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Posts tagged ‘listening prayer’

What Does It Mean to ‘Hear From God’?

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.comJade Mazarin

Hearing God speak to us is like an art. Much to our frequent frustrations, it’s not as easy as hearing the audible words of a friend or mentor.

We don’t always get clear direction from God. Often, we’re called to just move forward trusting Him, even if we don’t know exactly what He’s pointing us toward. After all, God is more concerned about who we are becoming than exactly what we’re doing, so we often hear His voice in moments of conviction or assurance rather than instruction. Sometimes, we just need to hear what’s true—about ourselves or about a given situation—to obtain the comfort and freedom we desperately need.

In Jeremiah 33, God tells us “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jesus also says that we live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is why we long for it so much, and why it’s so worthy of our pursuit.

But how do we maneuver this task of hearing from God, especially when we’re already asking and not getting anything back? Here are some strategies that, depending on the situation, may be useful to you.

Take Time to Really Focus

We all have those moments when we pray a sentence or two while we’re going through the day. Those are great, because they reflect our belief that God is with us at all times. But, especially when we really feel we need guidance, it’s important to also take some time out of our day to really focus solely on that prayer.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from constant petitioning, just start praising and see what happens.

That may go without saying, but I find that we don’t always put forth the effort. It’s easier to speak a few pleading sentences than to really sit or kneel, and devote your time—and total mental energy—to only that petition.

Often, this means laying aside the things that are worrying us and giving our minds a break so we can be open to whatever God might have to say.

David gives us an example of this in Psalm 40: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.”

Ask Him to Help You Hear

I don’t only ask God to speak to me. I also ask Him to enable me to hear. God’s messages are often quieter than the audible noise we are accustomed to. They require sensitivity to pick up on. They also require openness.

Sometimes, part of us doesn’t want to hear the message. Likewise, we may not expect Him to speak in a certain way or even through a certain person, so we might not recognize it when He does. The Holy Spirit, however, can help you notice and be receptive to His words—which are always those we need, even if we don’t know it—if we invite Him to do so.

Unite with God Through Praise

Praise is a special route we can take into the presence of God. It connects us with His spirit, allowing us to see beyond our circumstances. In this place, things become quieter, and we are opened to His peace. Even if we don’t yet hear something specific, we will at least leave that time with more comfort, and more readiness to receive.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from constant petitioning, just start praising and see what happens.

Recognize the Purpose of Silence

It can be so frustrating to us when we don’t hear from God. But if we’re encountering silence, there may be a reason for it. It’s not that we’re unworthy, or that God doesn’t care or isn’t able. The purpose for silence, rather, may be the infinitely more precious thing of our development. There are times when God is simply more concerned about our inner growth than what we do with one decision (even if that decision feels huge at the time).

Ask God to Influence It All

When I continue to be unsure how to proceed, I often ask God to influence every circumstance. I like to ask God to carry me as a current carries a boat—I know He already is, but it is to remind myself. I love the image of Him directing me, without me having to figure things out or rely on myself. It allows me to rest and know everything will work out. These prayers come with the faith that God is greater than anyone or anything, and He knows how to accomplish His will in our lives.

As Philippians 2 tells us, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Discern if It’s His Voice

A common concern when people think they heard from God, is whether the message is just from their own thoughts. If you’re wrestling with this question, consider these things:

Are you likely to think this type of thought? If it’s more freeing and kind, or more insightful than something you usually come up with, it could be God. Ask yourself if it reflects the nature of God. Be aware of how it makes you feel—peaceful and loved, or confused and condemned? If it’s an instruction, see if the thought continues—does it stick with you through the next several days and months?

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63).

Putting It All Into Practice

Many of us seek a formula for how to hear from God. Do this and get that result. But that’s not the way God works. There is a healthy place of seeking God from our hearts, while being open to His leading.

Ideally, our seeking should flow from a living relationship with God. It is purposed not to reach certain outcomes, but as a reflection and development of a close communion; a relationship of love.

Scripture says the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray. Our main task, I believe, is to rest in the present moment, seek Him with genuineness, and know that He is working for and through us, each step of the way.

Divine Conversation: A Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a dissertation by Bill Bellican*

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me (John 10:14, 27).

 He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Isaiah 50:4).

 I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint to him; before him I tell my trouble (Psalm 142: 1-2).

 Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part – Andrew Murray

There is divine conversation between our Shepherd—The Lord Jesus Christ—and us who follow him.  He passionately loves us and invites us to talk to him and to listen to him.  Since the Lord is Truth (John 14:6), what we listen for and to is truth. This truth sets us free (John 8:32, 36).  The truth dispels lies and overcomes strongholds that would constrain us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  This truth makes it possible for us to walk in light instead of continuing to walk in darkness (John 8:12; 1John 1:5).  This truth allows us to have more of the mindset of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:2).  This truth destroys the work of the devil (1 John 3:8).  It is readily intuitive that individuals in a loving and intimate relationship with each other carry on truthful conversation for the edification and enjoyment of the other.

Divine Conversation is a spiritual tool—a present oriented healing prayer model—that fosters communication between the Lord and us for an intentional reason.  That reason involves positioning ourselves before the Lord to attune to his truth to overcome destructive strongholds of lie-based thinking.  This prayer based spiritual tool of communication with the Lord is within the tradition of healing prayer.

I find that established Spirit-led healing prayer models typically seek the deeper source of an individual’s present distress by addressing the inception of emotional woundedness or trauma that generates false beliefs that remain operative in the present.  These models position the individual to receive God’s healing truth as he brings his healing perspective to this hurtful and painful source.  Among leading deep level healing prayer models today, in my opinion, two are most notably and visibly used—Formational Prayer developed by Terry Wardle (Wardle 2001) and Theophostic Prayer developed by Ed Smith (Smith 2007).

The present oriented healing prayer model, Divine Conversation involves a basic process.  This process is “at once entirely simple and richly complex” when one thinks about how the Holy Spirit sanctifies the mind and imagination in a supernatural interaction with the living God (O’Donoghue 1986, 192).  Nonetheless, the process is simple in its application.  It is not unlike the process of salvation.  While the overall understanding of what is involved in salvation—a holy and righteous God choosing to die in the place of sinful people in order that a personal, intimate, and eternal relationship might be restored with him through faith in him—is also deep and profound, it does involve a process. However, this process is simple enough in its application that even a child might embrace it (Matt. 18:3).  This process of salvation involves some basic steps:

* understanding God’s love

* understanding our sinful and needy condition

* understanding God’s righteous, just, and redeeming response

* understanding our faithful response

In addition to these basic steps, other actions are also included to help give additional clarity and application to Scripture (Bright 2007, 1-16).

The process of Divine Conversation is much the same.  When indicated by the presence of negative emotional upheaval, the steps of Divine Conversation intentionally can be put into action.  Just as in the case of salvation, the Lord responds to a genuine invitation or expression of our will (Rev. 3:20).  The Divine Conversation process allows you to ask, seek, and knock for the truth as an exercise of the will (Luke 11:9-10).

Divine Conversation involves four primary components:

1. Emotional Upheaval

2. Core Steps

3. Prompted Steps

4. Experienced Truth

Like the process of salvation, the Divine Conversation process is simple and fluid.  The triune God’s power and plan encompasses the entire process of Divine Conversation.  The Father and the Son desire for us to be holy and formed into the likeness of the Son.  The Holy Spirit directs and empowers the various steps to make this plan possible.  The next sections look at each of the Divine Conversation process components in more detail.

Emotional Upheaval

Lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval are correlated.  The negative emotional upheaval serves as an indicator that something is going on within that needs attention.  Emotional upheaval serves “as God-given ‘dummy lights.’. . .[these emotions] are a God-given means for discerning inner motivation and thinking” (Kellemen 2005, 396).  This type of emotional upheaval is characterized by such things as an unsettled spirit, a lack of emotional peace, angst, anger, anxiety, and depression. Both Wardle and Smith have written a great deal about the connection between past wounding life events, associated lies, emotional pain/upheaval, and current life events (Smith 2007, 15-46; Wardle 2001, 127-144).  Our past constantly shapes and affects our present. We only have the moment to live in the present.  It then slips into our past. Our mind associates what it is currently experiencing with previously stored data whether that past data is based upon truthful or erroneous interpretation.  When a past event is based upon truth, there is no problem.  For example, each of us has learned somewhere originally in our past that a green light means go, and a red light means stop.  In the present, when we come upon a traffic light changing from red to green, there typically is no problem.  There is peace, and no emotional pain is present.  No lie-based thinking is involved.  No past wounding life event was experienced when originally learning the meaning of green and red.  The experiences associated with this original learning event were based on truth—green means go and red means stop.

However, too often, present life events tap into past experienced emotional wounds and troublesome life events that have never been resolved.  When that occurs, we ultimately experience the emotional pain or upheaval that is associated with the lies we presently believe based on our interpretation of the past event.  Left unattended, we may turn to any number of behavioral narcotics (both socially acceptable and unacceptable) in the present to quell the emotional pain we feel (Moon 1997, 39-43).  Scripture calls attention to the dual purposes of Satan and God as captured in Genesis 50:20—the same event involves two vastly different motivations.  Typically, Satan seeks to capitalize on our past woundedness to intensify and exaggerate the lies.  He desires that the emotional upheaval will turn our attention onto self and short-term fixes apart from depending upon God.  He wishes our destruction and harm.  Conversely, God uses the reality of this present emotional upheaval to get our attention focused on him and his pathway of truth and healing.  He is only interested in our good as he accomplishes his will concerning us.

Smith does clarify that some painful past experiences actually may carry truth-based emotional pain.  For example, I may experience present grief or sadness when an event triggers a memory about the reality of growing up without both parents present.  This emotional pain is real and normal.  It is based on truth—both parents were not available to me.  However, if that emotional pain and upheaval also ties to a belief that something is wrong with me because I did not have both parents in my life, a lie is present and operative.  Although some present negative emotional upheaval can be based upon past truth, “it is more common that the emotional pain . . . is rooted in what was falsely interpreted about the event as opposed to the truth in the event” (Smith 2007. 168).

Divine Conversation becomes one additional way to deal with the negative emotional upheaval and lie-based thinking in the present moment in place of turning to any other ineffective and harmful coping mechanism.  More extensive and deeper healing work may be needed to address the root or core issues fueling the lie-based thinking and emotional upheaval, but the lie-based thinking can be abated in the present moment.

Divine Conversation:  The Core Steps

We must consider the reality that we are in a personal relationship with a supernatural and triune God who greatly loves us and desires a communicative relationship with us.  He purposes to engage us in a unique relationship that is designed to mature us spiritually and conform us to the likeness of Christ.  One of the divine weapons or tools that God uses to accomplish this is Divine Conversation.  As we look more specifically at Divine Conversation, we must remain mindful that steps and technique are never to displace the relational connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What follows are the core steps for Divine Conversation (i.e., to define, to own, to move, to demolish the lie, and then desire and experience the truth).  It is desirable to have quiet, focused, and intentional time regularly to practice Divine Conversation.  However, spontaneously engaging in Divine Conversation is also feasible.  This type of prayer is to be used in the present moment of need.  As with any new skill, even a spiritual skill, practice is required.  Continued practice makes us more open, aware, receptive, and sensitive to the personal working and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Continue to practice Divine Conversation and the various spiritual exercises so that you are likely to initiate use of Divine Conversation at any time.  Use it immediately in the midst of any circumstance.  It is a form of prayer, and we are invited always to be in prayer (Rom. 1:9-10; Eph. 6:18; 1Thess. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:3).  Just like Nehemiah, there are times where intensive prayer and communion before the Lord are necessary (Neh. 1:4).  Then, there are times when spontaneous communication with the Lord in the present moment is needed (Neh. 2:4).

Included with each step is a brief description and suggested dialog with the Lord.  The dialog is just an example.  You must convey your heart through your own words—simply and honestly.  For any words in brackets [ ], insert your specific words, feelings, and thoughts.

Core Step 1.   Define the Lie.  The initial step toward solving a problem is to define what the problem is.  In the case of lie-based thinking, the first step is to define the actual lie that is intruding upon the present.  For the most part, lies become rooted in our minds from several sources usually during our younger, formative years.  First, someone who intends to hurt us can speak lies into our lives.  In addition, we can experience traumatic episodes in our lives perpetrated by others, or we can experience trauma as the result of natural disaster or other calamity.  Second, those around us can unintentionally cause hurt and damage because of their skill-based, emotional, and relational deficiencies and/or mistakes in judgment.  Third, we can mistakenly come to the wrong conclusion about an event in our life and focus on a false interpretation.  Regardless of the situation, our mind works to make sense of an event, and we come to some interpretation of it.  As Kellemen notes, “We must make sense of our life experiences. . . . we are meaning seekers” (Kellemen 2005, 174).  Finally, we are subject to our own sinfulness and faulty natural disposition that touches every aspect of our existence.  “We are all bent souls. . . . Sinfulness infects both our thinking and our affections, blinding us to truth and causing our hearts to stray,” writes McMinn in Why Sin Matters (McMinn 2004, 37).  Ultimately, we fail to think and do that which we should, and we end up thinking and doing that which we should not (Rom. 7:15-24).

When our interpretation is not based on truth or is flawed, the seeds of lie-based thinking are planted, surrounded by emotional pain.  On a repeated basis as time passes, certain present life events serve as triggers as the brain associates the present situation with past information or memories that are stored.  When what is stored and accessed is based on lies, painful memories, and emotional pain, these intrude into the present resulting in emotional upheaval and dysfunctional coping measures.

The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), delights in uncovering anything, including lie-based thinking, that hinders our ability to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).  As fallen as they are, God can sanctify our reason and imagination to use them for his good purpose (Foster 1998, 25-26).  Thus, we must look to the Holy Spirit and seek his help in determining the lie,

“Holy Spirit, sanctify my mind as I am feeling [anxious and overwhelmed] in this moment.  What feels true to me?  What am I believing right now that is not based on your truth?  I want you to bring any lie I believe to my attention.”

Wait on the Holy Spirit as you sense, feel, and listen for him to bring to you the lie(s) you believe.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do this in his way and timing.  Keep alert and attuned to the Holy Spirit to do this. The lie will typically take the form of oppressive, intrusive, negative, hopeless, and despairing thoughts.  Many times, the lie will include self-identity statements (i.e., “I” statements) such as:  “I am no good.”  “I can’t do anything right.”  “I’m pitiful.”  “I will never get over this.”

At other times, the lie may be aimed at God.  These types of lies could include things such as:  “I can’t trust you.”  “You don’t love me.”  “You will abandon me.”  These are lies which you might know are not true about God, but they feel true in the present moment.

Whatever form the lie takes, always listen and sense for what seems to feel true.  It does not have to make logical sense.  You might even cognitively argue that you know better.  However, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to have you experience what feels true in the present moment.  In this case, this is the lie that is affecting you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to discern the difference between what actually could be true versus what feels true but is not the truth.  For example, a person asked to pray in front of a large group for the very first time may feel anxious or nervous about doing so.  This person may even think, “I might stumble over my words,” or “I am not ready to do this, yet.”  These are normal and true feelings and thoughts for a person in this situation.  Still, this is different from this same person thinking and feeling, “I will make a fool of myself if I do this,” or “I will stumble over my words and prove that I am an idiot.”  The latter are lies that hold us captive which the enemy capitalizes on to inhibit our spiritual walk and development into the likeness of Christ.  In his book, The Lies We Tell Ourselves, Chris Thurman does a wonderful job defining various categories and aspects of lies we believe and how to distinguish lies from truthful thoughts (Thurman 1999, 3-99).

Core Step 2.  Own the lie.  By owning the lie, we must acknowledge that the lie revealed by the Holy Spirit is real, and it is destructive in our lives.  We must embrace how this lie feels terribly true, and it is operative in the present moment of our lives.  We must agree with the Holy Spirit, not only about what the lie is, but also about the extent it has an evil hold on us.  We must see how the lie connects to our dysfunctional thinking and behaviors.  We must allow ourselves to grieve over the presence of the lie in our lives and for the space that we give it within ourselves to thrive.  We proclaim to the Holy Spirit,

“Holy Spirit, yes, it does feel true that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.] This lie has held me back and kept me down for so long.  I grieve and sorrow over how I continue to give in to this lie and let it control me and dictate how I live.  Cleanse me as I have focused more on this lie than I have focused on you.” 

Core Step 3.  Move the lie.  Moving the lie involves willingly, humbly, but decidedly taking the lie to the presence of Christ.  As McGee says, “We turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus” (McGee 1995, 191).  We turn the control of our lives and this lie over to Jesus.  We realize that he is the only one who desires to and can handle our hurts and fears.  Only he can tear down and effectively destroy the strongholds of lies in our lives.  Only Jesus can bring freedom for us to live freely in spite of outward circumstances with an inward peace based upon our moment-by-moment relationship with him (Isa. 26:3-4).  We must remember and take action on the fact that we cannot handle the vast array of lies that surround us and intrude into the present moment of life.  We have no power or wisdom in and of ourselves.  We must look to Jesus to fight against our strongholds and the lies within (2 Chron. 20: 12, 15).  We can confidently enter his presence with freedom to find mercy, grace, healing, and truth (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; James 1:5).  Apart from him, we are powerless to do anything about the lies in our lives (John 15:5).  To that end, we choose to remove the lie from just our presence and take it to the presence of Jesus,

“Lord Jesus, by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I bring to you this lie that feels so true.  What feels true is that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.]  It has held me captive too long.  It destroys me.  I believe that apart from you, I can do nothing about this lie.  Only you can destroy this lie.”

To be mindful of the presence of Jesus, allow yourself to feel his surrounding nearness.  Center your thoughts upon him realizing that there is not a moment of your life that he is not present and involved (Ps. 139; Isa. 52:12).  You might also use the Safe Place exercise as a way intentionally to be in the presence of Jesus as you bring to him the lies that hinder you.

Core Step 4.  Demolish the lie.   God is truth and totally truthful in all ways (John 14:17; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5).  Satan is the originator, embodiment, and perpetrator of lies (John 8:44). Satan uses lies in our lives to harm us in any way possible (John 10:10).  These strongholds and lies “are ways of thinking and evaluating that are false, arrogant, and destructively disobedient. . . . [They] are beliefs that are untrue about oneself, others, or circumstances” (Murphy 2003, 376-377).

The plan of God includes destroying the works and lies of the devil (1 John 3:8).  God desires to give us what he knows is good and best for us—his presence which is his truth (Matt. 7:7-11).  God requires that we hate any form of evil (Rom. 12:9), flee any form of demonic presence (1 Cor. 10:14, 21), and let nothing master or hold sway over us that is not of God (1 Cor. 6:12).  Since we were bought at such a great price (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20), God is vested in demolishing the strongholds that are counter to him and his love and plan for us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  Seek his help in eradicating the present lie that you have brought to his presence,

“Lord Jesus, please now demolish this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  Tear it down.  End how this lie holds me captive.”

Core Step 5.  Desire the truth.  God’s desire for us is more than just bringing us truth to counter lies we believe.  While he does want us to have his truth, his greater goal is for us to desire him more (Matt. 6:33; 22:37) and to relate to him more intimately.  He wants us to want him more than what he will bring to us or do for us.  God has placed choices before humankind from the beginning of time through the present day (Gen. 2:16; 3:6; Josh. 24:15; John 3:16-18; Rom. 1:21-25).  He considers the motives of the heart about what an individual really wants to do (Prov. 16:2; Heb. 4:12)—whether or not we genuinely want to abandon the lies believed to embrace his truth or just feel better.  Jesus even asked the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:41) what he wanted him to do.  Obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind.  However, Jesus had Bartimaeus state what he desired.  Jesus gave him more than just his sight as Bartimaeus also entered into a personal relationship with Christ.  Do we really want more of his presence in our lives?  Do we desire a full and deep application of his truth to do more than just help us in the moment?  As we truly delight in him and want more of his presence, he will give us this desire (Ps. 37:4).  Express your desire for the fullness of the truth of Christ to be experienced by you,

“Lord Jesus, I do want to hear or sense your truth in place of this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  What is your perspective?  What do you say about this?  Let me not hear any other voice but yours or receive anything other than your truth.  Make it possible for me to experience you and your truth and the freedom you promise.  I am willing to receive whatever you bring to me.”   

Divine Conversation:  The Prompted Steps

The prompted steps are key elements about which to be mindful and willing to initiate as the Holy Spirit prompts you.  While attuning to the Lord and waiting for his truth to counter lie-based thinking addressed through the core steps, the Holy Spirit may encourage implementation of one or more of these prompted steps.  The reasons for these prompted steps are two-fold:  (1) The Holy Spirit knows that there is some impediment to your receiving truth; (2) He wants further to solidify his relationship with us.  Although the core steps are essential to the Divine Conversation process, any or all of the prompted steps are taken only as the Holy Spirit moves one to implement the prompted step(s).

Prompted Step 1.  Reaffirm position in Christ.   It is critical for us to know and internalize who the Lord says we are from his perspective.  We tend to spin around what we have internalized as true (Prov. 23:7).  As Neil Anderson says, “The battle is for the mind, which is the control center of all that we think and do” (Anderson 1993, 282).  Since Satan does not want us to be free because we might continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, he desires that we forget who we are in Christ.  Satan wants us to continue to internalize who we were apart from God.  Quite the opposite, the Holy Spirit wants us to revel in the fact that we are children of God and planned to be like Christ (1 John 3: 1-2).  As the Holy Spirit leads, remind yourself and experience the truth about who God says you are by reaffirming truthful identity statements that the Holy Spirit brings to mind,

“Holy Spirit, help me remember and experience the truths that [I am yours.  Jesus is my King, Savior, Lord, Master, Beloved, Brother, Friend, Shepherd.  I am God’s forever. God loves me more than I can understand.  God chose me to be in a forever relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  I am forgiven and accepted in every way by you.  Allow me to receive your truth in place of this lie.”]

Prompted Step 2.  Resist the devil.   Scripture makes it clear that Jesus defeated all the powers of evil at the Cross (Col. 2:15).  Additionally, in James 4:7-8, we are reminded that as we willingly and consciously submit to God’s authority, we can take a stand against this defeated foe—the devil.  The end goal of doing so is greater communion with God.  Anderson reminds us that although Satan is a defeated foe and his power is limited, “he still has the ability to deceive ‘the whole world’ (Rev. 12:9)” (Anderson 2000, 161).  However, we counter Satan’s deceptive attempts and practices with the internalized and experienced truth and authority of Christ.

Because of our faith in Christ, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.  2:6, NIV).  Because of Christ’s heavenly position of authority, we also have this same position of authority.  This allows us to take a stand, resist, and wage warfare against Satan and his demons (Foster 1992, 239).

One key way we are able to stand firm and resist the devil is by spiritually attiring ourselves with the full armor of God (Eph.  6:10-18).  As we understand the significance of this spiritual resource, we can assert our will against being deceived and bullied by the enemy.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit calls us to resist the devil, we do so by taking our rightful authority in Christ,

“Lord Jesus, in your Name, I resist Satan and any demonic influence upon me.  I recognize only you as my Lord and Master.  I wear your full armor that I might stand firm against the devil’s lies.  I rebuke the lie that [I am worthless and have no value to you or anyone else].  I also ask that you—the Lord who is for me and who has chosen me—rebuke this lie and any demonic influence behind it.  Lord, what truth do you have for me in place of this lie?”

Prompted Step 3.  Proclaim desire for obedience.  According to Rick Warren, “You were created to become like Christ.  From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus” (Warren 2002, 171).  The problem is that lies we believe hinder our obedience and, thereby, our progress to “be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, NIV).  The good news is that as we seek to be obedient and in-step with the Holy Spirit, he releases his power to transform us into his image and to accomplish his purposes.  As Warren continues to emphasize, “God waits for you to act first. . . . [by] doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings.  This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit” (Warren 2002, 175).  As you seek his truth about the lie you brought to the Lord’s presence, acknowledge your desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ways of obedience,

“Holy Spirit, enable me to desire obedience to you in all ways.  Train me in obedience.  Motivate me to obedience.  Open my eyes to what obedience looks like.  Bring to me the truths that I need only from you.”

Prompted Step 4.  Praise God.  Scripture commands us to offer praise and give thanks to God.  For example, we are told to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17, NIV).  Additionally, the psalmist explains that God is good and what he does is good even when he allows affliction.  He goes on to say that it was good that he was afflicted given that God in faithfulness brought forth the affliction (Ps. 119: 67-75).  McGee offers, “praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare” (McGee 1995, 194).

As you wait upon the Lord to bring his truth to you in place of the lie, praise him for whatever way he directs you to praise him.  Allow the Holy Spirit to freely carry your praises heavenward,

“Lord Jesus, help me to praise you.  Enable me to believe and experience how you are using my circumstances, the lies affecting me, and even Satan’s attempts to destroy me to work out my salvation and character to become more complete in you.  I praise you for your goodness in spite of what my problems and hurts are.  I trust you will only do what is right and good for me.  For all of this, I praise you for your wisdom and sovereignty over me.  Help me to be open to your truth.”

Prompted Step 5.  Remedy Sin.  To remedy sin involves engaging one or more of several components that the Holy Spirit might bring to our attention:  confession and repentance, releasing anger – bitterness – resentment, and receiving cleansing.

Confession and repentance involve more than just acknowledging sin or a stronghold and deciding to turn away from it.  Confession means that we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the reality of personal destructiveness caused by the sin or stronghold including the depth of evil it injects into our lives.  Repentance calls us to move away from a self-willed or rebellious approach to life and to move toward a humble, relational encounter with Christ (McGee 1995, 189-194).

By releasing anger, bitterness, and resentment, we become willing to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Matt. 18:15; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32).  First, we move toward forgiveness, not because the offender deserves it, but because Christ deserves our obedience given that he sacrificed all to pay for our sins.  He did this for us when we did not deserve it and were, in fact, still his enemy (Rom. 5:6-10).  Second, when we hold onto unforgiveness, we impede our own healing, our fellowship with the Lord, and our ability to receive his truth (Ps. 66:18; Matt. 6:12-15; 18:21-35).

When releasing and forgiving others who have hurt us, Seamands has provided a wise and prudent way to go about this process as outlined in this summary (Seamands 2003, 130-147):

*Facing the facts.  We must be genuinely and ruthlessly honest about what we experienced.

*Feeling the hurt.  More than just being honest about the facts, we must allow ourselves to feel and connect with the pain we have and do experience.

*Confronting our hate.  We must have the courage to confront our hatred for the offender given what we experienced.

*Bearing the pain.  Forgiveness is costly.  When we choose to forgive, we also choose to bear the pain of the injustice we have experienced.

*Releasing those who have wronged us.  While not ignoring the demand of justice, we choose to release our offenders and turn them over to God.  Faithfully, we trust God to exact justice in his way and timing (Rom12:17-21).

*Assuming responsibility for ourselves.  We cease being a victim or needing to blame someone else.  We recognize that our identity is not defined by what happened to us.  A choice is made that holding on to the  pain and resentment caused by another is not to be a source of meeting our needs.

*Longing for reconciliation.  The goal of forgiveness is the restoration of broken relationships.  Just forgiving to get beyond the pain and get on with life does not go far enough.  It is very true that the nature and extent of reconciliation with an offender depends on a number of significant factors.  At the same time, as we are willing to trust the Holy Spirit to oversee this process and outcome, we find ourselves in the presence of the Cross of Christ.

After we have confessed and repented about a sin or stronghold and/or released others from our debt, it is critical that we are willing to receive the cleansing of Christ in our own lives.  His death on the Cross made provision for us to be cleansed from all aspects of every sin regardless of the source and to continue to experience this cleansing on an ongoing basis (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9).  At times, we may feel that we have failed too many times, our failures are overly egregious, or we have been stuck in a sinful, shameful position for too extensive of a time.  The lie-based belief that either we are too bad to receive cleansing or that God will not provide further cleansing is another attempt of the devil to constrain our freedom in the Holy Spirit and hinder our relationship with Christ (2 Cor. 3:17).

As the Holy Spirit leads, express your heart to remedy any sin or stronghold, and/or for the release of troublesome emotions,

“Holy Spirit, you have shown me that I do hold [anger] toward [specific person].  Honestly, I have been [hurt] by [specific person].  However, I desire to be obedient to you.  I choose to forgive [specific person] for the damage done to me.  I do this not because [he/she] deserves this, but because Jesus deserves my obedience given how he has forgiven me.  Make it possible for me to forgive [specific person].  Take away the [anger and hurt].  Replace this with the thoughts and feelings you would give to me.  Forgive me for holding on to what happened for too long.  Allow me to experience your cleansing and release from this.”

Prompted Step 6.  Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling.  According to Ephesians 5:18, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a natural part of the believer’s life.  However, it is important to make a clear distinction.  Being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and filled by the Holy Spirit are two distinct aspects.  When a person by faith accepts Christ as personal Savior, a spiritual birth or conversion immediately takes place where the Holy Spirit forever indwells and seals the individual as proof of the redemption that has taken place (John 3:1-8; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30).  However, being filled with the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 5:18 means being empowered, released, guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  This is not a one-time event like being indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  Rather, this is an act of our will where we seek the continual, moment-by-moment presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  As noted by Siang-Yang Tan, “When we are open to the Spirit—continually filled and seeking to be filled—we are less likely to quench or grieve the Spirit in our daily living” (Tan and Gregg 1997, 20).  When the Holy Spirit prompts or reminds us to be filled, we exercise our will inviting him to overtake us and undertake whatever he desires in our lives in the present moment,

“Holy Spirit, I seek your total and complete filling in this moment.  Take control of everything about me.  I willingly invite you to be over my entire life, and I submit to you.  Make my will and desire to be exactly what your will and desire is.” 

 Divine Conversation:  Experienced Truth

“God is not simply to be learned about in life,” according to Wardle, “[h]e is to be experienced.  He waits in every moment to be encountered by those who seek him” (Wardle 2007, 110).

We are in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with a God who is to be known and who is to be experienced.  Our problem experiencing God has several facets:  (a) We have primarily a surface understanding about Christ and do not have sufficient knowledge about him, his work, and his Word.  We have treated him like a very distant cousin who we know of but do not really know well at all and with whom we do not spend any significant time; (b) At the other extreme, we know about God in great detail and have made it a disciplined practice to study about him and his Word.  At the same time, we have ignored, not understood sufficiently, or simply downplayed the reality of the experiential aspect of our relationship with him.  In other words, we know a lot about God without really knowing God (Benner 2003, 27).  Kraft reminds us that “John 8:32 refers to experiential knowledge, not mere theoretical knowledge, as that which undergirds the truth that sets us free” (Kraft 2002, 76); (c) Some are more left brain oriented and are not as oriented to the right brain functions allowing the spiritual senses to be open to imaginative and experiential encounters with God.

God works in the totality of our lives—past, present, and future.  He wants to bring us his truth to deal with the more past-oriented, deeply seated wounds and resultant lies of past troublesome events through deeper level healing processes.  At the same time, he wants to bring us his truth in the present moment of need to counter the lie-based thinking that invades our present.  In both cases, it is the relational experience of God and his truth that bring to our lives correct meaning, thinking, feelings, and actions.

As you apply the Core Steps of Divine Conversation and are mindful how the Holy Spirit leads using the Prompted Steps, you now are open to experiencing the truth in the way that the Holy Spirit knows best to bring it to you.  God will apply his unique truth tailored to the individual.  As Smith indicates, “God’s Spirit may convey truth through thoughts and words, visual imagery, or a sense of His presence” (Smith 2007, 159).  Additionally, God may apply his truth through:  (a) his Word as we read and meditate upon it; (b) timely and wise counsel of mature Christian believers; (c) the use of providential circumstances; (d) our sanctified common sense and reason; (e) applications of nature and creation such as a majestic sunset or the worry free existence of a squirrel gathering food (Tan and Gregg 1997, 57-60).

While waiting for God’s truth, we must be vigilant in the process and careful not to desire the outcome of the process over the One we are in relationship with.  We must not put our desire and focus more on what God might say or bring than on God himself.  With this in mind, we must guard against:  (a) putting God on our timetable to bring us his truth.  He will bring it in his timing; (b) limiting how God brings us his truth.  We must be open, willing, and sensitive to his choice of how he communicates truth to us; (c) putting words in God’s mouth.  We must discern the difference between our voice/other voices and the Voice of God; (d) seeking the spectacular.  As indicated in 1 Kings 19:12, many times God communicates in the manner of a “gentle whisper;” (e) ignoring basic good sense.  God will not convey anything that is contrary to his nature or Word (Johnson 1996, 92-95).

Having reviewed the core steps and prompted steps, I want to make a final observation.  There is no reason to feel guilty or perplexed if it seems that you are encountering the same or similar lie on frequent occasions requiring repeated truth from the Lord.  First, various characters in Scripture (Moses, the Israelites, Joshua) received reoccurring truths from God (e.g., “Be strong; Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged”), perhaps, to counter reoccurring lies they were believing.  The enemy knows what particular lies in his arsenal work best against us, and he will trigger us through life events to bombard us with them. More important, the Giver of Truth will overcome these lies with his truth on each occasion (James 1:5).

Second, keep in mind that as you focus on healing prayer in the present moment, you are not attending to the lie at its source, as would be the case in deeper level healing prayer.  Simply allow the Holy Spirit to identify whatever lies are present and bring to you the experience of truth as he directs.  As you continue to hear the Lord’s persistent truth, it will tear away at the lie stronghold weakening its ability to stand against truth.  In God’s timing and way, the stronghold will be demolished.  Scripture indicates the need for us to position ourselves as persistently dependent on God for his mercy and truthful intervention (Ps. 123:2; Luke 11:5-13).

Finally, you might consider entering a season of deeper level healing prayer to address a reoccurring lie at its source.  In this case, Divine Conversation becomes complementary to deeper level healing prayer process.

APPENDIX

 DIVINE CONVERSATION: PRESENT-ORIENTED HEALING PRAYER MODEL

 

Bill-Bellican-chart

Divine Conversation Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

                                                                                                  

 

CORE STEPS

 Understand Life Events – Various life events trigger associated negative past experiences and/or are capitalized upon by Satan as a venue to breed an unsettled spirit within us.

 Recognize Emotional Upheaval – A negative emotional indicator that something is going on within me that needs attention.

Attend To Lie-Based Thinking – Inner statements/beliefs/attitudes that are intrusive but feel uncomfortably true.

Define The Lie – Ask the Holy Spirit to define specifically what feels true.

Own The Lie – Once defined, embrace the lie-based thoughts that feel true owning them as though they were true.

Move The Lie – Bring the lie-based thoughts into the presence of Christ recognizing your powerlessness to deal with them.

Demolish The Lie – Seek and depend upon the Lord to demolish the lie-based thoughts and enable you to take them captive.

Desire The Truth – As an act of the will, seek and expect the reality, application, and experience of the Lord’s truth counter to the present lie-based thoughts.

Experience The Truth – In the present moment, sense, listen for, be aware of the Lord conveying and applying His truth in the ways He chooses to do so.

Peace/Freedom – The opposite of emotional upheaval enabling you to experience freedom and peace in the present moment as truth is experienced.

 PROMPTED STEPS

 Should the Holy Spirit prompt you:

Reaffirm position in Christ – I must know who Jesus says I am to Him and who He is to me.  The devil does not want me to know this. (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:1-2)

Resist the devil – The devil is defeated, and I can resist him because I belong to Christ. (Eph. 6:10-12; Col. 2:15; James 4:7-8)

Proclaim desire for obedience – I must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow God to produce his character in me.  The devil does not want me to change.  (Ps. 119: 33-37, 44-48; Eph. 4:24)

Praise God – I can reflect God’s goodness by being thankful regardless of circumstances.  The devil wants me discouraged and mistrustful of God.   (Ps. 119:68; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Remedy sin – I must receive the abundant cleansing from my sin continuously offered by Christ. The devil continuously accuses me to promote a guilty conscience.  (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9; Rev. 12:10)

Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling – I can live an empowered new life controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.  The devil wants me to live apart from God’s power.  (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18)

Examples of Lie-Based Thinking

Lies about God – He will not take care of me.  I cannot trust him.  He will never answer me. He could not possibly love me.  He is angry with me.  He is disappointed in me. He will not help me so I have to figure it out myself.  He cannot/will not forgive me because I have done too much.  He is not enough. God owes me. God is not fair.

Lies about others – No one will ever love me.  Everyone will hurt me.  All reject me.  No one sees any value in me.  Others do not like me.  No one cares anything about me.  People do not want to be around me.  Everyone is out to get me.

Lies about myself – I will never amount to anything.  I always fail.  I am worthless.  I can never do anything right.  I am hopeless.  I cannot change.  I cannot take it anymore.  I will always be miserable.  I will make a fool of myself.  My life is wasted.  I am stupid.  It is always my fault.  There is something wrong with me.  I am doomed.  I cannot stop.

Lies about circumstances – This will go on forever.  Nothing will ever change. This situation is impossible. There is no way out of this situation.  This problem cannot be solved.  My situation is hopeless.  There is no end to this problem.

Lies that seem positiveIt will not hurt me to do this.  I need to look at this/do this.  Doing this will make me feel better.  God understands if I do/think this.  If I do this, no one will know.  I will do this only this time.

NOTES: 

Anderson, Neil.  1993.  Living free in Christ.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

________.  2000.  Victory over the darkness.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

Benner, David G.  2003.  Surrender to love.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Bright, Bill.  2007.  Would you like to know God personally?  Peachtree City, GA: Campus Crusade for Christ.

Foster, Richard J.  1992.  Prayer: Finding the heart’s true home. New York:  HarperCollins Publisher.

Kellemen, Robert W.  2005.  Soul physicians:  A theology of soul care and spiritual direction.  Taneytown, MD:  RPM Books.

Johnson, Jan.  1996.  Enjoying the presence of God.  Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Kraft, Charles.  2002.  Confronting powerless Christianity.  Grand Rapids:  Chosen Books.

McGee, Robert.  1995.  The search for freedom.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant

McMinn, Mark R.  2004.  Why sin matters.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House

Moon, Gary.  1997.  Homesick for Eden.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant Publications.

Murphy, Ed.  2003.  The handbook for spiritual warfare.  Nashville:  Thomas

O’Donoghue, N. D.  1986.  The Mystical Imagination.  In Religious imagination, ed. James P. Mackey, 186-205.  Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University

Seamands, Stephen.  2003.  Wounds that heal.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Smith, Edward M.  2007.  Theophostic prayer ministry:  Basic seminar manual 2007. Campbellsville, KY:  New Creation Publishing.

Tan, Siang-Yang and Douglas H. Gregg.  1997.  Disciplines of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House.

Thurman, Chris.  1999.  The lies we tell ourselves.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wardle, Terry.  2001.  Healing care, healing prayer.  Orange, CA:  New Leaf

________.  2007.  Strong winds and crashing waves.  Abilene, TX:  Leafwood

Warren, Rick.  2002.  The purpose-driven life.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

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*Author:  Bellican, W. M. (2010).  Divine conversation: Attuning to truth in the sacrament of the present moment.©  (Doctoral Dissertation).  Retrieved from Theological Research Exchange Network. (028-0324; 773236003)  http://www.tren.com/search.cfm

God is our first, last, and only option

How to Pray in the Storm

Reaching out to God in turbulent times

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Jim Carpenter

What do you do when you’re suddenly in the path of a tornado?

I found out on June 29, 1998, as I huddled in the darkness of the basement, our house shuddering from the force of the wind as it cut a swath through the northern Des Moines metro area. In only minutes, the sky went from a serene blue to an angry charcoal. Rain, whipped by nearly 100-mile-an-hour winds, plastered shredded leaves to the sides of our house and poured through an open window. Broken glass sliced through my office as the window casement was wrenched away. Trees snapped off 15 feet above the ground or were torn out by their roots. My neighbor’s camper landed upside down in someone else’s backyard. Shingles sailed by like flocks of Frisbees.

As the thunder and lightning escalated, the power went out, and the entire house began to tremble. Sirens started to blare. I headed for the basement, and a scene from the movie Twister flashed through my mind—the scene where a man is ripped out of a storm shelter and sucked into the mouth of the monster wind.

What do you do when your house may be leveled by a storm, when you might die? You pray. And not a neat, textbook prayer. You pray in desperation and beg God to spare you and your family. You plead with Him to preserve your house and stay the force of the storm. You cry, “Have mercy! Have mercy!”

When Storms Threaten

Storms swirl into our lives in many forms: a doctor’s grim diagnosis, a financial disaster, a slick road on a dark street, a teenager’s tragic choice. Storms bring us to our knees, cowering in the dark basement of our fears. And so we pray.

When the tornado struck, I had been studying 2 Chronicles 20. Now my Bible falls open to that chapter, the pages permanently wrinkled from the ferocious rain that streamed into my office that day. I realized I had a lot in common with King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah. They, too, were standing in the path of a storm.

An angry alliance of Judah’s enemies was marching inexorably toward Jerusalem, determined to destroy the nation. The word came to Jehoshaphat: “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea” (v. 2). The enemy horde was already on the west side of the Jordan, only 40 miles from Jerusalem!

Significantly, Jehoshaphat didn’t spend any time consulting with his generals. He knew that Judah had no military defense against such a foe. No, “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast” (v. 3).

God’s response to Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer was gracious and powerful. Looking at desperate times through the lens of the king’s example, I began to discover some principles of prayer for the storms that lie ahead.

Measure the storm by the character and promises of God.

Jehoshaphat brought his people together in grave recognition of the nation’s peril. But then he led them to focus on Almighty God, claiming His power and promises.

First, he focused on God’s attributes.

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

—v. 6

When we gauge the fury of the storm by the power of Almighty God, the storm is absolutely dwarfed!

Next, Jehoshaphat reminded God of His promises to His people.

O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.

—vv. 7–9

Jehoshaphat echoed the words of King Solomon, who prayed to dedicate the temple a century before. The night after that ceremony, the Lord appeared to Solomon and made a promise that His people have been claiming ever since. It must have been on Jehoshaphat’s heart in the middle of the storm:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

—2 Chron. 7:14

Centering our thoughts and emotions in the Scriptures will help us pray through the storm. For years, I have printed four-by-six-inch cards with passages about God’s wisdom, sovereignty, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. His Word, hid in my heart, helps me ride out storms in confidence.

Our son Zach joined the army (right before the tornado) to finance his college education. At the time, the world seemed to be at peace. But in the months since, the U.S. military has been embroiled in one regional crisis after another.

At times I am overwhelmed with fear for my son. Often, the Lord brings Psalm 91 to my mind, a song of God’s protection. The familiar words quiet my heart: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . . For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (vv. 1, 11).

Then I am able to pray through the psalm, personalizing it for Zach, and once again entrusting my son to my faithful heavenly Father.

Demonstrate helpless dependence on God.

Judah’s assembly was an eloquent testimony to their dependence upon the Lord. Whole families stood together, babies in arms, praying and fasting (v. 13). They knew God was their only hope. If He didn’t intervene, they would be destroyed.

Jehoshaphat ended his prayer with this humble statement: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12).

The storm forces us to this place of dependence, confessing that nothing else has the slightest chance of saving us—not our possessions or our connections, not our personalities or our education. Not our religion or our luck. Letting God know we know that He is our first, last, and only option is a good thing.

While it is true that we can pray from any position, our posture can mirror the attitude of our hearts. Sometimes I feel the need to pray flat on my face. Other times I stand with hands raised to heaven. Similarly, when we say no to food or to sleep for a time, we remind ourselves—and God—that we are counting on Him and Him alone.

Corporate prayer, fasting, and confession allow us to say, while the storm rages around us, that our hope is in You, Lord. Only You.

Wait for God to communicate.

When Jehoshaphat finished his prayer, there was nothing more to say. While the enemy army drew nearer, “all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord” (v.13). They simply waited.

And God spoke through a man named Jahaziel (v. 14).

The Lord’s communiqué matched their situation perfectly. They were fearful, so He comforted them.

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.

—vv. 15, 17

They didn’t know what to do, so He gave them explicit instructions.

Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.

—vv. 16–17

Prayer was never intended to be a monologue. Learning to practice “listening prayer” has transformed the lives of many of God’s children and prepared them for gathering storms ahead.

So how does God speak? Well, certainly through His Word. He might communicate through the counsel of a friend or through circumstances. Sometimes He even speaks to us through dreams. He might also bring impressions to a yielded mind. For years I have depended upon semi-annual prayer retreats, where I withdraw for a day or two to pray and to listen.

The night after the tornado, the Lord communicated with my wife, Dionne. While we were thankful that God had preserved our lives and home, we were still very discouraged. We had been trying to sell our home for months, and one disaster after another had prevented it.

In the aftermath of the storm, our property looked as if it had been shelled. A dozen of our huge trees were shattered, the remains littering every part of our acre lot and crushing our neighbor’s fence. Our roof was damaged, and the back wall of our garage hung by a few nails. Who would want to buy our house now? We went to bed very depressed.

That night Dionne could not sleep. She got up, grabbed a Bible, and headed for the living room. Desperate for a word from God, she prayed for God to speak.

The Lord led her to Is. 43:1–3:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The next night, 24 hours after the tornado, we sold our house!

Respond with courageous obedience.

Obedience may not always require courage, but in this case it did.

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa” (v. 20).

Only hours before, the Israelites had been paralyzed with fear. Now, in obedience to the Lord, they rose early to meet an army bent on their destruction. But rather than lead with their best soldiers, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (v.21). They marched forward, praising God with triumphant words from Psalm 136: “Give thanks to the Lord… His love endures forever.”

Did you ever think of worship as an act of courage? In my first year of seminary, a student was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. One of our professors broke the news to us, and before he led in prayer, he said, “In times like this, I don’t know what to do but worship.”

Worship takes courage because it is the ultimate expression of trust. When you stand in the path of the storm, when circumstances are close to destroying you, when you look around and see nothing but chaos, to worship is to say, “My God is bigger than this. I trust Him and His promises more than my eyesight, more than my perception of reality.”

So we worshiped and prayed. Weeks later, we rejoiced that God had chosen to heal our friend.

The summer of our Iowa tornado, Paul and Jule Becker were in the middle of their own storm. Jule was fighting a battle with cancer that had lasted, to that point, seven long years.

As I prayed for Jule with a friend, we sensed God was leading us to organize an intense time of prayer and fasting for her. Her team of intercessors already numbered in the hundreds. In obedience to God’s leading, people all over the world determined to fast and pray, worship and wait. God preserved Jule’s life for another year. But in the end, with great grace and dignity, Jule went to be with Him.

The howl of the wind and the crash of the thunder may threaten to dislodge us from the habits of obedience we normally practice: worship, witness, stewardship. To keep our footing will take courage—the courage to obey even in the darkest hour of the storm.

Expect God’s best.

The Lord exploited the diverse factions of this conglomerate army. Some believe He also intervened with angelic warriors.

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men . . . who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

—vv. 22–23

The invaders were routed. The voluminous provisions they brought became an abundant overflow of God’s blessing. “There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it” (v. 25).

And it all happened without a single weapon being raised in Judah! God’s people prayed a desperate prayer, and He delivered them through the storm.

Sometimes God’s best is victory over the enemy. For Jule, God’s best was not physical healing but homegoing. Either way, God carries us through the storm, connected to His love and buoyed by His faithfulness.

When my wife was a little girl, her parents were missionaries to Jordan. Violence permeated that part of the world then, just as it does today.

One frightening day the political climate turned stormier than usual, and a mob of angry men swirled together. They stood shoulder to shoulder, many men deep, locked arms, and began to march with murderous resolution toward the mission compound where Dionne’s family lived.

The compound was walled on all four sides, but that day the gate was open, and Dionne and her younger brother were playing in the courtyard.

As the mob came nearer, the children were hustled back onto the porch. The family watched in horror as the men marched in rank through the open gate, across the courtyard, and directly toward the front door.

Just as the first group of men reached the front step of the porch, Dionne remembers a dazed look coming over their faces. Suddenly the lead men veered left, marched to the side wall, and clambered to the street. All the men behind followed suit, scrambling over the wall like a stream of fire ants.

Weeks later they received a letter from my wife’s grandmother in Chicago. The Lord had awakened her in the middle of the night and told her to pray for her family in Jordan. Gripped by a sense of imminent danger, she dropped to her knees in earnest intercession. Finally the burden lifted. She was writing to discover what crisis the family might have faced.

The date and time of her prayer matched precisely the date and time of the threatening mob and their sudden detour away from the family.

There are storms coming—that much is certain. Christians have no special immunity from the fury of the tornado. But whether the storm passes us by or visits us with crushing force, prayer is our refuge under the darkening sky. In desperate times, prayer connects us to the God of the storm. The same Jesus who brought peace to a boatload of terrified disciples still reigns today. And the wind and the waves still do His bidding.

Diagnosis: Worry; Cure: Perspective

SOURCE:  Taken from – Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry Network

A pretty interesting book was written about ten years ago titled The Knowing-Doing Gap. It highlighted an everyday phenomenon we see all around us and even in our own lives. The bottom line is, in general, we all know what we should and should not do, but there is a huge gap between knowing it and actually doing it. We shouldn’t smoke…but we do. We shouldn’t overeat…but we do. We shouldn’t worry…but we do.

At Lighthouse Network, we call this our Intellectual Creed vs. our Behavioral Creed. Our Intellectual Creed is what we know we should do, or more exactly, what we know the Bible teaches us to do. Our Behavioral Creed is what we actually do in a given situation.

Maturity, growth, and transformation are measured by how much our Behavioral Creed becomes more and more like our Intellectual Creed.

Our Intellectual Creed: we shouldn’t worry, no matter what the adversity because God is sovereign and in control of all things.

Our Behavioral Creed: we end up worrying about events or the opinions of others, or many other things that are out of our control. But they aren’t out of God’s control. Worrying really interferes with everything in our life from our relationship with God, our interactions with our self and others, and even injures our brain chemistry. In fact, for many, trying not to worry is like trying not to think about something; the more we try, the more anxious we become. So, we even begin to worry about worrying. Trying to fight this battle alone gets to be so counterproductive.

Perspective…how we view ourselves, God, and the circumstances He allows in our lives…is the key to good decision-making. Decision-making is knowing what the right thing to do is, then actually doing it. Will you have God’s perspective or your own? Big difference. Sometimes it is hard to have God’s perspective, but the more time you spend with Him, getting to know Him, the clearer His perspective becomes to you. Stop focusing on worry and put your energy into communicating with God. This strategy will help you achieve freedom from all sorts of negative behavior, including worrying. The idea is simple: replace hurtful, self-defeating tendencies with something wonderfully positive – communicating with your Creator and Savior.

Today, don’t just talk to God…listen to Him as well. He speaks to you through His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, through other believers, and constantly through the circumstances He allows in your life. As you give yourself over more and more to communicating with Him, you will find your worry-time evaporates and the knowing-doing gap closes. Your Behavioral Creed will match your Intellectual Creed.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I come to You in prayer with a thankful and penitent heart. I confess that I struggle to find the time to communicate with You…yet I seem to always find the time to worry about so many things that are out of my control. I have battled this worry-beast for years and have made little progress. Help me, Father, to focus more on You and less on worrying. Help me both speak and listen to You. I pray in the name of the One whose Intellectual Creed was His Behavioral Creed, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

Luke 12:25-26

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5

KNOWING GOD’S VOICE

(Excerpted from Into Abba’s Arms by Sandra D. Wilson pp. 199-201)

Knowing God’s Voice by the Approach

1.  God calls and woos us with the gentle voice of a shepherd who leads his sheep.  Like a ravening wolf, Satan seeks to drive the sheep into panic.  He threatens, demands, and intimidates.

2.  The Lord’s voice is quiet and deeply internal.  Satan’s voice is intrusive.  He is that thief who seeks illegal entrance into the sheep-fold that Jesus described in John 10:1.

Knowing God’s Voice by the Content

1.  God always speaks in ways that concur with major principles of Scripture and his attributes as revealed in Scripture.  This is not the same as so-called proof-texting, where a verse is used out of context to make a specific point.  That’s what Satan did when he quoted Scripture to Jesus during his temptation.

2.  God’s voice drips with mercy and grace toward us and toward others.  He does not condemn our personal worth.  God is more apt to urge us to change our attitudes (and sometimes our specific behaviors).  Satan speaks in ways that create feelings of personal condemnation.  And he wants us to have condemning, unmerciful attitudes toward others.

3.  The Lord’s voice usually focuses on changing us rather than on urging us to change others.

4. God’s voice is grounded in truth and hope in contrast to being grounded in past, negative experiences.  (Remember that Jesus urged his weary disciples to put their nets on the right side of the boat despite their past failure to catch fish.)

5.  Our Lord usually focuses on the here and now rather than on the future (“Don’t worry about tomorrow” [Matt. 6:34]).  Satan encourages us in our natural tendency to live in the past or the future.

6.  God’s counsel is practical and simple rather than impractical and complicated.  For example, Jesus is more apt to tell us to take cookies to a new neighbor today than to take a boatload of Bibles to China next year.

7.  Similarly, God usually speaks to the ordinary and mundane in contrast to the spectacular, which appeals to our desire for approval and applause.

Knowing God’s Voice by the Effects

1.  We will have more hope rather than less when God speaks to us.

2.  Hearing God’s voice produces more empathy for others. Satan wants us to despise and/or envy others.

3.  Listening to God brings a greater sense of peace—even when our outward circumstances do not change.  Listening to Satan increases our ingratitude, dissatisfaction, and anxiety.

An Additional Thought about Listening to God

We must be willing to respond to God’s inaudible voice with obedient hearts.  Listening prayer is not some kind of spiritual “parlor trick” designed for our amazement and amusement.

In her classic book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whitall Smith says: “Take all your present perplexities then to Jesus.  Tell Him you only want to know and obey His voice, and ask Him to make it plain to you.  Promise Him that you will obey whatever it may be.  Believe implicitly that He is guiding you according to His word.  Surrender all the doubtful things until you have a clearer light.  Look and listen for His dear voice continually, and the moment you are sure of it yield an immediate obedience.  Trust Him to make you forget the impression if it is not His will” (as quoted in Bob and Michael Benson’s Disciplines for the Inner Life [Waco, TX: Word, 1985], 257).

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