Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Voice of God

I guess I have always thought of the voice of God to sound a lot like James Earl Jones, or after Bruce Almighty, I gave allowance for Morgan Freeman. All throughout the scriptures we hear see people saying the Lord spoke to them, and even in our day we have people using similar language. All along the way failing to describe what it is that God sounds like. How do we know the voice of God versus all the other voices which are swimming around in our lives? In our current age they tend to reserve special rooms for people who insist they hear voices. Is the voice of God like the movie Field of Dreams, or is it more subtle than that? Just how is it that we can know when God is speaking to us?

First we must recognize an audible voice is only one way in which God speaks to us. God speaks to us through other people, the the Scriptures, through our thought lives. We can have times when we keep seeing the same message showing up in various places and ways. God communicated with us through dreams and visions, as well as through movies and books other than Scripture. We must not limit the ways God can speak to us. Still we are left to ponder how do I know what is God communicating and what is something else.

Our great challenge is we might not ever know 100%. However, there are some activities we can employ to test what we think God is telling us. The most effective way to test is through the regular practice of spending time with God. Romans 12 instructs us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and then we will be able to test and approve God's leading. The transformation requires an investment of time and effort, training ourselves to be in conversation with God.

When there is a specific leading we want to test form our ongoing conversation with God, the first stop is the Scriptures. God will not call us in a direction that is contrary to what has been offered to us in the Scriptures. If we are feeling lead in a direction, yet it does not line up with the Scriptures, we can know this is not a leading of God, but from some other place or person. After the Scripture alignment test, we move to the test of community. While each of us must decide personally what we are going to do with Jesus, there is nothing private about our journey. Following God through Jesus Christ is always to be done in the context of community. When feeling a leading from God we are to test the leading with a community of believers whom we trust to speak truth and offer good counsel. This must be a group of people whom you trust and have an ongoing relationship with. If these folks reach consensus about the leading of God, this is another positive.

The next step requires the most risk, go. Once you have tested the leading or communication from God with the Scriptures, and have trusted your community, step in faith. At this point there is still no guarantee you have heard God or not. However, you have employed some steps which help increase the probability greatly. Once you take the step of faith it is imperative to remain in conversation and connection with God and your community. This will allow for mid-course correction or a complete all stop in the event it becomes evident our understanding of God's leading has missed the mark somewhere.

Many people get paralyzed waiting to be sure what they feel, think, hope and dream are from God. They will spend their entire live wanting to make sure they have it right before they take action. This is a great tragedy, and what is killing the witness of Jesus Christ in many places. We are going to get it wrong from time to time, possibly more often than that, yet it is easier for God to use us if we are in motion already. Take a step of faith, if it doesn't work, seek forgiveness where it is needed, repent when needed, keep seeking God, and keep seeking out. The more we engage the process, the more we have conversation with God, the more clear the voice of God becomes. The more clear the leading of God becomes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Are You Expecting?

There is a simple yet profound question which lies beneath most of American culture, "What's in it for me?" When we get a new work assignment we wonder what we will gain. If someone asks for our help somewhere in our minds comes the thought of what we might gain. Whether in direct and grand ways or in small subtle ways this has crept into most of our lives. Unfortunately this has happened with our journey with God. As we consider walking with God, and ways in which God calls us to follow we can often slip into a mindset which asks, "What is in it for me?"

This question first shows our very need for God, and we enter in to relationships thinking about what we can gain. It also highlights the fact the we are so prone to missing the point. There are amazing benefits to following God through Jesus Christ. The benefits are more numerous than I can list on this page, yet is that why we follow? It seems as though if we follow God for what we get in return we are simply in another consumer transaction. Our struggle is made deeper when God does not deliver like we thing God should. We feel like we have done our part and God seems to fall short on His part. Somehow we feel like we have been short changed by God.

This all comes back to one issue, the Lordship of God in our lives. On the day when God gave up his only son that we might have life it was not lets make a deal day. God did not say if I sacrifice my only son will you follow me? If you follow me, I will make your life all that you want it to be. it may seem absurd to even think about that, yet that is often how we live. We expect God to function the way we want God to function because we think we are in charge. Very easily we slip into the thinking that I have paid my dues to God now it is time for God to deliver the goods and services on my terms. Problem, we are not in charge. God is King, Jesus is Lord, that means God is in charge not us. If we are following God expecting certain returns we often will find ourselves disappointed. The only expectation we can have in following God is relationship. Because of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection, we can have relationship with God. Not simply relationship but a relationship where nothing stands between us and God. We are not in charge of how that relationship works as we are the created and we respond to the creator.

What are you expecting from God? Are you following God expecting to get something in return? Are you obedient to the call of God expecting God to function in specific way that is to your liking and pleasure? Perhaps it is time for all of us to offer our lives broken and incomplete to God with our any expectations of what is in it for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Wow it has been a while since I have posted here. After an extended break I am back, so the rants, questions, challenges and theological banter will now continue.

This Sunday at Cortland UMC we kicked off a year long discernment process. We are seeking God to find what the next faithful step is for our community at this time. Often in the church when we speak about discernment, it is not discernment we are actually seeking. A normal pattern is to have the senior leader, of a small group of leaders have a mountain top adventure to hear from God what the vision is. Upon receiving the vision the individual, or small group return to the community and begin the process of selling the vision. This is not discernment, this is sales and marketing. Discernment is a much more difficult process to start and engage, however there is no sales pitch needed.

Discernment is, according to Webster's, the process of grasping and understanding that which is obscure. The end is not known at the beginning, rather there is a journey, or a process, to discover what God is reveling. All to often whether as a church community, or as individuals we get the end picture in mind and seek after God to make it happen the way we see it. The journey of discernment is one by which we engage a process of events and activities to hear better what God is speaking. The starting point is the Scriptures. From there we add prayer, and community interaction. Before discernment has run it's course there needs to be a testing of everything. This process will take much time.

Time is why I think most people and churches do not engage true discernment. The other significant reason is because of fear. We become afraid of what God might lead us to next. Once we know what that is we then must choose God's way or our own, to whom will we be obedient?

I am excited about what God is doing. I long to see what God will show our community as we seek together. Additionally, I long to see the ways in which God is going to mess with my life as I engage the process.