what is God saying?

I suppose the height of egomania is to assert that one knows what God is saying. To read and comprehend what He says in His written Word is one thing but to have the ability to, with clarity and confidence, sense what He says to one’s spirit is necessary but a little trickier than we would like to believe.

Does God say what I want to hear?

I know of an individual who currently is at odds with her family. The way this person wins is by being assured that God is on her side. According to her, He totally agrees with her and He has chosen to send special messages through her to the rest of the family about how wrong they are. Kind of tough to argue with God! Here’s the thing: her attitudes and behavior assure everyone that she is not hearing from God and, if she was, He would not be on her side.

It is easy to listen to God as long as He agrees with us. When God operates within the confines of our preconceived ideas, our world is a safe and predictable place. When God’s voice is familiar, when He says the things we expect Him to say, there is order. Even when the things we perceive Him to say are hurtful or negative, we can manage that, because it is what we have come to expect. I believe the problem is, we sometimes put words into God’s mouth.

While trying to go to sleep the other night, I decided to try to just lie still, be quite, not pray, just listen to what God was saying to me. My instant thought was, “He probably has a bunch of things that I could do better on, areas of my life and things that I am doing for Him on which I could improve.” I am wondering why my first thoughts of His message to me were negative. What is it in my emotional chemistry that assumes that God is looking for the chance to increase the pressure I am facing, that He is not satisfied with me, that there is more I can do to make Him happy with me? In this instance, God fell in line with my insecurities and came under the control of the things that have attempted to control me all of my life. Pretty obviously, God does not play that game.

I am glad to tell you that I was soon able to clear my mind of the idea that God was standing over me measuring how high I could jump. Some additional thoughts came to mind. I got an idea for a message or a book or an article. The title of Themes of His Essays came to mind. I began thinking about the major concepts of the things that the Holy Spirit communicates to His people. What is the essence and character of God all about, anyway? This is where the egomania kicks in again, assuming I can capture the essence of God. But recall, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us, He wants us to know His character. He shows His personality to us. We can, in part, understand what He is about. So I began thinking about concepts like: Grace. Love. Mercy. Treasure. Compassion. These are the great themes of God. This is the message that God has been speaking to humankind since creation.

This is not to say that I am doing a great job with the responsibilities that God has given me or that He is giving me a “thumbs-up’ on my performance for Him. He knows, I fall way below the bar for acceptable production in the Kingdom. But I just can’t see God as the One who is laying the burden of “do more, work harder, perform at a higher level” on my back.

I also realize that judgment is part of God’s responsibility. But His primary connection with us is hope. Even conviction of sins has as its goal, forgiveness.

Try just listening. Maybe you’ll hear some things that I didn’t hear. Maybe as I grow, I will also hear some different things. Just maybe one day, I will get a “not bad, kid!” out of Him. That would be progress.

out of the way places

We need to be deliberate in our efforts to spend time with God. With our busy schedules, the necessary spiritual-focus times won’t happen unless we strategically place them in our calendar.

Cascade, Colorado proved to be a valuable experience for me as Letha and I enjoyed a vacation there last week. I was able to spend some time hiking and, as usual, when I got alone and away from the noise (not Letha :)), I experienced the closeness of God. Maybe it is just the way I am geared, but time in a natural setting does wonders for my abilities to interact with the Creator.

Mark (5:16) speaks of Jesus’ need to be apart from the crowds and focus on His Father. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (MSG) I don’t do this as often and I need to. I live 15 minutes from one of the best places in all the world to clear one’s mind (the beach). But I still find it difficult to find the time to drive over and just sit. The mountains of Colorado reminded me of how important this time in in my life.

How about you? How long has it been since you turned the TV off long enough to clear your head? Would a brisk walk in the park or a drive in country help to clear things up? Wherever you live, there is a place, an out-of-the-way place where God is waiting for some special time with you.

you want to live where you go on vacation

Time off, sleeping in, going out to eat, no schedule. Those are the highlights of vacation time. If you are lucky enough to be able to get away this summer, you probably will be tempted with the idea of relocating to the area you visit.

Letha and I just returned from a week in Colorado. The temperatures were in the low 50’s in the mountain mornings. We visited mountains over 14.000 feet elevation. Pine trees grow huge. It was just about as different from South Florida in Summer as you could imagine. The scenery was breathtaking and we spent every day outside taking hikes and taking in the tourist sites.

I have to admit, more than once, I thought, “It would be so cool to live in a place like this.” But I was then reminded of what the guests who visit us in Florida say, especially those from the mid west: “I want to move to Florida!” It is true, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but I always remind them, “you can’t live on vacation”. The entire purpose of a vacation is to rest and do something different for the purpose of refreshing yourself. You break the old pattern and it feels good. And so naturally, you want to keep doing it.

I guess after a couple of weeks of sleeping in and site-seeing, we would get adjusted to the new place. Real life requires a job and responsibilities. Whether you live in Florida or Colorado or the French Riviera, it is home and may not seem very glamorous. But be thankful for it. I know I am.

when someone you love is hurting

Over the past few months we have seen too many people in pain. Some good friends have suffered some pretty severe sicknesses. Along with the obvious concern for these sick people is our compassion for those who love them. We have observed some very concerned family members. It is a tough thing to watch someone you care about suffer. A common statement we have heard is, “I wish I could take their place.”

It is normal to struggle emotionally when a loved one is ill. But I think there are some valuable concepts to learn through these experiences. Among them is the idea that God loves you and your loved one very much. He feels your pain. He is touched with the same discomfort that you are. And He is with you every step of the way.

Another important thing to know is, God feels the same way about you as you feel about your family members. He says, “I will take their place.” That’s why He died on the cross – it was so we could live. He doesn’t like it when His kids suffer. So He did something about it. He eliminated our eternal suffering by giving His life. Now that is an important concept to grasp.

God cares. A lot.

sports or prostitution?

It is getting tougher to be a sports fan these days. The team with the money wins. There is no loyalty. Player swap franchises like we change shoes. The message sent by these organizations is “win or be traded”. Fans get all excited when the club signs a new player. They love the new guy. But they hated him last week when he played for another team in the division and they will hate him again next year when he is playing for their rival.

The idea of Brett Favre playing for the Minnesota Vikings is a complete joke. Having spent eleven years in Minnesota, and knowing how much those fans hate anything Packers, I say the team stood to lose a lot of credibility if they had signed him. He would have dropped Vikings fans like a sack of potatoes as soon as a better offer came along.

My baseball Cardinals recently traded for and signed a bunch of guys from other teams. Everybody is all excited. Team pride, Cardinals Nation, blah, blah… we are paying big dollars to guys who care nothing about us. The moment they get a better offer, they are out of here! Don’t believe for one minute that they are committed to anything other than money. A pretty clear case of prostitution.

Is it any wonder why we, as a nation, struggle with loyalty?