Back to Basics: Hearing God’s Voice

“Look Mommy! It’s God talking!”

These words burst out of my preschooler’s mouth and caught me by surprise. “What?” I asked. He pointed to the sun’s rays streaming through the clouds seeming to shine down on one particular place in the distance. I understood. All those children’s Sunday School pictures would show light coming down from Heaven when God spoke to someone, and now my son was seeing that in real life and knew in his little mind that God was talking. My perspective was changed forever in that moment. Now whenever I see the sun streaming through, I think to myself God’s talking to someone. I pray for whoever it is that God is shining down on at that moment, that they will hear, accept, and obey His voice.

Oh! If only discerning God’s voice were that obvious! If the clouds parted and sunlight struck me square in the face, that would be so much easier than having to mature and learn to discern for myself what God is speaking to me. How can I know it’s God talking? How do I discern God’s voice? How do I learn to hear God’s voice and distinguish it from the other voices I hear – my own, the enemy’s, the world’s, etc.

ear-2372090_640❀  The foremost way we learn to know God’s voice is the same way a baby comes to recognize his mommy’s or daddy’s voice: he is with the parent continuously until the parent’s voice becomes familiar to him. For us, that means spending time with God as constantly as we can. Granted, in everyday life, work must be done, physical life moves quickly. In the midst of this rushing river called Life we must intentionally plan for and look for ways to spend more time with Our Father God. This means immersing ourselves in his Word – daily, hourly, continually. Find focused time to read and study His word every day. Listen to scripture songs, sermons, podcasts, and testimonies. Memorize scripture so that it dwells within us. Let’s make our heart familiar with the tone of God’s voice so we recognize it immediately.

❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also means spending time in prayer listening for God to draw that verse of instruction up from the depths of our heart and into our conscious attention. We need to speak scriptures to ourselves and call our spirits to attention in the name of Jesus Christ and listen to Him. Life is not just composed of mind and body. We have a spirit within that can commune with God and that God will move and inspire. But we must pray and listen.

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also happens when we immerse our lives in Him. Surround yourself visually with scriptures and wholesome, Godly images. Surround yourself socially with like-minded Christians who will “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) Get deeply connected with the local body of Christ. All these things help filter out the voice of the enemy, remind us of Christ’s voice, and correct us when we start listening to the wrong voice.

❀  Listening to God’s voice requires waiting. In our Instagram/Breaking News world we’ve become accustomed to having the information we want immediately. God is not bound by time and does not fall prey to our mental urgency to “know it now.” We must seek Him patiently with our whole heart and we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) We must be still to recognize and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also includes exercising self-control in your thought life. If your mind is overrun with your thoughts, the world’s opinions, unholy dramas, self-pitying sagas, and Satan’s fiery darts of temptation, God’s still small voice will be drowned out in all the hubbub, and even when He is speaking we will have trouble hearing Him. In Philippians 4:8, Paul gives us the key to controlling our thoughts.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Tools For Determining God’s Voice

1. Remember That God’s Voice Will Never Tell Us Anything Contrary to His Written Word.

God ‘s written Word, the Bible, is truth. God will never speak anything to your heart that goes against His written Word. That’s why it is critical for us to know His Word. If we don’t understand the full counsel of what Scripture teaches, Satan is able to slip subtle twists of truth into our minds and deceive us just as he did Adam & Eve in the Garden. Satan is in the game of mimicry and deception. He shoots those kinds of thoughts into our minds, and when we aren’t in tune with God’s voice we may obey this counterfeit voice thinking it is from God. Always compare the thoughts and promptings of your mind and heart with God’s written Word. If you’re a young Christian and don’t feel you have the Biblical wisdom to discern this yet, go to an older, wiser Godly woman or a pastor for prayer and help. The next tool will help with this too.

 

2. Sifting Our Thoughts

We must learn to sift our thoughts through the lens of Philippians 4:8, and then our mind can be cleared of the clutter and can readily discern God’s voice. Here is the process to take every thought captive. For any thought you have, ask your self the questions below. If at any point your answer is “No,” then that thought is not of God.

Philippians 4:8 Thought Tester:

Is this thought True?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Noble?                      Yes/No

Is this thought Right?                       Yes/No

Is this thought Pure?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Lovely?                    Yes/No

Is this thought Admirable?            Yes/No

Is this thought Excellent?               Yes/No

Is this thought Praiseworthy?       Yes/No

If your answer to any of these is “No,” then choose to quit thinking that thought and replace it with a scripture verse to think about. If we just ask the first question, a great deal of what we consider will be raked aside.

 

3. Know What Scripture Says about God and Satan

Another way I make sure I am hearing from God is to be aware of what scripture teaches us about God and Satan. This simple chart compares the voice of God with the Enemy’s voice.

                The Voice of God and the Voice of the Enemy  

  1. Satan condemns, God convicts our hearts.
  2. Satan’s goal is to destroy, God’s goal is to correct and encourage.
  3. Satan’s is a harsh, loud, merciless voice, God’s is a gentle, merciful voice.
  4. Satan is negative and discouraging, God speaks honestly of your failures, yet is hopeful.
  5. Satan seeks to separate you from Christ, God seeks to restore your relationship with Christ and others.
  6. Satan is punitive, he offers no grace, God offers grace with appropriate consequences.
  7. Satan is a roaring lion, God is a still small voice.
  8. Satan has come to kill, steal, & destroy, while God gives life to the full; abundant life.

 

4. Recognize that God Asks Us Questions in Order to Teach Us

In the Garden of Eden, God called to the man and woman “Where are you?” Was it because God didn’t know? Had they hidden so well that the omniscient Creator of the Universe couldn’t find them in a garden? Um, no. He was educating them. Today we call it the Socratic method (an educational method based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions), but personally, I like to refer to it as God’s method. He knew where Adam and Eve were, but He asked them a question to get them to think – where were they really? Outside God’s plan, disobeying His instructions, hiding from Him. They needed to take stock of themselves to learn.

God asked many people questions throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19:9-13 God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as he hid in a cave in fear. Then a wind and an earthquake and a fire came by before God spoke in a gentle whisper and asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Side note: God also repeats Himself to us.) In Job 38 God asked Job questions which stopped him in His tracks. God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Jesus asked people He met questions, the most common one being, “What do you want me to do for you?” God asks us questions today also. He asks us questions to get us to think and learn His ways. So listen. When you find yourself asking yourself, “What are you doing girl?” just maybe God put that question in your mind to get you to think and learn. So stop, go to His Word, and contemplate your actions.

Learning to hear and discern God’s voice is a process. We must learn to recognize the voice of our shepherd. As we faithfully stay in His Word and apply His principals in living out our lives, we will find His voice becomes more distinct through the years. In the meantime, listen carefully! He is speaking! My prayer for you is that you would begin to hear Him and follow Him obediently just as it’s recorded in Isaiah 30:21-22 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”

(Join our fall Women’s Bible study at Gardendale First Baptist Church: Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.)

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“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate very wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:103 – 105 May His Words illumine your path today as you seek Him faithfully! 

 

The Unappreciated Gift

by returning guest author Brea Burelle

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want?

You know, the ones you want to return or just stick in your closet and never use.

I have. My unappreciated gift was a car. I received it in 1985 when I was 17 years old. It was a 1967 Brown Mustard Plymouth Duster. That’s right, my grandparents gave me an 18-year-old car when I was 17 years old. They had planned this big surprise. They had stored the car in their basement, backing it in so when they opened the door I could see the car with the custom-made license plate with my name on the front. They were so excited to provide this gift to me and thought they had done so well in picking it out. Well I was so unimpressed that I looked right pass the car trying to figure out what the big deal was about. Plymouth Duster Car2.jpegThe car looked nothing like anything I would want. It was not the right style or color and definitely not like what my friends were driving. How could I be seen driving this Mustard Yellow car? Who were the kidding? I am positive that I must have hurt their feelings, but at 17 years old I could not pull it together to fake my appreciation. It was not until I had to start paying a car payment on a car I bought years later that I fully appreciated the gift of being handed a car free and clear, with no strings attached. In my mind all I could think about was that I wanted what everyone else had. All these years later I look back on this event in my life and wonder how I could have been so unappreciative of the gift I was given.

Just like this car how many gifts have I been given by God that I take for granted and don’t full appreciate the sacrifice made on my behalf. Gifts like: His Love, the Gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the gift of My Salvation. God has also provided me with Spiritual pexels-photo-264793gifts to be used for his kingdom along with more gifts than I can name. He says in His Word in Matthew 7:11 (NET) “If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God’s is the giver of good gifts.

Then the other day as I was preparing to lead a prayer group and was looking for Scriptures to give other woman dealing with Singleness. I was listening to a sermon on Singleness and the text was 1 Corinthians 7:7 (NLT) “I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness.”

Wait did you catch that? Wow! God’s Words says singleness is a gift from God. The word gift in Greek is charisma which means “a gift of God’s grace” (charis). So Singleness is not just any gift, but a gift of God’s grace.  Now what am I going to do with this new piece of information. Who wants to hear that Singleness is a gift? Most of us singles ladies consider singleness as a holding pattern until we get married. Our Singleness is supposed to be just for a Season. Why would God consider singleness a gift? No woman I know wants to open a gift that contains the gift of singleness. We surely don’t get excited about being single. We get excited about getting married. Our society puts our focus on marriage. We expect to receive flowers and gifts from the guy we are dating. The excitement of receiving a ring. Then comes the parties, tea and wedding gifts, and the wedding itself. Single people don’t get these things. So, this got me thinking. What is so special about Singleness that God would consider it a gift?

I am sure there are many answers, but this is the one that pricked my heart. As a single woman, I can have a life more devoted to Him. God can have my undivided attention if I am willing to give it to Him. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NLT) Paul say:

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

God’s Word says I am to use my gift of Singleness, “to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”  Paul tells us that a married woman has earthly responsibilities and are pulled in many different directions. They have to worry about their husbands and children and how any other ministry they take on will affect them.   As a single, I don’t have to worry about family members being neglected. I don’t have to work my schedule around others. When God calls me to a ministry I can devote my time to it. I can travel and do mission work when needed and called. I can be involved in several different ministries and not worry about family members feeling left out and abandoned. I don’t have to work my quiet time around distractions in my home. pexels-photo-478541I can spend extra time with the Lord and not have to worry about the clock or what is not getting done. If I am willing to give it, the Lord can have all my devotion as I serve him with all my ability.

Singleness may not be the gift I would choose for myself or that any woman would willingly choose, but we do not get to choose our gifts, remember? God does. I have to remember that God is a good Father who loves me and wants the best for me. God does not give bad gifts. But the choice is mine of how I look at my gift of singleness: I can choose to be bitter and unappreciative of God’s gift or I can choose to be excited and joyful about this gift. It is all up to me. If I choose the former, I miss out on all the wonderful things God has planned for my life during this Season or Seasons. If I choose the latter I get more than the gift of Singleness, I get the Gift of God Himself. If I am willing to stay devoted to him and follow his path, God’s Word promises in Psalm 16:11 “You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” As I continue to serve the Lord and He continues to open doors may I experience absolute joy and sheer delight in being able to be in his presence and know that by walking this path of Singleness, I am walking the path he designed just for me. May I fully appreciate and be excited about this gift that has been given to me.

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When the Tables Are Turned

A young friend in her late twenties came to me recently with an unusual concern.

She is the only one in her small group who has chosen not to drink alcohol because of her Christian faith. It’s not that she’s never tasted alcohol. Nor is she rigid, prudish, or legalistic. It is a conscious choice she has made.

I don’t know all her reasons. Our conversation was more on the reactions she had received to her choice than on the choice itself. She had made that decision when she realized that alcoholic beverages offered no benefit to her and didn’t draw her closer to God, and that there are always risks associated with drinking alcohol. So she made the intentional decision not to use alcohol. In my mind I immediately thought of the verse in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable,” and I understood her decision.

But that was not the case with others she had encountered. At a small group meeting the prior week, she had found herself conspicuously being the only one not consuming alcohol. She did not feel out-of-place in her spirit and was enjoying her fellowship time. She also had the strength of character to not feel compelled to drink just because the rest were. So where was the issue? One of the young men approached her offering a drink. She declined, and he reacted!

He was offended that she wasn’t drinking. He chastised her for it and questioned her on it. She explained that she wasn’t judging him; she had just chosen not to consume any alcohol. A discussion ensued and suddenly she was the one feeling judged for her abstinence. We are told in Romans 14:16 to “not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.” So she had to stand up for her convictions to another member of the body of Christ, one who should have been encouraging her and building her up instead of undermining her convictions.

Has our society so infiltrated the church that this is what we’ve come to?

Has it become a world where it is “politically correct” in the body of Christ to be so open-minded about alcohol that we condemn those who choose to abstain?

In another situation, a family friend in her early 30s recovering from alcoholism encountered her church friends, who knew her well, drinking at a class gathering they knew she would attend. She was surprised and let down. How could brothers and sisters in Christ choose to exercise their “freedom” at the jeopardy of her sobriety? Is Paul’s warning forgotten? “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14:21)

A skewed view of grace has been slowly rising to the surface over the years, one that says a follower of Christ can do anything they choose and it doesn’t matter because God will forgive. Has the church bought into this so much so that a person who walks in purity and holiness is seen as an affront to this false interpretation of grace? In Romans 6:15, the apostle Paul admonishes us, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Are we so caught up in our freedom, that we are careless with our responsibility toward other believers?

Just as Christ has given us grace, we are called on to offer grace to those around us. In our Christian walk, let us extend compassionate love and care by respecting others weaknesses and not causing them to stumble by our actions. Let us also refrain from judging another for choices they make, that while they don’t go against scriptures we would perhaps consider a sin for us.

And on the other side of that coin, let us all also refrain from undermining a brother or sister in Christ who has chosen a higher standard than we are living. That is often difficult, especially when we feel conviction or condemnation simply by being in their presence. Instead of questioning the high road they have taken, when that conviction comes upon us let us pull aside, and seek God to see if He is using their example as a way of calling us to a deeper walk of holiness.

Back to Basics: Mentoring

The 5 Basic Ingredients & How to Carry out Your Mentoring.

 

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Hey Girls! Grab your cup of coffee and let’s chat. This should be informative!

So in our last Back to Basics we discussed tips for finding the person God wants you to disciple or the mentor you’ve been longing for. Hopefully you have taken action in that direction – and yes, diligent prayer over the issue is taking action. Think ahead for a moment. What happens next? Once you find the right person to mentor or be mentored by, what does the relationship look like and where do you go from here? Just as every person is different in personality and every marriage is different in the way it plays out, every mentor relationship will be unique and personal. But there are several ingredients that go together to make a healthy, fulfilling discipling relationship. Scripture memory, witnessing, and other aspects of spiritual growth and training can be added in, but these 5 ingredients are the core:

  1. pexels-photo-446169Prayer
  2. Studying God’s word together
  3. Worshiping together
  4. Sharing lives/building a relationship
  5. Accountability

And just how you do it also varies.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Decide whether to have one-on-one mentoring or a group you are mentoring. A group makes best use of your time.
  2. Set a regular place to meet: a home, church, coffee shop, conference room at work, etc.
  3. Find a regular time to meet whether weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or something else. Make it a calendar event.
  4. Set the length of the meetings – 1-2 hours works well. Respect each other’s time: be punctual starting and stopping.
  5. Determine the duration of the discipling relationship: a one year commitment is usually good. It can be extended if you both wish, but always schedule another ending date so the relationship doesn’t waste away in awkwardness.
  6. Agenda. Have a routine planned that will take place each time, but be flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Determine the focus of the mentoring based on the greatest need of the disciple: salvation, spiritual growth, training in how to study the Bible, moral accountability, developing spiritual disciplines, prayer for an ongoing and desperate situation, developing leadership in a more mature believer, etc.
  8. Choose a course of study such as read though the Bible together and discuss, do a topical study, use a Bible study booklet, or read and discuss a Christian book.

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Advice to Mentors.

  1. Always begin with prayer dedicating your time to the Lord to use as He sees fit. And always pray for wisdom for yourself as you lead them.
  2. Your goal is to love them with the love of Christ.
  3. Your purpose is to teach or train this disciple from what God has taught you.
  4. Your job is NOT to fix this person’s flaws nor be their Holy Spirit – He is the one who convicts them of sin and guilt.
  5. Offer your young protegé loving correction for the sin in their life. Hold them accountable. But love them even when they fail.
  6. Be absolutely genuine with the ones you disciple. Fakiness or a holier-than-thou attitude can’t be in you when you disciple someone. Drop your mask.
  7. Be faithful to your commitment. Don’t give up and bail on your disciple because you get busy, feel insecure, sin yourself and don’t feel worthy, or for any other reason.
  8. Mentor, you are not perfect, and you are not expected to be. Admit your failings to your mentee. Learning occurs even when our disciples watch us deal with our own sin, failings, and awkward moments. (If it is a grievous moral failure on your part you should strongly consider handing them off to another mentor while you get your life back on track spiritually. And DO confess and ask forgiveness from them when you have sinned.)
  9. Never lead your disciple into sin! (“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” Mathew 18:6-7; “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” Romans 14:21)
  10. Besides the scheduled meetings, make yourself available as much as possible to your mentee. (However, do protect your marriage and family commitments.) Be available for calls, texts, emails, visits (including emergency ones), and spontaneous casual friend time. Include them in holidays and special events, or invite them to be your roomie on the next ladies retreat.

Now that you are praying and seeking one to disciple and you know what the expectations are, it’s time to step beyond your awkward feelings and act obediently! You will struggle and grow and open up being painfully honest when you don’t really want to be. You will be forever changed. You will never regret investing in others for the kingdom of God. It’s time to step out of your boat and walk in faith with Jesus! You can do this!

So finish your coffee and leave us a response. Let’s get this conversation going!
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Back to Basics: Prayer

When It Seems God is Not Listening

Ever been praying and it felt like your prayer wasn’t getting any higher than the ceiling? Most of us have had that feeling at some point in our lives. We are not alone. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, we see the author experienced this same sort of feeling when he says, “Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer,” and then again, “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.” (3:8, 44)

If we had our “druthers” as my grandmama used to say, we’d rather this not happen. Our hearts long to go into every prayer encounter with God with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him and a confident expectation that He will act on our behalf in response to our prayers. But when we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith. We may begin to feel that our prayers are hitting that invisible ceiling and wonder what we’re doing wrong that they aren’t getting through. Or we may feel that God isn’t listening, He’s ignoring us. We sometimes feel he’s not acting fast enough, and wonder if that means He’s abandoned us. We could even buy into Satan’s tactics and feel that we’ve been so sinful, so bad, that He won’t ever listen to us. In fact, how many times have we asked someone else to pray for us, because (although we do not consciously admit this) we wonder if maybe God would answer them, when He seems to be stalling on us? Do you ever feel that need to bring in the big guns for the battle, so you call the holiest friend you have at the time and ask them to pray? There’s nothing wrong with doing that, in fact, there is power in multiplied prayer. But there is a problem at the core of our belief if we fall into these ways of thinking.

When we depend on how we feel, it can affect our faith.

So how do we counteract these feelings? How do we strengthen our faith? The same way we counter any of Satan’s other attacks, with God’s Word! According to scripture, are there requirements to prayer? Things that make us able to communicate with God better? Are there things that block or hinder our prayers? Just what is prayer anyway? And what about a “No” answer, is that an answer or is it God not responding to us? What about when we wait for years for an answer? Many of you aren’t bothered by these questions; your faith carries you through. But there are others out there, like me, who have fought this spiritual battle many times, as Satan has used our feelings as mortars to bombard our faith and to try to make us back down and doubt ourselves and our effectiveness in prayer.

Let’s take a look at some of those scriptures, so that we can effectively wield our sword of the Spirit and destroy those incoming missiles directed at our faith. (For a more comprehensive look at prayer than we have time, space here, or the theological genius to depart to you, check out the prayer resource links at the end of this article.)

girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942When should we pray?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How are we to pray?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

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‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come, your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’ Matthew 6:5-13

 

Our prayers will get results.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:19

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Colossians 1:9

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

Our prayers are fruitful even when we don’t know what to pray.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

Our prayers can be hindered by our behavior.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt. 6:14-15

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29

Our prayers are eternal, ever before the Lord.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

In Conclusion

Ladies, we can walk forth with an assurance in our heart that He hears every word we speak to Him. But we must believe His Word and NOT trust our feelings.

Most all of you are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11. You could probably quote it. But are you familiar with Jeremiah 29:12-14? It states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” You can call on Him. He will listen to you when you pray. He hears. He is not playing Hide and Seek with you – He wants to be found by you. Are you seeking Him with your whole heart Dear One? Then you will find Him and the answers to your prayers. You can have a confident expectation that He will act on your behalf in response to your prayers. Isaiah tells us, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4) Don’t become weary with waiting. Lack of an answer today does not mean “No,” and it does not mean God is not listening. Every word you pray rises to God’s ear. Be faithful in Waiting on Him – be it a week, a month, a year, 10 years, or a lifetime!

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RESOURCES:
Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent
Evelyn Christenson books including Lord Change Me
Sylvia Gunter’s Prayer Portions (and check out her blog)
Stormie O’Martian books
Kay Arthur’s Lord Teach Me to Pray
War Room movie and Bible study

Back to Basics: Discipling

Disciple.

Interesting word. We’ve heard it. We know of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But it’s a word many Christians don’t connect with in everyday life. We should.

So what is a disciple? Dictionary.com defines it as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower.” And the Greek word mathetes translated as “disciple” in the new testament means “a learner, pupil, disciple.” And although our very modern dictionary.com considers the verb forms “disciple, discipled, discipling” obsolete and archaic, the meaning is still in frequent use among Christians: to convert into a disciple” or “to teach; train.”

A buzz word of the last few years has been mentorMy Google definition for mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser” (noun) or “advise or train someone, especially a younger colleague” (verb). The term mentor seems to be the more secular term, but crosses over easily into use in the Christian realm.  For this article I will use the terms mentoring and discipling interchangeably.

As Christian women studying God’s Word and seeking to live out the commands of Christ, we quickly come upon the term “disciple” and have to decide whether to ignore it or to move forward in obedience. At the end of the gospel of Matthew we are confronted with these words from Jesus, “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (28:19-20) But what do we do with His words?

Common responses to that verse are either:
1) to assume it only means to lead people to Christ
2) to believe that verse is only for certain, mature Christians or pastors, but not for me
3) to realize what it means, but avoid living it out in my life

But when I come upon a Christian who actually grasps the full meaning and lives out this verse, my senses are immediately aware and conviction wells up within me – Am I living out the fullness of this scripture?

For true disciples of Jesus, these verses, referred to as the Great Commission, are not just a random suggestion; they are a mandate that sears their heart and spurs them to an action – making disciples themselves. Those who have sat at Jesus’ feet as learners (disciples) soon realize that they are called upon to not just sit there and soak it in, but to share it and spread what they’ve learned to others – to disciple, to teach and use Jesus’ words “make disciples.”

alexis-brown-82988But what goes into making a disciple? What is needed to find a Christian mentor or to be one? What is the cost of discipleship? How do we do it? What are the things we need to focus on? How do we carry it out in real life? What areas of growth do we focus on? These are the questions that leave us in a gray fog of doubt. Today we’ll approach a few of these questions, and then hit the rest in follow-up articles. So let’s break it down question by question.

1) How can I, a Christian woman, find a mentor or disciple?

  • Ask God to send you a disciple/mentor or to put on your heart who to ask. Prayer is so underestimated! If you take this need to God with a sincere heart He will reveal the person and make a way for you.
  • Ask someone to mentor you. Consider a godly woman you know from church and approach them at church or invite them out for coffee and ask them straight out to mentor/disciple you.
  • Ask a women’s ministry leader or Sunday School teacher for a recommendation. Tell them of your desire to be discipled and ask for help in finding one.
  • Plan a mentor/mentee luncheon where several women who are interested in discipling or being discipled can come together and allow match-ups to happen. Or invite several women to your home for a small group prayer or discussion time in hopes of developing relationships. Consider sending out invitations or putting a notice in your church bulletin inviting all those who are interested.

2) And am I ready to become a discipler/mentor – I’m not “perfect”?

  • Yes, you are ready! A simple word picture (gleaned from Anne Ortlund’s writing I believe) may help us grasp this. Imagine you are on a vertical ladder. At any time you will be on one of the rungs. The person above you will be reaching down to help you grow and learn and move to the next higher rung, while at the same time you will be reaching behind you to disciple someone coming along in the Christian walk who is “younger” spiritually than you are. So if you accepted Christ as your Savior and have been digging in His word and growing, guess what? You have the potential to take someone “younger” under your wing and share with them what you’ve learned!
  • If we had to “be perfect” to disciple others, no one ever would! Because guess what? Only Jesus was a perfect human. If you can say to another, “I can tell you what I’ve learned,” “Read your Bible each day,” “Pray each day,” “I’ll pray for you,” “Let’s dig through scripture and find out!” or “I’ll walk through this hard time with you,” then you have what it takes.

3) How do I become a discipler?

  • Pray and ask. If you see a younger woman (spiritually) who seems to desire to grow in the Lord, or who has verbally expressed a need or desire to be discipled, pray diligently about it and then approach her and offer to disciple her. Yes, this takes courage! Yes, it can be a bit awkward if she declines your offer! I’ve walked through this. She’s not rejecting you. That is simply not the right person or time God has for you. This is not about you, this is about obeying God’s command to make disciples.
  • Print up a handout and invite a group to your home. I’ve done this too.
    • Be specific in the flier. Tell the “5 W’s and an H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Type up a succinct yet appealing flier that lists day & time you plan to meet, duration (i.e. 1 1/2 hours, once a week for the next year), who you’re reaching out to (moms of littles, caregivers of aging parents, brand new Christians,…), what you plan to do (prayer, Bible study, worship, accountability, a mix of several of these,…), why you feel led to, and if you have a Bible study book or topic, list that too.
    • Print more than you think you’ll need. I probably handed out 20, when all I desired was a group of 3-5. I ended up with 4 wonderful young women and myself. It was an awesome year. (I still love you gals – Kelly, Christy, Jennie, and Michele!)
    • Give them out to everyone God allows you to. I gave some out sure that the person would come – they didn’t. And one I gave out very reluctantly, sure that she was too busy and too spiritually mature to even want to come to my house – and she came! Go figure. God will surprise you.
  • Evaluate relationships you already have that God is trying to turn into an “undeclared” discipling relationship. Sometimes God allows a relationship to develop of gentle teaching, guiding, and praying for a person who has been a friend for a long time. You are not there to “Lord it over” or “fix” your friend, but to humbly teach what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
  • Alert your small group leader, women’s ministry leader, or pastor at church that you would be willing to mentor new Christian women (women only mentor women) who come into the class or church and need/want to be discipled. Some churches even offer training programs on how to disciple/mentor.

Realize that you are most likely already discipling and being discipled. In our worship service, Bible study, small group, women’s meetings, etc., we are all unofficially teaching one another and learning from one another. We are growing from simply watching how our Sunday School teacher digs in the Word and how she prays and how she ministers to hurting people in our class. We are becoming more mature disciples when we take notes on the pastor’s sermon and go home and seek to apply it to our lives. We are casually discipling (teaching) other Christians when we share what we learned and how God grew us as we walked through a trying life experience. “You are My Disciples,” Jesus says, “if you love one another,” and “if you hold to my teaching.” (John 13:35, John 8:31) We ARE His disciples, let’s begin to obey scripture and make disciples!

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Back to Basics: Fasting

We recently had a  wonderful breakthrough in something we had been praying about for many years – in fact, for over 30 years in general, and very specifically for the last 7 years. Before Easter our pastor called our church to a time of corporate prayer and fasting. My husband and I both felt led to participate. We told each other, and as a couple supported each other with 3 specific goals in mind: 1) to support our pastor and church body, 2) to be obedient to Christ, and 3) to pray specifically for the salvation of someone very close to us whom we had been interceding for the last several years. At the end of our time of fasting, God acted on our behalf and this dear one accepted Christ! It was a glory day for us! A day that sprung out of faith in scriptural truth and obedience to that scripture. Specifically these scriptures:

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:17-18 ESV

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Isaiah 64:4 NIV

So what is fasting? According to dictionary.com fasting is “to abstain from all food” or “to eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance.” The fasting we are talking about here is not abstaining from food before a medical procedure or to lose weight. No, we’re going with the second definition here, abstaining “as a religious observance.”

Now why in the world would we do that?

Here are a few reasons.

  1. Jesus fasted. Matthew 4:2 says about Jesus, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” As Jesus began his 3 years of ministry on earth, He started it off with a time of intense fasting and focusing on His heavenly Father. If Jesus set this example for us, we should follow this example.
  1. Scripture assumes that a Christ-follower will fast. Notice in Matthew 6:17 above the underlined phrase. It says “when you fast.” Fasting is a given. There is no waffling in scripture about “if you think you want to do this… .” It is expected of those who walk with God.
  1. Scripture offers examples of people of God fasting and praying and receiving answers to their prayers.
    In the Old Testament when Ezra was on his mission to rebuild the temple, he made this statement, “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:22-23 NIV) And in the New Testament we see the sweet picture of Anna, waiting faithfully in the temple for years for THAT day when she finally got to see her Savior, the baby Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph brought to the temple to dedicate. “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

     Fasting and praying yields an answer from the Lord.

  1. Fasting brings instruction from the Lord. When we are wandering or wondering in our Christian walk, not knowing what to do or which choice to make, fasting turns God’s ear to us and opens the way for Him to bring instruction or direction. Acts 13:2 reveals a vivid example of this. It states, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ ” The Holy Spirit spoke to the body of Christ with specific instructions in response to their worship and fasting.

Ladies, we are a needy people. We need God to act on behalf of people we know –  of us even. And we desperately need direction, instruction, and wisdom from the Lord. So I encourage you, whether you are setting out to fast out of simple obedience to God or from a place of emotional desperation, needing the Father to intervene immediately for someone you love, it’s time to do it. We need to quit treating fasting as a habit of God’s elite followers and begin to see what it really is. Fasting is a spiritual discipline we are expected to do in our Christian walk just as much as we are expected to pray, read the scriptures, love our fellow-man and spread the gospel.

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Let’s allow the Lord to set a table before us, and let us feast on His Word as we make fasting a regular part of our Christian discipline.

Celebrate Women!

Celebrate the Women i Your Life Today!-2Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, sheer joy for some, loneliness for others, downright depressing for many.

pexels-photo-265996The new mom is ecstatic.

The woman with empty arms is dreading going to church.

The mom of the senior in high school is beginning to mourn (or celebrate) depending on her personality.

pexels-photo-144433The lady with kids far away is wondering if she’ll hear from them.

The single woman with no children feels awkward when the moms are acknowledged in the church service. This day is all about women – but where does she fit in?

The frail frame of the one in the nursing home bed longs for a family touch and conversation.

pexels-photo.jpegThe single mom may be struggling to make ends meet and to be both dad and mom, while feeling abandoned and longing for more.

The wife with a house full of kids is thrilled to have a day that Dad and the kids will cook and clean where she can put her feet up.

The pregnant woman is waiting with anticipation for the day she will have that babe in her arms, or else she’s living in fear of another miscarriage.

people-mother-family-fatherThe single CEO is proud of what she’s accomplished, but reminded again of what she doesn’t have.

The empty-nester is looking back wistfully on those precious memories.

The first time grandma’s are some of the most thrilled of all.

On this gorgeous Lord’s Day, may we women encourage one another wherever we are and whoever the women are around us. Hug someone today! Love unconditionally! See every woman you meet as one in need of your blessing today!

 

 

V.B.S. – Very Busy Season

2014 Randolph vacation Bible schoolIt’s that time of year again! You know what I mean. School is winding down, but the kid’s ministry at church is gearing up. The Big Week is just around the corner – that life-changing time for kids in our communities. Crafts are being dreamed up and inflatables reserved. What is it?

VBS!

You are most likely familiar with these letters. VBSVacation Bible School, that focused week of Bible teaching and fun for elementary kids that many churches offer each summer. Maybe yours is the first week of June, or maybe it’s mid-summer. Whichever it is, plans are being made, supplies are being gathered, decorations purchased, cookies and Kool-aid donated, and folks in your church have begun praying for the salvation of the children that will attend.

pexels-photo-83761But possibly when you see those letters, VBS, all you can see is a Very Busy Season. You think of all there is to do before the end of the school year, and you just want to rest when it’s over. Or you think of the challenge ahead this summer – keeping the kids entertained so you don’t hear continuous whining and fighting. Perhaps you’re in the heat of planning a family trip, getting ready for a wedding celebration, or transitioning a graduating senior to college. Even if it is something more constant like a demanding job, being a caregiver, or fighting a terminal disease, many of us can only see the busy-ness at this time of year.

1000w_q95Whatever season you are in at the moment, I challenge you to get a VBS mindset! VBS is the Vital Business of our Savior! This concentrated time of teaching, prayer, and fun, is crucial for the spiritual life of our children. Those who are in lonely and broken situations will be able to experience the love and acceptance of the Father through the hands of those VBS workers. The hurt and wounded will hear stories of God’s healing and redemption of any situation. Hope is given to the heart of many a child during VBS.

pexels-photo-261895But most importantly, this is an opportunity for each child to come into a saving relationship with his/her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How are we to know but what this may be their only exposure to the Gospel. It’s time for us to jump in on this Vital Business of the Savior: teaching, praying, giving, setting up, baby-sitting for the leaders as they prepare, donating supplies, making things, studying the lessons to teach, planning the fun!

How will you jump in and get involved?

VBS rings out with beautiful children’s Voices Blended in Singing.

It offers Vital Bible Study to teach these little ones the ways of Christ.

It plants Victory-Bearing Scripture in each child, a seed that will grow in their little hearts like a plant and bear fruit in a future season. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

And it gives a View of our Beautiful Savior that they will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

VBSVow to Be Serving these little ones in whatever way you can, no matter how busy the season is. And remember, no matter how small or how large a part we play, we are all needed.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

Back to Basics: Scripture Memory 2

“Mary had a little lamb… ”

“Thirty days hath September… ”

“O beautiful for spacious skies…”

I bet you could quote the rest of each of those! You probably learned them by first or second grade, but you’ll never forget them. I imagine that those, along with “Jesus Loves Me” and John 3:16, will be some of the things I will still be able to recall even if I live to be a hundred and have failing memory.

God created us with this amazing brain that has a huge memory. It still baffles scientists, and no computer created by man has been able to come close to doing all our brain does. Yet we tend to shortchange and doubt the capability of our brain’s memory. Especially when it comes to scripture memory.

We remember all the lyrics to songs on the radio. We can quote scenes from movies with our friends. We remember word for word the argument we had with our husband. (Yikes! Am I hitting too close to home?) But we cast off this great potential we possess when it comes to memorizing scripture with statements like, “I’m not good at memorizing things,” “I’ve tried. I never can remember scriptures,” or “I guess I’m getting too old to memorize scripture.”

Allow me to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

Those are just excuses! Granted some people seem to have a greater capacity for recall, and yes, remembering things does become more challenging as we age. But it’s not impossible. What we’re saying with our excuses is “It’s not a priority for me,” “I have other things I’d rather invest my time in,” or “I’m too spiritually lazy to try.”

Paul tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) If we truly believe this, it should drive us to fill our minds with God’s Word. We need teaching and training. And though we don’t like it, we also need rebuking and correcting. And I believe each of you would say you want to be thoroughly equipped for everything God has for you to do.

So let’s get serious. Are you willing to put the time in to make a change? Are you ready to take on the challenge of hiding God’s word in your heart?

If you haven’t already read it, go back and check out Joy’s article on scripture memory first. Then come back here and check out these tips that will help as you get into high gear memorizing scripture. I’ve used all of these myself, so I know they work. 2017-04-19 08.28.39

    1. Write your verse out by hand. (The more senses we include in memorizing the better it will stick. This also applies to #2 and #3.)
    2. Read the verse several times a day. Reading it out loud is even better! You’re tripling the reinforcement by letting your brain see, speak, and hear it at the same time.
    3. Listen to the verse repeated over and over. Simply record it on an app and let it play over and over as you’re working out, cleaning house, driving to work, whatever!
    4. Keep the verse in front of you in any way possible:
      • Write it on your calendar.
      • Use Post-it notes and put it in places you look frequently (computer screen, kitchen cabinet, dash of your car, etc.).
      • Use a spiral or ring index card holder to keep in your purse for review in any spare time. Put one verse per card. This way you can easily review old ones.
      • 2017-04-19 08.35.06Set it as your screen saver or lock screen on your computer or phone.
      • Write it on you bathroom mirror with permanent marker. You’ll see it and can work on it as you get ready and brush your teeth every day. (Don’t worry, it comes off easily with fingernail polish remover and a cotton ball.)
    5. Sing the verse. Just to reinforce what Joy already suggested… Set your verse to a tune you already know, or google scripture memory songs and find a composition that works for you.
    6. Make a game of it. (See examples below.)
      • Make a chart with the verse repeated over and over several times. In each repetition underline the next key word or phrase. Read each repetition aloud emphasizing the underlined word. This helps you see the deeper meaning in what you’re memorizing.
      • Type the same verse out several times on one page. Randomly leave out 3-5 words on each subsequent repetition. Print this out and keep it in a handy place. Work on reading the verse in its entirety first. After a couple of days, fold the lines of the entire verse over and try to say the verse while looking at the next entry with a few words missing. Can you recall the words? After a couple of days more, fold that over and go to the next repetition that has 6-10 words missing. Try saying the verse looking at this. Are you recalling everything? Keep doing this process until you reach the bottom of the page and do not need to look at it at all to recite the verse.
      • Print out a chapter of the Bible one verse at a time, leaving space beside it and draw pictures depicting each verse. (This is similar to the idea of a doodling or journaling Bible. The difference is the purpose; you draw pictures verse by verse to help you with recall, not for the artistic value.)
      • Check out these Word document samples: Scripture Memory helps

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