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Weekly posts and an opportunity to ask questions or give your perspective. Let's study the Bible TOGETHER!

28 September 2012

Listening to God - 28 September

We learned that the first way to know that God is speaking to us is to compare what we hear to Scripture. This is the primary way that we know God’s will. But there are other ways that we can see God’s will for our lives. Generally, if something is counter to our sin/human nature, or it is opposite of what society tells us is acceptable, we can begin to believe that it’s God giving us an answer. A few examples:

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  Matt 5:39 (ESV)

Keep your money. You don’t make enough to pay your bills. Why give anything in church?
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. Mal 3:10 (ESV)

There’s no real right and wrong. What’s right for me is right for me, and what’s right for you is right for you. It’s all relative.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.  Heb 13:8-9 (ESV)

There are many paths to the divine. We will all go to heaven because God is loving and if you’re a good person, God is too nice to not let you into heaven. God’s Love Wins. There’s no hell for good people.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  Matt 7:13-14 (ESV)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (ESV)

When the Bible speaks, it shows us a path that is clearly different from the world. We know we hear God’s voice when we are told to turn from the moral depravity in the world. In fact, we’re specifically cautioned against three different types of worldly love.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 (ESV)

Once again, we see God speaking to us through His Word and telling us to do something that is completely opposite from what we see in advertisements every day.

Can you see that the way to hear God is to study Scripture? How much quality time do you put into your Bible every day? If you don’t give God quality time, how can you expect to hear what He has to say?

Once we hear God’s message, we are challenged to grow in our faith and take courageous steps to turn from the ways of the world to the ways of the Lord. God expects our faith to grow.

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Matt 17:20 (ESV)

God expects us to have little faith at first – the size of a mustard seed. But He promises that with even a tiny bit of faith, nothing is impossible! But how does that square with our lives in 2012? Are you without a job? Lost your home? Don’t have transportation? Can you “will” these things into being with that mustard seed faith? There are preachers – called prosperity Gospel – who tell you that God promises to give you physical stuff if you give to their particular ministries. God never promised to give us the good life, or to even give us what we want. Following Christ means that we will have trials and temptations and problems. I don’t know why you don’t have a job, or a house, or a car. It doesn’t seem fair, but isn’t this exactly why we need to learn to listen to God? Have you asked Him what He wants you to learn or have you simply bombarded Him with your demands for that new car, or the new job? Can you look at your problems (we all have them) as a way to become closer to God and to clearly hear His voice?

God calls you to become courageous – especially in times of stress and adversity. For that, let’s consider Joshua for a moment. He was a great warrior and a great leader, but can you imagine how he must have felt to be called to lead Israel after Moses died? Who wants to try to follow in Moses’ shoes? Obviously God did – and He gave Joshua words of comfort that we can use today.

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh 1:6-9 (ESV)

Joshua is told to be strong and courageous three times. The first time, God reminded Joshua of the blessing – the Promised Land. The second time, God reminded Joshua to stay on track by staying in the Word and remembering God’s commands. Finally, God told Joshua to remain encouraged because God was with him in the journey.

Can you claim these promises? God has an ultimate blessing for each believer: a mansion in heaven. We know this because we stay on track and focus on His Word, especially in times of trouble. And finally, we are reminded that God will be with us in all of our journey.

His promises to the Israelites are His promises to us. We need to stand courageously in the face of opposition. We need to stand in the Word so we know God’s will. We have to be willing to go against the flow of society to remain in His will. And finally, we need to act in love.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14  Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Cor 16:13-14 (ESV)

Act like MEN? I hear the women screaming… that’s what it says, ladies. We are to exhibit the masculine qualities of standing firmly and courageously. And men, you need to exhibit the feminine qualities of loving actions. Isn’t the Bible wonderful? It clearly shows that women and men have different roles in society, but shows that each of us is to exhibit some of the other’s qualities as well.

Next week we’ll talk about advice. We’ll discuss hearing from God versus hearing from Satan, and receiving good and bad advice from our Christian friends. Until then, stand firm. Love your enemies. Be strong!

26 September 2012

Listening to God - 26 September

Today we look at the main way we have to see whether we are listening to God’s voice or our own: the Bible. Everything we do should be filtered through the lens of Scripture (and every word we hear from a preacher, Bible teacher, television or radio expositor or blogger should also be filtered through the Bible).

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (ESV)

The “spirit” can include your own fleshly desires! And when you come to test those spirits, don’t try to find your answer in the Bible based on what you want. Study! Read more than one verse – if you have a cross reference Bible, look up those verses that are in teeny tiny print in the center column or on the side. People have made the Bible say what they want for years by taking verses and phrases out of context.

… be diligent to present thyself approved to God--a workman irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of the truth, and the profane vain talkings stand aloof from, for to more impiety they will advance, and their word as a gangrene will have pasture. 2 Tim 2:15-17 (YLT)

When you are asking God for a word, come humbly and ask Him to show you what HE wants you to see. God’s Word will speak if you are willing to listen!

I was once going through a stressful ordeal. My first instinct was to get up and run around like the proverbial headless chicken. It is my habit to read my Bible before I begin my workday or even a day off, and this is what I read that day.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Psalms 3:3-6 (ESV)

Based on that passage, I decided to do nothing on my day off but pray and rest (I had never really noticed the phrase “lay down and slept” before and it really jumped off the page). I rested in the Lord that day and whenever my problem came to my mind, I cried aloud to God. I rested on the promises of this passage. No one knew of my problem. The very next day all of my problems were solved through Divine intervention. If I left my house, made calls, did research, searched for ways to get around the problem or even talked to another human being, my problem would still have been solved because God is faithful, and I may have received some glory because of the way I handled the problem. Since I did none of that, it was evident that the problem was solved through God’s intervention alone and He received the glory.

I don’t necessarily suggest that you spend a day in bed praying and resting, but if a passage jumps out at you when you’re discussing something with God, you need to look at it and see if that is His answer!

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear God speak directly through Scripture, I’d love to hear your story. It is encouraging to hear what God does through the pages of His Word.

On Friday, we’ll discuss the other ways that you can begin to know that God is speaking to you. Have a blessed remainder of the week.

24 September 2012

Listening to God - 24 September

We’ve talked about various ways that God uses to get our attention, and we’ve seen specific examples in the Bible to support our understanding. Yet, when we listen, we can sometimes wonder if God is really going to talk to us personally. How do we know the voice we hear is God’s and not a figment of our imagination – or our way of justifying whatever it is that we’ve asked God about? Unsurprisingly, the Bible has something to say about that, too.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and my Father are one.  John 10:27-30 (KJV)

(I love the phrase “pluck them out”. The English Standard Version says “snatch”, but I really like “pluck” because it implies that we are somehow buried in God’s hand, one with Him.)

Jesus says that we will know His voice. Knowing isn’t an immediate gift at salvation – we need to study and pray to really know His voice. As a guideline, when you’re asking whether you’re hearing from God, think of these things:

1.       Is what you’re hearing consistent with the teachings of the Bible? If ANY part of what you hear is not consistent with the Bible, you are not hearing God. God can never change His mind, and He won’t give you instruction that goes against the Reference Manual that He left for us.
2.       Does what you hear generally clash with your earthly desire and go against what society says is right and wrong? Since we are sinful creatures, we want to hear stuff that will satisfy our sin nature. God’s instruction will have us turn from the things of this earth.
3.       Will you be challenged to rise to a new level in spiritual understanding or faith? God will always call us to improve our walk with Him.
4.       Does the message call for personal courage to change your path and do what He says?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11 (ESV)

God will give us instructions and then equip us to do the job He expects us to do. Nothing is impossible for God – and nothing He wants us to do is impossible for us, either. One of the hardest commands for me personally is this one:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  Matt 5:44-45 (ESV)

Why does Jesus want us to do something that’s so inconsistent with the world’s values? These are the kinds of instructions that can only come from a loving God. Loving my enemies goes against my human nature and it certainly defies the logic of our society.

We’ll go over some of the points I’ve outlined on Wednesday and Friday as we seek to make sure that the words we hear are from God and not from our own nature. In the interim, I challenge you to think of one person in your life to apply Matthew 5:44-45 to. Pray for him or her this week. Ask God to change your attitude toward that person. It will be difficult at first, but take God at His word. Bless that person and pray for them. See what God can do with your prayer.

See you Wednesday.

21 September 2012

Listening to God - 21 September

Now for the most difficult way that God talks to us – through unanswered prayers. It’s frustrating when it seems that God isn’t paying attention. Why would God not want to answer our prayers?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 (ESV)

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22 (ESV)

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  1 John 5:14 (ESV)

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt 6:14-15 (ESV)

If you’re not getting an answer, ask yourself if you need to forgive someone. If you’re all “forgiven up”, how about your obedience? He requires obedience and repentance. If all that’s okay, are you asking for the right reason, and are you asking for something that’s in His will?

Of course, an unanswered prayer could be a no or a not now as well. Sometimes that answer, while not as satisfying to us, is actually best for us and our Christian walk. Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. God said no, and then gave Paul grace to face his problem and wisdom to understand that a yes would have been the wrong answer under his circumstances.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor 12:7-10 (ESV)

Next week we will deal with knowing how to know it’s God’s voice. I pray that your worship on Sunday is blessed and that you take the time to prepare yourself for worship. Go to church ready to worship Him with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength. See you Monday!