God On Your Ipod Part 2: Bridge Over Troubled Water
On Sunday 30th July at our morning service, we continued our series God On Your Ipod with the topic 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
During our service we watched two Youtube clips. The first was the song True Colours and you can watch that by clicking here. The second was Bridge Over Troubled water which had been produced to support the Grenfell Tower appeal. You can watch that by clicking here.
“Why is it,” comedian and actress Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?” Does God speak to us? Are we able to hear his voice?
Is it a sign of madness?
Welcome to you whether you are a person with a faith or are here checking out what we are all about. I hope that you find this blog interesting.
I am going to continue talking about hearing God in our time and our culture. I will be focussing on how, if we are attentive, we can hear God speaking to us through among other things music.
I found faith just before I went to college. I started to read the Bible and it came alive and the stuff I was reading seemed to relate to my life and situation. I also started to see and hear God all around me. I would see messages in adverts and some of the music that I listened to. They seemed like God. For example James Taylor’s: “You’ve got a friend”. I was homesick and insecure and had very low self-esteem and two weeks after I started college my parents split up. It was a lot to cope with. This song spoke of a friend who would be there when I was struggling really helped me. All I had to do was call out his name. Who else could realistically be this available but Jesus?
Another song that really helped me was “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. The words speak of someone there when we are at our lowest ebb. It also says “like a bridge over troubles waters I will lay me down”. Jesus is that bridge between us and God and he laid down his life so that we could know God’s peace in our lives.
The God that Christians believe in calls himself our father and he is not distant and detached; he communicates with us. We just have to be attentive and tune in to his voice. This is what Jesus says in John’s account of His life. You can read this by clicking here.
His followers are the Sheep and he is the shepherd. The word John uses for ‘listen/hear’ are the same and include the element of response. Verse 3 says: His sheep HEAR/LISTEN/RESPOND to his voice. He didn’t say His sheep CAN hear or SHOULD hear His voice. He said that His sheep DO hear His voice. We might question whether this is true as this may not be our experience. But; all believers can hear the voice of God; they just don’t recognize it. People who don’t have a faith can also hear his voice if they choose to listen. God is constantly speaking to us in various ways, but we need to listen, be attentive and respond. The trouble is that we may hear stuff but we don’t listen.
Like God, Radio and television stations transmit twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; but we only hear them when we turn on and tune in. If we can’t hear, it doesn’t mean the station isn’t transmitting.
We don’t hear because we don’t listen. We are preoccupied, busy, tired. This is often true in our everyday relationships. Jesus came to bring us into relationship with God. Relationships develop through spending time together, talking, listening and trying to understand one another.
This passage tells us that his sheep follow him because they know his voice. We get to recognise someone’s voice through familiarity, time spent listening. We get to know the tones, the intonations, the nuances and the sort of thing they might say. It takes time being together.
On counselling courses the key thing that you are taught is how to listen.
You have to master fear of silence. Not filling in all the gaps constantly. This is true in our communication with each other and with God. The quieter you become the more you can hear. Most of the time God speaks to us in a “still small voice” or a “hushed voice” Whispering doesn't work very well if you're speaking to someone who's standing on the other side of the room. God doesn't want a remote relationship; he wants a close, intimate one.
God is constantly speaking to us but we need to listen, to be attentive and respond.
To hear God we need to give: Time, Attention and Thought.
We need to hear, listen and respond.
So how can we be sure that God is speaking to us? Here are some checks.
• Does it ring true when placed beside what Jesus tells us?
• Is it a thought that is difficult to shake off?
• Have you checked with fellow followers of Jesus that you trust?
The truth is that some schizophrenics do claim to hear the voice of God.
For example Peter Sutcliff, the Yorkshire ripper claimed that God who told him to murder those women. Clearly this was not God speaking. This becomes obvious if you do those checks. Jesus was forgiving and loving, not murderous. The voice of God wouldn’t tell us to hurt anyone, physically or emotionally.
The songs that I have mentioned sounded like the voice of God that I knew. They were a way that God used to sing to me and bring me strength at difficult times.
What can we do then to get better at hearing the voice of God?
Accept that God is constantly speaking to us but we need to listen, to be attentive and respond. Focus our attention, like tuning into a radio programme. But we also need to respond otherwise it is like not bothering to listen. Use silence.
Imagine what our relationships with each other would be like if really listened and tried to understand each other. If we gave our time and quietened ourselves down so that we could really hear. Imagine what our relationship with God would be like if we accepted that God is constantly speaking to us, listened, attended, and responded.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. What is it that first strikes you about this passage? Why do you think that is?
2. Read the passage a couple of times. What is it that excites you? What is it that you find difficult or confusing?
3. Do you find it easy or hard to believe that God is speaking and that you can hear and recognise his voice? Why is that?
4. Are there times when you have thought that God spoke to you? Was it a song a word from the Bible or something else?
5. Are you a “Be”er or a Doer? Do you find silence and stillness difficult? Why is that?
6. When you hear others say that God spoke to them what does it make you feel?
7. Did you know that listen and silent are spelt with the same letters? What is the significance of this?
8. What are the things that you need to put in place now to help you to hear God?