How to Discern the Voice of the Holy Spirit: 5 Truths from God’s Word

For a longer time than I’d like to admit, I avoided talking about the Holy Spirit because somehow the Spirit seemed weirder, wackier, and harder to explain than God the Father or Jesus Christ. One of the difficulties I’ve had is in accurately expressing how the Holy Spirit works.

Language is limited.

It’s hard to clarify in just a few words how having a “feeling” about something is different from the “feeling” of the Holy Spirit working.

Saying “The Spirit spoke to me” quickly gets us labeled. It sometimes confuses people who wonder if they’ve never heard the voice of God – though if they’ve trusted the Lord as their Savior, they have. The voice of the Spirit just isn’t like any other voice we know.

Our discernment is also limited.

Sometimes recognizing the Holy Spirit’s work is even more difficult than explaining it.

We wonder if our sense of peace is actually a deceitful optimism, and we struggle to trust any leading in our hearts when we know our hormones are out of whack. We look at our requests of the Lord from every angle, feel everything we can about every known solution, and then strain to see “which option” the Spirit is pointing to.

I’m honored to share 5 truths about recognizing the Holy Spirit’s voice over on Alyssa J Howard’s Blog: Living by the Light of the King.

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Lie 8: Sin Should Be Left In The Dark

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Read the whole series here.)

We don’t like to look sin in the face and see it for what it is.

We’re tempted by it, yes. We have a propensity for it, yes. But we really hate to face it.

I remember one of the first times I did.

Case Study: The Christian Who Didn’t Need Saving

Early in our relationship, my husband and I kicked back in campus center arm chairs and slipped into conversation about God. I wasn’t saved, but as best I knew, I was a Christian.

My understanding of sin was wrapped in false humility and security. It was boxed in liturgical or experiential confession. My sin content was stuffed, I believed, with mere mistakes and results of others’ crimes against me. I kept it hidden behind my good deeds and spiritual talk.

But my then-boyfriend went digging. He showed me his sin stuff. With a big smile on his face, I remember him pointing to the floor like his sin was laid bare there. Then he pointed up and told me to understand the heights of Christ’s love and forgiveness meant understanding the depths of sin.

He didn’t ask me to expose my secret stash to him, but he demonstrated a reason compelling me to expose it to God.

Bringing sin into the light of Christ shows us what we are saved from, and by whom. It’s a glorious, relieving, revitalizing exposition. 

To keep sin in the dark, once a believer, is a bit like sitting in a hospital after surgery pretending you have no wound, no treatment to complete, no therapy to continue to work through.

Though the problem is taken care of, the effects are still to be dealt with. The wound needs to be seen, addressed, and cared for. It’s in the hard work of tending to exposed weakness that we heal.

That’s what bringing sin out of the dark into Christ’s light is all about: healing.

Believers still have mess and hurt and sin to face. But in all our still present darkness and pain, we also know the light, the healer. We know Him, and we know the warmth of His illumination- even in the cold of sin.

Saved sin is safely in the care of Christ.

But Saved sinners still need the care of Christ.

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In Charles Spurgeon’s words:

“We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also…We have a strong argument to plead, for it is His own work of grace that we ask Him to strengthen—‘the power . . . by which you have worked for us.’ Do you think He will fail to protect and provide that?

There’s a reason He sent the Holy Spirit to help believers. Saved sinners still need God. In them, with them, every day.

Now forevermore reconciled to God, believers can be unhindered by shame and the bounds of saved sin. Believers can enjoy fellowship with God, stewarding their lives as those abiding in Him.

Through abiding, even addressing and confessing to God our saved sin, we “walk in the light” of Christ.

In the light, we can “have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7.)

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Sin thrives in the dark.

Come into the light where Christ is, where sin is forgiven, shame is disintegrated, and facing the truth means looking full in the face of our loving Savior.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Marital Spats and God’s Plan (Giveaway)

**Giveaway details at the end of the post!**

The day our premarital counseling workbook began addressing arguments, my husband and I were relieved. We have always been really good at arguing. It’s one of our unexpected spiritual gifts (ha!) We even told the pastor counseling us.

He was surprised.

Apparently, most couples get married believing they’ll always just get along or are caught up in love to the point that arguing has yet to cross their minds.

Not us. The Lord uniquely blessed us with plenty of practice disagreeing early on.

I mean it. The Lord gifted us with arguments.

My husband and I learned from the Lord Himself to argue well and to resolve issues to His glory. We have been taught to fight- for each other. The Lord has allowed us to experience strife- teaching us to strive to discern the Lord’s will despite our own propensities for sin.

Arguing can be to God’s glory too.

When we learn to disagree in a godly way, we learn to work in unity with the Lord to live according to His will. 

That’s what The Blessings of Unity by Richard Case is about. I really enjoyed the book’s no-nonsense approach to the topic.

Married to Linda for more than 45 years, Case offers Biblical insight into one of God’s primary commands for husbands and wives: to cleave to one another. Case puts the command in context: not only is cleaving in marriage important, but it is also part of the unity of the body of Christ.

As Case says on page 35, “unity is brought about by our desire to pursue God.” We ought to seek this sort of unity in Christ’s body as the church and as couples.

The Blessings of Unity provides comprehensive Bible study examining several angles and forms of unity. I’ve never encountered a topical marriage book so structured around passages of Scripture.

Each chapter addresses challenges and strategies for unity in the context of living by God’s Word.

Being aligned with the Holy Spirit is another main theme throughout The Blessings of Unity. Case explains: “The same one Holy Spirit in me is also in my spouse…our decisions can always go to unity with the Spirit when we are willing to hear what the Spirit has to say” (pg 42.)

Insightful points like these are packed in tightly.

If there is a criticism of this book, it is also a warning: The book is dense to the point of disorganization. You will find extensive, helpful, Biblical truth throughout, but you will have to work to put it all together in a memorable format for yourself.

I imagine spouses would benefit from reading the book individually and discussing it informally, as it’s not clearly organized for shared study. Retreat or study leaders are also likely to find essential truth in The Blessings of Unity, but should expect to create their own more organized materials for teaching and discussion.

Certainly useful and supported by substantial Bible lessons, The Blessings of Unity is an important reference guide for those involved personally or professionally in the work of more faithfully pursuing God through marital relationships.

Find a copy here.


GIVEAWAY of THE BLESSINGS OF UNITY:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Be sure to include your email address in the private form for commenting
  3. Comment by 11pm EST Monday, November 21st.
  4. I’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, November 22nd and notify you by email if you won! You will then receive a free copy in the mail. 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


BONUS GIVEAWAY: All For Jesus eBook

If you’d like a practical 6-page eBook on living an unshakable life, you can grab it here.


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Confession: I’m Not a Fan of Devotions

Soul H2O Launch Team

My love-hate relationship with devotions started in college. It was my first time immersed in a Christianese culture. I didn’t know much about Jesus, and I didn’t care about the Gospel. I just wanted to be a good person and prove myself worthy to the God I didn’t understand.

In waltzed a dorm-mate one day, announcing she was about to do her “devos.” The word weirded me out.

Since those early days and eventually getting to know Jesus as my Savior, devotions still aren’t my thing.

For me, many devotionals are frustrating because they: 

  • Preach Christian psychology or self-help instead of the Scripture I need
  • Tackle huge topics that get me thinking, but offer no resolution or practical application
  • Are super wordy, in which case just give me a whole book
  • Build day by day, and I’m not that regimented
  • Are bulky, funky, hard covers that I’m too lazy to haul around with me for daily time
  • Tempt me to worship the devotional habit instead of worshipping God

My list says a lot about me and my shortcomings.

But it also speaks volumes about one of the rare devotionals I enjoy!

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I love this devotional book- it’s the exception to most of my “anti-devotional” issues.

Soul H2O, by Sherry Stahl, is a Biblical, digestible, concise companion for straight-up Bible studying and for ordinary life.

Each devotion is 1-2 short pages. The book is soft cover, and it fits in purses, backpacks, and my car’s glovebox. You don’t have to read it every day to keep up.

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Best of all, each devotion is simple. Instead of overwhelming me, Sherry’s words just refresh. They function like the title suggests: to quench thirst for good news from the Lord.

For example, devotional #4 refers to taking “every thought captive” to Christ.

Sherry then goes on to exhort: “Choose today which thoughts you’ll play on the record player of your mind.” The devotion centers on how our thoughts repeat. The thought is simple, Biblical, and gave me practical encouragement to walk with the Lord that day.

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Each of the devotions begins with a Bible verse. Short paragraphs with brief relatable anecdotes and simple life-applicable points about the verse follow. Sherry concludes with a brief prayer and references for additional verses if you’d like to study the Word yourself.

What I appreciate most about Soul H2O is its focus:

Instead of being about big life changes and heavy topics, Soul H2O offers basic life sustenance.

Such a simple blessing, but so important. That’s why this devotion has so blessed me. It’s a cool drink to refresh my Spirit and remind me of the simple vitality the Lord offers us day by day.

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All that to say, I’m grateful to have been part of Sherry’s launch team. It is a joy to recommend Soul H2O to you. Whether you love devotionals or can’t stand them, this one is for you. Soul H2O will refresh your spirit, make you smile, and bring you to praise.

To find a copy of Soul H2O, visit Sherry’s website here.

** I received this book free from the publisher, Word Alive Press, when I joined Sherry’s launch team. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: Knowledge

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3

Said differently:

It is through our knowledge of Him that He has given us all we need for a godly life.

2 thoughts on the matter:

  1. This Knowledge Comes as a Part of His Divine Power

Verses like these remind me logic puzzles. This, then this. But never written in order. So, simplified, Peter says:

  • Everything we need for a godly life we have through our knowledge of God.
  • We have that knowledge of God because His divine power has given it to us.

That we, in our insufficiency, have all that we need to live godly, glorifying lives, is absurd. But the ridiculous statement is true. Because He is that gracious to us. Because He is that loving.

He wants us to know Him. He draws us into knowing Him. God has made Himself knowable to little old us. For example, He gave us the Holy Spirit, sent Christ to become man, and provided His Word . And in so doing, He equips us with all that we need and shows us that He himself truly is all that we need.

divine power

  1. This is Contact-Knowledge

The word for knowledge here is “epignósis.”

Greek to you? Yeah, me too. Here’s what Biblos says:

“   (from…epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies…gnṓsis,

knowledge gained through first-hand relationship.”)

Properly, “contact-knowledge”

that is appropriate (“apt, fitting”) to first-hand, experiential knowing.”

What we need for a godly life is not just academic knowledge of Scripture and theology. Thoughts, and even beliefs, are not what wholly equip us.

Personally knowing God, a gift in itself, is what equips us to glorify Him.

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Do you personally know Christ as your Savior? (Click here to learn more if you don’t.)

And, if you do, do you know Him today, too? Do you speak to Him, do you listen to Him? Do you spend time with Him?

As the definition suggests…are you in first-hand contact with your Lord and Savior?

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: In

Seriously? A word study on a preposition? Yes and more yes!

Here’s why: “in” occurs twice in this verse:

“But you, dear friends,

by building yourselves up in your most holy faith

and praying in the Holy Spirit”

Jude 1:20

But each “in” is different.

(1) The first is a definite article of speech. AKA, this “in” is just highlighting the subject: the building of holy faith.

(2) The secondin” is indeed a preposition, and it pointedly explains our position in prayer.

To be “praying in the Holy Spirit” is to be

(a) in the condition of

(b) in realm of

(c) inside of, alongside of, within

When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we pray in the position of one whose condition is defined by that same Spirit. We pray from alongside the Spirit the Lord sent to help us. As we interact with God by praying in the Holy Spirit, we connect in the terms of His realm, His kingdom, and His will. That’s what Ifeoma was talking about in her post earlier this week.

Praying in the Holy Spirit isn’t so much a long distance call as it is sitting beside our Lord and simply conversing.

This “in” preposition is the same used to describe:

  • People being baptized in water = immersed in
  • A winnowing fork in the hand of God = held by
  • Sickness in people = filled with
  • Where God resides in the heavens = dwelling in
  • Speaking in parables = formed in
  • Having the Word sown in the heart = located in

Just take the verse and fill in with these italicized examples. For instance:

“Praying immersed in the Holy Spirit.”

in prayer word

In” is a basic word, but it speaks volumes about prayer and our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

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Praying that we would be so willing to let the Holy Spirit change our heart condition, set us in place, and come alongside us as we interact with God!

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

The Kindness Kind of Fruit

Among the many fruits listed in Galatian 5:22, kindness is one that often seems to be overlooked. Patience? We’re glad to pray for more of that. Love, joy, faithfulness? Who doesn’t need more of those in their life? But kindness…kind of seems to encompass all these.

How would you explain being kind to someone? Being nice by being patient or giving? To tell someone what kindness looks like kind of means describing all of those other fruits again.

But kindness is distinct, as each of the fruits of the Spirit are. Kindness has a quality of its own that sets it apart as a fruit with its own taste and purpose.

Not just being patient, but cheerfully so.

Not just loving, but warmly caring.

Not just joyous, but delighting beyond oneself.

Not just faithful, but concerned with others’ qualities, needs, and desires.

Scripture’s word for kindness, “chréstotés,” is understood as Spirit-produced goodness. It is not tainted by self-gain or the cruelty of sinful nature. Rather, kindness in its true form is something purely given by God according to His will and character. The definition of being kind as a fruit of the Spirit includes meeting “real needs, in God’s way, in God’s timing.

Little is sweeter than that. The right word at the right moment. The cheerful, caring gift that furthers the work of the Lord in someone’s heart. That’s kindness.

And its fruit we ought to ask the Lord to produce in us. More than our niceness or our own sin-hybrid versions of fruit, Sprit-produced kindness tastes sweet. Its nourishment provides energy and hydrates our thirsting souls.

Ask the Lord, as He shows you His kindness, to tend to your heart that you kindness might be something you can pass on as well.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

What Your Broken Heart is Worth

Photo from: Pixabay

I’ll admit, this idea hit me when I misheard the lyrics to “First” by Lauren Daigle. I thought she was singing: “before I bring my need I will break my heart.” The line didn’t quite make sense, but I was convinced that’s what she was singing, and then I read this verse:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

Could it be that the Lord values our brokenness? That a worthy sacrifice in His eyes is our hearts –broken? It sounds sinister, but we know our Lord is good.

It follows then, that the Lord’s desire for our broken hearts is the same as the Lord’s desire for our good. A broken heart can be a blessing. A broken heart can glorify God.

Earlier, in Psalm 51:10, we read the much loved line:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Could it be that this heart is one in the same at times?

David exemplified this as he wrote this Psalm. It was written when David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. Convicted and mourning his sinfulness and its consequences (like his son’s resulting death,) David chose not to turn from God. He chose not to mend his grief with proof that he could be worthy again if he tried.

Instead, David offered the Lord his broken heart. It was through that sacrifice that David’s heart was made clean again and that His joy was returned. Through that sacrifice and brokenness, David was given a willing spirit again and could experience and witness the Lord’s true forgiveness.

When our hearts are broken, something is exposed and made vulnerable. What’s inside the heart (though formerly fortified) becomes available for change, healing, and growth. In fact, the healing work of redemption is nothing without there first being a need for the healing and the redemption.

When we break open our hearts (or have them broken and hand them to the Lord,) it is a sacrifice on our part. It’s a sacrifice of dignity, of a sense of control, and of our pride. To sacrifice our broken hearts to the Lord is to say: “I won’t try to fix this my way, but I will it to you for your glory and your glorious work.”

It is praise to the Lord to offer Him our broken hearts as sacrifices, because we’re offering for Him to freely correct, clean, and rebuild us as He pleases, to His glory. It is a putting aside of all the gunk we have in our hearts to return our hearts to their maker. When your heart is breaking, let it be a blessing and a praise.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Being Empty Versus Being Emptied

photo from: mymorningmeditations.com

Who hasn’t reached the end of a day exhausted, empty, and totally wiped out? We all have moments like that, and sometimes they come after we’ve done good things. It’s often after VBS, the big retreat, or an amazing series of conversations about the Gospel that we find ourselves feeling drained.

Paul understood this feeling and alluded to it in his epistle of joy, saying:

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” Philippians 2:17

All that comes from faith comes as a pouring out, a giving up. Romans 12 refers to this as “offering ourselves up as living sacrifices.” This was true of Christ. In His earthly ministry, Jesus lived a life of emptying Himself out. Even in the beginning, He:

“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.”Philippians 2:7

He emptied Himself for the crowds, forsaking the appearances of wisdom and righteous reputation. In the eyes of this world, He gave up His high stature as teacher and prophet to mingle with the sinners and the poor. He gave of Himself to heal others, to raise the dead, to teach those who never listened. His heart was constantly poured out on those who He knew would betray Him.

Jesus even emptied Himself of His life on the cross.

BUT, Jesus was never empty. Likewise, Paul, in the earlier passage, said he was “poured out” yet just two chapters later explained that he is content in every situation. That’s because he knew the secret to contentment.

Indeed, Paul, imitating Christ, knew the secret to being emptied without ever being empty: To be filled with the joy and hope of the promise of God. To live as one who believes and acts on the truth that:

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”Titus 3:5-6

See, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Present and working, dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit fills us, constantly renewing us in the Lord. Jesus promises that:

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38.)

Living water doesn’t dry up. The Holy Spirit doesn’t flee. The Word of God never fails to refresh. Christ’s transforming work in us never dries up. We can be living sacrifices. We can pour ourselves out in faith. Because we can rely on the maker of water, the multiplier of all we need, and the well of life to keep us full.

Drink deeply of Christ. Be filled. As He pours out generously, so can we.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.