There are many false ideas, spiritual urban legends, floating around our churches today. Unfortunately, we often swallow these lies hook, line, and sinker, and then get frustrated with God for failing to keep promises He never made! Thinking of these lies Christians swallow, let’s examine this one: Does God really have a “blueprint” for our lives?
What is the best part of knowing Jesus? Some might say forgiveness. Others, freedom from addiction. Still others would say it’s the peace and joy they’ve found in Christ. And most would probably say the promise of eternal life is the best part of knowing Jesus. While all those things are true and good, Luke 10:38-42 shows us what the best part of knowing Jesus truly is.
“I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (Psalm 120:1, NIV)
How is your prayer life? Mine has gone through many seasons alternating between fervent, regular, intimate prayer and periods of dryness where I feel like God doesn’t answer or I just plain don’t pray. One thing’s for sure, though, when I’m in a rough patch in life, my prayer habits tend to improve. Funny how distress often causes us to remember God! O that we would call on the Lord when times are good, and not just when trouble heads our way!
This hasn’t always been the pattern in my life. A few years ago, when Asher was a baby, he was pretty sick and had to go to the ER. Even though I was a pastor who counseled people to call on the Lord in times of trouble, it didn’t occur to me to apply that counsel to my own life. We got to the hospital, checked in, and were waiting for the doctor. Corinne asked me if I would pray for Asher, and I immediately recognized the Holy Spirit speaking through my bride: Are you going to ask for My help or try to muscle through this on your own?
The truth that God walks through our distress with us, giving us the strength to endure, fell from my head to my heart. I had learned it, but I didn’t know it–does that make sense? It took a little distress in my life for God to teach me that lesson.
One of my favorite things about God is that He answers us when we call on Him. He walks through life with us. He helps us when we’re weak and calms us when we’re afraid. He celebrates with us when things go well, and encourages us when they don’t. My prayer for this week is that you will call on the Lord and He will answer you, whether you’re in distress or delight.
Most evangelical Christians believe that reading the Bible is of utmost importance. Yet, the Bible is a somewhat intimidating book to read. For one thing, it’s enormous. For another, the Bible was written by over 40 human authors over a period of 1400 years. There’s a lot of cultural-historical contexts we don’t see behind the pages of God’s Word. This week, I want to share with you a relatively simple way to approach the Bible devotionally.
This method is an ancient one known as lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”), and it’s been practiced by Christians for over 1,000 years. I personally use lectio divina in my devotional reading, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great way to meet God in His Word and listen to Him speak to you through what you’re reading in Scripture. It’s not, however, the best way to do in-depth Bible study. It’s not inductive or based on precepts. It most likely won’t point you to the author’s original intent. I wouldn’t claim that the things I hear God speak during my devotional reading are universally applicable or that I’ve discovered the true meaning of the passage, and I don’t use lectio divina as a method of preparing for a sermon. It’s just what I do to spend time with God in His Word.
Lectio divina is traditionally based on four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). It actually has a preparation step as well, of praying that God will speak and give you ears to hear what He says through His Word.
Lectio (reading). Read the passage slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. Look for patterns, repetition, and words or phrases that seem to grab your attention. I like to read it aloud, if possible, and try to imagine how the human author would’ve spoken these words. Once you’ve read through it initially, reread it even more slowly. Pause where something seems to catch your heart and think about what’s being said.
Meditatio (mediation). Whatever part of the text seemed to stand out, that seemed to speak directly to you, might be something the Holy Spirit wants you to focus on. Go back and read the passage a third time, looking for how your phrase, sentence, or verse fits into the rest of the section. Stop and think deeply about why the Holy Spirit brought these words from this text to your attention. How might they apply to your life? As you meditate, what else comes to mind? Who else comes to mind? Is there a specific action you need to do (or stop doing)? A belief you need to change? A person you need to pray for or reach out to?
Oratio (prayer). Talk to God about what you read in His Word. Talk to Him just like you would talk to a friend sitting across the table over coffee. How does the passage make you feel? What challenges you? What excites you? What don’t you understand? What do you grasp more now that you’ve read–about God, life, yourself, etc.? Can you pray the Scripture back to God? Personally, I like to summarize my prayer in a couple paragraphs in a journal.
Contemplatio (contemplation). Ask God to speak back to you, and read the passage one more time with a listening heart, then be quiet and sit in silence before the Lord. Just be with God, aware of His presence, enjoying an intimate moment with Him. Over time, this silent communion with God will become one of the most (probably the most) meaningful moments of your day. During this time, resolve to do whatever God tells you to do–to put into practice what He has spoken to you through His Word.
I’ve found that these four simple steps have guided my devotional time with God, and helped me to develop a conversational relationship with God that has led to a truly personal connection with the Creator of the Universe. That connection is something I cannot live without. My prayer for you this week is that you would find the same thing as you approach the Lord in prayer and Scripture!
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai… (Jonah 1:1).
This phrase, “the word of the Lord came to…” is repeated quite often throughout the Old Testament. As a child, I remember praying and asking God for His Word to come to me as it did to Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so many other prophets in Scripture. I wasn’t asking God if I could be a famous prophet, just asking Him to speak to me in a real way. And, He did. Now let me quickly caveat that by saying when God speaks personally to you or me, it doesn’t carry the same weight of authority as when He spoke to Jonah. Jonah’s message was recorded in Scripture and is universally authoritative. When God speaks personally to you or me, it’s not a message to be added to the Bible, and it’s not authoritative for all people at all times. It is authoritative for you or me.
Having gotten that out of the way, I’m often surprised by the number of believers who’ve never heard God speak personally to them. No, I don’t mean in an audible voice. I’ve met a lot of Christians who’ve never had a personal interaction with God. They can’t point to a time when they personally felt God’s presence or that gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit, or when they had two-way communication with God.
I think the reason for this is we often don’t recognize God’s voice when He speaks. He speaks, but we don’t hear it as God talking to us. We believe in God, but we don’t have a conversational relationship with Him. Learning to recognize God’s voice is similar to learning to know anyone’s voice. Remember those days before caller id? I could tell who was on the other end of the phone just by the sound of their voice. Why? Because I spent time in conversation with them. It’s the same with God.
I could write a whole book about this, but these blogs are supposed to be short enough to read in one minute, and I’m already over that! Plus, a great book has already been written about this very subject. It changed my prayer life and my relationship with God, and I recommend it highly. It is Hearing God by Dallas Willard, and you can get it for $10 on Amazon. If you use RightNow Media (free for all LakeView folks; contact the church office for more info), you can watch Dallas Willard teach through the book.
My prayer for us this week is that we’ll take a quiet moment to listen to God and that His Word will come to us as it did to Jonah. When He speaks to you, make sure you heed what He says!