The Voice Within

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. … He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. John 16: 13-14

Truly blessed are the ears that listen— not to the sounds surrounding them— but to the voice of Truth inside.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 564-571). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Shutting out the noise of the world and learning to hear the voice of the spirit is the most valuable skill we can get. Just eliminating the world noise is of tremendous advantage. Our world is louder than ever. It seems we are addicted to noise. It’s like we can’t stand silence. We have to have the television on, even if we are not watching. We stick pods in our ears when possible. What is it we are trying to shut out?

We love the idea of the quiet solitude of the forest or mountain tops, yet we avoid every daily opportunity for silence. In silence, we can find peace and direction. In silence, the Holy Spirit can hold our attention and give guidance to our walk. In silence, we can avoid the stress and confusion production of our loud and distracting world. 

Let us practice the wonder of silence. Let’s get up early and resist the temptation to turn on the television and soak in the silence. Let’s seek silent times and places. Let’s practice listening above speaking, contemplation above confrontation.  

In the blessed silence, the still small voice we will hear will be the wonderful guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Do Right

O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6: 8

I was doing pretty good in writing from a new section of Imitation of Christ but fell out of the habit. I repent and will try to do better. In fact, I will try to DO RIGHT.

Are you old enough to remember Dudley Do Right? He was a Canadian Mountie cartoon character when I was a kid. He was such a straight shooter that it was almost sickening. I guess Hollywood was trying to negatively impact the lives of the young even then, by holding do-gooders up to scorn.

We tend to look down on folks who “do right.” I guess because we consider such folks to hold themselves better than others and prideful in their good deeds. Micah has it right. He encourages us to do what is right but also to love mercy and to walk humbly. Perhaps the toughest thing about being a do-gooder is not lording it over others.

The trick is to realize that any good we do, we don’t do on our own. It flows from a humble walk with God, always giving Him all the credit. If we can keep that in mind it’s easier to be merciful to others who have not been as blessed. 

We don’t need to don a Mountie uniform or have a chiseled chin to “do right.” We just need to walk humbly with Our God. 

Dark Night of the Soul

In life there are times of darkness. Sometimes things are just not as bright as we would like, but at other times,  the darkness is complete, pervasive and overwhelming. As Christians we tend to deny the existence of such times as they challenge our faith and our hope. This failure to recognize the truth of dark nights, isolates those of us who suffer from such times. I suspect such sufferings, though denied, are actually universally suffered. If we could acknowledge the occurrence of such times in ourselves, perhaps we could better guide each other through them.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has a song which proclaims the current Christian view on Dark Nights. It’s called “I Never Lost My Praise.” The song proclaims that despite bad times that hope, joy, faith, and praise were never lost. I think that’s a lie. I think we all at times lose our grip on hope, joy, faith and praise. We shouldn’t lie to each other about that. It increases desperation and loneliness in our brothers and sisters. It makes us believe that when we lose sight of such blessings, that God has somehow lost sight of us.

When Mother Teresa died and her uncovered writings revealed her own struggles with dark times, this was not used to encourage struggling believers. Instead, it was pointed to as evidence that this saint of God was not everything we had thought she was. I guess that made us feel better temporarily, but denied us the consolation that we all need.

Let me get the ball rolling. I have dark times. They don’t just occur at night. Sometimes, like today, they hit in the middle of a church service when I catch sight of something that brings a great personal loss to mind. A “dark night” can occur at 10 a.m. and in church.  I think they attack more frequently as we age, but the teenage suicide rate makes me think they are not unknown by the young. 

It can happen when a great memory is challenged as being mis-remembered. It can occur because the sky is gray or because it is crystal clear blue. It can happen when we feel ill or when there is nothing physically wrong. I think it can often happen when we are approaching a spiritual breakthrough or when our pride makes us think we are doing just fine. 

The truth we need to hang on to is that we aren’t alone. Our darkness is not evidence of our abandonment by God or the failure of our faith. It usually can be fought off if we can get our eyes off of circumstances and catch a glimpse of the bright river of God.  Even when the dark nights occur in the brightness of daylight, if we can hang on, the spiritual day eventually dawns. 

 

In the Hands of God

But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Psalm 31: 14-15

The person in the home who has possession of the remote control is king. We love the sense of control. We shrink from the idea of giving it over to God. Even when we do it’s not a one time transfer. 

Putting ourselves in the hand of God is a process. For most of us, a very slow process. We tend to want to fly our own planes. If things get rough, we may “allow” God to sit in the copilot seat. It’s a giant step to let him fly the plane. It usually requires a series of incidents which make it clear that our lives or out of control and that we have no other choice. 

Even when we go so far as to trust God, we usually do so only temporarily. We grab back the steering wheel as soon as we think we are back on course.  Deep down most of us are control freaks. We aren’t satisfied trying to control our own lives we usually try to guide others as well. 

Folks don’t much like being controlled so we exercise our “control” attempts in indirect ways. We seek to manipulate with hints, and suggestions and guilt. We grant and withhold approval. We offer to help with paths we approve of and block those we don’t like. Perhaps our compulsion to control others flows from our dismal failure to control our own lives. 

Control is an illusive reality. We can’t control because we can’t really see the road ahead. Our vision is limited. Our perspective is off. Unlike with controlling our driving, in life we don’t have the vehicle necessary to get us from place to place. We are directionless, vehicle less and fuel less. Yet we insist on control.

How foolish we are and how close is the answer to our useless wanderings. 

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Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5: 7

Just think how great life would be if we could let go of our cares. They keep us down. They keep us tied to earth and earthly things. They keep us distracted from our mission and from our Lord. They pump our wrongly placed self-assurance.

We are incapable of handling our problems. They are beyond our power. We can’t even fully understand our anxieties in that we don’t have the perspective to fully see and understand them. Our anxieties are Satan’s greatest tool keeping us from the life of joy and completeness that is ours in Christ.

One of the reasons we fail to cast our cares on God is that we don’t trust Him. We know He has the power. We question whether He has the care. Notice how this verse encourages us “because He cares.”

Perhaps the best way to overcome our “care concerns” is to glance in the rearview mirror of our lives. If we look back, we repeatedly see God acting in our interest at times and in ways we did not even understand at the time. He sees the dangers that are hidden beyond curves and the opportunities that are around the bends. Looking back, we can see how He has worked in our interest and for our good, because He cares.

Lord, help me cast my cares where they belong on you. Help me to stop thinking of them as my cares, for they are yours and yours alone.

 

Trust in God

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. Psalm 62: 5-7

It’s truly amazing in what we will put our trust in. In America, we have built a system where it appears we trust in government for everything. Wow. How dumb is that? We trust in political parties and politicians. We trust in gurus, assets, systems of finance, philosophy and thought. Repeatedly these things have proved to be untrustworthy.  It’s really all about God and trusting in Him. 

Where you are, there is heaven. And where you are not, there is death and hell. You alone are my desire and, therefore, I must groan and cry out earnestly for you. In short, I depend fully on you— and you alone— to help me in the necessities of life.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 732-733). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The disciples, including Paul, lived lives of joy in the midst of persecution and prison. Modern Christians live similarly in far flung parts of the world today. Here in America, we manage to live in a hell of our own making the the middle of more wealth than most of the world can even dream about. 

We need to live and love in a world surrounded by a “God Bubble.” His love and support sustaining us and not separating us from a hurting world but enabling us to make a difference in it. We need salvation, a rock foundation and fortress. That’s only available one place: In Christ.

 

Touch in the Night

 

I was sick yesterday. I felt awful. I got some food in me late and fell asleep. Sometime during the night I felt a hand, first on my brow and then on my hand. I heard something about fever. I’m not sure if it was “You have fever.” or “You don’t have fever.” It didn’t matter because I knew in either case she had this. I then felt her crawl into bed.

I was overcome with an intense feeling of gratitude. At the same time there was a small sense of dread in the thought that there are so many who have no one to give a comforting touch in the night and the knowledge that one day I might be in that lonesome number.

I fought off those thoughts away because for now I am in the number of the blessed and for that I am deeply and eternally grateful.

 

Judge Not

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7: 1-2

 

Drones are getting cheaper and have become accessible to the masses.  We see more of these devices flying about. Most of them have cameras. It’s becoming more usual to see videos of familiar areas from a new perspective. The new views are fascinating as we see things in ways we never did before. It’s why we should leave judging to God. 
 
Our perspective is so limited. We see from a low angle and generally miss the overview. God never does. Not only is our view limited in the physical.  It also lacks time perspective. We see in snapshots. God sees with the past and future in view.  How dare we judge?  
 
We would not want to be judged by our perspective with its very limited view. Most of all we would not want to be viewed without the filters God has and uses. He sees things through the filter of his love and of his son’s forgiving redemptive work. I don’t want to ever be judged without the benefit of that. I think I’ll limit myself to trusting and leave the judging to God.