Keep listening, my friend, and you will hear

This post was originally published on September 14, 2013.

Valentine

I love this verse:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.”

—Psalm 32:8

It’s on my list right now of verses to review every morning. As I reviewed it just now, I realized how much it touches my emotional center. And I think it has for a while.

It’s like an intimate word from a parent, or even a lover.

Something only someone who knows me at my deepest, truest, most vulnerable level can know to say.

And say it in a way that escorts its message past all the filters and straight to my heart.

Here’s the truth that came to me as I thought over the verse this morning:

God has a different word for each of us that touches us in the way this verse touches me.

This particular verse may be encouraging to you. Or enlightening. Or comforting. Or whatever.

But your emotional response to it may not be what I’m experiencing right now.

However, there may be a verse—a word from your Father in heaven—that already DOES strike that chord in you. That DOES touch that deepest, most significant, truest part of you.

But there may not be yet, because that word may not have been spoken to you yet.

Or you may not have heard it yet. (Being spoken to and hearing are two distinctly different things.)

But I assure you there is a word, a message from God, that he is speaking to you and to no one else. Even if it’s the same verse, it’s not the same word.

Keep listening, my friend, and you will hear.

And you will be touched by the God of the Universe, who loves you with all his heart.

Photo Credit: Valentine by Lee Gonzalez Photography on Flickr

Spiritual mindfulness

ox cart cropped

Go/No go

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he went into the stronghold. The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim. So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”

The Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”

So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”).

2 Samuel 5:17-20

Even after all his success David doesn’t presume to know, on his own, what the next step is. For David—up till now—the next step is always to ask the Lord.

Never presume.

The God of the how-tos

When you keep your spiritual mindedness and don’t presume, all of the mental resources of the Creator of the universe open up to you.

But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. And again David asked the Lord what to do. “Do not attack them straight on,” the Lord replied. “Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees. When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be the signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army.” So David did what the Lord commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

2 Samuel 5:22-25

Knowing what we should do.

Knowing how we should approach doing it.

Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Spiritual what-was-he-thinking?

Then David again gathered all the elite troops in Israel, 30,000 in all. He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark. David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.

David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

David was now afraid of the Lord, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?”

2 Samuel 6:1-9New Living Translation (NLT)

What boggles my mind here is how careful David was to avail himself of God’s counsel in the area of his strength (war), yet be neglectful in what he knew to be the most critical physical component of his kingdom (the Ark).

What was he thinking?

  1. He doesn’t ask the Lord directly—as we see him do repeatedly throughout his life.
  2. He doesn’t consult the scriptures concerning the Ark—or he would have known better.

How it was supposed to work

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:

gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.

“Have the people make an Ark of acacia wood—a sacred chest 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Overlay it inside and outside with pure gold, and run a molding of gold all around it. Cast four gold rings and attach them to its four feet, two rings on each side. Make poles from acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings at the sides of the Ark to carry it. These carrying poles must stay inside the rings; never remove them. When the Ark is finished, place inside it the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you.

Exodus 25:1-16

Notice the poles

They were there for carrying—not conveying on a wagon, no matter how sincere those who guided it.

At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.

Deuteronomy 10:8

Notice the people assigned to carry the poles

They were the Levites.

This was their job.

Why didn’t David know any of that?

He thought he knew what was needed.

He wasn’t mindful.

And he was sadly and tragically wrong.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

Proverbs 3:5-7

  • Stay mindful
  • Stay focused
  • Don’t presume

 

Picture credit: David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott on Flicker 

Peter Lord: ‘How to Hear God’s Voice’

A talk that changed my life

peter_bioWhen I first heard Peter Lord speak, he was the pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Florida. But that’s not how I knew him. I knew him through his wildly popular The 2959 Plan, “A Guide to Communion With GOD.” And I knew him through some of my college friends who’d interned at his church and who’d been greatly influenced by his life and ministry.

I didn’t get to hear Peter speak in person this first time. But, as soon as I could, I got a tape. The talk was called “How to Hear God’s Voice.”

It changed my life. It probably changed many others (it may have changed yours). I wanted what Peter had and Peter’s teaching was so open and honest—and simple—I went away knowing I could hear God if I just let him teach me how to listen.

It was a well-placed confidence.

Later, Peter expanded the teaching into a full-length book, Hearing God. It’s a great book and I thoroughly recommend it. But…

I want to share this audio version with you because—more than any book can—it conveys Peter’s personality, passion, and character.

And what a character!

Peter isn’t of the slick school of preachers. He’s rough-edged, extremely honest, full of life and passion. Totally transparent.

And he’s spent his life learning to hear God fully.

Thank you, Peter, for giving this talk over 30 years ago, and for giving me your blessing to share it with my friends!

How to Hear God’s Voice, Part 1

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How to Hear God’s Voice, Part 2

 

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God Keeps his Promises

I only worked two years at Walmart—and left two years ago—but the flashbacks keep on coming.

walmart paint counter

So I’m in Walmart getting a caulking gun.

Because ‪#‎homeownership‬.

Then it happened:

“Attention Walmart associates. All register-trained associates please report to the front.”

I’m glancing for a hiding place behind the paint shelving when I remember I don’t work at Walmart anymore.

Because #‎retailmemories‬.

In 2011…

I was a Walmart department manager, easily the hardest—and one of the most oppressive—jobs I ever had. There were times I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive.

But during my worst time there, when I thought I was going under, God gave me this word:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

—Isaiah 43:1-2

Today’s a different day.

Just now he reminded me of the old one with these words:

For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

—Psalm 66:10-12

God keeps his promises.

In a week…

StrengthsI’ll be moving up to a different floor and (gradually) saying goodbye to the team I’ve been on for two years now. I’m leaving the most encouraging team I’ve ever been on—and one of the best bosses.

But the new team. Wow. It’s gonna be a rocket ride. New skills. New licenses. New solutions to provide. New faces to mismatch to new names.

Then more opportunities to mentor and help new employees get off to a great start.

Number three on my StrengthsFinder profile is Learner. And part of my LinkedIn tag line is “Professional Beginner.”

This is gonna be a blast.

Photo: Desk by Pyrrhos Papadopoulos on Flickr

Sometimes it’s the distraction that leads us to God

Donkey

“As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” —1 Samuel 9:20

It’s frustrating when we’re drawn off task by an unexpected problem to solve.

Sometimes, though, the thing that distracts us is the thing that brings us directly to God and the plans he has for us.

That’s what happened to Saul on his way to becoming king.

We never know, do we?

Photo credit: Clear Inner Vision on Flickr

‘Call to me and I will answer you…’

Bible Reader

Bible Reader in Transit, a photo by waltarrrrr on Flickr.

The origin of the feeling probably came from hearing from so many of my old friends during my birthday yesterday.

This morning, as I reviewed Jeremiah 33:3 (“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”), the Wayback Machine hurtled me to the mid-70s, college, and the first days when light began to penetrate the darkness that dominated my brain.

What I remember most, emotionally, about those days was how lonely and frightened I was. Frightened and anxious about everything. The young people I started following around believed this verse with all their hearts. They actually prayed, expecting God to answer their requests. They claimed promises. They obeyed commands. They built community around love, acceptance, forgiveness, accountability, and mutual caring.

Bolstered by their example, I too began to believe.

And it was in those days I began to hear God for myself.

And, for the first time, I began to feel hope.

Old Time Radio by Scorch 07

What if You Could Get Smarter? You Can. Here’s How.

Old Time Radio by Scorch 07

Old Time Radio, a photo by Scorch 07 on Flickr.

Hint: At its root, getting smarter isn’t about raw intelligence, or even thinking more clearly than you do now.

It’s about repairing and tuning the receiver in your brain to hear what the Creator of that brain is saying to you. After that, everything else you need to do is pretty much all lined up.

“Do not conform any longer 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

I’ve been focusing for some time now (about 3 years) on this verse.

It’s easy for me to look back over my life and think, Dude, you have really needed to get your mind renewed.

I think I was smart enough in the way people generally measure smartness.

But I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I wasn’t making the connections. I wasn’t able to follow through.

I couldn’t stay focused.

I couldn’t let go and let my imagination work for me. Instead, my imagination, often as not, was a distraction that undermined whatever I was trying to accomplish at the time.

This went on for years.

Even when I was successful, I could tell I wasn’t as successful as I could have been, if…

So I definitely needed some serious retuning and repairing.

My mind needed renewing.

But does everyone need to get their mind renewed?

Do you need to get your mind renewed?

Not to make you feel bad or anything, but evidently so, at least through the eyes of this verse.

Here’s another one:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” —1 John 1:8

First of all, notice the implication that pretty much all of us have sin (whatever that means).

Second, if we claim otherwise we are deceiving ourselves.

Here’s how I understand this, up to this point:

Whenever we’re wrong and don’t admit it, we are physically programming our brains. The self-deception becomes part of our permanent wiring.

Which, over time, makes it harder and harder to see where we’re wrong and easier and easier to rationalize our faulty thinking.

And every time we rationalize our faulty thinking, it’s another Gulliver thread hijacking our thoughts in a direction we really don’t want to go.

And these thoughts are not some ephemeral spirit thingy floating in abstract consciousness.

They are physical connections in our brain.

They effect our brain chemistry. They re-program the molecular structure of our brain cells. They have a profound effect on the entirety of our bodies.

Even the nicest, calmest, clearest-thinking folks among us are in need of serious mind-renewal. And, given the powerful toxic messages coming from all sides in this media-drenched world, even the most well-adjusted of us need powerful filters and (at least) occasional heavy maintenance just to stay even.

Answer: We all need to be renewed.

We all need for our brains to be rewired.

We all need our receivers tuned to hear God.

So how do we get started?