Don’t Assume You Know God’s Will Without Checking First

Just this past week, I was praying by myself for a friend who is a missionary. And I was about to launch into a prayer for his influence on the nation for the sake of the Kingdom of God when my mind flashed to the story of Jesus rebuking Peter with such strong language, saying “‘Get behind me, Satan!'” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). Jesus said this in response to Peter telling Jesus that he should not be thinking that he (Jesus) was going to be killed, even though Jesus just told them he was. And when this thought flashed into my mind, I was instantly aware of what the Holy Spirit was saying to me: “Don’t assume that what appears to be a great success by human standards – even by standards the Church would say is successful – is what God’s will is.”

When I heard that, I realized that I was doing what I often do: rushing into prayer, asking of God things that seem right, but not necessarily for things that line up with what He wants. So in response to this message, I change directions and asked God how He wanted me to pray for my friend, and what He wanted to do in and through my friend. When I sensed His answer, I was able to go forward and pray more of what I perceived to be God’s will, rather than what I had previously assumed that God wanted.

Jesus explained to Peter after the strong rebuke that the reason he was being rebuked was that, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). And while the Son of God being killed certainly seemed to all Godly people of the day like it was a devastating loss, they soon saw God’s richer plan in Jesus’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection. Where would be be today without that happening? What appeared to be a great failure was the most unexpected and marvelous success!
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Getting the Bride Ready for Jesus

The Church – the collection of all faithful followers of Jesus – is pledged in marriage to the very Son of God, and one day, perhaps very soon, we will experience the fulfillment of that promise (see Revelation 21). But since it is a promise, is there anything for us to do while we are waiting?
A normal bride would be busy planning the wedding, to be sure. But in addition to all of the details of sending invitations, choosing colors, and selecting venues, she would be doing her best to make herself beautiful for her husband to be (and all those witnessing her at the wedding). It’s not uncommon for a bride to go on a diet, spend time at the gym, try to find just the right hairstyle, find a person skilled to help her with her makeup, and of course be sure to have the perfect dress, along with shoes and jewelry to complete the look.

How can the church make Herself beautiful? I think that Isaiah 62 gives us some ideas. In an extended metaphor, the prophet is speaking from God’s perspective about Jerusalem. But what is Jerusalem in this metaphor? We see in Revelation 21 that the new Jerusalem represents the Church. And in Isaiah 62, especially verses 4 and 5, we see Jerusalem being promised as a bride to God. We can therefore use this passage in Isaiah to help us understand what the Lord wants to happen leading up to the great wedding.
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You’re Not Weird, You’re Rare: Embrace It and Value It

by Pastor Tim Thomas

I spent a large part of my life trying to be someone else, because I didn’t particularly like who I was. But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at myself through lenses that could only provide a distorted picture. Once God healed me from a deep-seated issue of rejection , I was able to more readily take in the truth that God had been speaking to me all along: that he loved me as I was, with all my seeming imperfections and weaknesses; that he made me as I am intentionally, and that it was meant not only for my good, but for the good of others; and that he wanted me to embrace who he created me to be, so that his purpose in this creation could be revealed in light rather than hidden in the shadows.
I would say to anyone reading this, that if you don’t feel loved, special, and with purpose for your life, you either need healing at some deep places in your life; or truth spoken to you and then embraced to replace what you are now believing; or both.

For me, healing came through the ministry of some friends one evening as they prayed with me. It was a God-appointed time. What changed me was a vision that God gave me of him carrying me in his arms when I was a baby at an orphanage before I was adopted. He spoke to my heart something that I didn’t even know I needed to hear – that he never abandoned me, but was always with me, watching over me, caring for me. That picture set me free from believing I was rejected and deserving rejection. I was healed on the inside, and I started believing my worth. And once I was healed, I was more readily able to receive God’s love and the love of others.

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How Jesus Disarmed Conflict and Opened Communication

Part 1 from “Jesus, the Expert in the Law, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan”

During a recent time of prayer, I felt like God was saying to me, “Love wider.” I instantly understood what he meant by that unusual phrase. He was referring to loving in circles beyond the circles of people I care about, into the realm of loving people I don’t know (yet). I don’t generally immediately trust what I hear in prayer, so sought a Biblical context for what God seemed to be saying to me, as a confirmation of the word. I felt led to take a look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which is found in Luke 10:25-37. This is the first in a series of articles based on this passage.


Let’s begin by taking a look at the first part of this passage, through the first words of verse 30, and let’s use the New Living Translation (NLT), since it does a nice job bringing out some of the nuances of meaning.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story.

The first thing we see here is that Jesus was being tested. We’re not sure what the motivation or the goal of the testing was. Was it to see what kind of theology Jesus had — something we might chalk up as a asking a legitimate question or demonstrating a reasonable curiosity? Or was it something more malicious, such as to show Jesus up and embarrass him publicly? Perhaps there was some other motivation. In any case, Jesus knew that he was being tested and perhaps challenged in some way.

I learned a lot by how Jesus replied. In his approach, he didn’t try to show the lawyer how bright he was or how holy he was, as perhaps another expert in the law might have done — or as I perhaps would have done. Jesus’ ego wasn’t involved in the answer — he was secure in who he was, and didn’t need to prove his credentials or his worth. Instead, he reflected the question back to the lawyer, for him to answer. Reflecting the question back can be helpful when you see that someone is looking to start a verbal confrontation. First of all, many people really just want to tell their position more than they want to refute yours. Second, understanding is about listening, and listening can start with a question. This might be a good technique for all of us to learn to diffuse potential conflict in conversation — reflecting the question back, and then really listening to the response.
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God Looks for the Good in Our Hearts

“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” — 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB)


God is so misunderstood. Many of God’s dearly loved children think that He is always looking for things that they are doing wrong so that he has more material to punish them for. They seem somehow convinced that their hearts are inherently evil, despite the Bible telling us that by turning to Jesus we have been given new hearts and new spirits (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). In the verse above, there is an unexpected twist. The Apostle Paul tells us that there will be a time when God brings to light the things hidden in darkness in our hearts. This is where those who do not have a clear concept of God as a genuinely loving father start sensing the wrath that is about to be revealed.

But instead of talk of wrath, Paul talks of praise. And this not praise of God, but praise from God of what is hidden in our hearts. The secret motives of good that are there. Praise for the compassion we have for people. Praise for our desire to do good. Praise for our hopes of seeing God presented to others in a way that leads them to relationship with Him. What good father doesn’t look for praiseworthy things in their kids? If earthly fathers know what good fathers should do, certainly the ultimate good father does so even more.

One of the Apostle Paul’s points here is that we need to be very careful what we judge other people to be. We see what appears to be wrong motives — or perhaps we see someone who still has very far to grow in Christ-likeness — or someone who is very rough around the edges. Yet, we don’t easily see the good that is residing in their hearts. We are not to be premature in writing off anyone. Furthermore, even though we can never see inside another’s heart very clearly, we are given the hint that we are to look for the gold there — look for the good there — look for the praiseworthy there. That is, if we are actually trying to be more like Jesus.

I have grown more in my life through people calling forth the good they see in me than people yelling about the bad they see in me. By calling out the good, people help me see what I in many cases had not been able to see. And in helping me see, they help me become what God always intended me to be.

Let us be life-giving people, and let us understand our Father in heaven as really being a good and loving Father in reality, and not just in words.

Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

Just read an excellent devotion by Bill Johnson in Spiritual Java. It was on strengthening yourself in the Lord, and was based on David’s response to a serious situation at Ziklag when the wives and children of he and his men were kidnapped while they were off fighting a battle elsewhere. His men were going to stone him, but he strengthened himself in the Lord and then led his men to take back their wives and children. The article was about being able to press into the Lord and then taking a courageous step that requires faith. Bill Johnson says that doing so helps us grow in favor with God.
I wonder what pressing into the Lord looks like practically? I think it must be more than simply being courageous, or at least acting like we are courageous. I think it must involve coming to the Lord, and in our time with him grappling with and agreeing with what he wants us to do to step forward in the situation.

I experienced this about 6 years ago when my consulting business wasn’t bringing in enough money, and I failed in my attempts to drum up more business or find an alternative job. I was scared and thought for sure I needed to sell my house before it got foreclosed on. But God spoke to me in his quiet voice and directed me to look at Isaiah 7, in which Isaiah challenges the king to take a stand against the foreign army. In verse 9, Isaiah basically tells the king (and this is paraphrased into how I interpreted it for my situation), if you don’t stand firm in faith now, you’ll always be running in tough situations. So, as a result, I redoubled my efforts to pray and trust God, and I got a phone call from someone offering me a position I neither knew about or applied for. And I am there to this day.

Truthfully, over the course of my life, I have had more failures than successes in this area, but as I grow older, I hope to see many more successes than failures. For us to do this, I think this requires us to both recognize that God is mighty, but also recognize ourselves as people valuable enough to God that he will act on our behalf. Consider the second part of Hebrews 11:6, that faith requires us to believe that God rewards those of us who seek him.

May God give us strength to stand firm in faith, to go up against giants, and not shrink in fear, but go forth using the weapons that we have!

Confidence from God’s Love Overcomes Fear of People — A Quote by Mike Bickle in “Loving God”

“A focus on Jesus ultimately leads us to an increased knowledge of His heart of affirmation for us. This is absolutely vital. As important as human affirmation is, it is woefully inadequate without God’s affirmation of us. When we are secure and confident in God’s love, we grow out of our fears related to how people receive and treat us.”

— Mike Bickle, “Loving God”, Kindle location 828

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What if Jesus Wasn’t a Big, Fat Liar, Nor Just Plain Crazy?

Jesus is too important to be fuzzy-headed about. Around a billion people claim to follow him (Christians) and for that matter, another billion people claim that he was at the very least a great prophet (Muslims). There’s probably an additional billion or more people who claim to at least have heard about him and show some kind of respect for him.

jesus-and-child-featured-589x295But perhaps the earliest sources known to record the life of Jesus, the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John found in the New Testament of the Bible, report that Jesus made some incredible claims. He said he was

  • God’s only begotten son (John 3:16)
  • One who was also God (John 5:18, John 8:58, John 10:30-33, John 12:44-46, John 14:6-9, Mark 14:61-62, John 20:28)
  • The only way to God (John 14:6)
  • One who could forgive sins
  • That he would save anyone who believed in him — and that everyone else was condemned (john 3:16-18)

We all have heard of people who claimed to be God. And we treat those people as not being mentally competent. But if someone ever seemed to be mentally competent and made that claim, then we would probably ask ourselves, “What’s the gimmick? Why are they staging such a scam?”

So, was Jesus a scam artist — a big, fat liar? He seemed to be selfless, not getting anything out of proclaiming his message. I mean, he was killed at a young age because of his message. And his followers, instead of shutting up, proclaimed Jesus as God and Savior — and all but one lost their lives for proclaiming this! Certainly if it was all a scam, at least one of them would have told the truth to save his own life.

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Pray for Someone by Seeing Them Wrapped in God’s Light — A Quote by J. Brent Bill in “Minding the Light”

“Now I’m not a very good formal pray-er — I don’t do well at closing my eyes and reciting prayers. I’ve always found it hard to set a regular time each day to pray. But I can think passionately about people and their lives. So I do. I begin by imagining them wrapped in God’s loving Light. That’s how I pray — maybe something like that will work for you.”

— J.Brent Bill, “Mind the Light”, Kindle location 1134

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A Fresh Way to Read Your Bible — A Quote by Antonio Baldovinos in “Relentless Pursuit”

“The Bible is so much more than words or instructions for life, although it certainly is that; He is releasing His fragrance, His heart’s very own passion to us as we read. These words are meant to touch our hearts, transform us, and move us into greater realization of His love and a continual encounter of truly knowing Him. We are meant not just to take in the words, but to take in His aroma of love and drink in His nearness.”

— Antonio Baldovinos, “Relentless Pursuit”, Kindle location 216

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