Who leads your church?

The key skill to making disciples and planting churches is an ability to recognize God’s voice. Do we know when he is speaking to us? Can we distinguish his voice from our own thoughts? Many of us have learnt how to do this on an individual basis, but how many churches put into practice the fact that “we have the mind of Christ”? Together we can hear his plans and directions for us. Is Jesus the one who leads your church? The church that meets in our home is in a transitional phase. We have become a very close-knit group over the time we have met together. We are now fairly sure that the Lord is leading us to multiply out into various different groups with an emphasis on reaching out to those who do not yet know him. So last Friday, when we came together, we set aside part of our time together to listen to him about the future of our church. God spoke clearly. Each of us spent time on our own listening to Jesus and asking him the question, “Jesus, what is your vision and plan for us as your body?” When we came back, some had pictures,others had a series of words, there was a clear passage of Scripture. And there was a common theme. Although we need to spend more time weighing what the Lord said to us, the general sense was very clear. We will need to ask the Lord more questions about how to put into practice what he has told us to do, but “we have the mind of Christ.” Listening

Photo Credit: Paulgi via Compfight cc

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.

 

Gathering to Listen #5

Let me go back and tell you a little more of our first time together:

How does a group go about waiting on God for three days?  What do you do? 

For a while, we all waited in silence.  Then W.S. suggested that we let the Lord give each person an identity by allowing the Lord to present them.  Each person was introduced using prophetic words God gave to others, and by faith we took up our new identities.  Then we waited.  And God spoke Psalm 24 to us along with a picture of a very ancient gate. 

Ancient gates

Open up, ancient gates!
      Open up, ancient doors,
      and let the King of glory enter.
 Who is the King of glory?
      The Lord, strong and mighty;
      the Lord, invincible in battle.
 Open up, ancient gates!
      Open up, ancient doors,
      and let the King of glory enter.
 Who is the King of glory?
      The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—
      he is the King of glory.

We understood that God had given us the authority to open and close gates in the spiritual realms.  But we also understood that we weren’t ready to take on that authority until we were willing to surrender ourselves completely to Him.  We were particularly struck by verses 3 and 4: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”  So the Lord led us to surrender our own agendas, deliberately laying down our reputations and dying to the things we stood for and represented—the things that we love the most.  Each person placed on the floor in the center of the room items that represented their ministries, their strongly held convictions, anything in which they had put their identity apart from God.  We were empty—nothing was left that was our own.

From that position, Jesus continued to speak to us about Psalm 24 and gates. God showed us that He has given us keys that will only turn the locks of those gates as they are wielded corporately.  He told us we had authority to declare what the church is to be.  And so, looking out over the city and the plains beyond, we declared the different attributes of the church that God longs to see.