Thursday, November 20, 2008

Listening to God's Voice (Katy)

Sunday, at small group leaders' training, Sunroot did a brief teaching on listening to God's voice and then had leaders pray and listen together for what God might be saying to them. What that looks like is this:

An individual or group comes before God to ask what His will is, either in general recognition that God cares deeply about who we are and what we do and that He might have something to tell us about the two, or in response to a specific question or situation where we will allow God to have a say in how it is answered. The individual or group will start in a prayer where they:

1. Confess sin and seek forgiveness so that one can come before God with clean hands. (Psalm 24:3,4)

2. Admit our desperate need for God's specific guidance for our lives. (Proverbs 16:9, 20:24, Isaiah 30:21)

3. Ask God to quiet your own thoughts. (The idea of "not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

4. Silence Satan with the spiritual authority God has given us in the name of Christ Jesus. (Luke 10:18-20)

5. Invite God and the Holy Spirit to speak. Then listen to what He says.

This is a discipline that I have been trying to cultivate in my own life, and that e-board has started to practice together this semester.

The simple fact is that God wants to speak into our lives WAY more than we are willing to listen. Our God is a God of relationship and communication. He is willing, able, and wanting to burst from the pages of the Bible to speak to us as individuals. Jesus said "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27) The Bible tells us SO MUCH of who God is, what He has done, what He wants to do, and what He wants to do through us. But it doesn't tell us everything.

As a 17-year-old in school for missionaries in Colombia, I could and did make a great Biblical case for why I did not want to go to college, and instead go directly onto the mission field. Unfortunately, my parents who were also quite versed in scripture could make an equally compelling case for why it was better for me to come back to the States to receive a higher education first. It was only through the Holy Spirits strong conviction that I should go to college followed by almost immediate confirmation (three different people told me in the period of a day or two that they felt like God was telling me to go back to New York for school) that could change my mind.

The Bible tells us everything that we need to do. However it is listening to God in the context of the relationship that we have with Him that tells us how to do it. As leaders in the fellowship, both e-board and small group leaders would be doing the people the lead and serve a huge disservice if they only assumed how to obey God instead of asking him directly.
Below are some common concerns that Christians have with the idea of listening to God. I hope they clear things up for you. If you have one that isn't addressed here, leave it under the comments, and we will try to respond.

Isn't this a little like Ouija board?

Yes, but only in the same way that a one night stand is like good and godly marital sex. Ouija board, tarot cards, and other forms of fortune telling are a perversion of the good and Godly act of seeking guidance from something more powerful then one's self. The difference is who and why you are asking. Fortune telling is almost always done to further one's own interests. Listening to God is done to further God's interests and his kingdom. Fortune telling often includes some level of manipulating the "spirit world" who are demons. Demons and Satan are characterized by lies. God is TRUTH.

How do we know that what we are hearing is really from God?

Once I was praying before bed, and I heard someone call my name. "Katy!" The voice said. I sat straight up and was like, "Holy crap!! Did God just call my name?!?!" I waited and heard again "Kaaaaty!!!" But this time I was more suspicious. Another couple of seconds went by and I hear "Kaaaaaaaaty!!! Turn off the light in the bathroom!! I'm trying to go to sleep." It was my sister, her voice slightly muffled by a pillow, who was bothered by the light coming through the crack under the door of the bathroom that opens into both of our rooms.

Especially when we start off, we might not distinguish between our own voice and will and God's. Not to worry. There are guiding principles that can help.

For situations with minor consequences: Just do it!! If your praying and you feel like God has told you "Billy-Bob, I want you to go to Hinman dining hall and buy a thing of orange juice." Instead of sitting there for ten minutes wondering if it was you or God who placed that thought in your head, just go to Hinman and buy orange juice. If it wasn't God, the worst thing that happens is that you end up with some orange juice you might not have bought otherwise. But imagine if it was God telling you to do this. Maybe the orange juice didn't matter, but as you walked to Hinman you saw a friend who was really upset and you are able to comfort them. Perhaps as you get back to your dorm see a hall mate. When you ask your hall mate how they are they tell you that they feel like they are coming down with a cold. You fortunately have a nice bottle of orange juice in your hands and you can give it to them and tell them "I know this sounds crazy, but I was just praying a while ago, and I thought I heard God tell me to go get orange juice. I had no idea why, but I think its cause God wanted me to give it to you. God cares about you, and even about your sniffles. Can I share with you about Jesus?" (ok, I added that last sentence in just cause I'm outreach coordinator.) But do you see what I mean?
For situations that have weighty consequences: Lets say you're praying about marriage, career, major, how to lead a ministry that you are in charge of, even where you live on campus next year. Confusing your will with God's on who to marry obviously has much more serious implications than ending up with an unwanted bottle of orange juice. For decisions such as these...

1. 1. Compare what you think God has told you meticulously with God's word. He will never contradict himself.

2. 2. Seek the advice of unbiased and mature Christians.

3. 3. Ask God a question in a group. If God gives all of you the same answer, chances are, it's Him and not you. If there isn't agreement, ask God why. (Are you asking the wrong question? is there more He wants to say?)

4. 4. Ask God for peace and/or confirmation on what you think he has said. Its not wrong to ask for a sign if we are asking in faith so we can be confident of God's will

5. 5. If you do all of that and are still not sure, I'd say, go ahead with what you think God wants you to do, but keep checking in with him. Ask him, and trust that he will guide you in the way you should go, and stop you if you start unintentionally going astray.

LisListening to God is an adventure. It requires complete obedience, complete trust, and a strong faith in the goodness of God. Reading of the lives of those following Jesus in the New Testament, actively listening to God was posed to be a normative part of the Christian faith. As we seek to see lives transformed, Binghamton renewed, and world changers sent out, InterVarsity as a community will need to learn to listen to what God is saying to us and following it whole heartedly. God cares for these things more than we do, and he knows how to make them happen better than we do. Imagine what would happen if we only stopped to listen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Post-Expedition Musings + NEW EBOARD!!! (Pam)

Post-Expedition Blog! (For Expedition and non-Expedition attendees... in other words, relevant to everyone!)
Dear IVCF Fellowship,

How is life, post-Expedition? Well I'm not going to beat around the bush... I'm just going to say what I came here to say: I know that at Expedition, God impacted us in different ways... a lot of people learned or became aware of a different things and are taking action steps in response to God's promptings. Awesome! God has allowed us to partner with Him, and it's such a blessing that He's trusting us with more and more. Imagine that.

In light of that, I realized that because our fellowship is growing, moving forward and starting to see and be immersed in the value and joy of living out as a true community of God, I believe that Satan can now see us as a "force" worth messing with.
Crazy, right?
What does this mean? Satan can and will use any possible means to manipulate, lie, make us feel content or comfortable or make us doubt... and the list can go on. He's a tricky one.
It wasn't until college that I realized the eternally dire implications of when we fail to acknowledge that we are in spiritual warfare. We all need to not just be aware that we're fighting spiritual battles everyday (questions of integrity, having boldness to take God up on the opportunities He presents us with, etc.) but that we need to be constantly preparing ourselves and calling others into action. This is urgent!
What does this mean? Many things! Including:
_Diving into His Word daily.
_Investing time and energy into things that are outside of our own (esp. immediate) needs or desires.
_Being diligent with what God entrusts us with (classes, family, friends, time, etc).
_Allowing God to mold you continually into His image.
I leave you with two verses.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-11
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Mark 13:32-37
The Day and Hour Unknown
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!' "

AND... if I may, I would like to take the liberty in announcing to you the new e-board!

President: Steve Kong
Large Group Coordinator: Gary Chow
Outreach Coordinator: Katy MacFadden
Small Group Coordinators (yes "s"): Michael Leung and Matthew Tuttle
Administrator: Tammy Chan

Are you excited? I sure am. = )