Saturday, September 8, 2007

Listening

I'm home from vacation, and scrambling to meet a writing deadline. I'll be teaching Jeremiah beginning Friday of this week, and I'm feeling lots of pressure. Busy times, you know?

But I'm enjoying the book of Acts. And, because it's on my mind a lot lately, I've been noticing a trend. Remember these guys are just guys, like you and me. They have to eat and sleep, and dress -- just like we do. They have moments of doubt and moments of brilliance -- just like us. And, like us, I'm guessing they struggled with knowing what God would have them do next.

So what's the pattern?

Watch this:

After Peter and John heal a lame man, they give this amazing sermon. In the New Living Translation it says: "Peter saw his opportunity." 3:12

"As for Phillip, an angel of theLORD said to him, "Go south, down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem." (8:26)

"As he was nearing Damascus, on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice, saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (9:4)

"the LORD spoke to him in a vision, calling, 'Ananias," (9:10)

"One afternoon, about three o'clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him, "Cornelius!" the angel said. (10:3)

"But while lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners." (Acts 10:10)

"Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the LORD stood before Peter... 'Quick, get up.' And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, 'Get dressed and put on your sandals.'"(12:7)

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabus and Saul for the special work I have for them."

Okay, have you fallen asleep yet? Are you wondering what on earth these things have in common?

Try this on for controversy...

In all these cases, the Lord clearly made his will known to his children.

1. They didn't get it out of the written Word of God -- they didn't have one as such. And yet, God gave personal leadership to each of them. Real directions. Specific instructions. Clear leadership. Not just general stuff like "go into all the world." Somehow God gave Specifics, "Go to this street. Go to this house. Go get this man." Somehow, God made his way known. Look at the ways!

visions
dreams
angels
disembodied voices
the LORD's voice
trances
and even simple old OPPORTUNITIES!

Certainly, many of these events happened in the context of prayer. But not always.

My challenge? Has God changed? Has he stopped using these means to give specific direction to his children? Doesn't he care anymore what you do with your life? Is he too busy to speak?

Or worse. When was the last time you had a vsion? A voice? A trance? A dream?

I confess, it frustrates me that I don't experience God more in my daily life. I haven't had a vision lately. I rarely have a dream from God. But is this because I don't believe he can? Or that I don't believe he will?

Is it because He doesn't speak any more? Or is it because I've stopped listening? Or have we stopped EXPECTING to hear from him? You tell me! I really want to know.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My challenge? Has God changed? Has he stopped using these means to give specific direction to his children? Doesn't he care anymore what you do with your life? Is he too busy to speak?

God HASN'T changed. He does give specific words to his children. He DOES care about your life. He isn't too busy to speak (but maybe we're too busy to listen?)

My first question: Do we ASK to hear him, to see visions, have dreams? Do we want more?

Personally, for myself, when I am in asking mode, I DO see and hear much, much more than if I don't. (I'm not just talking about, oh, yea, I prayed and asked once 5 years ago, I didn't get it, so it must not be for me...I'm talking about asking like we'd ask for a sick child to be well, or how we thank him for our daily bread. Not a one time shot, but a continual request.)

Second question: Is he speaking to you and you don't recognize it (maybe you think it's just some weird thing you thought of on your own and blow it off) or, perhaps, you don't remember it (how many of us remember our dreams an hour after we wake up?)

(It's OKAY to ask God to give you dreams before you go to sleep and ask him to help you remember them when you wake up, and then ask him to enlighten you to what they mean)


Third question: Do we seek him with as much intensity as the early church did? Do we see our vital need for his input in every area of our lives? I think if we spent as much time seeking God as they did, we've see an increase in everything God-related in our lives...(I know for myself, I'm feeling pretty ultra spiritual on those days when I squeeze out more than a 1/2 hour of concentrated effort in my relationship with God--which is pretty pathetic.)

BUT GOD WANTS TO TALK TO US, TO SHOW US THINGS, TO GIVE US VISIONS AND DREAMS. ALL OF IT.

Really.

If you want more of it, even to experience it for the first time, here's my suggestion:

1. ASK him to give dreams and visions to you. Ask him to speak in creative ways. Ask to understand his metaphors and illustrations. Ask to become aware of how he speaks, what he shows, and that he'll help you not to miss it when he does.

2. Ask him to enlarge how you think. Does communication with God always have to look a certain way to you? Do you have God in a box? (I mean, he uses some pretty weird stuff sometimes to enlighten his people!)

3. Spend time with him.

I see a direct increase in dreams and visions when I do the above--I ask for them, ask to understand what he's wanting to say to me, and spend time with him.

I think God is LONGING to speak to us--in LOTS OF WAYS--he's creative and he wants a relationship with us and he waiting for a chance to tell
us things. All the time.

It's a matter of cultivating a lifestyle that LEARNS how to hear and see and then to make sense out of what we've heard and seen.

I think many of us have grown up being content to wait for the sovereign move of God to hit us--to give us a vision, a word or a dream....but we can also ASK--we don't have to wait and wait, hoping that God might some day count us worthy to speak to in those ways.

Or some think we aren't part of the CHOSEN ones that get to have visions and dreams. God said he's gonna pour it out on all of us...

WE CAN ASK. We're all qualified. And be willing to learn--to hear and to cultivate a life that's open and ready to receive from him. God wants to talk to all of us.

Really!

--Petunia

Amy Letinsky said...

I believe that God still uses these means to reach his children, but God isn't limited to only these means. He's a creative God, with a wonderful range of ways of getting our attention.

For example, the other day, I think God tried to get my attention through my malfunctioning answering machine. I kid you not. It was so strange that I wrote a blog entry about it. Click here to read it: http://amyletinsky.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/please-wait/

Sometimes, I wish that God would knock me upside the head with clear instructions via a dream or a vision, but I also know that his ways are not my ways. He has his own plan for reaching me, and it might involve some more creative, unusual, and personal methods that I might not expect.

I'm trying to cultivate an opennes and anticipation for whatever unique and creative way that God wants to instruct me next. In the mean time, I'll continue praying for a teachable spirit, with eyes that are open for him, and a heart that is soft and receptive.

Lord, I'm ready to hear from you, however you might choose to speak to me. You know best.