Hearing God is Dangerous

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

  • 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.

PERSPECTIVE: the Christmas season, You and Six Imperatives - Guest Blog by Aush Chatman

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

What Kind of Man are You Becoming?

How was your Friday?  Mine was full ... and really good. 

I got to meet with two men, both of whom play a significant role in this mission.  I walked away knowing a little more about the inner lives of both men.  I have watched them both deal with different kinds of adversity... over time.  And I was proud of them. They are becoming really good men.

You see, we don't have as much CONTROL as we'd like in this life. And even when we think we do, much of that CONTROL is an illusion. What comes to us in our daily lives is what Paul referred to in Romans 8 when he used the phrase, "all things" and then went on to say that "all things work together for good...to those who love God and who are called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)

It doesn't mean that people who are especially 'good Christians' will always have especially 'good things' happen to them because of their 'good performance'.  It means that people who really give themselves to God will experience a broad sampling of ALL KINDS of experiences - some beautiful things and some tragic things - all of them in their totality working together for the good. 

The pivotal truth for Christians is that we get to make significant choices.  When some of the "all things" occur that are particularly unpleasant, we have the option to believe that God is really good -- or not. If we make the choice to trust Him, well,... that is the equivalent of saying "Yes!" to the plans of a perfectly loving Father.

That CHOICE to say "Yes!" to God in the middle of chaos or pain or ... even prosperity is a Big Factor in what kind of man you become. He does the Work. We get to agree. 

In a world where outward religious activity mattered most, Paul reminded the Galatians that one thing mattered.  "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Gal 5:6

So, what kind of Man are you becoming? And by what Means?

Both questions are important.  The 2nd question <'...by what means?> gets to the core of whether you believe you are a self-made Man or if you believe you  belong to Another and find his Ability to be the only ability from which you live.  Or, said a different way, are you learning to lean back into God's very real life and allow him to live his Life ... 'as you'.

The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

C.S. Lewis, as a young man, did not trust God and did not want to believe that Christianity was true.  In fact, it was his association with a group of moral un-believers that contributed to his conversion.

But there was another man (there usually is...) who awakened the imagination of the young intellectual.  George MacDonald was a Scottish preacher and writer who lived one generation before Lewis. 

He wrote prolifically and trusted God deeply.

Lewis later wrote, 
 

"I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."

The Title of this blog probably caught your attention.  It caught mine.  It is one of MacDonald's sermons from a volume called UnSpoken Sermons.

Perhaps the sharpness of the title even convinced you to open this post.  I'll warn you.  He is wordy.  And he wrote in the 19th century. Some of his work is not easy to follow.  But the text of this sermon is included as a link HERE

Let me encourage you to read it long enough to find 2 or 3 nuggets of gold. MacDonald knew the Supreme Goodness of the heavenly Father.  

And if you take the time to ask the question, "Do I know the Supreme Goodness of the One True Father?", what do you think your answer will be?

The one relationship assaulted most in the universe is that between Father and son.  All of our assumptions about God and life, ourselves and others spring from our relationship, not only to the One True Father, but also to our own earthly fathers. 

And so we all ask...

I wonder if God will show up for me.....and I wonder what that might look like?

Shame is Nothing to be ashamed of

Popular, secular therapy proclaims the evils of shame. It’s wrong. Sure, shame is misused and abused, but deep-shame—deep shame alone—offers our only hope of grace-based healing. As J. I. Packer once suggested, “Seek the grace to be ashamed.” (This is a response to the anti-shame rant in the world around us.)

FeelingShame.jpg

Scripture tells two stories of boatload catches of fish, the first at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:4-8) and the second at the end (John 21:2-7). In both stories:

  • Professional fishermen fish all night.
  • Their night of fishing is fruitless; not a single fish is caught.
  • The following morning, an amateur offers unsolicited and unusual directions.
  • The fishermen obey and catch so many fish that their boats begin to sink.

Despite their similarities, there is one, huge difference. After the first miracle, Peter exclaims to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” After the second, Peter casts himself into the sea and breaks an Olympic-record-freestyle to get close to Jesus.

What changed in Peter that drove him to Jesus? He had finally experienced deep shame.

The modern world hates shame

Shame is a feeling that attacks the core of our spirit. Guilt is the thought “I DID something bad.” Shame is the belief “I AM something bad.” Guilt attacks our actions; shame attacks our being:

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling . . . of believing we are [deeply] flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance. (Brene Brown)
  • Shame . . . is that sense of unease with yourself at the heart of your being (David Atkinson).

Shallow-shame nurtures an intense concentration on ourselves. We feel our flawed nature and we frantically try to fix it. Tim Keller asks,

What is the opposite of Righteousness?  Evil?  No, the opposite of righteousness is shame, and we do everything in our power to try to cover it.

We frantically cover ourselves with desperate attempts at perfection. We “hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving” (Brene Brown).

Shallow-shame breeds self-focus; but self-obsession is the root-cause of every problem in the world. Oppression, betrayal, and greed are all birthed by self-centeredness.

So what are we to do with shame?

Modern therapists suggest we dump shame and embrace worthiness. Secular Brene Brown writes, “The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. As is.” (Without the cross, it’s the opposite of grace.) *

Brown’s therapy teaches non-biblical, gospel substitution, self-hypnosis. It’s The Little Engine That Could, huffing and puffing, “I think I’m worthy, I think I’m worthy.” Scripture disagrees with Brown. Jeremiah says his generation’s problem was lack of shame:

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were neither ashamed nor even knew how to blush. Therefore they shall fall (Jer. 6:15).

Mark Twain agreed with Scripture (amazingly) when he said,

Man is the only animal that blushes. And the only animal that needs to.

God’s answer to shame is deep-shame

The first time Jesus creates the miracle of the great catch of fish, Peter rightly senses his own unworthiness and asks, “Depart from me because I am a sinful man.” He is saying, “Leave me alone until I claim my own self-worth.” (Brown would be proud.)

Right before the final miraculous catch, Peter finally experiences deep-shame. He had just denied Jesus three times. He is not the brave man he self-proclaimed. He’s a coward. And that deep-shame finally drove him to God’s grace.

This is all that’s required for deep communion with God: to come empty, to admit we are unworthy. Everything else is smoke and mirror therapy.

A life without regret

Shallow-shame leads to self-claimed worth. Just before his denials, Peter exclaimed, “Those other disciples may deny you but I never will.” Then his self-proclaimed worthiness failed. When the cock crows three times, he finally experiences deep shame.

Paul explains the differing results between deep-shame repentance and shallow-shame self-proclamation:

Godly-grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly-grief produces death (2 Cor. 7:10).

Godly-grief (at deep-shame) leads to deep repentance and a life without regret.

Without regret?

Shame isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with the shame. We can be angry and sin not; we can also be ashamed and despair not. In fact, we can finally find life.

Every human wants an enduring love and worth. Therefore we need something stronger than self-hypnosis. We need grace. Grace says God loves us just because he loves us. His love doesn’t depend on what we do or what we claim.

That’s why Paul can write, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus” (not through our self-worth proclamation). Deep-shame can drive us to grace. Let’s seek the grace to be ashamed and yield to grace; no striving, no hypnosis. He loves us because he loves us. That can never be removed.

We come to God in little empty boats till we overflow with more than we can imagine.

Sam

* I like Brene Brown, especially her call to vulnerability and her battle against using shame to bully others. But her secular answers are substitutes for the gospel; they don’t require the death of the beloved Son of God.

Our solution is not: “believing we are worthy at this moment.” Our solution is to receive worth from the Son on the cross.

Note from Buz: Sam Williamson is a friend and guest blogger for the week. I asked Sam for permission to re-post this piece on the 4Streams Partners web site because it is a viewpoint that is both true and completely in sync with the piece of our Vision that seeks to 'restore that essence of the Gospel that has been lost' in all of the nonsense of our current Christian culture.  You can read more of Sam's work at http://beliefsoftheheart.com.  Thank you, Sam!