"Alternative Worship Movement, of which I am generally deeply appreciative, one of the tasks of the church in a postmodern context is to make ‘sacred spaces’, places filled with rich and fresh symbolism expressed new forms of media, where people can reconnect with God in new ways. And this all sounds right. But when this impulse is divorced, as it often is, from the overarching task of mission (and that of missional contextualization) then it simply becomes another way in which we separate the sacred from the secular."
Alan Hirsch - Click Here for the Full Article
Have you ever noticed how easliy the prophet's in the Old Trestament seem to speak and conect with God in dialogue? No matter where they may be or even how emotional or unrestricted and uncensored their language is, people like Moses, Samuel, Jerimiah, and Elijah just speak openly and freely with God as if he was standing there right there beside them and engaging right along with them. Why then do we today insist that prayer is rationalized down to a specific methodology? As though it can only be done if I assume the correct positioning, follow the correct formula, pick the right times be it in the morning, before bed, and before meals, and of course "seal the deal" by saying the correct closing words of "in Jesus name I pray". Why do we restrict ourselves from acknowledging God's presence outside of the religous activities of what we consider church practice? Shouldn't we be able to freely engage in conversation with God wherever we are without restraint?
Last night my wife Bonnie and I watched a movie called 'Conversations with God'. It is a biographical picture of a man named Neil Walsch who after going through a horrific car crash, began to hear and engage with the voice of God. At least in his understanding. Yes, I know, Neil Walsch is a known leader of New Age thought and a great distance from any Christian circles but, I couldn't help but identify with the message in the film that deep down we all desire for a close, intimate, and personal conversation with God.
In the gospel of John Jesus says in one of his final prayers before going to the cross, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3) I remmember Lynn Anderson in his book 'They Smell Like Sheep' telling the story of how shepherds didn't have to place fences around their sheep in order to keep them from getting mixed up with other heards. The sheep were simply so familure with their shepherds voice that when he would call for them they would recognize him and instantly search him out.
Likewise, the more we openly engage in a intimate, personal, and unrestricted conversation with God, the more we familurize ourselves with his voice and can grow closer with him in relationship. We can know God more by sharing everything from our thoughts on the last sports game we watched, to our reflections on the person we met on the city transit the other day, and our specific concerns or joys that we experienced towards our friends or family.
Conversations of course also go both ways. We can be attentive to listening to God as he responds to the things we are talking to him about. This can be a tricky and dangerous thing of course. How do we know that it is God who is responding to us and not simply a self delusion or worse, a demonic elerment? I'm no expert in this area but here are some things to which I always reflect on before discerning wether or not it is God speaking to me or not.
- Does this response seem to be reflected in the scriptures of the Bible?
- Does it match up with the character of Jesus in the New Testament?
- Can I sense it as being outside of my own interests and objectives?
- Do I feel the need to transform my actions or thoughts within that moment to better reflect what God may have been saying to me?
These are by no means the reflections of an expert and I am sure later I will probably think of a few other questions I ask myself when reflecting on whether or not it was God who was speaking to me.
The film 'Conversations with God' brought up one other really interesting point that I am not even sure they meant to articulate. Neil Walsch didn't really begin to hear the voice of God until he was at his perhaps, lowest point. Sometimes I think we are perhaps so distracted by the busyness of our lives or our own personal sufferings and struggles that no mater how loud we scream for God's response, we simply cannot hear his response to us. In my own case, it wasn't until I was willing to stop and let go of everything that I was doing before I could finally hear God speaking to me. It is perhaps in the lowest of our low moments that we can truly hear a whisper and begin a new conversation with God.
“Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”