Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hearing or Listening - In Church

I remember the first book of Joshua Harris' that I read. It was a small book called "Stop Dating the Church". I was at a friend's house, and was just after some light reading to pass the time. I did not realise at the time that my life and the way I viewed church was about to be changed for good. I started reading it, and at first was agreeing with everything he said, about some people not being willing to commit, and it being the same people serving day in and day out. (My parents have both been in ministry somewhat, mum running a kids club for years, and dad being 2IC at church.) It was not until he spoke about not getting anything out of the sermon, and how it is a personal choice to listen. (Sorry this is going from a few years ago memories from reading the book...) I realised that I had been hearing, but not listening. No wonder I was not getting much out of it. I was stunned when I started listening again how much I was getting out of the sermons. Now that does not mean I have been perfect since. Far from it, but now I know what is the most likely problem, and if I do not get fed it is my own fault.

Now it has been a few years since then, and the most recent memory of teaching on this is John Bevere's books. (He mentions it in several of them.) This will not be an exact quote, but he says that he was talking to God one day complaining about his pastor and how he was not getting fed at church; and this is what God said to him, "The problem isn't with your pastor. It is with you!" The reason you do not get feed sometimes is the pastor, but a much more common problem is that you are not listening. If you are having trouble concentrating try taking notes. Have breakfast before church so you are not hungry. Get to bed at a decent hour the night before. Of course do not forget to ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your understanding. If you expect to get something from God you most likely will.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Drawing Near

Last post was on how much God wants to be with us, and why we should draw near. I thought that I should expand a little bit more than I did there on how to draw near. Please forgive me if it sounds a little elementary. I am trying to make this as easy to understand as possible.

First let me just say one thing: Relax!!! This is not hard.

Some of the more commonly mentioned problems with prayer is that nothing seems to happen, and that it is hard to pray for long extended periods of time. This is not hard.

There are two problems mentioned there.

Firstly is that nothing seems to happen. Firstly let me tell you that a young man named Daniel once prayed for 21 days with prayer and fasting before he got an answer. Usually we give up too soon, or we do not even try in the first place. The other thing that causes people not to get answers is this: A double minded person can expect to receive nothing from God.

The other often heard is that praying for a long time is hard. Again think of it as a friendship. I do not pray for long, painful, extended periods of time. I just talk to God all day. He is your friend. Just talk to Him about everything... and then sometimes wait to see if He will say something back. You might be surprised at His responses. If you are okay with the idea pray in tongues for a change. I have some friends that I can talk to for hours... literally. How about a 45 minute phone call, that gets interrupted, so you call back and talk for another hour... yeah I did that once. We would have talked for longer if we did not have to go. My point is that God is not boring, you just have to get to know Him and then all sorts of things will come out!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Knowing God

It has never ceased to amaze me that people in the church think it normal to not converse with God, not read their bibles, or pray and still they think that they know God. I suppose you compare it to a normal friendship. I don't listen to them, I don't read their letters, or written communication, and I don't talk to them either... Great relationship? OF COURSE NOT!!!

How then do we expect to know God oh so well, if we haven't had any contact lately? He knows you because He knew you before He formed the heavens. He watches over you every moment of the day. He sees your deepest thoughts, and knows the intents of your heart. If you do not cultivate a relationship with God, you will not know Him.

Does God want it to be this way? Of course not!!! He made us to have fellowship with Him, and that is the reason He sent Jesus; to reconcile us to Himself that we might be one with Him! God wants to draw you to Himself; the problem is that we are too lazy to make time to be with Him!!!

I know; I've been close to Him, and drifted a long way away, and suddenly woken up to find that I wasn't anywhere near where I needed to be! The wonderful thing was that I could come to Him, and He would forgive me, and draw near to me as soon as I drew near to Him. However it was much harder to come back, and I had to learn to trust Him again. I felt that I was not worthy, and that God was so far away from me, when He was watching, waiting, drawing nearer and drawing me nearer.

So when you come to God remember, He has been waiting for you, and it's not like He doesn't want to be with you, or that He won't forgive you. You need to forgive yourself, and sometimes the only way we become strong enough to forgive is in His presence.

How do we come near? What if your Bible reading is boring, and nothing happens when you pray? The thing with drawing nearer is to talk to God. Then when you talk to Him expect Him to talk back. Now it might not be what you are expecting (usually God likes to disturb our ideas of Him when they aren't accurate...), however He will speak to you and He will teach you.

Quickly on how to read your bible so you don't get bored:
1. Try something a little lighter than Leviticus to start with. (John, Hebrews, Acts, etc.)
2. Read more than one verse. (yes you heard me correctly!!!)
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and teach you. (The bible says that He will if we ask.)
4. Relax for goodness sake!!! No-one is going to eat you.
5. Get rid of distractions. (Now I can hear some people saying, but it's always noisy here!!! How can I do that?! That is not true for most of you I am sure. Think about it! If it really and truly is never quiet, and you can not get somewhere there is not a lot of noise and distractions then you will have to learn to tune out in a crowd.)
Remember GOD LOVES YOU, and He wants to talk with you sometime... soon!