for those who don't want to just wait it out

like the song says this is a blog for someone who wants to say something (anything) and who's happy to wait and see what time will bring...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can you hear His voice?

Argh - Christmas and New Years have been and gone and I'm sad to say that all of my best made plans for reading through all those books sort of fell by the wayside in a lovely and relaxing summer break. Most of the time was spent with family and friends (pictured here with my too cute niece at Christmas - and for those who care my hair is now cut as short as her's!) and revolved around the complex routine of getting up, going to the gym, selecting a friend to have breakfast with and then coming back and lying by my pool or going to the beach. Yep, life is tough sometimes.

But I did get through some of the books and one of them has been Walking With God by John Eldredge. Although there were a few things that I was left questioning, and sometimes just downright disagreeing with (especially towards the second half and end of the book) in the opening chapters I came across a section that I thought might spark some interest. It interested me because lately it's a topic that I've been thinking through, because of things that I've been challenged by and as I try to discern some areas and directions that He might be guiding me towards. Here goes:

Now, I know, I know - the prevailing beliefe is that God speaks to His people only through the Bible. And let me make this clear: He does speak to us first and foremost through the Bible. That is the basis for our relationship. The Bible is the eternal and unchanging Word of God to us. It is such a gift, to have right there in black and white God's thoughts towards us. We know right off the bat that any other supposed revelation from God that contradicts the bible is not to be trusted. So I am not minimising in any way the authority of the Scripture or the fact that God speaks to us through the Bible.
However, many Christians believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible.
The irony of that beliefe is that's not what the bible says.
The bible is filled with stories of God talking to His people (Abraham Gen 24:7, Moses Ex 33:11, Aaron Ex 6:13, David 2 Sam 2:1, Noah, Samuel, Gideon...)
I can hear the objections even now: "But that was different. Those were special people called to special tasks." And we are not special people called to special tasks? I refuse to believe that. And I doubt that you want to believe it either, in your hearts of hearts...
Now, if God doesn't also speak to us, why would He have given us all these stories of Him speaking to others? "Look - here are hundreds of inspiring and hopeful stories about how God spoke to His people in this and that situation. Isn't it amazing? But you can't have that. He doesn't speak like that anymore." That makes no sense at all. Why would God give you a book of exceptions? This is how I used to relate to my people but I don't do that anymore. What good would a book of exceptions do you?
... No, the Bible is a book of examples of what it looks like to walk with God. To say that He doesn't offer that to us is disheartening. It is also unbiblical. The Bible says that we hear Gods voice:

He wakes me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Is 50:4)
For He is our God and we are he people of His pasture, the flock of His care (Ps 95:7)
Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts (Ps 95:7-8)
John 10:2-4, 14-16

...An intimate, conversational walk with God is available. Is normal even. Or, at least, it is meant to be normal. I'm well aware that the majority of people do not enjoy that... yet. But it is certainly what God desires and what He offers. My assumption is based on the nature of God and the nature of man made in His image. We are communicators. My assumption is also based on the nature of relationship - it also requires communication. It is based on the long record of God speaking to His people of various tasks in all sorts of situations.
And finally, it is based on the teachings of Jesus, who tells us that we hear His voice.
p's 13-18

How does this fit in with your understanding of the character of God and your reading of Scripture?

For now I'll leave you with an experience of my own. It was a few years ago now and I was with a team of students at a local church doing some things with them after NTE. It had been a long week, I was tired, certainly grumpy and seriously doubting myself and my own 'abilities' in ministry and whether I should be doing what I was/am. I was feeling the weight of my own sinful impatience with things and certainly didn't want to be up the front of the gathering leading the service but at the last minute I had to fill in for someone and do it. At the end of the service I had no less than 6 people come up to me and say something along the lines of "Thanks for doing that, we were really encouraged, you're obviously where God wants you to be..."

In the confused mindset that I was in I thought to myself "God, perhaps you're trying to speak to me through these people. I'm going to just sit outside and pray for a bit to discern if you're using these people to communicate with me."

On my way outside though I noticed a member of the church, Malcolm, was just sitting on his own. Now, what you need to understand is that Malcolm is in a wheelchair with quite severe physical and mental handicaps. His communication throughout the week was limited and stilted at best. But as I was walking outside I thought "Well, I can't just leave Malcolm sitting there on his own - I'll pray later" and sat down with him. Within a minute or two of a few words Malcolm turned to me and in the clearest voice I'd heard him use all week said "Isn't it great how God uses others to speak to us sometimes?".

It was, to say the least, unnerving and I still get goose bumps when I think about it. I've had other experiences similar to this one recently - things that cannot be explained away as 'random' or 'coincidences' which is what my sometimes cynical mind would like to do.

But you tell me - what does it say about the character of our God that He deigned, with all of His love and sovereignty, to communicate with us, His little creatures, in such a way?


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