Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

Posts Tagged ‘Hearing God’

How to Defend the Gospel

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 4, 2010

NOTE: This article contains strategies for believers and is not intended for those of you that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ because it contains strategic information (trade secrets).  If  you wish to establish a relationship with Jesus prior to reading this article, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to talk with you. Then you can read the article and get more out of it.

Call me a pacifist, if you will, but I do believe that there is a right and a wrong way in which believers defend the good news (a.k.a. the Gospel) of Jesus Christ and that for the most part, we get it wrong.

Do our methods hinder the message?

Personally, I am appalled at the way the world treats the God who came and died in their place, took on their guilt and shame, and made a way back to himself.  I mean, what did Jesus ever do to deserve the bad rap He gets from unbelievers?

The answer to that question may lie more with His followers more than in His own life.  While it is true that Jesus saidthe world would hate us because of him, we aren’t making that attitude any better with our public pulpit indiscretions, our internal disputes played out on the world’s stage where we are mocked, our church splits, and even how poorly we drive when we cut off another driver while we flash our “I love Jesus” bumper sticker.

We can learn from Paul in Philippians 1:7 that there are three basic ways to reflect the good news: in chains, defending and confirming.   We spend a lot of time on the second, and not much on the other two.

In Chains or In Battle

What does it mean to be in chains for the Gospel?  And more importantly, what does that look  like in America?

Paul represented this aspect of his testimony by being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned and stoned all of which only reflected Jesus attitude on the Cross when he forgave his killers while they were killing him.  This is a lost art with the Christian world in America.  There is a proverb that reads, “in doing so (being nice), you will heap burning coals upon their head”.  Our tactic tends to display defensive aggression and not much offensive conversion.

We followers of Jesus need to follow Jesus.  We need to understand that the world is lost and they don’t need to Adopt godly standards, they Need God.

I was reading an article about an artist showing his “art” where he depicted Jesus in, shall we say, non-biblical ways.  Now here is the question for all the believers reading this article; how should followers of Jesus respond?

A) We can respond the way the Christians are reported on in the article and protest.  What does this do though to the witness for Jesus? If we get them to take it down, then what? Do people come to Christ because the art is not longer there?

B) We use the opportunity to show people what Jesus was really like. Oh, you might need to turn the other cheek, but in so doing, you may make them look away long enough to show them a better way.

What is the intent of our defense?

I guess it comes down to this.  We can make noise and protest the world’s…. uh, worldliness. In so doing, we might even change the look of things… less strip clubs, less bars, less cheesy art exhibits, but are people coming to Christ, or have we just won moral victory that makes us feel better, but really does nothing for the advancement of the Gospel?

I’m not saying that we should just let the world do their thing and build strip clubs on every corner.  We have an American right to live in a place that reflects morals (Constitutionally backed), but the dilemma we face is that moral legislation, moral victories, moral indignation, does not bring people to Christ.  Sometimes, we need to put on the chains for Christ in order to set people free. Through our chains, we confirm Jesus’ good news.

What does our testimony reflect?

Is our testimony to the world reflecting Christ or leaving a bitter taste that becomes a stumbling block to the message?When they think about the church of Jesus, what image comes to their mind?  Is it the image of a group of zealots that want to change their laws and restrict their freedoms?  Is it a group of holier-than-thou people that live paradoxical lives?  Is it a church that burns books from other religions, protests funerals of soldiers or removes evolution from text books in public schools?

Or… should it be the image of a church that first and foremost ministers to widows and orphans and feeds the hungry, helps the needy?  Is it an image of a church that has hope for eternity and knows where they are going and knows how to show them the way?  Is it an image of a church that spends less money on their buildings, parking lots, sound systems and salaries than they do on their outreach to communities through helping others and ministering Christ to a lost and dying people?

The Calling

As a church, we are called to take on the image of Christ and to reflect Christ to each other and to the world.  When we defend the good news He brought us through the cross, does our defense become an offense to those that need to know the news?

A lost world is lost and trying to find their way in darkness.  By default, they are going to do things that repulse believers. It is the nature of the world.

We carry the light of Jesus Christ and have to use that light to bring people to Christ FIRST. If we change the heart, we change the world.


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Where Faith and the World Collide

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 29, 2010

With all these ridiculous “religious knowledge” surveys going around, I got to thinking about “faith” and just what it is.

I think there are two primary pieces to the “religious” experience with which some just don’t understand– Faith and Hope. I will address faith here.

There are two facts about faith that must be understood:

  1. True faith is not blind
  2. True faith is not void of substance

Those that steer clear of faith in God tend to do so because they see it as a futile, wishful-thinking belief system empty of reason, understanding and wisdom. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Faith is not a childish look into a fantasy world, but a childlike trust in a revealed reality.  The goal in faith is to connect with God through relationship.  The problem is that if you try to prove God to yourself first, you fail to take the path God intended for you to take to produce faith in you.

Faith follows a specific path – Obedience to Jesus first, revelation of Jesus second and finally faith in Jesus is born.  Notice that all three have their source in Jesus.

God calls us to a path that begins with him.  Faith is not based on my understanding but His understanding.  I have to trust Him first, demonstrated through obedience, and then I can receive a faith that comes from God, for He rewards those that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Abraham is a perfect example.  He walked with very little faith for most of His life.  Yes, he followed God’s leading and that was out of obedience, but never really trusted him.  God said, “leave your family”, but Abraham took his father.  God promised him that his children would be plentiful, but he lied about his wife to protect his life.

It wasn’t until Abraham was challenged to give back to God the only son he had been given by God, through a black and white act of obedience, that Abraham achieved the level of obedience to God that God was looking for.  Just as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son as a sacrifice to God, and angel stopped him and said these powerful words, “Now I know that you fear me, for you did not withhold your son from me.” (Genesis 22:12). It was during the trek to the altar that Abraham answered his son’s question concerning what they were going to sacrifice with, “God will provide”. (Genesis 22:8)

The scriptures say multiple times that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“. Strangely enough, the path to faith comes through a fear in God which produces in us obedience.

Once we obey, God can then respond in building up our faith.

You see, if the faith you have is your own, it is bound to fail.  But if the faith you have comes from God, then the source is solid and produces in you a revelation of God that makes Him real in you.

Nature cries out that there is a God, but it doesn’t tell you how to establish relations with Him.  Only when God reveals himself to you through faith, do you discover that your faith is a sure foundation.

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My Thanksgiving Story

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 25, 2009

There certain people in your life that teach you lessons just from the very way that they live their life. Sometimes   they say things that tie it all together. When this happens, it’s like an epiphany. It’s like the bow on top of the package. It’s like the flowers on top of the cake or the cherry on Sunday. It’s that one thing that brings everything into focus even if you heard it time and time again. I had one such encounter with my grandpa back in 1986.

I had driven from my army base in Fort Stewart, Georgia to St. Augustine Florida where my grandpa lived in a trailer. I was a selfish 20-year-old only caught up in my own self gratification. I really didn’t think about how my actions would affect other people. In my life, I had only received things and never really given anything back.

While down in St. Augustine, I asked my grandpa to help me install some speakers in my newly acquired 1977 yellow Mustang. Of course, he being grandpa, happily obliged. After a few hours of cutting, tearing and mending, we finally achieved success. So the next thing that I asked, being a young self-absorbed 20-year-old, was, “What have you got to eat?”

That must’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Throughout the course of the previous two or three hours, my grandpa must’ve been observing the way I handled myself. Because I never really expressed how thankful I was that he was there to help me.

He said in the most stern voice, “You never show appreciation!”

Those four words struck me so deep, that I have never forgotten them to this day. It was like a light went off in my head, and for the first time in my life I realized that there were other people in my life, and that my every action affected them.

I realized then that I really was not thankful for all the blessings in my life. I took so much for granted. I live for myself, and I did not live my life as a blessing to those around me.

It’s not to say that I am perfect or have finally arrived, but it set my feet on a path that I have not changed from to this day. God used my grandpa that day to plant a seed in my heart of serving others.

True thankfulness, true appreciation, begins in the heart. It bubbles up and comes out of the mouth, but it is most effective when it materializes in our hands.

This holiday season, I challenge everyone, including myself, not to be just be thankful in our hearts, or even in our words, but to express our thankfulness, our appreciation, in our actions and our deeds.

I intend to physically show people how thankful I am for them. I intend to show with my actions my love and appreciation. People will not always remember what I say, but they will never forget what I do.

In this, I hope to reflect the life Jesus lived. He didn’t come just to say he loved us; he came to show us he loved us by taking our place in death. It was his actions, not his words, that saved us. It is in my actions that I hope to reflect that heart of love to my family, friends and those far off.


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Predestination: Showing Love

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 15, 2009

When you try to figure out God, you will quickly discover that you are inadequately equipped to see things from his perspective.  Of course He is everywhere, all powerful and all knowing, yet he seemingly give us free reign to make choices that affect our lives.   How does God who knows all give us free choice?

I want to throw my two cents in on this never-ending question and look at two things – Why He does it and How it works.

I see the “why” as the easy answer… Love.  Actually, unlike most things, this love is not only about God’s love for us, but our love for Him.  Let me explain.

Choosing Love

Love can only be love if the choice not to love exists.  How do you know if someone loves you if they never have the option to walk away?  And without this critical choice, how are you sure your love is strong?

God knows your level of love without this process, but you don’t.  Temptations, options and opportunities create environments where we can put our love to the test.  We learn more about our condition when we are confronted with choices and can learn where we need improvements.

God showed this love to us in the garden through Jesus’ prayer:

Abba, Father”everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. – Mark 14:36

Jesus made a choice that day to love His Father through obedience.  In so doing, the Father showed His love toward us (c.f. 1 John 1:4-9)

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About Hell: The Reality

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 28, 2009

Hell: Arguably the most controversial subject when it comes to the afterlife.  Most people’s beliefs about hell come from what they learned through tradition, folklore, poor teaching, movies and general fear.  When it comes to hell, many people simply write it off as a myth or parable, and can’t imagine it as a real place that a loving God would actually send people.

To those that write it off, however, the real possibilities of hell come into play when you speak of Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung, Stalin, Charles Manson, mass murders and the like, because heaven certainly can’t be their eternal home. But at what point between the evil of a Hitler and the good of a Mother Theresa does one cross the boundary line of a path that leads to eternal destruction and one to eternal bliss because they were “good”? How many “bad” deeds disqualify you?  How many “good” deeds earn you a ticket?

The Bible lays out reality of hell, how to go there, how to avoid it and the role it plays in God’s eternal plan.

The Reality of Hell

Most people believe in a heaven.  Some believe in hell and few believe in nothing at all.  Sadly, it really doesn’t matter what we believe because belief never offsets reality.  From a practical point of view, the best avenue would be to look at it from a worst case scenario and approach life as if there is a heaven and hell.  If you are wrong, then you have nothing to lose.  But if you discount hell, heaven or both, and are wrong, then your eternity could be quite disappointing.

The Bible has quite a bit to say on the subject, and will look at it over the next couple posts.

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How to Follow when you want to Lead

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 9, 2009

Biblegateway Scripture of the day

It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. – Deuteronomy 13:4

You won’t find here or in Scripture where God tells us to “follow our dreams” or “follow your heart” or “at least your intentions were good.” God is pretty straight forward, “Follow Him!” There just isn’t any other way.

“Follow me” was Jesus’ first call to his disciples, and it is that very thing that is so difficult.  There are things that stand in the way:

  • Pride and personal ambition
  • Fear that we won’t get to choose our path or that the path God has is too hard
  • Control is gone.  – God want’s to be the pilot, not the co-pilot. If he’s in charge, we can’t be.

However, as difficult as it may seem, there are ways to overcome these hindrances.

First, realize that God is not out to get you but to complete you.  There is a work he wants to do in each and every one of us to complete us and make us more into the image of his Son.  Realize that if all “falls apart” according to what you define as “falling apart” while following God, but you become more like Christ, you are really being put together.

Second, let go! The hardest thing to do is simply going to God before making decisions in life.  Pray for wisdom and patience and that he will direct your decision making by giving you the will to do what he wants and by closing the door to the places he wants you to avoid while opening the doors to the areas in which he wants to lead you.

Note: a lot more of your prayers will be answered if you pray God’s will.  The secret to prayer is how you ask and what you ask for.  God will give the wisdom by which to make the decision, but you have to submit to asking him first while at the same time, putting your will aside.

Finally, (it’s only final as far as this article is concerned) Love God.  You aren’t going to want to follow someone you don’t love.

“Yeah, I know he’s God, but he’s always making my life so difficult...”; people think like this all the time, and it comes from a lack of truly loving God for who he is first.  A lot of the pieces of your life will fall into place if you just love him.

Jesus asked Peter before he ascended back to the Father, “Do you love me?”  Jesus knew the answer, Peter just needed to figure it out. That is the question you need to be honest about asking yourself.  If you can’t be sure, you aren’t spending the time with him that you need to build a proper relationship.  Take the time today and learn to follow.

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Some Thoughts on the End Times – Part 2

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 3, 2009

Prophecy is a finicky thing.  On the one hand, God uses it to reveal his plan, however cloaked it may appear.  On the other hand, when it comes to pass, you find out that the most sincere people got it wrong, and the people that shouldn’t have figured it out – did.

Take Jesus’ birth for example.  From Daniel’s prophecies and many others, the Jews knew the time period Jesus would be born, yet the only ones who actually figured it out were the people that didn’t even have the scriptures to go by. They were men from the East.  Those who were waiting, were looking for a king to be born in a castle, but those that weren’t supposed to know God very well, didn’t care where he was born, only that he was born.

This is a recurring theme in prophecy throughout the Bible.  The Jewish leaders were looking for a conquering king, but it was the fishermen in Galilee that found him because he came the first time as a suffering servant.

The interesting thing about God’s prophecies is that no matter the speculation before hand, when they do come to pass, little doubt is left.  This will be the case in the end times too.

I am always asking the question… “Why?”  I start with, “Why do I believe what I believe?” and end up with “Why does the Scripture say it this way or that?”  The Scriptures have shaken a lot of the beliefs I held to because when taken at face value, they tend to challenge my preconceived notions.

For example, when people interpret a scripture, they tend to drive it one way or another and usually build their interpretation on what they have heard others say.  This practice tends to breed a sense of dogma that can’t be broken, no matter how much scriptural proof is shown. The byproduct of having an exclusionary or extreme interpretation is that it alienates those that don’t believe as you do.

Basically, what I am saying here is that when it comes to end time prophecy, avoid the temptation to be dogmatic.  That’s what the first century Jews did and they ended up killing their own Messiah because he didn’t fit that preconceived mold.  They simple wouldn’t believe any other way.

When it comes to prophecy, expect the unexpected.

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Some Thoughts on the End Times – Part 1

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 1, 2009

I might as well do what everybody else seems to do and give a quick thought [teaching] on the End Times.

However, you probably won’t find this quite is comfortable sounding as the Sunday morning version.

Most End Time teaching basically follow this format.

  • The End Comes
  • The Church is Raptured
  • All chaos errupts
  • Jesus comes with all the believers and reigns a 1000 years
  • Final judgement
  • Everyone designated for Hell go there, those designated for Heaven, go there

I may have left out some detail, but you get the gist.

The biggest problem I personally have with this format is that

  1. It isn’t exactly a healthy and accurate assessement and
  2. It gives a false sense that the Church is not going to experience trouble

I call this Sunday morning approach the “Escapist Syndrome

Basically, the Book of Revelation is approached as a letter for those who are left behind.  What I find strange about that is that a large portion of the church teaching that I hear around the nation is on a subject that, according to the syndrome, doesn’t even apply to them.

2 Thessalonian 2:3 and 1 Timothy 4:1 along with other scriptures, speak of a “falling away” in the last days. This has to be about believers, because non-believers can’t fall away by definition. I have always thought that apathy would be the culprit, which may still be the case.  But I fear that there is going to be another unintended consequence to current teaching that will cause many to flee the faith.

There is a phobia, I believe, in pulpits to talk about bad things.  Blessings and prosperity, God’s best for your life, God loves you, all have their place, but we are inundated by an unhealthy amount of rose petal teaching. Even roses, though, have thorns, and the teachings of Jesus, Paul, James, and John do a much better job painting reality and have a much more balanced approach to understanding the end times than we American Christians pocesses.

The Right Balance

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” – Mark 4:16 and 17

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-40

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:9-13

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. – John 15:20

And I could go on and on.

I think that church leaders fear that if the truth of persecution, the reality of hard times, and the fate of being hated as Jesus was hated were preached from a pulpit, they wouldn’t fill the chairs on a Sunday morning, but I think that the greater disservice is not telling followers of Christ the truth.  Tough times are coming! The church in America will be one day like the church in China and North Korea having to hide their $10,000 signs and abandon the $20 million buildings.  It is only a matter of time.

But in it all, no matter what happens, Jesus prepared us for this inevitable outcome.  All the prayer in the world, though it may delay it, will not stop it because it is part of the Plan of God.

I will end this part with what I consider to be the problem facing the future church because of the methodology of church teaching today.

The falling away will most likely come from Christians who have succumbed to the escapism syndrome and when the persecution in American and other “free nations” comes, they will ask the question,

Why? Why didn’t you tell me?  Why did you get my hopes up?  Why didn’t you prepare me?”

And they simply won’t have the strength to stand up under the pressure because they will feel betrayed and misled.  They will think that Jesus is not ever coming back because they never thought they’d be thrown into a prison in America just because they gathered with like believers.  The concerns of their world will outweigh their perceived need for a savior.

They thought is was all about prosperity and glory, but will find that the reality of the coming of the Son of Man will be like the birth of a child.  It will be painful while the child prepares to arrive, but the joy for those that endure to the end will be like holding that little baby in the arms.  All the pain in the birthing process will quickly fade in the joy of a new life with Christ forever.

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Bumper Bowling

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 21, 2009

One of my favorite analogies that the Lord gave me was around the use of extra rules and laws to enhance holiness in the believer.

Holiness is more a heart condition than acts performed by the believer.  I find that people love to add rules to their lives because it either makes them feel successful when they follow the rule and/or it gives them leverage against those that aren’t following said rule to demonstrate that person’s perceived “lack of holiness”.

The Jews were notorious for this trapping. God gave about 613 laws in the Torah.  To this, the Jews added Mishnah (oral traditions) which were rules to elaborate on the laws.  For example, if God said, “don’t plow on the Sabbath”, the Mishnah told you not to drag your chair across the floor on the Sabbath because you might move dirt which would thus be plowing.

So about Bumper Bowling…

Using traditional rules to enhance your righteousness, is like putting bumpers up when you are first learning to bowl.  The bumpers actual do not teach you to bowl, they teach you how to run up the score.  Only when the bumpers are taken down, do you actually learn to bowl.

When the bumpers come down, the fear of not hitting pins at all because of the gutter teaches you to throw a straight ball.  The bumpers, or rules designed to make bowling feel easier, actually don’t teach you the heart of bowling anymore than the rules added to Scripture teach you righteousness or the heart of God.

Jesus never just spoke the law without getting to the heart of the issue. For example,

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27,28

If all we did was “not commit adultery”, yet wandered around consumed with lust, we really wouldn’t be learning toovercome lust.  We might even consider throwing in dress codes to add bumpers to our lives. While the idea of modest dress is good, this doesn’t resolve the issue of the lustful heart. It simply disguises it.  Then one day, when that person is in a place where the rules aren’t controlled and the bumpers come down, they fail to hit any pins because the bumpers they once used to keep them in line are now gone.  They haven’t learned to be a strong Christian; they just learned a rule.

So don’t get hung up on rules and traditions without fully understanding the heart of God.

Are traditions bad?  No, but again, your goal should be chasing after the heart of God, not just following rules.

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Planning to Help God Out?

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 18, 2009

I’m going to give you a little advise, “Let God be God”.  It is just fine for you to ask God how you can help in His plan.  In fact, I’d encourage you to ask to be part of His plan everyday! It’s the only way you can in any way keep up with what God is doing in this world and in the spiritual world.  But I say that if you are planning to give God suggestions and ask for things that aren’t in His plan, to coin an anti-phrase, “Just don’t do it”.

I can pretty much guarantee that if even if you think you have your hand on the pulse of God, you are in no position to lay out a plan for Him.  The Bible tells us that many plans may be in our heart, but it is the Lord that guides our path (Proverbs 19:1)

So many of our prayers are prayed in this fashion.  We want to pray in faith, and so we must, but we must also pray in accordance with the will of God, not our own.  We better hope he doesn’t answer our prayer if we pray for something that is not in His plan.

Let me give you one of many examples in the Bible where a man prayed their own will above God’s will.  Even though things may seem all well on the surface, we can cause really big problems.

2 Chronicles 29-32 tell of the story of Hezekiah, a very good king that did what was right before the Lord.  He fixed and purified the temple that was in disrepair, consecrated the Levitical priesthood so they could minister before the Lord, purged the land of idols, took up a 4 month long offering (sorta like some churches still do today), and annihilated the Assyrian army by prayer only.

He did have an Achilles heel however.  In an act of pride, he showed the Babylonians all  the treasures of Israel.  God was disappointed with this and it would cost them dearly.  2 Chronicles 32:25 mentions it in passing, but 2 Kings 20 breaks it down further.

Before Hezekiah had his issue of pride, God’s plan was that Hezekiah would die.  He told him that he should get his house in order because he wasn’t going to recover from his sickness. Hezekiah didn’t take this well and cried out before the Lord not to let it happen.  God changed and gave Hezekiah 15 additional years.  This would prove tragic.

First, as previously stated, his pride got the best of him and God said that because of it, the kingdom would be captured by the Babylonians (the very people he showed everything to.)

Second, and more disturbing, was that he bore a son during this time.  This son’s name was Manasseh and he would become the most wicked king ever to reign in Israel.  Had Hezekiah been submissive to the will of God, he would have died at 40 years old, which sounds sad, but he would have no mark on his record.  He also would not have fathered the most wicked child in the kingdom’s history.  You see, Manasseh was only 12 years old when he took over.  He was born a mere three years after God’s best plan would have been put into action. Manasseh also brought this devastation for 55 long years.

Now I am not saying that if you get your prayer answered, you are going to birth a Manasseh.  What I am saying is that though you are free to ask for anything, understand that if your will supersedes God’s will in any way, the results could be more costly than you know.

If you want more of your prayers answered, learn to pray the will of God (Matthew 26:42).  Learn to hear His heart and respond accordingly.  You’ll be glad you did.

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