The voice behind you

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The voice behind you

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Category : Blog

We sometimes joke about “selective hearing.”  The voice of your spouse is so distinctive that it is easier to hear and ignore, according to new research.

It also found that people (particularly those who are middle-aged) are able to separate and ignore a familiar voice to hear an unfamiliar voice better. This was the problem in Isaiah’s day, they were listening to a voice other than God’s.

As I was reading yesterday, I came across something gripping in Isaiah 30 (vs 21):

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

My attention was captivated by the words “behind you”.   Somehow we have it firmly rooted in our minds that God is always out in front “leading us”.  But have you ever paused to consider the thought that sometimes God is “pushing us”? 

Remember when the Israelites were wandering around in the desert?  God was gracious and He sent a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to “lead them”.  The instructions really weren’t that hard:  When the cloud turned right, they turned right. If the cloud went forward, they went forward.  When the cloud stopped, they pitched their tents and camped out.  But you’ll remember that the cloud purposefully led them to a dead end, the Red Sea.  Pharaoh and his army were closing in fast.  Then something happened that only God could do.  The pillar that had been leading them made a big U-turn and went behind them and created an impenetrable barrier.  Matter of fact, God created daytime for the Israelites on one side of the cloud, and night-time for the Egyptians on the other side.  It was for their protection and to show them that faith was going to play a big factor in the next step, walking across the Red Sea…on dry land.

When God speaks from “behind” you, He’s urging you to take a step of faith, because He knows where you’re going even if you don’t.  After all, if you have all the information ahead of time, it’s really not faith, is it?

The pushback to stepping out in faith is to use Gideon’s example of putting out a fleece to determine God’s will.  I would encourage you to re-read that entire scenario (Judges 6).  Gideon wasn’t trying to determine God’s will.  God had actually already told Gideon what to do.  Gideon just couldn’t believe that God had called him to do the job, he was simply confirming the task that God had called him to do.  Remember, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us to confirm God’s voice, Gideon did not.

You may be stepping out into the unknown, or you may need to accept the fact that God is “pushing you” to start, but as you go, you need to listen carefully to that voice behind you whispering in your ear saying, ‘keep going – this is the way’.  Be cautious of “selective hearing”.  Don’t ignore that familiar voice.

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Out of sight, out of mind…or is it worse than that?

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Category : Blog

Isn’t it true that when a good friend moves away or when they come for a visit, you apologize for not having stayed in better contact?  Then you promise to do better…

And you do…for awhile, then you fall right back into the same habits.  You get distracted.  Oh, you may think of that person when random events happen and it triggers a memory.  You might even mention them occasionally in prayer, but because you don’t see them on a consistent basis, you forget about your promise to actively be engaged in their life.

What happened?  We don’t like to hear this, but when all the layers are stripped away, it’s nothing more than pre-occupation with self. 

The Flemish language has just as many idiomatic expressions as the English language.  As a matter of fact, some of our English idioms have carried over into Flemish.  But one of the phrases we use to lighten our forgetfulness and pre-occupation with self is: “Out of sight, out of mind.”  This usually gets relegated to our forgetfulness to pay a bill or do something we’ve promised to do.  But the Flemish speaking people have a slightly more aggressive version of it:  “Out of sight, out of heart.”  Ouch !!!  That cuts deeper doesn’t it?  It crosses a bridge we don’t like to cross very often because it specially affects our relationship with others.

If you travel further into Friesland, the northern part of the Netherlands, the Frisians take that proverbial knife that’s already been inserted and they give it a quick little twist; the way they say it is: “Out of sight, out of life”.  That about sums it up, doesn’t it?  And the worst part about it, is that we can’t deny it’s true.

Galatians 6 talks about two different types of burdens:  there’s burdens that you alone have to carry, then there’s other burdens that others can help you carry.  Another way to look at it is: back-packing burdens vs. back-breaking burdens.  But how do we help ease the burdens of other people?  Obviously being there in person is part of that, but what happens when geographical distance enters the equation?  Well, for many of us (myself included) we allow friendships to devolve into:  “Out of sight, out of… fill in the blank.

Let me emphasize a truth that is simply not being verbalized enough: We are born needing help, we die needing help, and in-between we live with the illusion we don’t need help. Ecclesiastes 4:10.  So let’s make sure we stay connected, regardless of the number of miles in-between.  The task hasn’t changed.  We need each other. Social media has given us an unique opportunity to:

– Rank our relationships in the proper order

– Restore each other

– Rally each other

Read 1 Thess. 5:11, 14.  Let this encourage your hearts. 

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May 2017 Blog

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Category : Blog

Contrary to what some people might think, missionaries are not immune to something in life that can really cripple our relationship with the Lord.  It’s called worry.

When we read Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:6-7) about not being anxious or worried about ANYTHING, the typical knee-jerk reaction is to say: “That’s pretty impractical and not even very helpful because life is full of unexpected twists and turns that…well….cause us to worry.”

Satan will leverage our worry so that our focus is on ourselves, rather than what God wants us to do & the ministry He wants us to have in the lives of other people.  If he can get us to focus on our problems & our issues, we won’t even see the people around us who are hurting.

Here’s what we know from scripture — If you don’t have peace (which is the opposite of stress), you’re not spending enough time talking to the father AND you’re not being thankful enough.  Isn’t that was verse 6 says? “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”   The bottom line: gratitude changes the attitude.

When you’re stressed out, it’s almost certain that you’re concentrating on what you don’t have rather than what you’ve already received.  I know the pushback on this is: “Yes, but you’re not walking in my shoes.”  Nope, and I really don’t have to in order to understand that what keeps us from being thankful is NOT looking at God’s track record.  We only look at the problem in front of us rather than seeing how God has provided in the past.

God uses Paul to give us some simple remedies for worry.  After all, isn’t that what we want?  Less stress and more confidence in the God we serve?  I mean really, who wants to go to a seminar that will teach you how to increase your worry potential?  Or who wants to go to bed thinking: “I need to get up at 3 a.m. so I can spend more time worrying before I head out the door to work.”

We didn’t like it when our parents controlled us, and we don’t like it much when God controls us.  The amount of control we have over our life isn’t enough to protect us from any and all danger.  Matter of fact, any control we think we have is an illusion.  There’s only 1 person who has control of everything – God.  And if you think you have control of ANYTHING, you’re kidding yourself.

Worry seems like a normal response to the challenges of life.  Everyone you know stresses out about something, even your Christian friends.  But worry just destroys us.  Psalm 12:25 – “Heaviness (anxiousness) in the heart of man makes it stoop: but a good word makes it glad.”

God has a better plan.

1. Decide worrying is a waste of time.  Get it through your head that there is nothing good that’s being accomplished when you worry.  Jesus asks an important question that many of us fail to answer?  Matthew 6:27

Jesus says:  Exactly what does it profit you?  Does it make you more alert?  Does it make you grow taller?  Stand more erect?  Does it correct your posture?  Does it lengthen your life?  What benefit is there when we worry?  NONE.  So…if it’s not beneficial (and even detrimental) to us, why in the world would you want to do it?

2.  Worry denies God’s care.  Decide God cares about you.

We trust Him with our eternal destiny, but why can’t we believe that He cares about what’s going on in our lives right NOW?  Why can’t I trust him for today? Tomorrow?  Next year?  With our finances?  With our marriage?  With our children? And our children’s choices that we’re going to oppose !!

We need to bridge that connection.  If we trust Him for where we’ll spend eternity, we should know that He cares about what’s going on right now.

Read Matthew 6:26-32

Does Jesus mean that people should not provide for their households?  No, the balance is to be diligent at our work, but not assume responsibilities God never intended for us to handle — that’s worry.

When we forget God’s promise to provide, we become like spiritual amnesiacs who remember only the most basic questions in life: “What will I eat?” “What will I drink?” and “What will I wear?”  Worry erases the promises of God from your mind.

— read vs 26 again.  Worry makes your forget your worth.  He died for us, that’s how much He loves us.  Worry makes us doubt how much He really cares for us.

3.  Worry is characteristic of unbelievers, not Christians – Vs 32

Read that verse again.  The “Gentiles”, the people who DON’T know God, seek after all those things.

Every day non-Christians face a gauntlet of worries, just like we do, but the sad part is that they must do it alone.  As long as they have no heavenly father to serve, they will be stuck in servitude to worry.  We have something (someone) they don’t.

One last one:

4.   Decide to obsess on God

Write this down:  We WILL obsess on SOMETHING.  We choose what we obsess on. So go ahead and obsess on God.

Matter of fact, let worry DRIVE you to prayer.  Let it be the trigger to make you spend time with God.

We worry less when we fill our minds with Him.  How does that work?  He gives you peace!  Philippians 4:7

Allow God to guard your heart.  When God guards your heart you have peace.

Let’s face it, you’re going to be obsessed about something, it might as well be God and not your worries.