Audio Devotional: “Remain in Me”

William Barclay says in his book, The Gospel of John, “The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We cannot do that unless we deliberately take some steps to do it.” Arrange your life, Barclay continues, so that “there’s never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him.”

Listen to this audio devotional today and “remain” in His love. The Bible reading is from John 15:1-11, NIV.


Does God Speak Audibly to People Today Like He is Portrayed Doing in Bible Times?

In this second blog post that’s part 2 after a review I did of Bill Hybel’s The Power of a Whisper, I clarified some the title. The part 1 blog title was, “Does God Speak?” When I read it again, I thought, of course He does. He speaks anytime He wants, and has throughout time.

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire...

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire Burning in a Bush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The clarified question is, “Does God continue to speak audibly to people today like He is portrayed doing in the Bible?”

First, let’s review how God speaks in Bible times:

  1. Through messengers called Angels (to many)
  2. Through donkeys (to Balaam)
  3. Like a friend (to Moses)
  4. Through tablets (10 Commandments)
  5. By burning stuff (burning bush, pillar of fire showing presence, burning up wet sacrifices – Elijah)
  6. Through dreams (Joseph, Daniel, kings, prophets)
  7. Whispers (Elijah)
  8. By tricks or tests of God (Gideon – was his fleece test appropriate as a test of God?)
  9. Direct voice (to Moses, many prophets)
  10. Prophets themselves as messengers
  11. Through incarnate Son Jesus
  12. Through written texts of Law, Prophets, Gospels, Letters, and Apocalypse
  13. Through the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire causing Apostles to speak intelligible languages spoken in first century world
  14. Through blinding light and vision of the Son (to Saul later named Paul)
  15. Through visions called Apocalypses (to Daniel, John)
  16. Apostles thought God speaks by casting lots or drawing straws for decisions

Have I left some examples out? I’m sure I have. Comment and write your examples from Scripture, citing who and the situation. Continue reading

7 Words We Say to God (and each other)

Derek Webb wrote a new song in which he expresses that over his musical career he’s tried to say three basic things:  “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you.” I brought these together with words Anne LaMott (great memoirist and novelist) and Nicky Gumbel ( say we can express to God. I then stayed in one Bible text and sewed these together with powerful words from 1 John.

  1. I was wrong. We have a hard time saying we’re wrong, much like the tough time the Fonz had years ago, illustrated in the featured image. I agree with Wade Hodges who said he’s wrong ten percent of the time. And that’s not the problem. The problem is, he doesn’t know which ten percent. God doesn’t expect perfection. He expects an admission that we are much less than perfect. Check out what John says:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)
  2. I’m Sorry. There’s a line from the old movie, “Love Story” that really seemed to stick for some people. “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” What? Not in any loving relationship I’ve ever been in. Some people say sorry too much. Some don’t say it enough. In some areas of our work and life we are even afraid to say it. I heard this TED Radio Hour piece about making mistakes, and there’s a powerful piece about a doctor who is saying we need a new medical culture where we are not afraid to admit mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry” to God is what we call repentance. It’s sorrow for what you’ve done that moves you to turn around, go toward God. Here’s what John says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
  3. I love you. There’s this silly old yarn where a wife asks her husband why he never says, “I love you.” He replies, “Darlin’, I tol’ you I loved ya when I mar’d ya, and if that changes, I’ll let you know.” Funny, huh? Well, what about us and God. How long has it been since you told God, “I love you”? Since we got “married” to Him in our conversion experience? Do you regularly express to God that you love Him? Here’s what John says about the love God has for us, and He made us for a reciprocal relationship. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)  Continue reading

Is God listening?

In my twenty years in ministry I’ve heard myself and many I walk alongside asking the question, “Is God really listening?” Great question. Let’s dig in. In the next few weeks on my blog, I’ll reflect on a few of the pressing questions we ask as human beings.

Is God Listening?

Hagar was Father Abraham’s second wife, and his first wife Sarah didn’t care much for her and nagged Abraham till he send Hagar away.

Sent into exile, the trembling Egyptian servant girl huddled in the desert between Kadesh and Bered where an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel said she should name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” The angel added, “for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

In her passion and misery, she gave the Lord a new name: Beer Lahai Roi, which means, “You are the Living God who sees me.” For she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

The stories in Scripture intend to sweep us into their drama and get us to ask the same questions. Does God really follow lonely people into the desert? Does God enter the cancer ward, 11th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a brothel where forced sex workers cry out to God like Hagar?

Does God listen to us? Most of us don’t really know. Why?

The biggest reason we don’t know if God is listening is because we don’t speak to him, don’t know how or find the whole enterprise intimidating and lack the patience to learn how to speak to God.

A few years ago a book came out called, How to talk so your teenager will listen and listen so your teenager will talk. What if we put that in terms of talking to God. What would it be like if God spoke so his creation would listen and listened so his creation would talk?

Through Hagar we learn God does listen and see us. The prophets are exemplars of what it looks like to be crazy enough to believe that God is really listening and interacting with us.

The psalmists believe God is listening but they also apparently believe it’s OK to question the fact simultaneously. It’s almost like the whole exercise of writing poetry/songs implies that belief that God is listening but the words themselves make us wonder otherwise.

David cries out in Psalm 39:12, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 5, David reminds God to listen. So is it OK to remind God to listen? According to the psalmists, it sure enough is. Have you reminded God to listen lately? We often talk about God, as I’m doing in this post, chunking back and forth ideas about whether he listens, whether he doesn’t. What if we got about the business of reminding God to listen?

Did Jesus remind God to listen? Jesus believes that God listens, and in the Gospel accounts we find Jesus taking time to climb mountains and find solitary places in gardens to speak his heart to God.

Jesus also knew the psalms and would have prayed them like Jews of his time did in worship assemblies. He even talked back to God on the cross, quoting Psalm 22. “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”

One way to find out if God is listening is to pray psalms and call on him to listen. God’s word to us in the psalms is also humanity’s words to God, many times asking God to give an ear to our cries. Pray the psalms. Take Psalm 5 or Psalm 39 and call upon God to listen, to give ear to your cries. Lift up God’s name and his qualities of lovingkindness and goodness.

The words of the psalms give us a voice when we often lose our voices. The psalms are a collection in the middle of our Bibles that teach us to talk to God and reminds God to listen. If it bothers you that you’d have to remind God of something, then quit complaining that he’s not listening or wondering if he does. Speak that doubt and that reminder to God who can be entrusted with your heart’s deepest, darkest doubts.

Some of these reflections come from working through the book, Talking Back to God by Lynn Anderson. I’m preaching through the book this summer at Garnett, and we’d love to have you come and join us 10 am Sundays.

24/7 Prayer

24/7 Week of Unbroken Prayer at Garnett: We were amazed!

This week Garnett kept 24-hour vigil in response to Jesus question to his disciples, “Can’t you keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). Today at noon concludes our 24/7 week of unbroken prayer. More than 100 participated and prayed at all hours, filling 168 prayer times through the week. What did this do for the kingdom? The answer is that we discovered prayer is not as much getting our will done in heaven as it is asking for God’s will to be done on earth.

We were praying in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer: asking forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others; dozens of cards were taped to the wall with prayers of all kinds, a student prayer mural hung on the wall. A boy’s memorial to his two brothers hung on the wall and we shed tears as we prayed for Tyler and boys like him worldwide who need love and hope.

And we kept the candle burning! We were all stretched in prayer—some praying for an hour for the first time in our lives. We listened for God and felt him move in us through the power of the Spirit who promises in Philippians 4:6, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

We learned how to move beyond “please God requests” to petitions for God to make justice and love on earth as it is in heaven, to transform us and this city and this world. We moved further into silence and waited and watched, and in the words of Dale Brown, “it was more than prayer requests . . . we were spending time with God.”

Today, we pass the candle on to Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church.

Arnetta Pollard came to pray with her three children who were “drawing their prayers” with crayons. As I walked by the room where Arnetta was praying, I heard her lifting up her church aloud to God. I shed tears listening to Arnetta praying, and I know many of you cried out to God in tears of anguish, with Jesus, over the world. And with Jesus we continue to beg God to bring peace on the earth. One person expressed what so many others of us feel: “24/7 Prayer may be the best thing Garnett has ever participated in . . . this changed my life.”

No missionary movement, nothing great, no revival, nothing bigger than the people praying has ever begun without a movement of prayer. May God continue to teach us to pray and may He raise us up with Christ.

24/7 Worldwide