Of course persecution will increase, but let's not let that upstage what God is doing in the foreground of this story - expanding His Kingdom. - Southeast Asia's Regional Director, Voice of the Martyrs Ministry
Early this morning, the Lord woke me and began releasing words of encouragement for the WOMEN in His Kingdom. These are not just "Esthers" and "Deborahs," as we have heard previously, but also "Annas," those welcoming new things of the Spirit for this new season. I heard Him saying:
“There is a Spirit of GRACE upon My women today which will carry them through the next season. There is grace in the Spirit on them the way strength of the flesh rested upon Samson. These women will do mighty exploits in My Name, because they have believed.
I am calling forth the “Annas:”* prophetic intercessors whose eyes have been opened to see the new season that is upon them. (As Anna welcomed the arrival of the age of Christ.) They will prophesy of the new miracles just birthed, identifying them to a deaf and blind people who cannot see My promises in their midst.
These are the nurturers of the promise, women who cherish deeply the things of God. They will not only see these promises manifesting and identify them to others, but they will also take the promises in hand themselves and bless Me for them.”
God is Raising Up Mighty, FEARLESS Warriors
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God is looking for fearless leaders who are unafraid of confrontation. If the words "fearless," "leaders," or "confrontation" make you think of other people, not yourself, then rejoice! You are a work in progress!
However, it is the wholehearted warriors who win the war. This is the truth the Lord is impressing on my heart this week, as I return to Deuteronomy 20: the Lord's protocol for battle.
In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell created a series of four oil paintings which would become known as the Four Freedoms. Based on a wartime speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, these paintings depicted basic human rights that later became a part of the United Nations charter, including Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. This last painting, Freedom from Fear, is the image that the Lord brought to my mind early this morning.
What are you building?
How are you using your talents to further the Kingdom of God?
Have you started something for God, only to not finish it for some reason? What got in the way?
If you’re like me, you’ve had lots of wonderful ideas of things you’d like to do for God, maybe even done a number of them. But for many people, your spiritual to-do list looks more like a hoped-for “bucket list” than a resume of accomplishments. Even when God tells us what should be on our lists, we sometimes fail to persevere and finish the tasks. Why is that?
It’s easy to be excited about prophetic words, especially when they promise growth, expansion, restoration, or blessing. The prophetic word I released at the beginning of 2017 contained all of those. God is speaking about Kingdom expansion in the coming year. Yet God also gave us a prophetic mandate to re-examine Nehemiah’s “growth strategies,” found in the scriptures. This post on discouragement is the first in a series I will write on combating the enemy’s attacks during a time of growth.
As I write to you on this Election Day, the winner of the 2016 election has not yet been determined. Even as this decision unfolds, the Lord is stirring me to remind you that the warfare and deception we have seen on a national level applies to believers at an individual level. Satan, our enemy, is still "seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8.) To forget this would be to surrender again to an apathy far more dangerous.
Thankfully, many Christians have been stirred by the election process to wake up from apathy and passivity, and are praying fervently for our nation. If you are one of these people, it might comfort you to know that the fear, complacency or even apathy you have felt for some time is not entirely your fault, although the enemy would like you to believe it is!
In prayer this morning I heard the Lord say, “Your victory does not lie in your defense but in your offense.” He followed this with a prophetic word (below) that will encourage you to resist the temptation to trust in your defenses and instead, to advance with Him in a victorious offense!
Because prayer is a work done mostly in secret, it is rare for an intercessor to immediately know whether his prayers are effective. It is rarer still for someone to realize they are being prayed for, since humility constrains us from boasting about our praying!
Yet from time to time, we do hear of amazing answers to prayer, and have the joy of knowing that there is indeed power released when we pray. In the midst of a very difficult week, God allowed both me and my pastor to see the power of prayer. I want to use this story as a "case study" on prayer.
I have prayed for people in some difficult situations lately. I’ve talked with people who are struggling with significant changes in their lives that leave them wondering, ‘What now? Did I do something wrong?’ Life suddenly threw them a curve ball; something unexpected sent them spinning, wide-eyed, into what felt like a dusty, dry, desert season.
Last week I shared the story of my relationship with my husband. When we married, he said, “Everything I have is yours.” And later, when God walked us through overwhelming financial battles, God repeated those same words to me: “Everything I have is yours.” (Click here to read previous post). He unlocked strategies for me that I had not seen before. Today, I want to give you three of those strategies.
My husband and I attended a wake this week for a young man who died in the prime of his life after a long struggle with addiction. He leaves behind a wife, two brothers, and parents who are also struggling, with questions like: “Why? Why him and not me, Lord?” Despite a wonderful show of support from family and friends, the situation is heartbreaking. No one should have to lose a child, and no words can touch that kind of pain.
I took a walk yesterday after visiting the boy’s family. Although I have known his parents for many years, I had met the boy only once, in their church. On that day, the Lord had given me a prophetic word for him, which I shared with his mother and then with him personally. At the time, I did not know the extent of what he was going through.
The wonderful thing about prophecy is that no matter how rough life is at the time, a word from God almost always conveys hope. I felt the love of God for this boy and knew that God envisioned good things for him – saw him as complete, competent, and strong in Him.
It is hard not to get excited about prophetic words when they come; they are like Jeremiah 29:11 in living color, with specific and personal applications for us. We feel God’s pleasure; we know that He is unquestionably for us. It is like the feeling we have when a teacher gives us a good grade on a test, tells us he believes in us, that we will become something great someday. Something in our soul responds deeply to this kind of encouragement, longs to become that wonderful person that has been described; could that really be me, we wonder?
I and this boy’s family believed that what was prophesied to him could really be him. That he could overcome the challenges he faced and turn his life around for the better. I know that his mother has stood her ground spiritually and prayed that word over him for many years since. In fact, when I saw his mother a few weeks ago, she told me how much she had appreciated the word I gave her son, and that she was still believing for those good things God had promised to manifest in her son’s life. Her words greatly encouraged me.
But he died.
And as I walked, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why?” Why, when parents who are prayer warriors have battled courageously, do children still fall? Why, when a powerful word is given, do we miss it? Why, when we do wage warfare with the prophecies we are given, do we still sometimes suffer defeat?
This is what He said: “Prophecy is not a guarantee; it’s an opportunity.”
In other words, when God releases a prophetic word to you, it’s an open door. He lets you take a look at your future from His perspective, and promises that if you walk through that door with Him, He will do everything in His power to back His words to you. There are some things He will do, and there are some things we must do. It’s a bit like the cutting of a covenant: each party has responsibilities to fulfill. When you receive a word, you must ask: what is God's part? What is my part?
There are prophetic words for all of us in scripture (See Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6), and there are personal prophecies that we receive through His people as we walk with Him. All are meant to encourage, exhort, and edify us – to help us envision a life of peace and fruitfulness when we do what He is doing. (See John 5:19).
Words of correction and direction may also come, with the intended goal of getting us back on track spiritually - always for our good. (For example, Jonah’s prophetic warning to Nineveh didn’t sound very encouraging on the surface. But it resulted in repentance. God’s heart is always for relationship, not destruction.)
However, most prophecies are not guarantees. They are conditional, based upon our acceptance of them by faith and by our willingness to yield or to seize the opportunities we’ve been given. I believe many of us are quick to accept prophetic words by faith – we even run after prophetically gifted people to get them – but not all of us act on them. Just as faith without works is dead, so prophecy without action becomes a missed opportunity. We have a part to play.
Though we pray, prophesy, disciple, give, and encourage others, the one thing we can never do is take away their right to choose, to make their own decisions based on the promises they are given. Sometimes people choose not to walk with God. Sometimes they walk with God, yet don’t take the steps needed to walk into the better future He invites them to experience while they are here on earth. This is a hard thing to watch from the sidelines, like a dropped catch on the football field or a wrong note in a concert. We cringe inside, we wish it had been different, we wish we could go out and “catch” the ball for them, run the touchdown, correct the mistake.
But we can’t.
In the end, I must both believe and act on what I receive. This is the way the Kingdom of God operates.
Overcoming our own fears, weaknesses, anxieties, or addictions is not an easy task. We need each other more than we care to admit. We need the encouragement that comes through the prophetic gifts, the pastoral gifts, the counseling, teaching and discernment gifts, and all of the other wonderful gifts God has made manifest in His Body. We need each other because without that encouragement, we do make wrong choices sometimes.
We’re at war, a war so evil and intense that precious lives are lost along the way. The enemy meant for me to be discouraged when things didn’t go the way I had hoped for this young man. He meant to quench my hope, to make me doubt God and question His wisdom. But he only strengthened my resolve. I cannot choose for another person what he should do. But the losses challenge me to encourage more, to prophesy more, and to pray more, because I see that our resolve must at least match that of the enemy’s. We must remain as committed to life and hope as he is to death and despair.
We serve a great God whose plan is unfathomable, whose Kingdom is eternal. In Him, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. We will see this young man again in heaven. We celebrate all the ways he did acknowledge God. And we will pray, prophesy, disciple, love, and encourage as many others as God leads to us, in the hope that they will choose to accept their prophetic destinies and live the fruitful lives God is calling them to. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting others with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To subscribe to her free weekly blog, click here.
You have just been issued a summons. You must appear in court immediately, and not as a juror. You have been called by the prosecution to take the stand as a defendant in a case with a high dollar value. If you lose, your sentence could include a lifetime in prison. What’s worse: you have been wrongly accused.
If it sounds like I am being dramatic, rest assured, I am not. The first paragraph is entirely true. As a Christian, you are – this very moment – being called by the devil (the prosecution) to take a defensive stand against his false accusations. He is, unfortunately, a very good lawyer, having practiced his craft since time began. Nevertheless, you have an excellent lawyer as well: your advocate, Jesus.
Now, I know you’re on the right side of the law, and you know you’re on the right side, but the prosecution wants to prove otherwise. If he succeeds, he gains access to your money, your mental and physical health, your family, or even your life. His goal is to lock you up for a lifetime.
Having a good lawyer will help, of course, but in this heavenly courtroom what matters most is your testimony. You are about to be tested on the facts, and whether your actions are legal. If you don’t know your rights as a citizen of heaven, or if the enemy can find a weakness in your argument, you lose.
As in any trial, you must have two weapons. The first is an excellent lawyer who is familiar with your case. If you’re a Christian, you already have a good relationship with the best attorney there is in spiritual matters: Jesus Christ. In Him you are on the right side of the law, no matter what you have done. He has also never lost a case. As long as you choose Him as your Advocate, you stand a pretty good chance of winning.
The second weapon is a detailed knowledge of the law, which in this case represents your covenant with God. This is where the prosecution often gains the upper hand, since you do not know the law as well as he does, nor are you used to defending yourself against such deceptive, unfair arguments. You will find that the prosecution has accessed information about your life that you did not wish to be made public. You will be horrified to hear that he can call to the witness stand, one by one, people who willingly testify against you, dragging past sins to the surface and making you look like a heartless criminal.
In the final analysis, it will be very important that what you do and say lines up with the law. Satan’s legal strategy from the beginning has been to cast doubt on our words: “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1-3). Your best defense is going to be to stick to the words your attorney, Jesus, gives you to say, and avoid adding too much of your own.
“Isn’t that deceptive,” you might ask? After all, I really am guilty of a lot of things, and I don’t always do what I should. What that witness said about me was true: I really didn’t like the guy, and I treated him badly because I couldn’t forgive him. I deserve punishment.”
The question is, do you? You might have opened the door to some legal “loopholes” the prosecution is now using against you, but the real test is whether you believe and can prove that you are innocent. In a happier moment, it’s easy to believe your mistakes are covered by the blood of Jesus, which ratifies your covenant with God. But when the opposition mounts, can you still stand on that testimony? Do you know which clauses in your contract validate what you have experienced spiritually?
Those who do cite them and win their cases. Those who don’t have a harder time. Fortunately, Jesus knows what it’s like to be a defendant on the courtroom stand. He was challenged twice: in the wilderness (Luke 4) and before His death (Luke 22-23:47). Both times He adhered to God's covenant and responded only with the Words of God. Both times, He won.
Jesus knows what it’s like to be tried as a criminal on the wrong side of the law. Jesus didn’t allow his feelings to contaminate His testimony. Instead, He studied His covenant with God until He knew the law inside and out. He lived a legal, righteous life even when falsely accused. He accepted a death sentence from the enemy only because He knew that God would ultimately give him the keys to get out of that prison. He spoke only the words of the covenant and He fulfilled the law perfectly in His life on earth.
We believers are summoned daily to take the stand- not as those who have lived a perfect life, as Jesus did, but as those who are protected by His knowledge of and adherence to the law. Every time we are summoned, we should arrive at the courtroom with contract in hand. Everything we say in our defense should be based on what Jesus, our attorney, outlines for us. We should stick to our testimony of His goodness like glue. Anything else we say can and will be used against us!
The more certain you are of your innocence in Christ and your rights as a believer, the more likely you are to live a blessed life.
Prayer: Jesus, You are the most successful attorney I could ever have. I am so grateful that You know how to defend me against the trials and accusations the enemy is using against me. I have been falsely accused, Lord! Give me the time I need to sit down with you and review our covenant until I know it inside and out. Convince me of the blessings and freedom You have already won for me, so that my testimony holds up under every cross-examination. I praise You for your victories! I thank you that You have the keys to unlock every jail cell the enemy throws me into! We win!
"And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2, KJV
What is Jealousy?
Jealousy can manifest as at least three kinds of moles: covetousness, misplaced ambition, or mistrust. Let’s study each one so we’ll recognize them when they pop up unexpectedly.
1. Covetousness: The most obvious and widespread form of jealousy is covetousness, prohibited by God in the 10th commandment. (See Exodus 20). Coveting is wishing you had a prettier wife like your best friend. It’s resenting the large house your neighbor built next door – with a chef’s kitchen and custom details throughout. Covetousness lusts after the diamond engagement ring your best friend is flaunting shamelessly.
Covetousness is wanting “anything that is your neighbor’s,” according to God. With a definition that broad, covetousness hard to escape! All of us have admired something to the point that lust for that object has subtly taken over in our minds. This is why Jesus says that a man who is “just looking” at another man’s wife has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He is coveting. Covetousness leads to adultery and idolatry, and idolatry leads to death:
…One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin,
2. Misplaced ambition: The Bible makes a distinction between ambition and selfish ambition. Galatians 5:20 says selfish ambition is one of the “obvious works of the flesh, along with idolatry, witchcraft, and quarreling. Those who yield to these things do not inherit the kingdom of God. (See Galatians 5:20, NIV or HCSB). The trouble is that selfish ambition is not always as “obvious” as we think it is. Sometimes it is hidden, and God must expose it.
For example, one day I discovered that an old college friend had made it “big” in the business world, with all the books, awards, and positions to go with it. Instead of celebrating her success, my initial “wow” moment quickly morphed into self-pity. Our paths over the last 20 years were radically different. I chose to set my career aside for a time and raise a family. She had worked her way to the top of her industry, and is doing things I’d give my eye teeth to do.
In an instant, all the wonderful things I value: time at home with my children, time to pray and write, and a refreshing distance from the pressures of work & ministry, evaporated. Inferiority and regret surrounded me and I bemoaned the years I’d “wasted” as a wife and mother.
Sound ridiculous? It is! Once you get over yourself you see the eternal value of what you’ve accomplished by following God’s will for your life. Your walk with God is uniquely your own. My friend’s promotions came at cost, too – a price God might not have wanted me to pay. Until circumstances made this particular “mole” pop up, I didn’t even realize it was there, lurking just under the surface.
While selfish ambition is not a godly attribute, ambition for the things of God is something to be desired. The apostle Paul writes: “…we make it our aim (we have as our ambition) to please Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9, RSV). He says his ambition is to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known, so that he doesn’t build on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20). Paul also directs us to “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts such as prophecy; something we could not do without a measure of ambition (1 Corinthians 14).
1 Thessalonians 4 reads “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. Mind your own affairs and work with your hands so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thess. 4:11). Ambition isn’t wrong. But it needs the right focus.
3. Mistrust: At its heart, jealousy reveals a basic mistrust in the goodness of God. We doubt that God cares as much for us as He does for our neighbor, since our neighbor’s life seems so much better than ours! Doubt turns to unbelief, and unbelief is sin. If we fail to whack this mole immediately, it will only multiply and pop up in other areas of our spiritual lives.
The devil hopes to overrun your mind with moles of mistrust in order to keep you from hearing God. Every step you take on the road to jealousy is a step farther away from intimacy with God.
The Kingdom of God operates by faith. When our lives seem to lack the “substance” we desire, faith is the means of obtaining that substance. Jealousy covets. Selfish ambition forcefully takes what it desires. Mistrust fears it is not worthy of God’s blessings. These three things cause us to hide from God because we hurt inside, aching for things that have not manifested yet.
Faith, on the other hand, believes in the love of God to provide. Faith trusts in the equal concern of God for all His children. Faith accesses the redeeming power of forgiveness, which restores hope and trust.
How Can We Win the Battle Against Jealousy?
Within all of us, there is an innate human tendency towards envy and selfish ambition. Doubt and mistrust are seeds Satan planted at the fall of man. We long to be known, heard, and appreciated. Yet as believers we are called to know, hear, and appreciate God above all else. As in every area of our spiritual life, acknowledgement of sin is the first step towards healing.
Once we admit we are human and must fight jealousy just like everyone else, we can begin to be proactive about defeating it. God is a strategist. He’s an expert at revealing things hidden in darkness (Daniel 2:22). We can ask Him to expose jealousy’s moles and show us selfish ambition’s ambushes before we get there, so that they won’t get the upper hand.
The value of confronting jealousy is that it exposes areas of our lives where we have not yet died to self and embraced God. Instead of being jealous, we can be content to allow God to weave us into the fabric of His masterpiece when He sees fit, and in the places where our true colors will best be displayed. We can celebrate, not covet, the beautiful hues and patterns already knitted together, even when we feel like forgotten balls of yarn left in the basket. We can tame the ugly green monster. We can stop allowing jealousy to destroy our relationships and make it a catalyst for growth in God.
c. Deborah Perkins, His Inscriptions
Sometimes we go through a series of "unfortunate events," as Harry Potter fans would call them, which seem to suck the wind right out of our sails and leave us almost dead in the water. Our beautiful day of smooth sailing suddenly darkens, and we notice ominous storm clouds all around us. The reality of our situation hits us hard: here we are - fools! - in the middle of the sea, without any land in sight, and completely at the mercy of the storm. What were we thinking? How on earth are we going to get out of this?
One of the reasons why I began writing His Inscriptions was to strengthen believers - especially Christian leaders - who are weary and exhausted for various reasons. You may be feeling that way today. It is not uncommon, in an increasingly hostile world, to feel tired or discouraged. Once we are weary, it becomes harder than ever to maintain the good habits we have of connecting with God. Self-discipline eludes us and our communication with God ebbs at the time we need it most.
The Bible addresses weariness, and in its simplest form, we know that a weary body needs rest and nourishment, just as a weary spirit does. There are numerous examples in Scripture of exhausted believers seeking bread and water - both natural and spiritual - to sustain them. They serve as examples to us of how to overcome our own exhaustion. As is so often the case, one way leads to the bread of adversity and the water of affliction (see Isaiah 30:15-21, especially v. 20), and the other leads to the bread of life and to living water.
Causes of Exhaustion
Exhaustion itself is not a sin. God has a special place in His heart for those who are weary, and He does not "break a bruised reed." (Isaiah 42:3). In other words, He is all about lifting up those who are oppressed and giving rest to those who are tired. His ways are along paths of stillness and refreshment (Psalm 23). It is the enemy who is the taskmaster, the driven one who pushes us beyond our limits. In Old Testament stories, this enemy often shows up as an Amalekite. The Amalekites symbolize the first cause of exhaustion: warfare.
The Amalekites were the "valley-dwellers," as their name implies. They are the ones who attacked Israel's weaker, rear flanks at Rephidim when Moses led Israel out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 25). They attacked Israel again at Ziklag, kidnapping defenseless women and children and burning the city. (1 Samuel 30). They aligned themselves with the Midianites (whom Gideon fought) against Israel. And it is widely believed that Haman was a descendant of Amalek as well.
The Amalekites liked to hit Israel when they were down. They didn't play fair. For this, they earned God's eternal displeasure, voiced in Balaam's fourth oracle: "Amalek was first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction." (Numbers 24:20). Despite the command for Israel to blot the Amalekites out completely, God indicates that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
The second cause of exhaustion is sorrow or grief. When the Amalekites destroyed Ziklag, carrying off Israel's wives and children, David's men "lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep." David was "greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters." (1 Samuel 30:4-6).
In fact, when David went up to recapture the women and children, 200 of his 600 men stayed behind, because they "were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor." (1 Samuel 30:10).
The name Besor may derive from the Hebrew "basar," which means "cheerful," or "cool." They were undoubtedly in need of some cheering up.
Now, I don't know how wide this brook was at the time, but it is not mentioned as a "raging river" or a great "Red Sea," which should give you an idea of just how tired these men were from their grieving. It shouldn't be terribly difficult to cross a "brook" - unless you are truly exhausted.
Jesus' disciples faced a similar type of exhaustion. After being told that their superhuman leader was about to die, they could not even pray with Him at Gethsemane. The reason? A crisis of faith that found them "sleeping from sorrow." (Luke 22:45).
A third type of exhaustion is that which results from intense spiritual activity. Daniel fell sick and faint after a significant encounter with an angel in Daniel 8. Elijah ended up in a cave after a long journey and a massive victory against 400 prophets of Baal. Moses needed support to hold his hands up in a prayer-battle, and counsel from his father-in-law to delegate his responsibilities.
Jesus often told the disciples to "come away and rest" after times of ministry. Sometimes, successes lead to exhaustion, too. No one is exempt.
Seeking a Solution
We know, of course, that we are exhausted. We feel it deep within our bones. We want to sleep, to stop all the motion and commotion. We crave peace and nourishment but it doesn't come. If we haven't crashed by our own "Brook Besor" yet, we begin looking for help, creating solutions we think will solve the problem. Unfortunately, they don't always work.
Gideon's starving army was denied bread twice, first by the men of Succoth (meaning "tents/tabernacles"), and then by the men of Penuel (which means, "the face of God.") How symbolic; they were seeking bread that only God could supply; man's help turned out to be useless! Elijah had to be fed bread and water by an angel to regain his strength. The disciples slept until Jesus wakened them and told them to "arise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46). Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup because he was so weary. He regretted it later.
Only David did the prudent thing by seeking the face of the Lord in his weariness. In the midst of a burning, desolate city when his men were blaming him entirely for their losses, David sought the priest's ephod and inquired of God as to what should be done. Not surprisingly, God said "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." (1 Samuel 30:8) Remember, God wants us to have a decisive victory over the Amalekites! But the ones who defeat this particular enemy are those who, like David and Moses, work their strategies in partnership with God.
There is no remedy for physical exhaustion except rest and nourishment. What these Bible stories illustrate is that the remedy for soul-exhaustion can only be found in Jesus. He is the Bread of Life, and His Word is the Living Water that refreshes from within. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).
Immediately after David prayed at Ziklag, a famished Egyptian man was found in a nearby field. He was an Amalekite servant who had not eaten for three days. Why? Because true to form, when the servant fell sick, his Amalekite master left him behind. The calling-card of an Amalekite is a sick and weary servant!
It was the previously-weary David, now fresh from prayer and full of the compassion of the Lord, who gave this Egyptian the bread of life and the water that restored him. That same servant then led David to the Amalekite troops, where David's men recaptured all that had been stolen.
Jesus guarantees that we will recapture our strength as we enter into His Presence. It does seem contradictory to stop and locate that place of stillness with Him daily, when there is so much that needs to be done! Won't we lose our battles if we stop fighting? Aren't we becoming lazy, or too "soft," when we choose intimacy over activity?
No, because the moment we raise our hands in prayer, as Moses and David did, the Lord releases heavenly armies to fight victoriously for us. He is still "Jehovah-Nissi," the Lord our Banner, who defeated a wearying enemy for Moses and David centuries ago. (Exodus 17:14-16)
It's an enigma. No matter how exhausted we feel, WE are told to arise and blot out the Amalekites who weary us. Yet it is GOD who promises to wage war against them from generation to generation. The solution to this enigma is partnership. Allow me to rephrase God's words to David as our answer for today: "Pursue ME, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015. All references NKJV.
There's a big lie that the devil has promoted among God's people since the beginning of time. It is so big, and so successful, that his strategy really has not changed much over the years. From Genesis to Revelation and right into the present day, Satan and his minions have invested untold amounts of time and energy into marketing this lie. Do you know what it is?
It is this: "Did God really say...?"
Eve fell for it, and many good believers (myself included) have taken the bait at one time or another. It is, in simplified form, the extensive marketing of doubt that keeps us sick, fearful, angry at God, and offended with one another. And although it's as obvious as Pinocchio's nose, it's not easy to overcome, unless you do this one thing: make a quality decision NOT to believe it!
The truth is, it doesn't matter what anyone else says about your situation. It's what YOU say about it that matters. And when your words begin to line up with what GOD says, you'll never believe the lies again, because you'll see just how effective the truth is!
Jesus used truth to overcome the enemy's lies to Him in the wilderness (Luke 4). I love the way Luke brings out the human side of the Son of Man. Jesus was tempted, just as we are, to doubt God and to doubt Himself. In fact, the Amplified version states He was "tempted, tried, and tested exceedingly" by the devil. But the Son of Man realized and confessed that man lives by "every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God." To disbelieve God's Words would have been death. (See Proverbs 18:21).
Pastor James Levesque has made the very interesting point that radical Muslims have no problem whatsoever with this concept. In fact, they carry it to the extreme: if it's in their holy book, it's true; and if you don't believe it, you die. They are militant about enforcing the words in their book, and quite frankly, their passion for what they believe to be true (although misguided), is something Christians sometimes lack. These Muslims are most certainly NOT lukewarm believers!
I am not advocating another round of the Crusades. But I do agree that the reason we lack passion is because we haven't believed that what we decree by the Spirit will come to pass. We haven't fought long and hard enough to see our healing manifest, or our revivals come.
It's time we started listening to the Jiminy Cricket of the Bible: the Holy Spirit! We need to make a quality decision that every time He shows us a truth in His Word, we'll obey it. We'll speak it and we'll do it. Our words either acquit or condemn us. (Matthew 12:37). Careless or doubt-filled words reveal our unbelief and condemn us - not for eternity, of course, but to the reduced quality of life that the enemy is promoting.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. Doubt and double-mindedness have no place in the believer's mind or mouth. James calls believers like this "men of two minds, hesitating, dubious, unstable, unreliable, and uncertain about everything they think" (James 1:6-8, AMP). These are people who do not inherit the promises of God and spend their lives cringing in fear, wondering why God doesn't love them as much as He loves the person next door!
I realize it isn't easy. I am growing one step at a time into that place of faith where I experience ALL of what the Word says as true, not just parts of it. And I believe that's okay. We don't have to "get it" all at once. We're God's kids, and we're growing up inch by inch into the full measure and stature of who He wants us to be. Any good parent understands this as normal and expected behavior.
So don't beat yourself up. Walk in the light of what you know and understand of God. Make an effort to know Him better each day. If you're not yet sure if you're hearing His voice, then start by believing and speaking what's in the written Word. It was written for you personally! Above all, never doubt the things He has already told you, and don't let the opinions or expectations of others cause you to fall for a lie again. Let your confession be: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!
c.Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. To learn more, visit her website's "About" page by clicking here.
Early one morning the Lord woke me, saying: "Treat obstacles not as occasions for worry but as opportunities in the Spirit." It was an encouraging word He wanted me to share with a friend who was about to experience several days of new obstacles. I shared the word, thinking it was a catchy little phrase! Not long after that, though, He showed me a picture of the rapids.
The image of a river is powerful in Scripture; Psalm 46:4 speaks of a river "whose streams make glad the city of God," and Ezekiel prophesies about a river in God's temple whose waters will increase until they become too deep to cross. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, a popular expression in the Charismatic renewal of the 1990's was: "Jump in the river!" (Meaning, jump into the flow of the Spirit!).
But rivers, especially the rapids, contain obstacles. Some are small and easily floated over. Some are so deep they are virtually unseen. It is the larger ones that tend to cause us difficulties in our faith-walk. The ones that seem to block our way or hold us back from going to where we want to be. The ones that are too big for us to move.
We are not meant to get stuck behind obstacles, but to continue flowing in the river of the Spirit as we journey along. In order to do this, we must know what kind of obstacle we are bumping into. It is here that the wisdom of God is indispensable.
Two Types of Obstacles
Here's what I felt the Lord was saying. Obstacles along the side of a river - usually rocks, soil, or branches - comprise the boundaries of the river. They are there as protection, as an obvious division for us between the Spirit and the flesh. If we are bumping into these it often means we have drifted to the edges of the movement of God in our lives. Staying here can mean stagnancy, like being caught in the circular undulations of an eddy. We haven't abandoned God or gotten out of the river to walk on our own, but we may not be making any progress. Fear of the rapids may have caused us to return to safer ground. We may be fascinated with those outside of the river, who seem to skip along so cheerfully in the greener grass. Perhaps we are snagged on a painful outcropping that just won't seem to let us go.
Whatever the reason, we recognize that our pace has slowed, but with a little effort, we can return to the flow of the river. God has not abandoned us, and our momentary collision with the banks of the river only teaches us to run more consistently down the central channels of His grace.
Rocks or boulders inside the river, however, pose a different challenge. In most cases, these obstacles are meant to redirect us as we flow in the Spirit. These are obstacles whose roots are so deep or whose surface so great that we cannot float over them. They must be recognized for what they are and confronted with God's strategy so that we can move beyond them. What is that strategy?
Water flows over and around the rocks in a river. Rarely are rocks are dislodged to make water's passage easier! God might choose sometimes to supernaturally remove a boulder that is blocking us, but more often than not, God expects His river to flow around and beyond the things that would try to block the water's flow. We are not meant to hold on to these obstacles or become stuck when they arise.
In short, too often, our prayers focus on asking God to remove things that are meant to redirect us. We are never called to grow stagnant in the Spirit, whining and complaining about the impassable boulders we face. Life in the Holy Spirit is a life of constant movement and change, just like the life of a river. A better prayer might be, "Lord, help me to see this obstacle for what it is and to navigate around it so that it doesn't stop me from going on with You."
Returning to my time with the Lord early that morning, I realized: the key to navigating obstacles of any kind was right there in the word He gave me initially: obstacles are nothing more than opportunities for us to stay in the Spirit.
Let the Source of the river set your direction. Let the flow of the river keep you within His boundaries. And let the strength of His current propel you over and around every obstacle you might encounter.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God.
She writes about Knowing God and Hearing His Voice at
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One of our family's favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is Home Alone. You're no doubt familiar with the storyline: 8-year-old Kevin is left behind by his rather large (and obnoxious) family when they travel to France, and ends up defending his upper-middle-class home from a dynamic robber-duo named the "Wet Bandits." Two hours of hilarious pranks and traps set by this tyke end with a Christmas day arrest of the bandits and a much-matured little boy.
What we love about this movie is the creative ingenuity of a child that outwits the "professionals." Using only the resources he has at hand, most of them commonplace in an 8-year-old's world, he masterminds a strategy that is so unexpected to the pros, it almost has to succeed! From the ice on the stairs to the toy cars in the hall, we watch Kevin outwit and - just barely - outlast the enemies, until he is reunited with his family. The cops don't show up until the boy has done his job protecting his home.
Speaking to me yet again in His unusual way, God drew my attention this week to His "Home Alone" story in the Bible. Luke puts it just after the "traditional" Christmas readings of the birth of Jesus, in chapter two:
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey,
but then they began to search for him among their relatives and
acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem,
searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying
that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to
Nazareth and was submissive to them.
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:41-52, ESV
Jesus was a boy of twelve who, like Kevin, was left behind in His Father's house. Three full days went by before his parents returned to find Him quite peacefully settled in His temple, debating with the scholars. Like Kevin, Luke tells us he grew and matured after this, due in part, perhaps, to engaging His "enemies" (the religious leaders) who would later persecute him.
In the movie, Kevin listened to the robbers and learned the very hour they planned to rob his family's house, so he had time to prepare a strategy that would defeat them. In Luke's text, Jesus is said to have both "listened" and "asked questions" of His future tormentors. Their dialogue gave Him valuable insights concerning the scribes and Pharisees. It was these very same leaders whom He would "trap" with His own questions later in life.
The boy Jesus grew, matured, and learned how to defend His Father's house - the temple - from those would would defile it. His strategies were different; He used words, not toys, as His traps, but he successfully enacted His plan to restore to God what was stolen by the enemy.
Bringing It Home
Here's what's interesting about these stories. I believe God regularly gives us "home alone" moments in life, too. We are never completely alone, of course, but God gives us moments when our normal support systems - friends, family, or even the voice of God Himself - disappear for various reasons. We come face to face with spiritual or natural enemy forces, and we learn to defend what we love from predators who would rob us. Forced to draw upon inner strength and the resources we have at hand, we learn to stand our ground and fight back.
Like David the Psalmist, we may find that using the standard "grownup armor" isn't the best strategy. We learn that the resources most familiar to us at the time can be effective, no matter what stage of life we are in. Our unique gifts and talents are surprisingly adequate, in God, to overcome our enemy. In fact, it is what enemy is not expecting from us - like our slingshots - that yield the greatest results!
Be Who You Are!
My hope is that this simple analogy will encourage you to be who you are now at this time in God, and not to belittle yourself because your faith or your gifts are too small. The truth is, none of us is fully mature yet. The wonderful thing about God is that He takes our childlike efforts and multiplies their effectiveness with His power. As my spiritual dad always says, "We win!"
Are you ready to use your unique abilities to defend the Kingdom of God in your life? When you use your gifts, you do real and lasting damage to the enemy. Your confessions of faith set angels in motion. You overcome your fears and grow up a bit in the process. And God is gonna be impressed with your bravery and zeal for His house. I guarantee it!
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or click here to subscribe to her blog.
This morning as I prayed, the Lord asked me to share with you a short prophetic word He had given me a few weeks ago. It has helped me to steer clear of what I call "unsanctified works;" things I jump into automatically without checking in with the Holy Spirit first. These things might be urgent matters, regular relationships, or just routine tasks. I believe the enemy is busy today using the deception of false obligation to keep us out of the will of God. Let me know if this resonates with you, too.
"Deception is a common tactic of the enemy today. Satan seduces based on your weakness. This is why it's important to seek counsel from the Lord in ALL THINGS: because you are weak and have blind spots, but God is strong and sees all. Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed.
Even your sense of duty and responsibility can be a weakness, exploited by the enemy to draw you into situations I have not called you into. Your love for certain things can be a weakness, exploited again by the enemy to draw you out of My Presence. It is more vital than you know to stay connected to Me at ALL TIMES. Those who do not abide in Me will be chopped off and burned in the fire. (John 15:2) It is the work of the enemy to destroy you, not to rebuild you. I am for you, not against you. Come to Me... and you will find rest."
Praying for each one of you, my readers, that you will know and love Him more and more!
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or to read more of her blog, click here.
There’s going to be a time, in your life as a believer, when your witness or your worship of God differentiates you so much that it infuriates the enemy. When you suffer, not because of some sin in your life, but because of something you’ve done right. It is a time when your enemy turns the fiery furnace up seven times hotter – and then throws you into it. Congratulations… you’ve just been promoted!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego faced this problem when they would not serve or worship king Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. (See Daniel 3). They had lived blameless lives, along with Daniel, during their Babylonian captivity. But their refusal to worship other gods caught the attention of certain Chaldeans, who accused the three Jews of insubordination. They stood out because of their purity of spirit and their confidence in God’s goodness.
Amidst taunts: “Who is the God who will deliver you?” (Daniel 3:15), they were thrown into a furnace to be killed. At normal furnace temperatures, the boys could have died, but the king in his fury ordered that it be “seven times hotter.” Those who threw them into the furnace were consumed immediately.
Where Was God?
What’s amazing to me is that the three boys were not prepared ahead of time with any “extra help” from God. No divine intervention, no angelic visitations, no comforting prophetic words protected them from the trial they had to face. It might have seemed that God was abandoning them. They were literally bound to be burned!
Yet from the beginning, there were clues that God was on the scene. Seven is the biblical “perfect number;” it represents a perfect work of God, like the creation of the world in seven days. The enemy (in this case the king), was allowed to turn up the heat only to the temperature GOD would allow, because God was about to promote Himself and His people in the king’s eyes.
God knew that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were able to handle the heat. He knew he could count on them to maintain their witness even in the face of terrible pressure, and they did. They were mature enough to live their lives not for themselves, but for God. They were secure enough in their relationships with Him to trust Him to turn the situation around for His glory, not necessarily for their own. They did not require or demand an explanation from God for His apparent lapse in their protection! In the end, God blessed them – and their nation - with a promotion.
Pressure Releases Presence
Miraculously, the king saw the Son of God in the midst of the Jews’ trial. He saw four men unbound, and was convinced of the reality of God’s presence and power. Astonished, he issued a decree that God – not the king – would now be worshiped as sovereign. If we ever need proof of God’s presence with us in difficult times, we can find it here.
It's immaturity that balks at the idea of God allowing His children to suffer. Insecurity causes us to ask, ”Why me, God? What did I do that you have to treat me like this?” The apostle Paul begged God three times to take away an annoying “messenger of Satan” that buffeted him. Esther pleaded with Mordecai to release her from the obligation of disclosing her Jewish identity to the king. Our carnal nature craves the cocoon of protection we call “entitlement.”
But as with the refining of gold, there must be a trial by fire in order to show forth the immeasurable worth of a life in God. It's not about us; it’s about Him. What doesn’t conform to the life of God will be burned. Allowing our weak flesh to enter into a trial causes the anointing of God to increase in our lives. We can face any furnace in the security of our knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us. In Him, we are people “on whose bodies the fire has no power.” (Daniel 3:27). When the enemy turns up the pressure, God turns up His presence, just as He did long ago for three Jewish boys in Babylon.
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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One of the enigmas of Christian life seems to be the dichotomy between what we are promised in the Bible and what we actually experience on a daily basis. If you have ever wondered why you haven't been healed (even though you believe the Word says healing is for today), or why you still struggle with problem areas of sin (despite Jesus' promise of abundant life), you're not alone. For many of us, the source of this conflict is a mystery, and we have resigned ourselves to daily living within the "status quo."
Living this way, however, presents a secondary problem: knowing that God has a promised land for us and yet failing to enter it, makes the Word seem - *GASP* - untrue! And we are sure that cannot be! So we work out what we can of our faith, doing good deeds, encouraging others, praying our most faith-filled prayers and hoping for the best. We rarely see the type of breakthroughs we long for, and when they do happen, we're not always sure why!
Faith Is Not Passive
Many people think of faith as a noun: something that we have. True faith, however, acts more like a verb than a noun. Biblical faith holds mountain-moving power on earth when applied. 2 Timothy 3:5 cautions us not to be like those who "hold to an outward form of godliness but deny its power." Real faith requires both confession and action, not just a passive acknowledgement of God's guidelines. Faith without works accomplishes nothing (See James 2:17).
Joshua, the Faith Warrior
One of the heroes of "active" faith is Joshua, son of Nun. Since he is the one who actually led Israel into the Promised Land, it makes sense to look at how he achieved his breakthroughs and see what we can learn from his life.
1. Before Joshua ever started warring for the Promised Land, he was assured of victory by the commander of the Lord's army. (Joshua 5:13-6:2). Guaranteed success. Sweet! Like Joshua, we, too, have been given a guarantee of success for our battles by Jesus Christ, who conquered every demonic force and gave us authority over them all (Matthew 28:18; Luke 10:19). We will succeed if we are led by God.
2. Joshua meditated on the Word constantly. While Moses led Israel through the wilderness, Joshua spent hundreds of hours abiding in or near the tabernacle as a servant and spiritual apprentice. (Exodus 33:11). Joshua also continued to seek the Lord once he became a leader. In fact, the one time he didn't seek counsel before a battle, he was deceived by the Gibeonites and suffered a setback. (See Joshua 9 for the story). Like this humble leader, we must saturate our minds, eyes, and ears with the Word of God to protect us from the deception and discouragement of the enemy.
3. Joshua fought for the promise. Battle after battle is recorded in chapters 6-12 of Joshua encamping and then fighting to gain ground in the promised land. This was how he put his faith into action. There are two keys here:
First, in ancient times, encamping around the enemy prior to battle was a necessary strategy. I believe there is a similar need for us to "encamp" around current problems that need defeating in prayer. We often look for a quick deliverance and fast answers to prayer when in reality, there are battles that take some time to be won. Jericho was won not in one day but seven. By the time Joshua's army had marched around that city seven times, they knew every inch of the wall and the land! Be prepared to spend some quality time in prayer until you see breakthrough.
Second, we must be willing to fight. Whether you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture or not, you can be assured that the world will continue to deteriorate prior to Christ's return. (Read Matthew 24 for more on this). It will be necessary for you to fight for what you believe, to take hold of the promises you've been given by faith - whether for your family's salvation, your healing, or your provision. We are given spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) for a reason!
4. He persevered. I love the sentence that reads: "Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings!" (Joshua 11:18, NASB). It's almost funny, after reading 6 chapters of warfare, to hear this statement made! It does show me, though, that despite guaranteed success from God, diligent worship on a believer's part, and a willing army of trained men, victory can still take time to manifest. The Aramaic Bible's translation of Luke 21:19 reinforces this concept: "But by your perseverance you shall possess your souls." Patience and perseverance is a fruit of the Spirit. Only as we walk in the Spirit will we have the ability to persevere in prayer until we reach the promises He has given us.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting people with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com.
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It's time to give the devil a one-two punch! You're familiar with the term, of course: a boxer throws a left-handed jab immediately followed by a right cross punch. The same technique is also used in fencing. It's a fast combination of two actions designed to give an athlete the upper hand. If you're a believer, you should be using a "one-two punch" strategy today. Here's why.
Current events are unfolding at an alarming pace. The war on terror is expanding, reaching many nations. Most of us lack the political influence we might feel we need to effect change. In light of this, the enemy wants us to feel hopeless. He knows that powerlessness can lead to fear. Luke 21:26 confirms that in the end times, men's hearts will fail them "from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming in the earth."
Preemptive Prayer & Compassionate Provision
The Bible offers hope, though, in the form of a one-two punch. The first punch is prayer, and the second is provision.
The Bible says that our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16). They work because we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places, where all things are subject to Him (Ephesians 1:20-22). As joint-heirs with Christ, we receive the blessing of being "above only and not beneath" (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This means that as we pray, no matter how impotent we may be in the natural, we rise to become agents of transformation in the Spirit. We partner with Jesus in His ministry of intercession. By tapping into the unlimited reach and resources of the Holy Spirit, we now pray and effect change at every level of government, business, education, religion and any other man-made institution.
Joseph as Prototype
The eleventh son of Jacob is a prophetic prototype for us here. After being sold into slavery and betrayed several times, Joseph was transformed from reject to ruler. He left the dungeon of the enemy and was promoted to second-in-command of Pharaoh's kingdom (Genesis 37-50). Like Jesus, he used his prayers of faith to enter in to a place of provision. Having overcome his own adversity through prayer, he then helped others to overcome, through practical provisions for a worldwide famine.
I believe we have a similar purpose. Rather than succumbing to fear, we can throw the first "punch" of prayer and follow it up with a second "punch" of provision for the disasters that do occur. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, we are wise to prepare our families in advance for whatever the "winter" season may bring, so that we are safe and can serve others in time of need. We can be "angels with skin on," ministering servants empowered by the voice of the Lord and serving humanity with practical assistance or spiritual gifts.
No More Shadowboxing
We are created to be strong spiritual athletes: to fight the good fight of the faith and to fear nothing. Paul says we are not called to be shadowboxers, Christians who throw ineffective punches at the air (See 1 Corinthians 9:26). Our faith is the antidote to fear, and our faith gives us a specific strategy for a Kingdom "win." What will you do with your spiritual authority in these dark days?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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A well-known Christian teacher and prophet posted an interesting question on Facebook this week. He asked: "What is your #1 question or concern about hearing God's voice?"
He received nearly 200 responses to his question, and not surprisingly, the majority of them had to do with distinguishing God's voice from the devil's - or our own.
Just for fun, I asked my children what their #1 question was. Two of them said the same thing: How do I know if it's God speaking? My youngest, who does hear from God occasionally, has come up with a solution to this problem. As I took a long walk with this adorable one last night, he explained how it works. He knows that God wants us to put others' interests above our own (Philippians 2:3), and so he decided that when he hears several voices in his head, he'll choose the second one, since Satan probably always wants to speak first!
Certain religious traditions have gone so far as to oversimplify the process of hearing God, teaching what I call the "Stoplight Approach." Afraid of encouraging people to "imagine" what God might be saying, they teach instead that God has only three answers: Yes, No, and Wait. Ouch. One look at the elaborate prophecies in scripture, Old or New Testaments, is enough to convince me that God is by no means limited to a three-word vocabulary!
But how do we overcome our fear of hearing Him? And how do we discern His voice, if He really is speaking? Thankfully, we are not limited to childish conjecture when it comes to hearing God. I believe there is a better - and biblical - way.
A Better Way: Three Steps to Discerning the Voice of God
1. Draw Close
James 4:8 reads: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (NKJV). There are two types of proximity: physical and emotional/spiritual. In a crowded room, I can pull up a chair and sit near you in order to hear what you are saying: this is physical proximity, and it is a necessary requirement for hearing. The closer we are to someone, the more we hear. We draw near to God in this way by spending regular time in the Word, which is the starting point for all of His communication with us.
The second type of proximity is emotional or spiritual. Growing intimacy with someone gives us access to a broader range of communication because of a heart-to-heart, trusting relationship. As we know someone better, we can almost anticipate what they might say or do in a certain situation. Similarly, as we spend time getting to know God and sharing our hearts with Him, He reveals more of His heart to us. Communication expands far beyond "Yes, No, and Wait," becoming deeper and more meaningful.
The best way to discern God's voice is to be intimately familiar with the real thing. Just as a bank teller is trained to recognize a counterfeit by handling hundreds of real bills first, so we need to train ourselves to recognize truth when we hear it. As we read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Word of God is our measuring stick:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete,
thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)
2. Seek Counsel.
Jesus also tells us in John 10:5 that His sheep will "by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of a stranger."
There is safety in numbers, especially for sheep, and it is no accident that Christ uses the analogy of sheep with a shepherd to describe believers like us. The predators - spiritual foxes, wolves and lions - are mentioned many times in Scripture, and a quick look at nature assures us that it is far safer to mingle with the flock than to set out on our own. I can think of several examples of times when I was attacked by the enemy, and all of them were situations in which I was alone or didn't run an idea by a trusted friend first.
Even the greatest Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Samuel didn't act on their own. They participated in training schools or mentoring which helped them hone their skills in the area of hearing God. Christ also demonstrated discipleship of his followers, spending most of His waking hours with those He trained. It is "by reason of use" (Hebrews 5:13-14) that our senses are trained to discern both good and evil.
We are called to fellowship and mutual accountability with others. This is not just for our safety, but for our maturity:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God...that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things
into Him who is the head - Christ.
We grow in fellowship with others, and we need the witness and counsel of those around us to help us discern whether what we hear is "right on."
3. Look for Confirmation.
That said, there are times when God will ask us to do something that is atypical, that goes against the crowd. In these cases, we are justified in asking God for confirmation. Just as it is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to Christ, it is the work of God to confirm the Word of Christ in us, with signs and wonders if needed. I regularly ask God to confirm things for me, and there are plenty of Scriptural precedents for this. He is a loving God who backs up what we do in faith and does not let us wander too far off track. We do not need to fear that we will "miss it!" He is so much bigger, and He knows our hearts.
I pray that the Lord will show you any areas where religious tradition or personal fears have kept you from hearing His wonderful voice. I am asking Him to - right now - set you free from areas of bondage that may have resulted from stepping out in faith and being hurt or shut down in the process. If you have given up on hearing God because someone in authority told you it wasn't possible or you heard wrong, I pray that you will have the grace to forgive - and then to go back to where you left off. May you begin again to familiarize yourself with His sweet whispers, and may His voice be the sweetest thing you hear.
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c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All references NKJV unless otherwise noted.
According to research done by the Mayo Clinic in 2013, nearly one in four women ages 50 to 64 are on antidepressants. 13% of the overall population is on antidepressants. Men make up roughly 5% of those using antidepressants, and there is an amazing total of 70 percent of Americans using at least one prescription drug for a wide variety of physical and emotional complications.* We live in a complex, stressful world, and are finding - with disturbing regularity - that peace of mind (and body) evades us.
We long to escape, to get away from the stresses of life, to find an oasis of calm in our dry deserts. Medication seems to provide the only answer. Thankfully, God has an over-the-counter prescription for peace that is available to anyone, anywhere. This remedy is found in Philippians:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication ,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
A Two-Part Prescription
I took some time last week to do an oceanside prayer retreat with God. As I studied the book of Philippians, the Lord urged me to keep reading, beyond this familiar "prayer prescription" (above) that we so often quote in Christian circles. There is a second part that we often miss.
What I noticed was that when God addresses the problems of anxiety and depression, He tells us to do more than just pray things through. You may find that prayer works until the enemy assaults you with the next discouraging thing, sometimes only moments after you emerge from your prayer closet. There are so many negative attacks, in fact, that we jokingly say we do have to "pray unceasingly" just to get through our crazy days! I believe that depression sets in so easily because people are simply overwhelmed by the demand to keep going when life seems to be falling apart. This is a well-known and yet still effective strategy of the enemy. (See Revelation 13:7).
What, then, is the solution? More vacation time? More time in nature? As David Stern wisely notes in his Jewish Commentary on the New Testament, "The object is not retreat from an evil world, but sanity in it." ** The second part of God's prescription shows us how to find our balance:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything
praiseworthy- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received
and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Change Your Thinking!
To find peace means to change our thinking. To meditate on God's inscriptions in our lives, on the testimonies of what He has done. (The Passion Translation notes that the Aramaic in verse 8 literally means to focus on God's "acts of glorification.") This is more than admiring the stars or sitting at the beach. This is the stability that comes from noticing and remembering the things that demonstrate God's trustworthiness. Justice rendered in a court case. The victorious faith of a friend who survived cancer. The love a husband shows to his wife, even when she fails him. When the enemy sows hopelessness with his negative thoughts, we must choose to think about more noble things. When we don't feel like we have anything positive to say, we can still speak the Word of God, as the psalmists did, rehearsing the many miracles God has done throughout the ages.
As we fill our minds with good things, we find that negative things slowly lose their depressing power over us. We encourage ourselves, as David did, remembering that God is still on the throne. When we are too broken to fight, we lean on the faith of others to help us up. We find, as Romans 15:13 says, "peace in believing." Faith in the goodness of God saturates our thinking and permeates our whole being, bringing peace and healing.
There are identifiable medical and psychosocial benefits resulting from prayer, as science is now confirming.*** There are even longer-lasting benefits that come when we do the deeper work of changing our thinking. The renewal of the mind with the truths of God is not easy, and it is a process. But the enemy is fighting harder than ever for control of your mind and destruction of your body. Are you using the two-fold prescription God gave you for victory?
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace in believing, that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014; all references NKJV unless stated otherwise.
*CBS News, June 20, 2013: "Study Shows 70 percent of Americans take prescription drugs;" CBSNews.com; see also the Mayo News Release at MayoClinic.org for details.
**Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD; 1992; p.602
***"Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials;" US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; as printed in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Oct-Dec 51 (4): 247-253.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.