Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God Told Me.....Part 2

Last week I gave a brief summary of the problem of saying “God told me” when there is no evidence in the Word of God that He told me anything. We serve a Holy God and I think it is a dangerous thing to put words into His mouth or worse, to lie about Him. A couple of years ago I posted this great blog by John Piper but I think it clearly demonstrates how God speaks and works in our lives. I pray it brings clarity to this subject.

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.
I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I was at Shalom House in northern Minnesota on a staff couples’ retreat. It was about five thirty in the morning. I lay there wondering if I should get up or wait till I got sleepy again. In his mercy, God moved me out of bed. It was mostly dark, but I managed to find my clothing, got dressed, grabbed my briefcase, and slipped out of the room without waking up Noël. In the main room below, it was totally quiet. No one else seemed to be up. So I sat down on a couch in the corner to pray.
As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.
I wondered what he meant by “come and see.” Would he take me somewhere, like he did Paul into heaven to see what can’t be spoken? Did “see” mean that I would have a vision of some great deed of God that no one has seen? I am not sure how much time elapsed between God’s initial word, “Come and see what I have done,” and his next words. It doesn’t matter. I was being enveloped in the love of his personal communication. The God of the universe was speaking to me.
Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind, “I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man.” My heart leaped up, “Yes, Lord! You are awesome in your deeds. Yes, to all men whether they see it or not. Yes! Now what will you show me?”
The words came again. Just as clear as before, but increasingly specific: “I turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There they rejoiced in me—who rules by my might forever.” Suddenly I realized God was taking me back several thousand years to the time when he dried up the Red Sea and the Jordan River. I was being transported by his word back into history to those great deeds. This is what he meant by “come and see.” He was transporting me back by his words to those two glorious deeds before the children of men. These were the “awesome deeds” he referred to. God himself was narrating the mighty works of God. He was doing it for me. He was doing it with words that were resounding in my own mind.
There settled over me a wonderful reverence. A palpable peace came down. This was a holy moment and a holy corner of the world in northern Minnesota. God Almighty had come down and was giving me the stillness and the openness and the willingness to hear his very voice. As I marveled at his power to dry the sea and the river, he spoke again. “I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.”
This was breathtaking. It was very serious. It was almost a rebuke. At least a warning. He may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, “Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me.”
I sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. “I keep watch over the nations.” He had said this to me. It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, “Come down for supper whenever you are ready.” I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God.
Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.
What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God’s reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things?
It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5).
And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.
It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.
This is why I found the article in this month’s Christianity Today, “My Conversation with God,” so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a “well-known Christian University,” it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence.
I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, “For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear” (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, “The money is not yours,” can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible.
I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling, and even consider this misplacement of amazement worthy of printing in a national magazine.
Still hearing his voice in the Bible,

Pastor John

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Because God Told Me...

I do not know of a more proverbial “spade card” to play in the realm of Christianity than to say “because God told me”. I will be posting two weeks on this subject and hope to pull some interesting perspective. I do not know the etymology of this particular phrase or how it evolved as it is used today, but my guess would be that it came about at the height of the charismatic movement or by some preacher who wanted to relocate his church (tongue in cheek of course).

Now, let me state that the Word of God is alive and relevant. I do not have to make it relevant, it is because the human heart never changes without a supernatural work of God and the Word of God speaks to the heart. But, being brought up in church I have noticed how flippantly we use the phrase, “God told me to…..” when in truth, some times what the individual claims God has told them is far from Scriptural.  I have heard everything from

“God has told me it’s okay for me to leave my family"
 “God has told me leave this church and go to ___________”

when at times the place God is “sending” them is not teaching the Word of God or even worse, has no concept of the gospel whatsoever. I have heard pastors tell their congregations that “God has told me we need to build this or relocate.”  The problem?  When I attribute or claim a command from God which is not clearly defined in Scripture, I set myself up as the authority. Then if you oppose what “God said,” guess whose side you are on?

Let me be clear:  there is no doubt that God speaks to us through His word, there is no doubt that when kept in context we can say with conviction that God’s Word spoke to us and we would be correct. There is also no doubt that the Holy Spirit works in our lives to lead us and prompt us in certain areas, but those “leadings and promptings” certainly must be seen through the lens of the Word of God. But, if I believe that “God told me to buy the new car” or “to tell the Preacher he should preach on this” or “to tell this girl she should date me” then I must conclude that each instance I hear of this is as authoritative as the Great Commission,  after all God supposedly would have commanded both.  I came across a blog by Dr. Bill Curtis and, he too is arguing against “God Told Me Theology” and wrote this:

Weak hermeneutics + flawed concept of biblical revelation = dangerous "God told me" theology

Today, everyone wants to “hear” from God, and almost daily there is a new claim of “special revelation.” I would submit, however, that there are few things more dangerous to the mission of the church than “God told me” theology. There are several potential dangers:

1. “God told me” theology rejects the theological position that the biblical canon is closed, with its claim that God has already told us everything we need for life and godliness in the Bible.

2. “God told me” theology embraces the reality that believers have access to “special revelation” from God that equals/trumps the revelation of scripture.

3. “God told me” theology places subjective, personal experience in a position of authority over the objective truth of scripture.

4. “God told me” theology minimizes the role of scripture in personal experience and the need for the faithful interpretation of scripture.

"God told me” theology cannot be repudiated on the basis of scripture, because “special revelation” places itself above scripture.

Again, there is so much God has told us in His Word that we can say for certain He has told us, we must conclude that much of the time people use the term “God told me” is when they want to do something and want you to keep quite about it. In conclusion we are fallible, I misunderstand my wife a lot of times, with my heart that is selfish for me to claim that God is giving me special revelation is not only reckless, it can lead to dangerous heresy. If you want to know what God says, it really pretty easy…open the Word of God and read it for yourself and as a believer know that the Holy Spirit is your teacher. I know this because God told me, but He also told you in His Word.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Are we willing to biblically shoot our children?

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of womb a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.      Psalm 127:3 - 5

I preached a sermon entitled "How to Biblically Shoot Your Children" just after I got to Trinity.  In this sermon I talked about how we should aim our children to serve the Lord, where ever He chooses for them to land.  So many times we are more concerned with keeping our children safe and close, rather than seeing them as fellow believers who need to serve and minister where ever the Lord leads.  It is hard for us, as parents to conceive of letting them go to the furthermost parts of the world or even across the country!  But, isn't our goal for them to be obedient - not just to us but to the Lord? 

The blog below does a great job of reminding us to "shoot" our children in the right direction.  With this school year starting this week for most of our students, let's be sure that as parents we are not always trying to shelter them from difficulty, but rather we are walking with them through life and preparing them for whatever He has planned for them!  We can talk with them, coach them, cheer them, train them and teach them....but we cannot own them - they belong to their Father and He has better plans for them and can care for them more than we ever can.   

Let's Not Raise Good Little Kids 
by Ann Dunagan on the True Woman Website

As mission-minded parents, our goal is not to raise "our" kids to be happy and successful (so others are impressed by our parenting skills). Instead, we're called to raise "His kids" to be holy and submitted to God (so God gets all the glory!).

Let's not just raise "good little kids" who will merely sit still in church and do what they're told. Instead, let's raise dangerous men and daring daughters who will advance God's kingdom.
Let's be like that mighty warrior described in Psalms 127. Instead of holding our "arrows" so tightly (trying to keep our kids "safe" and "saved" by our own self-efforts), let's aim our kids into adulthood, into whatever spheres of society God calls them to, with momma-hearts of total surrender.

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 2:10,
"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Every one of our kids is designed by God with unique talents, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, desires, and spiritual gifts.

Our job as Christian parents is to diligently train our kids (Deut. 6:4–9) to walk in God's unique path. As "stewards" of our kids, God has entrusted us with the responsibility to train each one for God's specific life-calling. We are called to raise sons and daughters in childhood (Jer. 1:5), in youth (1 Tim. 4:12), and into adulthood to live for God's glory and His eternal purposes.

I just love Psalm 144:12,
"May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace."
Let's raise our sons to be strong and mature–diligent, dependable, hard-working, spiritually-minded, able to lead and to serve.
Let's raise our daughters to be daring–beautiful pillars of stability in our family and home, in the church, and in the lives of those who need Jesus.
Let's train our kids to be mature (at every age, even in middle school and high school)—not led by fleshly or selfish desires, but led with a heart of radical obedience.

Sometimes, it's not easy. In our family, our guys have faced all kinds of dangers, from ministering in Rwandan genocide prisons, preaching in war-torn Sudan, surviving a life-threatening Antarctica storm, to climbing mountains and heading to war.

Our daughters have ministered to orphans in Uganda, India, Niger, and Cambodia; they have hearts for troubled inner-city teens and for those trapped in human trafficking.

Through it all, I've come to realize fear is not my friend. Worry is not the responsible momma-attitude for me to have. Instead, I choose to be a warrior (in prayer), not a worrier. By God's grace, I choose faith, not fear—to raise strong sons and daring daughters to help advance the kingdom of God. Daily, I choose to be a mission-minded mom . . . and oh, what a joy!
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4).