Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How did they ever hear God's voice without a how-to manual?



There are so many pamphlets, teachings, sermons, and books out there today "educating" the Christian on "How to Hear God's Voice." None of these teachers seem to realize that God doesn't need our help hearing His voice. None of these teachers seem to realize that much of what they write conflicts with each other. The different "ways", "tips", "methods" are piling up. Soon we will have a hundred ways to hear God's voice. Sadly, all of them will be wrong.

Worst of all, many of these teachers claim that if you do NOT hear God's voice, either it is because your faith is weak, or you can never enjoy intimacy with God if this "critical" element is missing. They make absolute statements that have no basis in reality, but harm the hapless who believe them. It's heartbreaking, what these false teachers teach. Here are a few examples:

Andrew Wommack writes:
One of the greatest benefits of our salvation has to be that of hearing God speak to us personally. There can be no intimate relationship with our heavenly Father without it. But, as easy as it is for us to speak to Him, the average Christian has a hard time hearing His voice. This is not the way the Lord intended it to be. 
Dallas Willard wrote
God is constantly speaking to people. But too often, they miss out on hearing God’s messages because they seek His guidance only occasionally – usually when they’re going through a crisis or facing a major decision. Then, with a dire need to hear from God, people become confused and frustrated when they don't clearly hear what they should do. Here are 10 ways how you can hear from God and recognize his voice regularly:
Adam Wittenberg from IHOP Kansas City writes:
Maybe you’re someone who wants to hear God’s voice, but you don't know how. Perhaps you’ve even tried, and feel like He didn't answer you. Maybe you want to listen but can’t focus long enough to hear. Or maybe you're frustrated, because it seems like God is talking to everyone else but you. If you think God doesn’t want to speak to you, be encouraged: Jesus says in John 10:27 that "My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me."
That John 10:27 verse the 'how to hear God' teachers use often as a (false) basis that God is speaking audibly today- my sheep hear my voice. Well, are you a sheep? If so then I guess Jesus is actually a vine, or He is actually living water.

Lynette Hagin at Kenneth Hagin Ministries wrote:
In these last days it's more important than ever for us to fine-tune our spiritual ears to hear the Lord's voice. God is constantly speaking to us. He's trying to warn us of things to come. So many times we simply shrug it off. We think, "That's just me." But it's not. It's the Holy Spirit's voice. To be able to hear God's voice, we must set aside time to wait in His presence and allow Him to talk to us. It's when we are quiet before the Lord that we can hear from Him most clearly. 
He is trying to warn us? Trying?! Is there anything God cannot do? (Genesis 18:14).

Joyce Meyer has this to say about how to hear from God, delicately disdaining to her readers with this article about hearing from God, It's Not that Complicated:
Even though I sincerely loved Jesus, I went to church for years without knowing that God talks to people. I observed all the religious rules and holidays...I went to church every Sunday. I was really doing all that I knew to do at that time. But it wasn't enough to satisfy my longing for God. I could've spent every moment in church or in Bible study, but it wouldn't have quenched the thirst I had for a deeper fellowship with the Lord. I needed to talk to Him about my past and hear Him talk to me about my future. But nobody taught me that God wants to talk directly to me. No one offered a solution for the dissatisfied feelings I endured. 
Meyer says this in other places:

--Recently God told me that ... Meyer
--Hearing God's voice throughout the day has become a natural way of life for me ...Meyer

I suppose once you start to be known for being a special recipient of God's words, you have to maintain the pretense.

You'll notice that Meyer's is a familiar theme with the false teachers educating people on how to hear from God: unfulfilled longing. Church isn't enough. The Word isn't enough. Prayer isn't enough. Redemption isn't enough. Sarah Young who wrote Jesus Calling, a book all about her conversations with God, who allegedly spoke audibly to her and she recorded 'His' words, said she had a yearning for "more." If Jesus isn't your all in all, if you aren't thrilled with the Word, if you aren't sated by church worship and fellowship with the saints, then a disembodied voice from the ether isn't going to fulfill you. The adulation you receive from ignorant followers might fulfill you for a while. The royalties from the books you write about hearing from God might fulfill you for a while. The applause on interview shows might fulfill you for a while, but it is all vapor. Only Jesus can fulfill you, and He is not speaking now.

He spoke. In His word.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

I was pondering that verse the other day and thinking about all the ways God had spoken in previous times. Through a burning bush. Through a donkey. Through an angel. Through His prophets. Through a fleece. Through dreams ('Joseph, flee to Egypt').

Then I began thinking about ALL the many folks in times past who heard God speak without the help of Andrew Wommack or Joyce Meyer or Lynette Hagin. God had no trouble speaking clearly to those whom He desired, without the aid of lessons and books and how-tos.

Then I began thinking of a silly scenario using the false teachers' own words. Like this in Joel 1:1-2, as Joel was going around doing his daily tasks, he hears,

The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: 2Hear this, you elders;

And Joel says to himself, "Shoot! I can't hear God clearly! I KNEW I should have bought that Joyce Meyer pamphlet at the market when I saw it! Now I'll never have intimacy with God!"

Or this from Haggai 1:1,

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,

"Stop! I haven't even built my prayer closet yet! I haven't done what Lynette Hagin said, to set aside time to wait in Your presence and allow You to talk to me!"

Or this from Jeremiah 1:4,

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,


Wait! this doesn't coincide with Dallas Willard's point #3, that I should "make your main goal to become a spiritually mature person in a close relationship with God. That's the only way I'll clearly and correctly hear what God has to say to me." Since I haven't made my goal yet and since I am not a spiritually mature person, and since according to Mr Willard, that is the ONLY way I'll correctly and clearly hear what God is saying to me, then it must not be God. Phew, I'll just go to the store and get another Willard book just to be sure I am on the right track.

Isn't it silly to think that multitudes of people heard God clearly before all these false teachers started writing manuals for hearing from God? Doesn't it diminish God's glory to intimate, or even say out flatly as so many of these teachers have, that God can't get to you unless you do certain things? He hung the moon by His word. He also made the stars, knows them and named all of them. He upholds the universe by the power of His will. He ordains every single event on earth every second of every day for 8 billion people. But He can't make Himself heard unless you do what Andrew Wommack says?

I hope I've shown through this reverse method how silly it is that the God of the Universe needs any help from any of these teachers explaining methods for "How to Hear God." He's God. He never needed any help making Himself heard before and He never will.

Stick with the word, it's glorious and clear. It is currently the method we are told that He uses to make Himself known. It should hopefully excite you and fulfill you. If that isn't enough and you seek tips and how-tos for "more", sadly, you'll get less.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further Reading

The Myth of God's Silence

Monday, July 24, 2017

The First Exile & Faithful Remnant

We often read about the Remnant in scripture. As GotQuestions explains in the opening to their question about remnant,

Question: "What does the Bible mean when it refers to a remnant?"
Answer: A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece, whether it is food, material from which a garment is fashioned, or even a group of people. Although remnants could be looked upon as worthless scraps, and many times are, God assigned high value to those of His people whom He had set aside for holy purposes, those He labels as "remnants" in several places in the Bible.
We also read about Exiles. Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. Cain was exiled from God's presence. We know the Israelites were often exiled from the land as they were punished for their spiritual adultery against God by worshiping other gods. The People were exiled to Egypt, carried to Babylon and lived as strangers in a strange land. Exile will be the final and unalterable state of anyone who has not repented to Jesus, living bodily in an eternity in hell away from God's grace and instead a life of exile in torment.

Exiled means to rejected and be apart from, denied entrance to. The same with remnant, a tattered thing that oftentimes, no one wants. A small quantity of something left over.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:12-14).

In the Old Testament, God's main threat for sin was a judgment of exile away from the presence of God. Remember, God's glory inhabited the Temple, the one place where heaven met earth at the Ark of the Covenant. The notion of exile develops further in the New Testament and becomes clearer that judgment is to be eternally exiled from God's presence...eternal abandonment by God.

As my pastor preached on Sunday,
Because God loves us, as sinful people, He did not want us to experience eternal judgment of the exile that we all deserve. So He sent Jesus. Jesus is the faithful remnant of One. The only truly faithful Israelite in history, who actually kept the Law of Moses. Jesus actually became, when He was crucified outside the city at Golgotha, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city on the hill, in His one person representing His people. He was abandoned, in exile, alone, crucified apart from the city outside. Abandoned by the people, the religious people, His disciples, His friends, and even by His Father.

The Bible is about Jesus.
His story
His work
His Person
His glory
His desire to gather a people to Himself
His kingdom
His priesthood
His judgment

Sometimes it's good to cut through the Christian brouhaha, the nasty arguments, the forced intellectualizing of the faith, the confusing evangelism techniques, the added layers,...and remember the simple. It is about Jesus. Everything and all of history points to one person, Jesus Christ, God's son, God Himself.

If you are reading this as a non-believer, a seeker, a doubter, then pray in repentance to Jesus who is in heaven but is soon to come. He will forgive your sins. If not, then unfortunately when you die you will discover that death is only a gateway to another life, one that you will live as an exile, not even enjoying His common grace as you enjoy now, the beauty of the world, the food you eat, the refreshing rain, the sunlight. There will be no hope.

If you're reading this as a believer take time today to thank Him for writing your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, setting you apart for His kingdom before the foundation of the world. Believers, take time today to cut through what you're doing either secular work or spiritual and thank Him for the hope we have within us, that we are a remnant on earth but not a remnant, that we are aliens in a strange land but not exiled, but are and will be firmly and eternally ensconced into a loving family of every tribe, nation, and tongue. And why? Because of Jesus, it is only and ever about Him.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Joy in Lord's Day worship

Valley of Vision: Lord's Day Evening


MOST HOLY GOD,
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise
    will never cease,
  that adoration will continue for ever,
  that no flesh will grow weary,
      no congregations disperse,
      no affections flag,
      no thoughts wander,
      no will droop,
  but all will be adoring love.


We have our worship together today, and as the Lord's Day hours progress and come to their end this evening, I pray I will reflect on the joy to come of eternal worship among the assembly, in heaven, forever.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Being busy is not the problem

I understand how life can get busy as different obligations creep in. I know there are seasons of busy-ness and that's OK. But here is something to think about.

People who say they are busy say sometimes that if they were less busy, they would have time to read the Bible. If they just weren't so busy, they'd have time for serving. If they didn't have such a crowded day, they'd have time for ministry. Being busy is sometimes the reason they do not meet with God or serve the kingdom.

I'll look at the issue in two ways, first, here is John MacArthur talking about giving. He isn't talking about being busy, but the concept is the same. If you had more money, you'd give more. If you had more time, you're do more. Here is JMac:
Some people say, "Well, if I just had more I’d give more." No, I’ve heard that. You always hear them say, "If I had $1 million I’d give it over here and I’d give…if I could just win the lottery. Oh man, if I could just win the lottery." The question is not what would you do with $1 million. The question is what are you doing with this $4.00 you've got in your pocket. What are you doing with the $10.00?  What are you doing with the $20.00 or the $60.00? That's the issue, because Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. When good things increase, those who consume them increase."  
Another way to say that is, the only advantage to money is to watch it slip through your fingers. The more you get, the more that goes. So it isn't a question of if you had more you'd give more. No, that's not the issue. Jesus said it this way, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." Sermon, The Biblical View of Money
It isn't a question of if you had more you'd give more. I can attest to that. Confession time: sometimes I'm not busy at all and that's when I do the least for Jesus.

I work in education, which means I have extended time off during the summer break. This year our break is about 8 1/2 weeks. I work hard during the school year. Most school years I also work a second job in the After School Program, as I will be doing this year again. When I arrive home between 5:30-6:00pm, I begin my second shift of reading the Bible, writing, praying etc. Thursday nights are devoted to Bible Discussion Group, and of course, Sundays are for worship service with either Bible group or fellowship time afterward. Add the occasional social time with friends, school meetings, and must-do tasks (car oil change, doctor appointment,) and you have a pretty full schedule. I'm not crazy busy, but the school year has structured time that mostly fills my day from bedtime-to-bedtime.

All I can think about during the school year is how happy I will be during Summer when I have all this time to myself. "I'll read the Bible more...write more...research different topics...read theological books..." And I do. At the beginning. I get up early, do my spiritual tasks, spend the rest of the day productively for the Kingdom.

As summertime slides on, though, so does my schedule. I get up later, watch more movies, snuggle with the cats longer, take more naps. I spend less time doing things for the kingdom and more time just being comfortable for myself. There have been a few days when I sit here, the Bible within reach, and never have opened it once during the day once. If I had more time I'd do more? Not hardly. Sloth and laziness are built into us I think, and I soon fall victim to it. I have to work diligently during summer to ensure that I maintain my prayers, do my Bible readings, and complete my spiritual kingdom work when what I really want to do is watch Youtube videos of Kids Escaping Cribs or Funny Cats all day.

So I can attest that having more time does not mean that I'd do more. In fact, for me it's the opposite. When school starts in ten days I'll be grateful for the structure again. My work schedule really helps me keep track of my spiritual self.

Don't delude yourself into thinking it is because you're so crazy busy you have no time to read your Bible, pray, or serve. As John MacArthur said on the subject of giving, it's not about not having millions of dollars, it is about what are you doing with $4 in your pocket. Whether you have 24 hours to yourself or 20 minutes to spare, what are you doing with the time? If the issue regarding money isn't "Oh man, if I could just win the lottery", it's the same about time. It isn't about "Oh man, if I could just have all day to myself."

Here are a few resources on balancing work-busy with (summer)-lazy.

What does the Bible say about being too busy?
In our supersonic postmodern society, known for its busyness and its increasing ability to deliver instantaneously, we find ourselves hurried more than our ancestors ever could have imagined. We have come a long way from the horse-and-buggy days, and because of that, our twenty-four hours a day seem more and more restrictive. We never feel like we have enough time to accomplish everything we want or need to do, and the clock keeps ticking
Parents, don’t waste your lazy summer days
But is it really such a bad thing to have wide open spaces in our planners? Might this be the very thing we need in order to refocus our priorities and make the most of the short season of time we’re given with our children?
Tim Challies' book and course with a practical guide to productivity-

Do More Better
I wrote this short, fast-paced, practical guide to productivity to share what I have learned about getting things done in today’s digital world. It will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good to the glory of God.
Challies' book is also a course with the same title at Ligonier Connect.







Thursday, July 20, 2017

What is a cornerstone?

The beauty of the examples and analogies Jesus uses is that any person can intuitively understand them, even if they are not familiar with them. Even if we're not farmers, we understand 'we are the sheep and He is the Shepherd.' Even if we're not gardeners, we understand when He says He is the vine and we are the branches.' Even though we might not be a builder, we understand when it's written that He is the chief cornerstone.

But it brings more depth and understanding to bear when we delve more deeply into some of these analogies. So let's look at Cornerstone.

Photo Source

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).

therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation" (Isaiah 28:16).

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:10–11).

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–20).

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious," (1 Peter 2:4–6).

A cornerstone in the House of Giove and Ganymede

Did you know that the concept of cornerstone was mentioned these several  times in scripture? We can understand that cornerstone is important to a building. But how important? What does a cornerstone do? What is its function? What would happen if the cornerstone was removed?
A stone that can be in the foundation, above ground level or at the summit of the roof (the "capstone"). The cornerstone of a large building gives it a reliable and firm foundation, leading to the cohesion and stability of the whole building. In Scripture, such foundation-stones are taken as symbolic of the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and the church. Jesus Christ is thus represented as both the foundation upon which the church is built, and the capstone which crowns the whole. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes
Also-
The most significant stone in important buildings is the cornerstone. Usually it is the first stone laid at a formal ceremony. Often it is engraved with the date of the building and perhaps some other ascription, honoring a person or an event. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jesus is called the g┼Źnia or "cornerstone" of the church. In fact, Jesus used this title for Himself. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words
I thought this architectural description from Wikipedia was the clearest:
The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Is Jesus your cornerstone? Does He determine the position of your entire life?


---------------------------

Further Reading

Making Christ Attractive in a Pagan World
JMac July 2 2017 sermon segment on the cornerstone

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Approachability of Jesus (Reprise)

This was first published on The End Time in January 2016.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are so many attributes of Jesus Christ than we can praise and ponder. One of them is His kingliness.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16). God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), therefore He is above all authorities anywhere that can possibly be imagined. He is High and exalted on His throne and He is KING.

On earth few of us have actually been in the presence of a King or Queen. There are relatively few royals on earth, compared to number of the population of the plebeians like us.

If one is favored enough to visit a royal, there is strict protocol. ABC News reminds us, regarding a visit with Queen Elizabeth II-
There is a long list of protocols that guides one's behavior in the presence of Her Majesty and even though the president and the first lady are not required to abide by all of them, there are certain formalities they do have to follow.
There is the "no-touch" rule...
     Wait until the Queen extends her hand to shake it
     No gripping her hand or tightly pumping it
     No hugs, no kiss on the cheek, no touching the shoulder
Refer to the Queen as "Your Majesty" initially then "ma'am" subsequently
Bow upon being introduced
Do not turn your back to the Queen
Wear conservative clothing with not much flesh showing
And so much more.

I remember the HBO mini-series John Adams. It was an excellent series, showing the life of our second President from a fiery attorney in his youth through to old age, in other words, most of his political life.

There came the moment when the Americans had won the Revolutionary war. Adams had been given the privilege and responsibility as diplomat to begin relations with The United Kingdom as national co-equals. He was to meet with the King. The moment was fraught with tension for two reasons. He had all of the future of America resting on his shoulders in how he approached the Monarch these next few moments. Would the United Kingdom be an enemy or an ally?

The second reason was protocol. Here was a scrappy lawyer born in 1735 in British America, (Quincy MA), and was American through and through, about to meet the most powerful man in the world, King George III. Americans had not been known to stand on formality and protocol, and Adams had been strongly tutored for this meeting. Bow three times, once upon entering, once when halfway to the 'Royal Presence' and a third time as you enter the 'Royal Presence'. Avert your eyes until standing before the 'Royal Presence'. Wear suitable clothing, "something more British." Unsuitable clothing has been the undoing of many an Ambassador, we learn.

See how it went, at the link. It's an extremely memorable cinematic moment and an incredible piece of acting, as well as a visible punctuation for my point. I can't embed, HBO has disabled it.

There have always been strict protocols when meeting royalty. In Esther 4:11 we read,

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.

This scene is described in Esther 5:1. The King is holding his scepter.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Wikipedia
Thrones were always higher, set upon a dais in order to visibly indicate the lower position of the person approaching the Royal Presence. This is a photo of Napoleon's throne. Pharaoh is described as sitting on a throne in Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29.

Solomon wrote,

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, "Come up here," Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

And yet, another aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus continues. He sits upon His throne, the highest of the high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) and yet we may approach!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12).

Must we dress in a certain way? Must we wait to be introduced or summoned? Must we bow in sequential order as we reach certain spots in the throne room? Must we avert our eyes until He speaks? No! No! No! No!

Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. ~Spurgeon
He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and yet He has told us we may approach Him with petitions large and small! He is tremendous. Every time we pray we approach Him. He is a God who sees (El Roi Genesis 16:14) and a God who hears!



In 1920 Frank Boreham wrote a book titled "A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that made history". His book contains biographies of famous Christians who came to the saving grace of salvation as the light of one particular verse broke upon their hearts. John Bunyan met Jesus through this verse in John 6:37,

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

From Boreham's text we read,

In his pitiful distress, there broke upon the soul of John Bunyan a vision of the infinite approach-ability of Jesus. John Bunyan's text-verse was a revelation to him of this approach-ability.
'This scripture did most sweetly visit my soul; and him that Cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." Oh ! the comfort that I had from his word, in no wise! As who should say, "By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. 'Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out!' Like the gate that swings open on hearing the magic 'sesame'; Like the walls that fell at Jericho when the blast of the trumpets arose; the wall round Bunyan's mountain fell with a crash before that great and golden word. 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!' The barriers had vanished! The way was open!

Christ is approachable. Praise Him! Approach today, with no worries of what you must say or how you must look. He will in no wise cast you out. How sweet is this knowledge.


--------------------------

Further Reading

Spurgeon sermon- The Approachableness of Jesus

Frank Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings, online text

Wikipedia entry about John Bunyan

Etiquette: How to Address a King or Queen


How did they ever hear God's voice without a how-to manual?

There are so many pamphlets, teachings, sermons, and books out there today "educating" the Christian on "How to Hear God&...