Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: talking with God

Flashback Favorite - Being heard

Preparing the next study is taking longer than I anticipated, so I offer this Flashback Favorite.  I love the reminder that God hears us...always and with everything.  We don't need to hold anything back from Him.  He can handle us - our fears, our emotions, and our messes.

Being heard
originally posted on May 27, 2015

We are social beings, God created us to be in community with Him and with others.  So when a crisis hits and grief wears us out, our natural response is to seek the companionship of others.  The times we get blind-sided, as soon as we recognize that resolution may not come quickly, the next step we typically take is to look for someone to go through it with us.  We tell ourselves “I just need someone to talk to.”

But that’s hard to find sometimes, isn’t it?  There have been times when I didn’t feel like I had someone to talk to, or that my situation was different enough that no one I knew could relate all that much.  In addition to the struggle of trying to process the mess of my situation, I also felt lost and stuck because it seemed like I had to go through it alone.

Perhaps the author of Psalm 119 felt the same way, but instead of looking for another human being to talk with, he seeks out God.  Look for what happens when he approaches God with his grief and sorrow:

Psalm 119:25-32
My life is down in the dust; give me life through Your word.
I told You about my life, and You listened to Me; teach me Your statutes.
Help me understand the meaning of Your precepts so that I can meditate on Your wonders.
I am weary from grief; strengthen me through Your word.
Keep me from the way of deceit, and graciously give me Your instruction.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set Your ordinances before me.
I cling to Your decrees; Lord, do not put me to shame.
I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding.

There is so much comfort in the phrase I told You about my life, and You listened to Me.  From this, we know that we can bring any grief-filled situation to God, and He will hear us out.  There’s no indication in the text that what the psalmist said about his life was only the good, or only the bad, or only the things that he thought God would want to hear.  There are no limitations on what he feels he can or cannot say about his life, and God doesn’t run away from him because he’s feeling worn out, tired, or stressed from grief.  He can approach God with everything - I told You…and You listened.

The Hebrew word for You listened contains two ideas – of someone being heard and of that person being answered back.  While most translations focus on God answering, it is also reassuring to know that God is actively listening. 

This section of Psalm 119 ends with the author stating what he’s trusting God for as he navigates his grief.  He is looking to God to broaden my understanding, and the literal translation of the phrase is to enlarge my heart

I’ve been told that life’s events can make you bitter or better…that in our difficulties we can shrink back, or we can expand and grow.  But the psalmist knows, as we intuitively recognize, that real growth comes from our relationship with the God who actively listens to us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Praying for those in authority

Whom do you pray for?  When you petition God the Father, which person do you talk about the most?  Given that the average person prays about 8 minutes per day, that’s not a lot of time to discuss other people.

If I were to measure, from most to least, the time I spend on the people I talk to God about it, the list would look pretty close to – myself, my wife, my kids, my job, my extended family (sometimes), people in my church (occasionally), and then a rare ten seconds for people I don’t know who are dealing with circumstances that deep down I’m thankful I’m not personally going through.

Looking back on that list, I see a whole lot of me.  Myself, my wife, my kids, my life’s circumstances.  It’s low hanging fruit to bash myself for being so self-oriented toward God.  I’ve heard many preachers, when teaching about prayer, make the point that we’re too self-focused.

On the one hand, though, it’s hard to pray for people we don’t personally know.  We don’t know their issues and hang-ups.  We don’t know where they struggle, so it feels a little hollow to continually pray “God help them…with…their stuff”.  But just because it feels awkward or difficult seems like a flimsy reason to exclude those outside of my life’s circle from being brought up before the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

On the other hand, when I look back over my list and I look at the motivation behind the ‘me’ and the ‘my’, it comes down to the fact that I’m looking for peace in my life and the world around me that I know.  I desire for life’s events to go well.  I don’t mind the work involved, provided I can see that the outcome is beneficial.  Deep down, I long for the time when sin won’t derail what God made us to do, and I’m asking God for just a taste of that now.

So which approach is better?  Praying about my stuff (which I know all too well) or praying about other people’s stuff (which I don’t know hardly at all) ?  We could talk circles around these questions for quite a while and do nothing but increase our frustration level.

Perhaps instead of getting all twisted up about what we’re bringing to God in prayer, we should focus on what subjects God tells us He wants to hear about in our prayers.  Paul gave direction on what topics Timothy and the church in Ephesus should be bringing to God.  Remember, Ephesus wasn’t a ‘Christian’ city.  It didn’t have God-focused government.  Their history, laws, and business practices weren’t Biblically rooted.  It was a cosmopolitan metropolis with people from all over the known world passing through.  Their ideas of ‘higher powers’ in the world primarily came from Greek and Roman gods, Egyptian gods, pagan gods, and Jewish myths.

So, how does the one true God expect a Christian to pray in the midst of all that?

1 Timothy 2:1-2
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority

Paul tells Timothy that every subject we could possibly communicate to God – needs, discussions, interventions, and thankful acknowledgments – are all fair game when talking to God about our stuff and everyone else’s stuff.  But what I find interesting here is that Paul calls out a very specific group of people that the Ephesian believers shouldn’t forget to pray for – kings and all those who are in authority.

While I might pray that a certain candidate win an election, how long has it been since I petitioned God on behalf of President Obama?  Or prayerfully interceded on some issue between God and the President?  Or thanked God for something the President has done? 

But Paul didn’t just specify the top individual in a society as being the subject of our prayers, he said to pray for all those who are in authority.  Honestly, I don’t recall ever petitioning God on behalf of our town’s mayor or city council.  It’s very rare that I have asked God to send the gospel message to our county representatives or, for that matter, even the local school board.

Paul’s point is that those who have authority in our society need us to approach God on their behalf.  Paul is serious about this, too.  He’s urging believers to pray for leaders.

I think we’re going to need more than 8 minutes.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

A front row seat

One of the greatest benefits in a mentoring relationship is the unique access the protégé has with their mentor.  There is the opportunity for private life moments to be shared between them, if the mentor is willing to be completely open.

Moses has now taken on an assistant, or protégé, named Joshua.  One day, while the nation of Israel was camped at the base of Mt. Sinai, Moses receives an invitation to bring the priests and tribal leaders part way up the mountain to fellowship with the Lord.  Moses also brought Joshua to this meeting.

Exodus 24:9-14
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, and they saw the God of Israel.  Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself.  God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.”

So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and went up the mountain of God.  He told the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you.  Aaron and Hur are here with you.  Whoever has a dispute should go to them.”

God personally invites Moses further up Mt. Sinai to receive the law directly from Him.  This meeting will be one of the biggest moments in the young history of the nation of Israel.  This was big-time stuff, definitely not for those who hadn’t left the kiddie table.  Not even the nation’s elders were going.  If there ever was a time to leave the trainee behind, this was understandably one of those times. 

Instead, when God invited Moses, Moses essentially turned to Joshua and said, “That means you, too.”  Moses’ words to the elders were pretty clear: “Wait here for us until we return to you.”  Joshua was going to have a front row seat to watch his mentor interact with God.

This wasn’t the only time, either.

Exodus 33:7-11
Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting.  Anyone who wanted to consult the Lord would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent.

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses.  As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent.  The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend.

Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.

Every time Moses spoke to God, Joshua was there to watch and listen.  Think of the conversations he overheard.  Imagine the discussions between God and Moses that Joshua was able to witness.  Joshua was able to see what God is like and he was being taught about leadership, governance, and God’s expectations – all personally by God – because of his special mentoring relationship with Moses. 

Joshua could observe God and Moses interact, away from all the noise of the people.  The lessons he learned would affect how he would one day lead the nation.

If you have a mentor, be sure to observe how he or she interacts with God when no one else is around.  If you are a mentor, don’t withhold these moments from your protégé.  Allowing them to observe you pray and wrestle with God will be just as impactful as your teaching.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Being heard

We are social beings, God created us to be in community with Him and with others.  So when a crisis hits and grief wears us out, our natural response is to seek the companionship of others.  The times we get blind-sided, as soon as we recognize that resolution may not come quickly, the next step we typically take is to look for someone to go through it with us.  We tell ourselves “I just need someone to talk to.”

But that’s hard to find sometimes, isn’t it?  There have been times when I didn’t feel like I had someone to talk to, or that my situation was different enough that no one I knew could relate all that much.  In addition to the struggle of trying to process the mess of my situation, I also felt lost and stuck because it seemed like I had to go through it alone.

Perhaps the author of Psalm 119 felt the same way, but instead of looking for another human being to talk with, he seeks out God.  Look for what happens when he approaches God with his grief and sorrow:

Psalm 119:25-32
My life is down in the dust; give me life through Your word.
I told You about my life, and You listened to Me; teach me Your statutes.
Help me understand the meaning of Your precepts so that I can meditate on Your wonders.
I am weary from grief; strengthen me through Your word.
Keep me from the way of deceit, and graciously give me Your instruction.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set Your ordinances before me.
I cling to Your decrees; Lord, do not put me to shame.
I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding.

There is so much comfort in the phrase I told You about my life, and You listened to Me.  From this, we know that we can bring any grief-filled situation to God, and He will hear us out.  There’s no indication in the text that what the psalmist said about his life was only the good, or only the bad, or only the things that he thought God would want to hear.  There are no limitations on what he feels he can or cannot say about his life, and God doesn’t run away from him because he’s feeling worn out, tired, or stressed from grief.  He can approach God with everything - I told You…and You listened.

The Hebrew word for You listened contains two ideas – of someone being heard and of that person being answered back.  While most translations focus on God answering, it is also reassuring to know that God is actively listening. 

This section of Psalm 119 ends with the author stating what he’s trusting God for as he navigates his grief.  He is looking to God to broaden my understanding, and the literal translation of the phrase is to enlarge my heart

I’ve been told that life’s events can make you bitter or better…that in our difficulties we can shrink back, or we can expand and grow.  But the psalmist knows, as we intuitively recognize, that real growth comes from our relationship with the God who actively listens to us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken