Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Have you heard?

A big truck rumbles by, the vibrations shake the house, and you wonder if it was a small earthquake. Sometimes you feel just a thump, or a short rumble, but you know instantly, because you felt a jolt in your abdomen, that it was a real earthquake, however small or far away.

The week before I moved away from southern California (five miles from the San Andreas Fault), I felt at least 10 small earthquakes. That swarm had my friends very worried!

Do you hear God speaking to you? Are you afraid to feel that rumble deep in your soul, or is it a novelty? What does His voice sound like? Have you ever noticed that God, when He speaks, isn't long-winded or wordy (unlike some preachers and writers). He might place a picture in the mind, or a word or two, and then it's over. The interpretation is open-ended. So even in His messages, God gives freedom, movement, and choice to us; and the creativity to make something interesting and memorable out of very little.

God’s voice can be experienced in many ways. Sometimes it's a slow but steady confirmation as a thought comes together. Perhaps it’s while participating in a Bible study or talking with a friend who needs help. At other times, when reading scriptures, a passage “speaks” in a new way. You hear God’s voice in the lyrics of a song, or the counsel of a godly friend. When you realize that God is speaking to or through your spirit, you get shivers or goose bumps. Other times (more rarely), it's an internal phrase from deep inside. That’s the earth tremor, something that cannot be managed or controlled.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard God speak audibly, but then, perhaps I’ve not tuned adequately to His broadcast frequency. It’s a noisy life, with media, people, multiple deadlines and responsibilities, and images flashing in front of us. What if God is continuously speaking to us, but we can’t hear Him through the cacophony of modern life?

Once, when I was experiencing high stress and deep anxiety, I "heard" song lyrics in my mind, over and over. They were from "I'll Take Care of You." I asked God if he was singing to me, and felt him sort of chuckle, "It took you long enough to get it!" He was telling me, in a love song, that he would treat me tenderly and love me always, and to rely on him to take care of me.

How did He make Himself known to Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Job, or Rahab? They didn’t have written scriptures to study. They, plus millions of people not recorded in the Bible, knew His voice one way or another, and obeyed. When He spoke to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, they begged to be free of Him. When He wrote the Law on stone, they promised to keep the Law, but broke it. He revealed His will through prophets and messengers, but rebels persecuted them.
So God came to us as one of us. He veiled His majesty, concealed His glory, and limited His power. But the flashes of divinity when He raised the dead, healed on Sabbath, and loved unconditionally, were too much for them, so they killed Him.

When He rose from the tomb, He spoke again, giving assurance to Mary Magdalene, Peter, and his friends on the road and on the beach. He said that when He was gone, the Comforter would come alongside and be present with us and in us.

He spoke audibly to Paul on the Damascus road, but we don’t know how Paul heard Him after that. He spoke in dreams to Peter and in visions to John.

The book of Hebrews begins in this way: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV.

The same book goes on to say that the old covenant, written by God and broken by the Israelites, has been made obsolete by the new covenant, which is written on our hearts and minds. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV.

So instead of speaking to us indirectly, to our forefathers through the prophets, we have a better, superior way of hearing the Lord: we have been given direct access to His Presence by Jesus Christ, whose body is the torn curtain (Hebrews 10:20) into the Most Holy Place, God’s bosom. We now have the privilege of receiving instruction, guidance, comfort, love, joy, peace, and every other good gift — straight from God Himself. He writes it on our hearts and minds, speaking to us in the ways and words we can understand. His words to me may not be the same words and instructions He gives to you.

But can YOU have that privilege, or is it reserved for the people who have striven for spiritual perfection all their lives (and of course failed, because there are none without sin)? God wants to speak with you and me today, in these last days before Jesus’ return, in the same way that He did with the faithful men and women recounted in Hebrews chapter 11. The Lord will not only speak to us, He will be bountifully generous! He says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29 NIV.

I reveled in the peace of a ruined priory on Lindisfarne Island off England’s north coast, thinking that people had worshiped in this place from at least 600 AD. I thought of how ancient people took their idols with them when they traveled, because their gods were rooted to places. But 6,000 miles from home, worshiping and thanking God on bare stone, with grass and open sky, I “heard” God inside me, saying "Present yourself as a living sacrifice." I knew it was Him, like the real earthquake, not the rumbling truck. I noticed I was sitting on a stone block where the high altar of the church had been. God was having a gentle laugh on me: present yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) at the altar, the place of sacrifice in this early-Christian outpost to the pagans.

Maybe it was not particularly profound as revelations to others might go, but it reminded me that God is everywhere, before I get there and after I leave, but especially, He is IN me at all times; God has a gentle sense of humor; and He reminds me of that perfect day in an ancient, beautiful place. A friend commented that the most direct revelations he’s had were along this line — God’s personal relationship with him — how God views, accepts, loves, and is present with him.

In this season of remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, may we recall some of the gifts He gave us that day: direct and free access to the throne of God, and the immeasurable gift of His indwelling Presence, teaching us what no human can express for another: God’s will for our individual lives.

Don’t worry that by following your heart, you’re being foolish or selfish. That “desperately wicked” heart of Jeremiah 17:9 is the heart of one who rebels against God. You, however, are a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the Lord has created in you a new heart (Psalm 51). That is the very heart on which the Lord writes His will and His desires for you.

Are you listening? Are you paying attention to that rumble, that jolt, that song out of nowhere, that loving whisper in your heart? Are you ready for the gift that says that the God of all the universe has turned His entire attention to YOU, and made you feel very special, very loved, very cherished? Turn down the noise, and turn up the silence.

1 comment:

  1. Kara Wensink says:
    Thanks, I love to read the words that God speaks through you! He has given you an amazing gift, thanks for using it for His glory!


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