So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NLT2)
Many of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ are often pretty dull and hard to listen to.
The freshest thought to visit the human mind should be the thought of God. The story of salvation should put a radiancy in the face and a vibrancy in the voice of him that tells it. Yet it is not uncommon to hear the wondrous message given in a manner that makes it difficult for the hearer to concentrate on what is being said. What is wrong?…
We learn to trust God beyond our psychological experiences. And we become more courageous in facing and letting go of the dark corners of ourselves and begin to participate actively in the dismantling of our prerational emotional programs. We cannot escape from the worldliness that is inside us, but we can acknowledge and confront it. The invitation to allow God to change our motivation from selfishness to divine love is the call to transforming union.
As I’ve suggested, pastors do everything by God’s word. They listen with ears tuned to the word of God, they speak words taught by the Holy Spirit in his word, they pray by means of the word, and they bless by means of the word. By constant exposure to these words of Christ, you begin to see things from his perspective. You develop the eyes and ears of Jesus. You watch and listen with his outlook. And that includes the lost. When Jesus beheld the milling crowd by the shore of Galilee, “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). It was a pitiful sight. Sheep without a shepherd are in dire straits. His heart went out to that vulnerable throng.
Tozer’s bluntness is a something I am learning to appreciate. The reading I encountered this morning is the basis for the call to know intimately what we preach – and what we hear. If the message we are going to hear and share is going to be worth all the time invested in prayer, study, and some deep thought about the subject, it needs to be a message worth treasuring.
We must realize that what was true for Apollos and Paul is true for us. We explain the greatest of mysteries, the fact that God loves us, and desires for us to join Him, and share in the glory of Jesus.
That means investing time in deep thought about God -based on what the scriptures teach us. Not just taking it out on Monday or Tuesday to study for this week’s sermon, but reading it for the same reason we desire to share in communion with the people and with God. These are the times where we are so overwhelmed by God that we beg Him to transform us. For his transforming us comes, not from academic study and planning, but from time spent with Him.
That transformation cannot remain individualistic in scope – that is the point that Senkbeil is making. The more God transforms us, the more we reflect Christ, the more we cannot stand seeing people wander around in bondage of sin, This desire to see them come to find the peace we know infuses our sermons, our Bible studies and our prayers. This infusion transforms the preaching and sharing of Christ with those around us.
Passion returns to the pulpit and to those seated in the church, when God’s word reveals God’s desire for us to be His people, and the works He does which draw us to Him.
Lord, infuse Your pastors with Your outlook, even as Your Spirit works in the hearts of those they serve in the church. Help us all, I pray, to treasure all you have called into existence, that we may know that You love the world, and us in it. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 126.
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 223.
Devotional Thought for this day:
Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)
When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”
The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.
There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)
As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.
Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.
I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.
But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.
I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes, speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.
The Psalms testify to this desire as well!
1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)
Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them. The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.
Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it. The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.
Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.
Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 37–38.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
3 The voice of the LORD is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and his voice echoes over the ocean. 4 The voice of the LORD is heard in all its might and majesty. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, even the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull. 7 The voice of the LORD makes the lightning flash. 8 His voice makes the desert shake; he shakes the desert of Kadesh. Psalm 29:3-8 (TEV)
11 “Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the LORD said to him. Then the LORD passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the LORD was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice. 13 When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” 1 Kings 19:11-13 (TEV)
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment. The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
I look at the two Bible passages above, and they seem to contradict.
One reveals the Lord who is majestic, to whom all honor and glory is given. The God we are in awe, and if realistic, we should fear. The God who speaks commands and things become reality, where there was no reality.
The other reveals God who is our friend, the God who comforts the broken, who brings healing to them, who will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The God who we are in awe of, because He comes to us, invading our lives with His compassion and mercy. This is our Friend, our Abba, Father.
It is the same God, not two different gods. Not the first is the Old Testament God, the second the New. This isn’t a description of Father in the first paragraph, and the second describes Jesus. Both descriptions equally describe the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
So which God will I encounter?
This may sound odd, or perhaps awkward, but it doesn’t really matter. You can’t control which, and the response should be the same.
Yes, you read that correctly, the response to God is the same, whether He comes as your King, the Father who disciplines you, or your Deliverer, or your Comforter.
In each case, the initial response of awe should come naturally. But what happens next? How will we hear Him? Will we shudder and cower in fear? Will we embrace Him? Will we pour out our pain, and let Him begin to wash our feet? Will we adore Him, will we immediately enter into worship?
We cannot know, but we should have this happen. We should move from awe to gratitude. We should become grateful we find ourselves in His presence. For whether He comes in majesty, or comes as the suffering servant, He is here. He has come to dwell with us, to make our lives His home. And like the church that weeps and laughs and loves in Romans 12, He does all those things in our lives in resonance with us, being the God we need, even desperately need.
The Lord is with you.. and He loves you..
Rejoice and be glad, you are no longer alone…
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 312.
Devotional Thought of the day:
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with
Psalm 130:5-6 (GW)
When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said. The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.
So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it? Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track?
34† But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. 35† Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Mark 9:34-35 GNT
As i look over social media this morning, I again find myself distraught over what I see. People trying to justify their views, much as Dallas Willard indicates they do in the green quote above.
It is tempting to reply to each, to show them how their claim to the higher moral position is failing, and actually doing harm to their position.
Everyone claims that they speak for God, whether they believe or not. They do so when they appeal to logic, or what is just (in their eyes) or what a right. Their claim to an absolute is a claim to speak for God, their judgment that something is good, or evil, again is a claim to speak absolutely, and therefore is a claim to speak as God.
Please, stop nodding your head, thinking of people you know I am speaking about – for I am speaking about you, and me.
We try to speak for God all the time, speaking at people, speaking about their sin, judging and condemning that which we don’t approve. Surely, there sins we need to confront, brokeness and even things attitudes so warped that good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.
But the purpose of speaking out about them must be reconcilliation to God, not condemnation to hell. Our attitude should be that of a servant, helping his Master’s children grow and develop.
That requires that we listen to God, more than we speak for Him. It takes knowing and sharing His heart, His attitude for them, rather than just drawing a line in the sand.
So how do we know when we are hearing God accurately? When what is being said aligns with what He desires, when our heart is filled with both love and the pain that comes from seeing those we love, captured in bondange, unable to free themselves.
When we are willing to go them, and share in their pain, waiting patiently for that moment when we can reveal to them the grace of God, the mercy He will show them. When we can take them to the cross, embracing the struggle for the joy set before us.. the joy of welcoming our fellow prodicgal home.
So listen, and run to those He would have you stand by.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!
Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it. AMEN!
Overlooking the Treasure given
It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town. Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it. After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.
In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place. The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom
So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp. And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.
A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land. It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.
Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house. Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.
The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured. But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.
What a waste!
Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.
This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.
We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.
Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience
I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,
So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.
If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life. For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.
God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished. As is every act of disobedience.
No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.
Every time we have been jealous or envious,
Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.
Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.
Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority? How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?
Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.
Do we hear that?
I am not sure we do.
Jesus tasted death for everyone
What I think we hear is,
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.
and what is actually written is
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.
there is a big difference between will be and was.
And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.
It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,
and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.
Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.
We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin. Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.
That changes everything.
We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…
Not ashamed is He!
And then this of this…
11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.
You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him. Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy. He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.
This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.
This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.
Did You See What He Did There?
† I.H.S †
May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!
Did you see what Israel did?
Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning? A little of what went before.
In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.
In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all
In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.
After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?
Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight, Just because they are struggling with the thirst, they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….
Did you see what they did there? Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?
Did you see what they did there? Yeah – that isn’t important.
Did you see what Moses did?
What about Moses? Did you see what he did there?
He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God! Why me Lord? Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me? He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!
He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.
God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?
Did you see what he did there?
That isn’t important either, There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story
Did you see what God did there?
God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is
Do we see what God is doing?
First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.
Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints. He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him. Walk out in front, gather them around. Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.
Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..
And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful. He provides what they need, as He planned.
He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him. So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.
To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)
Did you see what He did there?
People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted. People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?
For those people, God again provided what they needed.
Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.
Did you see what He did there?
The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.
It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.
We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different. Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there. He is faithful.
I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life. That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle. I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.
But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question. He is with us! The Lord is with you!
Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.
That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.
That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about. He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.
Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him. And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”
He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.
Every time He Said,
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
† In Jesus Name †
My God’s words of love penetrate your heart and enlighten your life, as you live trusting that His grace is indeed sufficient!
How many times!!
I don’t think it matters which relationship we talk about, but it seems that in every kind of relationship known to mankind, there is a serious issue that arises. (SLOW CLICKS)
Simply put, we don’t know how to listen to each other.
For example, is there a parent who never questioned whether their teenage children listened to them all the time? And wives, what about you, has there ever been a husband that paid perfect attention to everything you said?
I am pretty sure that there have been times where I wasn’t listened to, whether when I was in management or as a pastor, and there are times I am sure I didn’t listen as well as I should have.
Anyone here want to say they listen perfectly, all the time? I mean, there was this cartoon on FB this week… Would it be there if a lot of people didn’t find it… true?
We have some good company then in the apostle Paul, in who letter this morning we heard… well, at least I hope we heard…
“Every time he (that is Jesus) said, “
Meaning that it took Paul three times to hear what Jesus said!
We’ll get to what we said earlier, let’s first deal with the topic of listening, and specifically, listening to God.
The Problem of Narcissism
Things have changed a little since the church came to America. Back in the days of John Hancock, the Adams brothers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the pastor or priest in most villages was the most educated man in the community. Some would say he was also the smartest, and if he had been around for a while, one of the wisest.
Even today sometimes we play the game that was going on in Corinth, where the people wanted to be led by the smartest pastor or apostle, the best speaking one, the one who looked and lived like he was blessed by the gods. We even get in competition some times when we gather. Hey my church just doubled in size, or my budget is 8 million.
Rarely do we hear the stories I like to hear, and even more witness, about the 2 year olds that are so at peace at the altar that they do not want to leave when their parents get up from communion. Or the children who might not be able to explain it, but know something incredible is happening when someone is baptized, or when the Body and Blood of Christ is given to eat, to drink. Or do you notice your bodies relax when I get the pleasure of saying, “in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins…”
But do we hear that, or do we hear what we want to hear?
Do we try to find the most educated, most successful or at least the most popular person we can find to agree with us? Do we hear ourselves saying, “this is what Bill Gates said, or Ronald Reagan or the Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther wrote; pointing to their words to back up what we want to hear?
The church in Corinth did that all the time. Remember these words from Paul?
12 Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (TEV)
You see, sometimes our ability to hear and understand is limited by our own desire to be right, our own desire to be better than the person next to us. That is why Paul had to go on what he called a foolish mission to convince everyone that he was as good as an apostle as the next guy, He thought it foolish and a waste of time, which is why he said,
6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,
But sometimes, we need to be humble enough to hear it. We can’t be so full of ourselves that we don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to teach us.
Which means, sometimes like Paul we need to hear, over and over the message of God’s love, we need to be able to say with Paul,
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
The Penetration of the gospel
His power works best when we can’t oppose it, when we are so desperate for His action in our lives, that we hear it.
In Greek, the word for hearing, and the word for obeying (to take action on what is heard) are related. One is simply the other with the prefix “hyper” Akouo and Hyper-akouo. Think about it, when you ask someone if they heard you, what you are really asking is, are you acknowledging what I said and doing what I asked. Right?
Yeah, some things never change. To hear is to understand something so well you respond to it. I came across this quote about faith that bears this out this week,
We do not simply choose grace for ourselves, for grace is by nature an answer and is therefore attributable in the first place to what comes to me from another person, penetrates deeply into me, and makes me open to say thou and so to become truly I. It is, in truth, a gift given me by another person, and yet I am more deeply and more completely involved in it than in any work I might have chosen for myself. Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him.[i]
I love that picture of grace, as it is described penetrating into us and opens in us the ability to recognize that the Lord is with us. To be able to address God, not in the third person, but in the second. For those who don’t remember English – to address Jesus as you – and not “him”!
Because God’s love penetrates deeply into our souls, getting us to recognize His presence, it involves us at a level deeper than just our intellect, and more completely than just our emotions.
It hits us in our souls, where we need to know we aren’t alone. Where we need to realize His love at its deepest need, and enables us, as the quote mentions, to entrust ourselves to Him.
For we’ve heard the message, this message Paul had to hear 3 times.
His grace is sufficient, it is all we need.
Lord, help us to hear you in this, help us to realize the depth of your love, and may that message sink deeply into our souls. Help us to trust you more, and cling to you in all things, and in all times and places. Help us to rejoice in that which keeps us humble, for then we are able to see you at work. God we thank You for your grace, which works in every person in Christ Jesus. It is in His name we pray!
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NLT)
540 In the interior life, as in human love, we have to persevere. Yes, you have to meditate often on the same themes, keeping on until you rediscover an old discovery. “And how could I not have seen this so clearly before?” you’ll ask in surprise. Simply because sometimes we’re like stones, that let the water flow over them, without absorbing a drop. That’s why we have to go over the same things again and again—because they aren’t the same things—if we want to soak up God’s blessings.
I probably have written this blog,before, or something like it.
I probably need to hear the lesson again, to make sure it sticks, just as St Josemaria mentions, I need to hear it over and over again, and to be honest, I get frustrated by my inability to hear God…Like yesterday’s blog, about loving people, not just tolerating jackasses.
I know it, I preach it, I teach it, yet I need to hear it again, to realize how in that very thing, it is all about God, about His being my benevolent Master, who wants the best for me. it isn’t just to behave right, or a matter of perfect obedience.
It’s about growing in my trust of God. It’s about hearing Him, really hearing Him. Hearing of His love, His mercy, His desire to create a relationship with us. A relationship with us that is so precious that He will go the ends of creation to make it happen.
He will heal our broken hearts, forgive our sin, comfort us, correct us, call us back to Him, reassure us that we don’t walk alone. He will be patient with us, for He desires our trust, that level of relationship where we count on Him.
In the Romans reading above, the lesson I need to grasp again, is what it means.
Hyper-akuo in Greek. To Hyper-hear God, to be so attuned to His voice, to so hear it, that it forms and shapes us, that we trust Him to the extent that we simply move, guided by His words, the words that reveal His love. That is what obedience/ hyper-hearing Him is all about.
Today He is asking – can you hear Me?
May we respond like children, and run into His arms….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2034-2039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17 I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18 Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:16-19 (TEV)
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8 Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)
224 Interior dryness is not lukewarmness. When a person is lukewarm the waters of grace slide over him without being soaked in. In contrast, there are dry lands which seem arid but which, with a few drops of rain at the right time, yield abundant flowers and delicious fruit. That is why I ask: When are we going to be convinced? How important it is to be docile to the divine calls which come at each moment of the day, because it is precisely there that God is awaiting us! (1)
There are days where events and situations occur in such a way, I have to wonder if God is on vacation.
It might be that the burdens i deal with just tire me our, that as prayer requests seem to add up, as more and more people I know have to deal with severe trauma and grief.
It could be the burdens that come as I try to balance being a pastor and a father, as days go longer than I thought, or I don’t get the break I need somewhere in the middle. Or that somehow my own physical and personal issues challenge me as well.
It could be that working with some people is such a challenge, even as Jeremiah notes, as they continue to rebel against God, thinking their own way is better. Today they don’t kill those who would warn them, they just laugh it off, or simply ignore it and do what they want to do, not thinking about the consequences, and that God does have a reason for the guidance He gives us. You can tell them, and sometimes they will listen, and sometimes they will come back, with tears in their eyes…. we pray that God would reveal Himself to them in a way they can’t deny… to quote the gospels, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets (and the gospels and epistles), they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (NLT)
Whether the people we deal with are victims or the guilty, or even both simultaneously, why does it take so long for them to be restored? Why do we have to see them struggle? Why can’t everything be fixed, why can’t prayer work like a magic wand….? Why doesn’t God just fix their problems – both the problems of the good and the bad? After all, isn’t that what ministry is about?
Why do Jeremiah’s whines resonate deeply within the souls of so many pastors, priests, lay leaders in every form of ministry, including those who are parents?
is there a cure for how we feel when we wonder why God hasn’t provided the answer to our prayers?
One of the steps is to deal with the issue of self-righteousness.
That’s God’s answer in the first quote from Jeremiah. He doesn’t tell Jeremiah to force the people to return. God tells Jeremiah to return!
Jeremiah, you come back, you get back to doing what I’ve called you to do. You serve, you stop whining, stop making it sound like you are the martyr, the suffering servant. Proclaim Christ (though it was in the nature of prophecy for Jeremiah – we can point more clearly to the cross) Time to end the self-pitying, the grass is greener ( or in my case, the leaves ae more colorful) over there.
When we stop making ourselves out to be the crucified one, the martyr of God’s cause,
I love Josemaria’s answer, for it changes the game. When there is no answer to prayers, we usually either blame God (as Jeremiah does) or we think there is something wrong with our prayer – either our heart, or our form, that God’s not listening because something we have done is prohibiting the God of the universe from either hearing our prayer, or taking action upon it.
There is a difference between being in rebellion from God, and being in a dry spell, of not praying because we don’t trust or know God is there, and wondering why the prayers aren’t answered yet. Sometimes, that dryness is needed, because we have to learn that God is there….even when we can’t see Him. We have to learn to be stiil, to wait on the Lord, to know that He is God.
It from such dryness that a revival can spring, that incredible growth may com. Some places are like gardens, slow and steady, others are like the desert – where a light rain on Tuesday is followed by plants literally bursting forth. It is that message, the very gospel that causes such, that snapped Jeremiah out of his silence, it is that gospel message that causes the life that seems to be buried to explode out of our parched souls. It is that word of God that brings to us the perspective of God’s love, of His desire, of His work that quickens people, that quickens us.
The gospel message of God’s love, that draws us to Him, that reveals how deep and high, how broad, how wide, that love is… for us.
A love that answers those prayers, in ways we can’t quite understand, yet ways fulfilling His promise to never leave or forsake us. The promises that nothing can separate us from Him, even the valley of the shadow of death. The gospel that says even though we think His words we proclaim may return void, they won’t. He has promised.
And knowing Him, remembering His promises, we return from our whining to get back to our calling, to proclaiming that love we need to know ourselves to others.
And then, they come… they find that love, they find the healing for the brokenness they chose…. and our prayers… well they are answered.
For He is our God, our refuge, and we are His people, the children He cares for by providing them peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 964-968). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
17 But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (NJB)
24 Some of them were convinced by his words, but others would not believe. 25 So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Paul had said this one thing: “How well the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors! 26 For he said, ‘Go and say to this people: You will listen and listen, but not understand; you will look and look, but not see, 27 because this people’s minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’ “ 28 And Paul concluded: “You are to know, then, that God’s message of salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. They will listen!” Acts 28:24-28 (TEV)
123 Meus es tu—you are mine, the Lord has declared to you. To think that God, who is all beauty and all wisdom, all splendour and all goodness, should say to you that you are his…! and then, after all this, you can’t bring yourself to respond to him!
His name is Paul, but most people in the USA who would quickly recognize his voice, have no idea of who he is, or what he does outside of five words.
But say those five words, and they will picture him, his glasses, his short hair cut, the blue jumpsuit and the arm which is glued to a cell phone, which is glued to his ear.
He is always asking, “Can you hear me now?” Over and over and over again.
But he isn’t the only one.
The quote from Acts above is replicated in the gospels, it is retold in Paul’s writings, and some would say it originates in the Isaiah. But the first people to hear it, dwelt in a garden, and daily, physically, walked with God. Can you hear me know Adam? Eve, are you listening?
They weren’t. The people of God in the time of Moses didn’t hear Him that well, in fact, they asked not to hear Him, for to hear God is a scary, intimidating thing. We are afraid of what we will hear. We are afraid of what he says, and like children or teenagers, we become good at hearing what God tells us, is beloved children. We busy ourselves with things, some of which we believe will earn His favor, but which simply exist to keep us from listening from being still and knowing that He is God.
We hear Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” and want to make it the anthem of a church at war with evil in the world, rather than the cry of one who is broken, abused, neglected and oppressed, who finds rest and sanctuary in Christ. ( Remember, Luther writes that based on Psalm 46, not Revelation)
Will we listen when Jesus calls us to His side, to unite with Him in death, to come to Him because we are weary and burdened, so we can find rest and healing? Will we listen to the Holy Spirit, not described as a Warrior General, as a spiritual Chuck Norris/Bruce Lee/Yoda, but as the Comforter and Consoler. Will we listen to a God who attributes are love and mercy? (cHesed, Ellios, agape)
Will we listen and hear, and let the word of Christ dwell in us,
Or will we claim there was a bad connection, that the email was lost, that we didn’t get the Lord’s message, or understand His desire?
Will we here Him say,
1 “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (TEV)
Hear Him, dear people of God… and live!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 635-638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.