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When you come together–the Holy Spirit leads

On Friday evening, when the church that meets in our home met together, it was quieter than usual. We were a smaller group (the weather was terrible) but, as usual, the Holy Spirit showed up. Much of our time was spent around the Word, and what we learned together was truly relevant to the things going on in people’s lives. I was blessed as God spoke to me about reclaiming a habit I’d lost over the years–that of meditating on his Word as I fall asleep.

If we do in our homes what we’ve traditionally done in the four walls of our church buildings, (what our friend John White calls, “Honey, I shrunk the church,”) we miss out on one of the greatest blessings of simple/organic church–the Holy Spirit being in control. He’s like the conductor of an orchestra, and as each one of us plays our individual melody at his prompting, a symphony emerges.

I  first learned this back in the early days of the British House Church Movement.

I remember those times very well.  The power and presence of the Lord was almost tangible.  I remember running to get to the meeting because I couldn’t wait to get into the Lord’s presence with the rest of the body of Christ.  No one dared go in with unconfessed sin because the Holy Spirit was likely to address it publicly.  I remember times when everyone was on their faces on the floor, lost in God’s presence.

It was in that kind of context that we learned to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering.  Week after week we would watch the Holy Spirit lead and guide in his own unmistakable fashion, drawing out whatever theme he had for us.  Sometimes we would be mostly in worship, other times in prayer. I can still remember some of the lessons we learned in times around the Word. It was always fresh, never dull.

But it was a learning experience. As we tried to follow the Lord, sometimes our times were so bad, we would all decide to just go home. But as we learned to press in, over the months, it came to the place where nearly every week the presence of Jesus was there.

Things may not be as dramatic in this current move of what God is doing (the house church movement in the UK was very tied in to the charismatic movement).  But the Holy Spirit still leads clearly, and I’m spoiled for anything else!

Photo Credit: lorenzog. via Compfight cc

Free e-book on hearing God

A year or so ago I wrote an e-book entitled A Simple Guide to Hearing God. It’s designed to be a very practical look at how to hear God’s voice. However, I decided to take a different approach.

I have many friends who know how to hear God clearly–some of the stories they tell are remarkable. Armed with my iphone, I interviewed these people asking them how God speaks to them. (The videos I produced are amateur, but what the people I interviewed say is not!) How to hear God is also a subject I have studied and practiced for many years, and the text comes out of what I have learned.

The result is an enhanced e-book–a combination of video and writing. (It therefore has to be viewed on a computer rather than a kindle).

I would now like to give this e-book away. If you subscribe to my blog, you will receive a link to the free download.

 

 

Listening–a key skill for the body of Christ

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I just attended Verge 2012, a conference put on by Austin Stone, a mega-church here in Austin. It was an high-energy gathering with caliber, big-name speakers, sold out several days before it started and with something like 500 groups watching online. I had the privilege of running a workshop there.

But you know what impressed me the most?

In every main session, Stew (Michael Stewart) who organizes Verge, stopped and asked us to spend time listening to the Lord to answer two questions:

  • What is God saying to you?
  • What are you going to do about it?

Sound familiar?

Within simple/organic church we like to say there is one main skill we need to learn. How to listen to God and then respond to what he says. Seems as though Jesus is saying the same thing to many different parts of his body.

What we hear from God depends on this…

Question markPhoto credit: WingedWolf (Creative Commons)

If there is one key skill in simple/organic church, it is listening to God. This skill is foundational in almost all we do.  

In my experience, however, God tends to speak to me about the things I ask him questions on. So if I never ask him about finances, he is not likely to speak to me about money. If I never ask him about reaching out, he isn't likely to tell me who to speak to.

I often ask him questions about the things I'm learning about. A year or so back, I was learning about the Kingdom of God. This study raised a number of questions in my mind. One example: the Word is very clear that God is in control of everything, and yet it also says that Satan is the ruler of this world. How can both be true?

So I started asking God questions about his Kingdom. "Lord, show me how both these things can be true at the same time" A series of illustrations came to my mind which I wrote down. One of these was a picture of a drug infested housing project here in the States. Who rules that place? If you ask most of the people who live there, they will say the drug lords do. Yet actually the US government has final say. They could send in riot police to clean the place up, but they choose not to. So both statements are true. 

When I spend time waiting on the Lord, I will usually ask him, "Jesus, what do you want to say to me today?" and most times what he says to me is relevant, Scriptural and occasionally very specific too.  But I've also learned to ask very definite questions, and when I do that, I find the Holy Spirit often brings very specific answers to my mind.

The post on what is on God's heart for your organic church is an example of this being done corporately.

How about you? Do you ask questions of the Lord?

 

 

 

 

What is on God’s heart for your simple/organic church?

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Photo credit: pipnstuff (Creative Commons)

Simple/organic churches can be inward looking. But when we seek Jesus, making him the center of everything that goes on and we ask him what is on his heart, we may find things change…

A few months ago, our simple/organic church spent time learning to listen to God. Each week we did different activities to hone those skills. One week, our activity was for everyone to spend 15 minutes alone asking the Lord the question, "What would you say to us as a group?"

When we came back together again, more than 50% of the group had heard the same message. The word came in various different ways:

"It's time to be light in the darkness, to gain a vision for your city and your people."

"I had the story from Luke 14 where Jesus said to give a banquet inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind."

"The Lord showed me the verse in Romans 10:17, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."

"John 15, that if we remain in him, we will bear much fruit, and that fruit is more disicples."

"Feed the hungry, but remain hungry for the Lord."

"Mark 16:15: we're to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. We're to have an impact wherever we are in our world."

Perhaps the clearest and the one that we have discussed on many occasions since then was a picture someone had of a small group of people next to a small fruit tree, which turned into a bigger group of people next to a bigger fruit tree, and finally many groups of people next to many fruit trees. The sense the person had was that if we listen to the Lord, a lot of fruit will come. As we follow his instructions, groups will multiply.

It's been interesting to watch what has happened to us since then. There are probably four new groups that are in the process of forming as people listen to the Lord and obey what he tells them to do, reaching out into the world around them.

What is God saying to your group? Have you asked him?

 

 

Lessons from Rosa’s story

I sometimes think the Lord gave us the experience with Rosa and starting church in the projects because it so closely parallels Luke 10.

In Luke 10:1, Jesus commissions 72 disciples to go ahead of him in pairs to all the towns and places he plans to visit. Jesus had a strategy for the area–the disciples had to listen to his instructions, go where he told them and he would follow.

Jesus told me very specifically which street to walk because he planned to visit Springfield. My job was to hear him and obey.

The ability to hear God's voice is vital if we are going to be on mission with God. He has plans for the area where you live. As you listen to him, he will give you a place to pray for, or put a person on your heart. Maybe he will say to you, "Get chatting with the person next to you in the grocery line–she needs to hear from me today." Or maybe he will put a people group on your heart–you will find yourself with an unaccountable burden to pray for skateboarders, or students, or the elderly. 

If Jesus sends us somewhere, it's because he plans to come with us. You change your job? Jesus wants to do something in your new place of work. You move house? What does Jesus want to do in your new neighborhood?

 

New E-book: A Simple Guide to Hearing God

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How do we hear God? Does He speak in an audible voice? How do we know it is Jesus speaking and not an over-active imagination? What might happen if we deliberately listen to God, believing He will speak to us?

About 18 months ago I had the idea of a multi-media e-book that would address this topic. (It's like a "vook" if you have come across the concept–a cross between a video and a book.) Over the past year or so, let loose with an iphone and with no expertise in videography, I interviewed friends who I know hear God clearly. I asked them the question, "How does God speak to you? How would you help someone who isn't sure God speaks to them?"

These interviews are included in the text of this e-book, along with many examples from my own experience. They all serve to amplify principles from Scripture. My hope and prayer is that both individuals and groups will be inspired and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus as a result of reading/viewing the e-book, but more than that, their Christian lives will become an adventure, on mission with God. 

The e-book is available via House2House at this link.

I'd love to hear of your experiences in hearing God, especially if the e-book helped you in this process. Leave a comment on this blog post.

Can you give feedback on a multimedia ebook?

I've just completed a 40+ page multimedia ebook on the subject of listening to God. (By multimedia, I mean it has videos and other links that are part of the book.)  I'd love to have feedback from a few people so that I can make any relevant changes before I "go live" with this.

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My hope is that a few people will go through it over the next week. If they then answer eight brief questions, that will help me decide if there are changes to be made. It's a fairly short read, but if you view all the videos too (which I would prefer), it will take about an hour longer. It has to be viewed on a computer (rather than a Kindle) because of the video content.

If you'd like to be one of those who review this ebook, please respond by adding a comment to this post or tweet me (@felicitydale). 

Many thanks.

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has responded to this. Between those who have left comments here on the blog and those who have responded via Twitter, I now have more than enough people who are willing to give me feedback.  The revised book will be available soon via House2House. I'll keep you updated.

How to set yourself free from guilt-based religion

In my last post on this subject, I looked at my personal journey  and how God set me free from guilt-based religion. For me, that liberty came many years ago during my medical school days. I've not always lived in that freedom, but it has formed a basic backdrop for my life.

Man on beach freedom

My advice to people wanting to be set free from legalism and guilt/shame-based religion today would be a little different.

Guilt-based religion relies on keeping a series of laws whether external  (a good Christian is expected to have to have a daily quiet time/speak to other people about their relationship with Jesus/ pray at least one hour per day) or internal (I'm going to get closer to God; therefore I will pray for one hour every day/read my Bible through in one year etc.). Note these are all good things that will enhance your walk with the Lord. And over the years I've made many a promise to myself to do them, tried for a few days/weeks and then lived with the guilt of letting God down.

These days I do it differently. I make an active practice of listening to God.

Most days I try to journal. This is a skill I picked up from a book by Mark Virkler many years ago called "Dialog with God." He outlines four basic steps to hearing from God. 

  1. Free yourself from distractions
  2. Focus on Jesus
  3. Listen for the flow of spontaneous thoughts
  4. Write down what you hear

After I have written down the flow of thoughts, then I go back and weigh what I wrote. Is it Scriptural? Does it bring a sense of peace? (Col 3:15)

Most of the time when I journal, what I write is good and Scriptural but not earth shattering. Often I sense the Lord expressing his love and approval of me. Sometimes I ask him specific questions and get very relevant answers. Sometimes I sense him telling me to focus on a particular subject which will form the basis of my studies in the Word for a while. Sometimes I go back through what I have written and put a large question mark beside it because I'm not convinced I heard the Lord accurately. Sometimes I write things that make a profound difference in my life.

For example, a few months ago, I sensed the Lord saying, "Lean into me," with the sense of having to rely on him for strength, courage etc. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself in the middle of all kinds of events I couldn't have foreseen including being with my mother in the UK as she went through major cardiac surgery, a cardiac arrest, collapsed vertebrae and a house move, Tony's mother in a coma for a few days (both mothers are now doing well), a week trip to India without Tony speaking for several hours a day at conferences and so on. The number of times I said to the Lord during that time, "Father, I don't have what it takes, but I lean into you!" were too numerous to count.

For me, listening to God (and doing what he says) is the antidote to legalism because it creates a two-way relationship. Jesus said to his disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).

Having a friendship with Jesus is not a chore or duty. It's a desire.

 

Should we increase community at the expense of being missional?

I was asked a fascinating question in response to the last couple of blogs on how an inward focused group can become more missional.  Basically the question was: what do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?

Here's a part of my response to the person who asked:

"It sounds to me as though you have a church of existing believers. This is rarely an issue if you are working with new believers or not-yet-believers. If you have approached this in a Luke 10 type context working with a person of peace, you are working with an already existing community. In any situation, you need to ask the Lord about it and do what he tells you. As you seek him he will lead you into more community.

Alan Hirsch also describes something he calls "communitas." It't the sort of fellowship that develops in a stressful situation or around a common task. For example, my father was a prisoner of war during WW2. Until he died, his closest friends were those who had gone through that experience with him. Maybe you could create communitas over a common project together that also reached out into your community. I think of something like working with the homeless, or with kids in need.

1 2 3 Another principle that hinders church multiplication that your comments also touch on is that of sequentialism. David Garrison covers it in his book, Church Planting Movements. You will slow down a work of God if you insist on things being done in a certain order. First we plant a church, then we make sure our meetings run okay, then we develop community, then we reach out. You are much more likely to see growth if you do all of these things together, at the same time. 

Having said that, fellowship of the kind you describe rarely comes if all you do is have meetings together with nothing else going on. It is much more likely to come in the rough and tumble of life–sharing meals outside of meetings, going to the movies together, playing games, playing with the kids.

The Lord has a plan for your group and a strategy for your area.  As you seek him, he will show you what to do.

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