I sat and listened to Ash and his wife tell about life living in the slum of Thailand for the past 10 years in a one room shack. He said “we cannot be the solution but we can be a sign”. That has given me much fuel for thought. Over the past several years I have come to the conclusion that I have very little to offer many I meet with their hard journeys and life situation’s, but I can be a sign, I can point them to “the solution”, The LORD Jesus Christ. Eugene Peterson in the Message version hints that “our lives are the message”. I had only thought of Word and deeds. Ash callenges me that there is also a 3rd element, Word, Deed, Sign. Wow is my life a sign and if it is, what does it say? What does it point people to?
How cool to last night sit in a living room with a group of 10 or so 20+ in age and talk about our relationship with God. What I love is that they don’t just sit there and accept what you say, but ask questions and evidence of concept. I had used the phrase “the works of God and the ways of God”. They asked me to explain that.
I realised that for years my primary relationship with God was through observation and secondary, experience. Moses in Exodus 33 knew exactly this;
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Moses knew God through observation but he wanted more, he wanted to be in a relationship with God where he had first hand experience. Over the next 40 years of wandering in the desert, boy did he see the ways of God but unfortunately the people only saw the works of God!
Many of us know of God, we know of His greatness, its abstract, we read of Him but its almost historical, its a fact in a text book, it doesnt invade of change our daily living. Then there are others who profess to know God in an intimate personal way and say “yes I know of His greatness but I also know of His goodness, and guess what? He has been good to me”!
For years I read Psalm 23 “Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will be with you”. Nice words, comforting words, a promise that I knew about and observed in others through books and listening. What a difference to experience the reality of that in my own life.
Another one; “God never shows up late but He does miss a lot of opportunities to show up early”! Why does God turn up in the “nic of time”. So many times in the last years have I experienced and observed His miracle mercy at what would be my last minute. Why, well I think so I am dependent on Him.
It would appear that as I know God longer He does not give me the answers as easy as He did when we were first introduced! Its more of a “come on, you have walked with me for 34 years, you should know by now”. When the Israelites were fleeing the pursuing Egyptians God parted the sea in front of them. 40 years later when they had to cross the Jordan to enter Canaan, He did not part if for them, it was only when the priests got in the water that it parted. Its like God was saying “come on, show me that you know me a bit by now! Show me you have grown your faith in me”
There are several more that come to mind and its a good exercise for me to think through how I have experienced God and seen His ways. Not just to know the “what” but also the “why”. When I first met Kathy we started to walk “side by side”, then when we were married we were “face to face” (ok, we may have been face to face before we were married!) now after 27 years of marriage we are “heart to heart”. I know her ways not just her works.
What do I do between prayers? The Benedictine monks in the 16th century were not so spiritual with their heads in the cloud. They produced Dom Perignon Champagne and found a way to make good money out of it. Today a bottle will cost around £100.
Now for you wine lovers out there, (Scott and Todd) you may well say, “lets become monks!”. Others may ask, “was the idea forged from those time of prayers?”, a few who certainly are not in my circle of friends would say “God would never be involved in alcohol!”
My point? Its not the time between prayers to focus on, its the time in prayer. My friend George Verwer, who is a great man of prayer, would get a group together and pray for the countries of the world over a map. One day while praying they noticed how many cities were accessible by the sea. The idea developed into purchasing a small ship, “Logos”. In between those prayer times they worked hard to communicate the vision and find the funds and crew to purchase a ship.
Great visions are created and developed in prayer…..then why do I spend so little time in that activity? Why when I do are my prayers so ego-centric? Do I only pray for God to “bless me” or do I pray and listen to find out what is on God’s heart. Did that monk set out to be a wine grower? Did George set out to be a ship owner?
I had the privilege to listen to Charles and Hillary Price, leaders of The People Church in Toronto this past week. He has given much food for thought. He asked the question ” Is Jesus my friend?” This got me thinking and processing the last days. I have worked for OM Ships for 34 years. For 30 of those I worked for Jesus for the last 4 I worked with Jesus! There is a huge difference. The former He was my boss, we worked together in business, I asked Him to bless what I was doing for Him. It was a side by side relationship. The last 4 years it has been a face to face relationship, one of intimacy. Its been seeking to see what He is doing, being quiet and listening, coming into His presence and just being. Spending time in His word, not because I have to prepare a message but to discover who He is and what He wants to communicate to me. In that intimacy, I have discovered his Ways not just His works. He used Mike’s death to strip away so much that was hindering that intimacy. Without being crude, why did he create sexual intercourse between a husband and wife to be face to face?
It is so good to be home and back in the chair early morning in Mike’s room. My place where I have face-to-face time with Jesus my friend not my boss! How awesome to turn and face Him. The gentle warmth of the sun on my face lifts my spirit, brings comfort, melts the ice that is blocking the flow and others say how healthy I look!!!! Join me in face-to-face time, you will not be disappointed!
We hear many voices including our own. There are so many words. There is no shortage of people offering us advice, scripture and “words of knowledge”. The cumulative of that is noise! I have started to define it as “the shout of man”. How do I make sense of it all? How do I know what to take onboard and what to let float past?
And then there is “the whisper of God”, that still quiet voice that I seek to hear above all the noise. I step back, slow down, stop talking and listen. It doesnt happen in an instant, my ears are still ringing from all the noise, but gradually as I withdraw to the “secret place” I hear.
You may ask, “Does God speak today?” He has spoken through both His written word and His living word, Jesus. Whilst His written word does not give me a specific answer to my current circumstance, it teaches me that God the Holy Spirit lives inside those of us who have surrendered our lives to Him and recognised the complete work of Christ on the cross. The Holy Spirit speaks to my soul and brings illumination to both the written and living word.
And so I can have peace and confidence whilst realising I am fallible that “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isa 30 v 21