Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Was the Question Again?


Did you ever wonder how God's voice sounded to the ancients?  When the Bible says, "God spoke" to  
Abraham, how did Abraham know it was God speaking?

The Bible rarely tells us how the people of Old Testament times "heard" God speak.  It just says God spoke, and leaves it at that.  It's as if God assumes people would know He was speaking, and what He was saying, without any further explanation. 

But I don't always know, so God has obviously left an important piece of information out of the Scriptures.

Or maybe not.  Maybe there's something left out of my way of hearing God instead.  Maybe something is screwy with my way of perceiving reality, as hard to believe as that may be.

If I asked him, "Abraham, what made you think it was God speaking when you came up with that crazy idea that your descendants would outnumber the sands of the sea?" he would probably look at me like I was the crazy one.  He would call me a meshuggeneh. "What's the matter with you?" he'd say. "You got goyim ears or something?"

Yes.  I have goyim ears.  Ears that are more attuned to the science teacher, or the ivory tower academic, than to God.  Ears that have been trained to believe that only physical sounds that beat on those little bones in my head can connect me with reality.

I am sometimes amazed at how much my worldview is a product of the secular humanistic culture I live in.  Even as a follower of Jesus, one who spends time meditating and often believes God is speaking to me, I find it hard to trust what I think I "hear" from God. I have slipped into believing that only physical ears can hear, and that knowing is a brain/mind thing, and nothing else. 

In Job, the oldest book of the Bible, God asks a question: "Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?"  (Job 38:36 KJV)

The answer is obvious.  And when I answer that question truthfully, the question I wanted to ask Abraham. . . what was it again?  That question is forgotten.  Makes no sense. 

It's not up to me to figure out how God speaks.  I'll leave that up to Him, and just listen with an open, trusting heart.  I'll let him slip his truth past my human understanding and place it gently into my inward parts.  That's the only place the Truth will do me any good anyway.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four Steps to Finding True Rest


I'm finally beginning to listen, and I'm discovering, to my great delight, what God means when he tells me to rest.  

God's rest is not passive inactivity.  Instead, it's a deliberate action on my part that leads me into the center of His peace.  Here are four elements of God's rest that can revitalize us and bring fresh excitement into our walk with Him.

RELINQUISHMENT

Entering into God's rest involves, first of all, my relinquishment of my own agenda. 

Agendas are not intrinsically wrong.  God has an agenda.  The Bible is His revelation of His agenda, from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.  His agenda is all about goodness and grace. 

My agenda rarely takes into account those two attributes, so it's often at cross- purposes with His.  My agenda centers around my needs and desires--my list of priorities--my "To Do" list.  That's why living according to my own rudderless agenda leaves me restless and frustrated.

To find true rest, I must put my agenda into His loving hands.  When He's finished the purification process, my agenda will be ready to be incorporated into into His perfect one. 

This relinquishment involves the same kind of active decision as the one I made when I gave myself to Him in the first place.  This day I deliberately choose to let go of my own understanding and commit my agenda to Him. 

EXPECTANCY

After I relinquish my agenda to Him, I must wait with expectant attentiveness for His revelation of His agenda for me.  I must listen for His voice.

The attentiveness must be deliberate, and I must be patient in the listening.  No quick prayer for guidance in the morning before I head off into a day's frenzied activity.  I must give him permission to tune my heart and mind to his, and then wait for Him to speak.  I can go as I wait, but if my going is not marked by rest, it's a sign that I'm not being truly attentive.

The attentiveness must also be expectant.  I must be convinced that God will speak.  I must lean into His voice.  

He may not speak immediately.  He sometimes has to wait until He has my full attention.  There are no shortcuts to hearing from God.  But when I do hear, the word I receive is well worth waiting for.  Waiting in expectation that He will speak is a joyful activity that leads me into true rest.

SATISFACTION

Only after I relinquish my agenda and take the time to listen to Him will I begin to discover that He, and only He, can satisfy my restless heart. 

The world is full of restless human beings who search frantically for satisfaction of their needs and desires in all the wrong places.  Their restless activity leads them away from God's rest down many different dead end roads--paths that ultimately result in addiction and despair.

Everything we need, and every good thing we desire, can only be found in the context of a deep, intimate relationship with God.  His agenda of goodness and grace leads to complete satisfaction, and nothing else will.

Realizing this, and relaxing into this reality, will lead us into a place of true rest.

TRUST

Trust in God is the foundation of true rest.  It's the bedrock attitude that will keep us at peace in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us in this crazy, frantically restless world. 

We who belong to Jesus can be completely at rest, all the time, because our lives are anchored in the eternal reality of the deep, unconditional love of a good, omnipotent God who is faithful and will never change.

In Proverbs 3:5 and 6, God admonishes us to embrace these four elements of true rest. 

To "trust in the Lord with all your heart" is the master key to finding rest. 

To relinquish our own agendas is to "lean not on your own understanding."

To recognize that He is the only one who completely satisfies is to "acknowledge Him in all your ways." 

And expectant attentiveness to his voice will allow Him to "direct your path."

Lord, teach us how to relax into You and so come to experience true rest.  Make us instruments through which You can lead broken people around us into Your rest as well.  We choose, this day, to make ourselves restfully available to you.  Accomplish Your good and gracious agenda through us, we pray.

P.S.  Here's a delightful example of what happens when we make ourselves restfully available to God.  An example of how He takes our agendas and incorporates them into His own.  It's an amateur video, which makes it all the more moving.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Puff of Wind


I'm feeling singularly uninspired.  Have felt that way for a while.  Not sure why, or what is happening.  We've recently moved to a new neighborhood, and I feel the move signifies a new direction for ministry, but every time I ask God where he wants me to go on this next leg of my journey, all I hear is:

"Rest."  

That's all.  God can never be accused of being wordy.

I don't like to rest.  It seems like such a waste of time.  I want to DO, and GO.  But after several weeks of asking for something to do, and getting the same one-word answer every time, I'm finally beginning to listen.

My life is still in the doldrums.  No wind in the sails.  But I'm no longer restless in that calm place.  I can't say I'm feeling particularly joyful, but I'm content to wait and trust.

This morning I was again wondering where my path was leading, and when I'd be allowed to step out onto the road again.  Feeling the spiritual equivalent of the Monday morning "blah's."  I came down to my office and found this blog post on Facebook. I'm sharing it with you in place of whatever inspirational words I might have come up with if I weren't sitting in this puddle of muddy spiritual water at the moment!

These words helped breathe life into my spirit, and a puff--just a puff--of wind in my sails.  I hope they do the same for you.


Jennifer's response to one of the comments on her post was especially encouraging.  She says:

We need to remind each other that our salvation does not depend on how we feel. This side of heaven, we are going to have those soul-dry moments, periods in the wilderness, moments that wring us out. And the enemy -- opportunist that he is -- is going to pounce all over you to make you think that your soul-cracked feeling is evidence that God is done with you. But God shouts louder, straight down through the universe, through the lens of Calvary: I am not done with you. I made you. You are mine. Sealed, signed, and delivered by My Son.

I found Jennifer through another Facebook friend, Lori Roeleveld.  I've "liked" both of their Facebook pages.  You might like them too.