Jesus is a gentleman

If Jesus wants me, he can come and get me. I’ve heard lines like this from many cynical people over the years. They want nothing to do with the church or the message of Jesus Christ, yet seem angry that God isn’t chasing after them and miraculously making them change their lives. Why not? Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn’t barge into places where he isn’t welcome.

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.

John 8:37 (NIV)

The statement, you make room for what matters, is as true as any statement can be. We make room in our lives for family and friends. Some make room for church and gathering together with other Christians. Some make room for prayer, worship, and time reading and studying the Word of God. And some make room for none of it while fully expecting God to work in their lives even though they pay no attention to Him at all.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.

Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

If you’re wondering why Jesus doesn’t appear to be active in your life, you might want to check the front door. He’s probably standing there patiently waiting for you to let him in. And he’s already made the first move by knocking and announcing his presence. Whether or not that door gets opened to allow Jesus entrance into our lives is another story. Jesus only does what we allow him to do in our lives. He’s the guest here. How much liberty will you allow him?

Read: 1 Chronicles 8-10, John 8:37-59

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

One voice

I was recently in a meeting with my pastor when he was asked about the local ministers’ group—pastors who regularly get together to discuss local church-related issues (in theory). My pastor laughed at the comment. He stopped going to those meetings a long time ago. He never even attended enough to be considered a regular. Do you want to know why? At one of these pastor’s meetings—where a group of pastors from the same city should be getting together to discuss strategies on how to help the lost in their city—a pastor stood up and said that he saw no reason for the churches in our town to work together. They’re all doing their own thing and that’s just fine.

Is it?

May God, who give this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

Romans 15:5-7 (NLT)

Everything I’ve ever read in the Bible, especially in reference to the Church, has always been that we should work together. That we are one body. A part of one mission. One family.

What should be a family business has become a rather serious case of sibling rivalry. I’ve heard many praise the fact that the city I live in is considered to be one of the most churched cities in the country (approximately one church per 1,000 residents). I beg to differ. I ask the question, how many United churches are there? Reform? Pentecostal? Mennonite? Non-denominational? There are multiples of each of these and many more. And very few, if any, were an intentional plant from another. It is a testament of split after split after split.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that there are different ways of doing things. Different denominations appeal to different people. I have no issue with that. What I take issue with is the fact that these people don’t see the need to work together, to speak with one voice.

The city is filled with people who have been exposed to and hurt by the local church. Instead of effectively working together toward a common goal, one church spurns another, creating more animosity than converts. How can God be glorified in that?

I long for the day when the Mennonite church can approach the Catholic church and join with the non-denominational church and they can all work together to proclaim the only message we’ve been called to proclaim:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

I leave you with a prayer from Paul.

So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106, Romans 15:1-20

The sound of silence

Silence can be one of the most difficult things to endure. For many, a great deal of discomfort is found when all noise ceases. Most of us will feel a need to fill the void of sound with babble, the radio, a YouTube video, or just about anything that will permeate the air with something other than silence.

There are times, though, when God desires our silence. Remember on the mountain, Elijah did not hear God in the wind, the quake, or the fire, but in the whispering, small voice in the stillness that followed the cacophony. With his ears ringing from the violence that had just passed, Elijah would have had to be still and listen closely to hear anything at all let alone a quiet whisper.

Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honoured throughout the world.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

It is in the silence that God speaks to us. If we constantly fill our days with noise, how will we ever learn to hear His voice? If we never hear His voice, we will be more easily swayed by all of the other voices around us.

The Lord Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
                                                      Interlude

Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

God is always around us. How often do we take notice of that fact? How often do we acknowledge Him? The Psalms are filled with interludes. In many translations, you’ll find selah following a phrase. It is an intentional pause, a time for purposeful reflection. The Lord Almighty is here among us. Here. Among us. Those are certainly words that could use some additional thought.

We should take time every day not to merely endure silence, but to actively seek it out. If it requires removing yourself to a quiet place, so be it. Leave behind the noise and distractions. See what you can learn. Often the sound of silence is far more revealing than the noise.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 44-46, Acts 25

Speak without a sound

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.

Acts 19:32 (NLT)

There are a lot of people in a lot of places making a lot of noise. Like this crowd in Ephesus, they found a cause and joined the fray without even knowing why they were there. It all sounds too familiar. How much noise are we surrounded by? How many people are shouting to make their voice heard over the rest? How much of it really matters?

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvellous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a (NLT)

Isn’t in incredible that the crowd at Ephesus had to shout to be heard and most of them didn’t even know why they were shouting! Yet the heavens are silent in their declaration and their message can be heard across the entire world.

Think about your message today. Consider the volume of your words and actions. Are you adding to the noise or are you making a silent declaration?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 19-21, Acts 19:21-41

Good sense

I’m sure we’ve all cringed while watching someone do something everyone else seems to plainly see as foolish. The fool struts into the situation believing themselves to be of the highest order. Untouchable. The most intelligent being in existence. And then it all falls apart. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I even enjoy watching it—not if it causes harm, mind you.

Nabal was that fool. Everyone else could see that he put himself in an impossible situation. While he thought himself to be untouchable, someone else saw his folly. His wife saw his stupidity. I could go on about how important women are and that men couldn’t possibly survive without them, but that’s not the point of this story.

Nabal, his land, his servants, and all of his property has been protected by David and his men while they were camped near by. No harm came to Nabal while David was in the vicinity. One might think that, whether or not Nabal had asked for the help, that Nabal would owe David something. But when David requested some provisions, the man was indignant. Who was this David to make such a request of him? How dare he ask for something he didn’t deserve! Needless to say, David wasn’t impressed.

Now, we could all sit back and watch Nabal get what he deserves or someone could step in and try to avoid what is sure to be a disastrous situation.

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, decides to step in.

I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t may any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the messengers you sent.

1 Samuel 25:25 (NLT)

Rather than watch David kill her fool of a husband, Abigail steps in. Because of her plea (and possibly David’s weakness for beautiful women), David spares Nabal. Unfortunately for Nabal, his wife’s charity does not earn him a happy ending. He meets his demise a short while later (he suffered a stroke after the drunken rave he threw to celebrate the fact that David didn’t kill him, then God struck him and he died).

There is a point to all of this: are you Nabal—the fool, or Abigail—the one who smooths over the situation? If you are Nabal and tend to rush into situations are you able to humble yourself to listen to the Abigail in your life? Can you slow down long enough for someone to point out your folly? Can you accept redirection? If you are Abigail, are you wise enough to step in when needed? Can you do it in love and mercy?

Though Abigail didn’t appear to harbour any tender feelings toward her husband, she make the effort to save his life. She saw the error of his ways. And, had he been able to see what she saw, perhaps his fate would have been different.

This Christianity thing is no simple task. We need to lean on the Holy Spirit so we can learn when we need to be bystanders and when we need to be like Abigail and step in. Sometimes, God’s response to a situation is to send a person. Whether we need that person or we are that person, knowing God’s voice becomes ever so important.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 25-26, Luke 16:19-31

Unlikely truth

There are a lot of voices out there. Some are good, some are bad. Some are soft, some are strong. Some are wise, some are fools. Some are truth and some are lies. With all that noise, how are we supposed to know who or what to listen to?

Then Jesus was filled with the  joy of the Holy Spirit and said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.

Luke 10:21 (NLT)

It is always easier to listen to the loudest, strongest voices, but it may not always be the wisest choice. Here, Jesus is thanking God for hiding the truth from those who would most likely be the loudest voices of the time. The childlike wouldn’t have had a platform to stand on in order to have been heard. Yet, God, in His wisdom, was pleased to reveal His truth to these lowly people.

One would be hard pressed to find a saviour born in a more humble setting than Jesus. Even the rabbi’s in the temple were astounded at his wisdom as a young man. If that was how God chose to deliver His message then, what makes us think He would do it any different now?

There is nothing wrong with having a platform and a loud voice, but if all there is is noise, is it really worth listening to? Instead of listening to the most convenient voice, perhaps we should be looking for the unlikely truth revealed to the childlike.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 15-17, Luke 10:1-24