Category Archives: Christian

Finding God in the Waiting

If we were to take a survey to find out how many Christians would like to hear God personally speak to them, I would imagine the vast majority would say, “Of course I want that!” The percentage would plummet, though, if we asked the same people how many actually do hear Him on a regular basis. Why is that?

Some, unfortunately, have been indoctrinated with the false notion that God no longer speaks to us personally. Others have never been taught how to recognize the voice of God. Still others have bought into the lie that they are unworthy to hear God, that they are some kind of second-class believers in God’s eyes. The truth is, God has promised in hundreds of verses throughout the Bible to help us know His will for our personal lives, to give us wisdom and revelation, and that we will know His voice.

John 8:47 says, “He who is of God hears God’s words; you, therefore, do not hear them because you are not of God.” That means, if you love Jesus, you can hear God. You may not recognize that He is speaking to you, but He really is, and having trouble hearing Him is fixable. If you need some help in recognizing how He is speaking to you, I’ve written an article series on the subject. You will also find that information in my book, Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God.

Besides simply not discerning that God is already speaking to us, there may be specific hindrances getting in the way — things we can do something about.

We aren’t giving God the quality time He desires to spend with us. Time is one of God’s love languages. James 4:8 promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” He speaks to those who make Him their priority. Yes, He can and does communicate with us at random moments throughout the day. But we are more likely to hear Him then if we have already cultivated a listening ear during a time set aside solely for intimate waiting on Him.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the first idea how to wait on God.” Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Choose a Bible verse, read it over and over, and ask God to speak to you through it. You’d be surprised at all the new insights you will get as you do that.
  • Ask God questions. Then give Him time to answer you. He may not speak immediately. He might pop the answer into your thoughts later in the day, or even months down the road, but at least you have given Him the opportunity. I have found that God often doesn’t volunteer what we want to know: He waits for us to ask.
  • Think about Jesus.
  • Think about a character quality of God — His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness, His purity.  Then praise Him for that quality.
  • Peacefully pray in tongues. As you do that, the Holy Spirit will often bring inspired thoughts, including interpretation of what you are praying, to your consciousness.

Our brain cells are overloaded with other things. Too much news media, social media, video games, or other ear and eye stimulators can so preoccupy us that it is really hard to hear the Lord above all the noise.

Wrong motives for wanting to hear God. Do we spend quiet time with God because we love Him, or only because we want revelation? That’s a selfish motive. It becomes all about us and what we can get out of God, instead of about giving ourselves to Him.

Sinful heart issues harden us to His voice. If we deliberately ignore what He is saying to us, rebelliously do something other than what we know He is directing us to do, or willfully live in sin, His voice becomes gradually fainter. God may even eventually quit speaking. He usually continues to speak for a while before that happens, trying to turn us back in the right direction. And, because He is so merciful, if He can’t reach us by speaking through other avenues, He will still try to turn us from our wrong ways through our circumstances. Remember Balaam and the angel who stood in his way (Numbers 22).

The good news is, even if the Lord has become silent, once we repent, the lines of communication open up again. I didn’t quote all of James 4:8 a little earlier. There is a condition for hearing attached to the rest of the verse: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance goes a long way toward restoring and clarifying our hearing.

While never hearing God is not normal and should be examined for the reason, it’s important to know that every Christian goes through periods when God seems to be silent, through no fault of ours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of God’s will or doing something else wrong. These are times of growing in faith by learning to trust God in the silence. God uses silent seasons to cause us to seek more diligently for Him. They are a normal part of Christian life. But they are temporary. Continue seeking His company and listening for Him. He will eventually begin speaking again.

How’s Your Social Media Image?

While at a social media site a few days ago, I noticed a post by a well-known worship songwriter. In it, he used profanity. It disappointed me at the time. I marveled at the disconnect between writing songs which glorify the Lord and using language which was so far from how Jesus would speak.

This is not by any means the first time I have seen such language coming from people in ministry. It seems to go on quite a bit, in fact. Maybe in some circles it is considered “hip.” However, I doubt if it is hip in the Lord’s eyes.

I wonder how many of us realize that we are constantly exposing the true condition of our hearts via social media. The things we personally say, “like,” and repost there clearly reveal to everyone the depth of our intimacy with Jesus.

Do we ever stop to consider who might be scrutinizing our witness of Him? Are we perhaps causing other believers to stumble through what they see us promoting? Does it make someone think, “It must be OK, if he’s doing it”? (Or maybe they just struggle with judging us, based on what they see.) How about the nonbelievers’ reaction? Do they say to themselves, “I see that Christians are no different than the rest of us. Why should I even consider becoming one?” Who are we, in our thoughtlessness,  disappointing or grieving?

The apostle Paul spoke on these matters two thousand years ago. He said, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors act and speak on behalf of the higher authority who sent them. When we don’t do well at accurately representing our Savior, we hurt His cause, even to the point of driving others away from Him.

The Bible gives us guidelines for how believers are to speak:

Do not let any corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Instead, speak what is good, for the purpose of building up, so that it may minister grace to those who hear it. — Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. — Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one who speaks the very words of God, … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ …. — 1 Peter 4:11

My purpose is not to suggest that we all point the finger at those who use vulgar language or do anything else inconsistent with Christ. Rather, it is about each of us taking an honest look at our own heart. May we not fall into the trap of smugly accusing our brothers and sisters. Romans 14:4 warns against that: “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.” With those we know well, perhaps the answer is to talk with them about how their speech affects us. For the rest, we can always pray for them when we see something amiss. Prayer changes people; judging them does not.

When I come before the Lord in the day described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, I want to have as little wood, hay, and stubble showing up as possible. I have no desire to provide the materials for the mother of all bonfires! I want to have my actions, words, and thoughts increasingly line up with what Jesus would do, say, and think. The route to doing that is keeping close to Him through prayer and the Word, so that I become more and more like my best Friend.

We have been promised a future “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Speaking of that day when Jesus appears for His own, 1 John 3:3 sums up how we should conduct ourselves in the meantime: “And every man who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

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Lord Jesus, may we endeavor to be the best ambassadors for You that we can be. Help us to guard our words and actions carefully, so that we might elevate all those who observe us into a higher attraction toward You.

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus

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