SOMETIMES I LACK BOLD OBEDIENCE

Sometimes I Lack Bold Obedience

When I was a young Christian – I had a young family and I made very little money each month

In fact – the amount I earned was totally inadequate to meet the rapidly increasing needs of my young family

The man through whose ministry I was healed and born again was in the area still and so I went to listen and receive

The time for the offering came and I asked God what I was to give – He said $100.00

I had $150.00 in the bank and it was still three weeks till pay day and that in itself was inadequate but take away $100.00 and it was past seriously inadequate into dangerous

So I’m thinking – no way Hosea

So, I turned to my wife – more spiritual – and asked her what God had told her we should give – $100.00

We wrote a cheque for $100.00 boldly trusting God

The next day – went and picked up the mail and there was a letter from another town – where I also had a small church which I was working with

From a man I did not know and had not met YET

Inside the envelop was a cheque for $1,000.00 and a note saying it was something he promised God he would do the year before and God reminded Him about it a week before and told him to send it specifically to me

A week before I obeyed the prompting of the Lord He was already blessing me because of my yet-to-be obedience to His prompting and giving of $100.00

“Your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask” 

I want to talk about BOLD OBEDIENCE today… Read more

Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God

An apostle from North America was meeting with a group of leader of the underground church in China
During the evening there was a fellowship time among the leaders as they shared what was happening in their lives and how God was moving in their homes and in their ministries
The apostle from North America took the opportunity to ask a question of these Chinese leaders of underground house churches … He asked:
“If I were to visit your home communities and talk with the non-believing families, friends, and neighbours of the members of your house churches — and if I would point out your church members and ask, ‘Who are these people? What can you tell me about them?’ — what answer would I get?”
The apostle writes: Many people started to answer at once. The response that jumped out at me, though, was the answer of a man who told me that his church’s neighbours would probably say, “Those are the people who raise the dead!”
As we read the gospels we see that Jesus raised the dead…
These believers just assumed that because Jesus did it that they too could do it
After all, Jesus was living in them and working through them
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14)
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
“The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do” (MSG)
Sometimes I am disappointed with God
Because I believe these verses and have prayed in line with what I see Jesus doing in the gospels … and from my point of view, nothing happens a lot of the time
I have prayed overseas to raise the dead a number of times … and nothing happened
I pray for the sick … and sometimes they are healed and sometimes they are not … and I am disappointed with God
I read the book of Acts and wonder why the things that happened in the early Church don’t seem to be happening in the Church today … and I am disappointed
I desperately want to see multitudes saved and I work hard at being a good witness of His grace and His mercy … and few respond and become believers – disappointing
The list could go on…
The same apostle was in Ukraine and as his time there was drawing to a close…
The believers had been sharing their testimonies and stories of prison, persecution, and God’s provision for His people
He writes: “Once again I was struck by the power of their testimonies and stories that I was hearing. As we came to the end of our time together, I asked: ‘I just don’t understand why you haven’t collected these stories in a book? Believers around the world ought to hear what you have been telling me here today. Your stories are amazing! These are inspiring testimonies! I have never heard anything like them!”
An older pastor reached out and took my shoulder. He clamped his other hand tightly onto my arm, and looked me right in the eye. He said, Son, when did you stop reading the Bible? All of our stories are in the Bible. God has already written them down. Why would we bother writing books to tell our stories when God has already told His story. If you would just read the Bible, you would see that our stories are there.”
He paused and then he asked me again, “When did you stop reading your Bible?”
Without waiting for me to answer, he turned and walked away. There was no friendly smile, no encouraging pat on the back, and no kiss on the cheek.
His convicting question still echoes in my mind.
This older pastor was simply living the faith the way Jesus said we could and should … doing today the things that Jesus did 2000+ years ago
For him it was not something special to write a book about … it was simply normal Christian living
As we read the Bible – Old and New Testaments we see God doing amazing things…
Releasing His people from prison – Peter in Acts 5
People being saved in the thousands – Acts 2
People being baptized in the Holy Spirit – Acts 2
People being healed
The lame beggar – Acts 3
Aeneas – Acts 9
Dorcas – Acts 9
Believers being bold in the midst of life and death persecution – Acts 4
Building shaking in answer to prayer – Acts 4
People dropping dead for lying to the Holy Spirit – Acts 5
Miracles, signs and wonders – Acts 5
Angels opening prison doors and setting leaders free – Acts 5
People martyred for the faith – Stephen in Acts 7
Holy Spirit sending Philip and a revival breaking out in Samaria – Acts 8
Confronting a powerful sorcerer and seeing multitudes saved – Acts 8
Philip sent by the Spirit and bringing new life to the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8
God knocking Saul off his horse and speaking audibly to Him – Acts 9
 The dead being raised
Visions directing believers
Peter on the rooftop having a vision – Acts 10
Ananias receiving a vision and going to Saul to bring healing – Acts 9
Churches being planted – Acts 11 and onwards
Believers dying for the faith – James – Acts 12
And that was not even the first half of the book of Acts
And the older pastor in Ukraine said the the young apostle … “When did you stop reading your Bible”
With the point being that the same God who did these things in the early Church is still working with and through believers today
And, reading the stories in the Scriptures should build our faith to believe for and walk in the supernatural as a part of our regular, daily life
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
And Sometimes I’m Disappointed with God because this is not happening on a regular basis in my life and I wonder why
I want to know why!
A True Story From Russia…
The young father and husband had been arrested for teaching the Bible to others …
He had recently been saved – a miracle in itself – and began to read a Bible that he had obtained – a second miracle in Communist Russia
He began to teach his wife and children the Scriptures – reading them together late at night and discussing them together … they received Jesus
In time neighbours joined them, and then more neighbours … until the house was full every night – people hungry to hear the Word of God … and they got saved
It’s like reading a story straight from the pages of the book of Acts
He was arrested – just a believer, not a pastor nor a leader – and moved a thousand kilometres away from his family and locked up in a prison because he was influencing people for the Kingdom
His cell was so tiny that when he got out of bed, it took but a single step either to get to the door of his cell, to reach the stained and cracked sink mounted on the opposite wall, our to use foul smelling open toilet in the “far” corner of the cell. Even worse, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals.
He said that his isolation from the body of Christ – his house church – was far more difficult than even the physical torture. And there was much of that. Still, his tormentors were unable to break him. Dmitri (not his real name) pointed to two reasons for his strength in the face of torture.
There were two spiritual habits that he had learned and that he took with him into prison. Without these two disciplines, Dmitri insisted, his faith would not have survived.
For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed. As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus
HeartSong … a song he had learned that was very meaningful to him and expressed his heart and his love for the Lord
The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.
Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers. The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest. They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.
There was another discipline too, another custom that Dmitri told me about. Whenever he found a scrap of paper in the prison, he would sneak it back to his cell. There he would pull out a stub of a pencil or a tiny piece of charcoal that he had saved, and he would write on that scrap of paper, as tiny as he could, all the Bible verses and scriptural stories or songs that he could remember. When the scrap was completely filled, he would walk to the corner of this little jail cell where there was a concrete pillar that constantly dripped water — except in the wintertime when the moisture became a solid coat of ice on the inside surface of his cell. Dmitri would take the paper fragment, reach as high as he possibly could, and stick it on the damp pillar as a praise offering to God.
Of course, whenever one of his jailers spotted the piece of paper on the pillar, he would come into his cell, take it down, read it, beat him severely, and threaten him with death. Still, Dmitri refused to stop his two disciplines.
Every day, he rose at dawn to sing his song. And every time he found a scrap of paper, he filled it with Scripture and praise.
This went on year after year after year. His guards tried to make him stop. The authorities did unspeakable things to his family. At one point, they even led him to believe that his wife had been murdered and that his children had been taken by the state.
They taunted him cruelly, “We have ruined your home. Your family is gone.”
Dmitri’s resolve finally broke. He told God that he could not take any more. He admitted to his guards, “You win! I will sign any confession that you want me to sign. I must get out of here to find where my children are.”
They told Dmitri, “We will prepare your confession tonight, and then you will sign it tomorrow. Then you will be free to go.” After all those years, the only thing that he had to do was sign his name on a document saying that he was not a believer in Jesus and that he was a paid agent of western government trying to destroy the USSR. Once he put his signature on that dotted line, he would be free to go.
Dmitri repeated his intention:”Bring it tomorrow and I will sign it.”
That very night he sat on his jail cell bed. He was in deep despair, grieving the fact that he had given up. At that same moment, a thousand kilometres away his family — Dmitri’s wife, his children who were growing up without him, and his brother — sensed through the Holy Spirit the despair of this man in prison. His loved ones gathered around the very place where I was now sitting as Dmitri told me his story. They knelt in a circle and began to pray out loud for him. Miraculously, the Holy Spirit of the Living God allowed Dmitri to hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed.
The next morning, when the guards marched into his cell with the documents, Dmitri’s back was straight. His shoulders were squared and there was strength on his face and in his eyes. He looked at his captors and declared, “I am not signing anything!”
The guards were incredulous. They had thought that he was beaten and destroyed. “What happened?” They demanded to know.
Dmitri smiled and told them, “In the night, God let me hear the voices of my wife and my children and my brother praying for me. You lied to me! I now know that my wife is alive and physically well. I know that my sons are with her. I also know that they are all still in Christ. So I am not be signing anything!”
His persecutors continued to discourage and silence him. Dmitri remained faithful., He was overwhelmed one day by a special gift from God’s hand. In the prison yard, he found a whole sheet of paper. “And God,” Dmitri said, “had laid a pencil beside it!”
Dmitri went on, “I rushed back to my jail cell and I wrote every Scripture reference, every Bible verse, every story, and every song I could recall.”
“I knew that it was probably foolish,” Dmitri told me, “but I couldn’t help myself. I filled both sides of the paper with as much of the Bible as I could. I reached up and stuck the entire sheet on that wet concrete pillar. Then I stood up and looked at it: to me it seemed like the greatest offering I could give to Jesus from my prison cell. Of course, my jailor saw it. I was beaten and punished. I was threatened with execution.”
Dmitri was dragged from his cell. As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard — before stepping out into the place of execution — fifteen hundred hardened criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years.
Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.
One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.
He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His Name!”
The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.
Prisoners being set free by the Lord… like in New Testament times
The apostles all in prison and set free by an angel – Acts 5
Peter in prison awaiting execution in Jerusalem – Acts 12
Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi – Acts 16
As the old Ukrainian pastor said to the young apostle:
“When did you stop reading the Bible?”
What happened then is still happening now …  But, do I really believe that?
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
And so if I really believe that — do I act / live like it is totally true?
But, if I can be so bold to ask: Why does it happen “over there” and not happen “over here?”
Sometimes I’m disappointed with God
It seems He is working hard “over there” and not working much at all “over here”
And so Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God
You read the Bible and see so many amazing stories of God moving, guiding, directing, intervening, touching lives…
You read about God intervening in regular life and revealing Himself in powerful ways…
People being saved
Prisoners being set free
Those being persecuted being warned by the Spirit of imminent danger
People being openly directed by the Holy Spirit
The sick being healed
Demon-possessed people being set free
The dead being raised to life
Churches being planted
Cities being changed and challenged by the Gospel
Jesus appearing to people and directing them
Miracles, signs, and wonders
Visions and dreams
God directly strengthening and encouraging believers
People dying for their faith – strong witnesses to faith in Christ
So, I asked myself …
Why is all of this not happening in my daily life?
Is there something I need to change or do differently?
Is it just a matter of not having enough faith?
Is it because I live in North America?
Is there sin in my life that prevents the moving of the Holy Spirit?
Do I need to change the way I am praying?
Are my priorities all wrong and thus preventing the move of the Spirit?
Do I have a wrong worldview?
Is there compromise in my life?
Do I simply not trust God enough?
Maybe I don’t really understand the Kingdom
Maybe deep down inside I don’t want my lifestyle to change?
Am I simply too comfortable and safe and secure and not wanting to be disturbed?
Maybe I am complicating the faith and making it something it is not?
Are I just being disobedient?
Am I so busy that I am missing the voice of God and direction of the Holy Spirit?
The young apostle moves on to a Central Asian country…
During my time there, a forty-three-year-old-Muslim-background believer somehow heard through the oral grapevine that a Westerner had come to his country wanting to discover how Muslims were finding Jesus and what challenges these converts were experiencing as they lived out their faith in hostile environments. I still have no idea how he learned that I was coming or where I would be.
It turns out that Pramana traveled 29 hours to find me. He had lived his entire life in a remote, tropical, and rural region of his third-world country. He had never before been on a bus. He had not even traveled on a paved highway. Yet, somehow, he found me in one of his country’s major cities. Upon his arrival, he matter-of-factly announced: “I have heard about what you are doing. You need to hear my story also.”
This man had been born into a people group with a population of 24 million. In his people group, there were only three followers of Jesus, and no church. The only religion that he had ever practiced or known while growing up had been a sort of folk Islam. Pramana knew the Quran by rote. He couldn’t actually speak Arabic, so (as an oral communicator from an oral culture) he simply memorized the words of the book as if they were part of some sort of magic formula. He knew the story of Mohammad, of course. But he had never heard of anybody called Jesus, he had never met a believer, and he had no idea what a Bible was.
“Five years ago,” he told me, “my life was in ruins. My wife and I were always fighting; I was ready to divorce the woman. My children were disrespectful. My animals were not growing or multiplying. My crops were dying in the fields.
“So I went to the imam of the nearest mosque for help,” Pramana continued.
The imam, who also functioned as the local spiritualist, told him, “Okay, son, here is what you need to do. Go buy a white chicken. Bring it to me and I will sacrifice it on your behalf. Then, go back to your village to meditate and fast for three days and three nights.  On the third day, you will receive the answer to all the problems that you are having with your wife, your children, your animals, and your crops.”
Pramana did exactly as he was told. He went back to his village. He meditated, he fasted, he waited. Then, as he explained it: “I’ll never forget, on that third night, a voice without a body came to me after midnight. That voice said, ‘Find Jesus, find the gospel.’”
This Muslim man had no clue what that even meant. He didn’t know if Jesus might be a fruit or a rock or a tree. Pramana told me that the voice without a body also said, “Get out of bed, go over the mountain, and walk down to the coast to name of city (a city where he had never been). When you get to that city at daybreak, you will see two men. When you see those men, ask them where such-and-such a street is. They will show you the way. Walk up and down that street and look for this number. When you find that number, knock on the door. When the door opens, tell the person why you have come.”
Pramana did not know that it was an option to be disobedient to the voice (Holy Spirit). He simply assumed that he was required to obey what he had been instructed to do. So he went. He didn’t even tell his wife that he was leaving, let alone where he was going. It turns out that he would be gone for two full weeks. During that time, his family had no idea where he was.
Pramana simply got out of bed, hiked over the mountain, trekked down the coast, and arrived at the specified city the next morning at daylight. He saw two men who told him where to find the street he wanted. He walked up and down that street until he found a building with the right number on it. He knocked at the door. A moment later, an older gentleman opened the door and asked, “Can I help you?”
The younger man declared: “I have come to find Jesus; I have come to find the gospel!” In a flash, the old man’s hand shot out from the darkened doorway. He grabbed Pramana by the shirt, dragged him into the apartment, and slammed the door behind him. The old man released his grip and exclaimed, “You Muslims must think I am a fool to fall for a trap as transparent as this!”
The very startled and confused traveler replied, “I don’t know if you are a fool or not, sir. I just met you. But here is why I’ve come.” Then Pramana told the older man the story of how he had come to be there that day.
The Holy Spirit of the Living God had led this young Muslim man through his dream and vision and his obedience to the home of one of the three believers in his 24 million people group. Stunned, the older man explained the gospel to this young Muslim man and led him to Christ. For the next two weeks, the old man discipled this new convert in the faith.
That had been five years ago. Now, Pramana had made another journey. This journey was to find me and to tell me his remarkable story. He had travelled 29 hours to share how his life had changed since he had found Jesus. There had been blessings and trials and tribulations during the last five years, but his life had clearly been changed in startling ways.
You know — that sounds so much like the story of Saul of Tarsus finding Ananias to instruct him in the teachings of Jesus – Acts 9.
I read these stories and something inside me starts to cry…
There is this hunger for the New Testament times to become real once again in this day and time … and, if I may say, in my life
There is this desire for the adventure to start in a fresh and new way
There is a deep dissatisfaction right now – inside of me – that what I have, what I’m experiencing, what I know as Christianity is no longer enough
It is like my spirit is crying out “there has got to be more”
Deep inside there is a ‘divine discontent’ letting me know that major change has begun for me in my walk with Jesus and in my every day life
I am seriously “Sometimes Disappointed With God” but it is a good thing because it motivates me to move forward regardless of the cost
And, I have begun to think through what needs to change for me to experience more of God in my life
And my desire is that you will also experience this hunger if you haven’t already
And that you will think through what needs to adjust and change for this type of lifestyle to become real and an every day occurrence in life right here and right now
May I tell you one more story?
The same young apostle writes…
Before I had even arrived at the first stop on my planned Southeast Asia tour, I received an e-mail from a European doctor living and working on the border of two Central Asia countries that were experiencing a great deal of violence and unrest. The words of his e-mail were guarded and carefully worded. The message read: “Dr. Ripken, I have heard about the research that you are doing from a friend I knew and worked closely with in Somalia some years ago. I believe that the Lord needs you to come to name of country and he names his border town.”
My wife had already booked and purchased my plane tickets for the entire, tightly-scheduled trip. I responded to the man’s e-mail, explaining that my itinerary included not only Vietnam and Thailand, but also Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Then I explained further: “These are the last of the countries that I have already made plans to visit this year. I am expecting to be in your region late next year, so please be patient. I will be sure to get back in touch with you and I will gladly consider your invitation at that time.”
After another stop to see the killing fields of Cambodia (where very few believers survived the Khmer Rouge reign of terror), I landed in Bangkok. From there, I went up and stayed for a time among the Karen people group living in the Golden Triangle region where Thailand’s borders meet the borders of Laos. Then, I attempted to travel to what was once called Burma (now Myanmar). Several days later, I came back to Bangkok where I had another e-mail from the same doctor.
This second e-mail was more insistent, “I really think you should come now,” the man wrote.
At that point, I responded with a slightly less gracious reply: “I am sorry, but I will not come your way until next year.” At that point I set out for another country on my itinerary. Just before arriving there, however, I received a phone call informing me that all 18 pastors that I had lined up for interviews there had been arrested and were currently in jail. My primary contact in that country said, “This will not be a good time for you to visit us, unless you want to stay a lot longer than you had planned!” I certainly wanted to visit that country, but I had no interest I spending time in prison.
I wondered about the strange turn of events. Even more, I wondered if maybe it was some sort of a sign. I changed my plans immediately and returned to Bangkok. I am not sure if I was really surprised or not, but I received another e-mail from this same annoyingly persistent doctor.
This time I replied even more bluntly. Didn’t want to sound rude, but I was confident in the plans that I had made. In effect, I said to him: “Please stop asking me to visit; I am not coming to your country at this time.” A few days later, I prepared to leave Bangkok for my next destination. After leaving Bangkok and before I reached my next stop, however, I received a phone call from an in-country contact. This phone call informed me that some of the pastors who were planning to talk with me has been in an automobile accident. Several others were sick in the hospital, and ever others were under tight surveillance.
“I am sorry,” I was told, “but this is no longer a good time for you to visit. We will contact you to let you know when you might try again.”
Once again, I returned to Bangkok. Arriving there, I was startled to find yet another e-mail from the European doctor.
Again, he insisted strongly: “I really believe God wants you to come here now.”
Given the recent events and the apparent closed doors that I was facing, I was suddenly more open to his request. I broke down, swallowed my pride, and called the doctor. After introducing myself, I sheepishly admitted, “It suddenly looks like I really don’t have anything else to do for the next couple weeks. I guess I’ll be coming your way after all.”
I flew into the capital city of his country, then traveled on to a smaller city. From there, I took a smaller plane which landed on a short dirt runway outside a small border town. As soon as I exited the airplane, I spotted a man who was obviously the doctor. Standing beside him were five men in traditional Muslim dress who also seemed to be waiting at the remote desert airstrip for my plane to land.
As the doctor and I exchanged greetings, I asked him, “Who are your friends?”
“You don’t know who they are?” He reacted in surprise.
“No, I didn’t even know who you were until 30 seconds ago,” I told him.
“Well, Dr. Ripken,” he said, as he cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, “If you don’t know these men — and I don’t know these men — then we have a serious security problem. They told me that they had come to meet you.”
“So,” he continued rather abruptly, “I’m going to have to leave you now. Here’s my cell phone number. If everything turns out all right, call me, and I’ll come back and get you.”
Then he turned and walked away.
I was stunned, and it dawned on me that I was already praying. I felt that I was self-trained in being careful in the midst of danger, so there was no way that I was going to leave with these five men. As I dragged my bag towards the small terminal, I was already thinking about how quickly I could catch a flight out. The men followed me. They tugged on my clothes trying to get me to stop. I tried my best to ignore them. Finally, one of them said in broken English, “Sir, stop. Please stop. We are followers of Jesus.”
I immediately stopped and turned to listen to what they had to say. The quick summary of their story rang true. Against my better judgment, but sensing the hand of God on our meeting, I went with my five unnamed new “friends” to a room that they had rented in the nearby town.
When we got there, we sat down together on the floor in an unfurnished apartment. They simply looked at me and smiled. They seemed perfectly content to wait. I had no idea what was expected of me. I shared briefly about myself, though my words were more guarded than usual. I talked a little about where I had been. How I had been travelling around the world, the research that I had done, and why I wanted to talk to believers in different parts of the world. I even speculated a little on why I had ended up in this tiny corner of the world.
One of the men spoke English. He translated my words to the others. After he finished. All five of the men began to laugh.
I was confused and I wanted to know what they thought was so funny.
They shook their heads, smiled, and said to me, “You may think you know why you have come here. But we would like to tell you why you are really here.”
They briefly sketched out their own personal stories. They had each had dreams or visions that had raised spiritual questions and prompted a long search for answers. They had each miraculously found a copy of the Bible to study. After reading the entire book several times, they had each, on their own, decided to follow Jesus. They had each been rejected and disowned by their families. Eventually they had to flee their country. They made their way across the border to this small border town. Somehow they found each other and they realized that they all shared the same newfound faith in Christ.
They didn’t really know what to do next, but they instinctively started meeting in this tiny third-floor apartment. They met daily from midnight until 3:00 in the morning, hoping that no one would notice them. They read the Word of God secretly and tried to provide spiritual support and encouragement for one another.
Two months earlier, they explained, they had started praying this prayer: “Oh God, we don’t know how to do this! We grew up and were trained as Muslims. We know how to be Muslims in a Muslim environment. We even know how to be communists in a Muslim environment. But we do not know how to follow Jesus in a Muslim environment. Please, Lord, send us someone. Send us someone who knows about persecution, someone who knows what other believers are doing, someone who can encourage and teach us.”
Chills were running up and down my spine as they explained what had happened when they had been together in this same rented upper room earlier in the day: “At 1:30 this morning, we were here praying when the Holy Spirit told us to go to the airport. The Holy Spirit told us that we were to go to the first white man who got off the plane. The Holy Spirit told us that He was sending this man to answer our questions.”
“So,” they said as they smiled at me again, “that is why you are here. Now you can do what God has called you here to do. Before you start teaching us, however, we have one other question for you: Where have you been and what have you been doing for these last two months? We started to pray for someone to show up two months ago. And, only now are you here.”
I shook my head in embarrassment. I confessed, “Well… I guess I have been being disobedient! I tried my best for weeks not to come here at all. Please forgive me!”
They did. And we had a great time of teaching and learning from each other over the next few days. I listened to each of their personal testimonies of faith and asked them specific questions about the details of how and when they encountered Jesus and became His followers.
One of the five men told me, “I dreamed about a blue book. I was driven, consumed really, by the message of the dream. ‘Look for this book,’ the dream said, ‘read this Bible.’ I began a search, but I could not find a book like that anywhere in my country. Then, one day, I walked into a Quranic book shop and saw this sea of green books lining the walls. I noticed a book of a different colour on a shelf at the back of the store, so I walked back there and pulled out a thick blue volume to discover that it was a Bible. It was published in my own national language. I actually bought a Bible in the Islamic bookstore, took it home, and read it five times. That’s how I came to know Jesus.”
Another one told me, “I dreamed about finding Jesus, but I didn’t even know how or where to look. Then one day I was walking through the market when a man I had never seen before came up to me in the crowd. He said, ‘The Holy Spirit told me to give you this book.’ He handed me a Bible and disappeared into the crowd. I never saw him again. But I read the Bible he gave me three times from cover to cover, and that’s how I came to know and follow Jesus.”
Each one of the five men told me a different variation of this same story. Each one of them had come across a Bible in some unusual, miraculous way. Each one had read the Gospel story of Jesus. Each one had decided to follow Him.
After hearing their stories, I felt drawn to open the book of Acts. With an entirely different point of view, I began to read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. For the first time in my life, as I read that passage, I wondered: How in the world did an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a man of colour, and a foreigner get a copy of a scroll containing the book of Isaiah?
In New Testament days, even partial copies of Scripture were handwritten on scrolls. They were very rare and very expensive. What’s more the Jews had strict rules and restrictions about who was even allowed to touch the Holy Scriptures and where the Scriptures could be opened and read.
By all accounts, this Ethiopian official would not have been allowed to touch a copy of Scripture, or open it and read it, or possess it. Yet, Philip finds this Ethiopian man in a chariot on a desert road in Gaza pouring and puzzling over Isaiah 53. When I read the story on this night the fact that the Ethiopian official was actually going home with a copy of a portion of the Jewish Bible seems extraordinary and unlikely.
In fact, it was so extraordinary and unlikely that I blurted out a question: Where did this man get a copy of Your Word?
In reply, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: I have been doing this for a long time. If you will take My Word out into the world, I will get it in the right hands.
What a marvellous, miraculous, and mysterious partnership this is! We have no clear understanding of what sent that official of the Ethiopian queen on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel, Something or someone did. How did that man miraculously get his hands on that part of the Word of God? And why was he on the empty stretch of desert road, at that very moment, reading that particular chapter of Isaiah? Of course, we know how Philip ended up there – the Holy Spirit sent him.
I had to admit that I did not know the answers to any of those questions.
Yet, now, after being among believers in persecution, I was pretty sure that God must have had to work a number of small miracles for that encounter between the Ethiopian man and Philip to take place. In God’s marvellous timing, this encounter happened in exactly the right place and at exactly the right time. Almost two thousand years later, the same thing had happened when I walked off of a plane to meet five Muslim men who had miraculously found Jesus. I had never intended to be an answer to prayer that day, but evidently I was.
Reading from the book of Acts that evening was a completely new experience. Two thoughts stayed in my mind: this is what God did then and this is what does does now. Suddenly, my modern world didn’t look all that different than the world of the Bible.
Much, much later, after years of gathering stories, I came to understand that the tales told by these five new friends were actually pretty commonplace. Time and again, in the years since, Muslim-background believers from many different countries and cultures have told me about being directed by dreams and visions. They have told me about finding Bibles through amazing circumstances. They have mentioned reading the Bible multiple times. In the reading, they have talked about feeling drawn to Jesus. They have told me of a personal decision to follow Him. Many of those pilgrimages to faith involved a Philip who miraculously showed up at exacting the right time, in the right place, with the right words that finally pointed the seeker directly to Jesus.
So, As I thought about all of this … struggling with the feelings inside my gut as I read these and multiple other stories … I wondered why God’s hand is not as evident in my life
Why does it seem that God does amazing things over there but not here?
Why does He seem more active in the life of believers in the third-world nations?
What is it that I need to change or adjust so that He is free to work in and through my life in ways that are more evident and ‘now’?
After all, God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34)
And, “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
Let’s discuss this as I would like to hear why you think we/you don’t always see the supernatural in our daily lives?
My answers:
1> I don’t live with a Kingdom perspective – Live with a worldly perspective
2> I am not as aware as I need to be of the fact that there is a spiritual reality to every day living on planet Earth
3> I am not “seeking first the Kingdom…” as I often put myself or the needs of others first
4> I am not directly aware of the absolute necessity of people coming to know Jesus and the power of the Gospel to change lives (Romans 1:16)
5> Not always sensitive to the moving of the Spirit and thus not aware of what He is doing … resulting in my not being involved in His plans
6> Often see daily life as daily and natural and not part of a bigger picture – God’s plan and purpose
7> I fail to live life in an ‘expectant’ mode … anticipating that God is moving and wanting to involve me in what He is doing
8> Not fully submitted to the will of God – Lordship
9> Not depending on God — trust, faith,, flesh / Spirit
Answers during discussion:
1> Complicate things too much
2> Disappointment from the past
3> Not looking for the supernatural and the intervention of God in daily life
4> Lack of faith
5> We think we don’t have God’s power or we don’t use God’s power
6> The desire for this type of life is not there
7> Feel that we are not ready to do what God is asking
8> Too comfortable to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit
9> Not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and so miss opportunities
10> Cares of the world and daily life simply take over and so miss hearing God
11> Confusion on the inside
12> Self-conscious and worried about what others will think
13> Simple disobedience

Foundations of the Faith – Part Five

So, why must people repent? Biblically there are eight reasons:

1> God commands people to repent. It is not an option. His command is immediate and universal … “God… commands all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

2> Christ came into the world to call all men to repentance, and everyone will be judged by his or her response to Christ’s call. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

3> Repentance guides people away from destruction. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). A man may be sincere. He may be morally good, but if he is not in full agreement with God’s truth, if he does not reply on Christ alone for salvation and righteousness, then he is a sinner, separated from God and headed for destruction.

4> Forgiveness hinges on repentance. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Notice repentance occurs first, then forgiveness can follow.

5> Repentance qualifies people to enter the Kingdom of God. “Repent, for the Kingdom of haven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The Kingdom of God is within reach, but the only way to enter is through repentance.

6> God desires all men repent. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s heart longs for all men everywhere to repent, turn to Him, and receive His life.

7> Repentance leads to life. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Repentance does not lead to bondage. Turning to Jesus produces true (real) life.

8> Repentance makes true faith possible. The words repentance and faith often appear together in the Bible. People repent so they can become connected with God. They repent so they can believe. Jesus Christ calls people to repentance because Hw wants them to place their faith in Him, to come to know Him and to receive His life. 

Acts 20:21 “… testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mark 1:15 (see also Hebrews 6:1) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Acts 5:31 ”God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-dont-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

Hyper-conquerors

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.