The God Who Listens

“I love God because He listened to me.” (Psalm 116:1)

God knows everything and everybody; and everything about everybody. He knows even that which is yet unknown to anybody. There is no thought, idea, invention, place, person, plan, or purpose which He does not know all there is to know about. Imagine, then, the wonder of His genuine attentiveness — “He listened to me.”

God ListensHave you ever tried to say something important or personal to someone who wasn’t listening? Oh, sure, they held eye contact, only occasionally glancing away at some passing distraction. And they nodded at appropriate moments, and even muttered a muted grunt while you were speaking. But, despite their feigned interest, the moment they get a chance to reply, they either fire back some trite response that has nothing whatsoever to do with what your were saying; or, they quickly excuse themselves with some pressing need that somehow suddenly came to their mind. Bye.

But God is not like this. He listens.

Obviously, it is not for what He may learn — for He already knows. So why does He do it? Because it gives Him pleasure — the pleasure of seeing, hearing and enjoying our learning process, and the passions that stir our hearts in life.

When you pray, therefore, do it with the awareness that He is the God who listens, and is delighted to do so. Your words matter; each one is carefully weighed by the Master of Words; each phrase is turned over and examined with artful care in His great heart. And He appreciates with Fatherly pride everything you think and say.

And, having listened to you, He will also speak. But here’s the question — do we then listen to Him?

Our Father Who art in Heaven

“Oh, look and see for yourself just how great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, Pastor’s Paraphrase)

Years ago one of my first overseas preaching trips took me to England, and then across the Channel into Denmark. Our team was staying at a retreat center near the city of Zwolle, along with a few hundred locals who were attending the conference.

We were there for a full week, but I wasn’t scheduled to speak until Friday evening, which would be our final session. When the time came, I shared my testimony of being in the prison my father built. Many were noticeably moved as the Lord ministered that night.

old dutchmanThe next morning as our team gathered at the bus to head for the airport, several people came to send us on our way with warm appreciation for our having come. One man in particular walked over to me and firmly took hold of my hand, holding it with both of his. He was an aged man, wrinkled and weathered with the years, his skin looking like soft leather. His eyes were as blue as the Dutch sky, and tearful.

“I must ask your forgiveness,” he said, looking me square in the eyes.

“Why?” I asked, genuinely perplexed.

“All this week I’ve watched you walk about the grounds, smiling and laughing without a care in the world. And I judged you in my heart. Who is this boy, I thought to myself, that he should come here to tell us how to live. I was sure that you had never known a day of sorrow in your life; born to a good family and raised in a loving home. But then last night I heard your story, and then realized how very wrong I had been.”

At this point my eyes were filled with tears; I wanted to let him know that I held nothing against him — but he wasn’t finished.

“Then it struck me,” he said, “God has been your Father, and that explains why you are so happy. And now, I want Him to be my Father, too.” Wow.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt.5:16). I saw it happen on that unforgettable day in Denmark; and a thousand more days since then.

Let your light shine — and you will see it, too!

“Who’s Your Daddy?”

“Lord,” said Philip, “let us see the Father; that is all we want.” (John 14:8. Moffatt NT)

In the ongoing human drama of Adam’s fallen race there is an undeniable, universal need for a Liberator – a knight in shining armor. This is why every culture throughout the history of mankind has its one great hero, its singular mighty champion; that gallant braveheart who steps forward as a deliverer; be he king, warrior, prophet, priest, or sage. And in all these lands — both near and far away — books have been written, stories told and poems penned in attempts to let us all know that he (or she) has arrived on the scene.a-fathers-love

And in each scenario, when the time comes that such a one actually emerges in our midst we press in for a closer look to see if he is indeed the One. Even John the Baptist asked of Jesus, “Art thou He who is to come, or look we for another?”

It is undeniably true that we search for a Savior in every relationship, a Deliverer in every circumstance, a Hero in every battle, and a Braveheart in every epic quest for freedom. And in each case when we find what we seek, we discover – surprisingly — an even deeper hunger that drives our lives ever onward, always upward.

It is the hunger for a Father.

The un-penned script of the human experience is coded with this deep and irremovable desire; it is carved into our very being, and we will not rest until it be answered – “Show us the Father.”

Yes, the great heartache of humanity cries out continually for a Dad. One who loves us truly, disciplines us thoroughly, empowers us nobly, and secures us eternally. It is precisely at this point that Jesus of Nazareth distinguishes Himself from all others who lay claim to the throne of our affections. “He that has seen Me,” He said, “has seen the Father.”

What does this mean, really?

Simply, and profoundly this — that everything Jesus said and did was a revelation, not of Himself, but of the Father. It you truly want to know what God the Father is like — look at Jesus, for He is “the express image of His person, the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

The Daddy you need, and have been looking for all your life, can be found in Jesus.

The King’s Own Word

The king said, “Go home, and I’ll take care of this for you.” (2 Samuel 14:8).

Once your petition has been set before the King, and He has given you His assurance that it will be handled by Him personally, and in your best interest — well, to linger any longer in earnest angst would be most insulting to His majesty.throne-of-god

Yet we do it all the time!

“Lord, when? Lord, why? Lord, how long?”

These, and many other hassling questions too often constitute the bulk of our prayer life. Our hearts flood with dark thoughts which spill from our lips in mournful pleas, as we seek His reply to our unanswerable questions. Our hearts have perhaps been broken by the hammer of relentless disappointments, our minds bewildered by unfulfilled hopes, our eyes blurred by tears that never cease — and we hasten to the Lord with our woeful complaints.

And He says, “Go home, and I’ll take care of this for you.”

But we linger in our lamentations, stating our case once again in pitiful details, rehearsing the matter over and over, as though He had not yet heard it. It seems in such moments that we are more in awe of our sorrows than we are of our Savior.

“Go home,” the Lord says, “and I’ll take care of this for you.”

There is a faith, noble and true, that leaves the prayer chamber and enters into the day in utter confidence that the Lord will take care of things in a perfect way — if we would only let Him do it.

As children bring their broken toys with tears, for us to mend;
I brought my broken dreams to God, because He is my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone;
I hung around and tried to help in ways that were my own.

He didn’t do at all the things I thought that He should do;
He didn’t mend my broken dreams; He didn’t make them new.
In fact He seemed quite nonchalant, as though He didn’t care.
So, I increased with holy zeal my intercessory prayer.

Watching, waiting for His hand to do what I had prayed;
but nothing I could say or do helped Him on His way!
At last I snatched them back and cried, “How can you be so slow?”
“My child,” He lovingly replied, “you never did let go!”

Oh, hear the Lord’s word to you today — “Go home,” the Lord says, “and I’ll take care of this for you.”

“O Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen”

“Keep you guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.” (1 Peter 5:9, The Message).

There are few things the devil likes more than to get you believing that you’re the only one going through a tough time. He wants you to feel alone, forsaken, and forgotten. If he can pull it off — you will drop your guard, lower your shied of faith and be wide open for his more assiduous assaults. Don’t let him win — keep a firm grip on your faith.

Peter goes on to say, “The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good.” (1 Peter 5:10).

Paul and Silas in PrisonSo the next time you’re feeling all alone, and deep down inside you hear the rumblings of that old song — “O nobody knows the trouble I seen” — stop right there. EVERYBODY knows! In fact, we are all going through it with you. So stop your whining; it’s embarrassing.

Paul and Silas were in a dungeon chained to the wall and surrounded by rats. They started singing praise to God and the devil started shaking in his boots. He shook so hard that an earthquake happened, which broke the chains and opened up the prison doors — setting Paul and Silas free!

Here’s a happy thought — Instead of moaning about your troubles, start singing praise to God! Why, you never know, you just might be the one that causes a prison break for the rest of us!

So Who Are the Real Fools and Maniacs?

“….the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.” (Hosea 9:7, NIV).

Guilt makes people do and say really stupid things. Like the “speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil” monkies – there are people so eaten up with guilt and shame that in anger they shut themselves off to the Truth. And, most ironically of all, they open themslve wide to any religious or political ideology that permits their wrong beliefs and behavior.

Such was the case long ago in the land of Israel. Bad leadership had lead to national disaster, and the people became overburdened with guilt and shame for the foolishness of their errant ways. When the prophets arrived to call them back – they plugged their ears and treated them like fools and maniacs.

We may very well be approaching a similar tipping point in our own time – for there is an unchecked defiance of truth running rampant in our Land. Arrogant men and women have lifted themselves above the Law and used the power of their influence to corrupt, destort and destroy as much as they can of the Christian message and influence in our Nation.

By posing as men and women of superior knowledge, and taking it upon themselves to bring correction to matters about which they are ignorant, they prove the old scripture true — “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

But, the Lord is watching from Heaven, and He will have the last word in these earthen affairs. Ponder the following poem written by Robert W. Service, and consider his words well….

The Man Who Knew

The Dreamer visioned Life as it might be,
and from his dream forthright a picture grew;smug know-it-all
a painting all the people thronged to see,
and joked therein — till came the Man Who Knew,
saying: “This is bad! Why do ye gape, ye fools!
He painteth not according to the schools.”

The Dreamer probed Life’s mystery of woe,
and in a book he sought to give the clue;
The people read, and saw that it was so,
and read again — then came the Man Who Knew,
saying: “Ye witless ones! This book is vile;
it hath not got the rudiments of style.”

Love smote the Dreamer’s lips, and silver clear
he sang a song so sweet, so tender true,
that all the market-place was thrilled to hear,
and listened rapt — till came the Man Who Knew,
saying: “His technique’s wrong; he singeth ill,
waste not your time.” The singer’s voice was still.

And then the people roused as if from sleep,
crying, “What care we if it be not Art!
Hath he not charmed us, made us laugh and weep?
Come, let us crown him where he sits apart!”
Then, with his picture spurned, his book unread,
His song unsung, they found their dreamer — dead.

So, I ask you, who are the real fools and maniacs?

“Yeah, but Do You Know the Lord?”

“But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).

Among the many things that dominate our deepest dreams, there are three that stand out above the rest. They are Knowledge, Strength, and Wealth.

Think about how much of who you are in the eyes of others (and perhaps even yourself) is defined by your level of intelligence, your physical appearance and abilities, and your bank account. Indeed, the American Dream is about having as much education, physical prowess, and financial clout as we can possibly acquire.

The pursuit of these things often determines the life we end up living….or losing. Our education falls behind the times; our strength fails with age; our wealth ultimately belongs to someone else. In short, our castles all crumble.

crumbling castle 2The Lord used Jeremiah the prophet to deliver a timeless truth for men of all ages. “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,” Jeremiah wrote, “but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

You may be smart, and possess many degrees, and have keen insight into many different fields of knowledge—but, do you know the Lord?

You may be a physical specimen, strong and resilient, looking as though you’ve just come down from Olympus—but, do you know the Lord?

You may be loaded with money, with no end in sight of all the riches you are yet to acquire—but, do you know the Lord?

Ultimately your knowledge will prove limited, your body will wear down, and your money will belong to somebody else; so it would be the height of folly to place your trust in these things. But the people who know the Lord, we are told, “will be strong and do exploits!” (Daniel 11:32).

So, do you know the Lord?

There are people who do not know the Lord, and refuse to acknowledge Him because of their pride and ignorance. There are some who imagine that they know Him, but live in fear of Him; a fear created by lies that they have believed about Him. And then there are those who do know the Lord truly, and love Him dearly.

Which one are you?

A Collection of Disreputable Guests

“Jesus and His disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers.” (Mark 2:15, The Message)

The generosity of Jesus towards those who were outside the establishment was one of the major rubs against the religious institutions of His day. It is the same in our day as well. Pharisees throughout the ages protest the loudest, and act the most vengeful, when others gain access to God without having “paid their dues” in accordance with what others deem to be appropriate.

But Jesus did not establish any such protocol or pedigree as this. His word of invitation is always, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink.” He also said, “all ye who labor and are heavy burdened, come unto Me and find rest.”

And come they do — by the millions. As unlikely as it seems.

And once we come to Him, He fills us with His spirit and gives us a love for one another that compells us to deny ourselves for the sake of others. So there is no place in His kingdom for that selfish spirit that acts only out of independence, nor that religious spirit that acts always out of a need to be in control.

pass the potatoesThe marvel, the mystery, and the majesty of Christ’s Kingdom is precisely this – that He brings garceful order to a collection of disreputable guests, once they become His folowers…unlikely as it seems. 

Perhaps you are hearing the invitation even now. Maybe you have come upon this page by taking the wrong exit on the information highway, and you feel that following Jesus for you as a very unlikely thing. Many others have felt the same. But something inside urged them to trust Jesus, and now its your turn.

If you trust Him with all your heart and become His follower, as unlikely as it may seem to you — you’ll eat many a fine meal with Him, even though a few of the more religious of folk may  protest your presence at the table.

Just smile real big and say, “Pass the potatoes, please.”

Outside the Camp

“Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Hebrews 13:13)

This world is a campy place, and people gravitate to the camp that suits them. This is true in many ways — political, religious, economic, recreational, vocational, educational, or ideological. We find our niche and get our name, and learn the secret handshake.

outside the campWe also learn why we are superior to those in other camps.

But Jesus is outside the camp. He is a man with no labels. And the moment you link up with one group or another, and take unto yourself the labels and causes and agendas and issues of this or that group – then it is you cease following Jesus and begin following men. That will lead to pride, division, strife, and trouble.

Men love to build empires and fight enemies. But Jesus has called us to something better and higher. He has called us unto Himself.

We are in this world, but not of this world. Here we have no continuing city; for we seek a city whose builder and maker is God. Therefore, we are pilgrims passing through the many camps we come in contact with; exchanging greetings in the marketplace, dining in the restaurants, sunning on the beach, or playing in the fields — but only for a while. For this is not our home; this is not our camp.

Jesus calls us onward, upward, and outward.

Onward insures that we will experience progress in our lives; upward insures we will reach our potential; and outward insures we will be misunderstood…and rejected. For the moment you leave the camp and go out to Jesus, the others campers will hold you in reproach — just like they did to Him.

But while we may be reproached by the world, we are embraced by the Lord. Not such a bad trade off if you ask me!

See you outside the camp?

The King in the Cave

“David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam” (1 Samuel 22:1).

Old King Saul has lost his mind, and in a jealous rage unleashed a murderous attack against not only David, God’s anointed king, but also his extended family. He even went so far as to execute those in the priesthood who were loyal to David. This historical moment serves as chilling display of how both Religion and Politics are always dead set against those who are favored of God and destined for true greatness.

cave of AdullamTo the eyes of the mindless world the king was on the throne in Jerusalem, wearing the crown and royal robes, and serving the interests of the nation. But from God’s point of view this was not the case. A fool sat upon the throne while the true King was forced into a cave until the madness passed.

And while David waited, trusting in the Lord to set things right, word spread throughout the beleaguered kingdom and a host of those who were distressed, in debt, and discontented slowly migrated to David until their numbers swelled — making them a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

The Message says they were “losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts.” Yet once they joined with David, they were transformed and became mighty men of valor; men who did extraordinary exploits that are still talked about to this day.

That’s what happens to us when we turn our back on the Political/Religious agendas of our world and go out to be with Jesus — the King in the cave. He lifts us up and ennobles with His own greatness; and our lives become the stuff of legends.

Are you discontented, in debt, and distressed with the Religious and Political scene? There’s a King in a Cave who is just waiting for you to arrive!