July 20, 2015

Setting Things Right

Today is a good day. And, even though I woke up with a headache (thanks to the rain that arrived last night), I am good, I am so very good. It is Sunday, and due to my sinuses acting up, I decided to stay at home and not go out to church. I always feel guilty when I miss church, but in truth, I was so very tired, and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I guess it is a good thing since I was able to spend some extra time in prayer, and I was able to enjoy the peace and quiet (the stillness) in the house today. God is good, and He knows my needs well. I am thankful that His hand of mercy rests upon me, and that He has me so well-covered, so well-covered (Matt. 6:8).

Stillness and His Voice

Last night, my friend and I were discussing the work of the Holy Spirit, and how many Christians take differing views on His work and power. I think all Christians accept His divine role as third person in the Trinity, but many do not agree on the scope and limit (if there is any) to His power. Moreover, the various camps in Christianity view the work of the Holy Spirit differently. Charismatics see His power as unlimited, with personal revelation and outpouring of gifts as a natural characteristic of His person. Reformers tend to view the opposite, and regard His work as limited in scope, more along the lines of His power to instruct from the Word (interpretation) and His influence in guiding the Christian into right thinking and behavior (conviction and confirmation). Then there are some who land in the middle of the spectrum or who simply do not know what the Holy Spirit really does in their lives.

In my view and experience, I tend to side toward those who share in the knowledge that as God, the Holy Spirit has unlimited power, and that He does personally speak to the Christian through the Word as well as through personal revelation. I am not a cessationist as I do believe that the gifts such as tongues, miracles, and healings still exist today. I do not ascribe any special meaning to the gifts, so in that way, I differ from Charismatics on the role of these gifts. It is more that at this point in time, I am not willing to discount the work, limit the work, or diminish the power of the Holy Spirit in any way, shape or form. Thus, I hold the position that the Holy Spirit is active and present in the lives of Christians, and that individually, He leads and guides, works in and through them in a unique and personal way.

Therefore, as we were discussing the Holy Spirit, we touched on the subject of if we believed that God had a unique plan for each person's life. You know, questioning if God have a special plan, a design for your life and for my life, and if we believe that this design works toward His plan for eternity? We both agreed that God does call individuals to certain lines of work, to ministry, and to tasks that He desires them to complete. Furthermore, we agreed that God does orchestrate the details, create opportunities, put paths in our way, etc., to enable us to walk in the direction of His plan for our life. I realize that for some believers, the idea that God cares about their work (job) or their choice of life partner (spouse) comes as a surprise. I know many believers who feel that they can choose whatever they desire and because they are saved, they believe that their choice will be blessed.

Again, in my view, I feel that this is errant thinking. Scripture seems to suggest that the man or woman who leans on their own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6) runs the risk of making poor choices. Furthermore, Scripture also suggests that because God delights in the details of our lives (Ps. 37:23), He longs to be intimately involved in all of our decisions and our decision-making process. The Lord of Heaven longs to guide and direct our steps (Prov. 16:9). If we allow Him this authority over our days, then we will see our life and our path set in a new way, a new direction that aligns with His will for our life (Ps. 37:4-5).

Listening for His Voice

The Word says that "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27 NASB). The Voice of the Lord is audible to those who call on the Name of the Lord. When we think of hearing the voice of the Lord, we immediately assume that it means "out loud" like when Moses heard the voice of the Lord from inside the burning bush or when the Father spoke from the Heavens at Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river. But the word "audible" means many things, and not just, to hear something aloud. Merriam-Webster defines this word as meaning to be "heard or able to be heard." Synonyms of audible include words such as hearable, perceptible, discernible, detectable, appreciable, clear, or distinct (Merriam-Webster). Thus, when the Word says that we can hear His voice, we are told that as believers we hear "The voice of Christ in his Gospel, both externally and internally" (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible). Of course, some people will say that this verse is simply saying that the disciples heard Jesus' actual speaking voice and they responded to Him. Others might say that this verse is simply referring to the Gospel message itself, and therefore, anyone who shares the Gospel with another, is in a way, speaking Christ's words. I personally believe that Gill's interpretation is accurate in that the voice we hear in our heads and our hearts is both delivered through the power of the Gospel message (the words themselves), but also through the inner working of the Holy Spirit who enables us through grace to respond. In this way, when believers hear His voice, they hear Him (Christ) speaking through the written Word, and they hear the Holy Spirit who lives within them (internally and externally) confirming and affirming the truth of that Word.

Furthermore, I believe that God in Christ Jesus, speaks to us in a number of ways. The believer must listen for His still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13) so that he or she doesn't miss the message the Lord has for them. This act of listening requires faith (believing the Lord does speak to us), obedience (trusting that He will speak to us), regular practice (daily reading of the Word and time in prayer so we can hear Him), and the desire to hear His voice (enjoying communion and fellowship with Him). I think that many believers today are too busy to spend time in the Word or in prayer, and as such, they lack the desire for deep communion with God. Some may be afraid of what that kind of relationship might mean for their life (changes due to the conviction by the Holy Spirit, the illumination of sin, or certain areas of concern) or they are not willing to experience that kind of fellowship with the God of the Universe. Yet, for believers who are willing to engage in a deep personal faith like this, there is great joy to be had through the experience. 

For believers who struggle with this idea, my encouragement today is to remember that there are many ways to hear his voice.

Eight Ways to Hear God's Voice 
  1. Through His Word
  2. Through Christ Jesus
  3. Through His Creation
  4. Through Other Believers
  5. Through Music
  6. Through Circumstances
  7. Through the Holy Spirit
  8. Through Prayer
I believe it is vital to be open to hearing God's voice in any or all of these ways. We must be willing to engage with Him so that we can come to know Him more intimately. We must ask Him for this deeper relationship, and then be willing to go to Him, to sit with Him, to learn from Him. The Lord waits for us to come to His side, yet so often we are busy with life, and we do not take the time to sit, to rest, and to enjoy His presence in our life. His is willing and He is ready to meet with us, but we must put aside all our cares, all our "to do's" and sit down and fellowship with Him. Furthermore, we must remember that all relationships take time to develop. Thus, if you desire a closer walk with the Lord, then you must get closer to Him, spend time with Him, and learn from Him on a daily basis. You cannot just drop in for a quick chat and then go about your business for days, weeks or months (or even years) and expect to have close fellowship with Him. That would be like expecting to be "best friends" someone without spending time together. The best you could hope for is a casual relationship, to be acquaintances only. I believe that there are many Christians today who have a casual relationship with the Lord of Hosts. Yes, they are saved, but they only know the Lord in passing, as a bystander in a one-sided relationship. I believe this is why so many believers struggle to overcome the hardships in this life, and why they continue to live "less than victorious lives." They simply have chosen to remain "distant relations" rather than to be known intimately by the Father -- and as a result -- that do not enjoy the blessing of a true father/son or father/daughter relationship with Him.

In my view, then, to develop your relationship with the Lord, you must first spend A LOT of time getting to know Him. Remember that He already knows you -- but you don't know Him -- so don't rush the process, and expect to know everything there is to know in one or two visits. Rather, relax, and let the Lord introduce Himself to you in the way He chooses to do so. I have found that in doing so, you will come to know the Lord in a unique way, a way that is particular to the plan He has for your life. In truth, the Lord seems to introduce each of us to one of aspect of His character based upon our need and His need for us to share it with others. You may come to know the Lord as holy, righteous, loving, merciful, kind, good, or patient. The Lord will choose to make Himself known to you by one or more of His attributes so that you can learn about Him in a deeper and more intimate way.

In my case, the moment I came into this deeper more intimate relationship, I realized one thing about God, and that was that He was so good to me. I was overwhelmed by His goodness, and since that day, I have spent nearly every single day bearing witness to the goodness of God. Goodness, therefore, was the attribute that resonated the most with me. And as a result of my experience, I seem to be focused on His goodness, and I share this testimony daily -- on this blog, in person, through emails or social media. It seems I cannot pass a day without saying something to the effect that "God is Good." I believe that this is the one thing the Lord desires I share with believers. I feel that part of my unique and special calling is to equip and build up the church, the body of believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, I seem to be appointed to tell my brothers and sisters in Christ, to remind them really, that God is so very good to them. I shout it from the rooftops, and I post it everywhere I go -- God is good, so very good!

Today as I think about my life, all the stress and strain, the pressures and problems, I am reminded that no matter what happens to me, no matter what comes to pass or doesn't, one thing remains -- God loves me, He cares for me, and He meets my needs with abundance and sufficiency. I do worry -- A LOT -- about making ends meet, about having "enough" material resources to make it through each day. But in the end, the Lord stands firmly as my provider. He keeps me in check, He balances my needs, and He provides for the desires of my heart (His desires in me). I let go, and I rest -- I trust Him for His provision, and in faith, I choose to believe that today, I am well-covered. And, that tomorrow there will be daily manna, daily bread. Yes, the Lord is good to me, He is so very good to me.

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