Christianity 201

October 11, 2019

Practical Ways to Hear God’s Direction

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Several months ago we introduced you to the website Soul Shepherding and the ministry of Bill & Kristi Gaultiere. Click the header below to read this at source, and check out Soul Shepherding for ministry training resources.

Six Uncommon Methods to Hear God’s Voice

We all want to discern what God may be saying to us. Here are some uncommon, but proven methods for hearing God.

To be sure, these methods for hearing God are not a mechanical sort of process in which we put our prayers into the vending machine and out comes the answer we want! But neither can we be passive.

These spiritual practices will help to foster your attunement to the Holy Spirit so you’re prepared to hear God wh


Benedict of Nursia (6th Century) developed Lectio Divina as a disciplined method for quietly and prayerfully re-reading a Scripture passage in order to receive God’s care and guidance. With each reading, a different focus question guides you to listen for a word/phrase, your emotions, and a personal invitation from the Spirit of Jesus.

With Soul Shepherding’s inspiring and handy “Lectio Divina Guides” you can pray Scripture to hear God’s voice.

       2. FASTING

Fasting from food (or something else) makes a space of time and energy for listening to God. It’s especially powerful when combined with feasting on God’s Word (Acts 13:2-4, 14:23).

Acts 13.2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.


Many people trust their thoughts, but not their emotions. Yet, both are centers of intelligence and essential for discernment. The Psalmist trusts the Lord to counsel him in his heart, which is the source of his deepest desires (Psalm 16:7).

Ps.16.7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.


God can speak in our dreams. In some cases, it’s a direct word, but more commonly it comes in a kaleidoscope of seemingly random emotional scenes that rise up from our unconscious mind. The meaning is probably more in the inward spiritual-emotional themes than the outward forms (Genesis 40:8; Daniel 1:17).

Gen.40.8b Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Dan.1.17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.


In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius teaches that to know God’s will on an “election” (a choice that is not a moral issue) it’s best to become indifferent to the options. We abandon the outcomes to the Lord because we can be happy in Christ in any situation. Then like a weather vane we wait for the wind of the Spirit to blow us where he pleases.

       6. TAKE A BREAK

Dallas Willard teaches a paradoxical method to hear God. If you’ve spent concentrated time listening for God and haven’t heard anything then stop trying—take a break and do a mindless activity like gardening, doing chores, or running errands. (I like to go for a jog.) Later a divine thought or feeling may pop into your mind! This is waiting on the word (Psalm 25:5; 130:5).

Ps.130.5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

Help for Hearing God’s Voice

To help you sense God’s presence and guidance in your life and ministry we have created three Bible meditation resources filled with easy to use and engaging one-page guides: “Ignatian Meditation Guides,” “Lectio Divina Guides,” and “Breath Prayer Guides.”

BONUS ARTICLE: I invite you to also consider another article by the same authors, Surprising Lessons on Leadership from Jesus.

August 18, 2018

The Word of God Reinforces God’s Word

You’re looking at today’s title and saying, “Which is which?” I’ll just leave it at that!

Today’s writer has been linked at Thinking Out Loud but is being featured here for the first time. John Rothra’s website contains many great articles and I encourage you to look around. For this one in particular, click the title below.

The Hidden Message of the Old Testament that’s Buried in Plain Sight

While reading Joshua 1:8 the other day, I remembered something interesting I discovered while in seminary. Placed right at the front of various Old Testament books was a message from God.

Of course, this isn’t some sort of hidden, secret Bible code.  It’s not numerology or some sort of word twisting.  Rather, it’s something that’s in the ordinary language and that relates to how the Jews organize the Old Testament.

To understand the beauty of it all, we first need to have a basic understanding of the organization of the Old Testament, or the Tanakh.

The Three-Part Organization of the Tanakh

The Jewish Bible is called the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament), and it is divided into three parts:

  • Torah (aka, The Law/Teachings, the Pentateuch) – begins with Genesis
  • Nevi’im (aka, the Prophets) – begins with Joshua
  • Ketuvim (aka, the Writings) – begins with Psalms

The Tanakh gets its name from the first letter of the three sections: TaNaKh.

The books found in each section are as follows:


Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy


Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2  Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi


Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon (Songs), Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles

Take note of the first book of each section because that’s vital!

The Not-So-Hidden Message of the Old Testament

As read Joshua 1, God reminded me of this three-part structure and how the beginning of each section reveals a message from God to us.  First, Genesis (the Law):

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3 (ESV)

Notice that God spoke here.  God said words.  Thus, at the very beginning we have God speaking something, making his words and his will known.  In this case his will was to create light (and later the rest of creation).

Now let’s turn Joshua (the Prophets):

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.

Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

At the beginning of Joshua we have directions to meditate on God’s word.  Again, God’s word is in focus here.  Why meditate on it?  Because God wants his word and will to be known.

Now let’s look at the final section by looking at Psalms (the Writings):

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)

Just as with Joshua, we have an edict to mediate on God’s word along with a promise to the one who does.  Again, God clearly wants his word and will to be known and followed.

So let’s put all this together.

The Old Testament is comprised of three parts.  Each section begins with God’s word.  I believe God is trying to say something here.

Furthermore, there’s a pattern to it:

  1. Genesis (Torah): God speaks, reveals his word
  2. Joshua (Nevi’im): God tells us to mediate on his word
  3. Psalms (Ketuvim): God again tells us to heed his word

So the message from God, essentially, is this:

Here is my word → listen to it → listen to it

Are we getting the point?

Oh, on a related note, the Gospel of John, which begins by quoting Genesis 1:1, also begins with the word of God, this time the Living Word: Jesus.  The final book of the Bible, Revelation (also written by John), closes with the Living Word.

So, are we seeing the message?

Bringing it Home

While the tripartite structure is a human creation, I believe God foresaw it and providentially guided the process so that this message would be included.  God wants to reveal his word.  God wants us to listen to his word.  God wants us to learn from and meditate on his word.  God will bless those who do.

But it’s not just the written word.  God wants us to know, follow, and obey the Living Word: Jesus!

As you look at your life, are you heeding God’s word, the written and living ones?  Are you reading, learning, and applying the Bible?  Are you seeking, drawing closer to, and following Jesus?

God’s message is simple:

This is my word. Listen to my word. Listen to my Word.

July 16, 2018

God Speaks in a Multitude of Ways

Once again we’re back with Sam Williamson, author of two books I’ve reviewed at my other blog, Is Sunday School Destroying our Kids? and Hearing God in Conversation. His website is Beliefs of the Heart. This is a book excerpt from the latter. Click the title below to read this at source.

Hearing God in the Abundance of His Methods

Most believers long for—desperately long for—God’s voice, but most of us experience silence. Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices” (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.

Well-meaning people often mislead us when they describe their conversations with God. Their exchanges with God sound like dialogues written by master playwrights:

I asked God: What should I do with my life?
God answered: Are you willing to take a risk?
I replied: Yes, but I don’t know what to do.
God said: Move to Timbuktu.

When people tell us these stories, we think, I never hear God so clearly. Let me tell you a secret: neither do they. At least not most of the time. Their stories are usually shorthand summaries of hours spent reading Scripture, reflecting on his words, praying, getting Godly nudges, and recognizing God’s voice in circumstances or through friends.

Because God speaks through his infinitely imaginative, artistic mix of methods.


Let’s not put God in a box. If we limit his voice to a few methods—the scripted dialogue or heavenly visions—we will miss his voice when he paints his words with different brushstrokes. Below are seven common methods in which God speaks.

Responsive Resonance: God’s Spirit often resonates in our spirits as a response to external events. Perhaps it’s a burning in our heart or a sense that God has something significant for us in this moment: a Scripture passage leaps out at us in prayer, or we overhear a “chance” comment in the coffee shop. God moves speaks to our hearts to pay attention.

For example, “While waiting in Athens, Paul’s spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was full of idols” (Act 17:16). Now, think with me: there were idols every city Paul visited, but God stirred something in him in that moment in Athens.

Spontaneous Nudging: Sometimes God nudges our heart out of the blue: to pray for a friend or to act on an issue. It comes more as a sense on the heart than as a direct word.

I once got a sense to pray for a friend, so I phoned him. He had been let go from his job just hours before. We prayed on the phone and he thanked me for my concern. Only I hadn’t been concerned—I hadn’t even known—it was a concerned God who spontaneously nudged me.

Direct words: Sometimes God speaks direct words—usually just a sentence or two, or perhaps just a phrase. The first time I heard God speak, I had just become a ten year-old atheist. He simply said, “Sam, I am really and you don’t understand.” For me, most direct words—if any—usually only come after I pursue God in prayer and reflection following a resonance or nudging.

Unbidden Memories: Sometimes God brings to mind a past event. I once remembered my twelve-year old self saying something harsh to a neighborhood kid. Weeks after remembering, I bumped into that kid, now a grown man. I reminded him of the story and repented. He too remembered and wept when I repented. (My eyes teared up as well. Just don’t tell anyone.)

Planted Images: God isn’t limited to nudges and words. Sometimes he even paints pictures.

Around 1915, my grandfather received a mental picture in which the letters KWANGSI were spelled in red letters across the sky. In the local library he discovered that the letters spelled a province of China (now spelled GuangXi). He spent the next two decades living in that very province, founding four churches. Should we tell God we won’t accept a vision?

Recalled Passages: God often brings unbidden passages to mind at just the right moment.

Once while talking with a man—and when I had zero wise words to say—a verse popped to mind: We comfort others with the comfort we’ve been given (a paraphrase of 2 Cor. 1:4). I told him of a comforting word God had recently given me. Nothing wise, just comfort. It answered an unspoken question of his. Since my Bible memorization is abysmal, it simply had to be God.

God Shaped Thoughts: Perhaps these are the hardest to recognize because our thoughts feel like our own. Yet how many times have you felt utterly empty, no words to pray, and then a brilliant (and obvious) thought streaks through your mind? C. S. Lewis expressed it like this:

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The listener’s role and through
My dumb lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

God speaks in many and various ways. Let’s not box him in.


P. S. This article is an excerpt from my book Hearing God in Conversation. Its topics include:

► Learning to recognize the sound of God’s voice
► Hearing God in his silence
► Hearing God for another person (and how to respond when someone gives us “a word”)
► Hearing God in the ordinary
► Hearing God for guidance

God is the good Father who wants to enter into a divine dialogue with each one of his kids.

July 6, 2018

On the Days You Can’t Perfectly Fulfill Every Command

While searching something else this week, we came across the writing of whose site is called Feeding on Jesus. As usual, click the title below to read this at source.

When Your Very Best Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

“For the word of God is living and active… (Heb. 4:12, ESV).

Several years ago, Holy Spirit gave me a charge. It was one of those moments when He took a verse from the Bible and made it mine. Out of Isaiah 8:12, He very clearly commanded me, “Do not dread.”

The only problem was, in that particular season of my life, it felt like there was a whole lot to dread. I did my best to live out the directive He had given me, but I was painfully aware of only being partially able to fulfill it.

In retrospect, I have learned something essential from that experience. I now see and understand that His command began immediately to do a deep work in my heart, once He gave it to me. The command itself was and is, power. He had injected power into me by the very act of commanding. As I persevered and held onto His word, it was at work in the core of me. Little by little, day by day, month by month, that rhema from His heart was transforming me into a person free of dread.

Now I have come to understand something critically important: He hadn’t expected me to be able to fulfill His command perfectly when He first delivered it to me. Rather, He was inviting me to begin to engage with it, and with Him… in an ongoing process that was going to make me increasingly fearless, by small and very gradual increments. (I wish I had understood that better at the time! It would have relieved me of a lot of unnecessary pressure.)

How about you? Is there a particular directive in Scriptures that you know Holy Spirit has highlighted for you personally… but you are just not quite there yet? Does it feel discouraging to read those words in the Bible, and feel like you are not adequately living up to them?

The Comforter wants to greatly encourage your heart today. He wants to reassure you that it’s actually His job to get you there. His word is living and active. Once He deposited it into your spirit, it immediately went to work. Even if you can’t yet see all the fruits of the process, be assured that it has begun, and amazing things are going on deep inside of you.

Continue to engage with that word that He gave you. Meditate on it, speak it over yourself as often as you can, chew on it, think about it, and pray about it. It’s working. It really is. With perseverance over time, you will see the mind-blowing finished product wrought by the hand of the Master Artisan! He who began the good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion!

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV).


Can we give ourselves grace to be in process? Are there areas of your life where God has made amazing progress in developing you? Does reflecting on them help provide perspective for whatever He is currently working on?


February 19, 2018

Questions We Ask of God; Questions God Asks of Us

NIV Matt 22.46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

DLNT Mark 4.10 And when He came-to-be alone, the ones around Him with the twelve were questioning Him as to the parables.

BBE Mark 8.11 And the Pharisees came out and put questions to him, requesting from him a sign from heaven, testing him.

NLT Luke 2.46  Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
Geneva 2 Tim 2.23 And put away foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they engender strife.
 TLB Titus 3:9 Don’t get involved in arguing over unanswerable questions and controversial theological ideas; keep out of arguments and quarrels about obedience to Jewish laws, for this kind of thing isn’t worthwhile; it only does harm.
– just a few of the search results for “Questions” at

We thought we’d kick off with a few examples of  the actual use of the word “questions” in scripture. Now, on to today’s devotional…

Pastor Kevin Rogers is, I believe, the most frequently cited devotional writer/blogger here at C201. Today he looks briefly at a subject worthy of our consideration. Click the headline below to read at source or leave comments.

Good Questions

Throughout the Bible, many examples of prayer, songs and meditations are filled with good questions for God. How long? When? Will you? Why? Who? At the heart of our questions for God is the ache for healing, redemption and a reason to hope. The questions we have for God tend to be very human and speak to our longing for a better world. Here’s a Psalm that gives voice to honest human questions.

Psalms 44:

23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?

25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.

There are also questions that God asks throughout Scripture. In prayer we want God to be able to ask us some clarifying questions. Consider these examples.

Genesis 3:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Matthew 16:

26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

In this session together, we want to focus on asking God difficult questions and also ask each other probing questions. Take notes.

Prayer Prompts

  1. Start by thanking God for ways that your questions have been answered. What are things that you used to wonder about and now have settled in your mind?
  1. In prayer, bring all the questions you have for God. What are the things that you are not sure of, having difficulty with and wondering why it is not clear? What is bothering you?
  1. Ask God what he wants to show us as a church. What are the unanswered questions and unfulfilled longings for the body of Christ in our church and in our city?
  1. Now, we shift focus and ask God to examine our hearts. God, are there things that you want to ask us? God, speak to us about what is on your mind about our lives.
  1. Pray for each other that God would give wisdom for unanswered questions. Pray that we would be willing and open to hear answers.

James 1:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

By the same author, Profound Questions. You may find in this short devotional some of the same type of questions you’ve been asking God.

March 10, 2016

Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something

Today we pay a return visit to John Myer at the blog Barenuckle Bible. This is the opening to a series he’s doing on the Book of Job, and we’ll include a link to another article at the bottom. Click the title below to read at source and if you’re arriving here a few days after this was posted, you should be able to navigate his blog to find more in the series. (We don’t normally poach graphics, but the picture below is an essential part of the story!)

Stop, Look, and Listen—Pain Does More Than Teach Survival Skills

No matter how sizzling any topic might be at the moment, nothing has more enduring relevance than personal pain.  We always want to talk about it.

Christian publishing says so.

A significant percentage of new books every year deal with how to process suffering.  The titles are original, but many seem to retread the same verses and sometimes the same logic. We don’t mind. Pain is the most terribly experiential fact of human existence.  Everyone wants to know how to survive it.  We never get tired of hunting for scraps of encouragement.  Personally, I need all I can get.

God has a book called Job.  It’s a perennial favorite, but doesn’t offer easy answers.  At least not the kind that fit in shoeboxes.   You have to spend meditative time in the narrative to strike oil anywhere in it.

Job 1:12 is downright chilling:  “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”  It doesn’t look good for Job.  In fact, the devil inflicted on that poor man the very things most of us spend our lives trying to avoid.

In one day, he experienced complete financial loss.  He endured a so-called “act of God” that killed all his children.  Later, the final blow came with the devastating loss of his health, which the Bible describes as “loathsome sores.” As an additional piece of garnish to his crowded plate, he found out what it was like to be kicked when you are down, a lesson which his wife and friends provided.

Under these circumstances the temptation becomes severe to begin thinking of God as an adversary (actually, the word “Satan” means “adversary”).  We want to get angry with Him.  What good is faith?  We toy with the idea of consigning it to the junk heap along with bent hula-hoops, broken blenders, and all the other things that don’t work.

Flawed interpretations of the event make matters worse.  Job saw himself a victim of purposeless divine brutality, singled out and beaten to a pulp for no good reason.  His wife believed him to be hopeless and urged him to get it all over with—“Curse God and die,” she said (2:9).  Job’s friends assumed he was being punished for some hidden evil.  Even the devil was operating under a wrong impression, assuming that God had allowed Job’s sufferings only as part of some sadistic chess match.

And then it’s over.  Satan disappears at the end of chapter 2, having thrown everything in his arsenal at Job.  His team loses, and so he quietly leaves the narrative humiliated and without concession speech.  Job still stands. But it’s not actually over.  Otherwise, the book would not have continued for another forty chapters.

God was not in this drama to win a wager with the devil, although that was what the devil signed up for.  God wasn’t looking for bragging rights.

He was in it for Job’s sake.

Yes, at this point everyone else is done with the poor man.  Even he himself concedes complete, irredeemable ruin.  Where they are all finished, however, God has just begun.

You see, pain works.  Its immediate result is focus and attention.  Job was effectively stopped in his tracks.  His daily multitude of concerns ground to a halt.  His interests stopped.  His dreams stopped.  Job’s world stopped turning.   All lesser priorities ceased.

Nothing seemed to exist anymore except him, his pain, and the silhouette of the One who loomed over it all.  And now all he can think of is seeking, searching, wondering what God is doing and why.  This good man is no longer focused on the smaller good things of life.  As if traveling around a corkscrew, He will begin an ever-deepening trip into the big questions.  And at the bottom of the pit, he will unexpectedly find something he had always known about and taught, but never personally visited.

While watching this happen, we begin to hesitantly conclude that maybe pain is not something we simply survive.  It’s functional.

In 2004, Hurricane Charley swept through Florida.  At the time, it was the second most destructive Hurricane on record.  Among the things trashed in the wake of its 100 mile-per-hour-plus winds, were numerous signs and billboards.

But one billboard survived.  The wind had peeled back its surface layer advertisement, revealing an earlier message underneath.

“When the sun rose the next morning on Sand Lake Road in Orlando the words on the billboard clearly read:

‘We need to talk.



Pain is a billboard.

God will stop at nothing to get our attention.

There is probably no thought in the world more unsettling and yet more encouraging.

1 Quote from Jared Smith, Lake Forest, Il.
Main photo credit: Aracell Arroyo
Link to Part two of series on Job

January 7, 2015

Special Moments With God

For our weekly installment from Clarke Dixon, we mined an earlier article that he wrote in a series on the church. I hope that each of you has something in your experience that will relate to the story he describes. To read at source, click the title below; to see other posts in the series, select the archives for January, 2013.

Special Moments With God - Seeking God's GloryWhy Church? Seeking God’s Glory . . .

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18 NIV)

I find that my most embarrassing moments at church tend to also be the most poignant. My most embarrassing church moment thankfully came on a Sunday off, sitting in the back pew of a church rather than standing at the front for all to see. This church was a Pentecostal church, but it did not seem to be a very lively Pentecostal church, indeed the people present could have passed for Presbyterians in their expressiveness, but I was definitely being a typical Baptist, being in the back pew and all. The embarrassment came during the song “How Great is Our God.” A simple enough song, and simply done but for some reason on that morning I was really struck. The tears flowed from somewhere very deep and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I wanted to alright, especially as I seemed to be the only one expressing any emotion at the time, but there was no tap for the waterworks. I had an overwhelming sense of the greatness of God and smallness of myself. I tell you this, not so that you will think that I am super-spiritual (because I’m not), or that I am “losing it” (because I haven’t, yet!), but to remind you that God does make Himself known, and that knowing Him can be a deeply emotional experience.

How often do we pray that simple prayer of Moses, “Now, show me your glory”? We may pray often, with our petitions, intercessions, and pleas for God’s guidance and the strength to follow, but how often do we find ourselves praying with Moses, “now show me your glory”? James MacDonald in his book, Vertical Church points out that this prayer of Moses is answered by God through a deep experience of His presence which you can read about in Exodus 33. To experience God’s glory is to experience God’s presence. Isaiah gives us another great prayer that we don’t pray often enough:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! (Isaiah 64:1, 2 NIV)

Perhaps we don’t pray this kind of prayer often because we have in our minds the very true idea that God is omnipresent. But we can point to times and places where God’s presence has been more evident, more palpable, more of an experience held in the heart than a truth held in the mind. James MacDonald in the aforementioned book would say that we confuse the omnipresence of God with the manifest presence of God.

Have you ever experienced that real heart filling, perspective changing presence of God? If you have trusted in Jesus you will. You may experience it someday when you least expect it. You will experience it on that day when we are ushered into God’s presence in glory, in the hereafter. And when we experience that presence and glory of God we will worship, not out of obligation, nor with an eye on the clock, but with joyful and humble hearts that desire to bring Him glory.

Why do we bother with church? Because this is the people with whom we seek God’s glory, to see it, and to bring it, then to live it. Do the prayers of Moses to see God’s glory, or of Isaiah to experience God’s presence sound like your prayers? To gather together Sunday by Sunday is to make being in His presence, our lives bringing Him honor, the prayer of our hearts.

June 28, 2013

How an Eleven Day Trip Took 40 Years

I once heard a Bible teacher state that Deuteronomy 1:2 — a verse describing Israel’s wilderness wanderings — is “the most tragic verse in the Bible.”

In many of our translations the verse appears in parenthesis, almost as an afterthought or a footnote in an era before footnotes:

(It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes:

For Israel, the journey to Canaan by this route proved to be of forty years duration. (p. 157)

The International Bible Commentary says the verse’s inclusion

…may be a contrast between the eleven days required and the forty years taken. (p. 260)

A year ago Bill Berry wrote on this passage in the context of how Deuteronomy is a restatement of things already covered in previous books, but how verse two is a microcosm of how God sometimes has to restate things covered in our lives so that we will get it…

Okay, now we’re taken by our chronological Bible read into the “book of redundancy,” as I call it. … Deuteronomy, … which, when I’ve read it in the past, always seemed to be quite a bit repetitive from a lot of what was already covered in Leviticus and Numbers. Actually, I know that the word “Deuteronomy” comes from the Greek “deutero” [second] and “nomos” [law]; so, … the title for this book means a “restatement of the law;” and that’s exactly what Moses is writing here, an historical recounting and restatement of “The Law” for the posterity of the people, as well as a chronicling of their trek through the wilderness in God’s purification process of these very fallible and forgetful children.

And it is this latter reason for Moses writing Deuteronomy which has captured my application attention… God repeating, via Moses, all of this information about why He turned an 11 day trek into one which lasted 40 years was worthy material for His people (which includes me). They needed to get it – AGAIN; and so do I. Therefore, it’s worthy enough for me to pay close attention to this Book as I read through it one more time, trying to glean what God has for me by reading what He had Moses write for the Israelites.

I’m certainly no different than God’s stiff-necked and recalcitrant Old Covenant Jews. I can so easily go into pity-party mentality and grumble about my circumstances. I too often tend to see things my way rather than seek out – or just simply trust – life as God’s way. I wander though life with a self-inflated attitude when my Savior keeps saying over and over to me, in a personally redundant paraphrase of Luke 9: 23, [God’s Spirit speaking to me Christ’s thoughts] … “Bill, if you want to follow after Me as My disciples, you just have to deny yourself, trust me in all of our travels through life, and simply follow Me.”

But like the Israelites, wandering through the desert on the way to God’s promised-land, do I get it? No, … even though God redundantly keeps trying to show me this truth and message of obedience in so many different ways, I’m coming to believe that God needs to be very redundant in repeating His message of truth through His word over and over and over so that people like me can wander in the wilderness of life and die to our sin nature, giving us life and direction, through God’s grace and truth, taught so repetitively in His word.

So, as I read through Deuteronomy … AGAIN, … I’m going to expect that God is going to give me truth after truth after truth for my living just as He was doing through Moses in this Book of repetition for His children, the Israelites. Hopefully, I’ll see those truths and die to self, allowing me to live … in and through God’s truth revealed by His Spirit through His word.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, say it again so that I’ll hear it this time! Amen.

February 12, 2013

Then the Word of the Lord Hit Me

Although this is a longer item today, I wanted to include the introduction which really resonated and helped me to understand where the author, Tim Whitehead is coming from. This is from the blog, Just My Thoughts and appeared under a title that better reflects what he is really writing about here, The Power of the Potter. This is a blog that I hope you will want to bookmark.

“Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel” Jeremiah 18:5, 6

A reoccurring phrase which is common among the Old Testament prophets is, “…the word of the Lord came to me…” I liken this phrase to hearing people say something like, “And suddenly it hit me” or “I was doing such-and-such and it dawned on me. It came to me that…” Each of these contains with them the element of the unexpected, that it was something which happened suddenly while busily doing something else. Imagine Jeremiah going about his daily routine, handling his chores, taking care of some things, when suddenly the Lord speaks to him. Amid him just being an ordinary guy, going about his typical day, doing all the typical things that regular folks do, the Lord abruptly interrupt Jeremiah’s day and his thoughts, and He talks to him.

The reason that I point this out is because I want to dispel the notion that in order to hear from God we must place ourselves on extended fasts, spend hours in prayer, read numerous chapters and whole books of the bible daily, all the while living a solitary life as hermit. I’m not saying that living a disciplined life is wrong, or that there is anything wrong with setting aside personal time with the Lord daily. These are right and good. But never believe that these are the only times, and only in these situations can the Lord can speak to you. It is possible to be a regular person, like Jeremiah and others in the scriptures, live a routine, life and still be able to hear from God clearly.

You see, its one thing to spend time with God each day, but quite another to walk with God throughout your day. Those who walk with the Lord do not subject Him and whatever it is that He desires to do and say to their daily devotional times. The do not restrict Him to a specific time and place. They go throughout their day daily keeping their hearts sensitive to Him. They are available to Him for His use at any moment. They listen for Him. The ones who walk with God are flexible. They are continually cognizant that their plans can be divinely changed, and they are fine with it.

 A lot of people desire to hear from the Lord, and even to be used by Him, but they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Yes, they want the Lord to speak them, and yes they want to be used by Him, just as long as it does not interrupt their lives; their plans and activities.  I realize by experience that some of the best, and the most wonderful times of ministry are those unscheduled opportunities to minister that happen through the course of your day as you are doing nothing spiritually related at all. They can happen in the supermarket, on your job, at a restaurant, etc. You didn’t plan them and had no foreknowledge or warning that it would happen. They were strategically, divinely set up.

It’s the same way with the Lord speaking to you. He has a way of speaking to you, of dealing with your heart, at times when you are least expecting it. These are usually times when you aren’t even trying to hear from Him. On the other hand, in those times when you desperately need and want to hear from Him that He is silent. 

       – o – o – o –

The Lord says to the Israelites through Jeremiah, “…Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” In my mind I hear God saying it like this, “Israel, don’t you realize that I can do to you the same thing this potter did to the clay? Don’t you know that I can do that?” I imagine He said it with authority.  So what did the potter do to the clay which God says that He could do to Israel? We can find the answer to this by going back to verses 3 and 4. Jeremiah says, “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” (verses 3, 4)  

The potter decided that he was going to make a certain vessel. As he was going about working on the vessel he discovered a flaw. The potter begins again. This time he isn’t going to make the same thing that he originally had in mind. He changes his mind and decides that he going to make something new. The Lord says to Israel, “I can deal with you the same way. I can do the exact same thing to you.” And He did.  

Israel enjoyed a special relationship with the Lord. They knew that they were His first choice above all other nations. They were fully aware that they were God’s elect, His chosen people. As such, they enjoyed certain privileges and experienced blessings which other nations did not. The people of Israel made a mistake thinking that because of whom they were, and their standing with God, He could not and would never cast them off. How sorely they were mistaken.

Using the potter and the clay as an illustration, God sent a clear and simple message to the people of Israel: “Israel, I am God and you are not. As quickly as I chose you to work with, just as sure as I had an original will and plan for you. I can just as easily, and just quickly change my mind.”  When those who are God’s first choice are unfaithful then the Lord raises up others in their place.    

Once and again I have warned believers over the years to be very careful that they never make the mistake thinking that they are all God have. Never think that just because God has chosen you, you are now secure in your place and position, and you cannot be replaced. Not one of us is so secure that because of who we are and because of our position we are not easily replaceable. We’re all expendable. Throughout the scriptures we have examples of those who were God’s first choice, but they were unfaithful to Him and to His commands, they disobeyed and they were quickly replaced by others.

Usually the ones who the Lord chose to replace His first choice were most times  the ones that in the eyes of others were the least likely to be selected for the position and job.

These days I see a lot of folks in the ministry who are indeed called by God and they are truly gifted, but the anointing of God has been removed from their lives and ministries a long time ago. These aren’t people who were never called to begin with. They were called, but somehow or other they got distracted from the Lord and from the assignment that He gave to them, some got into sin and disobedience, etc. As a result, all they are left with are gifts and a call, with no anointing. They still have the title, but they lost the anointing. They still receive the acclaim and accolades of the people, but they lost the anointing. They’re prosperous and powerful, but have lost the true riches and power, the anointing. In the eyes of men they are successful, but in God’s eyes they’ve failed without the anointing.

It is thoroughly possible to maintain gifts and callings, to even continue to function, though the anointing is no longer there. What’s frightening is you can even be successful at it. Never assume that just because a minister or ministry is successful it is anointed.

The Lord further says to Israel, “…Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” In other words, “In the same way that the potter can do whatever he desires with the clay that is in his hands, so to, I, the Lord, can do the same to you Israel. I can do to you, and with you, whatever I desire. I chose you but I can change my mind if you give me a reason to.” 

Even though the Lord has called us and He has chosen us; we’ve received, and still continue to receive, His blessings; we are privileged to be used by Him at times; we get to enjoy a special relationship with Him and to fellowship with Him, but, these must never cause us to get so comfortable with the Lord, and so secure in our position, that we forget that He is God. He is in control. He is the boss is. From time to time when it looks like we’re forgetting He will give us a sobering reminder.   

This passage has nothing to do with the Lord, as the Master Potter, taking the flawed and the broken pieces of our lives and remaking it into something beautiful. Certainly He can and He does do this. But this passage is not about that and has nothing to with it. It has everything to do with the power of the potter; that the potter has over the clay to do with it as he desires, and that circumstances can cause the potter’s original plan, will and purpose to change, thus requiring him to do something differently.

May 6, 2012

As The Wind… — Hearing God in Creation

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Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
    the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.

~Psalm 19: 1, Common English Bible

First, a quotation from Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition by Jay Edwards1:

With respect to the environment, the theological principles are easily stated and uncontroversial. The biblical picture is that human beings, as image bearers of God, are placed as stewards over the created order. We bear a responsibility for how we treat and use it. We are part of the creation, as well as its crowning achievement. God intends for us to use and transform the natural world around us for good purposes.

I wrote about finding worship moments a few years ago2:

…that time when you are just overcome by the beauty of creation and you have to stop and thank God for what He has made, and worship Him for being able to make it.

But not all worship moments involve emotional intensity, there are some that equal the fervor of a Sunday morning worship time in a Charismatic church, but there are others where you don’t respond the same, but in your heart, there is no doubt about giving credit to Whom credit is due…

…Each one of us has different things in creation which remind us of the greatness of God. The heavens do indeed tell the splendor of God’s glory (the macro) and the earth provides the details of His creative engineering (the micro). Day after day, nature repeats this message to us like a flashing beacon; night after night nature provides the information. What matters is that we need to formulate some response to all that we see.

Today, my wife Ruth invites us to let creation guide our prayers:

Based on a poem by Christina Rossetti, this short meditation invites you to hear God’s voice through his creation. Turn up your speakers and pray along, opening your heart for what the Lord has for you.

1 as cited by Kevin DeYoung, April 22, 2010
2 Finding Your Worship Moments at Christianity 201, April 28, 2010

February 5, 2012

Just in Time for Valentine’s: Biblical Ways a Man Gets a Wife

Terrace Crawford‘s posted this the day prior to Valentine’s Day three years ago.  We have a lot of deeper topics here so I thought we’d start out with something light.  If you don’t recognize some of the the situations listed below, you can always look up the story.

  • Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
  • Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
  • Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. (Moses – Exodus 2:16-21)
  • Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Boaz-Ruth 4:5-10)
  • Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife. (Jacob–Genesis 29:15-30)
  • Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. (David–1 Samuel 18:27)
  • Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and definitely find someone. (It’s all relative, of course.) (Cain–Genesis4:16-17)
  • Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Xerxes or Ahasuerus–Esther 2:3-4)
  • When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a … woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision,simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Samson–Judges 14:1-3)
  • Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare to lose four sons, though).(David–2 Samuel 11)
  • Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea;it’s the law.) (Onana and Boaz–Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)
  • Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. (Solomon–1 Kings11:1-3)
  • A wife?…NOT? (Paul–1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

As strange as many of these stories are, there are people who view the unique ways that God works in various in situations as prescriptive for everyone.  That’s not how it works.  God’s calling and outworking of His plan is special for each one of us, and because of God’s infinite infiniteness, he is able to nudge you in ways that will form your singular life journey. 

This applies to us both individually and corporately as the local church.

Sometimes churches try to create formulas following a particular Bible example or copying what God did in another congregation.  But the Bible knows no such carbon copy approach.  In the gospels, Jesus Himself heals two blind men in very different ways, and in His overall dealings with people, He deals with some gently and some harshly.

Hearing God’s voice for your life is going to involve listening to His Word and listening to His Spirit, not looking at what everybody else is doing. 

As the stores in the mall are filled with pink hearts, whether you are single or married or separated or widowed, let the decorations remind you of God’s love for you, and the unique things he wants to do in your life.

~Paul Wilkinson