I Know That Voice

Little Samuel’s story in the Bible is one my favorites.

He heard a voice calling to him in the night and he thought is was the Prophet Eli since he was living with Eli.  So Samuel ran to Eli saying, “Here I am”.

Eli said, “I did not call, go back and lie down.”

This happened again and then on the third time, Eli realized that it was God who was calling the boy.  This time Eli told Samuel, when he heard the voice, to say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

When God spoke again, Samuel told him he was listening and God went on to tell Samuel what was soon going to happen.

I’ve got a challenge for you.  The next time you think you might be hearing something from God, say those same words, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”  And then listen.  Listen to what is going through your brain.  Think about what you have been reading in God’s Word and how it applies to your life.  Think about coincidences that have been happening in your life and how they relate to what you’ve been reading.  Remember things that Godly people in your life have said to you recently.

I believe God is regularly trying to break through the cacophony of our culture – especially the electronic bubble where we spend a lot of our time.  He wants to talk to you and me – guiding us, encouraging us, and teaching us.

Have you had the experience where you are reading God’s Word and then a sentence sticks out of the page?  You reread a phrase a couple of times?  You start to wonder what that means?  Has that phrase always been there?  I don’t remember ever reading that or even hearing anyone talk about that before?  That is God stopping us.  That is God drawing our attention to something specific in his Word so he can speak to us.

That’s what God did today with me.  He stopped me as I was reading to remind me how much I  like young Samuel’s story.  Because I know God, I know he is encouraging me to continue to learn how to hear him more and more clearly as I read his Truth.  My knowledge of God is growing and the more I know him, the better I hear him.

How can I be confident that it’s God that’s talking to me and not just my own thinking?  What God says to me will always be consistent with what he says in the Bible.  He will not contradict himself.

I am also 100% sure it’s God talking when he says something I’ve never thought of before and it’s good, consistent with what I have read in the Bible.  God confirms his guidance to me through my circumstances as well.  When it’s God talking to me, things happening around me will line up with what God is saying.  Sometimes it will be something my husband, my pastor or a friend says.  As I pray about what God is telling me, God will often open up my eyes to how he is moving around me and I’ll be able to connect the dots.

When I take time to consider all of these things, God’s directions to me become really clear.

When I work at staying aware of the fact that God is trying to talk to me, it’s not hard to hear him.

Thank you for your guidance, Abba Father

 

My Story

It’s a story of redemption.  I can see God orchestrating his love and grace in every step.

It’s clear to me that the story of Ruth is the story of everyone who has put their faith in Jesus.  Without him in our lives,  you and I would both exist in a famine, without purpose, without hope, stuck in our guilt and shame.

But in Jesus we have found our kinsmen redeemer!  Hallelujah!

Jesus paid the price of our sins for us so we could become a part of his forever family.  Now we live under God’s umbrella of grace and blessing.

“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsmen redeemer.”

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

 

He Always Responds

The next step I’m suppose to take is often not clear.  There are a lot of blind curves on this road I’m on – I can’t see what lies ahead.  I’m usually pretty sure about the final goal but the specific actions God wants me to take to get there are smothered in a fog of options, questions, and unknowns.

When I’m in one of these ‘unclear’ spots on my road, I ask for a confirmation from God that I’m on the right path – or not.  And he always either gives me a confirmation or opens up my eyes to a change in direction.

So I know how Gideon is feeling in Judges when he is putting out fleeces, asking God to confirm that he is doing the right thing.

For me, I have decided not to ask God to do a specific ‘sign’ for me.  It feels too much like asking God to do a trick.

I’ve developed my own process of asking God to give me clear guidance sometime today and I will be watching.  When I do this, I try to stay extra aware of anything that could be encouragement from God telling me to “keep going’ or something that opens up my eyes, helping me understand a different direction I should be taking.  I believe my process works because it acknowledges that I know God is always trying to guide me and show me the way.  Asking for a response today also helps me maintain a special awareness of God moving in my life in the next 24 hours.

And he always responds.

And then I smile.   Of course he does.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

 

Compromise

Compromise is often a good thing.  You and I have to be good at compromising in our relationships so that we don’t always need to have things go our way.  A big skill in having a good marriage is knowing when to compromise and when to stand your ground.

I don’t have to read much of the Old Testament to know that the Israelites were not wise about when to compromise.  As they intermingled with the pagan people living around them, we regularly see them compromise on things like their values and their commitment to God.  Those are exactly the areas that should have no compromise.

God told them repeatedly to totally demolish the people who were living  in the Promised Land as they took over their inheritance …..but they didn’t.  God knew the Israelites would be attracted to the pagan gods and the pagan way of life which would lead them away from him – the One True God.

The Israelites compromised and, of course, it happened.  They intermarried with the pagans and started worshipping worthless idols.  Their values got lost in the evil and empty pagan culture they lived in.  They foolishly forfeited the faithful heritage handed down to them from Abraham and Moses.  They traded all that in for man-made wooden idols.

They compromised.

And they lost.

As I read this, God is reminding me not to compromise when it comes to my faith and what I believe.  God’s Word is my compass.  The values and idols of our current culture should have no influence on my commitment to my relationship with God.

Everything can and will change around me, but God stays constant, true and faithful.

No compromise.

Thank you, Abba Father.

I’m Stepping In

Stepping up.

Making the first move.

I often ask God to direct my steps.  My prayers regularly include requests for him to show me an opportunity to do what he wants me to do.

Because I’ll do it – I just want to know that its his direction and his timing.

And God responds.  Right before my eyes, he will give me an opportunity to do something he wants done or say something he wants said.

Every time one of these opportunities presents itself, I have to take the first step of faith forward, not knowing what the next step is and never knowing how this is all going to work out.

I just have to take that first step and obey.

So the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land is significant to me.  God told the priests carrying the Ark of the LORD to go first.  God told them he would make a way for them but, first, they had to step into the Jordan which was running at flood stage.

The overflowing water of the Jordan river was roaring down its path…..

and they had to step in.

An act of faith.  An act of obedience.

As soon as the priest’s feet touched the water’s edge, the water stopped flowing.  They had to commit and then they saw God respond.  In the middle of a rushing river, God opened up a path for them to the Promised Land.

It’s important for you and I to understand how this process works.  Too often we want to see God move in our lives but we haven’t stepped out in faith.  We want God to invite us to do great things but we haven’t stepped up to the plate on the things we already know God wants us to do.

For example, Jesus told us clearly, “Love God and love others.”  These are the two main things I need to be about – I already know that.  No question about it.  I find that when I’m focused on doing these things I already know I need to be doing, I see God part the waters for me.  He blesses my last step and reveals my next step.

But the first step of obedience is mine.

Where is God asking you to take that first step of obedience?  Go ahead – step into the water and watch it part in front of you.  It will be worth it.

I believe, Abba Father, so I’m stepping in.

The Cost of Disobedience

It’s hard not to draw some kind of parallel between what’s happening with the Coronavirus and what we read in Deuteronomy 28.

It’s difficult to read in the Bible about the curses of disobedience – plagues, ruin, captivity and disease.  Then there is the most horrible curse where they were eating their children so they wouldn’t starve.  Unbelievable!

We think that this couldn’t happen today except – it is.  We continue to hear of current situations where parents are cruel and unfeeling – and their children suffer and die.  Babies are legally killed every day.   Nastiness, violence and slavery are not things of the past.  It’s happening today in the communities where we live.

And now we have the Coronavirus.  Is it a modern-day plague?  God often used plagues in the Old Testament as a form of punishment for disobedience and he also used them to get the attention of his people when they had wandered too far away from him.

Have we wandered too far away?

God knows that each step we take away from him leaves Satan more room to move.  As our distance from God grows, so does evil.   Satan whispers in our ears the same lie he told the Israelites, “You’ll be okay, go ahead and do whatever you want to do.”

The truth that God tells us is we are not okay when we rebel and disregard God.

Have you seen the movie, “The Shack”?   Awesome movie – just make sure you have a bunch of tissues handy when you watch it.  It was really interesting to see that God was portrayed as female at the beginning of the movie and later he was a male because he said the main character of the movie needed a father at that time.  One conversation the main character  had with God is now seared into my brain.  The main character asked God why she  punished people.  And she said, ” I don’t need to punish anyone.  The consequences of your sins are punishment enough.”

As believers, we live under the New Covenant of grace so I don’t believe God punishes us for our sins any longer.  But as our perfect Father, he lets us pay the consequences of our sins and the sins of others while he walks with us through those experiences, teaching us and guiding us.

We punish ourselves when we disobey and wander away from God.  The consequences of our bad choices are often painful and long lasting.

Do you and I think we can do whatever we want and still be okay?

It’s a lie.

Please fill our minds with your truth, Abba Father.

Choose to Obey

God asks you and I, “Do you want to be blessed?”  He tells us how in Leviticus 29.

If you are careful to obey my commands, I will shower my blessings upon you.

You will be fruitful and prosperous.

I will keep you safe.

I will bless you with peace.  You will sleep well – not fearful of anything.

I will remove all threat to your safety from your life.  Your enemies will fail.

Don’t worry about being outnumbered by the evil ones – I am on your side.  I will look upon you as my favorite child – providing for you and always being faithful.

My blessings will overflow in your life – one on top of another.

I will walk with you and live with you.  I will be your God and you will be my child.

I am the Lord your God who sent my only son to die for you so you might believe and live with me forever.

I gave you freedom so you can choose to stand faultless before me.  You can choose to walk closely beside me everyday.  You can choose to love me and listen to me.

You can choose to obey.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Never Forgotten

It makes sense.  I see the connections and consistent messages.

One of the main reasons I love reading the entire Bible every year is the fact that I can clearly see the topics that regularly show up and this tells me what is important to God.

One of the topics that is a main theme throughout God’s word is how much God loves and cares for poor people.  From the beginning of time to the end, the poor in our midst are close to God’s heart.

In Leviticus 19 we read how God directs the Israelites not to clear their fields again after their first harvest.  They needed to leave the remaining grain, olives and grapes for the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows.

At this time in history, showing any care for the poor was not normal behavior.  Usually the fields were picked a second time to make sure the landowner got every single grape or olive or stalk of grain.  They wanted it all for themselves – there was no thought of people less fortunate.

Sound familiar?  Our culture is not very different, is it?  We have houses and sheds and garages and storage units full of stuff we’re not using.  Many of these are things that other people could use and would really benefit from.  But we would have to be willing to give it away.

I recently saw a post on Facebook suggesting that, instead of giving up chocolate or TV or anything else that doesn’t benefit others for lent, maybe each day we could take one thing we own but don’t use and put it into a bag.  Then at Easter we could give this bag away to a charity or thrift store.

What do you think?

This is the idea God was introducing to the Israelites in Leviticus – don’t keep it all for yourself.  Give some away.

God speaks often and loudly in the Bible about how much he cares for the less fortunate people around us.  Do you think he is happy about how you and I care for them?

Please our eyes and our hearts, Abba Father.

He Breaks Through the Lies

Always fair.

Always right.

These are some of the characteristics of God that I use to filter everything through as I read his Word.  I may not understand everything God does but I know he is always fair and right.

As I read Numbers 27,  I can see how God breaks through the false thinking of that time when women were considered part of a man’s belongings and wealth.  Women didn’t own anything – they were ‘sold’ to men in marriage.

But God is always right and fair so he let  Zelophehad’s daughters inherit their father’s land.  By doing this, God revealed what he really thought about the current cultural norms of treating women less than men.  That isn’t how he sees things.

Sure, the head of the family clan (male) didn’t like it.  But he obeyed God and let the daughters inherit their father’s land.  The women were instructed to marry within their clan so that the land would stay within their group.

Just imagine this – 5 young unmarried women who would normally lack any kind of position in the community are now land-owners!  God’s love and care for his daughters is  shining through – challenging this male-dominated culture.

And, I’m sure, as landowners, these young women had no trouble finding husbands.  I wonder if these marriages were a little different because they began in a more equal position?

This culture did not treat women equally, but God did.  He always does.

Thank you, Abba Father.

What’s Next?

Reading.

Studying.

Listening.

Memorizing.

God has been seriously re-shaping my heart since I became a committed believer about 30 years ago.  When I was young, I had a close relationship with Jesus but it got lost in a season of rebellion and confusion about the truth in my young adulthood.  Six years of that messy time taught me how empty my life was without God.  I discovered that all the ‘fun’ and partying and working extra hard for ‘stuff’ was meaningless and a dead end.

So I re-committed my whole heart to God over 30 years ago and I’ve been on this Journey toward the truth ever since.

God tells us in Deuteronomy, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.”  Looking back, I see evidence that God working on my heart, circumcising the parts that needed to change –

  • He cut out the rebellious part of my heart.  No matter what happens, my heart now submits to God’s will.  He knows best.
  • God cut out the stubborn part.  I translate “stiff-necked” as being stubborn and God has softened my heart towards everything that is about him and comes from him.
  • God cut out any parts of my heart that were unbelieving.  I don’t have to understand it all to believe.  If God says it, it’s true.  God has taught my eyes to look beyond what is in front of me.
  • God is working on the parts of my heart where I want to control things around me.  Sometimes I still get anxious and worried because it’s not all going according to my plan.  Isn’t that crazy?  I know who is in total control and it’s not me.  I continue to have to remind myself to ‘let go and let God’.  I know he’s working on this part of my heart because it’s gradually becoming easier for me to recognize my lack of control early in a situation and step back – trusting God as he orchestrates everything for my good.
  • My heart was shattered into a million broken, mangled pieces when my son was killed in the line of duty.  I can feel God molding a new heart inside of me out of the debris.  It a heart that is stronger with a better focus on my forever home.

Circumcising my heart sounds painful but it has actually set me free from the lies and worries that the world around us tries to impose on us.

And the transformation continues…..

Thank you, Abba Father.