Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Still, Small Voice in the Silence

How would you react if you heard an audible voice but didn’t see anyone speaking to you?

There have only been a handful of times I have heard an audible voice from God or an angel. This is the story of the first time:

As a junior in high school, I was playing in a band with my brother, who was in his first year at Texas A&M University. Early one Friday, he drove down to Houston, TX in his Chevy S-10 Blazer to pick me up for an important gig we’d be playing the next day in College Station, TX.

It was a long, crazy weekend.

Finally, early Sunday afternoon we started heading back to Houston. My brother was driving, our drummer, Wally, rode shotgun, and I was in the back right seat. Now, you must understand that the SUV was packed to the gills with PA equipment, instruments, and various stands. There was only room for me to sit in one of the back seats, and only one side had a working seatbelt, so I chose the side where I couldn’t buckle up because I was cool like that.

Just before we got on the highway, my brother said he needed to stop by a friend’s house to grab something. He pulled in front of the house, said he would just be a minute, and he and Wally went inside. And just then, there in the silence, I heard it.

In a tone just above a whisper, a voice clearly told me to move all the stuff in the left back seat to the right side, and to buckle myself in the left back seat.

That was weird. Really weird. But, it also made a lot of sense. And, there was nothing in the message I heard that contradicted what I knew in the scriptures. So I moved all the equipment in the left back seat to the right, and buckled myself in the left seat.

About 20 minutes later we were several miles down the highway going about 80mph in the left lane. Unbeknownst to us, the Blazer began to drift off the left shoulder and onto the grass median. I looked up and realized we were about to hit a construction sign.

I yelled, “Watch out!” The Blazer swerved hard to the right into a minivan and began to flip. We flipped over three times across the width of the highway at 80mph. I remember flying around so fast, yet it was as if everything was happening in slow motion.

In a state of shock, we carefully climbed our way out of the side windows of the vehicle. Witnesses came running up to us asking us how we could be alive. The Blazer was a crumpled pile of garbage, and guitars and stands were strewn across the highway. Yet, we were blessed to escape with only small cuts and concussions.

I believe we were being protected throughout that crash. However, I also believe that if I had not listened to that still, small voice, my life would have turned out much different to say the least. 

What would have happened if Cornelius, the Roman centurion, had not listened to the heavenly voice that spoke to him?

Cornelius was, it is said, “a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and praying to God always. He saw therefore, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and saying, ‘Your alms have come up as a memorial before God. Therefore send to Simon, who is called Peter.’” … He whom Cornelius had previously feared as God, of whom he had heard through the law and the prophets, for whose sake also he used to give alms, is, in truth, God. The knowledge of the Son was, however, wanting to him. – Irenaeus 180CE Volume 1, p. 717 [CD-ROM]

Cornelius may have never been saved if he had not been obedient to the heavenly word that came to him. Perhaps his household would have suffered the same fate. I don’t know. Regardless, I praise God for being a God who speaks, and I pray that we will listen when He does!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hearing from God Pt. 2 (Seeing the Word)

If God’s word came to you in a vision, would you be willing to listen?

When Abraham was 75 years old and childless, God came to him and made him some incredible promises. God promised He would bless him and make him a great nation, and that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed.

Many years later, a still childless Abraham was undoubtedly feeling discouraged and disheartened at so many lofty promises remaining unfulfilled. Then, one starry night, this happened:

The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.” … Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him … And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” – Genesis 15:1, 4-5 (NASB)

The word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision and literally took him outside to show him the stars.

The word of the Lord. In a vision.

Maybe you’ve been taught that these days God only speaks through the scriptures. But don’t the New Testament scriptures reveal God using visions as a common method He uses to speak to people? (Some examples include Acts 9:10-16; Acts 10:1-20; Acts 16:9-10; Acts 18:9-11.)

In my church’s gatherings over the last couple of months, we have made it a point to build in about 20-25 minutes of intentional spontaneity. 20-25 minutes of intentionally giving God room to operate. Here’s what I mean.

After we take the Lord’s Supper, we get in groups of 2 or 3 and spend 1 minute asking God to speak to us and show us what He wants to teach us. Then, we spend another minute in those groups quietly listening and waiting on God to show us what is on His heart. For the rest of the time, people are free to share what God has shown them. Admittedly, this practice scares me for multiple reasons, but each week God comes through.

One week a woman saw something like a Polaroid picture of her diverse family sitting together united in Bible study. It seemed like God was calling all of us to be extra intentional in discipling our families. God was saying He doesn’t merely want unity in the family, for we can be unified around lies. He wants unity in His Spirit of truth. He wants us unified in Him. That vision spoke volumes to so many gathered that day.

Of course, we need to test any vision we receive and make sure it is in line with the scriptures. But as 3rd Century Christian writer, Hippolytus, states, God-given visions have been bringing people into relationship with our Creator for thousands of years. “Because of visions, many have come to make their abode with Jesus.” (Hippolytus 205CE, Volume 5, p. 203)

Even today, numerous reports keep surfacing of Muslims coming to faith in various countries due to having visions and dreams of Jesus. An older Southern Baptist friend of mine, and rock-solid man of God, has a similar testimony that occurred right here the good old US of A. His vision of Jesus did not take Him from Islam to Christianity, but simply from a state of unbelief in Jesus to belief.

So, will you join me this week in praying for an outpouring from the Holy Spirit of visions from Jesus? Will you join me in seeking to hear from God like Abraham and so many followers of Yahweh have?

“And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17 (NASB)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Chapter Titles for New: Wineskins and the Simple Words of Christ

Part 1: New Wineskins of Jesus and His Teachings
Chapter 1: Take Another Little Piece of My Heart, Lord Jesus
Chapter 2: Sepia Jesus
Chapter 3: John Wayne and Jesus
Chapter 4: Hyperbolic Jesus
Chapter 5: Judas and Jesus
Chapter 6: If/Then Jesus
Chapter 7: Daddy Issues and Jesus

Part 2: New Wineskins of the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Warfare
Chapter 8: WDJD (What Did Jesus Do?)
Chapter 9: Seeing Things for the First Time
Chapter 10: Trailers for the Main Attraction
Chapter 11: Giving Keys to Thieves
Chapter 12: A Person of Influence

Part 3: New Wineskins of the Old Testament
Chapter 13: Miracles on the Third Day
Chapter 14: The Divine Messenger
Chapter 15: The Flood, Giants, and Richard Dawkins
Chapter 16: Feasting with Jesus
Chapter 17: Time to Rise and Shine
Chapter 18: Canceling Debts and Conquering Darkness
Chapter 19: Everybody Loves a Wedding


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hearing from God Pt. 1

Do your Christian gatherings give God the opportunity to speak?

By the grace of God, I began helping lead worship for my original church’s youth group around the year 2000. Mike Satterfield (the Youth Minister at the time) spent a lot of time teaching me how to lead worship and discipling me, and I wish I would’ve paid better attention to him.

One Wednesday night, he had all of us participate in one of the weirdest and most spiritually edifying activities I had ever witnessed. At the beginning of the night, every student and leader were instructed to gather in a large circle (there were around 50 of us). He then told us that God was going to be the worship leader that night, and we were going to stay there in the circle and sing whatever God put on our hearts to sing.

It was so awkward and uncomfortable.

At first.

But then, slowly, one by one, someone started singing:

Lord, I lift Your name on high
Lord, I love to sing Your praises
I’m so glad You’re in my life
I’m so glad You came to save us

You came from heaven to earth
To show the way
From the earth to the cross
My debt to pay
From the cross to the grave
From the grave to the sky
Lord, I lift Your name on high

We sang that chorus a cappella several times, and it was beautiful. It was so moving. Even right now as I’m thinking back to that moment, my eyes are welling up. There was something so right about giving the Holy Spirit room to operate.

We sang several songs that night and there were several brief moments of exhortation. There were also some awkward pauses, but then God would prompt someone with the next thing He wanted done. We prayed and listened, and God spoke.

There in that moment, I started to feel the confidence David must have felt when He penned Psalm 17:6. “I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God (ESV).” I think almost all of us were probably feeling that way, for we were calling out to God, and He was answering us… right there in that moment. I’m so glad Mike was faithful in listening and obeying God’s promptings for that night.

So… when you pray, when you talk with God, when you ask Him questions, do expect Him to answer?

When you gather as a community of believers and you pray together, do you give God the opportunity to speak? What are some ways we can let God be our main worship leader privately and publically?

As you think about those questions, let me encourage you with these words from an early Christian disciple of Jesus:

Be constant in both prayer and reading. Now speak with God; then let God speak with you. Let Him instruct you in His teaching, let Him direct you. – Cyprian 250CE Volume 5 p. 279-280