“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Relationships are built on TRUST! Where would a marriages or relationships be without trust? Both the husband and the wife must be faithful to each other. Trust and faithfulness gives relationships stability. It helps the love between the parties to grow. Relationships are built on TRUST not RULES! Without trust there can be no reconciliation between individuals. God knows no corporation boundaries. He knows His people by their having His spirit. Jesus Christ is our saviour and the head of the Church. We must have faith in Jesus and trust Him that He is guiding the Church, are the people with God’s Holy Spirit. We have to put our TRUST in God and in Jesus Christ.
The Bible says this “He who trusts in himself is a fool. . .” (Proverbs 28:26). Still, most of us have difficulty trusting God at least at one point or another in our walk with Him. There are probably many reasons why trusting is difficult. At times, God’s ways don’t always make sense to us. God told Noah to build an ark. It may have never rained up to this point and the nearest body of water was probably so far away. It could not have made much sense to Noah at all (Genesis 6-8). We want life to make sense as well as we always want to set our own terms and timetables. God works on a different timetable than our minds comprehend. God promised Abraham a son from his own body through his wife Sarah. It took 24 years before this promise was fulfilled in the manner in which God had promised. In the meantime, Abraham and Sarah had difficulty trusting God and tried their own methods to fulfill the promise and in their quest to help God fulfill his promise, Ishmael was born. We want what we want and we want it . . . now! It is difficult to trust in a plan that requires us to surrender all control of the time for completion.
Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They would not bow down to the image that Nebuchadnezzar made even if punished with death in the fiery furnace. They had to make a stand and obey God even to the death. They had no guarantee that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace nut Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put their trust in God. Daniel 3:28 says: “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” We must put our trust and confidence in God. He is our fortress, banner and our high tower. We must put God first in our lives.
A synonym for trust is faith and the Bible says in: Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Trust is a two way street. We must trust God and God must be able to trust us. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God is faithful and will not change. Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter and lists many who placed their trust and faith in God. We can trust God, but can God trust us?
In order to trust in God, you must totally surrender your will, your ideas, your desires, and your future in to God’s hands. Many of us are “control freaks.” We don’t want to give the control of any part of our lives over to another person. If you don’t believe that God loves you fully and really does have your best interests at heart and desires the very best for you, trusting Him is going to be extremely difficult. It takes a very special relationship to allow that measure of surrender. Most of us have a tendency to claim trust in God. However, at the first sign of any difficulty or trial, we think that God does not love us because He is allowing these difficulties to happen or come our way. The trials may be what God is using to test the level of trust that we have in Him. In spite of the trials, we always have God’s promise that the trials and tests that we go through are for our good (Romans 8:28, Hebrews 12:2, 2 Corinthians 4:17, James 1:2). We learn that it is through trust that our relationship with God strengthens and our love for Him grows.
We can trust in many things. None, however, offer the protection plan, the long term security, or the benefits that trusting in God offers. All of the other things in which we place our trust can fail. God never fails! David says, “… Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…” (1 Chronicles 28:20). David had a testimony of who God was and he had seen His faithfulness. David had trusted God in so many occasions and God had not failed him even a single day and that’s why he was advising and encouraging his son Solomon to be courageous and trust in the Lord just as he did. David continues to say: “Trust in him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” Psalm 62:8.
In 2 Corinthians 9:8; we’re told, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Reading this carefully, we learn that God is able to make all things right. No matter how hopeless or futile a situation may be. If we understand this scripture, we get that God is able to take even the worst details of the worst situation and turn it into abounding grace. Why are we struggling with our pitiful attempts that continue to fail us when God is so fully capable of handling it so that we can “abound in every good work?” The answer to that is because we are not ready and again we are cherry picking our trust in God.
Philippians 4:6, we read “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” While we lie awake, unable to sleep because of our worry and distress, God is waiting for our request. He is waiting for our prayer and petition so that He can be God and we can get some sleep. Logically, we are trying to solve issues that we simply do not have the skills nor the wisdom to solve. Enter, God. He knows what we want, what we need and the difference between the two. In Isaiah 41:13, He says, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Note that He offers His help. That help can come in many forms. How often have you gone through trials only to look back some time later and realize that you would never have believed things would work out that way? Maybe one of the reasons we have a hard time giving it up to God is because we will have to live in His answer instead of just having an answer given to us. That does take great trust. But God is worthy of great trust.
When we go to God initially, we are prepared to act when He makes a way for us. We are prepared to make changes when He leads us in the right direction. In Psalm 32:7, we read “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” When we give our worries to God, we are protected, we are soothed with deliverance, and we have given Him back the power that we rob Him of when we stubbornly hang on to problems we will never be able to control on our own. At times, we can be afraid to let go. When we let go, we are giving up control. Most people don’t like feeling a loss of control. But the truth is; we are not really in control at all; otherwise, we would not be struggling and worrying without progress. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is waiting for us to let Him bring us peace? As God said in Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Let’s learn to entrust unto him all that bugs us. Let go and let God and you will see the difference. He says in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” Seeking him with all our hearts means that we have released everything that might hinder us. May God help us to trust Him this year.
“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 will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14:
In order to have a good relationship with someone, we will want to spend premium time with them. We may invite them in for dinner and have some stimulating conversation. This way we can get to know them better. Sometimes we may give them gifts or send them a card to let them know that we really appreciate them. How can we draw closer to God? One way is to fast. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, commanded His people to fast. I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world.
It has been well said that prayer is not preparation for the battle – prayer is the battle. And of all the things we can do to enhance the power and focus of prayer, fasting is doubtless the most potent. This is where the power is at, because fasting puts us in harmony with an All Powerful God who demands humility from those who wish to be close to Him. Fasting humbles the flesh and when it is done for that purpose, it pleases the Spirit of God. You can go a certain distance in God, and experience many things, without fasting much, but the highest, richest and most powerful blessings always go to those who couple this together with other disciplines where fasting is inclusive. The most significant biblical characters, with the possible exception of Abraham, were all men of fasting and prayer. Jesus, the Son of God, was a man of fasting and prayer (Matthew 4:2). So was the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:27). Moses fasted 80 days. Elijah fasted 40 days. The early church fasted before starting any major work. The greatest spiritual leaders of the 20th century who are making an impact are all men of fasting of prayer to my knowledge.
Fasting is not magic, nor does it twist the arm of God. God wants to do many amazing things, but He looks for those willing to urgently make the corrections needed to come into line with him. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Successful fasting is also the fastest way to learn patience. It takes patience and endurance to fast for more than a day. Many of God’s tests come quicker to us when we fast and we have a better opportunity to pass them. If we want to go far with God we would have to face these tests anyway, but much later, and in a more time consuming and difficult way. We need to humble ourselves and embrace the correction God wants to apply to our souls. Fasting gives you God’s focus for your life. It is a major key to hearing God’s voice. We need focus from God more than anything. The world we live in is working overtime to distract us, to entice us, to win our hearts and minds, our focus, and to determine our vision. Fasting cuts out the world so we can tune into God. If we are obedient to God fasting will make us catalysts for revival and awakening.
You can fast from some foods, and not others. You can fast from watching television, having sex, and buying pleasure items, even from buying ordinary stuff. You can fast from hobbies you crave, places you are unhealthily drawn to, music, books, news, and movies. You might even find it necessary to be fasting from use of the Internet — though please don’t start until you’re done using this site. :-) Matthew 6:16-18 says: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” God wants us to learn spiritual lessons from fasting. When we fast we become physically weak. This reminds us that we are human and frail. Without food and water we would die. Spiritually we need to remember that without God we will die spiritually. We are very dependent on God’s creation, the earth, with its soil and rain, to sustain our physical lives with food and water. If we will draw closer to God through fasting, He will help us to overcome and sustain our spiritual lives. Fasting is one of the greatest tools God gives to help us think like Him and to act like Him.
The Bible describes four major types of fasting:
- A Regular Fast - Traditionally, a regular fast means refraining from eating all food. Most people still drink water or juice during a regular fast. When Jesus fasted in the desert, the Bible says, "After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." (Matthew 4:2) This verse does not mention Jesus being thirsty. This fast was conducted on the Day of Atonement. This fast was from sunset of one day to sunset of the next (Leviticus 16:29; 23:32).
- A Partial Fast - This type of fast generally refers to omitting a specific meal from your diet or refraining from certain types of foods. Daniel 10:2-3 says, "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over." In Daniel 1:12, they restricted their diet to vegetables and water: "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink."
- A Full/Radical Fast - These fasts are complete – no food and no drink. Acts 9:9 describes when Paul went on a full fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus: "For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything." Esther also called for this type of fast in Esther 4:15-16: "Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." Others who had similar fasts were: Ezra (Ezra 10:6-9); David fasted for seven days pleading with God to save the life of his child (2 Samuel 12:15-20); Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9-18 and Exodus 34:28); Elijah (1 Kings 19:8); Cornelius (Acts 10). It is recommended that this type of fast be done with extreme caution and not for extended periods of time.
- A Sexual Fast - 1 Corinthians 7:3-6 says, "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
So why fast? When God calls us to prayer and fasting, He always does so for our benefit. The scriptures point out at least seven benefits to prayer and fasting.
- Our attitudes, feelings, and thoughts get sifted, pruned and purified so that God might entrust us with a greater ministry. By fasting and praying, we become more disciplined toward the things of the Father. We give Him opportunity to cut away from us those things that will slow us down, do us in, or keep us from His plans and purposes.
- We are able to discern more clearly the will of God for our lives. Fasting clears our spiritual eyes and ears so we can accurately discern what God desires to reveal to us.
- We are confronted with our sins and shortcomings so we might confess them to God, receive forgiveness for them, and walk in greater righteousness. Many times we break stubborn, sinful habits when we fast and pray. Fasting and prayer cleanse us and purify us from the errors that have kept us entangled in sin and folly.
- We experience a release of supernatural power. Genuine fasting and prayer result in spiritual growth, including a renewed outpouring of supernatural power. Certain problems and situations cannot be resolved apart from fasting and prayer.
- We can influence national issues and concerns through our prayers. As we fast and pray for our nation, God will move. He will pour out His Spirit, in His ways and in His timing. We can count on it. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- We can help build up God’s people. Prayer is the generator of the church. It gives power to its ministers. It propels outreach to the lost. It creates a climate in which evangelistic efforts succeed.
- Our minds are sharpened. When we fast and pray, we begin to understand the Scriptures as never before. We become sensitive to God’s timing and direction, with an increased awareness and ability to discern. We become keenly aware of what God desires to do and accomplish not only in our lives, but also in the lives of those around us.
- To humble yourself and draw closer to God.
Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice everything, (even) ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. The first purpose of fasting is to chastise the flesh, that it be not wanton, but tamed and brought in subjection to the spirit. I encourage you to consider fasting as a part of your sacred time with the Lord, but to be sure that when you do, it is for a special occasion and a desired result from the Lord.
Building our relationship with God!
Meditate on Spiritual things that will build you:
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalms 1:2
How many times have we heard a good sermon and one hour later we don’t remember anything about it? It seems that people today are afraid to be alone with their thoughts. Usually as soon as we enter our house the TV gets turned on. It is easier to turn on the TV, Computer or radio than turn on our minds. We live in the age of the paid entertainer and the hired specialist who can provide the services we are unable to perform for ourselves, but this is also the age in which we can even become accustomed to letting others do our thinking for us. Most of the young people grew up in a time when most of them have house helps at their homes and thus, almost everything was done for them and when it comes to handling small issues, they are unable to simply because they were not given the chance to.
This is the same thing that happens to a believer who doesn’t feed on the word of God. You have no chance to meditate and feed on the word of God personally. All you do is waiting for the Sunday service sermon as well as other sermons that you get in between the maybe during the mid-week service. When will you have your own time to listen from God and have Him speak to if you don’t not have time to meditate on his word? David says “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalms 119:148. Perhaps one of the most neglected disciplines in the Christian life these days is that of Meditation. I believe it is important for Christians to pay close attention to what they think about. As a consequence, we don’t spend the time or effort we should in active thought and meditation about God, His law’s, His word, and how they all relate to our lives.
We all need to learn the Art of Meditation. How long can you meditate and stay focused on a subject without your mind wondering? For most of us, it is probably just a few seconds. When we meditate, we need to roll it over in our mind. Meditation is simply taking a certain theme, problem or scripture and dwelling on it asking why, how, when, where and what is the end result; then determining whether or not that is the result you want. It is a matter of looking at things from God’s point of view. We need to ask, would God be pleased with our conclusion?
We need to meditate on the things of God. The next time you are lying in bed and can’t go to sleep, begin meditating on God. Think about how great God is; his love, care, faithfulness, and the blessings He has given you and before long, you will find yourself filled with gratitude and appreciation of who He is.
We are to meditate on God’s law. In Joshua 1:8 God commands Joshua not to let the book of the law depart from him. He tells him; “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” We are to meditate day and night. Why should we meditate? Meditation is used to convict ourselves of the need for personal change and internalizes God’s way of life within us. David reflects this very well in Psalms 1:1-2. For you to be a blessed man, you need to have internalized God’s word in your heart. Meditation helps to build a strong relationship with God.
Did you know that you are what you are right now – not what you would like to be, nor what you ought to be, nor are you what you used to be. You are what you are today. Today, the ‘real you’ is shown by what you do and by what you think about in your heart – what you meditate on. Further, the things that you allow your heart to dwell/meditate on today are building what you will be for tomorrow and the future? Let’s look at some verses which illustrate that you act out of and can be judged by the state of your heart. Jesus said; “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Whatever is stored in your heart is as a result of what you allow or feed your heart n mind with. Remember “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean’.” (Matthew 15:18). In that regards, “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” (Proverbs 27:19) What we see in you each and every day is a reflection of how your heart is. Remember “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Your ‘inner life’ is an accurate representation of the real you. No matter what service you perform/offer for God, or what you appear to be to others, the important thing is the purity of your inner self. Consider the words of Jesus as he spoke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which looks beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”. (Matthew 23:25-28) You see, God is not impressed with what we appear to be. No, God is most interested in what we are like on the inside. He wishes to change us from the inside out. His goal is to make us clean on the inside so that we would naturally be clean on the outside. If you are clean in your heart, then you will automatically be clean on the outside.
Meditation is a function of the mind and the heart. It is what we think about in our hearts and it is something we each do every day. Whether we realize it or not, we all spend a large portion of our time in some form of meditation. The thing is what we meditate on may or may not be worthwhile. In fact, what we habitually think about is frequently unhealthy for our growth as Christians. Often it is simply sinful. These are just but a few scriptures in the Bible that speak about meditation:
- “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:7)
- “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14);
- “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8);
- “within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” (Psalms 48:9);
- “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalms 77:12);
- “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” (Psalms 119:15);
- “Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.” (Psalms 119:23)
- “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.” (Psalms 119:27)
- I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. (Psalms 119:48)
- “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.” (Psalms 119:78)
- Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psalms 119:97)
- “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.” (Psalms 119:99)
- “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promises.” (Psalms 119:148)
- “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalms 143:5)
- “They will speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.” (Psalms 145:5)
- “May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” (Psalms 104:34)
- “Finally, brothers, 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.” (Philippians 4:8)
- “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)
- “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:1-3)
Allow God to speak with/to you:
Communication is two way traffic. You speak and when you are through, you await for a response from the other party that you are communicating with. Take an example of the telephone; we talk and the other person listens. Then they talk and we listen. Our relationship with God is similar. We talk to God through prayer and we listen to God speak through bible study, sermons and sermon tapes and other means because God is never limited in ways that He can use to speak to us. Today there is no reason not to be able to study and learn from God’s word. We have Bibles with elaborate concordances, and other Bible helps that are moderately priced like; everyday with Jesus, Daily Bread; you can as well get bible software for your computer and do all kinds of word searches and compare scriptures of different translations. There are websites on the internet that has Bible software that you can use that is free of charge; devotional websites that you can as well subscribe to get devotions and all kinds of Bible articles and literature that you can print out and read.
The Church of God in the era that we live in has advanced and we have sermon audio tapes, DVDs and CDs. There are so many audio tapes around that we could probably listen to a different tape for 24 hours a day for several years without repeating any. We have Christian channels, radio stations and podcasts allover and we have no reason to say that we have no source of materials to listen to and get to hear God speak to us. All am saying is that we are advantaged to live in such an era that not only do we have the freedom of worship, but we also have so much more to read and listen to so as to stir up the growth of our faith in God.
Even with all of the tapes and religious literature around we still need to know and read the bible in a personal way. We need to know what is in the Bible. We need to know that we know! If anyone questions us, then we can say: I have read it for myself and I know what it says! We must be ready to give an answer to every man that asks us a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We must be like the Bereans in Paul’s day, who searched the Scriptures daily “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11). I am not saying that we should doubt what the Lord has spoken to us; all I mean is that we should make it an habbit to study the word of God, not only when we hear it, but also when we haven’t so that when it is spoken, we can have a reference that “I read this word and God spoke to me this way. And when the same word is spoken, you are sure to get a new illumination all together. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” (Amplified bible) We must study the Bible to show ourselves approved unto God We need to prove all things and stand fast to that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
How can we know or hear when God is speaking to us? How can we distinguish God’s voice and other voices? How do I hear God speaking to me? There are several aspects that we need to cultivate and have them in place before we hear God speak to us.
1. Cleanse yourself first - Ask for forgiveness. Don’t be actively engaged in sin and expect God to speak to you.
2. Have an attitude of submission - God is God and we are not. He knows what He’s doing even when it doesn’t seem like it to you. He can be absolutely trusted.
3. Have faith that God will speak to you - Decide that once you determine His Voice, you will follow it. James warns us of being double minded when we come before God’s presence or when we ask anything from him in prayer. “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. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-8
So how DO you hear God anyway? There are quite a few ways, but the most important way is first:
a) The Bible - There’s a reason why it’s called “God’s word. The Bible does not contain the Word of God; the Bible IS the Word of God. Test what it says – especially when what it says is different from what the world says. Jesus said this, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” John 7:17. The Bible is not just a collection of writings. It is alive. What happens when you read it is that; you’ll be going along and there will be a verse that just jumps off the page at you. It is like it was written exactly for you alone, for this exact moment in your life. It is amazing, and it happens over & over again. The Bible will be different every time you read it. God will speak to you through His Word. You will know it because your heart will burn within you. You will be utterly convicted. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches you and reminds you of God’s Word. Before you read the Bible, ask the Lord to open your eyes and your heart to His Word. He will speak to you through it. The Holy Spirit will convict you that they are the very words of God.
b) Other People - Preachers, Speakers & Friends. God clearly uses His people to help and speak to His people. Here’s the key, though. You must use a filter. BIBLE is the filter. 1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” It does not matter how religious the person looks or talks. It does not matter how good they make you feel. It doesn’t matter if they have thousands of people lapping up their every word. It doesn’t even matter if you feel “convicted” by their words. God NEVER contradicts His Holy Word. Everything you experience and learn in this life should be filtered with the Bible.
c) Circumstances - Interpret what is happening to you. If something you are doing isn’t being blessed, God MAY be directing you elsewhere. Note that every problem that comes your way MAY NOT be about God trying to teach you something, or that you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes, while we’re on this planet, God allows you to go through difficulties to see your level of faith and to see how you handle it. Sometimes, too, God allows you to go through difficulties and it has NOTHING to do with you. It has to do with a huge spiritual battle that’s going on behind the scenes that INVOLVES you, but is not ABOUT you. (That’s what was really what was happening to Job in the Bible.) The important thing is that you live life with an eye toward interpreting what is happening to you. When trying to interpret circumstances, ask God to show you what He’s trying to say. He will make it plain and He has promised to guide and direct you.
d) Inner urges to act – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”. Philippians 2:13 You get urges from 3 sources: God (The Holy Spirit), your own sinful nature & Satan. So how do you tell which is which?
1) The urge will NEVER be at odds with the Bible. Example: If you feel an urge to leave your wife for another lady that you met in the bus and she is pretty, no!! That’s not from God.
2) If from God, the urge will have an obvious good benefit for someone. For example, “you feel that you need to go talk to that guy over there, he sure looks awfully down.” Do it. The Holy Spirit is prompting you.
3) Most urges are from yourself – neither good nor bad, but are NOT God specifically directing you to do something.
4) Some strange urges MAY be from God. For example, “I once had this overwhelming urge that I needed to go to and visit a pal of mine over the weekend that I had not seen or talked to a couple of months. I went ahead and visited him and as we shared, he opened up and told me that he had lost his mother-in-law. When you feel such an urge, go ahead and do it if the urge is really strong. You often can’t judge until after the fact that it was God telling you to do that.
e) Dreams, Visions, Miracles and Audible Voices - God usually reserves these methods for if He can’t get your attention any other way. It easy to be mislead by dreams, because they, too, can come from different sources. You must filter and move cautiously on them. Usually, people want a miraculous sign so that God will prove himself. God has made it clear that He’s given us all we need to believe in Him. Now, it’s a matter of whether or not you want to follow God. He is most pleased by our faith in him. Take small steps of faith and you’ll receive all the “proof” you’ll need. “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth; no sign will be given to it.” Mark 8:10-12
f) Nature - God doesn’t really speak through nature. Instead, He uses it to reveal His creative ability as an inspiration to us. Nature is a testimony as to how awesome God is. There have been innumerable times when I’ve looked up at some incredible twilight sky and have just been overwhelmed with appreciation for God’s talent. Many times I’ve exclaimed, “God, You sure can paint!”
g) Inner voices and your conscience, an amazing secret - You can hear inner voices from 3 sources: God, Satan, Yourself. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives within you and He can and will carry on a regular dialogue with you. He will speak to your conscience, but your conscience is NOT God. MUCH inner conversation is YOU talking with yourself. God has given us a tool to HELP discern who’s talking to you.
It is an incredible privilege to be able to speak directly to God – the creator of the universe and have Him speak back to you as His child! The Lord is ready, willing and able to speak to you, but you must know how to listen and, most importantly, you must know how to be sure it’s Him. “For God does speak—now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it.” Job 33:14
Are you taking the time daily to let God talk to you?
Communicate to God through prayer:
Life as I mentioned yesterday is all about relationships. The relationship that we build between us and our friends depicts so much of who we are. Relationships are all about commitments and you cannot build a steady and a strong relationship if you are not committed to the person you are building the relationship with. If we sacrifice so much time and resources building earthly relationships which at some point break up and leave us devastated and confused on what next to do, how much should we input or invest into building and maintaining our relationship with God who is our maker and creator? Remember He cares for you and me and there is not a point when He will disown us or break our hearts.
God is so keen into building and maintaining a relationship with us who are his creation. James reminds us in James 4:8 that “Come close to God and He will come close to you.” In other words, James is reminding us that it is not the other way round. Many of us take it the other way round and we go away from God thinking that He will come searching for us – imagine He won’t. He gave his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you and that was more than a sacrifice that He gave for you and me. Thus, the ball remains on our court to build our relationship with him daily by drawing close and closer to him. How we can build and maintain a right relationship with God?
1) We must COMMUNICATE with God through prayer. – We must SPEND TIME with God. When we talk on a telephone we can’t see the individual on the other end but we know that they are there. We talk and they listen. Then they talk and we listen. Our relationship with God is similar. We talk to God through PRAYER and we listen to God speak through Bible Study and through sermons, by having the Word of God expounded to us. James 5:16 says: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We need to ask ourselves: Are our prayers fervent and effective? One way to be more effective in prayer is to spend more time on our knees. One way to be more fervent is to realize that God is our friend. He is not out to get us. He only wants what is best for us. God wants to be our friend. John 15:14-15 says “You are my friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do. I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer; for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out). But I have called you my friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father. [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.]”
One trait of a good friend is the ability to be a good listener. God is a very good listener. God wants you to share your successes and your failures with Him. Talk to God about your trials and tests. Also talk to God about your blessings and the good things that are happening in your life. We should talk to God about things before we do them. Are you going to buy a car or a house? Talk to God about it. God is your financial partner. Pray to God about major decisions.
We need to realize that God wants us to talk to Him. Matthew 6:5-7 says: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” The bible says WHEN you pray not IF you pray and thus, God will reward you openly if we pray in a proper manner. It is interesting that the disciples lived and walked with Jesus and yet they asked him to teach them how to pray. “The Lord’s Prayer” was given to us by Jesus as a model prayer to show us how to pray to God. (Luke 11:1-4). We can use “The Lord’s Prayer” as a guideline in what to pray about. Put it into your own words.
How should we then talk to God? At some point, I used to go before God and I would wonder how to start talking to him or what I should ask of Him. One day, as I was kneeling down and I didn’t know where to start or end, the verse in 1 John 3:1 came into my mind. The bible says “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children and that is what we are!” Thus, I asked myself, if God is my father, then I should approach him the same way as I approach my earthly father. No fear or timidity – after all, I am his son. When we talk to God:
- We should talk to God as we would talk to our own human father.
- We should to talk to God in a natural way.
- Talk to God as you would talk to your very best friend. You respect your friends. You would not want to do anything to offend them. We don’t want to offend God in how we talk to Him.
- Talk to God as if He would answer immediately.
Always realize to whom you are praying! As you come before God in prayer, be aware of whom your are praying to. This being that you are praying to is the eternal Creator God who has all power and glory. Don’t approach God sleepily or carelessly. You might say something that you shouldn’t say. Always have a humble attitude in prayer. Humble yourself and exalt God. He is the creator and we are the created. He is the potter and we are the clay. James 4:9-10 says “[As you draw near to God], Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].” Realize that you are coming before the very throne of the ruler of the universe, the King of Kings. Always remember that God is listening to you. Realize that as you pray that you have God’s undivided attention. Someone said that “when we bend our knees to pray, God bends his ear to listen to us.” How sweet is that? 1 John 5:14-15 says “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
How then can this build our relationship with God? When we spend more time on your knees praying, the self in us decreases and we are saturated by God-self. We decrease as He (God) increases in us. We become less conscious of the surrounding around us and instead of complaining, our mouths are filled with praises to God. I encourage you to read the book of Psalms; it is filled with praises to God. Teach yourself to read one Psalm a day. Read the Psalms as you are praying to inspire you in how to praise God. (Click here to read more about Worshiping God through Psalms). David was a man after God’s own heart. Read the Psalms to see how David praised God. Sing hymns to God as well. They inspire you and also open up your eyes to see and get to know God deeply and in a better perspective and always never forget to thank God for his blessings.
Are you taking the time daily to talk to God?
Cultivate your relationship:
“But take diligent heed . . . to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” Joshua 22:5.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad 2009 is over for one big reason: 2010 is here and it is another year for me to serve the Lord! Yes, we can worry about the economy, our politicians, graft and corruption, getting older, or a host of other issues but what it all boils down to is that we have the opportunity to pursue God again this year. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, but it certainly is nice when the calendar flips over and we’re still around to serve Him. But, what if you haven’t been following God? Is it too late for you? No, it certainly isn’t. In fact if you previously followed the Lord and have slipped away or if you desire to follow God for the first time now, 2010 can certainly be the year you give God first place in your life.
Make no mistake about it: I’m not here to convince anyone to follow God. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts people of their sins and He is the One who draws people to the Lord. I’m not here to argue whether there is a God or not although the heavens declare His glory. Rather, I believe my role is to encourage those who are already on their Jesus Journey to stay on the path while welcoming those who are just starting out or are seeking answers.
I have come to realize that being in a deep relationship with someone is the best thing that can ever happen to you. It gives you grounds to share and speak out your heart, encourage each other as well as stand for each other. It might not necessarily be a relationship with the opposite sex but what I mean is having someone whom you can trust and share out your heart with. This person can pray with/for you, stand with you as well as correct you and rebuke you. He/she will be better referred to as an accountability partner. For one to reach such a point where you trust this person, means that you have cultivated your friendship to a point whereby you got to a deeper level. How then about God? We need to make sure that our relationship with him gets deeper and deeper each and every day. In Isaiah 29:13, God clearly tells the Israelites that He interested with them having a relationship with him not them just coming to worship him while their hearts are far away from him.
To that end, I have seven steps to help you draw closer to God in 2010. I’ve prayerfully considered the most important points and am relaying to you what I believe God has revealed to me:
a) Repent – If you’ve slipped away from the Lord or are seeking to be in right relationship with God in the first place, the step you need to take initially is to repent of your sins. We’ve all sinned and we all fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23), therefore we need to recognize our sins, repent of our waywardness and ask God to forgive us and give us the strength to serve Him.
b) Prayer – Consider prayer to be your sole way to have personal conversations with God. It will be a one way conversation as far as hearing an audible voice but you’ll ‘hear’ what He has to say to you when you read His word, and through circumstances in your life. Get in the habit of talking to God early and often (1 Thessalonians 5:17)… take time throughout the day to share your praise, petitions, and prayers with Him. Get near to God and He’ll get near to you.
c) Fellowship – Oddly, there is a tendency for some to think that they don’t need a church (Hebrews 10:25). Or, they’ve been hurt in a church in the past and vowed never to have that happen to them again. I understand those feelings – I’ve been there, I’ve felt it. But, God has His people out there and we aren’t to forsake the gathering together of the saints. Find a place that teaches the entire counsel of God while building up believers. The church needs you as much as you need the church. It is the only place you can grow and help others grow. We are all like firewood. I need you and you need me so that together we can light up the flame and affect others around us.
d) Read the word of God (Bible) – Find yourself a Bible, preferably one in common everyday language you understand. Ask other Christians what they read; and if you consider purchasing a parallel Bible which lists several different versions side by side, well and better so that you can get different translations, views and insights on the same verse. The more that you acquaint yourself with God’s word; the better you’ll be acquainted with Him. (2 Timothy 3:16) – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
e) Accountability – It is easy to get lost in a church these days, particularly in larger fellowships. That is one reason why we have home based bible study cell groups. Find one and attach yourself and belong there. Through this, you will be able to know people and they get to know you as well. As I said earlier, we all need each other to grow. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” Followers of Jesus Christ are collectively known as the Body of Christ – the finger needs the toe as does the nose the chin, the elbow, etc. Don’t worry about being imperfect – everyone else who attends church is just as imperfect as you but we all complement each other and together we grow.
f) Soak yourself in Worship – In Psalm 22:3 we’re told that, “God inhabits the praises of His people.” This means that He is present in Spirit as we praise Him. There is something about worship that helps us focus our eyes on what is important in this life. When we worship God for who He is, the cares and troubles of this life are seen through a godly perspective. You can’t sing? Don’t worry: Psalm 100 instructs us to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Even off-pitch Christians should praise God!
g) Give – There isn’t anything you can do to earn what God has done for you – embrace grace and you’ll understand. However, God will lead you to give something of yourself both through money, your time, or some other work and often in many different ways. These things cannot save you or change your position with God (He loves you just the same), but they are acts of worship which please Him and can make a difference in the lives of others. Always give willingly because that is the only gift worth giving (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Certainly, there are other points to consider besides these seven, but I wanted to keep this as simple as possible. I know we all have personal ways and ideas that we use to cultivate our relationship with God and grow deeper and deeper in God. You can share them out with your friends and help them also grow in the Lord. Let’s not keep the important things to ourselves only, let’s learn to share and help others who are struggling. Let’s stir up each other into maturity with God and be our brother’s keeper! Don’t let 2010 end without you making a commitment to God, a life changing transition that will also change your eternal destination!
Learn from your sins:
“11As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. 17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.” Genesis 12:11-15, 17-20
How do we recover from sin? How do we come back from sin once we’ve refused to trust God, once we’ve taken off on our own, once we’ve exposed our family to the danger and pain that sin brings, once we’ve revealed our true character and been caught in an effort to deceive or misguide others? How do you return? How do you come back to God? What do you do when you are forced to return from sin? This is exactly the question I ask this morning.
This is exactly where Abraham was. He has been rebuked by Pharaoh for his deception, together with Sarah, which has made him rich and delivered him from famine in the place where God had put him and where he committed before God to stay. He has been driven from Pharaoh’s presence and kicked out of Egypt. And it happens that this is the trend that is being taken nowadays. It may be not in the form that Abram did with his wife Sarah, but you will realize that in one way or another, we compromise at some point with something or some people so that we can gain something or attain some favours. Abram’s intention to tell Sarah to say that she was his sister wasn’t ill, but in the long run, it affected so much till he was kicked away from Egypt.
I know that once Abram was kicked out of Egypt, he realized that what he had done wasn’t right. But it was too late because he had planted a seed that was later be repeated by his son Isaac in Genesis 26:7-11. One thing we ought to know is that, what you and I do today, affects the generations that will come after us in a big way. Remember what God told the children of Israel in Exodus 34:6-7 “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” It is important to know what you are leaving behind to your offspring’s. Is it a blessing or a curse/bondage that they will be left struggling with to break? How do we recover from our sins and reform? There are three R’s that will help us understand how we can learn from our sins. The first word is RETURN. The second word is REALIZE. And the third word is REFUSE. You need to reach a point where you return to yourself, realize that what you have been doing is not worth/right and then choose to refuse/change.
Return: (Genesis 13:3-4) – The first step that we need to take is to return back to God who is our creator and he knows us more than we know ourselves. We see that Abraham returned to Bethel, the place where he had met with God. It was there that he honored God and made his commitment to God public. It was in that specific spot that Abraham built and altar and called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8). This means he had publicly proclaimed his commitment to the Lord in the presence of those who lived in the land around him, the Canaanites mentioned in (Genesis 12:6). You will notice that whenever Abraham built an altar, he recommitted himself to God. At the altar:
- He worshipped God, exalting Him and extolling His character, His faithfulness, and His loyalty; He declared the greatness of God.
- He gave thanks to God for safety, blessing, and even protection now that he had sinned. Even his sin did not nullify God’s faithfulness to him. We, too, can say this, but we don’t have the same guarantees as Abraham. God has not promised to bless us in the same way He promised to bless Abraham, and we may end up broken and shamed because of our sin.
- He expressed his submission to God after his own acts of independence and self reliance. He had been anything but submissive to God when he hit his hard times in the Negev. He had taken off on his own to solve his own problems.
- He declared his dedication to God as the exclusive object of his dependence and trust. He is saying that he will never again act as he did by going to Egypt. He will trust God alone.
- He made an assertion of the rule of God, an assertion that there is only one true God, no matter how many other gods might be worshipped in this land.
We need to return to the places where we met God and rededicate our lives to him afresh. At such a time when the year is still so fresh, let’s take time and look back at our lives and how we live in the past year and retrace our steps back to God. Go back to where you were last with him. Return to the place of commitment when you were depending on Him, to the place where you said you would follow Him no matter what. This may take you many years back in your life, back to your teenage years before you had any real idea of what the commitment you were making would mean to you. This may take you back to when you first married and you and your spouse committed yourselves to live only God’s way. Take a block of time, a week-end or a week or two weeks, and think back across your life.
Realize your past sin will impact your present life. In Genesis 13, we see Abraham reaping the fruits of his sins. After he came from Egypt with his nephew Lot, quarrels started amongst their herdsmen and this resulted to a break up between them. Further to this, it had all started when he was kicked out of Egypt by Pharaoh. One thing that is sure is that, the devil will make you feel comfortable while you are sinning but the minute he is through with you; he treats you as if he doesn’t know you but before, he was so friendly. You will come to realize that all of these troubles were triggered by one thing – Disobedience. In Genesis 12:1; “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” but he comes along with Lot his Nephew. One thing that you need to know this year is that, you can prevent sin from gaining mastery over you. See the following insights:
1) Sin is no longer your king and master – By God’s grace, you have been identified with Christ on His cross and delivered from the reign of sin as you king and master. Now you have a choice, although it seems so overwhelming because you seem so powerless. Think according to this reality.
2) Sin begins as a thought in the head. - Sin never comes forth as a fully developed baby. There is a gestation period for sin, even as there is for a baby. If the thought is never entertained, the baby will never be conceived. Therefore, pay attention to the way you think. All of us think in ways that give sin mastery over us and don’t even know it. We think anger thoughts or pride thoughts or fear thoughts or any of a number of other kinds of thoughts without even knowing it. Pay attention to the thoughts you think.
3) Sin moves to the heart as a desire. – Once sin settles in the mind, it moves as rapidly as it can to the heart as a desire. It moves from dream to desire, to longing, to something I must do or I must have. All of my values are being pushed aside in such a situation, and I am being hurried along by a current of lust. Thus, if sin breaks loose from my mind, I must pay attention to my feelings.
4) Sin expresses itself through my hands as an act. – If I do not stop it, once sin moves to my heart it is only a matter of time before it acts through my hands.
If I now know this, how do we prevent it? It is a matter of making decisions in life and adhering to them. When you make the decisions, remember that you need to:
a) Realize that you can Sin. – I can sin and you can sin in some very serious ways.
b) Note the sins you are most prone to commit. – What are you most likely to do? What are your strongest driving desires? Lust, insecurity, Fear, Anger, fornication and adultery? All of the above? Each of these drives takes on a particular sin form, and you must note what form such desires take when you act on them in your life.
c) Determine that you will not commit these sins. – Erect an altar and proclaim the name of the Lord. Make a private commitment to God and some kind of an accountable commitment to someone you trust or a friend who share the same values you have.
d) Develop disciplines to resist sin. – The vital disciplines are prayer and the Word + accountability with others who know and love you. The bible says.. “flee from any apearance of sin” 1 Thessalonians 5:22
e) Remember sin is more than skin deep. – Too often we think of sin as behavior. Behavior is surface. Sin is soul. It is not enough to deal only with behavior. We must recognize the root of sin. Behavior is a fruit of sin. Sin is root: energy, force, power. We sin because something is more important to us than God. We sin because something is more satisfying for us than God. We sin because something is more powerful in us than God.
f) Do not fight the sin battle alone. – I will rely on the Holy Spirit. “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). I will involve others with me in the battle with sin.
Every attempt to overcome sin by willpower, resolutions and self-discipline alone WILL fail. No attempts to overcome sin by observing laws and rules, however strict, will ever work. But the Bible says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). That means, be governed by impulses coming from the Holy Spirit in your human spirit, and you won’t be ruled by the natural thinking and desires that draw people away from holy living.