The Switch – Day Three

Operating in the Dark

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NKJV)

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The older I get the more uncomfortable I am driving at night. The oncoming lights blind me and it’s harder to find landmarks in unfamiliar territory. Can you imagine a world without night? Part of me thinks it would be wonderful, but another part of me realizes I would miss the beauty of the moon and the stars. Truly the heavens declare the glory of God!

We tend to associate darkness with evil or despondency. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m in a dark place?” The reality is, life is a test. The Apostle Paul compares it to a race in 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The storms of life fall on the righteousness as well as the wicked.

I always say, “life is the womb of eternity.” Perhaps in this case, it is the training camp. If we prove ourselves faithful we will rule and reign with Christ forever. Faith Triumphs in Trouble

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)

Every person who has ever “overcome” something had to learn to operate in the dark. They had to make a decision to push past their fear and press on. No one escapes without perseverance.

Most of the time the darkness takes us by surprise. As Pastor Ty said, ” Someone can flip the switch and your deepest fears emerge. In that moment you have to decide … am I going to work in the dark or am I going to succumb to the fear?”

David understood this when he wrote Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (NKJV) … Death is the ultimate fear. I find it interesting that David talked about the comfort of the Lord’s presence. Have you ever noticed that scary situations seen a little less frightening when you’re not alone? Beloved … WE are never alone!

If you need to know how to navigate (operate) in the dark ask God to shed light (wisdom) on your situation. You will come to learn that God is your healer, your strength, your helper and your joy in the midst of the darkest trials.

Prayer: Lord, I am thankful for the truth in Your Word that assures me, no matter how hard the battle or how deep the despair, I am never alone. You are here, right beside me. I echo Paul’s Words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Help me to see fear for what it is – a lack of faith. Help me to remain faithful in the midst of the storms. Remind me, I am more than a conqueror in Christ! Thank You Lord for Your faithfulness. When I am weak, I know You are strong.

The Switch – Day Two

Facing Your Fears

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”” – Romans 8:15 (NKJV)

img_0811Fear produces bondage. It restrains you from moving forward. Even the bravest person in the world is afraid of something. To fear is human. We are born with an acute stress response known as hyperarousal. You may know it as the Fight-or-Flight response. This was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon as “a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.” The harm only has to be perceived, it doesn’t have to be real. The response is the same.

Jesus’ own disciples experienced fear, even though they had witnessed His miracles time and time again.

“Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” – Matthew 8:23-27 (NKJV)  

After Jesus’ death and resurrection these same men would go on to courageously spread the gospel, losing their own lives for it’s sake. What changed? How did they conquer their fear? Could it be that having seen Jesus risen from the dead, they finally grasped what He taught in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

They moved from operating in fear to operating in faith. This doesn’t mean they pretended there was nothing to fear. They didn’t hide their heads in the sand and pretend all was well. They faced their fear with confidence knowing that God loved them and the reward of eternity with Him far outweighed the temporary pain and hardship of this life.

We too, must learn to face our fears – real or imagined. How much of our lives do we waste worrying over things we cannot control? Fear is a thief. It steals your peace, and if you allow it to, it will steal your purpose.

I am a worrier, but I have found that most of the things I worry about never come to pass. What a waste of time. I am learning to take my cares to the Lord in prayer and trust that His will WILL be done. Faith is the antidote to fear. If you are a worrier, I encourage you to find as many scriptures as you can about trusting God. Write them out, memorize them and use the sword of the Word as your weapon against fear when it attacks.

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You are more powerful than anything I fear. Because You love me, I know no matter what happens in my life, I can trust You. Help me to be a woman of faith, Lord. Help me to see things from the proper perspective. Nothing can compare to the joy that awaits those who serve you.

 

 

 

The Switch – Day One

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV)

img_1090Fear of the dark is a common childhood fear. You may remember fear striking your heart when your parent reached for the light switch to turn it off. But where does that fear come from? It certainly isn’t based in reality. Some experts believe this fear is encoded in our genetic makeup because our ancestors were at greater risk of being attacked by predators during the night. Freud believed fear of the dark was really seperation anxiety in the absence of the mother. Whatever the reason, it is an intense and irrational fear which we often define as a ‘phobia’. While most children begin to outgrow their fear of the dark at around 9 years of age, at least 5% of adults report still being afraid of the dark.  

 You may be wondering what this has to do with spiritual growth. The Word of God tells us “FEAR NOT” some 365 times. Fear does not come from God, therefore it is something to be overcome.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

This week we are going to study how to replace fear with faith. According to Pastor Ty Mustafa the switch evolves the moment you overcome your fear. You go from darkness to light. While most of us aren’t afraid of the dark anymore, we are afraid of something. What are the fears you struggle with? Are those fears rooted in experience or are they False Evidence Appearing Real?

Whatever our fears may be the truth is, our circumstances do not define our reality. God’s promises are our reality.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are bigger than my fears. Your Word tells me I am more than a conqueror through Him that loved us.. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Help me Lord, to walk by faith, not by sight. Let Your peace rule and reign in my heart. 

Speak Lord, I’m Listening – Day Five

“Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” – I Samuel 9-10 NKJV

imageWe conclude our study of I Samuel 3 today with verses 9-10. At last Eli realizes that God has been speaking to Samuel and instructs him how to respond if the Lord calls out to him again. It is important to notice that Samuel heeded the instruction of Eli. He didn’t scoff. He was obedient to Eli, and moving forward he was obedient to the voice of God. 

This was a defining moment in Samuel’s life. It is the moment God reveals his destiny as a prophet. Samuel would later be the prophet who anoints David to be King of Israel, and the same prophet who confronted David with the sin of adultery. 

When God gives us a ‘Word’ it isn’t always going to be pleasant or easy to deliver. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Samuel to reveal what God spoke to him that first evening? (See verses 11-14) He loved Eli and served him faithfully.

The true test of the validity of prophecy in the Old Testament was whether or not the prophecy came to pass. It’s also important to note, one of the main purposes of the Old Testament prophets was to warn of impending judgment if the people did not repent. Today we live under the grace of Christ, and He sent the Holy Spirit to reside within us. The Holy Spirit will instruct us and correct us when necessary. He gently convicts us when we sin, leading us to repent. This doesn’t mean we will always escape the consequences of our sin, but we will be forgiven. 

Does it seem strange that the Holy Spirit could speak to you as distinctly as the Spirit spoke to Samuel that night? It is possible if we are willing to listen and obey. Pastor Blake Bennett said, “God’s voice is powerful and personal. The more time you spend with God, the more you learn that you can trust God. When you sit in a chair you trust that it will hold you. You trust it because of experience. Your faith in God grows with experience as well.”

Why is prayer and fasting such a powerful combination?

You are a three-part being. Body, soul (emotions/will) and spirit. Which one of the three is in charge? Are you controlled by your physical appetites, your emotions, or are you led by the Spirit. Prayer combined with fasting disciplines the body and soul to submit to the spirit. We are supposed to be Spirit led. Our spirit becomes stronger when we exercise authority over the body and soul. 

As we mentioned in the introduction post on 1/8/17, there are various types of fast. You should never abstain from all food and liquids for an extended period of time. But fasting over short periods can be very beneficial. When your body starts rebelling and you feel hungry, allow it to be a trigger to pray. Remind your body that you want God more than the food or distractions you have decided to put aside to seek Him. 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that because the Holy Spirit lives within my I can hear You speak to me directly, powerfully and personally. Help me to train my body and emotions to be led by Your Spirit rather than my physical appetites or emotions. Help me to be faithful to obey the things You speak to me. I long to serve and please You more than anything this world has to offer. Here I am, Lord … Speak, Your servant is listening. 

Speak Lord, I’m Listening – Day Four

“(Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. – 1 Samuel 3:7-8 (NKJV)

img_0951As we continue our study in Samuel, chapter 3 we see that the Lord persisted in pursuing Samuel, calling on him a third time. This is a beautiful example of God’s patience toward those who don’t know him. If you have been praying for someone who hasn’t given their life to the Lord, don’t give up, and don’t get discouraged. God loves them even more than you do and He will continue to reach out to them. 

I Corinthians 1:18 tells us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It takes the Spirit of God to open the eyes of the blind to the truth of the gospel. Continue to plant seeds of faith and trust that God will send others to water and harvest those seeds.

This should also be an encouragement to believers who have concerns about their inability to hear God clearly. He will continue to pursue you as well. I feel like I go through seasons of time where I hear God more distinctly than others. At times I feel He is silent. I have learned that I cannot trust my feelings. Instead I must trust His Word. He doesn’t punish us by giving us the silent treatment. He is constanting wooing us and calling us to come away with Him.

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom” Isaiah 40:11 NKJV

The third thing to note in this passage is that it wasn’t until the third time Samuel came to Eli that he realized the Lord was speaking to Samuel. This could be a message in and of itself, but here are a few tidbits to take from this:

  • Don’t rely on someone else to tell you when God is speaking to you.
  • Your pastor (or priest) is a messenger of God to you, but they cannot replace the voice of God in you.
  • God will speak to anyone who is willing to listen. You don’t have to be prophet or an ordained minister to hear from God.
  • God will often use the leaders in your life to ‘confirm’ the voice of God.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You pursue me with passion. I praise You because You are worthy of my praise, and it is such an honor to be Your child. Lord, thank You that you feed me like a shepherd, gather me with Your arm and carry me in Your bosom. I am safe and secure in Your loving embrace. 

Thank you Lord, for leaders who speak into my life. I ask You to bless them for their service to You and to the sheep You have given them. Give them wisdom and most importantly Your anointing. Help me Father to be a support and encouragement to them as well. 

Thank You Lord for Your love and desire for relationship. Forgive me for the times I have neglected You or allowed the cares and distractions of the World to steal away time I should have been spending with You. 

Lead, guide and direct my life, Father. Speak Lord – I’m listening.

 

Speak Lord, I’m Listening – Day Three

img_0624“… that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”And he (Eli) said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 1 Samuel 3:4-6 NKJV

We continue of study of Samuel Chaper 3 today. As the personal servant of Eli, Samuel would have been sleeping within hearing range in case Eli needed him during the night. When the Lord called Samuel he thought it was Eli and he “ran to him” and answered, “here I am”.

There are three interesting revelations in this short passage.

1. We can confuse the voice of God with the voice of others. I would say this is especially true of those who have authority over us. What people “speak” into our lives often becomes a false identity within us. For example: if you had someone who abused or belittled you, the inner voice of God can be confused with the harsh voice of authority that made you feel less than loved. It may be difficult for you to accept God’s unconditional love, if you have been used to feeling unworthy of love. How do you overcome this? You find scriptures that speak of God’s love, design and purpose for His children and begin to recite these passages when the voice of deceit whispers otherwise in your mind’s ear. The Word of God is a powerful weapon, capable of dividing truth from lies, capable of transforming us from the inside out, capable of teaching us the true “voice” of God.

2. Respond when God speaks. As soon as Samuel heard God’s voice he responded, “here I am”. When God speaks it requires action on our part. Samuel ran to Eli when God called. He didn’t linger and he showed no sense of agitation for being disturbed. When God speaks, run to Him with your full attention. Be willing to listen and obey. A. Sometimes He just wants to spend some quality Father time with you. We miss such an opportunity to minister to the heart of God if our prayer life only consists of a list of requests. Crawl up in His lap and lavish Him with love. B. Sometimes He is calling you to intercede for others. God has called us to love others as we love ourselves. Pray for those who need healing-physical, emotion or spiritual. Pray for those with financial needs. Pray for the broken-hearted, the poor, the lost. Our prayers can move Heaven and Earth! We see many times in the Old Testament when God was ready to bring judgment, but someone prayed and asked for His mercy. It’s easy to think, God’s going to do what God wants to do, so why pray? But He is often waiting for someone willing to stand in the gap. Be that person who says, “Here I am Lord.” C. Sometimes He wants to reveal something to You. If Samuel would have ignored God’s voice that evening, turned over in bed and went back to sleep, he would have missed his destiny. We can’t afford to dismiss God. He’s not silent. We just haven’t learned how to listen. He longs to give you direction. He created you for a specific purpose and your life will only be complete when you discover and pursue His will for your life.

3. He did not call Eli. Eli was the priest, yet God skipped over him to speak to a servant. Why? Commentary on this verse suggests it was because Eli was more interested in comfort than serving God. It also suggests there was corruption in the Temple and as the priest it was his responsibility to correct this. Whatever the reason, God chose Samuel over Eli. Don’t ever think you are not qualified to be used by God. There is a saying you may have heard that is appropriate for this time: “God doesn’t choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen.” He is looking for the “willing heart”.

Prayer:
Lord, thank You for choosing me to be Your child. Thank You for providing a way of connection to God through the cross. Help me Father to be able to distinguish Your voice from the many voices that compete for my attention. Help me to LISTEN and respond when You call. “Here I am” – speak Lord, I’m listening.

Speak Lord, I’m Listening – Day Two

Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle[a]of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down …”img_0992 – 1 Samuel 3:1-3 NKJV

Over the next few days we will be looking at 1 Samuel, chapter 3. Samuel’s mother had been childless, and his birth was an answer to her prayer. After he was weaned she dedicated him for service in the Lord’s house. Samuel was a personal servant to Eli, the priest. In return Eli mentored him in the ways of the Lord.

Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection God spoke to the people through the prophets. Unfortunately, during this time the voice of the Lord was rare. There were no prophets to declare the vision of the Lord to the people.

Also, prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection the Spirit of God resided in “places” rather than people. The ARK in the tabernacle represented the presence of God.

How exciting to know that God now resides within us! We no longer have to depend on someone else to speak on God’s behalf … He longs to speak directly to each of us.

If it is rare that you hear or recognize the voice of God speaking to you, it is time to do some soul searching to determine what is causing the disconnect.

Pastor Blake Bennett with TheCity.church offers the following example: If we are trying to have a conversation on our cell phone but we have distanced ourself from the cell towers, the conversation becomes disrupted. We have to “stay in range” to have good reception.

The same is true in hearing God’s voice. If we have distanced ourselves from Him through neglect of prayer we cannot hear as clearly. Several years ago the Lord told me, “When someone you know calls you on the phone, they don’t have to identify themselves. You recognize their voice.” If we want to recognize God’s voice we have to spend time with Him.

How will you hear the voice of God if you don’t pray? Prayer is meant to be a two-way conversation. We can’t do all the talking. We have to learn to be still/quiet and listen as well. We can only quiet our minds to hear the voice of God by pushing aside the distractions.

The technological advances over the last one hundred years have many benefits, but they also contribute to endless distractions.

One of the benefits of adding Fasting to your prayers is that it can be used as an opportunity to set aside those distractions. While we typically think of Fasting in relation to food … it is much more than just not eating. It is a time to separate yourself from the “things” that separate you (or steal your time) from God. It’s a time to take an honest look at the idols we have set up in our lives.

My encouragement to you is not to be legalistic, but turn off the noise over the next 21 days and spend as much time as possible alone with God. It will change your relationship with Him … and in turn change your life. We can do anything for 21 days, right? The benefits far outweigh the cost.

Prayer:
Father, thank You that as believers we no longer have to depend on the prophets to hear Your voice. Thank You for desiring a relationship with us. Help me Lord to quiet the distractions in my life that would drown out the sound of Your voice. Help me Lord to pray effectively, and to listen for Your direction.
Speak Lord, I’m listening.