Hearing the Voice of God – Day 1

17Sep

Hearing the Voice of God – Day 1

INTRODUCTION

So, the day finally came. I noticed that the hall was more full than the seminars on worship and I grinned as I identified with the hunger which led more people to attend this seminar series.  Who did not want to hear the voice of God?  How I wish that they had attended the previous seminars, however, as the speakers had gradually led us into how a worship lifestyle was a prerequisite to hear God’s voice.  Without true worship, voices could indeed be heard, but whose voices would those be?

 

GOD IS ALWAYS TALKING

The speaker started by explaining that God is spirit and that we too are spirit and pointed out that God always speaks but that there exists so much noise which distracts us from tuning into His frequency.  He mentioned Psalm 46:11 which tells us to “be still”; something which is a constant battle if you live and work in this megacity called Lagos.

He then referred to John 10:3-6 where Jesus says “the gatekeeper opens the gate…the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep,” which suggest that the gatekeeper, who is God, speaks.  The sheep which is us, can hear God speak and as a result of this, the sheep follow Him.  Imagine yourself now, being in a pasture as a sheep grazing, when you hear a voice call you.  As a sheep, what do you do?  You follow this familiar voice. Why?  Because it is almost as if you can touch this voice due to its familiarity and tangibility. John 1:14  refers to the Word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us which suggests that the Word is a tangible thing and not simply an arrangement of airwaves.

This constant state of God talking is stressed again in the way God makes known things to us as seen in Job 33:14 where it says “God gives a warning but does not repeat it a second time.” In Amos 3:7, it is noted that “Yahweh does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets” so here again we see that God speaks, as God also seeks to warn us and guide us in our affairs.

In the call of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, we see again that God speaks when Isaiah observed “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send’?”  As the speaker continued, I couldn’t help but get a bit impatient. Yes, we all knew that God speaks, but most of us at the seminars were either seeking to know whether God speaks to them and if he does, how would we be sure it was really Him?

Then  I stopped and wondered – perhaps, I was jumping to conclusions.  Who said that all people believed that God speaks. Some people actually don’t believe and that is why the speaker was referring to several passages in the bible to evidence the fact that God speaks. Indeed, I still find it hard to believe that some people still hold on to the belief that God does not speak or that even if He did,  it was something that happened in ages past but which no longer happens.

My prayer for them is that God have mercy upon them and reveal Himself to them personally so as to erase all doubt as to the authenticity of His spoken words. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

 

05Sep

Worship & How to Hear Voice of God- Day 9

FIXING A NATION

Introduction

The speaker presented another angle to worship in his discussion on fixing Nigeria.  At first, I thought we were going to have one of those political discussions over Buhari but was pleasantly surprised when he turned it towards ourselves by quoting  Jeremiah 2:13 “…for my people have done two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living water to dig themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!Now, how senseless does that sound!! However, the speaker stressed that this is what has happened as we have abandoned God in Nigeria by neglecting to focus on being His disciple. He stated that to ‘fix a man, you fix a nation.’

 

Evangelism

For those of us in our parish, we should be used to the word “evangelism” by now.  The speaker stressed it even more that we must share all we have learned and the joy we have felt from encountering Christ, or else we have failed in our worship. He explained that Muslims are spreading their tentacles for the simple reason that those in the church are not evangelizing.  He warned us not to imitate those who had abandoned their first love in Ephesus in Revelations 2:4-5.  The church in Ephesus which is modern day Turkey is now a museum because they were focused on building churches and not people and on feel-good things instead of discipleship.

I was absolutely shocked to find out that there was a place in interior Ebonyi state where Muslims would offer money to indigines who would send their children to Islamic schools and on top of giving them N10,000 for every child sent there, the education offered in the schools would be free. There is even a huge movement now in Ebonyi state to expand such education in the state.  Can you imagine? Which poor family wouldn’t want to get paid for sending their children for free to a school to be educated?  If they sent 5 of their children there, they would get N50,000 so why wouldn’t they? In the middle of Igboland in the south, we have islamization and why, because the churches therein are not focusing on building disciples.

He challenged us to be that vessel which God can use and it may involve starting from within since pagans also come to church and sit on the pews with us during mass.  He asked us if we would be that vessel God would use to spark a revival. It only takes one of us willing to say “yes.”

He advised that once we learn how to be a disciple then winning souls becomes easier and explained what discipleship means to him. He stated that it was more than simply following Jesus and made reference to Romans 8:29. Discipleship means becoming like Jesus and making others become like Jesus. It means going back to the origin of the word “Christian” which means “Christ-like” and imbibing this nature and making others have this same nature – “Those whom he knew beforehand, he has also predestined to be like his Son, similar to him…”

 

Conclusion

This seminar challenged me and I hope it challenged you as well.  How much have we yielded ourselves to be that spark which God is so desperately looking for in order to alight His Church and bring forth the revival? The speaker said something which struck me – “those things you are afraid of, are afraid of you.”   What are we afraid of? Why are we hesitating? “To fix a man, you fix a nation” – let’s get to work!

May our Heavenly Father bestow upon us the fortitude to be a true disciple and energize us to do whatever work He has predestined us to do for Him, in Jesus name we pray. Amen

04Sep

Worship & How to Hear Voice of God- Day 8

INTRODUCTION

So last week we rounded up the 1st part in the 2-part seminar on worship and how to hear the voice of God.  We broke out into discussion groups to answer some questions on worship and also to ask any questions which had arisen in our minds over the course of the days when we delved into how to become a true worshiper.

 

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Our group was given the topic of “What is Worship” and we came up with the following:

1. Worship is a lifestyle

2. Worship is food for God (we don’t want to starve him)

3. Worship is why I was made

4. Worship is sacrifice of our heart (We give up our hearts’ desires)

5. Worship is kissing the feet of Jesus. (We do this as a sign of            humility and to indicate our close presence to God. Feet are used to walk with God and to spread the Gospel.)

6. Worship is a way of lifting up our heart and voices to God. (When it is both it is most effective since singing is praying twice)

7. Worship is humble submission to the Will of God. (Submission can be proud when we do not genuinely submit or when we focus on the letter of the law like the Pharisees)

8. Worship is life itself. {If you don’t worship, you are dead.}

9. Worship is the master key to God’s heart.

10. Worship is the art of paying attention to the Supreme Being.

11. Worship is everything.

 

QUESTIONS RAISED

1. What are the different ways to engage God?

The speaker referred to a process called spiritual litigation.  Therein, we envisage the presence of God who is the judge, the devil who is the accuser, Jesus who is our advocate and the 24 elders who are witnesses.  We start by asking God for mercy and then we enumerate what the enemy has done in our lives and our responses. The devil then has his opportunity to state his own case against you and then Jesus your advocate states his own case and ends it by bringing the attention to the judge that your sins have been paid by His blood and death on the cross and we are left to seek restoration.

Now imagine doing that each night when we examine our conscience?  Imagine us envisioning this judgement scene and ending the process with a contrite heart seeking restoration based on the blood of Jesus. We can do this when we engage God.

Daniel 10:12 which I had pondered upon brought to mind another way in which we could engage God. Through our ardent desire to seek understanding of Him, God reassures us and reveals Himself to us – “…do not be afraid, for from that first day, when you resolved to acquire understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your supplications were heard…”

The other speaker further elaborated that we can engage God in several other ways such as the following:

  • saying devotional prayers to Him
  • spending quiet time with Him and talking intimately
  • spending time reading the Word of God where rhema will be dropped in your spirit
  • during mass as we concentrate and mean every word we say
  • looking at nature and simply just walking appreciating all created things.

 

2. Why didn’t John the Baptist recognize Jesus until the dove descended at the River Jordan when he had already leaped for joy from his mother’s womb?

The speaker explained the difference between spiritual awareness and the physical encounter. John the Baptist had been baptised from the womb when he had heard Mary’s words – words from she who was full of grace and full of the Holy Spirit.  It was the utterance of Mary’s greetings in Luke 1:40-41 which activated John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb.  He was baptized by the Holy Spirit and this is why he who was baptized from the womb was able to baptize Jesus at the River Jordan.

However, the speaker clarified that this recognition of Jesus from the womb, was only made clear when Jesus manifested in the flesh at the River Jordan. John the Baptist had that special encounter with He to whom he had initially responded; He whom he knew to be his cousin, but in spite of this, He, whom he did not know. This personal encounter in John 1:32-34 is different from that which John experienced earlier from hearing the voice of Mary who was full of the Holy Spirit and who carried Jesus within her – “I myself did not know him, but God, who sent me to baptize, told me, ‘ You will see the Spirit coming down….’ Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God!”

 

3. Why did you say that God is a businessman?  He is more of an accountant.

The speaker explained that it really does not matter what nomenclature you use to describe God – whether it be businessman or accountant.  The point is that God awaits the time when He will call in His investment and wants you to render account for what talents and gifts He has deposited within you.

31Aug

Worship & Hearing Voice of God- Day 7

ENGAGING GOD IN WORSHIP

When I come across the word “engage”, my mind turns to movies such as “Top Gun” where you would see an air force fighter narrowing in on his enemy ready to push the trigger to blast the target or to a “Star Wars” movie where Luke Skywalker or other forces of light would pursue Dark Vader and the other agents of darkness across the galaxies to engage them in conflict or perhaps a “Kung Fu” movie where the referee would shout out “Fight” just before the two opponents are let loose.

To engage…so what does this word really mean? How do we engage God? Do we dare? Is it possible?

The speaker explained that to engage does not necessarily involve conflict but involves being connected to someone. We are called to connect with God beyond the norm and in an EXTRAordinary way.  We are to engage God in order to set God in motion. Well, this sounded strange as I never conceived God as one who simply stood by in an idle manner, but then a verse sprung to mind – Rev 3:20 “Look, I STAND at the door and knock.  If you hear my call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you and you with me.”  Standing is a passive position which often entails a great deal of patience and waiting for someone else to react.  This is why we need to react. God waits for us to react. We need to engage God because without doing so, we do not get the real experience of Him that our soul has always longed for us to encounter.

He explained that most of us have the wrong notion that God is far away from us and so we are hesitant to even conceive the idea of engaging such a supreme being.  As Christians we should rest assured that He is very close to us as assured throughout scripture such as in Psalm 145:18“He is near those who call on Him , who call trustfully upon His name.”  So, all we need do is call on Him and realize His presence because He also promises that He will never leave us in Deut 31:6“your God is with you; He will not leave you or abandon you” which is also echoed in Hebrew 13:5.

He also warned against the wrong notion some of us have that God selectively answers prayers of a select few and even at that, He does not answer all prayers. He encouraged us to have a deep hunger to go beyond our comfort zone and beyond  the norm in our engagement with God in order to dispel these erroneous notions.

 

1. ISAIAH ENGAGED

Introduction

The speaker then took us through persons in the bible who engaged God and as a result had an amazing experience of Him. Isaiah 6:1-4  mentions the encounter Isaiah had in the year King Uzziah died when he sought God perhaps in consolation over the loss of Uzziah who may have been dear to Him.  Although Isaiah served as a priest in the temple and had prophetic utterances, it was only when he sought the Lord after King Uzziah’s  death that he saw God – “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, the train of his robe filled the temple.”

This encounter with God and the seraphs made Isaiah see how he truly was in his uncleanliness. We have heard of hardened sinners who break down and cry uncontrollably or repeatedly ask for mercy when they encounter God. We have also heard of those who are deemed righteous, who also cry out as they realize their unworthiness before God in their engagement of Him. The speaker advised us to drop our reputation when we come before God because He works with the real you and cannot be deceived.

Upon encountering God, Isaiah had to open himself and it is at this point that we fail to take advantage of the opportunity given to us to engage God. He explained that the devil uses shame to convince us not to open up but we must dig deeper to engage God so He can sanctify us in spite of the expected shame we might face.  As Catholics, we are fortunate to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can confess our sins and be restored with God.  It is unfortunate, however, that even at this opportunity, some people even lie or just go through the motions, thereby missing the essence of truly engaging God. Isaiah 1:18 says “Come, let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

It is no wonder that the devil is trying to undermine this sacrament and dissuade many from resorting to it.  Can you believe that in Australia, the Church has been subjected to laws which force priests to break the seal of secrecy and removes priest-penitent privilege? The priests there, however, have vowed that they would rather go to jail than reveal what is said to them in confession.

 

Personal Encounter

When you engage God in worship like Isaiah did, you find yourself submitting everything to God. The speaker pointed out that everyone has a skeleton but a singular encounter changes everything, as we do not consider as important, the shame that may ensue from revealing it or we do not feel as attached to it. This led me to wonder whether I had a skeleton in my closet and whether I still do.  Do you? He continued that if we do not have this encounter with God, we should not go ahead with what we think must be done because it is this encounter which strengthens us.

When we engage God, we have a personal encounter and when we have this, we find that our will becomes subject to God’s will. God has said in Isaiah 55, “my ways are not your ways, so our will naturally runs parallel to the will of God. The speaker mentioned that what most of us try to do is to bribe God and negotiate with Him to bend to our will.  However, we see in Isaiah that his will collapsed when he had that encounter and let go of his will leading him to say “Here I am. Send me!”

The speaker went on to explain that God is the master strategist and he is able to catch your attention to engage you.  Think of the relationship between a man who is toasting a lady from across a room. He orders her a drink and send over some food to her via the waiter and perhaps even send a note.  He makes the move and waits, the lady looks at him and then looks away again and then does some more yanga. What happens next? Who is to make the next move? Most men would say it is the lady’s move because they have prepared the ground.

Well, it is up to us whether we want to be engaged.  When we decide to engage God, we should submit our will and we will realize how everything of God’s has a plan and purpose, including us.  He mentioned that most Catholics do not have personal conviction because they do not have a personal encounter and they are simply riding on the conviction of their parents as cradle Catholics, without having their own foundation. He cited the example of Catholics during NYSC year going into oblivion, only to resurface and resume church activities when they return home.

 

2. MOSES ENGAGED

The pursuit to engage God can also be seen in the life of Moses who had been taught about the true God by his Hebrew parents before he became a royal in the palace of Pharaoh.  As Prince of Egypt, however, he knew that there was something different about him but was not aware what to do about this feeling he had. The speaker asked us whether we have felt like Moses in the sense of knowing that there was something that you needed to do but not knowing how to bring it to reality? It is as if God has planted something within you but you are at a crossroad not knowing how it is to come to fruition.

The time for Moses to engage God was in Exodus 3 when God caught his attention using something he would be familiar with – something which seemed like magic – a burning bush which was not being consumed by the fire in Exodus 3:2-3. As a prince of Egypt, he was familiar with acts of sorcery by the Egyptians and God used such a sight to lure him. The speaker stated that God always uses what we are familiar with to catch our attention for us to engage him – Moses saw that although the bush was on fire, it did not burn up, Moses thought ‘I will go and see this amazing sight, why is the bush not burning up’?“.

This reminds me of a discussion I had with fellow committee members of one of our parish programs when I was arguing against the need to always provide food for church events due to additional costs it entailed which I considered unnecessary. However, one member pointed out that our parishioners are lured with food and that most would not come to hear spiritual talks unless food would be served at such.  I was saddened by this reality and hope that a time would come where we will hunger so deeply for the Word of God and to be around those who eagerly yearn for same, that the availability or otherwise of food to be served or not, would be a secondary concern.

He pointed out that Moses ran away from Pharaoh after he realized his murder of the Egyptian was public because he knew that Pharaoh was vindictive and without mercy. Moses became a wanted man and a fugitive until God caught his attention and Moses responded by engaging God.  Isn’t it amazing how God called Moses personally and Moses gave the same reply as Isaiah – “Here I am.” Moreover, God introduced Himself immediately to Moses, thus showing His longing desire and eagerness to make Himself known to us, if only we would engage Him. In this introduction, Moses received revelation on who he was which confirmed why he had always felt different.  Now, what he was supposed to do with this new information as to his identity, was what God would guide him into, by further engagement.

Before God would reveal this, however, he had to instruct Moses to let God of his past and surrender himself to God.  This is seen in Exodus 3:5 where God advises thus: “Do not come near; take off your sandals because the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  The speaker explained that Moses was told to remove his sandals which he had retained as a sign of his royalty and past life.  He asked us what we were still holding on to which God has instructed us to get rid off from our lives?

It was not until Moses had gotten rid of the last remnant of his former life as a prince of Egypt, that he was able to get a new encounter with God where God revealed Himself to Moses not only as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, but also as “I am who I am”   Perhaps WE are the obstacle to having a personal encounter with God. We seek to engage God but we are still holding on to our past and unwilling to come out of our comfort zone.  We are unwilling to surrender to Him and engage Him in true worship. We may need assurance and God is aware of this so he gives Moses miraculous powers and signs in Exodus 4:2-9 assuring him that He will be with him.

The speaker stressed that Moses engaged God because he deliberately sought clarification by asking three times.  First he asked God who he should say sent him and God replied by giving him a new revelation of Himself.  Then he asked God what would happen if they did not believe him and God replied by giving him miraculous powers,  Then finally he asked God how he would speak since he was not eloquent and God replied that he would inspire Moses on what to say.  We must be very certain when we engage God to ascertain what our mission and purpose in life is in order to distinguish it from a mere passion which we might have.  This intense engagement led Moses to inform his father-in-law of his resolve to return to Egypt to free the Israelites.

 

CONCLUSION

Upon analyzing the lives of Isaiah and Moses we see how their lives were interrupted and transformed as they engaged God.  This interruption is necessary in order for you to have an encounter with God.  This is also seen in the lives of the disciples such as Peter who was going about his daily living fishing but when he was called, he abandoned his livelihood and family and followed Jesus.  The interruption of Peter eventually led God to use him to convert over 3000 souls in Acts 2:14-41. This same Peter is the key stone upon which the Catholic church was built and through which it spoke and continues to speak by virtue of the apostolic succession and tradition.

Are you prepared to be interrupted? Are you prepared to engage God? I was meditating upon this and came across Isaiah 55:6 which says “Seek Yahweh while he may be found.”  This struck me because it suggests that there will come a time when some of us who haven’t already, will finally decide to seek and engage God BUT He will be concealed from us!!  There will come a time when we will seek God but we will not be able to find Him.  Similar to when you decide to switch on your bluetooth device and indicate whether you want it to be discoverable by all devices.  God has always been discoverable and has made and is still making Himself discoverable for us to tune into His frequency.  However, can you imagine if you delay to engage Him and when you eventually do by switching on that device to connect, you find that there is nothing there?!!

May we be ever conscious of our need to engage God in worship, to bring us into a personal encounter with Him which our souls yearn to do each day.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 

30Aug

Worship & Hearing the Voice of God – Day 6

INTRODUCTION

The speaker started Day 6 asking us a direct question – “What problem do you think you have to solve in the church?” He explained that God is showing you the problem not to complain about it but to solve it! This might be through prayer or may be through more concrete steps. My mind immediately went to the seminar he gave on “party spirit” which was dividing not only Christendom but also our Catholic Church.  This tendency to form cliques in the church and not participate in the programs of the other group because it was different or merely because you were not a member has seeped into our community. We have forgotten the essence of being one which was Jesus’ earnest desire in John 17:11 echoed by Paul who pleaded in 1Cor 1:10 “I beg of you…to agree among yourselves and do away with division; please be perfectly united with one mind and one judgement.” Indeed we must do away with inter-society pettiness before we can even key into the broader ecumenism movement.

This is also seen in the ideology of some of us who consider themselves more spiritual than the other or those who term others as “holier than thou.” There was a time when this phrase used to bother me until I came to realize that the person who considered such a person to be “holier than thou” was the one who had the inferiority complex.  We are indeed called to be holy and whether the person who sees this, considers it as a show of arrogance or pride is entirely the person’s problem. Only God truly knows the intent of the person’s heart and quest to be holy, so do not be deterred if those around you consider you such. Instead, be encouraged and pursue holiness even more fervently.

The speaker also encouraged us to tell others when things are not going well in order for it to be corrected.  He warned us against being self-conscious and not speaking up since they may be truly unaware of their actions or omissions. This reminds me of James 4:17 which states that “anyone who knows what is good and does not do it, sins.”

We were also urged to be guided by the Word of God to correct others and I think this is the most difficult aspect of correcting others due to its sensitivity.  Sometimes your correction may come off as arrogant which may or may not be the other person’s projection of their inferiority complex or simply due to their unwillingness to be corrected.  To avoid such impressions, Paul advises us to correct in love as seen in 2 Timothy 2:25“…kind to all, always teaching and patient with those who do not understand and gently correcting opponents…”

 

UNDERSTANDING POWER OF WORSHIP

The speaker referred to Psalm 22:3-4 to explain that God is closer than we realize because He is “enthroned, the Holy One, the praise of Israel.” He pointed out that for every problem encountered, there is a solution nearby and referenced Exodus 15:24-25 where the Israelites grumbled upon reaching the bitter waters of Marah The people grumbled against Moses…Moses then cried out to Yahweh who showed him a piece of wood, and when he threw it in the water, the water became sweet.”  The solution to the bitter water which they could not drink was in the form of wood nearby but their grumbling cost them something.  They were made to REMAIN in the wilderness and not cross over into the Promised Land.

He explained that apart from every solution being available to us when we worship God truly, we must also encounter the breakthrough power of God called dunamis.  This power is prayed for by Paul in Ephesians 1:19 which is a dear verse to me -“…may you understand with what extraordinary power He acts in favor of us who believe.”  Extraordinary power…this is what God gives us as we worship Him.  This dynamic power is like dynamite and we all have it ready to burst forth within us.  He stressed that it differed from inertia which was the usual energy, since we need to activate this power to enable it become extraordinary.

The speaker also mentioned that when we worship God all the problems that surround us melt away as seen in the confusion which erupted in the camp of Israel’s enemies in 2Chron 22:20 As they began to sing their joy and their praise, Yahweh threw the invading armies into a panic and completely destroyed them.”  When we worship, we cease to remember our problems and receive God’s blessings.  He reminded us that God’s blessing is for the world and that when we have problems, our first solution should be to praise and worship him and that we must use the blessings that will follow for the world and not hoard it for ourselves.

 

CONCLUSION

He recommended that we read a book by Marlin Carothers called the Power of Praise and tap into this dunamis power obtainable from worship. He also issued a serious warning against those who do not raise their children as they should and teach them how to worship God. He asked what would become of the next generation and whether we would be able to sustain the legacy which was passed unto us by our parents. To be honest, I honestly couldn’t answer that and resolved to continue to give God the best of my worship while seeking to make my children an arrow in my quiver as mentioned in Psalm 127:3-5.

May God help us all to connect and draw continuously from this dunamis power that is made available for us in the true worship of God. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.