July of last year, God prompted me to change my morning quiet times with Him.
For years I had read the One Year Bible on a daily basis. Now I would set it aside and start each morning by asking Him where He wanted me to go in His word and/or ask what He wanted me to do. I was curious to see if the Lord would speak to me, and if so, could I discern His voice between my own thoughts and any distractions the enemy might throw at me.
I was a little apprehensive; I knew that if God spoke to me and asked me to do something that to reject it would mean disobedience. I was also nervous about having a bunch of chatter float through my mind and wasting my time in the mornings.
My one non-negotiable was that whatever I heard must line up with God’s word. If it didn’t it would be discarded.
I started on my journey with the Lord, and in the ensuing weeks He spoke, led, and convicted in wonderful ways I hadn’t anticipated. My mornings with Him became an exciting adventure, based on raw faith that He was going to show up and speak to me.
I had no intention of writing about this. But after I shared what God did with a friend, he told me it encouraged him, and challenged me to write a book about it. I’m not ready for another book, but thought I’d make this month’s newsletter a starting point and see what happens. If it encourages a few people to go after God and revitalizes their relationship with Him, it’s worth it.
What follows is what happened during seven days in July and August.
In Matthew 25:31-46 we are given a picture of judgment at the end of time. Jesus sets those He calls “the sheep” on his right hand, with the “goats” on his left. Those who ministered to Him (actually, His “brothers”) when He/they were hungry, thirsty, sick, without clothing or shelter, will be in Heaven, and those who didn’t (the goats) will spend eternity in hell. This morning those verses spun around in my mind and I started falling into a tailspin of discouragement due to the times I had blown it in my life. The fear of eternal condemnation even started to creep in.
In the midst of this confusion, I asked God where He wanted me to go in His word; “Galatians” formed in my mind. As I poured through the book, chapter three stood out:
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain?… Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to Him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham
Galatians 3:2-4, 6-7
From time to time I struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough for God; in one fell swoop He reminded me that my salvation started with what I believed and Who I believed in, not what I do. The “ministering to Jesus” comes later and is an expression of that relationship. Although I have surely missed some moments to help others, He’s used me in the past.
But God wasn’t done. Galatians 6:9 was next:
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
In essence God was saying to me “You’re mine; your first priority is your relationship with Me, not doing good deeds. Keep moving with the work I give you, and don’t fear.” He brought me to the exact place in His word I needed to go and then used it to encourage me.
God had been speaking for days now, and it had been great.
But this morning, I got attacked with doubt. “Is what’s been happening real? This is almost too good to be true. Am I imagining things? How do I know what I’ve been hearing isn’t my own thoughts?”
After letting doubt have its way in my head for several minutes, I finally looked up and asked God what he wanted me to do.
In the next several minutes, I quieted my mind, and focused on waiting expectantly for Him. The doubt-thoughts melted away, and I came to a place of stillness. Then:
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10)
Once again, the Lord cut through the confusion. He’s God, and for Him to speak to me and help me know it was Him is easy. I could start trusting that He would do so each morning and quit worrying about it and double-guessing.
I had been anxious and frustrated about how slowly some projects were moving for Blazing Grace. I wanted what I wanted to happen, now. Unfortunately, a lot was in the control of others so I was at their mercy.
This morning, I was given several verses from Psalms 37:
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him… (4-7)
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. (23)
Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land. (34)
God was reminding me that my first priority was delighting in Him, not ministry. When He was ready, He would put the pieces together that I had been obsessing about. Until then, I was to be content with waiting on Him and focus on drawing near to Him, which, was really at the heart of what I had been doing. To hear from God, I was learning, took child-like faith that He would speak, focusing on Him instead of merely reading through the Bible, listening, and then rolling with what He wanted to do. There was an exchange between the Lord and I that was far more intimate and exciting than before. Even the times He convicted me were encouraging because He would pinpoint the exact place of need in my heart.
This morning, nothing came. I decided to wait on the Lord and see what happened. As I waited, it struck me that I wanted God to hurry up and speak so I could get on with the morning. I wanted the Creator of the Universe to do what I wanted when I wanted it, and fit Himself into my schedule. Gulp. Conviction pierced my heart as I was humbled once more upon seeing my arrogance. Who was I to demand anything from God?
I then had a strong sense that I was at some sort of crossroads in my relationship with God. I could either go deeper with Him than before, or stay where I was. This brought on the “fear of the Lord” as I didn’t know if this might be a warning that I’d get complacent and start to coast. I made the determination to keep going and see what God wanted to do.
Around 20 minutes later; He spoke: “Are you ready to feed my sheep?”
This was right when the Blazing Grace website was being transferred to me… I was humbled… especially after the pride God had just shown me.
This morning the kitchen sink clogged. Instead of spending time with the Lord, I got obsessed about fixing the sink and wasted a lot of time on it. I didn’t resolve the problem; after admitting defeat I sat down in frustration to listen to God.
Ohhhh no. I knew what was coming:
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Then He hit me between the eyes with:
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God must come first. I blew it again and wasted a lot of time that could have been spent with Him.
I was leaving for a three night business trip later that day, and was given the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I was puzzled about why I might be given the 23rd Psalm. Circumstances were going okay at present; perhaps this wasn’t from the Lord.
When I travel alone, I have set a personal boundary that I don’t turn on the TV in the hotel room. Channel surfing on the road has been a stumbling block for me in the past, so I always guard against it.
The first night of my trip, I felt a pull to turn on the TV. I shrugged it off and kept going.
The second night it was more of the same, but with a little more intensity. The TV stayed off.
The third and final night, the enemy took off the gloves. The pull to turn on the TV was intense, and then in the middle of the night there was what sounded like thumping in the bedroom above. I let the pull get to me, and then started channel surfing. I was now in the danger zone… after several minutes of fierce temptation to take the next step toward the cliff and rent a porn movie, I turned the TV off, which is how it stayed the rest of the night.
The light finally went on and I realized that the 23rd Psalm had been given to me for a warning; the “valley of the shadow of death” was the temptation I faced each night of the trip. If I hadn’t been so dense I would have asked God what the 23rd Psalm meant, instead of trying to figure it out on my own. I should have also spent more time in prayer, and asked for the prayer of others. Although God kept His promise and took me through so that I didn’t blow it in a major way, I was still frustrated with myself for not understanding His warning and allowing myself to turn on the TV. It reinforced the need to not let myself go in coast mode and stay alert.
Months prior, I had been reading the book The Resolution, but had put it down. I felt a nudge to open it up again, and right where I left off was Mark 11:25:
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
A man came to mind. This person had been mean-spirited to some family members, and I was nursing a grudge. Over the years he had been confronted many times by others, but every time he blew up and would evade any responsibility. The chances of him asking forgiveness were slim to none.
God was commanding me to forgive this man, now, without waiting for him to ask for it. Mark 11:25 said nothing about waiting until I felt like it, or confronting him and trying to force a confession of sin, it merely said to forgive without precondition. There was also the statement that I needed to forgive so that God would forgive me; Matthew 6:15 even says that if we don’t forgive others God won’t forgive us. Shudder.
I went to the Lord, confessed my bitterness, and let this man’s sins go.
Bitterness always hurts the person who holds it more than the one we’re angry at.
What I’ve shared is just a part of what God did. There are many times where He encouraged and built me up in ways that are deeply personal. It amazed me how many times He would point me to a verse that nailed exactly what I was going through that morning, or needed to hear. If you’ve ever doubted that God wants to speak to you, He does. He’s promised that those who seek Him with all their heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
I’m a former sex addict saved by the grace of God who’s made a habit out of train-wrecking his life; there’s nothing special here. I’m not a charismatic, nor am I a mystic. I just believe that God speaks to His people like He did in His word. If God will speak to me then He’ll speak to you; His character is consistent. The question is, are you willing to put it out there and trust that He will, quiet your heart, and take the time to listen? In the back of our minds we know if God puts His finger on something He wants to change or heal that we’ll have to face it and possibly do something about it. But anything the Lord exposes pales in comparison to the joy of being close to Him and knowing that He’s speaking to us.
Bible reading and prayer can be mechanical, intellectual steps we do “because that’s what good Christians do.”
No wonder so many struggle with apathy and white knuckle the Christian life.
The adventure begins when we enter into the presence of God. If you study the Bible you will see that people’s lives were changed when they encountered Him. We read the Bible to know and listen to Him, not pick up theological brownie points or pack our hard drive with knowledge.
An encounter with God is what set me free from sexual sin; He continues to shape, build and encourage me. God is real, He is alive, and He still speaks to and changes broken sinners.
He can do the same for you.
But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
In the past several months I’ve been adding more content to the Blazing Grace website, mainly for wives and marriages. Here are the links:
More Reading & Newsletter Archives
December 2012: Healing the Wounds of Rejection
November 2012: A Look at Grace
October 2012: When Someone Shares their Sin
September 2012: Willpower Doesn’t Work
August 2012: Look Who’s One of the Porn Industry’s Biggest Customers
July 2012: For Those Who are Control Freaks (and Don’t Want to Be)
June 2012: Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken, encourage believers to draw closer to God, and equip the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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