Hearing God in Our Lives
God is always speaking to us. He does so through things as big as creation and as small as the structure of DNA. He uses a voice of thunder or a still small voice depending on what is needed for the circumstances. God runs an open line of constant communication with us. The problem is sometimes we don’t listen. We allow our side of the line becomes so filled with noise and static we can’t hear His voice.
I almost missed one of my most cherished messages from the Lord. God spoke to me in a really difficult time in my family’s life and I was so wrapped up in the thorns of the world that I did not hear it. It is was a time where our faith in the Lord was tested and our flesh challenged by the cost of obedience. It was a time of loss and pain where we needed God’s reassurance and love and He gave it to us in big ways and little. This was the time I should have looked to God for everything, but because my emotions had me looking elsewhere.
There was a time in my walk with Jesus that I was divided. I tried to walk two roads simultaneously. I tried to hold onto the lifestyle and dreams that I had before I was saved on the one path. I tried to follow Jesus on the other. My heart was clearly divided. It resulted in a frustrated and shallow Christianity but also in popularity with the world. Attending church and large alcohol-filled parties on the same weekend did not seem like a contradiction for me and there were many people in the church we attended who agreed. We were carnal, worldly Christians who attended a carnal, worldly church spending our time doing carnal, worldly things. This was epitomized by a party we used to throw for a parade in our town. It was over a hundred people at our house drinking heavily and watching the parade. It was the highlight of our pre-Jesus year.
Then Jesus opened my eyes. He showed me how awful my life of compromise was and how badly it was destroying me. He saved me from the alcohol dependence that was destroying me as well. My heart went from divided to set afire for Jesus. It was wonderful and exhilirating. It also came at a cost. As a family, we set out to follow Jesus and His word in everything we did. We left the lukewarm church for one that preached the Word of God. Great change but virtually no one left with us. When faced with choosing following Jesus or staying with people, we chose Jesus but did so alone.
Following Jesus Can be Painful in Some Ways
We also left our old lifestyle behind. This was not painful in itself. Once we experienced Jesus, everything else seemed just wrong. But since our old lives involved so many people who were not saved or seeking the Lord, we set out again on our own. Since we choose to stop going to drunken community events, the commonalities that held us together with friends and neighbors were lost. They were totally in the world. We totally on Jesus. We felt like strangers and sojourners in the neighborhood that had been our home just months before. We did not regret the choice, it was just painful. We felt like we were walking alone through the wilderness
Though we had the Lord and His joy, it was hard. It was scary. It was lonely. We are made to be in relationships and we lost most of our relationships. The thing that kept us going when we had few friends, knew just a handful of people at church and seemed so alone was the certainty. We knew that we were following the Lord out of the darkness into light.
We had been in Egypt before He called us and were being called out. We repeatedly told ourselves through tears that since it was Jesus that called us out of Egypt, the Promised Land had to be just ahead of us. Would we trust Him and keep going? Would we turn our back on God and try to go back to Egypt like the Israelites did? He is too good to let us die in the winderness. We felt like we were in a personal desert time but were encouraged by His call. “Come out of Egypt” the Lord kept saying “Keep going, the Promised Land is just ahead.” He was separating us from the world to save us, not to hurt us.
This year following our personal revival was a turning point for us. It was huge and life-changing but it was also painful and filled with worldly loss. Therefore, when we planned for the annual parade party about a year after being called out of Egypt, it was with mixed emotions. Most of the people who had been there the year prior would not attend this year. It was just a small group now, a couple of families who loved the Lord and a handful of people from the new church. We were happy to have a new life but the pain, heartache, and feeling of loss still seeped in as the day approached. It was also a bit nerve-wracking as we would likely see all the people we used to hang out with and have to navigate those conversations with people who would likely never understand what happened. We were not angry with anyone, the Lord just changed everything and we could not go back to before. Those lives were dead and left in the grave. We could never go back to them.
God Guides Us Through the Pain to the Promised Land
It was when I was sitting stewing on these things in a lawn chair on my front lawn when the Lord spoke. So caught up in my self-pity and anxiety over the day was I, that I initially missed the fact that God was speaking. The parade was lining up on our street as it always does and we had new floats setting up in front of our house. Usually, it is local politicians or a high school band waiting to march. This year, directly across the street in front of me was a float made up to look like a reed boat complete with a mast for a sail. I noticed it as soon as it pulled up. I did not think anything of it until it raised its decorative sail and the wind turned it to face me directly. On it was a large decorative multicolored Eye of Horus, the symbol for an ancient Egyptian god. Yes, as I mused on my life coming out of Egypt in the year that past, an Egyptian god’s eye was staring directly at me from an Egyptian boat. It was confronting me. There was no way to avoid seeing it as it was huge. And I just thought, “boy that is ugly.”
I was so caught up in myself that I did not even realize anything was going on. I would soldier on despite my pain and despite the ugly eye taunting me, I thought. I was milking my own self-pity for every ounce of self-involvement I could. Yet, I began to get an inkling something extraordinary was going on. In the hour that followed, I observed a fascinating thing occur. Our invited guests who arrived set up to watch the parade on our side of the street. It is shaded and was quite a bit cooler. This made sense. They were with us and part of our new party.
The folks who had been with us the year before also began to arrive in the area to watch the parade. They began by setting up on our side of the street. It was still on friendly terms so they were certainly welcome. Yet, one by one they started to leave. They began to go across the street and set up permanently. They left the shade and cool to sit in the direct sun on the far sidewalk. I sat there watching perplexed why they would do that? They chose discomfort and pain for apparently no reason. It also seemed to be occurring in almost slow motion. It was as if I knew something was going on, I just could not figure out what it was. I then realized that it was God speaking to His children, me and my family.
Crossing the street away from us placed them directly behind the Eye of Horus ship. They were literally lining up behind the picture of Egypt. Those who were in Jesus were left on one side of the street. Those who were not were on the other lined up behind a false God of Egypt. God was laying out a small picture of life for us. One one side was Egypt. On the other, those coming out to the Promise Land in Jesus. The two are always going to be separated and are never going to meet.
This is life Tom, what is your choice? Egypt or God?
The choice was made so abundantly clear. The Lord’s presence was amazingly reassuring and powerful. After a year of saying, “Come out of Egypt, don’t go back to Egypt, He called us out of Egypt” God rearranged the parade, people, life and that day just to give us the message.
Yes, leaving Egypt involves people walking away from us but God is with us. Keep going.
Though about a decade has passed since that day, I still remember the moment of giddy realization. “God is speaking and I almost missed it.” What joy it still brings me! And because of my self-involvement, my clogged communications line almost made me miss it. How many times does this happen to us?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus puts it really simply:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The word pure there is referring to a heart that is undivided. A person who has made the decision to follow Jesus and placed Him at the head of their lives. When we make this decision and keep our eyes on the heavens, not the earthly, then we will see God. He will reveal Himself in our heart, minds, families, workplaces, relationships…even in a silly float trying to celebrate a fake god whose adherents are all long dead. That float would have been there that day in the parade even if I wasn’t listening. God put it there with all of His power and nothing was going to change that. The question was whether I would have the ears to hear as Jesus used to say. The people on the far side of the street never even got a glimpse of the Lord’s message. They did not have eyes to see or ears to hear. God is there all the time, every moment of every day sometimes shouting at us, the question is are we listening?
Are we look for God speaking to us today? If not, what sort of static do we need to clear up on our side of the line to hear Him? A pure heart is one that belongs to God. Is ours set on Jesus today?