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Listening for God's Voice

  • 1 September 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

From Genesis to Revelation, God our Creator is revealed as One who is interested in relationship with people. One early example of this is the relationship between Moses and Yahweh. We read in Exodus that God and Moses spoke as friends—face to face. Some call it intimacy with God, friendship, or communion. Part of this intimate relationship between God and people is the experience of hearing God's voice. The Bible is filled with examples of how people hear God. Variety as to how they hear abounds. Some have dreams; others have visions; some hear God at work in the circumstances of their lives; some are prompted by the Spirit in their hearts; others experience God in and through creation in alignment with what the Scriptures say in Psalm 19—the heavens declare the glory of God.

When my wife Evy and I wrote Your Ears Will Hear we were increasingly aware of how people around the world were hearing God in similar ways. The same common ways that are found in Scripture continue to be ways people are hearing God today. We identified five common ways, but there might be a hundred and five. We’re not trying to be exhaustive, but we are finding it helpful to bring these five to people's attention as they journey with God: 

  1. Listening to God through Scripture
  2. Listening to God at work around us in the circumstances of our lives
  3. Listening to God through our hearts
  4. Listening to God in silence and solitude (like Jesus did) out in nature
  5. Listening to God in community (God speaks to people through people)

The Scriptures describe—in one story after another—how people are guided by God. Whether it is "the counsel of the Lord" or "the word of the Lord" or "a gentle whisper" or "a voice" or other ways, God is communicating and He's given people "ears to hear". Promises abound throughout Scripture encouraging all believers of all ages to believe their ears will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

How does God speak to you? Are there common ways you have experienced God speaking to you over time? I’d love to hear from you (click here to contact me). 

Singing for Apprentices?!

  • 29 August 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

"Why are you going to seminary to study worship? All a song leader needs to do is open the hymnal and choose 3 songs." 

My aunt said this to me just before my family and I moved to Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1994. I was pursuing a church leadership degree with a focus on congregational worship and music. My wife and I have often chuckled about her words. Yet they stay with me for two reasons. First, I'm sad that my aunt didn't understand what I wanted to learn. Second, I think congregational singing is often an underappreciated means of forming one another as Jesus' apprentices. 

In November, Mennonite Brethren from across Canada will meet in Abbotsford for the biennial Equip Study Conference. This year's theme is "Transforming Discipleship." According to the preparatory materials, "A growing disciple is one who is being transformed in such a way that the deeds of Jesus, done in the power of Jesus, become an increasingly natural way of life." Simply put, a disciple is an apprentice of Jesus. 

According to Paul in the New Testament, believers gather regularly to build up the church and each other (1 Corinthians 14). Another writer teaches that believers meet to provoke each other to love and to do good deeds; they also meet to encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). Since singing has been a part of Christian meetings since the church began (cf. Ephesians 5:19a), I'm prompted to ask, "How does singing build up the church? And how does singing train apprentices?"

Pastoral Care as Discipleship through Life's Challenges

  • 24 August 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

As I sat in church, I saw her: burden showing on her face with tears gently flowing over her cheeks. I moved quietly from where I was to sit at her side and said, "Can I help?" This woman was not new to the congregation—not a seeker, but a longtime member. The sadness in her eyes matched her sorrowful words as she said, "I don’t think I can tell anyone in church what is really going on in my life." 

A heaviness came over me and lingered with me as I reflected on the depth of what she was saying. This woman feared sharing her burden with believers. How could that be? In the times of life's great challenges, we need to be drawn not just to the house of the Lord, but to the community of believers. Pastoral care—the demonstration of Christ’s compassion—should be found within the community of faith.

Charles Gerkin wrote of the need to rediscover the congregation as the primary agents of care for the members, saying that "in a sense, we who have from generation to generation made up the Christian community have always known that the primary source of Christian nurture and care lies in the gathering together of God's people" [1]. Gerkin asserts that while knowing this, we as a community of believers have given the dominant emphasis of this ministry to the ordained. It is important therefore for each of us as believers to remember that the term pastoral as used in our Judeo-Christian tradition has a communal connotation denoting the care of the community for its members. Ronald Sunderland states, "It derives from the figurative language of Jewish scriptures and, supremely, from the Lord's care of Israel (Psalm 23, 80)" [2]. 

As I sat with the woman who was burdened by life, could I enter her story, hear it for what it was, and demonstrate God as not only present, but active in her life? Could I enter in without the platitudes or the rush for her to claim victory? Could I just be with her in her challenge until she could see her burden in Christ's hands?

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