listen up

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.

1 Samuel 3:10-11

One of the essentials if we’re to truly be followers of the Lord is to develop a keen awareness of his voice. We need to listen and we need the discernment that comes from the Spirit of God to understand. In fact of course we need God to open our ears in the first place.

The boy Samuel needed the priest Eli’s help to set himself to listen for God’s voice, or in this case discern since Samuel had earlier heard the voice calling him. I think we best hear God’s voice in the midst of life as we remain in God’s word, Scripture. God speaks to us through the Book and directly.

Our regular hearing should improve dramatically when we take the attitude of a servant. We aspire as those who would be the Lord’s servant. Our goal is obedience to God. But even more basic is our desire to commune and thus to know and walk faithfully with God.

God’s grace is key in all of this. We may think God will no longer speak to us when we either mess up or have attitudes that are wrong or at least questionable. In reality I think it’s accurate to say the Lord is always speaking. But whether we’re keen to listen is the question. In and through Jesus.

does God want to walk with us?

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Genesis 5:21-24

Enoch is noteworthy because he is the only person in Scripture who is said to have walked with God. The NIV addition “faithfully” is likely appropriate (see NET footnote 15) in helping get a sense of meaning. Hebrews 11 suggests the same:

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:5-6

Interestingly, the Genesis account says that after Enoch became the father of Methuselah, he walked with God. We’re not told why such was the case, but something of the sense of responsibility or concern may have been a factor. I think often at some sense of crisis there can be a tipping point to help us move in a good direction, or alas, in some direction not good. Sometimes the deepest depths can help us realize the highest heights.

Enoch was probably considered austere in his time, prophesying against what was probably commonplace in his day.

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jude 1:14-15

Does God want to walk with us? I think he does. Implied here, and clear when you consider all of Scripture, God becoming flesh in the Incarnation, and in the end dwelling with humankind in the New Jerusalem when heaven and earth become one in the new creation. “Do we want to walk with God?” is the real question. Or are we occupied with other things?

 

 

 

taking our eyes off the Lord

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31

If there’s one thing I’m probably good at, it’s getting focused on, and honed in to a problem, and spiraling down, when the problem can’t easily be resolved. It’s not like we’re supposed to ignore reality, or pretend problems don’t exist. We do carry plenty of responsibility in this life, and we’re to endeavor to stay on top of things insofar as we possibly can.

Why our Lord would walk on the water is an interesting question. Some might say to display his Deity, others, only to demonstrate the difference faith can make. Peter, as did the other disciples, saw himself as a follower of Jesus in the sense of following a Rabbi (Teacher), which meant he was to imitate, or do whatever the Teacher did. So it would be natural for him to assume that if Jesus could walk on the water, than he could too. Certainly bold, as well. And yes, that’s precisely what he did, Jesus responding to his request in the affirmative.

This reminds me of how the Lord has helped me in not ignoring a problem, but bringing it to him, entrusting it into his hands, and then proceeding in peace. Addressing the problem in a more sane, relaxed manner, and moving to, as well as settling in what seems to be the Lord’s leading, and remaining there.

But it’s all too easy, either ourselves, or maybe especially when someone else in our lives, points to the problem in near panic, to follow suit, cave in, and then lose out. Just what Peter did. He saw the waves whipped up by the wind, immediately became afraid, and began to sink. In faith he cried out to the Lord to save him, and Jesus certainly did. Yet Jesus rebuked him, I’m sure gently, for his lack of faith.

This so much reminds me of myself. Just how easily I can get my eyes off Jesus onto the problem, and then inevitably what faith I had is gone, and I’m left on my own to deal with it. God somehow wants us to deal with issues of this life with the help of what will be common place and completely natural in the next life, completely at peace in God, even in sync with God so-to-speak. That is neither an easy lesson for most of us to learn or hold on to, since we’re so used to taking matters in our own hands apart from God, and used to bad things happening if we don’t.

We don’t pretend the issue doesn’t exist, but we endeavor to commit it to God, and either God will help us work through it or let it go, trusting in his direction that it’s alright. The Lord calls us, so to speak, to walk on the water with him in this life. That what would ordinarily sink us doesn’t; we keep on walking, because our eyes are fixed on him. Always in and through Jesus.

 

trusting in the Lord when faced with difficulty

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

The Lord prayed the psalms, as is evident when he was on the cross. Perhaps this was one passage he prayed during the course of his life on earth. It is certainly apt for us, although our circumstances will likely be different than were that of the psalmist. But the crux of the matter, facing opposition, or something which threatens are well being can be the same.

Being afraid is a part of life. Our bodies when healthy feel pain through the nerve endings in place. That is protective. It’s not like all fear is bad. One evangelical evangelist said that to be afraid and trust in the Lord is good, but to trust in the Lord and not be afraid is better. Maybe so, but I don’t see the two that way myself. I do think we can go through them as stages, the first being the initial fear we naturally have over something overcome by trusting the Lord. The second simply being our disposition and choice, based on faith in God and God’s word, his promises to us.

How we face perceived danger might be the question. Faith insists that it will be alright in the end (see Psalm 23), no matter what we have to walk through. God is with us in Jesus, and will protect us.

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

It may not be fun to walk through, but the Lord will be with us no matter what. The rod and staff in the Psalm was an instrument of the shepherd to gently guide the sheep, and to protect them from danger. We can gather from that thought that God will guide us and protect us from danger, from falling off the cliff, or going off by ourselves as if we can take care of it, or maybe simply out of fear. The Good Shepherd (John 10) will be present to keep us on track and comfort us.

Trusting in God must be our present and default position. I mean that whether things are okay, or not, we need to trust in the Lord. And at times we will need to renew that commitment, at other times simply grasp and hold on to it for dear life. But no matter what we face or ultimately have to walk through, we can know that God will be present with us to help us in and through Jesus to the very end.

the nearness of God in the pressures of life

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.

Scripture is full of promises of God’s presence with his people. Especially in terms of living in the darkest most difficult places of life. God has made it so we need each other. But all of us together need God. God not only gives us physical life, but a life worth living. In a true sense that is given to all by creation. In new creation God’s original intention for humankind is restored and then some.

When I consider the challenges of life that are on me and what lies just ahead I realize more and more how I simply need God and God’s nearness. It is easy to simply wish to escape and we can do so in all sorts of ways. Instead we need to learn to draw upon our life in God through Jesus by simply coming near to him, asking God to come near to us, to be very close to us, to be our life and our very breath spiritually speaking.

Will life get easier as a result? Prayer can make a difference and walking with God will mean we’ll be much more in prayer. But circumstances may not be any better. We will simply have a new center so to speak from which to approach them. Which will help us to look for and actually see God’s hand and not just the troubles of this life. Actually living in God ourselves in a more conscious way, as we continue to seek his nearness in our lives in and through Jesus.

Dallas Willard on an ongoing, growing life of prayer

Prayer simply dies from efforts to pray about “good things” that honestly do not matter to us. The way to get to meaningful prayer for those good things is to start by praying for what we are truly interested in. The circle of our interests will inevitably grow in the largeness of God’s love.

What prayer as asking presupposes is simply a personal—that is, an experientially interactive—relationship between us and God, just as with a request of child to parent or friend to friend. It assumes that our natural concerns will be naturally expressed, and that God will hear our prayers for ourselves as well as for others. Once again, this is clear from the biblical practice of prayer. It is seen at its best in that greatest of all prayer books, Psalms.

Accordingly, I believe the most adequate description of prayer is simply, “Talking to God about what we are doing together.” That immediately focuses the activity where we are but at the same time drives the egotism out of it. Requests will naturally be made in the course of this conversational walk. Prayer is a matter of explicitly sharing with God my concerns about what he too is concerned about in my life. And of course he is concerned about my concerns and, in particular, that my concerns should coincide with his. This is our walk together. Out of it I pray.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life  God, 242-243.

stillness

We live in an area clumped with houses for many blocks in which winds are diminished significantly. Deb and I sometimes take a walk to a coffee place a little over a mile away on a busy thoroughfare and more in the open. We often see a marked contrast between the wind in our faces, and how subdued it is in our neighborhood.

We live in an age of much noise and activity. That isn’t necessarily bad, although it can mask an emptiness of soul. We need to cherish the stillness, the quiet, rest, doing nothing.

That is a tall order for me, because I often have this or that responsibility, or would do well to get this or that done. And besides, there is a host of things I’d like to do, which in themselves are good.

I find it interesting that Jesus at a certain place in the gospels wanted to find a place to get away and rest with his disciples, but couldn’t. And yet he often took time to get up early and commune with his Father in prayer.

But we think that human activity is where the action is. That we must do something. When maybe we need to learn to do nothing at all for a time.

We need those spaces in which it is more one on one with God. Yes, community is important, indeed essential, and a part of who we are in Jesus. But at the same time we need to commit ourselves individually and personally to strengthen, or maybe even realize a real walk with God. Enoch is said to have walked with God. We need to learn to so walk with God.  Maybe more and more out of step with society. But learning to walk more in step with the Lord. Something that should become a natural part of who we are, not something that calls attention to itself, either to us or to others. Something we can grow more and more into over time.

And we want to do so with others in Jesus for the world.