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The following includes excerpts from a recently released eBook, An Enemy Lies Within, which is available from each of the major distributors (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness… Romans 10:10

The heart of man desires – perhaps more than anything else – to be filled with faith. Consequently, the Christian heart is hungry for the (rhema; spoken) word of God.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Jesus explained to His disciples that our ability to hear and understand God’s voice was proof of our belonging to Him.

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Luke 8:10

However, having ears to hear does not guarantee hearing. Sixteen times in the New Testament, Jesus encouraged His listeners with:

He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Matthew 11:15

It is the heartfelt desire of everyone involved – Father, Son, and children – to know, hear and understand God’s voice. So, why are so few hearing and understanding? Why are so many disappointed and frustrated regarding their ability to know it is God’s voice? Should it really be this difficult?

How do we respond to Jesus’ command to let ourselves hear? Consider the following three simple and easy keys for our knowing, hearing, and understanding the word of God.

Hearing – even for those blessed with ears to hear – is not a passive exercise. As with any conversation, the hearer must give attention to the one speaking (Mark 4:24). Perhaps we do not hear more from God because we fail in this area. Who would continue speaking to someone that is obviously disinterested or unaffected by what is being said?

Key #1: Become an active listener during quiet times of prayer.

Hearing God’s voice has been compared to listening to the radio, as if God is continually talking to us, waiting for us to “tune in”. The comparison is preposterous; an insult to the Living God. He is far too relational to communicate in this way. He waits for us to turn a listening ear and attentive mind to His words of faith.

Consequently, the carnal mind seeks to distract, discourage, and discredit. It distracts us with a thousand other thoughts, discourages us when we fail to hear, and discredits God for seemingly ignoring our pleas for attention and asking impossible things of us. The carnal mind seeks to convince us that investment in hearing from our Creator is a waste of time and energy.

Key #2: Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5).

If God speaks to you and you are not obedient, then you have sinned against Him, and 1John 1:9 is your only recourse. It does not matter that you did not hear, or you were distracted, or you did not understand. God does not speak to be ignored or misunderstood. Excuse-making, deflection, and blame-shifting are tactics of our carnal mind in its war against God and His children.

Key #3: Take responsibility for your obedience to God.

If you are feeling uneasy about hearing and understanding, receive that feeling as loving conviction to pay more attention, and/or clean your ears of whatever is messing with the message, and/or spend more time listening for clarification. If you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him. God truly loves speaking with His children.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

Have you ever thought, “I don’t have time to manage my time?” You are not alone. It is ironic how little time people invest in making sure they are making good use of their time. Worst still, the busier we are, the less time we invest to make sure our busy-ness is worthwhile and profitable. I recognize this is not news; just consider it a reminder that time is the one thing we cannot get back, or produce.

That reminder suggests two opening words of encouragement. First, though He is timeless, God is the producer and owner of time. Secular self-help books and articles are not the place to turn for help with time management – particularly when you have access to the Author. Second, God will do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think with the time we surrender to His good work.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

As a conscientious leader, you are already making plans for next year (if not, you should be). Regardless of your success in 2018, you may be thinking about taking things to the next level (it is the American way). Before you do that, consider some time management strategies that will help you focus 2019 on the One Who has given you that time:

  1. Establish your calendar before the chaos begins – daily, weekly, monthly, etc. If the Lord is your CEO, then lay your calendar out before Him (as an offering). Allow Him to manage your time in His supernatural ways.
  2. Put to-do items on your calendar. Treat them like meetings with important clients. Don’t allow interruptions. Stay focused. You have been given the gift of self-control. Use it.
  3. Don’t let your smart phone manage you. Set your attention towards God’s voice, rather than that of men. Return phone calls when you cannot do anything else (e.g., driving). If necessary, allocate 30 minutes in the middle and at the end of your day to return calls.

Remember, business and spiritual growth are processes. Be patient with yourself and those in your spheres of influence. Also, decisions are more important than actions. Setting aside time to make good decisions is one of the most profitable things you can do.

Finally, consider this: Read the rest of this entry »

Is anything in life accomplished in an instant? From learning to speak, to winning a girl’s heart, to career advancement, all development is a progression of incremental steps – each one building on the previous.

One might ask, “What if the last step was wrong or injurious?” In that case the next step is toward restoration; and stepping all the more needful.

The point here is that life is not a collection of events, but of processes. Even our birth begins with two cells becoming one, then two, then four, and so on. All physically animate things move in a direction – birth, growing and dying.

Recognizing this, the wise man does his best to organize his steps in the most profitable manner (meaning, he puts more than a little thought into his choices). The laisse faire approach to life rarely ends well.

Knowing that the natural life operates in process, why then would Christians live as though the spiritual life is any different? Why wouldn’t we readily recognize our spiritual life as more than a disconnected collection of events?

I will tell you why; because our carnal mind is at enmity with the Spirit, and opposed to our spiritual development. It is active in distracting and deceiving us.

We are being moved in a spiritual direction – toward evil or good, death or life. We must fight against our carnal mind for the spiritual processes that have been given to us by God for our maturation. These include sanctification, transformation, and salvation.

Furthermore, obedience to every command of the Father and Son is a process (hear, obey, act). Walking in the Spirit is a process. Faith is the process of God whereby His word to us becomes His work – over and over again, faith to faith.

This brings to mind another spiritual truth: These processes are iterative; they repeat in God-prescribed patterns. This is one of the reasons why spiritual disciplines work. Again, this is not unlike our life in the physical realm – the workday being a good example. Repetition and patterns are common to both physical and spiritual development. Read the rest of this entry »

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

How much attention do we give – and should we give – to this instruction? Is this optional, prescriptive, or a command? How prevalent is this theme in the Scriptures? Two things come to mind:

  1. Under the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel was commanded to remain separate from the surrounding nations, lest their worship and obedience to God be compromised.
  2. Under the New, Jesus’ prayed for His Father to sanctify (i.e., set apart) those that He had been given – a continuation of the Old Covenant theme. We are to be “in the world”, but not “of the world”. There seems to be a fine but hard line between these two conditions.

What are the “things on the earth” Paul refers to in his letter to the Colossian church? Are they limited to the previously mentioned world philosophies and religious legalism? What about the list of personal sins that follow?

Bringing this matter forward, what would the Holy Spirit lead Paul to say about our world? What new “things on the earth” has mankind created? Should we be concerned about the set of our minds in regard to sports, news, social media, online gaming, DIY YouTube videos, etc.?

Beware of the first answer that comes to you. It is likely your carnal mind trying to distract or otherwise deter you from considering the matter. It does that… regularly. Just tell it to shut up. Read the rest of this entry »

We will close out this series with a renewed consideration of God’s purpose for it; namely, our sanctification. As we know, sanctification is the process whereby we are set apart and cleansed from the world – separated unto the Lord and for His use (2Timothy 2:21). Few realize how vehemently our carnal minds fight against our sanctification. To be used by God to His greatest advantage, our carnal minds must be overcome.

The church began with Peter’s charge to repent and be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:38-41). At the end of this age, we will be called out a final time by God Himself (Revelation 18:4). In between, we struggle mightily with our allegiances.

God has given us disciplines as an invitation and the means to come out of the world – into a deeper relationship with Him. Jesus uses the disciplines to make us (Mark 1:17) and to build His church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The Holy Spirit uses them to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Repentance is first a change of mind. From parents to preachers, we have focused on changing behavior to the detriment of this first and vital step. Coming out of this evil generation – out of Babylon, the great harlot – begins with a rejection of secular, humanistic and carnal thinking about everything… including church.

Our carnal thinking about church has become so ingrained, we hardly know it exists. We are so surrounded by it, we cannot see how it has infected us. It is like an enemy that has entrenched itself behind our strongest line of defense. Going out to Jesus Christ, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12-14), may be the only way we can rightfully assess what has become our prison.

Lest anyone misunderstand, we are not suggesting an exodus from existing church fellowships. This encouragement is about the way we think and about the way we relate to God. A. W. Tozer prophetically wrote of our condition over sixty years ago:

To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns… I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the fall of man! Renewed Day by Day, A. W. Tozer

This series began with the argument for, and proof of, our carnal mind’s status as enemy number one. Satan may be more powerful (and easier to blame); and the world may be more aggressive in its attempts to conform us. But, it is the carnal mind that has become – not just the enemy in our camp – but a trusted friend and advisor. As such, it has become a dangerous distractor and deceiver.

Our hope is that you will respond to God’s invitation for greater intimacy through the disciplines He has so graciously provided. With this hope in mind, we offer a line of questioning for your conversations with Him and those in your spheres of influence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Work of the Faith

Discussing faith and works together has become a difficult, anxiety-inducing exercise for most of the Body of Christ. This is not so much due to an identifiable point of disagreement as to the subconscious suspicion that what the other believes may be different and/or challenging to something we have been told. This again is a ploy of our carnal minds – to protect closely held convictions and opinions; to maintain control and comfort.

Rigid mindsets are generally dangerous things, built on arrogance and fear. There is nothing wrong with strong convictions – as long as those convictions are constructed on the diligent and humble study of God’s word.

Sadly, most of us lack the time required for diligent study, having given said time over to worldly pursuits. Consequently, we are left with someone else’s word as the final word for the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2John 1:9). This is particularly troublesome in regards to the foundational subjects of grace, faith and works.

At a minimum, every disciple of Jesus Christ should recognize and accept that there is more truth than they have yet learned. At the same time, they should be prepared to humbly offer what they have come to understand. And so, with a desire to learn more, I offer here my humble understanding of the work of faith – taken mostly from Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and other noted NKJV passages).

Grace, faith and works cannot be understood apart from each other. Our faith – which is a gift of God – appropriates the grace of God. The grace of God manifests itself in His good works. His good works perfect (i.e., complete) our faith, as we walk in them. Faith without these works is dead (i.e., without effect). Because these works are His, we have no claim of credit for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Obedience to the Faith

Through Him [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ… Romans 1:5-6

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:25-27

As you can see, the New King James Version (my favorite translation) identifies the second phase of the faith process as “obedience to the faith”. Other translations have “obedience of faith”. In either case, Paul is describing a phase of the faith process distinctly different from our  third and final phase, the work of faith.

Obedience to the faith and the work of faith are closing related – even dependent. However, the relationship and dependency of two things does not make them the same thing; and, while it is easier to consider them the same, we must resist the temptation. Our minds are capable of understanding the important differences and will be better off for the effort.

Faith does not empower obedience; faith demands and requires our obedience. It can also be said that obedience must be given to faith for faith to flourish. This begs three significant questions:

  1. If faith does not empower obedience, then what does?
  2. How does obedience meet the requirements and demands of faith?
  3. How does one give their obedience to the faith?

Romans 1:5 (above) gives us the answer to our first question. Obedience to the faith is empowered by God’s grace and His calling (e.g., to be an apostle). As we’ve discussed previously, God’s grace is appropriated by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

God’s calling naturally comes by His word, as well. And so, we discover that God’s grace and calling originate in the hearing of faith – the first phase of the faith process.

In regards to our second question: Obedience ultimately meets faith’s requirements and demands through the work of faith (the subject of our next article).

Here, we seek to discover the answer to our third question: How does one give their obedience to the faith? Or, said another way, how does someone transition from the hearing of faith to that hearing’s perfection in the work of faith? As you might have guessed by now, we do so through a disciplined life. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hearing of Faith

In this, the seventh installment of our series, we offer four spiritual disciplines for the hearing of faith.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that God is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). His work is that of a loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-11), bringing us up in His nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4). Incredibly, His good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Furthermore, it helps us to recognize that our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit operate in process. They are process-oriented problem solvers. As we are discovering, the problem of overcoming our carnal mind is dependent on the process God has created for the maturing of our faith. The process of faith consists of at least seven discrete steps beginning with the word of God and being perfected in His good work (James 2:22) – the good work we are created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

For the purposes of our study, the disciplines are presented in four categories: Foundations, the hearing of faith, obedience to the faith, and the work of faith. The four foundational disciplines are covered in Part 1. Before we move on to the disciplines God has provided for the hearing of faith, let’s take a quick look at the definition and use of “discipline” in the New Testament. It should be enlightening. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the sixth article in our series on overcoming the carnal mind. I appreciate and applaud those of you that have come this far. I pray that you have been encouraged, edified and equipped – not only for yourself, but for those in your spheres of influence.

If these articles are blessing you, then they will be a blessing to others. Please pass them along – with encouragement – to the leaders you know. The church is in dire need of leaders that will search out deeper kingdom matters (Proverbs 25:2).

For those that are just joining us, we have, in previous articles:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Provided a layman’s explanation of the codependent relationship between faith and the mind.

While each of these stands alone fairly well, there is much to be gained by reading through them in order AND taking the time necessary for God to bless you along the way.

You will likely find that the second article is particularly challenging. Let me suggest that, rather than identify every deception before proceeding, you focus on one of two through an initial pass of the series – applying a few of the disciplines in overcoming those deceptions. You will then be better equipped for another iteration.

Speaking of disciplines, I appreciate your patience. If you are like me, nothing is more frustrating than to discover a gap and not know how to fill it. I have been looking forward to this myself, wondering how God would lay this out for us. Here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

I fear that we have engineered our Christian lives to the point that we are impervious to God’s discipline. We have come to understand that chastening, rebuke and scourging are negative aspects of our relationship with God. Some (or, is it many?) are suggesting that our loving Father would never do such a thing.

Scripture has much the opposite to say.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

If  you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Hebrews 12:5-8

Most of us need a renewing of our minds in this matter; a repentance. The truth will make us free – to receive God’s discipline, knowing His love is behind it. Otherwise, we risk missing the lesson and wasting the pain. Some have even become bitter with God, simply because no one taught them about the discipline of His love.

It is important to recognize that, unlike our natural children, we do not grow out from under the heavenly Father’s discipline. As the children of God, we must expect – and even desire – His chastening and rebuke. Would not His scourging be, therefore, avoided?

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

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