Saturday, August 26, 2017

hearing and responding

Many of us ask, "Is it just me or is it really the voice of God?" We may be fearful about moving and acting when we feel like God is asking something of us. We struggle to recognize His voice and struggle to respond. To obey God we need to learn to know His voice and then take action.

Hearing the voice of God can be different for each person and can be different at different times. We all hear from God when we begin to feel the need to turn to Him. We hear him calling us and urging us to repentance,  to give our lives to him. We have heard his voice. We may hear him other ways too.
Through His Word
Through teaching and preaching
Through ministries: music, gift of knowledge, etc
Through Prayer
Through dreams
Through that still  small voice : unction, idea planted in your mind, nudge

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
1 John 2:20 KJV
We learn the voice of God just as Samuel did. Samuel didn’t know the voice of God the first time God called, he learned it through experience. Once he understood God was speaking, Samuel learned the voice of God and obeyed. We have all heard Godʼs voice and responded, that conviction and calling that lead us to repentance. How did you know you needed to repent, to get baptized, or felt calling for more in your heart? We all heard him speaking to our hearts.

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 that person, and they with me.
Revelation 3:20 NIV

When we heed his call, we become familiar with the voice of God and know His voice just like a child knows their parent’s voice. When I call my children, they answer because they know my voice. It should be the same with God.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
John 10:27 KJV

Know God’s word: God always speaks through his Word. Reading the Bible often and regularly is key. Reading the Bible will help us learn about God, learn His character, and help us recognize what and how he speaks. It is the foundation for knowing Him and His voice. We can trust Godʼs Word. When we know the Word of God, we will be able to recognize what He is asking of us verses lies and temptations.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangerʼs voice.”
John 10:1‭-‬5 NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

But you belong. The Holy One anointed you, and you all know it. I haven’t been writing this to tell you something you don’t know, but to confirm the truth you do know, and to remind you that the truth doesn’t breed lies.
1 John 2:20‭-‬21 MSG‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

We know that God does not always proclaim big and loud to talk to us. He uses that still, small voice. Elijah learned that the still, small voice is the one to obey. It may come as a thought or a feeling you cannot ignore. It may nag at you and urge you to act. You may feel that you desperately need to pray or talk to someone, or maybe even share the gospel with them. That is that still, small voice of God speaking to your heart.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord . And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord ; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
1 Kings 19:11‭-‬13 KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord , and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
Jeremiah 23:18 KJV

What we hear must agree with the Word of God. God will never go against His own word. God will not go against His own Word. We can trust His word. If something is contrary to His Word, the Bible, it is not of God. We can ask if it aligns with the Word of God? Does it align with his character? If so, we can trust that it is the right thing.  It is even okay to confirm or fleece God just as Gideon did in the book of Judges. He confirmed with God before acting.  It may even be the wise path to get confirmation for big acts before moving. God may send two or three confirmations for you. Before I moved forward with  a relationship with my husband back when He asked me to date him, I asked God to confirm that it was His will first. God answered clearly. I simply asked that if this man is the one for me, he would arrive at the church Sunday morning before me and if he wasn’t the one for me, I would be there first. He was at the church three hours before me.  Really clear answer there!

How do we respond?

Listen first. We should always include time to listen to God in our prayer time and throughout our day. We can hear from Him when we take time to listen.
Then, we act on what we know and trust him to lead us rightly. We obey what he is asking of us. We just go do it.

But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
Jeremiah 7:23 KJV

When we know Him and His voice, we will act on it. The more we take action, the easier it gets. We begin to recognize His leading more and more. We will develop more trust, more familiarity, action will become our first response rather than fear, or uncertainty.

“Lord, if itʼs you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”   “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:28‭-‬31 NIV‬‬‬

Peter responded to the voice of God, but fear entered.  He knew who to turn to and cried out to Jesus. Jesus reached down and rescued him. Fear may enter and try to keep us from acting on God’s voice. We can trust that even in the midst of action, God will rescue us and help us through. We may mess up, but God will be there to lift us up and turn the situation around. We can respond to God’s call without fear knowing He is right there to help us. Don’t let fear cripple your ability to take action for God. Follow that urging, the unction. Reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. It may feel uncomfortable and we it may stretch you into growing faith. God will bless you when you obey. You may find yourself sitting and praying with a stranger and end up leaving more blessed than you imagine. You may end up giving you last few dollars away, yet feel richer than ever. You may help lead a hurting soul to the Life-giving, Jesus Christ. May we become ready and willing to here the voice of God, recognize that voice and obey it. Let us act on His leading and be a blessing and be a light to those for which God is reaching. Let Him use us as He desires.

Monday, August 21, 2017

the heavens declared

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1 NIV

Today, we had the privilege of viewing a total solar eclipse.  It has been hyped and talked about for weeks around here. We all learned about eclipses and how they happen. Many people from all over the world showed up in our little town and neighboring areas just to experience  approximately 2 1/2 minutes of darkness in the middle of the day.  We sat out in a field with our students at school with viewers ready. It was truly an amazing sight to behold. The many effects and changes around us brought many 'oohs' and 'ahhs.'

This evening, I have enjoyed seeing videos shared by others and by news agencies. All the excitement and the reactions were the same. Pure amazement! It was a moment that will last a long time in memories.

The best part was sitting there realizing we were seeing God at work.  The precise ness and accuracy needed for such an event speaks of an awesome creator. This event requires a specific distance from the moon to the earth, as well as from the sun. It takes into account the sizes of all three: the sun, the moon, and the earth. It was orchestrated and finetuned so the amazing solar eclipse could occur. Not only was it orchestrated, but due to the predictability of the motion of both the earth and sun, the patterns were laid out and can be tracked. We can predict when the eclipses will occur and prepare ourselves to see them.  Without a creator who set this well timed and perfectly placed planet into motion, we would not have these experiences.  The very heavens and skies proclaimed their Creator today. Many people today, reacted with awe and wonder to the creation shouting out truth of His existence. People responded with praise and adoration. Many may not realize it, but God was praised today. Many voices uttered words of praise and called out 'Oh my God' as this phenomenon occurred. I couldn't help but think and wonder what God was hearing at that moment. The heavens declared the glory of God.

So often, people wait till these grand moments to declare the glory of God. Too often, we forget that everyday is meant to be a day for glorifying God.  Everyday around us, the creation of this world is crying out His glory, but His people fail to do so. We get so busy with living our busy lives that we may not take time to just thank Him, praise Him, or even notice His handiwork around us. When is the last time you have taken time to count your blessings from God? When I start to try to list them, I begin to realize, He has done so much for me that I cannot even tell it all. I have not noticed and I have forgotten to take time to notice.  So as I lay my head to rest tonight,  I am doing my best to take notice of all the many blessings. He has done so much for me and I am thanking Him. I am praising Him. I am going to make more effort every morning and every evening to take some time to be awed and amazed at His goodness to me. I will notice the handiwork of God and I will declare His glory a more each day.  I do not want to be the one who is silent and allows the rocks cry in my place.

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Luke 19:40 KJV

I will praise Him for His handiwork, for His blessings and, most of all, because he is God. He is worthy of all our praise just because of who He is.
 He is God.

My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.
Psalm 35:28 NIV

Thursday, August 10, 2017

bloom where you are planted

When I was six years old, my family moved from rural northwest Arkansas to sunny Southern California.  We moved away from all my mom's family, everything we knew and understood to where my dad's  family lived. It was a huge change.  I remember my mom struggling with the big move and changes. But she realized something important. Bloom where you are planted.

I don't  know  if someone told her that or if God helped her, but it changed the perspective in her heart and mind.  She would give that advice to others when chamges came into their lives as well. As we have grown and changes come to our lives, I always think about that. Bloom where I am planted.

This is a Biblical principal as well. Paul explained that he  could be content no matter the circumstances because he was trusting in God knowing He was taking care of him.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11 NIV

Paul went through many things, but worked for the Kingdom of God. He would still preach, share the gospel, and love others.  We can do the same thing.  Whether we make a big move to a new place or have big changes in our lives, we can still be effective workers in the Kingdom of God.  When we go through struggles or good times, difficulties or ease, we can still be used by God to accomplish His will.  Too many times we make excuses and find reasons why we aren't good enough or our circumstances aren't right. We can find many 'reasons' not to pray, share the Gospel, reach out to others, or just be loving  to those who need it.  This is not what God wants for us. We need to find contentment in the place He has us in, in that we can trust that He is taking care of the details and our purpose is just to do His work and will.  We must still bloom where we are planted.

I look out into the field behind my house and there are several flowers growing up among the weeds. They are blooming where the seeds fell and began the process of growing and bloomimg. Not one of them complained about the location or wished to move to the flowerbed by the house. Not one of them refuse to bloom because of the struggle to reach above the tall grass or circumstances that surround them. No, they just grow and bloom.  We can learn a lot and realize we can grow and bloom right where we are, in spite of the circumstances around us. God has placed us right where He needs us to be. He already knows what is going on around us and has a plan for why we are there.  Our best advice and choice is to bloom where we are planted.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

He has a plan for us and needs us to be right where we are so we can grow and learn to trust Him more and more. We can be used right where we are and find that God is already there working for our good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV

We can find contentment in knowing He is working for our good and will do more in our faith than what we can ever do when we wait for the 'perfect time' or 'perfect circumstances.' God has it in His hands and he is waiting for us to activate our faith and take action right where we are. Just go ahead and bloom right where you are.