Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Those of us on the simple life in Jesus journey are discovering more and more that it's not about meetings but about life lived together in friendship with God and one another. And for a great article on this, check out this article by Wayne Jacobsen.

There are times, of course, when we do gather, though, and I want to suggest a shift in how we approach those gatherings (at least I think it's a shift for most of us!). I suggest that we come prepared to listen. No, this is not a step back to the "sit down and be quiet" approach of traditional church--I am rather suggesting a change of culture that thinks of our gatherings as more listening than talking. My experience with simple/house church folks so far has made me realize that most who gather come to gatherings thinking "What can I say?" rather than "What will I hear?"

Here's what this would look like in real practice (and it works great whether we are talking about two friends in an informal gathering or a gathering in a home). There are four arenas of listening involved. Come prepared to listen in each of these settings and watch what happens!

First, listen to one another. One of the rarest and most precious gifts we can extend to another person is to truly listen to them! Sincere, focused listening to the other person in your meeting (formal or informal) will deeply change the dynamics of the meeting--trust me! Listening carefully to the other person makes me vulnerable and tender and communicates to him/her that s/he is valued and treasured.

Second, listen to God in one another. Since every believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit it seems likely that God may speak something to you and me through every believer we choose to listen to. There have been many times in my life when I heard God very clearly while listening to someone else's story. I am sure that you can say the same thing. Think how wonderful it will be, then, to be intentionally listening for God in that other person!

Third, listen to God for one another. This is where things like prophetic words, words of encouragement and comfort come in. Although none of us can hear God in place of another believer's need to hear God, we can certainly confirm and reinforce what God may be saying to someone else. And yes, I know this concept goes against the grain of some personal prophecies. But my conviction is that C.S. Lewis is right when he says that "Aslan tells no man another man's story." In other words, no one can hear the "life instructions" for another person. But again, we all need things confirmed and reaffirmed. Think how wonderful if would be if we were intentional about listening to God for one another when we gather!

Finally, listen to God with one another. This is probably the hardest for those of us from a highly individualistic western church culture, but it's a key part of learning to be the church as Jesus intended it. One of the best scriptural examples of this is found in Acts 13 where the five prophets and teachers here together God's instructions for Barnabas and Saul, but the concept of listening to God together is foundational in all the New Testament. How does this play out when we gather? I could make a few suggestions, but I would rather that you try it for yourself. Those of us who lead groups can start the process by asking the group to listen together. For example, "What do you sense God wants us to do about Sally's story?" or "What sense do you get for our next few minutes together?" or just "Let's listen to God together for the next ____ minutes." Try it, I am sure you can come up with something!

That's it for this post. Remember that just being quiet isn't really listening. :-)

Stay lost in His love,

Tom, Abba's least child

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Are You Obeying This Command from Jesus?

I think we all know that obedience to God brings blessing and is always best for us, right? After all, it's rather silly for us to disregard instruction from the One who loves us more than we love ourselves and who knows everything! And the Bible clearly tells us that obedience is always for our good (even when it's hard!)--take a peek at Deuteronomy 6:1-3, Psalm 1:1-3, John 14:21-23, for just a few examples (Psalm 119:165 in the NLT is good, too! "Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.")

But check out this command from Jesus! A dear friend of mine pointed out John 15:7 from the Wuest Translation of the New Testament a while back, and it has stuck with me ever since (Thanks, Tony!). John 15:7 in that translation reads: "If you maintain a living communion with me and my words are at home in you, I command you to ask, at once, something for yourself, whatever your heart desires, and it will be yours."

When I first heard this rendering, I was taken aback and fearful that taking it seriously would lead to selfish indulgence, but I now realize that I was missing the point. Jesus qualified His command to "ask" with the first part of what He said. Those who are in intimate relationship with Him and who have truly made room in their hearts for His word can trust the desires of their hearts! Indeed, those who are intimate with Jesus have discovered that intimacy with Him both enables and compels obedience to all of Jesus' commands, including this one.

As I pondered my heart's desires in light of this verse, I found that my heart's desires are indeed good and worthy of bringing to God. Even "something for myself" has been shaped by living in increasing awareness of His presence: what I desire most is simply more of Him, more of His love and power in my life so that I can honor Him and bring His love and power in increasing measure to all whom I meet. Yes, I can obey this command without fear of self indulgence, I think. And so can you.

This isn't the only place where we are commanded to ask, of course. You may want to read the entire "Upper Room Discourse" (John 13-16). You will be amazed at how many times Jesus commands his disciples to ask and at the context in which He gives the command. Matthew 7:7-11 also comes to mind, along with other passages. Clearly, we are to be a childlike, asking people!

So think about it carefully, please. Are you obeying Jesus' command to ask? What if He really meant it? What if it's as simple as it seems? What if even learning to obey is something we can ask for? Much to ponder here...

I think I am finished writing on the topic of obedience for a while, but God alone knows. Regardless, again I highly recommend Bethany House's version of Andrew Murray's classic work on obedience, A Life of Obedience. You will find in this man's writing much better thinking and writing than I can produce!

Until my next post, I pray that the overpowering goodness and trustworthiness of God will cause instantaneous and complete obedience in your life to be the first and most natural response to every nudging of His Spirit!

Tom, the least of Abba's children