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Archive for the tag “Listening to God’s Voice”

Rubber Meets the Road

For the last couple of years, I have been contemplating making a move. It’s on my radar once again, but this time I think I’m ready to go. It’s not an easy decision; one that I do not take lightly. I have been in this place for over seventeen years. It’s the longest time I have lived in one place. However, I have always said this was the house God gave me. When it’s time to transfer managers, I would wait on Him for the right time. So the decision is based on His direction.

The offer is on the table through a new start-up company who buys houses at a fair market value. It was so much more than I had anticipated that it has me a little startled. I don’t want to chase the money; but if this is God’s blessing, I don’t want to miss the chance either. This is where faith becomes an action plan. It’s where the rubber meets the road and becomes very real in moving out in faith.

It feels somewhat like an Abraham move. God told Abram (before the name change) to “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). I don’t think God is calling me to the mission field, but I am leaving my home of seventeen years. It’s a separation that is real. At this point, I don’t know if I am leaving my community and my church family too.

My small group is going through the Priscilla Shirer study about hearing God’s voice. So relevant for this time. The point that came across to me is about hearing God’s word through a sense of peace in the decision. I have heard God’s voice a few times in my life, but this one is different – as they all were. It’s a matter of discerning the right thing and the “almost” right thing; the good versus the best. That’s where it gets hard. No one knows the future but God.

A few years back, I knew God was asking me to sell my car. It was an almost “dream” car for me. I loved it, but it was costly to maintain. It was a struggle in my spirit to let go. It took me a month to finally put the car up for sell. Once I released it, I found the next car that was so much more economical and have had no expense except for maintenance. It was a complete blessing, especially in my financial lean time.

At Beth Moore’s conference last weekend, the first thing I wrote down in my notes was the faster we obey the easier it is the next time. Yes, I am struggling with the letting go process. However, the struggle isn’t much about letting go, but discerning if it’s God’s will to let go. Letting go is easier when we know God is on the move. I want to go where He is going. Don’t you?

In Priscilla’s video for the study this week, she talked about knowing what you’re called to do. She mentioned that we need to be on the front lines in God’s plan – we have to know our own “front line.” What is our individual assignment? Jesus had His own front line. He did everything His Father asked of Him and nothing else. We are to be single-minded as well. We are to work on our own “God-thing.” Do you know your God-thing? Is your time divided into things that are not yours to do?

My God-thing is to help people get healthy. I found my passion a few years ago; however, I am still working through what that really looks like when the rubber meets the road. How do I walk it out consistently? Right now, I work for a natural healthcare doctor. When I went to school to get a certification in health coaching, the instructor said to “find your voice” and use it to help others. Finding my voice was the key to writing. At the time, I had no idea that was the next thing God wanted to do through me to help others. Here I am years later, still typing away.

I don’t know what the next thing will be when I finally make the decision to move. I don’t know what’s in store for the next few months or years either. But so far, peace has settled over me. A couple of weeks ago, God whispered “trust me” and I am. God always knows when we have had enough. He will never keep us longer in a place than we need to be. The time is always right when His hand is moving us.

The last thing I wrote down in my notes from Priscilla’s message was obedience brings freedom. The Scripture associated with her last point was directed at Galatians 5 about self-discipline. As I looked that over, I noticed in verse 25 “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Wherever He leads, I’ll go. Will you?

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10

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Think About This

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to live when Jesus walked the earth? What would it have been like to be in the crowds listening to Him preach the Word of God? Would you have walked away when the teaching got hard? I might have. I would like to think I would have been as attentive as Mary sitting at His feet. I would like to believe that I too would have followed Him even if it meant I would die for my beliefs. I know many people followed for a little while then many left because He wasn’t what they had envisioned as their Messiah – a war hero that came to conquer Rome.

Since the Christmas season, something I read during that time has been marinating in my brain. The story of the wise men visiting the baby Jesus is the seed of thought. When the wise men inquired about the place of birth for the King of the Jews, they asked the sitting ruler of the region, King Herod. The King didn’t know the answer, so he called the chief priests and the teachers of the law. The men knew the answer because it was written by the prophet Micah centuries ago.

The wise men told the King the star had risen in the east and they followed the star so that they could worship the king of the Jews. The king was disturbed and all of Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3). I understand why the king was disturbed – he didn’t want to be replaced by another king. His lifestyle would have changed; his position would come to an end; maybe even his life if a new king was crowned. But why was Jerusalem disturbed? Also, why is it when the wise men set out for Bethlehem, they went alone? Wouldn’t the chief priests want to see their Messiah and worship Him too? Weren’t they curious?

These were learned men. They had been taught from very early in life and memorized everything written in their Scripture. Yet, they missed the best thing about the Word – the Word came to life that day. The chance passed without one thought toward it because they kept missing Him.

The next time we read about Jesus, we find Him old enough to sit in the temple listening and asking questions of the teachers. Luke records everyone was amazed at His understanding and his answers (Luke 2:47). But no one seems to have been aware that the Messiah was in their midst. If these teachers were in the crowd that day at King Herod’s palace when the wise men came to visit, they didn’t seem to recall the Messiah had been born. Surely the Messiah would show up one day in the temple where everyone was expected to visit – especially during their high Holy Days. They obviously didn’t connect the dots.

The next time we see Jesus, He’s a grown man and ready to change the world. He visits the temple in His home town. But they couldn’t get passed the snotty little kid that they had known from years ago to this learned scholar who knew things that they didn’t understand. And they had no understanding how He came to be so knowledgeable. They missed the greatest thing to ever come out of Nazareth. They missed the Messiah – their King. They actually got angry with Him and tried to kill Him (Luke 4:14-30).

Scripture tells us many were amazed at His teaching. Crowds followed Him eager to hear Him speak and see the miracles He performed. They probably left every time and spoke about Him to everyone they met because word spread throughout the region. Yet, the chief priests got angrier and angrier as the years passed by. Jesus didn’t follow the rules. Jesus came into their midst and they missed His significance even though they knew the Holy Scripture that spoke of Him through every verse they had memorized. How can this be? How can they be so clueless?

Hindsight always gives greater insight so I can’t be too harsh with them. I might have been just as bad. I might not have liked His hard teaching to turn the cheek or give my coat to one who did not have one or any of the other teachings that got me out of my comfort zone. After all, I have those same words before me today and I can be just as stubborn as the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. I can ignore those teachings just as they did. At times, I am no better than them. And I guess that thought is what is disturbing me since Christmas. I have a lot to consider about my actions or lack thereof if I truly want to follow Him like He desires.

It’s never too late for any of us to consider these things and change. What a different world we would live in if we would truly take these things to heart. I think revival of the church body begins with each of us. We all have to consider where we stand with Jesus. Are we following closely, at a distance or have we walked away feeling let down because He wasn’t what we had anticipated? Where do you stand today?

Jesus is the answer we seek, even though it may be different from our expectation. He is the total package – the real deal. Let’s not miss Him being in our midst. Sit at His feet and listen, then go and do as He instructs. Let’s change the world.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20b-21; 25-26

Road Maps

Remember road maps? Before GPS systems, there were those ancient paper maps that once you open them, it was hard to fold them back in the right manner. I loved to read maps. When I moved into a new city, I always got a map of the city. I studied it for months to find the best routes to all the places I wanted to go. I would take it everywhere I went, just in case I found myself in an unfamiliar place.

Not too long ago, I was making my way home on a few of the back streets to avoid rush hour traffic. My sister was following me closely because she didn’t know the way I was going. She made the remark that I knew these roads well. My comment back was that I had lived in my city for 17 years so I should know it pretty well. However, it wasn’t because of my longevity here. It was because I studied the city map for months when I first arrived and became familiar with the roads I needed to take to get me from point A to B.

I have heard that the Bible is our road map. It helps us navigate this life’s path. Yes, it is very helpful to our way of life as a follower of Jesus. However, it’s so much more than that. The Bible is not about us; it’s about God. It’s His story. It’s the story of redemption and glory – our redemption for His glory. The Bible is not just one book. It is 66 books and letters; written by approximately 40 authors over 1600 years that tells one story. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the story flows through the different books and letters to give us a revelation of Jesus and God’s ultimate plan for humanity. It’s there for us in black and white and a few red letters too (if you have Jesus’ words in red). It is all there – from beginning to end. We know how the story ends.

I have heard also that you can’t trust the Bible. There are contradictions or errors or it was written for a different time. But God’s word will never go out of style. It will stand forever. These ancient documents have stood the test of time. There are approximately 32,000 known ancient transcripts of this book; more than any other book in history. What we have today is verified as accurate through all these transcripts. That’s pretty amazing.

But God’s word isn’t very popular. Oh, it’s the most sold book in the world. However, it is not the most read book in the world. It’s difficult to understand. For the longest time, I didn’t read it. I had multiple copies of it but they all sat in my nightstand or on the book shelf. But one day, I began to read. I ask God to give me a hunger and thirst for His word. He answered that prayer and I haven’t laid it aside since. The difficulty of reading it turned to a love of it through the Holy Spirit’s teaching. The Bible makes no sense to those who are not under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. But as the Spirit leads, we are taught from its pages.

The Bible is a relationship. It is God’s Word to us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to be God’s Word in the flesh. Prayer is our voice in communication with God, but His Word is the communication back. To be in relationship means, we need to have more than just our voice in the communication pattern. We have to listen to God’s voice too. For those who call themselves Christians and do not read God’s Word, I just don’t see how there is much of a relationship. Someone is probably arguing with me right now. Maybe there is a way to know God without reading, maybe there is the experience portion of knowing Him. But experience must also be undergirded with reading. How are you to know if you are experiencing God unless you know His Word?

Someone may argue that they get all the teaching they need through Sunday morning church service. But if one is married; if you only communicated once a week, how long will the marriage last? The message in the Bible is hard. I get it. There are things I don’t like to read. But that doesn’t mean I discount God’s Word. It just means I truly don’t understand God’s ways or His thoughts. Francis Chan said in a message “When we disagree with the Bible, we assume the Bible is wrong; something is wrong with us not the Bible.” We have stinking thinking going on. The only way to correct our thinking is to get into God’s Word. God’s Word is the road map to God.

It’s time to invest some time into the relationship with God. There is no other answer for the craziness we are experiencing in this world today. We have to know the Truth. Get out God’s road map and start studying it so that you may know the right way to go, and you will not be lead astray by someone else’s stinking thinking!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Knock, knock

Who’s there? Jesus. Can I come in? This is no joke. How often does Jesus knock on our heart’s door, yet we ignore the invitation or just don’t hear Him? One of the reasons we don’t hear is because we don’t know His voice. The only way we will distinguish Jesus’ voice from all the others that bombard us daily is to know it through His Word. We have to get into the Word and read it; dare I say – not just read it but even study it.

For the last several weeks, my small group has been in the study of “Open Your Bible” by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really get into this study. I am an avid Bible reader. I do it daily. It’s not that I lack the desire. I asked many years ago to have a hunger and thirst for Jesus. And since that time, I don’t think I have missed a morning time with His Word.

The study was really geared toward those who don’t read their Bibles. It was really good for that. The study shared how relevant the Bible is for here and now. It was Open, Approach, Engage, Apply, Abide and Live in the truth – even Share it with others. This is the formula for knowing God and knowing Jesus’ voice through the Holy Spirit.

To think there are millions who do not have access to God’s word is rather astonishing to me since I have many Bibles lying around. Yet, there are countries full of people who would give everything they have to just have one copy or even just a section. I read about believers in a closed nation who would receive one copy and would tear it apart so that it could be shared with others. They would swap books of the Bible with one another so that they could memorize each section. Yes, not just read it, but put it in their heart’s memory – they hid it in their hearts like it says to do! Amazing, isn’t it? And we in America have to have a study to “open our Bibles.” It’s like we have to be coerced to open God’s word. It’s such a challenge for us to spend time with God in His Word.

As I said, I don’t have a problem with reading it; I have a problem studying it. There are layers upon layers of truth within those pages. We can’t know it all in just one reading. It will take us through eternity to comprehend all that is contained inside. I can read it all day long, but I have to be able to understand what it says and apply its truth to my life. The understanding is a problem. There was a time when I would get into Paul’s letters and be completely puzzled by his words. I didn’t understand half the stuff I read in it. He was a deep thinker and wrote that way. But over time, God has opened my eyes to Paul’s writings. I finally can comprehend what I read because of the Holy Spirit’s help.

Priscilla Shirer’s simulcast was this past Saturday. In one of the sections, she went over how to study the Bible. She called it the 5 P’s of Bible study. She said it is one of the main ways we hear from God. God speaks through His Word. The first P is position. I don’t know if she started with prayer as the first position, but that is the most important aspect before opening the Bible. Ask for eyes to be open, ears ready to hear and a heart that is obedient to what is read.

Position ourselves spiritually ready to hear from God. Anticipate and expect to hear from Him. Pour over the passage and paraphrase what you read; what are the major points; what’s the context. Press into what was said and why – what’s going on around the text. Pull out the spiritual principles. What is God’s character in that passage – what is He saying through it? Pose the question – how is the passage speaking to me – am I doing what it says? And lastly, plan obedience. It does no good, unless I apply what I read – live it out as the authors stated from “Open Your Bible.”

Their last chapter was “close your Bible.” We have to go out, and do what it says. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote – a faith that does not work is dead (my paraphrase). So the challenge isn’t reading, but studying and applying what I read. It’s relevant for here and now. It isn’t an ancient work or history lesson. It’s living and breathing. It’s God’s voice from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus is the subject from one page to the next. Old Testament is the set up for Jesus. The New Testament is His life and work and what’s to come. In every page, we hear His voice speaking. Are we ready to listen and do what He says? He’s knocking. Open the door and let Him in. Join me in studying His Word and share what you learn.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

Building a Better Relationship

Relationships are hard to develop and keep in this day and time. We are even busier than ever before. Our culture isn’t conducive to form lasting relationships either – we like our independence and we tend to move about. Last week, I mentioned that we have to be intentional about listening to those around us. But it is also about being intentional about our relationships. There is a spiritual battlefield that is going on around us to keep us from developing true friendships. I believe one of our enemy’s schemes is to drive a wedge in our relationships. The family is especially important to God. And the family has been under attack for the last few years. God put relationships in the Bible in the very beginning. It’s His design for us to depend on one another.

God introduced Adam and Eve to us in the very beginning of His Word. He designed them to need one another but also to have a relationship with Him. God walked with them in the garden. Can you imagine? What a blessing to have that kind of intimate conversation with God! Yet, we are given that opportunity too. But do we take advantage of our opportunity to have a conversation with the living God – Creator of the Universe and everything in it? Again, we have to be intentional about this relationship. We have to spend time listening to His voice. But distractions (one of the enemy’s greatest tools) keep us from hearing God’s whisper.

I have been blessed over these last four years to have the time to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. But I still have trouble hearing from Him at times. Or if I hear, I start to doubt what He’s saying. Doubt creeps in – especially when I start to act in faith when my toe is touching water! The enemy is hard at work. This weekend is a case in point. I began to make progress in a decision that I had to make. I believe I heard it was time to move forward with a new opportunity. I had a crisis of belief Sunday when I heard a series of messages that made me take my toe out of the water and pause long enough to doubt I heard correctly. The first message was to “wait on God.” The second message was not to “settle for less” and the third was to “not to let doubt take us out.”

Andy Stanley mentioned in his message that Peter started to doubt when he thought this whole “walk on water” thing wouldn’t work out. Each message was really about trusting God. The messages mean that we have to have a right relationship with Jesus in order to hear His voice. Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ followers know His voice. He is depicted as the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. The sheep are pretty dumb animals and are prone to wander in search of another blade of grass to eat. The shepherd keeps his eyes on his sheep and will move them to the place of greener grass and fresh water. I don’t want to be a sheep that is in search of the blade of grass that is in the wrong pasture. I want the right pasture, and I want it at the right time. There is a time to settle in a pasture and a time to move on.

My pastor said that God offers a better plan than what we could choose for ourselves. Andy Stanley says that “You’ll never know what God might have done if we allow our doubt to take us out.” The disciples had no idea what was in store for them when they continued to keep walking the path Jesus set before them. When we surrender to the path, God will do amazing things through us too. It takes intentional time with Jesus and with others to be the instruments that God wants us to be. It is not meant for us to walk the path alone. We are stronger together as a community of believers who listen and are active in our faith walk. One step at a time.

God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus! Romans 15:5-6 (The Message)

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