Category Archives: Christian

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More on Discerning of Spirits

discerning of spiritsI’ve mentioned before that since the beginning of the year God has been impressing upon me the importance of the gift of discerning of spirits. It’s not a gift for just a few, although some will move in it more keenly than others. All believers need to operate in it at greater levels than we have thus far, if we are going to navigate life well.

A few months ago, I shared with you the series, Discerning Between Soul and Spirit. If we do not pursue the Lord for the ability to know the difference between these two, we can easily be fooled into thinking our emotions (which are part of our soul) are the Holy Spirit’s promptings. While our feelings do often align with the Spirit, not all emotions we experience — even positive ones — indicate God’s leading. Many in the Church are operating entirely out of emotional impulses. We need to change that.

For example, sometimes we may feel “righteous indignation,” but it is really only anger fueled by our flesh. Compassion is a Christ-like quality, but we can also experience misguided compassion, coming only from our human emotions. A sense of personal justice (or injustice) might really be selfishness wearing a mask.

Every day, hour by hour, we must discern whether what is propelling us is truly the Spirit of God or our soul — or even something worse! If we listen to our soul too much, our defenses become weakened to where we could begin to be influenced by an unholy spirit, which we then mistake for the Holy Spirit.

As we commit ourselves to listening to the Lord and staying sensitive to Him, we can develop a much keener sense of what is from Him and what is not. Here are some ways I try to do that:

1.)  I ask God for His perspective on events happening around me, both in my personal life and relationships and on a national / international level.

2.)  I ask, “Lord, is what I am sensing from You, or is it just my own emotions?”

3.)  I ask the Holy Spirit to bring Bible verses to mind which address whatever I have questions about and to help me rightly apply them.

Applying biblical principles correctly takes wisdom only the Spirit can impart. It’s easy to find a verse to support whatever position we want to take. But without the Lord’s help, we can end up misusing Scripture for our own soulish purposes.

4.)  If I am concerned about something and feel an urge to speak into it, I check my peace barometer. If I’m churned up inside, I try to take a step back and ask the Holy Spirit for more understanding.

Colossians 3:15 advises us, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you are also called in one body; and be thankful.” That word “rule” means to act as a referee. So, if I feel an urge to jump into a debate, but I have no peace, I know I need to find out why before acting or speaking. (To my regret, sometimes I don’t do well at this, but I am learning.)

5.)  When possible, I delay responding to people or situations, giving myself time to gain wisdom. Waiting can save us a lot of unnecessary turmoil and discord. It’s a good thing not to be in a hurry!

There are battles which God has called us to speak into publicly and battles which are meant to stay in the prayer closet. We need to know the difference. If we fail to speak up in key moments, we might miss opportunities to advance the Lord’s purposes. If, however, we speak without the Spirit’s go-ahead, we can do damage to His cause.

Ephesians 6:12 is really easy to forget, so we should endeavor to keep it in mind constantly:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

When we enter into spiritual battles by taking them on in the natural, we always end up on the wrong side. We cannot serve God’s purposes through fleshly attempts to fix things.

Truly, God is calling His people into higher ways of thinking. Romans 8:5, 6 is a key passage:

For they who live according to the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they who live according to the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Let us pursue the attitudes of the Holy Spirit, asking Him to take us into His thoughts and ways. As we relentlessly do so, we will come into a far greater ability to discern the spirits and to align with Him alone.

personal prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

In Defense of the Elijahs

Oh, here we go again. Another sermon on Elijah’s failure and how God never used him after that.

I don’t know how many times the story has been spun from our pulpits: “Elijah scored his biggest victory ever at Mount Carmel, and then he blew it. He gave in to discouragement, ran for his life, and that was the end of his ministry. God was so displeased that He immediately chose someone to replace Elijah. And Elijah never did anything important for God again.”

The moral of this concocted version of 1 Kings 19 is, if you allow fear, doubt, or discouragement to get in, you’re done — so don’t ever do that. (Like we haven’t all already done the same thing a time or two!)

In actuality, Elijah continued to have a powerful prophetic ministry after his brief lapse into discouragement. He prophesied to Ahab about the consequences of seizing Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:17-29). He prophesied to Ahab’s successor, demonstrating his prophetic authority by calling down fire from heaven on the king’s soldiers. And he was still around during the reign of the king who came after (2 Kings 1). Furthermore, he established training camps for young prophets in Bethel and Jericho (2 Kings 2:2-5).

Perhaps most importantly, he spent years pouring himself into Elisha, raising him up to be a mighty prophet like unto himself. Jewish historian Josephus indicates in Book VIII of his work, Antiquities of the Jews, that Elijah continued 13-15 years after he anointed Elisha to take his place (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-8.html). Other Bible scholars estimate anywhere from 10-20 more years passed before Elijah was carried up into heaven.

I’m glad that the story as it has been told from too many pulpits is untrue. You see, through the years, I have identified with Elijah a lot. I have repeatedly prayed that God would help me to hear Him with pinpoint accuracy like Elijah did. I’ve desired to be persistent and effective in prayer, as he was.

But I’ve also felt a kinship with Elijah in his temperament, leaning toward the melancholy side, sometimes taking myself a little too seriously, and having a tendency toward despondency if I don’t rigorously guard against it.

I take comfort in the apostle James’ tribute to Elijah (James 5:16-18). He held him up as our example for effective prayer. Apparently, James did not regard Elijah as a washout, and God didn’t either. Besides giving him a nod in James’ epistle, He chose to have Elijah appear with Moses on the mount of transfiguration to encourage Jesus concerning His impending death for mankind (Luke 9:28-31).

Elijah’s story does not end there. In truth, his greatest ministry is yet to come. We are told in Malachi 4:5, 6, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD, and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers ….”

This prophecy was foreshadowed, but not completely fulfilled, in John the Baptist. Some Bible teachers spiritualize the Malachi passage by saying Elijah will not literally come again. They think it will be carried out by a last days’ generation who will collectively carry “the spirit of Elijah.” That may certainly take place, but seeing how Bible prophecy consistently is fulfilled quite literally, I believe we will see Elijah himself accomplish this on the earth, perhaps as one of the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11.

What can we take away from Elijah’s story? 

Perhaps you’ve failed. Maybe you got your eyes off Jesus, became afraid, and “ran for your life” when you were supposed to stand in your victory. It’s a lie that God is now finished with you just because you didn’t do it right.

In spite of those sermons, God did not throw Elijah on the garbage heap. (Neither was He done with Peter when he failed to keep walking on the water or when he denied Jesus.) God knows our failings and has compassion on us. “Like a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him, for He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13, 14).

If you have grown discouraged and have run from your calling or your circumstances, don’t buy the lie that God has permanently put you on the shelf. Put your hand back in the Lord’s and keep going. Your most fruitful days can still lie ahead of you.

Christian foundations and the nature of God

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Are You One of the Special Ones?

Recently, I heard a well-known prophet prophesying over a younger prophet. He told the audience, “She is one of the chosen ones.” From there, he went on to talk about just how specially chosen she was. My reaction was, “This is not right. Every believer in Jesus is one of God’s chosen ones.”

Yes, it was good that he spoke encouraging things to her about the ministry she would have. There was nothing wrong with that. But his choice of words illustrated an erroneous mindset we have in the body of Christ: thinking there are different levels of value among Christians, where some are more important to God than others. These are the “special” ones, and then there are the average, not-so-special ones.

We talk and act as if some people earn, or are born with, more favor with God. We unconsciously entertain the notion that God will answer these special people’s prayers, but He might not be so eager to answer ours.

This idea is pervasive in our church culture, and it leads us to develop mindsets such as

  • “Ida Intercessor prays three hours a day, so God will hear her. I’ll ask her to pray for my needs … because God is not as likely to answer little old me” (who doesn’t pray three hours a day).
  • “If I speak the words exactly right, X number of times, maybe then God will hear and answer me.” (That’s called an incantation, by the way.)
  • “Brother So-and-So said God showed him a precise method of prayer that is THE way to get answers. He said God won’t answer us if we don’t do it this way. Maybe I need to get his book and learn to do it right.”

All the while, we forget that Jesus encouraged us to come to the Father like little children, our hearts full of trust in His love for us. And there is the key – realizing we are beloved sons and daughters, not worker bees in God’s hive, who get ignored or pushed out if we don’t produce as much, or in the same way, as somebody else.

Once again, we’re trying to gain God’s attention based on works, rather than relationship. We tell the rest of the world that salvation is about relationship, not good deeds – but then we turn around and think once we are in the Kingdom, that from thereon in, we have to earn our way.

Maybe we need to keep saying this until it sinks in:

I cannot earn the Father’s favor. I already have it, because I am His child.

Can we mature into praying more effectively? Of course. We can learn from seasoned intercessors. It’s good to become more disciplined in our prayer life, to train ourselves to use the Bible promises in our quest for answers, to grow in following the Holy Spirit’s leading on how to pray. That’s definitely part of the picture. But we should never allow ourselves to think that the right method or being a special somebody is the key to receiving help from our Father.

If Jesus is your Savior, you are a child of God. There are no children in His family whom He loves better and favors more than others. You have uniquely valuable gifts and purposes to fulfill, lovingly planned out by your heavenly Father since before the world began. And He will answer your prayers just as eagerly as He answers “important” people’s prayers. Because you are important, too.

intercessor handbook

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

KJV Bible encouragement

 

Encouragement from God’s Word,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 5) — Prayer

For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.
— Hebrews 4:12, 13

In our last post, we identified telltale signs that our prayers are soul-fueled, rather than stemming from communication with the Holy Spirit. In this post, we’ll talk about how Spirit-led prayer feels and sounds.

1.) Spirit-led prayer agrees with the nature of God in its tone — righteousness, peace, joy, mercy, compassion, love, goodness. These qualities are quite opposite to the fear, self-centeredness, criticalness, and anger which often accompany soulish prayers.

Prayer which flows with the Spirit is redemptive in its approach, which means that its goals will be salvation, freedom for those in bondage, and good to be worked in the earth and in the hearts of people. Even if we are praying for corruption or deception to be exposed, we take no delight in judgment or exposure for its own sake. It is so that the perpetrators of evil can come to repentance, and truth and righteousness can prevail in society.

The following verses give us a good idea of what praying in harmony with the Spirit looks like:

  • Galatians 5:22, 23
  • Philippians 4:8
  • Exodus 34: 6, 7
  • James 3:17

Study them, to find out what God’s heart is for our prayers.

2.) Spirit-led prayers are not products of preplanned logic. They often appear as a sudden thought or prompting which is not due to our own cleverness. Frequently they are surprising; we pray them and then think, “Now where did that come from?” It came from the Holy Spirit, Who shows us His vantage point, which is far beyond ours.

3.) Spirit-led prayers are often inspired by a Bible verse which comes to mind. Pray that verse from a position of “It is written,” and then declare it with authority for the situation. As Hebrews 4:12 tells us, the Word is living and powerful. It cuts through the fluff to go to the root of what needs to be prayed. God will sometimes give you a verse and show you how to apply it to prayer in a way your mind would never be able to come up with on its own.

4.) Spirit-led prayers frequently incorporate the gifts of the Spirit.

  • The word of knowledge — You suddenly know what the root issue is, whereas you didn’t before.
  • The word of wisdom — You receive a solution you hadn’t previously thought of.
  • Prophecy — You are certain of the outcome God wants, and you declare prophetically that it shall be.
  • Supernatural faith — You boldly command or decree a miraculous result into existence as the Spirit moves upon you, and it happens.
  • Discerning of spirits — You see, hear, or just know that a particular spirit is behind a hindrance. You then break the hindrance by commanding the spirit to let go or leave, in the name of Jesus.
  • Praying in tongues — the perfect prayers of the Holy Spirit
  • The interpretation of tongues — You hear in your spirit or coming from your mouth what you have been praying about in your prayer language. He shows you the exact way to pray into the need.

We grow in Spirit-inspired praying through cultivating intimacy with God via two primary means:

  • Two-way prayer communication with Him (meaning we not only talk, but we listen)
  • Communing with God over His Word (Bible meditation, study, reading at length, and dialoguing with Him over what we have read)

John 15:7 explains this two-pronged approach to intimacy with God and its outcome: “If you abide in Me [prayer communication lived out moment by moment], and My words abide in you [the Bible filling our innermost being with life], you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you.”

The last part of that verse is God’s promise to the person who prays by communing in his spirit with the Holy Spirit: whatever we ask for, we receive. God can promise this because the one who is abiding in the Presence of God and who is filled with His Word will be praying by the Spirit. We only ask for what is His will, and therefore our requests are granted. The potential we have to obtain powerful answers is truly exciting — if we pray by communion with the Spirit, rather than from our own natural understanding.

Will we pray by the soul or the spirit — in tune with the Holy Spirit and being led by Him, or only praying what we know in our intellect? It’s our choice.

Let’s review one last time the keys to discerning soul between soul and spirit in the words of others, in our own thoughts, and in our prayers:

  1. Feed on the Word of God, letting its truths influence our minds, rather than feeding on the opinions of men.
  2. Seek God continually for greater wisdom and discernment, so that we are not fooled.
  3. Once we have determined that someone is speaking from a soulish perspective, no longer subject ourselves to his or her influence.

If we implement these keys, our discernment will grow, and we will clearly know the origins of whatever comes our way.

Previous: Discerning Between Soul & Spirit (Part 4) — Prayer

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 4) — Prayer

spiritual discernment, prophetic prayerFor the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.  — Hebrews 4:12, 13

We can pray from our intellect (soul), or by listening to the Spirit and then praying what He prompts us to say. Many intercessors never get past their natural understanding — but we can learn, if we want to.

Most of us experience stressful times when we launch into prayer based on our own understanding — especially when we have distressing needs. As we continue to pray and cry out to the Lord earnestly from our hearts, He faithfully adjusts our prayers, causing anxieties to lessen and our faith to arise. These personal SOS signals we send heavenward are a normal part of prayer life. But they are not what I wish to address today.

Let’s talk, though, about learning to intercede from the spirit, rather than the soul, when the concerns  are not quite as pressing, whether we are solo-praying or with a group. Our goal, as I have shared in my book, The Intercessor Manual, should be to pray like sharpshooters aiming for the bullseye, rather than randomly spraying buckshot all over the county, hoping to hit something in the process. The key is shifting into prayer led by the Spirit of God.

A first step is identifying what Spirit-led prayer feels and sounds like, compared to how prayers coming merely from the intellect sound. This takes practice, but we can become more adept as we keep at it.

Let’s look at some telltale signs that we are praying from a soulish perspective:

1.) Our prayers exhibit fear. When we carry on in an anxious, “Oh, I hope You can do something about THIS, Lord” vein, we are neither discerning His power, nor His willingness to answer us. We end up majoring on a lot of what-ifs.

2.) Our prayers sound like we’re parroting news commentators and political analysts. These prayers are usually coupled with fear — because spreading fear through sensationalism is what the news media does best.

Fairly frequently, I get e-mails from prayer warriors who have worked themselves into a tizzy about reports coming in from news services and watchdog organizations. They plead with us to pray very, very hard to keep the latest evil plot from happening.

It’s easy to climb on their hand-wringing bandwagon, but if we take time to ask the Lord, He may tell us that we can rest easy on the issue everyone else is hyperventilating about. It is already a non-issue with Him, and we can invest prayer energy elsewhere. Just because a news commentator or watchdog group tells us something is serious does not mean it is. Remember, a lot of these “experts” are not Christians, and of those who are, many of them are operating from a soulish perspective.

What we put into ourselves is what will come out in our prayers, so if we make a conscious choice to severely limit the clamor of these voices, and invest our time in absorbing the Bible instead, we starve soulish praying.

3.) Our prayers are very general. These petitions sound much like one of the lines in Away in a Manger: “Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care….” Or, as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol said, “God bless us, every one!” I don’t mind either the song or Tiny Tim, but as a way to pray, this is not effective.

General prayers are easy to speak, because they carry no risk. They also have no teeth. With such all-inclusive, vague praying, we are bound to nick a few targets, even if we miss most entirely. But there is no way to measure whether we have received any answers. You won’t ever see a news headline screaming “PRAYER ANSWERED! GOD BLESSED EVERYONE IN OUR CITY TODAY!

4.) Our prayers exude unbelief. The prayer group is asked to petition for a desperate need, and just how dire it is gets explained down to the last detail. By the time the explanation is finished, what little faith anyone might have had has flown the coop.  From there, the whole tone of prayer becomes, “God, we’re asking because it’s the right thing to do, but we’re pretty sure already that You’re not going to intervene anyway, so Thy will be done.” It’s depressing — and it comes entirely out of a natural-minded mentality.

In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus told the father of a boy with an unclean spirit, “All things are possible to him who believes.” If we don’t have faith that He will answer, like that father, we should admit our unbelief and ask Him to fix us. We need to take steps to align our spirit with the Holy Spirit and then make our request.

5.) Our prayers are against people or people groups. If our prayers carry an attitude of hatred, or are asking for harm against someone, they extend beyond being soulish to being devilish. This should be obvious, but apparently it is not, as I have heard them prayed from time to time in gatherings I have attended. There is often a tone of anger accompanying such prayer. Pastors are criticized brutally. Minorities or people of different political, moral, or religious persuasions are prayed against and referred to as “those people.” Ahem!

If there are evil people holding political power, pray for God to deal with them His way. Ask Him to soften their hearts. Often it is best to pray for the removal or restraint of the specific evil itself, rather than going after the person(s) perpetrating it. Remember, our warfare is not against people, but unseen spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12). Whenever we forget that, our praying goes awry.

We can also ask the Lord to remove those who need removing and raise up better people in their place. But don’t curse anyone or pray harm upon them. Let God deal with the when and how. We should take a lesson from the story in Luke 9:51-56, where James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village. Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You don’t 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.”

These are five identifiers of soulish praying. No doubt there are more. If you can think of any, would you please share them in a comment?

Next time, we will talk about how to identify and shift into prayer coming from a Spirit-led perspective.

Previous: Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 3) — Prophecy
Next: Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 5) — Prayer

The Intercessor Manual

 

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 3) — The Prophecy Connection

Soul or Spirit? For the word of God is 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. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.

— Hebrews 4:12, 13

When we continually plant the living, infallible Word of God in our hearts, it breathes life into us in ever-increasing measure. Our ability to discern between soul and spirit in people’s words grows keener because of the Word living inside of us. In addition, the more we absorb the Word, the more it changes the words coming forth from us. We begin to speak prophetically.

Prophetic speaking happens in many varieties and flavors. Some of us will prophesy over others, perhaps moving in the word of knowledge, too. Some will release a word of wisdom and be very aware of doing so. For others, the prophetic word is more subtle. Our word of wisdom may show up as counsel we offer in everyday conversation, which speaks directly into someone’s heart, without us realizing we have spoken by inspiration of the Spirit.

Not every prophetic word we release has to be as concise or emphatic as a “Thus says the Lord” word. We might share quite informally with someone a sense we have about his or her future, not even recognizing in the moment that we are speaking by revelation. Our prophetic utterances may also come forth in what we pray about and the angle from which we address a prayer issue.

Some of us will operate more obviously in the prophetic gifts than others, but all God’s people can speak prophetically at some level — and we should desire to do so, according to 1 Corinthians 14 (see vs. 1, 31, 39).

Prophetic release of the word of God can take a couple of forms:

1.) Speaking the infallible, written Word (the Bible) into a particular situation through declaration and petition

2.) Speaking the prophetic word of the Lord as we hear it by revelation.

Either of these forms can come forth as either straight-up prophecy or as prophetic prayer. Prayer and the prophetic speaking of the word of God go hand in hand.

As the Word of God lives, thrives, and grows in us, our words will increasingly take on the same qualities as the written Word, as described in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, … a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

A genuine prophetic word:

  • Brings life to its hearers.
  • Is infused with power. It puts things in motion.
  • Has the authority of heaven in it to change lives, situations, or even regions.
  • Keenly discerns and divides between soul and spirit.
  • Reveals the intents of hearts.

Because all things are open and naked to the eyes of “Him with Whom we have to do” (v. 13), by His Spirit He can reveal concealed motives to the prophet (or prophetic intercessor) when necessary. He also reveals hidden plans of the enemy, so that we can either warn God’s people or nullify those plans through warfare prayer.

A note of caution:

When the Lord reveals people’s hidden motives to us, we must be extremely careful with how we handle that information. We want to have the same heart as the Father does. While He sees sin exactly for what it is, He sees with a redemptive heart. If we step into soulish thinking, we will process this type of revelation with criticalness, a desire for judgment against what we see, and the temptation to expose it. But God is compassionate toward the person whose attitudes or lifestyle are a mess. His goal is mercy. He wants to set people free and restore them. We must make His goals our goals.

Most of the time, that means we have been given such revelation for prayer purposes only (personal prayer, not passing it on to a prayer chain). Occasionally, the Lord may instruct us to talk privately with the person about what God has revealed, so that he or she may come to repentance. But that must be done discreetly and tactfully, and only once we are sure the Lord is calling us to do it.

Next time, we will talk about how to cross over from intercession fueled by the soul to Spirit-led intercession.

Previous: Discerning Between Soul & Spirit (Part 2)
Next: Discerning Between Soul & Spirit (Part 4) — Prayer

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

prophetic, prophecy

 

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