Yesterday we continued our talk about prayer, the most critical part of your devotional life. We talked about invitations for us to pray in the Bible, and said that prayer must be a two-way conversation. This usually brings up two questions – ‘How am I supposed to talk to Him?’, and ‘How can I hear God?’
The answer to the first one is fairly easy. You don’t need all the fancy, flowery ‘thee’s and thou’s’ for God to understand or listen to you. But, if that’s the way you learned to pray, have at it! God speaks all languages, every dialect. What you need is really in your heart, not your mouth. You need to truly seek Him. There’s a great illustration at http://youtu.be/npyqZjpM_Xs. Funny, but it makes the point – my favorite kind.
The answer to the other is a bit more complicated, only because God speaks to us in many ways. Let’s talk about some of those. First and foremost, God speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. The apostle Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16 NIV. When you want to make something clear and firm, what do you do? Put it in writing! That’s what He did for us. As Nazarene’s we believe that the Bible is the final authority. Anything that conflicts with scripture, then, is not from God. The trick is to know the Bible well enough to know when something just doesn’t fitor to recognize when someone has twisted the Word for their own purposes. As you spend more time in the scripture, you’ll at least get to a point where something just doesn’t sound right. You’ll know enough to open the Bible and double-check when issues arise – and they do.
Watch the news. Almost daily you’ll see people arguing about things like abortion, homosexuality, or religious tolerance. Public education is big now – should children be taught evolution or creationism, and how should these be represented (as theories? Hard facts?) What kind of sexual education should the schools be teaching? (None? Birth control? Abortion? Abstinence?)
Many people on both sides will quote scripture to make their arguments. Be very careful. We must always make sure that we know the context of the passage being cited. Who wrote that part, and to what audience? What was going on in the world around them at the time?
If you don’t know the Bible that well, and people can twist it so easily, how can you be assured that it really is God’s Word, solid and eternal? After all, wasn’t it written by (fallible) men, who decided to include what they like and condemn what they didn’t? Actually, that’s not the way it was at all.
Often we think we heard from God, and it turns out not to be true. Other times (maybe more often) we totally miss God’s message for us. Sometimes we’re too busy or distracted to take the time to really understand it, or we just doubt that it is really something from Him. There are ways we can discern God’s communication with us, to know it’s really Him speaking. We’ll begin to look at some of those tomorrow. In the meantime pray that God would give you the gift of discernment, so that you will know the truth when it’s presented to you, and false teaching/unwise counsel when you face these.