I started an exciting adventure a few weeks ago with several people from a few different churches. We are meeting together each week to listen to and study the DVD discussion series on the book by Dallas Willard, Hearing God: `Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. (View on Amazon or to purchase a used copy check out dealoz.com any type in title or author)
When I suggested we go through this book, I was excited to discover that one of the pastors in the group had been in a small group with Dr. Willard while he was in seminary. I highly recommend Dr. Neal Nybo’s sermon, here is an excerpt below.
A professor of philosophy at USC, Dallas’ work has begun to revolutionize how we understand the Kingdom of God, salvation, heaven, and our relationship with Christ. I wrote him a letter asking how I might go further with all his teaching and addressed it to him at USC in May of 1990. A few months later, around September, my phone rang at home. It was Dr. Dallas Willard. He had been away from school all summer and was just opening his mail. He wondered if I would like to meet for coffee at his home.
Little did I know this was a man of deep, genuine love. I was a forty year old business and sales guy. I knew how personal appointments worked. It was about jockeying for position and information. For me, it was always an internal dance, showing a little of myself but not too much, not letting the other person know how uncomfortable or insecure I was. Friendship was offered but not genuine. Here I was, heading into a conversation with someone I thought could show me the way to the relationship with Jesus that I truly wanted, and all I could bring was my manipulative, defensive, self-interest. I knocked on his front door five minutes of pleasantries, ten getting to know each other, forty solid minutes of business, and then five for goodbye and out the door in an hour. After an hour and forty five minutes, I was still in deep conversation with Dallas about his family, his heart for Christ and his desires for the future. He didn’t weigh his thoughts or consider his responses except it seemed if he was thinking the most loving way to say something. He had no agenda but everything he said and did communicated love. The man was so far above me intellectually he could have used my conversation skills as a dish rag but I never once felt uncomfortable in his presence. He could have told me all about his books and how I should grow my faith and study the Bible. Instead, Dallas Willard told me he and two other men had been wanting to start a small group to pursue their faith together and were looking for a fourth. The other two were his pastor and a doctoral grad student from USC. He asked if I would like be the fourth person.
Ultimately, the four of us spent a year together and that began a blessed relationship for me with Dallas that only changed on May 8, a few weeks ago when he passed away. I attended his memorial. While his insight into faith and his contribution to philosophy was acknowledged, those who knew him best said the same thing. He radiated love. Love was to Dallas Willard what ruby slippers are to the Wizard of Oz.
So that gives you some background of the author for this book and the discussion series.
Here is the description of this DVD discussion series. I will be sharing my thoughts on each session, but I wanted to set the stage properly before we being.
How do we hear God’s voice? How can we be sure that what we think we hear is not our own subconscious? What role does the Bible play? What if what God says to us is not clear?
The key, says best-selling author Dallas Willard, is to focus not so much on individual actions and decisions as on building our personal relationship with our Creator. In this DVD you and your group can listen in as John Ortberg and Richard Foster dialogue with Dallas Willard on the themes of his beloved classic book, Hearing God.
The first session was entitled, ” You Were Created for Intimate Friendship with God.” After listening to the 30 minute video of the men discussing this conversational relationship with God, as well an introducing an author from the earlier 1900’s, The left me with three concrete conclusions.
1) an increased appetite to grow in a conversational lifestyle relationship with God
2) an increased belief that it is possible
3) an overwhelming sense of gratitude, love and commitment to God to respond to His invitation of relationship.
Here are a few quotes and Bible verses that were discussed.
Numbers 6:22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. ESV
God has made you for His presence and He seeks fellowship with us.
Ps 27:7 “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual walk with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive.” – Brother Lawrence
God’s intent is that you should grow to the point where you wants what He wants.
“There is a lot of work on our “wanter” before we get there – and that is what goes in our relationship as we walk – listening and hearing – moment by moment day by day and grow.” Dallas Willard
They introduced us to Dr. Frank C. Laubach (September 2, 1884—June 11, 1970), who was a Christian Evangelical missionary. One of his most widely influential devotional works was a pamphlet entitled “The Game with Minutes.” You can google it on the internet and find a copy to read for free. The pamphlet extolled the virtues of a life lived with unceasing focus on God. Some quotes:
Any one of us can spend his day in Christ’s presence, he observed. And yet we do not. He urged us to think to Christ instead of thinking to ourselves.
All during the day, in the chinks of time between the things we find ourselves obliged to do; there are the moments when our minds ask: ‘What next?’ In these chinks of time, ask Him: ‘Lord, think Thy thoughts in my mind. What is on Thy mind for me to do now?’ When we ask Christ, ‘What next?’ we tune in and give Him a chance to pour His ideas through our enkindled imagination. If we persist, it becomes a habit.
The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says “Amen” and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him your ideas.
“Practicing the presence of God is not on trial. Countless saints have already proved it. Indeed, the spiritual giants of all ages have known it. The results of this effort begin to show clearly in a month. They grow rich after six months and glorious after ten years. This is the secret of the great saints of all ages. ‘Pray without ceasing,’ said Paul, ‘in everything make your wants known unto God.’ ‘As many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God. ”― Frank Charles Laubach
Stayed tuned for the next session.