Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Listening, Hearing and Turning Back

You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, 
although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants and prophets...
 Jeremiah 25:4

Jeremiah.  A hard-to-read book.  As Christians, we look at God's warnings through this persecuted prophet and we wonder; how could an entire nation of people keep turning their backs on God, especially in a time when King Josiah was on the throne calling for spiritual reform?  Does it happen all at once; "Everyone, TURN".  Or is it a gradual distraction and pulling away?

I have to imagine it wasn't an instantaneous mass-exodus of apostasy, rather, Bill next door turns, taking his wife and kids along.  Then Mary sees Bill's family worshipping differently and checks it out, she and Bill's wife are friends and she wants to do what her friend is doing so she joins and persuades her family to come too.  At the well, Mary tells all the other ladies about this 'cool' new worship experience, how much her family likes the change of pace and invites all the other women to try it with their families while Bill is at work bragging about how he was so tiered of the temple requirements and this new religion gives him more freedom to his own personal desires and begins to 'sell' this new experience to others.  Gradually, I imagine, the masses grow and, before you know it, it seems like a mass-exodus of apostasy.

Once religion is cheap, anyone will buy it.

But God didn't stop speaking.  He didn't stop pleading for their hearts through the prophets and through others who served Him faithfully.  Yet, there was this utter refusal to LISTEN and HEAR His warnings.

That's right, did you notice that?  "Listen nor hear".  I think we often take that for granted.  How often do you listen to your kids talking on and on about their day but you couldn't repeat or act on half of what they said because you aren't really hearing them?  (guilty here!)

Yet, here, notice, it isn't bad enough they didn't hear, but Jeremiah says they aren't even listening!


A person has to stick their fingers in their ears or completely leave the presence of another to not even listen.  And if you aren't listening... of course you are not going to hear because their is nothing to hear.

What were they thinking?  They were God's chosen, they knew better... right?

But is it really just them?  Are they really such an anomaly?  We don't do that today in our culture... do we?

Sadly, I feel like we can and we do.

Some sell-out to cheap religion, one that may look like God but honestly isn't because they really don't honor the precepts of His Word.  Others, and I feel this is just as common, get wrapped up in the world around us and we put-off what should always be #1 - we forgo listening to God and really hearing what He is saying.  We don't make time to be quiet and seek Him and His voice.

Quiet time gets lost (especially for moms).
It gets lost with busy businesses.
Often, oddly enough, it even gets lost in the midst of ministerial pursuits.

We get our own idea of what it looks like to fulfill our purpose in God.  We plug forward with God in mind (most of the time) and good intentions going before us... when at the core of our heart we are just trying to look like the good Christian, get accolades for our selves, or smather on that 'love' thing because Jesus did - yet our heart is either resentful or feeling a tug in a different direction, while we ignore.

Yes, even (and especially) the Christian lifestyle can become idolatrous when we put the work of God before the plans of God?
  • We get too busy for good Bible Study and settle for a marginal 2 minute devotion or one-paragraph read in our Bible then claim we 'didn't get that much out of it', and move on with our day.
  • We say a quick superficial prayer for ourselves and/or our day simply from rote, not even caring that we are talking to God or trying to hear from Him... and then move on doing whatever we want.
  • We pray and tell God ONLY what we want Him to do for us thinking our idea of a situation is best and forget to see and seek what HE wants for us.

What happens on the other side of all this?

Distance from God.
Dissatisfaction in life.
Spiritual amnesia.

And so many more not-so-great side-affects.  All these, of which, lead to a life that begins to reflect Christ less and less.  If our purpose is His purpose through us in order that His Glory should be known... then is something wrong with this picture?

If selling out to cheap religion, being too self-absorbed, surrendering to often unassuming other-types-idols and misguided goodness is the problem, what is the cure?

My son, keep your father's commandment, 
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down,they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
to preserve you from the evil woman,
from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
Proverbs 6:20-24

 #1- Get with God.
You may be subtly (or completely) aware that your relationship with God has become more about relationships with others or strapping on the Christian label while you do your own thing.  Sit down, quiet your life for however long it takes, and get with God.

#2- Admit your shortcomings.
So you are sitting down, getting with God, life is (if forcibly) quiet for the moment but..... nothing.  What do I say?  Where do I start?  Let's face it, we can't even admit to ourselves, let alone to God, that our eyes are in the wrong place and, worst of all, we have no clue how to bridge the gap and get re-focused.  Guess what?  You're not fooling anyone, let alone God.  So go on, admit it.  What's that saying?  Oh, yeah, admitting you have a problem is the first step in getting better.

#3- Submit
So you are sitting there, in the quiet (I don't remember quiet being THIS quiet... scary), you've just admitted {gulp} that you are off.  That you can't seem to get turned on and you don't know what to do.  Good.  We are in a GREAT direction.  Now... submitAdmitting isn't submitting.  Admitting is preparing to submit.  Within submission you begin to surrender.  You say, "I can't do this on my own, I need help."  I know, those are three of the hardest words to say together in the English language.... especially in American culture.  BUT, once you admit them to God, HE is faithful to respond.

God wants to help, but sometimes we need to get out of His way, submit, and let him.

#4- Wait.
That may be harder then submit!  Sometimes God answers right away, but other times, it is a waiting thing.  Either way, get into the Word of God to Hear God, to know God, to find Guidance, to get clarity on life and His messages as they come.  Not just the superficial 'I did my 2 minute devotion today...', NO.  Make time for God's Word, even if you have to get up earlier or stay up later or turn off the t.v. when you would usually have it on.

It doesn't have to be a 2 hour Bible study, however, it should have substance.  Read God's Word (listen) and then really observe what God is saying in it (hear); cross-reference scripture from the footnotes in your Bible, read a commentary, write down what you find.

When you're done, don't just close it up and put it away, instead, soak it up and ask, 'how can I live in light of God's truth today'.  Maybe you need to change something you are doing or thinking, maybe you need to give others more grace, maybe you are simply strengthened and encouraged for a difficult season.  Whatever it is, respond to God's Word. That is the crux of Proverbs 6 here.

#5- Pray
As you wait, pray.  Pray God's Word that you have just studied and ask for his help in walking it out.  Pray to be made aware of His presence each moment of the day.  Pray for a love of Him and His Word to grow deeper.  Pray repentance and deliverance.  Simply: pray from your heart.  Give God the attention you like to receive when you are having a good conversation with your husband or kids.  Engage with your mind and your heart and just believe... he hears you.

"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; 
He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. 
Do not fear or be dismayed."
- Deuteronomy 31:8

Within all of this, just keep stepping forward in prayer and Bible Study and trust.  Even if it has to be baby steps for a little while.  Don't give up on experiencing God.  Simply trust Him, He will sustain you, you will begin to feel and notice the difference.

The rest of the story is this: God gave the Judeans over to their sins and sent them packing as captives for 70 years.  But when they sought Him, with their whole hearts, they were eventually delivered.

I pray you will be encouraged, dear friend, everyone gets distracted at some point in their life (some more than others). And while my hope for you is that you are walking perfectly in light and truth today; if you are not, I pray you would find restoration through those deliberate steps forward into His loving arms until you bridge that gap, find His presence and get your ability to listen and hear back on.


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  1. The funny thing about the Old Testament is that it really isn't very old after all. We live in different places, like different foods, enjoy different things, but our attitudes are basically the same as those in the days of Jeremiah, Samuel or even Noah. We listen to what we want to hear, and turn our backs on things that we don't like. Look on fb or the news today, and you'll see the same thing. Of course, the good news is that the remedy is the same to. God knew it and sent Jesus! We think we have changed, and maybe we do in some ways, but Hallelujah and Amen, He never does!

    1. Beautifully said Karen, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!