Archive for July, 2013

Does God Speak to Me?

“Well, I certainly hope so,” I thought to myself as I contemplated following God in courting Adele. He had told me a few days earlier in an inaudible voice, “This is the one who I have saved for you.” However, I had quickly put it in the back of my mind. I didn’t put much stock in an inaudible message from God in those days.

So began a journey of one and a half years of seeking God every step of the way in courting Adele. I had a proven track record of failure in courting and so I was desperate to hear his voice telling me the way to go.

I was to hear his voice through books, pros and cons lists, wise counsel, approval of those who were my spiritual leaders, my desires, and my inner thoughts informed by biblical principles. However, I was holding out to ask her to marry me until I heard his voice through the Scriptures.

Then, one Sunday afternoon when I was doing my weekly bible study, I heard his voice from two verses. He said, “Have I brought you this far in your relationship with Adele and will I not complete the process? Show your faith in Me and act now and ask her to marry you” (Isaiah 66:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). I could hardly contain my excitement at his go-ahead.

Of course God speaks to me. He speaks to all his children every day. But are we listening? Do we want to hear his voice? These are the key questions.

How else can God have an intimate love relationship with us unless he speaks to us daily? He says, “When you walk about, I will guide you; when you sleep I will watch over you; and when you are awake, I will talk to you” (Proverbs 6:22). In this verse he promises to do these things through his Word.

Today, God spoke to me in my quiet time in Galatians about the importance of fighting for grace. As Paul was fighting for the Christians to live by dependence on the Spirit and not return to Judaism, God wants me to fight for Christians to depend on the Spirit to live life.  He does not want us to return to earning our salvation, worth, love, and acceptance.

God talks to us in many other ways as well. Here are a couple of other ways.

In recent years, practicing silence has helped me to hear God’s voice better. As I get away from the noise, I can better hear the “still small voice” deep within.

“And after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a sound of a gentle blowing. And behold a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13).

He often speaks to us when we ask him to. “Shall I give you a snake if you ask Me for a fish?” (An application of Matthew 7:10).

When we ask him questions, he will answer us in his time and in his way. “His ears are open to [our] cry” (Psalm 34:15).

As we learn to recognize God’s voice, we are protected from following the other voices we hear. “My sheep know My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

To help you become more a doer of the Word, ask God to help you reflect on your day. List the different ways he spoke to you and what he said.

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What War?


I have often been deceived throughout my Christian life in trying to perform my way into God’s good graces. I have often used unreliable people, my fluctuating performance, and harsh internal demands to tell me of who I was.

I have also largely missed the experience of God’s deep love for me. I have often sought people’s approval as a substitute for relying on God’s love.

I believe that Satan has been working with my flesh and the world to hold me in bondage to these sinful ways of viewing myself. Instead, I need to view myself the way God views me. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

This is how Satan has been working since Adam and Eve. He tries to get us to reject the truth of God. Eve failed to rely on the truth of God’s warning and ate the fruit (Genesis 3:4-5). I have often failed to rely on God’s love for me as a gift and tried to earn it.

Paul says, “our weapons of war are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:4). What fortresses?

He goes on. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is war, friends! This is where the fiercest battles are being fought. Satan is out to control our mind and our heart.

But some of you may not be convinced. Some of you may say, “I am not in a war. I am not a soldier.”

But you are!

We all are! God has enlisted us in his army to fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). Our war is for the hearts and minds of people, including ours. God wants us to rely on his truth and to use us to lead people “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

However, many of us are deceived into thinking that there is no war. We live life by human strength alone.

We show by our lack of dependence on God that we do not rely on the truth that

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

We do not live in the reality that our “adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We often do not accept the fact that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

So, how do you wake up to the war that rages around you and in you? How can you become a better soldier?

Ask God these questions. What did he say?

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I certainly have been. From my earliest days, I learned to avoid feelings that I did not want to feel. I escaped from feelings of depression and fear that way.

Later, when I studied engineering, my ability to ignore and repress my feelings helped me to be more objective. I commended myself for being able to make rational decisions untainted by emotions.

My ability to run from feelings also helped me as a young Christian. I was not as distracted as some in letting my feelings get in the way of depending on the truth.

So, what’s wrong with running from, repressing, and denying our feelings?

One big reason is that our feelings can be a window into our souls. They cannot always be trusted to tell us the truth about life, but they can be valuable in telling us the truth about ourselves.

For instance, David says in Psalm 27:13, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

He knew that if he felt despair, he may not be relying on the truth of God’s goodness. The feelings were a trigger to ask God to search his heart to see what was going on (Psalm 139:23-24). By ignoring his despair, he would also be ignoring putting off unbelief and putting on the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Repressing our feelings can also hurt us physically and spiritually. I have personally suffered much physical pain that was the result of bottling up my emotions. I have had backaches, neck aches, hand aches, toothaches, and knee aches, largely caused by sitting on anger, hurt, or sadness.

We also give Satan an opportunity to create bitterness and hatred in our hearts when we repress our anger and fail to deal with it. “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

So, are you afraid of your feelings? Do you self-medicate with food, alcohol, and TV to dull your feelings? Do you keep busy all the time to escape from your feelings of guilt and emptiness?

I encourage you not to run from your feelings as much as possible. Face them in dependence on the Lord. Remember, “You can do all things through him who strengthens you” (Philippians 4:13).

May I suggest that you ask God to help you discern two or three strong feelings you have right now. Spend a minute experiencing each one. Then, talk to the Lord about what dependencies, beliefs, or other factors are triggering each of these strong feelings.

Finally, claim his promises to take away your fears, help you, and uphold you as you rely on him and his truth (Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 26:3).

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“I was glad as I entered Grandma’s house. I began to relax as I realized that I was in a safe place. There was no “Evil Eyeball” roaming around ready to inflict pain on me. They were just real people who genuinely liked and respected me for who I really was. I felt relaxed because it was easy being me.

“So, I began to look inside myself at what I wanted to do. I felt safe when Grandma looked at me. I felt like she liked me and loved me and she always would, even if I was flawed. She didn’t stare, frown, poke at, threaten or push me. She just looked at me and smiled and enjoyed what she saw.

“She put no pressure on me. I felt it was okay to do whatever I wanted, as long as it was not really bad. She had few rules and trusted me enough not to even tell me what they were. She didn’t seem to be trying to make me different. I felt like she thought it was okay for me to be just who I was.”

These were excerpts from my journal entry dated January 14, 2010. I was on an extended retreat and recalling what it was like in my Grandma’s house as a child. I realized that God was using these memories and my imagination to teach me what it was like to live with him in a loving relationship.

God does not criticize. He does not condemn (Romans 8:1). Jesus has already taken the punishment for our sins and flaws. Instead, he tells us, “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4).

Again, God does not punish us. He does not try to make us a different person from who he made us to be.

However, he does train us to be more like him in character. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). We need to be more like him to better experience his love and grace towards us (Ephesians 3:17-19).

God relates to us through eyes of love and grace. My Grandma’s love and grace towards me as a small child helped me to understand and experience God’s love and grace. This love and grace includes “bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Ask God to show you where he has given you an experience of his love and grace. Ask him to use your memories and imagination, and spend some time re-experiencing God’s love and grace towards you in that scene(s). Then, write in your journal what your thoughts and feelings were.

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Are You Afraid of the Dark?

A few years ago I was on a three-week retreat as part of my seminary training. As the time drew near to go home, I became very anxious.

As I wrestled with God one early morning, I  realized that much of my anxiety stemmed from the uncertainty of my future. What was I going to do when I graduated at the end of the year?

I was afraid of a future that I could not see. I was afraid of the dark. As I pleaded with God to give me the plan for the next five years, he refused. Instead, he said “I will lead you step-by-step into your future” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I wanted the whole future plan. He wanted my daily dependence on him to show me the light of my future.

Not knowing where I am going more than a step at a time is hard for me. I cling to structure and to schedules. They help me feel secure. I easily become afraid of the dark.

I am also a planner and analyzer. I have been doing these things most of my life.  They help bring light to the dark. I like to know where I am going.

But God says, “Trust in Me with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). “Are you serious, God? You mean follow you into the dark only knowing what my next step will be and a general idea of what direction I am heading?”

Yes, God wants to take us by the hand and lead us step-by-step in the future he has planned for us. “I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go” (Psalm 32:8).

He also wants an interactive love relationship with us. He wants to fellowship with us as we boldly follow his light into the darkness of the future. “But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).

And He promises us a good future (Psalm 23; Psalm 27:13-14). He wants to give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

But what do we do with the darkness all around? It’s scary! It’s frightening moving forward without being in control of where we are going. All we have to cling to is the truth that our leader is  “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NIV).

May this be enough for us to take the risk of following him step-by-step into the darkness. May we take the risk of counting on, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6 NIV).

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When I was in the Air Force in the 70’s, one of my duties was monitoring long-range missile tests. This involved translating coded radio messages of how the missile was performing as it traveled  thousands of miles across the Pacific.

The audience for my translations was several colonels who were in charge of various aspects of the design of the missiles.

One night, a particularly important launch was taking place. A key part of the test was whether or not secondary missiles would properly work. These were called deployments. There were 18 of them.

Several colonels were present as I began my translation of the coded radio messages. Things went well at first. I said, “Deployment 7, successful, Deployment 8, successful, Deployment 9, successful..”

However, somewhere around Deployment 11, I could not keep up with the coded messages and I lost track of what was happening.

I panicked! So, I started to make up what was happening. Forgetting there were only 18 deployments I said, “Deployment 17, successful, Deployment 18, successful, Deployment 19, successful…”

At this point, I was jolted by a loud noise coming from the colonel in charge slamming his notebook on the table. He looked angrily at my boss and said, “Turn that bumble machine off!”

Then, my boss glared at me. If looks could kill I would have been a dead man. He was so mad at me that he publicly chewed me out four times the next day.

However, I persevered. I knew that there was nothing I could do you to undo my boneheaded decision to fake it. I just kept on keeping on doing the other parts of my job as best I could.

And God honored it. I survived! Not only did I survive, but also I received an award for outstanding service a year later.

I could have chosen to give up. I could have quit trying to be successful. But God’s way is to persevere. “In hope against hope Abraham believed” (Romans 4:18). He believed and received the promise in spite of failure after failure to believe.

We need to persevere in our struggle to live the truth. It never comes easy in our struggle against sin. God does not want us to give up. He wants us to persevere (Hebrews 12:1-6).

Listen to Winston Churchill as he sought to inspire his country to persevere in World War II against overwhelming odds. He said,

”Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

His people did not give in and played a key role in beating Hitler. They persevered.

We cannot live a godly life without perseverance. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

A friend of mine, who is a champion long distance runner, said that another runner approached him recently and said he was going to quit. He said he was going to quit because it hurt to run.

My friend said to him, “Hurt! I always hurt when I run. I have learned to run anyway!” He had learned to persevere.

God likens the Christian life to a long distance race. He says, “Lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles you and run with endurance the race that is set before you” (Hebrews 12:1). God wants us to persevere in our struggle to live the truth.

The good news is that God will give us perseverance as we persevere (Romans 15:5). As we cooperate by persevering, he performs the miracle of changing us into a more persevering person.

  • Ask God to show you a truth that he wants you to persevere in living.
  • Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him as he enables you to live this truth.

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