Hearing the Voice of God

Hearing God’s voice can be dangerous. That’s right. On one side you have someone discerning direction from God, perhaps through praying, reading the Bible, counseling with mature believers, etc. When this person actually “hears” from God, s/he is confronted with a choice… to obey or not to obey what is discovered. Following God’s will is often risky business! It is stepping out into new territory and taking steps of faith when you can’t see the outcome.

 

On the other side you have someone claiming to hear from God and this person firmly believes that God is telling him to do something that is contrary to His nature or His revealed Word. A dangerous scenario indeed; just look at religious extremists around the world.

 

Our ladies at King’s Grant Baptist have enjoyed Bible studies written by Priscilla Shirer. In her book, Can We Talk, she discusses how to better spend time in God’s Word, making it a two-way street of conversation. Listed here are the Five P’s of Hearing God’s Voice in Scripture: 

  • Position yourself to hear from God: Practice solitude and silence. Although God can speak anywhere, hearing from Him is easier if distractions are lessened. (Habakkuk 2:1)
  • Pour over the Scripture and paraphrase the major points:  You cannot skim over a passage if you expect God to speak! (James 1:25)
  • Pull out the spiritual principles: What lesson is God teaching? What is God revealing about Himself?
  • Pose the question: Form a directed question from each discovered principle. Does my life live out the message of the verse? What must I do to bring my life in line with this verse? Listen to the Holy Spirit as you answer.
  • Plan obedience and pin down a date: The Bible tells us to obey (James 1:22). Don’t just hear from God and forget it! Record your steps and take action, respond to what God has shown you. 

The Christian life is based on obedience! Jesus said is well, basically, “How can you love me and not do what I say?” If we want to hear God’s voice, we must be willing and serious about obeying Him. 

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Change that is Really Needed

Presidential candidates always promise change; one says he can deliver and the other says he can’t. We crave what the word represents, with a hope that perhaps one man truly can make a difference. But how will America experience real change? We have to change the society! Consider the information in the box, on how to get society right…

getmenrightIn his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge tells us that since men are made in the image of God, they understand their own natures by looking at how God has expressed His own nature. He mentions three expressions: a warrior, a lover and an adventurer.

  1. As a warrior, God battled satan for the souls of men.
  2. As a lover, Jesus gave himself for his bride, the church.
  3. As an adventurer, God created humanity and risked everything by giving us freedom to reject him.

So, the author contends that men are looking for a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, and an adventure to live.

In the series, Quest for Authentic Manhood, Robert Lewis teaches that men need to look at the example of Jesus’ masculinity as their test for true north. We either live in the shadow of the first Adam (mere existence) or the second Adam (a life-giving spirit) (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Romans 5:17-19). The shadow a man chooses determines the kind of man and father he will become.

Why is Men’s Ministry so important? Because so much is at stake! Men are in a battle for their souls, their marriages, their families, and you see that society is ultimately affected. Let’s change America together; leaving no man left behind.

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Christians Influencing Culture

Christians are supposed to influence culture for the better, despite what many non-Christians might want. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist professor at Oxford recently put signs on London busses stating that “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Probably? Perhaps he is not too sure about his atheism or the bus company made him tone down his message. Either way, the message is pretty clear, he wants people to live their lives as if there is no God… I wonder what that kind of world would be like?

I wonder what professor Dawkins might think about a world were no Christians exist. Gone are the 90% of Christians who desire to serve mankind in a positive fashion, help others when they are in need, offer comfort to those who are suffering or in grief, those who are the first to rush in with disaster relief… Dawkins must long for a world with no hope at the end of life, with no purpose in this life other than to eat, drink, conquer, procreate and die. Without Christians or the Holy Spirit of the Bible in this world, all that is left is the base of human cruelty, the survival of the fittest where only the strong survive.

My question is, “What does it hurt for people to believe in God?”

I recently read the Southwest Virginia Christian Leadership Network newsletter that quotes Reggie McNeal, from his book Practicing Greatness. He outlines seven spiritual habits or disciplines that lead to the spiritual influence we need within our culture. Since leadership is the art and science of influence, this is what McNeal writes:

  1. Self-awareness – understanding who God created you to be
  2. Self-management – managing emotions, expectations, temptations, mental/physical well-being
  3. Self-development – lifelong commitment to building on your strengths, not your weaknesses
  4. Mission – living out of a sense of God’s purpose for your life and leadership
  5. Decision-making – knowing the elements of good decisions and learning from failure
  6. Belonging – nurturing relationships with family, followers, mentors, and friends
  7. Aloneness – the intentional practice of soul-making solitude and contemplation

Seek ways to influence our culture with intentionality; not just seeking people to believe the way we do, but to allow people to see Jesus for who he really is!

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Unless the Lord Builds the Home

We had a great time at the pavilion last Saturday, a bit cold and a little damp, but what is a man of steel without a little rust? It would be like having power tools without scratches on them! The saying, “I would rather burn out than rust out” perhaps means we should live life to the fullest, don’t hold back, take a risk, follow through on your good intentions, be the hero to your family that you want to be… The old analysis of “rust” is that men can be old, broken and worn out, and chock-full of inactivity; but the new generation should see Men of Steel (perhaps with a little rust) as being seasoned, weathered, unpolished, rough, steadfast, structurally sound, tested and true.

In regard to the topic from this past weekend, the handout was from the Man in the MIrror ministry, and is found here. My blog article that I mentioned about the Overload Syndrome may be found here, complete with a prescription for dealing with correcting overload in our priorities.

October 25 and November 1

Remember that this Saturday October 25 is Operation Inasmuch, so we will not meet as Men of Steel that morning. All community mission teams will meet in the sanctuary at 8:00 for prayer and marching orders for the day.

On Saturday November 1, since the women’s ministry has two separate events, the dad’s (and you single guys are welcome, too) are going to meet at 9:30 for a father/son or dad/daughter fun outing. Suggestions have been bowling at the Hilltop Pinboys or the mini-golf, driving range and batting cage on Holland Road (to be determined later). If you have small children, come on anyway, as a group we can make this work for all of us!

A devotional thought for this week – Psalm 127:1-5 Here’s what I see…

  1. Ps 127:1 tells me that men will often do a lot of work and put great effort into building their homes… not the house, but your home, your marriage and children. It is good to try and build your homes, but this verse reminds us that if God is left out of the picture the effort is futile or in vain. A family without God can never experience the God-designed spiritual bond that He intends for relationships. Don’t make the mistake of leaving God out of your life, or your daily activity. If we make God the foundation of our home, which is our highest priority, we allow Him to build the home as He knows best.
  2. Ps 127:2 reminds me that working hard is not the sin here, but rather working too much (sunup to sundown). It’s like neglecting the most important people in our lives, which is senseless. Take time to rest at home with your loved ones.
  3. Ps 127:3-5 mentions children being a gift and a reward from the Lord, and men are blessed to have many children. Today, many people see kids as liabilities, a distraction or a nuisance, keeping us form what we really want to do, or they are financially way too expensive (growing out of clothing too fast, going off to college, healthcare, etc.). But we learn valuable lessons from our kids, too. Simple questions from kids can help us rediscover new things in fresh ways. After being a believer for 12 years, I didn’t really understand the love that my heavenly Father has for me until I became a father myself. The emotion can be overwhelming, I know how much I love Stephen and Bethany, and that doesn’t even come close to how much God loves me!
  4. The quiver is full of them? A quiver of arrows was generally five! Times have certainly changed. I read that the average American family has around two children, but the truth is the same, that children are precious and a gift. Arrows in the warrior’s hand may mean that our children will stand with us when times in the hood get tough; we survive adversity because God builds a strong home, having family who stand with us! Our kids are a reward, much like the promise given to Abraham, that he would be a great nation and his offspring would be like the sand of the earth or the stars of the sky, (Genesis 15:5 and Genesis 13:15).

John Maxwell on Leadership (Psalm 127):

  1. People cannot provide permanent security for the leader.
  2. Leaders should never put their emotional health into the hands of someone else.
  3. Spiritual and emotional health requires the truth.
  4. Leaders must remember that hurting people naturally hurt people.
  5. Trouble arises when leaders depend upon people to do what only God can do.

Consider passing this note to friends that you would like to join the Men of Steel. This is a word-of-mouth ministry!

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Balance and/or Priorities in Life

I trust the week has gone well for you all. Our list of men has increased by five this week. Remember that the topics are not sequential, so coming back after missing a Saturday is quite easy, no catching up!

Last Saturday I was challenged to find something on “balance.” Generally this could mean balancing all the demands we have as men…family, work, play, sports, hobbies, you name it. One thing is for sure, when it comes to balance, setting priorities is the way to go! Ever notice that we will DO the stuff that is important to us. We make time, don’t we? We must remember the difference between the urgent and the important. How can you tell the difference?

Check out this teaching video, about 30 minutes or so, from Pat Morley, the author of the Man in the Mirror book. The video Bible study is on priorities, likely the root cause of our need for balance. Then think about these questions:

  1. How do your dreams and hopes for your children reflect your priorities? Do they reveal weak spots or blind spots?
  2. Read Matthew 22:36-38 and think about the significance of this command on the way we prioritize our time and money.
  3. Read John 14:15, 21, 23 and think about the relationship between obedience and loving God. What is something that you have done for God even though it was unpleasant?
  4. Name an area in your relationship with God that you are not doing all you should. What are you willing to do to improve?
  5. Read John 15:12-14 and think about who you are willing to die for.
  6. Read Genesis 2:15 and think about ways your vocation might contribute to God’s agenda.
  7. What good work might God be calling you to do?
  8. Is rest a priority with you, or do you feel guilty when you are relaxing? What is the Jesus position on relaxing (Matthew 11:28-30)?
  9. Think about how the world competes with biblical priorities. Any examples in your life?

Remember this is not homework! But try to view the priorities video and think about some of these questions. I have a conference all day on Saturday but will be at the KGBC pavilion 7:30-8:30, and then will have to take off!

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Proverbs 27 for the Common Man

As you heard, the 12 of us came to the pavilion that day with various expectations and needs. The group may not be exactly what every man is seeking, but perhaps we will address concerns that affect us all.

The format for Men of Steel at this point is developing, but I am convinced that we should not start a Bible study series that will cause men to think they will get behind if they miss a Saturday. Perhaps we should explore a new topic each Saturday, announced ahead of time (like by e-mail) so we can gather with a similar idea of what to expect. Maybe even prepare to contribute to the discussion. We can then come to the devotional time with ideas about a Scripture. Remember, this is not a requirement like homework!

So, at the pavilion on Saturday October 11, how about really diving in to Proverbs 27? Consider this as you read the chapter this week:

  1. God is the One who controls the future – Proverbs 27:1
  2. Jealousy destroys human relationships – Proverbs 27:4
  3. God wants us to trust friends and correct one another – Proverbs 27:5-6
  4. We need a sense of “home” and a “people” who can give support and counsel – Proverbs 27:7-10
  5. The danger of listening to the wrong people – Proverbs 27:10
  6. The foolishness of conceit – Proverbs 27:5, 12, 16
  7. We need to learn from friends – Proverbs 27:17
  8. God knows us because He knows our hearts – Proverbs 27:19

Ask yourself:

  1. How does our relationship with God affect our relationships with family and friends? (Proverbs 27:2, 4-6, 8-11, 14-17)
  2. How does your relationship with God affect foolish people? (Proverbs 27:3, 12, 15-16, 20, 22)
  3. How does your relationship with God affect your business dealings or planning for the future? (Proverbs 27:18, 23-27)

From John Maxwell, regarding leadership and relationships:

  1. Don’t brag (Proverbs 27:1-2) – leaders understand how little they get from self-promotion.
  2. Don’t envy (Proverbs 27:4) – leaders sabotage themselves if their motive is to keep up with others.
  3. Be up-front (Proverbs 27:5-6) – leaders don’t fear confrontation, but speak the truth in love.
  4. Don’t forsake your roots (Proverbs 27:8) – leaders understand the power of heritage.
  5. Stay close (Proverbs 27:9-10) – leaders work at maintaining relationships and meeting needs.
  6. Add value (Proverbs 27:17) – leaders sharpen those with whom they come in contact.
  7. Don’t be moved by flattery or praise (Proverbs 27:21) – stay humble or you’ll stumble.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

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Everybody Has Six Basic Spiritual Needs

I recently read about George Gallup, who years ago delivered a speech at Princeton Theological Seminary where he shared six basic spiritual needs of all people. This is from the famous survey and research guy…

1. The need to believe that life is meaningful and has purpose – The success of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life may be evidence that people really are searching for meaning and purpose in life.

2. The need for a sense of a deeper community and deeper relationship – The church is not a building but a community of like-minded people, uniting in the common bond in Christ. Look at the development of sports clubs and civic leagues that often will compete with the church for members’ time and loyalties.

3. The need to be appreciated and respected – Jesus broke the mold with His stance on women and the outcasts of society. God is no respecter of persons and each person is created in the image of God and deserving of dignity and respect. There is no joy in life if we do not feel appreciated at home, work, school or in the church.

4. The need to be listened to and heard – In this communication age where blogging is so prevalent, this may be more true than ever. “Can you hear me now?” No one wants to be voiceless!

5. The need to feel that one is growing in faith – All living things grow. The lack of growth means the living thing is either not a living thing or it has died! If we are alive in Christ, made into a new creation, how can we not continue to grow in our faith? I’m not saying it’s easy, but the Christian life takes effort to develop our relationship with God. How many so-called Christians have settled for the status quo of a mediocre life?

6. The need for practical help in developing a mature faith – That is why the community of faith is so important in the Christian life. Without community, we are left to die cold and alone! It’s like a bonfire where a log has rolled away from the flames. The only way for that smoldering log to be re-ignited is to throw it back on the pile. The body of believers (called the church) is this fire of community that offers practical help from the Bible for developing one’s faith.

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Building Relationships Jesus’ Way

If Christianity is nothing else, it is about relationships; with God and with others. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s pretty direct yet ambiguous as to how to do it, but a great foundation.

Jay Dennis gives some good insight in his book, The Jesus Habits: Exercising the Spiritual Disciplines of Jesus:

1. Jesus took the initiative to build relationships – the woman at the well (in John 4) is a great example of taking the initiative.

2. Jesus didn’t allow prejudice to affect his building a relationship, (her being a lower-class Samaritan). This tells me that He was cross-cultural in His mission.

3. Jesus demonstrated that sharing a meal is one of the best relationship builders – like the invitation of Zaccheus (in Luke 19). Hospitality is such a great way to serve others in the name of Christ.

4. Jesus didn’t give up on building a relationship with someone – like the woman caught in adultery (in John 8). It’s as if He’s telling her that He will not give up on her.

5. Jesus confirmed that relationships are more important than structures and organizations – like when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath Day and took grief for it (in John 5).

6. Jesus even built relationships in the last moments before His death – like the thief on the cross next to Him (in Luke 23).

If authentic Christianity is going to spread throughout our city and the rest of the world, it will be done through relationships. I’m not against religious broadcasting, but adding people to the kingdom will not reach the world in time – multiplication is needed. We need to teach people how to become disciples of Jesus, yes, but it is more important to develop people into disciple-makers.

Disciple-makers are able to take the good news they received and invest it into the lives of others, who in turn will invest their lives into others. Paul set the example in his letter to his younger disciple, Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2). Let’s start small by finding a few people who have potential to become disciple-makers, and then invest time and effort into them!

How? I like this quote from Dale Carnegie, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” People are not notches on your belt! Your interest must be genuine.

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Life in the Slow Lane

I just saw ABC World News and another installment of their weeklong feature on time management called The Lifetime Crunch. They report that some businesses are embracing a slow-down at the office in order to boost employee productivity.

Thinking they are getting more done, many people trying to multitask tend to take twice as long or make twice as many errors! Google actually allows their employees to do whatever they want for 20 percent of their day! One employee says that it is a chance for your brain to breathe.

At home is no different. Another employee who is connected through e-mail, cell phone and Blackberry has decided to turn everything off one night a week! She says it is sort of like a re-engagement with the world and it renews her sense of how time passes… “that life just works better when you have time to think.”

So why write about this report? Think about how God has created this world and why he instituted his fourth commandment…six days you shall labor and on the seventh you shall rest. Certainly not a new phenomenon but today I see how it is thoughtfully incorporated into the modern day workplace, with amazing results! God does have a plan that works pretty good, if only we will allow it and seek ways to put it into practice.

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Who Decides Proper Christian Theology?

This YouTube video (the Church of Oprah Exposed) is tremendously disturbing. Is this video representative of what happens when the group or community gets together and decides proper theology? Rex Miller indicates we should trust our people to be on a hero’s journey searching for truth and significance in life (my interpretation of what I heard at a recent conference), but what happens when influential people like Oprah with her “experts” and credibility redefines who Jesus is? Is there no standard anymore within the Christian community?

I see this like Dan Brown and his Da Vinci Code confirming in the minds of skeptics that Jesus really is the charlatan they always thought he was; because “now we have proof – Dan Brown’s research claims its truthfulness right on page one.” When is the print media of the Bible a true standard in this generation? Or is proper theology lost and we just have to keep diversifying the church (liberal vs. conservative, infant baptism vs. believers’ baptism, health and wealth gospel vs. theology of the cross, cheap grace vs. costly discipleship, gay bishops vs. homosexuality is a sin, etc.). While denominationalism divides the church (often times for good reason regarding non-essentials or preferences) we still can agree on who Jesus is in our foundational beliefs.

In Beauty and the Beast, the village is storming the castle in order to kill the beast. The cartoon musical has a great line, “a hundred Frenchmen can’t be wrong, so kill the beast!” Just because a larger group gets together and says Jesus is NOT only one way to get to God, doesn’t make it proper or acceptable Christian theology.

I read this article this morning in Our Daily Bread:

In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman warns us of the danger of a world of information overload. He reminds us of a chilling futuristic vision—Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which describes a world thoroughly flooded with information. But that data is manipulated so that none of it has any significance.

A glance at the Internet or a magazine rack hints that we are living in just such a culture. We’re drowning in a sea of information often marketed by the unscrupulous. We need discernment to choose wisely whom we will listen to.

In John 6, Jesus delivered His “I am the bread of life” message (v.35). It was a sermon so controversial that, at its conclusion, many of His followers went away and stopped following Him (v.66). They chose to stop listening to the voice of Christ. When Jesus challenged His disciples as to whether they would also walk away, Peter wisely responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v.68).

In a world swamped with confusing and contradictory information, we can, like Peter, turn to Christ for wisdom. He cuts through the words of confusion with words of life.  — Bill Crowder

So, here we are in the information age, so much information we often find ourselves in information overload (24 hour news, thousands of magazine choices, more web pages than Google can count, non-stop commercials telling us what we need in order to live a satisfying life). I wonder if the church needs to be more in the business of helping people make sense of the world around them; we need interpretation more than additional information.

Read what my friend Chuck Warnock has written on the topic.

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