Have you ever thought God was saying something to you, but you weren't sure it was really His voice you were hearing? Have you found yourself thinking, How do I know it was really God I heard and not my own imagination—or worse, the enemy?
God's solution is simple: "'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him'" (James 1:5, NIV). When we need to know if we are hearing God's voice, all we have to do is ask Him!
We can go to God, tell Him what we think we heard Him say, and then ask Him to confirm it or correct our hearing on the matter. God wants to give us an understanding of what He says to us because He wants to communicate with us. He is eager to teach us to correctly hear His voice.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. —Psalm 91:1
An elderly man stood up in a testimony service, waved his handkerchief, and said, "I've been serving the Lord for fifty years, and I want to testify that in that fifty years I have never been down-.-.-.-not one day-.-.-.-not one time."
There was also a young man in that service who had recently given his life to Jesus. He stopped the old man as he was leaving and said, "I don't understand. I gave my life to Jesus, and it seems like all hell broke loose. How can you say you have never been down?"
The old gentleman replied with words of wisdom, "Son, I've never been down, because I have always either been up or getting up."
If you are fighting a little adversity, dance longer, shout louder, and pray harder. Tell the devil you are not giving up; you are enduring to the end. Born-again, Spirit-filled believers may wobble, but they don't fall down. Claim His promise today: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).
Lord, whenever I stumble, lift me up by Your hand. Uphold me in Your arms. Cover me with Your wings. Shelter me in the Rock. Amen.
When we spent three weeks in India in 1980, we agreed with our pastor and his wife that we would not visit any of the Hindu temples. We did not want to expose ourselves to the spirits that dwelled in these temples. We knew that even though man had made the idols in these temples, demonic spirits were all around them.
While we were in Madras, a man came up to us and asked us if we wanted to see a museum that had bronzes that dated back to the eleventh century. We agreed to follow him, and later wished we had not. As we entered the museum we felt the heaviness of demonic spirits and soon realized that all the bronzes were idols the Hindus worshipped. Some were so grotesque in appearance we wondered how anyone could worship such an image. Our pastor quickly made a beeline for the door and said, "We've seen your gods, but personally I prefer Jehovah God."
Psalm 115 tells us all about idols. Idols have mouths, but they cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; ears, but they cannot hear; noses, but they cannot smell; hands, but they cannot handle; feet, but they cannot walk. This psalm goes on to say, "Those that make them are like to them; so is everyone who trusts in them" (v. 8).
Confessing your sins openly and honestly is a key to spiritual victory. Don't hide in the darkness!
Secret burdens can be very difficult to bear. I know. For nearly 35 years I carried a secret--a life hidden away in my inner world that no one knew anything about. Now all of that was changing as I sat in my family room with 15 other people. Gathered around me were my wife, her parents and sister, three of my four teenage children, and several college students who were closely connected to us because of my job at Asbury College in Kentucky.
I had called this family meeting with the express purpose of confessing my sins to those I had sinned against, and seeking their forgiveness. On the outside my life looked pretty good. A successful ministry, all-American family, beautiful wife and kids. But on the inside my life was in shambles.
At home I was a perfectionist husband and demanding father, and my family was pulling away from me because of my negativity and control. An undercurrent of anger flowed just beneath the surface of many of my interactions with Marilyn and our children. This turmoil was fueled by my own irritation at myself for the recurring failures in my life and my inability to rise above habitual sin.
Now all this was changing right before my eyes.
Five days before, I had lain on the floor in the grand ballroom of the Regal Riverfront Hotel in St. Louis, overwhelmed by the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. I had been attending a conference at which, in response to a word of knowledge by a member of the conference staff, I had experienced a "power encounter" with the God of the universe. He reached deep into the recesses of my inner world and broke the stranglehold that pornography and masturbation had on my life.
Not only was I delivered of this secret sin, but a few minutes later I also was given the grace to bring it into the light. I confessed it to my friend Jeff James, who was attending the conference, and then I called Marilyn, confessing and repenting to her for the duplicity in my life.
Now, back at home, I sat nervously amid my family and friends. I would be telling them the truth--the rough, unvarnished, unmitigated truth about my secret world of pornography use--and seeking their forgiveness for how I had sinned against them.
Shortly after I began my confession God filled the room with His presence, visiting us in power. The family meeting that began at 7 p.m. didn't end until almost 4 o'clock the next morning.
We experienced healing, deliverance and restoration of broken family relationships. Any doubts I had about God's work among us were dispelled when my mother-in-law fell under the power of the Holy Spirit after I prayed for her.
From the beginning, sin has always involved hiding. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. David tried to hide his sin with Bathsheba--going as far as to arrange the murder of her husband.
Adam and Eve used fig leaves to try to conceal their failure, but most of us hide behind lies. To cover our sin and its consequences, we stitch together flimsy excuses and decorate them with ornate stories in an effort to keep others from discovering who we really are or how badly we have failed them. The closer someone comes to discovering the truth about us, the more creative our lies must become to keep the secret hidden.
The logical result of hiding is that lying becomes a way of life. As believers, this means our everyday lives might be filled with religious activity, but we end up proclaiming one thing and living another. We live in an artificial world constructed of a combination of blatant lies, implied lies and half-truths.
But a lie is a lie, even when we're deceiving ourselves with lines such as: "That's not so bad," "I'm only hurting myself," "No one knows."
We also are likely to embrace the lie that we are stuck and there is no way out of our problems. When this happens we are siding with the accuser of the brethren, the "father of lies" (see John 8:44). Satan will enlist us to testify against the truth of God's grace, which says He can liberate us, and stand with self-accusation, which says He cannot.
When the devil lies, he speaks his native language. And as the father of all lies he has sired lying "twins" to help him hold people in bondage.
Shame and Pride are the twins the devil uses as spiritual extortionists. They continually extract hush money--making us regularly pay from our already bankrupt lives. Emotional and spiritual poverty, along with broken relationships, are the high costs of listening to Shame and Pride when they tell us to keep our sins hidden.
Like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of author Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they sing the same song with the same results. They conspire to keep us hiding and bound.
Shame says: "You better not let anyone know. What will they think?"
Pride echoes: "You better not let anyone know. What will they think?"
So we continue trying, under a shroud of silence, to work out the problem by ourselves, with no allies, assistance or accountability.
One of the lies I believed for so long was that no one could truly understand my struggle. I was a spiritual leader in my circles, and if I couldn't fix the problem, who could?
Hounded day and night by my failures, I concluded my situation was so unique and my failures and sins so grievous that no one could even identify with me, let alone help. I knew what the Bible said--that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Rom. 3:23)--but I believed no one could understand what I was wrestling with.
The writer of Hebrews tells an entirely different story from what I believed: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:13-16, NIV).
Before God, there are no secrets and no places to hide. But does He understand our struggles with sin?
According to verse 15, He was tempted in every way I was (yet didn't sin). Therefore I can go before Him with confidence that I will find mercy in my time of need--and ample supplies of grace.
During the years I struggled, I held to the promise of forgiveness in 1 John 1:8-9: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (NKJV).
I describe these verses as the "vertical pathway to forgiveness." I had walked this path so frequently, though, that it had been worn almost to a rut. I longed for the day I could be truly free and not have to drag myself wearily back to the mercy seat because of the same old sins.
In my efforts to confess my sin to God, I had shed tears at altar rails on three continents. I had made bargains with Him I couldn't keep. I had poured out my heart to Him, pleading for deliverance. But I had always returned to the same old sins.
Before my experience in St.Louis, I had tried to deal with my sin issues privately with God. Fear, shame and pride kept me from bringing my struggles into the light and telling anyone else. I not only had lied to my family, but also had lived in self-deception (see 1 John 1:8).
But after I shared with Jeff what God had done for me and then called Marilyn, the miracle of James 5:16 began to work in me. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (NIV).
This dimension of forgiveness became a key component in my healing and deliverance. After I had brought my confession into the light, the enemy no longer could use the fear of someone finding out to keep me bound.
Confessing to others can be called the "horizontal pathway to forgiveness." Vertical confession (to God) and horizontal confession (to one another) form the shape of a cross--and when combined, the completed work of the cross becomes real in our own experience.
In my situation, the confession of sin unlocked the closed hearts of my family. They no longer saw me as the Mr. Perfect I pretended to be but as a fellow struggler in need of the grace of God. And I have watched as hundreds of times my story has opened the doors for others to say, "It's my story, too."
Hiding No More
The Christian landscape is littered with the ruined lives of leaders and followers who fell into sin and became victims of the fallout when their private sins were made public against their will. I wonder how many of these fallen might have finished well if they had chosen to tell others of their struggles.
One time during an interview I was asked, "Tell me, Harvey, are Christians hypocrites?" I replied that I believed the accusation was a fair one.
The word "hypocrite" was used in ancient Greek drama to describe an actor. Many Christians act as if their lives are healed, as if they have it perfectly together, when they actually are broken, wounded, sin-saturated pretenders afraid to risk being known for who they are.
I went on to answer the interviewer that the church should be a hospital, a place where broken and wounded people come to be healed and patched up by God. Then I told my own story.
God is never shocked by anything we do. All our days are already written in His book. In spite of all He knows about us, He still chooses to love us and invite us into a relationship with Himself.
If we too fostered an atmosphere of love, acceptance, healing grace and open confession, then the church would operate more like an emergency room for the fallen than a museum of the successful. We would never be surprised to find sick and suffering people in a hospital, would we? Neither should we be surprised to find sinners (that's us, friends) in God's house seeking a soul cure.
Charles Wesley's hymn "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" includes the verse: "He breaks the power of canceled sin / He sets the prisoner free." Our sins were dealt with for eternity on Calvary. There is nothing more we can do to add to the efficacy of Christ's blood.
A strong dynamic is set in motion when we confess our sins to one another. Sin's power breaks because shame, fear and pride no longer can hold us hostage.
When we humble ourselves before our brother or sister, we can receive prayer and comfort--and hear someone "with skin on" remind us: "You are forgiven in Jesus' name."
I have held numerous sufferers who have sobbed their way through confessions of sin and brokenness. And I have been able to look them in the eye and say with authority, "Your sins are forgiven, just as mine have been forgiven."
Harvey Brown Jr. is president of Impact Ministries in Wilmore, Ky. He is featured on the DVD, Living in the Freedom Christ Gives: Finding Healing and Wholeness in a Sexually Broken World. It is available at www.impactministries.org.
In the early days of my developing a relationship with the Lord in worship, I frequently saw His feet as I bowed before Him. That seemed to be the extent of my faith in worship; but, as my faith increased, He didn't leave me there at His feet. Little by little the relationship grew until I stood in His presence and saw Him face to face.
We begin by knowing Him as King. That in itself is glorious. But He wants to take us further. He wants us to know Him, not only as King, but also as heavenly Bridegroom. He wants us to know Him as the Beloved, the Lover of our souls and He whom our souls love.
The tongue is the red carpet we throw out to Satan to walk right into our lives with his special delivery of troubles.
Psalm 50:1-23 There is one promise of God that will be fulfilled in every life. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Because we live in a fallen world, there will always be trouble.
This psalm reveals two important responses we should have when trouble comes our way. Verse 15 exhorts us to call upon the Lord in our day of trouble. Verse 23 exhorts us to praise the Lord and to order our conversation aright.
If we will call upon the Lord in the day of trouble, the promise is He will deliver us. If we will praise the Lord and order our conversation aright in the day of trouble, He will show us His salvation.
The moment we enter troublesome times, we should first pray—and then we should be careful about what we say. God will be glorified when we do these two things. If we fail to call upon God in our troubled times, the hope of being delivered through or out of the trouble will be slim.
Preventative medicine is better than a cure. A lot of the trouble we find ourselves in is self-inflicted. We have submitted to fleshly lusts instead of following the Spirit. The preventative medicine to keep us out of trouble is God’s Word and prayer. We can prevent the majority of troubles in our lives if we are not anxious about anything, but instead pray about everything. If we stay in God’s Word daily, chances are we will be able to discern the origin of the thoughts we have throughout the day. Our thoughts usually come from three sources: God, our own flesh or the devil. We will only be able to recognize the counterfeit if we know the Truth, and we find that in God’s Word. We only can take those thoughts captive to Jesus if we recognize who gave us those thoughts.
Another preventative medicine is to be careful about what we speak. There is a proverb that says, “He that keepeth his lips is wise; he keeps his soul from troubles.” We get into trouble many times just because we have not been wise in our speech.
David, when he wrote this psalm, knew that the only way God could be glorified in our lives was if we learned to order our conversations aright. The tongue is the red carpet we throw out to Satan to walk right into our lives with his special delivery of troubles.
Even if we guard our tongues, pray about everything and stay in God’s Word, some troubles will come our way simply because we live in a corrupt world. Tribulation is in the world and always will be until the Lord sets up His kingdom on earth. The moment trouble comes knocking on your door, you need to begin to praise the Lord because you know He is in control. His plan is to work good out of what Satan means for evil.
The moment you begin to praise the Lord, a glory shield is placed around you because you have ordered your conversation aright. You will not be overwhelmed by whatever trial is facing you. You will be at peace and can even experience fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord.
God never intended for us to minister in our own strength. We must allow the Holy Spirit to empower us so we can walk in a supernatural dimension.
Church life was boring when I was growing up. We sang the first, second and fourth verses of the songs from the hymnal. The pastor preached a three-point sermon and dismissed us by noon sharp. Although there were people who responded to altar calls and received Jesus as Savior, nothing else exciting seemed to happen.
When I was 30, our youngest son, Mark, was miraculously healed of a condition that the doctors said would become cancerous by the time he reached adulthood. For the first time in my life I realized that the Lord still heals.
Unleash faith's prevailing power and watch obstacles and hindrances fall away.
As I was walking to my car from the grocery store recently, I was swept along by several strong gusts of wind. They caused traffic lights to sway, flags to ripple and pop, and drivers to take extra caution. Leaves, paper and other loose items in the wind's path were helplessly tossed about.
Suddenly I realized how very much like faith that wind was. Driven by the potency of God's Word, the assurance of Christ's love and the power of the Holy Spirit, faith operates in much the same way. It sweeps past obstacles and hindrances, clearing debris such as fear, doubt and unbelief out of the way and taking authority over the circumstances and conditions that threaten to impede our promises.
Many Christians follow all the "right" rules and carefully live "the Christian life," but inside they are wondering: Is this it? Is this all there is? I experienced that same emptiness in 1976 when as a young Christian I realized that doing the right things brought temporary happiness but not deep, satisfying joy.
In those early days of my walk with God, I could only see Him from a distance. Even though I was doing what I thought He required of me, I still felt that I needed change in my life. I was searching, but I didn't know what I was searching for.
This is a message from Matt Sorger, founder of Matt Sorger Ministries, who received prophetic insight for the body of Christ at a service in Chesapeake, Va. We are presenting an abbreviated version of the second part of his message, which emphasizes God’s desire for a pure bride who has been refined and who has learned the secret of complete satisfaction and joy.
God is not looking … for gifted individuals. God is looking for pure, clean vessels that have been refined in the fire of God. … [He is] getting the bride ready. He’s getting the bride ready for His coming. He’s calling. He’s calling the bride. “Get your garments ready. Get your wedding dress ready.” … He’s coming back for a pure, spotless, clean bride.
The word Pentecost has special meaning for more than 500 million Christian believers worldwide. They not only joyfully tell the story of Acts 2 (called by some "the most-read chapter in the Bible"); they also experience the Holy Spirit just as the early disciples did.
Fifty days after Jesus' crucifixion, on the annual Jewish festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem, God launched the church of Jesus Christ with a mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Here's how the Bible describes the event:
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4).
We must understand some basic things concerning the nature of the prophetic. Few, in fact very few, prophetic words are ever sovereign declarations that will come to pass without any conditions being met. Most prophetic words are invitations into a process of becoming. Often, the Lord is more interested in our becoming a word and not just getting, releasing or receiving a word.
The prophetic at its best is partial, progressive and conditional. That is not the fault of the prophetic person—it is the way it works biblically, historically and how it works today.
The Bible is filled with accounts of God's supernatural protection. Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace? What about Daniel and the lion's den? God has no problem bringing you out of threatening circumstances. Time and again He has proven He is well able to get the job done.
But God's protection is not automatic. There are choices you have to make for God to be your refuge. The psalmist says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust'” (Ps. 91:1-2, NKJV).
Every day from every direction the winds keep blowing. The continuing war with Iraq coupled with the ongoing global war on terror threaten to disrupt the peace and calm so many of us have taken for granted. Since 9/11, it has been easy to see that we in America were not prepared for this period of instability.
Often there is a parallel between the natural and supernatural realms. In the supernatural realm today, the winds of war are blowing as well. The church in America needs to be prepared for the spiritual challenges that lie on our very doorsteps. But are we?
In Judges 3 we read how a generation of Israel was somewhat oblivious to what war was really about. The Lord remedied this situation by allowing some enemy nations to exist so that "the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war" (see v. 2, NKJV).
For Christians, learning to do "war" means gaining measurable victories over the kingdom of darkness. Think about it this way: When a thief gets saved, stealing diminishes; when a wife-beater gets saved, a family might be restored; when a drug dealer gets saved, drug dealing decreases in one neighborhood. As James 5:20 says, "He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins."
There are five primary ways for us to effectively fight the good fight of faith--the kind that changes lives for Jesus.
The will to work, fight and win. Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it." The Bible says that the Jews in Nehemiah's day "had a mind to work" when it came time to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the face of their enemies (see Neh. 4:6).
Knowing and having faith in Jesus' victory at Calvary and how it has changed countless situations, lives and families through the ages ought to provide plenty of motivation for pressing through to victory.
Righteous living. A clear heart and life allow us to stand in the face of adversity as well as to draw inner strength and stamina for undertaking spiritual action. Without righteousness, the devil can rightfully accuse us of attitudes and actions we have not repented of.
If our lives are not right with God we can pray the prayers, sing the songs and yell the formulated declarations but our voice is a shout with no clout. The condition of our heart matters: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
Prayer. So much can be said about praying, but I like what James wrote best: "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). The "much" it avails includes the power of God being loosed in us and through us as we fight for the lives of our family, friends, cities and nations. I have watched it thwart the works of darkness and help open the doors to evangelistic ministry.
The Word of God. God's Word ought to be stored up in our lives so that when we need it, we don't have to run to a bookshelf to find it. The Word is to be hidden in our hearts where it is available to be brought to our minds by the Holy Spirit on a moment's notice. In this way, Scripture becomes "the sword of the Spirit"--ready to be used when we face a situation in our own life or in another's. Is your ammo ready?
Winning people to Christ. This could be the most underused or even forgotten weapon of spiritual warfare, especially when influencing families, neighborhoods--even cities. There is no spiritual weapon that can replace evangelism. There is no spiritual substitute for evangelism, for it is the primary way of actually reaching out and touching another person with the life, love and gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the easiest ways to measure the victories of our war is with this question: Are lives being changed and people getting saved? People coming to Christ and lives being transformed are a sure way to measure if our ministries or churches are effectively waging war in our communities.
Let's not be like the Israelites in Judges who knew nothing of war. Every day gives us great opportunities to make a difference. Let's move to the front lines.