Friday, January 30, 2015

Speak, For Your Servant Is Listening

We are living in an era in which we are experiencing a drought, a famine of God’s voice. There is so much noise in our world, in our lives, in our souls. How would God’s still small voice break through such a tumultuous and screaming world that exists inside and outside of us? If we cannot hear God’s voice in all the noise, and motivations, and personal goals how will we know what direction to take? How will we know the secrets about ourselves? How will we discern other’s pain and needs? How will God be able to call us to His next work? Isn't it the Christian’s core struggle: Who will run each day? Will I allow God to lead me or will I depend upon myself? Will I listen to Him or me? I hear so often how busy people’s lives are. Honestly, I have even caught myself saying this not long ago. I was caught up in the forward drive of making money, meeting expectations, reaching goals, and seeing my loved one’s needs met. I began to think, this is just a season. When it’s over I will go back to the calm and peace of before I began this rat race. What I did not accept and acknowledge was that while I chased after all the things life was providing I was being changed from the inside out. My mind started to become foggy but driven. When I was home I started experiencing it difficult to sit quietly, to experience the coming down. I struggled to allow myself to rest. God began whispering, Rest Shannon, Rest. I ignored His voice and to my detriment. When I left my last position I was mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. I found myself in the quietness of my home with my mind spinning inside. My mental thought pace had been trained to move as fast as my life was moving and now the pace of my life was at a standstill. I have to say it was torture for a few days. I wanted to run around the house doing pointless tasks, go up town to run pointless errands all to keep up with the pace of my mind. Thankfully, God began to whisper, sit down. Be quiet and wait Shannon. Sit down and rest. Seriously I had to trust that if I performed the discipline of waiting and resting that the pace of my mind would pass and God would heal it and slow it to match my circumstances. It took a week but it began to slow. The second week light began to come back and the fog began to lift from my mind. I fear that we the Church are outrunning God’s voice. I hear the message of busyness in sermons and in my counseling sessions and in conversations with friends and family. I can see the evidence that busyness is at work in people’s spiritual, personal and relational lives. Busyness is spoken of as if it has a power all its own to choose to control the person, family, or relationship. Really, we are choosing to remain busy, too busy for rest, peace, silence, each other, for God. Church people are hungry for God’s voice but seemingly not hearing it or not hearing as often as they need to. Why not?! If God’s people are struggling to hear or are not hearing God’s voice our world is in real trouble. As was Eli in the story in 1 Samuel 3 of the Bible. Eli was the high priest of the tabernacle but he chose his worldly possessions over honoring God and because of that God spoke to Him one last time with a promise to destroy what Eli had built. What once was a blessing had now become a trap. Eli got caught up in his world and his worldly compulsions and replaced Gods voice and God’s relationship with service and duty. This was a time of famine, a drought so-to-speak of God’s voice. In fact, in 1 Samuel 3 a spiritual drought is recorded. The reason for this is not told in this passage but Mathew Henry comments that maybe it was the “impiety and impurity in the tabernacle” that had corrupted the nation of Israel consequently leading to God’s silence. I see this in the “tabernacle” of the modern day as well. We Christians are not taking seriously our walk with Jesus in ways that would welcome the voice of God to our lives. It seems we are willing to allow modern living to become our norm as well but then also expect all of God’s spiritual gifts to be at work in us despite our lack of piety and lack of submission. Oh, how dare I!? Maybe you believe you are serious about your faith and submissive to God. Great for you, but I am speaking to those who struggle with waking up with the compulsion to depend on their own strength, resilience, and knowledge to live the day out and then getting ate up by the modern day machine of life. I am speaking to those who hunger for God’s voice and wonder when they will hear it for the first time or the next time. I am speaking to those who long for God’s voice as evidence that He is with them and His promise to return for them still stands. Years ago my grandmother told me a story of an experience she had as we sat together sharing. She shared that she was sleeping and someone standing next to her called out her name. She heard it called twice and then on the third hearing of it she sat up in bed thinking someone was standing there but no one was there. She was reverent and confused by this experience. She wanted to know what I thought it was. I was shocked and excited to hear her story as I had experienced this multiple times as I slept not long before our conversation. I knew it was God calling her as it had been God calling me. God was giving us a gift. This was a gift that would imprint itself on the fabric of our identity changing the course of our faith and thus the practice of our faith in our daily lives. When a person experiences “the call” or experiences the comfort of God’s voice on a regular basis it changes you, keeps you focused, and keeps you connected to your purpose and your true strength. Maybe we resist rest and quiet because it is not immediately gratifying. Maybe its because the pace of our minds makes us uncomfortable when we attempt to rest and we sense our failure and come face to face with what we have done to ourselves so we run from it. Maybe we don’t rest and listen for God’s voice because we fear what He will say to us or ask of us. Maybe He will ask us to give up something or let go of someone. Maybe He will tell us to serve someone we dislike or forgive someone we hate. Maybe He will ask us to stay when we want to run from something or someone. Maybe He will show us things He knows about us that we don’t want to know or see. Maybe we are just caught up in running. Here’s the thing…If we desire God’s voice and His gifts we must desire Him first above all else including all the “blessings” of our lives. We have to position ourselves as Samuel did next to the altar under the light of God’s lamp (the Holy Spirit) waiting on His every word no matter what He decides to say. That’s going to mean making changes. Changes to schedules, activities, workloads, and mind-sets. That’s going to mean real commitments to our relationship with God as primary and real commitments to listening inward to our bodies and God’s voice. It’s also going to mean giving up ideas the world has taught us about competition, social image, and behavior. We will have to live for His eyes alone and not worry about the thoughts of those around us as we begin to discern and obey His voice. And obedience is key to growing in the identification of God’s voice. As Mathew Henry teaches, we can expect God to speak when we have shown that we are set on obeying whatever we are told. I remember a time in my life when this idea became apparent to me. The idea of being willing to obey whatever I was told by God was terrifying because what if He asked me to do something embarrassing or outside my comfort zone?! I had to ponder that but realized soon after that I did not care. I wanted God even if I looked stupid! At least if people laughed or mocked me in the future I would know that I was not alone and I had done it for Him. I also realized that I would not learn to identify His voice if I didn’t act on it each time I thought I was hearing His voice. This practice taught me well with some failures and a lot of exciting spiritual experiences. Do you long to hear God call your name? Make a new commitment to spending time quieting your soul each day. Even if you don’t know what to say, present yourself to God in prayer and tell Him, speak Lord for your servant is listening! Wait on Him. No matter how many days it takes, wait on Him each day. Commit to listening to whatever topic is His heart and obeying whatever He speaks to you. “As we listen, our ears become more sensitive, and like Jesus, we will hear God all the time….Get into the habit of saying, “Speak, Lord,” and life will become a romance” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, Jan 30). Kari Jobe: Blood of Jesus (copy & paste)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Be Still My Soul

Recently, I went through a season with the Lord in which I and Him became very close. I drew away from dependency on the world, my husband, my job, and my friends for my comfort and drew near—within Gods comforting arms. I began to have thoughts that I was really getting somewhere spiritually. I had thoughts that said to me that I had attained a place in which I did not no longer need the things of this world to comfort me because I had my love with Jesus and I was fulfilled. Sadly, my mind was deceiving me and my pride was telling me lies. It is so easy to believe that one’s self is close to God when you have all the things that you are rejecting for Him, but when one or more of those things is removed things change! This is when our romance, our loyalty to God alone is shown for what it is. This is when our wanton hearts are exposed! I had told God that all I needed is Him and all I wanted is Him. He is so wise and patient friends! He must have smiled when I prayed those things. He knew my eyes were blind to my humanity, my basest needs. Oh, I love Him friends! He is so patient and so wise that He gently moves us in front of His heavenly mirror to show us what He sees and then wraps His arms around us as we stand exposed in His reflection. He holds us quietly while we go through shock, denial, anger, sadness, and then acceptance. Oh friends, what a perfect friend He is! What an amazing God is the Father of Jesus! This is the God people say does all these great harms? No, they do not know the God that I have experienced and know—and I only know Him a little by His standard. I experienced two wounds to my life, my identity, in two areas close to my pride—my job and my marriage. Oh, I thought that my identity was in Christ alone but I found that when these comforts were truly removed my heart hardened and I began to feel my flesh once again clawing and clambering for the comforts that this world provides. I was shocked! How could this be??? I thought that I didn't need these things anymore to be happy?! Friends, what a deception! We NEVER escape the flesh. Don’t be deceived. We need one another. We need God’s provision in our lives. It’s not that we need idols of these things but God created us for Him first and one another next and finally to build a world that reflects His glory. Our purpose in Him is worked out in our daily lives through the people we love and the work we are given and the places we find rest. God doesn’t want us to get to a place in which we no longer need one another or our daily activities. Our Father in heaven wants to be first, not only, but first. He does not want our love greedily but wants us to come to Him to be filled to overflowing so that we might turn from His face and pour it out upon those standing near. O God I pray that you would make me a loving person!!! Love me Lord, so that I can show love to those standing near me and to those I pass by on my journey. Friends, God knows us far more than we know ourselves. Never forget that. The places in which we are blind within our identities, our humanity, God sees fully. Here is the song that was playing when God began to speak to me and reveal that I am seen by Him in ways that I am blind. Worship! Worship, all you God's people!!!