Why is it we exchange gifts at Christmastime? In honor of Jesus’ birthday? And since He already has everything He needs… we happily step in to receive gifts instead. Isn’t that just like Jesus? Isn’t that just like us?
Even better than a membership to the Jelly-of-the-Month Club, Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. And I’ve let too many years go by in the spirit of Clark W. Griswold, not appreciating what I’ve been given, having already spent more than I can afford. Yes, Jesus probably already has everything He needs… but so do I. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
And so I ask myself, is there something I could give Jesus this year? What do we get the guy who’s got everything? I believe the answer is “us.” All of us, every part of Everyday-Us–not just Sunday-Us or I’m-in-Trouble-Us. Look at all He’s gone through to make our relationship with Him possible. He wants to talk with us, walk with us, laugh with us, cry with us, surprise us, thrill us… all of us. If you don’t yet enjoy this sort of relationship with God, I encourage you to be open to the possibility. Over the next several days, I’ll be sharing some things that have taken my relationship with God to new heights. Like the Little Drummer Boy… I have no gift that’s fit to give a King, so I offer my ears, my words and my heart… pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. – John 10:3
Do you hear from God? Or does that strike you as an audacious claim? I wholeheartedly believe I hear from God… and not because I’m any different from anyone else., but because I learned to listen. There have been many books written on the subject. The particular one that really helped me was “Walking With God” by John Eldredge. If you don’t believe you hear God or aren’t sure, I’d like to share a few things to try this week. Please note that I offer these as things that have worked for me, but do not limit God by suggesting that there is only one way to hear Him. He might use a street sign, a song, a circumstance, a memory, a dream, a friend, your bible… the more you look for Him, the more you’ll begin to see Him.
The idea of hearing from God can come as an assault to our human way of thinking, so let’s start by believing you can and will hear from Him. In literature, this is called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” I like that. As recorded in the bible, God sometimes speaks audibly to people, but in my experience He speaks inaudibly. So how do you tell His voice from your own thoughts? It can be tricky. For me, it took practice. More on that tomorrow. Until then… believe. You are a beloved friend of God, no less than Moses. He speaks and He wants you to listen.
Keep It Simple, Simon
His sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:4
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. – John 21:6-7
I’ve always loved Simon Peter’s bold faith. Remember from yesterday… if you don’t believe God speaks to you, hearing Him is probably going to be difficult. Notice in the passage above that John recognizes Jesus’ voice when He speaks to them. I think this was because John knew Him so well. How do you get to know someone’s nuances? You spend time with them.
Believing I would hear, the next step I took in learning to recognize God’s voice was spending time listening. Yes, I actually practiced (and still do if I’m going through a period where I don’t feel tuned-in to Him). There aren’t many things that you get good at without practice and usually it’s best to start simple. So that’s what I do…
Quiet myself. Quiet my thoughts. “Lord, I’m listening. I want to hear You.” I often ask Him for one word at a time… one simple word. It may not initially make any sense to me, but as I go through my day, waiting for the revelation, it is always something much cooler than I could ever have dreamed up. It’s so… Him.
Next… the day my seven-year-old son heard God’s voice.
“Truly I say to you, whoever does not accept and receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a little child shall not in any way enter it.” – Luke 18:17
One way I’ve practiced hearing God’s voice is by asking Him to help me find things. If this sounds a like I’m playing Genie in a Bottle with God, let me clarify that my primary goal in these exercises has been learning to hear His voice, and that I’ve only found success in finding things when this was truly my intent and in situations where God would get the glory. For example, it’s proven to be a great faith-builder for my kids. So much so, that my seven-year-old will often ask me to pray when we lose something.
On one particular day last week, it happened to be his wallet–chock-full of birthday moolah that was wanting to go spend. I had my doubts that Isaac’s primary focus was on God’s glory. So we chatted about it and I encouraged him to use this as an opportunity to learn to recognize God’s voice. He eagerly quieted himself and listened. He heard “wait.” He didn’t like that answer and said, “Mom, you try.” I prayed and got the sense that I wasn’t going to get the answer… this was God’s time with Isaac. We spent a seemingly futile day looking every place Isaac subsequently thought maybe God was leading him. I’ll admit I was a little frustrated myself, wanting so badly for Isaac to hear God that we chased that wild goose all over the house. Isaac finally gave up, deciding that the first thing he heard was probably what God really wanted him to do. So, we waited.
The next day I felt led to encourage Isaac to listen again. Not sure I wanted to devote another day to the hunt, I somewhat reluctantly asked if he felt up to it. He quieted himself and heard “mudroom.” I was dubious because I’d peeked through the room (unprompted) the day before, but wanted to keep the faith. A few minutes later, as I was looking through a pile of clothes I’d carried to the mudroom from Isaac’s room (during the goose chase), I felt an unusually heavy pocket. Voilà le wallet!
Isaac had heard God’s voice and was elated. Because he had “waited,” finding the wallet was no longer the focus. We found much more. A little boy “waited” and found God waiting for him.
Christmas Collision Confirmation
I’ve had a song running through my head all Christmas season this year–thankfully it isn’t Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, but instead a song called Our Worlds Collide. That’s the nutshell of Christmas for me… Jesus bridging the gap, God giving up His rights and becoming as human as human gets… a tiny infant. It’s a collision of epic magnitude… heaven meets earth. And as you know, He didn’t stop there in His sacrifices for us.
As a result, we’ve been given some amazing gifts… not only the gift of everlasting life, but the opportunity to be with God now, right here on earth. The gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Cor. 12–wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues–are bestowed not for stature, but for the common good. Though our areas of giftedness may differ, I don’t see Him playing favorites–He calls all of His children into action. Yes, even li’l ol’ you (Elijah was a man just like us – Jas. 5:17). I believe our gifts are ignited as we yield ourselves to Him, when we are ready to use them for His glory. Imagine sitting afoot God’s Christmas tree with your gifts and responding, “Um… no thank you, Lord.” It’s a similar scenario when we don’t listen for (and listen to/obey) Him. He has so many treasures waiting for each of us to discover. (If you’re a parent, I’ll bet you can appreciate the desire to have your children listen to you as you hope to protect, guide and build a loving relationship with them.)
If you’re new to listening, I am so excited for you. It’s a whole new kind of praying to have a conversation, rather than rattle off a list of desires. It may seem awkward at first. It may seem risky (“What if I hear Him wrong?”). In my experience it becomes more and more natural and easier and easier to distinguish His voice from your own. But a word of caution… boldly proclaiming that you hear God’s voice is great, but speaking “for” Him is not something to be taken lightly. I ask for confirmation when I believe I’ve heard from God and try to make sure what I’m hearing lines up with His Word. Confirmation can come through a bible verse, sermon, devotional or fellow believer. (I’ve even had it come from tv commercials, street signs, fast food restaurants and nature. I realize this may sound crazy, but I don’t mind sharing. It’s the way God and I relate and I love it. Your experience may be totally different.)
Which brings me to my second caution… even with confirmation, I am careful to remember that I am human, fallible and subject to “wishful hearing”… especially in highly emotional situations. It can be helpful to ask other believers to listen on your behalf. There are also times when I’m just not sure what God’s saying and it can be discouraging. When this happens I go back to the basics, saying “God, I just want to hear from you today and know you’re here.” Sometimes I’ll simply hear “love” or “forgiven” and that’s all I really need.
I pray that on this special evening celebrating His birth, we will listen together as worlds collide, raising our voices with the angels… “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Click here to listen to Our Worlds Collide by Barlow Girl
Tonight the stars are dancing
To the songs the angels sing
I hear You whisper on the breeze
And every sound echoes the rhythm
Of your heart as I begin to fade
Into this lovely night
Cause our worlds collide
I’m lost in time
Heaven kisses me tonight
Your heart with mine
It beats in time
Now I know why I’m alive
Now that I’ve found You
I could never let You go away
You left my life never the same
Sing over me and let me hear the words
You wrote for me
Whisper the words and set my spirit free
Oh, sing to me