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July 18, 2008

The Word of the Lord



Eleven women huddled on the paint-chipped picnic benches of a state park about an hour away from their homes. It was a beautiful day, and we all looked with anticipation on the 24 hours that would follow. Once a year I take our Children's Ministry Staff away on an overnight planning retreat to prepare for the coming ministry year. They were ready to have fun, ready to brainstorm ministry initiatives, probably even prepared for the leadership training they knew I would include as part of the retreat. But were they ready to hear from God?

I could sense their hesitation as I explained how we were going to begin our retreat. It wasn't that they didn't want to participate; it's that they were afraid it wouldn't work. One told me later, "I just knew I was going to have to come back to the table and make something up because I doubted I'd really hear something from God."

See for the last few weeks I'd been thinking about the phrase, "The Word of the Lord." Sure, most times when we come across that phrase in Scripture it refers to the written Word, but I was thinking of the instances when that Word came as some sort of vision or audible voice or recognizable presence.

"The Word of the Lord" comes to Abraham in a vision promising him that he would have an heir (Genesis 15:1-6). Abraham didn't have it in writing. There was no written Word. Yet, he believed God and began to orient his life around that Word.

"The Word of the Lord" comes to Elijah giving him specific direction on where to go (1 Kings 17:1-6). He follows and receives God's provision.

"The Word of the Lord" comes to Nathan instructing him to tell David not to build the temple (2 Samuel 7:1-17). Why didn't "The Word of the Lord" go directly to David? I have no idea. But it seems at times God gave his Word to one follower to speak to another.

"The Word of the Lord" comes to Samuel but it takes four tries and some wise counsel before he is able to recognize it (1 Samuel 3:1-10). It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize "The Word of the Lord" when it is given today.

Now I'm not suggesting that everyone should be able to hear the audible voice of God. I don't doubt that God could speak audibly if he desired, but I have never heard that voice myself. But I do believe God has given his Holy Spirit to every Christ-follower and that this Spirit is a "Counselor to be with you forever" who "lives with you and will be with you" and will "teach you all things" (John 14:15-26).

So when was the last time as a leader you paused and gave God a chance to give you "The Word of the Lord?"

There in the park I asked everyone to do just that. In fact, I asked them to simply listen for a word. A single word. One word that could become the focal point of their prayer life over the next few weeks or even months. They scurried away and spent the next half hour lying on park benches in the sun or hiking trails through the woods trying to hear from God. Many were filled with hesitation and doubt, but they tend to humor me when I try to lead so they gave it a shot.

And when we returned and huddled on our picnic benches, their faces had changed as they told stories of how a word just seemed to "click" when it came to their mind. Faith. Childlike. Prepare. Follow. Key. Accept. Open. Trust. These were our "Words from the Lord," and we committed to praying these words for one another during the next few months.

Maybe "The Word of the Lord" is rare today as it was in certain times of Biblical history (1 Samuel 3:1). But maybe God is waiting to speak his Word to a leader who pauses long enough to recognize it. That leader could be you. Today. "Speak, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10).

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Comments

I love this. Today I will pause to hear a word of the Lord for my ministry. Thank you for a great post.

Though I'm not currently in a position of church leadership, this ministered to me today. Thank you.

I can so relate to the skepticism (both my own, and those I minister to)that God won't show up when we stop to listen. This post is a great reminder!

This is awesome because many churches are simply silent on the spoken word of God on personal levels. Many simply glaze over the instances where God actually spoke to people in non-written form, as if to silently say "well of course they could hear from God... they were prophets!" or "Well that's a rare instance... he was King David after all!" But the fact is that even when there was no precedent for this kind of communication, and no written word to go off of whatsoever, God spoke to Abraham. And that one promise changed the face of human history. Even in the New Testament the Apostles (whom scripture makes clear were no higher or lower than anyone else) were prompted by the spirit. I'm convinced that when leaders diligently pause to stop and listen to God that God does indeed speak and guide as he has done for thousands of years. I've seen this confirmed time and time again inside and outside of my ministry. Thanks for bringing this up!

We so often forget that the word of the Lord was spoken before it was written down. Prophets were instructed to 'write it down' so it wouldn't be forgotten. It was that important... The ability to hear the word of the Lord directly is a distinguishing marker of the new covenant (as in Acts 2). It's risky, but life transforming if we take time to listen. Thanks Tammy for your insightful and helpful blog!

Excellent article! As clearly defined in the terms of the "new covenant" (Jer. 31: 31-34), the spoken word of God, Scripture-free, and on personal level is actually God's chosen medium of communication exclusively through the channel of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (Matt. 26: 26-29).The awful silence on the subject does not at all speak well of the church and Christians today!

The Lord is still speaking to us and I think in the hustle and bustel of everyday life ,I tend not to listen but expect Him to listen (which He faithfully does).I'm in that point in my life where I'm learning to listen(remembering how exciting it was to hear from God,through the scriptures,promptings,even just listening to some good preaching or while praising and worshiping God),this(listening)was well modeled by one of my friends.So after loosing track for some years due to unforgiveness,bitterness(sin),I'm relearning how to walk daily hearing and learning from God.

Further to my input of July 28, 2008, the source of inspiration of all prophets, apostles and all true believers is God's/Christ's medium of communication, i.e., the Holy Spirit in terms of CAUSE and EFFECT of "do-it-yourself" death on the cross --all free of scripture and free of any meddling by humans! This can be verified by any initiated disciple who knows Jesus Christ firsthand and personally!

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