Hearing the Voice of God

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 21

A few years ago I was headed home from work when I thought I heard God telling me to take a route home that I never take. I followed the instruction. Along the route I came across a lady having car trouble. I was able to get assistance and during the conversation learned she was a Christian who had been asking the Lord to send some help.

I’m not one of those who claims to hear God frequently. In fact, I am having to go back several years to come up with an example of me following the voice of God. My point is that God does speak to us. It’s question of learning to hear his voice.

How often have you had a “feeling” that you should do something and later discover that you missed an opportunity by failing to listen? It happens to me frequently. I don’t think that God speaks more often to other people. I believe that other folks do a better job of listening. They learn to recognize His voice. When you respond to a voice and it turns out to be a positive thing, you will more easily recognize that voice in the future. 

I don’t believe this voice gives you lottery numbers or suggests that you do something contrary to scripture. That’s a completely different voice. The voice of God is usually a gentle nudge to do something you should be doing anyway. 

“You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6: 68). Speak to me for the comfort of my soul, for the transformation of my whole life, and for the praise, glory, and eternal honor of your name.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 597-598). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Voice Inside

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

The world is really loud and full of distractions. Look around at any public gathering and see all the folks noses buried in their phones. We have television, radio, and smart phones all shouting at us 24/7. The voice inside sounds like a myth.

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 570-571). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The sad truth is that all the noise contains very little truth. The Resurrection we celebrate today made possible the installation of a voice of TRUTH inside, to guide, direct and encourage us. It’s not so loud and demanding as to rob us of free will. We have to decide to listen and decide to follow. But if we do take that path less travelled we will be led into truth, peace and joy. 

On this Resurrection Sunday let’s remember and celebrate the defeat of sin and death and the fulfilment of the great promises of God. Let us also, however, celebrate and listen to the great gift of the voice inside that the sacrifice and conquering of death makes possible. It heralds an end to noisy lies and the beginning of quiet blessed truth.

Justice – Mercy – Humility – Possible

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

It surprises me how unappreciated the old testament is. I know we worship newness and don’t respect “old.” It’s just not right. The old testament is full of wisdom.

Justice, Mercy and Humility. If we could just grasp and apply these principles in life.

Justice.  It is so easy to let injustice to prevail. Why should we attach more value to sports figures than teachers? Why do we ignore the rich are much more likely to receive justice in our courts than the poor? We don’t value life in those least able to protect themselves, the unborn and the elderly. Those are universal problems, but we don’t do any better at doing “right” at a personal level.  We often don’t really know what is just. 

Mercy. Mercy is something we expect but are reluctant to give. It was the subject of Jesus’ parables. We want justice for others and mercy for ourselves. Offenses pain us and we are reluctant to forgive that offense. What is really silly is that we suffer more from our refusal to be merciful than our offender ever will.

Humility.  We love to claim credit for good and find blame for bad. My favorite example is that when “our” team wins we say, “We won.” When they lose, we exclaim, “They loss.” It would be an enlightening study to consider what “good” we are actually responsible for, as well as what “bad” we have caused. 

Justice, Mercy and Humility were ideals in the old testament. They are achievable states for new testament people. We met these attributes face-to-face in Jesus. He took the just punishment so that we might receive mercy and He did so as a man, obedient to the Father unto painful death. 

We can be just, merciful and humble. We need only to look to Jesus for example and to his grace for empowerment.

Good Fridays

I love Christian music. I sleep with ear buds and an iPhone playing K-Love. I was awake a good bit of the night last night and I noticed something about the lyrics. They are more Friday than Sunday lyrics.

By that I mean the songs are saying things like, “When you don’t move the mountains I need to move, I will trust you.” Titles like “How can it be?” “Trust in you.” “Chain Breaker” “I have this hope.” and “Forgiven.” Those aren’t Sunday songs. They don’t proclaim a victory won, but a fight in progress. Those are Friday songs. Those are lyrics that say that there is still a fight going on. There is still work to do. Sin is still significant, but there is hope. It’s still all about the blood. Unlike earlier in the week; however, there is a clear hope and an expectation of joy real soon.

Isn’t that what Friday is? It’s a day on which the weekend and relief shine close and bright, but there is still work to be done. There are still sacrifices to make. I suspect most successful folks make good use of Fridays. They don’t stop working on Thursday night. 

This is Good Friday. There has been much written about why a day that memorializes torture and death  “good.” It’s “good” because it reflects most days in the Christian era. There is hard work and blood and suffering. There are tests and struggles. There are also very real elements of hope and a peace that it’s going to all work out and that we will see the victory, that though unseen, has already been won.

Have a Good Friday, not just today or even every Friday, but every single day. 

Good Works

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25: 37-40

Nothing has blessed me more in this life than the time I have spent at Angola ministering to the inmates there. I realize that sounds like a selfish motivation, but I think it’s important that Christians realize that feeding the hungry, showing hospitality, clothing the naked or visiting the prisoners is a blessing like nothing else. 

I don’t know why we think that because Jesus commands us to do something, that it will be something hard to do. I freely admit that I dragged my feet when first asked to do prison ministry and I was more than a little nervous the first time I pass through the gates at Angola. Now I look forward to opportunities to return to see the friends I have made inside. 

Don’t miss the opportunity and blessing that comes with being the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s more than an honor. It’s a great joy.

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You must understand the worthlessness of money and riches. You must not chase after honor and fickle praise. These things all pass away with the world, and they bring no joy if the spirit of devotion is missing. Neither will you experience peace if it is sought from anyone or anything but God.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 503-505). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

We don’t know of many who, on their deathbeds, wish they had made more money, won more contests, or built a bigger empire. The only things worthwhile are the things we can take with us, or perhaps more accurately, the things that go on before us. 

I have spent a fair amount of time in nursing homes. What is of value there are visits from family or notes from friends. On the tiny bed tables aren’t pictures of houses or cars or camps. There are photos, often grayed and frayed, of family or cards once barely noticed but now deeply cherished. In that way, nursing homes are like prison cells, there too the memories of family and friends too infrequently seen or heard from, are the most valuable items. 

When we are isolated from what we love, we finally understand the solidary importance of loved ones and the memories of them above all else.

Futile Hope and Pride

We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4: 18

What are you putting your hope in? You know what you’re suppose to say, but where is your hope, really? In your job, or your bank account, your health, your family, your education, your property or investments? All futile.

Don’t depend upon yourself, but put your hope in God.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 478-479). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The great “gottcha” in this life is that the things we can see and put our hands on are the things that rust, deteriorate, and waste away. It’s the things we can’t see that last. We are fooled by this repeatedly.

Drive around sometime. There are once great cities that are in ruins, yes, even in this country. There are abandoned malls. The August 2016 flood reminded us just how temporary and futile is trusting in material things.  

Perhaps the best way to refocus on what is important but unseen is to imagine us on the last day of our lives. Of what will we be proud? What will we regret? What will pass away? What will remain?

Lord, make us wise enough to properly place our eyes and hope.

Unloveable

It’s amazing just how unloveable we are.  We all know folks who are unloveable, but we don’t really have to look further than our mirrors to spot an unloveable person. The fact that there may be some less loveable than ourselves, doesn’t save us from the unloveable label. This is particularly true when we consider the love of God.

That the perfect holy being loves us and, in fact, loves us unconditionally is beyond understanding. We are too foul and unholy to even be in his presence. Only the sacrificial death of his son makes even approaching the most high possible. 

Even with this in mind, we still place unreasonable expectations on God. While there are millions in the world who wake up each day not knowing where their next meal is coming from, we feel justified in expecting God to provide us with long term assurance of safety and comfort. 

We feel betrayed and abandoned if we suffer any pain, loss or inconvenience. In fact, we believe our “status” as his children should guarantee us life long security and peace. The fact that this is totally inconsistent with the history of the church and the lives of the disciples who personally knew Jesus seems to keep escaping us. 

We need a new humbler attitude about our lives and our God’s place in it. We need to be thankful for every breath, every morsel of food, every sip of water, every piece of the peace and freedom we enjoy. We need to respond with more than grateful hearts, but with lives dedicated to service to the one who loves us in multitudinous ways  every day.