What Does it Mean to Hear God?

Excellent question…thank you for asking! ūüėČ

In a previous post, I introduced my view of spiritual growth, which I believe is a biblical view…please tell me if you disgaree!¬†

Remember there are two fundamental principles:

  • spiritual growth occurs along three dimensions: knowledge, character and behavior.
  • growth on these three dimensions occurs by iterations of hearing, believing and obeying God.

And, remember the graphic we use to discuss this subject…hopefully it is an image that helps you get your arms around this subject at a high level as we dive deeper into different elements of this complex subject.

Iterative Growth Model
Iterative Growth Model

What  we want to dive a little deeper on today is the activity of hearing God. 

As we’ve discussed, the purpose of the iterative growth model is to help people understand what it means to grow in Christ and how we cooperate with the Spirit during the¬†transformation process.¬† Knowledge, character and behavior are the what…that is, these are attributes of our person that change.¬† Only the Spirit can affect this change.¬† Hearing, believing and obeying are activities that we are responsible for and are used by the Spirit as a tool, so to speak, in our transformation.¬† They are the how.¬† Therefore, when I talk about “hearing God” in this context, I’m talking primarily about the activities we are responsible for that the Spirit uses to¬†increase our knowledge of Him.¬†

My intention is not to start a debate on non-essentials such as whether or not God speaks audibly now as he did in the past; however, one essential is necessary to move forward, and that is the sole authority of Scripture.  Everything you read on this site assumes that while God may reveal Himself in many ways, there is only one source of divine authority for faith and practice: Scripture.

There are two major categories for activities related to “Hearing God”: Scripture and Non-Scripture.¬† Ok, I guess that was a little patronizing…but, here’s the point.¬† Scripture is the only authority, and everything else is subject to it; but, that is not to say that extra-biblical sources are not helpful, of course.¬† Otherwise, I’m wasting my time writing this and you are wasting your time reading it.¬† When I am discipling someone, my first goal is to get them in the Word regularly to a) establish private bible study as a discipline, joy and priviledge, and b) develop a¬†foundational understanding of the essential doctrines of the faith tied to Scripture directly.¬† My second goal is to feed them extra-biblical resources that strengthen weak areas of their understanding.¬† In this way, I can be an effective disciple-maker without being the best teacher.¬† I need only be¬†concerned with helping the disciple¬†develop skills of discernment…measuring everything they read against what they know to be true¬†from Scripture.¬† My prayer is that you are doing that very thing with everything you read from SeqHim!

What are these extra-biblical resources?¬† I think of them as being¬†any¬†media that God uses to speak to his people, outside of the Bible itself.¬† Yes, I do¬†believe that God speaks to us through our conscience, and He does not need media to speak to us.¬†¬†I just¬†don’t call that a “resource”.¬† So, examples would include books, classes, sermons, podcasts, videos, dramas, bogs, twitter feeds, seminars, conferences, etc.

Now, relatively speaking, there is a little good stuff out there, and alot of bad stuff.  The challenge for any disciple-maker is to discern the good from the bad.  And not only that, but discern the best from the good, where the distinction between the good and the best has to do with knowing where your disciple is in his walk and the kinds of resources that would be most beneficial for him/her right now. 

The vision of SeqHim includes tools and support for helping disciples and disciple-makers discrern the good from the bad and the best from the good.¬† Presently, this blog (and more effectively, R2¬†coming in¬†a few weeks) can be used to share opinions on the best resources.¬† In the future, we’ll add structure, meta-languages¬†and enhanced search capabilities to make a personalized community ranked list of resources one click away.

I’m sure there are other good sources of info on the best resources out there…I just have not seen¬†any that live up to the standards I have in mind.¬† If you know of some good ones, please let me know.¬†

I would love to hear your feedback on the passages of Scripture and extra-biblical resources that have had the greatest impact on your walk!

Deeper Dive on Growth Themes

In my¬†last post, I introduced the concept of a growth theme.¬† Think of themes (joy, compassion, humility, perseverance)¬†as the more concrete sub-components of the growth dimensions (knowledge, character, and behavior).¬† And remember, growth on these dimensions within the themes is a result of hearing, believing and obeying God.¬† Later, I’ll go a little deeper on hearing, believing and obeying God…the things we do.¬† But first, lets look a little closer at what we are trying to become (increasingly joyous, compassionate, humble, and persevering).

Joyfully forget yourself and focus on others forever.

The above statement is something I made up as a kind of personal mission statement.¬† Notice how it includes each of the four growth themes…joy, humility (forget yourself), compassion (focus on others), and perseverance (forever).¬† We are followers of Christ if we do this increasingly, genuinely and in the context of God’s truth.¬† Note that I did not say we are “saved” because of it.¬† We’re “saved” because we professed faith in Christ and He gave us life by His grace alone.¬† What I’m taking about here is actually following Christ after we have been regenerated.

Now, let’s look under the hood.¬† Are four themes really enough?¬† What about love, wisdom, righteousness, contentment, faith, dependenance, generosity, etc?¬† As I said before, we created a mind map to organize these characteristics so that we could get our arms around the different facets and begin to eat the elephant one bite at a time, so to speak.

Here is a link to that mind map: Themes v0.3

Remember, this is one of an incalculable number of possible arrangements.¬† This is just one that works for our purposes.¬† I’m happy to take feedback on it, because I do want to improve it…but, let’s not miss the forest for the trees either.

And so you will see that we’re framing contentment as a joy issue.¬† If you do not have God’s joy, it is possible that the underlying cause is a contentment issue.¬† With this kind of vocabulary, we can use it in a number of different ways to help people.¬† Here are a few:

Assessment: Helping Disciples Know Where They Are

We can develop a means of helping people understand where they are in their walk with regard to joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.¬† This then drives where/how they spend their time addressing areas of weakness (rather than simply ammassing knowledge by an endless stream of “bible studies”).¬† The intent of “assessment”, would be to help someone understand that contentment is a bigger issue in their life than say generosity.

Guidance: Helping Disciples Know Where to Go and How to Get There

Guidance can be attached to the same vocabulary.  Guidance (e.g. passages of scripture, teaching, books, podcasts, disciplines, ad-hoc experiences and advice, etc)  can be provided on how to become more generous, for example, and loaded into a shared repository.

Search: Helping Disciples Find The Best Stuff Fast

Now that guidance has been loaded against a specific vocabulary, and a person understands their need using the same vocabulary, an extremely efficient search capability can be put into place that helps a disciple find exactly what they need almost immediately.

There is alot more to be said, but alas…it will have to wait until next time.¬† Until then, I will continue to pray for all of you as you strive to become more like our Savior.

The Ultimate Goal

In my last post, I spoke about the specific and immediate goal of ministering to God’s people.¬† But what is the ultimate goal?¬† How does the mission of SeqHim converge with and support the ministry of the Church?

I mentioned what I believe is the ultimate goal¬†in my last post, and I want to expand upon it here a bit:¬†bring glory to God.¬† That ought to be the underlying reason for anything we do (or do not do).¬† Otherwise, what is the point?¬† Do everything you do for the glory of God, and work hard¬†at it.¬† Yes, it is good to just chill from time to time, but even that brings glory to God…it acknowledges a) that God designed us to need rest and recreation; b) that¬†our efforts¬†are not nearly as important as we usually think; and c) that God himself rested and commands us to rest as well.¬† And so, go play golf, take a nap, or watch HGTV this weekend knowing that you may be bringing great glory to God in the process!

Given that it is good to¬†rest and it is good to work, what do we work at?¬† What work brings glory to God?¬† Is it only “ministry” work?¬† Am I bringing glory to God when I go to church, serve in the¬†nursery, help little old ladies across the street?¬† Sure, but does that mean that I am not bringing glory to God when I am writing a computer program, changing diapers, taking out the trash, leading a marketing project, punishing the kids, performing financial analysis, studying for a test at school, and so on?¬† I certainly hope not, because most of us spend most of our time doing these things that are usually perceieved as less or even non-spiritual.

Then how do we glorify God in everything we do, whether it is a ‘rest’ activity or a ‘work’ activity?¬† Here is a phrase that has helped me tremendously through the years: ‘do the right thing for the right reason’.¬† As long as you are doing the right thing (with pure motives)¬†in any situation, you are bringing glory to God.¬† Sounds easy, right?¬† Ha!¬† If you think that is easy, you have never really been serious about it because it’s incredibly hard!¬† As a matter of fact, it’s impossible as long as we remain in this fallen world prior to our perfection.¬† And so, allow me to revise our goal statement to make it a bit more accurate to what is really expected of us: “strive to do the right thing for the right reason”.¬† We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength…to do the very best with everything God has given us to do the right thing.¬† Thankfully, God’s grace enables us to try and still accepts us when we fail!¬† But the true measure of our faith is the effort we put into doing the right thing, purifying our motives¬†and avoiding the wrong thing…regardless of the personal risk.

So, may this be an encouragement to you today.  Strive to do the right thing, moment by moment, for the right reasons.  Make it your number one priority, higher than any any other objective you have for today.  Expend yourself learning how to determine what the right thing is, seeking the Lord in His Word, asking the Him for moment by moment wisdom, trusting that He has granted you that wisdom (James 1:5), and then acting accordingly, confidently and courageously.  In this way, you will be a delight to the Lord, He will be glorified, you will be transformed, others around you will be loved as Christ loves them, and others will be attracted to the Savior through your example of Him.

Is God at the Center of your Life?

For six years, I have engaged a wonderful ministry called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  I often tell people that I have not benefited more from any other ministry (or church, for that matter) than BSF.  This morning, I spent time in Numbers Ch 1, 2 and 3.  In these chapters, God takes a census and assigns encampments to Israel.  He places His Tent of Meeting in the heart of the encampment.  Why?  Because God should be at the center of the life of His people.

Ok…nice cliche, but what does that really mean?¬† It means that faithful obedience to God¬†is more important than work for God (or anyone else).¬† It means that it is more important that we know God’s word, believe it and obey it ourselves than teaching or helping others to do the same.¬† It means that it is more important to obey the higher principle of love than sacrificing¬†it for¬†family,¬†vocation,¬†ministry, or even¬†adhering to religious tradition (like attending a church service).

Does this mean that we don’t have to go to church?¬† (Gasp!)¬† We don’t have to give sacrificially?¬† We don’t have to take communion, serve the poor, etc?¬† Well, yes and no.¬† Here’s the rub…people who know God’s truth, genuinely believe it, and desire to obey him want to worship him.¬† They want to give sacrificially.¬† They want to obey Christ’s command to be baptized and to take communion.¬† They want to perform works of service.¬† They want to work hard at their vocation.¬† They want to pay¬†all of the their taxes.¬† They want to build healthy famililies and sacrifice for them.¬† These are all things they naturally want to do and do them as well as¬†they can (given the obstacle of our flesh).¬† If you don’t want to do these things and are constantly looking for ways out of them, God is not yet in full control of your desires.¬† That’s a problem that needs to be (and can be)¬†addressed.¬† (BTW, if you want help with this, keep following the blog or send me an email, jreeves@seqhim.org.)

For example, let’s say it’s Sunday morning…you’ve got the family all dudded up for church, about to walk out the door, and the phone rings.¬† It’s the neighbor down the street (who is a ‘fringe’ person that frankly you don’t care much for).¬† He is supposed to be at work in 15 minutes, and his car will not start…he’s asking for a ride.¬† What do you do?¬† I’ll argue that putting God in the center of your heart means caring more about providing for this person that you don’t even really like than taking your family to church.¬† It means understanding that the love of Christ is better manifested by sacrificing the benefit and desire to worship with other believers.¬† It means understanding that the blessings that come from sacrificing your desires for others are more significant than performing religious ceremony and tradition.¬† It means providing an example of love to your family is better than getting them to church so they can hear a description of love.

So, ceremony and tradition are good things.  Christ commanded baptism and communion for a reason.  Worship is good, and we should not forsake gathering together on Sunday or any other time. 

BUT, the goal of all of these things is not to make us rule keepers; it is to transform us to the point that we no longer need the rules!

My prayer for¬†you and for myself¬†is that we be transformed to the point that we are so much in tune with the heart of Christ that we no longer worry whether or not we are in His will…we are confident that our desires are His desires and can freely and aggressively pursue them.¬† We don’t worry about God’s favor if we choose to¬†leverage¬†the resources He¬†has assigned to us to manage (time, money, materials, relationships, etc)¬†in a way that is non-traditional, because we are confident that we are focused on His Kingdom and not our own comfort or preferences.¬†¬†

I’m a long way from this personally, but as I’ve said, I’m praying for it because I believe God desires it for us and is the ultimate goal of our perfection.