Conversation with a Pup

Hey, little buddy. Guess what? Your friend Miss Karen is coming by today. She’s coming here to see you! And she’s going to help me with something.

You know how we’ve been painting the walls? Well, now I have to paint above the cabinets. And I have to climb up there first and take some things down so I can paint.

I know how much you like jumping up on things. But I’m a little bit nervous about doing that by myself. So I asked Miss Karen to come by and keep an eye on me and make sure I don’t fall off the ladder.

I just need a little bit of extra help.

Not that you aren’t helping me already. You’re an amazing helper! You’re doing a great job of supervising me. And I know you could help me with this too. But she’s a little bit taller than me, so it would be easier for her to catch me if I fall.

But you’re still my number one helper. And I know if she didn’t come here, you could also help me if I fall. You’re so smart you could probably even push the buttons for 911 on the phone. And bark really loudly so they’d know I was in trouble.

So I know you could help me all by yourself.

But here’s the other thing, little buddy. You’re not really responsible for helping me. You don’t need to carry that burden. That’s Jesus’ job. You don’t need to carry all that weight. You let Him do that.

Now, you’re a great watch dog and a wonderful guard dog. You do your job really well. But remember your job is to alert your family when something is wrong. And then your family needs to ask Jesus to bring help. And you need to let Jesus take care of everybody, including you.

And He will take care of me while I’m climbing the ladder today. Even though Miss Karen is tall, and she can dial 911, really Jesus is the one who has to help me. He can send lots of angels to take care of me today.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do your job really well. You’re an amazing watch dog and you’re such a good friend. But you do your job and Jesus will do His job.

He made you to be a watch dog and a friend. So you just keep being exactly who He made you to be. And you tell Him when there’s a problem. And He will take care of all of us.

I love you, buddy!

“Can’t You See?”

Sometimes I get a glimpse of what I must look like to God.

At the beginning of March (when we could still gather), I was at a friend’s house waiting for folks to arrive for church.

Her little Yorkie started barking as he does whenever someone drives (or walks, jumps, crawls, or flies) onto the property. After all, it’s his job to stand alert and guard the premises. He also wants to be the first to meet and greet.

Doggy devotional

As our new arrival was settling her car into the driveway, the little Yorkie kept barking almost without taking a breath. He stood in front of his mama with fervent barking, as if to say, “She’s here! Can’t you see?”

Then he’d run to the door, look out, run back to his mama and bark some more.

“Can’t you see she’s here? I have to go out and see her. I have to inspect her car! So much is happening in the driveway. Why won’t you let me out? Can’t you see it?”

Doggy devotional

The longer his mama didn’t respond to let him out, the more intense he became.

She tried to explain to him: “I know you want to go out and see her. But what you don’t realize is that more people will be driving up. I can’t let you run around yet. It’s not safe.”

His barking became so loud it basically drowned out her words.

Doggy devotional

That’s when it hit me. I was looking at myself with God.

How many times have I hollered at Him: “God, there’s a problem. Why aren’t You doing anything? Why don’t You fix it? Can’t You see?” The less He seems to respond, the louder and more frequent my barking becomes. If God were trying to respond, how could I hear Him?

And might He be trying to say something like the Yorkie’s mama said to him:

”Little one, there are things you don’t realize, things you aren’t aware of. I know you want to bust through that door, and you think I’m not opening the door or that I don’t see what’s out there. What you don’t realize is I know what’s coming down the road. I’m trying to keep you safe. There will be a right time to go through the door. When the time is right, I’ll open it for you, and you can greet everyone to your heart’s content.”

Doggy devotional

Thank You, God, for the lessons You give us in everyday life that help us draw closer to You. Amen

Where Has God Placed You as an Intercessor?

When you are called to serve God as an intercessor, and you say “Yes” to Him, don’t be surprised where He will place you for the purposes of intercession.

Intercessors are called to affect the atmosphere around them, wherever that may be. God will allow them to see and hear circumstances and strategies for the purpose of intercession. God shows intercessors what He wants to do, where and how He wants to move. The intercessor responds by saying, “Yes, God. Come and do that.”

I’ve known intercessors who work in schools, businesses, court houses, government. I’ve known intercessors who work in the fashion industry and the finance industry and who work in hospitals or drive school buses. Some intercessors are called to travel overseas, to write books (and invite the Holy Spirit to move through their words), to drive for Uber. One intercessor I know works in an office with people from many different faiths and cultures. She carries the peace of Christ and looses His peace in her workplace every day. One intercessor I know prays from her home all day. Her husband is called to the marketplace. She is called to sit in her yard, listen to God, and pray as He leads.

As an intercessor I used to work on a church staff. Now I work in the marketplace, and I am also involved in community prayer. In the marketplace, I have the privilege to work behind the scenes to discover how God is moving in various industries. The more I listen, the more strategy I sense for how to pray.

I pray for the individuals I’m listening to, in whatever ways God leads. I pray for their families. I pray for the struggles they encounter in business. And I follow God’s strategy in praying for what He desires to do through the people He has placed in those industries. I don’t have a deep knowledge of those industries. But I know God has already placed people there, whether they know it yet or not. So I pray for God to help the intercessors and those who have a heart for Him that He has placed in those industries.

It’s a stealth mission of intercession (as many intercessory callings are). No one knows I am praying. God has placed me anonymously behind the scenes. I simply need to listen to God, hear His heart, and pray as He leads.

I need to know what I have authority to pray … and what I don’t have authority to pray. I can’t pray in ways that would violate a person’s free will or in a way that would disregard where the enemy has rights. I certainly don’t want to pray against any territorial spirit or principalities. That is in God’s hands, not mine. But I can loose the Holy Spirit all day long. And the more intentionally and closely I listen to God, the more I can pray to invite Him into each situation that comes across my desk each day.

I also walk with a group of people in daily accountability. This helps me make sure I am staying within my authority as an intercessor. It helps me keep my heart focused on God. And I have people covering me in prayer as I do what He calls me to do. If you’re an intercessor, I recommend that you also have accountability and a prayer covering. See my article Why Every Intercessor Needs a Cover for more on why intercessors need intercessors.

God wants us, as intercessors, to invite Him into the situations that surround us. He wants us to say “Yes” to whatever He desires to do. He wants us to affect our atmosphere daily, everywhere we go, by loosing the Holy Spirit and the Peace of Christ around us.

Wherever He has placed you as an intercessor in this season, bloom where you are planted. Ask Him to show you how to intercede right where you are each day. And stay close to His heart, be aware of what He is showing you. Pray as He leads. You may not see the changes right away (sometimes you will!). But you will know by faith that God is working in response to your prayers. And your time with Him each day will bless you in amazing ways.

 

Is Your Church Hurting for Money? 12 Ideas that Might Help

Many churches and ministries struggle to make ends meet. I know what it’s like for a ministry that lacks resources to pay the bills. And I’ve worked for a church as a full-time, unpaid staff member. Over the years I’ve spent time in prayer and in the Bible trying to understand how to live in this situation and how to pray. While I have no easy answers for you (Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him), I do know that whatever we do must begin by focusing on the Holy Spirit and our relationship with God. I offer these suggestions with all humility and prayer, in the hope maybe one or more of these ideas will help you.

If your church or ministry isn’t making ends meet, prayerfully consider a few steps you can take to place the situation in God’s hands:

God's provision for the church
Photo by Kelly McCrimmon at Unsplash

(1) Tithe. Be sure you and your family are tithing. Help your congregation understand tithing by inviting someone (with a biblical understanding and strong testimony of tithing) to teach a class for your congregation.

(2) Repent for any ungodly ways or practices in your church. When doors have been opened to the enemy, that is a sure way to block God’s blessings. As a leader of your church, start the repentance with yourself and invite your church leadership and congregation to join you. Then extend this repentance to the history of your church – repent corporately and restitutionally for all ungodly ways that have characterized your church’s history. Ask God to show you where you need to repent.

(3) Consecrate the land. Through prayer (and through a knowledge of local history) you may discover that curses from ungodly practices have passed through your church’s land. It is a wonderful blessing for your community when a church offers a land consecration to God. Here is an article written by a friend and minister that will help you learn more about land consecration: Dedicating Your Home and Land to God by Kerri Johnson.

(4) Be sure your volunteer business leaders operate by spiritual principles. I’ve seen churches focus on the secular experience of business leaders to keep things running. Unfortunately, very few secular businesses are run on spiritual principles. Common strategies from the business world often don’t translate well to the church. Be sure your business advisors live every aspect of their lives by the leading of the Holy Spirit. If following the Holy Spirit in church business decisions is new to your advisors, that’s okay. Find people in your church who demonstrate maturity in living by the Holy Spirit. Invite and encourage your business advisors to work together in unity with those individuals. In this way, your business advisors can learn and grow, as they live and move and have their being in the Holy Spirit. God has blessed your church with business people not only to benefit the church, but also to grow those persons spiritually. They can take that spiritual lifestyle back into their homes, businesses, and the community. Doesn’t that sound like God?

(5) Open all business-related meetings with prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to lead you. Stop and pray throughout your meetings as you address and discuss challenges. Seek God together right there in your meetings for answers to difficult questions. Be open to what God wants to reveal to you about how to lead the business aspects of your church. Allow the intercessors in your church to pray over your leaders and your meetings on a regular basis. Listen to what God shows them and take that revelation prayerfully into consideration.

(6) Pray and fast together with leadership to seek God’s best plan for your church’s provision. Then listen and share what God shows each of you. Often He will give each one a piece of the puzzle. Bring those puzzle pieces together and see the unified vision that emerges. Unity commands a blessing. If no unity, don’t proceed.

God's provision for the church
Photo by Francesco Gallarotti at Unsplash

(7) Invite personal testimonies from your church members of the fruit of tithing in their lives. Share these testimonies publicly, including in the church newsletter and on the giving page of your website. The testimonies lift the focus off the practical and place the glory on God. That is the way to plant seeds that will lead to good fruit.

(8) Place your focus on people, not on money. If you focus on what’s important to God, i.e., people, He is going to give you what you need. Be sure your church nurtures a culture of giving to the community and to your own families, for the sake of all that God wants to do in the lives of people. As you pour out, God will refill you.

(9) Do not open the door to fear. There is a big difference between operating in financial wisdom and operating in fear. You can tell by the spirit in which you make decisions and explain things to the congregation. Consider gathering a group of spiritually well-balanced individuals whose fruit of a mature spiritual life is evident. Ask them to test the temperature of your church’s messaging and practices with regard to finances. They will be able to discern whether or not your practices are fear-based. Remember that faith cannot occupy the same space as fear.

(10) Continue to seek God for what your church is and is not called to do. Givers may experience lack because they give in areas where God did not call them. Be discerning to spend and invest specifically where God calls you to do so. Is another church in your community already doing something really well (like homeless ministry, addiction ministry, children’s after school care, etc.)? Consider sending people to their community ministry rather than spreading yourself too thin. Praying about starting a new program in the community that exceeds your budget? How about gathering several churches with the same vision and working together in unity? It takes the whole body of Christ to cover a community.

(11) Expect God to provide. If you don’t expect His provision, then change your expectations. Do some heart searching here and be honest with yourself. What do you really expect? When you are entrenched in expectations that are fueled by ungodly motivations, you can end up blocking the resources God wants to give you. The provision of God’s kingdom is not a zero-sum game. Too often churches are tempted to hold back where they should give, or to give out of desperation where they are not called to give. These are reactions led by flesh, not by the Spirit. Often these reactions come from expectations that do not line up with God’s nature and His Word. God gives good gifts to His kids. All good things come from God. If your expectations for church finances are not in line with His truth, then change your expectations. And be sure your church’s corporate practices are not harboring hidden ungodly expectations that have become part of “the way things are.”

(12) Praise God, show gratitude, and share your testimonies. Ask God to open your eyes and heart to the many ways He is already providing for your church. This may look different than your usual measurements. Respond to Him in gratitude even when you think you don’t see signs of His provision. Because He is providing for you. You just may have to realign your heart with what He is doing in your midst. Praise Him publicly and be grateful. Share the testimonies boldly and humbly as you recognize the fruit of what God is doing to grow the resources of your church. Recognize that often your resources come through the people He sends to you, and in ways you might not expect. Keep an open heart and be grateful.

Stay encouraged, pray and seek God’s best, and truly submit every aspect of your church’s business functions to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God's provision for the church
Photo by Leonardo Baldissara at Unsplash

10 Things Moses Has Taught Me about Intercession

I did an inductive Bible study of Exodus 32-34, looking especially at the role of Moses as intercessor between God and His people. Being an intercessor myself, I was curious what Moses could teach us today about intercession. Following are just a few of the takeaways I learned from studying this passage:

Students of Inductive Bible Study will note that for each number below, the first paragraph is my “inference” and the second paragraph is my “observation.” While I made each observation first, I listed the inference first in this article because I want to emphasize the takeaways (inferences).

1. Exodus 32:7

Moses’s intercession is based on two truths: These are God’s people, and Moses is identified with them.

God associates the people with Moses and says Moses brought them out of Egypt. By contrast, in 32:11-12 Moses counters that the people are God’s (and repeats this in 33:13) and that God brought them out of Egypt. Meanwhile the people attribute this feat to “gods” represented by a molten calf (32:4, 8).

2. Exodus 32:12-13

God’s plan for the people is greater than the people’s sinful actions. God’s mission in the world is not thwarted by their actions.

This passage shows a contrast between God’s wrath and His promises. Moses is the mediator who voices this contrast. In response to the contrast that Moses presents, God turns from His desire to destroy the people (32:14). In this passage, we see that God “thought” to do this “evil” rather than “planned” it (32:14).

Note that God doesn’t really do “evil,” but it was perceived as such by humans. God’s wrath comes only from His holiness and our violation of that holiness through idolatry and other sin. That’s why we need a savior: Jesus Christ.

3. Exodus 32:14

Moses says “Yes” to God’s own plan, and God responds to affirm that plan. Moses doesn’t ask God to do anything He hasn’t already planned to do by His own power.

The turning point of 32:14 follows several reminders: the people belong to God (32:11); God led them out of Egypt (32:11); God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (32:13); and that God’s promise was made by God’s own power – that God swore by His own self (32:13).

4. Exodus 32:11

Moses’s intercession appeals to God’s plan and promise and does not deny what the people deserve.

Moses’s intercession is described with the word “besought.” The Hebrew word is חלה, defined in this context as “mollify, pacify, appease,” seeking favor in place of wrath (Brown-Driver-Briggs). The same dynamic seems to take place in 33:13. The connotation acknowledges the reality of God’s wrath and seeks favor despite it. Moses places that search for favor in the promises of God (32:13).

5. Exodus 32:7-8

The relationship of Moses toward God is characterized by trust.

Moses learns about the people’s rebellion at first, not by sight, but by God’s words. Moses’ response (32:11-13) indicates Moses believes God.

6. Exodus 32:12

God wants the nations of the world to recognize who He is. God’s promise and plan is for the world.

The words of Moses acknowledge that the way God deals with His people will be seen by the Egyptians. Even though the people have been delivered from slavery in Egypt, the reader of this passage is reminded that the nations are watching.

7. Exodus 32:9-10

God’s promises and covenant, not His wrath, constitute God’s plan to overcome the pride and stubbornness of the people. God’s focus is on restoration, not retribution.

Although Moses asks God to turn from His anger, Moses does not express any disagreement with God that the people are stiff-necked. The Hebrew word for “stiff-necked” is קשה ערף, a figurative description of Israel’s obstinance (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Moses reminds God immediately of His promises to the ancestors of the people.

8. Exodus 33:12-16

Intercession is corporate. Individual relationship with God has a corporate impact and is for the sake of the people. Moses identifies with God’s people and approaches God corporately on their behalf. The characteristics that God has given to Moses in approaching Him are meant for the entire people. Corporate intercession is focused on God’s larger plan of restoration in the world.

This passage interweaves Moses’ personal interactions toward God along with Moses’ corporate identification with the people he belongs to. Twice Moses mentions “I and thy people” (33:16). When Moses asks for favor, he speaks first personally and then reminds God that the people are God’s (33:13). Moses identities himself with the nation and reminds God that the nation is God’s. Moses reminds God about qualities that characterize their relationship (presence, favor), and he connects these with a larger corporate relationship.

9: Exodus 32:8-13, 33:16

God allows intercession despite the scope of the people’s sinful disposition. The turning away of God’s wrath is not because punishment was undeserved or because His holiness could tolerate idolatry and rebellion. Rather, the turning away of His wrath was for the sake of the bigger picture of God’s mission in the world and His desire to bring restoration to His people. God is faithful to keep His promises for the sake of His mission in the world – not because anyone has earned it, but because He has a plan.

Moses pleads with God despite the people’s rebellion, idolatry, self-absorption, worship and sacrifice to a false god, and stiff-necked obstinance. Moses reminds God of the details of His history with these people. Here the scope of this passage widens for the reader, so the current rebellion can be set against God’s larger work in the nation of Israel and in the world. There is a common factor in Moses’ first and third attempts at intercession that both receive a positive response from the LORD. That common factor is Moses’ mention of how God’s relationship with Israel is distinct in the world.

10. Exodus 32:30-35

Sin has a corporate impact. Corporate relationship with God is just as important as individual relationship. The role of intercessor between the people and God does not carry the power of atonement.

Moses offers himself as atonement for the people’s sin. God does not seem to accept Moses’ offer. Throughout this paragraph, the author refers to “the people.”

This last observation and inference are very important because this passage points us to Jesus as our ultimate intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; 4:14-16). As intercessors, we invite Jesus into each situation, and we say “Yes” to His plan.

Moses has a lot to teach us about intercession: corporateness, God’s holiness, God’s plan for the restoration of His people, God’s mission in the world.

Most importantly, this passage about Moses as an intercessor points us toward the only One whose intercession carries the power of atonement and the gift of salvation: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who leads us as intercessors in God’s great big mission in the world.

Pray Through It

Have you ever taken on a new challenge where you weren’t really sure you could do it? I think we all have – probably many times. It’s in those experiences where we learn how to pray from a deeper level of dependence on God. What a great opportunity to grow in prayer and relationship with Him.

Last summer, I took on a part-time job I never thought I would do. I became part of a family’s home health team. I was trained by a home health care nurse in how to dress a surgical incision that had opened and become infected, as well as how to administer IV antibiotics through a PICC line.

If you are shrugging your shoulders like this is no big deal, then maybe you work in the health field or you can stomach a lot. If you are, at this point, hoping I won’t give any further details about that job, then you are like me. I am not a person who wants to be around any situation where things that should be inside the body are, in fact, on the outside or visible. The sight of blood freaks me out and makes me just about pass out. And I certainly can’t look at an open wound, let alone touch it.

Yet there I was, on the morning of the Fourth of July, heading to the assisted living home for home health training.

I prayed as I approached the place: “God, please help me do this.” While I often pray that prayer, it seldom comes from the place in my heart where I realize, “Without You, I literally cannot.” And yet, without God, I cannot do anything, even the things I think I can do. I cannot even draw breath without Him. Note to self: Pray from that place in your heart all the time!

I learned how to do the PICC line, which isn’t complicated, but it’s also not something you want to mess up. I began to pray through every step, asking the Lord to do each part for me. As I attached the bag of antibiotics, I asked Jesus to move throughout her body, administering the healing Himself. I prayed through the entire process, each and every time, all summer. I prayed with the patient, and I prayed over her. I prayed before arriving, the whole time I was there, and after I left. I prayed as I sterilized equipment and took inventory of supplies. I put the entire procedure into God’s hands, each and every time.

When it came time to learn about wound care, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the sight of the incision. When I had surgery many years ago, I couldn’t even look at my own incision until weeks later. And my incision was closed, not open and infected. Yet as I approached the patient’s bed, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, You are going to have to make this okay for me.” He did. I was able to look at the wound and follow the instructions for wound care without flinching. All I felt was a determination to do what God and the home health nurse asked me to do, and let Jesus take care of healing the wound.

The first time I tried to change the dressing myself, I had difficulty with some of the steps. It was necessary to place a debriding strip into the wound. That was hard to do. The strip kept falling out. I realized how much discomfort I was causing the patient. I knew I had to move faster, and yet I could barely make the process work. So I prayed harder. Before my next shift, I prayed, “Lord, please take care of changing the dressing Yourself. You are the Healer. Use my hands as You know best.”

Driving to the assisted living home for the next treatment, I felt the Lord prompt me just to go in and talk with Him the whole time I was changing the dressing, and to do it out loud, so the patient could hear. That’s exactly what I did. As I began to remove the old dressing, I said, “Lord Jesus, thank You for helping us do this. Thank You for protecting her skin. Thank You that the wound is already starting to heal by Your power.” I just kept a running dialogue (or monologue, really) through the whole process. And it worked out fine. From that point on, I never had a problem. We were done quickly, and the patient said she was fine through the process.

A few nights after I started wound treatment, the Lord gave me a dream about the patient. In that dream, I walked in, removed the dressing, and the wound was completely healed. It looked beautiful. I began to pray for that, and to thank Him for that dream, every time I went in there. I told the patient about the dream, and she was grateful to God for giving us that promise.

Thus began the daily miracle of watching her wound heal. Every single morning, it had improved. When I removed the dressing, I would say to her, “Let’s see what Jesus did last night.” Sure enough, there was a marked difference, each and every time. I have been involved with healing prayer ministry for many years. I have seen God heal many times. This was a different way to watch Him heal. To see the daily improvement of His handiwork. What a miracle, and what a privilege.

Toward the end of the summer, the course of antibiotics was completed. The patient was doing so much better now that the infection was gone. Wound care had to continue until the incision was completely closed. I don’t remember how many weeks that process continued. But I do remember the morning I went in, removed the dressing, and all that was left was a dent the size of a pin prick. The wound was completely closed. Just like in the dream. The Lord had allowed me to see it with my own eyes.

This experience taught me a deeper awareness of my utter dependence on Him. I would love for all my prayers to come from that realization in my heart – that without Him, I can do nothing. It also reminded me that with Him, I can do whatever He asks me to do. I just have to pray through it, and leave the rest up to Him.

What is God calling you to do that you don’t think you can do? Talk to Him from that place in your heart that knows how desperately you need Him. See what He says, and see what He shows you. Enjoy your fellowship with Him.

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is one of my favorite ways to spend time with God.

It’s a time to just sit and be still in the presence of God. Not talking or listening. Just being.

We seldom spend enough time just sitting quietly. Every part of us needs that stillness – body, soul, spirit. Even more so, we need that time just being in God’s presence.

Psalm 46:10 reminds us:

“‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!'” (NKJV)

During centering prayer, I don’t feel like anything is happening. That’s okay. That’s how it is supposed to be. It’s not a “feel good” exercise. It’s simply being with the Creator of the universe – the Creator of me.

Have you ever had the experience of sitting with a spouse, family member, or friend that you know really well – and just sitting, not saying a word? If you reflect, you’ll probably recognize you have done this many times. It’s so peaceful when you can just be yourself around someone else, and not have to do or say anything. That’s a genuine relationship. And that’s exactly what God desires with each one of us. He is the best family and friend we will ever have.

Even though it feels like nothing is happening during my time of centering prayer, for the rest of the day I can tell the difference. I’m more attuned to what He wants to show me. Everything in me is more at peace. When I leave my time of centering prayer, I often feel like I’ve just gone for a swim or a kayaking excursion. It’s refreshing. Renewing. As only His presence can be.

Centering prayer is not the same as secular forms of meditation. I don’t empty my mind. (That would not be good because the enemy would rush in.) Instead, I fill my mind with God and focus on Him: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” — 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV).

When distractions come – and they always seem to multiply when I sit down for centering prayer – I simply re-focus and re-center myself on God each time. Not a bad way to spend 20 minutes … or 10 … or 5.

I’ve had people ask me if centering prayer is really Christian. Absolutely, it is. The desert fathers and mothers practiced all forms of contemplative prayer, including centering prayer, in the 4th century of the early Church. They did this because they felt that the Church had become institutionalized (sound familiar?) and had lost touch with simple devotional practices of relationship with God. Contrary to common misperceptions, the desert fathers and mothers did not remove themselves from the Church. They remained active in the Church community and were influential toward leadership, pouring wisdom and the peace of the Holy Spirit into the Church.

Imagine if the Church today made centering prayer and other forms of contemplative prayer a daily practice. It makes my heart glad to see that more gatherings of the Church are beginning to do so. God bless them. It all starts with each one of us deciding to spend quiet time in God’s presence every day.

Just simply being with Him.

God bless your day.

Three Voices – Yours, the Enemy’s, and God’s

Years ago, a little girl took one of my prayer classes. She heard from God easily and had a great relationship with Him. But she didn’t realize at first that not every voice in her mind was God’s.

She had a big decision to make, and she told her mother God told her what to do. Her mother asked, “Are you sure it was God?”

The little girl seemed puzzled. How could the voice she heard not be God?

Her mother explained that not every voice we hear is God. Sometimes we hear the enemy’s voice, and often we hear the voice of our own mind.

After a moment of shock, the little girl expressed her frustration, as she realized not every internal voice she heard was God’s.

Can’t we all relate with that frustration? How much easier life would be if all we heard was God’s voice, telling us clearly and exactly what to do.

If Not God’s Voice, Then Whose?

But we live in a fallen world. The enemy speaks to us, loudly and clearly. His voice often drowns out the still, small voice of God.

The enemy is not the only one talking. Often, we hear a voice louder and more damaging than the enemy’s. It’s the voice of our own mind. The things we say to ourselves, and have taught ourselves to say, can derail us. Our own voice, ringing through our mind, can block what God is trying to say.

Early in life, as we encounter hardships which, as children, we are not equipped to deal with, the enemy begins to tell us lies: “You are no good.” “You are stupid.” “You will never amount to anything.” “You don’t need God’s help, or anyone else’s, for that matter.” This happens as early as in the womb! The enemy starts the process, but we take it over. It’s as if he pushes the button on a tape player, and the tape repeats in our minds, over and over. We are the ones who keep it going, as we continue to block the voice of Father God.

Discerning God’s Voice from the Clutter

When you talk to God and listen for His response, it’s important to quiet your mind and let yourself hear Him. When you receive interference – from the enemy or from your own mind – be still. Turn once again toward God, and submit your mind to Him. Let Him speak in whatever way He desires.

How can you tell whose voice you are hearing? The more you talk with God, and listen, and be still in His presence, the more you will know the sound of His voice. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

But there are also some checks you can make, to see whose voice you are hearing:

Do the words line up with God’s Word? Then you are probably hearing God. Do the words line up with God’s nature? It’s probably Him.

Do the words sound condemning or unloving? Do the words tear down the value of who you are as a person? That is not God.

Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:31 goes on to say, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” God also tells us in John 3:16 that He “did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God convicts us. But He doesn’t condemn us. When you hear a voice of condemnation, you are either hearing the enemy, or more likely the voice of your own mind. We often choose to beat ourselves up, where God has already forgiven us. We often tell ourselves harsh lies that are opposed to God’s Word.

Whenever you are listening for God’s words to you, check what you hear. Be sure it lines up with Scripture and the nature of God. If you do this check regularly, you will become more finely attuned to God’s presence and His voice.

My article, “Hearing God’s Voice” will help you to practice hearing and discerning through journaling.

What Blocks Your Hearing from God?

“Do you have cotton in your ears?” I remember my grandmother saying this whenever she thought we kids weren’t listening.

Sometimes I feel that way with God – that He knows I’m missing most of what He says. Why?

What Blocked Our Listening When We Were Kids?

Think about what it was like as a kid, when you didn’t listen. What were the reasons?

My list looked something like this:

  • Too busy, preoccupied.
  • Rebellious – didn’t want to hear, let alone respond.
  • Not really sure what the grownups were saying, so I tuned it out, or the words became distorted (like the teacher on Peanuts).
  • Didn’t like what I heard, or didn’t want to hear anything a grownup had to say on the matter.
  • Believed lies about myself, so whatever was really said became muted, muffled, or lost in translation.
  • Too many other voices in my head – mostly different parts of my own mind chastising or ridiculing myself.
  • Or just plain overwhelmed and checked out.

Those, and more, are the reasons we as kids often missed what grownups were trying to say to us. We missed helpful advice and direction. We missed expressions of love and concern. We missed fellowship.

The same can happen today in our communication with God. When our spiritual hearing becomes dull, we miss things.

How Can We Tune in to God’s Voice?

As an intercessor, you are no doubt interested in hearing from God clearly and frequently. How can you better attune your spiritual ears to hear Him?

One way is to identify what blocks your hearing.

This requires some heart introspection. What are the things in your heart that stand between you and God?

I went through many years of inner healing ministry to identify and allow God to remove many obstacles that blocked my hearing and my relationship with Him. I strongly recommend inner healing for everyone. We have all “stuff,” and it affects our relationship with God in more ways than just “hearing.”

Praying to Uncover What Blocks Us

Here is a starting point:

Ask God to search your heart and to reveal the things that block you from Him. That is one prayer He is very glad to answer. He began to answer me when I first prayed like this more than 12 years ago. He is still answering me to this day, showing me things in my heart that stand between me and Him.

Ask God to show you:

  • What lies you believe that are contrary to what His Word says.
  • Where you might hold unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart, or areas of your life where you might need to repent.
  • What lies you believe about Him, based on your relationship with primary caregivers in your young life. We often see God based on how we saw those first adults we encountered.
  • Where you have become consumed by religion, instead of relationship.
  • Any ways that fear or pride might block you from hearing Him.
  • Anything and everything in your heart that stands in the way of hearing and responding to Him.

Then realize that Jesus is here to help you pray through these blockages, to be healed, and to be free. Freedom means hearing your heavenly Father’s promptings, and responding to Him in love and prayer.

God Often Speaks in Silence

As an intercessor, it’s important to realize that you might not hear or sense God in ways that you would hear a person who walks into the room and speaks. God will have His own ways of communicating with you, and often His first language is silence. As an intercessor, your heart may simply beat strongly in tune with His, without you hearing a word.

So don’t take silence as an indication that you are not hearing.

But if you feel blocked in hearing from God (it’s usually a distinct feeling), the prayer detailed above can be a helpful starting point for drawing closer to Him and opening your heart even more to Him.

If you would like to learn more about hearing God, I recommend reading this wonderful article, “How Do I Learn to Hear God?” written by my friend Kerri Johnson at The Center for Inner Healing. It’s a quick read, and it gets to the heart of how we hear God.

Lectio Divina for Christian Writers

Lectio divina is a helpful practice for Christian writers – and for anyone who wants to grow in relationship with God.

The term lectio divina means “divine reading.” This is where you engage the Bible spiritually – not with your mind, but with your spirit. While there is a time and place to engage your heart and mind in Bible study, the practice of lectio divina focuses on the spirit. It is an amazing combination of scripture, prayer, and presence. So quiet your mind before you begin.

With lectio divina, you are engaging with God through His Word – spirit to Spirit. This is not the time to take notes about your next book or blog post. Resist stopping to write things down. Just enjoy the spiritual engagement with God. As you receive revelation, just stay present in the moment with God. Trust Him to bring those things back to you later, so you can write about them.

While no spiritual practice is meant to be formulaic, lectio divina has four steps as practiced by the monks for centuries. Let the Holy Spirit lead you through this process. It’s more important to be present with Him than to follow a specific practice. However, these steps will get you started.

(1) Read

You can begin lectio divina by reading a scripture passage God has led you to read. Read through the passage slowly, several times. It helps to read it out loud, where possible, so you engage more of your senses. Try for at least three times, as the repetition helps move the passage deeper into your spirit. Allow the Word to wash through you and settle deep within you.

(2) Meditate

Now read through the passage one more time. Listen for a part of the scripture that really stands out for you. It may be a verse, a paragraph, a word, or several words. Take time to meditate on that specific part. Savor it like a favorite meal. Through this process, the Holy Spirit is filling you with His Word and forming His Word in you.

When we meditate on scripture, as Christians, we aren’t meditating like other religious or secular practices. We are not emptying our minds; that is the worst thing we could do because the enemy will fill that empty space. Instead, we are bringing our thoughts captive to Christ. We are letting Him fill our minds with His presence. We are meditating on Him and on His truth in the scripture passage at hand.

(3) Pray

After some time of meditating on a portion of scripture, let the Word create a prayer in your spirit. Pray that prayer out loud. For example, if you have been meditating on Psalm 23:1, you may begin to pray, “Lord, thank You that You are my Shepherd. Thank You for reminding me that with You, I lack nothing. You are everything I need.” Let the Holy Spirit move you in prayer over the scripture you have just meditated on. Don’t make your prayer a formula. Let your prayer flow from the Holy Spirit to your spirit.

(4) Contemplate

The last step of lectio divina is contemplation. This is a time for you to sit quietly in God’s presence. Let Him move the truth of His Word through every part of your being. Don’t try to think or write. Just be. Let God do all the work. You might feel His presence and you might not. You might receive revelation or not. Just be with God. He knows how to bring the scripture passage into every part of you. This is part of God forming you in the image of Christ. Just be, and let Him do the rest.

That is the full practice of lectio divina. It is a great way to make scripture a deeper part of your life. And it is a wonderful way to grow in your relationship with God.