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Archive for the category “Hearing God”

Hearing God: The Plumb Line

Behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand.
 
As young Christian it didn’t take me too long to run into the concept of “The Plumb Line” around church circles.  People would say that the Word of God is like a plumb line for your life.  Line your life up with the Bible and it will be a plumb line to keep focused on what is upright and true.  Measure what you do and say against the plumb line.  The plumb line?  hmmm… Now what’s that?
 
A quick look at Mirriam-Webster online dictionary shows you that the definition is “a line (as of cord) that has at one end a weight (as a plumb bob) and is used especially to determine verticality. OK, line (check), weight (check) and verticality! OK, what’s vericality?  And what’s it got to do with my new life in Christ?
 
 
PLUMB LINE, GRAVITY, PLUMB BOB
The Mirriam – Webster site asks “What made you want to look up plumb line”?  Good question, what indeed!?!
 
Everyone on the site listed, “Bible Study” or Amos 7:7-9!  Looks like no one was checking on how to determine vericality… or even perpendicularity! (smile!)  They were all checking out the plumb line and what it is with respect to their Christian faith!
 
Building construction is the main area you’ll find people referring to using a plumb or plumb line.  A  plumb line is a straight line, that is perfectly vertical.  Builders need it so when they build they can be completely sure that nothing is leaning to one side or another. If walls are not vertical, the force of gravity will eventually deform them and may even lead to collapse of the building.
 
 The traditional tool for finding a plumb line is called a plumb bob.  It’s incredibly simple and pretty cool looking at the same time!  The plumb bob is a pointed weight attached to a string. Check out the pictures in this post.
 
It insures that things stay perpendicular or at a right angle to perfect horizontal.   By holding the plumb bob next to a wall, you can tell if the wall is vertical or not.
 
THE PLUMB LINE OF SCRIPTURE
It’s easy to see why the picture of a plumb line would be an excellent reference to the Word of God. The plumb line represents the right and true straight line that all “straightness” or “rightness” is measured against. Such a cool concept has two reference verses, both in the Books of OT Minor Prophets.  One is found in the book of Amos, chapter 7 and the other is in the book of Zechariah, chapter 4.

Amos 7:7-9
Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” 9 I answered, “A plumb line.”

And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line.

In Amos we see the prophet describing God as the building inspector and he is examining the wall that has been constructed using the plumb line to see “if it is still straight”.  Then He says to Amos, now that I’m finished with this wall I’m going to check my people and see how they measure up to my straight line!

Zechariah 4:9-10
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.

Again God speaks of building, this time of laying a foundation.  Gladness fills the hearts of people when they see the plumb line in the hands of the builder, Zerubbabel.  God is looking for those who want what they to do to line up with what God is seeking!

 WE NEED A PLUMB LINE WHEN HEARING FROM GOD
When we seek to know the will of God, to hear from God we must ask ourselves what can help us keep in line with truth and what will help us test the veracity of what we hear.  It is important to guard ourselves as best we can from falling into subjectivism or just being led by our “feelings”.  I submit that the plumb line for our hearing from God is the Word of God. Put what you hear to the test. People who walk around saying, God told me this and God wants me to do that must bring all that they think they hear to God’s Word and measure it against the plumb line, God’s standard, the Bible.
 
 
Take for instance a young couple saying that they believe God wants them to live together before marriage to confirm their compatibility or the family who pretends that they don’t really rent a room on their tax return when actually they do or the Christian who puts together political ads that mislead, misrepresent or downright lie about an opponent because they rationalize that it’s OK because it is against a pro-choice anti-pro-life candidate.
 
On issues of marriage do we look to God’s Word for a definition or do we follow the popular media or succumb to emotional presentations or dubious “scientific” explanations?
 
I understand that in our society saying “The Bible says” is akin to admitting that you are a bag of fries short of a happy meal.  Or that your brain is on hold and you’re saying “don’t confuse me with the facts!”  I am convinced and confident that the Word of God stands and is to be our standard.  I believe there is a way to understand and present the Word of God in a logical fashion without sacrificing our minds.
 
However hearing from God and understanding God’s will requires us to commit ourselves to a plumb line; to a standard that is unwavering and true. Only then can we be sure that we are building on a solid foundation and that the house under construction will not collapse from the eventual pull of gravity.
 
In this way we  can keep ourselves from straying from what is right and true.  We check all things via the plumb line of God’s Word.
 
EYES ON THE PLUMB LINE, HEART WITH THE ARCHITECT 
John 5:39-40
[ Witness of the Scripture ] 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
It is important to remember not to let the plumb line become the end in itself.  The plumb bob is the tool and we can become very excellent building inspectors… of our own dwellings and the buildings of others. The Pharisees were great building inspectors.  Many years ago I took such pride in being right that I missed the point.  I had what you would call a “Be Right” spirit! 
 
The purpose of a wall that is being measured by a plumb line is not straightness. That is not the end of it!  The plumb line confirms the strength and veracity of the wall or bridge or house or deck so it can accomplish the purpose for which it was built!
 
We must be careful to not stop at the inspection but always look past to see the Architect and Author of Life.  It is easy to look at the Bible and be filled with wonder at the amazing owner’s manual and become experts at wielding the plumb line.  King David spoke often in the Book of Psalms of delighting in the law of the Lord, how perfect and lovely it is.  A whole psalm, Ps 119 is dedicated to praising and rejoicing in God’s law.
 
But it is good to remember that David was said to be a “man after God’s own heart”. Though he loved the Law, his heart delighted and pursued after the Law-Giver.  So like David let us grow in knowing Him who is the Grand Architect and Lover of our Souls.  And let us be committed to His Word as the plumb line for all we say and do.
 
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Hearing God: Eyes & Ears

“The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing”.

In 1994 a workbook called “Experiencing God” was published and very quickly became quite a success, with many study groups forming to go through the book together.  The book was subtitled “Knowing & Doing the Will of God”.  Henry T. Blackaby was the author.  He states that the central thesis of his book is…

“Knowing God does not come through a program, a study, or a method. Knowing God comes through a relationship with a Person. This is an intimate love relationship with God. Through this relationship, God reveals Himself, His purposes, and His ways; and He invites you to join Him where He is already at work”.

John 5:19 is a cornerstone scripture in his study which says…

John 5:19
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (NASB)

The premise is that God the Father is at work in the world around us.  Jesus says he does what he sees the Father doing.  This idea of cooperation and partnership, Blackaby says is found throughout the Bible.  He uses Moses as another example of this premise.  Blackaby contends that God invites us into what he is doing.  He invites us into the adventure of knowing and doing his will.

This is a very exciting concept and biblical truth.  Not only are we to hear for God as is our birthright but we are invited to participate in his great work on the earth.  Blackaby breaks down the path we take from knowing God is at work all the way to doing God’s will.  Below is the 7 step path to “Experiencing God.”

Step 1 we’ve already discussed.  God is at work.  We can actually tune on this and notice such things as people around us becoming spiritually curious, or experiencing some tragedy open to encouragement and prayer, some who had religious background begin to talk about them in nostalgic fashion.  Sometimes God is at work and we do not see the signs until he speaks to us.

Step 2 speaks of having a loving relationship with God as the foundation, with our communication with him be grounded in fellowship and not initially with doing anything. 

In Step 3 out of that relationship we are invited to participate leading us to Step 4 at which point we hear God speak.  God shows what he is doing and asks us to join him in a particular way usually asking us to step out beyond our comfort zone.

In Step 5 we are challenged to step out in faith.  At this point God is wanting to stretch our faith, asking as it were for us to step out of the boat with a chance to walk on water.  We have a decision to make.  Will we or won’t we follow?  Not every communication from God or revelation of his will produces this kind of crisis of belief.  Just the ones where God is work supernaturally and he wants to use us uniquely.

Step 6  finds us surrendering to God, casting our cares on him, leaning not on our own understanding as we repent of our small mindedness or our fear or our selfishness… stepping out of our comfort zone.

In Step 7 we are walking in obedience and Blackaby encourages us saying at this point we are experiencing something new and exciting, we are experiencing God new and afresh and it is exhilarating and amazing.  We see great fruit. We experience God’s provision.  We see miracles and blessings. We see his kingdom come, his will be done and we are ready for more of him and more of this adventure.

John 14:12
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

The verse above tells us that the mantle of cooperation with the Father, the work of God passes to us from none other than Jesus.

I loved doing the Experiencing God Study.  it is filled with scripture and it never fails to draw me closer to the Lord.  The only down side was that the description of this working with the Father seemed to encompass a much bigger arena than my normal day-to-day life.  So it was harder for me to follow the steps in a regular fashion.  It could also be that I heard from God only to slide back into unbelief or rationalizing away potentially challenging situations.

Ultimately the truth these verses in John and the encouragement of the author to believe God for greater things keep me coming back to place myself in the Father’s hands again.  My heart calls out… “Here I am, use me Lord!”

John 15:15
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (NASB)

 

Hearing God: The Word Alive!

The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword

Soon after I got saved in 1978 I had a profound experience that on the surface did not seem all that amazing.  One day I walked into a Christian Bookstore called Words of Wisdom and after perusing all the wonderful Christian books that I couldn’t afford I settled into listening to a young lady who was talking to the owner.  This gal was very excited and began elating over one passage in The First Book of Corinthians.

As I listened I noticed something while she was enthusiastically sharing her scriptural discovery. I was not getting as excited about what she was sharing as she was. Same for those around me.  What the young lady was sharing was good, in fact, very good… I mean we are talking the Bible! And it definitely spoke to her.  But that was the point… it spoke to her.  She had had a very personal encounter with this section of scripture and she had experienced quite an “Ah-ha!” moment.  

In such moments the words of the Bible seem to leap off the page… and they seem to come alive… alive just for the reader!  It’s as if God has wrapped a gift for you and it was unwrapping before your very eyes. The book store owner knew this and understood that this young lady had experienced something very special. That’s why she smiled knowingly while the girl spoke and even drew her out more about God had shown her.  As she did that the rest of us were able to join in a bit more though not at the same level this young lady did.  That day, I learned two valuable lessons.

God’s Word is Alive

First I learned that this phenomenon I had witnessed was another piece in my understanding of how God communicates with us.  The Bible describes it as the Holy Spirit enlightening our hearts with the truth of God’s word.

Ephesians 1:17-18
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
The Bible is not to be a dead, lifeless book.  Though it is good for learning the principles of a godly life and the character of God and his plan of salvation it is also meant to speak to our hearts personally.  Let’s look at the following scripture…

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (NASB)

We notice that the Word of God is described here as being “living”  and “active”.  This to me describes the unwrapping of the gift. Studying or reading the Bible should never be just a rote exercise or just limited to an academic study (though there is nothing wrong with educating our minds with the things of God) but if that is all then I submit that one’s Christian life will be rather lifeless and dull (no gifts!).  Let’s look at a translation that tries to expand things for us…

Hebrews 4:12
For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. (Amplified) 

I like the words “energizing” and “effective”.  The young lady at the book store was definitely energized but not in a caffeine induced sort of way.  Something had “penetrated” her heart with communication very personal from God. It was that living word, the Rhema or spoken word of God.  I encourage you to ask God to speak and make his word alive as you read it.  Not everything we will read will come bursting off the pages but I will guarantee you’ll start with a great sense of anticipation once you know that God wants to communicate to you through the Bible.

We are Made Alive to God’s Word

Second, I recognized that things changed when I became a Christian with regard to the Bible.  As I mentioned in my previous post  Hearing God: Our Birthright our salvation is linked with hearing God.  The following three verses reinforce this point.

James 1:21
So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. (NLT)

The initial word God sends is meant to be “planted in our hearts”.  This phrase has me thinking of new life that is living and active and ready to grow in our hearts.

1 Peter 1:23
For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

And this new life originates in the eternal, living word of God, not dead but alive and dynamic and ready to work in our hearts.  Once this is done the scripture below is true for us. Not only is God’s Word living but we are alive to God’s communication to us.

 John 8:47
He who is of God hears the words of God

Finally we see Jesus uniting the two, the written Word of God and the spoken Word together.

 Matthew 4:4
But He (Jesus) answered and said, “It is written, ‘ MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” 

He says first in response to temptation – It is written… this piece is result of him knowing, studying and even memorizing the life-giving scriptures.

Second, he says that there is a nourishment a daily bread or food that is the Word that proceeds… out of the mouth of God.

Evidence of our Conversion

God’s Word is living and we are made alive to God’s Word.  This is something that happens to even the newest believer.  Over the years people have asked me how can they know that someone is a Christian.  Obviously only God knows for sure.  And He’s good at letting us know. 

But I began to answer many moons ago that when I see a person interacting with the scriptures in a living way, in that I see God speaking to them and them hearing and responding then I feel a strong confidence to say, Yes, that person is born again.  From that communication comes a hunger and a thirst that is wondrous to see. To that I say, bring on the gifts!

Hearing God: The Birthright

~ How does one hear from God?

I asked myself this question a number of times after I got saved in 1978.  How do I know it’s just not me making things up?

My conversion was pretty powerful and supernatural.  Plus I always had a sensitivity and inclination to the more spiritual side of life, a built-in curiosity about the unseen realm of the spirit. So I was pretty eager to know how I could “know”.  And I thought, “Hey, if this is supposed to be a personal RELATIONSHIP with God, well there’s got to be some conversation coming back at me!”

You can imagine my excitement when I heard that a speaker was going to talk on the subject at a weekly Tuesday night gathering in Washington DC called TAG or Take And Give.  The worship and the dual teaching ministry of this man and Larry Tomczak made this the place to be for young and old alike.  You had to arrive way early to get a decent seat.

The speaker initially planned to talk about the topic for one week but it stretched out an additional session.  He covered the Still Small Voice of Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13)  which meant God didn’t have to yell and encouraged us to learn to hear by initially having what was called a “quiet time”.  A “quiet time” was usually 20-60 minutes one would set aside each morning to start the day.  It would be a time of praise, prayer and fellowship “with” God.

He said that the world around us makes too much noise and I needed a quiet time to block it out to really hear.  To become familiar with his voice.

No iPod, iPad, iPhone, Tablet, PC, Mac or Android! Well maybe an iPad for scriptures and journal entries! (grin!)

I had read that Jesus repeatedly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt 11:15, Mark 4:9, 4:23, Luke 8:8) which means there is a different way to hear from God than you would do normally.  Different ears? Spiritual ears!  He even said there were some who would “keep on hearing but not understand.”  Ouch!  I was getting a little discouraged… what was it going to take to get my spiritual ears working proficiently.  Eager and attentive I listened carefully to every word, even taking notes.

Then it came, a most important statement from the mouth of Jesus… “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  His sheep, aka his followers, “hear” his voice!

There it was… this kind of hearing was a done deal, (no if, ands or buts) it could be called the birthright of every believer!  Of each individual Christian!  So being born again I was born to hear the voice of God.  I left encouraged for that still small voice was something I was created to hear.  I had the ears!

Though reassuring to know that “my sheep hear my voice” there was still a problem. Wasn’t I back to square one?  How do you hear and how do you know it’s the Lord?  But the encouragement I had received stuck. I thought, it’s just a matter of time before I am hearing,  No sweat, I’ve got the spiritual birthright!

Soon after that day came the turning point… Romans 10:17 (NASB) came alive for me.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

What was key about this scripture?  There are two Greek words, Logos and Rhema which are translated “word”.  Logos is used normally for the written word and Rhema would be used in most cases to represent the spoken dynamic word of God.  In this verse Rhema is used.  This dynamic word of Christ must be heard by the listener in order for the faith that leads to salvation be realized.

So this means that for anyone to be saved they must first hear from God.  So I had already heard the voice of the shepherd.  The still small voice was not a future experience.  I had already crossed that threshold.  To be saved you must hear!!

I began to reflect on the promptings and revelations and the “hearing” that preceded the day I fully responded in faith to the gospel invitation.  This was a breakthrough and an exciting beginning of a confident two-way relationship!

From then on I was able to encourage others to enter into the two-way communication with God that started on the day they trusted wholeheartedly in the work of Christ on the cross!

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

So rejoice, it is your spiritual birthright!

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