The Greatest Key to Biblical Study

 

bible book business christian

 

I want to share a story about going to God as our Teacher and not just biblical study. I have been doing a recent study on the different languages the Bible was and may have been originally written in. Being the Word of God, I think it is very important to understand what is being said and how it is being said. I have been asking the Lord to show me how to read the Word in light of this, and today, He revealed to me the most important aspect of this topic. I thought others may find this helpful as well so I wanted to share it.

We pick up in Luke 24 and Jesus has just risen from the dead and while concealing His identity, he joins 2 men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are in the middle of discussing what happened to Jesus and are perplexed by the report of a few women who said they had seen Him alive again. Jesus then says this to them,

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25-27

After Jesus reveals Himself to them they say to one another,

Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32

Later the same day, Jesus appears to His disciples for the first time since rising from the dead and, “ Then he said to them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.”

Let’s stop here and think about who this men were. They were Jews who knew the scriptures and had perfect understanding of the language, culture, worldview and context for which the scriptures were written in. They literally walked with Jesus for over 3 years and asked far more questions then we have recorded in scripture… and yet… It was Jesus Himself who alone could open the scriptures for them and give them true understanding!

Jesus didn’t say, “Go become Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew scholars and then you’ll understand all I have spoken.” In fact, it was the scholars of the day that had the hardest time believing in Jesus!  Those may be fantastic tools to use, but they in and of themselves are not what gives us understanding or revelation. In fact, Jesus goes the opposite way we tend to go and says,

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of God.” Matthew 18:3

Children are completely dependent on their parents to provide for and teach them. We must be careful we don’t get so scholarly in our approach to studying scripture that we lose the simplicity of looking to the Holy Spirit as the primary source for understanding. Will the Holy Spirit use things like the study of original languages? Absolutely, but not as a substitute for being taught primarily by Himself. If knowledge and study were the only way to truly understand the biblical text and know God, we would have revivals happening all over our bible school campuses and classrooms 🙂

John 5:39-40 Jesus confronts this very issue with the Jews and says,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, 40 yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.”

Searching the scriptures wasn’t the issue here, it was searching the scriptures apart from relationship and communion with God and coming to Him as the source, not just the Words written about Him. It is right to “study and show yourself approved,” (2 Timothy 2:15) but not apart from Christ being our main Teacher. (Also notice that 2 Timothy 2:15 says that we are “to study and show ourselves approved to God,” not to man and that is not going to happen apart from Him.

“Be diligent to study and show yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”)

Matthew 23:10 Jesus qualifies Himself as our only true Teacher.

2 Corinthians 3:6 goes as far as to say the the bible without the Holy spirit is dead! “ Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

In the context of understanding this Paul goes onto say in the same chapter, speaking of the Jews, who knew the Word very well, “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away,” 2 Corinthians 3:14-16. Again, the veil is not taken away just by knowing scripture, it’s taken away by knowing Christ.

King David understood His need of God to reveal the scriptures to him well. This is why he prayed in Psalm 119:18, Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.”

Being trained and having education regarding the Word is good but we can never allow it to take the place of knowing Him of whom its speaks. It’s the Holy Spirit Alone that can reveal the scriptures to us and it’s this very fact that made the Pharisees marvel at the disciples ability to open the scriptures as seen in Acts 4:13.

“ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

Sometimes the simplicity of going to God as the source is offensive to some. We tend to think it should be hard and complicated but the Gospel is simple. So simple that if a child can’t get it we are approaching it from the wrong place. Now don’t get me wrong, God made us intelligent and we are to love Him with all our minds as well, but we must also keep our intellect in relationship with Him and not apart from Him. We are to love God, not just the knowledge!

How do we do this with God? Again, it’s almost offensively  simple… just ask Him. I pray all the time before I read the Word, “Holy Spirit I ask you to anoint me with the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) as I read Your Word. I ask You to breathe on it and give me understanding (Proverbs 4:7.) Open my eyes that I may see the wondrous things written in these pages concerning You (Psalm 119:18.) Reveal Christ to me and cause me to know You like never before (John 17:3.) Thank You that You love to speak to me and You love to reveal Yourself to me,” (John 16:12-16.)

Here’s a quick story to demonstrate what I’m trying to say.

Many years ago I asked the Lord, “Jesus, when You were on the cross why did you say, “My God My God, why have You forsaken Me?””

I had heard a number of peoples takes on it but none of them satisfied my question as I could feel there was more to it. I also went and studied the Greek behind all the words and cross referenced everything I could find regarding this verse but nothing came to life for me. In other words, nothing made my heart burn (Luke 24:32).

Whenever I asked this question, the lord remained silent and no study helped either. However, I have walked with the Lord for long enough to know that if He doesn’t answer me, it’s not because He’s ignoring me or doesn’t like my question. He’s a good Father who sometimes will wait until we have grown to a place where we will fully understand His reply. In this, I have learned to be patient and trust His timing.

Fast forward a number of years and we land 3 weeks ago. I was working on a site in the backyard and because the ground was almost frozen, I had to dig a trench with a crowbar and hammer (no I didn’t have a pick :)) As I’m digging through ice and earth and focused on the task at hand, suddenly I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. I stop working and hear Him ask me, “Do you know why Jesus said, “My God My God, why have you forsaken Me?” I almost yelled out loud, “NO, And I can’t wait for You to tell me!!!!! I’ve kinda been waiting awhile!” I felt The Holy Spirit chuckle and then get sombre as I knew that what He was about to tell me carried great weight. He replied, “When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they entered into the “law of sin and death” where you reap all you have sown. They forsook Us and so We had to forsake mankind under this law. However, God waited for Himself to come as a man so that the Father could forsake His Son in order that We would never have to forsake you or anyone else.”

What!?! I almost broke down in tears as this revelation sank in and my heart began to burn! God came as a man and forsook Himself as a man reaping what Adam sowed so that we never have to reap being forsaken by Him! No biblical study or Greek lexicon could reveal this to me, only the Holy Spirit through relationship with Him.

In conclusion, study is great and I study all the time, but let us guard our hearts from going to that more than we go to Him 🙂

 

What was the thorn in Paul’s flesh?

This question has been one that has unnecessarily stumped many believers for a very long time. The majority of people I have come across believe it was some kind of sickness. However, this belief has become a stumbling block for many in regards to understanding Gods Will around healing. The Word of God clearly reveals what Paul’s thorn was and we can see with absolute certainty that it was not sickness of any kind.

We find the mention of Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7, however we need to back up to chapter 11 in order to get the context for which Paul is writing. Most Bibles title chapter 11:22 onward as “Suffering for Christ.” This sums up what Paul is talking about leading up to the thorn. As you read through the list of things Paul is suffering, you will not see sickness mentioned once. What we do see is intense persecution and tribulation.

“In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity (weakness).” brackets added

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

That last word (infirmity) is what throws people off because they assume it means sickness. However, the word infirmity and weakness are interchanged throughout these two chapters as they come from the exact same Greek word and simply means “human weakness.” It is the same word used in Hebrews 7:28 which says,

“For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”

And again in Hebrews 4:15,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

In the context for which Paul is writing, he is describing all the hardships he has endured in preaching the Gospel. The thorn in his flesh gets sandwiched in between Paul describing these trials and persecutions and feeling too weak to endure them, not sickness. Picking up in chapter 12:7-10,

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Imagine being in Paul’s shoes… You’re following Jesus and doing everything He’s asking of you. You’re preaching the Gospel and traveling the known world to get the good news to everyone as the Lord has directed you. Yet every time you come to a new city your captured and beaten. You leave that city and get shipwrecked going to the next, however when you finally do get to the next city, you’re whipped and imprisoned with raw flesh hanging off your back. A month later you get robbed on the road to the next town and this time when you get there to preach the gospel they don’t whip you they stone you! 6 months after that, you’re imprisoned again and this time beaten with rods. This continues to happen again and again and again.

Verse 7 says the thorn was given to buffet Paul. That word buffet literally means “blows to the flesh.”

Paul’s here preaching his heart out only to continue receiving blows to his flesh. At some point he does what anyone would do, he cries out to God for this to end as we see in verse 8. If you’re Paul you would probably be thinking,

“Hello Lord? A little help down here would be appreciated! I’m preaching my heart out here trying to get the Gospel out and people saved but instead of You watching my back it’s getting torn off by their whips, a little protection would be nice!”

Most Christians today would be wondering, “What door did I open? How and why is this happening? What have I done wrong?” It wasn’t what Paul had done wrong, it was what he was doing right.

The problem is, God is not going to take back something He’s promised. Numbers 23:19 says,

“God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should change His mind.When He speaks, He acts and when He promises, He fulfills.”

What did God promise Paul? That he would suffer for the sake of the Gospel just like he was. This is seen in Acts 9:15-16 when God speaks to Ananias concerning Paul,

“ But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.(brackets added)

Paul was asking God to take away something He had already promised. Persecution and tribulation are not just promised to Paul, but to every believer that desires to truly follow Jesus and share the Gospel. This is seen in Matthew 5:11-12, Mark 13:9-13, John 16:33, Galatians 5:11, and 1 Thessalonians 3:3 just to name a few.

2 Timothy 3:12 says it this way, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

2 Corinthians isn’t the only place in the bible that talks about a thorn in the flesh. Numbers 33:55, Judges 2:3 and Joshua 23:13 also talk about thorns in the flesh. The context of all these scriptures is the same and reveals that the saying, “A thorn in the flesh” was a Jewish idiom for persecution and opposition, never sickness.

Did Paul have an extra normal amount of it? I would say so yes, when we look at his life and see everything he went through but that is because it was his thorn given to him to keep him humble and dependent on God. That is why Jesus response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

When Paul gets this revelation he realizes the beauty and power of it and exclaims in verse 9-10, “I will boast in my weakness and suffering that Christ strength may come alive inside of me as I go through all these trials and tribulations!”

This revelation is why we see Paul now rejoicing in his sufferings when he writes the book of Colossians a few years later.

“24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24

Paul is no longer asking to be delivered from it, now he’s rejoicing in it because Jesus has given him understanding and revealed it’s powerful purpose.

Also notice the type of afflictions Paul refers to in Colossians. It’s the afflictions of Christ. Was Christ ever sick? Was Jesus ever afflicted with disease? No, Jesus was afflicted with persecution just as Paul was relating too.

I believe with all my heart the enemy has tried to blind the Church from seeing this simple truth and make it all about sickness so that we stay in unbelief and have a cop out card when we don’t see healing. See God never contradicts His promises, meaning that He’s doesn’t promise healing for one person and then deny it for another. 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us plainly that “ALL His promises are yes and amen in Christ.”

So where has God promised us healing? Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 4:23-24, 8:2-17, 9:18-35, 10:1&7-8, 12:15, 14:14, 21:14, James 5:15, 1 Peter 2:24 to name just a few. However, if we believe that the thorn was sickness then all these scriptures apply to everyone except Paul.

John 14:12 Jesus say’s, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”

What’s the work Jesus did all the time? Healed everyone who came to Him and He said, “what I do, you’ll do.” Healing was not something only Jesus walked in but rather something He modeled for us and has called all of us to walk in as we are the “body of Christ” or the “embodiment of Christ” on the earth. This is why John can say in 1 John 4:17 “that just as He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world.

For, “Apart from Him we can do nothing, but through Him nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37 & Matthew 19:26.)

Jesus makes this so clear in Mark 16:17-18 that it’s amazing to me how we let life and our experiences be our teacher instead of Christ

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Notice Jesus said the signs follow those who “believe,” not “those who are Christians.” He goes on to say that they “will recover from sickness” not “might recover” or “maybe will recover” or “won’t be healed unless they learn the character lessons I’m trying to teach them through it first.” That’s what we say, that’s not what Christ said. At some point we have to honor the integrity of the Word and lift it above our experiences, versus making new doctrine when our experiences don’t line up with the Word.

The signs follow those who believe, not those who try it out to see if it works 🙂 We are growing in faith and understanding and this journey is a process but we must start where He finished if we ever want to walk in all that’s become available to us through Christ.

See satan knows the Word and he’s been twisting it from the beginning. When he sees “the signs follow the believer” then what do you think he’s going to go after to mess with? What we believe! If he can get you to drop your shield of faith then all his fiery darts are going to get straight through and he will do what he does best, rob, kill and destroy, (John 10:10.)

So he takes a verse like the thorn in the flesh and twists it to make it all about sickness even though the Word clearly tells us it’s persecution and tribulation. Now Jesus the One Who Author’s life and life more abundantly gets accused of being the One who takes life and we find that the clay now has issue with the Potter and we don’t know what to believe! So when we or our loved ones gets sick, we hear things from well meaning believers like, “Well this is just my thorn brother,” or “well maybe God will heal, maybe He won’t, but either way it’s my thorn to bear.” How on earth are we supposed to stand in faith and be a believer when we turn the Gospel into a “maybe He will maybe He won’t” doctrine, when Jesus Christ Who is the “Yes and Amen,” lives inside of us and has given us all authority to see sickness and disease healed? See how cunning and crafty the enemy can be to get us out of faith and into fear and natural knowledge?

Not once in the life of Christ do you see Him leaving someone sick who came to Him or Him saying that only some are called to be healed. Matthew 8:3 and Luke 5:13 Jesus is approached by a leper and the leper asks Him (being God,) “If you are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus didn’t respond, “Sorry I’m not willing today” or “Not until you repent of your generational sins and get more cleaned up first.” No, Jesus said “I AM WILLING, be cleansed,” and the Leper was healed. You will never find Jesus unwilling to heal but you will find a lot of confused Christians wondering if it is the Will of God to heal.

Please don’t hear this in the wrong ear, there is no condemnation in Christ and He is encouraging us to walk in all He died to give while not being deceived by the enemy to take one liners out of the Bible and write new books that God never authored on why people are sick. Jesus alone is perfect theology and He is our teacher, not life or what we’ve gone through. This topic is sensitive because most of us have lost loved ones prematurely and we all want to see that end but we never will unless we know the truth that sets us free regarding God’s Will to heal (John 8:32.)

Even the very word “saved” speaking of our salvation, actually has more to do with how we live now then it does in eternity. John 10:9, Jesus says,

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

The Greek word for saved is “Sozo” which literally means, “saved, delivered, healed, made whole, protected, preserved, kept safe and sound.”

Healing is part of the package that comes with salvation yet it has just been reduced to saying a prayer to go to Heaven. Instead it’s actually really about Heaven coming back inside of us and then given out in power and love to everyone around us!

The gospel is simple and Jesus is amazing, let’s cast down our arguments and every high thing in our lives that has exalted itself above the knowledge of God and become strongholds in our thinking that keep us from walking in His truth (2 Corinthians 10:5). Let us become like little children again and simply believe what Jesus has spoken instead of what natural knowledge and life has spoken.

I personally haven’t seen a lot of people I’ve prayed for healed, but I have seen a lot more healed then I use too and I continue to grow in faith and understanding. Jesus describes this journey of growing in faith with the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32. Our faith starts out like the smallest of seeds but it eventually grows into the greatest of trees. Never allow the enemy to stunt your growth and lets be sure to keep our eyes on Jesus and not circumstances as He authors and perfects our faith, (Hebrews 12:2.)

Lets not grow weary in well doing and continue fighting the good fight of faith! Be blessed as you grow in Him 🙂

The Story Continues – Part 2

Image result for middle of nowhere wilderness

“Believe in His name” John 1:12

During this time I was also discovering what it truly meant to believe in Jesus and be a Christian. I used to think that if I had a mental agreement and understanding that Jesus was the Son of God who paid for my sins, I was “saved” and could go on living life the way I saw fit, so long as I was a “good person” and kept the “important commandments.” This was dramatically challenged when I felt led to look up the meaning of some of the words used in scripture around what believing in God truly means.

 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” John 1:12.

To believe is to “trust in, rely on, cling to and have complete confidence in” Him. Did I really have complete confidence in God? Did I really need to cling to Him like my full life depended on it? Did I really trust Him? It’s hard to trust someone you don’t really know. Sure I knew about God but did I actually know Him personally to the degree that He had invited me too? For example, I know about Justin Trudeau but I don’t personally know him one bit. The same is sometimes true of us with God. We know about Him from a distance, but He hasn’t yet become our Father, Friend, and Comforter in whom we trust explicitly. For both Tam and I, the limits to our faith were being exposed by this time of fiery refinement. We were pushed passed the boundaries of our trust in God, and it felt terrible. We trusted Him, yes, but only so far. Like little children, He began teaching us how to walk in trust and confidence in His goodness on new territory – where it felt like we were failing at life and where we felt abandoned by Him. Slowly but surely, He began to “enlarge the place of [our] tent [and] stretch out the curtains of [our] dwelling” (Isaiah 54:2). Our faith was getting stretched out. We were getting to know Him in whole new ways. We were being strengthened to trust Him when circumstances seemed to scream at us to do otherwise – to take control, to fix it ourselves, to grab hold of the helm and steer away from the storm.

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

These are some of the scriptures that continued to draw us back to God when we were offended with Him or felt forsaken by Him. He placed in us a grace to long to be close to Him, no matter the cost.

Like any relationship, this didn’t happen over night. It took a lot of time, perseverance and intentionality. It took being really honest with God and with ourselves about our feelings. The Lord knew exactly how we felt about this season – we were not polite about it. But we began leaning into Him like never before.

In John 17:3 we find the longest recorded prayer of Jesus and He makes a startling statement that gives us the definition of what eternal life is. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God.” The Greek word used for “know You” in this verse is ginōskō. It literally means to know God as a husband knows his wife. Jesus compares eternal life and knowing God to the closest relationship you can have on earth with another person; this is the relationship we are meant to walk in with Him. We are invited to be that close!

In the midst of all this I was still a complete mess. Just over two months in to living in Springbank, still with no work, I decided I would just go find a different job and work for someone else. If God wasn’t going to bring my company work then I would go and find it myself. I got a job working for an electrician in a high-end apartment building reno. It was a ridiculous experience. My tools kept breaking and my drill batteries would be dead even after I charged them. I had been working as an electrician for 8 years at this point and never experienced anything like it. I even had a pot light completely fall apart and come undone, with screws falling out and metal arms falling off, when I picked it up to install it. The third day working the Lord spoke to me, “I told you you’re not supposed to be working.” At this point I knew that I wasn’t helping the other electrician either. In fact, I was just costing him more money, and I officially knew I was outside Gods will. At the time I quit the whole experience had only lasted three days.

Fast forward another month and we were headed to Kelowna for a wedding. The day before we left I had another bizarre and infuriating experience. Our old neighbors had called me to run the electrical wires for their new hot tub in their back yard. This was the first call for work that I had received in months! I was pumped and thought that perhaps the tides were changing. I arrived on a beautiful sunny day and began unloading all my tools. When I got to the back yard, (I kid you not) a cloud came over the house and began pouring rain over just their property! There was no rain in the alley or the houses beside where I was. Everything became a muddy mess and I could not do the trench work in their newly landscaped back yard. My anger quickly turned to rage and I ran into the homeowner’s detached garage, slammed the door, threw my hat against the wall and screamed out to God, “Why have You forsaken me!!!” Sounds dramatic but boy I meant it. I took off and got stuck behind a funeral procession on the way home. I couldn’t help but see Gods sense of humor but I was far from amused!

We also found out Tamara’s vehicle needed nearly $2000 of work done on it, and we had to ask friends for a loan to pay the mechanic. The only reason we were able to go to Kelowna at all was by the generosity of family on both sides. I was extremely frustrated with life and on the verge of giving up. I was battling to keep my faith in the Goodness of God. I felt like He had stuffed us into a basement, stripped me of any work and then had completely forgotten about us.

People started questioning us and wondering about what are plans were. Plans? I thought, You think I planned this? You think I wanted this? You think I like where we are? You think I don’t dream about living in our own house and having a job or anything that remotely resembles a normal life every day!? Haha, it’s funny to think about now but man was it hard then! I mean, what am I supposed to say? How was I supposed to respond? “Ya we’re just waiting for God to take care of three massive issues in my heart and then we can start looking for our own place.” It sounds ridiculous but that was the truth, and how could you explain it?

I don’t blame anyone that thought we were crazy either. Not knowing all this was going on between the Lord and us would make anyone think we were crazy.

Anyway, as we drove out to Kelowna I was going through yet another week of being very angry with God. It’s funny how as young Christians we start out like little babies who don’t understand anything and cry whenever we don’t get our way. This was one of those times, and I was feeling very sorry for myself, complaining to God as we drove about all He was putting me through. After a few hours of this He finally responded in a way I was not expecting.

Tam’s parents live in Winfield (just before Kelowna) on the side of a mountain in a beautiful area that overlooks two lakes. This was our destination so we would be staying there that night. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “I want you to meet me at the top of the mountain tomorrow morning at 8:00am and don’t be late.” God had never given me a time and place to meet with Him so I was strangely encouraged and very curious as to what would happen.

I woke up early, put coffee in my thermos and headed up the mountain. The sun was well into the August sky and it was already getting hot out. It’s too hot for coffee, I thought to myself. I can’t believe I didn’t bring water. When I got to the top of the mountain I was sweating but the view was amazing. I surveyed the scene and wondered where I was supposed to go exactly. A rock about the size of a small car sticking out of the hilltop with a flat surface caught my eye. There was a single tree on the left-hand side just in front of the rock. With where the sun was in the sky at 8:00am, it cast a perfect shadow right across the whole rock. I knew that was the place He wanted to meet me, and in His kindness He had even provided me shade as I hate getting too hot. I sat there catching my breath and waited. I will do my very best to explain what happened next.

Jesus appeared on my left hand side about 40 yards from where I was. I didn’t physically see Him with my eyes but I saw Him in the Spirit as real as anything else. I also felt the presence of God to a degree that I had never felt it before. He walked over and sat down on the rock beside me. I felt pure love and peace as I sat astonished. In that moment, life was perfect… I was feeling what every drunk and high had attempted to counterfeit all my life but had failed miserably. This was the real deal, this was why I was alive. To be close to this Man, this God of mine, to risk it all, to lay it all down, to look like a fool was nothing to ask because He was more than worth it! Tears welled up in my eyes as He spoke to me and said, “You were the joy set before Me when I endured the cross. Now let Me be the joy set before you as you endure yours.” (Hebrews 12:2 & Luke 9:23)

I don’t have words to describe how I felt but I knew that something Holy was taking place. After an unknown amount of time, as what He had said was still sinking in, He spoke again. “This is the prayer I want you to have in your heart in this season.” He went on to quote one of His prayers in John 12:27-28,

“Now my soul is exceedingly troubled and what shall I say? Father deliver me from this hour? But for this very purpose I came to this hour, therefore Father, glorify Your Name.”

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind and affection on things above and not on things of the earth.” I realized that morning that my way of thinking had been so earth bound and focused on the temporary. Setting your mind on things above doesn’t mean being off in la la land, it means being focused on who God is and how we are called to live from His Kingdom and not from the world. Eternity is not some far off fairy-tale but rather a reality that starts the moment we receive Christ as our God and Savior. I was so focused on the hardship of our circumstances that I had been missing the higher purpose it was serving. I stopped asking God to deliver me from the trial I was in and started praying, “Father glorify Your Name in and through my life.” I of course was in no place to be doing that perfectly but God was not after perfection. He was after my heart and the honesty that came with it.

At this stage we still believed that God would provide a house for us supernaturally. We never once felt like we earned a house or were entitled to it in some way. We just believed that was what God had for us based on the Isaiah 54 verse about “enlarging the place of your dwelling.” However, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I grew restless and frustrated again. I was living in the basement, going to electrical school (which was very hard for me), experiencing a ton of stress in our church circumstances, and had recently discovered a spiritual father to me had passed away. On a particularly hard day, I decided our time living in the basement was done. I pulled out our computer and put “rentfaster Calgary” into the Google search engine.

The moment I got to the website I physically felt peace completely lift off my body and I immediately knew I was outside of Gods will. As soon as I closed the website window, my peace descended again and filled my body. This left me with no doubt that we were right where we were still supposed to be. Tamara did the same thing on her own and had the exact same experience. We tried looking for places a few more times over the years, but without fail, our peace immediately lifted. A number of other opportunities came up but every time we sought God on it He showed us they were just distractions and temptations that were not from Him. Everyone just wanted to help us out, and we are so grateful for the people we have in our lives who love us well. All these things were allowed and used by God to further refine us and grow two of the fruits of the spirit within us – longsuffering and faith.

This further lead to the Holy Spirit teaching me about the Ways of God. Throughout scripture we find God promising one thing only to watch the exact opposite of what He said take place:

Joseph was given dreams by God that showed him how he would one day be ruler over Egypt and his family in Genesis 37. The next thing that happens is he is betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. Twenty-four years would go by including two years spent in prison for making a righteous decision not to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. God used these years of hardship to refine and shape Joseph into the man God wanted him to be who would rule wisely and righteously when the time came. Imagine if Joseph threw in the towel and chose to believe God was a liar and not to be trusted because of the circumstances he found himself in. I believe this would have caused Joseph to not develop the character he would need, and he would have later killed his brothers when they came to Egypt, thereby destroying 11 of the patriarchs/future tribes of Israel. See, somewhere along the journey Joseph learned that though life was rough, he was in Gods will and was learning His ways. This is seen in Genesis 50:20, when Joseph said to his brothers, “What you did to me was meant for evil but God meant it for good.”

Psalm 105:19 puts it this way speaking of Joseph, “Until the time that the Word of the Lord came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested (or purged) him.”

Joseph clung to the promise of God for 24 years before he saw it come to pass, and in the process allowed God to refine him into a trustworthy ruler.

David has a similar experience. God told Samuel to anoint David as king of Israel. Eleven years would pass while he hid in caves and the wilderness with the rejects of Israel until he actually took the position of king. Again, God used this time to develop his character to learn the priceless principle of fearing God and not man as king Saul had failed to do.

Through the life of Moses we see another very clear picture of what learning Gods ways looks like. After his first 40 years in the wilderness being a shepherd, God calls on him to deliver Israel from Egypt. We all know the story but I continue to learn more and more as I study his life.

Right after Moses sees all of the signs and wonders God performs in Egypt to free the Israelites including the 10 plagues and the red sea split in two, he says an interesting prayer in Exodus 33:13.

“Show me Your ways that I might know You.”

Moses saw the amazing works of God but he still didn’t really know Him or understand His ways. Throughout his next 40 years in the wilderness we find God answered his prayer by reading Psalm 103:7, which says, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.”

Moses learned Gods ways whereas Israel just saw His acts.

I could go on about the hardships of Abraham waiting twenty-five years to see his promise or the hardships of the prophets, apostles and disciples, even Jesus Himself. I learned that God is so kind in everything He does, but it can appear as if He is absent, cruel or reckless if you don’t understand His ways and the purpose within them. A worship leader I love to listen to once said, “If you know Gods nature, you will never question His motives.”

God also spoke to me once and said, “Son, My will is not selfish.” God is love (1 John 4:8) and love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). Everything God does is dedicated to our good and growth despite what the package it comes in looks like. This is why it’s so crucial to have our minds renewed, so we don’t get caught up in viewing our life through the lens of what the world values and says is good or important verses what God say’s is good and important. (Romans 12:2).

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

A friend shared a vision they received for Tamara while praying for us. He saw her treading water in a pool for a long time. A very long time. And even though she wasn’t “going anywhere”, she was getting stronger and stronger. When it was time, the Lord pulled the plug on the pool causing it to drain, and she was ready to run with far more strength than before. What a picture of the purpose of endurance. In our own small way, the Lord was strengthening us through our endurance and longsuffering through this time, knowing in His wisdom how this was accomplishing His purposes in our lives and it was all for our good.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

This doesn’t mean we have some suffering complex, it just means that we truly believe our lives are not our own but have been bought at the most costly price (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus said in John 10:10 that He means for us to live an abundant life and that looks like something. It just doesn’t look like what the world has to offer – it is much richer and fuller.

At the end of being at my mom and dads for almost exactly 2 years (25 months, not that we were counting J) I finally understood what God had meant when He gave us the Word in Isaiah 54 about enlarging the place of our dwelling. The whole time He was talking about enlarging the capacity of my heart to know Him and my spirit to host Him. It was all about discovering my true identity in Him and who He created me to be.

We had never heard God wrong with what He said, we had just misinterpreted what He was saying.

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I AM?” Peter (then called Simon) responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus then goes on to give him a new name saying, “And you are Peter.” It’s when we discover who Jesus really is that we discover who we really are.

The entire journey was never about an external house but rather our internal house, which Jesus teaches us is where His Kingdom resides (Luke 17:21). I now thank God for what we went through, as a temporary physical house means nothing compared to what He accomplished within our eternal house. He renovated our internal house from the foundation up, using materials of eternal value and substance. We continue to learn, grow, make mistakes and sometimes get it right, but at the end of the day He is bigger and greater than anything we face.

 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
12 “Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
13 “All your sons will be taught of the Lord;
And the well-being of your sons will be great.
14 “In righteousness you will be established;
You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;
And from terror, for it will not come near you.” Isaiah 54:11-14

We still fully believe that God could give us a house if He wanted to or provide a way for us to buy one as that would be a simple thing for Him to do, but it is not our goal or focus.

We have also learned not to make a ten-ton decision on ten-pounds of revelation. God’s not confused about His plans for us and He will reveal them at the appropriate time along with the confirmation to go with it. We know that God has both a practical plan and a plan that will require our faith, but He has taught us to live no other way. Tamara would be the first to say that taking steps of faith is challenging, with fear and unbelief hiding behind “responsibility” and “logic”. But fear and unbelief have also continued to be rooted out of our hearts as the Father has persistently proven Himself so faithful and so kind and so good. I sure didn’t feel it at the time, but I look back on this difficult season with such gratitude in my heart. I feel so loved by God that He would put me into such a hard and beautiful mess in order to heal me and draw me closer to Him. We continue to mature in a balanced way of living life.

We have become completely dedicated to living the life that Jesus has called us to live despite the cost or perceived illogic involved. My friend once said, “Power is balanced by humility. Knowledge is balanced by revelation. Practicality is balanced by faith. Passion is balanced by wisdom.” By His grace, this is the balance we desire to live well in.

And who knows, after trying to have more children for 6 years now, perhaps Isaiah 54:1 is around the bend for us…

 “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord.

Much love,

Justin and Tam

The Story Continues – Part 1

Image result for middle of nowhere wilderness

2 years ago this month, we released “our story” about how me and my wife got together. We are about to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary and decided we wanted to share about a very significant period of time within our marriage. A few years into our marriage we stepped into one of the hardest seasons of our lives and we both felt it was time to share it. This was a season of intense refinement when we had our foundation laid bare and we found out what we really believed. This story will only be 2 parts and we hope you are blessed and encouraged by it.

 “Enlarge the place of your tent” Isaiah 54:2a

 By year three of our marriage, we felt established as a family and circumstantially life was rolling along smoothly. 2012 was my second year running the lighting company and I made more money in that year then I had ever made before.

We got almost completely debt free apart from truck payments. Because we paid off most of our debt, it didn’t feel like we had made as much money as we did because there wasn’t a lot of money left over. Being new to owning my own company, as well as being a little ignorant, this would be a problem later when it came to taxes.

It was around this time (January 2013) that I began growing more restless in my Christian walk.

Tam and I both felt a transition coming, though we were unsure of what that would be. It was around this time that I began praying for God to “make me a humble man and remove anything that [was] stopping me from walking in the purpose for which I [had] been created.” One evening, while we were in separate locations, we both received prophetic words out of Isaiah 54. This spoke of stretching out our tent pegs and enlarging the place of our territory. We had been wondering about moving, and when we heard this we began to wonder if the Lord was going to provide us with a home supernaturally? It would need to be supernatural, because we had no money left over from the season for a down payment.

Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.

Isaiah 54: 2-3a

The next few months we began looking at houses. We had our credit checked, found a realtor, and began checking places out in faith. The sense of transition – of an impending move – continued to increase in our hearts.

I had coffee with a trusted friend one morning who didn’t know about our sense regarding moving. He shared that he felt the Lord had a word for us out of the story of the Israelite’s exodus. When they were fleeing the Egyptians, approaching the Red Sea, there were mountains on both sides and nowhere to escape. Essentially, just as the Israelite’s were utterly dependent on God to make a way and He totally delivered them, so He would make a way for us as He is the Waymaker.

When our lease agreement was 6 weeks from expiring, our landlord (perhaps sensing our exploration of the housing market) became antsy and rented our house out from under us. We were shocked. He had said on multiple occasions that we were the best tenants he had ever had, and in our three years of living there we had never re-signed as early as six weeks before. He felt awful, but the new tenants had already signed and provided their damage deposit. It was done.

Our prayers for supernatural provision ramped up. In our immaturity, we didn’t understand how to think through the prophetic words we’d received, and felt like questioning (our interpretation of) them was showing a lack of faith. Shortly after we found out we were losing our place, we met with our accountant for tax purposes. We received another massive blow. We owed the government $12,000. We had set aside about a quarter of that. It was officially an impossible situation. We leaned harder into the Lord, and He gave me Luke 1:37, “With man this is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.”

“I have brought you into the wilderness” Deuteronomy 8:2

Just when I thought I was at the end of my rope another problem became glaringly evident. I wasn’t getting any work. By the same time the previous year I had made more money then ever before. This year I had made nothing so far! I finally received one phone call to return to a place I had done the previous year to make a small addition. I drove down to the acreage near Black Diamond excited to finally have some form of work. However, when I arrived, it was the only property in the whole area covered in snow! Everywhere outside the acreage was brown and everywhere inside the acreage was white. I looked around in disbelief, as I couldn’t get done what I needed to with the ground covered in snow. With my fuse already extra short at this time, I ripped out to Kananaskis to go 4×4 through the mountains and blow off some steam.

I was angry with God and I didn’t understand anything that was happening to us. “Where are you Father!?! Where are you God!?!” I yelled as I drove into the mountains.

The Lord met me as I crested a hill and saw all the foothills and Rocky Mountains spread out before me like the perfect picture. The calming Presence of the Holy Spirit came into my truck and whispered to my heart, “Everything you see, the trees, the rocks, the hills, the mountains, all of it, everything you see I formed by the Word of My Mouth. If I want you to have work all I have to do is think it and you will have more work than you could handle. However, I have put up walls and you will not have work this season, because I have brought you into the wilderness to humble you and to test you and to find out what is in your heart.” Deuteronomy 8:2

What the Lord said to me that day sounded pretty intense, and though I still didn’t fully understand what He was doing, I was grateful to know that to whatever end we were right where we were supposed to be.

This statement also completely messed with my theology. I thought that if I was walking in His will, work should come easy and I should be blessed. It was then God reminded me that my definition of “good” was not in line with His definition of “good”. He had said to me, “You need to lose your definition of what you call good and allow Me to define that for you. What you’re going through is hard, yes, but it is also good because I am forming something in you of eternal value.” Since then I have learned to live with a teachable and correctable heart because only Jesus is perfect theology. It is so easy to elevate our opinions above Gods truth as 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 warns us. My understanding of theology must always bow to His truth as He reveals it while confirming it in His Word.

We were acutely aware of how crazy we looked, but we tenaciously kept our eyes on the Lord. We clung to 2 Chronicles 20:12; we had no power over the opposing circumstances, nor did we know what to do, but our eyes were on our God. My mom and dad kindly offered to be a transitional home for us, but we were determined not to need that. When the day to move came, I had given the Lord until noon to somehow provide a home for us. I was done packing the Uhaul by 11:30am so I sat on the couch and waited for a phone call or e-mail or knock on the door, anything! I watched with a defeated sunken heart as the clock moved from 11:59 to 12:00. Nothing had happened. Devastated, I called Tam. We had no words. Mom and Dad offered us comfort and a place to stay. I called a storage place, and with the help of friends and family, took a load over and began putting our belongings away.

We loaded the second truck into my parent’s garage and began settling ourselves into the basement. “Perhaps this will just be for a week or two,” I thought to myself.

That first month was a fog. We were so hurt. The Sunday following our move, the pastor spoke about the importance of how to receive a word from God. He taught about seeking the Lord on not just His will but also His way. For example, if someone is called to missions, and they buy a plane ticket the next day and launch off without first seeking His way of accomplishing His will, they will probably have an unnecessarily rocky path ahead of them! We need to continue to seek God on His ways – the practical when, where, and how of it. We realized we had been very guilty of this. Knowing His will but going about it our own way is a big reason for so much unnecessary heartache and confusion among His children, because “as the heaven are above the earth, so are His ways higher then our ways and His thoughts higher then our thoughts” Isaiah 55:9

“The Lord sits as a refiner of silver” Malachi 3:3.

 Through all these circumstances I knew we were in the furnace of refinement. In the process of refining silver, the refiner must keep his eye on the silver the entire time. If it’s left in for too long, the silver will be ruined. So they wait and they watch for the dross – the impurities – to rise to the surface. Then they scrape the dross off and stick the silver back in the fire, watching for more impurities. The refiner knows the process is complete when he can see his own image reflected back in the silver. This is exactly what the Lord was doing with us.

So here I was, stuffed into my parent’s basement with no work, no ability to provide for my family, feeling pretty emasculated, defeated, and alone. You find out what you really believe when you’re in the fire – all the dross comes up without fail. And come up it did. That summer in my brokenness, I turned to old ways of self-medication. I turned to alcohol and cigarettes, but to a worse degree then ever before. It was during this time that I realized God knew that this was in my heart the whole time. I thought addictions were from the past, something I was free from. But I clearly wasn’t. God wasn’t scared of or offended by my mess and my sin. Quite the opposite. He orchestrated the fire to burn up what He knew was in there, and He never once left me alone (Deuteronomy 31:6). He was completely okay with my mess, and He rolled up His sleeves as He met me in the middle of it. This amazed me. I saw first hand that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, not His wrath or judgment as some think (Romans 2:4).

Jesus had shown me that my addictions were never the true problem. It was what made me turn to them that was the true issue. Similar to a tree, when we see bad fruit growing on the tree we know that something is wrong with its roots. The fruit (my addictions) were not the primary issue, rather the roots (what drives me to them) were.

“Search me and know me, oh God” Psalm 139:23

David prayed one of the wisest prayers we could ever pray in Psalm 139:23-24. “Search me and know me oh God. Test my heart and find my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive or wicked way within me and lead me to the way everlasting.”

We have to make walking in wholeness before God our highest priority. This takes humility, courage, faith, and a steadfast pursuit of God, knowing He is faithful to complete the work He began in us as we co-operate with the Holy Spirit (Philippians 1:6). By God’s grace I’ve come a very long way, but I will not cease to pray this prayer. I have learned for myself that it is foolish to not keep my heart open to His kind correction when it comes to my crap.

Not long after we had moved in to my mom and dad’s I had a dream. I was shown through the dream that I had been brought back to my father’s house to have three main issues in my heart dealt with. These were issues that had developed in me many years prior. Two of them I would discover on my own and the third one would require my dad and Tamara’s help. The three issues were pride, rejection and an orphan heart.

Pride

 “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

 Pride was the original sin that caused Lucifer to fall as he deemed himself as higher than all others. For me, pride as well as false humility was a two-headed monster that popped up in many places of my life and heart. It was the driving force of many things that I did which appeared on the outside to be good, but on the inside my true motive was self-righteous, selfish or just plain wrong.

During this time, we attended a small group where we would meet weekly to pray, study the Word and encourage each other. On one of these nights, our leader was speaking about some of the challenges he was experiencing in his life at the time. Because I have a prophetic gift, I saw as he was speaking all the things that God was doing behind the scenes in his life. I saw what season God had him in, what His purpose for it was and the changes he would soon see as God moved. As I waited for him to stop speaking so I could share what I saw, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “I don’t want you to share that.” Confused but wanting to be obedient I listened. As soon as he finished speaking another person in the group spoke up and shared exactly what I had seen and said exactly what I was going to say.

The Lord used this moment to humble me and said, “The motive in your heart to share what you saw, was not because you were moved by love for that person. You wanted to look “spiritual” in front of everyone and that is why you wanted to share what you saw. I can use anyone I desire too and you are not the only one who hears My voice.” With pride exposed I repented and asked God to humble me by whatever means necessary. I prayed this because I saw that to not be humbled was scarier to me then anything God might do in order to humble me.

Romans 11:29 say’s that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. That means someone can have incredible spiritual gifting but completely misrepresent God while using it. Like the saying goes, “You will destroy with your character what you built with your gift.” In the Fathers kindness, He was exposing the motives of my heart, while in the process, purifying it.

1 Corinthians 14:1 say’s, “Pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.”

I once asked the Holy Spirit what that meant and He said this to me. “When you were 16 years old you greatly desired a car. However, you first had to pursue learning how to drive. If you drove the car before understanding the signs, lights, speed limits and how to drive, then you would end up hurting not only yourself but also others. Spiritual gifts are just like that car and your character is your understanding on how to properly drive that car. This is why love must be pursued before you can function in your gift in a safe and healthy way.” Gifts (of the Spirit) are freely given while character (fruits of the Spirit) is grown through intimacy with the Lord.

The Holy Spirit showed me that He was longing to do more powerful things through my life that would glorify Him and bring freedom and love to others, but I wasn’t in a place where He could trust me with it yet. God is so kind to not give us things prematurely that He would later have to judge us for. This is one reason for unanswered prayer. Sometimes God holds back in His wisdom what He could easily accomplish with His power. The question that I learned to ask in this time was, “When I’m representing Jesus to His people as I serve them, will they be talking more about me or about Him when I’m done?” I never want to fall into the trap of building my own empire when I’ve been called to co-labor with Him as we build and establish His kingdom.

Rejection

 “The Lord will not forsake His people, nor will He abandon His heritage.” Psalm 94:14

Throughout my life I have experienced rejection. Some of it was real and some of it was just my perception, but nevertheless, I experienced it deeply. I actually rejected myself at a young age and tried punishing my body through addictions and dangerous living. I have felt rejected by family and friends as well, which led to more addictions as self-medication. When praying one evening, I even had the Lord show me how I had believed He had rejected me as well, which was a lie that had caused me great hurt and negative self-perception. All of these things caused me to build walls around my heart and my identity, not letting anyone in. I then tried to “hide” from people who I really am and I would shut down around family. (The fact that I am sharing all of this as I am is a huge testimony to what the Lord has done!) I am not blaming my addictions on any of this, as I was 100% responsible for how I responded to these things. I am just being honest and attempting to explain my desire to self-destruct and where some of it came from.

An orphan heart

 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” John 14:18

 This was the one I had to have a conversation with dad about as well as get help from Tamara to deal with. I was blown away when I discovered how many of the orphan symptoms I had in my belief structure and way of thinking. An orphan doesn’t truly believe they belong in the family. This can be in their biological family, the family of God or both. Here are some of the symptoms of an orphan heart compared to the heart of a true son/daughter. Some of these symptoms were shown to me by a pastor named Jack Frost, and some of them were my own discovery in walking this out.

– An orphan is jealous of the success of his brothers. A son is committed to the success of his brothers.

An orphan serves God to earn the Father’s love. They have to work harder and harder to obtain acceptance through performance. A son serves God out of a sense of divine acceptance and favor.

– An orphan tries to medicate his deep internal alienation through physical stimulation. A son walks in the joy and presence of the Lord for comfort.

– An orphan is driven by the need for success. The Spirit leads a son into his calling and purpose.

– An orphan uses people as objects to fulfill goals. Sons serve people to bless them and the Lord.

– An orphan believes he is on his own and must fend for himself while working harder and harder to be a self-sustained provider. A son knows that the Father is aware of all his needs and is faithful to provide all things.

– An orphan is always in competition with others. The son is always blessing others.

– An orphan walks in independence and refuses to need others. A son embraces interdependence—the need of each other. Brothers and sisters celebrate being joined together as family and working as a team.

– An orphan is judgmental and untrusting of other people and their ministries. They actually like weakness in others so they can appear to be stronger. Sons generously extend grace to others’ failure to measure up to actual or perceived standards. This is because they know the fullness of the Father’s grace towards them.

These were all things I had no idea were attached to my way of living life, and I desperately needed God to free me from this orphan spirit and heart posture. I also knew that God would not allow us to leave the house until these issues were resolved and I had allowed God to heal my heart. This was the dross that the Refiner was dedicated to refining me from.

Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth

Isaiah 54:4

Sing, O barren one!

It’s a few days after Christmas. I’m sitting on my couch looking at our very dead but still pretty tree, all twinkling and merry. An all too familiar pain is pulsating through my lower abdomen and back; it is a pain that is more than it’s physical manifestation. Tonight it brings with it an ache in my heart and a tightness in my jaw, tears waiting to blur my vision.

Deep breaths.

I remember talking with my new husband about how we both felt ready. Having a stepson who was five at the time was an additional motivation, as we knew a sibling would be so wonderful for his social little heart. So about six months into our marriage, we started trying to get pregnant. I began learning more about my body, tracking cycles and fluids and all that jazz. And we waited with anticipation.

It’s funny how when you don’t want to get pregnant, you’re quite certain that unprotected sex will immediately cause reproduction, which is, of course, a stressful and unwelcome thought, so use all the things!
Naturally then, when you are ready, you expect the same.

For the first year, I was surprised and disappointed. I definitely threw a few tantrums, crying out to God in confusion and hurt. He would gently and patiently remind me to trust Him. Remind me that I had laid my life down, and had vocally submitted my will to His. This was an opportunity to live that. Six months in, my husband had a profound vision where he saw our future son, and the Lord spoke to him about who this child was called to be. This was a huge encouragement.
The second year was the year of tests, all of which were “inconclusive”. They didn’t know why. These were also the years of advice. Lots and lots and lots of advice. Everyone had advice. Well, that’s what it felt like.
The third year I steeled myself with faith. It would happen when it was supposed to; God had it. This was also the year I stopped planning my life around pregnancy. I left a job I had been waiting to leave on mat leave for two years, which felt really good.
The fourth and fifth year, I framed it as a “timing” issue. Life was unstable, our finances were a train wreck, I was inordinately stressed; it was “probably a good thing”. This was also handy as a response to the inquiries around me. I felt better about not being pregnant, and was able to be positive about the fact.
The sixth year – this past year – it has gotten real. Life has been stable, my husband and I have continued to grow personally in every way, and there has been nothing apparent that would hinder a baby from entering our world. And after watching probably near a hundred babies born in my world, regardless of what the tests failed to determine, it has become clear to me that SOMETHING IS WRONG.

So here we are. My pain is real. It is current; it is deep. Every time I am a day or three late is a kick in the gut. Every pregnancy announcement, no matter how sensitive, stings. I have days where I scan very very quickly over my Facebook feed because I can’t handle the pop up announcements from people in the periphery of my life. I have cursed at my womb. I have wept over my womb. I have cursed at God. I have wept on His lap. I have felt all the things. Anger. Disillusionment. Confusion. Disappointment. Heart sickness. Longing. Hope. Inadequacy. Fury. Wanting so badly to give up and get over it. Denial. Grief. Faith. Surrender. Peace. Apathy. Turmoil. Sorrow. Jealousy. Loneliness.

The loneliness has been a profound burden at times. I know only two other women who struggle as I have. There was a third, but she’s had two children and is pregnant with another at this point. Oh, there was a forth. Her little is nearly a year old now. Feeling alone in the “something is wrong” has been very intense, and infertility is rarely talked about.

I have had serious angst toward my biological and seemingly intrinsic desire to have children. Why do I even care? Why do I even want a baby? I have enough children in my life to not romanticize the thing. I have also raised my stepson since he was 5. Kids are a lot of work, sacrifice, and otherwise! But I do care. I do want kids. It’s so frustrating, but it’s true. I have come so so close to completely giving up and letting go of the hope of having a baby, but every time I’m on that brink, something happens. A stranger will begin weeping with and prophesying over me. A friend’s parent will have a dream. A sister will share a testimony that pierces my heart with faith. The Lord will breath hope into my soul through His word.

This was not intended to be a vent session, but I think it was supposed to be. See, it’s important to be honest.
Honesty has been my sanity.
Honesty has been the vehicle that has kept my heart soft, that has prevented me from becoming bitter, and that has preserved and deepened my connection with God during this time.

Perhaps you are reading this and relate to my barrenness, or perhaps you’ve had the anguish of miscarriages added to the mix. Maybe you are single, longing for a life partner. You might be believing God for a critical healing for yourself or someone you love. Or perhaps your heart is feeling sick from hope deferred after waiting for a door to open, a promise to be fulfilled, a calling to be realized, a child to come home.

It is so easy to become hard. It’s the most natural thing in the world to do when we feel vulnerable and hurt. We default to self-preservation! We want to run and hide! To throw out accusations and play the blame game. But here’s the thing… If I let my heart get hard and bitter – if I can’t be good, soft, happy, unless I have a child – I have made babies my god. And on the flip side, one day I do have a baby, and that child is my happiness. He or she “fills that void” and heals that hurt. First of all, what wretched pressure and expectation that places on them. Secondly, it’s still idolatry.

There is only one Source. He has already provided fullness of Joy, perfect Peace, reconciliation with my Father, and a Love that is without measure.

This is my Anchor, this is where my roots go down.

When I receive our promised child(ren), I want them to come into a world that is already full. I want them to be born to a mom who is soft and settled and full of Joy because of her unhindered connection to the Lover of her soul, not because the promise has become the god.

So.
Honesty.
Please don’t let your pain drive you away from your Comforter. Please don’t let your disappointment and heart sickness harden you against your Healer. Hurling accusations may feel good in the moment. And hurl them if you must! But don’t stop there. He can handle your feelings and your rage. You can’t scare Him away, you can’t offend Him away. I promise. Be honest, be real, be as pissed off as you need to be. But then, instead of running away, run into Him in your pain. Let Him in.

Isaiah 54:1
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
Break forth into singing and cry aloud,
You who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
Than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.

I have to run into Jesus in my pain.
And only then am I able to sing now. I can sing in my barrenness, in my longing, in the midst of unfulfilled promises. And it’s okay if there are tears in my eyes as I sing! But HE is my Joy, HE is my Anchor, HE is my Source. The promise is not my god, Jesus is.

So be blessed in your journey. Be blessed in honesty and in softness. Be blessed with the courage to run into your Father’s arms in the middle of the waiting, the disappointment, the hurt and confusion. He is endlessly kind, the most compassionate, and He will restore your song.

Much love,

Tamara

A Sinless Life

Image result for snowy mountains

I have been on a life-changing adventure with the Lord, and I have to share it. I have been encountering the “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10) of the Gospel that has been under my nose all along! In this journey with God, I have been discovering my true identity in Him, having my mind and heart amazed with the greatness of what we have become through Christ. Everywhere I look in the Word, God is constantly blowing the lid off of what is possible, and is inviting us to live in His boundless grace and power. In this journey I have had to unlearn some of what I was taught in the church growing up regarding my identity and who I really am in Christ. No one in the church was trying to deceive me, they were just misguided themselves in their understanding of the fullness of what Christ has accomplished. (When I reference “church”, I am speaking in general as it pertains to my own experiences, and not the church as a whole everywhere). Through a lot of prayer, conversations with other believers, and most of all through the Word, I have come to a new understanding that in Christ, it is possible to live a life free from sin. I want to be clear that I am not claiming to be living a completely sinless life yet. I am saying that we are no longer sinners, but saints who have become sons and daughters of God. Our identity is no longer aligned with sin but with righteousness through Christ who has delivered us from sin. Jesus doesn’t just forgive sin; He completely removes it. I hope to demonstrate clearly where this is in the Word, what hinders us from walking in it, and how it changes everything.

Before I get into it, I want to make clear that “there is no condemnation in Christ” Romans 8:1. This blog is not meant to make you feel crappy about where you currently are in your journey. I am acutely aware of my humanness – of how futile my own efforts to live righteous are. I am not delusional, I am not in denial. But I do want to inspire your faith to believe God to accomplish in you what Christ died to give. My heart is to stir up your faith and give you biblical permission to believe God for what many have unfortunately thought is impossible – that through Him, you can live a sinless life. Remember, “With man this is impossible but not with God, for with God all things are possible.” Mathew 19:26, and “You have not because you ask not.” James 4:2 and “Ask and it will be given to you.” Luke 11:9

About 2 months ago, God challenged me through a sermon concerning how I read the bible. The pastor said,“You need to stop reading what you believe and start believing what you read.” That was a very interesting statement to me and I took it seriously. It’s important to understand that everyone, to some degree, wears lenses they view the world through. Some of these lenses are harmless and make up part of who you are, but others are wrong ways of thinking that can rob from the fullness of life that God has for you. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 describes these lenses as “strongholds that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God.” When God reveals this wrong way of thinking (or stronghold), we simply ask forgiveness for whatever false lens we were looking through and then ask the Holy Spirit to replace it with the truth that’s found/confirmed in His Word. Growing up in the church, I was taught that we are sinners and will always be sinners until the day we die. This is one of the false lenses I viewed not only myself through but also the Bible through.

I think most of us who grew up in the church were probably taught the same thing, and some of you reading this right now may already be thinking, “It’s blasphemy to say you’re not a sinner! We are all sinners saved by grace!” True, we are absolutely saved by grace, and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”(Rom 3:23), but do we really understand all that we were saved from?

The Word of God is our guide and compass that brings us back on course when we have strayed from truth. I would like to propose that many of us have strayed from the truth that is found in the Word by listening to well meaning people more than to what the Word says. I have become convinced that we have biblical permission to believe in the power of God through us to live a completely sinless life. I have seen this truth strewn all throughout the Bible, and I will show you through the Word, not my opinion, that we have absolute biblical permission not only to believe God for this but also to live it out daily on this side of eternity.

One thing the enemy fears other than God is God’s people waking up to who they truly are. The enemy has now had over 2000 years in New Covenant living to twist and contort how we view God and how we view ourselves. If right believing leads to powerful right living, then obviously wrong believing leads to powerless wrong living. What better way to make the church of little impact than to get her to believe through false humility that she is not who God says she is. It’s the same old trick from the garden, “Has God really said?” Genesis 3:1. With this is mind, let’s start with a few of Jesus’ statements regarding “sinners.”

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Right here we see Jesus make a distinction between the “righteous” and the “sinners.” If we are all sinners always until we die then why is this distinction made? This is also seen in Matthew 9:13 & Luke 5:32.

Jesus does it again in Luke 6:32-33: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Here we see that Jesus is calling us to a place better than that of sinners, indicating we can live in that place, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have brought it up.

In John 5:14 and 8:11 Jesus says to two different people, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus would never tell us to do something that was not completely possible.

In the Old Covenant, the blood of bulls, lambs and goats was shed for the forgiveness of sins. However, these sacrifices were limited. They “covered” people’s sin, but had no power to deliver them from their nature to sin. The word “atonement” occurs over 80 times in the Old Testament and literally means, “to cover.” This almost always refers to man doing something in order to have his sin covered before God. The problem with covering something is that whatever is covered still remains. It’s like garbage in a garbage bin. You can put the garbage in a bag and put it in the bin and close the lid. You can’t see or smell the garbage but it’s still very much there. However, when Jesus (the Man) comes on the scene, this language totally changes; when John the Baptist sees Jesus, he cries out, “Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29. In the New Covenant, sins aren’t just covered. Rather the force behind what causes us to sin is removed completely, for “It is Finished”! (John 19:30) The Perfect Sacrifice has come, no longer covering sin but completely removing it and its nature within man. The garbage is gone!

Under the law in the Old Covenant, man had to work his hardest to keep his sin nature (given by Adam at the fall) under control as best he could. The focus was always on sin and trying not to commit it. Under the New Covenant, the sin nature is destroyed through Christ (the second Adam), and through faith in Him we can walk in His righteousness. The focus is now on righteousness and being restored back to the Father as sons and daughters as if the fall never took place. Now we are no longer sinning descendants of Adam but we are righteous children of God!

In John 3, Jesus talks to a man named Nicodemus and tells him that we must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God. The word “born again” would more accurately be translated “reconceived.” In Jewish culture, they believed that life actually started at conception and not at birth. This is a term I think a lot of us have thrown around without really understanding what it means. What are we reborn or reconceived as? 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15 help define it as meaning “a new creation.” You need the Word to expand and explain the Word along with the Holy Spirit. 1 John also makes this so ridiculously clear that you can’t miss it:

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”

Let’s look more closely at this portion of scripture. Verse 5 speaks again of Jesus taking away our sin. If He who has no sin lives in you, then His righteousness now lives in you as well. Verse 6 says he who “abides in Him does not sin”. Notice it doesn’t say, “he who believes in Him does not sin”. I believe that Christians can believe in God without abiding in Him at all. Abiding is key. Verse 7 states plainly that we can be righteous just as He is! It is crucial then, that we are righteousness-conscious and not sin-conscious. People often quote the second part of verse 8 without quoting the first part, which provides the context. It’s talking about the devil and his sin from the beginning and then goes on to say that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. What are the works of the devil? Sin! Jesus destroyed sin in man, which was the work of the devil! Verse 9 states, “Whoever is born of God does not sin.” Why? Because God’s seed has come into him. The word “seed” in the Greek here is “sperma”, which is where we get the word “sperm”. God’s sperm comes into our spirit and causes us to be born again or reconceived as true sons and daughters of God, and that’s not weird, it’s amazing! All throughout the New Testament, the word “Father” for God literally means, “come forth from.” This is why Jesus said in Matthew 23:9, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” We have no longer come forth from any man on earth, for we have come forth from God who is now our true Father in every sense of the word. That is what being born again really means.

When I bring this topic up, people often scramble to find verses in opposition. Despite the fact that there are scriptures everywhere testifying clearly to what Christ has actually made possible for us, people will get hung up on one or two verses to justify their perceived inability to live a sinless life. Since we’re in 1 John, let’s look at one of these misinterpreted scriptures.

       8 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. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.        1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 1:8-2:2

Does saying it is possible to not sin make me a liar, then? No, John is saying that if we say we have never sinned and are in no need of a Saviour, then we’re lying. Otherwise it would seem God contradicts Himself, as four sentences prior John writes that believers who abide in God do not sin, and shortly after he admonishes us “so that [we] may not sin”. We have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However, He has now redeemed us as His children and we belong to God, not the devil. Who you belong to is who you’ll behave like. In chapter 2:1, John adds that if we do sin, we have a merciful God who will forgive us. Notice he says “if” you sin, not “when” you sin.

God brought this to another level for me when He asked me a question. He said, “If you can’t live a sinless life now, but have to wait until you die and are in heaven to be free from sin, then whose death is more powerful, yours or Christ’s?” Did you get that? If I have to physically die to be set free from sin, then that makes my death more powerful then Jesus’ death. The book of Romans spends a few chapters on this, which makes a lot of sense since it is the very first epistle in the New Testament. The order of books is not random; without this understanding as a foundation, we will miss a lot of truth throughout the rest of the epistles. Romans tells us that the old man (which is the sin nature) was crucified with Christ. This means that the sin problem is done and gone! Jesus has dealt with our sin and is now focused on restoring us back to unhindered relationship with the Father. To believe and be baptized is to be reborn a new creation that no longer has sin as our nature, but rather a deep desire for righteousness. However, not believing this can keep a new creation in the bondage of the old as Paul addresses in Galatians.

I once got a prophetic word that totally messed me up in the best way. They said to me, “Your whole life you’ve been trying to become this certain man. A good man, a good husband, a good father, a righteous man, but this whole time God has been undoing you so that you see who you already really are.” Jesus saw through our mess and sin and crap and said through the cross, “Your life lived is so worth my death, because I see who I always created you to be! You are the joy set before me, and I’m going to shed my blood to buy you back! I’ll make it like you never ate from the tree in the first place because you belong to Me! You’re not sinners, you’re lost sons and daughters and I’m going to bring you home!”

Once you get this truth in your heart, your eyes will be opened and you will see it everywhere you look in the Word. Romans 4-8 is all about this as I previously mentioned. I encourage you to read these 4 chapters on your own, but I’ll pull out a few key verses. Again, remember to believe what you read and not read what you’ve always believed or been taught.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Notice the past tense wording. If we were sinners, we are no longer.

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1-2
Paul through the Holy Spirit just said we shouldn’t continue to sin, which means it’s possible. In fact, how could we do something that isn’t even in our nature anymore?

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:6
The old man is our sin nature, which was nailed to the cross with Christ. Sin is no longer covered by many imperfect sacrifices; it is now completely removed through one Perfect Sacrifice.

11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Roman 6:11-15
We are now under grace, which is the empowerment of God upon us to walk in everything He died to give us. Sin no longer has dominion over us, we have dominion over it!

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
Even though the grace is totally available to live in righteousness and be free from sin, the choice is still ours to believe it and walk in it.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,” Ephesians 2:1-2
This says that though we once walked in sin (again, past tense), we now are made alive in Him and are sons of obedience.

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15
We are called to be blameless, harmless and without fault. If I can be without fault how could I be a sinner?

“And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” Philippians 3:9
It is through faith by grace that we receive the righteousness of God to live a sinless life. If you try to do this in your own strength, you are automatically back under the law and have no grace/power to live the sinless life. Paul warned the Galatians of this in chapter 5:4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” Colossians 1:21-23a
See, we were once alienated, but again that is past tense. We are no longer alienated and enemies. We are now holy, blameless and above reproach in His sight, IF we what? Continue in Faith! Why? Because faith gives us access to live in His righteousness and receive the grace we need to walk it out. If we are living in this faith and are above reproach, where is there any room to be a sinner?

“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17
Notice it doesn’t say Christians will automatically have this abundance of grace and gift of righteousness. It says those who receive it will have it. The word “receive” is a verb – an action. What does it look like to receive this gift and this grace? I believe it looks like us engaging with God in prayer, receiving in faith what He longs to give us.

So how did we get so far from the truth of who we are and what it means to be saved? I believe it is because the enemy is terrified of the power of grace in our lives, and thus works to eliminate that threat by getting us back under the law through wrong belief. Why? Because when we’re living under the law, we have lost access to grace. What does it mean to be under the law? It means it’s about your effort and strength to walk right before God. I often find that when I talk about this truth of the gospel with people, it reveals how much we actually have our eyes on ourselves and our own abilities. The very disbelief and skepticism I often encounter is evidence of this. If my level of righteous living is up to my own strength and will power, then yes, there would be some skepticism! I felt the Lord recently speak to me that “to the degree this seems impossible to people is to the degree that they are focused on themselves and not on My ability within them.”

I believe the enemy has brought the law back into the church in different clothing, under which we are trying again to be close to God through our own effort and works instead of grace through faith, which are the very things that would empower us to walk this truth out and make it our reality. It all boils down to what you believe. If you think you’re just sin waiting to happen then that’s exactly what you’ll be. If you know you’re the righteousness of God in Christ then that’s exactly what you’ll be. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

The Lord showed me something fascinating in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. In verse 28-31, the older son was mad that the Father had killed a fattened calf for his rebellious brother. He said to the Father, “Why did you never do this for me and give me a fattened calf?” The Father replied and said, “Don’t you know that all that I have is yours?” The older brother had complete access to all that the Father was and had, but because he didn’t believe he did, he never accessed it.
What in our own walk with the Father do we have complete access to, but have been missing because of ignorance and unbelief? As the Lord says in Hosea 4:6, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”

I believe the permission and invitation to live a sinless life is a reality we’ve had access to for 2000 years, and it’s time to wake up to the grace and righteousness that’s available through Christ in us. Jesus is not coming back to rescue a broken widowed church. He’s coming back for a victorious Bride without spot or wrinkle. A Bride who has learned in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit how to reign as kings and queens who co-labor with Him. (Ephesians 5:27, 1 Corinthians 3:9 & Romans 5:17) You are not a dirty sinner unworthy of the Fathers love! Jesus determined your value and worth on the cross, and if I can call it bluntly, it is false humility not to agree with who God says you are! You are beloved sons and daughters of the Living God, chosen, precious, holy, blameless, righteous and above reproach in His sight if you keep the faith are not moved from the hope of the gospel. Colossians 1:21-23

So how do we live a sinless life? To put it simply, Romans 5:17 again tells us: “Receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness to reign in this life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Will this be a journey? Will this be a process? Absolutely, but we won’t get far if we don’t believe it, let alone pursue and ask for it.

So let the old man die and don’t resurrect him. If you fall down, ask for forgiveness and get right back up as you “keep your eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of your faith.” Hebrews 12:2

I encourage you to meditate on these scriptures. Ask the Lord to help you read them for what they say, through His lens of Truth.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-1

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2a-3b

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him. Colossians 2:6-10a

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:17-21

Jesus died for so much more than to give us a ticket to heaven. I am not belittling this incredible fact (of eternal life), rather I am compelled to help others see that the power of His death and resurrection looks like heaven coming to earth now. In us. Through us. Unhindered by pride and rebellion, false humility and selfishness. The power of the finished work of the Cross and His resurrection life has been reduced to much much less than the reality of it. I hope and pray that as you meditate on these scriptures and allow them to potentially challenge your theology and renew your mind, that you will begin to feel a spark of faith within you. That you would experience a dissatisfaction with just trying to be good, surviving this life as best as you can. And that you would feel a renewed hunger to be closer to Jesus than ever; to abide in Him and to be an abiding place for Him according to our original created design. We were never meant to function independently from Him. And we no longer have to.

What follows is an example prayer of faith and thanksgiving that I like to pray to God. Our posture in prayer is part of how we receive His grace by faith.

“Father I thank You that Your grace is sufficient for me today to walk in Your righteousness. I thank You Jesus for Your Perfect Sacrifice on my behalf that has set me free from sin and death forever. I thank You Holy Spirit that you have empowered me today with everything that pertains to life and godliness and I am complete in You. I lack no good thing because it’s Your good pleasure to give me Your Kingdom this day. Thank You for the love, value and worth that You placed on me at the cross. Thank You that I never have to question Your love for me again because You displayed it perfectly and completely through Your death and resurrection. Thank You for bringing me home as Your son and I receive Your love, I receive Your grace, I receive Your righteousness, I receive Your faith and I thank you Father that You give it to me in abundance! You are all that is awesome and I worship You! Amen.”

How To Hear Gods Voice

shephereds-voice

 

I have often thanked God for allowing me to live on this side of the cross where we have complete and free access to God through the Holy Spirit. I have been on a wonderful journey with the Lord in discovering how often He actually speaks and the many ways in which He does so. I’ve gone through seasons of joy and ease in hearing Him as well as frustration in seasons of silence. I still have a long way to go in this area and am always growing but I wanted to share some of my journey in the hope that you may be encouraged in some way with your own walk in hearing His voice.

To start I just briefly want to touch on some things that may hinder us from hearing His voice. The cartoon at the top sums up a lot and has actually done most of the work for me. In our culture of smart phones, Netflix, apps, games, TV and social media, it’s easier then ever to fill our minds and hearts with so much stuff it makes it difficult to recognize His voice or even hear it altogether. Whenever we have a free moment it seems like we go straight to our smart phones or ipads. I have been very guilty of this myself.

Just the other day I had sat on the couch after dinner and I pulled out my phone. I instantly felt a small conviction from the Holy Spirit and I knew He wanted my attention. I could have easily brushed it off and checked out facebook but I have learned that giving God an inch in my life often takes me a mile in getting to know Him better. I put my phone down and sat in silence as I fixed my affection and attention on Him. I felt His presence and pleasure in being with me. I never heard Him speak a word but He didn’t have to for us to enjoy eachothers company and just after a few moments together I was filled with joy and more love for Him. We have to be so intentional about investing our time in the Lord.

I like to compare my relationship with Jesus to my relationship with my wife. Because I’ve spent so much time investing in our relationship I can easily pick her voice out in a crowded room without even being able to see her. I know her voice so well because we talk all the time. If I only spoke to her once a week or only when I needed something from her our relationship would be weak at best. It’s no different with God and the key that opens the door of our heart to hear Him clearly is intimacy through time spent with Him. It’s this key that enables us to distinguish between our own voice, His voice and the enemy’s voice. To put it simply, God wants our time and affection and in a culture that aggressively demands both from us we must be so intentional and ask God for help in pursuing Him.

I learned a few years ago that sometimes “I need God to need God.” I often pray in the morning like Song of Songs 1:4, “Draw me after You God and anoint me to pursue You with my whole heart today.” The Holy Spirit loves this prayer as it’s my first step of the day in “drawing near to Him so He in turn can draw near to me,” (James 4:8).

 

Here are a few examples of how God speaks to me and the stories that go with them.

– The still small voice in my heart.

It’s like a whisper that tells me something often completely unrelated to my thoughts at the time and I know it’s Him.

I was at a gas station which had a mechanic/tire shop in the back and I was there to get cheap tires. I saw the mechanic in the back working and a small voice whispered to my heart, “tell that man that his son is going to be ok.” “What?” I thought… Knowing it was the Lord but being scared to say something so weird to a stranger I tried to pretend I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t even know if this man had a son! My heart rate rapidly increased which I knew was a sign I was trying to get out of something God had asked me to do. After trying to fight it off for a few minuets I finally decided I needed to be obedient and get over myself. I walked up to the man and said, “Umm do you have a son?” he looked at me and said, “ya right there,” as he pointed to the “Calgary sun” newspaper. “No no,” I said, “Do you have a son?.” He looked at me suspiciously and said, “ya I have a son.” I continued, “well God spoke to me when I saw you and He wants you to know that your son is going to be ok.” His face turned red in anger and he threw the wrench he was holding in his hand against the wall and yelled, “well he DAMN well better be!” A little stunned and feeling awkward I turned around and left as I had said what I was supposed to. To this day I have no idea what was going on with his son or what happened after I left but I believe God ended up using that you greatly encourage the man later.

– Visions or pictures in my imagination

I believe our imagination is actually part of our spirit that God uses to speak to us. This is why the enemy tries to shut it down especially when were children by sadly using people close to us who don’t know any better in saying things like, “that was only your imagination.” By brushing it off as meaning nothing we actually miss God speaking to us as adults.

I was working on a house where I needed to get wires underneath a sidewalk. After I had dug out both side of the sidewalk I was using a long steel rod to pound a hole through so I could get my wires in. I was really struggling as I had limited room to work with a fence on one side and the house on the other. After spending almost an hour trying I finally prayed, “Lord please help me.” I was suddenly shown a picture in my imagination of the angle the steel rod was going in and there was something blocking it. I then saw the angle it needed to be adjusted to and the place it needed to be moved in order to get through. I did exactly what I saw in my imagination and the steel rod went right through like butter. I now ask for these sort of pictures often for all kinds of things and it has greatly enhanced my ability to hear God in daily life. Had I brushed it off as “just my imagination” I probably would have been struggling with that job for a long time.

– Knowing’s

Sometimes I just know something that I never knew before or I know a direction I’m supposed to go just because I know that I know and I didn’t know before.

We were driving out to a farm to look at getting a new kitten. As we were driving I suddenly just knew that God wanted to speak to my son and show him which kitten God wanted to bless us with. I didn’t hear His voice or see a picture, I just all of a sudden knew what God wanted to do where just a moment ago it wasn’t even something on my radar. I told my son, “God is going to “highlight” a kitten to you which just means He’s going to draw you to one more then any another and you will know that’s the kitten God has for you.” We pulled into the farm and there were many kittens. My son was drawn to one of the orange ones and the orange one was drawn to him. After playing with a few of them my son decided on the orange one. When we made our choice, the owner of the cats said, “that’s the friendliest cat out of them all and he loves cuddles every morning.” That was a year ago now and he’s been the funniest and most affectionate cat we’ve ever had. He actually acts a lot more like a dog then a cat which is something we all love about him.         I have had these “knowings” in more significant times as well, but it’s good to remember that God cares and wants to speaks into even the smallest details of our lives.

Another more recent example happened when I was working from home one morning. I was focused on what I was doing when suddenly I just knew someone was going to try and kill Donald Trump. I wasn’t thinking about him or politics and I didn’t hear Gods voice or anything like it, I just received a knowing. I also knew the reason God let me know this was so I could pray for his protection and cancel the assignment against him. This doesn’t mean I agree or disagree with anything Donald Trump is doing and I haven’t heard from the Lord His stance on the man either. All I knew was that a man was in danger of being murdered and God wanted me praying against that plan. I prayed as I was led and I was shocked to find out later the same day, a young man at a Trump rally who had been planning to kill Trump for over a year, tried to grab a police officers gun and shoot Trump. The plan was obviously thwarted and the man was arrested.

– Dreams

This is another way God speaks that the enemy tries to shut down early in our lives. That’s why so many children get nightmares because the enemy is trying to make them afraid of dreams and shut down that way of communication with God when they are young and vulnerable. It’s very important to pray over your children’s “night season” as well as teach them God’s ways through the dreams they have that are from Him. If you were to remove all the dreams and visions from the bible (both old and new) you would be removing 1/3 of the bible. It’s also interesting that by the time the average person turns 60 years old, they have slept for 1/3 of their life. That means 20 years of sleeping! That’s a very long time to go without God speaking to you. In the Hebrew culture, the Jews often expected to hear from God in their dreams. Dreams are like night parables that are full of symbols and metaphors pointing to the meaning of a dream. Through the bible we can actually learn what numbers, colors, nature, animals etc mean in our dreams. God is light and from pure white light we get the whole color spectrum. This means that dreams from God are usually in bright vibrate color whereas dreams from the enemy or our own soul, can be in muted color or have a grayish darkened hue to them. Job 33:14-16 says that God actually seals instruction within our hearts while we sleep and dream. God also doesn’t just speak to believers in dreams but also to unbelievers which makes understanding biblical dream interpretation an amazing tool for evangelism. In Daniel 2:1-19 king Nebuchadnezzar (an unbeliever) is given a dream from God and Daniel gets the interpretation to his dream through a dream!

A friend of mine who had been battling addiction to alcohol and drugs called me one afternoon. As we were talking, dreams came up in the conversation. She said, “speaking of dreams, I had a strange dream last night but I doubt it means anything.” “Tell me about it,” I said as I silently prayed to the Lord for an interpretation to the dream if it was from Him. She agreed and told me this dream,

“I was running on a battlefield in what looked like World War 1. There was death and carnage everywhere and warplanes flying overhead. Suddenly one of the planes came crashing down close to me and one of the propellers from the plane broke off and came flying straight towards me. Before I could get out of the way, the propeller hit me and chopped off my legs. I screamed as I looked down and saw my legs gone and then I looked up toward heaven. Right after I looked up, I felt something and looked back down to see my legs back again and was completely healed. End of dream.”

While she was explaining the dream the Holy Spirit was giving me the meaning to the symbols in the dream, which came in the form of my own thoughts but I knew they weren’t my own. The battlefield represented her circumstances and her battle with addictions. World War 1 simply meant that this was an old issue or battle that’s never been dealt with yet. The death and carnage were what she was seeing the addictions do to her heart and life. The plane crashing represented an explosive revelation from the Spirit of God that she was about to have (which was the interpretation to this dream), that was then followed by the propeller chopping off her legs. The propeller was a play on words that spoke into the fact that it wasn’t her doing drugs and drinking that was the real problem. Rather it was what was “propelling” her to drink and do drugs in the first place that was the real problem. Whatever issue this spoke into was cutting off her walk with God which is what her legs being cut off represented. Now the dream gets to the encouraging part. She cried out and looked up toward God which obviously meant turning her heart towards Him again and asking for help. The moment she did this God supernaturally healed her legs and restored her, speaking of breaking the power of her addictions and walking close to God again in freedom. This was such a powerful dream given by God but like many people she almost completely missed what God was saying by shrugging it off as being just a weird dream.

 – The Word of God

I would say this is the most widely accepted way that people look to hear from God and that’s great. I love the word and rarely go a single day without reading it as I learn God’s ways and nature more and more. That being said, we must have the Holy Spirit to open up the scripture to us otherwise its just ink on a page. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 Paul actually says that the bible without the Holy Spirit is dead. I once even had God tell me to stop reading the word for a week or so because I was using it as a formula which had caused me to fall into religious ritual as I was not connecting with Him relationally. I sat in silence instead and focused on Him and allowed my heart to reconnect to His again. Now I always pray before reading the word something like this, “Holy Spirit, open up your word to me today and anoint me with the spirit of wisdom and revelation granting me understanding as you make it alive in my life this day, thank you gracious Father, Amen.” The bible is also the safe place I always return to when I’ve heard God in any of the other ways in order to confirm His voice. He will never speak or lead you into something that is contrary to His word.

I was working close to my parents house one day with a bunch of guys and I decided to go to my folks place for lunch to be alone for a little while and eat in quiet. I was feeling a little depressed about my circumstances at the time and needed to be alone. As I was sitting at the table by myself I looked out the window and starting thinking about God and how much I love Him. I love to love God with my mind and I do it often by thinking about what I’ve discovered so far in who He is and what He is really like. Suddenly the Presence of God fell powerfully upon me and a fierce yet gentle love that I had never felt before washed over me. It was so overpowering that I physically lost my ability to speak and then I heard rejoicing and singing in the Spirit and I knew God was singing over me. This lasted for about 10-15 minuets and then it lifted and I could speak again. I was overwhelmed in the best way and right as I tried to make sense of what had just happened the Lord gave me understanding by quoting Zephaniah 3:17 to me.

“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.” (bold added)

This scripture took on a whole new meaning to me that day and I realized that it’s called the living word for a reason. We must have biblical experience to back up biblical knowledge otherwise it just remains nice theology that lacks experiential authority.

– Other people

I went through a season were it felt like God had completely stopped speaking to me. Frustrated and a little confused I cried out to Him for understanding. It was over the next few days that He revealed to me I was looking for Him in all the familiar places that I was used to hearing Him in but He was enlarging my awareness of His voice in my life to more areas. He showed me through a great friend of mine that I was in a season of learning to rely on other people to hear His voice. This was funny because He actually used another person to show me this, as that’s how He was speaking to me. God revealed to me that if He could speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), He could speak through anyone so pay attention to everyone and the Holy Spirit would witness to my spirit what was from Him. I heard from God mostly through believers but sometimes even unbelievers confirmed His word to me. I heard from God through friends, my wife, parents, pastors, my son and even strangers. An example of an unbeliever speaking Gods word to me happened in the Calgary floods of 2013.

I had a savior complex at that time and I wanted to help people affected by the floods close to the river. So I filled up some jerry cans with gas and grabbed a pump to go help out. I didn’t realize that the true motive of my heart for helping was actually a self-righteous one to make me feel good about myself. I thought I could go it alone and save the people of Bowness along the river in my own strength and glory! Everywhere I went, nobody seemed to need my help. The longer this went on the more I felt convicted by the Lord for the independent spirit I was operating in. I finally pulled up to a house where someone needed their generator toped up with gas. There was an older man sitting on a lawn chair in the front yard smoking and drinking a beer. Once I filled up the generator I was about to jump into my truck to keep looking for other people when the old man yelled a statement to me saying, “There goes the lone ranger!” The Holy Spirit instantly testified to my heart that it was Him speaking through that man and I went home repenting and thankful for what God had revealed in my convicted heart.

– Peace

Sometimes I’ve been led through having complete peace or the lack of it. Isaiah 9:6 say’s that Jesus is the “Prince of peace” and if I’m following Him I should have peace. Peace in the bible is the Hebrew word “Shalom” which is actually a very aggressive word. It literally means “to destroy the anarchy and chaos that causes anxiety and the result is peace.”

From 2013 to 2015 my family and me lived in my parents basement. This was a very trying time circumstantially but we were right where God wanted us to be despite how we felt about it at times. On two distinct occasions, I decided our time there was done and I pulled out my computer to look for houses to rent. The moment I got to the website I physically felt peace completely lift off my body and I immediately knew I was outside of Gods will. As soon as I closed the website window, my peace descended again and filled my body leaving me no doubt that we were right where we were still supposed to be.

– Waiting on God

I believe this is sometimes a forgotten spiritual discipline that’s carries incredible value of not just hearing His voice but communing with Him intimately.

I went through another season where the Lord wanted me to wake up every morning at 5:00am to wait on Him for an hour. During this time I was not to read the word or pray anything but simply sit in silence with a posture of waiting on Him. The first time I did this I was very excited to hear from Him as I thought I would be given some kind of awesome revelation. I woke up at 5:00am very tired but ready for my revelation. I got on my knees in a posture of worship and intentionally stayed away from sitting on the couch where I might fall back asleep. His Presence thickly filled the room and I was suddenly strengthened in my whole body, soul and spirit fulfilling Isaiah 40:31 “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”

I stayed there for 45 minutes enjoying His Presence but hearing nothing. Despite the amazing strength I felt I was still waiting for some kind of big revelation. Finally at the end of it the Lord spoke to me and said, “Thank you for being with Me beloved. So many of my children are to busy for Me and I have many workers but very few friends. Thank you for being My friend.” I was undone by His words and will never forget that morning. I continued to do this for a few months and began growing quickly in Him. That being said there were many mornings I felt and heard nothing. Later on God gave me understanding when He showed me that He was allowing me to be tested to see if I would continue being obedient to Him at the cost of my self and my sleep without seeming to receive anything in return. This purified my motives and made my time with Him all about Him and not about me. If we base our times with Him on how we feel that time went then our intimacy is based on our feelings and not on being faithful to pursue Him despite our feelings at any given time.

– The audible voice of God

This one goes without saying but I find it to be quite rare. I have never heard the audible voice of God while I’ve been awake but I know many people who have. I have been in a season the last 2 years or so where dreams have been very rare for me but night visions have been more common. As I mentioned before, dreams are symbolic and use metaphors that point to hidden revelation requiring interpretation where night visions are much more literal and often don’t require interpretation because it’s taken at face value.

Life was really busy at this time and I had somewhat put God on the backburner of my life as far as intentionally spending time with Him goes. I had a night vision where God came to visit me and spoke audibly to me. He said, “Son, what are you doing with the talent I gave you?” (Matthew 25:14-30.) I had no idea what He was talking about so I said, “What talent Lord?” He replied, “The heart to love Me.” Not only did this night encounter completely mess up my theology of that parable but it also powerfully shifted my priorities and I was so grateful for His kind correction.

– The enemy’s voice

I debated putting this one in here as the story may be stretching for some but I will show you where it happened in scripture so bare with me.

Often when we are walking down the road God has called us to we will face opposition of all shapes and sizes. The enemy always apposes what is threating to his plans so I often take that opposition as great encouragement that I’m on the right path. That being said, the key to knowing it’s the enemy is to simply ask God if it’s him or not because sometimes it’s God who is the one opposing us when we are outside His Will or timing for something. This story happened a few months ago and God actually used the enemy to unknowingly encourage and confirm His word to me.

We were on a road trip to visit some dear friends of ours. It was a long drive and life had been so busy I was feeling pretty empty emotionally. My wife was talking on the phone and I used that time to press into God as we drove through the prairies. Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mathew 16:15.)

Sometimes I like to ask God the same question about myself so I can hear afresh His truth about my identity.As we drove I asked the Lord, “Father, who do you say that I am?” the still small voice whispered to my heart, “You are a champion of faith!” I felt His love and truth begin to fill me as I received His encouraging word that touched my heart.

We ended up arriving at our destination just after midnight. We chatted with our dear friends till 1:00am and went to bed. In the middle of the night I was woken up by strange sounds and movement in the basement we were sleeping in. I also felt a strong demonic evil presence coming closer to our doorway. The door was wide open and two dark figures appeared in our bedroom doorway. I didn’t feel any fear as I knew the Lord was with me so I sat up and watched for a moment. One of the dark figures spoke audibly and whispered to the other dark figure, “That’s Nolan!” Wondering what the heck was going on I commanded them to leave and went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning I was perplexed at what had happened as I’ve never heard a demon audibly before. I prayed asking God what that was all about. The Lord impressed on my heart, “Look up what Nolan means.” I was shocked when I saw it meant “champion!” The Lord then showed me how He allowed them to come in order to encourage my heart and confirm what He had told me the day before about being a champion of faith. It’s a good thing when the enemy knows who and Who’s you are! (Acts 19:11-20)

Since I had never heard anything like this before I prayed to be safe and said, “Father, where is this in scripture?”God instantly reminded me of Judges 7:9-23 which is when He sent Gideon into the enemies camp to be encouraged and have Gods word confirmed to him by the enemy.

– Through your body

I know that God will speak to us at times through different parts of our body. A friend of mine was in a grocery store and his ear began to hurt. Being sensitive to the Spirit, he knew it was not his pain but rather someone else’s in the grocery store that God wanted to heal. It ended up being the lady at the cash register. He asked her if she had pain in her ear and she somewhat awkwardly replied, “yes I do actually.” He went on to ask if he could pray for her and she said yes. She was completely healed and the pain in both of their ears was gone. Being sensitive to the Spirit requires us to slow down in life and be willing to be “inconvenienced” for the sake of the Kingdom and the people God is drawing to it.

Revelation 19:10 says that, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” When the spirit of prophecy comes I have learned how to sense it through by body. It comes and rests beside and above me and I can feel it’s presence around my head and shoulders. This happened to me a week ago when I was driving. I was talking to a friend on the phone when suddenly the “spirit of prophecy” came into my truck and rested on my left shoulder. I knew God had an encouraging word for my friend. I then saw a picture and the Holy Spirit showed me what the picture meant for my friend. I shared what was revealed and he was greatly encouraged as God had been using the same exact same picture to speak to him in the past.

At different times God will use more then one of these different ways of speaking all in one setting. For example, I’ll feel His presence, then I’ll feel something on my body, then I’ll get a picture and then I’ll hear the small Voice telling me what to do with it all. They often work together giving us understanding of what God wants to do. The more we can realize how God is speaking to us in daily life the closer we will get to Him and touch peoples lives with His unfailing love.

Those are a few of the main ways I have learned to hear God in my life. I know there are probably many more and everyone has their own stories but these are a few of mine and I hope they encouraged you in some way. I also wanted to say that there are many times I’ve got it totally wrong and it wasn’t God at all and that’s OK! We only mature as we step out and take risks. God is so much bigger then our mistakes and just like we don’t come out of the womb understanding everything our parents say, so to is it with growing up spiritually in God. Step out, have faith, make mistakes, get it wrong, get it right and have fun while you don’t take yourself to seriously! If your not comfortable stepping out with hearing words for people then just start small. I used to ask God what the pastor was going to preach on before I got to church. Or I would ask Him what the first person I met that day was going to say to me. Or what color would the next car that I saw on the highway be. It’s fun to practice and God loves honoring the time and effort we put into learning His voice. The last thing I wanted to mention is sometimes God does have seasons of complete silence but it’s only meant to make us come closer not push us away. You have to be very close to someone to hear them when they whisper and sometimes Gods silence is just His way of inviting you to come closer. You were born to know God and hear His voice. You are so loved and treasured by Him. Keep moving forward and keep your head up. He is not far from any of us beloved.