Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How To Hear the Voice of Jesus

How to Hear the Voice of Jesus
My Musings on Scriptural Spiritual Discernment

Intro Resources:
Smith, Gordon. Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God’s Will.
                      . The Voice of Jesus.
Willard, Dallas. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.

Initial thought – Hearing the Voice of Jesus (aka, Discernment) falls under the larger umbrella of discipleship, for we are all disciples of something or someone. All humans hear the voice of someone speaking into our soul. The question will be, "Which one will we follow?" - The voice of Jesus or all the other competing voices in our lives? We will either listen to the “Script of culture” or the “Scripture of the Kingdom.”

Great texts to ponder as we begin:
1.    John 10 – Good Shepherd; My Sheep Hear my Voice and Obey
2.    Ps 81:13, “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways; how quickly I would subdue their enemies”
3.    Ps 95:7-8, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” (as later quoted in Hebrews 4:7)

How does Jesus Speak into our lives? Through what life events or spiritual disciplines?
1.    His Written Word – Make Bible a sacramental reading for the rest of your life
2.    His Preached Word
3.    Means of Grace (thank you John Wesley)
o   Prayer
o   Scripture
o   Lords Supper
o   Worship-Fellowship-Society-Accountability-Bands
o   Fasting
4.    Lectio Divina
o   Spiritual Reading – Truth found in historical Christian classics and contemporary material. Decide: who are your ancient writing pastors…contemporary writing pastors?
5.    Trusted Friends and Counselors
o   This is Body Life at its best. It is in clear opposition to the voices of so many others who speaks lies or non-truths into our ears (eg. See friend of Job)
6.    Angels
o   When we examine the Biblical evidence, we simply cannot deny the reality
o   OT
§  Abraham - Gen 18
§  Lot – Gen 19
§  Joshua 5:13
o   NT
§  Pre-Incarnation - Joseph, Mary,
§  Post-Resurrection - Women at tomb, Peter Acts 10
7.    Dreams/Visions
o   Abraham, Joseph, Daniel
o   Joseph (Matt 1-2, 4X’s), Paul (Acts 16), Peter (Acts 10)
8.    Speaking thru Created Order
o   Matt 6 – Consider the Birds of the air, Lilies of the field
o   Listening to the Lord while walking, observing, pondering His vast creation
9.    Circumstances
o   Obstacles in the way, sometimes deep and tragic which bring transformation
o   Doors that have been opened, which brings inner peace
o   Be cautious not to put fingers in the way of doors being closed!
10.  Inner Voice of the Holy Spirit - How do we “test the Spirit?”
o   Voice of Jesus is always in harmony with Scripture
o   Voice of Jesus is always in harmony with the character of Jesus
o   Voice of Jesus always tells us to move in the “Jesus way”
§  It's the “harder way” (add painful way…humble way…merciful way)
·      Smith Family Call Principle: “Planning to Stay…but Willing to Go!”
·      One should “remain” in the place 1 Cor 7:17-24 -
·      Stay in Ephesus…1 Tim 1:3
§  It's the more “sacrificial way” (add “costly way”)
§  It’s shaping the Imago Dei in us
§  It's never just “truth. Never just “love”. But it speaks the “truth in love.”
o   Voice of Jesus always draws us to Him…never away!
§  Opposite is when the evil one speaks. He divides, isolates, condemns
o   Voice of Jesus is usually the quiet-est
§  Still small voice - 1 Kings 19:10-18 (esp. 19:12)
o   Voice of Jesus is authoritative
§  It never argues…it does not need to justify itself
§  Simply speaks with self-authenticating authority
o   Voice of Jesus is usually “call-centered” not “need-oriented”
§  Remember, Missio Dei…. Triune God is on a mission and He asks us to serve within His Mission…not every human need (Mark 1:35-39)

Quote from Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

o   Words of Jesus to us: I love you for who you are, not for what you do. Many voices vie for control of your mind, especially when you sit in silence. You must learn to discern what is My voice and what is not. Ask My Spirit to give you this discernment. Many of My children run around in circles, trying to obey the various voices directing their lives. This results in fragmented, frustrating patterns of living. Do not fall into this trap. Walk closely with Me each moment, listening for My directives and enjoying My Companionship. Refuse to let other voices tie you up in knots. My sheep know My voice and follow Me wherever I lead. (Ephesians 4:1-6; John 10:4)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Romans 16 - Its Not Just a List!

So, I’m continuing with my Romans reading in preparation for teaching this marvelous epistle. I finally made it to the end, chapter 16, and I am fascinated by the litany of names with which Paul concludes the book; 26 in all (17 men and 9 women).

Now, many folks might see this as anti-climactic in the letter, almost as a boring conclusion; like the genealogy of Matthew 1. I mean, come on, it’s only a list. What is so special or what in the world is spiritual about a list of names? I mean, isn’t the core of the Roman argument found in 1:16-15:33. Romans 1-11 is often viewed as a theological argument for the righteousness of God and then chapters 12-15 are the ethical application of Paul’s teaching. Thus, Romans 16 is nothing other than an epilogue to the main argument. It’s just a list. 
Can I make just a few observations about this so-called list:
  • There are 26 names in the list; 16 of the 26 are singled out in some special way, either as deacons, co-workers, apostles, or a relative of some sort, either literal or figurative (i.e., Christian brother). 
  • Of the 16 individuals commended for specific tasks, almost half (7) are women. 
  • There are several married couples singled out and what appears to be four separate Christian communities; two of which seem to be house churches, Prisca and Aquila (16:3-5) and Aristobulos (16:10). 
  • Finally, in the list, there appear to be both Jewish and Gentile names.

What are the implications of these observations? Allow me to simply focus on the last one; there are both Jewish and Gentile names in Paul’s Roman 16 list. Now, that observation may not be as clear-cut as it seems. First, many Jewish people adopted Greco-Roman names as they functioned in the Roman marketplace outside of Palestine. Second, since Paul has yet to visit Rome, how did he meet all these Christian servants who are now living in Rome? The meetings must have been in other places in at earlier times. Remember, that in 49AD emperor Claudius evicted all the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). They were dispersed throughout the empire. Many in the list, such as Pricilla and Aquila were among the expelled Jews who met Paul in Corinth. Andronicus and Junia are said to have been in prison with Paul (16:7) and from the same “nation.” They also are most certainly Jewish. Others on the list are referred to as Paul’s relatives (16:7, 11, 13). If all this is true, maybe this so-called list is much more Jewish than it appears at first look.

If this list is of Jewish Christians, then let’s take seriously that this list is in the form of a recommendation (beginning with Phoebe) not the typical greeting found at the end of other of Paul’s letters (e.g., 1 Cor 16). Paul is not greeting these people but rather is asking the gentile church in Rome to greet them and “receive them in a manner worthy of the saints.” Listen to the opening in 16:1-2:
commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.

Simply, the Gentile church in Rome is to receive the Jewish co-workers of Paul. My point is that Rom 16 is NOT JUST A LIST…I would call it the theological high water mark of practical spirituality in the Book of Romans. It might even be called the climax of the book. It’s the church living out practical righteousness before the world. Paul does not care for the Roman church to merely comprehend his theology (Rom 1-11) or to merely wrestle with its theoretical application (12-15). Paul is arguing that a life “dead to sin” (Rom 6) and “alive to the Spirit” (Rom 8) should play itself out with the reconciliation of the most difficult of all relationships; life-long adversaries (Jews and Gentiles) should live together as brothers.
I will leave the application of this principle into your hands, as directed by the very Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

Lord Jesus;
May we never take Your Word lightly.
May we always seek the depth of its practicality to our lives.
Grant us eyes to see,
Give us ears to hear,
And empower us with Your Spirit to live on earth,
As it is in Heaven.

Now, Go with God.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

This spring, I am teaching Romans. I’ve read this book countless times. I’ve preached on it. I’ve lead Bible Studies on it. But I have never taught it here at Kingswood. So I thought Romans and I should be intimately acquainted. I decided to read Romans in one sitting; and I failed miserably. I never got past Paul’s greeting.
  • Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:1-7 NAS) 

Yes, I know this is simply the Greeting, and I should not get overly excited until I get to the real heart of the matter (at least 1:16 and following). But this opening helps me grasp Romans in a way I never have before. Here is what I saw for the first time and it was always right in front of me. Take note of the extended description Paul gives about himself which I bracketed off above. It begins with “a bond-servant” in verse 1 and goes all the way thru “among whom you also are called of Jesus Christ” in 1:6. All that Paul has said is one long descriptor not really about Jesus…but it describes who Paul himself is! (Technically, if you are interested, all the phrases of this one long Greek sentence are set in apposition to the name “Paul.”) Paul = all that follows in 1:1-6.
So, you might ask, what is the big deal?  Try this; Paul cannot separate his story from Christ’s story. His story and God’s story are so dove-tailed that they become one-in-the-same story.
What a great life lesson!!!! Let me try to explain what grabbed me that I never saw before. Romans, from the first verse to the last, is not to be read as a theological treatise (sorry Martin Luther). It’s the most practical, almost earthy story about how God’s meta-narrative marvelously intersects with Paul’s own life story (and ours as well) Thus, wherever I preach, teach or live the Book of Romans, my story should and must come out. Yes, it’s all about Jesus. But it’s also about me and how Jesus has affected who I am, and who I am becoming.
This should resonate with many of you today. For you might think that Paul is far too deep a thinker that you can never fully comprehend his theology. Well, no problem, because Paul is simply introducing himself by telling a story. Yes, it is a re-orienting story, a paradigm-shifting story. But a story nonetheless.
If Paul is right (and he is!) our story intersecting with God’s story creates THE STORY. Paul calls it “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). Thus, maybe storytelling is the most biblical style of evangelism. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann agrees when he says, “evangelism means inviting people into these stories as the defining story of our life, and thereby authorizing people to give up, abandon, and renounce other stories that have shaped their lives in false or distorting ways” (Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism).
So, if you want to be a subversive Christian, a biblical evangelist, following in Paul’s footsteps, simply tell your story. But the transformative power of your story is when you invite others to switch allegiances from their old story to a new life-story found in Christ. So, go and tell!
Help us all to be grace-filled storytellers.
May we welcome others to the eternal narrative which God’s is continually writing; especially at this Advent season.
May His It’s-too-good-to-be-true story become the reality of our lives.
Jesus, may your children live their story In YOU.
Now, Go with God.