If you’ve been a Christian for even a short time, you’ve already realized that despite God’s promises of both eternal and internal peace, you’re constantly confronted with the enemy’s plans for chaos and suffering!
As soon as you begin to get serious about prayer, the enemy gets equally serious about keeping you out of your “secret place” in a bid to rob you of your peace. He knows, as you do, that prayer is the difference between a defeated warrior and a powerful victor. This is one compelling reason why we pray: because we have a supernatural enemy.
During the month of January, many Christians have been fasting and praying, seeking God for His plans for the coming year. At the same time, many of us have felt like the enemy's attacks also increased. This Facebook Live video is meant to encourage you if you feel wounded, battle-weary, or abandoned. (20 minute video replay with prayer for listeners included.) Click the link below to watch!
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Sometimes the voice of the enemy is LOUD. Embarrassing. Even publicly humiliating. Sometimes the devil is uncomfortably close to home. Like a strong-willed child, he tries to draw you into a power struggle. He hopes you will cave to the factual truths of his accusations against you. Has this happened to you?
It happened to King Hezekiah. And it’s happened to me. The question is, what do you do?
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.
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.
In prayer this week, I felt the Lord's desire to know His people - really know us, intimately. Sometimes we think this isn't possible because it seems so hard to hear Him. Into this difficulty, God desires to speak hope, because from His perspective, things look VERY different! The following words are what He gave me to share with you.
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!
The famous comedian, Woody Allen, quips that "eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure about the numbers, but I do think there's some truth in this. Ask any pastor and you will find that one of their primary concerns is how to keep people coming back to church, week after week, when most people simply crave "down time" on the weekends. We are tired, world-weary, and longing for rest. How do we find the energy to "show up" when we feel like there is nothing left to give?
Matthew's gospel reads:
There is a deception in the church today that concerns me. Like all deception, it is based on a measure of truth. But taken too far, it changes from a helpful tool for understanding spiritual seasons, to a prison in which we lock fellow believers and throw away the key.
I had the unparalleled joy of running around my yard at 6:48 this morning, half-naked in my robe and slippers, chasing eight mutinous chickens who escaped, somehow, from their coop. I'm sure the neighbors thought I'd lost my mind.
Above my writing desk in my tiny office at home is a wall-art stencil, a quotation that my husband gave me last Christmas. It reads: “Pray about everything. Worry about nothing.”
Like many women – mothers especially – I have a tendency to worry. I think my hubby hoped a “subtle” reminder on the wall might cure me of the habit!
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.
One of the most common frustrations believers and church workers express to me is that they feel like they don’t hear from God. “It’s easy for you,” they say, “but God just doesn’t speak to me like that!”
It is understandable that an unsaved person might not hear from God, lacking a personal relationship with Him. Yet sincere, seeking Christians can also have trouble being confident in what they are hearing.
Hearing God is a skill we develop as we mature in our faith. The Bible tells us that all believers can hear from God. Despite what we may feel, each of us has an innate ability to recognize the voice of God. Jesus’ words in John 10:27 give us biblical confirmation of this truth:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
Yet in the uncomfortable absence of a word from God, how do we go about making good choices in our daily lives? Why is it so difficult to hear Him sometimes, even when we do seek Him?
We find the answer in the context of John 10. It would be easy for a sheep to follow a shepherd if there were no other variables in a sheep’s life. But even in the presence of a shepherd, sheep must still be wary of predators. They have enemies who seek to separate them from their place of closeness to the shepherd.
Spiritually, we have an enemy, Satan, whose desire for us not to hear is as great as God’s desire for us to hear. The devil uses any means available to separate and confuse us. It’s his job to distract us enough that we no longer stay in our place of safety and protection within the fold. The farther he pulls us away from our Shepherd, the less clearly we will hear.
If you’ve ever tried to talk to someone in a noisy, crowded room, you know how difficult it can be to focus on your conversation. Now add another person to the mix, someone who joins you and interrupts constantly, and you have a picture of how challenging that one dialogue can become.
This kind of situation forces us, in the natural, to sharpen our focus. We move in closer to the speaker. Perhaps we ask the the one who joined us to wait while the speaker finishes his thought. We might even step into another room to continue our conversation uninterrupted. Our goal becomes taking control of our environment by decreasing the background noise. Parents of toddlers know exactly what I’m talking about!
When the enemy tries to convince us that we don’t hear from God, our best move is always going to be to move closer, or sharpen our focus on Him. In fact, the Word of God says that when we draw near to God, He also draws near to us. (See James 4:8). Why? Because the One we want to hear is as interested in us hearing Him as we are!
5 Ways to Improve Your Hearing
So how do we sharpen our focus spiritually? Here are five keys:
1. Believe that God is always speaking and wants us to hear. Decide once and for all that you are created to hear Him and that He is constantly speaking to you! Read John 10, Psalm 50:1, James 1:5-8, and related scriptures to solidify your faith in this area. Speak the truth: I am able to hear God!
2. Be consistent. The only reason it’s “easier” for some people to hear God is because they have made a commitment to listen on a daily basis. Cultivate a friendship with God and make it easy for Him to join you in conversation, just as you would with a friend.
Bring a pen and paper with you into your conversations with God, expecting Him to speak. Write down the scriptures or subtle impressions He gives you as you read His Words. Soon, you will develop a history of hearing from Him. Your journal will help sharpen your focus, and reviewing it will be a source of encouragement to you in the times when you don’t feel as sharp in the Spirit.
3. Bind distractions. Realize that there will always be distractions to hearing. You have the authority in Christ to silence the enemy, just as parent tells a noisy child to be quiet. You must use your authority, or he will continue to interrupt you.
The enemy sends two types of noise to hinder us: internal and external.
The remedy for external distractions is to go to your “secret place” and close the door. (See Matthew 6:6). How interesting that Jesus says in John 10:2 that the Shepherd is the one who enters by the door. He is the only one to whom we should open our door in our quiet times. When we make time for Him, he responds in kind. When we step away from the external “noise” of life, we are better able to still ourselves and hear from God.
Sometimes the best way to deal with internal noise is to fill our minds and mouths with something else. Playing worship music you can sing along to is a powerful way to adjust our focus. When worry overshadows our Bible reading, it is time to start reading out loud, praying, or confessing scriptural truths instead. Try listening to biblical teachings on YouTube or the internet. It is almost impossible for our minds to dwell on anxious thoughts when our mouths are busy confessing positive ones!
4. Be committed to fellowship. The more you are involved with fellow believers, the more you will grow in hearing God. When we meet together in home groups and church services, we often begin to see “trends” in what God is saying to His people across the Body. I have heard of Sundays when several pastors in our area spoke (unbeknownst to the others) on the exact same topic. I have also seen God confirm private words from my quiet time in public settings like home groups. Being involved with others helps build our confidence that we are hearing correctly. There is a measure of safety in numbers.
5. Be Bold – Act on what you believe. When all else fails, and you still feel you have not been given a specific answer to your problem, move forward in faith, trusting that the God you serve is big enough to adjust your steps if necessary. Don’t allow the enemy to paralyze you with the fear of doing the wrong thing!
Many Christians find it helpful to “follow the path of peace,” since Philippians 4:7 says peace is our guardian. As a general rule, if you have serious or lingering concerns about something, that is not the time to step out.
I find it helpful to ask, “does this course of action line up with eternity’s values and beliefs?” God gives each of us unique desires as we serve Him. Making decisions that align with our God-given passions for building His kingdom can be a good place to start. Again, God is more than able to correct us or adjust our direction as needed.
The reason Jesus can so confidently say, “My sheep hear My voice” is not because of our ability. No, in fact, as animals go, sheep are pretty dense! But Jesus is confident in God’s ability to guide us, even if we do wander off like dumb sheep at times. We, too, need to have faith in God’s sovereignty - that His voice is able to project above all others to guide us.
If God can speak to a Muslim in a dream, He can speak to you. If He can make a donkey prophesy, He can speak to you. If He can convert known persecutors of the faith into committed believers, He can speak to you. Once and for all, renounce Satan’s lie that you don’t hear, and ask the Holy Spirit to turn up the volume on God’s voice!
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
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...?"
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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.