The Season of Sifting (Part 2)

sifterIn our last post, we talked about a season when God allows us to be sifted, so that our character can be tried and refined. There is another kind of sifting season — a prolonged time in our lives when we are the ones doing the sifting, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In this season, we examine in detail traditions, beliefs, or teaching which we have accepted, but which may not actually be true. As we’ve traveled through life, all of us have been told things which sounded valid, and we consequently swallowed them without a lot of thought.

Sound-good teaching, which actually is not, regularly goes on within the secular education system. Thus, without thinking twice, many of us have accepted portions of evolutionism without realizing it. For instance, even if we wholeheartedly believe in creation as it is recorded in the Bible, we might find “millions of years ago” suddenly popping out of our mouths — and then we suddenly step back and think, “Wait a minute. That’s not right!”

This goes on just as much with church teaching as it does with secular ideas which blatantly oppose the Bible. The difference is that ingrained, incorrect “Christian” teaching is often a lot more subtle, and therefore not as easily detected — until the Holy Spirit puts His finger on it, and starts to reveal genuine truth. John 16:13 calls Him “the Spirit of truth,” and tells us that one of His functions is to guide us into all truth. He is continually attempting to adjust our theology, and He may do it in a variety of ways, including through the reading of the Word, by whispering questions into our thoughts, or via another believer.

In addition to the gradual adjusting of our beliefs, we might also find ourselves in a prolonged season of examining teaching we have always taken for granted to be true. This is a time when the Lord deliberately slows us down or even puts us on the sidelines, when it comes to whatever ministry function we serve in. He does so to give us time to look long and hard at where we’ve been, what we have come to believe, and to examine bit-by-bit which parts of our thinking need to be preserved and which parts need to be discarded. It is like a spiritual house cleaning.

During this season, genuine truth, after being scrutinized thoroughly, is reinforced, while non-truth is exposed and thrown out. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, dismantles pet theological strongholds which we may have been holding onto for a very long time. I am not speaking of the foundational beliefs to which the Church as a whole adheres. I am referring to ideas which do not line up with the Bible, but because we’ve heard them so often, perhaps from trusted preachers or teachers, we’ve just accepted them. These beliefs usually started out with a kernel of truth, but human if/then logic caused additional assumptions to be tacked on, and after a while we ended up with set-in-stone dogma which is twisted.

The good news is that we will come out of the sifting season stronger and purer in what we believe than we have ever been before. We may also find that the attitude with which we approach serving the Lord and people matures during the process. For these reasons, the season of sifting for the gold of truth is often preparation for what God wants us to be doing next.

So, take courage as you work your way through a sifting season. God won’t leave you in it forever. It may be your launch pad into a new level of fruitful living for the Lord.

 

The Season of Sifting (Part 1)

sifterSome time ago, I wrote a series meant mainly for intercessors, called Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer. Today’s post is about a more general season that any believer might go through — the season of sifting.

We can encounter a sifting season in a couple of ways. The first type involves us being sifted directly and personally. The Lord allows us to go through testings and trials to see how we will respond under pressure. He already knows what we will do, but we must still live it out experientially, or it would not be real and would not profit us in any way.

Job is the most prominent example in the Bible of this kind of sifting. In Job 1:8 and 2:3, twice we see God initiating a conversation with Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” The devil did not come up with the idea to afflict Job all on his own; God deliberately brought Job to his attention! Why did He do that? So that He could prove Job through severe testing and display him as a shining example of integrity to inspire believers throughout many centuries to come. God received glory through Job’s triumph over his troubles — but Job also received eternal honor from this episode in his life. God knows how to compensate His beloved saints for the trials they go through.

Peter was also sifted. Although he intended to do the right thing, he trusted in his own power to stay faithful to Jesus no matter what. Jesus gravely informed him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail, and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32). Unlike Job, Peter did not pass his test, yet in tender mercy, the Lord used Peter’s failure to teach him to lean upon the Lord’s grace, instead of glorying in his own integrity. The outcome was a far better Peter than ever would have existed without the test.

King Hezekiah was tested more than once by the Lord to see what he would do under pressure. In the matter of the Assyrians attacking Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:1-23), he made all the right choices. He trusted the Lord with all his might, assured the people that God would act on their behalf, and prayed the situation through until they saw an undeniably miraculous deliverance. God also supernaturally healed him of a terminal illness, in response to his prayers. But his heart became proud, and he did not give God the gratitude which was due. Although he repented and humbled himself, when Babylonian ambassadors came for a visit, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). Passing one test does not mean we have arrived and we’re done. The Christian life is a bit like a video game: succeeding at one level just means you get to do it again at a new level — with different circumstances to conquer.

When we go through a season where God either sifts us directly or uses circumstances, our own carnal appetites, or even the enemy of our souls to try us, His ultimate purpose is to refine us by driving us to the realization that we cannot manage on our own, and that our complete dependence must be placed in Him. The crux of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was a desire to be self-sufficient and independent from God. Ever since then, the Lord has been working to bring us back into alignment with Him — and that alignment demands acknowledgement that we are helpless without Him. Whether we learn to cleave to the Lord in the midst of a trial, and thereby pass the test, or whether we fail miserably and learn dependence through the experience, the goal is the same — that we will become yielded, humble people, free of the rebellious nature, people who are transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

So that’s one type of sifting season. Next time, we’ll examine the season where we are the ones doing the sifting.

 

The Intercessor’s Companion Audio Book Is Here!

New from Full Gospel Family Publications:

The Intercessor’s Companion Audio Book

Mp3 Download or CD Set

IntCompCDMedThe Intercessor’s Companion is a topical listing of Scriptures to help you use the Word in obtaining answers to prayer. (I’ve also included encouraging commentary for each topic.)

The audio book version is a super way to encourage yourself and to build your faith as you press through to receive your answers. In the process of spending many hours recording and editing this 3-CD set, I personally felt like I had entered a higher realm spiritually — because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). It’s true, friends! There is power in the spoken Word of God.

Those of you who already own The Intercessor’s Companion in e-book or print form will enjoy using the audio book as a complementary tool to the written book. And those of you who don’t yet have the written version? You can use the audio book all by itself — but you may find you like it so well that you’ll be eager to have it in written form as well!

Description of The Intercessor’s Companion

Purchase the audio book (mp3 download — $15.00 anywhere in the world; CD Set$25.00 in the U. S.)

Trouble Hearing God? This May Be Why.

ear trumpet

Sometimes when I ask intercessors what the Lord is speaking to them, they respond by telling me what they have read in an intercessor newsletter, at a prophetic website, or in a Christian issues op-ed column. Maybe it’s what they’ve seen on Christian TV or YouTube. They sincerely think that what they are sharing is what God is speaking to them, but in reality, they are only regurgitating the ideas and opinions of others. Some are consistently unable to relate what God is showing them personally.

I wondered why that was, so I inquired of the Lord, and this is what I felt He was showing me: Continual bombardment of our mind through the eye and ear gates dulls our spirit’s ability to recognize God’s still small voice.

The people I am speaking of are usually passionate Christians who are eager to learn all that they can about the Lord and what He is saying or doing in the earth today. They get multiple intercessor newsletters because they have a heart to pray into big things, and they want to keep on top of current events from a Christian perspective.  But their minds are in a constant swirl, forever trying to process and sort through the information overload being fed into them. And because their minds are constantly chewing on all the info they’ve consumed, it’s hard for them to slow down enough to hear what God is saying to them, deep down inside.

Now, I think most of us are prone to having difficulty with this. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the Information Revolution, after all. I’ve got an inquiring mind, and certainly want to learn all I can. And keeping up with what’s afoot in our world is important. But I find, for myself, that if I am going to hear God, I’ve got to discipline myself to severely limit the inflow from outside voices.

I’d much rather be able to hear from God firsthand than to hear it from someone else. Secondhand just isn’t quite as good. And, I’d much rather spend the majority of my intercession time following the Holy Spirit’s promptings than merely praying what somebody else tells thousands of people on their mailing list that we should all pray. (It isn’t wrong to pray directly from a newsletter; it just shouldn’t be the sum total of our intercessory prayer life.) We need one-on-one communication directly between our spirit and the Holy Spirit. It’s like the difference between fresh fruit and the canned stuff. Not the same. But if we only consume the canned version, we don’t even have a clue how good the fresh fruit is!

Shouldn’t we all listen to good teaching and preaching? Of course. Can’t God speak to us through prophets, preachers, intercessor leaders, and teachers? Yes. We need these wonderful people. I have a few really, really favorite teachers I love to listen to. I write books and this blog with the intention of  helping people grow in their Christian life, especially in their prayer and prophetic understanding. I would be SAD if y’all quit reading what I’ve got for you! But I’d be even sadder to find out anyone was reading my materials in place of spending precious time personally with the Lord in prayer and reading the Bible.  We need to spend time with Him, not only in reading or listening to what some fallible human has to say about Him.

So, how does one fix this and get into a place of hearing God firsthand? Start by slowing down and deliberately tuning out. Think of it as a detox. Maybe it’s going to mean deleting a few ministry e-mails without reading them. Maybe it will mean less time watching TBN or Daystar. Maybe it will mean setting aside a specific amount of time for watching/listening/reading every week and then not going over the predetermined limit.

Once you’ve got yourself slowed down by removing the brain circuitry overload, your spirit is going to be able to gradually take precedence over your mind. You can actually relax in prayer and take time to ask, “Lord what do You have to say today?” You can now fill those brain cells which used to be clogged up with thinking about all the stuff you read, saw, and heard with new thinking about something you read in the Bible, or God’s character, or just how beautiful Jesus really is. The new peace and quiet of mind makes it much easier for the Holy Spirit to be heard in your spirit, because you’ve removed the debris which has been getting in the way for so long.

That’s a good place to start, and from there, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll start hearing God clearly for yourself on a regular basis.

Angels in Charge

Today, I’d like to share a story which illustrates God’s supernatural intervention on behalf of ordinary people who belong to Him.

My family and I were on our way to an eagerly anticipated revival service at our church. We stopped at a busy intersection with a particularly blind corner — a light pole on one side and a fence on the other. In order to see the traffic coming from both directions, it was necessary to pull a few feet past the stop sign.

As we waited our turn to cross the intersection, to my sudden alarm, a driver turning left onto the street where we were stopped cut his turn way too sharply. He had not noticed until it was too late that he was turning directly into the path of another vehicle, and he was making a last-second, desperate (but futile) attempt to avoid a collision. Of course, there was no time for us to back up and get out of his way. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The oncoming car did not have time to stop, and smacked the left-turner broadside, spinning him around. As they crashed and spun, I tensed and shut my eyes, fully expecting that we would be caught up in the accident as well.

It took a few seconds to realize that the impact never came. We had heard the squeal of the tires and the screech of tearing metal, and thought we were part of the collision. When I opened my eyes, one of the cars was resting just a few inches from our front bumper. My husband got out and walked about, looking for damage to our vehicle. We were completely untouched.

It was then that I noticed our position. Before the accident, our car had been nosed out in front of the stop sign. Now we were resting about fifteen or twenty feet behind it. We gazed at each other in amazement, realizing that we had just experienced God’s supernatural protection. If our car had remained where it had been, the driver’s side of our vehicle would have been struck with violent force, and we could have been hurt badly.

We realized that there was no logical explanation for our deliverance other than that God’s angels had moved in, picked us up, and put us down just far enough back to keep us out of harm’s way. Truly, we had experienced firsthand the promise in Psalm 91:11, 12: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, so that you do not dash your foot against a stone.”

Do you have a story of God’s miraculous intervention in your life? Why not build the faith of others by sharing it as a comment?

What’s New?

Hi friends,

Smashwords HealingCoverI’m pleased to announce that I recently updated and expanded my booklet, God’s Word on Healing, to nearly twice its previous size. For those of you who bought it as an ebook in the past (or downloaded it during one of our free promotions), you can download the latest version free by returning to wherever you bought it from.  Some ebook sellers send a notification that there is a newer version available, some not. For those who have not yet purchased it, God’s Word on Healing retails for $.99. See the left-hand sidebar of Out of the Fire for some of the ebook retailers we distribute through.

Free Reading for 30 Days:

Have you tried reading ebooks via a subscription service? Ebook subscription services are intended for avid readers. The good news: Oyster Books ($9.95 / month) and Scribd ($8.99 / month) both offer a free trial month. (That means you can read my books free there for a month!)

Find our print books and audio materials at Full Gospel Family Publications. We offer free Media Mail shipping in the U.S. plus quantity discounts on many items. Many of our print books are also available at Amazon.

More good things to come soon!

Thank you so much for following the Out of the Fire blog and purchasing our materials. I enjoy interacting with you through your comments, FaceBook, Twitter, and the other ways we’ve connected. :-)

~ Lee Ann

 

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 10)

But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14

Last time, I said that the five natural senses of seeing, hearing, touch/feeling, smelling, and tasting have corresponding senses in the spirit realm. We talked about spiritual seeing and hearing and how those manifest themselves. The other spiritual senses are less obvious, but they do exist, and as we use them, our discernment increases. The spiritual senses help us in the discerning of good and evil, of which “discerning of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10) is a part.

Have you ever heard someone say, “That idea just leaves a bad taste in my mouth”? They’re probably sensing something in the spirit. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” That is a metaphorical expression, but there are times when the Lord’s nearness can be sensed very sweetly — almost to the point of “tasting” sweet.

People also commonly express that something just doesn’t smell right. They are not talking about physical odors, but about a situation they are uncomfortable with. Something doesn’t seem above-board. They are sensing that spiritually. Spiritual smell sometimes evidences in the natural, as well. When demonic presences are in the vicinity, occasionally there is an accompanying smell of sulfur, burning cinders, rotten fish, etc. On the other hand, I have personally been in worship settings where the delightful smell of apples, roses, or orange blossoms began to faintly fill the room. It wasn’t my nose playing tricks on me. Multiple people smelled it along with me. It was the Lord, making His Presence known.

What about the sense of touch and/or feeling? Many times we believers talk of having received a “touch of the Lord.” During a time of corporate prayer, I once felt a hand firmly pressed upon my heart for several minutes. I had my eyes closed, and at first I thought someone had decided to pray for me with the laying on of hands and had done so inappropriately. I opened my eyes to find that there was no one touching me. It was either the Lord or one of His angels. The sensation continued long after I had opened my eyes. Perhaps He was imparting something to me in that moment. That was a case of the spiritual sense of touch crossing over into the natural.

We can “feel” in the spirit what is going on with other people. We may sense the Presence of the Lord when a person who has a close relationship with Him walks by us. I tend to experience this as a slight feeling of fire or warm oil while I am around the person. I have sometimes felt an almost tangible darkness around people who were in some kind of spiritual bondage.

The tangible Presence of the Lord often feels like a weighty blanket over us — a thickness-in-the-air sensation. It will sometimes be felt as though rivers of love, or warm oil, are washing over us. This is most common when the Body is gathered together in deep worship, but we can experience it individually as well, perhaps while in personal prayer and worship.

We may have a goose-bumpy sensation when spiritual activity, either good or bad, is going on around us. When angelic activity increases, often in corporate worship settings, a cool, refreshing breeze which has nothing to do with the heating/air conditioning system sometimes manifests. Some have theorized that it might be due to the movement of angel wings. Perhaps it is the “wind” of the Holy Spirit Himself.

On the other hand, an evil presence will sometimes manifest itself as a very cold or hot sensation which is not at all pleasant. We do not need to fear the negative manifestations; they help us to discern the spirits so that we can take whatever action is necessary.

Ask the Lord to heighten your spiritual senses, and expect Him to answer your prayer. As you eagerly anticipate Him doing so, keeping alert in your spirit, you will begin to see your spiritual senses come alive and grow more acute.

Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to rightly apply what you are sensing in the spirit realm. He may be alerting you for prayer purposes, so that you understand more fully how to help others, or for your own personal safety or guidance. When it comes to sensing the Lord’s nearness through any of the five spiritual senses, He may be revealing Himself to strengthen and encourage you, build your faith, or simply to let you know how much He loves you.

I hope this series has been useful to you! I’d be glad to answer any of your questions to the best of my ability, to hear your stories, or to receive your feedback.  :-)

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
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