Knowing God’s Will

My dear friends Josh and Judy are moving. They feel like God has been calling them to Nebraska, and I affirm that God is directing them into this new chapter for their lives. I will miss them dearly, but I know God has indeed called them. 

During times like this many people will often ask, “How do I know that God is directing me?” 

In the Bible we see God speaking to people in several ways: 

  • An audible voice 
  • Through His prophets 
  • Sending an angel 
  • In a dream or vision 
  • One time God’s finger wrote a message on a wall
  • One time God spoke through a donkey 

But most often God speaks through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is described as having a mind, a will, and emotions. Although He doesn’t have a physical body, He is still a Person. Just like any person you could get to know, you can get to know the Holy Spirit more and more personally, becoming increasingly more acquainted with His voice. 

All of us are unique individuals. God has never, ever duplicated a person. Your combination of genes, talents, personality, and personal experiences make you a one-of-a-kind in all of human history. That means that God speaks uniquely to each of us. 

Even though the exact manner God will speak to us will be unique, there are some clear principles that we can know from the Bible. 

1. Humbly listen for God’s voice.

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let me unpack three key phrases:

  • lean not on your own understanding really means humbly exchanging an “I know best” posture for a “God, You know best” posture. 
  • acknowledge Him is the Hebrew word yada. This word means knowledge that comes from personal experience. This is where you act on something you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you and then evaluate it. It’s how you get to know the Person of the Holy Spirit better and better. 
  • He will make straight your paths might be better stated, “He will make your paths agreeable to His will.” In other words, you begin to feel in-sync with the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this would be grieving the Holy Spirit, where you feel out-of-step with God. 

2. Consult with godly friends. 

In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his companions are attempting to go into new territories to share the good news about Jesus but Luke records twice that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them. Perhaps they felt out-of-sync with the Spirit when they attempted to make their plans. Ultimately, God did open a door for them to move forward and Luke writes, “Concluding that God had called us.” Notice that word “us.” Paul shared his heart with his godly friends and they affirmed God’s voice, much as I affirmed the call on Josh and Judy’s lives in their move. 

3. Don’t be overly concerned about making a mistake. 

In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that God is working all things together for your good and for His glory. “All things” means even your mistakes—like not noticing that the Spirit was prompting you to move, or perhaps temporarily heading down a wrong path. The Holy Spirit can help you look back and see how these experiences have prepared you for your present moment. Even those missteps can be used for God’s glory. But most importantly, those missteps have never diminished God’s love for you! 

Your journey will be unique from everyone else’s journey, but these three principles are applicable to everyone who wants to walk in the paths God has set for them. 

The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

Loitering Words

These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs. The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’” (2 Samuel 23:1-4) 

Look how David describes himself: 

  • Inspired by God
  • Exalted by the Most High 
  • Anointed by God 

This statement by David reminds me of the words Moses spoke about himself: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)! 

David also said that he was the hero of Israel’s songs. The King James Version says he was “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” However he is described, these are his last words. Literally, that means that his words loitered. They hung around. They continued to impact people’s lives long after he was gone.

Look how long his words loitered. When the Church prayed in Acts 4, they quote David’s prophetic words, stating that they were spoken through the Holy Spirit. David said that’s exactly how he was speaking—“the Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue” (v. 2), and God Himself is recorded as speaking through David in verse 3.

God’s words were on David’s lips because God’s Spirit was in David’s heart.

David was both confident of this and humbled by this.

  • Confidently he said he “rules over people in righteousness” and “my house [is] right with God” (v. 5). 
  • Humbly he said “he rules in the fear of God” and God was the One who “brought to fruition my salvation” (v. 5). 

God is still looking for people through whom He may speak loitering words.

May our prayer be—God, You are still looking for men and women through whom You can impart loitering words. You want to put Your words in the mouth of those who are righteous in Your sight and who walk in reverent fear of Your holiness, those who acknowledge Your love and Your sovereignty. O God, make me that person! I don’t want to speak idle words, but life-changing, God-glorifying, Spirit-empowered words that will loiter, and impart truth, and bring people to Jesus. Show me what I need to change to be the one through whom You will speak Your loitering words.

’…And Yet We May Not Be Christians’

Something serious for all Christians to ponder…

The disciples had life before our Lord breathed on them, but then they attained more. They had life before Pentecost, but then they obtained more. … Thus a man may be very like a saint and yet not be one. A church or a congregation may be very like a Christian one, with a fair appearance and compact organization; all in excellent bustling order, numerous, liberal, united, earnest after a sort; and yet lack one thing which neutralizes and paralyzes all the rest—the breath of life.

“Our creed may be sound, and yet we may not be Christians.

“Our religion may be externally complete, and yet we may not be Christians. … Mechanical religion may do for the gods of Greece and Rome, but not for the living and true God. … Your sanctuary attendance may be regular and reverent; but what if there be no breath in it? Your prayers and praises may be punctual and unexceptionable, but what if there be no breath in them? Will God accept them? Will they satisfy you? Will they make you happy? Will they not be irksome and intolerable? And the more you multiply them, the more intolerable.

“Our good works may be numerous and praiseworthy, yet we may not be Christians. It is not the work that makes the Christian, but the Christian that makes the work.

Our life may be exemplary, and yet we may not be Christians.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

[see Ezekiel 37:8, and this post that talks about the difference between the Holy Spirit being on a Christian versus in a Christian]

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Navel-Gazing?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Navel-Gazing?

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bid to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the psalmist: ‘My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up’ (Psalm 5:3). And again, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?’ (121:1). If it is right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of His glory! …  

     The truth is, there’s nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven. But they went a little further than looking—they stood gazing. A little excess in right may be faulty. … There is a gazing that is not commendable. This is when the look becomes not that of reverent worship but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should not be known, a prying into that which it is for God’s glory to conceal. … 

     Thus certain things that you and I may do appear right and yet we may need to be chided out of them into something better—they may be right in themselves but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable or expedient. They may be right up to a point and then may touch the boundary of excess.

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

The word gazing reminds of another word: navel-gazing. The dictionary defines this as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” This “excessive absorption” is, I believe, what caused the angels to chide the disciples of Jesus.  

Jesus was always on the move. Even His times of rest and recovery were strategic so that He could engage in ministry refreshed and refilled to do spiritual warfare effectively. The Gospels never show us a picture of Jesus wondering what to do next, or concerned about what people thought of Him, or even strategizing over His next ministry opportunities. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward. 

And this same forward momentum is exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples to undertake. “You will move forward into all the world, telling people about Me, baptizing them, and commissioning them to also be forward-looking to their mission field.” This mission was to be preceded by the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was a 2-mile walk away from were the disciples were now gazing up into the heavens. 

The angels essentially said, “Your curiosity is on the verge of becoming procrastination. It’s time to head back to Jerusalem to wait for the empowerment that you will need to fulfill the mission on which Jesus sent you.” 

What about us? What “looking” can become unhealthy “gazing” for us? What excuses might we be making for our navel-gazing? What’s keeping us from being on-mission for Jesus? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have anything less than forward momentum for the sake of the Kingdom of God! 

Feelings, Facts, and Faith

Confusing times become more stressful—and more confusing!—when the response of people seems to throw more fuel on the fire. Frustration boils up into anger. Confusion gives way to fear. Uncertainty about what to believe or what to do becomes anxiety over what might be coming next. 

You might think I’m describing current events in our country right now. But in times like these we need to remember that there have always been times like these. When I talk about frustration, anger, confusion, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, I am actually thinking about events that took place over 2000 years ago. 

Like when the residents of Ephesus became Christians and stopped buying idols of Artemis, a huge backlash broke out. “Soon the whole city was in an uproar. … The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:29-32). 

Or when some Jews thought Paul had taken some non-Jews into the part of temple restricted to Jews only. “Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.’ (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple. … Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar…” (Acts 21:27-34). 

There are three Fs at work here: feelings, facts, and faith. 

Have you heard it said, “Feelings are not facts”? Feeling are a fact to the one experiencing those feelings, so feelings can indeed be facts: subjective facts that are factual to me. 

Facts are not necessarily better than feelings because our facts might come from faulty sources. For example, Trophimos was with Paul, but Paul did not bring him into the restricted area. 

Whether feelings or facts, we need faith in God’s sovereignty. We need to remember: God has a plan, He is in control, nothing takes Him by surprise, nothing derails His purpose, He is intimately aware of everything that is happening. 

The Holy Spirit helps us evaluate both feelings and facts through the filter of truth found in God’s Word. Then the Spirit also gives us faith to stand firm despite the feelings and the facts. 

The Holy Spirit not only helps us pray through these confusing times (Romans 8:27), but He helps us know what’s really behind the confusing times, as well as how we can communicate that truth to others (1 Corinthians 2:10, 13 AMP). 

Probably my favorite promise (which I especially like in the Old English of the King James Version) is this: Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things (1 John 2:20).

So I want to encourage you again: Don’t stop at salvation—be baptized in the Holy Spirit and have that unction that will help you with all your feelings and all the facts that are thrown at you. 

If you have missed any messages in this series on Pentecostal Christians, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Are You Gazing Or Going?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Are You Gazing Or Going?

     The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory! Equally delightful is the remembrance of His ascension. …

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11) 

     It is not the Lord’s will that [His disciples] should long remain inactive—the reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough, for the angel’s words may be accurately rendered, ‘Why do you stand gazing up into heaven’? … 

     As they had once said to the women, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6), so did they now say, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ …

     They do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, ‘Tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:49). They seem to say, ‘The taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about. He has gone to His throne and to His glory, and He said it was expedient for us that He should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father….

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was incarnated in human flesh so that we could know the way to Heaven. 

Jesus died on a Cross so that we could have our sins forgiven and go to Heaven. 

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could go to prepare a place for us. 

Jesus wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can take others to Heaven with us. 

Let us not imitate the disciples’ first reaction and simply gaze into Heaven hopefully and longingly after the ascended Jesus. Instead, let us imitate their next reactions: Waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so that we can take the Good News of salvation everywhere we can!

Impossible To Empowered

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].”  Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?” 

Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus. 

Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize. 

Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!” 

You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). 

This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly. 

Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27). 

On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection. 

Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?! 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here. 

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