God Speaks Through The Circumstances

“ From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us….We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” – Acts 17:26-27, Proverbs 16:9. 

Every Christ-follower wants to hear from God. We want to know if this is God and is this what He’s telling me to do? Sometimes when God speaks to us, we clearly recognize that He has spoken. Other times, however, we wonder if God spoke or if the messages we heard were just thoughts in our imagination.

Acts 17:26-27 assures us that God orchestrates His plans through the events, the decisions of life, and all the people and places we encounter. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that the Lord determines our steps.  And Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) indicates that God has a definite plan to prosper us and give us hope. When we look at our lives over time, we will be able to see what God has been doing for us and how God can use our circumstances to speak to us. Going through certain circumstances in our life doesn’t always mean God caused it, but it does mean He can speak to us through it. 

Remember the story of Joseph. His brothers threw him in a pit, plotted his death then sold him into slavery. Yet, through all this, Joseph stayed faithful to God and eventually through a series of circumstances became the second in command in Egypt. When his brothers came for grain this is what he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20) Genesis 39:2 says, “The Lord was with Joseph…” God has a way of working things out for His glory. Even when things are not going as planned in life and all seems to be going wrong, we can trust that God will use those circumstances to make us better. When life deals us circumstances that we don’t understand we can choose to allow God to speak to us through our circumstances and become better or we can become bitter.

God can cause certain circumstances to take place in our life to communicate with us. We can’t choose what happens to us but we can choose what happens in us. We need time to pray over our circumstances to ask God what lesson He is teaching us. 

Experience is not always the best teacher. Experiencing something doesn’t mean you learned from it. If that was true, we would not have to experience the same thing again and again because we didn’t learn our lesson the first time. We can learn a great deal from our circumstances when we hear what God may be trying to tell us through those circumstances. When the circumstances of life become challenging don’t be afraid to ask God what is he trying to tell you through what is going on in your life. Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God speak through His church? 

God Speaks Through His Church

“At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way..”  –  Luke 10:21. 

The assumption in this passage is that God reveals things to some people and hides things from other people. That assumption makes you wonder “Who does God speak to?” and “Why?” This week we have been trying to answer those questions. There are several main ways God speaks to us: There is the Holy Spirit, scripture, prayer, circumstances, and the church.  

One of the ways we hear God speak most clearly is through the church. God places us in a church as a part of the body where Christ is the head, and we are the parts. The parts are interdependent, and God speaks through the parts to benefit the whole.  Ephesians 3:10 says, “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Every one of us has arrived at church with a heavy heart at one time or another. It could be a relationship that soured. Or a loss of a loved one. Or a job difficulty. Feelings of sadness and grief overwhelm you but you walk into church and your outlook begins to change. The worship songs soothe your soul. People in your small group tell you they are praying for you. Some recite scripture and acknowledge what is happening in your life. God uses the body of Christ to speak words of support and comfort over you.  You suddenly realize that God is in the midst of this group of people.  

And then you listen to the message and the words are just what you need to hear that day. God always speaks through the church.  Sometimes it’s a message from the pastor or a kind gesture of a friend, but it all points you to God’s voice.  As much as the church is maligned and judged today for its failures or misstep, it is also a beautiful place. God created the church to be the redemptive tool of the world, with Christ as the Head and the body, with all its different parts working together to bring redemption to the world.

Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, says this about the church:

“A church is a body. It is the body of Christ! Jesus Christ is present as head of a local church and every member is placed in the body as it pleases God. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself to every person for the common good. The whole body is fitted together by the Father. Members are enabled and equipped by the Holy Spirit to function where the Father has placed them in the body. The body then functions to build itself up into the Head and every member comes to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  God made us mutually interdependent. We need each other.  What one lacks the other will supply.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God speak through His church? 

God Speaks Through His Word

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”– Romans 10:17 (ESV). 

God wants to talk to you. I know that may be surprising to some. It may seem at times that God can seem like a distant Father, tolerating us but not really interested in the daily hills and valleys of life.  The opposite is true. God wants to be a part of every detail and wants us to know who He really is.  For reasons only He fully understands, God rarely chooses to speak to us in an audible voice. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t revealing Himself, and His desires for our lives, all the time. So what is this simple way to hear God’s voice? It’s actually pretty easy…read your Bible.

The pages of Scripture contain so many amazing stories of how God spoke to His people. Within these stories we see the power of a people focused on following God’s leadership, and the problems that occur when people go their own way. 

Before you file this in the “heard all that before” cabinet, consider this: God loves talking to us through His written Word. The Bible is a beautiful narrative of God creating, saving, and interacting with the people He loves. Reading it on a regular basis can give us insight and understanding into how God is currently moving and operating in your life. Most importantly, it’s nonfictional: it is filled with actual words from His mouth, written down by people who heard His voice. 

2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is “inspired by God.” His Word sometimes gives us a warning, a word of encouragement, or a lesson for life. God is whispering, and sometimes shouting through His Word, giving us instructions and principles for life so “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

Reading the Bible to understand God is compelling. But it is even more compelling when the words on those pages leap out and begin to speak directly to you in real-time. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” 

Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the words you read. It is amazing how a verse can suddenly feel like it comes to life and speaks directly to your heart. If you sense this happening while you are reading the Bible, pause and reflect on those words. Read them again. Ask God to reveal what He has for you in this passage. Reading the Bible is not a speed-reading exercise. You may miss God wanting to speak to you directly.  

May God stir up our hearts to hear his voice through the pages of Scripture today. And may we align our hearts with the principles found in its pages.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the primacy and authority of scripture so important when we are listening for God?  Discuss how we hear God’s voice through scripture?  How do we hear God’s voice in matters not directly addressed by scripture?

God Speaks By The Holy Spirit

“I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans—I will come back to you!” – John 14:18 (TPT).

With Jesus’ impending departure, the disciples were naturally worried about being left alone. Who could blame them? But in Jesus’ great love and care for them, He promises to show up in a new way. This ushered in the new era of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the most encouraging verses in Scripture. God did not leave us alone to fend for ourselves. He provided an amazing Helper in the person of the Holy Spirit who will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves—if we let Him. 

We need never be afraid again, or lonely, or hopeless, or sorrowful, or helplessly inadequate. For the Helper is always with us.

There is always Someone standing by to assist us no matter what circumstances we are facing. God has provided every resource I need through His Spirit. When we can’t, He can. When we’re tired, He isn’t, When we’re weak, He’s strong. When we think, “I don’t have the wisdom for this situation, or I don’t know how to love my neighbor, or I can’t take one more round of hard medical news” He has the answers. You were never meant to carry it all alone. You were never meant to live as an orphan.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us in a number of wonderfully specific ways. As we read God’s word, the Spirit speaks to us, convicting us, encouraging us, and strengthening us. The Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word, helping us understand the Bible. John 14:26 says, “ But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” And we know from 2 Peter 1:20-21 that the Holy Spirit moved upon the authors of Scripture to write the Bible. “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” The Holy Spirit helps us interpret it and apply it to our lives today.  The Holy Spirit shines a light on Scripture to help us understand what He is trying to say.  

Have you ever felt prompted to pray for something out of the blue? That’s the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been suddenly convicted of sin? That’s God speaking to you. Have you ever felt the small or large push toward obeying God’s word? That’s the Holy Spirit at work. The more we give the Holy Spirit’s presence a place in our lives, the more sensitive we become to His voice. It’s this fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit that makes us better able to hear the voice of the Lord when He speaks to us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the work of the Holy Spirit? 
  2. What can we do this week to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us?  

Partnering With God

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6. 

The Bible contains numerous passages about prayer. “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1) “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18) There are many more passages that could be noted. So why aren’t Christians people of prayer? Perhaps because we make it more complicated than it needs to be. 

Prayer is important if we are to know God. There is no way to draw near to the Lord apart from prayer. It is in prayer that we express to the Lord our love for Him, our faith in Him, our worship of Him, and our surrender to Him. If for no other reason, the desire to know our Savior better should be ample enough reason to drop to our knees.   

There is a partnership that God has called us to with Himself in the area of prayer. God, has chosen to accomplish His will on this planet through the prayers of His people. God has decided not to arbitrarily move in and out of situations on earth, even though He is able to do just that. Instead, He waits on His people to pray and then pours out His power in response to those prayers.

Ezekiel 22:30 is a passage of Scripture that illustrates this principle. “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” God, Himself was looking for an intercessor. He was looking for someone who would stand before Him in prayer on behalf of Israel so that He would not have to destroy her because of sin and rebellion. But no intercessor was to be found. Israel was defeated by the Babylonians and her people were in exile for 70 years.

Isaiah 59 reflects a similar situation. The chapter speaks of a nation that was in trouble. Verses 15 and 16 show us the Lord’s response to the evil that was going on. “Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” But again, there was no one to intercede.

God has given us the awesome privilege of partnering with Him in bringing about the advance of His Kingdom on earth. As we ask ourselves, “why pray?” the answer is simple.  We can partner with God in what He is doing on this planet. Understanding the place of prayer in God’s plan can give us greater motivation and commitment to be the people of prayer that God is calling us to become.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The prayer of the righteous is powerfully effective, we should be motivated to pray. Agree or disagree and why?
  2. What can we do this week to partner with God in prayer? 

A Real And Personal Relationship

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20.

It has been said that true Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. But how intimate of a relationship do you think God desires with each one of us? If you really think about it, God has done and is doing His part to have an intimate relationship with us. God desires an intimate relationship with each one of us.  

Do you know God? I don’t mean do you know “of” God. I mean, do you have an authentic personal relationship with the One who created you, and with His Son, Jesus Christ? It’s not a question of whether you go to church every week or if you grew up in a home where God was talked about frequently. Honestly, that doesn’t guarantee that you actually know God at all. I’m talking about a relationship with God based on a relationship with Jesus, thanks to His sacrifice and not based on the good or bad things you’ve done. Have you experienced God’s great love for you? “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:19) And as a result of that love have you chosen to surrender your life to His plans and His ways.

If you want to develop a personal relationship with God, start by praying and reading His word consistently. Talk to God everywhere. This is the most important way to grow your relationship with Him because practically, no relationship would thrive without intentional communication. Quiet time praying and studying the Bible may not always be exciting but it’s so worth it. 

Then listen to God’s voice. Talking to God is important, But listening to Him is just as important. It’s not enough to just listen, we should act in obedience when He speaks. Obeying God has a lot to do with trusting Him. It’s tough to have a personal relationship with someone you don’t trust. God is trustworthy. You can trust Him with your whole heart and soul and be confident that He won’t ever let you down. You can tell Him when you feel angry, or when you feel afraid; you can trust Him when you’ve sinned or fallen short, and be confident that He won’t turn you away. You can tell Him your deepest, darkest secrets and the hidden struggles you’d never want anyone else to know about. Tell God whatever you feel inside. He’s God – He’s not offended by the thoughts in your heart. Let Him help you process them.

Finally, learn how to depend on God for everything. Depending on God is crucial for developing a strong relationship with Him. 

Developing a relationship with God is a process. It won’t happen all at once and sometimes you’ll think your relationship with Him is strong one day and the next day you may wonder if He’s even there. But, that’s a part of the journey. Like any relationship, a relationship with God is complex. You’ll learn more about Him and encounter Him in deeper ways in each season.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you rate your relationship with Jesus? What criteria do you use to rate the relationship? 
  2. What can you do this week to make the relationship even stronger? 

God Is Always At Work Around You

“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” –  John 5:17.

God was working before Christ walked on this earth. He was working while Christ was in the world. And He continues to work through His Spirit today.

We may not be inclined to think of God as always working. When faced with disappointments in life, it can be difficult to believe God works things for your good. But what if God has been at work all along, and you’ve just failed to recognize it? In John 5:17, Jesus reminds us that God has been working and tells us that He is also working on our behalf.

Jesus heals a paralyzed man in John 5:1-14. The man had been there for 38 years without anyone to help him get to the pool to be healed. Jesus broke the status quo by healing the man on a Sabbath day, and this was considered a severe breach of traditions by the Jewish leaders. However, Jesus used the opportunity to remind us that God will never stop working because of man-made traditions.

Jesus will not hesitate to break the norm or the status quo on your behalf because he needs to fulfill his purpose in your life. Therefore, be encouraged by the fundamental truth that your Heavenly Father is at work always. So as you go about your daily activities, think on that truth. Whether challenging and difficult in your work, marriage, business, education, children relationship, career, etc., you know that God is at work. You might be wondering why God seems silent, be still, and be at peace because God has been working until now, and Jesus is working as well. 

So, even though you might not feel or see God working right now in your situation does not mean he is not. He is working on other areas of your life that may not immediately be obvious to you. This is why the Holy Spirit is reminding you today through this word not to give up hope or feel helpless. because “… he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.” (Psalm 121:4)

Instead, he is always at work because he is working all things for our good, no matter how seemingly hopeless or near impossible the situation is or looks. Romans 8:28 (AMP) says “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”

John 13:7 says, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where have you seen God working in your own life, in the last 1-5 years? Where do you see God at work around you? How does He want you to join Him?

Developing A Personal Relationship With God

“Religion is a very dangerous thing. By that I mean being so caught up in rules and regulations and not focusing on the thing that matters most- a personal relationship with God.” –  Joyce Meyer

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you attend church, pray and read the Bible because that is what Christians do. You learn about God, you love God, but how much of a personal relationship do you have with Him. Because when you have a conversation with people who have an intimate, personal relationship with God, you realize there is something more, a deeper level to our relationship with God.  We were created to have a relationship, a friendship with God, but to have that, we have to put our trust in Him. 

We do not put our trust in the relationship we have developed with Jesus – our trust is in Jesus Himself.  We trust in Christ alone. We bring nothing to the table, even if we’ve been a Christian for decades. If our personal relationship with Christ “develops,” it’s not so much that we develop it, but that it develops in us by the Spirit as we put our trust daily in Christ alone – that is, as we continue to trust that Christ will be faithful to us, even though “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)

God doesn’t want to be the almighty powerful God that is far removed from our lives. He wants to be your friend, that one that is always close to you and will never let you down. God wants you to experience all that He has for you, He wants you to know His will for your life.  A personal relationship with God is just like a relationship with your spouse. When you first met your spouse you learned where they live and their phone number. You may have shared some same interests. You may have some friends in common. Or you went to the same college. You had brief chats but you realized something was missing. What’s missing is that you’ve never had a deep conversation with him or her. Nor have you heard any stories about them, or seen them happy or sad. You don’t know their likes or pet peeves or any of the little quirks that define them.  All of that takes time, listening and getting to really know him or her. 

It’s the same way with knowing God. Developing a relationship with God is a process. It won’t happen all at once and sometimes you’ll think your relationship with him is strong one day and the next day you may wonder if he’s even there. But, that’s a part of the journey. Like any relationship, a relationship with God is complex. You’ll learn more about him and encounter him in deeper ways the more you work at it.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does not mean to have a personal relationship with God? 
  2. What can we do this week to make our relationship with God deeper? 

Experiencing God

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16

God is more than a subject to be studied but rather a personal, relational God who wants us to know Him deeply and to experience Him daily. This isn’t something mystical. It’s actually quite practical. We can know God’s will for our lives. But it requires an understanding of “God’s will.” Americans are inclined to think of “God’s will” only in terms of God’s will for my life.

The problem with that line of thinking is that God, the Creator, and Ruler of the universe, doesn’t exist in a way that revolves around me. It’s actually not about me at all. We need to step out of our self-centered view of things to realize that it’s all about Him and His purposes. God is up to some things that are far bigger than anything that any of us are up to. 

There’s a big difference between God’s will for my life and simply God’s will. God’s will is essentially the timeless unfolding of His work of redemption – a work into which He desires to draw and use each one of us. So do not think in terms of  “God, come bless what I’m doing” and instead develop a “God, help me to do what you want to bless” prayer and mindset.  It will often take making major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing. It requires each of us to worship Him and not myself, Him and not my own dreams and ambitions, comfort and happiness.

Knowing God and doing His will is a repetitive cycle. I see and hear Him. I decide to join Him. I am transformed and I watch Him work. When I see Him work, I trust Him more. Over time, my personal, experiential knowledge of Him grows as I obey Him.

God Is always calling us to experience Him in a deeper and more personal way. We can live life entirely for ourselves. But we’ll never be fully satisfied. You’ll always wonder who you are and what life is all about. Or, you can begin to see God at work in the gospel and in the world around you, commit to abandoning yourself, and joining Him. 

However or whenever or wherever God comes to us, we need to be ready to hear and obey. In order to be available to experience God in different ways, we need to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s up to every one of us.  Our prayer is that you will say “yes” to God’s call to join God in His plan for the world

Discussion Questions:

  1. Scripture describes how Jesus was fully dependent upon the Father for everything He said and did.  Why/how is this significant to us?
  2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Why do you think God likes to do His work through ordinary people? What does this look like in your life?

Faith And Sight

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” –  2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)

Like it or not, self-driving cars are coming. 

Google, Apple, and Tesla are racing to produce autonomous vehicles for public transportation. Google and Tesla are testing self-driving cars on public roads, and Tesla has already begun to roll out self-driving features in their high-end electric cars. In the next several years we should see the first fully autonomous car that needs no human participation in the driving process. By the time our future children are grown up, learning to drive a car may be optional. You probably don’t understand the technology. Most people don’t. Basically, we are being asked to drive by faith, not by sight.   

 In his letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul had a similar message about faith: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” For those believers of Jesus Christ living in Corinth, the works and miracles of Jesus were only stories told by those who had traveled with Him. They wished that they could see Jesus in His glory so that their faith would be made strong when faced with difficult days. How often do we want the same thing? How often do we find ourselves as Thomas who refused to believe that Jesus had risen unless he touched Jesus’s nail-scarred hands? In response, Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29)

As Christians, we are called to live by faith and not by sight. To walk by faith means that you believe and obey the Bible’s commands before mankind’s commands. To walk by faith means that you choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost. To walk by faith means that you trust God in every circumstance rather than going by your own wisdom. To walk by faith means that you believe God rewards those who seek Him, no matter what anyone else tells you: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Walking by faith in this life means we are to rely completely on all that God has said in His Word. The life of faith filters our thoughts, actions, attitudes, and words as we listen to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, follow His directions, and trust in the Lord with all our hearts. Unfortunately, we sometimes return to living by sight, by leaning on our abilities and trusting in our emotions. 

Basically, to walk by faith requires that we get really good at listening and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit and following the truth of God’s Word. We choose to live according to what God reveals to us, rather than trusting our own understanding or what the world tells us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the barriers to doing something every day that requires faith?
  2. What can we do this week to overcome those barriers?