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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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Brief Tips on Hearing God

There is no reason to believe that God no longer speaks to men.  In fact, there is an established pattern from the beginning of the bible, all the way to the end, in which God speaks to his creation.  This is prime evidence of his desire to be intimate with us, and for us to know him. After all, without communication, there is no real intimacy.

Initially, he spoke to Adam and Eve through clearly audible words in a person-to-person kind of way.  After they sinned and corruption entered the world, that personal kind of communication diminished considerably. Sin killed our ability to be intimate, and therefore to communicate with him.  At some point, God began to talk to people primarily through prophets. Then he began to speak to them through scriptures. After the birth of Jesus, in his efforts to save us, God returned to intimate, face-to-face communication as he walked among us as a man. After his resurrection, he returned to speaking to us through scriptures, but also through his Holy Spirit. Interestingly, throughout all of it, God was sure to speak to us through his very creation so that we were never without want (or excuse) for hearing his word or obtaining intimacy (Psalm 19:1-4Romans 1:20).

It would, therefore, make sense that God desires continued communication today, as we have not yet been fully restored to intimacy. Many people share that they do not hear from God.  If you haven’t heard from him, consider the following:

Intimacy – Am I doing anything that hampers intimacy with him, and therefore prevents me from hearing him?  If we are doing things that are selfish, or that place us outside of his will, he could be screaming at us and we probably wouldn’t hear it. Broken humans tend to hear what they wantto hear when it comes to God.

Scriptures – How familiar are you with the word he’s already spoken?  He has told us so much in the Bible already.  Have you considered if what you are asking for is already addressed in his word?

Situations – God sometimes speaks to us through situations.  Consider the story of Jonah.  God tells the prophet to serve a people he hated. Jonah didn’t want to do it, and ran the other way.  God then spoke to him by engineering his situations, making life hard for him, and by physically directing his path. If you’re not hearing from God, pray, and take a look at the world around you to see if God is speaking to you through how he’s arranged it.

How to Lift Jesus Up, and Other Mysteries

We sing song after song about how we exalt God.  We sing  how we lift his name on high, how we will exalt him forever, how we should “lift Jesus up, lift Jesus up, for the world to see,” and so on and so on. You get the picture.

But from one frame of reference, this is patent nonsense, silliness, perhaps even rubbish. We simply cannot lift Jesus up any higher than he already is. He is seated at the right hand of God, and possesses the name above all names (Ephesians 1:19-21Philippians 2:9)! Nor can we exalt God. He is the God most high (Genesis 14:22Psalm 78:35Daniel 4:2Luke 8:28Hebrews 7:1).  There is nothing you can do with your weak and worldly, sinful nature to lift them up, and even if you could, whatever height you are able to lift them to is embarrassingly low.

But from a different perspective, there is one place where you can lift them up, and when you lift them up in this place, they are elevated in so many others. When this chain reaction occurs, the world in which you have influence becomes profoundly changed.  The one place where you can lift them up is in your mind. This makes perfect sense because we are told that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). It is unlikely, if you are human, that God inhabits the highest place in your mind.  A quick view of your priorities over the last few hours will likely bear this out uncomfortably well. The best way to lift God up in your mind is to pray.  Prayer is a focused mental and spiritual activity in which you prioritize communication with God. When creating this focus you are raising God up in in the hierarchy of your mind. And when God is first, so many other things fall into place. You will find that your will aligns with his. You will find that in your world, his will is being done in your life as it is being done in heaven.  You find that he will show you your shortcomings, and you will realize that he has the power to fix them. You’ll find yourself becoming more loving, more honest, stronger, and ultimately, more like Jesus.

Desperation & Prayer

There is an interesting story in the bible in which Jehoshaphat, one of good kings of Judah, is being ambushed by an alliance of enemies (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).  The attacking armies are said to be vast. This alarms Jehoshaphat.  Thankfully, the first thing he does is ask God about it, and call a fast.

His move was wise.  In doing so he rallied his people and caused them to focus their thinking, beliefs, and energies on the one power they really had — the God of everything! His spoken, public prayer is informative. In it, he lifts God up, calling to their remembrance how their Lord rules all the nations, and that no one can fight against him. He recalls the mighty things that God had produced for his people, like driving out the evil hordes that existed in the land before they arrived, and how he had given that land to his people. He asks God directly for assistance in this dire situation.  Ultimately, God answers the prayer, telling them that the won’t even have to fight the enemy. In the end, the ambushing armies turn on themselves and collapse.

There is much to be taken from Jehoshaphat’s story. But a few things stand out:

1) Jehoshaphat prays directly to God, and in the presence of other believers.  He speaks the words. He doesn’t just silently go over them in his head. Everyone hears them. It is faith producing a behavioral result.

2) His words testify and remind everyone of the greatness of God.  Sometimes we forget what God is. We forget that he is master of all, that he has made everything, and that no one is above him, and that he is all powerful.

3) His words built faith because they were a remembrance of the great things God had already done, and everyone had already witnessed. When faith becomes real, people act on it.

4) They put their faith in action. When God told them to march out against the enemy, they did it.  And when they did, God put his power in action, and their enemies fell!

Jehoshaphat saw these things in a moment of desperation. Crisis has a way of creating focus. But these principles are just as valid when there is no crisis.

What’s In A Name?

Being specific is a necessity in so many of life’s domains.  For instance, if you’re going to set life goals, they should be specific, otherwise those goals will have no meaning. “My goal is to be the best,” doesn’t tell you anything. However, “I’m going to be the best by selling the most widgets,” gives you an actual, measurable target. “Lord, please forgive me for my sins,” isn’t nearly as helpful as, “Lord, please forgive me for the way I treated my co-worker this morning.”
All prayer is the same way. This is especially true when we are praying for others. “Lord, please heal my friends in Sunday School,” is good, but, “Lord, please heal Edward from his addiction,” is exponentially better. Not because there’s any magic in using Edward’s name, and not because God doesn’t know his name or his addiction.  Instead, one reason that it’s better is that using your friend’s name creates a more personal connection in your own mind. It causes your mind to focus on your friend. While prayer is certainly a spiritual activity, it is also a mental one, so using his name will increase your empathy for him, and hopefully increase the earnestness of your petitions to God on his behalf because he’s no longer some fuzzy “anybody” in your Sunday School class. Further, it increases the likelihood of you remembering him throughout the week, and checking up on his progress when you see him again, which in turn will influence your future prayers. There is, more often than not, simply more sincerity in a prayer with a name, than in a prayer without one.
This kind of sincerity and earnestness is modeled by Jesus.   Consider his plea for Simon Peter (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus calls him by name, twice.  He tells Peter, specifically, that he has prayed for him. The battle that Jesus engaged in was a dangerous spiritual one.  Satan had asked for Peter so that he could be “sifted like wheat.” Jesus entered that spiritual battle with specific mental focus in his prayers on Peter’s behalf. His prayer was personal.
If you want to make your prayers for others as effective as they can be, then don’t neglect to make them specific by naming the person for whom you are praying.

What Does Prayer Do?

There are few Christian disciplines as important as the discipline of prayer.  Ironically, there are few Christians who engage that discipline with either the frequency or the intensity that it warrants. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17commands us to pray without ceasing. What Paul meant by the command was that we should be ever aware of God’s power in our life, and that we should be ever listening for him, and ever focused on him at all times, and in all of life’s domains. Unfortunately, too many of us (me included) walk through our days without nary a thought of God. When we do that, the world will rob us of great power.

 

Here are a few examples of the great power that prayer offers:

 

It transforms us: One of the ways that we are transformed into new creatures so that we are no longer chained to the corruptions of this world is by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Prayer is as much a sacrificial mental activity as it is a spiritual one. When we pray, we focus our minds on God. When our minds are focused on God, our behaviors, attitudes, values, emotions, and spirits will follow.

 

It provides us with a weapon: In describing the Armor of God to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells them to consider the Word of God as a sword, and then commands them to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18). He is equating prayer with military hardware in our daily spiritual battles.

 

It helps us to determine God’s will: When we set our minds on God, and he renews that mind, and transforms us, we are better able to know what his will is (Romans 12:2). When we know what that will is, we are better able to walk in  line with God’s plan for our life.

Prayer brings comfort: The bible teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but to make our requests known to God through prayer, and that when we do, we’ll have an all surpassing peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Presents & Presence

Every holiday has its pinnacle or climax. For Easter, it’s usually the egg hunt.  For Independence Day, it’s usually a grand finale of fireworks. For Halloween, it’s trick or treating.  For Thanksgiving, it’s a turkey dinner. And for Christmas, it’s usually the giving of presents.

 

But notice something interesting here. For those holidays that are not explicitly Christian, the climax makes perfect sense.  But for those that are explicitly Christian, the climax bears little, if any, relevance to the reason for the holiday. For instance, shooting off fireworks to celebrate independence from English rule after hard fought battles where fireworks were used is understandable.  A night of trick or treating lines up very well for a Celtic pagan holiday rooted in a time in which one dressed up as demons in order to trick real demons and keep them from molesting your evening. The meaning behind expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving for the bounty at your table is self-evident. But what do eggs and a bunny have to do with the death burial and resurrection of Jesus?  And how does giving presents to each other remind us of how the wise men gave presents to the birth of God among men?

 

Of course there’s nothing wrong with bunnies and egg hunts. Christian freedom allows for them, plus they no longer bear their pagan significance. Presents at Christmas are perfectly acceptable, and when done appropriately prompt us to think of the needs and desires of others over our own.

 

But what would happen to our Christmas holiday if instead of focusing climactically on the giving of material presents, we gave, sought for, or expected the presence of Jesus? What would happen to our lives? Our world?

 

Think about it. The presence of God brings not only joy, but the fullness of joy, and pleasure as well (Psalm 16:11).  It has also been known to bring rest (Exodus 33:14), as well as refreshing (Acts 3:19-20). It is in his presence that you will see the best of humanity (Psalm 140:13). And it is there that he offers protection (Psalm 31:20).

 

So give and receive your Christmas presents, but enjoy them in his presence!

Jesus Versus Santa: A Comparison

It may not be readily apparent to you, but there are many similarities between Santa Claus, and Jesus.  For instance, both are religious figures — though Santa’s religious origins have long been forgotten as the world has morphed him into a modern secular poster boy for Coca-Cola and western consumerism.

 

Consider these parallels between the modern Santa, and Jesus, that have been smartly noted by others:

 

  • Jesus will return like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43-44). Santa is known for his burglar like sneakiness.
  • No one knows when Jesus will return (Mark 13:32). No one knows when Santa will come down the chimney.
  • Jesus is omniscient (John 1:47-48Acts 1:241 John 3:20). Santa knows every good and bad thing you’ve done in the past year. He also knows when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake!
  • Jesus is the Christ Child (Matthew 1:18). Santa is also known as Kris Kringle, which is believed to be derived from the German dialectical Chriskindl, which means Christ Child.

 

There are many others, but you get the idea.  Now consider the differences.

 

  • Santa gives you gifts based on your behavior, But Christ’s gift is by grace, and grace is unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8).
  • Santa’s gifts last about two weeks. Christ’s gift is eternal (Romans 6:23).
  • Santa is only with us for one day, But Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20), and is with us eternally (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Santa responds to earthly desires. Jesus responds to eternal needs (Philippians 4:19).

 

Of course, there are many more. How many similarities and differences can you think of? Better yet, how can you use the similarities and differences found in the fables of Santa to point to the realities of Christ?

Thanks in All Circumstances

There are many verses in the bible that command us to do pretty radical things.  For one, there’s the command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Another is the command to turn over your uninjured cheek if an evil person slaps you (Matthew

5:39). These kinds of commands are counterintuitive, but most of us have at least some concept regarding their usefulness or morality.

 

Other commands, however, take a bit of spiritual growth before we begin to see the truth behind them. For instance, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  We’re told to be thankful in all circumstances.  Read it again. It says all. It also says that to do this is the will of God. Some might interpret this to mean that a person is to be thankful for every circumstance, but as other thinkers have pointed out, it doesn’t say that at all.  Instead, it says to be thankful inall circumstances.

 

The idea is that we should maintain an attitude of gratitude, and recognize what God has done for us, and what he is doing in us. Even in our darkest hours, we can be thankful that God is shaping us into something greater (Romans 8:28-29Colossians 1:12-14James 1:2-3).  Not having a thankful heart, on the other hand, ultimately leads to a darker heart with darker consequences (Romans 1:12).

 

It’s truly a radical concept, but one potential reason that God commands us to be thankful in all circumstances is so that like Paul we can be content and realize that Christ gives us power to endure all things (Philippians 4:11-13). And when we are able to endure all things, we become very dangerous to a devil bent on destruction (James 4:7). So do something radical, and always look for things God has done in you, and is doing through you.

Humility and Why It’s Important!

In a portion of Peter’s first letter, he directly addresses the elders of the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia with an unfocused shotgun blast of wisdom (1 Peter 5:1-7).  He challenges them to be good examples. He explains that they should watch over the flock out of desire, and not out of obligation. He advises them to be honest, and eager to serve.  He tells them not to lord their authority over those subject to it.

 

But in the second part of the passage, he focuses like a laser beam on the concept of humility. In fact, the whole passage seems colored by it more than anything else — perhaps because he mentions the concept four times in the space of two verses (1 Peter 5:5-6). He tells those who are younger to submit to their elders (submission requires humility). He tells everyone to “clothe themselves” with humility.  He reminds them that God opposes the proud but extends grace to the humble. And finally, he commands them to humble themselves beneath the mighty hand of God, so that God can then lift them up.

 

Why such a focus on the concept?  The answer is in the DNA of humility.  Humility is a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. When we recognize who God is, we approach a more accurate estimation of our own importance.  It is a lack of humility that causes us to be selfish. It is a lack of humility that causes us not to get along with others. It is a lack of humility that pushes us to do the opposite of everything Peter asks in his shotgun blast of wisdom. But most importantly, it is a lack of humility that can cause us not to go down to the altar, or to refuse to ask for forgiveness, or to refuse forgiveness to someone who asks for it. This lack of humility causes us to ask what others might think.  This, in turn, creates anxiety because we don’t want to be seen as less than what we think we are, or as less than what we think everyone else thinks we are (or should be)! Sometimes when we are suffering with anxiety or worry (not all of the time) we can’t move because we’re worried about status. But if we humble ourselves, and realize there’s someone so much greater than we are that our silly comparisons here on earth are meaningless, then we will submit, cast that anxiety on God, and realize that he truly cares for us.  We will then be appropriately exalted (1 Peter 5:6).

How To Discipline Your Children

Here at Fellowship, we’ve often taught that love is being committed to the well being of another person. Of course the term, “well being,” can mean many different things.  It can mean extending grace to another for whom favor is not deserved. It can mean honoring a promise even when it hurts. It can mean practicing patience for people in a world where time and money are fleeting. It can mean staying in a relationship even when every fiber of your being wants to leave. But for parents, that commitment is colored greatly by the word discipline.

 

Normally, we think of “discipline” as a punishment that we mete out as a means of making someone behave. That is the wrong way to think of it! By definition, discipline is simply training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. It is a practice, and usually a daily one. Instead of being something that we do to another, it is something we do for another. It is also something that we do out of love — which means, in regards to our children, it is something we do out of a commitment to their well being.  This just happens also to be the example set by God.  He disciplines us because he loves us — because he is committed to our well being — knowing that the end result of it will be holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). If we do not discipline our children, they will become a trouble for us, as well as a trouble for those around us. But even more importantly, they could miss out in some way on the blessings promised by God.

 

Here are some quick pointers to help you as parents discipline your child.

 

Be Consistent: Stick to your guns. Do not discipline one way on one day, and another way on another day. Keep your expectations clear and uniform. Inconsistency is confusing, and will make your children unsure of the rules. It might also encourage them to take chances with your expectations.

 

Be Unified: If you are in two parent home, have a plan for how you will handle infractions. Never undercut your spouse. It is best for a child to see the two of you as a unified front. Children are little people, and like many people, they will vie for any advantage. Plus, disunity naturally creates inconsistency. If you are a single parent, stress unity with those who help you. Be unified with biblical ideals.


Do Not Discipline in Anger: Your judgement will likely be poor, and you will end up doing something to your child rather than for your child.

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