Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time  Read more


God’s love is so amazing. It is constant and unfailing. And, amazingly, it is also triumphant. Not only will it endure all circumstance, it will overcome all circumstances: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not merely conquerors; we are more than conquerors. What can this mean?

The Greek word for “conquer” is hypernikao, a compound word made up of ‘hyper’ (“more, above, beyond”) and niko (“to conquer or prevail”). The term is a unique one, occurring nowhere in the Bible but this particular verse. It has no single-word counterpart in English, so we must cobble together two or three words to get the sense of what it means. Scholars have tried such phrases as “overwhelmingly conquerors” and “beyond conquering,” but my favourite by far is “more than conquerors.” Many of the more recent translations contain that familiar phrase. 

But let’s try another one: “hyper-conquerors.” If has a modern ring to it and suggests the idea of a new league of superheroes — “The Hyper-Conquerors”! I think I like it. Let’s try it out on what Paul is telling us:

    • In the midst of all these things that try to bring us down (tribulation, distress, persecution, you name it), we are hyper-conquerors.
    • When facing any problems that life can dish out — you are a hyper-conqueror.
    • In struggling with that problem you’re worrying about this very day, which is ____________ (fill in the blank), you are a hyper-conqueror.

The very term lifts our spirits and seems to infuse us with a ray of hope. But there’s more to being a hyper-conqueror than just emotional hype. If we were merely conquerors, we would have nothing to complain about. We would neutralize the forces that opposed us. We would prevail. But as more than conquerors, whatever comes against us actually ends up working in our favour. Every difficulty that challenges us finally serves to prove the love of God, from which nothing can separate us. When those evils lie in chaotic rubble, God’s love stands high and unfazed like an immoveable monolith.

How does this work in real life? Here’s a story that gives us the answer.

During his reign of terror, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini turned his war machine on Ethiopia and expelled all the Christian missionary there. Christians everywhere began praying immediately. The answer came in two waves: first, in the protection of the expelled missionaries; and second, in reopening the doors of Ethiopia to the Gospel after the military pride of Italy lay broken in the dust and Mussolini was executed by his own countrymen. 

But during the missionaries’ absence, the Word of God multiplied in Ethiopia, and the returning missionaries found a larger, stronger church than the one they left. One group, the United Presbyterian Mission, had only sixty believers when the missionaries were expelled. On their return, the sixty had grown to thirty churches with a membership of sixteen hundred! These believers were more than conquerors.

With God’s love holding us when evils attack, we don’t merely prevail; we turn every dramatic event to our advantage. We feed on adversity and grow stronger. The greater the problem, the more we gain wisdom, spiritual power, and maturity. That’s what it means to be a hyper-conqueror. 

Nothing is meaningless in the world of the believer. Everything has a purpose; and in a world ruled by a loving God, the purpose is always to use every encounter to shape us into the perfect image of our Lord. Every difficulty will be turned to our favour and help us to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). Or, in Paul’s words, to become more than conquerors. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Thirty

Let’s end this lengthy series of blogs with the fact that God invites us to join Him on an amazing adventure in life.

God walked with Adam and Eve in he Garden of Eden, and He has been walking and talking to His people ever since.

The Christian life is frequently called a walk, and believers are exhorted to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). In fact, Jesus called Himself “the Way,” (John 14:6) thereby underlining the journeying nature of our relationship with Him.

To walk before Him is to lead a life of devotion to Him. We all know what it is for two friends to walk together, engaged in close and intimate conversation. Having a devoted relationship with someone is an adventure which is full of surprises.

The Bible singles out one of two men in particular by saying, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24). (The only other man in the entire Bible to hold this distinction is Noah). What did Enoch do that placed him in this exclusive God-recognized Hall of Fame?

We know little about Enoch, other than the fact the he lived for 365 years, bore Methuselah and was then translated from life to heaven, thus passing over death. Apparently God honoured him because he walked pleasingly before the Lord. He was an individual who realized he was always under the seeing eye of God. His life was a life of communion with God. 

Most parents talk with their children all of the time or, at least, on a regular basis. Why wouldn’t our heavenly Father desire to talk to His children? The truth of the matter is that we would not expect our children to know what we wanted them to do if we did not talk to them. So then, why would God feel any different?

We have to be willing to trust God and have faith in Him even when we do not understand His ways. Sometimes we do not know the meaning of what God says until we look back later in life.

The way God thinks is far beyond the way we think. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Even if God’s thoughts surpass ours, and we do not always understand His ways, God wants us to get to know His ways! That’s why we should intentionally listen for His voice.

We learn to hear the voice of the Lord through practice and obedience. Sometimes we may feel discouraged trying to discern between the Lord’s voice, the enemy’s voice, others’ voices, and our own voices. Sometimes it may seem like we are listening to a radio station with a weak signal, while a few other stations continue to fade in and out; but, as we continue to listen to the voice of our Shepherd, we will learn the difference between the voices.

When I read in Acts that Paul and Silas were trying to go into Bithynia and were being prevented by the Spirit, it was life-changing for me. Without knowing the full scope of God’s plan, they obeyed the Spirit’s voice and went in another direction. It turned out that the Holy Spirit had greater plans for Paul and Silas that they did not recognize at the time.

Taking this biblical example, I was no longer afraid to take steps of faith. I knew I could trust the Lord to keep me from going places that were not in His perfect plan for me. I could trust Him to lead me with His divine direction and in faith step out into God’s plan.

Some of God’s people spend their lives in so much fear of making a mistake that they never really do anything. There are times when it is much better to do something, rather than continue to do nothing. Without faith it is impossible to please God. We cannot trust in our own abilities but we can trust in His ability because Christ lives in us.

Jesus honoured whatever His Father said, no matter what the personal cost, and it cost Him His life. We will not hear the Lord’s voice clearly if we only listen to God when what He says is not going to cost us anything, or if we only listen when He tells us what we want to hear.

We must be willing to lay aside our own desires or we may miss a clear word from the Lord. Our natural inclination tends to manipulate things to work the way we want them to work. 

We need to be open to messages that God may send through people who love us and are praying for us. God wants us to stay humble and always be ready to hear from Him whichever way He chooses to speak.

We can learn some valuable insights on hearing from God from George Mueller, a man of faith from 19th-century England. Here are some of his suggestions:

I seek at the beginning to get my heart in such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter … Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will whatever it may be. … Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions. I will seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God … If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them … Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit. I ask God through prayer to reveal His will to me aright … Thus, through prayer to God, the study of His Word, and reflection, I come to deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after to or three petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters and in transactions involving more important issues, I find this method effective.

But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, of if I preferred the counsel of my fellow man to the declaration of the Word of the living God, I make great mistakes.

Even after many years of practicing God’s presence, Mr. Muller admitted that he still made mistakes in hearing from God. There is no fool-proof method to hearing. 

So, we should live expectantly, and expect to hear from God! The psalmist directed his prayers to God expecting an answer, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5;3). God wants us to make our first petitions to Him each day as we live in expectancy of an answer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” When we seek God, He promises to answer — of that we can be sure.

Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), says that has has found three simple steps that have helped him and thousands of others to hear God’s voice:

SUBMIT to His Lordship. Ask Him to help you silence your own thoughts, desires, and the opinions of others which may be filling your mind (2 Corinthians 10:5). Even though you have been given a good mind to use, you want to hear the thoughts of the Lord who has the best mind (Proverbs 3:5-6).

RESIST the enemy in case he is trying to deceive you. Use the authority that Jesus Christ has given you to silence the voice of the enemy (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:1-20).

EXPECT an answer. After asking the question that is on your mind, wait for Him to answer. Expect your loving heavenly Father to speak to you, and He will (John 10:27; Psalm 69:13; Exodus 33:11). 

Hearing from God is a journey. After many years of listening for His voice, I still sometimes make mistakes in hearing clearly. But I am still learning, and you will too! Just as a young baby quickly learns to know his daddy’s voice, you will learn to hear God’s voice as you love Him and obey Him. 

My prayer for you is that you will experience the Lord and hear His voice in a whole new dimension as you continue your life-long walk with Jesus. Let’s together fulfill the Lord’s purpose for our lives as we look forward to His return. May the Lord bless you richly as you listen to the Lord speak to you and experience the joy of obeying His voice. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Nine

The Bible tells us we all “know in part…” (1 Corinthians 13:9). God rarely given one person the entire perspective.

It is not a weakness in our relationship with the Lord when we only have a piece of the puzzle. When the Lord speaks to us everything is seldom crystal-clear. We often miss some of the details, and we sometimes make assumptions of what we believe the Lord has spoken.

Sometimes God speaks to our spirit, but our soul (mind, will, and emotions) gets entangled with our inner voice. We get a message that is not completely from the Lord. Sometimes what we hear is partially the Lord and is at the same time partially us.

People often ask me, “How do I find the destiny the Lord has called me to? I just do not have a complete picture of what the Lord is saying.” Some people spend many years waiting to hear a voice from heaven or wait until they receive supernatural direction. Many never receive it.

I believe we must step out in faith, and God will lead us from there. You may need to be moving if you want God to show you which way to go. It is much easier to steer a moving vehicle than a parked on. So, step out in faith. Get in motion. The Lord tells us, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure” (Proverbs 16:9). He leads one step at a time; and if you take one step forward and it’s the wrong way, He will let you know before you go too far. Step out in faith and find out which doors God will open for you and which ones He will close.

A suggestion: Taking small, slow steps at first will prevent us from falling so hard if we are wrong! We can stick our toes in the water to test the water, do to speak. Take one small step of faith. If God opens the door, then take another step. If He closes the door, then back off. Try another direction, or wait a while; but always keep praying and then step out again.

Even the parents of Jesus had to made some adjustments in their direction until they had it right. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take baby Jesus  back to Israel. So Joseph headed in that direction, but on the way was frightened to hear that the new king was Herod’s son who also wanted to kill Jesus. Then  in another dream Joseph was warned not to go to Judea, so he went to Galilee instead, and lived in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Joseph and Mary were not sure what steps they should take, but they took one step at a time. The Lord knows that He could overwhelm us by revealing the whole plan at once, We might be frightened and not take the first step.. Consequently, He leads us just one step at a time so we can handle it.

God doesn’t push us out into the cold with only a map in our hands. He leads us by providing His Holy Spirit to guide us. He wants us to keep our eyes on Him, and then follow alongside Him one step at a time.

Paul, the apostle, as intimate as he was with God, did not always hear the entire message from the Lord all at one time. He had to take one step at a time. On one apostolic journey, he and his companions were making their way toward Ephesus, but God stopped them. Then he started northward, and came to Troas. Finally, Paul had a dream and saw a man pleading with him to come to Macedonia which was where God wanted him. Many came to Christ there (Acts 16). This is an example of incremental guidance where Paul heard God’s voice in part, and step by step he discovered the way God wanted him to go,

Abraham is another example of someone who trusted God to lead him one step at a time. His story in Genesis 12:1 describes the start of his faith journey. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” God gave Abraham step one. He implied that he wasn’t getting step two or three until he had accomplished step one. This sounds like common sense, but it is so true: God usually gives us His direction one step at a time.

Many people run into a problem here. They refuse to take step one until they think they understand the next steps. If we know all the steps ahead of time, there is no need for faith. Understanding this truth that His will is usually revealed to us one step at a time will build our confidence to do what we already know to do — step out. After we take the first few steps, our faith will really begin to grow.

At times, we are stretched in faith as we step out to do things that we do not have any experience at or are not comfortable doing at first. I am convinced that no one is instantly a spiritual giant who takes great steps of faith in the beginning. Faith grows and develops through experience.

Trust is so important when we take those “faith steps.” Did you ever ask God to supply a financial need and God came through, but only at the last moment? I think the Lord sometimes gives us what we need at the very last moment because faith grows by stretching.

Faith is the bottom line when it comes to learning to hear the voice of the Lord. The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). A weatherman uses radar and satellite to predict a storm coming. He is sure the storm is coming, but he cannot prove it because it has not yet physically arrived. When the storm comes it is no longer faith, but reality. Once we have a manifestation of what we desire in our circumstance, we no longer need faith in that area. But unto we hear God’s voice, we need faith!

The Bible says that the natural man does not understand the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:13-14). This means that our reasoning mind often does not understand our spiritual mind which is the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16b). The Holy Spirit reveals things to us when we are ready to handle them. If He revealed everything that’s wrong with us at once, we would be crushed. 

We learn, through maturing in Christ, that if our heart is right, and we trust and obey the Lord when He speaks, God will honour our steps of obedience. We may make mistakes but God will  take our mistakes and turn them around for good. The fact that everything works towards our good does not mean it will always feel good or that we will enjoy the process. His Word says that He makes “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) and we can trust His Word.

After serving the Lord for many years, I am totally convinced that it is more difficult to get out of His will than we often think. If we do stray off course, He will reach out in love and nudge us back on track.

It is easier than we think it is to hear the voice of the Lord. We really have to stop trying so hard; in fact, God’s Word says, “The servant of the Lord must not strive” (2 Timothy 2:24).

Relax and enjoy your relationships with the Lord. Remember, His sheep hear His voice. He is our Shepherd and when we begin to get off track, He reaches out with His staff and guides us back on the right track. The key is for us to stay submissive to His will and voice. I have found that if what I am sensing is from God, it stays with me for a period of time.

We certainly need to discern the Lord’s voice carefully, but let’s not over-spiritualize hearing from God. If God has something to say to us, don’t worry, He knows how to get His point across. It is our responsibility to listen with expectancy and test what we hear.

It appears that the “normal” method of operations between David and God was for David to do what was in his heart, and God promised He would be with him. This is reflected in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he will give you the desires and leveret petitions of your heart.”

This works two ways: first, He gives us what we long for; but secondly, He also places a longing in our hearts for things He wants us to have. David, however, never assumed that God’s direction for one day would be the same for the next day. He listened for the Lord’s instructions for each battle he fought (1 Chronicles 14).

Philippians 2:13 says it similarly, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” God places desires within us to lead us in the way He wants us to go.

God is at work in our lives, teaching us to listen and then obey the voice of the Lord. Most Christians never have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus as Paul did on his way to Damascus. Even Paul didn’t always experience the heavens opening up or angels appearing every time God spoke to him. We are led by His Spirit speaking to our spirits every day of our lives. 

Let’s continue to listen to the Lord, recognize that He speaks to us because of His wonderful grace, all the while realizing that we are only hearing a part of the whole message. He may want to speak more to us, and He may want to use another method to speak. This keeps us dependant on our growing relationship with Him. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Eight

There are times it seems the Lord is nowhere to be found. He is silent. Our prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling and bouncing back. We feel far from God — like we have entirely lost our way. God is silent. But, we need to learn to hear God when He is silent. Every Christian goes through these silent seasons – called “the dark night of the soul” – when God seems absent and the Lord is silent and apparently no where to be found

You are not alone. Jesus understands how you feel. He cried out in anguish on the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken Me?” Even Jesus knew His Father’s silence.

Sometimes we fail to hear from God because we are not paying attention, but what about those times when we really are listening but somehow we can no longer sense Him speaking? At times God’s reasons for being silent are to get our attention so we can receive clear spiritual direction that will go to the core of our being. He silence may occur when He is poised to do His deepest work in our lives.

We should not fear God’s silence because it really is a reminder that we need Him so desperately. When He is silent and life seems dark, it often motivates us to place our full trust in God. We pay more attention when we are lost in the woods! God may be building our character so we can be more effective in His Kingdom. In the darkness of God’s silence, we are reminded of what we are missing.

Bob Mumford once said, “I do not trust anyone unless he walks with a limp.” I agree with him. He was referring to Jacob, who during a time of great trial in his life, wrestled with God, demanding His blessing. He was touched in his thigh and did in fact receive the Lord’s blessing. But from that day on, he walked with a limp. When God lovingly deals with us in the difficult times, we walk with a spiritual limp the rest of our lives. This is the stuff of which true spiritual men and women of God are made.

Peter was a disciple who ”walked with a limp.” Zealous and brash, he denied Jesus, but later experienced God’s complete acceptance, forgiveness, and restoration and became a true father in the faith.

The Bible is filled with examples of those who started with an exciting experience of hearing from the Lord, refused to quit when God was silent, and consequently experienced great fruitfulness because they kept their confidence and trust in the Lord.

The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is one of the best. After having a dream that his brothers would bow down to him, he encountered trial after trial. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, lied about by his employers wife, imprisoned while innocent, forgotten in prison, only to become second in command of all of Egypt overnight! Although it must have felt to him that God had left him in prison to die, he entered the stage of great fruitfulness as he refused to give up during the difficult seasons of his life.

God used this stage of testing in Joseph’s life to examine his character. God gave him an attitude check, and he passed the test. He could then be a blessing to his brothers who had severely mistreated him in the past. Many quit during the test period, when the Lord seems to stop speaking, and never experience the stage of fruitfulness the Lord has planned for them.

The Lord is much more concerned about what He is doing in you than about your reaching your goals. He wants you to depend on Him and on His power in the here and now. Oswald Chambers once said, “If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish — His purpose is the process itself.” God’s silence will reveal our true attitudes toward God by showing us what’s really in our hearts and then giving us the opportunity to fully trust in His power as we persevere.

While it is true that God sometimes is silent due to no fault of our own because He is simply developing within us a depth of character and a deeper trust in Him, at other times He is silent due to disobedience in our lives. King David once said, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18 NLT). Sin alienates us from God, and creates a barrier to hearing from Him. In times like these, God’s silence may be an act of judgment. 

In the days of Samuel the prophet, the priests were ungodly men, and the Bible says, “the word of the Lord was rare” (1 Samuel 3:1). God refused to speak because these rebellious priests misrepresented God to the people. God’s silence was a stamp of disapproval on the behaviour of the priests. Because they didn’t hear God’s voice for a period of time, the people because hungry to hear it again. God’s silence paved the way for Samuel to be heard as God’s spokesperson.

If we cannot hear God’s voice because God is chastising us with His silence, we must examine ourselves to see what is hindering us from hearing.

How do we discover what it is that God wants to show us? 

There its a story in the Old Testament that gives us some insight. A man was cutting down a tree by the river when his iron ax head fell into the water. An ax head was a very expensive tool, and the man desperately wanted to retrieve it because it was borrowed. He went to Elisha, a man of God, for help. Elisha asked where he had last seen it fall, threw a stick on the water, and it miraculously floated to the surface (2 Kings 6:1-6). At the same place that it was lost, the ax head reappeared.

We can learn an important lesson from this. Whenever we have problems with finding direction from God in our lives, it is often helpful to go back to where we were certain we last heard the voice of the Lord clearly. If we do not go back, we may continue to flounder.

If we find ourselves in a spiritual wasteland and wandering aimlessly, it is not the end of the world. The Bible says that the Lord is able to “restore … the years that the wandering locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). God offers hope if we are experiencing His silence because of sin in our lives. If we have lost our spiritual way, the Bible says we must, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do that things you did at first…” (Revelation 2:5). Repentance takes us back tp the place where we last heard from God. Restoration comes as the Lord gives us a new start.

As mentioned before, God’s silence is not always linked to sin in our lives. Sometimes, He is just teaching us to wait on Him and trust in His faithfulness. When God is silent, we must choose to trust His silences, quite ourselves and wait on Him. Listen to Isaiah’s words about God waiting for us to be silent: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.The Lord waits to be gracious to you … blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:15, 18).

Remember, roots grow deep into the earth during times of drought to find water and to give the tree a better foundation. Times of God’s silence prepare us for future storms.

In addition to God’s silence of waiting, He also speaks to us in the silence of His love. Zephaniah, the prophet, describes the silence of His love. “He will be quiet in His love” (Zephaniah 3:17 NAS). Sometimes the deepest sorrows and the highest joys are best shared in silence.

God is silent because words will distract from the love and care God is conveying to us in His quietness.

If you are gong through time in your life where God seems distant, pray for wisdom to interpret the silences. Whether He is silent to test you, judge you, or quiet you in His love, He always intends that you put your trust in Him so He can do a deep work in you. You can trust Him.

When God is silent it doesn’t mean that He is absent. King David, on more than one occasion, felt abandoned by God. Yet despite the silence, David knew he was never out of God’s sight. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7, 9-10).

God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Hs silence should be our cue to hunger and thirst after Him even more. His silence is a reminder of what we are missing. Painful dry spells drive us closer to Him. Is has been well said, “Never forget in the dark what you have learned in the light.”

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Seven

God speaks through practicing His presence. God is never away from you. He is continually present in your life.

As a Christian, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and God takes up permanent residence there. God wants you to live daily in His presence. He longs for you to open your spiritual ears to hear Him speak as you walk through your daily life. How is it possible to live minute by minute in the presence of God?

Living minute by minute in the presence of God takes practice. It involves learning to open your spiritual ears. When he realized that he could continually be in the presence of God, Max Lucado recalls how it revolutionized his life:

For years I viewed God as a compassionate CEO and my role as a loyal sales representative. He had His office, and I had my territory. I could contact Him as much as I wanted. He was always a phone or fax away. He encouraged me, rallied behind me, and supported me, but He didn’t go with me. At least I didn’t think He did. Then I read 1 Corinthians 6:1: “We are God’s fellow workers.”

Fellow workers? Colabourers? God and I work together? Imagine the paradigm shift this truth creates. Rather than report to God, we work with God. Rather than check in with Him and then leave, we check in with Him and then follow. We are always in the presence of God. We never leave church. There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes.               (Max Lucado, “Just Like Jesus,” page 59

The Lord says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) God wants us to experience His presence and continually maintain a God-consciousness. Daily, we can enjoy unceasing communion with God, finding in Him all that we need all of the time.

Since “being still” is a presence of mind — a state of rest in the Lord, it does not necessarily mean you have to find a solitary place and shut everything else out, although there are times this is necessary. It is possible to experience God’s presence in the daily routines of every day life.

I believe that practicing the presence of God can take place in the midst of your routine as you learn to tune your spirit to loving the Lord with your whole heart, soul, and mind. When you want to please God in your thoughts, words, and deeds, your will becomes united with God’s will. This affects your attitude as you loves God with no other motive than to love Him and listen for His voice.  

Brother Lawrence, a monk from the seventeenth century, known for his book The Practice of the Presence of God, said, “We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.” Brother Lawrence described this continuous practice of His presence as a “quiet, familiar conversation with Him”. (Pages 49, 80)

The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was to simply do his ordinary work. He did this obediently, out of a pure love of God, purifying it as much as was humanly possible. He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other. He said, “I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God.”  (Pages 24, 80)

Walking in the loving presence of God daily and making each day one continuous prayer can be compared to the biblical challenge to “pray with our ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But how is it possible to fellowship with God continuously? Can it become as natural as breathing? I believe it can. But for that to happen we must learn to listen. 

For most, listening is an ability that must be developed by practice. If you are a born talker, you never had to work hard at making conversation; but you may have had to make an effort to listen intentionally.

According to Hebrews 5:11-14, sometimes our hearing becomes dulled because we are not listening to or obeying the truth we already know. The writer of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament expressed his disappointment with the Hebrew Christians because they had not grown up spiritually and learned to hear God’s voice for themselves and then to obey the voice of God. 

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Babies are not ready for solid food. They need to grow first. As spiritual babies grow and mature, they eventually learn to hear and obey God’s voice. The Lord does not reveal everything to baby Christians at once; He explains things to them as they are able to understand. If they obey the truth they have, the Lord will be able to reveal new truths he wants them to know.

God will tell us the way to go, but then we have to do the walking, one step of obedience at a time. The Bible states, “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). Start right where you are and learn to enjoy practicing His presence in simple faith.

Jesus gave His life for us on the cross two thousand years ago. He paid the price for us to experience a loving relationship with our heavenly Father. Practicing His presence in our lives each day is about nurturing a love-filled relationship with Him that lasts forever!

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Six

God can and does speak through signs. Sometimes we just need to know if we are on the right track, so we ask the Lord to confirm His will be giving us a sign.

Did you ever lack direction for your life and just didn’t know what to do, so you picked up your Bible, flipped it open and pointed at a verse? This is an example of attempting to heat God’s voice by asking for a special message or sign from Him.

Or, if you are having trouble hearing from God, we may attempt to put God to the test, so to speak, to make sure that God is speaking to us. This kind of attempt to hear God’s voice by asking for a specific sign is often called “laying out a fleece.” We get this term from Gideon’s experience in the Bible.

In Judges we read the story about Gideon desiring a sign and leaving out a fleece before the Lord for confirmation and direction. Gideon wanted to be doubly sure that what God said was really what God wanted him to go. Gideon said to God, 

“ “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew” (Judges 6:36-40).

Notice that Gideon sill wasn’t sure about the first sign and asked the Lord to do the reverse of the sign to confirm it. He wanted to be sure it was really God speaking to him. I believe this shows that if we resort to fleeces, we should receive confirmation in other ways to be sure we are receiving clear direction from the Lord. 

Without a doubt, God used signs to speak dramatically throughout the history of humankind. In Genesis, He sent a well-known sign that took the form of a rainbow. This sign was a promise of God’s covenant between Himself and every living creature on earth.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:12-15a).

On another occasion, God sent a supernatural sign that stopped time. The sun stood still for a day so the Israelites could fight and win a battle. Only God could manage such a feat, causing the Israelites to recognize that God was on their side.

“At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,

and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14).

We should use caution and not become dependant on those kinds of signs to hear from God, because they are rather unusual ways to conform His will. Additionally, we should probably not depend on a sign to be the sole factor in making a decision; however, it is clear that the Lord will sometimes honour and answer our request for a sign. 

Someone once said that our goal should “not be to improve our testing of God’s will, but to improve our relationship with God.” God really wants a relationship with you and me that is strong enough so we can understand what He is saying without “testing” Him. We can become spiritually lazy in looking for signs, when we should be learning to listen to and discern God’s voice. If we learn to hear His Spirit’s voice, we will not need to set up a complicated test to see if it is really Him.

There are times that God does not allow Himself to be tested. I believe He understand there are times when we need and desire proof. God recognized this need in Gideon. He knew that in order for Gideon to overcome his fear he needed proof so that he could go to the next level. And God answered Gideon twice with supernatural intrusion into the laws of nature!

The care we have to take in using “fleeces” is that they may consist of varying circumstances that could just as easily take place without any input from God at all! We may say to ourselves, “If this light turns green before I reach the intercession … of if a certain song comes on the radio, God is speaking this or that to me.” We really should accompany this kind of a fleece by Scriptural confirmation and further guidance through prayer.

Nevertheless, sometimes it is appropriate to ask for a sign and God will answer. God responded to Gideon’s lack of faith because He knew Gideon’s heart wanted to obey. If the Lord knows we want to obey, there are times He will strengthen our faith by giving us a sign.

Seeking a sign is certainly a valid way to ask God to speak to us in certain instances, but it should not be used exclusively for hearing from God. God does not always give us the solution to our dilemmas with instant answers, nor should we require Him to. God primarily wants a relationship with us. He invites us to get to know Him and have a close relationship with Him, so we will recognize His voice in the many, many different ways He speaks. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Five

God speaks to us through the unique way He made us … You have your own individual bents, your inherent strengths and preferences, which cause you to have a tendency to hear God’s voice in particular ways. So, we need to recognize He made you the way you are for a reason. You are “wired” for a purpose different than anyone around you. So, it is time to quit comparing and start enjoying the person God has made you to be!

The Scripture tells us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). The “way he should go” in the Hebrew language means “according to his bend.” God wires all of us differently. Individuals have different gifts or ‘bents’ that allow them to hear from God according to the way He has wired them.

We have each been given a purpose from God. If we are to define “purpose,” we would say that it is a goal, the function for which your life was conceived, the plan for which you were designed. A microphone, for example, “was born” with everything it needs to receive sounds and transmit them in the form of electrical impulses to an amplifier. It has inside of it each detail, each electronic component, everything it needs to fulfil the task for which it “was born” — to receive sounds and transmit them.

If, instead of a microphone, I took a can opener and tried to use it to receive and transmit sounds, that can opener would be the unhappiest, the most frustrated, and incompetent object ever heard of. Failure, defeat, and unhappiness would take hold of its “emotions.” It “was not born” to be a microphone. It was “born” to open cans. 

The internal contents of the can opener enable it to fulfill the purpose for which it “was born,” which does not include receiving sounds. If I use the can opener to open cans, it will be a “fulfilled” object, because it “found” the place of the purpose for which it exists.

You were born with all the components, all the traits, all the inclinations to fulfill your purpose in life. Everything you need is already inside you. God conceives His purpose first; then He births it. First of all the prophetic purpose was born in the heart of God. Then, to fulfill it, He called you into being.

When Jeremiah was born. He was already born with all the conditions, with all the heart, with all the inclination, with all the pre-disposition to be a prophet. If Jeremiah had been a musician, he would have been frustrated. If he had been a pastor, he would have been frustrated. If he had been an entrepreneur he would have been frustrated. He was born to be a prophet of God. 

You already have inside of you everything you need to fulfill the high plans of God that will fill your life with harmony and a sense of fulfillment. He is not incoherent. He “manufactured” you. He “knit you together.” Your birth was necessary, and finally you were born bringing inside of you everything you need to fulfill the purpose of God. Your spiritual genetic code had already been designed by the Author of Life.

The purpose of God came before your birth. At the moment that God called the prophet Jeremiah, He said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born. I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). What is God saying here? Is it that He knew you before you are formed? Yes, God knew you ever before you existed! It is hard to fathom, but the things of God are higher than ours; they are higher than our simplistic reasoning. Yet it gets even better. The most incredible part of the verse states that even before the birth of the prophet, he had already been appointed as such. Incredible! And since God has a purpose for each of us, and He has wired each of us differently, He is often speaking to us according to the way we are wired.  

We have each been given different motivational gifts at birth,

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8).

We each have different motivations in life, and the Lord often speaks to us through our personal motivation. For instance, if you have a motivational gift of giving, the Lord will probably speak to you about giving more than the average person, because you just love to give. 

God wants us to enjoy what we are doing. If you cannot hold a tune, the Lord is not calling you to be a worship leader. That would waste your time as well as God’s true call on your life because He has not wired you for musical endeavours. Some people think that if the Lord speaks to them to do something, it will be something they hate doing. This could not be further from the truth! God wired you perfectly to speak to you and fulfill His purpose through you.

You should ask yourself, “What burins in the depths of my spirit? What desire is in there? Am I hungry to learn more, to serve the Kingdom, to be a business owner, to be a pastor, a prophet, an entrepreneur or used in the ministry of helping others?” A great evidence that shows these thoughts are not mere daydreams of your mind is to ask,. “If my heart overflowing with joy and faith when I think about these things?” There is a purpose of God to be fulfilled in your life. God often answers the questions though our natural gifts and abilities. He leads us to our purpose through the natural skills and unique talents He bestows upon us.

God-given gifts are the skills a person easily performs without formal training. For example, many songwriters just sit down and write the music they hear in their heads. Some people are great at organizing, which others are natural counsellors. We derive great pleasure from doing what we are naturally good at doing. God speaks to us through these natural gifts. These natural gifts can obviously be honed and developed with formal training. 

If you are not sure of your purpose in life, just do what you are good at doing, and then watch God confirm you by blessing your endeavours. Do not spend your life trying to do what you are not gifted to do. Genesis 4:20-22 tells us that Jabal was the father of those who raised cattle. His brother Jubal was the father of all the musicians who played the lyre and pipe. His half-brother Tubal-Cain forged instruments made of bronze and iron. They were all different with specific gifts from the Lord.

God keeps our world in balance by giving each of us natural talents and pleasure in doing what needs to be done for the good of everyone around us. Aren’t you glad everyone is not like you? All kinds of gifts and abilities are needed to get God’s job done. God speaks to us through our natural talents and abilities.

Who you get in touch with how God has wired you, it will be a pleasure and not a burden in your life. God will not violate your likes and dislikes. He will work in line with what you like to do. We need to understand that, from the spiritual point of view, our heart desires and leans toward things that, since eternity, God has already brought into line for us to be involved in. 

God has made you uniquely; you are one of a kind. He will speak to you and lead you according to the way He has shaped you for His service. Maybe you are trying to hear from God about your life when in actuality, He is speaking to you already through the way He has made you. Trust those inner leadings and nudges they come from the way God wired you, 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Four

God loves to surprise us! God will sometimes surprise us through an unexpected revelation from Him. By now, it should not surprise us that God has many, many options to speak to us.

Sometimes God will surprise us and speak through something we would never expect. For example, there is a story in the Bible of the Lord speaking through a donkey to Balaam the prophet (Numbers 22:21-34). At the time, Balaam was out of the will of God and trying to walk through a door the Lord had closed to him. So the Lord sent an angel to block Balaam and his donkey from continuing on. The donkey saw the angel, but Balaam did not. That is, until he beat the donkey to try to make it move, and the Lord caused the donkey to talk! Not only were Balaam’s ears opened, but his eyes were opened as well. He saw an angel with his sword drawn in their path. God rebuked the greedy prophet in the quite unusual way to keep him from making a serious mistake. Sometimes God’s surprises will keep us from making the wrong move in our lives. 

Although rare, God may surprise us by speaking through an audible voice. God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments on occasion heard His literal, audible words. We know about Adam, with whom God walked in the Garden of Eden. God also spoke audibly to the prophets, the patriarchs, and Noah. 

In the New Testament , people heard God’s literal voice on a few occasions. Peter, James, and John heard God’s voice during the transfiguration. God spork to Jesus at His baptism, a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

In Acts 9, at Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, Christ spoke directly to him, and those around him also heard Jesus speaking.

It is interesting to note, however, that although the Acts 9 account mentions that others also heard, in Acts 22 when Paul is describing his conversion experience, he says those with him “saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.” Bible scholars attribute this seeming contradiction to the Greek translation of the word “hear” in the first account which actually means they “heard something without understanding.” When Paul describes his experience later, he is referring to the fact that those with him did not ‘discern’ the voice of the Lord. They heard the sound, but couldn’t make out what was being said.

A similar occurrence takes place when Jesus was teaching one day and God spoke audible (John 12:29). Although the disciples heard God’s audible voice and understood exactly what He spoke, some people heard God’s voice as “thunder” and some thought an angel spoke. Apparently most people did not hear discernible languages but only sound of some kind. 

How could people hear the same voice and hear it differently? Could it be that it depended on the spiritual state of the person’s hearing? Not everyone was in a spiritual position to hear the voice as God’s. Some probably thought it was just their imaginations.

Not surprisingly, it is important for us not only to hear, but to hear with understanding. It is quite possible that to hear God’s audible voice, we must be in a position to hear it. Our hearts must be open to hear God just as little Samuel’s was when he finally recognized the voice he was hearing as God’s and responded in childlike faith, “Speak, I’m listening.” In other words, it is easier to discern God’s voice when we are in a close relationships with the Lord, like Samuel who “continually ministered before the Lord.” 

It may surprise you, but God can also speak through unsaved people to get your attention. God spoke through a heathen king of Egypt to send a message to the godly King Josiah, telling him not to go to battle. King Josiah ignored this pagan’s claim to be hearing from God; he went to war anyway and was killed (2 Chronicles 35:20-24). God does not limit Himself only to using Christians or spiritually perfect messengers to communicate with us. When you think about it, if that were the case, He would’t use any of us as His messengers!

Probably the most likely way God will speak to you through a non-Christian is through those who hold positions of authority in your life. For example, God can speak through your unsaved boss, parent, or teacher. 

Discernment is the key to knowing if you are hearing God’s voice through a non-Christian’s message. The truth is, the same goes for hearing God through a godly person. Either way, we have to trust we will recognize the source. Because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us helping us to recognize God’s voice, we usually can discern the advice or message as coming from God or not. 

God loves surprises and wants us to grasp His purpose and message no matter how or through whom He gives it. The Bible encourages us to trust Him to direct us, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left’” (Isaiah 30:21 NAS). He is faithful , and will direct your path one step at a time. God will get us to the place He wants us to go if we tune our ears to hear His voice without preconceived ideas as to how He will speak in different situations. 

Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him … the only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness is expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have.”

Expect the unexpected. At time, God may speak in surprising, dramatic, and unpredictable ways!

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty-Three

The Bible tells us that God sends angels at times to deliver messages to His people. God speaking through such a supernatural occurrence is a more uncommon way for us to hear God, but when angels speak we should listen to what they say. 

God can and will speak to us in every way that He has spoken in the past. I choose to believe God speaks through angels, because of the clear evidence in the Bible which I believe to be the true Word of God.

Today’s culture is fascinated with the topic of angels because it is searching for supernatural and spiritual meaning. We have TV shows, magazine articles, and books taking the topic of angels quite seriously, but most reveal a very poor grasp on what the Bible really teaches about angels. This only adds to the confusion of who holy angels really are and what they do. 

Angels are messengers of God and servants of God and are described in Hebrews as spirits to help and care for those who are to receive His salvation (Hebrews 1:14). They are God’s messengers to protect, provide, proclaim God’s truth or carry out God’s judgments. They are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him and humankind.

Let me begin by saying there are many incidences of angels appearing in the Bible. In both the Old and the New Testament angels were commonplace. Many times angels appeared to guide, comfort, and provide for God’s people as they performed certain tasks. Sometimes they intervened in the affairs of nations or helped people in times of suffering and persecution.

An angel shut the lions’ mouths when Daniel was thrown into their den. An angel appeared to Mary telling her she would bear a son. An angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb. Cornelius was visited by an angel who told him to send to Peter. As a result, Peter was instrumental in leading Cornelius and his whole household to Christ, 

Although holy angels are the messengers of God, the Bible tells us there are also other angels — demons of darkness. God’s holy Angels remain obedient to God and carry out His will, but the fallen angels fell from their holy position and now try everything to thwart God’s purposes here on earth. In his book, “Angels,” Billy Graham describes how some of God’s created angels fell:

“Few people realize the profound part angelic forces play in human events … Satan, or the devil, was once called ‘Lucifer, the song of the morning.’ … When the angel Lucifer rebelled against God and His works, some have estimated that as many as one third of the angelic hosts of the universe may have joined him in his rebellion. Thus, the war that started in heaven continues on earth and will see its climax at Armageddon with Christ and His angelic army victorious.”

God’s holy angels war against the fallen angels on our behalf. And, often the fallen angels win a battle or two such as when Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, experienced a deceptive angel of darkness (Galatians 1:8), not one of God’s angels. The devil, we are told in the Bible, masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). This is why we need to know the Word of God, so we can discern between the real and the counterfeit.

Regardless of our culture’s fascination with angels, we should never contact angels, pray to them, or worship them. In addition to not contradicting the Bible., any action of holy angels will glorify God and be consistent with His character.

If you are a Christian, according to the Bible, you have angels looking out for you. God created angels to help accomplish His work in this world, and they watch over Christians and will assist us because we belong tho God. Psalm 91:11 says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

When Peter was released from prison by an angel and arrived at the door of Mary’s house, the believers meeting there could not believe it was Peter in person but said, “It must be his [guardian] angel” (Acts 12:7-15). Jesus told His followers earlier that those with childlike faith would have the services of angels, “… their angels have constant access to My Father” (Matthew 18:10 LB). As a believer, God provides angels for you because He loves you and will speak comfort and protection to you through His messengers.  

You may not be aware of the present of angels around you and you cannot predict how they will appear. This explains the verse in the Bible that says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Just because you have never seen an angel does not mean angels are not present with you.  

Although Angeles are spirits, they make themselves visible when needed. There have been angelic sightings all over the world. 

John G. Paton, pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. The Patons prayed all during the terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief relied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard — hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them.

Many Christians can recall those times when they were in danger and were miraculously spared. Could it be that, although they saw no angels, their presence helped avert tragedy? Is God trying to get our attention and remind us of His goodness towards us?

Even if we never see an angel physically, we should be aware of how close God’s ministering angels are and sense their presence so we can face each day, trusting God to care for us. Moreover, be sure to be kind to strangers as they could be angels sent from God to speak to you!