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Are We Really Listening to God?

We are on a mission from God! Really!

Devotional Thought of the day:

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with hope I wait for his word. 6  My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
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.


Do I Have Any Value? How Do I know?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) 

20  Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21  may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.  (1)

There are days in our lives when we wonder if what we do has any meaning.  What we are questioning is our worth as individuals.  Do we mean anything to anyone?

I’ve been there, and I’ve been there when others are asking those questions.  Some of these people are older, people near 100 years old who live in retirement homes; some are a little younger, those trying to make the adjustment to retirement, as they have spent 40-60 years of defining themselves according to what they do.  Some asking the question are younger, the 11-15-year-old, or 20-25-year-old who is not sure what to make our of their lives.

Pastor’s aren’t immune either. Especially those of us who know that the church doesn’t depend on us for our brilliance, our steadfastness, even our gifts, and abilities.

The church existed before us; it will be long after we have gone.

I have to admit, I am tempted to measure my value as a pastor.  (For me that is measuring my value as a person as well)   It isn’t about numbers in church; it is more the comments and questions I get from the sermon, or in Bible class.  It is the way people call on me to remind them that God is with them.

My question – do people know, trust in and depend on Jesus more, because I am here.  This goes for this blog as well, though I admit that I look at the numbers of hits and comments here!  But the question remains, “will people call out to God for help, will they turn to Him and realize they dwell in Him.”

The question helps me keep focused in ministry.  And the few times I do get a response, it lifts me considerably.  I hate to admit it, but I need that encouragement.  As do elders, and all church staff, whether volunteer or professional, ordained, commissioned or lay person.  I don’t have to measure how effective, as much as doing what we are called and put in place to do.

So how do we know we have value?  How do we know if we truly have any meaning?

We can’t evaluate it. As with St. Josemaria’s donkey, I can’t say know what benefit I have given to this world, to my community, or even to my family.  It’s beyond my ability to measure.

That’s okay. It’s not my job to judge. Which is a good thing, because the person responsible for the quality, the worth of what I do, isn’t me.  My worth comes from the fact that He works on us, in us, through us.  That is why St. Josemaria can discuss the confidence about our effectiveness as we trust and have faith in the God who created us to be masterpieces.

That is ultimately our key, to stop trying to worry about our worth, knowing that is in the hands of the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What if We Treated Those Who Gossip Like We Treat… (insert favorite sin to condemn)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 28  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, tooRomans 1:28-32 (NLT)

 10  Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all. James 2:10 (TEV)

800 This is the prayer of a soul who wanted to belong wholly to God, and, for his sake, to all mankind: “Lord, I beg you to work on this sinner, to rectify and purify my intentions, to pass them through the crucible.”  (1)

In the church at large, there is a very unhealthy tension that I am noticing grows more and more each day.  On one side of it, there is a tendency to overlook sin, to justify it, to claim that it cannot be overcome, that it is even natural.  On the other side is the reaction to sin (espcially the sin of others) that wants to immediately condemn and execute the sinner, and purify our church and our communities of those who do “those” things.  The first are like those in the days of Noah, or the churches in The Revelation who need to be called to face their sin, not to hear words of condemnation, but to know mercy, and the transformation and healing that God would bring to them.  The second, well, like the men gathered around the adultress, with stones in their hands, our condemnaiton of others seems little more than hollow words.

In the former case, a treatment which would bring about healing is found in simply asking the question, where do we find the authority to overturn scripture here?  Some will fight it, but again our efforts need to be, not to condemn, but to provide the way yo be free from condemnaiton, to know grace, to say – yeah that’s sin, I own it is as mine, and Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.  Then having confessed it, to walk away rejoicing in its absolution.  No more hiding, no more justifying, no more denying what we know to be true, and try to deceive ourselves.  Quickly, let us confess our sins, confident that He will forgive them and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

I often frin the other case, more frequent.  We would condemn others, for a sin, and for their lack of mercy towards our sin.  A rule I often use in the latter case, when one sin is being singled out, is to ask whether gossips deserve the same treatment, the same attitude as those who repeat other sins.  Most of us know gossips – some quite intimately, even perhaps caught a glimpse of them this morning, as we looked in a mirror to comb our hair.  Do we want to treat the gossip like the murderer, the abortionist, the adulterer, those who have sex outside of marriage between husband and wife, those who hate based on race and ethnicity, those who lie, those who disrespect authorities, those who schedme to take what is others, those who commit very public sins, those who commit them very privately, etc etc,

Do we?

Do we want the gossip to hear the same words as “those” people?  Do we want to treat them the exact same way, with the same words?

YES!

The more I see people, entrapped by sin, enslaved to it, no matter the sin, the more I want us to hear the same words…

Your sins ARE forgiven, Go in peace, and sin no more….

That’s the Father’s desire.  That is why Jesus came and lived and died, and was raised from the dead.  It is the mission that God has given us, the church, for it is saving them, delivering them from sin and the fear of death, into the presence of God, our Creator, the One-in-Three who calls us, the beloved….

Lord have mercy on us, the sinners.  AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2854-2856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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