Hearing God

Elijah was terrified.  Jezebel promised to kill him in the next 24 hours.  So he runs.  And then God shows up:

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19)

Stillness.  Quietness.  A whisper.  There is a distinctiveness to when God speaks.  Elijah knew the difference.  There was something in the whisper that made it very clear that it was God speaking, so Elijah moved closer.

There are times when we just have to wait until He speaks.  And we need to actually listen, to look for His activity, to pay attention so we’ll recognize Him when He moves.

Maybe today is the day you finally hear what you’ve been needing to hear.  Maybe it’s not.  Question is – are you listening?

Faith & Prayer

What is faith?  Is it being confident that God will do whatever we ask?  Is it doing the right things so God will be happy with us and bless us in the way we want? Is it hoping enough until God responds?  Is it any of these things?  These questions come, not out of academic curiosity, but rather out of a desire to understand what it means to truly follow Christ.

I daresay that our view of faith in the western world has been affected by our individualistic culture which thrives on the attainment of our goals and the fulfilling of our desires.  We’ve all heard that If we work hard enough, we can become whatever we want.  And so, it’s easy to approach God with the idea that if I do the right things, pray hard enough, believe long enough, that He will do what I ask Him to do.  Most of us would avoid associating with the idea of health, wealth and prosperity, yet that has probably tainted our view of Christ in some form or fashion.

So when when real life hits and we realize that God has not answered our prayers and that He has, in fact, taken us in the opposite direction we asked Him to take us into, how do we reconcile that?  What does that do to our theology?  Some feel let down, maybe cheated, and they walk away.  But for others, it causes us to dig deeper frees us to really see God for who He is.  He’s God.  I Am.  Alpha & Omega.  The Lion of Judah.  The sovereign God of all creation who does as He has determined and is not counseled by any man.  That’s who He is.  He’s not a slot machine.  He’s not ebay.  He is the Lord of all creation who has determined our very days and who has, for some reason beyond logic, has extended grace to us through Christ, that we who respond in faith, might be called His children.  He has opened the door that we might come into His presence with confidence.  Not so we can get what we want, but so we can know Him.  We express our desires, concerns, frustrations, praises, petitions, thanksgiving in prayer because He has asked us to and so that we might see Him respond by doing what He has determined is best.  He has directed us to pray according to His word (John 15) and that He will answer the prayer given in faith.  However, His answer may not be what we have asked.  Paul tells us in Eph 3 that God does more than we can ask or imagine, not less.  So when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we want, do we recognize that He’s answering out of a character that is perfect and that does what is best.  He works all things for good, even when we don’t understand how that is.

Ok.  Maybe I’m the only one (but I doubt it)…I still get frustrated when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want Him to.  I get disappointed and then I go through the process of reconciling my expectations to who He is, and come back to seeing that, even when I don’t understand it, He is doing what’s best.  I take comfort in knowing that the Christian life was a process even for guys like Paul.  Even he had to learn to be content.  I suspect it will be a lifelong lesson.

*This blog came in part, from a conversation over coffee with a friend named Tim Holler.  You should check out his blog when you get a chance.  Smart guy.

a God equation

I was running earlier and listening to a Steve Brown podcast on prayer.  I was reminded that God is not bound to do things the way I want Him to do it.  He’s not bound to answer my prayers the way I want or to do things my way.  He’s faithful to His promises and won’t deviate from that which is in His word, but He will not be confined to my formulas and equations of faith (e.g., 30 minutes of prayer + 30 verses read = 5 answered prayers).  I can do all the “right things” and God may still say no.  After all, He is God and He will do what is best and what will bring Him the greatest glory.

When I look at how and what God did throughout Scripture, I see Him doing crazy things  (burning bush, Jericho’s walls, talking donkey, Jonah in the fish, the Son of God dying a sinner’s death…you get the picture).  Point is, God is God and He will do what He wants, not what I want.   So I shouldn’t be surprised that His activity in my life isn’t as I would have planned it.  If I could direct my life, it would look more like a straight shot from point A to point B.  However, the picture of God’s direction in my life has been anything but a straight shot.  It has involved things that I would not have chosen on my own.  I would opt for the easier road given the choice.

God takes us to places we wouldn’t choose to go, yet in all these things, He is working out something far bigger than what we see.  He is working out eternal purposes through finite beings who have a finite understand and who, ironically, try to give direction to an infinite God (see Is. 55).   I often wonder what God is doing in my life.  My plans have pretty much been decimated.  But strangely enough, there’s a freedom in that.  As my expectations have been consumed like dry brush in a fire, I’m finding myself more open to whatever God has in store.  Much of the story has yet to be written.  So I eagerly await the next chapter, whatever that may be.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me.