Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?


"Can you hear me now?"  That was the catch-phrase for a cell phone company a number of years ago.  A man was walking around and speaking into his phone, asking if his listener was getting the sound of the message.  In the language of the Jicarilla Apache there is a phrase that means someone has ears but they aren’t listening to what's being said to them.  In each case sounds are being sent but we might wonder if the person to whom they are going to is receiving and understanding them.  So also is it as we hear from God.

Article Two of the Belgic Confession introduces our understanding of how it is that God speaks in this way: 

"We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures,
great and small, are as letters to make us ponder
the invisible things of God:
God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse.
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory and for our salvation."

God speaks, in a general sense, through what we can see in creation.  He speaks in a more particular sense through what we read in His word.  Whenever we open our Bibles and read the words on the page, it is as if God Himself was speaking directly to us.

What are we to make of such speech?  We hear so many words, so many voices, through the course of the day that it becomes very easy to treat God's voice as just one among many.  We hear the words, perhaps briefly consider them, and then move on to the next voice clamoring for our attention.  

This week I read a sermon by Alexander Maclaren, where he said:

"When God speaks, it is neither reverent or safe to refuse to listen."  

When I read those words I took them as a reminder, and a gentle rebuke, to consider the way I approach the Bible.  Reading it is not something to do because I know that I should, or because I believe it is good for me, although both those reasons are true. 

Sure, it is a book, but it is a book unlike any other book.  It is the book that, alone, is filled with the words of God from beginning to end. 

The question as we read it not "Can you hear?" but "What do you hear, and what are you going to do about it?"




Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hands


A pair of human hands has to be one of the most useful and versatile things around.  Think of everything that you can do with your hands, or perhaps said differently, think of everything that you need your hands to do.  All of the practical, everyday things, such as getting dressed, eating, doing the tasks of whatever vocation a person has.  In my former profession I often had to help people find new ways to get things done with hands that would never function in the same way again.  And that's not all, as hands perform other tasks of great meaning, such as gesturing to add emphasis to speech, or embracing someone to comfort them in sorrow. 

The many uses of the human hand came to mind as I was reading Psalm 144, which begins,

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle."

As a veteran of the US Navy I guess I could say that my hands were at one time trained for war, although pretty much all I ever used them for then in my work was to maintain the electrical systems of my ship.  But as I read the psalm I thought of a different kind of war, one in which my hands were preparing to fight at that very moment. 

My fingers had opened my Bible to the psalm, and my hands were holding the Bible as I read the psalm and then set the Bible back on my desk, to fold my hands and begin to pray. 

When the psalmist first wrote his words I have no doubts that physical combat was what was on his mind.  But the warfare that goes on every time a Christian folds their hands together in prayer can be just as intense.

Of all the many things that I can do with my hands, some of which are for better and some of which, quite frankly, are not good at all, perhaps the very best is to fold them together as I seek God in prayer.

And for those times when prayer involves spiritual battle and warfare, the Christian need never doubt that the Lord he seeks in prayer has never lost, and never will.



Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Better Country


Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a holiday marking the colonies that became the United States of America declaring their independence from England.  The declaration happened in 1776, and so yesterday was the 241st celebration of that event.

On the reservation that day of celebration closed in the same manner as happened in many communities across America, with fireworks.  It was our pleasure to gather with some friends at a house close to the fireworks show, where we could watch a first-rate display light up the night sky. 

America is a great country. We might all agree that it isn't a perfect country, and we would have many different opinions as to what is wrong with it and how those particular problems could be addressed, but I think that there would be broad agreement that there is no other country in which we would rather live.  For all of its flaws, the strengths of this country make it one in which far more people would like to move to, rather than move from.  And yet, there is a better country.

In Hebrews 11 the unknown author tells briefly of a number of people who lived lives trusting in God's promises.  These people kept their eyes towards the future, knowing that even in times of God's blessing that there was something better, something truly lasting, to come.

Hebrews 11:13-16 says,

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

Last night, about a half-hour before going to our friends to watch the fireworks, Kat and I were outside.  She looked to the west and saw the setting sun shining through the clouds and said, "Look Dad.  God is showing his glory."

The fireworks were a reminder of what America has been through in the past 241 years, and perhaps also hope for the future, but the sun through the clouds points us to something that is so much better.  As good as this country is, let us remember that God has prepared a better country, a heavenly one, for all those who live by faith in him.




Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.