New Song — January 30, 2014 (Thursday)

Today’s Verses:

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.

Today’s Questions:

Identify a time you cried out to God in prayer. Did you receive a response, whether in words or circumstances? How did the fact that you received a response impact your understanding of God?

When was your very first encounter with God? What changed in your life after that encounter?

What keeps you from crying out to God when you find yourself in the pit or the mud and mire?

Do you ever sing out in praise to God when you’re alone? What song do you sing?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, on the days I am flying high and feeling alive and full, please remind me of your presence and where I was when you found me. I never want to forget where I started and how you saved me and set me on a new path. I never want to forget that my own strength and choices led me away from you and to a place of desperation. Father, on the days I cannot sense your presence, reveal yourself to me in a way that gets through to me. Remind me that you hear me and I need only call out to you. I cry out to you on behalf of my family and friends who are still singing an old song and stuck in the mud. Reach out to them, turn their hearts to you, Lord! Help me to show grace and love to those who do not know you, for I was once where they are.

Go A Little Deeper:

Read Titus 3:1-8 for a reminder to show grace and love to those far from God.

Smiling Faces, Cozy Sweaters, Stolen Heart

This is a dangerous time of year for me. All the advertisements, commercials, and catalogs tempt me. They tempt me to buy things I don’t need, but more significantly, they tempt me to believe that the items they are selling will satisfy me. They are so subtle and pervasive. Subtle in the sense that most of them don’t come right out and say, “Buy this and you will find happiness and contentment,” but that is what I begin to believe the more I see people with smiling faces, cozy sweaters, and perfectly designed and decorated homes. I am at risk. My heart is easily stolen. When Jesus was tempted, he used God’s word as a sword. I’m giving this a try. I’m hanging two different verses in a few places where I see them frequently (my office, my car, my kitchen wall, and on my phone wallpaper) during this time:

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Psalm 119:37

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 Proverbs 4:23

Are you especially tempted by something this time of year?

Is there a verse you could hang onto that will help you stand firm?

Life This Week

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I know this is not something I’m supposed to say, but God does not satisfy me. I still look for other things that will do a better job. People, activities, books, food, poems, music. And each time I think, maybe this is finally it. Maybe this will satisfy me once and for all. But the longing is still there, pulling, drilling, rising, aching. Oh, I have had moments of satisfaction, days even, and it is hard to believe they are real in the hours when the longing returns. In those hours, I beat myself up – God is enough, what’s wrong with you? As Tenth Avenue North sings, “You’re all I need, but you never seem to be enough.” (Lovesick)  Psalm 103:5 says that the LORD “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”  Jesus said “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:35) So, why the longing and thirst? I don’t know. But I know I’m not the only one. My practice this week is a simple one. Just two prayers.

I’m praying Psalm 90:14-17:

Satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love, that I may sing for joy and be glad in all my days. Make me glad for as many days as you have afflicted me, for as many years as I have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord my God rest upon me; establish the work of my hands for me – yes, establish the work of my hands.

I’m praying Psalm 63:1-5:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

What does your week look like?

Have you ever asked God to satisfy you with his love?

Photo Credit:  http://jmitchloves.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/open-hands/

How to Hear God (Part 3)

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Over the last few weeks, I have been writing this series called How to Hear God. I’m not professing to have many answers, but just want to explore what Scripture says about this topic and what my learning has been over the last several years from others and my own experience. Still using Jesus’ words recorded in John 10:27 (“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”), this week, I’m focused on “my voice.”

If you’re like me, you have voices talking in your head all the time. Wait, that sounds weird. You know what I mean. You have your own voice that reminds you to do stuff, or that you’ve forgotten something. Sometimes that voice soothes you (“everything is going to be okay,” “I’m okay,” “I’ll get through this.”) You have the shaming voice that points out stuff you have done wrong or pretends to tell you truth about yourself even though it’s not truth at all (“that person would never like you;” “you’re a failure”). Sometimes that voice is a parent’s voice, or a teacher’s voice.

Then, there is this other voice. God’s voice. I believe there are ways to distinguish God’s voice from the other voices bouncing around inside. Here are a few of the identifiers for me:

God’s voice leads me to glorify only him.  Any voice that glorifies me or another person, or deifies a problem I am having, is not God’s voice. (Is 45)

God’s voice is consistent with Scripture. When Scripture speaks to a particular issue and I hear a voice that contradicts what Scripture says, it is not God’s voice. (John 14:26)

God’s voice aligns with his character.  God is holy, merciful, loving, present, faithful, great and awesome, mighty, grace-giving, and good. (Psalm 99; Deut. 4-7; John 3:16; 2 Th 2:16; Psalm 100) A voice that is inconsistent with these character traits is not God’s voice.

I cannot generate God’s voice. There are times when I need or want to hear from God and I don’t. I have tried really hard to generate God’s voice so I would be comforted or guided. But, I cannot generate his voice. If I have generated it, it is my voice, not his.

God’s voice does not use words I use.  Any of the times I have heard God’s voice in my heart or spirit (not sure where it actually touches in), the words are not my words. If someone else heard them, they would not claim, “That sounds like something you would say.”

God’s voice points me toward love and servanthood. God’s voice has always pointed me to him or others in love and in service. He does not ask me to seek revenge, hold a grudge, turn my back, or judge. (1 John 4:7-21)  He corrects me, yes, but he does not shame or condemn me.

Why does knowing God’s voice matter? Because I want to follow him. Knowing his voice is the first step. Next week: how do I follow?

Have you heard God’s voice?

How do you distinguish it from other voices?

Life This Week

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Last week was a little strange because my daughter was in London all week; I was in Louisiana.  She returns home today.  I’ve missed her so much, but I have cherished her text messages with multiple exclamation points following all the things she has experienced while traveling.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss her, listen to her stories, and be in her presence again.  I have been thinking about what I reflect to her through my behavior and practices.  And in that vein, here is my plan for the week:

I’m forgoing the need to be right.  Right before my daughter left for London, she and I were having a debate about whether one of her cousins lived in Paris or New Orleans.  I believed Paris, she said it was New Orleans.  I knew I was right and when we were able to verify it, I was.  And, it was important to me.  Later, I reflected on this and wondered why I wanted to be right so badly.  What difference did it make?  In me, the need to be right comes from an unhealthy, unloving place.  Usually, it stems from wanting to be in control, to exert power over someone else, or to prove my value.  So much better to be wise and loving.  I’m praying for wisdom and the strength to be loving instead of right.

I’m paying attention to what I’m feeding myself. “A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about the tragedy on September 11.  He said, ‘I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.  One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent.  The other one is loving and compassionate.’  The grandson asked, ‘Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?’  The grandfather answered, ‘The one I feed.’”  (Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and friends)  This story deeply resonated in me.  Have you noticed how so many news events turn into vitriolic polarizing screaming matches?  There is so little room for love and grace.  We prefer retribution to restoration.  And there is so much food for that wolf.  I want to bring love and compassion only, always.  So, I’m praying God increases my ability to love and show compassion, and I’m reading books, listening to music, and watching shows or movies that feed love and increase my compassion.

I’m noticing where I seek praise from people.  In Romans 2, Paul says, “a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”  (Romans 2:29b)  I mostly seek praise from other people.  I’m praying God will continue to change my heart and my desires so that I seek his praise alone.

I’m reading a Psalm before bed instead of email and Facebook.  I fall asleep in prayer, sleep peacefully, and wake up more refreshed when I read Scripture right before bed.  When I read Facebook or emails before bed, I am anxious and worried about the next day’s tasks.  Reading any Scripture is good, but I find Psalms best because they are self-contained, whereas a passage from Samuel or Hebrews is hard to just jump into in the middle.

What does your week look like?

What are you reflecting to those around you?

From whom are you seeking praise most?