Saturday, September 24, 2005

Intimacy with God (3)

As conversation prayer is more than talking to God. It also means listening to God. It's a two-way conversation, but all too often people don't hear God speaking because we're either too busy talking, or we just don't expect God to say anything. After all, God only ever spoke to the prophets and people in Bible times - He just doesn't talk to anyone today (or so the mainstream Christadelphian view would have it).

But there's not a shred of Biblical evidence for the idea God stopped talking to His people 2,000 years ago. In fact, all the evidence in the New Testament is that with the coming of His Son the way He relates with his people has changed for ever. The way into the Holiest place has been made open; we can now approach the throne of grace boldly; His sons and daughters will prophesy like never before; we have entered a new age in God's dealings with humanity. Cessationism - the idea (not unique to Christadelphians) that God communicated directly with His people for a brief period of time in the first century and then ceased this communication less than 100 years later - is based on some ingenious interpretation of Scripture which completely ignores the most obvious meaning. Perhaps I can deal with that at some other time.

Over the next few posts I would like to explore some of the ways God communicates with His people, including:

- through His Word (this is where cessationists would start - and end - but I'll leave this one to later)

- through angels

- through other people

- through dreams and visions

- by placing things in our hearts

- by speaking directly

I believe in angels. I believe they are "ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation" (Heb 1:14). I believe they are God's agents, working in our lives to manipulate circumstances for our good. In Biblical times they appeared as men (and women?) to communicate messages from God to His people. Sometimes they were immediately recognised as being angels. Sometimes not.

I've met angels (and you probably have too). I've not always recognised them as angels. I remember one time when I was wrestling with a problem and needed to make a decision that I met a young man at a seminar who came up to me after a session for a private chat. He seemed to know that I needed to talk about something, and almost immediately went straight to the heart of it and offered some very wise advice. I never saw him again, but I took his advice and it proved to be the right thing to do.

I told this story once when speaking at a conference and was approached by several people afterwards with similiar stories. I remember one story told by someone who had recently moved to a new city and was feeling quite anxious about settling in a new place and getting things set up so his wife and children could follow. Someone came up to him on the train on his way to work one morning, and called him by name (he assumed that he must have met him at church on the previous Sunday, but couldn't remember him. Who else would know his name?) The stranger told him not to worry, that everything was going to be fine, and that this is where God wanted him to be. He was right, and everything went well; but he never saw that man again and was convinced that it was an angel.

You've probably heard of similar stories, and may have some of your own.

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)

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