 4:6–8 to the bank:
“‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
As you consider our message in The Revolutionary Disciple about Jesus’ legacy in our lives, let me remind you of the invitation he issues to all of us who are wearied by going our own way:
Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
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9 min read
The Message of ‘First Freedoms’ by Jennifer Barnett
Jennifer Barnett gives an overview of her new book and how both churches and individuals can benefit from First Freedoms. I can easily recall the… Read more »
The Necessity of ‘First Freedoms’ by Jennifer Barnett
Many Christians feel disengaged with God, and Jennifer Barnett’s First Freedoms can help them reengage to form a wholehearted prayer life. I wrote First Freedoms… Read more »
Abiding with Christ in Humility
We want intimacy with God, but our fear and pride keep us distant. Christ shows us how to abide with him in humility. Read, watch,… Read more »
What does Hebrews 4:12 mean?
This is probably among the most-quoted verses in the Bible, and a highlight of the book of Hebrews.
To this point, chapter 4 has explained why Christians ought to put our best efforts into fulfilling God’s will. Israel failed to trust in God at the borders of Canaan (Numbers 13—14), which led to an entire generation wandering the desert, rather than finding their “rest” in the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:16–17). Just as God rested only when His creative work was done (Hebrews 4:3–4), so too we can only “rest” in our greatest possible heavenly rewards if we “hold fast” our faith to the end (Hebrews 3:6). This means completing the work God has given us to do (Hebrews 3:10-–11). This is not about salvation, which is guaranteed to all who trust in Christ (John 6:39–40). Rather, this is about the heavenly rewards we stand to gain—or lose—on the basis of our trust in and obedience to God (Revelation 2:26–27).
Given the context of this passage, loaded with Old Testament references, this is clearly about the written Scriptures. Specifically, that the ultimate measuring stick for our obedience to God is His Word. Hebrews 3:12 warns Christians to “take care” against having a heart of unbelief. The only way to properly diagnose this condition is with the Bible.
The imagery used here in Hebrews is popular, but easily misunderstood by a modern reader. The Greek word translated “sword” is machairan, often used generically for a “sword” or “dagger” in the New Testament. However, the same word is also used to describe the blade wielded by Peter in Gethsemane (John 18:10). To modern eyes, Peter’s weapon was less of a soldier’s sword and more of a large fisherman’s knife. In fact, a fisherman’s machairan was primarily meant for cutting flesh—unlike true military “swords” which were tougher but less razor-sharp.
Whether military “sword” or meat-cutter’s “knife,” this perspective makes the metaphor of this verse all the more vivid. The “sword” is said to separate the “joints and marrow,” probably a reference to tendons, ligaments, and other meaty parts. These are from the Greek words harmōn and myelōn. These tissues are hidden away, hard to reach, and seemingly indistinguishable. A sharp blade, such as a machairan, can uncover and separate these things.
In the same way, the Word of God can even separate spiritual things which seem completely intertwined, such as the soul and spirit. This is not meant to be literal, as the Bible often uses these terms interchangeably. Rather, this is a graphic explanation of how completely God’s Word can distinguish between the godly and ungodly. To man, the soul and spirit seem indistinguishable, but the Word of God can—metaphorically—even discern between these. This incredible “cutting” power of Scripture is therefore a tool to separate our very thoughts into good and evil.
The Bible provides everything we need to know the difference between truly selfless, spiritual deeds, and acts which are actually selfish and ungodly (Matthew 7:21–23). Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees describes how outwardly pious behavior itself is not always obedience (Matthew 23). It is possible to read the Word and yet fail to follow God’s will, due to rebellion (2 Peter 3:16) or pride (John 5:39–40).
The context of this verse is crucial. Verse 11 warned Christians to strive to obey God, lest we lose our heavenly rewards. Here in verse 12 we are reminded that the Word gives us all the power we need to learn the true will of God (Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:9). Verse 13 will point out that God’s judgment is impossible to escape: nobody is beyond His sight (2 Corinthians 5:10). Even so, only in Christ do we find a God who truly understands our failures (Hebrews 4:14–16).
Hebrews 4:1–13 reassures Christians that they have not missed their opportunity to enjoy the ”rest” promised by God. Chapter 3 warned about the dangers of losing faith and disobeying God. In this passage, the writer points out that psalmists like David, who came long after Moses, encouraged Israel to obtain God’s rest ”today.” Since God’s rest on the seventh day of creation came only after His work was done, and Israel only suffered loss when they failed to complete their assigned work, Christians should strive to complete the work given them by God, in order to obtain the greater heavenly rewards. The most potent tool we have in this effort is the razor-sharp Word of God.
In Hebrews chapter 4, the author refines the theme of chapter 3. An entire generation of Israel lost out on their inheritance of the Promised Land due to a lack of faith. Here, the author points out that the rest promised by God is still offered, through Christ. The razor-sharp truth of the Word of God will separate what is truly spiritual from what is faithless. We should make every effort to obtain our inheritance in Christ, which is something separate from our eternal salvation. We can also be confident, knowing Jesus can uniquely sympathize with our temptations and sufferings
The Message of ‘First Freedoms’ by Jennifer Barnett
Jennifer Barnett gives an overview of her new book and how both churches and individuals can benefit from First Freedoms.
Ican easily recall the very first day the message of First Freedoms was taught at my church. Men and women arrived, looking to know God more and gain tools for a stronger prayer life.
As we dove into the first chapters of the book, I saw a hopeful vulnerability as layers of performance, guilt, disappointment, and confusion disappeared, and for the first time many of the participants developed a hunger to abide with God.
This hunger led not only to deeper personal prayer lives, but it fortified community as many stepped into prayer times with one another. God even led some to serve in prayer ministry long-term as they sought to offer the renewal they had experienced to others. They had encountered God and desired to make that the standard in their daily lives with their friends, family, and community.
I’ve had the privilege of praying with thousands of people over the last twenty-five years. They were seeking God but had not been taught how to pray or draw near to him. They feared their lack of relationship with God was insurmountable and they were destined to be distant and disappointed.
The effects of that deficit had produced half-hearted disciples of Christ.
They knew much about him but did not truly know him.
But they wanted to know him, and they longed for that relationship that seemed to be out of reach. They had years of residue from lives at a distance from God, with strongholds built that ultimately kept them from communion. They simply did not know how to encounter him in prayer.
I wrote First Freedoms in response to this need for wholehearted disciples.
In this post I explain the aims of the book, give an overview of the three main sections of the book, and finally share how First Freedoms has impacted several pilot groups who studied it.
The Aims of First Freedoms
Many Christians have never learned profound truths such as how Christ came to bring freedom (Gal. 5) or that God searches and knows us (Ps. 139:1), not to bring condemnation but healing and right relationship.
I wrote this book in response to many leaders and friends who asked for a devotional Bible study that would:
- Thoroughly examine the concepts of abiding, freedom, and inner healing while stressing these tools as foundational in one’s daily devotional life.
- Supplement the ministry of Freedom Prayer teams globally by offering a devotional study that can support a growing culture of prayer and freedom in a church.
- Advocate for the inclusion of Freedom Prayer teams and training in local churches to meet the fast-growing needs facing church leaderships in the areas of brokenness, sin, struggling, and wounding as well as the resulting mental health crisis and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Offer key tools that are essential to basic disciple-making in the areas of prayer and communion with God so prayer takes it rightful place in the process of growing healthy followers of Jesus.
First Freedoms Overview
The book consists of three sequential parts that will support a healthy prayer life.
- Part 1 introduces “Connection,” which explains how attaching to God as Father is foundational for further growth.
- Part 2 offers a “Core” lens and tools to allow God to search and know truly one’s heart and remove anything that would block wholehearted relationship.
- Part 3 dives into the “Culmination” of a healthy abiding prayer life with goals in the mature Christian walk; it also explores complex themes that can hinder even seasoned followers of Christ.
Part 1: The Connection
First Freedoms intentionally begins with how we can connect with God.
From the beginning of our Christian journey, we are instructed to pray. Many followers of Jesus learn that prayer is a conversation in intimate relationship with God, but they are ill-equipped on how to start that conversation.
Just as we give important people in our lives our time and attention in close proximity, we are to do the same with God. I have met many mature Christians who confess their prayer life is lacking, and it mainly consists of throwing requests into the atmosphere without experiencing the nearness of God—without even knowing if God hears or cares about their requests.
Part 1 addresses this problem of Christians not knowing God in close relationship. I address communing with God and how to prepare our spiritual eyes and ears for listening to God from a wholehearted posture.
The next chapter presents roadblocks that can hinder our understanding of God as our Father.
Then I outline steps to building a relationship with the Father in personal prayer times.
After this, I examine how our response to God in prayer is often at a significant distance. Finally, I present a lifestyle of abiding in prayer and the fruitfulness that follows in being attached to the Vine.
These Connection pieces are vital and foundational for a healthy follower of Jesus. Learning them can prevent hearing the sobering warning of Jesus: “I never knew you. Away from me” (Matt. 7:23).
Attachment is necessary but often neglected.
When attachment receives the time it deserves, the resulting fruit is not only a deeper connection with God, but a “home base” to return to while dealing with the issues of daily life.
Part 2: The Core
Part 2 focuses on tools to identify the issues that can block a person from the fullness of a relationship with God. These helpful tools allow God full access to all areas of the heart where strongholds are most often found.
Based on Luke 15, Part 2 explores wounding, ungodly beliefs, entanglements, and sin as the key areas of struggle in the Christian journey. We can use this lens to identify the issue and learn of his heart and plan for restoration. Often our personal hinderances and strongholds are felt but hard to identify.
Having this lens with the resulting biblical tools for freedom is transformational.
This Core comes from the core tools of Freedom Prayer, which finds its basis in years of fruitful ministry, as individuals from all over the world have been freed from spiritual hinderances.
It is again foundational to the healthy Christian life, especially as these tools allow an individual to obey the psalmist’s cry to “search me . . . and know [me]” (Ps. 139:23). God designed tools for freedom as a response to that prayer.
For years these tools have transformed individuals, families, churches, and cities as the people of God step into real communion with unbound hearts. I present these tools in prayer that promote freedom and transformation when applied in close connection to God.
Some of these tools include forgiving others, renouncing ungodly beliefs, truly confessing, repenting of sin, and breaking ties with unholy bonds. These tools are the responses to the issues presented in the Luke 15 lens.
Both the lens and tools are framed in a metaphor of tending a landscape of owned property, much like tending one’s heart before God. Weeds, vines, and trash all threaten to choke out abundant life.
Each issue is framed in this language with resulting consequences and outlets to experience not only freedom but tools to continue to walk in that freedom. I also show how to use prayer as a weapon in seasons of spiritual warfare in addition to safeguards and biblical anchors in the battle.
Part 3: The Culmination
Part 3 is the culmination of the first two parts of the book. It addresses areas that can affect even the most mature believer. I wrote Part 3 because leaders requested help in areas that can cause stumbling in an otherwise steady Christian walk.
Christians not only need biblical truths to navigate these areas but steps in prayer to remove any lasting residue or distortions from these areas of struggle.
I discuss laying aside burdens and casting crowns at Jesus’ feet. When we carry things we shouldn’t, even good things, a seasoned believer can become heavy with weights they were never meant to carry. Identity can get slightly off-center when one’s accolades and calling define worth.
I also speak on the nearness and goodness of God in the midst of tragedy.
Suffering produces fruit that cannot be harvested elsewhere, but prayer is vital to keeping truth in the most trying of circumstances.
Finally, I explain how holding holy authority and displaying God’s glory are natural outcomes and goals of being deeply rooted in all three sections of First Freedoms.
Connection and navigating freedom from issues discussed in the Core should produce disciples who are not just doing spiritual maintenance, but who are thriving with a heart purposed on God. Freedom is necessary but not the end goal. The glory of God is preeminent in a life that is Spirit-led.
How Churches and Leaders Can Use First Freedoms
I designed First Freedoms to be explored in both an individual and group context. This means working through each chapter in a personal devotional time, while simultaneously exploring the material in a group setting.
This can be done in a Sunday school class, a Bible study, or a small group. There is great benefit to “owning” the material and practicing the steps in personal prayer but even greater benefit to walking these truths with a transparent, connected community.
Applying First Freedoms in a church setting has a proven impact.
It is an invitation to connecting with God and sharpening tools for freedom in prayer. It offers practical steps to grow a personal prayer life, while also diving deeply into these themes for seasoned believers. The book takes the head knowledge of God and partners it with biblical instructions that urge a “tending” of the heart.
When used in a church, First Freedoms equipped individuals with a desire to pray more and to pray effectively. They received steps that bolstered their own devotional time.
In churches where Freedom Prayer ministry already existed, First Freedoms participants were more likely to sign up for a prayer time. They learned in a safe context the gift of seeking God together with transparent hearts that produced true community.
Being known by God and one another is a longing of the human heart, which is easily found in the context of First Freedoms.
Finally, First Freedoms propelled many participants into greater discipleship in their homes and personal relationships.
The tools are easily adapted for use with children and small groups, with many participants reporting success in their families and community gatherings in regard to praying and bearing well with one another. They had tools for freedom that were accessible.
For churches with existing Freedom Prayer ministries, the book continued the conversation and allowed newcomers to experience these concepts. The culture of the church continued to grow in these necessary areas of prayer, which is a hallmark for healthy disciples of Christ.
Connect to God and One Another
The church finds itself currently as a house for the walking wounded, many who have been spiritual orphans for quite some time. The physical isolation mandated in the last few years only uprooted a longstanding emotional and spiritual isolation from true fellowship with God and other followers of Jesus.
By offering both “Personal Communion” and “Community Connection” sections of response, First Freedoms offers solutions to this problem of isolation. Connection to God and one another is foundational to gospel community and Christian maturity, and First Freedoms aims to provide a grid for both.
Outcomes of First Freedoms
Many of my conversations with church leaders begin with their honest need for help in the areas of discipling a culture into prayer and a toolset to responding to the roadblocks that hinder spiritual growth.
First Freedoms, both in content and format, can assist with these areas of need both on an individual level and in community, providing a natural solution for the problem of isolation from God and one another.
It deposits a lens not only to see one’s individual blocks from abiding with God, but that lens translates to understanding other people.
First Freedoms provides tools to tending one’s heart before God, which then leads to tending well to the hearts of others.
Prayer becomes first and foundational as the vitalizing piece in personal discipleship that positively affects all other areas of ministry and relationship. The church desperately needs practical tools to invite this shift from followers of Jesus who just know about him to those who have been transformed by him and walk in abiding freedom.
First Freedoms provides the roadmap to help grow healthy disciples.
My heart is to see believers walk in spiritual freedom and reach the full potential of their relationship with God. As believers do this, the church becomes a place where prayer is central, and the community is free. Free people free other people. When the people of God are near to God, others will be drawn close too. First Freedoms is a great tool to help achieve these necessary goals for a healthy church. Encourage your church leaders to pick up this book and begin your church’s journey of experiencing wholehearted prayer lives.