Category Archives: Christian teaching

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 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.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Applying It to Prayer (Part 8)

Last time, we started examining some heart-searching questions which will help us to discern whether we are praying according to the Spirit or from a soulish perspective. I said that 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the charitable love passage, is a standard to help us recognize the difference between the two. Let’s continue on with our list.

4.) What emotions or attitudes are motivating my prayers? As I already mentioned, self-ambition and a desire for personal comfort can muddy our prayers. Fear is probably the biggest single emotion that leads us into soulish praying, while love is the greatest motivator of genuine spiritual prayers. Are your prayers lining up with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23? If so, you will do all right.

5.) Am I praying by revelation or by my opinion? For those of us who are by nature strong-minded people, it’s not always easy to tell at first. Some of us automatically assume that if we feel strongly about something, we must be moving in the counsel of God.

The good news is that by deliberately practicing discernment — by asking God for His viewpoint and listening for the subtle promptings of His Spirit — we will, over time, learn to distinguish between our personal opinions and the convictions or revelation of the Lord.

Plug into a prayer group where you feel you can safely submit your ideas to others who desire along with you to pray according to the Holy Spirit’s direction. This can be a huge help in increasing your prayer discernment. Be willing to ask what the others think about praying a certain way, and then yield to their counsel. It takes a while to get comfortable enough praying with other intercessors to allow them to help you in discerning, but it is worth the effort and the risk. In addition to building your discerning skills, you will grow in humility — a most desirable goal.

We can and should pray against the actions of destructive people (terrorists, for example), but we pray for the people themselves. One of the ways I personally pray against terrorist threats is by asking the Lord to gut sleeper cells by revealing Himself, even supernaturally through dreams and visions, to the terrorists within those cells. Thousands of Muslims throughout the world have already come to know Jesus through visitations from angels and even Jesus Himself, so why not deliberately ask for such occurrences for terrorists?

You may be thinking, “But evil people sometimes need to be prayed against!” Yes, and I’m not trying to be a mamby-pamby about this or make a rule set in stone. I prayed, along with many of you, that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would be “taken out.” Just be careful to use those prayers wisely and sparingly, and feel your way through how to pray into those particular situations with the constant help of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick [living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This verse implies that the soul and spirit are so closely knit that we need supernatural help in discerning between them. Thank God for His Word, which assists us in doing so, as the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts!

This is why measuring our hearts by 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 helps to keep our prayers in line with God’s heart. Everything in prayer must be filtered through charitable love!

You can be totally right in your revelation, but totally wrong in what you do with it. This is because it is easy for us to crisscross back and forth between spirit and soul without being aware of it. But if we will practice measuring everything by the Word and asking for the Holy Spirit’s aid in discernment, we will find ourselves more frequently praying from a right spiritual perspective and less frequently stepping over into the flesh with our prayers.

Next time, we will talk about how to strengthen our spiritual senses.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Applying It to Prayer (Part 7) 
Next: Building Our Spiritual Senses (Part 9)

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Applying It to Prayer (Part 7)

We can go two ways in prayer — the way of the soul or the way of being led by the Spirit. Whether we discern the world around us through our soul, with all its flawed natural thinking, or through communion between our spirit and the Holy Spirit makes a huge difference not only in how we act, but in how we pray. Continually asking the Lord to help us discern spiritually, according to His point of view, will increasingly lead us into more perfect praying, which receives answers.

The way of the Spirit is to be life-giving in everything we do, including our prayers. However, it is easy to slip into prayers which are not life-giving, if we do not correctly discern whether we are operating from the soul or the spirit, which is well illustrated in Luke 9:51-56. In this passage, Jesus was journeying toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to arrange lodgings in Samaria, but He was not welcomed.

And when James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?”

But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Unfortunately, there are times when Jesus’ prayer warriors do not know what spirit they are of, either, and pray things which are not according to His heart. When we pray from a wrong spirit, guess which kingdom we are cooperating with? (Hint: It is not the kingdom of light!) How can we do better?

First of all, we can ask ourselves some heart-searching questions:

1.) Do I have love and compassion for those involved, or do I possess a heart that is vengeful, angry, and judgmental? During and right after the last presidential election, there were a lot of contentious, judgmental Christians speaking their mind. That carried over into how many prayed. Politics can be quite a hot button, especially if moral issues are at stake, and therefore well illustrates how easy it is to slip into praying out of an angry, judgmental heart. Church disunity is another example of where we can fall into this pit.

It is possible to have a genuine revelation of truth, and yet apply it to prayer out of a wrong spirit, thereby aligning ourselves with the kingdom of darkness, all the while believing we are in union with Christ’s kingdom. I realize this is not the intent. It was not James’ and John’s intent in Luke 9, either. They were upset on Jesus’ behalf, mistook the offense of their hearts for righteous indignation, and were ready to use their spiritual authority to cut down and kill. We have to watch ourselves, so that we don’t operate in like manner.

2.) Do I want what is best for everyone concerned, or am I only interested in what brings advantage and comfort to me? What was going on with James and John? Loyalty to Jesus was present, but there was something of a dark nature motivating their desire to destroy. I would guess it was prideful ambition: How dare they refuse us hospitality? Don’t they know who we are? Throw in with that a desire for immediate gratification of physical comfort needs, and you’ve got a good soulish reason to react as they did.

Philippians 2:3 gives us guidance on the motives which should govern our prayers: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves.” Several translations word “strife and vainglory” as “selfish ambition and conceit.” Strife has also been translated as “a party spirit” or “a faction.” We need to guard our hearts from such attitudes, so that they do not enter into our prayers.

3.) Am I following Jesus’ instructions to bless those who curse me and pray for those who despitefully use me (Matthew 5:44), or am I just concerned about my own vindication?

Using 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the charitable love passage, as the standard for how we pray will greatly help us. Of course, we live by the whole of Genesis through Revelation, but if we will align ourselves with this particular passage, we cannot go very far wrong in our prayers.

One of the principles of prayer is that you can’t help but love those for whom you pray. Pray with the understanding that Jesus loves and died for the people who are giving you a bad time. You might have to grit your teeth at first, while you consciously pray blessing upon them, but as you obey the Lord by doing so, He will fill you with His perspective and with creative prayers for them which are straight from His heart. You will gain insight into why they behave the way they do, and your compassion for them will be ignited. As time goes on, you will find that your forgiveness toward them is not just a decision, but a heartfelt emotion, too. You may even see them soften and change — but at the very least, you will soften and change.

This goes for people you personally deal with in life, but it also works in praying for morally corrupt political leaders.

We’ll continue this list next time.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Protecting the Gates (Part 6) 
Next: Applying It to Prayer (cont.) (Part 8)

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

prophetic, prophecy

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Protecting the Gates (Part 6)

Our discernment and ability to flow with the Holy Spirit are greatly affected by what we absorb through our physical senses, especially our eyes and ears. The eyes and ears are gates, or openings, to the soul and spirit. So, if we are going to keep our discernment untainted, we have to be careful about what we let in through the gates.

Besides the obvious things we should want to avoid, such as risqué music and videos, there are far more subtle influences which can corrupt our ability to retain God’s vantage point. The news media — whether liberal or conservative — is a major area to be wary of.

First of all, we have to realize that when it comes to the news, fear sells. I know believers who are consumed with anxiety, just because they spend too much time watching or reading the news. It is good to stay informed on current events, but constantly learning about catastrophes (or predictions of possible catastrophes, many of which never happen) can open us up to a spirit of fear. At best, a steady diet of that kind of info weighs a person down. We who are intercessors need to be especially careful not to let ourselves become overburdened or distracted with too many subjects of concern all at the same time.

Worse for us than the news articles themselves are the editorials. During the last election, I was truly appalled at the barrage of hate-filled e-mails and social media posts I saw from well-meaning Christians who were trying to keep their fellow believers informed on political issues. The name-calling, finger-pointing, and venom coming through these communications was not at all allied with the Spirit of Jesus. And the same spirit was showing up in some intercessors’ prayers as well.

Why was this happening? Too much listening to conservative news commentators turned out to be the source of the problem. Let’s just say something which should be obvious, but apparently isn’t: conservative and Christian are not interchangeable terms. Just because it is a conservative point of view does not make it automatically Christ-like. Most of the commentators are not believers. Even those who are do not always think from a biblical perspective. And if you listen to these folks all the time, your spiritual senses will become dull.

Shifting gears quite a bit, let me ask: do you watch Ellen? Oprah? SNL? I challenge you to remove those things from your viewing diet. Replace them and the news commentaries with time in the Word, and you will be surprised how quickly your spiritual discernment will improve. Psalm 1:1, 2 tells us, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor does he stand in the way of sinners, nor does he sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” There are the keys we need: don’t heed the counsel of the ungodly, don’t let yourself become scornful, and delight in and meditate in the Scriptures.

Next time, we will shift into specifics of how to apply discernment to intercession.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro 
Previous: Practice It! Part 5
Next: Applying Discernment to Prayer (Part 7) 
 

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Practice It! (Part 5)

We have talked about what discernment is and how to increase it in the following ways:

1.) Ask God to give you greater discernment. We established that He is more than willing to give it, based on James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally, without upbraiding, and it shall be given to him.” (Discernment is a component of wisdom.) A prevailing principle of Scripture is that promises laid out in the Word do not just fall into our laps. We must actively ask for them: “We have not, because we ask not ” (James 4:2).

I gave you three more Scriptures which can be used in asking for increased discernment:

Isaiah 50:4, 5
Isaiah 11:2, 3
Ephesians 1:17, 18

2.) Listen to the Lord for His perspective. Listening is an active exercise, in that it involves asking the Lord questions, and then waiting for His answer. We can ask, “What is on Your heart?” “What is Your perspective on this world/national event? Give me Your vantage point.” “What is the root problem in this situation?” “What is motivating this person to react the way he is?” “Should I respond, or should I keep silent?”

We can gradually form the habit of staying in a listening posture before the Lord. It takes effort, but we will get there, as we ask for the Lord’s help in developing this skill.

Part of listening is also training ourselves not to immediately form opinions or jump to conclusions. We must learn to wait for the Lord to reveal His viewpoint. Too many of us are acting, speaking, and praying based on the opinions of our mind, rather than on the leading of the Lord in our spirit.

3.) Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Do this by daily reading it, studying parts of it more closely using various Bible helps, meditating on it (which means to continually think on a verse or passage which is meaningful to you, throughout the day or week), and listening to an audio Bible or reading Scriptures aloud to yourself.

Immersing ourselves in the Word helps us to think like God thinks. Paul said “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Word is one of the most effective tools we have to experience the reality of that. It provides a way to renew the mind, as mentioned in Romans 12:2, and it cleanses us as well. Jesus told His disciples, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Here are a couple more tools to help you increase in discernment:

4.) Listen for checks and nudges. A check is an inner hesitancy in your spirit, which is really the Holy Spirit telling you, “Don’t do that.” “Don’t say that.” “Don’t go there.” “Wait.” Nudges are the positive side of checks. They are persistent promptings to do, say, or pray something, even when it seems silly to your rational thinking.

The Holy Spirit frequently attempts to guide us by means of checks and nudges, but most of us ignore them and plow on our merry way, getting ourselves into trouble which could have been avoided and missing doors of opportunity which could have been accessed. Why do we ignore them? Because our natural mind rationalizes them away. “What could be wrong with doing that?” “But I want to say it! What can it hurt?” “Why should I use the checkout aisle with the longer line? I’m in a hurry!” “Why would I take that route home? The other way is closer.”

If we will stop dismissing these promptings and start obeying them, we will find that not only will life have less problems, but we will begin to see God using us to bless other people unexpectedly. Developing a sensitivity to checks and nudges is a big part of increasing in discernment.

5.) Pay attention to the little details going on around you. God will use the honing of our physical senses to also sharpen what we pick up on with our spiritual senses. There is a thin veil between the two. Discernment sometimes crosses back and forth between what we see, hear, feel, and otherwise sense naturally, and what we observe through the spiritual senses.

Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age [maturity], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” As we deliberately form habits such as the five I have listed, and consciously practice using them, our discernment muscles are built up by the exercise of them. We go beyond the limitations of natural thinking and the actions it brings to becoming mature spiritual people, moving with the Lord into supernatural, miraculous living.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Increase by the Word (Part 4)
Next: Protecting the Gates (Part 6)

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

 

prophetic, prophecy

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Increase by the Word (Part 4)

We’ve talked about the importance of asking the Lord to increase our discernment, and also asking His perspective on particular situations and then listening for His answer. As we develop the habit of inquiring of the Lord for His vantage point on the circumstances which surround us, we grow in discernment.

Even more important, however, is to immerse ourselves in the Bible. Intimate familiarity with the Word is vital, if we are to understand God’s nature and hear Him accurately. It teaches us how God speaks, what His voice sounds like, and how He ticks. It clues us in to His viewpoint on life. If we are not well-versed in the Bible, our discernment will be stunted and skewed.

Multitudes of Christian people in our day are buying into all sorts of false teaching and popular, but unbiblical, opinions. It is almost hard to grasp how duped many believers are. But it is due to not regularly reading the Bible, while indiscriminately absorbing whatever looks and sounds good through the Internet and other forms of media. Truly, even among the Church, we are back in the days when Every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25) and “There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

One of the greatest antidotes to deception, and also one of the best ways to increase discernment, is to immerse ourselves in the Word. Reading it is important. Go beyond reading it to studying the parts which puzzle or intrigue you. E-Sword is an excellent free downloadable Bible program, with many translations, commentaries, and Bible dictionaries within it. You can look up the original Greek and Hebrew words to enhance your understanding. There are also lots of great online resources available. I personally like Bible Gateway. Do you have other favorite Bible tools? Why not share them by commenting on them and leaving a link to them?

Besides reading and studying God’s Word, we also need to meditate in it, which means to ponder it. The goal is to be thinking throughout the day about a particular verse or passage which is meaningful to you in your present circumstances. With a whole book of verses to choose from, where does one begin? What works best for me is to ask the Lord which verse He wants me to meditate on. He then either brings one to mind as I go about my daily business, or else He highlights one to me in my regular course of Bible reading. As I begin to ponder that verse, He shows me how it applies to me in ways which I would not have thought of on my own. Often, He then brings other verses to mind which correlate with the first one and further expand my understanding.

Listening to Scripture is another way to immerse ourselves in it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), so we really ought to avail ourselves of this method of absorbing God’s truth. Read it aloud to yourself or use one of the audio recordings abundantly available online.

Next time I will share with you a couple more practical ways to increase your discerning skills.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Asking and Listening (Part 3)
Next: Practice It! (Part 5)

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Asking and Listening (Part 3)

Last time, I said that two ways to sharpen discernment are by asking the Lord for a greater measure of it and making a habit of listening for Him to speak to us. The Lord encourages us to ask, in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally and does not upbraid, and it shall be given to him.” James 4:2 further comments, “You have not, because you ask not.” So, if we want greater discerning ability, we simply need to ask. The Lord is already willing to give it to us, but He wants us to desire it enough to request it.

I have a few favorite Scriptures which I sometimes pray in my quest for increased discernment. One is Isaiah 50:4, 5, which I mentioned last time: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, so that I will know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. Morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious ….”

Another is Isaiah 11:2, 3: “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. And [the Spirit of the LORD] shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.” These verses are about the Messiah Who was to come, but we can also use them to pray for ourselves, because God’s intent, according to 1 John 4:17, is that “as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world.”

Still another is Ephesians 1:17, 18: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened ….”

We can personalize these passages and others in praying for greater discernment.

In addition, I mentioned that we can form a habit of asking the Lord questions and listening for His answers. I often ask the Lord to give me His vantage point on what is really going on in my personal circumstances, national and world events, and in my home region. If we ask these kinds of questions frequently, and keep in listening mode, we will begin to acquire insight above the level of our human understanding.

I also ask the Spirit of Truth to help me identify and tear down strongholds, or mindsets, in my thinking, which oppose His truth — and then I ask Him to establish His thoughts in my mind in place of them. We all carry mindsets which oppose truth, but we are not usually aware of them until the Holy Spirit reveals them to us, either directly or through wise people He places in our lives to help us. Tearing down strongholds in our thinking and building up the Lord’s truth there instead are steps in developing discernment. The removal of strongholds of the mind is a lifelong process.

It is easy to assume that our opinions are in line with how God thinks, but once we ask the Lord to help us identify and tear down strongholds in our minds, we will often be surprised to find that some of our most cherished opinions are not His at all!

We will continue with more practical ways to increase discernment next time.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Asking and Listening (Part 2)
Next: Increase by the Word

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

prophetic, prophecy

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam