Tag Archives: spiritual growth

Listening To God

One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.

One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.

Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.

We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.

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One Body. One Mission.

What do you think of other church denominations other than yours? What do you think about the Baptists? The Methodists? The Presbyterians? The Vineyard Church? The Assemblies Of God? The non-denominational churches? Do you have positive thoughts about them? Do you see them as the competition? Do you see them as having incorrect doctrine? The truth is we all feel something when we see other churches, and it’s related to how you were brought up to think.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me when I first started attending the church I go to was that each week the pastor would pray before his sermon. In that prayer he would say, “Lord, I bless the Methodist church down the road meeting this morning. I pray for Pastor Johnson at the baptist church this morning. Speak through him. I pray over our Anglican brothers and sisters meeting this morning. Holy Spirit, meet with your body of believers this morning.” Each week, he would call out different pastors and churches in the area and bless them.

God uses those prayers to remind me that we are all One Body and co-laborers together. Each of us has a part to play in the Body. We are not in competition with each other, but in cooperation in the Great Co-Mission. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part” (MSG). God’s desire, and design, is that we learn to work together and to become depend on each other.

We are not to be in competition with each other or against each other. Remember, if a house is divided, it can’t stand. We need to look at our commonalities and give a 100% on building relationships around those things. I’ve been on staff at a church that had 50 denominations represented in the audience with people from over 50 different nations. We worked and worshiped together as one. This is God’s design for His Body, and it starts with us individually focusing the things that unite us rather than what separates us.

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Leaving The Valley Of Weeping

Every one of us will go through valleys. They’re those dark periods in our lives that are created by the loss of a loved one, the consequence of sin, being hurt by someone we love, an illness or something else. In the valley, it’s natural to want to push everyone away and face it alone, but that’s not God’s plan. That’s when you need those who love you the most to carry you, walk with you and encourage you. Having been there and tried that, I know the reasoning and the lies that get you to believe it. I’ve found that Psalm 84:5-7 give us a blueprint to endure the valley.

Verse 5 says, “Blessed and greatly favored is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion” (AMP). The first thing we have to realize is we shouldn’t try to walk through this time in our own strength. When our strength is weak, His is made perfect in us. We need to rely on God, and the people He’s placed in our lives, to get through this period of darkness. We also need to focus on Him rather than the issue. If we’re not careful, we can go further down into a darker place than we are.

Verse 6 says, “Passing through the Valley of Weeping ( Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings.” I love this because it’s up to us what we make of the valley experience. Will it be a dry, desolate place or will it be a place of refreshing springs? Are we just trying to push through it or are we learning as we go? God has blessings in the valleys of life if we’re looking for them and we’re turning those times into learning and growing experiences.

Finally, verse 7 says, “They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; Each of them appears before God in Zion.” There is light at the end of the valley because victory is ours when we do these things. You are not alone in this. God sees you, He gives you strength daily and you are on His mind. Don’t push Him or others away on this journey. They provide the strength you need to gain the victory over this period and place in life. The valley isn’t permanent. Weeping in the valley may last for a while, but joy is on the way when we do these things.

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Endure The Test

I saw a sign the other day that said, “If you hadn’t gone through that test, you wouldn’t be as strong right now.” It was a great reminder that the tests we go through produce strength in us that we wouldn’t get any other way. God has a purpose in them. He wants to grow something in us, and often difficult times are the only way to produce it. The problem is that when they come, we usually pray fervently for God to end the test and get us out of it. The truth is that God needs us to endure it if He’s going to be able to finish what He’s trying to do.

A body builder only gets muscles through lifting more than is comfortable. A marathon runner doesn’t build endurance through sprints. You and I don’t become who we are supposed to become without going through difficult times. Your ability to endure will inspire others who will go through it later. Don’t spend your prayer time asking God to get rid of your test. Ask Him to give you the endurance to get through it so He can produce in you what He needs to. Don’t quit. You can do this.

Here are some verses on tests and endurance.

1. Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13 GNT

2. Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James 1:2-4 MSG

3. But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.

Job 23:10 NLT

4. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you.

1 PETER 4:12 AMP

5. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:7 GNT

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God’s Timing

Earlier this year, my son got a 3-D puzzle of Big Ben, the famous clock at Westminster Palace. This particular puzzle has a working clock on one side. After we built the clock, he asked if we could set the clock to London time. I then moved the hour hand six hours ahead. He said, “Wow! London is six hours faster than us?” Now, whenever he goes by the clock, he announces what time it is in London so we’ll know the difference in their time and ours.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that God has a different time than I do. It’s not as simple as a six hour difference though. He doesn’t look at time by the hour like we do. He looks at circumstances and how they line up to tell time. Whenever I pray for something, I’m typically looking at my circumstances and ask God to intervene in that moment. God’s timing doesn’t just look at what I want in that moment, he looks at the ripple effect and how that affects other moments.

Like a child wanting something at the store, I often demand that God answer right now! To me, what I’m asking for is urgent, but I’m learning that God has a plan and will answer in His time and in His way. In Psalm 69, David is praying desperately for God to answer him. He felt like he was drowning in his circumstances and he cried out to God to save him. Then in verse 13, he changed his tone. He prayed, “Answer me, God, at a time you choose” (GNT). He understood that God’s time was different than His and He trusted God’s wisdom over His desires.

I’ve been learning a lot about prayer this year so I can better communicate with God. When I read this verse, it changed how I pray. I’ve got to learn to trust His timing and His answer. I can’t just look at my life through and circumstances through my lenses. I need to learn to see things the way God does so that I can better trust what He’s doing and when He’s doing it. If I trust Him for my salvation and as my provider, then I need to learn to trust His timing too.

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Saving Jesus

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

A few years ago, I played the part of Pilate for a church’s Easter drama. As I rehearsed my lines and got into character, it dawned on me that I was the one sentencing Jesus to death. My first thought was, “I don’t know that I want to play this part.” Of all the characters in the drama, I’m the one who has the power to save Him and keep Him from being crucified. Even though I find no fault in Him, I still have to release Him to the mob to be killed. I have to give in to the mob rather than stand up for the truth. I have to disregard my wife’s warning and set a guilty man free instead.

As I struggled with playing that character, it hit me that it wasn’t Pilate who sentenced Jesus to death. It was me. Me! Chris Hendrix. It was my sin that condemned Him. It was my faults that nailed Him to the cross. These are things that I’ve known my whole life, but as I began to play the part of Pilate, I realized I’ve not really fully accepted that blame. I’ve been shifting it to those who actually crucified Him. It’s easier to point fingers and wash our hands of the guilt, but the truth is that water doesn’t take away the blame.

Each of us in our own way condemned Him to death. Even though I thought that as Pilate I had the power to save Him, I really didn’t. His ultimate plan was to die on the cross. If He hadn’t been crucified, we would still be in our sins and without hope. He kept that in mind as they hurled their accusations at Him. He loved them enough to stay silent in the face of their lies. He loved them enough to not perform a miracle for Herod. He loved you enough that He willingly died so He could pay the price for your sin. The real power was in His hands, not Pilate’s, and He used it for us. He took our “guilty” verdict on Himself to make us “innocent”. This Easter weekend, if you haven’t thanked Him for that, let me encourage you to. If you’ve never accepted Him for who He was and is, it’s time to recognize Him as the Son of God and invite Him to be Lord of your life. He died for you. Will you live for Him?

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Lessons From Simon

Have you ever been at the wrong place at the wrong time? That’s what happened to a man named Simon. He was traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As he was heading into the city, a large crowd was coming out. They were shouting and yelling at a man who was badly beaten. He was struggling to walk under the heavy load of the cross He was carrying. As he watched, the man must have fallen right in front of him, and it was clear He couldn’t go any further.

Matthew 27:32 says, “Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross” (NLT). The word “forced” catches my attention here. Jesus asked us to voluntarily take up our cross daily, but Simon was forced to do it. I believe that he stuck around to watch the crucifixion and later learned to take up his dross daily on his own.

If you think about it, He was also turned around. He was headed into the city, and because he carried the cross, he had to make an about face to head the other direction. When we accept Jesus as our savior, we are to repent of our sins. That word “repent” means to turn away and go the other direction. As Simon watched Jesus forgive those who crucified Him, he too repented of the sins he had committed and began to live different.

You and I have to learn to take up our cross daily, crucify our fleshly desires to it and turn away from those desires daily. When God’s spirit resides in us, there is a constant battle between His spirit and our flesh. If we’re willing to crucify our sinful nature and obey God’s voice, our lives will be forever changed. It’s up to each one of us to learn the lessons from Simon’s brief mention in the Bible. He is a picture of what God wants to do in each of our lives.

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