A Visit with an Old Faithful Guide

One of the best things I did soon after moving into the Tampa Bay area five years ago, was to reconnect with an old friend, a pastor who figured prominently in my childhood, influenced my conversion to Christ at seven years of age, and baptized me two years later. His name was Albert R. Siebert and he was 94 years old at the time, and much more slight and shorter than I had remembered him.  It had been more than 50 years since we had last met, but to my surprise, he remembered me!

I drove down to visit him one afternoon. And after reminiscing with him over lunch, Al, as he preferred to be called, invited me to his high-rise apartment overlooking Tampa Bay, and we began sharing God’s working in our lives. Just before leaving, he pulled an old thin book from the top of the stand next to his easy chair. He said, “You know what this is?” Bending closer, the faded brown cover read, The Practice of the Presence of God, its author, Brother Lawrence. He told me that he was still teaching a Bible class for seniors on Thursdays, and then he said, “I’m going to be sharing selections from this with my group at Northside.”

Al then shared with me how he rediscovered Brother Lawrence and how his little book had encouraged his walk in Christ. He had struggled with loneliness since the death of his wife Sue, just four years earlier. But in the midst of his loneliness, he spoke of experiencing the consolation of God’s presence. And then he read the following passage from Brother Lawrence’s last letter, entitled “From his death-bed.”

GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.

Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.

Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours, though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear.

Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.

[He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.]

Tears welled up as Al read these words, and I looked deep into the heart of a man who loved Christ more than life itself. Two years later, I discovered him a little more frail on the outside, but still a well of fresh life giving water on the inside. I wanted to call on him again on the occasion of what would have been his 97th birthday, but learned God had called on Him first, and taken him home a little sooner. Disappointed to have missed him, I was happy for him.

Oh, that I would love Christ like Al!

You Don’t Mean to Say, YOU Believe in Divine Healing?

From time to time, people ask me if I believe in Divine Healing. What they aren’t asking me, is if I believe in random acts of miraculous healing. But, do I believe there is some provision in the death of Jesus Christ for the healing of the body, a provision for us as believers to claim.

I have known many who have experienced miraculous healing, including myself! But one healing stands out. A little over 25 years ago, Charlotte a wonderful saint of God, then in her mid-seventies, underwent a heart catheterization procedure that went bad. She required major surgical intervention which left her comatose and almost vegetative. After many days in the hospital, she was sent to a skilled nursing facility with a “vent” unit. In other words, she could not breathe and survive on her own. There was virtually no hope, humanly speaking for her recovery. We were prepared for her to die. This was in November of that year, just before Thanksgiving.

During a special prayer meeting that November many prayed for her “home-going,” and I sincerely was inclined to pray for that myself. But then God impressed on my heart a very different way to pray. I was to pray that she not only would be healed, but that she would sing at the Punta Gorda Alliance Church on Resurrection [Easter] Sunday morning. For reasons beyond me and defying every outward evidence to the contrary, I was suddenly absolutely certain that God would raise her up from near death. I stuck my proverbial neck out and publically prayed with the assurance that she would not only be healed but sing!

This is NOT the kind of thing that has often characterized my prayers for the sick. I do not claim any special spiritual gift of healing or extraordinary faith. Perhaps in this instance it might have been something on the order of “the prayer of faith” James speaks of, I do not know. It was special endowment of faith and very much out of the ordinary. For several days afterwards there was no change in Charlotte’s condition, and no change over the next few weeks that followed.

Our pastor visited Charlotte regularly and reported back on her condition. Then one day, he reported a change. She began to show signs of alertness. Her healing accelerated, she was taken off the ventilator, and then she was discharged home, but with barely an audible voice. Gradually, her voice began to return and yes, on Resurrection Sunday morning, for the first time since her surgical mishap, Charlotte sang as part of the “Mifflin Trio” with her sisters, Jessie and Dorothy, to the glory of God.

In the years that have followed, I have come to appreciate the provision of Christ our Healer for the body and the soul. Occasionally, I have witnessed God’s miraculous healing in answer to prayer, at times after praying for the sick and anointing them with oil. I have come to believe that such healing experienced today by God’s people is rooted in the atonement of Christ.

The prophet Isaiah anticipated the Messiah’s death not only as a substitutionary atonement for sin, but also as God’s provision for the healing of the physical body (Isaiah 53:4-5; cf. 1 Peter 2:24). If there was any doubt that this was the intent of the prophet, the apostle Matthew confirms that this was Isaiah’s meaning, and the very basis for the healing ministry of our Lord (Matthew 8:16-17). Efforts to deny the plain meaning of Isaiah’s words strike me as unconvincing and contrived. Sin came into the world and death by sin (Romans 5:12). That death includes the whole being, body and soul. The cross was God’s answer to sin, providing redemption from sin and its wages, which affects the whole man, soul and body. Complete healing like our sanctification will not be fully realized in the believer’s experience until the appearing of Christ (1 John 3:2). However, in the interim we may appropriate by faith the benefits, even if imperfectly.

God wants us to entrust our physical well-being to Him, and it is ordinarily His will for the church to pray for wellness (3 John 1:2) and healing (James 5:16). He has in point of fact endowed some in the church with gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28) for the common good and unity of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7, 18-19) and for the encouragement and strengthening of others in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16). It is my understanding that the gifts of healing are likely special endowments of faith given to some in the Body of Christ for the effectual kind of prayer that trusts God to heal the sick (Romans 12:3ff correlating with 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28).

Even so, God is sovereign and He may choose to deny a request for immediate healing to allow for something better (John 11:4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and ultimately to call us home to Heaven (Psalm 90:10; 103:15-17a). But it is generally His will for us to seek His face for healing (Matthew 7:7-11; James 5:16). Therefore, it behooves the church to pray continually for healing (James 5:16) and to encourage those who are afflicted to seek God’s face for it.

Should the church then discourage the sick from seeking medical attention? We do well to remember that all true healing comes from God (James 1:17), that by Him we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), and that He is the creator of the immunological system in our bodies that fights disease. Medication for illness may clearly be in the will of God, as it was for Timothy, associate of the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 5:23). The apostle Paul himself, undoubtedly benefitted from the skills of Luke, God’s provision of a physician who travelled with him (Colossians 4:4; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Indeed, we can also say that God is the true source of wisdom and skill, which He has given to modern physicians.

We also do well to remember that God is sovereign, and that He has the right to determine how He will heal. Often it seems God uses more than one means of healing, and believers should avail themselves of all that God has provided for it. But, as we learn from old King Asa, who neglected to consult with God, but only his physicians for the life threatening disease in his feet (2 Chronicles 16:12), God wants His people to go to Him first, and trust Him primarily and ultimately for our physical well-being.

Like a Vapor in the Wind

“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

James 4:14b NKJV

Wednesday’s headline read, “Stabbing Spree in Southern California Leaves 4 Dead and 2 Hurt.” This according to TIME Magazine online, in addition to and less than a week after the carnage in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, which had already taken 31 lives. These horrific occurrences remind us of something we don’t like to think about, namely the brevity and fragility of life. In a day when investment firms are convincing us to sock away funds in our working years sufficient to support us into our late 70s, 80s, and even 90s, these savage events serve to jar us into a reality embraced by our forbears.

In 18th century New England, people rarely lived through their forties. So, it was deemed essential that young people be reminded of the brevity of life and the importance of living the years God gave them for His honor and glory. The Puritans used to configure the benches in their meetinghouses so that they faced the windows across the length of the buildings, which looked out on their cemeteries. We live in denial of death, even today, but for tragic events like those of this past week. We don’t want to think about our mortality. Isn’t it time we got a grip, and faced reality. Even a lifespan of 60, 70, 80, or 90 years is but a vapor. The wicked in the world escape nothing, nor the righteous. Death is 100% certain for everyone. The only treasure that really lasts and earns interest in life is what we invest for God’s kingdom. Where is your focus? Where is mine?

I am minded of words by C.T. Studd, the great missionary pioneer and statesman of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

C.T. Studd

What an Unusual Name for a Child

His name was Maranatha. He was a little towheaded boy in my cabin at New England Keswick Bible Conference and Camp during the summer of 1970, and I was his camp counselor. He was a funny little guy. I’ll never forget the night he fell out of his bunk bed onto the hardwood floor landing with such a thud that it sounded as if a bowling ball had been dropped through the roof. No bones were broken, and he didn’t even have a bump on his head, but it really gave us all a scare. Needless to say, we made him sleep in a lower bunk from then on. But I remember thinking, “Maranatha” what an unusual name for a boy.

Maranatha is an Aramaic expression which occurs but once in the Bible, specifically in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 16:22] meaning, “Our Lord, come!” In the early church, when Christians were persecuted for the faith and didn’t know who could be trusted, marantha was used commonly by believers as a watchword [a password]. It expressed what early believers of the first century longed for, the personal and visible return of the risen Christ to rule and reign over the earth as both Lord and King.

Old and New Testaments alike speak of the coming of one called “the Son of Man,” “the Son of David,” “the Messiah” or the “Anointed One,” that is to say “the Christ” to reign over the world. The New Testament records a first coming as a matter of history, and anticipates a second coming yet future. What the Old Testament saints didn’t comprehend nor even the prophets who wrote of it, was that the Messiah they anticipated would need to come twice in order to fulfill two very different and distinct lines of prophecy spoken of him. It was as if there were two missions to be fulfilled. The missions were related, and the latter would be based on the former, but two separate and distinct advents were essential nevertheless.

One line of prophecy spoken of by Isaiah, Daniel and Zechariah, concerned a suffering servant or Messiah whom Israel would reject, a Messiah who would be afflicted for the sins of the nation, a Messiah who would be cut off. Isaiah spoke of him in these words:

“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment which brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away and who can speak of his descendants, for he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.” Isaiah 53:4-8 NIV84

But then the prophets also spoke of a very different coming, in which the Son of Man would come in glory to judge the nations and establish His kingdom over the earth.

“I was watching [Daniel writes] in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV

Is this Messiah who comes once to suffer and the Messiah who comes a second time to reign as king really one and the same Messiah? Listen to the words of the prophet Zechariah.

“In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:8-10 NKJV

The New Testament identifies Jesus of Nazareth, as that Christ, the Messiah, who alone fulfills both the mission of the suffering servant, and will come again a second time, to fulfill the prophecies of a reigning Messiah, who will judge the nations and rule in righteousness and peace over an everlasting kingdom. Jesus himself understood that.

You will recall the words of Jesus on the night he was betrayed and forced to endure the mockery of a trial before the Sanhedrin.
“Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God,”  he was asked.

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you. In the future you will see the Son of Man [simply another designation for the Messiah] sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:63b-64 NIV

At that, he was charged and dispatched ultimately to Pilate, who ordered him crucified. But then on the third day following his death, Jesus rose bodily from the dead, later to ascend in a cloud into heaven, where he is presently seated at the right hand of the Father. But we are reminded that he will return just as he left, first for the church (1 Thessalonians 4:161-18), and then to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-48). Maranatha!

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:27
“’Surely I am coming quickly’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! ” Revelation 22:20b NKJV

Geometry and the Calling of God

It is no small accomplishment to have graduated at the very top of the bottom third of my high school class (1966). With all of 16 credits I did not merit a New York State Regent’s diploma. The truth is, I wouldn’t have graduated at all but for a largely unappreciated “over the hill” math teacher, Roland Reade. Somehow, the “light turned on” in the middle of my junior year and with God’s help and Mr. Reade, I became a learner.

Mr. Reade taught me not so much about plane geometry as he did about motivating students to reach their highest potential. He was more concerned about his students as persons than he was about their ability to perform academically. He cared about the low achiever as much as he did the high achiever. For a student who had not been considered “college material” that was all I needed to become a learner.
Then in the Spring of the same year, I began the discipline of reading one chapter of Proverbs each day. And, on the fourth of April, these words leapt off the page:

“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” Proverbs 4:13 KJV

Suddenly, I knew my mission in life was to be both a learner and a teacher of the Scriptures. The convergence of events that junior year with what I sensed was God’s calling, transformed my life. And it was reinforced most unexpectedly on the day I graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible, now Cairn University.

On Saturday May 8th, 1971, dressed in cap and gown, I walked over to the Sheraton Hotel in Center City Philadelphia. As I was about to step on the elevator which would take me up to the Ballroom for college commencement ceremonies, who do you suppose was stepping off that very elevator? Mr. and Mrs. Roland Reade! It gives me chills to this day!
We greeted one another and it took him a minute to remember who I was. I hadn’t seen him for six years.

But, to this day, I don’t know for whom God meant this timely encounter. Was it for me, or was it for him? Methinks, it was surely an affirmation of the investment he made in the lives of students like me, one which was very much under-appreciated in Mineola. But it also spoke to me of God’s ways with those who trust in Him. To fulfill His calling for my life, God knew I needed a Roland Reade and at just the right time. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Prayer for Divine Guidance

I’ve heard a good many sermons by well-intentioned preachers and theologians on why praying for divine guidance demonstrates a lack of faith or even that it smacks of pagan divination. Of course, I think that asking God for signs at first resort is generally symptomatic of weak faith, and might even betray a faulty view of God, who has for the most part revealed His will for us in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But, there are times and circumstances that defy doing anything else but appealing to our Father in heaven for specific direction, and we can at such times pray confidently for wisdom and guidance in faith (James 1:5).

Now, I could share an anecdote or two, but anecdotes are sometimes glibly dismissed with a “show me in Scripture where we might see that.” So, we’ll skip the personal anecdotes and go to a biblical illustration. “O.K., but don’t show me Gideon’s fleece,” one might say. “After all, Gideon had to throw the dice (oops!) fleece twice (Judges 6:36-40).” So, how about another example, the servant of Abraham (Genesis 24)?

Scripture does not give him a name, but tradition assigns him the name, Eliezer, meaning “God is my helper.” Whatever his name actually was, Eliezer surely fits him. His assignment is to find a wife, one who will meet Abraham’s specifications for his 40 year old son, Isaac. Clear instructions are given and divine help will subsequently be promised for the task, but “Eliezer” (let’s just call him that) is still left with a problem.

“What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” Genesis 24:5 NIV

And, so the chapter records the prayer of “Eliezer” to the “LORD, God of my master Abraham” not just for “a wife” but for “the one YOU (Yahweh) have chosen for your servant Isaac.” “Eliezer” wants God’s best, the right woman for the right man, a woman who is not only willing to marry Isaac, but a woman willing to return with him to Canaan, a country not her own, not one she is familiar with, to a wed a man she has never met and does not know! Wow!

For this mission and task, “Eliezer” needs something more than a “chapter and verse.” But it is to the “chapter and verse” God (yes, the truths of God known in Abraham’s day, were passed down most accurately by oral tradition and then subsequently recorded by Moses), that “Eliezer” knows he can appeal for help! His knowledge of God shapes his confident approach to God! And, the narrative in chapter 24 discloses how “Eliezer’s” faith was rewarded!

You can read Genesis chapter 24 for yourself, but I have made some observations that might help us when we encounter those rare, “I really need special direction” moments.

The Characteristics of the “Eliezer” Prayer for Guidance: Informal, personal, intimate, reflects the heart of man devoted to Abraham and His God. Heart in prayer trumps form!

Three Main Elements: 1) Petition for success grounded in a mission appointed by God. 2) Appeal to God’s Covenant Love and Promises to Abraham. 3) Request for a specific supernatural sign.

Three Noteworthy Features: 1) His prayer is repeated underscoring its significance for us (Genesis 24:12-14; 42-45; cf. Romans 15:4). 2) His prayer testifies to God’s faithfulness, loyal love and promises (Genesis 24:12, 27 & 42). 3) It appears that His prayer was supported by that of at least one other (Genesis 24:62-64).

Sooner or later, all of us will face something that defies human wisdom, and even our understanding of Scripture. But the God who is revealed in Scripture, who has given us a New Covenant binding His Bride to Himself forever, will not fail the believer who appeals to Him in faith in the time of crisis! To that I can humbly testify.

The Three People We Need to Grow in Christ

There is no higher calling in this world than to be a follower of Jesus Christ, that is to say, a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is not the same thing as a call to vocational ministry. It is the call to everyone who has embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Disciples of Jesus Christ fulfill their calling as they live and work for Him in this world as parents, grandparents, students, teachers, artists, musicians, plumbers, electricians, roofers, nurses, engineers, physicians, lawyers, stay at home moms and working moms, shoppers, neighbors, yes, and pastors too.

We are called to let the Christ who indwells our lives, speak to and touch the lives of all those living around us. Someone well said, “The only Christ many will ever see is the Christ that is living in me.” But to follow Jesus we must have more than just a “how to” manual. The Bible teaches us that we need people, three kinds of other people in order to grow and continue growing in our walk with Christ. But it is your responsibility and mine to be sure we have them! We must take the initiative and not just simply sit on our hands and wait for them to find us.

The call to “make disciples” is not simply an informational evangelical gospel message, nor is it just about baptizing converts or sterile unapplied Bible teaching, but it necessarily requires the involvement of other people in our lives, who live out the gospel and apply the teaching of Christ and the Scriptures to their lives. Perhaps that is why the Great Commission cannot be reduced to evangelism alone, but to the comprehensive process of “[Proclaiming] Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ [Colossians 1:28].”

Teaching as he often did from the book of Acts, not only in the seminary classroom, but speaking in some of the nation’s largest stadiums jammed with thousands of people like you and me, Howard Hendricks used to say, “Everyone needs three people in their lives: a Paul to mentor them, a Barnabas to encourage them, and a Timothy, someone into whom you can pour your life.”

I would like to challenge us to think about the three people, the three kinds of people each of us needs in our life in order to grow and walk in Christ, regardless of where we are on the journey, whether just starting out in Christ, or along the way, or perhaps even near the end. All of us need a Paul, to mentor us; a Barnabas, to encourage us; and a Timothy, someone into whom we can pour our lives.

This post is in video format @ https://www.facebook.com/leesburgcma.org/videos/2120964248001524/

This Is No Country Club: Wake Up You Sleepy Church!

Some years ago, a friend suggested that I apply for a clergy courtesy pass at a private golf club. For years the club had a clergy friendly policy that permitted ministers to play their course at no charge. So, I applied but my application was rejected, because it was noted that I resided in the wrong zip code. The community in which I lived was not far from the club, but courtesy for clergy according to their bylaws was limited to those living in a specifically defined locality. Though disappointed, I respected that decision. And, the reality is that I rarely played more than a few rounds of golf a year, anyway. Oh yeah, and when we moved to Florida from Connecticut, my wife sold my golf clubs for a single dollar in a tag sale!  

Unfortunately, we live in a day when churches of every stripe are in decline across America: mainline Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical churches are in significant decline. While there are notable exceptions to the trend, more and more churches are in decline because those who belong to them have forgotten that the church, the present manifestation of God’s Kingdom in the world today is not a private club for members only. The church founded by Christ and birthed by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost exists to extend the grace of God to men, women, and children of every race, tongue, tribe and nation.

Maybe as we think about the resurrection hope we have in Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday, it is time to think about a resurrection of another kind, one which awakens sleepy churches out their slumber to the mission our risen Lord has called them.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. John 20:19-21 KJV

Is It Really Possible to Hear the Voice of God?

Lynn and I were on vacation at Indian Lake in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. We were nestled comfortably in a little mountain cottage right on the lake, and had turned in for the night. Shortly after midnight I awakened to discover our cabin filled with light from the moon and its reflection on the surface of the lake. It so moved me that I recorded a note in my journal,

“12:07 AM July 1st, 2004. I wakened … to the vision of reflected glory! Sky as clear as glass and water like a rippling mirror. A full moon reflecting a greater light off of the water. The beauty of reflected light creates an awe and a hunger for the greater glory behind it all. That is what revival is all about! May the world behold a reflected light of the glory of God in His church in bold crystal clarity!”

The following night was rather stormy at least until we went to bed. Lots of lightning and thunder! Even so, in the cool mountain air, Lynn and I again found ourselves in a deep sleep. Then at 1:30 AM, I was suddenly awakened by something loudly striking the cabin. Lynn heard nothing and remained asleep, but there it was again, a huge bright full moon shining on the lake as it did the night before. As clouds moved rapidly across the face of the moon, I feasted on the ways it changed the appearance of the lake. Sometimes fully illuminated, other times almost dark, and then one part would brightly shimmer, than another, and then seemingly the whole lake would fill with light. God spoke to my heart about revival that evening again, and I entered a full page more in my journal.

Oswald Chambers who knew something about the voice of God and how He speaks, once said,

“Nature to a saint is sacramental. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in Nature. In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it.” My Utmost, Feb. 10th.

If I were to ask you if you have heard the voice of God, you might say, “Yes, I have at times experienced something of Him when I was hiking in the Grand Canyon” or perhaps “It was while gazing at the stars far from the city lights.”

The Scriptures teach us that God speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes He speaks through creation or nature as many of us have experienced, sometimes He speaks to us through phenomena or “out of the ordinary experiences” which might include miracles, angelic visitors, visions or dreams, audible voices, or perhaps even those unusual coincidences that are not by chance and full of meaning. Sometimes He speaks in a “still small voice” or the witness of the Spirit, which we may not even distinguish as a voice as such, but may more closely be perceived as a prompting, a burden, a leading, a clear compelling thought or impression. And then always, God speaks through His Holy Word, the Bible. Often, we’ll find that God does not speak in just one way or another at any given time but will be speaking in more than one way.

We can be sure of this, whenever God speaks, He speaks infallibly. Unfortunately, because we’re human and too often prone to sin, we do not hear or obey infallibly. But at least we know that the God who declares “I the LORD do not change” [Mal. 3:6 NIV], the God about whom James declares, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows [James :17],” such a God will always speak in a manner that is consistent with His own character and His written Word. His character and the written Word become the only true standards by which to test what we subjectively believe to be the voice of God speaking to us through creation or nature, phenomena or even the “still small voice.”

But the bottom line is this, God speaks today. And He does so, loudly enough for anyone who is willing, to hear His voice. Are you listening?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4a NIV

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NIV

Sleeping in Momma’s Lap or Trembling in a Shower Stall?

Lynn and I have a little dog named Dollie. We adopted her six years ago from a shelter in Worcester, Massachusetts. But for several months last year, we also had custody of my eldest daughter’s little dog, named Ginger. They were both happy dogs, easy to manage, and a real delight to have in our home. But, during Florida’s rainy season, whenever the sky thickened with dark clouds, and we heard the crack of lightning and the rumble of thunder, Dollie would curl up on the sofa in “Momma’s” lap and go to sleep. But Ginger would suddenly disappear, and “Daddy” would find her trembling, hiding alone in the bathroom, behind the curtain in the shower stall.

The difference between Dollie and Ginger was that Dollie experienced peace in the midst of the storms, because she knew to whom she belonged, but Ginger did not. That reminds me of something King David of Israel once said.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me,… (Psalm 23:4a NIV).”

If God is our Shepherd, we need not fear the trials of life, because He is present with us to keep us from harm. The apostle Paul put it another way,

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 NIV

I would not wish the troubles I’ve faced in life on anyone, and I’d like to think no one would wish their troubles on me. Still, I am glad for what I have been troubled, for it has been in the darkest valleys I have experienced the almost palpable presence of my Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who gave His life to make me His own. And there is nothing I’ve experienced in life that could possibly rival that. In times of trouble and danger, we can be content because the Shepherd in whom we trust, draws close to us and we are secure, protected, safe in Him. Is the LORD your Shepherd?