“What have you heard lately?”

Gary has been a friend for several years, but about two years ago he went waaaay up in my esteem.  We were sitting over coffee and had talked about his small remodel project he was considering.  Out of the blue, he asked me, “Well, c.a., what have you heard from the Lord lately?  What’s He saying to you these days?”

Now there’s a mind-bender when you’re not expecting one!  I had blogged about Prayer, Love, The God Who Is There, the Bible, Jesus, and many other Christ-centered themes, but I did not expect to hear from God that particular day.  Like most of us I had settled into my routines and was living for God.  But most of the stuff on my “living for God” list was back to ancient teachings from when I was a kid; basically, a list of things I did not do.

Let’s see:
1. No beating up anybody, although I got very angry at that other driver and would have shot his tires if that would not get me arrested.
2. No swearing, although several unkind words were on my mind about that same driver.
3. No lying.  Actually this one is easy for me because if I lie, I will have to remember what I told someone.  I always tell the truth even when it is to my disadvantage.
4. No porn, although I thought for an awful long time about that girl in the mall with the short shorts and tank top.
5. No cheating on my taxes (okay, so my wife does our annual tribute to the IRS).Ten Commandments 2
6. No smoking; I have never even had a drag on a cigarette, but don’t think one goes to hell for this anyway.

And actually there was a list of things I did DO, but many of them were also part of the routine.  I attended meetings of believers regularly per Hebrews 10:25.  We gave faithfully to the reach of Jesus in the world through various organizations and participated in active missions whenever we traveled, even if the cover for the trip was academic or social.  I prayed fairly regularly for friends and family.  And both of these lists could go on.

But the thing that struck me with Gary’s question was the expectation that if I was living with a living God, Gary expected us to be in conversation!  It was shortly after this that I blogged on Practicing the Presence ().  His question awoke in me an awareness that most of the time I was not listening for Someone else’s voice, ePharisees.pngven as I blogged on Christ-honoring themes.  What a Pharisee I was turning back into!

Not everything about the Pharisees was bad.  Paul even listed off some of the good things his life as a Pharisee meant.  But then he said, But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7)  Even the good stuff of being a religious leader, even the zeal for godliness that came through obedience to the Law of Moses.

So now Gary’s question keeps ringing in my ears, even after two years, and I listen for that Voice more often.  Whether serving my home owners’ association, going out to dinner with friends, shopping at Walmart or Lowes, planning a trip to Arizona to see my brother or Miami to see former students, or dealing with issues with my K.C. family, I try to listen for a Voice, and when I listen I discover He is not silent.  I am not an expert at this, but I am growing and listening more than ever before.

When you gather with other believers this weekend, if you attend a church or small group, consider asking questions that will open their hearts and serve them.
Start with what Gary asked me,
1. “What has God been saying to you lately?”
Then ask two other questions (stolen from Crossway 😉 ):
2. What is the best thing that happened to you this week?
3. What is the worst thing that happened to you this week?

Lisrening.jpgBe prepared to take some time for the answers.  Be genuine in your desire to build up and encourage holiness, obedience and unfettered love among the disciples.  And listen for a Voice that will tell you how to live according to His word in love, faith and hope.  Like Francis Shaeffer said in his excellent book by this title, “He is there and He is not silent.”

What have you heard lately?

 

 

What Are You Listening For?

Our world is too noisy, too busy, too crowded.  Even when you look for something good to do, you can be so overwhelmed by how many good things need to be done, you can wind up frozen to inactivity by the myriad of choices in front of you.  We desperately need quiet.  We desperately need time.  We desperately need solitude.

machine-shop-2Quiet:  One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from when I lived in Alaska for a year.  I stopped by a machine shop where a friend worked as a steamfitter, running a huge pipe-cutting machine that trimmed 12″ solid steel bars (30.5cm diameter) into pipes for offshore drilling rigs.  The machine shop was a huge warehouse building with dozens of threaders, grinders, benders, welders, brazers and cutters whirring and clanking away at the various tasks of making pipes and their fittings.

machine-shop-1The noise in the shop seemed deafening to me as we “chatted,” or rather yelled at each other, in order to be heard over the other machines that were all noisily performing their jobs.  Suddenly, mid-sentence, my friend held up his hand, and apologized, “Sorry, I have to take care of this.”  As I wondered what he needed to take care of, a half dozen other men came rushing to his machine.

Somehow amidst all the noise of the machine shop, he and these other men heard something go wrong on his pipe-cutter, and everyone sprang into action to do their parts to take care of “what they had heard.”  Their ears were as attuned to the sound of this machine as clearly as a mother is attuned to her baby’s cry.

Time:  Father has given each of us 24 hours every day, no more, no less, no matter how you use it, abuse it, or lose track of it.  You and I have the same resource of time that Jesus had and that presidential candidates have.  We have the same 24 hours per day that the homeless guy sitting beside his belongings in a grocery cart on the street corner has.  The issue is prioritizing what each of us needs to do.  And for that we need guidance.  A small voice whispering in our ear, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

It is a small voice, even though it comes from a very great source.  In Elijah’s day he was instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for Yahweh is about to pass by. Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-12)  And God was in the low whisper, or as the KJV puts it, a “still small voice.” 

Isaiah further went on to describe the Messiah speaking to the world,
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Isaiah 42:2-3)

God does not need to yell.  He is God and His purposes will stand.  His plan will be worked out in the end, though all hell and its demons rage against it.  The clamoring noise of the world can protest and scream; they can build bombs and try to destroy what He wants to accomplish, but He will just keep whispering to His people, to anyone who will listen for Him, and He will finish what He began in the Garden of Eden.

We cannot “make time.”  Time is what it is, and we can simply use it, abuse it or lose it.  We use time by setting some aside and spending it in quiet solitude to listen for a “still small voice.”  Ralph Carmichael understood this when he penned the words to There Is A Quiet Place.

Solitude:  Loneliness can be devastating.  It feels even worse when other people are around, but you are disconnected from them.  A feeling of emptiness can suck the life out of a marriage when a husband and wife are on different wavelengths.  A comedy club is one of the most miserable places in the world for one who has no one with whom to share the jokes.

Crowd 1.pngBut solitude is time chosen to be away from the masses, “far from the madding crowd,” (Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard).  Often Jesus would withdraw from the crowds who longed for His leadership (Matthew 14:13, John 6:15), a far cry from today’s politicians or celebtrities who love the limelight.  But Jesus knew that, as a man, He needed time to digest His role, His position, and His mission.

You:  So before you embark on a week of noise, busy-ness, and crowds, take some time for quiet, peace and solitude.  As you listen for His voice in the quiet times, learn to hear Him even when the noise crowds in around you.  Underneath all the noise of the tv, radio and iPod, in the flurry of all of this world’s busy-ness, and in the middle of the crowds of Lexington or LA, listen for His voice.  He is here, and He is not silent.  What are you listening for?

See  for more thoughts about Prayer, one of the Marks of a Man or Woman of God.  And take a look at for a wake-up call a friend gave me to be more careful to listen.