Archive for the “Hearing God” Category

Be Still and Know that I am God
Psalm 46:10a (NLT)

A personal retreat provides a great opportunity to refocus, re-center, and refresh our life. says it this way:

When we’re being pulled in so many directions, we may become fragmented, losing our clear focus and purpose.  We begin to play catch up, trying to put out fuses, or just keep our heads above water.  We become reactive instead of proactive.  The principles of God, that we have built our life upon, become a little shaky and we begin to rely on our own human understanding instead of divine wisdom.  Striving replaces resting in Christ and often times, over exhaustion of our minds and physical bodies set in.  In other words, we become a hot mess mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I love the author’s description. Phil put it this way after taking a personal weekend retreat at a local convent.

It was like someone washed the slate of my heart, soul and mind clean. It seemed like every day it gets written on and prayer and our time with God takes an eraser and rubs away the dirt, but that dirty, chalky residue is still there. During the retreat, it was all washed clean.

It’s interesting that after only a weekend of personal retreat Phil reported finding the traffic on the drive home jarring and the television intrusive.

Such experiences are wonderful for the soul…but it can be difficult (impossible?) to build several days alone with God into our schedules. That doesn’t mean we have to go without a personal retreat. While at least a full day is best, you can retreat with God in just a few hours. I experience a mini-retreat with God most Saturday mornings. I have the luxury of not having children who need care and I specifically set aside Saturday mornings to be with God. I guard that time carefully. It’s in my calendar and I don’t schedule something else in its place without recognizing that I am making a choice.

You cannot appreciate the true value of a retreat alone with God until you’ve experienced one. Let me encourage you to give it a try, though. You will walk away from the retreat with an uncharacteristic peace and calm about you. It’s a bit like a relaxing vacation on steroids because not only will you be relaxed, you’ll have met with God. Can there be anything more worthwhile? Can there be anything more exciting? Can there be anything more rewarding? Obviously, the answer to those rhetorical questions is “no.”

Here are some tips for making the most of your time away with God.

  • Approach your time apart with the Lord with the right perspective – have a right purpose. While the benefits of spending time away with God are many, they shouldn’t be the purpose of your retreat. The purpose of your retreat ought to be spending time away with God. Don’t go into the retreat with a list of things you expect Him to do for you. Approach it as you would approach dinner with a friend – that is, looking forward to spending time together, sharing the details of your lives and enjoying one another’s company. This is relationship building time.
  • Have a plan. This may seem counter-intuitive to the first point, but it’s really not. Having a plan simply directs your activity (or non-activity) during the retreat. If you’re not accustomed to taking time away with God, you may be uncomfortable with the time. Your plan will ease you into the retreat. You don’t have to stick to the plan if the Lord leads otherwise, but having a plan ensures you don’t spend your time staring at the walls or playing Solitaire. Having a planned start time will keep you from putting it off or getting caught up in other things. Your personal retreat with God is a very special date – who wants to be late for a date with their special someone?
  • Don’t over-plan. You want to include plenty of time to hear from God, so don’t over-plan with things that keep you busy. God doesn’t rush through thing. He does expand time to allow us to do more than it seems we should be able to do (and I don’t know how He does that, but it sure is cool!). But he doesn’t rush time. And spending time with Him shouldn’t rush from one activity to the next.
  • Include as many of the following things in your plan as time allows. If you have a whole day or more, you can enjoy al these activities with God. If you have only a few hours, limit your activities to just a few.
    • Worshipping through music. Have some idea of songs you might listen to and/or worship with.
    • Reading Scripture. I recommend reading it aloud at least part of the time. Hearing God’s Word can have a very different impact on us than simply reading it.
    • Prayer. Remember to include time to listen to God, not just talk to Him. Let Him speak to you.
    • Journaling in some way. Most people write or type their journal, but if you are an artist journal in pictures. If you enjoy scrapbooking, build time into your plan to journal the retreat in a scrapbook.
    • Enjoying His creation. This can be as simple as enjoying flowers in a vase to taking a nature hike to watching the snow fall or the puffy white clouds float by. Do something to connect to the awesome creative side of God’s nature.
    • Studying Scripture. There’s a difference between reading Scripture and studying it. Take some time to study a small passage in depth.
    • Closing time. A good retreat is hard to walk away from. Include time at the end of your plan to enjoy God and thank Him for meeting with you.
  • Be flexible. Don’t move from one activity to another simply because your plan says it’s time to do so. Move from one activity to the next when you feel a release from God or a “finished-ness” about the current activity. This is a no-pressure event. Accomplishing your plan isn’t your goal. Meeting with God is your goal.
  • Don’t let food be a distraction. Many recommend that you fast during a retreat. That can be very good. It can also be just fine to eat lightly during the retreat. There are times when I find fasting to be a distraction from meeting with God. There are other times when fixing food and eating is a distraction from God. Follow the Lord’s leading and don’t feel guilty about your choices.

Of course the most important tip I can give you is to just do it!

Retreats are a time when we stop everything and pay attention to God. Give it a try. He’s worth it.

Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.
1 Samuel 3:9 (NLT)

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I have been captured by the song Word of God Speak by MercyMe this week. You can read about it in yesterday’s blog. You can purchase the CD here.

In yesterday’s blog, I included a YouTube video that intermingles images and Scriptures while the song plays in the background. The video includes great verses about God’s Word, but as the video was ending,  I realized that the song brought a different verse to my mind:

Where there is no vision (revelation, prophetic vision, divine guidance), the people perish (cast off restraint, run wild), but happy are those who keep the law (whoever obeys the law is joyful).
Proverbs 29:18

The Word of God brings vision, revelation and divine guidance. Even when He is speaking discipline, that discipline comes wrapped in a package that includes vision for a better future – that we can be more than we are currently pursuing. It holds the hope of what can come next and the promise that God will help us get there.

By the way, that’s the difference between condemnation from the enemy and conviction from the Holy Spirit. When the enemy speaks it is in condemnation and it doesn’t come packaged with the vision for a better future. It doesn’t come wrapped in hope and a promise for help. It comes wrapped only in accusation, the sense of defeat and assurance of destruction. And in the face of such a future, we cast off restraint and step into that future of defeat.

When God speaks, good things happen:

1. Hope arises in our heart as we glimpse God’s vision. When He speaks, we begin to understand things from God’s perspective.

“He cares enough to speak to me, even though I have failed Him.”

“He has a vision for my future even when my sight is blurred or failing.”

“With Him, I can become the man/woman He wants me to be.”

“He has a part for me to play – a role in His eternal plan.”

2. Faith is ignited in our spirit when His Word speaks to us.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

3. Faith brings an increased measure of grace into our lives enabling us to hold onto and step into God’s vision. Our God is a God of the future. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but He forgives the past and enables the future. When He speaks, His message offers us an opportunity to enter into that future – that vision He has given.

Word of God speak. To me. To my readers. To Your people. We need to hear Your voice. We need Your prophetic vision. We need it to instill us with hope, increase our faith and activate grace in our lives.

We need these things because without them – without hope, without faith and without God’s grace, we see and hear only what the enemy is doing around us and whispering in our ears (“failure”, “defeat”, “no way out”) and sensing defeat we cast off restraint. We run wild because we don’t see God’s vision and our part in it. And we run into our own destruction.

Word of God Speak.

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The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

Tuesday morning was a little unusual. During the week I do my morning devotions at my desk in my home office. Tuesday I was reading more than usual, but not really directed reading as I normally would. I was a bit spacey, bouncing from one thing to another. At one point, I felt like I wasn’t really “done” but didn’t know what else I was to be doing. Duh – you think maybe pray a bit more…but I didn’t – like I said, I was spacey. Instead I opened my internet browser with the thought of checking email and beginning my workday. Pandora began playing “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe and the song just laid me out. From the first phrase of the song I was arrested and focused on the Lord.

It’s been a strange week in general with me being in the office alone most of the time. Chalk it up to the end of summer when everyone has so many other things going and work being slower than usual. (It’s a wonderful thing when these two events coincide.) Thursday afternoon I was diligently working away when I realized that the office was unusually quiet. Yes, I was the only one there, but sometimes the quiet seems quieter and this was one of those times. So again opened Pandora. Almost immediately, “Word of God Speak” was played. Again, I was stopped in my tracks.

This morning I woke up singing the song.

Do you think God is trying to tell me something? I hope so. I don’t know what yet, despite pausing each time He got my attention. That’s OK. Sometimes (often times?) it takes more than a pause to hear the Lord. I’ve set aside a good chunk of the day on Saturday to hear the Lord speak. I pray His schedule will be on my schedule. 🙂 But even if it isn’t, He’s got my attention and I’m listening.

Perhaps He wants your attention, too. Tune your ears to hear the Word of the Lord.

So this morning I went looking for the song on YouTube. I found this and I love the intermingling of Scripture with images while the song provides the background. There are some great verses about God’s Word in this video. Watch and listen. Or perhaps listen, then watch and listen.

As I watched, however, A verse that is not included here came to mind. It’s not included because it’s not really a verse about the Word of God. But it is…Read tomorrow’s blog for more on that special verse. In the meantime, spend just a few minutes with God…Watch and listen. Or perhaps listen, then watch and listen.

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Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 3 (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

In our study of Habakkuk so far, we’ve seen Habakkuk’s burden for his country and God’s response when Habakkuk poured out his heart. Remember, that God urged Habakkuk to “look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.” Just as I wrote that I was again blessed that God so specifically told Habakkuk where to look and what to watch – He didn’t want Habakkuk to miss this! God is so good – when we take our complaints to Him and then listen for His answer to us, He will tell us where to look and what to watch for! Again, I am reminded of the verse Amos 3:7:

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7

We saw Habakkuk’s faith surge then falter again after God’s first response. So he poured out his heart again. After pouring out his burden to the Lord, he picked himself up and said:

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT)

We have to do that sometimes, don’t we? After pouring our hearts out to God we kind of straighten our shoulders and say “OK, I’ve cried out about this enough. I’m going to quit talking and listen and watch for God’s answer.” Well, that’s where we left Habakkuk. Let’s begin to listen in on the Lord’s response by reading it in two translations:

2Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else. 3But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT)

2Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NIV)

There may be some historical reference in this passage, that public announcements were engraved or written in large letters and posted in the marketplace for all to see and read, but there is great application to our own lives. When we have cried out to God, then set ourselves apart to hear His voice, we ought not to forget the important step of writing down God’s answers. In Habakkuk’s day, the messages were written so that a runner could read them and carry them on to others. In our lives, writing what God reveals to us serves several purposes:

  • Like the runners of Habakkuk’s day, we also run through life. Taking time to write the message causes us to pause and consider it. These are not simply messages about upcoming events. This is revelation from God. God is revealing Himself and His plans to us. Is there a thing more worthy of being put in permanent form? Notice that both translations use the words “tablets” – these are not messages to be written on parchment. These are messages that deserve a more permanent record
  • The process of writing the message often helps to clarify it. Notice that Habakkuk’s letters are to be large and clear. God wants everyone to understand. I often find that writing brings great clarity and understanding to what God has said.
  • Revelation from God that has been clearly written down serves as faith mile markers with which we can track our journey. When I read my old journal entries, I am reminded that there was a time when I didn’t know some of the things I know now. As I read about the struggles I went through to learn some lesson of faith (often struggles that have been long forgotten), I am encouraged that my current faith struggle will also lead to growth and a greater understanding of the goodness of God.
  • Writing the message makes it available to posterity. I have one of my grandmother’s old diaries. While much of it is filled with everyday kinds of things, what a blessing it is to read the entries that talk about her dreams for life and answers to her prayers.

I know that not everyone is a writer and the thought of writing the vision and making it plain almost paralyzes you. There are other ways to record the vision. Here are some ideas for those of you who are disinclined to write the vision:

  • Record the vision. Speak into a tape recorder or record it through your computer. There is a website that allows you to record messages and share them with your friends. I’ve used it in these blogs.
  • Create a pictorial record of the vision. If you’re an artist, draw the vision. You may even have received the revelation from God more as a vision than as words whispered in your spirit. Be careful to include enough in the picture that the vision will be clear when you look at it next week, next month or next year.
  • Create a scrapbook for the vision. This record may include images and words that bring to life the revelation God has given.
  • Create a “treasure box” for the vision. Spend some time filling a box with items that bring the revelation to life in your mind and spirit. If God spoke a specific Scripture, write it out and include it in your treasure box. Find objects or symbols that represent the completion of the revelation or the process that will bring it to pass.

The goal is to record the revelation, making it clear, so that it points toward what God has revealed that He will do. This step is important because God makes it clear in verse 3 that “these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.”

Our microwave generation doesn’t do “slowly and steadily” well. Having God’s revelation documented helps us in those times when we begin to wonder if He will ever move on our behalf.

Finally, God gives Habakkuk and us instruction and reassurance: “If the vision seems slow in becoming a reality, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Having just said that it would occur “slowly and steadily” God wants to make sure we understand that it is not being delayed. In other words, no one is stopping the flow of His plan. No person or demon is delaying His plan. The writer of Hebrews encourages us similarly:

35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 8But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Hebrews 10 (NIV)

We’re not to lose confidence, but to live by faith. Our life journey as a Christian is a walk of faith. Paul writes the same thing:

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:17 (NIV)

Where is it written? In Habakkuk 2:4. In verses 2-3 we’ve seen God telling Habakkuk to write the revelation and make it clear. God then turns to the message He wants Habbakuk to communicate and He begins with this profound statement:

“See, [the proud or wicked man] is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—
Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV)

Isn’t that wonderful – all the way back in the Old Testament, God’s message of salvation by faith is clear! While the Old Testament provides the Law – rules and regulations about how to live a life of holiness, it also clearly points to salvation being the result of faith, not the result of following the Law. That message is embodied in the life and teaching of Jesus and written and made clear in the New Testament epistles. I love how this Book we’re reading paints a consistent, cohesive story!

What a great passage! Are you seeking God for answers to your challenges? Are you documenting His answers clearly? Then are you holding on to the revelation He’s given as you walk toward its fulfillment? That’s living by faith. Walking in such a way that you are always preparing for and expecting the fulfillment of God’s revelation. It’s where I want to live my life – in the adventure of God’s revelation. Will you join me? As my pastor would say, “Cowabunga, Dude!”


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Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 2 (Habakkuk 1:6 – 2:1)

In my previous blog we looked at the first five verses of Habakkuk. I was blessed by God’s response to Habakkuk’s burden – He urged Habakkuk to listen and watch closely because He was about to do amazing things. That’s just the kind of God we serve!

After the Lord urges Habakkuk to listen, He goes on to tell Habakkuk His plans. Habakkuk responds in faith…for all of one and a half verses (12 and 13a)! He then continues crying out about the evil around him and the Lord’s apparent delay in responding. Aren’t we so often like that? We so want to believe God, but our eyes quickly fall from heaven to earth and all we see is the sin around us. Lord, help us keep our eyes on you. Habakkuk concludes his second round of complaining to God in chapter two verse one:

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT)

I’ll be honest with you – I don’t know how to interpret this verse. His attitude could have been that of a rebellious child who is going to pout in the corner because he hasn’t gotten his way, or it could be that of the faithful believer who is sitting and waiting upon God. It would be discernable in the inflection of the words, but I’m not sure from the words alone. It sounds like the former, but the latter seems more in character with the prophet.

I checked four different commentaries and they all agree that it is the latter – Habakkuk is pulling himself away to sincerely hear from God. Matthew Henry had such a wonderful commentary on this passage that I would like to share a long portion of it. The language is a big dated, but the message is timeless:

The prophet humbly gives his attendance upon God: “I will stand upon my watch, as a sentinel on the walls of a besieged city, or on the borders of an invaded country, that is very solicitous to gain intelligence. I will look up, will look round, will look within, and watch to see what he will say unto me, will listen attentively to the words of his mouth and carefully observe the steps of his providence, that I may not lose the least hint of instruction or direction. I will watch to see what he will say in me” (so it may be read), “what the Spirit of prophecy in me will dictate to me, by way of answer to my complaints.”

Even in a ordinary way, God not only speaks to us by his word, but speaks in us by our own consciences, whispering to us, This is the way, walk in it; and we must attend to the voice of God in both. The prophet’s standing upon his tower, or high place, intimates his prudence, in making use of the helps and means he had within his reach to know the mind of God, and to be instructed concerning it. Those that expect to hear from God must withdraw from the world, and get above it, must raise their attention, fix their thought, study the scriptures, consult experiences and the experienced, continue instant in prayer, and thus set themselves upon the tower.

His standing upon his watch intimates his patience, his constancy and resolution; he will wait the time, and weather the point, as a watchman does, but he will have an answer; he will know what God will say to him, not only for his own satisfaction, but to enable him as a prophet to give satisfaction to others, and answer their exceptions, when he is reproved or argued with. Herein the prophet is an example to us.

1. When we are tossed and perplexed with doubts concerning the methods of Providence, are tempted to think that it is fate, or fortune, and not a wise God, that governs the world, or that the church is abandoned, and God’s covenant with his people cancelled and laid aside, then we must take pains to furnish ourselves with considerations proper to clear this matter; we must stand upon our watch against the temptation, that it may not get ground upon us, must set ourselves upon the tower, to see if we can discover that which will silence the temptation and solve the objected difficulties, must do as the psalmist, consider the days of old and make a diligent search (Psalm 77:6), must go into the sanctuary of God, and there labour to understand the end of these things (Psalm 73:17); we must not give way to our doubts, but struggle to make the best of our way out of them.

2. When we have been at prayer, pouring out our complaints and requests before God, we must carefully observe what answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and his providences, to our humble representations; when David says, I will direct my prayer unto thee, as an arrow to the mark, he adds, I will look up, will look after my prayer, as a man does after the arrow he has shot, Psalm 5:3. We must hear what God the Lord will speak, Psalm 85:8.

3. When we go to read and hear the word of God, and so to consult the lively oracles, we must set ourselves to observe what God will thereby say unto us, to suit our case, what word of conviction, caution, counsel, and comfort, he will bring to our souls, that we may receive it, and submit to the power of it, and may consider what we shall answer, what returns we shall make to the word of God, when we are reproved by it.

4. When we are attacked by such as quarrel with God and his providence as the prophet here seems to have been—beset, besieged, as in a tower, by hosts of objectors—we should consider how to answer them, fetch our instructions from God, hear what he says to us for our satisfaction, and have that ready to say to others, when we are reproved, to satisfy them, as a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), and beg of God a mouth and wisdom, and that it may be given us in that same hour what we shall speak.
(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

So many things to learn from one little verse! Thank you, Matthew Henry for your time-tested wisdom!

What do I take away from such a lengthy analysis? The need to set myself “above” and “apart” from the mess and wait to hear God. So often life rushes past and I have some challenges that I need God’s wisdom on, but I try to hear Him in the midst of the rushing. Lord, help me to remember to pull away.

I hope you’re enjoying Habakkuk! There’s more good stuff to come. In the meantime, be blessed, my friends.

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Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 1 (Habakkuk chapter 1)

I like the book of Habakkuk! It was part of our Resting at the River’s Edge reading this week and I was so blessed by it. The book records Habakkuk’s cries to God for justice and God’s responses. It is filled with despair and hope; Habakkuk’s reality in this world and His faith-filled response to it.

When I sat down to write several hours ago, I thought I would write a single blog that would pull a few verses from the book that bless me. As I began to study it more, however, and it soon became apparent that more than one blog would be needed to share Habakkuk’s world and faith with you. So as you begin to read this short series of blogs, my prayer is this:

Lord, open our spirits to hear His message for each of us – spoken through Your Word and Your Voice heard deep within our spirit. Teach us Your Ways and give us hearts to be transformed. For the glory of Your precious Son, Jesus. Amen.

Habakkuk sees the world around him and asks God “How long?” Ultimately his cry is not answered, but the prophet stands in faith waiting for it with great tenacity and hope. My breath is taken away by his closing prayer…but that’s a message you’ll read about a couple of blogs from now. Let’s start with Habakkuk’s first lament and the Lord’s response. If you are reading the King James Version, the first verse is translated like this:

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Habakkuk 1:1 (KJV)

Notice that what you are about to read is Habakkuk’s burden – it is his heart’s cry to see justice. Instead all he sees around him is destruction, violence, strife and conflict. The book isn’t recording the annoyance that Habakkuk is experiencing today. It is the burden of his heart and he brings it before the Lord. Let’s read a portion of what he says to God.

2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Habakkuk 1:2-3 (NIV)

I don’t want to diminish Habakkuk’s circumstances – he was looking at the nation of Israel and seeing destruction – but I when I read the verses I personalize them. There have been times in my life when I cried out to God “How long must I call for help but you don’t listen, Lord?” Perhaps you have experienced times when it feels like your life is falling apart around you and you’re about to fall with it. Perhaps there have been times when you’ve been on the receiving end of injustice, destruction and strife. Take heart! God answers Habakkuk’s cry:

Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.

Habakkuk 1:5 (NIV)

It’s as if God whispers in Habakkuk’s ear – “Just watch this! I am about to do something you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes!” Notice that God didn’t just start doing things in response to Habakkuk’s prayer – he simply told Habakkuk that He was going to do things. This teaches me several things about God and His ways:

1 – God wants to reveal His plans to us – He wants to draw our attention to what He is doing. Check out this verse:

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7 (NIV)

The Lord does nothing without first revealing His plans! That excites me! Let’s keep praying “Lord, show me Your ways! Draw my attention to the things You are doing so that I might give you glory.” That is my prayer during this month of thanksgiving – that He would open my eyes more and more to the things He is doing so that I can give Him glory. Our God is a God who constantly reveals Himself and His plans to us. Whether through His Word, the world He created around us, a conversation with a friend, or His whisper in our ear, He makes His ways known.

2 – God is actively involved in growing our faith muscle – our journey with the Lord is a walk of faith, not sight. We hear Him whisper in our ear “watch this” and then He shows us His awesome power and glory. He puts it into our heart to pray for something, but doesn’t answer immediately because to do so would reduce Him to a heavenly gumball machine – we put our prayers in and immediately receive gumball that satisfies our craving for sweetness and activity! Yes, God answers our prayers, but He answers them according to His will and His plans for us and for the world. Often times that means we wait for our answers. During the waiting, our faith is challenged and we are shaped into the image of Christ. We learn to curb that craving for sweet things and powerless activity while we wait for the richness of God’s presence and the powerful anointing of His Spirit.

3 – Our God is a God of hope. The time was not yet right for God to interrupt Habakkuk’s world. So instead of leaving Habakkuk to dwell in the midst of despair alone, God whispered in his ear “I’m coming…just a little while…and it’s going to be glorious!” When life is at its darkest, we can agree with the prophet Jeremiah:

21Yet there is one ray of hope: 22his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. 23Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. 24My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him. 25The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him, to those who seek for him. 26It is good both to hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26 (TLB)

Whew! Three wonderful lessons about the nature of God which fill us with confidence and hope in the midst of the most dismal circumstances. What a great start in this small book of Habakkuk! Chapter 2 continues the lesson…but would make for quite a long blog, so I’m going to resist moving on. Let’s use the next couple of days to let God’s goodness work its way deep into our Spirit before moving on.

I pray, friends, that today and tomorrow you would experience God’s revelatory nature – that He would reveal Himself and His plans to you in a greater way than He has before. I pray that you would be aware of (and joyful in) is activity in your life. That you would know that you know that you know that He is a God of hope – His compassion never ends. I pray that you would experience the goodness in hoping and waiting quietly for God’s response to your challenging circumstances.


Looking forward in anticipation to hearing from you and sharing the next passage from Habakkuk with you.

In the meantime…Enjoy God!

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How do you best hear from God? Does He speak to your heart/mind/spirit most often or most clearly when you:

  • Read Scripture
  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Write/journal
  • Study
  • Discuss Scriptures with other believers
  • Serve
  • Worship

Of course God can speak to each of us in any way at any point in time, but most people have one or two ways they most often hear from God. Since He created us in our mother’s womb, He knows how we’re wired and He tends to speak to us in ways that are consistent with our personality.

I tend to hear God when I’m writing and when I’m worshipping. Sometimes when I’m meditating on passages.

So, for example, when I read our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for yesterday, a specific verse caught my attention:

“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked. Mark 8:5 (NIV)

I was tempted to fly past it – I’m familiar with the story, I studied a similar story a couple of weeks ago – but like I said, it caught my attention. So after reading the whole story, I went back and asked God what the big deal with the question was. No answer.

But that verse sure did intrigue me.

So I began to write. I didn’t know where I was going, but I copied the verse into my word processing program and I started writing. Then I deleted what I had written and started again. Then I left what I had written but skipped a few lines and started over. And a message began to form. Several messages, actually, and the passage came to life. Or should I say God brought the passage to life. Yesterday’s blog was just a snippet from the pages I wrote. I’ll be blogging more from the passage next week after I preach two sermons based on it.

In the process I learned an important point: If I had not made time for God – if I had not stopped reading and begun to write – even when I didn’t know what to write – I would not have heard from God.

So my question friends is simple…do you make time for God? If you want to hear from, it’s imperative that you make time to listen.

By the way… one thing I’ve found is that God most often speaks to me when I ask Him to! Yep. When I ask God to speak to me before reading Scripture, I am more likely to hear His message. When I ask Him to speak to me during worship, I am more likely to sense His heart.

And another thing… if you don’t know how you best hear from God why not ask Him? Then spend a few months focusing on different disciplines each month until you hear God speak to you. Ask Him. He’ll respond.

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I do not believe God wants us to fail. However, I believe God wants us to risk failure to spend time with him, to live life his way. God is calling us to deep relationship, and that requires some time and some sacrifice. It requires trust – trust that God’s way is better than our way.
from Attending to the Trinity blog on “Humble Future 2”

Josh Broward provides an excellent blog for today, Trinity Sunday. You can find it here.

It’s quite long and worth reading the whole blog. If, however, you feel inclined to bail out before even starting, let me suggest that you skip the history at the beginning of the blog and start after the first break in the blog where the author writes “But what does it mean? What is the point?” You won’t have missed anything substantive. Additionally, there are two videos totaling about six and a half minutes. I didn’t particularly like them, but they make the author’s point. Skip them if you’re pressed for time.

But don’t skip the blog altogether. Consider it part of your observance of this special Lord’s Day (Christian Sabbath), Trinity Sunday.

Which of the author’s three suggestions are you going to implement this week? Since this is the second thing I’ve read recently suggesting a practice similar to what he calls the “HOLY 5” I think that’s where I’ll start.

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Today, February 1, 2010, I find myself pondering the date. That’s partly because Phil & I have a date scheduled for tomorrow – somewhat of a tradition at our house – to celebrate Ground Hog Day. We’ll eat garlic sausage, watch the movie Ground Hog Day and just generally have fun with the holiday. But it’s more than that. The first month of the new year is over and I find myself asking questions

  • Have I begun to take hold of the eternal life to which I’ve been called?
  • Have I listened for God’s voice more diligently?
  • 8.3% of the year is over! Did I spend that 8.3% glorifying God in all that I did?

I can tell you the answer to the last question is clearly “No, not in all that I did.” Yet, there is a slow, gentle excitement growing in spirit – I can feel God working even though I can’t put my finger on it specifically. I am becoming dissatisfied with “life as usual” and with many of the ways I’ve “lost” time over the past year. Being aware of unhealthy or sinful patterns is the first step toward repenting of them. God is making me aware of such patterns and nudging me toward change.

Two Examples
I’d like to share two examples with you, but I do so with some trepidation. In my heart of hearts, I’d like you to believe that I have it all together! Of course I don’t. And I’d like you to believe that I’m an incredibly mature, godly woman. I’m not. I am a sinner, struggling to apprehend all that God has for me while still needing to overcome my selfishness, laziness and many insecurities. So, friends, I ask that you extend grace to me as I share these examples.

God is Challenging How I Use My Time
A few days ago, I wrote this in my journal:

A new experiment – What would it REALLY look like if I believed that ALL my time was God’s time? If I REALLY believed that God was in control of my time? (And on course, if I REALLY gave Him full control of my time?) I don’t know if I could sustain such an experiment for more than a few hours… What would my life look like if I REALLY trusted God with every minute and followed His leading?

Let’s start now and see what it looks like. I’m scared, that’s true. But let’s give it a try!

I’m sure we’d all like to believe that God owns our time, but when I took a hard look at how I spent mine, I couldn’t in good conscience say that He does. So for a day, I never went from one task to another without pausing to pray and consider what God wanted me to do next. The result? Some normalcy, some rebellion (I did what I wanted to do anyway) and some peace (when I listened to God, not when I did my own thing). The next day I forgot the experiment! (Amazing how much I can forget while I’m sleeping.) But the thought has come back to me periodically and I have been more conscious of how I’m spending my time (or should I say “God’s time”). In my heart of hearts, not only do I want you to believe I’m perfect, I also really want to follow God more closely and be in constant fellowship with Him. He’s beginning to bring that desire to the front of my mind more frequently and I am being obedient to respond to it more quickly – even in the midst of life’s daily priorities, whether they be work priorities, family priorities or my personal priorities.

God is Reminding Me to Listen and Watch for Him
Our small group came up with an assignment for this week: Look for “God Sightings” each day. God Sightings – circumstances in which God is moving or has moved in your life. It might be to bless you, whisper something in your ear, or convict you of sin. Who knows? Just keep your eyes and ears open for “God Sightings.”

If we believe that God is at work in us conforming us to Christ’s image, if we believe that God leads and guides us, and if we believe that God wants to bless His children, we really ought to be able to recognize His work in our lives on a daily basis. Yet for most people, it’s not as it sounds. In grad school I had a class called “Spiritual Formation.” As a part of the curriculum, we were required to journal every day what God was doing in our lives. Again, one would think such an assignment would be easy for grad students preparing for ministry. Few if any of us found it so. Thinking about this over the past several days, I’ve concluded that there are two reasons that I can’t fill pages and pages with God Sightings each day: (1) most of the time I live my life oblivious to the spiritual realm, and (2) I take the things God does for me every day for granted. I don’t want either of those things to be true about me.

Some times God has to hit me over the head to get my attention. I don’t want to be that way. I want to be ever attentive to Him. But that comes with practice and I don’t practice it enough. God is reminding me to practice!

I’m thankful for the woman in our small group who suggested we look for God Sightings this week. I’m pretty sure her suggestion was a God Sighting – His way of reminding me that it’s something He’s been nudging me toward. And I’m trying to be diligent to pause regularly to ask “is this what You want me to be doing right now, Father?” I’m afraid my independent streak deceives me into believing I can do things on my own and make my own decisions. I don’t want to live independent of God.

How about You?
How closely are you walking with God? Is He really in control of your time? Do you see Him working in your life? May I encourage you to spend some time in prayer over the next couple of days? Ask God to help you grow closer to Him. Appreciate and thank Him for the many, many things He does in your life each day. Ask Him to make you more aware of them.

Imagine how different your life would be if you were aware of the things God does for and in you each day!
As I’ve said (perhaps in a round-about way), I want to live in that knowledge. How about you?

P.S. Here’s an example of one woman who sees God in her life every day – it may seem an unusual way to see God every day, but God has revealed Himself to me in similar ways.

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11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6: 11-12

As I read this passage a few days ago, my attention was captured by one phrase: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” What a great exhortation to consider as we look forward to 2010. I looked up the word that is translated “take hold” and found that it is a cousin to the word from which gets its name.

The word katalambano is used by Paul in Philippians 3:12, when he says “I press on to apprehend that for which Christ has apprehended me.” (For more on how the blog was named, click here.)

The word used by Paul in 1 Timothy is epilambanomai. It means to take hold of, to seize or to take possession of.

I want to do that with my “eternal life.” I have claimed Christ as my Savior. I have asked Him to forgive me of my sins. I seek to give Him full authority in my life. I want also to fully take hold of the eternal life to which I have been called. To me, that is much more than the eternal life I will some day live out with my Lord. It means living this life differently from those who do not have the promise of eternal life after this life is over:

  • It means living this life with freedom from condemnation from myself, others or Satan.
  • It means living this life with a willingness to take risks that I might otherwise be too timid to take because Christ is in me and has made many promises in and for my life that have yet to be fulfilled.
  • It means aligning my priorities with the priorities of God.
  • It means constant dependence on a God who has promised to supply all I need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and has promised to never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6, et. al.).

Our first series of blogs this year is going to focus on what it means to take hold of eternal life. I know, I wrote a blog earlier in the week in which it looked like God had given me a theme for 2010 –

“Learning to hear God’s Voice more clearly and regularly. Of course that requires listening for His voice, as it says in verse 3 – ‘…the sheep listen to his voice.’ It also carries with it the implication that I will follow His Voice after hearing it.”

The two subjects dovetail quite nicely – living the eternal life means living ever attentive to God’s Voice. And I think combined He has given us a great theme for 2010. I don’t have a nifty catch-phrase or title, or a perfectly gift-wrapped paragraph that defines it yet. But God is developing it in my heart as I type. I’m sure it’ll fall into place soon.

In the meantime, come back regularly as we “flesh out” what it means to take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called. Our next blog in the series will be by a guess blogger, my husband Phil. Watch for it early next week.

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