Discerning His Voice

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Silence. It was the expected answer to my prayers as a child. It didn’t seem to matter how afraid I was, or how upset…the answer was always __blank__. And yet I still prayed, or more accurately, begged and pleaded, for God to hear me, even if He didn’t want to answer audibly.

I believed He was up in the sky, and I was on earth, an ant compared to His immense being. Despite this disconnect, I was taught in church about Jesus, God’s sacrifice, and His love.

God wanted to be my friend.

That one truth amazed me and confused me. If that is true why don’t I feel you? Why don’t I hear from you? Some prayers would be answered, as if in reply…if?

It took me many years to realize that God speaks differently than what we expect. He isn’t human after all, and we must seek Him in order to find Him. In fact, if God has to speak audibly in order for us to listen that’s not a good thing. It means we weren’t listening to His wavelengths at all, as if we decide how God can or should communicate with us.

God speaks in many ways, and He will often change how He speaks to see if you are following along and still seeking. Relationships take work, and the core of any relationship is communication. You can’t have one without it.

Why else would God ever say, “depart from me I never knew you.”

Does He know you? Do you know Him?

Lately, I haven’t heard His voice. And it isn’t because He isn’t speaking, He is always speaking, we just aren’t always listening.

Typing that I realized sounds rude. What if your friend lived with you and one day you just stopped acknowledging him or her, stopped talking to them or listening to what they had to say. We do that to the God of the universe, our best friend!

I honestly believe that talking to Him should be like talking to a best friend. In which you speak, He listens, He speaks, you listen. Back and forth banter that is relaxed and fun, deep and challenging, and even comforting or fatherly.

My God speaks, and He speaks to me. Never forget that and never stop declaring that truth. And remember…

…He is that still small voice.

If you blindfolded yourself and walked through a room full of voices, you could easily pinpoint your best friends voice. That is called discernment.

God generally speaks to you from within. He is that still small voice in your mind, while the Holy Spirit is the fire, passion, and conviction you feel. He is the heart, will, and mind of God inside you!

Afraid that still small voice is just you or something else entirely? Discernment. You will only be able to tell yourself that which you already know. If it’s something evil and condemning, something that stirs up fear or confusion-that is the devil or the flesh. If it is life-giving, convicting, peaceful and true (test it against the Word), then it is God. 

Start by opening the Bible, that is God’s voice, His heart, and His truth. Read it daily and test everything, every thought against His Word.

From there, get a journal. Pick a verse and tell God you are listening. Find a quiet place and just listen, give Him your full attention. Sometimes you will need to just start writing. Write the first response that comes to your mind.

Sound crazy? Read what was written. Is that really your words?

I have a journal filled with Gods Words over me. His responses to the things in my life brought clarity and peace, wisdom and direction. I couldn’t make this stuff up, any more than I could make up a prophetic dream or a miraculous sign.

Still think this is absurd? Then let me ask you this…when will this Christian walk become real? What evidence are you holding out for? God isn’t going to stand right in front of you in the flesh, cause a hand to appear and write the words upon your bathroom mirror or leave sticky notes on your fridge.

Faith. It will always be a necessity in this life. If you won’t believe until God is face to face with you then you don’t have Faith. Jesus said it is better to be the one who believes without seeing (John 20:29). We need to believe even when we do not see!

Ultimately, the closer you draw to God, the more you will see. The miraculous will find you, and God will use you. He will reveal profound things to you, prophecies will come to pass and you will be aware of it. Doors will be opened and blessings will rain down.

Why? because He wants to know you! He always has, but our free-will limits Him. You see, He chose to co-labor with us, to work through us. God defeated satan, now it’s our turn to defeat him, to save the lost and take back this world for God’s kingdom.

Jesus is coming back, and we can hasten His coming! What we do here matters, and who we do it with matters most of all. Your Christian walk, your very life, depends on your relationship with God. Without Him….you can’t be a vessel, a friend, a world changer.

Seek Him first, before you seek anything else. Take the time to know your God, and to know His heart.

He’s the friend that will never leave you, never betray you, never ignore you.

He’s the friend that will always understand you, always help you, and always love you.

 

Repeat That?

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Good Will Hunting scene:

(Will talking to Sean about his abusive father)

Will[looking at his file] So what does it say? Will has an attachment disorder? Fear of abandonment? Is that why I broke up with Skylar?

Sean: Didn’t know you had. Wanna talk about it?

[Will shakes his head, stares off]

Sean: Will, you see this, all this crap?[Holds up the file, and drops it on his desk]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will[Softly, still staring off] I know…

Sean: No you don’t. It’s not your fault.

Will[Serious] I know.

Sean: No. Listen to me son. It’s not your fault.

Will: I know that.

Sean: It’s not your fault.

[Will is silent, eyes closed]

Sean[steps closer] It’s not your fault.

Will[choking up] Don’t mess with me, Sean. Not you.

Sean[steps even closer] It’s not your fault.

[Will shoves Sean back, and then, hands trembling, buries his face in his hands. Will begins sobbing. Sean puts his hands on Will’s shoulders, and Will grabs him and holds him close, crying]

-This scene always gets to me. With each repeat, a wall crumbles in Will’s heart. Walls that shielded him and also kept him from the truth. He couldn’t erase his past, couldn’t hide from it, but now at least, he could begin to heal from it.

There is power in repetition.

Not just in word but in deed as well. If you follow a workout regime, sticking with it even when you are tired and want to skip a day, soon, you will change. Your arms and legs will be strong, and your mind will be disciplined.

Practice is essentially repetition, and so you could say, repetition makes perfect.

Words, however, are repeated often and easily. Every day we repeat words like “I love you”, “hello”, and “goodbye.” We sing the choruses of songs which repeat the core message, the intent of the writer.

We are creatures of repetition, of schedules, and familiarity. But more than that, we seek and thirst for depth, “meaning” that is greater than the day to day words and deeds.

Sometimes a repeated word at the right time can have that effect. It can, like in Will’s situation, break down walls. He may have heard people say, “it’s not your fault” before, but never had it reached his core till now.

We can’t be surprised then when we preach a message to someone and they don’t receive it right away. It generally takes a conscious effort to remember something, and it takes repeating it in our minds for it to stick. In other words, if you want to really remember something, it has to be important to you.

Life-changing messages are often ones in which the listener really connects. It speaks to their heart or their situation at just the right time. They may have heard that message before, but this time it sticks. Something clicks in their hearts and they understand it.

At the end of the day, the only one who can give our words and deeds meaning is the Holy Spirit. Never have I been in His presence and not seen Him move or do a work in people’s hearts.

Anyone can study the Bible, preach it’s message, and tell it’s stories…only with the Holy Spirit do those stories come alive, the messages make an impact, and the verses become relevant to our own lives.

Verses were made to be spoken aloud, and repeated. As Christians, we repeat declarations over ourselves, reaffirming our faith and believing that there is power in the spoken word.

And so, I end by asking you this question. What are you repeating over yourself? What words or phrases seem to be your life motto? Are they positive and life-giving? Can you remember a time when a word reached your heart and changed you?

 

 

 

 

Ready or Not?

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It isn’t very often people face life or death situations.

Most of us rarely think about death or it’s significance. We wake up and go to work, eat and sleep, mark things off of our checklist feeling accomplished when we complete the most menial of things.

“It was a great day! I mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, and finished my college essay…”

Today as I was driving home my life flashed before my eyes. I don’t really know if my life was actually in danger, but in those few moments, my heart felt as though it was going to stop, and that feeling alone was enough to remind me that it all could end…this life I have…in the blink of an eye.

This life with Aaron, the dreams we have, the connections and bonds we have with others, many need me in their lives. And what about my destiny? The Prophecies spoken over Aaron and I both when we were attending the Columbus School of Supernatural Ministry…the things I haven’t done or said or accomplished…

Real accomplishments…in those terrible moments I wasn’t thinking about dishes in the sink or the lawn needing mowed, I was thinking about the impact I was supposed to make on this Earth, the children I was supposed to raise, and the helper I was supposed to be to Aaron for many years to come.

I wasn’t so afraid of myself, or what would happen in death, but I was beyond terrified of what I would leave behind…those I would leave behind, and the unfinished work, all that unfinished potential, and glory I still want to give to God here.

Would my passing turn others away from God? Would they blame Him? I refuse to be stopped so easily! And yet, is it really a choice?

I’ve seen both miracles and suffering in this life. It seems that miracles happen almost by chance when you least expect them, and the times when you are on your knees pleading for a miracle, with tears in your eyes…nothing happens.

But even still, that isn’t always so either. I’ve pleaded with God, I’ve cried out in desperation and He has heard me.

Several years ago my dad died on our living room couch. In those seven longest minutes of my life, as mom and I did CPR and waited for help to come I pleaded with God with all my heart, I screamed with all my strength, and I would have given anything to save him.

God heard me then, and my dad is alive and well today. But there are other times when I’ve prayed…perhaps too late? And people have died, very much by surprise…like a thief in the night. Was it my doubt? My unbelief?

I don’t know all the answers, only, that even if we die…victory is already ours. Satan will do all he can to slow us down or downright stop us from making an impact in this world, he may even kill us…but he cannot kill our soul or rob us of God’s promises.

If I died today, surely God would fulfill my destiny through another. If I died this hour, surely, my final words would not be in vain…God would work through them, He would bring beauty from ashes, and He would continue to work in the lives of those I love. Why? Because He loves them fully…and I only know a small taste of that love.

Maybe people don’t need “me”, but rather, the “Jesus” in me. Anyone can be His vessel, I’m not that special.

The world keeps spinning, the sun keeps rising, and I keep breathing until the Lord says it is finished. I believe that, for believers, hope is eternal. So instead of the phrase, “where there is life, there is hope,” I believe it is rather, “there is always hope.”

As long as God exists, Jesus died for us and rose again. Hope has no limitations, and clearly, death can’t squash it either.

And so, all I can say is…value your time here. Set out to accomplish great things, not just small. And remember that with God all things are possible, so no dream is too great…in fact, it may be your destiny to achieve the unachievable.

LIFE is a GIFT.

Use it well…

 

A Father’s Love

This is a beautiful song about God’s love for us. My favorite line is this; it’s God speaking to us: “Don’t you think I know best? I’ve been a Father a long time.”

Our earthly dads, no matter how old, have only been father’s a very short time compared to our Father God. In that way alone, He cannot be compared to our earthly dads, however, there is more…

God is all-knowing. That may sound redundant, we all know that God “knows” everything because He created everything. One thing may not come to mind with this statement and that is that an ALL-knowing God knows ALL about you. Those times when our earthly dads don’t know what’s really going on, when they mishandle situations or misunderstand your intentions…God doesn’t make those mistakes.

Not to bash on the importance of our earthly dads, they are vital no matter what society tries to say or brainwash us to believe. Look around you, the majority of our society’s problems lie in the lack of strong father figures. Many grow up without a dad, or with one who tears down rather than builds up. The first sin of man really was passivity, and we see that today, fatherhood is a lot of work, and sadly, many don’t rise up to the call.

Dads were created to demonstrate what God is like, they were given important roles to fill in the family structure, and they ultimately bring discipline and security in the home. The world is lost without fathers, and there are many children/adults who live feeling orphaned and unloved. When people point them to God they think in their minds, “like I need another absent or angry father!”

Those who have been orphaned will feel unworthy of a home, those who feel unloved will feel unworthy of it. And so the idea of a father is met with rebellion, resentment, and guilt. All of this covers up the pain inside, the inner hunger to have that void filled, truly.

I could jump deeper into this topic of fatherlessness in America, how the destruction of marriage and the feminist movement has devalued the importance of fathers or men in general. However, today I merely want to acknowledge that these problems exist and that we desperately need God as our Father.

God is genderless, he is in essence nonhuman and within Him are both the male and female qualities. Much like Adam before Eve was taken out of him. Marriage can in some way be termed as the combining of that which had been separated, creating again, “one flesh.”

And yet we do not call God Mother, but Father. Not just because the Father (husband) is the head of the family, but because He knew that what the world needed and was lacking most was Fathers. They instill identity and lead their families spiritually.

This Father’s Day, whether you grew up in a loving home where both parents were present or not, I want you to know that you are so loved and that you have the greatest Father, God, who is always present, always active, always guiding, always protecting, always blessing, and always pursuing YOU.

Happy Father’s Day!! And God Bless!

 

Disciplining In Love

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“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” 

-Proverbs 13:24

Anyone here like Andy Griffith? I remember the first time I watched the TV show, laughing at Barney and falling in love with that small little quiet town of Mayberry. What I loved most were the moments between Sheriff Taylor and his little boy, Opie. It seemed like Andy always knew how to handle his son, as well as manage a town full of disorderly adults.

Andy taught me that when dealing with kids, we should “simmer down.” Don’t react in anger, raise your voice, or feed the flames of chaos by adding your own emotional stress. In other words, the more loud and upset a child gets, the calmer you should become. You set the thermostat of emotion in your home.

Andy taught me that when a child has wronged you should talk it out. Anytime Opie got in trouble, it was often due to the influence of others or even simple matters of misunderstanding. After Opie had cooled off, Andy would always sit with him and calmly explain why Opie’s actions were wrong. This is how kids learn and grow.

Andy taught me that we can be both loving and firm. Andy sticks with what he says, and Opie has a respect for his father because of it. It isn’t so much that he fears punishment, but that he fears to disappoint his father. That is parenting done right! Boundaries and rules should be clear and unbending to the child’s will. In this way, children feel safe and loved.

Lastly, Andy taught me that the best way to teach and correct a child is through example. Opie, like many children, look up to adults and like to mirror them. Watching how Andy treats people, how he handles situations, and how he even apologizes when he makes a mistake, in turn, influences Opie who sees Andy as his hero.

In particular, boys learn from their fathers what it means to be a man. How they are to treat women (Episode: Ellie for Council), how they are to handle confrontation, as well as how they are to control their emotions lest they control them.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent yet, but I’ve worked with children at a daycare, multiple church kid ministries, and now I am the director of our church’s preschool class. At the daycare, I watched kids from 2 years-5th grade, from 7am-7pm Monday through Friday.

The daycare systems have sadly become “parents” to many children who come from broken homes or foster care. I’ve seen how divorce affects children, how neglect and abuse affect their emotional and social development. And most of all, I’ve seen what a lack of proper discipline has done to these kids, and the lasting damage it ultimately causes them.

Undisciplined children do not learn as quickly, struggle to develop friendships, have trouble coping with their emotions, often are starving for love and security, and ultimately find “growing up” very challenging.

The children I disciplined the most became the children who needed me the most. They were the ones who craved my attention and wanted to sit in my lap.

I remember watching these twin 4-year-old boys. When one got in trouble, the other would scream and do all that he could to get in trouble also. This feeding off of each other led to them being separated.

The one who fed off of the other did well without his brother around, the one who often started the trouble only escalated. The teachers told me he was too much, and they carried a tangible stress about it as their efforts to re-direct or calm him didn’t seem to help.

One day I was walking by that class and heard the young boy causing a commotion, he wanted to leave the classroom and go outside but he wouldn’t listen to the head teacher. I walked in, held the door closed, told him that he must be quiet and stand in line, then I waited. He tested my resolve by turning the lights on and off. When that didn’t elicit a response, he went around knocking all the chairs over, I responded by shrugging at him, “that won’t get you outside, nor will it get you out of this room.” I stayed calm and so the rest of the class was also calm and waiting, some of the kids even picked up the chairs he had knocked over.

I remember him staring in shock at me, he was completely confused at what to do, apparently making a scene and tantrums had won him attention before. He laid on the floor and I picked him up and put him in a chair, “if you can sit there quietly and apologize then we will go outside.” I placed him back in that chair probably 15 times before he gave up and said he was sorry.

After that, he hugged me and I told him I loved him. I then asked him what was wrong because I know he is a good boy and he told me he just wanted to be with his brother, I said that he would have to behave better, which I know he can do, before we would consider moving him back and after that day he became much better, wanting to sit with me every time I was in there and read to him.

This is just an example of a time I know I handled discipline right. As adults, we still are learning, and we still are being disciplined. Maybe we make a mistake at work and get chewed out for it, maybe we said something out of anger and have to apologize to the one(s) we wronged…the list continues. No one is perfect, no parent is perfect, and so all we can do is the best we can, raising our children under the guidance of God’s Word. Through God we all practice disciplines and obedience. What greater example is there than that?

Oddly enough, kids have taught me a lot about life. They have made me face my anger and anxiety, as well as reminded me of what it means to really believe. Child-like Faith is more powerful than we give it credit for. And despite the stress and challenges of child-rearing, the times when tantrums involved kicking and screaming, the times when all respect had gone out the window and I felt underqualified to take charge. I have discovered a deeper love within myself for each and every child I meet, and a heart that understands those who need love most.

Some of you may be reading this thinking, “yeah, I’m not called to work with kids so…”

I used to say the same thing, then God called me. The children are our future, and they carry the future of the church as well as the future influence of our world. That is why it is my firm belief that everyone is called to serve, teach, give, love, protect, discipline, and sacrifice for their sake. They are the “king” of this nation.

And they need you.