One of the most insightful and practical preacher theologians I have ever read is J.C. Ryle his insights are deep his love for Christ is palpable. My only regreat in reading all the things he has written is that I didn’t find him when I was younger. Of all past theologians, I am most confident that J.C. Ryle would have had a blog his passion for truth and his ability to speak the truth plainly would have demanded it. I pray that you are encouraged by his practical insights and deep love for Christ as I have been over the years.
In my first post, I discussed how listening to others serves our brother and sister but also trains us to be quiet and listen to God. How does God primarily speak? I believe that if you want to listen to the voice of God you need to develop a love for the Word of God. The reason many people struggle with hearing God’s voice is that many Christians don’t read God’s word. The primary way that God communicates to us is through the Bible. Almost every Christian would agree with this statement. The problem is a gap between what we believe and what we practice is massive. Al Mohler on his blog says “Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”
When you have conversations with Christian teenagers their basis for the decisions they make are based on personal experience and personal feelings rather than an external standard of truth. According to Lifeway research, 53% of Americans have only read a few verses of the Bible. How can you recognize a voice that you have never heard? Many Christians think they hear God’s voice but if you don’t know God’s word how will you be able to tell the difference between the noise around you and the voice within you?
How do we move from reverence for the Bible to actually reading the Bible? It happens through decisive action at home and at church and with our kids.
- Read the Bible yourself. – Don’t think about it, agree that it’s good, actually do it. Let your kids see you read your Bible.
- Read the Bible to your kids. Don’t just tell them to read the Bible show them how.
- Do Family Worship – Read a chapter in the Bible, Sing one hymn and pray together. It takes 10 minutes.
- Have conversations about the Bible.
- As a Pastor read the Bible yourself. The reason people don’t read their Bibles is that pastors don’t read their Bibles.
- Preach from a Bible, not a phone.
- Preach messages that are saturated with scriptures rather than relevant quotes.
- Commit to an ongoing plan of discipleship in small groups or classroom settings.
- Preach exegetically – People need a systematic understanding of scripture not a sprinkling of verses from around the Bible.
How do we help kids love the Bible?
- Read the Bible ourselves.
- Answer questions they have about the Bible. Someone recently said that if your kids are not asking questions about the Bible they aren’t reading it.
- Be one Bible ahead of your kids.
- Read the Bible to them, then with them, then around them.
- Teach your kids to meditate on scripture not just speed read it.
One of the questions kids ask me most is why they don’t hear God’s voice and how do they hear God’s voice. The first thing you must do is to model for them the love of God’s word, find a church that preaches God’s word.
Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of the forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe
With loss of Eden till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat
Tuesday we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was 500 years ago an Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany. It was a small protest against the corruption in the church that has had ripple effects that are still being felt today. Many people argue that what Luther started was not good because it has created disunity in the church but the more you read scripture, the more you read Luther, and the more you realize that the Reformation was a clarification of the gospel far more than a reputation of the church of Rome.
We needed reformation then and we certainly need reformation today. So I thought it would be helpful to tackle a few of Luther’s 95 Theses that have particular relevance for us as well as for the kids we teach.
- #1 When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent”, he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance. – This is fundamental and primary. Kids need to know what repentance is and how their lives should be marked by the daily practice of repentance. Kids that don’t understand their need for repentance will never experience the sufficiency of Christ in His lavish forgiveness. More than ever our kids need to see repentance modeled to them and need to be called regularly to repentance.
- #92 Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people “Peace, peace” and there is no peace. – Our culture and sadly many even within the church are preaching and prophesying that the highest goal of Christian life is peace and personal happiness. This is a pernicious cancer in the very fabric of Christian life. To seek joy is a very different thing than pursuing happiness. Joy is understood in scripture as being founded in the person of Christ. It is Incorruptible because it is found in Christ who is eternal. Happiness is a feeling, it is personal it is undefinable, it is easily lost because we are fickle and this life is fleeting.
One of the things that many adults struggle with and most kids I’ve encountered, struggle with is the ability to hear God’s voice. Hearing God’s voice is not as easy as some simplistically explain and it’s not impossible as many believe.
Hearing God’s voice is made possible by a few basic practices;
- Listening to God starts with learning to listen to those you can see.
- Knowing God’s voice comes from knowing his word.
- Hearing God’s voice requires discernment.
Learning to listen is not a skill that is taught anywhere. It is a gift a few are born with, a skill most can learn, and is indispensable in our ability to hear God and love our fellow believers. The world we live in is crowded, loud, and chaotic. We are surrounded by digital noise that demands little focus from us. To truly listen to others is a difficult thing to do but is a practice we must grow in. To grow in our ability to listen we must understand the importance of it and must actively practice the discipline of it.
Why Listening matters so much.
- It is our primary duty as a Christian, loving our brother by listening to him. We have this insatiable urge to say the right thing when often times what people need most is someone who will truly listen to them.
“The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear.” – Bonhoeffer
- We must train ourselves to listen to our fellow believers or we will only know how to speak at people rather than listen to or converse with others. If we train ourselves to ignore our fellow man which we can see how will we ever listen to a God we can’t see.
“Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.” – Bonhoeffer
Listening is something I think most people struggle with. It is something I have to consciously work on. In pastoral ministry, listening is something that you must learn. As a parent, if your kids want to hear God’s voice they need to learn how to listen to yours.
How do we grow in our ability to listen and teach our kids how to listen to others well.
- Listen with your face – don’t “Multitask” and believe you are doing your duty. You are not. In fact, you are not listening and you are also not focusing. Multitasking is a myth.
- Listen long and patiently – “Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.” Bonhoeffer
- Fully listen, don’t think about a response while listening.
- Wait till the other person has finished before you begin to speak.
- Listening understands that our duty to our fellow believers is to hear their confession.
Few people have spoken out on our need to listen to others as clearly as Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his powerful book on the Christian fellowship. He offers this dire warning to those who won’t listen “The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end, there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it.”
May we be as James says in his epistle “Quick to listen and slow to speak.”