Close the gap

For thousands of years there have been gaps between generations. The younger ones always assume that the older ones have never gone through what they’re going through. They’re all alone in their experiences with no one to guide them through it. But if every generation feels that way, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they actually know exactly how you feel?

My younger friends poke fun at me all the time because most of my social circle is made up of women at least twice my age. While one can’t help but see age when you’re looking at wrinkles and white hair, I see more. I see myself surrounded by people who have lived. They’ve experienced. They’ve learned so much more than I have and possibly ever will. Each person has a different life experience, but we can learn from all of them. When I’m sitting in a room full of old ladies and spinning wheels, I’m in a room full of centuries of lessons learned. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of them.

A long time ago, there was a young king who failed to see the wisdom in listening to the counsel of his elders.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his life time. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.

1 Kings 12:6-8 (NIV)

Rehoboam, a young king, foolishly rejected the counsel of the men who had advised his father, Solomon. He chose not to follow the words of the men who had worked closest to the wisest man to ever live. Instead, he chose to take the advice of his buddies—probably as excited as Rehoboam to flex this newfound power.

If you are of a younger generation, do not scorn the advice of your elders. They may not have lived through the exact thing you are living through right now, but they have lived. Some things don’t have to be experienced directly for wisdom to be gained. Spend time with, listen to, and ask questions of those who have lived longer than you.

If you are of an older generation, don’t write off the kids and young punks. If you don’t teach them, who will? It is the responsibility of every generation to teach and train the ones to follow. The simple fact that you have lived means that you have something to give. So give it. Keep communication open between you and those younger than you. You may even learn something yourself.

Read: 1 Kings 12-13, Luke 24:36-53

Is anybody listening?

Have you ever heard God’s voice? I mean really heard His voice, not just an inkling in your spirit? I always imagined God to sound like a big black man. Like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. But I’ve never actually audibly hear God’s voice. Truth be told, most Christians haven’t. And almost as many would probably say that they’ve never really felt an unction in their spirit, either. Why is that? Does God not speak? Or are we not listening?

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, there was a boy who heard a voice. It called his name in the night. The boy got up and ran to his mentor asking what was required of him. The old man told the boy to go back to sleep, no one had called him. Again, the voice called and the boy ran. The old man, once more sent him back to bed. Yet again the voice called the boy’s name and he got up. Finally, the old priest, Eli, realised what was happening. This time, he instructed the boy to respond a certain way when he heard the voice.

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

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

1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

Many imagine the voice of the Lord to be a terrible thing, shaking the earth and splitting stones. But a sound like that would have terrified a child in the night. Instead, Samuel immediately ran to Eli. God’s voice sounded familiar to him.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the voice of God spoke to Elijah. After a powerful wind, an earthquake, and fire, he heard a gentle whisper.

In Isaiah 6, the sound of angels crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” shook the temple, and afterward, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord calling to him.

In Acts 9, Saul was brought to a sudden stop with a blinding light. When the Lord called out to him, Saul knew immediately who spoke.

No two accounts of man hearing the voice of God are the same, but they all have a couple of things in common.

  1. They weren’t afraid. None of these people feared or cowered at God’s voice. His voice was familiar and, in most cases, gentle. Unlike the angels—who always had to tell people not to fear, God’s voice is nothing to cringe at.
  2. They were listening. In some cases, God had to get someone’s attention. In the case of Samuel, it was the fourth time that was a charm. In the case of Saul, He had to blind him to get him to listen. But they listened.

Close your eyes. Listen. How many sounds can you identify as you sit where you are? At the moment, I can hear the fan of a heater and my computer, I hear the fridge in the next room, there’s a car speeding up the hill near my house, and a clock is ticking on the wall above me. I hear the landlord’s footsteps on the hardwood floor overhead and the house creaking as it settles. Most of those sounds I can’t even turn off.

Our ears and our minds are constantly bombarded with noise and then we have the audacity to claim that God isn’t speaking or that, if He wanted to get our attention, He would. Only in very special cases, like Saul (who later became known as Paul), did God arrest someone to give them a certain message. We allow distractions to fill our heads to our own detriment. Most of us can’t stand the silence. Yet that’s where God’s voice usually is.

We need to make time to listen. We need to block out the noise to hear. I am confident in this: God wants to speak to you.

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

John 8:47 (NIV)

Those are Jesus’ words, not mine. If we really, truly belong to God, we’ll make time for Him. We will listen, not for the wind or the quaking, but the whisper.

Is anybody listening?

Read: 1 Samuel 1-3, Luke 12:1-34

He bends down

If you want to speak to someone of consequence, you must first put yourself in a position to be heard. If I want to speak to the Queen of England, I’m going to need a better position than the one I have. I’ll probably need a title (which she’d have to give me, but never will because I’m not British) and more than a few connections (which I don’t have because I’ve never been to England). I’m never going to have a conversation with the Queen of England, even if we share the same name.

In order to even speak to, let alone ask for aid from, a person in power or of status, we generally have to be in a position of power or status ourselves. Us lowly citizens don’t have the ear of our nation’s leaders at any given moment.

We have a tendency to put these same requirements on God. Us lowly church members can’t just talk to God, we must have a mediator, someone with greater connections, someone with position.

What a load of garbage!

I love the Lord because he hears
and answers my prayers.
Because he bends down and listens,
I will pray as long as I have breath.

Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT)

A raised position is not on the list of requirements for approaching God. In fact, I believe that the lower we are, the more likely He is to respond because the lower our state, the more sincere our prayer.

If a child cries out to a parent, how does that parent respond? They bend down to listen. If a person trips and falls, how does a friend go to help? They bend down to listen.

We called out to God in our sinful state and He bent down to listen. If God has already stooped down to pull us from our sins, He will do it again and again and again.

It is when we are at our weakest, our lowest place, that God is at His strongest.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 2:9a (NKJV)

Don’t ever believe the lie that you are to lowly for God to care about.

Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees. He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion.

senior devil, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

If God is not ashamed to bend down to listen to us, we should never be ashamed to cry out to Him at our lowest. He hears and answers our prayers.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 116-118, 1 Corinthians 2

Speak out!

There are two ways of learning things: you can learn the hard way and figure it out on your own, or you can seek out an answer or advice from someone who already knows. The concept is not new. It’s existed literally since the beginning of time.

We seek out those who have learned the hard lessons or who have gleaned those lessons from others. It’s how we, as humans have gathered our wealth of knowledge. Each generation (should) learn from the previous. It’s all dependent on the previous generation sharing their knowledge and the current generation listening and understanding what is being passed to them.

In high school, I was a smart kid. I learned quickly. I graduated with the highest honours possible. Nearly straight A’s. A’s in everything but Math 11. I distinctly remember one day in class where I just couldn’t grasp a concept, so I asked the teacher for help. He told me I’d have to come after class if I wanted help. Not possible. Where most student’s days ended at 2:15, I had another class after that. I explained that to the teacher. He shrugged. I asked if he could help me in class (as far as I could tell, he wasn’t doing anything else, and wasn’t it his job as a teacher to teach me?). He looked at the problem and told me I should know how to do that already. Well, I don’t, which is why I’m asking for help. He said I should have learned that the year before. Obviously, I didn’t. I’d have to come to after school help. I couldn’t (I liked band class way better than math anyway). I never did fully understand the concept and my grade reflected it.

That teacher had knowledge that, had he been willing to share it with me, would have helped me to maintain my straight A status. He could have helped, yet he withheld that information. Now, that’s just high school math and, contrary to what every teacher ever told me, I never needed algebra in the “real world”—not even in the fifteen years I worked in finance and insurance. But what about the knowledge we, as Christians, have? What do we know that could help others? Has God done great things for us? Has He come to our aid when we’ve called on Him? Has He loved us? Has He rescued us?

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has saved you from your enemies.

Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

If one of the the only ways people can learn is from others, what are we showing or teaching them? Are we silent and withholding like my math teacher or are we vocal and willing to share about the great things God has done in our lives?

Those who are wise will take all this to heart
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:43 (NLT)

The only way something will show up in history is if it’s recorded—whether we write it down or pass it down orally. The only way history will show the faithful love of the Lord is if we keep talking about it. History doesn’t record silence. It records difference-makers.

Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 107-108, Romans 12:21-33 

Lead

How often do you ask to be lead rather than to lead? Who really wants to follow when you can be a leader?

How often do you ask what you should be doing? Who really wants to be told what to do when you can tell someone else what to do?

Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
or my enemies will conquer me.
Tell me clearly what to do,
and show me which way to turn.

Psalm 5:8 (NLT)

Life isn’t all about being the one in charge. Sometimes—and even more often than we think—it should be about asking for direction and instruction. It’s about letting someone else be in charge. God’s guidance isn’t there to stifle us. He doesn’t want to lead us like a dog on a leash.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Protect them,
so all who love your name may be filled with joy.
For you bless the godly, O Lord,
surrounding them with your shield of love.

Psalm 5:11-12 (NLT)

We don’t have to listen to God’s directions and instructions, we get to. When we put ourselves into God’s plan, not only is it His will that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28), but He surrounds us with His shield of love. We can take refuge in Him. He will protect us.

Submitting to God is not a trial. It’s a joy. A privilege.

I will lie down in peace and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

Psalm 4:8 (NLT)

Submitting to God leads to joy. It leads to peace. It leads to love. Who else can you follow that will lead you to all of that?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 4-6, Acts 16:16-40

It is I

Have you ever been wrong? Of course not! What a silly question.

I’m sure we’d all like to answer that we’ve never been wrong in our lives, but I’m pretty sure we’d all be lying through our teeth to do so. Whether we’re ill-informed, ignorant, or just plain wrong, it happens to us all. And it will happen again.

So what do we do when we’re on the losing side of a debate? Do you clench your teeth and refuse to listen to the other party? Do you walk away? Do you listen while all the while planning your next response? Or do you pay attention with patience and an attitude of humility? Are you able to admit when you’re wrong?

For several weeks now in our daily reading, we’ve been listening to Job whine on and on. He believes that if he can plead his case before God, God will see the error in His ways and restore back to Job all that was taken from him. He figured he could beat God in a debate.

In the end, God shows him up in just a couple of chapters. And He does it in mighty fashion. Job cannot deny his own error. He can now either turn from God—as the devil figured he would when this whole mess started—or he can continue to be the righteous man God claimed he was.

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You ask, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me.

Job 42:1-3 (NLT)

I am sure that there are many out there who would believe that admitting they are wrong would be telling the world they’re idiots. Nothing could be further from the truth! To be able to admit wrong is a sign of both humility and wisdom. It means that you are willing to learn and that you are willing to lower yourself to do so. Only idiots refuse to admit their wrongs.

Our own understanding will only get us so far—it didn’t get Job anywhere. That is why there are so many verses that speak of getting wisdom and understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 (NLT)

Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And whatever else you do, get good judgement.

Proverbs 4:7 (NLT)

Wisdom and humility go hand in hand. Had Job refused to humble himself and admit his wrongs, it is doubtful that he would have received a double portion of prosperity in his latter years.

Sometimes, the wisest thing we can say is, “It is I. I was walking about things I didn’t understand.”

Daily Bible reading: Job 40-42, Acts 15:22-41

Attitude

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

John 11:21-22 (NLT)

This is the same Martha who had been whining to Jesus about Mary who would sit at his feet rather than help in the kitchen. She’s come a long way since then and has obviously taken the time not just to work, but to listen to Jesus as well.

“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

John 11:27 (NLT)

Martha, not Mary, was the first to greet Jesus when he finally arrived after hearing of Lazarus’ illness. Martha had to go get Mary so Jesus could speak with her. Martha, the more practical of the two believed that Jesus could do whatever God wanted him to do in the situation and told Jesus so. Mary, the more emotional of the two almost seemed to blame Jesus for their brother’s death.

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32 (NLT)

Both women told Jesus the same thing, but with completely different attitudes. There is a time to be like Mary—breaking open a jar of expensive perfume to pour over Jesus’ feet. To sit and listen to the Son of God and drink in all he has to say. And there is a time to be like Martha—more practical. Able to think clearly in times of turmoil and crisis.

Jesus didn’t scorn either woman, but praised them both for their attitudes and faith.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 26-27, John 11:18-46