Hearing the Voice of God

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Today’s guest post is by Dr. Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion Translation. He is also the author of I Hear His Whisper, 52 devotions to encounter God’s heart for you.

True prayer is a love relationship with God—it is enjoying a relationship, not enduring a religious activity. Prayer is the privilege of soaring to the very throne of God to touch His face. It is meeting with God Himself. Our souls are starved for this sense of awe . . . to speak and to hear from God. We must never forget that Father God loves to share His heart with His children.

Fellowship with God in prayer is meant to adjust us, not to adjust God to what we want. We must have frequent, intimate contact with our Father—the Daddy Abba Father of Galatians 4:6. Prayer is more than speaking to God; it is speaking with Him. We cannot build an intimate relationship on one-way speeches.

As I pray to God, I am aware of this: both of us will speak, and both of us will listen. When we practice two-way prayer, listening carefully and humbly, God will often speak. This prophetic interchange is not limited to verbal communication. We can expect to encounter God in various ways. However we hear Him, this divine encounter will always do two things: it will change us, and we will be given ammunition for spiritual warfare.

As we hear accurately from God, the church will begin to enter into prophetic praying. Prophetic prayer is praying with revelation and receiving God’s response. It is becoming a prayer partner with Jesus. God will not only speak to us, but He will also pray through us.

I encourage you to become one who hears from God in the secret closet where you are trusted with strategic prayer assignments. Instead of praying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” it’s easy to fall into “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” Decide today that you will have a heart that will wait on the Lord and listen for His voice.

Your tools for ministry must include a consistent life of hearing from God. I love the words of Isaiah 50:4–5 (NKJV):

“The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.”

Ask Him for a listening ear! Marvelous revelations and a deeper understanding of Scripture await those who will ask for it . . . and linger in His presence to hear His voice. Our Lord is known as the great “Revealer of mysteries” (see Daniel 2:29, 47). There is much He has to say to the seeking heart.

Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know when it is God speaking? I don’t want to be misled. I only want to listen to the Holy Spirit.” Here are some simple guidelines for knowing God’s voice and discerning when it is the voice of the enemy:

  • Jesus is a gentle Shepherd; Satan is a condemning and accusing intimidator.
  • The Lord’s voice is often quiet and deeply internal; Satan’s is intrusive and vulgar.
  • The Holy Spirit calls and draws us; Satan threatens, demands, and drives.
  • Check the content—does it agree with the Scriptures?
  • God’s voice drips with mercy; He does not condemn our personal worth before Him.
  • The Lord’s voice will change you and touch you.
  • His voice is rooted in hope, not negativity or despair.
  • God’s Word is for now; Satan locks us into our past.
  • God uses the ordinary, not merely the spectacular.
  • His Word gives more hope, not more condemnation.
  • God’s voice inspires us to love, not to criticize others.
  • Peace comes from God; anxiety comes from Satan.
  • The voice of the Spirit will always glorify Jesus as Lord and point us to Him.

John 10:2–4 (TPT) gives us reassurance that we can hear God’s voice. Are you listening today?

“And the sheep recognize the voice of the True Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.”

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Study the Significance of the Cross

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As we draw closer to Holy Week, we’ve taken the time to look intently at the death of Jesus. In Bill Giovannetti’s guest post, we looked at the pain that Jesus suffered when the nails went through his hands. In Bob Hostetler’s guest post, we explored the revolutionary that Jesus was in his day and how this echoes into our lives now. We’ve highlighted a few discounts to aid you in your study of Jesus’ death including:

Crucify! Why the Crowd Killed Jesus by Timothy J. Stoner—available for free through April 3, 11:59 p.m. (EST).

You can also get The Meaning of the Death of Jesus Bundle for just $20.99 through 11:59 p.m. (EST) on March 22. In the bundle you’ll get the following three titles in the bundle:

-The Day That Changed Forever: Twenty One Life Changing Experiences at the Cross by Tim Roehl

-Bought with Blood by Derek Prince

-Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement by Mark D. Baker

Want to learn more about this exclusive ebook bundle? Check out our blog post from Monday this week, here.

Check back next week as we conclude the second to last week of Lent. We’ll be featuring content on the meaning behind the resurrection of Jesus. There will be guest posts by Karen Jensen Salisbury, Rita Schulte, Anita Agers-Brooks, Rebecca Greenwood, and Brian Simmons. You’ll find a new bundle and individual titles available at a discount to aid you in the study of Jesus’ resurrection.

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What Will You Preach Next Month?

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One month from today, Easter will be upon us. I’m hoping that the sun will be shining, that birds will be singing springtime songs, and that the weather will be warm. I also hope that those of you who are preaching will impart the beauty of the gospel to those around you. I hope that your message will be an engaging story of how the gospel intersects with everyday life. I hope that you have a plan.

As Greg Gilbert and Mark Dever argue below, a plan can have a big impact on your congregation. The following is an excerpt from Preach: Theology Meets Practice—you can get it today on Vyrso for $9.99.

The famous third-century preacher John Chrysostom told his congregation in his third sermon on Lazarus and the rich man, “I often tell you many days in advance the subject of what I am going to say, in order that you may take up the book in the intervening days, go over the whole passage, learn both what is said and what is left out, and so make your understanding more ready to learn when you hear what I will say afterwards.”

We think that’s a great idea, and we both try to follow that practice in our own churches by publishing a card that gives our preaching schedule—texts and titles—for the upcoming months. Doing something like that offers a number of benefits. First, like Chrysostom said, it gives your people time to read the passage in advance, to let the Holy Spirit begin to work in their hearts with the themes of that text, and to prepare their hearts to hear the Word of God preached on Sunday. That, in turn, can create a unique sense of excitement in the church. The people come with thoughts of their own, questions and insights about the text; and your words in the sermon are then able to interact with and catalyze with the thoughts they already have. Publishing a preaching schedule will give your people another tool for talking with their non-Christian friends and family about spiritual things. People take those cards, highlight or circle a particular sermon title they think a non-Christian friend might be interested to hear, and then hand it to that person as an invitation to come hear that sermon.

Sometimes people ask us if we think planning a preaching schedule so far in advance could squelch the Holy Spirit. What if something comes up in the life of the church that begs to be addressed? What if you get sick? What if something happens in the world such that your planned series seems out of place all of a sudden? Good questions all. But we don’t think planning a schedule in advance squelches the Holy Spirit.

For one thing we don’t think the Holy Spirit only moves “in the moment.” Of course He does that sometimes, but that’s not the only time He does it. The Holy Spirit also moves and directs months in advance when we are planning a preaching schedule. Both of us have been amazed at how people in our congregations have been impacted by a particular sermon or series in specific and time-sensitive ways. That’s not because we planned for that to happen. On the contrary, we believe the Holy Spirit worked it all together in His providence. Take a look, for example, at this church card from Capitol Hill Baptist Church for the fall of 2001, which included September 11, 2001.

That preaching schedule was made months in advance of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Nothing was adjusted; nothing was changed in the aftermath of the attacks. But look at God’s provision for this congregation right in the heart of one of the cities that came under attack: “The Quest for Justice,” “The Quest for Security,” “When Bad Things Happen: Questions and Confidence.” The Holy Spirit was planning, even months before, to feed His people with truth from His Word that would impact their lives and their needs directly and specifically in the aftermath of—and even in advance of—a world-shaking event.

Not only that, but adherence to a preaching plan doesn’t have to be slavish. Mark tends to stick to a preaching plan more doggedly than I (Greg) do. If Mark gets sick or something else intervenes, the church card is what the church card is—even if it means skipping a sermon in a series. I, on the other hand, have been known to pull all the sermon cards from our pews and print another batch.

We both have the same approach, more or less, to holidays. We both try to plan series in which the sermons that land nearest Christmas and on Easter won’t be utterly weird—though Mark preached once on Christmas Day an entire sermon on death! But we don’t insist that Christmas be from Luke 2 and Easter from Matthew 28. On Christmas Day 2011, I’m scheduled to preach on James 5:13–20, the prayer of the righteous for the sick. For Easter 2011, though, I shifted some things around so that I’d be preaching on Hebrews 8 rather than Hebrews 6. That was in the expectation that we would have an unusual number of visitors in the congregation who would attend church only infrequently, and I wanted a text that would have the gospel itself as the main point.

However you end up doing this, and however tightly you stick to a plan once it’s made, the point is that planning your preaching schedule well in advance can give your people a good tool both for their own spiritual growth and for evangelism.

So, how do you decide what to preach? Well, as we said before, everything should be done for the edification of the church. We would argue that preaching through entire books, preaching from both testaments and all genres of Scripture, preaching from varying altitudes, and publishing in advance what you’re going to preach will best accomplish that goal in the long run.

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Want more insight on how to preach? Download Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s ebook, Preach: Theology Meets Practice for just $9.99.

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Discounted Titles on Discipleship

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This week we’re discussing discipleship—you’ll have the opportunity to hear from some top authors on what discipleship means in the context of Lent. We have a discipleship bundle for men that’s just $12.99 (learn more here.)

There are also a handful of individual titles that you can get for 50% off or more for a limited time during Lent:

Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master by Gary W. Moon—get it for 99 cents!

In this winsome book, Moon provides a 30-day apprenticeship with Jesus, where readers will actively practice being with Jesus day in and day out. Each day’s reading uses compelling stories and scripture to illustrate a point and closes with a suggested apprenticeship activity.

Get this ebook for 99 cents through March 7 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World by Gene Edward Veith Jr.—get it for just $7.00!

Loving God with All Your Mind shows us that the answer is neither wholesale rejection of intellectual life and culture, nor blind acceptance of it. The answer lies in understanding that Jesus is Lord of all of life and that everything in life must be carefully viewed in the light of what Christ’s lordship means. Gene Edward Veith unfolds a dazzling critique of the postmodern intellectual world and culture. He affirms the part that is good and true, but he also shows crucial weaknesses that have such a hold over contemporary thought. This book shows Christians how to survive and flourish in a postmodern world while affirming the truth of the Christian faith.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Disciple Making Is. . . : How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence by Dave Early and Rod Dempsey—get it for just $6.00!

Grounded on a solid biblical foundation, authors Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey—both veterans of one-on-one, collegiate, small group, and local church discipleship—share their practical insights on how to best reproduce reproducers of Christ’s message.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Breaking the Discipleship Code: Becoming a Missional Follower of Jesus by David Putman—get it for just $5.00!

Breaking the Discipleship Code, written by Putman with a foreword fromEd Stetzer, opens the door to a greater understanding of what it means to personally be a missional follower of Jesus in relation to every aspect of our changing world. Balancing cultural relevance with biblical faithfulness, the book invites ordinary believers, whether on Wall Street or in a Waffle House, next door or across the ocean, to begin having an extraordinary spiritual impact in their unique context.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples: Every Christian an Effective Witness Through an Enabling Church by Charles and Win Arn—get it for $8.00!

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples contends that individual Christians should focus on disciple-making as a part of their lifestyle, sharing their faith naturally within their own network of friends and relatives. After articulating principles for making disciples, the authors offer ideas for reaching friends and family, insights on how congregations can support evangelism, and suggestions for more effective incorporation of new converts into the church community.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

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Lent Devotional: An Excerpt from “Revealing Christ”

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Today’s post is an excerpt from Revealing Christ: A 40-Day Prayer Journey for Lent by Charisma House. Based on insights and teaching from classic men and women of God, such as William J. Seymour, John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, and others, Revealing Christ is focused on helping you find new revelations of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, and his life, death, and resurrection. Through February 25 you can download this devotional for just $4.99.

 

THE BAPTISM OF A CLEAN HEART

 

Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

[Luke 4:1, MEV]

Jesus is our example. Upon His clean heart, the baptism fell. We find in reading the Bible that the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire falls on a clean, sanctified life. For we see, according to the Scriptures, that Jesus was filled with wisdom and favor with God and man before God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and power. For in Luke 2:40, we read, “[Jesus] waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Then in Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

After Jesus was empowered with the Holy Ghost at Jordan, He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. He was not any more holy or any more meek but had greater authority: “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (Luke 4:15).

Beloved, if Jesus, who was God Himself, needed the Holy Ghost to empower Him for His ministry and His miracles, how much more do we children need the Holy Ghost baptism today. Oh, that men and women would tarry for the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire upon their souls!

—William J. Seymour

POINTS TO PONDER

Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Below is a list of the ways Luke’s Gospel says He was empowered by the Spirit.

Jesus was . . .

• Conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35)

• Descended upon by the Spirit (Luke 3:22)

• Filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:14)

• Anointed by the Spirit (Luke 4:18)

• Filled with the Spirit’s joy (Luke 10:21)

What Spirit empowerments have you experienced in your own Christian walk? How have you seen the Spirit at work in your life previously?

Are you doing anything in your life to hinder the Spirit right now?

How do you desire the Spirit to touch your life right now?

PRAY . . .

God, cleanse my heart with Your fire, that I may receive the baptism of Your Spirit. Amen.

 

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3 Resources to Help You Read the Bible During Lent

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Getting into the Bible on a regular basis can be a difficult habit to start. If you don’t have a daily Bible reading habit, starting and committing yourself to reading your Bible on a daily basis will be a valuable building block for your spiritual health this year.

If you’re intent on starting a new discipline of reading or studying the Bible during Lent, here are three resources to help get you started:

  • Visit everydaybible.com (or download the app) for a daily devotional and Bible reading plan that covers the entire Bible in one year. Accompanying the study are inspirational pieces of Bible artwork depicting a daily verse. You can share the artwork with your friends, save it as a background on your phone, or as an image on your desktop.
  •  Download the Logos Bible app or the Faithlife Study Bible and subscribe to a daily reading plan or devotional. You can even set up notifications to get a daily reminder if you need the extra reminder to read the Bible when life starts getting busy.
  •  Start a Lent devotional from a list of incredible authors like Charles R. Swindoll, Sue Mink, and Donna E. Schaper. Going through a set devotional this season of Lent is a great way to stay committed to daily study and reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Personally, I love having a smartphone being able to access my Bible anywhere I go. Even with the demands of work, church, and family, I can take a few minutes in the morning, during lunch, or in between meetings to have an ongoing time of devotion.

How are you planning on being intentional with your Bible study this Lenten season?

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An Ash Wednesday Devotional

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Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of Lent. To help you prepare for this season, we’ve pulled an excerpt from Lexham Press’ ebook 40 Days to the Cross a devotional edited by Jessi Strong and Rebecca Van Noord. If you’re still looking for a devotional to read during Lent you can get 40 Days to the Cross on sale for just $4.95 through February 28.

Ash Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 51:1–4

Be gracious to me, O God, according to your loyal love.

According to your abundant mercies,

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and from my sin cleanse me.

For I myself know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, only you, I have sinned

and have done this evil in your eyes,

so that you are correct when you speak,

you are blameless when you judge.

Reading: Mark 8:27–33

And Jesus and his disciples went out to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, saying, “John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others that you are one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to him, “You are the Christ!” And he warned them that they should tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise. And he was speaking openly about the subject, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan, because you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of people!”

Reflection

If Peter. . .was called a stumbling-block by Jesus—as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men—what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God? [What is to be said about those who] do not look to things unseen and eternal, (but mind the things of man) and look to things seen and temporal? Would they be seen by Jesus as a stumbling block to Him, and because they are stumbling blocks to Him, as stumbling blocks to His followers also? In regard to them He says, “I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,” so also He might say, “When I was running you caused me to stumble.” Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men—since we ought in everything to mind the things of God.

—Origen

Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Response

How are you mindful of the “things of people”? Are you harboring mindsets, possessions, goals, and desires that are incompatible with God and His kingdom? Make a list of these things and pray about them.

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The Meaning and Practices of Lent

Editorial Credit: m.bonotto / Shutterstock.com

Have you thought about Lent yet? Do you know what Lent is about? I’ll level with you, Lent has never been a big tradition in my family. My parents never talked about Lent and I never understood why people would fast for 40 days before Easter. Don’t get me wrong, I think fasting is important and valuable; the practice and discipline is incredibly useful in focusing our lives on Jesus. Maybe you practice Lent each Easter season and know the whole history. For those of you who—like me—know very little about the Lenten season, I thought I’d share some of my recent research.

I started my research on my iPhone with the Logos app and did a quick search. I found the Logos resource, Introduction to Christian Liturgy, by Frank C. Senn, and looked through his chapter on Lent.

Here is what I found about Lent in my research:

  • Lent was originally practiced as an imitation of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
  • Lent also served as time to elect candidates for baptism at Easter and for public penitents to be prepared for reconciliation on Maundy Thursday.
  • For many Christians, Lent is a period where people abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy products throughout the week and Sunday is a feast day.
  • Traditions vary among different Christian denominations, some believers abstain from food for an entire day while others abstain until 3:00 p.m.
  • Many modern Protestants consider Lenten fasting to be a choice rather than an obligation. Many decide to give up a favorite food, drink, or activity for the time period.
  • Depending on the tradition, Sundays are not included in the days of Lent—many believers treat them as feasting days—therefore Lent begins on a Wednesday to account for the 40 days before Easter.
  • Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of placing ashes on foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. [1]

In my mind, regardless of where you go to church—if you’re a Catholic, Protestant, or don’t affiliate with a denomination—Lent is a time for you to prepare your heart for what is to come during Holy Week. Here at Vyrso, we’ll be spending the next 46 days discussing aspects of the Christian faith, discipline, discipleship, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 


 

[1] Senn, Frank C., Introduction to Christian Liturgy. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

photo credit: m.bonotto / Shutterstock.com

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Reading with Vyrso: One-Touch Bible References

With so many ereader apps out there, it can be difficult to know which one suits your ereading needs best. Vyrso was designed to help you read your favorite Christian ebooks side by side with the Bible, so you can gain further insight from your favorite authors and the Biblical text. One-touch Bible references set the Vyrso app apart from other ereading apps in this department.

With one-touch Bible references, it’s easy to see the full Bible verse an author references in your ebook. You don’t even have to leave your reading to open a new window. In the Vyrso app, just tap the linked Bible verse—they appear in blue text—and the verse will appear in a box right in your reading:

Vyrso One-Touch Bible References

 

If you’re looking to gain some context to the referenced verse and want to read the surrounding chapters of the Bible, tap, “Jump to reference” and the Bible will open up to the linked verse and chapter.

One-touch Bible references make it easy to transition into your personal Bible study, and they can be a great way to get ideas for daily reading or specific topics mentioned in the Bible.

Start reading with the free Vyrso app and get the most from your ebooks with one-touch Bible references!

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Last-Minute Super Bowl Dish: Cheesy Broccoli Bites  

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Tomorrow the Seattle Seahawks will take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Wherever your loyalties lie—whether with the Seahawks, the Patriots, or the creative commercials—you’ll want to bring an incredible dish to your Super Bowl party. We’ve asked Dashing Dish blogger and Vyrso author Katie Farrell share an incredible dish that will wow your friends and family.

Cheesy Broccoli Bites

Estimated Time: 35 minutes

These broccoli bites are salty, cheesy, and almost too good to be true! I can honestly say this is one of the tastiest ways I have created, to date, to eat your veggies! These broccoli bites make for a delicious protein and veggie-packed light meal, side, or snack. Who knows, this may just be YOUR favorite new way to get your veggies as well!

3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed, steamed, and squeezed dry (or fresh broccoli, steamed)

1/8 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion

Optional:

Pinch of sweetener that measures like sugar

3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin tin with silicone or foil muffin liners. Spray muffin liners with nonstick cooking spray.  Chop florets into small pieces (no bigger than the size of a marble).  In a large bowl add the broccoli, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg whites, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and minced onion. Stir until everything is well combined.  Scoop 1/8 cup broccoli mixture into each muffin cup. Lightly press broccoli mixture down with fingers in each muffin cup.  Sprinkle each bite with shredded cheese, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and enjoy warm!

Yields 12 servings (1 broccoli bite per serving)

Nutritional Information: 20 calories (without extra cheese) per serving; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrate; 3 grams protein

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Get even more recipes to prepare for your Super Bowl party with a wide selection of cookbooks on Vyrso!

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