Sunday, December 20, 2009

How Do We Know When God is Talking To Us?

For all of us, "Home for Christmas" means something different. For some of us, it means joy, but for others it means "setting our hair on fire and putting it out with a sledgehammer". For his current series, Perry Noble is starting each message with Isaiah 9:6.

The first message in this series, "Wonderful Counselor" begs the question, "How do we know when God is talking to us?" Everyone of us wants to make good decisions in our lives. Most of the time, we go to others for counsel. What we learn pretty quickly,though, is that there are many people who have an opinion about how we should live our lives. There is always good advice, but the trick is distinguishing good advice from bad advice. Here's the good news about God; He really does have an opinion about how we should live our lives, but His way is always right. The most common word in the Bible used to describe our Savior is "Holy". So, when God commands or suggests that we do something, we should do it because He is holy and it is best for us.

Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." God wants us to get life right. Why is it that God wants to talk to us more than we want to listen? If only we would know that he is our Wonderful Counselor. He speaks to us through many ways.

1) The Bible - Let's look at some scripture to talk about how God communicates. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and acting". The bible is the most exciting book ever written. People get bored with the Bible because they've never read it! If Hollywood ever got hold of the Bible and decided to make it a full blown movie, it would be rated R at best. The Bible is life! Why have we made the Bible pretty? Why are all the animals on the ark smiling? It is such a nice story right? But what about everyone else who was outside of the Ark? It was horrible! The Bible is definitely not a boring book.

Let's read in Hebrews some. The Word is "sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart." The reason many of us don't enjoy reading the scriptures is because we see it judges us. It is conflicting. Today there are too many people seeking out wisdom in the Bible but they are unwilling to live it out.

2 Timothy 3:16 says "all scripture is God breathed". Sometimes people will actually ask Perry what his stand is on the Bible is. He was in a coffee shop one day and heard a guy talking about how he thought the Bible was full of fairy tales. Yet, he heard this guy then talk about how he thought vampires were real!! "The Bible is the inerrant infallible word of God. Perry kids that even the maps are god-breathed. The Bible is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training up in righteousness.

Perry studies politics a lot. In fact, if he had not begun a career in preaching, he might have entered politics. Many people talk about separation of church and state, but the constitution never said this. Thomas Jefferson did pen this, but it was written to a Baptist organization and yet people cling to these words. It's amazing how people will do the same to the Bible and how they will quote scripture that isn't there! An example of this is "The Bible helps those who help themselves", but it's not in the Bible! Perry then says, "turn to the book of Hezekiah...Stop!!! It's not in there either...There IS NO BOOK of Hezekiah." Read the Bible! Another quote often mistaken is "cleanliness is next to godliness". That was actually said by Benjamin Franklin. Often misquoted is "money is the root of all evil". This isn't true. It's actually "the love of money is the root of all evil". "God loves the sinner and hates the sin." Do you know who initially said that? Gandhi- and FYI, Gandhi didn't play for team Jesus. The Bible didn't say any of these things.

Rebuking. "There are many times during my quiet times when God will rebuke me in my attitude towards my wife, towards my kids and even my job."

Correcting. In every service, when he had a Q&A service with his wife, Lucretia, there were multiple questions asking things like "is it okay if I sin sexually but then bring my boyfriend to church?" What kind of question is that? People in these scenarios are not seeking church, they're seeking Oprah. Just a footnote from Perry; How many kids did Oprah raise?!?!

When people ask questions like this it is because they need correcting and the Bible corrects. Training up in righteousness. In Luke 4 and Matthew 4, you'll find the story of the temptation of Jesus; of how Satan came in and tempted Jesus 3 times. How did Jesus resist Satan? He quoted scripture! Satan can't hang around when we quote scripture. Last year, 500,000 Bibles were purchased in America, so we definitely have access to it, but we need to realize it's power.

2) His Spirit. "I'm a mutt, spiritually." Perry points out that he is not loyal to any one Protestant faith. How many Methodists do we have in the house?" Perry goes on to take a poll of the different denominations; Presbyterians? Episcopalians? Catholics? Baptists (the back-slidden Baptists)? Pentecostal? The reaction here is funny. Pentecostal's were waiting and responded as Perry expects; with cheers. "I'm gonna show the catholics how to praise!...Did y'all bring your tambourines?" "I come from a Wesleyan background and later a Baptist background. The Baptists and Wesley ans, in my church, never talked about the Holy Spirit. You had to acknowledge Him because He's in the family, but He's crazy and sits in the corner." If you come from a Pentecostal background, it's different... "I remember going to a Pentecostal church and a woman stood up in the middle of the service and starting speaking in tongues. The guy next to him said 'Shh...there's going to be an interpretation'. Then, another lady stood up beside the first and started , 'I am the Lord....'" That was Perry's first experience with the Holy Spirit. Generally speaking, there are churches that either ignore the Holy Spirit altogether or you have churches that focus on the Holy Spirit and then never talk about God and Jesus.

Jesus said in John 14,15 and 16 that he would not leave his Disciples as 'orphans", but he would send the Holy Spirit. John 14:25-27 says, "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

The Holy Spirit provides peace to us even when all hell is breaking loose . When the spirit of truth appears, He will guide us. Some people have come to Perry and said the Holy spirit said it was okay to sleep with their boyfriend, but Perry stresses that the Holy Spirit will never guide us contrary to the Bible. In fact, the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own, He will only speak what he hears from the Father. Do not underestimate the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. There was a friend of Perry's who told him a story that really rocked his world. This friend was up late one night and, upon the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he felt a very strong urge that he should call a close friend. Even as late as it was, the Holy Spirit kept urging him. Finally, he called his friend, who kept asking, "Why did you call me now? Why did you choose to call in the middle of the night?" The friend later told him that the night he had received the call, he was sitting on the edge of his bed with a pistol in his hand, ready to take his life. Never underestimate the Holy Spirit. He is not a myth. He is real.

3) Others. I'm not talking about others who walk around saying, "I have a word from God for you." Early on, there was a guy who came to Perry and said he was addicted to porn, but the bigger problem according to this guy was he couldn't hear the Holy Spirit! "Well, I think I know what your problem is..." thought Perry. Then the guy said, "Wait, I'm getting something..." as if a word from God was coming through. That weirded Perry out. There was another call from a lady who said Perry needed to walk around his church 7 times backward!

Perry says, do you have friends in your life who love Jesus and love you? If they don't love Jesus more than they love you, they will tell you what you want to hear. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed". God often speaks through other people. One time, Perry was considering a job in Orange burg which was as a youth pastor. Wrestling with the idea, he asked his friend, Dale, what he thought. Dale simply said, "I don't think God is through with you in Anderson yet". How true that proved to be. But, it was no "word from God" from Dale, it was simply a love for Jesus and intuition.

4) Being still. In Psalm 23 we find, "The Lord is my Shepard. I shall not want...." (As Perry continues the passage, his video team starts turning his mike down and turning up news, texts, noises and distractions so you can't hear a single thing Perry is saying. It's quite clever. Then the distractions are removed and Perry's mike is turned back on.) Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." Perry heard a speaker say one time, "If I were Satan, I would invent a device that would never allow you to escape your phone or your calendar." When is the last time you rode to work with your cellphone off and your radio off with no noise? Try it. Perry recently went to a christian counselor. After hearing much of what was going on with Perry, the counselor suggested that Perry go for a walk alone in the mountains. He also suggested Perry take a pen and paper to focus on listening for God. Even Jesus did this. In the book of Mark, Jesus went for a walk to a solitary place and prayed.

5) Circumstances. How often did Jesus communicate with his Disciples through a storm? Quite often. The storm in our lives is often the voice of God screaming to us saying, "you think this is bad? Listen, because you don't see what is yet to come". God is going to be speaking every where we go. We just need to watch for Him.

Recently, Perry went to a conference at a nice hotel. Perry was trying to relax and fall asleep, but he then he heard something start to bark. There was a dog in the room next door! "I didn't know dogs could go to nice hotels!" He thought to himself, "If I lay here long enough, he'll eventually be quiet." But Perry had to finally call security. The more he tried to ignore the dog, the louder it got. YOU CANNOT IGNORE GOD. You can run from God, but you can't outrun Him.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 promises, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

God will not be silent if we are truly His. Perry was recently arguing (friendly argument) with a pastor friend of his. The argument was, "God can't speak to people who aren't Christians." Perry says, "first of all, I don't like that because God can do anything". Secondly, Perry is convinced that God prompted him into the ministry even before he knew he was saved. He knew he was to speak the gospel since he was 5 years old, but in March of 1990, a monumental moment for Perry, he was sitting in the office of his spiritual mentor. "Let me ask you a question, Perry. Are you saved?" This stumped Perry, but he made up some garbled things to answer. His mentor went on to say, "many times, people say they are called to the ministry, but they are really being called to salvation. Are you saved?"

"How many of you watch the biggest loser? I watch it for myself. I watch it to make myself feel better. Really." The show usually gets intense is when the participants step on the scale at the end of each episode. This is because the scale doesn't lie. It is consistent and it measures them accurately. We don't like to step on the scale sometimes. A guy in Perry's gym was punching the scale and shouting that the scale was wrong. Well, in the same way, sometimes we don't like the scriptures because it measures us, so we doubt it or question it. Satan did this in the Garden of Eden. He began questioning God's real intent before Adam and Eve? "Did God really say this, Eve?"

But we can't doubt God in the scriptures. It hinders our growth. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us, "You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart." Could you seek God for just one week? For those of you who are not spending regular time with God, start to pursue Him with just 10 minutes a day.

Obey it God's counsel. "I love Christmas...but I don't like Christmas music until after Thanksgiving...the thing I love most about Christmas is the food I get to eat....from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it is pure gluttony... here in the South, we eat solid for a month, anything that's not nailed down...and we think January 1...I'm getting in shape...but when we get there, we think "you can't diet on January 1! That's the middle of the week. So January 4,...but that's week then... week is Bowl week..." So, we put it off until April!!

Perry tells a story about a Tibo video that a friend's parents bought one time. His friend was telling him how he got home and heard the Tibo video playing and thought it would be gross to interrupt his parents especially if they had Spandex on to exercise. But when he looked to see how it was going, both of his parents were lying on the couch eating popcorn and watching!! He said, "You cant just watch the video! You have to do it.."

"Sometimes," Perry says, "I fear, as a pastor, that I am just a Tibo video. I'm entertaining, but many of you have no intention of following anything that the Lord has said." James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

Going back to the lesson of his mentor and the question that was asked of Perry regarding whether or not he was really saved, this bothered Perry for weeks. For days on end afterwards, all that Perry heard in his pastor's messages was about salvation, all he seemed to see in scriptures was salvation. One night when he was singing with a group, God whispered to him, "you do not trust me because you do not know me". Perry obeyed the prompting of God and today he is so glad he did.

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