Monday, December 17, 2007

Missed calls

I tend to think that God is communicating with us all the time, but it's generally not in the ways that we seem to expect. Just as a quick example, my wife and I can know each others thoughts without saying anything. There's body language. There are subtle and not-so-subtle actions that we do that can convey messages to each other. There are "looks" that we can give each other that speak volumes (for better or for worse). There are notes. There are phone calls. You know what I'm saying. The ways we communicate go on and on.

We Christians often seem to want God to speak to us in an audible voice, but yet He communicates in so many other ways. Can you think of some of the ways He communicates with you? The thing about my wife and I is that it has taken us a long time, dating back to when we first met, to truly understand our ways of communicating with each other and what we really mean in our various means of communication. And we're definitely still growing in this! Sometimes we still just don't "get" each other. And I've come to see the same thing in my relationship with God. Sometimes I really know that I know that I know what He is saying to me and sometimes I just don't get it. I'm growing.

In the last post, I spoke about God initiating and us responding. Well, what if we "miss" His call? What if we are too busy or are too lazy or are too loud, etc, etc, to hear Him. I know this has worried me to death in the past.

I'm reminded of a couple of Steve McVey stories here. I'll put them in my own words, but I originally heard them from him. The first one has to do with a father-son relationship. What if the father wants his son to clean his room. He would tell his son to clean his room. What if the son is watching TV and doesn't hear his dad? The dad will simply tell him again. The son may be distracted by this, that or the other thing, but the point of the story is that the father will make sure that the son knows what he wants him to do. It's the father's responsibility to make sure the son has heard him.

I'm allll for quiet times, alone with our Father, but yet in some ways I think they're over-rated. Again... I value my quiet times with my heavenly Father... but so many of the ways in which we've communicated together have not been in "quiet" times. I'm telling the truth here... the Lord spoke audible, clear words to me one time several years ago while I was jamming to a Metallica song! I had been previously been praying about certain things, and the five words He spoke were a direct answer to my prayers. But I never expected to get the answer in the middle of a Metallica song! And by the way, the answer had nothing to do with the actual lyrics of the song. I simply can't explain it, except to say that I believe that God is sovereign and His will will be done!

The second story I want to share here actually happened when Steve was here in Iowa a couple of years ago, visiting my church over a weekend. I believe he's since shared this in a newsletter and perhaps elsewhere. Have you heard his GPS story? In short, he was here in town, driving a rental car (I think) that had a GPS navigation system. He was using it to get to where he was going. I forget the details, but at one crucial point he didn't hear the instructions clearly and he either missed a turn or he turned too early --- and he got off course. The wonderful thing about the GPS device is that it immediately compensated. Instead of saying, "excuse me, you've just messed up and now I can't get you where you were going," the device recalculated the directions from where he was now at! He would still get where he was going, perhaps a little later than planned, but he would still get there...

Can you think of people in the Bible with whom this type of thing happened? Abraham always springs to my mind. God promised him a seed but it wasn't happening as fast as Abraham expected so he tried to make it happen his own way, and he went off course. But even though he "messed up," God still did with him what He had planned to do all along. And what about Balaam? God communicated with him by having his donkey turn and go off the road, crush Balaam's foot against a wall and finally simply lay down underneath him... in three separate attempts to save him from certain death. Each time Balaam got mad and beat the donkey (not knowing why the donkey had done those things). Finally the Lord opened the donkey's mouth. I've never noticed until now, but she never actually told Balaam why she had done those things. She simply said, in my own words, "excuse me but don't you see that I've always been a good donkey for you and I would never intentionally harm you!" It was the Lord Himself who opened Balaam's eyes to see what was actually going on. (See the full story in Numbers 22).

I'm sure there are many more examples, but the overall thing I'm trying to say here is that the Lord dwells in us and He's in a partnership with us. This partnership is lived out, not by us trying to guess what He's saying, but by Him faithfully communicating with us and working in and through us in His ways and in His timing.

I don't think God is in the hurry that we are in...

And I just think we need to relax, chill out, lighten up... all that good stuff (!)... and just go about our lives with the mind that God is always in us and with us. He doesn't want to be "Number One" in our lives. It's so much better than that! He IS our life, and with that in mind we can truly relax and just live, keeping in mind that He is a great communicator.

If we should happen to get mad and beat our donkeys... and don't deny that you've had your own donkey beating experiences (!)... we can know that God is still faithful to save us from ourselves. If we should try to get ahead of Him or if we miss hearing Him, we can know that He is faithful to speak to us and to fulfill His plans in us. I believe I've heard this preached completely wrong in my life in the church. What I hear preached is that God is depending upon us to do His will. I think it's the other way around. We are depending upon Him to initiate His will, and as we simply respond in faith, He carries it out in and through us.

I know this is long, but I'm sure there's more to say on this! Thoughts?


  1. Wow!!! This was very enlightening, Joel. Man...I've never thought of these things in that way. It's up to God to speak to us so that we can hear Him. That is just amazing to me. A new revelation.

  2. you did it again, thanks Joel for your thorough exposition here.....yes enlightening.....and helpful to hear it put in stories...

  3. Yeah, Matt, this revelation has really revolutionized my life. God is sovereign, He is wise, He is faithful, and we're fully dependent upon Him. A lot of the guess work has disappeared from my life (trying to guess or figure out "what God is trying to tell me," and I can relax and know that He's faithful to communicate with me and to do His will in and through me. And again, if I've somehow "missed" what He's said, whether through my own stubbornness, laziness, ignorance, sinfulness, or whatever... He's still faithful to work in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Getting off course may or may not involve discipline, depending upon God's Fatherly wisdom, but discipline means we're legitimate children of a loving Father! And I can't repeat enough... God is faithful, and it's His faithfulness that we're dependent upon.

  4. I like what you've done with the place.

  5. Hey thanks Gary. I found a site that has blogger templates, and this one is the same as the one I was using except it has three columns instead of two, which is what I was looking for. The only problem I'm having is that I can't get it to display my "logo" on the header. It shows up in the configuration but not on the actual blog. Back to the drawing board, sort of. :)

  6. Metallica and other "Think" bands can be very prophetic at times while at others very disheartening. Still, I have been alarmed through the Heavy Metal world of music as well as Horror flicks. I was reading the begining of Brian Welches book and there was much in there that I identified with.

    Praise God that none of us are beyond his grasp and that now we are in it we fully rested in HIs love grip.

  7. Joel--Great, encouraging thoughts. It reminds me of something I just read that hit me like someone splashing me with cold water (but in a good way).

    It was about the times when we fail God, and the basic thought was, God isn't ever disappointed in us. Disappointment comes from not meeting someone's expectations, Since God knows everything we're going to do, He doesn't have false expectations of us. He's known about all of my sins and failures, even before I was born.

    God has already seen and known every time I would fall short. And He loves me anyway! That is a great, freeing thought, at least to me...

  8. Only Look,

    I think that's true about Metallica and other such bands. While I don't put in a Metallica song thinking God's going to speak to me through it, from time to time there's a good line. I also simply like their music (most of it, anyway), and while it's no longer anything close to my first choice of music, I sometimes pop it in and jam a little. :)

    I've seen Head on a couple of shows but I've been distracted with other things each time so I still don't know a whole lot about his life, but I do know he had the typical rock n roll star life and it's great to see how the Lord has worked in his life up to this point. He seems to be a very humble person, knowing that this is all a gift from God and nothing that he's done to deserve it.

  9. Richard,

    Amen! That's good. God's great expectations are in Himself, not in us. Our great expectations are in Him and not in ourselves. :) So I believe we can rest and stop setting ourselves up for failure by putting all these expectations on ourselves and instead put our trust completely in Him. Indeed He doesn't have any false expectations of us because He doesn't have any expectations of us.

    This takes the pressure off of us to perform, and the pressure off of us when we fail, because we know that when we do fail it doesn't mess up His foreordained plans and when we do perform it's His very life in us that we're depending upon.

  10. Very true brother. I guess some of us are affected in differant ways perhaps. The Metal for instance has the ability to pinpoint and resurface memorys that I dont want to remember anymore. For some who were affected in a deeper way through drugs it has been scientifically shown to actually re-create a virtual drug trip.

    I guess I am coming down to Romans 14 on this and looking out for each other in love. Drugs werent a problem for me, but some other things are that I dont like remembering. Perhaps its just me though. I dont want to lay burdens on anyone. I also got kinda deep into the messages that some of these bands were pushing...especially the think bands and all and one time at a Rush concert I began to see something without drugs....or maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed so real while Neil Peart was doing a solo drum line.

    Well, either way, its good to walk with God and encourage each other in the amazing love and forgiveness through Christ.

  11. Only Look,

    That's so very true - different things trigger peoples brains in different ways, which is why I believe the truth of Romans 14 is very important, as you pointed out.

    For me personally, in my youth I was so naive that I generally didn't have a clue what was being said in the lyrics of a lot of the music I listened to. :) The message never got ingrained in me because I didn't "get" it. I liked the music and the vocals, and I had all the lyrics memorized but yet I simply didn't pay attention the the meaning of a lot of the songs. But nowadays as I listen to some of the old stuff, I finally see what was being said. For example (one of many, many examples), it was only in the past few years that I was awakened to the lyrics of "The Unforgiven." One day as I listened to it, it spoke to me as a song against legalistic religion. Back in April I posted the video and lyrics, as well as a few of my own comments about the song.

    All that said, although the music didn't really affect me personally, I had many friends who did drugs and who got into the the whole "mood" and "message" of the music and so I truly want to be careful.

    And I definitely love what you said... it's great for us to all encourage each other in the love and forgiveness of Christ!

  12. Thanks for your sensitivity here brother. Yeah, actually Floyd and Triumph and other bands really affected me deeply and I got lost in the poetry and becoming comfortably numb and all the depression that went along with it, never grapsing that legal religion had sort of pushed me away into that as an escape, but the tender voice of Jesus called me back to remember what was given to me as a little six year old boy and He continues to stay close to him and to flee those things the wolf used to call me astray from the peaceful flock of His bosom and care.

    On another angle, I also heard the testimony of a stripper, who would be triggered by this music to her old memories and begin to struggle again with her depression and old life. It is something we need to be sensitive towards. Some of us are stronger in some areas while others of us are weaker and it probably works itself back and forth, but may we all have the attitude of the apostle Paul and use care as none of us live unto ourselves.

    I like how you have brought out Metallicas understanding here. What I always grasp and even stronger now is that some of these bands may understand all of this, but they still will not head to Christ as Brian Welch has. They like Roger Waters from Floyd or Jimmy Page from Led Zepplin have embraced the black arts and fully understand redemptions story but lavish in bowing to the 3rd temptation of Christ or trying to be like Christ as Robert Plant from Led Zepplin as well once called himself a golden god and has sort of fused into a modern spirituality of karma and Zen similar to Anderson from Yes who hope in the spiritualized form o Jesus who can be found in all religions from mystic Judiasm to Buddhism. They see Jesus as being in creation as well as within all of us making himself known through Jesus himself and reincarnating himself in other forms all the way up to the dali lama. Some make their boast in it, while other flirt around with these demons and there are some who like Rik Emmet from Triumph just love music and poetry. He always sold a bit more positive message, but he still loves his groupies and the women and being a Rock god in general. Rick Emmit loved to listen to the Church as a child and was inspired by Church music. He has gone to a more jazz genre and fusion now, but he still likes to put his rock god armour on as he puts it
    I still keep up a bit with these guys and pray they get saved as Brian Welch has. God works in the most unsuspecting places though:-)