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Archive for March, 2016

(No new sermon this week.)

God should be the center of your life, but most people who make this claim about their own lives spend many hours doing various non-work activities, and then claim that they don’t have time to…  whatever part of worshipping God you’re talking to them about.  God is not fooled by these sorts of rationalizations, so if you’re making them yourself, you need to STOP. Many of the things you can do as part of worshiping God and learning the Word can be done along with other activities; the rest, you need to figure out a way to make time for, because you will benefit more from these things than from anything else you’re doing.

You can, and should, be praying, in other words talking, to God all day, every day:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It doesn’t matter what activity you’re doing, you can always pray. If there’re people around you, you can pray silently inside your head; remember, God can read your mind. Thank God for every good thing that you receive. Praise Him for all the wonderful things He is and does. Ask Him for all the things you want, including all the changes you would like to make in yourself and your relationships. And pray for everyone you know, for all the things they need or want.  If that’s not enough to keep you busy, take a look at the news; you’ll find plenty of suffering people to pray for.

You should be attending a Bible-based church if at all possible. If you’re not eager and happy to go, you’re not in the right one. I’m biased, of course, but I would recommend a small church where there are lots of ways that you can participate in a close, committed community. And you absolutely SHOULD participate in every available activity; if your church doesn’t have prayer meetings, life groups, etc, then, unless you absolutely love it, you should be looking around for a different one.  

And, you need to be spending time every day with the Word. I’m on track to go through the Bible 3 times this year; you don’t have to go that far, but you should at least try for once.  I know, I know, some of those books are very dry and hard to get through; if necessary, skip over those books if it means that you’ll read the rest of it.  There are many Bible-reading plans that you can sign up for that have already broken the Bible into 365 pieces, and they will email you your daily reading, so you don’t have to figure out by yourself how much to read each day.  If you absolutely, positively cannot handle reading and studying, sign up for the Daily Audio Bible, and you can LISTEN to the entire Bible being read over the course of a year; you can listen while you’re doing other activities, so there’s no excuse of not having enough time.

I highly recommend setting up a prayer closet, even if all that means is dragging a chair over to an empty corner and having a notepad and pen to take notes. You don’t have to spend hours there, but you can absolutely find 5 minutes everyday to go to your closet and focus on prayer. Spend more time when you can, but at least set aside those few minutes every day to show God that He is your highest priority.

There are many wonderful sermons available on TV, YouTube, and in podcast form.  If you already have some favorite pastors, listen to their material; if not, check out some of the popular ones and find some that you enjoy. Even if you’re doing in-depth study of the Bible like I am, you will absolutely benefit from listening to the insights from what we might call “advanced Christians.” 

Keeping your mind and emotions focused on God during a busy and stressful day can be greatly enhanced by listening to praise and worship music. If you don’t know where to start to find music that will lift you up and help you feel closer to God, do a search for Christian radio stations; most of them have a way to listen for free on their websites, and then you can hear lots of currently popular songs. Once you find stuff that you like, you can get the MP3s, find the videos on YouTube, or just keep listening to the radio stations.

And finally, if you’re a reader with more time to read, there are many excellent books written about God, the Bible, living your best Christian life, etc. I wish I had time for this, but the only book I have time to read these days is the Bible. All of the major pastors have books, and beyond that, I’m guessing that the ratings on Amazon can give you a useful idea of what else is good to try out.

How much time does all this add up to?  I’m sure it seems like a lot if you haven’t been doing any of these things. *I* manage to do them all except read the non-Bible books, AND I spend a bunch of hours transcribing a sermon most weeks…  and mind you, I also average a dozen hours a week with church stuff, because I’m a hard-core participator and volunteer.  YOU can do it too. Start small, and work your way up to doing all of it; the benefits of dedication to God are the best possible use of your time.

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An Easter meme

psalm 23,1

Psalm 23:1 (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

I didn’t think that you needed to see any more empty tomb images, or to hear the Resurrection story again, so… I made this meme to show how much Jesus loves us, and why he made such an enormous sacrifice for us.

Feel free to use it, but if you do, please include a link back to this post.

 

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Balanced books

from JO’s sermon tonight:

this is an accounting term; it means to make up for loss. when an account is low, or when there’s a deficit, you balance the books;  you add revenue to equal it out.  you have to first determine how much the account is behind;  you take all losses, deficits, total them up, then you know how much you need to add. when the books are properly balanced, no one can tell there’s ever been a loss; there is no deficit. in the same way, God has promised that He will balance the books in our lives. we all go through things that put us at a deficit: an unfair situation, a rough childhood, a friend betrayed us, we lost a loved one. if nothing changed, we would be out of balance; we would go through life with that loss, thinking, “I must have gotten the short end of the stick; God must not have had a good plan for my life.” life is not always fair, but God is fair; He will add up all the losses, disappointments, heartache, tears, and He will pay you back.

Hebrews 10:30 (AMPC)

30 For we know Him Who said, Vengeance is Mine [retribution and the meting out of full justice rest with Me]; I will repay [I will exact the compensation], says the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.

God knows what you’re owed. you’re not going to live in a deficit mode. you may go through seasons where you’re out of balance: a loss, disappointment, something doesn’t make sense. but don’t worry, your time is coming; God is going to settle your case. He’s seen every tear you’ve shed, every person that’s done you wrong, every injustice. nobody else may know, but God knows, and He is not to going to leave you out of balance. you are not going to end up in the red: lonely, disappointed, at a disadvantage. that’s all temporary; the Creator of the universe is adding up all the deficits. you may have gone through things you don’t understand; you could easily live discouraged, with a chip on your shoulder. no, get your passion back; God is saying, “I’m about to balance your books. compensation, healing, vindication is coming, promotion is headed your way.

God pays attention;  He’s keeping the records of who’s trying to push you down, discredit you. He’s adding up all the deficits, and at the right time, He’s going to balance your books. some of the things God is going to pay you back for, isn’t because of wrongs done to you, but because of what your parents had to put up with, because of injustices to those that went before you. there are people in your family line, they kept doing the right thing when the wrong thing was happening. they gave, served, honored God, but they never saw total justice. well get ready; God is going to bless you to make up for what should’ve been theirs. God is not going to leave your family out of balance;  you’re going to come into blessings that you didn’t work for, good breaks that you didn’t deserve, doors will open that should’ve never opened. it wasn’t because of anything you did; that’s God paying your family back for what they were owed.

this is what happened with the Israelites. they had been in slavery for 10 generations. they were mistreated, taken advantage of, forced to work long hours, given these quotas that were impossible to meet. after 430 years, God brought them out of slavery. they could’ve left, and that in itself would’ve been a great miracle; they were finally free. but they didn’t leave empty-handed, with their heads down, in shame. they had worked 430 years without pay; they were owed a whole lot. God said, “alright, it’s time to balance the books.” on their way out, God caused them to have favor with their captors; the same people who had mistreated them, looked down on them, made their lives miserable, they had a change of heart:

Exodus 3:21-22 (NIV)

21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

Exodus 12:35-36 (NIV)

35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

that was God balancing the books, paying them back for those 430 years.

God sees every deficit, every wrong done to you and your family;  He knows what you’re owed. there’ll be a day, like with the Israelites, where God says, “enough is enough; it’s time to balance your books.” He’s promised that He will compensate you. quit worrying about what you lost, who did you wrong, who put you at a disadvantage, who’s not giving you the credit; God saw what happened, and He’s saying, it’s payback time. you’re coming out, not empty-handed, looked down on, seen as second-class, you’re coming out promoted, vindicated, respected, with abundance, favor that you didn’t deserve, blessings chasing down. that’s the God of justice, paying you back for what you were owed. God saw what happened, and He’s going to make it up to you.

here’s the whole key; you can’t go around with a chip on your shoulder, thinking about what mama and daddy didn’t give you; God knew what your parents weren’t going to be able to give you; it didn’t stop His plan. if you will stay in faith, God will balance your books. if you didn’t get as much in one area, He is a God of justice; He’ll give you more in another area to make up for it. you may feel like you got shortchanged in life: you didn’t have a good childhood, you’re dealing with an illness, your boss doesn’t give you any credit. don’t worry, God sees what you’re owed. He’s keeping the records. He may not be able to give you another childhood, or bring a loved one back that you lost, but He can make the rest of your life so rewarding, fulfilling, you don’t even think about what you didn’t get.

balanced books means, you’re not living from a place of deficit, loss, always thinking about what you’re lacking. maybe somebody walked out of a relationship and broke your heart; don’t live bitter, give up on life, that is not the end. you may be out of balance right now, that loss is extra heavy, but God saw the hurt, betrayal, and He’s going to pay you back. He’s going to bring somebody better into your life than you’ve ever even imagined. or maybe a dream didn’t work out, you didn’t get the scholarship, the medical report wasn’t good, now you have to take a whole other round of treatment. in these tough times, when life doesn’t seem fair, you have to keep reminding yourself that He is a just God, He sees what you’re going through, and you are not going to live from a place of deficit.

all through the day, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re balancing my books. I believe that payback, healing, vindication is coming.” this is what allows God to pay you back for what you are owed. not going around discouraged, blaming others, in self-pity. the hand you’ve been dealt may not have been fair, but it is not a surprise to God; He already has a way to settle your case. every time you’re tempted to worry, just turn it around, and thank Him that payback is on the way, that you too are going to live from a place of no loss. God knows how to balance your books. He didn’t promise that unfair things would never happen, but He did promise that He’ll compensate you for what you are owed. He’s already lined up the right people to search you out. He can make things happen that you could never make happen. you may have gone through a disappointment, a bad break, somebody did you wrong; get ready, payback, vindication is on the way. 

there was a young lady in the scripture named Leah;  she and her sister Rachel were both married to Jacob. Rachel was much more beautiful:

Genesis 29:17 (ESV)

17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.

so Jacob didn’t give Leah much time or attention:

Genesis 29:30 (ESV)

30 So Jacob… loved Rachel more than Leah

I’m sure Leah felt inferior, not good enough, at a disadvantage. but the scripture says:

Genesis 29:31-32 (NIV)

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.

Leah went on to have 4 sons before Rachel had one baby. back in those days, having a son was a big deal. God was saying, “Leah, since your husband is not treating you right, since you didn’t get the beautiful looks like your sister, I’m going to balance your books and give you something that will cause Jacob to notice you; I’m going to let you have children before your sister.” God shows special favor to people that are seen as having a disadvantage. 

you may think somebody else got all the good breaks, good childhood, good looks, good personality; don’t worry, your time is coming. God has some advantages for you that going to cause you to stand out. you’re not going to live always being in the shadow of somebody more beautiful, talented, successful; God’s going to cause you to shine. you’re going to excel, be known, leave your mark. what you think you didn’t get in looks, personality, upbringing, God is going to make it up for you; He’s going to balance your books. and like with Leah, those times when people try to make you feel inferior, small, try to discredit you, that does not go unnoticed; God sees every injustice, every tear, hears every negative comment. the scripture says:

Matthew 10:29 (WE)

29 Are not two sparrows worth only a small amount of money? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father knowing about it.

how much more does God see everything that happens to you? you’re His child, His most prized possession. when somebody does you wrong, God takes it personally. He doesn’t sit back and say, “I wish they wouldn’t do that”; no, that’s when God gets up and goes to work, just like, as parents, if we see somebody mistreat our children, we go overboard to make things right. the way your heavenly father is, is if somebody does you wrong, you go through an unfair situation, God sees it, and here’s the beauty, God never brings you out the same, he’ll always bring you out better. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)

7 Instead of your shame

    you will receive a double portion,

and instead of disgrace

    you will rejoice in your inheritance.

And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,

    and everlasting joy will be yours.

don’t complain about the disappointment; it puts you in position to receive double. that bad break may look like a setback, but really it is a setup for God to show out in a greater way. God is about to balance your books. people that have been against you, some of them for years, tried to push you down, treat you condescendingly, things are about to change; they’re going to see God’s favor on your life, and treat you with the respect and honor that you deserve. 

when the Israelites were in slavery, Moses told Pharaoh again and again to let the people go, but Pharaoh wouldn’t listen; he didn’t respect Moses. he thought, “who are you, Moses, to tell me what to do? I’m the pharaoh, I’m leader around here; I’m wearing this royal robe, I live in the palace. Moses, you’re a shepherd; you don’t have any credentials, you’re not successful, you live out in the desert, you’ve been wearing those same clothes for 40 years; you’re nothing compared to me.” he dismissed Moses, saw him as secondary. this happened over and over. every time Moses went back to tell him that another plague was coming, Pharaoh didn’t even give him the time of day; “here comes that crazy guy Moses again, trying to tell me what to do.” what’s interesting is, after the last plague, when Pharaoh finally decided to let the people go, they not only gave the Israelites their gold and silver, Pharaoh said:

Exodus 12:32 (NIRV)

32 Go. Take your flocks and herds, just as you have said. And also give me your blessing.”

now, instead of looking down on Moses, seeing him as second class, he recognizes God’s hand on Moses’s life; he sees the honor, influence, anointing, so much so that he asked Moses to bless him. part of God balancing your books is, people that don’t respect you, try to discredit you, push you down, they’re going to have a change of heart, and see God’s hand of blessing and favor on your life. they’re going to ask for your blessing.  the scripture says:

Proverbs 21:1 (NASB)

21 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.

God knows how to change people. you don’t have to play up to someone, try to convince them to like you, let them control and manipulate you; just keep running your race, being your best, walking in your anointing, honoring God, and God will turn the hearts of those that are against you. it may not happen overnight, it may take years, but God will balance your books.  there will be a day, like with Moses, when he saw the person that disrespected him the most, the Pharaoh that wouldn’t even look him in the eyes, is now asking for his blessing. it says in Proverbs:

Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV)

7 When a man’s ways please the Lord,

He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. 

don’t be upset when people do you wrong, you go through an unfair situation; just keep honoring God, and one day, they’ll ask for your blessing. one translation says:

Proverbs 16:7 (MSG)

7 … even your enemies will end up shaking your hand

instead of criticizing you, they’ll end up celebrating you.

in the New Testament, no one was more opposed to the church than Saul:

Acts 8:3 (NIV)

3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

when Stephen was stoned to death for being a follower of Christ:

Acts 7:58 (NIV)

58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

one day, Saul was on the road to Damascus:

Acts 9:1-12 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, Saul… went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him… when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything…12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

Ananias was one of the main believers. think about what God did; Saul is sitting there blind, and the one who has the answer to his prayer is the one he came to arrest. he was Ananias’s biggest critic; now he needs what Ananias has. instead of wanting persecute Ananias, he wanted his prayers.

you may have people like Saul in your life; they’ve been against you for years, maybe not that vocal, but they’re condescending, try to push you down. don’t worry; payback is coming. God is your vindicator. you keep taking the high road, doing the right thing; one day, God will cause them to need what you have. they’ll come to you asking for your help, blessing, favor.

Ananias said:

Acts 9:13-15 (NIV)

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.

Ananias went and prayed for his greatest enemy; he did good to someone who had spent years doing bad to him. this is a test we all must pass; will you be good to the Sauls in your life when you have what they need?  will you show them favor, even though they’ve been mistreating you?  if you want God to balance your books, you have to be the bigger person and bless those who have cursed you; in their time of need, don’t withhold what you have. don’t say, “too bad, Saul, I’m glad you’re blind, now maybe you’ll leave me alone,” no, do good to those that persecute you.

 Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.

Saul became the apostle Paul, who wrote over half of the New Testament. 

but when people come against us, unfair situations happen, it’s easy to get upset, try to pay somebody back, or prove to them who we are. no, don’t waste your emotional energy on the Sauls in your life; wait for God to do it His way. God sees every injustice, He hears every negative comment, He’s adding up all the deficits, wrongs, and at the right time, God will make things happen that you could never make happen. He’ll cause people to need what you have. your time is coming. you are not going to live in a deficit mode. you may have gone through a double dose of trouble, but get ready for a double dose of blessing. the God of justice is saying, “it’s payback time.” God is about to balance your books: promotion, healing, vindication is coming. because you honor God, even your enemies are going to be at peace with you. 

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(No new sermon this week.)

The big one here is: You must absolutely, positively, never, never, NEVER, under any circumstances, pray for harm to come to anyone.  EVER.

It doesn’t matter what harm that person did, to you or anyone else, it doesn’t matter if they cost you your job, broke your heart, burned your house down, took all your money, it doesn’t even matter if they’re a serial killer who killed every single person you know, you cannot pray for any kind of harm to come to them, and that includes praying that God will take vengeance on them.

It doesn’t matter how angry you are, how upset, how hurt, how betrayed, how sad, how grief-stricken, how outraged, how devastated, how destroyed you are, it is NOT an excuse to violate this rule.

Jesus should be our model here, as in all areas of behavior. The Bible doesn’t go into detail about how he was tortured prior to being crucified, but make no mistake, it WAS torture, of a particularly thorough and gruesome variety. Crucifixion is an especially agonizing forum of slow death even for someone who has not been tortured. What was his response to this treatment? Did he hate those who tortured him, SPIT on him, humiliated him?  Did he plot revenge against them? Did he pray for God to destroy them? NO, what he did was:

Luke 23:34 (KJV)

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness, for any wrong done to us under any circumstances, is the only choice available for a true Christian.  But we must do more than just forgive:

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

You’ll notice that Jesus did not provide any exceptions to these rules; that’s because there aren’t any exceptions.  This is the meat and potatoes of being Christians, folks.  This is what God wants and expects of each and every one of us.  If you want God to give you any rewards, in other words to bless you and answer your prayers, this is what you have to do.  

And don’t think that you can circumvent the rules by having a hateful, vengeful attitude, but not actually specifically praying for God to do people harm. God hears every word you say, and every thought inside your head.  If you are wishing that people would come to harm, waiting for them to come to harm, wondering when and how they’re going to come tomorrow, stalking their Facebook pages looking for evidence of harm, angry because they have not yet come to harm… those are all rules violations.

God can’t be fooled by false prayers, either. You can’t pretend to pray for your enemies and expect God to be satisfied with that. You need to take the energy that you’re wasting stewing, brooding, dwelling upon what the evil people in your life have done and put it towards forgiving and loving them… because until you do, God’s blessings are not going to reach you.  

You also need to beware of selfish prayers, such as praying that you get a blessing that comes sooner, or is bigger or better, than somebody else receives…  in other words, that their blessing is later, smaller, or inferior to yours.  Just pray for what you want for yourself, and don’t include anything in the prayer that would effectively mean you winning some sort of blessings competition, if only in your own mind, over somebody else.  Don’t pray that you get a bigger raise, a flashier car, a better-looking romantic partner, or anything else superior to what anyone else has.  The only time that you should be thinking about anyone else’s blessings is when you are praying that they get everything they want, or at least everything that is best for them, with no mention of how it will compare to your own blessings.

It should go without saying that you must not pray to be given something that rightfully belongs to someone else, no matter how much more deserving you think you are, or how much better you would treat whatever it is.  Don’t pray to be given someone else’s job, girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife, part in the school play, whatever. 

There is an indirect way to pray for some of those things that IS acceptable, though.  If you want someone’s job, you can pray that they get the job of their dreams, and that when they leave their current job to take the dream job, their current job goes to you.  It’s a win-win scenario.  See how different that is from wanting to take their job away, leaving them with nothing?  In general, if there’s something better that you can pray for a person to have, it’s ok to pray that you will receive what they currently have after they have abandoned it to get the better thing.  

What if you and one or more people are competing for the same “prize”? If you’re competing with someone for the same wo/man, for example, you can pray that your rival meets the wo/man of their dreams, thus leaving you unobstructed access to the person you want when they go to live happily ever after with that person; notice, again, you’re praying that the person who is in your way is taken out of your way because they’re given something BETTER, not because what they want has been given to you, leaving them with nothing.  

A word of caution where relationships are concerned, however; it’s NOT ok to wish that one half of an existing couple will find someone they like better and break up with their partner, leaving them devastated.  You also don’t want to risk praying for the breakup of a relationship that is mostly happy and functional.  It’s almost impossible to tell from the outside what is REALLY going on in someone else’s romantic relationship, no matter how many Facebook posts or tweets they crank out, or even how much they tell you personally; sometimes, people complain constantly because that’s their personality, NOT because their relationship is bad or failing.  To be on the safe side, no matter how badly you want someone who is currently in a relationship, the most you can rightly do is pray that if that relationship is good, that God will help them make it as good as possible, but, if, IF, it is bad, that He will help them realize that, and gently, caringly, end the romantic relationship as good friends…  and then, when the person you want is emotionally ready, they can be with you.  BUT, if someone you want is MARRIED… don’t even go there. 

Examine your prayer life. If there’s anything that you’ve been praying that falls into any of these problematic categories, STOP praying those prayers. Not cut back, not tone down, STOP.  Make sure that your prayers demonstrate forgiveness and love; you’ll be amazed at how many more of them will get answered that way.

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(No new sermon this week.)

Commenter Meme asked some questions, my reply to which got so enormous that I decided to post it:

When you focus your entire life on God, when you have absolute faith, when you pray all day long, and when God can count on you to act in absolute obedience, if you pay close attention and keep careful track, over time you’ll be able to distinguish subtle clues that will tell you that something you’re experiencing is almost certainly from God… but what these clues are differs from person to person.  My personal experience is that God speaks more quietly in my mind than my own voice does:

1 Kings 19:12 (NKJV)

12 … a still small voice

That doesn’t mean that every quiet voice in my mind is God, though; sometimes it’s a faint memory, of something someone said, a line from a movie or TV show, etc.  I’m PRETTY sure that I can tell the difference… but not totally sure.  And I have no idea whatsoever how God’s messages to YOU, if any, differ from other things going on in your head.

If I had a way to determine with 100% certainty whether or not what someone heard, saw, or felt was from God, I’d be making a fortune from my book and on the lecture circuit… but I’m not. And neither is anyone else.  As desperately as we want to be certain about communicating with or receiving messages from God, we can’t be. God could MAKE us certain, in other words give us a way to BE certain, if He wanted to, but He does not do so… because He wants us to have FAITH.

So, unfortunately, there isn’t any way to know for sure if you’re hearing from God, or if what you think God told you will come to pass. As you have probably experienced yourself, you can be certain that something will happen and it doesn’t, or that something won’t happen but it does, or totally uncertain, but things still happen.  You can be 100% positive that God has indicated one thing or another, and be wrong; it happens all the time.  Much of the time, when we believe that we’re hearing God, all we’re hearing is our own minds talking to us, telling us what we want to hear.  There’s just no way to prove one way or the other if what we’re hearing is our subconscious mind or God.

This is why we need FAITH.  If you have total faith, you can be totally certain that God will do a certain thing for you, even though you don’t have proof, and even though you remember that in the past there were things that you prayed for that God did NOT give you.  That may seem crazy to you, I know it used to seem crazy to ME, but once your faith becomes absolute, it does actually work that way.

(As I was writing the above, I was thinking that I should look up and include the verse that explains what faith is. I got distracted, and didn’t do it… and then I took a break from writing, checked my inbox, and saw that the email containing JO’s daily newsletter had arrived.  Most days, I have to delete newsletters unopened, because I don’t have time to read them, but I followed the urge to click on it, to find that the verse of the day, right at the top of the email, was, you guessed it:

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

That’s a perfect example of God communicating with me, giving me His approval of this post.)

And what about those situations where you keep getting miraculous-seeming coincidences? Are they signs from God? Much of the time, yes, but not always. Albert Einstein said: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”  I have seen that this is true, BUT, actual coincidences do still exist; the only way to know with 100% certainty is AFTER the events have occurred, when you can see if what you believed to be messages from God were or were not in fact messages from God, based on whether or not what you believe God told you is what actually occurred (God never lies, and is never wrong). Again, you need FAITH, not proof.

There is no one way that you are supposed to feel when you are hearing from God, so you can’t use that for verification. You can feel overwhelmed, you can feel upset or ecstatic, depending on if it’s good news or bad news, or you can feel peaceful, or anything in between.  My own experience is that when God speaks to me, I often feel… puzzled (*** see example at the end of the post).  Words drop into my brain out of nowhere, not connected to what I’m thinking about, and I stop and think about what it means… which is probably the reason God does it that way, to make me stop and think, to FOCUS on His message.  Sometimes my head will swim when a bunch of signs show up. And sometimes, God will just totally surprise me.

That’s the thing of it; God does not give us a signal that tells us that it’s Him.  I’m certainly not hearing from God every time something puzzling pops into my brain!! Sometimes, people become certain that they can tell when God is speaking to them, because there are a bunch of times that they thought that and things ended up the way they thought they would. The problem with that is, firstly, that they’re conveniently forgetting all the times they were certain that they heard from God that things did NOT go the way that they thought God had promised, and secondly, and more importantly, good things happen in our lives more often than not, so if we’re predicting good things, we’ll usually be right just by common sense, not because we’ve heard divine messages.

It’s natural to want to figure out how to prove if God is speaking to you and what it means, but it just isn’t possible. Just stay in faith;  GOD has it all figured out.

 

*** OK, ok, here’s an example: I was talking at great length to God about something, I no longer remember what, when suddenly, quietly, inside my mind:

Call Jane

That’s all there was. I called her, thinking that she might know why I needed to talk to her; she didn’t. She speculated about several things that were going on in her life that might be the reason; as it turned out, they weren’t. Since she couldn’t come up with a definitive answer, she decided that she needed to do some serious Bible reading to be ready for something big to happen. A week later, her father, who we had no idea was even sick, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  You can never be prepared to hear that kind of news, but God made sure that she was as ready as she could be; He knew that she would not recognize the message from Him, so He gave a message to ME so that she would pay attention and start bracing herself emotionally.  This is another amazing example of how, if God wants you to know something, He ALWAYS finds a way.

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