Day One:  Learning to Hear His Voice

Day One: Learning to Hear His Voice

Today is the first day of a 40 day adventure.

No, this adventure is not about a mission trip to Haiti or a hike down the Appalachian Trail.  This 40 day adventure is a time set aside to discover more about the Lord and to specifically learn to hear Him speak.  That’s right, it’s my desire during this adventure to draw closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been before and to learn to hear His voice.  I’m not talking about hearing Him speak to me through His Word, which is wonderful.  But I long for something more personal, more intimate.  I long to hear Him speak to me like He has others in Scripture, and as He has also done for me several times in the past.  In fact, those times of hearing His voice are some of the high points in my spiritual life.

I know what many of you may be thinking.

“Oh, here we go again.  It looks like somebody else is wanting to move beyond the sufficiency of Scripture.  I guess Scripture’s not enough for Steve and now He wants more than God has already provided for him.  Maybe he wants an encounter like the one described in The Shack or to hear God speak like Sarah Young claims in Jesus Calling or something like that.  Doesn’t he know that God only speaks today through His Word?”

No, I don’t know that.  In fact, I see many places in Scripture where God speaks to His children in other ways than through the Scriptures.  Let me give you a few examples.


The Damascus Road

In Acts 9, we find Jesus verbally speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road.  It wasn’t just a command or some proclamation declared from heaven.  It was a conversation where both He and Paul spoke to each other.  And in this conversation Jesus did not only speak through the written Word, which for Paul would have been the Old Testament.  Instead, He verbally communicated His personal message and will to Paul that could not be found from reading, for example, the Psalms or Isaiah.

Acts 9:4-6 – Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”  Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

“Got it,” you say.  “But that’s the apostle Paul.  He was an apostle and could, therefore, hear God speak to him verbally in ways He doesn’t do today, to anybody, ever.  You and I are not apostles.  We don’t even have apostles anymore.  So how God spoke to Paul back then was just for Paul— and not for us today.”

Really?  So how do we explain God speaking, just a few verses later, to a non-apostle named Ananias?  He was not an apostle like Paul.  He was just a faithful disciple of Jesus who lived in Damascus that God had chosen for a specific task.  And how was Ananias to know what specific task God had in store for him unless, somehow and in some way, God spoke to him personally?


Ananias

The Scriptures say God spoke to Ananias in a vision (Acts 9:10).  Yet it was more than a dream or vision, it was actually a conversation.  God spoke, and Ananias responded.  God gave a command, and Ananias had some questions about God’s command.  Then God answered those questions and sent Ananias on his way.  Watch the give and take of this conversation.

Acts 9:10-16 – Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”  And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”  Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

This conversation did not happen from Ananias reading the Old Testament during his time of daily devotions.  This was a verbal communication from God that gave direction, instruction, and explanation to a human being and occurred outside of His written Word.  It was personal, meant only for Ananias, and communicated God’s direct will to one of His children.  Not to each of us, but only to Ananias.

That’s what I’m striving for over the next 40 days.  I want my relationship to be so close to the Lord that when He speaks, I will hear and listen.  And I want to know His voice so well, like a child does his mother’s, that I won’t make the mistake of confusing His voice with my own.


Words of Encouragement

But there’s more.  In the very next chapter we find God speaking to Peter regarding a vision he had about whether he should eat ceremonially unclean animals.  Again, this is a conversation between Peter and the Lord.  It’s not Peter coming to this conclusion by reading Leviticus or Deuteronomy or some other Old Testament text and gleaning principles from them to help him make up his mind.  It’s a direct conversation between God and a human being.  God gives a command and Peter responds with an objection.  Then God gives another command and addresses Peter’s objection.  Plus, the text says God had to do this three times.  Read it for yourself.

Acts 10:12-16 – In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “Not so, Lord!  For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”  And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”  This was done three times.  And the object was taken up into heaven again.

But some may still be unconvinced that God can, and desires, to speak to us personally and directly and not necessarily always through His written Word.  After all, He is God and can do whatever He wants (Psalm 115:3).  So when we read accounts like the one above with Peter, sometimes we conclude these encounters with God were in a dream state or vision or an early morning stupor and not a direct conversation, from lips to ears, between God and a human being.  It’s true that often, in Scripture, God speaks in a dream or through a vision.  But that’s not always the case.  Consider how Jesus encouraged Paul in Acts 23.  This was a personal, intimate, one-on-one message of encouragement that was not revealed through a dream and was meant for Paul alone.  In fact, the text says the “Lord stood by him” when He spoke.

Acts 23:11 – But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

This was not a message Paul received from reading Proverbs or the creation account in Genesis.  It was a direct, personal word from the lips of the Lord to Paul.  And it shows that sometimes God speaks to us about specific needs that we have outside of, or in addition to, His Word.  It doesn’t mean God ever violates His Word or contradicts His Word, but sometimes He speaks to each of us outside of and in cooperation with His Word.

It appears the Lord has more tools in His toolbelt than we allow Him to use.


Seems Logical

Think about it, you have a decision to make about taking a job offer.  Should you stay and accept the offer at Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina, or should you move and accept a competing offer with Capital One in Mclean, Virginia?  You don’t know what to do so, as a Christian who desires to be in the center of God’s will, you ask God to tell you what offer He wants you to take.  Not to give you wisdom so you can make the decision based on salary incentives and benefits, or the relative cost of living in each area, or maybe the availability of affordable housing, and the professional growth potential each position offers— but to tell you specifically what offer He wants you to accept.

How does God do that through the Old or New Testament?  How does He communicate His desire directly to you?  Is there any verse, or passage, or story that specifically reveals to you the answer God has for you regarding the move?

Probably not.  Now there are principles in the Scriptures that may guide you in making the decision.  And there may be passages that talk about the wisdom God gives you to help you decide your future.  But for those of us who want a deeper intimacy with the Lord, we hunger for more.  I want to know exactly, precisely, specifically what God’s will is for my life and I believe I can know that best from His lips alone.  How?  Through the Scriptures?  Absolutely.  But also by His direct communication— in whatever manner He chooses to reveal Himself to me.

Because I can’t think of a particular passage in Ezekiel or Amos or 1 Corinthians that will tell me to either stay in Charlotte or move to Virginia.  Can you?


To Hear His Voice

My desire during this 40 day adventure is to learn to hear God’s voice on an ongoing basis.  Not every once in a while, but daily, hour by hour, much like a loving son longs to hear soothing words from his father.  I’ve heard Him speak to me in the past, and these times have become cherished memories.  But I’m tired of living on the memories of good times, long past.  I hunger for more.  I believe the default position for the Christian is for our Father to speak clearly to us as He has to others in His Word, and for each of us to be able to hear and understand what He is saying.

I believe we should be able to ask Him questions and receive from Him answers, much like the disciples did of Jesus.  It was natural for the disciples to ask Jesus a question and expect an answer.  Why should we expect otherwise?  After all, Jesus gave us “another (állos) Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).  And this “another (állos) Helper” is the Holy Spirit, who is just like Jesus.

But that’s something we’ll look at tomorrow.

If you’re so inclined, join with me and let’s discover together what God wants to do during this 40 day adventure with Him.  Hop on board.  It should be quite a ride.

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May 25, 2020 – “Who are You?”

May 25, 2020 – “Who are You?”

Today, as we continue our study into the life of Christ, we’ll look into the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus that begins in John 1:19.  In fact, it’s hard to read the question they ask him without having the CSI theme song, the Who classic from 1978, playing in my head.  “Who are you?”

Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 1:19)

What we have before us is the testimony of John the Baptist.  And the word “testimony” (marturía) means “a witness, certification, record, that which someone witnesses or states concerning a person or thing.”  It is a declaration by a witness who speaks with the authority of one who knows, like an expert witness.  John is very familiar with this word and uses it over 75 times in his writings.  But there is more.

Just think, John the Baptist is the first witness the Apostle John calls to testify of the Lordship of Christ.  Later he writes:

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.  And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:24-25)

But there is more.


Who Is This Guy?

John the Baptist was one remarkable individual.  Consider the following:

    • He was the subject of an Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 40.
    • His birth was due to direct supernatural intervention (Luke 1:7,13).
    • He was filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth (Luke 1:15).  I can’t recall the Scriptures saying that of anyone else.
    • He was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6).  What an amazing epitaph for a life well-lived.
    • He was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3), and nothing else.  In fact, when he got off point, it cost him his life.
    • He was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 11:13), on the same par with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.
    • Jesus said he was the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11), hands down, bar none.

So let’s take a look at it together, shall we?

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460:  What Does it Mean to “Abide in Christ”?

460: What Does it Mean to “Abide in Christ”?

In John 15 we have the Lord’s blueprint for the “abundant life” (John 10:10) He promised each of us.  And no, that life doesn’t involve expensive cars or vacation homes or buckets of cash or having Your Best Life Now!  The abundant life in Him is defined by being able to bear His fruit, and bearing it in ever-increasing quantities.  Or, like Jesus said, “more fruit”, then “much fruit”, and finally “fruit that will remain”.  Consider the following:

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16)

Unless the church fully understands the importance of bearing the fruit of Christ, the Vine, this incredible teaching of Jesus will have little meaning or lasting effect on our lives.  Or on the lives of those we try to influence with the Word, our spouse, our friends, our parents, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.  We must come to a clear understanding that the only purpose for the branch, the only reason you and I were created and chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4), is to bear the fruit of the vine.  And the only one who benefits from the fruit we bear, is the Vinedresser, the Father.  The one key to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23), is our commitment to being nothing but branches, committed totally to bearing His fruit.

As we said last week, there is no other way.


But, How Do We Bear His Fruit?

The key to bearing His fruit is tied up in the single word, abide.  Last week we defined the word abide (ménō) as to “remain, dwell, live”, but always, in John’s writings, with the idea of a relationship in view.  However, in John 15, the definition of abide (ménō) expands to mean “to be and remain united with Jesus, one with Him in heart, mind, and will, and to remain steadfast, unwavering in that relationship.”  That understanding of abide (ménō) puts this entire passage under a new, incredible light.

So how do we bear His fruit?  Or what part do we play in this divine equation?  Simple, abide.  It’s hard to do in real life, but it’s simple, nonetheless.

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)

Remember, this is only the beginning.  If you can capture the joy of abiding in Him as a dependent branch, a life of abundant joy (John 10:10) is right around the corner.  So buckle up!

The following is a study on John 15:4-6 on How to Bear His Fruit.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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May 22, 2020 – How to Achieve Victory Over Temptation

May 22, 2020 – How to Achieve Victory Over Temptation

When it comes to the topic of the Christian and their struggle with temptation, preaching should not only tell us the “what” and “why” — but it should also give us the “hows” to stand up against it.  Because we all have the same questions, such as what are some practical steps we can take as believers to soar over temptation and stand victorious as our Lord did in Matthew 4 and Luke 4?  And when we study the account of Satan’s attempt to get Jesus to sin and how He responded to the enemy’s trickery, we should be encouraged to follow His lead like a dependent child.

Notice what Jesus did to ward off Satan’s schemes.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:7)

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” (Matthew 4:10)

Notice anything that ties these three defenses together?  Or do you notice anything you could place in your arsenal to combat the evil one on the day of temptation?


Three Keys to Victory Over Temptation

From the life of Jesus, what can we learn?

One, every temptation follows the same pattern that is revealed to us in 1 John 2:16, which reads:

For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.

Two, there is no temptation that only you have experienced.  Satan is not original, but he’s very good at what he does.  But not to worry, there is always a way out.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

And three, if you want to discover the three keys from the life of Jesus that will help you get victory over your temptations, you’ll have to keep listening.

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May 21, 2020 – Away with You, Satan!

May 21, 2020 – Away with You, Satan!

We are now in the third temptation of Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.  And in this temptation, Satan drops all pretense and allows his true nature to emerge.  He no longer tries to get Jesus to move outside of God’s will by either meeting His own needs (turning stones into bread) or trying to force God’s hand (jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple).  Instead, Satan now suggests he can offer Jesus exactly what His Father has promised Him, a kingdom, but he can get it to Him quicker and without any suffering.  Look at how this temptation unfolds:

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)

Luke’s account adds a few more details:

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)

Which raises a few questions.


Somebody Hasn’t Thought This Through

For one, Luke records Satan saying the kingdoms were given to him and he could give them to anyone he chooses.  But who gave them to Satan so he could then offer them to Jesus?  If the answer is the Lord, then isn’t Satan trying to tempt Jesus with something that ultimately belongs to Him by right of creation?  It’s like he was saying, “If you worship me, I’ll give you what you already own.”

And two, if Jesus refused to compromise in making bread out of stones, why did Satan believe He would compromise on something like this?  Who didn’t eat their Wheaties today?  Somebody hasn’t thought this through.

There is so much more here than meets the eye.

So let’s take a look at it together, shall we?

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