Hearing The Still, Small Voice

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

There is no condemnation in not hearing God’s voice. Society – and often, even the church – discourage us from acknowledging his still, small voice. And yet, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the Bible has always revealed that conversation with our creator is what God himself intended. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:9:

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God’s question is shown in its larger setting by including the previous verse with it:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
(Genesis 3:8-9, ESV)

This is God’s plan. To walk with you and talk with you.

Some will tell you, “Yes, but that was before the fall.”

Instead of listening to them, listen to Jesus. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15, ESV)

Or, if you prefer, listen to the Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (II Corinthians 5:18, ESV)

Do we live after the fall? Yes, but also after the reconciliation.

James puts it this way: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

So, why do we have so much trouble hearing God speak? Why does even the church, all too often, discourage us from believing we have heard God? Oh, there are crackpots! Miscreants! Deceivers! There are those who would say, “God told me to do this or that,” and they bring harm to others or their own self-destruction. There are false prophets! And, indeed, we are told by Jesus, James, John, Peter, and Paul that there will be many false prophets – not just a few.

Satan uses this fear against us: “Since we can hear the wrong voice, it’s safer to hear no voice at all.”

No. No, it’s not. To not hear God speak is the most dangerous path of all.

Because God loves you so much, the words that he speaks to you will be words of comfort, encouragement, wisdom, and strength. You will be the better for hearing him. And – this is wonderful – the people you come in contact with will also be the better for it. When you listen to God, and boldly accept his words to you, then you have a powerful and profound and lasting impact on the lives of those around you.

You are in a garden, filled with life, and God is calling out to you.

Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you.

–Bob Young
9 July, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

How Do You Know Jesus?

I was having a conversation with a very close friend this week. He’s going through a tough time in his life. He has been close to God, in the past, but… not right now, not so much. He asked me a question, and I said, “Well, I know you don’t want to hear my real answer – because you know that my real answer would come out of my religion. But, I can still give you a practical answer. Do you know what he said?

He said, “Actually, I do want you to tell me your real answer. Give me your religious answer. I knew when I asked you that it would be a religious answer, and it’s what I want from you.”

This made my heart leap for joy, of course. Not because I got to express my deepest beliefs, but because I genuinely think that in this answer, my friend will find his greatest peace.

We talked for quite awhile. The conversation was great. Our relationship, which was already solid, was strengthened. Near the end, as we were winding down on the phone and getting ready to end the call, he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

This reminded me of a parable that Jesus told. Can you think which one? Yes, of course. It’s the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew chapter 25. Jesus told a story about a rich man who was going on a journey. Before he left, he called three of his servants into the room and spoke with them. He gave one of them five talents. This was a measure of silver, used as money. Five talents was a lot of money. He gave the second servant two talents, and to the third servant the rich man gave one talent of silver. He told them to invest the money while he was gone, and see if they could make a profit. The third servant took his one talent and – well – I’ll let him tell it.

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:24-25)

It’s a great parable. We see here that different people know Jesus in different ways. Kind of like my friend and I, when he said, “You know God one way, and I know God another way. It’s not the same for me.”

So, I’m curious. How do you know Jesus?

Well, I have the keyboard right now, so I’ll go first.

I know him to be stronger than I have been able to imagine. He is more patient with me than I deserve. His thought aren’t my thoughts, and his ways aren’t my ways, but when I do things his way, my life is better. I have never been able to drive him away, but he’ll keep at a distance if I demand it of him. Then, when I’m ready (finally ready!), he draws close again. He is able to change my heart. He is able to change my mind. He is able to change my attitude. He is able to make me able to forgive those who have hurt me the most. He is able to urge me on when I want to quit. He helps me stand when I’ve fallen, and helps me run when I can only stagger. I am best when I am his, and worst when I am my own.

Would you like to know Jesus like this? It’s easier than you might think, yet harder than anything you’ve ever done. Here is how to know Jesus better. Close your eyes (just kidding, it doesn’t matter!), and say something like, “God, I’m ready to know you as you really are. I don’t know how to meet you, so it’s up to you, but now would be a good time. I’m ready for you, Father.”

Will you do me this kindness? When you meet him, schedule a time with me to tell me about it. Thanks. I’m praying for you, Friend. If you’re reading this, I’m praying for you.

–Bob Young

6/2/2017

Thanking God In All Circumstances

Yesterday I was moving a lot of stuff into our new apartment. Trip after trip, from the car to the apartment and back again. I noticed that the rain had stopped, so I prayed, “Thank you, Father, for this break in the weather.”

I carried that load into the apartment, and then, when I came back outside, it was raining again.

Me: “Aw, God, what’s up with this? I just said thank you for the good weather, and now it’s raining again.”

God: “In everything give thanks.”
Me: “What?”
God: “You know I’m not in the habit of repeating myself when I speak to you.”

[Sidenote: that’s true. Many years ago, God worked with me on what might be called, “first command obedience.” You see, in the Navy, I learned that obedience needs to be instant. But, with God, my obedience was… well, let’s call it reluctant. His lesson to me then was that I considered Navy Lieutenants to outrank God, because I would obey Lieutenants immediately, but I would stall on doing what God told me to do. Well, that had to change. God should only have to speak to me once.]

Me: <sigh> “Okay, you’re right, I heard you, and I know that’s 1st Thessalonians 5:18. And I know I have much to be thankful for right now. We’re living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and this rain is what makes it so beautiful. So, in all sincerity, thank you, Father, for this rain.”

I got another load from the car and carried it through the rain into the apartment. I put the load down, turned around, and went back outside.

The rain had stopped.

–Bob Young
[4/9/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Show Me The Future

Last night I laid down in bed, put my head on the pillow, and began praying. This is my normal routine. But it stopped being normal right after I prayed the first sentence.

My prayer isn’t the same every night. It’s just a conversation between God and me, and so the content varies greatly. Last night, my first sentence was, “Father, as I sleep tonight, give me a dream of my future.” This, in itself, isn’t particularly extraordinary. I’ve made this request before. Sometimes he says yes, sometimes he says no. But last night, as soon as I made the request, I became terrified. Terrified seems to be the right word, but in some ways I know it will create the wrong picture in your mind.

I opened my eyes in bed, laying there in the dark, and asked, “What’s wrong with my request? Why does it alarm me? I’ve prayed this prayer before, and it’s always been fine. What’s wrong?”

Do you understand the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Have you felt his nudge? Have you received direction and knowledge that you knew wasn’t your own? If not, I can’t explain this next part to you in any way that you’ll understand. Just take it for what it is. Take it with a grain of skepticism, if you like. It doesn’t matter to me, and it doesn’t affect the outcome.

Anyway, in that moment, when I asked, “What’s wrong with my request,” I received my answer. So I prayed again, with a different (and this time correct) request: “Father, as I sleep tonight, give me a dream of my purpose.”

The future, you see, comes directly out of purpose. The future doesn’t just happen to you. It’s a result. There are causes for the future, explanations, antecedents.

It is my understanding of my purpose that will bring my future to pass.

And, of course, it is your understanding of your purpose that will bring your future to pass.

–Bob Young
[3/15/2017]

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

The Heart Of The Matter

There are lessons to be learned in the ordinary tasks of life. Sometimes, the most mundane is the gateway to the most profound. Here is today’s lesson: the heart is hidden in the husk.

“On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.” (Luke 6:1, ESV)

Before Jesus’ disciples could eat, they had to rub the grain in their hands. This is a most intimate experience. The grain is in the hands before it is in the mouth – in the stomach – in the blood – in the muscles. The soft and precious heart of the grain is shielded by a hard shell. The heart is delicious, but the husk is not. The shell must first be removed.

Who do you know, whose soft and precious heart is protected by a hard, unwanted husk? Friend, you will never touch their heart if you don’t first touch their shell. Only by your personal, intimate contact can you ever help them drop away their protective exterior.

You can’t command the husk to fall away. “Open up to me. Be tender towards me.” No, that won’t work.

And it won’t fall away by itself, no matter how long you wait. Don’t congratulate yourself for your patience, saying, “I’ll wait until he or she heals.” No, you must put your own hands to the task. The husk is removed, and the soft heart obtained, by your touch.

“But, you are speaking to me in parables. How do I do it? How do I remove their shell?”

Friend, I’m not the one to give you that answer. Listen to God. Get to know Jesus. Hear and understand the communication of the Holy Spirit. He’ll show you, and teach you, and tell you.

And now, I will end with this: the heart does not come out of its shell without reason.

Touch hearts.

–Bob Young
[2/17/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Fiery Love

Moses and the Burning Bush – Holman Bible, 1890

What happens if you don’t take off your sandals?

“Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5, ESV)

So, what happens if you don’t take off your sandals? Will you be struck by lightning? Will the earth open up and swallow you? No. No, not at all. Here’s what will happen:

Nothing.

And that’s the problem.

All that God has planned for you is put on hold if you don’t obey God’s first command. Every step forward depends on the step before.

Until this day, Moses was a hired shepherd, tending sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro. In Exodus 3, God performed a fiery act of love. He set a bush aflame with Heaven’s fire. Moses was mesmerized. He watched and watched this uncanny fire. He watched it for a long time. And then, with a start, he realized something: “That bush should be all burnt up by now!” But the bush was as bushy as ever. Burning, but not consumed.

Did his mouth drop open? Did he squint, unconsciously projecting an air of befuddlement? The Bible doesn’t say.  But we do know that he walked closer, to get a better look.

Only then did God speak. “Moses!”

God is like that. He does something to get your attention, something that is at once obvious and subtle, ordinary and astonishing. If you’re not observant, you might miss him. Eyes wide open, looking past a God who is, to you, invisible.

But on this day, God’s act of love did not go unnoticed. Moses first gave his eyes to God, and then his ears. “Moses!”

Then Moses gave God his mouth. “Here I am.”

God replied, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Question: at this moment of decision, did Moses give God his feet, or his sandals? Neither is the real answer. At this crisis of decision, Moses gave God something far, far more important. He gave God his obedience. And that’s why there was an Exodus. That’s why the children of Abraham walked out of Egypt, free from slavery. It happened because Moses obeyed God’s first, tiny command, and took off his sandals.

God’s first command to you may be small. Be careful, though, not to dismiss God’s first command as trivial, because everything now hinges on what you do with that first command.

“God, don’t toy with me. Look, I love and respect you and all that, but it really doesn’t matter whether I’m barefoot, or wearing sandals, or my cowboy boots, or my golf cleats. What matters is that I’m here, right? So, please, God – don’t make a big deal out of a silly pair of shoes.”

God will reply, “Okay. Keep your shoes on, then. We’re done here. Bye.”

Is that where you’re at today? Do you realize now that that’s exactly what happened to you? You were on the edge of being close to God – so close! – and then, somehow, suddenly, it all vanished. You walked away from the burning bush. And the fire within you died.

I have good news.

This God who let you have your way is a forgiving God. His fiery love is still in the bush, waiting to set your heart on fire. The bush didn’t walk away from you. You walked away from the bush. And the bush can burn with God’s holy fire for a very long time, because, as you recall, the bush is not consumed.

Here is a mystery: God is nearer now than when you first believed. Odd, isn’t it? No matter how far you walked away from God, when you turn around, he’s right here.

Today,

Give your eyes to God. See him.
Give your ears to God. Hear him call your name.
Give your mouth to God. Here I am.
Now, this time, give your obedience to his first, small command.

–Bob Young
[2/10/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

I Can’t Prove God To You

Credit: Washington Dept. of Transportation

Rationalization doesn’t get you to heaven. You can’t find the path to God by reasoning your way to him. He is beyond your understanding.

It’s also true that there is no emotional proof of God. It’s pointless to say, “I feel like there must be something more, and therefore God must be real.” God is here whether you feel him or not, and sometimes you won’t, so don’t consider your emotions to be the measure of his existence. In that case, God would have to pop into and out of reality according to the whims of your biochemical rushes manifested as feelings.

There is no empirical evidence for God, either. We can’t view a video of him creating the universe, or our sun, or Earth, or us. The existence of matter is the biggest “whodunnit” mystery ever written. Matter is here. You and I are here. But to claim that it was our God, rather than someone else’s god, is a claim without evidence. We can’t even disprove the claim, held by many, that matter must exist, inevitably, and so they don’t see a need to believe in a creator-of-matter at all.

These are the reasons I never try to prove God’s existence. Quite simply, it can’t be done. And yet…

And yet – God is. Or, as God says of himself, “I am.”

For me, my firm knowledge of God’s existence, presence, and personal companionship is experiential. It’s difficult to put into words, but I’m trying. Experiencing God isn’t the same as feeling God. Sometimes, when I experience God, I also feel a worshipful sense of euphoria – emotion. But not always. The emotional part of the experience may be anything but euphoric. There may be a sense of awe, or guilt, or love, or shame, or forgiveness, or that most mysterious emotion: grace (yes, I called grace an emotion, and I won’t be able to explain it to you if you haven’t felt it yourself).

But, this experiential knowledge of God can be entirely separated from the emotional. It’s possible to know that he’s here, with me, in the room, and not really feel any particular emotion associated with the experience at all.

I’ll try to explain. Imagine I’m in the car, trying to merge onto the crowded freeway, and this guy in a white Mercedes won’t let me into the lane. So I get mad at him. My emotion is anger. Meanwhile, I’m fully aware of the experience of God’s presence in the car with me. I know God doesn’t want me to be angry, but I am anyway. I’m not mad at God. The emotion I’m experiencing at that moment has nothing to do with God, whose presence I am simultaneously experiencing. Do you see? My emotion is one thing, and my experience is another.

This is what I mean when I say that my understanding of God is experiential, rather than rational, emotional, or evidential. You may conclude that I’m crazy, and that’s okay. At least it’s a “safe” kind of crazy. I mean, since I’m doing my best to follow Jesus, I’ll help you, and not harm you. I’ll forgive you, and not seek revenge. I’ll love you, and not hate you. Well, except for that guy in the Mercedes that wouldn’t let me merge. I’ll forgive him tomorrow…

–Bob Young
2/4/2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

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