How to Hear God’s Voice and Not Your Own (or Others’)

i hear voicesHow do I know it’s GOD speaking, and not ME speaking? How do I know it’s the voice of GOD, and not the voice of the enemy? These are valid questions because 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light…” which means it will sometimes be difficult to discern between the voice of God and the voice of Satan.

In John 10:4 & 5, Jesus says His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him, but they also do NOT follow the stranger and run away from him because they do NOT know the stranger’s voice. That means, it’s not enough just to know the Shepherd’s voice, but we must also be unacquainted with the voice of the enemy!

Adam and Eve spent time hearing God’s voice in face-to-face encounters, but it wasn’t enough just knowing what God said. Adam and Eve knew God’s words, but they entertained the enemy! Likewise, our Bible helps us to know what God said! But it’s NOT enough to just know your Word. You have to defamiliarize yourself with the voice of the enemy!

2min 30 second VIDEO with brief story:

Christ Didn’t JUST Come Down; He Moved In

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood…” ~John 1:14 (MSG). Think of a neighborhood you’ve wanted to move out of or wouldn’t want to move into. He didn’t just come to clean us up; He desires to dwell with us, long-term. The God of the universe moved into the middle of the mess we made for ourselves. That’s commitment. That’s love. {Lev. 26:11-12; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 21:3}

Biblical Intimacy Looks Like 2 Things: Sacrifice and Redemption

Cross Died Crown Love Heart Bible Thorns Shadow

I N T I M A C Y will look like 2 things: SACRIFICE and REDEMPTION. Growing close, deepening love, fully knowing and being known will look like restoration. It’ll look like the Word becoming flesh and moving in, like being naked and vulnerable…on a cross, like fighting death and hell to claim what’s yours.

3-Minute Video of How Our Intimacy with Others Mirrors Our Relationship with God:

A Box Full of Darkness

box full of darkness

There’s a gift in the box.

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow

I hate having to admit how long I tightly clutched my box, opening it several times, somehow wishing its contents would change. Are you stuck? Are you still peering deeply into your box, wishing the past were different, unable to make progress because you refuse to accept what life has sent your way? The writer of Jimmy Needham’s “Clear the Stage” said, “Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” Pain, too, can be an idol; the darkness can consume you if you let it. Have you given the box its own pedestal in your life, allowing yourself to act and react out of anger, hatred, or fear? Will you wrestle with God in the dark? Will you praise Him in it? Will you place your hope in Him despite the darkness? Will you so deeply desire He change your box that you miss God changing you? Have you let God open the box with you? Have you immersed yourself more with the contents of the box than you have with Him? Have you passed the darkness on to others because you’ve failed to let God in, to let Him handle your darkness, or let Him handle you? For years I handed out boxes of my own unresolved trauma, boxes of rage, of unrepentant disdain, of bitter criticism that crushed, and scorched, and scathed. To whom have you dealt your unresolved darkness? Have you discarded it, never learning the gifts that it held? What have you done with your box? [Click Here to READ MORE]

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God Wants to Break Your Heart

broken heart

Once God breaks your heart, nobody else can!

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~(Psalm 51:17)

If you’re a Christian and you’ve ever suffered loss, ever felt vulnerable and unprotected, ever felt you were sinking, drowning, crumbling at your core, then you’ve probably also wondered what I have, “Where are You, God?” or simply asked God, “Why?” If you’ve prayed to feel His presence and instead felt absence, prayed to hear His voice and heard deafening silence, prayed for a restored marriage then numbly watched the divorce finalized, prayed for healing and watched loved ones die, if you’ve placed your trust in Him and still felt that burning sting of disappointment, then you’ve encountered the God of which I speak, the God who wants to break your heart.

Of course I’m not suggesting God is some aloof, or worse, sadistic being, deriving pleasure from our pain. However, I am saying that if we’ll ever fulfill our God-ordained purpose, we’ll have to be broken to fit the God-shaped mold for our lives. In “Finding My Way Home,” Henri Nouwen asserts that when Christ cried out, “It is finished,” He didn’t only mean what He’d done, but also what others had done to Him – that He stayed on the cross until all that needed to be done to Him could be done in order to fulfill His purpose. If we’re committed to God and truly passionate about adopting His desires, His thoughts, His ways, then we’ll welcome His process, His breaking, His remaking. We’ll allow His breaking to fulfill our life’s purpose.

I believe God breathes on us in a gentle way to bend our will into submission to His, but much like Jacob, we wrestle. In our striving, though, we encounter the God who loves us enough to break what will not bend. Pastor Howard-John Wesley said, “God knows that life outside of His will is not in your best interest, and He loves you too much not to use everything in His sovereign omnipotence to get you to surrender to His will…we serve a God who, if blessing you doesn’t change your life, [He] has enough love to break you in the right place.” I believe the “right place” for God to break us is our hearts, the wellspring of our inconsistent desires and stubborn wills.

The admonishment in Joel 2:12-13 is to “rend your hearts, not your garments” and return to the Lord with your whole hearts. The message is that the outward appearance of repentance, contrition, and obedience mean nothing if our sinful hearts remain unbroken and turned away from God. The good news is that God waits on us. He waits to be gracious toward us and show us mercy (Isaiah 30:18). My mentor shared her belief that God sometimes withholds His provision until we seek His presence. Perhaps what we’ve thought was God’s silence was His megaphone to help us diligently seek Him. Perhaps what felt like God’s absence was His patience. Perhaps God knows that only desperate, broken hearts can receive His transforming love.

Shannon Alder said, “Blessed are those with cracks in their broken heart because that is how the light gets in.” God wants in, and a broken heart provides a blessed route.I believe God is determined to do a new thing in and through us, and the old places won’t facilitate new growth. In a recent sermon, Pastor MyRon Edmonds said that unless we learn to get vulnerable with God and get broken, our old ways will keep taking us down the same road. But the blessing of God’s breaking is that “once GOD breaks you, nobody else can!” Heart Check: Do you trust God to break those parts of you that won’t bend in submission to His sovereignty? Do you believe the breaking He’s sending is better than the blessing you’re seeking? God wants to break your heart. Will you let Him?

I originally posted this on The Haystack.

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The Most Important Thing

most important thing

I’ve heard many times, and certainly agree, that the most important things in life aren’t “things,” and I’m increasingly appreciating that the most important things truly cannot be bought or sold:

Joy – the unspeakable kind that fills your chest and warms you as you breathe in the crisp morning air, the kind that affords you a genuine smile no matter how bleakly the odds are stacked against you

Peace – and peace of mind, the indescribable kind the world didn’t give and cannot take away, the kind that centers and grounds you internally, allowing you to exude a gentle, quiet spirit, even in the midst of circumstantial chaos

Love – the unashamed, undeserved, unfathomable kind that stems from a genuine acceptance of self and others right where they are, that isn’t diminished by external actions, that pursues the heart of God and others with reckless abandon

Purpose – the undeniable kind that reminds you how precious, yet fleeting, time is, that satisfies your soul’s deepest desires yet leaves you longing to fulfill more, to give more, to be more

Grace – inexhaustible, all-encompassing, messy grace, the kind that covers all your wrongs and all who’ve wronged you, the kind that levels the ground at the foot of the cross, the kind that gives beauty for ashes, no matter how badly you’ve been burned

These are some of the things I’ve found to be most important in life and about myself. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer boils this list down to one, single thing. He says, What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I’ll concede his point – it’s not just that we have the “things” above, but our thoughts about them and the God who created us with a capacity to experience them. The most important thing, then, isn’t any one of the intangible “things” above, either. Rather, the most important “thing” is the response of our finite hearts when encountering the infinite heart of God.

Just as the unchanging heat of the sun can both melt wax and harden clay, I often wonder why God’s steadfast love seems to soften some hearts while toughening others. I don’t have an answer for you, but I do believe the most important thing affecting the course of our lives can be gleaned by examining the position of our heart in response to the character of our God. Take a moment, now, to consider it, for I believe it’s the defining foundation for every other “thing” you’ll ever desire or ever do.

“We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.” ~A.W. Tozer

most important things

Distance Makes No Difference

distant from god

Distance Makes No Difference

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room,

I would not fear a million enemies.

Yet, distance makes no difference.

He is praying for me.”

I’ve tweeted, blogged, and posted this quote on Facebook numerous times; I pass it, daily, on my living room wall. I know what it means for me, but during family worship, I asked our kids what the preceding quote meant to them. I was floored by the following responses:

3-year old twins: *incoherent sentences verbalized in the direction of the wall (something about Jesus praying)*

Middle Son: It means that God is praying for us. (side note: I continue to be blown away that Jesus intercedes for us, whether through prayer or being the atonement sacrifice for our sins.)

Eldest Son: It means that even though we don’t see Jesus right there, He’s praying for us, and it also can mean that even if we’re spiritually distant from Him, He’s still praying for us.

That’s when I was blown away all over again! The Word says He is able to save to the uttermost — that’s at all times, in all cases, to all depths, from any distance — those who draw near to God through Him, since He ever-lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25). Thankfully, the bible also tells us we can’t even come to Him unless the Father draws us (John 6:44), and it’s God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). So, even the drawing near unto God part is handled by Christ Jesus, the one who died, was raised, is seated at the right hand of God interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Whether we are drawing near to God or becoming distant from Him, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings we cannot utter. He searches our hearts and intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). Whether near or far, in seeming physical proximity or spiritual intimacy, distance makes no difference, God is for us, and if He is for us, none can be against us. Distance makes no difference, He is praying.

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seated at the right hand of god

He Is Praying.

Where to Find Yourself

Where to Find Yourself – As Christians, we often find ourselves mired in service to others. Service is great, but unfortunately, it’s entirely possible to lose ourselves in things that seem good. This post is about where to find ourselves. Enjoy!

Project Encourage Mom

Today, I am pleased to share my first guest blog post.  Dee Knight is visiting with us today from Adjusted Sails.  We have become friends in the last 6 months, and she has been a great blessing to me.  Today’s post is a must read.  It is the very thing that I need to remind myself over and over again.  I pray you are blessed and encouraged.

Where to Find Yourself

I remember feeling incredibly saddened when watching Oprah interview Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife, Kristin Richard. She conveyed that her marriage ultimately dissolved because she had lost herself, lost who she was, and forgotten what she liked and disliked. She said she was trying to emulate whatever she thought was the perfect wife and perfect mother, and somewhere in the process of pursuing others’ goals, she lost her own. I don’t want to lose my marriage to find myself, but in…

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Wounds Of The Spirit

The reality is: some wounds we may live with until Christ returns, and He wants us to continue crying out to Him, ANYHOW, with absolute faith that He’ll answer (Luke 18:1-8) and that whatever His answer, it’s for our good (Romans 8:28)! I pray you all are blessed by this quote: Wounds Of The Spirit.

There are wounds of the spirit which never close and are intended in God’s mercy to bring us nearer to Him, and to prevent us leaving Him by their very perpetuity. Such wounds then may almost be taken as a pledge, or at least as a ground for a humble trust, that God will give us the great gift of perseverance to the end. This is how I comfort myself in my own great bereavements.

John Henry Newman

wounded heart

Some wounds are meant to draw our hearts closer to His.

ALL That Is Within Me

ALL that is within me...~Psalm 103:1

ALL that is within me…~Psalm 103:1

Today, I was reading a post from a blog I follow (iChristian) where Steve Rebus asked what the phrase, “I am loved” means to us. Out of the provided list, I chose the first one:

“The whole of me my body, mind heart and soul, that is my strength, my thoughts my deepest longings and all my emotions are loved by God.”

others included:

• God knows me AND loves me (not God knows me but loves me)
• I am loved for who I am. Completely, Utterly, For Ever.
• Others may dislike me, but God loves me
• I may hate myself, but God continues to love me
• He loves me for what I am and what I will be.
• He loves me because he understands me.

The first one stood out for me because I remember being so angry with God for not answering my prayers in the way I wanted Him to, for not being the God I wanted Him to be. My anger propelled me into a space of absolute honesty and kicked open the door for true intimacy with God. I came to a sudden realization that God could handle all of me, all of my emotions, all of my joy, all of my pain, all of my desires and disappointments, all of me. I’d determined I wanted to bless the Lord with ALL that was within me, as the psalmist says in chapter 103. Even when I was feeling empty, I felt God calling me to bring my emptiness to Him. Some days, all that was within me was anger, some days – just streams of endless tears. But the bible says, “all that is within me, bless His holy name.” So, I believed that even my honest anger would bless the Lord, that even my endless tears would glorify His name because that was all that was within me. That was all that I had!

God does an amazing thing when we allow Him to have ALL of us, when we choose to bring ALL of ourselves to Him to bless His holy name. He meets us there, there in the brokenness, there in the pain, there in the anger. God can handle all of you, and He wants you to bring your all to Him so that ALL that is within you can bless His holy name.

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. . . There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest.”

 ~E.G.W., Steps to Christ, p. 100