Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 02 Remove the Obstacles

Desiring a move of the Spirit is not enough. God is looking for a heart fully surrendered to Him. Once we’ve examined our motives and sought to align our hearts and expectations with Him we need to further examine ourselves for any and all obstacles that could prevent us from receiving from the Lord.

Remove the obstacles

I’ve often heard the Spirit’s move compared to the rushing water of a river. Well, God is looking for a vessel through which He can freely flow, unobstructed. There are many things that could obstruct the flow.  Removing the obstacles speaks to purity.
Matthew 5:8 (NLT) God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NLT) In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.
Joshua 3:5 (NLT) Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
To be pure is to be unmingled with the world, set apart for God’s use and God’s use alone. This requires a preparation process in our hearts. Where have we allowed obstructions? If we are expecting God to move then now is the time to honestly take a look and remove anything and everything that could obstruct the flow of God’s Spirit. There are many things that could cause an obstruction, I’ve narrowed it down to a few of the most common categories; sin, offense/disunity, distraction, focus on self, critical sprit/cynicism.

1. Sin

This is obvious, but sin can be sneaky. If we aren’t vigilant we can allow small things into our hearts without even realizing it. We know that sin separates us from God, so it isn’t a surprise to say that if we are allowing sin to take root in our lives that it will be a hindrance to what God is wanting to accomplish. At its simplest definition, I would define sin as anything that would hurt someone or yourself. That can take many forms. There are addictive sins, the ones we turn to over and over again that usually are harmful to ourselves and eventually very harmful to those closest to us. There are actions we can take against someone else, either by being unkind or even intentionally malicious. Then there are the things we should be doing, but choose not to do, like when we disobey God by ignoring the prompting to go and pray with someone. Some sins are big and obvious, some are small and seemingly insignificant. All sin needs to be removed. I think the smaller sins are the most dangerous because they don’t require a lot of intentionality, they are usually are natural inclination. This is why we must be vigilant to daily surrender our lives in pursuit of Jesus. 2. Offense/disunity This one is possibly the most dangerous on this list and incredibly relevant in todays world. People are more divided than ever and in the church, it’s incredibly easy to let offense take root in our lives. Sometimes one wrong comment or look, which may have been completely meaningless, is enough to raise the ugly monster of offense. The enemy wants us to be a hot mess of disunity. People who are divided cannot accomplish the work of God’s Kingdom effectively. We must put aside our offenses, be quick to forgive, and come together for God’s purposes. It is truly loving to overlook offenses.

3. Distraction

Our attention span is shrinking. The latest studies suggest that we now have an average attention span of 7 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish, people! It is certainly easy to allow other interests to take our minds and focus away from pursuing God’s purposes. We live in an ADD world of entertainment, there’s tons of it! I love it too. I don’t think it’s wrong to be entertained, but if our quest to quelch boredom prevents us from pursuing all God has for us then it becomes sin. There’s plenty of other things that could distract us as well, politics, drama, celebrity gossip– anything that fills our mind and consumes our talk could become a distraction and an obstacle to God pouring out His Spirit. There are times when we need to stay focused and allow God to work in our lives. There will be mornings when we need to hold off starting our day and just sit in God’s presence. There will be services where we need to put off our rush to leave and be patient, focusing on the Lord and prioritizing His presence.

4. Focus on the Self

We’ve already talked about our motivation, is it to have a powerful service, or is it to fulfill the purposes of God? Revival isn’t about you. If my primary focus is what I will get out of it, what I will experience, what I want, then I am missing something very important. God promises to pour out His Spirit on His people, on nations. I don’t see anywhere that tells me it’s for me individually. I believe our focus should be on how a move of His Spirit would benefit not only our church but our city, our nation, our neighbor. Will I benefit individually? Yes, but if that is my motivation and I give no thought to those around me then the focus on myself becomes an obstacle to the move of His Spirit.

5. Critical spirit/cynicism

Let’s be honest, when God moves sometimes weird things happen. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t like weird. I do believe that we can serve Jesus and not be weird. Sometimes we over-spiritualize things like prophecy to the point that I have to wonder if they can have any real impact to those who don’t know Jesus. It’s easy to be critical of things that we don’t understand. It’s easy to become cynical about many many things. If God showed up in a way that seemed foreign, or you didn’t know what was happening, or if things seemed a little weird, would you criticize it? If we’re not careful we can critique what God does to the point that He can’t do anything in our lives. I don’t like to admit it, but God can use weird to transform lives. Of course, sometimes weird is just weird. We must discern the difference if we hope to see God move. I believe if we examine our motivations and begin to remove these obstacles we are positioning ourselves to be receptors when God pours out His Spirit. Of course, ultimately only God can pour out His Spirit. We can, however, pray and be ready when He does. We’ll talk more about that Thursday, in the third and final part of this series.

Freedom From Sin

I believe that it is God’s desire that we are completely free from the power sin holds over us! We do not have to remain a slave to sin forever. There is freedom. We understand the need to surrender to the Lord, it’s a simple solution, but why is that so hard?

Galatians 5:16 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

I love how the New Living Translations puts verse 17

Galatians 5:17 (NLT) The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

The struggle we face is to stay surrendered throughout every moment of every day.  To do this we must have faith. If we don’t really believe God has set us free then it is impossible, but God has set us free and it is possible!

I think one key to staying surrendered is digging into His Word and really studying the living Word of God! We don’t like the word “study” because it reminds us of school and work, but the study of God’s word should be something we delight in. I love Psalm 119 because it’s all about a love for the instruction from God!

Psalm 119:1-3 (NLT) Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LordJoyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

Don’t you want to be joyful? There is joy in being a man or woman of integrity! It’s so wonderful when who you say you are and who you actually are when no one is around are the same person. It’s such a joy to obey the Lord.

Psalm 119:9-11 (NLT) How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

His word is amazing! And it is through His life giving word illuminated by the Holy Spirit that we are able to overcome sin! His word also gives us another piece of crucial advice for walking in freedom from sin.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

I mentioned this on Monday in Overcoming Sin, we are NOT in the fight alone. We all want to be strong, but the fight against sin isn’t won by strength, but surrender and that means coming clean. Living in the light is hard because it means all your mess is exposed. It’s a humbling experience, but until it is out in the open it still holds power over you. However, once light is shining in the darkest parts of your life you can truly begin to deal with it and you’re not alone.

The fight against sin is best fought within the context of community and accountability. We all need people in our lives that we can be brutally honest with. People who can ask us the tough questions and pray with us when we stumble.

Maybe you’re thinking that sounds nice, but you don’t have anyone in your life you feel close enough to be that real with. Can I gently encourage you seek someone out. Find a spiritual leader or someone in your church you look up to, someone you know you can trust and ask them to lunch and choose to become vulnerable. You need this. We all need this.

We are sometimes hesitant because we fear judgement. We don’t want to disappoint people, or have them think less of us. Listen, take my word for it as a Pastor, we won’t think less of you, but more of you. It is so much better to humble yourself and come clean than it is to keep on struggling and carrying around the burden of your sin. Bring it into the light and begin to walk in freedom.

One final advice to help in your journey to overcome sin.

Don’t give up.

It doesn’t always happen over night, but if you purpose in your heart to keep studying God’s word. Keep praying and pressing in. Keep being honest with your your accountability partners, you will find strength in the Lord to walk in the victory Jesus won on the cross.

Fighting Sin

Have you ever played a game using yourself as your opponent? Did you win? I bet you won. At the same time, I bet you also lost. This was me as a kid, I would play against myself all the time, but for every W I racked up, I had an equal amount of Losses. The reality is you can’t win a fight against yourself and that is why we so often feel powerless to defeat the sin at war within us.

We too often try to fight in our own power, but is not in our ability to fight sin. It is a battle we cannot win no matter how hard we fight. So how can we win?

Let’s break this down a little bit. We know we serve a triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s important we know that you and I are also a triune being, spirit, soul and body.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sin battle occurs at the soul level. Most people agree the soul is made up of your mind- the thoughts you think, your will- the decisions that you make, and your emotions- the things you feel. Every temptation you will ever experience comes from one of those three areas.

James 1:14 (ESV) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

So here is our core issue, our temptation comes from our soul yet so often when it rears its ugly head we try with all our might to will away the desire. We try to force out the temptation by sheer force of will. We might succeed for a season, but no matter how hard we soul will never be able defeat soul.

It’s the same way that darkness cannot defeat darkness. You will never get rid of the darkness in your life by throwing more darkness at it. Yet, even a small amount of light enters the room and the darkness is instantly dissolved.

We cannot defeat sin on our own, but the moment we surrender and let the Spirit of God work within us it has to leave.

Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord

As with all things in our faith, it is only by the power of God that we overcome. We will never be strong enough to overcome the enemy.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I love that! God’s power works best in my weakness! Another way to put it would be His power is demonstrated most clearly in the context of my surrender. When we think about the winning team, it isn’t usually the team that lifted their hands in surrender. Yet, for you and me to win the war with sin we must surrender, that’s our starting point.

To win the battle we must give up the battle. We can’t win, but God can’t lose. Battling sin requires a shift in perspective. We must move from trying to be strong, to depending upon God’s grace to strengthen us to the point of overcoming.

Tomorrow we will attempt to discuss how to obtain freedom from sin, but for now I pray we would learn to truly surrender to the Lord and seek to be empowered by His presence to overcome the temptation within us.

The Veil of Sin

Have you ever said something only to later learn what you said was incredibly misinformed? A few years ago I bounded into the church office and everyone in the room was somber and instead of finding out what was going on, I spouted out, “Who died?” A church employee had died that day and I felt horrible for what I said.

To unknowingly say or do something wrong is an awful place to be in. However when sin is left unchecked we ultimately find ourselves in a situation where we don’t even know right from wrong anymore. I feel like that’s what happened to Samson. 

I love the story of Samson! His sheer strength and destruction of his enemies makes me feel a certain level of adrenaline. Like I too could take the jawbone of a donkey and slaughter an army!

Without going into too much detail, Samson pretty consistently did things he really wasn’t supposed to do. From eating honey out of a dead animal, to marrying foreign women, his eyes seemed to be constantly drawn toward the forbidden.

And things for the most part worked out ok for him. Even though his disobedience got him into some sticky situations, God used those situations to hurt the enemies of Israel.

This is where deception really starts to play it’s game. We sin, and it seems like there are no consequences. Sometimes we don’t experience immediate consequences to our sin, but prolonged disobedience always has consequences.

Samson’s disobedience finally begins catching up to him with the famous story of Delilah. Over and over she asks him for the secret of his strength. Over and over Samson lies only to find that Delilah tried to trap him by doing the very thing he had said and setting the philistine’s upon him. Of course Samson easily defeated them.

Why did Samson go along with this? Was he so cocky that he found it funny? I honestly don’t know, but eventually he got tired of her games. Tragically instead of fleeing from her enticing words, Samson told her the secret of his strength was in his hair, and just like before she did what he said and set the philistines upon him. Only this time his strength had left him and he fell into the hands of his enemy

Judges 16:20-21 (NLT) Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him. So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes.

I think this is one of the most tragic verses in the Bible. He didn’t realize the Lord had left him.

This is exactly what happens to us. We allow little areas of disobedience in our lives and if left unattended to, they grow and little by little our heart falls away from God, until one day we realize we can’t feel His presence at all and we wonder what happened.

The philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes, but he was spiritually blind, long before he was physically blind. (we will talk more about spiritual blindness next week)

Are there areas you might be blind in today? Maybe there are some things that you’ve allowed in your life that at one time you would have identified as wrong, but now you’ve become ok with. 

I pray today that the Lord would reveal areas of compromise and ignite a passion inside of you to live a life of uncompromising conviction. Let’s burn out all the things that even slightly distract us from our pursuit of God.

I know I have some work to do in my life, let’s move forward together and pursue Jesus with unbridled abandon!

The Deceptiveness of Sin

I like to think of sin as a weed growing in the midst of a beautiful green lawn. It springs up seemingly overnight and spreads quickly. Sometimes we try to pull it out, but it grows right back unless we dig down and pull it out at the root. So what is the root of sin?

I think sin is rooted in two things, selfish ambition and deception.

All sin stems from selfish ambition. Sin started wth selfish ambition when Lucifer decided he should be God and got thrown out of heaven. It grew in the garden of Eden with deception as the serpent deceived Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.

I want to look at the very first King of Israel, King Saul and see how selfish ambition and deception played its part in losing his kingdom to David.

One early misstep of Saul is found in 1 Samuel 13:8-14. His armies are preparing for battle and they were instructed to wait for Samuel to perform the sacrifice, but Samuel didn’t show up and Saul took matters into his own hands.

There will be times in life when we will feel like God hasn’t shown up, it is in those times we must remember to wait on the Lord. Do not rush into action! Be patient.

Saul sacrificed the offering himself and as fate would have it, right as he was finishing Samuel comes into the camp and sees what has taken place. He confronts the king, “What have you done?!”

Saul is quick to defend himself, “You didn’t arrive when you said and I didn’t want to lead the men into battle without first asking for the Lord’s help, so I did what I thought was right.” Verse 13-4 tells us Samuel’s response, 

1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NLT) “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end…”

Saul’s reasoning was sound, I read Saul’s thought process and I’m like, “Yea, that sounds good.” But Good is often the enemy of God. Human reasoning leads to deception when we should just trust in the Word of God.

Saul is again deceived in 1 Samuel 15. God had given Saul specific instructions and he again disobeyed the Lord, but again when he was confronted Saul defended himself and his actions as right and pleasing to the Lord.

1 Samuel 15:13-15  When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!”

14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

God wasn’t interested in Saul’s sacrifices, he was interested in His obedience, but Saul was deceived and it cost him his kingdom. What if Saul had acted in humility and repented before the Lord? Instead he doubled down on his wrongful action and guarded it as right.

All throughout Saul’s story he is deeply deceived. Even though God told him that he would lose the Kingdom and another would be made King, Saul still found himself controlled by a strong and selfish desire to hold onto power and make his son the next king.

1 Samuel 18:13-14 David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him.

 At this point Saul’s heart has become completely ruled by deception and selfish ambition. He no longer desires to see God’s will succeed. He is afraid of David because God is with him. Immediately after this Saul attempts to have David killed in battle.
The deception keeps getting worse. In 1 Samuel 20 Saul confronts his son Jonathan, who was fiercely loyal to David. “Jonathan, my son! As long as David lives you will never be king!” Jonathan questioned why David had to die and because of Saul’s deep deception he attempted to kill his own son.
When we hold onto selfish ambition rather than letting go in surrender and submission, we become more and more deceived.
Psalm 111:10 (NLT) Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!
We must lay down our own desires and submit to Jesus as Lord. When we obey we grow in wisdom, but when we choose not to obey we decrease in wisdom and deception creeps in.
I want to encourage you today to examine the motives of your heart. Are you fully driven by a desire to please the Lord in all things or do you sometimes find that you’re still attempting to do things your own way rather than relying upon His divine direction?
It is never too late to become a person fully submitted to the Lord. Let us daily decide to lay down our lives for the sake of His truth. God’s way leads to peace, joy and hope. Our way ultimately leads to dismay, deception and death.

Overcoming Sin

This week are going to examine this thing called sin. Why? Because it’s real and we all deal with it in one form or another. It’s an infection and there is only one cure, Jesus.

I don’t believe there is any shame in confessing our sins. After all, who among us is not guilty? Your sin isn’t so unique and horrible that you should hide.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.

In fact, Every man except for the first man Adam was born into sin, so there is no need to hide and pretend as if you have no sin within you.

1 John 1:8 (NLT) If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

We have to confess and bring our sin into the light. If we keep our sins veiled in darkness then how can we break the power of it? As Christians we are called to live in the light and what association does darkness have with light? None. In fact where there is light, darkness cannot exist, so by holding onto our sin we are keeping the holy light of God out of that part of our lives.

James 5:16 (NLT) Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

I believe this is so powerful! We are not called to be broken rafts trying to stay afloat by ourselves. We’re called to live in community. We need each other to be held accountable and to encourage each other in our pursuit of right living.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

You might be thinking, I’m not saying anything ground breaking and that’s ok. My intent with this blog is not break new ground, but reveal the truth of God’s word.

So why do I feel the need not only to talk about sin, but to devote an entire week to the examination of sin? It’s important and it’s not talked about very often. We might hear some preachers condemning specific sins, but I’m less interested in specific sins than revealing how all sin affects us spiritually and why it is so important that we put aside our sinful ways and pursue holiness!

As with anything in life, if we lack understanding, we fail to see the truth of how it affects us. We fail to see the purpose and importance of diligently fleeing our sin and selfish ambition and we become comfortable with it in our lives, falling prey to sin’s powerful deception.

It affects every part of our life. Sin hurts us. Always. Many times we don’t see the affect right away, so we figure it’s ok, but it’s not. We must diligently pursue Jesus and flee from sin.

The good news is that we know the victory over all sin has already been won through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross! His love for you is ever lasting and never failing!

Even if you’re struggling, be encouraged, not condemned. There is freedom and if you hang in I believe God will lead you to it. The purpose of this discussion is to reveal how sin works, so that we might unlock the power of God to break the hold.

I pray this week that you will discover a new level of freedom and victory in Jesus.

A Moment of Honesty

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I have a sincere desire to purse Jesus and do His will, but I haven’t always made decisions that reflect full submission to His Lordship. In fact this is an area I’ve struggled with pretty consistently for years. Especially challenging for me has been learning to really hear His voice in the midst of a thousand other voices.

Three years ago I was so convinced I was hearing God’s voice, leading and direction, but things didn’t play out as I expected and I was left with two options. Either I can’t hear God’s voice at all or God’s plan for that time in my life was different than I thought it was. I believed it was the latter, but my emotions told me it was the first.

In a way I gave up. I didn’t stop loving Jesus, but I did disengage. I stopped believing I could ever truly hear His voice and direction for my life. I made several decisions during this season that weren’t necessarily bad, but weren’t based upon prayerfully following the leading of the Lord.

I tried to do things my own way.

That’s never an easy thing to admit is it? It happens all the time. We all have moments when we boldly jump into a decision without considering the direction of the Lord. The true test comes once we realize that we stepped towards something God didn’t intend. Sometimes we double down on the wrong direction and just hope God can make something good of it. 

He can. 

However, the best thing we can do is take a step back and put our whole life on the table in front of the Lord and say, “Ok God, what is Your will?”

The struggle I ran into is that I’d gotten so used to doing things my way, I couldn’t recognize His voice. It was no longer familiar. I reached out and sought advice and counsel from many different sources.

In difficult decisions we should always seek the peace of the Lord. God’s voice is always assuring and His direction is accompanied by peace. Even when the decision in question is challenging,  hard to follow through and will lead to all kinds of mixed emotions, deep down in the presence of Jesus we can have peace.

That doesn’t always make things easy, but this is where Faith in the Lord and the willingness to obey Him comes into play. What’s most important to you? The plans we laid or obeying the Lord? For me, I know I want to be in His perfect will at any cost.

I’m still working on learning to truly obey Him and hear His voice. Some of you reading this today might relate in my struggle to hear God’s voice. If that’s you, can I encourage you to keep at it. Keep reading the Word and spending time in prayer. Prioritize God over all else and I promise, you will learn to recognize His voice. He is active and wanting to speak to each of us, leading us and directing us down paths of promise.

I tried to do things my own way rather than letting God’s voice lead my life. I let other people tell me what God was saying, and while other people can confirm what the Lord is speaking to you, we must listen to the voice of the secret place.

I believe the Lord is leading me into a new season of my life. For 8 months now I have been consistently pursuing the Lord in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I believe I am learning to hear His voice again and more importantly obeying that voice.

This learning process is part of why my blogs abruptly stopped. I know I had just barely even started this blog, and I stopped. I found myself in an unexpected season where I was empty, broken and needed to fill up on His Word. I lacked motivation and inspiration to write, but I kept my prayer time and Bible reading consistent.

I guess today my primary message to you would be that obedience to God is the most important thing. Prayer if not coupled with action, leads to complacency. We must act in a way that pleases the Lord.

Next week we will spend some time looking at sin and the result of disobeying the Lord. I hope you’ll join me as we explore the stories of King Saul and Samson and learn some practical steps we can take to overcome sin.

Thank you for reading!