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First the Blade (Chapter 11)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 11

Building a Foundation of Faith (i)

In the late 1990′s, Carol and I attended a church outside of Louisville, Kentucky. The regular pastor was on vacation and a substitute pastor preached the sermon. I don’t remember his main message, but a small quip of his was written on my heart that particular Sunday.

“People used to be content with just saying, ‘I prayed,’ but that’s no longer true,” said the substitute pastor. “Now, they say, ‘I interceded,’ and not only that, they then give themselves titles, calling themselves intercessors. Now, why do you think this has happened?”

The pastor went on with his main message, but his off-message remark was like a lightning bolt, zeroing in on my heart. I knew the answer to his question because I was guilty of the sin.

Pride!

There’s just something within most of us, or at least in me, which is not satisfied with associating with the meek and lowly. We want to be exalted. We want an elevated position of notice. We want others to recognize our spirituality and understand they are below us on the spiritual ladder.

All believers know pride is a grievous sin, but we all still struggle with it every day. And even the godliest believers among us, whether he is a Billy Graham, a John Piper, a Mother Teresa, or whoever, are not spared this daily battle. Look what the Apostle Paul wrote about himself:

For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me to keep me from exalting myself. (2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 8) 

Paul’s thorn in the flesh – a messenger of Satan – was allowed by the Lord to cause Paul problems so it would help control his pride. The apostle still went on to ask the Lord three times to remove it, but then Paul wrote:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 10)

Pride is the #1 reason we believers do not receive answers to our prayers. It derails our faith and causes us to look at our own strengths and away from the One who is all-powerful.

Remember: Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” He did not say we should have faith in our praying ability, our knowledge of the Bible, our spirituality, our fasts or our gifts. Anytime our faith depends on what we can do, rather than what He can do, or who He is, we have fallen into the snare of pride.

God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6 NLT)

 The God who we are praying to and asking for help will be the same God who will oppose us if we have the sin of pride. Let that swirl around in your mind for a minute or two, and you will discover what I have learned through hard lessons, it’s a losing situation.

If our prayers are not being answered in a timely fashion, I suggest we bow before the throne of grace and ask, “Lord, show me my heart. Do I have pride?”

Then, wait.

How long should we wait? Until He answers our question. There is no use trying to move on if we have a pride problem, right?

The next hindrance to receiving answers to our prayers is a close relative of pride.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

 

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First the Ear (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10

Building a Foundation of Faith (h)

Kenneth Hagin authored over 120 books, which were not really written as books. They were actually teachings, which he gave on his radio programs, at conferences, or wherever. Another person then transcribed the teachings into book format. The average book size is thirty pages.

I myself have read over a hundred of Hagin’s books. Each one was a day in the classroom as I sat at a table with my Bible, a scratch pad and Hagin’s book. As I read the book, I studied the scripture references and took notes. When I finished the book, I tried to immediately put into practice what I had learned that particular day.

Looking back, I would have to say the #1 principle I learned from Kenneth Hagin’s teachings was: God answers prayers.

Many believers might look at the simplicity of this revelation and say, “Big deal. So what?”

But when I say God answers prayers, I mean He answers every prayer, every time and never ignores one of them. Period.

Does this mean you can pray for a new Rolls Royce Phantom ($437,000 sticker price), go to the dealer and drive it home? Probably not, but you will get an answer for your prayer about the Rolls Royce.

 

In 1987, I lived in a small one-room apartment in central Iowa, was separated from my wife and family, had no telephone and no car. I worked as a minimum wage laborer in a motel, which was a three-mile walk from the apartment.

I woke up one morning and discovered the temperature had dropped to 30 degrees below zero and because of the high winds, the wind chill factor was a minus 50 degrees. Plus, six inches of snow had fallen and swirled on the winds.

It was a Tuesday, which meant I was scheduled to begin work at 8 a.m. What did I do?

I bundled up as best I could and before stepping out the door, I prayed, “Lord, I’m walking to work. I ask that You either give me the grace to survive this weather or have someone stop and offer me a ride. The choice is Yours, but I know You love me and always hear my prayers.”

Did a car pull up to my apartment as I walked out my door so I would not suffer from the cold? No, absolutely not, nor did I expect one.

You see, one of the foundational precepts of receiving answers to prayers is we walk by faith and not by sight. Thus, you can almost always expect to start out walking through the storms of life – after praying – without seeing any improvement whatsoever in the circumstances.

That particular morning was no different.

After walking a mile and a half, my face was frost covered and my feet felt numb. Numerous cars passed me, hurrying off to work, but no one had even slowed down. A car finally pulled over. A young woman opened the door and said, “Would you like a ride?”

“Yes,” I answered. She dropped me off at my workplace.

The following morning, the weather conditions remained the same. I followed the same routine as the day before. This time, a man picked me up at about the same place as the young woman had the day before and took me to work.

On the third morning of the storm, a person volunteered to pick me up. A week later, the motel decided to have me picked up each morning by an employee. Soon after, the motel decided I could just drive one of their trucks back and forth to work. All of this happened without me ever asking anyone for help.

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11: 23)

Okay, why do we not receive answers to our prayers?

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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First the Ear (Chapter 9)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 9

Building a Foundation of Faith (g)

Like I wrote earlier, I am not a Word of Faith teacher, but I am a beneficiary of its teachings. Most of the teachings have worked well in my life, but a few have not. Over the next few chapters I will outline which teachings have built me up and which have not worked well for me.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the father of the Word of Faith movement: Kenneth Hagin.

If you have read any of Hagin’s more than one hundred books, you are bound to read his testimony about being a sickly child and how he was bedfast with a deformed heart and an incurable blood disease. How he then had a powerful conversion experience, after dying three times and visiting Hell, all within a period of ten minutes.

Hagin remained in bed after his conversion, suffering from his ailments, for many more months until he received his revelation of the following scripture:

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11: 24 King James)

Before August 1934, countless Christians had read Mark 11:24, but few had the exact revelation which Kenneth Hagin had on that summer day. Hagin stated he was talking to the Lord about the verse and how he especially agreed with the words: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray.”

Hagin desired to be healed. Thus he kept praying and asking and believing the Lord heard his prayers.

As he continued talking aloud, he heard the Holy Spirit speak to him: “You do believe all right – as far as you know.”

The Holy Spirit then quoted the rest of the verse: “Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

At that moment, the lights went on inside of Kenneth Hagin:

“I prayed for healing because that’s what I desired, but I was trying to have my healing first, and then I was going to believe I received it. But when do we believe we receive what we desire from God? When we pray! That means before we see a change in the circumstances we must believe that God has heard and answered us. We are to believe we receive whatever we desire from God the minute we pray and ask Him for our petition.”

I said to the Lord, “Now I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to begin to believe I receive healing for my paralyzed body right now, while I’m still lying here helpless. While I’m lying here bedfast, I’ve got to believe I receive healing for my deformed heart and incurable blood disease.” (Word of Faith, Kenneth Hagin, 1990)

Kenneth Hagin eventually jumped out of bed, totally healed. He became a young preacher, a pastor, and an evangelist in the Healing Revival of the 1940′s and 50′s. He then began his teaching career, which led to radio programs, founding the Rhema Bible Training Center, and the Rhema church system.

If you check out Kenneth Hagin on Google, you will find various sites, which accuse Hagin of being a plagiarist, a heretic, a false prophet, a serpent, and a false teacher. What’s with this, huh? How can a godly man have so many accusers?

Most of his critics’ biggest complaints are that he taught and preached like a Pentecostal, which he was. That’s like complaining Charles Stanley taught like a Baptist pastor because he is a Baptist pastor.

There are no perfect teachers, except Jesus. As Mike Bickel says, “God loves to use people who offend us so that He can show us our hearts.”

Kenneth Hagin never once took the time to answer his critics. He never once defended himself. When his critics called for a comment about a critical book or article they were writing about him, he always said, “No comment. God bless you.”

My only disagreement with Kenneth Hagin’s teachings is he looks at salvation and grace from an Arminian/Pentecostal point of view while I agree with the Baptist/Calvin one. You can be the judge on that one for yourself.

I recommend his books.

Since, he has sold over 60 million copies, you can buy them on Amazon (new and used), from numerous other sites (new and used), from Salvation Army stores, from Hagin’s ministry site, and wherever.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

 

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First the Blade (Chapter 8)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 8

Building a Foundation of Faith (f)

 

I received a lump of faith when I gave my life to the Lord on May 20, 1985. It was my unique lump, not your lump or Smith Wigglesworth’s or Francis Chan’s lump. It was the lump the Lord knew had the potential to bring me through every trial, every battle, and every circumstance, which laid ahead of me in my life.

I emphasized the word potential because our individual lumps of faith can best be compared to the muscles of a newborn baby. The newborn’s undeveloped muscles can move the baby’s arms, hands and legs a little bit at first, but not much. It takes time and effort for the muscles to develop so a baby can crawl, walk, run, or ride a tricycle.

When the baby reaches his teenage years, maybe the youth is a good athlete and has a dream to play pro football in the NFL. To achieve this goal, he will have to lift weights and work out on a regular basis. He may not like lifting weights because it is boring and painful, but the competition is so great he has no choice.

Nike’s motto sums up what the athlete’s attitude must be: “Just do it!”

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

 Most of us believers understand why athletes have to develop their muscles to compete in sports, but yet, very few of us realize we need to develop our individual lumps of faith. After all, didn’t Jesus already win the victory for us? Can’t we just sit back and enjoy ourselves until Jesus returns? Why build faith now?

And to be honest, the word faith has a stigma attached to it. Who has not heard of the excesses of the Word of Faith movement? “The prosperity gospel.” “Seed faith.” “Name it and claim it.” All of this has contributed to the muddied waters for teaching faith.

But I consider myself fortunate to having been saved during the 1980′s when the Word of Faith teaching programs were aired on many Christian radio stations. I listened to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, R. W. Schambach, Joyce Meyer and others every day. I read over a hundred and fifty books by these teachers.

The Word of Faith teachings can build a strong foundation in us. It did in me.

So, beginning in the next time chapter, we will be looking at the important revelations of the Word of Faith teachings and how we can use them to build up our individual lumps of faith.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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First the Blade (Chapter 7)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 7

Building a Foundation of Faith (e)

In Jesus’ third year of ministry, the twelve disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith. You would have expected the disciples to sit on the ground, pull out their notebooks and write down His every word because this was such an important question.

Maybe Jesus could have rolled out a large blackboard in front of the twelve. He might have reached for a piece of chalk in His robe and wrote the top ten points on how to increase the disciples’ faith.

But instead of a ten-point lecture, He gave a simple, one sentence illustration:

“If you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 6)

Scripture does not reveal the disciple’s reactions. Thus, we must assume the disciples were satisfied with His answer because Scripture does not suggest they ever asked the same question again.

How does this one sentence explain how we Christians can increase our faith?

First of all, who spoke the simple, one sentence illustration? Jesus – the Living Word – did.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Faith instantly arises in our hearts when Jesus speaks to us.

This can happen while we are reading the Bible and a verse jumps off the page, touching our hearts with a deep impression. The verse may be the exact answer we need at that moment or sometime in the future. Thus, our faith comes alive because we believe the Lord has spoken to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It could happen while we are grilling hamburgers on the patio, our appetites hungering for a tasty meal and our minds solely on the task at hand. Out of nowhere, we know how to handle a situation, which had been bugging us for days. We then have the faith to apply the answer because we know it came via the Holy Spirit, who only speaks what the Lord tells Him.

Other possible ways the Lord may speak to us are through prophetic words, dreams, visions, songs, movies and whatever. The list is endless because our Lord is a creative speaker. But no matter how He does it, we end up knowing the Lord is speaking to us because of the lasting impression it leaves on our hearts.

Okay, we understand how faith comes alive when Jesus speaks to us, but why the mustard seed?

The mustard seed was the smallest seed in Israel. When germinated and under the proper growing conditions, the seed grew into a mature bush within three months’ time to an average height of seven feet tall. The mature plant was strong enough for birds to nest in its branches.

Therefore, when Jesus used the mustard seed as His example, He was talking about the seed’s one-sided genetic focus – or faith –  to be the largest garden plant. The seed never doubted or waivered in its faith to be all it was called to be. The seed could even lie dormant for over sixty years, but when the conditions were right, it would fulfill its genetic calling by growing into a mature plant.

Although the mustard seed is tiny, mustard-seed faith is not a small amount of faith. It is 100%, put-your-hand-to-the-plow-and-not-look-back, all-in faith. It is the pinnacle of faith and where we need to set our sights for our journeys with the Lord.

How can we have mustard-seed faith for ourselves?

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. (Mark 4:28)

Faith is a maturation process, but if we are willing to learn and be taught by the Holy Spirit, our faith will move mountains.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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First the Blade (Chapter 6)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 6

Building a Foundation of Faith (d)

Almost everything we do for the Lord requires faith on our parts, but some things may require even more faith on our parts.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17: 19-20)

In the late fall of 1995, I lived with a friend in an apartment in Ames, Iowa. To say I was going through bad times would be a classic understatement. My truck had been repossessed. My painting company had collapsed. There were a couple of dollars in my billfold with few hopes of earning more. I had to stand on a stepladder to touch bottom in my life.

My roommate and I felt we should pray for Northern Ireland on one particular morning. We began praying in tongues, waiting on the Holy Spirit to show us how to intercede for that war-torn area.

As we prayed, I had a vision in which I saw the bodies of young people piled up in the streets of Belfast. There were thousands of them. All had their lives snuffed out by the continued violence between the Catholics and Protestants.

The vision so disturbed me I could do nothing but weep. We eventually prayed as best we could to stop the vision from happening in Northern Ireland, but I had no inner peace. The main problem seemed to be that I knew I had an important prophetic word for Northern Ireland within my spirit, waiting to be given.

I went to my bedroom and prayed some more. I asked the Lord to give the prophecy to a well-known preacher. After all, who would listen to me? As soon as I prayed these words, I knew it was a bad idea so I quickly repented.

“Okay, Lord, show me how to speak the prophecy to Northern Ireland,” I prayed and with those words, I finally had peace.

A couple of days later, the Lord impressed me to visit a Catholic church near the Iowa State University campus. I walked in the door and asked if anybody knew someone in Northern Ireland. They laughed, but one person told me to talk with a secretary in the basement.

I went to the secretary. She did not know anyone in Ireland, but she knew the name of the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines, Iowa. “Maybe that person knows someone in Ireland,” she said.

I phoned the Catholic Charismatic leader in Des Moines. “I don’t know anyone in Ireland,” she said, “but my husband knows the head of the Catholic Charismatic movement in England.”

Her husband got on the line and gave me the phone number.

I phoned the number in England early the next morning and talked with the leader’s wife because the leader was busy at some meetings in London. I told her why I was calling and what I needed.

“Funny,” she said, “but I’m looking at the exact person you need. His picture is on the cover of a book.” She then gave me the information for the man.

After hanging up, I sat down at the table and wrote the prophetic word, which I had for Northern Ireland. I mailed it to the Charismatic leader in Belfast.

Now, this whole experience was by faith, and as soon as I dropped the letter into the mailbox, all of my faith was used up. Every doubt in the world hit me. Who did I think I was? A nobody. A failure. I didn’t even belong to a church. No pastor would ever vouch for me. The Irish leader would take one look at my name, my handwritten letter and laugh.

But in the midst of those doubts, I knew enough to run to the throne of grace and ask for grace and mercy to help me.

A week or so later on a Sunday afternoon, the telephone rang.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Larry, I’m Cecil Kerr from Belfast, Ireland,” he said, “and I’m calling to thank you for the prophetic word you sent me. Our prayer group had been waiting for weeks for just such a word and we are already praying your prophetic word into fruition. So, from all of us, we thank you for your obedience to the Holy Spirit.”

We talked for a few minutes and then we said goodbye. As soon as I hung up, I fell on my knees and cried. I can still feel the emotions of that moment and how small I felt compared to a big, big God.

The next day, our phone was disconnected because we owed two months of phone bills.

If we want to change our community, our state and our nation, we can do it, but we must build our faith so mountains will move out of our way.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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First the Blade (Chapter 5)

First the Blade 

© 2019 by Larry Nevenhoven

Chapter 5

Building a Foundation of Faith (c)

It was Peter who had the heaven inspired revelation of Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16: 15 – 16)

 Even though Peter had a deep revelation and knew Jesus had words of eternal life, Peter had years of Jewish teachings on all of the unfulfilled prophecies for Israel. The unfulfilled prophecies must have seemed to be at odds with Jesus’ teachings. How could the promises for Israel’s restoration be fulfilled if you had to become like a child to enter into the kingdom of God?

What did Peter do?

He probably put two and two together to figure out the kingdom of God from what Jesus taught and what he already knew. Therefore, if Jesus was the Messiah and Israel had been promised that a Redeemer would restore Israel to its former prosperous place in history, then the Kingdom of God would be much like Israel was under King David, except the new King would do miracles. Peace would come. The lamb and the wolf would graze together, the lion would eat straw with the ox and dust would be the serpent’s food.

There are numerous scriptures backing up Peter’s logic, but it was neither God’s way nor His timing. So, when Jesus taught the disciples He was going to suffer, die, be buried and then be raised up again, Peter could not believe his ears and even rebuked Him. Jesus said to him:

Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matthew 16:23)

 This particular exchange took place a little more than six months before Jesus’ death on the cross. All through the weeks following this particular event, Jesus continued to teach His disciples.

“Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9: 45 – 46)

Remember: the Kingdom of God − between Jesus first coming and His second coming − is a spiritual kingdom, which is not seen with the human eye. It is one which has to be received by faith and cannot be understood by logic or knowledge.

Thus, Peter’s faith in his deception came to an end in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What did Jesus say to Peter at the special meeting He had alone with Peter?

I believe Jesus said approximately the same words to Peter, which He spoke to Cleopas and the other traveler when He met them near Emmaus:

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24: 25 – 27)

All of these Old Testament scriptures spoken by the Living Word would have opened Peter’s eyes so that his heart would have burned in his chest once more, filled with faith.

What can we learn about faith from Peter’s experience?

And Jesus answered, saying to them, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11: 22)

Our faith must always, always, always be in God and not in our interpretations of Scripture. It is God who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, not our traditions.

(Continued…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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