Signs of the Times
Occasionally our spiritual journey brings us to a place of strategic convergence: a place where the many strands of our intricately-woven lives seem to intersect and "sync" with what God is doing. God brought me to just such a place last weekend. I had the unusual opportunity to hear three different Christian leaders speak in a span of three days. And apart from the fun I had in taking a break from routine, I want to share some of the joy I had in discovering how beautifully these leaders' words "synced" with each other, and with me.
I attended two conferences along with a few of you connected to His Inscriptions. We listened to Chuck Pierce, Dutch Sheets, and Shawn Bolz, each respected leaders with different callings. The overarching themes were two-fold: remembering and releasing.
Chuck Pierce is an apostolic leader who has heard God speak about remembering our covenant roots, both individually (our history is often a key to our victory) and as a nation (America was founded on Christian beliefs). To apply this principle spiritually, we need to return to Jesus, the Root of David (Revelation 22:16) and remember our first love (Revelation 2:4-5). We need to be in touch with where God's glory-cloud is moving next, and break out of our stagnancy. To quote him directly: "It is time to break out of our conventional ways of thinking. In a movement you have to MOVE! It's time to shift from last season's prototype" and "move with the glory" as Israel did.
How do we do that? Biblically, when the glory of God moved, the tribes of Judah, Zebulun, and Issachar moved first. (Note that the sons of Issachar were called "men who understood the times" in 1 Chronicles 12:32.) Judah was the tribe of worshipers, and Chuck noted that "the sound of worship in a place is connected to the move of God." His point? God wants to move us beyond our current borders. It is time not to pray that darkness be pushed back, but to MOVE it out with our worship. We need to walk through the open door, into the new things God has given us in this season. We do this with our sounds: our declarations and our worship.
Remembering the power of worship will help release us into the next season.
Dutch Sheets spoke on the power of our testimony. In an inspiring encounter with a rabbi, Dutch learned that Hebraic thought about time is not linear but cyclical. In other words, we westerners tend to think of events as one-time occurrences, when in fact, God regularly does the same thing over and over again, but on a higher level. When God healed you, He released power for that healing. When you testify of the healing that happened yesterday, more power is released in the Spirit realm for healing to occur today, for you or for others. This is why we're supposed to be healed when we take communion: we take the elements in remembrance of Him, "proclaiming the Lord's death till He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26).
When God "remembered" Hannah, she conceived. (1 Samuel 1:19-20). When David recounted killing the lion and the bear, he went on to kill Goliath. When we remind God of what He has done, He does it again.
Remembering and relating our testimony releases God's power again.
There are three things hindering the move of God in the Northeast region, according to Shawn Bolz: a spirit of cynicism, an intellectual spirit, and a lack of love. It is time to give up the cynicism and speak a good report, like Joshua and Caleb did. It is time to abandon the idea of personal character or reputation as king, and allow the anointing of love to flow freely. It is time to use our prophetic gifts to disarm the intellectual spirit and reveal the love of God. Our character should be motivated by love, not mandated by ministries.
Bolz's challenge was for us to avoid using prophecy or discernment as a "diagnostic" for sin or as fuel for criticism. Our strategy, rather, should be to trust God to use someone's testimony and gifts even if they are not yet fully healed. This flies in the face of those who are building the church, not the people. How deeply can we love and empower others? Can we let go of our own need for self-protection and help others to go further than we have gone? Can we show others how to mature without paying the high price we have had to pay?
The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Our prophesying should be full of the love of Jesus, exemplified by a good confession, and confirmed by changed lives.
Remember that the ultimate goal of prophecy is to release the love of God.
Are you willing to worship God as He moves you beyond your current borders and limitations into a new realm of glory? Are you ready to return to your roots and allow Him to transform your history into a new and powerful testimony? Are you able to give up criticizing and intellectualizing, and reveal the love of God to the people around you as you go? These three leaders believe that above all else, it is what we are remembering and releasing that empowers us for the next move of God. What do you believe?
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c.Deborah Perkins, 2014. All references NKJV unless noted.
Is That You, God?
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.
Marriage: It's More than 50-50.
They say marriage must be a 50-50 proposition in order to work. You give 50%, and your spouse meets you in the middle, giving 50% as well. In this way, everything is fair: no one is overworked, nothing is overlooked, and disagreements are minimized. But what if your partner gives 100%? If everything is finished, nothing is overlooked, and all is forgiven – then what?
I’ve been thinking about marriage a lot these days. Because I’m in not just one, but two relationships. Before you get alarmed, let me explain! I am married to a wonderful man I met 17 years ago, the answer to my prayers and someone I’m glad I waited for. He gives at least 50% to our relationship every day, and usually much more.
I’m also in love with an even more wonderful man – one who gives 100%, every day, all the time. His Name is Jesus. He is as much a husband to me as my earthly husband is: He provides, He loves, He listens, He helps – but He also saves. He saves me from myself and from the mistakes I make in my more “visible” marriage. He’s got the giving aspect of marriage pretty much nailed down (pardon the expression), and no one – not even my wonderful hubby – can top Him!
So does this mean, as my hubby likes to tease, that I just “sit around and eat bonbons all day?” If a spouse gives 100%, is His partner absolved from all responsibility? Or has the bar been raised just a little higher?
I believe that we as Christians genuinely love and appreciate Jesus and the 100% sacrifice He has made for us on the cross. I believe that we are absolved from the false responsibility of a religious “works mentality” that the enemy promotes: trying to earn the love of a Husband and Father who have already covered the tab for our mistakes – past or future. I also think that we must guard against the lukewarm apathy that enters our souls and robs us of the joy of actually knowing our heavenly husband.
You see, in a marriage, it is the work that gets in the way of the relationship. It is the challenge of communication that hinders intimacy. It is the responsibilities we have that drain the life out of us so that we have nothing left to give to our partners. We are working so hard sometimes that we have no time left to listen, to love, to encourage. We’re simply too exhausted! And if time is not set aside just for our spouse, our love will grow cold.
Here’s the good news: I believe that Jesus loves us so much that he takes ALL the “work” out of the marriage relationship. He takes all the fear out of not measuring up to our new Father. He finishes the work the enemy says is unfinished and clears His schedule for us. We are His top and only priority. He goes ahead of us to get a new house ready for us in heaven, and He is planning the wedding feast!
Why does He do this? Does this mean we get to sit around and just enjoy our “engaged” status? Are we supposed to spend our time on earth “showing off our ring” – sharing about Jesus and making others jealous for Him? Or is there something more?
Marriage: It's 100-100.
I believe that He has given us 100% of His love because He expects 100% back. He chooses to marry us because He thinks we are the right ones. As our heavenly bridegroom, He lays everything on the line when He asks us to be His bride. Having counted the cost and accepted His proposal, our sole desire should be to cherish, honor, and know Him. Do our lives reflect a desire to listen to Him, to spend time with Him, to know Him? Or do we take Him for granted?
Once again, I am not advocating a “works-based” relationship. That is legalistic and unloving. I am simply more aware, today, of our sometimes-tendency to give Christ a meager, token 10% when He has given His all. I want to be the kind of bride who has loved and listened to her fiancé throughout the engagement and knows Him through and through when she gets to the altar. I want to be radiant with the knowledge of His love, someone of whom the world says, “can’t you just tell she’s in love? Who’s the lucky guy?!” I want to spend more time growing the relationship than planning the wedding.
Relationships don’t grow much in the busyness of everyday life. Sure, we establish a functionality to things, maybe a good working rhythm so that we can accomplish things that promote heaven on earth. But real intimacy happens in the secret places of our hearts, where nothing is hidden, where motives are clearer and priorities more defined.
The amazing thing about God is that we get to choose how we love Him. We can go as deeply as we want into our intimacy with Him. His love for us doesn’t change based on our level of commitment. But our lives are changed as we love Him more.
Questions for meditation: When is the last time you closed the door to your secret place to be with your heavenly spouse? When is the last time you didn’t talk and just listened instead? What do you need to do to move your level of commitment closer to His 100%?
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
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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.