Transforming Listening Conversations (T.L.C.) With God

Read:

Isaiah 44:1-8

Reflect:

“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” Isaiah 44:8, ESV

The compassionate loving presence of God is beyond human understanding – He is our compassionate Father, our Shepherd of Love and our Divine Lover.  God’s amazing “chesed”1 is seen in all the encounters of the people of Israel with God as recorded in the Old Testament. The story of the Jews is a revelation of the absolute depravity and deceitfulness of our sinful human nature as well as the steadfast love and patience of our Heavenly Father. 

There is a cosmic drama that transcends human life. Spiritual formation, according to John Mark Comer, is the process by which we are formed in our spirits or inner persons, into the image of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. However, there are forces of evil  that seek to deform us into the image of the devil through isolation and lies.2 We have a choice between life and death, between blessings and curses.3

We are living in a fallen world that is in darkness, filled with sorrow and suffering. Like Job, we battle with thoughts of meaninglessness, doubts and anger. Faith in God’s compassionate loving kindness is eroded when we are afflicted by loss, pain and suffering:

“Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb? Why was I laid on my mother’s lap? Why did she nurse me at her breasts? Had I died at birth, I would now be at peace. I would be asleep and at rest.”4 

Jesus came to show us the power and love of God as he suffered and died on the cross. He rose from the dead to empower us to become the children of God who can have transforming, listening conversations with God. To be witnesses of God’s redeeming love to restore a broken world:

“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”5

The prophet Isaiah encouraged the people of Israel in their suffering with God’s promise of the Holy Spirit:

“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”6 

This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the Jews from every nation under heaven, gathered together in Jerusalem, were filled with the Holy Spirit.7 The good news is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live the kind of life to prove that God has called us.8 

Our calling is to live in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. A simple way to do so is to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit through solitude and silence. As we do so, prayer and bible meditation become transforming listening conversations (T.L.C.) with God. Then we will do everything with the love of God and for God. 

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.9

Respond:

Lord, help me to listen to Your Living Word so that I can have T.L.C. with You.

Reframe:

1.  How is God speaking to me each day?
2. What is God revealing to me through His Living Word?
3. How can I live to prove God’s calling for my life?  

Song of Praise:

Speak, O Lord

SDG

Notes:

1.  Chesed is the Hebrew word that means kindness or love between people, specifically of the devotional piety of people towards God as well as the love or mercy of God towards humanity. It reminds me that the love of God is not a feeling but is seen through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2.  John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, 2021, page 73
3. Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT
4. Job 3:11-13 NLT.
5.  Isaiah 44:8, ESV
6.  Isaiah 44:2-3, ESV
7. Acts: 2:1-6, NLT
8. Ephesians 4:1, GW
9. Speak, O Lord, Keith Getty/Stuart Townend

Feeding On The Living Word

Read:

Joshua 1:1-9

Reflect:

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9. NLT

We need spiritual food to grow spiritually. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he resisted the temptation to turn stones into bread with the truth that people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.1 This was the truth that Moses taught the people of Israel when they were led through the wilderness for forty years and were fed with manna. They were to be dependent on God’s Presence so that they will not fall into idolatry.2  

After the death of Moses, God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Covenant of the Law that had been given to the people of Israel through Moses so that they will be in God’s Presence and not be afraid or discouraged. They had been chosen to conquer the Promised Land to establish the reign of God here on earth:

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”3

The practice of meditating on God’s Word changes our relationship with God from a transactional relationship for blessings into a transformational relationship to become new creations and the masterpieces of God’s love. The bible is not a book of rules we are to obey – it is the spiritual food to nurture our relationship with God. We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness to have a good appetite for God’s Word.4 Like a baby, we have to grow up spiritually before we can digest the solid food of God’s Word: 

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know who to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”5

The bible is God’s living word to teach us how to live in God’s Presence. For the word of God is alive and powerful like a sharp two-edged sword. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.6 God’s Word teach us what is true, show us what is wrong in our lives, correct us when we are wrong and teach us to do what is right so that we are prepared and equipped to do every good work.7 

A worker in a research office found that an expensive technical book he had borrowed from his professor was missing. He then remembered the story of Elisha and the floating ax head. He decided to pray that he would be led to remember where he had misplaced the book or that the book be returned if someone else had taken the book. About ten days later, the book showed up on the professor’s desk. He was encouraged by his answered prayer and shared the truth that God’s concern for us is beyond measure.8 I was reminded of the power of God’s Word to help us grow in our faith that God cares for all the mundane things in our lives.

Another faithful Christian had been studying and reflecting on God’s Word and was struggling to understand what was happening when her health declined in the prime of her life. As she continued to meditate on God’s word and to pray for healing, she saw the dry grass withered by the heat of an unforgiving sun turn into vibrant green grass when the rains came during her bus rides to work. She was encouraged to wait with hope on the Lord.9 Indeed, adversities in life, big or small, become compost for our faith in God’s steadfast love. 

Jesus Christ is the Living Word that is sweeter than honey,10 a lamp for my feet and a Light for my path.11 As I prepare to journey into a new season of life, I wait in hope and with hope by feeding on God’s Living Word through prayer and meditation so that I will understand God’s ways. As God’s Word becomes alive in me I will not be afraid to face the challenges that await me in each new season of life.

“When I feel afraid and I think I’ve lost my way
Still You’re there right beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as You are near
Please be near me to the end”12

Respond:

Lord, help me to feed on Your Living Word by being still as I wait for Your Spirit to lead me into Your truths.

Reframe:

1.  Is there a sin in the Egypt of my life I need to confess?
2.  Is there a promise in the Wilderness of my life I need to receive?
3.  Is there a commandment in the Promised Land of my life I need to obey?
4.  Is there a warning in the Babylon of my life I need to take heed of?

Song of Praise:

Thy Word by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith

SDG

Notes:

1.  Matthew 4:4
2.  Deut 8:1-20, NLT
3.  Joshua 1:8-9, NLT
4.  Matthew 5:6, MSG
5. Hebrews 5:12-14, NLT
6.  Hebrews 4:12, NLT
7.  2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT,
8. The Upper Room Devotional, Beyond Measure, Saturday, 11 June 2022 9.  The Upper Room Devotional, Wait For The Lord, Sunday, 12 June 2022 10.  Psalms 119:103
11.  Psalms 119:105
12.  Thy Word by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith

The Peace Of Silence

Read:

John 14:23-27

Reflect:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27, ESV

Life is full of ups and downs. Our hearts are troubled as our peace of mind is broken by fears, doubts and guilt. Our monkey minds and deceitful hearts drive us to pursue peace and happiness in worldly pleasures and possessions which do not satisfy but only turn us away from God:

“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”1 

In Christ, our Heavenly Father opens His arms all day long to us but we are disobedient and rebellious2 and unable to listen and respond to His loving cry:

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.”3

When we are not touched by God’s love, we are part of God’s problem. We are breaking His heart. We cannot follow Christ to be God’s solution to redeem the world. Our hearts need to be broken so that the Holy Spirit can put God’s laws in our minds and write them on our hearts.

We have the free will to say “no” to God. We have the choice to say “yes” to God and make Him our refuge and to hold fast to His love.4 Obedience is the hallmark of our love for God. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is not a reward for obedience. It is our fears and lack of trust in God’s love that keeps us from receiving the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us for obedience. It is our desire to trust and obey God that opens our hearts to the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything and give us peace of mind and heart:

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”5 

We can express our desire for God’s gift of the Holy Spirit by abiding in Christ through silence. In silence true prayer is born. Prayer, according to Henri Nouwen, is listening to Jesus who is dwelling in the depths of our hearts. He found that spending ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in our lives. It is not easy to be still even for ten minutes as many other noisy and distracting voices that are not from God will demand our attention. 

But as we persevere to listen to our hearts daily, we will come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.6 In silence, I learn to hold fast to God’s love as I watch, without attachment or rejection, all my thoughts, positive and negative, flowing through my mind. Instead of letting the thoughts fill my heart with worry, I rewire my mind through prayer:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all that he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

In silence we intentionally seek Jesus who is in our hearts so that our attention is not directed by the thoughts in our minds. Each time my inner silence is punctured by my thoughts I use it as an opportunity to return to the peace of silence by acknowledging the thoughts and letting them go. Instead of trying to master silence, I seek to be mastered by the Holy Spirit in the embrace of silence. In silence I breathe in the peace of God that is beyond this world:

“Peace 

Holds me when I’m broken

Sweet peace 

That passes understanding

When the whole wide world is crashing down, 

I fall to my knees

And breathe in Your peace.”8

Respond:

Lord, may I be mastered by silence and live in Your loving embrace.

Reframe:

  1. What broken cisterns am I digging to find peace?
  2. What disturbs my peace of mind and troubles my heart?
  3. How am I breathing in the peace of God each day?

Song of Praise

Peace Holds Me When I’m Broken

SDG

Notes:

  1. Jeremiah 2:13, NLT
  2. Romans 10:21, NLT
  3. Isaiah 55:1-2, NLT
  4. Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV
  5. John 14:27 NLT
  6. Nouwen Meditation: Listen to the Voice of Gentle Love, 18 May 2022
  7. Philippians 4:6-7, NLT
  8. Peace – https://bethelmusic.com/chords-and-lyrics/peace-peace/