Wednesday, October 28, 2009

(Today's post is from John Piper's "Desiring God" blog. This topic is important to really understanding much of Scripture; as Piper says, it's a "principle." I think it's a vital one.)

One of the Most Important Principles in Reading the Bible

October 27, 2009 | By: John Piper | Category: Commentary

Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

There are indeed real conditions that God often commands. We must meet them for the promised blessing to come. But that does not mean that we are left to ourselves to meet the conditions or that our action is first and decisive.

Here is one example to show what I mean.

In Jeremiah 29:13 God says to the exiles in Babylon, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” So there is a condition: When you seek me with all your heart, then you will find me. So we must seek the Lord. That is the condition of finding him.


But does that mean that we are left to ourselves to seek the Lord? Does it mean that our action of seeking him is first and decisive? Does it mean that God only acts after our seeking?


Listen to what God says in Jeremiah 24:7 to those same exiles in Babylon: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

So the people will meet the condition of returning to God with their whole heart. God will respond by being their God in the fullest blessing. But the reason they returned with their whole heart is that God gave them a heart to know him. His action was first and decisive.

So now connect that with Jeremiah 29:13. The condition there was that they seek the Lord with their whole heart. Then God will be found by them. But now we see that the promise in Jeremiah 24:7 is that God himself will give them such a heart so that they will return to him with their whole heart.

This is one of the most basic things people need to see about the Bible. It is full of conditions we must meet for God’s blessings. But God does not leave us to meet them on our own. The first and decisive work before and in our willing is God’s prior grace. Without this insight, hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible will lead us astray.

Let this be the key to all Biblical conditions and commands: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, we work. But our work is not first or decisive. God’s is. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hearing From God

"A wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15

How are you at taking advice? Could there possibly be anyone more qualified to give it than the One who made us? Yet, many Christians are wary of trying to hear God's voice for themselves.

Reading the Bible is the single most important way to hear from God. Since it is God's WORD, it follows that when you read and live accordingly, you are listening in the sense of obeying. When you "hear" the Word come alive in your heart, you are doubly "listening"--letting it speak to you at the core of who you are. However, there is still another way to listen to God, which is, during prayer and quiet Bible reading time to actually listen for God's whispers--personal promptings and urgings which you won't find elsewhere.

There are Christians who have been earnest believers for decades but have never experienced hearing just such a "God-whisper." Are you one of them? Admittedly, it takes faith. And, if you aren't already familiar with God and His Word, you can mistake your own wishes for the voice of God, so it's not surprising that some choose not to even try and hear a personal word for themselves. Generally, however, people who do not "hear" the whisper of God (and it may not be an audible voice), do not hear it because they do not listen for it. There are a few main reasons which prevent some from doing so:

A: They don't believe they can hear from God. If you simply don't believe that God can inspire your thoughts with his own, or yes, "whisper" to your heart, then you are very unlikely to have it happen. God in his sovereignty can choose for it to occur, but it's far more likely to happen in the life of a believer who lives in expectation of it. Faith ushers in the fact of occurrence.

B: They've never experienced it before. Just as people laughed at Noah when he said it was going to rain because it had never yet rained on the earth, some people scoff at the idea of listening to God simply because they've never heard him for themselves and don't think it's possible to. Often in life, we get what we expect; conversely, we don't get what we don't expect. We miss what others see, simply because they have conditioned their minds to be open to it; Which brings us to the third reason some people never will hear God's whisper:

C: They're secretly afraid to. What if God tells them to go be a missionary to Africa? On a less extreme note, what if God simply tells them to do something they don't want to do? What if their nice, ordered world is disturbed? If this is you, you are likely rushing through Bible reading and prayer, without getting still before the Lord. "Be still and know that I am God," is not one of your favorite verses. In a similar vein, some are afraid they will 'mis-hear,' and perhaps make a terrible mistake in life due to the misguided notion that "GOD SAID."

It is a good idea to be aware that this has happened to many well-meaning people. That's why the Lord also instructs us to consult "a multitude of counselors" on important matters. If your pastor, your godly friends, your spouse, or even your own inner voice is shouting "NO!" then it is unlikely you are following the voice of God, in a path that is controversial. Likewise, knowing the teachings of Christ and the Bible is a a safeguard against mis-guided ideas of your own invention.

Actually, the Lord is much more likely to gently encourage you in baby steps of growth that will lead you to become more like Him, rather than sending you straight off to Africa. Often, he wants to encouragie us in ways to use the gifts he has given us, things that will improve our lives and the lives of others; He may help you to focus on an important issue you've been ignoring or putting on the back burner too long. Another day, He may remind you of a relationship that needs healing, a step you need to take to initiate it.

Do some people abuse the notion that God speaks to his people? Absolutely. The person who constantly says, "God told me this," or, "God said that," (who wears green socks instead of black because "God" told him to) is likely mistaken. Great errors have been made based on someone's mistaken idea that "God" told him or her to do something. This is why a knowledge of scripture is vital for listening. The Lord will never direct anyone to do something outside of his revealed will in His Word!

The best way I know to "listen" for God's voice is to keep a pen and notebook with me during prayer and Bible study time. It is during those quiet times with the Lord that I get thoughts for the devotions I write. God is giving me the lesson, and I simply share it with you. So try it. Keep a pen and paper handy. Jot down the names of people the Lord brings to your mind while you pray, or during your reading. Be willing to stray from your own prayer list as the Holy Spirit reminds you of other needs. Often, I am reminded of unfinished business with a person, and sometimes I stop right there and then to shoot off an overdue email, or pick out the right card to send to someone later. I do this trusting that the Lord knows the important from the urgent, whereas I often confuse the two.

"Wise men store up knowledge." Proverbs 10:14a.

Action Step

Next time you pray and read the Word, have a pen and paper with you. Make an effort to "listen" by asking the Lord to speak to your heart, and keeping an open mind. Then, see what happens! Use a notebook just for this purpose, and soon you'll be storing up knowledge-right from the mouth of God!

This article was first published on the devotional blog "Inner Fulfillment" by Linore Rose Burkard. "Inner Fulfillment" offers daily short devotions for Christians, by a group of talented writers.

Monday, October 05, 2009


I just added this to my to-be-read list. [CRAVE: by Chris Tomlinson] I love reading about how other Christians experience God, as I compare/contrast their experience with my own. It's also encouraging and uplifting to see how the Lord works with other people in ways that can be at once both similar and unlike the ways He works with me. God is so cool in that He is knows us each so intimately that he tailors His dealings with us according to who we are, and our level of understanding. I just can't get enough of Him--which I guess amounts to a craving. What about you?
Do you have God in your life today? Got cravings?

Watch the trailer for the book (Click Here)

Today I hope to remind myself that when cravings for ANYTHING hit, the real need of my life is for more of God.
It's the real need of your life, too.
Have you reached that decision, yet? If not, consider getting this book. You have to start somewhere to explore the possibility that God is calling you, that He is real, and that He really speaks to His people. Not only is He 'out there,' but He wants to use each and every craving and need in your life to point you to Himself.
I pray you take the opportunity to read Crave for yourself, and let the Lord fill you up.

For more info on Crave you can also click on the book cover. For special music today, I couldn't figure out how to get songs by Chris Tomlin (the singer/musician who does such beautiful worship CDs) onto this blog, so here's a link to listen. Hear Chris Tomlin: Not the same guy as the author.