Do You Hear God?

Today I’ve been thinking about one of the earlier references to Samuel that we know of in the Bible. It’s when he’s bedded down for the night at the temple and he hears a voice (you can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 3). The voice calls to him, he thinks it’s the priest but it’s not. The third time this happens the priest realizes God is calling Samuel and tells him to say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Of course what goes on to happen is God calls to Samuel again, tells him some important information and then continues to talk with Samuel for the rest of his life and ministry. I encourage you to explore the story for yourself, but I want to highlight a few things that stand out to me today.

First, God’s persistence. I find it interesting that God didn’t give up on the first or second try, He really wanted to speak with Samuel, and He was willing to be patient enough to make it happen. In some ways I think God was patient because of Samuel’s young age, but in other ways I think He would be equally patient for us if we showed active willingness to listen.

Second, the message. The message, given to this young boy (some research estimates he was about 12 at the time), wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I think what amazes me most is that God knew the plan He had for Samuel, knew he could handle a message like this and didn’t sugar coat it just because he was young. I know I’m more inclined to protect the young and not share the horrors and reality of the world with them, but at the same time I know it’s important that they don’t grow up with rose colored glasses and have a jarring reality check when they become adults.

Finally, Samuel was honest about the message. As we’ve discussed it wasn’t a fantastic message, but when he was asked about it by the priest, he was honest about it, even though there was some not great news for the priest in it. I don’t like delivering bad news as an adult, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to deliver that news as a pre-teen. But again, God knew what He was doing and Samuel passed along the message.

As you go about your life this week I encourage you to be persistent and honest, work on trusting others, communicating with others and listening both for God and to what others have to say.

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Anointed By God

If you’ve read through the Bible or attended church after the celebration of Easter, you’ve probably heard about the event called Pentecost. It’s written about in the book of Acts in the New Testament (along with a bunch of other really culture-shifting events). During Pentecost “all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:1b-4a). The whole event was pretty fantastic and hard to believe by those who didn’t witness it, except those who were anointed by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost were, in this specific situation, able to speak in different languages, languages they didn’t previously speak, as evidence of the anointing.

As I mentioned the Book of Acts is filled with stories like this one. From real life interactions with Jesus after He ascended to being brought back to life to shipwrecks and snake bites the book of Acts has lots of crazy stories that line up very well with seeing tongues of fire land on people’s heads. But it’s also got some great insight into what the early church was all about: faith, community, and sharing the Good News. The good news is that there are many churches alive and well today who have taken on those core aspects and continued them today.

Pentecost was an important and amazing event, but what about the rest of us? We aren’t exactly anticipating a Pentecost in 2017, and I haven’t heard of anyone experiencing exactly what the Early Church did back on that first Pentecost since then. First, it’s not necessarily something we should be looking to have happen. Second, as important as the first Pentecost was, there rest of Acts 2 tells us that they (the Early Church) added to their numbers daily. Those people weren’t experiencing tongues of fire, they were just interacting with people who believed in community and the Good News. We don’t need tongues of fire to make us believers or give us any special abilities. The only thing we need is belief in Jesus and the willingness to do His work on Earth and share about Him with others (using words when necessary). You don’t need tongues of fire to know that God has a plan for your life, or to have a calling and mission for Him.  So as you finish up this week I encourage you to look for ways that God is showing up in your life (they may be seemingly ordinary), how He may be leading you to build community and who in your life needs to hear about Him. What will God show you?

Waiting for God

We’re in the last few days of this month and our talk about the topic of patience.  One of the most challenging topics when thinking about patience is waiting for God.  Being how all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-doing God is, it’s hard to understand why He wouldn’t rather resolve things sooner rather than later.  Sure you can talk about the lessons we learn and timing not being right, but the longer things take to happen the more we worry that God didn’t hear us or that His answer is that He’s not going to do anything.  Of course as I was thinking about how the month is ending it reminded me of our patience running out and what happens when we get there.

Sometimes when our patience runs out we act without thinking or do things that we’ve been thinking about for a while but haven’t decided to act on because we aren’t sure they’re the right thing to do.  Sometimes we do the thing that we should have done all along and just didn’t have faith in ourselves to know what was really right, so it took reaching the end of our patience to make it happen.  Other times reaching the end of our patience means we didn’t trust God’s timing and will enough to wait for Him to act.  Knowing the difference and which one is right for your current situation isn’t easy.

As I was thinking about this I read 1 Thessalonians 5:24 which says “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” So what’s the answer?  The answer is to constantly work on your relationship with God so that you’re always ready to hear His guidance in when He’s telling you to act and when to wait.  It may sound simple, but you know it’s not always easy to devote the time and attention to that relationship with everything else going on in your life.  It means not just praying about the patience-related situation, but about other things that you and God are working on.  It means reading passages from the whole Bible, while still returning to the one giving you peace, hope and encouragement right now.  It means attending meetings, seminars and classes and services about more than just your current topic of struggle.  It means reaching out and supporting others who are in need, not just focusing on your situation.  What is God working on with you in your life and are you truly able to receive His leading?

God’s Promise for 2016

Can you believe it’s the last Monday of 2015? Today I want to share with you a few hope-filled reminders as we finish this year and head into a new one.

God will go with you.

God has not forgotten you.

God forgives you.

God believes in you.

God doesn’t hold your past against you.

God knows you’ve got an amazing potential future.

God is your strength.

God loves you (even in your most unlovable moments).

God hears you.

God wants to talk with you.

God wants to reveal the world to you.

God wants to grow and bless you.

2016 is a new year filled with new opportunities, new blessings, new friends, new people to help, and new challenges. It’s a year that God wants to tackle with you if you’ll allow Him to be an intimate part of your life. Are you ready to let the old go and welcome the new?

What’s Your Focus?

Today I want to talk about our focus.  Sometimes we focus in pretty specifically on something, which is a good thing if we’re trying to finish some work or spending time with our families. But if I’m really in a groove with my writing or work to have someone call or interrupt me it can really be damaging on that focus.  If you’ve got kids you’re probably familiar with the concept of starting stuff but not finishing it for a very long time.  We live in a society of constant interruptions, one that keeps rushing past in such a fashion that you can feel like you’re missing something if you’re not paying attention.  I’m pretty good about reading and checking email only 3 times per day, and I don’t spend much time on social media, unlike many people who have almost an addiction to it. The challenge is in determining what your priorities are and then sticking to them.

As I was thinking about priorities and focus this week I read Isaiah 49:16: “I drew a picture of you on my hand. You are always before my eyes.”  This verse reminded me how valuable our attentions are.  It really matters what we put our attention on and how we interpret things, also known as our perspective.  There are lots of people who have negative or glass-half-empty perspectives on life, which, religious or not, is a waste of life.  It’s one thing to be aware of how things could go wrong, it’s another to anticipate or believe that they will more likely go wrong than right in all situations.

Maybe it’s just luck that you got that perfect parking space, there was no traffic on the road, you didn’t get into that accident, your partner did something nice for you, you got a gift just because, you got everything on your shopping list and even the things you forgot to put on the list, you reconnected with that old friend, you got that discount on your morning coffee and treat, or it didn’t rain on your big event, or maybe it was all God looking out for you.

I can’t answer that, I can’t tell you what was God and what wasn’t. Sure you can assume that it’s all God because God is everywhere at all times or none of it’s God because of free will, it could be endlessly debated.  But if we choose to see it as God working in our lives it’s really reminder after reminder that He’s looking out for us and loves blessing us in a variety of ways.  This week I encourage you to look for God in your life, look for the lessons He’s trying to teach you, and thank Him for being present when you see Him.

Working with God

Today I’ve got a couple verses to share with you, verses of encouragement and challenge.

Encouragement: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20
God has big plans for each of us: He doesn’t create us without ability or purpose, He’s always got plans for us.   But more than just having plans for us, they’re big plans, plans bigger than we could come up with, which is kind of both awesome and intimidating at the same time.

Encouragement: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
God doesn’t give up on people, He always has hope that they’ll turn things around, get back on track or be able to pull things through and finish what He has called them to.  He will keep working with us, guiding us, and providing for us until our mission is complete, and then He may have another one for us!

Encouragement: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
It’s a serious question: does God hear us when we talk to Him or is it more like talking to someone on our phone without actually dialing the number (which means we don’t talk to them)?  Throughout the Bible God strives to answer this question because lots of people question whether He’s there or not.  After all, He doesn’t always take out a billboard or even send us a simple text or email confirmation to let us know that our prayers were heard or how our prayers will be addressed.  But over and over God tells us that He does indeed hear our prayers.  We just don’t always see how they’re answered, understand the answer or like the answer.

Challenge: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46
We’ve established that God has a point for each and every one of our lives, He’ll be with us every step of the way as we work on completing them and He really truly does hear us when we pray to Him.  But what we don’t always get is that we have work to do.  God doesn’t complete the tasks for us, make us get out of bed each day, or make us say our prayers, that’s up to us.  We have to take the initiative to follow through on what He has called us to do.

So this week I challenge you to look at what God has called you to and what you’ve been ignoring or slacking on.  God is after a partnership with each of us, not a one sided speech or lesson.  We’ve got work to do, are you doing it?

Praying for People

A few weeks ago I shared about this verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 

As I was thinking about prayer and our discussion that week it got me thinking about what we use, for lack of better term, prayer for.  Often our prayer life centers around ourselves and others. People are a big part of our lives.  We talk with God about them when things go wrong or we’re concerned about them or when we can’t understand them.  We talk with God about people because our lives are built on interactions whether in person, on the phone or over social media. And so we bring the people in our lives to God through prayer.  Usually we ask Him to fix people or situations, maybe we ask for patience to help us work with that person.

But God has a bigger purpose for prayer, beyond just us telling Him about what goes on in our lives, although that is important to Him.  God wants us to see situations as He does, be open to His leading and guidance, and see people as He does.  God’s hope is that the time we spend in prayer over them won’t add more fuel to the fire but will open us up to His heart and plan for the people in our lives and their purpose for being there.

You may remember a time when someone revealed or you found out why they were being so annoying or what was going on in their lives that caused them to be so difficult and felt guilty for being so harsh on them.  The same holds true for people we pray about: if we knew the truth that God knows we would likely be open to a change of heart about them and the situation.

So this week in your prayer time I encourage you to be open to what God wants you to know.  Don’t forget that like any other conversation there’s time for talking and time for listening, that God knows more than you could about the situation and is just waiting for you to be open to hearing about it.

“…that when you pray for anyone, you tend to modify your personal attitude toward them.” Norman Vincent Peale