April 30, 2010

Fur, Voices, and Waves

I heard a very useful message preached last week, about hearing the voice of God. I won't go into all the points that were made, but I want to relate something from Genesis 27 that was said.

In Genesis 27, Isaac is ready to bless Esau because he's nearing the end of his life. Isaac tells him to go and hunt some meat, prepare it, bring it to him, and then he will bless him. Jacob and his mother hatch a plan to get the blessing instead; because Esau was hairy and Jacob soft-skinned, they put animal furs on Jacob's arms to deceive Isaac in case he got suspicious.

When Jacob entered the room where Isaac was, he greeted him. Isaac replies "Yes, my son- who is it?" Right off of the bat, Isaac in unsure who the voice belongs to. After a question about how quickly he hunted and prepared the meat, Isaac asks to feel his arms to confirm it's Esau... even after Jacob already claimed to be Esau once. Then Isaac gives him the blessing.

The next thing Isaac does? He asks again, "Are you really my son Esau?"

When the true Esau came in, Isaac only had to ask who he was once. You think your family has awkward moments?

The point about hearing God's voice in our lives is this: if the action feels right but the voice telling you to do it doesn't sound like God at all (read: telling you to do something unbiblical, sin, or using condemnation to motivate you), it's not God. If you're unsure, go to someone you know has a strong walk with God, and they'll be able to help you figure out what to do with what you're hearing.

A few days after I heard that message, I was in Matthew 6 and came across this passage:

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

29"Come," he said.

This illustrates the flip-side of the point I made earlier: Sometimes God talks to you in the middle of a really scary situation, tells you to do something scary, or both together. Again, if you're unsure, check the voice against something objective: the Bible. If it's Biblical and you truly have a desire to do the gutsy thing, my bet is that it's God.

An example from my walk (although a very straightforward one) is my efforts to hike the Appalachian Trail and use that to raise money for clean water wells in communities that don't have them; in these places people will walk miles upon miles for water that kills them. When I got the urge to turn the hike into a fundraiser, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to make happen. Jesus helped the poor, and told us to do the same. He told us to take care of those in disadvantaged situations; with the strong patriarchal society of the time, a widow was one of the most vulnerable members of society. Widows get mentioned a lot.

Thus, the desire put on my heart lined up with things God tells us to do in the Bible (which, by the way, tells us plenty of things to do on its own). I've been taking steps forward in the direction of preparations, and God has provided an on-campus group that just started recently that I can work with to get this done. I have no doubts God is going to go big with this.

Is there something big that's been put on your heart? A fundraiser, a conversation, anything?

Is it scary?

If you step out onto the water, you might be surprised and ecstatic at what happens next.

The sermon that the main point about Genesis 27 was taken from was given by Justin Schoonmaker at Generation Church at Christian Life Center. All credit to God for the effectiveness of the message.

April 16, 2010

Someone Let the Train Lady Know

On a train, more than a year ago, a lady I had never met before and haven't seen since asked for my copy of C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves that was sticking out of my jacket pocket. She saw my guitar and told me to "write that song." Whether she knew it or not, she was talking about a very specific song that I had begun to write that I was just calling "my Godsong." A line or two would come to me every few days and I would write them down, but I had been pretty laid back about actually trying to get the song finished.

Fast forward to the end of this past March. At a church retreat the pastor speaking that weekend encouraged us to chase after dreams that God has put in our heart; things we have always wanted to do, but never pursued. These things God puts on our hearts are not only there, but should be pursued for the strengthening of the church and to honor God: "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church." (1 Corinthians 14:26) Note that doing these things is not a "you can if you feel like it." Paul tells us that these things must be done!

Trust me, as soon as you start pursuing whatever dream or skill God has put in you, it gets exciting. After I heard this word of encouragement and heard some of the things those around me had been working on, I decided to get serious about my desire to write songs. I already had a song or two mostly written. I began to work on them more and more, and this past Wednesday I recorded my first one at my college library's media center... what better time to chase this God-given dream, when I have free access to a recording studio!

I'm not a fluent musician. I've sung before, but I haven't seriously taken in up in more than a year. I've been playing guitar on and off for three years, which means that I'm very much still an amateur. Every time I get hung up on these things, though, God reminds me of Moses who had no confidence in his ability to speak in front of people.

It doesn't matter if your dream that you want to chase is in a field or area that you have little to no experience in. I don't feel good enough on my own to actually write and record songs. Moses didn't feel like asking the leader of a powerful nation to free the entire labor force and leading millions of people through the desert for several decades, and look what happened to him.

And if that's not enough, Paul encourages us in this yet again, in Philippians 1:6: "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Write that song. Write that book. Write that poem. Write that commentary on Habakkuk. Paint that painting. Design that architecture. Sculpt that sculpture. Write that blog. Film that movie (start with a short). Choreograph that dance. Try your hand at stand-up (if you can be funny, clean, and God-honoring, you'll have a strong following in no time). Take that picture. Take a lot more pictures. Perform that role. Write that play. Write that manifesto for a new way to look at an area of study (if you're into it, sociology could really use one). Write that play that doubles as a manifesto. Write that manifesto for a completely new are of study. Review that music. Review that movie. Surf that wave. Ride that half-pipe. Style that hair. Do pedicures in the name of Jesus. Do anything. For Jesus. For God. He'll make it more than you can dream it would be.


As I came across this passage in Revelation 21, it hit me with a new significance; this is our promised home with God. We will be there one day.

My favorite part is the last paragraph.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadiain length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.