Saturday, December 20, 2008

Real Faith - Following the Voice of God

What is it that you need to know about faith to experience it every day? Where is the power of God that moves mountains and shatters the cedars of Lebanon? If Christianity is the only way to Heaven, then what is the power to make it so? According to Jesus, the power of the resurrection has broken the power of death and all we need to do, is receive it. The truth is that there is only one way, a narrow road-- like putting the camel though the eye of a needle. But faith is so much more then receiving a free gift from God, or spouting a sinners payer, that is just the first step. Real faith is the power to experience the kingdom of God here on earth! Why? Jesus said it is at hand! The problem is that everyone has an opinion about it...

Do you hear a lot about politics, faith and religion? I do. Possibly it is just the folks that I am in contact with lately, but I am bit tired of hearing about who is on the right and who is on the left-- who crossed the aisle - who's conservative and who is liberal -- what group opposes Rick Warren or Barrack Obama. Blah, blah, blah!

My pet peeve is hearing people that talk about religion; like Bill O'Rielly and Wolf Blitzer, and call it faith. Religion is simply doing the same thing over and over according to a philosophy. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results; with or without a philosophy. True religion is faith in that which is unseen, yet exists anyway, that is the power or agent for doing God's will. Unfortunately, too much of religion could care less about the unseen (while deciding what God's will is logically). They are either certain that they'll never see God in action, call it a mystery so they don't have to engage it, or only believe in themselves and their own understanding/education. What makes faith different from religion? Read on!

I have been meditating on how faith really works. Are we really touched by God in such a way that we are changed, that life is better, deeper, and has more purpose? It is still a mystery to me how His spirit mingles with ours to produce something that is partly natural and supernatural at the same time. As faith is exercised, or used-----you see -- it is difficult to describe when faith is in us and His spirit is at work. That is one reason we need the Bible. It is used to separate the feelings which can't be trusted, from the spirit which can be trusted.

Paul said in Romans 4, that Abraham's righteousness was credited to him as faith. This simply means that when we obey God, we are credited with having faith. That is why obedience is better than sacrifice. When we exercise our faith by directly following God, then we are "faithful." It all sounds so easy-- just work hard and obey as many rules as we can and this is called faith, right? NO! This is being legalistic (The rules are good, but when the heart is wrong, that is bad.) What pleases God is not our following of the rules, but when we follow the correct one, at that correct time... as we are prompted by Him. Sure some rules don't need divine intervention, or Holy Spirit prompting. Here is one, "you shall not murder." That seems pretty clear. But even that single commandment is debated in abortion circles daily-- by some Christians no less.

Real faith requires hearing from God. John 10, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know each of my sheep by their names, and they know me by the sound of my voice." The operative word here is voice. We don't hear words on a page, we hear the voice of the one that knows us. In some cases people think that hearing God is simply following a Bible verse. If you didn't read it in print, then you could not have heard God. Although everything that we do is measured by the Word, it is ludicrous to think that God only does what is written within the pages of the Bible. John 21:25 "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen." Do you suppose there were some other teachings or manifestations of His power and healing, that we might experience today -- ones that are the same as Jesus did in the unwritten "things," which were not recorded? I do! That is the exact place where faith actually comes in. It is when we need something from God that is relevant to our life and/or ministry. Sure we need faith for spitting in dirt and making mud to heal eyes, but we also need faith for other types of miracles, wisdom and healing that were not recorded; which, are still God!

The Bible is filled with wonderful paradoxes woven together with a scarlet thread; the blood of Jesus. How do we know when to pray without ceasing, or praise without ceasing? The Bible says to do both. If you approach this from an intellectual faith, you can't reconcile the scriptures. One must preempt the other. We can only do one at a time-- and then we'd have to stop to make an order at Starbucks drive-through! Certain scriptures, do preempt others. Here is another example. "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt 5:28) "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). If we are prefect, then we do not need to sin, and if we sin at all, then we cannot be perfect. Logically we cannot reconcile these two scriptures with our own minds. We know that we should not bear false witness, yet the midwives lied to the pharoh about the births. Exodus 1:15-16 You see my point. One must be God, and the other (for the moment, is not). The Word is not contradictory, but it clearly presents a perfect God, and His intentions for mankind. We must be led by the Spirit, just as Jesus was when the devil himself, confronted Him in the desert with twisted scriptures.

We need to have a way to decide which scripture applies to us, right now, and for what purpose. That is where real faith comes in, and legalism needs to be tossed out the window. How is it that Jesus called the Pharisees white washed tombs when they were obeying the letter of the law? They didn't have faith, and did not apply the scriptures that they "knew," to their heart. They were just being religious. Blindly obeying the scriptures may produce some desired results. Biblical principals never fail no matter who uses them. That is why a secular organization can feed the poor, and be blessed. Real faith, on the other hand, listens for God to illuminate a scripture for a purpose or reason. The Greek word for this is rehma. It is a supernatural insight into a verse or scripture, pertaining to what God wants to do in you, or through, you right now!

James tell us that we are to count our trials as joy. This is the purpose of real faith is to produce joy in joyless situations and get the work of the Kingdom accomplished here on earth. When we have real faith, joy is the sign, or fruit of it.

These are just some foundational truths regarding faith. Hopefully you have heard all this before. The point of this blog is to create faith, to believe for that which is not seen and create a path to increased faith. What is important is that we need to hear God, the fruit of this real faith. If we are hearing God, our faith will be great because we have come to hear his voice, and we receive His instructions for our life. Real faith that is cloaked in a real relationship with the Master.

So, how do we hear God if we haven't heard it ever before, or possibly not for a long time? Certainly, it is a complex answer without a religious formula. The way I see it, the Christian always has two problems. The first, is not hearing God's voice, and the second is hearing God's voice.

I am going to assume that if you have read this far, you are interested in hearing God's voice. Let's examine how God speaks to the sheep in the Bible:

-1 This scriptures - The infallible guide to Christianity. There is no other authoritative text.
-2 His people - As God assembles his saints locally and regionally, they have a voice. Hopefully it is Him.
- 3 Your circumstances - Because God knew you before your were born, He will continually try to set up circumstances that bring you closer to Him.
- 4 The internal audible voice (sense or feeling - direct revelation) - often during prayer or during times of direct ministry.
Revelatory utterances from on High: for the edification of the church and sometimes individuals
- 5 Tongues and interpretations, words of wisdom, knowledge and faith (internal revelation).
- 6 Spiritual Song, both vocal an instrumental (internal revelation) - a form of prophecy
- 7 Dreams and interpretations (internal revelation) - a form of prophecy
- 8 Prophets (internal/external revelation)
- 9 Angels (direct revelation) - Generally reserved for significant information to be brought to earth.
- 10 His audible voice (direct revelation) - Generally reserved for significant information to be brought to earth.

We could have a long debate over how common each of these ways that God speaks, occur in a church or individuals life. To learn more about where I stand on this issue of Spiritual Gifts, CLICK HERE. I have listed them from most likely to least likely to occur. I just find that direct revelation is less common then the other types of spiritual gifts that work through a believer. No, I don't exactly know why. But I am sure it has to do with faith. The average spirit-filled believer should be able to experience the first seven or eight on a somewhat regular basis. And, I might add, this is only a guide.

In order to expand your ability to hear His voice, you'll need to cut down on some of the distractions and practice being in His presence. Sometimes we need to create an environment. This is a little bit subjective, but I assure you watching Spike TV is not going to be one of those times. I suggest worship music that is meaningful to you. Sometimes, instrumental music can be even better for creating an environment in which to hear God. There are lots of intimate vocal an instrumental CDs for praying, soaking, intersession and harp and bowl style worship.

You may brood, pray or meditate, but focusing on God is of course the key. I personally like to ask God to forgive me of my sins, pray in the spirit for a few minutes and see what happens. I often pace around when I am in the mode. But that is a personal style. I have friends that live on their knees during these times, and others that walk at that beach, sit in a favorite chair or don sack cloth and ashes etc.

You just can't get all religious about how God will work, or what starts the flow. If you have that down, you can go off and start another denomination. I find that desiring God, loving others and personal needs tend to prime the pumps of Heaven. I have also found that there is an element of purity to all this-- keeping a short list with God is very helpful. None of this can be mechanical, remember it is about a relationship, not about the rigorous repetition.

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