I’m Praying for You

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I prayed for you today, knowing that God is always ready to help you. Your job is to let Him.

“If you bow low in God’s awesome presence,[a] he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands.

Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7)

God is trying to get a message through to you, and the message is: “Stop depending on inadequate human resources. Let me handle the matter.” -Catherine Marshall

Conversational Prayer (because it’s the Ultimate Listening Experience)

In this post, I’ll show you,

Why listening to God is crucial

Why knowing the real God is important and more.

are you listening

What comes to your mind when I say God can speak to you directly?

Some people get anxious and others react with skepticism. How will I know for sure that I’m hearing Him? What if it’s just my own thoughts? Or what if the devil deceives me?

Some feel shame. I want to hear God like others do but He never talks to me. What’s wrong with me?

In addition, others experience sadness and long to hear Him. I don’t feel that close to God. I read my Bible and have morning devotions but He seems so far away.

In this post, I’ll show you,

  • Why listening to God is crucial
  • Why knowing the real God is important
  • Why knowing the real you is life changing
  • Why hearing God is hardwired in you

Why listening to God is crucial

Without hearing God we’re at the mercy of our own unhealed hurts, unmet needs, and unresolved issues. Or we become dependent on others to hear God for us.

Without hearing God we miss out on an affectionate, warm relationship with Him. Gary Smalley points out, “You may feel like the ragged, hungry, orphan child standing in the snow with your nose pressed against the restaurant window, watching laughing people eating wonderful food. You long to enter in, but you feel excluded, lonely, rejected, and starved.

I felt like that at one time because I held a wrong concept of God. It was like I was on the outside looking in spiritually. 

Why knowing the real God is important

A. W. Tozer when he wrote, “Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God.”

How can we love God if we don’t know Him but when we know the real God we love Him. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). 

Often we paint over the face of God with how we experienced our earthly fathers. If your father was distant, broke his promises, shamed you, and called you names, we tend to see God that way.

Many believers don’t know the “real” God – the overjoyed God who welcomes the lost son or daughter home with open arms and acceptance. 

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15 Message Bible)

Why knowing the real you is life changing

Many Christians believe lies about themselves. Unless you see yourself through God’s eyes who takes pleasure in you, you will probably experience a negative flow of emotions toward yourself. 

Who you are is based on who God says you are. Here is how God sees you,

“Holy” – not holier-than-thou cleansed, forgiven-washed in His precious blood (Romans 11:16; Ephesians 1:4).

“joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him.” He indwells you  – energizing your life (I Corinthians 6:17).

“lavished with His love” – God is “in love” with you (I John 3:1).

Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God makes the astonishing statement that God is “pursuing relationship with you.”

The Bible paints word pictures that describe your relationship with Him.

  • “friends with Christ” (John 15:15)
  • “children of God” (John 1:12)
  • “the bride of Christ” (Revelation 19:7-8)

The fact is God wants to be close to you:

closer than friends,

     closer than a father to his child,

          closer even than a bridegroom to his bride.

Dallas Demmitt, Ph.D. says it this way,  “When you know that you are surrounded and filled with a God who loves you and will never leave you, you then have a solid basis for a healthy self-image-not pride or arrogance, but a rock-solid confidence that you are loved and supernaturally equipped for loving others.”

Why hearing God is hardwired in you

“My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10:27).

But how can I be sure that I’m hearing God and not myself-or worse yet-the enemy? That’s a good question. The following exercise will walk you through both these concerns.

First, you will pray Scripture and know without a doubt that it is God speaking to you through His Word.

Secondly, you will hear God speaking through your thoughts, no in an audible voice. Most of the time you hear God through your thoughts.

This exercise is adapted from the book The Secret to the Christian Life by Gene Edwards. You are about to enter into an ancient practice of the saints of all the centuries past, a practice and a heritage passed down through two millennia of the Christian faith. you are about to turn Scripture into prayer.

Start – by taking a few minutes to get quiet and think about His love for you and yours for Him. let all other distractions fall away. take your time and don’t feel that you have to rush this process.

Next, open your Bible to Psalm 23. Ask the Lord to speak to you out of the psalm. Then read Psalm 23:1 out loud to Him. it’s okay if your mind becomes filled with other sights and impressions relating them to your own life.

Continue to read and expand the verse as you “hear” more of what the Lord is speaking to you based on your existing Bible understanding.

When there’s a lull in the flow of ideas, ask Him to “say more.” “Say more” is called (inviting).

When questions arise, ask the Lord, What does this mean? or How does this apply to me?” Then summarize his answer. I call this (Asking and Summarizing).

Example of how this might sound:

Lord Jesus, I hear You saying You are my Shepherd. I shall not want. I am a Lamb. I was mad for a shepherd. I wasn’t meant to have all the answers and to be strong and independent. You supply my needs. Thank You, Lord.

What else do You want to say? (Inviting)

I hear you say that you are a Good Shepherd. Trustworthy and pure in Your love and intentions toward me. That I can rest in Your arms. You are a safe place. In fact, You are the only safe place in this life. Thank You, Jesus. (Summarizing)

Is there more? (Inviting)

Continue on in this way all through Psalm 23.

Finally, at the end, sit quietly before the Lord and let Him love you deeply within your spirit.

Sample Closing Prayer:

Father, I’m so glad I can hear Your voice. Your nonjudgmental hearing and speaking powerfully draws me to You. Thank You that I no longer feel on the outside looking in. You continually speak to me and I hear Your words as echoes of the Scripture.

 

 

 

 

Conversational Prayer (and Why We Struggle to Hear God’s Voice).

Adam McHugh tackles why we still struggle to hear God’s voice.

Do you struggle to hear God’s voice?

One thing I do know is God is a communicator but sometimes I struggle to hear His voice.

Adam McHugh’s article below tackles that question. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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“If God is in the business of communicating with his people, and his voice has certain distinguishable properties, why do we still struggle to hear it?

In some cases, it is simply a lack of training. Dallas Willard believes that many people regularly hear from God but don’t actually know it.

His voice enters as a thought or an impression on their consciousness, and they respond to it yet do not ascribe the inner voice to its proper source.

As incredible as that sounds, as I reflect on the voices I have listened to in times of critical decision, I think I agree with him.

There have been many occasions in which I wrestled and listed the pros and cons and sought counsel, yet attained no clarity whatsoever until a moment in which I suddenly knew what to do.

The inspiration would often flash when I was in a detached state of mind, not even thinking about the issue at hand.

It was as though the thought did not originate with my mind, as if the decision just happened to me There are other causes of our inability to hear and identify God’s voice.

One paradox that emerges in this discussion is this: we may not hear from God because our lives are too loud. Or, we may not hear from God because our lives are too quiet.

Too loud

You can only hear it in the quietest hour of the night. During the day, as you move and talk and eat, it is constant but imperceptible.

But when you put the side of your head on your pillow and let your breathing slow as you fall into unconsciousness, you may hear it: the tiny, rhythmic pulsation of your heart beating blood into your body, a pounding whisper that keeps you alive even when you’re asleep.

When God’s voice creeps upon us like a heartbeat in the dark, it is often referred to in our tradition as “the still, small voice.”

God speaks in many ways and even occasionally shouts, but the testimony of countless believers throughout the ages has emphasized the still, small voice as one the most important ways God speaks to us.

The Quakers call this voice “the inner teacher.” Others have called it the inner word or the inner voice, received by the inner ear. John Calvin called it “the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit.”

Dallas Willard describes it as a direct impression on a person’s consciousness, usually expressed as a thought, with a certain force and weight, occurring in a person’s mind.

The phrase “still, small voice” comes from the King James Version’s rendering of “the sheer silence” in the Elijah story, an interpretation that isn’t the best translation of the Hebrew but that does represent well the nature of God’s communications with us.

The sovereign King of the universe, to our surprise, does not often trumpet his message to his subjects. God’s volume knob is rarely turned all the way to the right; his voice in our ears is subtle, restrained, even easy to miss.

Why would God speak so softly in a world that so often needs a blaring wake-up call? I have to conclude that God’s speech patterns indicate how important he considers our listening.

If God shouted, listening would not be required, but a whisper forces us to pay attention and to strain to hear his voice.

A whispered message assumes that the listener is in proximity to the speaker. The closeness required by a whisper requires that we are in close relationship with the Lord, aware of his presence and walking with him, poised to do what he says. God’s hushed tones also necessitate that we are quiet and still enough to recognize him.

  1. Eliot said it well: “Where shall the word be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”
  2. One of the questions I have wrestled with is, why does it seem like the figures in biblical stories hear from God so much more than we do?

Is it a matter of worldview? Did the ancients attribute everything in the natural
world to the influence of the heavens because of a pre-scientific worldview? The heavens seemed to speak so fluently then.

Thunder expressed the anger of the gods. A good harvest revealed God’s pleasure. I expect that differing worldviews do play a part. I wonder, though, if God’s relative silence in our day can be traced to another source.

Perhaps our ancestors didn’t have the same luxury of distraction. Their inability to escape into television or the Internet, their relatively few choices for entertainment, the lack of electrifying stimuli, their agrarian labors that stopped at sundown, their slow pace of life, and the quiet of a preindustrial night might have helped draw their attention to the heavens. The stars are much brighter when you’re not looking at them through lights and smog.

A loud, overcrowded, hyperactive life is the antithesis of the listening life. The hyperactive life is so often trying to prove its worth, make its mark and justify its existence. The listening life waits, quietly and humbly, for God to make his mark on us.

John Coltrane, the legendary jazz saxophonist, made his mark on the jazz world by improvising at breakneck speed.

No one had ever seen a musician who could play and move his fingers so feverishly. Soon he was playing gigs with the superstars of his day and changing the way people understood the genre.

Unfortunately, much of the frenzy that marked Coltrane’s style was the result of the substances in his system.

In 1957, his system ravaged by drugs and alcohol, and his career and life on the brink of collapse, Coltrane went to his mother’s house and sought God in the quiet of his room.

According to pastor and jazz aficionado Robert Gelinas, “Four days later, he emerged a changed man, for—according to him—God had met him in a most unusual way. It was a sound, a droning resonance, a reverberation, unlike anything he had ever heard.” God’s presence had come to John Coltrane as a sound.

Not only did this divine groove change his life, it changed the way he played. The frantic improvisation was replaced by a slow, soulful style, in which Coltrane listened for the God sound to come again and tried to replicate it on his sax.

Gelinas explains that “he came to believe that if he could play that sound for others, then they, too, could experience what he had experienced during those four days in his bedroom.

For the rest of his life, Coltrane sought to find that music that had healed him, and while he was never able to rediscover it, he recorded one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, A Love Supreme, during this musical pilgrimage.”

The four parts of A Love Supreme follow a pilgrim on his journey toward God:

  1. “Acknowledgement”—The recognition of God
  2. “Resolution”—Commitment to seek God
  3. “Pursuance”—The journey toward God
  4.  “Psalm”—Celebration of the discovery of God

John Coltrane discovered that listening to God required a slow movement and a quiet search. In our pursuit of God, we may discover that a hectic pace of life, while having all the marks of success and productivity, is too loud with the sound of our own voice.

Like Coltrane, we may have to retreat into the quiet of our rooms and into slower rhythms in order to truly listen.

Too quiet

The claim that God’s voice cannot be heard among the clamor of modern life is a common one. But I have also come to realize that there is a life that is too quiet to hear God’s voice.

This is because God’s communications are not haphazard. The Holy Spirit, it turns out, is not a hapless talk show host nattering about everything under the sun, hoping that a few people will tune into the right frequency.

Instead, God’s word comes most often to a certain kind of person seeking to lead a certain kind of life.

Dallas Willard puts it this way: “Our union with God . . . consists chiefly in a conversational relationship with God while we are each consistently and deeply engaged as his friend and co-laborer in the affairs of the kingdom of the heavens.

As much as I enjoy the idea of sitting with God on a porch swing, sipping lemonade and chatting about the weather, the better image may be a soldier in the heat of battle, in constant communication with his commanding officer.

The soldier doesn’t just want to hear from his superior, he needs to. He is in over his head, seeking to complete the mission he has been given, in urgent need of guidance and support. As Eric Metaxas put it: “When God speaks to you, you know you’re going to need
it.”

God’s Language is Faith, Hope, and Love

God does not speak in an arbitrary language to whomever happens to be listening at the time. God’s language is faith, hope, and love.

If we are seeking to lead a life marked by believing, hoping and loving, moving with the Lord in his mission and work, then we can have the expectation that the Lord will speak to us and give us what we need.

On the other hand, if we sit still and refuse to act until we are explicitly told to act, we may be waiting for a very long time.

Sometimes our cell phones have no signal in the shelter of our homes and we need to get out and move in order to get reception.

I’m also convinced that listening to God is not unlike writing: if I were to wait to write until inspiration struck, I would write practically nothing.

But if I chain myself to my desk every morning at 8:00 a.m. and start typing something—anything—inspiration has a way of unexpectedly pulling up a chair.

If we act on what we know, maintaining a posture of listening, the One who is with us until the end of the age will come. And when he does speak with us, we must be prepared to act on it.

Karl Barth said that the best way to test the authenticity of a communication from God is to act on it and see what happens.”

I would love to hear your comments.

 

I’m Praying for You

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You’ve got so much potential. I’m asking God to help you be aware of that. I’m sure He will show you. and give you enabling grace to carry out whatever it is He’s called you to.

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NKJV)

“A possibility is a hint from God.” -Soren Kierkegaard

Pass it on!

Part 3 – God Wrote About You (and How You can Pull Down Strongholds)

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In Part 1 I showed you books exist in heaven, some opened for us to see what’s written, others are closed, and opened at a later time.

But either way, God keeps books full of His Kingdom purposes for countries, churches, and individuals.

 

Before you fully appreciate Conversational Prayer it’s important to deal with strongholds of the mind. Strongholds of the mind kept me in bondage for many years and I couldn’t sense God’s presence and prayer was boring and dry.

In Part 2 God Wrote a Book About You (and How You can Pull Stronghold) shows you:

  • What strongholds are
  • How do they keep you from knowing God and what He wrote in His book and
  • How to detect strongholds in your own mind?

First, I want to lay a foundation for later on when we look at how to detect strongholds in your own mind.

The first time I heard about pulling down strongholds was in the 80’s and it revolutionized my thinking. It was like a light bulb coming on in my mind, giving me an understanding of how to renew my mind.

So before we learn how to apply the practical part, we first need to know what strongholds are.

Valentina is a Christian and a well-informed tour guide in Moscow.

“I was a devout Communist from childhood. I believed the Marxist system to be the best in the world. I believed most people in the West lived in poverty with great scarcity of food and other necessities. Then unexpectedly I was given the privilege of going to London.

Arriving late at night, the first place I wanted to visit the next morning was a supermarket. As I entered the door and saw the vast array of all sorts of food, I stood as if frozen by the shock – suddenly I knew I had believed a LIE!”

Valentina’s testimony describes a stronghold in his mind and how it got there. He first believed a lie. But as the truth stared him in the face in the supermarket, was he going to continue to believe the lie or believe the truth?

A light came on in his mind, and he understood for the first time that he had believed a lie. Instantly the lie was demolished and his mind renewed when he believed the truth.

Paul wrote his second letter to the Church in Corinth because some false teachers and so called “super apostles” were attacking Paul’s character by spreading LIES about him and the gospel he preached. His letter called his friends back to the truth they received when they first heard the true gospel.

What are Strongholds?

Over the last three years, I asked several mature Christians that question. I realized many used the term without knowing what it means. In my search for the right meaning of pulling down strongholds I found some abused it, so we want to know the right meaning because we can’t make it mean whatever we want it to mean.

Years ago I read “Confronting the Power” by Peter Wagner. 

“One of the more curious aspects of my pilgrimage into the field of spiritual warfare during the past few years has been the discovery that those who had been talking about it and doing it long before I even thought much about it did not agree among themselves about the nature of strongholds.

They agreed that strongholds provide the forces of darkness a legal basis for doing their evil deeds both in individual people on the ground level and in cities and nations on the strategic level. . . . We have not been sure enough of what we are looking for exactly” (p. 237).

I scratched my head and wondered, what does he mean by “legal basis” because he didn’t explain what it meant. But when Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he knew what he meant by strongholdsand his readers did too.

When I went back and studied the context (II Corinthians chapters 10-13) I found out right away, that is not how Paul used the term. Looking at context helps to understand surrounding Scriptures.

As I read books and listened to teaching on strongholds over the years, many teachers only use II Corinthians 10:4 to establish their whole teaching about strongholds, so I never bothered to study the context which includes chapters 10 to 13 in II Corinthians.

In 2015 the Holy Spirit took me back again to II Corinthians chapters 10-13 because I sensed I had missed something important.

I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit for His meaning because if we don’t know His meaning we can make it mean anything we want it to mean and end up teaching something the Word does not support.

What did Paul mean by the word “strongholds?”

Do we know what Paul means by strongholds? Yes. We can know what Paul meant by strongholdsand it’s important to understand his meaning, because it will help us in our personal spiritual warfare and in our ministries.

I studied under Bible teacher, Rose Geiman, in the late 60’s and remember her saying, 

“Scripture is its own best interpreter. After ascertaining the plain meaning of any portion to the best of our ability, we then carefully and prayerfully study the context to gather further information, looking to the Holy Spirit for illumination.”

So I took that advice and found that strongholds in II Corinthians 10:4 cannot refer to evil spirits, when I studied it in context. It’s eye-opening to find out the entire letter does not mention evil spirits since Paul is writing to bring the believers at Corinth back to their former teacher (Paul), and to the ministry of the one who brought them the Gospel at first.

In  chapters 10-13 Paul defends his apostleship and ministry against the lies from the so-called “super apostles” (11:13) who were spreading vicious lies about him (10:2,10; 11:6-7,15; 12:11-12).

The agenda of the false teachers and false apostles was to draw the believers away from Paul and to themselves and separate them from Paul.

His enemies said:

  • He looks weak  (10:10)
  • He speaks poorly (11:6)
  • He is inferior (11:6)
  • He’s not a true apostle (12:11-12); and
  • He acts greater then he is (10:3)

False teachers spread these lies about Paul and many of the Corinthians accepted the lies without questioning if they were true. Not only did the lies affect Paul but they hindered the believers at Corinth from fulfilling ALL of God’s will. T

hey became a stumbling block to those around them and instead of growing in Christ, they acted more like the world by their actions.

Everyone has strongholds but the bad news is many have never heard of them and do not know how to deal with them. Even whole congregations can have group strongholds like those in the Corinthian church.

If congregations do not deal with strongholds they will hinder God’s will just like the church at Corinth.

Strongholds keep you from knowing God

Paul knew about religious strongholds, all one needs to do is look at his life before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. His very actions proved the strongholds started to crumble in the presence of the Lord as his mind was renewed over time.

So Paul knows he’s in a war, a war between lies and TRUTH. Since he personally dealt with his own strongholds, he is now able to help others deal with theirs. He knows all the signs to look for because strongholds once lodged in his mind. He also knows the damage strongholds can do in the body of Christ if they are not dealt with.

In II Corinthians 10:4-6 he tells the Corinthians how he will win the “war” against TRUTH,

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

Paul defines strongholds as:

  • arguments, and
  • every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
  • bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

Craig Keener writes, 

“Greek sages sometimes described their battle against false ideas as a war, in terms similar to those Paul uses here.”

Paul claims to be doing battle with false ideas. Other Bible translations use “arguments,” “speculations” and “reasonings.” The word stronghold in Greek literally means a fortress. Proverbs says, “A wise person can defeat a city full of warriors and tear down the defenses they trust in” (Proverbs 21:22).

Paul used Proverbs 21:22 to imply the war he was facing was not a literal city but a war in peoples’ minds. He painted a word picture in the Corinthians minds when he used the term strongholds. 

He meant they trusted more in their arguments, speculations, and reasonings about who they thought Paul was and totally missed who God truly was because what they believed was not based on truth.

Paul also knew,

“God considers the wisdom of this world to be foolish. It is just as the Scriptures say, “God catches the wise when they try to outsmart him” (I Corinthians 3:19). 

By accepting lies as truth, it allows falsehoods to stay in your mind and keeps your mind locked behind invisible prison bars, and you don’t even realize it until truth is revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.

This is one reason that renewing your mind after being born again is so important. That’s why Paul wrote, 

“I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:2-3).

We’re not in a power struggle with demons and satan but the power of TRUTH is what shatters the lies we believe about ourselves and who God is.

Even science has caught up with the Bible. Athena Staik, Ph.D. agrees that the mind can change. 

“One of the laws discovered by recent findings is the ability of the brain to restructure itself throughout life. This discovery alone tossed out centuries of scientific creeds, which previously held that we cannot do much about set patterns in the brain.”

After our conversion to Christ and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our minds are not automatically renewed. Our minds are not set in concrete so they need to be renewed because

“we once were dead in our transgressions and sins, in which we used to live when we followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (satan)” (Ephesians 2:2).

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

When Paul used the phrase in II Corinthians 10:4, “and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” he’s speaking about pride. God dealt with Paul’s pride and he could detect it in the false teachers and false apostles. 

“Of course we shouldn’t dare include ourselves in the same class as those who write their own testimonials, or even to compare ourselves with them! All they are doing, of course, is to measure themselves by their own standards or by comparisons within their own circle, and that doesn’t make for accurate estimation, you may be sure”(II Corinthians 10:12-13).

Arrogant know-it-alls

Paul knew immediately that when somebody or even a congregation behaved this way, it was a sure sign of strongholds and that they were filled with pride.

The false teachers and false apostles were envious and jealous of Paul’s authority and used every means possible to shut him out of their lives.

Proverbs 13:10 says, 

“Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.” 

A different Bible translation says it this way,

 “Pride only leads to arguments or (The empty-headed cause arguments out of pride), but those who take advice are wise” (Proverbs 13:10).

The arrogant know-it-alls stirred up strife in the Corinthian church and some of the believers and false apostles deceived themselves into thinking they were more spiritual than Paul.

Remember how satan grew proud and vain in his beauty. He started to be envious of God’s authority and began to scheme to overthrow God?  

“How art thou fallen fro For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,”(Isaiah 14:12-14).

And Ezekiel 28:17, 

“Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness. . .” 

As you can see satan had a secret agenda just like the false apostles did. They resented Paul’s authority and his giftings and in turn turned others in the church against him. Paul knew from personal experience what strongholds can do to a person and how they can keep you from knowing God and His will.

Even our friend Peter teaches us a lesson about self-confidence that’s rooted in pride. 

Peter says, 

“Lord, with you I am ready to go both to prison and to death. Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” Can you see Peter’s self-confidence coming through? Peter’s saying, “You just don’t know how strong I am Lord.” Looks like a stronghold to me.

Jesus said,

“Truly I say to you, this very night before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:24). And shortly after that Peter denied knowing the Lord three times. But his story doesn’t end there! Jesus said, “When you are converted when you turn around from this, you will be able to strengthen the brethren” (Luke 22:32), because then he would be able to teach others the lesson he learned.

The same thing happens to you too. When we willingly deal with the strongholds (lies we believe) we not only have a greater capacity to know God more but we can teach others the lessons we’ve learned.

Jesus restored Peter. 

“Feed My sheep, tend My lambs, feed My sheep, be My shepherd” (John 21:17).  

Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost and preached and three thousand came to Christ and he preached again and tens of thousands came to Christ in Jerusalem.

Jesus says to you too, “I have prayed for you, your faith will not fail.”

The Bible uses the word stronghold as a metaphor to represent thoughts that are based on human ideas. These human ideas are guarded by pride and Paul contrasts human ideas with God’s wisdom and guidance.

Strongholds are a set way of thinking that goes against knowing God and His ways. These strongholds in your mind are like a guarded fortress that blocks out the truth. It blocks out who you are in Christ; and who God truly is. They keep God out and prevent you from knowing what God wrote in His book concerning you.

It’s just as important today as it was in Paul’s day to be aware of strongholds. We must identify and pull them down if we are ever going to live the way God called us to live.

Before we look at II Corinthians 12:20 to see what group strongholds look like, look at how John MacArthur describes the Corinthian culture. 

“The Corinthians Paul wrote to are converted but their minds needed to be renewed. Their culture was argumentative. It was a culture of debate. And the people picked their people and their leaders and they were always embroiled with each other. It was a selfish culture.

It was an arrogant society. There were all kinds of tumults and upheavals and anger and disputes and slanders and gossips. That was a way of life, as it is today and they dragged it right into the church and Paul had to confront it all.”

How to detect strongholds in your in your mind.

Paul lists nine strongholds in II Corinthians 12:20-21.

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be

  • discord
  • jealousy 
  • fits of rage
  • selfish ambition 
  • slander 
  • gossip 
  • arrogance
  • disorder

and verse 21,

“I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”

  • impurity, sexual sin and debauchery

Each one of these behaviors come out of an ingrained mindset formed over time and rooted in pride. Picture it this way. A farmer has a fishing pond on his farm a quarter mile from his house.

Every day after work, he climbs into his pickup truck and drives out to his pond.  At first it’s rocky and bumpy as he drives his pickup truck through the tall weeds and goes around the large rocks blocking his way.

But if you went out and looked at these tracks today you would see two big ruts because he used the same route every day. He could climb into his truck today and because of the deep ruts, not even hold on to the steering wheel.

All he needs to do is point his truck in the right direction and it would coast along because of the entrenched grooves the truck made. Strongholds of the mind are the same way.

Likewise, human thought patterns can be so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even think about them anymore, they seem to be automatic responses or reactions that we have no control over. Our minds can operate like an old-fashioned record player’s needle stuck in the same old groove.

When something gets triggered on the inside of us, the old way of thinking wants to kick in just like that needle getting stuck in the same old groove. But Paul teaches us that we can renew our minds and learn to live out of the mind of Christ.

In I Corinthians 2:16, Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 and then makes a statement concerning all believers, 

“We have the mind of Christ.”

The Christian who is a spiritual “new man” still retains old patterns of selfishness and sinfulness in the soul. These thought patterns often present themselves in “old ways” of behavior that are not a sign of the character of Christ and misrepresent who we are in Christ.

These “old ways” of behavior (strongholds) can be seen in the culture, in families, between friends, and in churches. Now I will define the nine strongholds. Once you have read the definitions, then read the evaluation questions, and mark the questions which apply to you personally.

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind how often you engage in these actions. We all can behave this way from time, to time, but you want to recognize if they have become so ingrained in your thinking that they now are a way of life.

In addition, remember this is not a one-time thing because strongholds can crop up throughout life. The thing is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit because He’s the Spirit of truth and desires more than anything for you to be conformed to Christ.

Once you identify any strongholds here is a prayer that you can use to get you started.

  • You, oh Lord, are the Most High God. I bow before you and pray that I will recognize any strongholds and take every thought captive to obey Jesus Christ. I don’t come to you because of how good or righteous I think I am but because of your great mercy. I confess the stronghold of (______________________) in my mind and I ask that in your Presence, it will shatter and be replaced with TRUTH. Amen

Once you begin to recognize “old patterns” of thinking you will be quicker the next time to catch what’s happening in your mind and capture every thought that does not align with Christ and make it obey Him. In other words, you say, “that’s who I was before Christ but now I trust the life of Christ in me, I CAN’T but He CAN.”

Group Strongholds

  1. Discord –“Disagreement between people. Squabbling, bickering, arguing, and disunity.”

Questions to help you recognize discord.

  • Do you have thoughts or feelings of superiority, especially toward those in positions of leadership or authority?
  • Do you gossip or share your opinions with others in order to gain a position of superiority?
  • Do you repeatedly rehearse quarrelsome words in preparation to win future arguments?
  • Some individuals like to“push others buttons” because they enjoy quarreling with and antagonizing others. Does this describe you?
  • Do you frequently find yourself in arguments?
  • Is quarreling and arguing a normal occurrence in your daily life?
  • When in a heated discussion, are you able to choose righteousness and walk away from the situation, or do your purposefully continue to argue?
  • Do you look to pick a quarrel or an argument with others?
  • Are you resentful toward others and therefore make a point of arguing with people?
  • Do you compare yourself with yourself or someone else?

From discord to harmony – “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).

  1. Jealousy – “It is the boiling fervency of ungratefulness and resentment concerning what others have or do. Distrust, possessiveness, and over protectiveness. Fearful of being displaced by a rival.”

Questions to help you recognize jealousy.

  • Are you able to rejoice in others’ successes?
  • Do you feel threatened when others achieve success?
  • When God uses someone powerfully, are you able to rejoice, or do you feel overlooked and dishonored?
  • Do you struggle with thoughts of dislike or hatred toward people because of their successes?
  • Have you consistently asked yourself: “Why does everyone else receive blessings and favor, but I never do?”
  • Do you look for opportunities to speak negatively about others because of their successes?
  • Do you feel a need to promote yourself instead of trusting God to do so?
  • Do you blame everyone else for your lack of success?

From jealousy to trust – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

  1. Fits of rage – “Uncontrolled fits of passion and rage wherein one’s fury and temper are so acute that it could lead to life-threatening action are implied by this word. Be furious, be enraged, be livid, have a fit, be steamed up, and foam at the mouth. To rage silently and storm about.”

Questions to help you recognize fits of rage.

  • Do you throw things, hit things, or break things when you are enraged?
  • Do you use verbal and angry outbursts of words in any of your relationships?
  • Do you physically attack people or objects?
  • Do you damage property when you are furious?
  • Do you behave with uncontrollable irritability?
  • Were you exposed to explosive behaviors at home (e.g. angry outbursts from parents or siblings).
  • Do you feel a loss of control over your thoughts when you are angry?
  • Do you have road rage?

From fits of rage to kindness – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossains 3:12).

  1. Selfish Ambition – “Elevate your self above other, to put one’s own interests before another’s. It is a self-above-others approach. Climbing over others to get to the top. Me-centeredness.”Not all ambition is wrong when it’s a strong desire to do or to achieve something, that requires determination and hard work.

Questions to help you recognize selfish ambition.

  • Do you believe that getting close to influential people will cause you to be recognized and to receive a promotion?
  • Is your motive for relating to others self-seeking? In other words, are you seeking only what you can get out of the relationship?
  • Do you have a heart to serve and bless others, or is your main concern to look out for yourself and have influence over others?
  • Do you feel the need to dominate situations so you can be seen and heard?
  • Do you love others with the heart of God, or do you build relationships only for the benefit they can bring you?
  • Do you believe God promotes us in life or that promotion comes from man?

From selfish ambition to others-centered – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

  1. Slander –“Make false and damaging statements about (someone). Defame someone’s character, blacken someone’s name, open-mouthed criticism,  public insults, and mud-slinging.”

Questions to help you recognize slander.

  • Is it a normal occurrence for you to think or speak about others in a critical manner?
  • Does it bring you pleasure and comfort to think and speak critically of others? Do you feel more valuable when you can find fault with someone else?
  • Is it easy for you to share negative, critical things about other individuals?
  • Do you speak critically about others without going to the person one-to-one and trying to work out the issue in a scriptural manner?
  • Have you spoken negatively about a leader or a person of influence to cause others to think negatively of that leader?

From slander to speaking in a fair and just manner –“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

  1. Gossip –“Engage in gossip, spread rumors, spread gossip, dish the dirt, whisper behind someone’s back and blabbermouth. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.”

Questions to help you recognize gossip.

  • Do you gossip on a regular basis?
  • When you are pulled into a conversation in which gossip is occurring, do you excuse yourself, or do you stay and entertain the discussion?
  • When you are asked to hold something in confidence, do you share it with others anyway?

From a gossip to being trustworthy – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret”(Proverbs 11:13).

  1. Arrogance – “An exaggerated sense of one’s importance that shows itself in the making of excessive or unjustified claims. Conceited, self-importance, puffed-up, big-headedness, snootiness, pretension and struts around like a peacock.”

Questions to help you recognize arrogance.

  • Do you think you are always right?
  • When you are right, is it necessary for you to point that out and make others state that you are right?
  • Are you defensive when others try to bring you correction or offer constructive suggestions on how you can improve?
  • Are you argumentative on a regular basis?
  • Are you stubborn to the point of being unteachable?
  • Do you think everyone else is always wrong but that you have the answer to every problem?
  • Is it difficult for you to admit your own faults?
  • Do you sincerely apologize to others when you have wronged them? (If you never take the initiative to say you are sorry, this is an indicator that pride is at work.)
  • Do you dominate conversations in order to keep the focus on yourself and what is important to you?
  • Can you genuinely listen to others?
  • Are you angry and determined to be heard and always have the last word?
  • Are you critical and judgmental, and do you enjoy voicing such thoughts?
  • Do you believe that it is prideful for you to receive a genuine compliment? When God has worked through you in a supernatural way, do you use terms or phrases such as “God did it all, and I had nothing to do with it?” If so, you may be walking in the deception of false or excessive humility, which is the same thing as pride.

From arrogance to being considerate –  “. . .to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone”(Titus 3:2).

  1. Disorder –“A state or situation in which there is a lot of noise, confusion, disturbing the peace, everybody does what’s right in his own eyes and disorder can rise up as the result of divisive teachings not supported by God’s word.”

Questions to help you recognize disorder.

  • Do you think the teachings you have received are all correct, even if people have counseled you otherwise?
  • Do you believe that the revelation you receive from God is somehow higher or more elite then the wisdom others have received?
  • When wise and proven spiritual leaders offer you guidance and counsel, are you teachable, and do you have a heart to reevaluate your beliefs and opinions?
  • Do you find your thoughts are consistently drawn to unscriptural teachings and beliefs? If so, is this pattern in your family line?

From disorder to order –“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”(I Corinthians 14:40).

  1. Impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery: “Expands the concept of sexual irregularity beyond the sexual acts themselves to any act and attitude that is defiling, unclean, or indecent; to anything other than the pure, clean and proper use of our physical bodies as the purity of God’s character is expressed in us.

Derived from the Greek word for “prostitute” which is the root of the English word “porno”. It refers to any sexual activity outside of God’s intended context of marriage between one man and one woman. It is broader than just premarital fornication, as translated in some versions of the New Testament.”

Questions to help you recognize impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery.

  • Do you spend more and more time watching pornography online or viewing pornography in books or magazines?
  • Do you feel like you are no longer the one in charge – the compulsion is stronger than your will power?
  • Do you turn to pornography as a way to cope with stress, anger, loneliness, boredom, or feelings of low self-esteem?
  • Sex outside of marriage has become a pattern for you and you can’t stop it. Does this describe you?
  • Even since coming to Christ you are still involved in sexual uncleanness.

From impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery to purity and faithfulness – “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband”(I Corinthians 7:2).

“God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality”(I Thessalonians 4:3).

NOTE: Some of the questions that helped you identify strongholds were taken from “Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, A Believer’s guide to BREAKING FREE” by Rebecca Greenwood.

Finally, As you can see, I’m not talking about behavior modification or trying harder to be a good Christian, but “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

When you finally come to the place and say “I CAN’T,”  that’s the place you come to believe, I “CANNOT” produce the Christian life that God promises. I  must depend on God to produce that PROMISED life in me.

God wrote a book in heaven about you and imagine that your greatest desire in life is to please your Father.  As every stronghold is replaced with TRUTH, you now have a greater capacity to know and be obedient to ALL the will of God.

And your Conversational Prayer life will be richer and sweeter as you hear His voice.
__________________________

to be continued in Part 4 – God Wrote a Book About You (and Your PROMISED Life in Christ)

Conversational Prayer (because Faith Comes by Hearing and Hearing by the Word of God.

Find out why believing in the Biblical sense always means obeying (acting) upon the revealed will and plan of God.

What’s faith got to do with it?

Conversational Prayer that is.

First, I want to give you an example showing what biblical faith means. Then I will unpack these verses.

Noah received some information (details) from God concerning the flood. He received this information well before God’s judgment of this world with water. This information also contained Noah’s part in God’s future plan for the flood.

By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…”, Hebrews 11:6.

Let’s ask some questions.

Did Noah know what was coming upon the earth before the flood came? Yes, he did.

Did Noah know what God wanted him to do before the flood came? Yes, he did.

Noah had advance information from God. This information, in the form of a warning, allowed Noah to know in advance exactly what God wanted him to do as God prepared to carry out His plan of world destruction by water.   

What, then, did Noah do?

He acted upon the information God gave him.  He prepared an ark and his acting or his preparing the ark makes it clear that he believed God’s word. And by his acting, he “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith”, Hebrews 11:6.

Take Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out…”, Hebrews 11:8.

Did Abraham receive advance information from God concerning a place he was to inherit before he went out? Yes, he did.

Did Abraham know beforehand what he was to do about it? Yes, he did.

This advance information became his faith. Faith is a noun. It is something you
have. Next Abraham acted upon that information. He obeyed. He went out. Going out showed he believed God word. The information God gave him to act upon.

Believing in the Biblical sense always means obeying (acting) upon the revealed will and plan of God. Faith is information that you receive from God. Believing is always acting upon that information. Abraham knew beforehand about the place of inheritance. His
going out was his believing the information.

Look Moses’ parents. “By faith Moses’, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a proper child, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”, Hebrews 11:23.

Did Moses’ parents have advance information about the future of their child? Yes, they did.

What did they see? They “saw he was a proper child”.

What did they do about the details God gave them about Moses? They acted upon it in two ways. They hid him for the space of three months. Then, they overcame their
fear of the king’s commandment to kill the boy babies in the land.

Their hiding and overcoming their fear was their believing. Faith is a noun. It is
something you have. Moses’ parents received information from God about Moses. Believing is a verb. It is something you do with the information you receive from God.
How do you receive this information? In the three examples above, they got the advance information from God in three ways.

  • Noah was warned,
  • Abraham was called
  • and Moses’ parents saw something.

But, in our age, advance information from God comes to us in two ways. First, we get
information from God in scripture.

Second, we get information from God directly into our spirit.  This information which comes directly into our spirit may take the form of a warning, calling and seeing like the above. It may come as a knowing or an awareness. 

This information can come in dreams, or pictures in your mind or by an inner impression. For instance, suppose you own your own business and you sense a calling of God on your life.

But are more concerned about being in the will of God than owning your own business? In other words, you would like to have your own business but only if you could know that it is the will of God for your life.

Since there is no verse anywhere in the Bible which states that “thou shall quit your business and go to Bible school.” How do you know for sure which one to go with?

Here’s where Conversational Prayer shines. You simply lay the matter out before the Lord and then get quiet and listen. The Lord then speaks to your spirit what His will is concerning your job situation. The answer may not come all at once. As you talk this over with God it will become clearer which road to take.

And, when he is done speaking, there will be a perfect peace in your spirit about the course of action on your part that is His will for your life. But there will be a feeling of anxiety and unrest concerning the course of action that is not his will for your life.

This is exactly what happened to my husband Dick in 1976. He had his own sign painting business and it was doing very well financially. God began speaking to him about going into full-time ministry. Was he to close down his business? Was this really God speaking to him? There was no Scripture saying, “Dick close down your business and go to Bible School.”

He began talking to God about what he sensed. His sign painting business was his baby, something he dreamed about having someday. Now here he was with a dilemma on his hands. Painting signs brought him joy. But something began to change. Where he had peace and joy in a job he loved he now experienced frustration.

He goes back to the Father and says, “I don’t understand what’s going on in my life. Why this frustration? Why this uneasiness?” To make a long story short as he entered into Conversational Prayer God gave him advance information about how to close down his business and where he was to go to Bible school. 

When he began to take steps to close his business down peace flooded his soul. Where there was frustration before now peace was reigning.  Dick demonstrated his believing by acting on what God spoke to him. 

A Strong Word of Warning

The Holy Spirit never contradicts the written word of God. The Spirit of God will never give you information for you to act upon that contradicts the scriptures.  

When you are seeking direction from God and the information you receive contradicts the plain sense of scripture, the source of that information is demonic, not holy.  

Keep in mind that faith is information that we receive from God, (and doesn’t in any way deny the plain sense of the scriptures), that we are to act upon.  

Explanation of Hebrews 11:1

When I began to see what biblical faith was Hebrews 11:1 made sense. 

Hebrews 11:1,  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

We can’t make faith mean what we want it to mean. We want the Holy Spirit’s meaning, don’t we?  

The word “substance” is the Greek word HUPOSTASIS,  and is a combination of two Greek words. The first word in this combination is the Greek preposition “under”. The second word in this combination is the Greek word meaning “to stand”.

The combined word means “to stand under”. Putting it all together the expanded verse reads like this:

“Now the information that we receive from God that we are to act upon stands under, as a foundation, the things we hope for and this foundation becomes our evidence for things we cannot see with our physical eyes yet.”

I leaped for joy. Now biblical faith made sense to me.

The information we receive from God becomes the foundation and this foundation becomes our evidence for things we cannot see with our physical eyes yet. 

When I’m sensitive to hear His voice, without fail I’m able to stand, because I have His sure word, even when I don’t see it yet.

In 1997 I became ill and lying flat on my back and not moving was the only thing that brought relief. I saw different doctors and they couldn’t come up with a proper diagnosis. I was getting worse by the day and desperate to find out what was wrong with me.

As time went on, I cried out to the Lord for help. I’m a simple person so God doesn’t talk to me like He would a person who has a Ph.D. The only the phrase that kept coming to me was, “They don’t have a clue.” That wasn’t very encouraging. But it was advance information.

The last doctor I saw did a procedure that was to make me all better but in the end, only made things worse. The problem was I had a cyst in my liver, with five different chambers and was as big as a basketball that kept filling up with fluid.

The last time I saw that doctor was for him to say, “Cindy, you’re beyond our ability to help. Here’s a card with the number of the University of Pittsburgh Hospital. Call and make an appointment with the head liver surgeon.”

And so I did. 

“When he said you’re beyond our ability to help.” God’s advance information to me was, “They’re clueless.” Even though I was standing under God’s advance information by that time, I still didn’t have all the information of where to go for help, until the Doctor handed me the card with the number of the University of Pittsburgh Hospital.

I didn’t find out until later, the University of Pittsburgh Hospital is the best hospital in the world for liver surgery. I always say, “Father knows best listen to Him.”

Finally, I use Isaiah 55:1-3 often when explaining conversational Prayer. Most commentaries you read say these verses deal with salvation, (becoming a Christian). They do include that but there’s much more revealed in those three verses than just salvation.

I took the writers of those commentaries at their word until the Holy Spirit began opening my understanding to what Biblical faith means.

The basic definition of faith is the information that you receive from God for you to act upon.

This information allows you to know in advance what God is going to do in the
future concerning a given issue or course of action. In Conversational Prayer, this is exactly what happens.

As you interact with God through conversation He may give information that allows you to know what you are to do in a particular issue.

Faith is a noun. It’s information – details He shares with you. It is something you have. Believe is a verb. It is something you do. You get a set of instructions or information
from God which becomes your faith and then you act upon that information.

That way it says in the bible, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.”

Your acting is your believing. You do not believe in the Biblical sense without acting on your faith. That’s why James says, “Without works faith is dead.”

I’m sure you can give examples of when God spoke to you and you acted on that information.

Conversational Prayer is about hearing His voice and acting on the information He gives you. It’s a feast for your Soul.

 

 

Part 1 – God Wrote a Book About You (and Change How You Think About Your Future

god wrote a book about you

 

I wrote “God Wrote a Book About You” in  2017 and it means more to me today because of God working in my life instead of me trying to fix myself.

As you read this post, God’s already written every page of your life so don’t get stuck on just one page.

Why is it necessary for 21st-century followers of Christ to know what God wrote in His book? I hope to answer that question.

Because it’s true – God did write every page of your life before the creation of the world and what He wrote has the potential to bring the best out of you and develop maturity in you.

You’ll see later on, Peter’s story does not end with him failing God, but he fulfilled what God wrote in his book and he finished well. Not only did God write a personal book about Peter but every person has a book written about them.

Psalm 139:15-16 says:

“You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You. As I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb. You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it.”

Do you ever think about all the books in heaven? Malachi 3:16 says,
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another; the Lord heeded and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and thought on his name..”

Books written about nations are in heaven, Daniel received a vision of the Ancient of days.

“I watched till thrones were put in place, and the ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10).

Those books were about kings and nations and it was in a courtroom setting with the Judge of all the earth presiding over the courtroom.

Revelation 20:12 speaks about the book of life. 

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Books exist in heaven, some opened for us to see what’s written, others are closed, and opened at a later time. But either way, God keeps books full of His Kingdom purposes for countries, churches, and individuals.

But for now, I want to focus on Psalm 139:15-16.

god's masterpiece

YOU ARE A MASTERPIECE, AND

what a masterpiece you are! You can be what nobody else can be, each person can do what nobody else can do. We all have similar parts, but many varieties, different abilities, and functions.

The surprise of life is the place God puts us, and the work He gives us to do. We make the mistake when we force ourselves to do what we think we would like to do. When I tried to do it my way by self-will, I ended up with maximum weariness.

I’ve been a follower of Christ for over 46 years and early in my Christian life, I tried to choose the spiritual gifts I wanted. Big mistake. I learned the Holy Spirit distributes to each one as He wills. When we function in the spiritual gifts He gives us, we experience maximum fulfillment.

King David said,

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being formed in secret, and intricately and skillfully formed, as If embroidered with many colors, in the depths of the earth.Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were appointed for me, when as yet there was not one of them, even taking shape” (Psalm 139:15-16).

King David was formed in the lowest parts of the earth, formed in his mother’s womb. Like an intricate piece of needlework or embroidery or fabrication. Your body and all of its parts is a serious piece of work. The finest piece of embroidery or fabrication ever made.

Women, don’t you love to look at a delicate piece of embroidery? And you guys, how about those fabricators on TV? Those motorcycles and cars are fine pieces of work from some of the most experienced fabricators on the planet, and God formed your bodies the same way.

“For we are His workmanship, His own masterwork, a work of art, created in Christ Jesus, reborn from above–spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used, for good works, which God prepared, for us beforehand, taking paths which He set, so that we would walk in the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us” (Ephesians 2:19).

As you ponder that verse, you see how it fits with Psalm 139:15-16. These two verses in Psalm 139 and Ephesians 2 are meant for every follower of Christ. Here are a few more Scriptures from the New Testament to help reinforce the idea from Psalm 139:15-16.

Look how Paul encourages Timothy.

“. . .for He delivered us and saved us and called us with a holy calling, a calling that leads to a consecrated life–a life set apart–a life of purpose, not because of our works, or because of any person’s merit–we could do nothing to earn this, but because of His own purpose and grace, His amazing, undeserved favor, which was granted to us in Christ Jesus before the world began”(II Timothy 1:9).

Since the apostle Paul didn’t have the New Testament when he preached the Gospel, he had the Old Testament Scriptures to rely on. I believe he knew about Psalm 139 and verses 15-16.

Paul prays for the Colossians.

“. . .that God will make you completely sure of what He wants by giving you all the wisdom and spiritual understanding you need; that this will help you live in a way that brings honor to the Lord and pleases him in every way; that your life will produce good works of every kind and that you will grow in your knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

Paul later tells the Colossian believers how Epaphras prayed for them.

“Epaphras, whom is one of you and a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, He is always striving for you in his prayers, praying with genuine concern, pleading that you may, as people of character and courage, stand firm, spiritually mature, and assured in ALL the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

You can be emotionally mature and physically mature but not spiritually mature so Epaphras prayed for his friends to be spiritually mature. I was not spiritually mature when I chose the spiritual gifts I wanted but as I continued to mature spiritually, I saw the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

He distributes gifts as He wills. Instead of maximum weariness, I experienced maximum fulfillment. The Holy Spirit always knows best and leads you to be assured in ALL the will of God.

In addition, have you surrendered your will to His?

Iverna Tompkins an outstanding communicator who delivers the Word of God with powerful prophetic insight and humor was speaking at a conference I attended in the early 80’s. She talked about being willing to surrender to God’s will.“As you are obedient to walk out the will of God as you know it, God will reveal Himself more to you.”

Iverna then shared a testimony about her friend Patricia Beall,

“As Patricia and I prayed together, I received a word from the Lord. The word was, ‘all these years I’ve trained, prepared, and equipped you for now and your next assignment.’

I was reluctant to share the word, not because it was wrong but I thought Patricia might be insulted, because you see, she just turned 80 years old. But I was obedient to share the word with her, to my surprise, it was the same thing God was talking to her about in her prayer closet.”

My point is, you might be 8 or 80, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, have you surrendered your will to His and are you fulfilling ALL of God’s will? Are you walking in the light He’s given you? Do you understand His will and are you taking part with Him?

When you are obedient to step out in what you know, He reveals more of Himself to you. Why should He give you more light if you’re not obedient to what He’s already given you? Step out in the light (the understanding you have) and He will be faithful to reveal more of Himself.

In closing, it’s not, just tell me what to do so I can get on with it, but growing in knowing Him better. That’s a big difference, I’ve had to learn the hard way. Some Christians believe the lie, “I don’t have time for that relationship stuff, just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.”

“Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path” (Psalm 119:105). As you and Christ walk together in fellowship, and you listen to His word, understanding for the next step of your journey will come. Spiritual maturity is taking place on the inside as you are assured of ALL the will of God.

to be continued.