Encouragement Archives

Am I Really Hearing God’s Voice?

Have you ever wondered, “How do I really know if I am hearing God’s voice?

Habakkuk knew God was speaking to him (Hab. 2:2).

Elijah described it as a still, small voice (I Kings 19:12).

There have been days that I have been working around the house, and then suddenly a thought will come to me to pray for a certain person. I firmly believe that thought was the Holy Spirit telling me to pray for that person.

When I was attending Bible College, I had a dear friend who had been a missionary in the Congo. She related a story about a terrible time in her ministry. Here is story as she related it to me:

The rebels were outside our house. We had to hide under the bed to avoid bullets flying through the walls. When we heard the rebels stomping up the front steps, we ran out the back way and climbed over a fence to escape. Some months later, when my husband and I returned to the states, we related the incident to our pastor. As we talked with our pastor, we coincided the time…the pastor then told us that it was during that same time period, he stopped preaching in the middle of his sermon and told everyone to get on their knees. The pastor said he couldn’t explain why…but he instructed the congregation that they must pray for us.

Did God speak audibly to that pastor…no, but it was a sudden urging from the Holy Spirit that told that pastor to pray for those missionaries because they were in trouble.

When God lays people on our hearts, we must become still so that we can sense the Holy Spirit’s flow of thoughts in our spirits.

Habakkuk 2:1 I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

Habakkuk knew that to hear God’s quiet voice, he had to first go to a quiet place and still his own thoughts and emotions.

Psalm 46:10 encourages us to be still, and know that He is God. The average Christian’s life is so busy that he isn’t can focus his spirit on hearing God’s voice.

It’s in stillness, not busyness, that we can tune our spiritual ears to hear the voice of God. Although the Lord always speaks to us in that “STILL, small voice”, there are many times His voice is drowned out by all the noise around us.

The Bible also tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh. Therefore, if we want to hear the voice of God, we must study and know the teachings of Jesus.

John describes Jesus in 1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

If we are going to hear the voice of God, we must have a personal relationship with Jesus.

In an ordinary conversation, we speak, then listen for the response of the other person. It’s the same with God! Once we’ve prepared our hearts to listen through prayer, we’re more likely to hear the voice of God when He speaks to us through His Word.

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Are You Content Today?

For many people it is hard to be content with where God has placed them or what God has given them. They can’t be content with their jobs, their churches, their spouses, their positions, or their possessions. It seems like no matter what they have, they want more things and better circumstances.

Have you ever wondered how Paul could be content with his terrible circumstances. He had been beaten, imprisoned, and physically afflicted…yet he wrote in Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Paul’s Sufferings Listed in 2 Corinthians 11:21-30

2 Corinthians 11:21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.

2 Corinthians 11:22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

2 Corinthians 11:24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

2 Corinthians 11:25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

2 Corinthians 11:26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

2 Corinthians 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

2 Corinthians 11:28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

Paul learned to be content whether he was rich…whether he was poor…whether he was healthy…whether he was in prison or out of prison. No doubt Paul had his ups and downs throughout his life, but he stressed to us through his writings that we shouldn’t allow things or circumstances to control us. He discovered that his contentment wasn’t in people, things, or circumstances but in Christ.

Are you are struggling with being discontent today? Do you find yourself complaining about your house, your church, your job, or your spouse?

We’ve all been guilty of saying, “If only I had a better car, a more understanding mate, a better house, more money.” The list could go on indefinitely. If you find yourself being discontent today, turn your eyes back to Jesus and focus on His faithfulness and His promises.

Read the following poem. What great insight this 14 year old young man had when he wrote this poem.

    I Never Got What I Wanted

    It was spring, But it was summer I wanted,
    The warm days, And the great outdoors.
    It was summer, But it was fall I wanted,
    The colorful leaves, And the cool, dry air.
    It was fall, But it was winter I wanted,
    The beautiful snow, And the joy of the holiday season.
    It was winter, But it was spring I wanted,
    The warmth, And the blossoming of nature.
    I was a child, But it was adulthood I wanted,
    The freedom, And the respect.
    I was 20, But it was 30 I wanted,
    To be mature, And sophisticated.
    I was middle-aged, But it was 20 I wanted,
    The youth, And the free spirit.
    I was retired, But it was middle age I wanted,
    The presence of mind, Without limitations.
    My life was over.
    But I never got what I wanted.

    Written by Jason Lehman Read the rest of this entry

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Are You Feeling Unproductive?

Is your self-talk telling you that you are just not being productive? Over the course of our years, our energy levels change. Sometimes it is because of our age, our sleep patterns, our caffeine intake, our health, our diet, or our comparisons. (we look at others as being more productive than we are)

There will always be periods in our lives when we might not feel productive as we once did. If you begin having thoughts of being unproductive, here are few suggestions:

• Get eight hours of sleep
• Try to exercise
• Eat a healthy breakfast
• Overwhelmed…eliminate or delegate some activities
• Look at your time wasting activities: TV, your cell phone, trivial triggers…
• Avoid your self-talk, “I’m no good…nobody thinks I’m not valuable…Nothing I do is right” Studies have shown that upwards of 80% of your self-talk is negative. That number goes up as you put pressure on yourself to get more done.
• Lessen you workload
• Set time limits on your projects
• Change your scenery. If you have a flexible schedule, go to a coffee shop or work from home.
• Disconnect from the Internet…according to research, half of time spent on Internet is procrastinating
• Reward yourself after a period of time working….a cup of coffee, 15 minutes on Facebook
• Don’t distain unproductivity…“not feeling productive” is a great sign that you should step back from your work to recharge and be unproductive for a while. A break will help you recharge and reduce your negative self-talk.

Taking a break from being productive every once in a while will help you become much more productive.

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Take Time to Encourage That Rude Person

George Truett was a very effective pastor for many years in Texas. One day while hunting with his best friend, this pastor accidentally killed his friend.

Several years after that accident, his daughter said, “I never heard dad laugh again after that day.”

Pastor Truett had a radio program. He always closed the broadcast with the these words:

Be good to everybody, because everybody is having a tough time.

Why would he close the broadcast with these words? He understood personally what burdens other people might be carrying. This tragic incident encouraged him to have compassion toward other people.

Every day we run into people who seem rude and harsh. Because of their behavior we find it difficult to like them…yet many times, there is a reason for their behavior. What a heavy heart and horrible situation in their lives might they be hiding that cause their rudeness.

Since God offers His presence to us during our darkest moments, shouldn’t we in turn offer others our compassion to those who are hurting around us.

Father, grant us the candor to admit to each other that sometimes life overwhelms us.
And grant us the courage to help others find help—and to seek it when we need it.

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Is This Really God’s Will for My Life?

Knowing and Doing God’s Will

There are many misunderstandings about knowing and doing God’s will. Many people leave churches and make major moves to other cities without really knowing if it’s God’s will.

God’s will might take me where I don’t want to go. Some people think, “If I surrender to God’s will, I might have to go to Africa and be a missionary. God doesn’t want to make your life miserable…He wants your heart. Just like Abraham’s willingness to offer his son. God made an escape for Abraham because He saw Abraham’s heart. Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

God makes His will only clear to certain people. God has a will for every Christian… whether you’re a missionary or a secretary — a pastor or a plumber. God has a will for everyone. Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

It must be God’s will if other Christians agree or disagree with me. Just because other Christians agree with you on something, does not necessarily mean that God is leading. It can be misleading to seek God’s approval for man’s choices or decisions. Think of the church voting on Matthias to replace Judas. We never hear another word about Matthias. God had a plan to replace Judas with Paul. Acts 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

It must be God’s will for me to move because I would be more suitable and more useful in this new situation. When the Lord called Moses, he insisted he wouldn’t be suited for the job because he had no speaking ability. Some Christians can be useful no matter where God puts them. He doesn’t necessarily put us where we will be the most useful, He puts us in a place where we can best glorify Him. Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

It must be God’s will for me to move so that I can be more successful and have a greater chance for advancement. Think about it…the Lord called Ezekiel to do a special job. He told him that his efforts would be in vain and that he would look like a failure. God’s will may require you to make financial and personal sacrifices to accomplish His will. Remember God focuses His will on His purpose.

If I were in God’s will, people would love me and appreciate me. When you’re in God’s will, people’s love, hate or indifference has nothing to do with your going or staying. Luke 6:32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

God’s will is taking me to a place where there is a greater need. God’s leading has nothing to do with a supposed need. God told Philip to leave the crowds of Samaria and go minister to one individual on an isolated road between Jerusalem and Gaza.

How Can I Know if God Is Leading?

God’s will may not always be clear from start to finish. Usually it’s one step at a time. Maybe that is the reason God tells us to walk by faith and not by sight.

God’s will may require you to replace another Christian who gets out of His will. We do not go looking for God’s will; it comes looking for us. We do not find God’s will; we find ourselves in it; it’s a way of life; it’s being consistently led by the Spirit. Hudson Taylor said, “Our best decisions are when they are left up to God.”

Paul encouraged the Christians at Galatia to walk in the Spirit. There is a big difference between self-leading, Satan leading, and God’s leading.

(1) Self- leading: If you’re leading yourself, you decide by your emotions. Your urges are not consistent, and they fluctuate. One day, you think it’s God’s will…the next day it’s not God’s will.

(2) Satan’s leading: If Satan is leading, he will always make you think it’s urgent. No time to think. No time to pray. It’s now or never. If you delay, it will be too late.

(3) God’s leading: When the Lord is leading, He will give you time. It’s not urgent, but the impression is there… it never goes away. The Lord is patient. He gives you space. There’s time to think, talk, and even disagree with it. He hopes you will go along with His will, but you have the choice to say no. God’s leading is not complicated or confusing. He doesn’t want to make it difficult for you. He always has your best interests in mind.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

We must trust the Lord wholeheartedly and not depend on our own intellect or emotions!

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It Depends on How You Look at Your Circumstances

A man pulled into a gas station on the outskirts of town. As he filled his tank, he remarked to the attendant, “I’ve just accepted a job in town. I’ve never been in this part of the country. What are the people like?”

“What are the people like where you came from?” the attendant asked.

“Not so nice…in fact, they can be quite rude,” the man replied.
The attendant shook his head. “Well, I’m afraid you’ll find the people in this town the same way.”

Just then another car pulled into the station. “Excuse me,” the driver called out. “I’m just moving to this area. Is it nice here?”
“Was it nice where you came from?” the attendant inquired.

“Oh, yes! I came from a great place. The people were friendly, and I hated to leave.”

“Well, you’ll find the same to be true of this town.”

“Thanks!” yelled the driver as he pulled away.

“So what is this town really like?” asked the first man, now irritated with the attendant’s conflicting reports.

The attendant just shrugged his shoulders. “It’s all a matter of perception. You’ll find things to be just the way you think they are.”

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Why People Don’t Give to Missions?

Ladies, I will speaking at a Faith Promise Conference next week. Here’s a devotion I have prepared. I hope it is a blessing for you, and you might be able to use it in your church.

Fifty two years ago my husband and I began tithing. We learned that tithing meant giving the first ten percent of our gross resources back to God. We understood that according to the Bible, our first fruits, the tithe (ten percent), was the amount that we gave directly to the Lord to acknowledge His ownership and stewardship over our lives.

Through the years, as we listened to pastors and teachers teach principles of good stewardship, we began to understand that everything we own belongs to God, and we are to be faithful stewards of everything He gives us.

A few years after we were saved, we attended our first Faith Promise Conference. As baby Christians, we made our first Faith Promise commitment of $5.00 a week. We understood that our Faith Promise Offering was not part of our tithe, but this was to be an amount above our tithes. Every year since that first conference, we have increased our Faith Promise commitments. Several years ago, we struggled with the amount that we should be giving to missions. We both prayed about it, and the Lord gave us peace about giving a designated amount for each year that we have been saved.

Many Christians fail to see God miraculously provide for them because they have never been taught the spiritual disciplines of living by faith and being good stewards of all their resources.

Today one of the great sins of American Christians is consumerism. While others around the world are dying without Christ, Americans are buying things they want, but they do not need. People will cut corners in order to get the best house, the biggest toy or the fullest bank account. Christians who joyfully tithe and give sacrificial offerings are very rare today.

Isaiah had some convicting things for me to hear. Although the following scripture is directed specifically at the women of Israel, it can also apply to us today.

Isaiah 3:16-26 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.

These women were more concerned about their…earrings, bracelets, veils, tiaras, head dresses, anklets, sashes, shawls, perfume bottles, charms, signet rings, nose rings, fine robes, capes, cloaks, purses, mirrors, and linen garments…than about their God.

God told them, “Because you are concerned about these things, I will send diseases as punishment for your pride and lewdness”.

Could He be telling us, “I am sending poverty and distress to you because you care more about your clothes, your shoes, your purses, and your jewelry than you care about Me?”

There are many reasons that people don’t give to missions today. If you look at statistics, people spend more money on fast food, tobacco products, candy, pets, toys, games, entertainment, cable bills, movies, movie rental, and cell phones than they do giving to missions.

What are some of the reasons Christian fail to give to Missions?

1. They don’t realize how important it is to their faithfulness in Christian walk.
2. They don’t realize that it’s a blessing to give and delivers them from selfishness.
3. They don’t realize how essential it is to their happiness and holiness.
4. They believe that all they have belongs to themselves. They earned it. They worked hard, studied hard in school and applied themselves in order to prosper. What they fail to realize is that God gave them the power to make wealth, the brains to learn, the training and motivation to work hard. (Duet 8:17-18)
5. They have a lack of faith and think they can’t afford to give.
6. They really don’t love the Lord! You can tell how much someone is loved by how much someone else is willing to spend on them.

Of course, we should never give out of guilt, but we should give by grace. Giving hearts start when we comprehend how much Jesus loved us. He traded heaven and its glorious perfection for this earth, confined to a human body to experience a painful crucifixion. Only when we fully understand this fact will our hearts be changed into giving hearts. Truly grace will motivate our giving.

When the Macedonians Christians heard about a need, their thinking was so saturated with the thought of Christ becoming poor for them that they desperately pleaded for the privilege to give.

God has implanted in every believer a desire to give. Some respond and some don’t. Some are afraid to give because they are afraid they won’t have enough…afraid they will have to give up something that they enjoy.

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Sunday School Teacher’s Ideas

I was looking through my files this week and came across some great notes I took when I was in college. Hope these notes help you.

1. Provoke your student’s interest
• Use a variety of methods in teaching
• Use the cleverest way possible to present lessons.
• Use drama to make story effective (Jesus girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His disciples)
• Don’t read from manual or book
• Make your material exciting
• Use object lessons (Jesus did) He showed Himself as the Bread of Life, As the Good Shepherd…

2. Get ideas by exploring books
• Visual Aid Encyclopedia, Eleanor Done, Regal Books
• Roy Garn, The Magical Power of Emotional Appeal
• Ethel Barret, Storytelling Made Easy
• Marie Chapman, Yelling for Help
• Herman Hornell, Kregal; Teaching Techniques of Jesus
• Howard Hendricks, The Seven Laws of Teaching
• Cheryl Fawcett, Understanding People: Ministry To All Stages of Life

3. Don’t use the same method all the time…”Variety is Spice of Life”. Use things that:
• Create an interest and a desire to know.
• Create a need for the Bible to have real value for their lives.
• Teach them how they can forgive others when they have offended them.
• Teach them how their tongues can keep them from getting me into trouble and how to get victory in their lives.
• Develop within them a curiosity about their souls, their purpose of life, and their lives beyond death.
• Teach them how to praise and encourage others.
• Teach them the dangers of being critical of others.

4. Teacher must realize how important their teaching techniques and personalities are. (Example: Jerry was a student who had not really been interested in Sunday school until promotion day…he got a new teacher who showed a real interest in him and the class. Because of this new teacher, the student began getting excited about the Lord, His Word, and his service for the Lord.)

• Rewards are important…Jesus offered heaven…Paul pressed on toward the prize.
• Don’t use the same old method year after year. (We remember 10% of what we hear, 50% of what we see, 70% of what we say, and 90% of what we do).
• Send “Take home papers” with the students.
• Ask thought provoking questions.
• Tell part of the details of the story without telling the characters in the story.
• Use a recorded version, complete with sound effects.
• Sometimes taste can be introduced like a food in the story (pomegranates, figs).
• Continued story (call on one student to continue, then he calls on another).
• Nose; fragrance of God’s flowers; distinguish them from artificial ones.

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2018 Goals for Sunday School Teachers

2018 is a new year. As teachers, it’s important to shepherd the students you have in your classes. Let’s do our very best this year to keep in contact with visitors and those who attend every week.

Here are a few suggestions to help you shepherd your students.

1. Send them birthday, friendship, and encouragement cards.

2. Visit their school programs.

3. Take their pictures and post them in classroom.

4. Take them on visitation with you.

5. Have a birthday party once a month and celebrate the ones who have a birthday that month. Parties can be at church, at home, or at pizza parlor.

6. Help students MEMORIZE Scriptures. Reward them for their achievements and announce their achievements in services.

8. Call them each week just to keep in touch with them.

9. Ask them to help straighten up your class area before and/or after class; reward them for their efforts.

10. Remember Time = LOVE.

11. Take one at a time to McDonalds to get to know about him and his interests.

12. Let the achievers decorate your class room as a reward/incentive.

Sunday School teachers have the opportunity to be the GREATEST INFLUENCE in a child’s life outside of their own parents. Remember you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

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Are We Living Intentionally?

Whether we are old or young, we all have to deal with our own character defects. It might be our bitterness, our selfishness, or our pride. When we were young, we tried to cover up those character defects with our makeup and clothes, our natural abilities, or our personalities. As we get older, those outward things fade away. If we have not sanctified those defects in our younger years, those defects will become more pronounced and visible during our senior years.

There are days when I see my own short comings, temptations, and struggles and wonder to myself…will I make it to the end of my life more sanctified than when I started?

I look around and see other pastors’ wives and Christian leaders who gave up living the Christian life. Because of selfishness, greed, and thoughts, “I deserve better than this.” They start searching outside their marriages, families, and ministries for easier and more prosperous lives…ultimately these women lose their ministries and testimonies.

Although I have my own temptations and struggles, what a joy it is to watch older pastors’ wives and Christian leaders who have stayed faithful into their senior years. Listening to their testimonies and seeing them stay faithful to the Lord all the way to the end is such an encouragement to me.

Ladies, if we don’t live intentionally, our days become weeks, our weeks become months, our months become years, and our years become decades…then before you know it…our lives are over.

We have all watched Christian women, who over the course of their lives, fail to get more spiritual. They become more narrow, more bitter, more selfish, more whiny, more fearful, and more petty. But Praise the Lord, I’ve seen other women, who over the course of their lives, become more mature, more godly, more gracious, more dependent on the Lord and His blessing on their lives.

This morning, let’s determine to live our lives intentionally. Let’s set our eyes on Christ and press on to become more like Him.

Our prayer today should be…“Lord, by Your grace, help us to be more godly and gracious as the years go by. Help us to be the kind of women that encourage others as we grow older. We don’t want to just drift through our Christian lives. Help us live intentional about the way to the end for You. Although there are days in all of of our lives when we have things to do; places to go; people to check on, lessons to prepare, work to do, cards to send, emails and texts to answer… help us live the remainder of our years intentionally for You. Help us to become more gracious and kind to everyone all the way to the end.”

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