From Elusive To Inclusive; Unlocking the Mystery of Hearing God’s Voice

From Elusive To Inclusive; Unlocking the Mystery of Hearing God’s Voice

After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” – John 10:4 – 5, NLT

One of the most intense struggles in the cultivation of a relationship with God is learning and knowing His Voice. At some point in their walk with God, every believer struggles with this. When you read the above verses and the contextual verses that go with it in this chapter, it becomes apparent that knowing God’s Voice is a critically essential ingredient for confidently and victoriously walking with God. Knowing God’s Voice is also very important to God since He uses the illustration and its language in Scripture to present it to us. But the reality is that the clarity of God’s Voice in and to our lives is often very elusive. So the enigma is intensified because God meant it to be extremely inclusive in our lives. What do we do?  For a brief moment, I would like to share with you a revelation God gave me this week about this through a series of experiences I had with Him.

I needed to get a particular task done. However, there were many approaches that I could take to complete it. The dilemma was in trying to figure out, what would be the best way to do it. The obligation was not earth-shattering, but it was something that needed to be addressed. As I began to ponder the option, God’s Voice clearly spoke to me and directed me to a particular option. His direction was not anything elaborate, actually rather simple. I decided to follow His direction. And guess what? God’s direction – that which I heardturned out to be the best way to do what I needed to do. Not only did I marvel at the Wisdom of God, but also at the fact that He spoke to me, clearly and in a situation that was routine. I thanked Him for His involvement and had great joy for the rest of the day basking in the glow of the beauty of the exchange that had taken place between us.

A few days later I misplaced an item and could not find it. It was something that I needed. So I began to diligently search for it. After a few minutes of intensely searching, I could not find this item. I began to get annoyed and perplexed about it. And then I heard God say, “It’s in this location.” I reasoned within myself that it couldn’t be there and that He had not spoken. I decided not to follow His insight, but to continue the futility of my efforts. After some time and energy wasted, I retraced my steps. And in so doing, found what I was looking for exactly where He had said it was before. I didn’t find it because I listened to Him; I found it accidently. I was upset afterwards for a while because although I did find it, I did not find it because I honored, respected and heeded His Voice the first time.

A day or so later, the Holy Spirit led me down an inward path of reflection of these two events. And then He spoke to me this revelation. He said, ‘Many people struggle with hearing my Voice because they don’t build consistency in hearing and heeding when I speak to them in the routine, seemingly insignificant and basic eventualities of life – the things that seem to be of small matters. He continued, “However, when you learn to hear and heed My Voice consistently in the seemingly small matters, you develop the skill of knowing my Voice, not only in the small matters but also in the large matters as well.” I was blown away!!! Through this, I came to realize how God takes us from the elusiveness of His Voice in our lives to its inclusiveness in our lives – through our consistently hearing and heeding Him in everything regardless of its perceived importance.

So if you want to move from a place of God’s Voice being elusive to a place where it is inclusive, the development of the skill of hearing and heeding His Voice is absolutely imperative. That development is accomplished through Prayer, Reading and Studying the entirety of God’s Word and Application – obediently putting into practice everything you learn about God through His Word, and subsequently acting on the things you hear Him say. Slowly but surely you’ll discover you’re not struggling as much with hearing His Voice – His Voice in your life will become less and less elusive and more and more elusive.

One final note, God never says anything inconsistent with His Word. Therefore, get to know the Word and get to know it well. 

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MY THANKSGIVING TRIBUTE TO MY WIFE, Patricia K Butler

MY THANKSGIVING TRIBUTE TO MY   WIFE,  Patricia K Butler

MY THANKSGIVING TRIBUTE TO MY WIFE, Patricia K Butler

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,
and he receives favor from the Lord. – Provs. 18:22, NLT

The above verse is an incredible reality that intensifies in its manifestation to and for me each day I am married to Mrs. Patricia K Butler. There are many ways my wife has proven to be a treasure gift from Heaven sent to me and as such the presence of God’s loving favor in my life. I could not begin to enumerate everything in this post. Furthermore it would take many posts. However, I would like to share something with you about the way my wife has been a divine treasure and God’s expression of His favor in and on my life. I pray this encourages people in every relational stage (and other stages too) of life, but especially those of you who are, were and desiring to be married, and those of you dealing with the sandpaper side of the refinement of purpose and destiny. Let me caution you. This may be a little too transparent for some tastes. However, it’s difficult for you to identify with the validity of my victory when you cannot verify how I overcame the victimization that preceded it. So here it is…

December 2, 2012, I went into a financial wilderness. I lost 95% of my income in obedience to the will of God for the church I have been privileged to pioneer and pastor. For 12 years, our church had been meeting in the afternoons, subletting from another church. In the beginning of 2012, God made it apparent that if we were going to get to the next level, we would have to move to a morning slot for our Sunday Worship Encounter. So, I began to diligently search for a place for us to move to. Simultaneously, I also began to search for a different source of income. You see, my source of income was derived from having the privilege of working on Sunday mornings. Consequently, if we are meeting Sunday mornings, then I would not be able to continue working Sunday mornings and shepherd the Lord’s flock with regards to the ministry of the Word. So, while I was looking for a new location, I was also looking for a new source of income because I saw the handwriting on the wall. Well, we found a location the end of the summer (our present location) and negotiated to begin meeting there in December. However, I still had not found the replacement source of income. I LOOKED EVERYWHERE AND AT EVERYTHING, INCLUDING MENIAL JOBS. BUT NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, CAME THROUGH. Relocation day came and our church moved and had its first-ever Sunday Morning Worship Encounter. But that income WAS GONE. 1 month turned to 2; 2 to 4, 4 to 8, and then we were at 12 months where that income was not replaced. Again, I CONTINUED TO LOOK EVERYWHERE AND AT EVERYTHING INCLUDING MENIAL JOBS. NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE WOULD HIRE ME. Broken and dejected, I accepted that for whatever reason, THIS WAS THE WILL OF GOD FOR MY LIFE AT THE TIME.

This kind of experience is extremely demoralizing for a man. MEN are hard-wired by God to measure our effectiveness and worth by TANGIBILITIES. The absence of a substantial physical paycheck was emotionally draining, spiritually challenging and at times painful. I put up as good as an exterior as I could but, inside I was in incredible turmoil. More months became more years. I got used to it and somewhat accepted it. And I really learned how to worship a life through it and not just sing songs of worship in it. (That’s another teaching and revelation!) Three things kept me; My sincere desire to please God (although I don’t always like what He does); a supportive church family; AND…THE ‘WORDS-ARE-NOT-GOOD-ENOUGH-TO-DESCRIBE- woman I am married to. Through this woman, Patricia K Butler, God ministered to me many days during that season. First, she took on the very arduous task of being the primary (in some instances SOLE) breadwinner of the family. Second, she never COMPLAINED, NOT ONCE. Third, she never CASTRATED ME AS A MAN AND HER HUSBAND. Whenever I would express my despondency, discouragement, disillusionment and defeat, SHE WOULD COME ALONGSIDE ME AND SAY, “OH NO BROTHER – WE ARE NOT GOING THERE. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP ON GOD AND GET US IN TROUBLE THROUGH DISOBEDIENCE. YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU ARE FOLLOWING GOD AND THAT IS OUR SAFETY ZONE. GOD’S GOT US. WE ARE NOT HOMELESS, HUNGRY NOR NAKED. I AM WITH YOU DARREN, YOU ARE A REAL MAN AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE.” At times I would literally be frightened. But this woman, unbeknownst to her, would encourage the fear out of me. She would do things purposely to build my manhood – I NOTICED. And she refused to let me be embarrassed or humiliated. Fourth, I experienced some physical challenges because of the stress. And guess what? SHE LOVED ME AND SUPPORTED ME THROUGH THAT TOO! Many people have walked out on their spouses for a whole lot less. BUT THIS WOMAN STAYED!

Well, the end of August, I began to see daylight at the end of the tunnel. God lifted the veto and allowed me to secure Part-time work. And then, In October, He literally sent a full-time job to look for me AND IT FOUND ME, PRAISE GOD- LOL!

Seriously though, this Thanksgiving is extremely special to me because of the joy and honor I have of celebrating it with the INDIVIDUAL who has been my BFF, confidante, encourager, advisor, supporter, and BIGGEST cheerleader even though I felt like a loser after almost 5 years of the most difficult season in my life. Babe, you are A HUGE reason why THANKSGIVING DAY is a holiday, EVERYDAY in my life. I AM SSSSOOOOO THANKFUL THAT GOD ALLOWED ME TO BE YOUR HUSBAND AND THAT HE GAVE YOU TO ME AS MY WIFE. I am praying for the continued favor of the Lord so that I can be the husband that you more than deserve. Social Media is used for a lot of interesting things. I wanted to use it to tell the world how grateful and appreciative I am to God for blessing me with you. I pledge my love to you always and forever! HAPPY THANKSGIVING SWEETNESS!

With Much Love – Your Husband,
Darren Ellis

The Right To Defend Myself vs. The Responsibility To Allow God To Defend Me

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“But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.” – Matt. 27:12-14, NLT

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.” – 1 Pet. 2:21-23, NLT

Not long ago I discovered that one of my children was subjected to some behavior that was egregiously inappropriate. Part of the reason why they was subjected to it was because of their connection to me and subsequently who I am and what I do. In other words, had they not been my child, more than likely, they would not have been accosted in the manner that they were. Being the passionate father that I am, my first instinct was to intensely, severely and aggressively address the situation. When a father loves his children, he does not handle insult and injury to them very well. This is especially the case when you feel this would not have happened to them if they were someone else’s child. I was actually seething and simmering about what happened. Recognizing that, I thought it wise to prayerfully wait until I was in a more subdued state of mind before I addressed the situation. I now realize that was God’s intervention.

The more I waited, the more I sensed an uneasiness with my intentions to take matters into my own hands. And then wouldn’t you know it? I started to discern the fact that the uneasiness was the Spirit of God obstructing my determination to address the situation. I then began to pray more about it. The more I prayed, the more I realized God DID NOT want me to handle this situation directly. And that was not what I wanted to hear. Nevertheless, God has this uncanny way of getting your attention and making it very clear when He wants things to go a certain way in your life.  When you love God, you can’t help but begin to align yourself with what He wants, even when it is not what you want. And this is what happened; I slowly and reluctantly began to resign myself to let go of my intentions. I still wrestled with this need to defend what I considered to be an attack against my child and subsequently me. Then three things happened…

First, I noticed my wife’s eerie silence whenever I would speak of handling the matter myself. Her silence was undeniably noticeable because she supports me unconditionally. But she also loves me objectively. That means, she never agrees to anything with me that she knows is not right or good for me. Second, I talked with a very dear friend of mine who is an older seasoned man. He simply said to me, “Pastor Darren; just let God handle the matter.” And third, my morning prayer meditation today highlighted the passage above from Matt. 27:12-14. In the devotional part of the meditation, the prayer leader emphasized Jesus’ control of Himself with not defending Himself before Pilate even though He hadn’t done anything wrong and that He had the right and ability to do so. Then God showed me the comparison that is in the graphic above. I have strength when I simply insist on excersing my right to defend myself. But I am strong when I excercise responsibility to refrain from asserting my right and let God defend me. Those three things sealed it – I now had an unrefutably clear witness that God wanted me to leave the matter completely up to Him.

I gave up the fight and I have decided that I am going to do just that; I’m going to let God handle the matter. I have the strength to deal with it. But I want to be strong and discipline myself with the control that leaves the matter up to God. One of the reasons why I was resistant to leaving it in God’s hands is that I did not want my child to feel I had abandoned them and that their feelings were unimportant. But God checked me with that too. He reminded me of what the priority is – trustingly obeying Him above protecting my image as a father with my child. He let me know that when I step out of the way and let Him have His way, all of the bases will be covered, including redress for my child. In his epistle about Jesus’ situation, Peter said that Jesus left His case in God’s Hands – because He (God) always judges fairly, 1 Pet. 2:21-23.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation where you want to defend yourself because of a wrong. Before you go any further, ask yourself this question; what’s more important – “The Right To Defend Myself or The Responsibility To Allow God To Defend Me”? Let God prayerfully minister to you the answer…

Humbly,

Darren E Butler Sr

 

Become the Strong Link In A Relational Chain – An Intriguing Perspective About Queen Vashti As It Relates To Dating… (Part 1)

“But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger.” Est. 1:12, NLT

One of the most exciting books of the Bible is the book of Esther. It is intriguing, provocative, suspenseful, insightful, helpful and incredibly wonderful. It is a short read, with a long reach. It contains all of the elements you would want to find in a great story. But it is more than just a ‘story’. It is an historically-accurate account of an episode in the saga of God’s people that shows us the lengths God will go to in order to protect, preserve and provide for the well-being of His own, whom He has covenanted with. One of the riveting aspects of this account is the love story that emerges between the Persian king Xerxes and the young woman of Israeli descent, known as Esther (Hadassah is her proper Jewish name).  Through a series of sovereignly-peculiar and providential events, Esther finds herself going from being a young Jewish virgin who is unmarried and very obscure within the vast kingdom of Medo-Persia to becoming the Queen of this kingdom, arresting the attention and affections of this powerful monarch and causing his ensnarement with her natural purity, beauty, and grace. Some of the circumstances connected to her ascension to that position have elements to it that are brutal, savage, and perverse. It is a highly romantic epic for sure. But some of the behind-the-scenes eventualities are not very pretty at all. One of these eventualities involves Esther’s predecessor, Queen Vashti.

Vashti was the Queen prior to Esther. King Xerxes convened this very lavish festival that lasted for months. This festival included a 7-days long banquet at his palace, which involved among other things unlimited and unbridled access to liquor. The king and his advisors are partaking of this drinkfest. In one of the sittings, more-than-likely in a state of inebriation, Xerxes sends for Vashti to come and dance before him and his advisors while they are possibly in a drunken stupor, so that he may display her beauty. Vashti refuses. I would surmise that she decided her personal dignity as a woman is more valuable than her positional royalty as a queen and not worth subjecting herself to such circumstances of extreme debauchery. This infuriates the king. He engages the counsel of his advisors. They subsequently concoct a policy that banishes Vashti and sets into motion the events where Esther is able to eventually become the next queen.

There has been much speculation and conjecture about Vashti’s actions. On one ideological side of the coin she is vilified as being disrespectful to her husband, not being in subjection and submission to him. On another side of the ideological coin, she is applauded for putting her personal safety above the accepted cultural practices of the day. However, I would like to present something else. I would like to applaud her for her refusal to subject herself to that recklessness because of the bigger picture. You see when I read this story this time, (I’ve read it many times) I see how critical it was for Vashti to hold her ground, stand up for what was right in not capitulating to this reckless request and thereby set into motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to the salvation and preservation of God’s people. Because Vashti said NO in this relationship, it created the setting for another relationship to emerge that would eventually bless so many people. 

Now you may ask how does this relate to dating? There are times within the scope of the relational reality of dating where one must be acutely aware of and sensitive to the long-term realities of a particular relationship. You have to objectively remove yourself from the relationship and objectively evaluate its appropriateness within the scope of the bigger picture. And sometimes that means being strong enough to say NO to the relationship because you are not the one God has for them and they are not the one God has for you. You become the strong link in the relational chain. When Vashti said NO, she drew a line in the sand that may have been misconstrued as selfish but in the long run was extremely selfless. I’m not even sure she was aware of what she was doing. But God knew. And when you’re involved with someone, you want to be tuned in to what is God doing with them and what is He doing with you in the scope of the long-term with regards to fulfilling purpose and destiny in the relational realm. You want to be bigger than the immaturity and short-sightedness of the short-term pleasure of the relational moment. After all, how many people will be affected by your actions, good or bad, right or wrong? Again, Vashti’s decision was the catalyst for the salvation of an entire group of people.

So are you a strong link in the relational chain, or are you a weak link that is contributing to the breaking of that chain? In part 2, I will give you my personal experience of this reality in my own relational experience.  Stay tuned….

The Scriptures Are Fluid Yet Fixed…

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The Scriptures Are Fluid Yet Fixed…

“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” – Rev. 22:18-19, NLT

You may say the opening caption of this post is intriguing on its face; that is done intentionally. I am well aware that the above verses are couched contextually according to the narrative of the Revelation. However, when one reads Rev. 19:10, we can see how the principle in the above verses applies to all of Scripture. This is important. Why? Because we live in a day where there is an on-going dangerous and insidious attempt to rewrite Scripture to suit our modern day challenges. Some would argue that there are portions of Scripture that are outdated and irrelevant according to how they were originally written, subsequently ineffective for the ills of our day and thereby they need to be adjusted accordingly. NO!!!! The Scriptures are fixed. God has closed the Canon. However, they are fluid. How so? God, in His unmatched, immeasurable, ingenuous wisdom built fluidity into the Scriptures. We need not (and must not) change, alter, adjust, and even tamper with them in order to discover that fluidity. Rather, we must prayerfully read, study and apply the Scriptures through obedience, which will only happen through the Agency of the Holy Spirit. When we resolve ourselves to unconditionally accept the Scriptures as THEE Word of God, and prayerfully search them through the lens of the Holy Spirit, then we will discover the fluidity that is already built therein. And when that happens, we will see how more-than-relevant the Scriptures are to what challenges us, regardless of the day and age we live in. The Word of God is eternal. Therefore it supersedes time – it always has and it always will.

May I leave you with this verse: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” – Roms. 15:4, NKJV

Not Accidental, But Incidental…

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Judges 14:4
His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.

My wife and I were having a conversation with a dear friend of ours when he expressed his relief at our availability to assist him with a ministry project at the last minute. There was a turn of events that threw a ‘monkey wrench’ into his plans for this project. Subsequently, the resources he thought would be available to him were not and this development was last minute, seemingly not giving him enough time to recover. However, HE PRAYED (that is a revelation all by itself) and God led Him to us. It turns out, we were the ones that God wanted in the first place. When he expressed the relief I mentioned earlier, we realized that this is what God had in mind all along. Then the Holy Spirit birthed in me the revelation captured in the graphic at the beginning of this blog. The things that we consider to be ACCIDENTAL to what we want are actually INCIDENTAL to what HE WILLS! Wow!!

I thought about the verse above (there are many other Scriptural examples of this). Samson desired this young woman as a wife who was a national of the people group responsible for severely oppressiong his people at that time. Not only was the nationality an issue but the faith orientation of this group of people was completely diammetrically opposed to Samson’s faith as well. So his parents had grave misgivings and resistance to this. God had given Samson to them and he had a specifically-divine call on his life to deliver his people. Samson’s parents were given explicit instructions on how to guide Samson into this call. Because of that, they had certain expectations and wishes for Samson, especially whom he would marry. This event was ACCIDENTAL to what they wanted – it was not a part of the script, so they thought.  However, it was INCIDENTAL to what GOD WANTED – it was in HIS SCRIPT-what HE WILLED!

The lesson for us as believers to learn here is that nothing is accidental in our lives. God has it all planned out. And the things that we consider to be ACCIDENTS are merely INCIDENTS in His grand design for us. We just need to rest in the promising assurance of Romans 8:28 and be sure that we are keenly attuned to the leading of His Spirit through His Word, prayer, and obedience. This is how we will see the unveiling of His work in our lives as NOT ACCIDENTAL, BUT INCIDENTAL!

The Kind of Leaders We Need

“…For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” – Matt. 12:34b.

A leader understands their personal convictions are integrally and inextricably linked to their leadership philosophy and inevitably manifested in their leadership expression(s) and action(s).

The thoughts you sow reap actions; the actions you sow reap habits; the habits you sow reap character; and the character you sow reaps a destiny (adapted from a quote by Charles Reade). Now I go on to add, ‘the destiny you sow reaps an eternity’.

We need our leaders from all the sectors of society and culture to understand the critical times we live in and the critical consequences ineluctably linked to our thoughts, words and actions. We also need them to understand that our words, thoughts and actions cannot be conveniently compartmentalized for the sake of popular expediency of any kind under the delusion that there will not be any repercussions for the pursuit of that kind of logic.

Now, more than ever before, we need leaders to think, say, do, be and own their convictions, good, bad or indifferent and to courageously accept the consequences whatever they may be.

As a leader, I say my conviction is that “Righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a reproach to any people, Provs. 14:34”, and I will do my best to steward the leadership assignment that God has given me in that direction. May I invite each of us to pray for all of our leaders and that we seek the face of God that He would have mercy on us and restore us back to a place of allegiance, loyalty and love TO HIM first and everything that He says and requires of us….