“Jesus listened to this reply, and was astonished, and said to the people following Him, ‘I solemnly tell you that in no Israelite have I found faith as great as this.’”
- Matthew’s gospel account
Four Streams Partners currently works exclusively with men. But this idea of ‘Inside-Out Transformation’ applies equally to Men and Women. The Mission Statement of 4SP is: ‘Awaken Men to More LIFE Through a Transformational Relationship with Jesus’
As we talk with Men who are on a pilgrimage to connect with Jesus and experience Life as He lived it, it is common to uncover a deep belief in many men that goes something like this, “I want this Life promised by Jesus but, if I’m honest, I can’t see myself changing and don’t even have a category for transformation.”
I've noticed a pattern. As a guy in the 2nd half of life, I realize that I'm good at certain things and not so good at others. And, in the masculine world I live in, some of the things I'm not so good at fall clearly in the column labeled "Things Men Are Supposed to Do". It's true of almost every man. Even if your earthly father was a good man, you can bet there are some things you needed - as a Man - that he simply wasn't equipped to give you. And you got short-changed. Perhaps that explains why, in some environments, you feel like a young boy; unfathered; ill-equipped; shameful.
A friend, whom I’ve known off and on since childhood, recently met with me to discuss my book, Hearing God in Conversation. She said, “Frankly, any kind of hearing God apart from Scripture is dangerous. I’m open, but suspicious.”
She recounted numerous abuses of people “hearing” God:
- During college, two different women told her future husband that God said that he should marry them. My friend observed, “People too often ‘hear’ from God only what they want to hear.”
- She recently attended a conference that included a session on hearing God. The speaker promised they would hear God’s voice if they followed his three steps: (a) Turn off your critical mind, (b) Pick up and pen and paper, and (c) Write down whatever intuitive thoughts come to you. She said, “I don’t believe God follows our formulas.”
- A member of her church once told its board of elders that they should delay the start time of their service so that more young people would attend, and that “God said this in a prayer time of mine.” My friend pointed out the common misuse of “hearing God” to manipulate people into adopting our agendas.
What do we say? I completely agree that thousands of believers—probably hundreds of thousands—frequently abuse “senses” from God. Hearing God is dangerous.
But so is not hearing God.
Because the Nature of Christianity Is Danger
Every significant truth of Christianity is pregnant with peril:
- Grace itself is so startlingly hazardous that Paul must caution us lest grace encourage sin: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1)
- Righteous living is so self-esteem building, it can lead us to pride: “I thank you God that I am not like other men, sinners.” (Luke 18:11)
- Christian ministry is so fulfilling it can lead us away from God: “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?’ I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me.’” (Matt. 7:22-23)
- Generosity can fool us into thinking we have the love of God in us: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3)
- Studying the Bible can be a substitute for knowing the real God: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life; but they are about me, and you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Are you scared yet? We should be. Everything about Christianity is perilous.
But should the inherent hazard of gospel truths keep us from submitting to grace, obeying the Ten Commandments, pouring out our lives in service, impoverishing ourselves to enrich the poor, or reading Scripture?
Let’s not refuse God’s gifts simply because some people abuse God’s gifts. It is much riskier to ignore grace and morals than to practice them, just as it is far more dangerous to disregard hearing God than to learn how.
Live on the Edge
Hearing God is dangerous, but so is faith in that God: Abram followed God’s call, “not knowing where he was going;” Gideon battled an army of tens of thousands with his weaponless three hundred; and Esther risked her neck with her frightening declaration, “If I perish, I perish.”
From Abram to Gideon to Esther, God calls his people to live without safety nets. Not to mention Jesus himself, who said, “When I perish, I perish.” Are we willing to enter the heart of Christianity, a life of risk, peril, threat, and adventure?
What dangerous call are you hearing from God?
- Sam Williamson is our guest blogger for the week of August 9, 2017. Sam is a dear friend and Founder of Beliefs of the Heart. His book, Hearing God in Conversation, is about both hearing God and Intimacy with God. Click http://beliefsoftheheart.com/hearing-god-in-conversation/ for more information and the opportunity to purchase it today.
Phil 2:14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
Six ideas to keep in perspective while dealing with the stress and trials of the Christmas season
1) Look for the positives: Often the holidays force us to deal with family. Inevitably, family in close quarters can present some "challenges". Remember to focus on whatever positives you can find throughout the season. LOOK for them. Don't passively wait for it to be gift wrapped and handed to you.... (Phil 4:8)
2) Appreciate the little things: Oftentimes the holidays lead to comparison and competition. We want to make this Christmas "the BEST Christmas EVER!" This sounds good in theory but can be a constant source of stress and depression as one thing or another doesn't turn out as magnificent as it played out in our mind's eye. Nothing wrong with the grandiose, but I want to live in acceptance not bloated expectation.
3) Be Quick to apologize: Let's face it, it takes two to tango, not every argument is someone else's fault. We play our part too. Take responsibility for your actions. Seek forgiveness early and often. Nothing like a contrite spirit to break down walls.
4) Remember we are a team: (This is more for the married folks...) Two have become one flesh. As you deal with in-laws and her side of the family vs. his side of the family, remember that what God has brought together, no one can separate. So we should act like it. Take your spouse's side first and ask for clarity later. Decide as a unit how you both see the holidays playing out. Come to a consensus and then create the boundaries and environment to do that to the best of your abilities.
5) Keep the Focus: Jesus is the reason for the season... Yes, it sounds cliche, but it is also deeply TRUE. Keep this at the center of the Christmas season. Kids should enjoy their gifts (not going there on the Santa debate, do or don't...your call) but you should read them the Advent Story... You read it to them; sing it together; have Them read it; sacrifice and attend the church services offered. My wife and I have had a really fun time coming up with traditions our family does that remind us how God loved us 2000 years ago.
6) Look for redemption in disappointments: It IS there, usually in hindsight, but this is how we grow. So let's look for positives to keep our mind engaged. When the stuff happens (and it will), keep James 1:2-4 in mind. Hold on to that Joy...
....Behold, I bring you good tidings of GREAT JOY which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord....
Aush Chatman is a friend, former Naval officer, CrossFit Instructor and member of our 4Streams Partners / West Coast outpost in San Diego, CA