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When God Tests You, Is It Because He Needs To Know Something?

How often have you paused and considered the tests and trials you go through in life? Have you slowed down long enough to enumerate them?

More importantly, have you ever considered why God tests us? Is it because He needs to know how we’ll respond? You think that’s air you’re breathing, Neo?

I’ve heard countless sermons about God testing Abraham. The story is found in Genesis 22. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son in fire (something God later strictly prohibits). Isaac was the son promised to Abraham decades earlier and God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. All of the sermons I’ve heard have focused on how God needed to know that Abraham viewed God as more important to him than his beloved son.

Good Teachers Use Tests

When you take tests in high school and college is it so the teacher can know your skill level? Is it so the school system can evaluate you and tailor their entire education system to meet the needs of your particular deficiency? No, you take tests to see for yourself where you fall short of the expectations of your particular educational institution. Good teachers don’t test you and then lower the standards you don’t measure up to. Good teachers test you and then prod you to do better in the areas you fail.

And we all have failed in school somewhere along the way. Even if failure to you is getting a “B.” In life, we all fail a lot.

A man in church prayed over the microphone one Sunday morning, “God, in case you didn’t know, Miss Sally Bedford is sick in the hospital and it would be nice if she got better.” The prayer is almost childlike in its simplicity and innocence, but completely wrong in its understanding. So often are we when we think of God’s tests.

God doesn’t need to see how we’ll respond to testing. He knows fully well how we’ll respond. He’s more than a good teacher, He’s the Great Teacher. Seriously, He’s really good at this. It’s not God who needs to know how we’ll respond under pressure.

It’s us.

Composure Under Pressure

Without knowing how we respond in times of light pressure, how will we know how to respond in times of great trial? When you enlist in the military they immediately send you through a grueling several months of physical, emotional and often sleep-deprived torture. Because they love to torture you? Some brand new privates may think so, but the truth is found in the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman, “War is hell.” The military makes sure that every recruit is tested when they can control the situation before they are subjected to the real hell that awaits; open combat.

We are at war. We have a very real enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). If you don’t think you’re at war or haven’t considered the nature of that war, then you are likely less prepared (or unprepared) for the very real hell that exists and awaits its victims. God tests us now so that we have a controlled environment in which to evaluate or own hearts and spiritual condition. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

As humans, we wear spiritual blinders to our own condition. Our ability to lie to ourselves and walk in self-deception is great. We need God’s testing to reveal to us the true nature of our heart in every area we are willing to give over to Him. The more we are willing, the more He will expose. The more He exposes, the more pain we feel, but the more He exposes, the more prepared we are for what the enemy would throw at us.

Know Me, God

When God tests us it rarely feels like a controlled environment. Most often it just feels like pain. But when we seek God in prayer He is so faithful to give us wisdom (James 1:5). We need that wisdom to perceive that God is testing us and not rejecting us, tormenting us or abandoning us. He loves us and He is always trying to prepare us as kingdom advancers who can lay hold of it with tenacity (Matthew 11:12).

David said it best when he wrote:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139: 23-24

So what about you? Do you think God needs to know how you’ll respond, or do you think you need to know? Do you want to know? When you’re ready to know, the prayer above is a great place to start.

God is good and He always desires the best for us. Ask Him to reveal your heart and expose the darkness that hides inside and you will be in for an exciting journey that will far outweigh the pain you experience in life.

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A Diary of Dreams & Visions


Ever since my childhood growing up in a strictly cessationist Baptist church, I have been fascinated by the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was taught explicitly and through subtle joking over many years that the gifts had ended with the closing of the canon of scripture. I was even taught that those who claimed to perform miracles, prophesy or speak in tongues today were either charlatans, lying or demonically possessed or deceived.

Those are, in hindsight, pretty radical positions especially when viewed in light of scripture, but they were deeply held by a large portion of the American church while I was growing up.

Something happened to me when I was 15, though. I had an experience which caused me to question the things I’d been taught growing up. The experience wasn’t any kind of supernatural event, but when I saw all my teachers and Bible study leaders acting reprehensible during a contentious church split fight. I was so disenchanted with their actions I began to question their teaching.

I’m happy to say that 99% of what they taught me I was able to hold on to. They were faithful to scripture to teach me the Word of God from a young age. I understood Jesus’ atonement, God’s love for me and His requirement of me to tell the world about Him. I realized they had done a good job save for actions to the contrary. The one thing that fell suspect through a careful inspection of scripture was this one hangup about spiritual gifts. I couldn’t find anywhere in scripture that explicitly relegated miracles, tongues, prophecy, etc. to within the covers of my Bible. In fact, I found it spoke exactly to the contrary.

But still, deeply held and ingrained teachings are hard to let go of. I carefully studied the reasons I had been taught those things don’t happen anymore and I found some of the arguments very compelling, but eventually without substance. Most of the arguments were laughable, however. Most of the arguments were blatantly created lies to back up a position held from prejudice, not careful doctrinal inspection of scripture. The fact is most of the people I knew and their teachers and those they studied just didn’t like “charismatics.” There were a silly lot, unstable in their lives to the point of complete distaste for everything they stood for. I have to admit, especially after many years now of believing otherwise, that their characterization of charismatics is not completely without merit.

Mahatma Ghandi erred eternally in his thinking by saying, “I would be convinced to be a Christian were it not for the Christians I have met.” We must not make the same mistake when it comes to our interpretation of scripture. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

So after I was convinced from scripture that miracles, tongues and prophecy were for today I set about seeking God earnestly for experiences in them. I prayed faithfully and unsuccessfully every day for years for God to speak through me or use me miraculously. Six years I prayed, actually, with no answer. But that didn’t stop me from faithfully defending and proselytizing my newfound position with those who didn’t believe. I was ready at the drop of a hat to tear to shreds anyone’s arguments who believed miracles or prophecy weren’t for today.

Then something strange happened. God answered my prayers.

At long last, God actually began speaking to me in ways that were far beyond my expectations. I began having prophetic dreams and encounters with other people and my life radically changed. Suddenly my belief in God wasn’t just a deeply held position from scripture but truly the “assurance (evidence) of things I’d hoped for but not yet seen.” I felt like I’d experienced true faith for the first time. I knew without a shadow of a doubt now that God was real. And more importantly, I knew that He knew me and that He actually liked me!

In this blog I will share many of my stories because I want to encourage you to pursue God for the same things as me. I believe everything I’ve experienced is open game for all believers in Jesus, but I no longer feel the great need to argue my position. My reasons are simple:

1. I don’t think cessationism is remotely defensible from scripture, and

2. I couldn’t make my experiences happen; only God could. Therefore, since according to Hebrews 11:1 only God can give assurance (evidence), I feel no compulsion to try to convince others. Only God can do that for them.

I don’t mean that to say that those who believe in cessationism are uneducated or not smart people. To the contrary, there are too many brilliant people to count who are cessationists. But I am confident that their belief comes from prejudice, not from study; something even the most brilliant human beings are susceptible to.

And I’ve noticed something very interesting take place since the early 1990’s in America: more and more people are relinquishing their cessationist beliefs in some form or fashion. Why? Simply because it not longer becomes tenable to believe against something you’ve experienced.

I like to use the illustration of the lunar landing. There are still those around who persist that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax; that it never happened. No evidence to the contrary will sway them because no evidence less than first-hand experience would be good enough for those conspiracy theorists. But even if the whole world were to believe their lies, there are a few people who could never be swayed: those who actually set foot on the moon. You could never convince Neil Armstrong that he didn’t set foot on the moon.

The same is true for believing that God still performs miracles and speaks today. You cannot convince someone otherwise when they have experience. And far too many people in the West have begun experiencing what our Christian brothers in the Eastern world have known for some time: God still acts among us in powerful ways.

There are fewer and fewer cessationist strongholds these days. Some still hold that God can move, but He just doesn’t do it much these days. Some still cling tirelessly to their beliefs and become more emboldened the more people who turn away from them. But the move of the West to a more supernaturally minded people has certainly reached a critical mass. I don’t believe the majority of the church worldwide will ever again accept that God no longer operates miraculously today.

And I have good reason to believe that. Like myself, more and more people are experiencing the supernatural goodness of God for themselves. Like Neil Armstrong, no arguments to the contrary could ever convince them otherwise. And as a final thought, many cessationists hang up on that concept of experience. They believe that our faith and practice should have nothing (or very little) to do with our own subjective experience. We must base everything upon the objectivity of scripture. Whereas that sounds perfectly noble I’ve never actually met someone who really believes or practices it.

Experience is absolutely necessary for the Christian life. In fact, you cannot be born again unless you have had an experience with the Living God, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is biblically clear from Peter told Jesus He was “The Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

Even though Peter’s answer could rationally and carefully be found buried throughout scripture, Jesus said it wasn’t any teaching or self-study that led Peter to this conclusion. It was God himself. Peter’s experience with the Living God informed his reality.

And that’s our true reality. We canot study scripture to know more about God, we must study scripture to experience more of God. It’s only through experience that we can grow in God and lead others to Him.

And I’d like to share some of that experience of mine here with you.


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Lessons From The Garden

It’s funny, but all my life produce came from the grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, I learned pretty clearly in kindergarden that apples came from trees and corn came from seeds that were planted in the ground and given water, sun and love.  But when my son asked me what kind of plant goldfish (the edible kind) came from, I thought it might be good for both of us to learn how much work it takes to put food on the table.

Here’s the problem: the Hibbs don’t have a green thumb.  In fact, when we moved to College Station we bought a very lovely house with an even lovelier bit of landscaping.  The previous owners spent all their time outdoors working on their flower beds.  We appreciated the work they put in, but I knew that wasn’t for us.  I declared that the Hibbs’ policy would be that if any plant in our yard could survive by itself (and a little sprinkler watering) all year, it got to stay here.  So getting things like green beans and corn to grow in our yard was going to be a longshot.

I built some raised beds with some spare lumber and we planted away, very late mind you.  June is pretty late to plant anything in Texas, but we went for it anyway.  Most of our growing has been a futile attempt at producing leaves and not much else on our plants.  We’ve had a few eggplant and okra, which I don’t care for, and very few squash.  But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t learned a few lessons along the way.

Not being from anything near an agrarian background, my wife and I have learned a few lessons that the Bible has reserved for those who know what growing food is like.  For instance, I never really understood the concept of a plant not producing.  I figured that if you planted a bean plant in the ground it was going to produce.

I planted a little squash seed in one of our raised beds and it grew up to produce the most beautiful squash plant I could have imagined.  I was very proud of myself for actually growing something big and pretty.  In fact, the squash plant grew so big and pretty that it covered everything in the bed, including a couple of tomato plants and all my green beans.  So big were its leaves that it killed everything else in the bed.  It was beautiful and its large green leaves soaked up the sun for two months.  The problem was that the only thing it ever produced was green.  It lacked ever producing these little yellow things that we could put on our dinner plates, which was the whole point in the first place.  Then, after killing everything else in the bed, it promptly got eaten by squash bugs and died.

My wife was struck with the symbolism, that until now we lacked the experiential knowledge to perceive.  Such a good-looking plant never produced any actual fruit, and in the process killed other plants that probably were going to (my green beans had pods starting to grow).  Like that squash plant, so many good Christians are able to put up a good-looking front, but they sadly never produce anything with their lives.  They go to church, say all the right things, have church buildings named after themselves when they give lots of money but never actually produce anything the Lord might consider fruit.  Jesus said that such plants would be cut out and thrown into the fire.

Beginning to realize that wasn’t just a symbolic phrase spoken by Jesus, but an actual reality when it comes to farming, I decided it was time to pull out all the tomato and tomatillo plants in my garden.  They had produced hundreds of flowers, but not one tomato or tomatillo (like a small, green tomato used in Mexican food dishes).

I decided I’d pull up the tomatillo first since the tomatoes had just started budding some new flowers, so I thought I’d give them a second chance.  But I didn’t have time to deal with the garden on the day I decided to pull up the tomatillos.  I decided to do it the following day.  That night I had a dream that there were bees buzzing around the tomatillo, pollenating all the buds and that tomatillos started growing shortly after.  In my dream I saw what seemed like hundreds of little tomatillos growing.  Then I heard the Lord tell me not to pull up the tomatillo, that it was just about to produce fruit.

I woke up from that thinking that it must have been a “pizza dream.”  Why would the Lord care about the silly tomatillos in my garden?  I didn’t give it much thought until that next morning when I went out to the garden to pull up the tomatillo there were five or six bees buzzing around it preventing me.  I’d only seen two bees in our garden in the four months it had been there, so I was shocked.  The fact that the bees were buzzing around the tomatillo like in my dream shocked me even more than their presence.  It quickly seemed less of a pizza dream.

Within a couple days it was obvious we were going to have a plentiful tomatillo harvest in the coming weeks.  But I was confused about why Jesus would care so much about us being able to make some fresh salsa verde.  Then, through the input of my wife and mother-in-law, it was clear.  We planted our garden about the time we began planting this church.  It’s been a very interesting process.  We’ve all come from traditional church situations where very little fruit develops for all the effort spent.  Over the past several months we’ve learned a little about what is worthy of our time and effort and a lot of what needs to be cut out and “thrown in the fire.”  I’m not saying most churches produce no fruit–that there’s nothing good going on anywhere; but I think it’s pretty obvious that most don’t produce much.

We’ve been praying daily for the Lord to give us the harvest for five months now.  We’ve not seen many people come to the Lord, much less stick around with us to grow into much.  We haven’t had any thoughts of quitting, but it can be discouraging to start a church and not have many (or any–at times) people come.  But the Lord loves to speak of souls coming into His kingdom in terms of harvest.  The imagery is so perfect.  As Paul said, “one plants, one waters and another reaps the harvest.”

The week before I had really been crying out earnestly to the Lord to show me if we were doing something wrong, and if so, what we needed to change.  We hadn’t seen really any fruit (the terms I often use), and it was becoming discouraging.  I had asked the Lord specifically for a dream or prophetic word from someone else to keep us on the right path.

The tomatillo dream was the Lord giving me the encouragement I had been asking for to keep going the week before.  We have as a core value holding daily prayer meetings.  I knew from the get-go there would come a day we would all grow tired of them, especially if not many other people joined us.  Prayer meetings can be hard; boring an monotonous as the weeks and months pore on.  We rarely see the fruit of our prayers immediately, but God promises if we remain faithful to prayer, He will certainly answer us; “speedily” in His time frame (Luke 18:1-8)

Just like any plant that produces fruit, we need to constantly prune it to keep it producing at its peak (something we didn’t understand until we planted this garden).  We probably will change how we do our prayer meetings and maybe at what times, but the reality of daily corporate prayer meetings won’t change for us.  They’re a necessity for the church in our day to regain what we’ve lost in our walk with the Lord.

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Spiritual Time Management

Download PDF Schedule Template

Title sounds odd, huh?

Time management is one of the most spiritual things you can do as a means to growing closer to God.  When we plod along through life haphazardly assuming that we’ll make time for this or that we normally realize somewhere down the road that it didn’t happen.  How many new year’s resolutions have been broken by February in America?  In your life?

The problem with sticking with going to the gym past January is not that we lack some amount of tremendous resolve to do it, but that it’s not part of our daily schedule; or that we don’t have one at all.  Most people wake up, go to work, do what they’re told for 40-60 hours a week, come home and watch television and go to sleep.  There’s normally a lot of gaming, recreation and other forms of leisure in there: the things that come naturally to us.

The problem with that kind of living is that no one wants to look back at their life when they’re 60 and say they were the best Call of Duty warrior they could be or that they’re entire body of knowledge came from Shark Week on the Discovery channel.  Unless we’re intentional about planning out our time on the front end, we’ll wind up old and scratching our heads for what we’ve done with a life.

I’m not saying taking a mental break from life to kill a few digital Nazis is inherently bad (not in this article at least), but if we want to succeed in making our lives count for something, we have to do things on purpose with our lives.

I’m including a PDF document and an Excel spreadsheet with this article that has most of the waking hours of the day mapped out for you to fill in; either on Excel or with a good ol’ fashion wireless pen.  Write down how many hours a week (or a day) you’d like to spend praying, studying the Word of God, working out, eating, working, sleeping, etc.  When you chart it all out, you’ll find that you probably have a lot more free time (or wasted time) than you realized, even if you feel like you’re a very busy person.

So, even though it may not sound like it, making a schedule and managing your time is one of the most practical spiritual things you can do.  You’ll find that over time you’ve spent way more time in prayer, study of scripture and an appropriate amount of leisure time than before you did this.

And remember: you’re not making a schedule so that your life will be rigid and inflexible.  There’s plenty of times you have to stray from your schedule.  Things come up.  Don’t let your inability to stick to your schedule keep you from trying when you fail.  Instead, try to stick to your schedule as much as you can.  If you’re sticking to it 50% of the time, that’s way more than if you’d never made it!  And don’t ever feel guilty if you’ve strayed from your schedule.  Just keep it as best you can and over time you’ll find yourself a lot more consistent in life.

Use it as a tool, not a rule.