How the Lord Speaks to Us Today

 

Pastor Jim Kniseley prepared this sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Epiphany, January 28, 2007.  The text is Jeremiah 1:4, “Now, the word of the Lord came to me…”

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Jesus and Jeremiah had something going for them that we would love to have in our day:  They heard God speaking to them directly, in words and sentences and in a language they could understand.

 

At Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan, he heard the voice of God say, “This is my son, my beloved.  Listen to him.”    Jesus knew without reservation that God had chosen him for a purpose.  Jeremiah heard God say to him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before your were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah knew then that God had called him to speak His words..

 

Have you noticed that God communicates in a different way in our day?  Few if any of us have audible words directly from the Lord given to us.  Some have said that it is too bad that God has chosen to remain silent in our day.  I don’t believe that is true.  What I do believe is that God speaks to us in a variety of ways and if we really want to hear God’s word, we need to listen in a way that will make this possible.

 

From time to time I encounter someone who says, “God has made it very clear that this is the course of action that our church should take. You need to listen to me.”  Or someone in counseling with me will say something like, “God wants me to buy that big new house” or “God wants me to quit talking to my parents.”

 

If you think that you hear the actual voice of God, or you believe that you really feel in your bones what course of action God wants you to take, here are five ways to test what you are thinking against scripture and other God-given means:

 

·        1.    Look at the Bible.  God has provided wisdom and teachings and

commandments and promises.  These are God’s word, and God does not go against his word.

 

·        2.  Read fine spiritual books.  There are so many books available to us today!

Please be selective in your choice of authors.  Many book that are popular today, even being on the best selling lists, are not biblically and spiritually sound.  If you have questions about writers and books, please ask us.  .  Pastor Carol and I can do a pretty good job in steering you toward some very reliable writers.

 

 

 

 

·        3.  Join a small group study.  There is nothing like having a group of seekers in a Christ-centered study group.  If someone wants to test an idea, this is a safe place to do so, and the wisdom of the group will help keep each person on track. 

 

·        4.  Share with trusted friends and advisors.  If left to our own individual thinking,  we can sure come up with some ideas that are self-serving and lack a wider perspective.  Hopefully the friends and advisors we choose will have our best interests at heart and will encourage us from a position of godly and biblical understanding. 

 

·        5.  Pray.  God may not use audible words today, but God still communicates with us through prayer.  In prayer we acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  We share everything  and ask that God will help us.  We ask that God will give us patience to wait, to listen for his word through scripture and books and trusted Christian friends.

 

 

On Thursday evening I participated in the Prayer Service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  Father Don Rooney gave the homily and shared this story.  He grew up in a very small town in southeast Kansas.  The railroad tracks ran beside the town.  A tragedy occurred one day when a resident of the town was out walking and stepped onto the tracks at the same time as a train sped by.  He was killed instantly.  Folks in the town wandered how this man, who seemed perfectly healthy and not depressed, could have been killed in this way.  Father Rooney provided an insight: Sometimes people who live near train tracks no longer hear the trains.  And he concluded with this thought:  It is too bad that no one was with him to tell him to watch out for the train.  Folks, that is a fine image for the church.  We watch out for each other, we look for a word from the Lord, and we test that word against the tried and true methods that God has provided for us.

 

Finally,  let me show you something that was given to me as a gift many years ago.  It is a brass bell that rings a wonderful and loud sound.  It was given to me by a young couple as a thank you for doing their wedding.  It was a wonderful and joyful occasion. They gave me this bell as  a wonderful reminder of the main scripture they chose for the wedding, I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  This is how they pledged to act in their married life.  You heard these words today: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy going or a clanging cymbal.

 

 

 

I have kept this bell as a reminder of the pain it represents for me. Pain that came to me when someone was utterly convinced that they were speaking God’s truth and decided to present it  publicly in a hurtful manner.  Ever had that experience?

 

At a congregational meeting, just a few years later, the woman giver of this gift decided to verbally attack me in front of all those assembled.  She chose to degrade my character and abilities as a pastor.  Why?  Because I   would not agree with her father on a church policy issue.  Folks, we have to constantly work on our communication within the Body of Christ.

 

As I prepared for this sermon today, I wondered why the Love Chapter was chosen to be read along side the other two readings about Jeremiah and Jesus.  How is “love” being equated with  hearing and speaking the word of the Lord?

St. Paul makes it very clear that God’s love shown in Christ is the way you and I are to act toward one another and speak to each other.  God’s word can be helped or hindered by our attitude and approach.  If we take on a Christ-like attitude and approach, then God says we will act in this way:

 

 

We will be patient; we will be kind; we will not be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  We will not insist on our own way; we will  not be irritable or resentful; we will not rejoice in wrongdoing, but will rejoice in the truth.  We will  bear all things, we will believe all things, we will hope all things, we will endure all things.  Our Love in Christ will never end.

 

May God continue to send us his word today, may we listen for that word in the variety of ways he provides, and may we lovingly share these words with others.

 

Thanks be to God!  Amen.