How to Hear from God – Part Two: The Holy Spirit.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul prayed “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (1:17-19).
In the same letter Paul wrote that according to the will of God, we who are in Christ are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who serves as a guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life while we are still here in our earthly bodies (see Ephesians 1:2-14). In John 16:7 Jesus declared, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” This Helper is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus described as “…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” This distinction, between the world, which does not know the Spirit of truth, and the Body of Christ which has received the Holy Spirit, is the key to understanding how to hear from God.
It is understandable that Jesus could be in the Father and the Father could be in Jesus, but how can it be that Jesus is in us and we are in him? This can happen because when God the Father received Jesus back to himself to sit at his right hand after the resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit to live within us as our comforter, helper, teacher, and guide.
When Jesus was on earth, he was fully God and fully man, and was born in a human body. Of course, one human body cannot occupy the same space as another human body. While Jesus could be close enough to touch us, he could not enter fully into us. Therefore, for God to get as close to us as possible so that he could literally live inside us forever, he had to send his Spirit. Because God as the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, he can be in all places at the same time, and that includes dwelling in the heart of everyone who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 In fact, the mystery of the Church as the Bride is that at salvation each individual believer’s spirit is sealed with the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Bible provides a blueprint of God’s plan for ever-increasing intimacy with his people. In the Old Testament, God spoke to mankind from heaven, through his prophets, or even from a burning bush! In the Gospels, God was born in a manger to walk among us as a man so that we could see him, touch him, and embrace him physically. Beginning in Acts chapter 2, through all the epistles, and even unto this hour, God lives inside of his people as the Holy Spirit. Paul described this in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).
The Spirit of truth is standing by to explain God’s will to all of us who inquire of him. Therefore, if you want to know the will of God, first you must be filled with his Spirit. Which brings us to Steps Four and Five of our series: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.

First let’s look at Step Four, Let God Fill You. As we said above, each individual believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit – and is sealed by the Holy Spirit – at salvation. This is so important that Paul wrote to believers in Rome, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).
The Holy Spirit is not an abstract idea, or an impersonal force. He is an equal member of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, God has come to dwell within us, because there is no separation between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. With that understanding it makes sense that to know the will of God, we must first be filled with the Spirit of God.
Listen to what John wrote in his first epistle, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.  And in his gospel, John recorded Jesus as saying, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). The presence of the Holy Spirit teaches us what the will of God is.

Step Five is to Let God Help You. When we want to hear from God, it is not enough to be filled with the Spirit, we must also be attentive to the Spirit. Romans 8:5 says “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Elijah was a great prophet, but sometimes he, too, had problems. 1 Kings relates how after Elijah called down fire from God and defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This made the evil queen Jezebel so angry that she vowed to murder Elijah. When he heard this, the mighty prophet lost his cool and ran for the hills, where the word of the Lord found him, hiding. And the word of the Lord said, “…‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, ‘So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13 MSG).
Because Elijah was accustomed to participating in great demonstrations of God’s power, he believed that God only spoke in ways that were obvious, like earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire from heaven, and the like. When Jezebel came after him, he expected God to show up with an impressive show of force, and when God did not perform the miracle that Elijah expected, he was disappointed.  So, God provided Elijah with a display of all the things that Elijah thought were worthy demonstrations of God’s might…but God was not in those things. Rather, God showed up for Elijah, his anointed prophet, as a still, small voice.  And in the still, small voice was the Holy Spirit.
Now don’t miss my meaning here. God was surely the one who manifested the whirlwind, earthquake, and fire on the mountain. But he proved for Elijah that it was not always necessary for God to speak in great sweeping gestures. Most of the time, God speaks to his people through his Spirit as a calm, quiet voice. God does not always make his will known with manifestations of power falling from heaven to impress everybody, as he did for example in the story of Job chapters 36-42. Most of the time, the voice of the Spirit of God bubbles up from the depths of our spirits, into our souls, and through our hearts to guide, comfort, and encourage his children with wonderful tenderness and intimacy.
Psalm 46:10 instructs us to “Be still, and know that I am God” when we are surrounded by enemies or in the midst of catastrophe. Our part is to be still, so that we can hear God’s guidance from his Holy Spirit. Remember, the mystery of the Body of Christ is that the Holy Spirit is joined with our spirits. He does not have to shout to get our attention, he already abides in the deepest part of our beings. A quiet whisper will do if we will only be still and listen.
In Part Three of How to Hear from God, we will discuss how The Word of God Speaks.
God bless and please stay tuned!

For more information on Elijah’s encounter with God, please visit this link:
How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Have a Snack and a Nap.
For more information on the Holy Spirit, please type “Who is the Holy Spirit?” in the search bar, above.

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

 

Salt and Light – Repost.

In times of crisis and turmoil, it is very easy to get caught up in taking sides, expressing opinions, and pointing fingers. But that is not what Jesus instructs us to do as ambassadors for God in this world. The Message translation expresses Jesus’ words this way: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The most radical, world-changing, life-affirming action that we can take in this dark and broken world is to stand up and shine brightly as representatives of Christ. We are here to be light – light-hearted, life-giving light-bearers, whose speech is seasoned with salt. Our words are not meant to carry the stinging ‘salt’ of slander or reviling, but the cleansing, purifying saltiness that comes from speaking the truth of God’s Word.
Let’s get into the habit of supporting and affirming the good and laying the bad at the foot of the cross – trusting that God knows what he is doing and because he is Almighty all is eternally well, no matter what it looks like to our earthly eyes.
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:5-7 ESV).
We hope you enjoy these reposts from September 2018. It is always amazing how God’s unfailing Word provides help and comfort for yesterday, today, and tomorrow!
What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part One
What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part Two

Bible Study – Genesis 3

Wisdom And Discernment

Carefully read Genesis 3 out loud, even though it may be a familiar story. Pay attention to details you may not have noticed before. Look up additional scriptures throughout the study below as well as those He brings to your mind. Pray for wisdom and discernment, for Yahweh to show you what He wants to teach you today. Make notes. This should be regular practice with Bible study.

Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil – The World’s Way

No one would choose to do evil if there were no pleasure in it and it did not seem good. The forbidden tree actually had good qualities; it was pleasant to look at, the fruit seemed good for food and the serpent told Eve that it would open her eyes and she would be like God. Knowledge can be a blessing (truly good) when given by God, or a curse and a distraction (evil) in that without love and wisdom from God can cause one to be prideful, arrogant and self righteous (1 Corinthians 8:1). Occasionally we all have fallen into this trap and if we are not careful to repent, it will lead us down a more dangerous path.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned ---... ~Romans 5:12  

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."~Revelation 22:8

So knowledge of any kind comes with great responsibility to choose wisely. Adam and Eve made a burdensome choice with huge consequences, not just for them, but for all generations to come. Our choices do affect others even when it would not seem so. Along with corruption comes the fight for survival in an often cruel world and we must cling to Him in order to overcome. Satan is hostile towards humans, but especially God's people and his goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). However, Satan cannot touch Yahweh and he cannot harm humans without their cooperation which involves deceptively  trapping them into sin.

Partial Truth

There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way to death. ~Proverbs 14:12 

I am going to share a story with you that is a good example of partial truth: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, My son, the battle is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

It is very true that this battle rages within each one of us. And it is true that the one you feed is the one that wins. However, let us put this in proper perspective. The complete truth is that God Wins. He simply cannot be left out of the equation because good and evil are not equal forces. 

Tree Of Life – God’s Way

Adam and Eve failed and their relationship with God was severed, but our merciful Yah already had a plan. The temporary solution to restore the relationship involved animal blood sacrifice to atone for sin. It had to be a serious reminder so they would understand that sin leads to death. This was in preparation for the future and final sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God Who is Yeshua, our one and only Salvation. Yah's Way is the superior, righteous and victorious choice. (Hebrews 9-10)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of (true) knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~Proverbs 1:7

The heart of the discerning acquires (His) knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. ~Proverbs 18:15

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace...~Proverbs 3:13-18

So as we make our daily choices, let us not compare it to two wolves being fed, but to the two trees, one of life which bears good fruit and one of destruction which bears bad fruit.  ...the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:22-25

A highway shall be there, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. ~Isaiah 35:8 

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes/conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ~Revelation 2:7

Encouragement for the New Year: How to Hear from God – Part One.

We often without thinking approach the Bible as a collection of anecdotes, as if we are only reading stories about people from ancient cultures, far removed from our modern times. While it is true that the men and women of scripture lived on earth thousands of years ago, it is not true that God’s Word is not relevant for us today. In fact, the very same Jesus and Holy Spirit that we read about in the scriptures are with us right now and are willing and longing to participate in our daily lives.
God never had any intention of making himself difficult to find. On the contrary, Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Our part is not to struggle to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before God takes notice of us. Our part is simply to Ask, Seek, Knock - because Jesus said everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks, God will open the way.
You may still be wondering how this works because you may have prayed and felt like God did not hear you. Or you may be wondering how to tell whether the voice you hear in response to your prayers is coming from the Holy Spirit, from your own mind, or from some outside influence. Take heart, Beloved Friends! God hears our every thought, knows all the desires of our hearts, and plans only the best for us.  He wants to be in relationship with us, and he even went so far as to send his Holy Spirit to abide in our hearts to make certain that he is always only a thought or a whisper away.
Hearing from God is not complicated, and Jesus himself gives us plenty of reassurance on the matter. For example, in Matthew 11:25-30 he declared “…I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding (the Pharisees) and revealed them to little children (that’s us!); yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Then Jesus went on to instruct us on how this happens: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (again, that’s us, the Body of Christ). Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Why does God hide himself from “the wise and understanding”? Because they are so wise in their own eyes and understand so much in their own minds that they refuse to come to Jesus like trusting, expectant children and ask him to teach them about the Father. Jesus did not say that we should figure it all out for ourselves. He said that we should simply come to him, and he would teach us and give us rest for our souls. And in this context, our souls represent our thinking, acting, willful selves. The Pharisees’ souls were so full of pride that no matter what Jesus said or did, they rejected him. But Jesus promised that we can come to him and exchange our heavy burdens for the light of his continual presence.
He said that it would be easy – not difficult or impossible – so let’s line it out in three simple steps.
First, Jesus said, “Come to me.” He means this literally. Jesus offered to exchange our heavy burdens and our enslavement to sin and suffering for his light and easy yoke. He was using the picture of a beast of burden, heavy laden under a cruel master, as a metaphor for the condition of humanity in this fallen world. He offered to exchange our slavery under sin for his freedom through salvation. Jesus broke the yoke of sin at the cross and replaced it with the light of his presence in our souls, hearts, and minds.
So, Step Number One is to come to Jesus and exchange our sin for his salvation.

If you have never prayed the Prayer of Salvation, or if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to rededicate your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please repeat this prayer, and exchange the burden of your sin for the grace of God:
Dear God, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins.  I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.
Congratulations! If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you have been forgiven of all your sins, past, present, and future. You are now a member of the Body of Christ, and all of God’s blessings and promises belong to you: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
Now that we have come to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the right as sons and daughters of God to ask him for help in every situation, no matter how big or how small.
Therefore, Step Two is to A.S.K.: Ask, Seek, Knock.

The Greek word for “ask” in these verses from Matthew is aiteo, which means “to ask, beg, crave, require.” Notice that these are different types of asking, that we might use under various circumstances. We may ask God for help in passing a test at school. Or we may beg for his help if we receive a frightening diagnosis from the doctor. We may require his help when we need strength to get through a long day or face a difficult challenge. God offers his guidance, in every situation.
The Greek word for “seek” is zeteo, and it means “to seek in order to find; to meditate on or ponder; to crave or require, demand, or strive after.” This is not about half-heartedly looking around and hoping to find what we need – this is setting out to seek something from God with the assurance that we will find it because he promised to provide for us.
The Greek for “knock” is krouo, meaning, simply, to knock at a door. We do not need a magical phrase or password to enter God’s presence. Jesus promised that all we need do is knock, and he will open. As Paul instructed in his epistle to the Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Step Three is to receive what God has for us in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking. This is where we let go and let God. And that, my Friends, is often much easier said than done. Why? Because we would really, really, really like for God to fulfill our requests according to our human understanding of time and necessity, instead of waiting for the results of “God’s perfect plan in God’s perfect timing.”

God is aware of our dilemma, and he makes sure to remind us in his Word of the times that he has come through at what seemed like the very last moment to rescue his people from their own folly. Psalm 136 begins like this: “…Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights,  for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever…” The sweet psalmist is reminding us that God’s love is not fickle or changeable – it lasts forever; and that God is the almighty and all-powerful Creator. Nothing is impossible for him. The psalmist goes on in the next seventeen verses to declare God’s steadfast love and proclaim the miracles he wrought on behalf of his people. It is God Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth, who answers our prayers. When we cry out, “Abba! Father!” we can depend on his love, provision, and power in all circumstances.
Jesus illustrates God’s willingness to give to his children in Luke 11:10-13. Here is a paraphrase of his parable from The Message translation: “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” Of course, the point Jesus was making is that if we mere humans love our children enough to give them good things, how much more will Almighty God provide for us! We can trust God as our good and perfect Father to fulfill all his promises.

In Part One of this series, we have focused on why we can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers. In Part Two we will explore how the Holy Spirit has been sent by God as our Teacher, Comforter, and Guide. It is the Holy Spirit who brings with him the wisdom to discern what God’s will is for us, and how and why God answers prayers and gives us instructions in the ways that he does – but not always in ways that we might prefer or expect!
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15).
In Part One of “How to Hear from God” we explored Steps One through Three: Come, A.S.K., and Receive. In Part Two we will discuss Steps Four and Five: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.
God bless and stay tuned!

 

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.