Category Archives: Christian

Going Low

One of my favorite quotes by famous people is from John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). I think on it often.

Our natural human tendency is to grab as much recognition for ourselves as possible. Those of us who have a business or ministry are constantly being told how important it is to “brand” ourselves, so that everyone knows who we are and desires our services or products. While some of that may be necessary in a practical, functional sense, the whole “Look at me! See how special I am!” egotism that often goes with it is something that we who are believers must continually resist. Our focus should always be to point people to Jesus, rather than ourselves. John the Baptist understood this, and I am so glad that his response to the temptation to strive for personal honor is recorded for us in the Bible.

There is a special place in our relationship with Jesus, where we develop such an adoration for Him that we actually desire to “go low” — where we want to empty ourselves of the desire for personal recognition, to become nothing, so that He might be everything. To make Jesus famous in all the earth becomes our passion, our obsession, where He alone matters.

Surely this must be what is going on in Revelation 4:10, 11, where the twenty-four elders “fall down before Him Who sat on the throne, and worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created.'” They are totally fixated on the Lord.

I began to think a lot about “going low” a few years ago, inspired by a dream which Julie Meyer shared of seeing God’s throne room. I hope you will listen to her description and that it will stir your heart, as it did mine:

While we are yet in our mortal existence, I am not sure if we can continually stay in that place of going low, of being emptied of self in adoration of the Lord. I would like to stay there, but at present, it seems as though I can only visit for a time. The fallen nature includes a tendency to drift back into pride and self-exaltation, and I find that I must personally battle against that frequently. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), and we must learn to die daily to the old nature’s demands as well.

But my goal is to rest in that “going low” place increasingly, until it becomes more my dwelling place than a visiting place.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of looking for recognition, titles, and honor from people, how about meditating on what John the Baptist said? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John found peace and rest there. I think we can, too.

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World

inner peaceMy newest book, All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, is now available!

Thank you so much to those who took advantage of our pre-order sale! If you enjoyed All-Surpassing Peace, please help us spread the word by recommending it to your friends! (Rating it at the site you purchased it from also helps, and is so appreciated.)

Book Description:

All of us long for peace: for the world, in our relationships, and most importantly, inside ourselves. Why is peace so elusive, even for those of us who are Christians? How do we manage to achieve true peace — and then hang onto it?

In All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, you will discover why peace is the covenant right of every child of God, and how you can access it. I share practical keys from Scripture and my personal experience to help you enter into a greater peace than you have yet known.

Discover:

  • How to enter into a covenant of peace with God
  • How to overcome hindrances to your peace
  • Your calling to be God’s agent of peace to others
  • How peace can be a tool to guide your life
  • Ways to maintain or restore your peace in times of turmoil

Read a Sample

Available at:

Thanks for taking a look! I hope All-Surpassing Peace will be a blessing to you!

 

 

Prophetic Leaning (Part 1)

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Gerald Sargent Foster, Racing, 1934, Smithsonian American Art Museum, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Recently, the Lord spoke to me, “Lean not on the imaginations of your own heart.” It was a  restating of Proverbs 3:5, “… Lean not on your own understanding.” This was a word for me personally concerning a specific situation, but I think it can also apply in a general way to any of us who hear God’s voice and/or see visions. We should take time to discern whether we are truly hearing and seeing from the Lord, or whether our own imaginations are tainting our revelation.

During the months leading up to the Presidential election, and since then, we encountered many prophetic people with conflicting assertions about what the future held and still holds:

  • President Obama would not finish his term in office. / President Obama would seize a third term for himself.
  • There would be no election. / There would be an election.
  • Hillary Clinton would win. / Donald Trump would win.
  • The election would be a squeaker. / The election would be a landslide.
  • There would be martial law, and on and on.

Obviously, some of the dreams, visions, and “the Lord told me” statements were blatantly false. They came from the imaginations of the prophetic people’s own hearts. Confusion and division within the Body of Christ resulted, as did much skepticism about prophecy in general, which is a terrible shame.

Was all of this coming from false prophets? Not necessarily. Immaturity is a possible factor. Some of the people releasing supposed revelation, especially of a sensational nature, simply succumbed to a desire for fame. The possibility of being heard by the world through YouTube and other social media platforms brings with it huge temptations for the ego.

Some, I believe, received information which was meant as a call to prayer, so that the things they were seeing could be prevented from happening. That wasn’t always clearly understood or stated.

Some, no doubt, experienced dreams or visions fed mostly by their own biases and fears, which in turn bred fear in those who listened to them. There tends to be a lot of fear-prophesying going around.

Before we are too harsh in our judgments, we need to realize that we’re all susceptible to inaccurate revelation based on our inner issues. It’s good to ask ourselves, “How can I avoid making the same kinds of mistakes?”

For most of us, when we receive a word or vision, it is wisest to sit on it for a while, letting it simmer in our hearts. The simmering helps us to discern between what is a product of our own souls and what is genuinely from the Lord. While we keep it between us and Him, we continue to inquire for a fuller understanding of what He is revealing. He often discloses what He wants to say in pieces. Many is the time in my past, when I got excited about something I was hearing from the Lord and released it too soon, only to have the Lord tell me more afterwards, which rounded out or clarified the original word. My revelation would have been far more beneficial to others if I had waited on the Lord for the fullness of it.

We should also be aware that most of what we hear is not even meant for public release. Its purpose is for prayer. While encouraging and assisting the Church through prophecy is very important, it is equally true that much of what we receive is supposed to stay a secret between God and us. It is given so that we can pray it back to Him.

In our next post, we’ll talk about a few specific areas where we can learn to navigate through imaginations to the accurate word of the Lord.

Part 2

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

 

The Merciful Discerner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. — Matthew 5:7

For those of us who are keen in discernment, there is a weakness we particularly struggle with: criticalness. Show me a person who is gifted in discernment, and I’ll show you a person prone to being critical.

Why is this the case? Criticalness is the soulish side of discernment. When God made mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26), He made us perfect, like unto His nature. Each human being since Adam and Eve has been uniquely crafted by the Lord, with particular personality and ability strengths which reflect a small piece of Who He is. And what a wonderful variety we are, all intended to complement and balance each other.

But, due to man’s fall into sin back in the Garden of Eden, the image of God in each of us was marred. The good news for believers is, through Jesus our Redeemer, God is progressively bringing us back into His own image. Still, in the process, sometimes we exhibit the old marred nature, and thus it is with criticalness and discernment.

The difference between discernment and criticalness does not rest in what we see: it’s in what we do with it. We must learn to divide between being aware of the faults of others (which is not wrong in itself) and where our minds go with that information. A critical person tends to be frequently suspicious of the motives of others, thinking that he or she is receiving discernment from the Lord. Criticalness makes unholy assumptions and judgments, often based on one’s own faults or inner hurts.

One of the areas where criticalness often rears its head is in the realm of doctrinal beliefs. Those who are well-grounded in the Bible are the most prone to this. We may feel very solid in our understanding of certain theological points, and when we come into contact with people who have a different viewpoint, or a blind spot, we then think poorly of them, perhaps writing them off entirely.

Most of the time, what is such an important issue to us is not a core doctrine of the faith. It’s just a small piece of how we’re working out our Christian walk — but we make it into a very big deal. For instance, my husband and I have encountered a few people who had such narrow views of how healing ministry should be done that they would no longer fellowship with people who did not believe exactly as they did or who were not as strong in their faith.

The apostle Paul talked about criticalness over minor theological matters in Romans 14:1-4. He was speaking into a controversy about whether to eat meat or not, because there was a possibility it had been sacrificed to false gods before showing up in the public meat market. But the principle can be applied broadly by us today:

Accept him who is weak in the faith, but not to arguing over opinions. For one believes that he may eat all things. Another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat. And he who does not eat should not judge him who eats, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.

Can we trust God to work maturity in our brothers and sisters, and let Him decide when and how to work on their foibles — even their beliefs which don’t line up with ours to a tee? “Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

As we mature in the things of the Spirit, we should find that our discernment is increasingly coupled with compassion, mercy, and patience. That is the heart of God evidencing in us. We must guard ourselves against pride, for Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up, but charitable love builds up. And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). He also said, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).

We’ve all got a long journey ahead of us before we reach perfection. Let’s give each other a break.

I’ve written another article on criticalness versus discernment, which contains a list of questions to help us determine whether we are operating in discernment from the Spirit or merely criticalness of the soul. I hope you will find that post helpful.

Truth for the New Year

eternity[This post is a little different from what I usually write at Out of the Fire, but I feel it is what the Lord is currently putting on my heart. Perhaps it will speak to some of my readers personally, or maybe you will wish to share it with people you know.]

In today’s world, it is common for people to make up their own system of spirituality. Finding God on one’s own terms has become the norm. This even goes on among some who call themselves Christians.

But there’s a problem. You can believe things of your own making, but that doesn’t make them really true, just because they sound good to you. If there is a real God (and there is), and He doesn’t agree with you, what then? Who do you think will win in this contest? Will you be able to persuade Him that your way of trying to reach Him was good enough? Hardly.

His answer to such ideas is, “I provided one way for you — one way only. I sent My Son Jesus to die for you. If you refuse Him, there is no alternate path to Me.”

If you consulted a doctor, and he flatly stated that the medicine he was going to prescribe was the only one which would cure you, what would you do? Would you decide that you had a better idea? Whose fault would it then be if you did not get well?

It’s the same with how we reach God and assure our place in heaven. One way has been provided — Jesus. If we choose to reject Him, we will eventually find out, to our everlasting grief, that we have been arrogant and deceived. This is serious business!

You may not believe in hell. But what if God says it exists? (He does.) Deciding that you don’t want to accept God’s way of deliverance from hell (Jesus is that way) means you will end up there. So much for not believing hell exists. It is hard to keep that belief while you are spending a horrible eternity there.

What’s the solution?

If you want to be accepted by God, it’s rather simple, yet it will dearly cost you at the same time. It’s simple in that all you have to do is embrace Jesus as the only One Who can reconcile you to God. It’s costly in that you must humble yourself to admit that you sin, and that you cannot make yourself good enough to please God by your own will or actions. You will have to ask Him to forgive you for all you have done which offends His purity. It’s also costly in that you must lay down your desires in deference to His. Life can no longer be lived on your terms.

Jesus said it is important to “count the cost” (Luke 14:27, 28). The short-term cost of belonging to Him is that you must be willing to stop doing whatever you please, and start letting Him lead you into His plans. The long-term cost? If you decide you don’t like that idea, there is everlasting misery and excruciating pain ahead once you leave this earth. It’s better to plan for the long-term!

If you’ve counted the cost and want the solution, here’s what you need to do:

1.) Tell God you need Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you and take you as His own. He will gladly receive you.

2.) Tell Jesus you are willing to receive Him not only as your Savior, but also as your Lord. Ask Him to guide you from now on and to help you live for Him. He will give you the grace to do that.

3.) Knowing God is not just about getting your ticket out of hell and into heaven. It doesn’t stop there. It is about having deep, ongoing relationship with Him (which is an exciting adventure!). You grow in knowing Him by praying and reading the Bible often. (The books listed below can help you a lot in getting started in your new life with God.)

4.) Connect with other people who love Jesus — through a church, Bible study, and/or home fellowship. You will need other believers to pray for you, encourage you, and help you grow in knowing the Lord. We all need supportive people in our lives.

How will you know you have found a good bunch of people to be with? They will talk a lot about Jesus and what He has done for us through the cross. They will also emphasize living out the truths found in the Bible. And they will demonstrate love for others.

5.) Tell other people that you are now a follower of Jesus and why you came to that decision, so that they will want to know Him, too.

I would enjoy hearing from you, if you have given your life to Jesus through reading this post!

Now those books I mentioned:

 

How to Pray and Read the Bible

 

 

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God

 

 

Adapting to God in Prayer

Many years ago, I was taught an expected form of how my personal prayer time was supposed to unfold:

A — Adoration
C — Contrition
T — Thanksgiving
S — Supplication

In other words, we had to worship first, then repent of every sin we could remember committing since the last prayer time, then spend some time thanking, and finally, ask God for all the things we wanted. We were encouraged to spend an allotted amount of time on each — fifteen minutes apiece, for example, to achieve an hour of prayer. We were supposed to worship (adoration) first, so that God would be willing to listen when we asked for His forgiveness.

But then, a different prayer expert came along and said, “No, no! You must repent first, so that God will receive your worship!” — which left us with

C
A
T
S

— not ACTS.

It all sounds so silly now, yet this was how many people were taught thirty-plus years ago. No wonder prayer was a drudge which few people stayed with!

Fortunately, some of us quietly rebelled, and learned to connect with God through the heart, rather than in a dry form. We worshiped often, because Jesus made our hearts continually glad, repented as the Lord revealed our issues, gave thanks throughout the day, and presented our petitions somewhere in between all the rest. AND, we communed with the Lord for Who He is.

Even when we have not conformed ourselves to somebody else’s plan for how prayer ought to be done, many of us still unconsciously settle into our own little rut. We get comfortable with an idea of how prayer must go, and if we don’t live up to it, we tend to feel guilty, as if we have not really prayed. However, from time to time, the Holy Spirit Himself may wish to lead us into a different mode of prayer. We need to listen to Him, and let Him lead. It is all right if we don’t keep doing it the way we have always done.

For instance, maybe you have a habit of starting prayer with a time of worship. From there, you might meditate on a portion of Scripture, then listen a little for the Lord’s leading, then intercede for the needs on your mind. But what if the Spirit were to put a desire in you to spend your whole prayer time in worship? Or conversation with the Lord? Or tongues? Or thinking about one Bible verse? Or (gasp!) just sitting with Him — while He doesn’t even say anything! Would you feel guilty for not interceding that day? Would you think you were not doing your job as a prayer warrior?

Frankly, I have struggled (sometimes still struggle) with these things. I like to accomplish receiving many answers through intercession. I like to feel I have “done” something, because I see the needs around me, and they are great. However, I am learning that if the Holy Spirit wants to disrupt my routine and focus exclusively on a certain aspect of prayer for a while, it’s OK. If He wants to make my entire prayer time into a conversational session, or a listening time, He’ll take care of the intercession part somehow — perhaps through one- or two-sentence petitions while I’m doing other tasks during the day. Maybe He will have someone else intercede for those concerns. It’s not all up to me anyway.

I’ve tried persevering through and doing prayer the way I’ve always done (because I don’t always “get it” immediately, or because I can be a little mule-headed), and I can tell you, if what I am trying to achieve in prayer is not Spirit-powered, it does not work.

So, if the way you have done prayer for quite some time just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or if you don’t feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit on it like you once did, step back and ask Him how He would like to change it for a while. “Father, how would You like to do prayer today? Do You have a favorite song You would like me to sing to You? What’s on Your heart?” You might be surprised at where He will take you. And it will be good.

 

The Intercessor Manual

Things I Look for in a Prophet

Deception is certainly on the rise — not only in the secular world, but in the Church. Truly, we need the discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) more than ever. I am personally asking the Lord to increase this essential gift in me.

While ultimately it is by the Holy Spirit that we discern prophecy and those who claim to be prophets, there are practical steps we can take in our discernment process. Living by the direction of the Spirit does not mean we never use common sense. The Lord is the Giver of sense in the first place!

So, from a practical standpoint, I got to thinking about what I personally look for in prophets who are publicly releasing their words, dreams, and visions. Here’s my list:

1.) Is their focus primarily on Jesus, or is it only on giving spectacular words about future events?

Seeing into the future is part of the prophetic function for some prophets, but not for all. The main purpose of all prophecy is to point to Jesus. Revelation 19:10 tells us, “… The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” That might include a call to repentance or prayer; strengthening, comfort, and encouragement (see 1 Corinthians 14:3); or seeing into the future. But the underlying focus is always Jesus.

2.) If they have a website with a statement of faith, does it line up with the core beliefs of Christianity?

This is one of the first things I check, if their “word” seems to be OK. Then I look through their list of articles to see if there is anything odd showing up.

One man, whose teaching on prophecy initially seemed to be very good, had written an article encouraging people to pursue being possessed by angels. Say what? Is being indwelt and guided by the Holy Spirit not enough? I didn’t look into his teachings any further.

3.) Are their prophetic words or visions in agreement with God’s Word?

If not, no further discernment is needed: just throw the revelation out. We all make some theological mistakes while we’re maturing, but if there is gross or continuous error, I wouldn’t bother paying attention to that prophet anymore.

4.) Do they urge people to seek the Lord, or to put confidence in man?

Psalm 146:3 tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”

Every time we have a presidential election, there are prophets who are so enamored with a particular candidate that you would think by their prophecies that their man is the savior of the nation. God doesn’t give saviorhood to anyone but Jesus. He can use an elected official hugely, but He still wants our trust solidly and completely placed in Him. Anything else is idolatry.

Pay attention to the emphasis of the words being released. Even if the prophet is correct about the candidate winning, if he or she is encouraging you to put your hope in a human being, the message is off-kilter. Don’t swallow that hook.

5.) Do they accept the discerning of their words by others?

God has set up safety factors for the Church. The discerning of prophetic words is not left up to the prophets who give them. (See 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21.)

6.) Do they have connections with (accountability to) honorable men and women of faith? Or are they out there on their own?

7.) Do they love and honor people who differ with them, or do they get angry, lash out, or accuse those who disagree with them?

This is pride, and a really red flag that all is not well in prophet-land.

8.) Do they lead the sheep, or do they drive them? Do they treat God’s people kindly, or threaten and browbeat them?

“You have to believe what I’m telling you. It’s the word of the Lord! If it doesn’t witness to you, you are just not listening to God!” Seriously?

9.) Are they accurate? Are they consistent over time?

Genuine prophets can make mistakes, but what if their prophecies were measured in percentage points? Would they get a passing grade, or an F?

10.) Are they humble? Is it about their reputation and recognition, or is it about God receiving glory?

11.) Do they admit their mistakes and ask the Church’s forgiveness? Or do they make excuses and blame others for their words not coming true?

The prophet who can humble himself to repent and take responsibility for his errors can be trusted in the long run. God can work with a flawed, yet humble, prophet. Sadly, admitting publicly to error is rare in the prophetic arena.

12.) Do they demand allegiance to their revelation, or do they leave the results to Jesus?

Years ago, a young prophetic person told those of us who were under his leadership that we must pray diligently for his “word” to come to pass. He said if it didn’t happen, it would be our fault. Ahem.

13.) Does my spirit feel uneasy while I’m listening to the prophet?

Uneasiness is an important tool by which the Holy Spirit helps us discern. It can mean something is off. Take a little time to weigh your lack of peace, in case it is simply your flesh resisting. But most likely your sense is correct.

Even if you can’t put your finger on it, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you discern this. There have been times I have sensed the spirit of fear attached to the words of certain prophets. At other times, the sense was indefinable, and yet I knew something was wrong.

Some time back, I watched a video of a popular prophet. It just didn’t set well. Several months later, he was exposed for borrowing the predictions of a psychic and mouthing them as his own prophetic revelation. Ick. My sense of uneasiness bore out to be valid.

14.) Do their prophetic words come across as a curse? Do they only prophesy catastrophes?

God does speak stern warnings to His people at times, but He always has a redemptive purpose in warning us. He does not enjoy the prospect of calamity. A prophet who seems to relish prophesying destruction is not of a right spirit.

15.) What kind of fruit are they bearing?

Are their personal lives an absolute mess? Are they living in sin? Are the people they minister to ending up wounded?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them.”  — Matthew 7:15-20

Asking questions such as these can help us grow in accurate discerning of what is truly from God and what is only of the flesh (or worse). If we use them as guidelines, the Holy Spirit will step in and fine-tune our discerning of spirits, so that we are not fooled by those whom God is not truly sending.

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy