Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hearing the Truth

I recently finished Peter Lord's book, Hearing God.  His down-to-earth, humble style assures me that I too may hear the voice of God.  His practical suggestions for learning to hear the voice of God help me develop the habits needed for real communication with God.

For many of us, prayers are those letters we put in the mail, stamped with our time invested, which we hope and assume arrive in God's mailbox.  We never expect replies.  We just hope that something happens that looks like God may have had something to do with it.  Then our prayer is answered.  Or at least we claim that it is.  We have some evidence that God actually opened our prayer-letters, and that he actually did something about it.

But prayer really can be more like a conversation.  We limit the two-way communication by the way we approach prayer.  We cover our prayer lists without taking time to listen.  We never think of listening, because we so rarely ask God to speak.  We just ask him to do.  Why should we listen?

Peter Lord teaches on prayer at Crossroads in February 2012.
Peter Lord gave me a new idea for prayer.  When I face a puzzling situation, I can ask God to show me the truth about it.  I assume that I have all the information I need.  But I don't really know what motivates others.  I don't know for certain how or why things developed.  I need the truth.  I can ask God to reveal to me the truth behind someone's frustrating behavior, behind my sinful habits, behind the roadblocks to ministry.

Then I need to listen.

It takes time, patience, quiet, peace--all things in short supply today.  We have to nurture peace in our hearts and carve out time in our schedules.

When I hear the truth from God, I will probably be surprised.  I never understood it that way.  I never realized the key to that person's heart.  I never saw how my behavior contributed to the problem.  I never knew that my attitude made such a difference.

God will reveal these things, if I will listen.  Then I can repent, respond, or wait, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has his way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Point of Worship

Yesterday in our worship celebration, one of our worship leaders asked the congregation, "Why do we worship?"  Someone responded, "Because it pleases him."

We need to understand the point of worship.  It is all directed at God.  He is the audience.  We are all performers for God's pleasure.  The worship leaders encourage the congregation to sing and surrender to God.

Think about cheerleaders at a football game.  Real fans don't go to a football game to see cheerleaders.  They go to see the game, to root for the team.  Cheerleaders just organize the cheers of the fans.  How strange it would be to have a stadium packed full of fans who watch quietly as two dozen young people shout, "Block that kick!"  The shouts would barely carry across the field.

So when we gather, we need to turn our attention to the One who is worthy.  We cheer for him.  We give praise to him.  We open our hearts to him together.  We are not the audience.  He is.

It pleases him.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Hurry Curse

I recently read John Ortberg's book, Soul Keeping.  I had never read a book about how to keep my soul.  While Jesus makes a big deal about one's soul, we find very little about it in Christian literature.  Jesus did ask, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

It seems like we have plenty of help in keeping our habits, keeping our money, and keeping our doctrine pure.  But none of these has any value if we don't keep our souls.

I have a habit of hurried thinking.  My dad was that way.  He died 13 years ago, but he always seemed to be in a hurry.  Even in his years of retirement, he kept himself and his family poised for the next thing.  I remember rushing through meals and walking fast. He was an industrial engineer, so he was always looking for efficiency.  But efficiency must have a higher purpose.  Why do we want to do things faster?  For what are we saving time?  What is the value of moving on to the next hurried task?

I have inherited that mindset.  I hate the agony of time to relax, when I feel like I should be doing something.  Being productive makes me feel worthy.  If I am being still, I am unworthy.  That feels worse than being hurried.

Ortberg, calling on the late Dallas Willard, notes the difference between being busy and being hurried.  We can be busy, keeping a full schedule, without being hurried.  One can keep a long list of appointments without being hurried.  It is a mindset.

Hurry says that I'm in control, and that means trouble.  I work harder, get frenzied, and work poorly.  Busy (ideally) recognizes that God is in control, and that means everything is all right.  I trust God to take care of all my oversights and shortcomings.  Hurry is walking by sight.  Busy is walking by faith.

Many times a day now, I catch myself with the hurry mindset.  It steals my peace and limits the depth of my thinking.  It wears me out, and leaves me feeling guilty that I have not accomplished more.

But Jesus bids me come to him and find rest for my soul.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light. I can choose joy and peace as I handle my responsibilities.  Then my mind and soul are free to work.  That is living apart from the hurry curse.  Only through Jesus can I find that power through freedom.

Hurry keeps my soul ruffled.  Jesus gives me rest for my soul.