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March 2020

The Mystery of God’s Voice

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We’ve been in a three part series on how to hear the voice of God. First, we covered methods. Then we discussed motives. This week, we will talk about mystery.

Matthew 16: 13-18

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (vs.13)

In other words, which disciple can hear the voice of God in an unfavorable situation?  

Who is Jesus in the midst of a global pandemic? Who is Jesus when you physically cannot go to church? How do we answer this question?

Peter answers: The Messiah, the Savior of the World, the KING of the Kingdom. Peter received a revelation from God. He received a mystery of God’s voice. He didn’t understand fully, but received it fully.

Let’s look at some background info on the situation. Caesarea Philippi was a place of pagan worship. There were caves located at the entrance to the district where sexually immoral practices were conducted by the locals in an attempt to lure “gods of fertility” out of the caves. It was believed that their gods of fertility would retreat into the caves and die, and need to be resurrected by the sexual practices of the pagan worshippers. This was a place that no Jewish disciple would have ever approached. Jesus marches the disciples right into Caesarea Philippi and asks the question —-Who do you say I am?

In this passage of Matthew 16, Jesus is referring to the building of His church:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (vs. 18)

At that time, Jesus had not yet established His church. In fact, this is the first instance of the word “church” in the New Testament. The word church, as used by Jesus, is derived from the Greek ekklesia, (phonetic: EKLAYSEEYA) which means the “called out” or “assembly.”

In other words, the church that Jesus is referencing as His church is the assembly of people who have been called out of the world by the gospel of Christ. (You are watching this now as the EKKLESIA.

You are the called out ones. The Assembly. 

Bible scholars debate the actual meaning of the phrase “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” One of the better interpretations to the meaning of this phrase is as follows. In ancient times, the cities were surrounded by walls with gates, and in battles, the gates of these cities would usually be the first place their enemies assaulted. This was because the protection of the city was determined by the strength or power of its gates.

As such, the “gates of hell” or “gates of Hades” means the power of Hades. The name “Hades” was originally the name of the god who presided over the realm of the dead and was often referred to as the “house of Hades.” It designated the place to which everyone who departs this life descends, regardless of their moral character. In the New Testament, Hades is the realm of the dead, and in this verse, Hades or hell is represented as a mighty city with its gates representing its power.

Jesus refers here to His impending death. Though He would be crucified and buried, (a parallel to the death and resurrection of the pagan fertility god worship, like two opposing kingdoms), He would rise from the dead and build His church. Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the powers of death could not hold Him in. Not only would the church be established in spite of the powers of Hades or hell, but the church would thrive in spite of these powers.

The church will never fail, though generation after generation succumbs to the power of physical death, yet other generations will arise to perpetuate the church. And it will continue until it has fulfilled its mission on earth as Jesus has commanded:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

It is clear that Jesus was declaring that death has no power to hold God’s people captive. Its gates are not strong enough to overpower and keep imprisoned the church of God.

The Lord has conquered death (Romans 8:2; Acts 2:24). And because “death no longer is master over Him” (Romans 6:9), it is no longer master over those who belong to Him.

Satan has the power of death, and will always use that power to try to destroy the church of Christ. But we have this promise from Jesus that His church, the “called out” will prevail: “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).

WHY would God lead us here? Why would God do this?

In order to establish the church, you have to be willing to step into the places you were told to stay away from. Doctors and nurses are walking into the gates of Hell. The number one need expressed to our church was counseling. Maybe home has been a place you told yourself you will stay away from and now you find yourself at the gates of hell. Quarantined 24/7 with the people you said you wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes with.

It’s at the gates of hell that Jesus reveals the pure power of the kingdom. 

It’s at the gates of hell that the reality of His promises come true.

This is a gates of hell moment and we need people like Peter to hear the voice of God giving them a revelation of who Jesus is in a quarantine!

https://open.spotify.com/episode/0Vhsb4LeLM1lDyLQGUK8oD

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Hearing God’s Voice: Seven Ways to Test a Voice

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Don’t believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God; test it first to see if it really is! 1 John 4:1 (LB)

Anyone who wants to do God’s will can test this teaching and know whether it’s from God or whether I’m making it up. John 7:17 (Msg)

The Bible tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, our hearts are unreliable and we cannot always trust what they’re telling us. So how, then, can we know if what we’re hearing is from God? In today’s episode, we’ll discuss seven ways you can test a voice to discern if it’s from God.

  1. DOES IT AGREE WITH THE BIBLE?

Luke 21:33 (NIV), Proverbs 12:19 (NLT), Galatians 1:8 (NLT)

  1. DOES IT MAKE ME MORE LIKE CHRIST?

Philippians 2:5 (NCV), 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GW), James 3:14-17 (NIV)

  1. DOES MY CHURCH FAMILY CONFIRM IT?

Ephesians 3:10 (NIV), Proverbs 11:9 (GN), Proverbs 11:14b (KJV)

  1. IS IT CONSISTENT WITH HOW GOD HAS SHAPED ME?

Spiritual Gifts | Heart | Abilities | Personality | Experiences

Your SHAPE reveals significance!

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), Romans 12:6 (LB)

  1. DOES IT CONCERN MY RESPONSIBILITY?

John 21:22 (NIV), Romans 14:4 (NIV), Romans 14:10, 13 (Ph)

  1. IS IT CONVICTING RATHER THAN CONDEMNING?

CONVICTION (from God) VS. CONDEMNATION (from Satan)

Conviction exposes what’s wrong, while condemnation attacks your value.

Romans 8:1 (NLT), Revelation 3:19 (Amp), Revelation 12:10 (NIV)

  1. DO I SENSE GOD’S PEACE ABOUT IT?

We need God’s presence in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

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10 Ways to Hear God’s Voice

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1.Realize you were born for a relationship with God. It’s the primary reason you were created. Many people ask the question, “What’s my purpose?” Here’s the primary answer, according to scripture—to be in relationship and continual conversation with God.

In the book of Genesis, God creates Adam for relationship with Him. This is the default mode of humanity! You were literally created for the purpose of being in a relationship with God where He speaks to you, listens to you, and provides deep connection. 

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

2. Check your motive for wanting to hear God’s voice. You cannot fully realize your purpose until getting a heart check at your motive. 

Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in His own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 

3.Readjust your expectations. Don’t just expect to hear from God.

In 1 Kings 19:11 Elijah, the great prophet of God, experienced the WIND, EARTHQUAKE, and FIRE…then it was actually in a small, still voice that God used to speak to him. 

You might be in a season of wind, then a season of shaking, then a season of burning up, all so that you can hear the still small voice of God. Sometimes God will separate you from the emotional experiences to show you how reliable His voice really is. (listen to the podcast audio of this teaching here) 

4.Sharpen your hearing with humility.

Phillipians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.

You’ll hear God’s voice most clearly when you are trying to hear it for someone else! If you don’t particularly hear God for yourself, you may experience breakthrough asking Him to speak to you an encouraging word for someone else! 

5.Don’t try to force it.  The best way to get new information from God is to be obedient to what He has already told you. Re-read that! 

6.God Communicates through many forms, but often uses your mind. 

Philippians 4:8 Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 

7.Renew Your Mind 

If God is primarily speaking to you through your mind, it is very important for your thought life to be in alignment with His word. Renew your mind by praying, reading scripture, and setting your thoughts on Him

8.Interpret the Written Word with the Living Word. The Holy Spirit teaches all things (John 14:26). This is why reading scripture with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you is such a different experience. He will teach you all things, give you fresh revelation and insights, and help you unlock the mysteries of scripture. 

9.Learn God’s character to discern His voice. He will never contradict his word. The more time you spend seeing how God has acted in circumstances across History, the more aquatinted you’ll become with His loving goodness. 

10.Set aside time to intentionally listen.

Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. This means that your prayer time should include listening time. He’s speaking too!

There’s noise …let’s take time to listen now…drop a comment with what God said to you!

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How to Overcome Stress

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Over 70% of Americans report that that struggle with this one thing.

STRESS.

Symptoms include: mind racing, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anger. These are physical or psychological effects of STRESS according to the American Institute of Stress *yes, this actually exists. 

Stress comes into all our lives to varying degrees. So what causes it and why do we experience stress? Here are the top causes:

  1. Work
  2. Finances
  3. Relationships
  4. Health
  5. Media Overload 

How, as Christians, should we deal with stress? Today, we are going to discuss four ways to overcome stress. 

1. ADMIT THERE’S A PROBLEM

Psalm 32:2

Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

You cannot address a problem you’re unwilling to admit. Death among men is primarily greater because we won’t admit there’s a problem. We don’t go to the doctor. We won’t seek biblical counsel from a pastor. We won’t seek advice from a connect group leader.

Admit there’s a problem, not just that you’re stressed (there’s a difference!) 

2. STOP MEDICATING THE WRONG WAYS!

Cigarette style solutions: do you have cigarette style solutions? Maybe you do and don’t realize it. This is the science behind a cigarette: it simultaneously speeds up your heart rate while sending signals to your brain that you’re calming down. It’s deceptive. 

What’s a cigarette solution to stress? Something that tells your mind you’re feeling better while destroying some other part of you! BOOM!!

Oh, that new relationship —that’s a cigarette solution. You never resolved the issues of the last relationship. This is signaling to your mind that you’re feeling better, but how you do relationships is destroying you. 

Oh, the way you just spent your money—that’s a cigarette solution. It just made you feel better to have retail therapy, but while your mind feels better, your budget is being destroyed. 

The lie of cigarettes is that you FEEL better while the carcinogens are killing you. The lie of most of our solutions to stress is that they are making us FEEL better while they’re ruining our lives!

The price we pay for the feeling is greater than the cost of the stress we sought relief from. 

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed/ Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven. 

Notice the revelation in this scripture: I cried out to the Lord FIRST. Then I allowed Him to bring me out (this is the hardest part for us). Then He guided me to safety.

3. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

1 Corinthians 10:31

whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God. The way we live makes God look good when we glory Him in our actions. 

Stress takes our energy and causes brain fog. 

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he addressed this mind/body connection. He advised them to take care of their bodies because our bodies are a living temple (like a mobile church), a dwelling place for the Spirit of Christ. 

When we were children, the most natural thing was free movement. We danced at the marriage conference, something spiritual was connected to something physical. 

I’ve seen people cry in workouts because the physical movement was connected to the release of mental stress. Mental stress can even manifest as physical ailments. 

Jesus described being a true believer as coming into a child-like Kingdom…I think part of the restoration is the restoration of free movement. 

You are 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety, according to the Anxiety ND Depression Association of America, if you regularly exercise. 

One of the most spiritual things you can do is go for a vigorous prayer walk.

4. SEEK GOD, DECLARE HIS WORD

We are spiritual beings have a physical experience, not physical beings have a spiritual experience. 

We live in a spiritual war zone. The most important battle is spiritual because what we see is temporary, but the unseen, spiritual world is eternal! The real war is over eternal territory. 

You must be armed with scripture. Something I want to make a regular question between V1 Church people is, “what’s your scripture?!” 

When someone is telling you about what they’re going through…what they’re stressed about, “What’s your scripture?!” 

Remember we said that a cigarette sends a signal to your mind that things are better, but wreaks havoc on your body? 

Scripture is the opposite….you declare scripture even when your mind still isn’t right and things begin to align in your life. Sometimes your mind is the LAST thing to get the signal when scripture is being declared….but God didn’t ask us to figure it out, He asked us to align with HIS thoughts, HIS ways.

We conform our thoughts, we mold our mind, to His thoughts.

Let’s go through the four steps together now. 

Take a moment with God.

ADMIT to Him what’s stressing you out. Stop making excuses, and just cry out to God. He knows, and He’s there listening.

Next step, REPENT! Stop medicating the wrong way. Examine all the ways you use to distract yourself from stress and make yourself feel temporarily better. Now give those over to the Lord.

Next, CONFESS that you are going to take care of yourself! You are valuable, and the world needs you. So feel free to invest in yourself (guilty moms etc. You are WORTH it!!) You can not care for others the way God asks you to if you yourself are not well cared for.

And finally, DECLARE HIS WORD! Find some scriptures to hang on to, and repeat to yourself when you are struggling. Print them out, post them in your office, your car, your bathroom mirror. Find ways to remind yourself of His truths throughout your day.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

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Overcome Self-Pity

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In John 21, Jesus comes back from death and invites the disciples to breakfast. They had all recently failed him. They scattered out of fear before the crucifixion. They had returned back to the mundane after the crucifixion, even though they spent three years in ministry training, witnessing the majestic. 

But what I love so much about John 21 is that Jesus never mentions any of that…He simply invites them back to the table when He returns. He prepares food for them and then invites them back to a place of intimacy and provision. He invites them back to the place for proximity. He invites them back to family. After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” …and then proceeds to give Peter his next assignment. 

Isn’t it just like Jesus to give you another assignment after failure? Isn’t it just like Jesus to refuse to allow you to default back to the mediocrity of your old life? 

I failed marriage and I failed fatherhood—BUT GOD. He keeps inviting me back to the table. He keeps giving me new assignments. He keeps honoring me while I become what He’s honoring in faith. I don’t know who this is for, but Jesus always makes it harder for us to go back to the life we left to follow Him. The best is waiting for you at the table. Come eat.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

(John 21:1-13)

Do you love me? FEED MY SHEEP. 

Jesus is putting something on display. He is feeding them breakfast. Jesus is inviting them to the table….and asking that they now invite others to the table. When Jesus appeared they didn’t recognize it was Jesus, but they obeyed… 

Peter and the disciples were going to be sent out to groups of people that would not know Jesus, but will obey and respond to the call. 

Jesus is inviting us back to the table with him…. 

But He is also asking us: will you continue to invite people back to YOUR table when they reject you? When they gossip about you? When they hurt you?

Peter, if you love me, love people the way I love you.

The disciples may not have listened to a carpenter tell them how to be fishermen. Sometimes we have our own mind made up. We are so secure in how WE do things, in how WE do ministry, but if we will be fishermen who are willing to listen to a carpenter, and put our nets down on the other side, we will have more than we can contain.

Jesus is always inviting us to the table. He keeps inviting us back. 

Jesus intentionally did not mention to Peter his failure. As a matter of fact, previously, He sent an angel messenger to tell His disciples and ALSO tell Peter, I am risen! In other words, look Peter right in the eyes and say, “Peter, your ministry isn’t over, it’s just getting started!” Jesus is risen!!

Breakfast is a ritual. Jesus invited Peter back to the ritual.

Sometimes, we are too busy striving to honor the ritual, too busy trying to make it happen for ourselves that we forgot the ritual. You’re not too busy for church…you’re striving too much to stop for the ritual. 

Working hard without Jesus hardly works. Obedience to Jesus always carries bigger results than hard work without obedience.  

Self pity occurs when we are more concerned with what we think we should have than what God already gave us. 

Self pity occurs when we are more concerned with what we want to do than the mission right in front of us. 

Self pity is a barrier to progress. It’s easier to return back to something familiar, to mediocrity. To go back to breakfast and miss the ritual.  But you can’t even be good at your old life. You old life doesn’t satisfy. 

JESUS in His mercy comes TO YOU. 

Even when JESUS is attempting to save you, you won’t be able to recognize its HIM DOING IT. Jesus is trying to use CHURCH and PASTORS but you can’t recognize HIM.

The disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus, but they obeyed. Sometimes you can’t tell it’s Jesus, but you still need to OBEY.

How do you get freedom from self pity?

BE WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING A DIFFERENT WAY. GO BACK TO THE TABLE.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

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