Showing posts with label listening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label listening. Show all posts

16 March 2013

Obey, obey, obey

Our own efforts are not enough, we need to be obedient to the Creator. Not only that, we need to understand that he is involved in all of life, not just the part we might think of as 'church'. We should all follow the same basic principles, yet he deals uniquely with us as individuals.

Hand made furniture
Felicity Dale posted about how she started writing, and I left a comment. But now I think I should expand on parts of the comment here on my own blog.

One of the issues with church as we have known it is that we are inclined to work very hard at making it better.

We aim for better organisation, better teaching, more entertaining speakers, more professional music, more and better books and leaflets, exciting events, and so on.

So what could possibly be wrong with making things better? Well, nothing really. Better is indeed... better! But that's not where the problem lies.

His ways and our ways - The real issue is that we work out ways of making it better according to our own wisdom and knowledge. And all the time Papa might be watching what we do, appreciating our zeal and hard work, while all the time lamenting the fact that we are not doing his will, but our own.

His ways are his ways, not necessarily like our ways at all. Better in my opinion may even be worse in his.

We need to become a more obedient people. We need to hear more clearly, take what we do hear more seriously, and turn hearing into action. Something that is held to be almost self-evident in many parts of the church today is that men should take leadership roles and women should be quiet and submissive. But Felicity has been hearing very clearly (and so have I and many others) that this is not really what Papa is saying. It's generally based on a particular way of reading a handful of verses in the New Testament and on historical attitudes in society as a whole.

This latter point about society is part of a larger issue that needs to be resolved in our hearts and minds, and that is where church fits in society.

Holy and secular - You see, church is not separate from the rest of life. We often think in terms of church on the one hand and the world on the other. We 'go to church' on a Sunday morning and do and say and hear and see holy things. And the rest of the week we live our 'ordinary lives' and go to school or work or care for the home and devote our attentions to money, shopping, looking good, having fun, watching TV and doing a thousand and one other 'important' things.

But in truth there is no holy and secular, there is just life as a whole and society as a whole and Christ in and through his people bringing light and flavour into all of it, into all the aspects mentioned above and many, many more. Alan Hirsch makes this point very clear in 'The Forgotten Ways'.

The thing is, Papa is involved in all of life, he is indeed the source of all life. And if he is involved in all the aspects mentioned above, so should we be. If we are truly in the Son and he is truly in us, how can we avoid his involvement in every moment we are alive? And in any case, why exactly would we want to? If my heart is open to hear him he will continually tell me where to go, who to speak to, how to behave and what to believe.

Obedience - Understand that Felicity's writing, and Alan's are the results of obedience. They did what the Holy Spirit called them to do. It was already in the Father's heart and plan for them to write. He has things in his heart for you to be doing too - what are they?

And best of all, rather than all following the same understanding and the same ideas, we all follow the same principles but the detail varies. Papa's path for you will be different than his path for me; he deals with us individually. We should not see ourselves as factory-produced items, all made the same within very tight tolerances. Instead we are are all hand crafted, individually fashioned by the master craftsman.

Factory-made furniture is manufactured from laminated board and timber pre-cut and fastened with plastic blocks and metal screws and fittings. Craftsman-made furniture is hand sawn from selected timber of good quality and jointed in traditional ways. The maker is sympathetic to the pattern of the grain and turns imperfections into beautiful features. The surface is carefully sanded to a smooth finish and polished with real waxes or oils.

I commend Alan Hirsch's books to you, and Felicity and Tony's, and Neil Cole's too. There are a thousand clues to Father's ways of showing us his purpose in all these books.

But I commend the still, small voice of the Spirit to you even more.

Here's what we need to do, all of us who are willing and able.

  1. Tell Papa you're sorry for your failure to listen and hear.
  2. Tell him that you will listen from now on.
  3. If you don't know how to hear, ask him to teach you. Then expect him to find a way to do it.
  4. Decide to obey everything you hear from him.
  5. Just begin doing it!

Questions:

  • Have you read Alan Hirsch's book, 'The Forgotten Ways'?
  • Is the Father's wisdom greater or less than yours?
  • Do you suppose Father wants us to do his will or our own?


See also:

08 January 2013

A light on the path

It's important that we serve the community around us, this is how we show people in the world that they are loved. The basis for that loving service is that Christ first loved me, but beyond that he also goes with me and shows me who to speak to, who to bless, and how and when to do it.

A light on the pathJanuary's Synchroblog invitation reads in part as follows.

New Year’s Resolutions are usually somewhat self-serving. But is there a way you can serve others in 2013? Are there homeless people in your community? Maybe you could bring some food to them on a regular basis this year. Are there single mothers? How about coming alongside them to babysit their kids while they go shopping, or maybe you could change the oil in their car or mow their lawn. Do you know any alcoholics or addicts? What can you do to show them love and care this year? Are there elderly shut-ins in your neighborhood? How about running errands for them or going over to their place to play cards, read to them, or just talk?

Serving others - Works of service are important. We are here to serve one another, to serve those around us and to serve the Messiah first and foremost. The people around me can only know that they are loved if they are loved. So yes, I do want to serve the community where I live during the coming year.

But I believe the basis for service is critically important, so rather than resolve here and now what my service will be I plan to write about the basis for serving and how we can consider that and respond to it.

A New Year's resolution by any other name is still a New Year's resolution. And if I resolve to do something, it had better be the right something! All of the suggestions in the Synchroblog notes are great, but doing good things is not sufficient as an end in itself. So what should be the foundation?

Love - The immediate foundation is, I believe, love. If I don't have love, then my actions will be empty at best, or merely for show at worst. I need to step in to help when I see weakness, helplessness, hunger, thirst, injustice, sickness, imprisonment. My heart needs to go out on a daily, even an hourly, basis so that I will respond out of love as and when I witness the need. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 again. Whatever I do without love is void.

Obedience - But there is something else, a deeper foundation that underpins even acts of love. And that is obedience. Love and obedience are intertwined. I will meet the needs I see because I love the needy. And I will obey Jesus because I love him. I love him because he first loved me.

So he is the source, and the effect he works is in me and through me. First to love him and obey him, secondly to love those around me and serve them. So we really do need to consider obedience as well as love. If I am to serve those around me most effectively I need to love them but I also need to hear what Jesus is saying to me through his Spirit and act obediently. Not only that, but Jesus prepares the way for us. He leads us to people he has already made ready.

Obedience is a moment by moment affair. The Spirit whispers quietly to me, 'This is the way, walk in it. Go here, do that, speak to that person trusting that I will give you the words as you need them, go to such and such a place where someone needs your help. Sit here, watch, and see what I will show you.'

Now, I'm not saying it always works that way for me - but sometimes it does. When I am listening and trusting it always does.

Know Jesus and listen - So I encourage everyone, get to know Jesus if you don't already. He is Love, Peace, Power, Life, the Way, Light in the darkness. Believing in him is a good start but it's not enough - know him, walk with him, speak to him, listen to him. It's what his first followers did, and you can too.

Learn to focus more on listening than on speaking. We are told we should pray every day and read the Bible every day; and they are great habits to have. But above all, before even prayer and reading, listen. Be attentive. Be still and quiet and hear what the Spirit of Christ is saying to you. And obey him.

And then you will have the best and most helpful opportunities to serve those around you. Guided in the moment in all you do and say by the One who can shine real light on your path.

So if we resolve anything in this new year of 2013, let's resolve to know him, pay attention to him, hear him and obey him in all we do. And to do it more fully than in any previous year. Will you join me in that resolution?

Practical details - But the synchroblog asked for specifics.

For the January 2013 synchroblog, we invite you to share some of the tangible needs in your neighborhood or community you will seek to meet this year. Be concrete. Where, when, how, and to whom will you be the hands and feet of Jesus? As you think and write about this, it will not only encourage you to follow Jesus into the world this year, but will also provide the rest of us with some suggestions for how we can serve others in our own communities.

I don't yet know, in detail. But one thing I feel he is already urging me to do is print off a bunch of my photos in a reasonable size, perhaps A5, and sit in the market square with a spare chair beside me offering them free to anyone who will sit, choose a photo, and tell me what they see in it. I must get those photos organised right away!

People have physical needs, but they also have emotional needs and spiritual needs. Perhaps this will be an opportunity to reach hungry and lost hearts. Chris Duffett does things like this to great effect and you'll find abundant ideas on his website.

My wife is keen to find a community project of some kind to help people in practical ways and I might join her in that. She's a member of Open Door, a local New Frontiers church. It's likely the initiative will come through Open Door.

In the past I've helped a variety of people in little ways but was specifically led into each situation. Kid's camps; a couple, both seriously ill, with children at home and needing help with gardening; a couple suffering serious physical abuse from young people in the area; a friend needing company and occasional practical help; a conversation with a stranger on a train; serving Christmas dinner to lonely people.

I'm expecting more of the same in the year ahead - I just can't tell you what it will be yet!

Questions:

  • What do you find to be the most effective ways of listening, spiritually?
  • Is it better to do nothing, to do something unguided, or to do what you are told?
  • Do you agree with me that action and obedience are both rooted in love?

See also:


Other posts in this synchroblog:

04 January 2013

SOAP Bible reading

Keeping a SOAP journal may help make your Bible reading stick. Dave deVries posted about it recently and I want to share it further. Scripture-Observation-Application-Prayer (SOAP). Give it a try and see if it will help you stay spiritually fresh and clean!

Liquid and bar soapsDave deVries, writing at 'Missional Challenge' a week ago, recommended SOAP Journaling. It seems like a good idea that might help many of us read and digest the Bible more effectively, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Not only that, SOAP can help with discipling others and if you are doing that (and you should be) it's a technique you can teach them so that they in turn can teach it to others.

Like all simple ways of doing things it's easy to understand, easy to learn, easy to describe and easy to teach.

There is a caveat, however. Like all methods it's what you make of it that counts. There is no benefit or value in going through the motions; methods are tools, not an end in themselves.

So what is SOAP? How does it work? You can read about it in more detail in Dave's article. A brief outline and my own thoughts are below.

SOAP - The acronym stands for Scripture - Observation - Application - Prayer.

Begin by consciously clearing your mind. As with CO2's Virkler, one way to help with this is to jot down in your notebook every intrusive thought about things you need to do. Write things down as they occur to you and dismiss them until later.

Once your mind is clear and calm, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, then read the Bible passage from a version that flows easily for you. Consider what you are reading, ask the SOAP questions and write down the thoughts that occur to you.

The questions are listed in Dave's article, he provides several for each letter of the acronym.

Scripture - the questions focus on the context. When it was written, who wrote it, why they wrote it and to whom. Write down verses that speak to you strongly and personally.

Observation - Look for commands and promises. Consider anything concerning the nature and actions of the Father, Son and Spirit. What questions arise in your mind?

Application - What effect does this have, what changes are necessary, what will you do today as a result of what you have read and considered?

Prayer - Aim to cover your needs for help and forgiveness. Be thankful. Write them down as a prayer.

It's easy to read in a vague way and remember almost nothing later. Using a method like SOAP will help you lock in some of the things you read. Writing things down (or sharing them with someone else) are effective ways of getting them to stick in your own mind and heart.

SOAP is more than an acronym, it's an idea. What do you use soap for? To help release the dirt when you wash your hands, to stay fresh and clean. So remember, using SOAP regularly will help you stay spiritually fresh and clean! But as with ordinary soap it's of no value unless you use it.

Questions:

  • Are there ways you can improve your Bible reading? Might SOAP help?
  • What do you think of the SOAP questions? Can you add more of your own?
  • Have you some experience using SOAP? If so, please leave a comment below.

See also:

05 December 2012

More on the river

We need to be full of faith and urgent purpose to tirelessly pursue whatever it is that Papa gives us to do. But we also need to understand that without him we can do nothing and it's not about our actions but about his nature. The river verses in Ezekiel and Revelation help us understand this.

Life in the desert along the Nile
We need to be like Esther (Esther 10:4-9), people who will not shrink back in the face of danger but will be bold.

Just as Esther fearlessly facilitated life for her people, so we need to be fervently taking hold of the life that is offered to us and eagerly passing it on!

We desperately need the inner thirst that Chris Duffett expressed.

I long to bring some of that fresh faced faith that I saw in India, a burning desire for Kingdom and urgency in people meeting with God, right in the heart of what I do. I know it’s not down to me, yet I long to be willing…

Bursting with faith and urgency - We need to recognise the 'fresh-faced faith' we see in others and find it in ourselves, we need that 'burning desire for Kingdom' and the 'urgency in people meeting with [Papa]'. Like Chris, we need these things to be 'right at the heart of what [we] do', we need to 'know it's not down to [us]' (it's Jesus who will do it) and of course we need '[to] be willing'.

There are many we can reach who are dying for lack of the river of life within them. Doesn't this bring out the great significance of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46? We have living water, are we going to withhold it?

But in all of this we should also remember that we are his people and that he will guide us moment by moment in our lives. It won't necessarily help to plan our own complex route into unknown territory. Better by far to trust the Guide who has already been there and knows the way - the One who indeed is the Way (John 14:5-7).

The river grows as it flows - Notice how the river grows (Ezekiel 47:3-5). This is not normal in desert country because rivers grow as tributaries join them and tributaries are rare in the desert. If Esther was the river in Mordecai's dream might we all be like rivers? Jesus said we'd do even greater things than him (John 14:11-13). He reached Galilee, Judaea, a limited number in Samaria and a handful of Romans and Greeks. Paul reached much of the northern Mediterranean, in the following 300 years almost all Europe, North Africa, and parts of south-west Asia were reached. And today this river we call the body of Christ has penetrated almost the entire world.

So the river that sprang from Christ flows into the desert country where there is no water, and brings life. The living water is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). And those who are his tributaries are springs of life arising because he is in each one of us. But surely the river in the vision has no tributaries? Ah, but it does. As tributaries we are hidden because we are in Christ. Our little springs of living water are already mingled with his, we don't need to flow into him, we are already in him, we are hidden tributaries and have no independent existence. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:4-6).

Seeing it like that might tempt us to think that the river grows because we somehow add our independent little springs of water to his. But it is not like that at all. The spring welling up in me is the living water he provides because Christ himself is the Source living in me and living in you.

The mystery - The source of the river is the temple, specifically the altar in Ezekiel 47:1 or the throne in the city in Revelation 22:1. The altar speaks of the old covenant, of sacrifice and of priesthood. The throne speaks of the new covenant, of rule and of royalty. Jesus is the Lamb, a living sacrifice and he is the King of kings, who rules over all. And we are his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), set apart for his use.

It's a mystery! Jesus is all in all for us who believe, he is absolutely everything we need. What a relief to know that nothing depends on us any more. That doesn't mean that we have no work to do. It means that whatever he calls you to do you will be able to accomplish because he is in you and you are therefore filled with his Spirit!

Part of your calling is already clearly expressed from Jesus' own mouth. Love the Father with everything you have and are (Matthew 22:37). Love one another as Jesus loved those around him (John 13:34-35). Go and make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). And so on.

But part of your calling will be shown to you as you go along. The Holy Spirit will reveal it step by step on a need to know basis.

Everyone shout 'HalleluYah!'.

Questions: 
  • How do you demonstrate your love for the Father?
  • Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ, how do they know that you love them?
  • Are you actively making disciples?
  • How can you improve your listening to the Spirit?

See also: 

16 November 2012

Like a torch

Because we contain a source of power (Jesus living within us), we can illuminate the darkness and see clearly. The Holy Spirit gave me a picture of a torch, here is the picture along with its meaning and application in our lives.

Light from a powerful torch
While Jim and I were praying on Thursday the Spirit put a picture in my mind. I saw a torch shining a light onto the floor.

And as I watched I noticed that the light beam through the air was not visible, but the spot of light on the floor was clearly visible, in fact it drew my eye away from everything else. It was the most clearly visible thing I could see and I could also see the details of the flagstone floor - but only where the light fell.

And then He gave me a prophecy. Father said, 'You are like a torch, you produce light from the source of power that is within you, but the light you produce cannot be seen until it reaches and shines upon an object of some kind. Wherever the light shines, you can see clearly.' I felt that the word 'you' was plural, that it was spoken to both of us, that it's meant for others to hear too. That's why I'm sharing it now on the blog.

Jim incorporated these thoughts into his prayer and I just felt so grateful that I had been shown something simple and at the same time useful.

What can we draw from this simple picture of a torch?

Each of us is like a torch - We are stand alone creatures, self sufficient in so many ways. Yes, we are in an environment consisting of the physical world around us, but we are like islands in some ways, complete in ourselves and isolated. Most of us, if we so choose, can live self-contained lives in which our inner thoughts impinge little on those around us. We are like torches that are switched off.

However, we do contain a source of power just as a torch contains a battery. The Spirit of  Christ is within you if you are his apprentice. Jesus himself resides in you and provides all the power you need for whatever he wants you to do. You have the power necessary to be a light in this dark world because the One who is Light is in you.

Of course, you need to be switched on. Light only comes from you if you are prepared and willing for that to happen!

An invisible beam - The beam of Christ-light that shines from his people is completely invisible. It only becomes visible when it reaches across the void and touches a person or a situation. And even then, the light doesn't show itself as light.

Like a torchbeam, it reveals clearly whatever is already there. The effect of light is not so much in its presence but in what it reveals when it is focussed on a target. There's a very bright spot in the centre, while further away there's a more general, dimmer glow. And just as a torch can be pointed in any direction, so Jesus can direct the Light onto a particular situation or into the life of a particular person. The beam is moving all the time although we rarely give it a thought.

When you use a torch, you don't hold it still, but you sweep the beam about to illuminate the whole scene. You rarely shine a torch behind you, but direct it forward into the place you will go next.

We should be just the same spiritually.

Spiritual illumination - What we have to do is allow the light to be directed wherever Jesus chooses. Only then will it reach the places where it is especially needed. And how can we do that? There's only one way, we must aim the beam wherever he tells us to aim it. The Holy Spirit was given partly to guide us and when we trust him he is very effective in doing so.

So pray for guidance, expect guidance, and receive it when it comes. When the light is focussed on the right place you will be able to clearly see much more detail. The worst thing for any situation or condition that needs to be changed is for it to remain in the dark. In the darkness there's no way to see any detail, and it's entirely possible the problem will  not even be noticed.

The guidance may come in the form of a hunch or a nagging feeling, it may come through prophecy or an interpreted tongue. It may come because there is no peace to be found by looking elsewhere or it may come in a vision or a dream. And finally it might come as a spoken voice, though this is probably quite rare.

We can see this in action in the Bible.

  • Joseph has a dream - (Genesis 37:5-7) This dream angered Joseph's brother, but it foretold events far in the future. For the full story read Genesis 37:2-36 and Genesis 39:1-42:9.
  • Ananias visits Saul - (Acts 9:10-19) Ananias would not have gone willingly to visit a violent persecutor like Saul. But that is where the Spirit called him to go. The light of Christ had already shone on Saul with devastating effect. Now it was to shine on him again through Ananias. Read the rest in Acts 7:55-8:3 and Acts 9:1-22.
  • Peter visits Cornelius - (Acts 10:11-13) Peter falls into a trance and hears a voice. Read the entire story in Acts 9:43-11:18.
  • A change of plan for Paul - (Acts 16:6-10)  This time the Spirit hinders them from following their own plans but also provides a vision.

Notice how the Spirit focuses the brightest spot on the heart of the issue. Peripheral aspects would also have been illuminated, but not so vividly, but those broader lessons were also important. For example, the bright spot for Ananias would have been 'go and visit Saul'. The general issues would have been such things as 'if I send you you need not be afraid', 'I will often surprise you' and 'my ways are not your ways'.

These are powerful examples of guidance, but it can often be far simpler on a day by day basis. The Holy Spirit often hinders or encourages us by seeding uncertainty or peace in our hearts. Where there is peace, we are often on the right track and it may be fine to continue in the same way. But where there is uncertainty or turmoil it is best to pray and proceed with a cautious, open mind.

The light of Jesus shines into our lives and the situations around us and brings clarity, purpose and effectiveness. Praise him that this is so!

Questions:

  • How often are you guided by the Spirit, and how often by your own planning?
  • Can you think of ways to enhance spiritual guidance in your life?
  • In the four Bible examples above, how would things have worked out if the people involved had not be willing to listen to the Spirit?
  • Where did the brightest parts of the beam and the peripheral areas fall for Joseph, Peter and Paul?

See also:

22 March 2012

Like a big chicken

We often do things in our own strength and then blame ourselves when we fail. But there is a much better way; listen to Jesus and do what he says.

A big chicken?It's easy to make a decision, set off with great intentions, and then beat ourselves up when it doesn't work out. How many times have I resolved to speak to a particular person about Jesus and then chickened out? I can't count them!

But Jesus didn't work like that. Neither did Paul. Why not?

It's because they were tuned in to the continuous flow of the Father's plan, saying what they heard him say and doing what they saw him do - every moment.

Jesus did it perfectly, Paul less so, he made some mistakes. But he learned from them.

When I determine to do something for Jesus and then fail I beat myself up. Yet all the time I should not have been doing something for him, instead I should have been listening and obeying. So simple, but oh so hard!

This is something I must grapple with daily, we all must. No to deciding and doing. Yes to hearing and obeying. When the first method works (and sometimes it does work) some of the glory comes to me. But in the second method he gets all the glory!

So what am I saying? I'm saying that we all have good intentions rapidly followed by great failures, but really we do better when we do what Jesus did.

How can we help and encourage one another to fly with Jesus? Flying is easy for birds but impossible for people. I can run along the ground flapping my arms furiously like a big chicken but I can't get off the ground. Flying with Jesus is like walking on water. Peter could not have done it using any kind of technique. He could only do it by obeying Jesus.

When we listen and obey we can fly and walk on water with him. He enables us and arranges everything for us. He doesn't enable us by giving us a new skill or ability. He enables us by calling us, by commanding us. The doing is all in our obedience, not in our ability.

If we need one thing in order to do the work of the kingdom it's not training, or skill, or experience - it's hearing followed immediately by obedience. If you want to practice anything, practice listening, hearing, and obeying. We need to say what Jesus says and do what he does - no more - no less. Aim high. And always remember that his ways are higher than ours.

But please don't hear what I'm not saying. Training, skill, experience, planning, and intentional activity are all things Father will use in us. If we are listening the Spirit will show us when and how to obediently apply them. Just don't expect them to enable you to fly or walk on water.

Oh - one more thing. Why does the photo show a baby chick rather than a great big mother hen?

It's because Jesus looked at disobedient Jerusalem and said he felt like a mother hen that wanted to gather her chicks under her wings, but they would not (Matthew 23:37). Let's not be like Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, let's willingly gather under his wings. As a lonely little chick I am vulnerable and cold and must work everything out for myself. I need to be willing to be gathered into his presence - for safety, for warmth, but most of all for obedience and effectiveness.

26 January 2012

Prophecy about Britain - again

I've been directed to another prophecy about Britain, this time from Lance Lambert, and would like to share a link to it. Prophecy is about hearing and telling; both are needed.

The human earI hadn't expected to post about a second prophecy so soon after the previous one exactly two weeks ago. But yesterday evening I was chatting with two friends about our intention to pray regularly and today they emailed me with another prophecy, this time from Lance Lambert.

I'd encourage anyone who was struck by the first prophecy to visit Lance Lambert's website and read what he has shared about Britain. Both prophecies were given in the August/September period in 2011.

Of course, the two are not identical, but there are some common themes. I have heard that Mark Stibbe also shared something similar in Bedford at around the same time. There are coincidences in life, but I think this is not one of them.

I am not drawing conclusions here, or suggesting any particular response. But I do urge everyone to read these two prophecies prayerfully and thoughtfully and consider what, if anything, Father would have you do about the current state of Britain.

Prophecy is often thought about in terms of speaking, but it also involves listening and hearing. Hearing what the Holy Spirit is saying must come first; there can be no prophecy without discernment. But what is heard and discerned must then be shared if it is to have any effect. I am particularly interested in the hearing aspect and may revisit that topic again.

07 October 2011

THOUGHT - What next for the body?

The church is the body of Christ here in the world. We are his current physical presence and he is the head. Where are we going next? There are some clues and we should pay attention to them.

A hearing aid
An obedient journey - As an individual follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am on a path, a journey. Along the way are distractions, obstacles, and choices of direction. As the body, all of us together are also on a journey with distractions, obstacles and choices.

Making the right choices depends on hearing what the Spirit of Christ is telling us, and that demands our willingness to pay attention. In this article I am going to try to share something about paying attention, listening, and the need to hear what the Spirit is telling us. Hearing is critically important. How will you and I obey without hearing?



The breath of the Spirit - As individuals we obtain direction from a variety of sources. Reading the Bible, other good books, prayer, careful thought and planning, and direct leading by the Holy Spirit - all are important. Experience matters too, we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully we continue to grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the Spirit himself is the real source.

Without him we can engage in all those activities (even the Bible and prayer) and have no insight or benefit whatsoever. With him they all become channels for receiving the truth. The Most High can communicate with us through anything in life. He does it by sending his Spirit to live within us, pouring out the light and life of Jesus. Living water wells up within us and flows out to a needy world. This is, of course, a miracle!

For the body of Christ the process is the same. It's the Spirit of Christ acting in and through the body that brings life and direction. Without the Spirit the body is a dead thing. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14, now read verses 3-10 again remembering that 'breath' and 'spirit' are the same word in Hebrew - 'ruach'. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the body of Christ.

Hearing as an individual - There's a useful technique that can help us hear, it's called Virkler. Please remember that it is only a technique; it's not important in and of itself; its has value only as a framework to help us with hearing. Think of Virkler as a spiritual hearing aid.

There are four simple steps
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Write them down.
For more on Virkler check out the CO2 page, it contains fuller details and some useful links to what others have to say about it.

Hearing as a body - When we meet together we are a local and temporal expression of the body of Christ in a particular place at a particular time. Yahshua said that when two or three meet together he would be there amongst us. Let's take him at his word!

When we meet, the Spirit of Christ is in each one and Jesus himself is among us. That is the key to hearing. Just as Virkler is a useful aid for individual hearing, so a slight modification of it can be a useful aid when we gather together. Try these four steps when you are together (the first three are unchanged).
  1. Clear your mind of the day to day stuff that fills it.
  2. Focus on Jesus.
  3. Pay attention to the flow of thoughts in your mind.
  4. Speak them out.
You may be surprised at the words and images that will be shared, and you may be even more surprised at the end of your time together as you realise that there has been a theme. The individual thoughts as they were shared may have seemed random, but together they will often be much more than the sum of their parts.

Can I encourage you to try this when you meet? What did you learn about the way the Spirit leads? Is it better to listen to one another, to Jesus, or to one another and Jesus? What are the differences between these three choices? How can the church find direction for the future? Please come back and leave some comments here.

04 September 2011

RESPONSE - Giving a milkshake

I was very encouraged to read the latest post from Chris Duffett. Chris lives only a few miles from us and he excels at finding innovative ways of engaging people with the Good News that Jesus brings truth, light, and a new way of living.

If you want to know more, read his blog. Here are some extracts from his latest article.
Strawberry shakeI sense that I should give my milk shake away. The one I really love, strawberry, all thick and delicious. So I offer it to a guy who is selling the big issue and it turns out that it is also his favorite kind of milk shake.
But Chris didn't stop with the strawberry shake.
I also give him the sandwiches and yogurt too. The guy seems happy to receive his lunch and thanks me.
And then he understood a much greater truth.
This simple act of sharing opens up my heart as to what God wants to do in me and how he wants to meet with me and for me to enjoy his company. I fetch another lunch and ... simply enjoy the presence of God. Wherever and whatever I’m doing I am able to meet with the one who is so vast and mighty and holy and yet who is Emmanual, God with us, who enjoys walking with his kids and meeting with them and sharing strawberry milk shakes.
Why did this so impact me? It's because he heard (to give away a milk shake), obeyed, was willing to sacrifice (go without his favourite treat), went even further (gave away his lunch as well), and understood what the Father is like (enjoys our presence and shares with us). This is something we all need to practice every day - even every minute.
  • Listen
  • Obey (no ifs, buts, or maybes)
  • Sacrifice what we are and what we have for others
  • Go beyond what is asked of us
  • Understand what Father is like and how he enjoys walking through this life with us
It's really a question of being like our heavenly Father. He pours out lavishly on all of us. We should pour out lavishly too. What Chris has found is that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit love him and enjoy the time they spend with him. This is so awesome that most of us, most of the time miss it! But we only really understand when we do what our Father does, then we begin to see that his nature is also to give. Chris says that a simple act of sharing opened up his heart.

I'd suggest that love, hearing and obedience are the key, whatever we're called to do in this amazing Kingdom of Heaven. We may be called to do a new and different thing every day. As we hear and obey we'll always receive a rich blessing from our awesome Father and a deeper understanding of his greatness and love.

He is our supply and our inspiration and he wants us to know him more fully. 

HalleluYah!

01 September 2011

Little Paxton - Finding rest

< 25th August 2011 | Index | 13th September 2011 >

This evening the Holy Spirit led us in a theme of peace and rest from struggling. Father wants us to follow him wholeheartedly, then we won't wander about in the wilderness.

We shared information about friends facing change or difficulties in their lives, and we talked about our own lives and direction. We chatted about what we have been doing and what we plan to do. Jim's summer Sunday activities have finished for this year, Sean and I plan to be at the Moggerhanger Millenials meeting, and Paul is planning three events before next summer's kid's camp. Jim is thinking about future employment and also about the house of prayer concept.
The Sinai desert
Later in the evening we prayed for the various people and needs we'd identified.

Thinking about our busy lives, Jim reminded us about the forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness, going round and round. He felt that we have been doing much the same. We struggle with too much to do, overload and stress in our jobs, sometimes with little sense of peace or satisfaction. I sensed the Spirit saying that we need a real peace in our lives. He said, 'Peace is not in inactivity, it's in right activity'.

In different ways, we all felt the need to be listening people. Sean said he hasn't been listening as he should, Jim thinks he's just an infant in terms of spiritual hearing, and I'm aware that I need to be more eager to listen. Jim added that we want Jesus to be in the house and that our peace and rest are in him. We asked for spiritual hearing. We all have it but we all need more of it!

Then Jim told us about a scratch card he'd been given when he stopped to buy petrol. Apparently it was necessary to scratch the card to reveal a code, the next step was to visit a website and enter the code to find out if a prize had been won. All of this requires too much time, too much effort, and almost certainly for nothing.

In contrast the gospel comes with no such rigmarole. The gospel is pure good news. Jesus says, 'Come to me if you are struggling and heavily loaded down - I'll give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). Rest is very good news. It's peace, shalom, wholeness, an end to searching, an end to struggling, and an end to going around in circles in the wilderness. Jesus is a destination, not more rigmarole. The rest he gives us is good news!

< 25th August 2011 | Index | 13th September 2011 >

20 August 2011

RESPONSE - The need to listen

Felicity Dale wrote about new wineskins having no value unless there is new wine to put into them.

Tony and Felicity DaleI suggest you read her post in full, I've included some extracts below (FD) as well as extracts from my reply. (CJ).

Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins (Luke 5:36-40). A new wineskin is only needed if there is new wine. If simple/organic church is like a new wineskin, what is the new wine? Is there something about the life we have together in Christ that needs a new container, that would burst an old wineskin?

Changing the structure of church gains nothing unless it is a response to something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures.

Jesus "in the midst" is what church is all about. An individual has Jesus within. Corporately, we have Jesus among us. (FD)

We really do need to listen. We desperately need to listen to one another, and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit even more desperately.

I truly believe lack of listening is one of the stumbling blocks we face in our lives as we work hard to follow Jesus. And that's the problem. We can't follow Jesus by working hard (doing what we think is best) but only by obedience (doing what He thinks is best).

We need to listen first so that we can obey. (CJ)

Here are some take home messages from 'hearing' in meetings. The dated links lead to descriptions of what happened.

This is Felicity's new wine in action, 'something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures'. As you read the examples, think very carefully about how church structure (the 'wineskin') might affect the outcome.
  • Father's timing is more important than our timing. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He can nudge us into doing practical things such as giving someone a particular book. Sometimes he may encourage us in what we have heard by things others say or do. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He may give us pictures that make a point clear. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • We need to be planted in Jesus, very firmly planted and rooted in him. Obedience will follow without fuss or bother. (An address by an invited speaker at a large camp - Faith '11, 7th August 2011.)
  • Glory is greater than peace. (A meeting of just two people - or three if you count Jesus, 31st March 2011.)
Notice the variety and originality of the Spirit's touch. He may guide us in different ways in a single meeting, and several meeting formats work well for hearing. There is no 'right' way to meet. It's not about methods. He works through traditional and non-traditional church, he only requires that his followers meet and expect him to take charge.

But what about situations where people take charge, what happens then? I think we all know the answer. To a greater or lesser extent the Holy Spirit will be crushed and will let us carry on managing things ourselves. This is the great tragedy of human control in the body.

I used to publish meeting notes quite regularly, more recently I've stopped doing this. Perhaps I might begin doing so again.

(Related post, 'RESPONSE: Are you listening?')

30 July 2011

RESPONSE - Are you listening?

Listening is a skill that can be intentionally developed. Julian Treasure gives a fascinating TED presentation on this, but are there parallels between listening with our physical ears and listening with our spiritual 'ears'?

Julian Treasure on 'listening'Yahshua told his followers about the importance of spiritual hearing and seeing. He spoke about people listening and listening but not hearing, looking and looking but not seeing. We are all prone to this.

Julian Treasure presents a compelling TED Talk on listening. I suggest you hear what he has to say and then come back here to continue reading.

---

Did you enjoy his presentation? I certainly did!

According to Julian, hearing is something that our ears do pretty much autonomously, but listening requires intent, focus, and deliberate attention. But Jesus says that even though we listen (pay attention) we still may not hear (understand in depth). He says there are those who pay attention and hear the words but the spiritual meaning eludes them.


The process, I believe, is
  1. Physical hearing
  2. Listening (paying attention)
  3. Spiritual hearing (spiritual understanding)
To make this clearer, suppose you are in the crowd and Yahshua is speaking. Unless you are profoundly deaf, the words he speaks will enter your ears and the brain will receive the information. This is item 1 in the list above. If you are distracted by your child, someone else talking, or thinking about that job you need to do when you get home, the process may stop at that point. You have heard but you have not listened.

But perhaps you were paying attention to Yahshua's words. You not only heard with your ears, but you noticed what he was saying. Perhaps you were puzzled, or offended, or confused by what he said. Although you heard the words clearly and they entered the attentive, thinking part of your mind, they made little or no sense. This is item 2 in the list.

But item 3 demands an additional awareness that has nothing to do with the physical world of ears and brains. It requires, but goes far beyond, simply understanding the words that were spoken. Spiritual understanding is given and received, not merely earned by paying attention to words. If you lack spiritual understanding, ask Yahshua to provide it.

The process is physical hearing > listening > spiritual hearing. That's why Yahsua said they listen but don't hear. He sometimes healed the physically deaf, he also heals the spiritually deaf. He is willing! So ask.

Julian Treasure hints at step 3 but doesn't explore it. Yahshua took step 1 as a given and focussed on step 3.

Physical reality always points to a spiritual reality; that's why Yahshua spoke so often in parables. Understanding the physical truth can help us grasp the parallel spiritual truth. The need to pay attention to physical sounds points to the notion that we also need to pay attention to spiritual 'sounds'.  We need to listen intentionally to the Spirit of Christ in the same way we listen to the words of the people we meet. The Spirit is a still, small voice. We have to pay close attention to him.

In the physical we are exposed to sound, listen to the sound, and understand the meaning in our minds. In the spiritual we are exposed to truth, pay attention to the truth, and comprehend the truth in our hearts.

So let's explore how Julian Treasure's thoughts on listening might apply to spiritual listening (paying attention to the truth).

We are losing our listening - The church has substantially lost the ability to listen spiritually. Many believers are not even aware that listening is possible, others have no idea how to go about it.

Making meaning from sound - A process of extraction, recognising the Holy Spirit's voice among all the other spiritual noise around us. What is 'spiritual noise'? Where does it come from? What will happen if you listen to the wrong sources? How can you distinguish the Holy Spirit's voice?

Filters - These define what we pay attention to. How, for example, might our craving for authority, security, or independence affect our spiritual attention and listening? Can you think of more filters?

Awareness - Are you tuned in? Are you aware of Father's presence, of his nearness, of his love, of his sorrow and grief, of his purity and holiness, of his exuberant joy and laughter?

Sense of eternity - If listening with your mind provides your main source for a sense of time, might spiritual listening be the main source for your sense of eternity? I think so!

Recording - Writing, sound recording, and video recording reduce our need to pay attention (we can always go back to check). Do you depend too much on books, speakers and musicians to provide your spiritual questions and answers? Do these sources reduce the effectiveness of your own, personal, spiritual listening?

Conversation - Do you wear spiritual headphones? Are you regularly having good spiritual conversations with Father and with one another, or are you isolated in your hearing?

Soundbites - Are you conversing spiritually or are you substituting this with 'personal broadcasting'. Do you speak and listen or just speak? We are supposed to ask in prayer, but are we supposed to only ask? Is your spiritual communication two way? Is it a conversation or just an expression of need?

The quiet, the subtle, the understated - Do you hear the still, small voice? Do you pay attention to him?

Listening creates understanding - We cannot understand without paying close attention. Do you want to grow in spiritual understanding? Are you prepared to pay the price of proper listening? There are serious and frightening dangers attached to not listening. What are they? Hint - lack of physical listening may lead to anger, even war. What might lack of spiritual listening lead to?

Techniques to improve listening - Silence or quiet, channels of sound, savouring the mundane (hidden choir), appropriate listening positions, RASA, teach listening (encourage others to listen). Can these or related methods help us improve our spiritual listening?

You might like to listen to Julian again with a view to spiritual listening. If you like, follow through the headings above as you do so. We need to listen to the Spirit of Christ in everything, every sight and sound and smell and touch - in pain, in comfort; in turmoil, in peace; in activity, and in stillness. If we are a hearing people, if we are not spiritually deaf, spiritual life will be rich and fulfilling and new every single day.

Go for it!

(Related post, 'RESPONSE - The need to listen')

25 July 2006

Rugby - Hourglass and desert

< 28th June 2006 | Index | 2nd August 2006 >

We thought about the Father and about leadership, and we were shown that to hear him we need to be very, very quiet.

A flower in the desert
We spent some time at the start of the meeting talking about Father - 'Abba' in Hebrew. We also chatted about leaders and leadership. Leaders should be there to help us and guide us, not to control us.

Sometimes we try to help someone but it doesn't work out too well, but never mind! Father will sort it out like the soap on the bathroom tiles! (can anyone remember more about this?) It's so important that we help each other in every way possible, we have to make room for one another.

We read 1 Kings 19:1-13 which describes how Elijah was afraid and ran away and prayed that he would die. But an angel woke him from sleep and sent him on a journey. And then we hear about the earthquake, the strong wind, the fire, and the still, small voice.

Other thoughts from this meeting had to do with sand in the hourglass, pebbles with jewels amongst them, a pen amongst the knives and forks, and a green leaf in the desert. And the Lord told us, 'Look for the thing that seems out of place - I am in that thing!'

And Valerie shared a prophecy with us. 'Listen to my voice, be very quiet and listen.

< 28th June 2006 | Index | 2nd August 2006 >

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