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How God Speaks to Ordinary People, Part 2

Chip describes how you can transform your Bible reading from a duty to a joy and begin seeing answers to prayer like never before.

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First, we need to know that His Word is living, and it reveals the person of Christ. So, we need to read it with a Christ-focus.

And second, we need to understand that God is not revealing Himself to casual  thought, people who just casually come by and say, “Lord, I’m in a jam!” Drrrrr. “I really need to hear Your voice, it’s a really big decision! Oh, huh, okay. I need to hear something else. Let Me try it again.” Drrrrr. I need the ooey, gooey spiritual feeling. I know I haven’t read this in a while, I don’t know much about what it says but,” meerrrroowww, bump. “Oh, that didn’t work either.”

God doesn’t play games. God wants your heart and my heart. And the path of the Holy Writings are people who rearrange their life, their time, and their thinking to get in to this book in such a way that they hear God’s voice.

And you ask, “How do you  do it? Okay, I’m open. Maybe I’m not doing it but I want to do it. How do you do it?”

Let Me give you three specific ways to come to God’s Word. The first way is as a love letter. To cherish. The first way and I think maybe the most important. Not exclusively but is to come to the Scriptures as a love letter and cherish it as a personal reminder of your relationship with the Author.

I love what Jeremiah says here, “Your words were found and I ate them and your words became,” circle the word in your notes, “became.” It didn’t happen overnight. “Your words were found and I ate them and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.” Why? Because in His Word guess what Jeremiah learned? “For I had been called by Your name, O Lord.” Literally Yahweh, God of hosts.

Personal name, Adonai, God of hosts, of all power. “I came to Your Word and I ate it. I began to digest it. I began to devour it. I began to dig in. I began to search for silver and as for gold and I searched and as I did it became, over time, the joy and delight of my heart.”

It wasn’t making money as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t even my mate as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t success as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t what other people think as the delight of my heart. “Thy words were found and I ate them and they became, became, over time.

That means that there were mornings Jeremiah didn’t want to get up. There’s times he didn’t feel like reading. There’s times he didn’t want to look into the scrolls. In here was the author, he cherished it. 

And when you come first and foremost to the Bible as a love letter, as to cherish.

I’ve got a little note here. It’s a Father’s Day card. I won’t read it but it’s from my wife. But it has a little picture, it’s from some years ago. And it says, “You’re irreplaceable.” And then it says, “My love for you is unshakable, don’t forget ever.” And then there’s a little note from Theresa.

I didn’t throw it away. I’m never going to throw it away. I want to remember, what she said to me about me about how she feels about me I never want to forget. I mean I know all about Theresa, you know, I can tell you how tall she is and what her favorite colors are and what kind of furniture she likes and I can become an expert on Theresa.

And, you know, there’s people that can become an expert on the Bible. But something happens inside their heart and it’s cold and it’s crusty. You know what? I want to be an expert in understanding how much Theresa loves me and I want to cherish what she has written to me because I matter to her.

And if you want to hear God speak to you, you must first come to His Word as a cherished love letter personally written to you with a sense of awe and wonder that you really are the object of His affection.

The second way to come is as an instruction manual. If the first way focuses on the who, how God feels about you, the instruction manual has the idea of the focus on the what, the content.

Here it’s an instruction manual not to cherish but to master, to prepare you to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Notice what it says in II Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God inspired,” or literally, “God breathed,” “and is profitable for,” what? “teaching,” giving you the right direction, “for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” why? “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

God has breathed, He has spoken life to you and to me. And all of this Scripture is profitable for teaching, knowing Christ, knowing God, knowing His will. It’s profitable for reproof. When you’re moving into a relationship as you’re reading it he’ll go, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Don’t go there! That’s trouble!”

When one of your kids start running with this person or that person and as you’re reading he’ll go, “Ding, ding, ding! Don’t go there!” Or correction. Not only that you’re off the path it teaches you how to get on the path.

Or training. It shows you how to develop the kind of patterns in your life that produce the kind of men and the kind of women and the kind of kids that you long to become.

But it’s an instruction manual for life. And so you need to master it. One of the ways that I mastered it, because I was tired of stopping in Leviticus, this is in the book form. It’s called the Daily Walk Bible.

And I don’t know about you but since I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, you know, Hezekiah, Zechariah, Michachiah, Mookiemiah, you know, I mean, who are all these people, you know? Judah, Israel, the Assyrians, I mean, I didn’t take ancient Eastern studies. You know? I’m reading through here and, you know, in the land of Canaan and I’m going, “Yo…” You know? Where is all this stuff?

You know? So I, this used to, this is still in a digest form called the Daily Walk. And for the next, after about I was a Christian for about two years, two and a half years, someone sent me a Daily Walk and it was a little magazine and you got one each month and I read through the Bible once a year with it, for the next ten or fifteen years. Just every year. Just read through the Bible.

And there’s little charts and it would tell you, “This is what’s happening, here’s the historical context, here’s what you’re going to find today, here’s some historical background, here’s some specific takeaways, and here’s how to personally put it into practice in your life.”

And, you know, it took me about twenty minutes, I mean, way less than the sports page. And I just decided I would just, I just kept reading through the Bible every year, every year, every year, every year, every year, every year, every…

And pretty soon, you know what? It’s an instruction manual. Pretty soon, you know, you hear people talk and you think, like, they’re, like, born smart. They’re not born smart at all. I never opened this book. But now I can think my way through all the books, now I can think through a number, many books, all the chapters.

Well why? Because for about the last thirty years, this is the instruction manual for all, you want to have a good marriage? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to be a good parent? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to be a woman of God? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to have the kind of job and the kind of work that pleases God and honors your boss and makes a difference? Here’s the instruction manual.

And part of it is you just need to learn it all, and grasp it all, and you study the characters, and you study the history, and you study how it all fits together. And embedded in this is God’s Word. I In fact, He calls it, “This is your life.” “Take to your heart,” Moses would say, “all the words with which I’m warning you today for in it,” His Word, “is your life.”

And so it’s a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight but it’s a process.

And I’d encourage you, I remember talking with Howard Hendricks and asking him, “Prof, what do you do?” I mean the guy, I mean, he was old when I had him. I mean he was, like, sixty when, a professor when I was there. To me, sixty was, like, really old back then. It’s a very young, vibrant, exciting age that I’ll hit in another decade or so.

But it seemed really old then. And he had such wisdom. And, you know, I just looked at all the people, I mean, everyone I heard on the radio and all these people, missionaries and presidents of all these institutions.

All their lines went back to Prof. Hendricks and I thought, “How does this guy get to be so wise?” And he said, “Chip, it’s, you know, it’s, I just started doing something.” I said, “What did you do?” He said, “Every month I study a book of the Bible. You know like I taught you guys in 301?” “Yeah. Observation, interpretation, application, yeah.”

He said, “I just take a book for the last,” I forget what he said, back then it was only forty years, it’s probably about sixty-five years now. But he said, “For every year each month I take a book. I’ll take the book of John. And, like, from scratch I’ll chart the entire book. And I’ll run themes through the whole book. Then I’ll think through the book. Then I’ll memorize key passages until I understand the entire message of the book of John. Then maybe I’ll take Ezekiel the next month.”

And he studied a book of the Bible every month, in depth, for about the last fifty or sixty years. And there’s a reason why he hears God’s voice. Does it happen overnight? No. Precept upon precept, line upon line – that’s how God speaks to ordinary people.

The final way to come is not only as a love letter, or an instruction manual, but as the wisdom of the ages. The first one had to do with who God is and how He cares about you. The second was on the content or the what.

 

This third one focuses on the principles. This is how God gives direction and guidance and wisdom for life’s biggest decisions in relationships. This is to ponder, and reflect, and meditate on what He gives you, in order to get His counsel, His direction, and His guidance, to live according to His design.

By the way, that’s God’s definition of success. Success in God’s eyes is this: Understanding how He created life to work and then following His path. That’s success.

This is how I want relationships to work, do it that way. Here’s how I want you to act and think about money, do it that way. Here’s the priorities in life, do it that way. Here’s what I think about parenting, do it that way. Here’s how you treat people who treat you terrible and unjustly, do it that way.  When you do life according to God’s way, He says, “That’s what I call success.”

Notice the promise here in Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Do you get the idea? This is a passion. Meditate. The word means “to ruminate.” We get the idea from a cow has four stomachs and, you know, it chews its cud.

To meditate or to ruminate, the cow takes some grass, “Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom.” Swallows it, goes down to one of the stomachs, are you ready for this, ladies? Hold your ears. She burps it back up, chews it again, takes it back down to another stomach, and she does that. It’s called ruminating.

And so you take a passage where God speaks to you, and you memorize that passage, and then you digest it. And while you’re driving, instead of talk radio or some lousy music, or this or that, you ruminate, and you think, and then you digest it.

Then, before you go to bed you think about it, and you ponder it, and then you pray that verse for you, and then you pray that verse for a friend. And you meditate, or ruminate, on it until the principles get embedded in your soul, and in your psyche, and your mind, and then you begin, by way of reflex, to treat people this way and respond this way, even before you think.

You see, you ponder the wisdom of the ages. “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth but you meditate on it,” when? How often? “Day and night.” Why? So that you may be careful to become very, very smart? Know more of the Bible than anyone else? Is that what it says? What’s it say? What’s the purpose of meditation? “So that you may be careful to do it.”

Ultimately, the organ of response of revelation with God is not knowledge. It’s obedience. It’s never about how much of the Bible that you know. There’s people that know this book a lot more. There’s people that are experts in this book that don’t even know Christ personally.

It’s not how much of the Bible you know, it’s how much of the Bible are you putting into practice? God gives light that’s truth. When you respond to the light He gives more truth.

“And so I meditate on it in order that I could be careful to do,” what? “According to all that’s written in it.” Then look at the promise. “For then you will make,” does it say God will make? What’s it say? “For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”

And the prosperity here is the smile of God, the blessing of God, His benevolence, and His highest and best will getting played out in your relationships, in your job, with your family, in your life. The things, the wealth that is the greatest and matters the most He wants you to have.

We always think it’s monetary. It may include that. If you can handle it, it may include it. He entrusts a lot of wealth to a lot of people so you can spread it around exactly the way He wants you to. And to enjoy it deeply and know where it comes from.

But the key to a successful life, to wisdom. It’s where you say to yourself, “I want to know what God says.” This is where you ponder. “I want to know what God says about relationships, and work, and future, and marriage, and parenting, and money. I want to know what God says about sex, and children, and singleness, and spiritual gifts.

I want to know what God says about grief, and depression, and forgiveness. I want to know about how to discover His will, about anger, about power, about lust, about education, about decision making.”

And you say, “I’m going to discover, I’m going to come to the wisdom of the ages, and in this book I’m going to find out what does it say about relationships? What’s it say about parenting? What’s it say about money? What’s it say about sex? And then I’m going to categorize those things and I’m going to make a life study and I’m going to get those principles in my heart, in my mind, and meditate on them so I can live that way.”

And when you do that, God will speak. You’ll find yourself in the middle of a sentence and a verse will come to your mind. You’ll find yourself, at times, sitting in a meeting, as I have, and being involved in something and ready to pull out a pen and write down on a sheet of paper, or sign your name to a contract, and have the Spirit of God bring something to your mind or a verse and you’ll go, “You know, excuse me? You know, I really can’t do this.”

Why? Because God speaks to ordinary people. He speaks to ordinary people. Doesn’t speak to smart people or super spiritual people. He speaks to ordinary people. How? The Spirit of God, through the Word of God, when you understand the Word reveals Jesus, and it’s living.

When you understand you must come to Him in earnest. You must accept His Word, you must store up his Word, you need to cry out for insight, and call for understanding, you need to search for it as for silver, and seek for it as for hidden treasure. Then, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.

Well, how do you do that? You come at it, first of all, personally. Never forget that. “Oh, God, this is your love letter. You’re for me. You care about me.” You need to cherish it way beyond what I cherish this, that my wife gave me.

And then you need to realize some of it’s going to be just plain hard work and it’s like the manual to a car, or the manual to a computer, and you just keep reading all the directions until you master it and understand it.

And finally you come to it as the wisdom of the ages. To understand, and know, and figure, “What is it that God really wants to do in areas,” I don’t have any verses about who to marry, or how much to invest at which time, or who you ought to go in business with. You know what? That’s wisdom issues.

But as you ponder and meditate, day and night, in order that you might be careful to please, and do life according to God’s way, He promises that you will make your way successful and you will prosper, because God delights to reveal Himself. He delights to love you. He delights to express His favor upon your life.

And in a fallen world there will be plenty of challenges, and suffering, and pain that will allow you to become more and more like His Son and be dependent all along the way.

 

Let Me give you three specific takeaways. Three time-honored ways of this ancient path of the Holy Writings.

First of all, read God’s Word, write the name or the word in there, “devotionally.” Devotionally. That’s from the heart, the pondering, the enjoying, the relationship.

I mean, you know, maybe this is sacrilegious but I rarely, rarely have a quiet time in the morning that I don’t have a cup of coffee and part of that is I really want to remember this is about a person and a relationship. And I usually put my feet up and I get a good cup of coffee and I get my Bible and I, first of all, review a couple verses that remind Me that despite the crud that I see in my own heart that God really, really loves Me because of what Jesus has done.

And then I just tell him, “Thank You that today I’m the object of your affection. That the prayer of the upright is your delight. God, thank You, this morning, that the Lord Almighty is with me, that You’re mighty to save, that You will quiet me with Your love, and that today You want to rejoice over me with singing. Lord, You know what my day is going to bring, would You, would You speak to me?”

And I drink a cup of coffee and I want to remember that it’s me and my Savior, and He loves me, and I’m not here to impress Him, I just want to spend time with Him. And I want to read it as a love letter and I want to read it devotionally.

The second way to read God’s Word is to read it systematically. And that’s where the Daily Walk is the best “Read through the Bible in a Year.” Just decide, “I’m going to do it. I’m just going to read through the Bible this year.”

And the third way is to study God’s word selectively. And that’s where you just take major topics, major issues, book by book. Or according to a need. Many times I’ve thought, “Man, I’m struggling with anxiety. I’m going to get out a concordance and I’m going to find out what’s the New Testament say about anxiety.”

Or I’m struggling with forgiveness and so I’m going to find out what’s the Bible say about that? Or once I thought, you know, the book of Luke was written to the ordinary guy and I just did a study where I studied the book of Luke and all I looked for was every time the word “prayer” came up. And I studied the life of Christ, in Luke, on prayer.

And just take what’s a need that you have, what’s something that’s on your heart that you want to learn and study it selectively. Or say to yourself, do it like Prof does and say, “You know what? I’m going to study, I’ll start with a small book. You know, I’m going to study Galatians, or I Thessalonians, or I Timothy.” Or sometimes I decide I’m going to study the interviews in the book of John. And I’m just going to look at all the interviews.

Or I’m going to study the seven “I AM” statements in the book of John. Or I want to find out fulfilled prophecy in the book of Matthew. And you just say to yourself, “I don’t know much about prophecy so…” And selectively decide what you want to study, and block some time off, and here’s what I can tell you and no guilt intended I struggle too is, everyone here in this room has all the time you need to study the Bible.

Turn your, just unplug your TV for ten days, you’ll be bored stiff. I’m dead serious. Is it wrong to watch TV? No. I’m just saying what you’re going to tell me is your lives are full. I’m talking to a group of people that some of you are studying a lot. Some of you are skimming your Bible. And some of you, you know what? You don’t read it much at all.

And what I want to tell you is rather than you walking out that door and going, “Man, I feel really guilty and I bet God’s really down…” God’s not down on you at all. He wants to speak to you. But you gotta get the time somewhere, right?

So why don’t you just hear God say to you, tell you what. You’re an ordinary person, this is about how God’s speaks to an ordinary person. If you’re ordinary you qualify. If you don’t know much of the Bible you qualify.

Tell you what, why don’t you just try this, and if you don’t have enough time and, you know, you just, there’s no way you can get up in the morning, well, tell you what. Just say to yourself, “I’m not going to turn the TV on until I’ve had my quality time with God.”  But, I mean, you’ve got all the time you need. Or for some of us, you know, no ESPN until Bible.

What I did in the early… it was so hard, so difficult for me to be disciplined, I mean, I’m telling you, man, the first couple of three years, man, I could not get myself out of bed. And, you know, it was like a three minute quiet time was like, you know, what, now what do I do? You know?

“Okay, I’ve prayed for three people. That’s all I know. I mean, you know, I read a whole chapter. If…”  You know, it just, it takes time. Just jump in. Take your time. Let God speak to you. He’s not down on you. Block off the time and come with a heart that says, “I really want to hear Your voice.”

And here’s what I’m… I will guarantee the God of the universe wants to speak to you, and meet with you, and encourage you, and love you beyond anything you could ever imagine. Become a man or a woman of the Word of God because the Word is Jesus. And Jesus wants to reveal Himself to you.