Category Archives: Communication

What Does God Think?

Do you order stuff online?  If you do, you trust the process – you place your order and truly expect to see it on your doorstep in a few days.  If not, you probably have suspicions.  Maybe you started to place an order, got everything filled out online and then thought, “I don’t know about this…” and failed to push the “submit” button.  You didn’t trust it completely.  Consequently, nothing is left at your door.

The same principle is true when it comes to asking God what He thinks.  Maybe you are considering a new job.  Or, “Is this the guy for me?”  Should you volunteer for some cause?  Is that what God wants?  When you pray about it, essentially what you are asking is,”God, please tell me what You think.”  If you pray that question but don’t really expect God to answer, you won’t receive it if He does.  It’s kind of like not pushing the “submit” button.  Your request is tentative.  You are not sure the process will work.  But, if you are fully convinced God wants you to know what He thinks, and is eager to share it with you, then your request is wholeheartedly sent off with the full expectation of an answer.  God says, a prayer like that will get answered.  James, talking about getting wisdom in times of trial, shares the principle:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.  (James 1:5-8)

Look carefully at what that says. The problem is not that God won’t tell you what He thinks.  It’s that you can’t be sure you have really heard from Him.  Your mind goes back and forth on it, wondering if what you heard was really from Him.  But when you are convinced God will show you, He does and you trust it.

Because God’s wisdom is frequently contrary to the ideas of the world, it takes real faith to hear what God thinks.  Hearing what God thinks requires setting aside the ways of the world, listening and trusting.  Do that, and when God speaks you will know.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2)

 

 

Time with Dad

My dad’s time was stretched pretty thin, what with six kids, bills to pay and a constant and growing list of repair projects (everything from a stuck disposal to a tangled slinky).  As a result, personal time with Dad was a rare and precious thing.  I treasured those few times when we had a chance to hang out and talk things over in a casual way.  Priceless.

To say Jesus had a tough day would be understating it, somewhat.  His cousin had been beheaded and, when He tried to get away to grieve, mobs of people swarmed around Him, seeking His help.  Then they ran out of food and He was called upon for some on-the-spot catering.  Finally, when all the dust had settled, the people fed and tucked in for the night, the disciples off, crossing the lake,

Matthew 14:23b
“… he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…”

Jesus went up by Himself to talk things over with His Dad.  Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know how that conversation went?  I’m quite sure the net effect was restful and restorative.  No distractions, no specific agenda, just Jesus and His Dad, talking things over.

Sound good?  Better.  And get this: You have been invited to do it too.  Your Heavenly Father has time for you, whenever it would feel good.  That’s one of the amazing benefits of a trust relationship with Jesus.  He opens the door to the One He called, “My Father and your Father.”  Need a break? Leave behind everything that might distract (people, cell phones!) and just go hang out with “Dad.” 

A Missing Piece

You may have noticed I left something out.  Paul said, “Rejoice always,” but that’s not all he said.  It’s risky to pick a couple of words out of the Bible without checking to see what they mean in context.  But, hey, you are busy; you don’t have time for long blog posts.  That’s my excuse – it’s your fault. 

But what else did he say?  Part of it is this next phrase:
“Pray continually…”  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Continually?  Really?  It’s bad enough Paul wants me to be rejoicing all the time but now he wants me to go through life with my eyes closed and my hands folded?  Obviously, not. More like, “Keep the lines of communication with God open all the time.”  You are driving down the highway and see someone parked with his emergency blinkers going.  Should you stop?  Ask the One Who knows.  Like that.  He said He would take up residence with you (John 14:23), so don’t miss out.  Ask. 

As Jesus taught,  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8)

Prayer doesn’t have to be formally announced (“Lettuce spray”).  You can simply check in with a quick question or request.  When you get in the habit, this kind of prayer is a real source of clarity and strength.  It’s part of how and why Paul said to “rejoice always.” 

But not all.  I left something out again.  Maybe next time…

Don’t Quit

When I read a novel, I tend to skip those little quotes and  poem thingies at the beginning of the chapters.  Most of the time I don’t understand them; they leave me confused and feeling ignorant.  I want to say, “Enough with these inscrutable quotes! Let’s get on with the story, already.”  There are sections of the Bible that make me restless, too. In the final paragraphs of Colossians (Colossians 4:7 ff), Paul gives final greetings and instructions to specific people that don’t seem to mean much to me, 2000 years later. 

But this morning, as I read those verses, I was struck by how passionate and unstoppable Paul was.  His last few sentences are filled with words like “struggle,” “encourage,” “fellow workers,” sending,” etc.  The last verse reads:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.  –  (Colossians 4:18)

Very likely, Paul dictated most of his letters because he had a physical handicap with his eyes.  Also, he was chained up as a prisoner. He had two good excuses to give it a rest.  But he was absolutely consumed with the urgency of telling people about Jesus.  As he wrote earlier in the letter,

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (Colossians 1:29)

What’s the deal?  Why was Paul so passionate?  My guess is it had a lot to do with his being personally visited by Jesus as he traveled to Damascus (see Acts 9:1 ff).  Jesus showed up, blew his mind and changed his whole outlook.  So Paul had first–hand proof Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing.

Well, so what?  What’s that have to do with us? There is a good chance that Jesus has personally visited you with proof of Who He is and has changed your whole outlook, too.  Maybe He didn’t blind you with intense light, but if you reflect on what He did do, the circumstances that led to your personal conversion, you will probably see they were arranged for you. Your Savior knew where you were and what you needed.  He still does.  He also knows what He has equipped you to do. Let the truth of that motivate you. Tell others how wonderful it is to know and follow Jesus.

But, maybe you have not experienced such a personal “visit” from Jesus.  If so, and if you are open to it, let down your defenses and pay close attention.  Jesus will show up in a way that will rock your world.  You can count on it because He knows you, loves you, and knows what you need.

Anger Danger

When people talk about our Presidential campaign process it is usually with a mixture of dismay and disgust. How did we get here?  The word most frequently used to explain the chaotic turn of events is “anger.”  Voters have become so angry with what has and has not been happening in our government that they latch on to candidates who seem to share their sense of anger.  It is happening on both the left and right sides of the aisle.

But watch out!  Anger is understandable, but rarely a reliable starting place for developing effective solutions.  They say, if you want to win a fist fight, make your opponent angry.  In his anger he will make mistakes.  If we vote for those who simply sound angry, we will likely have to live with their mistakes.

Anger is frequently caused by feeling misunderstood.  Trouble is, anger also leads us to stop listening to one another, to less understanding and then to more anger.  That is why so often in our, so-called, debates, more than one candidate shouts at the same time, neither one listening to the other.  Without listening and genuinely seeking to find common areas of understanding, it is impossible to work together toward solutions.

Consider this:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  –  (James 1:19–20 (NIV84))

Instead of voting for someone who merely sounds angry, what about voting for someone who thoughtfully listens and then seeks a real solution to what has made you angry?

Daddy (Dad, Part II)

God is our Father. Jesus said so.  He taught us to address Him in prayer as “Our Father.”  He modeled that relationship, almost always calling God His Father.  Except once.  One time, as it is recorded in the Gospels, Jesus called God by a different Name.  He called Him “Daddy” (literally, the Aramaic, “Abba”).  The one time He switched from “Father” to “Daddy” was in His time of deepest struggle and need, in Gethsemane, on the night before His arrest and crucifixion.  

 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  –  (Mark 14:36)
There is a lesson here.  In our own times of deep distress, even in those times when you feel God would not be inclined to draw near and listen, remember Who He is.  Not only your Father but also your Daddy. Let your lowest moments of struggle become your deepest moments of childlike intimacy.  Imitate Jesus in how He honestly cried out to “Daddy,” saying, in effect, “I really don’t want to do this; isn’t there some other way?”  And also, “I know you are my Daddy and would not assign anything to me that was not the best.”

Who’s your Daddy?

Hearing is not Believing

It puzzles me when people play adventure video games by looking up the answers and cheats online, instead of figuring them out.  If someone tells them the answer, they can’t enjoy the experience of discovering it.

Bear that concept in mind and consider this: At His trial, Jesus’ accusers said,

If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, (Luke 22:67)

When Jesus said “If I tell you you will not believe,” perhaps He was not accusing them but helping them. Coming to faith in Jesus is not simply hearing about Him from someone telling us. Believing is something we do. Believing is more than merely knowing the right answers. It cannot be done to us or for us; it is a personal adjustment. And without that personal change, the life-giving relationship with Jesus is impossible. Perhaps ,Jesus could have told them the answer but did not, in order to give them the opportunity to come to a personal belief in that answer.

He said to Peter, “You are blessed because you didn’t hear this from someone else but received it from the Holy Spirit.” The process of leading people to faith must leave room for them to discover the truth in a personal way and believe without being spoon-fed all the answers.

When Prayer Seems Boring

I used to think praying was about the most boring thing you could do.  Stop everything, close your eyes, and wait while someone says obvious things in ornate, religious language.  When it’s over, then you can go do what you would really like to be doing.  Truth is, sometimes I still feel that way. 

But, what if…   what if…   Think of someone – anyone of your own choosing – with whom you’d give your eye teeth for a chance to sit down and have an informal conversation.  What if you told someone of that desire, and he said, “Oh, I know that guy; I’m going up to his house this afternoon for a get together.  Wanna come?” 

One day, Jesus said something like that to three of His disciples:

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  (Luke 9:28)

If someone asked you, “Hey, I’m going to go pray; wanna come?”  you might not be enthusiastic.  But what if Jesus said, “Hey, I’m going up to have a chat with My Father; wanna come?”  That could be pretty exciting.  And in fact, when those three went up the mountain with Jesus, they absolutely had their minds blown by what happened.  (Keep reading Luke 9:29 and following for the details)

One of the things Jesus purchased for us on the cross was the opportunity to go on up to His Father’s house for an informal chat.  At any time, even when we feel we would be least welcome.  Jesus invites us personally to go with Him and:

“… with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ” (Hebrews 4:16b)

Prayer, seen in that light, is anything but boring.

Hearing and Doing

Look for repeated words as you read the Bible.  Sometimes you will be rewarded with new insight  I learned that again as I read Jesus’ parable that begins in Luke 8:4 about the farmer who sowed seed. 

As Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, He uses the word, hear, repeatedly.  Those alongside the road who hear the Word of God have it snatched away by the devil and fail to believe.  Those who hear the Word and receive it in a superficial, emotional way soon fall away. Those who hear but are then consumed by riches and worries do not produce any fruit from it.  But those who hear with a good heart and hold it fast keep on bearing good fruit.

But wait; there’s more!  In what seems like an abrupt change of subject, Jesus talks about the futility of covering a lamp so it cannot be seen.  And then he says this:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”   (Luke 8:18)

Hmmm….   And then Jesus’ mother and brothers show up but can’t get to Him.  When Jesus hears about it, He says this:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  (Luke 8:21)

If you read through that whole section from verse 4 you will see several more times in which the word “hear” or “listen” (same original word) is used.  Apparently, it is all connected by what it means to truly “hear.” Hearing the Word of God makes no difference except for those who understand it, put it into practice, and spread it around.

The Trouble with Democrats… and Republicans

Next time you are arguing about politics (or anything else…) pay attention to what is going on in your mind when the other guy is speaking.  Most people spend that time putting together their next argument and mentally rehearsing it, while only halfheartedly listening to what is being said to them.  They may hear a word here and there, enough to get the gist of what they assume the other person is saying.  And when they get a chance to reply, the same thing happens in reverse.  Which is why arguments are rarely constructive.  Nobody is listening.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote this good advice:

 

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,…” –  (James 1:19 (NIV84))

Real listening is more than registering noises in one’s ears.  Listening means attempting to truly understand the emotions and meanings being conveyed.  Real listening has not happened until you can restate what you heard, in your own words, to the other person’s satisfaction.  That last part is the key.  The idea is for them to look startled and relieved, with the realization that you really understood it, your really got it.  If you work for that to happen, before you state your positionthen you will have a better chance of being understood, too.  But as long as two people simply lob angry slogans at one another, without listening, not much is accomplished.

It seems to me that much of the hostility and divisiveness we experience in our culture could be reduced or even eliminated by the simple act of listening.  Real listening.  Give it a try and see if James wasn’t right.  Be quick to listen and slow to speak.  And slow to get angry, too…

“…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  –  (James 1:20 (NIV84)